Factoring a new home into my work–life balance

Just Life By Mark Huffmyer, PharmD, BCGP

About 1 year ago I purchased my first home, another notch on my “adult” belt. The process of buying my house passed in a haze. I encountered terms such as escrow, adjustable-rate mortgage, and fair market value. On February 6, the keys to my new home were placed in my hands. With a sigh of relief, I thought, this is it. I made it through the hard part, and I am finally a home owner.

Little did I know, the work was just beginning.

Acquiring a green thumb
Lawn care is a much bigger chore than I originally anticipated. Since I purchased a new home in a new neighborhood, for the first few months I had only dirt outside, no grass. After the first few muddy months, hired professionals eventually put sod in my yard. I quickly learned sod requires a lot of water. I had to buy a hose and multiple sprinklers and water the lawn for at least 30 minutes every day. Although I have a small yard, it also took time to mow and weed-eat every week. Eventually, I did some landscaping and planted a small garden and some trees, all of which also required constant monitoring and care.

Hi mom and dad, it’s me again
Houses, even new houses, require some maintenance. I was used to my apartment life where if something was broken you would call maintenance and within a few days, depending on urgency, it would get fixed at no cost. Fortunately, most new houses come with a warranty, so if there are any issues within a certain time frame, usually 1 or 2 years, the builders will fix it for you at no cost. Other than that, you are on your own.

I have placed more calls than I can count to my mother and father asking various things from “Is it normal for my oven to have smoke coming out of it?” to “How often do I really need to change my air filters?” to “How do I stop my window from leaking every time it rains?” Becoming a homeowner entails becoming an amateur handy man.

A worthwhile disruption
Although learning these new concepts and skills was a challenge, an even bigger challenge was trying to find time to take care of my home, along with balancing my new pharmacist career, other commitments, and a social life. I am lucky enough to have been born an early riser, and so I have taken advantage of that. Often, I will wake up 30 minutes earlier than normal, which gives me ample time to do some chores around the house.

For most of the summer, I could water the lawn in the morning and even squeeze a workout in before I went to work (though there were some days I would wake up, turn the sprinklers on, and go back to sleep for 30 minutes). I have had to make some sacrifices, too. Friday night, which was traditionally a night for friends and fun, has now turned into home project night at my house. Finally, about once a month, I will take a Sunday to have a home improvement work day.

Overall, owning a home has been an enjoyable experience, but it has caused a disruption in my status quo. I purchased a brand-new home hoping that it would require minimal upkeep. I imagined the upkeep couldn’t be too different than that required in my apartment. Everyone told me owning a home is a lot of work, but it is something I never truly understood until I became a home owner myself. However, with good time management skills and habits, it is feasible to enjoy being a homeowner while still maintaining some semblance of work–life balance.