Home Ownership: Accepting “As-Is”

In 2017, we bought a house. It wasn’t the perfect house, because the perfect house doesn’t exist. It wasn’t even my favorite house, or the house where I could “see us” most easily, or anything like that. But it was a house that we had a good feeling about, and it felt like the universe conspired to make sure that we moved into it, despite a flood of other offers and a housing market flooded with buyers.

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We’ve been living here for a full year now, and I have completely fallen in love with this place. Here’s what I like best:

  • The location. We live downtown, just a block from a central street full of shops and restaurants. Our neighborhood is full of beautiful old houses, wide sidewalks, cute parks, and gorgeous mountain views, and our street doesn’t have much traffic.
  • The size. It’s cozy at about 1400 square feet. The average American home is now over 2600 square feet! Our yard is also just 0.10 acres, a little postage stamp that’s easy to maintain. The proximity to parks makes up for less outdoor space, although we do have a great front porch and two full patio areas.
  • The price. We went under budget on our house, and it’s been great making an easily affordable mortgage payment every month.

We’ve already done a lot to the house. Before we even moved in, we had the electrical system updated, all of the carpet replaced with laminate, one of the bedrooms painted, and all of the kitchen cabinets repainted. Since then, we’ve replaced the dishwasher, bought dining room furniture, hung things on the walls (although not as much as I’d like), and are in in the process of replacing a side door and having concrete landscape curbing done in the front yard.

But for me, owning this home is an exercise in accepting things as they are. As a constant “doer,” the number of changes, updates, and additions I would like to complete is insane. Some of them are extremely practical, like repairing and painting parts of the exterior. Some are functional, like rearranging the living room for a better layout. Others are totally superficial, like replacing the kitchen countertops. And still more are total pipe dreams, like finishing the attic space and installing a staircase to access it (in my dreams!).

I’m someone who likes to do things now. I hate putting things off, procrastinating, or waiting. Unfortunately, unless tens of thousands of dollars suddenly falls into our laps, home improvements absolutely have to wait.

At the very least, I like to have a very precise plan for exactly how everything will proceed in the future, and that’s what we’ve been working on lately. What’s an immediate priority and what’s just a “nice to have”? What could we afford to do now without any hardship and what do we need to save up a cushion for? What would dramatically improve our quality of life, and what would help to preserve and maintain this very old house? Which is more important? There’s a lot to balance. Sure, we could replace the kitchen counters right now, and they would give us a lot of pleasure every day, but in the long run fixing the gutters is more important.

It’s like investing in anything: the immediate investment of time or money can feel like a drag and garner you exactly ZERO reward or thanks, but you reap what you sow later on. Or at least that’s the hope.

Here’s my attempt at a prioritized list of home improvement projects:

  1. Finish and pay for side door work.
  2. Finish and pay for landscaping work.
  3. Small batch of interior repairs and replacements (handyman).
  4. Repair and replace problematic parts of siding, fascia, soffits, and guttering.
  5. Paint spare bedroom, master bedroom, hallway, baseboards.
  6. Install kitchen shelving and living room bookcase.
  7. Paint full exterior.
  8. Repair and re-coat concrete front porch.
  9. Replace kitchen countertops and add backsplash.
  10. Replace guest bathroom pedestal sink with vanity.
  11. Replace master bathroom pedestal sinks with double vanity.
  12. Re-do weird back porch.

Whew. Yeah. It’s a lot. And all of that has to happen in the midst of the usual house stuff to be accounted for: appliances breaking, toilets backing up, roofs leaking, basements flooding.

I’m working hard on accepting my home as it is, and accepting the limitations on how much and how fast we can turn it into the perfect space that I know it can be someday.

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