Hello from Sweatpants City! Population me and, I guess, now you too! Here we have our hair in top knots, paint covered clothes, frustration and exhilaration carved into our faces (interesting to look at to be sure) and lessons learned coming in hot! Welcome to this rendition of Fixing up, Dressing Down and Fessing Up: Confessions of an Airbnb beginner.

Like most families, we have a favorite vacation spot. One we return to whenever the opportunity arises. One that tops our “what if” list as far as potential retirement spots, purchasing a time share, or just up and moving there; ours is Cloudcroft, New Mexico.

My husband and I made a break for the city in the clouds for a getaway from our roommates (they’re demanding, fight prone and stressing me out, also I made them so I say this with overwhelming love for them). Bottom line: we were stressed and needed to get.

We had been saving and loosely held onto a some day dream coming to fruition of opening an Airbnb. We toyed around with looking at houses and I would dream out loud of things I would love. Little did I know, this trip would be different. We found a cute, charming and cozy house in our budget and feverishly went to work to make the deal happen before our trip was over. We came back home and 6 weeks later, we had the keys in hand. This built in 1980 beauty was close to town, had beautiful and original accents and filled my DIY heart with sheer joy. It hadn’t seen an update ever! So, with new excitement, curiosity and a lot of “can do attitude”, we loved our way through and learned a bunch along the way.

RELATED READING : How to Get Over Your Fear of DIY’ing

Getting into it, we contacted a contractor and tried to filter out what we thought we could handle and what we wanted to leave to a trusted professional.

Lesson ONE: YOU CAN DO IT AND YOU SHOULD TRY.

This particular lesson was hard fought for us. I had some DIY experience but relegated to trusting myself to paint, patch holes and some other small tasks. Our contractor had a different idea of pace than we did so, with some borrowed tools, I set out to try and make up for the time line difference. On this note, I should point out that being on the same time schedule with your contractor is important. I dare say the most important thing. I don’t recommend going rogue to try and compensate. I recommend opening up the lines of communication and figuring out if the contractor is still a good fit or if a completion date compromise can be settled on.

But, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So, like most things I do in life; onward and with zeal!!! I took up tile, carpet, wood paneling and baseboards. Although it was extremely hard work, it was satisfying. With each row of tile removed or carpet chunked outside the front door, I felt closer to the vision I had. In the end, I was glad I tried and learned all these things. It’s a great life skill to have and I found that my confidence grew as we went on. It also gave me confidence in myself to be more firm with the people we work beside.

Lesson TWO: IT WILL NOT GO AS PLANNED AND YOU SHOULD ACCEPT THIS.

Our 40 year old beauty Queen had some not so fun surprises up her sleeve (why couldn’t I just have all the fun stuff?). Electrical issues, uneven sheet rock, uneven floors, wallpaper, frozen pipes and a slew of other things almost had us throw in the towel more than once. I, like many others dealing with renovations, was fit to be tied! We were so frustrated with everything and everyone. This house that built us challenged us in a way our 12 year marriage hadn’t seen. But, also allowed for us to step back and admire one another’s strengths and process. In the end, all the stuff that went wrong helped us to work on some stuff we hadn’t had an opportunity to before. So, a swerve off the path led to us accepting that while we were not in control of what happened next with regards to house surprises, we were in control of how we reacted to them and each other.

Lesson THREE: WHERE TO START?

I have a background in hospitality and knew what I liked from other Airbnb’s I had stayed at. I also knew the vision of the type of vacation that could be expected here. That equates to a confident pro, correct? Am I saying that right?  So much no. But, I boisterously started the social media page https://www.instagram.com/hellosweetsarah/ anyways. For our social media, I wanted some mixed and authentic feeling textures. I like to think our page brings life to the house. No, it’s not like other Airbnb pages and I honestly don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. But, what I do know is that our page is strewn with love and support for the community that surrounds us. I think sharing your experiences with others may put you ahead of the pack in regards to people easily remembering your stories. But, I’ve also heard that you want to keep the listing as “clean” as possible so others can imagine being in the house. For this lesson, I’m going with trusting your gut when you’re just starting something. What works for you may not work for someone else.

Lesson FOUR: NO BUNK BEDS

Look, I hate advice as much as the next person. I had someone tell me this with no uncertain terms. It made me stop for a couple of days as bunk beds were requested by my kids but a seasoned veteran had reached out. In the end, I decided she wasn’t the boss of me and got 2 sets of bunk beds. I can’t even believe I was in a spot where I almost went the same way others had gone just because someone told me to. At this point, exhaustion and stress had taken over. Do what you want: your vision, your business, your rules.

Lesson FIVE: DO YOUR BEST.

Oh boy, let me tell you. If you think a host has a good idea when she opens up her house to others that will then be asked to judge her effort when it’s done, she does not. I did not. We got our first booking fairly quickly and we were ecstatic. Until we weren’t. I’m a hopelessly optimistic but anxious person. So, it took everything for me not to reach out and check in a zillion times. Just to make sure it was ok. But, I had no idea what to expect and was waiting with bated breath. Learning not to  “live for their praise, die by their rejection” has been a hard but poignant lesson.

As hosts, we put ourselves out there (like a lot) and it’s hard not to worry over what others might say or think. Lesson here is to remember that if we did our best than that is enough. And, if you get going and need to adjust some things then do it. Everyone is learning.

Bottom line is I’m so glad that we spent our last 6 months doing this. I’ve learned a lot while also stretching beyond my comfort zone. We started off on an adventure to see what we could do and we did it! And, something about that feeling being mixed with mountain air makes the journey that much more rewarding.

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