Perhaps I should actually make the title of this post, "You Know Your House is a Hot Mess When..." It's no secret that Alex and I have been a bit preoccupied over the last several months. Between our day jobs, Lulu's battle against cancer, subsequent surgery, then radiation, and now surgery for Mel this week to remove a cyst on his side, two teeth, and a mass in his mouth, we're finding it difficult to carve out time for our serious home renovation projects. But as most of us know, home ownership isn't just about remaking and improving spaces, it's also about maintaining your home and yard (no matter how small that yard may be).

We've both known that a lot of these maintenance items have been put on the back burner, but I suppose we were living in pure blissful denial that we'd eventually need to deal with them...well until last week, anyway. While in the guest room applying makeup and drying my hair reality was unapologetically thrust into my mid-morning face. (Wait a second, why am I using the guest room to ready myself, you might wonder? For the last several years, the guest room dresser has served as my make shift vanity while our master bath has been in a state of flux. Okay, back to my story.) During this time of markup application I heard a repeated SCRAPE, SCRAPE, SCRAPE noise coming from our alley area. 

Wondering what it is I might see, I peered out the window of the guest room to discover that a neighbor's handyman/gardener was in the alley adjacent to our home and was raking up the ivy and tree debris along our house and patio wall. While part of me was mortified that it had become such an eyesore that a neighbor stepped in to tackle it, the other part of me was relieved knowing that it would be done. I hope this doesn't make me a bad person/neighbor. Apparently our blight was just too much for them, and for that, I'm very sorry.

I sheepishly slipped through the back gate, thanked the gentleman for his time and efforts, and thrust a stack of wrapped sugar cookies in his hands as a gesture of my now unending gratitude. I then called Alex to tell him what had transpired, share a few choice words, then let off a little steam about the fact that we were now "that house in the neighborhood!" 

As much as I prefer that the events hadn't transpired, this was the wake up call I needed. This was enough to kick my tail into gear and I knew I needed to pay special attention to our front "yard" before some family of raccoons decided they'd had enough with our filth.

I use the term "yard" loosely as our house sits directly on the sidewalk, but we do have two planted urns and a small patch of garden surrounding the city tree out front. The urn arrangements were looking sparse, and were in need of a little cleaning up.

The area surrounding the tree was also dead and lifeless, and trash littered the gutter of the street.

To make matters worse a careless parallel parker had run over the metal garden edge we had installed a few years back, leaving a mangled edge with mulch and dirt haphazardly spilling into the street. Needless to say, it wasn't a pretty sight.

After one trip, two garden stores, and several moments of indecisive gardening paralysis, I returned home with a trunk full of mulch, potting soil, and flowers, determined to whip (a small portion) of our home into Springtime shape.

I got to work, giving the topiaries a hair cut of sorts with a pair of scissors, following along the lines in order to give them a neat and tidy look. After ensuring an appropriate potted plant coif, I pulled out the old dirt and replaced it with a high quality potting soil intended for container gardening. I filled out the look by planting some new colorful flowers to add visual interest, in varieties that would both bloom as well as trail down the front of the pots.

Once Alex came home from work that night, he lent a hand to help break up old roots in the front garden in order to make room for the new plants while I finalized their layout. Now that the old tree has been gone for a few years the old roots are really breaking down.

We also worked together to straighten out the bent metal garden border, and hammered it back into the ground so it was once again secure enough to act as a retaining wall for the dirt and mulch. Please, rest of the world, stop running over our stuff. It's not very quick or easy to fix.

Finally I gave the whole area a thorough sweeping in order to make it look like people not only live in our home, but were not raised by wolves and actually give a hoot about its appearance.

My general feeling is that the plants around the tree are a little on the small side. My hope is that they'll continue to grow during the summer and will fill out the area a bit more. The cold hard truth is simple. Between the road dirt, doggie "irrigation" and stumbling pedestrians, these little plants have the odds stacked against them. At the very least, the area is clean, alive, colorful, and once again looks like we care about our home and neighborhood.

As it turns out, this was all done just in time. This past weekend Alex heard some commotion out front and peered out the window. Rather than a neighbor pitching in to help us get our acts together, he observed a couple posing on our front steps for what looked like professional engagement photos. 

I guess that's all the proof we need that we're no longer "that house" that points to a hot mess of home owners inside. Anyone out there looking for some lovely front steps to take some photos on, our house is almost up to snuff, at least after our next steps.

What are the next steps you might wonder? Paint, paint, and more paint. Cast iron steps, french doors, and the home's exterior...we're looking at you. Consider yourselves warned.

Comments 8


4/24/2014 at 1:02 PM

Looks great guys! I love your outdoor posts, and the pics you take of Old Town!


Thanks so much, Phoebe!

4/24/2014 at 1:44 PM

I remember when we were THAT house. Then we did hardscaping and called it a day. Alt smile If you want to plant something that will grow quickly to fill in the space, look to lavender and rosemary.


Ooh. Great idea! We're thinking about giving up on vegetables this year and turning our raised bed into an herb and flower area. Lavender and rosemary should definitely be included!

4/24/2014 at 3:54 PM

I took my Christmas lights down Easter morning. Nuff said. ;)


Ha! Well, we appreciate your honesty.Alt smile

4/24/2014 at 7:24 PM

I have decided to become "that house." I am tired after years in Old Town of having hard work of beautification come to naught, undone by thieves, visitors and neighbors. I have had plants, cast iron planter and--recently--a boot scraper stolen from my front steps. Passers-by stuff garbage in planters and trample on plants when exiting cars; neighbors obliviously set garbage bags on plants surrounding trees (how can you kill liriope?); workmen leave detritus on the sidewalk; and dog walkers think that even if they pick up the mess (which some decline to do)that it's just fine for their pet to pee on anything green, including carefully tended plants). Continuing to make an effort no longer seems worth the time and money.

P.S. I am really annoyed about the boot scraper.


I'm so sorry to hear this, Karen. While I totally understand why all of this is disheartening and incredibly frustrating, I cannot believe your boot scraper was stolen!! What the...???

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