In 2010, my husband and I bought our dream house. It is a beautifully crafted home, with lots of light, more space than we could ever need, and a wonderful backyard for playing and entertaining. We couldn’t have been more excited to buy it. Before our twins were born 16 months ago, we had a different relationship with our home. We worked long hours, traveled extensively, and used our home as a lovely crash pad in between the next adventure.
As we prepared for the birth of our children, I started to look at our dream home in the harsher light of day. It wasn’t the house’s fault. All of these “faults” existed when we bought it. The only difference was – I was home a lot more.
Why is the laundry /mud room so small? I’m constantly knocking into drying racks and tripping over piles of shoes on the floor. I hate our laundry room!
How are we possibly going to childproof our main living area? The once-glorious sunken living room with major expanses of space is now a threat to my unborn children. Ugh!
For a house that’s on the larger side, why are there only three bedrooms? Where are we going to put our family and guests who visit? In the oversized, useless foyer? Ridiculous!
The many beautiful windows that bathed our home in natural light now annoy me because, let’s be honest, how can you possibly keep them clean? I wish we had fewer windows!
Why did the builder design the “chef’s” kitchen with a teeny little island with no seating area? Do I have to redo the kitchen, too?
I had to take a step back to remember our house is still a dream. It just needed a little re-figuring to fit the new stage of our lives as busy, homebound parents of twins.
No home is perfect. But not everything needs to be solved by major renovations. Sometimes, even the gnarliest of problems can be solved in an easy way.
So let’s commence with the advice.
- First, get organized. Get rid of clutter. Streamline your possessions and dispense with things you don’t need. This will allow you to more accurately take stock of your living situation and the flow of your home. It will also help you prioritize what projects you need to do, and on what scale.
- Repurpose rooms you are not using into rooms you will use. Not everyone needs a formal living or dining room, or a large home office. Is there a better use for your home’s existing assets?
- Before you do anything major—a gut job or the like—live with it for a while. Really see how you use the space. Are there less expensive ways you can solve the problem? Either by better organization, or using after-market storage tools or structures? Will a simple cosmetic refresh do the job?
- Your time is valuable. Sometimes it’s worth it to outsource some of your home’s upkeep. Be selective and outsource that which will give you the greatest return on your time.
- If you have done the above and truly need to do a major project, get multiple bids. Put together your requirements so they are organized. Seek best practices from the myriad of home improvement and design resources out there first.
- And most importantly: take into account the way you will also live in the future before you do anything! If you are about to have a family, perhaps you would do a bathroom renovation differently than if your kids are going off to college. Ditto for mud rooms, garages, kitchens, and basements.
I gave away a ton of stuff we didn’t use: duplicate items that were collecting dust and taking up our valuable storage space. I organized everything according to the way we live. Made important things accessible. Stored things that we didn’t use in nicely labeled, clear containers. Consolidated three junk drawers into one. Attacked it all. And I’m trying desperately to keep it that way.
We turned our third floor, originally intended as an office, into a fourth bedroom.
As for the natural light? I had window washers come and deal with the grime – too many windows in the house for me to attempt. It’s an indulgence I will need to do every couple of years, so I’m budgeting for it. When it was done I felt like I had LASIK surgery. It’s a wonder how sharp your vision can be when you’re not looking through years of film!
We are doing a full-scale renovation of our laundry room. There was no way around it. I am more excited about that – weirdly enough – than any other home improvement project I have ever done. We ripped out the kitchen island and replaced it with something appropriately sized for the space, with tons of storage and plenty of spaces for seating. This saved us from having to redo the kitchen. We also designed it in a style that would blend in with any future kitchen renovation we wanted to do.
There was no way to childproof the living area in a traditional way, so I bought a massive, brightly-colored play yard and have trapped my precious little ones within it when I need to be in the adjoining kitchen. We de-cluttered and safeguarded our TV room on the second floor so they can roam free; that room is more easily gated and gives them the illusion of total baby freedom.
So, the next time you want to break up with your house, remember, there is a solution for everything.
Some relationships are worth investing in.