Goal-setting really works. As you know, I’ve seen it work with my career, and now I am seeing it work with our house.
Back in January, I said we wanted to make our new house into a home and create an edible front yard. The exciting part is that we’re really doing it. But I admit that it has been a huge challenge to take this on, do it well and on-budget, and take care of my family, myself, and my career.
I told some friends recently that owning a house was like having another child, and renovating a house was like adding twins. Even though our flesh-and-blood children are bathed and loved, urgent emails are answered (most of the time), and meals are cooked (albeit uninspired), I feel as if I’m barely holding it all together.
Some days it seems I can’t do anything right. On Saturday, for example, a welder came to our house to install some iron railing and alter a window guard. One problem after another came up, and what was supposed to take 25 minutes turned into over four hours. When it came time for the moment of truth — installing the railing on the difficult attic stairs — I had to pick up Sofia from a ballet conference. Not only was I the last mom to show up (an excruciating half-hour late), by the time we got back, the welder was gone and the job that we had been planning for months looked like dog doo-doo.
Despite those difficult moments, I keep getting up in the morning, and tackling one project after another. Enough goes right that I don’t get entirely discouraged, and at the heart, I am determined to make a fun and relaxing home.
A “Done” House, or a House “To Do”?
When we bought this house, it didn’t really dawn on me how much of it we would be changing. We fell in love with its quirky cottage look, and we could afford it. I laugh now when I realize that we didn’t discover some hidden gem. We could afford it, because it needed work!
Even if we could have bought a house that was “done,” is that what we really would have wanted? As overwhelming as renovating can be, creating something that we think is both beautiful and functional is rewarding. And despite the house’s problems, it has great bones, lots of personality, and a walkable neighborhood location.
Progress Report: House-into-Home
So now that you know the bumpy backstory, let me tell you what we have managed to do since I wrote about our goal of starting a renovation project. We have renovated our front room from a library to a foyer by removing the floor-to-ceiling built-in shelves, trimming the windows, revamping the powder room, and adding two coat closets.
We also decided to finish our attic to make a guest room and an office. We installed heating and cooling, added electrical outlets, and fixed the scary hole-in-the-floor stairwell. We painted the floors (Elephant’s Breath, a light gray by Farrow & Ball), we moved furniture (some hoisted through the window), bought twin beds, and we built out the chimney wall to create a nook.
Progress Report: Edible Landscaping
Then we turned our attention outdoors. Instead of trying to work with the 1985 deck with no stairs, we decided to tear it down.
Now we have double the yard space, plus the chance to do something really fun: a long slide from the back door to the yard. While a neighborhood architect works on those plans, we are gearing up for our edible front yard. We cut down a dying mulberry tree to free up precious sunlight, and we transplanted some prairie grasses to make room for a mini-orchard and vegetable garden.
This weekend I bought two apple trees and a peach, plus eight blueberry bushes, as well as kale, arugula, and Italian herbs. The kids and I planted our first strawberry jar and bought a Meyer lemon tree for the sunroom.
Progress Report: Future Nest Egg
The problem with renovating our house is no longer getting started. It’s being able to stop. Besides discovering problems with the chimney, the fence, and the kitchen skylight, we are now turning our focus to our shabby living-room furniture and rickety front porch. But because one of our other goals was to focus on retirement, we will have to take a rest mid-year and start thinking of our long-term future home. Since we are contributing the maximum possible to our work and personal retirement funds, we will need to talk to an adviser and start figuring other smart ways to beef up our old-age fund.
Once the intensity of the first phase of home renovations die down, and we take a much-needed rest, I want to focus my attention on my personal and family life: finding a better system for storing, organizing, and sending digital photos; journaling more consistently about my kids and the cute things they say and do; and spending more downtime with my husband, kids, and friends. Because if you don’t set goals for these things too, they’ll get squeezed out by the ones you did set goals for.
On the topic of organizing, you might like this round-up I created for Parentables: 10 Must-Read Home Organizing Websites.
If you’re more just into browsing some pretty pictures, head over to Pinterest where you can see stuff on edible landscaping, building a backyard slide, and my favorites ideas for decorating.
How are you all doing with the goals you shared with me back in January? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!