It took us 330 miles to find a home. My husband and I happened to be raised in an area of the country that has an extremely high cost of living, including outrageously priced homes and property taxes that are more than quadruple what the national average is. When our son was born, we knew that in order to buy a single family home, we’d have to move. More, we wanted a parent to stay home to raise Aidan, and so living on one income would only be possible in an affordable town. We were blessed to successfully relocate to such a place, fall in love with our new surroundings, and eventually purchase the house we adore. But sometimes good fortune can adversely skew perspective.
When we were house hunting, our budget (which would have maybe bought us a one bedroom shack back where we grew up) suddenly allowed for a decent sized home. The only thing that was truly on my wish list was a nice enough kitchen (and perhaps a small island in it). I visited many houses for sale, but, like Goldilocks, nothing felt just right – not even the house we’d eventually buy. On my first visit to it, I liked everything else about the home, but the kitchen was boring and basic, and it made me think that the house was not the one I was looking for. But I never got it of my mind, and kept comparing every other house to it during my search. Finally, I decided to look at the house again, and as soon as I entered it for the second time, I knew immediately that it was indeed our home. I could see my future teenage son galloping down the stairs and out the door right in front of me, a happy phantom that allowed me to feel assured that this was where he was supposed to grow up. Outdated kitchen and all!
Over the years, I continue to have a love-hate relationship with my kitchen. On one hand, I am grateful for the working appliances, the lovely view of the yard out the bay window, and the abundance of cabinet space.
On the other, I fixate over the peeling spots on the floor and burn marks on the icky Formica countertops. I get frustrated about the strange way the fridge is encased by unnecessary walls and the griminess of the plain brown cabinets. First world problems, for sure! For, everything is spacious and functional, just begging for a little update.
Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve been settled in the house for a little over six years or perhaps I watch too much HGTV, but lately I’ve been antsy to see what we can do to spruce up the room I spend about 98% of my time in. For some handy couples, it may be no big deal to have a DIY weekend of home improvement projects, but.... we’re not that couple! Though we’ve come a long way in our skills as homeowners, there are some things that are just out of our realm of expertise, like updating kitchen fixtures and intensive painting projects.
But more importantly, even a DIY slow-approach kitchen facelift can certainly add up. As much as I fantasize about what we could do to spruce up the room, my lackluster kitchen reminds me every day of something much more significant. Living with our plain kitchen is a financial choice to avoid spending money on what isn’t necessarily essential, at least in the present-day. Its current just-fine state reminds me of the true meaning of what frugality equals for our family. We drive super old cars and shop at consignment shops and sit at the mismatched kitchen table we got at Big Lots for 100 bucks a decade ago that’s being held together in some places with duct tape because....none of these material things matter as much as what our bigger priorities are. For us, those are having an at-home parent for our son and his busy life and avoiding spreading ourselves too thin by rushing around and working too much. This takes lots of sacrifice and constant money-watching. That may not be for everyone, but it’s what’s important to us.
So even though painting the cabinets and replacing countertops certainly won’t break the bank, holding off on it a little longer is not a bad choice either, as it allows us to spend money on more important things. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we decided to take the first step towards fixing up the kitchen by replacing our rusty, deteriorating range hood by having a newer cabinet and over the range microwave installed, both our hot water heater and washing machine decided to die!
Our new microwave was on back order for months, so it allowed us to focus on replacing the other essential appliances. By the time we finally had the conversion done, it felt that much more rewarding!
Over time, I’m sure we’ll make some more steps towards prettying-up the room, but in the meantime, my boring brown kitchen is a good reminder of why delayed gratification, patience, and simply waiting to indulge in something have been the cornerstones for how our family lives – these practices have allowed us to live on one income and slow down life to a speed that doesn’t stress any of us out too much. All rewards, whether purchasing a new car, going on a fancy vacation, enjoying retirement perks, or even sprucing up an outdated kitchen, are relished so much more when they are earned slowly over time. They are that much more satisfying in the end when you’ve crept frugally up to them over time rather than on impulse.
I once read something that has stuck with me ever since – that homecooked food, made with love, tastes just as good coming out of an outdated yucky kitchen than it would in an expensive, top of the line one. And indeed, it certainly does.