In transition from dining room to office.

  • DH = Dear Husband
  • DD2 = Dear Second Daughter
  • DD1 = Dear First Daughter

Four months ago, I wrote a post about the renovations we have planned to take on. DH’s home business office has long been too small for him, and an overflow of equipment and boxes has gradually spilled over into other parts of the house. So the plan is to move his office into the larger living room and dining room space, create a small living room out of his current office, and to have a combined dining room/sitting area in what is now the family room. The project will involve selling and giving away a lot of old, worn, big furniture; buying some new, smaller furniture; installing a new floor; and purchasing things like lighting, shelving, cupboards, and blinds as well as the nuts and bolts to install them. Some of it will count as a business expense, but most won’t.

Embarrassing post (but not too embarrassing)

I’m a little embarrassed by that post I wrote four months ago. After three years of intense debt-repayment, my long dormant inner shopaholic woke up, and our discussions and plans for new flooring and furniture released pent up waves of endorphin rush. “It was SO LOVELY to be able to think, talk, and plan in this way!” I wrote. “I was high on visions of tile, hardwood, and leather furniture. I don’t even care how shallow that sounds!” I’m not too embarrassed though. It was an honest snapshot of where I was at, and that’s what this blog is all about. Not how we should be thinking, feeling, and acting – but about how we actually do think, feel, and act as we navigate our way out of debt.

From renovation high to sober calculation

Over the past four months, some new realities have sobered our renovation high. For one thing, we have committed to taking on the expenses of DD2’s room and board for the next two years as she studies and trains at her university downtown. For another, there is still the possibility of a loss of income due to union action at my work. So our approach to our renovations has become more practical and calculated.

  • Instead of installing two new floors, we’re going to install one – in what will be the new dining room. The new living room? We’ll have our old carpet cleaned and keep on using it. That’s about $500 not spent.
  • Instead of having the new dining room floor installed by a contractor – something that we thought would be wise to do because DH’s business has been so busy – we’re going to devote two week-ends to DH installing it himself. That’s about $1,250 not spent.
  • Instead of buying a sectional leather sofa for the new living room, we’re going to buy a fabric sectional that can be pulled out into a bed. That’s about $750 not spent.
  • Instead of doing everything at once, we’re going to take things on in stages. That will prolong the doses of chaos that come with renovations, but it will also take away the rush factor. I find in general that when things are rushed, they cost more.

So there’s at least $2,500 that we are not prepared to spend anymore. And that, my friends, is what sobriety in renovation planning can do for you.

Good-bye, Piano

“I can’t start to move my office until we sell the piano,” DH said about a month ago – just before we put it up on Kijiji. It was a reality that pulled at my heart strings, but I recognized that we wouldn’t have room for the piano with the changes we’re making. And nobody has played it on a regular basis for years. I have always harboured a romanticized ideal of piano playing, and I put each of our daughters through lessons – a form of torture for them – until each one quit. DD1 had a renewed interest in her early twenties, but she lives on the west coast now. I would love to take up the piano again (I took lessons as a child), but I can’t see having time for it until I’m able to retire. We’ll miss the piano at Christmas time, when someone in the extended family traditionally plays carols and we all sing . . . But I realize that it doesn’t make sense to keep it for a once-a-year tradition.  Two days ago, it was moved out to another home in the neighbourhood. “We’ll get another one some day,” DH said. I’m going to hold him to that.


Let the renovations begin!

And so, it has started. Yesterday, we carried the dining room table and chairs to their new place in what is now a gong show of a family room in transition. DH removed the hanging dining room lamp (which would have been a head-bump waiting to happen if he’d left it there for any time) and installed a flat office light fixture. He has set up a work station where the piano was in the living room. Excess stuff – some to be sold at a garage sale, some to be given away, some to be sold on Kijiji – is filling up DD2’s old room and will soon fill up the garage too. I have picked a garage sale date of mid-September, and two of my friends from church are going to haul their excess stuff over too, so we’ll make an event of it. I’m going to see if my neighbours would like to make it a whole street garage sale.

It feels great to be getting this thing going. For months, our house has endured what to me seems like the restless agitation of late pregnancy. Now there is movement, and the promise that every piece of furniture, every bit of business equipment, and every box will find its proper place. There will be the relief of purging excess. There will be a welcome fresh start. Our frugal, practical calculations don’t dull the anticipation of change. It’s time to deliver!

Have you ever had to part with something that had an idealized value for you? Have you ever renovated frugally? Your comments are welcome.



Join the Conversation


  1. I think this sounds awesome! One suggestion: have your daughters help your husband with the floor. This is the kind of thing my dad never taught me because he always did it all himself…and now that I’m a grownup I would *really* like to have this skill.

    1. I can’t imagine DD3 having any interest in helping her dad with this task! Perhaps in 10 years, she’ll think, “I wish that Dad had taught me some DIY basics,” but she’s not thinking that way now. But even if she acted as a gopher girl for him during the installation, she’d learn a bit by osmosis. So might I for that matter. Thanks, C : )

  2. Yes, just today I sold my beach cruiser, and there was an instant pang of sadness to see it go. But the funny thing is, I seem to ride it maaaaby three times a year. Not worth keeping it around. So why sad? I think it’s like a tiny piece of your life goes away, but there is making room for bigger and better things. For me that money will go towards fincon, and hopefully a better financial future as I make new contacts. It also gives me writing material. lol! As far as the renovations, I was a little bit worried for you when I read your original post. I was worried you might slip back into old habits after just getting out from the darkness of debt. I think sometimes when something old does end, we think something new means “purchasing,” so it’s good to train the mind that that new thing can mean something completely different. I got sick of my apt recently, so I got rid of a bunch of things, rearranged things, and in total spent $2.64 on a tiny plant. But I gave the place a fresh new look…all for very cheap! Best of luck with the renovations you are doing!

    1. Interesting to know that you were worried after reading that original post! It is true that many people, after attaining a goal – whether for debt or weight or for running a distance in a certain time – sort of relax with a sense of victory, only to go back in auto-pilot to the debt, weight, or fitness problem they had worked so hard to resolve. I definitely want to guard against that. Your place looks great with the rearrangements you’ve done! And while I know we’ll spend more than $2.64 on our project, your experience is something to imitate as much as we can. I just Google imaged “beach cruiser”, and I can see why you’d be sad saying good-bye to it. Here’s hoping your FinCon trip more than makes up for the absence of the cruiser!

  3. It looks like that waiting period did you a LOT of good. We find that when we don’t do things impulsively, we end up doing more things ourselves and save big bucks. Congrats on the self control! 🙂

    1. I wish I could take credit for the self control! It was really a forced period of waiting and a sobering up due to larger circumstances. Lesson learned: waiting saves money. Thanks, Kay : )

    1. Thank you, Jayson. I appreciate your encouragement. I look forward to seeing the results too : )

  4. Sounds like a great time for a little change on the home front. The recent goal completion of debt repayment, a breakthrough with DD2, and now a little frugal facelift on the home front. Seems like positive progress in a lot of areas. So amazing how things go when you are organized and have a plan.

    1. I think in this case, it’s amazing how things can go when you’re forced to wait for a while too. We would have spent more than we needed to if we had gone ahead with our initial plans. Thank you Brian. You’ve got this thing down pat, and I’m really hoping for the best for you as you make big decisions about your next career step : )

  5. We do the same thing 🙂 We start with all the great things we plan to do. Then the reality of our budget sets in and we find ways to do things ourselves or eliminate. I’m sure you will love your new spaces once everything is done!

    1. Thank you, Tre. It’s nice to know that someone else has gone through a similar process – starting from an over-ambitious (and too expensive) plan, and then letting reality filter through to modify it. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product!

  6. We’re doing renovations right now. Even though we are doing all the work ourselves, it’s still not a totally frugal endeavor. There’s a lot of work to be done, and it definitely gets old living in the mess-. And I agree w/ C, get those girls involved. If they marry handy men, they still need to know how to put up with the ramblings and general grumpiness of renovation, and if they don’t, then they need to know how to do these things themselves.

    1. I’m glad you brought up the “general grumpiness of renovation.” One more reason to be looking forward to having it all done! All the best with your renovations too. I’ll see about the girls – or since we have only one daughter left at home – girl involved. When two people comment on it, it’s got to be looked into.

  7. I’ve never had to go through a renovation before, but it sounds like the approach you are taking with doing things in stages is the best route to take. Then you can really think about each decision and plan for it financially so you don’t feel rushed to overspend!

    1. Thanks Christina. I really do believe that taking it in stages will mean a lower cost. In my case, there wouldn’t be a danger in feeling “rushed to overspend” but more in eagerly rushing and not caring about overspending. The forced wait works well with my weakness.

  8. I dream of renovating frugally. I love the concept. Don’t be embarrassed by the visions you had back then. I say, go big or go home. Well, you’re home already, but you get the point. Plans must change, and also the budget, but in the end, you wind up with a change.

    And there’s a lot of good in that. A lot.

    1. We are definitely looking forward to the change. Especially now that we’re in what will be a prolonged period of everything being in that chaotic stage of transition. Thanks, Eli!

  9. I think it’s great that you are still going after the renovations, but doing it on a more realistic scale for your budget. Those are some pretty major costs saved! I hope things calm down with the union or that the important issues get resolved. That’s always a nightmare of a situation.

    1. Thanks, FF. I’m hoping the same re. the union and work issues. It is amazing how quickly things add up – or subtract in this case – when it comes to renovations. There are huge differences within the possible price range. We will intentionally stick with the lower end!

  10. We’ve gotten rid of so many things with idealized value. A lot of them were convenience items that didn’t work out, or that we just didn’t use as much as we thought. I’m picturing the pineapple corer as we speak. To be fair, we ate a lot more of it up in Seattle.

    Every so often I find something and ask him if we’re *really* going to use it. A lot of times, we just want to keep it because we spent money on it and haven’t gotten enough value. But it then becomes time to cut our losses.

    Next item on the list is Tim’s rollerblades. He swore up and down he’d use the things, so we plunked down $100. The first time out, it hurt his ankles after being off them for so long. The second time out, he said that the roads and park path were too bumpy. And that was about it. I was NOT pleased. Now with the fibromyalgia diagnosis, I think it’s time to accept the reality. Maybe we can get a little back on Craigslist.

    1. That’s true. With fibromyalgia, his ankles probably really are more susceptible, and the bumps on the road probably really are more jarring. That’s a case where hindsight is 20/20. I understand why you were annoyed initially. Now, of course, there is no room for feeling annoyed. I hope that Tim is able to manage his pain – and that you get something decent for a Craigslist sale of those rollerblades!

  11. Oh I would love piano! I don”t know how to play or where I would put it but I do want one for some reason.
    We renovate as frugally as possible. I will look for mis-tinted paint, we did our hardwood ourselves and it was kind of fun actually. We bought the hardwood at an auction to save some money. I look for seconds and returns too. Bought some beautiful customer wood blinds that were returned and the fit our windows perfectly. Can you tell I am proud? My parents get a lot of things are the habitat for humanity restore – lights, ceiling fans, dodads… my Mom is a much better decorator than I am so she can see diamonds in the rough. Good luck with the renovation!

    1. Your mom’s ability to “see diamonds in the rough” is a HUGE asset when it comes to frugal renovating or decorating. You’ve mentioned things here that I’ve never thought of: mis-tinted paint, hardwood at an auction . . . You have a right to be proud : ) And if you really do want a piano, I hope that you’re able to get one some day, May.

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