I was lucky. The first week after settling in to my new environment and life, my mother’s friend inherited a house and needed help. They asked if I was looking for a job, I said yes, and it was down the street from my grandmother’s house.

This was the start of taking on new skills and thinking on my feet quickly. The house was old, a lot of work had to be done, and everything was being updated. Inside, outside, the whole works. My mother’s friend hired all of the tradesmen and I was a helper to all of them. The plumber, the carpenter, the electrician.

There are many stages to any restoration or renovation project. The initial planning and idea stage. Mapping out what you want, figuring out the budget and time-line. What will fit and make sense in the space. Demolition day is not about swinging sledgehammers. It’s being careful with what you take down, minimizing dust and biting off more than you can chew.

I don’t even remember which room I started with. I think the floors and ripping out all of the carpet. The wood underneath was good. We did everything. Hang new doors, windows, a new kitchen and bathroom. A natural stone facade outside near the front door. Climbing onto the roof is inevitable. There was a persistent leak that we could not ignore.

My favorite was carpentry. I do enjoy building stuff, working with wood, stepping back, and seeing everything come alive. Plumbing is my least favorite, it can take a long time to troubleshoot and diagnose a problem and need a strong stomach to deal with any mess you may make.

Another joy is painting . Slowing down, the methodical approach, crisp lines, a fresh coat always looks good and cleans up the place. Painting forces you to move junk around and it is a neat trick to update a space without much time and effort. If you are careful, a sloppy job is the worst.

There were many trips to the store at that house, always needed the right type of screw, a few pieces of wood or made a mistake, go get more materials. My boss was from Greece and had an old truck. There were times it would be me driving to get supplies, coffee or anything the boss wanted, to keep things moving and make progress on the latest project.

All of these teachings and things I learned I eventually applied to my grandmother’s house. All homes need maintenance, eventually appliances go out, odd jobs come up. You can hire out every big and little thing if you want. I much prefer doing everything myself. There is a great satisfaction doing it yourself that cannot be bought. Big jobs like a new roof is a different story. Everything else can be done with 1 or 2 people with the right plan and a positive attitude.