# Tag: house

In our new house I am discovering things that I love, and things that annoy me. The things I love are big things, and fortunately, the things that annoy me are little things. But they still annoy me. Take the bathroom on the main floor.

Stand in this bathroom, if you will, and face the window above the toilet. The window looks out into the deck, which in turn looks out down the slope of our yard toward the bike path that dives down into the local park.

Right above you, smack in the center of the room, is a typical bathroom fan. To your right, above the sink is a pair of lights. To your left, above the shower/tub is another light. Okay, now, turnaround. Just above the towel rack, you’ll find a light switch panel with three switches. Turn on the switch to your left. Remember, you are facing opposite to how you started. The left switch is the one closest to the sink. Flip it on. On goes the light above the sink. So far so good.

Next there is the center switch. Of course, the fan is right above your head in the center of the room. Flip that switch on, go ahead… and now the light above the shower is on.

Maybe it is just me, but it seems that if you have a light switch arrangement where the switches are left, center, right, and the left switch controls the light on the left side of the room, wouldn’t it make sense that the right switch controls the light on the right side? And the center switch, with nothing else to do, would control the fan in the center of the room.

When I go to turn on the light above the shower, I inevitably reach for the switch closest to the shower, but on goes the fan. And vice versa. To me this is just bad user interface design. Why would someone do this?

And in case my description hasn’t been clear, I sketched a diagram for you. A represents the light above the sink. B is the fan, and C is the light above the shower/tub. The smaller letters represent the switch positions.

It’s a small thing, I grant you, but it’s one of those things that has continued to annoy me since moving into the house.

New Year’s resolutions are convenient because they are tied to the calendar. A fresh new calendar means a fresh new beginning, a way of wiping away the past and starting from scratch. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. I prefer, instead, using my birthday as a time to start something new. After all, in the world of me, my birthday is my New Year.

There is, however, an even better time for putting new resolutions and ideas into practice: moving to a new house.

We are moving to our new house in June. It is the house that, at this point, we plan to be in at least until the kids are all off to college, which means at least another 16 years. It seems like after that we could reasonably downsize. By then, of course, the kids will be coming home for holidays, and bring with them significant others, and eventually, perhaps, kids of their own, so maybe we’ll have this house longer than twenty years. Certainly the bank hopes we will.

I have been looking over my cluttered desk in my office here, and daydreaming how wonderful my new office will be. My current office is a spare bedroom, that’s about 115 square feet. There is a single window looking out back into the tops of some trees. None of my books are here, as they won’t fit. I have this small desk, and it is constantly cluttered. My new office is nearly three times the size of my current office. I like having a lot of sunlight when I work, and my new office has window on three sides. In that respect, it is more like a sun room than an office. All of my books will fit in the new office, although I’ll need to get some half-sized bookshelves to go along one wall.

I think that my new office will solve all of my problems. I’ll write better in my new office. I’ll have a desk that can handle a bigger screen, and they’ll be no need to hide the mechanical keyboard in a tray beneath the desk. I will separate the areas that I work and write. On one side of the office, I’ll have desk where I do my work. On the other side, I’ll have a desk at which I can sit and write. That desk will face toward the backyard, which overlooks the trees and woods of the local park. It’s important to be able to stare out at nothing when I am writing, and the trees make a pleasant nothing to stare at. I imagine that once I am setup in my new office, that bestseller that I’ve been meaning to write will finally take shape. Traffic here on the blog will increase a hundredfold because of the improved quality of my posts thanks to my new office.

Of course, the office is just one part of the new house. There is, for instance, a large space in the utility room that can be used for storage. Instead of tossing all of the junk in there haphazardly, I plan on putting in shelves, and stacking things neatly on the shelves. I plan to keep extras. One shelf will have a supply of every kind of light bulb we need for the house. On another shelf we’ll stock the toilet paper. The tools will be neatly organized, and some of the more frequently used ones will be hung on the wall. I will install bolts that can hold the ladder so that it is no longer stored in the guest room.

Moving into the new house seems like the best time to reorganize the kitchen so that is it more sensible and functional. I am always preparing food far away from the dishes and utensils I need, so when we get into the new place, I’m going to figure out where I will prepare the food and put the dishes and utensils there.

This is a great opportunity to clean out the closets. I give clothes I no longer wear to Kelly when she takes things for donations. We’ve filled the car with these donations, and yet the closet seems as full as ever. This time I’m really going to purge. The closets in the new house will be empty when we arrive, and should appear only half-full once we’ve moved in.

The new house has a big deck in back, just off the kitchen. The deck overlooks the woods to the local park. We generally eat dinner together as a family, and I am going to resolve that we try to eat outside more than we do inside, at least between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Yes, moving to the new house will be a new beginning, and I can already feel my life improved by these big changes I intend to make. I explained all this to Kelly, and she reminded me of a few things:

• We’ll need to put the table the kids use to do their homework in the office for the time being, so I’ll need to work on just one desk instead of two.
• Until we get that shed, all of the bikes will need to go in the utility room. That’s better than in the living room where they have been, but it means I’ll need to hold off on the shelves, and thus, the organization of the junk that goes on them.
• Kelly reminded me that I never know where anything goes in the kitchen, and besides, she prepares dinner more than I do, so she should be the one to organize the kitchen for peak efficiency.
• The closets in the bedrooms are somewhat smaller than what we have now. I’ll have to use a closet downstairs in the family room for my clothes, no matter how much I manage to get rid of.
• May thru September is peak mosquito season. Eating dinner out on the deck every night sounds nice in principle. In practice, it may be more irritating than it is worth.

Except for all that, boy I can’t wait to move into the house, and get started on this new beginning!

We closed on our house two years ago today and so we have now been homeowners for two full years. Overall, I think we are happy with the experience of owning our own house (although the buying experience left something to be desired). Despite having two kids and two cats, we feel like the house has plenty of room. We might be happier with a more open floor plan and an updated kitchen, but no house is perfect. Over the last two years, we’ve done some things to improve the house and make it more ours. For instance, we painted (ourselves!) most of the main floor, the stairways and the hallways. We replaced many of the fixtures with bright new fixtures. It’s funny how replacing a light switch fixture can really make something look better. We’ve replaced a few of the sink fixtures in the bathrooms as well.

In a few weeks, we will be ripping out all of the bushes and plants in front of our house. (see the photo). The stumps will be mulched and we’ll spread the mulch over the area and then plant a few small flowering plants. I think it will vastly improve how the front of the house looks. It also makes for easier maintenance. The architectural review committee for our homeowners association approved this change and we are just waiting for the vendor we chose to do the work to return from their vacation.

The house still has the original windows, now more than 30 years old and so the next big improvement we do will likely be replacing all of the windows in the house. At perhaps, at some point in the more distant future, we will redo the kitchen.

Our neighborhood seems to be bucking the tide in terms of housing prices. The first year we owned the house the prices went down slightly and the house was reassessed just a few thousand dollars down from what we paid. However, this year, the country reassessed the house and the value jumped up 5%. Houses on our street sell quickly, usually in less than a week or two. We are not planning on moving or selling any time soon, but it is nice to know that things move pretty quickly here.

We have gotten to know several of our neighbors and our homeowners association has been slowly working to improve the overall community. And of course, the bulk of the paper mail we get is spam from companies who want us to refinance our mortgage for a historically low rate. (We got a low fixed 30-year rate when we bought the house and nothing would convince me to go with a ARM as most of these other companies would like us to do. I’m willing to pay the slightly higher percentage for a fixed 30-year and take the stability. Besides, we try to make one extra mortgage payment each year to build equity and cut down on interest over the life of the loan.)

It’s still strange to think of ourselves as homeowners. I don’t know why that is. I always thought owning a house was such a grownup thing. So is having kids, I suppose. But here we are, and after two years, we still like our house and where we live.

Kelly picked up our new area rug for the TV room this morning and I installed it while she and Zach were out at Gymboree.  Here it is: