Tag Archives: Renovation

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.



The Underneath

Cover of "The Underneath (Ala Notable Chi...
Cover via Amazon

There is an excellent book called “The Underneath” by Kathi Appelt about some animals that learn to sacrifice and survive together underneath. This isn’t too much of a stretch to say that we, here at our house, have got to learn to survive despite what we have UNDERNEATH.

When we first contracted our contractor, George, to do the major renovations on our house I distinctly remember telling him that I wanted to make sure everything underneath the hundred-year-old pier and beam house was good – meaning no termites, no rot, and leveled. He hired a company to come in and replace rotted beams and level the house and they assured me there were no termites.

A year later we had suffered through a pretty severe drought. There were cracks running up and down near windows, doors weren’t shutting correctly, and the kitchen terrazzo tiles have broken into pieces. Well, we decided, houses settle. Houses settle. It must be the drought.

One day the dog managed to squeeze under the house to chase a not-belonging-to-him cat. He came out soaking wet and muddy head to toe. It hadn’t rained in months. That was the first clue. Something was terribly amiss underneath.

But times were not good. Other emergencies with family and rent houses came and went. The underneath had to wait. I withheld my worries from the family because they seemed trivial compared to the failing health of loved ones and the busted pipes at rent houses.

Then this year came and with it an amazing soar in home prices. Time to sell the extra properties. We put the gorgeous Victorian gem on the market at a moderately higher price than we expected. Within four hours we had a bidding war and a signed contract for way over the amount we had asked. Wow. We sold one of the rent houses. We did not do so well there but it was outside the city and we didn’t expect to, but it sold, and that was the amazing part.

So, I mentioned to my husband that I was worried about the underneath of our house. I have an excellent handyman who despite his severe fear of spiders said he would help me clean out the old insulation from underneath and check for rotten beams. The first thing I asked him to do was to take off the skirt boards from around the outer perimeters.

We found rot. A lot of it.SAM_0429 SAM_0432

There are piers that look like a little kick will topple them.SAM_0443

Then under the house we found missing piers.SAM_0468

Weird wires.SAM_0461

And then yesterday we found the drip.


When water is run inside the house it becomes more like a stream. As a result there is a bog under the house. It doesn’t run out from beneath and across the yard and down the road. No. If it did we would have noticed and done something about it before now. The drip is only enough to keep it a wet mud-pit. Only enough to get those middle piers to slowly sink down creating major fault lines in our walls and tiles.

The plumber is coming tomorrow. After that we’ll need an electrician, then the termite inspector.

Fingers crossed we don’t have to deconstruct the house to get to the pipe that is the culprit in all this.

And Kathi, we have a lovely Calico cat underneath. She is happy under there. The dog is too big and bulky to squeeze under easily. But if it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t have found the problems in order to fix them. Hooray for the beasties!

This Week of Renovating

The bathroom vanity before
The bathroom vanity before

The other day I was driving West on I-10, my thoughts ranged from the mundane (how was I going to find the time to stain the floors of the Oldcastle house) to the odd (I love renovation. Why didn’t I do this full-time?).

I’ve discovered laying glass tile is a breeze. If they weren’t so expensive I would plaster rooms with them. Rooms! At the Oldcastle house I put glass tile around the bath vanity, including at the floor around the vanity because the hole that we filled in with cement was filled too high to put conventional tile on. So here you see the dark tile around the new vanity.


Sure, I could begin a small renovation business. I had just installed glass tiles and grouted them in the master bath of the house.

They looked perfect. I had designed several of the new elements of the house from the cabinets (wish they were all white, though) and the bathroom vanities. I had added a light where there was none to create a dining room area. It was fun. Just wish I wasn’t using our money to do it. How much more fun would this be if it were someone else’s money? I could do wonders for people looking to change their old and drab bathrooms and kitchens.


We had already been approached by two neighbors who were interested in purchasing the property. So I knew things were going to be okay with it.

Kitchen almost done.
Kitchen almost done.

We had established that this week we would be putting up a “for sale” sign. Finishing touches, completing the punch list, that’s all we have left.

Then my mother-in-law called. She had blood in her stool A lot of blood. She wanted a ride to the doctors. My husband took her, after a consultation with the doctor, they had her at the hospital in fifteen minutes. Her blood-thinner levels in her blood were at the stage where it was surprising that she had survived. She was bleeding internally. There was fluid around her heart. It didn’t look good.

First night in the ICU she called my husband at 2 AM and told him if he didn’t get down there and get her out he would find a dead mother in the morning. We spent time with her the next few days. Every day and every night it was a new conspiracy theory. For instance the hospital staff was conspiring against her to keep her in bed so they could take more of her money. And the electronics in the room were making the clocks and her watch jump ahead every few hours so that it always looked like 2 AM so she would remain confused. The scary one was that no one was visiting her. And who was I to tell her different? We wouldn’t take the time to come visit. We weren’t caring enough to make sure she was fine. Okay.

My sweet, dear, beloved mother-in-law had gone “around the bend” in a big way.

In order to show her that we cared I resorted to bringing her a pile of get well cards from her loved ones – i.e. all of us – with notes and pictures, vases of flowers (fake because “real ones make me sicker”), photos of us visiting when she was too asleep to know we were there and making her drink water (“I don’t need water. Everyone makes me drink water. It’s just a trick.”)

The renovations and the rest of the world had to come to some sort of agreement with timing.

Last night, after several nearly sleepless nights we figured she was calmer. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that we took the phone away from her. So we planned to sleep. Then the phone rang at 1AM. This time a neighbor across from the Oldcastle house was calling to the report the garage door and front door were open. We asked him to please lock the house up. We rose early to drive over to see what damage had been done. Nothing. Everything was as it had been. Strange.

Then it hit me. I forgot the fundamental rule of property recently abandoned by its occupant.

Change the locks.

This wish for renovation work full-time must have been the thinking of a brain high on paint fumes.