Carolynn Pianta: Making room for 3 generations at my house

Carolynn Pianta

As our in-law tiny house downsizing/saga continues our household has been taken over. Our daughter is on teacher-summer break. Our son-in-law leaves for work at 5 a.m. and our brilliant, beautiful and unbelievably funny 3-year-old granddaughter is our daylong entertainment.

They have the house figuratively now, literally in a few weeks. We have the guest room which I call the dorm room. I say it’s cozy my husband says it’s tight.

It’s been a challenge — try combining two households into one. Try packing everything you own into boxes and finding a place for them while the second household is moving in. I’ve donated, thrown away and packed away (in a temporary storage unit) a personal lifetime of stuff. I’ve come to the conclusion that middle class American closets, attics and basements are too full.

Because we’re living in our house, with their stuff, I thought I’d feel like a guest. I don’t. The house has two living areas a family room and living room. We all have our space. Adjustment has been a breeze because in our family we’ve done this before, twice.

In the early ’80s we built an in-law apartment on the back of my mother-in-law’s house. She moved in, we bought the house. Twenty years later we sold that house, moved to a bigger one and built her another in-law apartment. She lived next to us for 28 years until her death at the age of 93. Our kids grew up with grandma next door. It was wonderful for all of us and we are hoping to make it wonderful again.

In my mind there are two rules which take precedent when creating successful inter-generational living: respect and doors. Everyone needs their own private space and always knock.

Our private space, a modular little home, will arrive in two pieces and be attached to the main house. As an independent living space it will have all the same amenities except space. I’d call it a tiny-house but in my mind it’s little, not tiny and more than a house, it’s our forever home.

A lot of families are doing what we’re doing. It’s key when taking into consideration an aging population dealing with sky-high living costs and the need for affordable independence. Our older daughter has an apartment in her house for her mother-in-law. I think it’s in our DNA.

When I went to our local town hall to obtain the permissions and permits we need, a woman behind the counter (a lot younger than me), shared that she had just done what we’re about to do. She moved into an in-law apartment attached to her son’s house. They have a baby and she is thrilled to be close and yet have her own space.

Young working families have astronomical childcare costs. For some families grandparents can often help. We will help for a couple of days a week. I don’t consider it a burden at all. I’ve already raised my children I’m not raising theirs. I consider the time I get to spend with my grandkids a privilege because before we know it our littlest neighbor will be off to school full time.

There’s the comfort factor too. I like having family nearby. I like knowing that when one of us is gone the other won’t be alone. That we don’t have to move from the area is a big plus. We’re near stores, doctors and emergency services and yet we’re surrounded by woods. The convenience of where we live is as important as how we live.

I must admit I’m pretty excited when it comes to our little home arriving on two huge flatbeds and being lifted by a giant crane onto its new foundation. It’s a strong foundation build for and by our family.

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