I’m so ashamed of my ugly baby

Last year I bought the house of my nightmares. On purpose.

I spent what little money I had (and plenty that I don’t) purchasing a townhouse that was built in 1961 and needs a lot of work, instead of getting a shiny, semi-new condo. It’s a good investment in an old neighborhood that is coming back around. I bit off way more than I wanted to chew…but not much more than I could.

I closed on the house one year ago today. Though I was committed to my partner, Caroline, at the time, this house was not a joint purchase and I am responsible for it’s upkeep. In that time, I paid for new plumbing, a new roof, and two completely remodeled bathrooms (including floors that had been ripped out to replace the plumbing). I’ve painted, drilled, installed appliances, and completely overhauled the yard contractor-free, with no small amount of help from my amazing Caroline. Our blood, sweat, and tears are all over this house and I’m extremely proud of us. Until we have company.

It doesn’t matter how hard I’ve worked or how much I’ve learned. Every time we have a house guest, I’m so ashamed of how far we still have to go. All I see are flaws and fixes. It’s like we’ve birthed an ugly child. We keep her clean, fixed her teeth, dress her nicely, but still look at her and wonder, “what must people think?” It’s awful and it never ends.

I stress about everyone from the dog walker to our parents. Prior to this weekend, Caroline and I furiously worked to clean and prep prior to the first visit from her mother. After hours of getting everything just so, I looked around, exhausted, at our shiny floors and sparkling kitchen, took a deep breath and then fought the urge to run to the basement to get paint so that I could start painting the railing around our porch.

What the hell is wrong with me? I could barely sleep the night before our guest arrived. And, I can’t even figure out where this is coming from: a fear of other’s judgment or because I’ve already judged myself. Further, what do either of those options say about me?

We have it so good. My neighborhood is safe (for DC), conveniently located, and we have awesome neighbors. My home will continue to increase in value because of my hard work and nearby improvements to the area. The house is comfortable (mostly) and almost immediately felt like a home. And, yet, I can’t help but be jealous of homeowners who have more than I. The worst part is that I also know it will never end. I will always have less than someone and the more I have, the more materialistic I become. I’m that annoying American who reaches for the dream and then becomes stingy about the specifics.

So, here’s my attempt to heal myself. A little nod to aversion therapy, if you will. I will unveil my ugly baby to the blogosphere and assert that it’s okay for my basement to look like this:

And, that I am very proud of turning my bathroom from this:


To this:


We have now introduced the last of our five (!) scary parents to our ugly baby. This afternoon, my love and I held a toast in honor of the house’s very first birthday under new ownership and I vow to start appreciating what I have instead of wishing for what I don’t.

I love you, ugly baby.

To Maddy, on her birthday.

To Maddy, on her birthday.


7 responses to “I’m so ashamed of my ugly baby

  1. My wife and I also bought a fixer upper. We have been here for fourteen years and it still needs more to go. But the strange thing is it has bonded us together because we have to go shopping for this and that. It never ends. Also there is a strange odor at Lowe’ and Home Depot that my wife likes. It is a mixture of wood and tools. They should bottle it. I hope your fixer upper gives you as much pleasure as ours has. By the way your alterations are super.

    • Thank you so much! I agree that having a joint project is a good thing for one’s relationship. It’s taught us a lot about how to support and compliment each others skills and interests. Also, there is something to be said for building something with someone else. It’s really helped us to feel like a team. Cheers!

  2. I absolutely love that you refer to your house as an “ugly baby”. It describes something that many people feel, but often don’t say–the fear of judgement after so much effort has been sunk into a project. Kudos on all the hard work you and Caroline have sunk into the baby.

    • I think you articulated the crux of my problem better than I did! “The fear of judgement after so much effort has been sunk into a project,” is the perfect way to describe it. It’s like making artwork and then putting it out there, knowing that it won’t be good enough for everyone. We’ve spent half the weekends in the last year on this house and it’s very hard to have someone come in and watch their eyes immediately go to the cracks in the plaster instead of noticing the new tile.

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