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The Year of Habitat: the detailed plan

As I wrote about in my 2018 resolution post, I have declared this the year of habitat — the year of making my home and surroundings more comfortable and habitable, instead of living like an itinerant college student.

I had an intention in that post, but I never talked about what my plan is. I do in fact have one! I’ve been refining it during the month of January, and I thought I’d share it here, for personal accountability.

Rooms and projects

I started by making a list of all the projects and tasks I wanted to get done in each room. This list is aspirational; I’m realistic that I’m not going to achieve everything on the list. This was mostly to give me a sense of how long to devote to each space; I allocated a star rating of difficulty to each room based on the number and size of tasks.

I also wanted to take seasons into account — I don’t want to be working in my unheated basement in winter; nor do I want to be working in the computer room/library in the heat of the summer (i.e. the room that gets so warm, even with central air, that we put an auxiliary A/C unit in there).

There are also some question marks in here. Do I need a new dishwasher? No; the one we have works okay, but it’s older than our tenure in the house, starting to break down, and probably not very energy-efficient. Likewise, I don’t need a new couch or end tables, but our couch is ratty and cat-clawed and our end tables are black-matte-painted monstrosities. (I was gratified when Matt told me, completely on his own, “We might need to consider replacing the sectional in the near future”).

There are a couple of big projects that span the whole house that aren’t always explicitly mentioned here:

One, the previous owners looooooved cellular shades, and installed them in every single room in very… bold colors. (Pink, wine red, baby blue, etc). I really do not like cellular shades. They look cheap, and they break easily — many of them already have. And I do not need pink anything in my dining room, thank you.

Two, the upstairs bathroom needs an entire remodel. On top of fixtures which are BABY BLUE, the bathtub leaks and has been patched numerous times. (We haven’t used it in years, because of this). About the only thing I like about it is the wooden cabinets. We are planning to get some professional help to address this room this year.

The downstairs bathroom isn’t much better. Water has leaked into it from the upstairs tub, damaging the ceiling. The counters and walls are a peach color, and the tile is vintage 1980s. (Matt argues this room needs a full remodel, too. But I’m not as keen to tackle it this year).

Three, skylights. Hey, skylights are great. But in a house with central air… why do they need to open? In my experience with skylights, having ones that open is just asking for double the amount of leaks. And gosh, do these things leak. It will sometimes pour rain in our sunroom, depending on conditions. Replacing them may need to be a thing that happens.

Those are the overarching concerns. Let’s go room by room now:

Kitchen (**)
– new dishwasher?
– finally replace microwave over range
– clean out, replace, or get rid of old coffee pot
– clean out gap between window and screen
– clean behind fridge
– have well water tested (do after a heavy rainstorm)
– glue foot back on cutting board
– Replace bulb above sink

Dining room (*)
– replace, or at least remove, old broken blinds
– get rid of cookbooks we don’t use (which is most of them)
– replace bulbs in chandelier
– Hang/find a place for family photos

Living room (**)
– clean/purge/organize media collection
– new end tables?
– new couch/seating?
– new media console?
– Wash drapes
– Consolidate/digitize my music collection
– Lighting for my ruby flash souvenir glass collection
– Make a sleeve for and hang decorative quilt
– Organize cat files/paperwork

Downstairs bathroom (*)
– Replace light/fan fixture
– Paint walls
– Replace/cover damaged bit of ceiling from water leak

Sunroom (*)
– Replace skylights with ones that don’t open?
– window treatments
– clean/purge/organize board games/rpgs

Mudroom (**)
– cover cat door (with something more permanent than cardboard & duct tape)
– stain step
– clean behind washer/dryer

Basement – sewing room (***)
– better storage for fabric and yarn
– get rid of desk?
– shampoo carpet

Basement – costume storage (*) and workshop (*) – these mostly just need cleaning/purging/organizing

Upstairs bathroom (***)
– (short term) rehang mirror
– (short term) reattach towel bar
– (long term) full renovation – new bath, toilet, sink, counters – want a heated towel rack – better ventilation/fan
– replace skylight window with one that doesn’t open?

Master bedroom (**)
✅ See if curtains I bought work
✅ Set up reading nook
✅ Acquire carpet
✅ move one of the cat posts out
– new lamps (or just new lamp harps/shades)
– Purge unwanted clothes – I’ll give myself half a checkmark for this; I did get rid of a lot of stuff, but could probably do more
✅ Clean/purge/organize loft
– Put up mirror that came with bedroom set? (Requires cleaning stickers off it first)

Computer room(*)
– Consolidate my collection of digital photos
– Remove blinds by the foot of my desk?
– Scan box of mementos/nostalgia
– Select 10 favorite postcards from European postcard collection, frame them, and hang them in my writing space

Guest room (**)
– Paint walls
– Hang three-panel screen
– Remove and sort clothes from loft
– purge/organize larp memorabilia

Deck (**)
– Stain portion of the deck we replaced
– Re-stain the rest of the deck

Garden (***)
– Build a bridge for the stream
– Remove old garden gate

Screenhouse (**)
– Acquire outdoor dining set
– Patch holes in screen
– Better solution than crappy tiles for floor

Schedule

Basically I plan to focus on a difference space each month. Some spaces are more work than others, and some months are busier than others — and I don’t have exactly twelve spaces — but I’ve tried to break it down relatively equitably.

January: bedroom
February: living room/downstairs bathroom
March: kitchen
April: upstairs bathroom
May: guest room
June: garden/screenhouse
July: deck/garden
August: basement
September: mudroom
October: sun room
November: dining room
December: computer room

Upkeep/maintenance

As part of this project, I’d like to become more regular about keeping my house ordered and clean. I have very much found that (to quote Gretchen Rubin) “outer order contributes to inner calm.” Keeping a neat house keeps my anxiety at bay and helps me to be more energetic and productive.

… which honestly sucks, because I hate cleaning.

I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous cleaning calendars going around on FB — something that someone like me, who works full time and has a number of active hobbies, who could not maintain.


Incidentally, this is about all I am qualified to do in Photoshop.

The closest I’ve found to a cleaning and maintenance schedule that works for me is Unfuck Your Habitat’s cleaning lists. Even then, I find them a bit… ambitious, and I have to modify them to keep with the “do what you can; no marathons” ethos of the site. (Which is really great, btw, and aimed at people who have physical limitations, like chronic illness, that keep them from doing as much as they would like). The actual number of items on the UFYH list is greater, but each one seems smaller. No MOPPING YOUR KITCHEN EVERY DAY.

So here’s my modification of the UFYH lists. It’s evolved over the course of January-February, and is continuing to evolve.

Daily list:
– Make bed (if someone’s not in it, i.e. mostly on weekends)
– Wipe down one surface
– Wash dishes
– Put clothes and shoes away
– Deal with incoming mail
– Clean litterbox
– One 20/10 on an area that needs it
– Prepare for tomorrow, if going into the office (pick out outfit, pack up laptop and gym bag, optionally make lunch)

Weekly:
– Vacuum upstairs or downstairs (alternate)
– Wash, dry, and put away laundry
– Wipe down stovetop/oven door
– Take trash out
– Put away everything on bedroom floor

Bi-weekly (every two weeks, not twice a week!):
– Wash sheets
– Wash towels and rags
– Break down cardboard and recycle
– Clean toilets

Monthly:
– Dust all surfaces
– Wipe down baseboards
– Clean out refrigerator
– Wipe down bathroom walls
– Clean light switches and door handles
– Shred or file old bills and mail
– Clean shower
– Mop upstairs or downstairs floors (alternate)
– Do full litter replacement

Seasonally:
– Wash curtains/clean vertical blinds
– Go through closet and sort through clothes
– Vacuum/clean upholstered furniture
– Clean oven
– Vacuum and rotate mattress
– Clean out bathroom drawers and cabinets
– Change water pitcher filter
– Change HVAC filter
– Clean out and organize pantry

Do I do all of this every day/week/month/season? Gods, no. It’s hard to go from mopping your floor once a year to mopping monthly. But it gives me a framework, if nothing else. I always know what I could be doing to maintain the house. So while being somewhat aspirational, it still does spur me to do stuff.

For me the most important daily tasks are washing dishes and doing the litterboxes, and being sure to pack my gym bag on Sunday night, to set the tone for the week. Making the bed only rarely happens, because there’s usually someone in it when I get up — my husband, 1-3 cats, or all of the above. And that’s okay. It’s nice to get into a made bed, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. (Ha).

Weekly, vacuuming takes the highest priority; everything else happens automatically (i.e. I clean the stovetop when I’m wiping down the counters, or Matt does the laundry).

Also note that all I care is that this stuff is done; it doesn’t matter who in our house does it. Fundamentally, things like doing the laundry or cleaning the litterboxes usually fall to Matt; he also cooks all the food. So a lot of these tasks are “do them unless Matt has already done them.”

So far?

January was devoted to the bedroom, and folks, it is so much more comfortable than it was a month or so ago. I have a comfortable space to read in, with a neatly folded blanket on a (relatively) clean chair under good lighting with a stack of books beside it. My closets and drawers are emptier. The contents of my bedroom loft have reduced by half, and I no longer am tripping over Christmas ornaments. I HAVE CURTAINS!!! AND A RUG!! Here is a photo of my progress on the room — alas, I didn’t prepare any dramatic before/after shots.

Is it magazine-worthy? Hell no. Is it a sight better than it was in 2017? HELLZ YES. I felt such a sense of peace and calm sitting in that room last weekend, reading and drinking coffee.

This month — February — I am tackling the living room and the downstairs bathroom. (Short term stuff for the downstairs bathroom, if Matt really wants to do a full remodel). It’s tougher because I’m away several weekends in February (Mad3, Intercon coming up) and it’s a shorter month, but I’m hoping to go furniture shopping this weekend and replace some of our beat-up living room pieces. I like having an area rug in the bedroom so much that I might just put one in the living room, too.

I’m cautiously optimistic.