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Stuff 'N Nonsense Homeownership: An Education In Economics
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As previously mentioned, you might remember that we purchased our first home last year. It's been about six months now and we're still settling in but we've managed to unpack most of the important boxes even if we aren't entirely sure where everything ended up (I still can't find certain items that once resided in the kitchen).

People always ask, "how are you enjoying your new home?" and the answer is always, 'we're loving it!" but since becoming homeowners we've discovered a few things that may seem like common sense but the reality of the meaning has only just sunk in. I'm happy to share a little of our "homeowner education."

1) Owning a home is expensive. Of course, living in California is pricey anyway but when you own your home, everything falls on your shoulders. When you rent if something falls apart, breaks, or needs some kind of repair, you pick up the phone and within a reasonable amount of time - Voila! - your need is met. While we were renting there came a time when the dishwasher needed replacing. Our lovely landlords rectified the problem within days. Now, we own and we've discovered we need a new dishwasher and alas, there is no one to call but ourselves. A peruse down the aisles of the local appliance stores nearly gave us sticker shock ... and we still need a dishwasher. Hand washing is good for you, right?

2) Discovering you have caviar tastes on a generic beer budget. When we first purchased, we had "pie in the sky" ideas of what we were going to do in the way of improvements. We wanted new shutters, a new kitchen, new floors, and a new banister (Okay, you can stop laughing now), not to mention new paint and definitely a remodel on the backyard. (I said stop laughing). Of course, this was all before we started pricing things. (Cue sad music). Talk about a humbling experience. We discovered that a). We are not independently wealthy; and b). We'd be lucky to pick one of the aforementioned projects per year. I think we may be able to afford shutters for one window. We're currently deciding which window will be the lucky one.

3). You become ultra-observant. Now that we own our home we seem to notice things we never noticed before. For example, there's a small spot in the living room where the carpet is coming up. Seriously, I'm not a very observant person but suddenly I'm Miss Eagle Eyes. Previously, an elephant could be sitting in my living room and I might walk right past it; now, I see lint balls. And then I obsess about them.

4). Sweat Equity is overrated. I always imagined myself as being the kind of homeowner who delighted in "projects" throughout the house. I like the idea of being handy and self-sufficient. The key word in that sentence is "idea." As in theory. As in some fanciful thought winging around in my head that has no basis in reality. When we first moved in we had to close up a wall, which if it weren't for the help of friends I'd have a giant hole in my master bedroom. (Thank you friends!) Once the wall was finished we started painting our daughter's room, which was a major undertaking as she wanted two shades of pink (gag) and we were covering an olive green. We also wanted a chair rail on the walls so we had our work cut out for us. I was undaunted. Until I started the work. Suffice to say, by the end, I had discovered that not only do I hate painting, I hate doing "projects." I told my husband next time, I'm hiring someone to do the work because sweat

5). Real homes never look like model homes. I had a dream. And in this dream my home looked like the beautiful, perfect model homes we'd salivated over when we were home shopping. Everything matched. Everything coordinated. Everything looked perfectly placed. The dream is nothing like my reality. In reality, homes lived in by people are never perfectly placed or coordinated. Especially my home. I have eclectic tastes and while I'm happy to upgrade from beanbags and TV trays, I will always have art hanging on my wall that's a little strange and rarely will all my picture frames match. And I think I'm okay with that.

These are just a handful of the educational nuggets we've acquired since buying our home and I suspect they won't be the last. But it's all good. We count ourselves lucky to be among those in the classroom.

Next up, we're tackling the backyard. We know nothing about landscaping and even less about maintaining them. This should be fun. Stay tuned...

Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.