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I’m moving…

Yes that’s right, I’m packing up my pixels and moving my blog from WordPress to Blogspot. I didn’t put much research into this last year and WordPress just turned out to be too complicated for my old brain to figure out, and there were some features I found I couldn’t add without “upgrading” to a pro-account with my own host and I’m sure as heck not ready for that. My posts mostly transferred over OK, but I still have a bunch of captions to fix and a few comments are missing, so if anything looks wonky, blame it on the technology, K? Cause it is definitely not the user. Definitely.

Please visit me at http://www.stylefile2.blogspot.com.

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A new look

I’ve finally gotten around to designing and updating my header! No more overly-enlarged, looks awful, doesn’t even have the name of the blog printed on it, place-holder header. I’m really liking the burlap texture and bright yellow color. I’d like to maybe round off the corners of the yellow part and add some pictures underneath. I’m not sure about the green type, but it showed up on that bright yellow, and I’ve never met a green I didn’t like, so…. for now we’re calling it done.

Organizing Problem Areas

I recently purchased Organize Now! A Week by Week Guide to Simplify Your Space and Your Life by Jennifer Ford Berry and while I haven’t started in on it yet (I’m in the middle of a big furniture redo which I hope to share shortly and which IS actually part of my big picture plan to organize my stuff better) I have started a list of my problem areas and possible solutions that I wanted to share. Sorry for the lack of pictures this time around, I promise I’ll share my messy spaces and hopefully my newly organized ones as I tackle them.

Entrance
Problem – Shoes everyhere; stacked, closed picnic baskets don’t get used because they’re not convenient
Possible Solution – Open basket under chair

Kitchen Countertops
Problem – Bills, Junk Mail, Catalogs, Circulars and Coupons Everywhere
Possible Solution – Bills in brown leather tote in bedroom near bill paying box; junk mail in trash; circulars/coupons in basket on top of fridge; catalogs in basket on top of fridge

Laundry/Kitchen
Problem – Recycling always overflowing; no real place for it
Possible Solution – plastic tote on shelf above washer/dryer

Problem – Wet dishtowels, kitchen towels etc everywhere, can’t go in wash basket/hamper with other clothes because they’re wet
Possible Solution – small plastic trashcan in kitchen cabinet

Problem – Laundry overflow into kitchen
Possible Solution – Besides the obvious of doing laundry more often, not sure yet. Some kind of sorting system? Keep in bedroom closet until time to wash?

Problem – Junk drawer overflowing; No drawer for dishtowels/potholders
Possible Solution – Small set of drawers in back of laundry area for tools, junk; current junk drawer can house kitchen linens

So I think those are the main ones; I do actually have a few systems in place (I’ll share these as I go) that just need their periodic tidying up and I think once I have things shifted around to make better use of my available storage and do a decent clean-out of things I no longer use (I’ve pledged to get rid of 365 things this year – one for each day) it will all fall into place.

Make Room for Kitty

Chloe


Quincy

While I certainly don’t believe you should take on a pet you’re not 1001% committed to, I know a lot of people whose only stumbling block for a cat is the issue of where to put the litter box. With a little creativity, this problem can be solved quite easily and quite stylishly.

Currently I’m fortunate to have a second full bath that is not needed for showering, so my solution is very easy: I just put the two litter boxes right in the tub. I know eventually my guys will get too old to jump in there, at which point if we’re still living here I will most likely trade bathrooms with them so they can get in and out of the lower shower stall, but for now they are hidden away behind the shower curtain where no one can see and all the litter they scratch out is contained within the tub instead of all over the carpet. I keep a stopper in the tub and use the vacuum cleaner to suck up the stray litter when I do a full box cleaning so it doesn’t harm the plumbing.

Now you see it ...

Now you don't.

In addition to the litter boxes, I’ve placed a pole across the built in niches in the shower wall and use this to suspend their carriers. The scoop goes in another niche and I’ve hung some volcanic rocks from the shower head that are supposed to absorb smells (jury is still out on this, they don’t work instantaneously). I should probably hang this with some sort of cute ribbon or something a little more classy than an old dry cleaner’s hanger, but I just got it and haven’t had time to really think about it much.

De-stinkifier.

I’ve decorated the space with random cat-themed tchotchkes, plus a few cute little birdies (this is “their” room after all and they’re not really big fans of random cats, they barely tolerate one another), and their pictures (well, I only have Mia’s picture up currently, still need to get the frames painted for the other two).

Random cat decor.

Birdies for the kitties.

The space under the sink holds bags of litter, dry cat food (for some reason they prefer to eat their dry food in here rather than in the pantry where they get their wet food and where we also keep bowls of dry food and water), paper bags for the litter box scoopings, and old towels and pillow cases for in their carrier and for cleaning up after them.

Supplies store neatly under the sink.

By the way, I can’t recommend “The World’s Best Cat Litter” enough. It really is. It is made from corn and it clumps, but not into a hard little cement ball (remember, your cat is going to breath in and most likely consume some of their litter in cleaning themselves – I personally don’t want anything turning to cement inside of them); it doesn’t get gummy; and it is chemical free. It is not the cheapest litter but I can go a month without doing a full change out.

A cute milkglass planter in the medicine cabinet holds their nail clippers, brush, collars they won’t wear and some of their other small items.

Even the hand soap has a cat on the label.

Before moving here, we lived in a one bed, one bath apartment so my solution for the litter box was a bit different. I removed the doors from the bathroom vanity and put one of the litter boxes in there and then covered it with a tension rod and a small curtain I’d made to coordinate with the shower curtain. As for all the junk one normally stores under the vanity, I moved most of it to the linen closet where I hung a shoe bag over the door and used the pockets for spare shampoo, toothpaste and the like (hint: if you do this, get a shoe bag with CLEAR pockets – may not be as attractive, but makes finding things MUCH easier, trust me, I learned this the hard way). For things like spare toilet paper that had to be kept in the bathroom, I just got a few cute baskets and boxes and stored them in those on the floor and on the back of the toilet tank.

The beauty of this idea is that it can be adapted to other spaces. If you don’t want to give up the space in your bathroom vanity or need space for a second litter box, you can remove the door on a linen closet, tv cabinet, buffet or anything like this and make a private little space with a curtain. Just make sure you remove any low shelves so kitty has some headroom and of course you will need to devote the entire cabinet to kitty and kitty’s supplies (no storing dishes in the buffet along with the litter box!)

If you don’t want to DIY it, you can also purchase ready-made furniture with a built-in litter box space like this stylish bench from Drs. Foster and Smith.

Specialty cat furniture from Drs. Foster and Smith.

Organize Now! (dammit)

I am convinced that if I could organize my environment I’d be able to get the rest of my life in order too. I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions but every year I think I really need to get my sh!t together and get some of this stuff out of here. But I like my stuff. And I sell on eBay so I’m forever bringing in more stuff to sell. And not purging my own things I think I can sell. It’s overwhelming sometimes and I spend a lot of time being unproductive, looking for things, and just in general not knowing where to start.

I recently came across Jennifer Ford Berry’s book Organize Now! A Week-by-Week Guide to Simplify Your Space and Your Life. Hmmm, this seems more approachable than the typical organize yourself in 7 days with 7 easy steps kind of book. It has 56 weeks of organizing tips and checklists. It includes chapters on things like email, which I confess I’m like a year behind in and scared to even open at this point, and chapters I know I can skip like the garden shed and the garage, since I have neither. I realize taking it a week at a time I will run the risk of never truly being finished, as I complete week 10 but week 1 has already gone all to h@ll, but I went ahead and ordered it on Amazon today with the hope that I can at least try to develop a few more organized habits and techniques. Kind of like not going on a diet, but resolving to eat better most of the time. We’ll see.

While I’m waiting for it to arrive I’d like to share one organizing technique that I actually employ to pretty good use for the volumes of tax paperwork that I have. Since I’m a packrat I sell online I need to keep a lot of receipts and statements that most people would just toss. Previously I had a typical 2-drawer filing cabinet with folders for credit card statements, the electric bill etc. and after I paid my bills the rest of the statement would lay around the house for awhile, eventually end up in a bag waiting to be sorted out and filed, and then every once in awhile when the drawers were looking a little full I’d dig through the files and toss anything older than the requisite 7 years. Not a great system for me.

File Boxes

So, I went out and bought 8 of those cute little photo shoe boxes they sell at craft stores across America – one for each of the 7 years of back files and one for the current year. In the current year file I keep a small folder (a regular size folder I cut down to fit the box) with return address labels, my checkbook, coupon booklet for my HOA fees, envelopes, a pen, and stamps in it. When it is time to pay bills, I pull out the box, use the items in the folder for their intended purpose and then just dump all of the statements that need to be saved right in the box and put the folder in on top. I don’t triage or try to figure out what needs to be saved and what doesn’t – it all fits and the box takes up the same amount of space whether I’m saving unneccessary things or not so in it all goes. Sure they’re all mixed up and I might need to organize them a little come tax time, but even though I am still in the dark ages of writing checks, I do enter it all in my Palm Pilot and synch to the Money program on the computer so I can run the reports I need for business expenses and in general just keep my jumbled box of backup paperwork as it is.

At the beginning of each year I take the oldest box off the shelf, shred the contents, and relabel the box for the new year. So that is at least one system that is working for me. I will try to share more as I spend the next 56 weeks simplifying my life and my space. And trying not to crap it up again.

Today is the third day of my three bookshelves, three-day project. The first day I primed all three and painted the small wooden one in the hall bath. The second day I waxed and styled the bathroom bookcase and did most of the painting on the two white laminate cases. Because I’d used a roller on these, the paint was spread pretty thin, so today I touched up some thin spots – they really could use another coat, but I’m almost out of paint and didn’t want to go buy more at this point. Putting the shelves back in resulted in some scrapes to the inside of my newly painted surface, so I touched these up too. Because I am planning to do a final coat at some point, I cheated and did not wax these yet. So I cleaned up, moved the shelves back to where they belonged and put stuff back on them. For now I just pretty much did a tidied up version of what was already on them – I need to do major cleaning out and organizing in the coming months and may change things around then, but today was devoted to putting away Christmas and I just didn’t want to drag more stuff out.

So here they are, all three sets of completed shelves:

Bathroom shelves

Bathroom shelves

Bedroom shelves

Bedroom shelves

Dining Room shelves

Dining Room shelves

And here is what they looked like when I started:

Wooden bookshelf before

Bedroom bookcase

Dining room bookcase

So not bad for three free sets of shelves, a free quart of green paint, and leftover white and tan paint. My only real expenses were the Zinsser primer, roller set and roller covers which were under $20.

Bookshelf Redo – Day 2

So, today is day two of my project to make over 3 small sets of bookcases. Yesterday I primed everything and painted one of the cases with Glidden’s Soothing Green Tea, a light yellowish green. Today I worked on the two laminate sets. They are being painted to match my trim, which is Valspar’s Woodlawn Lace, from their National Trust Collection. Most of the colors in this collection are based on historic properties – this one being Woodlawn, which was once part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. I am in love with this color – it looks fabulous in every light: crisp and clean during the day, soft and warm at night, and if I wake up during the night it absolutely glows from the light outside.

White bookcases in progress

White bookcases in progress

The backs of the bookcases were done in Valspar’s Antique, which is part of their Waverly collection. This is the color of all of my walls except the kitchen and laundry/pantry. I was planning on saving this for wall touchups and using an old can of Martha Stewart’s Light Cocoa, which is very similar, but I couldn’t get the can open.

White bookcases with tan backs

White bookcases with tan backs

While the roller was an easy way to paint the outsides and shelves of the bookcases, I did find I had to do about three coats to really get coverage, and I still have a few spots to touch up. It did also require some sanding in between coats. I did the backs with a brush and it was much faster, if not as smooth of a finish.

While I was waiting for the paint to dry on these, I applied the paste wax to the green bookcase which was painted yesterday. I like to use what is sometimes called Bowling Alley Wax (for reasons I can guess) or Butcher’s Wax (for reasons I have no idea) which gives a nice hard, water resistant finish and a pretty sheen.

Minwax Paste Wax

To apply it, I just use a paper towel (cheese cloth actually works well too) to scoop some out and smear it on the piece. It is stinky, so ideally (i.e. do as I say, not as I do) you should do this in a well-ventilated place, and the can warns harmful or fatal if swallowed, so don’t eat it or let your kid or pet near it. After smearing on a light layer, let it dry for awhile and then buff it off with an old towel or t-shirt. If it seems sticky while you’re wiping it off, you need to let it dry a little longer. Once it is buffed off, your piece will have a nice smooth feel and sheen.

Since I wasn’t planning to do much different in styling this piece, I went ahead and put the stuff back on it. So here it is again before:

Wooden bookshelf before

And after:

Wooden bookshelf after

Wooden bookshelf after