Step by Step Home Ownership

Yesterday my lovely wife and I rebuilt the steps for our back deck. We constructed them just last fall, before the snow flew, but we knew as soon as we put them in place that something was amiss. We also knew that it would have to wait till spring, which was of small concern since we don’t use our back deck much in the winter. The weather, now warm, invited us to come and make good on our promise.

It was a splendid day for a constructing job. Neither of us are carpenters. My wife has the knack and I have the muscles but together we make only a portion of the real deal. We enjoy doing projects from time to time, and unlike some couples, work together rather well. Even so, despite having some degree of self-confidence, like most home owners and handy men and women, we do not do jobs often enough to remember how to do things so as to get it right the first time. We always get it done, it just happens by way of a circuitous route. The wrong sized screw, or a missing tool, or the wrong color of paint will send one or the other of us back to this store or that. Usually we book double the time it really ought to take, and it takes us double the time we booked. But yesterday was a good day to double your time outdoors. The sun shone, with that strange April light that comes of a sun higher in the sky, with no leaves to filter it and little green to soak it up when it hits the ground. It was a bright day, but not hot, and thus refreshing. So, off came the steps.

Because we were without steps for most of the afternoon, my wise wife figured out a way to hop up onto our deck using a deck chair. I tried the same, and to my chagrin, discovered that my weight upended a chair that quite happily held hers. No harm was done, but I had the happy chance to roll across the new patio we had installed (this by a professional!) last fall. It was this patio that occasioned the replacement of a very dilapidated stair. Soon railing will follow, and hopefully without any more falls to follow.

The day unfolded as it should, with some happy moments for self-reflection with coffee in hand as Mrs. J ran to and fro with hardware store tasks. It struck me that we both find a kind of satisfaction in knowing our blood (sometimes!), sweat (always), and tears (rarely) are important components that we have personally contributed to bits about our house. A kind of satisfaction comes in knowing that I am in what I now use. It isn’t just about pride, or economics, or learning something new – although some of all of these fit in the mix. It is more about a different kind of ownership, or perhaps stewardship – if you will.

Perhaps some of the joy I find in self-involving repair and renovation comes from it being a kind of practice of resistance against a plug and play world, replete with toss away conveniences, jobs and economies. It is also true, that a bit of work here and there, from time to time, allows us to “own” the home differently, with a bit of sweat equity that we gladly pay on fine spring day.

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12 thoughts on “Step by Step Home Ownership

  1. Marie Taylor says:

    I used to feel the same way about painting inside the house and gardening. 🙂

  2. dianerivers says:

    What a positive attitude you have about all that and I definitely agree. When have a bit of your own “skin in the game” (hopefully not often literally), there’s a particular connection made and it feels good. It is certainly a kind of stewardship. Bravo for you both!

  3. It was very nice picturing this day with your wife, Allen. Yes, I think the satisfaction in the organic process of maintaining a home (in part, maintaining your life) is something people all around the world have appreciated, with the great exception of those who have swapped the opportunity for self-awareness and -development for the comforts of the modern world. I have in mind the Little House on the Prairie people, for instance. It’s interesting that of all the occupations Jesus could’ve taken up, it was carpentry. Something that required his hands for patient, precise, thoughtful labor.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Well, I rather like connection you make between home and life. It seems to me that “home” alongside of “road” together frame much of what it means to be human. I’d like to think more about that!

  4. shoreacres says:

    You’ve reminded me of something that’s so second nature now I rarely think of it, but it seems to be related.

    When I begin working on any boat that’s new to me, I come home with bruises, nicks, and scrapes galore: especially if it’s a sailboat. I’m never aware of bumping up against things like the rigging, but I clearly do.

    On the other hand, if I keep the customer and work on that same boat two or three more times, there aren’t any more bruises. I’ve learned to “know” the space, and have become capable of moving easily within it.

    Not only that, if I work on the same boat for several years (varnishing being a twice-yearly necessity in this tropical sunlight, unless a boat is in a shed), I can spot that boat out on the bay even at a distance. I don’t need to read the name or get a close look. I just know it’s one of “mine.”

    it seems to me the same dynamics would come into play with the sort of work you and your wife were doing. It’s home-making, in the deepest sense of the phrase.

    • agjorgenson says:

      That is a very interesting comment. I love the image of moving about a space with that kind of intimacy. Perhaps boats are especially amenable to this since it is almost as if the boat is a tool in its entirety, and so lends itself to familiarity. That may apply to a house, but if so, in a different way I think. Here, the intimacy comes of memory rather than utility. But I would like to think more about that. More to ponder!

      • shoreacres says:

        Think about furniture. I’ve had the experience of moving things around inside the house, and then bumping into them at night, in the dark. And in fact, many people who work with the elderly advise that everything in their houses be kept in the same place, just to reduce the risk of accidents.

        Or moving into a new house, and always turning left rather than right to go to the bathroom, because in the old house, the bath was to the left!

      • agjorgenson says:

        We moved our silverware about 5 years ago and I still find myself digging about the drying towels for a spoon!

  5. jannatwrites says:

    I’ve done a few things around the house (some by trial and error, haha) and there is a unique satisfaction from completing something and having it turn out fairly well. Nevermind that sometimes it takes a few times to get that completion!

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