My Better Home

I haven’t posted recently, for a number of interconnected reasons: a large project and my business have kept me busy, time got away from me, and I wanted to keep my posts fictional short stories. But working on a larger project has shifted short stories to the bottom of the to-do list, and then a few days ago, I came home to a stack of magazines on my porch. After thumbing through one or two of them, I began this post…

A friend of mine spends a lot of time in medical facility waiting rooms. I mean, a lot – hours a week. She spends this time reading – usually books, the newspaper, and the occasional word search. However, from time to time, she mixes it up with home décor and lifestyle magazines. When finished with the issues, she passes them on to me, knowing I enjoy gardening, painting, and restoring furniture, hobbies of which I have done very little of late.

While I enjoy perusing these gifted issues, each article and turn of the page reminds me why I unsubscribed, let my subscriptions lapse, and deleted my Pinterest account years ago.

The story that did it, that actually made me chuck a magazine across the room without finishing it and cancel my subscription to a major publication, was about a back porch remodel. Sounds fairly benign, right? The new porch in the story included a sleeping nook for overnight guests and a square footage larger than my entire home. Read that again – my entire home could fit on their new PORCH! And they did it “on a budget” which was higher than the going rate of most of the homes in our neighborhood at the time.

Again, I enjoy reading the occasional home/DIY magazine that’s passed along to me (and watching the occasional home improvement show while in waiting rooms). The photos are stunning, the ideas inspirational, and the recipes are drool worthy. But the goals are unrealistic in my world, even the “update on the cheap” articles. Often the remodel’s size is absurd, in my opinion. How much space do we really need? They’re impractical for my lifestyle. I rarely see anything “wrong” with the before and after photos. Dated, sure, but “wrong” and necessitating a thousands of dollars redo? And the tidiness of them is unattainable. (On a side note, they always seem to be financially secure white families, but that’s a whole other nut to crack.)

Allow me to digress a moment… I really wish home improvement shows and articles would create a “standard”, some sort of scale, like the $$ in restaurant and hotel reviews and location services. At least let us compare apples to apples. A fixer-upper’s value can range vastly. Someone in California will need millions, while in the Midwest it could be much less than that, and I mean considerably less. However, based on the cost of living in the two areas, both of them may be “cheap”. Or better yet, how about skipping the dollar values altogether and using a simple pie chart of how the budget was spent? Just “they’ve budgeted 40% on labor, including architectural planning, but in the end, it was closer to 60%.” or, “They went over budget by 15%”. What about a sliding chart of where the home’s value falls in relation to other homes in its area? Now, I understand prices vary dramatically across our large country, it’s all about location, location, location. But come on!? There’s got to be a better way to equalize the comparisons.

Back to the magazines… when I read them, and gaze at those immaculate rooms, I can’t help but wonder, how do you find time to clean all those knick-knacks? Where does everyone plop everything when they come home? Where are all the cords required by our modern life? The hundreds or rechargers? Especially when the article is about a blended multi-generational family of five or six. The multitude of game consoles and thousands of games and controllers that go with them? The home office stuff? All the hobby bits and craft supplies? The broken tools and items in need of repair? Recycling bins? Dog toys and cat litter? The freakin’ vacuum cleaner? Seasonal wear – the five different coats per person, one for each possible weather scenario? All the shoes everyone removes before entering these pristine places? Seasonal décor storage? Sports equipment? Seriously, do you have any idea how cumbersome it is to store bike helmets, basketballs, shin guards, disc golf nets, or hockey sticks?

I know, I know, all the clutter is cleverly contained in the adorable renewed shabby chic armoire turned media center, the unique Hoosier cabinet in the dining room, folded immediately after exiting the dryer, put away immediately after use, hidden behind the sliding barn door, in the bespoke lockers in the mud room, the (perfectly organized and labeled) attic, garage, pantry, or basement.

But they aren’t, are they? At least not in the homes of anyone I know.

What I’d really like, what I’d find truly inspiring, usable, and doable, are before and after pictures. But not of the current variety. More of the “how it functions day to day” vs. “after a good Spring-cleaning session.” Because that’s where most of us find ourselves isn’t it? I want form to follow function, I want solutions that work well and look good – even when being used as intended. Show me rooms that look lived in, used, and on trend. I never believe those white decor rooms with the “White is so neutral. And the slipcovers wash up so easily! It really is family friendly.” statements.

Seriously, my home was built in 1899/1900, it’s always going to need attention. And let’s be honest, if you have an old home, every update, every new appliance, every repair, comes with side effects; like a medication that fixes one ailment only to create others. New appliances require removing doors, purchasing based on what will fit, or upgrading the wiring. Door jams aren’t standard measurements – one of ours is 29 inches. No two windows are the same size. Paneling covers doorways and windows. And that’s just the interior… you get the picture.

And that’s where these magazines, shows, and media occasionally prove useful. They showcase trends and improvements in vital home improvements – hvac systems, plumbing, new materials and how to use them, how to repair older items, where to find things, climate specific plantings and garden tips, improved and efficient appliances, adaptive items and structural features. They provide inspiration and offer solutions when something truly needs repaired or updated; like worn through carpeting, broken furniture, inefficient windows and the twenty-five-year-old microwave that finally expired.

Sure, I’ll continue reading the magazines that get passed along to me. But it’s not likely you’ll find me rushing to renew my subscriptions any time soon. More often than not, I find them unrealistic and discouraging. Because, let’s face it, my next remodel is not going to be in the six-figure range. But, if you’re one of the many devoted fans of such publications, don’t let my negativity bring you down. They wouldn’t exist if people didn’t enjoy them. This is just the opinion of someone who doesn’t believe chalk paint fixes everything and can’t keep paw prints off the kitchen floor.