Monday, July 26, 2010

This Old House

I've been really antsy about the house lately.

Since the divorce, it has felt like I have just been marking time here, versus really living here. In case you have ever wondered, I can say with absolute certainty that it's hard to stay in a house after a divorce, especially if you keep all the same furniture, and all the same dishes, and all the same pictures on the walls, and all the same linens . . .

You get the idea.

What (I think) has been a comfort for the kids has been more than a bit uncomfortable for me.

By my choosing.

Since the divorce, I have worked hard to make sure that everything has stayed the same, physically, for them. At first, I thought that was supremely important. Somehow, I thought that maintaining their home and their neighborhood and their surroundings would make the divorce less difficult.

Maybe it has. Then again, maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part.

Consistency was my battle plan for getting my kids through this whole debacle. Of course, who could have imagined a year and a half ago that we would be sitting here in July 2010 in the situation we find ourselves in now. Matty is here with me, living in this house with me, the kids, the dogs and The Ghost of Marriage Past, battling cancer, and we are living across the street from my ex-husband and his family in a home that I have always loved but now somewhat resent.

Let's don't even talk about the housing crisis, or the economy, or the 2 chances we have for selling this home and walking away with a penny in our pocket (those two chances being slim and none.)

Even if we could sell, it would be a terrible time to try. We need to stay put and get through Matty's treatments, and keep the kids in the schools that they are used to, and I still think it's good for them to have their dad and grandparents closeby, even if that's not the most comfortable thing for the adults (them or us.)

All of these factors have kept me from doing, well . . . anything.

It's taken over a year for me to consider what I could do to this place to make it feel like a living, vibrant home, versus a marital graveyard. I know it's been hard on Matty, too, moving into a ready-made home.

In a perfect world, we would have sold this home, and disposed of the furnishings and found a new place.

But you know what they say . . . nothing's perfect.

But when you find yourself in the situation that we are currently in, you take stock of what's important, and what can be enjoyed in the here and now, and if having Matty here has taught me ANYTHING, it's that the day is what you make of it, and you can choose to enjoy life regardless of the circumstances.

I love him so much for that.

So, with that in mind, I found my mindset start to slowly change about the house.

I do still love it here. I love my kitchen, and I love my walk in closet, and I love my basement office, and my wooded backyard. I love my flowers out front, and I love my dining room, painted just the exact shade of blue as my beloved Pfaltzgraf stoneware.

I even love the neighborhood, and the pool, and the sidewalks.

All of the things that I loved about this house are still here. Everything that made it felt like I would shrivel up and die if we didn't get this house are still here.

That realization has been slow to catch fire in my head, but it's been smoldering for awhile now, and seems to have worked up a little flame. It's only been in the past month or so that I have begun to assess the situation and make plans to remake this home into one that feels less like a monument to what was, and more of a comforting place to enjoy what is.

It really started with a couple of small things, but I've learned that it's amazing how encouraging small changes can be.

Matty bought me a new gazebo for the deck (my old one had been destroyed in a bad storm last year.) Somehow, having him make that effort led me to want to make the deck as nice as I could for us to enjoy, so I ordered some solar light caps for the deck railings.

And, oh my sweet Home Depot . . . it took me FOREVER to pull the trigger on the damn lighting.

I looked online for DAYS, agonizing over every choice. It felt like I was making some kind of life-or-death decision, which is crazy.

Well, it is.

Anyway, I finally took a deep breath and clicked the "buy" button.

Then I noticed how neglected the deck was, and how badly it needed to be cleaned and stained and sealed, so we started collecting bids for that work, and it wasn't too long before I took a good look at my exterior porch and garage lights and ordered some that are as pretty as the deck lights. (Sea Gull Yorktown 1-Light Forged Iron Wall Lantern, retail $104, EBay new in box $54.00.)

They are in boxes at my front door now, and I am giddy with excitement to see them adorn the entrances.

We also picked up some new showerhead sets for our bathrooms. If you don't have a rainshower soaker/handheld shower combo, I can't recommend them highly enough.

This past weekend, we bought some beautiful forged iron pulls for my kitchen and bathroom cabinets ($1 apiece at a closeout of custom order kitchen hardware, retailed for $8ish each), and I've ordered some replacement lights for our bathrooms (this Kichler 3 light set was $225.00 retail, $39.00 new in the box on Ebay. Her 4-light sister was $295.00 retail, got two of those for $49.00 each!)


I've also begun to assemble all of the things that will be leaving our house. I plan to have the mother of all garage sales very very soon.

Once the house has been cleared of all of the unwanted items, the biggest project of all will commence: painting. It's the only project I am actually nervous about, which is silly, of course. I'm sure once I actually start applying the paint, it will be a breeze, but deciding on the colors, and preparing properly, all that . . . it feels like a big challenge.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Additional frugal wisdom from Dwight Schrute

Tough Times? Tough Noogies

The economic crisis began with mortgage lenders throwing money at dolts who couldn't afford their payments. Sad stuff. Lucky for me, I've lived my entire existence in an economized state. I'd like to share suggestions with all those super-sized Baconator chateau-living goons out there, who are making their first attempts at being resourceful and cutting back.

Dwelling
Your house can be more than just the spot where you rest your head or butcher your pigs - it can also be a vibrant moneymaker. The spare rooms at Schrute Farms have provided beautiful memories for excursionists, while bringing in gobs of additional cash for Mose and I. I also rent out my basement to a part-time dentist, which means even more money coming in, and free travel toothbrushes whenever I desire.

Clothing
I laugh in the face of your Goldie Hawns, your Diane Keatons, spending thousands on inane wardrobes that are hot one moment and offensive the next. I sport most of my dead grandfather's garb - classic, durable, free. And Mose knits our wintertime attire.

Sustenance
If you're 85 or younger and your appendages are still mobile, you should be hoeing your harvest every morning. I've been living off the land since I escaped the womb. It's not only cheaper than those preposterous yuppie grocery markets like A&P, but pasturing also gives you brawn. No need for a gym membership. Two birds, one garden stone.

Transportation
I bought a Pontiac Firebird in 1987 and haven't looked back since. No car payment in 19 years. Most of you halfwits forget that your vehicle is a machine, not an ornamental showboat to arouse the neighbors. So trade in your cutting edge Accords and Eclipses for something more affordable. If it has airbags, it's too good for you.

Take all of this advocacy and run with it. Or don't, and forever be a penniless idiot.

Alternative Consumption

So, lately I've been thinking about alternative consumption.

Is that a thing? If it's not, then I hereby claim that as of today, it is.

Finding cheaper ways to do things is nothing new for me - I am a longtime coupon user, thrift store shopper, and bargain seeker. I'm one of those people that turns a $200 grocery run into a $50.00 spree, with a crazed look in my eye, a sales paper in my left hand, and white-knuckle clutching a stack of coupons in the other.

Up to now, my consumption has all been cash-based. Granted, I use less cash than other people, but still . . . when I get things for my family, the bottom line is, cash changes hands.

I am attempting to teach my children the ways as well. They are well-versed in the ways of Play and Trade (game swapping store), Goodwill, yard sales, thrift stores, etc., so much so that I can proudly say that my 9 year old often walks through retail stores scoffing, "Yeah, right . . . I can get that for like a DOLLAR at a yard sale!"

It brings a tear to my eye. It really does.

This past week, I have been seeking out other ways to make my junk/stuff/assets work for me. It started innocently enough when I started taking stock of my "priceless treasures" (aka junk) in anticipation of a mammoth yard sale that I plan to have as soon as Atlanta reaches temperatures that WON'T melt my face off in my driveway.

See, I have a whole list of things that I want to do in the house. Painting, redecorating, fencing, sprucing up, yadda yadda yadda.

I also have lots of things that I no longer want, so that's where the yard sale comes in. Except yard sales are really just a way to throw things out. Generally, yard sales aren't a way to generate any real cash, they're just a way to free up real estate and eliminate clutter.

So I started thinking about that, too. This "clutter" is comprised of things that I purchased. Cash traded hands. Cash that was earned by my work, which is the fruit of my labor. My energy and labor are finite resources.

That made me look at the junk differently.

For instance, I looked at a bulging rack of DVDs that has amassed over the past several years. These days, we don't watch DVDs. We have streaming Netflix, so these movies are gathering dust. At a yardsale, I could reasonably expect to get a couple of dollars each for them.

Which is a shame, considering that they cost $15 apiece new.

Most of them have only been watched once.

Now, is it cheaper to buy a DVD than go to the movie? You bet. By the time you buy tickets, popcorn, candy and drinks, a movie costs a typical family of 4 about $60, so the DVD looks like a great buy in comparison.

But when you have watched the DVD and it takes up space in your house, it quickly turns into clutter, and appears to be of no value.

But you don't want to give it away, either, since you PAID for it.

This guilt has pretty much stopped me from purchasing movies, or music or books altogether. Between the notion of "Pffth, I can get that at a YARD SALE!" and the stash I have at home already, I can't really enjoy walking through a bookstore to contemplate purchasing anything.

But I do love books. And music. And movies.

Imagine my glee at my discovery of swaptree.com. This wonderful place allowed me to create an account and list all of my DVDs and books and games that would have either continued to sit dormant or be given away for pennies at a yard sale, and also create a wish list full of all of the DVDs and books and games that I wish I had instead. Instantly, this magic site matches MY unwanteds with others that have things that I covet, and facilitates a trade.

No money changes hands, yet I am supplied with new movies and books and games. It's like having a big circle of real friends that let you borrow things.

(LOL! Just kidding! I don't actually have a big circle of real friends, since I mostly live in my basement, and rarely go out, but I IMAGINE that this would be what it's like to have a circle of real friends that let you borrow things.)

I've already made 5 trades, and instead of dusty Scooby Doo and Barbie DVDs, I now have 4 really good books that I have wanted to read for a couple of years now.

It's a simple concept, I know, but I think it is going to revolutionize the way that I approach the "consumption" of media.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Swaptree - trade books, CDs, DVDs, and video games for free

Found a cool new site that lets you trade books, movies, CDs, games, etc. with other folks.

It will even import your Amazon wish list and find people that have what you want, and want what you have.

Neato.

Swaptree - trade books, CDs, DVDs, and video games for free
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