The Story I Was Never Going to Tell

I didn’t want to write this post. I’ve been putting it off for months. Part of me still doesn’t want to admit this actually happened to me. And I really never wanted to admit it to anyone. But the truth is — the recent purchase of our first apartment, renovation of said apartment and the act of moving into it, shattered me.

January 21st marks exactly one year that my husband and I closed on our co-op in Manhattan. And so I thought it finally fitting to talk about my experience.

I’m known for having my act together, being organized, thinking on my feet, problem solving in my sleep and being productive and efficient. I mean — I’ve dedicated this blog to these things and even wrote an entire book on the subject!

But I was none of these things during this time period. I was literally frozen, paralyzed and I felt pretty helpless.

I’m not typically dramatic and as a journalist – I’m very good at just stating the facts. But I’m also an optimist and that got in my way for sure.

Optimism Failed Me

I can’t believe I’m going to say this but being optimistic failed me. It made me ill prepared for the ups and downs that go along with home ownership, renovations and moving.

I’ve moved before. It’s always a pain.

But for some reason this entire episode was a comedy of errors. None of which was particularly funny. The amount of things that went wrong is mind numbing:

  • The guy we bought the apartment from owed the IRS serious cash and we couldn’t close on the apartment until he settled up.
  • We closed a month late (everyone said this would happen, but I didn’t believe them)
  • We had just a few weeks to renovate the apartment (gut bathroom and kitchen, build closets, have The Container Store supe them up for optimal organization, stain the floors a gorgeous dark brown and build amazing radiator covers that double as wall length storage for even more organization. Everything needs a place!)
  • Our contractor said he needed exactly 30 days to do the work. He lied.
  • We waited 2 weeks for a plumbing permit.
  • We moved into our apartment and had no toilet.
  • We had to move out of our new apartment and live like hobos with friends and family while the bathroom got finished.
  • We lived for weeks with dust and heavy equipment all around us.
  • I didn’t want to even touch anything in the apartment – let alone clean it! So I let it get dustier and grosser.

I guess I was depressed.

Nothing worked the way I wanted it to work I had a brand new apartment in New York City and I felt like I failed. And I had a list of reasons:

  • I didn’t pick the right contractor.
  • I didn’t pick the right building.
  • I shouldn’t have bought something that needed work.

Yeah well good luck with that last one! I told my hubby – no way would we do renovations when we first started looking for a place. However, then I came to realize just how expensive “move in ready” was. I quickly changed my mind. I still didn’t like it — but I changed my mind.

This was never anything that I intended to share. It wasn’t one of my shining moments. I saw a side of myself I didn’t want to see. I had to give up control, which I hate doing and I had no choice.

The Positive Spin

As much as this was a dark time in my life, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I love my apartment now, it’s basically everything I wanted it to be. Now that all of this is behind me — I can look back at some of the things I learned from that experience. Hopefully you might learn something from my failures!

I realized the following:

  1. Life can’t always be planned out with every detail. Sometimes things go wrong or there is no plan and that’s okay. (I still hate this fact, but it’s true)
  2. Don’t ever believe your contractor. He’s probably lying.
  3. When people tell you “it will all be worth it” – resist the temptation to slap them. I hate to say it, but they’re right. It actually is all worth it in the end.
  4. I need to work on being less rigid and uptight. If I had been OK with giving up control the whole thing really would have been much easier. That’s why “going with the flow” is my New Years resolution.
  5. You can’t always get what you want. Sometimes you have to compromise to get what you need.
  6. No one actually notices if you wear the same jeans 4 days in a row. I spent a lot of time as a hobo, living with this friend and that friend and trust me – no one cares!
8 replies
  1. Meg
    Meg says:

    And this entire experience has nothing to do with optimism. Nothing! All the optimism in the world cannot prevent remodeling delays, a bad contractor, or waiting two weeks for a plumbing permit. You are way too hard on yourself.

    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Thanks Meg! The problem for me though is because I’m so optimistic I didn’t believe these issues would come up. And then when they did – I could couldn’t deal with it. I’m so happy it’s all behind me. Thanks for your comment!

      • Meg
        Meg says:

        I just don’t think that is optimism, it is denying the reality of life….of course, none of us want to believe things will go wrong, but they do and that’s life. We all need to know how to cope when things go wrong. The thing that had me upset was you felt shameful that so many things went wrong…you said it was very hard to write about what happened, as if it was your fault. That’s so unrealistic to think you can “wish” everything to go perfectly. Having a child made me realize that none of us have control over anything!

  2. Meg
    Meg says:

    Oh my, you are WAY too hard on yourself!! If this is the worst you’ve had to deal with in life, consider yourself very, very lucky! You bought a place, moved, had delays and had to give up a little control…all of those things are stressful, but it was a very small part of your life in the grand scheme of things!! How long was this going on…a few months? And now it’s over and your life is back to normal, right?

  3. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    After years of doing home upgrades, remodels, DIY and dealing with contractors (this was before moving back to NYC), I liken this experience to what I imagine giving birth to be: you never know what to expect until you go through it. Thankfully you had your awesome hubby to share the experience it with and look back at in years to come :).

  4. Jackie DiLorenzo
    Jackie DiLorenzo says:

    Love this and how true it is. 🙂
    I love having control over my life, but it’s unrealistic to think I can always have that control. Sometimes letting go is the best thing in the end.


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