2011 turned out to be a year of renovation and dramatic change in so many areas. This year, I contracted my first home renovation — for my bathroom. This was not an eye candy renovation; it was a necessary one. Once the project was underway, my car decided to play dead at the same time. My lap top didn’t want to turn on. And internet access became sketchy until the lap top was repaired and Cricket mobile broadband entered the picture. Even this blog became a casualty of “my situation” (code for the renovation project) in addition to other things that began to reflect years of neglect. Multi-tasking was not an option. I was out of my element/my space for a month with my things in different places and work to do to pay the bills for everything and more. I could only focus on what was in the moment right there before me.
There are also emotional and even metaphysical adjustments that changes to one’s physical space can trigger. Can these things blow your mind? Hell yeah! Once a renovation gets started, it’s the point of no return. It’s a major investment that will require recovery and hand holding. I want to remember the material lessons from my first home renovation because the results (which are great) are making me forget the experience, or as I called it, “the middle passage.”
Here are my lessons that I’ve shared with others – especially apartment dwellers:
1. If you live in an apartment or home with only one bath or one kitchen, be prepared to live out of your apartment for at least 1 month. This mostly applies to any work requiring plumbing, major wiring, knocking out walls and major construction. Paint jobs are a breeze. Some carpentry like cabinets or shelves might not throw you out of your digs. But regardless of what your contractor tells you (like 7 – 10 days), I’d estimate 4 – 6 weeks per room. 2 – 4 months if an architect is involved.
2. Whatever budget you have, add 30 – 50% more (including item 5). People will say “yes” to your budget and “yes” to additional items for the project. I was advised years ago to purchase my own materials to avoid upticks. However, you know how time consuming shopping for materials is, especially if this is not your profession or even hobby. Basically you’re paying someone to do that for you and to use their discounts as much as possible; just be prepared to pay.
3. Pre-approve purchases all purchases. Some little items are necessary, some big items not so much. Know the difference. You need to know where your money is going and why.
4. Bring contractors down to earth re budget and time. See items 1 and 2. Once the room is gutted, there’s no turning back, so might as well keep it real from the top.
5. Budget for some pampering like a massage or even counseling. Major changes in your space are just that — major. They do affect your psyche. You may feel like your world’s turned upside down. You may find some other problems lurking in those walls or other places that needed attention years ago. It may feel like the world’s crumbling all around you. But always remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
6. I would suggest some kind of warranty in the contract. Stuff might not work 2 – 3 weeks later. It’s been a month for me, and so far so good. But it doesn’t hurt to be covered for the “what if.” If car mechanics offer it, why not everyone else.
7. Cover all your stuff with plastic or drop cloth. Regardless of what you’re told (remove items from surfaces), best to put everything under wraps or pack it away. The dust that gets kicked up is amazing. Unless you have Felix Unger doing the work, you’ll have to a clean up after. There will be lots of trips to the laundry and maybe the need for a professional cleaning crew.
8. Ask your contractor to bring their own damn paper towels and cloth wipes. Even when I tried to hide my dust cloths, they somehow found them and used them for their work. The paper towels were gone. I didn’t replace them. Perhaps contractors should ask for these items up front as part of prep.
Personally, I don’t know anyone who didn’t go through some kind of upheaval during a home renovation or major repair. It’s the way of that world I’ve learned. Self care is key. As I grow into my new world ordered, I see the need to make additional changes on so many levels….including this blog.
So, after a decade of rising deficits, this budget asks Washington to live within its means, while at the same time investing in our future. It cuts what we can’t afford to pay for what we cannot do without. That’s what families do in hard times. And that’s what our country has to do too.
The President’s Weekly was the preface for the release of the 2012 federal budget Monday. One thing I was not looking forward to was hearing lawmakers frame an explanation of the federal budget in middle class household budget speak.
How many households have yearly budgets with guaranteed income even when holding outsanding debt? How many household budgets cover 300 million people? Other than a bolt lock, alarm systems, and some other little items, how much goes into home defense? When was the last time someone had to cut their contribution to “future” plans (retirement, tuition fund, household savings) because a rainy day came sooner than expected?
The federal budget does not fit in the household and personal budget frame narrative.
When it comes to budgets, present and future have to hang in the balance. How will decisions made today affect seven generations from now? Wouldn’t the environment take priority in that kind of philosophical or values framing? Then again, someone should have thought of that a generation ago.
Is there an O. Henry short story frame to explain the impending cuts? Do we call cuts “sacrifices”? Does the budget mention “poverty” or “the poor”? Will they be serving franks and beans in the White House and Hill cafeterias? Will we hear Della’s sniffles in the halls?
By looking at the increases and cuts in the President’s budget plan one can see the “priorities” of the administration while addressing the deficit for the next 2 years (and perhaps a 2nd term):
The Republican majority in the Congress doesn’t think the cuts in the President’s budget are deep enough. The Washington Post has assigned parts of the President’s budget to their staff to break down the numbers by agency.
Here are my brief notes based on the analysis of the Washington Post
President Barack Obama’s 2012 Federal:
This ‘n’ That
Department of Interior – no change
So we hammered out a deal that reflects ideas from both sides. It wasn’t easy, and it’s by no means perfect. And as with any compromise, everybody had to live with elements they didn’t like. But this is a good deal for the American people. The vast majority of the tax cuts in this plan will help the middle class, including a new cut in payroll taxes that will save the average family about $1,000. And as this plan is debated in Congress, what I want to make clear is the real difference it will make in people’s lives.
A few things:
My local, phone and other utility taxes just went up as of January 1. Like many people, I don’t know all the details of this week’s “deal,” but again, like many people, considering the circumstances of taxes going up on the state/local level, I will see little if any difference except perhaps less money to blow on a latte or two. Actually, if there’s anything in this “deal” I’ll support is to have jobless benefits restored to those who were cut earlier this month.
Apparently, the President and his aides have caught up with the messaging of “the not so perfect deal.” Let’s not hold hands and sing “Kumbaya,” but hold our noses and push on. Or the press has decided it’s time to move on to the 2nd Act. We’ve set up the conflict; now for the transition. The anger talk of “losing base,” “weakness” has faded into poll numbers in support of “the deal,” a Senate vote to move forward.
“All or nothing” is rarely if ever a political way forward. But as linguist George Lakoff pointed in an op-ed on the messaging of the “deal”:
All politics is moral. Policies are proposed because they are assumed to be right, not wrong. The moral values behind a policy always should be made clear.
Which in some ways might go over better with most Americans than the white board.
Even with an impromptu firing of the four star “Runaway General” Stanley McChrystal; and an almost seamless replacement (and in management terms – demotion) of General David Petraeus from head of Central Operations Command to Afghanistan operations — oil spill still ravaging the Gulf, Congress hits a brick wall on extending unemployment benefits — the President still found an opening for financial reform and to chalk up a point for getting 90% of what the administration requested.
But so far, there seems to be debate about “victory” for financial reform — at least in the politico and pundit world.
The finance reform legislation has been described in many ways:
- historic reform since the Great Depression
- “missed opportunity” (to protect investors) per Arthur Levitt, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1993 to 2001, and an adviser to the Carlyle Group and Goldman Sachs.
- “It goes too far.” (Republicans)
- “It doesn’t go far enough.” (Progressives)
I suppose the question is “How do you regulate risk?” especially when mega profits and the Wall Street culture are defined by risk. I suppose the big shots can only whine about and skirt around the details. Those of us who risk credit, borrowing, and small investment savings may have to look more closely at the following reforms the bill brings:
- New Consumer Protection Agency
- Free Credit Scores
- Stricter Mortgage Practices
- New Debit Card Rules
- Tougher Auto Financing Rules
- Wall Street Reforms
See ABC News breakdown here.
Lately, I’ve been asking people if there is any “movement music” after seeing the documentary “Soundtrack for a Revolution” about the music of the American civil rights movement.
Well, let’s see if a movement evolves from Bank Reform. Movement in the musical sense that is.
NPR’s “This American Life” commissioned a Broadway song from Robert Lopez (co-writer of “Avenue Q”) to include in their story on how the big banks got the mother load payola from the hedge funds designed to balloon with the bust of the housing market and the crippling of the American middle class.