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How do I make this place a home? (long)

Posted by marie26 (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 29, 08 at 14:33

For those who remember me, I had finally organized my last house. Then we moved and although I had packed and organized a lot of the items myself, the movers did a horrendous job of packing everything else. I'm still missing some items and they did what I specifically told them not to do - take things from all rooms just to fill a box.

Anyways, we moved to a rental (single house with a large fenced-in yard) almost 4 months ago and I unpacked most of the boxes but I still have items out in the open on top of things because I haven't put them away. A few personal things took place in this time frame and my mindset wasn't on the house at all.

This house is soooo much smaller than my last place (and that wasn't big) and the kitchen is awful. The set of 4 drawers don't even have tracks and are not convenient to anything. Then there's one wide drawer between the stove and fridge that is hard to open and close so crumbs are always getting in there. And although the dishwasher appears to be normal size from the outside, it barely fits anything inside of it.

Besides this, there are only three accessible outlets, one of which is for the microwave. One is part of the stove and the counter on the left side of it is quite narrow and really won't hold more than one item. And if I use the microwave and the oven at the same time, the oven works at a much lower temperature. I found this out the hard way. We're renting and I know I'll end up having to pay for this myself at $75.00/hour to fix which I'm still debating.

I can't seem to find my work counter and go back and forth between 2 areas. It's just so hard to cook when you can't use 2 appliances at the same time. I feel as though I'm back in the middle ages.

Are there small rollable islands that come with an outlet? Do you have to use an extension cord that goes from the wall outlet into the island outlet? That would defeat my purpose. But I wonder if I got one of those islands, then I'd have my work center and an extra plug. I do have the room to put an island.

Then there's my bedroom which barely fits my furniture. I keep thinking the house was built before king-sized beds were available (lol). The linen closet is also too small. And the bathroom doesn't have any outlets.

It appears that I'm living in the wrong place but the rent we're paying is really good and it's a single house that is very convenient to my job (just 1 mile away) and to shopping, etc. I also have a lease so we will be here for another 1 1/2 years or longer.

How do I make this place a home? How do I force myself to get get it organized again? I feel as though I'm starting from scratch.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: How do I make this place a home? (long)

Oh, honey, I so understand the problem! We made a similar move last year, from a house we lived in for 16 years, during which I redid every inch to suit us, to a much older house with virtually no storage to speak of. This house has been renovated, so I have no complaint about its basic quality, but it has taken me a year to adjust, and I still have two rooms to deal with (we call them the Rooms of Shame...)
First of all, realize that this change has probably been stressful enough to take all the starch out of you for a while. So problems and puzzles you could ordinarily solve with a snap of your fingers suddenly seem insurmountable.
Then give some serious consideration to either getting rid of, or storing, everything you can bear to live without for a while. Think about all your cooking habits, and see if you can simplify them, too, as long as you live there.
And one more thought, if you haven't already done this...get some help if you have to (a friend or a hired hand), and clean that awful kitchen and the bathroom within an inch of its life. Squeaky clean and sweet-smelling can make you feel a lot less overwhelmed.

RE: How do I make this place a home? (long)

One of our homes we lived in had drawers like that.. the bottoms of the drawers just sat straight on the wooden bases? Is that what you mean? My Dad bought some kind of plastic strips.. really flat and thin, and just glued them either side of where the drawers slide. Made them glide like magic. Sorry I don't know the name of the stuff. It was not exactly tape, but it was specifically for helping drawers to slide. He just got it at a basic hardware shop. Just thought this might ease one of your problems...
Cheers and hugs from Lily

RE: How do I make this place a home? (long)

You have crossed my mind a few times since you moved, wondering how you had settled in and if you like Vanc. I'm sorry the house has so many problems. Have you had a chat with the landlord? I should think that the wiring is not up to par since there is no outlet in the bathroom. If I encountered the issues with the electrical system that you have, I would go down to the local city hall and speak to the codes officer (assuming that Canada has something similar to what we have here in the US). Find out if it meets code. If it doesn't, you have some excellent leverage for it to either be fixed, or consider moving without any lease problems. I know moving wouldn't be your favorite thing to do, but the possibility may be an incentive for the LL to do some upgrading. While you are at the city hall, see if you can get some info on tenant's rights.

In the meantime, enjoy what the NW has to offer.


RE: How do I make this place a home? (long)

Hi Marie, I'm a perpetual lurker on this forum. I too have been thinking about you and agree that you should be kind to yourself while you begin to recover from your move. If you have an incandescent fixture in your bath, you can buy an adapter at a hardware store that will give you an outlet plus allow you to use a light bulb. In any case, I'd go to a hardware store (not a big box one) and describe your problem. I think they'll be able to help you.

RE: How do I make this place a home? (long)

Hi Marie,

Another mostly-lurker, chiming in.

Definitely give yourself a bit of a break - moving is stressful and overwhelming under the best of circumstances! It takes so long to figure out how things work in a new place, and you're right in the thick of it. Here is what I would probably do in your shoes.

First - definitely give everything a good cleaning, if you haven't already. My mom insisted on doing this with me, when my husband and I bought our house, and it seemed so absurd at the time ("Hello? Boxes to unpack?"), but it really can help you build your connection to the new place. It will also give you time to do some more up-close assessments of areas that may not work for you.

Then, set about solving the issues one at a time. If you're a list person, make a list. If lists overwhelm you, just pick one thing, resolve it, then resolve the next, etc. You could do this one room at a time (i.e. solve everything in the kitchen, move into the bedroom), or pick whatever is bothering you most overall and solve that (then move on to the next most-bothersome thing, etc).

Talk to your landlord, if you're comfortable, about some of these issues. See if either s/he will solve them, or maybe give you a discount on your rent if you improve the property. If not, then I would try to stick to improvements that you can take with you (anyone remember that HGTV show "Rooms To Go"?). It might be worth it for your peace of mind over the next 18 months, though, to fix some things even if it's not money you'll recoup.

Last, is definitely keep in mind the positives! Being that close to work, having a large yard, a great rate for rent, etc. I'm sure there are more - maybe even things you can work to accent as you're settling in. Morning sunlight in one corner? Put a chair there for your morning cup of coffee. Living room that's a nice size? Hang out there.

Definitely ask questions around here - there are some truly brilliant minds around here (many belonging to other renters), there's nothing this forum can't solve collectively.

RE: How do I make this place a home? (long)

Thank you for your replies. Please keep them coming. I wish I could get the house sparkling clean but there is so much stuff all over the place (counters, dresser tops, desk top and floors) that I'd be overwhelmed trying to clean it.

When we moved, I thought I had gotten rid of every unneeded item. I worked really hard and was ruthless to come to this conclusion. Yet, I feel so overwhelmed by the stuff out in the open everywhere that's not yet found a home and don't know where to start. I was thinking last night that there are 9 areas in my bedroom and if I did one a day, I'd be ready to get it sparkly clean in 9 days. But it's been really hot here lately and there is no central air. SO when I get home from work, I just don't seem to get the energy to start and just think about it instead of just doing it.

Do I just throw everything into boxes that has not yet found a home and deal with it all, one box at a time? Or do I do room by room?

Create vignettes... single beautiful scenes

You are not alone! I bet that many of us have felt the same in homes that were not quite the best fit.

One strategy that worked for me is to pick a single (could be small) place in each room, and make it into very pretty focal point. I had a bedroom that was 6x10' (and this was the biggest bedroom LOL) so my queen sized bed just wedged from wall-to-wall at one end. BUT it had a sunny window. I sewed simple, open weave linen curtains, and put a glass piece where the sun would hit it and reflect. When I was in that room I focused on that beautiful square foot - the glass piece and the sun filtering through the linen curtains. It took my mind off the rest of the cramped mess.

In the dining room I painted one wall a dramatic color. (In a rental you could try hanging a flat sheet or fabric piece with liquid starch so it is removable).

Other rooms - think about keeping most stuff tucked away out of sight, but put out a favorite vase, picture, fruit in bowls, fresh flowers. Just a little focal point - rotate with the seasons.

hth, Lena

Here is a link that might be useful: Hang fabric with starch

RE: How do I make this place a home? (long)

Your last post struck a chord with me from a previous move we made. My husband knew that the movers would also unpack us as part of the contract (govt. move). For some never to be known or understood reason he wanted them to unpack the boxes 'so the boxes would be gone'. They told him they didn't put stuff away, they just took it out of the box.

I came home from work to find all the countertops in the kitchen, all tabletops, a 9-foot bar top, and 1/2 the floor in the kitchen covered with dishes, silverware, glasses, appliances, food, canned goods, paper goods, placemats, tablecloths, dishtowels, cleaning supplies,etc.etc.etc. In an extra bedroom they had literally 'dumped' boxes of shoes, sewing supplies, clothing, bathroom supplies, etc. That pile was 3 feet high.

I don't think I have ever been so angry, both at my husband and the movers, but mostly my husband. I went to the bedroom, scrounged a change of clothes, and told him I would be back when it was cleaned up. So he took off three days, put away the kitchen, and reboxed and sorted the 'pile', and then I came home.

When we moved the last time, we were in an apartment for 6 months, and then moved into our home, so everything but clothes and minimal lines was in storage. No repeat of the last fiasco.

The point of my story is this; I didn't unpack a box until everything from the last box was put away. I realize there is that 'thing' that doesn't fit anywhere, so it goes back in a box to be dealt with later. I never unpack a box just to unpack it, unless I am prepared to put it away. That's the only way I can deal with it. And yeah, I've still got some boxes, but at least the stuff isn't sitting around looking at me.

So, how is this going to help you? If you are still unpacking, STOP! If you try to keep on at this point, you will really overload your self. In an effort to get yourself to a comfort point, pick a surface, just one, and address that surface only until it is cleared. If you have stuff that you don't know what to do with, put it back in a box and label the box so you can easily retrieve it if you need to.

Knowing how hard you worked to pare down before the move, I wonder if you have set the bar really high for your self and have some self expectations that are unrealistic. You are in a smaller home, the rooms are smaller, you are dealing with electrical inadequacies, AND you are working outside the home, hey, give yourself a break, and think of all you have accomplished in a relatively short time!! Marie, it's just 'stuff', and WHEN it comes out of the box is not the most important thing in your life.

You won't have a lot of hot weather there, so make a pitcher of iced tea and go sit outside when you get home tonight. The boxes will wait.


RE: How do I make this place a home? (long)

Do I just throw everything into boxes that has not yet found a home and deal with it all, one box at a time? Or do I do room by room?

I think the answer to this depends on how you prefer to work. For me, I'd probably throw it all into boxes - doing a rough sort as I go. (i.e. "this box is stuff that will probably go in the bedroom. This box is stuff that will probably go in the living room, etc). That would give you a) some instant gratification, b) room to work, c) the possibility of just pitching the whole blessed box if you find you haven't touched in in a year. :D

I would also recommend that you make the two rooms you mentioned into your priorities: the bedroom - so you have somewhere restful to go at night (also important if you have a partner, to show the importance you place on your private space together), and the kitchen - so you can handle the basics of eating/etc with as little hassle as possible.

Do you have room to create a staging/work area - maybe a basement or other out-of-the-way place? That could be somewhere that you stack the boxes that you're working through them slowly. (And if it's the basement - cooler temperatures as a bonus!)

And definitely give yourself time to enjoy the weather and the new place! When I'm having motivation issues, sometimes I'll make deals with myself: tidy for 10 minutes, and I get 20 minutes on the porch with my novel and iced tea. (These are days when I'm reeeeeallly unmotivated; set the ratios to whatever works for you).

Don't forget how much time you put into the previous house. This one won't magically come together, unfortunately. But! You do have all those wonderful skills, tips, tricks, etc that you learned while doing this before; you just get to use them again in a new place.

@bspofford - I can't even imagine what a mess that had to have been! Good for you for standing up for yourself (err, in the form of walking out... LOL)

RE: How do I make this place a home? (long)

I have a different idea for you, and I know this from experience...I have been where you are!

It is completely dispiriting to live in a mess, and you might actually be a bit depressed by the stress and the unhappiness it causes.

So I would do two things. First, go see your doctor or a good therapist, and find out if you are depressed, and if a course of antidepressants might help you.
Then, call up the PODS people and have a container deposited in your driveway. Sign up to keep it for a'll be surprised at how affordable it is for all the help it will give you. Buy a good sturdy lock at the hardware store.
Find enough things to make your kitchen minimally functional...same with your bedroom and bathroom. Then rebox everything you can't deal with, mark the boxes, and tuck them away in the POD until you can start taking them back out, one or two at a time. If you can, pile the boxes up in a U-shape around the walls so that you can walk all the way in and see them.

Try to get up early every day and go for a long, brisk walk before it gets too hot. Brisk daily exercise is the world's best remedy for the blues. You may think you don't have time, but you will get the time back double in energy and focus.

When you lock up the bin at the end of the day, you are finished, and the job is not all over the place screaming at you. Put on some music, pour yourself a glass of wine, and revel in that day's accomplishment. And go to bed early so you can get up early, refreshed and ready to cope. (This is the crucial step if you get up early to walk...)

I know you can do it. Keep checking in...we are all on your side!

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