Maintaining a home
Staying housed over the long term depends on many factors. In this section, we look at three parts of maintaining a home that individuals can control: budgeting, cleaning and repairs, and connecting with community.
The costs of housing were a concern for participants in the Positive Living, Positive Homes study. Even those who were relatively secure in their housing worried about rising costs in the years to come. Especially because government assistance is limited, dollars need to be stretched.
Budgeting is an important skill. It’s about understanding how much money you have, where you spend your money, and the best way to deal with money going forward. Here are some of the benefits that people can get from budgeting:
- a better understanding of where their money goes
- more control over their spending and can set limits
- better strategizing to live within their monthly income
If you don’t have a budget, now is the time. If you made one before you moved, take another look.
Start by figuring out your monthly income, which is how much money you get each month. Then make a list of all your costs by tracking your spending per month—this means noting each thing you pay for and how much. It sounds boring, but it can turn up some useful information, and small purchases add up. How much do you spend on coffee and tea? The answer may surprise you.
At the end of the month, add up your expenses. If your total expenses are more than your monthly income, you need to decide what to cut out. If your expenses are less than your monthly income, you will be able to start saving some money up, which can be useful in case of an emergency.
If you’d like further support with budgeting skills, many libraries, family resource centres, community centres, and HIV organizations offer free programs on budgeting, so ask a support worker for ideas. Alternatively, you can check out these online resources:
- Download PAN’s budget template and helpful tips developed for this Toolkit
- Making a budget (Government of Canada)
- Free online budgeting services such as Mint (which connects to your bank account and is also available as a phone app) and BudgetPulse (which doesn’t link to your bank account)
Cleaning and Repairs
A clean house is important for health, especially for people with compromised immune systems. As much as possible, living spaces should be kept free of mold, grime, and pests (such as cockroaches or rats). For some people, a tidy home can also be calming and allow more space for things that support health, such as cooking healthy food and exercising.
Cleaning is personal, and everyone has their own way of doing it. Some people take pleasure in it, others less so, but either way it needs to be done. Homemade and natural cleaning products (see https://www.thespruce.com/homemade-and-natural-cleaning-products-1900456 for some helpful tips) are an affordable option and can be helpful for those who are sensitive to strong scents. And consider whether you can make cleaning tools out of old towels, dish sponges, cotton clothing, and even toothbrushes (useful for scrubbing around sinks and toilets) before you throw them out. Here are some resources for planning and finishing your cleaning chores:
- Ultimate Household Chore List
- How Often You Should Clean Everything
- A Down and Dirty Weekly Cleaning Schedule That Keeps Your House Clean
In terms of normal wear and tear and general building maintenance, landlords have the responsibility of keeping their properties in good condition for the comfort and safety of their tenants (unless the rental agreement says otherwise). As a tenant, you are responsible for telling the landlord if something breaks or needs attention. Alert your landlord as soon as you notice the problem, so it does not get worse and possibly more expensive to fix. Do this by email or text message so you have a record of communication (email is preferable because if your phone breaks you will lose the text messages). Neglecting building repairs and maintenance can be dangerous—unlit walkways, icy driveways, doors that don’t lock, broken windows, and unreliable elevators were all examples of unsafe housing situations described by participants in the Positive Living, Positive Homes study.
If a tenant damages the property, they may be responsible for the cost of repairs. The landlord may decide to take the money from the security deposit (or pet deposit if one was paid). In the case of a small repair, sometimes a tenant is able to do it, which is cheaper and faster than asking the landlord or property manager to take care of it—but only do this if you have the required skills and the landlord’s consent. See the next module for more information on how to engage with landlords and property managers.
Connecting with Community
Several participants in the Positive Living, Positive Homes study described feeling more “at home” when they had strong connections to their community. Socializing can bring many benefits, including improving your emotional health and linking you with support networks.
If you’ve moved to a new area, you may be feeling lonely or a little nervous about meeting people. Start slowly—maybe say hello to your neighbours, explain that you just moved in, and ask them about recommended spots in the area. Take a walk around the neighbourhood to get to know it, spend some time in a park. Connect with cultural organizations that may serve your needs. You may also be able to find organizations that offer drop-in programs or meals. If there’s an HIV organization where you live, let the staff know you’ve just moved and you’re working on settling into the community—they may be able to suggest drop-in programs, events, connect you with people, or offer other ideas.
Meeting people and developing a network can take time, so be patient with yourself. Just remember that it does mean leaving the house—if you find yourself staying inside more days than not, it may be time to go out and get some fresh air.
Further Reading and Resources