Coffee with Mimi: Empty rooms are less important than how they are filled

Published 9:09 am Friday, September 11, 2020


Our youngest child has just bought her first home. What a milestone.

Our happiness for her is wrapped up in the hope we have helped her cart her belongings around for the last time, or at least until this house becomes a valuable real estate investment acquiring enough equity for the next stage. At that point she will be perfectly able to pay real movers to cart her stuff.  

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As with many people her age, life after Mom and Dad’s is a series of dorm rooms, college apartments, first apartment after college with a roommate, another apartment after college with a different roommate, and first apartment completely on her own. Sprinkled in the mix is summers at Mom and Dad’s and time spent with a sibling. Nice as that may be, it is time to move on.

Throughout the years, a parent hopes the cycle of seeking new living arrangements every time a lease is about to expire will be broken and there will be no phone call asking for a truck and back labor. There just might be a respite in the nomadic lifestyle, if for even just a year, or two.

A new place is always exciting, but after a few annual rounds, the prospect wears thin. I mean, how many times is arranging furniture and hanging pictures going to be fun? 

Invariably, what the emerging adult just “made do” with doesn’t fit in any space where he/she is going to be in this go around and the indispensable small kitchen appliance belonged to the last roommate, or was broken in the move.  

What qualifies as furnishings acquired through all these temporary stages begins to look disorganized, misshapen and of questionable sturdiness. The lifespan of some possessions appears to be in sync with the length of the last lease.

At some point a parent wonders when the adult child might think about putting down some roots, and substantial feeling couch legs.  

The first good signs appear when a major piece of furniture, other than something electronic, is purchased from a source other than a yard sale. Consideration is given to the merits of an in house washer and dryer. A set is acquired. Perhaps a new mattress would be a good investment. One is purchased.        

The day has arrived and movers are manhandling possessions at breakneck speed out of the last rented space into the wonderful new owned home. It is unbearably hot.

There are very few days a year when a person in our family moves: a really hot day, a really cold day or one on which it is pouring rain. But, at the end of this last, hot, moving day is the first home.  

Things seem different. Same stuff, new life. This place is more than a temporary living arrangement. This is a place to stay. Everything has new possibilities. And, there is so much more space.  

The dining room is more than a corner, it is a room. There is no dining room table. There is an extra bedroom for guests — a spare bedroom but with no spare bed. There is a very large and enclosed patio just waiting for cookouts. Before there was a tiny outdoor space, just large enough for two lawn chairs and a small table.

This is the point at which mistakes can be made.  

You need to make a list. The list is lengthy. Resources are not. Obligations are.

There are taxes to be paid and utility bills and insurance, the stuff of home ownership — the obligations which accompany this next stage of living.

So, what are your first moves we asked this new home owner? What is most important to you on that really long wish list? A patio table set and grill? There is good weather left for just such entertaining. You might be able to hit some good sales on outdoor furnishings right now.   

She wants to have our traditional family Christmas at her house which includes a dinner that celebrates her sister’s and her niece’s birthdays. That’s quite a lot to consider.

There is no dining room table and chairs and there is the unfurnished spare bedroom.  Christmas is just months away. Tables and chairs and beds are large, expensive items to work towards. Those are heavy duty purchases which require planning.    

She has it covered. Her sister has an 8-foot folding table and it will be just fine with a cloth over it. Combined with the little table from the apartment and borrowed folding chairs, there is ample seating for our whole family. Her sister and brother-in-law have an extra bedroom across town and she will shuffle off a couple family members there.

A friend gave her a bed frame and box spring. All she needs is a mattress. Between now and the holidays, she can check that one purchase off the wish list.    

She will create her environment one bit at a time. There is no rush. This is her home for years to come. Taking time to enjoy it along the way is more important than a perfect table now.