4 Things Renting Has Taught Me

As the first month of 2017 draws to a close and we set a foundation for the year, I eagerly envision many steps taking place this year that will shape the trajectory of our home/living situation in a good way. I have had a lot of fun dreaming this past month about what our future will look like, what our jobs will look like, what our future homes will look like, and how to grow in my capacity to set meaningful, life-shaping goals.

I love envisioning, and then pioneering a new trail, and then creating, and the whole process of inviting new ideas and new skills and new work into my life. But as a follower of God, I am also very in tune with the fact that my life is not my own, and by any means of circumstances my life could look very different tomorrow without my control or my planning. So as we are knee-deep in the rental lifestyle and also very much looking forward to the future of home-ownership in the coming years, I want to reflect on what renting has taught me, and what has in turn has shaped me into a decision-maker today.

1. Budgeting and Bill-Paying

Don't laugh! This is real. It's a life skill that oh too many don't yet possess. I began renting as a college student, and each year I have progressively learned how to manage a budget just a smidge better. At first, I simply paid rent and utilities. Most college apartments that we lived in were fully furnished, so saving up for furniture and appliances was not a worry. Once I mastered those skills, I learned how to save - save for deposits for future apartments, save for purchasing furniture, and save for purchasing appliances. Once the bills and the needs increased, I quickly realized that budget-building was a skill I needed to quickly possess. I am so grateful that I have been a tried and true renter to experience all these growth process. Renting allowed me a space to make financial decisions without the burden of a home payment that I wasn't ready to address.

2. Creativity

Specifically, I've learned that if I'm put in a box with some rules, I'm going to see how to maneuver those rules with better navigation than many would endeavor to pursue. For example, if I couldn't cover or paint an ugly space, I would seek out opportunities to create an illusion that the space was indeed delightful. Sometimes this looked like gallery walls or chalkboards or rugs. Sometimes it looked like temporary resurfacing. Sometimes it looked like diversions to other, prettier spaces. It was never perfect. I'm still diligently growing in this area of expertise. But I have had so much joy learning how to make a space a home, and a home worth staying in and tucking into, that I'm okay that some of the process were ugly. Had I never attempted and failed at creativity in the home, I would never had created the spaces I enjoy today.

A small piece of current kitchen in our rental house, demonstrating the age and unique character of the home

A small piece of current kitchen in our rental house, demonstrating the age and unique character of the home

3. Checklist for Our Future Home

Renting has exposed to me what types of living arrangements are absolutely necessary and what types are simply preferential. We've been able to see the pros and cons of each space we've lived in, allowing us to make a more informed decision about our preferred future home. For example, we would appreciate 2 bathrooms, specifically one that's accessible to guests without their venturing into a bedroom. We've learned this from experience. Having our beagle Sully proves to us that we love being dog people, so a comfortably sized backyard is desired. We also enjoy hosting church people at our house weekly for Bible study, and we have had to move that study due to lack of space. We would love to have an open living area to comfortably accommodate friends and family if possible. Both of us do a large majority of our work from home, so an office area is necessary.  Are these things required for us to survive? No, by no means. We have learned to enjoy life without. However, if we are able to enjoy these areas in a future home, I am grateful that renting has exposed these desires before we pick a home on a whim.

The favorite part of our current "office" is this old, worn in retro chair that we purchased from our next door neighbor. It does a sturdy job of keeping us on task!

The favorite part of our current "office" is this old, worn in retro chair that we purchased from our next door neighbor. It does a sturdy job of keeping us on task!

4. Humility

My husband and I are itching to own our own space, and we have been anxious to throw debt off our shoulders. We are impatient at times, content at others. But we have learned to trust in God's faithfulness, complimented with wise counsel and obedience to take care of more crucial financial burdens first. Even though I struggle with impatience in and out of days and seasons, I am always humbled by the following story:

When I was in college, I traveled to Nicaragua for the first time for a study abroad trip. I remember riding on a multiple-hour car ride with some church members of a local church I was supporting, and the driver asked me how I was able to travel to Nicaragua on my own. I responded by telling him that I had worked during college for about 2 years to save up for the trip, knowing that it was an expense that was mandatory for my degree and something that I intentionally needed to plan for. And to my surprise, he was blown away by my response. He couldn't comprehend how a young 20-something girl could save up money for years, when most people in his country were never able to save in a lifetime.  Their economic society kept many from having the privilege to save. Instead, they knew only how to live day to day, enjoying small things and small moments.

No matter how much I want to scratch the itch of purchasing a home, I know that even in renting the most inexpensive places, my circumstances far outweigh what much of the world knows to be a very present and seemingly eternal reality. I know that I can be joyful in any circumstance, and that I am blessed to have a roof and a place to rest my head.

Certainly, there are many other lessons tucked under our belt that we've consumed over the years, and I'm sure there are more to come in this year. My hope is that I remain thankful for having learned through those experiences and that I remain willing to learn in all things at all times. What about you? What have you learned from renting, or even home ownership, or the stewardship of any property for that matter, that has kept you on a positive trajectory in life? I hope you reflect on these ideas, and I encourage you to share your thoughts!

-Alli, TCK