Friday, October 18, 2013

Myths of the American Dream: Part I

One idea that is continually spoken as fact is that home ownership is always a sound investment. Renters are perceived as throwing their money away, while home owners are building equity!

Home ownership is the expected thing, the thing many aspire too. It's what you're supposed to do.

Often, I'm not sure if home ownership is all it's cracked up to be. Never was, but I bought this little house anyway. I wouldn't say I regret it, exactly, but I think you really have to make sure you know what you're getting into before you buy. Heck, before you go to an open house and fall in love with a property even.

About that throwing away money on rent...let's just look at the numbers shall we?

First, if I take the full 30 years to pay off my mortgage, I'll end up paying more than double the purchase price, and that's WITH a heavy 20% down payment. It would take more than two years of my entire current salary to pay the interest alone.

My mortgage may equal what I paid in rent before I bought this house (which is only because I bought a tiny house), but consider that I'm paying double that with interest and then add an extra 40% for property taxes.

I haven't even gotten to maintenance yet. If you own a home then eventually something is going to break or need replaced. And sooner or later than something is going to be expensive.

The day I signed the purchase papers and got the keys to my house I came over and found a leaking faucet, a roof leak in the kitchen  and a leak in the furnace room. none of these things were there a few days prior. Luckily, with some help from my stepdad, none of them were very expensive, but still you get my point. In the seven years I've owned min hus I've paid for chimney repairs (twice), replaced the AC/furnace, repaired the roof, replaced the hot water heater, bought two dehumidifiers for the basement, and spent hundreds of dollars on paint, painting supplies, tools, sandpaper, and miscellaneous repair expenses. If I hadn't had lots of kind help in making those repairs (thanks boyfriend!!, stepdad!) it would have cost three times as much. And I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting.

Have I mentioned the lawn and garden equipment I never had to own as a renter? Or all the projects that still
need to be done?

Call me a pessimist, but with the drop in home values I don't see how I'm going to get all that back if I sell anytime soon....and probably not when I sell it no matter how long away that may be.

Why is paying rent "throwing money away," but paying interest, taxes and maintenance aren't?

Don't get me wrong, if you want to own your home for other reasons then great. If you want something to call your own, decorate as you like it, by all means. Maybe you enjoy DIY and maintenance, and in that case, boy will you love owning a home! Buy an old one for extra fun. Just don't buy a home because you think it's an investment or something adults do.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dishing the Dirt on Cleaning

Chiot's Run on flickr

I've been thinking a lot about average cleaning habits, although it's harder to find stats on Americans cleaning habits than I would have guessed, at least on the net. I found one stat (albeit from a robotic vacuum seller) that says 45% of women vacuum every 2-4 days.

Most of the time, I don't mind cleaning, but what I really love is having a clean home. I like my home so much more when it's clean and tidy, in fact when I'm feeling down on the place giving it a good clean is the first step to improving my mood. It's a lot easier for me to relax and enjoy when the house it clean. Some people, including the boyfriend, would call me a neatfreak, but I'm pretty sure Martha Stewart and her ilk would not find my home up to snuff.

I have a lower tolerance for clutter I can see (behind closed doors or squirreled away where I can't see it is another story) than dirt, although I don't like either. I give the place a general once-over every week, but beyond that I'm much more likely to declutter than deep-clean. I ALWAYS clean before company comes over no matter how recently I last cleaned.

I wasn't always this way. I remember being constantly nagged to clean my room when I was little. Sometime during my late teen years things began to change and I began cleaning more than my mother, at least at certain jobs. 

While my home looks pretty clean, especially on the weekends, if you look closer you'll see that I'm less stringent about moving and cleaning under big furniture, waxing the floors (and heck, mopping them), scrubbing walls and the shower, and washing curtains.

When I was an au pair in Scandinavia I found out what a heavy cleaning schedule was like. Maybe it's because they had hired help to do it, but I had to vacuum and dust the entire house 3x per week; mop all the floors, wash doors, moldings and door handles once per week; wipe down all cabinet and pantry shelves, and completely clean out the fridge once per month.

I'm curious: what's your cleaning routine and who takes care of what chores in your household? I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours... 

-I sweep, dust and clean the bathroom (but, um, not always the shower) once per week
-mopping is done twice a month or so, the kitchen floor more so
-sheets and towels are washed weekly, sheets sometimes stretch to two weeks
-litter-boxes are cleaned daily, mostly by the boyfriend
-dishes are done as-needed in the dishwasher, but some pots and things are hand-washed only
-walls and baseboards are washed 1-2 times per year, more in the bathroom
-curtains are washed when they get really bad. Usually 2-3 times per year
-a little tidying is done every day, but the main cleaning, like vacuuming and dusting is done on the weekends.
-I use mostly greener cleaners: microfiber cloths for dusting (no spray), vinegar and baking soda for cleaning, bleach cleaner once every month or two on the shower.
-most hated cleaning chore: scrubbing the shower. It needs renovating and never looks clean no matter how much you scrub.

As mentioned before, I live in a pretty small house, so if I'm motivated and the stuff is fairly picked up, I can do a routine clean in 90 minutes or so. If I add in mopping, laundry, cleaning up the cats areas, taking out trash, and just generally poke around, as I usually do, it expands to two to three hours on Saturday morning, or afternoon.

Is this routine adequate? In general, yes, although with three cats and two shedding adults, this place can get hairy and the floors messy. I think a second vacuum mid-week would make a big difference in cleanliness levels and my happiness, so I'm going to try that out and see how it goes. I wish the clutter and STUFF didn't pile up as it tends to at times, but that's life I guess.


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