My formative years fit nicely into a boring, middle-class (WASPy & religious) narrative. When I was 11 or 12 I transitioned from quiet, cooperative follower to rebellious, moody, pseudo-intellectual teen. Unsurprisingly that was about the same time that I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder which would eventually be coupled with anxiety, a disorder people seem to be oddly comfortable self diagnosing.
While my family wasn’t incredibly unique, my mother introduced some not-so-common behaviors. One lucky one was her unabashed, on-going conversation and recognition of mental disorder. I still (in 2017!) feel that mental disorder remains a taboo topic, even among family. But lucky for me, I was regularly encouraged to be open about my disorder and to be comfortable seeking help for it.
As I mentioned before, I haven’t learned much throughout my life experience but I have picked up on a few things. One thing I know for sure is that changing circumstances almost always heavily disrupt my depression.Unfortunately, knowledge of this phenomenon has yet to prepare me for any of life’s curve balls or even life’s most organic changes. I handle change like an adult in theory but like a 7 year old in practice. If I’m mindful about impending change, I envision myself being fine with it. I approach it very pragmatically but my mental disorder is always waiting to disrupt the process. While I reasonably plan transition, depression pounces and then BAM! I’m suddenly executing my plan through tears, fights, screaming, emotionally driven decisions, and then total mental breakdown. This has happened at almost every juncture of my adult life. Interestingly and unfortunately enough, this reaction is basically guaranteed when it comes to changes I wanted or initiated. So considering all of the amazing, intense and self-initiated changes of the last 5 years, it’s safe to say I’ve done a lot of breaking down. Some people (especially Christians) believe that brokenness is a pretty perfect place start growing. I’m really hoping they’re right.
Buying a house has been the most intense experience of my life. This sounds like a gross overstatement but I’ve come to expect and accept that I experience everything a little more dramatically than most. I’ve definitely gone through the seemingly mandatory motions of mental breakdown (I even have a closet with no door to show for it). First time home ownership has affected way more than I thought it would. I was expecting it to do two things:
- Allow me to feel like I’m not pissing away money on rent
- Allow me to nest in a place that I make my own
I wasn’t prepared for the fact that it would:
- Change my financial situation
- Change the dynamics of my marriage
- Introduce the concept of never ending needs
- Turn me into a DIYer (sort of)
- Teach me how much of a dissatisfied brat I am
- Show me how little money I actually have
- Force me to accept the importance of cleaning EVERYTHING
…and maybe most surprisingly: the power of paint.
Beyond her openness about mental disorder, my mother displayed a lot of behaviors and preferences that collectively added to (or subtracted from) who I have become as an adult. I’m a neat freak, a clean freak, a pseudo interior designer, a woman with expensive taste, a frequent restaurant patron, a wino, a crier, and a replacer. My entire experience as a roommate of my mother’s has sneakily exposed me to her inclination to replace things instead of fixing or improving them. The moment our offer was accepted on this house, I started the lengthy and ever-growing list of things we need to replace: the storm doors, the front and back doors, the baseboards, the bathrooms, the kitchen, the light fixtures, the trim, pretty much the entire contents of the interior of the house. Furthermore, thanks to my calm-cool-collected reaction to change, I immediately felt VERY STRONGLY about all of these things. See, the last residence I moved into with my parents was a condo that my mom had completely gut renovated before we moved in. Every STICK, floor and all, was removed from the condo and then replaced with something hand picked by my mother. We didn’t even paint anything ourselves, I just picked my room color and the contractor took care of it. This is a terrible last impression because while I understood the timeline for renovations was going to be different with my house, I couldn’t wrap my head around HOW different it would actually be.
I’ve slowly learned with much resistance and through constant reading of Apartment Therapy articles and “how to ____ on a budget”s… and then finally through practice, that there are two annoying things you can do with little to no money that will vastly improve pretty much anything in your house: clean it. paint it. Cleaning is something I’ve always been stellar at and definitely don’t mind doing. I get extreme satisfaction from cleaning things so I was willing to accept that fate. What I wasn’t ready for was the extent to which I would have to clean something to accept it. I’ve always started out with a house or a space that was already relatively clean so most cleaning was just up-keep. I never had to look at an all pink, all tile, 1950s bathroom full of dirty grout, especially not one I would have to live with for at least a few years. I must say though, it is truly incredible how tolerable something can become when it is clean. I don’t love my pink bathroom but after 3 hours of grout scrubbing, I definitely don’t hate it.
My best cleaning advice is not not spend a ton of money on cleaning products. All of the best, most effective cleaning products are the cheapest ones. I think my magic shopping list would be:
- Baking Soda
- White Vinegar
- Powdered Comet
- Powdered Barkeepers Friend
- Murphy’s Oil Soap
- Windex (or ammonia)
- Spray bottles
- Scrub brushes
- Scotch sponges
- Microfiber rags
- Rubber gloves
There is nothing you can’t clean with that list and those are all probably the cheapest items in the cleaning aisle. There are hundreds of recipes for grout cleaners, stink erasers, goo gone, and glass cleaners that only involve those products and I stand firmly by that.
After you’ve cleaned the hell out of something you hate… and I mean cleaned the HELL out of it – like if it’s a ceiling fan, you unscrewed the light kit and all of the blades and cleaned each little tiny part down to the screws – and you still hate it; paint it. My husband seems to have known about this little “secret” but didn’t let me in on it because I guess he thought I wouldn’t buy it. I will admit, it was a hard one for me to truly get behind but I’m now a believer. We’ve painted five rooms and two hallways so far and I wasn’t really a prophet of paint until now.
The trim of our house was presumably measured, cut, and GLUED on (nailed on in some places) by a blind 4 year old. When we moved in I started noticing how severely damaged and dingy it was, I found all of the little crevices full of dust and dirt and unpainted wood. It was making me crazy. How expensive would it be to have someone rip out all of our base boards and trim and replace them with shiny, pre-painted stuff? Probably more than we could afford. But then we started painting and I jammed the oh-so-magical bright white, high-gloss paint into every nook and cranny of our hideous trim and suddenly it didn’t make me want to rip all of my skin off. I’m not in love with it but I certainly don’t hate it, it’s way easier to clean and I’m likely the only person that looks at it closely enough to notice how damaged and ill-fitted it is. Bless paint.
As if trim restoration wasn’t enough, we found that painting the interior of our front door changed the entire tone of our foyer (along with painting the walls and trim, of course). I’m currently whitewashing the ugliest ceiling fan I’ve ever seen in my entire life and it’s costing me $0 (I mean, we already had the paint and brushes). All of that to say – I’m perfectly fine with the fact that my hands (and other random body parts) are constantly covered in paint along with my sleep shirts and now several pairs of leggings. Worth it.
I plan to soon embark on a mini kitchen makeover and much like every Apartment Therapy article that chronicles cheap kitchen “updates”, I too will be painting everything and replacing hardware. That may end up being a fun before/after entry.
There’s no concise way to wrap up all of my thoughts this time around. All I can say is that patience is hard, change is even harder, and being a replacer is easy but maybe the satisfaction of improving something will save me from our throwaway mindset.