Monday, September 8, 2014

Sharing a Home In Retirement-One Year Later

It's been almost a year since I moved into my current home.  As readers will remember, I sold my home in Texas and moved to be close to family in Colorado. My original intention was to downsize to an apartment or condo, and I planned and sold according.  Once I got here however, I realized that renting was as expensive as owning in Denver, and that should I downsize that much I would end up walking my dogs at five am! 

 After some discussion, my sister and I decided to look for a place together.  She was looking to lower her expenses and get more of a yard, so it seemed like a good fix. On one level it was a leap of faith. While I had stayed with my sister for up to three weeks at a time when visiting Denver this was another step entirely.  On another level we knew we would each have our own space and were not afraid of discussing specifics. The end result was that we moved forward into a house and a yard/

Almost one year later, am here to say that this move is a success. I said previously in this blog that I probably would not have shared a home with anyone but my sister. I still feel that way, but now think that with the proper amount of privacy and understanding it could work for other people.  While there are many variables in home sharing, these are the primary reasons I think it works for us.

This is OUR place, in that we moved in together more or less (I moved in approximately a two months before my sister sold her house and made the final move, but she was in and out before then). I still feel strongly that when one person has a house and a second moves in, the level of control and ownership are not the same. I know too many people who fall into the "my house and you are just visiting" mode of home sharing. The things we have done, we have done together in terms of making this place ours.

When I moved in, I addressed our shared living spaces in one way. When my sister moved in, we realized jointly that we would have to make changes (hence the "fireplace room" which has small dining table and two large comfortable chairs in front of the fireplace, with a separate plant and TV room).  We've slowly been painting the shared rooms, agreeing and experimenting as we go.  Had I say, moved in with her, these kind of things would not have happened.

We have enough space to ensure privacy and individual interests-and I mean beyond each having our own bed and bath.  This house is big enough to give us both beds, baths and studio office space while still having shared kitchen and two living spaces as well as yard.  If my bedroom were my only private space, I would have to turn it into a sitting room even if it meant a single bed. We can be completely separate if needed.

Third, for the most part we have differing things of ultimate importance in terms of home issues, and are generally both laid back enough to give preference to the person who cares the most. I NEED the home at seventy four in the winter. Our compromise is to turn off vents in the basement for my sister (who does not) and allow for keeping windows open as needed for her even if the cost is a little more. My sister is of the "never let the water run while loading the dishwasher persuasion" and because she cares so much is willing to do the dishes. Neither of us are type A people, and we both agree that the person who is bothered the most or cares the most gets preference and/or is the one that gets to handle that responsibility. The fact that one say, cleans the kitchen different than the other bothers neither of us a whit.  

Fourth, we have both shared and individual interest. I have absolutely no interest in planting and gardening. While I enjoy the results of my backyard and appreciate when I am shown specific plants, I am not likely to spend many weekends in the yard, as she does. At the same time we both enjoy travel, similar movies and TV, quilting, cooking and entertaining and our dogs.  Neither is offended if one goes to her space to read, for example. We have together time and separate time. I have more out of the house commitments and activities, partly because of church and partly because of personality.  She joins in those or stays home as she chooses.

We have an easy financial relationship.  We both pay "rent" separately.  The house utilities are in my name and once a month I am given a check for those. When it comes to food, I cook mostly during the week, and she cooks on the weekend.  There is no official division of groceries as such. She tends to buy large pieces of meat and cook large meals on the weekend. I tend to cook slow cooker and casual meals during the week and it all works out.

Right now, we have different schedules. My sister has probably at least three more years of work, whereas I am an early retiree who works part time from home.  Will we have changes when she is at home full time?  Probably, but so do other kinds of couples and living relationships.

Finally, this is not a lifetime commitment. Originally this was a five year commitment amongst everyone.  After that time, who knows?

Certainly sharing a home is not for everyone, and at some point I will still downsize more. However my current living situation affords us 2600 square foot of living space, a large yard, a nice neighborhood and less than a thousand dollars a month in total housing costs (rent, cable, utilities, water and insurance), companionship and freedom. Considering my previous mortgage for an equally large house was 1400 dollars alone, this was a smart five year commitment for all parties.  My goal was to re-adjust my living costs, my lifestyle to some point and my retirement priorities and I have done all three-with ease.

And now, it's time for me to choose which of about six "brick reds" we will use on the space over our fireplace.


  1. So right about the changes when you are both home. Harvey and I have had to make changes as well getting used to being around each other 24/7. It does take some getting used to.

    God bless.

  2. This is the best "take" on house sharing I've seen in a long time, because it's real, not theoretical. I esp. like your comments about making it "our" place rather than "my" space and "you're" visiting; and also the "together and separate" time.

    So, 74 degrees in the winter. huh? We keep ours at 68 and I'm always freezing. So I'm going to at least 70 this winter. heating bills be damned ... and thanks for giving me "permission" to turn up that thermostat!

    1. I imagine it depends where you live and so on and so forth. This house is pretty well insulated. My knee simply cannot take much lower temps than that. For what it's worth my cooking is electric and my heating gas and my highest bill for one month so far has been 200 combined. I can live with that (or in my case half of it). Also remember that because of that injured knee I cannot do the multiple layers or tight things against the knee-leaving me with one layer of heavy sweats as the limit.

  3. This is great insight into the issue of house-sharing. And you are right, when she retires you'll have to sort those types of things that couples do when the second spouse retires. I never really thought about that before.

    1. I think for two working couples the problem is not so great unless one retires waaayyy in front of the other. However, I was a stay at home wife most of my married life (even with older kids) and I know that had my husband and I retired we would have had some issues.

      Especially as he was (lord love him, a "what are you doing" kind of guy.

  4. Barbara, I had been wondering about you and your new life. My husband and enjoy each other's company so much but should one of us be left alone, it would be incredibly hard.


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