Saturday, April 21, 2012

Accidental Nomads: An Exercise In Impermanence

     It's been approximately two months since Spartacus and I moved back to Atlanta, a move which occurred just 10 months after our relocation from Atlanta to Rome, Georgia. We both own homes in Atlanta, which we've been forced to rent because the current market is so poor for sellers. Neither of us is turning a profit. Our loft in Rome was a rental, and after renting for a couple of months, we mutually agreed never to become homeowners again. It was nice to know that if something broke, the landlord was responsible for fixing it. Our old "it's always something" homeowner mentality quickly gave way to a sense of being carefree: renting seemed like a pretty worry-free way to live. After living in Rome for 10 months, our job situations changed, and we prepared ourselves to move back to Atlanta. When we found our place here in Kirkwood, we were ecstatic. Not only did this loft have incredible square footage and unique open space to accommodate all of our worldly possessions, it was located in a dog-friendly, super cool part of town. There are restaurants and shops within walking distance of our complex, an old elementary school which contains 21 separate units. Our unit, which once housed the library, is by far the biggest in this complex. We've found our neighbors to be very friendly and laid back, and have enjoyed hanging out with them in the evenings, drinking wine and sitting around the outdoor fire pit, while our dogs play together in the sprawling fenced communal front yard.
     There's been just one nagging problem. We signed the lease knowing that the owner of this property really wanted to sell, even though she'd certainly take a loss on it. Although she agreed to  rent it to us, she kept it on the market. The terms of our lease specified that if an offer was accepted on the property, we had the right of first refusal, and if we decided not to purchase it, we'd have 60 days to move out. Before we signed the lease, the listing agent (who also happens to be our landlord) assured us that this place was receiving absolutely no traffic, and that it wasn't likely to sell because it was so over-priced. Nevertheless, we've had a parade of potential buyers coming through since the weekend we moved here. This time around, being a renter has really sucked. It's hard to describe how intrusive it is to have people coming to look at the home you've just moved into, sometimes showing up at the door without any warning. When we previewed this loft, the walls were painted an ugly brick red, making the place seem much smaller than its actual square footage. We plunked down $900 to have it painted white, which really opened up the space. I believe that this modification, along with our eclectic, funky furniture and excellent understanding of arranging such a massive, undefined living area has probably contributed to an offer being made and accepted within the last 48 hours. Unfortunately, we've made this space irresistible. We learned of the offer last night, right before we went to bed. Needless to say, I've barely slept a wink.
      This may come as a surprise, but being a successful temporary dweller is accompanied by a modicum of intellectual and spiritual work, specifically with not becoming too attached to people, places or things. It's an exercise in impermanence. We've known since day one that this place could be sold out from under our feet, and perhaps that's why we still haven't completely unpacked. That being said, there are very few places for rent in our area with this kind of square footage or pet-friendliness. Our previous loft had 4500 square feet. We've actually had to get rid of brand new furniture in order to fit our stuff into this 2700 or so square foot space. If we were to move to the standard 1200-1500 square foot loft, we'd have to get rid of even more things, all within a 60 day period. That's do-able, I suppose...I could probably sell those items on craigslist. Stuff is stuff, and we've got too much of it. I'm all about down-sizing. However, our main concern right now is Simon and Lilly. Because they are large breed, high energy dogs, they need an enclosed area in which to run and chase birds and squirrels every day. My house in Atlanta had a big, fenced in side-yard, easily accessible through a doggie door. Our place in Rome had a private courtyard with a decent sized-strip of grass, and plenty of room for them to run around safely. The properties I've been browsing online this morning don't have anything like that. We would be reduced to leash walks with occasional ventures to a local park, and even then, Simon and Lilly couldn't be off leash. Here, we have a private courtyard, as well as an expansive, enclosed front yard. Our dogs get along well with other dogs in this complex, and they are all free to run the length of the schoolyard, racing and frolicking to their hearts' content. Basically, it's dog paradise.
     Spartacus and I have some talking and thinking to do. If we move again, this will be the third time we've relocated in just over a year. The last move nearly killed us. Aside from the obvious hassle and expense, moving is physically taxing when you're 50, even if you have someone else move the big pieces of furniture. We filled up two 17 foot trucks with stuff, not counting the 27 foot truck packed by Two Men & A Truck. We sold our washer and dryer to our previous landlord because we wouldn't be needing them here. Not all rentals provide those appliances. What to do, what to do. Because we each still owe a fair amount on our mortgages, I'm not sure if we'd qualify for a loan. We've both just changed jobs. I'm only working 3 days a week at a quarter of my previous income. Neither of us has cash on hand to pay for this place. Even if our offer was accepted, we're at the mercy of the banks who've done nothing but screw the American public for the last decade, making it ridiculously difficult for people with good credit to get a loan.
     Although the thought of moving again is sickening, I am trying to remain calm and in the moment. We've enjoyed it here, but this is not the only place in the world where we could find happiness. We happened upon it by accident; in fact, we almost overlooked it. I'm relatively sure that somewhere in this metropolis, there's an even cooler place with an updated kitchen, modern wiring, and a second bathroom, waiting to be discovered. What's bugging us both is the thought of being nomads again so soon. It's not so much the anticipation of having to repack everything; it's more the feeling of being unsettled, the idea of not having a physical space to call home, the inconvenience of living out of a suitcase, the loss of people and surroundings which have now become comfortably familiar. Letting go of physical attachments is easier said than done. With renting, you give up a certain degree of autonomy. You have to ask permission to paint the walls and hang your paintings. You're not really free to do whatever you want to make your space more livable; prior approval is required. As much as I hate to admit it, there is something to be said for having a place to hang your hat, a home to call your own. I've made my home in many different places over the years, and deep down, I know that home is where the heart is. Believe me, I'm trying to reassure myself that home can be anywhere and everywhere. I only wish anywhere and everywhere were a bit more portable.

4 comments:

  1. Kris, is there any chance you'll be able to stay despite the new owner? If not, I'm sure you'll eventually find something suitable. Still, I imagine it must feel pretty unsettling happening all of of a sudden when you've just started a new job. I think the transition stage is always the most difficult-being neither here nor there. Once you've got some clear leads and choices you'll probably feel less anxious. Good luck!

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    1. NP, if we aren't able to buy the place first, we would have to move out. We've got plans A-Z, and if we can't buy it, we will find another place. Although we really like it here, I know that we can make anyplace into a home. Will keep you posted on what happens!

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  2. Ugh! What an unexpected situation. Too bad you're so good at staging! the housing market crash has been devastating for so many. I hope it all works out for you in the end.

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    1. thanks, janene. we are now in the offer/counteroffer process. i hate playing this little game. i keep having to remind myself that, if we can't keep this place, there will be another place that we'll be just as happy. double ugh!

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