Making a Home — the Last Chapter (but not the end)

Previously in this story: the college apartment, the single girl apartment, and the money pit.

Doug and I married in the fall of 2003. We had a little one-bedroom apartment that was decorated in the odd fashion of wedding-gift serving trays mixed with hand-me-down lumpy couches, as I’m sure is a fairly customary tradition for young couples.

That was the year we paid off all our debt together, so we didn’t do much in the way of personal decorating.

We had trouble finding how our different styles could coincide. Doug liked clean modern lines and industrial steel, like The Modern in Fort Worth.

My childhood dream house was cozier.

Our cozy apartment kitchen was big enough for only one person at a time, and I stuffed wedding gifts into a high cabinet in the bathroom.

With each passing anniversary, we wondered if the next year might be the year we found a house to be ours.

Year 1 — “Maybe when our job situation is more clear…”
Year 2 — “Maybe as soon as the housing bubble bursts…”
Year 3 — “Maybe we just needed a new couch instead of a new house…”

We added to our apartment a little at a time, first a table, then a couch, and then a painting. We watched friends find houses of their own, but we moved to another apartment, and then another.

* * *

It’s odd what you remember about a place. My memories of the apartments that Doug and I have lived in are frequently marked by food accidents. The first apartment where Doug shoved an entire bundle of cilantro down the sink disposal using a plunger. The second kitchen where I repeatedly set toast on fire (actual flames coming from the bread). The third where Doug made a cookie pie and then dropped it fresh from the oven, all over the floor, with much howling from our three-year-old.

When we became pregnant we felt like we were almost expected to find a house to settle down and grow our family, but it didn’t seem like the right time. (It still doesn’t, in case you thought that’s where this story was going. We just renewed our lease.)

This story ends where this blog begins: finding a way to settle into a temporary place.

Becoming familiar with Craigslist as we traded stuff we didn’t need anymore.

Planting a ridiculous number of container plants, and even naming the big ones.

Not letting an apartment kitchen hinder me from trying my “home experiments,” like canning jars of kumquat jam that no one wanted to eat.

Finding parks for my little one to run around outside, since I couldn’t shoo her out the door into a backyard.

Keeping track of our child’s growth by marking lines and writing dates on beige painted walls, even though they will be covered with another thin layer of beige paint as soon as we move out, in time for the next tenant.

Liking our things, but holding on to them with a loose grip.

Being reminded all the while, with every longing, that this earth is not our home. 

A better place awaits.

Dear friends, I’ll be celebrating Easter this weekend, and I’m signing off from my computer early. Have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you again on Monday.
About Rachel

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


  1. What an awesome post!! I’m sure that when the time does finally come, it’ll be that much more sweet. And good for you for celebrating what you have been blessed with for now!! Being content with the blessings God has given me is something I have been struggling with lately. Thank you for inspiring me to be content.

    Lisa Middleton´s last post…Awesome mail and D90 tips.

  2. rachel, thanks for that post.
    we’re in a similar situation. lots of friends starting to look for and find houses. you ask them: “why”? more often than not, you get an answer that boils down to “its the thing to do at our age / in our situation / at our stage of relationship, marriage, family”. seldomly you get the answer “because we want to have a house!”.

    we live in an appartment and we’re happy with it. that might change at some point in time. or it might not. i could very well see us bring up our kids in an appartment. i love cooking in our appartment kitchen. a yard or garden does not neessarily beat a roof terrace or nicely laid out balcony.

    another pro: living in an appartment without a 3 car garage, 4 room basement and 2 sheds really forces you to not amass clutter and garbage. and i really like that.

  3. Thanks for the reminder. :) No one says you have to own real estate to be happy, and apartment living really does help you pare down your belongings. Happy Easter!

    Lisa @ lists in my pocket´s last post…See-Through

  4. Love the treehouse pic! :) I sort of just said this on another comment to your getting out of debt post, but we did a lot of the same things to get out of debt! Made a lot of sacrifices! But, oh! how worth it it was! :) We are totally debt free!! (except our mortgage!) PTL!

    Catie´s last post…Veggie Garden

  5. Great points. Even living in houses, everything is temporary.

    Also, that was my favorite house as a kid too, the Berenstein Bear’s, isn’t it?

    Wendy´s last post…3 Less Frustrating Ways to Dye Blown Eggs

  6. I always wanted to live in the Berenstein’s tree house, too! Loved it…

    Michelle´s last post…Wednesday in the Word.

  7. Thanks, Rachel. I got goosebumps as I got to the end of this post. You’re so right, this earth isn’t our permanent home. So often it’s easy to delude myself into thinking it is. Everything here is temporary, but my relationships with God and others are eternal.

  8. I have always wanted to live in a tree house :-)

    Glad you have made peace with your decisions! There are certainly lots of upsides to NOT owning a home! The fact that we just had to unexpectedly replace an 8 yr old furnace this week makes me long for our previous rental house on the military base. But I don’t miss the drafty windows and teeny-tiny bathroom!

    Great post :-)

    Jen´s last post…Cranky

  9. Thanks for writing about being okay with living in an apartment – you are still making a home together, aren’t you?

    My parents measured our growth also – when we moved from one house to another, my dad bought a thin, 6+-foot long strip of wood and copied over the historical markings, and then just nailed that strip of wood to the wall in the kitchen in the next house. I wouldn’t be surprised if that strip is still around, even if my older brother just turned 40 and my younger brother probably stopped growing a good ten years ago :)

    bethh´s last post…Report from the kitchen: CEM, part one

  10. Great post!

  11. Amen to that last bit! Reading your timeline about considering a house makes me think that perhaps it’s easier to do without the longer you’ve, well, done without? We’ve been in our new home for a couple of weeks now, and suddenly a TV and even a couch don’t seem like the urgently needed purchases they once were. I find myself enjoying the morning quiet and the afternoon sunshine in ways that I hadn’t before.

    Happy Easter to you and your beautiful family!

  12. Thank you for writing this – I really needed to read it today. I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself lately (trying to run a business out of a small apartment with a toddler underfoot) and this reminded me of why we are where we are. There are things that are bigger and more important than the walls that surround me.

  13. Love how you added the image of the Berenstain Bears’ house without comment. That made me smile… as did all of your post. We’re renters too.

  14. This was so fun to read. We still have a kitchen that gets way too crowded if more than one person is in there at a time, but that’s okay. What I love about being a renter right now is that we have the flexibility to move if we need to (after our lease is up, that is :)) and that we don’t have to pay for repairs. I think the one reason I’d really like a house is to have a yard, because places around here that you can rent that have yards are just way beyond our budget right now.

  15. Loved your thoughts today!

    Wendy´s last post…this moment

  16. Loved this series! And such a perfect ending. Happy Easter!

    anne´s last post…Weekend Update :: End of March

  17. I think I may have to subscribe to this theory of ‘temporary homes’ soon. I grew up on a dairy farm that my dad had grown up on, but my husband is looking into the army and we all know what that means; lots of moving. I’m trying to see ‘adventure’ instead of ‘upheaval’!

  18. Beautifully said. NPR also had a story yesterday saying the whole 30-year-fixed rate american dream is a dinosaur of another era that involved stable, secure employment. In this day and age where people’s economic situation is so volatile, not to mention all the moving around, the idea of owning a house makes less and less sense.
    Your last sentences are inspirational. Sometimes I view those kitchens with the huge granite counter-tops and stacked ovens with a pang of envy – as much for being able cook in a place like that as to own it, but I realize I am able to make all sorts of wonderful things in my kitchen that is half the size, whereas so many people have twice the space and just use it to heat up take out. It’s not the house, but the home you make.

  19. Love this.

  20. Thanks SOOO much for sharing this. My husband I and I were married the same year as you and I think we’re just a bit North! We finally moved into a house after 6 years in an apartment this past September, but it’s still a rental. We’re expecting our first and just found out the landlord is wanting to sell the house, so we may be moving into yet another rental. We really want to buy, but the timing just isn’t right. I really needed to hear your story. God is so good!

  21. Jennifer says:

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your stories about home. I love the fact that the Berenstain Bears’ treehouse was your sort of dreamhouse! I always thought they had the coolest house. We bought our first home after six years of marriage. We lived there seven years, and have been in our current home a year. There are blessings in owning a home, but there are also burdens. When you rent, you don’t have to worry about replacing the roof or fixing the stucco that is cracking. Enjoy the freedom from those burdens in this season of your life!

  22. What a great ending to your series. Owning a home doesn’t define who we are. When and if the time is right you’ll make the right decision for you. In the meantime…I’d like to live in the Berenstain Bears house too! Talk about a feeling of coziness!

    Tina@RideOnToys´s last post…The John Deere Ride On Toys – What a Variety!

  23. What a lovely post, I was choked up at the end. I’m looking to get married in the next year or so, and we also feel as though we should find a house, though financially an apartment would suite us much better. You’ve hit the nail right on the head, that living in an apartment only allows us a loose graps on our belongings, which is what is sometimes frustrating. But you are so right, that it’s all temporary anyways. Have a wonderful Easter.

    Boiling It Down´s last post…Quitting Facebook: Saving My Insides From Everyone Else’s Outsides

  24. I am thankful for the better place that awaits and constantly need to be reminded that this is not our home. Thank you!

    Tracey´s last post…Any Given Saturday Morning

  25. Vanessa says:

    What a great message Rachel! Thank you for that reminder at the bottom – very meaningful. Best wishes for you and your family this Easter!

  26. Michelle says:

    Great post! What you said is so true; this is not yet home. There’s something better to look forward to.

  27. Great post! We unfortunately own 2 houses and we really wish we didn’t. From my perspective, renting gives you the flexibility to move when you want to, change cities if you want to – without worrying about your place. You can end your lease and move on without a glance behind you. At this point in our lives, the advantages of home ownership are outweighed by the burdens we feel.

    Such a true statement – this home is temporary, but our home Above is what lasts. It reminds me to keep our worldly burdens in perspective!

    Happy Easter!

  28. So glad to know that someone other than me dreamed of living int he Berenstein bears house when they were little.

    Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists´s last post…Can Oat Bran Muffins Really Kick Hiney? Yes.

  29. this is what has always drawn me to your blog – how you have made your home – your home – even if it is an apartment. And, your perspective is so true.

    Denise´s last post…basic skills

  30. My mother recently moved to be closer to us. She had been keeping a growth chart of her grandchildren on the wall in her former home. She purchased a length of clear vinyl from the fabric store. I cut it to about 12″ wide by 6′ tall and tacked it to the wall over the growth chart. Then I used a fine point Sharpie to copy all of the measurements/dates/names onto the vinyl. Now she has the vinyl strip tacked to the wall of her new home.

    Tamara´s last post…It’s a new day

  31. This is a great series about home(s) you lived in. I am enjoying and waiting for more in anticipation.

    When I got married, my and Zenguy’s idea of living was opposite, now being married for 10 million years, our likes and dislikes have merged and we are combination of 2 opposite sides!!! Who knew?

    Zengirl: Happy Heart and Mind´s last post…Are you happy with your heart and mind?

  32. I needed to read this exactly now. Thanks.

  33. I’ve really enjoyed this “home” series. Thanks so much for being open and honest.

    As they say- You can’t take it with you when you go!

  34. There is a way to take her growth chart with you when you move!

    A piece of plexi glass! Copy onto and it can go anywhere you go!

  35. I am sooo happy I found your blog! It’s helping me with how I can make our apartment feel like a home. My husband and I are in the process of finding a way to settle into a temporary place. We’ve lived in our apt. for 4 years now and will not be moving anytime soon. We also plan on being debt free once he’s done with school, and making sure that when the time comes to buy a house, we can just pay it one time!

    You guys are an inspiration!

  36. This is a wonderful conclusion to a beautiful story!

    A quick note about writing your kids’ heights on the wall, though. We’re not quite to that point yet (my son is just shy of seven months old) but we want to this. However, we are quite convinced that this is not our forever home, my husband and I have toyed with the idea of buying a wide trim piece from Lowe’s, tacking it to the wall, and tracking his height on the trim piece. That way, wherever we move, we can take those sweet memories with us.

    Just a thought!
    Amy´s last post…Grandma Pierces Christmas Cookies

  37. I am just now catching up with your old post but I really needed this today. My husband and I are divorcing after 18 years of marriage. I have had to get a new job so that I could be home with the kids at night (I was working midnights in a hospital), and we had to file for bankruptcy so I’m losing my home and moving into an apartment. All of this change at once has been really hard on the kids. I was also really depressed about moving into an apartment after 12 years of owning. This post really reminded me that home is not the four walls around you but the people and love inside.

  38. I grew up in rental homes and, although my mother made every one of them our home, all I ever wanted was a house that we OWNED. We moved alot, although always in the same school district/area so there was some permanence. Having said all that, I will say that the most “free” I’ve ever felt was when we moved into a rental townhouse. The only bills I had were the rent, electric, and phone. The townhouse had larger rooms and more sf than the house we left. We had a pool in which to swim and people to fix things for us! But, eventually, the neighborhood demographic declined dramatically and it was no longer as safe and peaceful. We bought another house and that is right for us right now. God bless you for making a home-no matter the dwelling, a home can be made anywhere.

    • Clarification: The “we” in the townhouse are me, my husband, and our three children.

  39. Time for a new chapter ;)
    Brittany´s last post…Week 29 Pregnancy Survey!