The Homeowner’s Handbook

Rule #1 of owning a home: once you decide to spend money on your house, something will break/explode/leak. Same for spending money on the rest of your life.

Everything is settling down, you’ve saved up to take a trip, and as soon as you hop on a plane, your parents call to let you know the window in the kitchen is leaking water all over the place in your absence.

Last week we called a couple companies to get estimates on fixing up the backyard and woke up the next day to a broken AC unit. I don’t make the rules, but it will happen every time.

A builder told me the cost of metal for the kind of fence we wanted is through the roof right now, the way lumber prices skyrocketed last year, so that’s why the fence we asked about was hella pricey. We contacted our realtor and asked about return on investment for the fence and she said absolutely no way, we would never get a return on that fancy ass fence, so now we are stuck.

The fence would look nice, and it would cover the neighbor’s hideous patchwork fence, but it wouldn’t increase the value of our home. We’re not moving, but I’m always thinking about moving and whether or not we are inviting potential buyers with the changes we make. For example, I chose nicer cabinet latches so that a potential buyer could remove them without wrecking the wood or keep them unlocked if they don’t have kids, or have kids that don’t need to be restrained around the tupperware storage. I’m glad I did that, because now that we don’t need the cabinets to be locked anymore, I don’t have to ruin my cabinets removing them.

My husband has to stop me and ask me occasionally if I am living for the future or for today. Our stove has a griddle that came with the package and it’s complete garbage. The non-stick coating was ruined by a silicone spatula (???) so I said I would replace it, but wait until we decided to move so it would be fresh when a potential buyer came to look at our home. My husband said, “okay, but don’t you want to enjoy a nicer griddle now?” I don’t often think about our home that way, because my whole life I have moved every few years, so as an adult I’m thinking about what’s next.

I plan and make lists and prepare for things that often never occur, but then I look into my son’s face and think, “do I know you? What are you up to these days?” The answer is “endless screen time” because school starts soon and it will be forbidden during the week, but still. Am I paying attention to today?

Moving around opened up fantastic opportunities for me as a kid and young adult. I would not trade those experiences for anything in the world. But now, I don’t want to hang pictures on the walls because maybe we are about to move. My husband doesn’t have that kind of job, really, so it’s not the same situation I had as a kid, but I can’t help thinking we shouldn’t truly break in this house in case we need to relocate (though my kids do not share this philosophy and have made a sustained effort to break as much as possible).

I guess rule #2 of owning a home is to enjoy it the way you want to enjoy it and worry about the future owners later. If you want a red accent wall, you can always repaint it if you want to sell. If you want a privacy fence, install it because you want it, not because it will get you a better selling price. Live for today and not for a future that may never come about.

I have a lot of anxiety about the present and future because I’m sending my kids back to in-person school in a week and a half, and I’m channeling that nervous energy into home repairs. Maybe instead I should take a minute to go count my kids and make sure they’re all still in the house.

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