my smaller home paying off debt

Flat Broke Would Be A Step Up

This is an honest post about finances.

If that makes you uncomfortable, then please click away now.

I am sitting in a Manhattan hotel room, 36 floors above the city, views of commerce and taxis and churches out the enormous windows.

I have come to the end of the BlogHer 2012 conference, which I have known all summer was the end of my spending.

What I did not know, was that I was going to be trying to casually (casual on the outside, a little frantic on the inside) swap funds from my checking account to pay down the my credit card balance enough so that the hotel charge won’t go over my credit limit.

I didn’t KNOW that I would look at my checking account and go “huh, 300 dollars from now till payday – no cushion, no extra, no credit card space for anything extra and mostly no groceries at home”.

I had PLANNED to leave Manhattan today and begin paying everything off. I just didn’t know I was actually going to be sitting on the edge of nothing – like my own financial rock bottom.

I’m not whining, I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m not saying I’m not going to enjoy every moment of wearing my Jimmy Choos that I chose to buy as my NYC souvenir.

I’m frankly feeling shame right now over the screeching halt of WOW I CAN HAZ NO MONNIES. I can either keep that in, or I can let that out.

Hi, friends. My name is Dawn. I built a new life and now I’m going to be paying the bills on it.

I now have a specific goal for this little home blog of mine. Once a week, for three weeks a month, I will show you something in my house I have done to make it better and make it mine. That fourth week, I will tell you what I have done to pay it off.

Frankly, I have everything I need. It’s time for me to readjust my wants and focus on all I have. I don’t want to feel poor, I want to learn to appreciate and take care of what I already have.

I aspire to be flat broke.

my smaller home

Survival Mode

It's You I'll Find, Like A Ghost In My MindSo I’ve realized that I’ve been in survival mode since Thanksgiving time. I’ve been battered by germs and sick and cruddy. I’ve done some projects around the homestead but now I’m left with an exploded home and I have to start doing something about it. At least I want to know that on the days I have some energy left over when I walk in the door what I’m going to do with that energy.

Tell me. If you were starting from scratch with homekeeping, where would you start?

(photo by Lotus Carroll, click photo for original)

bedroom my smaller home

Bedroom Redecorated

It began with a basic bedroom.


It morphed into a bedroom with a paint job (Sherwin Williams paint, some patience with some paint tape, and learning that measuring for stripes after a vicodin and while pissed at the best friend/not the boyfriend isn’t always a first try success.) Window coverings from JCPenney and are on every window in the house.


It further morphed into me putting down the entire hardwood floor with a little assistance from my 4 year old partner in crime.


And I will now work on cleaning my closet while singing I am Woman Hear me ROAR.

living room my smaller home

Brand New Fireplace

Well. Not really. But two coats of paint and I went from this

To this

kitchen my smaller home

Planning a Smaller Kitchen

My kitchen is ticking along. Currently in a state of disaster, but I know it will come together. I’m fully taking advantage of not actually having to live in this smaller home yet, I like having my little hobby home, so to speak.

I am picturing how this kitchen will come together. White cabinets, laminate floors, the antique wood table from my family – with all the extra leaves in it, to make room for the family and the heathens’ friends.

I see cabinets and drawers not overflowing with stuff I don’t need. I have this ideal of not bringing anything into the house I don’t love.

I yanked out the pantry I didn’t like (too deep, shelves were already warped, took up more room than I was happy with) and instantly opened the feel of the kitchen. Someday there will be a built in butcher block desk area to match my someday butcher block countertops.

I see this workplace as taking the place of an entire office room. Taking advantage of a corner of my world in this smaller home.

I see a pantry cabinet full of ingredients to help nourish us and keep us healthy. Or more to the point, get us healthy again. The dude and I are trending toward truly fat, I’d rather cook for us, but man things in wrappers covered in cheese are yummy.

I could work on this kitchen forever, but I already have the sense of when this first stage will be “done”, when I find my “enough” and will have the heart of this smaller home beating and ready to let me branch out into the rooms.

kitchen my smaller home

The Original Smaller Kitchen

We lost my beautiful grandma on the 16th of January 2011.

She lived 97 years. She was a walking ad for Oil of Olay. (If the Olay people would like to hook me up, that would be fantastic. Just sayin’)

Grandma and Grandpa owned a funeral home and lived in the apartment above it. When they retired they moved all the way across the street into a house. The only time any of us had ever been back in there was for Grandpa’s funeral in 1991.

My cousin arranged for us to be able to go back into that original home the house before Grandma’s funeral. Everything was smaller than we remembered, but it was the kitchen that brought the most memories.

In the corner was where Grandpa kept the “medicine” he gave us before bed at night. (aka one piece of candy corn). The countertop is where the noodles were rolled out, the TINY stove cooked the giant pots of noodles and mashed potatoes. Nothing decorative or fancy or pretty cabinet pulls. The women washed and dried all the dishes in there (hey, all the men were on the roof in the snow and wind adjusting the TV antenna, the kitchen was at least warm.) The smoke detector was on the outside of that wall – and when it went off, dinner was done.

We stood together looking in that tiny space, I remembered the warm security of a home full of yummy smells, crammed with toys, overflowing with people and joy and love.

Whether or not those times were ACTUALLY perfect isn’t the point, the memories are definitely perfect.

That kitchen was teeny and full of love. The bar is set high for my own little smaller home.

kitchen my smaller home

Repairing Water Damaged Walls

There’s some water damage in the kitchen from a leak last year – the inspector used his moisture detector and said it’s completely dry now – but there is still damage I have to repair before I can paint.

(looks kinda like a person throwing their hands in the air to party eh?)

I know the general idea of fixing it

  • scrape/flake off the paint and drywall tape that has bubbled off the wall
  • some kind of joint compound to fill any gaps
  • sand it smooth

This post about drywall repair mentions drywall tape. I dunno. I’ll have to ask my experts and see what they say.

kitchen my smaller home

Kitchen Flooring

I shouldn’t really say “kitchen” flooring, because whatever goes in the kitchen will go through the whole house.

I thought about carpet for about 30 seconds. Then Alex spilled syrup and orange juice and popcorn all over the floor and I thought about how lovely it would be to not have to spend my life scrubbing stickiness out of carpet and decided I wanted more wood. (That’s what she said.)

The nasty lineoleum and carpet has to go.

The Dude recommended laminate and I scoffed at him. I’ve had some laminate before and hated it. I could see the rough surface of fake wood and the seams around each plank. No way was I spending money on that.

I went to the local big box store to look at wood. Came home and said, “Uh, the stuff I liked the best was laminate.” Tasty, tasty words I got to eat.

(Tecsun Mocha Teak $3.34/sqft)

Time to start trying to price beat!

kitchen my smaller home

New Cabinets from Old Cabinets

I think I can manage to redo the cabinets with some paint, spackle and patience.

And saws.

Like cutting out the fronts of these doors

Then I saw this in Better Homes and Gardens

(click through for source and more info)

Which made me think I would try taking a door or two off and seeing how that looks for some more variety.

Opinions – of the numbered doors, which would you leave off? Or would you do something I didn’t think of?

kitchen my smaller home

Kitchen Cabinet Knobs

Knobs . . . Pulls . . . Hardware . . .

With the plan for white cabinets pretty set in my brain, I started thinking about knobs. First I was going to go with black, but then I decided that was starker (more stark?) than what I really wanted.

I looked at a small washstand I have with some glass knobs on it and luffed it. A white and yellow kitchen filled with sparkly glass? Yes please!

This whole house project is about balance – buy from the little guy instead of the big box . . . when it is reasonable – reuse old instead of buying new . . . when it is practical

Sure, I’d love to go all vintage indie on my kitchen – but it is hard when one small vendor has old knobs for 6 dollars each before shipping and the big box store has new and shiny for 3.50 each. (Multiplied times 46 . . . then factor shipping. Pass me a drink.)

I searched Etsy for glass knob and got good results. A search for glass pull got me a lot of zipper jewelry and cell phone charms. Cabinet glass was another fun search, except it pulled up a lot of sets of magnets. Then I realized I was only searching “Handmade” instead of “All Items”, so I went back and searched again. I tried glass hardware but didn’t get any new results.

I marked anything that caught my eye as a favorite (have to be logged in to your Etsy account to do this) so I could go back and delete

  • anything over 10 dollars per knob (including shipping).
  • anything without hardware (because there were plenty of options with the screw and bolt included).
  • anything smaller than 1 1/4″.

My best options – and a few just freaking cool thoughts