Then we moved to a condo, a nice little place with three bedrooms and three levels, a pretty little balcony on the living room level and a patio through French sliders on the ground level. Nice big rooms, but not a nice neighborhood (hence, affordable). We had to take care of all the "walls in" portions of the property, but otherwise all the exterior stuff was handled for us: the lawn was mowed once a week, the flower beds weeded, the gutters cleaned, the siding repaired, the snow shoveled, the trash taken directly from our enclosed front patios. We lived there for four years, too. And I complained about it every week -- hated the restrictiveness of the condo association rules, cursed the lack of parking, wished for a yard we didn't have to share with 20 other homeowners.
Two-and-a-half years ago we moved to our current home, a four-bedroom split level in a quiet little family neighborhood. We have a quarter-acre yard, a deck, a sunroom, a fireplace, a garage, and a giant attic. We have a basketball hoop in the driveway. We have friendly neighbors, an elementary school around the corner, and three playgrounds and a library within a 10-minute walk. In the fall, we can hear the high school marching band practicing; in the spring we can hear countless children running and playing up and down the street. It's lovely, really. Exactly what we wanted.
But. We have a gigantic mortgage that makes me cringe with each monthly payment. We have three bathrooms to clean, four bedrooms to dust, and a house full of hardwoods to mop. We have a lawn to mow, a wrap-around garden to weed, and countless trees to prune and rake up after. In addition, this week we have a garage door opener to fix, a laundry drain to unclog, two sinkholes to fill, a sump pump to unstick, an electrical outlet to tighten, a piece of siding to refasten, and a lawnmower that needs yet another overhaul. All of this costs money that we really don't have...because of the giant mortgage. We also have a retired next-door neighbor with yard-work OCD whose "helpful" comments sounds much more like criticism; I often interpret "You can do that with a screwdriver" as "You're an idiot and a lazy slob."
As I gaze through the window at our two-foot high lawn this evening, I am considering putting a sign on the front lawn that reads, simply, "We're sorry, neighbors," and sneaking off into the night with a backpack and a tent. Suddenly, that two-bedroom apartment sounds so sweet.