Home Care

The Nester vs. Melissa Michaels: An Epic Battle of Christian Home Decorating Books

Christian home decorating books
Home decorating books have moved into the church, my friends. Consider Joanna Gaines, the Nester (Myquillyn Smith), and Melissa Michaels, all women who love Jesus and hate ugly rooms.

And frankly, this is a welcome relief. I’m a little tired of fighting over the big theological issues like predestination and the dumb things like the temperature of the women’s bathroom. I think we’re all ready for a little neutral territory, a little bit of fun in the middle of this crazy church lady life. So while some may roll their eyes at Christian home decorating books, I’m all for them. 

Christian home decorating books
So let’s take my two favorite home decorating books and put them head-to-head in an epic literary battle, shall we?

(This is probably where I should apologize for many of the pictures in this post. I’m guessing photos of book pages are probably some sort of copyright infringement, but since I’m basically begging readers to go out and buy these books from legitimate sources, I’m taking my chances with the Christian publishing world’s legal teams. Please don’t sue me. Amen. Also, be prepared for affiliate links below.)

The Nesting Place: by Myquillyn Smith

Quirky. The Nesting Place is quirky, and hand to the heavens, that is my favorite part. The Nester (because Myquillyn is hard to say and– apparently– impossible to type) is fond of using stumps for side tables and deer antlers for just about anything.

Her rooms are goofy and fun and she’s not afraid to show you the dark underside of her decorating, like chairs that are missing a leg or fabric that’s frayed.

home decorating books
It’s old, okay? The poor sweet chair has some issues, but we still love it.

My own house looks like this, so I feel right at home in her book.

But wait. There’s more. My other favorite part of the book is where the Nester goes explains all thirteen homes her family has lived in, why they moved, and the financial challenges they faced. Real life, in other words. Home decorating books don’t have to be full of fantasy and debt!

The Challenger: The Inspired Room, by Melissa Michaels

I didn’t think there could ever be a decorating book that might come close to The Nesting Place, but I was wrong. The Inspired Room landed on my front porch last week and I was smitten. Her decorating style is freakishly similar to my own, and now I’m desperate to use old maps to wallpaper (I use that term loosely) a small wall.

christian home decorating books
Maps as wallpaper!! Genius! She also has practical things like color palettes, a resource list, and seasonal decorating.

The Winner: Both of them.

I know, that’s cheating a little. An epic battle can’t come out in a tie, but this is my blog so I get to set the epic battle rules.

I love both books because both authors have a firm commitment to decorating with contentment and joy. I refuse to accept that I can only love my home if I gut the kitchen and then borrow money for a $70,000 remodel. That’s dumb and irresponsible. Both the Nester and Melissa understand that our homes are places of refuge, and that comes slowly.

They understand that a beautiful, welcoming home comes one little step at a time. We slowly work our way to something prettier, more functional, and valuable– we don’t just run to the store and buy it all on credit.

But please do run out and pay cash for these two books. You won’t be sorry!

Impulse Furniture Purchases: Maybe They’re Not Really So Terrible

The Clemence budget has been blown asunder recently, due to two separate incidents where we lost our minds and made impulse furniture purchases.

Twice. This was not one isolated incident.

And now, if you’re in the mood to listen, I shall give a long and rambling explanation of why it’s okay to blow the budget sometimes, especially if the purchase in question is very perfect. My ramblings will help you decide whether your purchase is worth it for you own situation. (Or you will decide I’m nuts, which is okay too.)

Here’s why impulse furniture purchases might be okay in specific circumstances:

We’d been looking for these items for a long time. I mean YEARS.

In our eighteen year marriage, we’ve never owned a solid set of dining chairs. Everything we’ve had has been picked up at garage sales, antique stores, and even off the curb. Our chairs have recently become so sketchy that a complete failure was becoming a real possibility. As in, a guest might get dumped to the floor as he took a bite of lasagna.

impulse furniture purchases
A peek into your blogger’s phone– this is one of the photos I took in Kalamazoo Kitty as I deliberated for 45 minutes about whether to buy the table or not.

When Eric handed me a spindle to a chair a few weeks ago, what had been a casual search became serious business.

The second purchase, a leather chair for Eric’s library, has been an ongoing search for several years. We love the Manhattan chair at Pottery Barn, but we just can’t justify that kind of money for one chair.

Impulse furniture purchases
Now Eric’s library has TWO leather chairs, both purchased for way less than the $1700 Pottery Barn option ($150 and $195). Technically both were impulse purchases, but Mama ain’t no fool. Buy them when you see them!

So while these purchases might seem like impulses, in reality they were just sudden appearances of something we’d been hunting for a long time.

We found high-quality pieces at resale shops, which means we spent $500 instead of $4,000.

While I don’t turn up my nose at old or cheap furniture, I really do prefer the stuff that’s well-made. I find new furniture to be hideously expensive for something that will be out of style in five years, plus so badly built we’ll be using it for kindling in those same five years. I turned to my two favorite shops in Kalamazoo, which both sell used furniture.

Boomerang for the Home has really nice stuff. If I want a sofa or dining room set to last two decades, I go here. But that high quality often means higher prices even for resale furniture. Also, the folks who can afford to get rid of these nice things to replace them with nicer things often have a… how do I say this politely… impressive sense of style. Think dark wood, four poster king-sized beds, and enormous buffets.

Nevertheless, sometimes a seller has the same casual, funky style we prefer, and Eric’s leather chair was waiting for us in a corner.

When we bought it, a matching sofa was sitting to the left. But I bet that’s been gone for weeks now.

Kalamazoo Kitty has a much wider range of furniture, accessories, and chalk paint. They have old and new, funky and fancy. Coming into this store is my son’s worst nightmare, as it’s guaranteed to take me at least forty-five minutes to see everything. On the day I found our new table and chairs he wasn’t with me. Hallelujah and amen.

Because they were at resale shops, it’s not like we’re going to find these exact things at every furniture store in Michigan.

When you find what you want at a resale shop, there’s a high probability it’s going to be sold very quickly. Our purchases were excellent and we knew it; other shoppers would have recognized the same thing. We bought them before the competition scooped them up.

second hand furniture store
I didn’t buy the china set they displayed on the table, but I thought about it. It had more pieces than I’d ever seen in china, including several pieces none of us knew how to use.

The purchases didn’t do permanent damage to our finances.

While we hadn’t saved the money specifically for the impulse furniture purchases, we did have the money in savings. Our budget had recently loosened up because of a vacation reschedule, so we were able to buy them without endangering the overall finances. No debt, no panic over the credit card bill next month.

So that’s how it worked out for us. Do you have the information you need to make your own decision? I hope so! If not, let me know below or at my Facebook page. I’ll see what I can do for you!


Bring back the everyday tablecloth: Get more mileage from your old table.

everyday tablecloth
Dear Fellow Lovers of Home Things,

I have been shopping for dining room tables. I have shopped and shopped and shopped until my eyes crossed. So I finally came home and threw a tablecloth on my table, and saved myself $2,000.

Not that our table is really the problem. I love the thing, but with two kids and a ton of guests, it takes a lot of wear and tear. Our chairs are really the problem– they’re getting so rickety that we stand a very high chance of dumping a guest to the floor here pretty soon. One day Eric (who is not a large man) sat back, a spindle popped out, and he handed it to me across the table.

We weren’t sure what was going to fall off/down/apart next, so I started looking for different chairs. (But more about that in an upcoming post.) I found plenty of chairs, but they were either very expensive, very ugly, or just as rickety as the ones we needed to replace. I started to realize that solid chairs often came with solid tables, and I might as well replace everything at once.

Why is this taking so long?

This whole process took months because 1) I am picky, 2) we need just the right size table to fit in our kitchen, and 3) I am cheap.

In the mean time, my tablecloth collection came in handy, protecting the table from further scratches, looking pretty, and growing on me.

Audrey pointed out that our tablecloth was getting so filthy that we were starting to sit at other spots on the table to avoid the crumbs. She was right– you can’t wipe off cloth very well. I tried. It didn’t work. And then I started looking for vinyl, wipeable options. (Like this adorable retro one from Amazon!— (affiliate link.))

The unspeakable cloth: Vinyl

If tablecloths in general aren’t in style at the moment, you can imagine that vinyl tablecloths are even less popular. The options are limited and most of the patterns look like they’ve been on the shelves for thirty years. If you look long enough, you can find some good ones.

They work so well, once you find a pattern you can live with. They cover and protect the table, and you can wipe off spills and crumbs. My own mother has had several high quality ones over the years, often cut from huge bolts at the fabric store. Her table is forty years old and still looks perfect. She had those vinyl covers on for most of our early years (because three children are h-e-double-hockey-sticks on wood). But now that my siblings and I can be trusted not to gouge the furniture with forks, she keeps it uncovered most of the time.

I say it’s time to bring back the everyday tablecloth! They keep our nice tables looking nice, but also, they give us time to save and shop wisely if our table is in rough shape. You could cover a table for eternity and no one would be the wiser if you become dedicated to the Art of Tableclothery (totally a thing).

They aren’t expensive; I’ve found my favorite ones at garage sales and discount stores. And every thrift store I’ve ever visited has about a million of them. Why can’t we get creative?

Sure, our families might wonder about them at first. They might feel like they’ve wandered into an episode of Leave it to Beaver, but they’ll get used to it. Maybe you’ll feel like putting out the good plates, sitting down with friends, and sharing a little longer over your pretty table.

pretty tablecloth

Time to move? Considerations for your new family home.

new family homeAre you thinking about buying a new family home soon?

I’m going to guess you can list the shortcomings of your current house in detail. You know exactly what areas need more room, more organization, and more light. You know how many bathrooms you wish you had and where the laundry room should be. Perfect. You’re creating the list of what your new family home needs with every exasperating room in the current house.

I did the same thing. Our first home was a tiny starter house with no discernible floor plan. The washer and dryer were in the kitchen, there was no proper place to put boots and shoes, and the basement was terrifying.

Eventually we moved to a new family home, praise be the the Almighty, and I did not make the same mistakes when choosing the new place. But now that we’ve been here a few years, I’m still surprised by a few things. In some ways this new house suits us even better than I thought it would, but other things have developed that I didn’t anticipate.

family home

Here’s what I learned. You might find it helpful for your own house search.

Kids’ stuff gets smaller.

When we lived in that teeny house, I swear to you– our daughter searched out every giant stuffed animal in Kalamazoo and then conned her grandparents into buying it for her. When we moved into this new house, I was grateful for the room for the stupid stuffed toys. But the child outgrew those toys in just a few years, and now all she needs is her phone and a few books. You might not need as much room as you think in a few years.

Kids’ interests change. Plan with flexibility in mind.

Don’t overspend on something that might not matter in two years. Sure, Dylan might play with his Thomas the Train table for hours today, but in two years he might be into drumming or Legos instead. You might not need an extra family room then. Pools, trampolines, and room for sports might become a huge asset with older kids. Plan for big kids, and plan for their eventual big friends. A house with many options will serve you well.

Pay extra for only what matters to your family.

If I see one more gourmet kitchen with a granite countertop, I will pluck my eyes from my head. Yes, of course some families love these rooms, and for them, it’s worth the extra expense. But I spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. For us, a library nook was worth the extra cost. Family rooms, extra garage storage, or acreage only makes sense if your family needs them.

Privacy is huge as kids get older.

Trust me, when your kids are thirteen and eleven, everyone is going to be okay with bedrooms far, far away from each other. We live in a bi-level, and our floor plan is great for bigger kids. It would be a nightmare if we still had little ones who were up several times a night. But at these ages, we want to be in one place and the children want to be in a completely different place. Trust me, if you can afford it, you will never regret a separate wing for your master suite.

Two toilets are a life saver. But two showers might just be a hassle.

Cleaning two showers is super dumb. I hate it. The kids are supposed to be in charge of cleaning the downstairs tub and shower, but something is going terribly, terribly wrong down there. No matter how many times I explain the concept of mold and hard water stains, they don’t believe they can clean them away. I don’t know what people do with more than two bathrooms– cleaning them must become an endless nightmare.

So that’s what I know so far.

I’m sure I’ll be surprised at all new things as the kids grow into high schoolers. Do you have any advice for me? I’d love to hear what you love and hate about your house, and what you’d like to see in your new family home. Comment over on Facebook! That’s where all the real action happens.



How to be a not-terrible hostess this Christmas season

As I write this, the holidays are approaching and you’re the elected hostess. It’s entirely possible your house is already filling with guests in some sort of Christmas Vacation scenario, and your Cousin Eddie’s dog is rooting through the trash while his tenement on wheels is parked in your driveway. The bedrooms and couches are filled to capacity and you’ve started smoking your hidden cigarettes again to ease your nerves.

How to be a great hostessYou want everyone to enjoy their holiday and their time in your home. But you’re also freaking out a little and wishing you’d moved to Iceland last year when you had the chance to transfer to the Kirkjubæjarklaustur office.

Just in time to calm your nerves, I bring you The Reluctant Entertainer (affiliate link*), the book that reminds us that hospitality is about opening our lives to our guests, not trying to impress them with our superior decorating, cooking, and cleaning skills. Being a great hostess doesn’t have to look like what we see on TV.

“Opening our lives” means sharing our actual lives, not the perfect ones we fake for social media. The pile of shoes by the front door can stay. So can the toys spread across the living room floor and the heap of clothes you hide on the far side of the bed.

The nasty garbage and the pile of dishes that smells like something died in the drain might be going  a little far, because generally guests do enjoy being able to breathe through the nose without gagging. And a wee bit of attention paid to the bathroom never hurt anyone, either.

Guests need comfortable places to hang out, good food, and some clean towels. Mostly, they want our presence, and not the jacked-up, anxious, nervous-breakdown-hostess edition. They’d like the calm and relaxed edition of us, the one who eats too many cookies and then hides the dirty cookie trays in the oven.


On the other hand…some of you may be dreading your guests for good reason. They might be picky, demeaning, and critical, with a tendency to make pointed comments about your scuffed baseboards.

Guess what.

This says a lot about them, and nothing about you.

Their criticism comes from a dark place in their heart, and you don’t have to go there. Go about your business. Eat another cookie. Take a nip from the flask you keep in the top cupboard. But don’t let them convince you that you’re the problem.

You enjoy your holiday, be the best hostess you can be, share the joy of the season and the gift of Christ’s birth, and move on. They’ll go home soon and you can nap all through January.


Home Contentment Series Part 5: Finally, now I can buy things for the house.


You might be asking yourself if there will ever be a good time to buy things for the house. And I’m here to tell you that yes, there’s a time and a place! Let’s get right to it.

{Welcome to our home contentment series! You’ve joined us on our last day. You can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 and catch up with us.}

Perhaps by now you’ve lost hope. We’ve been at this home contentment series for four solid days and you’re just about to send me an email to tell me I’m an idiot and you hate these ideas. You are ready for the part where we get to burn the ugly old couch and get a new one. Please don’t email me hate letters, because I do understand your frustration. I totally agree there’s a time and place to buy things for the house.

You don’t have to put up with the old, the ugly and the stinky for the rest of your life. Just a few weeks ago I took my pizza pan for a walk–straight to the trash. It was awful and we’d put up with it for five years. Could we have afforded a new pizza pan before that? Yes, but I was feeling cheap and frugal. So I put it off and put it off.

But there’s a point where cheap and frugal are just plain dumb, my friends. We cross the line from good common sense to tacky and dumb. There’s nothing wrong with buying new things when we need new things. Furniture wears out. Carpet gets stained. The fridge dies.

Except this couch, which we purchased in 1999 and it REFUSES TO DIE. I will own this couch until I'm dead. Maybe they'll bury me on it, I don't know.
Except this couch, which we purchased in 1999 and it REFUSES TO DIE. I will own this couch until I’m dead. Maybe they’ll bury me on it, I don’t know.

This is part of life and it’s okay to buy new. But there’s a difference between buying a reasonable new tool, and buying things just because you’re in the mood for something flashy and you don’t particularly care how it affects your finances.

We know new things won’t solve the deeper problems in our souls, right? So let’s consider a few questions that will help us dig deeper. Are we trying to pacify something that needs to be addressed with prayer or counseling or a smack in the head, or are we actually making a mature and reasonable decision?

Here are things to ask yourself when evaluating a purchase:

  1. Is this a tool that will serve our family well? Will it serve us better than what we already have? Maybe the new couch has a hide-a-bed, and your guests can use it. Maybe it doesn’t smell like dog or Great Aunt Myrna’s Pall Malls. Fine and excellent. No-Aunt-Myrna stink is a dang good reason.
  2. Can we actually afford it? I know, huge bummer. But the fact remains that contentment is shot to hades when the credit card bill shows up and you don’t have the money to pay for it. Do yourself and favor and wait until you have the money for it. Or go on a long and serious hunt for a version that you can afford. I’ve dedicated serious portions of my life to searching for a high-quality, inexpensive couch/house/rug/bed. It’s fun! It almost makes me understand those weirdos who sit in the woods for all of November waiting for a deer to shoot. Except I’m warm and darting in and out of resale furniture shops, not sitting in a tree stand with a weapon.

    I found this chair at an estate sale for $150. Best purchase ever.
    I found this chair at an estate sale for $150. Best purchase ever.
  3. Have I waited a reasonable amount of time before replacing the old thing? If you’ve been living with the inadequate or hideous item for long enough, you’ll know. This isn’t a hard and fast rule you can memorize, but more a level of maturity you will know by instinct. If you’ve been a grown up for a long time while you suffered, then good enough.
  4. Is it really, exceptionally beautiful? Will it make us very happy? Happiness doesn’t always follow the rules of common sense. Right now I have a painting of two old, pudgy ladies in their old-fashioned bathing suits, and they’re tiptoeing into the ocean together. There’s no practical use for that art piece (I use the term loosely). It just makes me really happy, okay? I found it at the resale shop for $20 and love it every time I see it. If a purchase makes you feel the same way, then that’s a pretty good reason. Do we really want to go through life being practical and beige and safe? No! Sometimes we want to see fat old ladies going for a swim.

    Well, here we have Exhibit A. I don't have a good explanation, I just love it. The end.
    Well, here we have Exhibit A. I don’t have a good explanation, I just love it. The end.

Now that you know I have disturbing taste in art, let’s move along.

Back to one last point. I’ve found it helpful to have a plan for what needs to be replaced. This gives you the ability to prioritize your purchases, working slowly through the list as finances and common sense allow. Your plan will depend on you. What do you hate the most? What’s in the worst shape? What doesn’t fit your family anymore? You know. You know what your family needs. Come up with your plan and work it. (The free checklist below has a place to make this list. How helpful is that!?)

One day you will look around and feel so much better about your home. I know it might feel like it’s too far away and you’re still tempted to charge all the shiny things on your credit card. Before you make that step, may I make one bold suggestion? Pray about it. Now, God is not some magic genie in the sky, waiting to drop blessings on your head when you say the magic words. But I do believe, after many years of seeking God and learning more about Jesus Christ, that he is deeply and intimately involved in the lives of those who seek him.

This is the new couch we paid cash for. The Lord did not drop it out of the sky.
This is the new couch we paid cash for. The Lord did not drop it out of the sky.

He will not drop a new Pottery Barn couch from the clouds. Your carpet will not magically roll back and reveal perfectly restored mahogany floors just because you begged God hard enough to get what you want. He’s not your grandpa in the toy aisle.

But I know that many, many times over the years he’s provided things for me that I could not have provided for myself. Usually it’s when I’m in the middle of trying very hard to have a great attitude and hunt for something that’s close enough to what I want, within our budget. But he is a God who loves us and wants to provide for his children, and I have personally experienced that many times over.

If you think (or know!) you’re one of those children, try praying about it. See what he opens up for you. He might not choose to work miracles on your material possessions, but he might work a miracle in your heart. And trust me when I say that’s even better.




Home Contentment Series Part 4: Move furniture and rethink your artwork.


Today we move furniture and artwork around in the house! I hope you had a hearty breakfast because you’re going to need all your energy.

{Welcome! If you’re new to this series on Home Contentment, you can catch up with previous posts: Clean it, Declutter it, and Paint it.}

Are you here because your house is awful and you hate it and you want new things to make you happy? I totally understand the desire to walk into the nearest furniture store and buy all the things. This happens to me every year, always in February, when Michigan is at its coldest, bleakest, and nastiest. While all new things would be very fun for a few moments, I also know the guilt and horror would be fierce when the Visa bill arrives in March.

So I don’t buy new things; I move around the things I already own. Sometimes I do little things, like switching the couch to face east instead of north. Maybe I move the toaster to a new section of the kitchen.

But sometimes I go a little nuts and start taking the artwork down AND I take furniture out of one room and move it to a totally new room. Eric thinks I’m crazy, but I have tons of fun and spend zero dollars.

Before you buy one little thing, I beg of you– try to move furniture and things around first. 

Step 1: Decide on a new furniture arrangement. Don’t worry if you hate it. Moving furniture is never permanent and rarely fatal. But try moving things around in at least two rooms.

Step 2: Switch a few items to a totally new room. The location of your poster of the Golden Gate Bridge is not regulated by law. It doesn’t have to stay in the hallway. You can put it someplace new! Move the photos of your kids to the kitchen. Maybe that red side table would look better next to your bed, and your nightstand could double as the microwave stand. The Furniture Police will not arrive and take you to Furniture Jail if this turns out to be a terrible idea. (I thank Myquillan Smith for reassuring me that terrible ideas are almost never life-threatening.)

Ta-da! These are leftover party supplies from my sister's wedding shower this summer. Repurposed in a blank spot in our downstairs living room, I think they look quite festive.
Ta-da! These are leftover party supplies from my sister’s wedding shower this summer. Repurposed in a blank spot in our downstairs living room, I think they look quite festive.

Step 3: Listen to The Nester, and Quiet the Room. Trust me and follow that link to her post. You’ll be able to honestly evaluate the room when you move furniture and doodads out of it. While you’re at it, buy her book (affiliate link). You’ll love it.
Step 4: Boldly cull the items you don’t love. You don’t have to keep the things you adored ten years ago, but now feel kind of blah about. You don’t have to display your wedding china or your grandmother’s bedside clock. If you think you might want to keep them, box them up and store them away for a while. Reevaluate in six months to see if you’d like to have them back out.

I keep moving these items around the house, looking for just the right combination and location. Meh. Still needs some work.
I keep moving these items around the house, looking for just the right combination and location. Meh. Still needs some work.

Step 5: Swap with friends. This could be a really fun experiment. Move furniture to a new zip code if you really can’t stand it in your house anymore. Maybe your friends have things they’d like to get rid of, too! Have a little party where everyone brings a few items and then leaves with different ones. It will probably help if you don’t invite that one friend who has really… um… terrible specific taste.

move furniture
This side table belongs to my friend, Jen. I’m the table’s foster parent for now.

Step 6: Think up new ways to use things you already own. Can you frame photos you have stashed in a drawer? Use the record album covers as artwork? Take unread books and make book art out of them? A tea cozy out of that hideous sweater your mom gave you last Christmas?

I hope these steps will help. If nothing else, they’ll at least keep you busy until the burning desire for a new couch eases. But don’t worry, if that burning for new things won’t go totally away, our next installment will show us how to buy new things for the house– responsibly, thoughtfully, and with no regrets.



Home Contentment Series Part 3: Paint away the grunge.

home-contentment-3Today we move into another level of finding contentment with our homes. We’re going to paint away all the grime and sadness and pitiful-ness (yes, that’s probably totally a word). ((If you’re a renter, stay tuned. I have thoughts for you, too!))

{Welcome to our Home Contentment Series! If you’re just joining us today, you can find Part 1 (Clean It) and Part 2 (Declutter it) by clicking the titles. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by!}

I firmly believe that taking care of our homes radically improves our contentment with them. In fact, I believe this brings more contentment than walking into the nearest home store and walking out with a whole new kitchen/landscape/furniture set. The physical act of caring for our things connects us in a deeper way to what matters. I don’t have the foggiest idea of why this is, but I know it to be true. The more I tenderly look after what God has entrusted to me, the more I’m thankful for the resources I have, and discontentment vanishes like the trends we see on Pinterest.

I just repainted the kitchen this year, and my contentment with my home soared.
I just repainted the kitchen this year, and my contentment with my home soared.

So, let’s get to it. Today I’m going to convince you to break out the paint supplies and freshen up the surfaces in your house. Obviously it helps if you already own brushes, rollers, and have leftover paint from other projects. But if you don’t have these things and have no money to spend on them, try borrowing them from friends. Or possibly even your church. I know our congregation keeps all kinds of supplies on hand, and they’re barely touched for most of the year. You can even ask friends and family if they have extra paint to share with you. Many a paint project only requires part of a gallon, and most homeowners would be glad to see their leftovers put to good use.

It never hurts to ask, is all I’m saying.

Once you’ve located your supplies, here are the things to care for:

  • Door and window trim (inside and out): The trim in our homes takes a beating every single day. Take a close look at your windows and doors and begin to repaint the most damaged areas. If you have random colors all over, I highly suggest picking one color (like a white semi-gloss) and unifying the whole house. If you have stained trim, then you might need to lightly sand it and polyurethane it.
  • Baseboards: I don’t know what’s harder on the baseboards– all those shoes getting kicked off or the marks the vacuum leaves when I get too close. But I know the baseboards in most of our rooms could really do with a nice touch up. Your house might be the same.
  • Scuffed and dirty walls: Wait! Before you bust out the drop cloth, try a Magic Eraser for the scuff marks and dirty spots. Those little miracle workers have saved me a ton of time by just erasing the grime. If the Eraser doesn’t work, then evaluate– do you have to do the entire room? You might get away with just a wall or two. However, I do suggest painting the entire wall over. Trying to touch up rarely looks right, but I’ve successfully painted a whole wall and had it blend right into the adjoining wall with no problem.
  • The doors: Again, they get pretty beaten up. A fresh coat of paint will make the whole room seem glorious.

    The upper half of these walls used to be a dark khaki color, and I hated it. So I finally took some leftover paint and just freshened it back up. So much better!
    The upper half of these walls used to be a dark khaki color, and I hated it. So I finally took some leftover paint and just freshened it back up. So much better!
  • Cabinets in the kitchen and bath: This is advanced, ninja level painting right here. But if your house is looking dumpy and sad, a fresh coat of cabinet paint might perk things right back up. (Here’s a blog post from my own kitchen.) My happiness with our house doubled as soon as I painted our kitchen, I promise you. It was totally worth a lost weekend.
  • The home’s exterior: I would enjoy painting the whole exterior of a house as much as I would enjoy being slowly eaten by sharks. I thank the Lord often for vinyl siding. Go out and really look at your house. It might be time for a paint job, and it might also be the time to call in favors from friends and family. If you have vinyl siding, you might need to rent a pressure washer and get all the mold and dirt off.

But what if you’re a renter?

Are you doomed to scuffed and gross walls? No! Of course, I don’t know your landlord, and that relationship will be up to you to evaluate. But I have been a landlord before, and I will straight up tell you that if our tenant had called and asked to paint to keep things looking nice, I would have cheerfully purchased all the paint and supplies for her. I would have gone over there and worked with her!

This is exactly the face I would have made if my tenant had asked to paint a wall a decent color.
This is exactly the face I would have made if my tenant had asked to paint a wall a decent color.

Being a landlord is a horrible, awful, merciless job. Knowing a renter is taking the initiative to care for our property is a HUGE bonus, and you might be surprised how delighted your landlord is about this idea. You will probably have to live with a neutral paint or agree to paint it back when you move out, but it never hurts to ask.

If you’re pretty sure your landlord is from the fiery land below, then you might need to use a little subterfuge. Go ahead and paint, (blogger not responsible if this backfires) but do your best to match the colors in the rental already. If the colors are mustard yellow and hot pink, combined with some festive wallpaper from 1980, then I highly suggest you go blind or find a new rental. Or threaten to find one if your landlord won’t let you repaint to something less hideous.

May the painting fairies be with you. May your brush bring joy and gladness as the new paint chases away your sadness.

And may you join us for our next installment in the Home Contentment Series. We’re going to move the furniture!



Home Contentment Series Part 2: Declutter.


Let’s declutter our places and learn to breathe comfortably in our own homes again, shall we?

In Part 1 of our Home Contentment Series, we gave a nice and thorough list of things that might benefit from a good cleaning around your house. My experience is that a clean house feels more comfortable, and therefore I feel more content in it. Today we go to the next step of finding contentment in our homes, and we declutter.

Well, honestly.

If you can dump all the clutter in your house in one day, you’re either a miracle worker or you own a dumpster and a very large bulldozer. Let’s find a more reasonable option, shall we? Let’s break things up into manageable bites.

declutter the coffee table
Welcome to my real life. This is how my coffee table looks most days.

Ask yourself this: Do we use this item regularly?

If yes, then keep it. If no, clarify with this question: on the rare occasions we need this, is this very important to have? (I’m thinking tents, holiday decorations, umbrellas…use your common sense.) The no-no items get donated or dumped.

And one more note before we begin– decluttering can be a huge blessing to others who need what you have. An attitude of generosity makes this process so much easier and fun.

Ready? Here we go!

  1. Entry closet: locate all members of your family and force them to try on everything they keep in the closet. Keep only the coats, boots, and shoes that fit and that are worn frequently. Now send your family away because you are going to be getting rid of things and they’ll claim they need to keep those items. Flummery-some stuff needs to go. With a keen eye, evaluate all the stuff you have in there. Take it all out, and then only replace the things you use at least yearly. Throw out or donate the rest, and do it today.
  2. Bedroom closets: Declutter one closet each day, repeating the above steps. Remind yourself that the items you don’t keep will be a true blessing to someone else, and be brave!
  3. Linen closets: I like to keep at least two sets of sheets for every bed in the house, plus multiple extra blankets. This is because we live in Michigan and you can never have enough blankets in your house, but also because I’ve lived through multiple stomach-bug incidents in the middle of the night. One time my son was down to his sister’s sleeping bag and a throw pillow from the couch and I swore I’d keep more sheets in the house from then on. Learn my lesson and don’t skimp here. Homeless and domestic violence shelters will love to take your extra sheets and towels off your hands.
  4. Kitchen cabinets: Be ruthless. Think of how many pots and pans you actually use in one sitting, and then declutter the cabinets. There’s no reason to look like you’re running a kitchen store. Find a college ministry and donate your extra cooking implements.
  5. The refrigerator: Why do we keep all those condiments? They’re so gross, but we can’t part with them. Well, today’s the day. Open the fridge up nice and wide. The homeless shelter has no interest in your three year old bottle of Asian sauce, so please throw it away. Keep going until every item has been evaluated and every surface has been wiped down with hot, soapy water. If you have the strength, attack the freezer. Go out for dinner.
  6. Under the beds: May the Lord be with you in your time of need. I bet you’ll find some treasures under there as you declutter.
  7. Utility areas, basement, and laundry room: Sort through all your tools and painting supplies. The local Habitat for Humanity is anxiously awaiting this donation. Evaluate those half-used gallons of paint. If they’re in good shape, log onto Facebook and ask if anyone wants them. Paint might be out of some of your friends’ budgets, and they might be sick to death of their own wall colors. If there are no takers, the ReStore will be happy to help.
  8. The garage: In our house, the garage is Eric’s domain. I don’t mess with much out there, unless I put it there first. In your case you might want to seek a few marital counseling sessions and then prayerfully attack the garage as some sort of marriage-building session.
  9. Under the sinks (kitchen and bathroom): Maybe there’s a perfectly good reason we own 400 tampons in varying absorbencies, but you know who else would love to have those? The women’s shelter. I’m not sure what to do about the 3,293 plastic bags under the kitchen sink. Maybe keep 10 and take the rest to the recycling bin at the grocery store?declutter the cabinets
  10. Various places unique to your home: I’m sure there are places in your house that I can’t see, but you’re looking at them right now and adding them to your list. For us, the coffee table is an endless battle of Legos, magazines, books, and snack bowls. You might have storage sheds, kids’ bedrooms, homeschool areas, or a south wing to your mansion. By now you’re a decluttering expert, so get to it.



Home Contentment Series Part 1: Clean house!

home-contentment-1What if I told you that contentment and happiness with your home is possible with just a few simple steps? What if I told you a clean house is a happy house?

You’d think I was nuts, probably. Right? Because how are you supposed to be content and happy with this pile of junk that’s supposed to be your house? Nothing matches, the carpet looks like the apocalypse happened on it, and there are possibly crushed Cheerios in all the corners of all the rooms.

Plus, maybe something smells a wee bit horrific.

There’s no contentment to be found, you’d tell me. Look at this place.

Trust me, I have absolutely experienced what you’re experiencing now. We’ve lived in ugly apartments with avocado appliances and terrible wallpaper. We’ve had unspeakable carpet and no budget to replace it. We’ve had ugly bathrooms and floorpans that made no sense, and through it all we had friends and children running rampant. My very soul felt like it had been sucked out of me and crushed into the filthy carpet pretty much every day.

I had to fight my way out of my despair bit by bit, and now I am here to help you out of your despair. We can do it, I promise. You can find a new joy and contentment with your home, even if you have no extra money, no ability to replace anything, and no magic genie waiting in his bottle.

Our five-part series begins right now. And it begins with a clean house!

I can feel your un-enthusiasm from here. I can tell you’d rather have your dentist drill all your teeth out. Trust me. I’m not wrong. I believe there are a few people in the world who don’t mind grime, crumbs, or stickiness. But I don’t believe those people would actually read a blog post about home contentment, either. Their central nervous systems literally register contentment in any home situation as they crunch across crushed crackers all over the floor.

The rest of us will feel better, happier, and more content in a clean house. Let me help you get there.

First, the obvious things:

  • Vacuum the carpets. (You may have to pick up and/or throw out a lot of things first, like magazines and toys.) ((May the Good Lord be with you.))
  • Sweep the hard floors.
  • Mop the floors that can take the water (vinyl and tile). Gently spot clean the floors that can’t get drenched (laminate and hardwoods).
  • Open the windows to let in fresh air. Even if it’s winter. Especially if it’s winter. A clean house needs to smell clean, which means you might need a lot of old air to get sucked out.
  • Start a few loads of laundry. Don’t forget the towels, the throw rugs, and the blankets you keep in the living room.
  • Clean the toilets, bathtubs, showers, and bathroom sinks. Pay careful attention to the floor around the toilet. And use the wand on your vacuum to go around the perimeter of the room, where all the hair collects. Don’t forget to clean the bathroom mirror and counter around the sink.
  • Attack the kitchen. Here’s a blog post with a lot of instructions if this is going to be an all day job.
  • Dust. I know, it’s the worst chore ever. But maybe our homes would feel less like mausoleums if we dusted once in a while.

That should give you a good head start on feeling better about your home. But maybe you’re  in need of an advanced cleaning suggestions because something still doesn’t feel right.

Advanced options

  • Choose your favorite cleaner (Windex, Mrs. Meyers, or simple white vinegar), get a rag, and start scrubbing. I often miss things like my windows, the hand rail on the stairs, and all that grime that accumulates around the light switches and door handles. If you have short people living in your house, get down at their level and scrub those tiny handprints off.
  • Use the wand on your vacuum (or just get really good at using your cleaning rag and solution) and pay close attention to all your baseboards. They’re probably dusty and sticky and covered in hair.
  • Ditto for your ceiling fans and light fixtures. Get the dust and the spider webs.
  • Vacuum under the furniture, behind the furniture, and under the cushions. (My friend Josie just did this and found her wedding ring! It had been missing for a year!)
  • The windows should still be open to let in that fresh air.

clean house

Super-Advanced Ninja Cleaning Options: for when you’re really, really about to lose your mind:

These suggestions are not for everyone. They may be a little controversial. But I’ve found them to be helpful in my own home, so use them at your own discretion.

  • Train your kids (and their friends) to eat in the kitchen. Also train them to wash their hands before leaving the kitchen. The end. Banish snacks and sippy cups from the rest of the house. (One day I’ll tell you the story of when my mom found a cup of Pepsi in my brother’s room. The pop was so old the liquid had fermented and we had a potent stench that nearly put me off soda for life.) Be kind, but be firm and consistent. Your furniture and carpet will thank you for it. You’ll have fewer sticky fingerprints, fewer crushed crackers, and less stinky milk soaking into your textiles.
  • Consider your pet situation. I hesitate to bring this up because I know that pets are considered family in a lot of homes. However, we just had to move our cat out of the house and into the garage this very week, and I can’t believe the difference it’s made for us. The carpet is less hairy, there aren’t spots of litter all over the floor, the whole house smells better, and NOTHING HAS POOPED ON MY CARPET FOR SEVEN DAYS. I feel like I have a new house! The cat is furious, but he should have thought of that before he spent three years acting like a drunken frat boy around here.

Obviously you know your own situation better than I do, but those are two areas that might make a big difference.

Don’t despair if your house is clean but you still feel like it’s an awful pit. The next four parts of our series will get you closer, inch by inch, to loving your home without taking a bulldozer to it.home-contentment-banner


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