This is a multi-part story written to demonstrate how the resources available on this site can work for you.
Genna, 64, had lived in her four-bedroom home for more than twenty years. She bought it with her then husband and when they divorced she got the house. Now she was an empty-nester with children living far away. She was tired of rattling around in the house all by herself. Though she’d gotten used to it, there were times when she simply wished for company and help. It was a big job taking care of the house by herself. She’s considered selling and moving to an apartment. But apartments are expensive and the house was almost paid off.
The idea of having someone live with her was suggested by a friend. It had some appeal but seemed very risky. How do you get rid of someone once they’ve moved in? How do you know if it is going to work? How do you start? What’s important to consider?
She read the book quickly. It was an easy read and gave her lots of tips and ideas about what to consider when screening a potential home-mate. The worksheets took longer—especially the ones for clarifying what she must-have and can’t-live-with in her home. She thought it would be easy but it wasn’t. Some things were. She knew she couldn’t live with a smoker or a cat. She knew she had to be able to have her hot bath at night. Since there was one bathroom with a tub this was important. She liked things to be neat and tidy. Beyond that, every time she thought of a “must-have” she realized it wasn’t so critical and could think of ways in which it wouldn’t be a must-have.
Genna began to put the word out to her circle of friends that she was looking to find someone to live with.
At church one Sunday, one of those friends, Alice, was catching up with Sally at coffee hour. Sally used to come all the time but hadn’t been around recently. As they talked Sally was open about the stress she was feeling. In a month her youngest child was going off to college. It meant she would be living alone in her three-bedroom house and she would lose the child support from her ex-husband and with it the financial cushion that helped pay the mortgage. On her own she barely made enough to keep the house. She knew she should sell the house, but she hated to do it. She couldn’t see herself living in an apartment. Also, it would mean leaving town since there were few rentals available.
Alice asked Sally if she had ever considered sharing housing with someone as a way to manage.
“Yes!” said Sally. “I’ve often thought about it. I have old friends from my college days. When we get together we talk about how we should buy a house together in our retirement. I actually asked one if she wanted to move here, but she didn’t want to leave her community. I feel the same way.”
Alice said, “I think you should meet Genna.” She looked around the room and spotted Genna talking in a group. “I see her. Let me go and get her so that I can introduce you two.” Alice walked across the room and when she arrived at the group Genna greeted her with a questioning look as it was obvious that Alice had a purpose in mind.
Alice, “I’ve just been talking with Sally. She’s struggling with housing and I thought that you should talk to her about your plans. Who knows? She might be someone you could have as a home-mate. Come meet her.”
As it happens in many churches though Genna and Sally knew each other by sight, they’d never actually talked to each other.
Once introduced, Alice drifted away and Sally and Genna had a get-to-know-you conversation. They learned where they both lived, what they did for work, how long they’d been married. They discovered that they had each gotten divorced in the same year. Their children weren’t the same age so they hadn’t been in school together but they had gone to the same high school. There was a particular teacher who had been a favorite of their children. As they are talked they sized each other up.
Genna, who liked what she was feeling, looked at Sally inquiringly and said, “I’ve been looking for someone to share my house with me. Alice seemed to think you might be interested…”
She watched Sally’s face which brightened as she said, “Yes!” and then her voice faltered and her face collapsed. “It’s such a big deal, I’d have to sell my house, get rid of all my stuff.” Suddenly the world’s weight was on her shoulders. Genna wanted to hug her to console her.
Genna said, “I’m not in a rush. It’s important to me that I’m happy and comfortable with whoever moves in. I agree it’s a big deal to move, especially with a house sale involved. We can work something out if we decide that we are compatible enough to live together.”
Sally said hesitatingly, “I know I need to do something. I just hate change. I want to crawl into my bed, pull the covers over my head, and wait for it to be over. But I can’t do that.” She straightened her shoulders. “What’s your house like?”
“It’s four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms. I’ve put together an ad describing the house and what I’m looking for in a home-mate. Why don’t I send it to you? If you think it’s a good fit, we can plan for you to come and see that house and we can talk some more about the idea. It’s possible you’ll not like the house at all. I love it, though the truth is some of my furniture has seen better days and some of the rooms could use a coat of paint. I just can’t afford to hire someone to do it and don’t have the energy to do it all by myself.”
Sally, “I love to paint. Really. It’s true.” She smiled at Genna. Genna smiled back.
Genna, “Why don’t we do this? I want you to see the ad I’ve put together. I spent a lot of time working on it to get it right. When you read it you’ll know the basics of what I’m looking for. If it seems good to you then let’s get together to talk some more. How does that sound?”
Sally agreed and they exchanged contact information.
This is story that is composed from the many conversations I’ve had with individuals over the years. The specifics may be different but the general stress and worry that both women are living with appears to be a common phenomenon these days. Do they ring true to you?