Thursday, May 22, 2014

Year One of being a Homeowner: What I've Learned

I've loved being a homeowner. It's been satisfying.  This place is imperfect, lacking, and still so far from completion, but WE'RE CREATING A HOME! Jon and I always felt restless as renters, frustrated by our want to tackle home improvement projects but unable to do so. While the year long process of updates and renovations have been tiring, it's been rewarding for us to see the change that we can create.

It's also been a learning experience. I certainly have a better understanding of what people think of when you hear "first time home buyer." That would be us. The "we'll just fix this, change that, knock down that wall and build those, and we'll have it all done in a few months. Lickity, split." Yeah right. 

Here are a few of the things we've learned in the past 365-ish days:

1) You won't get it right the first time, every time.
And that is totally and completely okay.

Case in point. I have this wall in our dining room and I had planned a nice big blog post about the evolution of this wall, but I never posted it. Because I didn't like what it evolved into.
It started like so, many months ago.
And today looks like this.
Is it better? Yeah. Is it great? No. Am I happy with it? Nope. The lamp was a bad choice that I set there for the time being. I'm not convinced of the turquoise tray, and in general, I'm thinking of replacing the console table and baskets. And the wall sconce has yet to be updated. But it will, soon-ish.

But it's okay. I tried. You're not going to love every decision and every choice. But you have to let it go and decide to move on. I'm really excited about the new plans that I now have for this wall, I just need to borrow someones credit card. Any volunteers?

2) The design decisions that I thought through the most, are the ones that I'm the most happy with.
For the first six months or so, we didn't do a lot on the house. We were re-adjusting our finances to account for this giant new expense of a house, and we were just trying to get the place functional. Meanwhile, we were game planning for what our first projects would be. For some reason, I randomly decided that we'd set out on my planked wall project first. I envisioned that wall for months before it was completed and styled, and in the end it turned out just how I wanted it.
Conversely, I was eager to jump into our master bedroom project immediately after move in. What I am left with is a bad choice of paint color, and an incomplete space. Now that I've pondered and lived in our master bedroom for twelve months, I have a much clearer vision for the space. I can't wait to get out my paint roller and start getting the room in gear. I think I'll be happier with the final product this time.
The too blue walls of our master bedroom.
3) Saving a buck, makes you like an outcome all the more.
I believe that it's okay to spend money and I'm not afraid of doing so.  But, I also feel more satisfied when I know I've saved a buck. For some reason, things that are affordable, look a whole lot better to me. 
My side table, inspired by a more expensive option, 
ticks all my boxes at a much lower Ikea price point.
4) Not having any furniture, can be a great opportunity.
For years, Jon and I were fortunate to be offered second hand pieces from my family, and we welcomed any hand-me-down furniture that we were offered. What we were left with was a mish-mash of things that we didn't love. They weren't us and they didn't fit with the direction we wanted to go in.
While we haven't had many places to sit for the first year, this has enabled us to shop with purpose. We can consider each piece that we buy, ensuring that its proportional, functional, and meets our style requirements (our leather sofa's FINALLY shipped this week, and I'm dying for their arrival-which is still weeks away).
In another year or so, that should mean we'll have ourselves a furnished home, filled with only pieces we like, love, appreciate and value.
It also makes it very easy to cleanse and let go of your older pieces. We're regulars at posting items on craigslist, and usually let go of things for free, just to get them gone.

5) Progress and Change are possible with focus.
A whole home can be overwhelming to transform, but by staying focused on the rewards of the end result, the change you want is possible. And it will be worth it.

For months, I thought we might be stranded in an outdated, blue carpeted abyss for years to come. I didn't know if what I had in my head could actually be translated to our home. But little by little, staying focused on one project at a time, each piece has started to come together to form one big changed home.
Our small entry shelving nook was dismal when we moved in.
The small update of some shelves and bins,
is now super functional, and in tune with the rest of our house.
6) Stick to your guns and vision, and don't be swayed by trends and opinions.
When I told some people that I was painting our main living floor white, some looked at me like I was crazy. White is not a go-to paint choice in the mountains.

When I wanted to plank a wall, folks didn't get it.
Not gonna lie, I was a little nervous about the project halfway through.
When I said we were removing the whole fireplace, people thought I was devaluing the house.
There goes the fireplace.
But I'm really happy with each and every one of those decisions. By following our gut instincts and making choices that make us happy, our home is evolving into the place we want to be.

Between pinterest and blogs it is very easy to convince yourself that you like something. When you see it done in home after home, you begin to think you should do it to. Come on, it's what all the cool kids are doing! I really try to evaluate purchases before I make them, to ensure that I'm making them because I'm crazy about the item and not because I know starburst mirrors are all the rage, or that chevron is so hot, or that Moroccan style shag rugs are THE in rug of the season (there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these things, I just don't love them for us).

7) There is a proper order to change and design.
Go figure.

We painted the upper portion of our master bedroom walls, only to realize that to install the lower wainscoting on the walls, we needed to rip up the baseboards. And we couldn't install the new baseboards until the carpet was changed out. And we couldn't afford to change the carpet out. So yeah. We jumped the gun there.

Unfortunately, the first projects can be the most expensive (cough, cough, hardwood flooring), making it hard to free up the cash to do much else. But don't let that discourage you. At some point, you will get to shop for pillows, lamps, and all of the other "fun" details (I'm just starting to shop for textiles for our living room, and it is awesome!).

8) Time. There is NEVER enough time.
I guess I had anticipated that renovations would be expensive so the cost of updates hasn't really surprised me. I've actually been surprised at how much you can save by shopping smart and doing the work yourself.

What has surprised me is the TIME! The time it takes to convince your husband to do a project, the time it takes to get the project done, the time it takes to make 5 trips to Home Depot for said project, the lack of available time to do the work, the time for orders to get delivered, and the number of times your kids will come in and interrupt you while you try to do a simple task. TIME!

9) It's just a house
We searched long and hard for this house, but what I've realized is that we could have purchased any house. We could have painted, installed flooring, and furnished any floorplan and it would have become our home. While I am finding that a welcoming home really does improve your quality of life, I also know that they are all just things. They can all be replaced. There will always be something else beautiful to buy. This house won't be caring for me in the hospital when I'm sick, it doesn't make me laugh out loud, and it won't be driving me to doctor's appointments when I'm too weak to do so.
The people within the house, are far more awesome than it's walls.

Our best attempt at a family photo this Easter. 
Nolan is one mustache wearing pirate, what can I say?
Tomorrow I'll be back to share with you our project list for the upcoming year!


  1. Meg, I so enjoyed reading this blog post! Your house looks so charming and cozy and YOU. XO, Maria

  2. Thanks Maria! We'll have to get you guys out here for a visit!

  3. Being a homeowner has a lot of ups and downs. Of course, no one is ever prepared for the first wave of issues you'll encounter when you first buy a home. Most of the lessons you'll learn about your first home will come only after you've already come face to face with them. In which I hope, and I'm sure, your post will prove to be helpful to those who are less experienced. I totally agree with number five, by the way. Progress and change will only be possible with focus. In any way, thanks for sharing those tips, Meg! All the best to your lovely family! :)

    Dale Collier @ Anderson Rogers Insurance