Lessons from our First Year as Home Owners

It’s been a little over a year since we bought our first home. As is always the case, in some ways it seems like we’ve been here forever and in other ways it feels like we’ve only just moved in. We had grand plans for this sad old house when we first moved in and, though we’ve made some progress, there is still so much to do.

Hall Before

Our hall in January 2013.


Our hall now!

Living Room Before

The fluoro lights in our lounge room in January 2013.

Living Room Lights

The lights in our lounge room now.

Oven Before

Our old, dead oven.


Our new oven (and the hole we had to bang in the wall to squeeze it in!)

Bedroom Before

Our bedroom in January 2013.

Bedroom After

Our bedroom now.

Though we haven’t achieved as much as we’d have liked, we have learnt many, many lessons in our first year of home ownership. If we could go back in time and give Katie and Reuben a year ago some advice, we would tell ourselves…

There is so much more to do than you ever imagined.

Even when you DIY, doing any kind of work on a house costs money. More money than you think.

Similarly, everything will take much longer to do than you thought it would. Sometimes twice as long. Sometimes five times as long!

Scraping the paint off skirting boards, windows and doorframes, and stripping floors is not fun. Not even a tiny bit fun.

There is no smell in the world more horrible than you will experience if you rip up 50 year old carpets that have been soaked in cat’s pee.

Sometimes you will wish you could just call a real estate agent or landlord and let them take care of things.

Houses seem a lot bigger when you are painting them than they do when you are living in them.

Old things in old houses (like ovens, gas heaters, hot water systems and air conditioners) need replacing. This is very expensive.

There will be times when you look around you and feel utterly overwhelmed. You will wonder why you ever thought buying such a mess of a house was a good idea and you will fantasise about giving in and running away to a nice, comfortable rental…

But! Despite all the difficulties, every single day you will be grateful for your home.

You will feel so glad that you are building your own future, rather than paying off a landlord’s mortgage.

You will be so happy to have the freedom to do whatever you like to your space.

You will feel so much pride and ownership over every little task completed and every small renovating victory.

And though you’ll probably never really “finish” working on your house and at times it will drive you crazy, you will love it more than any place you could ever rent.

Because it is yours.

Katie and Reuben x

PS Sorry for the lack of post last week! We were having internet connection issues.

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Katie and Reuben

About Katie and Reuben

We are a twenty-something couple persuing a simple, mindful, beautiful life. We like crafty thing making, yummy thing baking and picture taking.


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28 Responses to “Lessons from our First Year as Home Owners”

  1. Bianca February 17, 2014 at 12:30 am #

    I have so enjoyed seeing your home-owning-renovating journey on your blog over the past year. The improvements you’ve made look wonderful and it is obviously becoming a very loved little abode. We just moved into my husband’s parents little old cottage for a year and they’d like us to buy it at the end of the year and I want to so badly but financially it seems like an impossibility (even though it us under $200,000!). It is funny how houses take on their own little personalities and become like another member of the family. I look forward to seeing your house’s little improvements in 2014.

  2. Julie Davies February 17, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    Hi guys
    I have been reading your blog for quite a while now. I check for your posts weekly whilst I look for my other favourite blogs too.
    When I first started reading your blog you posted often. These days not so frequently. I felt from today’s post that your wonderful old house could be the reason why that’s the case. It’s a beautiful space, and you have been so busy doing so much. I hope you’re really pleased with your achievements.
    When life is uncomfortable – like the stove is broken, in most cases just say” it will pass” and it’s true it does.
    Keep blogging and hope you’re both enjoying the new family member who is lovely.

    • Katie
      Katie February 18, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

      Hi Julie! Thanks so much for following along all this time! There are a few reasons we don’t post as often as we used to but it all really just boils down to the fact that our life is quite different to it was when we first started blogging! We decided at the start of this year that we’d aim to post once a week (on Sundays) and we’re enjoying that routine. Thanks again for reading. And yes, we are loving having Clover as a part of our family! xx

  3. chelsea February 17, 2014 at 12:42 am #

    It’s beautiful! I agree, everything will always take much longer than you anticipate.

  4. tors February 17, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    Oh, I wish you could go back in time a few years and tell me all that too! My house is only recently finished, after almost four years of living here, and only then thanks to my Mum coming over with her friend and painting everything in sight. It’s frustrating and painstaking and disheartening – but so great when something’s finally done and looks just like you pictured it! I love these kinds of posts because they help remind you just how far you’ve come, it’s so easy to forget everything you’ve had to fix, move, paint, cover, dress. You’ve done an amazing job so far guys, those after pics are gorgeous! Can’t wait to see the many more changes I’m sure will take place over the coming year x

    • Katie
      Katie February 18, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

      “Frustrating, painstaking and disaheartending” – yes! I’ve felt all those things in the last year! When we first moved in I thought we’d have the whole place painted in the first couple of months. Ha! Now if we get the painting finished in the first couple of YEARS I’ll be chuffed! 🙂

  5. Life With The Crew February 17, 2014 at 4:53 am #

    My husband and I bought our home almost 9 years ago, while a lot of people our age were still renting. But we wanted a place that was ours – if we wanted to knock a whole in the wall, we wanted to be able to do it! We have sunk a LOT of money into the house (and generous family member’s money also) and there have been a lot of times when we think that renting a small place would have been a wiser decision. We could have used the money to travel more. However, we then wouldn’t have had ducks or chickens, we wouldn’t have been able to rescue and foster as many dogs as we have, our daughter wouldn’t have a custom bedroom built by her uncle, and it wouldn’t be OURS.

  6. Rita February 17, 2014 at 5:08 am #

    I love this post, Katie. So much truth in it. (Especially the parts about cat pee and paint scraping. 🙂 ) We have been in our home for 2.5 years. Sometimes I look around and all I can see are the projects we still haven’t done. Things I was SURE would be taken care of within the first few months. But other times I look around and all I can see is how far our place has come. And in the meantime, we’ve built financial and emotional equity. Can’t wait to see what else you do with yours.

    • Suzanne February 17, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      Emotional equity – I love this! Thank you 🙂

      • Katie
        Katie February 18, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

        Ditto! So wise, as always, Rita!! xx

  7. The Life of Clare February 17, 2014 at 7:35 am #

    You’ve done a fantastic job! We’re still in a rental, which I’m ok with but the plan is to be looking at buying our own home in the next 18 months. I’ll have to remember these tips!

  8. Kathy February 17, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    All those things are true and the best feeling is that it’s your house. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

  9. Ashley February 17, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    Wow! You guys did such a great job! It looks amazing! I’m so afraid of buying a house, and then finding out later there’s much more work involved than originally intended.

  10. Jane @ Shady Baker February 17, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    Nodding in agreement to all of this Katie! But, your home is beautiful…I especially like your hall, so uncluttered yet welcoming x

  11. Suzanne February 17, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    Ditto all those things SistaWoman! I’m.. *thinking and counting*.. 3 years in my place and I’m not finished – not by a long shot! Actually, I’m not even unpacked properly but I downsized and that is hard!!

    You know what I discovered about being a first time homeowner? An unexpected block re permanent fixtures in walls. I always thought that as soon as I owned something that I’d have everything just so and in rentals I freely imagined big heavy pictures hung here and shelves there. Now, I’m reluctant to put anything permanent into my walls. No idea what that is about.

    I love what you have done to your beautiful home, and I love seeing your furbabies at home there. Bless them. I gasped at the flourescent light in the loungeroom – why do people do that?? One of those were assembled in my family home and I was surprized by the choice. I love your alternatives. I agree with previous comments: your after shots are FAB!!

    Keep going with your beautiful home, do what you can with what you have. I have found that the trick is to keep on living alongside the renovations. For a while I just wanted to focus and get everything done, but I lost balance in my life and I it started to stress me out.

    • Katie
      Katie February 18, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

      I totally understand the fear of putting holes in walls! I’ve been too scared to hang anything in the couple of rooms we’ve actually painted and I don’t really know why?! So glad I’m not alone in that! And I totally know what you mean about having to live alongside the renovations. When we first moved in we put all this pressure on ourselves to get everything done right away so we were working on the house all the time and yeah, we burnt out. Now we’re just taking our time and doing bits and pieces here and there. I’m not naturally very patient but I’ve come to realise that when it comes to working on our house, I just have to be! 🙂

  12. Meg February 17, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Oh Katie and Reuben, what a beautiful home and life you’re making for yourselves! Well done you two! Thanks for sharing . . . and I did have to smile about the stinky carpet; we rented a place before we bought our current home, and it had kitchen carpet! FERAL!! We (with the owner’s permission) removed said offensive floor covering and sanded the boards ourselves – was much nicer, cleaner and I’m sure more hygienic, plus it was a good chance to have a go at DIY in someone else’s house!

    • Katie
      Katie February 18, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

      Eek!! I’m really not very fond of carpet, even in normal places like bedrooms, so the thought of carpet in the kitchen actually makes my feel a bit a ill! I cannot understand why anyone would think carpet in a kitchen or a bathroom was a good idea?! You were very brave tackling that task!! x

  13. Rachel February 17, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Thank-You for this post. My husband and I are hoping to buy our own house and like you, its most likely going to need a lot of work. But more than anything I am looking forward to our own house, one that our children call home.

  14. Kate February 17, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    This is all so so true! We’ve now been in our first house for 2 years and there is still so much to do. We took on a much bigger project than we really realised at first and everything is so expensive even if you are quite handy and can do things yourself! You are right though, despite all of this it is wonderful to own your own home and when you look at what you have achieved you can feel even more proud knowing how hard you’ve worked on it all!! P.S. Our bathroom had 3, yes 3, layers of carpet to pull up! When one of them got old and manky they just laid another carpet on top of it, & pulling up those 3 carpets is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever done!

    • Katie
      Katie February 18, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

      Oh goodness, three layers of carpet in a bathroom?! I get the shudders just imagining that! Seriously well done on getting that horrible job done! x

  15. Sarah February 18, 2014 at 6:53 am #

    You have made so much progress and i have loved reading about your journey. I too am in the middle of doing my house up and you are so right about everything taking so much longer and costing so much more than you first think! Good luck with the rest of your house. xxx

  16. Nadia February 18, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    Love the renovations, especially the floors! Looks really airy and clean. Well done! Keep posting, pretty please- have missed them! xx

  17. Sarah February 19, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    Your house is looking lovely. Couldn’t agree more though-we are renovating an old house in Qld and every room needs work. Renovation shows are so unrealistic and I agree-nothing about it is fun, quick or that cheap-even when not paying tradies.
    Every tiny and big change you make though becomes one more thing you love about the house. All the work, tears and time given becomes part of your investment, and there is such satisfaction making changes-like paint or lights, with no-ones permission. My biggest challenge is being content and patient-both are great qualities I am a long way off learning! I would struggle to go back to renting now though-I like that the house is ours.

  18. Katie February 21, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    I love your reno updates. You are lucky to have such a wide hall to put a few things in and I love your floors! We have old 80’s tiles and a lot are scuffed or cracked so major expense there eventually – hoping we can go over them with bamboo. It’s great that you have the blog to look back on – you really have achieved so much. We are in our fourth house and it needs quite a bit of work. It’s so good these days to have gumtree and ebay to find affordable furniture though – and lots of blogs for ideas. Hope to see some of your own art work or some vintage finds on the walls soon – you can always cover up misplaced holes!

  19. Ock Du Spock February 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    Oh this is true! I’ve begun to realise we will never really “be done” when it comes to our place either. I always have to remind myself that it’s not all about the destination, and to enjoy the journey.

  20. Mevrouw Wispeltuut February 26, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    And geuss what… when you’re finaly finished, you have new ideas, great ideas. That’s the beauty of your own house; ‘homemaking’. Every day again.


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