Sherwin Avenue, a two bed one bath condo, is officially in the books. Its story is different from Lunt Avenue’s (property no. 1), the empty canvas of a place in which we lived for a year, taking that long to paint, rewire the electrical and install a kitchen. Nor was it like Farwell Avenue (no. 2), the spacious exposed-brick beauty that required barely lifting a finger before it was move-in ready.

Sherwin Ave was the ugly duckling with good bones, the one that needed a lot of cosmetic work in a very short amount of time.

On a Friday at three in the morning, Kirk, his parents and I left Michigan in a car packed full of tools, food and sleeping bags. At ten o’clock Kirk signed on the dotted line at a title office in Chicago. At noon we unlocked the front door.

The place was a mess. It needed a serious deep cleaning before we could even paint. A million little things needed fixing or replacing, including door locks, light switches, outlet covers and bathroom fixtures.

The tasks on our To Do list carried different levels of importance. Many were style and taste changes, things we liked that someone else may or may not prefer. As the list contained much more than we’d ever finish in four days, we needed to constantly remind ourselves that we weren’t moving in, and focus rather on what our tenant would deem important. “It’s a rental!” became our mantra.

“We should replace the bathroom light. It could use an update,” said Kirk.
“Sure, that would be nice,” I said.
“It does still work though.”
“And it’s going to cost a lot anyway to buy another light/exhaust fan combo unit…”
“Do we really need…?”
“Nope.”
“You’re right.”
“It’s a rental,” we said together.

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Some tasks proved trickier than others, like fixing the microwave panel or rebalancing the noisy ceiling fans. Some situations left us scratching our heads, like discovering our unit didn’t have a gas meter. Others, still, required eschewing embarrassment and relying on the kindness of fellow humans.

Saturday afternoon, a lightning storm took out our power. We needed to figure out how to fill the air mattress to keep Kirk’s parents from sleeping on the hardwood floor. Blowing it up the old fashioned way would’ve resulted in four light-headed adults dropping like flies onto said floor. What to do…

We went out to dinner. We brought the mattress and pump to the restaurant. The storm still hadn’t abated. As the lightning illuminated the windows and the thunder rattled the panes, we politely asked the server if there might be an outlet we could use to fill our air mattress. ‘Maybe a little further away from the other patrons because it’s really loud and obnoxious,’ we said, smiling sheepishly. She looked at us, slightly puzzled, but with every intention to help if she could. The manager came over to our table. He told us his first thought was we wanted to sleep at the restaurant.

No, no, we laughed. We have a dark, half painted mess of an unfinished condo we are going to sleep in. Just not directly on the floor, if you can help it.

No problem! he said.

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[View from the condo’s back porch.]

– – –

Tuesday. After working four 18-hour days with us, Kirk’s parents headed back to Michigan. His dad needed to return to work the next day. (He was on vacation. Yes. Toiling away with us to fix up this property. Saints, both him and Kirk’s mom.)

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Kirk and I scrambled to finish painting, cleaning, and putting the place back together. On Wednesday at 1 o’clock the washer and dryer were installed, at 2 pm a cleaning crew infused new sparkle into the floors and furnished the last bit of elbow grease Kirk and I couldn’t conceive of mustering. At 3 pm I shot photos. At 5 pm our tenant arrived.

She had seen the place two days prior, when the kitchen was still draped with plastic, when the floors were covered in paint cans, brushes, tools… and there was crap everywhere. When envisioning living there required a really good imagination.

She walked into the kitchen, surveying the space. “It looks fantastic.”

We smiled. We kind of thought so, too.

She signed the lease. We handed her the keys.

Property no. 3, in the books. ☼

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[Kirk and downpayment #3, the day before closing.]