Reflections on Home Ownership

This time last year, if you’d told me to enjoy the days of apartment living, I probably would have smacked you. As the little sister and youngest of all my cousins, I’ve always been the last to reach the levels on the life-event barometer: when I was in high school, my sister had started university. When I started university, my sister found her first job. When I was still in university (#gradstudentproblems) my sister got married and then bought her first house. You get the idea! I’m always so anxious to get to the next step that sometimes I forget to just be and enjoy where I’m at.

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I moved out of my parents home at 18, so I spent 10 years renting. I lived in 5 units in 2 cities with 3 roommates- the last of whom would eventually become my husband. I hand-washed countless dishes and suffered through sharing laundry facilities, walls, ventilation, bed bugs, and hot water with strangers. While I anxiously waited for our future home, I kept myself busy with various projects, like sewing elbow patches on my favourite old sweater, attending DIY workshops, and making canvas prints using acetone transfers.

don't rush anything

But it’s funny how you gain perspective on things. As much as I couldn’t wait to get out of that apartment and become a proper grown up with a mortgage, I’ve caught myself thinking wistfully of all the time I used to have to devote to things like sewing, crafting, shopping, and flea market hunting. I also used to think our apartment looked really great, and I loved how easy it was to decorate. Now I find myself feeling a little overwhelmed with the larger space and it’s hard coming up with a cohesive look, not to mention keeping things tidy when we’re basically living in a construction zone 24/7.

As exciting as it is to know that we can do whatever we want with our house, I can’t wave a magic wand to make it happen overnight. It takes a lot of planning, a lot of hard work, and a lot of time (not to mention $$$). And all those jobs start to feel like just that- jobs. I can’t even remember the last time I had my sewing machine out for fun. Whenever I get a burst of productive energy, I notice the holes that I never patched or the paint that needs to be touched up. So my old Janome will have to sit dormant a little while longer, and even then it will probably only get to hem the curtains in the guest room.

make the days count

I’m definitely guilty of wishing my life away; I’m so impatient for the next big thing that will happen in my life that I forget to slow down and enjoy where I’m at. Living in the moment and being grateful for what I have, instead of comparing myself to others and feeling shortchanged, is something I really need to work on. And even though it took many stressful months to find our house, while we weathered the storm of my husband’s career change and felt the disappointment of making an offer on a completely different house that eventually fell through, I know that all the waiting was worth it- that other house would have been a strain financially and wouldn’t have been as good a fit as the house we did buy. I really do believe that everything happens for a reason!

no shortcuts

So if you’re out there reading this and you’re feeling like I was before we bought our house, like you can’t wait to put your own personal stamp on your space and you hate every minute of renting, know that it will happen in time. Enjoy the benefits of renting, and use the time to save up for your downpayment and reno fund. Cherish the phone calls to your landlord about the crack in the ceiling or the leaky faucet, and crack open a beer while you watch them fix it… because one day it will be your problem!

-C

Ch-ch-changes (big and small)

The first few weeks we had the house were spent frantically getting it ready to move in: painting every surface (ceilings, trim, walls, and all the required mudding and caulking) and ripping up the carpet.  Having a hard deadline for when we needed to be out of the apartment really helped us be productive and work towards meeting our goal, and then we were really busy moving and unpacking all the essentials at the house.

I can’t say we have been as efficient since moving in, and I’m trying to be ok with it. I find it really annoying having mess/tools/half finished jobs everywhere I look, and I have a hard time sitting and relaxing when I know there is so much to do, so I tend to burn myself out until I physically can’t do anymore. I’m trying to force myself to just accept that it takes time, and everything I want to accomplish can’t get done right away. We both have full time jobs and not much vacation time, as well as the usual obligations to friends and family that everyone has- and I don’t want to feel like our home is one giant chore, I want to enjoy it! So I’m giving myself permission to relax and take things one step at a time, and if we have friends over and we need to move the sander off the coffee table and drop cloths off the couch before they can sit down, who cares?

Anyway.

I don’t have any of the high-impact big reveals to share, but these are some small things we’ve done that have made a big difference:

  1. Changed out most of the outlets and light switches for new ones; DSC_1651_
  2. Finished painting the bodies of the kitchen cabinets, removed the old scalloped border above the sink (which necessitated a very time consuming patch job), and installed a new light above the sink;kitchen progress(Side note- the cabinet doors don’t close perfectly since painting/re-installing them, and we are still trying to decide on a paint colour as indicated by the paint swatches everywhere, but still, progress!!)
  3. Put up a mostly decorative mailbox (all our mail goes to the local Canada Post, but maybe a kind neighbor will slip a note in there asking us to mow our lawn more often?); DSC_1642_
  4. Bought some new light fixtures for the hall, dining room, and foyer, as well as a floor lamp from HomeSense for our living room;DSC_1588_
  5. Installed most of the doors that we painted white, and upgraded the hinges and hardware;IMG_2625This picture also shows off one of our new light fixtures! What’s that? You want to see what it looked like before we painted, removed the carpet, and replaced the light fixture? OK!
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  6. AND perhaps most exciting of all, we have finally upgraded to a queen sized bed, and moved our old double into the guest room! We also bought these cool reading lights that we mounted to the guest bed headboard, and hung green curtains that look great with the quilt. So far the cat has pretty much claimed this space, which is great news for our friends with allergies. Guess we’ll just keep some Aerius on the nightstand.

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DSC_1599_Up next: more painting, more light fixture replacement and installing curtains in our bedroom so no one charges my husband with public indecency. Hooray!

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Ripping up carpet and next steps

Well, we are officially out of our apartment and in the house permanently! The big jobs that we wanted to get done before moving in (ie. painting the walls and ripping up the carpet) got done just in the nick of time. I was hoping to do a lot of purging before we moved but there just wasn’t time with all the stuff we were trying to finish at the house, so a lot of boxes went into the basement for Future Cathy and Future Allan to deal with (suckers!).

It’s funny because I have discovered that there are jobs that are time consuming and don’t have much payoff, like painting trim, and then there are jobs that take no time at all and make a huge difference, like ripping up carpet. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent prepping and painting trim- and sure, it freshens things up and makes a difference to the final look once the walls are painted- but until you get to that point you don’t feel like you’re making any progress. But the satisfaction of spending a few hours cutting and rolling carpet to reveal the hardwood underneath made up for it.

If you follow me on Instagram @cathyatdeardiy, you will know how disappointed we were when we discovered that the hardwood ended before the hallway. We were hoping that it extended at least to the threshold of the bedrooms, which we discovered after the home inspection had vinyl tile under the carpet.

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Ah well. After we got over it, we set to work. We had to be careful when removing the carpet in the living room and dining room, so we folded it over a 2-3 foot section and then cut along the folded edge to protect the wood.

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Then we rolled up each strip and bundled it with twine so that the lovely waste management workers of Ottawa would take them along with the trash.

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You can see that carpet removal is fueled by beer and cider.

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This is what it looked like before we patched and primed the hell out of the space above the fireplace, because the previous owners had never painted the drywall where the large mirror had hung. No stud finders needed here!

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The new colour (Dove by Behr) is not that different from the original paint, which was a blessing because it went on in 1 coat! But it freshens it up and having a grey beige as opposed to a yellowy beige really modernizes it.

We lucked out in that the carpet underlay was in really good condition, I’ve heard horror stories about it disintegrating into dust but ours came up in one piece. There was also hardly any dirt underneath, which speaks to how clean the previous owners must have kept it. Now we will be spending a lot of quality time with our friends Messrs. Hammer, Pliers, and Cat’s Paw to rip up all the nails, staples, and carpet tack.

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Seeing the mountain of rolled up carpet was also very satisfying, and it will probably only take a few months of our biweekly garbage collection for them to take it all…

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Seriously though, how gorgeous is that hardwood? It’s a bit on the orangey side but it’s in really great shape. We think it’s red oak but I’d love to hear if someone knows for sure. Now we just need to figure out what to do next… start the bathroom reno? Paint the kitchen? Refinish the original hardwood or install new hardwood first? Stay tuned to find out!

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