Category Archives: D.I.Y. House and Home

Tidying vs. organizing

Hello all,

I’ve just completed a makeover of my studio. I’m including some before and after pics below.

I’m also reading a book called The LIfe-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Japanese art of un-cluttering and organizing. There are some fundamentally good principals in this book. I think I should share some of them with you, my kind readers. The author Marie Kondo, suggests that one should never tidy and organize the entire house, or an entire room all at once, but rather should organize and tidy by category gradually.

You should start with socks and work your way to personal papers, and then do memorabilia last. Things with sentimental value and/or things that are rare should be the very last and take the longest to winnow.

Good Grief! And THIS is organized.
Good Grief! And THIS is organized.

What struck me most in reading this book was that she says, getting organizers (all those plastic drawers!) to store everything neatly in is, in reality, just another way to hoard things.

I never considered myself a hoarder. I think of those ghastly reality television shows with those poor people who can’t move for the mess in their houses! That’s not me, no, definitely not me.

What about all my teapots, my music boxes, and my books? I’m allowed to “collect”, right? Right. Collecting is another topic. Not according to the dictionary.

Hoard  1. a secret store of valuables or money. synonyms include accumulate, amass, and collect. Hmmmm. *sad face


Am I a secret hoarder? I decided to put this theory of hoarding to the test. I thought instead of starting with socks, (I can hold all my sock pairs in two hands), I would start with office supplies. Office supplies hold no sentimental value. Breaking this down by category, I pulled out all the pens from drawers in my studio, then out from all the drawers all over the house, my husbands office, gulp! in the kitchen. Goodness! We had so many pens. There was a pile six inches deep and three feet wide on our dining room table. Whoops.

So here I am beginning to take things off the walls. The blue is my "timeline" for books I'm working on. I line the chapters up to organize and stick them on.
So here I am beginning to take things off the walls. The blue is my “timeline” for books I’m working on. I line the chapters up to organize and stick them on.


So I’ve gone through and trashed all the ones that didn’t work well, then I filled all the pen holders in the house, and then I put the remaining pile in baggies for my church pre-school. The teachers are always looking for the allusive, working Sharpie.

But wait! That’s not all. While searching for pens I found we had four boxes of paper clips, eight boxes of staples, four staplers, way too much tape, and when I stacked the sticky note pads one atop the other, the stack stood fourteen inches high. Double whoops. While in the bedroom I found a lot of old prescription glasses. What to do with them? I don’t know.

So here I've painted my shelves. These were floor baseboards in this 100 year-old-house.
So here I’ve painted my shelves. These were floor’s baseboard in this 100 year-old-house.

So I’ve got some tidying to do. I’m not talking about organizing, I’m really pretty organized (mainly because I have so many boxes and whatnot drawers to hide things in). I’m talking about piling things up and deciding how I’m going to get them out of my house. Apparently, I’m realizing, I’ve got more than I will ever use.

This is where the computer and printers were.
This is where the computer and printers were


Now, the author of the tidying book says I should touch everything individually and wish it a better life elsewhere, and give it a kiss. Look, if you hear that I’m talking to inanimate objects you have my permission to call the white-coated folks. If I’m that emotionally attached I’ll just keep it. Seriously.


Now before, the walls were cream and the shelves blue, now the walls are blue and the shelves white. I like this better.
Before, the walls were cream and the shelves blue, now the walls are blue and the shelves white. I like this better.
Ack! Ack! Okay, so the mess under the desk is my scrapbooking yet to be done pile. But this is the gorgeous new corner (behind the door) for my computer and printers.
Ack! Ack! Okay, so the mess under the desk is my scrapbooking yet to be done pile, but this is the gorgeous new corner (behind the door) for my computer and printers.
This was where the computer used to be. Now it's my art only corner. Note I painted a chalkboard onto the wall between the shelves. This will be my new timeline.
This was where the computer used to be. Now it’s my art only corner. Note I painted a chalkboard on the wall between the shelves. This will be my new timeline.
This is where the first picture was taken. This is now the sewing corner, though I don't know how much sewing I'll ever get to, here's hoping.
Remember the first picture? This is now the sewing corner, though I don’t know how much sewing I’ll ever get to. Here’s hoping.
And THIS is just for grins.
And THIS is just for grins.



Something Old Made New

SAM_1445Going through my mother’s extensive collection of handicraft supplies and projects was to step back in time. I remember when she was using acrylic paints and decoupaging everything that didn’t move. That was in the early 70’s. Then I found the unfinished sewing projects. The fact that she had started them and not finished, it broke my heart a little. She was always busy with some project or another, and happy at it, but these sequined, felt, Christmas ornaments, and the little doll really did me in. The doll I remembered my mother telling me she had begun when I was born. She got distracted and didn’t finish it. I have my precious grand girl now. Maybe she would like what MeeMaw began so long ago.SAM_1447

First, I had to figure out the directions. There weren’t much to them. There were a few pictures, this wasn’t quite as hard as putting a desk from Ikea together. I stuffed the pieces and sewed them together. I sewed the shirt together using a little hand-held sewing machine. I don’t expect I’ll be doing a lot of sewing projects so having a real sewing machine won’t be in future purchase plans. The little hand-held machine made this a cinch. Except there is only one strand of thread instead of two and so if I happen to pull too hard at the end of each turn the entire seam would come out. Hmmm.

SAM_1472Then I came to the yarn hair. After about five strands I believe I have discovered how to hide the part and make the hair look like it’s part of the doll’s head. I got this! SAM_1473 SAM_1474

SAM_1475SAM_1476 I was smoking, until I came the trousers. There were pockets for crying out loud! I’ve never done pockets on anything. The directions were completely missing for the little bluejeans. I couldn’t figure out how to piece the parts together. It took me an hour of working and growling until I thought I had it right. I used the hand-held and began to sew, but then something happened to the little machine. The thread kept coming unthreaded from the needle. I kept rethreading it. I would try again and it would come apart again. Enough already! I hand-sewed the trouser legs. I turned it inside out and realized it was all wrong. I picked out the seams and tried again. This was such a lesson in patience. This time giving up completely on the machine and hand-sewing everything.SAM_1482 I finally had it right. However, the seams on the blouse were coming undone – like me. That’s when I pulled out the big gun.

It’s called glue.

The little baseball mitt and the ball and the shoes…I glued. And forget about the pockets. I think it might be even be childproof.

SAM_1478Along with the sewing projects I now have tried decoupage. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds and certainly is a great way to use my old stamp collection.  And 100 year old music magazines my mother had kept.   Yes, I’m decoupaging everything. SAM_1469

Easy-Peasy: Re-covering a chair seat

My dining room chairs are fifteen years old. The stained seat cushions were full of cat hair in all the tiny crevices, not an appetizing place to sit and eat.SAM_1434

My back-up plan was to get some seat covers from the store and tie them on. If I carried out that plan, the thought at the back of my mind would be “ewww”.  I knew what would be under them. I had to replace. It sounded like such a gigantic project. There were so many reasons not to do it. And so many reasons to do it, many of those having to do with cat hair.

SAM_1436So I began disassembling the chair pad/seat from the frame. If you have metal chairs with padded seats, yours won’t be much different to take apart. This would be true for a lot of types of dining room chair, not only the metal ones. Unscrew the pads from the chair base.

Turn the pads over and tear off the pretty lining that hides all the ugly bits.The staples that hold the material to the board will need to be pried off in case they interfere with the addition of new staples. This chair had buttons and these need to be snipped from beneath and pulled through. Oh! Gack! Matted balls of fur!SAM_1437

SAM_1438I cut the material in a square. I don’t have a sewing machine so I’m not going to do the tailored covers that were original. I place the board with the padding face down.

With a staple gun I begin stapling the material, careful at the corners to fold the material so it pleats around the edges of the corners. Yes, it’s ugly. I am not going to make it pretty with a lining because no one but the cat sees the underside of the chairs.SAM_1439

Use the screws to attach the chair seats.


Voila! New chairs!

A Stinky Wicket

IMAG0222As with all renovation projects you must be aware of the pitfalls. Every renovation will have a problem, or several, okay, perhaps hundreds of problems. We have renovated or done partial renovations to five houses so far.  I’m not counting repainting, or updating flooring in houses we fixed to sell and move from. These are houses we changed by gutting and redoing. For a while there, my husband and I actually chose to take on the task of renovating old houses.

Those were the crazy years.

We are down to two renovated houses. The house we live in was built in 1910. It was updated once around 1979. When we purchased it, the two toilets in the house didn’t work. The one wasn’t connected and the other when flushed would shoot the black sewerage out across the room. That was fun.

The old house is quite nice now. We have three new toilets – I should be specific so you don’t think we have spare toilets sitting around.  We added a large master bath upstairs, put a new toilet in the old bath upstairs (a reno-project yet to be), and created a new half-bath downstairs. The bath downstairs is tiny but suited to it’s purpose. I decorated it as if it had been put in in 1910, complete with light fixtures I picked up at Bluebird resale shop. IMAG0225This picture doesn’t do those light fixtures justice. You’ll have to take my word for it, they look like the ones used in the old days.

The other house we have is a rental house. During those aforementioned crazy years we actually bought a couple of houses specifically to rent. To people. I know. Don’t get me started. The two rental houses were in the same neighborhood, which made fixing them a tiny bit more convenient.

Time passed and bills mounted. We got tired of fixing and repairing and replacing with one of the rent houses. The renter could not change a light bulb. We sold it as soon as our renter legged it in the middle of the night. She left us with holes in the walls, broken fixtures, and an oven that took me two days of soaking with grease remover to scrape clean. (I was rather proud of myself after that – it shone.) There was so much damage in the kitchen we did a partial gut and replaced all the lower cabinets, plumbing, and sink. And we did sell it. So now, we have one rent house.

I’ve been loath to sell it because we have such a wonderful renter. Wonderful renters are a rarity.

I was just thinking this past Tuesday morning how nice it was that nothing had broken since the freezer went out  during the big storm. I caught on to the fact that it was de-frosting when I saw the trail of water across the garage floor. I’m so thankful it was in time to save the good stuff. Two pizzas were casualties though.

Tuesday rolled by. That evening the renter called. She was apologetic (she’s such a sweetheart), but her toilets would not flush. Neither of her toilets would flush. (She has five kids. She NEEDS a toilet!!) I was so sorry to hear it, for her sake. I assured her I would call right away to schedule a plumber. He came the next day and found some blockages and removed them. Everything was working when I left. That evening she called because the toilets were blocked again. I called the plumber back.

Unlike the toilets this story is running on too long, do you feel it?

So what will happen? Best case scenario would be that the only thing I have to do is buy a new toilet, because one toilet is refusing all attempts to fix it. Worst case scenario is when the plumber comes back this Tuesday to use a video camera down through the sewer line, he finds something horrible in that 60-year-old pipe and we have to dig up the foundation and the bathroom.

I don’t want to have to sell the rental house. But there is often so much work that needs to be done with these old houses, it’s hard to keep up.

It’s time for a coffee break. coffee

The Difference Four Years Made

Dec. 2010
Dec. 2010

Five years ago in December we bought a house to restore and sell. Then we discovered we would soon be grand parents and we needed a bit bigger place. So our fixer-upper became our home. We moved in May 2011. It’s been four years and what a difference right?

Can you spot the differences?

May 2015
May 2015

In these four years, we made the house habitable. It had been sitting partially touching the soil. We built a three car garage with apartment above. (Because of city regulations, we could not put it where the original car port was, we had to move it seventeen feet from the property line. So, yes, it takes up the entire back yard.) We planted a few trees. Our peach tree is conspicuously missing. It was right in front of the house about twelve feet from the curb. (Someone dug it up and took it in the middle of the night last week.) We added a fountain in the front yard, you can’t see it because it’s behind a tree.  The upstairs french doors were removed and windows added instead. The lattice was removed as it served no purpose that we could see. The bottom porch’s curved pieces of wood were removed because they were rotted. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, the wrap around bit of cedar shingles was replaced with roofing to give a more tailored look.

The house was built in 1910 by an insurance man who lived on LaSalle street. He built the house at about the time he married. The porches have always been the way they are with the Victorian wrap-around with the slim supports and gingerbread on the balcony and the craftsman style supports on the lower porch.

Nell lives a block away. She is 94 years old. She was born in the house she is living in. She used to play on our front porch when she was a little girl because her grandfather and the man who build our house were good friends and would sit and talk and tell stories on our front porch. It’s nice to know someone who has watched our house all these years.

Dad and daughter
Our girl and her father.
The prettiest flower girl, ever.

The other big thing that has changed since we moved in is that our lovely daughter married. Our precious grand girl has a wonderful step-daddy. We are just pleased as the proverbial punch about this.

2013 in my blog review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Doors

This isn’t a blog about musicians.

A wild idea came to me while we were in the long process of fixing the rot under the house, replacing vital parts, and painting. It began because none of us could decide on a favorite door color.

So why not paint all the doors a different color?

Why not?

First, I will treat you to the redoing of a 100 year-old door:   First, strip the many, many layers of paint.SAM_0579_0293 SAM_0571_0068 SAM_0572_0069















Next, figure out the color. In this case I took some flowers from the garden to Home Depot and color matched them.SAM_0578_0292 SAM_0573_0300







Then, finding the outline of old hinges under the paint layers, I set out to duplicate the hinges with “play-doh”.SAM_0574_0288 SAM_0577_0291









It wasn’t easy to find something that would withstand freezing and humid hot weather and still stick to the door. I was able to use this and then paint it with weather-proof paint and glue it with weather-proof glue. I think it was successful.SAM_0770_0262

You can almost see the “hinges” on the left edge of the door.









The inside back door is white.
The inside back door is white.
Upstairs front balcony door a dusty blue.
Upstairs front balcony door a dusty blue.
The front door is pale green.
The front door is pale green.
The door to the garage apartment is yellow.
The door to the garage apartment is yellow.
The back upstairs balcony door is Cayenne.
The back upstairs balcony door is Cayenne.
One of the back doors is blue-green.
One of the back doors is blue-green. This is actually my favorite color. It is also the only door that can not be seen from the street.