Throughout my seventeen years of life, I’ve seen many types of houses. Not because I’ve moved around a ton- I’ve only lived in a handful of different addresses, one across state lines- but because my dad’s a Real Estate agent.

I’ve seen houses at their best, with shiny granite countertops and ginormous ranges that take up the whole kitchen island with clean, silver surfaces. I’ve also seen houses at their worst. I’ve seen walls stained with the reddish ashes of cigarette smoke and unfinished paint jobs and scruffy wool carpets with loose nails, drawing blood on unsuspecting feet.

Now my dad mainly just renovates and sells houses. My mom jokes that flipping houses is a “young guy’s” business and my dad, mid-50’s with more grey hairs than I can count, has exceeded his warranty. But she also says it’s the best financial investment they’ve ever made. So, for the last few summers of my life, I’ve been setting my alarm to 7 am, throwing on my dirtiest pair of shoes and rubber gloves to drive out to Yelm or Lacey or wherever the closest bargain is, tying my hair up, and scrubbing bathroom sinks until late afternoon. Sometimes we’re working inside, scrubbing gritty dirt-covered showers and vacuuming for hours at a time. Other days it is pulling weeds lodged between the cracks in the rock field and digging out old pipelines. On the days before an open house, we’re moving couches and cabinets through narrowed hallways, back and forth from the storage warehouse and his dusty white pickup truck.

But through the years of early morning summers and forced child labor, I’ve learned a few things about homeownership. One: never dig out a plastic bag lodged under a tree; it’s probably the last tenant’s dead pet.

Two: a real home is messy.

A real home is cluttered and the paint is chipped. The garages are mismatched and the fence is rough and jagged and eroded by years of rainfall. The lawn is dead and no matter how much sod and fertilizer you try to lay down, it will always be dead. It’s wooden tables stained by heat and something always boiling on the stove and smoking on the barbeque. There’s an unfinished art project on the back of the bedroom door from the last owners and holes in the drywall where the bookshelf goes and intentions in the wall because I can never remember where the outlets are, despite living in the same house for seven years. I say this because that is exactly what my house looks like.