This is the final (!) installation of The Renovation Diaries, a week-by-week chronicle of Western Living‘s editor-at-large as she tackles a fixer-upper. View all Reno Diary entries here.

The day has finally come: I’m writing this from my home office in my apartment where I live.

Can. You. Even. Handle. It.

We moved in on a very sweaty August 1, which I suppose marks the official end date of this saga… but is the renovation “done”? I will answer this question with a question of my own: can a renovation ever be done?

There’s still painter’s tape in the front hallway to remind us we need to paint the front hall. There’s also painter’s tape on the wall where we need to mount the TV. And in the bathroom, where the mirror will go when it eventually shows up. We’ve been revving up the trusty drill every day since we moved in: mounting blinds or towel rods, hanging a last light fixture, holding it inches from the wall to install the TV then chickening out and telling ourselves we’ll do it the next weekend and just watching Ted Lasso instead.

But I guess these are all decorative details. This, technically speaking, is a functional home. There are places to hang our clothes and wash our dishes, although the combined novelty of living back in the Big City and having restaurants open again means we’re eating out consistently. Have I spent more on painter’s tape or Purebread this week? Only god (and Visa) knows. And only they can judge me.

Friends and family are loving the new space, and the fact they don’t have to listen to me complain about Surrey anymore. Rave reviews include “I thought it was going to look like a clown house when you described it to me but it’s actually really nice!” Once our last pieces of furniture come in and we summon the courage to finally attach the TV to the wall (presumably once this season of Ted Lasso is over), we’ll share the final “after” shots in an upcoming issue of Western Living. I guess that would be my other hot renovation tip: work for a design magazine for 10 years and cash in a decade of goodwill for a magazine photoshoot that will force you to finish up all those lingering details.

In the meantime, it’s so nice to have our own space again, and to experience on the daily all the beautiful details that inspired us to start this stupid project in the first place. I do love my backsplash, and my faucet, and the dimmable bathroom light is actually very classy.

What I am less excited about is the ghost who clearly is haunting us.

Listen, I’m not a believer in ghosts or basically anything that could be the topic of a self-published book sold at the crystal store. But all scientific signs point to the idea that the previous owner of the apartment is haunting us. For instance, the day before we moved in, our upstairs neighbour had a leak (or did she????) and our brand new ceiling is covered in water stains.

Three days later, Max’s lava lamp exploded, leaving glass and gruesome red wax splattered floor to ceiling, The Shining-style. (We were trying out a fun early-2000s kitsch vibe in the office, get off our backs!) This week, we discovered our freshly tiled fireplace has been quietly cracking with dozens of mysterious hairline fractures. I’m too annoyed to step back and see if the cracks form any sort of pattern but I assume they’re forming letters that spell out HOW DARE YOU SCRUB MY NICOTINE STAINS OF THE WALL I WORKED REALLY HARD ON THOSE YOU GUYS.

If you are preparing for a renovation of a cheap and smoke-damaged apartment that you got from an estate, my number one piece of advice would be to build some money into the budget for ghost-related repairs and cleaning. At night I sometimes think I can still smell the lingering cigarette smoke. Max is like “I don’t smell anything, you’re imagining things!” but then he’s also like “where do you think we can get a smudge stick around here,” so obviously this renovation has taken its toll on both of our grips on reality. (Which in a way is… kind of sweet?)

You think Former Owner, Current Ghost would be happy we spruced the place up but I guess calling her home “Stinkhaus” in a public forum and spending hundreds upon hundreds of words just smearing her disgusting life choices was maybe a little triggering?

Anyways, enough about our ghost! I’ll update you later about the shrine of cigarettes and cat hair we’re planning on building to appease her. The point is: we survived this renovation and never have to do this again. In fact, we’re going to live here until we’re ghosts haunting the next owners.

In the meantime, while I am alive and well and living in a space that is already stunningly filthy, allow me to share my learnings from 20-whatever very long weeks of DIY renovation:

1. If you can, be rich. If I had to do it all again, I think I’d rather have done it as a rich person. I know it sounds crazy, but I just think it would’ve been easier to have a lot of money so you can pay people to do things quickly and without your involvement, or better yet, just buying an apartment that’s already the way you want it to be so you can just move in and never have to think about baseboards ever. Next time!

2. Memorize the AA Serenity Prayer because you will need it every goddamn day. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” (If you’re not a religious person, I recommend praying to your nearest renovation ghost!)

3. Practice asking experts “is this a good idea?” before you spend thousands of dollars on material because you think it’s “jazzy.” Do I love our jazzy, currently-mirror-less bathroom? Yes. But how much time and how many headaches would we have saved if our tiler had a chance to weigh in on our tile selection ahead of time? Better still: maybe we should’ve skipped the tile and plumbing hassles and expenses, boarded up the door altogether and settled for just using the McDonald’s bathroom across the street for the rest of our lives.

4. Listen to your parents when they tell you a matte black countertop will be impossible to keep clean. We made a mistake and I see that now.

Thanks for following along with the Renovation Diaries! To read this horror story from the beginning, click here

The final product: Stacey’s renovation featured in Western Living