We moved into our cozy 1920s home two years ago this month, although it hardly feels two years of work have passed. When we purchased the property, the house was neglected and unsavory, stained from leaky faucets and uncleaned dirt. Indoors, it was infested with fleas; outdoors, it was infested with poison ivy (both of which we discovered after moving in). (You can see images here.) I still remember one of our friends walking through with us, wide-eyed, whispering “don’t do it.” But the place was within our modest budget and located within walking distance of friends. We’ve renovated every home we’ve lived in, and the romantic in both of us wanted to uncover the beauty buried beneath it all. I suppose we love a good redemption story, and isn’t that what home renovation ultimately is?
I’m so honored when readers and friends leave comments or questions about things they love in our home, even though I sometimes lose the time to respond. As with most anything, it’s hard to see the progress while you’re living in it. Two years into this process, I would be lying to say this has been an easy journey, especially considering we have much more to go. We choose to live without debt, which simply means, everything occurs intentionally and slowly. Every dollar counts and has a purposeful place in our budget. But even that part can become exhausting, too. Some days, like in my mothering or marriage or homeschooling, I can only see the undone bits, the missing doorknobs or unfinished trim, the paint-splattered floors, the hole in the backsplash, or our missing bathroom mirror (all currently true of our home). If I’m not careful, these thoughts will suck me in like a gyre.
I’d prefer this renovation process Mary Poppins style, with the blink of an eye or the snap of a finger or something like that. Yet, if I’m honest with myself, there’s something so sweet about the slow unfolding of a plan (even the unplanned bits). Like working through umpteen reading or math lessons with my children, or the repeated conversations about kindness and gentleness toward others, or how we make our beds in the morning or wash a dish after a meal–all of the small redundancies accumulate. Hidden gifts live within anything that unfurls itself slowly, even when it beats against my impatience. A deeper gratitude. A greater compassion. A strengthened patience. Slowness leaves room for the interior work of my person.
Sometimes the images in our medias don’t tell the whole picture. They can’t. I’m writing these things out to remember but also to give context to our home and space. We all have limitations of sorts, and somehow must learn to live and work within them. We have three different (unplanned) countertops in our kitchen. We went the first year and half in our home without a dishwasher. We went six weeks without electricity in half our home. We went the first year without bedroom doors (and although we now have doors are still lacking doorknobs). We lived the first year with large slatted outdoor windows in our bedroom (it felt like camping). Our bathroom is still missing a mirror and fixtures. Is this necessary for everyone? No. Would I prefer it? No. Am I learning contentment where I am? Definitely.
When I recognize myself spinning with regret, disappointment, or want–because sometimes I do–here is a very practical thing I’ve learned to do: I take a loop through the home finding something in each space for which to say “thank you.” The words aren’t long or articulate. Thank you for these windows and natural light. Thank you for hardwood flooring. Thank you for bookshelves. Thank you for a space that holds our table. Thank you for soft beds. Thank you. It changes me. In a very small way, this practice of gratitude is renovating my heart, and I am learning patience and steadfastness with every unfolding.
Haven Magazine recently published their second issue and within it an article I wrote on forgiveness–a more obscure lesson unfolding through our slow home renovation process. The article is published with a favorite image my sister took of the kids and is wedged between handfuls of beautiful words and visuals from other mothers, makers, writers, cooks, and photographers I admire. If you’re interested, you can find a copy here.