When Households Combine

Alright, you got me. I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. My early commitment to roughly bi-weekly posting took a hit when we were given notice to vacate our rental, an event which turned our whole world upside down. We were given two months, which sounds like a long time, but somehow the sand slipped through the hourglass at lightning speed and we found ourselves frantically packing up our large, two-storey, stuffed-to-the-brim house, keenly aware that there were few rentals in our area (even fewer that were suitable or affordable) and plenty of people looking for rentals. We reached our limits for coping with stress, my husband and I, and it forced us to make a tough decision.

Sean’s parents had offered us their rumpus room as a temporary accommodation solution, and we took them up on that offer. A four-bedroom, one bathroom, one toilet house with limited hot water and a septic tank, that already housed 7 people (Sean’s parents, three younger brothers and the girlfriend of one brother) and two dogs was rearranged and organised to fit in us: Sean and I, and the two kids, plus our bird and the dog. One thing I can say about my mother-in-law is that she has a knack for making things happen when she puts her mind to it. Surely she has some secret magical power that has transformed a room that was chockers with random accumulated crap into a neat little living space complete with a nursery and a lounge area. [I say neat, but at the moment it’s still chaos – so much sorting out still to do, a week and a half after our move!]

While it’s not the most ideal of situations, at the end of the day it is a MASSIVE blessing to us to be living rent-free, paying a very reasonable amount of board, with free built-in babysitting. God has provided an awesome opportunity for us to catch up on our debts, save for a second car again, and be able to pay bond and rent-in-advance at the next house without having to borrow from family. I’m keenly aware that this is not something everyone has the ability to do, and I am sincerely grateful and humbled by the generosity of my in-laws.

So in my week living here, I’ve been struck by just how differently our households run, and am conscious of not wanting to rock the boat by trying to impose my ways of doing things in someone else’s house. It’s all the little things that make up daily life; if I’m not careful, I can become judgemental and superior. The way they shop, the way they shove things into the pantry and fridge, their haphazard style of hanging washing or the way they leave the bathroom mat on the floor to go squidgy between showers – it’s all just different. Can I really claim to be any better than anyone else because we would hang up the bath mat in our house, or because I like my clothes hung neatly for better aeration? I have plenty of dodgy habits, like leaving things lying about the place [I have the attention span of a hyperactive toy poodle and simply forget I ever put down a mug or a plate next to me]. Our house was always terribly messy because we didn’t have the processes and habits to keep it effortlessly tidy; I have to admit that, although I disagree with many of the things they do here, it works. The house is usually kept in a reasonable state of cleanliness and tidiness. Everyone has a chance to relax in the evening; they aren’t madly catching up on all the housework, like Sean and I always seemed to do.

When two different households merge into one, there has to be a bit of give and take. We each have our idiosyncrasies, our particular ways of doing life, and everyone – not just our big family – has something they can learn from seeing how others do it. In our time here, I hope to learn the habit of tidiness and routine; I hope to impart a sense of frugality [you wouldn’t believe how much food they throw out here!] and some of the little things I’ve found make household chores a little easier.

Here’s to it being an overall positive experience, for all of us! If you have any advice or a similar experience you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

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