Exhale

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For quite a while now, I’ve been unsettled, restless, almost irritated, and I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on the cause of it all.  My life this year has seen a lot of change and transition, which is actually pretty normal for me, but there’s been an undercurrent of something, something which identifying seems elusive and just out of my grasp.

At the centre of  it I know is stuff, the stuff we have and the time it takes to manage it all, the self-resentment I feel for feeling burdened by my choices and having to keep myself and the kids in line to not let it all get out of control.  First world problems, I know, and ones that are so common to so, so many people around me.  But it’s been even more than that, and today I had an experience that gave me a little moment of clarity and a great deal of encouragement.

I’ve been going back through the pile of e-mails in my inbox (yes, more stuff, albeit of the electronic variety), and I came across a blog post from Michael Hyatt, where he discussed Chris Guillebeau’s new book ‘The Happiness of Pursuit’ and a quote from the book stopped me in my tracks:

“Properly examined, feeling of unease can lead to a new life of purpose.”

The words resonated deep within me in relation to another area of life, but as I sat writing out my brain this morning, trying to work out the core of this discontent, I thought of this quote, and let it sit over how I was feeling about the current state of my house.

Stifled and scattered.  That’s what immediately came to mind, and initially I felt despair over trying to work out how to fix it all.  Of course, I knew I couldn’t in the space of a day, but I could start.

So, I started to make a list.  And then realised that was a really bad idea, because it would potentially be never ending and even more discouraging.  I then asked myself ‘what’s stealing my joy today?’, and I immediately knew the answer.

The back of our house is primarily made up of what we call ‘the back room (original, I know) – it was originally the back porch, and 20+ years ago was enclosed to become an extra living area.  After having floor covering put down nearly a year ago, we were finally able to start really living in this space (previously it had bare concrete, after I got rid of the old carpet squares), and it’s currently zoned into tv/gaming, my office and sewing/creating space.  As so often happens, the flat surfaces become holding areas for things that get dumped, and I was at my limit of coping with it all.

So, I just starting clearing it out and cleaning it up.  Which didn’t take that long at all, even sorting the pile of ‘to deal with’ paper that had been getting higher and higher, and eventually, I got my room back.

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Like the rest of my house, this space will never appear in a magazine or a design blog, but it works for us, and I have plans to make it even brighter and welcoming.

But the moment of clarity came for me today when I was driving around later, getting some jobs done around town, and I felt like I could take a big, deep, unrestricted breath for the first time in a long time, and I just felt peace.  Re-setting my space and getting rid of the excess had shifted something inside me and left me feeling lighter, and I just got it – the peace of not just less, but of simply having what I need.  As I prayed this morning in the early waking hours, simply speaking the words of The Lord’s Prayer to my Father, the prayer to ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ became more than just words.  It was an awakening to the fact that that is all we can truly ask for – what we need for each day as it comes, one day at a time.  And to learn to live in that, nothing more, trusting God that He knows what we need to get through the day.

By examining what it was that was making me feel uneasy today, I got something done that felt purposeful and encouraging – a very small example of what Chris Guillbeau talks about, but one that shows me that listening to this discontent might just be what I need to find where I need to go.

What is it that brings those little – or even big – ‘aha’ moments for you?

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The little things

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Our poor bathroom is routinely neglected of any TLC, always being used in a very utilitarian manner. The renos are still not quite finished, and it can be a bit of a dumping ground for tools and such.

A bit of lavender and a glass vase brought in a bit of pretty. And the best part? The flowers don’t need water and can dry as they are.

Yep, I’m all about what I can achieve with minimal effort. Especially if it means getting things done.

And it’s already making me smile.

What makes you smile in your home, big or small?

31 Days

It’s October again – just like clockwork.  And that means it’s time for joining The Nester’s 31 Days writing challenge.  Writing for 31 days, with or without a topic, and being part of a community of writers sharing their lives and hearts every day through October.

I’m writing about my home this year.  I actually started this earlier in the year, and it’s still something dwelling deep in my heart, this desire to purposefully love where I live, every day.  So, I am.

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Ever since I first moved out of home when I was 17, I’ve longed to make my home my haven, my nest, the place where I feel, well, home.  I’ve had visions dancing of decor and renovating and the perfect kitchen and open plan living.  I’ve dreamed and planned and cut out pictures and spent hours reading home decorating magazines and browsing blogs and design sites.  Lots of thinking and not much doing.

21 years on from that first place of mine that wasn’t with my parents, I still feel like I’m in a holding pattern, waiting to start making my home.  I’ve been in my house for 5+ years and when I fist bought it, I thought I knew just how things were going to go.  I had been renting for 5 1/2 years after my husband and I separated and I was so happy to call this place mine.  I started planning, kept dreaming and wishing and over the last 5 years I have painted, pulled up carpets and sanded floorboards, planted a garden with fruit trees, pulled out a fireplace and filled in the hole and renovated a bathroom – all DIY.

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But I still feel like I’m waiting.

Not waiting to feel like I’m home, because I felt that the first night we moved in.

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Waiting to start, to really be living in this space.

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Waiting to be ready to decorate, to design, to make our space truly ours, a place that reflects us and who we are.

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I’ve collected artwork and frames and pretty things and furniture to make-over and paint samples and a thousand ideas of how I want to bring our home to life.

And I’m still waiting.

I’m still hovering in a holding pattern.

Exactly why, I don’t really know.  A large dose of fear, of I-want-to-be-ready-before-I-start, wanting to do it all at once, lack of confidence in my self, in knowing my style.

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Not knowing where to start.

Not having enough money.

Not having enough time.

Not having enough faith in my self.

I don’t want a perfect house.  That’s not who we are.  We live life out loud, with cats and dogs and chooks and mess and love and dust and dirt trekked in from the garden.  But that’s where the beauty of our life can be seen, and that’s what I want to capture in our home.

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So I’m going to stop waiting for the perfect time – because there isn’t one – and just start truly appreciating and loving where we are, right here, right now.

The funny thing is, after 5+ years of living here, we’ll likely be moving out in the next 6-12 months as our family changes.  I’ve had things packed away (rather than having to manage allthestuff) and haven’t done much in the way of prettying things up as I truly want to.

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But we’re still here.  We’re still living life within these walls and I want to fully love where I’m living at any point in time.

For now, that means fully settling in to where we are today and leaning into what’s around us, even if we won’t be here tomorrow.

31 days of loving where I live.  Some DIY, some inspiration, some questions and a whole lot of love.

Right where we are.

How about you?  What does it mean to you to love where you live?

You can follow me through this month via the links below:

Day 2 – The little things

Here’s one I prepared earlier

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Once upon a time, I had a blog where I planned to share my adventures in DIY, all the learning, mistakes and results in all their glory.

Cue the record scratch called life-that-happens, and that blog went by the wayside.  But no matter, here we are again, and I’m sharing with you the project that was the catalyst for starting that blog, especially as I still get asked even now how I did what I did.

The very first time I walked into my house, I was nearly blinded by the carpet that looked like the 70’s had vomited all over the floor:

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I knew that it had to go.

December 2011 saw the carpet being pulled up and ditched, and initially I wanted to paint the timber floors white with a basic acrylic paint.  I already knew that I had to investigate alternatives to general commercial paint, as recent renovations at my office had proved literally hazardous to my health – even the low-VOC paint used by the painters had made me unwell enough to have to stay out of the office as much as possible for a few days.  So when I decided that I wanted to give my floors a limewashed look, I naturally turned to that online font-of-all-knowledge – Google – for advice.  And I was somewhat surprised when I struggled to find a simple, step-by-step tutorial on how to achieve the effect I wanted, and so I found myself gathering all the information I could to work out how to create beautiful floors.

I was very fortunate to have my Dad volunteer to sand back the floors, with my then – 14 year old son as his sidekick (a good how-to tutorial for sanding floors can be found here).  Dad hired a floor sander for the day, and with a few hiccups along the way, transformed the pine flooring from grubby to gorgeous.

Before the floors were sanded, I had already found the brand of paint I was going to use.  A few years ago, I committed to reducing the use of toxic chemicals in my house as much as possible, for a whole variety of reasons, including some chronic health issues I have.  When it came time to find the right paint to use, I Googled ‘eco paint’ and was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few Australian companies producing low or non-toxic paints and associated products.  I discovered Ecolour paints in my search, and knew that they had the product I was looking for.  From their site:

ecolour is an Australian manufacturer of premium quality, climate friendly synthetic paint. It performs like any other premium quality paint, can be tinted to almost any colour from any paint chart, is scrubbable, and is certified Carbon Neutral.

Traditional household paints contain toxic chemicals that are released into the air for years after application, called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). All our paints are water based, and kind to your health with ZERO VOCs.

Our unique Australian invention uses re-cycled re-refined waste engine oil to make our water based paint. The oil acts as a preservative, providing durability and smooth application qualities to the paint. ecolour paints have been proven in the marketplace for over 10 years.

The ecolour range includes interior and exterior paints as well as timber finishes. It is suitable for residential, commercial and retail applications.

While Dad was sanding the floors, I rang Ecolour and after some discussion regarding what ‘look’ I was going for, I ordered a limewash tinted sealer product called ‘Polyclear’, at a cost of about $200 for 15 litres (including delivery).

I had initially thought that I was going to have to prime the floorboards, paint with an outdoor paint, and then top them off with a clear sealer.  The lovely gentleman at Ecolour put me on to the limewash tinted Polyclear, for which I was very grateful!

Whilte I waited for the paint to arrive, I did some more reading on what to do when sealing timber floors, and I had to go by information provided for sealing timber floors with a polyurethane finish and just hope that it was effectively the same process!  I knew that I’d need to sand the floors again after the first coat, and figured I cross that bridge when I came to it (I wasn’t keen on having to hire a floor sander again – this is a budget DIY project!!)  When the paint finally landed on my doorstep, I painted a small test patch of flooring and was initially disappointed with the result – the effect was barely noticeable, and I figured I’d just have to trust that the result would be what I wanted in the end.

Before I got painting, I went to the local hardware store and bought a microfibre roller designed for paining floors with a clear-coat product (along with a paint tray, I really had very little in the way of equipment at the beginning!).

First I taped off the skirting boards that were still in place with painter’s tape, and then  with not a small degree of trepidation, I got painting!

My heart sank when I began to see this emerge:

The timber was turning pink!  I had a moment of panic before something in the deep dark recess of my memory came to light, reminding me that somewhere along the way I had read that when sealing some timbers, the timber’s natural oil would be drawn out, giving them a pink tinge – pine being one.  After the first coat was dry, the pink-ness went away, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I cut in around the edges of the room with a broad paintbrush, and wasn’t too fussy about my application, as any messiness would be covered by the skirting boards when they were replaced.

Painting the floor was effectively like painting a wall, just horizontal instead of vertical.  I painted along the direction of the floorboards, going agross the room in sections about 4 boards wide at a time, and overlapping each time I started a new section.  After the first coat was done, the ‘burr’ of the timber was quite noticeable, which I knew would happen and required another sanding with a finer grade sandpaper (240 grit).  I weighed up my options, and ended up buying a 1/2 sheet orbital sander and convincing my son that he’d *really* be helping me out if he could sand the floors for me.  All 52 square meteres!!  Fortunately I have a great kid who was happy to help (and who also knew there would be a pay-off for his efforts!), and he set to work with one of these little treasures – my very first power tool purchase!!

(I have no affiliations with the brands of any products I use, but I was one happy camper with this sander!)

My dear son worked in sections across the room, working the sander side-to-side across 4 boards along the length of the boards.  After the sanding was finished, I swept and vaccumed the floors, then went over then with a very lightly damp mop to pick up any dust.  After this, it was just a matter of applying two more coats of paint.  You can see below the difference between one and two coats (second coat on the left):

and 2 and 3 coats (third coat on the right):

And the finished result!

I was very, very happy with how my floors turned out, and it was a relatively easy process in the end.  There was absolutely no residual smell from the Polyclear (in fact apart from at the time of application, there was no smell at all!), and even though the end result is different from my original vision, I love how the lightness of the floors really brightened up the place.

Nearly 2 years down the track, the floors certainly show signs of being ‘lived on’, pine is a soft wood and I don’t have a hard lacquer coating on top, so we were always bound to end up with evidence of a life lived well with these floors!!  I still love them, and since this project I have replaced the skirting boards, and repainted the walls, skirtings and architraves, and it’s a beautifully light space to live in.

This project was definitely a labour of love, and one of the first things I did to really love and care for our home.  I’ve done more work on my house since finishing the floors, both DIY and with professional help, and with everything that gets done, this space we live our lives in feels more like a home and less like just a building providing shelter.  It’s not perfect and never will be, but it’s ours, and it’s where we love – every day.