I tried to make this short, but there’s just so much to say. In the past 15 months, we moved out of our townhouse of 12 years, moved into a rental 45 minutes away to “try it out”, struggled a bit, then bought an entirely new home back in the original place and spent 6 weeks of intense work making the house livable, all while taking the entire family of 4 along for the crazy ride. The end result….HOME.
First of all, we are tired but we are content. I think we’re still functioning, but for 50 days, we both worked full-time jobs and I only took 1 day off. My wife worked on the house during her off days (Monday-Wednesday). I tried to help out weekend nights but really only put dedicated time in on weekends. I was working 10+ hour days (in addition to 2+ hours of commute time). To add to the stress, June-October 2018 (July-Aug were brutal) is probably one of the most stress-inducing/frustrating periods of my entire adult career. It’s been quite an adventure!
But, after all of this – even though my job is still ridiculously crazy and we still have lots more to do on the house – I think we are starting to come down from the project phase and work into the living phase. And during this entire ordeal, I definitely have some lessons learned:
- Friends are priceless. First of all, our BFF Laura is amazing. She gave our entire family a place to stay for the long haul, she was at every construction meeting, she spent all of her spare time working on the house, helping with the kids, etc. And she made us laugh OVER and OVER and OVER again. I will never mention the accent wall again without using a heavy accent and will probably call sconces “scones” for the rest of my life. Further, our talented and skilled expert, BD, was a life-saver. He spent his limited spare time getting us over the biggest hurdles and is the #1 reason our home looks anything like it does right now. He’s the reason that we were able to do almost any of this work “ourselves”.
- DIY is not for everyone. Home renovations that are just “a little elbow grease” or “minor updating” or “walls and floors” may sound easy. It’s amazing how much work that walls and floors can be. We had a limited budget, so plans to hire flooring companies and professional painters fell by the wayside as things progressed
- Wallpaper sucks. The longest part of the entire process was wallpaper removal. It took 2-3 weeks to get the walls clear of wallpaper and painted. Wallpaper removal is tiresome, but after the wallpaper is down, you still have to sand, skim coat, sand again, skim coat again, sand again, prime, paint, sometimes fix, paint again, etc.
- Working on a house together is a relationship tester. And I think we passed. My wife is a planner and a hard-a$$ worker, so I settled into my roll of whatever was needed of me. I know I’m bad at planning but will put my 2 cents in when needed. We did work well together and didn’t have too many times where we wanted to throw up our hands and storm out. These 50 days were certainly stressful at times, but in 18 years, we’ve endured far more!
- My wife is bossy (see #3 above). I say this with all the love in the world….Laura and I were the workers, Lo was the boss. Each night, we’d sit on Laura’s couch (with popcorn) and let Lo lead the “construction meeting”. We sat and listened to the recap on the days’ completed tasks and had to pay rapt attention to tomorrow’s TO DO list. Days that Laura and I were on our own (while Lo was at work), we’d make sure that we had our stories straight about how much work we’d done before Lo got there – conveniently leaving out Dunkin coffee runs and/or “sammich” runs. When Lo pulled in, either Laura or I would shout “LOOK BUSY, THE BOSS IS HERE!”
- You still have children during this work. My boys were very good through this. Now, to be fair, my older son claimed completely helplessness at home renovations and spent 6 weeks on his grandparents’ couch playing Fortnite, while my 8 yr old did really put some major effort into the project. I definitely owe them both a “mystery ride” soon. And my 8 yr may get that acoustic guitar he’s been asking for. But the summer was a bear for them. There was a lot of chaos mixed with total boredom.
- Diversity and inclusion are imperative to us. I struggled even putting this in my list, because I don’t want to be negative about the town we resided in for 1 yr. We moved closer to my work to be able to spend more time together as a family and were excited about living in one of the top 10 best towns and school districts in the state. However, it wasn’t right for us. It was a good town with some wonderful people, but we realized how much we missed our big diverse city that just had a more community and inclusive atmosphere. I don’t think we saw the benefit and need for us to be in Danbury until we left it.
- Moving ain’t easy. I grew up in a military family, with parents who grew up in military families. We picked up and moved from Southern California to Connecticut when my siblings and I were young. Now, as a parent, I think my idea of moving wasn’t that big of a deal. I’ve moved lots of times, what’s the big deal? You make new friends, you adapt, etc. But it’s not that easy and when we looked at the boys’ unhappiness versus the value of my commute….family happiness won. It just wasn’t right for us to leave a place we really felt we belonged. I don’t look at any of this as failure, but as some great experience for all of us. Plus, we did meet some pretty great people along the way.
- Our house is home. Despite the stress and the occasional upending of priorities (like feelings of ignoring my children during this time), we are in the house and everyone is feeling HOME for the first time in well over a year. The boys have shared a bedroom their entire lives and I thought there would be a little adjustment. None at all. They are so happy. We miss our time at Laura’s house, but as I look out the window at our backyard (and the lawn I have to mow), I breathe in deep and appreciate where we’ve been and how we got home.