Money and no home is an awful lot easier than a home and no money. We're officially nomads right now, which is the technical term for when you have no fixed address but you do have an income, plenty of money, great credit, health insurance, renters insurance, and a strong social network. Without all of those underpinnings of privilege, we're...well, we're homeless. No home and no car. We don't even know what city we'll be living in next month.
Society doesn't really know what to do with a pair of university-educated, middle-aged people with no forwarding address. We had trouble putting a hold on our mail. We had trouble renting a storage unit. We had trouble arranging to return our internet equipment. I had trouble getting a check from one of my side gigs. Everything is done through computer forms with required fields these days. This will be totally different a decade from now, as more and more people enter the distributed workforce. It's already started. Young professionals will insist on working remotely, setting their own schedules, being evaluated primarily by their output and results rather than Butt-In-Chair Time, and changing locations on a whim.
Why own a car or a house if you don't want to and don't need to?
My husband and I decided seven years ago that we wouldn't bother trying to own a house until we retire, if then. We're open to the possibility of coming into a windfall and using it to buy a rental property, but it's not Plan A. Home ownership is like gambling in a casino, except that with real estate the bank, rather than the house, always wins. The first five years of mortgage payments are almost entirely interest. Our bet that we wouldn't stay in one city for a minimum of five years has proven to be prescient. The further we go down this road, the more assured we are of our combined ability to predict trends. We've preserved our ability to cut strings and relocate to better career opportunities, and it's paid off.
When we left the dealership where we sold back our car last week, my husband clearly had a moment of panic. It doesn't bother me; I didn't even learn to drive until I was 29 and I only owned a car for three years. I loathe driving. I made an offhand comment that he later told me struck him as profound. "We do this on vacation all the time." It's true. We never rent a car on vacation because we're either backpacking, in a major urban area, or in an historic area of archaeological interest. Finding our way around on mass transit or chatting with cab drivers are things we pay good money to do with our leisure time. That statement made everything click into place for him, and now he's digging it. It stimulates our sense of adventure.
Right now we're staying in an Airbnb in an affluent neighborhood. It's much nicer than where we were living before. The houses here have whimsical features like balconies, stained glass, decorative ironwork, three-car garages, and actual turrets. The week is costing us the equivalent of a week's rent in the house we just vacated, minus utilities, plus we don't have to do any chores. This is where privilege confers the magical feeling of vacation on our spurious, temporary case of homelessness.
Let's pause a moment while I turn off the flippancy and talk about real homelessness. I have worked at a homeless shelter and for an affiliated transitional housing program, as well as a drug rehab center. I'm familiar with the incredible complexity of the homelessness epidemic, and if I had to pick one social issue I was allowed to care about, this is the one. My husband and I live in a region that has 40,000 homeless people, which is about 1/3 greater than the population of the city where I grew up. There is nothing funny about it. While most people who live on the streets are back in some kind of housing within 3-4 months, those who remain are stuck in a rigged game. Many have jobs and can't earn enough to get back into lodging. The longer you're out sleeping rough, the harder it is to look presentable and the harder it is to compete in the job market. I get so upset about this issue that I sometimes find that my hands are shaking and I am squirting rage tears.
Not having somewhere to live could be a mildly interesting challenge, or a fun vacation, or a temporary logistical hiccup. It could be, it could be. It could be if we had the societal will. We throw away 40% of our food production and we have nearly 33 MILLION storage units, every single one of which is big enough for a live human being to sleep under a roof at night. We simply choose to value hyperconsumerism over human lives. When I think of all the dumpsters full of edible food and all the billions of boxes of worthless junk tucked away in climate-controlled environments, while veterans, the elderly, and mentally ill people sleep on sidewalks, it boggles my mind. I can't understand it at all. One is too many.
Ahem. Sorry about that. Back to our regularly scheduled possibility thinking, abundance, optimism, and minimalism.
So, yeah. My husband and I found the keys to our temporary home in an envelope in the mailbox. The hostess wasn't even home; she just wrote us a note and let us in. Full access. For all she knew, we could be axe murderers or meth dealers. We've never used Airbnb before and have no references or reputation points yet. The payment cleared and my profile photo didn't have horns or facial tattoos, though, so here we are. Trusted and welcomed. Money and no home is a mere blip in the system for us, nothing more than an anecdote. We're the lucky ones.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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