Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Sweep" Investing for the Dometic Goddess

I swept the kitchen floor today from one end to the other and dreamed about investing. Really, it all started with the crumbly feet-leavings that collected on my floor in one day. I don’t like to sweep, so I avoid it whenever possible but today I just wanted the floor not to crunch under foot. Always curious, I swept and contemplated the boards beneath the bristles. What buy-in would it take for me to see sweeping (or really any other odorous household chore) as something valuable in the grand scheme of things?

It was better than making an appointment with a financial advisor for helping me get a little perspective on my ideas of investing. Everyone I know thinks about getting the most fun and use out of their hard earned green bucks and I'm certainly right in there among them. I keep looking at interest rates, property values, 401k, discount stores, thrift stores and coupons and wondering if I’m doing enough. What can I do as a DG and a mom about taking the value and money and nurturing them into growing? Well… that depends on who you ask and who you believe about your own powers over your own corner of the Universe.

I’m managing my investment in the flooring by sweeping. One of my girlfriends is in property management and I get to listen to the detailed crimes of her tenants as they do incredibly silly things frequently doing damage to the property she is using to make her living. If I were renting this space strictly as an investment property I would have pretty stringent rules about what my tenants would be required to do for maintenance.

My family pays for the space in and around our home and it should be considered a valuable investment which we monitor constantly as opposed to looking up just before we want to move and saying, "oops, that's going to cost us." I have the power to extend the life of my floors, or as the flooring industry says, "use expectancy." "Use expectancy" is simply a fancy term used by the flooring industry to give a sense of how long their product might be with my family. I rarely listen to the flooring salesman's spiel and consider simply that such terms translate in my Universe as fewer calls to have my carpet stretched or cleaned, my hardwoods refinished, or my linoleum replaced. Proper floor care - yes this includes reading and following proper care instructions! - can earn you maybe as much as 20% more on your flooring's useful life. That's an extra 3-5 years for carpeting and hardwood.

New floors for my kitchen would require an outlay of $2200. If the builder spent that much on flooring when he built it (which I doubt), then I've gotten about 20 years out of the floors. My calculator tells me that the cost spread over the years turns out to be $110 or so a month for my kitchen floors. Shorten that to 12 years with poor upkeep and the cost per month goes to $183. The yearly difference might seem small at a measly $73, but imagine getting floors that are a grade or two nicer (or just exactly what you wanted instead of not quite) with that money because you know that you won't need to replace floors until your children want to move back in. Alternatively just imagine setting aside $73 for a small improvement that makes your home easier to live in -- like cabinet pulls or a new screen door. (By the way, over my lifetime that is an average of 3 floor replacements!)

It's not just that I am spending money but I am spending the most valuable resource in my Universe -- me. Every time I must manage a project on this scale there is research into materials, labor, sources, ecological and ethical impact, and even the timing of not having the use of my kitchen. It is an inconvenience that will waste 3-4 days at minimum while the floor is cleared, laid, and then I reinstall myself and my utensils in the kitchen with a few days after for cleaning the dust and grime from every corner.

My Universe revolves around me (or at least that's what I believe and I don't listen when people try to tell me otherwise, they're unimportant in my Universe, so who cares?!). I influence everything I touch with my attitude and my action, or even in some cases my choice not to act. Today's act of power was sweeping a floor I've used and walked for 8 years. I have pictures of our kitchen from various remodeling projects and family gatherings that show a slow age begin to creep onto the rose veined hardwoods under foot. Just inside the back door and under the breakfast countertop I can see that the dirt hangs in the scratches a bit more and the luster is just plain gone. Most of the floor is just fine, but I can see where I haven't been monitoring my housekeeping and each time I sweep or mop I notice yet another scratch. These minute crevices arrive in my flooring largely because over the course of our lives here I have avoided sweeping until I absolutely couldn’t stand it or someone was coming over to visit. Each time I let the fine particles accumulate I provided a fine sanding tool underfoot. Imagine strapping sanding blocks to your family's feet and telling them to cook breakfast. Are you cringing yet?

Are they there for wearing? Yes. Are they supposed to be tough and keep up with my family? Yes. Do my floors meet these criteria? Yes. If my floors weren’t particularly sturdy I’d be researching new flooring instead of considering the investment potential! Truthfully, I have looked at new floors and that process inspires this kind of contemplation in anyone. Several thousand dollars worth of new carpeting or hardwood / bamboo floors created a new appreciation for my “original flooring” and the “well-loved” patterns that make my home so comfortable. At least, that’s how I saw it just after the sticker shock of the new ecologically friendly bamboo flooring wears off.

So – I sweep. I sweep with more gusto now and perhaps a little more thoroughly than in prior years. Certainly I sweep more often. I have the idea that I’m lovingly and gently brushing away the pieces of hard scratchy stuff that is silently, slowly wearing away at the home I maintain.


Tony Vila said...

Minor issue with your math, m'dear - 20 years is 240 months, so $2200/240 is less than ten bucks per month. The principle is the same, though - just a matter of scale.

Scarlett, the DG said...

Oops! Guess that's what I get for publishing in the early morning hours. Thanks for the correction.