Working With What You Have

I read a quote somewhere about what is holding us back a lot, as a society trying to survive and recover from a bad economy, is holding onto ideals of  “before.”  How the world worked “before”. How I did things “before.” But “before” is then.  Like it or not we have to do things differently now. I’ve been thinking about this lately in terms of household maintenance.

Ten years ago I made lots of money and my favorite thing to spend it on was my house. At one point everything in it was brand new and I had a plan for updating things, from the candles on the tables to the shingles on the roof – we were on a schedule. But then we had kids. And I lost my business. Then my husband’s employer (the auto industry!) took a bad turn and our income was further reduced.  We have been scaling back for years and the first things to go on the back burner were things around the house. As a realtor I have seen this happen to many houses, but didn’t realize it was happening to mine – until I did.

I was feeling a little depressed to begin with – just not having any spare money – no going to the movies or splurging once in awhile on the kids. Another summer passed without a vacation, the fridge and pantry were empy, car was on empty, and laundry was piled up – just one of those days that you feel like you’re “failing at life.”  (thanks to my good friend Ames for putting a name on it for me and assuring me I’m not the only one who feels it occasionally.) And I sat there and looked around the house. One flaw led me to another. Walls that needed painting, a torn shower curtain, missing trim, stuffing falling out of the couch cushions, towel bar dangling in the bathroom, outdated furnishings, appliances,  and fixtures… the list went on and on.  I had put everything off until “later.” But at that moment it hit me that I have no idea when that “later” is going to come.

So whereas I had previously thrown my hands in the air and said, “Nothing I can do here,” I made a list of the things I COULD do that would make an impact on the care and appearance of my home.  I replaced the torn shower curtain and hounded hubby til he fixed the shower bar. I washed the walls in the heavy traffic area that were such an eyesore. I wanted to freshen up my bathroom rugs but couldn’t afford that right now so I traded them out between bathrooms and some older ones that were still in good shape.  I really need new furniture but that’s a while down the road yet. I did come up with the idea though, that changing out a couple lighting fixtures would really update the appearance at a much smaller price.

Our house was built with the ugliest brass lighting fixtures. My decor is based on silvers. We were replacing the tacky fixtures one by one but never got around to the one in the hallway.  I had originally had trouble finding one in the silver family that looked good in there because of the size of the hall and the oak trim. But I found this super cool simple light that the silver I like with a lit bit of brown that really popped with the oak trim, online at this place called Murray Feiss lighting. I wanted to show you the old one and the new one because I like it so much but WordPress is being funky right now and will not upload pictures. Maybe later :)

All these little things have taken place over the span of months and it didn’t happen right away, but suddenly – I don’t feel like I live in a foreclosure any more.  And I haven’t had to spend a lot of money.  Alot of times it was just elbow grease, once I got it out of my head that “fixed” didn’t have to mean “new.”

So what I am trying to impress to you today is to let go of what you think you should be doing and where you think you should be, and simply take care of where you are what you’ve got.  You will be amazed how you start to see things differently.


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