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I have broken one of the homeowner's commandments: I covet my neighbour's house.

I know I should appreciate what I have, but I can't help it sometimes. When I'm walking to work in the morning, or working in the garden, my eye begins to wander over into another yard, and the familiar pang of envy stirs inside me.

What began as an innocent study of decorative techniques for homes of similar style has become an obsession. I can't walk down a street in any neighbourhood without making comparisons of other more stylish homes to our little abode.

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It's not that I don't love my home -- I do. In fact, I love it so much I wish I could spend all my time working on it. But the more I wistfully stare at the beautiful, cared-for homes in my neighbourhood, the more I feel like I'm missing something.

The little three-bedroom tease across the street is my main source of longing. It's Georgian-style windows, stylish colour scheme and perfectly manicured garden make me weak with desire. I see the owner sitting out on her porch with a glass of wine, reading a book, looking so happy and serene.

I've spent that same evening pulling weeds, struggling to prune the bushes and sweep the never-ending leaves and dirt from the porch. You see, my home requires an infinite amount of care -- it's high maintenance, like my friend's ex-girlfriend/diva, whom I grew to hate.

Why can't my house be more like hers? So perfect, so inviting. But alas, so unattainable.

Even after I leave my street, I'm not free of my covetousness. Around the corner, on my route toward the subway, stands a lovely semi-detached that looks straight out of a home and garden magazine. Everything, from the outdoor rattan stair runner, to the French doors to the unique garden lights, complements it.

It's put together, like a Yorkville lady-who-lunches. A place that expects you to dress in white linen and sip kir royales on the patio.

My unrequited lust for this home intensified when it recently went on the market. I watched as the "For sale" sign was erected, only to notice the "Sold" sign covering it just days later.

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By comparison, our house is a mish-mash of old and new, and seems like it's trying too hard to be something it isn't -- like an elderly woman in a Juicy Couture jumpsuit.

The amount of time and cash it would take to make it look like one of the houses I long for is unimaginable. After all, if we could afford it, we'd be living there now.

I feel a bit like I'm cheating on my house, guilty in the same way a spouse might feel if they were caught staring at a good-looking stranger.

When we were buying our house, we were excited by all the possibilities our home offered. It wasn't perfect, but the potential seemed to be there. Now it just seems too much effort. Is the grass truly greener?

A few days ago I did get some respite -- and a little sympathy -- from a neighbour down the street.

"I've been in this house three years already, and we are just now getting a handle on it," she revealed. "It takes a while. It took longer than we thought, for sure."

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So there is hope for my wandering eye. Some time, and a clear design plan, will allow my home and me to spend some quality time together.

No good relationship comes without a little effort.

Michelle Osborne's column appears every week.

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