Here's an interesting way that I made it through the recession: I turned my house into a hotel!
Dr. Wendy Walsh: When the stock market plunged in 2008 and the advertising market shriveled, my heart also sank. I'm a single mother, and in recent years I'd found a fabulous way to support my addiction to nurturing and writing: hosting infomercials. With my background as a television host and news anchor and my knowledge of psychology, I was able to work very few days each month and still support my family. Then the recession hit, and everything screeched to a terrifying halt. Like so many other Americans, I had to scramble to find a way to make ends meet.
My kids became acutely aware of our sudden household cutbacks and wanted to help in some way. Yard sales were helpful, but a far cry from a mortgage payment. Then my fifth-grade daughter came up with an ingenious idea. She remembered reading the "American Girl" book about the doll ... er, I mean the girl named Kit who lived through the Great Depression. This inspired my daughter to suggest a remedy. "Kit's mother took in boarders," she explained. "Can we turn our house into a boardinghouse?"
At first I laughed. Our recession hadn't come to that, exactly. But the kid was onto something. One day, as I stood in my rooftop garden looking at my view of the Pacific Ocean, I had a moment of inspiration. Would travelers be interested in my apartment as a vacation home? After all, I also owned a small studio apartment at the garden level that could certainly double as a cozy home for my family if some vacationer showed up with solid euros or British pounds and wanted to live in our main house. And voila: My daughter's initial idea had picked up steam.
We've moved downstairs numerous times now since the stock market crash, and the experience has been surprisingly wonderful. I've tackled my assignment with zest, putting chocolates on pillows, fresh flowers in the bathrooms and writing my own "guide to the neighborhood" book with restaurant and amusement recommendations. We've hosted amazing guests, too, such as the Canadian television star who left gifts on all our beds. And the famous English screenwriter who left behind scraps of paper scribbled with prose that might turn out to be valuable someday. And the family from the Netherlands whose little girls learned to boogie-board with my kids. And I'll never forget the lovely family from San Francisco whose rental payment bought me an entire teak outdoor-dining set.
Of course, it can be a bit inconvenient at times. Homework packets and clothing sometimes get lost during our "transitions." (Yes, we move all of our personal items out.) But we've also learned to purge and live with less. Every time a guest family checks out, we tend to move less stuff back in. And traveling lighter feels good.
As the recession begins to wind down and my income is sprouting again from all kinds of other sources, I am a bit wistful about closing my "hotel." I am a natural hostess, so guiding tourists through our California beach community has been fun for me. Who knows? Maybe someday, when I retire, I'll have a B&B. I certainly have the work experience.