Have you even gone through a big “downsizing” phase? Looking for ways to make your life simpler and less complex, and often, making them fit into a smaller space? I just did a huge downsizing in my own life recently and I think that’s why this weeks Living With Kids home tour really spoke to me. I’m excited to introduce you to Annie — an artist by passion and a graphic designer by trade, who left her day job and seriously downsized her house so she could be a stay-at-home-mom. And the house is just as clean and bright and charming as could be.
I’m Annie! An artist by trade and schooling! Expressing myself creatively is how I keep sane!
My mom let me have free reign on my bedroom growing up from the paint color, to thrifted bedding and lamps, to weird arrangements. It was definitely a creative outlet for me. I also grew up with parents who restored everything from 100 year old houses, to campers, to classic cars. So I come by it naturally. I have always loved painting but actually went to Kansas State University and received my BFA in Graphic Design, hoping to make the big bucks when I graduated :)
During my summers home, I worked for my dads painting company. I fell in love with watching the transformation of homes with just a little bit of paint and a whole lot of caulking!
My husband, Cody, and his family moved in next door when I was 10. We were always friends but didn’t start dating until my sophomore year in college. He was working for a company and traveling 100% of the time. We were engaged my senior year and married the fall after I graduated. All I ever dreamed of was being a homemaker and I felt as though my dreams were finally coming true.
Having a husband that traveled was difficult to say the least. Although from the outside it looked like we had a pretty good life. I would go on the road for a few weeks then come home to work some more for my dad. In the midst of this we bought our dream home. And when I say we, I mean I. Cody didn’t step foot in the house until we had owned it for about a month.
It was a beautiful, two story, 2,000+ square foot, 100 year old home with high ceilings, large baseboards and tons of natural light. During this time we spent almost a year in New Mexico, which inspired my love for southwest textiles and artwork. After that we had a loft in downtown Denver for about 6 months which was a blast. Cody’s job was financially bountiful and provided us with the means to have so many amazing experiences and all the while dump a ton of money into our home to make it exactly what we wanted.
After about two years of marriage and 5 years of being together with Cody working on the road, we wanted to start a family, and we decided that for us, his presence in our day to day life was more important than any other factor. This was a huge decision financially. Not only would Cody be taking a pay cut, I would also quit working to stay home. We discussed how this might mean the possibility of having to sell our dream home.
That summer, my grandpa unexpectedly got sick and passed away. We were extremely close and he was a huge fixture in my day to day life. A few months later we were expecting our first baby and I knew it would be the new presence in our family to fill the aching hole we had been feeling. When we found out he was boy, there was no question he would be named after my grandpa, Everett.
Everett is 16 months old and a ball of fire! His energy is unmatched by anyone or anything I have ever seen! His presence lights up a room and his outgoing personality attracts anyone who’s near. Being his mom is an absolutely exhausting joy, in the best possible way. We are also expecting our little girl, Morna Jo, due this spring. We are so excited to have the experience of parenting a girl, and we can’t wait to watch Everett be a big brother.
We live in McPherson, Kansas. To us, it’s the best kept secret. Cody and I were both born and raised here and have so much pride in this small town. Our neighborhood is fantastic. It was developed in the 50’s, and every day when I walk I feel like I’m in a modern day Leave It To Beaver episode. Our neighbors, along with the whole town, are all-around friendly, chatty people. If you don’t want to see someone you know, then you’d better not ever grocery shop!
Both of our families live here which was a huge decision in why this is where we wanted to be. It’s important to us that our children grow up around their grandparents because both Cody and I were around our grandparents growing up.
For the area, McPherson’s housing market is high. You can get much more bang for your buck if you lived just 10 miles down the road. We had our eye on our house and waited until it dropped significantly before making an offer. We didn’t by any means get the cheapest house on the block but we also made sure that what we were buying was a good investment for the area.
We had originally come through our home on an open house with my grandma. We were trying to find her a place to live in town and I’m the one who wanted to see this house. I was about 8 months pregnant at the time and came with my mom, grandma and Cody. I fell in love immediately. No one else could get over the wall to wall brown carpet, heavily popcorned ceiling and the overwhelming smell of moth balls. My grandma hated it and Cody said it wasn’t for us, especially because the price was way too high for the amount of work that we would want to do to it.
Fast forward two months. We have a newborn and have finally decided to pull the trigger on the downsize. We looked at numerous fixer uppers with our realtor. Everything seemed to be just a little TOO much work for us to do with such a new baby. I remembered how much I loved this house and the neighborhood. I looked online to see what was going on with it and to my surprise, they had dropped the price substantially! I convinced Cody to come through it again. After a lot of back and forth, we put pen to paper and decided that if we could make it all work we would do it!
We had a lot of stipulations to downsizing. First off, we didn’t want our house on the market. I didn’t want to deal with drop of the hat showings or open houses. And of course, we needed a certain price. Our realtor was very understanding and thought she had some clients in mind. She showed it to 2 different couples on 2 different days. The second couple put an offer on it immediately for exactly the amount we said we wanted out. Now all of our talk was reality. We needed to get our 2,000+ square foot house and 2 car garage full of stuff to fit in to a 1,200 square foot, 1 car garage house.
I stayed surprisingly calm during this process. I wore Everett in the Moby Wrap all day while I purged. In the evenings one of our moms or my grandma would come hang out with him so Cody and I could double team the work. We sold and donated tirelessly for 30 days and then moved in to my parents upstairs bedroom. With a three month old. What were we thinking?
This is when it became difficult. We had a timeline of wanting to get in to our house the first week of November. This gave us roughly a month to get it to a place that was safe for a baby to live in. This meant long nights of Cody, my dad, and I working, while my mom would bring Everett every hour or so to nurse (because he would NOT take a bottle). Oh, let me mention also that I got the worst stomach flu of my life during this time. Honestly, it’s all a blur now.
We’ve been here an entire year. And what we’ve learned is this: Less is More. In so many ways this is true in our lives. What we’ve found in ridding ourselves of excess stuff is that not only is our physical space free of clutter, but also our emotional and mental space is free of clutter. I feel a weightlessness in knowing that what I have, I can see. I can clean this whole house in under an hour! I can always hear Everett playing no matter where he is. And it just feels cozy.
I think part of what made the remodel go so smoothly is because I’m actually pretty gifted in making quick decisions. We made a day trip to IKEA in Kansas City, about a six hour round trip, and came home with a pretty big haul. I knew I wanted this house to be as simple as possible since it was so small.
Here’s a list of what we’ve done to this house over the past year:
Scraped popcorn from ceiling and skim coated
Skim coated and patched cracks on the majority of the walls
Painted every surface white
Hired out having our floors professionally refinished
New kitchen counters, sink, hardware, appliances and painted backsplash
Full bath new floors, shower, toilet, hardware, counters
Half bath new floors, vanity
Planked master bedroom, kitchen ceiling and wall, laundry ceiling, half bath ceiling
Hired out electrician to add can lights to main living area and hang all new ceiling fans
Added wall sconces
New hardware on all doors
Painted the exterior of the house
Re-did back deck and concrete patio
Honestly, we still love every decision. This house just feels good to be in.
While it was definitely a big decision in our lives, I’ve always wanted to stay home with our kids. I want to be the one with the influence on them. And this time goes so fast, I want to be with them while they’re little. I would be lying if I said that every day of being a stay at home mom was easy and effortless. It’s the biggest challenge and hardest job I’ve ever had. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. When I think about having a job where I’d be away from my kids for the majority of the day, it makes me terribly sad. That’s how I know I’m in the right place, doing the right thing for me.
I love working with my hands to be creative. In the photo of my refrigerator in my kitchen is the back side of a hand painted wedding invite I just did for my friend’s wedding. Above our couch and hanging in the hall are two linoleum prints I’ve done. I do graphic design for small jobs here and there but my love is painting. I have had paintings for sale at a market in the past, and currently have a painting for sale downtown at a local pub.
McPherson is a hard town to sell art in. It’s definitely not something that’s valued here. And that’s ok. I mostly do it because I enjoy it. Selling it would just be a perk! I wish I could paint every day but the fact is that having a toddler at home and baby on the way makes my free time minimal. I do, however, express myself daily around the house. I rearrange little things here and there, switch up the bedding, add things, take away things.
I hope our children remember happiness and playfulness. That we don’t take things too seriously. That we are only human and mistakes are inevitable and help our progress to be better people. I hope that they can see that we are doing our best to make a smaller footprint while we are here on Earth. That consuming less and being content is healthy and helpful. I hope that as a family we can be used to further God’s Kingdom on Earth and that our children can carry that idea to their own children. I hope they can forget or forgive any shortcomings I may have while raising them.
My favorite thing so far about living with Everett is his laugh and his kisses. It can change my entire mood. The sparkle in his eye when he sees, tastes or experiences something new. I already miss every part of his past year of life but I’m thankful to experience it all again with Morna!
I wish someone would have told me that how I feel is okay. My bad thoughts and my good thoughts. It’s okay to be terrified to be responsible for children. It’s okay to mourn the loss of it being just me and Cody. It’s okay to think I have the cutest kid. It’s okay to be overwhelmed with the daily routine.
Life is messy and imperfect and that’s why we need community. What better community than my own family. These little people will hopefully grow up to be the best friends I could have ever dreamed of!
Thank you, Annie! There is something so simple and clean about the style of this house that makes it seem much bigger than 1200 square feet. Beautiful pieces, styled simply, is always a winning proposition. And even though in my own house I tend to do some bright colors, I love the cleanness of the all white walls everywhere. So gorgeous!
I also love how open Annie was about her and her husband’s decision to cut their income, downsize and have her stay home. Isn’t it great that as parents and families, when we are lucky enough, we get to make choices that make the most sense for us. I’m sure the decision wasn’t an easy one, but it was important decision for them so they did what they needed to do to make it work. That’s what family is all about, right?
So where are you in life right now? Are you in a small space, longing for something bigger? A bigger space that is starting to feel too big? Or have you landed in a space that feels good for you and your family right now?
Living Room Wall Sconces
Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram. Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, gay parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.