Starting over from scratch

After nearly two months of living in a hotel in a crazy touristy downtown area we finally closed on the house and moved in this past weekend to a nice quiet, suburb type area. This is our first home, and we knew there would be a lot of work involved but of course, it turns out things were even worse than we expected. The previous owners rented this townhouse out to a family that, to put it politely, was absolutely disgusting. For the first two days I couldn’t go up to the second floor because of the smell, they apparently owned a dog with some serious health issues because it had accidents in every room. In every corner of every room. On every stair too. The smell was horrendous, we started out thinking we could just steam clean the carpet but quickly realized that was not going to be enough. Both carpet and pad were stained completely, with an eye watering ammonia stench that seemed to hover over the floor like an evil mist. I should not imagine the hound of the Baskervilles every time I walk in the door. So, we ripped up the carpet, the pad and a million staples before sanding all the floors in preparation for new wood laminate. Now at least I can be upstairs and we’ve started moving things up into the bedrooms and bathrooms. Installing the new floor can wait, at least it’s livable now and we don’t have to sleep on the floor in the living room anymore.

That was the most major of the issues but there are hundreds more, no room is clean or free from some sort of problem. I can’t imagine living in this, the smell was one thing but the filth is another. How do you get to a point where the walls themselves are covered in a thick layer of dust and grime, somehow dusty, greasy and sticky all at the same time? Unless you are a roach, in which case you’d think you were in heaven. At least until we showed up and started vacuuming up your babies. I do not apologize for the massacre that occurred this weekend, nor for the ongoing campaign of slaughter. I expect some bugs, this is a tropical island after all, but opening a cabinet to have a horde rush out at you like blood from the elevator in The Shining is a bit much. So, we cleaned and put down poison and traps, and hopefully they’ll get the point that they no longer have free reign over this home.

Beyond the filth there are toilets and sinks to fix, missing screens and broken doors. The upstairs guest bathroom tub leaks, raining on whichever unlucky individual tries to use the downstairs toilet. There are just so many projects it’s overwhelming. I consider myself pretty handy, and luckily my husband is very good with repairs and cleaning, thanks to the Navy. But it’s just a lot, and it’s a bit terrifying because we own this mess. I am completely confident that we will not only finish all these projects but that we will end up with a wonderful home, but looking at the end result from the starting line is disheartening.

At the same time, it’s exciting. To be able to change whatever we want, whenever we want, it’s an unchecked power that I’ve never experienced. I love coming up with crazy ideas and having my husband not only agree, but one up me on the craziness. I want this home to be unique, to feel like us. I was always very affected by Frida Kahlo’s home, La Casa Azul, and I love feeling free to paint murals and build strange pieces into our home. Though we plan to stay in this house for a few years, at some point we will want to move closer to the water and into a single family detached house and I want the people who come look at our place to see and feel the love we put into it. I don’t want them to walk in and gag from the smell or call it a fixer upper, I want them to see a real home. 

More than that, I want to live in a real home. In a home like the one I was raised in. Where weekends meant the house smelled like banana pancakes and sounded like Inti Illimani and the Gypsy Kings. Where, if you stood in the right spot outside you’d feel the heat from the dryer on your feet and smell that amazing clean laundry smell drifting up from the vent. Where, when you walk in for the first time in a while you inhale that perfect smell that says, I’m home. Clearly, smell is very important to me. That probably is the most ephemeral of qualities to strive for, for your home to smell like home, but it’s vital. We are slowly clearing out the old, bad, weird other people smells and letting our own scent infiltrate every room. Soon, once we have all our furniture and the boxes unpacked, it will start to smell and feel like home. That’s what I’m reaching for, some semblance of what it will become in the end. I work for small victories, emptying one box at a time, sanding and painting one new step at a time, cleaning one room at a time. It’s like AA, one day at a time. We’ll get there, even if the end isn’t quite in sight yet, at least the halfway point is.

My father is planning to come out soon to help with the repairs and then both my parents for a visit, which I’m very excited about, but it has led to a strange feeling. I don’t mind my dad seeing it in this state but by the time my mom comes out here I want to have everything in place. I want to impress her with my homemaking abilities. Not that it was ever something she stressed, she was always more about my education than preparing me to be someone’s wife, but I want to show her that her example was enough to teach me how to make a real home. I want her to see how her polished, impeccable house shaped me, though I know I will never be as organized and neat as she is, I want to build a place that her heart will recognize. At the end of it all I want to build a home that I am proud of and that makes my heart happy. It will be a long, difficult, and dirty road, but one so very worth traveling.

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