This past December we finally bought a new refrigerator. I am practicing gratitude for the new appliance!
For 16 years I have lived with this massive and intrusive black box of a refrigerator that came with our home.
It was ugly, stuck out beyond the cabinets, and just an eyesore. Two people couldn’t walk past each other in our galley kitchen at the same time because of that big ugly black box. I figured it would die sooner than later, but it never did even though the water dispenser lever broke, the ice maker often clogged up, and the black finish was popping off.
That underappreciated black box would have probably run for another 5 years or more if we had kept waiting for it to die before replacing it.
Replacing it with a more modern and sleek cabinet-depth refrigerator has been a goal of mine for several years. So we finally bought a new one and I am thrilled with the sleekness and style of it, the working water filter, and the two different types of ice cubes!
Since a counter-depth refrigerator is usually taller than a regular refrigerator, and because our kitchen was originally built to accommodate appliance sizes of the 1970s, a set of upper cabinets had to be removed to make room for the new refrigerator. Now the wall and the newly exposed unpainted side of the cabinets need to be prepped and painted.
Unfortunately, this new purchase I was so excited about has created yet another home improvement project that needs to be added to our list!
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You know the list. That never-ending unfinished to-do list of improvements, repairs, and dreams we All have for our homes.
Every December I faithfully participate in the simple practice of making a yearly wishful plan of what I hope to accomplish in the new year for home improvement projects and life in general. I refuse to call them resolutions. Every year I dream of crossing items off that ever-growing home improvement list in the new year. It is both exciting and frustrating.
Making lists are motivating visual reminders of good things to improve your home.
In reality, those yearly dreams and plans are much bigger than my time and budget can allow. But making that list always has a positive effect on encouraging me to dream those big dreams for my home. And each year I make a conscious effort to realistically scale it down to a workable plan.
However, this year is different.
This year I am deeply motivated to make a gratitude list before allowing myself to contemplate any big or small home improvement projects to add to my list for the new year.
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” – Maya Angelou
Maybe it is because my sisters and I have decided to put our childhood home on the market. Or that I am watching my daughter relocate her life to a new apartment after her abusive ex-husband and his family are forcing her and her infant daughter out of the home. Or that a dearly loved friend is facing bankruptcy and is moving into a family member’s basement that should have toxic waste posters outside of it.
The word home should invoke images of happy times and safety, but is often a source of stress.
We both get frustrated with our unfinished house, even though we dearly love this house, and have made some amazing improvements over the years like our new decks, the new sunroom, the laundry room, the entryway makeover, and our family room. It still hasn’t stopped us from becoming hyper-focused on the unfinished DIY projects and often fighting discouragement at the never-ending things that need our attention, time, and money.
It is so much easier to focus only on what isn’t getting done and on our wish lists than all the progress we have made. It is easier to complain.
Yes! So many complaints!
The floors are all mismatched, dated, or ugly.
I wish we had never painted the walls in this room that color the first time and now I need to start over.
Why did the previous owners put carpet in the bathrooms?
How long will we have this ugly brown trim in every room?
We have all been there. Our complaints can easily go on and on and on.
The truth is, no one has a perfect home.
My home, with all of its unfinished projects, is a blessing!
So how do we change the criticism we express over our homes while in a season of neverending unfinished projects?
The key is to practice gratitude.
This is an area that I have by no means mastered and doubt I ever will. But I am hopeful that little notes and reminders written alongside my project wish list will be the small nudge I need to refocus my negativity into something positive each day.
2023 was a hard year for our family, with trauma and events that are carrying over into our new year. Through it all, our home became a haven for healing and comfort, a place where everyone felt secure and safe. Despite the unfinished projects and constant puffs of dog fur on the white tile floors that I chase daily with a vacuum or a broom.
Even though the necessary repairs and projects did not go away, we found ourselves in a time to just live out each day in our home, thankful for its comfort and gratefully appreciating each project that was completed without immediately lamenting the fact that another one was on the list right behind it.
Without planning it, gratitude became part of our conversations every day.
Below are a few of the ways I plan to remind myself to be grateful for what our home provided last year and to embrace the future promise of those unfinished projects.
Be thankful for God’s provision in the little things.
This year I intend to include in my daily routine of Bible study and journaling, little notes about my home that I am daily grateful for. I hope that this consistent practice and daily activities will encourage me to enjoy the small comforts my home gives me every day. My gratitude journal for today included:
My home is warm on these cold winter days, and I have a secure roof over my head that is not leaking.
I had warm water in my shower and clean towels to wrap up in.
My coffee maker works and my new refrigerator keeps the creamer fresh and breakfast items ready to fix.
The backyard is now fenced in so I don’t have to walk four dogs today in the cold and rain.
Change your perspective and narrative about unfinished projects.
I won’t pretend that the unfinished projects I have to pass every day don’t bother me.
The frustration is very real with my shortcomings, lack of motivation, and lack of time. It is my fault that I often get excited for a new project to get started before finishing an old one that has stalled.
Reframing my perspective about the status of a project may be the game changer I need.
An unfinished project still means you started something and you are closer to having it done than you were before. Appreciate the fact that the money was available to get a project started in the first place. The finish line is not that far away.
Instead of mentally beating myself up about not finishing it, I need to embrace the overlooked opportunity to make a different decision on the final project to make it even better.
Maybe I need to tweak the color or the furniture placement. Or maybe that one costly item should be eliminated to create space in the budget to finish the project sooner rather than later.
Delays often give you a break from the project to figure out what isn’t going to work out like you hoped the first time. Gratitude embraces the simple things you get to change before you finish a project.
Focus on the people in your home and not the things in your home or how it looks.
Remind yourself of the times your home has been filled with family and friends creating wonderful memories.
Believe me, family members who love you don’t care that the stairwell down to the basement isn’t finished or that trim is still missing around the new pocket doors when they come over for dinner.
And if they do, then offer them the opportunity to help you the next work day.
I have never had to make this offer because those who are close to us know that we are constantly working on our home. When they come over, they are more interested in what we are working on this time around and not our lack of progress.
Be grateful for friends and family who are interested in what you are working on and want to spend time with you in your unfinished home.
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust
While I have still made a list and a plan for this year for projects for my home, both big and small, I will work hard to stop complaining about all the things that need attention. It is time to start celebrating each little finished project and stop comparing my messy middle to someone else’s finished home.
Am I the only one who has ever noticed that the ever-popular and enjoyable home improvement shows do not show the rest of the unfinished house?
I love home improvement shows. Sometimes I watch just to see the finished styles and rooms. Sometimes just to watch my favorite hosts banter back and forth. And sometimes it is entertaining background noise while I work.
Every time though I notice how much they don’t show and wonder how the homeowners are going to finish the rest of their home. So many of those homes were an entire wreck before the hosts started working on them so you know the rooms they don’t show still need help.
Do they complain about what wasn’t done in the other spaces of the home? Hopefully not.
Hopefully, they are just so grateful for the rooms that were finished for them.
Be grateful for what has already been finished, started, or in progress in our own homes, and stop complaining about what isn’t done yet.
When the next catastrophe or improvement needs to be tackled, start with a deep breath, say a prayer, and just get to work.
Practice Gratitude in every little small step that moves each DIY project forward.
What could you accomplish in just one hour a day or one hour of work at a time?
I often talk myself out of a project or task because I convince myself that I don’t have the time to give it. The whole project becomes this monstrous mental mountain that I think I have to climb all at once. It becomes too taunting and I end up doing nothing.
Painting the walls of my daughter’s former bedroom that are a deep magenta purple is my current monstrous mountain. I know it is going to be a lot of work to cover that deep wall color from her teenage years so the bedroom can become a warm and welcoming guest room. So I have been avoiding even starting the smallest of tasks for it.
As the days then weeks, and often months go by that the project isn’t even done much less started, then the frustration and disenchantment with your home sets in.
Even ten minutes of attention to a task is better than nothing at all.
Practice gratitude by appreciating every little small improvement, every little DIY video watched in preparation for the next project, or finally having the money available to go shopping for that one item you need to repair something.
Finding time to work on an unfinished project just one hour a day, one hour a week, or even less, is still moving forward.
Gratitude is found in dedicated small minutes and simple ways.
My son has shown me this attitude of gratitude while he is currently working through his extensive home improvement list. He is a busy young pastor of a growing church and now has two small children. When he starts a new project in his home, like painting the bedroom or repairing the walls in the basement, he dedicates one hour at a time to the task.
Some weeks that may play out as one hour a night, other times it may be one hour in a two-week time frame. It is the time he has available to dedicate to that one project and he puts it on his schedule. He tackles his book writing and sermon writing the same way.
Little by little, the task gets done.
Practicing gratitude in our daily lives is a choice that can change our overall perspective and reduce stress.
Practicing gratitude is a choice, especially in the messiness of home improvement. This post is as much of a reminder to myself as it is to encourage other DIYers to just keep going and be grateful for every little blessing in an unfinished home. Don’t wait to appreciate your home until it is done. That day may never come.
As for me, I need to go and start taping off the trim and doorways of my scary monster project of a purple room with an attitude of gratitude.