From the Blog

Intentional Uprootedness

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My three year anniversary of moving to Portland was just a few days ago. To celebrate, we are moving to a new apartment this week. It is the third time I’ve moved since I’ve been here.

This was a pattern in other cities I lived in as well. A new apartment every year or less. Most often, there were fluctuating circumstances that resulted in me moving from place to place. And sometimes, I would just simply get bored.

It’s remarkable that I married a man who has the same tendencies. Dave is a Portland native, and through the course of his adulthood, has probably moved dozens of times within the city. I can’t walk anywhere in this town without him saying, “Oh I lived in that building,” “I lived on that street,” “I lived over there.” I can only come to the conclusion that he’s a whore. An apartment whore.

But I’m an apartment slut myself. It’s not that I “like” to move. Actual moving is a pain in the ass. But by the time a lease is up, I’m ready for a change, and I can rally for the actual moving day. Our friends, however, block our calls.

I know that the vast majority of people would scratch their heads at our apparent flightiness. I’ve had good friends ask me when we are going to “settle down.” Because I guess that is what you are supposed to do. Settle down, put down some roots. Maybe even buy a house in the suburbs. I heard it from enough people I had to stop and wonder why such a convention is so universal. And why it was so urgently enforced, even from normally thoughtful people?

We casually looked at condos over the summer. Interest rates were the lowest they’d ever been, and the prices on condos just seemed to keep falling and falling. If we were prone to following convention, we probably would have applied for the largest loan we were deemed qualified for, and get as much house or condo as we could afford.

Even as we looked at properties, however, our intentions were much different. We wanted a small condo, with as tiny a payment as possible, much less than we knew we could afford. But by the end of the summer, we were disenchanted with what we were seeing. We could rent better places for less money. We began to wonder if we ever wanted a mortgage at all. What a crap ton of money a mortgage is. And you have to pay it for like, ever.

Never mind that neither one of us has ever loved a place so much that we wanted to stay beyond a year. Perhaps we are still shopping for neighborhoods. We’ve lived in a bunch of great parts of town, but there have always been drawbacks. None of the neighborhoods we have lived in have tempted us to stay and put down roots. Not yet anyway.

So we choose to rent. We may always rent. Is that strange? There’s a bit of a stigma out there as renters, as though everyone wants to own a home, so if we are renting, there must be something wrong with us. We must not qualify to own a home, or we must be irresponsible, or the most obvious answer: We’re on the run from the law.

So that is what I will tell people from now on when they ask if we are ever going to settle down. “Oh! We’d love to, but it’s only a matter of time before the feds uncover our money laundering factory where we employ under age children to smuggle panda bears for their delicious rump meat. You haven’t tried panda rump? It’s delicious.”


  1. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that you guys buy some sort of small-apartment-sized “vehicle” that you can move around when you get tired of one location. How convenient!

  2. Thank God you blog!! Life’s gotten so busy, I wouldn’t know what’s going on with you otherwise. You’re such a good writer and I thoroughly enjoy reading all your blogs!

  3. And now, for my favorite panel of a webcomic that mentions endangered species…

    “I ate a panda once.”

    (Um, don’t click beyond that page, some of the other comics are sorta NSFW. That one’s okay, though. Unless you work at PETA.)

  4. The difference between a mortgage and rent is that the mortgage ends, and at that point, you OWN the place.

    My wife and I will have been in our house for 10 years this Fall. In five more years, our housing payments end. Forever. That’s $1000 more a month in our pockets, for the rest of our lives. (I can’t imagine us buying a property more expensive than the one we own now, so even if we do move, we would likely trade “down”, putting money in our pockets.)

    Rent truly *IS* forever! (Unless you choose to become homeless, of course.)

    Try the Maplewood neighborhood in SW. It has me and Bill (another coworker of Dave & I) hooked. When I met my wife, she lived in a rental house in that neighborhood. We ended up buying the house next door. The people who rented the house before my wife own the house across the street. Our next door neighbor on the other side had been renting the house one more down. That’s three people who bought “the house next door” in 15 years. This is the “stickiest” neighborhood I’ve lived in (I was a neighborhood nomad for a few years, too. I could have stayed in the Belmont area, but wasn’t ready to settle down at that point.)

  5. I love the idea that I do not HAVE to move again. BUT each time I enter a new living space, I am checking it out to see how cool it would be to live there. As much as I hate moving, I love the anticipation of a new space, new energy, new appliances. even if they are old new appliances, ya know? i think it is super cool that you move around. new stuff, new experiences. i fantasize sometimes about getting rid of all my stuff and moving into a tiny space. one swipe of the rag on the counter and the whole place is clean!!

  6. We followed your aforementioned conventional wisdom about 6 or so years ago. My husband bought a big house before we got married. Our combined income was 6 digits. He lost his job. We were screwed. We used up all our savings, and we put a lot of bills on our credit cards. We finally got a roommate, and it’s saved our bacon.

    We lease cars. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. Especially Mr. EHurtley above. It’s not about the money; see, we’re not car people. We don’t have the cash flow currently to make owning possible, we can’t afford to do anything about the car if it breaks down, and our life situation is in flux as we decided whether or not we want to have kids. Besides, owning does NOT always make sense… especially on things that depreciate (like cars, and in this economy, houses are still depreciating too).

    (And no, we can’t use public transportation.)

    Rent may be forever, but if you’re a rolling stone, it takes years just to pay off closing and moving costs. Not worth it. And life’s not about maximizing the amount of MONEY you save or earn or whatever. At least that’s what I think. :)

  7. @Elkosteve, We are thinking about that. That idea is a contender. I am trying to wrap my brain around becoming camper/trailer people. More thinking to do on that.

    @Katie, thanks! Miss you guys. We’ll be in to Hall of Records for a beer soon.

    @Mary Sue Exactly! Only evil assholes eat panda. Funny evil assholes.

    @ehurtley I like Belmont too. Hall of Records (Katie’s bar above) is on Belmont. And it’s a charming neighborhood. We haven’t found our “forever” neighborhood yet. We keep thinking about Astoria also. We may eventually buy a place, but our cards are ever shuffling, as they say. Wait. No one says that.

    @kelli, The apartment we are moving into this week is 533 sq ft. We will be putting the “small” concept to the test. And actual moving day does suck ass. I’m just going to rally, bang it out in an afternoon, then complain about being sore for a week.

    @kate That’s the thing about property, cars, money and life in general. Does it ever go as anticipated? It’s okay to rent a car. It’s okay to buy a house. There’s no one answer that fits everyone. I just want to be “awake” when we make our life changing decisions.

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