Real Life: We Were Squatters


Pick a camp, you will either think we were lunatics or geniuses. Last year we moved nine times in 12 months…with a baby.

That’s right, I moved as many times as I would normally mop my floors. It was, in a word, chaos. Life is an adventure though, right?


Along with our new baby, my husband and I moved to Denver after living abroad in Shanghai for three years. I got a job teaching in a good district in the Denver area and my husband stayed home with our baby while going to graduate school.

It all seemed like a good idea until we started pricing rent.

Things were going to be TIGHT on a sole teacher’s income. I dug in researching ways we could live somewhere rent free; house sitting, being in charge of maintenance in a complex, commuting really far…

Then I found it; we would be squatters.

Let’s be clear, we were legal squatters, and what we were doing was actually called “care taking.” We were clients of a well-respected company that paired vacant homes with responsible individuals needing temporary housing. We lived in houses that were for sale, staged them with our own furniture, and then moved on to the next place when it sold. We usually had a few days to get moved in to our new residence, it would show, sell, and we’d move on to the next home. The days leading up to the moves and the unpacking were the worst parts. My husband and I put in some late nights. However, we paid a very reasonable rent and if we had to move within 30 days of when we moved in, we got an even bigger discount. Moving fees included, we saved a ton of money during our life as squatters.

My husband treated our moves as his part time job, as the moving responsibility really fell on his shoulders. I would leave for work from one house and plug in the address of our new home on my GPS for the ride home.

Being squatters would have all been much less stressful, had we not had a 10-20 month old along for the ride. Scheduling naps around showings and leaving the house in perfect condition with just a few hours notice was our crazy reality. Our son was remarkablycaretakers-moving easy going about the whole thing, and I am convinced if we had lived this way when he was just a bit older we would have seen a major increase in melt-downs.

Living somewhat like imposters, we got to live in houses and explore neighborhoods we would never be able to afford. Those were the really fun parts of it.

My mom, champion of the “you guys are idiots” camp, often encouraged us to purchase each of the homes we were living in. Regardless of how far out of our price range all the homes really were. She would shake her head at us, all the while helping out which child-care when we moved, or coming up to load boxes. Beloved coworkers were mystified by the whole process and they were in the “crazy” camp, too. Our friends that live internationally thought we were totally living the dream. Another good friend, often in town for work, loved staying in each different house, talking about how he would remodel each one.

When I unexpectedly got pregnant again, my husband drew a firm line and said he couldn’t keep moving while caring for two little ones under three. He didn’t take my: “you can do anything you set your mind to” comment seriously, so, I made the hard decision to leave the job that I loved and we moved our family back to the eastern plains where I grew up. We simply couldn’t afford to live in Denver solely on one teacher’s income.

It was quite a year, though, creativity kept us from going into debt, and either lunacy or our inner genius made squatting work.

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Brianna Hill Kastner resides on the high plains of Colorado in Stratton with her husband and two kids under three. They returned last year after living three years abroad in Shanghai. When she isn’t having power struggles with her two-year-old or nursing her baby, she is working on being a creative mom. She is crossing her fingers for casting to begin for Real Housewives of Eastern Colorado. From time to time she can post blog entries at Give her life's greatest affirmation by liking her on Facebook. Her work has been featured on Listen to Your Mother, Boulder, Pregnant Chicken, International Teacher’s Magazine, The Mighty and Scary Mommy.


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