What 8 dollars can buy you. . .


December of 2018, my husband and I purchased a 1935 fixer upper in a sleepy town of Monrovia, CA.

Erin Iler falling in love with her dusty old home.

We purchased it “As Is.” It was no secret that the only way we could even jump into the housing market in Southern California was to purchase a home that needed the most work on the block. Although aesthetically it was in shambles, the barrel ceilings, the pull down staircase to the attic, the fireplace with the ornate details, and the vintage tile in the bathrooms were some of the features that infatuated me with this old house. When I found the lines on the molding of children’s height chronicled over time, I felt like this house had a story to tell and we wanted to revive it back to it’s glory days.


This story might sound familiar by the Home improvement shows you have seen or the stories you have read in magazines. However, we are teachers, and our budget to rehab this amazing house was on a very fixed budget. We had to prioritize what was deemed essential to make the house functional, thank you to an amazing contractor, and then room by room, we slowly made changes.


Iler's Attic- before the renovation.

So, what can 8 dollars buy you for a home? The 10 foot high barrel ceilings in the living room had a buried electrical outlet in the ceiling. It was calling for a grand chandelier that could illuminate the ceiling and bring an added touch of warmth to the room. I perused the local stores that had beautiful, new light fixtures, that totaled in price to at least 400 dollars. I knew I wanted something ornate, that could replicate the time of the 1930s tudor home. After shopping from store to store, I reluctantly came home feeling defeated that we could not afford a light fixture for the living room.


6 months later, we visited our family in Arizona. My mother in law urged me to come “thrifting” with her while we were visiting. She said, “You never know what you will find and what some people will throw away.” So, I went for a day thrifting, with no expectations. I found some chairs that I could repaint, a mirror, vintage mason jars, but no chandelier. The owner, an older gentleman at one of the thrift stores, told me, “Honey, we don’t sell chandeliers here. It is just not very popular.” So, I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to save up for awhile for the new chandelier I had found back at home.

The next morning Scott and I returned to Habitat for Humanity with our truck to pick up our purchases. “I am just going to take one more walk through the store,” I told Scott. There was still a glimmer of hope in my mind that I just might find what I was looking for. I walked past the ceiling fans, past the rows of lamps, past the dresser drawers, to the back row where broken items were placed. I looked up and down the two shelves of items. And then I saw it. . . . There, sitting on the second shelf, was an exquisite wrought iron chandelier! It was glowing right before my very eyes. I felt like Clark Griswold in the movie “Christmas vacation”, when he walked for three hours in the woods to find the perfect Christmas tree.


I picked up the cumbersome chandelier and brought it back to the front of the store. The same owner who told me they didn’t carry chandeliers, looked at me and said, “You sure you want that thing? It doesn’t even have lightbulbs to go with it?” Scott was smiling at me and shaking his head. He knows that when I set my mind to something, I am going to pursue it until I finish the project. Scott unscrewed a random light bulb from another fixture and screwed it into the socket. We plugged in the chandelier, and like magic, the chandelier came to life glowing. We quickly searched for Vintage light bulbs online and found 2 packages. With such excitement, I asked the man, “How much is this chandelier?” He looked it over and said, “Well it is quite a big purchase. It is 8 dollars ma’am.” I tried not to drop my jaw in disbelief. I had been pricing these vintage chandeliers for 6 months. So, I quickly paid the 8 dollars and we loaded it into our truck.


An Iler Woods treasure found at Habitat for Humanity- the long awaited Chandelier.

After we purchased the vintage light bulbs, the grand total was thirty dollars. Why am I telling you this story? I think we all have had different moments in our lives, when we want to rush life full speed ahead. We want the immediate gratification of something new. But is new always better? If I would have purchased that fancy light at the local store, I would not have experienced this journey to finding the dusty chandelier in the back of a store that was deemed “broken.”


All of us have the ability to make things new again, if we take the time to put some elbow grease into a project. I love that I went on this wild goose chase to find what I really wanted. I didn’t want to settle for something that was mediocre. My daughters have found that with each project we take on, it is going to take some time, we are going to get dirty, and we might even get a bit frustrated. But, the end product, most often, exceeds expectations.



Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.” Maybe we can all slow down with our life projects, and have some patience for what our vision is. My husband always tells me, “It’s the journey you will remember, not the finish line.”


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