Where You Tell Me How to Improve My House: Part 1 (Alternately Titled: Maybe I Don’t Want to Start My Stove With an Ice Pick Anymore)

Listen. Here’s what you have to understand to make sense of this post and the posts that will have to follow it:

  1. Historically speaking, Greg and I are frugal people.
  2. The only thing that’s better than cheap is free, and the only thing better than free is free plus poorly made and/or ugly.
  3. I don’t know why this is true, but if you look at our choices in counter tops (orange laminate) and flooring (plastic or vinyl or thin, austere carpet) and cars (Pontiac, guys! — and this one was MY choice which I DESPERATELY WANTED and STILL LOVE, and I had to BROWBEAT Greg into accepting that WE WERE BUYING IT BECAUSE I NEED THE PONTIAC) and clothes (second hand, man), you will have to accept it. It’s not pretty; it’s just true.
  4. When Greg and I chose our first apartment (dark and ugly and CHEAP, HOORAY!) and then moved after 6 months to someplace pretty and airy and slightly-less-cheap, thereby berating ourselves for Wasting Money ($50 more/month) for No Better Reason than it made us feel Happy (the shame), my mom-in-law sighed a HUGE sigh of relief and told me she was SO GLAD we’d moved out of that Nightmare and encouraged me to Go Buy a New Couch to celebrate.
  5. I bought the couch.
  6. It was cheap and uncomfortable.
  7. We kept it for 10 years.
  8. Lately, though, while Greg has stayed True to His Cheap Core Self, a man of Conviction and Principle, I have started to think Radical and Scary Things like Maybe I Don’t Want to Start My Stove With an Ice Pick Anymore, and Perhaps We Should Repaint the Front Door Rather Than Using The Destroyed Surface as a Chalkboard, and Maybe the Stairs Which Are Carpeted and Stained With Ketchup and Nefarious, Permanent Kid Goo Could Be Recovered With Wood or Something Lovely and Wipeable.
  9. BIG IDEAS, in other words. I AM HAVING THEM. And I can’t seem to quit, no matter how much Greg looks like he wants to ralph every time I mention things like Stair Reflooring Bids and New Stoves and Enormous Gallons of Paint and even, possibly, maybe Patching Holes in Our Walls.

So you understand our paradigm here now, yes? And what we’re working with? And that There Are Things We Must Do with This House? And that Greg and I are At Odds? And that, no matter where I take this post, we are on the Same Team? By which I mean, You and I are on the same team, and Greg is on a Different Team — the Ruin Beth’s Dreams Team — and we are working in concert against him but that’s OK because, hello!, Big Ideas?

But we also understand that, given my background (reference orange laminate, please — and note that I picked it and paid real, live money for it, and it’s a rusty orange and not even a good orange), I can’t be left to my own devices, right? We all get that? And we know that I don’t have a) Taste or b) a Pinterest Board or c) Good Judgement or d) an Inclination to Acquire Any of Those Things, and given all that accumulative knowledge, we understand we Absolutely CANNOT, Under Any Circumstances, Leave Me to My Own Devices?

Yes? We’re clear? All on the same page?

OK, then. OK, good.

Get your Taste and Boards and Excellent Judgement ready, because we’re going to Do Things around my house. Which means we have to Make a Few Decisions. Which we cannot do with Greg because Greg’s Decision will be No, and, frankly, that’s not going to work for us.

And I hate to lead you on like this and not get to the good stuff, but it’s bedtime and Greg thinks I Should Help Put Kids to Bed. Which shows what a Party Pooper Greg is and why I had to come to you in the first place. But which also keeps me from writing All the Things I’m going to need us to consider moving forward.

So, in lieu of Telling You More Right Now, which I assure I would much rather do than bedtime, I will leave you with these two visual aids, which is where we shall start:


IMG_9448^That’s where the ice pick goes.^
In the holes ’til the oven turns on.

Jam that sucker in there ’til the oven lights up.
I don’t know what else to say about that.

That’s the tip of the ice berg.

The impetus for change.

The first domino.

Because with that going down, we have some Choices Ahead that will involve Design and Construction and Finding Greg a Giant Brown Paper Bag for Hyperventilating.

And I will leave you with a Confession: I know I jumped the gun here, but I HAVE ALREADY PURCHASED A REPLACEMENT OVEN, and IT’S REALLY, REALLY WEIRD, and IT DOESN’T FIT, and I ADORE IT TO THE MOON, and so WE ARE STUCK WITH IT not unlike Greg is stuck with the Pontiac, but I hereby swear not to make any further decisions without your input.

I feel like that’s fair.





P.S. If you know of some sort of cheap (read: free and possibly poorly made ;)) design software where we can do some layouts together, that would be good.

P.P.S. Also, if you want to set up our Pinterest Board for us, I’m not opposed. I’m pretty sure I can’t be trusted with that, but I’m equally sure out there is a Pinterest GENIUS who can hook us up.


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29 responses to “Where You Tell Me How to Improve My House: Part 1 (Alternately Titled: Maybe I Don’t Want to Start My Stove With an Ice Pick Anymore)”

  1. I have a friend (a superhero single mama) who bought herself a tiny house that she is totally making into a beautiful, tiny home for herself and her daughter – and like Sarah mentioned above, is 100% into Fixer Upper and Repurposing and the Modern Farmhouse Look. She bought a gorgeous butcher block countertop at Menard’s for only $160 – if you’re looking to replace your orange stuff anytime soon.

  2. Aww Beth honey…
    I am equally cheap, but flat-out refuse to be saddled with ugly or non-functioning! Second hand is often inexpensive but working. Take your time, search around, and don’t settle for things you don’t love. Don’t waste money on things you don’t love!! Being frugal is good, but remember that God gives us all good things to enjoy. Balance, that’s the key.

    Good luck and God bless, friend, as you embark on this next new adventure. And may Greg be granted the peace that passes understanding as you start shopping paint swatches. 😉

  3. Thank you Beth! I’m pretty sure you didn’t write this as a Kleenex Box post, but let me tell you about my week. It started with my guy springing for a car. My guy is cheap too, not as cheap as me, but my family was broke growing up, so there’s that. As in I’ve been driving my van for a decade without being able to run the defrost and the windshield wipers at the same time. Or a functioning gas gauge. Anyway, he sprung for a car, because we had an income tax return (yay having kids!), and he found an amazing deal on craigslist. We bought the car. The car now needs at least $800 worth of work and I’ve driven it once, as in home. I’m only half way through my week. Saturday we were visiting his parents and I had a stroke. A real stroke. And hubby had a root canal. So, I am happy you have a new stove! Here’s hoping that the expensive doctors figure out why, at 36, I had a stroke and that the mechanic we are going to have to take the new car to doesn’t, well… find his own use for that screwdriver.

  4. I was really worried at first that you are at risk of electrocution with the ice pick in the stove thing, but then I hope I saw that it’s a gas stove?

  5. Beth dear I would be happy to turn my Pinterest acumen (read “addiction”) into good use for you 😉 Say the word! 😉

  6. Dear Beth,
    We are moving to our first purchased home. It’s dark, ugly, and small. I’m having big dreams for this tiny house, which include floors, a lot of paint, and I think we might be landscaping FOREVER. Then there’s the pool with resident frog and crickets.
    But. It’s our Tiny House With Huge Dreams, and I can see it. Lately, I’m taking inspiration from Fixer Upper- but with a much more modest budget. Google “farmhouse industrial ” it seems to be the in thing these days, or maybe it’s just that I like it.
    Keep Dreaming!

  7. Oh, Beth. We are cheap twins. But since I’m older I have become far less tolerant of ugly. I like things to be lovely and orderly. I live with a man and a 13 year old boy, so I do not have a lot of lovely and orderly. I am also married to a cheap guy, and at this moment there is a bandaid (a REAL bandaid!) on the top of my kitchen faucet where it sprung a leak. Been there for 7 months. I thought we were going to go through a multitude of bandages, but this same bandaid is the original! Who needs a plumber! ??

  8. You can borrow our fork that opens the microwave door because we finally got a new handle. But only two burners work on the stove.

    • Yes, I would like your fork, please. Most of my forks have gone missing lately. I’ve found several in the backyard. I think my children are using them as shovels, which I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to frown upon, but mostly I think is my kids being problem solvers, so Life Skills!

      • My kids used to throw the flatware in the garbage to either 1. Get out of washing them or 2. Not get caught eating something they shouldn’t. Geez.

  9. When I was a child, our oven broke and the landlord and his son fixed it themselves. Technically, they did render it functional again, but they somehow messed up the temperature dial so it no longer corresponded to the actual temperature of the oven. My mom figured out (through trial and error) approximately where 350 was, and marked it on the dial with red nail polish. So “I’ll be home soon, could you please preheat the oven to slightly past the red mark?” was a common phone conversation, and the smoke alarm was often our dinner bell.

    Point being, stuff like that gives you an ability to appreciate appliances that work properly on a whole other level than the poor souls who’ve always had stuff that works right. You undoubtedly have a much greater than average capacity for new oven appreciation. Congratulations!

  10. Beth I love that you are into odd and cheap and you just don’t care. Stick with that, and don’t ever change.

  11. Cheap/free is our (financially necessary) preference also. My hubby is good at projects, so that helps. A Habitat REstore is a helpful source for stuff and materials. Do you have a handyman friend or relative to conscript?

    • YES. We have handypeople friends and relatives AND these two FABULOUS retired gentlemen who have a construction business who (don’t tell Greg) I will HIRE FOR MONEY to do some work for us. We also have a REstore in town which I think I shall have to visit as we move forward. After you all approve my plan and revise my vision. Important questions to come.

      • Beth: the REstore has Blessed Many A Marriage. At least this one.

        Blessed in all senses. As in saved: we can decorate AND it’s cheap!

        as well as given opportunity to grow: look honey I went out for coffee on Saturday morning and brought home a new front door!

  12. Maybe it’s the spring cleaning bug. My son and I live with my parents and my mother – instead of saving money so she could redo the cheap wood laminate floors in the kitchen like she has been wanting to do for at least 5 years – went out and bought a carpet for the kitchen. First of all, why? Who puts carpet in the kitchen? Now, I know she doesn’t cook much (the kitchen is really my domain) but she should have enough sense to know that people cooking + 2 cats + 1 dog + a 3.5 year old is going to = some pretty gnarly spills that just werent meant for carpet. And second, she picked an ugly green color that clashes with the kitchen paint and nearly matches (but not quite closely enough) the ugly, old, faded green carpet in the rest of the house.
    So, I understand the cheap, second hand approach, but sometimes the moral of the story is save some money to buy less cheap and new

    • YOUR MOM! She is the one! The one who Did the Thing that, when you walk into a house and go, “WHO WOULD CARPET A BATHROOM?” or “WHO WOULD PUT GREEN CARPET IN THE KITCHEN?” <-- YOUR MOM is the answer! Next time someone says that, I get to be all, "I KNOW WHO DID THAT! IT'S JESSICA'S MOM." This is Very Helpful.

  13. Now I feel bad for complaining about my stupid oven and how all of the useful information written on it (like the lines that indicate gas on, gas off, high, medium, low, etc.) RUBS OFF when I wipe it with a damp rag.

    At least I’m not turning it on with an ice pick.


    • You make me want to take a damp rag to the store with me when we replace our ugly but still mostly functional) oven. Along with the cereal bowls that don’t fit well in our dishwasher.

    • Clear packing tape over the Useful Information Written On It. Prevents it from being wiped off with a damp rag. Works on my washer and dryer. You’re welcome.

    • Have you tried clear nail polish? The packing tape may not work if it’s domed shape.
      Spoken by a woman who uses an “aim n flame” type lighter to light her favorite burner that no longer goes “click-click-click” when I turn it on. 🙁 The stove is THREE people. THREE YEARS and it’s busted. they don’t make it like they used to, but when I got a 6″ flame shot out the 25 year old stove, that had been “fixed” multiple times, my Mom was like OH NO YOU DON’T! and got me a new one. Yeah!

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