House Types

ClipartBy Nancy Ranchel | OH Blogger

Have you noticed how hard we all are on ourselves? Whether it’s our professional achievements, the money we make, where our kids are going to college, how much we weigh, or how much we jog per week, we’re pretty damn nuts about comparing ourselves to others. It won’t stop, I know that. We will continue to beat ourselves up about this or that until the end of time. But maybe, just maybe, every once in a while we can give ourselves permission to accept our foibles and acknowledge that there is no one right way to go about life.

And here’s a great area to start going easy on yourself: your house. I talk a lot about house projects in general, and house projects with salvage in particular. That may seem like pressure to some. Similar to reading about how many miles a friend biked this week is a pressure to me (my problem, not the friend’s), thinking about incomplete or not-yet-started house projects may be a pressure to you. Last week I met up with two old friends who are so different in their home project approach that it got me thinking about differences in people, and how cool differences are. 

Along those lines, here is a non-scientific breakdown of what I’ll call “homeowner type”, vis-á-vis home improvement projects, based on nothing but my observation of my Portland friends. This is a limited sample; it is not a study. For any statisticians or economists out there – stop reading immediately. For the rest of you – where do you see yourself in these categories? If you feel guilty about not painting your living room, does it help to identify yourself as a hobbyist who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about painting the living room? If so, own it! Acknowledge and go about your hobby even more happily than before.

The Über Achiever: This is the homeowner who attacks project after project relentlessly, finishing a painstaking, thorough, and incredibly ambitious makeover without a break.

A friend recently had me over to see his two-level swimming pools.

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He designed these pools himself, the work was done under his supervision, and the dirt from the dug out pools was used to create hillocks between the pools. Those hillocks were landscaped with transplanted trees from other parts of the yard. The pools contain fish, and are also used for swimming. This is possible due to the all-natural filtration system my friend researched and installed, which keeps the water almost clean enough to drink – all without chemicals. Oh, and the entire house has been remodeled as well – floors, ceilings, woodwork, kitchen, baths, roof-raising master bedroom – you name it. And he and his wife did it all in seven years. Their house mixes salvaged and new products beautifully, plus he did much of the work himself, renting tools by the hour at Creative.

I feel like a slacker around this guy. Oh wait, compared to him—I am a slacker. And that’s OK!

The One-Project-EverySevenYears Homeowner: This is the homeowner with kids and jobs and family obligations. House projects are not a first priority. A close friend has been in her house for about 11 years, and just finished her first project in seven years – a new paint job. She is now looking forward to new flooring, as the house still has the original baby-blue carpeting. She is considering hardwood floor options, including salvage (I think). She anticipates taking another seven years to get this project going. That’s seems about right considering her work and kid schedule, and the fact that house projects are not a number one priority.

The Plodder: This is my category. I do a project a year, generally. Sometimes they’re small projects because I have no money. Or I’m sick of construction. Or I need a break. I’m slow and steady, and crossing those projects off my to-do list. If other plodders are like me, they may also like the planning phase – thinking about a project, considering materials, finding the perfect salvage (in my case), or the perfect (fill in the blank). Plodders may have inventory sitting around, they may have unfinished projects, but stuff does get done.

The Hobbyist: This is the homeowner who cares about their hobby, which is not necessarily their house. Home projects likely revolve around the hobby – a bigger garage for the boat, a fancy kitchen for fancy cooking, a room dedicated to crafts. The rest of the house is invisible to the hobbyist. 

The Gardener: This one we all know. The garden takes priority over the house. Any projects are typically done outside, rather than inside: a sprinkler system, raised beds, a greenhouse. The kitchen may be remodeled for canning, or the basement for more freezer space.

The Traveler:
  The house is base camp – a place to sleep, pack and do laundry. All money and time goes to the next trip. The house means very little to these people, and is not a showplace. Why would you spend money on a new floor when you haven’t been to Nepal yet?

The DIYer:
This is the homeowner with many unfinished projects. Many trips to Home Depot, the Tool Library; many false starts, plus unfinished projects taking up garage space. That’s all good. This is your hobby, baby. 

This is not a comprehensive list! Not even remotely. And many of my friends fit into more than one category. The hobbyist / traveler combo seems common, as people travel a lot for their hobbies. And the point of the list is this: Sometimes it’s nice to acknowledge your “type” and then not worry about it. If you’re a traveler, and you start to feel stomach-achy because someone suggested your house needs a paint job, no worries. Say to yourself and to the friend, I don’t have time for that now. I’m off to surf in Bali. Maybe some other year. And then forget about it. If I happen to meet you and lecture you about salvage use (this happens, I am sorry to say), brush me off with, My garden takes priority over salvage, and, by the way, your garden looks like it needs some work. That would shut me up. Unless your roof has a leak and the water is pouring in, don’t worry about your house. It will still be there next week, next year, or when you come home from your next trip. Worry about something else. Like how many miles you jogged this week. No, wait. Don’t worry about that either.