Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Tale of Two Couches

[For those of you who also read M is for Mama, I already had thought of my title before she published her latest post. And she clearly had better luck than I did... but I'm getting ahead of myself.]

I wasn't looking for couches, when I saw that set of "Brand New Gray Leather" couches, advertised on a local Yard Sale Group. 

I had so much fun re-doing our master bedroom, that I was planning to fix up our downstairs one day, too... including switching out our fabric, red-and-green couches (that are super comfortable, smell awesome, recline AND have foot rests) for something more modern--specifically gray, leather couches. 

But couches are expensive, and I had no intention of buying "new" ones any time. Until, of course, I saw this set of "brand new" couches, which looked exactly like what I'd been wanting!!

Excitedly, I began writing back and forth with the owner, only to find out that this set was NEW, never sat on, and she was selling them for one-fifth of the original price. I couldn't believe our good luck!

My plan was to sell our current couches for MORE than what we'd buy these leather couches for, and use the difference to buy some decor to fix off the downstairs' new "look." My hope was that we wouldn't spend ANY money on the downstairs remodel, or--at the most--$100.

We went to look at the couches, and I missed all the warning signs. The owner said she'd never had animals in her townhome, and when she smoked, it was always outside. I can blame the circumstances... the room was dark, I was very pumped, the lady seemed nice. Considering how much she said she'd paid for this set (and how it had NEVER been sat on!), I thought we were getting an incredible deal.

So we bought them. The second they entered our garage, though, we smelled the awful, terrible smell coming from these couches. But I was still excited. They looked great, right? 

But we couldn't get past that smell. I researched how to remove a smoke smell from leather couches, and we got to work. 

I dumped three boxes of baking soda all over those couches, mixed in some coffee grounds, and went to bed for the night.

By the next morning, I'll admit--the smell was MUCH better. I got a bucket of vinegar water and Rachel, Jemima, Matthias and I worked for several hours, wiping down every inch of those beautiful couches.

We repeated the wipe-down-the-couches process with Saddle Soap. By now, the couches were seriously smelling better... but still. Not appropriate for sitting on, hanging out, relaxing, you get the idea.

While removing the cushions, I found the original tag, and called the manufacturer of these couches.

And... Bang. These couches originally cost nothing like what the owner had claimed. These were cheap couches. 

But we figured that one out on our own, after Rachel climbed onto one of them, in her flip-flops, and nicked the fabric. Sad day.

By now, we'd concluded these couches were NOT for us. Besides the smell (which we couldn't fully get rid of), they weren't durable enough to stand the daily wear-and-tear from small children.

So I listed them for sale. But I felt I'd been deceived, and I didn't want to be anything less than fully honest with anyone. I advertised this set as (what they were): From a smoker (and possibly) pet home. 

Guess what. No one wants them. I first advertised them as the price we purchased them, and no one was remotely interested. So I lowered the price--and again, and again. It's a real possibility that we may be listing these gray leather couches as FREE, or (at best) making $100 off them--just to get them out of our garage.

Considering how I love being frugal, and how much I watch our finances, this was a blow. If I were pregnant, I would've been a crying mess. Since I'm not, I just thought about crying, and wanted to cry--and couldn't. 

On the bright side, I've learned three [very expensive] lessons from this whole process.

1. Don't buy a couch that smells bad--whatever the price. I had no idea how difficult it was to remove cigarette smoke from leather furniture, but yes, it's difficult. Hours of my life are lost in cleaning, and they still reek.

2. Even if it means you have to act awkwardly, if you're offering a wad of serious cash for couches, it's definitely worth the time and effort to sit on them and lay on them and smell them and remove the cushions and turn on all the brightest lights around to get the best look possible. And only then, if you're fully satisfied, offer your cash.

3. If you think a room of your house "needs something," it might not necessarily be the most expensive items IN that room, i.e., the couches in your family room.

And here's where I come to the happy part in this whole story. While preparing our family room for the "new look," my mom and I removed the black, broken blinds on the windows and painted the dark-colored trim white. Already, this [free] project made that wall look SO much brighter! 

After we realized we were keeping our original couches, though, our windows needed some sort of window treatment--as now the light was pouring in, and there was no privacy.

I really wanted curtains that looked modern, but still somehow matched our current couches.... and yet, were neutral enough to match any couches (whenever we would find replacement couches).

I had no idea if this was possible, until I saw these in the curtain aisle at Target...

White curtains, with a pretty gold-dotted pattern. Modern, neutral, will match couches present and future. EXACTLY what I wanted!

As soon I ironed the curtain panels, and Matt hung them, I realized these long, light-colored, pretty curtains was what this room needed. Not necessarily new couches, at least not right this minute. Why, oh why, did I not think of this before we paid for the couches?!

But without the purchase of those gray, leather couches, I wouldn't have learned these lessons. And hopefully, I won't soon forget them.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Life Lately

I haven't typed here for so long, that I'm having trouble even remembering what font I normally use.

But "usual" font or no, it was high-time for an update on the blog. 

A New Job

Our biggest news is this: after 5 years of Matt working [mostly] afternoon shift at the FBI, he has become a Property Manager here in town. What does this practically mean for him?

No more 50 minute-long commutes.
No more getting home at 2 AM.
A new job, with [of course] new challenges and opportunities!

You can imagine this has been a big transition for Matt, but it's obviously effected our whole [small] family. The biggest adjustment so far has been Matt's new schedule--leaving in the mornings (as opposed to sleeping in), coming home for lunch (I know, right?!), and then having him home in the evenings. I haven't enjoyed Matt's company (and help!) consistently in the evenings since having children. It wasn't easy in the evenings, but I had gotten used to the whole dinner/bedtime routine/several hours alone by myself before MY bedtime.

So this is very different.

I'd say our biggest struggle so far (if you could call it that) is what to do in the evenings. By the time we've put the kids to bed, we are both tired, and yet we want to use our next couple hours wisely (i.e., not watching Netflix). Because of Matt's new job requirements, we started reading How To Win Friends and Influence People, and we're really enjoying it so far. The author is so knowledgeable about both people and history, I felt 100% smarter after only reading one chapter!

House Projects

On hold for the moment. Sunday afternoon, we wrote up a list of all the specific remodeling "needs" our house has, and eventually we need to keep working through that list. Unfortunately, almost all of those remodeling projects requires $$ (example: remodel bathroom. Remodel kitchen. Replace garage door. Etc.)

There were some bushes that needed torn out, and Saturday afternoon (with the help of Kiddos 1, 2, and 3) we started cutting them down and bagging them up. Although it was ridiculously hot out, chopping up bushes still felt relaxing to me. I love working when I can see instant results--not something that often happens when you're a mom. 

[snack on the front lawn]


This is something I'm very excited about. Not every single day, but in general, I'm pumped about teaching my kids. Rachel just turned 5, and she's already doing school work in two different grades. I remember this well from when I was homeschooled, and I'd stare at people confused when they asked what grade I was in. "I'm in sixth grade math, fifth grade science, seventh grade English..." 

I'm loving ABeka from what I've done with it so far. To supplement, we practice flashcards every day (numbers and letters for Jemima, addition for Rachel, US Presidents for both girls), and I just created a YouTube playlist of educational songs for them to listen through while they're coloring! (Speaking of flashcards--which I'm in love with--I found the US Presidents cards in the $1 section at Target! I've heard there are also Famous Landmarks and Space flashcards, which I'm going to be looking into buying ASAP. I guess I'm just a flashcards fan.)

[school time]

Since I wasn't able to find a history and geography textbook that I liked for the girls' age levels, I decided on simply finding and reading library books that dealt with countries or people throughout history. We've read about Helen Keller, Christopher Columbus, Joan of Arc, Daniel Boone, and Anne Frank. It's embarrassing how much basic history I'd forgotten already! I'm learning along with the girls.

[Matthias and Caroline hanging out while I work with the girls]

There's an update for now. Oh yeah, and last week, we took advantage of Chik-Fil-A's Cow Appreciation Day, and received something like $35 worth of free food! Woo-hoo!