Staying Put and Scheming about the Future

A couple summers ago, we began considering putting our house up for sale. Driven by a number of factors, one of the most important of which were schooling options for our son, we started cleaning stuff out, sprucing stuff up, and living on Zillow.com. The plan had been to possibly list the house this past spring. That didn’t happen.

We still weren’t in as advantageous a position as we were hoping as the Lansing real estate recovery stalled. The urgency to move was lessened by us finding a good private school we love that isn’t too terribly far away. And then this summer I thought, hey, if we’re probably staying here at least a few more years, why not make some improvements, and thus began the transformation of the sunroom into the cigar room.

Our space and storage issues remain, but some recent scheming has made it plain that it would be possible to stay long term, just as we had originally planned when we moved in. This would mean some thoughtful reconfiguration of rooms, some creative storage solutions, some updates and upgrades around the house, and hopefully (please, please may it be so) some willingness to let go of some STUFF.

We’d like to do some updates in the kitchen, someday I’d really like to replace our deteriorating driveway and squirrel-hotel of a garage, and we’ll have to tackle the issue of closet space when we eventually move our bedroom into the current office. But some of these repairs and changes open up opportunities.

For instance, moving the master bedroom to the main floor got me thinking about adding French doors to the back yard, redoing the upper patio, and having my morning coffee out there. Updating the kitchen will mean adding functionality and style. Moving the boy into our current bedroom will mean he has room for all his STUFF in there and I won’t see it all over my living room. And the small size of his current bedroom, which would become my office and studio space, means it can only be mine and no one else’s stuff will fit in it.

Muahahahahaha!!!!! A room of one’s own, the holy grail of rooms. It almost makes me want to start moving stuff around now.

The decision to stay put for a while has lit our creative spark, which is a good thing. Last month Zach made more custom built-in shelves in the fun room (aka, family room) and a couple days ago we starting scheming about new custom shelves beneath the basement stairs to house all the hiking gear.

I’m sending away a bunch of little-used STUFF from the basement, garage, and yard through liberal use of our area Freecycle group. A number of things I’ve saved over the years “for if we ever have a bigger house” can now be let go of. Things I packed away when I was thinking about showing a house and then moving, well, if I don’t miss them over the next year and they’re nothing of sentimental value, that will be the next wave of stuff to go out to new owners. And if you know me, you know I love getting rid of STUFF.

We may still find that in a few more years we’ll want to move and the opportunity will be just right. If that’s the case, we’ll hopefully have less STUFF to move and an updated house to sell. But in the meantime, we’ll get to enjoy any improvements we’ve made, rather than just doing all that work for the next owners.

Or, maybe the feeling we had when we first saw this house back in 2005 — that we could live here forever — was right all along.

 

Only time will tell.

 

What We Can’t Let Go Of, We Must Store

When one of her daughters gives her a charge — please keep your eyes open for boxes and newspapers — my mother comes through in a way she might never do for anyone else (even herself). A month ago she came to my house to help me go through the kitchen cupboards so I could clean and repaint them while my husband was gone at a conference. We thought we’d pack up anything I don’t use much — fancy serving pieces and vases and such — so that there was less cluttering the cupboards when we list our house.

At that time, she brought a bunch of boxes and two grocery bags full of the Wall Street Journal. As it turned out, neither of us felt like cleaning out the kitchen. We just felt like sitting around and talking. So that’s what we did. All weekend. It was great. And the boxes sat forlornly in a casual ziggurat in the middle of the office.

A week later when I was in New Mexico, my husband and son traveled to the east side of the state and visited Grandma and Gramps. They came home with the back of the Explorer filled with boxes (all of which at one time held about a dozen bottles of wine each…now I’m not judging, but…that’s a lot of wine).*  Those boxes I stacked into a fortress wall in the sunroom.

Now, I still haven’t tackled the kitchen, but I did start boxing up a bunch of stuff in the office, including sewing patterns and my extensive collection of notions, binders full of magazine clippings, fabric, yarn, and some other random stuff. I also boxed up a bunch of gardening supplies, pots, and a few books in the sunroom. I’m cleaning and reorganizing as I go, chipping away at that massive to-do list I created this summer.

And pretty soon, the fun tedious, backbreaking, filthy part: pulling everything out of the attic, hunching over and pushing these boxes the entire length of the house in order to get them in the very back of the attic, going through all the stuff we just pulled out of the attic to see if we can get rid of any of it, and then carefully putting it all back again.

This stuff from the attic, sunroom, and soon the kitchen is just the tip of the iceberg. The part that’s underwater (the 90% you can’t see) is basically my son’s toys (only child — yes, I promised myself it wouldn’t get this way, but it has). We’ll see how much I can move on to new homes before Christmas.

And for some dumb reason I popped onto Zillow today just to see if there were any interesting new listings…and I found a great house in a great, non-flood-plain location, for a good price. So I’m just constantly flipping through the pictures and hoping it won’t sell and that they’ll relist in the spring for a lower price yet. Hey, a girl can dream.

*According to my mother, those are the kind of boxes the grocery store had. Um, yeah, sure.

House Hunting Fever Has Struck

I love looking at houses. I love going to open houses. I love to watch Rehab Addict and, to a lesser extent, shows like Love It or List It and Property Brothers. So to be back in the position of someone who is searching for our next house is really fun. Yes, I scour Zillow during lunch. Yes, Zach and I have made a pretty extensive list of must-haves, would-likes, do-not-likes, and don’t-forget-to-check-fors. Even the boy is in on the hunt. “Does it have hardwood floors?” he asks about every house we view online.

We recently identified a neighborhood and even stumbled upon a house we thought was perfect. We checked off almost everything on our wish list as we roamed the rooms. We sort of fell in love. Then we learned more about 100 year floodplains. Ummm…no. Michigan’s capital city is located at the convergence of two major rivers and a pretty dynamic creek. It’s had major flood events in 1904, 1947, and 1975. I’m not sure I want to press my luck with floodwaters. So, we crossed that neighborhood off our list.

Lansing, like many other larger and older cities, is a patchwork of neighborhoods, some nice and safe, some not so nice or safe, and in almost any given spot on the map, if you go four blocks one way or the other, you can find yourself in completely different neighborhoods. Plus, you never can tell when a neighborhood is on the way up or might take a sudden turn the other way. That makes staying within city limits a dicey proposition. Outside of Lansing, though, it’s harder to find the type of home we want at a price point that will work as we consider sending our son to a private school. Then there’s the matter of everywhere else we go on a regular basis: church, karate, work. You don’t want to be too far away from any of those places that you go several times a week.

While we puzzle out the perfect spot to transplant ourselves, we continue to do the work in our house to get it ready to list. We’ve moved bookshelves, cleaned out files, stowed away hobby items, and started the process of repainting most of the woodwork in the house. There’s a lot of cleaning out to do — the garage, the attics, the basement, the littlest pack rat’s bedroom — and a few bigger improvements to consider, like kitchen countertops and a new garage door opener.

Lucky for me, I finding purging, cleaning, and painting to be cathartic.