Thursday, January 3, 2013

DIY Victory

Helper Dog, always ready to turn 35 circles on your drop cloth and be a general pain in the butt.
We've been working on a lot of home improvement projects to make our house really awesome. We had a new driveway poured. We had new flooring laid. We hung curtains. We're picking paint colors.  We're getting quotes for new windows. It's exciting to be expressing ourselves in our living spaces and to take a pride our workmanship and design.

Fireplace mantel before.
When we first bought our house, the draw for me was that we were our own landlords. We didn't have to live in fear of neighbors on the other side of our walls overhearing our plans. We could play loud music and cook stinky foods and change our locks and paint our walls. It was ours. I was first and foremost excited about our freedom, about sticking it to the man, Mr. Landlord.

But now that we've been in this house for over a year? I'm excited that it's ours. I'm excited that people can come over and see what we've done. I feel comfortable knowing that our kids have a place here that's safe to grow in, a place that they will remember as home. They will remember the train tracks that snaked down our hallways, forever a trip hazard. They'll remember loving and hating shoveling our driveway. They'll think about eating "picnic" lunches together out on our deck. The boys will paint and repaint their bedrooms as they change and grow.

In our family photos, our house will always be the faithful backdrop. We'll look back in 20 years and say, "Can you believe you hung those ugly curtains!" "What were we thinking when we bought that couch?" "Whose idea was it to paint THAT colour?"

Every little project I complete makes me feel like this house is more an extension of us. Even if all I've done is hung a toilet paper holder, I look back and think, "I did this." I feel so accomplished when I change something and I get to sit back and admire it, knowing that my own hands have touched it.

Fireplace mantel during.
This feeling is something I didn't expect when we first started house shopping. We bought the house because it made financial sense. It gave us space. It gave us something to show for the money that we parted with each month. It was just the next step in growing up.

What I didn't expect was the attachment. I didn't expect the enjoyment. I didn't imagine I would have so much fun lying in bed at night brainstorming new ways to update the kitchen, fix the ugly cabinets, paint the walls. I guess what I didn't understand was the "pride in ownership" that people talk about.

Fireplace mantel after.
Today I refinished our fireplace mantel. It seems like nothing, right? Really, it is nothing. It was a simple job. But I still put in those hours with my own paint-stained hands.  I spent the afternoon sanding off the shiny outdated varnish. I cleaned up all of the sawdust. I taped off the walls. I painted one coat, two coats, three coats with careful slow brush strokes. When I finally pulled off the painter's tape, I felt like I had just laid a brand new fireplace brick by brick.

It's true that all I did was paint a mantel. It's true that I've got a lot left to do. But at least I did something. It's one step closer to my final end goal. It's one more experience under my belt. One more thing that makes this house ours.

And that just feels so good.

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