Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | February 17, 2013

Being Grateful for This Old Small House

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen one is involved in the world of home décor blogging and studying what’s new in home accessories I’ve found its really easy to get caught up in the place of “envy,” “desire” and “not enough.”

Today on Houzz, I read a thought-provoking and down-to-earth piece written by Laura Gaskill, Houzz Contributor, about loving what your home IS today. I am sharing her original writings and then describing what makes me happy about my present home (that follows in italics.)

Even with its faults and shortcomings, I am terribly grateful to own this small house under a big sky!


1. Consider what first drew you to your home. No matter where you live, there was likely something that attracted you to your house when you first saw it. Was it the sunny yard, charming porch, original wood floors? Once you are living in a place, it’s natural to focus more on home improvements, but taking a moment to recall your favorite things about your home can put things in perspective.SMALL HOUSE: What drew me to my older-style 1950’s ranch home was its stunning property filled with majestic White Oak trees and open green-space nestled against the deep woods. The house was older and in spite of its pink walls and old brown carpet it had potential and I liked that it was a blank slate just waiting for me to draw on it. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt offered a 2,000 sq. ft. one-story home with a large kitchen and a first floor laundry and three small bedrooms and an old but serviceable in-the-ground pool that would be attractive to my grand children. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe kitchen makeover had begun, the new maple cupboards were in but nothing had been done yet to the walls and everything needed re-painting. No problem, I can paint.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA real plus was that there was PLENTY of space to garden, to have chickens and to build my art studio. It was affordable and within our modest price range – a must. And, it looked like the perfect one-story home with a fireplace to retire in and that is what we were looking for. And above all – It IS SUSTAINABLE, number one on my top ten list of wants.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. Use your senses. If you’re getting down on your house, it can be hard to find anything to appreciate — but using your senses, you can zero in on the pleasures of home. Take a quick sensory tour of your home and note anything positive: the cozy comfort of your couch, the smell of coffee brewing, the feel of a fluffy rug between your toes.

SMALL HOUSE: Although there are certain things I do not like about my home, they are mostly small and cosmetic, more irritating than critical. They include; the dust and noise from the roadway in front of my home and side of my home gravel road. No air conditioning and the ugly popcorn ceiling in the old garage turned hobby room. There was initially a crummy and old non-existent driveway and those ugly metal shelves in the laundry room to hold storage items. Trash was being thrown on the roadways and the exhausting weather extremes of Michigan which can bring a foot of snow in a 24-hour period and severe spring flooding from high ground water. But these are either temporary and fixable issues or more weather than house issues in truth and I can live with them. Focusing now on the positive; I love to look out of our large picture windows at the view outside. I can see our bird feeding bed and the colorful birds flying about and feeding from the kitchen sink OR the dining room where we sit and eat. And my kitchen-ah, what a love affair, especially when you cook, can, freeze and dry food as much as I do.


I love that my home is filled with vintage and antique furniture, and art; mostly my own handmade paper on canvas artwork but the unique artwork of others as well.

Although my home isn’t the newest of styles, it has what I need and after a divorce at age 45, I do feel very lucky to have it. It has a workable open floor plan that I adore and lots of natural light.


I was able to add this lovely “eco-green” custom Amtigo, linoleom strip flooring throughout that brightens up the rooms and make them appear larger. This floor is great when you have dogs and grand kids and is a breeze to maintain.

We have a cozy and open living/dining space with a stone fireplace and well- constructed plaster walls and a plaster ceiling with a gracious cove design. I felt lucky to find nearly new drapes at our two picture windows and they have served us well these past 12 years.

I have a wonderful and large cook’s kitchen with plenty of work space, a nice maple island and I updated it last year with a long granite counter/bar area for baking or serving from as a buffet. I also have a large pantry to die for that resides behind closed louvered doors for neatness but with storage located right at my fingertips.

Right off the kitchen is our laundry/mechanical room with modern front loading washer and dryer and build in maple cupboards for lots more storage, that we added in 1996.


I really appreciate how our bedroom and hobby room are at opposite ends of the house so when I go to bed early, my husband can go to the hobby room, watch TV or a movie, and tie fly’s or work on the computer. I do the same in the a.m. when he is sleeping in. In retirement, I’m very grateful for my large studio space and my husband’s woodshop and blacksmith forge.



We both have a place to create and work without being in each other’s way. Granted, it’s a LOT of hard physical labor to maintain all of this but all together this house, this land and these outbuildings work really well for us.


3. Contrast it with not-home. Imagine you’ve just been on a long trip, and you are arriving home for the first time in weeks. You close the door behind you and take a deep breath. What are you most looking forward to about being home in that moment? Think about the ways your home comforts and supports you.

SMALL HOUSE: It’s best if I contrast this small house with our old two-story home in the city. The old Cape Cod worked fine when I was young and raising my two sons but as I aged, those second story windows that had to be lifted in and out to wash and store were no longer working. Running up and down two flights of stairs all day long was getting old as well as vacuuming two sets of stairs every few days. The old dark and damp basement (think one single light bulb!) laundry room was not conducive to use and when it rained heavily the water came up through the cracks in the cement floor and made a mess that had to be moped and cleaned up on a regular basis. And, all winter long ice dams and leaking roofs were an entirely different story as well!

4. Think beyond the visible. Is your rent or mortgage affordable, allowing you to live within your means? Is your home near your best friend’s house, a lovely park or your favorite café? Is it quiet? Are your neighbors nice? There are many factors that you may not see when you look around but that are just as (or more) important than the space itself.

SMALL HOUSE: When we first moved here our mortgage and taxes were affordable. Now that the house is paid off, even though we are a second marriage, we could actually afford to retire. Amazing! We are also very close to wonderful natural areas like The Todd Farm Waterfowl Preserve, The Allegan Forest  with its thousands of acres of hiking trails, The Kalamazoo River, Lake Michigan – all for just a few dollars of gas we have a world of outdoor entertainment at our fingertips. There are lots of places to put in my kayak or our small fishing boat. In retirement, when ready cash is at a premium this almost free entertainment is such a blessing.


5. Consider what visitors like about your home. When friends come over, do they comment on how welcoming and relaxing your house is? Is it great for parties, intimate chats, or barbecues on the lawn? Pay attention to what others have to say about your space.


SMALL HOUSE: Visitors who come to our home, love our three-seasons porch overlooking the back yard of our property with a ceiling fan and sliders on all three-sides open to catch the breeze. In fact, between June and October that is where we live. We eat meals, read, bird watch and enjoy the glorious view and animals that make their way through our 5-acre property. Visitors also enjoy our gardens and trails and we typically like to walk through them together with the dogs observing the birds, butterfly’s, flowers and wooded ambiance.


6. Look at the living things. Be sure to count the people and furry friends you share your home with among your blessings. Does the light in your home make it easy to grow that windowsill herb garden? Does owning your own home or having an accommodating landlord make it possible to share your space with furry   friends? Do your kids love jumping on that squashy old couch?

SMALL HOUSE: Having this property, the 5-acres that we own and 15-acres behind our home that we have access to, is the perfect place to have large dogs. It’s great for running or training them and they have the freedom to romp and run here. We also have the space for my chickens, which means fresh organic eggs and soon space for a rabbit for my granddaughter. This property also means having the ability to grow our own organic vegetables and having more control over the food we eat. This was in the top 10 wants on our bucket list when we were looking for houses.



7. Look out your windows. Do you have a view of your private garden, a bustling city street, a beautiful tree? Do you have a favorite spot where you like to sit and daydream, simply gazing at the clouds outside?

SMALL  HOUSE: In the wintertime when we are stuck indoors, looking out of our two huge picture windows is one of the best things about the Small House Under a Big Sky. It’s like a park out there! Ample sunlight, sky, majestic 150-year-old shade trees, flowers, woods, birds, its an ever changing panorama of nature here at its finest- who could ask for anything more?


8. Look on the bright side. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective to turn what could be a negative into something good. A small space may feel cramped, but it also uses fewer resources, so it’s naturally greening your lifestyle.

SMALL HOUSE: Yes, there are things I am not happy about in my current home. An old fireplace that tends to smoke and set off the smoke alarms and snow that builds up on the roof and ice dams that appear overnight. But those things are mostly annoying. Yes, I “wish” I had built-in shelves along side my fireplace wall and more built in’s and storage throughout my home but those are “wants” and I want them because of the core of how marketing works to make you want more, newer and “better,” not a fault of the the house itself.


In truth I have what I need, a non-leaking roof over my head, enough heat to stay warm, a safe place to sleep, just enough room to be comfortable in and a place for my grown children and grand kids to come and visit. That is enough. I have enough.

9. Consider what your home allows you to do. Whether you love to cook, entertain, read, watch movies or play with your kids, focusing on the activities you enjoy at home can help take the focus away from that never-ending list of improvements. In fact, using your home more is one wonderfully simple way to appreciate what it has to offer.

SMALL HOUSE: This home has allowed me to renovate an older home to meet our needs, to design our landscaping, to garden to my heart’s content, to create my dream of large dogs and chickens. This property has allowed me to have the luxury to have been able to build my 950 sq. ft. art studio and works as a visual artist and to own and manage an art gallery for over 7 years. In truth, this house and this property IS my true canvas and everything I have created here during my 12 year tenure has been the creative work of my life. Who could ask for anything more?

Small House / Big Sky Donna


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