It has been three months since Jim and I moved into our house. I would like to think that our lives have changed drastically. That somehow we are older, wiser, more experienced, more mature adults – but that’s not really true. I would have thought that owning a home would somehow cast us into the pot of people who seem to have “it” all together. Maybe we’d be qualified as a part of society who “knows what they’re doing.” Maybe somewhere, hidden in the legal jargon of the closing documents, there might have been invisible ink explaining how to own a home and somehow it would soak into our minds as we read through the papers and we’d suddenly know exactly what to do.
That didn’t happen. We are still the same people, we just have more space. We have the same stuff, except now it’s all in boxes that I’m afraid to unpack. We have the same furniture, except now it looks sad and old next to the pretty hardwood floors and bay window. We have the same jobs, but now we have a longer commute.
We are the same people we were before we moved, and we have no idea what we’re doing. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone who transitions from renting an apartment to owning a house to truly know what they’re doing. I’ve never had to fix a leaking faucet before in my life. And why would I? I’ve done laundry, but I don’t know how to reattach the dryer vent when it breaks. I’ve washed dishes and used a dishwasher, but I don’t know what it means when error messages are flashing and it shuts off mid-cycle. I love to go outside in the yard, but I don’t own a lawn mower to cut the grass and I don’t know how to make a muddy yard become green again in the spring.
These are things we’ll have to learn, and we will, in time. We’ll have some arguments and some disagreements. We’ll get frustrated and we’ll waste money on plumbers. But I have faith in us.
When we moved into the house, I had big plans for how we would decorate. I believed that we would have energy and inspiration to change some *minor* things and I would use all my Pinterest boards to create a home that was welcoming and open and light. We were inspired for a little while, when we had holiday time off work, but my plans are time-consuming and my time is limited. After the holidays we were back to work and the rest of my dreams are gathering dust.
I have learned that my inspiration and energy is limited and entirely based on my perception of time and not on how much time I actually have. I am very motivated on Saturday mornings but weekends seem too short for projects and I believe that my little things I want to do will take much longer. I am probably not wrong. I thought I could paint the living room in a day and it took four.
We bought a house, but we do not have it all together. Does anyone though, really?
We have learned that we literally don’t know anything about plumbing. We have discovered how shockingly expensive new carpet is. We’re conceding to the fact that we might have to buy a lawn mower and some other yard supplies, because as much as I hate yard work, I love having a yard. We’ve learned that spending some time each week keeping the place clean is 100% worth it (because we live here, we’re not giving the place away to the next renter). We’re coming to terms with the fact that Home Depot is going to be our best friend and our worst enemy.
But we’re learning other things about ourselves too. We’re discovering what we value, what we prioritize, what’s most important in our lives. A lot of that has to do with money, and luckily we’re on the same page there. We’re learning to be frugal, while spending money where it matters most to us. We’ve learned that we value time each night to relax together and watch TV or read or talk. We prioritize our gym membership, but found that we can carpool in to work together and save more than $1,500 a year in parking fees and gas. We both admit we would love to update a lot of things – carpet, furniture, bathroom fixtures, the entire basement – but we’d rather take a trip to Phoenix this spring and try hiking in the desert. We’re on the lookout for some dining room chairs, but we want them to be perfect, so we’re willing to wait until we find exactly what we want. We have some big dreams for our back patio, but I have discovered a few hidden gems for a steal at estate sales.
I think we had underestimated how much money it takes to just own a home. Or rather, how much money it could take. We’ve done a pretty good job prioritizing what we need and not overspending, but there are certain things, like a ladder or a garden hose, that you just don’t think about. Along with all the other things you just don’t think about until the moment you need them. That adds up.
When we decided to buy a house, we were as ready as we ever could be. This has been such a learning process. It’s been a test of how resourceful we are and how committed we are. Maybe it’s a test of how laid-back we are – can we roll with the punches and figure it out as we go?
This is the American Dream, right? Own a piece of land and figure out how to fix the shit that breaks.