Just An Old Scrubber

Yeah. That’s what I felt like today. I spent the entire weekend cleaning the house. I even did the windows. I spent three hours weeding and pruning the garden. Tomorrow there is a rental inspection here. The owner and the agent will come over and make sure I haven’t painted any of the walls black. That the plants I have in the herb garden are tomatoes and not marijuana. That I haven’t set up a methamphetamine lab in the laundry. That I haven’t ripped out the cast iron Victorian fireplaces and replaced them with cheap wooden surrounds.

I know people to whom those things have happened. Rich friends of mine who have investment properties.

The truth is, I am a very good tenant. The house is clean. I pay my rent on time. I am quiet and well-behaved. My landlord doesn’t ever want me to move out.


It is a dirty word at my age.

I think of my mother and how she disapproves of my non-home-owning state and wonder if she has a point.

You become attached to a house after living in it for nearly four years. Even if it doesn’t have some of the things you want.

A rental inspection is a reminder that any time, any tick of the clock, you could be told to move out.

And that herb garden you planted, the goldfish you buried under the bougainvillea, the familiar clunk of the front door as you close it after a hard day are all gone.

It’s hard for me, the transience that comes with not properly being able to establish a sense of place. I long for it.

I became upset this afternoon as I was cleaning. Thinking about things. Wondering if I would still be able to look at the jacaranda tree swaying in the sunlight in a year’s time.

I had to go and lie down afterwards.

I had to think about the things I love that make me realise home isn’t just bricks and mortar, it’s all about the things that make your heart soar, that reinforce your sense of self.

Like statues in parks, forthright and inspiring.

And cockatoos, jolly and proud of themselves because they have a cracker.

And my beloved  Centrepoint Tower. Always there.

And the cutest little swallow gazing down at me.

And the Aussie gum trees. Such an essential feature of the landscape. No matter where I am they make me feel I am home.

These are the things that count. These are the things that provide focus.

It doesn’t matter if my house is not my own. At least I have a roof over my head.

And the opportunity every day to breathe in the beauty of my surroundings.

14 thoughts on “Just An Old Scrubber

  1. Great post Selma. The idea of “home” is a preoccupation with me. I’m a renter like you, and a “desirable” one – respectful, paying on time, non-smoker, etc. But perhaps it’s a common niggling issue – the home could feasibly be yanked out from under you. But as you say, it’s four walls. Those walls aren’t what make one happy – it’s what goes on within and around them. 🙂


  2. Remember that owners can also be one mortgage payment away from foreclosure. Well, maybe that’s not so reassuring. But in the bigger scheme, as someone whose house once burned down, no one ever gets to live in their house forever. It’s what you take with you inside that counts.


  3. I have to say that, having owned two places in my life, I much prefer renting. At least in my current financial state. So much of the unexpected can happen when you own your place, and unless you have a nice stash of cash set aside, it isn’t a pretty picture. All of that said, I do agree with the feeling of putting down roots – literally and figuratively. Staking your claim, and imprinting your home with all that is you. …but you don’t need to own a place to do that. You simply need to infuse it with a little love.


  4. You couldn’t be more right. Home, indeed, is where the heart is and it doesn’t matter if it’s a trailer, a tent, an apartment or a house. It’s where the heart and love is. L

    This is the very reason we drew the line with those people 12 years ago. When my daughter’s cousin informed them that we were low class cause we lived in an apartment. It was the last straw. Now where do you suppose the child came up with that little gem? It starts with the parents attitudes and quite perfectly copied. Well I wasn’t gonna stand for having my children feel that way. The nerve. Galls me to this day that the attitude is that if you don’t own a home you’re somehow not worthy.

    I think your mother and my motherinlaw would be perfect friends! Sounds like they’re both cut from the same cloth! 🙂


  5. Oh Selma, I feel for you. Especially having your mother’s disapproval weighing in on top of that all.

    We’ve been very lucky. After two rental properties in two different countries, we now own our first home and we’ve been here nearly 4 years. My friend in New Zealand, on the other hand, has had to move rental properties so many times I’ve nearly worn out the page in my address book erasing and rewriting her address; for reasons ranging from the landlord deciding to sell to a sewage leak causing damage to the foundations making the building unsafe.


  6. You crack me up Selma – well the first paragraph did – and the rest was lovely, especially that bird with the cracker. I have a great attachment to gum trees – they pull at my heartstrings – I couldn’t live somewhere there was no gum trees – my being would shrivel. I’m lucky to have my own home but I don’t get really attached to houses anymore (I was attached to the home I grew up in) – I do get overly attached to silly dogs, chickens, etc.


  7. Can’t think where we got this idea that you MUST own the house you live in. Most of my German and Spanish friends rent their houses or flats, and think it odd that anyone should want to own, and be responsible for all their repairs, etc.

    Also surprises me that a lot of the forms I have to fill in want to know whether I own my house outright, it belongs to a building society or I rent …which I reckon is nobody’s business but mine.

    And, the funniest thing … easily the most beautiful, cared-for garden in the street where we used to live was the one at No. 11 … a rented property!


    I thought about this post a lot today and I realised that losing your home could happen to anyone. I guess when you rent though, you are more aware of a possible shelf life on your lease, so to speak.

    That said, I know a lady who owned her house who recently had to sell it due to financial problems. In 3 months her idea of her future had changed completely. So none of us are immune to that feeling of transience. I think that’s why enjoying my surroundings is so important for me.

    I didn’t know your house had burned down. How devastating for you. I am really sorry.

    I love your point about what’s inside being the thing that counts. It is so true. We just never know what’s round the corner. Sudden change that leaves us reeling could happen at any point. So we mustn’t forget to listen to the birds sing as much as we can.

    Hi STEPH:
    Oh, I agree. Many homes can be moneypits if you are the owner. What I would prefer is a long term leasing system so that I didn’t have to worry that I might have to move every year. I guess what I’m really saying is I HATE MOVING!!!


  9. Hi CATHY:
    Oh they do sound like they are cut from the same cloth. It’s such a drag when people are like that. And there’s nothing at all wrong with apartments. There are some gorgeous ones out there. I used to live in a tiny studio apartment many years ago and it was lovely. So cosy and functional!

    Hi DAOINE:
    I am glad you have that sense of place. That would be wonderful. But as you say, it is so often not the case for many people. Whether we rent or own, it is nice just to find a place where we can settle for a bit and not have constant building maintenance issues. That can be so stressful.

    Isn’t that cockatoo gorgeous? I couldn’t believe it when I saw him there. I know what you mean, I get really attached to the birds and so on. It is them I would miss the most if I had to leave. I also love the gums. I am writing a story about my love for the bush for a mag. I plan to submit it. It is an inspiring subject!

    The Europeans have it right in that respect. A German friend of mine is shocked by the Aussie preoccupation with real estate. Her family has rented the same house for three generations. I wish it was that way here – unless the house was falling down, of course.

    I love that the tidiest house in the street was the rented one. Yay for the renters!


  10. Home ownership, don’t get me started. You know where I stand on this. I totally understand your feelings Sel. I HATE renting and vowed many years ago, it would never happen again. But happen it did. Add to that, most of our possessions have been in storage for 3 long years. That makes it even worse. The day that I can put a key into a lock and walk in and say, all mine/ours, will be a very good day. Here’s to that being the reality for both of us, very soon.

    Hugs dear (never an old scrubber!!!) friend, G


    I know exactly what you mean. I’ve had books, photos, paintings, Nick’s car collection and various other things in storage for over three years now. I miss all my old things. That’s the hardest thing about renting for me. My landlord won’t let me hang up too many paintings and such, which is ridiculous really considering the paint is peeling off the walls.

    One day we’ll get that magical front door key again, G. Just you wait and see. I know it!


  12. I hate not having a home to “call my very own” too. And I’ve been a renter for over 18 years. Ive moved at least 11 times. And almost every time its been sad, because I was attached to some of those places.

    But much like you said, “It doesn’t matter if my house is not my own. At least I have a roof over my head.” Exactly Selma. Exactly.


  13. Home is wherever you lay your hat at the end of a day…except I don’t have a hat! I found it very difficult to accept the current apartment in which I live with my parents as my home and I still struggle with it. But now it’s more a case of me being restless and wanting to move out and money being the only hurdle (I need to give some amount to my folks and I may find it difficult to do so if I move) and therefore I don’t let myself be too attached to these walls.

    Coming back to you, your landlord will be hard pressed to find a better tenant in a million years.

    And that photo of the cockatoo with the cracker is fab; it does look as if he is mighty pleased with himself 🙂


  14. Hi MELEAH:
    We are fortunate to have a roof over our heads, hon. And of course, there is no shame at all in not having our ‘own’ places. You just never know what life will bring so sometimes it is good to adjust your expectations. I am just glad right now that all is well with me and my family and I like the place I am living in. It’s more than a lot of people have. I really am blessed!

    Hi ROSHAN:
    It all comes down to money. I can’t get the deposit needed to buy my own place and the cost of houses is Sydney is just staggering anyway, so maybe it’s just as well. I have my health and my family and I am grateful for that.

    Isn’t the cockatoo gorgeous? He was so happy about that cracker!


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