Popping the Top – Creating New Space Without Enlarging Our Home’s Footprint

When we made the decision to downsize to a smaller home last year, we did it knowing that we would need to increase the square footage sooner rather than later.  But rather than jump into construction right away, we decided to wait a few months, live in the existing house, which we remodeled before we moved in, and just see what we thought it was missing.

I am so glad that we took that time, because what I had originally had envisioned as an addition going out the back of the house, with a master suite and additional living room has evolved into something completely different!

We decided to go up rather than out…and we also realized that we didn’t really need additional living space…but we did still crave that Master retreat.

But, let me start at the beginning so that you can get an idea of the entire process.  Our last home was about 3500 Square Feet, with 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a finished basement and a very small yard on a lovely cul-de-sac.  We loved our neighbors, but we just started to feel like the house was too big, and the yard was too small.  I found myself spending my mornings searching for kids on the 3  big levels…and more importantly constantly searching for stuff.  Hockey gear, leotards, cowboy boots, dance shoes…it seemed like that big house was just swallowing stuff up, only to return it after we had given up looking.


I also started to despise the giant laundry room that was in the darkest corner of the basement, and the extra “bonus” formal living room, basement play area, home office/loft, and formal dining room…all spaces which were not regularly used, and became dumping grounds for more, you guessed it…stuff.

I realize I am making it sound like we were Hoarders….honestly, our home was lovely, and spacious…and just allowed us to keep on bringing stuff in without a second thought.  We had 8 sofas, for goodness sakes.  We’re a big family and all, but who needs 8 sofas?!


I felt like I could never get the entire house tidied at the same time, and I hated trying to keep up with it all.  Plus, we really wanted to add to our Backyard Animal family….which was limited to 4 hens.

So, we started looking for a smaller place.

Our wish list was:

- At least an acre of usable land, preferably horse property.

- A shorter commute to schools, work, shopping and the city as well as the mountains.

- At least 3 bedrooms with room to add on.

- A home that needed major updating but was well maintained.

It took us a while, but we found the perfect place, and although it was a MAJOR process to downsize our stuff, it was totally cathartic as well.  My criteria for packing an item was 1. Do we use it regularly? 2. Do we love it?  3. Do we need it?

If the answer to all of those was no, then it didn’t get to come with us.  I made countless trips to charity shops, sold things on ebay and Craigslist, and gave stuff that we just didn’t need, love, or use to someone who would.

Most of our furniture did not make the cut, since it was purchased for a giant house with vaulted ceilings and an eclectic Pottery Barn vibe, not a small mid-century ranch with a new, very modern and clean aesthetic.

For the new house, we had a vision of uncluttered, open space, clean lines, functional storage and a clean slate for decorating.  Our priority was to create a large kitchen/dining space in the heart of the home, which is where we knew we would spend the greatest amount of time.  We took the 4 small spaces (foyer/living room/dining room/kitchen) and opened them up into this one awesome space with a huge island, and a long dining table.  It works really well for us, and I love that I never have to look far to know where my kids are or what they are up to.


It’s also been really great for entertaining.  We host most of our extended family’s celebrations and get-togethers, and we also often have impromptu happy hours or dinner parties, slumber parties, playdates…the house is usually full, but it never seems crowded, which is really nice.


Stay tuned to hear more about our Pop-Top remodel!

Have you thought about adding on or popping your top?  Want advice about whether it would be a good investment, or looking for some great contractors?  Let me know!

1 Year Without Cable…and It’s Not Coming Back

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I have updated this blog.  So, I am going to take a few posts to catch up, post photos from the last YEAR or so…and then show you what the house looks like now.

We love living here.  It’s been such a cathartic journey…learning how to live in a smaller space, getting rid of a good amount of our “stuff”, and also changing some habits that I now see were really negative, especially on the kids but for me too.

chandelier above bathtub

First up…tv.  Now, hear this…I love good television.  But, I was definitely addicted.  We had HUGE tv’s our old house…and they were always on.  (There were even TWO tv’s in the Master Suite…one across from the bed and one in front of the bathtub…I still do miss that bathtub by the way!) I would watch HGTV during the day, and tivo the Food Network so I could catch up later.  We had thousands of hours of dvr’d programming…there was always something to watch.  And the kids loved it…from Nick Jr to the Disney Channel to ABC Family…they would watch them over and over…ugh.

So, when we moved into #ourbigdownsize we decided not to get cable at all…and we sold those big tv’s with the house.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we still use online services like HuluPlus to watch some favorite shows (Hello…have you been watching Revenge this year?  It’s cray-cray.) I love to catch up on Parenthood while I fold mountains of laundry…and I can’t wait to watch last night’s Nashville…but I don’t watch hours of commercials in between Kardashian hissy-fits anymore.  And I hardly miss them.  Of course, I’m sure that the kids can’t wait to go on playdates so they can get some screen time…and that’s OK, but it doesn’t create the constant soundtrack for our lives anymore, which is awesome.

It’s funny sometimes when people walk into the living room and ask “Where’s your TV?” Like there is a secret pop-up panel above the fireplace or something. (Although…that would be kind of cool…) They’re shocked when we say we don’t have one.  What?!

Full disclosure: I recently moved a little flatscreen we had sitting in the barn unused into the kitchen, because I wanted to watch the Bronco game one Sunday (Go Orange and Blue) and I have been using it to watch the Today Show every once in a while when I work from home…so it’s not like we’re TOTALLY tv-free, but it’s such a huge change from our old house, and I would honestly encourage anyone to try it.

On a couple of recent business trips, I was SO psyched to have a little down-time with the hotel remote control and 1000 channels, and you know what?  There was nothing on worth watching.

florescent light box

Killing Trudy (Almost)

While the guys were removing the kitchen cabinets, I could not wait to see what was above those ugly dropped ceiling panels in the tiny kitchen. So, without thinking, and definitely without safety in mind, I started removing the panels and handing them to my faithful friend Trudy…and then I almost killed (or seriously injured) her.

One of the super-duper heavy, awful florescent lights was just resting on those thin aluminum rails that hold up the dropped ceiling, and when I removed too many of the panels that thing just came crashing down, coming thisclose to Trudy’s lovely head.  Yikes.

Seriously, who knew that those big-ass lights were held up by these thin wires?  Not this girl…

Lesson learned, thankfully not the hard way…think before you demo!

tearing out drywall

Kids in the Middle of the Action

We were really lucky to be able to close on our new house and complete the remodel before moving in, so that we didn’t have to live through the construction. But, it was a lot to manage…getting the old house ready to put on the market while managing the demolition and construction at the new place, all while juggling work and kids and activities, and, well, you know…life.

So I got into the routine of stopping by the new house every morning with the little kids, so they could pitch in, check things out, and basically feel like part of the process.  After all, we are all going to live here and I really wanted them to appreciate all of the hard work and effort being invested into this new house.

Hudson is such a boy…he loves tearing stuff up, of course. So ripping out this hallway closet in between the entry and the kitchen, and also dividing the living room from the hallway, was right up his alley. Don’t worry, right after I snapped this photo he put on his safety goggles #momoftheyear.

The girls also liked seeing the changes and progress every day…though it was super hard for them to picture what it was going to be like AFTER.  Every time a wall came down or something major happened you could tell that they had to re-adjust, even though I had explained the plan to them many times.


We had an awesome crew that helped us get the remodel done really quickly…a must-have on a project  like this.  Especially when I changed my mind on the fly, those guys always just do what I ask, even if they are rolling their eyes behind my crazy back.  They are also super patient with the kids, being mindful of their safely but letting them ask questions, “help”, and basically get in the way without slowing things down.

nice to have a chiropractor as a friend while doing kitchen demo!

Demo…it gets worse before it gets better

It only took us a few hours to tear apart that lovely old kitchen…note that lovely dropped ceiling, the sort-of-new-but-not-our-style oak cabinets, the sadly new but also not-our-style white appliances…it had to go.

With a quick massage break, of course…

We took out the laminate countertops first, after disconnecting the plumbing and removing the stainless steel sink.  Then out went the cabinets…good riddance, oak.  You are not my friend.  But you will make lovely new storage somewhere else :)

Definitely easier to take down all of those cabinets with all of this man power ;)

We started to get acquainted with the new neighborhood….chinese food delivery for kitchen demo dinner break :)

By the end of that first day, the roll-away was almost full and ready to be picked up.

Can’t wait to show y’all the after photos…coming soon!



getting the kids involved with demo...they love helping!

Out with the old…carpet.

Wow, I just read through all of the posts that I wrote before we moved…and I owe y’all not only a ton of information but a lot of before/after/during photos of our renovation.

So, here we go…the morning after we closed on our new house, I could not wait to get over there and start ripping out the carpet.  Mind you, the carpet was not in bad shape, but…I hate carpet.  I have seen the underside of too many “clean, almost new” carpets…and let me tell you, it is not pretty.  So, for our new house…no carpet in sight…and the kids couldn’t wait to help…Hudson loved slicing it into strips, and Elliot didn’t mind dragging it out to throw into the big red dumpster parked in the driveway…gone, baby, gone…that carpet had to go.

I did have some guilt over the time and effort that I knew the former owners had put into making it look all perfect…I can’t imagine how many times she vacuumed it before the closing.  I did try to tell her not to worry about it, but she did it anyway, and it looked really nice going over the side of that dumpster.

As you can see, there was only plywood subfloor under most of the carpet…though in some places there was really beautiful hardwood oak.

Hudson worked for hours prying those carpet tack strips up…he’s a pro by now and available by the hour ;)

We really weren’t worried about damage to the hardwood floors during this process, because we knew that those floors would either need to be refinished or covered with new flooring, since the whole house had very patchy flooring…from linoleum to wood to carpet…it was a mish mash of elevations and transitions…blah.

It took us a few hours (with the help of our lovely friends the Pardee family) to remove all of the carpet and demo the kitchen.  The house isn’t that big, but all of that old carpet pretty much filled a big roll-away dumpster.  Sorry, Earth…we didn’t know what else to do with all of that material…that carpet had to have been filled with chemicals and blech, and now it’s in a landfill. Major bummer…there has to be a better way, right?

Have you ever removed carpet?  Is there a good way to recycle/upcyle it?  Please share!


wood countertop maintenance

Taking care of butcherblock countertops

In the new house, we installed butcherblock countertops, which I have no experience with but so far love the look of…I was just wondering what we will need to do to maintain them…and look what I found…a great maintenance guide from the super-smarty pants kids over at Brightnest!  By the way, you have to check out their explore page…I could spend days there!


Wooden countertops are resilient and can tolerate the daily cleaning necessary to keep the countertop free from bacteria and stains.

wood countertop maintenance

Time: 15 minutes

what you’ll need

  • sandpaper (120 grit)
  • lemon juice
  • salt
  • a soft cloth
  • mineral oil
  • sponges
  • dish soap

how to:

  1. Check your wooden countertop for burn marks and scratches. It’s especially important to find scratches because they can harbor bacteria. Scratches can be removed with a light sanding. Sand the affected areas with your 120 grit sand paper until the surface is smooth. If your scratch is especially bad, try using sandpaper with higher grit.
  2. If your wooden counter is burned, begin the stain-fighting process by rubbing the area liberally with lemon juice. Pour table salt over the lemon juice, and let the mixture sit on the stain for five to ten minutes. Wipe away the salt and lemon juice. If the stain persists, repeat the process until the stain is removed.
  3. Once all stains, burn marks and scratches are repaired, it’s time to seal the surface. Using a soft cloth, liberally rub mineral oil into the wooden surface. Re-oil the surface monthly to protect your countertop.
  4. Clean your wooden countertop daily with warm water and dish soap to keep bacteria away. Remember, bacteria thrive in moist environments, so thoroughly dry your surface after it has been cleaned.
  5. Avoid using vinegar-based solutions on wooden countertops. The acid in the vinegar can dissolve the glue that holds the wooden pieces together.
  6. Avoid placing raw meat onto your countertop. If you do, sanitize the area immediately! To do this, mix a solution of nine parts water and one part bleach in a plastic spray bottle. Liberally spray the area that was exposed to raw meat, and then wipe the area with a wet sponge. Thoroughly dry the area and then you’ll be good to go!

Ugly House Before Photos

So I’m catching up on some photo posts…and I had ALMOST forgotten how crazy ugly our little house was!  Of course, now that it is fully demo’d some people might think it’s even worse, but I love it because it’s starting to be possible to see what it is going to look like!

Enjoy the horror show…

ugly house before










Can’t wait to show you the afters!  Paint today, kitchen install tomorrow…




Cleaning Out Closets

We are getting down to the details in Our Big Downsize, with painting being done at the new house, and people starting to ask for showings of our old house (yippee!)

Photo: Pinterest

So I’m tackling one of the biggest tasks…closets.

I came across a great post on the Brightnest blog that has been super helpful…

Do you have skeletons in your closet? Whether you’re hiding a deep, dark secret or simply stuffing your mess on your closet shelves when company comes over, it’s time to clean up, dust off the cobwebs and organize your closet. This is an easy way to take control of a small part of your house and de-stress your life a little.

First, start with a closet audit to determine what clothes you’d like to keep, and what you need to toss (skeletons should be tossed). Go through your closet one item at a time and ask yourself the following questions (your kids can be a big help here):

  • Does it fit?
  • When will I wear this?
  • When was the last time I wore this?
  • Does it have stains or holes?
  • Can it be fixed?

Once you’ve got your piles separated, it’s time to start organizing and cleaning.

  1. Separate your clothes into four piles: keep, store, donate/sell and toss. Only place items in the throw away pile if they are ruined beyond repair. Otherwise, place them in the donate or sale pile. Put the “donate” and “trash” piles into large plastic trash bags, and physically remove them from your closet area. If you prefer to sell your items, list them on an online site like eBay or find a local consignment store.

  2. If you can’t decide what to do with an item, flag the hangar. Then, remove the flags as you wear items. Any clothes that are still marked at the end of the season should be sold or donated.

  3. Next, toss mismatched hangers. Large or bent hangers take up unnecessary room in your closet and can damage your clothes. Certain hangers work best for certain items: For example, satin hangers are for delicate items, and wooden hangers are for tailored jackets. These hangers will prolong the life of your clothes and help them keep their shape, saving you money on replacement items. Organize similar hangers together.

  4. Now, revisit your keep pile. Store your out of season clothes outside of your closet. This way, you’ll be able to quickly evaluate and wear current items. If you don’t have a storage closet, utilize the space under your bed. Storage units like these from Bed, Bath & Beyond start at $10 and are great for storing clothes and linens while protecting them from moths.

  5. Use bins and boxes to store similar items together. For example, keep all of your winter hats and scarves in one box and belts in another. Place these boxes on a the closet floor or a high shelf. If you have a high closet with hard-to-reach shelves, invest in a step stool.

  6. If you have a lot of jewelry or other small accessories, mount a pegboard with hooks on the inside of your closet door or on your closet wall. Your small items will be in one place and in plain view. For more creative ways to display your jewelry, read: 5 Ways to Organize Your Jewelry

  7. Stack your shoeboxes with the labels in plain view. If you don’t keep your shoeboxes, organize your shoes so the pairs are together. These slim, plastic shoeboxes from The Container Store are a visible, easy alternative that fit neatly into any sized closet and are about $2 per box.

  8. If you’re short on space, install slim canvas drawers like these from Target, which run for about $7 per drawer. Clothes that might stretch on hangers like t-shirts and cotton dresses can be folded and stored in the drawers.

  9. If you or the woman in your life has a lot of handbags, install durable hooks on the inside of your closet door or on your closet wall.

  10. When you re-hang your in-season clothes you’ve decided to keep, organize like-items together. For example, place all of your short-sleeved clothes together, your dress shirts together and your slacks together. That way, you’ll be able to find your favorite red shirt quickly in the morning.

  11. For optimal organization, color-code your clothes from lightest to darkest within each section. For example, hang your pants from white to black.

  12. Place all of your hangers facing in to begin, and then turn the hanger the opposite direction after you wear the item. You’ll get a better feel for the items that you wear more often.

  13. When you organize your closet and change out clothing for the season, take a few extra minutes to clean the space. Vaccuuming floors, wiping down the shelves and rods and replacing light bulbs creates a cleaner space for your prized clothing collection and discourages moths from making their home there.

We’re not sure if these tips will work for those deep, dark secrets, but you can certainly give it a try!  Do you have any tips or hints for closet cleaning and organizing that we have missed?  We would love to hear them!