Tag Archives: kitchen

American Excess & Balance

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I’ve often contemplated this seeming disease that plagues us.  I love to organize and clean things and have since I was a kid.  Definitely a “Type A” here.  Just for fun, I enjoy watching YouTube videos on organizing or cleaning, and I’m amazed by the glutton of household items average people possess!

I will preface any further observations and opinions by saying – we have moved many times in our twenty year marriage, which forces evaluation of one’s “stuff”.  That said, after our recent move back to sunny Florida a year ago, it was incredible the stuff I’d deemed so valuable that we paid money to move it 1,000 miles.  Since our move and settling into our home, we have had Salvation Army come out twice with their big truck to haul away many boxes, Christmas train sets, set it and forget rotisserie oven, faux ficus trees, brick-a-brack, clothing, china, etc.  In addition to that, we’ve taken bag after bag to Goodwill almost weekly for the past year as we continue to sort through boxes.  Incredible the volume one collects over the years!

So, I’ve been forced to handle every item and evaluate.  I can only imagine the challenge for those who’ve lived in the same house for twenty plus years and how quickly things can get out of control.  Tastes in decor and furnishings change, fads come and go, the kids outgrow toys and clothes, hobbies move on, etc.  And if you have an issue with excessive shopping, especially as a means of therapy; well, then, all bets are off!

What is one to do when our “stuff” overwhelms us?

I think it’s easy to become completely overwhelmed if the chaos fills your entire home.  I would strongly suggest enlisting the help of a good friend or family member who can help you evaluate things and offer perspective.

When sorting through a room/box/dresser, I always ask myself three questions:

1.) Have I used it in the last year?

2.) Am I currently using it?

3.) Will I likely use it in the next year?

The task of letting things go can be so difficult.  Even a “Type A” like myself has found it hard putting some items in the donation box because it may have sentimental value or because it once cost a good bit of money.  The consequence of holding onto these items that we are no longer using and serve no purpose is that they seem to multiply and therefore occupy mental space as well.  They bog us down and we are hindered from letting our creative juices flow and general happiness from a tidy room.  They are “non-value added items”.  Now, I am not suggesting in any way, getting rid of all sentimental things or counting your household goods, etc.  But, I am offering a method to consider applying to our excess, which seems to be an epidemic.

I recently read a statistic that said 10% of Americans rent a storage unit outside their home!  Wow!  That’s staggering and in my humble opinion, a huge waste of money.  If we do not have room to house said item, then maybe we don’t need it.  I understand there are causes for short term leasing, such as military personnel, etc.  But, we’re talking long term here.  Why do we have so much stuff?

I often tell my kids that when I was their age, we didn’t have Walmart to run to for whatever item we thought we needed at that split second. There were grocery stores, hardware stores, department stores, etc.  And things were pretty expensive so we did not often get new things outside of Christmas, birthdays and the beginning of a new school year.  This must be a foreign concept to them as now we even have the all-too-tempting Amazon and internet shopping in general.

The stuff is so entirely accessible.  Add to that the “in your face” marketing that envelopes our society and there seems to be no escape!

On the flip side of consumerism, we have this new trend of minimalism.  Interesting.  While I think there are merits to this idea, I personally do not think it is for me.  But, I do wholeheartedly agree with keeping our “stuff” to a minimum but in a more balanced way.  For instance, I don’t feel like our family needs seven bottles of shampoo and conditioner, nor do I feel the need to count our toiletries.  I don’t believe we need three sets of everyday dishes, nor do I feel like we should count our plates and bowls.  To every area of life, there should be balance.  So how do we achieve this balance with our stuff?

I would say that we have to nip it in the bud.  Deeply evaluate items before we purchase them.  Do I really need this?  Do I already have something that could work just as well? Do I need “another” one?  Will it add value to my life?

It seems that once an item enters our homes, it takes up permanent residence and eventually reaches the point of excess.  I like the “one in – one out” idea.  If you purchase one item.  You put one in the donation box.  Simple idea but effective.

And now to address our current glut of stuff…

I love the old adage – “How do we eat an elephant?”

One bite at a time, right?

That is my suggestion in this regard as well.  Forget that the entire house may look like a tornado came through last night.  Forget that it’s been years since you’ve done anything with the basement or storage room.  Forget the cobwebs, the dust bunnies, the space invaders that have taken over your house!  Forget them all.

Today is a new day, my friend!

Writing things down has always proven effective for me when tackling tasks, especially undesirable tasks.  Make a list.

I would start your war plan with the rooms your family utilizes the most frequently.  This would be the kitchen, the family room, the living room, etc.

Outline the major tasks that require attention in each room.  Checking tasks off a list yields tremendous satisfaction and is very rewarding.  It propels us naturally to the next item.

Enlist the help of all the troops!  Even the smallest of soldiers can lend a hand.

One of the most common reasons for accumulation of things is that they do not have a home … OR … the soldiers did not take the extra steps necessary to take said item to its trusty home.

“A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Taking a room by room approach will inspire you to continue your war path to the other affected areas.  It doesn’t matter how long this takes.  The point is that progress is being made.

“Begun is half done.”

I think the greatest purging/organizing/cleaning tool is your attitude, frankly.

“Attitude determines altitude.”

If you have a sloppy, couldn’t care less attitude, then your home will reflect that.  If you are disciplined and focused, your home will reflect that also.

“Input yields output.”

Put on some happy music.  Whatever that is to you.  Sometimes I prefer classical, sometimes contemporary Christian music, sometimes easy listening.  Depends on my mood, I guess.  Whatever will inspire you and bring happy feelings, put it on.  Music has an amazing ability to carry us away from our present tasks (mundane as they may be) and take us to a joyful place in our soul.

Give yourself a pat on the back during each step of your progress.  You deserve it.  As long as your feet keep moving in a positive direction, you are one step closer to the environment that you desire.

Just think of the joy you could bring to someone less fortunate as you place unwanted items in the donation box.  And, next time you feel the urge to place that Amazon order or hit the mall, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a war plan to develop regarding the glut in our garage.

 

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Renovations Continue

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We purchased a home in mid April knowing we’d have to invest blood, sweat and tears … and lots of dough.  However, it is so true about renovations taking longer than anticipated and costing more than imagined!  We keep telling ourselves that we are in the home stretch, meanwhile someone keeps moving home base!  😉

Our house was built in 1988 and was in desperate need of updating and replacing most major systems.  The house has two A/C units and one crashed a couple months ago.  That was Expense #1 that was unanticipated so early on.  Then the well equipment was in dire need of replacing, so we did that.

We’ve completely gutted three bathrooms and the kitchen, as well as tiled the entire lower level of the house, kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms.  We did the majority of the demolition work ourselves, however hired a contractor to do the rest.  So far, the master and powder baths are nearly completed.  Soon the contractor will return to finish the downstairs bathroom, which will be for the kids.  As it stands now, we share the master bath.  *Sigh*  I will be posting before and after pictures in subsequent blogs so you can see the complete transformations.  I’ll detail all the work we’ve done as well.

We painted the entire 3,400 square feet of interior space ourselves, most of it done prior to moving in, which was a blessing!  We painted most of the interior antique white, however, my sewing/craft room and my husband’s office are both painted in sage green, which is such a peaceful color!  We hired professional painters to transform the exterior, which was a very tired gray blue color.  What a transformation it is too!  The body is called palomino tan with dark red front doors.  It turned out even better than anticipated!  Praise the Lord!!  What we thought would be a week long painting process has turned into Week 4 now due to all the rain we’ve gotten!  The painters were frustrated and so were we that it dragged on so long, but only God controls the weather.  So, we just roll with it.  🙂  (pardon the pun)  haha  We actually seriously considered painting the exterior ourselves initially, however the high pitch of the A frame roof was just too great!  You’ll see what I mean in future pictures.  🙂

A number of our electrical outlets were non-functioning so we hired an electrician to swap out all of the outlets and switchplates in the house to modern outlets, rockers and slide dimmer switches (versus the old round knobs).  I’ll post pictures of some of those soon too.  That has been a huge undertaking!  It sounds like such a small thing but we have more switches than you can imagine and many or, should I say most, are 3-way switches (which are expensive!).  It is a small detail to swap these out but it really does make a huge overall impact.  We’re so glad we decided to do that.

This really is a nice house.  It just needed a lot of attention.  My husband and son plan on installing wood flooring throughout the first level with the exception of the marble tile entry way and the porcelain tile in the kitchen and laundry room.  We live in Florida and there aren’t technically basements in our great state, however our house is built on a hill, so that’s why I refer to the lower level as downstairs and sometimes I even call it the basement.  (although that’s not entirely accurate)  I’m from the north, what do you expect?  haha

I’m pretty sure we will have home improvement projects lined up for the next couple years.  We give ourselves lots of “pep talks” regularly, though.  We’re going to get through this, we say.  We look at each other and remind ourselves that once these tasks are completed, they won’t need to be repeated.  Oh, we try to look at the bright side … and we really are so very blessed!  But, sometimes, like when the water supply won’t flow into the house  AGAIN … well, it’s times like those that beg the question, “Did we make the wrong choice?”  😉  In the end, I don’t think we did.  Although, I’m pretty sure we had no idea how grueling this process would become and how long it would drag on.

Literally, we have met problems/challenges/opportunities for personal growth at every turn!  Take for instance, our double wall oven situation.  The company just swapped out the old double wall oven because it arrived badly dented and brought us a new set.  We thought, “Oh good!  At least this chapter will be closed.”  No such luck.  They delivered the wrong set on Monday, which promptly heated up the newly installed set of cabinetry drawers directly below the oven.  It’s things like this that keep us on our knees and clinging to the promise that God will help us in time of need.  🙂  If you’re wondering where things stand with the oven situation, a new set will be delivered in two weeks.  We will definitely inspect the oven insulation before installation!

And the pool … well, that is another subject for another day!

Stay tuned for more renovation news and progress reports!  Oh, and pictures too!

Blessings!

P.S.  Anyone else out there doing renovations?  Tell me, there’s a rainbow at the end please!

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Our Kitchen Remodeling

Before Remodeling

Before Renovations …

If you’ve been following my blogging journey for a while here, you already know that we live in an older home.  It was built in 1977 to be exact.  The house really has a lot of character and charm, but the kitchen really needed updating.  The cabinets and drawers were self-destructing and our silverware drawer had taken up residence on our kitchen counter for a couple years.  The kitchen faucet recently began to leak and the kitchen was just screaming for attention!  Ah!  We’d been wanting to update ever since we moved in a little over three years ago, but finally, it was time!  Yay!

 

kitchen 1

Our New Improved Kitchen!  Real wood cabinets and granite countertops.  We reused the cabinet handles and drawer pulls we had since they had recently been replaced.

 

kitchen sink

Stainless steel sink w/pull out sprayer faucet.  The installers have to come back soon to install soap dispenser into granite.  (They forgot.)  Loving the deep sink on the left, especially for baking dishes, etc.  No more caulking around the sink.  Love the undermount!

kitchen granite

Close up of granite & cabinets.  Love how easy it is to wipe up messes on the counters and it just looks fabulous!  This old house deserved a stellar kitchen!

We scheduled the remodeling to take place the day after we returned from visiting our son.  The kitchen cabinets were delayed by a day, however, so they began work on that Tuesday.  The timing could not have been worse as we had a serious car accident that Sunday night and all of us were in a great deal of pain, but the end result sure is lovely.  We were without a kitchen sink for several days, which meant lots of paper plates and carry out.  The kitchen was a bit discombobulated.  We emptied all of the kitchen cabinets and drawers before we left for our trip.  We had boxes of dishes and pans in the dining and laundry rooms.  Our dining room table was completely covered with yet more dishes.  It looked like we were moving!  You don’t realize what you have until you remove everything from the cabinets!  (A few items went in a box for the Salvation Army.) Finally, it was all worth it, in the end!!

Next project is painting the kitchen a taupe color and removing that hideous black fruit border.  Lastly, our thoughts are to replace our bisque appliances with stainless steel.  We’ve priced them at a number of places, but have decided we’ve spent enough money for the moment and will wait.  We also have the thought to search out (minimally) scratched appliances that have been marked down.  We’ve done that in the past (and been pleased).

I’ve lined most of the new cabinets with Duck brand chocolate colored non-adhesive shelf liner:

non adhesive shelf liner

The installers also have to return to install the cabinet pull outs for the pan and Tupperware cabinets.  We had those in a former house and I love the ease of use.  We added several cabinets so this will increase our storage space, which was much needed as our kitchen is small to begin with.  No pantry here, except that I do have a closet in the laundry room (next door to the kitchen) that we use to store large appliances and some pantry items.

A really neat feature of the new drawers is the “soft close” design.  You can push them most of the way closed and they will close the rest of the way gently and quietly, thus less wear and tear on the drawer.  This is especially helpful with kids!  😉

One thing I recently learned is that I can’t use my nifty vinegar and water household cleaner on the granite!  Apparently since granite is porous, the acid will remove the sealant and cause etching.  So, I’m going to mix up a spray bottle of dish detergent and water to use for now.  I refuse to pay $7 for a bottle of special granite cleaner when soap and water will do the trick just fine! We are going to apply a granite sealer to provide a waterproof barrier and help preserve the shine.

It is a good feeling knowing that we paid cash for our kitchen renovations.  We will definitely enjoy our new kitchen for as long as we live here and future owners will as well.  One benefit of a new kitchen is that we don’t want dirty dishes to sit in the sink at all.  We quickly load them in the dishwasher or wash them by hand.  I love it!  🙂

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Home Improvement Projects!

It’s springtime!  And spring is synonomous with home improvement, isn’t it?  It is around here anyway.  The natives are restless from a long winter and anxious to get some things done now that we are beginning to thaw from an arduous winter.

Our house was built in 1977, and while it possesses many fine qualities, there are some issues to be reckoned with.  In our nearly twenty years of marriage, we’ve only owned new houses up until three years ago.  We’ve done more interior painting and installing wood floors, tile and lighting fixtures than we’d care to reflect on in years’ past, but a house this old has a mind of its own!  Take, for instance, a simple thing like our doorbell decided to give up the ghost.  My dear husband attempted to repair it, but noticed an inner part had been damaged beyond repair.  So, we ordered a new one ($19.99) on Amazon.  The configuration of the new receptor is much smaller now, so we would have to try to match up the old wallpaper border if we hung it where the previous one was.  But then my husband had the bright idea to put the old one back on the wall for now (no wallpaper repairs necessary) and we’ll hang the small one in an inconspicuous place.  I thought that was sheer genius!

Shortly after moving in, our kitchen drawers began literally falling apart.  I’m pretty sure they’re the original cabinets and drawers and are made of some hideous pressed wood on the sides, which is warping by the minute.  Right now we have two drawers out of commission.  The cabinet/granite guy came out again yesterday to re-measure, and if he and my Negotiator Husband agree on the price (which I think they will), we will have a new and improved kitchen soon.  Goodness knows, we need it.  I’ll post pictures when and if it happens.  We have a walk through kitchen, the smallest we’ve ever had, with virtually no pantry.  We’ll be adding two upper cabinets, which will offer much needed additional space.

We have four bathrooms.  Yes, 1, 2, 3, 4!  That’s a lot of bathrooms, considering I grew up in a humble home, where at one point, 7 people shared one bathroom!  And, somehow, we survived!  But, I digress… Four bathrooms.  My daughter’s toilet has never behaved properly since we’ve lived here.  My husband has gone to specialty plumbing stores in an attempt to purchase parts and, invariably, it doesn’t work out.  He’s pretty handy too.  This toilet is blue and definitely circa 1977 .  We’ve wanted to replace it but have held off.  Our first quote was over $400 for a plumber to replace it.  I called another plumbing company last week to get a quote and they said $618!  Can you imagine?  For one stinkin’ toilet?!  I hope it was gold plated at least!

Then last weekend, the day before my sister was due to visit, the upstairs hall toilet decided it needed some attention and repairs.  This one is mustard yellow.  Definitely 1977.  What was up with all the colors back then?!  That bathroom needs a complete remodel, but that’s another matter for another day!  And then we have the master toilet, which is white, but older, although not quite 1977.  It sits very low as a previous owner had polio and must’ve been made to accommodate him.  It’ll be good to replace it. The downstairs hall toilet is relatively new, so it’s fine.

Initially my husband and son ran to Home Depot yesterday to purchase a toilet valve kit, but then he got the idea just to replace them.  Yep, all three!  The Lord was truly with us, though.  We got a multiple product discount, making each toilet $78, plus a break on the installation fee.  So, a total of three toilets installed for $600!

They wanted to charge a haul away fee of $35 for each toilet, but my thrifty husband declined.  (Yay for him!) His initial thought was to haul them to the landfill himself, but we may put them on Freecycle or ask a home improvement friend if he wants them.  Then, our disposal cost is $0!  So, we’re pretty thrilled about our overall deal!

It seems lately a number of things have gone on the blink around here!  We just had our garage door repaired to a tune of $450, which was lowered from the initial quote of over $650! (thanks to my wonderful, negotiator husband!) Last week I discovered a leak under the kitchen sink.  It’s only a slight leak, fortunately, but will no longer be an issue once we remodel soon.  We’re getting an undermount sink with granite countertops.  I’m so excited that I’ll have a sprayer hose that actually works!  What a concept!  😉  Our current sprayer has never worked since we’ve lived here.  Truly disappointing.

This Old House … Ya gotta love her!  Our house has a lot of charm, really, it does.  It just demonstrates the fact that houses require a lot of upkeep and constant care.  I’m really surprised that the previous owners didn’t upgrade the upstairs’ bathrooms, but I think they rarely used the upstairs once their kids were grown.  So, it wasn’t a focus.  They did, however, do some updating on the main level, which is part of the charm that sold us.  If we stay here long enough, the windows are next!

Our unspoken motto is:  “We never pay full price.  Ever.”  No matter what the project is, we try to do it ourselves first.  If a professional is required, then we comparison shop until we find the right price.  The right price is the price we are willing to pay.  Our budget dictates being as frugal as possible, especially since we are a one income family in a high cost of living area.  We would never sink more money into an investment than we anticipate realizing in the future.  That goes for any investment, particularly a house.  It’s called wisdom.  For example, if we didn’t think the kitchen was an ideal room to invest money in, we wouldn’t proceed. However, since we know that prospective homebuyers focus on the kitchen first and bathrooms second, those are worthy investments.  We are always thinking in terms of resale.

Do you have home improvement projects in mind?  If so, care to share?

 

 

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Spice Cabinet Organizing

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The above is the “Before” picture of my spice cabinet.  As you can see, it wasn’t terrible, however, being the neatnik that I am, I fine tuned it a bit.  I like knowing where things are at a glance.

 

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Okay, this is the “After” picture.  I removed everything from the shelves, placed the ones I don’t often use in the back of the cabinet and refilled my Tupperware spice containers, which I bought at my local thrift store about three years ago.  I think I paid $4.00 for all of them.  Highly recommend.  (They retail for approx. $60 on ebay.)

I took a couple things out and put on the big lazy Susan instead.  Grouping spices together according to brand is pleasing to the eye, so I put all the McCormick’s together.  I also buy a fair amount of store brands…they’re in the back.

While it would be ideal to have another spice lazy Susan, I just worked with what I had for now.  By taking a mental inventory of our stock, I know what we are running low on.  I also found a new jar of chicken bouillon nestled inside one of the orange, Fiestaware bowls.  I just bought a new jar yesterday because I thought we were out!  This is where periodic organizing comes in handy, to avoid buying duplicates.  😉  I also tossed two containers of cupcake sprinkles as I don’t foresee any use and they’ve overstayed their time in my cabinet.

How do you like to organize your spices and seasonings?

The Tupperware cabinet is next …

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