Having grown up in a mining town, where the provision of company housing negates the need for home ownership – indeed it was much cheaper to rent a mining house than to commit to home ownership in a transient and somewhat bleak environment – I have developed a familiarity and an unconscious attachment to this mode of home occupation.
There is a degree of freedom afforded by renting, and a sense of excitement and adventure in seeking a new abode, with features that we feel better suit our circumstances. My goal through early adulthood with a young son was to secure a house with a verandah, bathtub, timber floors, high ceilings and tongue in groove walls. It was at times vexing that I could not have ALL of these attributes in the one property, but that is the inherent limitation in renting – it pays to embark on your search with an acceptance of what is available, and what you can afford!
But years of living this way, I have honed the art of living in a rental. I believe wholeheartedly that there is an art to immersing yourself fully into the rental experience and making wherever you live your home. Without the necessary skills or mindset, your experience can be rather ho-hum. A home gives you an anchor and a sense of place, so the ability to create that wherever you may be is of immeasurable value.
While the renter may not have any authority regarding the built structure of a property, there is much that can be done to put your unique stamp and personality on a rental property.
There is no shortage of money that could be spent on achieving this goal, but as with homes that you own, often these trappings will suit one home, but are not so easily transferred into another. We certainly found that to be the case moving from an open planned modern home, to a 100 year old homestead with many dividing walls and hallways. No amount of puzzling could resolve the reality that our lounge would not fit in the house! This was certainly a lesson regarding size – stick to modular or more streamlined furniture items to ensure longevity, and to avoid the expense and associated waste of having to buy something else.
A renters greatest impact on a home will be in the personality, and the colours, textures and mood we create through bed and window coverings, prints and personal artifacts, and choice of materials.
The degree of impact will be limited to any covenants in the lease agreement, and the sensibilities of the agent or owner. Some landlords are happy for great swathes of lawn to be dug up for garden beds, while others will not even agree to a wall hanging. Do not despair if you have found yourself in a restrictive contract, this is not an insurmountable problem. You will just need to adapt and work around it. If wall hangings are not permitted, use light and furniture placement to create the ambience you are looking for. I have carried a fairly large, and now quite faded print, bought from Kmart 25 years ago when I had little enough money to spend on the bare essentials (and it is for this reason that this old faded print is so dear to me), around with me through many properties. At times it has hung on the wall, at others perched at the back of a chest of drawers. Either way, the print adds my personality and journey, a colour theme and mood, and it’s own story, to the space.
I have also made use of sentimental items as impact or decorative elements to cultivate a sense of belonging in any space. The sweet little outfits my children wore when they were first brought home from hospital have been hung from tiny coat-hangers in there respective rooms, and the top I was wearing when I first met my partner is similarly hanging in our room. Each item marks an important experience – the welcoming home of our beautiful children, and the meeting of the man that would help to create those children, and the life we now live. Using personal items as decorative pieces tells the story of your journey through life, and is a very intimate way of sharing your personality and growth as a person. It is this intimacy and honest depiction of who you, and of those who share the space with you, that creates a sense of home and belonging. You have shared your very essence with this space, and it repays you in kind with a welcoming spirit.
The essence of these ideas is that you build your space and your idea of home over time, with what you have, or what you can readily and affordably source. There is no sense of home or the security that comes from that when you have stretched your resources to snapping point. A home is not measured by dollar signs, but by the spirit, love and personality imbued by it.
This is a very brief insight into how I approach making a home in a rental property. I do hope to explore some of these ideas in much greater depth later in this space, but for now, I hope this has given you food for thought, and that you may look at where you live as a place worth investing your heart in, even if the bricks and mortar belong to somebody else!
I am keen to know how you have created a sense of home and belonging in your space. Please feel free to share!