June 3, 2015

baby steps: setting goals for home improvement.

When I'm faced with a big project, I often start by throwing myself into planning overload. I love to have every detail planned meticulously in advance. When we first bought this house, I approached all our home improvement needs the same way.

I bought a notebook and began to list every single project I deemed necessary to make this house a home. Dreams of renovation danced through my head at night. No room stood untouched by my imagination. Replace window trim in the living room. Remove carpet: install hardwood. New windows! Reframe screen porch. New roof over carport. Tile bathroom.

Eight years later, the only one of those projects that's been done is the carport. In a fit of discouragement one day, I threw out that notebook, along with all my material lists and price estimates and dreams of ever fixing up our house. I gave up on the belief I could ever have a home that made me happy.

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I realize now part of my problem was just that- expecting this dusty old cottage to make me happy. I hung my peace of mind on whether or not our house fit "my style" or if the roof was less than fifteen years old (this year, it's now a ripe old seventeen years old...). I didn't think I could be truly happy in an imperfect house.

Over the last year, I've undergone a soul transformation in the area of how I regard my home. I've begun to thank God for every part of it- rotten doors and windows, screens flapping in the wind, crumbling front steps, tacky wallboard in the bathroom, cracked pedestal sink, wonky floors and all. Once I began to accept it for what it is- a shelter, a depository of memories for my children, a comfortable place to welcome friends and family- years of pent up anxiety started to flow out of me, replaced by peace beyond understanding.

I decided to quit worrying about the big picture and focus on little steps I can take right now. I can't make $20,000 appear in our bank account to cover the roof, windows, and new HVAC unit that might seem like immediate needs to anyone else. But I can grab a can of paint and some sandpaper and give our front porch a little facelift. Sure, it might take me a month to do what someone else could finish in one afternoon- you try painting a front porch when your toddler is trying to dash out into the street! But it will get done. Eventually.

Baby steps. Right?

About a year ago, I called in a real estate professional for advice. I had the itch to move then- maybe I thought I could find happiness elsewhere? The advice we received was less than encouraging. We bought in 2007, before the real estate market crash. While we're not underwater on our mortgage- we have very little equity, and so much would need to be done to repair things around here before closing that it'd be like paying someone to buy our house if we actually sold the property.

So our options are either: move elsewhere and use this home as a rental property, or stay. We chose to stay.

I'm starting a new home improvement plan this summer, but it's tempered by a healthy dose of realism. This house won't be "Pinterest-worthy" anytime soon, but it will be just right for us, just the way it is!

  • We might not be able to remodel our kitchen- but maybe I can hang a new light fixture in the adjacent dining room to replace the outdated model I got on clearance at Lowe's seven years ago? 
  • We can't replace all the windows in the house- but what if we committed to save money this year so we can tackle the ones on either side of the fireplace because they are in the worst shape? 
  • We don't have enough money to fix the roof, but thank God it doesn't leak! Let's get an estimate for a new roof and circle the quote we receive with prayer and trust that our Father will provide when we need it.
  • Rebuilding the screen porch is out of the budget and low on the list of priorities. Maybe if we clean it up really good and actually start to use it for al fresco dinners and morning coffee and Bible study time, we can learn to be grateful for it instead of worried about the way it looks.
  • The master bedroom has never been painted, as long as we've lived here. Let's make it happen this year!

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent. (Psalm 91:9-10 NIV)

What are some baby steps you can take this year to make your house more like home?

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p.s. | I stumbled on an article that relates exactly to what I'm thinking after finishing this post and thought it was so, so relevant. Enjoy! XO.

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