When one spends all their time home renovating, one has very few opportunities to write about home renovating.

This last year has been a blur of ever-more-frenetic activity, from what feel like the halcyon former days a year ago when this project was “That Demanding Hobby I Do On Weekends” to becoming “The Monster That Has Eaten My Life”, punctuated by daycare closures, career transitions, the loss of an internal organ, (in the words of my son: “So dad: how many internal organs can you lose?”) and the temporary death of one lifelong hobby (I read fewer books this fall than I had literally since I was seven.)

However, it is done, for a given value of done. Our pantry may be bare studs on walls (our mud room likewise.) My office may be bare pieces of sheetrock, waiting to be mudded, taped, and painted, hopefully sometime in the next decade. All but one outlet in my children’s bedroom may not work, on account of serially deciding to do that really inconvenient run from the basement to the outlet tomorrow and then forgetting that I hadn’t done it all. (I discovered this only after a lot of confusion, much rewiring, and some messy sheet rock surgery.) We may not have a railing at the top of our neck-breaking stairs and our future baby’s bedroom is aggressively unfinished. (Oh right! Did I mention we also learned that we were expecting this last fall? Baby due on June 4th!) However: the electricity works (mostly), the plumbing works (but for a pesky drip on the downstairs toilet drain), the house is warm, and approximately 70% of our boxes are unpacked.

And the house came out – beautifully. I’m still in disbelief that I managed to pull this off, considering my utter lack of anything resembling natural talent for home renovation. The people who were most surprised that we took on this project were the ones who knew me the best. There was nothing in my previous life history (but perhaps for a tendency to take on foolhardy, over-ambitious projects) to indicate that renovating a house from the studs out was anymore feasible than me growing wings and flying to the moon.

I was not unaware of this fact either and had grown to believe that every mistake, frustration, or wrong turn was the final, irrevocable proof that I Was Not Cut Out For This. It was only in the haze of this last November, as I was spending another late night mudding a closet, that the realization clicked on like a light switch: I was now legitimately, undeniably good at what I was doing. I could wire an entire house. I could install plumbing, if not without a lot of profanity, then well enough to pass code. I could sheetrock and mud a room as well as I had seen in many houses I had visited. I could paint nearly as well a a house painter. I could learn a skill from scratch and do it as well as the people I could afford to hire to do it for me.  While I would never be a a true artisan, I had developed a mindset and a set of skills that would stay with me for the rest of my life.

I’ve learned that competence is far more important than talent. In a society where we’re supposed to be our own little geniuses, it’s easy to forget that it’s our grind, rather than our gifts, that we can most rely on. I’m still not naturally talented as a home renovator, but I was able to build a hard-won set of skills from my willingness to learn, to fail, to look like an idiot, and then to try again. And because of that, I value this accomplishment more than almost any other.

There’s more stories to tell you about this last year. You haven’t heard yet about my adventures with my heroic father and the Island Trailer, being out until midnight on a lift installing windows, my discovery of the Beatles (half a century late to the party, but goodness, have I arrived!), or being sprayed with raw sewage the night before I moved in. [And yes, there will be more pictures upcoming. Then again, if you want to see the house, all you have to do is stop by.]

But until then – I wanted to let you know: three years and eight days later, we finally moved into our house. And it is wonderful.




  1. Hi Ben
    So proud of you on the house “gig” and proud of you and Melissa on everything. You both continue to be inspirations to me in my continuing life journey. Hope to visit this summer.
    All the best, Keith and Di

    • That would be just wonderful – you and Diane are one of my major inspirations in life and especially in home renovation! 🙂

  2. Steve Hill Reply

    Amazing accomplishment Ben! I was wondering about this the other day.
    Well done!!

  3. It’s been wonderful and amazing to watch you from afar as you completed this gargantuan task. Or at least completed it well enough for your family to move in and for you to take a little bit of time to rest. Well done!

  4. Linda Ewing Reply

    So glad you’re back and so proud of you and Melissa for creating your home on Chebeague!

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