Uncovering Hidden Treasures: Finding Stability in Unstable Times

My husband and I always operated under the premise that each house would be a stepping stone to the next bigger, better home. Our first house was purchased with an ARM loan, and we sold it about a year before the balloon payment was due. This house was never supposed to be our long-term home, but a stepping stone for a few years. We viewed buying and selling a house like trading cars, and it was often easier, in fact, than buying another car.

When we bought our house in 2008, we joked about the location. It was on a street named Stable. The neighborhood was named for a horse farm that used to occupy the 30-acre tract of land.

My husband and I always operated under the premise that each house would be a stepping stone to the next bigger, better home. Our first house was purchased with an ARM loan, and we sold it about a year before the balloon payment was due. This house was never supposed to be our long-term home, but a stepping stone for a few years. We viewed buying and selling a house like trading cars, and it was often easier, in fact, than buying another car.

But it became clear in the winter of 2009, that we were in for a bumpy ride. The shaky economy brought the real estate market to a halt. Houses weren’t moving at all and then I was lost my job. Our house was slowly becoming the one stable thing we could count on. My house became a lot like a car – not brand new and exciting; it lost a lot of its cash value, and as it ages things break. It’s hardly a profitable investment. But I want to fix it and take care of it; I want it to be around for a while –because it brings stability. When the world around me changes by the hour, my house remains the same. It can lose its market value and its comparables, but I still love it.

My husband and I are finding news treasures daily – things to repair and ways to save money in a time when national spending has been exorbitant. We are a culture of immediacy regardless of price or consequence. It was George Washington who once said, “[we should avoid] the accumulation of debt [in part] by shunning occasions for expense.” In modern times this quote seems almost laughable, or is it? I have found some deep satisfaction in this recently. The instability of our political and economic climate has inspired me to find nuggets of stability in my own life each day. Saving money, reclaiming and redoing things that once bothered me, and investing in my home (both emotionally and literally) have helped me find stability and peace. These are my treasures and my investment.

This summer, we reclaimed and rebuilt our deck. It had been an eye sore of gray, warped boards and faded red stain. It was known to pitch and sway under foot or heavy wind. It desperately needed to be replaced before it imploded. But it’s large and we knew it would not come cheap. And we didn’t want to spend the money. So, we decided to rebuild it ourselves – with the help of a carpenter friend and to the bewilderment of our friends and family. It took almost 2 months of weekend work in 100-degree heat and 697 decking screws in the floor boards alone, but, we did it and we saved $2000.

It felt awesome to know that my hand had touched each board.  Putting sweat equity into anything changes your perspective. I have labored over this house in a meaningful way. It is my treasure. It has great bones and great potential. I can see possibilities here that I may not have bothered to look for if I could have traded it so easily. I am uncovering its hidden treasures and learning more about myself, too. It is greater stability than I could possibly have imagined – an immeasurable comfort in these unstable times.