On Making Do

Making Do

Two weeks after moving into this house, we had already scraped off the 1980’s floral blue wallpaper in the living room and dining room, replaced the 30 year old carpet in the living room and kids’ bedrooms, and brought the original hardwood floors in the dining room, hallway, and our bedroom back to their glory.

A year after that we hired out some safety work, rewiring and adding outlets, and part of that year’s football team helped us replace the roof.  My mom came in and transformed our girls’ room to pink.  Lots of pink.  Not to be outdone, we then ditched the worn ocean theme in the boys’ room and gave them some red and khaki sports on the walls.  What else?!

Two years after that, the week we brought home our much prayed for fourth baby, my mom and dad rescued our bathroom from an unfortunate previous owner decorating mishap.

Our 1916 house is becoming our home.  Slowly.  The kitchen, though?  The heart of my home where I spend many hours every day?  Nearly 7 years after signing the contract and 2 years after paying off the house in full, my kitchen is still dysfunctional and ugly.


Truly, it’s one of those “What were they thinking?!” rooms.  Refrigerator in a box.  Open corner space with no purpose.  A cavernous, inaccessible storage area over a stairway.  Just bizarre.

We have a plan to fix the kitchen this summer (glory hallelujah!).  In the meantime, though, I’m reminded of some lessons on Making Do.

Count your blessings.

Truly the cure to nearly every want, we know we have it good, and we try to focus on that gratitude, even in the midst of an ugly kitchen.  We live in a paid for home in a community we love!  Our children are many, happy, and healthy.  I get lots of exercise running up and down the stairs for things I would normally store at my fingertips in the kitchen.

And… I have just enough counter space to roll out my cinnamon rolls.

Stick with the plan.

In some ways it would have been easy to take out a loan and just fixthedangkitchenalready before we were ready.  We’re a stubborn people, though, and saving the money is more our style.  (Actually, we’re quite boring and the drama of debt and the fear of not being able to pay it back completely freaks us out.)

For all my talk of gratitude, though, contentment does not equal complacency.  It’s important to keep that goal front and center.  Stay motivated to keep daily spending at a minimum so that the big picture can soon be drawn.   Stick to the plan!  Frugal living “just because” isn’t nearly as motivating as frugal living so we can put money aside to fix the kitchen.

Don’t hide.

For the past six years, I’ve welcomed our high school football team for breakfast every single Saturday morning during football season.  We’ve held birthday parties and sleepovers for our children, and I’ve even hosted a holiday open house a couple of different times.

Yes, there are times when I wonder, “What will people think?  I have a box around my fridge!”  But, waiting until my kitchen is fixed before having company in our home wasn’t the right solution.  Waiting on perfection is waiting on forever.  It’s not gonna happen.  We’ve decided to enjoy today!

Care for what you have.

Good enough is what we have to work with right now, and good enough should still be cared for.  This is my biggest struggle.  Besides my own tendency toward slob vision, I overlook small things that I could do to make our dysfunctional space more beautiful.

The poor construction of our kitchen has nothing to do with the clutter in our kitchen.  Just because I don’t want to change the wallpaper until the wall is fixed doesn’t mean I can’t keep the walls clean.  An unclutterd, cleaned up space is a happy space, even with weird storage areas and a fridge in a box in a wall.

My ugly kitchen does not define me.  Your making do situation does not define you.  Our attitudes about our situation may!


Thank you to Staples for providing a double pantry storage cabinet for my kitchen, making it just a bit easier to hide some of the ugly.  😉



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  1. So true! I keep putting many of the things you mentioned off because we’re in a rental. Thanks for the reminder…”Waiting on perfection is waiting on forever.”

  2. Yes, yes, and yes. I love this and it is so true. It is not all about how it looks with a perfect kitchen, house, or meal. And I love that you have continued to open your home to others even with a less than perfect kitchen. It is about the time together and that is what is important. Thanks for the reminder of making do with what we have.

    • I know you’ve written that your kitchen isn’t ideal and isn’t your favorite room in the house, and I know you make the best of it, too. Lots of great food coming out of that kitchen. 🙂

  3. Jessica H says:

    Excellent post! We live in a small, but paid for home. There are a lot of sacrifices that have come with that, but I always remind myself that most of the world would find our thousand foot home to be luxurious. Besides the best homes are the ones that are filled with love and laughter.

  4. Michelle says:

    Oh my! That nook??? Ohhhh, do I see some wonderfully simple (fairly inexpensive) ideas for creating an amazing pantry while you wait! Now, summer isn’t too far off, so maybe not worthwhile at the moment, but if for some reason you have a delay in plans ….

    First, measure every inch … all three walls, and the height too. Carry these measurements with you EVERYwhere you go 🙂 Thus, if you find the right item, you’re set.

    A longer term, more expensive route would be to put nice shelving on all three walls, making for an amazing pantry. Shelves of various heights… plus leave a a cut out near the floor (on the left side?) for a rolling cart to contain heavy mixers, bread machines or other often-used-but-not-enough-to-take-up-space-on-the-counter-top items. Move it out in use, move it back when done.

    For the temporary time though, look for ANY shelves: bookshelves, mircrowave carts, wire, plastic, etc. Of course, I’m suggesting finding these items at garage sales, thrift stores, etc. The goal would still be to put shelves on three sides, creating a walk in space. A single gallon of paint will make it all look uniform. Then, hang a curtain with a spring tension rod that can be repurposed after you remodel. For fabric, check thrift stores for flat king sheets … cheap and so many colors, or purchase new fabric you LOVE (a little more expensive). This will allow you to close it on the occasions you want, but a SIMPLE hook on the left wall, will allow you to pull it back with a pretty cord, ribbon, or just the hook. Use more of the same fabric to make something somewhere else in the kitchen to tie it together … even a bow or knob covers for the cupboards to the right of the fridge.

    I know you weren’t looking for suggestions, that’s just what I saw in the “right now” line of thinking.

    HOWEVER, as a mom of five (2 launched, 3 to go), the main point of your post …. DO NOT WAIT to ENJOY life in your space is 100% right on!!! So glad you have realized this now, and are sharing it with others. 🙂

    Great post!

  5. jeanie l says:

    great article …i too am in the process of making my home more of a reflection of my tastes .my redo isnt so much renovations since it was built in 2000 but more along the lines of wallpapering and storage ideas .although we added a fireplace .im redoing one room at a time and currently am doing a laundry room makeover on a budget of 35.00 ….wallpaper ,paint and trim .each room will begin only when we have the extra cash in the budget to start it .we dont believe in taking a loan for a redo either .thanks for posting and am looking forward to seeing your new kitchen in the future

    • $35. So impressive! I hope I haven’t run out of patience by the time they get to the kitchen… need to keep my frugal hat on during repairs and updating. 🙂

  6. Great post on keeping perspective. It’s easy to find ourselves getting caught up in wishing for a different life, but reality is what we have in the here and now. If we keep looking forward and never around us, we miss out on life.

  7. Meredith says:

    I love this post. Congratulations on all the things you have gotten accomplished in your house. Good for you for not hiding. I love that…. having said all that, I can’t wait to see what you do to your kitchen:)

    • I can’t wait to show you the hole in the wall that COULD be storage if it wasn’t above the stairs. It’s really quite comical. I need to get lots of pics before we tear it outta there.

  8. How much do I LOVE this post? And I so admire you for never hesitating to open your home to others. This has been difficult for me, here in the land of professionally designed 4,000+ sq ft homes. What I’ve (very slowly) learned, however, is that, while I may feel “less” because of my humble home, others enter this space and feel “less” because they don’t bake like I do. We all have our insecurities and we need to spend less time looking for where we lack and focusing on all we have/do. 🙂

    • Such a good point! I have people telling me all the time “I wish I had your life” and I’m looking at myself in my ponytail and track pants, in my smallish old home, thinking… oh, yes! Devoted husband, five pretty awesome (if I do say so myself) kids, and we eat well. It’s all good. 😉

  9. As my sister-in-law says, “If you don’t share your hotdogs, you won’t share your steak.”

    It’s tough to stick to the plan when people around you have things nicer, but we know it’s the best way for us. Even if that means we are still living in a trailer.

  10. Good reminder as we look at buying a house that needs so much updating. I can live with the ugly and keep dreaming…

  11. Love, love, love this post!! Another thing I always think to myself when making do…..when I finally get what we have been saving for, I will appreciate it even more than I would have had we been able to get it without waiting!! We just paid to have our 16 year old car fixed, hated spending that money, yet so thankful that it is still hanging in there. Our goal is to get out of debt and have money saved to get a new to us car before we replace it… slowly buy surely… 🙂

  12. First of all, woohoo on having a paid for home! That is awesome! I love that you open your home to people and gatherings even though your kitchen is not quite perfect. Your house seems homey and I think that is what draws people in and makes them feel comfortable. I have also tried to take your approach and host gatherings and have company even though our house is small and “lived in”. Loved this post!

  13. Thanks for the link!

    And boy, do I understand. I have to fight so hard against the “What’s the Point?” attitude when I don’t love a space.

    But oh my word . . . it’s paid for!!! Go you!

  14. This post is a blessing to me! Thanks for your honesty. We are blessed with more than I could have ever imagined for my family and home but it seems that there is just so much pressure to have MORE and do MORE and be MORE when all I want to do is love my hubby and kids and make memories. I hate that the pressure sometimes gets to me. I want to be an example of gratitude and simple living amongst all of this excess. I will keep on working toward that goal. Thanks again.

  15. Love this post, Amy:)

    I have a WTF were they thinking kitchen, it drives me nuts. Last year, we saved up enough to pay cash for a new dishwasher. We had been without a working one for 2 years and I was really looking forward to replacing it. Well come to find out the the cord was drywalled in. No way to unplug the stinking thing without having to do a kitchen re-model:( So I’m still without a working dishwasher.

    Whenever, I get annoyed with the house we live in, I remind myself of all the great things that happen in this house: family dinners, baby showers, and even a wedding reception every once in awhile…..

  16. You are so right! Saving and paying cash for a redo will be so worth the wait! I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with this summer!

    • You know what? My accountant scolded me and told me “take out a loan” because the money we have saved is making more interest than a loan would cost, so we’d be losing out on income if we paid cash. Of course, that could change… but still. Wow! (So yes, we’re planning to take the loan but ONLY because we have the cash making interest.)

  17. You always inspire me. I live in a similar size home, also with only one bathroom, an ugly kitchen, in a small town (which we love), and with one less kid than you. You have such a good attitude about it, and that’s awesome that you’ve paid it off already. That’s got to go a long way towards being happy with your house. That’s how I feel about our cars. They’re old and quirky, but we paid cash.

  18. Melissa S. says:

    Amy – I love this post. You have put what matters as most important – your family, having people over despite imperfection – and I admire that more than any kitchen you might find in a magazine. Thanks for the reminder…and your honesty.


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