Time for it to sink in. We’re moving. Our little apartment, in which Frans and I spent our honeymoon weeks getting to know each other in person for the first time, in which Estella was born, in which fights and Facetime conversations, books and movies, long talks and meals were enjoyed and consumed, is going to be handed over at the end of the month to a new bewoner.
We’re moving to suburbian Badhoevedorp (a dorp is a village, bad means bath and hoeve, farm…but Frans and I like to jokingly call it Bad Farm Village), only 6 miles from the outskirts of Amsterdam, but in the Netherlands those miles count for a lot more when you’re biking through all kinds of weather. It will now be a 30 minute bike ride into our familiar neighborhood, where I’ve developed a cushy habit of working in a smattering of favorite cafés with freelancer friends. We’ll change proximity to Vondelpark (my love), museums and zoos, friends’ charming slanted apartments, cozy coffee places for…space. And for a home of our own.
Our little house, in which Frans and I have poured every extra bit of time and energy into in the last two months (more time and energy than we actually have), finally is beginning to feel like ours. It has freshly white painted walls (I still have the paint on my hands), still plaster-spattered windows, raw oaken beams, an almost-installed gray kitchen, stripped stairs, half tiled bathrooms (one missing a toilet still), and a very unfinished attic. We hope to have a working kitchen, tiles, trim around the edges above the wood floors, and a protective stain over the wood floors before we move in…this Saturday! (Insert grimace emoticon.) It’s been nuts around here. Things like sleep and bathing, once considered necessities, have been moved into the luxury category for the time being. Even writing this blog is an insane luxury!
We’re more than doubling our current 550 square feet of rented space to three floors of small rooms. The first floor, or begane grond has a hallway with stairs and a typical closet with a toilet off to the side (yes, just toilet…no sink…I know, ew but one doesn’t fit…I’m brainstorming creative solutions and welcome to suggestions) and a small kitchen that we opened up into the living room/dining area; the second floor, or eerste verdieping is made up of three small bedrooms and a bathroom with sink, toilet, and shower/tub combo; and finally, we have zolder, a glorious sunny attic with two separate closets, one for laundry and the other for storage. The bedrooms typically don’t have closets (you bring your own in Europe), so these extra storage spaces are coveted. I’ll be gaining a dishwasher, bathtub, and there will eventually be a dryer! I am so pumped to be able to get laundry done in a day or two instead of dragging it out six days a week because I’m waiting for the clean clothes on the rack to dry.
We found the house in November, began the buying process in December, and waited until January to find out that it was ours. We signed the papers and received the key at the end of February. The next day, we began demo. To save money, we’ve done about half of the work ourselves, and hired professionals or handymen to do the other half. We demoed ourselves, stripped the house down to cement walls and bare beams, and rebuilt the house from the inside out. We hired stukadoren, men to plaster the walls and ceilings, and klusmannen to build two walls, tile the bathrooms, and install the wood floors as well as the toilets and kitchen and new glass panes for the front door and kitchen window. We did the attic insulations and the dry-walling ourselves, the priming and painting ourselves, created our bathroom sink ourselves, the and countless other little projects that go mostly behind the scenes.
Let me tell you that had we not done things this way, I never would have known what a champ Frans van Santen is. Neither of us knew exactly how this was going to go down. Being a daughter of two farm kids, I knew how to do the basics…hammering and drilling and painting. Frans has also had some experience, but it’s amazing the way this man has youtubed and googled his way through the challenges of this house.
I’ve learned two important words during this season Just ask. Okay, maybe four. And receive. Three cheers for our friends and family! Renovation on a budget and moving takes a village. Family and friends have come over after a week of work on a Friday night and helped paint late into the night. Some Saturdays we’ve had up to ten people in our little house, doing whatever asked of them…even the less glamorous tasks like sanding the rust off radiators or driving garbage to the dump. I’ve had sweet friends watch Estella so that the both of us could work on the house. Friends threw us a birthday party because our 35th and 38th birthdays (one day apart) happened in this madness and we didn’t have time, space or energy to throw a party. Another friend has come over twice to help me pack. It’s changed my priorities…given the chance in the future, I can’t wait to wield my time and energy and give it to those in a similar season.
After reading over what I’ve written so far, I realize that I’ve left out the stress and tears, sharp words and temper tantrums that this phase of life causes. Because of the early mornings and late nights and weekends this project is taking, Estella and I haven’t seen enough of Frans, and too much of each other. I’ve done 95% of the sorting and packing myself. Not easy with a toddler, especially a toddler who loves learning and attention and tasks and tries so hard to ‘do what mama does’ which looks like either making a mess or unpacking a box I just packed. But like many things in adult-world, maybe beginning with your first sleepless nights with your firstborn or staying up late to finish a work project, you do it.
And we’re doing it. And we’re not alone.