Chip and Joanna Gaines’ show makes renovating look easy—but it’s not. I found out the hard way.

By Karla Walsh
August 24, 2017

When I handed over the down payment check for my first home, a beautiful 1935 brick bungalow in Des Moines, Iowa, all I could picture was progress and possibility. I was beaming and riding high on the fact that, at 27, I had saved enough to own something—a big something—on my own.

As soon as I settled in, I imagined everything falling into place. I’d easily add a wine cellar over here, host an epic dinner party over there, and cozy up with a cup of tea to be more creative than ever in my book-filled writing nook.

Sure, I’d encounter roadblocks, just like the ones Chip and Joanna tackle each time they modernize a home on Fixer Upper. As I came to find out during the two years I owned my house, though, the images on TV and in my head were far from real.

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As odd as it sounds, a squirrel on my couch (and many other memorable moments in homeownership) taught me that life doesn’t always follow a script. These are the five universal lessons I learned from my own fixer upper.

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