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Former homeowner now house-sits full time

After losing much of her income, blogger sold her house and now lives in other people's vacant homes.

By Karen Datko Apr 6, 2010 1:53PM

We’re fascinated by unusual lifestyle choices people make, like campground hosting or hiking the Appalachian Trail full time. Lose your job and you may be even more inclined to consider new possibilities.


That happened to Mary, the 48-year-old single woman whose insightful blog, SimplyForties, shares her adventures and great recipes. When her income suddenly dropped, she sold her lovely old home, hit the road and embarked on house-sitting full time.


That’s right: house-sitting, usually a low-cost way to visit exotic/expensive locations, as an occupation. She explained how she began in a Consumerism Commentary guest post.


Mary lived in a small West Texas town and worked at home, primarily as a paralegal for an insurance liability expert. His business dried up, and so did hers last year. “I had a mortgage payment, a son in college and some decisions to make,” she said. What followed is inspiring:

I had for a long time been yearning for a different sort of life, and this seemed like a good time to make a drastic change. I began to think about where I would choose to be if I could be anywhere. What I came up with was a little cabin, a few chickens and a garden; in other words, a much simpler, less expensive lifestyle.

Then she read a blog post about a man who’d purchased a small Virginia farm and needed a caretaker for a while, and they reached an agreement. (In house-sitting parlance, caretaking involves more work.) She sold her beautiful home (in three days! For more than the asking price!) and hired an estate sale firm to liquidate her stuff. Everything she owns fits in a trailer that's 5 by 8 feet. 


She’s now booked with house-sitting jobs through June of next year.

How does this work?

  • She signed up for a service that matches sitters with clients. There are plenty online. Some charge a small yearly fee.
  • She cares for the property in exchange for a free place to stay. Usually no pay is involved.
  • House sitters are sometimes asked to pay for some utilities or to provide a damage deposit. A signed contract should spell out all requirements.

Like any major choice in life, this is not for everyone. Here is what she’s figured out.

  • She can continue to work via telecommuting and maintain old friendships online.
  • She has developed the confidence to make new friends wherever she goes -- the farm in Virginia, a house with two cats in a small Tennessee town (the homeowners are traveling in their RV), and later a home in Houston (those owners will be living in France).
  • She can be happy without lots of things of her own. “I’m no longer striving for a better job, bigger house, newer car or a bigger bank account. I’m striving to be a better person,” she wrote.

Have you ever used the services of a house sitter, or have you house-sat? What do you think of Mary's lifestyle choice?


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