Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Goodbye Blog–Hello Business!

Hello, all!  I’m so sorry about the lack of updates.  It’s been a crazy whirlwind of teaching, presenting, graduating, and preparing to move.

All is well after a lot of heartache about missing out on our first home, but we are happy now that we aren’t taking on more debt.  We found a decent two-bedroom apartment in a great neighborhood that actually lets me have one whole wall of light blue (it’s the little things)!  I’m so excited for some color!  We are moving June 1st.

I am definitely back to blogging, however, I will no longer be updating this blog.  Because my photography business requires so much of my time, I will be blogging over there regularly (often about similar things), so please go follow the blog over there if you would like to receive updates.  I’m very excited about what is yet to come and am praying that God blesses my business.

I’ll see you over at Sarah Syhakhoun Photography!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tiffany and Nate: New Post on SS Photography

I was mighty busy over my spring “break.”  When I went down to visit family and friends in my hometown, I met up with one of my best friends, Tiffany, and her fiance, Nate, and we rocked out some engagement photos.  You can check them out on Sarah Syhakhoun Photography.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

We are 2 Days Away . . .

From finding out whether we will be homeless at the end of May.

I feel completely sick and devastated right now.  Add on top of that how stupid I feel for even telling anyone about our “first home.”

As of right now, we no longer are buying “our” townhouse and we have a good chance of not being able to stay in our current apartment.

Everything is just a mess.

Let me rewind a bit.

A couple weeks ago, we got preapproved for the exact townhouse I showed you pictures of in my last post.  We put in an offer, got the offer accepted, and were told that as long as nothing went wrong with transferring the title, we didn’t spend tons of money, and Mr. CS didn’t lose his job, the final approval process would go smoothly.  We were already preapproved for that home.  The mortgage officer already had all w2’s, tax returns, etc., during the preapproval process, so we assumed he had been thorough when preapproving us.  I don’t really want to go into all the details for security reasons, but basically we were 99% certain the home was going to be ours.

Once we heard all of that, we paid $300 to have an inspection that went pretty well overall.  We spent some time last weekend checking out our new neighborhood.  We learned that there was a huge, beautiful horse farm just down the road which melted my heart because I felt like we had a part of the country in the city.  We couldn’t wait to move in and call it our home.

We dreamed of brining our first baby home to that house.

We dreamed of buying a dog this summer.

We dreamed of going running in the safe neighborhood, of house warming parties, and of beautiful gray and aqua walls.

We dreamed of paying off our student loans in five years.

We dreamed of finally having a place of our own that was cheaper than our current apartment.

Since it had already been a week and half since we had the offer accepted and we had only heard positive news about the final loan approval, we gave our notice on our apartment.  We gave it a little less than two weeks early because there was another young couple, just like us, who were interested in renting our property and they had to give their notice soon.

Then, this week, our mortgage officer called us and basically tried to talk us out of the house.  We should have seen it as a major warning sign, but I was so busy this week working on filming myself in the classroom and doing hours and hours of work to get my teaching license that I just assumed he was looking out for us.  He told us that because this property did not accept FHA loans and the loan it does qualify for is much stricter than FHA that we would have more money if we bought an FHA-approved property.  This made no sense because he told us while we were getting preapproved that the monthly payment would be comparable to what it would be as an FHA loan.  We were so confused about him dissuading us because this was our dream first house (at least in that price range).  However, we just blew it off.

Then, he called later in the week and told us that we were “cutting it close” and that when he ran our numbers through a program, it said we were approved, but when he manually entered them, it said we were not.  He promised us he would let us know by Friday if we would get the home or not.

Mr. CS had the day off yesterday and waited by the phone all day.  When he didn’t get a call, he called the mortgage officer because come Monday, the young couple will be coming to see our apartment and will most likely put in an application on it.  The officer again basically told us nothing concrete, but told us it looked bad.  He said he would let us know for sure on Monday.

Well, after talking to my parents about it (who had talked to him on the phone as well), we learned that we got scammed.  He basically told us that we weren’t getting the house without officially telling us, probably because he didn’t have the you-know-what to tell us that he messed up and never should have preapproved us for the house in the first place.  I honestly think he didn’t think they would accept our low-ball offer, so he preapproved us for it anyway.  That, or he just didn’t spend the time doing a thorough preapproval and didn’t want to admit his error after the offer was accepted.

We called our realtor last night and his exact words (coming from a man who has been completely professional) were “Oh sh*t.”  He could not believe this happened.  He felt horrible.  He said he had never heard of anything like this happening once someone was already preapproved when no financial changes were made.  The loan should have gone through as long as something with the seller didn’t go wrong and we maintained our income and debt, which we did.

After looking at our preapproval letter more closely and learning more about the final approval process, I know this should have never happened.  We should not be preapproved one day and then told that we don’t make enough money for the house or have too much student debt the next day.  If that could happen, what would the thorough preapproval process with all tax returns, w2’s, and student loan info be for?

The worst part about it is that we didn’t learn about all of this until last night when our landlord’s office was already closed for the weekend.  We left a frantic voicemail message and also emailed them begging them to let us retract our lease termination letter.  The couple who wants our apartment is coming to see it on Monday.  We are praying that the office will allow us to renew our lease so we can have a place to live until we are ready to look for a house again. 

I feel like a complete prick now because this other couple really wanted our apartment and now have their hopes up that they are going to get it.  They may still get it and we will be in a frantic search for a place to live once our lease is up.

This whole thing is a disaster.  I felt like I got hit by a train when I woke up this morning because of the emotional toll this has put on us.  Thankfully, my faith in God only gets stronger through these situations and my relationship with my husband will not suffer because of some person who completely broke our trust.  I’m praying that he doesn’t do this to anyone else.

The moral of the story is to pick your mortgage officers carefully, to not be quick to trust others, and to not get too attached to a house until you are living in it (and maybe not even then).

Ugh.  I hope you all had a better week.  I’m ready to crawl into a hole for a while, but I need to be strong.

It’s just a house.

Friday, March 16, 2012

We are 52 Days Away . . .

. . . From moving into our FIRST HOME!!!!

I am so sorry for the lack of updates.  I promise once I am done student teaching I will be back around here more with updates galore, but right now I am giving 100% to Mr. Converse Sneakers and my teaching.  It takes A TON of work to become a teacher these days.  I am putting in at least 60 hours a week (if not more) and am getting paid absolutely nothing, so we have been very tight with our money lately.

So, after looking at tons of townhouses, we could not get one out of our mind that had really strict financing policies (no FHA loans – they only accepted mortgages through a different program much like FHA but stricter).  After rethinking what we wanted to do a few times, we put in an offer – a low offer that included the seller (the bank since it is a lender-owned property) paying the closing costs and 60 days until closing (so we wouldn’t be paying a mortgage and rent at the same time) and a few days later they accepted our offer!  We thought for sure they wouldn’t because we low-balled it and because it was such a nice townhouse (much nicer than the other ones at that price) in a prime location.

Let’s just say our monthly payments with association fees and taxes will be lower than our current apartment’s montly rent costs and we are getting a ton more with it.

Here are the details:

  • 1,500 square feet
  • 2 car HEATED attached garage (I forsee winter DIY projects in my future)
  • 2 bedrooms plus a huge bedroom-sized loft that will be our office
  • 1.5 baths (the full bath has a double vanity)
  • A fireplace in the living room
  • A staircase with a banister (so charming and not in most townhouses around here)
  • TONS of light
  • A back patio with no neighbors behind for miles (so it’s like owning our own detached home in many ways)
  • A large kitchen
  • A semi-formal dining area
  • A HUGE walk-in master closet
  • Another HUGE walk-in closet off the upstairs hallway

And the area is to die for.  I’m a country girl as you know, and the city this is in feels like a nice mix of city and country.  We are minutes (at walking/biking distance) from Walmart, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, tons of restaurants, Michaels, Best Buy, etc.  AND the area has a tremendous amount of walking/biking paths.  It is so safe, quiet, and yet near everything.  Somebody pinch me!

Mr. CS was the only one able to attend the inspection today, but everything went really well.  Only a couple things that we already knew about need to be fixed, but they are minor and mainly cosmetic.

I’m sure you want some pictures!  I have not been able to take any photos myself, so the listing photos will have to do.  I’ll be sure to post more photos and even maybe a video when I get a chance to get over there.

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We move May 7th!  That’s the Monday of my last week of teaching.  I’ll need the new house excitement to get me through the week because it’s going to be a very emotional one.  I can’t imagine not seeing my seventh graders after May 11th . . .

We would greatly appreciate any prayers that could be sent our way that everything goes smoothly.  We love the place so much and cannot wait to move in.  Many great marital “firsts” will take place in this home and we cannot wait!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I’m Alive . . . Somewhat

I am so sorry to everyone who has been waiting for more posts.  You all have been so patient!  Honestly, I don’t know when they will be coming.  I’m guessing from now until May, posting will be very sporadic, but I’m hoping after that I will have more time to do projects, think of things other than teachingteachingteaching, and have some goodies to share with you!

I’m into my third week of student teaching and I must say, I love it!  Does it make me very nervous?  YES!  Is it rewarding?  Of course!  Are some kids naughty?  You betcha.  However, overall, I am very happy to report that it’s something I can see myself doing for a long time.  I am teaching seventh grade literature and writing in a Catholic private school.  It’s very different to anything I’ve ever been exposed to, but it is amazing.  Dream job!

As for my photography business, it’s been going really well.  I second shoot my first wedding the weekend after this one and can’t wait.  I’ve had some very random calls about maybe being featured on a very well-known website, but I don’t want to say much more in case that path leads to nowhere, which it very well could.  I’m really excited to see what the summer has in store for me with my business.  It’s going to be crazy juggling the business and teaching once I find my first teaching job, but it will be worth it, I hope.

This should probably comes as no shock: we are back to house hunting.  We are working with a different lender (MUCH better – he really loves his job and wants to help us get the most for our money).  We’ve been looking at townhomes and are still considering single family homes.  If we don’t find anything using solely Mr. Converse Sneakers’ income, we will renew our lease monthly and use my income once I have summer job and/or am teaching full-time.  We could not find any apartment we liked that was less than a mortgage would be, so we decided now is the time to buy.  I’ll keep you posted on that as things start happening.

I’m sorry for such a boring, random post, but I wanted to make sure everyone knew I am alive and will be back.  I really will be back, I promise!

See you . . . soon-ish!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Quick Update: Super Exhausted

Hello, everyone!

I'm just dropping in to let everyone know I have begun my student teaching semester, so things around here might be a little sparse.  Teachers work extremely hard, so as a learning teacher, I am working double time just to learn the ropes, finish my class work, and meet new people.  It's exhausting and it's only the third day of the semester!  I'll try to post when I get the chance, but honestly, my teaching and my well-being come before my blog, and I'm also working on my photography business as well.  I don't want to ever let the blog (or at least my online presence in general) fade, but it will be pulled back during this time because I just don't have time to do it all.

I hope you all understand and still stop by to check in once in a while! :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Decorating for Two: Living Room Edition

When I was describing the house offer situation earlier this week, I left out a couple details.  I would like to think that I did not get emotionally attached to the house, but the truth is, I didn’t even try to stay away from letting my emotions cling to the house.

You see, I’m very good at rationalizing things to myself and my hubby.  Before we even saw the house, I was dreaming of how we would decorate the house if we got it.  Surely, by making a few moodboards (that took a few hours to create), I would not get emotionally attached to the house.

Yeah, right.  I promise I’m not as dumb as I seem!  I’m just a passionate dreamer!  I rationalized the mood boards by telling myself that we could easily use the moodboards for a different home – I was simply trying to determine our style before we got to a house.  It’s a very important house hunting step to determine your style first, right?  Hmmm….not really.

Instead of letting the mood boards go to waste until we find a house (if we even use them when that day comes), I thought I would share with you what our combined decorating style is, since our apartment is definitely not the best reflection of it (read: no time or money to make our apartment pretty at the moment and we were waiting to get a house before we went all out on d├ęcor).

My decorating style could be described as feminine, colorful, bright, cottagey, and quirky.  Mr. Converse Sneaker’s decorating style is more masculine, with more neutral colors, darker tones, and less bright.  After living together for a while now and sharing our likes and dislikes, we have started to be drawn to similar rooms.

Here are some rooms we both like (neither of us are in love with any of the rooms, but we both like most of each one).  Click on any of the images to be taken to the pin on my Pinterest.

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We both like:
  • A large amount of neutrals (usually white, light gray, or deep mocha brown) with lighter pops of color
  • Light-colored sofas (I prefer an English roll arm sofa and Mr. CS likes anything that looks comfy)
  • Nothing that is overly matchy
  • Fun, quirky details
  • Vintage/retro details

When I saw our dream house, I knew the entry way living room would make a perfect place to create a multifuctional room that works as an entry way, living room, office, and library.  This is the mood board I came up with:

moderncottagelivingroommoodboard

Click here or on the image to head to the original mood board on Polyvore (where I created it) to get get more details about each item.  I wasn’t going for a specific source list we would use, since we would probably find most items by thrifting, researching like crazy, or making them ourselves.  This was to serve as a jumping off point for the room.

I started with the entry way area, which is on the left side with a console table that would hold papers, keys, gloves, and boots.  Above it would be some really awesome abstract art that would serve as the piece that determines the room’s color scheme.  I saw some cute hooks with the letter “s” on them since both our names and our last name start with “s” that we could hang our keys on or even dog leashes once we get a dog.  I really had it all planned out!

We would get a cute owl umbrella holder (Mr. CS loved that detail) and hang a wooden wall pocket system by the closet door to sort our mail.

The living room portion of the room is found in the middle of the image.  Of course, it would have an English rolled arm sofa (my absolutely favorite) with some fun pillows.  The curtains would be layered to make the room a little fancier and would pull in the blue.  The rug would add a graphic trellis pattern and more blue.  Instead of having all white furniture since we like to mix and match different finishes, the coffee table and media console would be richly stained wood.  I had plans of including a whole wall of art and photos since I’m a gallery wall fanatic.

Then, along the back wall of the room that would also act as a hall and the first thing people would see when they walked in, would be two white bookshelves flanking a secretary desk.  The book shelves would be beautifully styled (of course) to bring in more color and personality.  The secretary desk would serve as our command center where we would pay bills, write letters, meal plan, etc.

As much as this mood board was catered to a very specific room in mind, we could easily take many of the ideas and plan them to a different room, perhaps even in an apartment.  I was sad when I found out we would not be getting the house because I was really excited for this room, but at least now we have a point of reference that we both love (yes, my hubby is fully on board with the design scheme, I can barely believe it) that we can turn to when making decorating decisions.

What do you think of our combined style?  Have you ever planned an entire room, only to learn that it would never work or the room you planned it for would never be yours?

Linking up with Five Days . . . 5 Ways

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Good News that I Didn’t Share

Wow, what a bad mood this blog has been in this week!  I’m very happy to report that just a few hours was all I needed to get over the house.  Once we knew it wasn’t ours, I realized that it was definitely not in our dream area and it had been built-up a little big in our minds.  Was it our dream first house?  Yes, of course.  But, are there other dream first houses out there waiting for us to buy one day?  Definitely, and they are in our dream location.  We are still going to wait until the summer or fall (or even later) to look again, but we are not discouraged any more.

Now, two days of discouragement and bad news calls for some good news, right?

Last week was just a huge whirlwind of emotions.  I cried some of the most happy tears I’ve ever cried in my life and also cried in sadness, however all of it was meant to be and has me feeling completely humbled and blessed right now.

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Do you remember this little photography business I started last year?  Yeah, I almost forgot about it too because nothing was really happening with it.  Last fall was CRAZY with finishing up my last semester before student teaching (that I start in less than a week – scary – let me know if you want updates on that as well), so I really had no time to put into the business.  However, I was still thinking about it a lot, practicing my photog skills, thinking about logos and branding, and researching as much about small businesses as possible.

Now I’ve had all of January to prepare for student teaching and to get my business on track.  I have an engagement session lined up with one of my best friends, Tiffany, but other than that, I had no plans.  I had asked some photographers I know and really respect for some help (like to allow me to second shoot some weddings for free or to sit down and chat with me), but I did not have much good feedback.  Mostly, they were too busy to be able to commit time to help me, which is completely understandable.  However, I became extremely discouraged that I would never be able to make this dream a reality.

Then, last Wednesday came and I was struck to post an ad on Craigslist asking for someone (anyone) to help me gain experience.  I then decided to put the rest in God’s hands because I felt called by Him in the first place to jump into the photography business in the first place.

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Literally, an hour after I prayed about it and let it go, I received an email from a local woman (I’ll share her identity once I know everything is going to happen before and once I sit down with her) who is newer in the business and has five weddings coming up starting April.  She is not charging a lot because is new, so she can’t afford a second shooter, but she told me that she really likes my style and would love to give me the opportunity to work as her second shooter.

PLUS, she told me I could use the photos I shot on my website (which is usually never done with second shooters because the lead photographer normally owns the rights to the photos) meaning I can show others that I have experience and hopefully gain my own clients.

I emailed her right away with exclamation marks after every sentence because I was just. so. darn. excited.  I wouldn’t let the fear overtake me that normally does when I get close to doing something big and scary.  I told her that if my excitement didn’t scare her away, I would love to second shoot with her.  She told me she was just as excited and we got to planning!

I literally sat in our living room, laptop on my lap, listening to this song that I talked about last week, and sobbed.  Bawled.  I don’t even think there is a good word that describes the crying.  I have never cried such happy tears, except perhaps when Mr. Converse Sneakers proposed to me.  Mr. CS wasn’t home, so when he called me mid-tear flood to tell me he was on his way home, he thought something was tragically wrong. 

“What’s wrong?  What happened?!” he asked.

“I’m second shooting FIVE weddings,” I blurted out through tears.

“WHAT happened????” He could not understand my muffled words.

“I’M SECOND SHOOTING FIVE WEDDINGS,” I yelled, hoping that would make the words more clear.

And then, after understanding that my parent’s dog Stewart Wallace hadn't died and I hadn’t gotten into a  horrible car accident (which were just a couple of the thoughts that were running through his mind when he heard me crying), he got extremely excited and joined in the joyful celebration, sans tears, of course.

THEN (I know, I ramble a lot), I got an email from another photographer saying she is shooting a wedding on a lake in February and would be willing for me to tag along to practice.  Six weddings!

Six weddings, people!  You know how much I am going to learn after second shooting SIX weddings?

Plus, another photographer I know is getting back from networking in another state in March and is willing to sit down with me as well.  By the end of the summer, I should be able to branch out and start shooting weddings on my own.

I can’t wait!  If you take anything from this completely way too long post, take with you that the Lord is completely wonderful and has unbelievable plans for each one of us, that fear should never stand in the way of you and your dreams (it just shows that you really care about your dreams), and that discouragement should feed action.

I can’t wait to update you on more photography adventures!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Little House that Couldn’t

Thank you to everyone who showed me some love and support yesterday!  It really did help with the whole process.  Unfortunately, all the well-wishes and prayers in the world couldn’t have bought us that house.  It just was not meant to be.

You see, we are new to this whole house-buying thing, so we contacted a local bank (with the initials W.F.) to get preapproved, since a friend did that and had no complaints.  The man preapproved us (well technically just Mr. Converse Sneakers) for a modest loan, and then we set out to find a house.  Two moldy, heck-no houses later, and we were pretty sure we would be waiting until I was working full-time come the summer or fall to look again.  However, this beauty popped up on my screen after our realtor expanded the search to homes a little over our price range thinking that most of them could be brought down through negotiation.

I showed her like this yesterday:

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Now that she’s not ours and never will be, I’ll show other photos, so you can understand just how heart-breaking this whole things was.  Here is the un-altered photo of the front:

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Do you see the red shutters?  The nice roof?  The two car garage?  I thought, “This is way too good to be true, it must look like crap on the inside,” when I saw this exterior photo pop up in my emailed listings.

Until I saw these:

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The light!  We aren’t used to seeing any light in our dark little basement.

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This is when my heart started beating a mile a minute.  Wood floors throughout the entire main floor.  Not just an updated kitchen, but basically our dream first kitchen with custom cabinets that extend all the way up to the ceiling and have undermounted lighting!

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Small, but completely reasonable two bedrooms on the main floor.  The master bedroom’s closet was a great size with custom closet shelving and dresser inside.

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The cutest little bathroom that we wouldn’t change a thing about.  It even had a great linen closet.

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And, the mother-of-all-man caves for Mr. CS downstairs, complete with a built-in mantle/media center that actually was a great use of space since the room was fairly narrow.

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And, to totally add the cherry on top, it had a tremendous third light-filled bedroom that probably would have been our office/my craft room.

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Even the backyard was pretty perfect, with a beautiful deck, a garden shed, and plenty of space to roam.  The back of the house even had the same red shutters!

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We just had to see and try for this house.  When we saw it two days ago, it was even better in person.  Nobody could find anything wrong with it!  It had every one of our “must-haves” and basically all of our “wants.”  We never thought we would even find a house like this close to our price range, so we knew we had to try for it.

We headed to a local coffee shop (that was surrounded by literally every one of our favorite stores only 2 minutes from the house) to go over our offer.

Our plan was to submit the offer for what we were preapproved for and ask for closing costs.  Well, apparently the house had an offer on it that fell through about a week ago, so the seller (the bank in this case because it was a short sale) was not willing to even look at any offers less than the full asking price.  We were left in a bind.  Our realtor asked if our lender had said anything about the preapproval amount being “conservative,” which I admitted that he had said, so our realtor got us on the phone with a different lender who normally gets the job done.  We were so close to being approved for the asking price that we were willing to do just about anything because this was our DREAM first house.

Due to the many upcoming showings on the house and the other offers that were being worked on, we fought hard to get the offer submitted that night.  Our realtor got it submitted and we worked hard to figure out a way to get all of the necessary paper work over to the new lender so he could work on an approval amount for us.  We also had to come up with “earnest money” to show the seller we were serious and set up a home inspection, which my dad was going to do.  We worked like crazy people all night, scanning and faxing, calling my parents to discuss all the details, and pacing back and forth in fear.  We were not expecting everything to turn into a huge stressful dilemma so fast.  Not only did that bank have to sign the offer saying they would consider it and later accept our offer (which could take 30+ days), but we also were waiting on an approval to say we could even afford a mortgage of the home’s price.

Yesterday morning, we were a wreck checking our email constantly and jumping at the sound of anything that resembled a cell phone notification.  We got a call from our realtor saying the seller had signed the offer, meaning we were the first offer in and we would probably get the house since they weren’t accepting any offers lower than the asking price.

We were ecstatic.  Surely, we thought, we would get the house because we were already preapproved so close to the price of the house.

Well, a few hours of dreaming about how we would decorate and floating on cloud 9 later, the new lender called.  The phone call started with, “I’m not sure your previous lender knew what he was doing . . . “ and from there, the tears started to well up.  He told us far more than the first lender had told us, about debt-to-income ratios, and how the whole approval process works.  We knew a lot of this stuff, but figured the first lender took it all into consideration when he was preapproving us.  Well, apparently not.  The new lender told us that he would not even approve us for what we were originally preapproved for, or even close.  It was devastating news, but we knew that he was very good and worked his hardest to preapprove people for as high as possible in these types of situations.  He told us our options (have someone co-sign or come up with a larger down payment), but neither of these we could do or would consider because we knew it was not the house for us.  Plus, we didn’t really have time to shop around for different lender or even contact our first-lender since we needed to know that day if we could afford the house.

We got off the phone and sat in silence.  Then the tears came.  As much as I tried not to get attached to the house, as soon as our realtor told us that we basically had it in the bag once we got preapproved for the amount, we were attached.  We already named our new puppy we were going to buy!  Not a good idea, people!

So, that’s where we are right now.  We decided to wait until I’m working full-time so I can be considered on the loan and we don’t run into these types of problems.  We now know not to focus on houses above our preapproval level and to shop around for a mortgage lender who knows what he is doing.  You may be thinking that we should have stuck with the first lender since he preapproved us for more, but he never looked at any of our documents, so we think had we gone with him and even been approved for the asking price of the house, the loan would have been denied once he collected that information.  I’m glad we didn’t have to drag it out that far.

This was definitely a learning experience and something I don’t even want to think about doing again for a long time.  I’m not the kind of person who can detach myself from things I’ve dreamed of my whole life.  I’m going to get emotionally attached to a house we love and think we can afford (which technically we could have made the payments on but could not get preapproved for) no matter how much I try not to.  It’s the “passionate” person in me.  I just hope the next house we fall head-over-heels in love with is just as nice and we are able to call it our first house.

Now on to apartment-hunting! :P

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Scariest Day of My Life

I am very tired and stressed, but I wanted to update you all on our house search.  Yesterday, we put in an offer on what may be the world’s cutest house.  We saw it a few days ago and knew we had to see it.  If it looked anything like the photos online, we were going to try for it.

It did not go as planned.

It is a short sale, so the seller did not want to negotiate, which led to panic and a lot of calling back and forth with a mortgage consultant, knowing that many others were writing up offers on the house.

I am not sure if they have considered our offer and will not know (if they do decide to even consider it) if they accepted it until probably a month from now.  We went into it thinking we could get a lower price, but the seller would not even consider anything but full asking price (which is already a bargain for this house but still more than we wanted to pay).

I will keep you posted as the time goes on.  Right now, I just need to not think about it.

So, I’ll let you think about it by showing you a tantalizing altered photo (just to be on the safe side).

house1

It’s basically our dream first house and has been updated to the max, so we really would not have to do anything (as long as the inspection goes well).

If you would like, we would greatly appreciate prayers that our offer gets accepted and everything goes smoothly.  After putting in one offer, I can honestly say I would rather not do this again for many years.  My heart can’t handle this kind of stress!

If we get it, we will definitely show more pictures, but until that time, I don’t want to do anything to risk or jinx us from getting the house.

Hope your weekend was stress free!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Random Redheaded Thoughts

I’m having one of those days where I have a lot on my mind.  I love when blogger post random posts, so I thought I would just spill it all out for you to meander through at your own discretion.

bible

We’ve started reading the Bible together, which is something we have never done before.  It’s really a beautiful thing to sit down and read the Good News together and to reflect on what it means and how we can follow Jesus better.  We have started with the Gospels and will be slowly making our way through the whole thing.

katelynjames
Over the course of the past week, I have read or skimmed through every post on Katelyn James’ photography blog.  I am obsessed with her style, her brand, and her openness about her life, faith, and business.  She has greatly inspired me to pour my heart into my teeny tiny little photography business.  You should check out her blog.  She is also a redhead (don't be confused by the photo above - it's not me - I have green eyes)!

house

As promised, I will update you on the whole house hunting excursion we just started yesterday.  We saw two houses yesterday with our current realtor (not sure we will stick with him because he has been late both times we’ve met with him but seems like a good person and realtor).  One was cute on the outside, but was falling apart on the inside.  The basement was completely covered in mold.  I felt sick the rest of the day just thinking about it.  It was in a great neighborhood, but I told our realtor “Not in a million years.”  The second house was a little better, but still a huge no.  Some of the walls were mysteriously placed at an angle and the basement ceiling were about as tall as us, and we are short.  It was way too small as well, but at least it wasn’t covered in mold.

We have started looking at apartments too because we don’t want to be stuck in our current apartment once our roommate moves out since the entire rent costs as much as our top-end monthly mortgage payment would be (including taxes, mortgage, and property insurance).  If we don’t find a house in our current price range (which I am guessing we won’t, but we will keep looking just in case), we are going to move into an affordable apartment, save up most of my full-time income once I have a full-time job, and get preapproved for a higher amount figuring in both of our incomes.  We are happy with either scenario, but would love to find a super affordable home in our current price range.  I do believe in miracles!




This song (which I found on Katelyn James’ blog randomly) has been played at least 20 times since Sunday.  I absolutely love it!  I haven’t been that big into Christian music in my life, but last year I really started getting into it.  Listening to it throughout the day causes me to point my thoughts toward Christ, which is something I’ve been working on for a long time.  I have teared up many a time listening to this song, just feeling so thankful for being alive with such a magnificent Creator and Savior.

IMG_0337

I haven’t written much about my photography business because I was so busy last semester that I barely had time to do anything not school-related, but it has taken up much of my thoughts over the past few months.  I am at the point where I really just want to gain experience, especially with weddings, but I have had the hardest time finding someone willing to let me jump on board with them.  The industry has changed drastically when it comes to mentoring since more people are getting into photography leaving people guarded to share their experiences, which makes sense, but this has me feeling very discouraged.  I’m trudging on, but it is not easy!  And, yes, above is a little snapshot of our kitchen that is always chaotic.  We were just about to take out the garbage, I promise!

curly hair
Yesterday I curled my hair just for fun.  I had myself believing I couldn’t do anything cute with my new short ‘do, but I was wrong!  I snapped the photo above with my iPhone since I am horrible at taking self portraits with a heavy DSLR.

magazine

I’ve had these magazines since the week before Christmas.  They followed me around my parents’ house all Christmas break, as I eagerly waited for a time to read them but found no time.  Now, they have been staring at me to open them up and tear out their beautiful pages for my inspiration binder, but still, three weeks into January, I have yet to get to them.  I will soon!

While I’m already being random, I’d love to offer the chance to ask me anything in the comments.  I try to share a lot, but I know many areas of my life do not get covered and there are probably things others are wondering about.  Please ask any questions you are wondering about in the comments!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guest Posting at Crazy Ever After

I'm in love with a fellow Minneapolis blogger’s blog.  Lauren of Crazy Ever After is hilarious, energetic, completely honest, and seriously sweet.  We’ve been emailing back and forth for the past week about home-buying in the area, and she has been a huge help to Mr. Converse Sneaker and me!  She generously asked if I’d take part in her “De-Clutter the Crap Initiative” which are posts designed to help us busy people stay organized.  I jumped on board in a second!

 

declutter

I’m rambling today over at Crazy Ever After about how we keep our tiny and poorly-designed rental kitchen neat and far from chaotic.

Our Crazy Ever After 

Please join me over there and take a look around Lauren’s blog!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Red Chili for a Redheaded Girl

Over the years, I have grown a deep love for all things spicy.  If asked what I would eat if I had to eat the same meal every day for the rest of my life, on a good day I would say chili.  On a bad day, I would say celery because I would be feeling less-than-pretty and eating celery actually burns calories!  But anyway, I’m here to talk about the good days.  Chili is one of my favorite foods because it is many things:
  • Colorful (which is fun and by default means somewhat healthy)
  • Flavorful
  • Protein-packed (beans and meat?!)
  • Hearty
  • Hot (in temperature and flavor)
  • Red (like my head)

Because I’m such a chili-lover, Mr. Converse Sneakers set out to make the best chili ever.  He’s a great hubby – he loves cooking for me and hearing what I think about his cooking.  I love that man so much (even more than chili)!

A few of you suggested that Mr. CS make an appearance here from time to time to talk about manly things.  Well, he has his own blog, so I thought whenever he writes about something you might like reading about, I’ll link to it.

chili_forweb

Today, he’s talking about my new favorite chili that is low in calories (made with ground turkey) and betcha-by-golly-wow full of flavor.  He adapted a recipe and his posted it on his blog.  Check it out here on Obviously Cheddar.

Let me know if there is anything else you would like his input on around here!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Day I’ve Been Waiting for My Whole Life

Man, oh man, this weekend has been a whirlwind of emotions!  We’ve been dreaming and scheming like crazy and I have not shared any of it with you, yet!  Well, today I’m going to share what we’ve been up to!

Remember this post about our personal resolutions for 2012?  If you haven’t seen it, you should click on over and point and laugh at my flaring nostrils that act up throughout the entire video.  If I wasn’t against most plastic surgery, I would totally do something about those nostrils, but I’m stuck with them.  But, I digress . . .

Smack dab in the first goal we said we want to buy a house.  Although this goal was listed first because we are EXTREMELY excited about the day when we can own a home, we thought it would be one of the last things we would do this year, if we even got to it at all.  Then, my friend Megan and Courtney (maid and matron of honor in our wedding) bought houses.  Both on one income.  Hmmm . . . that’s interesting, I thought, because right now we are living on one income.  The more I talked to them, the better preapproval sounded to us.  We are all about living a frugal life, so getting preapproved for just Mr. Converse Sneakers’ income meant that if one of us were ever out of a job (like me, right now, since I’m starting full-time student teaching for no pay in two weeks from today), we would still be able to afford the mortgage payments.  Also, spending less on a house means we have more money to save, use for vacations, pay off debt, etc., which are all great uses of money in my book instead of putting huge chunks of change into a house for thirty years and being stuck.  After giving it much thought, we decided to talk to a mortgage consultant, see if we could get preapproved for something decent (read: very small but doable) and then see what is out there.  Thankfully, there is no cost to get preapproved our talk to a realtor until you purchase a house, so we won’t be out anything if we decide to wait to buy.

Well, last Thursday after a week of biting our nails in anticipation, our mortgage consultant preapproved us (well, technically just my hubby because right now I’m just a walking pile of student debt which is no good for large loans) for slightly more than we had anticipated.  We got a great interest rate on an FHA loan and now we’re moving into the next stage: house hunting!

Sersiously, I was never the girl who dreamed about her wedding day (although I had big visions for marriage – those are two different things, you know), but I don’t think a day has gone by since I knew what the word “house” was that I have not dreamed of buying my first home.  We are extremely excited but also incredibly cautious.

Because the price we want to pay for a house is pretty low, we will probably be looking at foreclosures and homes that need a little more work than a house we could afford if we were both working full-time.  However, because the housing market is completely geared toward buyers right now, so many houses are in our price range that wouldn’t have been half a decade ago or probably in five years.  We are not set on buying right now because we don’t want to rush into a purchase on something we don’t absolutely love that has a solid foundation and is in a safe neighborhood, but we really want to stay at a certain price because of the benefits later on.

Today we will be meeting with a realtor to discuss all of our wants, needs, and our price range.  I’m hoping he won’t laugh in our face and send us toward the door.  Here are some houses in our price range that we’ve been scoping out online:

house1

house2

house3

Here are our needs:

  • 3 bedrooms (or 2 bedrooms with room to add a third bedroom without adding on – we want room to grow whenever we have children)
  • 1 bathroom (but preferably 2)
  • A garage of some kind
  • In a safe neighborhood
  • Around 1,500 square feet
  • A medium-sized yard
  • A kitchen that is a good size so we can eventually update it (important since Mr. CS is a chef and we will probably entertain in the kitchen as well)
  • A finished or finish-able basement
  • Less than 20 minutes from Mr. CS’s job

Like I said, we don’t know yet if we will be buying before our lease is up in June, but we really would like to if we find the right house, since our mortgage payments (and insurance and taxes) will be the same or less than our current apartment at full price.  When our roommate moves out when the lease is up, we would much rather be paying for a house than an apartment of the same price.

I will keep you posted on what happens!  Let me know if you have any suggestions or advice for us two first-time homebuyers!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Instagram Stalker: Review 1

One of my big bad blog goals for 2012 is to open up more by posting more of my life on social media outlets.  So far, I would say I’ve done a pretty good job!  In case you don’t follow me on those sites, I will try to update regularly on here as well since I don’t have time to do a full-length post on everything I’ve been up to.  I’ll be using instagram collages (I just whipped mine up in Photoshop) to give a little recap of the past week/couple weeks.

Here the last twelve days in review:

instagramreview_1web

Some interesting things I’ve been doing, according to instagram:
  • Doting over my new Erin Condren planner I got for Christmas (seen in two photos above)
  • Purging like crazy (as detailed in this post)
  • Thrifting (the second photo on the top row is an Ann Taylor blazer that retails around $150 or more that I bought for $4.49 at Goodwill)
  • Eating tons of homemade things (beer crust pizza, homemade sourdough bread, beer cheese soup, chicken fried rice)
  • Lounging while admiring my new blog layout and cursing my too-many-open-tabs syndrome
  • Making a big batch of laundry soap
  • Working on ways to beautify my new haircut
  • Getting used to Mr. Converse Sneakers new love for a different redhead (his new Kitchenaid mixer from Christmas)
  • Sadly taking down our beautiful retro blue Christmas tree
  • Admiring my Canon DSLR and new flash
  • Working out (and loving stretching) using our Supreme 90 Day Program
  • Planning what I will buy when my photography business takes off (like an iMac computer for super fast processing and an amazing screen)
  • Jumping for joy that I passed all three of my Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exams (7 subtests = much stress)

Whew!  I’ve been doing a lot while I wait for my student teaching semester to being in just a couple weeks.  I hope you enjoyed this little sneak peek into the things I am doing that I don’t write about on the blog.  If you’ve got any questions or want to know anything else about me, feel free to shout it out in the comments!

Before I head offline for the weekend, I wanted to thank everyone who commented or emailed me about my house love post on Wednesday.  I am feeling much better thanks to all of the support and advice you gave me and a good amount of time to reflect and move on.  I am afraid I completely adhere to the redhead stereotype of being emotional (and perhaps a little sassy), so things like this work me up easily.  I’m glad I have friends (both in real life and as readers) who are there to help me through!  Thank you!  Have a great weekend, everyone! :D

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shabby Apple Giveaway Winners

Wow!  I’m so happy with how many people stopped by to enter the Shabby Apple Giveaway!  I have turned down many giveaway/reviews from companies I have never heard of who sold products I don’t think any of you would like.  Shabby Apple, though, is one of my favorite vintage-inspired clothing stores (trust me, I have looked at a lot of them).  Thank you to everyone who entered.  I wish more people could win!

So, the winner (determined by random.org) is . . .


I will be emailing you shortly to get your information!  Thank you again to all who entered and to Shabby Apple for allowing me to give you wonderful readers a dress.

Remember, you have three more weeks to use the discount code (redhead10off) for 10% off your purchase.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Keeping it Real: Home Love

I like to keep my posts happy and uplifting, because I honestly try to live my life that way.  However, I’m a pretty emotional person, so often my emotions head south.

Yesterday was one of those days.  I’m keeping it real; I’m the redhead, and this is my life.  I want to share this little story with you.

I normally am a very private person, but in the blogging world that just doesn’t fly (at least not for me).  Of course some privacy is necessary, but I created this blog so I could get away from shelling everything up inside.  I tend to lock my thoughts in my brain and throw away the key.  Even my own husband is dumbfounded sometimes when I let out a thought or two that’s been on my mind, sometimes for years, that I have never shared before.  Today, I’m just letting it all out because it’s the kind of day where I need to stop holding everything in so close.  All of these thoughts become heavy to hold after 22 years.

So, yesterday.  Mr. Converse Sneakers and I have decided to try to get pre-approved for a mortgage, just to see.  Our lease is up June 1st, making our last rent payment May 1st, and we are yearning for a place to put our stamp on.  The only problem?  As of December 21st, I am no longer working since my school job ended then and I will be student teaching full-time from February to May.  We have student loans to help tide us over, but we don’t want to use them if we can help it.  This means that we are trying to get preapproved just based on Mr. CS’s income.  We know we won’t be able to afford much, because we don’t want to be house poor and buy a house that depends on two stable incomes (since who knows how long any income will be stable for), but we just want to see what is out there.  We’ve been waiting by the phone to hear back for our mortgage consultant.  I can’t wait to hear whether we can start looking or should wait until I’m working full-time.

As much as I remind myself that we were not planning to look until the fall, so I should be happy no matter what happens, I have gotten myself all wrapped up in the search.  Instead of doing what I should be doing (preparing for student teaching, spending precious time with my friends before life gets completely chaotic, getting off my butt), I spent most of yesterday glued to online real estate listings.  The houses in our tiny price range are not pretty, but I’m determined to find one we can make beautiful.  The only problem with this right now is that we have not been preapproved, we don’t have an agent, and therefore searching online is pretty pointless because getting attached to photos online with no preapproval and no realtor means the search ends there.  These frantic hours of searching left me in a bad mood.  I’m horribly impatient when it comes to reaching my dreams, so being so close to this one with no further action I can take is really stressing me out.

After Mr. CS came home, I started to feel a little better and I vowed to stop searching for a home until we have been preapproved.  However, as I was checking my email before bed last night, I saw an email from my mom telling me my childhood home is now for sale.  Gosh, just writing that sentence that is such a simple one bring me to tears.  I haven’t lived in that home for over five years but knowing it is going to be passing to a new family again makes my heart ache.

oldhouse

The old house

This story needs a little more explanation:

When I was five, my parents and I moved to a beautiful farm in the middle of nowhere at the end of a long gravel road on the outskirts of a town of 3,000 people.  It became my home for the next 12 years.  The most substantial 12 years of my life so far because it is where 90% of my memories are from.  My parents put years of work into the house.  Before moving in, since it was an Amish-built house, my Dad added plumbing and electricity.  They added beautiful cherry cabinets, light-filled curved windows in the kitchen, and built-ins in the office.  It transformed over those 12 years throughout countless sleepovers, bedroom karaoke sessions, hurtful words, beautiful walks in the woods, numerous pets, and lots of love.  I have so many memories – both good and bed – but each memory made me who I am today.  What I miss most, however, is not the house but the land.  On 108 acres, I had room to explore.  I would hike out to a hilltop overlooking miles and miles of farmland and write poems, love letters to boys I had crushes on, and dream of sun washed forests filled with wildflowers and undiscovered footpaths. 

My imagination and my mind were created on that land.

All of my secrets, my passions, my tears, my laughter stem from that land.

My love for an all-powerful, all-loving, and ever-forgiving God was formed on that land.

My parents built a new house on a small chunk of the land that was our former summer picnic spot.  They sold the first house when we moved to the new house.  Over time, they also sold most of the rest of the land as well.  I’ve had over five years to adjust to this, but just now, out of the blue, it is really hitting me.  They are now planning on selling the house they built, and so once it’s gone I will forever be distanced from the land that contains so much of me.

newhouse

The new house

As I laid in bed sobbing last night as I looked at the listing of my house that had been transformed by its current owners over the past five years, Mr. CS tried to comfort me by saying, “I know how it is.  It’s hard to see the house go.”  I became angry with him.  He did not understand.  I had no words to explain it to him, so I rolled away from his loving arms and cried in solitude in the dark.  I’m good at shutting people out just when I need them most.

He grew up in the town with barely any land and never felt the kind of attachment that I did to that house and land.  I don’t think I could ever fully explain it to him or to anyone else who has never felt this kind of love.  It sounds so silly as I write it, but knowing I will never get to walk on that land again, that the current owners only loved it for five years before giving it up, breaks my heart.  The tears never end.  I haven’t cried like this in a very long time and it al seems so silly.

I wonder if anyone else feels this way about a piece of land.  I keep telling myself that I have all the memories inside of me - that is all that really matters – but I just want to walk the land again, the land that we don’t own anymore, that may have forgotten me by now.

Now that we’re thinking of buying a home, I think of how tied I am to the house I grew up in.  I want my future children to have a house that contains them, their beginnings, their love, their dreams.  I want land for them to sprawl out in, get lost in, find themselves in.  I am so not a city girl, but this is where I am right now.  Today, I will be coming to terms with the end of my childhood, but the beginning of my adult life that I have the power of making wonderful.  I know the switching hands of real estate will never take away who I am, but it sure hurts to see it go, always wondering if the new owners will love it the way we did.

Please tell me I’m not alone.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Little Spring, I Mean New Year Cleaning

Purging isn’t pretty, folks.  It’s so ugly in fact that it could possibly maybe almost make a certain redheaded perfectionist in ruffled flats freak out a teeny tiny itsy bitsy bit.  Not me, of course, but some other person just like me.

Tell me, if your home looked like this for three days straight would you go a little crazy?

purge1

purge2

purge3

2011 was a huge purging year for us.  We combined all of our stuff, purged all of the duplicates and things we didn’t use anymore, and then did this again a few more times after bringing home wedding presents and reorganizing our laundry/storage room.  Well, when we brought home Christmas presents after being away for a week and a half, we were not happy with how our home was looking.  Our first full day back (New Year’s Day), we purged until we couldn’t purge anymore.  The above shots show what our home looked like during this three-day process.

After Thanksgiving, I came home with a few tubs full of decorations left over from our wedding, such as the many vintage jars/vases/pots/etc. that we used to hold flowers on all of the reception tables.  I was sick of them sitting in the middle of the laundry room that Mr. Converse Sneakers now uses to do a punching bag workout in, so we went through every item and kept only those that we loved the most.  We also went through the following areas in our home:

  • Every box in the laundry/storage room
  • Our closets
  • Ever cabinet in our kitchen
  • Our pantry closet
  • All boxes in our living room entertainment stand
  • Our office

So, we basically went through all of our belongings, ready to get rid of anything that didn’t fit.  As we were going through everything, we asked the following questions of each item:

  • When did I last use this?
  • When will I use it again?
  • Will this be essential/come in handy when we buy our first house?
  • Will this sit in storage when we buy a house?
  • Could I easily replace this for cheap if I got rid of it and needed it later?

I definitely have to be in the right mindset when I purge.  Last year, I was a tad too sentimental since we had just gotten married that I did not want to let go of as much.  However, the new year brought in a new cutthroat attitude that was perfect for purging.

Before I get to some after photos, here is an iPhone shot I snapped of our first car trip to Goodwill:

purge18

It’s hard to tell how full my car is, but it’s a station wagon with the back seat folded down, so it’s pretty crammed.  We also recycled a lot and got rid of unnecessary boxes we were hoarding, since we can easily get new boxes from Mr. CS’s work when we move.

Now, for some of the after photos.

Although I did some major reorganizing when I revamped our pantry for only $5, things were getting out of control.  We just had too much stuff in there that it was never easy to put anything back in its designated spot.  Here is a tiny peak at what it looked like – just imagine utter chaos every time we opened the door.

purge6

Nothing was where it was supposed to be.  In addition to taking everything out of the pantry, we emptied many of our cabinets so we could move things around so not everything was being stored in the pantry.  Here is what two of the shelves looked like after:

purge8

 

purge9

Notice how nothing is cramped?  Now, we can easily move things in and out with room to spare.  No more perfect placement leading to randomly throwing things in there when it all comes crashing into chaos.

Here’s an in-progress picture.  Most of these items were relocated to the basement since we don’t use them enough.

purge4

While we were purging in the pantry, we decided to heavily focus on our corner cabinet in the kitchen as well since it has a lot of space with the lazy susan.  Here is how it looked before:

purge5

Definitely not bad, but not great either.  After laying everything out, sorting, and putting things back, it looked like this:

purge11

It may look more cluttered now, but everything has a space and is organized by type (much-used cooking items on the bottom, baking items in the middle, extra spices and protein shake items on top), making it much easier to keep track of and keep organized.

One poorly-used space was the cabinet above our range/microwave.  It housed canisters of flour, sugar, baking powder, and brown sugar as well as left over spices and for some reason some inexpensive Ikea flower pots.  Don’t ask me why they were there, I have no idea!  Since we are very short, we have trouble reaching anything in the back of that cabinet, so we relocated the canisters to the pantry (seen in the photo if you scroll up with the red popcorn bowl) and the spices to the corner cabinet shown above.  We relocated much-used and easy-to-grab items to this cabinet such as Mr. CS’s new French press (he’s a coffee snob now), snacks, and oft-used carbohydrates and cooking oils.  Oh, and wine.  We don’t drink it often, but we wanted it to be easily-reachable whenever we have a really bad day and want to pour ourselves a glass or two.

purge12

While we were tackling the kitchen, we couldn’t help but notice the coat closet that was running over with games.  See?

purge7

A simple little purge and reorganization did the trick.  Now you can barely see the games behind the door way.

purge10

In addition to these updates, I also got rid of about twenty-five items in my closet that I was not wearing and probably never would.  However, I added about the same number of items, but all are to be worn as teaching apparel (more on that in a future post).

Now, for the big room that contributed to most of our donation pile: the laundry room.  You can see photos from our first major purge and reorganization of this room here.  Since then, we added some interlocking floor tiles to make Mr. CS’s workouts a little less painful on this joints.  I like stepping on it when I’m doing laundry.

Here it was in November:storageafter5

And, here it is now:

purge13

Some major things we got rid of: the dresser that was empty after purging, our standing mirror (sad, but we don’t have a use for it now and don’t like how much room it takes up as opposed to a hanging mirror), and tons of empty boxes. 

purge14

We had so much space left over that we were able to make a little storage area for all of our newly-acquired Christmas items that were clogging up floor space after Christmas.  It’s in the area next to the water heater and under our upper art storage.

purge15

Our kitchen-overflow bookshelf dwindled down after the purge.

purge16

We also had leftover space in our shelving unit for the leftover interlocking floor tiles and our camping chairs. It doesn’t look that great still, but it’s a storage room.  I can’t ask for much more.  Now, it’s organized, clutter-free and full of space for Mr. CS to workout and me to do laundry in peace.  I’m no longer afraid of going in there!

Whew!  All of those words and photos just to say that we got rid of a lot and are now living happily with less!  I’m glad we got this out of the way now because spring cleaning will be a breeze (hopefully).

Did you take on any major organizing projects already in the new year?

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