What’s Buried isn’t Always Treasure

I was hesitant to call my insurance company and see what my homeowners covered but in the end I think it was very much the right thing to do. They had a clean up crew here the next day. The crew was really efficient and fast! So fast, I was having a hard time keeping up with what was going on. They quickly set up a “containment zone” which immediately brought ET to mind. This seems to be a universal comment from everyone within a certain age group.

At the end of the day they took me through the work they had done. Under some of the carpet in the family room they uncovered the original linoleum. I actually gasped and said, “Oh my God!” I don’t know why I would have such a genuinely dramatic reaction to this linoleum. Sure, it’s ugly but it just surprised me so much. It also concerned me that such dated linoleum would be in a house that was built in 1978. The bathrooms also have some seriously dated linoleum and I’ve always suspected that the builder was using older linoleum as a cost saver. Maybe it was something from a previous project.

An area of concern for the crew was asbestos. They had to have it tested to see if it was “hot.” If it is hot, a special abatement crew has to come in and remove it.

The question now is, how damaged are the cabinets. Will I lose those too?

When DIY Goes Bad

I thought it would be good to look at some of the things a previous owner did in my kitchen. These are kind of obvious “don’ts” in DIY. I had always planned on going back and fixing these. Some issues are bigger than others. Now, with the big re-do, a lot of these issues will be addressed in one big project.

  1. The “backsplash” – We’ll call the previous owner Chuck to preserve his anonymity and because I don’t remember his name. For some reason Chuck glued baseboard on the kitchen wall as a back splash. This is such a perfect illustration of how Chuck approached home improvement. Not only is the baseboard useless as backsplash (hello, absorbent) but he pulled up a lot of the baseboard on the floor and replaced it with sticks of quarter-round. Chuck didn’t waste time with silly things like filling the nail holes or sanding down the paint line from the previous baseboard even though they showed above the quarter-round. Heck, he didn’t even bother mitering the corners of the quarter-round and in some places, because they were small I guess, he didn’t bother with any trim at all. So the fact that he took a big piece of baseboard and glued it to the wall in the kitchen, is poetry really.

That’s a lot of Joy I have there!

  1. The tile – The tile that was used was fairly neutral so I never really had an issue with the look. It wasn’t my favorite look and I thought it looked very 80s but it was no 70s-eyeball-searing-linoleum. However, a quirk of the tile is how incredibly slick it got when it was wet. I mean really, scary, dangerous slick. Every time I warned someone to be careful they would look at me indulgently and then quickly find out for themselves that I was not exaggerating. When the crew came to clean up after the flood, I warned the guys about how slippery the floor was. They did what everyone does, “that’s sweet; she worries.” A few hours later I heard the guy running the job caution someone else, “be really careful on this floor, it’s damn slippery when it’s wet.” Yup, he was a believer now. Having tile that is dangerous when it is wet in a kitchen is ridiculous. But Chuck didn’t stop there. It is also the tile in my entry way. And I live in Oregon. Where it is always wet. I don’t know how I’ve survived my floors this long.

 

  1. The counter top – I was actually kind of fond of the silly, dated confetti laminate counter top. It reminded me of cafeterias and kitchens from my childhood. It wasn’t overtly dated so I kind of enjoyed it. However, it was really old and the laminate was coming off the counter in a few places. That’s OK; Chuck carefully taped it back down and in one case painted a big chip white. I guess he thought no one could see it.

  1. Updating the cabinets – Chuck knew that a common update for these 70s ranch-style kitchens is to get rid of the cabinets that hung from the ceiling between the kitchen and the family room. He also removed the cabinet above the refrigerator. However, Chuck clearly doesn’t do much in the kitchen because he never replaced that storage. This left a serious lack of storage in the kitchen. I have one cabinet I could use for food and the rest were filled with standard kitchen equipment. I struggled with clever food storage solutions for a few years. Also, when Chuck removed that bank of cabinets, he didn’t bother putting facing up on the cabinets that stayed.

 

  1. The soffit – When Chuck removed the cabinets, he didn’t bother getting rid of the soffit so there is this strange “box” that runs along the ceiling. I like to imagine there is buried treasure up there.

These are all things that have made my kitchen kind of inconvenient and I have solutions for each of these. I’m really looking forward to fixing them and protecting future owners of the home from suffering at Chuck’s hands.

Introducing the Kitchen

The intention of Love This Space was to jauntily record my DIY projects (a less-kind person might call them “attempts” rather than “projects”) and share what I was finding in research, resources, and experience. This Sunday changed that whole game plan.

There was a minor washing machine disaster that resulted in much water across my kitchen and family room floor. Four days later my kitchen is gone. It is like it was washed away with the water. I wish it had been that easy.

Mopping Up

The kitchen was always a major target for renovation. It is was a little dated and I thought it would be “fun” to update a few things myself. I thought it had good bones. I liked the footprint. I live in a modest home in a modest neighborhood so it doesn’t make sense to get too fancy. This was something I felt I could tackle. Eventually. I was working up to it. I had gotten to the point where I was determined to do the cabinet doors this summer. I was going to attach a little flat trim to the fronts to hide the dated scrolls and make it look more Craftsman (the ranch style house is a cousin of the Craftsman so this was the design direction I was going to take this place). Then I was going to paint them all white so they looked fresh and clean.

At some point soon I was going to tackle the floors! My house is a conglomerate of carpet, tile, laminate, and linoleum. All in only 1500 square feet. Each flooring solution a little less attractive and practical than the next.

So you can see why I knew I had plenty of projects that I was going to do one-by-one. Let me just repeat that last bit there…one-by-one.

Until my washing machine decided otherwise.

This is what has rush-launched Love This Space. Partly because it is good blog-fodder but honestly, a big part of it is I need to process what is happening against my will so quickly.

So please pardon the state of the blog. I’m sprucing this up while the kitchen gets put back together. Perhaps together we can heal.

Oh barf! I’m really just trying to get my thoughts together so I stop babbling at all the nice workmen because when I do that, it leaves them with a slightly panicked look on their face.

Phase 1 in Home Improvement

I’ve been avoiding a big project at my house. It is something I know I have needed to do but it just seemed so overwhelming that I have been pretending it isn’t there.

My house is FULL of crap.

There. I said it. I desperately need to de-clutter in a big way. I can’t believe I avoided this so long. When I was living at my grandparent’s cabin a few years ago, I felt smothered in STUFF. We’ve had that cabin for over 40 years so it has accumulated an enormous amount of stuff from various family members. While I was there I couldn’t stand that every closet overflowed with old junk to the point that I couldn’t even use one. Every cupboard was packed to the gills with things so old I was afraid to eat or use them (including an old baby bottle for the baby that had recently turned 40!). Every space was jam packed with something that wasn’t even useful or beautiful and anything useful was impossible to access. It just made me crazy.

A few times I snapped and cleaned out a closet or two and even tackled a bookshelf with 10 year old AAA maps. This wasn’t a popular move with the grandparents who see nothing wrong with their cabin. I did this almost 8 years ago and still, anytime they can’t find something now, they decide I must have gotten rid of it.

From what I gather talking to other people about their grandparents or parents (those that went through WWII and the Depression) have a deep love for their things and won’t throw anything out. They did without for so long they just can’t get rid of anything they have now. This means I lived with empty jars, coffee cans, broken TVs, bags, etc.

Living with this kind of clutter kind of scarred me for life. I have a horror of the overflowing now. Which is why I can’t believe I’ve gotten cluttered myself now. It happens so quickly and easily, doesn’t it?

So I have declared this the “Summer of De-cluttering” (kind of like the Summer of George but better and longer since I’m actually starting this in the Spring). I’m going to tackle each closet, drawer, surface, and corner that has “stuff.” My goal is to get rid of at least 50% of everything. In some cases that percentage should be even higher. The de-cluttering measurement is, “If my house burned down in a fire, would I miss this?” If not, then it is a good candidate for being ousted.

The project commenced this weekend. Start where the problem is the most annoying, right? So I started in my bedroom. I have a pretty good size closet and I have plenty of drawer space but everything has overflowed to surfaces in the room. This sets my teeth on edge and really means that what should be my comforting personal space is an area I don’t even like to walk into.

Exhibit A: The top of my dresser. I’m so embarrassed to even show this to you. Notice Scarlet Kitty is present and ready to help. Also, I can’t close one of the drawers because it is so full, a t-shirt has fallen behind the drawer. I have to take it out and dig down back there to retrieve it.

But I can’t put any of this away. I also have overflow on the chair next to the dresser where I “store” all my workout clothes and under the cat’s table (yes, she has her own table for her food and water so the dogs can’t get into it) where I’ve been storing dog rugs and blankets. Not only do I hate all these but they are right at the door so they are the first thing you see when you walk in. Ugh. (For the record, I’m hoping to replace the carpet this year. They aren’t actually as bad as they look in this picture but they are that awful champagne color that shows EVERYTHING.)

(Do you see the two eyes looking in from the hallway? It isn’t a monster. It is Oscar watching all the fun.)

This is the offending closet. It is so full it is impossible to do much more than stuff things in there and hope they stay. The dog bed in front isn’t helping much because it is hard to get to the closet but I haven’t figured out a solution for that yet. Even when I move the bed a dog sleeps there because it is the side of the bed I sleep on. The dirty clothes basket looks awful too. I was hopeful I would find space in the closet for it too. I had a lot of hopes riding on this project.

The first step was just pulling everything out. Because I’ve been dreading the scale of this project I kind of had to put myself at a point of no return so I pulled things out quick and piled them up on the bed. Now I would have no where to sleep unless I finished this project. I’ve also started some piles with the easy decisions. It boils down to: what gets thrown away, what is getting donated and what is kept.

Some decisions were not easy. Brand new items I had either never used or only used once or twice in over 5 years had to go. My book bag I used all through college had to go because the plastic lining is starting to crumble. That was kind of tough but I haven’t used it since school (17 years ago!). I was just keeping it for sentimental reasons. But I was brutal and I would say I eliminated 3/4 of my shoes and purses.

Here is the pile of shoes and purses before I went through them. That shoe holder extends the entire length of the closet. I was hoping I could get rid of some of the holder after I weeded through the shoes. I don’t even know why I would have this many shoes since I’m really not a shoe person. I wear the same pair of clogs almost every day.

Here is the closet now it is empty (the little things you see on the racks are the lavender and cedar sachets to deter moths). I have to say I was more than a little horrified how GROSS the empty closet was. It was dirty. It was so dusty and around the shoe holder were gross cobwebs. I did managed to get rid of nearly half of the shoe rack by the way. So before I could do anything else I had to actually clean the closet. Vacuum, dust, etc. My allergies took such a hit that I’ll wear a mask for the next closet project.

Here is Scarlet Kitty helping. (Her doggie brother helped by chewing up a kleenex box in the office.) Notice the door jamb? That is actually part of the driver for the big clean out project. The house has some aging issues that are mainly cosmetic such as this dinged up, outdated door jamb. I want to do a bunch of painting this summer (when it is nice and dry in Oregon) but part of making that happen is just getting rid of stuff so I can put things away and maneuver furniture around the room to get to walls, ceilings, window trim, etc. Also notice the floor. I hate that floor. It is really cheap looking in person, doesn’t match anything, and whoever did the trim did a TERRIBLE job. It will be a big expense because I actually just want to put new flooring through the entire house but I’ve started my little savings plan and it would be great if it can be my big, expensive project this year. I should be able to swing one a year.

The smudge in the picture is probably dust from everything I had put in the air when I disturbed the items in my closet!

And here is the finished product! There are a big bunch of hangers right in the middle that are empty. I should have taken them out when I took the picture to emphasize the improvement but I was absolutely beat and filthy by the end. I got rid of over 50% of the clothes easily.

This is everything that went (with the exception of all the shoes and purses which had already been hauled out of the room). The stuff at the foot of the bed is garbage (I got rid of all wire and cheap plastic hangers) and the stuff on the bed will be donated to Goodwill. Three garbage bags full. Good stuff too. Items that still have the tags on them, some nice jackets that I just had to admit to myself were too big for me. There were a lot of things that I actually really liked but if they didn’t fit well, if they weren’t flattering and if I wasn’t wearing them, they went. I actually found a lot of clothes that had been hidden that I had forgotten about so I feel like I went shopping for new stuff!

All of the workout clothes are easily stored on the shelf and where I was able to remove the shoe rack I now have the dog rugs and blankets neatly stacked.

This was step 1 in the Great Home Makeover. It took me about 2-3 hours and I really think moving that fast actually made it easier to make decisions about what to get rid of and what to keep. I’ve even gone back a couple of times and decided there are a few more items that should have gone in the first round. I’m a de-cluttering fool now. The next step for my bedroom are the drawers. This won’t be nearly as big a project so I’m not afraid of it.

Scarlet Kitty was very pleased with the empty basket. You know you have done a good job when you get a cat’s stamp of approval.

Held Back by a Little Hardware

There are a few things about the new house that I hate. Overall, I love it and we are very happy here. But there are just a few things that I absolutely hate and that I feel truly decrease value. For some reason, there are people in my “circle” that are trying to talk me out of changing these things. I have no idea why as I think they are obvious changes that need to happen. Maybe because they are fairly large projects?

Anyway, it drives me nuts that it has been repeatedly suggested my ideas are ridiculous. But, since I’m the one that has to live here, I’m making the changes. However, have you ever noticed the smallest, stupidest thing can halt a project?

For example, I have a beautiful weeping willow that dominates the backyard. This is really a stunning tree that truly gives the backyard “curb appeal” (if a backyard can have curb appeal). The tree is just starting to bloom for Spring. Trust me, in the summer, it is very dramatic.

Now for some reason, someone thought it would be a brilliant idea to put this ugly shed right under the willow tree. Prime real estate in the yard. It should have a lovely seating area. This is a huge shed. I could park a small car in it. This would be the first thing I hate and want to change.

When I first moved in I had terrible trouble with hobo spiders. I suspect they are living between this shed and the fence. It is only about 5 inches back there and it is full of leaf debris. Perfect spider condo. Now that it is warming up again I am afraid they will come back. So now I have two great reasons to get rid of the hideous shed.

Oh wait, make that three reasons. This is the view from my bedroom. The master bedroom. Attractive…non?

Step one is to move everything being stored in the shed to the garage. And since I hate going in the shed (see above spider problem) I don’t have much in there. This means I need to get an organization system in the garage. No problem, I have plenty of room for shelving. Which brings us to something else I hate about the house.

Some genius took a couple salvaged kitchen cabinets and put them up on the wall in the garage. Maybe it sounded like a good idea but in practice…it bites. It isn’t enough room to store much (cans of beans, cans of soup?) and they are planted in the middle of the wall making any useful surrounding shelving impossible. It is truly un-storage.

This project accomplishes several goals. I take care of two “hates” in the house. I will have a charming seating/garden area just under the weeping willow. I could be eliminating the hobo spiders. (Have I mentioned the hobo spiders? *shudder* ) And I will have much needed shelving in the garage. The house needs storage space (there is no pantry, not much of a linen closet and no place for appliances or Costco purchases) I believe I’m creating real value in the home.

So why has this project stalled? One stupid screw. One screw in each cupboard will NOT come out. They are dry wall screws but they must be stripped or in mollies or something. They turn but they won’t come out. I’m trying to figure out a way to get these off the wall without having to do demo and lose all that dry wall.

Ugh, when I looked at this picture I saw another reason to get rid of the cupboards. They are dark and a good hidey place for more spiders. I had my face in that cupboard working on the screw and never saw that big web.

So the whole big project is stalled. Every once in a while I go out to the garage and stare at the cupboards like that will help get them down. I’m this >< close to just taking a sledge hammer to them. So suggestions are welcome.

Chickadee update: The chickadees have made their home in the gutter. I don’t know if they have laid eggs yet, I was hearing noise like there were chicks but I never saw any baby birds. I took a quick picture in the gutter but I don’t see any birds.

The end of the gutter is about two feet from my kitchen window and both chickadee papa and mama sit there and watch me in the kitchen. They don’t look afraid or threatened; just curious.

They are probably wondering when I’m going to get rid of that shed!

In which I try to make up for lack of postings with a really loooong post

I would say I’ve been working like a dog, but in my house, working like a dog looks like this:

Argus sleeping

So I’ll just say I’ve been working like the cat/dog handmaiden that I am and have made some serious progress. I’m ready to start inviting people into the home. Which is good since I’ve completely neglected everyone. I’m going to have to take out a small loan for all the dinners I owe everyone.

One project resulted in two storage solutions, answered the challenge of a style conflict and it cost me less than $5. Now that is bang for the buck.

Let me introduce the dresser:

dresser before

I never liked this dresser. It wasn’t big enough for clothing storage but was really too big to be in the living room and not look like a piece of bedroom furniture, the drawers didn’t pull in and out easily and the top drawer tilted upward unattractively. And there was just something about how it looked that I didn’t like.

A couple of weekends ago, I was faced with a pile of books in the garage that needed to go inside but I was maxed out on shelf room. With all the vet bills we have had lately (about $2500 in the last two months, ouch!) and with, well, buying a HOUSE and all, my disposable cash is tight to say the least. (please don’t make me eat any more toasted cheese and tomato soup dinners!)

I found myself staring at the dresser. It was taking up space but not providing any real function. This is not meeting my criteria for things that live in my house. The scale is right for the living room and I liked the color, I liked the top and the sides but it was the drawer fronts I really wasn’t loving.

This had once been probably a very attractive piece but at some point (probably the 70s) someone glued those panels on the front of the drawers and replaced the drawer hardware with these really cheap and flimsy handles that were insufficient for pulling the heavy drawers in and out. It was also a quality piece of furniture. Here is a very blurry picture of the drawer joins:

drawer join

This is good stuff. No staples. So I pulled out the drawers to assess what I had inside.

inside the dresser

First I can see the reason for the tilting drawers and trouble pulling them in and out. All of the guides on the right side are broken. Only one was lying at the bottom of the dresser so I couldn’t even fix it easily. Instead, I opted to bust out one of the front bars, replace the one guide and make a shelf that sits across the front bar and guides and voila!

dresser after

Storage solution #1 solved. Books have been moved from the garage into the house. Plus, these tall books were always a hassle on standard bookshelves but fit in here nicely. Even taller books (like the atlas) can rest on its side in the bottom space. Cost of this was less than three dollars for the shelf wood. (which I promise will be stained to match soon)

The drawers? I couldn’t bring myself to toss them because, aside from the hideous front panel, I thought they were really lovely. Especially those sides with that scalloped join.

Remember the dreaded office? That pit of despair and horror? (and no, I’m not one of those crazy people who live with stacks of junk in their homes, I just moved and emptied a storage space) Prepare to clutch your pearls and gasp, but this is what it looked like before:

office before

This is what it looks like after (same angle of the same area in the room):

office after

And what is that on the walls serving very nicely as attractive shelving? The drawers. Hideous panel side down and beautiful scallop join out. Storage solution #2. All my note cards have a home and show off their pretty boxes as well as all my knitting notions/needles and small knitting/tea books. Cost was a little over a dollar for mollies and screws to fasten the drawers shelves to the wall.

drawer detail

I solved another storage solution (other than pillaging stray pieces of furniture). All my project bags were piled up in the closet and on the top shelf. Now, they have been strung up on the clothing bar. They take up a lot less room and are much easier to access. This will make it much easier for a purge. Some of these projects have languished in bags for three years. I think it is safe to say I have fallen out of love with them.

closet

I also need someone to please help me get rid of all the books and research material I accumulated while working on my master’s thesis. I haven’t looked at them in a year but they were the end all/be all of my existence at one point in my life so it is really hard to just chuck them.

The cat has taken over the office so I know it has met a high standard of approval. Yes, I know that three months ago this cat was living in the street. But trust me, all cats have high standards from birth.

The really exciting part for me is that I am one flat surface (my bedroom dresser top) away from having all three bedrooms clean and functional! Great googly-moogly someone mark this day.