The Home Stretch

Our new home is the biggest joint project Mr. WholeHog and I have taken on since our wedding three years ago, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that our remodel reminds me of wedding planning.

Like wedding planning, the work on our new home has taken over our lives. We don’t think about what we want to do these days, we think about what we need to do. Our scraps of free time together (which, since I work weekdays and Mr. WholeHog works weekends, includes: late weekend afternoons and a few weekday evenings) are usually spent running remodel-related errands. Often, we’ll meet a plumbing store on my lunch break, or I’ll pick him up after work on Saturday and we’ll try to get to a store before it closes. “At least we don’t have to go to open houses anymore,” Mr. WholeHog points out.

We’re back to negotiating what I like, what Mr. WholeHog likes, and what we can actually afford. And as with weddings, what we can afford is often different than we’d expected (I was shocked to learn that faucets can cost thousands of dollars). Even when we choose items that seem reasonably priced, all those reasonably priced things add up to a sum I can’t really wrap my head around.

There are times when the time, the cost and the stress of the remodel overrides my enthusiasm for it — another way this project is like planning a wedding. There are days when it feels like a very long time ago that I felt thrilled about owning our first home.

And especially during these low periods, I’ve found that I can be awfully sensitive to other people’s off-hand comments. I got defensive when a coworker expressed his shock that we hadn’t moved in yet. Did he really want to know what these past months have been like? I wondered. Did he want to hear about how we struggled to cut costs when the bid came in over budget? Or about the delicate balance of trying to fix the existing issues without adding new problems? Did he know about SF’s complicated permit process?  The structural issues of working on a multi-unit building? The asbestos? The setbacks?

As with weddings, it seems like everyone’s done a remodel before and has an opinion about how it should be done. “Why is it taking so long?” another coworker asked me. He’d redone a bathroom before, he said, and it had only taken a few days to complete. Why was ours taking weeks? I had no idea. Having never been through a remodel before, I don’t know if I’m doing it “right.”

Although there are days when our new house seems like The Money Pit and when it seems like the work it requires will never be done, and although the work has given me a better appreciation for the places for sale that had updated kitchens and bathrooms, when I stop by our place to see how the work is progressing, I’m reminded of all the things I like about it. I still like the layout. I still like the views and all the light it gets. I’m still looking forward to having a little extra room, to living on the top floor rather than in the middle unit, to pushing a button to start the dishwasher rather than first having to roll the dishwasher over to the sink and connect it to the faucet. As with wedding planning, even though the planning process is overwhelming and not particularly fun, the commitment still feels right.

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