Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tchotchke Up Your Yard!

Tchotchke Up Your Yard!

It is tempting to do "home improvements" once you buy a home, but don't get carried away, is all I can say.

Why?  Because such things can be time-bandits and money-sinkholes.   And for the most part, they don't make your house look better, just "busy".  In fact, to sell your home, your Real Estate Agent will likely advise you to take down most of it.

The problems with yard tchotchke are multifold:
1.  Makes the house look "busy":  A cluttered yard looks disorderly and distracting.  It ruins the curb appeal of your home.  A clean, uncluttered look is more pleasing to the eye than a Disneyland type approach.

2.  Creates maintenance: Yard ornaments are just an item to mow around, weed whack, clean, maintain, renew.  For every item you add, you add another "thing" to maintain.  You go away on vacation, and you come back to find that everything needs maintenance.  Pretty soon you either stop going away, or it all starts to look like hell when you get overwhelmed.

3.  Adds no value to the home, often detracts:  If you want to sell your home, you will likely have to de-tchotchke your house to  make it look better.  Otherwise, you have to hope the home buyer can see through your collection of garden gnomes and cement donkeys.

4.  Costs an enormous amount of money, over time:  Each trip to Lowes or Home Depot is another $100 on your credit card.  Before long, you've racked up a mountain of debt - or spent money that you could have wisely invested or used to pay down debt.
How do I know this?  Experience.  We tchotchked up our yard in Virginia with everything from a swimming pool to a koi pond, as well as extensive gardens, sitting areas, accessories, fountains, and statuary.  We spent thousands - tens of thousands - of dollars doing this.  And eventually, it all fell to the bulldozer, which was a good thing, as trying to sell such a busy house would have been a nightmare.

Yes, people look at a house with an elaborate garden and think of one word:  weeding.

And they're right.  Beautiful gardens are a ton of hard work - cutting down and pulling weeds, pruning hedges and shrubs, mulching and planting and watering and fertilizing - the list never ends.

The busier you make your house, the more time you commit yourself to maintaining busyness.  And you may decide, down the road, that you'd rather do other things with your time.

I am confronted with this at our new house.  The yard is starting to look OK - not a sea of sand and dead grass anymore.  And I cut down a lot of vines and pruned the hedges and shrubs.

The temptation is to "add more" - a new shrub or hedge, or some other "yard feature."  But each additional thing costs money and adds to your labor pile.   Cutting back vines and pruning shubs is hard, sweaty work.  And just because I am "done" with it doesn't mean I won't have to repeat the project next year.   Adding more "stuff" to the pile is adding more labor to the list.

Yes, I know, some folks have very "boring" houses, with few plantings and few trees.  But I can appreciate why they do this, particularly as they get older.  We have at least a dozen mature trees (which means leaves, pine needles, pine cones, and pruning) and dozens of shrubs.

I think that is more than enough.

And when the temptation comes to say, "gee, let's add a....."

I just say "No."

Fredrick Law Olmsted never used cement donkeys!