I didn’t realizer “fixer upper” meant…

P1080465At the beginning of the year, my husband and I moved into our new house. A fixer upper. It’s a 1977 ranch that hasn’t seen much love since 1977. We were really excited to make this house our own, and had so many ideas for how to accomplish that. We knew it would be a lot of work. We thought we knew what were were getting into. But here are some things that I didn’t realize I was signing up for when we bought a fixer upper:

  1. That something is always broken. I knew we’d always be working on something, but I didn’t realize that meant something is always broken, inoperable, or otherwise out of commission. I imagined doing projects, and I imagined the finished results, but I didn’t imagine what it would be like to live in partially completed projects.
  2. That the house will often insert it’s own priorities. I had made a list of the projects that were important to me. Based on our budget and time constraints, I guessed how long it might take to get things done. I never realized that the house would present it’s own projects, like when the septic system failed or we realized (in the heat of the Texas summer) that we have NO attic insulation.
  3. That there would be tons of stuff the home inspector missed. This probably says more about our individual inspector than some universal truth of buying older homes. I thought I understood the limits of home inspections. I knew they could only see what they can actually see. I knew they couldn’t guess what was going on in the walls or in any other hidden place. But it seems like our inspector missed A LOT of stuff he should have been able to see. Like the lack of attic insulation I just mentioned.
  4. That we would regularly have to choose between regular ol’ home maintenance and “fixer upping.” We have 2,500 square foot house on two acres of land. We could easily spend an entire weekend just doing yard work and some basic home maintenance. But if we spend the whole weekend doing things that “need” to be done, when are we going to do the projects that we “want” to get done? And vice versa. It’s a constant balancing act.

I don’t regret buying a fixer upper. And I don’t think I walked in completely blind. But there are definitely challenges that I didn’t expect. Some days when I’m really frustrated, I say that we should have bought something newer and nicer, but I don’t really mean it. We have a beautiful property right in the middle of the city. I’m just looking forward to the day when I can say my home is beautiful too.

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Work Hard

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

2015-01-15 14.07.43I’ve shared before that when I get really stressed I often take on a “stress project.” I used to think this was a maladaptive coping skill, but I’ve changed my mind. I used to think I was just trying to avoid the real cause of my stress. Now, I see that’s not the case at all.

When I take on a stress project, I am able to see something through to completion. I’m also stepping away from whatever is causing the stress. I mistook this stepping away as avoidance. In reality, it’s balance. When I get stressed about a particular situation, I often allow myself to become consumed by it. That’s not healthy. Stepping away from the stressor to take on another simpler project allows me to gain some perspective and restores balance to my life. Not to mention, it feels really good to step back and see the fruits of my labors.

It’s ok to put my usual tasks on hold so we can clean up the leaves, or take down a fence, or move a bunch of overgrown bushes. Not only is it ok, it’s good for me. It takes me out of my world of extremes, allows me to work off my frustrations, and gives me the opportunity to be proud of a task I accomplished. All of these benefits are good on their own, but they’re all also excellent ways to reduce stress.

SST # 2: The Organization Edition

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330I am so, so excited about all we have accomplished this week! You may argue that these feats aren’t small successes, but I don’t see any reason not to rejoice in them simply because of that. I know that it’s always easier to enjoy the big successes and overlook the small, daily successes, but these projects are such a big deal to me that I literally get butterflies in my stomach each time I open a door and see them in all of their neat, orderly glory. (Yes, that really is what it’s like to experience life from the perspective of a neat-freak who gets hard core nesting impulses [which go above and beyond those impulses driven by my normal perfectionist tendencies] all throughout pregnancy.) As such, they have made a tremendous impact on my week in so many more ways than just the mere fact that the task was accomplished. So, without further ado, I give you this week’s “small” successes.

2014-02-07 14.17.201. Garage Organized. I have been trying to get our garage organized since we moved into this house almost 4 years ago. Every time we came or went or opened the garage to let the kiddos ride their bikes, the chaos in that garage induced anxiety, guilt, and frustration. Not to mention the sheer embarrassment of knowing the neighbors were able to see that pigsty. (Again, yes, this is really what happens in my brain. I don’t pretend to be normal. I’m just me.) Anyway, as of Monday, my garage is immaculate! It is certainly still full of garage type things. And there’s still only room for one car in there. (Although, I suspect, that if we really tried, we could get them both in now. I just don’t have any interest in really trying.) But, now, it’s organized and neat and lovely.

Last night, Josh got home from work and the garage was standing open, something which he’s never witnessed before. It was the first thing he commented on when he walked through the door. It was actually a very charming moment, as it gave me the opportunity to express, and him the opportunity to understand, just how grateful I was for all the hard work he put in to help me get that garage in order. If garage organization is too big to qualify for a small success, that moment 2014-02-07 16.46.11between us certainly was not. It was somewhat fleeting, but it was ever so lovely to see him really experience my gratitude. How funny is it that the simple act of leaving the garage door open (an act which I didn’t think through in advance) was all it took for him to get how truly grateful I am for the massive change that has taken place out there.

2. Toy closet organized. While the tools were out and things were being organized, Josh also tackled the toy closet. We have this fabulous closet in our foyer, which makes it ever so easy to have toys accessible for playing in the living room, but stored completely out of sight. It’s a fairly large closet, which makes it all the more fabulous. I really wish I would have taken a proper “before” picture, so you could understand just how awful the closet was. All the practicality of having the toys so easily accessible had been lost in the chaos that hid behind that door. There was no way the kids could ever find anything in there. Everything was just thrown in. We cleaned it out regularly, but, because there wasn’t any real organization in place, just numerous buckets stacked on top of each other on the floor, the clean never lasted very long. It was usually only a matter of days before everything was dumped back out into one massive sea of toys. Once that happened, it was only a matter of time before the kids would start complaining that they had “nothing 2014-02-13 14.43.39to do,” mostly because they didn’t know where anything was. Anyway, all we did was hang the bottom two selves. No big deal at all. But it’s made a world of difference in the way that closet functions. It still looks as good as it did on the day we organized it, and the kids know where all their stuff is. Despite the simplicity of the project, it is such a major success for the smooth functioning of our household.

3. Girls’ closet organized. Our little one is moving in soon, but I wasn’t sure what to do about her clothes. We looked at dressers, but it just seemed silly to buy a dresser that was going to have to live in the closet due to lack of space in the bedroom. In our room Josh is currently using a hand-me-down chest of drawers that gets the job done, but definitely isn’t my taste. Since we’re in the very slow process of redecorating the master bedroom one small piece at a time, it seemed wiser to buy Josh a new dresser and move his current chest into the girls closet. I like that plan, but I never found anything that was the right mix of price and style. As such, I came up with this much simpler and oh-so-easy solution. I just grabbed a few stacking shelves from Lowes, cleaned out the mess that was previously living in Leila’s closet, and, now, it’s ever so functional for both my little girls. The tall shelf on the right is our little one’s dresser for the time being. I think it cost a whopping $12 and it is so easily accessible for all the infant wardrobe changes that have to take place during the day. I couldn’t be happier with this budget-friendly solution!

2014-02-11 09.01.414. Stuff to Community Storehouse. In the process of all this closet and garage cleaning, we were able to put together a pretty big pile of stuff to send the the Community Storehouse, which is one of my favorite local charities. Among other things, they run a resale shop, so we sent some of our gently used, space hogging items off with them to find a new home. It makes all of this organizational success even better to know that someone besides me may benefit from the new-found neatness hiding behind the closet doors in my home!

(Super exciting side note: That’s our double stroller in the bottom right corner. With two little girls 16 months apart, we’re obviously still going to need a double stroller. We’ve had the one pictured since 2006 and I’ve always hated it. [That’s probably why it’s still in such good condition!] I could hardly push it in a straight line, but you can forget about me turning it. If Josh wasn’t available to push the stroller, I didn’t use it. BUT, it turns out Josh hates that stroller too. While we were putting together the pile for Community Storehouse, Josh suggested we put the stroller in the pile, which means….WE’RE GETTING A NEW STROLLER!! Woo hoo! What a very exciting baby gift for me! I can’t wait!)

So what about you? What were your small (or not so small) successes this week? Join the link up at CatholicMom.com!

DIY Adventures: In Pictures

Since I never got around to posting updates about our home improvement projects, I thought I’d share the pics I have from our adventures. So far, we’ve stained the fence and painted the kitchen, living room, and master bath, although I don’t have any pics from the later and very few from the kitchen. We also did some very minor landscaping, but I don’t have pictures and it’s all dying now anyway with the colder temps setting in. Andy took a lot of the fence staining pictures and, as you’ll see, helped a lot with the paining. I definitely thought we’d have way more accomplished by now, but I’m slowly becoming ok with our work in progress.

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By the way, I hate our living room paint. It’s lovely at night, but during the day it turns this awful peachy orange color, as seen in the pictures. I’ve already picked out a lovely new color, caramel, that will eventually go up in the foyer, living room, laundry room, back hallway and kids bathroom. I said I wouldn’t do an all over color like that but have since changed my mind, partly because painting sucks and I’ll do anything I can to make it slightly easier. Also, I am so grateful we took the builders seriously and stained our fence. Our next door neighbors didn’t stain theirs and it’s already turning that awful grey old wood color. Ours looks as good as the day we stained it. Unfortunately, on one side, their fence is our fence, so their lack of staining is making our lovely stained fence age quicker. Oh well. It’s just one of the many joys of home ownership and sharing with the neighbors, right? One day, when my house is clean, I’ll take some “after” pics of the kitchen and master bath.

Settling In

So I finally rejoined humanity on the internet. Other than my blog, I can’t say I missed it all that much. I really didn’t even miss my blog as much as I could have, since Josh has been around so much lately to entertain me. Sadly, he’s not here to entertain me today. Actually, that’s not really a sad thing at all.

I have to say, his absence has definitely been noticed today. It’s been so nice to have him around to talk to, bounce ideas of of, and share responsibilities with him. We definitely need to work on becoming independently wealthy so he can be around the house more often. :o) Anyway, the reason it’s not sad that hes’ back at work today is because today is the first day of his new position! In the middle of all the moving chaos, he managed to interview for and earn himself a promotion! We’re all really excited and so very proud of him!

Equally exciting is the fact that he’s now going to be working a much more normal schedule. I was soooooo sick of him working nights. I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal, but it was. I really, truly hated it.  Not having him around for dinner time in and of itself just got to be too much. I’ve always said I was a firm believer in family dinner time, mostly because that’s how I was raised. Now that we have experienced life without it, I know that it is most definitely a staple for a healthy family environment.

We’ve been in our new house for a couple weeks now, and we’re really enjoying it. I have to say, home ownership is good for your waistline and your tan line! :o) We’re constantly working on something. Despite how busy we’ve been getting everything in order, our house is still totally wrecked! The nursery looks more like a salvage yard of miscellaneous baby items. Our room has furniture going every which way and a mountain of books completely lining one whole wall of the room. The living room has a huge stack of frames and other decorative items that need to find homes throughout the house. The garage is pretty much a nightmare. Basically, the play room, the boys room, the kitchen and the laundry room are the only rooms that are in working order. But even they still need to be decorated.

It’s all been so much fun though. Working on the house really feels so much different than unpacking and decorating a rental. Usually, I hang frames around the house with a sense of dread, knowing it won’t be too long before I’m packing them back up only to hang them somewhere else. This time there’s a sense of permanence. Actually, there’s even a little bit of pressure knowing that these items, theses photographs, these pieces of memorabilia are part of what is going to make this house a home.

As for paint colors, we’ve come to a complete standstill. We’ve completely scratched our original plan and headed back to the drawing board. Now that we’ve lived in the house, the colors we picked just don’t seem right. The only thing we’ve got nailed down is the master bedroom and bathroom. I think we’re just going to have to start there and then make a quick decision for the nursery, since we don’t have too much time before Ben joins us. I can’t wait to start painting. Hopefully, it will go much more smoothly than our fence staining ordeal! Stay tuned to hear all about that.

And just to add some closure to the whole house hunting, mortgage lending process, here’s a picture our realtor took at the closing table with his phone. It’s a little fuzzy, but I love it. I may even have to frame it, despite the fact that I don’t look 8 months pregnant, just fat.

DIY Crazy

Official reports indicate unanimously that I have gone DIY crazy. And we haven’t even closed yet! From spending hours at a time at Lowe’s to watching DIY Network clips online to reading how-to books to making a list of about 100 projects, priority ranked, it’s safe to say I’m definitely obsessed. I’m just so excited to finally have a home that we own, that we can make our own, that we can make real improvements on. I suppose you could be wondering what I could possibly need to improve since we bought a brand new home, but trust me, there’s lots of room for personalization and upgrades!

Speaking of upgrades, we were very careful to ensure we chose a neighborhood where we could upgrade away without worrying about pricing ourselves out of the neighborhood. There are plenty of homes larger and more expensive than ours. So, all of our projects should go hand in hand with increased equity. Ah, sweet equity. I am absolutely thrilled that we will finally be building equity instead of fattening some other Joe Schmoe’s wallet with our rental payments.

So what’s first? Well, the week we close I plan to have the interior painted (no more boring white and beige!!), seal our privacy fence, build our compost bin and rain barrel, and of course move in. I’ve already picked all the paint colors, except for the boys’ room. We went out to the house after church on Sunday to make sure everything worked with the cabinetry, counter tops, tile, carpet, etc. Aside from matching the paint, I’m SO glad we went out there. It was so much fun to see all the finishing touches going in. Our beautiful front door is up, the fence is built, the 2 in blinds are installed, and they extended the tile in the foyer like we asked. I was so, so excited to get an even better idea of what it will be like finished.

According to Andy, we should paint his room and the playroom blue, the living room gray, the kitchen white, and the master bedroom brown. While I love his ideas, that’s not quite how things are going to work out. He’ll be getting some of his wishes as the playroom ceiling will be blue, a pretty pale gingham blue, and a brownish color, Delta Sandbar, will run throughout the house. Other than that, I’m afraid he’s out of luck.

I’ve really been surprised at how much Andy has gotten into our pre-DIY research. He sits right next to me on the couch and examines paint samples, looks through how-to books, and watches video clips with me. He even picked out two of the paint colors we’re using after I completely missed them. I think he’s most excited about all the tools we’ll be gradually acquiring and planting and working in the vegetable garden in the backyard, which is pretty high on the priority list after unpacking.

It’s definitely safe to say that I have become consumed with planning home improvement projects. In fact, it’s probably completely counteracted my giving up facebook for lent. Initially, I had a lot more “extra” time to spend in prayer or reading or whatever. Now, all my free time is completely absorbed. I guess I just replaced one time-killer with another. At least this time-killer is a little more worthwhile than monitoring status updates and picture uploads, as if those activities somehow imply that I have a real relationship with the posters, but that’s a topic for an entirely different post all together. Feel free to follow our DIY escapades here. Since it’s all I ever talk about anymore, I’m sure I’ll be writing about it a lot too! And if you have any helpful tips along the way, feel free to share them. We have no idea what we’re doing; we’re just learning as we go.