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Living with your sibling

By Sunday, January 11, 2015

Our house is a little more empty now. My sister, Amanda, who writes the DIY and home decor blog Hammer and Heels, had been living with us for the past nine months but recently went back home to Iowa. She'd moved to California in May, right after graduating from college, and worked for both the San Francisco lifestyle blog Apartment 34 and the online media group POPSUGAR during her time in the Bay Area.

Living with a sibling seems to be a growing trend, according to The New York Times and Apartment Therapy, but there isn't much written about what it's like to live with a sibling who's much older or younger than you. Amanda is a twin; she and her sister Audrey are 10 years and two days younger than me, so we hadn't spent much time under the same roof since she was little. I sat down with her recently to get her thoughts on our time together...and then had her flip the question back on me!

Audrey, Amanda and me, circa 2002

What did you think living with me would be like? (Ida)
Amanda: I didn't really have any expectations going in. Since I'd been living by myself, I knew it would be an adjustment living with other people (and pets!) and managing a job. I was excited to live with you but wasn't sure to expect, since we didn't know each other that well anymore. I found it really wasn't that different from living with Audrey, though, because you and I had the same interests. We'd come home and talk about our day and fashion, beauty, and makeup. The only thing that made it different was also living with C.

What was it like to live with a married couple?
It was interesting. You see what married couples go through and realize how much you have to communicate, and I could see the dynamic of a good relationship. You and C. are good at communicating and really open with one another. And you find out that you're not the only ones who argue! I've tried to apply that to living with my boyfriend now, of doing a better job of figuring out who will do what around the house and talking to one another at the end of our day.

Why did you want to move to California, and was it different from what you'd expected?
It was always a dream of mine to live in California. You see it on TV, but never think you can actually live there. I'd visited you before and loved it; it's just cool and my style.

The fact that I had you guys there made me feel more comfortable, and it was nice to have a home to come back to versus a junky apartment where I'd be alone. After graduation I didn't really know what I wanted to do and wasn't sure how it would all turn out, but I knew if I didn't try living somewhere else that I'd be mad at myself.

What was it like to work in the Bay Area?
I loved it! It was so cool. Everyone is so laid back, and you can wear whatever you want and work doesn't start so early. I can't wear ripped jeans to work anymore!

Also, everyone is incredibly smart and good at their job. I learned so much. People are also way more up on their use technology and the way they work.

What was the most fun?
Definitely how close we were and how easy it was to so many things...Napa/Sonoma, Tahoe, the beach.

The shopping. As much as I disliked BART [the train system] it was amazing to be able to take it and get to any store I'd ever want.

I can't say enough about the weather. It's just perfect.

Also, working for a big name company with a fun culture, where they had things like Wine Fridays and free snacks.

What factored into your decision to move back to Iowa?
I didn't know if I could picture myself living in California forever. It would have been a long/hard process for my boyfriend to find a job there, and he can't change jobs as easily as I can.

Other daily things, like traffic, walking and taking the train instead of being able to drive, and there being tons of homeless people, wear on you. Also buying a house in the Bay Area is so expensive, and you can't necessarily get air conditioning, or a yard, or something nice or new.

Now that you're back home, what's been your overall takeaway of your experience?
The one word I would use is clarity. I'm glad that I did it like I'd always wanted, but I definitely appreciate the Midwest more now and I wouldn't have learned that otherwise. I found out that Iowa is not so bad; that I can live here and that's ok.

Things that didn't necessarily matter to me before, like being close to friends and family, the ability to have a house and a yard, and being able to drive to the grocery store and work turned out to be important.

I also got a lot of clarity about my career. I loved working at both Apartment 34 and POPSUGAR and was lucky to find a great job with Gordmans in Omaha. Apartment 34 was right in line with my personal interests but it helped me discover that I wanted to work for a larger company. And I wouldn't have known that I loved working in affiliate marketing if it hadn't been for my job at POPSUGAR.

Turning the tables, what was the overall experience like for you? (Amanda)
Ida: It was really fun for me to have you live with us! It definitely felt like more of a family, a home, with three of us here. I loved having someone around who shared the same interests and to discover how much we have in common. I've always said that I've been waiting all my life for you and Audrey to grow up so we can do things together!

I also really enjoyed spending time one on one with you and getting to know you as your own person. It was always you and Audrey together before, and this experience allowed me to discover your individual personalities and interests, and how similar (and different!) we all are.

I do think the age gap between us made more of a difference to me than it did for you. It was really challenging a lot of times to act like your sister instead of your parent. That's a hard line to straddle, and I would forget that this was your first time living somewhere else, your first job, your first time trying to figure out what a credit report...I didn't know what you didn't know. Often, it was a lesson in patience, though I was able to push a lot of those "parent" responsibilities onto C. so that we could maintain our relationship as sisters. C. and I joke that allowed me to play "good cop" while he had to be "bad cop" – but it worked!

I also think I learned a lot from you. You gave me the confidence to finally start blogging myself and how to embrace social media. When I think back to just over a year ago, when I wasn't even on Facebook or any other social media yet, it's been an incredible change. Thank you for helping inspire me on that journey!

C., me and Amanda with Mugsy the Pug during the summer of 2014

Have any of you ever lived with a sibling? What was the experience like for you?


  1. Thank you again for the great summer and letting me stay with you! I learned so much from you about how to handle a new job and life in general. I'm so glad we had the chance to build our relationship and really get to know each other. I'm already missing you guys and Mugsy and Bebe!

    1. Ditto! It was a fabulous experience, and we loved having you here!

  2. I am so jealous that I wasn't there this past summer with you guys :(

    1. Audrey, you're next – the room is ready and waiting!