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A Divorce Journey: BLOG #2

Updated: May 31, 2019

By Lynn Kaplan. Certified Divorce Doula & Divorce Coach

Series 1

BLOG #2

FILLING MY HOUSE WITH LOVE


Growing up in Southern California, I had always loved living with lots of people around me: two siblings I was very close with, cousins we spent many weekends with and a home where long-term guests were always welcome.  My summers were spent at overnight camp surrounded with friends 24/7. I had amazing roommates throughout university and good friends and siblings that  were great travel partners. I then lived on kibbutz (a communal farm) in Israel for years in a community that lived, worked and played together. I knew I wanted to raise my children in a home full with not just our family, but with houseguests both short and long term. At the time my then-husband “dumped me” (Blog #1) and then moved out within days, we had a wonderful young woman from Israel living with us for six months. My daughter, then 17, would soon be leaving for 10 months abroad and upon her return, would be off to university to live with roommates. Our Isreali guest would also be leaving within a few months. That would just leave me and my 5 1/2 year-old son in the house. I knew this would not be good for either of us. I instinctively knew that I had to welcome others into our home. I needed to fill it with life. The first few years I fostered teenagers through Jewish Family and Child Services. And yes, that was challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. My son had been missing his sister, but the day I saw him having a "dance party" with one of our fosters, I knew all the challenges had been well worth it. The bonus was that I had no choice but to focus on these troubled teens, caring for them the best I knew how. I was forced to take the focus off my struggles and woes which got me “out of my own head”! When I decided to go back to school for Family Mediation and Arbitration, I knew I would not have the time needed to give what is truly needed for fostering, but at the same time, I did not want to give up having a full house.  I looked into Homestays through an English Language school in my area and it seemed like it would be a good fit. We opened our home to boarding to foreign students and new immigrants to Canada.  I made sure that each room was fully furnished with a bed, dresser, desk and chair, nightstand, table lamp , coat stand, shoe tray, noise machine, along with a full set of bedding and towels and black out curtains. It was so wonderful to learn about all of their different cultures and to show them the Toronto that we loved so much. What a wonderful opportunity for my son. He knows he is welcome in all of their homes all over the world, from Japan to France and South America. For me, they were always great company. I will be honest: it was a lot work, because I provide some daily meals. Breakfast was easy, dinner more extensive, but sharing mealtimes with them with was always an opportunity to share stories about our days and to have some good laughs. I learned to always have a big pot of rice and stir fry vegetables ready in the fridge in case I was going out for the evening. They could then easily heat up their own dinner. And of course, there were times when I felt it might just be too much. But the monthly income from having three to four students in the house allowed me to go back to school. I also made very clear house rules from the beginning: always leave the kitchen or bathroom as clean as you found it; quiet in the upstairs area at all times of the day, in case others wanted to read a book, meditate, or just take a nap (I always kept a few extra inexpensive headphones hanging on a hook in the hallway for people to use for their music and movies). When I was ready to do some renovations on my home, I decided to put in an extra kitchen in the basement just for my tenants, along with enough pantry and refrigerator space for all of them and a big basement bathroom. As I had been renting out fully furnished rooms to the English language students, but wanted to end the obligation of making meals, I stayed on the same trajectory by renting directly to young people via ads at the local universities and online via sites like Craigslist or Kijiji.

When I started my practice as a Divorce Doula, I knew I needed more help around the house taking care of daily chores and babysitting. I decided to advertise the basement room not for rent, but in exchange for labour. I knew it had to be the right person to make it work, little did I know at the time that I would have the most amazing young couple from Spain, Laura and Dani literally “take care of us” for two full years. It's hard to understate the physical and emotional support they gave to us during that time, and the ever so special memories we made together doing things from planting fruit trees in the backyard to curing and canning olives (which I know neither Laura or I will ever do again), to many a hikes with the dogs through ravines and rivers. Although they have moved on to build a life in Vancouver, they will always be part of our family.   Some people may wonder "how could she be living with strangers” or "how could she trust having these strangers in her home?" All I can say is it's been a really wonderful (and smart) way to bring in extra income, and to have more hands on deck by making good use of extra bedrooms and a basement space.

I have guided many clients on the ins and outs of Homestays or renting via kijiji or Craigslist, from how to advertise and discuss all your expectations from the very beginning to making sure to get referrals, plus first and last month's rent up front. I never take in anyone unless I have met them in person, and being able to see their body language. Although many potential tenants seem to be wonderfully outgoing and exuberant people, I know that would not be a good fit for our quiet home. When my friends come to visit, they are always commenting, "how is it so quiet here with six people living in your house?” My answer is "good interviewing."

I truly can't imagine living with just me and my son. I also know that he can't imagine it either. My future plan is to eventually rent rooms to fellow aging women and share the cost to have a caregiver live here to make sure all our needs are taken care of; to all grow old together…happily ever after.


FOR EASE: EVERYTHING LINKS TO AMAZON.CA

If you use Amazon.com, I am hoping you will easily find them there, or similar items


BOOK SUGGESTIONS

For your convenience, all books are listed through Amazon.ca

It is a pleasure to be an Amazon Affiliate

I will honestly say that I have not read any of these books, but they all look great for all the tips needed to host a Homestay in your home and how to furnish on a budget. I wish I had one of these when I started hosting.


Homestay 101 for Hosts by Cheryl Verstrate


Homestay Basics: Making Your Home Pay for Itself by Annette Scott


Junk Style by Melanie Molesworth

How to furnish all those rooms- the fun and inexpensive way.  I am known to pick up anything left out on curbs ,I needed a bookshelf for one room and poof- the next day I drove home on a different route and there it was an almost new Ikea bookshelf.  Damn was it heavy, but somehow I got it in my car.Mattresses I always buy new (futons are great).


SOME OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS

For your convenience, all products are listed through Amazon.ca

It is a pleasure to be an Amazon Affiliate


White Noise Machine

Friends ask me, "How do you get any sleep with all those people living in your house?" Here's my secret; every person, including me, has a white noise machine. I keep mine on Ocean sounds and drift away imagining that I'm at the beach house.


Blackout curtains ( thermal)

These blackout curtains help everyone get a good night's sleep and come in a variety of colours. The thermal component is great - any help on the heating bill is always good.

Coat Rack Tree

Slim with lots of hooks, super easy to put together. As I don't have tenants keep their coats in our front hallway (just not enough room), this easily gives them space.

Sheets

I search Value Village and Salvation Army for sheets, towel and blankets - ones in great shape only. I bring them straight into the laundry room to wash in hot water.  When I can’t find second hand, I find these sheets  to be great quality for the money


Bamboo Mattress Cover

Saves the mattress and with my fear of bed bugs - this one is my favourite.

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© 2018 by Lynn Kaplan, Certified Divorce Doula