Dream House with a Side of In-Laws

I have always wanted a house with a wrap-around porch and a swing. I’ve wanted a nice paved driveway with a big garage at the end of it. I’ve wanted a huge back yard with a willow tree for the kids to play in and a deck I could sit on and watch them. I’ve wanted a fireplace for those cold nights in the winter months and a play room to send the kids to when they’re noisy. I’ve wanted a huge kitchen with lots of windows and light. I’ve wanted a nice suburban neighborhood in Smalltown, USA, where there are kids next door and everyone watches out for everyone else.

Well, after years of half-hearted searching, we’ve finally found it, and we’re moving into it. I can’t wait to finally have the house I want my kids to grow up in. I can’t wait to start making that house my home, adding my personal touch to decorate and express my creativity.

Of course, I never realized my dream house was gonna come with in-laws.

Wait for it…

“Oh, you poor thing, I’m sorry. You sure you wanna do that? I mean… your *in-laws*… really? How are you gonna handle that?”

Well, guess what. After a large amount of soul-searching and conversation with the people that matter, I’m looking forward to it.

Yes, really.

I’ve been a “communal living” advocate most of my life. In our married life, Jeff and I have had exactly 3-6 months where we lived completely by ourselves – just the two of us. There has always been a housemate or family either in the house with us or right next door. This should not surprise anyone. I’m an advocate of social consciousness and environmental responsibility. We consider communal living to be a responsible choice for us.

I wouldn’t have my dream house without the in-laws. Frankly, we couldn’t afford it — and neither could they. Together, we share the bills. I’m not living in their house and they’re not living in mine. It’s a joint contract and a shared responsibility.

We’ve already divided certain household responsibilities. Mom deals with the finances and “legal” aspects of the move and home maintenance. I deal with the aesthetics. Dad is in charge of the garden and lawn and Jeff is in charge of the technical stuff. We all recognize and trust the strengths in each other. It’s mutual respect.

And it works for us. And I’m well aware that this kind of arrangement would not work for everyone — possibly for very few people in fact. Maybe it works for us because we’ve always been able to wear several hats in our relationship. Yes, they are the “in-laws,” and most people stop there when they deal with the spouse’s family. But, they are also our housemates in the new move — all of us equal partners. Mom and I are both writers, and without going into detail, have many conversations as writers on topics that I’d never discuss with my “mother-in-law.” Dad is my massage therapist and we hold the same doctor-patient confidentiality anyone holds with a medical professional. More importantly, they’ve always been more than family. They’re my friends.

Am I at all worried about living with the in-laws? Of course. In the same way I’d be worried about adjusting to living with anyone new. It’s a change, and living with someone ultimately brings about challenges to the relationship. Admittedly, there will be times when the roles will cross over and mom & dad will be the parents and we will be the kids and I expect that.

But when it comes to whose home it is, I’m not worried. It’s *our* home — all of us.

I Didn’t Know We Had THAT!

When I declared 2010 to be the “Year of the Purge,” I had no idea what I was signing on for. I’m a packrat and I married a packrat. And guess what happens when two packrats raise children together? They foster tiny packrats who insidiously squirrel away every scrap of paper or cheap toy ever handed to them (include the “cool box” it came in).

Our house is bursting at the seams from clutter. There are moments (far more and more frequent recently), where we’ve actually gotten to the place of tripping through the landfill obstacle course to get from one room to another. And yes, that’a an embarrassing thing to admit, but there, I said it.

So, I’ve slowly (and that’s with much kicking and screaming really) been sifting through things, attempting to throw away or donate things and pare down our possessions. And we’ve honestly gotten rid of a LOT of stuff.

But you’d never know it when you walk into our house. See, the problem with packrats (particularly the crafty and creative types that we are)? Everything is necessary. There’s sentimental value. There’s the obligatory, “I can make something with that” and “As soon as I get rid of that, I’ll realize I needed it to finish some project.”

What happens is that we’ve collected so much of that “just in case” stuff that we don’t even know what we have, and as I’ve been purging, I’ve discovered a whole treasure trove of stuff I always wanted and didn’t realize I already had. And so have my children.

And now, we’re moving. More on that soon enough over the next few weeks, because there are all kinds of stories there. Suffice it to say for now, however, that packing is a monumental chore. Knowing I can’t keep everything, but not knowing what is “safe” to get rid of, makes packing slow or sometimes even stall with the discoveries.

So forgive the silence. I’ve been digging for buried treasure and getting distracted by bright shiny objects.