No more projects


Like many people on a Friday evening I have been geeking out with Evernote. I started learning about the Evernote Smart Notebook and that rapidly devolved a document curation effort.

I sorted through some old notebooks and moved them into my “archive” stack, which is the precursor to deletion. One of the notebooks I archived was “home projects” – the place where I cataloged and planned the many self-inflicted and unnecessary projects for our former house in Iowa.

The planning note shows 56 projects scheduled by year and quarter. These included planting trees, landscaping, two decks (and pergola, naturally), more than one patio, new moulding, cabinetry, flooring, appliances. Even a storm shelter which would double as a safe room. You never know.

I never formally estimated the total cost but it would have run into many tens – nay hundreds – of thousands, over the years. Likely as much as the house cost to buy in the first place.

Does that make sense? No. Perhaps it did if I could convince yourself, all evidence to the contrary, that I’d live in my house forever.

So our homes are projects with no end. We build them up as a representation of ourselves. Truthfully I suppose they are. We think about what others will think of us – the outward representations. Is this a tidy person? Is this a creative person? Is this a wealthy person? A friendly person? A welcoming person?

There are also introspective drivers. Nostalgia perhaps, dreams of a warm cozy fire on a snowy winter evening, or whatever Southern Living has put in our head at that moment.

All of this feeds some form of OCD. Your home becomes a museum of your life. It consumes all your money and all your time.

I know this problem is true for many. There are blogs dedicated to dedicating your life to your home. I suppose the question is whether this is a positive or a negative and I also suppose the answer depends on what’s important to you. Consuming and a source of great joy? Positive. Consuming and not important? Negative. For me the latter.

One interesting perspective is put forward by Robert Platt Bell, author of the enjoyable, refreshingly true, “Living Stingy” blog. In summary, treat your home like a rental, not an investment. I tried and couldn’t. Ultimately if I am going to own a home it is going to be a showcase. My name is Anthony and I am a DIY addict. If you have a multi-year project plan, and document even small projects with photographs, you may be too.

Self-diagnosed psychiatric disorders aside and assuming you were to embrace the Bell’s Living Stingy principles, what are you managing? At a minimum there are physical repairs big and small. There is upkeep (yard work, repainting, etc.), insurance, utilities, property tax and in many places an association fee.

When is this worth it? I am not at all convinced that home ownership has any financial benefit, particularly if you move with some frequency. But if it provides great joy, then perhaps it is worth it. Millions have voted with their mortgages in agreement.

For us it wasn’t worth it. So the home project list has been replaced with an Airstream maintenance & repair list, which is almost as long but it has a beginning, an end, and is mainly outsourced to the dealership.

Now, to be clear, we don’t think full-timing in an Airstream is less costly than home ownership. I’ll save that for another post.

– Anthony, Lake Fort Smith State Park, Arkansas


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