File under: what I learned in February.
This story actually began right after Christmas. Or almost exactly three years ago, depending on how you want to look at it.
Right after Christmas, Will and I began “researching” our next family home. Or that was the intention; we bought the first house we looked at.
No surprise here: we weren’t ready. We weren’t ready to pack, or move, and—most of all—we weren’t ready to sell our current home. The one we first made an offer on almost exactly three years ago, the one in a great neighborhood that needed a fair amount of TLC when we bought it.
Right after Christmas, it wasn’t in bad shape—largely because I decided when we moved in that I wouldn’t put off making the changes that would make it feel like home. And we didn’t: we settled in and made it ours; we even made a few big changes along the way.
But it still needed work. I felt like I had a never-ending list of nagging tasks that needed to be done: patching and painting, sanding and trimming, landscaping and locks and broken storm windows, a garage door that wouldn’t always open and a hallway door that wouldn’t always close. The usual homeowner stuff, and so much of it.
That list felt never-ending.
But when we realized we were selling—and soon—we set out to tackle it. (Our newly longer list, actually, because it tends to swell when the realtor is going over your house with a fine-tooth comb.)
We asked around and got a whole bunch of names: somebody’s favorite handyman, another’s favorite window guy, a landscaper who needed work during the winter. A painter, an HVAC pro, an electrician. I feel like I saw everybody.
And that never-ending list? We knocked it out, we did it fast (three weeks, maybe four?) and here’s the real stunner: it wasn’t even that expensive.
The whole point was to get our house ready to sell, and it was. It looked amazing. (Upon my comment that our home never, and I mean NEVER, looked that good for one single day while we lived there, our realtor told us not to beat ourselves up: staging a house is like getting married. Right now she was a bride wearing an expensive dress with fancy hair and professional makeup and flattering lighting, but tomorrow she’d put her blue jeans back on. Such is life, and real estate.)
Back to the list: we didn’t really tackle anything crucial, just the odds and ends we’d been “meaning to do” since we moved in, or even before. Nothing was terribly urgent, so we kept putting those things off. But it felt so good to get it all done, even if we wouldn’t be the ones to enjoy the results.
I told Will: If I had known this was possible, I would have done it years ago.
Those nagging tasks weren’t high priority because they weren’t essential. Nevertheless, I thought about them all the time. Every time I made a quarterly plan, I’d make notes about taking care of some home maintenance. Every time we saw an open-ish weekend on the calendar, we’d talk about if maybe this was the right weekend to paint, or go to Lowe’s, or find a repair company. These small tasks took up headspace. They call them “nagging tasks” for a reason.
Of course, home maintenance isn’t a once-and-done kind of thing. We finished our list, yeah, but if you actually live in a house, that list doesn’t stay done. (If only!) Things break, wear out; white walls get dirty. Stuff keeps coming up; that’s the way it goes.
And yet, I want to remember how good it felt to have that list finished—how good it felt to not have nagging house tasks hanging over my head, for once.
Now we’re in a new-to-us old house that is in pretty darn good shape, but things are going to break, and wear out, and get dirty. We’re going to want to make changes; we’re going to need to make repairs. We’re going to have a list.
And when we do, I want somebody to remind me about that time our list was finished, and how good it felt.
Do you have a list, about your home or house or something completely different? Have you had one in the past? I’d love to hear your experiences, tips, and general musings in comments.