Closet concentration

This was the weekend of The Closet.

Because we now have one! And I’m one happy, organized lunatic.

Closet locationSince our first visit to the house in March, I’ve been obsessed with the walk-in closet right off the master bathroom. Like, in the bathroom; you must go through the bathroom to find it. This seemed very convenient and very cool, and I like having one nook for all my getting-ready morning chaos every day.

Though our house was in good overall shape when we got the keys, it was still a foreclosed property that had been vacant for years. The carpets were musty and stained (and have since been replaced); almost every surface, especially the walls, were in need of a good scrub-down and visit with our trusty Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Most of the issues were cosmetic, though — including the troubles in the master closet.

The major issue in this space was the dirty, stained and buckling white(-ish?) carpet. The walls were also heavily scratched and dinged-up from what was, I’m sure, constant use — and the whole closet smelled less than fresh. When Spencer began to dismantle the built-in structures for hanging clothes, we discovered they were put up rather shoddily and “drilled” into drywall, not studs.

So. Dangerous, basically.

Here we were in there back in March, two innocent newlyweds with no comprehension of the dust in our future:

Closet

The first step in our closet renovation was to take apart the built-in cabinets, which were very heavy. Spencer and I nearly toppled under the weight of the first one, then worked to get our footing and disassemble that baby with whatever energy we had left.

I failed to take pictures of the closet after we really messed it up — probably because I was in physical pain looking at the destroyed wall where the mirror once hung. Trust me when I tell you it was bad, because I’m realizing that any sort of home progress requires wrecking things completely before they can get better.

We wanted that mirror down. It was, we thought, a simple task . . . because it was just a mirror, and don’t people accidentally break those and get bad luck all the time?

Well.

It was not going anywhere, friends. Rather than try to paint around the mirror, we thought it would be best to take it down and re-hang it later. After a long and complicated battle to remove the glued-on mirror, we broke it. And completely jacked the wall in the process.

Holes. Holes as big as my fist in the drywall.

When my parents-in-law were in town to help us move at the end of June, I asked my handy mother-in-law if she would mind tackling the patching of that closet to knock an item off our to-do list. She and my father-in-law did us one better by patching and painting it the same brown as our renovated master bedroom, and the transformation was stunning already.

That left us with the carpet.

We ripped up most of the existing carpet throughout the house because, yeah, the smell. A cold, musty, lingering odor that could have soured us on the place but was, we felt, a treatable issue. We correctly predicted that stench was hanging out in the carpet because, once removed, we’re fresh as daisies here in Southern Maryland.

Thank goodness.

If I may proclaim my husband’s awesomeness around the web for a moment, we would be in major trouble without Spencer’s expertise, patience and willingness to get his hands dirty. In less than two months of homeownership, he’s put some serious sweat equity into this joint — and the results have been so impressive. Especially to a lazy lug like me.

He tore up the carpet in the closet as well as the tack strips, and the two of us worked to remove all the lingering staples and vacuum all the dust. (Who knew there could be dust under carpet?) A fateful trip to Lowe’s brought laminate flooring on the cheap into our lives, and Spencer got it all installed so we could bring the built-in white cabinets back from a side room. A friend kindly came by several nights after work to help Spencer get everything reassembled and ready for business.

tl;dnr: we painted the room, replaced the flooring and re-installed the cabinets so we could actually hang up our clothes.

And now I have a space for everything — for the first time in my life. My bedroom at home had a very tiny closet, and our master closet in the condo wasn’t much better. I’ve always had my clothes in bins, piles and dressers; there has never been one “home” for everything I own, including purses and shoes and accessories. And certainly not a home where clothes could hang.

But that day has come.

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And my favorite part? That set of four dresser drawers on the left, one of which contains only scarves. One place for my scarves! A whole bin of scarves! I can easily paw through them and find whatever I need, though I tend to always wear the polka dot one. Hence why I left it on top.

Still. Options.

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Though there is still tidying to be done (like hanging the mirror, changing out the existing light for something brighter and prettier, etc.), it’s definitely coming along — and being able to run my hands across the entirety of my wardrobe feels downright luxurious.

I’m not going to lie: I kind of don’t feel worthy of this closet. I’m still getting used to having my clothing out of trash bags and recyclable totes, so . . . yeah. This? A little overwhelming.

But definitely fantastic.

And if you need me, I’ll be hanging tops and rearranging my cardigans . . . again.

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Getting there

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We’re getting there.

Appliances are in (and full of diet soda and water, apparently all we need in this world). New carpet has been chosen and is due to be installed next week, and two of the three rooms we need painted are complete. The master closet has been ripped out, the walls need patching, more flooring will have to be procured for there . . . and often, honestly, it feels like everything is one step forward and ten steps back.

But I know it has to get worse before it gets better. And we’re not doing “real” renovations; these are mostly cosmetic issues, though still things that must be fixed.

And we are fixing them. Through sheer force of will.

My aunt kindly came over Saturday to paint our master bedroom, and it looks fantastic! While she cut in around doors and rolled walls, I scrubbed rust and grime from the master shower with the enthusiasm of Cinderella under duress . . . but hey, we got it done. And the bathroom has morphed from a place where I would never want to be barefoot to a place I would only kind of agree to be barefoot, mostly because we have loose nails and staples covering everything like a sheen.

Keeps you on your toes! (Literally?)

Spence and I are tired but making progress, and the progress is more apparent the more we sweat. Saturday was a rare humid-free day in Maryland, so we opened up the windows and let a cool breeze wipe out the last of the stale air. It felt fresher, more open.

And after we’d done all that, it was time to work on the condo. Our apartment should be officially on the market today or tomorrow, and we literally ran like lunatics yesterday morning to make it look spacious, lovely and enticing. That meant cleaning (again! so much cleaning!) every surface we could see and getting, like, a third of our stuff out of there — especially in the master closet, living room and kitchen.

So with aching arms and a nauseous stomach, we packed and moved about 15 boxes. Everything is getting dumped in the basement. At one point over the weekend, I realized that every single thing in our apartment will have to be touched by Spencer or me — packed, sorted, stored, moved, unpacked and arranged in the new place. By us.

How do people move? I mean, I moved eight months ago — but that already looks pathetic compared to this move. And in the grand scheme of things, we have a normal level of stuff. It’s not like we own a mansion we must empty . . . this just your run-of-the-mill stash of twenty-something newlywed belongings.

If I sound tired, I am. I really am. I know this is only temporary and we’ll be moved and settled in less than a month, but that month feels long right now. Very long. June has been a whirlwind . . . and it’s already half over. As of tomorrow, we’ve officially owned the new house for a month — and though I can definitely see progress, it still feels very overwhelming.

Mondays are made for napping.

Or going back to work for nine hours . . . where I’ll get a “break.” Funny how that works, eh?


Bees, mop instructions and other house adventures

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If you’ve ever wondered who could possibly need instructions for a mop, the answer is apparently yours truly.

Growing up, I was fortunate to have two kind, loving, giving parents who routinely . . . took care of things. Before I fall too far down the rabbit hole, please know that I am in no way suggesting Mom and Dad sent me into adulthood without, you know, basic life skills. They did not. I learned to drive, balance a checkbook, cook and generally act like a decent human being far before I got married.

What I didn’t learn to do? Clean.

Moving in with Spencer, I needed an immediate crash course in . . . how to scrub a toilet. Over the decades I lived at home, my mom routinely took care of bathroom cleaning. I helped out with lots of other chores, of course — vacuuming, most notably — but . . . well, the only time I can recall breaking out the toilet bowl cleaner was when Mom was ridiculously sick. Company was coming over, so.

I grew up in a household where, if you knew visitors were stopping by, your rump sprang into action. Vacuuming was the first line of defense. Now that friends are coming by to see the new house, I feel ridiculously self-conscious about our construction zone. Spencer keeps reminding me — lovingly, but firmly — that everyone knows we’re in the process of moving, and no one is judging us for having cleaning supplies and rags and water bottles on every conceivable surface.

And the dirt. The dirt.

Our week in California set us back a bit in terms of getting the new house ready for our move, but the break was certainly welcome — and worth it! And we’ve still squeezed in quite a bit of updating in the last few days. We got home on Saturday night and were back at it by Sunday afternoon (jet-lagged, cranky and all), and we’re trying to go by several nights a week to tackle small projects.

Mopping was one of them.

After filling a bucket with equal parts water and Lysol, my husband proffered our brand-new mop. He offered to clean the basement while I tackled the kitchen and, well, there are spiders in the basement, so okay.

I dipped the mop in the hot water. Moved it in swishing circles. Stared at the strips of fabric, now sodden and dark, before plopping the mop on the tile floor. Then I kind of . . . swirled it? Started dripping lemon-scented water on everything? But it didn’t seem quite right. Nothing was getting clean, that’s for sure.

Spencer popped back into the kitchen, ostensibly for a lukewarm drink (no fridge yet), and noticed my confusion. I knew something was off, but couldn’t figure out how I could mess up mopping. To his infinite credit, Spencer did not laugh . . . he simply took the mop from my grubby hands, showed me how to dip it in the water and twist the ringer piece so it’s not just soaking wet and weird, then gave me a crash course in scrubbing.

It was a humbling moment.

But I’m learning. Everything takes time. And if I was spoiled enough to not touch toilets back at my parents’ house, friends, know I’ve gotten my just desserts: imagine trying to clean four disgusting bathrooms in the new house you’ve just sold your soul to buy, cursing the heavens and wondering if you’ve made a colossal mistake. Not because you don’t love the house, but because you really would rather not touch the things you’re touching. Not even with gloves.

I’m being a wuss, I know. You might even be laughing at me. I mean, it’s just a bathroom; I’ll live. But it’s unpleasant.

(And we’ve actually decided to just replace the four toilets and move on. In addition to being gross and stained from standing water and goodness knows what else, two are actually cracked. There is no saving them. Better to start fresh.)


Living room


What else have we been up to? Ripping things out, for one. The stained, smelly carpet pictured above throughout the living room, up the stairs and into the hallway is no more: with the help of friends, Spencer pulled it up and removed nails from the subfloor. Together we vacuumed up all the dust and grime and began scheming our next move, which will involve hiring a professional to install carpet in the living room, guest room and possibly the master bedroom while Spence installs hardwood in the hallway and on the main staircase.

Should be interesting.

(Send margaritas.)

We’ve also installed knobs on some of the kitchen cabinets, so we can now open drawers like civilized people. Paint samples are on the walls of the master bedroom and the guest room, and we’re planning to start painting on Sunday. We also hope to have the flooring chosen by next week so we can get that ball rolling and I’d love to install some lights on the path outside, because nighttime is dark.

But the scariest thing? We’re in a war with bees. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty for fear of terrifying the more fearful of us (read: myself), but let’s just say a colony of honey bees has taken a liking to that cut-out alcove above the fireplace pictured above — outdoors, thank God — and started their honey production. We’re trying to either find someone to take the hive away or remove them ourselves with the help of a knowledgeable friend, especially since they’re occasionally flying into the house through a light fixture.

Bees. In the house.

I can’t.

Homeownership is already challenging so many of my lazy sensibilities . . . and I’ve learned tons, especially because my husband is patient enough to explain tasks to me. I don’t like playing the helpless-damsel-in-distress card, though it’s obvious that some jobs are just beyond my ken. (Also, I don’t like heights.)

But I’ve already wielded screwdrivers and hammers, crow bars and sanders. And I used a hose, too.

I think I like this?

I mean, minus the insects.