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The list of tasks and bills

When I was in elementary school, my parents had a list of tasks and bills to pay on the refrigerator (sometimes they argued about it). One day, looking at the checkmarks, I was hit with amazement that it took so much to run a house. I had a nervous thought that I might not be capable of it..

I was reminded of this years later when we rented our house to four students. It turned out that none of them had the skills to live in a house. We paid utilities, but we still needed them to take care of the trash, clean the bathroom, etc. It didn’t go so well—macaroni down the sink, mold growing on the bathroom tiles, a stage constructed in the liv- ing room. Another reminder when we rented our first home in Eastern Washington to a family that had always lived in an apartment. With four kids, they were excited to have a big yard. But watering, weeding, mow- ing, litter patrol—those were all mysteries to our tenants.

I now wonder whether the tasks and bills haven’t grown beyond my capacity: separating recycling, policing water use; pruning or remov- ing trees, maintaining the internet connection, scheduling annual fur- nace and chimney check-up; keeping all the appliances functional or replacing them; trouble-shooting electrical problems; now and again new paint, a new roof, more insulation. The front-loaded mortgage pay- ment, insurance, continually rising property tax, city utilities. I wonder sometimes about someone who’s lost their home because they couldn’t keep up with the list of tasks and bills. Maybe it feels at first a little like freedom?


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