It’s spring, which means it’s the time of year when my husband and I thought maybe we would move into a bigger house. It’s actually the third spring we thought – the first being just when the pandemic hit, the second being once we were finally vaccinated and ready to start looking, but the housing market did what it did , and the third being right now while the housing market is still doing what it is doing. “Maybe next spring!” has been our mantra for almost a third of our time in this house, and I decided it was time to take a different approach: I decided it was time to love (or less better tolerate) the house we are already in.
Of course, it is not enough to want a house to meet all your needs. At nearly 100 years old, this house isn’t big on things like closets or large outdoor spaces or a driveway. However, at nearly 100 years old, this house has also been perfectly fine for many families for many decades, and there’s no reason it can’t be perfectly fine for us for a few more years, with some changes. Part of that requires a change of mindset, and part of it requires strategic shopping, but here’s how I was able to stop myself from pining for things like big backyard decks and a normal amount of space of counter.
Make a list of what you don’t to like
I’ve already mentioned some of the limitations of my own home, and you probably have yours too. We’re not trying to dwell on frustration here, we’re looking for solutions. If you’ve ever been to my house or talked to me for a while, you probably know that kitchen storage (or the significant lack thereof) is one of my biggest frustrations. I like cooking; I don’t like having to go down to the basement every time I need a blender, a hand mixer, a sauté pan, a slow cooker, a can of chicken broth, beans or a pot of mushrooms. (Oops, I live, it’s a habit.) OK, so I need more storage or a way to more easily access the things I use regularly.
You may need a space to sleep, a dedicated play area for your children, or a quiet place to work. You probably can’t fix everything (this house of mine will just never have a driveway or garage unless my neighbor agrees to rip it up his house to make room), but it’s possible that you’ve been there so long that you accept your home’s flaws as facts, rather than obstacles that you can overcome with a little creativity. Make a list of everything you would like to have, so you know how to get some of it.
What about the things you can’t get? You can probably live without. I would like a four bedroom house so I can have a dedicated guest room, but the other day, I was able to let go of that fantasy by saying out loud, “You know what? People can just stay in a hotel. It’s okay.” For the few times a year we have out-of-town guests, they can either crash into my sleeper sofa or airbed or stay in a goddamn hotel. Maybe it’s not ideal, but it’s good.
Buy the right furniture
For years, I’ve been hesitant to buy anything decorative or even functional that I think would work particularly well in this house for fear that then we would move and the new things would not work in the new house, and I would have wasted all that money. Here’s what I’ve come to terms with over the past year though: if you really like a piece of furniture, you can probably make it work in the house next door (if you ever actually move) – what if you can’t? You can sell it or give it to someone else who will like it. In the meantime, if it makes your current space more usable, it’s worth it. I am of course referring to the sideboard I purchased in January, which has my undying love and affection:
I used to have a smaller accent table in this space, which I also loved but didn’t come with three cabinets and drawers like this lovely piece. I still have to go to the basement for crushed tomatoes, but NOT for my slow cookers, dutch ovens or handhelds. One piece of furniture has opened up so much extra storage for me that it seems like a game-changer. For you, the right piece of furniture might be the sofa bed that helps your home office turn into a guest room. or the room divider that helps you block off a separate play area for your kids. All of these things are cheaper than a new houseso you really save money.
Just because a room or space once served a certain purpose does not mean it still should serve this purpose. My house has three bedrooms, which is a pretty good ratio for the three people who live there. The third bedroom has been a number of things over the years – first a guest bedroom, then a bedroom for the kids when we were foster parents for a few years, and now it’s my home office . Our unfinished basement was once mainly used for storage until we turned half of it into a makeshift “children’s cave” a few years ago.
An unused corner of a bedroom or dressing room could become a reading nook. A formal dining room that is currently used twice a year could become a playroom that gets used all daytime of the year. A garage could be a play space. An enclosed porch could serve as a home office with nature views. Try to see space with fresh eyes—not for what it is now, but what it could give you with a few changes.
When all else fails, add what you need
Adding an addition to your home isn’t exactly the cheapest option, especially with all the inflation and supply chain craziness right now. But if you have money aside for the next house and you discover that it is unlikely be next home in the near future, that money could be better spent making sure your current home meets your needs, especially if those additions also increase the value of your home.
Add entire rooms or family suites if desired, but even smaller jobs like closing in a back porch can create more living space. We are currently considering converting an enclosed back porch into a pantry and half bathroom which would mean 1) I wouldn’t have to go to the basement anymore even for canned goods and 2) we would improve the currently unacceptable ratio of three people to a toilet in our home.
For your needs, you may want to add a shed to the backyard to store lawn care tools and equipment. Or you might want to add a deck or awning so you can take full advantage of your outdoor space. The goals are to cross off as many items as possible on this list we made at the start so that your current home starts to feel less like a trap and more like the space you want or need.