Friday, April 30, 2010

Garage Sale

I feel that I am a fairly organized person, and I believe that anyone that comes to my house would come to the same conclusion. The truth is though, that we have lots of stuff in closets and drawers that we do not use. Though nobody else can see it, it drives me crazy! About two weeks ago I went through the house (closets, drawers, kitchen cabinets) and pulled out everything that we have not used in awhile and things that we inherited from the previous owners and had no use for. I held a garage sale on Thursday afternoon and had a steady stream of customers. I was pretty proud of myself after closing it up for the day for getting some extra spending cash from items that we were no longer using. The day after I planned to open again, but weather and the kids prevented me from getting out. Saturday morning I drug everything out, then it started to rain. I drug everything back into the garage and planned to try it again the following week.
I decided to list a few of the larger items on craigslist and sold our push mower on Wednesday. I opened the garage sale again on Thursday and did not have a single person stop! I regretfully packed everything into the garage to be sorted through another day. Today I put everything that I absolutely could get rid of into the car to take to Goodwill. Some I put in the house to be listed on craigslist and the rest I put back in the closets, attic, and drawers. Though I did not get rid of everything I had intended to, I did declutter my life and made a little spending money in the process.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Princeton, IA- My Forever Home

So we moved into my in-laws house after selling our home in Dubuque. We planned on building our dream house on a lot that we had purchased a few years previous. A month after moving in we had been to the All American Home Dealers and had picked out the floor plan and all of the options. We had taken the final cost to the bank and though we had been pre-approved, we were suddenly running into all kinds of obstacles. Everytime we would fulfill a requirement something new would come up. Finally, the bank said that there was nothing in the area that was comparable to what we planned to build and therefore they could not come up with a value for the house. Because they could not assess the value of the house, they could not loan us the money.
Realizing that we could not use the route we had planned, we decided to check with a local builder. We checked out a home that he was building that was similiar to what we wanted to build. Again we had him put together a final cost and presented it to the bank. Because the builder had worked with the bank before they came up with an assessed value of the property. Now they told us that we would be approved if I could find employment. I had quit my job in Dubuque after my maternity leave and planned to stay at home with my kids and possibly do daycare to help provide for my family. Because I had not started daycare yet (they need six months history for the self-employed) they could not count any income for me. I had been looking for a job since moving to the Quad Cities, and though I had been on several interviews I had not had any luck finding employment. I spent several weeks sending out resumes for every position that I was qualified for, but did not get anything.
Finally, one weekend on our way to visit my family, we got into a huge argument, My husband felt we were wasting our time going to visit my family when we had things to be doing, finding a job or looking for a house. We happened to pass a home on our way with a for sale sign advertising an open house later in the day. I called my family and we went back to my in-laws to work on more resumes. Later that day, we left the kids with my in-laws and attended the open house. It was located right along the Mississippi River, which is where my husband has always wanted to live. It was very dated, but it was actually in our price range, had 3 fireplaces and had a lot of potential.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dubuque, IA- My Ninth Home

About 1 year after moving into our house, my husband accepted a position with a new company. His new position was in sales, covering the states of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota. We were not required to mvoe for the position, but felt that moving closer to an airport would be beneficial. We also found out soon after that we were pregnant with our first child. With Randy on the road frequently for work, we decided that it would be best to be close to family so that I would not be so isolated and so that we would have assistance close by if needed. Needless to say our families were very excited when we told them. I remember meeting my mom and sister one Sunday to go to a few open houses and telling them that we needed to look for something that would be move in ready as we only had nine months to prepare. They both started screaming and jumping up and down! Though we started looking immediately, we didn't buy anything for 5 months, as we were waiting for our home in Grinnell to sell. In January when my younger brother moved back in with my mom (where we had been living) we decided that we needed a place of our own. We found a house that I absolutely loved (Randy was just glad it would be ours) and made an offer, even though there seemed to be no prospects for selling our previous home. Our offer was accepted and we moved into the house in January 2007 (about five months pregnant). Moving in was pretty easy as we left most of our furniture at our other house so that it would "show" well whenever the realtor held open houses. Fortunately we had an offer and moved completely out of the house by April, just in time to have my baby shower and finish getting the house together before the baby came.

The home was a ranch with a mostly finished basement and one car garage. It had a beautiful limestone fireplace in the living room and hardwood floors in the living room, hall and master bedroom. It was about 25 years old, but the previous owners had already done some of the expensive remodels- tile floors in the kitchen/ dining room and bath as well as new stainless steel appliances. Over the next two years we updated the main bath (new sink and toilet to replace the yellow ones), tiled the remaining two bathrooms, installed carpet and trim in the two basement bedrooms, and painted giving the house our own touch. Soon after we had our second child, my son, in 2009, we decided that it would be best to sell our house and move to the Quad Cities where there was a larger airport. I loved the house and did not really want to leave the place where we brought both of our children home from the hospital, but my husband was never going to have those feelings about anything (besides the kids and I, hopefully). We listed our house and began making plans to build the house of our dreams on a lot that we had purchased about 1.5 years ago. Though there was a ton of interest in the house, we had trouble finding a buyer because of the one car garage and being landlocked (no room to add on a second car garage), understandable since that was my husband's biggest gripe about the house. Eventually, we found a buyer and worked out an agreement. We moved out of the house in July 2009 and moved in with my in-laws while we worked on building our dream house.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Grinnell, IA- My Eighth Home

From our brand new house in the country, we moved to an older split level home in the middle of town. Grinnell is a very small, close knit community, so our neighbors were pretty curious about us. One neighbor actually pulled out her lawn chair and sat at the end of her driveway eating popcorn and taking in the free show the day that we moved in. And boy did I give her a show! First of all, there were too many people involved in the move! "How can there be too many people?", you may ask. I had my mom working on cleaning carpets, while my brothers and husband did the heavy lifting, and my sister-in-law chased around their 2 year old. I am a bit of a control freak and I couldn't be in three places at once, like I needed to be with so many people there to help. Also, I had the placement of the furniture all figured out in my head and none of it went the way I had planned. In the end, we did get all of the furniture placed and a lot of the organizing done.

Over the next two years, I learned a lot about do-it-yourself home improvements. I removed wall paper, painted walls, experimented with chalkboard paint, changed out light fixtures, hung wallpaper, worked with molding, and learned how to use adhesive backed tiles. I also began shopping at garage sales, goodwill and other thrift stores to stretch our budget. In our first house, I thought that everything had to be brand new because the house was brand new! Our second house was quite a bit larger than our first and I had to be budget conscious in order to decorate and furnish it all.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

All American Home- My Seventh Home

After deciding that we were going to build a home on the lot that we purchased, we basically had 2 options, stick built or pre-fab. I was not too excited about buying a pre-fab home because I thought that they were cheap and looked like trailers, but decided to go look at what a few of the local dealers had to offer. I was actually quite suprised at how nice the homes were! Of course, the models showed off a lot of expensive options, but we could choose to upgrade on the items that you would not change (such as the cabinets, trim and doors) and use the standard option for the items that need to be replaced with wear and tear (such as carpets and flooring). Also the pre-fab homes could be built faster, within 3 months of ordering than the stick built because there would be no delays for weather. The house would also be better built because of the way it is built indoors and not exposed to the elements. We ultimately chose to go with a pre-fab home and chose All American Homes. We went in and picked out all of the aspects of the house, from the floor plan to the colors, trim package and fixtures as soon as possible (we had to wait until we had 2 weeks worth of paychecks from our new jobs to take to the bank for loan approval). About two months later they dug and poured the walls of the basement in preparation for the arrival of the house. We visited the lot frequently and took pictures of each step in the process.

They called and informed us of the date that our house would be delivered and we were there bright and early, along with several family members, to watch them setting the house on the foundation. It was amazing to watch them use a crane to pick up each section of the house, it came in 2 pieces, and place it onto the foundation. They then used the crane to pull open the roof and connect the two halves of the house.

Unfortunately, there was some finishing work to be done before we could move into the house. They had to finish the flooring along the seam in the house, hook up all of the heat, electric, etc., and install all of the lighting that we had picked out. A few weeks later it was finally moving day!

We had very little other than our clothes to move as we were only engaged and fresh out of college. We slept on a mattress on the floor until we could afford a brand new bedroom set. After our wedding a year later, we bought our first sofa and chaise. In fact, most of our decor came from gifts that we had registered for for the wedding or money that had been given to us at the wedding. Though we tried to do a little bit at a time, we were always trying to attain what our parents had, not stopping to think that they had had 20 years of accumulating stuff on us! A few months later we were really struggling to keep up with the payments on everything and realized that we would have to sell the house and get into something we could better afford. We listed the house and it sat on the market for 5 months. The listing was about the expire and my husband said that I could go ahead and paint a few walls because we would likely be staying. I painted a dark red wall in the dining room and then there was a showing on the house. We had an offer almost immediately! I was so mad because I was set on staying in the house at this point, which worked to our advantage because we got our full asking price on the house. We moved out of the house on our 1 year wedding anniversary!

Montezuma, IA- My Sixth Home

After graduating from college, my fiancee had a job in Grinnell, IA. We went looking for houses and happened upon a tiny little house in the country.

It was very rough, but we thought we could fix it up and make it work. Unfortunately, we found out through an inspection that the house was uninhabitable. We checked into our options for building a home on the lot and were told by the bank that we could do it. We put in an offer and on the lot and it was immediately accepted. Since it would take at least 3 months to build a house, we needed someplace to live during that time. Fortunately the farmer who sold us the land, had farmland with an old farmhouse that he was willing to rent to us for $100 a month. A month later after graduating college, we moved out of our apartments and into the farmhouse.

Though it was a 2 story home with 7 rooms, we were only to occupy three rooms on the main floor. The weekend we moved in they had to completely tear out the bathroom and fix some major plumbing issues becuase the house had not been occupied for awhile and was in disrepair. We caught at least a mouse a week while we lived there from June through September, thank God we got out before winter came and it got cold out! We didn't keep anything in the kitchen cabinets because the rodents were so bad. We kept everything in bins with snap on lids. One time while my mom was visiting she went to get something out of a cupboad and I screamed at her to stay out of teh cabinets because I didn't know what she would find in them! My fiancee's mother actually cried on her way home after helping us get settled in. She said that it was the worst house she had ever left her child in (and my husband lived in some nasty bachelor pads in college!) Needless to say we were calling our builder constantly to get him to put a rush on our new home.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

College Years

About 4 years later, I started attending the University of Northern Iowa. I moved every single year while in college(sometimes twice). The first year I lived in the dorms with my then best friend. I spent the whole summer leading up to college working to save up money for all of the things that I would need. One of my major purchases was a bunk bed/futon combo. I worked at Shopko at the time and waited for it to go on sale so it would be the absolute best price. It was perfect for the dorm because it gave us a place to sit and hang out and I actually used it in almost every house I owned after that. I also bought my own towels, dishes and bedding, all in my favorite color: hunter green. That summer I returned home to live and take classes at the local community college.

The second year, I decided to live on my own as things with my friend were not going well and I did not want to lose the friendship. My mom found a beautiful wicker shelf for me to use in my room for my tv and other storage needs. I bought a chair which my mom recovered in denim fabric for me. Finally, I made some pillows and curtains out of pillow cases and sheets in the hunter green to match my bedding (cheaper than buying curtains). That summer I moved into an apartment that my girlfriends were renting for the following year. They all went home for the summer, while I was staying to work and take classes.

The third year, I actually chose to live with my sister in the dorms. We found a double bunk bed and painted it green with yellow flowers (yellow was her favorite color). We bought green fabric with yellow daisies on it and made them into curtains. We then got a rug and loveseat at a sale of display items where our mom worked. Finally, I bought a papasan chair. Along with all of the furniture the shool provided- 2 desk and 2 dressers- our room was pretty full. That summer I moved into my boyfriends house briefly until the house I was renting was ready.

The last year I finally moved out into a house with my girlfriends. I bought a queen size bed and white dresser. I also bought a white down comforter. Soon after the second semester started, I got into a huge fight with the girlfriend that I had lived with. I contacted the landlord and found out that the girl in the one bedroom apartment in the basement wanted out, so I moved into her space. I moved up all of the furniture and things that I had used in my dorm over the years. My mom found a table for me that a coworker was getting rid of. I bought all new dishes and everything I needed to set up my own kitchen. Finally I decorated with puzzles that I put together and framed. I loved having my own space! At the end of the year when the landlord was showing the place to future renters, she told me that she had never seen one of her rentals look so nice!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dubuque, IA- Fifth Home

In 1994 we moved into the home that my mother lives in to this day. I remember doing a lot of remodeling to this house before we moved in. My mom let us all pick out new carpet and bedding. She replaced all of the carpet in the house, painted the kitchen cabinets, painted all of the rooms and remodeled the only bathroom in the house.

You entered this house straight into the kitchen. I loved this kitchen because it was straight out of the boardgame "Clue". We painted all of the cabinets black and the doors white, the floor was a diamond patterned black and white laminate, the appliances were all black and the curtains and accessories were all black and white. The single bathroom/laundry room that the seven of us shared was right off of the kitchen, not the greatest location for any privacy! The living room, my mom's room and an office were to the left of the kitchen. My brother and I both had rooms off of the living room on the main floor. My two youngest brothers and sister each had their own rooms on the second floor. It was so nice that we all had our very own space to retreat to.

My room was decorated in the colors of the 90's, hunter green and cranberry. I chose hunter green carpeting and had a hunter green and cranberry floral comforter that my aunt made for me. I thought I was so cool and sophisticated, but I still had posters and magazine clippings hung all over my walls.

East Dubuque, IL- Fourth Home

We settled into our little house in East Dubuque the summer before I started 7th grade. I was excited for a chance to reinvent myself and start fresh in a totally new school. Reinventing myself meant going from the chubby, shy girl to the thin, outgoing, popular girl. Well, I hoped. Though I lost a lot of weight, I was unable to break out of my shell and found a group of friends that was far from the popular crowd.

The house had great curb appeal, with a big sunroom (my mom's sewing room) at the front of the house. My mom used the room off of that as her bedroom, though it had not closets, I think it was technically a living or dining room. The next room was our living room. My sister and I shared the bedroom on the main floor as it was the largest bedroom. The kitchen/dining room was just past the bathroom off of the living room. My brother had a small room off of the kitchen in a hallway that led to the basement. A mudroom and pantry off of the kitchen finished off the main floor. My two youngest brothers occupied the 2 bedrooms upstairs.

After a rough year in 7th grade, we switched from the public school to the private school and also moved around our bedrooms. My sister and I took the rooms upstairs, while my younger brothers shared the single large bedroom on the main floor.

The summer after my 8th grade year, my uncle happened to be selling his house in Dubuque. Thankfully, though we were moving again, I would still be attending school with the majority of my 8th grade class.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

DIY Dresser Mirror

I wasn't going to post anything about our current house until after I went through all of the houses I have lived in, but I was so excited to show off the results of my recent project that I couldn't wait!

When we bought our bedroom set a few years ago, I had no desire to buy the matching mirror to the dresser because we didn't need it, and it was around $300. Just recently we have done some remodeling and I moved some things around and decided that a mirror would be nice above the dresser.

It all started when we remodeled our master bathroom. There was a large mirror above a double vanity that only contained one sink. When we removed the vanity to put in a single vanity and toilet, the large mirror looked out of place. We took the mirror down and bought a small one to go above the vanity. I then took the mirror to the attic in case we needed it in the future. This is what the finished bathroom remodel looks like.

After finishing the remodel of most of our main floor, the old wall mounted radio in our master bedroom looked out of place. I decided to tear out the old radio and move the picture of my children from above the dresser to cover the hole until we could repair the wall. Here is the best picture I could find, you can barely see the radio by the door.

Once I moved the framed picture above the dresser, the wall looked really bare :( I then had the bright idea to put the large mirror from the bathroom there and frame it out with molding. I hung the mirror just below the dresser with the plastic wall brackets you see with most mirrors of this size. I then took out some synthetic crown moulding that was in our basement from a project the previous owners had completed. I cut the moulding to size using a mitre box. The moulding had a curve to it since it was for crown moulding, so I had to turn it over and finish cutting through from the other side. I then painted the moulding with a couple of coats of black spray paint we had leftover.

Finally, I used some nails to attach the moulding around the outside of the mirror. Here is the before and after:


I am so happy with the result, I have gone in to the bedroom several times just to admire my handywork! It looks almost like it came with the dresser and it was completely free! Here are a few more close ups.

Elizabeth, IL- Third Home

Our next house, in Elizabeth, IL was another two story home. This one also had a grand wood railing on the staircase and a very large entryway. To the right was the living room and a play room. The dining room could be entered from the entryway and living room. To the left of the dining room was a bedroom with an en suite toilet (in the closet). To the right was the kitchen. There was a bathroom and mudroom (my mom's sewing room) at the back of the house. Upstairs there were three bedrooms and a bathroom. My sister and I shared a room upstairs, my oldest brother had his own room and the two youngest shared the other.

Just four years after moving, my parents marriage finally dissolved. My father got an apartment across town. My mom moved her room to the playroom off of the living room and I got to have my very own room! This is the very first room I can remember having any say in the decorating and I was hooked! I loved deciding on the furniture layout for the room, what posters I wanted on the walls and what colors I would use. Though we didn't buy anything new for the room, we did get a three way mirror from an aunt who no longer needed it. We also painted my old dresser white to go with my color scheme. I spent most of my free time holed up in my room listening to music and reading books. I loved it!

By the time I graduated 6th grade, my mom had met somebody. He was from Dubuque and she still worked there, so it only made sense to move. We moved from Elizabeth, IL to East Dubuque, IL in the summer of 1993.