I’ve lived in my house for over 12 years now, and for that entire time nothing has worked. Ok, maybe not nothing, but a lot. My house is nearly a hundred years old and basically it’s slowly crumbling to the ground with each passing day. It’s almost like ancient ruins only we live here. And we can’t get back on our tour bus and return to our luxury hotel with all the amenities like heat and electricity.
My house is a bungalow dating to the 1920’s, and when we bought it 7 months after the birth of our first child, it looked fairly similar to a condemned building. In fact, shortly after we moved in but before we had a chance to do any work other than what was required by law to bring it up to code, I interviewed babysitters at the house as I was, at that point, still gainfully employed and desperate to find childcare after having just moved from one state to another and given a week in which to arrange for the safe and secure care of my infant with virtual strangers. One of the babysitters, a grandmaish, Jamaican woman who didn’t drive and was instead chauffeur by her husband in a rusting, old jalopy, approached the house and remarked, “Oh, I wasn’t sure this was the right place. It didn’t look like anyone lived here.”
Does that give you a sense of what we’re dealing with here?
For me and my husband the house was a coup. We were ecstatic when we finally landed our home because it came after a more than year-long search with two different real estate agents launched prior to the birth of our daughter and concluded afterward with a little hiatus in between because we were both exhausted by the mental and emotional scaring of the search and because I had to give birth sometime although I’m sure my husband would have fled the hospital room had a really nice property come on the market.
Most of that more than year-long search wasn’t because we didn’t find anything. It was because we couldn’t afford anything. Every single weekend we bid on a house, and every single weekend we were out-bid. This was during the early years of the real estate bubble, but at the time we thought we were buying at the height of the housing market because that’s what everyone thought in the first decade of the new millenium. The prices never seemed to stop climbing, and fear was rampant that if you didn’t buy today you wouldn’t be able to afford it tomorrow. As it turned out, we didn’t buy at the height of the bubble. The inflated prices went up for several more years. So, as it wasn’t actually the height of the market, and we bought a fixer-upper in the true sense of the word, we actually made out alright. Of course, we didn’t have heat or operational windows, but you can’t have everything.
And the house hasn’t changed much since. Alright, that’s not entirely accurate because we did refinish all the hardwood floors ourselves, and we replaced all the windows except for the original ones along the front of the house. I couldn’t give them up. I don’t care if they are sealed shut and completely uninsulated so that in winter the temperature drops to near freezing in the living room.
We also gutted the bathroom, which was mandatory if I was to actually occupy the house. But a lot of renovations remain, which is what brings me to my list today.
Before we get into that, though, let me just note that from the day we closed on this house my husband has been searching for another one. That’s over a decade of searching. He most definitely would qualify as a real estate agent by now if he ever wanted to make a career change, and I think perhaps he should because realty really seems to be his passion in life.
Sadly, after all that time he never did find his dream home, and while my home sounds practically medieval, it has a ton of character, which I will – and have – suffered for. But now it seems we find ourselves at a breaking point. There are some things for which even character can’t compensate. Here are those things.
- We have NO insulation. That is not hyperbole. It’s truth. It’s me, plaster, and the 20 degree temperatures on the other side of the wall in the dead of winter. I can actually tell the weather conditions outside by the weather conditions inside. I know when a cold north wind is blowing by the gail force winds blowing through my living room.
- We have no air conditioning. This isn’t terribly important to me as I don’t really like air conditioning, but there are certain occasions that call for it, and on those occasions like in the middle of the 2012 heat wave, I’d like to have access to a little cool air. My neighbor has central air, and when I told her I might have to use her house as a cooling station, she suggested I open up all of the many windows in my house to get a cross breeze, which brings me to my next point.
- The front windows of the house are sealed shut. ALL. Sealed shut. Unfortunately, there is no breeze in my house unless it’s wintertime. That means the entire front half of my house has no operating windows, and even if they were operational they’re still on a rope and pulley system so if I tried to open them, the ancient, frayed rope would undoubtedly snap in half and send the window crashing down, shattering into a million pieces.
- We have no heat in the kitchen. As you might remember from my Husband Shaming post, we have radiators, and the one in the kitchen doesn’t work. It took 10 years for my husband to get around to telling me it could be fixed. I guess it slipped his mind. So we called in a plumber and had it fixed, but it still doesn’t work properly, and it’s freezing in there.
- My kitchen has 5 doors in it. And it’s not a large room. I know you think this is impossible, but I can assure you it’s not. One door to the pantry, one to the dinning room, one to the basement, one to the attic, and one, most remarkably, to the bedroom. Odd, I know, but quite handy for midnight snacks.
- Every kitchen accessory, food item and supply we use in daily, ordinary kitchenly duties is stored in the pantry, and ever since I forced my husband, after a lifetime of living without, to buy a mini-size, special-order, portable dishwasher because a normal one won’t fit in our kitchen, access to the pantry has been blocked.
- Some of our electrical wires are still the old knob and tube. I have no idea what this means except that it’s bad, possibly illegal and my house is on the verge of burning down at any moment. Also, it means that every time a light blows out, it will not be replaced. Currently, we have no light in the hallway, my son’s room and half the dinning room. I need to move out or get my house renovated quick before we are living in complete darkness.
- We don’t have an upstairs, but we do have a spacious attic, and I’ve always dreamed of an upstairs where I could run and hide from my kids. My kids are way too lazy to make a trek up a flight of stairs to annoy me. I would be safe there.
- We don’t have practical, functional access to the back yard. We have to squeeze between the kitchen table and the counter, pass through two narrow doors and down a short flight of steps to make it to the backyard, and we like the backyard. We frequently bbq, and we eat outdoors almost every night in the summertime. So as you might have surmised this is a serious pain in the ass.
- I don’t have an office. Well, I don’t have a proper office, and I really, really, really need a real office because when your office is set up smack in the middle of the house everyone always thinks you’re just hanging out and up for chatting. They also think it’s perfectly acceptable to shout or sing or trample or wrestle straight through your office because your office is actually the dinning room.
But, people, I’m here to tell you I am standing on the precipice of a whole, new life, one I can hardly imagine. After years and years and years, we have finally hired an architect.
I am going to chronicle the (hopefully dramatic and unbelievable) transformation of my house for you and as a scientific study to show future generations how people used to have to live.
I wish I could show you a picture of our home when we bought it, but I don’t have it on my computer. We bought our home before digital photography took off, but don’t worry. I’ll have my husband scan the few pictures we do have, and I’ll post it with the many more house post to come because you really have to see the before and after photos to have a full appreciation and understanding of the transformation that’s about to take place.
Like this? Find even funnier stuff in I STILL JUST WANT TO PEE ALONE, the third installment in The New York Times best-selling series from some of the funniest women on the web. What I’m trying to say is, I’m in this book. Buy it, ok? Available on Amazon, Kindle, iTunes and Barnes and Noble. I will love you forever.
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