house

People always say not to sweat the small stuff, but sometimes it’s the small stuff that can make he biggest difference.

This summer I have been trying to do little things around the house just to make life simpler or prettier or just nicer in some way.  It’s funny what can change your life in a small yet very significant way.

calendar

I am not the most organized of people and with two kids in two different schools this year, I figured I needed to create a way to keep track of who needed to be where, what forms needed to be filled out and returned and what days I have a meeting or Karli is going to be home late etc etc etc.

With school starting last week this has really been my first introduction into the crazy schedule of a family of four.  To help me stay on track, I dedicated a wall in my kitchen to family organization.  I have two white board calendars as well as cork boards and white boards for notes and forms and stuff.  I even found a stick on post-it dispenser and some really cute orange cube push pins.

My office supply fetish is definitely satisfied on this one.  We even have a different color pen for each member of the family.

kitchen_window

Another addition to my kitchen is the hanging fruit basket.  This worked out really well, providing plenty of room for all the fruit bowl items and keeping the onions and garlic separate from the fruit.  By finding a creative solution to the overflowing fruit bowl we also cleared up some much needed counter space, which is at a premium in my tiny kitchen.

Cleaning out the garden window which had previously been filled with all my poor suffering house plants cleared enough space to start an herb garden in that window which had always been the plan and only took me 8 years to get around to.  We also gave the window sill a fresh coat of paint which really brightened it up.  It is so nice to be able to look out that window and see the kids playing in the back yard.   I don’t know if I ever thought we would get there.

pantry

Probably the biggest kitchen impact came from the addition of this giant pantry unit.  We finally got the extra shelves we needed and the drawers we forgot to buy the first time around and it is now complete and a fully functional pantry.  Having this extra space makes all the difference in a tiny house with little storage.   And I finally have all my little plastic storage containers with labels and everything.  Mmmmm, it makes me all warm inside.

house_plants

And yes, those suffering house plants (there are many more) have finally found legitimate homes throughout the house.  I look forward to watching them finally thrive and grow.  Only a few weeks later they are already looking very very happy.  They even all got matching pots in complimentary colors.

It is really amazing how much more alive and homey my house feels now.   Having the youngest to an age where he no longer feels the need to tip the plants over and dig in them is a great relief to both them and me.

towel_rack

And last, but certainly not least is the new over the door towel rack in the main bathroom.  There has never been a really good place for a towel rack in this bathroom and since I am sharing this bathroom with the kids for the time being, where to put he towels has been an ongoing struggle and trial and failure.

But here it is, my big beautiful towel rack.  Like I said, it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference.  Ahhh!

It has been an interesting couple of weeks since attending the forum.  I have been mourning a part of myself and learning to live in a world where that part me no longer exists.  Of course this is a good thing, but that certainly doesn’t mean it has been easy.

I have caught myself falling back into my depression routines which is pretty frustrating.  I am also noticing new layers or levels of issues to deal with.  This is also a good thing as these are the real issues, the rackets I have built up that were hidden beneath my tortured soul persona.  The good news is that now that I am past all the bullshit  I can concentrate on going after the stuff really getting in the way.  It is like all that anger just wrapped me in a blanket of safety and now I am fully exposed, left to look for and examine the real issues I was just hiding from before.

My therapist is thrilled and I am working on being thrilled, but right now I just feel a little let down.  See there, that’s a racket talking right there.

I have been finding it hard to write.  This post have been sitting in my draft posts in various stages of undone for about a week now.  I ended up having to write it by hand to break through the block and it hardly resembles what I meant to write when I started.  When I think about it, I wonder if much of my inspiration came from my angst and resentment and blame.  This is a new place to write from for me.  This is a new place to do everything from for me.

Although I see the future in a whole new brighter light from a place of knowing I am not only capable but also deserving, insecurity and fear are still rampant and restraining.

But alas,  life rolls along and time speeds past and there is much to be done.  School starts this week and a new stage of life beings for our family. Ada starts kindergarten on Thursday and Ian will be attending preschool two mornings a week starting next week.    This leads to many new challenges and some great opportunities as well.

I am not the most organized of people, another racket I run to avoid being responsible for my own life — See how those can get in the way?

So, this week I have set myself up to succeed and started a fresh school year with a fresh outlook.

Taking responsibility for my life means many things to me.  Much of the big stuff like the wall I put up between myself and others and how angry I was and generally nasty sometimes are gone – vanished like some sort of magic.  What’s left are those things that can make a huge difference in my day to day life.  These include being organized and responsible for remembering what forms need to be filled out, that there is a field trip tomorrow and I need to send snacks to school on Wednesday.  It also means taking responsibility for my health and my body and finally doing what it takes to be a healthy, confident, beautiful woman.

Maybe we can throw in figuring out what I want to be when I grow up as well, but that is the big scary monster in the room right now and a lot of baggage lays between me and that goal, although I have been having some thoughts about what it might look like and that is a surprisingly big step for me.   In the meantime I can concentrate on getting the things I do have under my control under control.

I have already made some big strides.  Today (well actually yesterday but it took me too long to edit this) I have eaten great, exercised, cleaned the house and spent quality time with the kids, while still managing to get some work done.  It is possible to be productive and get everything done.  It’s amazing how much time opens up when you stop worrying so much about how overwhelming it all is.

The challenge will be to keep at it for more than a couple of days.  This is another racket I run.  I have great intentions and a strong start, but the follow through tends to go by the wayside.  I have put many tools into place to assist me in overcoming this weakness and I will share them with you over the next couple of weeks as I discover the successes and failures.  I hope that maybe an idea will spark you to create a less overwhelming life for yourself as well.

I can not tell you how excited I am right now!

We bought this house eight years ago in August and it has been a giant project and a huge learning experience.  I think we could both honestly say that we would never have bought this house if given another chance to make that decision.  But, we have grown here as a family and slowly turned it into a pretty nice place and although it is much to small, we have grown to love it in all its quirky obnoxious glory.

One of the most overwhelming problems we have dealt with is the drainage in the back yard.  We bought the house in August, which we came later to find out is the only month of the year that the back yard is dry.  The rest of the year it takes various shapes of swamp land.  Seriously, there are parts of our back yard that in the spring you will sink past your ankles into muck that will steal your shoes and knock you on your ass.

This problem has been overwhelming us for years.  We would sit on our old rotting deck and be totally paralyzed by the sheer amount of work that would need to be done to improve the situation.  But with two small children, one a very energetic boy, it became more and more important that we do something.  

So, we buckled down and broke it into attainable pieces and started work.  Last year we built the new deck, a big undertaking at a little over 700 sq. ft.   The goal was to deck over a good portion of the muck and provide a great space for entertaining.  

We had no idea the impact it would make.   It opened up the whole back yard and made it look twice as big, even though we decked over a good portion of it.  It is two levels, all at ground level due to the slope of the yard, and the top level looks over both the large side yard and back of the house space.  It’s really amazing, I couldn’t believe how different it was and how inspired and hopeful I became that someday we might actually have a yard the kids could play in.

Deck Demolition - Yuck!Deck Framework Complete - Toward HouseCIMG2734CIMG2744CIMG2751CIMG2753CIMG2760CIMG2784CIMG2789CIMG2785

And this weekend that dream is becoming a reality.  We cleared out the whole yard and put up temporary fencing on the deck (classy huh?) and even made Pella a really fancy poop spot that he will hopefully love some much he will continue to use once the yard is done (wishful thinking, i know).

Then we hired a friend of a friend who is starting a landscaping business and he cam over with his bulldozer and a rototiller and tilled everything up and graded the whole yard, laid down drain lines across the whole area, brought in 15 yards (yes, I said 15 yards) of new soil and leveled it all out.  It is gorgeous, I just don’t even have words.

We then laid out the lines for all of our beds and the area for the play set and in came the hydroseed guy and ten minutes later we had this beautiful green painted future lawn.   Hoses and sprinklers, some weed fabric, mulch and a few plants here and there followed by a load of large bark nuggets and several weeks of waiting and I am going to have a yard.  

[flickrset id=”72157619250680932″ thumbnail=”square” overlay=”true” size=”medium”]

Have I said how excited I am.  This was definitely one of the best birthdays ever.

Well, the living room is almost complete. All the furniture has arrived and we have moved most things in. We still need to accessorize, but wanted to live in the space for a while before we did too much. I need a couple of house plants, some throws and pillows and a new rug, but that will probably have to wait for a while.

I absolutely love the couches and having enough seating has made all the difference in the world to us. Having guests is now enjoyable, with seating for 6 or 7 comfortably.

We mounted the TV above the fireplace and I was a little concerned that it would be too high, but I really like it and we got one of those full motion mounts and I love it. It’s really stable and moves to be viewable from all over the room. The only downfall has been having to change the side of the table we eat at. Like the side of the bed you sleep on, you get attached.

Below are some photos of the process. We didn’t really catch the disaster that was our living room in its full glory, but it’ll do.  

Click on a photo to see slideshow.

CIMG2874CIMG2873CIMG2877CIMG2880IMG00010IMG00011IMG00009Pella's New CouchCIMG2950CIMG2949CIMG2948CIMG2947CIMG2946

We are in the process of completely redecorating our living/dining room.  This is a huge deal for us as we have seating for two plus the dog, our furniture is old and ratty and I just never have felt like we truly moved into this house.  When we bought our house seven years ago, we took on a huge home improvement project.  We did a ton of work, all of it ourselves with the help of our amazing friends.

We lived in a construction zone for six months and when the house got to a point where we could finally live in it, we just stopped.  There was much left to do, but we just didn’t feel like it any more and decorating and finishing touches just didn’t take priority.  Over the years we have accomplished much, from a remodeling stand point, but now it is time to make this house a home.  I want throw pillows and soft fabrics and coordinating furniture and really just a place that our friends and family as well as our selves can feel comfortable.

Our couches are on order and should arrive in about a month.  We ordered them back in August and it seems like they are taking forever, but it takes a while.  Nine to eleven weeks in our case.

So in the meantime we have a lot to take care of.  We thought about buying a new dining room set, but decided that with two small children that would be a terrible idea.  They are just too hard on things and although our dining room set isn’t exactly what we would like, unlike our couch (or should I say glorified dog bed), it works just fine for our current circumstances.

So, for about $150 I bought all the materials to reupholster the dining room chairs.

Although I do sew, this is something I have no experience doing, so I went out online and looked for instructions.  There are lots of options, but these seemed to be the simplest and easiest to understand.

(Either JavaScript is not active or you are using an old version of Adobe Flash Player. Please install the newest Flash Player.)

This was much easier to do than I expected.  I would say each chair, including a detailed cleaning with a wood cleaner and polisher, took me about an hour.  

Here are the before pictures.  They don’t do justice to how stained and dirty the fabric on these chairs is. They are dingy, greying and terribly stained.  The chair in this photo has a water stain the size of a cantelope in the middle.  This dining room set belonged to my grandmother and is from the 40s, but my mom says that she redid the seats several times.  

CIMG2821CIMG2822

Because I don’t know what the original fabric looked like, I tried to stick with something similar to what my grandmother had used, assuming that she was at least somewhat true to the style of the set.  I chose a fabric with a green undertone and gold overtones to coordinate with the walls and curtains.  

When we chose the couch colors (slate blue/grey and chocolate brown), we didn’t really think about how warm the rest of our things were, so our color pallet is a little unconventional.  But, I have done some color coordinating with photoshop and I actually think it is going to look nice.  

I also want to increase the padding in the chairs as they weren’t very comfortable, so I added a piece of foam under that batting.

Here are the after photos.  I am really pleased with how they turned out.

CIMG2828CIMG2831


I look around my house and all I see are all the things that need to be done. Beyond the cleaning that I can’t seem to keep up with, there are so many little projects that would make the house a much more livable, homey place and they are easy and inexpensive and would provide me with a sense of accomplishment.

So why do none of these projects ever get done. Laziness, busyness and exhaustion. These are my three main culprits when it comes to most productivity items. Well, as always, let’s start with a list. A list always puts things in perspective and at least breaks things down into doable chunks.

One day at a time, one item on the lists at a time.

Kitchen

  • Clean out and reorganize cabinets
  • Get rid of all the old Tupperware and replace with a smaller amount of higher quality food storage containers.
  • Put shelves in the pantry (currently wire racks and very wobbly for small items.
  • Organize and buy storage containers, dividers etc to help keep the pantry neat and organized.
  • Figure out how to clear some space on the work island (way too crowded)
  • Plan for kitchen remodel, plan A and plan B budgeted and spec out plan and materials.

Dining Room

  • Empty Ada’s piggy bank, count all the money and open a savings account for her.
  • Come up with and create some sort of storage solution for the corner. Needs to hold sewing stuff, magazines and spillover items
  • Clean out and reorganize the buffet drawers.
  • Paint the door threshold to the kitchen white.
  • New pads and covers for the dining room chairs
  • Give all the wood on the dining room table a good cleaning.
  • Whole dining living area needs warmth and hominess

Living Room

  • Measure and design new layout for new living room.
  • Pick color scheme and design elements
  • Shop for a choose furniture and styles
  • Figure out how to hang the TV and run the component wiring
  • Buy Couches
  • Buy additional furniture pieces
  • Buy Rug
  • Accessorize
  • Fireplace mantel – what do we need, design and spec out, buy materials and build
  • What new electronics are we going to need
  • How to minimize kids toys and such in the new scheme

Hallway

  • Finish molding
  • Reorganize the bookshelf
  • Clamp/Bumper for gate
  • Clean out linen closet and make more functional for storing things we actually use
  • Photo Wall

Hall Bathroom

  • Clean out last cabinet
  • Minimize what needs to be in here. Way too cluttered.

Master Bedroom

  • Make or buy frames and find pictures to put on the wall.
  • Clean off the top of the dresser and eliminate need for so much clutter up there. Identify needs and fix problems.
  • Clean carpet

Master Bathroom

  • Don’t even get me started. Complete gut and remodel needed before usable.
  • Design, budget and spec out materials for remodeling project.

Ada’s Room

  • Sew white sheer curtains
  • Find second rod for her window
  • Set up way for her to hang things on that empty wall.
  • Sew bedskirt
  • Clean carpet

Ian’s Room

  • Clean carpet
  • Find a home for and get rid of rocking chair (maybe craigslist it as a set with the dresser?)
  • Make or buy one more comforter cover.
  • Closet organizer

Garage

  • Figure out dryer situation
  • Sweep/Vacuum floors and move/throw away all the stuff so not so cluttered any more
  • Design, spec and budget garage remodel project.
  • Explore adding to garage and making laundry room as option. Is this something we could do mostly ourselves.

Outside

  • Order bulbs and plants for front yard
  • Clean up beds and make them ready for planting.
  • Figure out how to clean up the middle by the tree.
  • What would it take to fill in the pond?
  • Finish filling pond with dirt from back yard
  • Measure and do good design drawing for deck. Order materials
  • Lighting.
  • Clean up play area and determine what improvements to that we are going to make this year.

Misc.

  • Find more book storage solutions
  • Create file folder for construction project designs

Contruction Projects

  • Re-mold all the doors and windows
  • Kitchen remodel
  • Garage/Laundry remodel
  • Deck (Work has begun – We expect to be done by next week!!!!)
  • Landscaping
  • Hall Bathroom Remodel
  • Master bathroom remodel
  • Master bedroom closet (In progress)
  • Ian’s closet
  • Refinish hardwood floors
  • New carpet for bedrooms
  • Storage space in attic

Wow, that’s a big list and I probably forgot several things.

I am in a constant search for a good to-do list tool. It’s harder than you think. Nothing seems to do everything that I need it to do.

I use iGoogle extensively, so for now I have found the best to-do list widget to use with that. I am using To-Do List with Google Maps from ScreeperZone. It has pretty good functionality and some really nice extra features. This widget is also available for netvibes and vista sidebar.

You can use headings and add subitems under each heading. You can prioritize your lists and add due dates as well as sort and print. Another really cool feature is that you can add businesses to your lists and attach google maps to them so that you can plan your errand routes or keep the name and location of a specialty store attached to your list. That’s really cool.

I am going to keep looking though and maybe even try to develop something myself. That would be a challenging project to work on and challenging projects are definitely part of my self improvement plan.