Part 3 of 6 of Wela’s series on buying a house.
I’m a perfectionist. I will admit it. They say the first step to quitting is admitting.
I have a vision of exactly how I want things to look, and I try my hardest to reach that level. The issue with this, though, is that nothing ever gets to the perfection that we expect.
Fantasy tends to be rosier than reality in most situations.
Why do I go off on this tangent? Simple, I need to confess something before I write this blog.
When I bought my first house, I was pumped!
I started to think through everything that I wanted, and at that time of my life it was geared towards how I could make it the best party house ever.
It was like I wanted surround sound, a mounted TV above the mantle. I wanted the ability to control my sound system from my phone. I wanted speakers outside, and an ability to alter what was being heard in each area. I needed enough seating for those Sunday football games. I needed TVs in every room. I needed all the wires to be hidden because it gives me anxiety to see all that stuff lying around.
Oh yeah, I also wanted to build a fire pit in the backyard for the winters. I was also trying to figure out how I could get the garage in a state where it doesn’t have bugs, so I could turn it into a game room?
I also needed cool, trendy artwork on the walls, and storage areas for all my other stuff so it wouldn’t just be cluttering up the home.
I clearly needed all of this before I could ever throw my first house party. Right? I didn’t want my friends to see an unfinished house!
I wanted my house to be homey within the first week and a half with all of this stuff.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been further from reality in that situation.
I still don’t have much of that stuff I felt I needed to make it into a party house or a homey feel. And by no means did I wait to show the house to my friends until everything was there.
Now I can admit that my house feels like home to me today despite the lack of some of those immaterial items.
Everyone says that furnishing a home and making it feel like yours is a long-term process. For all of us new home buyers, we shun those comments. We believe we can make it homey right away. Those other people don’t know what they are talking about.
I am not here to say the same thing as them, I just want to try and provide some answers that I wish I had when entering my first home purchase.
As opposed to just the traditional answer of, “it takes time,” I want to provide some actionable solutions. We have to feel that we are making progress while still sticking to that idea that patience is a virtue when it comes to furnishing a home.
The furnish immediately mentality
Buying a house is a stressful process. Usually it takes a lot longer than we desire.
Then when we go under contract on the house we want we have about 30 days of back and forth with the mortgage company; along with dealing with the due diligence that needs to be done on the house.
By the time the whole process of looking for a house and buying it is done you are exhausted. I am tired just thinking about it!
Once we actually move into the house, we just want to enjoy the biggest purchase we have made in our lives.
Then we realize that we don’t have enough furniture to fill the house. Or we don’t want the furniture from our frat days filling our new paradise.
This results in us wanting to rush purchasing the necessary furniture to fill the house. We are exhausted from the process, and we don’t want it to drag on anymore.
Typically this means we overcompensate for that exhaustion by trying to cram our furniture buying into a one-week sprint.
That’s the problem with buying a house. We want to be done with the process and just start enjoying it.
In reality, though, we are never done furnishing or dealing with our house. We will always have to maintain it and add to it. Whether it’s fixing the furnace or buying a lamp for the office. We’ll always have something to do with the house.
Welcome to home ownership!
So what do we do?
I think that this whole process needs to be done in bite size pieces.
For me, furnishing a home provides the same type of problem that we have when people think about saving for retirement
Here’s what I mean.
We are always told that we need to save for retirement, but then retirement isn’t for another 25-30 years possibly.
It’s hard for us to comprehend something that far away because it is likely further away than many things we have experienced in life… and even life itself possibly.
Because of this difficulty in comprehending what it means, we just neglect it altogether because it is too difficult for us to think about. We revert to the idea that we will worry about it once that time comes.
With a house, it is similar in some ways. We have never bought a house before, but we have grown up in one before. The one that we grew up in was fully furnished for as long as we can remember.
So, we typically feel that our new house should be in the same place as the house that we grew up in. This means we push really hard to get to that point.
The outcome of all this is that we try to get everything furnished right away only to realize that we aren’t able to accomplish this task easily. Then we get stressed and stop.
The same thing often happens with retirement benefits. We try to meet all of our peers’ suggestions of starting to save. We go at it hard in the beginning, but then feel like nothing is really being accumulated yet. So, we stop… knowing how much longer we have.
Don’t fall into this trap. We don’t want to get burned out of the furnishing process.
We need to look at the house room by room. Understand what you need for each room, and have a set budget for each room. From there we can begin to fill the house over time. We can feel comfortable and confident with this approach.
Piece by piece the house is filled
After doing a good amount of research, I realized that I messed up when I tried to furnish my house.
I went about it the wrong way. I wish I had this blog during that time.
Many sources on the internet tell us the same old stuff… don’t spend too much, look at used furniture… and patience. Always be patient.
Okay, great, but what are some actionable ideas to take when we want to furnish our home. Here is the checklist I wish I had when I furnished my house.
- Take inventory – When you move in or when you visit the house before closing, take a pad of paper and a pen. Walk into every room in the house or condo, and sit down in that room for about 10 minutes. Start listing out everything that you think you will need for that room. First list out the large items ranging from beds, chairs and couches. Then move onto the smaller items such as garbage cans, picture frames, lamps, etc. Go to every room and do this, and don’t leave the place until you are done. Even sit in the foyers and hallways to determine what you think you will need in there.
- Prioritize – Now that you are done with the listing of desires, it’s time to prioritize. Sit down and look at the list of rooms (not the items needed for each room). List out from one to whatever the number of rooms you have, and think about where you believe you will be spending the most time while you are home. For example, most likely your bedroom would be at the top of the list. I mean if we are going to be sleeping about 8 hours a day, and we are home for maybe an average of 12 hours a day, I think that we would want this room to be pretty homey. So, list out every room and put the most used room, as you believe it now, at the top and go down.
- Budget – No, this isn’t the line item that tells you to budget for the furniture. Rather it is the line item to determine what your actual budget is for furniture. Some resources out there say that we should plan to spend between 10-50% of the price paid for the house on furniture. That’s a wide margin. Here is my suggestion. Take a look at your current savings and checking accounts. Determine what your new monthly expenses will be in the house. This includes your mortgage payment, insurance, taxes, utilities, food and discretionary spending. Figure out what this number is. Then multiply this by three. Whatever you have above this amount is what you should spend on furniture during the first round. And then whenever your savings gets above that three-month number again, then it is time to go buy some more furniture. Here is an example. Say our spending number is $4,000 a month. Then our three month savings number would be $12,000. Whenever our savings and checking account gets above this $12,000 number we can go spend some money on new furniture for the next room.
- Down, down, down – Remember that priority list we created earlier? Well now that you have listed out which rooms need to be furnished first, go to the list of items you need in that room and use the amount of funds you have determined can be used from the above step, and start buying those items. When your budget runs out, save up and then go back to the list and continue to fill out your rooms based on your priority list.
- Priority and quality – Finally, don’t let your desire to just fill the room takeover the desire to have quality furniture that can last you a long time. Remember that the point of prioritizing the rooms was to first fill the rooms you will be spending the most time in. For those rooms you want to have some good quality stuff that can follow you from house to house. Know where to pinch pennies and where to not. For instance, pinching pennies on your mattress or bed frame is probably not the best spot. Those things will likely follow you to the next house, whether it is for a guest room or your next master. Instead, maybe you can pinch pennies on the end tables or the table below the TV.
Homey, you have your homey house
There is not an exact science to this process of filling your new house with furniture. However, we can have a process that may help bring some clarity to this overwhelming task.
Feel free to alter the above steps to better fit your situation. Personally, I wish I had determined what I wanted for each room before I just started to buy.
I didn’t know what I needed; I just went about it and guessed throughout the process. I hoped that what I was getting were the necessities.
It would have been easier, for me, to have a targeted approach. I wish I had been able to talk myself through the priorities like, “Okay, I need a mirror now to finish up this room. That mirror is more important to me then an entertainment set, because this room is where I will be spending the most of my time.”
I just went about the process buying what I thought I needed for the whole house instead of what I needed for the rooms I was spending the most time in.
After my first round of furniture buying, I was thin. No room in the house felt completely homey. Rather, I had a few things in this room and a few things in that room. Nowhere in the house did I feel completely ‘at home.’
For a while I was still a mess and felt unsettled. I believe that if I would have had a more targeted approach I would have at least felt settled within particular rooms. This would have given me a sense of accomplishment and progress.
Don’t let the desire to get the whole house filled lead you to the sense of constantly feeling unsettled.
Take a targeted approach, and the home will feel homier before you know it. The house doesn’t have to be perfect in one week or even one month. In fact, it likely won’t ever be perfect.
Admitting that I won’t make this aspect of my life perfect actually works best for me. I would suggest that you try the same.