Home Ownership, Home Projects, Homemaking, Our Home

One Year in Our New House (+ 8 Things I’ve Learned as a New Homeowner)

As of last Sunday, we have been living in our new house for a whole year. While on the one hand that seems so crazy, we have felt so welcomed here and so much like this is where we’re supposed to be that it doesn’t seem really that surprising at all. (I do wonder, though, at what point we’ll stop referring to it as “our new house.” I mean, every time we’re walking home from the park or something, Raven STILL shouts, “New house! New house! HOORAY!” and Matt and I frequently still put the adjective “new” in front whenever we’re talking about it, so it doesn’t look like designation will be dropped anytime soon. Maybe by two years in?)

One thing is for sure:

We LOVE being homeowners. And we LOVE this house.

Seriously, I never thought that our first house would be such a winner for us, but I STILL wake up every morning excited about where we are, excited to see what new surprises the garden has in store for us (since it still seems to producing plenty!), and I still get a little dewy-eyed admiring the mountain view from the view over our kitchen sink. While I didn’t mind living in an apartment for the first six years of our marriage (and could have lived in one longer), I am loving how much growth we’ve seen personally and as a family just as a result of taking this leap into home ownership.

Our Backyard

I feel like I’m constantly learning things now that we’re homeowners, and so I thought it’d be fun today to share 8 of them with you. (Keep in mind that this is by no means a comprehensive list–I’ve learned a LOT more than this, but these were just the first things that came to mind!):

1. Your escrow amount can change, resulting in a change (often an increase) in your monthly payment.

  • This should not have been as shocking to me probably as it was, but I still remember the day I got the notice in our mail that we had an escrow shortage and that our monthly payment would therefore be increasing by $15 or so. I suppose it’s because I knew that our principal/interest payment toward the mortgage loan itself would never change from month to month that I’d mistakenly figured that the amount (total) due per month would never change, but change it can.
  • Of course it makes sense to me now that I’ve thought about it (just because insurance rates are always changing, and property taxes go up and such), but it was quite a little shock the first time I was made aware of it.

2. Houses are more expensive than we previously thought

  • Being such a frugal person, it makes sense that the first two lessons that immediately came to mind would be financial. I knew (in the rational part of my mind) that home ownership would come with greater costs than just an increased monthly payment, but I was still banking on us being able to go most months without spending anything on it (just like we had when we lived in an apartment). While many months we COULD probably get by with spending almost nothing on house maintenance, I’ve found that pretty much every month, we WANT to, and I am constantly looking for other areas we can trim down in our budget so I can afford to buy more stuff for our house projects and upkeep.
  • We have a list of projects–big and small–that we want to do over the next couple years (many of which are found on my 101 in 1001 list). I finally had to create a separate page in my bullet journal for all of those that cost money so that we could start prioritizing what we wanted done first (and what was most feasible to start with). All in all, we’ve already done a decent amount of updating around here, starting with fresh paint in several rooms, a new line of sprinklers for the front yard, new can lighting in our basement, and two new raised garden beds in the backyard (not to mention all the plants we’ve put in–including two fruit trees–and the changes we’ve made to some of the garden bed shapes and such). All of these have cost money (usually more than we originally planned for), so it’s been an exercise in patience and delayed gratification as we work our way through our projects one by one.

3. Having a yard is hard work, but totally motivating

  • As mentioned above, we’ve been doing quite a bit of work in our yard, and while I’ve always had a natural affinity to gardening when I was younger (I actually wanted to be a landscape designer for several years in my teens), I thought it was an interest that had faded over time. Apparently not! Apparently the problem was just that I wasn’t motivated by container gardening (too small) or by community gardening (not super convenient because it wasn’t right outside our front door). LATELY I haven’t been as motivated to work in the yard (just because I was super pregnant and now I’m exhausted from caring for a newborn!), but overall, we’ve worked most weeks on some yard project or other. Matt especially has impressed me with his devotion to our yard, and he has almost all but given up on t.v. and social media surfing lately because he’s been so into his outdoor projects.
  • We’ve already learned quite a few things about yard and plant care (and have killed plenty of things in the meantime), but I’m confident we’ll keep learning from our mistakes and that one day, the vision of our yard will start to match what’s in our head.

4. Houses fill up with stuff FAST (if you let them)

  • We went from a two-bedroom apartment of slightly under 1,000 feet to a house that has five bedrooms, a two-car garage, and nearly 2,000 square feet, so initially, we felt we had an INSANE amount of space. I mean, we had multiple closets with nothing in them, cupboards and drawers that were completely empty, and plenty of room in our garage for both vehicles. Well, somehow, we’ve started filling up all those closets and drawers and that garage space until I now feel as though I am in desperate need of doing a full-on 50 Weeks to Organized purge again (though I’ve settled with just calling it a “refresh”). I was making good headway for awhile, but I got sidetracked by other projects and priorities the last couple months, and now with all the baby stuff coming in, well…it will be a quest that’s never-ending, I fear. But I am DETERMINED to at least get through a total refresh of every single room over the next year and a half (it’s one of my 101 in 1001 goals), so that should at least help us try and stay abreast of it.
Our Side Yard (featuring the new raised garden beds and our two new fruit trees + the apple trees that were already there previously)

5. You are never “done” with all your projects

  • I’d heard lots of homeowners warn me of this just before we moved in (when I was enthusing about all our projects and how excited I’d be when we were all done with them), but I didn’t fully appreciate it until we were several months in. Basically, I quickly started to realize that even in those few rooms that we’d put more effort into to renovate or decorate, there were still more things I was always wanting to update or change or fix.
  • Take our front room (which is easily one of the most “finished” rooms of the house, as it’s one of the few that actually has art on the walls, ha ha)–we changed the accent wall from red to a neutral gray, we hung up some bold (read: big) family photos, we got a new sofa, and we kindly let my mother work her magic on one of our storage shed auction finds. (And as a result, our front room IS one of my favorite rooms in the house.) However, I’m still constantly making tweaks to it—my mom recently got us some throw pillows for our new couch, which is making me want to spray paint the pictures frames yellow instead of black, I want to hang up some wood trim above the windows before the end of the month (we’ll see if it happens), and eventually, we actually want to knock down the wall between the front room and kitchen and then change the flooring so it’s consistent through the whole space. I also wouldn’t mind changing our staircase’s guard rail and railing from black to a natural wood (and ditto with the washer/dryer doors that are visible from that room, too). In other words, NEVER FINISHED.

6. Houses attract solicitors

  • I lived in an apartment for six years, and I can count on probably one hand the number of times people came by to ask me for a donation for their school or Boy Scout troop or stopped by to try and sell me a business service of some kind. Being a homeowner? I get that number of visits in a MONTH. It actually kind of drives me crazy, and I’m totally thinking I might be one of those people who eventually puts a sign out saying, “Absolutely No Soliciting.”

7. Apparently any kind of interior decorating is enough to make my perfectionist tendencies rear out in full force, which means very little actually gets done/changed/updated

  • This one’s a hard one for me. I have SO MANY ideas of things I want to try in our space, but I’m also apparently deathly afraid of commitment to any one idea because I’m afraid I’ll mess it up or hate it and that it will take a Herculean effort to then fix it. As a result, I dream big and plan a lot, but progress is generally pretty sloooow on the interior decorating side of things. (Proof? The only rooms with art on the walls are the rooms that I’ve shown on the blog at some point–our front room, our kitchen, and our downstairs bathroom). I read The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful earlier this year and LOVED it (just because it was exactly what I needed to hear), but then I got sidetracked by other things and forgot the enthusiasm I felt after reading it, and now I’m back at square one, knowing I need to just start trying stuff instead of staring at blank walls day after day. I’m thinking I just need to buy myself a copy of that book and read snippets every week so that I can constantly be talking myself out of this weird tendency that I have to get everything picture perfect the very first time.

8. Working towards “owning” a space of our own changes EVERYTHING

  • Even though we lived in the same two-block area before (in two different apartments) for six years, I still never felt like we fully INVESTED ourselves in that area, just because our timeline was so unsure. Now that we know that we’re here for the foreseeable future, it is much more motivating to build friendships with all our neighbors, develop the landscape (including planting things like fruit trees that won’t produce for a couple years yet), improve the house, etc. In the end, we might be here the same amount of time that we were in our other area (who knows?), but because there’s a possibility we could be here much, much longer, we definitely treat the whole experience differently. (Ideally, you should really do this with ANY place that you live, but it sure makes it easier when you know you’re making monthly payments that promise that one day, you could actually OWN OUTRIGHT all this space!).
Our house today–sidewalk chalk, sprinklers, tricycle and all

All in all, we have loved this past year we’ve spent in our home. We’ve never once regretted our decision to buy (even though a lot of factors might have convinced us it wasn’t a good move, like the fact that we bought when the housing market was super hot, or that we bought at the top of our price range), and I love that I still wake up each day full of gratitude to call this beautiful place home.

We chose a winner!

P.S. You might also be interested in seeing what the house exterior looked like when we moved in vs. now, or in reading about those features of the house that I fell in love with over the first 48 hours.

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