Friday, October 31, 2008

Sometimes the Creativity Bug Bites Me

... but most times not. Although, every once in a while I come up with a clever fix for the inconveniences in my house.

Both of my problems are related to electrical. I can change out a light switch or electrical outlet, but I don’t tackle anything more than that. I needed a cheap fix that didn’t require an electrician.

Case in point: my living room has no light switches. Sure, I could just turn on the lamps with the switch on the cord. But it was a hassle because the “on/off” was actually located behind the entertainment center. Plus, there are two of them to deal with.

The other lamp is on a timer. Just to distract you for a moment... isn't the capiz lamp gorgeous? Originally $60 but snagged for $11 on clearance.

Rather than spend the money on hiring an electrician, I bought a $15 receiver that plugs into the electrical socket. I plug the lamps into the receiver and an itty bitty remote controls the lights.

Pretty nifty, eh? Kind of like "The Clapper” but not so 1984.

The remote isn’t your only option. It also comes in a remote light switch. It looks like a regular light switch plate. But it’s not. You just screw it anywhere into the wall. Viola!

Next up was my mudroom, which only has one light switch. It is a small room that is sandwiched between the garage door and the kitchen door. Since there is only 7 feet to cross between the doors, why should you even need to turn on a light? It could have something to do with the 14 pairs of shoes strewn about. I would love to able to turn on the light when I enter the room, cross the tornado of shoes, exit the garage door, and turn off the light behind me. My failed solution: a nightlight. No amount of light was enough to see in that pitch-black room. My next solution: a motion-detector light switch!

The sensor coverage is 150 degrees. Not bad! It also detects motion up to 30 feet away. That’s not all, folks! It will automatically turn off after your desired amount of time of inactivity. We set it at 1 minute to save electricity. (After all, when I'm in the room, I'm usually moving.) It also has a customizable sensor so that the light will not turn on if it detects enough daylight. The mudroom has a window and a door with glass inserts. It’s bright during the day but just too dark at night. For $15, I don’t have to worry about twisting my ankle anymore. Worth it to me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm an organizing dork

I'll admit it. I love organization. I love organized organization. My heart goes pitter-patter in the storage section of Ikea and Target. I stay away from Container Store because I know what's good for me. I organize on a budget so I won't even tease myself by going in there.

But quite honestly, I have to be organized. My house is on the smaller side (1250 sf) which is perfect for the two of us, a cat, and a little one if the time comes. My house doesn't feel small and I think it's due to my lack of "stuff".

Here are some things I've learned throughout the years:

1. You can't organize junk. Get rid of the items you don't use. Show no mercy. If you think, "I might need this" or "I could fix this" just Get. Rid. Of. It. Every once in a while I come across items that I wonder why I put it away, like a broken camera. I planned on getting it repaired... but instead bought 2 additional (and better) cameras since. Or I find items like VHS tapes when I no longer own a VCR. Cassette tapes. Ahem, Spice Girls.

Don't kid yourself that you'll sell it on Craigslist or eBay. Have a garage sale. (Personally, I skip that step.) Whatever doesn't sell, immediately put in your trunk and take to Goodwill. Except those old cell phones! Donate them to your local women's shelter.

2. Don't buy organization containers without analyzing what you need. After de-junking, look at what items you need to organize and buy the containers that fit those needs. Don't do this step until you finished with step 1. Measure your closet shelves (width/depth and height) and buy containers that make the most of the space.

3. You don't need uber-expensive containers to organize. Check the Dollar Store, Target, or WalMart. I found matching canvas totes on clearance at Lowes after Christmas. Ikea has some cardboard containers that don't look very cardboard-ish. I have them hanging out in my living room, organizing everything from dvds to frequently used tools and small electronics.

4. Be creative when it comes to containers. My favorite trick: plastic zip lock bags and a Sharpie. My medicine cabinet doesn't store medicine. That's what happens when you are a make-up junkie and Sephora is your kryptonite. The cute little plastic drawers don't really fit my needs (but they may fit yours) so I stick it in a canvas tote, organized by bags so I can easily find what I'm looking for.

5. One word: Clear containers. (Ok, that's two.) It makes finding things a lot easier. I use clear containers behind closed doors. I don't like the visual clutter of clear storage but that's just me.

6. Label. Label. Label. Even with clear containers. It doesn't have to be anything special or printed. I like my labels uniform because it gives me secret pleasure. I know, I'm weird like that.

7. Hooks are your friend. I don't have a place to store my jewelry so some hooks behind my bedroom door are perfect for this. I also have a couple hooks on the wall for my robe and hoodies that would otherwise end up on the floor or thrown over a door.

8. Use dual purpose furniture. My entertainment center also stores blankets, magazines, and other various items. What about a coffee table that has storage? Use under-the-bed containers for off-season clothing. Create even more space under your bed by using bed risers. Use those same containers under your couch if you can. I store extra blankets under mine.

9. Think vertical. If you've run out of room, think up. One of my fav fav fav products is Ikea's Lack shelf. I have a couple but I've seen pics of walls with 5 of them lined up. The result is modern and clean. (Don't mind my cat and his new napping spot.)

10. Organize in a way that fits your lifestyle. I have trouble with paper clutter. I signed up for as many e-bills that I could. I adapted the tip of going through my mail as the first thing I do when I enter the house. Junk mail goes straight in the recycling bin. But the stuff that needs to be shredded? Not so easy since the shredder is located in the spare bedroom. I since moved it to the mudroom and I take care of those items when I enter the house.

After writing this entry, I just discovered this great blog: The Unclutterer. There are some really helpful hints and organizing ideas. Any tips that you use and are willing to share?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Battle of who is Smarter: Meg or the Mirror

The contenders:

Ikea Malma mirrors:


I just bought 12 of these mirrors for my entryway. I already have a mirror in my entryway but it just doesn't look finished.

In addition, when the front door is opened, it hits one of the sconces and keeps marring the freshly painted door. So I bought these iron scroll-y things for $3 each on clearance at Target. Blech.

I thought that adding a frame around the mirror would snaz it up. Until I put this ginormous 6 foot thing in my living room.

It's only a few feet away from the entryway. I think two big mirrors make me look a little vain. But in all honesty, it's a decor trick to bounce some light in this dark area. $36 is a lot cheaper than a new front door with some glass inserts. (That will come. Just not in the budget right now.)

But sadly, these Malma mirrors have been sitting on the floor for 3 weeks now because I couldn't figure out how to hang them. Like in traditional Ikea style, there weren't any instructions. (I would have even settled for their picture-only instructions.) Google wasn't helping except to reassure me that I'm not the only one in this quandary.

There were two small hooks and a short piece of string included. Huh? I finally realized you need to screw the hooks into the back and run the string through the hooks a few times. But if I screwed them into the back, the mirror won't lay flush on the wall. Now, I love me a tilted mirror ( a common restaurant decor trick.) But it wouldn't look right with two rows of tilted mirrors.

On top of that, I'd have to screw in 24 of these hooks. (Did I mention I'm lazy?) There were no pre-drilled holes. I'm not that ambitious. But necessity (or laziness) is the mother of invention. I found these 3M picture hanging strips from their Command Adhesive line.

What do you think?

I may add some hooks for coats underneath the mirrors at a later time. Not necessarily for my coats (because it's visual clutter to me and my OCD tendencies). But while I have 2(!) hall closets across from these mirrors, they are currently serving as storage. Not something I'd want my guests to see.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Corn Maze or American Gladiators?

I had the joy of completing my first corn maze this past weekend. Even with living in the heart of Indiana, I've never done one before. Plus there are several intricate ones in my area to choose from. When the idea popped into my head, I ran it past Matt.

Me: What do you think about doing a corn maze tomorrow?

Matt: Isn't maize considered corn?

Me: No, like a maaaaaaze.
(As if sounding out homonyms helps.)

Matt: Oh. Well. Um.
(Apparently sounding it out does help.)

Me: It'll be fun! Like... like a labyrinth! Ooh, remember Pan's Labyrinth? Such a good movie!

Matt: Do you remember the guy with the eyeballs in his palms?

Me: Yuck! Did you have to bring that up? So are you up for the maze?

Matt: Does it have any obstacles? That'd be fun.

Me: Huh? No, no obstacles. What do you think this is? American Gladiators?

Matt: That would be COOL!

It was a beautiful day for it:

The maze was 9 acres and supposed to take 1 - 1 1/2 hours to complete. Within the first few minutes, we both agreed that it was a good idea that we didn't watch "Signs" or "Children of the Corn" the night before. Twenty minutes in, I was getting irritated. We were backtracking, there was no apparent strategy, and you couldn't even give up if you wanted to! What if I was stuck in this corn until tomorrow? Or eternity? There were no cheat maps or clues. But oddly enough, I started to develop a strategy that worked. (Tip: rock-paper-scissors isn't very effective.) The strategy was to make it to the outer edges of the maze and try to work our way around. I'm not sure why that worked but it did. We made it to about 9 of the 12 checkpoints within an hour when we found the exit by accident. We both agreed it would be best to not press our luck.

Outside of the maze, I had the most delicious sweet corn and chicken chowder. Yum! Corn chowder is my favorite. Then I topped off with a hot caramel apple cider. When leaving, I got the enthusiastic response that every girlfriend longs to hear: "Well, that didn't suck as bad as I thought it would." We'll definitely be back next year. And maybe even try the corn shooters! (You shoot ears of corn under high pressure at a distant target.) Who thinks of this stuff?!

Matt is 6 foot tall. The corn stalks towered over us.

We never even saw the bridge in the middle of the maze until we were right upon it. You could look out over the entire maze. This is just a small portion of it. Can you see that the higher view is NOT helpful? At all?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gah! Am I out of my mind?!

I stupidly STUPIDLY volunteered to throw a Super Bowl party. I know, it's months away but it will be here before I know it. But first, who am I kidding? I don't even know when the Superbowl takes place. Super Bowl? Superbowl? One word? Two words? Pretty sure it's mid-January. Or is it late January? Why am I freaking out? The house isn't dirty. The simple truth is that I don't entertain a lot. And there's a lot that I need to get done, which mostly means the flooring...

If you could be head-over-heels in love with a floor, I would have married my recently installed floor. But thanks to a leaking refrigerator, leaking water heater, and leaking water spicket, I have some sections to replace. Unfortunately, I have to take it ALL apart to get the different sections.

I went this past weekend to Ikea to pick up more flooring while it was on sale. 60% OFF!! How could I pass that up?! Plus, I’m almost positive it’s being discontinued. Now or never. I'm not one for day-after-Thanksgiving-shopping. I'm a shopper but I'm not competitive. When I ran track in high school, people would pass me by and I couldn't care less. I knew what Ikea would be like so I bought my aggressive dear friend, Sabrina, with me. If I can't elbow people out of the way, she can! But I was sooooo not prepared for the masses of people. We waited in line for 1 1/2 hours total before the store even opened. We had a plan. I run with the cart, she jumps the cashier block and starts grabbing boxes. And we talked a big game in line. (We had to pysche the other people out.) Every time the Ikea employee walked by the crowd-control rope barrier, my heart raced. Is she letting us through now? How about now? Now? God, is she doing this to be evil? Then all of a sudden, it was a GO. Go! Go! Go! Banging carts, sprinting across the sales floor, people yelling, people pushing my cart out of the way! Oh, no you don't honey! This relaxed, non-confrontational, roll with it girl became that person. The one you avoid at the Black Friday sales. It wasn't pretty. But I got my 11 boxes at 60%. Karma will get me, I'm sure.

My beautiful floor before:

What happens when mucho water mixes with beautiful floor:

See the cracks? :( That isn't supposed to show.

This is why I don't have people over. The concrete just isn't very welcoming. I am seriously embarrassed by this. And what do normal people do when embarrassed? Post of picture of it in a public blog I suppose? (Sorry, I couldn't get a non-blurry shot for the life of me. But trust me, a clear shot would have made you turn away in disgust.)

Some other things I need to take care of:
1. Paint the baseboards

What you don't see in my pics is that the baseboards only have a thin coat of primer covering up the pink paint. Which leads me to...

2. Attach the quarter-round

Something we never got around to... thank god since we would have had to pull it up when replacing the flooring. But I have this tricky doorway problem. Straight quarter-round but rounded trim around the doorway. Any suggestions?

3. Install carpet in the 2nd and 3rd bedrooms

The carpet is disgusting in the 2nd bedroom. I already have the carpet. It's sitting smack dab in the middle of the room. The 3rd bedroom is missing half of the padding. (Thanks, water spicket!) In order to get all this work done, I'm attempting something I have never done before... stop watching TV. I am a major TV junkie. I am trying to put my new DVR to use and see what happens. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Buh-Bye Ugly Carpet!

When we closed, we had a laundry list of items to complete before moving in. Top of the list was painting and replacing the flooring. We were lucky that we were house-sitting for friends at that time. The pics of the existing carpet don't do it justice. It was an honest-to-goodness pink beige.

Not my style, to say in the least. I know you are asking what is the weird splotch of color on the wall. Well, the previous owner never moved her piano when painting. So she tried to color-match. Is there anyone out there that would have wanted to keep this color?? Not only was there the pepto-pink-paint-puke, we also had this awesome floral border.

However, I think the former owner ran out of border midway through. What's a girl to do? Well, apparently cut out the flowers and strategically scotch tape them in the empty spots.

After a little freak when we realized what we had gotten ourselves into, we got to work. First up to bat: the floor. We decided to install a laminate. And our crazy selves decided to install ourselves... with a lot of help. After doing some extensive shopping around, we decided on Ikea Tundra Laminate Flooring in Maple.

Matt pulled up the carpet and padding, only to discover a tile underneath. It was original to the home and most like contained asbestos. Who had the thankless job of chiseling that up? Mmmhmm, yours truly! This was also about the time that I developed the flu. Full-blown, achy bones, tossing my cookies, type of flu.

Let's not forget about the gorgeous tile in the entryway. I know, I know. I was crazy to want to replace it!

Looking a wee bit better, don't ya think? The paint is one of my favorite parts of this room. It's a perfect taupe. (Ralph Lauren's Natural Gray) It is so cozy and inviting.

And finally:

Project cost breakdown:
Flooring (1000 sf): $1000
Paint: $112
Light switches/outlets: $50
Light fixtures: $60
Total: $1222

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Move Over Mr. Gallon of Paint

You've been replaced... 'cause spray paint is my new best friend! For those of you on a tight budget (or just want to save some cash), welcome to the amazing wonders of spray paint.

First project: I bought some unfinished frames from Ikea. Super cheap but not the style I needed.

I painted them bright white and printed out some pictures from my trip to Poland. Love it! (Sorry some of the frames are empty. I have to reorder a few of the pics.)

Project cost breakdown:
Frames $23.90
Spray paint $3.98
Photos $11.63
Total: $39.51

On my way out to the garage to spray paint the frames, I spied the door bell cover I tossed aside 18 months ago when I painted the living room.

I never put it back on because it was such an ugly color and outdated. Besides, an uncovered door bell fixture looks so classy.

Do you know how difficult it is just to buy a replacement cover? Especially when you don't need an entirely new system?

Project cost breakdown:
Door bell cover: $0
Leftover spray paint: $0
Total: $My favorite kind of makeover!

Today's lesson: never shop for home decor and be disappointed when you find a great deal but it's the wrong color. Spray paint is cheap, easy, and quick. (I'll break the legs of anyone who says the same applies to me!) The variety is endless: flat finish, satin, gloss, semi-gloss. You also have surface specific paint: wood, plastic, metal, even appliances! So get going!