Albie’s About To Buy Her First Home But Saying No To A Big Reno AKA “Project Pressure”… It’s a Real Thing

Albie Fact: I’m a lifelong renter…happily. Even after marriage and a baby, we’ve never been in any rush to buy a house. Why not? Because we weren’t in any rush to take on everything that comes with homeownership — no one wants to be house rich, money poor!

2020 — in true “wtf” fashion — however, got us rethinking our life as renters; in truth, we realized it’s a life we’ve outlived and now we’re ready to take the plunge into homeownership

Making the decision to buy a house is already a huge one, and it involves a ton of pressure  — self-imposed — to choose the right one for my family but to also choose one that allows me to really flex my design skills. I’d be kidding myself if I pretended like my home isn’t basically my own personal showhouse. But buying, especially for the first time, burns enough mental calories to last a lifetime; so adding on anything additional would lead to a complete mental spiral. Think about it…the home buying process is one that is undeniably daunting, from the cost to the search to the paper intensive final steps. I don’t expect everything to be perfect right out of the gate — process-wise — so I am definitely not expecting perfection from the home itself. 

Naturally, as a designer and stylist, I can’t help but fantasize about what I’d do to my future home — I even have a Pinterest board to manifest our future home — but after a lifetime of renting, while I am riddled with big design ideas, I also refuse to succumb to “project pressure”.

photo by mariah texidor | yes, that’s my book!

What is “project pressure”?

So glad you asked! 

For starters, it’s something Jess & I came up with when talking about renter-friendly projects we’ve tackled — a whole different kind of project pressure by the way. Loosely defined, project pressure is the pressure to tackle every and any project imaginable in a new home, likely before even actually living in said home. 

Between design shows and social media, it’s really easy to get swept away in wanting to knock down walls, upgrade fixtures, and remove everything…even what’s bolted to the floor. But why? 

How do I know what I really want out of a future home before spending an entire fortnight there? Yes, I said fortnight. Are there things that I can assess beforehand as a “must have” or “must go” — i.e. carpet & popcorn ceilings? Absolutely! But knowing that I’m buying a home, even if not for a lifetime, I think I’ve earned some time to think things through, take my time, and design in phases. 

Now, if tackling projects is your jam…go for it. If you actually want a fixer upper…I’m rooting for you. But I think we’ve all gotten caught up in the notion of our homes needing projects…I mean, imagine a world where we just all move in and sit down. What would I write about without a project to do?! 

*cue the sarcasm*

I remember earlier this year deciding that I would no longer tackle any more projects in our 2 bedroom condo — I was all project’d out — and I wanted nothing more than to enjoy and live in the home that I’d spent the past 3 years designing & redesigning. To be honest, even though I knew there was so much more that I could do, I just got tired of tinkering. I had project fatigue! I wanted a break. I wanted to reset the way I felt about the way I lived. 

photo by me | fall 2018 orc

About 6 months after that decision, I decided it was time to finally tackle a room I’d been avoiding the entire time — the living room. I am certain that without that design respite, I wouldn’t have gotten that new surge of inspiration. The possibility of having my own home — ya know, that I own own — is a different kind of inspiration. No one to ask for permission. No worries about putting it all back. No one to answer to but ourselves. But if it ain’t broke and it’s not impeding me from enjoying the new home, what’s the rush. Just because I can, it doesn’t mean I should

design by me | photo by mariah texidor

Where does project pressure come from?

To be completely honest, most project pressure is external — home design shows, social media, our personal circles — but a large part of it is definitely self-inflicted. 

So many design shows highlight the benefits of getting a fixer-upper which, for a lot of us, may translate to the “need” to find the worst house ever so we can love it back to life. On the other side of that, with social media (really, just Instagram) and Pinterest we’re inundated with everyone’s “highlight reel” home content and, lemme tell ya… homeowner imposter syndrome is real. “Is my house pretty enough?” “Is my house picture-perfect enough?” The feeling that you have to out project your last project for the sake of content may sound crazy but it’s a thing! These feelings of not doing enough or having enough or creating enough are something I read about all the time in my DMs and my answer is always the same:

No one else lives in our homes so the rush to the proverbial design finish line benefits no one else but us, for better or for worse. 

Now that I browse home listings like they’re Pinterest, I can instantly tell which homes will bring on an insane number of projects (translation: I hate everything but see “potential” in the home) versus those that will allow me to live in and enjoy the house for weeks & months before feeling the need to do work. Here’s what I know — I will never buy a fixer-upper, but I don’t need brand new. The sweet spot in the middle where it’s “turnkey” but I can also tinker is how I know I can curb any potential project pressure. 

Let’s browse a few of the listings we’ve looked at while I continue…

the first house we looked at

How am I saying no to project pressure?

Following so many home influencers and DIYers and interior designers, I’m not immune to wanting to take a paint brush to my home; but also know that the “newness” that we strive for when tackling back to back to back projects can quickly wear off…not to mention how quickly the costs can add up!

I’m not looking at any listings where I have to dig around with a magnifying glass to find the home’s potential. I don’t want potential. I’ve lived with “potential” as a renter my entire life, and potential = project pressure! I’m looking for homes where the current status will allow me to flex my creativity to make it our own, but is good enough that we can live with it as is if need be. 

house two

I’m also really honest with myself and having regular conversations with my husband about our must-haves and deal-breakers…down to the tiniest detail. For example: we would both prefer an open concept kitchen so we’ll likely never go for a home with a closed-off kitchen because it would mean a huge renovation; but we’d be willing to concede and go for a galley kitchen because the layout is a compromise we can live with and any potential renovation wouldn’t be as daunting as a full gut job. Knowing this ahead of time helps us manage our expectations and set somewhat realistic timelines for the projects we’d want to tackle.

house three

Lastly, being hyper-aware of our finances — nothing like thinking about homeownership to force you to really start adulting — puts us in a position to know exactly what we’ll have the financial bandwidth to handle. It’s the ultimate reality check (see what I did there). 

Is it easy? Not even a little bit. With everyone getting back to home, every day there seems to be a new project being revealed on my timeline every time I scroll. And did I mention that right now we’re in the middle of the One Room Challenge? Inspiration and projects everywhere! 

design by me | photo by mariah texidor

I know that while we’re thinking about homeownership, I won’t stop fantasizing about what that home will look like, but the resistance to actually do a bunch of projects is worth it if it means taking my time and not feeling crushed under the weight to keep up with everyone else’s project pace. 

Have you ever experienced project pressure? You know…after scrolling the interwebs or watching all your neighbors COVID renos, are you feeling the itch to grab a wet saw and install some tile? P.S. don’t. Have you given in or have you been able to resist? Let’s talk about it. 

Opening Image Credit: Design by Albie K. Buabeng (me) | Photo by Mariah Texidor

Fin Mark

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