After reading this article, it dawned on me that our current surroundings may not just be a starter home -- it may be our after-starter home. Certainly not our ending home, but a bigger player in our future as a couple and family and careers than expected. I've gotta start coming to terms with that.
We found this house a little over a year ago, thanks to my mother. She was on the look-out for a cheap starter home for us (it seems lots of people were -- my sister and Dave's brother both bought their first homes around the same time). In luck, she found a foreclosed property in our suburban area for a great low price. Yeah, no. Ridiculously low. Dave and I walked through, knowing that it might have some unforeseen issues (the realtors couldn't inform us due to its foreclosure status, which we were fine with), but the place seemed just right for our needs. I think once Dave saw the brightly-lit sun room in the front, he silently fell for it -- I think the age of it (close to that of my first home, where I lived for 18+ years) did me in.
Shortly after moving in, we discovered that the house hadn't been winterized in sufficient time, so the pipes had burst. A funny story involving our kitchen's leaking ceiling fan and my niece calmly proclaiming that, "The light's got water coming out of it" will always be engraved in our memories of our first day in the place.
With great thanks and appreciation for my step-father, before too long we had all new pipes, toilet, and energy-efficient water heater and furnace. Then, he and Dave worked together to put in a pedestal sink, vanity, overhead light, light/heater/fan, front door locks, etc etc etc. Dave's dad supplied us with well-priced windows, which we're still working on getting put in -- a vast majority are finished. We've turned our eyes to getting the lawn green (in a green fashion -- like by using his old-school push mower, as mentioned in this post) and will be planting a modern "victory garden" when the weather stays warm for a bit.
Oh, we've done more -- much more. Lots of painting and cosmetic stuff, but nothing too costly (yet). We put in some cool vintage-looking (but modern material) black-and-white-check flooring in the kitchen, painted nearly every room, and am in the midst of finishing the cellar-way. Oh, and as a wedding present, my stepdad will be helping us put in a back deck. But, we've talked over other plans and what we'd like for the rest of the house while we own it. This is where it gets a little complicated.
See, the house itself is pretty small. I'm not sure of its exact square footage, but I'm pretty sure it's misleading when I say we've got 3 bedrooms. In actuality, we have one bedroom (slightly cramped), one guest room (it's embarrassing to admit, but it's covered in my clothing -- it contains a closet and a large dresser, but I still don't have much room for clothes), and a den/office which houses 3 not-big desks (Dave uses this closet for some of his clothes; he also has 2 dressers in our room, plus the tiny closet). Add a small bathroom and you've got our upstairs.
Downstairs is a little roomier. Our living room feels pretty expansive, but once you get 4 people in it you realize how uncomfortable it really is -- it's a hard room to furnish correctly! But, YAY, at least it's got a sufficient closet; still tiny, but works for seasonal items. The front door and "sun room" (tiny!) open from the living room, as do the kitchen and dining room (each have a door; this is the 1920s, after all). The kitchen is a sufficient size, but there's not enough storage and some of the cabinets were downright abused by the prior owners. Mom always says it's the brightest kitchen she's ever seen in her life, so once we add a back door onto the deck, it may just be my favorite room. The dining room isn't very big, and won't be once we get my piano in there, but it fits its purpose.
The basement is a "future project." It's pretty expansive, but with lots of opportunities for head-bumping. We've discussed how to do over the basement and have decided not to completely finish it, but to waterproof it and designate storage areas -- and even a comfy TV area and bar. Oh, and there's already an area for a possible 1/2 bath, so it only makes sense to put one in. :-) I can't wait to get some kitchen pantry/storage built in!
Outside, however, is another situation. We have a tree in front of our house which has pushed up the sidewalk and doesn't allow much to grow around our foundation area. It's also buckled our already-curvy driveway -- so, those projects would pretty much be a necessity if we're going to stay.
So, that's what we're dealing with. I already know that I simply need (need vs. want) to downsize lots of my stuff, particularly clothes. Perhaps we both do. Who knows? I know that people only use 10% of their clothing, which is a discouraging figure, so to garage sale it or give it away would only make sense. But, this is just to get it to be a comfortable living situation for a young-ish engaged couple now -- what about the next step?
I've thought a lot about what will happen when kids come along -- I think we both have. It's pretty obvious that, for now, we'd stay here; but how long? The article makes me re-think it. When we moved in, I mentioned that things'll be very different when we move out, to which we both agreed; I figured we'd have a toddler running around, Dave thought we'd have teenagers helping us. Very different ideas!!! I can't possibly imagine raising 2 or 3 kids in this house -- but, I'm sure it was done, back in the day. I know of a family with 3 grown children who did just fine in a house as small as ours, if not smaller...but, they were uber-close and uber-religious (we weren't raised to be "close" in the literal sense, and our religion was always pretty mute).
But, as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. It's not that things are desperate now, just tighter, and I can't imagine how tight they'll be with young ones around. However, it may not be plausible to just move, and I'm considering whether we should put more money into the place than we were originally intending to (that tree was definitely a "eh, leave it" thing before).
So, what will help make the house more user-friendly in the long run? I've got a few ideas. :-)
- Well, obviously, get the tree/sidewalk/driveway taken care of. *shivers* These are "little at a time" projects, but, in this case, a priority.
- Finish the basement. Dave recalls his childhood home as having a sort of rec room basement where he and his brother could crash and play to their heart's content. Well, why can't our kids have that? We already have an extra TV and entertainment center, and eventually when we get a new living room set, we could easily put our "old one" down there. Plus, waterproofing will help the organization we do create even safer. (And an extra bathroom is helpful in ANY house!)
- Once we have our back door, life will be a lot easier. Currently, our driveway is on one side of the house and both the front and side doors are on the complete opposite side. With the plan of adding this entrance, we can bring groceries directly from the car and into the kitchen -- what a luxury!
- If we're living here long-term, the floors will have to be re-done. While we can pretty easily live with the cheap living room/stairway/office carpet with just the two of us, no amount of steam cleaning will make it sufficient for when we've got babies crawling. I'd like to see what wood we're working with and whether it'd be cheaper to have it repaired/refinished or to get a nice carpet throughout.
- DE-CLUTTER, DE-CLUTTER, DE-CLUTTER!!! We're currently using pretty much all of our space, which I think is a little bit much (I'm guilty as much as Dave is!!!). This is something that we could pretty easily accomplish without much, or any, money. :-D
- Re-analyze our needs. Do we need all the books we've got? Dave does a great job with purging his collections through eBay and amazon.com, but our bookshelves are full. Do we NEED more bookshelves, or less books? (No right or wrong answer.) Do we NEED 3 desks, or more office storage? Do we NEED the huge extra bed in the guest room? (That's probably one that we won't work on until *dun dun duuuunnnn* eventual pitter-patter.) Organization isn't easy in this house, and once you let it slide for a few days, you're buried -- with Dave being pretty particular about his space and us both being brought to tears by the shows about hoarders, it's pretty obvious what we'll need to do.
- Eventually, a small kitchen reno -- and, hopefully, some new appliances. The cabinets under the sink were very poor quality and currently stink when you open them -- seems they had a moisture issue and the bottom of them fell through. I've still got some items down there for my cleaning, etc, but it's pretty ridiculous. Can't wait to have them GONE and simply something cleaner (and that match the rest of the kitchen -- white!) and better-quality. While we're at it, we may get some granite-esque tops for them, and the old, original cabinets.
- This summer, I'm planning on re-doing the main bathroom. It's small, but I like it. The tub isn't white, but it's livable. The mosaic tiling on the walls I find disgusting and the floor and trim need an update. The paint isn't staying on correctly, so that'll take some sanding, and I'd like to fix up the cabinet to be a nice, open concept. Since we have some new items in there already, it shouldn't be TOO costly -- but let's see if summer school + bathroom reno + wedding planning = happy Meg. ;-)
- A cohesive, non-green color scheme outside. (And I don't mean non-eco friendly, hee hee.) The shutters are pretty yucky and, after replacing the tree, will be quite viewable, so I'd like to paint them a high-gloss black, along with thresholds and doors (possibly a tan thrown in), but we'll see when the time arises.
So, those are some ideas for our "home sweet home" if it's going to remain such for 5+ years. If another great deal (higher-priced but within our budget) comes along before that, 'tis fine, but for now my philosophy of "get out and spend relatively little before doing so" may have to go the way of the dinosaurs.