Thursday, October 10, 2013

Our New Life at Irvington House

Well, I've had this on my To Do list for over a month. But I've been pretty busy since mid-August, which is when I started working essentially full time. If you follow me on Facebook, then you know that, thanks to a Craigslist post that was shared by Modern Day Nomads, I applied for a job as the caretaker of a vacation rental in NE Portland. It took three in-person interviews to convince the owner that I was the right person for the job. If you know me, then you know that 110% is my minimum operating level and how could anyone else come close to being the perfect fit for this job?! ;)
Where else can you stay where a TV cop is your host???

Our lives changed drastically almost overnight. I found out I got the job on August 9th and started working at Irvington House on August 18th. We moved into our onsite apartment on August 31st, but slept here on an air mattress some nights prior to that depending on my work schedule.
camping on a borrowed air mattress
One minor issue - The apartment we've rented since we moved here in January 2012 was completely furnished, including all kitchen items, linens, etc. Our new, almost 1,000 sq ft apartment, came completely unfurnished! We didn't want to spend a lot of money unnecessarily so I immediately started scouring Craigslist for as much used stuff as possible. As it turned out, there were a lot of moving sales in Portland in late August and we were able to buy about 70% of our furnishings secondhand. The other 30% was too specialized (needed a specific size, color, etc.) so we used most of our remaining wedding gift credit to purchase those items new from Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Fred Meyer, IKEA, and just a couple of things from Walmart. We managed to get everything we could possibly need for under $2,000.
still a work in progress; 50% of what you see in this photo is secondhand
We also had some very welcome last-minute visitors during this crazy time: Mom, Ronnie & Grandmother Smartt flew out from Nashville on August 21st to bring some of our stuff. Greg had new dishes & flatware that his mom gave him many years ago that had never been taken out of the box; I had leftover items from my life in NYC; plus they brought some useful household items they didn't need. In spite of everything going on, we were still able to enjoy some local sightseeing and even grilled out for the first time at our new place.
Grandmother, Mom & Ronnie at Multnomah Falls
Now that you know how we got here, you may be wondering what, exactly, my job is. As the caretaker at Irvington House, a fully licensed bed & breakfast which is operated as a vacation rental, I am responsible for all of the general upkeep of the property as well as taking care of the guests who stay in the other two apartments, which are listed on VRBO, airbnb, HomeAway, etc.). Every time someone checks out, I have to clean that apartment. The 1,350 sq ft upstairs unit sleeps seven; the 550 sq ft garden unit beneath us sleeps four. So essentially, a lot of my work is as a maid, along with a fair amount of maintenance work on this built-in-1908 home. The owner, who lives in Arizona, handles all of the bookings (which I have access to via a shared calendar) and finances. I have a company-issued AMEX card for purchasing supplies and the use of the owner's 2003 Nissan Xterra for running household errands. I get paid a set amount each time I clean the rental units and an hourly wage for anything else I do related to helping guests, working on the house, running errands, etc.
the front entry foyer
This transition period has been really busy. While I wasn't at all stressed about the move (everything we owned fit into a cargo van), I knew it would take awhile to figure out the most efficient way of cleaning the rental units and generally managing the responsibilities of the property overall. I also had to deal with some immediate issues: the 100-year-old front entry door lock quit working properly (and kept locking people out); a guest knocked a big hole in the wall upstairs; we kept finding ants in our apartment and the one downstairs; multiple light fixtures quit working; guests were slipping on the stairs (hardwood floors); and on & on. Our dining room table was my work bench for several weeks! Thankfully, Greg has been willing to pitch in and help with the cleaning, particularly the bathrooms, which are the hardest on my achy knees.
repainting the patched wall in the upstairs rental unit
We are pretty much settled into our new home and routine now, although my cleaning schedule varies every week and I often have to work on the weekend. We love our historic neighborhood which is filled with beautifully restored homes (but it doesn't have nearly as many hipsters and good people-watching as Hawthorne Blvd!). Our apartment is fabulous - big rooms, lots of light, a dishwasher (Greg's favorite amenity) and a large back patio & outdoor grill to enjoy on sunny days. There is space to store our bikes in the detached garage and Greg's commute to work only increased by one mile each way. Although we miss our adopted kitty Rose and wonder how she's doing, there are multiple friendly neighborhood cats who wander through our yard here every day, along with tons of squirrels.
a new friend and regular visitor
The rental units have been booked solid all summer and continue to be through the end of this month. Things start to taper off in November and especially in the winter months but I know the owner is lowering the nightly rates to encourage more bookings (and thus more work/income for me). We are ready to welcome visitors once again, although you'll still be sleeping on an Aerobed as before. But now you also have the option to book one of the rental units, and, if it's not peak season, I can most likely get you a discounted rate. :) Hope to see you soon!