We finally have a small home to move into, well within our budget, avoiding all bank/mortgage funding, while steadily working our way out of debt. It’s been a very long, uphill struggle, but we’ve been persistent and as faithful as we can be, and are now feeling blessed and incredibly excited that our plans are finally coming to fruition.
Now that our 16×36 home is in place (we plan to double the space in future when we can buy another Amish built barn debt free) I have set about doing what I love doing best of all: looking for extreme bargains, setting about finding things to re-purpose, and thinking of the house and farm as a giant blank canvas, ready to dive right into. Though I’m not a trained decorator by any stretch, I do know what I like and dislike, and thought I’d share a bit about the adventures of finding economical ways to bring dreams to life when you’re inclined to appreciate patina and a well worn timelessness more than something shiny and new off an assembly line, purchased from a store, with no history or story to tell. You also learn quickly to look for a bargain, too, when you’re on a mercilessly strict budget, as we are. Some things, of course, we were/are forced to buy ‘new’, but even then, we always search for the most economical purchase we can find, even if it means a ton of legwork or lots of consistent internet browsing. I’ll share all this stuff as we go along, but with that being said, here are a few things learned along the way:
1. You know the saying ‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’ (Robert Burns- 1786) ? Well, it’s true. By all means, lay out your plans, but with the idea that nothing is etched in stone, you WILL come across unforeseen things no matter how careful you are in the planning stage. Knowing our budget and (even more importantly), our taste, leaned toward a smaller home, we used a computer program to carefully lay out our dimensions for the smaller square footage Canning Cottage would take up, took copious notes, and did lots of research. In the end, we stood in the middle of the Cottage with simple blocks of wood, laid out where we wanted everything to go, and began to build walls from there. It looked NOTHING like the blueprint we worked hours on, on our computer, and seems so much better suited to our personal comfort and style.
2. Along those lines, NEVER, and I mean NEVER, say “Never.” I mean it. It doesn’t matter how concrete you KNOW you want things, life has a funny way of changing it up when you least expect it. We went about busily clearing, laying in foundation, and drawing up plans for where the house was originally going to go. Suddenly, the chance to own our beloved Cottage 3-4 years earlier than the planned building on the foundation site reared its lovely head and off we went in an entirely different direction. Of course, we’re not mourning the loss of the original foundation; it will eventually turn into an art studio and place for (we hope) an in ground pool. However, this is subject to change once we’ve fully finished Canning Cottage and turned our attention to the unused foundation…
3. Do what you can yourself; you’ll probably be happier in the end when you can look back proudly on all your hard work and know YOU did it, not someone else. Unless you’re putting in a well. Don’t try this yourself. It’s expensive, and it rarely works unless you have water lying right under the surface of your ground, begging to be released in torrents. In which case, consider yourself incredibly fortunate. To my father’s credit, he DID witch water in a line roughly linked to where the professionals finally hit glorious, hard earned, REALLY expensive water, and ‘only’ 260 feet down… no WAY could we have reached that depth on our own. Happily, we have excellent water flow, 32+ gallons per minute, but only after a third attempt at drilling, one being ours, the other two the well company’s we’d hired to finish the job.
4. ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT, do NOT discount places such as Craigslist, salvage yards, Habitat for Humanity resale stores, Goodwills, garage sales, etc. You will be AMAZED at what you can find if you are willing to be diligent in your searches. I’ll share some of these fantastic finds as we go along.
5. Make a comprehensive list of everything you can possibly think of you’ll need to finish and fill your house. I made a list on my Kindle of all these things, separating what we ‘needed’ from what we ‘wanted’. There is nothing quite as satisfying as scoring something major for a pittance from one of the above mentioned places and being able to cross it off your list as you go along. Bear in mind, though, there are few guarantees when you get something for free or very cheap; so if you’re looking for a steal, always remember not to look a gift horse in the mouth; be philosophical about your finds, if possible. It’ll make it much less painful when something doesn’t work once you get it home!
6. Plan to work as hard as humanly possible when you can, and have the patience of Job when you can’t. There are just some days, and weeks, you will be forced to a stand still as you wait on this or that thing to occur so you can take the next step toward your ultimate goal. Conversely, don’t let grass grow under your feet either; seize an opportunity to get as much finished as you can in a timely manner so you can reach that goal faster! On the down times, try looking for things on your list and maybe even some good deals you forgot to add but might be helpful in the long run. It’s always fun to bargain shop!
7. ‘Pride goes before the fall.’ Oh man, truer words have never been written. That Bible of ours sure has some key lessons broken down into pithy little verses. They really pack a punch! We try hard to be as giving, loving and neighborly as we can, without expecting too much in return. So when you have incredibly wonderful, giving family, friends, and neighbors (which are all actually interchangeable in our lives) that willingly give back, it is a true blessing beyond words. The thing is, you can’t take it for granted, and you can’t be afraid to ask for help. EVER. We knew (and so did all the above mentioned people) that if the tables were turned (and they have been, upon occasion) we would do everything in our power to help them out. So when we needed something, we just asked. We didn’t mind if they couldn’t accommodate for whatever reason, but they have, to the PERSON, really pulled through for us time and time again. A prideful person really loses out in the long run. Sure it’s great when you can say ‘we did this or that on our own’, but it’s equally satisfying to say ‘we did this all together, with the help of this person and that one’. Never take anyone for granted, and always try your best to lend a hand when it’s needed, because sooner or later, if you don’t let Pride get in the way, you’ll be the one needing help, and if you stay honest and true, there is nothing much you need feel ashamed about asking. If you ask the right people, they’ll understand, no matter what, even if it’s something they can’t help you out with, personally. The same goes with finding great deals- be honest and above board, but don’t be so prideful you’re unwilling to bargain, afraid it will show ‘weakness’. It doesn’t. It shows savvy, and I’ve gotten some pretty great deals because I wasn’t afraid to ask, even if I got a ‘no’ for an answer upon occasion!
8. Most importantly, let people in frequently on the happenings! It makes you feel so much more positive when others are routing for you too. Our family is very united about our goals, but to have such positive feedback from so many others who know of our struggles (again, there is NO SHAME in struggling; it’s a worldwide phenomenon, everyone goes through trials and tribulations, and it really helps when you can commiserate with others! ) Of course, you don’t have to share everything under the sun with people; that gets old fast, but you also don’t have to be embarrassed you have had ups and downs either. People can relate to this, and even find it inspiring when they see you are actively trying your hardest to pull up out of the mire. I know I, personally, LOVE feel good stories (who doesn’t?), and I love when people share with me, it makes me feel more connected to them and the outside world. Life is hard, but it can be wonderful too. So speak up! A good person will be in your corner and often, your biggest cheerleader when you’re feeling low or discouraged! We’ve made many GREAT friends along the way by being open and friendly. Which leads me to my final learned lesson:
9. TO HAVE FRIENDS, SHOW YOURSELF FRIENDLY!!!! And don’t just ACT friendly, actually BE friendly, and loving, and as kind as you can be to others. Which is really REALLY hard sometimes, we ALL fail at it from time to time! Do unto others as you’d have done to you (another Biblical gem) is the absolute epitome of what it means to be a decent person. And it’s definitely helped us out along the way to reaching our goals. We’re still chipping away at it, but the journey is half the fun!