Turning a New Home into a Fixer Upper
We had been in the new home for one week before Rogue Two took a hammer to the wall. He calls himself a “worker,” (as in construction worker), and he enjoys “fixing” things around the house.
The afternoon I heard him banging, I realized the tenor of the noise was different than what I was accustomed from the old house. I found him near the front door, where he proudly displayed his craftsmanship.
He had “fixed” a section of the wall. The dozens of dents were a testament to his craftsmanship.
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Our previous home was built in the 1930s. All brick on the outside and solid plaster walls on the inside. Rogue Two could literally bounce of walls or bang on them with his plastic hammer and we would never know.
Our relatively new and modern home, however, was built with drywall. I assume drywall has some redeeming qualities, but I haven’t discovered many other than being easy to paint. It was not designed with Rogue Two in mind.
We ended up in a nice house in a nice part of town with great public schools (with a goal of avoiding private school tuition, which may warrant a future post of its own). While we did buy a nice house, we maintained fiscal discipline relative to our income (though adherents to Mr. Money Mustache would probably disagree).
We made a 20% downpayment and our mortgage is under 2x our salary. Many loan officers will give you a much larger loan and let you combine it with a small/no downpayment. Many financial advisors will tell you to buy a house that’s up to 3x your yearly salary. While we bought our first house with no downpayment (using a “doctor loan”) while relatively broke, I can’t recommend that as a good option for most. It worked out well for us for many reasons — partly for reasons we anticipated, and partly luck.
We have not been in a rush to furnish our newer house (the “attending” house as White Coat Investor puts it) with newer furniture. With two active boys and a third on the way, it’s a setup for destruction. The only “new” furniture on moving in was a nice (used) dining room set donated to us by my in-laws. We eventually bought a king size bed to fit the kids that kept showing up in our bed in the middle of the night.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
For the first year in our new home, our living room consisted of:
- A sofa we purchased a year before the move, as the boys had destroyed the old loveseats (see picture)
- A microfiber loveseat I bought in 2005 while in medical school (previously in the basement)
- The “matching” end-table I bought with the loveseat
- The recliner my wife bought for me in 2010 (she forced me to give up a previous recliner years earlier; apparently rust colored fabric doesn’t match anything)
- A tv dinner tray (acting as another end table)
I imagine most two-professional couples, particularly most doctors, don’t use a hodge-podge of furniture. Yet it was all in decent shape, comfortable, and somehow matched. Even the tv dinner tray came in handy (until the kids repurposed it).
When you have a young family with sticky boys that enjoy pulverizing things, it’s a waste to spend time/money on expensive furniture (or anything they might touch). Yet, with a bigger home came more space, a classic problem we caused ourselves.
We showed restraint, avoiding purchases, and leaving areas open. We had plenty of other priorities, such as a new baby, and our open loft provided more wrestling space for the boys. After extensive discussion, we finally decided to move some of the living room furniture into the loft and buy something nicer (i.e. matching) for the living room.
The buying process was a reminder of why we don’t spend a lot of time buying “stuff.” It’s a pain. We have a hard time finding something we both want, made worse by feeling the opportunity cost of lost time. With three kids, shopping is not a leisure activity, it’s a chore (though even before the kids it didn’t seem fun). This is one of the reasons why many things we purchase we use until they are falling apart — while we occasionally buy expensive objects, we’re not big on retail therapy.
Also, why spend time and money replacing things that still serve their purpose? Not only is it somewhat wasteful, it’s a bad example for the impressionable Rogue Kids. If they break one of their own toys, mommy & daddy are not going to drop everything to replace it, and if it works, then they don’t need a new one.
When broken toys can’t be repaired, we throw it in the trash and move on. We don’t subsidize replacements of non-essential goods (backpack for school — yes; remote control car — no). We haven’t reached the point of charging them for the furniture, but in a few years we might.
Kid Repellant Optional
When we finally found a new sofa, I launched into negotiation mode. I bought it for ~15% less than advertised. Still more than I wanted to pay, but sometimes you pay just to stop driving around town.
Also, the sales people sensed weakness. Rogue Three was with us and started crying while I was trying to negotiate. They took advantage by drawing out the process. Well played on their part.
I think we’ll enjoy the new sofa, but unless it comes with boy/snot repellant, it will be used and abused (they did offer an extended warranty, which I declined). I want to keep the old loveseat nearby so it can be their “jumping” couch — they can go crazy on it and maybe the new couch will survive longer.
This won’t be the last sofa we buy, but hopefully the kids will be out of destruction mode before the next purchase. I don’t enjoy spending money on objects, and want our children to understand the time/effort it takes to afford an object. As a technophile, I’m very deliberate in buying tech goods, and will return something that doesn’t live up to its hype (i.e. Amazon Alexa, Pebble Time Smartwatch). I would rather the money go towards experiences, travel, or education. Not fidget spinners (which Rogue One had to buy with his own money).
While we do occasionally spend bigger sums of money on nicer things, it’s with the expectation that it’ll last nearly forever (house, car, etc). Depending on the lifespan of this blog, perhaps I can update the readership in a few years on how the new sofa fares. Until then, remember that bodily fluids from a three-year old do not match any furniture.