Where did the summer go? Or fall for that matter… Something about a polar vortex and here we are facing sub-freezing temperatures in early November in the Mid-Atlantic. Luckily I had a glorious 70 degree Veterans Day to finish a bunch of pre-winter house maintenance chores. With my wife at work and our son in daycare it was one of those extremely rare opportunities to get stuff done without any other responsibilities.
First up was the grass and the leaves. After aerating, seeding and plenty of expensive watering ($150 in the last 2 months!) the new grass is coming up beautifully. It’s so nice that I roped off the whole front yard for Halloween to prevent hundreds of little kids from walking all over the little seedlings. Yeh, I was that guy – Get Off My Lawn! The plan worked, for the most part, and now it was time to mow for the first time. My smelly, loud and old gas mower cut the grass and bagged the leaves at the same time so that didn’t take long. Yet another confirmation of what I already knew: that getting rid off the reel mower was the right choice and that Xeriscaping ROI is worth all the work upfront.
Next up I wanted to address a lovely letter that I’ve recently received in the mail. You see, we live in a community with a homeowners association which can be a pain. The letter said that during a recent neighborhood inspection it was noticed that the vinyl siding on our house needed to be cleaned. They gave us 21 days to comply or risk a hefty fine.
The first reaction is to tell them to eff off especially since our siding was really not that dirty. Most of us hate being told what to do, especially when it comes to our own houses. My home is my castle… Well, not if you have a HOA. Then again, even without a homeowners association there’re probably a ton of other regulations that apply, like your city or county code. But of course it’s the HOAs that are notorious for taking it to a whole different level.
I’m not complaining though, especially because it was I who bought a house in a HOA community and explicitly agreed to abide by the rules by signing some papers. So I get it, you want me to clean the vinyl siding. From the street you can see 3 sides of the house: front which is brick and the two sides that are vinyl. The right side of the house faces south so the siding is bleached by the sun i.e. pretty clean. The left side is the one that tends to look dirty due to what looks like a light coating of mold that starts to build up in sun’s absence. Yes, the back could use a bath as well but no one can see that other than us.
What to do, what to do? Any reasonable person is expected to pick up a phone and dial their local power washing company that could clean the entire house in under an hour for less than $200. A few years ago I did just that and it was as painless as it sounds, until the moment I had to pull out my checkbook.
This year I decided to take a slightly less conventional route to try to save some money. Logically, all that’s needed to appease the HOA is cleaning the left side of the house so it looks presentable from the street – at least 40 feet away. I don’t have a power washer but I do have a big push broom, a large flower-pot, a bottle of car washing liquid, some bleach, a long hose and a ladder.
Most of the dirt was concentrated closer to the bottom so while I obviously couldn’t reach quite high enough I think it came out pretty good. In the heat of the moment I forgot to take a before picture but here is the “after”.
I can assure you that it was much dirtier before and that if you’re standing on the street the siding looks pretty damn clean, especially considering the dirty house next door.
Speaking of which – my neighbor was off from work and had a fun time watching me play a Push Broom Spiderman for an hour that it took to wash that side. He told me that he received the same letter and already hired a company to come out and clean the house the next day. That’s fine, but it sure won’t be as entertaining!
He also said that what I was doing looked like a lot of work. I guess it is but at the same time – what else are you doing? You’re home and not doing anything else exciting so why not take an hour and just get it done?
As we were talking my neighbor mentioned that a sprinkler guy was coming by later to winterize the inground sprinkler system before the cold snap. He’s been using the same guy for many years and apparently the price was $40 which was described as a “steal”. Compared to the going average sprinkler winterization cost in our area that IS a good deal. Then again, I prefer DIYing that one as well and paying $0. Plus I get to have a free air compressor in my garage which is surprisingly useful. (Yes, I did pay for it but it paid for itself after a couple of winterizations i.e. it’s free in my book).
But my neighbor certainly saved the best for last. I noticed something shiny in his garage and asked if he bought a new car. Sure enough, a 3-year-old Toyota Highlander was replaced with a brand new $50,000 Lexus RX350 – white exterior and beige leather interior. Man, it does look nice… A few years ago I might’ve even felt a bit of jealousy. I DO love cars!
Luckily, I can truly say that the only thing I felt was a sense of relief that I’m not in my neighbor’s shoes. It’s a small town so I know where he works and can guesstimate how much he makes per year. He has a stay at home wife and a teenage son. They have a big house just like us with a big mortgage. They outsource pretty much all the maintenance. Unless they are independently wealthy (seriously doubt it based on our conversations) there doesn’t seem to be much room for savings.
Lots of assumptions above, I know. I try not to judge in general and firmly believe in “live and let live”. All I’m saying is that I’m glad we are choosing a slightly less conventional way to live. Insourcing, self-reliance, mild frugality are all working to bring us to the place where we want to be. Financially, the proof is in our net worth climbing rapidly year over year. Savings from insourcing drop directly to our bottom line. Our huge mortgage will be paid off next year and then FI is a sprint away.
The more I talk with other people in my socioeconomic circle the stronger is my conviction to do the opposite of the Joneses. So go ahead and laugh at my Spiderman power washing – I take it as a compliment.