5 housing options for widows – because there’s no place like home

Not every widow needs to move from the home she shared with her husband. But what happens to the one who does? For financial, location or health reasons? Here are a handful of options based on downsizing and simpler living.

1. Tiny houses. You’ve heard of the Tiny House movement, right? The normal size of a Tiny House is 200-400 square feet. When you’ve downsized enough that all your earthly possessions fit in a 10-foot cargo trailer—that would be me—then 200-400 square feet is very doable. (See more photos at end of blog; I may or may not have gotten a little carried away.)

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tinyhouseswoon.com photo

2. Mother-in-law quarters. This suggests something with a private entrance, and one’s own kitchen and bathroom. Something attached to the family house. Or not. An apartment over the garage. Even an Airstream in the backyard. Because no one wants to be a burden. And as important as connection is, so is privacy and independence.

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forbes.com photo

3. Mom-sharing. This idea is for those widows who want to be in the thick of things. My brother’s MIL was smart enough to have had several children. She now shares her time between them. If this works for your family, find out what Mom would enjoy doing to contribute to the running of the household. Maybe she’s the one who walks to meet the kids after school and oversees their homework-doing. Maybe it’s laundry. Or gardening. Then stand back and watch her blossom, surrounded by her kids and grandkidlets.

4. Foot loose and fancy free. I once asked Hubby what he would do if I died first. Without hesitation he said he’d buy a small travel trailer, get a German Shepherd and set out across the country. Full time. While it seems this idea isn’t nearly as safe for a single woman as it would be for a man, there certainly are widows who would thrive in this scenario.

5. HUD Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. When a friend suggested I look into low-income housing, I had no idea where to begin. The department of Housing and Urban Development is a good starting place; from there, click on your state. Turns out, at least in Oregon, even if I were to complete an application today, it would be for the January 2016 program waiting list. Because they are out of funds for 2015.

When Hubby died, my adult children convinced me I could take an early retirement and pursue my passion for writing full-time. Best kids in the world.

Part of the plan included rent-free living until writing income could subsidize social security income. “Denise and I are only home a few days each month,” said Son Jeremy. “Come and live at our place. You’d be doing us a favor.”

Free rent I can afford.

And so I’ve been doing *suitcase living* since February — not just in J&D’s SoCal apartment, but in Idaho, Jersey, Puerto Rico, northern California.

And now back in Oregon. And oh, does it ever feel like home. Because this is where Hubby and I lived the best ten years of our married life together. The cancer years.

I am grateful for the adventuring of these past few months. I’m grateful for all who have opened their homes to me. And I eagerly anticipate when I can once again have a home base, paint the walls and arrange my signature pieces (read: old junk repurposed into cool new stuff).

I think the most important thing to remember—if helping a displaced widowed family member secure housing—is to help her create as home-like an environment as possible.

Because there’s no place like home.

What housing options can you add to the list? Have you ever lived in a Tiny House or mother-in-law quarters, or roamed the country full-time? What were your experiences — good and bad?


P.S. As promised, take a gander at some of these Tiny House options:


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popsugar.com photo 

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tinyhouseblog.com photo

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 tinyhouseswoon.com photo

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proskillnj.com photo

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viralnova.com photo

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motherearthnews.com photo

And then there’s this one, which suggests one could turn any old outbuilding into living spaces. A barn. A garden shed. Even a chicken coop.

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Well, maybe not any old outbuilding.

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thistinyhouse.com photo


The long, slow, sweet good-bye


2 common misconceptions about grieving


  1. Susan

    Marlys, if you are the realtor, make us an appointment, please! How “freeing” to have a small, cozy place rather than a home with abundant space for “stuff” which requires a lot of time, care and funding. The last tiny home might fit our budget well. Thank you for this delightful article! Love, Susan

  2. Donna Wilkens

    Enjoyed meeting you and would like to receive your newsletter. Thanks, dw

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