Feeling overwhelmed by new house
November 3, 2008 9:11 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I just bought our first house and moved in a couple of days ago. I am feeling completely overwhelmed and I am crying every night, just thinking about all the things we have to do now that we never had to do before (mowing lawn, cleaning gutters, etc., etc.). I am also shocked at all the money we are having to spend, and it kills me to see our savings dwindle. Is all this normal? Can I expect these feelings to pass? I just can't help thinking that we are not ready for a house, and that this was all a terrible, costly mistake. Has anyone else felt this way and gotten over it?
posted by feathermeat to Home & Garden (49 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't normal. This is downright universal.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:17 AM on November 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Buyer's remorse
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:17 AM on November 3, 2008

You can expect the feelings to pass, if you can balance your budget. You mention that your savings are dwindling -- did you buy more house than you can afford?

To begin with I would suggest sitting down with your husband and doing a careful "house budget" -- all your anticipated costs vs. your financial resources. If it balances, you can relax about the money end of it. If you're coming up short, better to find it out now, and you'll have to change some of your priorities. We can't really suggest specifics without more info from you.

About the work involved: Well, yes, it takes some time to maintain and improve a house, but that should be the fun part. Lawn care is kind of a drudge, but gardening, painting, remodeling, etc. improve the place, make it more satisfying to live in, and increase the value of the property. In my book, those are good activities to get away from your normal daily worries. I may be a tad weird, but rather than worrying about work and the like, I find myself sleeping very well if I just close my eyes and visualize my next paint job.
posted by beagle at 9:23 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I understand having buyers remorse but crying every night about having to mow the lawn and clean the gutters etc. is sort of ridiculous.

I bought my first house at 19, took care of everything by myself without problem, and I'm a huge procrastinator that hates house work. If your husband is good partner, which I hope he is, the two of you should be able to split up medial chores like those quite easily.

On preview, I think beagle has the basic thought process you need to inject about the situation.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:25 AM on November 3, 2008

It's a big change. And I think with any big change, even one you wanted and were looking forward to, there's a moment when you blink and have a mild freakout of "OH MY GOD WHAT DO I DO NOW WHAT WAS I THINKING SOMEONE HELP I WANT MY MOMMY ACK."

Any kind of big move gives you a huge financial hit at the outset because of all the set-up fees and piddly little things you forgot to buy, and that's a blow to your savings now. But look at it this way -- you may have to buy the vacuum cleaner and the sofa now, but you won't have to buy them next month, so that's money you WON'T have to spend next month, and so that's money you can gradually put back into your savings again. (I just signed up for a DSL account, and that's a big hit right at the upfront -- but that's a one-time fee and I won't have to worry about that next month.) So it's just a temporary adjustment you've got here.

As for the housework/yardwork, every new home you moved into had little quirks when it came to the upkeep, no? And you learned the ropes and then they became routine. And so it's another temporary adjustment.

In short, I think this is all normal and they are feelings that will pass, because you're in a new situation and you're finding your footing and it seems overwhelming now, but you get out of that the same way you get out of any overwhelming new situation -- picking something and taking a deep breath and saying, "alright, this is as good a place to start as any..." and then you just keep moving, and eventually it becomes habit and you get accustomed.

You will be fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on November 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

Run of the mill buyer's remorse. It's natural to be stressed about a major purchase like this.

In response to seeing your savings dwindling, remember this: your equity is building. Renting means throwing money at somebody without any hope of return-- you may get a minor tax credit at the end of the year, but in the end all you build is rental history. Although owning a house is more expensive, in the long run it's an investment more than it's an expenditure (renting, of course, is entirely an expenditure).

This may not seem all too convincing given the nature of the current housing market, but that shouldn't really be a factor if you're planning on staying in the house longer-term. If "buy low, sell high" is the investor's mantra, you've managed to buy in at an historic low, which is a smart move. The market will eventually rebound and you'll hopefully be sitting on a house that's worth more than you paid for it, making the short-term contraction of your savings worth it in the long run.
posted by baphomet at 9:28 AM on November 3, 2008

We definitely did not buy more house than we could afford...in fact, our mortgage payment is about $70 less than our rent. Our savings are dwindling because all of the stuff we have to buy...like a lawn mower, dressers (our clothes were in stack on the floor before), blinds...in addition to the fact that we have a no lease break policy at our old apartment, and will probably have to pay overlapping rent and mortgage in December and January. It's all one-time stuff, but it is just really foreign to me to be using savings rather than adding to it.
posted by feathermeat at 9:30 AM on November 3, 2008

When my ex and I bought our house, we spent well over 3 grand the first week just covering windows, buying things we didn't think about needing (lawn stuff, mostly; my yard is an acre) and making multiple trips to Home Depot.

By the time we'd lived here a month I loved it. Give yourself some time. And remember, some people are doing it all by themselves... you have a partner to help, which is great!

Think about the crappiest problem you ever had in an apartment or wherever you lived before and remind yourself that you'll never have to hear footsteps above your head/kill roaches from a filthy neighbor who shares a wall/give someone a complicated set of codes or stand like a hawk by an entry gate when you have friends over probably for the rest of your life.

One thing that helped me calm down is this: I got out a calculator and tried to estimate how much I'd spent on rent before I bought a house. I estimated it was around 86 grand, and that made me angry; I realized I could have bought 1/2 to 1/3 of a decent house for all the money I'd wasted and I didn't have an asset to show for it. Perhaps your own rent tally would ease your mind about the investment?
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:30 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your savings aren't dwindling. What you are doing is re-investing them... in your new house!

As Warren Buffet says, cash is king, but only if you eventually use it. What you're doing right now is taking you cash (from where it was probably making you only a little interest) and putting it into your house which is a much longer term investment. Even small things, like lawn and garden maintenance, are an important investment in the property!
posted by sbutler at 9:32 AM on November 3, 2008

It's perfectly normal, so much so that my realtor warned me about it. I bought my first house when I was still single and with no family to rely on, so buyer's remorse hit me pretty hard the first couple of weeks. Then it faded, as I got competent doing things I never thought I'd know how to do (it turns out installing a new toilet is easy!) and remorse turned into real satisfaction. I did have a few major and costly bumps, but got through them -- and you can, too. Also, try to remember that your expenses are going to be offset by your tax savings, which are substantial.

There's something so satisfying about walking up to a door and knowing you are the only one entitled to open it, and to know every chore and improvement is benefiting you and only you. You'll get there, too.
posted by melissa may at 9:34 AM on November 3, 2008

Our savings are dwindling because all of the stuff we have to buy...like a lawn mower, dressers (our clothes were in stack on the floor before), blinds...

Oh, darlin', you'll be fine, then. Just remind yourself that it's a lot of money up front now, but presumably you won't have to buy another mower/dresser/set of blinds next month, so that's money you won't have to spend next month.

The reason you save money in the first place is in order to get things you need. Well, these are things you need. So you're putting the money to the purpose to which it was originally intended. (Yes, I know that people also save for retirement. But unless you're 62, presumably you have plenty of opportunity to replenish those savings between now and then.)

If you're still fretting, maybe -- since your mortgage payment is $80 less than your rent -- you could agree with your husband to add that extra $80 to your savings each month to build it back up, because presumably you've gotten used to having to do without it, right? That could help settle you some.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:35 AM on November 3, 2008

It's scary at first, but...you'll get used to it. Granted, some things are annoying, like the Sisyphean task of removing leaves from your 1/4 acre yard in the fall (*cough* *cough*), but fixing up the house is often a lot of fun, and most of the expenses you're incurring right now are one-time deals. Also, let's just say that your spirits may improve come tax time.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:39 AM on November 3, 2008

I'm in a very similar situation and y'all's answers are making me feel much better. Thanks.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:46 AM on November 3, 2008

You can continue keeping your clothes in stacks on the floor, if you don't have the money to spend right now. (The blinds and the mower you probably should get.) We've been in our house for over two years, and I'm still at a desk held together with duct tape. We're gradually replacing our old crap with slightly better new stuff, but there's no hurry.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:48 AM on November 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

We're currently in month 4 of our first owned apartment. Yeah, the first month sucks, and we don't even have to deal with things like yard work. We mitigated it a fair amount by planning and budgeting out our initial expenditures, but there are always unexpected things. Believe me, it settles down quickly.

One thing I'd suggest is to resist the impulse to buy everything right away. Obviously you need things like a lawnmower, but do you need curtains in every room right now? If a lighting fixture doesn't work, can you live without it until next month?
posted by mkultra at 9:49 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I felt the same way when we bought our first place. Heck, we've been in our second place for two years and I still sometimes feel like that.

Overwhelmed? Could you use the $80 a month to hire someone to help with organizing, lawn care, gardening, house cleaning or another task? Even if you just did it for the first year, it might help you ease into home ownership.

Blinds are expensive. They made me cry. But I got the kind that help retain/repel heat and our hydro bill dropped dramatically.
posted by acoutu at 9:50 AM on November 3, 2008

Be careful you're not drowning in input from other people who are telling you what you SHOULD do or SHOULD have or SHOULD buy, now that you're in a new house. I had a friend reduced to tears at the Home Depot when some aproned retiree working there was browbeating her over not changing her switchplates. I literally had to drive down there and intervene. If it's not them, it's a neighbor/co-worker/friend/relative/acquaintance.

It's your house. You can do what you want to do, when you want to do it. You don't have to buy a dresser now. You don't have to do EVERYTHING now. There are things you probably have to do, and others you really, really want to do, but I had a friend live with no doors on her kitchen cabinets for six months because they needed replacing and she couldn't find or afford anything she liked. She waited.
posted by micawber at 9:55 AM on November 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

You're crying about having to mow the lawn and cleaning the gutters? Are those tears of joy or are you just being overdramatic? When you were at your old apartment, would you cry when you accidentally broke a glass or spilled some flour or forgot an egg you needed in a receipe? Or are you just upset that your routine has changed?

You have a house now. What you are feeling isn't buyer's remorse - what you're feeling is an over dramatic sense of your routine being changed. You were use to living in an apartment. You were use to not having to think so much about your home. You were use to all those things that comes with living in a building owned by someone else. And you got use to it. But then you decided to buy a house and had the mistaken belief that your routine wouldn't change. And then, finally, when confronted with it by finally moving in (because until you moved in, it was all fantasy at this point), you freaked out.

I bet this isn't the first time you freaked out over a change in living situations. I bet when you moved to college, you cried quite a bit. You probably did when you had your first apartment. And you probably did when you moved to a new city. The thing is, you got use to all those events after awhile. And you'll get use to having a home too. The manual chores, the lawn mowing, the gutter cleaning, fixing the plumping, the cracks, and the drafts - all of these things will become routine to you. That's the thing - you'll get use to it after awhile. And the faster you get use to it and the less resistent you are to change, the easier the next change in your situation will be because, guess what? Now that you have a house, you're gonna have things happen that will be unexpected. Something will break, something will need to be replaced, a giant bird will nest in your fireplace and you'll have to shoe it out, etc.

But you have a house. You have a investment, a home, a yard to actually mow. Get use to it and you'll enjoy it before you know it.
posted by Stynxno at 10:02 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Much like weddings, avoid input from others on what you "should" or "shouldn't" have/do for your new home. You just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. Deal with the immediate items that are missing (your dresser was a good example), then sit back, relax and it will all come naturally.

IMHO household chores are why adults have children.
posted by furtive at 10:04 AM on November 3, 2008

You'll be OK. I recently bought a creaky 102 year old house, all by my lonesome. I guess I was already a little prepared because I had rented a house for a year previous, where I had to go out and buy a lawnmower and other yard tools so I could keep up with the yard. Yeah, it's extra work, but it feels good. It's mine. I can't afford to buy or fix up anything much at present. I'm just enjoying its rust-colored-carpeted glory for the moment.

No tears here. Well, I may have had a mini heart attack when I opened my property tax bill last week...
posted by medeine at 10:13 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

One thing that helps is, well, to have help. My husband's parents came over one evening and helped tackle our mess in the basement. Some friends promised us help putting in a second bath for our wedding gift. My Mom's come over and helped me unpack, clean, and organize the kitchen. Not only is it good to have more hands working on a project, but it forces you to put things on the calendar, and actually do them, if you have someone else to hold you accountable.

(and as far as the financial aspect, learn to do some things yourself-- would it be cheaper to make some curtains than buy them? wallpaper the bedroom yourself instead of hiring decorators?)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:14 AM on November 3, 2008

in my experience, this happened the first time, and slightly less the second time. You'll be just fine, but there will be a lot of financial adjusting to do the first couple of years. There are a lot of costs that will come up that you never anticipated, but you'll deal with them. It's all part of it. The good part is, in a few years you'll be quite settled and adjusted, and really enjoying the tax breaks that your house has provided you.
posted by brandsilence at 10:18 AM on November 3, 2008

Don't cry over having a dresser instead of keeping your clothes on the floor. Enjoy the dresser! Now your clothes will stay dust-free while being stored.

The big secret is that life is so much more comfortable when you can set things up to suit yourself. Now, you can nurture your inner fussbudget, and get things just how you want them. You'll probably find it's quite addictive.
posted by tiny crocodile at 10:18 AM on November 3, 2008

Also, remember that everything you've spent so far has equity value (as opposed to the rent you were paying before!). You actually own some very neat stuff right now.

My advice? Take some time to christen every room in the house with your husband and remind yourself why it's so nice to have a place all to yourself.
posted by scabrous at 10:20 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

You're crying because you had to spend money on a dresser? Why not keep the clothes in a pile on the floor of the new house?

Houses cost money. Upkeep is eminent. Find one of those Big Lots type household supply centers nearby.

Like Grossmanns Bargain Outlet.

ps. Are you pregnant? Or just overly hormonal? No one should be crying about this stuff, you may consider seeing a doctor just to be sure.
posted by nougat at 10:20 AM on November 3, 2008

Oh you poor thing :( I felt exactly the same when I bought my first house last year - I had the cold sweats on the first night when I realised what I'd done. Unfortunately I had a fair few things go wrong right away, which cost me a small chunk of my savings and knocked me for six, but after I'd dealt with them I realised that I could cope after all.

Don't be too proud to accept second hand stuff from friends and relatives, whether it's a lawnmower, furniture or pots and pans. There may be certain things you want new (like a bed/mattress) but hand-me-downs allow you to have the basics to hand whilst giving you some headspace to plan replacements which will suit your taste - and the decor.

You should also ask around for recommendations for tradespeople. Having the name of a plumber, window cleaner or handyman who you can contact if something does go wrong is invaluable.

Most of all, enjoy your new home. And congratulations!
posted by highrise at 10:20 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

baphomet: you've managed to buy in at an historic low

I don't know anything about the original poster's situation, but the idea that we are at an historic low is incorrect.

The three colored lines in this chart are traditional metrics for measuring housing prices. Those don't look like historic lows to me.

What metric are you using baphomet?

I just wanted to clear that up for other potential home buyers that are reading this.
posted by diogenes at 10:31 AM on November 3, 2008

Oh, it's totally scary and overwhelming. But it's also totally awesome, once you settle in just a little and it starts to feel like your place, to be able to do whatever you want and fix it up the way you like it.

Two things - first, just because you have a new house, you don't absolutely have to get everything you need for it all at once. Maybe for a couple of months you can make do without the dresser, maybe a friend would loan you her toolbox for a little while for some of the routine moving-in stuff, maybe you can do without the lawnmower until spring. Some of these expenses can be spread out and that may make you feel less panicky.

Second, when it comes time to think about repairs (and that time will come sooner than you think even if your house is in good shape now), it can get totally overwhelming to think about the seven or eight (or twelve or twenty) things you need to do, as if you have to do them all right away. Take a few deep breaths and prioritize what absolutely has to get done, what would make your life a lot better quickly, and what you can muddle along with for a while. I find it helps to have a very rough timeline in my head - e.g. I've known for a year we would replace our windows this summer, which we did. We're doing some electrical work this winter, and I know next spring we'll regrade the back yard and maybe think about replacing the fence, if money permits. It's a lot easier to think about it in concrete steps than get overwhelmed because oh my god every part of my house needs to be fixed right now.

Home ownership is a big lifestyle change in some ways, more than I thought it would be going in. It's pretty natural to be overwhelmed by it. Try to take a few deep breaths and give yourself permission to be a bit nervous and to not have to do everything right away.
posted by Stacey at 10:47 AM on November 3, 2008

I would recommend not being too hasty to fix everything up perfectly, right away.

The same transitions that are giving you nerves also present an opportunity to do energy efficiency fixing and upgrading to your home. If you don't have any furniture, then you don't have any furniture to move out of the way before getting to work...

This will cost some capital, which isn't good for your nerves, and may be difficult to get a loan for. However, if you make the best efficiency improvements, you will make the money back in less than a year. Maybe two. After that, it's all profit. You won't get that reliable return from the stock market.

Your local utility may pay for you to get an energy efficiency audit done, and will also likely subsidize a lot of your upgrades. Really, this is a terrific time to spend money on saving money. Blowing money on new drapes and furniture can wait.
posted by anthill at 10:56 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Buying a house is overwhelming. When we first bought our house, for a while I couldn't sleep at night. It's a lot of money to commit. I'd wake up thinking we'll never pay this off, we'll lose the house. We weren't earning a lot of money at the time and put everything we could into paying off the mortgage early. We paid off our 20-year mortgage in five years, but during those five years, if my husband bought a newspaper, I'd cry. It cost a nickel, and I'd cry! It was harder because we didn't live in the house except on weekends and it needed a lot of work. Everything went very slowly. For a few years we didn't even have a bathroom door, just a curtain.

I'd say if you need to cry, cry. The people telling you it's out of line don't know you. You'll get over your nerves and get going.

Plan a beautiful garden for next spring. Find a sunny place for a strawberry patch. There's nothing like your own strawberries picked on a sunny afternoon to put you in the moment, and nothing makes me feel richer.
posted by sevenstars at 11:00 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am feeling completely overwhelmed and I am crying every night, just thinking about all the things we have to do now that we never had to do before (mowing lawn, cleaning gutters, etc., etc.)

You need to develop a longer-term approach to handling this. You're not going to get everything accomplished in a weekend, or a month, or even a year for some things. There's just too many things that cost too much money and you have to work, anyways. That's fine. Don't sweat it... it's like cleaning a really messy house. You just start somewhere--doesn't have to be anywhere in particular--and start cleaning. At first it seems daunting, like you'll never finish, but once you actually start doing stuff and get your mind off the daunting part it actually goes by pretty fast. Really.

One of my favorite websites is Our Victorian House. This couple own a fantastic Victorian in New Jersey that's been "in the process" of restoration from the effects of a ground-zero detonation of the "roaring 1970s." It was awful. They've been fixing it up one room at a time and document everything. The results are fucking amazing. But the really amazing thing is, I've been following this website for, like, 3 years now. And every few months they'll update it with another section that's been fixed up. It's inspiring.

Try resolving to do (not necessarily complete, but at least work at) one "house task" each weekend. Doesn't have to be a big task. Spray some WD-40 on a squeaky door. Hey, you just improved your home! Break bigger tasks down into smaller parts and don't worry about ever being finished. Just keep doing a little at a time.

The three colored lines in this chart are traditional metrics for measuring housing prices. Those don't look like historic lows to me.

Rent/Own is one metric. Another is average price of a single-family vs. income, or avg. single-family price vs. Big Mac... as for the conclusion, I'd agree we're not yet anywhere near historic lows, but they're definately lower than they were. So, you're not getting fucked nearly as much as the folks who closed a year or two ago. Which is one great reason to be happy right off the bat! :)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:04 AM on November 3, 2008

This sounds like common buyers' remorse compounded by consumer pressure. Please don't fall into the consumer trap of thinking you have to "upgrade" your standard of living now that you own a home. Buying a house doesn't lock you into upgrading all your possessions.

Keep your clothes on the floor if that's what you're used to. I've owned two homes over the last 18 years and have never had a dresser--I put cheapo shelves in the closet instead. I also slept on the floor for years. Who needs a bed frame? My countertops have been plywood covered in plastic for 2 years, I have no door on the closet, and I have no trim. These will come in time. There's no need to rush on these things if you'd rather save money or spend your energy somewhere else.

The lawn? Spend an enjoyable spring suffocating all the grass under newspaper and replace it with mulch, perennials, and berry bushes. You'll never mow again, neighbors will tell you how much they love your yard, and you'll freeze big bags full of berries.
posted by PatoPata at 11:20 AM on November 3, 2008

I'll just sound a note of dissent against those suggesting you try to make yourself feel better by convincing yourself of the old canard that "rent is money wasted". Homebuyers in the US and UK tell themselves this to retrospectively justify their decisions. But rent does purchase certain freedoms that buyers do give up; buying doesn't always make the most sense. That's absolutely not an argument against buying, though. It's an argument in favor of trying, if you can, to somewhat reduce the degree to which your happiness is dependent on your habitat and your property-ownership status. Easy to say and it risks sounding glib but in the long run I think it's better to realize that even if the decision is costly or in some respects wrong, it's not the end of the world and you'll be fine, than it is to try to convince yourself on a daily basis that it's the perfect decision.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:23 AM on November 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

You'll be fine. If you are freaking out now, just remember, you don't have to buy everything at once.

Spend your money where its going to have the biggest impact, and don't rush to do it because your priorities might change as you get used to the place. Take your time, buy quality furniture as you can afford it. Don't be afraid to buy used furniture to tide you over if need be. Learn to do basic maintenance and repairs.

Having an empty room isn't the worst thing in the world. It makes it easier to paint, refinish the floors, etc at your leisure. Once its done, you can move another room into it and repeat the cycle.

If you used to go out a lot, save money by doing more at home. Have people over for potlucks, watch movies, etc.
posted by Good Brain at 11:29 AM on November 3, 2008

Oh feathermeat, I certainly sympathize. There is only one way to stop feeling this way, and that is to accept your new reality.

I call this the "Zen of Homeowning."

Something is always broken.
It always costs more money than you want it to in order to fix it.

Home owning - home maintaining, really - is a battle humankind has fought since we crawled from the water and needed shelter. We have protected our caves from predators. We have mended our tents with more skins. We have baked more bricks to replace the eroded few. You are fighting a battle against mother nature and physics. It will be hard and you will be fraught with doubt. The sheer power of entropy will overwhelm you, as it did our ancestors. It is possible to persevere and live in a beautiful home, even if it isn't absolutely perfect.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:34 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's all how you frame it, isn't it? When we moved into our first home, I maxed out the credit card and used up my mother-in-law's funeral fund, and we lived on noodles for the first year and we still (7 years on) haven't been able to afford to replace the fence or get the gutters fixed. But no bastard has the right to come into my house monthly or annually and say, you can't do that.

I can paint it how I want. I can string any amount of internet cable through the rooms so we're connected and that's fine. It's mine, muahahahahhahahah, all mine. Really, buying a house is stressful, but it's the way you're looking at it - all you can see are the downsides. Why did you do it, eh? Buildling an asset? Having somewhere of your own that you can be creative? Some other reasons? Focus on them. Like anything, "nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so."
posted by b33j at 12:03 PM on November 3, 2008

Been there. The financial freakout is normal - this is probably the biggest outlay of money you've made in your life. And the move-in period has tons of expenses you can't always foresee. Plus it does kind of blow to know things that used to be someone else's responsibilty are now yours.

Here's the upside:

You have a savings account and a new house! The savings may be getting lower than your comfortable with, but in reality that's a ton of prosperity right there. Remind yourself that when all the one-time costs are sorted out, you can and will start saving again.

As for the move-in costs - you don't have to buy everything right now! Live in the house for a bit and get used to the new space before deciding what you can't live without. The only purchases for the house I regretted were the ones I made in a panic.

The same thing with the chores - ease into it. Anytime I'm feeling overwhelmed, I prioritize. My mantra (and I'm a perfectionist, so I understand how these things go) was "Does it have to be done TODAY?" If the answer is no, it just doesn't get any room in my brain and I'm not allowed to worry about it. Focus on the now, take lots of deep breaths and know it gets easier.

posted by Space Kitty at 12:14 PM on November 3, 2008

If you feel that you have dwindling funds you should consider adjusting your federal tax withholding. The tax break you will receive from Mortgage interest and points paid is like having a child. So add at least 1 to your W2 form. More money in your pocket each week may help ease the anxiety.
posted by Gungho at 12:17 PM on November 3, 2008

Haha, I'm like that with spending savings too. :)

I view my savings as my safety net. If they go up, I am safer and more content. If they go down, I panic. I'm always in Increasing Savings mode. So when we bought our condo and there were closing fees and property taxes and the fridge broke in the first month, it was rather uncomfortable for me. However, I'd like to introduce you to an alternate mode: Using Your Safety Net. Fear not! This is a feature, not a bug. This is what your savings are for. This is how we avoid paying 18% interest on credit cards for all this crap! Go forth, spend wisely, and feel no guilt. These are one-time, necessary costs. Soon you'll be able to shift back into Increasing Savings mode, with an extra $70/month!

Mortgages require a shift in mindset too. When you're renting, all you need to think about is the monthly payment. You were handling that fine, and your mortgage payment is less, but it's overwhelming to look at the Total Cost Forever and Ever instead of the monthly payment. To pull some numbers out of my ass, $200,000 is far more daunting than $1000/month. And yet.... they're pretty much the same thing. Your monthly cost is lower now. You have more money to throw into savings now. You're good to go.

As for the chores, ease into it. You'll figure it out. It doesn't all have to be done now and it doesn't have to be done perfectly. Hell, spend that $70 hiring a neighbour's kid to mow the lawn and you're all set!
posted by heatherann at 12:29 PM on November 3, 2008

This is not about the house. It's about the savings. You're attributing the stress to the house, but what you're writing in this post is all about the money. I'd guess you're one of those people who places great emphasis on having a financial cushion that acts as your emotional security blanket.

So work with that. Sit down and make a list of things you need to buy and put them in priority order. Do you need a lawnmower right now? Isn't North Carolina covered in snow or something already? Is that not something you could budget for for say, March or April?

Same with the dresser. You lived with clothes on the floor for a period of time; you can continue doing so and budget major furniture purchases like dressers and wardrobes for the January sales.

Yes, it will cost money to fully outfit your home. It is not all money you have to spend right now. Plan accordingly.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:38 PM on November 3, 2008

PS: Just for some reality filter, we bought and moved in a few months ago. We still have no dresser, no wardrobes, and are living out of the same two suitcases we moved in with when it was still warm. We are now cold, but I am NOT upacking all those boxes until we have somewhere to put all that shit, and that will not be until the end of this month.

So yeah, I'm styling with flipflops in November. It is not actually going to kill me, and it doesn't make us any less of homeowners. I'm pretty sure that five years from now, this will all be sorted out and in retrospect, this will all seem like not a big deal - which it isn't.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:43 PM on November 3, 2008

Look, this kind of thinking is not working for you, is it? It's not helping you to find solutions or be productive or to motivate you to do something that needs doing, right? It's just making you miserable. So perhaps everytime you catch yourself going, "OMG, I'm so totally in debt and maybe I bought the wrong house", you could go then say "Hey! C'mon, self! I put a lot of thought and time into this purchase. I chose carefully. I'm building an asset and once I've paid for a few necessities, my total outgoings are going to be less than previously. In fact, once things are balanced out, I'm going to throw $X extra at the home loan for a just in case time - something I couldn't do when I was renting. Owning my own home was a smart move, I'm glad I did it." ... and repeat.
posted by b33j at 12:45 PM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are you expected to host parties in your new house, what with the holidays approaching? If so, is this expectation contributing to your feelings of stress, as you attempt to get your house in order before guests arrive? Or are your future plans to find another house in a few years, and are trying to get your current home in sell-able condition?

If it's none of the above, please realize that your new home is an investment, very much like your savings. It took time for you to build your savings, and it will take time for you to build up your house.

You just moved in two days ago. Right now, your house will not look like the cover of Home & Garden nor the 15-minute video montage of Extreme Makeover: HE. Many have already suggested you plan out your purchases, either with a sense of priorities or what you can afford. This kind of exercise in long-term planning is invaluable practice.

I purchased two plastic 3-drawer storage bins to use as my "dresser" until I could afford a sturdier one. They work well for their intended purpose, are low enough in profile that I could fit them into my closet so they are out of the way, and when I eventually do get a better, nicer dresser, I'll have storage for something else.

I was lucky about my lawn, having inherited one that was well-maintained. I still need to weed and feed, prune, mow and generally spend a good solid weekend keeping things in order. However, at the end of the day, as I turn on the sprinklers and water the orchids, I can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. This lawn is something that, while I didn't create it, I helped maintain, with my own hands. It's a nice feeling.

Even if you're planning a family dinner with out-of-town guests or a big soiree with fancy clientele, you don't need to feel like you have to have everything in tip-top shape by the time the holidays roll around. Unless you have to fix some areas that are dangerous and/or unstable, I don't think anybody will think unkindly towards you. You might even be able to score some contacts as far as contractors or other services if you can turn your current state of home-ownership into a conversation piece.

Just don't watch The Money Pit anytime soon.
posted by CancerMan at 1:20 PM on November 3, 2008

And don't watch HGTV television shows. They will overwhelm you and make you feel like you should be able to put all together in a weekend what would take a normal person two years to do.

I can't address the crying, as when I got my house (all by myself, with no one to help me, house 103 years old and up two flights of stairs), I just cried for joy and went around kissing the walls and hugging the house.

You will learn that living in a house is living in an 'unfinished' state of being most of the time. You will get used to it.

Let go and just be.
posted by Vaike at 1:53 PM on November 3, 2008

About the no-break clause in your apartment lease - some states have laws that exempt you from those clauses if you are purchasing a house. For example, I live in Minnesota and my husband and I could break our apartment lease to buy a house and not pay any penalty. I am sure there are requirements about giving advance written notice and such, but it is definitely worth checking into.

If that doesn't apply to you, is sub-leasing your old apartment an option? Maybe you could find somebody to live in it until your lease is up.
posted by beandip at 3:03 PM on November 3, 2008

We call this the Home Depot Tax. Everyone has variations on it, especially in the first few days when you've just dealt with a move and closing and all that running around. People here have good advice, and mine is: take a fun break. Have some friends over, play some music, kick back. You bought a house! Congratulations!

There is no domestic task that is not thoroughly documented on the internet, so you DO have a sort of owner's manual. Find the retired guy on your street with the lawn like a golf course, and ask him for a lesson. You will make a friend. He will probably also show you how to clean your gutters, but there's plenty of how-tos online.

Take your time on the Stuff you need or want or think you need or want. I know so many people who bought furniture in haste and repented - uncomfortably, or in over/under-filled rooms, or just plain in disgust - at leisure. You didn't mention needing appliances, which is the one thing that does loom large for some people when they move, and you didn't mention toilets, another item that can't wait if you don't have one. Even a washer and dryer can wait, if nothing else for the massive sales that will come post-Christmas this year. I had a washer but no dryer when we moved, and I used a clothesline for six months. Frankly, I liked it, until it got cold and rainy out. You need something to sit on, if you need something today get office chairs, since you'll likely use them later. Or a futon, your future guest bed. Don't commit to really nice linens right now, you'll want to paint the bathroom six months from now and the towels won't match. If you hadn't done it already, I'd say wait until spring for the lawnmower - hire someone to come out for the last few mows of the season.

Sleep is the most important thing you need right now. Make lists of all the stuff rolling around in your head, and Put It Away and get some rest. This is normal, and it's mostly stress, and it will pass. A week from now, you'll feel drastically better, and then you'll panic next month again, and after that it'll settle down.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:18 PM on November 3, 2008

A lot of those extra expenses can be deferred or minimized. You don't need new dressers your first week -- boxes on the floor will still work, or you can "upgrade" to those plastic drawer things at Walmart for about $15.

You will probably want a lawnmower eventually, but not only can they be bought used, around here lawn services charge about $25/visit for a normal sized yard. It's cheaper to buy a lawnmower than to pay the lawn guys for a year, but a couple of $25 checks might be a lot less painful to write than buying a $300 mower this month.

But there's no ducking it -- the couple of months after you move into your first house are expensive in a bunch of unexpected ways. Keep your expectations of yourself realistic, and don't feel that you have to keep up with the Joneses.
posted by Forktine at 3:47 PM on November 3, 2008

I still have that feeling sometimes, and we've owned our house 6 years now. (Yeah, I know: not terribly reassuring.)

If I had it to do over again, I think there's things I would've done sooner, and other things I would've taken more time with. But that's hindsight.

Be patient with yourself, avoid HGTV, and keep a list in your mind of things you love about your house.

(Contra to Gungho's advice, I've never found the mortgage interest deduction to be enough to offset the standard deduction. I'd wait at least a year before futzing with your withholdings!)
posted by epersonae at 4:28 PM on November 3, 2008

Re: buying furnishings, great deals can be had from hotel liquidators.
posted by Riverine at 5:50 PM on November 3, 2008

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