If you currently don't have houseplants, then maybe you should think about buying a house (remember, last week I talked about why you shouldn't). Then you'll be able to buy some plants for it! But let me back up and explain what I'm getting at:
A houseplant is a pain in the ass. It's something that requires near-constant attention, and rewards that attention with nothing more than the simple act of not dying, and, therefore, requiring even more attention.
Even worse, a houseplant will punish you for overcare. If the risk of your plants dying of thirst causes you to respond by watering them just a little too much, then, well, they'll die on you for that too.
Thanks, plants. Thanks a lot.
How is a home similar? Well, a home requires constant attention. It needs to be loved and cared for. Under-maintained, it will decay startlingly fast. But take too much care of it, and you'll find yourself living in a nicely-appointed money pit.
So why should you get one (plants or house)? Well, if you're someone who needs a way of grounding yourself, then a house is a great way to do it. A house roots you like nothing else does. It establishes your sense of place, your relationship to your neighbors, and a shared sense of responsibility for the things that make a community work.
Beyond that, owning a home gives you a feeling, not only of ownership, but of the responsibility that comes with it.
For example: at our house, we have an unusually stubborn chipmunk living in our yard (at least that what I assume he is; I've never actually seen him). I find his little burrows and pathways all over the garden, and this fall, I realized he was also getting into our foundation walls, making himself several warm, weatherproof shelters where he can ride out the winter.
Love of nature notwithstanding, I had to put an end to that. I'm a homeowner, after all!
So I grabbed a bag of concrete, found his little hidey holes, and patched them up. It felt great! I even strolled by a few hours later, thumbs in my belt-loops, to admire my work; see how smooth the finish was? See how seamless? A job well done, I thought.
So imagine my fury when, walking by one of those patches again the next day, I saw, beside it, another little tunnel chewed into the foundation mortar. Bah! Thwarted by a 10-ounce rodent! He just dug a new tunnel around my patch!
Thus began a sort of cold war, which persists until this day, where I survey the foundation perimeter daily, looking for his new penetrations, and stuff them with concrete as quickly as he makes them.
Boring story, I know, but it's amazing the feeling of satisfaction I get from something as simple as closing up a chipmunk hole. Even if I know the fix isn't permanent, and he'll be back tomorrow with a new opening, I feel like I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing: maintaining my abode (by denying him his).
Certainly, it's not as exciting as cliff diving or adventure dog-sledding or whatever else I could be dedicating my time to, were I not responsible for this place. But it's important to appreciate the simple, deep rewards that come from taking care of your responsibilities.
Raking the yard, mowing the lawn, fixing a stuck door latch, cleaning the windows in the fall. These are all simple chores that, when viewed in the right perspective, can be deeply satisfying and even – don't quote me on this – fun.
Home ownership is not, or at least, should not be, about keeping up with the Joneses. You take care of a house, or your lawn, or get your trees trimmed, not because it matters what the neighbors think, but because this is the place where you live. You owe it that level of care and attention, and, frankly, you owe that to yourself, too.
To say there's something primal about your domicile is pretty obvious. Home making is the earliest form of being human. And it's not even just humans! Look at any any bird's nest - the amount of effort and care that goes into building something like that when they don't even have any hands – and it should make sense.
Sure, you could buy houseplants that need (almost) no attention. And sure, you could rent a place to live where all the maintenance needs were taken care of. For some people, those options make a lot of sense. But some of us need the structure, dedication, discipline, and pride that comes with knowing we've sealed every last window for winter, changed the furnace air filter on time, bagged the fallen leaves, and touched up that peeling paint.
Oh, and I filled that new chipmunk hole. He's not giving up on his living space; neither am I.