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3 Steps to Make Peace With Your Starter Home


Guest post from Alicia of Turquoise Grace

My parents have been married for 36 years. For 30 of them, they’ve been living in their “starter home” – the very first home they ever purchased.

I can tell you from watching, it hasn’t always been easy for them to be content with staying there for this many years. But I know without a doubt they did the best thing for their family, and I’m thankful for their example.

Fast forward 25 years or so, and here I am with my own family, five and a half years into our “starter home of 1-2 years”.

I love our starter home. It’s not huge, it’s not extravagant, but it’s ours.

It’s cozy, treasured, and filled with the people that matter the most; but I will be the first to admit that I was not always so lovey-dovey about my home. There was a time when I wanted more, and contentment with regard to my home was something I had to learn.

Maybe you can relate?

Maybe your grand plan has been greatly impacted by an uncomfortable dose of reality.

Maybe life has hit you with one hurdle after another and your ideal plan of living for 1-2 years in your starter home ended 5, 10, or even 15 years ago.

Maybe you’ve simply decided that your budget is more important than your square footage.

Whatever your reason, there is always a way to make peace with your current living situation.

Starting right now!

If you are discouraged about living in your starter home – take heart from these suggestions below.

1. Stop comparing yourself to other people.

Comparing ourselves (and our homes) to others is SO easy to do… and gets us absolutely nowhere.

Comparison is the thief of joy. By comparing what you don’t have to what others do have, you are not only allowing, but inviting yourself to dwell on only the negative aspects of your circumstances.

If you’re too busy trying to keep up with your peers, you will quickly lose sight of what you DO have! Stop focusing on what other people have and start focusing on what you can do with your starter home and your smaller space.

Think of some things that you can do to maximize and make the most of your space, and then make a list of them. Then make a plan to tackle your list and turn it into a reality.

2. Remember your WHY.

Why did you decide to stick with your starter home – either for the time being or for the long haul? Focus on the bigger picture of WHY you’re staying put.

There are many practical reasons why you might want to make peace with your starter home.

  • To save more money by maintaining a smaller mortgage
  • To make a larger down payment on a future home, or even to pay cash for the entire purchase.
  • To avoid relocating. Maybe you like your kids’ current school district, or maybe moving is just not something you’re willing to tackle right now.
  • To avoid a larger mortgage. Not to state the obvious here, but maybe you just plain can’t afford to take on a larger mortgage. That’s a totally respectable and responsible reason to stay put.
  • To free up more of your money to spend in other areas like travel, hobbies, or giving.
  • To pay down debt (student loans, credit cards, car payments, or other outstanding debt you may have accrued over the years)

Whatever YOUR reasons may be, make a list of them and position them front and center where you will be reminded of what your larger goals are. And WHY you’re doing what you’re doing.

3. Change your mindset.

Make the best of what you have. Focus on the positives, be thankful, and own it.

You are blessed more greatly than you realize. When you change your mindset to choose positivity, it is so much easier and obvious to see where your true blessings lie. Realize that owning a home in and of itself is an enormous blessing.

And then… do something about it! If you’re unhappy with something, change it. Begin the changes within your home to make it as comfortable, welcoming, and homey-feeling as possible for you and your family.

Do what you can to create more space – or simply create the illusion of more space. Clear out the clutter, deep clean the entire house from top to bottom, and reorganize. There is much that can be done to make the most of your home, no matter how small it may be.

After 30 years, my parents are still living in their starter home. It’s filled with love and tons of memories. And you know what? I could not imagine growing up anywhere else. It’s still home to me.

At the end of the day, it’s not the size of your house, it’s not the amount of money in your bank account, it’s not even the quality of your things. See, you, your husband, or your kids won’t remember any of that. I know this first hand.

It’s the memories you make in your home that will never be forgotten.

Have you come to a place of peace with your starter home? What did that look like for you?

photo credit

Alicia is a Jesus follower, coffee lover, avid reader, chocolate addict, self-proclaimed health enthusiast, wife to one amazing husband, boymom of three. She writes about all things faith, motherhood, and making the most of her home over at Turquoise Grace, where she offers up a little dose of grace for the mommed-out heart.

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  • B. says:

    Aw, I love this! What a positive and encouraging message!!

    We’re in the soon-to-be looking for a starter home stage, and I’ve been thinking lately that it might be wise to think of it as just a home, rather than a starter home. Just thinking about something in terms of being ‘short-term’ seems like a good way to encourage oneself to cultivate dissatisfaction instead of contentment. (Or at least it has that effect on me. 🙂 Of course, I’m sure that in some situations it can also totally save one’s sanity, lol!)

  • Alicia says:

    YES! I totally agree! Sometimes we just need a good ol’ perspective adjustment. 🙂

  • Danielle says:

    Great! I would also like to point out that this post applies to making peace with your home in general – even if it is not a starter home. After 10 years of marriage, we have moved 10 times (mostly long-distance). We are still renting but finally in a “long-term” (we think) place. I really wanted to buy after our first year in this new place, so as I began reading your post I thought “making peace with a starter home? I wish we could just get in (our) first home!” But, it became clear it’s better for us to wait at least another year, and what you say about not comparing, cultivating a nicer environment wherever you’re living, and focusing on your goals that cause you to stay in the status quo – this applies to everyone including those who are renting and wishing they could make the jump to owning.

    • SUCH great words! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Alicia says:

      YES absolutely, Danielle! Thank you so much for adding that! That’s exactly a huge passion of mine – finding peace and contentment WHEREVER you are. Whether that’s renting, your first home, wherever. It’s hard to remember sometimes when we take a look around at those around us, and it’s in exactly these times that I need this reminder most. Thank you for your perspective.

    • Alicia says:

      YES Danielle, this is such a great point and I’m so glad you brought it up! A huge passion of mine is encouraging and finding peace and contentment WHEREVER you are – whether that’s renting, living in your first place, whatever! It can be difficult to stay the course when you take a look around and begin the ol’ comparing game. Thank you so much for the reminder and bringing your perspective.

    • Kris says:

      I agree. We don’t even own a home, so I can’t relate to the idea of starter home versus long-term home. I wish we could buy our own home. I really hate the place that we rent, but it’s all we can afford (and we can barely afford it), and I struggle to find any good in it. Unfortunately, our circumstances will not allow us to move anytime soon, and we can’t change the things that we hate (like a lot of serious maintenance issues and unresponsive landlords). One of the few positive things that I can see is that we don’t have room for a lot of clutter, so it keeps us from accumulating too much useless junk.

  • Megan says:

    Such great thoughts, thank you! All of the things you mentioned are reasons why I absolutely hate the term “starter home.” It implies a constant Rat Race/climb to the top/keeping up with the Joneses attitude. My husband and I are just starting to look for our first (non-rental) home, and we’ve banned the phrase “starter home” from our discussions. Instead, we think about the trade-offs that we might encounter, and we have conversations about what sort of lifestyle we want our house to facilitate (more walking, less consumerism), how it might help us love others well (guest room for hospitality), and what will bring us peace and calm (smaller/fewer rooms with less cleaning/upkeep). Thanks for the wonderful thoughts on contentedness!

    • Alicia says:

      Yes that’s a great point , Megan! I honestly never thought about the term “starter home” having a negative conotation, but you’really absolutely right, it does tend to make one think about the constant need for more, more, more! Thank you for sharing your perspective!

    • Diane says:

      I agree. I have felt a little insulted when people have called our place a starter home. We bought a small house in a price range we could afford and we paid it off in 5 yrs.

  • Cate R. says:

    I’d love to have a starter home, lol. I’m 36 and hubby is 41, we have 3 children and it’s looking like it might not ever be in God’s plan for us to be home owners. This has been a hard pill for me to swallow. Our rented home is small, ugly, poorly designed, in a low income neighborhood AND has old wall to wall carpet that is a allergy and asthma trigger for 2 of my kids that the landlord won’t let us change. I’ve had to watch friends time after time buy lovely houses in nice neighborhoods and it makes me depressed and full of rage at times. We have the worst home of everyone we know.

    But lately I’ve been thinking to myself maybe God is doing something special with our family. Maybe it’s a delusional thought but maybe it’s true. We are definitely living differently than many around us and saying no to things because we’ve decided there’s more important things than earning money and achieving a certain standard of living.

    Some of it is just hard choices we’ve had to make though, enduring some things we don’t like because of not being willing to compromise the most important things. And there are more important things than owning a “dream house”.

    • Diane says:

      Hang in there Cate! Your heart is big and God will honor you for keeping your priorities straight. Don’t grow weary of doing the right thing. No one would dare promise you that things will get better or that you will own a home one day, but don’t be afraid to dream and also to ask God for help. He knows the desires of our hearts. Set some goals, even if they are just tiny steps. Read about Crystal’s stories about living in the basement apartment. I think you will be inspired. You touched my heart Cate! God bless your sweet family!

    • Alicia says:

      I love your way of looking at it, Cate – God is doing something special with your family. I’ve felt that way too, when I look around me and see what everyone else is doing and wonder why we’re different? But we have to do what’s best for our family. You have a great attitude, thank you for your perspective. 🙂

    • Kris says:

      Cate, I feel the same way. I HATE the place that we rent for similar reasons. I would love to own a home, but it doesn’t look as if it’s ever going to happen for us. I would love to be able to have people over, but it’s just not possible due to our limited space and maintenance problems. I also sometimes feel discouraged when I visit friends with nicer homes (that is, almost any home besides ours). Our living situation has been a tough pill for me to swallow as well.

    • Sg says:

      Hey Cate,
      You are not alone. I too have a similar situation. I live in bay area and here in past 7 years the rents have increased almost doubled and homes are for millions. And sometimes I too feel so disheartened do end up spending a dollar on megamillion ticket in a hope of winning a jackpot and buying a house.

  • M. says:

    We’ve been in our first home for 15 yrs. I always planned to upgrade but we love our neighborhood and decided to remodel about 9 yrs ago instead of moving. Our home will be paid off in 3 yrs just in time for our oldest son to start college so I think we’ll stay put and pay for college instead of another mortgage!

  • Kendra says:

    We’ve been in our 1,300 sq ft “starter home” for 16 yrs now. Our small house sits among houses 2,500 sq ft and larger. I would LOVE to have a larger house (how I would love for our bathrooms to be larger, an indoor laundry room!, even a entry way so our front door doesn’t open straight into the living area!) but the fact that our only child is going to an exemplary elementary school, we are on 2.5 acres with a barn bigger than our house, on a cul de sac, and our house has been paid off for 4 yrs now, keeps us in our small starter home.
    So, what have I done? Embraced small house living. Decluttering and being creative in finding ways to open spaces (good-bye big kitchen trash, hello under-the-counter trash), replacing carpet for hardwood floor, new exterior doors, new blinds, etc, etc. Making this into a cute small house. Making it into a home I LOVE rather than the “temporary” home I always thought it would be.

  • Laurie says:

    Oh I can so relate. My current home I have lived in for almost 17years. It is my first and most likely last home. I live in a great area of town,close to the kids schools and about 1 mile from my mom who helps me with the girls. The last 3 yrs have been rough financially. As I watch my sister build their 2nd dream home everything custom and increase sq footage it is a hard pill to swallow. Often times I feel what I have is never enough and strive for that contentment. My brother has also been very successful and has a gorgeous home. I feel my home compared to them is down at the bottom of the ladder. Financially they are both set. Here i struggle day to day with bills,paying for kids activities and putting food on the table. I pray to God everyday for peace in my life,but it is hard to stay the course when struggling constantly. If someone would have told me 5 yrs ago that this it where I would be in life I would have laughed. My 2 girls and I are very happy and in all reality we have everything we need right in front of us. It is the bigger picture that is depressing. Thank you so much for writing this post.

    • Alicia says:

      Laurie, sometimes I feel the same way. It can be difficult to look at those around us – especially our family – and feel like we don’t measure up. I totally get it. Just take comfort in knowing you are not alone. While we often can’t change our circumstances, we can try our best to change our reactions to our circumstances and make the best of our current situation, whatever that may be. You are doing a great job!

    • Jen says:

      I don’t like my current home either. I moved into the home my husband had purchased with his ex-wife. It’s been nine years and we still haven’t moved into a home that is ours. (He doesn’t get my issue with living in a house that was purchased by someone else. Sigh…)

      That said, sometimes the best way to look at it is in terms of mortgage. I’d be willing to guess that your mortgage is less than your brothers and most definitely less than the mortgage your sister will assume once her beautiful new home is completed.

      There is a cost to everything. Sometimes the cost is worth it and sometimes it isn’t. That determination is different for everyone.

      Hugs to you!

  • Blewing says:

    Just what I needed to hear. Living in a different country than the one I was raised, and thus having a different standard of living from my parents, I am always being asked “How can you stand living it that place?” or told “I don’t know how you do it. I could never do it.” But living in this small space with my child and husband doesn’t bother me. Our “bedroom” (lacking a bed) is our dining room is our living room.

    Sure it would be nice to have some space for a home office, a den or craft room, but I kind of like our little (rented) place.

  • I definitely agree on these 3 points. On mindset, if we change our perception, we also change our reality.

  • Brenna says:

    We just completed a major renovation to our starter home that we paid cash for. We couldn’t be happier with the improvements or to be “staying put”.

  • Erika says:

    Wow! This is just the article I needed today.. I moved into my husband’s home when we got married 9 years ago. We have been preparing for our next home for 8 of those years financially with the house being on the market for 4 of those years.. Our plan was to have 1 child, definitely not 2 in our (his) starter home.. Our second child is now 3.. While I have gotten frustrated many times, I now know why we haven’t been able to sell quickly.. We decided for me to quit my job as a teacher last year to stay at home and be available for the kids.. I never would have been able to do this if we planned on 2 salaries to get a bigger home and I would have been stuck in a situation where I was burned out at work..We are still looking ,preparing and pinching pennies for a new place if it were to sell but my wish list for a new house has gotten much lower and I have found peace and contentment staying where we are even if we don’t sell..ever.. I love our little neighborhood.. We are safe, okay, and content..

  • Tricia says:

    Thank you! I needed to read this today. I know my reasons for staying, but lost sight of them temporarily. Enjoying my home and yard today & living in the moment.

  • layna says:

    We knew that selling a smaller home when our family grew would not be easy in our small community, so we jumped into buying our longer term home. After being here a few years, I wish we would have been more patient, as our budget feels constantly strained by our mortgage, and we aren’t even close to having a “Dre home” Finding your why and making goals are so important to keep you on track!

  • Addy says:

    Several years ago we moved to a different part of the country where housing costs were much higher than where we had lived. We ended up with a “starter” home again….one that shelters love and happiness and many wonderful memories. Yes, sometimes when I see other larger homes, the green-eyed monster gets on me for a little while but then I remember: our mortgage is a lot less than theirs and we get to do things that we never could afford if we had a larger mortgage….we can afford to remodel or spruce up from time to time…..doesn’t take as long to clean (hooray!) ….we love our neighborhood….and God has put us in this exact location.

  • Rita H says:

    So a few months ago I downsized my home into a smaller home… area/kitchen/breakfast area is about 600 sq ft w/about 800 sq ft for bedrooms, etc. As I think about where I am going to put stuff as I don’t have space, I remind myself that I did this to help me be a better steward of my money and my sons are only home when not in school and some weekends. I know this is where I need to be at this stage in my life and that all of this is just materialistic and I will make my house into a home and be content.

  • Caralyn says:

    We have been in our starter home for 20 years this December. It’s 1500 sf and we will never move permanently. Sure it’s nice to look at the new and shiny but the peace of mind we get when we retire soon and won’t have a mortgage payment? Not much is better. We’ve remodeled and fixed it up just right for us for the long haul.
    Contentment is not overrated.

  • Kristie Steary says:

    I wish I had read this post a year ago! We did the exact opposite of what is suggested. We lived in a paid for double wide in a nice park. We had redone the entire inside and it was really cute. One day we just decided to start looking to buy a house. We thought we were doing it for all the right reasons. Although the house we bought is beautiful, it also comes with a $2,000/mo payment. Our youngest will be 18 in 4 years and we are quickly realizing that our decision was based more on emotion than anything. We’ve embarked on an aggressive savings plan to pay cash for something much smaller and more affordable. Please learn from our mistakes-be content with what you have and don’t let your emotions take charge!!

    • Jordan says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience and story! Best wishes on the savings and new adventure! -Jordan, MSM Team

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