I like home improvement. Or, more accurately, I hate it. But I like living in an improved home. And as anyone who has seen it will attest, my home has plenty of room for improvement (unless you have a penchant for faulty wiring, popcorn ceilings, and sloping floors – whoops! Haven’t improved those yet. Can’t bring myself to worry about structural issues when there are more important aesthetic problems to consider.) As a home owner, I have several options: I can ignore it all. I can improve things on a measured and intelligent timetable. Or, I can act like a toddler on a Halloween candy bender, alternately tackling and ignoring projects on a whim, spending just enough money to achieve superficial solutions, and generally making myself and my family crazy. Bet you can guess where this is going.
I’ve spent more time in the past week on Kijiji than I care to admit. A couple of months ago, Todd and I decided that we should get a sectional for our living room. Our space is tiny, but we were starting to feel guilty about making our families fight over the three coveted couch spots when we host gatherings. So, a sectional seemed like a good solution. But those babies don’t come cheap, and I am morally opposed to dropping serious money on what is essentially a bum holder when I am still the owner of a child who randomly unleashes a torrent of pee when she’s “too busy” to go to the bathroom.
So I spent the better part of a week desperately hitting ‘refresh’ on my Kijiji app, messaging every seller of sectionals within a 100km radius of my home and just generally directing every ounce of my waking focus to acquiring the seating that my house suddenly, desperately needed. I eventually succeeded (no photos because we still have to pick it up), but I’m still in a bit of a stupor from the effort it required. And this was just my sectional adventure. There was also the window adventure, and the door adventure, and…
**Side note: Kijiji confuses me. Sometimes it seems that no one on the site actually wants to buy or sell anything. I’ve posted items for free and been stood up so many times that I’ve ended up just dumping said items on my front lawn with a “free” sign (and had a 100% pickup rate). I’ve offered/asked/begged to look at items many, many times. And many, many times, I’ve been told “yes it’s still available,” but when I try to take the conversation to the next level, crickets. I don’t get it. But I keep coming back for more…**
My obsession isn’t limited to Kijiji, though. When I find a home improvement object, particularly if it’s used/cheap/etc. I will do what it takes to acquire it, even if it means making some boneheaded decisions. For example, I found some solid wood antique doors at the Restore (that place hits on my main weaknesses: Stuff is cheap! And weird! Like me!) They were extremely heavy, but instead of waiting until I could borrow a truck and/or use straps, I just shoved the doors right next to my gear shift, draped my arm around them, and drove precariously home, making sure to turn carefully so as not to let the doors knock me out.
Clearly, I have a problem. But perhaps it’s more accurate to describe it as an infectious disease, because home improvement is everywhere. From shows to stores to magazines to blogs to my friends, everyone seems to be spending significant time and energy and money to make their homes as beautiful as possible. Within reason, I don’t think this is all bad. Wanting your home to be functional and appealing isn’t wrong. But I sometimes wonder if we’ve taken it too far. I wonder if having a showpiece of a home has become the new normal. Aside from leading to the obvious pitfalls of debt, materialism, and environmental degradation, I wonder if our home improvement obsession is making our homes into something they aren’t meant to be.
I started hearing the term ‘forever home’ a few years ago, and it really jumped out at me. People use it to describe the house that they see themselves spending the rest of their lives in. Sometimes, it’s just a fact (like when my neighbours say that their tiny house isn’t their forever home), but often it’s said aspirationally. As in “once we build our forever home,” or “this will be our forever home.” As appealing as the thought is, I think there are a few problems with it.
1. First of all, we have no idea where our lives will take us. Sure, we can make plans and choices to some extent, but then there’s a transfer, or a death, or a financial crisis, or something, and suddenly, we aren’t where or even who we thought we’d be. Treating a house as a forever home is unrealistic at best, and may lead us to stay somewhere when we really should leave.
2. Our homes are where we live. It’s great when they’re functional and cozy, but at the end of the day, they’re just places. The home improvement craze (and I’m talking to the man in the mirror here) can make them into palaces and money pits and repositories of tremendous mental and emotional energy.
3. We do have a forever home. But it’s in eternity, not on earth. Our homes are just B&Bs along the way. They’re not the final destination, and they’re not forever.
Maybe I’m getting a little intense here. But I know that I often need to be reminded that while my house is a home, at the end of the day, it’s really just a (strangely constructed) house. And all the Kijiji items in the world won’t change that.