5 Things I Learned Living in Someone Else’s House

I have house hacked on a few different occasions. The most recent time I house hacked was when we spend the summer living at my parent’s house. Here are the 5 things I learned living in someone else’s house.

Earlier this year we decided to start looking for a new home. The housing market in our area is currently in a buyer’s market so we thought, why not look.  I loved our home but with a growing family, it just wasn’t functional anymore.

Because we were in no hurry to buy and move I wanted to take our time and find the right place in our neighbourhood.  We could have easily found a home that would work in a different area of the city, but the location was important to me.

After a few weeks of looking and some back and forth negotiating we bought our next home.  The only “problem” was that we wanted to do some massive renovations to make the place perfect for us.  These renovations would take a few months so we needed to come up with a plan.

Buying in a buyer’s market is not a good time to sell.  Our original plan was to sell our home.  Unfortunately, because the market was a bit of a low, even though there was no mortgage on our home, selling it now would mean that we would lose money.

Related Post: How we Paid off our Mortgage in Under 5 Years

So we did what any real estate investor would do – we decided to convert our home into a rental property.  We refinanced our now rental to divert that money into our new home.


We got possession of our new home in early July and the renovations would not be complete until early September.  This meant that would potentially have 3 months of double mortgage payments.

That is a lot of money.

At the beginning of June, I had the idea that maybe we could rent out our place for July 1stinstead of waiting until the end of the summer.

My parents were gone for the summer on a cross country road trip and my husband and I were both off for the summer which meant no commuting to work.  I asked my parents if we could house sit for them until our new house was ready.

They graciously agreed.  So we got our house ready and put it up for rent.

Amazingly we got it rented right away.  Even though we have many rental properties, they are all newer homes.  This property was built in the 1950s.  I think the fact that it was a home, and didn’t look “like a rental” helped it rent so fast.  Plus, it is in a great neighbourhood that doesn’t have a lot of rental properties.

We now had a deadline.  

The new tenants were set to move in by the beginning of July. This meant that we would have to be moved out and have our place cleaned and ready to go by then. There were a few minor fixes we wanted to make to the place to prevent having to do them later once the tenants moved in.  We had to hustle.

So we packed up all our things, put them into storage at a friend’s acreage, completely cleaned our place from top to bottom and moved out of the city for the summer.  It was a hectic and busy couple of weeks.

Lesson #1 – People have Too Much Stuff

The minute we moved into my parent’s house I was overwhelmed. Even though we had put the majority of our stuff into storage there were still boxes we brought with us.  I had kept my computer and all our food and had brought it to my parent’s place.

The combination of all the stuff my parents had in their house and all the stuff we brought with us was massive.  For the first few days we could barely walk around – there were boxes and stuff everywhere.

We really had to work hard to feel at home in someone else’s house. Eventually, I found some time to go through our things and stack the boxes in the basement out of the way.  When I went to put some of our stuff “away” there was no room.

To be fair, when my parents left on their holiday they did not anticipate having a long term house guest – especially not one with a soon to be toddler.  

Everywhere I tried to put things, there was no room.  The pantries were packed, the closets and dressers overflowing.  I barely found room on a shelf in the deep freezer for our frozen goods.  Why did they have so much stuff?  They are 2 people living in a 3-bedroom home with no room to spare.  

But they are not alone.

For 2 weeks this summer we stayed with my sister-in-law and her family while we visited them in Ottawa.  While we were there we were inundated with all of the stuff they had in their house.  They have a double garage that they can’t even park in because of all the stuff they have stored in there.

Are we the anomaly because we don’t like stuff and would rather spend on experiences?  I would identify as a valuist and pseudo-minimalist and there are times when I think I have too much stuff.

Related Post: FMS – Part 3 – Creating a Budget in 5 Easy Steps

Living in someone else’s house and experiencing how people live, and not just while visiting them for the short term really opened my eyes. 

People have too much stuff. 

And I would guess that they have more stuff than they could or would ever use.

Lesson #2 – I Have More than I Need

Living in someone else’s house all summer meant that I would be living out of a suitcase.  To be honest I packed a few suitcases, one for my little one, one for my husband and 2 for me.  

The 2 for me was because I knew that I would be going back to work in the fall so I packed a second suitcase of work clothes.  That way if the renovation wasn’t ready in time I would have something to wear to work.

While packing up all my things I realized that I had enough clothes to fit many suitcases.  

All summer I didn’t miss my packed away clothes.  Sure, there are seasonal clothes that I don’t need all the time.  But I also came to appreciate that I have a ton of clothes I infrequently wear and probably don’t need.

I am always hanging on to clothes that I might wear one day even though that one day never comes.

Enough is enough, once we moved into our new house I decided to cull my closet.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to get rid of all the extra clothes yet.  But I’m ready to get them out of my closet.

Inspired by Sarah from Smile & Conquer, I’m going to experiment with creating a (kind of) capsule wardrobe. As I’m not quite ready to get rid of everything yet, I’m going to pack away the rest of my clothes in bins in my basement.  After a few months if I don’t touch the bins at all, then the clothes are ready to be donated.

Lesson #3 – My Environment Affects my Mindset

As a child, I remember my teachers always telling me to keep my desk clean. In university, I remember learning how a messy desk can affect your work habits.  But none of that sank in until this summer when we were not living in our own space.

As stated above the homes that I lived in throughout the summer were filled with stuff.  This lead to a messy and cluttered home – not dirty, just messy and cluttered. Although to be honest, some of our living arrangements were, in fact, dirty and we spent a lot of time this summer cleaning someone else’s house.

Our hosts had very different cleanliness habits than we did. We were not 100% of the rules for living in someone else’s house, but we cleaned every home we stayed in.

After a few weeks, I found myself getting very frustrated and short-tempered.   Why was their no horizontal space to do work at? Who really needed that much stuff? How can people live like this?

I am lucky to have a husband who likes to clean and values a clean home.  I took this for granted.  It wasn’t until I was living in an environment that wasn’t neat and tidy that I realized how much it affected my mindset.  

There were numerous points where I questioned our decision to house hack. Was saving money really worth the effect it was having on my mindset?

The cluttered environment cluttered my thoughts.  It was difficult for me to find mental space to be creative and to write.  I was frustrated all the time with the sheer amount of stuff and clutter.  It prevented me from thinking straight.  

The clutter affected my mood.

As soon as we got settled into our new home I felt like I could breathe again.  Yes, there are still a lot of boxes that need to be unpacked.  But it doesn’t feel cluttered.  The boxes are in the basement waiting to be dealt with.  There’s horizontal space to work at.  And lots of it!

Have you ever been to a place that just feels more relaxing? Where your shoulders and body are at ease just being there?  If you’re unsure how your physical environment affects your mindset, try living at someone else’s house for an extended stay and see what happens.  If your temporary living arrangements are different than you preferred ones, it won’t take long to notice a mindset difference.

Lesson #4 – A Little Hustle can go a Long Way

We didn’t need to move out and rent our house early before our new home would be ready. And as much as it was a bit of a trying summer living in someone else’s house, I’m glad we did.

All and all the decision saved us almost $4000.  That’s not a small number.  Had we not had a little hustle and were open to opportunities we never would have made the decision to live in someone else’s house. 

Hustle can be a good thing at times, for me, it’s a motivator. Hustling is like playing a game – and who doesn’t like playing games? 

It’s like trying to optimize situations to get the most out of them.  Its taking calculated risks to see what happens.  If nothing else, a little hustle often leads to an opportunity later. It helps build my talent stack. Or in this case, provides a bit more funding for a future project.

Lesson #5 – Little Ones are Adaptable

Throughout the summer of living in someone else’s house, our little one went to bed in 8 different locations! Every time we put her to bed in a new location, she slept like a champ.

I often joked that she didn’t know where her home was.  It must have been very confusing for her when we were staying at one set of grandparents’ house and the other set of grandparents were staying with us.  Poor little thing never knew if she was coming or going.

Thankfully she loves new things.  Every place we stayed at was a new adventure for her.  In the beginning, I was worried about what effect living in someone else’s house for months would have on her.  I was wrong to be worried.  She loved it and was an awesome house hacker.

When we finally did move into our new home, our little one loved having all the space to move around in.  She slept through the night the first few nights we were there – which was a huge relief!

But we weren’t alone in caring for our little one throughout the process.  Moving twice, cleaning our old place, my parent’s place when we left, and our new place before we fully moved in took a lot of work.  We would not have been able to to do it without all the help of family and friends.

I think our little one loved always having different people around. Living at my parent’s place meant that we were close to my sister and her kids.  The daily playdates with her cousins always brought out plenty of smiles and giggles.

If you are looking to house hack, you need to read this article.  I have house hacked on a few different occasions.  I had never thought of these 5 lessons from living in someone else’s house.  I will be sending this to all my friends who want to house hack. #househack #frugalliving #savemoney #handfulofthoughts

Final Thoughts

This summer was meant to be relaxing, I was enjoying my last few months before having to go back to work full time and my husband was off on parental leave.  We had visions of all the time we would spend together doing family things.

Instead we decided to buy a new place and renovate resulting in living in someone else’s house all summer.  Not what we had originally envisioned.

But now that we are in our new place and it is awesome, I’m glad we spent the summer living in someone else’s house.  

I learned a lot through the experience.  About myself, family members and people in general. 

Unpacking at our new place has inspired me to now go through all my things and do a sort of Kon Mari cleanout.  I now believe that I have too much stuff, and I’m ready to get rid of some of it.  This never would have happened had we not been living in someone else’s house all summer.

What did you learn this summer?

8 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned Living in Someone Else’s House”

  1. I love that you guys decided to rent out your former primary residence! Great idea to get some extra cash. How is the rental going?
    Also, did you finish the renovations and move into your new house??
    You should write a post about the renovations! I’d love to see the photos! =D

    1. Thanks Katie. We hadn’t planned on adding another property to our portfolio, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. Our new tenants have been awesome though and get along great with our former neighbours so that makes things easier.

      Yes the renovations are done and we have moved in. Although the unpacking is still a work in progress. We are taking the time to purge any unwanted or unused items so the extra time is worth it.

  2. Love the post, thank you!

    I totally agree with #1, #2 and #3 – Clutter & Stuff is such a pain – not only does it fill up our space, it’s a nightmare to clean. We de-cluttering at least annually, though it’s a constant struggle!

    Regarding Mood, a clean, simple space makes me much calmer!

    1. Hi Money Mage – I completely agree with you about having a clean, simple space -it makes me much calmer too. Something I think I took for granted for a long time. We also try to de-clutter our house regularly.

  3. Hi Maria, just found your blog via the Personal Finance Blogs website. I completely agree with your thoughts on material possessions. My parents also have a lot of “stuff” and knick knacks and chocktkies and I find it affecting my mood when I spend too much time at their house. I’m VERY minimalist in comparison and hate buying and owning things I don’t need. Not only for the clutter element, but because I think about how many of these objects will eventually end up in a landfill and negatively impact our environment. It just seems to wasteful. Thinking about it, I wonder if my lifestyle is in a way a reaction to environment I grew up in. Sometimes when I find myself feeling overwhelmed by my own stuff, especially when it comes to pantry goods & freezer items, I do a cook-through challenge and put a ban on my grocery spending until I’ve eaten through almost everything in the kitchen. This has made for some interesting and sometimes unsavory meals, but it’s fun to do now and then 🙂 Great post!

    1. Hi Jules – so glad you found my blog. I love the idea of a cook-through challenge, might have to try this myself. I think our upbringing affects who we are later on. Now, whenever I go visit my parents I have to come home and get rid of something in my own home to make me feel better. Clutter can just be so overwhelming. I have also tried to focus on second-hand items lately because of the environmental impact.

  4. Have you guys looked into “house sitting” at all? Seems like a trendy side gig that has its ups and downs (perhaps a bit down with COVID). Seems like another fun house hack since you could use it in foreign places as a home base for a while to get a little travel in. Jenni and I have thought about it…

    1. Hey Chris, we have never tried house sitting. We have yet to be able to do any slow travel in one place long enough to make it an option. I think house sitting will be something we eventually try when we can stay in one place for awhile.

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