What does it mean to “live” somewhere

If you follow any local political news, you know by now that Sue Ek has been removed from the ballot in St. Cloud (though her site doesn’t yet show any indication) for the state representative special election. The whole mess revolved around whether she “lives” in St. Cloud or St. Paul.

What intrigues me about the situation isn’t any sort of political intrigue (I don’t care one way or the other). Rather, it’s how we all live with assumptions about the definition of “living” somewhere, yet most of those definitions don’t actually work if you push them. This became clear to me in college when, for a summer, I stored my stuff at a friend’s apartment. I only spent one night there, but the landlord pitched a fit because I was “living” there without applying to do so and signing a lease.

I’m curious what everyone’s definitions of “living” somewhere actually are. Does sleeping there do it, getting your mail there, keeping your stuff there?

If someone spends 9 months out of the year out of town, is the house they return to still their “home”?
If someone has an apartment in the city during the week and a house in Brainerd on the weekend, both outfit for day-to-day life, which is their residence?

In most cases, I suppose, we declare this ourselves by where we register our driver’s license, etc., but there are plenty of ambiguous situations just like the one in the news that really make me question what set of standards we’re using.

4 Comments so far

  1. Lex (unregistered) on December 20th, 2005 @ 11:16 am

    For the purposes of everyday life, I don’t think it matters. I myself would consider driver’s license and mailing address to be more definitive than keeping stuff someplace.

    For the purposes of running in an election where you’re proposing to support a constituency and a way of life that you really aren’t a part of: where you live and how it’s defined makes a difference.

    Residency requirements for elected officials came from abuses by absentee representatives who didn’t really reflect the wishes of their constituents. But, politics being as corrupt as it is, maybe it doesn’t matter if the politician screwing you over is your neighbor.

    I’ve heard that Ek’s mother is replacing her in the race.

  2. taylor (unregistered) on December 21st, 2005 @ 8:54 am

    Every time my mom asks ‘when are you coming home?’, I get a little irked. My parent’s house isn’t my home, Minneapolis is. This is where I live.

  3. Erica (unregistered) on December 21st, 2005 @ 10:33 am

    ‘when are you coming home?’ — Taylor, I think the same thing. My parents don’t even live in Minnesota. But I think they get a little irked when *I* leave and say “I’m going back home now.” But I think where “home” is is more of a figurative concept.

    But yeah, from a legal standpoint, I can see how it gets confusing. Isn’t there a standard based on how many days out of the year you spend at one mailing address. And isn’t it different if you spend the rest of that time traveling vs, say, at another specific residence?

  4. Foster (unregistered) on December 21st, 2005 @ 6:06 pm

    I haven’t lived with my mother for 11 years, and she would say “coming home” for 10 of them. It didn’t change until I got married, weirdly. I took it as a hint that she wanted me, subconsiously, to move back. Not necessarily under the same roof, but the same town. We won’t live in the same town again until I put her in a Minneapolis nursing home. Shh, don’t tell her, you’ll just rile her up!

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