Sunday, September 22, 2013

Home Improvement is Hard

I moved into my house in September 1998, almost 13 years ago to the day. Ariel (the currently 25 year old) was in 5th grade and Lacey (20 this year) was starting Kinder. Being 5 years apart this was the only time they were ever in the same school at the same time. We loved that this school was a mile up the road from the house. Zoe was born 4 years later in 2002.

The kids grew up and we made so many memories here...and pretty much trashed the place by 2007.  If you take 2 busy career professional work-a-holics and mix them with three rambunctios young daughters, none of whom besides me are inclined in any way towards cleaning up after themselves or home improvement, your castle falls into disrepair (if your income is where ours was at the time).  

Seriously though, with only so many hours in the day, something in our lives had to give, and for us, it was the house. We prioritized all the fun things we wanted to do along with work and school over keeping up with the needs of the mansion. I'm not saying I didn't try to keep up with the routine housework.  I did that, but anything beyond basic cleaning - and laundry, always with the laundry- fell by the wayside. (I did hire a housekeeper three years ago who comes twice a month and it's the best thing I ever did. I don't usually wish to go back and do things differently, but in this case I should have hired help after Zoe was born. It was just too much. I thought I couldn't afford it at the time but I should have figured that out). 

In 2007 things started to change in our lives. Ariel was in college and Lacey starting high school. My husband and I separated and there was talk of selling the house and moving, but none of the girls were in favor of that plan. I brought in a realtor and she told me that we "had a lot of work to do" if we were serious about selling. Since we were already maxed out with "a lot of work to do" elsewhere, we did not sell. 

I didn't really look forward to continuing to live in a 4,400 square foot house after the divorce. Lacey was a junior in high school and would be college bound soon, after which it would just be me and Zoe. 

Which brings us to today: Zoe, me, a long haired cat named Atlas and a 44 gallon aquarium (fish totally count as pets) living in a 6 bedroom house. 

Well, let's back up to 2010, when I found my life settling down a little and took a good, long look around the house. This is what I saw (and what the realtor had seen in 2008):

Outside:  the grass was dying, the sprinkler system was shot, the bushes were wildly overgrown, the hottub-spa was not working and termites had eaten its wood cover, the concrete surfaces were nearly gray and the garage was bursting with junk and functioning as a breeding ground for scary creatures like spiders and mice and snakes. 

Inside: the carpet was stained beyond  another shampooing and very worn, the floor tile was cracked and had never matched from room to room, the walls were a display of 12 years of dirty little hands, the countertops were scratched and peeling Formica and the window blinds were broken and faded. 

I wish I had before pictures. 

I started in the garage, moved on to the spa (which cost me a freaking fortune) and then on to the sprinkler system and power washing the concrete. I had to hire 3 different lawn companies before I found a good one and that project is still a work in progress. I was forced into unexpectedly painting the downstairs not according to my home improvememt schedule after the upstairs air conditioner decided to leak through the ceiling down to the floor below (can you say $$$$$$?!)  The downstairs carpet and tile were next along with new countertops. I got a great referral for wood blinds on the internet and installed them. My long coveted wood flooring was laid in the upstairs loft last week. 

It's been almost 3 years and I'm exhausted (and cash poor) and, get this: I hired people to do at least half of this stuff!  That takes time and coordination, but, dear God, how do people do these things themselves?!  I mean I can plant a tree but installing tile, heat pumps and digging up sprinkler heads is not my idea of a good time or appropriate use of effort.  And then there's the disruptions to everyday life!  And the dust! The combination of dust and cat hair in my house has had my allergies on full speed for the last 18 months. 

But every time I finish a big project, I just add another to the list. For example after re-caulking the bathroom shower I decided that the master bath needed a major overhaul. It's huge and has tons of wasted space. And it needs a window. I need a really well-recommended contractor for that! 

I also want to stain the back patio concrete and possibly screen it in. New carpet is needed in the 5 upstairs bedrooms (at which point 4,400 square feet of new flooring will be complete!). The upstairs still needs to be painted and at Home Depot yesterday I saw some gorgeous crown moulding I'd love to have.... 

My long term plan is to stay in the house until Zoe graduates from high school in 7 years. In a perfect world I'll sell the house that summer. And then, who knows?  If I have my health, I'll be embarking on a chapter of my life where I dont have to be accountable to anyone. I could do anything. Go anywhere. 

I'll probably just move downtown. Cool stuff is happening there. :)

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