I Bought My First Home 9 Months Ago — Here’s What I Wish I Did Differently

published Jul 19, 2022
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Things have been a little bonkers in the Magnuson household lately, to say the very least. These days, if you ran into me in the streets of Chicago, you’d hear me mutter a little Midwestern “Ope!” and look up to come face-to-face with my bloodshot eyes and Sox cap covering my bedhead. Since moving into Uptown last October, a lot has changed. 

The week of our move, while unpacking boxes and setting up utilities, I also happened to start a brand job in an unfamiliar industry. To really crank up the chaos, my partner and I got engaged about a month later. Now, my life consists solely of organizing our home, planning our wedding, and Googling acronyms while mimicking startup buzzwords like a baby learning to speak through imitation (IPO! Seed funding! Unicorn! VC!). 

Now that I’m nine months past buying and moving into our home, there’s so much I wish my partner and I had done differently to set ourselves up for success. We could have optimized efficiency, or aligned our goals, or gut-checked hesitancies, or disrupted blockers! (Ope, did my startup lingo leak into conversation again? My bad!)

No matter what Big Life Things are going on simultaneously as you buy your new home, no one deserves the mega stress that moving brings. Learn from my mistakes! Here are the three lessons I learned these past nine months and what I’d do differently if I could.

Buffer in some prep time before the big move.

I’m not a champion negotiator, which means I had to vacate my former residence two weeks before we got the keys to our home. I spent those two weeks crashing at my parents’ house and staying with my then-boyfriend, now fiancé, who chose to (not trying to start a fight but I do need to call this out, RYAN) fully vacate his apartment the day we closed on the home. It was stressful and silly, and I’m still angry about the circumstances to this day!

Since my partner and I went from zero to ten in the three-ish hours it took to close on our home, we missed out on some potential stress-savers. For one, it would have been nice to move into a clean home. But no! We did not budget time to remove any remnants of the former owners. Instead, we moved Ryan’s couch into the living room covered in someone else’s dust! I unpacked my toiletries onto a sink with someone else’s germs! I was running around with Clorox wipes one second and helping carry a dresser the next. Disgusting! Foolish! Never again!

The next time we buy a home — which will be never since I will refuse to subject myself to all of this stress ever again — I want, at the very least, a week between moves. I’ll conduct a thorough clean, hire painters to avoid moving all the furniture twice, stock the home with groceries, and get a better sense of what I’m working with before even thinking about unloading a moving van.

Wait to invest in organizational supplies.

We’ve all been there — one minute you’re in your PJs binge-watching “Get Organized With The Home Edit,” the next you’re $300 deep at The Container Store with 20 different shaped boxes you have no designated use for yet. When we moved in, I brought boxes upon boxes with me, and then went out and invested in more, because my name is Sarah and I have a problem.

Considering all I had going on last October, it made sense that I wanted to get into the house, unpack the boxes, and just be done with it. In retrospect, I would have approached home organization with a softer commitment. Waiting a month or two to get a better sense of how I move about the house, my cooking cadence, my morning routine, etc., would have saved me many Sunday afternoons organizing and reorganizing to better optimize our efficiency and align with our needs. Plus, waiting to do this just once instead of countless times would have spared Ryan from having to hear “optimizing” and “aligning” outside work hours.

Embrace the work in progress.

My whole issue is that I hate living in an incomplete space. If I don’t have the funds yet for a  permanent area rug, I’ll snag an inexpensive one or borrow an old placeholder until I can smash Confirm Purchase. But friends, this is a waste of time and energy. You wind up having to relocate a cheap old rug you never wanted in the first place. 

Challenge the part of yourself that says “I need to look like I’ve lived here for a decade one month after signing the deed.” With all the expenses that come with a new home, the last thing you need to do is misallocate any of those funds to superfluous home goods. No house guest or visitor is going to care if they walk in and are greeted with an empty wall. They’ll simply be thrilled that you’re embarking on a new chapter in your life, and you can invite them back over when you finally decide on a bookshelf. 

Moving is hell, TBH! Keep your expectations low and spread out your goals, building in plenty of downtime and self-care along the way. You’ll find the perfect lamp! You’ll figure out the best pet supplies storage system! Remember, you can’t stop to smell the proverbial roses if you’re too busy fussing over the garden.