Easy fixes

We’ve lived in our house for almost two years, and I finally feel like it’s starting to come together. This is the first time I’ve owned a home, and before we moved in I’d done very little decorating and no DIY renovation. Without a permanent home, it wasn’t worth my time or money. My dad, however, did plenty of work on our rentals over the years. He was very handy, but sadly he passed away unexpectedly, and I never got the chance to learn his skills.

I’ve been so focused on big picture updates, that I’ve neglected the small things that bug us, either aesthetically or functionally. Painting the interior of the entire house was hard work, so I was worn out and overlooked easy fixes that could be done in a matter of minutes. Now that I’m (hopefully) done painting, I’ve realized that easy fixes can make a big difference. It’s a great feeling when you spend a few minutes on something and it looks or works better, without a huge time or money commitment!

Easy fix number one:  the prior owner of our house hung faux bamboo shades on the French doors leading to our backyard.  They are nice looking doors (or they were until a weed-wacking incident, but that’s a story for another time) and our yard is private, so covering them wasn’t necessary. But we kept those ugly shades for months! Then one day I climbed on a dining room chair (didn’t even take the time to get a step-ladder) and unscrewed them. It took all of 10 minutes. Our dining room was immediately brighter and the ugly shades were gone forever!

I’m embarrassed it took so long for us to do another easy fix. We only had one garage door remote and couldn’t get the opener to pair with our car’s Home Link system. So, thinking I would have to install a whole new garage door opener, which I was too frugal/busy to do, Chase and I alternated weeks having the remote. Some days he would take it when it wasn’t his turn and I would be annoyed since I had to get out of the car to open the door. Even Clay would tease Chase about taking it on my day. We did this for 20 months! Then I decided to check Amazon for a second remote. I searched for two minutes before finding one that looked like ours. It was $18, with no tax and free two-day shipping, thanks to Amazon Prime. We held it up to the receiver for 30 seconds, and our days of remote wars were over. Well, for the garage remote anyway…sometimes I just need a break from MLB Network!

Our most recent easy fix was Sunday, when I decided to remove the reverse osmosis water tank under our kitchen sink. We never hooked up the system because we get Culligan water and didn’t see the point in spending extra money. The tank took up an entire cabinet, which in our small kitchen, is a lot of space. I was storing our cleaning supplies in the garage, but wanted to move them into the kitchen. I figured it couldn’t be that hard to disconnect, which it wasn’t. But the minute I unhooked it, it was like a fire hydrant, shooting water up to the ceiling and across the room. Fortunately I covered it with my hand and ran outside before causing any real damage. So if you count the time I spent drying the kitchen, it took about 10 minutes. If I’d turned off the valve properly, it would have taken 30 seconds. It was a soggy process, but I was able to move our cleaning supplies to a more accessible location and free up some space on my garage shelves.

There is a good chance that if he were still alive, my dad would be doing our house projects for us. Not only was he good at them, but he enjoyed doing it. I’m learning to like it too, and I always think how proud he’d be when I finish something.  Even something as easy as pulling down ugly blinds. And I can just see him laughing at me for nearly flooding my kitchen!

Lunch time errands run amok

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I ran to Target at lunch to return a few things and thought while I was there, I would get Avery a Puddle Jumper Swim Vest for our pool party tomorrow. My returns totaled $29 and the vest was on sale for $15. Which was great, except on the way to find the vest, I came across throw pillows and other house stuff that match our new decor. So 15 minutes and $150 later, here I am…I’m sure I will return half of it though!

DIY house projects

I am certain this will not be my last post about DIY house projects, but I read a post today on one of my favorite sites, Daily Worth, that sparked my interest. The post discussed projects I haven’t (and probably wouldn’t )attempted such as making your own laundry detergent. Sometimes it is hard to tell if doing things yourself really saves you money, if you account for the time and effort spent. 

I struggle with this question a lot. Our house is a cookie-cutter suburban tract home. Complete with the postage stamp lot and high homeowners’ fees. The kind of house I naively said (pre-kids) I would never buy. But it has good schools and parks and our friends live nearby. So here we are. The house was built in 2003 and the previous owner was a single woman. She had occasional roommates (which explains the scuffed up baseboards), but living alone makes it hard to keep up on home maintenance. She did some landscaping, then never tended to the plants or grass again. She painted two bathrooms in very odd colors, then presumably decided painting was too much work and left the rest of the walls in the house the icky builder’s white color. She paid to have the floors upgraded and the appliances are nice stainless steel, but she elected for the cheap-looking light maple kitchen cabinets. So there was work to be done when we moved in.

The problem arose when I realized how much simple things like painting cost. $600 to paint one room? $2,500 to paint the kitchen cabinets? I could buy a gallon of Benjamin Moore “Ben” paint for $38 at Ace Hardware. Throw in some brushes and other materials and I am still saving a ton of money if I do it myself. So I did. I painted all three bedrooms one weekend. I painted one bathroom per night the following week. And then I was tired. I was staying up late painting like a crazy person. I do my projects when my kids are in bed, so starting at 7:30 p.m. makes it pretty easy for the clock to hit midnight before I’m done. And waking up at 5:00 a.m. for work, it wasn’t enough sleep. So I took a break. And said I would hire someone to do the rest of it. Then a few months later I did the loft, hallway and bathroom cabinets, saying I would pay someone to do the kitchen cabinets and downstairs. Then I did pay someone, but that was to install new carpet upstairs, not to paint. After this I really wanted the kitchen/dining/family room done. I didn’t have the money to do it right then, and I am not patient. So back I went to Ace Hardware and Home Depot. It took about a  month between the cabinets and the walls. It drove my husband crazy. But I saved around $3,000.

Before cabinets

After cabinets, but before the walls were painted.

In the 22 months we’ve lived in our house, I’ve repainted all 1,700 square feet. Plus some ceilings and trim; bathroom, hall and kitchen cabinets. It took a while, but didn’t take time away from my kids. It took time away from relaxing at night with my husband, but he forgave me. It looks like a whole new house. I am happy I took the time to do it, rather than waiting a year or putting it on a credit card. That being said, I am not painting again for a while. Or at least until I decide how to decorate Avery’s toddler room. I’m thinking purple instead of pink…