Thursday, October 31, 2013

There is HOPE

October is coming to a close and that means it's time to conclude this 31 days series of finding lots of hope in a little home, even though in the end it was more like 25 days, but less is more? I wanted to throw out a couple disclaimers before I wrap this thing up

1. I've said it before, but just to be clear I am not anti-big houses. In fact as we (I say we because J helped me a lot in this series) discussed this topic we began to talk about what we miss most about having an average size house. For me I think the number one thing is a washer and dryer. For J it's a garage for building things. I totally agree. I did videography of a wedding a couple weeks ago and both the bride and groom were accountants. During the consultation they said "this should be easy becasue we are numbers people, we leave all the art up to you. Do your thing and we'll stay out of the way". "Numbers people" make better minimilists because they work with information. Artsy people USUALLY need to create with their hands. Whether it's a theme party or a coffee table J and I are always creating and that takes up space. So I like the idea of space, it's just that for some of us a lot of space is not our reality right now, and for others it's not even on the wish list, so that's what this series was focused on.

2. I have shared a lot of pictures in this series. For my new readers you might be thinking why do you call yourself the messy mom if you have 5 people living in 800 square feet and your living room still looks like this?

Well, I hate to shed some light on the illusion, but this is the photo I took when I was checking out where I needed to stand for the shot.

So that is reality. I just didn't want to show a bunch of messy house photos because this series really focused on design, function, furniture, and arrangement of furniture which would be difficult to see with all the distractions. So yes, I did clean up for you!

The reason I wanted to talk about lots of hope for the little home is because I wanted to show that there is potential for the place that you are at right now. I talked about having multiple purposes for things in your  house. I discussed thinking outside of the box and seeing the advantage of things like room or bathroom sharing. I didn't even get into the smaller electric bills and less cleaning (which I absolutely LOVE by the way). Beyond just the practical tips and tutorials though, this series has been very personal for me. I am getting choked up even as I type this, but the reason I know that there is lots of hope in a little home is because I have experienced it on a deep and meaningful level. It's not just about the house, this series is also a testimony of what God has done for my family spirtitually as well. We have been through so much and we've seen his goodness in a way that is beyond what we've ever known. We are closer as a family (not just because of the lack of square footage). My marriage is the best it has ever been and even my dreams are bigger than they were before. When I declare hope for the little home I am not just talking about furniture and flooring, I am telling you that your home no matter what the size can be filled with hope. You are a beacon of hope! Each member of your family is a light. We all have a story that can impact people. Because I have been through the fire, and I still have a long way to go, but His strength carries me. He was with us a year ago when we trudged through unemployment, and nurtured a pregnancy, and labored to bring new life into this world. And when we faced the diagnosis of hearing loss and stood up as advocates for our daughter, and  plowed through the recovery after surgery. Then when we climbed up the three flights of stairs to move into an empty apartment far away from all we knew we still saw hope at the threshhold and today we still see lots of hope in our little home. I hope you will too.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Bedroom

I have saved our bedroom for last, not because it's a big show stopper. Not at all! The reason I waited because I was hoping to have it finished by now and it's not, but I did hang some pictures. Which is a quite an accomplishment for me. I have been planning out this composition for months. I wanted something on the big blank space where a head board would be. I couldn't decide what would be appropriate, but when it started clicking I knew exactly what to do.

Black and white photography, art, travel- these are all things that J and I love and I had these frames that someone dumped that just needed to be painted. So I chose 5 images that all represent the previously mentioned theme.

The top left is a photo from when we drove through Canada a couple years ago. The one beneath it was taken in Chicago last year. The middle photo is from when we went to England on a mission trip  10 years ago, and the top right is at J's parents farm in Sanger Texas (from when we renewed our vows). Finally the bottom right is a photo of the white sands in New Mexico, which was taken about 7 years ago. So you have different states, different countries, different parts of our marriage, and I love alternating the nature shots with the architectural ones (two more things we love!). So this collage is very soothing and uplifting to us and I am happy to have this project finally complete.

Other special touches in the room are the two night stands J built.

They are custom made to be taller than the average night stand because when we moved into the apartment we put our bed on cinder blocks to be able to have more storage below.

The other thing that I find to be really special about this COZY little space is that I had this grey paisley sheet that I bought from a thrift store on a very memorable trip to Austin Texas. I wanted to incorporate it somehow, so I had my mom turn it into curtains for me. I then brought the material to Ikea to find a somewhat coordinating duvet cover.

I snapped this shot on my phone because I like this cover and I wanted to remember it and save up for the purchase. Well, believe it our not there was one in the clearance section on the way out that was TEN dollars. That's crazy for an item that is new to the catalogue! Of course I snatched it up, but it gets better. Days later I was at a thrift store here in Ohio and found the exact coordinating pillow case that was in perfect (like brand new) condition. These items were bought used and purchased YEARS apart in different states. What are the odds? My plan is to make throw pillow cases out of it and add some other coordinating pillows eventually, but this what I've got for now.

You already saw the closet area which is on the opposite wall and there is a little vanity too. That's about it though. That's our little room.

*** I am posting my closing blog back to back with this one because I am behind and today is the last day for the 31 day challenge. You can read that post next and the rest of the series is listed here. ***

The Loft Style Closet

One of the biggest issues you have to face in living in a small home is the lack of closet space. The obvious solution is to get rid of stuff, but even then you may still find yourself dreaming of a bigger closet. Even before we downsized we did not have walk in closets, but we did each have our own. So when we moved J whipped up some clothing rods for when we lived with my parents because their home, though quite large, does not have any closets because it was built in the 1800's. 
I am glad he invested in that because we used them again when we stayed in my brother's basement (no closet there), and again for the world's longest yard sale (as a display rack), and now we are using them again for our little apartment.

 I use the master bedroom closet, which is quite small, and J uses the pipe closet. He came up with this design on his own so it doesn't really have a name, but we've called it an open closet, the wall-less closet, and for this series I have called it The Loft Style Closet, because it's urban feel would go perfectly in a studio apartment or an industrial loft. 

If you are feeling handy and want to throw something like this together here are the supplies used 

(2) 8 foot 1 1/2 inch threaded plumbing pipe that can be bought at Home Depot or plumbing supply house
(1) 3/4 inch threaded 6 foot plumbing pipe
(2) 1 1/2 X 3/4 T fittings
(2) 1 1/2 floor flanges  
planks of wood  

The first thing you do is screw the 8 foot poles into the 6 foot one using the T fittings. 
Next attach your 8 foot poles to the flanges.
 In our case J welded them, but since welding isn't the most practical option for everyone you can use flanges that screw on. As shown here

The next step is to paint it, but this is optional. J used rust-oleum spray paint to make ours black.

At my parents house he was able to screw the poles right into the wood flooring, but there are a lot of situations where that isn't an option. In that case you can screw the poles onto a piece of wood to make it stand up on it's own.

Even when we do have our dream closets we will be hanging onto these because they have come in handy on so many occasions. 

What about you? Do you have your dream closet? I'd love to hear from you! 

For more of this series click HERE.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hope For Homeschooling In Small Spaces

 One of the things I have learned along the way in this journey is how you can homeschool in a very small space. When we had to pull Z out of school last year I just began working with him in the parent lounge in the upper level of SJ's school, and I was amazed at what we accomplished.

 It made me realize that you can homeschool almost anywhere.

If I had to share one tip for someone homeschooling with limited amount of "classroom" space I would say to become best friends with your local library.


I know every library is different, but even the most basic of branches have books, that much I can guarantee. This is a great way to get some free resources and not have to keep them stored. Just use, learn, and return. Our library even had "learning packs" that you check out according to themes like rhyming, manners, music, etc. Each big duffel bag included toys, games, flash cards, books, videos and more that were all focused on that one subject. It was awesome.

Now, I am not a homeschool expert by any means. I just happen to be curious about it and interested in learning more. So I asked some friends of mine to share their input about homeschooling in small spaces.

Jen and her husband have 4 children and have lived in a variety of different apartments and rental properties which all would qualify as small. She is the one that sent me the poem that I posted yesterday and she is the first one I asked to help me share tips on homeschooling in small spaces.

Her number one piece of advice was to keep things simple. When it comes to supplies and curriculum Jen likes to make sure she is using what she has and if not then get rid of it. She also says that their family table is multipurpose. They use it as a dining table, but it is also where they do school.

With three small boys at least one of them has to be running around half naked right? 

Jen not only tolerates having a smaller home, she actually appreciates it. She says "Everyone has varied reasons for homeschooling. However, usually a common denominator regardless of reasons is a desire for togetherness. Small spaces certainly provide that! Yes, some days are hard, but I wouldn't trade it. I like being able to hear and see what is going on from my perch in the kitchen and I like that it gives us ample reason to choose an intentional lifestyle."

Lastly Jen pointed me to a great blog resource, Raising Life Long Learners (which has tons of info on homeschooling in small spaces), and Philippians chapter 4 (an encouragement for moms in the thick of this stuff). I will definitely be checking those out.

I also want to introduce you to another friend of mine. 

Andrea is the lady I called up when I began teaching Z. She has tons of helpful advice, especially when it comes to homeschooling boys, because she has 6 of them.

That's right, SIX! 

Andrea and her husband made do with 1,600 square feet for the longest time. They did eventually add on, but she said there is still not a ton of room to work with. I can imagine. When I asked her advice about homeschooling in small spaces she talked about using the dining room table too.

She likes to buy educational place mats (including the ASL alphabet, which makes me grin), she then covers the table with a clear table cloth she buys by the yard at Hobby Lobby.

Andrea has lots of little organizational tips like keeping art/school supplies in an over the door shoe pouch hanger, or having a "locker' for each child which she uses crates for.

One thing I thought was neat about both ladies is that they are not trying to duplicate the traditional school environment. If you want to have a desk or a locker in your home then that might be fun, but I like the idea of learning in the home environment and just embracing that.

Let's talk about one more friend. Ashley and her family are always on the move because of her husbands job. 

This pic of Ashley has nothing to do with homeschooling. I just wanted to show it because it's cute.

This means small and temporary living quarters. 

It would be difficult, or impossible to switch school districts non stop, so they have chosen to homeschool on the go and it's worked out extremely well. They use an online program called k12 which brings the virtual classroom to the student, and because it is a charter school it is completely free!

Her boys have been able to learn about the world while traveling through it!

If you are waiting for the ideal space and the perfect situation to start taking charge of your children's education then consider some of these stories. Homeschooling isn't for everybody, but if it is something you desire then be encouraged that there is lots HOPE, even for the littlest homeschool.

Check out my index page for more of this series

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Quote

The following poem was sent to me by a friend after we moved into our little apartment and these photos are little glimpses of our life here. 

Love grows best in little houses

With fewer walls to separate

Where you eat and sleep so close together

You can't help but communicate

If we had more room between us

think of all we'd miss

Love grows best, in houses just like this

Friday, October 25, 2013

Christmas In Small Spaces

Christmas is 2 months away! Just thinking about it makes me reflect on some of my all time favorite Christmas celebrations. Coincidentally they all took place in small and unusual circumstances. I remember spending our first Christmas as newly weds at a hotel because we were visiting my parents who were not in their new house yet.

I remember another Christmas in a hotel when we spent the holidays helping out after hurricane Katrina down in New Orleans.

 Our last Christmas in our Texas home was really special too. We had to keep everything simple because of our house being on the market, but we still managed to pull out the little Christmas tree that we've had forever, which adorns a silly little aluminum foil star. We opened a few presents with the kids before heading off to church and that was that.

 All three of these Christmases were beautiful and I will never ever forget them, but my favorite Christmas was spent in a hospital.

*The following paragraphs were taken from a blog post I wrote 5 years ago. 

I have shared before that my little brother had Luekemia and for years he was in and out of the hospital getting treatments.  This particular winter he was there exclusively. When it snowed we brought it to him in a Tupperware container so that he could enjoy some of it too. For Christmas that year our family of six piled into the tiny hospital room full of presents and our attempts at decorations. I remember getting a life size doll that year. By life size I mean she was probably 3 feet tall. When you are young, good things do not come in small packages no matter what anyone tries to convince you. So you can image I was thrilled to see this gigantic present all wrapped up with my name on it! 

It might not seem like the picture perfect Christmas. My parents finances were stretched to the limits, we were away from home, our youngest family member had a terminal illness, but somehow that is the Christmas that we all look back on and agree was our favorite. We had the gift of time, precious time as a family. It didn't matter if there were fluorescent lights instead of a fireplace, or doctors and nurses instead of grandparents and cousins. It was our last family Christmas altogether and there were no disappointments because we cherished it in that moment not knowing what the future would bring and we still cherish it today.

Reminiscing about that time in our lives reminds me in some ways of this place that we are at now. It doesn't feel like the ideal situation, but this Christmas is one that I look forward to and am expecting great things (and I don't mean presents, although those are nice too). 

Maybe you are planning on a simple Christmas this year, or maybe you are having Christmas away from home. No matter what the circumstances are, just know that the true spirit of Christmas can be found in a hospital, or a hotel room, or a tiny apartment. No place is too small or too simple, not even a humble stable. 

This post is a part of a 31 day series. You can find the rest on my index page. Thank you for stopping by. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

One Happy Camper Party

Yesterday I showed part 1 of Ezie's birthday party and today I am going to share 10 party details that made this event in our little home so special!

1. I already posted the invitations

2. And the party favors for the kids

3. This banner was really special because it was made by my sister in law and sent all the way from Texas to Ohio just for us!

4. . We downloaded a campfire video with audio (found on youtube) and had it playing on our TV during the party. We also had camping chairs to sit in, which were both practical and decorative. 

5. I found this camping cake idea online and put my own spin on it.

6. I had these one year photos of Ezie along with one year photos of his siblings, parents, grandfathers, and one great grandfather (1929)! The poem says 

I'm a year old and looking real cute
 sitting on a log in my flannel and boots
because because baby pictures are so much fun
Here's more of my family when they were all ONE!

and here is me, Z, and my dad pointing to our photos. 

7. The kids room was transfomed into a "Fort Building Station" Most of the printables I used are form here.

8. The kitchen counter became a trail mix bar

8. The mason jars had thank you notes and photos of the birthday boy for the guest's party favors.

9. The birthday cake candle was a part of the campfire flame, it was really cool to see it have real fire and smoke! 

10. Outside was a camping set for presents and drinks, but since it DID rain (thank goodness I nixed the original outdoor camping idea) we moved most of these items inside. 

I hope this list is helpful to anyone looking for camping party ideas and that it is inspirational for those living in small spaces. You can decorate and celebrate in a little home! 

This post is part of my 31 day series. Find more HERE