I really, really hate popcorn ceilings.
That bumpy, dingy, texturized look that screams, “1983 WAS A TERRIBLE YEAR FOR INTERIOR DESIGN!” has followed me for most of my adult life because every single rental within my price point, located in the areas that I have wanted to live in, have included popcorn ceilings. When I lie in my bed at night and stare up at the dingy ceiling of our current home, I often fantasize about owning a home again someday.
Someday, I will have smooth ceilings. And it will be glorious.
Until that day comes, my husband and I fall into the 37% of Americans who rent their homes. A situation we once thought was temporary has turned into a much longer ordeal. The housing bubble burst shortly after we bought our first home, a purchase that ended up ruining our credit — along with what seems like half of the country. We have no other choice but to rent at this time, and if one more person tells me, “But it’s so much cheaper to buy!” I am going to lose it. Yes, I know it makes more financial sense to buy a house, rather than pay someone else to live in a home that will never belong to me. It’s just that no one will lend us the money to buy one.
I don’t love throwing $18,000 down the hole every year. Rental prices in our area are exorbitant because we have an amazing public school, which my children attend. Rent is much lower in other areas, but unfortunately, the quality of the schools is as well. So, we choose to make it work. I would much rather use that money to laser the spider veins on my legs or send my children to summer camp. I could buy some fabulous things for $18,000. We could vacation in Hawaii. I could pay someone to affix permanent eyelash extensions to my lashes or zap the unwanted hair from my body. Or — OMG! — we could zap unwanted hair from my husband’s body. I could sock it away in savings. I could buy an actual cow.
Instead, we use our money to keep a roof over our heads.
Our interior doors are all scratched up because the tenants who lived here before us had a dog, and I feel like when people come over and see our scratched-up doors, they think we did that. We didn’t. Our oven is too small to hold a normal-size cookie sheet. But that’s OK, I don’t have a lot of time to cook anyway, and the last time I did, I almost burned the house down.
I hate the color beige. Rentals are notoriously beige. I also loathe mauve, forest green, and wallpaper — all things that are plentiful in the rental market. There is always a pang in my heart when I tell people that we’re renting because it feels like failure to me. It feels like we should be homeowners, because isn’t that the American dream? Owning something? Having the freedom to scrape the misery of 1983 from the living room ceiling because you own it, so it’s yours to scrape without worrying that you won’t get your $1,600 deposit back when you’re ready to move?
Even though sometimes it feels like we are adulting all wrong, I have come to realize that renting does not equal failing. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Years of living under popcorn ceilings does something to a person, I think. I used to be embarrassed about our situation, but now, I am just grateful to have a roof over my head. Maybe that’s maturity talking, or maybe I’ve simply stopped giving a fuck. Either way, the American dream is changing and ideals are shifting. Things that used to be important just aren’t anymore, and it’s freeing.
There are as many benefits to renting as there are drawbacks. My husband and I are notoriously terrible at home maintenance, for example, and because we rent, it’s not our responsibility to repair the guttering when it gets knocked down by a fallen limb. We’ve also been fortunate to have amazing landlords who probably felt just as fortunate to have us as tenants. Since we rarely called to ask for anything, they have always been quick to respond. If you take good care of the property, generally, the person who owns it will also take good care of you.
Truth be told, our kitchen light was repaired way faster by our landlord than it would have been had my husband been responsible for it, and every time our air conditioner breaks, I am relieved that we don’t have to foot the bill. When our boys found termites in the fence post, it was not our problem to pay for, and when our next door neighbor asked if we wanted to help to pay to replace the backyard fence, I directed him to the owner. As a mother who is in charge of three other human beings, it’s kind of nice to be able to say, “I’m not responsible for that.”
Renting is not permanent. It gives us a chance to really think about what we want in our next home, should we ever choose to buy one again. I like to think that living in less-than-ideal places, and struggling to pay the rent sometimes, is character building. But most importantly, I recognize that we are lucky to have shelter.
In the grand scheme of things, popcorn ceilings aren’t that bad.