The Strategic Homemaker

learning to follow the Father, care for the clan, and redeem the resources

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A Little Boy’s Room

I have been enjoying the summer: gardening, outings, reading, Del’s lemonade, and house projects. We finally finished the little guy’s room a few weeks ago, and he has been doing a great job sleeping in it. TSH had to re-drywall it due to improperly prepped walls under wallpaper, hence why it took us so long, but I am very pleased with it now. I made the valences and pillow cover, and found the bound carpet rug at Ocean State Job Lot. Still working on wall decor, but that is not stopping the kids from enjoying the room.



In progress:



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I hope you all are having a wonderful summer. I’m planning to be back in a week or so with a series on home decorating to the glory of God (intriguing subject, no?).


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A Big Girl Room

I know everyone has been on the edge of their seats wondering what has progressed in our house during my blogging hiatus. Okay, maybe not, but regardless, even with a newborn, progress has been made!

Not by me, exactly, but the TSH has been hard at work!

Remember this room?

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Well, now it looks like this:

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I think we only spent about $250. $50ish on paint (Platinum in Clark and Kensington and ceiling white ultra flat paint), less than $50 on joint compound, etc, $40 on rug and mat, $20 on white bedspread, $30 on plywood sheet to use in place of box spring, $25ish on waterproof covers for mattress and pillow. The other stuff came from either her previous room (curtains, pillows, quilt, etc.), our previous room (the dresser), or the previous owners (twin bed and mattress).

It still needs some decor on the walls and furniture such as a bookshelf and chair, but since we mostly live out of the living room all day, I’m not in a rush to get those things. The costume box and stuffed animals up there keep PG quite content. I’m just happy to have nice clean gray walls. And insulation. The insulation we had added to the attic and kneewalls successfully brought her room’s temperature up to that of ours, rather than a consistent 5 degrees below as it had been previously this winter.

Anyone else been doing a bedroom remodel on a budget? Do share.


Home Improvement Purchases and Hold-offs

We have been steadily plugging away at the home improvement and furnishing around here, and I have been trying to balance the issues of improving the home’s value, preparing for a winter with a newborn and toddler, getting furnishings that we will want to keep long-term, and not storing up treasures on earth. It is not something with obvious conclusions, and I have been praying for God to give me wisdom in making these decisions. Anyway, here’s where we decided to spend:

–Organization for the books and puzzles. So far, this has worked great! I got two bins on clearance at Target ($7 each), and bought some jumbo-sized Hefty bags for puzzles. (My daughter loves puzzles, and I think we have around 20.) It was getting annoying to hunt through pieces for 20 puzzles to try to do one, or feeling the need to put them all together at the end of the day. Now, there are usually fewer than 3 out at once, and it is easy for PG to put them away in the correct place.

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–Curtains and thermal liners for the front rooms (office, dining room, master bedroom). Curtains cost more than it seems that they should. And since we had the previous owners remove the old curtain rods due to our perceived ugliness of them, we also had to spring for rods (4 at about $25 each). I finally decided that the potential heat loss prevented would be worth it to have thermal liners (3 pairs at around $28/pair), and since I saw the same curtains I had been imagining at Bed, Bath, and Beyond on clearance (still averaging about $16 a panel for six panels), we got them. I’m still working on sewing a second ruffle curtain for our bedroom, so not showing that right now.



–A new light fixture (see above). Several of our lights burned out, and with it getting dark early here, we had noticed that the original lights were especially dim anyway. TSH didn’t feel like replacing the tiny bulbs the fixture called for. We got a new chandelier for around $50, and have been enjoying that. I never thought I was a chandelier type of person, but I am really liking the way the dining room is coming together. Here are a before and in-progress pic to remind you what it looked like earlier:


Oh, and we also got a new solid wood table for free from some of our neighbors, but it needs a new coat of finish on it, so it’s in the basement right now.

–Insulation for the attic. We discovered this summer that our house was really poorly insulated, and thanks to a government energy grant, we are able to get about $3000 worth of insulation and air sealing done for around $500. All the workers are backed up right now, but we are in the line-up to get that work done in the next couple of months.

Now, the following are where we decided to hold off:

–Replacing the carpet in the living room. We had originally been planning to replace this carpet before winter (it’s wrinkled and a bit dingy at the doorway), but as it’s been rug doctored a couple times (once when we moved in, and once after the mudding adventure), and we have a lot on our plate right now, we decided to hold off on that $700 expense until another time.

–New curtains for the living room. I’ve figured out what I want–something patterned navy and white, but since this was one of the few places the previous owners left up the curtains and rods, we decided to just use what we have for now and save ourselves an additional expense.


–Buying a changing table to set up a baby station downstairs. After shopping around Craigslist and furniture stores for a dresser or changing table we’d want to keep longterm, we decided to just move the one we had downstairs. Also, the baby room upstairs won’t be ready for a couple more months anyway due to the wall issues.

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–Rugs. I really am looking forward to having rugs in several rooms, but at roughly $300 a piece for large soft patterned ones, I have decided to put that off. In all honesty, I had decided to go back to Homegoods and get this one rug which was exactly what I wanted for the office, but after sitting on the decision for a month, it had already sold. God’s way of telling me I didn’t need it right now.

–All the furniture for the office. I’m starting to figure out want I want in here, but right now we are content using the living room for everything, and are going to wait before we furnish another room. Plus, I want TSH to make a couple of the furniture pieces.

So those are the home improvement updates. You also might have noticed that we got some of our art up on the walls, although no new purchases there. That went a long way toward making the house feel like ours.

And finally, here’s a sneak peek at the wall progress in the bedroom. TSH has been hard at work!



September House Progress

We didn’t quite get as far as we wanted with our home improvements before the birthday party, but we were at least able to get them to a clean and decent-looking condition, and now two more rooms have painted walls. Everything is still obviously in progress though, so please don’t be too judgmental yet ;). It’s a long journey.

The bedroom:  Cathedral Gray by Behr color matched to Ace’s Clark and Kensington paint. I think the color looks a little weird here because the trim is still unfortunately cream–we’re planning to paint it white. It’s a nice calm, sleep-inducing color in real life.





The living room: Crossroads by Ace’s Clark and Kensington (the same color we have in the office). TSH had to re-mud and sand this room due to the previous owners not prepping the drywall correctly before hanging wallpaper. and then we painted it with a high-hiding primer before the main coats of paint to even out the texture differences. We also took the built-ins out. We like the idea of built-ins, but didn’t like these–we think maybe because they extended in front of the fireplace and were only on one side. We’re planning to whitewash the fireplace and spray paint metallic fixtures with oil rubbed bronze paint. Tonight we’re going to get some brackets to affix our bookshelves to either side of the fireplace and rearrange the furniture. Those boxes in front of the fireplace are some of the books we pulled out of the built-ins.


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Previously: IMG_7505

Originally (before we moved in):IMG_7119

We were able to get some random things done as well…the back yard used to have an old cesspool in it, and a stump from a bush my dad mostly took out. TSH recruited some help one weekend, and the guys got both of those leveled, and used the decorative bricks to make a fire pit on the other side of the yard. We’re going to let the dirt settle around the rocks they filled the cesspool hole in with, and then add some more dirt and sod next spring, so we will have a nice smooth, grassy yard eventually.



Originally (from a different angle–the birdbath was hiding the cesspool cover):


TSH also replaced the outlets in the living room with tamper-resistant ones and switched out all the dimmer switches in the house (5, each a different type) with normal switches.

Here’s the one in our bedroom, which shows you how badly the trim needs painted white. Not sure why it’s tilted though. I didn’t notice that until now.


Next up, I’m plugging away on the wallpaper upstairs. There were three layers of wallpaper (Ugh!), and then the bottom layer had some sort of brown cardboard behind it instead of smooth walls (Double Ugh!), so TSH is planning to mud those once I get as much paper off as possible.


I also have some curtains in the works for downstairs, so hopefully we’ll have those up soon along with some wall art. It’s beginning to feel like home around here!

Has anyone else peeled off wallpaper to find brown walls beneath?


Progress on the Free House Projects

Here’s where we stand on our no-money-spent house projects for the month:

One completed project. Kudos to TSH on finishing the banister, and thanks for our friend Matt for letting us borrow his miter saw.


(This was what it looked like a month ago.)IMG_7353

One room with nearly prepped walls. Still need to scrub the glue off the top of one more wall for a couple more hours and fill in the holes with spackle.

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(Here’s what this room looked like 2 months ago.)IMG_7194

…and one room that looks worse before it looks better. This is what happens when someone uses stuff called “wallpaper seam repair” and you tries to remove the wallpaper later. There’s nothing like pulling off wallpaper a couple weeks before your daughter’s birthday party to make you get in gear and get the job finished though, so we hope to have it looking good in a couple of weeks.


(Here’s what this room looked like three months ago.)IMG_7119

Here are two of the workers, scrubbing away!IMG_7500


Family Reunions and Another Room Wallpaperless

August has already been a big month for us. My great-grandmother had her 100th birthday party, hence a family reunion, and we got to see TSH’s family for a few days on the same trip.

Here’s a five-generation pic. The lady in the center is the birthday lady.


And here’s a family pic from TSH’s side. We’ve added 4 kids since the last family picture: IMG_7466

While we were with all of them, we did a silly string gender reveal on the baby (Verdict–silly string is always fun, but it appeared white at first and only turned BLUE after a minute and gathering it all together, so it was a bit anticlimactic, and everyone guessed we were having a caucasian baby. )


Then we celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary.  TSH’s pick was to go golfing at an 18-hole pitch and putt.  I was skeptical, given this was about my 3rd golfing experience ever, but I ended up deciding that I really like pitch and putt golfing, although I seriously need to watch some YouTube videos demonstrating correct form :). My pick was The Melting Pot, so that’s coming up soon. Of course, we also got six Dunkin Donuts for breakfast on the day of. We are low-key around here, folks, but we were really happy to have been blessed with six wonderful years together.

Anyway, with these big excursions happening this month, I’ve been trying to refrain from spending money on the house and do some free projects–of which there are plenty. They just require a lot of labor. Below is one. We got the half-bath/laundry room stripped and painted with leftover paint from the dining room. Eventually we need to frost that window straight ahead, as it allows us to creepily watch our neighbors in their pool, or them to see our heads as we utilize the facilities. Awkward. Soon I will get some frosting film, but for now we’ve just been keeping the blinds closed.




Next up–organizing the office and more wallpaper stripping…

P.S. I apologize for any inappropriate ads that may appear. WordPress suddenly decided to show their own ads without asking me first. TSH is working on switching everything over to another domain name, but until then, I don’t have any control over what you see. Sorry!


What We Wanted in a House, and What We Got

Since we were trying to find a house in the first week of moving here, and since we try to be strategic with our resources, we did a lot of research and scouting for about three months beforehand.  If you hear much about Rhode Island, you’ll probably hear that it is expensive to live here. In fact, one person before we moved told me we could get a decent house for $400K.  What?!  She then told me a haircut cost $50, and I wrote her off at that point.  Thankfully, neither was true, but I did realize early on in the online hunting that I would have to alter our expectations from what we could buy in the Midwest.

We decided to buy, given factors including renting being more expensive by a few hundred dollars each month, and our wanting to be here at least five years, and we were able to find something within a week, praise the Lord!

What We Wanted:

–Something we could get 20% down on, so we didn’t have to pay personal mortgage insurance.  Also, we wanted to keep the total mortgage to less than a sixth of our income, especially because we wanted to budget around $400/month extra for house repairs and updates, although it would obviously be great to not have to repair much!

–At least three bedrooms (four would have been nice, but hardly any in our price range had four.)

–A good-sized yard for the kids to play in, and me to have a garden (I was original excluding those on the house search that had less than a quarter acre, but that limited the search too much)

–A nice neighborhood for taking walks and so the house would maintain/gain value

–Fairly close location to TSH’s work, the bus route, and walkable access for me to libraries etc. (since we wanted to stick with just one car)

–A sturdily built/well cared for house

–All the bedrooms on one floor, with a bathroom on that floor

–Lots of windows

–Plenty of closets and cabinet space

Niceties we’d like:

–1500 sq ft (I had originally made this a criteria in my search, and then realized it was limiting the house hunt within our budget a lot)

–A second bath or half bath

–Gas heat (long winters, so heating is expensive!)

–Basement and garage (having at least one of these was on the “definitely want” list)

What we got:

–Price well within our budget

–1560 sq ft, and 0.24 acres with six sugar maples at the back of the fenced-in yard. Yes! Going to try our hands at maple syrup this winter. Also, currently this size feels like the perfect amount of space–not too much to pay to heat, but not too small to feel cramped.

–3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, again, Yes!

–Great neighborhood and location. I am really appreciating not being on a through street. We love going on walks, and our neighbors have been very friendly. Many of them have lived here for 50+ years, including the people we bought the house from, and there are several young families as well. We are also in a really central location to everything in RI, 16 min drive time from TSH’s work, right on the bus route, and close to the bike route.

–Gas heat and central air, which has been especially nice this summer

–Basement and sort of garage. The garage isn’t quite long enough to fit our car, but as I’ve already established, no one in RI puts their car in the garage anyway.

–Plenty of closets and windows

–Two working fireplaces

–An apparently well-cared for and well-built house

What we gave up:

–all the bedrooms on one floor. Cape cod style houses have two bedrooms upstairs and one below. and we don’t have a bathroom upstairs.

–The master bedroom didn’t fit all our bedroom furniture. We’re sharing a dresser, so we are keeping our out-of-season clothes in the basement, and switching them out as need be. It hasn’t been an issue so far, as we have a separate office, and hardly go in the bedroom during the day anyway. If there is one room in which I’d prefer to sacrifice space, it is the master bedroom.

–The garage being able to fit our car, although it’s only a one-car garage anyway, so even if the length was good, we’d still have to pick between stroller, bikes, etc and the car.

–a turn-key house. Hello, wallpaper!  However, we are making it our own, and other than a kitchen remodel, the other updates the place needs are relatively inexpensive.

I am really thankful for this house. I feel like it is even more than I had expected, and I haven’t regretted giving up any of the things we originally wanted. How about you? Is there anything you really wish you had in your house, or anything you are glad you sacrificed?