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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.

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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.

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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

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I decided to take advantage of some much needed time off of work to tackle a few projects I’ve been putting off forever, namely painting up the three trash picked bookshelves I have hanging around here. My three day timeline includes two days of priming and painting and the third day to wax the cured paint and style the shelves. Luckily the day-after-Christmas snowstorm we got hit with played perfectly into my plans – I’m not going out in that no way, no how.

So today is day one. Let me introduce you to my victims shelves:

Small wooden bookcase

This first cutie set is actually made from real wood. It’s quite scratched on top and an ugly reddish/orangish brown color, but otherwise a nice compact size. It lives in the cats’ hall bathroom and is perect for storing extra towels, toilet paper, books on cats, cat toys, and random cat decor (I plan on becoming a crazy cat lady, complete with theme sweaters, about 20 years from now.)

Scratched top on wooden bookcase

Scratched top on wooden bookcase

The next two shelves are a matched pair of laminate complete with cardboard backing. They’re also perfectly sized for where they live, one in the dining room in the space between the kitchen door and the wall, which is used to hold barware, dishes, and decorative items, and the other in the master bedroom between the bathroom and closet doors, where it holds a few books, my tax files, and some decorative items.

Bedroom bookcase

Bedroom bookcase

Dining room bookcase

Dining room bookcase

First I gathered my supplies: A 4″ cabinet and door roller set, a canvas dropcloth, foamy brush, angled paint brush, wood glue (to repair the trim on the front of one of the shelves), paint, sanding sponge, and primer. On the recommendation of Kate from Centsational Girl I picked up the Zinsser oil based primer for the laminate bookcases since it is supposed to stick to anything, and it does.

Painting supplies

I sanded the top of the wooden bookcase pretty well since it had some scratches. My wood filler was dried out, so I used a very, very thin coat of plaster spackle to fill in the last little bit and it seems to have worked pretty well. The primer says “no sanding necessary” so I did not sand the rest of the wooden piece, but did go over the laminate ones very lightly (I hate sanding. Detest.). The roller worked really well on the outsides of the bookcases, was a little more difficult on the insides, especially the wooden one whose shelves were not removeable. I used an old foamy brush to get into the corners. I was also working in a really small space which didn’t help matters any. The primer dried really quickly (can says an hour, I took a lunch break in there so left it a bit longer).

Primed laminate bookcases

Primed laminate bookcases

Primed wooden bookcase

Primed wooden bookcase

I tossed the roller after finishing with the primer because I hate cleaning them did not have the mineral spirits to clean oil paint. Since it was windy as heck and the roads were snow covered, a trip to Home Depot, which is literally across the street, was not in the cards for additional rollers. The interior of the wooden case I decided was more easily tackled with the brush anyway, so I broke out my can of Glidden Soothing Green Tea that I had gotten free about 2 years ago when they did a website promotion. The can was sealed with a plastic ring called a NormLock Seal to keep it from leaking when shipped. I didn’t know what it was for or how to get it off, so I started with a websearch. I nearly got a virus, and could have learned how to hack my husband’s cell phone or “adult” websites if I’d wanted (I swear my search terms were “opening normlock seal”), but no instructions for getting this plastic ring off my paint can. I found directions for removing a different brand of seal with pliers, so I started there and added a screwdriver when I’d pryed it up enough. Don’t worry about destroying it, you’re not going to reuse it. This was my main question when starting out – I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to go back on the can to scrape the brush against to keep from gooping paint all over the can or what, but no, it is just to seal it for shipping.

Opening a NormLock Seal
Opening a NormLock Seal

So with my paint can open I could finally begin painting! I had planned to do just the inside, and wait until I could get out for rollers to finish up the outside, but once I started I just kept going and did the whole thing. So here is the result.

Painted green bookcase

Painted green bookcase

Scratches are nearly gone

Scratches are nearly gone

I’ll tackle the laminate shelves tomorrow when I can get out for more rollers. They will both be painted white to match my trim with the back panels in tan to match (or close to match) the walls.

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Thrifty Lamp Before

You may remember the $3.75 lamp I posted a few weeks ago. It was brass and medium toned wood with a burlap drum shade. Well, I’m happy to announce, its transformation is complete! I took it apart, taped it off and spray painted the brass parts silver with a metallic paint. I sanded the base parts first with a sanding sponge which gave me a nice brushed finish but because I’m lazy did not sand the smaller bits, which came out smoother. I think I like the brushed look best. It took several coats of paint to coat everything – remember, with paint, many light layers are better than one heavy one.

I gave the spray paint a few days to dry (one is probably enough, that is just how long it took me to get back to it) and then taped off the silver and with a cheapy foam brush painted the wood with some Ralph Lauren Edwardian Burgundy I had left from this dresser makeover. Once the paint was dry (sort of, I was getting excited at this point) I put in the new cord, which is super easy to do (just follow the directions on the package or look for a reputable site online with directions). I had a white one on hand from another project I haven’t gotten to yet, I may change it out for a dark one eventually as I plan to paint the dresser this lamp is sitting on dark someday.

In between the spray painting stage and the wood painting stage I worked on the shade. I had a nice piece of brown grosgrain ribbon that came around the Dwell Studio for Target quilt I’d purchased earlier in the year so I just wrapped that around the top and tied it in a bow. It seems to be holding, but I could add a dot of hot glue if needed.

So here it is, my “new” lamp, which cost me under $10.

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I saw this idea years ago and have had is squirreled away in the recesses of my mind waiting for a chance to use it. Finally, I’ve come up with the perfect spot! Basic materials you need are a picture frame or two, some backing fabric, some silverware, and a glue gun. My frames are antiques that belonged to my grandmother, but more modern frames would work too. My original idea for background fabric was velvet, but Joann’s did not have the taupe I was looking for. I wandered around the store for awhile trying to come up with something else, when I stumbled upon burlap in the back corner (talk about your 180-degree turns – velvet, burlap, velvet, burlap). It was cheap (about $3/yard I think and I only needed 1/2 yard), the color I wanted, and I thought would look great. A nice patterned fabric would also probably work too or a tone on tone texture). The silverware is a mix of my baby fork and spoon and some thrift store purchases – it is all silver plated, the forks I researched when I bought and I think they are 19th century.

I removed the glass and the prints from my frames and wrapped the wooden backings in the burlap. The wood was pretty fragile so I just used some painters tape to hold it so I wouldn’t stress it, if you’re working with a sturdier frame, hot glue or staples would probably do the trick. Once I had my backgrounds back in the frame and taped down, I just hot glued the silverware to the fabric. This should make it pretty easy to remove when the silver needs to be polished. I hung my new art one on top of the other and voila! Instant, easy, and cheap artwork.

Along similar lines, Real Simple just featured this jewelry display, which I also really like. In this case, pieces are just pinned to a backing, which is probably some sort of foam core or homosote under the fabric, and the display can change daily as you add and remove different pieces. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for a large frame to pull something like this off.

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You thought this post was going to be about the table setting didn’t you? Surprise, I’m writing about cooking tonight, which I realize has nothing to do with style, but I don’t care. I’m about as far from a “foodie” as you can possibly get, if I could eat cereal every day for every meal I’m pretty sure that would be fine. Anyway, once in awhile I get the inspiration to cook something, and I made some yummy pasta tonight that I wanted to share with all of you other “non-cooks” out there.

I had basil, tomatoes, onion, and zucchini from the garden – and the best part is they were not from my garden (I’m not good with plants either). I boiled some water, even us non-cooks can handle that, right? While that was going on, I threw some basil leaves, olive oil, and parm cheese into the mini food processor and whipped those up into a pesto. Then I cut up some of the red onion into small dice, cut a few yellow tomatoes into small chunks, sliced some grape tomatoes into wheels, and cut some zucchini into matchstick pieces. None of this was measured in any way. I poured some olive oil into a medium frying pan, added my cut veggies all at once and let it cook for the length of time (7 mins.) it took to cook the mini bow tie pasta. When the veggies were soft and broken down I stirred the pesto into the mix and let it heat, then drained the pasta and added a few blobs of my “sauce” on top. Mmmmmm. And I have enough for tomorrow night too.

I guess to keep this at least a little bit on topic, I can tell you about the table setting. I’ve used lavender, blue, and green plaid placemats and napkins from Pier One Imports, silverleaf chargers from the thrift store, repro Jadeite plates from Marshall’s, and pink pressed glass soup plates from the thrift store at each place. The middle of the table has a bamboo runner, tarnished silver candlesticks, and a decorative glass bowl. The silverware is a fiddlehead style from Pottery Barn which I scored at the thrift for .10/piece.

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