“The things you own, end up owning you.” The first time I heard that line from the movie Fight Club, it struck me as profound. Fast forward 20 years, and the quote creeps into my mind frequently while pondering what it means to be a homeowner. It crossed my mind when the dishwasher needed replaced, when the shower faucet broke, when the toilet in the upstairs bathroom needed replaced, plus a replacement dryer and microwave for kicks. It hits me hardest when I come home from work to see the weeds vigorously growing in the front landscaping, mocking my inability to make the time required to vanquish them. I hate these weeds with the burning intensity of a thousand suns. I don’t hate them for being weeds, they’re serving their intended purpose. I hate them because they are living symbols of the status quo: I do not own my home. My home owns me.
How did I get here? I bought this house specifically because I loved the location, the back yard, and I wanted a fixer-upper! There have been some functional victories. I have painted about 60% of the interior and bought new furniture. The appliances have all been ENERGY STAR rated, the lights are about 80% LED now. I installed a Lutron Occupancy Sensor in the kitchen (the light switch previously most forgotten to be used). When I replaced the toilet, I used it as an opportunity to put in a new dual-flush toilet to save water. There has been progress, but these changes to the house just don’t make the place feel different. It’s easy for me to make an excuse about not getting more done:
- Busy work schedule through the week
- The hours I spend in traffic commuting to the office
- Busy parent schedule of kids and their activities and homework and projects on nights and weekends (although I sincerely LOVE being a soccer dad)
- Just not enough extra money to do projects I want to do
I think you can sum it up in a single word: Adulting. But we all do it and at the end of the day, that excuse I make for myself just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
I read once that a common emotion that inspires people to effect change is to get angry (in a healthy way). There are countless examples in the world around us that offer proof to this wisdom. Social change, bad corporate policies that are revised, and on and on. The current state of my home when I ponder it makes me angry. We now have more kids than bedrooms, it’s still relatively energy inefficient, cluttered, the décor is outdated, just generally inadequate for our family of six. For a variety of reasons (including financial and practical), moving is off the table. I can feel the thought in my head as I write this: “I do not own my home, my home owns me.” Recently though, another thought that is even more powerful has been coming with it: “So what am I going to do about it?”
Today, the answer finally struck me. I am going to DECLARE MY INDEPENDENCE from my house!
That’s right, house. You are being put on notice. You will no longer be running the show and dictating the terms to me. This is me throwing down the gauntlet. I am fired up! It’s time to get proactive instead of reactive.
Now, I will grant that you have some strong advantages in your favor. It’s time consuming just to keep you clean and mow the lawn. You’re a money pit even on your best days and you always let me pick up the tab (by the way, thanks for that!). You need so much work that you can easily overwhelm my wallet and my calendar without much effort on your part. Now, I’m going to tell you why you’re not going to win despite your advantages.
This is a battle of wills and my desire to improve you far exceeds your inadequacies and challenges. I understand building science, construction, and energy efficiency and furthermore, I am armed to the teeth with more information available and access to experts than at any previous time in human history. I have halfway decent craftsmen skills, certainly enough for us to get in lots of troublesome adventures together. Best of all, I have an awesome crafty wife that loves making things warm and beautiful for us, and together we are raising a small army of free child labor that can steadily be trained to pull weeds too.
When I bought this house, I knew that I wanted to leave it way better than I found it. Building science has progressed exponentially since it was first constructed. Some of the advancement comes (energy efficiency) from technology, but a lot also comes from a better understanding of how a building interacts with the environment (also energy efficiency). Someday, I want to sell this house to someone and for them to have the peace of mind that their new home won’t own them.
…And so it begins! I have three reasons for creating this blog. The first is to hold myself accountable to actually making real progress. The world is welcome to publicly ridicule and shame me if I don’t make progress. The second is to share my knowledge, process, education, research, ideas, projects, pictures, videos, failures, and great successes with all of you. Through some combination of my personality and my construction management indoctrination (oops, education), I feel the need to painstakingly research, plan, design these projects before executing them. If you’ve ever seen the DIY Network show Renovation Realities, I’m essentially trying to avoid my projects taking a similar route. That being said, many of my projects will probably (hopefully not) have all the face palms and drama that make great Renovation Realities episodes. Finally, I want to learn from all of your ideas, successes, failures, opinions, advice too! There are so many great resources out there for all of us to fight back against our own money pits, and invite you to share the ones that have been the most (and least) helpful.
I hope for this to become an interactive place where we all learn and gain inspiration from each other. Let’s do it!