Surviving Homeownership

I have finally moved in and settled down, both into our new house and into my new job, and feel sane enough to resume blogging. As someone who has rented apartments for the past 8 years, the transition to homeownership has been a roller coaster of fear and excitement. Kevin can attest to the stress I have put myself through over the past 2 months. Between closing on and deep cleaning the new house, packing and cleaning the old house, traveling for Thanksgiving, buying presents and traveling for Christmas, ending my old job, and starting a new job (phew!), I declined into a constant state of anxiety.

To anyone considering undertaking a new adventure, I highly recommend tackling only one life change per annum.

Though excited about all of these huge changes, I was freaking out about everything. I called Kevin at work in tears one day, certain that I had found a termite and that we would now have to pay millions of dollars to deconstruct and rebuild the house. I still don’t know what kind of bug I found, but after hours of research, I determined that it was not a termite, and I can now differentiate between termites and ants. To any experienced homebuyer, bugs are a natural part of moving into a house that has been vacant for several months. However, I found so many and such variety of bugs that I was sure I would never be able to live comfortably in my new house.

This, of course, was irrational. A month after our move (and some serious self-pest-control initiatives), I rarely see a bug inside the house, if ever, and Peanut keeps watch over the backyard.

Peanut on the prowl.

For the record, some of my other freak-outs included the following:

  • Situation: Someone down the street was burgled.
    • Fear: Robbers.
    • Irrational Carly Conclusion: We need a monitored alarm.
    • Final Outcome: We’re fine. We have a dog for an alarm.
  • Situation: There is an off-colored spot on the ceiling.
    • Fear: The ceiling is leaking.
    • Irrational Carly Conclusion: We need a new roof.
    • Final Outcome: We’re fine. It’s not leaking. The roof is 3 years old.
  • Situation: There was a funny smell coming out of an electrical outlet when the cover was removed.
    • Fear: There is mold in the walls.
    • Irrational Carly Conclusion: We need a new house.
    • Final Outcome: We’re fine. Every house has some mold. Nothing is perfect. Life will go on.

These days, I feel like my normal self and am absolutely loving being a homeowner, mostly because it means that I will not be moving my house-load of crap for at least 5 years (fingers crossed). Having moved three times since July 2012, the thought of never moving again is a sweet release. I have also learned that owning a house means that, yes, unplanned repairs will be necessary, and they will occur at the most inconvenient time in your life possible, but most things are manageable and don’t require an immediate emotional breakdown. Plus, we’re aggressive savers; if we have to pay for a repair, we probably will be able to, or we will learn to live without (looking at you, toilets that won’t stop hissing!).

So what are the perks of owning a home? I’m still discovering them myself, but here is a collection of what I love so far:

  • Trash pickup and recycling. No longer do we have to trudge copious amounts of drippy garbage a quarter mile across the apartment complex. The trash man comes to us! And, since we now have recycling bins, we barely make any trash at all; most of what we use goes to recycling or the compost bin. We only throw away un-compostable food and un-recyclable plastic. Our huge reduction in waste makes me really excited.
  • Fixing it up. I never thought that laborious work would be fun, but it is when you own your house! Things like re-sealing the roof, digging up bricks, cutting down dead trees, deconstructing and burning the rotten shed, and replacing small plumbing fixtures are all fun adventures rather than tasks from hell. (As the installer of all things I can’t do myself, I’m sure Kevin has a different opinion.) And small improvements make a big difference; it feels (and smells…) like a totally different house from the one we purchased. Every time I improve something, I imagine the house smiling on the inside, happy to be so loved and cared for after years of neglect. (See also: anthropomorphism.)

New faucet!

  • Decorating. Want to color the walls with crayon? Chalkboard paint? Go ahead. The house is your canvas. No permissions necessary.
  • Mailbox. I have a real mailbox, and it doesn’t require a key or a stroll, and it’s right outside my door!
  • Hanging out on the roof. (No commentary needed.)
  • Wanting to be cleaner. When I lived with my parents, I was always in trouble for having a messy room. My argument (however untrue) was, “It’s my room and I like it this way!” My father’s retort, without fail, was, “Well, it’s my house and I don’t want it to look like a pig pen! When you own a house, you can do whatever you want!” Naturally, this logic really appealed to me. Once I moved out for college, I never moved home again, and every place I lived did, indeed, look like a pig pen. But now that I own my dwelling, I want to make it nice. I want it to be fresh and clean, and I don’t want to leave dirty hideaways that might appeal to bugs. Being a homeowner has made me so eager to keep clean that I find myself with some kind of cleaning device in hand nearly every day. Thanks, Dad. I get it now.
  • No HOA. Though homeowners’ associations provide a lot of benefits, they also cause a lot of undue cost, stress, and pain. I’ll mow my own lawn and skip the community pool (inevitably full of germs, icky band-aids, and piss) in exchange for doing what I want with my land and structures, thank you very much. The last thing I need is another level of government telling me how to live my life. (See also: Libertarianism, HOA tyranny.)
  • Cheaper than rent. Okay, so maybe the house payment (which equals mortgage + taxes + insurance) isn’t cheaper than my Gainesville rent was, but it is cheaper than my Tampa rent was—and it’s 600 SF larger.
  • Fenced-in yard. I no longer have to endure the freezing morning air while my dog takes her dear sweet time sniffing out the perfect place to unload. She can stay out as long as she wants and freeze her teats off; I’ll stay inside and drink coffee. (Side note: I just learned how to spell “teats” and also that Googling “teets” is NSFW.)
  • No shared walls. Time to see just how high we can turn up that sub-woofer before our ears explode! TURN IT UP TO 11!!!
  • No annoying maintenance guy who leaves his skinned hunting prizes on the hood of his truck to dry out during the day and then steals your plants because he thought you had already moved out of your previous apartment, even though some of your items were still clearly sitting inside the living room!! Yeah, you know who you are, creeper. RIP jasmine, rosemary, basil, and lantanas. I hope you’re not dead.

Of course, I’m sure there are plenty of things I will miss about apartmentship, like stress-free living, sharing walls (a bane, but at least someone might hear you scream if you’re in trouble), and mega dumpsters for disposing of large items (or bodies) easily.

Speaking of getting rid of bodies, Gainesville’s handbook for garbage collection strictly prohibits disposing of dead animals in your residential garbage cart. So while we may be surviving homeownership, someone’s pet did not. RIP, Fido. Despite an unceremonious removal from this life, your memory lives on in every new-resident garbage-collection pamphlet.

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4 thoughts on “Surviving Homeownership

  1. I was waiting to see if the section on HOA’s was going to use me as an example of the harassment one can suffer under their authority. LOL! Fun post — and glad you are enjoying home ownership. But wasn’t this supposed to be a wedding planning blog? Don’t worry. I planned mine in 6 months and it was a big Catholic number with a country club reception. No need for anxiety. Just one step at a time.

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    • I drafted this post before your HOA debacle, but your HOA post inspired me to write a little more strongly on the topic. 🙂 It WAS supposed to be about wedding planning, but since I haven’t done anything on that front in several months, I decided to make the blog be about us planning our lives in general. 🙂

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  2. Thoroughly enjoyed reading about your recent adventures! Even with a few chuckles in between, I was exhausted by the time I was finished!! You two managed to pack a few years into a couple of months! Shortly after I finished your blog, I stumbled across this quote from Goethe.
    “Plunge boldly into the thick of life. Seize it where you will. It is always interesting!” Perfect!!
    Love you both always and forever!

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