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Real Life Renovation: DIY Home Renovation & Downsizing To Become Debt Free

Learn how this couple made some sacrifices by downsizing their growing family’s home to pay off debt and tackling a DIY home renovation!

Guess what guys? I’m starting a brand new series that I know you will love! Once a month (or maybe more – who knows where this will go) I’m going to be interviewing others about their renovations! Let me give you a little back story here…long, long ago (ok….JK I’m not THAT old) when I was in college and getting ready to embark on a new career (and had no idea what I wanted to do), I received some great advice from a mentor. He said “do informational interviews with as many people as possible”…and so that is what I did. 

I interviewed anyone that was willing. I interviewed people that worked in my perspective industry. I interviewed people that worked in industries that I was thinking about getting into. I interviewed people at the tiptop of the totem pole and down at the bottom.  Safe to say it was great advice because I learned a TON!

So what does that have to do with this new real life renovation series???

Well, as Logan and I look for ways to teach you all about renovating, we realize that we have only one perspective. Yes, we’ve learned a TON while renovating over the past four years (and we love sharing it with you) – but there are so many things we haven’t encountered yet. So many things we haven’t tried. And SO many lessons left to learn. 

We hope that you enjoying hearing different sides of the renovation stories as much as we do. In the coming months, we’re going to be talking to people DIY their renovations and people that hired it out. We’re going to hear from people that have big homes and small homes, new homes and old homes. Build vs renovate. I’m SO excited to share these stories with you!! 

Today we’re kicking things off with a bang with one of my good friends, Amanda & Corey from Love and Renovations. I’ve known Amanda for a long while now – we’re in a blogging mastermind together and we have a video chat altogether once a week. 

I had the pleasure of finally meeting Amanda in real life a couple of weeks ago when I ventured off to Waco, Texas for our little mastermind retreat. She is SO much fun to be around. I’ve learned so much from this girl since I’ve known her. So glad that you guys finally get to learn something new from Amanda now too! 

Her and Corey’s story of their DIY home renovation is fun one – so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy this real life renovation interview! 

Husband and wife posing next to each other in backyard

Why did you decide to buy this house? 

My husband and I moved into our current home in November of 2017 because we wanted to take a drastic step to completely pay off our debt. It took a lot of sacrifices (this home is 1,100 square feet, which is about 600 square feet smaller than our old home, AND we’ve added a baby to the family since we moved!), but we were able to pay off all of our debt aside from our mortgage, and it has been 100% worth the sacrifice. We were buying in an incredibly competitive market – and looking for a deal – so, we didn’t get to be picky with the home. As soon as we found something that met our basic must-have list (three bedrooms, no significant work needed, and a non-converted garage), we pounced! 
 

Before and after kitchen renovation photo - before shows outdated, dark and dingy kitchen and after shows light and bright kitchen with new subway tile backsplash, white and blue two toned painted cabinets

Wow what a big difference their kitchen renovation made, right??

How long do you plan to live here? Has that always been the plan?

We are actually planning on looking for a new home later this year, once we’ve lived in this house for two years. We always knew this would be a short term home – we had originally discussed staying here for 3-5 years, but the longer we try to squeeze our four-person, two-dog family into this tiny space, the more we realize that we all could use a little breathing room! We took a pretty unconventional leap when we decided to move into this home as a stepping stone – it has essentially turned out to be a flip home for us! Despite the fact that we won’t live here long, we’ve had a lot of fun with this home and are truly grateful for the fact that it helped us change our lives forever! 
 

What projects have you tackled so far in this DIY home renovation? 

Oh so many! I’ll hit the highlights here, because we’ve don’t a TON of things to this home in the 16 months that we’ve lived here.

 

Old and dark living room with outdated tan walls, tan carpet and no furniture
 
Here’s the living room before…
 
Light and bright living room with contemporary style, black shiplap fireplace, black modern ceiling fan, leather tufted ottoman
 
WOW! The living room looks completely different now! That fireplace is amazing, right?

What projects do you want to try tackle before you move? 

We’re about to completely gut the kid/guest bathroom and give it a total makeover. I’m also hoping to get around to painting the exterior of the house sometime this spring! Finally, we’ve been working on giving our master bathroom a budget makeover (using almost nothing but paint!), and we’re going to be wrapping that up in the next few months. Other than that, it’ll just be a few small projects, like adding some organization to the laundry room and sprucing up the backyard a bit. 
 

How has your mindset of knowing you only wanted stay here a few years affected the projects you chose? 

Knowing that this house is short term has given us a lot of freedom to take risks. We know we don’t have to live with anything we choose for a long time, and so we haven’t been afraid to make mistakes or try something bold. It’s been a lot of fun! And, on the flip side of that, we’ve also always been very conscious of resale with this home, which we never thought about in our old home. In every bold decision we’ve made (like adding floral wallpaper to the dining room, or painting our fireplace black), we’ve made sure it was going to make sense within the design of the home and be easy to reverse. If a buyer hates one of our bold choices, it won’t take long for them to fix it! Each time we choose a project to take on in our home, we ask ourselves if it’s something that would be helpful when reselling the house – if it doesn’t add value or won’t go over well with potential buyers, we skip it! 
 

Bedroom with piles of junk, boxes and clutter before renovating into a beautiful nursery space

We all have “this room” in our house right….you’ll be amazed with what it looks like now!

Moody neutral nursery with board and batten and contemporary decor

What a gorgeous little nursery, right?

How projects do you usually have going on at one time? 

Well, as I type this I’m in a (very rare) in-between moment so I haven’t started anything. But, next week I’m going to be diving into 5 different projects all at once! I tend to work in a flurry of activity and then take a week or so off before starting another batch. It would probably be more effective to just take on one at a time, but my brain just isn’t wired that way! 
 

How stressful has this DIY home renovation been? 

My husband and I very intentionally choose to not allow renovations to stress us out. That sounds silly (how can you control it?!) but we love turning our house into a home and the moment a project reaches the point that we’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we take a step back and ask what we can do to re-route ourselves and get the situation under control. Because we do all of our renovations ourselves, it’s vital that we keep our home in a livable and comfortable state, and we never want this passion to turn into a burden. So, we’re always looking for ways to laugh at the chaos and just embrace it – sometimes eating pizza on the floor while you completely ignore the mess around you feels like an adventure! 
Dining room with bay windows, but lacking character before a DIY home renovation
 
Love this dining area with all the natural life, but it was missing something – character! 
 
After picture with light and bright dining room with floral wallpaper, built in bench seating, modern gold light and throw pillows
 
After Amanda & Corey were done with it, the dining room was full of color and character. Amazing, right?

Did you have a renovation plan? If not, do you think it would have been helpful to have one during this DIY home renovation? 

I’m a very organized person and always have a plan in my head of where we’re going next and what we need to tackle to get to the next phase of our renovations. That being said, I’ve never been great about actually mapping it out on paper! I find that if I try to, I quickly fall into a cycle of spending more time on putting the plan together than actually implementing it! When things get to be too much, I’ll often just do a “brain dump” to-do list and quickly jot down all of my timelines and projects. Then refer back to it as I go. Maybe someday I’ll get myself organized enough to actually have a formal plan! 
 
Before and after DIY home renovation collage with text overlay that says Real life renovation: learn how this couple downsized to become debt free

There ya have it! Our first real life renovation interview! Now wasn’t that fun? I hope you loved hearing Corey and Amanda’s story as much as I did.

I think the main takeaway I found from their story was the fact that sometimes sacrificing for a little while in the short term can pay off BIG time and completely change your life. Guys, they were able to pay off of their debt by just downsizing for a year or two and tackling some fun DIY home renovation projects! How freeing that must feel! 

The lesson of sacrificing now for payoffs later is definitely something that Logan and I are learning more and more as as we further into this “reno life”. 

If you want to continue to follow along with Corey and Amanda’s story, here’s where you can find them: 

Love & Renovations Blog  |  Instagram  |  Facebook YouTube  |  Pinterest 

What sacrifices have you made while renovating that have paid off later?? 

Let us know in the comments below!

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