October 31, 2020 – Fixer Uppers

There’s something about fixer uppers. They always seem to seduce me somehow. Maybe it’s the warped floors and the paneled walls or those oh-so-adorable-and-practical original, single pane, aluminum windows? Or perhaps it’s the dated bathrooms with turquoise fixtures and galvanized pipes that prove nearly impossible to resist? So cute! And the charm of the warped, dried out cedar shakes that serve to protect the roof? Undeniable. And what’s not to like about an entire house filled with VINTAGE wiring? So quaint. I’m in! Wait, what?! Did I just put an offer on that piece of property where the bathroom has a spongy floor and the front door is coming off its hinges? Oh, yes. Yes, I did!

What is the name of this illness I have? I think it might be called ‘There’s a sucker born every minute’ disorder. Or maybe it has something to do with never having quite enough money to afford something that doesn’t actually need a lot of work? All I know is, I think I’m over it. If I have to hang one more sheet of drywall or pull up one more wall-to-wall green or orange shag carpet or retile another bathroom or replace another set of original windows, I am going to scream! It just isn’t remotely fun anymore. These old bones are getting worn out. Enough already. What is it like to have a weekend off when you’re not mudding a bathroom or painting baseboards or refinishing kitchen cupboards? Beats me! What’s it like to look around your home and everything’s done? I have no idea. Hasn’t happened in my lifetime! Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. Maybe I worry there wouldn’t be enough to keep me busy if I didn’t have to redo an entire house on top of everyday life? Not sure.

At least, I can say that the deadlines I now set to finish projects have become less ‘final’. I used to set very firm and final deadlines with a lot of things in my life, which often impacted my health, and not in a good way. It wasn’t uncommon to see ‘moi’ out painting a shed in the pitch dark, with a flashlight in my mouth, because I wanted to finish it ‘that day’. I’ve also resorted to caulking a bathtub surround by candlelight because the power had gone out and I was bound and determined to complete the task. The night before the movers arrived in our current home, my husband and I ran around like raving lunatics trying to get the floors finished, the walls and ceilings painted, and the baseboards installed and painted. It was a literal race against time. I’ve never been so tired in my life! But you know what? We got it all done right before they pulled up to the house and started unloading boxes. “Just watch the walls, please!” I’d call out as each employee with the moving company schlepped by with yet another floor lamp or box of curios.

This major accomplishment, of finishing the walls and floors and baseboards before ‘moving day’, doesn’t factor in all of the other things my husband has since completed, to include all of the plumbing, lighting, a gas insert in the fireplace, tilework, a complete new heating and cooling system, wiring, gates, replacing several of the doors and all of the doorknobs, backyard deck, most of the exterior siding, roof, landscaping and GASP! Hang on, give me a sec! I’m out of breath!! Whew, that’s better! Nor does it take into account what we still have yet to do. However, as things now stand, I think we’re almost in the home stretch. There are really only two more rooms that need to be overhauled. Our main bathroom is currently gutted and waiting for the sheetrock contractor/me to finish up.

We started the ‘demo’ in early August. My husband originally estimated we’d be done in 3 weeks. The way things are looking, if we’re lucky and don’t get distracted by the latest episode of the ‘Great British Bake Off’ or ‘Jack Ryan’ or ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ and continue to be vigilant, we should have the bathroom done by the end of the year (maybe). And then we plan to get started on our living room. When will we start working on the living room? Great question but not one I currently have an answer for! When I was younger and full of energy, knocking out a room (start to finish) in under a week was possible. Out of a 24 hour day, I could easily work 12 towards whatever the task or project might be, big or small. But now? If I can do anything for 3-4 hours in a 24 hour day, I think I’m doing pretty darn well!

All things considered, what I’ve realized in recent years, factoring in my age and health, is that it’s important to stop and smell the roses from time-to-time. If you never stop to see the beauty around you, you can become so transfixed on meeting deadlines and completing tasks that you completely lose sight of all the things that make life worth living. I look around today and what used to drive me bananas (i.e.; unfilled nail holes in baseboards, lack of a corner bead on the edge of a wood floor, an absence of hardware on cabinets, trim work that’s been primed but never painted, etc.) just doesn’t get me too worked up anymore. If the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day? I’m going to go and take a walk, folks, and enjoy it. Maybe the bathroom will have to wait another day, but I’m going to smell the roses.

And should I become enamored by another fixer-upper and feel compelled to purchase it? We’ve bought 3 houses during our marriage, all fixer-uppers. It’s simply not going to happen again. I’m getting older, not younger, and I want to enjoy what time I have left. I can promise you this. If I ever leave this home, it will be for one of two reasons. We have finally found an affordable ‘turn-key’ property that will work for us and meets both of our needs, or you’re going to have to roll me out on a gurney because I’ve expired (probably from inhaling too much asbestos or lead paint, or a combination of the two). One of the few benefits of aging? Wisdom. And I’ve learned folks. It wasn’t easy. It ‘only’ took 3 fixer-uppers, but I’ve learned.

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