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5 Things Tackling a Fixer Upper (with 5 kids!) Taught Me

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This past year we bought a new home. Now mind you, when I say new, I mean new to us. The house was built in the 70’s and had been sitting vacant for over four years.


There were missing windows poorly covered with pieces of plywood, allowing whomever – creatures and teens alike – to come on in and hang out awhile. And it was obvious they did. Yet when my hubby first walked into the place, he looked around at the dilapidated mess and said, “Wow! Such potential.”

Guys seem to have an eye for that kind of stuff. (Me? Much less so.) He was ready to go all in and tackle this full-on fixer upper, while also living there, with our five young children in tow! Sounds like crazy talk? Maybe it was. But after some convincing, I agreed.

We soon set-up camp in our construction zone of a home. My son dubbed it the dirtiest place he’d ever seen. Our first goal was just to make it sleep-able, functional came much later.

And so we moved our five kids in among the plywood floors and wet paint. We soon started demo-ing down to the studs and designing our new space. We worked together as an incredible team, but it wasn’t easy; we were living without what most would consider daily essentials for months at a time – and did I mention we have five kids?

It was quite the home renovation process, but truly it transformed so much more than that. It was a full-blown transforming of the heart as well, teaching life lessons to this mama that no reality show ever could…


They say patience is a virtue. They also say good things come to those who wait. But they forget to tell you how much waiting sucks. Mom-waiting has always been super hard for me – whether it’s waiting the 9+ months for a baby to arrive, or waiting for daddy to get home, or even just waiting for a cake to cool – it’s just not my thing! But I've learned firsthand that slow and steady can indeed win the race (and get a brand-new kitchen in the process). Most always the wait is totally worth it, but you have to continually trust that the reward and the result is on its way.

This Too Shall Pass

Hard stuff happens, but more often than not, it’s just temporary. There is an end in sight even if it's hard to see. Life is full of seasons – a time for everything. Whatever it is today, it won’t always be, so there is no sense worrying about it as if it’s going to be. I learned to say things like, “Pretty soon, we’ll all be sitting at a table together having dinner in a real kitchen,” versus staying stuck on that fact that right now we have zero kitchen. It’s about having a positive hope for tomorrow instead of a negative hang-up on today.


My husband is a diligent kind of dude. If I mention that company’s coming over and the house is a mess, he brings out the mop and bucket and starts flipping chairs onto tables like a janitor. “What the heck? I meant like shove things in closets and hide the dirty diapers, babe!” But he likes to do things well and right if he’s going to take the time to do them at all. It’s an admirable trait, just a bit annoying to live with. But working alongside him on a seemingly never-ending project showed me the high value in this. For example, in order to install natural hickory flooring properly, all of the half-century old staples in the subfloor had to first be removed. Otherwise, the valuable hickory would be unable to lay flat as it should. So during each naptime for almost two months, it was my job to get on my hands and knees and pull each itty, bitty stubborn staple out. Now, though, I’m more than thankful for the thoroughness.

Demo Before Reno

Demolition always comes before renovation. You must get rid of the old in order to make room for the new! This is a pretty simple concept, but it spoke deep into my heart while doing all of this. Did we really need to take that wall out? Can’t we just keep that section over there? It’s not so terrible the way it is, right? No, in order to make the new come true, you must be willing to demolish the old. And when you do, you’ll be so glad that you let go of your grip on it. My hubby and I kept a printed image of our kitchen design taped on the window the whole time we were demo-ing to remind ourselves what all the blood, sweat, and tears were for in the first place.

(Side note: “Demo day” is a lie; it’s much more like demo months.)

Uncomfortable is OK

Us Americans are not so great at being uncomfortable. But life is so much more than just luxury and ease. Times of discomfort are OK, even good, for our own growth as parents and for our children. When we spend time without, we come to a place of greater gratitude when we have it again. Initially, our home had no gas service, and consequently, no hot water. We were under the impression this might last a day or two… it lasted weeks. I called and pleaded, “We have five little kids here and no hot water!” Yes, I pulled the “five kids card”, but to be honest, it was me who couldn’t handle another freezing rinse. I never imagined just how cold a shower could be. But when the gas service finally did arrive, let me tell you how incredibly glorious that first hot shower was - something I don’t think I’ll ever take for granted again.

So eat your heart out, Chip & Joanna – we pulled off a #fixerupper (with five kids)!

It certainly wasn’t an easy fix, but the value of patience, pain, diligence, transformation, and gratitude have changed this momma into quite the “before & after” also.


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