I can’t hardly even believe this, but tomorrow, August 30, marks one whole year of being in our first home. It’s been an amazing year, full of excitement and contentment and frustration and challenge and everything in between. And so, in honor of our first houseiversary, we thought we’d put together and share a few lessons in home ownership. Here goes…
1. There is no such thing as an easy DIY project.
But seriously. Kevin and I are notorious for attempting the seemingly simplest projects and somehow still finding a way to screw them up. I find it hilarious when people assume that we’re crafty or handy, because we’re always talking about doing some project or another, but now the secret’s out: we’re totally incapable of successfully accomplishing anything on the first try or in the way the instructions were written. We’re especially averse to anything that needs to be level and/or hung on a wall. So I guess the take home message here is to just know what you’re getting yourself into. Which leads me to…
2. Take your timeline for literally any project, and then multiply it times infinity.
So, is it just us, or do other people fall prey to thinking they can finish things waaaaay sooner than is actually realistic too? It can’t just be us. Probably the most laughable example of this mistake is our basement renovation, which we were so convinced in September that we could complete by Thanksgiving and newsflash, we’re still not done. A more recent example is thinking that we could stain and install distressed wood shelving in our dining room before my parents came last week. Ha! In actuality, we stripped a screw in the very first bracket we drilled in, got discouraged and gave up, and waited for my dad to get here so we could troubleshoot next steps.
3. When in doubt, just switch the entire breaker box off.
We think our breaker box is labeled pretty effectively, but the pressure of having to use wire cutters and change an outlet is enough all on it’s own, so we opt for the no-surprises route and just shut the whole thing down. Which leads to a whole different kind of stress revolving around me incessantly asking Kevin how much longer it’s going to take while I nervously worry about
food beer going bad in the fridge.
4. Make a friend at your local hardware store.
Because you’ll be going there a lot, so the least you can do is set yourself up for a pleasant experience. All the big box hardware stores are pretty far from us, so we’ve started running to a nearby Ace when we need to grab something, and now we’re basically besties with one of the cashiers. She might not know much about how to help us with projects, but she has the best customer service ever and it’s just nice to see a smiling and familiar face in a place where you don’t expect it. Plus, she was there when we bought our firepit, and helped us negotiate our 10% discount with the manager. #wilmaFTW
5. Embrace the pink tile.
Ok, so maybe you haven’t been blessed with the same 1950s pink wall-tiled bathroom as we have, but I’m willing to bet you’ve got something in your house that you just hated when you moved in and swore you’d fix right away. For us, that was the pink tile. And the knotty pine in the basement. And 1,000 other things. But let’s face it, there will never be enough time or money or energy to fix all the things, so you have to pick your battles, and embrace what’s left. For us, again, that’s the pink tile. But after almost a year of telling myself over and over that it’s not so bad, right? I’m actually coming full circle and starting to think it’s cute and retro, right?
6. Ask yourself if you reeeeeeaaallllyyyy want a big yard.
“We want a big yard” is just one of those things people say when they’re looking for a house, ya know? And after living in apartments with no yard space and residence halls for many years, we were definitely among those people. It was on the top of our wish list when we house-hunted, and those of you who’ve seen our yard firsthand can attest to the fact that we got what we wanted, times ten. And thus has begun the love/hate relationship with our yard. Mowing the backyard feels like it takes an entire Saturday, and weeding could easily be a full-time job, but I love all the open space, not being too close to our neighbors, a place for a garden, and enjoying summer nights under the string lights in our adirondack chairs. I think we’re still coming out on top :)
7. You can never have too many Phillips screwdrivers.
Seriously, these things are like the bobby pins of tools – you know you have about 1,000, and yet you can’t find a single one when you need it. I have no advice here, other than to purchase one whenever you can, in hopes that eventually you’ll have so many that you’ll have to be able to track down at least one when you need it. Honestly, where do these things disappear to?
8. Always look under the carpet.
We bought our house with beautiful hardwood floors in the living room and hallway and crossed our fingers that those same beautiful floors would be underneath the carpet in all three bedrooms. Surprise! They were, and the first thing we did was rip that carpet right up to reveal wood floors in pretty good condition that just need a little sanding and a new coat of polyurethane. Oh! And after almost putting the carpeted – yes, carpeted – bar from our basement out on the street for the taking, we decided to peek underneath, and what do you know? It was knotty pine in perfect condition, so we cleaned it off and stuck it back in the basement. I’m so glad we painted the knotty pine on the basement walls, but I’m loving having this one piece where we’re keeping the wood as-is. So, always check under the carpet; you never know what you may find. (Of course, you may find asbestos-ridden tile, which leads me to #9).
9. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment in the pictures you send to mom and dad.
Because if you’re wearing a mask and gloves in the picture you send, it’ll ease the pain when your next text is all about how you’re removing tile in your basement and yes, in fact, it is 9×9″ and oh shoot that means it probably contains asbestos and your environmental health specialist mother basically tells you you’re going to die a slow death from mesothelioma. Ok, so maybe that’s just my family, but I can’t imagine mom and dad wouldn’t like to see their babies being safe doing whatever they’re doing. At least wear the hard hat for the picture, and then proceed as you wish.
10. If you aren’t married yet, add the following line to your wedding vows: “I will work peacefully with my spouse on home improvement projects.”
And if you are married, or have spent any amount of time living with your partner, you’ll know what I mean. If you don’t, wow, God bless you, and please teach us your secrets or at least come over and mediate for us. Kevin and I’s methods of strategizing, problem solving, and doing things are totally opposite, so doing home improvement projects is basically the definition of a recipe for disaster. You’d think we’d learn by now, but we’ve had enough successes (eventually) that we keep at it. Sometimes that means walking away from something for a couple days to re-strategize without all the emotions involved, and other times it involves just staying out of the other person’s way and letting them try on their own. And still other times, it involves calling Kevin’s mom and asking her to please come help us put our basement flooring down (thank you!), because we got stuck after one piece of underlayment. #truelife
Cheers to one year of home ownership under our belt! I know this post was lighthearted and funny, but on the inside, I’m feeling pretty sappy. So grateful to our families for knowing when to give advice and when to let us make our own mistakes, our friends for listening to us complain about mowing or lamenting the missing pieces in yet another piece of IKEA furniture, and most of all, to Kevin, for putting up with my never-ending honey-do list and always working to make my dreams a reality.