Saturday, March 31, 2012

Living Richly In Retirement-Home Maintenance On a Budget

My current home is a twelve years old.  When I returned from Germany and decided to buy, I knew a few things about my needs and wants. My list was quite specific when I contacted the realtor.  Things such as a single level home (no basement) were high on my list.  Having a recently built home was also important. I once lived in a 1940s brownstone-but that was in a different time and with a husband who did not mind sacrificing his weekends to home improvement.

Even with a newer home, there are regular maintenance issues, just as in all homes.  There are also wants such as updates and cosmetic issues.   At just over twelve years old, this is slowly hitting "update time".  With such a tight budget (that gets looser as time goes on),   My goal is both to make a short list of what needs to be done, and figure out which items can be done by me versus hiring out.  I also am in the mode of making things as low maintenance as humanely possible. I love my house, but frankly don't necessarily love taking care of it. To that end:

  • Painting (both my great room and kitchen, and the exterior trim) will have to wait.  Climbing a ladder is no longer part of my skill set, and my son seems to have missed the painting "gene". He does small touch ups and did my bathroom stall.   Beyond that, we wait until I can afford to hire painters. Ideally I would change from green in the family room and yellow in the kitchen to a light gold all over......but there is no rush.

  • On the other hand there are some electrical issues that are more pressing, that also need to be hired out (although said son disagrees). A ceiling lamp and light switch that do not work and a ceiling fan unit that needs a new lamp both require electrical knowledge beyond mine (even after reading the home improvement book).  These things will have to be done fairly soon, with a cost.  If anyone here thinks its appropriate to try and do these things oneself, I would love to hear it. Its a multipurpose switch with many fan controls and the light. Only the light part is not working and you can pull the light on from the ceiling.

  • I'm rethinking the yard.  I shared my before and after pictures in this post. Unfortunately we have not progressed in this area.  Basically our ideas about the yard seem to not mesh with the time we are willing to spend in landscaping (or perhaps the budget to buy all those plants right now) . To that end, we plan to clean in and fill out the dead tree corner, fertilize and mulch well, and put edgers along.  Extending beds and researching xeriscape plants will wait for another year. I would rather put money into my vegetable container garden.  What we will plant in the tree corner I am not sure. That was a VERY large willow tree. I'm actually thinking of just putting large pots of plants in that area.  That will be my exercise this week-doing the bend and reach as we clear out the dead wood and rocks.

  • Then, there's the patio.  My general philosophy is that the backyard belongs to the dogs, the patio is for us, and the front yard is for the neighbors.  We need to extend the patio -see the gap underneath the concrete on the left side?  And the bush is no longer there. (this is a structural issue as well as a cosmetic one).  Doing this will allow me to have uncovered patio space for pots that need full sun, the grill, and perhaps a lounge chair for sun worshipping.  I do believe I'll let someone else deal with all that concrete and re bar, and hope I can get a really good deal. There are many things that son and I, there are other things that I and my son can do ourselves.  This includes cutting the drain pipe and installing at least one water barrel, and figuring how to divert "air conditioner water".  This water exits the house onto my patio and has left a small green mold mark. I need to figure out how to divert that water (perhaps into the gutter) so it exits onto the grass.  No pictures now, but I will share soon, as I know we have some real do it yourself folks wandering through this blog.  Other patio items such as pots and flowers and cleaning and rearranging are all easily handled. I have soil from last year and will purchase plants instead of seed and fertilizer.

  • It's time to do some serious spring cleaning and touch ups.  That of course, I'll handle myself. This includes shampooing all the carpets.  When you have medium to large size dogs (some with health issues),you buy your own carpet shampooer or else a large share in a carpet company.  I'm not as spry as I used to be but long handled tools make most of my cleaning easy to handle. I just go one room at a time, rather than trying to throw everything out of the house and clean in two days.

  • My dishwasher is the noisiest thing on the planet.  It works, and it works just fine.  This becomes a someday thing.  All of the builders appliances do their job. Someday, in a perfect world, when my business takes off a bit, a nice, energy star, extremely quiet dishwasher will come live in my house. Meanwhile, life goes on as it is. 
There you have it, my short wish list of spring projects and home improvement goals. Since I'm in Texas, the most important of these need to be accomplished in the next month or so-we're already having seventy to eighty degree days and I'm sure the vegetables need to be planted now. I also have some low cost plans to bring the house into spring and summer (quilts, place mats and new pillow covers) and am constantly on the thrift store lookout for spring looking dishes and yard decorations.

I also have a list of things I can do to make this house more energy efficient on a budget (some of which appear above), but that's a post for another time.  What do you think?  Are my goals realistic?  Should I attempt electrical repairs on my own?  Sock it to me, as they say.


  1. Under no circumstances would I attempt anything electrical myself. And I like to DO things myself but there are limits. I don't think your list is too long or complicated. (I wouldn't attempt concrete either) My sister who lives in the Muskokas (mid to north Ontario) has already planted her peas so I think you better get cracking!! But I'm sure you have a much longer growing season than we do!

  2. I agree with Jane, concrete and electrical are out of my to do zone. You might want to check around church as to who might be willing to do the work at a good price. My hubby likes to help out some of my single girlfriends with odd jobs like that for free, he can do just about everything in the handy man department. Most of our exrta $$ will be going into the garden this year, we need to add some new raised beds and extend the traditional garden.


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