Living There

A handful of my blog posts are “tagged” with the tag “Living There”.  Now that we’ve been here for over half a year there just isn’t much more construction or decorating going on.  I’ll share what we do, when we do it but “new stuff” posts will be fewer and further between, most likely.  But to keep things going I’ll start reflecting on the process, what worked, what didn’t work and what we’d do differently.  If you’re building your own house it pays to do your homework but ultimately there are some things you just don’t know until you live through it.

Before we get to some home building reflections and what on our to do lists, I’ll give you a a blurb or two on our weekend endeavors.  Saturday we got new cookware, (yes I know this all sounds boring, but hey I’m in relax and hibernate mode so to speak so it beats telling you about the entire box of Cheez-Its I ate).  Kohls had a sale and we had a coupon so we decided to replace our aging Calphalon non-stick cookware with some new stainless steel goodness courtesy of Cuisinart.  The 11 piece set we got was around $159 but we got it for closer to $100 after using our 30% off coupon.  Not too bad, and our old set was twelve years old and showing its age.  Plus the non-stick cookware is essentially toxic so it’s good to switch to good old stainless steel.  I’ll let you know how the cookware works out.  I didn’t do an exhaustive review search, like I usually do, but I’m sure we’ll be fine.

The weather was so nice today, we went out and worked on the garage.  The garage has just way too much stuff in it. After a long summer of working in the yard, randomly throwing shovels, the wheelbarrow, and bags of garden whatnot in there, open real estate was non-existent by November.  Trying to organize the garage though is like solving a puzzle.  Much of the junk in the way has a place but everything is all interdependent…I need to move that or do this before I can move that or do something with it.  But this weekend we had slated for cleaning out the garage.  Ultimately all worked out okay and we feel like we made some progress.  I pawned off a couple of things on Goodwill, and made a couple piles for family and friends to take “their” crap back.  The biggest challenge is the surplus building supplies that obliterate one wall of free space.  Other space hogs include the jeep hardtop and our (literal) ton of fireplace pellets.  In the end the RAV4 found a home in garage bay number two for the first time, warm and snuggle-y once and for all.

Garage is still packed but another car now fits in it.

So the garage is somewhat organized, I need to start eyeballing my next task.  That leads me to observation #1 of “living there”.  If you’re building or buying a new house, keep these in mind.

#1 Get Storage In Order – We have a ton of stuff after a dozen years of marriage and kids.  Yes it’s best to “downsize” but he haven’t gotten that far yet and we can’t bring ourselves to just toss it all out in a landfill.  Lot of this stuff will be handy in the coming years, assuming we know we have it and know where it’s at.  Storage and organization is paramount if you’re like us.  We had a lot of closets built-in the house, but you really don’t know until you live there.  Places like the garage are pretty much a big empty box which means we can store a bunch of stuff in there.  The shelving units and hooks we brought with us work perfectly fine but one thing we don’t have here is a shed  like we had at the old place. To compound the issue we have a ton of semi usable 4×8 building materials left over as well as a giant window, all of which are stored in the garage.  The aforementioned large objects: jeep top and fireplace pellets take up a lot of space too and will require special solutions to get them out-of-the-way.  I have no budget for buying fancy garage systems so we’ll make do with what we got for now.  Long term I plan on building a storage loft; taking advantage of our nearly fourteen foot tall garage ceilings. One other dose of reality is the fact that materials for other projects usually get stored in the garage too….

#2 Pick And Choose What You Finish Off First – Ok so we bought land, had some cool dude design us a kick ass house, we dug some dirt, nailed boards together, put insulation everywhere and finished it off with Italian tile bits.  Throughout the process to control costs we left a laundry list of “stuff” to finish off later.  Keeping thought #1 above in mind, you may want to reconsider what you hold off on, especially if you have a lot of worldly possessions and / or you are an anal retentive control freak such as myself.  In hindsight, and I don’t know how we would have paid for it, but I’m thinking we should have finished a couple organizational projects before we moved in.  As you’ve seen, we already started finishing off much-needed organizing projects in the office space and upstairs studio.  Next on the list is installing the remainder of the cabinets in the office area of my studio.  This will help free up space in the now occupied in the garage by the boxed cabinets, awaiting their install (see, interdependence). This winter we may jump the gun a bit and build that storage loft in the garage and possibly finish off the laundry room.  We can do both of these projects on a tight budget and the payoff will be great.  We’re just tired of tripping over stuff.  It’s bad enough the kids toys are everywhere, we don’t need to trip over laundry bottles or work around stacks of bins that could be on a shelf.

I will contend that if you can swing it, finish off as much storage, cabinets, counters or whatnot that you can before you move in or shortly thereafter.  I’m not sure where we would have cut back to put in all this other stuff right out of the gate but it would have been worth it, for us.  I’m saving some money, and learning a lot doing it myself, but it’s been a little bit of a pain.  One way or another I’m going to work on a few of these projects this winter. First up will be finishing the office space, then either the laundry room or my studio storage, then who knows….point is we’ll have a busy winter.  We’ll even check off some home decorating items like painting walls too, so the place will feel more homey.

#3 If You Are Finishing Things Off Choose Wisely –  You can either finish stuff off before you move in, or after.  Finish ANYTHING that requires walls, major plumbing or electrical before you move in….as well as anything that makes a huge mess.  All the deco and minor stuff, including putting in cabinets can wait til after you’re in or when funds are available. It’s up to you whether you pay someone or do it yourself.  I can handle painting, installing cabinets, carpentry and few other things.  Anything plumbing or electrical I contract that out.  I have no interest in electrical and I’m a horrific plumber.  Painting is a lot easier to do ahead of time but we like to live in the house before we choose paint colors.

If you’re finishing things off for later, and you’re building new, make sure you set everything up behind the walls to make your job easier.  Install wood blocks to screw cabinets to, run wires and pipes, cap them off and record where they are at.  I took a video before the drywall was installed and it’s saved my bacon a few times.  Plan for expansion by leaving slots open in your electrical panel for example.  Try to think of everything ahead of time.  You won’t catch it all but you’ll thank yourself for what you did remember to plan for.

I’m going to design and build a peachy keen storage loft above my work area in the garage.

#4 Don’t Be Affraid To Change, Wait, or Go With It. – The house looks just like the pictures when it’s done.  You move in, put all your crap away, drink wine, life is good.  Then something starts bugging you….the color of the walls, the style of screen door, the faucet in the half bath….no sweat.  First off there’s no way we could design and decorate everything when we built the house.  Secondly things don’t always work out the way we planned.  Don’t be afraid to cut and run from something you don’t like, or improve it or learn to love it. It’s your house, quirks and memories are going to be just as important as the perfect kitchen or bath.

We’ve been watching a steady diet of home improvement shows since we got cable a couple months ago.  All these perfectly designed and executed pads make it seem easy.  Building or remodeling a house is stressful.  Unless you’re a pro designer with unlimited funds and time you’re not going to get it all right the first time or right away.  Don’t even bother trying, rather pick a few rooms or things to get right that you can build off of.  Our kitchen looks just like I envisioned it and I’m already having thoughts of changing it.  All our walls are white but we’ll start painting them now that we know how the light moves through space.  Turns out the staircase screams for floor to ceiling bookcases….we’ll have to figure that one out as we didn’t plan it in the rough construction, so it’ll be a challenge.  Point is it’s okay to have the house be a work in progress.  And it depends on your situation.  I love the work in progress, but when it comes to organization and storage, those things need to be checked off ASAP.  The decor stuff can wait…frankly I don’t even know how to decorate the house on a budget.  I wish I could make it look like those magazines and tv shows….maybe someday.  I’m not worried though.  We did a pretty good job planning, and we can use our ingenuity to solve for the rest.

Okay, okay….I know it’s only a few items for the list, but it’s Sunday night.  Time for me to grab a beer or glass of wine and relax a little.  I think about some other pointers to add to the list and expound upon the ones above.  Check back.

-Chris

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