“In our generation, women have made the mistake of becoming much too independent; thinking they don’t need men at all. We see them lifting heavy objects, repairing automobiles, changing tires . . . doing huge carpentry and many other masculine tasks. . . A competent woman stands as a threat to the male ego.”

“Mistakes Women Make” from Hellen Andeline’s book, Fascinating Womanhood

This quote makes me laugh because I do huge carpentry and it doesn’t threaten my husband’s ego. He’s just glad he doesn’t have to do it!

We bought our home in 2010, stretching our finances to buy a home with a yard, three bedrooms, and a master bathroom. It was the perfect time to buy a bank-owned, abandoned fixer-upper (how can we give up our $500 a month mortgage?!). We loved the big windows, the open loft, and the odd angled walls. We were young and naive and thought we were ready to fix up our first home. Haha!

The house stunk. The P-traps (or pee traps) were dried up and the floor boards were so saturated with cat urine that they fell apart in our hands. When we pulled up the carpet, the subflooring was so damaged by animal excrement that we debated replacing it all but decided to disinfect it instead and paint it with latex paint. We’ve learned that each project hides its own forms of animal excrement beneath its surface.

We patched the cat scratched drywall and painted every wall in our new house. Our family helped us tear out flooring, cabinets, and soggy trim and then helped us install flooring, cabinets, and trim. My grandpa painted with me and told me stories while my grandma crafted with and sang to my two babies.

Our little construction home didn’t have flooring for weeks, trim for years, or new carpet in the bedroom for even longer. The hardest part was not having countertops or a sink for months after we moved in – washing dishes in the bathtub and making sandwiches on our always dusty table combined with the stinky carpets in my children’s bedrooms had me questioning what we got ourselves into.

I was dripping with babies and pregnant or nursing during those first few years, leaving Steve to do the majority of house projects while I made sure he drank water, ate meals, and bandaged his cuts. He inevitably burned out. We all did. Life was happening too and eventually, the projects stopped.

Until recently when I realized that I don’t have to wait anymore. I can build the built-in bookshelves I always wanted and move the laundry room upstairs and add a pantry to our kitchen. My kids are (mostly) self-sufficient so I started doing these house projects a few years ago. And while I never thought to take before or after photos, I have a few and I love seeing what we have made.

Below: Front room, 2010, with baby Max and cat-scratched window sills and the smell of sewer and those big windows we loved.

And 2024:

Downstairs entryway, 2010:

Downstairs entryway, 2019. I recently realized that every time my life spirals out of control, I do a project. This was my first big home improvement project that I started when we were forced to say goodbye to our precious little boy from Foster Care.

Below: kitchen, 2010. (We used the kitchen cabinets upstairs in our master bathroom.)

Below: kitchen, 2023. I’m terrible at taking before and after pictures but notice the flooring, recessed lighting, countertops, island, cabinets, backsplash, shiplap, etc. that we installed over the past 14 years. Most recently, I took out the wall behind the oven and installed pantry cabinets. My dad made the beautiful faux beams.

Over the years I tiled the floors, painted the tile, ripped up the tile, and then replaced the tile with these vinyl planks. I will NEVER do tile again. Never again.

This is the space behind the oven wall. It used to be the laundry room but now we finally have an entryway and a pantry! 2023:

We moved the laundry room upstairs into one of our two massive walk-in closets:

I love it. I love it. I love it. Having the laundry room upstairs in a weird closet we never used is amazingly functional. It also added another door into our bathroom which is awesome with teens who use it in the mornings.

I love this sheet vinyl flooring. It’s soft and warm and super duper cheap. I also love the look.

This is the 2010 loft at the top of the stairs. It went from this:

To this:

To this! (Don’t look too closely. I built in the Ikea Billy Bookshelves. It was hard and I didn’t have the right tools. This was the most discouraging project I’ve done, but I still love it.)

Another wall of the loft area:

And with all of the wood from the walls I tore out downstairs . . .

I built this!

Cute little Max took this picture in about 2014 of the upstairs bathroom:

Upstairs bathroom, 2024:

Master bathroom in 2010. We moved the kitchen cabinets up here and I stained them. We also installed tile and then I ripped it out because it was cracking:

Removing tile is seriously hard, painful work.

(Bad pictures) Master bathroom, 2023:

Our downstairs living room, 2010:

Living room, 2023:

And lastly, our yard. Backyard, 2010:

Backyard, 2023:

Front yard after we had landscaped, 2012ish:

Front yard, 2023:

That little weeping cherry is taller than our house now!

Watching our trees grow with our kids and looking back on the changes we have made in our home for our growing family brings joy and purpose to my life. Humans are funny, typical creatures who make living spaces.