Homeowners

With keys


It’s all ours!

Spencer and I went to closing on our first home Friday and had the keys later that afternoon, which means . . . we’re homeowners! It’s still a little surreal, even after spending the entire weekend there scrubbing and vacuuming and Lysoling everything within sight.

Though the house is in great shape overall, like all homes that have been vacant for a while . . . well, it needed airing out.

And by “airing out,” I mean cleaning from top to bottom.

Cleaning. So much cleaning. I don’t think I’ve ever vacuumed so much in life. I knew the house was, um, bigger than our condo, but I didn’t have any concept of how much bigger until I was on my hands and knees wiping down baseboards, walls and floors.

And wiping out entire spider colonies. I . . . yeah.

My entire weekend, in fact, looked like this:


Vacuuming


With a hefty amount of this:


Pressure-washing


And though my arms are aching and my head is fuzzy this morning, I can’t believe how much progress we’ve made in just a few days. Friends came by Sunday to see the place and kindly offered to cut the grass as a housewarming gift (we have no lawn mower yet), and I was so grateful I could have cried! The grass was already about two feet high, and several new neighbors stopped by to introduce themselves and gently inquire about it.

Already with the grass wars. But it’s all right.

I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it’s “our” house — I just don’t feel old enough? grown up enough? “wealthy” enough? to own property, but I guess that will fade with time. We certainly signed our lives away on Friday, so this baby is all ours.

There is so, so much to do — but I already feel better for having started the process. Spence is so handy, excited and on top of things, so I know all the basics will be covered.

In case you’re curious (and for posterity), some things we tackled this weekend:

• Scrubbed and power-washed exterior of house
• Took broken window in for repair
• Mopped kitchen and bathroom floors
• Scrubbed out all kitchen cabinets and drawers, plus sink
• Swept porch and deck
• Vacuumed all floors (can’t unsee that dirt and dust)
• Bissell-cleaned carpeting throughout house (ditto dirt)
• Cleaned two of four bathrooms (hadn’t the strength for others)
• Fixed wiring in office light fixture
• Moved a few boxes from condo, packed a few others

Not bad for two days’ work!

Thankfully the weather was gorgeous — mid-60s both days with plenty of sunshine, so we could open all the windows and let lots of fresh air in. Cleaning is also far more pleasant when you’re not sweating to death, and the temperate breezes kept Spence and I both happy. (Though we were still sweating. Kind of unavoidable.)

As much as I enjoyed whipping open all the windows, cleaning and daydreaming about our new space, I’ll admit to being a little relieved to go back to work this morning. Some sense of normalcy, you know?

And I don’t have to vacuum there. Already a huge plus.


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Prepping for Box City

Talking about house


We’re about to become denizens of Box City.

Spencer and I began packing on Monday night . . . and by “began,” I mean we emptied two bookcases of DVDs into six cardboard boxes before we both declared ourselves tired and overwhelmed, then sank onto the couch to fret over just how stressful this move is going to be.

Six. Boxes. In.

When I moved out of my parents’ house last fall, I literally carted all of my worldly possessions over gradually in trash bags, duffels and those recyclable totes you get from the grocery store. It took weeks to eventually get all my stuff into our apartment, capped off by one tear-filled final drive to Spencer’s with my backseat full of childhood memorabilia.

That sucked.

Though moving was tough, I had a ready-made home to join — and had already felt like a member of the household, even if I wasn’t there full-time. All I had to bring were my clothes, shoes and accessories, plus my personal library (heavy) and various other things I’d collected over the course of, oh, 28 years. But that move was more emotionally tough than physically taxing.

This one? It’s going to be both.

The other night I literally stood staring at my paperbacks and hardcovers and boxes of photos and stationery and journals with tears in my eyes, wondering how in the merciful good gracious I was going to organize these things and schlep them to a new place — again. Along with all our furniture, all of Spencer’s things, the overflowing workshop of tools, our kitchen gadgets, the contents of our fridge and pantry . . . I mean, everything. Everything in sight.

It was too overwhelming to even consider . . . except I have to.

I kind of powered down, like a robot. A super stressed-out one.

I realize this is all very boo-hoo, you’re buying a house. But I’m sure many of you have stood in my steps and looked with horror mingling with excitement at the prospect of changing residences, so I’m hoping you’ll take pity on my weary soul.

And maybe you’ll help me.

I realize I’m in Maryland and you’re in, I don’t know, Indiana or Texas or California or maybe even England, so it’s probably not feasible that you’ll grab an end of the couch to help load our U-Haul. And that’s okay. Honestly? I feel super awkward asking for help, and I wouldn’t want to beg for your assistance in exchange for beer and/or pizza. I mean, I’m going to — at least on a local level — because we don’t have a choice . . . there is no earthly way we can move some of our furniture ourselves.

But how you could lend a hand? Give me your moving tips. Is there anything to make the transition easier? We’re a week from settlement and about a month from actually living in our new house full-time, so we have time to gather up our belongings and keep them organized . . . and I want to be as organized as possible.

But are moving and organization an oxymoron?

Am I being hopelessly naive to think this will be anything other than difficult?

Do you have any packing tips and/or tricks you’ve used to make things less ghastly?

Even if you don’t have any advice, I’ll take moral support. I’m starting to get really nervous.

I’m all ears.

If I wasn’t going into massive home debt, I’d even offer you some pizza.


Of houses and homes and painting

photo

View from the back deck


The house, the house . . . our house is coming along!

And by “coming along,” I mean we’re several Big Foot-sized steps closer to calling it home.

And moving all of our worldly possessions. But that’s another matter entirely.

We had our home inspection on Saturday, which was just the sort of heavenly spring day that makes you believe anything can be possible. Everything went well — nothing major found — and we’re very relieved. Everything is on track to head to the settlement table in a few weeks.

Though I’ve spent hours pouring through photos of the property we took over the last few months, being there in person again — with a notepad, measuring tape, paint samples, a Sharpie for assigning said paint samples — made a huge difference in being able to picture this space for us. Like so many, I’m a visual person. It took standing in each room to really picture it a different color, filled with our treasures, for everything to click.

While Spencer walked with the inspector, my dad — also our Realtor! — got to work on yard work. What a guy! He took his leaf blower to clear out the flower beds covered in leaves and mulch, also known as a hotbed for spiders, while I had the surreal experience of looking at the house as our soon-to-be home instead of a cold, bank-owned foreclosure.

The power has been turned on. The lights work. The home has been de-winterized, so we can actually turn on the water — which works, too! — and run the faucets, flush the toilets. The fact that it was a temperate 75 degrees outside certainly helped. We opened the windows to push out the damp and let the sun stream in.

It was fantastic.

And the house isn’t quite so scuffed up anymore. Though in great shape overall, it definitely needs some cosmetic fixes. Many of the walls had long gashes where furniture must have been moved, and we were worried about the time and expense of needing to paint nearly every room in the house. Thanks to the magic of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, though, I have one less item on our scary to-do list!

That sounded like a product plug . . . and I guess it was. But Mr. Clean isn’t paying me to say that. We simply found a Magic Eraser beneath the sink at our apartment and brought it over to see if we could clean the walls rather than paint them (unless we want to, of course), and . . . we could!

I was super impressed with myself, I have to say.

My thighs are screaming today from being half-crouched scrubbing the upstairs, but I was able to get many of the marks off without needing to go through the paint-sampling process. Because friends? I don’t know much about decorating. I’m learning — and quickly — but . . . it’s a work in progress.

Thanks to Mr. Clean, we’ve pared down our “must paint” list to four rooms . . .


The master bedroom (no more blue, no more dream):

Master bedroom


The upstairs guest room (they painted around furniture):

Guest room


The library (!):

Library


The main floor half bath (hard to see here, but it’s bright green):

Half bath


I’m tired just thinking about it.

But it’s going to be fun, too!

After our inspection, we popped over to Lowe’s — our new home away from home — to finally choose paint samples. I narrowed down our choices and forced myself to make a decision both Spence and I could live with, and we bought tiny pots of several colors.

There’s also new flooring, artwork, whatever furniture we can afford . . . many changes we’ll be making to transform this house into our home over, you know, many years. I’m trying to keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we’re going to put it in a lot of elbow grease and imagination to transform our new place.

That’s part of the adventure, though. To whip a house into immediate “show-ready” shape would be . . . well, exhausting, for one, and also very expensive. Expensive in a way I can’t afford. But less exciting, too. I’m looking forward to scouring yard sales and flea markets and HomeGoods for the “perfect” chair or vase or painting. It’s the thrill of the hunt.

And anyway, what our place will really need? Right now, right this second? A good scrubbing.

And come May, we’ll be ready.


P.S. If you have any favorite websites for home inspiration or shops to find cool pieces, please feel free to drop them in the comments! I’m all ears.


Home sweet (future) home

kitchen


I’ve been keeping a bit of a secret. Not for very long, mind you, so you can’t really be upset with me.

It’s been, like, four days.

And this is after I kept our house search to myself for a few months . . . mostly because there wasn’t much to report.

Yet.

But now? We got the house!

The bank accepted our offer on a property about ten minutes from where we live now and, if all goes according to plan, we’ll be heading to settlement in late April (!).

It’s a four-bedroom with three and a half baths, a full basement, a bit of land. And room for my library! (A LIBRARY!) Basically, everything we’ve been talking about for years — and in the area we want to be in. Most importantly, it was in our budget.

Basically, a miracle.

Our first house!

And we’ll be moving.

Honestly, since we learned we’d won the bidding war and took my mom to see it (Dad was with us the first go ’round), it hasn’t really felt real. Despite the copious amounts of paperwork we’ve already signed, part of me is still holding my breath waiting for the “sure thing” sensation to wash over me . . . which probably isn’t an awful idea, given we have so much that has to happen before we get to settlement.

Home inspection. Well inspection. Window replacement. Financial stuff. Tons of stuff I’m sure I don’t even know about yet.

I’ve gotten quite an education in just the last three months, friends, and my schooling has just begun.

But before I get all Negative Nancy, I do want to take a moment to be excited. I’m emotional at the thought of leaving our condo so soon after Spence and I have moved in together, but he’s been here three years — and is ready for the joys (and grass-cutting-pain!) of homeownership. And after just moving from my parents’ house in October, the idea of moving all my worldly possessions again — but worse this time, ’cause we’ll have my husband’s, too — makes me feel exhausted.

I can’t deny the allure of our own home, though. A real house. A house bigger and nicer than anything I would have ever thought we could find without bankrupting ourselves, and something we will grow into and personalize and craft in the years to come.

It needs appliances, tons of paint, new carpet. Some TLC after sitting empty for so long.

But no more jerks blasting loud music at all hours of the night! No more randos stealing your parking space! No more shared living space. Listening to our neighbors pacing at all hours of the night.

There are absolutely things I will miss about our condo — and I’m sure I’ll wax philosophical on them in the weeks to come. It’s only natural.

But this place will really be ours. I’m kind of shell-shocked . . . but am learning to give myself up to life’s currents. They’ll take us where we need to go.

I’ve found that to be true. And I do believe that to be true.

So, we’ll see.

Now, who’s got coffee?


Backyard

Backyard view


Waiting. Wondering. Worrying. Waiting.

While I’ve never been a very superstitious person, per say, I definitely believe you should be careful about what you put into the universe.

Like if you really, really want something, you probably shouldn’t tell everyone. Or anyone, maybe. Because you’ll somehow jinx yourself with your wanting. A big job interview? A promotion? A vacation? A project slated to finally move forward?

Keep your lips zipped. Summon your patience. Wait.

So now I’m being all intentionally vague, friends, and that’s annoying. I’ve had so many thoughts cluttering my brain lately and not being able to write about them — in some form — is making me crazy.

For the sake of clarity I’ll just put out there that no, I’m not pregnant — the go-to question for newlyweds — but it does involve a potential “addition” of sorts for us! Just, you know, not of the child variety.

Oh, all right. This is getting silly, right?

Okay.


We’re looking at houses.


Trees


There. That’s not so scary to write, right?

Except . . . it is.

I feel like I’ve just revealed a terrible, dirty, change-your-opinion-of-me-forever secret.

In fact, I don’t know that I want to publish this post.

(But you’re reading it, so I guess I bit the bullet.)

I think my hesitancy stems from that you’ll jinx yourself! mentality I’ve harbored since childhood: that if you reveal your hopes, they’ll be dashed. So funnel those hopes into a glass and put that glass inside a safe with only one key. Palm the key, or hide the key, and wait. Don’t breathe a word until you’ve got a sure thing.

But nothing in life is a “sure thing,” right?

Nothing.

And definitely nothing in real estate.

But my stomach is churning because . . . well, because I fell for a house.

I told myself I wouldn’t. I’ve lectured Spence from the beginning to not get “emotionally attached” to any of the properties we’ve seen, and then what do I do?

I attach myself.

I couldn’t help it.

I see us in this house — the first time that’s happened. Christmases and Halloweens and Easters. Bookcases and family dinners, fires in the fireplace and movies on Friday nights. I smell chocolate chip cookies on the counter, the warm pine of our first real Christmas tree, fresh flowers on the table. I see the two of us becoming the three of us, then the four of us.

And to shape that wanting — to write out this desire and put it into the universe — feels terrifying.

Yet, here I am.

A writer to the core.

Worrying about “the next step.” About finances. About the future. About everything.

But excited, too.

I haven’t wanted to tell anyone about the house hunt because I don’t want to come back with bad news. I don’t want to have to write a sad post, a bummed footnote, and tell you that our dream home actually belongs to someone else. That my wishing alone could not make it so.

But we don’t always get what we want. We all know that.

And if we don’t get the house, we’ll be fine. We’ll find another, just as so many families before us have done — do every day. We’ll pick ourselves up and start again. Find another dream home. Fall in love again.

Like life.

But until then . . . we’ll think positive. Hold our breath. Just wait and see.

Whatever will be . . . will be.