Making a Home: The Beginning

“You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.” –Maya Angelou

The first home that I made for myself was when I was a college student twelve short years ago. I lived in a blue house on Gorman Avenue in Waco, Texas.

The house was old, built in the ’20s, and it was divided into four apartment units. My roommate and I shared the apartment on the upper right with big windows surrounded by trees that when the leaves were green made me feel like I lived in a treehouse.

The rent was $350 a month, which we split, and for $175 each we got a big apartment with hardwood floors and run-down charm.

There was no dishwasher, no laundry, and of course no central heat or air conditioning. My bedroom had an air conditioner window unit that didn’t work at all, and the other bedroom had one that worked too well, so depending on where you sat in the apartment you could either sweat or freeze your buns off. The heater was an old gas unit that roared when I turned it on in the mornings. The old plumbing had a rag stuffed in it to stop leaks. The plumber just shook his head.

The kitchen had glass cabinet doors, a pile of dirty dishes in the sink because we had no time to wash them, and a wide staircase outside the screened back door. I loved living there. That neighborhood felt like a different era. We sweated in the humid Texas summer, ate $2 burritos from down the street, and sat on the back stairs when it rained. I had a life-changing moment the day I realized that if I never owned more, I could be content.

Our neighbors were an eccentric bunch. One man wandered up and down the streets talking to himself and asking for cigarettes. The neighbor on the other side of the fence liked to mow his grass while wearing a bandana on his head and little shorts. The old men who lived across the street sat on the porch all day and yelled Good Morning at us when we left for school.

I always had full days at school but I came home whenever I could.

My roommate watched Days of Our Lives weekdays at 3:00 p.m. with a Diet Coke. The screened windows would be open to catch the breeze. Our couch was a garage sale find for $10, and the pink chair was $5. (Small town garage sales are the best!) The coffee table was $5 as well. We often rearranged the furniture at two in the morning, because what else do you do?

That home was where I wondered who I might marry someday, where I panicked over career paths, and where I dyed my hair to see if I would look better as a blonde. (I don’t. And always do the small test section first. And be sure to rinse it out when the instructions say, don’t just leave it in there because it seems like it hasn’t worked yet.)

We thought nothing of inviting thirty people over for dinner. With the small table commandeered as a buffet, our friends found places to sit in our apartment with plates of spaghetti balanced on their knees. We went to Kinko’s to print fliers to pass out to anyone who wanted to come over and watch the football game with us.

With some close friends, I’m the second girl from the right.

It was good to have friends, and we dropped by each other’s apartments with ease and welcome.

Back in those days, my cell phone was as big as a one-pound breakfast sausage, and I never used it because the network coverage wasn’t built yet. Home internet access was another luxury no one had. We had to talk in person, and it was no problem because we saw each other all the time.

Home was a place where I could grow community.

Then I graduated, got a job, and moved to a town north of Houston, and suddenly…

I was completely alone.

–To be continued. –

What was your own first home like? What was your favorite thing about it?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Your cellphone comment certainly brought back memories! My first cellphone was a similar size to our cordless phone now…texting was not possible from our cellphones back then (ok feeling old!).
    My first home was with my hubby. We were young and my hubby was a student and I had just graduated. Before we bought a table and chairs, we sat on the couch with a cardboard box as our table. My favourite thing about it was living in it with my best friend, my hubby. (I know gushy!)

    Meeks´s last post…Participating in life. Making our choices more meaningful

  2. mandy falgout says:

    gosh, i completely loved my first “home”. i found it on a whim while getting some coffee with my mom when i was 28. it was located in an artsy neighborhood inside the loop in houston, texas. it is a small, garage apartment with four similar sized rooms–living area, kitchen., bedroom and bathroom. it was quaint, cozy and surrounded by trees. it got nicknamed “the treehouse” by friends. had no central a/c or heat. two window units–one in the bedroom and one if the living area. in the winter, i had a small oil heater i would put in the middle of the room. in the bathroom, i turned on the shower and crank the hot water way up and let it run with the bathroom door closed. this created “steam heat” which was just enough for me to shower and not be uncomfortable. the electricity was interesting. many times i blew the breaker when i had just one too many lights on, both a/c units going, and tried to dry my hair with a blow dryer. i totally loved my place. it was amazing and perfect. the door bell was a bell with a ringer that hung down in the middle. it was a great space and i miss it often.

  3. I grew up in a town north of Houston, and now I live northwest of Houston. Small world! I went to college in Huntsville. :)

    Laura @ PARING DOWN´s last post…Simple Cravings

  4. I loved reading this! My first home was a shared loft apartment with 3 other girls and there were lots of fun times and lots of pasta eating as it’s all we could afford! No cell phone for me back in those days and I don’t think we used the Internet either! What did we do? We must have talked in person LOL.

    CBB´s last post…Change

  5. You’re killing me! One of our very first “homes” (what I call our first) was an apartment in Waco, TX also, while my hubby was going to school. It was on Primrose Drive…some projects that had been refurbished and turned into lower-cost apts for college kids. Arlington Farms was its name; We lived there six years ago. It was almost as big as our house now, and was on the ground floor; There was a Chinese family living next to us and the mother would bring over fresh eggrolls and gossip about our neighbors;). A huge German Shepherd lived upstairs and the girl who owned him would just let him out randomly…he came to greet me one day in the parking lot when I got home from work. Those were some of the best times of my life, even though we were so poor. Thanks for bringing back those memories!

    Melanie´s last post…I Let a Whole Week Go By…

  6. Rachel I swear you still look like that college girl! My first home was a small basement apartment I rented with my aunt (she is 5 yrs older than me) in my first year of university and her last year.

  7. I never ever lived in a house or apartment with friends. It’s one of those things that I lived vicariously through my friends on since I lived with and married my hubby early (during college). I loved reading this and can’t wait to read more.

    Emily@remodelingthislife´s last post…Gussy Winner

    • I too never lived in a house or apartment with friends. I think having the roommate from hell for a semester in college put me off wanting to live with other people.

      When I graduated (having already met my husband, but as he’s younger than me he still had a year or two to go before graduating) I traveled around the UK with then boyfriend (later husband) before becoming a nanny and moving to Boston. After that I moved back home for about four years before getting married and moving to the UK (since my husband is British).

      I kind of wish I had had that whole share a house/apartment experience. My sister’s roommates are her lifelong friends, whereas I just have one friend I still keep in touch with from my college days.

      Cindy May´s last post…Great Quotes

  8. i picked you out right away in the photo. yes, bring on the rest of the story. I have a feeling that I can see where you are going with this and I think I can relate.

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this as it brought back great memories of my college days at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. I guess my first home was my dorm room, unairconditioned, and also full of garage sale furniture that was passed on from one hallmate to another. I remember sweating it out in May and August in Texas when the temps were over 100 and there was no airconditioning. My roomates and I would cover ourselves with wet sheets to try and sleep at night, hoping that the breeze from the ancient ceiling fan would help keep us cool. good memories!

  10. Oh my gosh! My husband and I owned that building when you lived there! I’ll send you a message so we can chat :-)

    Danielle´s last post…WFMW: Kid’s Shoes

    • Of all the connections I’ve made from blogging, that is a crazy one for sure! This is such a small world.

      • Yes, crazy indeed. One of my first comments to my husband was that you must have thought your landlord was crazy to be asking that much rent for something so, um, shall we say….rustic??? I lived in my fair share of interesting places in Waco as well….such an adventure.

        • I knew a recent Baylor grad owned the house and I thought that was so neat for someone so young. The rent was perfect. We were beyond thrilled to find a place for less than $400. We spent a long time jumping up and down about $350. All the house’s quirks make the college memories better.

  11. Ahhh, my first “home” was the first apartment I had all by myself. It was off of McCallum Blvd. near Coit St. in Dallas. (Super Target was a mere 3 minutes away.) I lived on the second floor. Had very cheap furniture that I got from a friend of a friend. My boyfriend (now my husband) let me borrow his vacuum so I didn’t have to buy one. I didn’t even have a bed to sleep in. I slept on my living room floor for months. Since it was just me too I ate mostly pasta. :)
    I had a stackable washer and dryer, and always had my scuba gear drying out over the shower rod. It wasn’t the best apartment, but it was MY apartment.
    Rent was $530 per month (included water, garbage/sewer). I lived there for 6 months before my husband and I decided to move in together. One other thing, I loved having him over for dinner. Since I had no chairs and table, we sat on a big blanket on the living room floor. If something spilled, the blanket went into the wash.
    Wonderful post. :)

  12. I love this story. I too was in college twelve years ago and I can’t imagine not having those wonderful years to figure out who I was and where I was going (still on that journey truthfully). While I lived in the dorms during college, soon after I graduated I got an apartment with a friend. That was such a wonderful time in my life. Two girls on their own learning about the real world. Good times!

  13. The first place I lived after college was a tiny little efficiency apartment in Bryan, TX. But, it had a washer and dryer, and I really took it for granted, especially when years later and I had two kids, we lived in an apartment where we didn’t have that!

    Jenni @ Life from the Roof´s last post…Cocoa brownies

  14. I went straight from living with my mom to living with my, now husband at 19. So basically I never got to experience the being alone part. Sometimes I wish I did get to experience that, but other times, I’m happy I never had to be alone like that.

    Sarah Sarniak´s last post…Major Budget Decorating

  15. My first apartment was in my 3 and 4th years of university when I lived with one of my best friends (who I had met in my dorm). The first year we lived with 2 girls 1 year older, the second year we lived with 2 girls 2 years younger. We had a great time! Only 1 chore per week! Cooking dinners together, doing my own laundry and letting it air dry in my teeny tiny bedroom. The same bedroom that had a giant (5′ by 8′) window. I felt like an exhibit at the zoo when I had the blind open! Going on the bus to get groceries and carrying them back. We would walk on Friday afternoons to a pub about 5km away and joked that we walked just for the dill pickles that came with every dish.
    Such a fun care-free time!

  16. I love old houses like this – they have such character. Always wanted to find one to buy and “clean it up” and live in it. My first “home” was a small apartment above a yarn/knitting store in a town of abt 5,000 which was “big” to me as I came from a town of 600. It was small but perfect size for me. My mattress was on the floor. The mattress was the only thing new in the place. I had a 13″ tv which didn’t get many channels back then (I’m 53). I had bean bags to sit on for awhile. But I was so proud of my “own” place. Cell phones – didn’t have them. As you say we talked to friends/family on house phones or in person. This sure brings back some good memories. Thanks for sharing

  17. My first home was the one my husband and I lived in the first 8 months after we were married. It was a lovely old stone farmhouse…very simple but grand all at the same time. The one thing that was a bit of a problem though was that there was no heat upstairs where the bedrooms were. We actually had ICE on the inside of the windows and on the damp walls during that winter. We joke now that it was a good thing we were newly weds with stars in our eyes…because we were able to laugh about it and still have fun.

    Lydia´s last post…Look What My Mailbox Gave Me!

  18. That is so funny, you have brought back so many memories for me. My first home was also in Waco 12 years ago, but it was an efficiency apartment on University Park Drive. I married my sweet husband after my freshman year and so he squeezed into that apartment with me, a black lab, and a cat while I finished school. What fun times we had with so little!

  19. Oh, the memories of those college days. Oh. I miss it so.

    This is so beautifully written. I can picture it vividly, and I can’t wait to read more.

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last post…Let’s Talk about N-F-P! (answering The Birth Control Question)

  20. I really liked this post :-)

    The longest I’ve lived anywhere from the time I was 18 until I was 24 was a year, so I’ve had a lot of “homes.” I think the first place that felt like “home” was a top story apartment in Point Loma. If you stood on your tiptoes on the balcony you could see the ocean.

    My family thought I was crazy for buying my own furniture because 1) it was off craigslist and we all know how dangerous that is and 2) I was dating my now husband…they thought I should just wait for him to propose! Good thing I didn’t listen…we’re still using that same craigslist furniture!

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Wardrobe Challenge Days 38-40 & Come Together Now

  21. I remember my first apartment. I was in college and working at a church. It was a mother-in-law type apartment above a house and it was adorable. Wood floors, established neighborhood…an adorable kitchen. Spacious. Quiet. Very, very quiet. No tv. Lots of reading. Lots of learning.

    There was no shower head. Just an old bathtub with a little window right there – strange! So I took baths. I am still surprised that I pulled that off. I don’t recall myself being too flexible until I had children. Children bring that on, huh?!

    It was a beautifully difficult time in my life. I love the memories.

    I moved into my husband’s “bachelor pad” upon marriage. I cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned (but I must say that to his benefit he was fairly clean for a single guy…thanks to my mil)…I organized. It was small. His drum set was where our dining table would have been if we had one. Duncanville High School was right outside our bedroom window and on Friday nights we would get the full effect of the drum line. My husband could play along.

    We eventually got a table – a nicer card table that is still our dining table. It’s only been four years so bear with us!

    We ate CiCi’s Pizza fairly often. Spinach. I can’t bear to eat their pizza now but then…well, it was so good for some reason! They knew us (by name!) and there is something sweet about that.
    I hid myself in the little bathroom one day only to emerge with a positive pregnancy test that shocked my newlywed husband. We held each on the pleather couch the day we found we lost the baby. I have a picture of me resting in an empty living room after we moved everything out and we were about to be on our way to Seattle, WA. I was pregnant then. With my now three year old son. Sweet, sweet memories. I remember our neighbors. The older man who lived across from us who had lots of lady callers…

    I could go on and on…you’ve got me thinking and remembering! Good post.

    Jen Hill´s last post…I found a new blog…

  22. How bizarre to meet your landlord – really to amazing!!! This sounds so fun I am dying to read on!!!

    Our first home – father person and I, was a huge Victorian beach house that had stood empty and unused for years. It belonged to a schoolmate and they had used it for school holidays and had now grown up and gone their separate ways. They rented it furnished with all the family outcast furniture!!! So we had this huge Victorian over looking the ocean… in a well sort after village where everyone was paying millions per meter!!! Did I mention overlooking the ocean, like nothing between us and the sea… we could watch whales breaching from our front windows and they were literally twenty meters away. Those were the days!!! thanks for making me think back!!!

    se7en´s last post…This Week (22 February) at Se7en…

  23. You are so beautiful. The town north of Houston did suck didn’t it. But I sure liked when you could make the 1.5 hour drive to Galveston, even if I was insane at the time. Beach time is always fun time. :) Your entry makes me want to live in Waco. Who knew.

  24. I absolutely loved this post! My husband and I are in the process of making a home together; we got married last year, and we moved into our first house back in September. While reading your post, I started thinking how fun it will be to document all of the houses we’ll be living in during my husband’s career in the Navy (there are bound to be plenty of houses, as he’ll be stationed in a new city every few years). I imagine that in the future, it will be rewarding to look back on how we’ve grown as a couple and as a family and what role our home has played in our lives.

    Samantha´s last post…Seven Years

  25. Wow, that sounds almost identical to the place I lived with my best friend (and where my husband and I shared our first year as marrieds). We moved to the Twin Cities several years ago, and though we have the most “stuff” we’ve ever had, and now we have two children, it’s been the most lonely time, friends-wise, in my life. I don’t know if that’s just due to becoming a mommy, and it’s natural, but I sure miss college and having all my friends in community.

    Minnesotamom´s last post…Sherman & Friends

  26. I love this post – such warm and cozy memories from this time in my life! You painted that picture perfectly. I lived with my parents during grad school, so my first home after graduating was in a rowhouse in Baltimore city with 3 friends from high school. We had shows that the 4 of us watched together, theme parties, walks to late night food and breakfast in the morning, and more. I was glad to leave that time in my life but I really miss it sometimes!

    Lisa @ lists in my pocket´s last post…Switching It Up

  27. ahhh waco.

    live in houston now….love texas, ain’t nothing like it.

    Sandhya Ganesha´s last post…1st Giveaway – Ladies Bib Apron

  28. This post was so well written. I couldn’t stop reading! I felt like I was your roommate in college. I recently subscribed to your blog & have really enjoyed your writing style and simple-is-good philosophy.

    on the eastern journey´s last post…Sianna, this is home!

  29. Love it!!! I’m so jealous at how cheap your rent was!!! I lived in an old house that we divided into 4 apartments also. There were three of us in a one bedroom and we each paid almost $300/month! And that was considered cheap!

    It was worth it though because we were really good friends with everyone in the other 3 apartments, only a block off campus, and within walking distant of the quaint downtown.

    Simplelivin’´s last post…Living in Narnia and a Question

  30. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing. Seems like this took us all down memory lane.

    I have lots of memories of the people and houses I lived in while attending A&M. All of us had dogs, and the dogs were as different as we were.

    Then there’s the first rent house my husband and I moved into (sight unseen) 8 days after we got married and moved west, 8 hours away from our family and friends. It turned out to be a great place with lots of great memories. We didn’t have two pennies to rub together but we were so happy. The town was filled with great people who took us in like family. We hadn’t been there a week when we were on the front page of the newspaper, announcing our arrival!!

    I can’t wait to read more….

  31. That would have to be the house I grew up in, our family farm house. So much history (way before my time) and so many memories there. It’s still in the family, and it’s probably always the place I will feel the most at home. It is definitely a part of me.

    The first place I made my own home? Although I lived in some apartments beforehand, the first place I feel like I made my own home was the first apartment my husband and I shared after we got married. It was OLD, not very scenic, had a mouse problem and the guy living upstairs had snakes! And yet… It was the first place we made a home and we were actually quite comfortable there.

    Farmer Gal´s last post…The Harsh Realities of a Minnesota Winter

  32. I’m really looking forward to the next post. This home sounded charming in its own way. It reminds me of the last apartment I lived in before I bought a house. That apartment also felt like a treehouse. I was actually very happy there!

    tiffany´s last post…Preparing for childbirth (GIVEAWAY!!!!)

  33. Oh Rachel! What a great story. What a great place. And I love the pic of College Rachel. I’m so excited for the rest of this series.

    jill´s last post…February 24th

  34. please tell us about reconnecting with your landlord —how did that go????

  35. I moved clear across the country (from Nevada to Boston) the week before I turned 18 where I lived with an older sister (whom I didn’t grow up with) and several different roommates. We rented the bottom apartment of a two-family house and the landlord lived upstairs. He was always making excuses to come in and spy on us. I remember everything was beige–the wallpaper, the carpet, the hand-me-down furniture. The very best thing about it was after getting a job and logging a few months of paying rent, and buying groceries, and shopping for clothes–then came the realization that I was independent and self-supporting and grown-up. Best feeling ever.

  36. My first home was my parents home, the home I grew up in. The home I spent 26 years in before I left to build a home with my husband. The home I tap danced and scratched my Mom’s wood floors in. The home we danced around the Christmas tree in. The home we had one bathroom in (and managed just fine, may I say). The home I cried over a broken heart in. The home that still has my Mom’s wonderful “mom” smell and the most comfortable and cozy couch. The home my parents built and created our family in. Still love it.

  37. Love the pic of you and your gal pals. I’m living in my first “home” now… if you could call a dorm room a home. I actually do consider my floor at school a second home and my roommate and I have done our best to make our room homey. We have a couch, matching quilts, pictures everywhere, plenty of hot coffee and tea, and some old trunks from my parent’s attic that we use as a coffee table.
    …we love sitting on the ground and playing scrabble:).

    Christine´s last post…The trust bond

  38. I guess my first “home” was the apartment I had in college. It was campus housing, though, and furnished, so we didn’t get to do much in the way of decorating. But my roommate and I did pick out bathroom linens, and she made this great piece of art from 3 greeting cards we though were hilarious. It was a fun time.

    But my first house was the one I live in now with my husband. He’d been there just a few months when we met, and less than a year when we actually started dating. He hadn’t done any decorating at all because he figured that whoever he married would have her own sense of style. So it was a blank slate when we realized we’d end up together, and I’d be living there someday, too. I love our home because we made it a home together!

    Amy´s last post…My favorite month

  39. I love the nostalgia. My first house was with 5 other asbestos hole of sorts. I loved it and we never once cleaned anything but an occasional dish. That house is 3 blocks from where I live now…11 years later. I too miss the community of college life. I also miss the freedom to explore myself that has since been undermined by ridiculous things like workplace dress codes, beard appearance regulations, and the outright prohibition on blue mohawks.

  40. Loved this! I shared with several girls in my uni years that I still consider best friends…this post made me want to go call and have a chat with them… thanks :)

    angelvalerie´s last post…mental barriers…

  41. Oh great post! I love reading these type of post. The concept discussed in the blog has been admirable.

  42. What fun pics. You and Carol look exactly the same. Heather (is that Heather on the left?) looks totally different.

    I lived in Baylor Landing – my apartment is now parking spot. Sigh.

    Kat @ InspiredToAction´s last post…Purposeful Motherhood: How To Use Your Mission Statement

  43. Waco, Texas! I went to College there too!