Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A New Lifestyle

We took possession of New House on March 23.  The remodeling phase was mostly done by the end of April, and by the end of May we had enough furniture in to live fairly comfortably.  The rest of the furniture arrived by the end of June.

We had accumulated enough kitchen "stuff" over the 30 years we've been together to set up the kitchen without having to buy a lot of new stuff.  We did buy some new items, just because we wanted to and not because we really had to.  This bring us to one advantage of the 2-house-lifestyle:  We were able to declutter the Old kitchen to furnish the New kitchen - a benefit to both houses.

Another advantage is something I alluded to in my last post.  With the New 2 car garage, we were able to close out the storage unit that we'd been renting for 2 years.  Most of what was in there was stuff we kept from my parent's house, and most of that stuff just needs to be gone through.  We had boxes and boxes of financial and medical papers.  Some needed to be shredded and some can just be tossed, but it all had to be gone through.  When all the boxes were in a storage unit, it just wasn't convenient to get a box, haul it home and go through it - so we didn't.  Just in the last month, we've been working at a rate of about a box a day and have managed to get rid of almost a dozen boxes so far.

A 3rd advantage has presented itself twice so far - What happens when the power goes out?  So far, the power has gone out at each house once, and each time for an extended period.  We were able to load up the stuff from the "dark" refrigerator and take all that food to the working fridge and not lose anything.  We were also able to sleep in the house with power so we could still have A/C and/or fans, and I could still sleep with my CPAP machine.  (Without which I have to sleep sitting up in a recliner.)  It turns out that even though the houses are close to each other, they are on different power circuits.  So far, they have not both been out at the same time.

As soon as school was out, we started sleeping at New House.  We love being here in the mornings.  The porch is glorious in the morning sun.  The schedule we've developed has sort of evolved, partly because we don't yet have TV service at New House.  We like to watch the evening news, so it has made sense to spend the day at New House and then go to Old House around 5-6ish p.m. and then spend the evening there doing laundry and watching our favorite shows on TV.  Then we come "home" at the end of the evening to go to bed.  We have developed a transition routine for each trip back and forth.  We have a place where we put stuff that goes to the other house, and we are usually hauling clothes, food, paper tidbits from one house to the other.  So far that has been fairly easy to manage.

Both Hubs and I have our computers (with regular internet service) and offices at Old House, so we do our "work' there.  I do have a laptop with a wireless internet connection at New House, but I don't use that for financial things.   At New House, I play the piano, work on sewing projects, read, play computer games - it is sort of a "vacation house" for me.

I'm sure the routine will change once school is back in session, but for now, this 2-house-lifestyle is working for us.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Great Experiment!

One of my reasons for starting this blog was to share the remodeling process of our new house with family and friends who live far away, and who probably won't be able to visit in person.  Well, that remodeling process is pretty much done now, except for decorating with artwork, etc...  So, that brings me to the next purpose of this blog: to chronicle the experience of having and actively living in two houses.

For those of you who may not remember how this whole adventure started, let me refresh your memory.  After looking for a new house for 2 years - one that we planned to fully move in to, and then sell the old house - we finally came to the realization that the odds of finding our dream house were slim to none.  We came the closest with a 2400 sq ft home that would have required a 40 min. drive each way to work, which was a deal-killer.  One of the prime features of this "almost" purchase was that it was on a slab.  Not only was it the largest slab home we found in our search, it was the ONLY slab home we found.  I asked our realtor very directly if he thought we could find a house that large on a slab closer to work.  He said no.

We found lots and lots of ranch homes with basements.  One thing I had never realized before is that whenever you have a house with a basement, there are also going to be steps up into the main level because traditional basements are not fully sunken underground, so there will be steps up to the front door, the back door, the garage into the house, etc...   Many of these ranch homes with basements also had some room inside that was sunken - typically a living room or family room.  I guess that was "in" at some point in the '50s or '60s?  The bottom line is that we had to have a house with no steps because of my bad knees.  Realistically, many people are eventually going to need to live in a home with no steps as the aging population falls prey to arthritis and joint injuries.  I guess I expected there to be more no-steps-houses out there, for that reason.  Well, that's not the case in this area.  At least not within an easy drive of my school.  Of course, it is possible to retro-fit existing homes with chairs that carry a person up the steps or with elevators, but both options are expensive and less than perfect.

Now, interestingly enough our old house is a slab home, in a large neighborhood of slab homes.  These houses are Huber Homes - built in the '70s by a man named Charles Huber.  He developed large communities of these small well-built brick ranches throughout the '50s, '60s and '70s.  (In fact, here in Ohio there is an entire city of Huber Homes called Huber Heights, a suburb of Dayton.)  However, one drawback of the Huber Homes in this area is that they are fairly small.  The smallest is less than 1200 sq ft with a one car garage and virtually no storage space besides regular closets.  There are several models, and they vary somewhat in size.  Most are 3 bedroom, and they typically have either 1 1/2 bathrooms or 2 bathrooms.   In our initial search, we didn't even consider another Huber because we wanted more space.  We were already in a mid-sized 3 bed, 2 bath Huber with a 1-car garage that is just over 1200 sq ft.  Our whole reason for moving was to get more space.

After we decided that our "almost" purchase wasn't going to happen, we felt very defeated and out of options.  Then Hubby had a brainstorm!  He said let's buy the house around the corner... and keep this one... and live in both.  WHAT?  SERIOUSLY?  He had crunched the numbers and had a very long list of positives, and after we discussed it, we really couldn't find any downside to the plan.  And so, here we are with 2 Huber Homes within sight of each other!!

The two houses have the same basic floor plan, but there are 3 major differences that were selling points for us:  1. New House has a 2 car garage which has allowed us to close out the storage unit we were paying $100/month for.  2. New House has a large storage room behind the second half of the 2 car garage which Old House doesn't have.  3. New House has a very large and very well-built 3-season room which is something we had seriously considered putting on Old House.

Previously, every time we had talked about adding on or remodeling Old House, we always came back to the issue that we really didn't want to live in remodeling dust and debris and noise and smell, etc...  Nor did we want to half-way "move out" during the remodeling.  With New House, we didn't have to do any of that. We were able to remodel from a distance without having to "live" in it, yet we were close enough to keep an eye on things on a daily basis.  The 3 season room didn't need any remodeling, so we were able to set up that room comfortably for our visits and then close the sliding door to keep out the dust.

With buying this 2nd house, we've gained 1200 sq ft of living space.  I now have a place for my baby grand piano.  Hubby now has a nice workshop area that is well lit and has plenty of space for his workbench, tools, and an area to spread out in.  I also now have a craft/sewing room where I can leave projects out that I am working on (I used to have to work on the kitchen table.)  We now have a good storage space that is temperature controlled and insect free.  We have a lovely 3 season room where we can enjoy the sunlight without excessive heat/cold and bugs/varmits.  If we would have purchased the "almost" house, we would have 2400 sq ft of space, but we would have actually had to "move" to it, and sell Old House.  Now we have 2400 sq ft of space without having to move or sell anything.   "Almost" house had 3 bedrooms - we now have 6.  "Almost" house had 2 garage spaces - we now have 3.

In the days ahead, I plan to talk more about the pros (and cons, although there aren't many, yet) of living in 2 neighboring houses.  So, stay tuned.  You might find that this idea could work for YOU!

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to feed the fish!  :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

More Fads and Silliness, Part II

So, the next fad (or trend) on my list to complain about is curtains - draperies - window treatments!  Without exception, dressing the windows in our new house gave us the biggest headaches and led to the most stress and drama of anything we did in this remodeling process.  We have lived in 7 different homes in our married life (soon to be 30 years - woo hoo!), and never before have we had such trouble finding window treatments that we wanted!

Issue #1:  Our new house, which was built in the early '70s has replacement windows that were installed probably sometime in the last 10 years.  They are very nice, and were a definite selling point for us.  Old House, which was built about the same time as New House, has NOT had replacement windows installed.  It still has the original aluminum windows.  The old windows are set toward the outside of the window opening, allowing room within the window frame for mini-blinds to be hung within the opening.  This is quite convenient because the mini-blinds don't interfere at all with any curtains.  However, the new replacement windows have been set farther to the inside of the window opening, leaving no room for mini-blinds inside the window frame.  This was something we didn't discover until after we'd purchased the house (not that it would have been a deal-killer anyway, but it was just a revelation to us because we didn't expect this difference).  

Originally, my thinking was that I didn't want any mini-blinds in New House.  We have them at Old House, and I wanted to try to do as many things as differently as possible, especially since the floor-plans are the same.  However, once we got to working regularly at NH, we started to think that we were really going to need blinds both for privacy and for light control.  The house faces south, and while the wide roof-overhang prevents much direct sunlight in the heat of the day, it is still very bright in the living room and both front bedrooms.  We also have very close neighbors on the west side - also exposed to the front corner bedroom and the back master bedroom.  Again - west facing windows = direct sunlight and heat.  The first time I tried to work in my sewing room with the afternoon sun bearing in, I realized I had to have mini-blinds no matter how much I didn't want them.

Ok - now, no room inside the window frame for blinds means they have to be hung on the wall outside of the window opening, which means their thickness impacts the hanging of curtains.  Most curtain mounting hardware does not extend far enough to clear mini-blinds and still leave plenty of room for free movement of curtains.  Hhhmmm.... problem.

Issue #2:  Have you shopped for curtains lately?  If you have, you've probably noticed that the "popular" models involve curtains with big grommets in the top which are meant to be hung directly on rods.  Second to these are curtains with loops, or those with large pockets which go directly over the rod.  Only in the very back corner of the display room might there be the very rare display of curtains for traverse rods.  Remember traverse rods from your mother's and grandmother's house?  Remember traverse rods that held curtains which could easily be opened and closed by pulling a cord at one end?  Remember how neatly curtains hung on traverse rods?  How nice they looked hanging there?  Yes, well... let me tell you... some designer in some tower somewhere decided that traverse rods and their neatly hanging curtains were "so last decade" and banished them to the back room of stores.  Just try to find curtains for traverse rods now - go ahead, LOOK - I DARE YOU!!!  I am convinced that grommet curtains were designed by some 22 year-old with a nearly bare apartment who was obsessed with change for the sake of change - with doing everything differently from the way Mom did, regardless of how annoyingly impractical the change might be!
Seriously, if you have used grommet curtains, you know what I mean.  In order to open and close the curtains, you have to physically hold the curtain fabric and pull it in the intended direction.  Now, how long do we think the curtain fabric is going to continue to look good, hold its shape and hang nicely after being tugged at in 2 directions at least twice a day?  My mother's traverse curtains still looked good after hanging there and being opened and closed every day for 35 years!  Are grommet curtains going to last for 35 years and still look good?   Perhaps if the opener/closer is tall enough to reach the top of the curtains, some of this fabric-tugging can be avoided, but I can tell you that at 5'2" I need a step-stool to reach the top.

Then, let's put a piece of furniture in front of that window, shall we?  At Old House, I have a large antique dresser in front of one of the windows in the master bedroom.  On that dresser is an antique lamp - it was an old lamp that was converted from gas to electricity - you know, the kind with the big hand painted glass globes...  Anyway, behind this large dresser and lamp hangs a set of grommet curtains - because they were the only things we could find when we wanted new curtains.  Opening and closing those curtains is a nightmare for me.  I have to reach over and around that fragile antique lamp, and every time I do it, I am scared to death that the lamp is going to go crashing to the floor.  Would this be an issue with traverse curtains????  NO!!!  So, I don't open them - they stay closed unless Hubby feels brave and risks smashing my lamp.   At New House, we decided to put the couch in front of the living room window, which has grommet curtains because they were the best we could find.  The only way I can open and close them is to move the couch out.  Hubs uses a yard stick to move the curtains along the rod at the top.  A yard stick!  Yes, I could have put the couch somewhere else, but I am NOT letting the curtains dictate the room arrangement.  How frickin' annoying is this?!  This problem could be solved with traverse curtains!!!

The most annoying thing about all of this is that once again - the fad or trend has dictated what is available for purchase.  In every single case with every single window in New House, we had to compromise and settle for less than what we wanted.  I predict that people are going to realize how impractical grommet curtains are, and they will complain enough, and the trend will revert back.  5 years - that's how long I give this.  In 2017 check the stores and see if grommet curtains are still "in".  I predict they will be OUT  and I will be the first one to be redoing all my windows!!!