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We are buying a house!! Yay and yipppieee. When we moved to The Great White North (TM), we planned on being happy renters for a long, long time. Finished with home repairs! Finished with worrying about the real estate market! Finished with mowing the lawn (lordy how I hate mowing the lawn!)!! Alas, renting, it is not always so simple. Our first landlords were peaches, really. My ideal landlords. Unfortunately, the only place we could rent for them was a 950 ft2 apartment with no yard at all and coin-op laundry in the basement. There are four of us, so that was not a long-term solution. Our current landlords are . . . . well, driving us into home ownership. If I have to deal with renovation crap and annoyance, I at least want it to be my own nest egg I’m feathering and not someone else’s.

It didn’t take too long for us to find the house that checked all the boxes for us–right price, right neighborhood, right size. It is currently a duplex but we’re going to convert it back to a single-family home by knocking out a couple of walls and removing an extra kitchen and such. Since there will be sledgehammers, and since the quality of the kitchen and bath reflect the realities of rental properties, we are also renovating a few key spaces and adding AC when we upgrade the furnace, etc. Although we’ve bought and sold three houses in the last decade, this is the first house we’ve (a) had time aplenty to select and (b) had the funds to renovate according to our needs and wishes. So I’m thrilled.

In my delusional moments, I picture Dale and me invovled in a great reno project, one that will turn this house into THE HOUSE OF OUR DREAMS!!!!

ImageSee: don’t they look happy to be working together to build a warm and inviting space for their family? Can’t you just picture that living room as the locus of fabulous parties and cherished memories?

Even though I don’t watch HGTV or other home improvement shows, I, too, fall prey to the notion that my house should (a) feel like a sanctuary, (b) reveal something elemental about not only my style but my personality and values, (c) because of (a) and (b) be somehow effortless to create and inhabit.

I fear, however, that these are lies lies lies perpetrated by tv shows and shelter magazines and the design websites that I’ve been following for months. That warm, inviting, personal home that reflects the owners style, hobbies, and values only exists in photo ops, I think. (I hope–otherwise, I’m totally depressed.)

My experience with home renovations has been pretty limited in the last ten years. Other than a bunch of work Dale did on our first house while I was hugely pregnant, we have (he has) just tinkered with a few things. But I do know what it is like to have a home project overwhelm you with its demands. When my mom and I saw Money Pit when it came out, we laughed only to keep from crying.

ImageThis was the house of my teenage years. Totally overwhelming, especially to me. Since it was not my dream, but my mother’s dream, and since I didn’t understand why I had to work on it (tearing down walls, roofing, plumbing, wood stripping, wallpaper, and the list goes on and on and on) instead of hanging out at the pool, I resented it as this horrible THING that dominated our lives.

As anyone who has lived with me or talked houses with me will attest: the experience with my teenage home scarred me for life! I make all sors of proclamations about what I will and will not do in a home (NO STRIPPING WOODWORK, EVER!) and instinctively shy away from tasks that I associate with the “forced labor” of my 13-year-old summer (see above: mowing lawns).

That house, the money pit, was never going to live up to its hype for me. There was bad mojo in that house that had nothing to do with my resentment over stripping the finish off wood radiator covers. I was glad when my mom finally sold it.

But now I have a house of my own that I need to renovate to make home-y. I worry about the process far more than I worry about the outcome. Dale and I have good taste and I’m sure, when presented with choices, we’ll choose features and fixtures that are fun and fit the space and are good to work with. The house is in good shape, years of renting haven’t trashed it, so it isn’t a depressing scene to ponder even right now. But I worry. I worry about expecting the house to be something it can’t be–becuase I silently expect owning a house in Hamilton to mean that I’m happy and settled and at home here. I want to get attached to this house and have it feel like MINE in a way that none of the other houses we’ve owned ever approached. Poor house, there is a lot resting on your eaves even before the deed is signed.

I’m going to try and keep my emotional expectations in check and push my willingness to work (mentally and physically) into the foreground. This should be fun and exciting and NOT a money pit or a hornet’s nest of bad mojo and icky feelings.

Oh: and now we need a dog!!

Written by Jennifer

August 14, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Posted in home

7 Responses

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  1. If you surround yourself by things that you think are beautiful and that speak to you, then it will be beautifully decorated. That’s my two cents, gurl!


    August 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm

  2. Don’t forget that other classic “this house is eating me alive” movie – Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. The scene where Myrna Loy picks out paint colors for her builder was probably the pre-cable launch pad for TLC, HGTV, etc:


    August 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm

  3. Good luck with the house & the renovations. It can be done! Of course, we’re still making changes on our house we’ve lived in for over 20 years.


    August 21, 2012 at 11:36 am

    • Jamene–I’ll wait til the renovations are done before I watch that film! And Jody, I know–one step at a time 🙂


      August 21, 2012 at 11:48 am

  4. Ugh. I hate that “Money Pit” movie, if only because if I had a dollar for every time someone said, chuckling, “Ever see that movie, ‘The Money Pit’?” to me during our initial home rehab, I could have afforded better kitchen cabinets. I resented that comment because it made my little dream sound like a punch line. Besides, I much prefer “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.” If I’m going to be likened to a beleagured comic lead, I’d much rather be Cary Grant in a camelhair overcoat than boyish ’80’s Tom Hanks. “Mr Blandings….” was randomly on the television, perhaps omniously, the night we finalized our offer for our house. It was the second time I’d seen it and Andrea’s first. Years later, she gave me a framed poster for that movie that hangs in our home office now.

    When can I help knock out walls? Demo is my favorite part.


    August 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm

  5. Yea! That’s very exciting! A sledgehammer will fit in the Mini. Just let us know when we need to be there for demo. And, yes, you absolutely need a dog 🙂


    August 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm

  6. Demo is indeed the best part. Last night I was over at the house while a window company measured for a quote. Got bored, so decided to hip check the wall that blocks the doorway to the kitchen (one of two that divide the house into a duplex currently) to smash a hole in the drywall. Discovered quickly that I would indeed need more tools than just my hip since there’s a layer of insulation inside the wall, but can’t wait to finish the job and turn the duplex into a home again. So – hop in the Mini and get up here before all the fun is over!


    September 5, 2012 at 10:12 am

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