Feb 25, 2016 · 4 minute read

By: Colleen Valles

I’m pretty new to minimalism. So new, in fact, that I haven’t even finished getting rid of all my stuff.

I’m still on the journey, and while on it, I’ve read a lot of books, blogs and tweets about how to be a minimalist. Many acknowledge that their method of minimalism is what worked for them, and different people have to find their own way. I get that, and I appreciate the acknowledgement that everyone’s situation is different.

But then there are those who it’s clear either don’t have kids or don’t live in the Bay Area or aren’t single moms, or all of the above. I call them the “why don’t you just” minimalists, as in “why don’t you just get another job” if your commute is too long or your pay too low. Or “why don’t you just move” if your rent is astronomical, as most rents are in the Bay Area.

I’ve noticed that these minimalists tend to argue in favor of renting a home instead of owning, because many can just pick up and move to where rents are affordable or closer to work or wherever their fancy strikes.

Well, I’m here to represent for the single-mom minimalists. The ones with full-time jobs both at work and at home, one income, and one adult in the house to handle everything. I’m here for those of us who are location-dependent because our exes won’t let us move the kids or we live where our lifesaving support network is, or both.

And for us, renting sucks. Here’s why:

  1. You can be told to move at any time. Sure, you signed a lease for a year, but maybe when that lease is up, your landlord, especially if it’s a big company, will raise your rent by the maximum allowable, effectively pricing you out of your home. Or maybe you’re renting from a nice couple who decides to take advantage of the ever-booming real estate market and sell the house/condo/whatever, and you have to move. Your future, to some extent, is not under your control, which means …
  2. You don’t have stability. If you own, that’s your house, and you’ll probably have it for many, many years to come. Your kids can grow up in one place, make friends with the other kids who live on the street, and always have a mailing address when it’s their time to transition away from home. You can’t put down roots.
  3. You can’t have a pet without your landlord’s permission. And if you’re looking for a new place to rent, landlords, for some reason, tend to favor yappy little biters over big, friendly dogs. It can be tough to find a place that allows dogs at a rent you can afford in an area where you won’t get shot.
  4. Things break.Yes, things break in any home, but when it’s your home, you can pay a professional, ask a friend or fix it yourself on the weekend. When you rent, you have to contact the landlord, who may or may not respond in a timely fashion, and who may or may not repair items in a satisfactory manner. Meaning their “repairs” may not last longer than it takes the “handyman” to leave the house. Then you have to start the whole rigamarole again, taking time off work, if your work allows it, to be there for repeated repairs, if you haven’t given up and decided to do without that plug/stove/washing machine. I know there are good landlords out there, but more often, they’re trying to get by with minimal expense to maximize their return on your rent.
  5. You can’t pass on a rental unit to future generations. You can’t, that is, unless you own it. See? Right back where we started.
  6. When you leave, you will get gouged out of a hefty portion of your deposit, regardless of how much care you took of the place. Even if it’s just for the “cleaning fee,” despite the fact that the place was gross when you moved into it.
  7. It will never be yours. You pay and pay and pay, and at the end, you have nothing to show for it. And while you pay (sky-high Bay Area rents, anyone?), your income may increase, but not at the same rate as your rent, making it harder and harder to save up for a down payment on your own house, until that eventually becomes impossible.

Simplifying is awesome, don’t get me wrong. And minimalism frees up more money to pay toward your housing, which just keeps going up. For many of us single moms, the American Dream of owning a home (preferably smaller and clutter-free) is still the way to go if we want to put down roots for our families. But for most of us caught in the cycle of making less money and ever-increasing rent, it’s still far out of reach.


Colleen Valles
I'm Colleen, a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. I'm on a journey to do just that, to be able to spend more time with family and friends, riding my bike and working in the garden. Sign up to get awesome content right in your inbox, or follow me on social media.