Steve and I have had quite an interesting few years of housing situations. Since we are just MONTHS away from owning our very first home I thought I’d give a brief rundown of our previous living arrangements! Of course, when we met, we were still both living on campus at college. (Yes, I do have a poster of Orlando Bloom above my bed…)
Maybe you can tell that I missed the beach…?
Oh, Tom Cruise…before you went crazy!
However, I moved off campus after my freshman year (couldn’t take dining hall living ANYMORE) into a fairly nice apartment a few minutes from campus. I was there for 2 years and had a 2 roommates (one for a year and half and the other for half a year). It was just a two bedroom apartment but it had a pretty spacious common area (teensy tiny kitchen though) and a nice balcony.
Our first big group dinner…we cooked “Thanksgiving” for 10+ people…
Front of my building
Steve was literally standing in about half of my kitchen…there wasn’t much more space on the other side.
I was not fond of having to drag my laundry down to the basement common laundry room but overall it wasn’t too bad. My only real bad memories from that place was a misunderstanding between the landlord and myself regarding their pet policy. I purchased Nestle, my chocolate brown lop rabbit, thinking that my landlord given his approval. After being in the apartment for two weeks I found out that the person I had spoken with was the son of the boss and therefore, not allowed to give me permission to have my bunny. Luckily my parents are very kind and agreed to let Nestle “vacation” at their home for the duration of the year. During my last year in that apartment, Steve moved off campus to a different apartment complex on the other side of Winchester (which was unfortunately, also pet-unfriendly).
For my senior year and Steve’s first year of grad school, we moved into a two bedroom apartment together. It was a nice place to live and we definitely enjoyed our two years there. The two biggest perks of that apartment complex was 1) they were very pet friendly, and 2) we had our own washer and dryer! The kitchen was still pretty small but much more user-friendly than my first place. Of course, Nestle moved back in with us and we adopted Cookie, and later Merlin, while living there. We also fostered Blu (who ended up being adopted by my in-laws) while we lived there so we have a lot of special memories from that apartment. But after living there for two years we (okay, I) was anxious to find something a little bigger…
Loved those pink sheets!
So, our next home seemed to be everything I had dreamed of but ended up becoming my worst nightmare. My best friend lived for a few months in this beautiful new three story townhome in Stephens City and I had fallen in love with her place. However, they were only in that home for a few months before moving cross country, and luckily, never ran into the problems that came with our place. We ended up renting a different unit which was supposedly “the best” as it was an end unit with “all the upgrades”. At first glance it seemed like an absolute dream come true. It was only a year old and was more than double the size of our previous apartment at over 2500 square feet. There was a huge kitchen, master bedroom ensuite, plus three more bedrooms, a huge studio space, and a backyard and front yard for gardening! It didn’t take long though for the problems to start cropping up. The first major (non-house) related problem…the neighbors, or more specifically, their children.
Dining room, looking into the living room
Soaking tub…so not worth it…
One of our first days there I put a pretty copper wind spinner in my front yard garden. Shortly after I drove up from the grocery store and there were 5 random children standing in the garden playing with it. And I don’t mean standing in my front yard…I mean standing in the actual garden. So I got out of my car and politely asked them to step out of my garden. The first couple kids stepped out but the youngest two (I’d estimate around 5 or 6 years old) continued to play with the spinner and completely ignore me. So I repeated my request a little louder but still very politely. I then had a (probably middle school age) child screech at me to stop telling her sister what to do and who did I think I was punctuated by numerous profanities. If you know me well, you know that patience is NOT a virtue of mine. I was pretty impressed with myself for asking these kids to politely get out of my property twice but I was absolutely not going to be cursed at by a kid. So at that point, I told her that it was my property and I wanted them all off of it or I was going to call the police. Little did I know that with those words, I was starting WWIII: neighborhood edition.
For the next 12 months those children, and in particular, that girl, made our lives absolutely miserable in that house. I planted a crepe myrtle bush in my front yard, she came by and pulled all of the leaves of all the branches*. I planted tulips that came up the following spring, she ripped the flowers off and left them all over the front yard. They left their bikes in our yard, we moved them to the common area, they keyed Steve’s van. They threw rocks at the windows when Merlin was in the downstairs bedroom (usually when we were out) to antagonize him. They threw trash in our yard and at the upstairs windows when we were home. They purposely lazed around in our front and side yard, kicking our siding, as if to dare me to come out and tell them to move. When I walked Merlin outside they’d stand around jumping at him and making threatening motions which, at the time, scared him half to death. It was awful…and when we occasionally saw their parents out and about, we realized that it would do us no good to say anything to them about their children’s behavior. We just tried to ignore it as best as we could.
And then the house itself…*sigh*. Again it was only a year old when we moved in. It was one of those national builder, pre-fab, slap it together as quickly as we can jobs. Our landlord lived in northern VA and was quick to answer our emails but slow or totally unresponsive to fix problems. One of the selling points (for us) was the beautiful master bedroom ensuite bathroom with the giant soaking tub, separate shower, etc. Well three months into living there, a strange orange mold/fungus started growing along the cracks in the shower. We would (literally) cut it away and it would be back within weeks. We had a second bathroom on the top floor which was for the two small bedrooms that we used for offices. It was nice until we realized that if you tried to use the bathtub, it would leak water down through the ceiling and drip off our dining room chandelier. We figured that was probably some sort of hazard so we stopped using that bathtub. Then I tried actually using the soaking tub in the master bath one day and realized that the water heater was so small that you could only get about a foot of water in the tub before it got cold. And then in the spring, the birds came. Our landlord was too cheap to put cages or mesh on the ends of any exterior pipes so starlings came to live inside all of our pipes. That townhouse had 4 bathrooms…by the time we moved only one bathroom was really usable. The first thing we noticed was an odd, sickly sweet smell whenever you turned on a fan in the bathroom. Then it got to be that the smell was always there. After weeks and weeks of complaining our landlord finally agreed to pay for us to hire a exterminator. He arrived with some huge vacuum device and sucked out all of the dead baby birds, rotten eggs, nest and waste debris, etc. from every pipe and put cages on the ends of the pipes…took him less than an hour. It took so long for our landlord to agree to pay for it that the birds had been out of the nests for weeks and it was just rotting remains left inside. Nothing got rid of that smell though. Ugh, we used every air freshener known to man to no avail. We finally just closed up those rooms and used the very top floor bathroom for the sink and toilet and the master for the shower.
And while I do understand house settling and such over time there were cracks all over the walls and ceiling of the house (not to mention water spots from various leaks). It was a mess. The house was pretty and sparkly upon first glance but was SO shoddily put together. I couldn’t get out of that house fast enough…
So, after a year there, we moved to our current home where we’ve lived since 2008. It’s literally less than a mile from the townhouse (which we can actually see if we walk to the end of our street). A few years after we moved here we noticed that the same neighborhood kids who had terrorized us were now old enough that they were starting to migrate to hanging out in our neighborhood. One summer we had an HOA meeting because they had begun destroying other people’s properties after being told to stop using their yards as walkways into the neighborhood. For a few years I actually hid inside the house if I saw them walking around in hopes that they wouldn’t remember me and realize that they could resume their torture. There are some things I’m not terribly fond of here; but, all in all, this house has been pretty good to us. And again, there are a lot of good memories of this home. We got married the year that we moved here, Archimedes joined our family here, and we’ve been here for almost half of our relationship. I’m sure it’ll be a little sad to say goodbye when it comes time to move but I am most definitely ready for change!
*As a side note, I was determined to save that little crepe myrtle from our townhouse (it was my first real plant purchase) and I’d be damned if the neighborhood kids were going to kill it. So I put heavy duty stakes around it and used zip ties to secure hard rubber netting around the three leaf-less spindly branches. When we moved, I begged my dad to dig it up and take it with us. I think it had maybe two leaves when we dug it up. Now it’s taken over our front garden and every year no matter how much I cut it back it grows up to the second story of the house. I’ve already started asking my dad to dig it up so that it can come with us to the new house…so far he’s not seeming very receptive to the idea but I’m going to keep at it. That bush is a fighter!
When it first arrived post townhouse trauma…
My crepe myrtle survivor…back right in the photo. Now it reaches the second story windows.
And this post was WAY longer than I expected it to be…whew, if you got all the way through this, I’m impressed!