Hopeful Home

Can I be real here? Things are exhausting right now. We're under contract with a house right now. A house that has the perfect size yard and so much potential inside. We've felt so encouraged in this process in a lot of ways but in other ways, it's been deflating. Austin and I are both self-employed. I've been for 2 years, Austin has been for 7 years. We've heard that it's hard to get a mortgage being self-employed but it's been a rollercoaster convincing loan officers and underwriters that we can more than afford this fixer upper. We believe that it will all work out but the process is just draining so far (and we're only a week in).

What isn't draining? Dreaming up what this home will look like when it's done! That's the part that has been life-giving in a week full of bummers. It's a 3 bed, 2 bath home that has the potential to be a 4 bedroom, 3 bath someday. There's a living room and a family room and then two eating areas. The smaller dining room butts up to the kitchen where we could some day extend the kitchen the full width of the house. For now, the kitchen could just use a new floor and countertops. There's a room too small to be a bedroom on the main floor that we're planning to turn into a full bath since the two bathrooms are both upstairs. The family room is huge and gets light on 3 sides which we'll use for our in-house photo studio. Can you tell I'm excited to get working? It's a 1900 home with straighter walls than 70s homes we've toured. The original wood doors and floors are heaven.

We're trying to remain hopeful and prayerful. There's a chance this won't be our home but it would be so amazing if it is. I guess my advice is that you should buy a house before you quit your full-time job. But to end on a high note, here is our inspiration for this hopefully-ours house.

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When House Envy Sets In

I'm not a competitive person with other people. I've never cared too much if someone else wins a game, a race, or anything instead of me. In fact, I kind of like other people to win instead. I feel guilty if someone is losing and it means more to them than it does to me.

I'm a competitive person with myself, if that's a thing. I set unrealistic goals but when I achieve them or even gain traction, it's so fulfilling. With jobs or design or character development, it has always been my way to use what resources I have (access to training, books, hand-me-down furniture, etc) to better my life or situation by pushing me forward. That's my DNA.

So now, we're in this weird stage. The home buying stage. And it's been rough on me, on us, on reality. I deal with a few chronic illnesses. And living on a 3rd floor walk-up with laundry in the basement isn't doable some days. So we're looking for a house to buy. Which is exciting despite the circumstances!

image via Room&Board

image via Room&Board

But the hard part is that home loans aren't for creative entrepreneurs. They're for people with W2s and straight forward incomes. So what we can afford on paper is limited compared to what we can afford in reality. Another hard part is that we want to keep our monthly payment low but we also don't want a house that needs a total renovation. We're both pretty particular (thankfully in the same way) with the types of houses we like, size we need and neighborhoods we'll consider. We're looking for a vintage home with character and space. We're willing to do some work but mostly cosmetic (kitchen, floors, paint, etc.) and not major (foundation, electrical, layout, etc.).

image from Domino

image from Domino

The competitive--or maybe more so comparative--part of me is coming out during this process. I see Pinterest and Instagram in a completely new way now. Instead of seeing a beautiful room and being inspired by the designer, the style, the pieces, I get envious that the poster has that house. Can afford that house. Can afford that renovation and furniture. I HATE that's where my thoughts go. So I have to keep 5 things in mind when I'm looking on social while we're in the market:

1. There are homes with tons of potential in every price range. We just have to find ours.

2. The home we can afford now isn't the home we can afford later on. Getting into the market automatically sets us up for affording something more later on a lot easier. 5 to 10 years from now, we'll have equity to move towards a new place.

3. We've taken a rental with a lot of eye sores and made it into a place we'll be sad to leave. We can work our magic on even the saddest house on the block.

4. Pinterest is for inspiration, not imitation. Because comparison is the thief of joy, right?

5. While we're looking for a house to suit our aesthetic hopes, we really just need a house that meets physical checkmarks to make my life more mobile and our lives easier. It doesn't need to be impressive.

image via Amber Interiors

image via Amber Interiors

House envy or social media comparison isn't something I've had much experience with but it's definitely something I don't want to hang around. How do you fight off the urge to compare?

xx lauren

Finding Simple

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As a stylist, my job is finding the balance between enough and not too much. Too much propping in a photo looks cramped and forced. Too much editing out feels unfinished. In rooms it's the same: I'm not a minimalist and I'm not a maximalist. I'm comfortable to sit in the middle. But like a stylist, I keep a lot of alternative options at an arms length.

My home is styled. Not too much, not too little. But that doesn't mean the closets, shelves and our studio prop room aren't overflowing with extras to sub in and out. Some I haven't used in a decade but they follow each move with a thought of "maybe in the new place?" But what if my closets and shelves could breathe a bit more? What if I let go of the things that aren't serving a purpose other than things to dust, pack and unpack? Artwork that I have but don't have the motivation to hang, throws that are too scratchy to use, objects that I don't love or were so trendy when purchased that they are out of style now.

After reading several blog articles and books all hinting that less stuff = happier, easier living, I'm convinced. I've already cut my wardrobe down by 30% with clothes to donate, cut our movie collection by 50%, and this week I'll be working on decor. I want to specify that we aren't becoming minimalists. We'll still have our home decorated, I'll still have dresses in the back of my closet for nice events, Austin will still have extra cameras that bring him joy but not functionality. But we're trimming down the excess. The stuff we store. I won't have to ask my objects if they bring me joy, I know if they are useful or beautiful or not.

I can still act like a stylist in my professional life but in my home, I would rather be content without extra options in storage. I'd rather investigate what piece would really be great in the space and save up for it. I'd rather get us to a place where the next time we move, we aren't surprised by forgotten boxes left unpacked from the last time. We're going for simplicity with a hint of minimalism.

What are the things that you have a hard time parting with? Are there games, dishes, jeans, hair products, etc. that take up storage space but never get used? Could other people get better use out of those things if they were donated? Would you remember them once they're out of your house?

Here's to emptier closets by the end of the weekend!

7 Resolutions to Make for Your Home

New Year's Eve seemed like a good day to take down the Christmas decorations. It seemed like a good day to sort through the outerwear accumulating on the coat rack since October. And then it seemed like a good day to reevaluate how well our home was serving us.

Resolutions can be tricky, especially when they are inward and don't start with a plan of action. A good resolution challenges and benefits our relationships, our health, our attitude or efficiency. Making an attempt to wake up at 6:45am every day is a good resolution, because you know that if you go to bed early enough and set the right alarms, you'll be set up to be resolved. But it's also a good one because you know if you don't do it. Resolving to travel abroad without any reason or timeframe to make plans isn't a great one. Because on January 2nd, you'll realize that you can't afford it yet, so you'll plan it later in the year when you have more time and money. And every time you consider it, it feels further out of reach. Until it's December and you have to decide to go for it or realize that your resolution didn't add adventure to your life but took away your pride, energy and contentedness.

For me, it was easy to get up, jump on the computer and immediately find myself on Trulia and Pinterest. Sitting in a beautiful (albeit rather messy) apartment and wondering how me and my husband's lives could be improved in a new, idyllic space. After getting an apprehensive response from Austin on whether we could invest in a house in 2017, I once again, resolved to make our apartment even more beautiful, organized and hospitable. But like vowing to make it abroad, it's not really doable without a plan.

This year, I'm resolving to small actions that will make a considerable impact each day, week and month. Feel free to implement these or adjust as needed if you're like me and need a reminder to be content with your home this year.

1. Make the best of it. Rearrange, tidy up, put the art on the walls, and paint whatever is dingy. Your home will feel as sad and uninspired as you let it. Find all the hidden potential possible.

2. Do the tough things while they're not so tough. Do the dishes before food dries and is impossible to get off. Throw away the junk mail instead of setting it aside for later.

3. Take care of it so it can take care of you. Watering the plants means you have vibrant, healthy plants and also that you don't have to lug a plastic bag full of dirt and dead leaves to the trash. Keep the guest bedroom tidy so that when people come to stay, you're not using all your energy to get ready for them but to actually enjoy them when they're there.

4. Be regular. Kind of the same lines as #2 & #3, don't let things pile up or get too gross. Cleaning more often means you don't have to clean as hard and in the meantime, you'll have a healthier state of mind.

5. Purge as often as you can. Not only will getting rid of things feel good and make your space less cluttered, it'll also give you a bit of pause before buying things just because. Donate the things that can be donated and recycle what can be reclaimed.

6. Be thankful for what it is. In our case, the 3rd floor walkup, falling down ceiling and no outdoor space can get us itching for a new place but what it offers (high ceilings, large rooms, low rent, ability to improve, location and a community of great people in the building) can't easily be replicated even in the best house on the market. Remind yourself of what you'd be sad to lose in your home if you left it.

7. Use it as intended. Shelter is one of the basic human needs. Physiological, physical, emotional and mental needs can be met in this space if you let them. If your home is only a place of work, improvement and a place to drop in between work and social engagements, don't be surprised if it doesn't bring you joy. Let it bring you rest instead just a place to keep your bed.

Happy New Year! What are your resolutions this year?

xx lauren