We bought our house in July 2016. As we were looking, we were getting an idea of what features were the most important to us. We came up with a Requirements List and a Wish List. The required characteristics were…required. For the wish list, our thought was if we have a few of these things, great! But we didn’t expect to get it all.
Our requirements were fairly basic:
- 3 bedrooms
- 1.5 baths
- Gas heat (common where we are)
- Public water/sewer (most houses in our town have both)
- Double wide driveway. My apartment before we lived together had single wide driveway, we refused to play the car shuffle of constantly moving cars any longer.
Our wish list was longer, but like I said, we just hoped to hit a few:
- At least partially finished basement
- Office/4th bedroom to use as an office
- 2 full bathrooms
- Central air
- Fenced yard for a dog
- Sunroom/3 season porch
- Mudroom area
As we looked we realized quickly that, for our budget, we could have a house that hits all requirements, no wish list, and be totally updated OR have a house that may need some cosmetic work but hit more. Our long term plan was to find a house we can settle in for a long time. We did not want to move in a few years to a bigger, fancier house. Even though we don’t have kids now, we wanted a house we could comfortably grow in that is in a nice town that will suit a family. We knew the town we wanted so the remaining piece was a house that fit our priorities.
The house we ended up buying knocked it out of the park. It hit not only all requirements but ALL wish list (and as a bonus it had 2.5 baths!). We loved the neighborhood and the layout of the home was perfect. There is room to grow without being overwhelming and having extra rooms we won’t need.
However, what some people may see as a downside is that the “big stuff” needs updating. The kitchen and bathrooms are very outdated, but in fine working condition. There is a porch, but the outdoor carpet is ancient and a bit stinky on hot, humid days. The windows are functional but old.
Other than cosmetic updates, there were a couple things we had to fix. The chimney liner had completely crumbled and was a carbon monoxide risk. We checked this off immediately. We also just redid the gutters because there were some areas it was hanging a bit and causing puddles near the foundation. The foundation is fine but we were proactive in getting new gutters to prevent future issues.
While the updates might sound bad to some, we were thrilled. Not only does the house fit our budget (it actually was a decent amount under it), but there is plenty of space to grow, and in a perfect neighborhood. The kitchens and bathrooms can be updated slowly as we save money. The best part of that is we can renovate them according to our own taste, instead of living in a newer kitchen we think is ugly. If something was new but not our taste, I could not see renovating it and throwing away perfectly good stuff to just pile up in a landfill.
With the house set, next comes furnishing it. Since we both came from small apartments, we didn’t have much furniture and a lot of if ended up being donated anyway because we had duplicates. The only thing we bought right away was a couch. Because, well, we didn’t plan on sitting on the living room floor.
Our mentality was and still is to decorate and grow slowly. Our rooms are furnished enough to the point they are happy and habitable. No, we don’t need to furnish the porch immediately. A year and a half later it is still empty with the same carpet. The dining room set is the same free set I was given by a family friend 3 years ago. For the bedroom, we literally had a mattress and box spring and two old nightstands for a year until we got married. I’m not kidding, there was actually nothing else in the room. No rug, curtains, dressers, or decorations because we were concentrating on saving money to pay the wedding in cash.
Once we were married we bought a bed frame and rug with wedding gifts. I hung three special wedding photos above the bed. I recently replaced the cheap, mismatched Ikea dressers we had with two matching antique dressers my cousin gave us. They’re older but beautiful, quality pieces.
Grow Slowly into the Home
I have seen friends furnish the ENTIRE house right away and finance EVERYTHING. One friend literally went to one furniture store and bought brand new furniture sets, rugs, and decorations for every single room at once. In their mind, they did that when there was a 0% financing for two years promotion, they still walked away with about $20,000 owed. From one shopping trip.
By waiting to slowly furnish and decorate, rooms will feel personalized and a house becomes a home. Does a house furnished 100% from one store feel homey? No, it’s a showroom with no personality.
As we do slowly furnish the rooms, we move the prior furnishings into other empty rooms. Our bedrooms are the perfect example. Now that we have two new-to-us dressers, I moved the mismatched ones in each empty bedroom and we have set up guest bedrooms. We found a TV stand that fits the living room better so we moved the older one to the basement and began setting up a room down there.
When we find we have excess items that we don’t need or don’t want, we donate or consign them. In my apartment, I was guilty of having a bunch of little knick knack decorations on bookshelves and coffee tables. With this house, I have come to appreciate minimalism and having a more simplified home. Now, I don’t even want all the excess little things everywhere and have consigned a large majority.
As we decorate slowly, I have learned what pieces truly have meaning to me. I no longer want coffee tables filled with extra stuff that just makes them dusty and harder to clean. But I do love finding old frames to decorate the walls with family pictures. To me, pictures are the decoration that makes my house a home.
The other key decor piece I am failing at having a minimalist outlook towards – houseplants. I can’t get enough. I love having green, living accents in each room for the aesthetic and as an air purifier.
How to Create a Home Over Time
- Instead of furnishing all rooms, reuse pieces in empty rooms as you upgrade or add.
- Buy used items versus new
- Donate or consign items you no longer want
- Find what key decor pieces mean the most to you and use those (I love pictures and plants)
- Remember it doesn’t need to be perfect by tomorrow
- Resist buying trendy items and practice minimalism by buying fewer, important pieces
- Budget for occasional purchases spread out, not all at once
- If you can’t afford to buy decorations without the credit card, you can’t afford it. Going into debt for a new lamp is not ok.
What have you done to create a home over time?