Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

"Don't sweat the small stuff." The phrase I have been forcing through my mind for the past four days.

So as you know, a couple of months ago we moved into our new house. After six weeks of construction, we finally got all settled in December. And other than an issue with the painting that our painters are coming to fix this week, everything had been going just swimmingly.

Since we closed on the house, every time a homeowner heard that we bought something they would smile and say "welcome to the club," and mention something about the thrills and woes of being a homeowner. Well, despite some anxiety about leaving Manhattan for the suburbs, a few construction hiccups along the way and the unanticipated purchase of a new washer and dryer, I hadn't seen many of the woes.

Until this past weekend that is.

Saturday night I went to the basement to throw in a load of laundry, and heard an ominous drip coming from somewhere. On further investigation, I found some water leaking from a valve in a pipe that runs under the first floor bathroom. It wasn't very much, just a tiny slow drip, but with horror stories flashing through my mind (mostly made up by my very fluid imagination) of slow drips that become massive problems, I got David to come down and take a look. He tried to tighten the valve to stop the drip, but the drip became a steady trickle. We tried a bunch of things, but couldn't stop it on our own. We needed a plumber.

Luckily, we have a friend who got his plumbing license a couple years ago, and said he could come first thing Sunday morning. We got the trickle back to a slow drip, stuck a bucket under the valve, and went upstairs to go on with our night. But the leak was right under my feet and totally unforgettable - not in a good way - so I didn't sleep much, and ran down to check the bucket approximately a thousand times until morning. It's probably worth mentioning that the drip didn't even fill up half the bucket in twelve hours.

The plumber arrived bright and early Sunday morning toting a huge bag filled with parts, and he thought he could have the problem fixed in no time. Famous last words. Nine hours and an entire section of replacement pipe later he finally finished the job, and stuck around for another hour to monitor the leak to make sure everything stayed dry, which it did.

And as he was making his fixes he kept saying the same thing: "old plumbing."

Now, intellectually we knew when we bought a house that was built in 1923 things would be old and I was ok with that because I loved the idea of owning an old house. And when we got the house inspected before we signed the contract the inspector told us that the house was incredibly well built and well maintained, but that some of the plumbing was outdated and would require slow updating over time. And I know that there is no such thing as a perfect house and that brand new houses have their issues too. And I know that old plumbing means that sometimes things will leak and need to be replaced. And I know that these kinds of small leaks are really no big deal.

But I have anxiety over it all anyway.

I am generally pretty good about keeping it all under control, and don't usually have anxiety beyond what would be considered normal and reasonable. But not for the past couple days. Since the leak was fixed, before I leave for work and when I get home I run down to the basement to check and make sure nothing is wet at the site of Sunday's drama. And I glance around to check for puddles of water where there shouldn't be any. And last night I may or may not have freaked out just a little when I heard some dripping, only to realize that it was just the rain drumming on the family room skylight.

And I may or may not have had a big glass of wine to calm down before I went to bed. And I don't drink. Like, ever. It's just not my thing.

I know that these kinds of things go hand-in-hand with home ownership and it happens to everyone. But I am still getting used to the idea of owning something more than just clothes, shoes and lots of romance novels, and generally prefer that everything be in working order. I hate feeling out of control, and when things go wrong in my house, that is exactly how I feel.

So now I'm trying to force myself into a different mindset. It happened, and it was annoying and a little scary. And it will probably happen again at some point. But we own a solid house that we saved for, and that we love, and that we are really proud of. And that's the most important thing.

So my new vow is to try even harder than usual not to sweat the small stuff. And, as Richard Carlson says, it really is all small stuff.

Even basement leaks.


  1. Old houses have such wonderful character, but in the end we decided to buy a newer house because I didn't want to have the kind of worries you've described. But sometimes I wish we'd gone ahead with an older house. It's such a trade-off.

    It's always helpful to have friends in the trades too!

  2. I have a 100 year old house that was extensively remodeled before we bought it. Still, 4 years later things are going wrong. Broken french doors, rotten wood by the master shower...

    You'll learn not to sweat it, although it will always be annoying!

  3. It's really hard when something happens that you can't absolutely control. At least you got it taken care of right away!

  4. FWIW, I know how to fix a lot of those things and it still irked me too, but you learn how to relax.

    It is just part of the fun.

  5. Oh it's so scary. It's good practice for owning children. Wait. That's probably not how I should say that. There's always meditation!