I hate my tiny, little white bathroom tiles and forever dirty grout because it’s an impossible task to keep the grout clean. I’ve been down scrubbing with a toothbrush, swiffer jet and vacuum, hired a cleaner, got grout bleach, used a grout pen. Nothing works. I have always been ashamed that the floor makes me seem like a dirty person when I’m really not. Cluttered, yes. Dirty, not so much.

I moved in here about 10 and a half years ago. It’s an older townhouse but I liked the character of it. The arched entryway to the kitchen, the wooden ceiling beams, the brick wall, the large bedrooms and vast closet space. But the big projects I planned when I got here were to demo the upstairs bathroom, replace all the carpeting, replace the fridge and dishwasher. A decade later and these things have not happened.

Since the pandemic and working from home these past 3 months, I have been able to chip away at daily projects which make me feel a lot better and in control. When I worked in the office and was commuting to the Cape every weekend, I didn’t have it in me to clean the closets, the pantry or organize the basement. Even simple paint touch ups were beyond my emotional and physical capacity. I had a hard time keeping up with housework and often felt I overwhelmed by all the “lists” I needed to get through.

I have also wanted to move for several years but couldn’t get motivated because of all these looming tasks and because I still hadn’t renovated the bathroom or replaced the carpets. Now that I have done so much of that work, I am serious and aggressive about moving. I am even half packed so that when the time comes to move, I only need to pack the closets and cabinets. I definitely have a renewed sense of energy about moving.

That said, I have been shaming myself about that dreadful bathroom tile and the pee stains in my carpet from a dog who takes steroids which causes him to have to pee a lot. I had a leaky kitchen sink faucet, a broken toilet handle and a 30 year old water heater. All my other neighbors who have placed homes on the market have all upgraded and modernized. While I know I have made a profit since buying the house, I’m still at a $80,000-$50,000 value deficit from the other units in my neighborhood. I can get enough to buy something but I certainly could have a lot more to buy something turnkey and that I would love immediately had I been able to make similar upgrades.

I had no idea how prepping to sell a home could be like being single and dating. I like my place well enough but anyone who comes in to view it is going to ask, what’s that ceiling stain, why is the kitchen nozzle a slightly different color from the sink, why are the bathroom tiles so gross, when is the hot water heater going to blow out, what’s that smell in the living room? All things which can be explained or fixed but when you are dating, you don’t want a fixer upper. It’s like being never married with no kids at age 45 and every dating prospect asks ” what’s wrong with you, why are you still single?” I mean, I’m good with it but for someone looking to invest, just seems like a lot of red flags and extra little projects to get through before wanting to be seen with me in public.

A few weeks ago, I was telling my therapist about my insecurities about my house and how disappointed I am that I never could afford these upgrades. He said he wished my company would pay me enough and what I deserved. I realized I never told him just how well they actually do pay me. He thinks I’m underpaid. Quite the contrary. The problem is I am a single person household so all the expenses are covered by me at %100. That means there is very little leftover for anything else, especially the ability to build a solid savings account. If I had a spouse and 2 incomes, I could pass for upper middle class and live in a town and neighborhood similar to where I grew up. I’d have been able to figure out how to replace a bathroom and carpet in a ten year period, probably even twice if I so desired.

My realtor is a super nice guy and friend of the family whom I trust. He did some research on the neighborhood and property and gave me a healthy estimate in what I could expect in sales which lined up well with my expectations. I had already resigned myself to the fact I wasn’t going to get another $50,000 on top. I get the place is outdated. But when he got here and looked around, he told me I had to pack up every personal item I have, consider replacing the water heater and the carpets. I might be able to do one but not both. He said he thinks he could still get me to that original estimate he gave but at that moment said he’d be lucky to sell it for $30,000 less.

He apologized for being honest but I wasn’t hurt at all. I actually take feedback quite well because I already had a good sense of the problems here. I was very open to hearing the truth so I could make adjustments and figure out what I needed to zero in on. Not a problem. Next day, I got to work and started packing. He had warned me he was going to be really busy with a family issue for a week or two. Even still, when I wasn’t hearing from him and he was failing to follow up with the MLS website so I could house hunt, I was feeling kind of like a rejected girlfriend. He was judging my value based on that of my sister whom he has known for 20 years. Then he met me and was disappointed because I definitely fall short of her. That’s how I interpreted it.

She has a small house her family has outgrown. I probably have 3 times the square footage she has. But she lives in a highly desirable town with a home 3 times the value of mine. She and my sister in law don’t make gobs of money but they do have 2 incomes. They have been able to renovate their kitchen beautifully and pay to have 2 kids. If they were to put that place on the market, no one would quibble over an outdated bathroom. They’d just be psyched to get into that location. So yes, as a real estate prospect, I’m trying to sell a Trump town with people who don’t wear masks or social distance on top of the ugliest bathroom tiles on earth.

I decided to follow up with him to check on the status of things and got no response for 2 days. When you are dating, that’s very bad. You usually don’t need to be the one to follow up and even if you must, you should get an immediate response. To have heard nothing in 2 days when your whole livelihood depends on getting things moving feels like you are being ghosted. I even did that “ask a friend” thing where I told my sister I hadn’t heard from him so should I follow up again or wait it out. She told me to follow up so I did. Turns out he had just been busy with that family thing and told me the wrong week. I’m such a dork.

I’m not normally insecure. I don’t even care anymore about having a relationship. Part of this move is my acceptance of that because I plan to move to a location where single, decent men are even more scarce than they are now. I’ve kind of tried to keep myself in the area and kept my house hunting within a 20 minute radius of Boston to keep the husband potential open. Since the pandemic and realizing I am a thousand times happier than my friends at the moment, why not just skip the husband years and go straight to the retirement location while able to work full time with most of it from home and eliminate the commute? So that’s the plan.

But it really has stirred up all these feelings of low self worth when I have to acknowledge the only things I wanted to do to improve my home have never been done. I even had a new bathroom vanity selected before I signed the papers on the house but still never got there. I feel like an absolute failure for never being able to afford such basic things. It’s really had me feeling a sense of shame and embarrassment. I almost want to stand here during a showing and explain myself while apologizing for all the quirks new owners have to decide if they want to take on or just buy the unit 3 doors down for a little more money and have no projects at all. I want to challenge them and ask them how well they would have been able to do on a single income. At least I’m still paying the mortgage and the bills. The couple who sold to me were even failing at that and had to move in with the wife’s mother and have since divorced. I should be viewing myself as a smashing success. But when you are dating, no guy is comparing your mild success to the failures of an even sadder prospect. He’s comparing you against what he thinks he deserves and how he should be able to do better.

Today, I actually had a professional cleaner come in and clean the bathroom tiles. It’s a bigger improvement than I hoped for. The plumber came in and fixed all the leaky, broken things today and told me the water heater I have is better than any new one I could install and even a new one could conk out before this one might. He wasn’t sure it was worth the money considering it would actually be a performance downgrade. He also told me this place will sell fast because it’s a super desirable location. I started to feel really optimistic about selling.

But there is another battle. Buying a new home in a very competitive market. Places are selling after being on the market less than a day. That means people have the means to come in at or above offer with no contingency on selling the place they have. If we are all competing for the best looking guy, I’m coming in with a contingency and would be lucky to offer full price. I know I will be expected to negotiate on the sale of my place but I don’t get to do that to my seller in return. Again, what do I have to offer against my competition? I come with a contingency and who wants a girl with baggage when 20 others are lined up baggage free, raining out dollar bills like a bad strip joint. It’s like I’m the “fat stripper.”

Growing up with depression, I had very little expectation for my future. I didn’t really have a future planned. I dropped out of college and was aimless. I thought I would get married but after the boyfriend I loved and lost in my early 20s, I realized that just wasn’t going to come easy for me. I was overweight, depressed, Unmedicated and occasionally “crazy” when pushed to the edge or gaslit. I didn’t have high career aspirations. I just expected to have a job to the pay the bills and to be happy with that because when you suffer from major recurrent depression, that’s about as big of an accomplishment as you can carry. When I got promoted to management I remember telling my parents to be happy with that and not to expect much more from me – that I had reached my pinnacle because depressed people just don’t have the energy for much else. Even when I became a manager, I spent my entire weekends in bed sleeping to recover from the over exertion of the work week.

I don’t recall the exact moment I started to change but somewhere around 35ish my depression became more manageable, better medicated. It was the first time in my life I started to dream up goals and a plan for the future. I guess I had started to think I might be around for a little longer than I believed growing up. Maybe I surpassed an age I didn’t really believe I was going to see. Suddenly it became really important for me to finish my degree, lose weight and stave off major medical problems which come from obesity. I started traveling. I started to care about career advancement. And, even though I survived the Boston Marathon bombing which added anxiety, Binge drinking, PTSD and now suicidal depression bottoms, I still had the stamina and hope to pull through and continue having a future.

Unfortunately, at 45, I am finding myself having the yens and desires of a 30 year old when it comes to career and home. Yet I am 15 years delayed and now competing with the types of people I should have been when it counted. To others, it can absolutely look like I am a failure in both career and home because both are stalled. The career is extra stalled because of my age and the home situation is extra stalled because of my single income. Or, you could look at the adversity of my life and fact I didn’t expect to be alive at this point and cheer me on the sidelines for at least getting started on living and planning a decent future. If you’re the kind of guy looking for a strong woman who can survive more than a bad manicure and is actually really interesting to talk to and travel with, I’m a hidden gem you would never expect to find in such a humble location. But most men are looking for a more submissive, trophy type who looks just as nice as the $600,000 house with granite countertops, a spa tub, stainless steel appliances, and minimal effort.