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April 15, 2024

Rough Times Café: Housing

By Sand Pilarski

Lots of foreclosures, big time losses on properties.

When your job suddenly ends, or is summarily suspended for an ambiguous length of time, what do you do when the house payments simply can no longer be made?

More than a few have just moved everything they own and can spare into the driveway, put up a sign that says, "SALE" and tried to unload all but their most needed possessions for cash, cash that might gain them another month in their house, might give them a little time to find other jobs. Others move their possessions into storage, and go to stay with relatives or friends until such time as they can afford to find another place to live.

My goodness, moving in with other people. What will we think of next, pot luck dinners?

Now everybody knows how to act at a potluck dinner -- (well, just about anyone. If you've never done it, listen up) -- you try to mingle with the people there as politely as you can, and you sample the food as best you can, and you praise that creation, as best you can. You take a reasonable portion of the foods, not greedily hogging the best dish for yourself. Generally, you can't tell who made the individual foods, so it's a good idea to be nice to everyone you meet, in case the hunched-over old lady with the oxygen cart and the cane made the exquisite chicken-broccoli-cheese-mushroom casserole. You don't want to snub her and risk her not bringing it again, not only because it was delicious, but also because the other people there will hate you for their loss. So potluck dinner is an exercise in kindness and restraint as well as community.

In these difficult times, if and when you move in with another household, or have another household move in with you, you have to look at each other as honored guests invited to a potluck dinner ... and sleepover.

And that would be day after day. Every day you have to wake up and accept that there are others in your house for a sleepover and a potluck. And that goes for everybody, both hosts and visitors.


On both sides, every day must begin anew, with welcome and acceptance, with gratitude and effort to cement the bonds that allow close living.

How freaky is that, in a culture which has been taught by television shows to throw furniture about, abuse yourself, and scream out all your irritations and frustrations when opposed in the least way?

Let's get real. Life does not have to be like that, although some do choose to live that way. But we're not talking about forced habitation with weirdos who ought to be turned in to the authorities, we're talking now about foreclosures and trying to stay alive as best we can.

To do that, each adult must admit that every other adult has a brain. And a heart. And a soul. Is the other adult who is moving in a relative? Mother, Daughter, Son, Father, Cousin, Aunt, Uncle -- it doesn't matter. Every adult with whom you choose to live must agree to some pact of living, must acknowledge that he or she has an ability to agree on a way of life for the household, even if they are relatives ... especially if they are relatives.

We're not talking about smilingly accepting Cousin Bennie the Meth Addict and his buddies as roomies and visitors. Is Bennie going to get clean? He has to prove, by going through rehab and then some, if he can join your household and support it. We're also not talking about Mother-In-Law Flametooth, who can't contain her venom and hatred about people who have married her offspring. Again, it doesn't matter if they're family; guests and hosts alike must treat each other with respect, civility, patience, and industry.

Practically speaking, it means things like:

  • Picking up afteryourself. Nothing says, "I don't give a crap about your living space" like leaving your shoes under the coffee table or dirty coffee mug on the windowsill. Don't expect the co-habitants of the house to clean up after you. Keep your stuff in your own living space -- and be prepared to keep that tidy, too.
  • Watching your language. Once again, polite as at a potluck is what is needed. No "Gimme dat" or "Mind yer own business." So much is conveyed by voice! In a forced meld of households, voices have to tell of sympathy, hope, and acceptance.
  • Contributing to the household. What cash is being saved by moving in together should go to supporting all. If you move in with your sister because your house is gone, you don't take what you've got in the bank and buy non-essentials. If the hosts are cutting back on all discretionary spending, you shouldn't fling your own luxuries in their faces.
  • Accepting contributions to the household. Living with someone who hates to be grateful is misery. If your guests want to pay some rent, say, "Thank you." Allow the people you're sheltering to maintain their dignity by helping with cooking, cleaning, repairs, yard work -- however they can make life better for all.
  • Taking other people's tastes into account. If you can't live without rap music, don't accept the offer to move into the home of someone who prefers an open window and birdsong. By the same token, if you know someone is an utter pig, and you are a neat nut, don't torture yourself by offering them your spare bedroom. If you're living in with someone, don't cook seafood if they're allergic to it. If you're a vegetarian, don't nag your host about eating a cheeseburger.

Living in community is not about living in hell and being abused by so-called family responsibilities or by overly submissive behavior. Community means ... everybody tries to make life as livable and as viable as possible. In spite of what television and popular culture teaches, living in community is quite possible, and can be good and fruitful.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-04-13
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