Renovating a fixer-upper with a few acres of overgrown land while raising a toddler is an interesting combination. It hasn’t been easy to say the least, but I do believe it is possible and worth it.
We’ve owned our homestead for a little over a month, and we go to bed every night with achy feet and sore limbs and eyes that seem to fall asleep before our heads hit the pillow. We are working harder than we ever have before, slowly chipping away at little projects here and there. Here’s a few things we have learned so far about renovating with a little one!
1. Involve your little one as much as possible
I am a big fan of a lot of principles within the Montessori method of education, and one of the major focus points is involving your child in your daily life. Tasks that may seem mundane or easier to do yourself are exciting and new to your little one! Carson and I have been trying to set aside some extra time to involve Lincoln in our projects. I believe this hands-on approach when done with patience and care encourages confidence, independence, creativity, and a love for learning. If I’m sweeping the floors, Lincoln often picks up a broom to help. If I’m unpacking boxes, he helps me set items on the table as I go. If Carson is assembling a shelf, Lincoln practices using a screwdriver under his supervision. If I’m arranging stones in the flowerbed or pulling weeds, he is right there stacking rocks or putting sticks in his little wheelbarrow. Homesteading is a whole new experience for Carson and me, so as we learn and acquire new skills, we hope to involve Lincoln and teach him as we ourselves learn.
2. Things will take longer, so use your time well!
A task that would have taken me five minutes before becoming a mom now takes me around 30. For example, our home has multiple levels of stairs and some areas that we don’t let Lincoln explore unless we are with him. Running upstairs to grab a load of laundry now requires careful planning. Renovating and major yard work is a whole other story! We try to involve Lincoln as much as possible and teach him as we work; however, some projects are just not safe for a toddler to be around. Cutting down large trees, pulling up old flooring, painting baseboards… we are very thankful we live close to a lot of family and that we have people we feel comfortable caring for our son. We try to do some of the minor projects like unpacking and pulling weeds during the day with Lincoln and save the major projects for when we have some help or when he is sleeping. This means we have to work quickly and efficiently to make the most of the time we have.
3. Section off small chunks of time to give your child your undivided attention
Because there are some times when we are away from Lincoln because of major projects that are unsafe for him to be near, we try to designate time to focus solely on him. I often feel guilty for not giving him my undivided attention all of the time—something that really isn’t realistic for any parent— and I recently read some advice that helped my mindset. Instead of feeling guilty for the times when we have to work on other things, I try to find time to play with him—even in 10-15 minute chunks—where he has my undivided attention. No phone, no side projects, no housework. We talk, we play, we go on adventures as a family, we tell him how loved he is. I tend to be more of a homebody, but Carson is really good at planning small trips to get Lincoln out of the house like going to the botanical gardens, visiting the zoo, getting ice-cream, etc. Carson recently said that there will always be more projects and more work at our house, so it is important to make time to rest and have fun together as a family.
4. Hire help when you can
We are cosmetically redoing the majority of our home, outbuildings, and acreage on a pretty tight budget for the amount of projects at hand. We are trying to do a lot of things ourselves to save money; however, there are some projects that we realistically don’t have the time, tools, or experience to tackle… or to try and learn while Carson works full time and as we raise a toddler. I know there are some people who are able to take on projects that require a huge learning curve, but we know our limits! For example, we only have one bathroom in our home and it was in really bad shape when we closed on the house. The vanity was eaten by mice, the vinyl flooring was peeling, and the shower had major problems. We hired out the majority of the bathroom renovation, but decided to paint ourselves. We hired help with installing new hardwoods, but we removed the old flooring downstairs, painted the upstairs floors, and will install the quarter round ourselves to cut costs. We probably could have learned how to install floors and redo our bathroom; however, we needed both of these projects done quickly and done well—neither of these would have been the result had we attempted the remodel alone. Hiring help for select projects has enabled us extra time as a family and peace of mind knowing that they are done well.
5. Embrace the mess.. and the memories!
I normally get very overwhelmed by clutter and major messes, but if you were to see my house right now you wouldn’t know it. We have toys strewn out, half-finished yard projects, paint samples on walls, and about an inch of counter space because I still haven’t finished unpacking dishes! Moving is a lot of work. Moving and remodeling is more work. And moving and remodeling and cleaning a few acres is even more work! I believe it will be worth it in the end, but it means we have to embrace the mess and the chaos in the meantime.
I love that we are creating this home as a family. It would probably be easier to renovate when Lincoln is older, but hopefully we will have more children by then and honestly life is short! We are working hard, having fun, embracing the chaos, and building a home that we love and will cherish. I hope that this will be a place where Lincoln will create memories and love as much as we do!