We recently leased the lower level of a duplex while we save the money for a house. The owner of the duplex is doing some design/renovation changes to the lower level at the moment. We paid our first month’s rent to help expedite some of those changes, however, given that the owner is just one person with a significant other and no workers, we have decided to help get things moving by helping out with the changes and renovations. We also realized how many things we didn’t personally own for the new place.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned during the moving process.
Before I describe some of the things I’ve learned, allow me to give you a few of the small specifications for the floor plan. There are four total bedrooms, although one room has shelves and rods for hanging clothes, essentially making the room a large closet. The largest bedroom is at the front, and the other three rooms are near the back of the building. There is a large living connected to a kitchen with a small area for dining. There’s one bathroom and a door leading to the basement. This is the gist of the lower level of the duplex.
Renovation/Design Changes are Time Consuming
In the past, I have helped change out a toilet, a shower head, put down mulch, fix holes in walls, and a myriad of other small changes and fixes around a house. It wasn’t until I moved into a place (where I’m renting, mind you) and saw how long it takes to do certain things. Painting the walls in every room, excluding the bathroom, took a few days because of extra coats and drying time. This is fine as painting is a small task that can be done without much stress.
But then we learned the floor was going to be changed from carpet to laminate in the entry way, hallway, kitchen, living/dining room, and bathroom. Okay, that’s fine. I don’t know how to lay down flooring like that, so we’re all good on that front.
We’re also going to take off all the cabinet doors and drawers in the kitchen. Why? Because we’re going to sand them all down, paint, paint a second, third, fourth, and fifth coat, and then they’ll be good. Okay, I’ve never had to sand anything before, and I’m interested to see how it’ll go. It was about a 14 hour total process to sand the cabinets and drawers/doors. While that’s not a lot of time, for somebody that isn’t a professional or has much practice in that field, it was done over the course of three days.
It would also be preferred if we changed out all the vents in the rooms, the light fixtures in the entry way, kitchen, and hallway, fix the doorbell and the smoke detectors. Okay, those are all pretty important things that should be done, no problem.
The sink is pretty gross, so that’ll be changed out. Oh, and since the cabinets are being painted, the counter will need a new paint job. The floor in the bathroom is being changed, and we painted the vanity in there, so let’s get a new toilet. The old one is a little older and needs replacing.
The door trim is coming off one of the doors, the windows have holes in the screens, the blinds are coming apart, the partition door that separates the two bedrooms at the back of the duplex needs replacing, and most of the light bulbs are burned out. We’ll also change the carpet in the two adjoining rooms and shampoo the carpet in the largest bedroom. The trim along the wall needs to be changed since it doesn’t really match the floor all that well, and be careful using the fan in one of the bedrooms as it’s literally hanging by two wires.
Now, don’t take this as a complaint that all of this has to be done. Instead, my knowledge was limited to moving into an apartment in college that was ready to go the day we moved. The owner of the apartment complex had everything cleaned and ready to go on the first day. This was my first real experience with seeing and participating in the work needed to get a place ready for tenants. Granted, this kind of work isn’t done every time in every place, but this place really needed it, and it’s been a real shock to see all the changes that had to be made.
I was not prepared for the work load, and I won’t lie, I was becoming increasingly frustrated as time passed. Every time we got something accomplished, there were four more things that needed to be done that we weren’t aware of when we began the work. I understand and realize that it’s just part of being an adult and moving into a new place…but I was brutally unprepared for the reality of the workload and its struggles.
Furnishing a House is Expensive
We started going through all of our stuff and trying to figure out what we owned, what we needed immediately, and we needed over time. Our list of owned stuff wasn’t too bad, but when we put together our list of things needed immediately, our jaws dropped.
When I moved into my college apartment, I was given a good chunk of hand-me-downs from my father. I got some plates, silverware, drinking glasses, a microwave, and other miscellaneous things. My roommate supplied the television and the chair/loveseat (we found a couch on the curb, cleaned it up, and used it). We got our kitchen table from my father (which we literally never used) and that about summed up our entire apartment.
We started going room by room and made a list of prioritized items. We had almost zero hand-me-downs at this juncture of our lives, so we had to purchase a good majority of it. I don’t want to go down the entire list, but some of the major ones included pots/pans, dishes, microwave, toaster, coffee table, kitchen table, chairs, television stand, washer, and dryer. Our first two trips to the store were roughly around $500 and then $460. We then went to a store for used furniture and house renovation. We spent around $600 at that store.
Shortly after that, we made a run to another store for cleaning supplies (Swiffer mop/broom, Windex, spot remover, Glade sprays, Glade air fresheners, wood cleaner, and others). That cost us around $100. Then we signed up for our utilities and internet. The signup cost is nothing, but the overall cost will be between $100-$200 a month.
While this doesn’t seem like a lot at first glance, we underestimated the cost of everything. We still aren’t quite done seeing as we’ll need to do a grocery run, some more cleaning/essential supplies, and a few more things for living, but we’ve already spent so much more than we assumed we would.
I always knew that furnishing a home was expensive, but we spent the majority of our money purchasing cheaper or lesser quality items given that we couldn’t afford anything better than that. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to purchase all of the stuff needed for an entire household with a family and buy items of higher quality that cost much more than what we spent.
Life has a funny way giving you the information you need to survive but not to live. I learned the degrees of an angle in an acute triangle, but I never learned what it was like to sign a lease. I learned how to dissect an owl pellet and a frog, but I was never taught how to file my taxes. Thankfully, my father taught me those things.
No book you read or television show you watch prepares you for the turmoil of renovating, changing, redesigning, and furnishing a new place. It’s exhausting, financially draining, and starting to take a small toll on my mental state. With a job search, two interviews coming up, a wedding to plan, schools reopening and the anxiety associated with that, and the new place, my overall state of energy is at an all time low.
I just hope that once this is all done and set, I’ll be able to look back and appreciate we have done. I understand this is difficult, and I understand that many people in the world have it worse than me by far. But this is a new learning experience for me, and I’m starting to realize that I was fatally unprepared for the whole process.