Everyone makes sacrifices when they buy their first home. Sometimes you get a handyman special so you can get into a more desirable neighborhood. Sometimes you sacrifice space for architectural character. And sometimes you wonder “what were we thinking?” as you trip over your coffee table/linen chest for the nineteenth time and long for your previous home; a rather large apartment with ample closet space and a stellar NYC view. Most likely it’s a combination of factors that leaves you wondering if entering into the realm of home ownership wasn’t a bad idea.
I don’t think anyone can ever be one hundred percent sure of how their life is going to fit into someone else’s house. Perhaps if you design it from the foundation up and have an unlimited budget you will know but most of us don’t. We certainly didn’t have any idea what we were going to be facing when we bought our house. I knew it was going to be a tight fit. I knew there was going to be less closet space. I knew this… but I knew it was the right house from the first time I saw it on Realtor.com and kept going back to the listing again and again. We knew from the very first time we saw the house in person, even before we went inside. And we knew it was our house when my daughter declared, “I want to live here” for the first time since we started looking for a house.
We did not have time to really analyze and ease into our space. With our lease ending and pre-school, new employment, and frigid February weather to think about, we just shoved our things into our new house as fast as we could. Where we put our things was dictated by where the previous owner had put her things. The problem was that while she was the single occupant, we are a family of three.
In retrospect I can now identify the things that contributed to my new house malaise:
- Even though my family moved us around a lot when I was younger, I had been in my Brooklyn apartment for almost ten years and had forgotten what it’s like to move to some place new.
- The entire home buying process was not unlike being stuck in a horror movie, where the characters are at the mercy of a deranged psycho.
- My house looked like a Trading Spaces project where someone had gotten “artsy.”
- My stuff did not fit into the new layout efficiently even though I had left half of it back in Brooklyn .
Stressed out and thrust into new financial responsibility and a design-challenged environment, I felt completely disorientated. Once the initial mayhem had passed and we settled into a routine, we felt a little depressed because things in the new house just felt off balance and I expected instant gratification.
For us, the first step was to paint. There are thousands of colors out there and I think no matter what, every one ends up having a completely unique palette in their home. Even people who keep their walls white will mostly likely not have the same textiles or objects d’art. I am always amazed at the millions of homes in the world and at the diversity. Painting our house lifted our spirits but didn’t make our house feel like our house as much as we had hoped and painting the entire house in four weeks didn’t exactly decrease our stress level. Again, no instant access to domestic nirvana.
The next step has been a slower process, one we didn’t start until we had been in the house for six months. I was sitting on the sofa complaining about how small our living room is and my husband, who is very good with space management, said, “That’s it, we’re rearranging the furniture.” And we did. And it looks much better. A few weeks later we sat in our bedroom and chatted a bit about what we didn’t like, got the tape measure and started to move everything. Again, it’s a big improvement. Rearranging our spaces has been the process we’ve taken the most time with and surprise, surprise, it’s just the thing we needed to do to bond with our house.
So after eight months, 14 gallons of paint, 27 and a half trips to Home Depot, Lowes and IKEA, several minor injuries, countless take-out dinners, and one stoop sale, our house finally feels like our house.