The mere thought of buying a house — let alone your first house — could be formidable cause for a panic attack. Mortgages, moving trucks, and maintenance are the three evil M’s of homeownership. However, there are three ways how buying a house can actually boost your emotional wellbeing.
I recently bought my first house, and I consider myself to be a highly stressed out person almost all of the time. And I’m certainly not about to tell you that buying a house isn’t stressful because it is—very much so. From being unemployed for two months before house-hunting to budgeting for a wedding in addition to a house hunting, I expected to feel defeated by closing day, but I didn’t.
Not only did I get through the home inspection and the attorney’s paperwork, but I also found a lot of joy in it. Here’s how my mental health and overall emotional wellbeing has improved since buying a house.
1. Slowing down
I’m the type of person who fills my plate way too high in everything I do. I’m fully aware of my inability to delegate, my impossibly high expectations of myself, and my need to please. That’s because I take pride in being able to say that I’ve put 110% into each aspect of my life. I’m rarely satisfied with 100%.
I knew before we even moved into the house that it came with a never-ending to-do list. There’s always something that needs to be fixed or cleaned or bought. Naturally, that should have freaked me out. I do not know how to repair anything. It took me a full day to clean my one-bedroom apartment let alone a four-bedroom house.
I refuted my tendency to tackle an impossibly long task list upon realizing that a house is always a work in progress. I relished in a deep sense of calm knowing that I have the rest of my life to reattach the toilet paper holder and to find the perfect curtains for the sunroom. Buying a house taught me the importance of slowing down and the ridiculousness of perfectionism.
2. Putting down roots
That sense of “forever” carries over to my next point. I’ve been a bit of a nomad for the past few years. I lived in different apartments each year of college.
Traveling and living in new places is exciting, and it can enrich your life with a deeper sense of culture. However, a nomadic lifestyle is nevertheless a temporary one. Some people are OK with that, but for me, it was disheartening to refrain from getting “too attached” to one place, job, or set of friends. I wasn’t even sure where “home” was. Was it where I grew up in Indiana? Was it with my partner in a Silicon Valley apartment? Or was it waiting for me in North Carolina?
While house-hunting, my partner and I debated whether we should buy a starter house or one that we could grow into? From a financial standpoint, I fought for the former. Our first house didn’t have to be our forever house, I said. However, I’m so glad we scrounged up a bit more cash and courage to invest in a bigger house that would last us for the foreseeable future. It’s a blessing and a real luxury that I’m incredibly grateful for, as I know not everyone can afford a house let alone be picky about which one to buy.
Buying my “forever” house means I don’t have to question every purchase with, “will I be able to move that in a year?” or better yet, “will I want to move that in a year?” I don’t have to hold back from putting nails in the wall to hang family photos or from painting a room in anything but Builder’s White.
I have the freedom to dance around in the middle of the night without waking downstairs neighbors. I can ditch plastic pots and dig into the Earth to plant a garden. I can become a regular at my favorite coffee shops and boutiques and live like a local. Buying a house gave me a permanent definition of “home.”
3. Appreciating my loved ones
I would not be able to afford a house, and not the one we bought, without the support of my partner. He not only contributed financially but he was also the one who sold me on a “forever” house over a starter home. I hated our house the first time we walked through it. I thought it was way too big and made up my mind that it was going to be way too much work to maintain. He did countless hours of research to prove me wrong—and wrong I was.
He looked up school ratings, which were all eight out of 10 across the board. He researched commercial development of the town, proving that it was an up-and-coming city that would only rise in value. He even made a list of the charming features it had that every other cookie-cutter house we looked at was missing. On a second walk-through, he reimagined each room with dreams of how we could fill it and change it to accommodate our own family one day—pointing out the growth chart on the bonus room door and the piano in the sunroom. He’s really, honestly the best. Buying this house together made us fall in love all over again.
It also renewed our appreciation for our families. We had people booking our guest rooms left, right, and center before we had even moved into the house ourselves. At first, this was super stressful. I hate the thought of not being an entertaining or, at least, hospitable host. How was I supposed to entertain a guest while unpacking dishes and underwear? Where was anyone going even to sit? We couldn’t possibly put people to work, could we?
But we didn’t have to. They volunteered. Each parent drove ten-plus hours to drive a U-Haul back and forth from the apartment to the house. Cousins brought their dogs to keep ours entertained in the backyard. Aunts brought extra towels and bedding. And each sibling came in to stir up trouble right when boredom was setting in.
We had family stay with us in the house each weekend for nearly two months, and it was … lovely. And it didn’t matter that the house was a mess, that we couldn’t afford to take our guests on a tour of the town, or that we didn’t have internet or television for 48 hours. We got unpacked and settled in exponentially faster with their help, and we started filling the house with fond, family memories from day one. So, as with most major life decisions, buying a house gave me a deeper appreciation of my loved ones.