By Gabrielle.

Diana is an exuberant writer, so it follows that her home displays the same joy. There are ever-growing enthusiastic collections she watches carefully just to be sure they don’t start resembling an episode of Hoarders, and nooks seemingly everywhere to welcome the world. “Ooh, what’s that?” I heard myself saying more than once while zooming in on a treasure-filled corner.

She’s also a generous writer, so you’ll hear about prices and her struggles as a mom and her realistic shortcomings (which we all recognize as true talents!) that spurred her to lean more toward a shabby chic style of decor. I’ll let Diana explain it; she does so adorably!

Come meet her. You’re going to want to be her friend. And I have a feeling she’ll want the same from you. Welcome, sweet Diana!

(Just a quick note before I introduce myself…I was only recently shown this blog by a good friend of mine and was just blown away by all the inspiring stories and homes you moms have posted! It has been so fun reading and getting a glimpse into your lives, and I hope that I can offer some bit of inspiration in return!)

So my name is Diana Clinger. I live in Idaho Falls with my husband Chris, our two cats, Pepe La Roux and Possum, and our wonderful daughter Addison, who is turning two at the end of this October!

I met my husband Chris when I was 19 and a freshman at the University of Idaho in Moscow. UofI is where my parents first met and it is a truly beautiful campus of ivy-covered buildings and walkways that I know I took way too many artsy photos of while I was attending! I remember being so excited to go to the same college as my two older sisters and share an apartment with them. My parents had let me stay with my sisters during the summer months between my Junior and Senior year of high school, provided that I get a job, pull my own weight and stay out of trouble, and I absolutely couldn’t wait to join them.

Our fateful meeting occurred when we both got a ride from the same person heading to southern Idaho for Spring Break. It is about a nine-hour drive from Moscow to Shelley so we had plenty of time to get acquainted. As it turned out, we had both gone to the same high school only a year apart and it was actually pretty amazing that we had never met considering that the graduating class size is around 180 people and I knew almost every single one of his close friends — I honestly believe it was for the best that we had never met in high school, as those years were not exactly kind to me!

We were further thrown together when our ride realized he was going to be late for a family function and dropped us off (see also: abandoned) at a gas station on the outskirts of town. These were the days before everyone had their own cell phones, so we made our way toward the gas station to use the pay phone and prayed that one of our families would be able to pick us up. My family was the one to answer and I’ll never forget this ride home as long as I live! I guess they hadn’t heard me when I said that there were two of us needing a ride — my mom later admitted she thought I was using the term “we” as in the “royal we” — because they showed up in the family car completely packed with all of my siblings and only one spot free in the passenger seat!

Chris was a gentlemen and gave me the nice seat, and so now the image of my future husband uncomfortably sprawled out across all his future in-laws in the backseat is one I will have forever. We took him to his house and were in the process of helping him unload all of his luggage, when his mom not-so-subtly suggested he get my number. I don’t think I can describe the sheer amount of awkwardness that ensued by having just met and then being asked out while both of our families stood watching…there are just no words. Anyway, the date clearly went well as we just recently celebrated our ten year anniversary this July!

We lived in Moscow for quite a few years, but I always knew that I eventually wanted to move back closer to home and family, so when Chris was offered a tech job in Idaho Falls, we leapt at the chance. Unfortunately, the job ended up falling through, but we were home and we weren’t going anywhere. Chris ended up getting a part time job all the while still applying everywhere, and I was working as many shifts as I could at my waitressing job to save up for a house.

Ever since I was a little girl I had dreamed of owning a home on the numbered streets of Idaho Falls. They are all so charming and unique and — because of their age — within our meager price range. We couldn’t afford anything above $120,000 so when we found a home that met most of our criteria and would (all totaled) come to $117,000, we pounced! It’s an early 1950s home that needed quite a bit of updating and, at the time of purchase, had a completely unfinished basement.

After all those years of renting I was in heaven. Finally, a place to decorate and make our own! At first because of our budget, we just focused on the upstairs and did the things that were easy to fix. Painting the green, yellow, and brown walls was the first thing I tackled. I love using neutral wall colors because I have a passionate love affair with fabric and I like to change out the pillows and blankets for every season. A lot of my pillows are made from thrift store shirts or dresses (or even just clothes my family and friends were getting rid of) that had a pattern or color that caught my eye.

I learned to sew at a young age from my mother who is an amazing seamstress. Now here I should clarify; my mom tried to teach me how to sew when I was young but like a fool, I hardly paid any attention. It wasn’t until years later that I realized what a valuable skill this would be to someone who loves fabric and I begged her to re-teach me everything! She was very patient and even now doesn’t criticize when I clearly did not measure something like I should have. I use a very haphazard approach to sewing; I have an idea of what I want something to look like and I just eyeball it and hope for the best. It’s pretty much how I approach all of my projects.  If you’ve ever seen an episode of the Red Green Show, it’s similar to that.

One of my favorite examples of this came after just completing my very first slipcover project. I was over at my mom’s house and using her sewing machine because I didn’t have one of my own at the time. I was beside myself with joy and called my younger teenage sister downstairs to tell me what she thought. She took one look at it and says, “No offense, but I can tell you’re not a perfectionist” and walked back upstairs!

It’s true, though, and I honestly think that’s why I went with more of a shabby chic style of decorating, because it is what worked best with my budget and my skill level at the time. It’s also a very forgiving style when it comes to children because everything you own is already banged up or slipcovered so it’s not a life or death situation if they scratch up a table or get their jam hands all over your slipcovers.

Every piece of furniture in our home (excluding electronics/appliances) was either thrifted, gifted, or Craigslisted for under $100. There are only a couple of pieces that went just over that amount, but still well within that range. I am using specific numbers because doing a cheap project or remodel means different things to different people. I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve read where they rave about what a deal they got on something and come to find out it was almost a thousand dollars! That is not cheap to me by any means! I am one of those crazies that you see dumpster diving and picking up the random furniture people are just about to throw away. It usually just needs a little love and then it’s good as new…haha but good as new can also mean different things to different people and, as we’ve already established, I am far from a perfectionist!

I do have to be careful with all my thrifting and salvaging though because I have a tendency to collect things and it’s a constant battle to keep my house from looking like it should be featured on an episode of Hoarders! I often have to repeat that William Morris quote in my head that says to “Keep nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.”

If you’re anything like me and have trouble just donating huge batches of stuff to Goodwill, a trick that sometimes helps is to find people in my life that I know could use the items more and just give it directly to them. It just makes it a lot easier to get rid of things I’m not using when I know that they will be loved and used elsewhere.

Another thing that I love about the numbered streets is their proximity to the greenbelt around the falls and the downtown area. I love being able to walk or bike there and not have to worry about parking. One year we did a farmer’s market booth where my sister Katy sold her beautiful handmade jewelry and told fortunes, my youngest sister Alisa did henna tattoos, and my mom and I sold various handmade pillows/clothes/crafts. It was so much fun that we are looking into possibly doing it again in the near future! You meet the most interesting people who truly have a passion for what they are doing, and I loved being able to hear their stories!

At this time, we had been living in our home for about a year, Chris had found a much better job so we weren’t as strapped for cash, but we were beginning to wonder if our dream of having children would ever happen. Friends and family were very supportive, but I will say that it was very hard to move back home and see all of my friends that were on their fourth or fifth kid and here we were with seemingly no hope in sight.

It wasn’t until the beginning of 2014, the very last year in my twenties, that we got the wonderful news that we were expecting. I loved being able to feel her moving around when I would sing to her, and her little flutter kicks, but I definitely earned her. I was one of those moms who was sick every single day of the pregnancy and puking only once in a day was considered a win.

But even with all of that I could hardly contain my excitement. My nesting hormones kicked into overdrive and I was suddenly very determined to finish the basement before she arrived. I was a huge, pregnant force to be reckoned with and I still feel a bit bad for my poor husband who was dragged into the madness.

There were a few complications with the birth, but I’ll never forget the feeling of holding our little Addison Grace in my arms for the first time. I remember everyone telling me that it wouldn’t be like in the movies where the babies are all calm and clean, but I honestly thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen! She wasn’t crying at all, she just took her time looking around and then locked eyes with me as if to say “Hello… where in the world am I?”

She had strawberry blonde hair and these big blue eyes that surprised me, as neither Chris nor I had that eye color except for our moms. I kept waiting for them to change to brown as she got older, but here we are with her about to turn two years old at the end of this October and her eyes are more blue than ever!

It’s amazing to me that kids already come with such strong personalities. Addie is full to the brim with sass! She loves trying new things and she was walking at the end of eight months, but if you’ve ever seen her, it’s less of a walk and more of an excited prance to where she wants to go. I thought I had more time to prepare for a mobile baby, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a mom is that you are never really prepared; you can only take things as they come and try to adapt as quickly as possible.

Now I promised Gabrielle that I wouldn’t just write the fun things and skip over the hard parts and honestly, it’s always been the stories where people are open and vulnerable that have meant the most to me so I will do my best to share my truth. I just finished a book called ‘Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on it’ and aside from being life-changing, one of the main themes in it was that the world would be a better place if everyone would just share their truth.

As much as I love being a mom and wouldn’t trade it for the world, I suffered horrible postpartum depression after having Addie. I am so grateful for the other moms in my life (and online) who were brave enough to share their own struggles and in the end it really got me to a point where I could finally get the help that I needed.

I don’t know why it is so hard for me and countless others to ask for help even when it is so clearly needed, but I am so glad that I did. My breaking point came when three days before my 30th birthday one of my best friends from childhood took her own life. I will always have guilt and wonder what I could have done differently to change that outcome, but the only thing I know for sure is that she was an amazing person who impacted my life for the better and I truly hope that she has found peace.

It was a devastating wake up call to me that if something didn’t change in my life, I was headed down that same path.

So here is my message to all you wonderful mothers out there: you are not alone!

I know that motherhood and just life in general can be overwhelming, but there are so many other people going through similar things that would love to connect with you and help out. I couldn’t believe the amount of love and support I got from the moms around me when I finally got over my fears and opened up to them.

I think there is this feeling that there are so many of these Judgy McJudgerson moms out there, and while I’m not saying that they don’t exist, I think they are mainly in our heads! Almost every mom I’ve encountered so far has only given understanding looks that say she’s been there when Addie is throwing a temper tantrum or having a meltdown.

I think we are our own biggest critics and most people, like us, are just doing the best that they can. So ladies go out there, share your truth, and just be kind to one another!

Life is way too short to not be living life how you want to be living it! I’ll end this with a quote I liked so much I put it in all caps on the door leading to my garage so that I see it every time I am going out: BE KIND, FOR EVERYONE YOU MEET IS FIGHTING A HARD BATTLE.

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Diana, you are so charming, I could hug you. Thank you for sharing yourself with us all.

One of my favorite parts of any interview in this series: “I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve read where they rave about what a deal they got on something and come to find out it was almost a thousand dollars! That is not cheap to me by any means! I am one of those crazies that you see dumpster diving and picking up the random furniture people are just about to throw away. It usually just needs a little love and then it’s good as new…haha but good as new can also mean different things to different people and, as we’ve already established, I am far from a perfectionist!”

Anyone else have thoughts on this idea? What’s your idea of a bargain? Do you cap your furnishings’ price tags at a certain point? How do you keep true to your decor budget? Any secrets? You know I love to share in your experiences!

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.