Home, Purposefully

Four years ago this month I came home from my first blogging conference (the very first Blissdom with only 70 people) and asked my husband if I could temporarily stop homeschooling our boys and see if I can make this Nesting Place blog into a real business.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that.

We moved to Charlotte five years ago after losing a business.  Lost business = a bunch of debt.  And not the fun kind like vacations and clothes and furniture and bottles of wine.  Our debt wasn’t even a dumb fun mistake.  Plus, we decided the smartest thing for us was to buy back into a franchise that had been really successful for my husband in the past.  Which meant more business debt and purchasing a vehicle for the job.  We pretty much had to buy a job.

That was 2007–when we moved to a new town and I started Nesting Place so I could leave comments on Pioneer Woman’s blog without feeling like a killer with no blog, I wanted to be part of the blogging community. Then September 2008 happened when the economy went crazy and my husband’s new, “safe”, we’ve-done-this-before-car-industry-franchise-so-we-feel-good-about-it-business slowed to a crawl.  We had $150,000+ worth of debt (nope, no house included, that’s all business and a little bit of school and medical bills and attorney fees and boring franchise costs).

By October of 2008 it was looking bleak for us.  Then, like I said, I attended the first Blissdom and met some encouraging friends who made me realize that this here blog already had enough page views to put up some ads and bring in a few dollars.  You have no idea how much we needed that.  Desperately.

I had homeschooled our boys for just over a year when we decided to put them into the new little public school across the street from our neighborhood.

And I started taking Nesting Place seriously.  I wasn’t crazy about the writing part but I loved the connection with you all and I had lots of ideas to write about.  Within months Nesting Place was bringing in much-needed income.

The next year, because we take schooling one year at a time, I homeschooled our then 6th grader, the 3rd grader went to a Montessori school and the 2nd grader was in public school.  The next year the oldest went to a private school. Again, all three of them in different schools, one public, one in a five-day-a-week private school, one in a three-day-a-week University style school.  Last year was a year of luxury where they all went to the same school, so they were all at school three days and then home doing schoolwork (homeschooled only without me having to plan lessons) on Wednesday and Friday.

Meanwhile, as of April of this year we had paid down our debt to a mere $10,000 left.  If you do the math, it makes no sense. Some years we paid off more than half of our income. We paid off more than $140,000 in four and a half years and it was messy, it seemed hopeless at times and we had a lot of work to do to clean up the effect that fall of 2008 had on us.  Seriously, part of me doesn’t even know how it happened.  We just kept throwing money at our debt.

As of today, we are ‘this-close’ to being debt free.  I underestimated our 2011 taxes and then we had a huge unexpected medical thing show up so that threw a wrench in our plans.  But we hope to be debt free (minus a family loan) by the end of the year.

And debt free is just that…freeing….

to be continued…tomorrow

and just for fun…


  1. This was really encouraging for me to read. My husband and I have a huge amount of debt from school loans and his ex-wife who really screwed things up financially using his name.

    Right now getting out of debt seems pretty hopeless because we’re paying bills and what’s left over we have to use for the stuff that just pops up – like snow tires and buying a car after hitting a dear. Ugh. Hearing stories like this renews my hope that we’ll get out one day! :)

  2. That is amazing. Congrats!
    I am slowly working on the same. I sold my dream car because the insurance was insane on it (I paid cash for the car so that wasn’t an issue). I bought a much older “mom-car” with 4 doors rather than the sports cars I have been used to for the last several years. I happen to love my new car. The only debt I have is a minor balance on my student loans and my home loan. But alltogether that totals less than 45K so I am happy about that.

  3. Thanks for the inspiration – on many levels…all the best to you and your family.

  4. This was definitely what I needed to hear today. I really feels like sometimes we’ll never get out of the hole we’re in, especially since my husband is still in school (he’s a full time grad student) and we still need to take out student loans sometimes. I graduated from college right in the middle of the worst part of the recession, and it took me six months to find a full time job (one that I was way over qualified for). That means six months of credit card debt and no savings. It was terrible. This gives me hope that there might just be an end in sight, so thank you! And go you for getting yourself out of debt. That’s an amazing accomplishment right there!


  5. Blessings to you. You are inspiring and honest. Loved the pictures of your kids hanging out comfortably at home.

  6. Hi Nester, I am a new follower of yours. I kept reading about you at Inspired Room, etc., and finally came over to join you. I wanted to tell you congratulations on getting almost out of debt!

    Also you mentioned “we had a huge unexpected medical thing show up so that threw a wrench in our plans.” We are members of Samaritan Ministries, an organization for Christians which is an alternative to insurance. It is Christians sharing with other Christians and is really an awesome ministry. If you want to check it out, you can look at it here: http://samaritanministries.org/ Past bills/pre-existing conditions are not covered–but if something is really a burden to you, there is something called Special Prayer Needs. I hope that you find this a blessing to you!

  7. Thanks for sharing your story! That is so inspiring! I pray you are debt free real soon.

  8. So inspiring. I’m trying to get debt-free and sometimes, it seems impossible. Reading about your experience shows me, concretely, that it can be done.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Darn those taxes! I have been following your get out of debt story from the beginning, and this is so inspiring. YOU PAID OFF $140,000! I feel like this post is much too quiet…you all paid off $140,000 of debt!! I’m jumping up and down for you!! :)

  10. Wow – thanks so much for sharing and putting yourself out there! I have a ton of student loans and my boyfriend and I bought our first home last year. We are “house poor” right now and both working on furthering our careers and moving up the ladder. It is really frustrating sometimes and disheartening. I’m really trying hard to make our house feel more homey and get discouraged because we don’t have the cash to do it. It’s nice to hear that everyone has struggles and we are all working hard towards our goals. Good stuff and being debt free doesn’t happen overnight, but loved hearing how all your hard work is paying off. Kudos!!

  11. Woah. You are SO close to calling Dave Ramsey and shouting, “We’re debt FREEEEEEEEEEE!!” Thanks for the inspirational post…may your freedom call come sooner than you think!

  12. Thank you for sharing Nester. You are such an inspiration to us all. I only discovered your blog three months ago after a life changing month-long trip to France. I wish I could remember the post that I stumbled upon that led me to you. Anyway, through your thoughtful insights into making a home and your links to Zen Habits and The Minimalists, I have embraced a calmer, simpler life. But it doesn’t happen overnight does it? I’m on a minimalist journey with two kids (7 & 9) and a dear husband.
    Thank you for helping me to expand my mind and realize where my intentions need to be, home and family. I’ve got a way to go, but it feels good to be on a journey to calm and soul-fulfilling moments, not material things. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  13. Thanks for sharing your story. What an incredibly hard, and inspiring journey. To top it off, your home decor and feeling never “suffered”, you know? Which is a wonderful testament to your blog.

  14. Like so many others, this post is encouraging to me as well. I found your blog when it was in its beginning stages. These past four years have been a different journey of sorts for me and my family. Your family debt looks like a mountain to me, however it was there, and now it is just a pile. We have the mountain before us as well. Seeing encouraging stories like yours encourage me and so many others that we can knock this thing out of the park.

  15. That is AMAZING work ya’ll have done! Congrats!

    And how did I not know you are in Charlotte? I live in Fort Mill and work in Charlotte. You totally need to do a meet-up for bloggers in Charlotte, or you know, just me :)

  16. OOO–I hope you call in to Dave Ramsey’s show and do the “debt-free scream.” I love those. :)

    Thanks for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to readers everywhere!

  17. It’s a wonderful thing bringing down your debt like that! Congratulations!! But I can’t help but think about your boys. Why shift them around SO much when it comes to their schooling? That part of their lives seems so unstable, which isn’t a good thing. And it certainly isn’t easy having three kids in three different school “systems”. Just curious why you chose to do it that way…

    • I think that’s a great question, and one I worried about too.

      We were very intentional with what learning style worked best for each boy–which we didn’t really discover until they all entered public school that first year–after that first year two thrived, one did not. So he went to the Montissori school. The other one stayed at the public school and in our state middle school starts in 6th grade and our oldest didn’t want to attend the public middle school. (oh yeah, I forgot to add, our boys have a lot of say in what kind of school they go to, so starting in 6th grade our oldest and my husband decided together what was best). Same thing happened with all the school changes, they all had a big say in where they wanted to attend.

      Changing schools isn’t near as detrimental as some people like to think.

      And sometimes I think people default to not changing something because they are afraid of change itself. I admit, it’s been a little crazy, but I feel like every year, it’s been the right choice for our boys…and stay tuned, this post was only part one of the story!

  18. and i thought our failed business debt of 50,000 was alot!!


    thanks, nester. xo

  19. Hi Nester,
    I am so blessed and inspired by you! Thanks for being transparent and real. I have a testimony about debt. When I got married, I entered our union with about $8,000 of credit card debt. I was ignorant at that time, and justified it by saying that I was putting myself through school. Well, anyone who has debt realizes what a huge burden it is. So, we set out to pay off that debt. Well, about the same time I discovered the principle of tithing. At first, I was angry and asked my husband “Do you really think God wants 10% of our very small salary when we are in debt? Don’t you think we should be debt free before we start giving money to the church?” He was very convicted to tithe, so begrudgingly at first, I complied. In a very short time I realized the wisdom of the principle, and we were blessed to pay off our debt in about 6 months. That was when our salary was in the $30,000’s a year. I believe that the reason we were miraculously able to pay off that debt so fast was because of God’s faithfulness and our obedience to His principles! Praise God for the work he did in me, and may you be debt free soon!

  20. hi nester…I had my kids in different school systems similar to you for awhile. it had to do with the needs of each of my kids. (life was a bit insane for me for awhile, it sure wasn’t easy but it worked for them.) wow re your debt repayment, and keeping it all together, it must have been tough. thanks for sharing what will inspire alot of people who are in similar situations since 2008.

  21. How positively uplifting and encouraging!
    SO, SO inspired by you and SO, SO happy for you and your family!

  22. Loved the SNL skit! Thanks for sharing your story, I leave comments and don’t have a blog…hope that doesn’t make me a killer. :)

    • nope, you are no killer! back when I first discovered blogs I assumed everyone was a killer, including myself when I left a comment (which is why I started off using a pretend name) clearly I am the one with issues!

  23. Being Debt free is priceless! Until about a year ago we were completely debt free – then I had an accident and we had to buy a new car. We opted to only pay half of the car in cash and finance the other half as we didn’t want to risk depleting our savings because my husband is finishing up a doctoral program and will be job searching, so we will have a few months with no income. I recently gave up my job due to our relocating back home near my parents, while he finishes his dissertation. We have always lived paycheck to paycheck it seems, and about six years ago due to a small inheritance and then a year later selling our dream home so my husband could go back to school we were able to get out of debt and pay for his tuition. We are pretty much at the bottom of the barrel right now, but other than our car payment which is doable, we have managed to stay debt free for the past five years and that includes a couple of years with some unexpected medical bills. This is the first time in our 28 years of marriage that I feel we have finally been able to manage our finances a little better and have some breathing room. Even so, we can’t take all the credit, because due to the generosity of my father, who owns the house we live in ( we plan to buy it eventually) we do not have to pay rent or a mortgage right now. We are not, and I expect never will be wealthy by the worlds standards. but God provides our needs and I can sleep at night, knowing that I am no longer a slave to credit cards or other bad debt. I admire your perseverance in paying off your debt in such a short amount of time. That could only be a God thing and a willingness on your part to make sacrifices. You are an inspiration as always.

  24. WOW!!!! That is absolutely amazing….I can totally relate to how exciting it is!!! And you are SOOOOO CLOSE!!!! I recently paid off about $36,000 in 2 years so $140,000 absolutely blows my mind!!! You should be so proud of yourself :-)

  25. This was awesome and congrats to you. Me and my family were on the same path. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and the cost of living here is INSANE. Here’s what we did.
    1. Paid down my student loans. About 30k. If you will notice I said down. I consistently made payments for 90 days, and then I worked with a loan specialist to get a loan to buy our house.
    2. Paid cash for EVERYTHING. We have 2 cars– both bought at insurance auctions. We paid cash for them. They are old ( 2001 and 2003) but “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”
    3. We bought our house and negotiated the appliances. They are old.. and are barely functioning BUT… we are saving small amounts from our paycheck to buy a 4 piece kitchen appliance set from a kitchen appliance warehouse. Although we can buy each piece separate ( we are living out of mini fridge) it will be more cost efficient to buy the 4 appliances that we need ( stove, fridge, dishwasher and microwave) all together for a deeper discount.
    4. Everything has to be DIY. I started shopping at Walmart for myself. ( I used to shop at Nordstrom so this has been a challenge) then I started shopping for quality pieces at JCP and Marshalls to mix them in my wardrobe.
    5. We got rid of cable for 9 months. Rented movies from the library
    6. We eat out twice a month
    7. Cook meals that will last at least 3-4 days

  26. YAY FOR YOU & YOUR FAMILY! you are so close; what a GREAT feeling! believe me, my husband & i know what debt is. right after we started dating, my husband bought the family farm; we went into our marriage w/ debt to the tune of 1/2 a million dollars. how exciting {so much sarcasm}! however, although we don’t like such debt hanging over our heads, i need to remind myself often that my husband is doing what he loves, we get to work together a lot, we’re surrounded by beautiful farmland, we get to see numerous ways that God provides for us, & the list of positives could go on & on! debt is ugly, but God is good!

  27. As others said above, thanks for the encouragement and the great story of how you took your time and got to be debt free. We are ready to sit down this weekend to get things in line for us to move forward to on a similar path.

  28. Hi Nester, so awesome to hear debt can be overcome, congrats. I’ve been wanting to join the diy blogging community for a while myself but one thing holds me back–debt. It is a hobby and something I love to do anyway. So my big question to you is how were you able to handle debt and get house projects done which also take money$$?

    • great question Jackie! really I don’t spend very much money on our house at all. Most of my projects are TINY! For example, in the photo that shows my boys on the sofa, we’ve had that sofa and coffee table and area rug for 6 or 7 years. But for an update I painted the coffee table, and bought a small 3 legged cow hide rug for $60 (I coudn’t afford a new, non-deformed one!) The drapes are just pieces of fabric, unlined, unhemmed, the, white chair $12 from a thrift store then slipcovered, the big chandy in the dining area, I saved up OKL credits for it, the dining furniture? I painted old furniture we had, the bar stools? I traded for them.

      I might need to finish my Furnish your home debt free series that I started last year!

      • PS, also because it’s my “job” now, I can justify doing little projects that I might not have been able to, like our laundry room, it was $150-$175 (most of which we can take with us) and part of why I could do it is because I knew I could write about it. The blog doesn’t justify HUGE expenses for me, but for small things, it helps me to know I can enjoy it and hopefully use it here at Nesting Place.

  29. Thank you for this amazing post and thank you for being so open with your life, it’s so inspiring! I’m a fairly new follower and just love the pics you post of your home and beautiful family! To be, they are more beautiful and inpsiring than any pic in a home magazine.

  30. Very inspirational to hear this. I just started my blog 6 months ago and my hopes are to build a following enough to start to make some money off of it. I know it takes patience and time to see your dreams come to reality. Very encouraging that yours has helped to pay down debt. I too hope to get to my first blogger conference so I can meet and make those connections with people like yourself that have lived and experienced what I hope for. Thanks again!

  31. thank yo for sharing your story. God is being glorified through you in so many ways.

  32. Your story is so hopeful. So encouraging! And, it is a testament to your creativity in not just matters of home but of business and life, too. CONGRATULATIONS to being almost there!

  33. Lindsay R. says

    Congratulations on being almost debt-free! What an accomplishment and a testimony to others who are trying to get out of debt. We were in the same boat a few years back-losing our business and our home- but now my husband is doing well with and loving the new business that he started! Thank you for your transparency and encouragement and all the fun things you share. You really have inspired me to try new things to make our house our HOME!

  34. Fall of 2008 was killer for us, too. We owned our current house (which now is worth at least $100,000 less than we paid for it) and had not yet sold our previous house. I remember watching the fall of AIG on CNN, calling the husband at work, and asking “this is really, really, really, bad, isn’t it?” Fortunately we have a happy ending, too. House sold, this house refinanced, and we are just now feeling back on our feet financially.

  35. Wow! That’s amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  36. Thank you so much for such an open post. I am full of admiration for you, and the choices you have made. Paying off that debt is a true achievement that you must be so proud of. Loved your initial reasons for starting the blog. I feel like a bit of a ‘pseud’ posting on my favourite blogs but having nothing of my own. Still I run my own business and do a good job for my employees, looking after my family and home, so there is no slack.
    Financial security gives such freedom. My husband took a 90% paycutfrom his finance job to teach science at senior school. Thankfully we had used his income to pay down the mortgage vs. over extending so are in a no debt.
    On the school thing totally agree that the needs of the individual child are key. We struggled with the decision to move our 13 year old to private school from the public school he attended with his older brother. In our case my eldest boy has cerebral palsy, and is a wheelchair user. He needed the additional support the state system in the UK provides. Youngest boy is on rugby scholarship, and having his needs met too (sport, sport and more sport!)
    It’s all such a journey, and you are clearly taking every step with confidence and bravura!

  37. Debbie Byrd says

    You just made my day, Nester! Not about the debt, but about wanting to start your own blog to generate income AND not appear as a *killer* on another blog – auuuuugh, that is ME too!! When you first commented back to me on FB, I couldn’t believe it – Nester. Responded. To. My. Statement. – again, auuuuugh – I probably scared you half to death with my response to YOUR responding to me! Seriously though, we live in some pretty crazy times – I probably would have been, “Ummm….psycho??!” I have followed your blog and MMS faithfully, and for someone who doesn’t have a blog, sometimes I hesitate to even respond. But you just made me laugh out loud with the reference to not want to appear as a killer/stalker to Pioneer Woman’s blog…I think many of us can relate! Keep doing what you’re doing, and thanks for sharing. A-True-Follower-Not-Stalker-Slash-Killer—– Debbie ; )

  38. Thanks for the encouragement!! Not only that there is a way out of debt even though there doesn’t seem to be one (not a one!) at the moment!! And that even big debt can be miraculously redeemed!! Makes our small (yet huge when you have 0) debt seem not sooooooo scary after all. There’s a halloween book for children by that title, BTW! As I always say I love your blog – it’s my favorite! I love creative decorating and all the plain ol’ fun you make it. I get excited when I see your emails, so thank you for writing it. And, also BTW, your sister is my favorite female author. I think your whole family has been a blessing beyond to me for that matter, since I really enjoyed reading your dad’s writings, as well, particularly, Scary Hope. Nuf said for now!!

  39. I had no idea, Nester! What an inspiring story, and congratulations for the big debt pay down! My husband has been laid off twice in the past 10 years, but because we always saved our pennies, we didn’t go under and managed to weather the storm. God is good and He is faithful!

  40. Thank you for being so honest about this area of your life! I enjoyed reading your story and some of the comments with even greater detail! Everything from writing a blog to help pay off debt to the different schools your boys have gone to–it is a great testimony to sharing that you can make life work for your specific circumstance. Knowing you have normal struggles like all of us only adds to the authenticity of your decorating mentality!

  41. First, congratulations!!! This is really encouraging to me! Although our debt is for a fabulous reason (adoption!), I still want to get rid of it and feel free to live again…even in the midst of selling our home that we’re likely losing money on. Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the hugeness of things, but I am inspired by your story!

  42. good for you…what an accomplishment. so many folks would just walk away from their responsibility and the failed though-not-your-fault business. You & hubs are wonderful role models for those three boys! God bless and good things are ahead of you.

  43. Wow, that is an amazing story. I’m a bit paranoid of debt, since my mom went through bankruptcy a few years ago. But we currently have about $15,000 of debt, and I hate it. We’re seriously considering a cross-country move to both reduce our expenses and experience a rural lifestyle for a few years (which we can’t afford here). If only my husband would find a good job there so we can get the ball rolling!

  44. And then you get to do your Dave Ramsey scream- AWESOME! : )

  45. Loved your story…you set a goal and are very close to accomplishing it…Bravo!!….such an inspiration to many!

  46. Picture me standing up and applauding you! I LOVE debt-free stories and this is a huge, huge, inspiring one. We are working to pay off our mortgage now after finally knocking out student loans, and I also have that “I-have-no-idea-how-we’ve-paid-so-much-off” feeling. I chalk it up to God-math, how He promises to bless us if we’ll give our income back to him. It doesn’t add up and it doesn’t make sense, but he never promised to do either of those things. :)

  47. So happy for you! Thanks for putting on your big girl pants and sharing something so personal.

  48. Thank you for this post! I have been reading your blog from the beginning, although I seldom leave comments. My husband lost his job 7 weeks ago and I’ve been a stay at home mom for 15 years. Our finances are looking pretty bleak at the moment but we have complete faith in God. He’s provided for us thus far and will continue to do so. It’s encouraging to know that others have been in the depths of debt and came out on the other side. Thank you for encouraging me. I look forward to your conclusion tomorrow.

  49. It is encouraging to know that someone else has dug their way out of debt. My husband and I just sold our “forever” house in an attempt to get out of debt – not only the mortgage but the second mortgage we took out to completely remodel the house. We were very lucky that we were able to sell the house and pay off both of these debts in the depressed economy of central Florida – we are now renting a house and using the extra money to pay off the remainder of our debt – one credit card paid off already – the only things left are one vehicle and the camper. There is light at the end of the tunnel – it just takes time and some sacrifice.

  50. That is so amazingly inspiring! Thank you for sharing that incredible story. It’s amazing to hear the way that someone started out their blog too, as I was beginning to feel like anyone successful has just always been doing this! Thank you for sharing this. Being debt free really would be such an amazing thing. Good luck to you and your family!

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