Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Archive for the category “Around the House”

Organization Freak

In the past few days, a few of my favorite bloggers posted about getting organized in 2013, buying new planners, and so on. This brings me great joy because I am one of those people who considers organization one of life’s simple pleasures.

I don’t know what it is, but there is so much excitement to buying a new planner and sitting down with some great pens to fill in the never changing dates like birthdays and holidays off from work. I have tried for years to be an all digital calendar gal, but I can’t make the switch. Something about the process of writing things down makes them real and tangible to me, as well as commits them to memory. FYI, I’m the same way with studying and note taking- you should see the files I’ve created at work just of notepads for exhibit research.

Organization to me is fun because I like all the pretty accessories that go with it, but really for me it’s about sanity. This organization extends to the house, office, purse, and so on. I try to keep all matters of life in a somewhat mannerly way ( I kind of have a basket addiction), though I will admit that I have ‘organized’ areas of junk, out of sight of course. As I’ve been working on  Apartment Therapy’s January Cure, I’ve tried to tackle these secret piles in the closets and basements, but I have an ever growing of pile of items to sell that I fear will stick around to spring when I can have a yard sale with other members of the family. But it’s in my basement so if you come over, you can’t see that haha.

The sanity aspect is knowing where things are when I need them, but also having a lot of clutter and stuff around really gets in my way of thinking and being able to get things done. I think I’ve always been this way ( though my mother might disagree), but I have to clear and clean out the physical space before I can think about tackling a project. Last night I sat down to attack my piles of to do lists and scribbled notes into a somewhat coherent plan for the months ahead- just having one notebook divided by month with all the various action items I want to accomplish made me feel like it is all very attainable. I’m going to try to only write the action items down in this one notebook as a way to try to clear out the worrying about forgetting something on another list! We’ll see how this new organization method works.

The Changing of the Closets

Columbus Day weekend is upon us and I always use the three day weekend to do some closet transitioning  putting away the strappy sandals and sundresses to make way for woolens and boots. Even though I know the New England weather will bring its fair share of warm weather still into mid-October, this time of year is perfect to start the change over to fall and (dare I say!) winter clothing.

Except this year, the changing of the closets brings on a whole new meaning.

In an effort to honor the body I have right now, I’m going to be doing some serious purging of the clothes. At the end of last winter, I had a handful of pants and skirts that were snug that I put away in hopes that by the beginning of this cooler weather season, I would fit in them again. I don’t even have to try them on to know this is not true. I have already started slowly sifting through these piles of clothes I had hoped to fit into and bringing them to girlfriends who will love them ( and fit in them!), consignment  or Salvation Army. It feels good to get rid of the stuff that lies around. Taking them out of the closet was an important step to begin with- seeing them there was not motivating me in the way that I had hoped, but mocked me everyday to remind me of what size I wasn’t.

The changing of the closets this time around also is about getting rid of clothes, shoes, purses, etc. that just aren’t part of my lifestyle any more. I don’t need small tiny cocktail purses in six different colors because I don’t go out anywhere near as much as I used to, and super rarely to a place that I dress up so much that I want a purse to compliment my outfit. Those six or seven rhinestone studded low-cut tops have not been worn since senior year of college, but somehow they have stayed in my closet all these years. In the opposite vein, I should not buy any more lounge pants or sweaters to hang around in the house in- while I do spend far more time at home than I used to, a different sweatshirt and lounge pants is not required for each day.  I’m really trying to pare down my wardrobe into the things I love and wear and keep the special items that are really awesome- I’m definitely trying to make it about quality not quantity.

In the past year of tight budgets and watching my bottom line, my shopping habits have changed. I don’t go out at the beginning of every season to pick up the latest trends- I’ve actually started shopping at the END of each season to get an item I need so I get stuff on clearance. This lack of shopping has caused some wear and tear on some favorited items and I will be sad to see those go, but I’m also learning that to feel my best, I have to look the part, and wearing a pilled, discolored sweater that looks tired and worn out will not make me feel like Super Woman.

The biggest change in the closets is a weird one- I now have more flat-ish shoes than super heels.  I recently realized I owned only 2 pairs of work appropriate shoes to bring me into the new season, and both of those have seen better days. Last Saturday I picked up 3 new pairs of work shoes for a great bargain at Famous Footwear. For the first time maybe ever in my life, they were all flats, two made by Naturalizer, who, I can admit, I previously associated as a brand that my mom and aunt wore (sorry gals!) But these three pairs of shoes are CUTE ( a pair in pewter, one in black, one in brown), are work and weekend appropriate for pants or dresses, and ARE SUPER COMFORTABLE. It’s definitely a sign of the times for me; after many many years of this 5 foot 2 inch woman wearing 4 inch high heels, my feet, hips, and Achilles tendon hurt just enough after a day in high heels for me to realize I need more flats in my life. I previously associated this with feeling or looking old, being frumpy, or just plain lazy to not make the commitment to heels all the time.

I’m not sure if the change is just because the pain is becoming more obvious to me now than before ( or less bearable perhaps?) or just because I realize how impractical running around a museum carrying a 50 pound painting is with a pair of stilettos. Needless to say, the changing of my closets reflects a change in my thinking about how I see myself and how I perceive others to see me- I guess I’m “growing up!”

Not Your Mother’s Home Ec

As many homeowner’s know, every free weekend in your life is frequently taken over by various house projects, DIY projects, and general upkeep items. This seems more OK to me now that the heat of summer has subsided, as well as the fact that looking at the growing list of things to do has finally motivated me into action.

The weekend began with usual Saturday morning house cleaning- I set an alarm for an hour or so, put on some great tunes, and tackle the piles of mail, clothes, dishes, etc. that have accumulated over the work week. I sweep, vacuum, and so some minimal dusting. You know, the usual culprits of grossness.

When I woke up it looked like the scraping and painting my father and I had hoped to accomplish was going to be thwarted by rain, but sunshine prevailed, and we had a gorgeous (and productive!) day of scraping and painting my front porch. After a second coat today, front porch is all done! Now the beast of scraping and painting the exterior of the sun porch is next. We tried starting it over the summer, but between the heat & humidity we got barely anything done.

This weekend, with some great fall sales, I was able to pick up some home decor items that I had been wanting for a bit of time- new tablecloth, throw pillow, and some decorative elements for the house. I’m also just about finished with a DIY project I had been thinking about for a bit- more to come on that soon!

What really has me so excited this weekend is that for the first time ever, I made my own, homemade from scratch, tomato sauce. My garden is still abundant with tomatoes and after freezing a bunch, using so many in recipes and salads, I still have so many left over. The sauce is simmering as we speak, but I’m hoping it turns out well. The basil in my garden continues to grow like a weed- I’ve made 4 batches of pesto to freeze with plans to make a few more to give to friends– I’ve used more olive oil this summer than ever before I think! I just hung a bunch of basil to dry and will do a few more if this batch works out too.

My garden was a success for the most part- I had success with green beans, tomatoes ( both beefsteak, heirloom, and sun grape tomatoes), and basil. I only ended up with three or four cucumbers, though they were delicious. Sadly, I had no zucchini. Three plants went in at the beginning of the season, and two died by the beginning of summer. The third plant has had squash blossoms on it for awhile, but no zucchini yet and I doubt there will be. I’m happy with my first garden at the house- much of it thanks to my dad, who worked hard to put in the little container area and watered it frequently during the hot days. He has quite the green thumb, of which I am learning slowly!

As I’m preparing for more cooking now that the weather changes ( I’m thinking about making mini quiches tonight for breakfast for the week), I have to laugh a bit to myself because I never would have imagined years ago that I would have been this interested in cooking, freezing, growing veggies, house maintenance, etc. I greatly disliked home economics in junior high- mostly because I didn’t think any of the things were useful- but now as an adult, I find myself reading more home and cooking blogs, magazines, and TV shows than I ever did before. Of course my interests and life has changed greatly- dinners out aren’t a big part of my budget and I’m strict with my grocery store spending too, so being able to prepare and have food in my backyard to eat helps on both those accounts. Before, I saw a lot of the “homemaking”/DIY stuff as too time consuming or boring- my philosophy used to be that there were people who were professionals who could do things far better than I and so I should pay them to do it. I frequently used to say that my sanity had a price. While that still may be true with some things ( I don’t make creme brulee for example, because I know it would never be as good as a pastry chef could do, plus that torch thing scares me!), I find that I want to at least give things a try a lot more than I used. I enjoy making food for friends, family and myself to enjoy; I like making things to have in my home and be proud to show off. It’s a challenge for me many times too and keeps me constantly learning (and often surprising myself) at what I am able to do.

Now if I could just remember how to use that sewing machine, I’d be set!

It’s a wallpaper miracle!

When I purchased the house in 2009, there were four rooms wallpapered. We immediately took down the wallpaper in the dining room and the bathroom because those walls were in the worst shape ( and the bathroom wallpaper was black and gold flies on it. WEIRD). It was always on the list to get the hall and the bedroom done, but never quite happened until now.

When we did the other two rooms in 2009, it was horrible. My 1930-built house with horsehair plaster walls took to the wallpaper glue like, well, super glue. Taking the paper off becomes a two-step process- taking off the top layer of paper to expose the backing, which is the real bear to get off the wall. In 2009, it took five adults a whole weekend to do the dining room. It took my dad and I a week to get the backing and glue off the wall in the bathroom. Needless to say, we were definitely not looking forward to the prospect of many weeks worth of wallpaper peeling for the hall and the bedroom.

After I had stripped the top layer off in both rooms on my own, both of my parents came over on a Saturday morning a few weeks back to start with removing. What we all thought would be a full weekend of frustration and swearing at the walls became a wallpaper miracle.

There are a number of wallpaper removal gels and solvents and we tried numerous ones in the de-wallpapering in 2009. When my Dad went to Home Depot to pick up plastic to cover my floors and bed, he picked up the magic wallpaper removal product: M1 Wallpaper Remover ( neither me or anyone in my family has received anything from this company- I am literally just singing its amazing praises). IT IS LIFE CHANGING. Seriously, if you are a home owner or know someone who is and has wallpaper to remove, you have to share this product with them. After spraying the product on the wall and letting it set for 2 minutes, the backing paper and glue literally came off the wall in sheets. If we had a dime for every time one of the three of us said “This stuff is amazing,” we could have bought dinner that night.

After finding the miracle spray, the work went so quickly. Both the bedroom and the hallway are completely stripped and this week I’m working on washing the walls and fixing any holes or cracks with compound. Next week my dad and I will paint the ceiling and moldings in both rooms and then finally get some paint on the walls.

We were working so quickly through the wallpaper and wanted to badly to get done, I forgot to stop to take photos!

The before.

The middle.

That’s my amazing Dad. My mom helped too but I promised I wouldn’t take a photo of her.

Finished bedroom- looks a little sad at moment.

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