Friday, February 22, 2008

The House, Part 2

Months ago, I blogged about a house that I’d bought in Connecticut—a cottage, really. This particular house, which has a four-square, Tuscan design, with a peaked slate roof and porthole windows, has special significance to me because I grew up in the house as a small child. In addition to being filled with memories, it's set in a few acres of woods in a beautiful semi-rural town in Connecticut.

Fast-forward to now. The house has been sitting there for the winter, and I’m going back in the spring to come to terms with it. For starters, there’s a tremendous amount of cleaning that needs to be done. We’re putting in a septic tank and drilling a well. Years of neglect have to be turned back and replaced with painted walls, finished floors, and a sense of being looked after. The house must be loved again.

I don’t blame the previous owner of the house for the neglect that took place since we lived there—she lived a long life, and I understand that an elderly, infirm lady cannot properly take care of a house. Her dog was dying at the same time. You walk in the place now, and you do get the sense that it’s a place where death had slowly taken root and conquered—there’s soot on the walls, a bitter smell in the air, and everything that touches water—the sinks, bathtub, toilet—has turned bright orange from some sort of iron issue with the water. It literally looks like something hopeless from one of those makeover TV shoes, where a small army of people will come in and transform it.

Well, that small army this spring will be me. My goal for the summer is to put my hair up in a bandanna, roll up my sleeves, and get that house in shape.

Now, I’m not exactly a FlyLady type, or a Mrs. Clean who knows how to do all this stuff. I’m the opposite—I once lived in a house with roommates, and was requested to hire a maid on my “cleaning” day, because my efforts to mop the floor kept yielding a sticky dull mess. (I did).

I’ll blog about the house again, once I’m there and into the whole thing. Right now, the whole prospect has me slightly terrified. Does anyone have any good tips for housecleaning on a salvage operation scale? I’ll be trying to rescue the battered little jewel of a home that once was there, and what it meant to me.


Sheila Connolly said...

I know exactly what you mean. The Victorian we bought in Swarthmore had been abused by well-meaning but basically crazy people, and my husband and I spent years restoring it to what it once was. Over the course of that I developed an almost physical relationship with the house. I mean, after you've had your hands in the guts of a place--the plumbing, the wiring, the weird stuff lurking behind the plaster--you feel connected to it.

And, yes, I'm using that in a book--a specific house inspired the story, and the house is in a sense a character in the book.

Enjoy the process--the house deserves love.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Yep. I'd say buy a wet vac, because a great vacuum cleaner is worth its weight in platinum. You'll need it to suck up all sorts of stuff--and I'd also suggest wearing those masks like surgeons do.

I've found that any remodeling leaves behind more dust and junk than you could possibly imagine. Since I have allergies, that means that every project brings on attacks of wheezing...but the finished work is always worthwhile.

Kathryn Lilley said...

This will be my very first time trying something like this! A wet vac sounds like a great idea. Love the idea of a house being a character, Sheila!

Linda O. Johnston said...

The place we bought in Maryland along the water had 2 shacks on it, and my husband's hobby is building a new house there. He designed it himself, and it's coming along really nicely now, after many years negotiating for building permits with the Chesapeake Bay conservation people. It's a great place to write--watching the water, ducks and, sometimes, a great blue heron.

Becky Levine said...

Wow, Kathryn. I'm impressed and you haven't even started yet! :)

Never having done anything like this, the only suggestion I can think of is to come at the project like a revision. Try not to see the whole thing looming over you like a nightmare, but pick a piece, any piece, and work on that. Then pick another piece. Small goals add up to big ones.

By the way, just finished Mystery on Maui and, even though I know it was much faster-paced than the Nancy Drew books I grew up with, you transported me back. I was with Nancy & Bess & George again, and it was great. Wonderful job!

Kathryn Lilley said...

Looming over me like a nightmare is right--and good point about taking it one step at a time! I'm going to start by just trying to get it clean...thanks!