I live in a turn of the century farmhouse with an old charm I love, but I also remember the work that went into making it that way. My parents bought this fixer-upper house when I was 15 and invested countless sweat hours, money, and tears into making it our home. It was stripped to undo the years of neglect and refurbished from the ground up. Since my husband and I bought it 14 years ago, we too have worked to make “our” space a place we always want to be.
Recently, I found myself looking at “This Old House” for ideas on updating our kitchen. I couldn’t help but see the parallels between making a fixer-upper house functional and beautiful and making a family the same. With a little knowledge and a lot of hard work, we can be assured both will become a place of sanctuary and rest instead of a dilapidated mess.
5 things to keep in mind when working on a fixer-upper:
1—They’re all fixer-uppers. Whether homes or families, they all need constant attention. It’s easy to look around and think you’re the only one with problems like yours. Don’t believe it. Every home, including the brand new ones requires work. The same is true for families. Your family is unique, but your problems are not. And remember that just because something is beautiful on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s not a landmine on the inside. Comparison is the surest way to envy what you don’t have and be ungrateful for what you do have. If you were to switch places, you’d quickly find yourself with just a different set of issues.
2—Start with the foundation. My husband was a builder for 25 years, and he can tell you that the foundation is the first thing to get right and keep right. No matter how well everything else is done, it all will eventually crumble without a solid foundation.
For us, it’s a home built on the principles of God’s word. We believe that “everyone who hears these words of [God] and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).
3—It requires constant inspection, maintenance, and investment. There is never a time we’re not working on our “fixer-upper” home. We seem to constantly be fixing cracks in the walls, leaking faucets or pipes, or unsealed windows and doors—you know what I mean. We’re often tired and without the money in the budget to make repairs, but to ignore the problems means bigger problems later.
We’ve found the same is true in our family. Problems don’t go away just because we ignore them. They simply build up under a façade that’s waiting to collapse.
We routinely seek to inspect our family for “cracks” to determine what’s getting in that we aren’t aware of and what’s leaking out that we want to keep. When attitudes and behaviors that we are uneasy with begin to creep in, we try to take stock, assess the cause and go to work on repairs. The longer it goes unattended, the longer it takes to fix, but be patient. Nothing falls apart overnight and nothing is fixed overnight either.
4—When the job is too overwhelming or beyond your expertise, call in the professionals. Why does this seem smart in regard to a house, but like a failure in regard to a family? Can I just revert to my growing-up-country-girl-days and say plainly, “That’s dumber’n a doornail”?
My husband is the best carpenter and fisherman around, but let him under the hood of our car and someone might die. He doesn’t have the knowledge or skills for it, so why jeopardize our lives to prove himself in this area? We can be just as stubborn in our families. We lack the knowledge and skills we need but we jeopardize everything rather than ask for help.
Let’s face it, we can’t know everything or do everything and it’s just smart to ask for help.
5—It’s all worth it. We’ll never be done fixing up our homes, and we’ll never be done fixing up our families. But with the time and energy and money we invest, both grow in value.
My kitchen is a mess right now. After sanding and painting, and sanding and painting, I think I may find sawdust for years. But it’s a good reminder that this process of improvement is a slow one and things definitely always look worse before they look better. Keep the end in sight and don’t grow weary. The dividends are worth the investment.
Where are you today in your fixer-upper family? What do you think might need a little extra attention? Happy renovating!