broadsideblog

Posts Tagged ‘home maintenance’

House Lust, The Subject of Meghan Daum's New Book

In Uncategorized, urban life on May 5, 2010 at 11:07 pm
ELIZABETH, NJ - JUNE 20:  Members of the publi...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

She’s been writing funny and revealing stuff about her life for a long time — once famously confessing in The New Yorker that she couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan; that piece became the title of her book of essays,“My Misspent Youth.”

Her new book “Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House” has a title that sums it up.

It’s the American Dream. (That’s one of those phrases Americans — and their realtors — take for granted. There is no corresponding Korean or French or Canadian “dream” of owning your own home, preferably a little colonial with a lawn and a backyard. Other countries don’t allow mortgage interest as a tax deduction.)

Writes Virginia Postrel:

The fantasy of a life transformed is what makes the ads and features in interiors magazines so enticing—no fashion or celebrity magazine glamorizes its subjects as thoroughly as Architectural Digest or Elle Decor—and what gives HGTV’s low-budget shows their addictive appeal. The longing for the perfect life in the perfect environment can make real-estate listings and “For Sale” signs as evocative as novels. This domestic ideal gives today’s neighborhoods of foreclosed or abandoned houses their particular emotional punch. A stock-market bubble may create financial hardship, but a housing bust breaks hearts.

Although Ms. Daum did buy a house in 2004 and watched its value rise and then fall, her self-deprecatingly funny memoir isn’t a tale of real-estate speculation. Rather she uses her lifelong obsession with finding the ideal living space to probe domestic desire, a deeper restlessness than the search for quick profits.

Whether because of alienation or ambition, Ms. Daum’s family, when she was growing up (first in Austin, Texas, and then in New Jersey), shared “a chronic, lulling sensation of being aboard a train that was perpetually two stops away from the destination we had in mind for ourselves.” That feeling manifested itself in a “perpetual curiosity about what possibilities for happiness might lie at the destination of a moving van.” The result was a childhood filled with weekend trips to visit open houses, dinner-time conversations about relocation and, in Ms. Daum’s teenage years, her mother’s sudden move to her own home: “four walls whose color scheme required approval from no one. It wasn’t another man she wanted but another life.” (Ms. Daum’s parents did not divorce.)

I’ve been living in the same one bedroom apartment since 1989. Will I ever own a house? Not anywhere near I live now — a nasty little shoebox with .25 of an acre on a busy street would run me $500,000 with $12,000 a year in taxes. I’m hoping to buy one, or at least rent one, in France in retirement, and living in 1,000 square feet (about the size of an affordable house in my town) allows me the extra cash to fly to France in the meantime.

My Dad has been scouting houses in coastal Maine, trying to figure out what to do with his. I know a house is a major dream for millions of people and you need a space with room(s) for kids and their toys and pets and activities. We lived in a house when I was little, and when I was in high school, but, other than my rental on the top two floors of a Toronto house, and our rented apartment in an old house in rural New Hampshire, it’s been apartment living since then for me.

There are some amazing houses in my town, one, a huge shingled Queen Anne painted the pale pink of strawberry ice cream with green shutters and several with wisteria trees snaking up across their verandahs and eaves. There are one or two I would love to live in, but could never afford them.

I really love our apartment. I’ve re-painted it a bunch of times, especially since attending interior design school. We have astonishing views northwest up the Hudson and I have hawks and geese and crows swooshing so low over my top-floor balcony I can hear the wind through their wings. I love the light and quiet and feel blessed to own my own home. Its small-ish size and manageable mortgage makes me feel safe, even while working in an industry shuddering through insane and terrifying changes.

I basically see a house as a money pit, something that endlessly needs upgrades and repairs, mugging you financially when you can least afford it — new boiler! new roof! new driveway!

How about you? Do you love your house?

The Honey-Do List — Wait For Him Or Do It Yourself?

In business, design, women on April 6, 2010 at 1:51 pm
A picture shows a toolbox belonging to Lampre ...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Most men in a long-term relationship know the moment their sweetie really counts on them — when they’re handed (or asked, nicely, to consider) the honey-do list. For those who’ve yet to get or give one, it’s the list of household tasks summarily delegated to the man of the house.

Blogger Blaine Staat copped to his evasive maneuvers:

You see, the trick to dealing with the “Honey-Do” list is not to actually get things done, but to pretend that you’re getting things done. Let me show you what I mean.

Every Saturday morning when Catherine asks me what I’m going to be doing that day, I grab the “Honey-Do” list off the fridge, give it a very serious look, and say “I think I’m gonna try and knock some of these out.” What happens next depends on what she does.

If she stays around the house, I’ll make tracks outside and hang out somewhere for awhile, usually with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. After a few hours, I’ll spritz myself down with water to make it look like I’m sweating, cross off the first 5 or 6 things on the list, and then proudly show it to Catherine so she can see that I scribbled through some of the tasks. She’ll give me a big smile because she thinks I actually did something, at which point I’ll go upstairs and pretend I’m taking a shower while I rewrite the list in the bathroom and put the things that I had crossed off back on at the bottom of the new list. To her, it appears that I’m making headway, but since the list never actually gets any smaller she won’t add anything more to it.

And bada-boom, bada-bing, just like that I post it back on the fridge and I’m off the hook for another week.

Yet some women love their tools and toolboxes, their drill finger itching at the prospect of the next project or repair. This weekend I’m borrowing a cordless drill (mine has a cord but the garage has no outlet) to polish the grime and cloudiness off our car’s headlights. The living room window needs re-caulking and our balcony bench a fresh coat of paint.

As someone who enjoys working with her hands — away from the bloody computer keyboard! — I love having a list. The sweetie? Not so much. I can’t blame him, by the weekend weary from a crazy job and long commute, by which point the pleasures of the driving range or the golf channel look a lot more alluring than the honey-do list.

I’m not alone in my love for a good set of tools and the satisfaction that comes from using them —  more hardware stores are starting to cater to women. I was bowled over recently at my local Home Depot by the first female I’ve met in that world, Marilyn, a 50-something employee who was the best salesperson I’ve met in decades: smart, funny, super-knowledgable.

“I love hardware,” she told me.

I own my home so I want to take good care of it. While living alone, I designed and built bookshelves and a cornice and my partner and I have built three simple plywood flowerboxes (whose copper flashing feet are both decorative and functional) now heading into their fifth or sixth season. I can’t imagine a life without full toolboxes near at hand.

Barbara Kavovit, who markets tools made specially for women, carries a pile of them wherever she travels — airport security a perpetual challenge:

I love talking to seatmates. Inevitably, when I sit next to a woman in business class, I hear about how their husbands, boyfriends or partners have a list of projects to do around the house. To a one, they always say that the jobs never get done.

I always reply that they can do it themselves. I started my first business after hearing my mom and her friends complain about how many jobs needed to be done around the home and how their husbands were too lazy to do them.

Most of the jobs really aren’t that tough. It just takes some common sense and some good directions. One of the things I’ve always stressed is that women need to be prepared for life’s little emergencies. A good tool and good directions on how to use it can solve a lot of problems.

What’s on your list?

Who, really, will pick up the hammer/pliers/drill and get it done?

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