Thursday, January 28, 2016

Where to Start When You are a Home Improvement Newb

I think I've mentioned we are refinancing our house--and are just days away. I'm so flipping excited.

Two weeks ago I watched an appraiser walk through our house and take photos. No come to Jesus experience like readying your house for its best look. As you are scrubbing bathrooms and painting cabinets you see things as they are: the improvements and what's lacking too.

My mind is always focused on everything else we need to do--and fresh off a season with baby twins, that is an overwhelming list. I was seriously looking at the list just now and my eyes about crossed. But going through the appraisal process helped me see that I have done work on this home and that I've learned a few things about home improvement since we moved in five years ago. Started from the bottom. Now I'm here.

Here are my very humble and amateur suggestions for anyone who might be reading and feel like their home improvement skill-set is flirting with absolute zero. These are things I would lovingly grab you by the shoulders and tell you to do. I've been there. I feel ya. These things are huge!

+  Get an estimate

This one should be in all caps. I can't stress this enough. Estimates. Estimates. Estimates. They are free. They are quick. They are only a call away. I have learned so very much from the men who have come in and given us estimates for projects. This is their area of expertise, so they drop knowledge about your roof or your fence or your plumbing that you wouldn't even know to ask, you didn't even think to worry about. Knowledge is power. I've gotten estimates that were so surprisingly cheap for projects that I couldn't do (new circuit) or were taking me (that blasted never ending brush pile) and I was able to jump on those things immediately. Other estimates have helped us manage our money or attention in a more organized way. We have a sober understanding of what it costs to replace things because we've talked to so many individuals who have explained those things to us.

+  Ask for help

Ask for specific help. My friend, Natahle, took the time to show me how to "cut in" with paint (rather than use that awful painter's tape) and explained exactly what brushes to use and how to care for them. She came to my house to help me pick out a paint color (I typically pick out colors that are much brighter and bolder than what I actually want) and even painted a room with me. When I go to Lowe's I ask all the questions. I have no shame. Maybe I should, but I don't. I don't have time to worry about what it looks like to be asking about the difference between two light bulbs that look the same. I just go right for it, and the information I get is so helpful. I also hit up YouTube on the regular. If I see awesome projects, decorations, etc. at a friend's house, I just simply asked her how she did it. My cousin, Michele, just walked me through how to pick out curtains, the measurements to work with when hanging them, and where to buy them. She even explained why she picked out the styles that she did considering different elements already in the room. And this was just in maybe 5 or 10 minutes. Don't hesitate to ask questions. People love empowering you and seeing you have fun with your home too. Likely, they remember the days when they cut the caulk too wide or painted an entire room in a color they ended up not liking.

+ Ask your spouse to pull looks (and pull looks for yourself)

I know Pinterest can often spell disaster. Craft projects and cutesy party platters are often a bust for me. But if you and your husband (or just maybe you yourself) can't get your ish together on what style you want to banner your house with--Pinterest can be an incredible tool to build the same language and have a safe 3rd party. You can talk all day about modern or colorful or industrial light bulbs, but I think it is in peering together at photos that compromise and a happy meeting is struck. What do you like about this room? That's a great question! Just so we are clear--my house does not have a cohesive look. We've got some colorful. Some traditional. Some boy-somebody-needs-a-vision-here. But to try and understand where your spouse is coming from, I think looking at someone's else's already work is a better start than shouting in your living room about how you've never like that stupid couch anyway.

+  Tackle the thing you hate most

If I reached through the screen right now and handed you a magical wand that had the power to instantly transform one thing in your home, what would you take that wand to? What's that one thing in your house that makes just...ugh. You have visions of taking it outside and lighting it on fire. No? That's just me? Okay, well I know we need to be financially smart and sometimes slow to do things, but maybe this year give yourself the push to tackle that one thing that really really you secretly hate. Last year that thing was removing a cabinet in our kitchen that was blocking our counter. I feel like these worst things are like clogs in our home. Rip out the clog and things start flowing in the right direction again. You feel freed up and you'll find your energy multiplied like magic.

+  Earn a small win

Don't underestimate how much a fresh coat of paint (maybe you even already have that on hand) or new handles for your drawers can make you feel. No matter how much you don't know how to do, there are likely already resources on hand or projects you already know how to do within an arm's reach. With each small project you do, allow yourself to feel good about yourself in this area. One time I was running a 5k last year and as I was awkwardly laboring through the last mile I kept saying to myself "I'm doing the thing. I'm not thinking about doing the thing. I'm doing it right now." Does that sound pretty dumb? Well, it works for me. Sometimes we think so much about what we would love to do with our home one day... but when you are changing out those light bulbs or spray painting your ceiling fan or organizing a closet you are doing it. It doesn't have to be big. It can just be one thing this week and you are doing it. Small wins will take you there.

+  Be you. Be content. Enjoy the process. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I value financial freedom about a thousand times more than a room that is "perfect" or even photo ready. I mean. We took five years before replacing our curtains, so that speaks for itself, especially if you saw those wooden blinds in our bedroom. There's always going to be more to do. You've gotta be okay with that. There's no finish line for a home. It's all about making an efficient, warm, welcoming and happy environment.  And that does not equal newly stained floors just because so and so said you should. I find contentment so incredibly fascinating and I find people who are content even more so. Of course we should make things better. Of course we should strive for beauty. But not so much so that we are scrambling to please or anxious about the bank statements. The best homes I've ever been in were those that had nice people in them. And I mean that 100%.

* * * * * 

I have a long list of small and larger projects that I'm tackling this year, and I'm so excited! I love trying my hand at things that are new to me. Home improvements and decorating are definitely out of my comfort zone, but I like making mistakes and learning as I go. It's so fun to see a vision materialize, ideas come to life!

What have you found to be helpful in improving your home? What projects are you working on right now or looking forward to doing this year?

I plan on smoothing out my sunroom's popcorn ceiling... we shall see how that goes.

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