Jun 26, 2013

Shelf Reliance

I mentioned in our McListerson that we were considering installing a countertop in our laundry closet.   Leave it to Pinterest to spur me into action.  Well, Pinterest and dropping one too many items behind our washer and dryer.


I knew it would be difficult to install a large countertop that would cover the tops of the washer and dryer because we needed the open space next to the dryer for our ironing board.  So a small countertop to cover the gap between the back of the appliances and the wall, where I could set the garbage can and maybe use a little storage space, became what we were shooting for.  I asked Steve if he would be willing to help me do this and he not only jumped at the chance, but teased me because he suggested doing this waaaayyyy back when (although I conveniently have no recollection of that).  And the best part is we already had everything we needed to build the shelf.

First we cleared off the clutter that seems to congregate on top of the washer and dryer- clothes that need to be ironed or mended, cleaning supplies, rogue small kitchen appliances.

Ready to roll.

We were going to need to find a way to work around the water valves and the outlet that the washer and dryer plugged into.  Steve was sure he could find a way to work around it.

Ready to roll 2.0.

Steve took some existing shelving material and some 1x3 MDF and cut it to fit.  Just to be sure everything would work, we placed it in the closet.  Success!

Hurrah, it'll fit!

Then Steve screwed the wood that formed the lip into the wall.  He drilled a hole through the board that would become the countertop for the electrical cord to snake through, and then we simply pushed it into place.


You can see that I still hadn't gotten around to covering the screws in the board that supports the upper cabinet, even though we installed that bad boy almost two years ago.  Whatever.  So out came the spackle and the semi-gloss white paint.

Buh-bye, screw heads.

We were just going to leave it at that, so that we could easily pull the "countertop" out  if for any reason we needed to access the water valves.  But I just couldn't stomach seeing the big gap between the 1x3s and the shelving board.  After talking with Steve, we decided that I could caulk the gap and the water valves would still be accessible... if a little trickier to get to.  I just had to be aware that if we needed to get back there, we'd either have to slide the washer out or cut the caulk.  Fine with me!  The caulk really made a big difference in making it look finished, don't you think?

How very countertop-like.

So not only will I end up losing less things behind the washer and dryer, I've now increased my storage space.  The garbage can for lint and used dryer sheets had to stay there, but I wanted a way to corral items that made sense to be in a "laundry" area but didn't necessarily want to have sitting out.  Enter lined baskets from Target!

So much storage!

These babies look nice, and each basket has a designation.  One holds items that need to be ironed, another hods items that need to be mended, and the third holds clothing to be donated.  I love having these things visible without having them look messy or taking up space on top of the washer and dryer.  And I also love that between the baskets and the garbage can, the exposed cord for the washer is completely hidden.

I love how little projects like this can really make a space feel finished!  The only thing we needed to purchase was the baskets from Target's Threshold line.  And other than waiting for caulk and paint to dry, this project took about 2 hours of cumulative time.

I'm thinking of making labels for the baskets, just so Steve can remember which is which.  What tips and tricks do you have to make your laundry area feel inviting and organized?

PS- check out this project at Beneath My Heart's June Linky Party!

Jun 25, 2013

Clean and Clear

Kitchen counter clutter.  I can't stand it in my own home.  Oddly, I consider my main organizational strategy "strategic piling."  This has led to lots of strategic piles on our kitchen counter, especially near the sink.  Dishes waiting to be put into the dishwasher.  Dishes waiting to be hand-washed.  Sponges, scrapers, and dish soaps.  Fresh fruits waiting to be cooked or eaten.  Egg cartons.  Unopened mail.  Empty grocery bags.  Paper towels.

My kitchen would only look really clean and uncluttered right after a deep cleaning.  Steve and I usually do a semi-thorough cleaning once a week, but even after one of those bouts or a deep cleaning spree, some things would still be left rogue on the kitchen counter... although in strategic piles.  Our dishwashing supplies and a paper towel roll always need to be near the sink for easy access at a moment's notice, so they tended to congregate on the right side of the sink, cluttering up the counter top.  And hand soap would always be out, as well as a candle (my favorite way to get rid of dinner smells before bed).  Welp, we found a few solutions to counteract (haha) my strategic piling MO.

So tidy!

The hand soap and candle get to stay on the counter.  Everything else was relegated to another spot.  The first thing we did was the most "duh" strategy- we hung a paper towel holder under the cabinet right next to the sink.  No more paper towels roaming the counters.

I really wanted the dishwashing supplies to be close by, but all of our cabinets were already full.  And then I had an idea... if there wasn't any more room on the floor under our sink, why couldn't we install a caddy on the inside of the cabinet door under the sink?  Turns out Rev-a-Shelf makes just such a product.  Waiting on two days of shipping and about 10 minutes of install time got us some much needed hidden organization!

Everything has a place!

Sidebar- the crazy green thing you see on the kitchen rug is our slow feed dog dish.  It's intended to keep dogs from gulping down their food, which can lead to health problems, and we love it.

You can see some of the existing things that were under our sink on the floor.  Our stainless compost catcher, dishwasher tabs, cleaning supplies for the fridge and stove, and all of our garbage bags capitalized on the floor space.  The shelves let me cram all of the dishwashing supplies that usually loitered by the sink out of the line of sight but still keep them in a spot for easy access.

Dishwashing soaps go on the lower shelf, as well as latex gloves.  I don't use the latex gloves very often when cleaning- usually I only pull them on when whatever I'm cleaning is really icky, so I can just throw the gloves away when I'm done.

Secret dishwashing weapons.

Sponges, scrapers, bottle brushes, and stoppers go on the top shelf.  My apologies for the state of the Magic Eraser.  At least you know we use our cleaning supplies!  The other thing I love about these shelves is that they are held onto the door by clips.  So if the trays start getting icky, I can just pop them off the door and wash them out.

When being clipped is a good thing.

Last but not least are my heavy duty rubber gloves.  My mom always had a pair of rubber gloves near the sink growing up, and I hated them.  Now I love 'em.  Best tool ever for hand-washing dishes in very hot water.

More evidence that I'm becoming my mother.

That means that very little is left out on the counters.  The hand soap (I finally tried J.R. Watkins and I think I'm never going back... I'm in love with the Aloe & Green Tea scent in the kitchen).   And a candle (I've been switching between BBW's White Barn #3 and Market Peach lately).  A dish rag is usually hung between the two sink compartments.  The only other thing that stays on the countertop is a fruit bowl to store our non-refrigerated produce until we eat it.  

No clutter here!

Not only did installing those two little shelves alleviate my visible strategic piles, it also made our kitchen seem bigger because of all the exposed countertops.  Can't beat that!  What tricks do you use to keep the counters near your sink clean and uncluttered?

Jun 17, 2013

Club Shed

A garden shed has been on our exterior "to do" list since we moved in.  We originally thought we'd end up with a lean-to type of shed against the garage because all of the large, nice looking ones that we priced (even ones from a kit!) rang in between $700 and $3,000.  So we had resigned ourselves to something smaller, even though we didn't care for the look of lean-to sheds.  But right around Easter, Woot! offered a metal 10' x 12' storage shed by Arrow for less than $400.  We checked out some reviews online, found we wouldn't be able to beat the price, and pulled the trigger.  The shed was delivered about two weeks later, boxed up and ready to assemble, and it's been languishing on our front porch since then.

But no more!  Steve and I finally had a weekend to ourselves so we decided to reclaim our front porch and get that freakin' shed up so we could actually use the thing.  I have to admit, this was not as easy of a project as we anticipated.  But the good news is (spoiler alert) we got 'er done!

The first thing we had to do was some site prep.  The previous owners had a large amount of chip bark where we decided to put the shed at the very far west end of our yard.  Since we planned on landscaping around our shed, the bark had to go.  Four weekends worth of raking and shoveling bark chips later... we pulled up the beams the previous owners had set into the ground to separate the chips from the weeds, er, yard.

Bark raked, one beam left to haul away.

Next we had to build a foundation for the shed.  This part was not included in the kit, and by the time we were done, the foundation and flooring materials set us back about $300 (although I think we'll be able to return about $50 worth of unused materials).  We hauled all of the foundation goodies into the backyard and Steve started digging away.

It has begun.

It was at this point that we ran into two major issues.  First of all, the yard is sloped.  We always knew it was sloped, but we didn't realize it was THAT sloped.  Especially at the far west edge of the yard.  Figures.  And second, we realized that like much of the landscaping work on our property, things were done slap-dash.  For instance, a few inches of soil and sod resting comfortably atop who-knows-how-deep 3/8- gravel.

Bring on the pick axe!

Nevertheless, we managed to construct a frame.  And by we, I mean Steve did pretty much all of the work and I helped hold the beams in place while Steve nailed them.

Looks like a construction site.

I'll spare you a shot of Steve looking super tired after digging out gravel with a pickaxe and laying a foundation on a hot day.  At this point we called it good for the day and rejoined the following day by laying the flooring.

Gratuitous Action Shot.

Hurrah for plywood!

One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

We noticed at this point how entirely non-level our floor ended up being because of the slope of the property.  We also felt the floor was a little jouncy, so we flipped the whole thing up on its side, added some extra crossbeams for support, and laid it back down.  All of the tutorials online and even the shed assembly instructions made a big deal out of the floor needing to be square a level, but we decided to live dangerously and roll with it as-is.  After all, this is a cheap metal shed that's barely tall enough to stand up in.  We weren't building a luxury hotel.

The next day we started on the part that Steve refers to as "Legos for grown ups"-- assembly.

Better for your brain than Sudoku.

This part went surprisingly easily.  We worked until we had all of the sides built and then quit for the day, not too long after this picture was taken.

Yowsa, that is a seriously non-level shed.

It took us three more days of an hour or two after work to get the roof and the doors on.  And we did end up shimming one of the corners of the shed to help the pre-drilled holes in the roof panels line up better.  But we were overall really impressed at how well this little cheap-o shed came together.

Luxury hotel, at your service.

Steve added one more layer of plywood to shore up the floor a little more, and now she's ready to roll.

Blank slate.

I've already started moving some things out of our garage and into the shed.  We agreed that anything gardening or yard care-related would live in the shed and so would all of our camping gear.  Steve would like to store some of our seasonal decorations out there too,  but I convinced him to wait until we've had a few heavy rains just to make sure we don't have any issues with leaks (nobody likes a moldy Christmas tree).  We also think there will be shelves out there eventually to help keep things a little more organized, but for now it works just fine and we are one step closer to having our garage organized enough that Steve and I can both park in it again!

Gardening and lawn care stuff.

Camp chairs, lawn care stuff, and a generator.

Have any tips for me about organizing this space?

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Jun 12, 2013

Before and After: 1920s Bungalow

Last summer my in-laws bought a cute 1920s bungalow on an extra large lot.  The yard had been well loved.  The interior of the house though....   Let's just say it needed updating.  You can see how the whole thing looked right after they bought the place when we first crashed it last July.  My in-laws started doing some improvements, and then my father in law got offered a job he just couldn't pass up.  The only downside- it was located 5 hours away.  After lots of consideration, my in-laws decided to fast track the improvement process and sell their house.  They let me come take pictures, so let's do a little before-and-after, shall we?

Please forgive me for the lack of lighting and a non-wide-angle lens.

Walking in the front door, looking to the left before:

And after:

I know I talked about finding hardwood under the original (really stinky) carpet, but turns out it didn't run seamlessly all the way to the kitchen.  A nice patterned berber did the trick instead.  The lighting fixture was switched out for something a little more modern.  The cedar paneling on the ceiling was painted white and the cross beam finished.  The walls were patched up and painted a familiar color- Kilim Beige (it's the same color on most walls in the main part of our house)- and new base molding was installed.

Here's a new view- straight ahead as you walk into the house.  You can see more of the living area to the left and the tiny bedroom that was never had a before picture.

We called that room "The Aquarium" because of its two-toned crazy turquoise/bright blue paint at the time.  They transformed it into a piano studio:

New carpet, paint, base trim, and lights.  You can't tell the scale from the picture, but there's a MASSIVE built in shelving system in this room.  They painted it glossy black and it looks bomb.  Wish I'd have taken a picture of that beast full on!

Here's walking in and looking to the right before:

And after:

The picture doesn't even do justice to how much larger this space looks.  A digital thermostat, new carpet and paint, and fresh trim updated the space.

Here's one angle of the kitchen before:

And after:

Paint made a huge difference here.  The other big improvement was moving the fridge to a different wall, ditching the portable dishwasher (that by the way, would only work when connected to the spigot for the washing machine in the bathroom), and installing some cabinetry and a vented microwave.

Here's another angle of the kitchen where you can see the sink area:

 And the after:

Again, paint, new lower cabinets, and new counter tops.  They also installed a new sink and faucet and changed out the lighting above the sink.  The interiors of the existing upper cabinets were so stained that they got a heavy-duty dose of cleaning and a couple coats of white semi-gloss as well.

Let's check out the one and only bathroom, attached to the kitchen.


And after:

So much better!  New flooring, bead board, and paint throughout.  The toilet was moved to a different wall (no more sticking your head into the shower when getting on and off the toilet!), the too-large vanity replaced with a pedestal sink.  The sliding shower doors were removed and the tub surround replaced.  The uber-70s fixtures were replaced with pieces that were more modern, minimalist, and (most importantly) matching. They installed a better washer and dryer and replaced the wire shelving with two cabinets (that happened to be missing their faces when I took this picture).  A rod for hang-drying clothes went up between the cabinets after I snapped the photo.

And now comes my favorite transformation, the master bedroom.  Here's the purple palace before:

And after:

I've said it once and I'll say it again, ah the transformative power of paint!  New carpet, base trim, and a ceiling fan didn't hurt either.

The only part of the interior that wasn't touched besides the basement is the back hallway leading from the kitchen to the master bedroom.  Way back when we crashed this home the first time, I tried to explain how crazy-bright the yellow paint was even though it read as a softer buttery shad on the realtor's photos.  Well folks, I have proof that the yellow was indeed crazy-bright.

Time was of the essence, so it was decided that the buyers could easily repaint a tiny hallway if they saw fit.  And it looks like all of the upgrading was worth it- the house has already been snatched up by a prospective buyer!  So much fun.  Thanks for letting me crash, Dennis and Dawn!