Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How We Live Creatively

Almost exactly seven years ago, we found ourselves with a toddler, another baby on the way, a newly-purchased fixer upper, and very little income. It was time to get creative.

The mounting needs of our house and growing family was a turning point for us. Armed with time and a willingness to learn, we eventually shaped our lives and our home to fit who we are. Without realizing it, creatively solving everyday problems became a way of life for us.

How We Live Creatively As Homeowners:
Over the years, we have worn many hats. "A" has learned the ins and outs of plumbing, and become the resident electrician. He taught himself appliance repair, fixing our dryer and dishwasher by taking them apart and observing how they work, then finding the defect. He replaced our roof, completely renovated the kitchen, plastered a few new ceilings, and installed crown molding. (Of course, his trade is carpentry, so he did not walk blindly into many of the home-improvement projects he tackled.) He has also built many pieces of furniture in our house, the majority of which was made from scrap material left over from jobs.

 Me? I learned how to sew roman shades, refinish furniture, and install a thermostat. I became the household painting extraordinaire, furniture rearranger, and declutterer. I managed to repair our quilt, and rigged up a funky shower curtain to help with our weirdly-shaped bathroom situation.

We have made our home into a place that reflects us, not worrying too much how things will effect the resale value someday down the road.

How We Live Creatively As Parents:
We have all become teachers to one another. Informal art lessons as well as silly doodle time are regular occurrences, and art and craft supplies abound. At-home piano lessons give way to intense jam sessions with a recorder. Classical music plays on shuffle between U2, Pink Floyd, and Bob Marley.

There is nothing better than good ol' fashioned outside play, or a couple of crayons and a sketch book. A visit to the library, a walk to the playground, or a quick soccer game usually keep our girls engaged. We have multiple toy boxes full of toys, but they have languished, losing out to rowdy spy games with their neighbor friends. The girls have embraced their inner MacGyvers with their inventions and gadgets, and Daniel Boones, running free and plotting adventures, as kids should.

Our house is full of books—quite possibly, too many. Children's books, grown-up books, glossy picture books, a selection of the classics, and craft books for all ages and skill levels. So many books means there is always one within arms reach, to leaf through, pour over, or get lost in.

How We Live Creatively In General:
There are so many resources and opportunities now, which makes creative living quite easy. Anybody willing and able can learn a DIY method of doing just about any task these days. With the help of  books and online video tutorials, "A" has repaired our cars time and again, and we have even learned to fix our own tools. 

Creativity in the kitchen is something we all have to face at one time or another and, like most of you,  I have pulled-off some epic meals and snacks made from random pantry items. 

A little ingenuity goes a long way. Freecycle and Craigslist  are scoured regularly, and odd needs are fashioned from re purposed items. We barter, and trade services when we can. We search for information online, and call experienced friends for advice (or even better, for help). 

We have failed many times. Fixing the digital camera (friends, please do not attempt this at home) or figuring out where, exactly, the water dripping into our bedroom was coming from were forays we were not successful in. Sometimes we are victorious in our efforts, other times not so much.

We have also gone without, and learned to be grateful for what we do have. After all, it is times like these when living creatively—through creative problem solving—matters most.


  1. Inspiring! And how rewarding to have all those tangible, visible traces from your efforts and ideas! I am totally in love with that glorious wave mosaic as well as the warm, comfy and elegant chest of drawers! Thank you for your inspiration!

  2. this is a really beautiful post amy, these certainly are the things that make a house a home. you shared beautifully what memories and togetherness of family means.

  3. i love your words here amy. and i love seeing into bits of your home. we also live very frugally and very resourcefully. at times it can be frustrating to want some 'thing' and not be able to afford it (especially when that thing is a beautiful handmade heirloom, a previously loved antique, or a quality ingredient, etc., etc.,...).
    we are living in a time of such excess that sometimes I feel our limited financial resources have been an incredible gift; helping to focus each purchase and dollar and to constantly be wondering, can i fix that, can i make that myself, what could i use instead....
    it brings me enormous comfort to know there are so many resourceful families finding joy in creating a home together.
    Thank you for this inspiring post!

  4. This was just lovely to read.
    You show the photo of the chest of drawers after saying that your husband built some furniture - - is this one of the pieces he built?
    If so, that is crazy beautiful ;)
    So happy you've embraced your home with it's imperfections and get your hands busy with adding so much love to it...
    I would love to see more of your home actually - it looks so warm, inviting, comfortable and unique.

  5. I agree with everyone above! Love the chest of draws and Mosaic, Inspired and cheered by your reflections, would love to see more of your home!, living the frugal life rocks but sometimes I 'want' things badly we just can't afford, wow, so much in one post to think about - but just for now I am leaving that and am enjoying treasuring the smile you have brought to my face xxx

  6. So true, it takes so much learning to live the kind of creative lifestyle you and your family have embraced. I find that too often I lack the resources, opportunities and the know-how. It's a bit of a paradox, but living in the country (here, at least) makes it really difficult in some respects to be as "creative" as I'd like to be. But I love the learning, and the trying, and I'm not giving up!

  7. Dearest sweet amy, this is soo beautiful and very inspiring! I am learning so much and more from you and your love ones. :) Your home looks really lovely and i really like that Mosaic deco on the wall. Have a lovely merry happy weekend and love to yoU!

  8. Thanks Amy for sharing your home and creative living. In my mind this is what truly makes a house a home and connected family. That Said.... Now I think we need to be neighbors. My "O" would love all of the invention making, as I have a few here, and of course a good game of neighborhood spy is always welcome. And there would be us. Crafting away. Oh how I love my state of reverie. ;) Happy Weekend.

  9. You and your family live beautifully! Even though I am decluttering as we speak, there are never too many books! Living creatively is something that I hope is regaining steam. My hubby used to do a lot of fixing around our house and cars. His job takes him away lately. Isn't it amazing how the toys languish. Thank you for your beautiful and inspiring post! Be well, Angela

  10. Thanks for sharing this Amy. We live very similarly. Hubby does ALL the car and home repairs (still waiting on the kitchen reno though :). Oh, and books and craft supplies... don't even get me started... we are bursting at the seams with these. And what a fun mosaic!

  11. Awesome awesome post, Amy. Our families have a lot in common. :)
    The tile on the wall is very cool!

  12. i want to see more of that rock wall! xo, molly