Character Lessons Learned by Downsizing in House Size

Previously, I  shared with you our journey taken that brought us from living in a 2,260 square foot house to our current home of 1,245 square foot home.

Our last year of being here, we have learned a few things about being a large family living in small accommodations.  There are positives and negatives to any situation. I’ve read many articles and posts highlighting all the glimmery spots of smaller living, and while there are really great benefits to smaller living, there are also hard parts in it.  I want to share some honest feedback about the benefits and the challenges that we have encountered during this time of scaling back on house size.  I will be sharing this over a period of several posts.

The first thing to share is the character lessons learned by downsizing in house size.

 Scaling Back is a Great Time to Sharpen One’s Character

Lessons on Thankfulness and Contentment

As I mentioned in my last post on how we got to the purchasing of this house, all of us were experiencing a lot of disappointment about being here in this town and in this house.  While disappointment was expected, what I quickly realized was that the kids, as well as I were grumbling and complaining.  Quite bluntly, we were sinning.  Scripture tells us plainly that God’s will for our lives is to give thanks in all circumstances.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Also, Paul gives us example in Philippians to be content.

“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”

Clearly we needed help in his area.  We needed to practice thankfulness, even though we weren’t feeling thankful.

Cultivating thankfulness

To work on this we did a couple of things.  I picked back up my Thankful Journal and made a practice to try to write down thanksgivings each day.

Strawberry's thankful journal.

Strawberry’s thankful journal.

I also made each child a thankful journal for them to record those things in their lives that they were thankful for.

In addition, we took up the practice of Thankful Thursdays that a friend told me about.  Every Thursday, she had her children write a note of thanks to someone in their life.  We’ve missed several Thursdays, but more often than not, the children and I all try to write a note of thanks to someone.  Sometimes that note is because someone blessed us with a physical item, other times we express thankfulness to them for speaking kind words or truthful words to us.

We’ve also made a point to discuss with our kids how truly blessed we are.  We read to them stories from Gospel for Asia highlighting our great luxuries compared to the poor conditions so many others live in.  We discuss the blessing it is to have all our family here, not struggling with chronic disease.

 

Bearing with One another in love

Living in close quarters gives us many opportunities to practice patience, grace, and just good old bearing with one another in love.  Since every time we turn around, some one is there, and it is rare to get to have a room or space in which someone is not in there with us and we have had to learn different coping mechanisms.  Some days we do this well, but often times we do not.

Giving preference to One Another

Eight people in a small house and only 2 bathrooms gives us a natural environment to learn to give preference to one another.  It seems like the bathrooms are always needed at the same time around here.  I am not really sure why everyone seems to think they need access to the bathroom at the same time, but they do.  So, we are daily reminding our children to wait patiently on the person in the restroom.  Also, we have conversations with them about how little one’s may have more urgent needs.  This character lesson plays out in many other instances in our home.  It’s also a trait that I realized I could use some more growth in as well as the kids.

What are some character lessons you have recently learned in a hard place? Please share in the comments.

Solution for my Laundry Mountain – A laundry sorter

I wrote this post on my laundry sorter back in 2013 but never published.

We wash a lot of laundry in our home.  Enormous amounts.  To stay on top of laundry, I need to wash a minimum of 3 loads a day. I have referred to my laundry mountain before.  At times I have 2 laundry mountains going.  One mountain of dirty clothes.  A second that is dirty.   As I have been thinking through the way we do things at our house, I have been trying to come up with a good solution for my laundry mountains.  I realized that chunks of my day was being lost because I would sort laundry into piles for washing.  I would then start a load of laundry with the intentions of being able to come back in and throw one of the piles of sorted laundry into the washer.  In reality, during the time the first load was washing, my piles would be destroyed and I would have to come back and resort them in order to start a new load.  We had tried using a laundry sorter that  we purchased  from a store similar to this.(affiliate link)
However, the size of the bags along with the arrangement of our bathroom/laundry room were not working with that laundry sorter.  The clothes would spill out on to the floors and there were not enough bags for all the categories we needed in the laundry sorter. So we ended up with piles of clothes on the floor in the half bath that is shared with our laundry room.  The kids would come in and play in the clothes and combine them.  They would drive Hubby crazy, so he would pick them up and throw them in baskets – with no regard to the fact that they had been sorted.  So, I spent endless hours sorting through laundry.

One day when looking through ideas on Pinterest, I found a link for plans to make a laundry basket dresser.  Ana White, the designer of the dresser used her’s to sort the clean laundry into and then put up. While I loved that idea, my biggest need was for one to sort the dirty laundry.  With our laundry room being so small, there was no way we could fit one with two columns as she did.  So, I showed my husband her idea and then I told him that I needed it stacked up to the ceiling.

Hubby built me a laundry sorter six baskets high.

Hubby built me a laundry sorter six baskets high.

Hubby quickly got on board, bought the boards and other supplies and built me a wonderful laundry sorter.  I have a basket labeled: hand-wash, cleaning towels, towels, lights, darks, and mediums.  It has freed up so much of my time.   I am still teaching the kids the difference between lights, mediums, darks, and special care items – but nonetheless we now have a floor in the laundry room that stays relatively free of piles of laundry.

 

Update:  We brought the laundry sorter with us to the new house. It now sits out in the garage by our washer and dryer.  We recently switched to having each kid wash all their clothes in one load on an assigned day of the week, with the exception of special wash clothes.  Now the baskets serve as a place to separate dirty laundry by child.  Hubby and I still have our laundry sorted and washed by darks, medium, and lights since because that is just how we prefer to have ours washed.  Plus, we will hold on to our clothes much longer than our kids will, as some of our clothes are over ten years old that we still wear on a frequent basis.

*There are affiliate links in this post.  If you click on them and purchase through them, I will earn a small amount of money.

What are your best laundry solutions?

2014 unexpected

This is a continuation from 2014 Didn’t look like we thought it should.

Our family was ecstatic about the move and all the changes that we would get to go through as a family.  Friends and family were notified. Doctors informed as we gathered paper work. Decorating plans were made. Hubby’s truck, that had been his grandfather’s was sold because we didn’t think it needed to make the drive to the new city.

With this job opportunity, came a salary increase. For the first time I finally saw the potential to finally make good progress on getting out of student loans without having to go back to a beans and rice type grocery budget.  We’ve always said that without the burden of student loans, so many things are opened up to us. Ministry.  Adoption.  Giving more.  Vacations with our kids. Extracurricular activities for the kids. All things we’ve discussed being open to if the Lord calls us to them.

We then experienced the 2014 unexpected happening, that changed everything.  Our dream of leaving this town burst.  The job fell through.  Three weeks from closing on our new home.  The same day, we saw that in fact our chance of moving on and out was gone, our house received two offers on it.  Two good offers.  Since we had been planing on selling previous to the job change, we went ahead and sold our house. Leaving us without a home, without a plan.  Confused and lost.  However, Hubby still had a job where he had been working before.

We already knew what was on the market in this town.  Nothing came close to comparing to the house that was going to be.  We didn’t want to buy a house towards the top of our budget and still be disappointed.  But we realized that would be the case.  We also were unsure as to if we were going to want to stick around in this town.  The opportunity for a job in a new location had really opened up that desire in us to leave and explore in other places.

We explored the option of renting, but in our city it would cost us far more a month to rent than it would for us to buy and  put money into a house.

So we gave our realtor very clear instructions.  We wanted a property that we could easily turn around and rent or sell within a short amount of time.  It had to be in a state which needed very little work and was on the low-end of the price spectrum.  The last criteria was that our dining room table that Hubby built had to fit in the dining room.

There were six houses to look at in the city with those criteriums that came up on the MLS. However, upon visiting these homes, only one was in good condition with the possibility of it being able to rent it or sell it quickly do the locations.  Our dining room table fit in this house.

We had a closing date of three weeks later, with two-weeks of rent back in our current house so we had time to move. Kids were sick, while I was trying to pack and move. Originally, we were going to have movers help with the moving.  Then with the new job opportunity we had movers scheduled to come back us up and move us.  But, as result of costs incurred from house hunting in the new city, we ended up not getting movers to help us.  Hubby was also going to have some time off from work to help me with the logistics of moving when the move involved a new city.  But staying in the same city did not afford us this luxury.  He ended up with about two days off total and the move drug out for a few weeks.  We spent weekend and evenings trying to load stuff into our van and moving vans. That was a long few weeks. Thankfully, we had a few friends and family members who assisted us in moving and brought us some meals.

We moved into our current house in February of 2014, just a year ago.

Truth be told, those were hard, dark days.

We knew God had a purpose in this. What that purpose was we weren’t really sure.

I wondered, did we miss God? Silly questions, such as do I even know His voice?  Lots of why?  I was humiliated.  We had told people after all.  I was angry at times. I felt like we stepped out in faith on a road that God was opening for us, and then He allowed the door to be slammed in our face.  I feared what people thought.  This was also a rough patch in our marriage.

But it wasn’t just us and our hearts involved.  We had made promises to our kids.  Our kids had dreamed too.  We had told the older two that they could have a room together and for the first time we would let them choose some of their decorations and paint color.  Sweet Potato was going to get a room with boy decorations in it, something we had not ever really done.  Grape was going to get a room with polka-dots.  We had told them that we would get them all bikes to ride.  Up to this points our kids had other people’s cast off bikes, and there were never enough to go around for our family.  But, we had told them that since we would have a garage and a bigger home, there would be a place to keep bikes and side walks to ride them on.  Plus, since they all saw the house in the new city, they were anticipating a pool, space to get ready in bathrooms, and a craft room.   But we could no longer keep these promises to our kids.

That stung hard. Not so much that they couldn’t have the material stuff, but more that we promised them something.  But we couldn’t keep that promise.  We’ve always tried hard to only promise them things that we were able to actually follow through on. They tried to make the best of it, even so there were complaints, tears, and frustration from the kids.

We still are not entirely sure the why’s behind the job falling through.  But we trust that He has multiple purposes for anything He does. We know that He is working on His plan that we can’t see.  I heard a quote somewhere, I believe it was credited to John Piper, that said that for everything that happens, God has a thousand reasons.  If we can just see one of those reasons, consider it a blessing.

One big positive that resulted from this crazy year was the ability to now make a large progress towards student loan pay off.  In 2014 we were able to pay off about half of what we started with after graduation in student loans.  We were hoping for a bit more, but our electric bill in this small house was still considerably more than what we thought it would run, as well as a few other unexpected expenses came our way.

2014 Didn’t look like we thought it should

Seldom in life have things turned out to be what I had envisioned.  That was 2014 in a nutshell.

But to get to 2014 we have to back up a bit.  I’d mentioned in 2012 about our kitchen remodel as a result of the great laundry flood in our home.  We designed a kitchen that we loved with 2 sinks (every kitchen needs 2 sinks).  I really enjoyed  the flow of our house once the walls came down and we had a more open floor plan.

Original Kitchen Layout

2nd view of original kitchen

2nd view of original kitchen

 

Walls removed to have an opened kitchen.

Walls removed to have an opened kitchen.

Hubby mentioned to me at some point after renovations were done, that this would be the best time to sell our home to gain the most profit, since we had a newly renovated kitchen.

This was a view from the old dining room.  We removed the wall to open up the kitchen.

This was a view from the old dining room. We removed two walls to open up the kitchen.

I was not so keen on the idea, but as a few months passed, I started to see the wisdom in this plan. There were several reasons we had for deciding to move, but there were two main ones.

We added a kitchen island and a 2nd sink.

We added a kitchen island and a 2nd sink.

Our bedroom situation was not working out the best.  We had a 3 bed 2.5 bath home, with fairly big bedrooms.  But when we bought the house we had no way of knowing that we would have 5 girls and 1 boy.  It just really was not fair to all the girls to pile them in to one bedroom while our son had a room to himself.  Since all the kids were still young, we knew we still had a few years before we had to separate the boys and girls, but we knew that we would eventually do this.

Our remodeled dining room.

Our remodeled dining room.

The more pressing reason was my health issues.  I had always had some issues with driving visibility at night, but the Fibromyalgia seemed to only exasperate the problem.  We lived out-of-town, on a dark road, and often I could not see at all to drive.  Therefore, any activities or social engagements that we wanted to participate in required Hubby to escort me to them.  Whereas, in town where there was good lighting I could drive as long as it was not raining, I was always dependent upon him. Grocery shopping could be difficult with 6 young children, so I would prefer going at night, but then again I could not drive at night, so often Hubby would drive me into town, and sit in the van with the kids while I shopped.

We remodeled the bathroom with new flooring, paint, and a utility sink.

We remodeled the bathroom with new flooring, paint, and a utility sink.

We determined that moving into town, closer to things would be less of a hardship on our family since some of these health issues where largely impacting the quality of family life.

Our family room after the stagers with the realty company came and did their magic.

So, in September of 2013 we put our home up on the market.  We averaged about 2 showings a week, with a lot of positive feedback, but no offers.

The house we brought 3 of our babies home to.

The house we brought 3 of our babies home to.

In November, Hubby was approached with a new job offer for a company in a different city.  We spent time praying about the offer for several weeks, and we had great peace with moving forward in this opportunity.

We had our bedroom painted while painters where in the house for the kitchen remodel.

We had our bedroom painted while painters where in the house for the kitchen remodel.

We were excited about moving to a new location, because we never intended to be in this city for so long.  This was just were he had gotten a job after college and we had never left.  We were thrilled with the idea of exploring a new city together and starting again in another place.  We loved the friends that we had made here and had a great homeschool network, but we were aching for adventure.  We also had so much fun looking for homes in this new city.  There was a marked difference in the type of homes available.  We also found that our dollars went so much further in this new city for the type of home you could purchase.  We were looking for a home that could comfortably accommodate our large family, have a designated area for homeschooling, a room for the boy, and 2 rooms for the girls to divide, plus a guest room.  This was easily doable in the new town, whereas it had been hard to find in our current town within our budget.

Our new house in new city

Our new house in new city

We found a beautiful 5 bedroom 3.5 bath home, with a game room, office, butlers pantry, and 2 extra huge bonus closets – one of which was going to be the craft room that we have always dreamed of.

A great pool to enjoy as a family.

A great pool to enjoy as a family.

The backyard had a section already fenced off for a dog (the girls had been promised a dog once we moved) and it had a beautiful pool with a slide, surrounded by flagstone decking.

Open kitchen, dining, and living space in new home.

Open kitchen, dining, and living space in new home.

We were set to close and move in mid January of 2014.

to be continued……

 

 

Insulation -Spend Money to Save Money

We set down at the beginning of the year and mapped out our financial goals. We decided that we needed to spend money to save money by making our home more energy-efficient. When we moved from a 2260 sq ft, 2 story house to a one story 1246 sq ft house (both of which were built in the late 80’s), we were hoping to see considerable drop in our electric bills. Unfortunately, they remained about the same sometimes even higher.

Step one in that process of making our home more energy-efficient was to put more insulation in the attic. Which we accomplished this weekend.

At Home Depot, if you bought 10 bags of insulation, the insulation blower rental was free. Alternatively, for the same price we could have bought 7 bags of insulation and rented the machine.  We opted for 10 bags and the free rental.

insulationspendmoneytosavemone

Hubby took the hose up into he attic and blew it in while I stood in driveway feeding the machine. Sweet Potato stationed himself on the attic ladder communicating between hubby and me. Approximately an hour later we had completed the task of blowing insulation into the attic.

We put $350 in to this project and are hopeful to see the payoff especially during the summer heat. We have noticed the temperature in the house seems to be more consistent throughout.  A cold front came through at the end of the weekend, and the heater doesn’t seem to be kicking on as often as it had been in previous cold fronts.

The next step in making our home more energy-efficient  will be to replace the windows.  We hope to do this in the spring.

What are some things you’re doing to improve the energy efficiency in your house?

2nd sink in kitchen

I was so blessed to be able to add in a 2nd sink to our kitchen when we remodeled. The additional sink has been extremely nice to have while multiple people work in kitchen and during the times that the main sink is overflowing with dishes. However, I think I just discovered the best use for this sink to enable me to multitask (a much needed skill for this season). I was able to oversee lunch chores and clean the banana covered baby all at the same time.

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Our week

On Monday, a friend brought her children over for a time of our children working on school and them play time. Around lunch, she took me into the laundry/half bathroom to show me a puddle if water on the floor. The water was coming out from where our washer and dryer sit, so I thought that perhaps a sick or something has gotten stuck in the drainage pipe and water had backed up out of pipe. I called Hubby to tell him, he told me not to wash any more loads of laundry and that he’d fix it when he got home. While on the phone with him, I opened up our ac vent and looked back under there(washer/dryer sits on platform above the air cavity) and told him that there was standing water all under there and that I also noticed that one of the kitchen cabinets was wet.

When he came home and started looking he realized that the water was not coming from an issue with the washer, but it was coming out from a pipe at the slab, that was located under one of our kitchen cabinets (we also came to realize why there is so much space that seemed wasted – it’s because it is covering pipes). So we called the insurance company and plumbers. We went for periods of time without running water and had repair guys in our home every day this week, with the exception of Monday. We currently have industrial fans and a dehumidifier running in our home- and they will be there for the next few days.
And on Tuesday when one of the plumbers was out locating the main water valve, he stumbled up on what he said was a 3-4 foot rattlesnake curled up next to one of the kids favorite hangouts – a large tree on the ground waiting to be cut into fire wood. (It’s time to get the chainsaw fixed so that the tree can be chopped into firewood and the hiding spot for snake to be removed.) He said he chased it off towards the neighbors (which explains why I looked out in the yard and saw him walking on that tree flapping his arms!) So as you can imagine, I haven’t been particularly comfortable letting the kids out to wander around out in our yard.

I must say that the Lord has been sweet to remind me over and over that though this is an inconvenience to us, we could be in much worse situation.

For one, before we turned the water off, I had time to fill cups and pitchers so that we had water to flush potty with and water to drink. We were still in a better predicament than most of the world when it comes to our water availability.

I’ve also found myself repeatedly thankful that Dewberry is not crawling yet. That would not be fun. There are just too many dangerous areas in our house for a crawler at the present.

Water was coming out the back of our house by our AC unit. We were told that the water running out the back of our house is what saved our house from getting a lot more damage. So we are thankful that the damage is just confined to kitchen and laundry/half bathroom.

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