The fourth day Our Little House was on the market, an offer was made. It was a bit below asking but otherwise seemed solid. After two weeks of us feeling like our worries might be gone, the buyer got cold feet and withdrew her offer.
These things happen, and we tried not to take it personally, but our house had been in escrow during the most active purchasing window the area had seen this summer. Then it got hot. Not the market. The weather. Heat wave after heat wave. The market dried up like our drought-stricken ground. Then there was a wildfire that never really threatened the house, but for safety's sake, still called for evacuations. It's been a bit of a struggle, and paying two mortgages each month has made me feel a bit defeated. It felt like my Charles and I had the worst timing possible for listing.
There are plenty of stories of the roller coaster ride of selling a house, which is why we felt so blessed when we got an offer right away. It felt like it was vindication for all of the years of hard work we'd put into the Little House. When that offer was no longer on the table, there may have been a few days of fighting down a panic. It's been really tough. I cringe when people ask about the house. It's sucked a lot of joy -- though not all of it -- out of settling into our cozy Periwinkle Cottage. And our poor bank account is another concern.
It's still the summer, and buyers are still out there. Keep your fingers crossed for a strong escrow for us soon!
Miss part one of this story? Read it here. Part two is here.
We decided to list the pros and cons of purchasing the manufactured house versus staying at our current home. There were a lot of pros for the manufactured home. We decided to think about it.
A week or two passed. I kept thinking about the land, how quiet it was. Charles was concerned about how shady a lot of the land was and how much money would need to be invested to make the place move-in ready, but maybe it was worth buying? It was over 30K cheaper than everything else we were seeing out there.
Our realtor called, letting us know there was a newer manufactured home for sale that she was representing. Would we be interested in checking it out, maybe tack on a couple other houses to view while we were at it?
The house our realtor was representing was nice. It had a spot for a garden, but it was right on the outskirts of town, so it was in a neighborhood, the neighboring houses in view at all times. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about ourselves, it’s that we need a lot of space between our neighbors. We like our neighbors. We just don’t like seeing into their windows, our views being their walls and roofs and neighboring yards and what they're cooking for dinner. It was a nice house, but it wasn’t what we were looking for.
There was a little cottage built in 1944 that was next on the list. It was on over an acre with a year-round spring on the property. It was also close enough to a creek for natural air conditioning without being so close we’d ever need to worry about flooding. The house was even smaller than where we currently lived, but it had a three-car garage. It was also much closer to work.
Thoughts of all the storage and space in the dated manufactured home came flooding back. It would be hard to compete with almost 2000 square feet of house on a large, quiet lot.
But it wouldn’t hurt to give the little 40s house a look...
One of my very first home posts on the blog (almost five years ago?!) was about my Charles’ office. He had always liked the idea of terracotta colored walls, and one week while he was away on a business trip, I decided to surprise him with an office makeover.
The walls were more SF Giants orange than terracotta, but Charles liked the layout and loves the Giants, and for a while, it was a good work space for him. Then he got a laptop, and he no longer really used the room.
After his dad passed away, Charles inherited some stuff. I found places for the furniture, but there were old paperwork, photos, and odds and ends that ended up getting shoved into that room, waiting for the day when he’d feel more emotionally ready to deal with it. In the meantime, I closed the door so we wouldn’t see the chaos.
A few years later, and the room is still like it was the day I closed the office door. Charles and I realized that not only did we not need that extra space, it had turned into storage for things we didn’t even really need to keep. It wasn’t like we needed three quarters of what was in there. We never even looked for it.
That’s when we started playing with the idea of creating a second bathroom in that space. While most of the time having one bathroom was plenty, occasionally it wasn’t. Most of the homes up here are second homes, so we thought it might even be a good idea to sacrifice a bedroom for another bathroom.
But we’re pretty prudent when it comes to those decisions. We brought in our realtor, and what she said kind-of dashed our plans. She let us know that not only would a second bathroom not add any value to the house, any other improvements we did around our home probably wouldn’t either. While changing the house from a three and one into a two and two most likely wouldn’t lower the value, we wouldn’t recoup the money spent on all of the things required in adding a bathroom – routing plumbing, buying fixtures, adding an exhaust fan. She told us if it would improve our lives, and we wanted to stay in the home at least five more years, go ahead. Otherwise, it probably wasn’t a good financial decision.
Balls. What would we do? Move forward and dedicate ourselves to Our Little House for at least five more years even though there are some things we’ll never have here – a garden, a shorter commute, and a garage? Should we just hunker down and forget about it since we don’t use the space anyway? Should we look for something else? What would be the best course of action?
Charles and I would have to weigh the pros and cons to decide on the best way to go. It didn't seem like it would be an easy decision.
The internet is very Jekyll and Hyde. You can access amazing information, including lectures from top universities, step-by-step videos on how to repair almost anything, and GIFs of corgi puppies for purposes of smiling. People can also be at their cruelest online. It can be so easy to knock someone else down when you don't agree with them, or even when you're just having a terrible day and want to share in the misery. Prejudices and bigotry are in full force on the internet, and it can be all too easy to lose faith in humanity.
My main goal for 2015 is to embrace joy. 2014 was pretty rough for me, especially the latter half, and I want to switch my focus to the good this year. My most popular post on Facebook this January has been, "I've grown weary of cynicism. This year, I'll focus on joy."
I'm already attempting to do this on social media, posting positive, life-affirming stories instead of let's-be-angry articles. I'll still work on improving the world in ways that I can, but I'll leave the day to day burden of bad information to the news.
And what about Our Little House? My goal for this year is to make it more functional for Charles and me. We're still playing with the idea of turning our 3 and 1 into a 2 and 2. A second bathroom would be amazing, and Charles and I can share an office. We don't both need one, especially since we usually just end up on the couch in the living room with our laptops anyway. I'll share our journey with the process on here. I'm also planning on finally updating the kitchen. There's some deferred maintenance that has to be dealt with this year. Plus, there are still a couple of things I want to do to our (currently) only bathroom, including some little projects that are finally happening.
I hope you stay tuned to Charles' and my adventures in 2015, and don't forget to embrace the joy.
Last week I had my list, I had my plans, and then I got distracted.
I was successful in cleaning up the clutter. Check! I did laundry and ever so much housework, and then I started on the food drive project.
A year ago or so, my Charles and I purchased an AKURUM in white to serve as a stand-alone cabinet/island. Our galley style kitchen is pretty small, but there was room for a teeny bit more prep space. We got the taller legs for the cabinet so it would be comfortable for Charles. At an entire foot taller than I, our regular counter space can be a bit low for him. Our intentions were good. We put the base together as soon as we got it home, but we never put on the doors or drawers. Honestly, I was intimidated by those drawers. We packed the AKURUM with food and called it a day. And then called it a year while I constantly glanced at it, silently chiding myself for not finishing it.
Well, four grocery bags worth of donated food and a finally organized collection of stuff we were keeping, and it was time to screw up my courage and finish putting the cabinet together. And then I laughed. And then I kicked myself. Those doors and drawers were the easiest assembly and installation I've ever had with an IKEA product! Some snaps, some screwing together, and that baby was done. If we ever needed to replace cabinets, after this experience, I'd know what to use.
Now our last corner of the kitchen, as it turns into the eating area, looks clean and organized. Plus, it was so inspiring to get that cabinet completed, we may just be motivated enough to finally replace our countertops. We need to get a piece for the AKURUM anyway, so...
We'll see. One project finally completed, but the rest of the things on my to-do list remain undone. The outside projects will have to wait, though, because we've been trapped inside by smoke for the last week because of the King Fire. The image above is one of our smoky sunrises from this past week. This weekend is supposed to see hazardous air quality at times, so there will be no outdoor projects in the near future. That should give me more time to paint and craft, though, right?
There comes a time every year when everything just seems to dissolve into chaos. I'm lucky in the fact that at least I manage to keep it organized chaos -- for the most part.
I'm furiously working on my art show. T-minus two and half months and counting! I just finished my first really large piece and have been working on the foundation of a fiber art piece for a couple of weeks now. If you're wondering how I've been planning this venture for the past year, my Pinterest boards can probably clue you in, especially Color Inspiration and to a lesser extent, Pictorialization. The latter is where I pin any piece that moves me.
Add that distraction to the quarterly Friends of the Library newsletter needing to be done, and our house is looking rather neglected. I thought I'd list my weekend projects, rather like Anna at Door Sixteen used to do, in order to keep me motivated. Here goes!
What do you think? Does it look possible? I'm going to try my best. ;)
See you next week! Well, as long as I survive the weekend.
First things first, as you can tell by these amazing (yeah right!) photos, we still haven't painted half of our house. Oh, the shame! All of that blue and brown in making me crazy. Plus, we still need to paint all of the eaves. We haven't figured out how we're going to do that yet, so... here we are.
Well, now that we've got that out of the way, we can talk about gutters! One of the sexiest of all house updates, to be sure. Long time readers may remember that we had Byers' Leaf Guard gutters installed on the deck side of the house three years ago. (Three years? How the heck did that happen?!!) We meant to schedule the other side last year, but never got around to it. It's hard to feel motivated when you know you're going to spend more than a grand on something that diverts water. We needed to have it done, though. When we actually get things like rain and snow, not like we have the last couple of years, but when we do, our awesome concrete side steps cause the water to splash back onto the side door. Then the door warps, and water gets under the subfloor... we know this tale well enough already.
I really do love the Byers people. (No, I didn't get paid to say that. I've never done a sponsored post, after all. It's my honest assessment.) Their staff is amazing, and while it costs more than your average gutter, they're guaranteed for life. That means that if you sell your house, the gutters are still guaranteed for the next owners, so it's actually a selling point. Imagine gutters being a selling point! They sent out a representative to do the estimate, and he figured it would be a little over $1700. While that may seem a bit steep, especially when you know our house is pretty small, when you factor in how much we've paid to fix dry rot over the years, it's really just a drop in the bucket. (Ha, ha!) Factor in that aforementioned guarantee that I'll never have to unclog a gutter, and it was an easy choice. We've never had any issue, but if the gutters do ever clog, they'll come and unclog them for free.
Three weeks later, (everyone's trying to prepare for the El Nino,) the installers arrived. They were friendly and super fast. They double checked the measurements, went to their cool truck that creates the gutter on site, hung it, and were finished in less than two hours. We still need to put some extenders on the downspouts to route the water away from the foundation, but it makes the house look slicker already. Now if we could just finish painting, Our Little House might be quite the belle of the ball! Anyone want to put money on how long it's going to take us to do that? No? That's probably smart.
Even though the El Nino isn't looking as promising as everyone in our drought-parched part of the world was hoping, we're ready for the winter. That should count for something, right?
It's amazing how a quick update can totally class up a hallway (or two). It all started with an oops purchase at Target a couple of months ago. I picked up a couple of lampshades for a mix and match lamp collection I have in the living room. I thought they'd be perfect, but womp womp, they didn't fit on the lamps the way they were intended.
So, I put them back in their Target bag with the receipt and planned to take them back in the next couple of weeks. Now, our closest store is 45 minutes away, so it's a trip we have to plan for. The plan never arose, and there sat two gorgeous shades upon our living room floor. Then I hit upon an idea -- I thought I might just be able to use them in our hallways and replace two super-awesome (not!) 70s era glass shades.
This could have been the second womp womp of our story. The hole to screw the lampshades on were much too large, but I'm nothing if not crafty. I cut out large circles from the lids of our favorite gelato -- let's hear it for some tasty Talenti! -- cut a hole in the middle for the screw, and voila -- two pretty new fixtures that hung just so from the exis. There's room above the shade as well as it being open at the bottom, so there's no need to fear the bulb will get things too hot. An added bonus is that the hallway is now bright. We can actually see when we walk through it instead of dealing with the dusty, diffused light of our old, glass shades. No more dog toys hiding in the shadows. Hooray!
When Our Little House was built, some corners were cut. As we've improved our spaces, we've corrected a lot of those issues, but there are still minor things that are slightly annoying. One of those minor things -- the poorly cut spaces around our light switches. I've been looking at switch plates for a long time -- basically, as long as we've owned the house.
Recently, I stumbled across some leather switch plates online. I thought they were the perfect solution for our cabin in the woods. They're rustic but still feel a little fancy. The colors are in the palette we've been using. It was one of those synergistic things. What wasn't synergistic? The price. They were listed for $200 a plate, which is way too rich for our blood. So, I decided to make them myself.
I made a trip to our local craft and fabric store and bought a bag of scrap leather for $10. The bag was filled with thick leather in browns and blacks, more than enough for every switch plate in the house. Creating a switch cover was as easy as tracing the existing switch plate, marking the switch opening, and drawing triangles on the top and bottom to create an irregular hexagon. To cut the leather, I used our kitchen shears for the outside and an X-ACTO knife for the inside. For the interior spots, I used a metal ruler and slowly cut on the same line until the leather was cut through.
I found that even though the leather was stiff, when it was screwed onto the switch, it didn't stay flat. I solved the problem by putting the leather over the original switch plate. It actually gives it a bit more depth as well as keeping the leather flat. Maybe the best part -- as we use the switch, the leather will become more and more weathered, looking better and better.
For 10 bucks and some craftiness, I was able to solve an eyesore, create something beautiful, and save hundreds of dollars. How about that for a weekend project?
After getting the platform nice and level and letting the paint dry, it was time to assemble our shed. We traveled down to The Home Depot in Auburn a few times, looking at the models. We even stopped and chatted with the local Tuff Shed folks. In the end, our choice came down to price and ease of assembly.
We chose the Rubbermaid Big Max. Not only was it affordable, it had good online reviews. Plus, my mom has had a Rubbermaid shed for quite a few years, and it's still holding up nicely. It has a window in the back and two in the door, so it gets light during the day, which is nice. It's not a lot, but you can see in there. Since the shed is 7X7 feet, this project, just like the platform, is a two person job.
The shed came in a large box that wedged perfectly between the wheel wells of our pickup. Each piece was clearly marked, and the instructions were pretty easy to follow. The whole thing went together like a gigantic puzzle. We followed the instructions exactly, but I'd recommend not screwing in the door hinges until everything else is complete. I had to do some hinge adjustment after the fact to get the doors to close, and that could have been avoided if we had saved them for the last step.
The only really difficult part of the whole process was the roof. I had to use every bit of upper body strength I possess to fold that peak down and hold it while Charles fastened it down. All in all, the whole project took around six hours to complete, so it was a good Saturday project.
We're really happy with how everything turned out. We have a ton of room for our tools, the door locks for added security, and the color even coordinates with the house. We still need to secure it to the platform so it won't have a chance of blowing down in a strong storm, but we're almost ready to fill this baby with equipment and turn Charles' office back into... an office. How's that for a few days' work?
A blog about writing, art, projects, or whatever else tickles my fancy.