“The Manor?” you ask with a puzzled look on your face.
Well friends, that’s what we call our small and currently supremely ugly house. Our street has a stately British-sounding name that belies the entirely not-stately reality of a modest neighborhood in a small New Mexican town. We plan to bestow royal titles on our guests when we can finally have visitors in post-renovation life. Entry may require a top hat, monocle, and English accents.
We have a strong tongue-in-cheek game here at Val in Real Life HQ, what can I say?
We didn’t look at all too many houses before jumping on this shitshow foreclosure. Between a real estate market that was sprinting like an over-caffeinated Olympic runner hopped up on steroids and our dire need to be done with full-time life, we moved quickly.
This place ticked a lot of boxes for us. A smaller house, a decent-sized lot, and—most importantly—good bones. If you judged this book by its cover, you’d likely be tempted to burn it to the ground. But this little house, while in need of some TLC, is solid. Ok, it needs a lot of TLC, but it’s livable enough as we tackle the backlog of love it has been denied over the years.
Our new sanctuary is a whopping 1100 square feet, with a one car garage, because that’s how things were done in 1974. Finding a house that even had a garage to begin with, much less one that had not been converted into living space, was a very tall order in this town. And now we’re basking in having 1-1/2 bathrooms, which feels luxurious compared to the toy hauler, even in their less-than-glamorous state. We have a small galley kitchen that’s more than a “meal prep station” which is a tremendous relief. The Adventure Dog has his very own yard again in which to enjoy his golden years. And we have our very own apple tree.
Eating the elephant
I know, it’s a gruesome metaphor. But it gets the point across. We’ve been doing some pretty advanced mental gymnastics on how to section off this huge project into manageable chunks. When you have to overhaul every space in the house, it’s sometimes overwhelming to figure out where to start.
Right now the path is the main bathroom first followed by the kitchen. In tandem we’ll have contractors working through windows, exterior doors, re-stuccoing, gutters, and roofing. Those are the hardest projects with the most return on investment so we’re hopeful by summer’s end this place will be infinitely more presentable and comfortable.
After that, there’s the half-bath, interior doors, and finish work to contend with. Floors will be the last project before we move outdoors to create the miniature native plant botanical garden we want. You can see this is a long play. We’ve accepted it will take several years to build our little sanctuary.
Embracing the process
The good news is that our time living in the toy hauler more than prepared us for being creative with small-space living, storage, etc. If you’re doing the math, this place is about half of the space we had in Dayton but about six times what we had in the trailer.
In a way, it’s been beneficial for the process to be moving so slowly. With more time to live in this space and understand its quirks, we’ve avoided mistakes and given ourselves time to discover ways to improve its shortcomings.
Of course, there will be surprises. So many surprises. It’s what we call renovation roulette. You know that ball is going to land somewhere. You just don’t know where, when, or how much it will cost you.
In the end, what we’ve taken on is the potential of this house. We’re embracing our Goldilocks Zone—creating our space largely on our terms while not starting entirely from scratch or having to live with previous homeowners design choices. And we have a place to live in the meantime that isn’t the toy hauler.
Cheers, friends! Keep moving forward.