Sep 07 2012

Mid life renovation- gutted!

Did you ever notice how a person’s home reflects their inner world?

It might be filled with stuff, things you just can’t get rid of.  Things you hang onto, maybe from even your childhood.  Some of the things hold the fondest of memories. Some of the things, you have no reasonable explanation for keeping, other than for some reason; you just can’t let them go.

Some of the things just sit there, stacked in a corner or in your basement or garage. They have no real use, are broken or badly soiled or stained.  No one else wants your pile of stuff; you can’t even give it away.  Someone on the outside can see clearly that it will serve them no purpose taking it either. So it just sits there, doing nothing but providing some strange insulation or it acts as a barrier from looking at the status of your homes structure.

You have no idea what is behind all the stuff and wonder if you moved any of it, would it uncover a crack in the foundation walls.

It’s just too much work clearing it away. You don’t know what to keep and what to throw away.  You can go years like this until some mold or rodent infestation occurs.

Why does it always take something like that to clear away all the crap when it wouldn’t have happened if you had just cleared away the stuff the moment it no longer was useful in your life.

It might be a model home, with all the right pieces perfectly staged. There are no comfortable couches, no cozy chair to sit and relax.  Everything is covered in plastic.

It’s imperative to keep everything looking meticulous, unblemished, and perfect.

It might be very modern and edgy. The lines are clean and decisive.  It serves its functions for a quick recharge of rest and nourishment, a place to store a change of clothes, your bike and your luggage.  You’re not “living” in the house. You’re more likely to be “living” out in the world.

It might be a beautiful old historic structure; every piece inside holds some value and significance.  The old warm wood frames every corner where you have lovingly hung your favourite family photos and that beautiful glass jug from your grandma that she used to serve lemonade from.

It might be very simple with few furnishings, only the basics.  You have a favourite chair, some good books to read and the television is in the perfect spot. You don’t need a lot of stuff; you are content with less content.

It could be always in a state of disarray and disrepair. You haven’t the time or the tools to fix what’s broken. Or life is so busy; you don’t have the time to attend to the parts of the house that need the work. It’s too overwhelming. You don’t know where to begin.  So you leave it be, hoping it will miraculously fix itself on its own.

Maybe your house is a little bit of all of them. The kitchen might be modern and streamlined, the family room filled with well used comfortable furniture, the bedroom is always a mess but the basement hasn’t a thing in it other than a few storage shelves for tools and a wine cellar.

My home is under renovation.  The family room has been gutted. 



When we first moved here, ten years ago, it was the one room we wanted to concentrate on. My husband and I both came from large families. This room was important to us so that we might all be together, creating more wonderful family memories.

It was a huge space, which brought even more attention to the 1970’s decor; the stuccoed upper walls with the thick deep ridged panelled bottom; the ceiling tiles with the blotchy stains that seeped through the fresh coat of white paint, no matter how many times they were coated.  The carpet was grayish marbled shag. The walls were powder blue.

The previous owner’s tastes had suited them.  My husband and I had other plans.

The renovation would start here.

Within months of moving in, the furnace went.  The wall unit air conditioner was dripping into the house.

We had to take care of what was important so the aesthetics of the family room went on hold.

“Next year!” We would say.

This was followed by the year the car died which was followed by the year; the other car died and then was followed by the year of the great roof leak.

We made the smallest of changes with the resources we had to suit the changing needs of our family. A quick paint job to refresh the place, a half wall put up to separate the space and then torn down the following year to open it back up, were all attempts to work with what we had regardless of what we really wanted.

“Next year!” We would say. “We’ll get it the way we want it”.

We couldn’t decide on what we really wanted. Then we had an inkling that morphed over the years into a solid vision of what we hoped for in the end.

One year we added two windows to let more light in.

One year we enclosed a main floor laundry area.  With the children becoming teens and running here and there from school to work to sports and then social activities, the laundry increased along with their wardrobe needs and changes.  A well-functioning laundry room became the priority.

Each year was greeted with another obstacle to the vision.  The car died…again. One of the kids needed their wisdom teeth pulled out. The washing machine blew.

The family room still kept its panelling and stucco.  I tried to work with it, disguise it, make the most of it, ignore it, bring out its beauty and at times, convince myself of its beauty.

So I painted it over and over.  It’s been blue, burgundy, light tan, moss, dark tan, avocado and sage green.  One weekend, in one painting disaster after another; I painted it yellow and then robin’s egg (which looked like toothpaste), royal blue and then finally a neutral tan again.

I hadn’t considered that I had to work with the type of light that was natural for the room.  I couldn’t change the direction of the sun.

My husband was upset with me saying that I was seriously reducing the square footage of the house with paint layers alone.

So I stopped painting and waited.  I got tired of fighting it.  I let time pass.

Two of my children have left home now.

My husband and I decided it was time to get back to “us” and the things we’ve put off for so many years while we took care of everyone and everything else.   It is our priority now. 

The last couple of years brought many changes.  Our family has changed.  Life has changed and changed us.

I feel a little sad saying goodbye to that old beat up panelling and stucco walls. It held the nail that we tied the Christmas tree with a string to.  It was so heavy and unsteady from the unbalanced placement of the ornaments; usually on one side and close to the bottom.

It held the memory, in the layers of colour, of all the times that I enlisted the help of my kids to help me paint before their father came home.

Those old stucco and panelled walls are in every photograph of every family event and celebration since we moved in. It was the backdrop for a million wonderful memories.

To get to our vision, we have to make changes, we have to go with the flow.  We can’t just peel back the layers of paint.  We’ve pulled the walls back to the studs. To see what’s underneath. To uncover where that draft was coming from all these years.  To look at the structure of the structure.

It’s time to move forward though with the great renovation of my life, of our lives.  We’re not taking apart what was, we’re just letting go and moving on to something that fits for us now; something better.

It’s time!




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