Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Austin Monthly Home Winter issue column, just in case you missed it

It’s another Sunday morning and I’m again flipping through the “Homes” section of the paper. A part of me is wondering if there is a better place for us to live. The other part of me is looking for reassurance that our home is still o.k. and worth at least what we paid for it. I have a love/hate affair with my house that I’m trying to overcome. It’s an illness really. My wife and I both suffer from acute residencitis, meaning we are never satisfied with our home. I flip flop from thinking “This place is really coming together” to wondering “What the heck was I thinking when I bought this?” We have acted like this with all three homes that we have owned. We were thrilled when we bought them, confused while we lived there and missed them when they were gone.

We often find ourselves saying “you know, if we just redid _________, I would really love this house.” The problem is, we have been redoing _____ since we moved in 7 years ago. First is was “if we just paint the house”, “if we just get a metal roof”, “ if we just add a deck on the side”, “if we just replaced all the windows”, “if we just add an office.” As of right now, we just committed to tearing out the front of the house, redesigning the entryway and adding a carport. Then, surely we will love this house. Right?
Since committing to this major renovation, I’ve already heard rumblings. “if we just redo the bathrooms and possibly add a pool.” Then possibly, it will be the home of our dreams, that is, after I get the garage I’ve always wanted.

It never ends. A part of me cringes and the thought of all the dollars we have thrown at this house. Another part of me takes pride in how we have made something out of nothing. Every change we make becomes a great story. Almost every wall and every project, has a story. I love that. However, at the time the story is being written I hate it, just as I hate writing the checks that go along with it.

Does it sound like this at your home? Does it feel like it’s never going to be finished? It’s as if you never get to cross the goal line and you never get to spike the ball? We all want to do the Ickey Shuffle and wave to our moms on tv, but it never happens. Always a work in progress.

As preoccupied as we have been with improving this home for near the last decade, we still torture ourselves to no end looking at other homes. I can’t tell you how many times an open house or a visit to a friends house sends us home feeling sad and discouraged about our place.
It doesn’t make any sense the mental anguish and we all put ourselves through. Yet, we are constantly looking for better options, because “you never know”.

Here’s a funny thing to ponder. It seems as if want, desire, envy and outright pompousness, are totally acceptable when it comes to our homes. When you visit a home, people brag. They can’t help it. They take you on tour and they flaunt their riches. “Come see the new pool we had put in, negative edge and waterfall”, or “This entire foyer was made from wood retrieved from the Titanic”, or “all of these doorknobs where made from the bones of the King Edward the Procrasinator”. Congratulations on your success, come by our house to see our new “Welcome Mat, made in China by an 11 year old last July.”

What I’m saying is, somehow, everyone has a free pass on bragging rights with their homes, especially in this town. It sends many of us home feeling empty, depressed or just downright annoyed. I propose all gatherings to take place at Starbucks from here forward. It’s a bit more of an even playing field.

With homes, the “grass is greener” effect haunts us all the time, yet I’m the first to sign up for a Home Tour or a cocktail party at Le Vogue Haus. I’m the first to walk through in total fascination, commenting “we should do that to our house” even thought I could never afford it and I’m also usually the first to say “How can a couple of Jackasses like that afford all this?”

So my wife and I go home, again confused, bewildered and loathing our home. By mid-week confidence escalates again, we start loving our home all over again, occasionally throwing compliments to each other on a job well done. That is, until that Sunday Homes section unfolds over a cup of coffee and the questions start all over again. “What if we built mother in law quarters? We’d never need another home, ever again.”

The mixed feelings about our current home continue:

We don’t have a yard, but I don’t want to take care of a yard
We don’t know our neighbors, but I don’t want anyone dropping by.
There are a lot of rules for where I live, but don’t think it should apply to me.
We reworked everything to add a guest bedroom, yet never have guests.
We host a party and then make excuses for all the unfinished things in our house.
We would love to remodel the kitchen, but we never cook.

As of this week, we have just committed to another renovation that we really can’t afford. Seems like we do one about every other year. It’s tempting to just pack up and move into a new home, but I love my house, I really do.

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