I hadn’t planned to write about this today. I hadn’t planned to write about this ever. In fact, when Alex first approached me to see if I would be interested in writing a post for her new website – the brief I’d initially been given was something completely different to what I’m actually writing about now. Decorating tips for renters she’d asked for and at the time of the request, I was more than happy to oblige. (Alright, maybe ‘completely different’ is a slight exaggeration as this discussion is still very much on topic. I have a tendency to pile on the dramatics. The British in me wants to apologise for that in advance).
As long as there will be landlords ready to knock £50 from your deposit for hanging a picture on a wall, there will always be a need for rental decorating posts telling you not to hammer holes into your wall. One can’t exist without the other…Trust me. I wrote an entire book about it.
However, the moment my fingers touched the keyboard, I found my mind straying to something else. To something I had shared recently on my #howirent page – on a whim I might add (it’s important to note that part because I can’t remember the last time I shared anything online on a whim).
The post was titled ‘stop questioning our (renters) design choices’ accompanied by a ‘passionately written’ caption I probably could have given more thought into (grammatically speaking), but ahem like I said…whim. I have to think back to what had prompted me to write that post because that’s what I want to expand on today (you’ll have to bear with me though, my thought processes usually require a great deal of deciphering on the best of days).
Also, now might be a good time to slide in a little disclaimer: although I do sometimes use pronouns like us, and we, these opinions are all my own. I don’t speak for all renters, but if you are a renter and read this, I’m hoping you might relate to some of what I say here today.
A few weeks ago I shared a ‘part reveal’ of my rented kitchen update on my blog. Whilst the general feedback had been positive, there was one comment that wasn’t… positive I mean (and of course, that was the one that stuck with me. It’s always the way right?). Now I won’t go into details and c’mon let’s face it, the moment you put the words decorate and renting in the same sentence, you are asking for people to begin questioning why and whether you can or should be doing it but it’s still an intrusion of privacy albeit labelled as ‘genuine curiosity’. You might as well walk around with a paper stuck to your face that reads ‘I rent, so personal questions about my finances, my landlord, and my future aspirations are fair game.’
You see, I was only telling you half the truth when I shared why in the past I had been reluctant to tell people that I rented. Yes, a slight embarrassment, as I’ve explained many times before did have something to do it with it. The idea that people would look down on me because I hadn’t fulfilled society’s expectation by buying a house, which is really interesting when I delve into that a little deeper. I grew up in a rented home both in the UK and when I lived abroad. Renting was the norm, and my friends from our various expat communities rented too. It wasn’t until I came back to the UK, got married, started employment (after a few years at university) and noticed that all my friends and colleagues my age were buying houses, did I think ‘oh wait … shouldn’t I be doing that too?’ Quickly followed by, ‘oh shoot, I can’t. My account is permanently in overdraft.’
Oh I know none of us like to admit it, but we are all influenced in some way by the circles we choose to be in. My social group at the time, consisted of homeowners, and so it was natural that I wanted to be one too.
I’m digressing a little now (I did warn you about my tangled thought process).
Back to the point. The biggest reason why I never told people that I rented was because I just could not handle the barrage of questions that usually followed when they saw my home. From homeowners mainly (and sometimes even other renters).
The questions are usually always the same, regardless of who is asking. Which makes me sometimes wonder if there isn’t an ‘ASK THE RENTER’ script out there in the world that I’m not privy to.
‘How does your landlord feel about you decorating?’ (who knows? Never met the guy…)
‘Are you allowed?’ (Good question.)
‘Don’t you think you are wasting money buying stuff for the house, when you could be saving for a deposit?’ (You’re right. That’s another 20 plus years eating on the floor then ey?)
‘But it’s not your home…’ (Yes I know. That’s why I pay rent)
‘What if your landlord decides to sell it now?’ (You’ve just kicked my anxiety up a notch, thanks for that)
Sometimes I’m happy to answer (minus the sarcasm) and other times, I’m not. Sometimes I find the sudden interest into my landlord’s emotional wellbeing hilarious, and sometimes it makes me want to roll my eyes right back into my sockets. It just depends on what mood you catch me in.
It’s only really on those days where I find myself feeling more than a little over-sensitive, and hence hugely justifying my decision to paint one of my living room walls, do I think to myself, maybe these kinds of questions aren’t that harmless after all.
In a way, they continue that age-old narrative that
- renting is only temporary
- renters must always do things on a budget because they should be saving
- renters shouldn’t decorate a home that isn’t their own
- all renters want to buy a house
- renters never ask for permission from their landlords
But what do I say to those people who ask me why I decorate a house that isn’t mine, You ask?
I say, mind your own business.
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
Alright, that’s a lie …
Instead, I smile sweetly ‘Life’s too short to hate the house you live in.’