* After kicking off Operation Curb Appeal at my home last night (which involved about 20 wheelbarrow loads of free wood chips, spread on my front yard garden beds), I came in, showered under the low-flow shower head I got not that long ago and thought about all the little things I had tried to do this year to spiff things up, and what a difference they had made. My top raves go to the following: the simple little adapter I installed in minutes in my bathroom that magically turned my toilet into a dual flush version, thereby saving gallons of water a day; the ceiling fans, which not only save energy but are such an enormous pleasure that I am kicking myself I didn’t do that sooner; the cleaned air ducts, which completely eliminated allergy symptoms my older daughter was having; and the new faucet in the bathroom, which makes me feel like I’m in a cute French hotel every single day (I only wish I had gotten the fixture with the words “froid” and “chaud” on the handles instead of “cold” and “hot”). (Get the ones pictured for just $15 on Ebay.)
* By the way, that mulching job last night took me just an hour. In fact, I threw a cheesy grits casserole (which included roasted onions from my garden!) in the oven and was done mulching by the time the top of the casserole was brown and bubbly. This got me inspired to try to knock off one little thing a day. Here’s my new mantra, “Improve something every day. Just improve something.” This can mean cleaning out that junk drawer (finally). Matching up lids and containers (which would be nice). Clearing out shoes that no longer fit from that messy pile in the corner of the laundry room. Washing a window (just one; not hard). Sweeping the garage (and all those leaves that somehow find their way in there). (Is a clean garage the secret to marital bliss, as this photo seems to imply?) Just making it a habit to see a need and take care of it, quickly and effectively. And creating a home environment that is plain old more pleasant in which to live. (See more clutter-busting ideas here.)
* Once I get past thinking about these cost-free little things I can do to make a difference, my mind starts wandering to the next tier of projects–improvements that cost under $100 (like my ceiling fans, faucet, low-flow shower head, and dual flush adapter). A new lighting fixture in the kitchen. A painted accent wall in the dining room (the one pictured is from HGTV). A screen door going to my backyard vegetable garden. Maybe I can make things like this once-every-month-or-two projects.
*And then, of course, there are the bigger projects, which really aren’t in the plan right now. You know, economy and all. Things like ripping up the 16-year-old carpeting where my baby-who-is-now-driving used to crawl and putting down bamboo floors. Turning the attic into an office. Adding recycled glass countertops to the kitchen. Replacing the no-longer-white couches (what was I thinking, getting white?) and maybe even hiring an interior designer to transform that living room into a space for entertaining that aligns more with the next stage in my life, now that the children are older (I found the photo here–what can I say? Floor cushions, color, I like it!). (See more ways to make your home better for entertaining here.) Even though I’m not doing these projects yet, knowing that I’m thinking about them in the future gives me time to research, explore options, and, of course, save for them.
Truth? All these home improvement projects used to feel overwhelming. But now that I’ve gotten going, it’s kind of fun! Kudzu has helped me realize that there are professionals I can trust who can do the job quickly and affordably. I can usually even work at the computer while the service companies are in my home, thereby not even missing a beat. (In fact, having them in the house makes me stay put and focus more than usual!) My advice to you? Don’t put it off anymore. Start small. Stay in your budget. Take positive steps forward each day. And let Kudzu help you.