Home Sweat Home

It’s a very special occurrence when a house becomes a home—even if that home needs a new roof, a new water heater…

This year marks our 16th anniversary in the same house. What’s remarkable for my little band of warrior-poets is that it surpasses the sum total of years during which we had lived in five different homes in five different states.

Transitioning from American Bedouins to a current kind of monastic cloister remains the subject of any number of family discussions, usually with me serving as the villain for a restless wanderlust and then a stubborn unwillingness to change—depending on which facet of my personality the family is bent on taking down hard at that time.

The previous five domiciles produce memories of living in them, but not living in them. If these walls could talk, they’d have enough tales for at least a half-dozen Lifetime movies. Most of the combined 21 “teenage years” were lived out in all that typical morbid introspection. Oh, they managed to wreck three cars during that epoch as well, but without injury, so they hardly even count now.

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Here is also the site for an annual Christmas party that you would have to have first-hand experience of our fundamental shyness if not downright social backwardness to understand the significance of throwing a bash that people actually mark their calendars for.

I think the big thing about living in one home for so long is how much home repair has to take place, and how extensive the list of deferred maintenance over the years.

Here, we’ve replaced an entire heating and air conditioning system, a water heater, a sump pump, a garbage disposal, carpets, half of a French door, replaced an expensive part to a gas fireplace, and most recently patched up leaks in our roof.

I’ve rolled up my sleeves and replaced more toilet parts here than in all other homes combined. And the list of what I like to entitle “things that still have to be done around here before you can even think of selling this place” continues to grow.

Which brings up the most important point of all. It seems the more the subject of “downsizing” comes up, the more excuses we have for not doing anything concrete about it. A home—even with what became five bedrooms, four bathrooms and a basement that when all of us were living here still seemed “cramped”—now is as cavernous as an airport after a terror scare.

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Clearly, we are entering a period in this dwelling’s shelf life that is going to demand more and more expensive maintenance and repair as the years go by. “The biggest economic decision you’ll ever make” is increasingly becoming a more expensive one to maintain.

But as those years go by, the memories, the voices, the laughter, the tears, the triumphs and disappointments continue to deepen and work their way into these walls. Yet, there remain no plans for hiring a Realtor and looking at “active adult” developments. I think it’s because the less this house becomes a good investment, the more it becomes simply our home.

Reid Champagne hopes this living tribute to hearth and home gets him out of the doghouse, but he doubts it will.

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