How to Add Soul to your Home

Second-hand is often my first choice when it comes to finding items to use in our home.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that all of my favorite things in my house (besides family photos) are second-hand finds.

They are the most special, interesting, quality, proven pieces that we own and I cannot imagine how sad and boring my house would look if I only ever bought brand new pieces.

Second-hand items bring soul to your home. And every home deserves soul.

I’m on a mission to convince you that you NEED second-hand items in your home too, not because they cost less (often they do, but not always) or because recycling things is great (it is!) but because previously loved items help a house feel like a real home because they add a touch of the imperfect. And imperfections are a sign of life. And life has soul.

Today, I’m sharing my favorite second-hand finds from my kitchen.

Just my kitchen.

My little kitchen is packed full of things that are on their second or third life and I wouldn’t have it any other way, heck, if these items already made it through one family, it’s likely they can make it through mine too.

I love old wooden bowls, platters, stands and boards. The more used, the better.

There’s nothing more lifeless than a brand new cutting board with no knife marks or stains. If you are in need of a wood board for cutting–or even serving up charcuterie or mini corn dogs, get thyself to an antique mall right now and you’ll have tons of thick wood cutting boards to choose from.

I even buy pieces of driftwood from the antique mall. Many beaches won’t allow you to take driftwood home, but our local shops carry some vintage driftwood for great prices. I found this huge piece for $24.

Another great way to add some items on their second life into your home is by repurposing old wood and architectural pieces like windows, doors and random wood pieces.

Our property is an old sawmill property so we’ve got lots of wood sitting around. Chad cut up some old thick barn wood and made shelves for our little nook. They tell a better story than the white Ikea shelving I could have used. And, listen, nothing at all is wrong with using stuff from Ikea–I’ve got all Ikea cabinets in my kitchen and I love them–which is why I like to balance that out with some second-hand finds that give my home some soul.

Don’t live on an old sawmill property? Check Craigslist, ask around on facebook and be sure to check out your local antique mall–ours has a few sections filled with old barn wood.

My favorite second-hand purchase in the kitchen is our Viking Range and her crown, the Thermador hood that we found on Craigslist a few years ago. Click here to read the whole story and see how much we paid for them. 

Was it scary to make such a big purchase of a second-hand item? Yes. But I’d been purchasing second-hand items for so long that I built up to it, plus I did all my homework, I knew what I was getting into.

This range is the centerpiece of our kitchen and I never could have afforded a new Viking. Everyone who comes into our house comments on the stove and, bonus, I get to use it almost daily. Second-hand for the win!

If you’re just starting out shopping second-hand, when it comes to your kitchen look for wooden spoons, special dishes, kitchen gadgets, linens and aprons and of course wood trays, stands and dough bowls.

I shop yard sales only when they are super convenient and ideally I hold out for church sales or neighborhood sales so I can hit a bunch at once. I love thrift stores but since their home section is so small, I only stop in every now and then. Vintage markets are a great place to find curated pieces when they come around, I even host my own market — Hi Nest Fest!

But my current FAVORITE place to find miles of second-hand items is antique malls and my VERY favorite antique mall to shop at is The Depot at Gibson Mill in Concord, NC. It’s 88,000 square feet (yes, you read that right) filled with the good, the bad and the weird and has over 600 vendors.

I’ve even taken the (in)courage writers there to shop–y’all Ann bought a cowhide from The Depot and stuffed it in her carry on to get it back home. It’s that good!

the Guilded Cottage booth at The Depot

Want to check out my favorite Second-Hand places to shop around Charlotte?

My friend Mandi created a darling map featuring all my favorite places to shop (and eat!)

To grab your shopping map + addresses download, just fill out the form below and I’ll email you the link.

Already subscribed and want the map? Great–just fill in your info below and it will magically take you to directly to the Nest Files download page where you can download all of the freebies including the map. Don’t worry, it won’t subscribe you twice.


There Will Be Dinner

As our boys have gotten older, they’re 16, 17 and 20, I’ve noticed the most tangible act of love and care I can provide is through cooking meals and feeding them.

Not only that, but all the women I admire, prioritize meals and feeding people.

Notice I didn’t say all the women I admire are great cooks, never eat out, love cooking and never eat in front of the TV.

They simply realize the importance of gathering everyone around the table and making sure there’s something to eat.

Plus, no matter what kind of day I have, or what I feel like I have or haven’t accomplished, if I get dinner on the table for my family, I feel like a million bucks.

The opposite is true as well–I could have the most productive, or creative or amazing day, but if 5 o’clock rolls around and I have nothing planned, I suddenly feel like a frantic lunatic who can’t think ahead and it puts a damper on my day. My family can always deal with it, but internally, the state of my emotions reflects the state of my dinner plans.

I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get dinner on the table, or on the TV tray if needed. But there will be dinner, that I can promise.

Over the years I’ve learned how to prioritize dinner without becoming a part-time meal planner.

Here are a few tricks that have worked for me:

1. Start with planning to cook just three meals per week. Yep. I have a plan for the other nights too, but they revolve around rotisserie chicken, leftovers, everyone-on-their-own night, eating while we are out doing other things…the list goes on.

2. Have a regular, weekly no-brainer night or two. We know the names of all our Domino’s delivery guys–it’s the only pizza place in town and we order every single Friday by 5pm. Taco Tuesday is a great lifesaver too.

3. Let yourself take shortcuts, meal swaps, online grocery ordering and for the past few years, I’ve used a meal delivery service to reset my cooking for the first few months of the year.

In November and December I’m all into cooking comfort foods and holiday meals and suddenly, come January, I’m over it. I have no ideas, I can’t remember anything my family likes besides hot chocolate and waffles and, I’m usually a little preoccupied with my work goals. Last January I started writing a book, this year, I’m creating some online classes.

But the show must go on. Everyone is still hungry every night. The nerve.


I’m a huge, HUGE fan of Blue Apron and guys, I used to think that people either had to use a service like Blue Apron four nights a week, 52 weeks a year, or not at all. Nope. You can work the system so it serves you.

Last year I had meals kits delivered the entire time I worked on my book–January-May (3 meals a week), and then I was ready to do all my own planning for the rest of the year. This year, I’m getting meals delivered again for a while, probably just the next month or so, just so I can reset and get back into the cooking groove.

As a working mom, it’s something I’m willing to pay for because as I’ve already admitted, the feeling I get from having meals planned is basically priceless, and what happens when I don’t plan a meal? We end up at the Mexican restaurant down the street with a bill higher than the price of a Blue Apron meal.

If you haven’t tried Blue Apron, you’re in luck, the first 25 people to try it through my link will get 3 free meals.

My favorite things about using Blue Apron

  • There’s no commitment – you can skip a week or cancel the service at any time (you’re the boss)
  • There are 8 recipes to choose from each week and you get to pick the meals your family would like–I always let my boys look through and pick what they want.
  • Blue Apron delivers all the farm-fresh ingredients you need, right to your doorstep, in exactly the right proportions, you barely have to measure
  • Step by step recipe sheets with photos-the boys take turns helping me prepare dinner every night and this makes it so easy–and I keep the ones we really liked so I can make them again on my own

*this post is sponsored by Blue Apron

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