I made a big move. Not just any move, but the “official downsizing, all of our children are married” kind of move. I didn’t mean to do it, well I did, just not at this time. We had been actually trying to sell our house for about three years (the market here was D.O.A.), so when our youngest daughter got engaged in December 2013 we let the listing expire so we could plan and focus on the happy couple. Then just as I began to get knee deep in wedding plans (a destination wedding!), we got two offers in one week! WHAT? Exactly. My husband and I stared at each other, eyes glazed over and decided, excitedly yet reluctantly, we had to do it!
I can’t even get started on the craziness that ensued, let me just fast forward to where we ended up; in a house less than half the size of where we were, a storage unit still full of treasures (my husband would debate that term ‘treasures’) and trying to live in a house while we renovated it. Yes, before you ask out loud, I am crazy. But crazy people talk to themselves a lot and that has lead me to much debate about what we wanted this house to be. Normally I feel it. I mean, I’ve been redecorating homes literally and in my head since I was 16 years old, but this house didn’t shout at me. I knew the floor plan would work when we first walked into it, with a little wall opening here and a closet expansion there, and I could see the vision. But normally I get a vibe quickly about the color palette, I know the direction I want to go, and I run full steam ahead. I’m not sure if it was the timing (I was slightly distracted with the wedding) but I just wasn’t feeling it. In fact, I wasn’t feeling it for a long time. I decided to forget about it and left to enjoy the wedding.
When I got back, I’m happy to say, the house and I had some good conversations. It slowly revealed to me what it wanted, and I was seeing the vision and sharing it with my husband. That’s huge for me, since I have spent the last 35+ years married to a wonderful man who has pretty much let me do whatever I wanted in the house. Now, he’s seen a few hundred episodes of decorating shows on HGTV with me and suddenly he has an opinion! Nevertheless, it’s working at the moment and the house is slowly coming together (SLOWLY being the key word there). But I have had many chances to stop and think, what do I want this house to be? How will it function everyday? How can we fit everyone when the kids and grandkids come to visit? As I answer these questions myself, I thought I would share a few tips along the way. Maybe someone out there is in a similar position, or maybe you just need a little project? Either way, here are my top 3 tips for getting your place closer to being the cozy home you’ve always wanted!
1. Declutter it – This whole move thing happened awfully fast and I am still working on this everyday as I unpack, but this is the single most important thing you will do. It’s also the hardest. Mainly because we all like stuff right? I mean, Chantelle and I have made a business around liking stuff! And all of us have little hoarding tendencies, but I have felt so much lighter getting rid of the excess that I am now addicted to the freedom from stuff. I don’t want to clutter my (almost there) beautiful new kitchen with dishes I don’t use, and as Chantelle said as she was helping me carry the last items from my closet out of the house when we moved “I’ve seen you almost everyday for the last 3 years, and I’ve never seen you in half this stuff”. Busted, my husband heard that too, thanks! So here I am, the poster child for purging, and giving you permission to ‘let go’ of it too. Letting go of items has been way easier than letting go of my baby girl, but we were happy to fill their first apartment with a truck full of treasures from our household and then sent the dining and living room furnishings to our son and his beautiful wife to fill up their new home in California! Now if I can just get through this renovation, I can start to go through all those boxes that have not been touched since the move. I’m not brave enough to just get rid of them without looking through, we packed in a hurry, but I feel very good after every trip to the Goodwill or VOA drop off.
2. Be True To It – I have heard my husband say too many times, “You have to think of resale”. Here’s my answer, “no I don’t, and you can’t make me”. Geez, renovation makes me so snarky! But frankly, we are at the point in our lives where I just want to enjoy this and I will not make choices for anyone else. Luckily, my tastes aren’t ridiculously unique or anything, but I want to cook in the kitchen that I love, it doesn’t matter that the marble will etch and patina. That excites me. I want a weird piece of furniture as our bathroom vanity, and yes, I am keeping the pink vintage bathroom because it is the cutest thing ever and I am in love with the pink tub! It’s so deep and cozy and my husband and I have taken more individual baths in there the last two months we have lived here, than we did the entire 10 years we lived in the other house with the two person tub (who wants to waste all that water? It took forever to fill it up!) Plus, I know for a fact that people buy houses regardless of a few weird decisions. My friend Lynnie just moved to the cutest, coziest house ever and the kitchen granite looks like head cheese, and they still bought the house! It’s adorable, in the cutest neighborhood and they love it! I know she doesn’t love that stone and it would never have been her choice but if she gets tired of looking at it, she can save up to replace it and they didn’t miss out on owning one of the cutest houses in their neighborhood.
3. Redo It – Sometimes you just have to have that Cinderella’s step sister moment, ‘you just have to make it fit’! If a wall needs to be moved, then move it. If the original hardwood floors creak, don’t just yank them out! Embrace it and refinish them. Don’t be afraid to do basic changes, even if they seem big. We bought a house built in 1956 from the original owners who hadn’t really done any updates. It needed a new roof, new windows, a little shift of the floor plan and TA-DA, we soon will have a house made just for us! Trust me, this wasn’t just blind faith, we walked away from another deal after getting the inspection report with less than glowing results. But this house was straight forward and just needed some TLC. Plus, it just needed me. The best part was when I first stepped into it, I realized “I’d been here”. I had shopped the estate sale held at the house six months back and purchased some beautiful area rugs and a gold leaf mirror that luckily hadn’t sold yet in the shop. So I made them mine, had the rugs cleaned and brought them back to their home. I feel a little melancholy about the house’s history and want to preserve the feeling that the original owners had in loving this house, I am honoring the family that lived here. We are making it our own, respectfully redoing, and loving the process. Now if I can only find my curling iron.
Hopefully I will have more tales to share as we plod through this process. If you have any advice about living through the renovations without becoming homicidal, please share! So far so good.
Be happy, Jill