House Work

May 7, 2012

Gracious Living Day by Day

The last few weeks my family and I have been doing little more than working on our house. We have been unusually united in our objectives, and the house is quickly turning into a beautiful, clean and unfamiliar place.

I usually wake up at 7 am, put on my paint-splattered sweat pants, an old white t-shirt and plan the next task while sipping a cup of coffee. I get the brushes ready, check on the painting supplies, and spread out the floor coverings.

I fill in the scratches, and smooth over the bumps and irregularities in the walls, including the gash that Mike made in the breakfast room. When he was a senior in high school I was scolding him for skipping a class and in a fit of anger he threw the phone at the wall. That hole has been staring us in the face for years now. But no more.

The walls in the breakfast room, as well as the kitchen, are smooth and silky and painted a soothing shade of gray, the color called Tea Stain. A contractor has been working on the kitchen cabinets, paining them white, almost pure white, the color of freshly fallen snow. I bought new knobs, pulls and hinges cut in a modernly spartan design, the patina of brushed silver.

As soon as the cabinet doors are hung back up, we will line the shelves with plates, bowls, cups and glasses. Only the beautiful, white dishes will be displayed, not the colorful, chipped array of mismatched favorites. I have already warned Jeff not to expect his enormous ugly coffee cup (we call it the boat) on the shelves until we move into our new house.

Tea stained kitchen
Tea stained kitchen

Branka and Joe have painted all the bedrooms upstairs, including Jeff’s office and the long hallway. The bedrooms are of different neutral tones, the office white, and the hallway a buttery cast of cream. The living room and the dining room are the same cream color. Nena painted the trim throughout the house eggshell white, polished the windows and washed the Nu-Eco double glazed doors, and then we rehung the lace curtains on the large living room window.

Glasses and cups on the living room coffee table
Glasses and cups on the living room coffee table

I have been spending a lot of time clearing the bookshelves. Our bookshelves were tightly packed with volumes collected over decades, books from Jeff’s and my years both separate and together. Our children have been ardently adding to this collection ever since they could read.

Piles of books in family room
Piles of books in family room

I try to decide which books to place in a box that says – To Give Away. At first it’s very hard and I can’t bear to part with any of my old, familiar friends. But it seems to get easier the longer I work at it. Still, I change the wording on the box and now I know what I’ll do. I can’t just give these books away. I will go through the collection once again when we move into our new place, and ask the children if they want to keep any of the volumes.

Next to the books were family photographs: Sam and Nicky dressed formally (she in a velvety red dress, he in a white shirt, white sweater and a bow tie) in a nursery school portrait; Sasha and Nena looking happy but sunburned in their bathing suits during a summer vacation at the lake;  ten year old Mike hugging Silver when she was an awkward, long eared puppy; and many more.

I wrap the pictures in sheets of newspaper and place them in a different box. Everything must go, all the personal objects that tie us to this particular place. The bookshelves need to look clean, uncluttered and anonymous.

Much more needs to be done to ready the house for its debutante presentation. The bathrooms need work. The family room must be painted and  is crying for a new carpet. And don’t even let me start about the garage. It is missing a whole door. It’s high time we reach out to Covenant Garage Doors.

The garden area and the outdoor plants need to be cleared, weeded, planted, pruned and beautified, but that is an activity I am actually looking forward to. We plan to invite a group of friends to come and help, and then, we’ll have a barbecue, eat, drink and celebrate.

And that’s the state of things at the Holtzman household in this month of May, 2012.

(Related: Visit to know about the best tree services)

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jelena May 8, 2012 at 8:49 am

Everything looks great! Best of luck, and please don’t exhaust yourself too much. Looking forward to the gardening/bbq gathering. And to see how everything ultimately shkes out, of course.


Liliana May 8, 2012 at 9:30 am

Don’t worry about me, I am pacing myself and everything is going great. Thanks for all your help and lots of hugs.


Dave Harrison May 8, 2012 at 7:51 am

I do not envy the getting ready part or the decisions what to keep what to part with but I DO envy the clean slate you’ll have when it’s time. Janice and I lately have been talking about where to go next but we’re at a delema. We both LOVE the location of our home we just want a newer, cleaner version of the same thing we have. Maybe we’ll go on vacation have a demo team tear down what we have and build a new in it’s place. Yes that’s IT that is what we’ll do now all I have left is to hit the lotto so we can afford to do that. Good luck to you & Jeff & your family, we know you’ll do great. Time for breakfast again? I know time is crazy so when you have time call us.
Love you guys.


Liliana May 8, 2012 at 9:29 am

Dear Dave, I know that you and Janice will find a way to getting the place you want, with a lotto winning or without it. Best of luck to you both.
As soon as things calm down a bit we’ll call you about breakfast!


John May 7, 2012 at 9:59 pm


I am laughing at your pre-sale renovations. My wife and I are going through the same thing with our home in Oregon. We are doing a For Sale By Owner (maybe attempting is the better word). Two weeks ago, when the FSBO facilitator came to take photos, our home was the cleanest it has been in 33 years! Now, I’m working on the outside, realizing that we only have one chance to make a first impression.

Good luck to you.


Liliana May 8, 2012 at 6:47 am

Dear John, you and I have lots in common.
Best of luck to you and your wife – all I can say is I really, truly understand how you feel. It kills me that our house looks better (and is cleaner!) than at any time in the twenty years we’ve been here. But that’s life, isn’t it?
Where is your next home? Are you staying in your town in Oregon or moving somewhere else?
Hugs and best wishes.


Loi Thai May 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Hi Liliana,

Thanks for the update. I’ve been thinking about you. I went to a couple of open houses in the neighborhood this past weekend.

You are making lots of progress. Take it a day at a time 🙂 And, inviting friends over to help is a great idea. Sending you lots of good cheers!

Tone on Tone


Liliana May 8, 2012 at 6:42 am

thanks for your kind encouragement. I need it. I am completely concentrating on getting the house ready for sale, so have no time to go to open houses. I’ll be doing that next month!
Hugs and best wishes.


Loi Thai May 31, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Hi Liliana – Thanks for your visit. I know how busy you are….really appreciate you stopping by. Hope all is well with you, the house, and everything else!
Take care,


Liliana June 1, 2012 at 9:11 am

I love your postings, Loi, and visiting your site is a wonderful break from the current craziness of my life. Also, we share a similar design sensibility, and I am always on the lookout for ideas and suggestions.


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