It’s a little bit crazy to admit this, but one of the big sacrifices in moving to Minnesota was a bit of a vow of poverty. The income scenario is fine, but it’s not what we had been dreaming about for the past five years while Aaron was in grad school. When we were deciding to accept this job, we made peace with continuing a very frugal lifestyle with a few “non-negotiable” life upgrades: smart phones (and thanks to Ting, our bill is smaller than it was before so it’s not even a sacrifice), a guest room, and a doggie. My piano studio growth is going slooooower than we have hoped and I’m essentially a stay-home-dog-owner right now, so we’re on the path to some much-needed home improvements that are entirely free. We’ve always tried to be cautious and wise about spending on our house, but since we have tools and actual DIY stuff leftover from our last house, a $0 budget is a possibility in ways it wasn’t when we started out with the Iowa house.
There is often a lot of freedom in limitations — and our big limitation of using resources already on hand is working well so far. We’re calling this our time of Domestic MacGyvering. Just like that old TV show, we’re in a situation that threatens our sanity and survival, and we can only work with what we’ve got.
First off, we started with the kitchen. I moved here from a kitchen fit for queenly entertaining, remodeled to my exact specifications. While I would change just a few things about the designs if I were doing it over, it worked well and majorly spoiled us. Our house had charm and lots of impressive details. We were a little obsessed with it and called it lots of pretentious names in private. (Usually “Riverwood Heights Estate” or something like that.) In contrast, we now have a boring 1960 Ranch that has the same floor plan as half the neighborhood. It’s exactly what we needed, but it’s nothing special as far as houses go. The kitchen in the Coon Ranch is not as spacious and has ugly cracked tile floors that we are probably not replacing. However, the situation here was perfect for implementing one of the big lessons we learned in the first house: lighting is everything. As you can see, the lighting situation in the new kitchen was an awful mess of not-even-done-right-suspended-flourescent-lights, and those ceiling lights usually aren’t a great choice in the first place anyway. It drove Aaron crazy enough that he broke his no-project vow (made while prepping the old house for sale and shopping for a new one) after 2 months of living here. New lighting made all the difference in the old kitchen, and we had high hopes for a similar effect here.
We talked about painting the wood frame white and replacing the plastic with new, crisper inserts. But as soon as Aaron pulled out the yellowing panels and saw there was an actual finished ceiling behind the ugly frame, we had reached the point of no return.
Our MacGyvering came to the rescue because we had some leftover track lights in the garage. They are the same finish as the handles on the cabinet pulls and other light fixtures in the house. Several years ago, we overbought off a clearance sale when Lowes discontinued our favorite track lights, with plans to put more up in the living room. Though it drove me nuts, we never got around to installing them, and efforts to recoup any of the original cost by selling them before moving were entirely unfruitful. We brought them up with us “just in case.”
With a little spackling, texturing, and priming (all leftover materials), and painting touch ups with the buckets labeled in the basement, it feels like a new kitchen! My mom and I made the window valance with a $1 dowel rod, recycled coffee cup hooks, and a pretty cloth napkin I originally bought on a Target clearance and now sacrificed for the cause.
We still need to paint the rest of the ceiling, where a crisp white is going to make a huge difference. We’re also lacking a light fixture for above the sink, and I think MacGyver might have to go to Menards with some pocket change to get out of that particular pickle. Though I already have my permanent dishwasher, countertop, backsplash, and faucet upgrades in mind, I’m entirely over the moon with how much more awesome it feels in here now. And without a working dishwasher? That’s really saying a lot.
(And I wish everyone a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! Did you know it’s one of my favorite holidays? Read more about Patrick as a true hero of the gospel so you can honor his legacy of faith and obedience today while you enjoy corned beef brisket!)