Dana of House Tweaking on Design, Downsizing & Moving with Children
Many American homeowners are choosing to downsize these days, and in the past year, Dana of House Tweaking did just that. As Dana describes on her blog, “We did the unthinkable. We ditched our McMansion in exchange for a small, dilapidated 1950’s ranch complete with termite trails in the original shag carpeting. We’ve deemed it The Underdog.”
It may sound like an unfavorable move, but downsizing has been anything but. In fact, Dana dismisses the negative connotation attached to the word “downsizing,” preferring to think of it as right-sizing. She discovered her family didn’t need all that space; moving into a smaller home offered her the opportunity to pursue a growing interest in decorating, designing and blogging; she and her husband are now set to completely pay off their mortgage a year or two before their original goal; and through renovations and ongoing home improvement projects, less space means they can afford a higher quality house. As Dana emphasizes frequently on House Tweaking, “It’s not our dream house but, rather, the house in which to pursue our dreams.”
When it comes to interior design, downsizing offered Dana an opportunity to change things up with her home’s furniture and décor. “Out of sheer necessity, we sold or donated items that our downsized house couldn’t accommodate. We were moving from a 2,700-plus-square-foot home to a roughly 1,300-square-foot space, so purging and editing our belongings down to the bare minimum was essential,” Dana explains. “Also, I didn’t want our new house to be a smaller replica of our previous house. My style and taste in décor was changing; I got rid of a bunch of home décor accessories before the move.”
And this evolving style has resulted in a look that’s decidedly different from Dana’s last house. “Our previous home was a builder basic in a cookie-cutter neighborhood, and my style was more formal and safe. It was a great house to practice decorating in and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.” In her new, mid-century-style home, Dana explains, “I’m leaning towards a more masculine look with contrasting textures and finishes.”
The Challenges of Moving with Children
Any move is a big ordeal; and when you throw two young children and a newborn into the mix, a whole new set of challenges arises. For Dana, the first obstacle came in preparing to downsize. “Moving with kids is difficult just because of all the stuff that follows them. To make things easier, I started purging their toys long before we actually moved—I guess you could call it a gradual purge. By the time we moved, they had no idea that toy truck I donated a few months ago was even related to downsizing. I’m pretty sure they forgot all about that toy truck anyway.”
Because there were renovations to be completed before Dana and her family could move into their new home, they lived in a temporary apartment between houses. “It was a two-bed, two-bath unit and nothing to write home about, but it was our safe haven away from the renovation dust,” Dana explains. And, with young children in tow, it proved to be a vital pit stop in moving into their new home. “I would suggest living outside of a renovation if you have a young family for health/safety reasons—and also for peace of mind. Renovations can be stressful!” Dana advises.
When it finally came time to move into the newly renovated house, Dana had the “pleasure” of doing so with a newborn. “If you are a parent, you know that doing anything with a newborn is 10 times harder and takes 10 times longer than if no baby is in the picture,” Dana explains. “You’re exhausted and the baby’s schedule and basic needs take precedent over packing, unpacking, cleaning and organizing.” For parents in a similar situation, Dana advises to lower expectations and take your time with the move. “It’s been nine months since we moved into our house and we’re just now coming up for air,” she says of her own experience. “Babies are needy—and that’s okay! Give yourself a break.”
Ultimately, while it’s logistically difficult to move with children, it is possible to make it a fun experience and exciting change for them. In Dana’s words, “Of course you hate to move your children away from friends and neighbors who they are familiar with. But we made sure to tell our kids that we would have the opportunity to make friends and meet neighbors at our new house, and that was enough to get them excited.” To make settling into a new home easier for her children, Dana has treated the move like an adventure. “They’ve really enjoyed discovering parks and playgrounds within our new neighborhood,” she explains. “And we’ve found that as long as we are together and focus on keeping our daily lives as normal as possible, our kids don’t have an issue.”
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House Tweaks to Come
The major renovation of their home may be over, but Dana still has a lengthy list of home improvement projects she’d like to tackle in 2013. As she explains, “During the full-on renovation phase, we focused primarily on the interior of the house—just getting it livable so we could move in. We haven’t really touched the exterior of the house. Building a backyard deck, repairing the front door and adding some curb appeal would go a long way in making the outside reflect what’s on the inside.” And one interior project that would make a huge difference is finishing the second bathroom. “The kid/guest bath is still gutted. It would be nice to have a second functional bathroom,” Dana explains.
But to-do list of home improvements aside, Dana has already tackled several major DIY projects in her home, from installing wood flooring to tiling the master bathroom. And when it comes to Dana’s favorite DIY project (thus far), her kitchen’s walnut-topped island takes the cake. “We built the base with store-bought cabinets that we assembled and installed ourselves. We bought the walnut top, but sanded, stained, finished and installed it ourselves to save money. It’s such a natural place for our family to gather and it’s become the hub of our house.”