Kitchen Remodel on the Cheap


july-4Yep – this is an actual picture of my actual kitchen when we moved into our house. One person could fit comfortably and two people could fit as long as one person was holding his breath.

It was completely enclosed except for that teeny tiny window above the sink. It was dark. And closed in. And generally not a place that I wanted to spend much time – which sucked since we end up spending a lot of time in our kitchen.

So, being the impulsive – “I can do this remodel on the cheap” – person that I am, I decided to start pulling down cabinets and walls. My husband just shook his head. He’s a planner. He wanted a plan, but that’s not how I roll. I just jump right in with both feet, armed only with a general vision and my completely unfounded faith that I can do anything I set my mind to.

july-7As I began the demolition, I was amazed by all the hidden treasures in my kitchen – like this random fan hidden above the cabinets over the fridge. The most frustrating find though, was when I realized that that lip above the cabinets was not just a lip – it was the ACTUAL CEILING! Which meant that I quickly learned how to tear out the ceiling…and clean up all the insulation and random bird’s nest that fell down with it.

The best hidden treasure was the window. Whomever put in the cabinets had basically boarded up that teeny tiny window which meant that when I took the cabinets out, I now had a HUGE window already there! Woo Hoo! It almost made tearing out the ceiling worth it.

The next step was taking out the drywall. I NEVER want to even look at drywall again. I hate that stuff. Its heavy and awkward and despite its simplicity, it makes a mess.

july-8Here is my sexy sexy husband ripping into the ceiling while the drywall crumbled everywhere!

Once I got the new drywall up and mudded, I stopped. My energy for this project ran out completely.

My brother was horrified that our outlets were just dangling there (he probably had a point) and my husband and daughter were annoyed that all of our dishes were in the living room.

Don’t get me wrong. I was desperate to finish this thing, but I could not force myself to do one more thing to it. I was totally spent. So, I hired a handyman and I don’t regret that decision at all. It took him three days to finish my hack job and that included the time he spent politely fixing the parts I had already completed.

I put in the counters and the back splash (don’t be too impressed – the counters are contact paper and the back splash is just peel and stick. Totally ghetto but NOBODY WOULD KNOW…until now. Now I guess everyone knows. The point being: you cannot tell unless you look really closely).

I painted the bottom cabinets and replaced the hardware with some fancy hardware my mom gave me. Bought and put in the shelves. Replaced the big fridge with two little ones (one for food and one for drinks which we keep in a different room).

Ready for the reveal?

july-11It feels like its 10 times bigger! I love the light that comes in through the bigger window and the range hood (which we bought but had our handyman install). I also replaced the lighting with track lighting to light the corners.

july-9july-12july-10Now for the fun part! The cost breakdown. Forgive me – I was really diligent about recording expenses at the beginning and got less and less so as the project progressed.

crowbar: $20

counter tops: $40 – white marble never looked so good…just don’t look too close

drywall: $120 – included the mud, sanding and all the other things needed

truck: $20 – to drive the drywall home

electrical stuff: $12 – new outlet covers and boxes

haul away: $275 – I could have rented a truck and taken the stuff to the dump myself, but I wouldn’t have saved very much and the extra money was totally worth the hassle I saved.

shelves: $50

new plates: $20 – if you are going to do open shelves, you have to have nice dishes

handyman and all the supplies he bought: $1300

backs splash: $88

fridge: $50

hood: $200

paint: $30

hardware: free – thanks mom

light fixture: free – thanks buy nothing group

TOTAL: $2225

Not too bad for a complete kitchen remodel.

How Do You Define Success?

successRecently, I discovered that someone whom I thought of as a close friend has secretly been judging me for quite some time. Now, we all have opinions about our friends from time to time that we keep to ourselves such as: “I’m not lovin the new haircut,” and “I don’t think that ‘blackened’ chicken means burnt to a crisp.” Our friends are not us and we will therefore probably not agree with every decision they ever make. This is normal.

This “friend” of mine, however, told my husband that he should divorce me because I am a “user.” After the shock, sadness and feelings of utter betrayal calmed down, I started to think about what he was talking about. He clearly viewed our relationship as inequitable. Having maybe spent a total of 10 hours with him over the past year, I quickly realized that his opinion had nothing to do with fact or even observation but was purely based on what he knew about us.

My husband works a typical 9-5 job. In a cubical. In computers. Downtown. He makes a decent amount of money and is the primary breadwinner for our family.

I run a part time photography business from my home which brings in a reasonable part time income. This allows me the time to take care of the things around the house. More importantly, I am the one who volunteers at my daughter’s school, attends the meetings, picks her up when she is sick and after school, takes her on outings after school and plans learning opportunities for her.

I tried to put myself in this “friend’s” shoes. What does he see? He sees my husband going to work every day and me staying home. To him, success is having a 9-5 job. In a cubical. Downtown. While failure is working from home spending time with your family.

That is so messed up and backwards.

But the really scary thing is: he is not alone. We are trained to believe as a society that success is working 40+ hours a week while getting paid well. This is what we all work towards achieving through years of school. It is typically the first thing asked at a party (“what do you do?”) and your response can instantly change someone’s opinion of you (“I am a doctor” vs “I am a mom”). The respect you receive correlates with the amount of money your said profession makes.

When I had Tiny Eivy and became a mom, I chose to stop my career in teaching. It didn’t make financial sense. In other words – the cost of raising a family, caring for a home and all the messy details that go along with that surpassed my teaching salary almost ten fold. Seriously. I – in my infinite love of spreadsheets – actually took the time to calculate it all out. Part of that included learning to do things myself which I have talked about in previous posts, and the hidden benefits of learning new skills while saving money – but part of it was just everyday stuff like watching our kid and transporting her to activities.

But – blah blah blah – I am not the first person to talk about the financial sense of having a parent work from home part time or simply stay at home. There are so many studies out there about the actual cost of running a family. None of it matters though because we, as a society, do not value work that is not paid directly. My friend’s silent judgement of me is proof enough of this. I’m sure that once we are retired these same people will no longer consider even my husband successful.

Even though we will never have to work for anyone else.

Even though we will travel the world.

Even though we will get to spend all the time we want together as a family.

Even though we will have all the time in the world to pursue our personal passions and follow our personal inspirations.

SHHHHH – don’t tell anyone but I’ve got a plan to combat this consumerist backwards view of success. From henceforth when asked, I will no longer tell people that I am a part time photographer and mom, instead I will cycle through the following titles as I see fit:

  • Chief Financial Officer for Eivy Household and Shadowpuppet LLC
  • Accountant and tax advisor
  • General Contractor specializing in kitchen remodels
  • Teacher
  • Landscape Architect
  • Personal Chef specializing in dietary restrictions
  • Personal shopper
  • International Photographer
  • UX Designer
  • Therapist
  • Project Manager

This is fun. I could go on, but the point is this: the more titles I accumulate the less I have to pay other people to do these things. The more I am independent – financially, personally, environmentally… Independent is the key word there. I don’t relay on anybody or anything to live a life full of passion and joy and that is my definition of success. What’s yours?