Eating an Elephant
Sometimes my daughter comes home from school and flings her backpack to the farthest piece of furniture, desperate to distance herself from the weight of her world.
“I have soooo much homework,” she wails. I have learned to give her a wide berth (13 year old storms are not for the faint-hearted). After she calms down, I remind her of the advice I used to give her when she was little and faced with the Herculean task of cleaning her toys in the basement: focus on one little thing at a time, and slowly but surely it will get done. Now, she no longer looks at me with awe like she did when she was 4. Instead, she rolls her eyes as if to say “how did I get cursed with such an imbecile for a parent?” Then she trudges off, texting her woes to her friends. Later, though, she reemerges (usually to feed), declaring she is all done. And she looks at me, again marveling at my idiocy, when I say “already? I thought you had a lot.”
I can use the same advice for myself when it comes to building a house. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
I usually get a standard response when I tell folks you are building a house from scratch (actually less than scratch — we have to subtract the old house before we can add the new. And I hate math). People get a sort of overwhelmed, sympathetic, terrorized look in their eyes, as they contemplate all the decisions that have to be made. Is it weird that the prospect of all that planning makes me a little giddy? It is a challenge (and hey, it IS all about shopping, after all). But I do want this project to go as smoothly as possible — or at the very least, have no delays that are my fault. I learned that lesson a long time ago, when watching my parents add on their home. One day the contractor showed up, ready to install the tile. Unfortunately, he had neglected to ask my parents to purchase the tile, so HE went out and picked one on their behalf (luckily he found something okay, and in stock, and in the right price range, but still).
So I am constantly asking our team (the builders and architect): what do you need from me and when? Obviously picking the lot was number one, then we had to deal with the survey and watershed (see previous blog entries for the gory details there). But then came the fun part: shopping! So I eagerly awaited my first assignment, but was kind of surprised when I learned that the first thing I needed to pick out was kitchen appliances.
Turns out that Architect Mike needs the exact measurements for the fridge, stove, etc, as he designs the kitchen around them. Builder John created a budget for me, based on our overall budget. But it’s hard to know if you are in the black while you are choosing, as list prices and builder prices differ significantly. So I figured I will shop for what I want, and adjust to what I need if I blow the budget. Builder John also gave me a list of suggested showrooms for any and all needs (tile, plumbing, appliances, flooring, cabinetry, etc). I headed to Ferguson’s in Golden Valley for my first foray. It’s a very fun place — they have so much stuff — plumbing, lighting, grills, appliances (did I mention I love shopping? I would have kicked as a caveman, as I can hunt and gather with the best of ’em. ).
Anywho, after shopping, my sales guy, Nick, emailed me my price list. Surprise: I had to adjust. I am trying really hard to stick to the budget as closely as possible, knowing that at some point down the line I will want to get alittlerazy on something (it’s all about balance). So Nick and I started an email relationship: I wanted to cut my costs by about 40%, so the 6 burner stove became a 4 burner, and the fancy oven that basically planned dinners on its own went bye-bye. I also found a fridge I liked better, for considerably less. All in all, I managed to come in two grand under, which is good, because next up came plumbing shopping.
Architect Mike needed my bathtub dimensions, so it was back to Ferguson’s. Salesperson Melissa and I hit the ground running (with my slightly shell-shocked parents in tow. Thanks Sharon and Wayne for hanging in there!). In under two hours, I managed to find, among other things, 2 tubs, 2 shower heads, 4 toilets, eight sinks,, and all the faucets to fill them up. After receiving THAT email from Melissa, I was again over budget. Now, mind you I could’ve let it go, and just let the kitchen and plumbing balance each other out. But I am ruthless, and trimmed it down to budget size. I did insist on my biggest splurge: an amazing sink by Blanco.
It’s huge, it’s chocolate colored, made out of an almost indestructible granite composite and it has a built-in drainboard attached. It is so sexy (yeah, I know it’s just a sink. Leave me alone). It makes me want to do dishes. Sort of. Not really. But I love it.
I guess that’s the other thing about eating an elephant. Some parts will be juicier than others,and some might not be as easy to swallow. But it all has to be done, one bite at a time.