5 Lessons You Can Learn from Living in Temporary Housing

Stories from Real People About Their Experiences with Short-term Living

Having to move temporarily to accommodate a life transition can feel intimidating. With whatever else you have going on — a growing family, the fallout from a breakup, a new job in a new city, building a new home — packing up your things and getting settled into a short-term space can feel like a compounding stressor.

But it doesn’t need to be.

As with so many of life’s challenges, your mindset will determine how smoothly this move will go. If you can embrace the potential opportunities a short-term move affords, you will leave that space a better version of yourself.

Below are five stories of people who have found ways to navigate their own challenges with temporary housing. Use their realizations and the lessons they learned to guide your own move.

Learn How to Separate Your Old Home From Your Identity

In 2014, writer Lisa Thomson discussed how she felt she had a relationship with her home, and how that relationship shaped her self-perception, in a piece for The Huffington Post.

Following a divorce, Lisa felt fear which stemmed from the fact that downsizing from her home into an apartment at that point in adulthood felt like a regression. So, during those difficult months and years after her divorce, she was forced to get introspective about who she is, where she should live, and what works for her.

“Houses are only a physical representation of our lives,” she wrote. “A house has no feelings or attachments. It doesn’t love us back. Walls really don’t talk, and that’s probably a good thing.”

If you are in the middle of picking up the pieces after a breakup or divorce, don’t let your next place represent some kind of failure or regression. Instead, use this time to get to know yourself a little better (more on that in a moment), and fill your new space with your new life.

Even in a short-term rental, says Splitopia author Wendy Paris, unpack your boxes and decorate the space to reflect your idea of home, comfort and coziness. “Spend the time and money to quickly get yourself set up and functional, ideally within a couple weeks,” she says. “Hire painters to cover your walls in a shade you love. Buy the microwave and bath towels that will ease your daily life.”

Learn How to Be Content With Yourself While Alone in a Room

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Whether you are navigating a breakup, moving to a new city for work or even trailing a spouse who has received PCS orders, big life transitions often come with long stretches of solitude.

These stretches are a challenge for most of us (“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” Pascal famously wrote). But as author and permanent traveler Colin Wright has discovered, going about your day-to-day tasks in that kind of quiet solitude can be refreshing if you approach it intentionally.

As an example, Wright mentions how he likes to read or listen to podcasts while cooking. It’s a somewhat meditative act that he finds especially fulfilling. “I love that my meals are ‘boring,’ rather than social,” he writes.

“I love that I have the opportunity to pace my day based on what I want to accomplish. I love that my space, my apartment, is custom-fitted for me and the work I do and the lifestyle I live, rather than for guests I might someday have, or someone else’s ideas of what a space should look like and contain.”

Learn How to Ask For Help From Real Estate Professionals

This sounds a bit obvious, but in a moment of stress many of us don’t think to reach out for help when we need it. Instead, we’ve become too accustomed to figuring it out for ourselves.

But imagine you’re packing up for a move to Manhattan to take on a new job. In all the excitement you might feel about the job, living in New York and saying goodbye to friends, you might underestimate just how much of a headache it is just to sign a lease in a city like that.

Virginia K. Smith at Brick Underground has the story of a student from France who was accepted to the New York Film Academy, and how many documents that student would need to find housing.  According to the brokers Smith spoke to, this student would need:

  • A copy of his or her visa
  • A passport
  • Bank statements from previous months
  • A letter of enrollment from the school
  • Evidence of income (landlords prefer to see annual salaries that are 40 times the monthly rents they charge)
  • A credit score of 700-plus

Don’t get discouraged by such requirements, though. Smith points out that in New York there are lease guaranty services that handle a lot of those landlord sticking points on your behalf. They charge a fee, but this gets much of the administrative work off your plate while you have other things on your mind.

Learn How to Connect With Others Who Have Walked a Similar Path

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Andrew Ferguson is a trailing spouse, as mentioned earlier. His wife, Jeanie, is a traveling nurse, and in early 2017 she accepted an eight-week position in Grand Junction, Colorado, where Ferguson says it’s been difficult to find housing.

“We’re going to have to move out of our current residence before her contract’s up, and are expecting to have to move a few more times, depending on how long we stay, before we leave town,” he writes at The Gypsy Nurse, a site dedicated to helping traveling nurses and their families navigate such an itinerant lifestyle.

Fortunately, various communities have long extended helping hands to others in their group who need to find temporary housing, and so sites like The Gypsy Nurse continue an important tradition.

No matter what your situation, you are likely to find a blogging community of people who have been before where you are now. Do a cursory search, find the sites that speak to you, and bookmark them. Even better, get involved in the natural communities that develop around them, whether those are comment sections or private Facebook groups.

No one walks their paths alone, and reaching out to others can make your transition much, much smoother.

Learn How to Find Your Own Groove

We all have our own quirks and rhythms. When you settle into your new place, you’ll feel more at home the sooner you can get into your own rhythms.

Debbie Campbell of The Senior Nomads tells us she and her husband, Michael, have this routine down. The Campbells have been traveling the world for nearly four years, making a home in Airbnbs for days and weeks at a time as they go.

Right upon arrival, they’ve found they feel most comfortable when they set the place up to their liking. “I head to the kitchen to find out what I have to work with to prepare meals,” Debbie says. “We eat in often, not only because I like to cook, but it helps our budget. In the meantime, Michael is setting up the WiFi, the charging station for our electronics, testing lights and keys, and, if we are in a country with English-speaking channels, we figure out how to use the TV remotes.”

Whether you’re making a big move for the first time in years, you are trying to figure out where to live between buying and selling, or you’re a professional traveler who hops from home to home each week, creating that sense of home wherever you are is an important first step.

Do this, and you’ll set yourself up for success as you navigate this transition in your life.

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