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Albie’s About To Buy Her First Home But Saying No To A Big Reno AKA “Project Pressure”… It’s a Real Thing

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Albie Fact: I’m a lifelong renter…happily. Even after marriage and a baby, we’ve never been in any rush to buy a house. Why not? Because we weren’t in any rush to take on everything that comes with homeownership — no one wants to be house rich, money poor!

2020 — in true “wtf” fashion — however, got us rethinking our life as renters; in truth, we realized it’s a life we’ve outlived and now we’re ready to take the plunge into homeownership

Making the decision to buy a house is already a huge one, and it involves a ton of pressure  — self-imposed — to choose the right one for my family but to also choose one that allows me to really flex my design skills. I’d be kidding myself if I pretended like my home isn’t basically my own personal showhouse. But buying, especially for the first time, burns enough mental calories to last a lifetime; so adding on anything additional would lead to a complete mental spiral. Think about it…the home buying process is one that is undeniably daunting, from the cost to the search to the paper intensive final steps. I don’t expect everything to be perfect right out of the gate — process-wise — so I am definitely not expecting perfection from the home itself. 

Naturally, as a designer and stylist, I can’t help but fantasize about what I’d do to my future home — I even have a Pinterest board to manifest our future home — but after a lifetime of renting, while I am riddled with big design ideas, I also refuse to succumb to “project pressure”.

photo by mariah texidor | yes, that’s my book!

What is “project pressure”?

So glad you asked! 

For starters, it’s something Jess & I came up with when talking about renter-friendly projects we’ve tackled — a whole different kind of project pressure by the way. Loosely defined, project pressure is the pressure to tackle every and any project imaginable in a new home, likely before even actually living in said home. 

Between design shows and social media, it’s really easy to get swept away in wanting to knock down walls, upgrade fixtures, and remove everything…even what’s bolted to the floor. But why? 

How do I know what I really want out of a future home before spending an entire fortnight there? Yes, I said fortnight. Are there things that I can assess beforehand as a “must have” or “must go” — i.e. carpet & popcorn ceilings? Absolutely! But knowing that I’m buying a home, even if not for a lifetime, I think I’ve earned some time to think things through, take my time, and design in phases. 

Now, if tackling projects is your jam…go for it. If you actually want a fixer upper…I’m rooting for you. But I think we’ve all gotten caught up in the notion of our homes needing projects…I mean, imagine a world where we just all move in and sit down. What would I write about without a project to do?! 

*cue the sarcasm*

I remember earlier this year deciding that I would no longer tackle any more projects in our 2 bedroom condo — I was all project’d out — and I wanted nothing more than to enjoy and live in the home that I’d spent the past 3 years designing & redesigning. To be honest, even though I knew there was so much more that I could do, I just got tired of tinkering. I had project fatigue! I wanted a break. I wanted to reset the way I felt about the way I lived. 

photo by me | fall 2018 orc

About 6 months after that decision, I decided it was time to finally tackle a room I’d been avoiding the entire time — the living room. I am certain that without that design respite, I wouldn’t have gotten that new surge of inspiration. The possibility of having my own home — ya know, that I own own — is a different kind of inspiration. No one to ask for permission. No worries about putting it all back. No one to answer to but ourselves. But if it ain’t broke and it’s not impeding me from enjoying the new home, what’s the rush. Just because I can, it doesn’t mean I should

design by me | photo by mariah texidor

Where does project pressure come from?

To be completely honest, most project pressure is external — home design shows, social media, our personal circles — but a large part of it is definitely self-inflicted. 

So many design shows highlight the benefits of getting a fixer-upper which, for a lot of us, may translate to the “need” to find the worst house ever so we can love it back to life. On the other side of that, with social media (really, just Instagram) and Pinterest we’re inundated with everyone’s “highlight reel” home content and, lemme tell ya… homeowner imposter syndrome is real. “Is my house pretty enough?” “Is my house picture-perfect enough?” The feeling that you have to out project your last project for the sake of content may sound crazy but it’s a thing! These feelings of not doing enough or having enough or creating enough are something I read about all the time in my DMs and my answer is always the same:

No one else lives in our homes so the rush to the proverbial design finish line benefits no one else but us, for better or for worse. 

Now that I browse home listings like they’re Pinterest, I can instantly tell which homes will bring on an insane number of projects (translation: I hate everything but see “potential” in the home) versus those that will allow me to live in and enjoy the house for weeks & months before feeling the need to do work. Here’s what I know — I will never buy a fixer-upper, but I don’t need brand new. The sweet spot in the middle where it’s “turnkey” but I can also tinker is how I know I can curb any potential project pressure. 

Let’s browse a few of the listings we’ve looked at while I continue…

the first house we looked at

How am I saying no to project pressure?

Following so many home influencers and DIYers and interior designers, I’m not immune to wanting to take a paint brush to my home; but also know that the “newness” that we strive for when tackling back to back to back projects can quickly wear off…not to mention how quickly the costs can add up!

I’m not looking at any listings where I have to dig around with a magnifying glass to find the home’s potential. I don’t want potential. I’ve lived with “potential” as a renter my entire life, and potential = project pressure! I’m looking for homes where the current status will allow me to flex my creativity to make it our own, but is good enough that we can live with it as is if need be. 

house two

I’m also really honest with myself and having regular conversations with my husband about our must-haves and deal-breakers…down to the tiniest detail. For example: we would both prefer an open concept kitchen so we’ll likely never go for a home with a closed-off kitchen because it would mean a huge renovation; but we’d be willing to concede and go for a galley kitchen because the layout is a compromise we can live with and any potential renovation wouldn’t be as daunting as a full gut job. Knowing this ahead of time helps us manage our expectations and set somewhat realistic timelines for the projects we’d want to tackle.

house three

Lastly, being hyper-aware of our finances — nothing like thinking about homeownership to force you to really start adulting — puts us in a position to know exactly what we’ll have the financial bandwidth to handle. It’s the ultimate reality check (see what I did there). 

Is it easy? Not even a little bit. With everyone getting back to home, every day there seems to be a new project being revealed on my timeline every time I scroll. And did I mention that right now we’re in the middle of the One Room Challenge? Inspiration and projects everywhere! 

design by me | photo by mariah texidor

I know that while we’re thinking about homeownership, I won’t stop fantasizing about what that home will look like, but the resistance to actually do a bunch of projects is worth it if it means taking my time and not feeling crushed under the weight to keep up with everyone else’s project pace. 

Have you ever experienced project pressure? You know…after scrolling the interwebs or watching all your neighbors COVID renos, are you feeling the itch to grab a wet saw and install some tile? P.S. don’t. Have you given in or have you been able to resist? Let’s talk about it. 

Opening Image Credit: Design by Albie K. Buabeng (me) | Photo by Mariah Texidor

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Rachel

I loved this post and totally understand where you are coming from!

When I asked my partner, on a scale of 1 to 10, what his appetite for a renovation was he said “Is there something less than one?” so I respected that (renovation induced divorce is real!). We found a house that had a great floor plan and some ugly finishes that weren’t that expensive to update (think painting, changing out knobs, replacing carpet with hard floors). It’s three years in and we are still working on things (I have two little kids and a busy job so I’m giving myself a pass).

Anyway, it was far and away the best decision we made. There is nothing in the house we hate, I can tackle updates as and when I have the energy (and money and motivation). It also means I can afford to get a tradesman in when I can’t do something quickly myself.

I also changing things that are ok for the sake of change (as opposed to when it is not functional/broken) is pretty wasteful, so if you can find something where you can work with what’s there it’s win-win.

Reno divorce is so real so I’m glad you guys had that talk!!! Cosmetic upgrades are so impactful so yay you for finding that sweet spot. And even without the kiddos & job, I’d give you a pass on the three years… your home, your timeline 🙂

Reanna

In the process of buying my first home now, and I definitely catch myself thinking of projects to make it perfect…but really, I need to just live in it and get a feel for things! Thanks for the perspective.

Karen

Good for you! Renovations are gnarly – they hit you hard on an emotional, logistical, AND monetary level. It’s also very easy for them to spiral out of control, and last for years on end.

Another part of home buying that’s an inherent part of the process, in my opinion, is how when it’s the right house (or “a right house”; there can be a few), you just KNOW. It feels right, and it feels like home.

You def want your list of non-negotiables and must-haves, as long as they’re realistic (like, don’t live on a busy street). A house may romance you during the first walk-through, so you also want the sturdy nuts & bolts in place, and calling to a list you made before you stepped foot inside will help steer you back to baseline logistics.

A walk through romance… yes! LOL but you’re so right. As a designer I’ve consulted on home designs that, honestly, they should’ve/would’ve never bought if they had a list but they fell in love with the “potential”.

Suzanne

It’s crazy how you just know when it’s the right house. Our first house we didn’t look at for a long time because of the street, and finally my realtor and I looked at it. We walked in the front door, looked at each other and knew it was the one. Was it perfect? No, but we loved that house so much. It just felt right. My husband still regrets not keeping it as a rental, or not living there longer, but we were ready to upgrade.

Katie

Oh, I’m 12 years in in my sort of fixer upper (70-year old mill house in SC) and I am still doing projects that someone else might have tackled day one. This past week i had a new countertop installed in the kitchen. Just the countertop, nothing else, although it is making me think about doing something to the cabinets that are perfectly FINE, but could be better. I lived with gray laminate for 12 years, and it was totally fine (could have been better), but didn’t seem worth it to replace. I use my kitchen A LOT. Now, my kitchen was neutral to begin with, so if everything had been really not my style I probably would have tackled it earlier, but I also chose not to buy a house with terrible tile and horrible countertops. Every room in this house was painted brown with black trim when i bought it, and that seemed like a do-able change. Like Albie says, look at those parts that are immovable and deal breakers and stay far away! I will also add that the things I really want to change now are things I myself added 11 years ago because I felt… Read more »

StephanieZ

I’m in a 125 yr old mill house. I def did a few things when I first moved in that I regretted as well. I completely embrace my old house now and try to be more thoughtful.

Atiya

Am a lifelong renter living this exact scenario right now and choosing a contractor in a couple days to start on projects three days after closing. I’m making so many design decisions before we even own the house. I’ll be happy to have modernized bathrooms on move-in, but wowza this is a pain. Thank you for putting a term to the madness!

We should start a support group for renters turned owners!

raven_smiles

I bought my first house at the end of May after being a renter for 18 years. The house is pretty solid and doesn’t have a ton of projects, but it did take me a solid month to realize that I can’t tackle all the projects at the same time. IE – I can’t repaint the house, replace all the lights, get new screens for the windows, refinish the floors, and redo the landscaping simultaneously. Mainly because I have a job that requires me to work, but also because I don’t have the mental capacity to do it. Once I realized that I had a huge burden lifted. I’ve also realized in purchasing this house what I do and don’t like in a house and am already semi-looking for my next house to purchase. It’s hard to not fall in love with a picture perfect, everything you’ve ever liked, all the shiny things house, but having been in this place for almost 6 months I feel like I know what I really need and want. I don’t know that I could’ve figured that out when I was buying initially, although I would’ve had a better idea if I’d talked to… Read more »

“I can’t tackle all the projects at the same time…I have a job that requires me to work, but also because I don’t have the mental capacity to do it.” THIS PART! So many of us forget that life just doesn’t make it possible to do it all, even if we wanted to, so I’m glad you had this “aha!” moment. It does help being able to talk to a ton of people about every little detail. From my husband to the realtor to Emily herself (p.s. jump in the community if you really need to… it’s great in there!). We don’t know what we don’t know… ya know?! Congrats on the house tho! You got this! And thank you 🙂

Elise

Love this! Just moved into a new home in the mountains and am dying to tackle every single thing. Right before reading this, I had complete paint-induced paralysis in which I felt I needed to order every single color of paint possible to paint the entire place rather than just starting with one room at a time. The need to feel like everything is immediately picture-perfect has completely taken over. Reading this was like hitting the reset button and reminded me of when I hiked the PCT and concentrated on “smiles not miles” and putting that into perspective here—it is the memories we make in a place and not the constant need for progress. Great read!

Smiles not miles! Love this. And I’m glad this helped. It’s totally okay to enjoy the “honeymoon phase” with your house.

Caitlin

We bought our first house in March. I wanted a house with zero major renos (no walls moving or structural changes) but was okay with doing cosmetic stuff. When we found our house I divided the things in the house I wanted to change to either fix immediately or take my time on. For the example the poo brown walls, peeling laminate floors and electric blue countertops had to be changed before we moved in. It took us two weeks and we diy’d everything ourselves to keep the costs down. Over the past seven months we have changed out a lot of light fixtures, faucets, added backsplash tile, added some wall treatments, fixed up a bathroom, added landscaping and are now adding a brick fireplace. Our budget for our full house reno was 20k and it’s been very manageable! I can now do my own plumbing and electric! I am also a very inpatient person so if I was more normal I’m sure lots of these things could have waited longer. I think some of the project craziness has come from being stuck inside and wanting to keep myself productive.

Brigitte

Great topic. Thanks for starting the conversation.

Elizabeth

I’m on my fourth old house (I’m in my sixties) remodel and I’ve found it’s best to wait a year before doing anything major, even buying expensive furniture. You need to know how you will live in it during the different seasons. That said, I usually make it as livable as possible that first year, which really helps the thought process and inspiration. I’ve painted rooms I hated the color of and made window coverings but mostly I move furniture around that first year.

Rachel

Yes!!!! I totally agree with this. We have an open plan kitchen/dining/living room and experimented with our existing furniture and moved it around A LOT before finding the right layout (which is totally different to what I expected would work/look good). Now after a few years we’re getting some new pieces that I think will look great – but more importantly will work for our family because we understand how we live in the house.

Kristin Ely

THIS is true wisdom. After 3 years in my home, some projects I thought we no-brainers have changed altogether based on how we use the space.

Eva

Such a timely topic. I love the creative outlet of tinkering with our house, but it can also be stressful to always feel like there’s that additional “to do” on the list … we have slowly been updating our house over the last five years, and I’m sure that by the time we’re done, macro trends will have shifted, and the general style we’re going with now will feel totally outdated. Still, of all the problems to have, these are not the worst 🙂

This is such a great topic, Albie. My husband and I bought a brand new town home five years ago. I know that purchasing a new home is the biggest design blogger sin there is, but my husband and I are not handy people /DIYers (nor do we desire to be) and we were very clear upfront that we did not want a home that would require major updates just feel comfortable. We could also rest easy knowing that the money we would eventually spend on our home could go to cosmetic updates, versus internal systems or construction to make the home function properly. We’re just now getting to the point where we’re making a real imprint on the home (hanging wallpaper, changing fixtures, painting) but I’m glad that we didn’t dive into it immediately. It gave us time to really understand our home, apply purpose to each space, and articulate how we actually wanted to feel in each area. Too often I get caught up in Instagram reveals from bloggers and influencers, but then I remember that my husband and I work full-time jobs. Sometimes we don’t have energy required to work evenings or weekends on a project. Bloggers… Read more »

I couldn’t have said it better myself!!!! “ Comparison is the thief of joy. Home ownership is SUCH A GIFT.” We did look at brand new homes — because we could still design it to our needs… so totally not a bad thing in my book, even as a blogger. I actually love watching builder grade upgrades on my timeline. We eventually took new of the list because, just the way they’re built, we’d have to concede somewhere major. But I’m so glad you took your time to learn your house before tackling it.

A.B.

This is a great reminder. Also – please share more about your book!

My book! So… It’ll be restocked on Amazon soon but it’s on B&N. It’s one years old now! And basically talking about things like this — loving your home/apt/dwelling place in any season of life because waiting for perfection is a waste.

Meredith

Oof as a designer this was suuuuch a good reminder. I renovate houses for a living, and I love doing it – but… do I NEED to constantly put this on myself in my downtime, too? Yeah, that’s a no. Phew. Thank you for giving me the catchphrase I can use to talk myself down from yet another design upheaval!

Kelly

Such a balanced perspective! I appreciate this so much. I have actually done less projects since Covid because I didn’t want us to live in a chaotic environment. I have held off painting as well as other projects just to keep our house feeling calm amongst all the crazy that is the covid world we are living in. No regrets.

Love this alternative! Kudos to you 🙂 you said know to, what’s probably, the ultimate season of project pressure! Mental well-being is way more important.

Rusty

Oh, Albie! Project pressure really IS a thing and I’ve been there.
I had a paralysed arm (long story and it did not move…at all!) and project managed a total restoration of a nearly 100 year old house that had been empty for 10 years (roof space equalled rat haven) and didn’t even have a toilet in the house! The old “outside dunny” was it!
Man, that was hard! But, everyone was like “Oh, look at you, you’re dusabled and doing such a great job!!” Presssssssssure to perform!

Don’t give in to the pressure.
Do your thing at your pace.

BTW: So totally fabulous to read grammatically correct post that was fun, witty and full of content. Yaaay!

AND: That book is… your book?!?!? WHOO HOO!!!

Albie, at least you’ve got a resident EHD expert on property buying details to offer advice, in Caitlin! 😃

A

Loved the name of your bathroom Pinterest board 😂

Get those bathrooms, girl!!!

Sarah T

Lifelong happy renter here and can so relate! Every few years I get inspired by ‘simple rental update’ articles and…it never works out as it should! Tried to switch out the interior doorknobs recently. I still am not sure what went wrong but wrong it went. If we were ever in a position to buy a home these low lift projects have taught me I absolutely would be terrible at a renovation or DIY. Will stick to the vicarious fun of following others projects! And a huge thank you to those with the skills to do so and generosity in sharing 🙂

Erica

Thanks for this! We bought our first place this summer. While this was all very new to us, buying for the first time during a quarantine felt like it added a whole level of “oh, wow, what are we doing?” to the experience.

While there are so many possible projects, we love the layout & the space and the street. So aside from doing some garden planning that involves drastic thistle-killing measures and a couple of paint projects, I’m focusing on enjoying what we have (at least until we build our savings back up a little and finish getting the roof fixed). And there’s a lot to enjoy – there’s something special about waking up each morning in your own place, at least for me. I hope that getting to the other side of the searching & paperwork goes well for you!

Cris S.

Yes!!! I have experienced project pressure! I thought it would be cheaper to add a second story to a house than buy something where I’d want to renovate everything. And while it was fun to have chosen every single surface and option that I see around me, amazingly gutting and reconfiguring a single story and adding a new second story was NOT cheaper. House poor indeed and honestly, I don’t think we’d recoup what we spent much less make any profit when we sell. And now the property taxes have jumped way up. Sooooo…. definitely do better at sticking to a budget than I did!!!!

Betsy

You are absolutely spot on, Albie. When I bought my home, I was house poor. Like I could barely afford a can of paint. All of my money want into my 20% down payment. Was pressured into buying, and obviously not financially ready. So I had no choice but to find something i could live with, so to speak. The home has come a long way in 17 years. Even just with basic redos. I’m no longer house poor, and only have 5 years to go on my mortgage. I think when it is paid off, I will do a small addition to the house. But not before saving, saving, saving for the cost. I do not want to be house poor again. I really don’t want to get a loan for construction, either. So glad to see you aren’t falling for the rabbit hole of the never ending redo’s and renovations. Best of luck to you in your search.

Jessica

I just watched the video of Masterclass’s livestream with Kelly Wearstler – she spends 3 or 4 YEARS on her design projects! It put into perspective that “don’t rush” actually means “no really, don’t rush!”

Gigi

Hey Albie! Good to meet you. I love the way you write and I flew through it. I learned the term “project pressure” today. Like you, I was renting and could care less about home buying. I told myself many people overseas live in apartments for their entire lives but my children began getting older and living in an apartment got old.This is probably why I looked for a home to purchase for over a year and still haven’t found one.

Lane

I get it if you are in the industry, but I can’t relate to it myself. Real estate and architecture are my hobbies. But once I finish decorating I don’t intend to change anything unless it can’t be fixed, or isn’t functional anymore. I like quality but I can’t afford it all at once. Thus, I buy one thing at the time and the process is long. Ultimately it’s not to show off, but to have a satisfaction from and enjoyment of my surroundings. So if I move or decide to pursue it as work or hobby, I won’t feel any pressure. As a side note. Please sign your name under photos instead of ‘me’. You can be more confident about owning your design.

Kate

So wise.

Love your perspective, thank you for writing this!

There’s a trade off with homeownership too – yes, you can finally do everything you want, but you also are on the hook for everything that may come up.

The old hot water heater dies on a Friday night in the winter? There is no landlord to call; that’s you and your checkbook and a plumber. The stove or the fridge quits? That’s on you. Branch slashes a hole in the roof during a storm? You!

There’s freedom with owning a home, and a TON of responsibility. The best advice I have is to plan for the maintenance/breakage/emergency costs that are going to come up for your house. (And don’t forget to budget for the property taxes if they’re not bundled into your mortgage payment!)

Isabelle

Thank you for reiterating this. I’ve had several peers purchase homes recently and I am feeling the pressure, especially from the ones who did small down payments and see it as very affordable (it’s not).

I’m glad it worked out for them but I can’t help but think….yeah, even if I had the down payment, what’s going to happen when the roof leaks or a pipe bursts? I don’t have the financial cushion for that and I suspect they don’t either. Planning to keep renting for now!

Suzanne

Our house, purchased 13 years ago was in the sweet spot. We knew we wanted to do the kitchen and bathrooms our way, so we were okay, and even happy that they needed updates. I hat the idea of tearing out a relatively recent remodel. However, we wanted the floor plan, layout, or flow to work for us. No walls coming down (okay, one wall to combine a full and half bath to make a more luxurious spa bathroom). We painted and refinished floors between moving in, and did minor kitchen, i.e. painted the cabinets and changed hardware (kitchen was in good shape, just not our dream kitchen). We redid bathrooms in the first year to go from 2.5 to 3 bathrooms that used space more efficiently. We are finally planning the kitchen. No walls will come down, but there will be a slight reconfiguration of cabinetry, and we’ll finally get soapstone counters! Anyway, I definitely think finding a home that is within your project range is important. Resisting trends or the popularity of full renovations is important. I actually think looking at old design magazines and books from multiple eras is great. You can hone in on your style… Read more »

Rachel

I totally agree with “look at old magazines” idea. I’ve been on Pinterest and Houzz for years and it’s great to go back and look at things you pinned like 10 years ago and see what you still like/trends emerging over time. Then you know you like something because YOU like it, not Instagram!

StephanieZ

I bought 10 years ago so there wasn’t quite the same need for everything to look picture perfect like there is now. I spent 1 whole year looking; mainly because I was looking in 3 small neighborhoods and was trying to find a cheaper house than what those neighborhoods typically had. That was right after the collapse so I got to see tons of crappy flips which I knew I didn’t want, tons of houses that needed so much work that I wouldn’t even be able to move in for a while and very few houses that were livable with some old features left. I wound up buying one of those; a 1892 shotgun type mill house behind a former cotton mill turned loft complex. It was perfectly livable just needed updating which I was happy to do, at my own pace. I slowly did small projects over the years… 3 years in I did a half ass kitchen reno, where I painted the old cabs, put up wall tile and got a new countertop/sink. Just last year I finally had the kitchen cabs replaced, but kept my sink and countertop. Unfortunately I had to do new tile, but I… Read more »

Pip

I enjoyed this post as a long-time home owner (just paid off my mortgage!!!). What I learned over the years was finishes do not make the home. Are your friends going to notice the forty year old sheet vinyl in your kitchen (that the dishwasher installer said he hadn’t seen since his gramma died!!!). Nope. They are going to smell what you are baking, listen to the music playing, love the laughter in the room. That’s what makes the home a home. As for the flooring – that damned stuff never peels, doesn’t have a crack, has protected the sub-flooring from more than one leaking appliance…so, it stays. Besides, who else can take a bunch of glitter and wax it in during the holidays (yup – it looked great and it made friends smile)?! So, slow down, enjoy that home – it’s not just a house.

Rose

Right on Pip!!!!

bubu

You are so smart to be thinking through these things beforehand. I think HGTV-type shows really distort the reality of just how hard home projects are, and just how much they cost, in terms of time, money and aggravation. Most of us are not married to contractors and have to research them, call and chase them down just to come and get an estimate, never mind showing up to do the work! When we were looking at houses a few year ago, it came down to two, one was older (1920s) with beautiful original woodwork and ambiance, but really outdated kitchen, no closets, and no yard to speak of. The other was from 1950, fewer original features, but updated kitchen, useable closets, finished basement and fenced in backyard with irrigation system. There were some paint colors and light fixtures we would swap out, but nothing major. I was torn by the kinds of questions you are posing here but finally asked myself: do I want to spend my weekends working on a house or sitting out back with a gin and tonic? I think you can guess what we decided! I have not regretted it for a minute – a… Read more »

Sahara

Thank you for putting a name to this feeling! We bought a house a year and a half ago, and since we’re not handy people, we wanted one that would require as little updating as possible. Six months into a pandemic and staring at the same walls every day though, I definitely feel the project pressure, even if it’s just for little things.

Sona

I love the term you and Jess came up with. Your article is timely for me. My husband and I have completely remodeled our 1978 ranch with three different remodels over a four year period. I love the changes that we made. Our last remodel was completed 10 years ago. The kitchen, which was the first project was completed almost 14 years ago. I look at my kitchen sometimes and wonder if it is time for a refresh, ie, new counters, floors and backsplash. Although it is perfectly fine as it is. My sister just moved from another state back to our home state and bought a house that needed a little updating. It was so exciting to see the transformation of their new home. It made me day dream about my home. But then I tell myself that it is wasteful, money-wise and environmentally, to re-do our kitchen. In order for my sister to sell the home she was leaving, she packed away a lot of her knick knacks and decluttered personal belongings. She said it was really refreshing to live in her house that way. So then I think maybe I just need to pare down and see… Read more »

Finally, I have a diagnosis for the overwhelm I’ve been feeling ! Thank you Dr.Albi! Mine definitely comes from too much scrolling on social media … on one hand it’s inspiring and excited but on the other hand it just yields comparison and imposter syndrome.

Elizabeth

I am also looking at a million listings as a first-time home buyer, and my rubric – which you have finally put into words! – is that if the first thing I notice is something reno-related, it’s a no, while if my first gut reaction is something positive then it’s worth a deeper dive!

I legit almost put an offer down on a beautiful house at the top of our budget, but when I realized that my mental chatter was going “ok well before we move in we’d need to take up that hideous carpet, and also the kitchen would look amazing if we knock down that wall and expand the cabinets” I was like girl… TOO MUCH MONEY. Step away!

Versus, I have a house on my serious contender list that definitely has some eh parts, but I just fell in LOVE with the gorgeous yard. My thoughts of that house are all daydreaming about the time we could spend outside! That more than makes up for the eh parts to me. I can just tell that my spirit is in it.

jen

Hi Albie,

Girl, yes!! Sometimes I take a break from IG and design blogs and magazines because I started getting legit anxiety about “unfinished” spaces in my home. I finally realized, WHO CARES? No one is even coming over right now anyway. Home renovations are a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve lived in my home for 5 years and we have tackled A LOT both indoors and out. There is no need to rush or constantly be working on something. For one, the burnout is intense. But I also feel had I been able to rush and do everything I wanted to do right away, I may not have been happy with those choices long-term, and so appreciate the time to live in the space and see what I need from it, as you point out, and get even more creative with my design choices, or find solutions I didn’t know about before.

Colleen Clark

OOH THISSSSS. I’m so glad our budget didn’t allow us to try to do a million projects right off the bat. We had to fix boring expensive things like electrical wiring, relining the roof, putting in an HVAC system. I’m so glad it forced us to wait and live with things and see how we actually want to use the space. We started with beautiful historic details and fixed the must-do stuff. Now we’re living with it and learning what we like and need from the space.

I also think it’s so hard to deal with the pressure of needing every room to be so DONEEEEEE. Before the advent of design blogs did anyone in the world actually have a nice laundry room? I think not. While I love to look at a pretty wallpapered laundry room, I know that deep down, I could probably better spend that money on a family vacay or in savings for retirement. It doesnt stop me from being tempted to take on a project like that but I do try to come back to reality.

Abby

This is such a great topic and perspective! We are planning to move next summer and will be buying a house for the third time. We did a lot of cosmetic remodels on our current house; everything but replacing the doors and only because I never was able to convince my husband to spend the money. I can’t tell you how tempted I am to really show off what I can do design-wise (ha!) by buying a house that basically needs a full gut-remodel, moving walls, creating new rooms and all. Curse you, HGTV!

But with my older daughter starting high school next year, I also don’t want to spend the time I have left with kids at home in an endless remodel, nor do I want to make decisions I don’t really love because I’m trying to hurry. Your post is inspiring me to focus on finding a house that doesn’t need walls moved, etc so that I can just focus on cosmetic changes. Still a big project, but I’ve done it before and it definitely feels more manageable.

Good luck with finding the right house for you!

Caity

We bought a fixer upper without really realizing we were…even though the house was dated and ugly I was expecting to live with our 70’s bathroom for awhile but then we discovered that the shower was leaking and rotting the floor underneath, so we ended up re-doing the whole thing. We were lucky in that we were able to get a HELOC which allowed us to make the renovations. Most people around where we live do not have renovated or updated homes. Maybe HGTV has made us all feel that we have to have a brand new shiny kitchen or bathroom for our house to feel good. But let’s face it, that is out of reach for so many of us, and owning our own home is a big enough achievement. I so agree with the spirit of this post: let us renovate as our funds allow, not as marketing, tv, or instagram makes us think we should. We are definitely in the “years-long renovations” camp, and to be honest, I fine about that, as we don’t have the time or funds to do it all right now. But I know one day it will be done, and as every… Read more »

Nina

It’s the worst when it becomes hard to enjoy the space you are in because you keep seeing “projects”.

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