I couldn't believe it when I looked at the calendar last week. I noticed that our blog was about to turn five years old!

A few days later Facebook's "On This Day" feature did what it does best and led me on a nice walk down memory lane by showing me the post where we asked our friends to "like" our blog's new Facebook Page so that we'd be able to get the required 25 likes to obtain a "vanity" url for the page (www.facebook.com/oldtownhome/). 

From those early days of blogging until today, five years later, we sure have had a wonderful experience! Looking back on the last five years it's hard to wrap our arms around the amount of effort we've put into writing and editing blog posts, taking photos, doing work on house projects, and just thinking about what we wanted to write about. I can still vividly remember sitting at our outdoor table getting ready to hit publish on our first post and wondering what the future would bring. 

Since that first time we hit publish until today we've posted over 900 individual blog posts with more than 11,000 comments and even more photos! Along the way we've met some really wonderful people, made a lot of great new friends, been featured in various publications, briefly appeared on a television show, been randomly recognized while on vacation, had our home featured on the cover of one of our favorite magazines...

...participated in a local Alexandria historic home tour, hopefully helped a whole lot of people who are working on projects similar to ours, and enjoyed countless other unexpected experiences we would have never had the opportunity to enjoy had we not decided to share our love of all things DIY.

Ultimately, the goals of our blog have been to tell a story about our experiences and our journey, while sharing our thoughts, techniques, personalities, and dreams along the way. When we purchased our home, the Internet was a very different place. It was 2003 and there were far fewer online resources for DIY renovation than there are today. The fact that we bought an historic home with hopes of renovating it ourselves in a cost conscious yet professional quality manner is not the norm for 20 somethings buying their first home. 

2003 Front Room Project

Most of our friends at the time were interested in new construction or condos, and we were the "crazy" ones that just wanted an historic project we could call our own. Today, we feel the tide has turned and people appreciate the charm and history of old homes more and more. It's our hope someone either today or in the future will be able to use what we've written to help them on their way to making an old home their own. 

2016 Plastering Project

In a way, our five year blogging anniversary is also our own 13 year anniversary as DIY homeowners. It allows us to simultaneously reminisce with a walk down memory lane, while also looking toward the future and what we'd like to accomplish in the coming years.


2016 view from the porch

In our opinion, the key to having a successful future when it comes to our next phase in renovation is looking back on what we've learned to get us to this point in our DIY lives and applying these lessons to our future. We've learned many very valuable aspects to projects over the years, and now that we're working on a new major project, we need to remember these five major lessons now more than ever.  

2016 Outdoor Lighting Project

 

What You See May Not Be What Others See

Right from the start in our home we felt the doubt of others when it came to our vision. Where we saw an historic home in a wonderful neighborhood full of charm and in need of a little TLC, others saw a run down and tired old place that might be equal parts money pit and lost cause. We were beyond excited, but we could sense that others didn't necessarily feel that same excitement. But that was okay with us, we just had to remember to focus on our vision.

2003 Day One

Several months after we moved into our home we wanted to throw our first annual Halloween costume party. This event served double duty as our housewarming party where we were eager to show off all we'd accomplished to our friends. At the time we'd been working for months in the downstairs front room and hallways to strip paint, re-plaster walls, install light fixtures, and restore molding. We had made such great progress, or at least we thought we had.

October 2003

The photo above was taken on the day of the party, just moments before our guests were due to arrive. Looking back on these early photos well after the fact, we still laugh at what our friends must have thought coming into our home for the first time. Bare molding, missing molding, paper taped to the stairs, unpainted walls, no rugs. In our eyes it was beautiful progress that we'd worked hard to achieve, but most saw it as an unfinished and somewhat dirty space. We could see how it would eventually look, and we needed to stay focused on that rather than the unfinished state it was in.


Completed 2004, but taken 2011

After a whole lot more effort it eventually looked the way we always knew it could. And what's even more fun is that many of those same people, on return visits to our home, have that wonderful point of reference from when we were mid project. 

When Life Gives You a DIY Lemon... 

Yep, that's right, sometimes things won't go the way you want them to go. Actually, usually things don't go the way you want them to go, at least that's what we've discovered. But the thing we've learned is that the ultimate outcome of any project is how you deal with the adversities you experience, rather than how you handle the successes you achieve. We learned this more than ever last year when our heat went out and all of our pipes froze.

2015 Frozen Boiler

We were very fortunate to have found the frozen pipes and shut off the water before a major damaging flood occurred, that we had good insurance that could cover much of the damage and repair, that we found a good contractor that helped advise and educate us on how we could best accomplish our goals, and that we could do some of the work ourselves to help with the out of pocket expenses.

The downside of this freeze event was that our new home was more or less out of commission without working plumbing or HVAC for six long months. The upside is that we now have updated plumbing and an energy efficient HVAC system that will help our home remain more comfortable, affordable, and enjoyable in the long run. It's not necessarily the way we would have chosen to take on this project, but it's certainly making the best out of a very frustrating situation.


2015 Sunset

The whole house freeze is a somewhat extreme example of a lemons into lemonade event, but we've had so many different magnitudes that it's sometimes fun to think back on them. But I'd say one of my favorites has to do with a little leak that turned into some frighteningly appropriate decor. 

A few weeks before that same halloween party I mentioned above, we had a leak in the upstairs bathroom. This required that we put a hole in our dining room ceiling to investigate...a hole that would not be fixed in time for our party. Rather than fret over the giant hole in the ceiling for our housewarming/Halloween costume party, we went ahead and made it a part of our home's spooky decor.


October 2003

Yep, that's right, we placed a scary mask and work glove hanging out of the hole as if it were a ghoul of some sort attacking our party attendees and the dessert table. We were able to make the best of an otherwise crappy situation, embracing the problem rather than trying to ignore it. 

Love The Result (and Tolerate the Process)

As we've gotten older I can certainly see a difference in how we tend to approach projects. We don't have the energy/stamina we once had to work all day at our day jobs and then come home and work until 11:00pm on house projects night after night. And beyond energy/stamina, we just don't have the desire to sink every moment of our day into working on projects. 

Approximately 2007

That being said, we also know much better what we're biting off when we start a project, we have a better understanding of the effort it requires to complete a project, and the joy we feel when a project is done well by our own hands. 


December 2004 - Kitchen Disaster

When we were starting on this journey we had unrealistic expectations about how "easy" it would be to DIY our way to a perfect house. Then we had the rude awakening that things aren't wonderfully easy and fun at all times. Today we understand that there will be downright miserable parts of projects and it's far too easy to get bogged down or stretched too thin by the process to get from point A to point B.

Ollie Stretching in 2010

We know we'll fight (sometimes waaaaay more than we should). We know we'll disagree. We know we'll whine to each other. But we also know that we'll eventually get there and we'll likely love the end result so much that we can not worry too much about the miserable parts of the projects. This is so very important, because without the light at the end of the tunnel, there's really no reason to be in the tunnel in the first place.


Lulu in the 2016 Blizzard

Perseverance is Key

I'd say of all of our lessons, given our tendency to take exponentially longer than we should on any given project, this is the most important thing we've learned over the years (and it relates to the previous point as well).

Some of our projects last a few days to complete...

2011 Wine Barrel Stave Candle Holder

 

...but most take many months and even years to get to the finish line. I mean, we've been working on our master bathroom for pretty much as long as we've been writing this blog, and it's STILL not done!

Master Bathroom 2015

When we're in the midst of these very long running projects, they sometimes take a back seat to life and other desires. But the single most important thing when it comes to DIY is to always come back to these projects and pick them back up. 

Wendy's Great-Great-Grandmother's Chair in 2013

If you can always commit to come back to what you've started, you'll eventually get to the point where you can say you're done. And honestly, there's really no better feeling than looking at something you've worked on for a very long time and realizing that you stuck with it until it is complete.

Guest Bathroom in 2008

We have so many projects that we've started, and I have no doubt that they'll eventually get to the point where we can call them complete, but it's going to take some perseverance on our part. And you can be sure that we'll share the process and end result with you. We'll never be one of those crazy blogs that are cranking out projects left and right, but those blogs just make me feel bad about myself and my pace working on projects, so maybe thats for the better.

The Main Thing You're Building is Confidence

Whenever you're working on a project, you're not only working to complete that project, you're also working to enhance your overall skill of what you're capable of accomplishing. Over the years we've slowly transformed from a couple of hopeful DIYers without a ton of experience, to a DIYing couple that feels like we can accomplish anything. 

Office Desk in 2009

This feeling of being able to tackle just about anything that can be thrown our way comes simply from the confidence we've built in ourselves over the years. 

Master Bedroom in 2011

I can remember a time where I was intimidated by our table saw and ripping a board felt like a tremendous victory. I obsessed over cutting that board for days before I finally made the cut.

Today I wouldn't think twice about that cut, mostly because I have the confidence that I can make the cut without killing myself or cutting off my finger (a serious fear I still carry with me). As we've built confidence we've also built the skill and knowledge that allows us to better understand how we'll accomplish something we want to complete. 

Kitchen Makeover in 2012

Confidence is the #1 tool in your workshop, the most important item on your supplies list, and the best thing you have at your disposal when working on a project. I'd go as far as to say that if duct tape doesn't work, confidence is sure to do the job. 

Looking Ahead

Now five years after we started this website project, we still have many of the same feelings that inspired us to start our blog in the first place. The scope of our projects have certainly changed over the years, and we seem to be taking on larger projects though we have less time. But using the five lessons learned we outlined above, we know we'll eventually get to a place where we can look back on our experience with fond memories. That's certainly the case when we're looking back on everything we've accomplished to this point, and we're both very proud of this fact!

Comments 20

Comments

DAF
4/29/2016 at 6:04 PM

I've been reading since the desk project (was that really 2009?) and have enjoyed seeing everything you do. You are very thorough with your approach, researching techniques and products and then passing on all the details. I look forward to seeing a weekly post (yes, your pace has slowed a lot, but you offer quality over quantity). Please don't ever quit sharing, even if you cut off a few fingers and it takes longer to type!

Alex
5/5/2016

The desk happened a little while before we started the blog, but we recapped the whole event in the early days. Thanks for the kind words, and we'll keep them coming. Alt smile

SH
4/29/2016 at 7:08 PM

I've been following since winter of 2013; please keep 'em coming! (especially decor posts)

Alex
5/5/2016

Thanks so much! We'll hopefully have far more decor posts in the future.

4/29/2016 at 7:10 PM

Congratulations, guys! On the blogiversary, but also on all these projects! Truly inspiring!

Alex
5/5/2016

Thank you!

4/29/2016 at 7:16 PM

Happy Blogiversary! ?? You've come a long way. I am looking forward to a day when our home is as complete as yours.

Alex
5/5/2016

Hah! It never feels complete, no matter how many projects you do. I think the more we accomplish, the more we know what's possible and what we want to do. It's crazy how the list tends to grow.

franki
4/30/2016 at 1:23 PM

That harlequin design in your hallway is FAB!! You'al have done WONDERS!!! We're DIY'rs too...so, feel you pain AND your JOY!! franki

Alex
5/5/2016

Thanks, franki! Always glad to see that you're enjoying our posts.

Tee
4/30/2016 at 7:12 PM

Congratulations! Great job. Love your blog and looking forward to the future.

Alex
5/5/2016

Thank you very much, Tee.

bfish
4/30/2016 at 9:09 PM

I really enjoyed the retrospective and the opportunity to see some of your "greatest hits" again. You've done a great job of maintaining the quality of your blog and the high standards of your work. Looking forward to seeing what else you do with both houses. (Need more Lulu and Mel too.) Thank you!

Alex
5/5/2016

I do think Lulu and Mel have been angling for more coverage lately. Thank you for your sentiments. We strive to do just what you said.

Michelle
5/1/2016 at 6:23 PM

Congratulations reaching the five year benchmark. To be honest, I held my breath until I finished reading the post thinking it might be an announcement you are stopping the blog. I've been reading your posts since we bought our 1920's bungalow in July 2011. We love old houses too, and this is the first one we owned. Your blog is a go-to resource for me as we face old house challenges with our DIY projects. Nothing is square, plumb, or level and we wouldn't have it any other way. Thank you for sharing your trials, tribulations, victories, and insights into old home ownership. Middleton, WI

Alex
5/5/2016

It's funny you said that about an "announcement" type post. It oddly felt like I was writing that in the middle of the post. Rest assured, we'll likely no go out with a bang, but instead with whimper long after anyone will notice. We'll be around for quite a while long I believe.

GretchenB
5/5/2016 at 10:10 AM

Congratulations Alex and Wendy on your fifth year of blogging. I found your blog during the closet challenge from the BrooklynLimestone blog back in February 2012. I was elated to see a local blogger and I love it when you mention anything local (merchants, things to do, etc) I'm a native Virginian, 'transplanted' here from Richmond back in cough1984cough. I appreciate the respect you have for old homes and their distinctive characteristics, especially the different architectural styles found in Old Town. I've used some of your tips (Big Stretch caulk is awesome!), filed away your posts on new technology for optimizing life's annoying tasks, and talked myself into building a built-in mudroom bench with drawers, lockers to the ceiling and walnut butch block bench after reading your (and SawDustGirl) woodworking posts. Please keep'm coming!

Tammara
5/9/2016 at 3:58 PM

Congrats on your five-year blog! You both are very talented and creative. Love learning about your trails, tools and overall projects. Plus I too live in OT, bonus for me!

5/10/2016 at 10:08 AM

Look at how far you've come! I'm so glad you've had so much success. Hope you continue to improve your home and help others do the same.

Margaret Schleicher Bjorklund
5/19/2016 at 10:03 PM
Happy blogging--love your posts.
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