Tag Archive | old homes

Efforts in Optimism

If you remember, I was recently freaking out about my falling-down fixer-upper old house. I was feeling overwhelmed and annoyed and tired of dealing with it all and wanted to sell it and move like, tomorrow. So we had a realtor come out and look around and give us her insight. It was good, and not so good. The good news is that the main body of the house looks pretty good; refinishing the floors and painting the interior will get us good to sell, and that part supports the selling price we need. The not so good is what I was afraid of: the addition on the back that needs so much work could make it hard to sell as-is. We’d have to find just the right buyer wanting to take on a project, and while it’s certainly possible, it’s more difficult.

That night was rough. I was disappointed and discouraged, and sure that we would either have to stay in that house forever or sell it at a loss, and neither option made me happy. But sleep and a brand new day made a big difference, and the husband and I started making plans to move forward. He made an appointment with a flooring company, and I contacted a landscaping service to clean up the back yard. We cleaned out some big trash that’s been hanging around the basement and the backyard, and that felt good. I cut down some tall weeds that have been bothering me all summer, and that felt good too. (At least until two days later when I got a lovely case of poison ivy…on my CHIN. OMG.)

So we have a plan now: in the next few weeks, we’re going to take out the old radiators downstairs, which will free up some valuable wall space. We’ll move the furniture upstairs, we’ll all move to an AirBnB house for three days, and then we’ll come home to beautiful shiny, freshly stained hardwood floors. We’ve been talking about doing this for TWO years, and I’m so excited that we’re finally doing it. I think that’s made a big difference, just making progress on something. And we’ve agreed to get a couple more bids on dealing with the addition, to see if we can find one that’s more affordable. We’ll do it ourselves if we have to, and that will be okay. I can manage to stay here another four years, I think, if we continue to make forward progress on the repairs. The husband and I just need to stay committed, and force ourselves to take initiative on starting projects. Just do it, right? Right.

And I’ll end on a high note: Duncan no longer has accidents in the house! And we’ve found a way to keep him from chewing up the couches while we’re gone! He might actually grow up to be a pretty good dog.

P.S. he already is a good dog.  

Fixer-Uppers Wear Me Down

Guys, I need to unburden myself. I have worries, many of them. I am afraid we made a colossal mistake when we bought this house two years ago. It was in the neighborhood we wanted, a price we could afford, the size and features we wanted, and we thought we had the time/energy/mental stamina to do all the work it needed. And it needs a LOT. More than we realized when we bought it. I’m not sure our inspector gave us a thorough idea of some of the bigger issues, and I’m not sure if he did and we ignored it because we were in a hurry.

So now we’re in a house with an old home addition that wasn’t done right to begin with, and probably needs to be torn down and rebuilt. When it was done, the rooms it added weren’t done as conditioned living space, so at least tearing it down doesn’t lose us any square footage. But spending the money to tear it down doesn’t really add to the value, so without doing a rebuild, we’re afraid it’s just throwing money away. And doing the rebuild in a way that adds valuable living space feels prohibitively expensive. (We’ve gotten two bids. Both daunting.)

It needs to be painted, badly. The pet-stained hardwood floors need to be repaired and refinished. The radiators and boiler need to be removed. The upstairs bathroom needs to be gutted and redone. The kitchen was redone, but with cheap materials, so it’s aging quickly. The front porch needs a new floor, and possibly joist repair underneath, plus new stairs and railings. The fireplace needs to be redone. The landscaping sucks. There’s not good storage. And on and on, with a myriad of smaller jobs that stare me in the face day after day.

Add onto that the unexpected projects that have come up since we bought it: the existing chain-link fence was too short and needed to be replaced with an attractive picket fence. Raccoons in the attic and wall. A small tree losing limbs and needing a trim. A large tree losing a large section, and probably needing to be removed. A dishwasher that died. Insulation that needed to be added.

It all wears me down. Wears me out. When I first saw this house, I loved it. I loved the traditional style, the hardwood trim, the pocket doors, the high ceilings, the wraparound porch. I think I still love those things, but they’re overshadowed by everything else. This house has a lot of potential to be stunning. I can almost see it in my mind’s eye. I just don’t know if we can be the people to get it there. Aside from the money, I think about the hassle of renovation. We have three big dogs; taking away their access to the backyard, even temporarily, would make life really difficult. We have two kids; taking away access to the kitchen for weeks would be annoying. One of our dogs is not friendly to strangers. He doesn’t bite, but barks. A lot. Managing all the workmen coming in and out would be stressful. My husband and I manage home repair jobs in different ways that have resulted in conflict in the past, and I don’t want to be fighting for the next five years.

And then, as weird as it may sound, I have emotional connections to my homes, and my connection with this one has soured. I broke my foot in this house. My husband and I struggled more than we ever have while living here, partly because of how we went about moving here. We’re doing all right now, we’re fine, but now it’s connected for me. It’s like, with the old house, that’s where I lived when we lost my dad, my father-in-law, my husband’s grandfather, my dad’s dog. Moving for me felt like a fresh start, a clean slate. So now, with all that’s happened just in two years, I don’t love this house anymore. I don’t love it enough to stress us all out to fix it up. I don’t love it enough to pour a ton of money into it, when that money could go somewhere else.

So what do we do? Right now, the husband is more flexible than I am. Big renovation doesn’t scare him off, although he does want to make sure we could get our money back when we sell if we rehab. Me? I want to move. I’m ready to go NOW. I could pack up and walk away without a second thought, if we could get out what we paid. I want a newer house, one that won’t need huge home repair jobs in the next five years. One that’s built to have a big TV in the living room. One with good-sized closets. One with a functional kitchen and a laundry room. One with modern windows that don’t whistle with every cold wind.

I don’t know what’s next. We’ve reached out to a realtor to explore our options, and I’m doing my best to be open-minded. Of course, I’m also online looking at houses for sale, but that’s to be expected, right?

Sigh. Anyone want a house?

The Joys of a Fixer Upper

Summer in Missouri often means thunderstorms. Spring brings tornadoes; summer brings thunder and lightning, hail and strong winds. You put those against a giant old tree, and sometimes the thunderstorm wins. We had just turned off our lights at 9:30 pm Thursday evening (we’re getting old, we get tired early) and were listening to the wind beat hail against our windows when suddenly we heard a crack and a loud bang. We jumped out of bed and were heading downstairs when we realized the power was out. Thanks to the flashlight on the phone, we could make out a large limb laying across our back yard, and while we couldn’t really see the power lines, obviously the tree had pulled them down. We called the power company and they came out within an hour or so. It was hot and stuffy inside, and too quiet at first, since we sleep with a ceiling fan and white noise. Then as the guys started working, it was too loud. It was a long, mostly sleepless night for me. I was up around 5:30, going out to investigate. This is what I saw:

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Yikes, right? It had pulled down the lines, which in turn pulled down at least one pole, so they had to replace the pole, plus chop away some of the branches to free the lines. At least four of our neighbors were out of power too. I could shower, but not blow-dry or straighten my hair. I could eat cereal, but not make tea. It was an interesting morning. The dogs were quite delighted with their new stick, though.

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So, yeah. That’s fun. Even now, it still surprises me a little when I look out and see it out there. It’s just so … incongruent. We’ve contacted someone to haul away the broken limbs and are going to get an arborist out to see if we can save the tree. It really is a magnificent tree, and I’d hate to lose it. Plus, well, that would be damn expensive and I’d rather avoid it if possible.

Really, this house is doing its best to bring me down. Before this tree incident, we had a smaller tree lose some limbs, we’ve had raccoons in the attic, we’ve had birds and/or squirrels in the soffits, and we found out the addition in the back of the house needs significant work, like possibly even demo and rebuild. I am discouraged. I love the potential this house has; I think it has gorgeous bones. I love its history. Here’s a photo we just got of our house in 1925, when it was a mere five years old.

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How wonderful it would be if we could restore it to its former glory! But there’s just so much. The back of the house needs renovating, the floors ALL need repair/refinishing, the windows need work, the exterior badly needs to be painted, the porch and stairs need to be fixed/replaced. The landscaping needs to be redone. The upstairs bathroom needs to be gutted and redone. And those are just the big jobs; there are tons of little ones that add up and overwhelm me if I think about them. Lately I’ve just been seeing this house as a money pit and wondering how long I can put up with it.

I’ve been told not to worry, told that if I’m overwhelmed, it’s because my depression has crept back into my brain and I just need to deal with that. (Which I am. Better living through drugs. They’re helping quite a bit.) But I disagree. Yes, I have recognized that my anxiety has been stronger/quicker lately, and I’m trying different ways to manage it. And I know the depression/anxiety don’t help me deal with the worries. But the truth is that I would worry nonetheless. I am a worrier. Always have been, always will be. Is it really that unusual, to be overwhelmed by a large number of big/expensive list of projects?

I do agree that being overwhelmed can make one stagnant. It’s hard to tackle that list if you don’t know where to start. So we’ve picked a starting point: the front stairs. They’re cracked, sagging, and peeling, and we see them every day when we come home. Plus they’re not totally stable. We just need to find a good contractor and get a bid, and hope that we have enough money to pay for it once we pay for this darn fallen tree thing. And maybe once we fix one thing, it will motivate us to keep going, and we’ll just slowly go one job at a time. Bird by bird, right? And someday maybe we’ll get the house close to as beautiful as it used to be.

Sorry, this post was a bit more of a downer than I set out to write. I’ll finish with something happier: new socks! Apparently I can make two socks per week, so I have one easy one for travel knitting, and one more complicated one for home.

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This is the easy one, just finished this morning. Pattern is Vanilla Latte Socks, yarn is Plymouth Yarns Stiletto. I love the little metallic glint!

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I really love this one! Pattern is Sylphrena Socks, yarn is Done Roving Yarns Frolicking Feet, which is so squishy and marvelous. I’ll definitely take better photos once I get the second sock done.

And speaking of second socks, I have two to make! I better get to casting on!

More Rehab on the House

My weekend was not knitting related at all. When we bought this big old house that needs all this work, I guess we resigned ourselves to weekends of manual labor for the rest of time. We’re still working on the fence. It’s slow going when you can only work one to two days a week, but I keep reminding myself of how much money we’re saving by doing it ourselves. And we’re getting SO close! I spent early Saturday digging up weed roots along the fence line, and took great joy in knocking down this stupid rickety old trellis.IMG_3349That afternoon, we strung the line and measured for fence posts.IMG_3351Sunday morning, we went to work with the rented auger and it went much more smoothly than I anticipated. We have a huge yard, around 300 square feet, and with mostly 8′ sections, that’s a lot of post holes. IMG_3353There were maybe four or five where we hit root, and we’ll have to go back and dig by hand. The rest we got done in half a day. The worst were the ones were we’d get down maybe two feet and then hit the thick, dense clay. We’d have to pull the auger out, clean off the mud, and try again, and several of them took four tries before we got down to 30 inches. But we did it, and I’m encouraged! We might actually get a fence this fall. The best part was when one of the neighbors stopped and told us how nice it was to see us working on this house. It’s been neglected for a long time, and I’m loving the fact that making it pretty again will bring joy to the neighborhood, not just us.

I also moved my daughter’s desk down from the attic into the sitting room. She’s been doing her homework at the kitchen table, which isn’t ideal for any of us. Plus this desk, which my fantastically talented husband built, is gorgeous and I wanted to be able to see it. I love it here in front of the window. IMG_3340(Side note: I cannot WAIT to refinish these floors. I know the water damage won’t go away completely, but man, this wood will be gorgeous after being sanded and refinished. I’m just not brave enough to do it by myself.) Anyway, yes, love the desk here and am in fact sitting here as I write this, loving the view and being downstairs with the puppies. And the girl seemed to appreciate it last night. It’s much more comfortable than the attic room, and she doesn’t have to move everything when it’s time for dinner.IMG_3368I haven’t completely neglected my yarn. I did manage to get another Yoda hat knit, so I have five hats done. Last night I got three sets of ears knit. Just a couple more hours and they’ll be ready to go, either to sell on Etsy or for my craft show next month. And I do have a finished object to share, even if it is from last week. This is the Bit of Lace Hemp Triangle, and I used some shimmery purple Merletto. I love this project. I love the big hook and the skinny yarn. I love the loose lacy fabric it creates. I love how fast it works up. I love the versatility of the finished piece, how it can be a shawlette or a scarf. I’ve got enough left to make another one just like this, so I’ll be able to keep one and sell one. IMG_3337I should be able to get some knitting done later today, but first I get to have lunch with two wonderful ladies from my Coldwater Creek days. Should be a good day all around!