DIY/ Wellness

How We Removed 80% of Our Unhappiness in The Home

March 3, 2021

In 2020, we removed 80% of our unhappiness in the home. Using the 80/20 rule, we took stock of what grated on us most, and one by one started eliminating them. The results were huge.

Sarah painting a brown brick wall white.

The 80 / 20 rule, also known as Pareto’s Principle, is where 80% of the outcome is from 20% of the effort. This can be applied in so many areas in your life. Today we’re looking at a big one – your happiness and in particular – your pebbles.

You know when you get a little rock in your shoe? That tiny thing will stop you in your tracks, annoying you until you flick it out. Now imagine the pebble as an issue in your life, the kind that doesn’t take much effort being there (the 20%) but causes you constant grief (the 80%).

Once the pebble is solved, the 80/20 rule is reversed. The small effort (the 20%) to remove the pebble gives you an abundance of happiness and gratitude (the 80%) because it’s no longer in your life.

Have I got your attention?

Taking Stock Of Your Pebbles

Just like it’s important to have a regular decluttering practice for physical or digital items, every so often it’s time to take stock of the ‘pebbles’ in your life to see what can be removed.

The pebbles term was first introduced to us by Vanessa Van Edwards, when we completed her Power of Happiness course back in 2018, and we’ve been removing them as much as possible ever since.

The first step is to write down all the current physical pebbles in your environment. Start at the front of your house and slowly work all the way through to the backyard.

Take your time to think about all the things that either annoy you or you ‘just put up with’.

Here’s a few examples to get you started:

  • Squeaky doors
  • Lightbulb that needs replacing
  • Bags that need to be donated
  • Buy new remote for TV so all the buttons work again

One of our pebbles was the microwave. Over time, it became harder to shut. You’d flick it closed, only to have the door bounce back out, requiring you to slam it shut.

The solution? A couple of drops of oil on the latches. Pebble solved in under 5 minutes. We’d put up with this for years!

The relief and happiness you feel once these are removed from your life is amazing. It only compounds, becoming more addictive as you go.

Once pebbles become more noticeable, you start seeing them in other areas of your life outside the home.

Some examples are:

  • Working out a shortcut on your reports at work that saves you half an hour a week
  • Finally getting the tyres replaced on your car

It’s when you start to look around you that you realise just how many annoying things you put up with in your life.

Say you start off a new day feeling neutral, and by the time you’re cooking dinner you’ve had 20+ pebbles trigger you throughout the day as you walk past them or even trip over them (here’s looking at you rug before I bought your non-slip mat underneath).

That’s a lot of environmental factors negatively impacting your day which YOU HAVE COMPLETE CONTROL OVER TO SOLVE.

Imagine the same day as before, but with all the pebbles removed. By the time you get to dinner, you’re practically swinging around the kitchen table with all the improvements!

This. Is. Huge.

How We Removed 80% of Our Unhappiness in The Home for under $2k in 2020:

Tree Removal:

Man cutting down a tree.

In June 2019, we had a strong winter storm which ended up snapping a huge branch off a tree out the back, landing in the neighbours garden. Once that was cleaned up, whenever we had another storm (especially overnight), I’d lie there listening to the tree swaying around just waiting for another branch to fall off. We worried about this for another YEAR before I finally rung an arborist. 24 hours later, the tree was cut down and completely removed without lifting a finger. We were also told it was a good thing we removed it as there was a high chance another branch could have snapped on that type of tree.

Total cost: $250.
Total personal time cost: 5 minutes. It was a pretty quick phone call!

Washing Machine:

When we first got back from our round the world trip, we bought a secondhand washing machine for $250. For 5 years it washed perfectly. Then it started this clunking noise – it didn’t affect the washing but it sounded horrendous. Because it wasn’t theoretically “broken” we continued to put up with it. It got to the point though where it was so embarrassingly loud, and it was time to get rid of the pebble. So we sold it for $150 (yep, clunking and all – even showed them a video of the noise!) and popped $200 worth of birthday money toward a brand new washing machine.

Total cost: $344 ($694 – $150 for old one and -$200 birthday money)
Total personal time cost: 1 hour. 30 minutes to snap a pic, upload to Gumtree and help the buyer load it in the car. 30 minutes to research and order a new one online with free next day delivery and installation (thanks AppliancesOnline!).


Wooden kitchen before and after being painted white.

Some of you may have seen our kitchen renovation transformation over on our Instagram stories. We had a daggy wood kitchen from the 80s but the appliances were all fine, we just wanted it a more aesthetically pleasing kitchen. We set it as a project over winter to take 2 weeks off and set to work. Using just paint, we revamped all the cupboards and benchtops from wood to a lovely white and grey. The results were huge. The only new parts we added were new black handles. Now it feels great whenever we go to make a coffee in the morning, and it cost hardly anything!

Total cost: $380

Our Roof:

There’s nothing better than listening to the wind and rain lashing outside while you’re rugged up in bed. Unless you start hearing drips on your ceiling! This was our biggest pebble of the year. A roof leak that only occured if the rain was coming in at a certain angle. It happened so infrequently, we’d forget about it then only remember when it was the middle of the night and not the right time to contact someone! We finally got someone in who not only fixed that leak but found another as well. Huge peace of mind was gained that day.

Total cost: $1100

Kitchen Blind:

We’d noticed the last few years our kitchen would heat up a lot over summer with the afternoon sun coming straight through the window. It was especially hot when Laura would be trying to do the dishes after dinner with the sun streaming in full force in front of her. Her idea was to put a blind up, and she said she hadn’t suggested it sooner as she thought blinds were very expensive and hard to install. A couple of YouTube videos, a quick visit to the hardware store and 24 hours later we’d installed a brand new blind for $26. The difference it’s made to her ‘dishes time’ and the heat of the house has been huge.

Total cost: $26

The Biggest Change We Made Yet

Moving Bedrooms

The last, and most happiness-inducing, pebble removal of the year – moving bedrooms. What was meant to be a night time sanctuary, quickly became riddled with regular anxiety and the question of “What’s going to wake us up tonight?”. You see, our house is semi-detached with a shared wall straight down the middle. This means, combined with 80’s infrastructure of no insulation between the homes, we can hear everything going on in our neighbour’s bedroom. From yelling fits and 2am karaoke of Meatloaf best hits, to morning alarms and even SMS phone dings – we heard it all.

It got to the point we desperately wanted to move, and if we did, would need at least $60k for a cash deposit on another house, with $20k of that going down the drain to Stamp Duty. An expensive and drastic solution if you ask us, but we were running out of options, or so we thought.

Laura one night had the idea to move bedrooms. We only have two, and the other one was being used as our home office. We figured it didn’t cost anything, and only took us one night to switch around our furniture from room to room.

Six months on from that switch, the results have been indescribable. That move literally saved us thousands, and mentally saved us from going crazy. The room is quiet, we can’t hear a thing, and yet we’re just down the hall. We don’t even mind that the room is smaller, and now love the bigger home office where I’m currently writing this from, the sun streaming in from the windows next to me.

Cost: $0

Next time you have a big pebble, really think about all the ways you can remove it. One of the best tips I’ve read lately in solving problems, is to get past your “only” solution. Roadblock it and pretend you can’t do it. For us, we said – okay, take ‘moving house’ off the table with our bedroom situation – what else can we do? We looked into so many other ideas before thinking of that final answer – the one that ended up being the simplest and most cost effective answer of all!

Before swapping rooms, we’d also looked into soundproofing the room and even converting our shed out the back into an external bedroom. Both these ideas also cost money, but we were looking at the angle of “if you’re already going to lose $20k to stamp duty buying a new house, is there a way to use that money instead to add value to the house AND solve the sound issue?”. Lucky for us the final answer was free.

So tell us, what pebbles are either in your life right now that you’d LOVE to remove, or what’s a big pebble you’ve removed recently that’s made a huge impact? Let us know in the comments!


  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    March 4, 2021 at 2:43 am

    Loveeeee this post guys and the concept of removing the pebbles in your life! So many great action items you’ve checked off these last few months, and to think a majority of them were quick and simple! Still blown away with the out of the box thinking of switching bedrooms – brilliant!

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      March 16, 2021 at 10:15 am

      Thanks Court! 🙂 Yeah, I think that’s the craziest part – it usually doesn’t take much effort, you just need to make the choice and start!

  • Reply
    Michelle @ FrugalityandFreedom
    March 4, 2021 at 10:28 pm

    Great post. Sometimes these fixes are so simple and not really all that time consuming when it comes down to it. Yes, it’s tricky when they present only a low-level mental drain and don’t seem pressing enough to address – until you add up how often you’re being triggered daily and depleting your happiness! It’s as worthwhile as they say about working in that “Not Urgent + Important” quadrant.

    I read a good article this week by Raptitude about how a task will often form a “cloud” around itself in our minds; the vapour getting bigger as we add more excuses and fears around it. At the end of the day, the task at the centre is usually a small achievable thing, though we get overwhelmed by the cloud of doom we’ve built around it. Reach in and take hold of the task! One for the procrastinators.

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      March 16, 2021 at 10:16 am

      Oh I love that explanation of delayed tasks – it’s so true, and literally like digital pebbles!

  • Reply
    Jordan @ FIRE Your Own Way
    March 16, 2021 at 5:15 am

    So true that it helps to declutter your digital life as well! Did some of that yesterday and feel much better for it. Great to see you’re finding ways to make yourself happier. Keep losing those pebbles!
    (Also your kitchen looks amazing 😀)

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      March 16, 2021 at 10:18 am

      Same actually, we’ve been on a digital declutter hunt this last week and it feels so good to get through yeeeaaars of crap that’s been on our computer!

      Also thanks re: the kitchen – super happy with the result!

  • Reply
    March 16, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    Brilliant post and timely reminder to look at those low level irritants that speak to you every time you see them. Half way through this post, I got up and re padded the chair I’m sitting on to stop it squeaking across the floor I move it; and I cut of the dead leaf of the indoor plant I look at nightly. Phew. I’m sure there is more. In fact, I will go ahead and catalogue it now. And then one by one – tick them off. It’s such a good feeling!!! Thanks for the suggestion!

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      March 17, 2021 at 9:31 am

      Oh, what an awesome comment. So glad you were able to already remove two pebbles – it’s crazy how easy some are to fix. Here’s to more awesome pebble removals in your future! 😀

  • Reply
    Dave @ Minimalism and Your Money
    March 17, 2021 at 2:29 am

    Everything in the house looks great! I love the pebbles analogy. It’s so true that the little, everyday things have a major impact on our overall happiness. Those nagging little things continue to bother us. At the same time, we can look at it the other way. Happiness usually comes from small pleasures that accrue over time, not big splashes that happen once a year. Great post!

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      March 17, 2021 at 9:34 am

      Yes, exactly Dave! Maybe I need to write a post on that next? Haha. We definitely appreciate the small pleasures – some of our favourites are watching birds, daily walks and even the current smell of our hand soap!

  • Reply
    Dividend Power
    March 18, 2021 at 4:13 am

    Your new kitchen looks nice and you did not have to do too much.

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      March 18, 2021 at 10:15 am

      Thank you! Yeah, it’s amazing what a little elbow grease and lick of paint can do!

  • Reply
    Impersonal Finances
    March 18, 2021 at 4:53 am

    That kitchen reno is incredible! And just paint?! It’s crazy how little work needed to be done for that result.

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      March 18, 2021 at 10:15 am

      Aww thanks! Yep, just paint. The only thing we bought new was the black handles. 🙂

  • Reply
    Accidentally Retired
    March 18, 2021 at 6:15 am

    Love the pebble analogy! Great examples of using the 80/20 rule to really focus on happiness, especially around the home (where we have all spend a lot of time recently). Will need to talk with my wife about our pebbles and see how we can alleviate some pains!

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      March 18, 2021 at 10:16 am

      Very true, it really is more important than ever recently. Hope you guys find a couple to remove around the place. Let us know what they are if you do! 🙂

  • Reply
    NZ Muse
    July 2, 2021 at 12:38 pm

    A basic coat rack was one of the BEST things I ever paid money for!

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      July 6, 2021 at 5:18 pm

      Nice one! I’m sure the coat rack would make a difference – and hope it solved a pebble for you!

  • Reply
    The Thrifty Issue
    July 15, 2021 at 11:54 am

    I love this! Such a good idea and a wonderful way to look at it. My sister has been doing similar lately with her home too and it has made a massive difference,

    It’s amazing how those little things can add up and once they are done give so much relief. The kitchen looks gorgeous too.

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      July 23, 2021 at 9:36 am

      Hey, hey! Ah that’s awesome to hear with your sister. It really is crazy how much it begins to add up. Is there one pebble you’d love to tackle first? 🙂

  • Reply
    Stacie Scattergood
    September 29, 2021 at 9:26 am

    We lived in a house for 20 years that we decided to sell–and of course, along came the “fix it” list. So much of it was aesthetics that would have made our time in a house we loved even better. Why pay for someone else to enjoy all your work?! You should get to enjoy it too!

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      October 5, 2021 at 5:01 pm

      Hey Stacie, that’s so true! Now you can do it for you new place from the start and enjoy all your time there :D.

    Leave a Reply