The next lesson I learned from the upstairs renovations

In my previous article I shared the first lesson I learned while renovating the kids’ bedrooms, “it is worth doing things right.” Now for the next lesson I learned.

  1. It is worth doing things right
  2. Even if you think you are doing things right, there are things that you aren’t doing right
  3. Little changes make a big difference
  4. Hire help when you can and if you can’t YouTube is full of free advice
I like this ceiling paint. It goes on pink and dries white.

Even if you think you are doing things right, there are things that you aren’t doing right.

We tried really hard to be thoughtful about the order we tackled the work:

take down the old vertical blinds and the closet shelves

wash the walls

patch the holes

prime

paint the walls and base boards

scrape the ceilings (in two of the rooms we did this first)

paint the ceilings

replace the carpet

install new light fixtures

But, try as we might, there were hiccups. Let me back up. Why were we rushed to get these rooms done in nine days. Ok, why was I rushed to get these rooms done in nine days? Because of a darling little four year old who had been waiting f-o-r-e-v-e-r to have a pretty canopy bed like her big sister and we couldn’t squeeze another canopy bed in their old room. She and her sister and older brother were all going continue sharing a room– “the storage room”– or the “new” room. Well, the “new room” was extremely dusty, had mold on the windows, the closet shelves were falling down and it was in need of new paint and carpet. It needed to be redone before we could get that canopy bed set up. As for the other bedrooms, they were in desperate need of new carpet and we were only going to pay the the carpets guys once to come out and install carpet. I was pretty adamant that I wanted to paint before we installed new carpet. (I’m not a tidy painter. I’m a decent painter but not a tidy one.) This sounds like that kids’ book If you Give a Mouse a Cookie, doesn’t it? So…. here’s what went wrong.

After we painted the “new room” I mentioned to Dave that I thought we should scrape the popcorn ceiling. Why? Because Jack was going to have a loft bed and we all know kids put their feet and the ceiling and get popcorn in their eyes. No fun. Dave was up for trying to scrape it off in the large closet it first and seeing how it went. It went poorly. The Youtuber lied when he said it was easy. Where the ceiling meets the walls it was rough, certain areas got too wet and Dave had to patch and later sand. It was a bit of a mess. I was really sad because the popcorn looked really dirty and dated. I encouraged Dave to finish out the closet and we could sleep on it. He did and he looked at more videos on Youtube and got reinspired. (Yea!!) He changed his technique for the seams and made a few more adjustments. The ceilings were really difficult but he did a great job. Turns out that our ceilings were never made to be totally flat like in the Midwest. Everyone down here does knockdown because the builders didn’t finish the seams smoothly, they assumed the seams would be sprayed with texture. After we repainted the flat ceilings, one of the rooms has the tape peelings. Dave will eventually re-tape and re-mud and repaint those seams.

I’m super impressed that Dave jumped into learning a pretty tricky skill and persevered through the rough start. I’m also very happy with the results. Just the other night our son was putting his feet on the ceiling and I thought about how thankful I am that there wasn’t popcorn falling on his bed.

After all the hard work carpet day came. Eeekkkk! So exciting. They installed the carpet and I love the color but… the nap is about 1/4 inch lower than the previous carpet. No big deal, right? Wrong. The old carpet left some adhesive and in some places the old carpet stuck to the baseboards. I painted over it but never thought it would be exposed. Boo! So my pretty baseboards that I repainted look a bit, um, unfinished in spots. The fix for this would be either sanding the baseboard down or replacing the baseboards. Someday we’ll replace them… like in 8 years when the other projects are finished. Ha ha. It isn’t the end of the world, it would have just been nice to have a smooth, pretty aesthetic after all that hard work.

We bought a fixer-upper

Five months ago we bought a fixer-upper. During the “height of Covid” we closed on our first house at a folding table in our front lawn while our older kids watched TV inside. It was a posh way to buy a house: rent it for two years and then buy it. No packing boxes, hanging curtains or getting used to a new neighborhood.

a photo with the masks on… just so we don’t forget

The months leading up to buying the house were stressful: the negotiations, having to come up with a plan B in case it didn’t work out and helping the kids manage their expectations. Two of our kids have summer birthdays and they kept asking, “Will I have my birthday party in this house?” “Will we have to move again?” We figured out our then four year old daughter had already lived in four houses. No wonder she was concerned about where she was going to celebrate her birthday. But, yea!, we didn’t have to move and we got to buy a beautiful home that we’re making ours.

One of the unique aspects of buying this house is that while we were renting it, the previous owners kept one of the upstairs bedrooms as a storage unit and we didn’t have access to it. So, there was “the other room” just waiting to be discovered and renovated once we bought the house.

the storage room

Dave and I don’t sit still very often. If you are familiar with Strengths Finder, I am an activator and achiever and he is an achiever and has discipline. We were made for a fixer-upper. I mean, Chip and Joanna Gaines were our faithful companions in France. Fixer-Upper is the only show we own every episode of every season. They discipled us into thinking we can “scrape the ceilings, add can lights and freshen up the paint” all in a weekend. Yes we can!

It took nine days instead of two and Dave’s feet were totally shot afterwards, but we did it. We renovated the three upstairs bedrooms. We scraped the popcorn ceiling, painted the ceilings, the walls, installed new light fixtures and had new carpet installed. My friends Trisha and Sarah came and helped paint the walls and ceilings late into the night (or next morning). We learned a lot along the way. Here are a few things we learned.

  1. It is worth doing things right
  2. Even if you think you are doing things right, there are things that you aren’t doing right
  3. Little changes make a big difference
  4. Hire help when you can and if you can’t YouTube is full of free advice

It is worth doing things right

I hate when people say this. I’m an activator. Let’s get it done now. Not tomorrow, not when the paint dries not when the sunrises. But, that bite me in the bum and make for a not so great finished product. Examples of this are:

-Wash the walls before painting them. The room that had been used as a storage unit by the previous owners was a great example. The walls were very dusty and had pet hair on them. It was important to wipe them down before painting. I did not wipe down the walls of the room that has the shower upstairs and my paint smeared. Who knew that soap scum builds up on the walls and it needs to be degreased?? My paint didn’t stick well in the bathroom but it sure did in the bedroom.

-Priming is a pain but… worth it when painting over dark accent walls. We had two dark blue accent walls we painted over and I primed them both. The extra step helped the color be more uniform.

-Buy nice paint and not the oops cans for $9, unless you’re painting a closet. There was a very kind lady at one of the hardware stores that will remain unnamed, who would get returned cans of paint, tint it “Repose Gray” and then call to let me know she had a can for me to pick up. Amazing! Instead of paying $36 a can, I was paying $9. What could be better than that? Raise your hand if you can think of 6 problems with “such a deal.” First, she couldn’t match the color exactly, so when I ran out of a can, I couldn’t just pick up the next can and keep going. Next, I couldn’t go back and do touch ups. Well, I did and now you can see the splotches of different shades of “repose gray” that I used. Also, down the road when I need to patch holes, I don’t know what I’ll do. Lastly, I now have several cans of of several shades of repose gray sitting in our garage taking up valuable real estate, in case I need to some for touch ups.

For the thrifty-hearted like myself that would have a hard time passing up such a kind offer and opportunity to buy $9 gallons of paint that are almost the right shade, here are two ideas. One, use the paint in the closets. It is amazing how much paint a closet can consume. You probably won’t need to touch up a closet down the road and if you do, who cares if the color is slightly off. Two, you can buy an empty five gallon bucket and pour all the different shades of repose gray into the bucket and make your own cocktail to last the winter, or as long as it takes you to exhaust your love of said color. It would be easy to take a sample of your cocktail and have it color matched down the road. I also have another friend who goes to a paint store downtown Orlando that retints paint in large quantities and resells it at a cheaper price. So basically you still get the good price but you get in a larger quantity. But for an activator like me, I couldn’t pause and go down there and buy 5 gallons of repose gray. How could I have known how much I would love that color?

Well, I’ll have to come back to my other lessons learned while renovating the kids’ bedrooms in nine days. My bébé is waking and the sun will be rising soon.

Celebrating my 40th birthday during a pandemic

My 40th birthday is August 5th. Birthdays are a big deal for me and I’ve been looking forward to celebrating well for a while. I started a couple months ago by cutting my hair short and adding some highlights (very effective in hiding the grays and getting some spunk back). My party was going to be reminiscent of the themed garage parties my parents used throw: a flapper themed party where sequins and costumes were strongly encouraged. The guest list was at least 60 people and the food was to be top-notch thanks to my mom coming to help me throw a a fantastic party. But then… Covid-19 blew up in Florida and here we are. What do I do now? Continue reading

When old ways don’t work anymore

After Benji was born Dave and I quickly realized that we didn’t have enough time in the day to do what we used to do. Our margin was already tight but add a newborn and the margin slipped away. We looked around and asked ourselves, “what can we change?” “How can we involve the older kids more in chores?” “What systems need revising?” The subtle shifts we made ended up paying off.
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Choosing Joy, part 2

Christmas is coming and there seems to be a fair bit of panic about sorting Amazon packages, getting the Christmas outfits together and buying last minute stocking stuffers. My pre-Christmas hustle came in early November. Between Thanksgiving and Epiphany (January 6th) we have three of our kids’ birthdays and our wedding anniversary. Lots to celebrate! Plus, being due a week before Christmas, I wanted to get everything I could done “before the baby came.” 
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Choosing Joy

B598B0FE-E6C2-4386-A815-9B541D98BC7CI have a beautiful 2 day old babe nursing (well) as the house is quietly tucked in bed. It’s been an exhausting week because of multi-level illness and having a baby- we’re tired. BUT, I’ve been down this road before and if I only focus on the tired, disorganized bedroom, needs unmet and runny noses, I will shrivel. Continue reading

Organizing- who hasn’t been inspired by Marie?

Watching cute Marie Kondo on Netflix or Youtube organize and get excited about clutter is enough for most of us to start sorting and asking, “Does this spark joy? Do I want to take this into my future?” While I don’t tri-fold my socks, I have modifying a lot of her tips.

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This is a practical way to get calf boots to “stand” upright. I had searched online for ideas but thought of this free option (I already had the hangers) after seeing clips for sale on Amazon.

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