A word of warning to any potential trespassers can be seen outside our new home in Kasilof, Alaska, on Nov. 5, 2020. The sign came with the house, but we’re probably going to keep it. (Photo courtesy Lizzie Byrne)

A word of warning to any potential trespassers can be seen outside our new home in Kasilof, Alaska, on Nov. 5, 2020. The sign came with the house, but we’re probably going to keep it. (Photo courtesy Lizzie Byrne)

Out of the Office: Two weeks

I’ve been thinking a lot about the 1986 film “The Money Pit” lately.

If you’re around my age, I’ve probably lost you already. But if you’re around my age, I’d be surprised if you’re reading this at all.

For those who haven’t seen it, it’s about a couple that buys a luxurious home at a surprisingly good deal, only to slowly discover that it is a bit more of a fixer-upper than they originally realized. It’s a familiar experience for many first-time home buyers.

My girlfriend and I now find ourselves in a very similar position to Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, fixing up a project home that seems to swallow up any attempts at renovation and home improvement – and laugh at us while it does so. We’ve even been quoting the movie directly without realizing it.

“It’s an old house! It’s gonna need some work, you’ve gotta expect that.”

“I didn’t expect that water. It had legs!”

Lucky for us, the stairs haven’t collapsed on us – yet.

The house was bought as-is, and fully furnished. And by “fully furnished,” I mean that the previous owner seems to have just disappeared without taking any of his belongings. It’s nice to inherit a garage full of tools and a kitchen full of utensils, but going through the other treasures we inherited has led to me asking some questions I never thought I would ask:

Why would someone put a gun safe next to their bed?

Why did a bullet just fall out of the dryer?

Who needs 12 bottles of chocolate syrup?

The project this week has been the master bedroom and the bathroom.

The previous homeowner was a heavy smoker who appears to have never left his bedroom, as evidenced by the yellowed, nicotine-tinged walls and ceiling, as well as the three fire extinguishers that could be found by the bed (all but one expired).

We removed the disgusting, stained, king-sized Tempur-Pedic mattress, the gun safe and the fire extinguishers. We’ve got a priest coming next week to perform an exorcism on the mattress, because I would feel bad about sending such a cursed item to the Central Peninsula Landfill without a proper purging.

Lizzie took on the unenviable task of washing and painting the walls, which are now a clean, bright blue instead of yellow.

I took on the much easier task of removing the various smells in each room and throwing away anything that didn’t “spark joy,” as Marie Kondo would say. I think the old-house odors have effectively been replaced with cinnamon and French vanilla.

Lizzie and a friend – who agreed to provide unpaid labor in exchange for free use of the house during fishing season – gutted the bathroom while I was covering elections and viruses for the newspaper. From what I was told, removing the bathtub was a Herculean effort that almost required a blowtorch and/or heavy machinery.

After the bathtub ordeal, Lizzie decided it would be best to pay someone to finish the bathroom. I agreed.

We’re only two weeks into our very own Money Pit, but I think we’re in a slightly better position than Hanks and Long were. The main living area already feels like a home, and there’s no army of contractors to be found. The only visitors we’ve gotten so far are the moose who frequent our yard in the mornings.

We also haven’t argued over potentially splitting the house in half, but if we do, I’ll be lobbying for the side with the pool table.

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