I saw a comedy recently where the main character was in a presumably very bad situation. In that moment he kept repeating “find a happy place, find a happy place”, which I found humors because I have often told myself that while working in a stressful situation or trying to calm down after a moment of anger. Of course, in this context, our happy place is a mental image of a place we love. As I was watching that ridiculous movie scene, it occurred to me that my happy place is my home. For whatever reason, that made me feel a sense of relief and I wondered how many people would like their home to be the happiest place in their lives. That, of course, started the thought carousel and we ended up here, writing about how we turned our sort of sad farm house into our happy place.
Home is where your heart is. We've all heard it and know it to be true to some extent. Your home is a reflection of your family. The color of the walls, shape of the chairs, books on the shelves and plates in cupboard all reflect something about you.or at least they should.
It took years for us to figure out what we wanted our home to look like and even longer to start making it happen. When budgets are tight and time is limited, it's hard to think about dumping those two very precious resources into a place where you sleep, eat and sometimes sit. Years of Dhubs (my husband) and my lives together were spent working insane hours and still barely having money to save after the bills were paid. So, we didn't spend a lot of time thinking about fixing up our home until we started thinking about fostering and adopting kids. One day we looked around and realized our old farm house was not relaxing or as inviting as we wanted it to be for us or kids. So we started researching home design and figuring out what our combined style is. So how do you create a space you love when you don't have the means to get things you want? Well, you start by simplifying. For us, that meant decluttering, deep cleaning and tackling one small design project at a time.
First: Declutter, Second: Declutter Again
We started our “Make Home Our Happy Place” adventure with a full blown purge. We spent every evening of one week intentionally going through our house one room at a time. We pulled anything we didn’t like out of the space, boxed it for selling or donating, then took those boxes out of the house immediately. Why take a whole week's worth of evenings instead of one weekend, you ask? Because I have two modes: super short attention span mode, where I’m overwhelmed or bored and over it within 30 minutes or hyper fixate mode where I obsess over every silly detail and therefore accomplish nothing. Taking one room a night meant it was a manageable task and a defined amount of time. If you are ever overwhelmed by tasks, this “one at a time” method works great for me and many others in the same boat.
It’s amazing how much “stuff” we accumulated over the years. So. Much. Stuff. We sorted through trinkets, inherited furnishing, displayed photos, gaming systems and games from college (20 years ago) and so many decorative pillows. We purged old textbooks, craft supplies, toys from pets who’ve passed on, manuals to equipment we didn’t own anymore and kitchen gadgets and machines we rarely used and just stored on a shelf. We recycled or trashed duplicates, extras, chipped, cracked, broken, torn or worn out everything. It sounds like a pretty straight forward task, but many things we hang on to that aren’t in great condition have some emotional hold on us.
Most of the items we agreed on removing without a second thought, but there were some things that one of us was attached to and the other didn’t like. So those items were tagged and discussed after we removed all the sell/donate items. The only thing we really disagreed on and had to talk about several times was a chair. I purchased this chair years before I met Dhubs and didn’t even pull it out of storage until we moved to our homestead. At that time, things were difficult for us financially and that chair was one of the only pieces of furniture we had in our living room. It’s a sad greenish/goldish color and brings back some very stressful memories for me. Had it just been up to me, I would have dragged that ugly thing out into the yard and set it on fire quicker than a West Virginia college kid lights a couch on fire after a football game. Unfortunately for me, in Dhub’s mind, it’s the first chair we had in the living room when we were starting life in our forever home. So he loves that stupid chair (insert eye roll here). When you can’t convince somebody to let go of something, you try to find a reasonable solution instead. In our case, we compromised and decided to have it recovered and put into one of the kid rooms as a reading chair. All’s well that ends well right?
Before we got things together the way we wanted them, we had a tendency to wait on deep cleaning tasks until the seasons change or we were having guests over. We keep things in “ok” condition most of the time, but cleaning baseboards and washing curtains still isn’t on my weekend list of fun things to do. So after getting rid of excess clutter, we used the same “one room at a time” method to deep clean our house. We limited how much time we would spend each day in a room. So it took a couple weeks to get it all done. We started in the common areas and cleaned top to bottom in each room. I have a pretty detailed checklist I use for this to make sure we don’t forget anything. After doing all of this, we ended up getting rid of even more stuff because we realized there were some pieces of furniture that were just a pain to keep clean. A side table with grooves on the top and an entertainment center that was just too big for the space were given to a friend who really liked them. Generic wall art we hadn’t really thought much about suddenly seemed dull and out of sync with what we wanted our living room to feel like. So those pieces were sold and we were able to find & make some pieces we really love. We went through the same process in each room, cleaning top to bottom and removing anything that didn’t work well in the room. This process worked like a charm to motivate us to tackle the bigger projects like painting, furniture shopping and changing light fixtures.
On a deep cleaning side note, we now have a schedule for deep cleaning and that makes life so much easier. It’s just one or two tasks every couple of weeks and makes keeping the house clean so much easier. Once your home feels good to you, you want to make sure it stays that way. Having a schedule and checklist help with that tremendously. Now…back to interior design.
One Design At A Time
Whatever room you spend the most time in as a family, that’s where you start. For us, that’s the living room. We play games, watch tv, read, craft, do puzzles and usually eat in there. I know, bad habit, blah blah blah…but it’s comfortable and it’s our favorite room. When we started thinking about what we wanted it to feel like, we agreed on cozy but light. So, we started at the top and moved down to make our living room feel light, airy and inviting. We kept the base of the room neutral in whites, grey and light wood tones. We layered in unique art prints that we found at consignment and thrift stores, added a rug, and a soft reading chair to the space. We placed our favorite trinkets and family photos on the mantel, which made the room feel whole. All of these things were inexpensive or things we already owned. We have only made two big purchases for our house since we moved here. Our Big Fig bed (which I highly recommend) was one, and the other was our sofa. It is something we saved up to buy because we knew we wanted a very specific sofa. This is the thing that took our living room from a “meh” place to our happy place. It’s not a couch everyone would like. It’s not specifically stylish or on trend by any means, but it is exactly what we wanted and we LOVE it. When it comes to spending money, it’s better to save for the thing you really want than to compromise on something you sort of like. It really makes a difference in how you feel about your space.
After tackling the living room, we moved on to the kitchen. We added some colorful dinnerware, picked out some farmhouse worthy canvas prints from a couple of shops we found while up in the mountains and found some fun patterned beverage tumblers on sale at a local department store. We bought some baskets and containers to organize the chaos in the pantry and added clear bins in the fridge. That kind of clean line organization makes me happy just thinking about it. We still have some trim painting and a barn door to install on the pantry but the kitchen is pretty much complete.
It took us a while to move on to the bedrooms and once we found the linens we wanted, that was a quick fix to brighten up the bedrooms and make them pleasant visitor or kid spaces.
In every room, we’ve added our favorite fragrance diffusers for each season and comfort objects like easy read books, night lights, puzzles and blankets. We want our house to be a haven for all who stay here and we are getting closer to that dream every day.
Now that the inside of the house is a place we love, we’ve moved on to the outside. It’s a lot to take on, but slowly, we are making improvements that make us happy. We have a little herb and tomato garden, a few bird feeders in the yard and wind chimes on the porch. We have rocking chairs and a dining set to enjoy eating outside on good weather days. Last year, thanks to being homebound due to covid, we even installed a paver patio for the grill.
We have plans for the yard and hopes for a mini farm complete with a split rail fence, apple orchard, crazy goats and a lot of chickens. It may not be your cup of tea, but for us, that is the good life. Part of what makes our home a happy place is the potential it holds for grander things.
At the end of the day, we want our home to be a peaceful place to spend time together with those we love. We want to keep dreaming and making those dreams come true and we want to share what we have with others. Our happy place is definitely right here and we made it by finding things we loved, learning to love things we already had and removing things that kept us from living our best life.
Whew, that was a long post! Thanks for joining us on our journey and we hope our trials and errors help you find a quicker route to living your best life.