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Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals. I'm a recovering former vegan and vegetarian, now healing with a nutrient-dense mostly Paleo diet, and love at-home CrossFit and yoga workouts. I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

New mom to baby Otto born April 2018!

8.16.2018

New favorite place for budget-friendly online home decor shopping--and my picks

I have been online shopping long enough to know the difference between what you can find on the web (and what deals) versus in-store. And there are SO many good options online now for all kinds of things, but it's just not the same as walking into a beautifully curated store!

Some relatively recent news in online home decor shopping is there is now a great shopping experience online that used to be in-store. I am sharing some favorites, plus what I ordered, recently below!

(Did you know I also have online shopping guides for my Target home faves and my World Market faves?? Plus home decor faves under $100! I will keep updating those pages!)

So the news...


This post contains affiliate links.

You probably know that HomeGoods is a very fun place to spend an afternoon. Lots of different decor styles, lots of unique pieces, even hard-to-find things that are practical but still exciting (like my paper towel holder that hooks over the cabinet door toward the inside so the paper towels are hidden!)... all affordable, too. But, you can't shop HomeGoods online.

You CAN, now, as of recently, shop TJ Maxx online! It's the same company so you'll find the same variety and quality pieces, though a slightly smaller selection of home stuff specifically because they also have clothing and other departments.

One downside is their filters/categories are not great, but no worries for you because I have been really having fun flipping through alllll the pages of home stuff to see what's good! I've assembled all my favorites here, but you can also see a few of the things I just ordered!

First, this pillow. I decided it is high time for new couch pillows--I would like a new sofa soon, but we don't know what we want yet and in the meantime, I can get a fresher look with some accents! So this is the first part in that new collection. I think I am going for more muted than the bold black/whites we have.

This pillow has a zipper so you can change out the insert. Also that soft outer fabric is lined with a white woven liner. Nice quality for $16.99!!

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8.14.2018

What can you do with $100?? The $100 Room Challenge

It can be intimidating to try to update your home when what you really want could take thousands of dollars, months of construction, and/or professional contractors. That doesn't mean you have to live with a space you hate. That's the premise behind The $100 Room Challenge, a 1-month room makeover project that's gained national media attention.


We have a guest on the Your Home Story podcast today, Erin of Lemons, Lavender, & Laundry. She started the $100 Room Challenge several years ago and has done it month after month, and now spreads the motivation with tons of readers. She even made an appearance on the Rachel Ray show! This week (episode 34) we talked to Erin about how she got started with budget-friendly DIYs, her favorite projects for beginners, what she’s tackling next in her home, and how you can join the $100 challenge!

Some projects we talked about this episode:



Listen here or in your favorite podcast player!
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8.13.2018

What we did with all our STUFF while house-hunting

We are finally, maybe, about to start feeling settled in our new house - and the last time we really felt that way was September 2016 before we moved from our townhouse! The fixer upper life means stuff in boxes and moving 4 times in a year... and I've had some questions about how we did it, and what we did with our stuff. Well... several different things! Let me explain!

Moving out of our last house



In December of 2017, we sold our fixer upper home to buy a for-sale-by-owner house that was not yet available. We moved in with my parents, into my old bedroom, for 4 months. We brought most of our clothes and toiletries with us but everything else was packed!

We rented a storage unit (I don't remember the size... 10'x15' maybe?) and knew we'd put most of our stuff there. But it's shocking how many little things there are to deal with when you move. Some of it we couldn't put in the storage unit (plants, garden chemicals), or couldn't easily transport all at once, so we had our stuff here and there. Here's a list of the categories I can think of now, and where it all went.


  • Boxes, rugs, floor lamp, furniture, etc.: storage unit
  • Weights/gym stuff: storage unit
  • Bikes: parents' garage
  • Freezer: parents' garage
  • Other appliances: stayed with the house we sold
  • Indoor plants: with us to my parents' house, then our apartment
  • Lemon tree: parents' garage, then backyard when it got warmer
  • Grill: parents' backyard
  • Lawn chemicals (can't put in storage unit): parents' garage
  • Lawn chairs: left them at the house we sold
  • Paint: most of it we left at the house we sold - colors for that house
  • Huge funky work table in garage: left at the house! 
  • Baby stuff: didn't buy any until we were living where we'd be when baby came. It was a bummer not to get to shop and decorate while pregnant and nesting!


We also sold a TON of stuff before we moved. So that stuff turned into cash in our savings account and is now turning back into furniture, rugs, lamps, good stuff like that. Nesting with Grace recently published a post about downsizing and her #1 tip for moving and downsizing was sell things rather than move them! It can be hard if you paid a lot for something, but unless you really love it... you'll be paying more money to store it (if you think about cost per square foot of the space in the storage unit)--and you might not have a place for it in the new space.

(We were also storing a lot of my brother-in-law's stuff before we moved, and moved it with us to the storage unit and now this garage, BUT we only had one dresser, one mattress set plus his mattress, no bed frames, only a few chairs... it would be much harder to fit into a 10'x15' space if you had the normal amount of furniture for a house plus all the boxes.)

Here's our storage unit. It had a door on either side which was super handy.

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8.08.2018

Our affordable alternative to the magical SNOO bassinet

When Otto was brand new, sleeping 1-3 hour chunks all night, I read everything I could find on baby sleep!! (I had more time than usual on my hands for reading and scrounging the Internet--I was up multiple times a night for 1-2 hours at a time!!) This book that a friend gave me was a great starting point and I also discovered some good baby sleep resource sites.

We had this simple bassinet that we put next to our bed, plus a Rock N Play in the living room that Otto took great naps in. He slept longer in that thing than he did in stretches at night. So frustrating. But I read about how the American Academy of Pediatrics' sleep guidelines say baby needs to be on a flat surface, i.e. NOT a Rock N Play or swing seat, for sleep. This is an anti-SIDS precaution plus a way to prevent flat head syndrome, from baby's head always being in the same position on hard plastic.

But I also read comments from parents online saying that the Rock N Play was a godsend and the only way they got any sleep with a newborn! But it's unsafe??

One solution to this problem is the SNOO Smart Sleeper. Invented by Harvey Karp, the author of that great book, it implements 3 of his 5 S's of soothing babies--swaddle, shush, and swing--in addition to being a safe bassinet. It's also very cool-looking, much cuter than all of that plastic-ey stuff on the baby product market. The problem? It's $1,160.

I LOVE the look of the SNOO, and it does sound great that it turns on to rock baby when it feels wiggling, and it contains swaddle wrap on the mattress. And it plays white noise right there. But spending $900 (it's usually on sale) on a bassinet was definitely not an option!!

This post contains affiliate links.

The problem with most swings that rock baby is they are on an incline. Not SIDS-recommendation-friendly. I did some research on swings and found there are a couple that also have the option for baby to lay flat, or at a much smaller incline. 

I found a bassinet that 1) has different incline positions including flat, 2) swings at 6 different intensities and and has automatic shutoff, and 3) plays white noise. We have been swaddling Otto in these velcro swaddles so I didn't need the swaddle feature of the SNOO, and he's still sleeping in our room/right next to my side of the bed, so I'm able to hear him when he fusses and assess if more swinging is the right way to soothe him.
Forgive our un-decorated bedroom. Just moved in!!
Don't know how it got that white paint scuff on it but there are the buttons. Usually we have it facing the other way so they're next to me in bed.

This magical product?? The Graco® DreamGlider™ Gliding Swing and Sleeper Baby Swing. At $180 retail, it's one of the more expensive baby products we've purchased, but much more doable than the SNOO. Most importantly, I do think the swinging and white noise (or music) help him get to and stay asleep, and I don't feel guilty or worried about his incline position. (It comes in a few tasteful, neutral colors, another plus.)

When we started using it, I had it very slightly inclined, since I thought that was part of the help of the Rock N Play. Now he's graduated to laying flat. And now that he's sleeping up to 8 hours in his first stretch and generally only waking up once in the middle of the night, we'll be moving him to his own room soon--first in the swing, then we'll try the crib.
Here it is laying flat. You can adjust the incline with the handle there.

This DreamGlider™ swing works for babies up to 30 pounds!! So we may keep using it in the living room, in an incline position, for awake time when he's a little older. (We haven't installed the cute swinging animals yet, since we want to keep his sleep space free from interesting distractions, but I think they will be fun when he uses it awake later.)

Wanted to share this very successful alternative we found for other new moms out there struggling with sleep. I think it is definitely worth it!!

Here are all the products I talked about in this post!



P.S. you can shop our rug here, nightstands here, and lamps here.
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8.07.2018

The question of my year: How to BUY a home

This topic has been on my mind a lot the past year!! Real estate is tough in our area right now and after we sold the Stanley 90's Reno we had several experiences trying to buy our next place. I now have experience buying 3 homes and unfortunately, almost buying several
One of the sale listing photos from the Stanley 90's Reno

This week on the Your Home Story podcast Ashley and I are talking about our experiences buying homes, and what we've learned along the way.

(Remember we also talked about BUYing a home in episode 16!)

Some specifics for what we talked about this week:
  1. My electrical issues in my new (old) house. 
  2. Ashley’s motivation and progress in her sunroom.
  3. The first-time homebuyer class I took in 2011
  4. Redfin home search tool
  5. Risk factors for radon
  6. Refinancing through preferred partners on Zillow and Realtor.com
  7. Mortgage calculators

Here's our first home...

Here's the Stanley 90's Reno in our sale listing photos (the "after"):

And of course, here's our current home!

Listen here or in your favorite podcast player!
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8.02.2018

One month progress update at the Stanley Tudor - Revived!

Back when we were first working on the Stanley 90s Reno, I shared weekly progress updates recapping the random but significant things we did. We were working every evening and weekends for months! We lived with my parents a full 4 weeks till we made it livable over there and moved in. 

Well, we’re going about this house reno completely differently. It needed way less work before we moved in, but will need way MORE work over the long term (so no point trying to do it now). Plus, we are able to hire out more of the work.

Nonetheless we have been working about as hard as we can with a new baby around, and we have made noticeable progress/changes already that are worth mentioning! I look at our “before” pictures and photo tour and think WOW, go us.

I have shared a few highlights and vignettes on my Instagram, but here are a few more real life photos!! We are surrounded by boxes and partially painted rooms, and are still dealing with things like a bathroom sink that doesn't drain. But to be more positive, the progress and what we've done...:


Respectful demo


Day 1, we took down curtain rods, etc. to prep the walls for painting. We made trash and donation piles and got rid of a bunch of random things that the sellers left in the house.

Once that was done we got things clean enough for painting, like dusting corner cobwebs, and I had the kitchen and parts of the house professionally cleaned.

I also got paint samples and tried them out in several places around the house! We went with Sherwin Williams Alabaster, which we have been so happy with. It reads like a soft pure white but not cool at all (or yellow).

Painting!


We tried to hire out the painting, since it is a big job and we just don't have the energy or time. But, despite talking to 4 painters and contacting several more, I wasn't able to find an affordable one that was available. So, Jason worked his butt off and he and my parents did a lot of painting. I helped where I could while Otto was napping.

We also did some prep like caulk the trim in the kitchen. (This is not original trim; we are keeping all the original stuff that is still wood unpainted, but this was done in the 90s or 2000s and doesn't match the painted wood trim on the windows in the kitchen so we will be painting all of it white.)


You can tell in this photo we started painting the ceiling. Ha. Jason was using up a ceiling paint roller and never finished! Also that is one coat of primer and one coat of paint on the walls below (just primer above).

Unfortunately we have only finished painting a few rooms - we had to do it piecemeal since we can't hire it out all at once. We got the living room, dining room, bedroom, and spare room/nursery painted, and are almost done with the hall and entry. We also got some closets done, and are about halfway done with the kitchen. Then we will be able to work on painting the upstairs rooms--sometime. Right now we're not living up there at all, have almost no stuff up there! But soon we'd like to set up my sewing room/our office in one of the bedrooms up there, so need to get the train track around the ceiling demoed and patch and paint.

After finishing painting each room, we did a good cleaning of the windows and floors so we could move in!

Moving in


About 2 weeks after getting the keys, we moved in our big stuff (and moved boxes and stuff we're not ready for to the garage). Getting the bed, TV, sofa, coffee table, and rugs set up made us feel at home even though the kitchen was full of tools and paint and we still didn't know where most of our stuff was.

So messy.

Also had to unpack the curtains, and hang them! I ordered more of these rods that I love plus this big one for the big window.

Shopping


We sold so much of our stuff when we sold our last house. So much. And we hadn't had everything (like our books) even set up at the last house since it was never really "done" before we moved. We didn't have bookshelves anymore, though!

After months and months of hoping this house would work and thinking about furniture and rugs, I am finally able to start buying stuff. Which feels very weird, buying a bunch of new stuff at once. I'm shopping Craigslist and Goodwill as well as Amazon and Target, but still buying a lot of new stuff and getting a lot of heavily packaged furniture in big boxes showing up. I feel a little guilty. But we do still need a few things to get settled--like a dining table!

Just ordered a rocking chair for the nursery, finally!

Repairs


We have a few things we need to take care of ASAP, mostly expensive, not exciting things. New garage door, new electrical panel, etc. I'm working on quotes for some of those, and we already got our locks changed (had to call the locksmith to work on our old doors that don't fit standard locks). We knew this house would need some more expensive, less pretty updates... so we are going down the list! There's a lot of this stuff on my mind right now.

What next?


We still have SO, so much to do, but we are planning to take it slow once we get the downstairs and office painted, and try to just enjoy having a normal, non-project-filled house. This will be especially important when Jason starts school end of this month.

However there are still some exciting things on my mind... I plan to order some Roman shades soon for some of the other windows--some still have the old blinds, some have overgrown grapes growing outside them so are private, and the dining room windows literally have tissue paper that I taped up to them blocking visibility and some light. Ha!

I also am talking to a few potential sources about new kitchen cabinets!! The kitchen will take a lot of planning but cabinets will be the biggest item so I'm starting my research now.

Follow along on Instagram for quicker updates, and of course subscribe to my posts to read the more detailed stuff! (Black box in the right sidebar under my profile pic and social icons.) Lots more to do!!
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