How I Created a Space I Love without Breaking the Bank

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A little over a year ago, we decided to list our house in hopes of moving next door to my parents. The house we had our eye on was a fixer upper for sure, but it had more square footage, a basement and most importantly, an open floor plan.

In order to help potential buyers see the actual floor space available in our current home, we decided to pack up about a third of our stuff so it would "show better". It wasn't fun having our things packed up for that long, but we got through it so that we could give it our best shot at selling our home.

Here is a picture of what our living room looked like during that time. Pretty empty I must say. I have to admit, this was a pretty stressful time for homeschooling. We had to keep EVERYTHING for school in one basket that I could tuck behind a chair and there were many times that we had a showing while we were doing school so we'd have to load up our books and drive somewhere and do school in the car. Definitely, not fun.

However, about 6 months into the listing process, the house we wanted was no longer available.

It quickly became obvious that there were no other homes in our area that were in our budget and that would also meet the needs of our growing family. So, we took the house off the market.

I then began the grueling task of unpacking everything.

But, one key thing had taken place during those 6 months of living with only the essentials: we realized how much more peaceful and pleasant our home was without STUFF crammed in every corner.

Even our 8 year old commented how much he liked having the living room more open, whereas before it was filled with toys, a couch that was too large for the space and rather simply, clutter. (I'm not even a knick-knack type of person, but there was just stuff that needed to go.)

I decided that there was just no way that I could go back to living in our home the way we had before we packed everything up. Since we had stored all of our extra belongings at my in-laws' it was easy for us to bring home only a few van loads at a time of our stuff.

That gave me the time (and space) to work my way through everything that was potentially coming back into our home. If after six months I realized we really didn't need it anymore, it was sold or donated. If there were duplicates of things, we chose only our favorite.
Even the kids sorted through their toys and kept only the things that they really loved.
Thankfully, we have a local buy/sell/trade Facebook group that allowed me to sell a lot of our things. Some stuff was hard to say goodbye to, but I chose simplicity over hanging on to everything. It was so fun to see the buyers thrilled over what I was selling and I was thankful to have the items off my hands and some extra cash in my pocket.

In fact, in one summer, I made around $1000 just selling off stuff we didn't need or want anymore.

That money helped us pay for extra expenses but it also allowed me to transform our living room into a space that we love as well as improve some of the other parts of our home.

The best part is, it didn't take anywhere near that much money to create the space I was looking for in our living room which was the one room in our house that needed the most design help.

I couldn't find any still shots of the living room that accurately conveyed the before look, but if you want to watch a completely embarrassing video of it back then, I have just the thing.

Otherwise, I do have a couple snapshots that will sort of give you an idea of what it used to look like.

This was part of our school area from before.

When I realized we weren't moving, I knew that I needed to create a space that we all could love. It was very important to me that it be functional for the kids, not look too "schoolish" since it was in our living room and that the d├ęcor in our school area would flow with the rest of the living room.

I also had some space and decorating issues that really needed to be solved so made those the focal point of my mission and kind of went from there based on what I fell in love with at garage sales and some inspirational ideas I found on Pinterest. I couldn't have been happier with the final result because each of those goals were met.

Here's a little bit of what the process looked like along the way.

I mentioned that limited space was one of the issues I needed to overcome so I decided to ditch the individual desks and chairs we were using and went for a more unified look with a table and chairs. I was thrilled to find that God provided an absolutely perfect sized table and chairs at a garage sale.

I wasn't a fan of the yellow wood look and knew that painting it with some brown chalk paint would give it the vintage look I was going for. Plus, it would help it blend it with it's surroundings making it the perfect center for our school area.  Here's how it turned out:

The other concern I had was storage space.

I needed something to keep my school files in and while the simplicity of a filing cabinet was just what I needed, the idea of having a stark, cold looking filing cabinet in my living room just didn't seem to go with the feel I wanted. Thankfully, a friend told me she had found some redecorating ideas on Pinterest for filing cabinets. It had never occurred to me that I could just paint one! And, so I did. Some people get super creative with filing cabinets but in the end I felt that some brown spray paint suited me just fine. So this:

Became this:

I know you can't see much of it, but it came out a nice dark brown and has a dual purpose of storage plus decoration. I never knew I'd be so happy to have a metal filing cabinet in my living room! P.S. The awesome bug poster was a garage sale treasure as well!

Over the summer, I realized that spray paint is a secret weapon when it comes to decorating! It's cheap, easy and can bring a room together in no time! I tackled all of the baskets in the living room with the same color spray paint to give them a more unified look and was very, very pleased with the results. I think my color of choice was Cappucino but the brand I LOVED was Rustoleum 2x Ultra Cover paint and primer in one. I think sometimes I picked it up on sale 2/$7.

As you can see, I used spray paint pretty much wherever I could.

One of my favorite features about this room is the cubby because I can finally have things like games, puzzles, crayons, magnifying glasses, microscopes (including our pocket microscope which is so cool!) blocks and so much more organized, but also, easily accessible to the kids. This cubby fit the bill by helping me fulfill my goal of making it a learning environment. (Originally it was pink but I painted it brown with DIY chalk paint.)

The transformation in this room was just what we needed. The kids and I LOVE it and it helped turn a room that brought me a lot of stress into one that I actually enjoy being in.

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