Sunday, October 24, 2010

I know what I don't want...

Many of you that follow my blog know that we have moved around a bit over the last six years. We raised our family in a normal neighborhood, in the same house for sixteen years, K-12, with the same families around us. Since that time we moved to Portland, Oregon, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and then to our small place at Lake Tahoe for two years. I'm currently sitting in my favorite chair at the Lake, looking out my favorite window (picture above). And something came to mind after reading Linda's post on My Own Velvet Room.

As many of you may know, we rented our current house in Reno, where my husband is working. We simply did not want to buy another home until we know where we want to retire, which is only a few years away. This neighborhood was known to be very, very nice. Completely out of our price range when we lived here six years ago. I had often thought how pretty the houses were when we would go there for some reason or another. It is a gated community, and the houses surround a golf course. It is only in this market can one find a rental in this area. Our house is lovely, looks out over the entire city and the golf course. The problem? It is the most sterile environment I have ever lived in. There is no one on the streets except landscapers. I have never met, in five months, my neighbors on one side, the other side is for sale and has eight bathrooms. Yes, eight bathrooms. Now if that house isn't the Age of Excess poster child, I don't know what is.

A couple of days ago I had a contractor out to fix my dishwasher. Yes, you can now get a contractor to fix your dishwasher in Nevada.... Anyway, he said he had built seven houses in the area before the bubble burst. He would live in them a year or two and then sell them. You have to remember, Nevada was one of the fastest growing states in the country for twenty years. Anyway, he asked me if I liked the neighborhood, and I answered honestly by saying no. He laughed and said he felt the same way. He asked if anyone had turned their face away when I waved to them yet. I snickered and said no - because no one had ever looked my way, except to tailgate me in the 25 mph zone.

So what's my point?

I know what I don't want when we leave this house in 2-3 years. I don't want to live where people don't know each other, or in a neighborhood that has huge houses. I don't want to live where I can't be a grandma on the block as in Linda's post. I don't want to be isolated behind a gate, where my friends and family can't just drive up to my house.

I do want to have a small, cozy little home in an area of other small, cozy, well-kept homes. I do want people out in their yards, doing yard work, talking about flowers and what new herbs are at the local nursery. Walking their dogs, strolling their babies. I do want to get to know the children, and I do want a mixed neighborhood - with all age groups. I do want an environment of like-minded people, who share a somewhat common goal to live in a peaceful place, perhaps with a community garden. I know they're out there, and I have a feeling I'm not alone in my desires. I'll bet these places will grow, just as this neighborhood was once what people desired.

Maybe we have to experience, as a collective, what we don't want, in order to know what we do.

We are already downsizing - one box to Goodwill at a time. Lately we've been eyeing the furniture - what we will keep and what will go. In this new paradigm, we won't need about half of it.

The next place we buy will be our forever home. It will be carefully considered. It may not even be in this country, maybe it will be some other place our extended family might want to live. We are exploring all options. But wherever it is, it will involve a much simpler existence.


Expat From Hell said...

Such sadness woven in and out of this post. I wonder if the culture has left us here. Only the houses are left. And the landscapers. I know their culture, and I'm sure they are just shaking their collective heads. Thanks again for making me think. EFH

Nancy said...

Expat - It is sad, in so many ways, but also enlightening. Even the owners to our house do not want to move back into it. I wonder if they felt the same way ...

Teresa - My New Normal said...

I totally understand your drift here. The community we live in has a mix of different ages and lots of kids. Sadly, most of them moved in after Amy and Isaiah had moved out so he lived here with no kids around. We had a neighborhood cook-out one evening last month and even though Ron and I didn't go hang out for the whole thing, we did go introduce ourselves to those who were in attendance.

I want the kids in the neighborhood to feel free to ride their scooters up into the driveway when we get home and visit with us (and they do). I want them to feel free to ask questions about Ron's wheelchair use (LOL - and his fake leg) and feel very comfortable around us. It's nice.

The next time we move I want to find the same type of community. Small, close-knit, and friendly.

Linda Hoye said...

What an interesting post. I hope you find the neighborhood you are looking for.

ellen abbott said...

This is one of the reasons that made us leave our city house, the neighborhood we moved into and raised our kids in. Now it has become gentrified and the cottages are being torn down and monstrous houses built instead, usually two where one once stood. No yards for children so no children. The variety of age and race has also diminished. Instead of porches and house fronts lining the streets, now it's garage after garage with the house behind and above. More and more often, it is yard men taking care of what few yards are left. Oh but we do have the morning and evening parade of dog walkers every day as they head to and from the park at the end of the block. Because they have no yards for dogs either.

I hope you find your community. Or create it.

DJan said...

What an interesting post, Nancy. It's true that knowing what we DON'T want can help us know what we do want. Here in Bellingham there are people who live on the nearby islands, separated from the mainland by a ferry ride. I knew I wouldn't like that. I live in a rented apartment with 24 units, a little ways away from an elementary school. The people are friendly, and there are three teenagers living next door (twin 13-year-old boys and a 12-year-old girl). They are the only kids I buy Christmas presents for, but several of us, maybe seven apartment dwellers, know each other well.

There are community gardens here in Bellingham, and Washington state is filled with communities like you are looking for. Of course, you have to not mind the rain too much or become a "rainbird" and go elsewhere in the winter months, like many of my Senior Trailblazers do.

I don't think I'd like your isolation, but you are welcome to visit all of your blogging buddies every single day!! Hugs to you, Nancy.

Rosaria Williams said...

Live the way you want to, no matter what you have to do to achieve the goal. Life is too short for compromises.

Cheryl Ann said...

Very thoughtful post. I've been thinking about this, too. We've lived in our current house now for 35 years. Our son and our daughter each live in a gated community and frankly, I HATE it! They have tiny yards, their neighbors are about 8 feet away...UGH! We only have about 1/3 acre, but I can plant corn, sweet peas, sunflowers...whatever I want and really not bother anyone! I LOVE my house! We only have about 7 years until we retire, so we're about at the same spot!

Marguerite said...

The kind of neighborhood that you desire describes just about every neighborhood in Lafayette, except for one area, where the very rich live. The spirit of community is very strong, plus we've got great food and music, too! Move here! :)

Friko said...

I live in a small place where everybody knows everybody else.
(you have given me an idea for a blogpost now)
I could imagine it to be the sort of community you would like, but, like everywhere else, you have to put in the effort to mix with others yourself. Nowhere is paradise. What you describe is a sterile environment, of use to neither man nor beast. So how do the other residents live?
Are they commuters? Are they as isolated as you sound?

I hope you will find a place to your liking when the time comes and that you will be able to make it a proper home.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Isn't this the contract the Hicks talk about? By know what you don't want, you can reach for more of what you DO want. South Florida is filled with gated communities and home owners' associations. They're all sterile.

gayle said...

It's so important to love where you live!! Good for you for know what you want and don't want!! Great post!!

Pauline said...

When I think where I'd go if ever I had to leave here where I now live, my mind goes into paralysis. But I've been in the space you describe and the experience helped me learn what I did want. Keep your dream alive and you will find it.

Nancy said...

Teresa - I think you make a good point - you joined the festivities, even if you didn't stay the whole time.

Linda - Thanks, I'm sure I will - now that I know what it looks like.

ellen - I think that's been happening all over our country. I like your idea of "making it."

DJan - I love Seattle, and wouldn't hesitate to move there. I also think living in apartments or condos facilitate getting to know one another.

lakeviewer - I couldn't agree more.

CherylAnn - So you've noticed the same thing. We lived on 1/3 acre for 16 years and plenty of room for everything.

Marguerite - You just never know. All that dancing is attractive! :-)

Friko - I think you make an excellent point. Making an effort is the only way to know your neighbors. I think this area probably has pockets of community spirit. Our house is more isolated - on a culdesac (sp) with only three homes - one of which is empty. All the people commute or this is their second or third home. Nevada attracts people that like the income tax structure (which has none).

Trish & Rob - Exactly.

gayle - :-)

Stella Jones said...

I play this game too, just like you. I was surprised when I went to live in Tennessee, that no-one bothered to get to know me. I am yet to get my very first invite to coffee in the morning or a dinner party in the evening! I didn't expect that. I thought Americans were friendly - til I got there.
England is very different. We live a lot closer to our neighbours so we see a lot more of them (literally). You can choose whether you strike up a friendship or not but most people pass the time of day.
If I feel lonely, I can go out for a walk and find someone to talk to. I think space has a lot to do with it.
Of course, you might be thinking: 'why didn't I start up a friendship over there?' Well I became very class conscious. We live in an apartment so I didn't feel like inviting anyone over who lived in a house. I thought they would turn their nose up at it.
Lots of other reasons.
Like you I am still searching for the perfect place. I lived in the same house in England for 25 years and I love it but it can't go on forever. Soon it will be too expensive to afford and then what?
My dilemma is different to yours.
If I move to America permanently, then I won't see my family and if I stay here then Larry will have to move here and he may not be happy here.
Decisions, decisions.
Good luck with your choices. I hope you fine somewhere you really like.
Blessings, Star

Gemel said...

Seems your path is leading you back to the 'real' world ♥

Brian Miller said...

nice. i crave a very simple life actually...if i dont use it i dont need it...and there is a lot id dont want....

37paddington said...

This post is so rich with insight into our human condition. I have often wanted a large house with lots of trees and land around it, and yet on some level i knew that our family was closer because we lived in a small city apartment and had to navigate each other every day. There was no retreating to solitary rooms in distant corners of the house.

It must be disconcerting to look out your windows and see no one. But this house has done its work in teaching you what you DO want.

Nancy said...

Star - You do have a big decision to make. US or UK is a big move - for one of you. I would feel honored to be invited to someone's home whether it is an apartment, condo or house. I'll bet others feel that way, too. Some of my best parties were when I lived in an apartment.

Gemel - You may be right. :-)

Pauline - I do think experience is a defining factor.

Brian - Usefulness is important.

Angella - There is a lot to be said for close quarters. :-)

alaine@éclectique said...

What you would like sounds ideal. We will also have to downsize within the next five years and I'm thinking it will be very hard to adjust to a quarter acre block again with neighbours 10 feet away, when we've been so spoilt living on 6 acres. Ideally, I'd like to go back to my old neighbourhood; the neighbours lived and let live, with the occasional nice chat over the fence and always a wave and smile. We knew that they'd be there in a flash if we needed help and we'd do the same.

Unknown said...

I love the idea of downsizing one box at a time, that's what we're doing and it feels great!

Hilary said...

You want to live on my street!

Offhand, I can think of ten homes whose owners could be trusted to take my key and feed my cats in a pinch. There are two neighbours who have my key full time and I, theirs. We all babysit, pet sit and house sit for one another if need be. We have street parties, impromptu pot luck dinners in summer and backyard fires in winter. I know many others in the community by face and sometimes by name.. often by their dogs.

You probably want to be in an area where neighbours are seen hanging out together chatting on the street. Someplace where the current owner can tell you about their neighbours. Someplace which will make you feel like you're coming home. I hope you find it.

Natalie said...

Ahhhhhh.......Ecuador looks divine. :)

Inspired by eRecipeCards said...

The neighborhood you talk about exists. But it is more than the neighborhood, it is the neighbors. i love my little cul de sac... Now. but it did take some effort.

After a dozen years, I "created" the neighbors I like. We are friends, but also we look out for each other (that is the purpose of the fence, so you don't have to be bothered by neighbors who care.

Anyway. this is a terrific post. I wish you well in finding what you want. It's there... with a little effort


Unknown said...

It might be beautiful where you now live Nancy, but what is beauty if not shared with others? I agree with Lakeviewer, no compromises.

Nancy said...

alaine - Our old neighborhood was the same. I'm sure there are people here that feel the same way, we just have not met them.

Meg - It does to me, too!

Hilary - Sounds exactly where I want to live. I know it takes time to build those relationships, but I think you need to be on a street where it's conducive - this one is not.

Natalie - I know!

Dave - In the home we lived in for 16 years we found a distinct change when people put up fences. There is a symbolism that is hard to ignore.

Gaston - I agree, now to wait out the next couple of years. Maybe someone will move into the big eight bedroom house and will be friendly. :-)

Rob-bear said...

We live in a larger, sixty-year-old house, in a neighbourhood well off the beaten track — on the south edge of the city, next to the bush. I know my neighbours on both sides (we visit over the fence and on the street), as well as the neighbours across the street and down the block. Not too many kids around, but some. Nice lots, big old Elm trees.

Does that resonate Nancy?

susan said...

Here I am where I wanted to go yet still not sure where I want to be.

Good neighborhoods are made by people who have a history together and are willing to share with newcomers as they arrive. I wish you well in finding the perfect place.

Nancy said...

Rob-bear - Yep - sounds great!

Susan - Really? You're not sure? I agree, it takes people willing to invite newcomers into the fold. Right after I bitched and moaned about my neighborhood, I received an invitation today to a holiday open house here in the neighborhood. Geeze

Amy said...

Nancy, The most positive thing about his post (I believe) is that you now know pretty much how you want to live - the "where" will work itself out.

We're off to Portland again this week as we haven't seen "the Elliot" since early September - there are great communities in that vicinity. We're tempted to move, but we're attached to our 25 year old home and not sure we're ready to make that leap from familiarity to family closeness (geographically speaking!).

I'm with you though on the feeling of the place - you'll know it when you're there!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post!

Grandmother Mary said...

Good for you for searching for what you want for retirement. I moved to Italy with my husband 1 1/2 years ago after retiring and found what you're describing. We live in an apartment with 6 apartments in our bldng and 9 next door. Mixed ages, spontaneous get togethers, potlucks and block parties in out neighborhood as well as interest in and looking out for each other. Walking distance to our little medieval Cittá with cafes, local outdoor markets twice weekly and the basic shops for what we need. The sea is close and the mountains less than an hour away. And of course, all that the rest that Italy has to offer. It's rich in the most important ways and meets my requirements of living in a deeply humane and frankly fun manner.

Mental P Mama said...

Oh I am so on the same page. We sold our house in April and are renting now, too. I still have more than half our things in storage in case my children want them when they set up homes....I just want enough space to be.....

Marlene said...

Nancy..I know exactly what you are talking about..I too lived for over 25 years in a nieghborhood like your...I did not know how it could be differant until I did make the move 9yrs ago to our small coastal town of I know all my neighbors...they stop and talk as I garden, we borrow sugar an eggs instead of going to the store...No trip into town is quick...since you are bound to meet and have talks with several friends...I never knew what I was missing until I moved here and it has made a huge deference in my life!

Nancy said...

Amy - I love Portland! Let me know if you find anything there. I think that's where we will retire. My little guy also lives in Portland - Sigh Have fun with the Elliott. Have you checked out the children's hands-on area up near the zoo?

boxset - Thanks for dropping by.

Grandmother - That is so cool that you did that. We are considering the same thing when we retire. We need to talk more some time. I would love to hear more.

Mama - Exactly!

Marlene - I loved Cambria - I can totally see what you mean. I, too, want to find a small place exactly like what you are describing.

The Good Cook said...

Here Here. I know exactly what you mean. Right now I live in the kind of community that you describe. I know my neighbors, people walk by with their dogs and babies and I know all of their names. I live in a small community where even the police know people's names. In a few years I will sell this house, it is already too big. My next big question is "where to now?"... where ever that is I know it will be small, family oriented and completely livable.

Nancy said...

Good Cook - I have no doubt you will find the right and perfect place.

Shrinky said...

I have never encountered a gated community, except for the "villages" some people choose to retire to - these do actually seem to have quite a few advantages for the elderly residents living there (a strong social community, in-house medical care, and a feeling of being safe, as well as carer's to drop by each day to help maximise their independence within their own home). For those whose partner has passed on, it is a good option against loneliness to live in such an environment. However, I completely agree with you, I can see no other circumstance where I would choose to cut myself off from the wider neighbourhood, I think it could easily become too too claustrophobic to enjoy.