Posted by: chlost | January 16, 2016

Home Sweet Home


Child’s outdoor playhouse near Memphis, TN


Almost exactly fifteen years ago, we bought our current home and moved into it in the middle of a January snowstorm. At that time, we had two children still in high school. We had moved from a one-story 1950’s era rambler which was in a neighborhood of small ramblers and almost unbelievably smaller split-entry homes. It was filled with young families, children and dogs ran freely along and across the streets and yards.

Our new two-story home, set on the edge of a river and surrounded by a small woods, was a dream come true. We didn’t have enough furniture to fill more than about 1/2 of the rooms. The dining room and family room were empty once the movers left us that day. The storage space was amazing-closets, cupboards, and a huge unfinished area above the garage was more than we had ever imagined.

Fifteen years later, we have no children living here. There was a year when our youngest son and his family came back to live here, but they have moved to a home of their own. All three of our children visit as often as possible. Our grandchildren stay with us about once a month. The furniture which we bought soon after we moved into the house fills the rooms, but has become shabby and outdated. The storage space has, unbelievably, become full to overflowing.

The house has become a home. We find it comfortable, even if it is big for our current needs. We love the woods, the river, and the quiet neighborhood. Right now, the snow cover shows the myriad of trails through our yard used by deer and other wildlife. There are swans and geese which stay through the winter months on the river below our backyard.

Even with all of that, we have come to the realization that we will have to downsize. We may live here for another 2 to 5 years before we trade this home in, returning to single- level living. That’s just how the circle of life works, I suppose.

Over the fifteen years that we’ve been here, though, we have not done much in the way of redecorating or renovation. Now we need to get this place in shape for making a sale in the next couple of years. When my dad died several years ago, I used some of my inheritance and redecorated the kitchen. That is still in pretty good shape. But the rest of the house looks every bit its thirty years of age.

So we are dipping our toes into the very scary process of a home renovation. We know ourselves well enough to know that we are not DIY’ers. We also are not able to agree on things such as color, furnishings, or fixtures. When we can’t agree, we just end up not doing anything. So the light fixture that I have hated since we moved in fifteen years ago still is hanging askew from the entryway ceiling, and I look at it nearly daily with the thought “God, I hate that thing”.

We have talked to two professionals so far. One, a young woman who is a decorator/general contractor. She is the daughter-in-law of a friend, but I didn’t know that at the time I received a recommendation for her. She walked in, took a look at our upstairs and came up with a fabulously creative idea to completely change the entire layout. She also had two less extensive ideas to choose from. She felt that the house was , for the most part in need of an update-some areas more than others. She was positive, energetic, and enthusiastic. She will help with picking out tile, counters and such, and will get everything put together so that it is ready to go before starting the project.

The second person was a man who is the son-in-law of our cleaning person. He has done many projects on several HGTV shows. He was referred to us by our cleaning person, because our bathroom needs a renovation so badly that they have had trouble cleaning it well. This guy was very practical, down-to-earth and not at all flashy.  Nothing out-of-the-box from him. We would be picking out tile, etc, He will do what we want, but will put together a blueprint and plan for the overall project. He didn’t see that we needed to do much other than some wallpaper removal, painting and some light fixture replacement in the rest of the house.

We also know that the HGTV effect means that many of the demographic who will be in the market for a house like this will expect that it will wow them. It needs to be turnkey. They all think they will live in the houses they see on television.

So. How do we choose? How do we know what to do? How much to do? What is needed? We want to increase the chances of a sale at a good price. We want to enjoy the improvements a bit before we move. We don’t want to spend money and then not end up with a benefit for a sale. Although we know we won’t get a big return for these improvements, we don’t want to just throw the money away.

I asked some friends and family who know our house. Our daughter had a laundry list of suggestions. All very good. Others had nothing.

This is going to be a grand adventure.

Or a nightmare.



  1. I had many such “grand adventures” in my house-owning days. I’d recommend you keep costs to a minimum, using paint and touches like light fixtures, bathroom fixtures and maybe a replacement floor or counter covering where it is desperately needed. I learned that, while it’s tremendously satisfying to bring your house up to HGTV standards, you never get your money out of it. I liked this post…brought so many memories back!

  2. Your descriptions about the changes in life within the years you’ve been in this house…well, they move my heart during this time when I can already see my kids leaving.

    The question about who to hire is a hard one. I guess if their costs are close to comparable, I’d hire the one who will turn the house into a place I’d want to live–as in, if I ended up not moving after all the renovations, who would have created the house I’d be most happy to remain in.

  3. Do you have any trusted realtors? We are coming to similar decisions, but if we do like we usually do, we won’t do anything until we absolutely have to. Don’t know if I’m up for building another.

  4. I enjoy HGTV but also think its skewed everyone’s perception of what is normal and expectable. I’ve remodeled one home and partially remodeled another and its a hell of a lot of work. I get the downsizing thing, too – I did it a year and a half ago when my last son went off to college – not knowing that within the year I’d have another adult moving in and his kids part-time!

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