Tag Archives: lifestyle

Top Ten Homey Touches: How to Make an Apartment a Home

source dotandbo.com

source dotandbo.com

We were just married and on the same day we signed a lease for a small condo. Entering our first new place was like a horror novel. Upon opening the outside closet we discovered a pile of feces. (And, I’m not sure that it wasn’t human.) But, the goodies didn’t end there. We ventured further- the first room, the living room, was supposed to have new blinds up. Instead, the white blinds were lazing on the floor doing little for our privacy. Next was the bedroom, another set of blinds on the floor, but that wasn’t what was bothersome. Connected to our room was the bathroom, with NO door. Before I could get too torn up about the “no door” situation, another entirely different situation assailed my nose. A unholy stank hit me with staggering force. Braving on, we peeked into the bathroom. On the floor was a crumpled white t-shirt, or it would’ve been white had it not been for the brown streaks. I prayed silently, “Please be paint.” It was not. At this point the smell was almost too unbearable to stand, but we had more to see. Clasping each other’s hands as if contesting who could cut off the other’s circulation the fastest, we pressed on. That horrid smell, it was coming from the toilet. Mustering all my strength and will power, I used one unfortunate finger to flip the lid. What resided in that toilet was the most murky, ungodly, gagging thing another human could possibly make. It took weeks to scrub away the smell and ringed evidence from the criminal act that was committed on that poor toilet. I would like to say the horrors stop there, but they don’t. A couple days later I did laundry. After washing and drying a load I pulled the pile out, along with something else. That something, fell onto the floor. It looked like a little fuzzy lint. I put the laundry on the bed before leaning down to inspect the little fuzzy thing. It was the dried carcass of a brown mouse. And yet, we were so thankful for being able to rent a place, we didn’t complain. Now, we live in a much nicer dwelling (easy to do from where we started.) That being said, I never really made that apartment home. So, when we moved to this apartment, I decided I wasn’t going to wait until it felt like home to make home happen. In fact, I’m pleased with the results. My home, where I spend the majority of my time, is now a haven verses a prison.

My Top Ten Homey Touches. 

1. Keeping the peace. I know it can be hard when you have baby puke in your hair, two screaming babies, and a house that may as well be the home of the Adam’s family. But, experts in phycology can look at your environment and only account for 10% of you happiness. That is all! I’m not discounting an environment, because I know it still influences us, but how much more can we influence our environment? Peace isn’t something that occurs because everything is perfect, it occurs because we choose it. The center of a hurricane is known as “the eye of the storm” inside that raging beast is a peaceful and calm center. That is what I try to choose, and even if I fail to remain calm, I’m still encouraged that I’m more peaceful now than I’ve ever been. This attitude papers your home’s walls with something much more beautiful than any décor.

My creative area! I have to de-clutter it constantly.

My creative area! I have to de-clutter it constantly.

2. Clutter free. I’m not going to lie, I will never win the cleanest house, or even most-of-the-time-clean-house. Nope, my house is frequently messy, even if I clean it several times a day. Blame it on the kids, my creative spirit, or plain laziness, but that is the truth. However, it isn’t so bad with toys scattered hither and thither if I don’t have those sneaky piles of junk that goes who knows where. Mentally, I keep telling myself, everything has to have a place. I’m not perfect on this, but my constant quest to de-clutter has made our little apartment more than tolerable. And slowly, it is looking more and more comfortable.

3 Photos. The power of a picture should never be underestimated. Little baby hands, wedding kisses, and my brother and sisters’ goofy smiles can make a day bright even in the darkest of times. Not to mention, it is encouraging to see my family and myself growing and changing. If I’m grumpy with my husband looking at photos of us immediately makes me mushy and sentimental towards him (same with my kids!)

4. Making my bed. I have done this ever since reading an article about 5 Things Happy People Do. It was super helpful. Even if my house is a disaster the bed being made makes me happy and feel just a little more in control of the surrounding chaos.

Print sellers: Print on right can be found at idrawrainbows.com , middle print is from the shop ThePaperNut on Etsy, and the left from chiou.storenvy.com

Print sellers: Print on right can be found at idrawrainbows.com , middle print is from the shop ThePaperNut on Etsy, and the left from chiou.storenvy.com

5. Artsy Fartsy. I love art. I love to see it spilling a creative vibe and whimsy onto my plain white walls. I love buying prints and am so excited to see someone’s talent bless me and my home with inspiration!

 6. Function and beauty. Everything I own I try to not just make beautiful, but functional. An apartment only has so much room and storage, so if you aren’t using it, and it isn’t necessary, you may not need it. Luckily we can often up-cycle an item to make it more functional. For example, the changing table. It wasn’t being used for babies and it was taking up space, but I wanted somewhere to put shoes, toys, and on top something fun like a coffee center. I’m pleased with it being still useful and pretty!

Changing Table that is now my storage center. (Currently I have a record player and my vinyl records on top)

Changing Table that is now my storage center. (Currently I have a record player and my vinyl records on top)

7. Oh the smells we smell. Isn’t it crazy how everyone’s house has a unique scent, (or sometimes a funk.) I really like to make my house smell nice- I clean more, I feel better, and it can cover the strange odors a baby can make. When we first got married we were super short on money, but I took $15, which was a lot to me, and bought a box of bath & body wallflowers, candles, home oils, and home sprays that were listed on craigslist. To this day I use the same ones I bought and have yet to run out!

8. Curtains. I bought my curtains after receiving an electric bill last summer that topped $300! The Oklahoma heat ramped up to 100 F most weeks and we could not keep cool. The little AC unit in this apartment is not large enough for the space- even on full throttle it wouldn’t get down from 75 F. We decided to invest in power saver curtains (and get curtain rods) to hopefully offset future bills. They have helped a little with the bill, but mostly they are beautiful and look much nicer then the sheet we tacked up in our last apartment. Curtains are a homey touch that takes away the “temporariness” that is easy to feel in an apartment.

9. Contentment. This one took a long time for me. I have kids and being in an apartment, at times, made me feel like I failed. I know it is silly and plenty of families live in apartments instead of houses, but it took time to adjust my thoughts on it. It kind of goes with the “inner-peace thing,” but it is a little different. For me it involved not being embarrassed of my little dwelling and owning it. This is my place! I live here and I’m happy with it. I still want a house, and someday will have a yard and our own place, but in the meantime I am content.

10. Have a C.S. Lewis moment. A tea pot and a good book. Perhaps this is entirely a “me” thing, but a hot mug and a nice book is my way to relax and feel right at home. Fall is upon us and we are often burrowing into our home and thinking Hobbit thoughts. My cute little tea pot and china cups bring me a sense of home and hospitality. It’s cheesy, but images of “Pride and Prejudice” pop into my brain. Hot beverages and a great story make everything much more cozy and welcoming no matter where you are at!

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Living Large While Living on Little: Surviving Financial Crunches

A week after my husband’s college graduation we were married. We had a couple thousand dollars, and Emanuel worked on the weekends doing DJ gigs while searching fervently for a steady job. Not to mention, a baby on the way!  We lived off of that saved money for an entire summer. When the reserves were almost dry, he got a sales job in the fall that paid terribly and sporadically, but it did pay! Despite this we did not just survive- we lived well. We were wise with our money, but ultimately it was not our doings that got us through, it was God’s doing. We made and lived on less then 20,000 a year that first and second year of marriage, with a baby and me as a stay-at-home mom.

Summer 2012- little did I know there was a fourth person in this picture as well!

Two months ago my husband got a new and better job that utilizes his degree! This was great news for us, but there was a challenge in the exchange. We would not see another paycheck for 6 full weeks due to switching pay periods too. There were no reserves, and yet, at the end of the six weeks we still had a couple dollars left in the bank.  When the paycheck did arrive my younger sister said, “I bet you are soooo relieved!” I had to pause, because even though I was very thankful for the money in the bank, and all our bills paid without a hic-up, I had already surrendered to God. I couldn’t let the amount of money I had, or didn’t have, dictate my feelings or I would of been miserable for my whole marriage! My security does not come from a job, finances, or a bank, but in God’s plan and provision . This may seem impossible, but I assure, you nothing is impossible with God.

How I try to deal with financial crunches and tough spots in life:

My construction paper wreath that I made. A small reminder for me to Give Thanks.

My construction paper wreath that I made. A small reminder for me to Give Thanks.

  • Cultivate thankfulness. How can you cultivate thankfulness? It means not taking anything for granted- your health, shelter, food, spouse, children, anything extra you have like a cell phone, television, books, or even a hot shower. Except God’s love for us and his eternal promise, nothing is guaranteed. Everything else is simply extra. If you still struggle with finding thankfulness, make a list of all the things you do have. The blessings that have been granted to you, the mercies that were often undeserved, but were still given. We can look at what we don’t have (money, a job or even a better job, connections, a house, a car) and in doing so we can create a spirit of dissatisfaction. This spirit drips a poison into our hearts to make us bitter and not open to what God can and has blessed us with. We say “I would be happy if I only had…” It’s not wrong to desire those things, but we need to not let our happiness rest on the wings of things or circumstances because they will never be able to carry the weight.

Niecy Nash says, “If your hand is open to give, it is open to receive.” Picture from Ennvy.com

  • Niecy Nash, The host of “Clean House”, my favorite reality television show says, “When your hand is open to give, it is open to receive.” This is a biblical principal that has permeated my life. We honor God with ten percent of our increase no matter the amount we have in the bank. God commands it, so we do it. “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” Malachi 3:10 This verse embodies how we have made it these past two years without using credit cards and loans. We rely not on a job, but on God for provision. He does use avenues to bless us like our job, but that is not his limitation for where and when he can bless us.

Good stuff. Picture is from daveramsey.com

  • Don’t spend more than you make. It sounds simple, but it can be hard when what you make can’t possibly cover living expenses. Right?… Well, it isn’t easy, but you have to start somewhere and where you start is a budget. Everyone cringes at the B word, but it is one of my favorite words, an old friend and a strong ally. When I evaluate my income then look at my expenses I can see what needs to happen, what I can have, what I can live with or without. If you are new to budgeting I can’t stress enough going to Dave Ramsey’s website and making a budget in the tools section , for free!!! His advice on dealing with debt, budgeting, and living well helped my parents, who are small business owners,  be debt free, and pay off their home! You can be in control of your finances even if you feel trapped. Often, we put off the things that are hard, or heavy to deal with, but I hope today you decide to take charge in your finances. When you know what you need you can ask God for help and find wisdom to deal with the issue at hand. Money is something most everyone has to deal with, or it will deal with you.
  • Cut living expenses (then cut again.) This looks different for everyone so all I can do is show you what my husband and I did:
    • We have two babies, but we do not live in a two bedroom dwelling. We now can afford to live in one, but instead we live in a one bedroom condo with a loft that is being converted into my daughter’s room. (Will be finished next week!)  We have plenty of room and to me it is pointless to make the move until we need to make the move. This saves us a ton of money
    • One vehicle. This vehicle drives my husband to work, back home, Church on Sunday, and the occasional date. It doesn’t handle long trips or frequent trips in one day, but it still runs and I am so thankful for it!
    • I grocery shop at Aldies. It is cheap and I can buy my groceries for two adults (one who is breastfeeding), and one toddler for an average of $65 a week. That includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
    • Reusable diapers. These are the life savors to my budget. Disposable diapers are expensive and for more of my thoughts on those check out my post My Pros and Cons of Cloth Diapering
    • We primarily dress our kids in used baby clothes. In the past two years, for special occasions, I have purchased 3 outfits for my toddler and 1 for my baby. Everything else has been given to us. Of my four sisters, three have children and between them accumulated enough clothes that I never need to buy baby clothes.
    • I breastfeed. This saves money, but like I said, this is what we do. Everyone should make their own choices for how they want or can nourish their child. You can check out my thoughts and experience on breastfeeding here.
    • We use a Britta pitcher for filtered water. Water bottles are an expense we can do without.

Those are my basic go-to’s for surviving financial crunches. Please comment below. I’d really love to hear your experiences, ideas, and tips in the area of finances!

Our awesome family photo was taken by Sweet Dreams Photography Thanks so much Tammy.

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Job title: Mom

I would like to address some wonderful questions and statements that mothers receive. Starting with this one:

Gosh, it must be nice to be a stay at home mom and do nothing.

Yep, us stay at home-uneducated mothers just love to sit on our fat bottoms and eat Oreos all day. Well, that does sound pretty good to me but that just isn’t the case. I’m more likely to be cleaning Oreo off the floor or scrubbing a child’s dirty face then actually getting to eat the Oreos. And if I am eating the Oreos I’m normally hiding in the closet during nap time stuffing them in as fast as I can before they wake up. Instead of imaging all these glorious creative projects I am imaging the day my first-born will be potty trained. I imagine not having to wash diapers every other day. I know my dreams don’t seem big, but they are mine. The truth is, being a stay at home mom is hard, and lonely. We live in a society that believes all problems are due to how our mother raised us- too clingy, too distant, not caring, too caring. It can be frightening holding your fresh newborn and thinking gosh, I can screw this all up. And this job of motherhood is hard enough without having people thinking it isn’t a job. Which brings us to our next question.

So, you just stay at home with your kids, don’t you have bigger ambitions?”

To those people I would like them to look at the world, look at the hardness and the times we live in. Do you really think what we need as a society is more parents who call their children inconveniences? Yes, I have dreams for myself. And yes, it is so hard to clean poop off diapers to save money, but not for one second do I look at my children and feel regret or disdain. They are the biggest accomplishment I will ever have. And finally, my favorite question:

Don’t you want to reach your full-potential?

I say sure, I could go back to school, which someday I may, and study and start a successful career. Honestly, being a mother, I don’t reach my full-potential. I have to go beyond my potential, capability, and understanding. From the moment they are conceived, through labor, delivery and every breath they take from that point I have to be responsible for their body, spirit and soul. And it is impossible, there is only so much as a human being you can do, your full potential is just not near enough. So, as a mother, you have to pray. You have to pray for them for their safety, for their hearts, for the times in life that the world will turn its back on them and make them feel small and insignificant. If you say that would never happen I ask, have you? Have you ever felt small, or insignificant, or scared? If the answer is yes, then realize only God can be and is the only help that can be offered. And though you are a mother, you are not God. So yes I may never reach my full potential, but I sure will go beyond those fences and into uncharted territory that is messy, hazy, and ultimately the most beautiful and fulfilling work that can be imagined. And to the moms who do work as well as wear the messy, sticky badge of mother I say kudos and you are a hero. All that matters is that as mothers we do our jobs-love our kids, teach them to be decent human beings, and pray like our kids lives depend on it, because they do.

Happy Mothering!

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