Rising Rents, Pending Degrees, and Drop Cords

I miss my maple tree.

The U-Haul cometh, and the U-Haul goeth away. We are moved. Not settled in, but moved, at that stage where we’ve found our underwear and the coffee maker but are still squeezing past boxes stacked in the hallway.

Our old apartment had maple trees outside, one that shaded the deck and another that filled my window and my eyes as I studied, researched, drafted, finalized, read, moped, and ranted. It greeted me every morning when I woke. I followed the seasons as I watched the tiny changes in its cloak of leaves from day to day. I miss it.

This is my view now when I wake up and see out the window. It’s already taking on its own aspects of comfort. But I’ll probably not stop missing my maple tree.

New View

Although I like this place better than our old one, we did not make this move by choice. Gone are the days when I could fit everything I owned, including my cat, in my VW Bug. Moving is a flat-out pain in the ass, and every time I do it, all I can think is that nobody needs this much crap. But rents have been steadily rising in the Seattle area just in the three years since we arrived. So we left Seattle, since things aren’t quite as ridiculous in Tacoma. The cost and duration of my commute increased, but it’s a net improvement. (I prefer the atmosphere in Tacoma as well, but that’s another post. )

There are a couple of things I miss about the old place. My maple tree, certainly. The shorter, cheaper commute. The garbage disposal. Electrical outlets on every wall.

But I don’t miss Mr. and Mrs. Warthog. They moved in below us a couple of months ago, perfectly epitomizing the loud, crass neighbor who doesn’t give a rat’s fanny about anyone near them. The drunken screaming matches, the drunken “guitar playing” and “singing” (I use both terms loosely), the top-of-the-lungs blapping on the phone outside, right under my window, so I could hear every distasteful word from two floors up. Nope. Don’t miss that.

I don’t miss the insufficient trash dumpsters, that were consequently always overfull, and the constant cawing and screeching of the crows and seagulls they attracted. I don’t miss the trash strewn everywhere.

I don’t miss the parking woes. If we arrived home after 8 p.m. we were SOL for a parking place, and there was no street parking, either. Our new place has its own off-street parking. Sweet.

I especially don’t miss all the neighbors who didn’t clean up after their pets, and the resultant crap everywhere. I love having our own small yard that’s always clean because nobody else’s dog can get in it. Lilly the FatDog loves the yard too. She sits outside and surveys her domain and barks happily at those who pass by. Life is easier for her since she can see everybody she hears. Doesn’t it just figure that my dog would have an anxiety disorder to match mine.

But crouching inside my appreciation for our awesome new-old house is the awareness that this game of musical houses may be far from over. Written into our lease is an automatic rent increase of 5% per year, which means that in about 4 years we’ll be right back in the situation that led to this move: looking for a place we can afford. This is a thing.  It’s a trend, all across the country. Not just the homeless – and that situation is just so wrong, in one of the richest countries in the world – but the just-barely-homed.

Financial professionals recommend spending no more than 33% of disposable income on rent or mortgage, including utilities. That becomes a joke when you can’t rent even a hovel for less than $1400 per month, not including utilities.  Less than that and you’re next door to a meth lab, rooming with rats. Literally. Before we moved the Tominator and I were paying more than 50% of our monthly nut on a roof over our heads – before water, electricity, garbage, and so forth. It’s cheaper where we are now, but with this automatic rent increase, in a few years we’ll be right back where we just were – struggling to pay the rent, scratching together to come up with move-in costs for another, cheaper place — if such a thing even exists by then. And I make more than minimum wage. What about those in even direr straits than ours? They go without, that’s what. Without insurance, without medications, without dental care (which has become a sign of financial status as surely as designer jeans and SUV’s), without food in either quality or quantity. And I’m not even going to the land of family vacations and fancy technology so many take for granted.

What really frosts my cookies is the simple greed behind it all. How awesome for Mr. Landlord Person, that he can build an annual “cost of living” increase into his leases, and I’m sure he’ll get it from someone else if not from us. Bully for him. But I’m not stupid. The landlord’s mortgage isn’t going up. The cost of living that’s going up here is mine. Back when I owned my own rental properties, I found it far preferable to keep the rent reasonable so my dependable, quiet, clean tenants would stay. It gave me a steady, reliable income with minimum headaches.  But then, I’m not just out for every dollar I can get. Maybe it’s just me.

I am really not trying to sound bitter. But I do get tired of seeing other people’s new technology, hearing about the family vacations, passing by doggie day care establishments and wondering who on earth has money to blow on that shit. Seriously. The Tominator and I make do, and for the most part we’re all right with that and we’re grateful to have what we have. He who dies with the most toys may win, but he also leaves more crap for those left behind to deal with.

Still. Things always change. Like most people, I do better with change I actively want, and these last few years I’ve felt far from in control. It’s been much more reacting than acting, negative  circumstances outside my control skewing my life with decisions made to survive, rather than strategic moves made to thrive. But I’m close to a college degree I’ve been working hard for,  and possibly a new career. This could be exciting. Who knows where I’ll be in a few years?

Right now I am in the middle of the funnest part.  I absolutely love figuring out where things go, this picture here, those books there, my laughing Buddha on this shelf, getting the flow of walls and objects and space to flow so it is home. I am not so good at clearing out of the old place. I have gotten to where I consider a “cleaning deposit” to be a nonfundable sum toward what I don’t want to undo, and I’m especially fortunate that the Tominator likes the cleaning up part best. He clears out, I settle in. We’re a complementary set.

I plan to make the most of it, to enjoy this wonderfully quirky old house, with its creaks and cracks and single power outlet per room. For as long as it lasts, drop cords are my new decor.


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

2 thoughts on “Rising Rents, Pending Degrees, and Drop Cords”

  1. When my husband and I had rental properties, years ago, in Olympia, Long term leases guaranteed our renters that
    rents would not be raised during their time with us! As for cleaning deposits, we refunded many more than we ever kept. Understandably, we had young couples that stayed with us until they were ready to buy. How times have changed, and not for the better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They have changed! I remember spending hours cleaning, even washing walls, getting the place cleaner then when I’d moved in, only to be told it wasn’t good enough and they’d had to have it professionally done. That’s when I figured out that with most landlords the “cleaning deposit” is a racket. These days, it’s hard for renters to save to buy when they pay so much to rent the house that they can’t afford to get out of it for dinner and a movie!


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