We bought a house six and a half years ago. We bought it as a foreclosure and Tommy and my dad fixed it up. They removed wall paper. They painted every room in the house. They pulled out carpet. They refinished the hardwood floors. It was amazing.
It was amazing to me how much we saved on the house just by doing the work “ourselves” (I’ve never done much in the fixing up realm, so by “ourselves”, I absolutely mean Tommy.) But, we bought this house with a huge caveat. We were going to redo the kitchen and expand it….at some point.
This brings me to my first tip for buying a first home. Compromise. Yes, compromise. Compromise on what you think you need. Give yourself a challenge, and save on your housing budget. It has paid off for us in so many ways having a lower house payment even though our house was quite a “fixer” when we first bought it. And yes I have quite a love hate relationship with that kitchen, but I’m so grateful for the shelter that this home has given us and the lessons that I’ve learned about space and storage and efficiency.
Once we moved in, our family started to grow (actually I was already pregnant with Ava when we moved in). Not only was she born while we lived in this house, but she was born IN this house. Right in our bedroom. Right in our bed. That is just one of the thousands of memories that are so precious to me about this home.
As the years started to pass, we got busier. The girls and I started attending a preschool co-op. I started to work part time. Tommy took on an extra job and we paid off our debt except for the mortgage.
At around the 4 year mark in our house, we did one last project “ourselves”. We finished our basement. And by we, I certainly mean that Tommy, my brother-in-law, and my dad did it for my birthday one year. This gave us an incredible amount of living space at our house.
There were certainly big things we had to have done like cutting down a tree in the back yard, buying a new furnace, putting a new roof on.
And then we had the twins. I should mention just for the sake of full disclosure that the new roof got finished JUST in time for us to have twins.
In between times when I would get frustrated with our kitchen or other areas of our house I would reorganize and rearrange the furniture. A friend lovingly told me once that I rearrange furniture more than anyone she knows. I would do a huge purge and reorganize, and rearrange and it would be better. Another friend has always recommended to me, and I think it’s fabulous advice, to clean your house from top to bottom before deciding you need a new one. And so that’s how I have normally satisfied myself. I purge and clean out, and the problem areas get better.
Honestly a kitchen remodel with structural changes has just never been in the budget or in our schedule. And then…. late this past summer we started talking seriously about doing a kitchen remodel. It was going to be smaller in scope than I had hoped, but it was time and we just needed to do it. The house had been cleaner and more organized for months, and things were not getting better.
My heart sank every time I needed to go into the kitchen, and I was probably more attuned to this from my Marie Kondo style purging, but also things were falling into disrepair. The cabinets and stove really have just served their purpose as the KonMari method would tell me.
It was a pretty dramatic day when I finally just told Tommy that I needed a new kitchen (it’s not easy to just come out and say what you need.) So we gathered my measurements of the kitchen and my plans that I’d been storing away for “someday” and went to ikea to price cabinets. Then we got an estimate from a contractor to see if we could actually afford to do it. As we talked, it became obvious what a huge undertaking these changes were going to be. Months of living in construction. And in the end, I was concerned that it wasn’t going to be quite what I wanted. We had a limited budget and the structural limitations of having a load bearing wall between the kitchen and dining room.
AND, although we have a large amount of living space overall, the heart of this home, the living room, dining room, and kitchen are quite small for our growing family, and feel very cramped when we have guests over.
I’d been circling around the answer for a long time. Tommy and I tend to be scrimpers. We make do with what we have. We don’t buy new furniture. We don’t buy new clothes. We pretty much only spend money on the necessities or little luxuries like going out to eat. Except for gifts. But, we spend so much time in our home. Especially me. I can count many many weeks where I barely leave the house except to take the children to school or activities.
The answer finally dawned on me that the nicest and best thing that we could do for ourselves was to buy ourselves a new house, one that feels like it hugs me when I walk into the kitchen. And so I guess I’m also saying that at some point the compromise has to stop. At some point it’s good to just buy the house you need and stop trying to make a bad fit work out. So there you have it, my conflicting advice for deciding when and if you should move.
It hurts my heart to think of moving from this house where so many of our family’s memories were made, but it is just a house. The house isn’t the memories. We get to take those with us.