A Few Things I Love About Living In an Unfinished House

by | Apr 12, 2016 | Gramblewood | 36 comments

I have so much to tell you all! All the different projects in the works, how the renovations are progressing, what I think about all the newsy things, weirdo stuff Frankie’s been doing . . .

But there’s not much time to tell it, so today, you just get a peek at how it is living in the bottom left part of our new old house.

The whole upstairs, which is where all of our bedrooms will be eventually, is under construction, and cordoned off . . . as is the kitchen and breakfast room area. There’s still plenty of room in the house, though, we just moved beds and clothes into rooms downstairs that will eventually be put to other uses.

Many, many people warned us how terrible it would be to be living in a house under construction. We are generally up for a challenge, so I figured we could handle it. What I didn’t expect was to find that there are things I genuinely enjoy about our current non-standard living situation. So, let’s go over them, shall we?

1. We have no toys.

A box of duplos, a bunch of books, a few stuffed animals for sleeping . . . that is it. And I LOVE IT SO MUCH. No toys means no toys to mess up, no toys to clean up, no toys to fight over. It’s the BEST. The kids play outside almost all the time, because there’s really nothing to do in here.

Dirty feet = a good day.

I would love nothing more than to load every box labeled “toys” right onto the St. Vincent de Paul truck and be done with it. But, fortunately for the kids, their father is the kind of person who believes that children should be allowed to have some toys. IN the house. So . . . we’ll see.

But it’s going to be a sad, sad day in Momtown when those boxes get unpacked.

2. We have no window coverings.

This should be a huge problem, right? I’m supposed to get those accordion shade thingies immediately upon moving in.

But we didn’t, and it’s been great.

I’ve always worked so hard to create a “sleep environment” for little kids that would get them the most sleep possible. In our old house, we had honeycomb blackout shades in the kids’ rooms. They were totally dark. In this house we have . . . nothing. And TONS of windows. And ya know what? They all sleep exactly the same.

Frankie still gets up at the crack of dawn. Lulu still snoozes in. (Can you spot her?)

It has meant the big kids wake up earlier and want to go to bed earlier, which is excellent. The husband and I have been tearing through The Walking Dead on Netflix with all our newfound child-free evening hours. (We’re in season five. What is with the hipster cannibals?!)

Mary Jane has been bunking in our closet, which is the only dark room in the house . . . and waking up super early. What gives?

3. We have very few clothes.

I have been ideologically on board with minimal wardrobes for kids for many years. But it’s always so hard to keep it up. No matter how often I purge, it seems like we end up with more than we need. But, at least for now, we are down to a very manageable amount of clothing.

Each boy has one basket of clothes, plus half a basket for pajamas, and a few hanging items. It’s all they need, and less to keep track of. Especially since they’re doing their all own laundry. Yay!

4. We have a detached kitchen.

Living in a house without a kitchen was definitely supposed to be the worst part of this whole experience. And maybe it would have been. But my oh-so-handy dad cobbled together a makeshift kitchen for me out of pressboard and found appliances and it’s pretty much the best thing ever.

This is the detached garage. The top is an apartment that my parents are staying in when they visit. It’s excellent for giving speeches. The bottom right door is the kitchen, the rest of it is full of construction stuff and boxes. (The main house is over on the right. The doorway with no door is where the new kitchen will be.)

Everything we need, nothing we don’t.

I can’t take credit for the decorative spray paint. That was there when we moved in.

It’s, um, rustic, but it’s actually very efficient. There are benefits to all function and no form.

Here, let Gus and Anita tell you how great it is.
Anyway, I like that it’s anything at all, especially when I was planning to have a fridge and a crockpot for the duration. (Those crockpot freezer meals have been a huge success for us. If you have any upcoming life upheaval DO IT.)

I also like that it’s really set up to keep us from procrastinating. The washer/dryer is right there. So, I don’t forget about loads of laundry and have to wash them again. We have no dishwasher, and that’s another thing I’ve found to be surprisingly positive. I don’t think having the kids wash, dry, and put away the dishes takes any longer than having them rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher, and this way it’s DONE. No unloading the dishwasher later. (To be clear, it still takes WAY longer than it should. It just doesn’t take any longer than it used to.) We need fewer dishes this way, too.

The husband says we’re still getting dishwashers in the new kitchen.

But the best part is that there’s no snacking or messing up the kitchen between meals, because the kitchen is ALL THE WAY OVER THERE. Sitting at my computer at night, I’ll think how nice it would be to grab a little something, but the kitchen is outside, through the dark. I’d have to put on shoes. It just isn’t worth it.

Maybe Martha Washington was onto something with her detached kitchen. Not that she did the cooking in it. But still. I like it.

None of this isn’t to stay we’re not full-stream-ahead on a new kitchen a various other improvements. But those will have to be shared another time.


  1. Elisa BlissfulE

    So many benefits of very functional spaces and hardly any room for extras. I live in ~950 sq ft of space with a wonderful husband and five kids plus another due at the end of this month… and it works. We are currently praying a novena to St Stanislaus, who has already helped us with another tricky property issue, for some more space, but like you said there are many upsides to small-space living.

    • Kendra

      I'll say a prayer for you too. I feel like having OUTDOOR space is much more important to my quality of life than indoor space. But then again, I shouldn't talk because it's been a long time since I actually lived in a truly small space.

  2. Isabelle

    Yay! A new post!!!! I was very excited to see this in my reader! (All the dancing lady emojis).
    Interestingly, your kitchen is still about twice the size of mine (although I admittedly have only a quarter your amount of kids ��), but it's basically a corridor, and you have to go through it to get to the only bathroom and toilet, so I probably still get some tiny house points ��

  3. Rosie

    The lack of toys was the best part of how long it took us to move 🙂 Duplos or outdoors all day! And I got a kick out of how the girls made "families" and "outfits" out of all their Duplos. Those things are gold! And really easy to clean up when you just sweep them into a pile and dump in a bin 🙂

    • Kendra

      Yes! They can clean up the little corner of the schoolroom in about three minutes. Even Frankie and Lulu! They they are so creative with the Duplos!

  4. Caroline

    And you have a crackpot! Is this different than a crock pot? Ha ha! They sound like they can be the next announcer for The Price is Right in the showcase showdown.

  5. the Mosi

    Your children are adorable!! Moving is a great chance to purge. I take advantage every time! 🙂

  6. Jessica

    My husband and I bought a fixer-upper 5 years (3 kids ago) and since he's a carpenter, he's done it all himself, but only on weekends, evenings and slow business times. I've liked it for all the same reasons. Plus, if kids draw on an unpainted wall – no worries!

    I also grew up in such a house with a carpenter Dad, so it doesn't drive me crazy,

    • Kendra

      I think that definitely helps. I grew up with a dad who was always working on the house. He's finish on project, and start on another. It just seemed normal to me.

      As soon as my sister and I had houses, my mom put a moratorium on home improvement projects in their house. Now he has to work on OUR houses. Everyone wins. 🙂

  7. Ally | The Speckled Goat Blog

    Oh man how I understand this.

    Our move (while decidedly less involved than yours– ours was adults-only) took a lot longer than anticipated… which meant six weeks living out of a duffel bag. And I LOVED IT. I was actually kind of sad to get all my clothes back… which is probably a sign that I should get rid of some of those clothes, right?

    • Kendra

      There is something so freeing, emotionally, about not having so many choices. For me AND the kids.

  8. karen

    We lived in a tiny apartment when our house was remodeled and my absolute favorite part was not dealing with a dishwasher. We had one set of dishware, they were washed and dried after each meal and set down on the side counter to be used again. I'm kind of over dishwashers.

    • Kendra

      I know! I keep trying to convince the husband . . .

  9. Katie Rokusek

    They are so enthusiastic! He just killed me at…"and mustard." We will be building a home in a few years and had originally planned to go large for our growing family. However, following your progress and watching Tiny Houses on HGTV has made me rethink the scale. Thanks for letting us tag along on your journey. 🙂

    • Kendra

      Well, I don't think I can be a spokesperson for small house living, this is a really, really big house. It's much bigger than we intended, but it was the only one we found that we loved. I AM trying to plan it so we don't lose each other in it, and will be able to live with a lot of room but not a lot of stuff, and we are hoping some extra space will allow us to host and entertain. I am even more excited about our increased outdoor space than I am about the increased indoor space.

      That said, I LOVE the tiny house thing. It's amazing. I love seeing how efficient they can be!

  10. AnneMarie

    I think the no window coverings is fantastic! Over the weekend, my husband and I were visiting my parents, and the bedroom we stayed in currently doesn't have any type of covering-and it was so much easier to get up in the morning!!! When we came home, we took our blackout-type curtain thing halfway off our bedroom window to make our room brighter in the mornings, and it's been so great 🙂

    Also, because of you and many other awesome Catholic bloggers, I finally started watching The Walking Dead (I finished season one yesterday)-thank you! I love it 🙂

    • Kendra

      It's great! I watched the first three seasons years ago, and now the husband and I are watching it together.

  11. Mary Lenaburg

    So love ALL of this!! The best part were your fantastic house guides! Such enthusiasum!! awesome!

  12. Aileen

    I LOVED the video! Your kids are adorable!! I have been washing dishes by hand for years even though I have a dishwasher. It's therapeutic somehow and feels like an accomplishment My daughter has begun doing the same recently and has her kids help dry and put away. 🙂

  13. Amanda

    They are so enthusiastic! My kids also have a mom who loves Dr Pepper so I especially enjoyed that 😉 (my two year old saying "doc peppa" gets me every time) I loved the video tour, get the kids to take us on more of those!

  14. KPlacek

    Have you asked the kids what toys they want back? I took everything out once – like everything (even treasures from their room) and whatever they could name they got back. It was surprisingly little!

  15. Anna

    "It's excellent for giving speeches."

    Cracked me up. I could picture that! Great post. Still reading and looking. Thank you for posting!

  16. lets

    We renovated our 1790's farmhouse with three young kids and a dog. At one point we had no exterior wall on the east side of the house. You could stand outside and look in at our furniture like a dollhouse. At another point we had a gaping hole where our stairs were supposed to be that allowed you to look down from the second floor straight through to the basement [think dungeon – dirt floor, stone foundation]. One day our son came home stood in the used-to-be-kitchen and cried because he couldn't find the fridge. It had been moved to the living room to make room for the contractors to do their work. The poor kid just wanted an after school snack! We all slept in one room with a goat path that went from one bed to the next. For eight months. Through a Vermont winter. And it was the best! Glad you're enjoying the renovation! Looking forward to seeing more of the process and results! Oh, here's an idea you might enjoy… We made a time capsule that contains old and new floor plans, before and after photos, and letters/drawings from the kids about the house, their home. We hid it inside the newel post of our staircase. We hope that someday, when another family makes this house their own, they'll stumble across our time capsule and see a piece of this old house's history.

    • Anna

      The time capsule idea is amazing! That would be quite a bit of history to stumble upon. Very meaningful for whomever picks up the baton to see all of that. Inspiring to read about the Vermont farmhouse renovation, too.

    • Kendra

      What a cool idea. And I love the visual of your giant dollhouse!

  17. Elizabeth

    Every time I feel like our house is shrinking because of a new baby or home schooling, I think of the tiny house people and Little House on the Prairie.then. .. we have a TON of space, just too much stuff. : )

    • Kendra

      Oh my goodness, yes! We lived in this little shoebox of a two bedroom one bathroom house in Chicago and every time I wanted to complain about it I would remind myself that when my husband was growing up in that neighborhood he knew families with five and eight and twelve kids living in houses just like ours!

      They just had less stuff and sent the kids outside more!

  18. Elizabeth

    Every time I feel like our house is shrinking because of a new baby or home schooling, I think of the tiny house people and Little House on the Prairie.then. .. we have a TON of space, just too much stuff. : )

  19. Nancy/n.o.e

    I gutted and built a new kitchen when my girls were very small, and my contractor fixed up a similar makeshift kitchen in our dining room, with stove, sink, laundry, etc. It was fantastic. We didn't eat a single meal out during the entire time the kitchen was under construction. Nor did I have to wash dishes in the bathtub, which was a relief. – nancyo

  20. Schafergal (Ashley)

    I completely agree! I grew up in a construction family, as more than once we lived in a house barely "livable" while my dad worked on it in his spare time. We moved into one house with no kitchen sink or cabinets/countertops at all – just appliances and a sink in the laundry room. I remember being so excited when my bedroom actually got a door! And now we intentionally live in a small house, because it's less upkeep and naturally limits the stuff we can accumulate. I love simplicity. Now if only I could get my oldest (who's 6) to agree.

  21. Amanda

    Haha! I love how exuberant Gus and Anita are! And I love how you're able to look on the bright side of what must be a really crazy disruptive transition.

  22. Natalie

    We rarely had a working dishwasher when I was growing up. When people would ask my mom why she didn't get one, her response was always, "I already have 5!"

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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