As a young adult — just out of college — I moved to Sun Valley, Idaho to be a ski bum. The idea was to wait tables for a living big enough to pay rent, feed myself, party with new friends and slide downhill on my secondhand Rossignols every once in a while.
Turns out my tip jar didn’t exactly runneth over, so for the first year I lived with roommates. But soon I got a job as the junior reporter at the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper and a salary of $14,500 a year. I decided it was time to get a place of my own.
My housing budget of $400 a month didn’t go very far.
After an extensive search, I rented a ground level apartment near the Warm Springs chairlift. It was a one-bedroom in-law unit beneath a two-story “Swiss chalet” that housed a family of five. At the front of my apartment was a picture window, but the bedroom and bathroom were subterranean.
Deprived of natural light, it wasn’t long before I started feeling anxious and depressed. Getting out of bed in the morning became increasingly difficult. My appetite waned.
As the winter progressed and the snow piled up in front of my single window, my mood worsened. My alcohol intake increased. The glare of the white landscape gave me headaches, and sunset made me homesick for Virginia. I cried daily, and began to feel jealous of the good fortune of those around me.
It never occurred to me that my rabbit hole of an apartment might be partly to blame. But when I moved from that dark cave, everything instantly brightened up.
Which is to say: Home can make us happy or it can make us unhappy. So when you’re contemplating signing a lease or a contract for a purchase, take these five steps:
1.) Make a point of observing your sensations when you enter the space. Then notice if there’s any sort of lift or excitement in your body.
2.) Follow your nose when you first walk inside. In most people, smell is the most direct, intense and tricky of the senses. If you’re twitching, you’d better figure out why.
3.) Be sure you take a seat in every room, because most people don’t stand the whole time they’re home. (Good news: It’s likely this test will make you feel better about the house.)
4.) Ask yourself if there’s anything about the home that feels like a sacrifice or compromise, apart from the financial outlay and the limits within a limitless universe.
5.) Pay attention if anything inside — or outside — the house irritates you. If there is irritation, will you be able to learn to accept it? Or can you change it? Be honest.
In other words, don’t ignore your intuition. If you’re not getting at least a tiny feeling of “This Must Be The Place,” then best to keep looking.