Household Unpacking and Organization, Part 1 of Many

Since I have been away from our blog for a bit, I thought I should try and update you on some of my progress around our new place. For those who are easily bored by pictures of household belongings neatly displayed on shelves and photographic proof that at least SOME of the rooms in our home are slowly becoming decluttered, just go ahead and skip this post.

The two areas in our home that have been the MOST cluttered, messy and disorganized since we moved in are Abigail’s room and the kitchen. In the case of Abigail’s room, all toys were pretty much dumped there, the kids generally used it for playing, and I just did not make an effort to cull through, separate and organize all their playthings. Lack of organization makes it hard to keep a space anything close to tidy. So, week after week, the mess got worse, Christmas busyness put some necessary jobs on the back shelf, then travel and final move out from the old house put the work off even longer. Hence, her little girl “sanctuary” has been anything but, for many weeks now.

Until last week, when during our snow day the kids and I went crazy working in there and moved boy toys to boys’ rooms, unpacked everything that belonged to Abigail, and went through carefully getting rid of things we might not need before setting her room up. Getting her things in order also involved going through the many children’s books we own, sorting them into proper age groups for our family, and also poring over all games/puzzles/creative, crafty toys and doing likewise. So, like many an organizational task, it touched on so many more places in the house than just the room we were “working on”.

While I wish I had some before pics to show you, so you could easily see just what a miracle has been wrought in Abigail’s space, at least I have some “after” shots. Here is a shot of as much of her room as I can easily capture in one camera shot given walls, doors and angles:

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Here is the saving grace in her room, and what I spent most of my time getting set up to be both as functional and as pretty as is possible for me: two floor to ceiling built-ins of shelves. The shelves are adjustable, so we had the joy of rearranging them to suit the best placement of her things. (The rearranging was NOT easy or quickly achieved…but I’m so happy with the finished product.) We were able to store most of what she uses/plays with on a regular basis in this space. Here is what we came up with:

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So for now, we are done in Abigail’s room. She has asked for the walls to be pink someday, which sounds like so much fun. And sometime in the future we will work out curtains and some other things. But for now, we are very pleased with the state of her room. I walk in there at least once a day and tell her, “I feel so happy in this room. It’s so peaceful and serene and NEAT!” And she smiles and giggles and proceeds to entertain me with her latest story or account of some such that has happened in the land of stuffed animals, blankies, horseys, and dollies.

House Closed! (Hooray!)

Hello, Dear Readers!

This is just a brief note to help bring closure to our house drama of the last few months. Yesterday, at 10am, we signed the documents to officially hand over ownership of our “old” house to the buyers. What a blessed relief…it is such a joy to just own one home again. And yes, I did do a little happy dance.

To those of you who have followed this house buying/selling saga in much more granular detail than we’ve provided here on our website, thanks for your patience and prayers and encouragement for the last 12+ months. We are truly blessed with so many kind and loving family and friends.

Now, we turn our attentions fully to our current home: unpacking, repairing, updating, maintaining. But first, just to keep things fun, Jay is set to undergo a bit of a surgical procedure today. Because, hey, why not celebrate a house closing with a little surgery?!?!

Old and New House Updates

I haven’t made time to post much at all this season. The already very busy Thanksgiving through New Year’s Holiday time has been that much busier at the Horne House because we have been in the process of moving along with everything else.

A couple weeks ago our realtor suggested we clear our old home of the remaining furniture to try a new strategy for marketing. It had been a little over two months since we’d gone on the market, we’d had about 50 showings in that time (including through the Thanksgiving holiday), with not one “bite”. James hoped that clearing out the house might help buyers envision themselves in the home more easily. We planned a move for last Saturday, but knew that after we cleared out furniture and belongings, that we’d need to take the plunge and replace our carpets, much of which downstairs, were in sad shape. That meant an outlay of cash, which we were quite willing to make in order to sell the home, but which we weren’t looking forward to.

Well, WHILE WE WERE STILL BRINGING THINGS OUT OF THE HOUSE, we received a call from our realtor, saying we had an offer on our home! And you cannot imagine the elation Jay and I felt. The potential buyers were from California and had already placed an offer on another home in town, but the sellers never responded to their proposal, so they moved to their second choice (us!). We had a mutually-agreed-upon contract within a day, and inspections the morning following. They were in a hurry to return home as their plane left later that day! This past week we agreed to terms on the repairs (which are very few) and as of today, we are out of the option period and PENDING SALE!

This is so amazingly providential in its timing. We will not be replacing the carpets…or fence for that matter, as we’d been planning to. While no sale is final till close date, we have a great situation with a good deal of hope that it will ultimately result in the sale of our other home. And the buyers are happy because now they have a home to live in when they move here. While they didn’t love all the cosmetics of our home, they did fall in love with our lot, which is really nice. And they can change around the insides to suit their taste.

We are so grateful for this answer to prayer…and pray this will all come to a smooth close in early January, as planned. And in the midst of this excitement, we are so grateful to have all our furniture back in our new home. Sitting on a couch in my living room, and putting my children to sleep on beds feels like a luxury after going without these things for a few months. How happy we are to be finally setting up house in our new place.

We’ll keep you posted on the sale…I know many of you have asked about this and prayed for it to happen….thank you for your love and care for us!

Simple Joys in our New Home

As our readers are aware, we have moved. In the last several posts, I have alluded to the fact that we are living in somewhat sparse conditions, compared to what is likely considered normal for an American family. We have left most all our furnishings at the old house, to enhance its appearance for showing (and thanks for asking – we average about a showing a day, but no offers yet…we truly hope there might be one soon!). But anyway, we are admittedly missing our things, not because we own grand, expensive furniture, but because the house doesn’t quite feel like home without, for instance, our beds and pictures, and other personal belongings.

Yet in the midst of the sparseness, we are enjoying so many blessings here in our new place. Here are just a few:

family games of basketball on our long flat driveway

beautiful shade from our beautiful, huge, old trees

some of the friendliest neighbors we’ve had yet in our married lives

less time in the car, fighting traffic, and more precious moments at home

the rustle of the 40 year old cottonwood in the breeze (this is a completely new sound to me!)

a simpler floor plan inside, and no stairs to deal with (ok, the kids liked these, but the parents don’t miss them!)

the charm of a picket fence and gate out back

sweet friends and schoolmates just three doors away

roses in five different colors that began blooming just as we moved in

bike rides on the trail down the street

Update on life at the new casa

Having been “settled” in our new home almost one month, it might be nice if I was wowing you with all the fantastic projects we’ve been doing to “pretty up” the place. You’d think after four weeks, this place would be glowing with our personal touches and evidences of hard work. You’d think a month would be enough time to accomplish amazing feats around here. You’d be wrong.

Because well, ordinary life doesn’t cease to exist just because we moved: there are still 4 children, 2 adults and a dog who live here. They like to eat three meals a day, wear clothing, go to school/work/ballet/choir/gymnastics (though we haven’t been able to get the lazy dog to engage in any of these activities), wake up in the wee hours of the night with bad dreams, and other ailments, and basically continue to have lots of needs and priorities outside of the many projects looming all around them.

The mommy of the house is finding that setting up housekeeping in a new place, while fun, is also a huge challenge. First, there is the unpacking. Again, life continues…so no, the unpacking is still not complete four weeks into the new place. Unpacking naturally means things have to go in a certain place, so there is a whole process of figuring out how best to organize the space for the way we live. That requires lots of thought, especially if you tend to stress about these types of things just a little too much, as she is wont to do. And then there is the tiny little detail that we left almost every piece of our furniture at the old place, for “showing” purposes, while the house is still on the market. We are living here without the benefit of bookshelves, toyboxes, dressers, nightstands, etc. So truthfully, stuff stays pretty messy (much to my dismay). I must, however, note that we do have great builtins and closets in this house that we are loving; despite about 600 fewer square feet of living space, our current home actually has more storage capacity than the previous, much larger one did.

The everyday stuff like laundry, dishes, and pickup all seems to take much longer in a new place too. I can probably owe the dishes thing to my new “vintage” Kitchen Aid dishwasher (we think it likely that is is original to the 1965 house!), which though it works beautifully, doesn’t seem to have the capacity, or the intuitive loading abilities my previous washer had. So we appear to be using it more often than we did at the previous house. And I am owing the huge mounds of laundry (despite doing loads ALL THE TIME!) to the time of year; the weather is in that wonderful, yet unpredictable stage where the temperature can be either freezing or way too hot. This means that almost every article of clothing we all own is in play at the same time. Most of the rest of the year, the out of season clothes are packed away, and I suppose that will happen soon enough.

But overall, I do think it just takes time to develop a rhythm and way of doing things that is efficient and smooth. So I really am trying to be patient – I know my many projects can eventually happen…but for now they are more a working out of ideas in my mind than a reality unfolding before my eyes.

And I am also remembering that all the everyday and sometimes mundane stuff I am doing is freeing my husband up to accomplish some very needed projects around the house – projects much more crucial to the ongoing soundness of the home than painting every room, adding crown molding here and there, putting mirrors and light fixtures and towel bars in all the bathrooms, refinishing the wonderful back deck, and sprucing up the landscaping (and no, this is not the full list!). But as much as we look forward to these activities, we have a few responsibilities prior to starting on the cosmetics around here. You see, the home had not been “loved on” in many ways, so there is a lot of basic maintenance that needs attending to. And Jay, outside of his many commitments with work, children, school, and church, has been seriously attending to it!

So far, some of his wonderful successes have been:

*replacing locks/doorknobs/handles on all outside entry doors;

*installing (with the help of a very kind friend) a brand new toilet in our master bath – the other one had begun leaking in a nonreparable way;

*replacing the laundry/garage/attic venting system for the dryer;

*rescuing and preserving the boys’ bedroom carpet and pad and floor from ruination despite several thorough soakings courtesy of a sprinkler head aimed directly at their window, thereby flooding part of their room;

*planning and executing a garage storage system to fit everything that used to reside in a 3 car garage into a 2 car garage (and he’s done a great job – it works!);

*replacing all the “innards” in the boys’ toilet so that it is now useable again;

*customizing a kitchen cabinet/desk builtin to house our computer and all the stuff that goes with that (So I am typing this while seated in my cheery kitchen/breakfast area, and enjoying a cup of fresh coffee.)

*gradually replacing EVERY electrical outlet in the entire house, as well as every lightbulb (he found a couple inside some outdoor lights that actually aren’t even manufactured anymore – guess it’s been a while since they were changed, eh?)

and the list goes on….

Well, I’ll try and keep you posted a bit more regularly than I have been. But for now, it’s back to the dishes and laundry!

Part Three

The following takes place on September 5th during the hours of 5:30am to 7:30am…

It was Tuesday morning after Labor Day weekend. I was up to take my shower before waking the baby to nurse him, before getting the older kids out of bed to ready themselves for school. We leave the house at 7:20 on mornings we drive carpool in order to get to school by 8:10.
Despite waiting the 7 or so minutes I always do before getting into the shower, the water was still tepid. But it sort of felt like it was gradually getting warmer so I got in, thinking that at any moment the hot water would kick in and the shower would become a more pleasant experience. Unfortunately, the water never got even warmish, and I raced through, shivering the whole time. After drying off, I got back into bed in an attempt to warm up a little. I woke Jay up to whine a little about the freezing cold shower I’d been forced to take, and relayed that it was such a miserable way to start the morning that it almost made me cry .

The prospect of fresh coffee sounded appealing to my still shivering self, so I headed out of our bedroom to start the pot when I realized something was very wrong. I could hear a steady “thunk, thunk, thunk” coming from the kitchen area, and as I got closer to the sound, the dim light of early morning revealed its source. Water was coming out of a vent in the ceiling, dripping onto the opened dishwasher door (we’d run the cycle the night before and left the door open to cool the dishes). Water had overflowed and was all over the kitchen floor.

With a sick feeling in my gut I roused my still-in-bed husband with, “I think you’d better get up – there’s water coming out of the kitchen ceiling!”

The next hour and a half were awful. Jay immediately sprung into action to attend to the problem, which was of course the hot water heater, which of course had decided to burst just two days away from our house going on the market. The drainage system which should function as backup if your hot water heater malfunctions, had clogged, causing all that water to overflow the pan surrounding the heater, and pour into the nearby floor, carpet, wall, and into the upper playloft area. From there it was dripping down two separate walls into the lower story, some of it escaping through that ceiling vent and making a flood on our kitchen floor, and the rest soaking into the material between the two floors, and forming a huge water stain on the kitchen ceiling, from the east wall of house all the way to the family room. We couldn’t see this, but some additional water had gotten into that east wall and had caused damage to the GFCI outlets and circuitry on that side of the kitchen.

All I could think of right off was that we had just bought a second house, we still owned this house, and thousands of dollars in water damage were happening right this instant to our beautiful home that had been market-worthy the night before. What type of money would be required to fix this mess, and where was that going to come from, and what were we going to do? Jay was also losing his cool (something he doesn’t do often) and his attempts to stop the rapid flow of water were met with failure, which further aggravated the situation. When he went to turn off the water, the shutoff valve to the heater failed. At that point, water began shooting out of the heater into the upper story attic he was standing in, pouring down out of the kitchen vent at a much faster rate, and then I heard something come out of his mouth that I don’t think I’ve heard from him before. Thankfully he is a resourceful man in the midst of disaster, and so he quickly jumped out of the water heater closet, lept down the stairs, and and ran as fast as he could to the front yard to turn off the entire supply of water to the house, thereby ending the flood from the upper story.

In the midst of all this, our children were trying to get ready for school, and were understandably quite interested in the goings-on in the playloft and kitchen. Their many questions were met with my “Please don’t ask Daddy questions right now – the hot water heater has broken and there is water everywhere” which really only served to inspire yet more questions from the curious little bunch. Somehow we managed to get them dressed and fed and out the door only a few minutes later than we should have.

A frantic call to a friend during this water fiasco did at least remind Jay and I that we have a blessed thing called “Homeowner’s Insurance”. I’d completely forgotten it existed in my utter panic. In the next few days we learned that though Homeowner’s Insurance is helpful in a disaster such as this, it doesn’t just eliminate the issues. Nor does it pay for hot water heaters or the labor to install them, since they are considered “appliances”. Add in your deductible and around $2K just flew out the window that morning…bye, bye.

As you can imagine there was a good bit of clean-up to be done after all this. Despite how bad the damage appeared to us, it really wasn’t anywhere near what it could have been (or so the repairmen have assured us). Thankfully, most of the work which needed to be done happened in a fairly timely fashion, but needless to say, our house did not go on the market that Thursday, as we’d planned. It was, however, listed by the following Friday, a little over a week late. Despite the delay, we are trying to comfort ourselves with the thought that surely someone will be even more compelled to buy our house, now that it includes a shiny new Whirlpool water heater from Lowes!

The Next Installment in the Story…

Ok, so we (or maybe I should say “I”) never stopped watching that house we lost. It had seemed perfect, in a “needing lots of love, but having great bones” perfect sort of way. Perfect for our family and situation. Besides being in our favorite neighborhood, there were school friends 3 doors down, a couple of little boys the same age as my boys 3 doors up, and lots of other folk we knew within a few streets. The house had an incredibly large (for here) shaded backyard with a huge deck, a split bedroom arrangement with 4th bedroom and 3rd full bath off to one side of the house, that was perfect for our one girl to have a spot of her own and to double as a guest “suite” should we have visitors, two other secondary bedrooms with full bath between them just made for the three boys to share, a mostly redone master bath complete with jetted tub and oversized shower, a large (for this aged home) kitchen and breakfast area with TONS of cabinets and storage space, huge laundry room with double utility sink, oversized garage, large rooms, french doors to the deck, crown moldings, you get the picture – we really liked this house.

The setting and neighborhood were also really appealling to us. The area was built in the early sixties, so the trees were large, beautiful, and plenteous. Down the street was a duck pond, walking/biking trail, and creek/park/playground area. The elementary school was just 10 houses away, providing another playground for afternoons/weekends/summer playing, as well as a huge parking lot – a great area to take kids to learn to ride their bikes. The neighborhood had its own pool for swimming in the summer. Library with great kids’ programs was within walking distance. The neighborhood had an active group of folks who organized playgroups, ladies nights out, parades, Bible Studies, Christmas Caroling, etc.

Well, anyway, I truly did accept that the house was not going to be ours. But, as I kept my head in the market over the next few weeks, I also kept tabs on the lost house, just to see what would happen with it. I pulled the mls listing each day to see if it had gone under contract. I kept in touch with my school friend down the street who watched it anxiously for showings. And yes, I prayed that maybe, just maybe, something might happen to cause the situation to work out after all.

The problem with the house had centered around the fact that it required some work which would be costly to us. The inspection had uncovered several issues, none of which were terrible, but which needed to be addressed for the soundness of the home. This represented money and labor over and above some of the cosmetics which it also needed. Though we’d tried to negotiate the sellers down in order to account for the needful repairs, they’d remained fairly firm on the price they wanted. And so, despite loving the house, we had to, in good conscience, let it go. It would have been foolish financially to take it on.

Well, almost a month went by, and a few folks came to see the house, but it remained on the market. We joked about putting another offer in on it, but weren’t that serious. Eventually though, our agent did some poking around on his own, and learned the house was indeed still available. But the listing realtor told him that the owners were still being fairly firm on their asking price.

So, Jay and I talked. We agreed to place another offer on the home. Much lower than our previous offer, but with a sooner close date, thinking perhaps that the owners would find that attractive given they’d already moved and likely needed to sell the house pretty soon. We never dreamed they’d be happy with our new offer given how much less money we were offering, so we didn’t really think too much about it after we sent our offer to them. Imagine our immense surprise when we learned that the sellers accepted our offer almost immediately! There was no counteroffer, no hedging, just a quick acceptance exactly as we’d written the offer. And this despite their unwillingness to negotiate to a significantly higher price than this one month prior! We were astounded, and really really thankful.

But with such a near closing date, we had a ton of things to do, so we sort of held off our excitement and we set to work gathering all the necessary papers, loans, information, etc needed to purchase a house. Unlike the previous go-round, this time the purchase went off without a hitch. As of Sept 1st, we were homeowners! Well, homeowners now of 2 homes!

You dear readers will now be asking, “What are you going to do with 2 homes?”. The answer is, nothing. We are not the sort of people who can afford to own two homes. We’d been preparing our “old” house for listing all during the months we searched for a new place, so as we closed on the new one, we finished up some small things to ready the old one completely for the market. Closets were cleaned out, windows washed, clutter and toys culled through and streamlined, paint touched up. Things were going well, and it was looking really beautiful – more beautiful than it had looked during our more than 5 years of owning it!! And then, just as Labor Day weekend was ending, and a mere two days away from listing we woke up one morning to this…

(to be continued – again!)

Some Updates

We have been remiss in keeping our readers apprised of all that is going on in our lives…..because of all that is going on! It is hard to find time to stop and catch our breath, let alone post!

For those of you who don’t know, we’ve been actively househunting for almost a year. We live 17 miles away from the kids’ school (that’s 34 miles roundtrip), and the commute has been something we wanted to change ultimately. So after a couple years of watching the market and planning, we began looking seriously for a new home. We have been targeting a fairly particular geographic area, and waiting for a “deal” to pop up within that. Given how few homes generally list for sale within there that meet our search criteria pricewise, we assumed it would be better to find the new home before we started selling the old. So we looked and looked and looked some more. Though we submitted a couple offers over the past months, nothing had ended up working out.

Then in June we came across a FSBO home in our favorite neighborhood – it was in our price range and we loved the floor plan, yard, room sizes, etc. It needed some “love” but we figured we had it in us to offer it that. So, excitedly, we made an offer, had an inspection, negotiated the sellers down a bit more to allow for some of the repairs, began packing up our current home and doing all the final prep work to list it, only to have the deal fall through a couple weeks before close. This was a big letdown, but the situation just obviously wasn’t supposed to work out. (Btw, I am sparing you gentle readers by giving you a VERY high level view here – this was one of the craziest months of our lives and all that went on during the transaction would likely take a book to give a proper account!)

Well anyway, we went back to looking, but given summer was mostly over, I assumed we’d probably be staying where we were for quite some time to come. We accepted the idea that we’d likely be continuing the commute through this school year as well, and even found a nearby school family with whom to share driving responsibilities. Though still keeping my eye on the market, I turned more of my attention to enjoying the home we already had, and even spent some time working on beautifying and “loving” it. Over the last year, I’d sort of neglected doing much of that given I figured our time here was limited. But I found that enjoying the place we had was actually a very valuable and good thing. Wanting to find a different house had caused me to appreciate less the wonderful blessing that our current house was to our family.

There’s a certain irony associated with the fact that just as I was getting comfortable with the notion of hanging out here for awhile to come, things began working out on the househunt front. But that is a story for another night….

(stay tuned)