About seven months ago, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life—I bought a house. And I bought it with my long-term boyfriend. Until then, I didn't think I'd ever feel like a grown-up. I didn't when I graduated from college. I didn't when I started my first job or when I quit my first job. I didn't even feel like an adult when I moved in with my boyfriend three years prior. But as soon as the title was signed and we were given the keys, it happened—I officially felt grown-up. I was overwhelmed with joy, excitement, and a mile-long to-do list that I never thought would end. Over the last several months, I've learned a lot about what to do (and what not to do) as a first-time homeowner. Scroll through to learn what it really means and how to make the most of it.
Hopefully you purged your belongings of anything unnecessary before moving. But it never hurts to comb through your possessions one more time as you unpack. Ask yourself if each item you brought with you to your new house brings you joy. If it doesn't, say thank you for the memories and throw or give it away. One of the rules I made for myself before moving was that my new home would be a clutter-free zone. And it was, until I became too tired to unpack all of the remaining boxes and ended up throwing countless miscellaneous items into random drawers and the black hole of the garage. As soon I let one thing slip (a paper pile of my favorite old magazines, for instance), everything seemed to melt into a sea of disorganization. Avoid this new-home frenzy by giving each of your belongings the Marie Kondo test before unpacking. Paper items like read magazines and bills should never take up precious counter space. I was able to correct my mistake, but it wasn't without a couple of costly trips to The Container Store for some "necessary" filing needs.
As soon as we closed on our home, the first thing I wanted to do was demolish the existing kitchen and build my own dream version. Luckily I had an extremely wise architect who suggested we live in our home for a few months before initiating large-scale renovations. Being first-time homeowners, she said, we might not realize what we actually want until we develop a rhythm in the new space. A month into living at our new digs, it was clear the kitchen didn't need a frightfully expensive remodel. It needed a few coats of white paint and some quality kitchen appliances. I also ended up using the space entirely differently than I thought I would. And that included moving the toaster and coffeepot four times before deciding on the best spot.
The only way to really make a house feel like a home is to live in it. Once you get your new-home sea legs, I highly recommend having as many casual gatherings as possible. Host a potluck, a dinner party, or a wine-and-music night, and start filling your new home with memories. One of my favorite parts of owning a home is making it the go-to spot for my friends to congregate.
I started with the essentials—a bed, a dining table, and a couch. Over the next several months, I layered in things like custom curtains, dining room chairs, and rugs. I'm still waiting on throw pillows. Once those arrive, the color scheme is set. As of now, I'm living with a wonderful palette of neutrals in a range of textures. Last on my list is art. I'd love to find a few prints or photographs that really enhance the space, but I'm not giving myself any deadlines. I think decorating over time is the best way to create a home that feels organic, well-curated, and totally you (or the you that you want to be in your new home).
As a homeowner (as opposed to a renter), you gain a tremendous amount of responsibility when it comes to the upkeep and maintenance of your property. But that also means the safety of your home is paramount. While I installed an alarm system right away to protect the inside of my house, I didn't monitor the outside as well. I ended up having some questionable cars park in my designated parking space on a regular basis. It took me a while to pull the plug and actually call a tow truck, but it's worth it. If you set a precedent of letting others disrespect your property, you can't be surprised when they don't respect it.
Saying goodbye to monthly rent bills is wonderful. But then you are given the very large biannual property tax bill. Make sure you know when your deadlines are to avoid late fees. Also, you want to keep an eye on your liquid assets so you are prepared to write a big check and not drain your savings entirely.
Garbage and recycling can pile up extremely quickly, especially when you're ordering countless Amazon packages to set up your home. Make sure you've thought about how much space you need to store garbage inside your home and outside your home. You don't want to upset your new neighbors by having overflowing garbage bins littering your street between garbage days.
Shop a few of our favorite first-time–homeowner essentials below.
Have you ever purchased a home? What are the best and worst aspects of being a first-time homeowner? Share with us in the comments.
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