Joyce Minor

Sweat equity is for kids, too

The joys of remodeling an old house are never ending. You set out to fix or update one thing, but in the process find several others that must be updated first just to make the original project doable.

For instance, you decide to replace an old toilet. The new one you’ve chosen is actually simple to install, but it has a slightly different footprint. That means you have to re-tile the floor – the whole floor – because the tile installed 30 years ago is no longer made and wouldn’t match the time-worn tile anyway.

When you give in and start to re-tile the floor the first step is to remove the moldings. However, you find the old moldings are so brittle from age you can’t get them off without breaking several boards which means now you must plan to replace them all, because you’ll never match the old stain.

However, if you install new floor moldings, they won’t match the ones around the door, so now you must extend the project and the price yet again to include replacing those as well. You could just leave the door moldings in place and instead use bull-nosed tile for floor moldings. This seems like a great solution because they will match the floor tile, eliminating the need to match to the door moldings. Even the wife agrees this would be good.

Then you discover that those tiles are rather pricey, and since several other unexpected expenses have arisen this month, purchasing them must be put on hold.

And that’s how it goes. One step forward and two back – a lot like life itself.

Each new decision you make or new goal you set seems wise and attainable, with hard work and creativity. Ah, but then you count the cost and find your plan must be deferred and may not be feasible at all because of peripheral issues, especially cost.

So while you’re trying to find a way around the financial roadblock you and your family must endure the status quo with no end in sight.

Feeling disappointed and increasingly pressured, you search for less expensive options that might be doable sooner. You know those choices mean you’ll never be totally satisfied with the result. You’ll always wish you could have exercised a little more patience and a lot more belt tightening till you could afford to do it right.

But how? Is there no way to get what you want, keep peace in the family, and still retain financial solvency?

First, don’t give up. Learn to work with what you have and stretch it as far as possible by putting in some sweat equity and expecting family members to do the same. Whether you’re remodeling the bathroom or taking night school classes to qualify for a better job, even kids can help complete the project.

Find a task for every family member that will free you to do what they cannot. Teens can mow the lawn or babysit younger siblings. Kids can fetch tools, rake leaves, or fold laundry, while Mom studies or Dad does the tiling.

Most importantly, don’t defeat the purpose by paying them to do it. Kids can understand how the money saved will fund something that benefits the whole family. Knowing their new assignment will contribute to what they all want allows kids to feel valued as persons. Whether it’s a great family vacation, a new bathroom, or a better paying career for Mom, give them the chance to say, “I helped make it happen.”