Turn Your Waiting Room Into A Classroom

Someone much wiser about life once said to me, “Turn your waiting room into a classroom.” Okay, so this person was Jess from the YouTube channel Roots and Refuge, and she was telling this to MILLIONS of people, but I felt like she was talking to me and only me.

Stack of my my favorite design books including Habitat by Lauren Liess, Down to Earth by Lauren Liess, and Old Home Love by Candis and Andy Meredith. Styled on a shelf with coral, ship art, and a vase of dried flowers.

I sit here this morning on the last morning of my eldest daughter’s first-grade year, ruminating over those words to ease my trepidation for summer vacation. My biggest fear…all projects (however slow they’re going now) will come to a screeching halt.

Big DIY Dreams

You see, I have big DIY, home improvement, organization, gardening, and project dreams. Like BIG dreams.

I want to remodel our kitchen, build my cabinets, learn how to do dovetail joints, replace windows, build a custom pantry, finish the greenhouse, grow so many backyard green beans that our children get sick of them, and make the girls’ playground and playhouse dreams come true.

Hallway with wide pine floors cleared of any clutter, black open shelves and a small roll top desk

Maybe, more importantly, I dream of finishing my decluttering project and having just enough stuff. Everything has a home, organized to perfection, and I can find that screwdriver when I need it.

There are also big dreams for this blog. Of publishing more content, increasing my financial support of my family, and having a blog and home worthy of a Country Living Magazine feature. Country Living….can you hear me?!

The reality is that I am a dreamer, project planner, creator, and kicker-offer of projects. Those things are easy for me to do in the margins of motherhood. But what I struggle with is making those big dreams a reality.

Time As My Limited Resource

Time for projects is my limited resource as I’m parenting small children. All my fellow parents of littles, especially you stay-at-home moms out there, know exactly what I’m talking about. Let me paint a picture.

It’s been a month of trying to paint a closet in our living room and organize it into an arts and crafts supply closet for the kids’ bursting creativity. I do the project in fits and spurts at 10 to 20-minute increments whenever I can. It’s how I got the plant shelf done.

Window plant shelf made out of wood and painted white holding small terracotta pots filled with small houseplants in a south facing window

But as soon as I gather supplies to work on a project there are snacks to get, diapers to change, boo-boos to kiss, and sometimes kids need snuggles and reading time with Mom. And who took that bin of beads I just put away and dumped it all over the floor?! Before I know it, it’s playdate or school pickup time. And the laundry still needs to be done.

Gone are the days of getting home from work and diving into that kitchen remodel project for three uninterrupted glorious hours.

It’s so hard to get anything done, but I do embrace and love the season I am in. I know these days are fleeting. The girls won’t always want Mom around. But I also crave time for projects and to move things forward.

Focus On What I Can Do

I try so hard in this season to focus on what I CAN do instead of what I can’t do. That’s why I’ve spent so much time decluttering our home this year. It’s been an easy and worthwhile project to tackle while running after a rambunctious, always-seeking mischief two-year-old. Who as I wrote this post decided to paint the tv. No idea how she retrieved the paint from its double super secret hiding location.

Donation box filled with books on the floor in front of a house plant

While I try to “just keep swimming” (thank you Dory) with the projects, I also fight with myself to resist the urge to throw in the DIY towel temporarily. Sometimes it feels too hard and I should just wait for a season when there’s more time and focus to tackle a project.

In My Waiting Room Era

That season is coming in just a few short months. This fall, both children will be attending school. My eldest will be in second grade and my youngest will be in preschool.

I’m in my waiting room era with house projects. In this season, I don’t have much time, most projects are small, and the big projects barely creep along. But come September I’ll have more freedom to make things happen.

The big projects are coming. Along with the ability to focus. Can you imagine focusing on closet painting without watching out for the toddler about to dip her hand into the paint bucket?

I am so fortunate and privileged that my husband fully supports my dreams of turning this blog into a thriving business instead of getting a “real job” once the kids are both in school. It’s already making enough to cover some of our bills and I can only imagine what I can do with the gift of focused time.

Original wood stain on vintage roll top desk in hallway in front of craft room

Why not just wait it out? Start when it’s easier or when I have time and resources to tackle projects. I mean, there are only 75 days until school starts.

Then I remember Jess’s words, to turn my waiting room into a classroom.

Turning It Into My Classroom Era

Right now, I can’t renovate my kitchen or grow the giant gardens I dream of. But I can take this time to prepare and learn so when the time comes, I’ll be ready. Learning and exploring ideas is something I can easily do in the margins of motherhood.

So what am I doing right now to turn my waiting room into a classroom?

Learning New Construction Skills On YouTube

Confession time. For the entirety of our DIY relationship, Colby does most of the heavy construction work and I’m more of a finish-work person. He demos the bathroom, I tile it. He frames and installs the new door, and I stain and poly it. I’m gearing up for that to change in this next era and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ve always known I could cut and install trim, build a furniture piece, or even frame a greenhouse. We just both love DIY and creating things. So when the kids are in school, I want to do more of the work he traditionally does and acquire new skills.

Mark tiling guide lines on the cement board using a bubble level straight edge and a pencil

So a new favorite habit for those in-between moments, when the kids are in bed and I’m just waiting for them to drift off completely, I watch DIY home improvement videos.

My favorite topics are how to build cabinets, professionally refinishing furniture, and installing crown molding. All projects on the shortlist that I haven’t done before and I’m trying to learn.

Learning Gardening Skills On YouTube

I’ve also been learning more about gardening, mostly on YouTube. I will never stop watching Jess at Roots and Refuge and dreaming about the homesteading life knowing full well that I would never do it.

Luke at MI Gardener has been a long-time constant favorite as well. His depth of vegetable gardening knowledge is unbelievable!

One skill I’m working more on this year is garden pest identification and removal. YouTube has been helpful as I search for things like “tiny red bug that looks like a tick.” Or “how to deal with slugs.” The video content has been helpful.

Pouring Over Design Books

It’s the perfect time to be in this waiting room season because I’m also at a pivotal point in our home renovation. The upstairs is nearly finished and we’re about to dive headfirst into our main living spaces.

We live in a circa 1781 home and I want the style of our main floor to reflect that but in a modern way with a cohesive feel. Before I do ONE SINGLE THING downstairs, I want a basic design plan.

Two design books sitting on a wood floor including Memories of Home by Heidi Caillier and The Things That Matter by Nate Berkus

I’ve been collecting design books while thrifting and even purchased a few new ones, like Heidi Caillier’s book Memories of Home which came out in September 2023. It’s dreamy and so inspiring.

Another book I forever turn to for inspiration is Nate Berkus’s The Things That Matter. It’s a constant reminder to decorate our homes with purpose, heirlooms, and pieces that have meaning to us.

Looking Through Magazines For Inspiration

I have LONG-loved home and garden magazines. When I was in college, I started ripping out pages for inspiration. Sometimes recipes or beautiful gardens, but mostly decorating and home improvement inspiration photos. The collection began as just a file folder, grew to a small file box, and now fills 7 binders of clippings.

I’ve been looking through the binders for renovation inspiration while the kids get ready for bed. However, it’s been distracting for Rowan as she comes in and peruses the pictures with me. She also requests watching Dream Home Makeover with me. I adore her! Seven is such a fun age!

Also, does anyone else remember this copper collection of Martha’s from her magazine?! Swoon! It’s high on my dream kitchen wishlist. I can afford copper pots and pans on a minor blogger’s salary, right? Hmmm.

A black binder notebook filled with magazine clippings from home and garden magazines, this spread showing a copper pot collection in a moody kitchen

Finding Inspiration On Pinterest/Instagram

While I don’t normally love to spend a ton of time on social media, I have been making the “it’s research for home design plan inspiration” excuse for myself.

Specifically, I’ve been looking for inspiration for fellow houses from the late 1700s similar to ours and how they renovated the interior while keeping the old world feel.

I started an Old House Style Pinterest board to collect images that feel like how I want our home to feel. My Pinterest algorithm is getting trained that I’m looking for these images and has been feeding them to me lately!

"Old House Style" Pinterest board featuring interior styles for an historic home

Reading Voraciously

While I’m normally a voracious reader of fiction books, I’ve gravitated towards more nonfiction lately. Specifically books on creativity, design, and home improvement.

One book I’m perpetually reading is Create Anyway: The Joy of Pursuing Creativity in the Margins of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd. A longtime reader recommended this book to me and it was such a perfect recommendation! It motivates me to keep trying to create through this waiting room era because creating is so inherently human.

Books for creativity stacked on a nightstand with plants. Books include: The Creative Act by Rick Rubin, Create Anyway by Ashlee Gadd, and Welcome Home by Myquillyn Smith

I’ve also leaned into a curiosity about small solar power projects. I picked up the book The Off Grid Solar Power Bible and have been learning so much about how solar works. While I don’t intend to go off-grid with our home, I would love to do some small solar projects like powering the heat lamps for the chicken coop or heating our greenhouse a bit in the winter.

Find Your Classroom

So I encourage you if you find yourself in a waiting room to find a way to turn it into your classroom. The mindset shift is helping me immensely as we dive into summer vacation and I hope it helps you too.

Whether you’re currently an apartment dweller saving up to buy your first fixer-upper home or you’re living in a city but plan to move to the country to garden. Do what you can to learn about the life you want or your next era and use this season to prepare for it.

And yes, the old do what you can now mindset holds, but there is more learning and exploring that you can do in this season of waiting. Waiting for whatever the thing is you’re waiting for.

So, until I get to September when kids are in school and I can tackle those big DIY and gardening dreams, you’ll find me now in this season turning a waiting room into a classroom. Learning more about how to do those projects, exploring design plans, and knowing myself, making some lists.

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  1. Thank you for this post! It is very timely for me, as the last day of school for our first grader was Friday.

    1. You’re welcome! I was hoping this article would speak to at least one person outside my mom friend group so I’m glad you found it. Good luck with the summer and here’s to us emerging from our classroom era in the fall!

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