Sometimes Adventure Means Staying Put

Over the past month, our family has embarked on a new adventure that involves staying right where we are: a kitchen/living room renovation project.

We purchased our (almost) tiny home seven years ago right before we married. While we lived overseas, we rented it out, then moved back in on our return to the States. 

For a long time, I was itchy to move into something 'bigger and better.' But then we accomplished a big feat - paying off the mortgage, thanks to tax breaks while living overseas and lots of financial savvy on my husband's part. And we realized how much we love the freedom of living debt free. 

Moving up in our neighborhood means taking out another mortgage, and we're not ready for that yet. So instead of moving, we decided to make our house work for us. Sometimes adventure means staying right where you are.

We've done small DIY projects over the years, especially right after we moved back from Cambodia. Andrew refinished our hardwood floors by himself, and we painted our old kitchen cabinets. But trying to host a dozen people every week for small group and keeping an eye on an ever-more-active toddler stretched our cramped living room. So we decided to dive into re-designing our space in the way we always talked about, and hired a contractor to knock out a few walls.

We spent months planning and it's still a much bigger project than we anticipated (as people always tell you renovations are!). For the first week, Andrew, Declan and I stayed with Andrew's parents while the construction guys tore down walls and ripped out old flooring. The following week we sent Declan to my parents, and Andrew and I worked til the wee hours of the morning while the crew finished the major structural work.

Demo is exhausting, filthy work. It took hours of cleaning and painting to get back to normal, and all our belongings were stuffed into bedrooms and the garage. But the dirty work is (mostly) over, and Andrew is beginning to build the IKEA cabinets that were delivered two weeks ago. 

I have learned a lot about myself over the past few weeks - first off, that I really don't like doing home renovation projects myself, even if I love the result. I've also realized that when Andrew says he can figure out how to do something, he's right 99% of the time (which is much higher than my predicted rate of success for him or myself!). As an engineer, his brain works on completely different circuits than mine. He did the electrical and HVAC work himself and somehow completed it with only a little heat exhaustion (from rerouting A/C ducts in the attic) and a couple of electrical shocks from installing new outlets.

But the biggest lesson I've learned is that sometimes, we need to dig in and make our lives work for us, instead of trying to find something bigger and better. We could have easily bought a larger, more expensive home, but we would have given up a lot of financial freedom for that. And we may still need to move eventually. It's not the right choice for everyone, but I think a lot of people forget that staying small and living on less even is an option. 

Here are some photos of the renovation in progress - I promise to share more of our work as it comes along. And let me know in the comments if you have any questions about the work! I'm a big amateur, but I'm learning a lot in the process!


The (Messy!) Before...


The Process