Two months before we moved, I ordered carpets for our new house. Panicked after discovering that my favoured joiner had a nine month waiting list for his services; I advanced booked in the trades I would need in those first few weeks. Electrician, plumber, carpets. Planning from afar, for a house I’d only seen once, six months earlier; they’d ring me with questions I had no idea about. Is the inside window staying? Where do you need extra sockets? I couldn’t picture a window, had no idea where existing sockets already were… but we muddled through, and dates were put in the diary for all the jobs. The upstairs carpets -the last task- was booked in for two weeks after moving day.
But when we moved in and got up close to the house in all its dated, dirty glory; we realised a fortnight was overly optimistic. Phil had repainted our rental two bed terrace, in just one weekend, a number of times; so naively we’d assumed this would just take a little longer. But no- before a paint brush could be lifted; this house needed mountains and mountains of pre-work. Ripping out carpets and shelves and curtain rails and strange wires. Clearing dumped rubbish and old curtains and chicken feed. Taming the overgrown lawn so we could spot Kep, bodge-fixing the leaking tap and shower. And cleaning. Gees. It was filthy. The kitchen alone took me four days! And then throw in Phil working full time, me having Pulmonary Hypertension, and tradespeople needing to finish their tasks before the painting could start. I pushed back the carpet fitting to three weeks.
We worked our socks off for those first few weeks. My plan to initially hideout at my Mum’s, rapidly changed when I saw the scale of work ahead. I couldn’t leave Phil and run! So, unable to do very physical jobs, I took charge of everything else. Project managing, researching the tricky jobs (thank you Youtube!), ordering and buying. Updating our contact details with zillions of companies, changing over the utilities, registering us with doctors and vets (but no available dentist yet!). Trips to B&Q and the hardware store and food shops. Cooking and washing clothes and solo dog parenting. Searching through our storage boxes for essentials, moving us in, starting to tame the jungle. And cleaning! Yes, amazingly, I cleaned the whole house myself. With windows open fully and masks adorned, I bleached away those paw prints and dust piles and years of grime. At least twice. Amazingly, wonderfully, thankfully, with my body on top form combined with a fierce determination to contribute; I hardly stopped. My body powered through. Predictably, my poor lungs reacted to some cleaning agents, but with increased oxygen and extra inhaler puffs and a ‘just carry-on’ attitude, I did it. However the plastering forced me to bed for a while… to work from there. It’s hard to rest, when jobs are staring you in the face.
Likewise Phil was a machine in those first few weeks. Days spent in the makeshift office (a table by the bed) were followed by evenings and nights on DIY. Painting and hammering and drilling by torchlight. A home library in the fifties, our bedroom had heavy original shelves stuck firmly to the walls that took days to tear out. They pulled off plaster, revealed cracks, and disclosed some wonderful hidden treasures -photos and tickets and newspapers. The study also took a week of filling in and painting and more filling in and more painting. Phil was constantly going between rooms- filling, sanding, undercoat, paint, gloss. Repeat. Sometimes we’d spot a wall or skirting board he’d missed, as he tried to remember how many coats he’d applied at different places!
It didn’t always go according to plan. A newly-fitted curtain pole fell down, pulling wall with it. The skip killed the lawn after collection was delayed by weeks. There are still water marks in the living room, after we put a radiator back on without turning off the mains first! The walls were so tough, the electrician’s work spilled into the weekend. And the plumber -an on-call fireman- fitted us in around fighting the moor fires. Plus, both our lovely Mum’s, donned work clothes and were given jobs when they visited. Not quite the relaxing holidays they’d envisaged! 🙂 On the eve of the carpet deadline -Phil’s birthday-, we had sections still unpainted due to wet plaster; and we forgoed his restaurant treat, to instead spend his big day sticking skirting boards to bumpy walls. It’s a lot trickier than it looks!
After three busy and hectic weeks, when the carpet fitters arrived, there were only two finished bedrooms. And actually, neither was fully finished- there were still sockets to be screwed back in, edge work to be perfected, cupboard doors to be painted. But the carpets could be laid. Hallelujah! It was wonderful to finally have some dust-free, mess-free havens among all the chaos! The following week, another bedroom and the landing and stairs were finished enough to be carpeted too. By then we were exhausted. We just wanted it done. We needed it done. We were desperate to stop and rest.
One month after moving in, I stumbled upon the photos I’d taken on that first day. Looking at the ripped carpets and filthy kitchen and mess and dirt and jungle, I was kinda shocked. Exhausted; I’d spent the morning seeing only work around me. The list of jobs ahead was intimidating. But as I looked at those moving day photos, I was reminded of how far we’d come already. Even in their half-finished or not-even-started-yet state; everywhere looked a million times better than before. Clean and cosy and homely. It was the boost I needed. Proud. When the mountain ahead looks too steep, look back at how high you’ve climbed already. 🙂
And don’t set overly optimistic deadlines! 😉