Our Fixer-Upper: How We Got Here

My family has been out to visit our fixer-upper a few times recently and we are so excited to get to move there in the spring! You can read a little about how much we’ve dreamed about this home here, or go here to see the property (27 acres!).

I absolutely loved taking you on a virtual home tour a few weeks ago! Today I want to tell you a little bit about our journey searching for this home, while it’s still fresh in my mind.

Our Fixer Upper: How We Got Here

My husband & I spent over three years looking for the perfect place. This past summer, there was a rabbit trail of houses and properties that we considered. We came SO close to buying three in a row, thinking we were just being too picky about what we wanted. We were ready to settle.

However, we prayed about each of those three properties, had long discussions, and ultimately decided that since we didn’t have peace about any of them, we would keep waiting.

Less than 2 weeks after we made the incredibly difficult decision not to settle on that third tempting property, my realtor sent me a text:

“You need to check this out. The house needs work but the price is amazing.”

We went the next day. It felt like everything that could have happened before we got there, happened. Something unavoidable came up right before we left for our showing and we had to deal with it immediately. We finally left, 30 minutes behind schedule, and our vehicle overheated three times on the way there.

We kept in contact with our realtor throughout this, and she encouraged us to come anyways, as long as our vehicle was safe to drive. So we persevered. She did have another appointment that evening, so we rushed through the house as quickly as possible before exploring just a small section of the property.

We walked, we talked, we prayed. And we put in our offer the next day.

After our offer was accepted(!!!), we worked towards lining everything up for closing, but in the end, much of it was a waiting game that was completely out of our hands.

Finally, we were given the closing date and time. When I saw the day that had been selected for us, my heart started pounding and my fingers trembled.

We were meeting at 11:00AM, the second Friday in October.

My husband and I went on our first date in 2002. And, because I needed to be home to help my parents chop wood that weekend, we went on that date after our morning college classes. At 11:00AM. The second Friday in October.

We never would have guessed that my then-boyfriend, who didn’t think he liked the country, would eventually start longing for his own little piece of dirt and trees to retreat to.

We never would have guessed that I, who lived in the country for 4 years as a teenager, would eventually feel my heart calling me back to the woods. Because once you know what it’s like to have space to wander, black skies with brilliant stars at night, and the sounds of nature all around, it’s hard to be completely satisfied with anything else.

And when I was crying out to God, begging Him to remember my little girl who desperately wants a puppy, we never would have guessed that exactly 14 years, to the minute, after our first date, we’d be signing papers to seal the deal on our dream property.

{Puppy Doggie has been on adventures all over the East Coast with our animal lover!}

Friend, even when it feels like God isn’t listening, He is. He cares. He loves us so much, and He’s taking care of every single detail.

I’d love to hear: What’s one way God has worked things out for good in your own life?

P.S. I’ll be sharing photos & updates as we work on our new home. Let me know if you have any questions or if there’s a particular topic you’d like for me to cover!

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How to Organize Your Recipes in Less than One Hour

Recipes help link people together, drawing us closer to our roots. They bridge a gap between generations past and generations to come. The food tells a story.

But, what happens when we can’t find that story? What should we do when the recipes are lost and we desperately wish to locate them so we can prepare a meal? The answer is simpler than you might think – we get proactive, and we organize the recipes before we actually need them.

Today I want to help you organize your recipes – your food memories – into a binder, and the system I’m sharing with you is the exact system I’ve used in my own kitchen for years. Plus, in addition to only taking an hour from start to finish, this recipe binder system is also very easy to maintain long-term!

How to Organize Your Recipes in Less Than One Hour

1) Gather your supplies.

  • Recipes
  • Recipe binder (any three-ring binder would work)
  • Pen or sharpie
  • Three hole puncher or a large package of sheet protectors
  • Tabbed binder dividers or heavy paper (I used 12 x 12 heavy paper and cut it to fit)
  • Scissors
  • Tape

2) Place all of your loose-leave recipes into one pile.

This includes printed recipes, hand-written recipes, and any recipes that have been cut from a packaged food item (ex: cereal box or cookie package).

3) Pile the recipes into the categories you want to create.

Your categories might need to be different than mine, but to help get you started, here are the categories I created for my binder:

  • Breakfast
  • Breads/Muffins
  • Main Dishes/Side Dishes
  • Beverages
  • Desserts
  • Apple/Canning Recipes
  • Recipes to Convert (family recipes we love that aren’t gluten free & dairy free)
  • Non-Edible Recipes (homemade lip gloss, body scrub, play dough, etc.)

4) As you organize, quickly throw away unneeded recipes.

This includes any recipes your family has tried and didn’t really like, recipes you printed but are no longer very interested in making, and any duplicate recipes that you’ve accidentally printed or copied more than once.

5) Condense recipe pages.

{Mmmm, the Wilton Chocolate Buttercream in the bottom photo is so amazing! And those GF donuts in the top photo were a huge hit on my daughter’s 5th birthday!}

Get your recipes onto as few pages as possible. For example, if you printed a recipe that takes up 1 page, plus 3 lines on a second sheet of paper, simply cut out those 3 lines from the second page and tape or glue them to the bottom of the first page.

6) Add your smaller recipe cards.

{One of my girls has been wanting to make those petite pecan pies together – sometimes we just need to set aside the urgent and do the most important. #PreachingToMyself}

Make sure you include hand-written recipes as well as recipes you’ve cut from magazines or food packages.

I just stacked mine so they’d be ready to go in the binder with everything else. You could tape your smaller recipe cards to an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper if you’d rather, so they can easily slide into sheet protectors.

7) Prepare the recipes for your binder.

{One of my kids regularly makes these ridiculously easy Gluten Free Dutch Babies. Such a fun Saturday treat!}

Use a three-hole-puncher to punch holes directly on your recipe (what I did), or place your recipes into sheet protectors (the better option). Make sure to keep the recipes in their respective categories while you’re doing this!

8 ) Organize the recipes within each category.

{These Quick & Easy Banana Oat Muffins take 5 minutes to prepare and are delicious. They also freeze well and can be thawed in the microwave.}

For my recipes, I decided that instead of alphabetizing everything, I’d just put recipes in order based on how often they’re used, so the recipes I turn to regularly are always right on top.

Alphabetizing would be fine too though, if your brain works better that way!

9) Create your category labels.

There are three ways to do this:

  1. Use tabbed pages to create labels for your recipe categories. Simply write your recipe category on the page in sharpie, then again on the tab.
  2. Make tabs by cutting squares out of heavy paper, then taping the squares to the edge of the main recipe category page in your binder.
  3. Cut 12 x 12 paper down to the size and shape you want.

10) Reassemble your recipe book.

{The Best Gluten Free Pizza Crust + Sauce was the first successful GF pizza night at my house. In fact, my gluten-eating daughter said she’s pretty sure it’s the best pizza she’s ever had. Not best GF pizza. Just best pizza. If you’re gluten free, or if you love somebody who is, make this crust.}

This step should go really fast since the hard part is already finished! Simply put the pages in your binder. You can categorize your recipe categories alphabetically, or in the order you’d eat them throughout the day (breakfasts first, main dishes later, desserts after that, etc.).

The order of the categories is fairly unimportant, as you’ll quickly get used to whichever order you chose!

11) Put everything away.

Throw away extra papers, put away any additional supplies you still have out, and place your binder with your recipe books. If you want to label your binder, this would be a good time to do so.

Bonus: Maintenance Plan

Here’s how I keep my recipes organized: When I print a new recipe, I just put it in the front pocket of my binder. As that pocket starts to get full, I grab my three-hole-puncher and quickly file the recipes into the correct tabs. This takes about 5 minutes every few months. Easy!

If you’re using sheet protectors, just keep extra sheets in the back of your binder so you can quickly slip in new recipes. Even easier!

Sometimes we over-complicate organization. We think we need a ton of hours, or a picture-perfect finished project, but usually we just need strong determination and a sturdy trash can.

And don’t stress if your methods aren’t very pretty. Whether you’re working with a recipe binder, a closet, a living room, or anything else, if you ever want to beautify your space, you’ve already done the hardest part by giving yourself a clean slate to work with.

I’d love to hear – what is your favorite food to make, and what memory does it evoke in your mind?

{Linking up at All Kinds of Things.}


Our Fixer-Upper: The “Before” Photos

I’m so excited to show you the “before” photos of our new house! I’m still overwhelmed with gratitude about this little home that came with our dream property. Because while the house isn’t exactly what we would have chosen on our own, it’s everything we need. Our metaphorical daily bread.

{And can I tell you a little secret – as much as I preach about, and believe in, purging stuff, I’m a little apprehensive about downsizing to a house that’s half the size of the place we’ve called home for 11.5 years. Here’s why: since I ruthlessly declutter every year, that means we only own what we still like – and we need to part with half of it. Scary! But exciting!}

I’ll be sharing a little about how we got to this house in a few weeks, but for now, a virtual tour!

Our Fixer-Upper: The “Before” Photos

This is our view when we walk in the front door – the living room opens up to the eat-in kitchen. Bedrooms & a bathroom are to the right. There’s a little dining area to the left, with the master bedroom past that.


Looking from where the table will be, towards the kitchen. The doorway on the left goes to the dining room, straight ahead is the pantry, and the doorway between the cabinets leads to the laundry room.


Closer-up of the kitchen pantry.


Laundry room.


Dining room. We plan to put our table in the eat-in kitchen and use this space to hold books & school supplies.


From the other side of the dining room. The door to the left leads to the master suite, straight ahead is the kitchen, and to the right is the living room and front door.


The master bedroom! Look out that window – I love how much natural light this house gets, and the view out every window is amazing.


Master closet. I’ve never had a walk-in closet before, so I’m pretty excited about this!


Master bathroom. You can’t tell from this angle but there are two sinks!


If anyone has a good idea about a cheap & easy way to make this little “closet” in the master bathroom usable and attractive, please tell me.


Back across the house to the kids’ “wing” 😉


Their bathroom.


Kid bedroom 1, with a small walk-in closet.


Kid bedroom 2!


Kid bedroom 2 also has a walk-in closet. The girls don’t have a ton of clothes, so I’m thinking about adding shelves to hold toys and craft supplies.


One final look at the main living area & front door.

And that’s it! No attic, no basement, no other closets or corners. Some serious prioritization is going to be happening at my house during our annual declutter this winter!

What advice do you have for my family as we move and downsize? We’re trying to absorb as much wisdom and as many tips as we can get before embarking on this adventure!

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We’re Downsizing to a Fixer-Upper {And a $100 Dayspring Giveaway}

Last week, my husband and I did something crazy-awesome (or maybe just crazy)! We bought a fixer-upper!

Here’s the scary part: the house we bought is only about half the size of our current home. It looks like my annual declutter this January is going to include getting rid of half our stuff! WHOA!

In spite of my apprehension about significantly downsizing our square-footage, I am ridiculously excited and at peace about this purchase. We’ve been looking for over three years and I’ll be unpacking bits of this story in the upcoming months, but for today, some photos:

Our new backyard!

This is one of my favorite surprises so far. What looked like a field on an areal map is actually a huge pond covered in lily pads.

This summer, I worried about not making time to take my girls to a “real” pool. Instead, we found several creeks to play in during various outings. Little did I know that God was using those moments to plant a love for creeks in our hearts. So when we came across this hidden gem on our property, both girls were beyond themselves with excitement!

My littlest one has been waiting most of her life to move to the country. When I glanced up and saw this, my breath caught in my throat and I just stood, soaking in what looked like God’s goodness and glory shining down directly on her.

I debated over whether or not to share this photo of the back of the house. While I hesitated, one of my children got all dreamy-eyed and said, “That picture looks great, mommy. Our new home is so beautiful.” Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder!

I’d love to hear – what advice do you have for my family as we downsize? This is new grounds for us so we’ll take all the practical tips we can get!

$100 Dayspring Giveaway!

I also want to share with you that Dayspring is generously giving away a $100 gift card to one reader!*

If you’re not familiar with Dayspring, I recommend checking out their inspirational mugs and all-occasion cards. As much as I get rid of our excess, I do keep – and display – my Dayspring mugs! I’m going to do my absolute best to make sure these beautiful cups get to stay when we downsize 🙂

Enter the Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This fun giveaway is in conjunction with the 31 Day Marriage Prayer Series I’m hosting at MarriagePrayers.Today. Entries accepted until Friday, October 28, 2016. I hope YOU win!

Don’t forget: Leave a comment or e-mail me to give my family any advice you have for us as we downsize!