Brent Olson: Making the most out of the older home | Living the Country Life
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Brent Olson: Making the most out of the older home

We live in the house my great-grandparents built. Some day, I'll forgive them. I mean, really, what were they thinking? I know Great-Grandma Marie didn't have an extensive wardrobe, but does that mean she didn't need one closet? And the bathroom is barely big enough to turn around in.

When we first moved here 26 years ago, we decided we would remodel one room each year until the whole house was done. We started with the kitchen and by the time it needed to be remodeled again, we still had two rooms in their original incarnation. That may seem like bad planning on our part, but we had simply forgotten to include in our plan the distractions and destructions caused by raising three children, as well as the necessity of pausing in our remodeling efforts to earn a living.

Since we've been engaged in nonstop remodeling efforts for a little over a quarter of a century, here are some tips that might help make the process less stressful for you. OK, that's not true. It'll be stressful no matter what you do. But if you follow my advice you have a 50-50 chance of still being married when your house is all done.

Excuse the mess; we're remodeling

First, embrace the labor-saving advantages of living in a house that's being remodeled. You can have an industrial vacuum cleaner in the living room and a gas-powered pressure washer on the porch, and no one will bat an eye.

In addition, remember this phrase: Excuse the mess; we're remodeling. Yeah, that's right, repeat after me: Excuse the mess; we're remodeling.

Do you realize that the entire time you're in the midst of a remodeling project you never have to actually clean your house? Oh sure, you might want to get the underwear out from under the coffee table and hose off the dishes every now and then, but no dusting, polishing, or waxing need be done. You're remodeling, so a mess is not only allowed, nay, it is expected. Forget about carrying the trash out or sorting the recyclables. That's what the big blue dumpster is for. You know -- the one that's parked up against the back door. Sure, you tell people it's for old plaster and wallpaper, but there's plenty of room for pizza boxes and soup cans.

Oh, we're grouting

There's more. You don't have to cook. Are you afraid that the clerk at the convenience store will look at you with scorn because for the third night in a row you pick up chicken drummies and some other deep-fried brown lumps for supper? Just throw on some dirty jeans and a flannel shirt, smear a streak of spackling across your forehead, and get your food guilt free. "Oh, we're grouting, and I just couldn't take time to cook." That's all you need to say. Of course, it's probably a lie. You're just going to go home and watch trashy TV with your feet propped up on a roll of insulation, but nobody has to know.

You can pass on personal grooming, too. Forget manicures and complicated hairstyles -- there's no need. If someone in your office dares to utter a word of criticism, you've got the high ground. One comment about your grubby fingernails and you can pat the offender gently on the cheek and say, "Some of us here work for a living, and some of us worry about our nails."

Of course, there is a downside to perpetual remodeling. When your guest bathroom is a Port-a-Pot and your daughter has to hang her prom dress from a bent nail pounded into a 2x4, you may experience moments of frustration with the process. That's when you go back to your mantra: Excuse the mess; we're remodeling. Then throw that dust cloth away.

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