Making A House A Home

I’ve mentioned before that Mom’s always been a go-getter, someone who often tries to fix or make things herself. She’s no Joanna Gaines, nor are her decorative choices usually on-trend, but Mom is a responsible homeowner. She took care of her house diligently, never afraid to use a little patience and elbow grease before calling in handy reinforcements.

But there came a time when she could no longer figure out how to operate her lawn mower. Appliances started to break unnecessarily. Knobs on the washer and dryer were broken off because she fiddled with them while attempting to remember how they operate. The dishwasher had a shallow pool of water inside it, rendering it out of commission for awhile. The microwave gave up. Her vacuum fell apart. The sliding glass door that separates the dining room from the backyard was stuck shut. The dog had peed on the carpet on a few occasions, but because her sense of smell is greatly diminished (due to Alzheimer’s) and her decreasing attention to detail, she didn’t always clean up the accidents correctly, if at all.

Most telling of all was the disorganization. I’ve always known Mom to be extremely clean and orderly, much more so than myself. When her house started to look a little cluttered and her counters were slowly accumulating dozens of post-it notes and knickknacks, I knew her cognitive abilities were really starting to decline.

In early 2019 I decided to take on a huge project: fix up, remodel, and redecorate Mom’s house.

I started with her kitchen cabinets. With some help from my best friend and her husband I removed all of the doors from the bases, sanded them down a bit, and then painted them a welcoming, homely white. It completely changed the feel of the kitchen, from outdated and disappointing to look at, to bright and cheerfully inviting. The room itself looked bigger. It was exactly the sort of result I was hoping to achieve for the whole house: make it more modern, but keep some personality, and also make each room less dungeon-like. Unfortunately the house is oddly designed and some of the rooms don’t get enough natural light.

I’ve never owned a house or taken on such an extensive project before, so it’s certainly been quite a process. I definitely romanticized it at first. I thought that I’d be spending every weekend at Mom’s so I could tackle the next phase of tasks. Ha. At least my optimism was charming.

Working multiple jobs, being Mom’s sole caregiver, and attempting to navigate (and enjoy) my own life were all huge factors in deflating my grandiose ideas of quick remodeling success. And of course there was the enormous mental health and emotional struggles of taking on more and more responsibilities.

Now that I live with Mom I’ve been able to tackle things around the house a bit more often, but time and patience are challenging when you’re living with a relative with declining health. With each passing month her health fades a little more and I have to take on another handful of tasks for her. Even daily, weekly, or monthly chores don’t always get done in a timely fashion. That’s okay of course because I’m doing my best to juggle it all, but it doesn’t usually feel relaxing to live in a home that I know needs constant managing and attention.

Here I am now in mid-2020 figuring out how to balance everything amidst another natural disaster of sorts. The challenges never end. Such is life I suppose, but damn, this shit is bananas.

Since I started focusing part of my energy toward fixing up and decorating Mom’s house I’ve completed the following:

  1. Repainted most of the kitchen cabinets.
  2. Switched the living room and the dining room.
  3. Had a new roof installed.
  4. Replaced about half of the fencing around her property’s perimeter.
  5. Painted several rooms.
  6. Cleaned walls.
  7. Shampooed carpets.
  8. Sold or donated furniture, clothes, kitchen utensils, etc.
  9. Removed broken blinds and replaced them with light-encouraging curtains.
  10. Landscaped the front and back yards so they look decent, though they need more work.
  11. Added lots of potted plants, indoors in both yards.
  12. Installed a small garden (with some assistance from Your Tiny Farm)
  13. Cleaned and upgraded the patio furniture with seat cushions, an umbrella, and a table cloth.
  14. Organized and de-cluttered Mom’s room.
  15. Organized the existing shelving contents in the garage.
  16. Built additional shelving in the garage.
  17. Added wallpaper to part of one room, as an accent wall, only for the wallpaper to fall off shortly afterward.
  18. Had an awful, illogical ceiling light fixture replaced.
  19. Hired people to fix the bathrooms (new caulking, showerheads, clear drains, etc)
  20. Hired a plumber to unclog the garbage disposal and the dishwasher.
  21. Replaced the microwave, washer, dryer, and oven/stove.

I’m sure I’m forgetting more of what’s been completed, but you get the gist. I tried to incorporate free or second hand items as much as possible. Many of the potted plants (real and artificial) were bought from Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace from people who were moving or downsizing. One lady sold me so many plants at a steep discount that my entire car was stuffed to the brim with various foliage and ceramics pots. I’ve driven all over the county picking up furniture and house décor. I scoured online for months and months, looking for deals on household items I couldn’t afford to buy brand new. I took advantage of free items from friends and work. The cute curtains we’re using currently are from one of the companies that employ me because they remodeled and replaced a lot of features around their facility.

I love learning new skills and trying to do as much work by myself as possible, but I also know my emotional and skill-level limits. I am incredibly grateful for the expertise and financing that was offered to me by my Dad. He has extensive knowledge about many aspects of construction (he’s worked in the industry for decades) which makes him an invaluable source for my never-ending questions and a great person to bounce my ideas off of. I’ve spent plenty of my own money over the years, and continue to without question, but without some help from family it would take me much longer to complete a lot of these to-do list items.

Despite all that’s been completed so far, there’s still much to get done. I’d like to swap the carpets for laminate wood flooring, repaint the exterior of the house, finish landscaping, replace the dishwasher, tackle redecorating and fixing Mom’s bathroom, and purge more unused or unnecessary items, among other things.

I love how things are coming together. It would be lovely to be able to host a housewarming party of sorts, once I finish all of the big changes to the house, but with COVID-19 that may be postponed for quite awhile. For the time being I’ll keep chipping away, doing what I can do learn, and grow, and shed old burdens for new.

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