4 Ways to be Happier with Your Imperfect House

I generally like my house, but sometimes it gets me down.

Tacked onto our refrigerator is a list of renovation and remodeling projects for the house. The stove and accompanying vent are ugly and old. Our kitchen counter tops have a sprinkling of dents and nicks. Our kitchen cabinets need to be repainted. We have outdated popcorn ceilings. The hardwood floors need refinishing. The carpet needs to be replaced. Parts of the house have old electrical wiring. The bottom of the bathtub in our main bathroom is scratched and has mineral deposit stains, and the plug for the drain won’t stay put. Our front landscaping beds are bordered by one of those cheap plastic strips instead of a more attractive brick retaining wall.

We also could use some new furniture. Our couch is slightly stained, growing threadbare, and nearly 20 years old. My daughter’s secondhand loft bed is safe enough but rickety, and I’ve been eyeing a $400+ loft bed and desk combo from IKEA that would be perfect her tiny bedroom.

I’m held back by the fact that I don’t have an endless supply of money.

When I start feeling overwhelmed by all I think needs to be done or purchased for my house, I take a step back and try to shift my thinking. Here are my tips for being more content with what you have and how to be happy with the house you’ve got:

1. Clean your house.

I guarantee you will feel happier if your space is clean. Scrub the bathrooms. Mop the kitchen floor. Shine the windows. Shampoo the carpet. Dust the furniture. Even if your belongings are older and not in peak condition, they will look better and you’ll be more content if they are well cared for.

2. Purge your clutter.

This goes hand in hand with cleaning your home. Your space will look better and your house will seem larger if it is tidy and not crammed with stuff. Pay special attention to hot spots such as closets, shelves, kitchen cabinets and drawers, your kids’ play room, your home office, the basement, attic, and garage. Take unwanted items to local thrift stores or charities, or have a garage sale and make some extra cash.

3. Decorate — or redecorate — in simple, inexpensive ways.

Projects that don’t cost as much money include painting, hanging new artwork on the walls, replacing comforters on beds, replacing curtains or blinds, getting a new rug, or adding a slipcover to an old couch or chair. Put some potted plants or flowers on your front porch to improve curb appeal.

4. Calculate how much money you are saving.

You may feel better knowing that you’ve got some money saved for a rainy day, for a vacation, for unexpected home or car repairs, or whatever else you need to save for. I mentioned that IKEA loft bed I wanted for my daughter’s room. We recently had to have part of our lateral sewer line repaired, and I was glad I hadn’t shelled out the money for that bed because it gave my family more room in the budget to pay for necessary sewer repairs.

All of this is not to say that my husband and I never spend money on home projects. Almost 11 years ago when we moved into our house, we created that to-do list I talked about earlier that hangs on our fridge of the projects we’d like to get done, and we estimated the cost for each. As we save money, we slowly check some of those projects off our list. Over the years, we’ve replaced defective flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms and replaced a sagging wood fence in our backyard, among other things. We space these projects out, though, and we prioritize what needs to be replaced or repaired first, second, and so on. Our next project will probably be to replace our old couch because the cushions are finally wearing thin enough to justify spending the money, and our kids are now old enough that we’re not as worried about them staining or otherwise damaging a new couch. It’s good to save for a purpose, and it’s satisfying to look at our list and see what we’ve already marked off and accomplished.

In the meantime, as we live in a house that can sometimes be less than perfect, we remind ourselves that it’s all just stuff. There are more important things in life like our family, health, and faith. That goes a long way toward helping us to be happy with our house the way it is.

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