major home reno fomo rears its ugly head again, plus what I will miss about the pandemic

Don’t get me wrong, the pandemic was a disastrous event, during which so many people lost their lives. I don’t want to downplay the pain and suffering of anyone in this post. But, if I may be honest, there were some good things to come out of it, namely that we were, for a brief period of time, equal.

What I mean by that is, we were all stuck in our homes, whether they be studio apartments, three-bedroom ranchers, or mansions in Beverly Hills. The world stopped for a brief period of time. We had to make do with what was in our cupboards, what was in our bank accounts, and what was churning in our minds. Nearly all jobs, no matter what they were, seemed to have stopped until we could figure out what work life would be like while a deadly virus spread worldwide.

That meant no one was out looking for a new home to buy or looking to improve the ones they had, unless they were willing to do the work themselves. No one wanted to invite strangers into their homes to fix a leaky toilet, finish caulking around the window in the den, or lay down new flooring. Every stranger came with the potential to make everyone else sick from this disease no one knew a whole lot about.

“I sure wish we could hire someone,” said everyone last year.

We were all hunkering down. And for the time being, I was satisfied with my vinyl floors, my ceramic tile kitchen countertop, and my permanently stained fiberglass bathroom sinks, with the barnacle-like lime scale deposits on the faucets. We were all just thankful to have a roof over our heads–even one, like mine, whose shingles warp in the sun and blow off every time there’s a stiff wind–because we were alive and well and able to plan for a time when the world would change.

Frankly, I was in my glory. No one I knew was getting renovations on their homes, which made me feel better about my predicament. But then it happened, a vaccine came to the market, followed by another and then another. We were getting out into the world more often, albeit in masks, but still. And people’s jobs were returning to a somewhat steady state.

I visited with a friend yesterday, one who lives in my immediate neighborhood and the only one I’ve seen since COVID hit. A few months back, she had a leak in one of her upstairs bathrooms that dripped into the lower-floor bathroom. After the plumber repaired the pipe, I thought she’d get some wallboard, like I did with a similar leak a few years back, and patch the thing herself (or hire someone, as is her schtick) since her insurance company was resistant to settle. All she wanted, she had told me, was the minimum, to repair the pipe and the wall–the leak and the damage done. That’s it.

Fast-forward to yesterday, and the “minimum” turned out to be two new sinks, quartz countertops, and vanity cabinets, new flooring in the bathrooms, new modern faucets, new shelving, and new decor. But it didn’t stop there: There was all new wooden flooring in the living room, the entryway, and the dining room. The stairs were re-carpeted, and the entire first floor and second floor open entryway were repainted. The new paint carried into areas not even close to the bathrooms. There was even new furniture in the living room! The minimum sure looks nice in her house.

This is NOT my beautiful house.

Of course, being me, I was happy for her but also extremely envious. This is one friend who is even tighter with money than I am. I suspect she and her husband do much better than we do financially. Let’s say, at least, that their circumstances would warrant it. But my friend can have a hard time releasing the Benjamins much of the time. Until now.

I walked out of her house feeling crappy and depressed about my house and myself. Every other day, I have to scrub cat barf off the 30-plus-year-old carpeting upstairs, scrape my foot along a piece of vinyl plank I couldn’t adhere well enough to the floor, and scrub bacteria from the grout on my countertops. I look out my second-floor, leaky, aluminum-framed windows at my aging roof below, pick up dog poop from my barren lawn, and walk under the thin, broken bars holding up my Target-special gazebo of six years with two holes in the canvas cover, an Amazon replacement. I sit on baggy-slipcovered living room furniture that’s over 30 years old, including an extremely cheap-at-the time Montgomery Ward sofa ($199, I believe), whose cushions I had to make myself to replace the originals that had shrunk.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well last night. I kept thinking about all the projects we have to do in our house but keep deferring, things like putting in windows that don’t leak, fixing that roof, replacing the countertops, putting up a patio cover, and getting those two disgusting sinks and faucets out of here. These are jobs that go undone because I am the one in this house that does handiwork. If I, at 5′ 1-3/4″ with a 36-hour-a-week job, joint problems, and many more years behind me than in front of me, can’t do them, they don’t get done. Period. End of sentence.

Sick of my own complaining and motivated by my friend (little does she know), as soon as I got home, I cleaned up a room that was bothering me, getting rid of anything I don’t need. I then started retouching the grout in the kitchen with a white paint-like product that I saw someone I follow on YouTube use. Because if I can’t replace the countertops, then I can at least disguise that they are white ceramic tiles by making the grout match. Today, I continued on an adjacent counter.

Then, near the sink, I pulled up 20 tiles where water had seeped underneath, causing mildew to form. I stuck 20 new ones down with some Locktite (these tiles are nowhere available anymore; fortunately, the previous owner had left some spares in the garage) and just regrouted them. When the grout dries sufficiently, I will touch it up with the white grout resurfacing product. I still have another counter to go, as well.

Maybe my counters will look this nice when I’m done. I can live with that.

It’s a hard job, and I wish I had the wherewithall to hire someone or ask my husband or adult sons to help, but that ain’t me, babe. I wish it were. I’d probably sleep better at night.

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