Tag Archives: home

My best de-cluttering tips

I know many people have spent time during quarantine cleaning out their houses. I haven’t done too much because I’ve been committed to de-c!uttering for years. I got lots of good ideas from books when I became devoted to a clutter-free home and over time I’ve come up with a few of my own.

1. Ask yourself: If I was moving would I take this with me? I find this helps me see what something means to me & how much trouble it’s worth. If it’s not worth moving, why is it worth keeping?

2. Put a date on the object & put it aside. When you look at it again it’ll give you a better idea of whether you a) use it or b) missed it. I also like to put short notes on items I have some question about. “Needs new cord” or “extra” or “jeans too loose at waist.” Waiting awhile can eliminate my indecision or give me a fresh idea. It’s useful, if possible, to keep such items together somewhere they won’t be forgotten/overlooked.

3. Think of a person – someone you know or a celebrity – whose style you admire and who, to your knowledge, lives clutter-free in a nice home. Ask yourself: would such-and-so have this item in their house?

4. Consider if the item is one-of-a-kind; i.e. if you get rid of it & regret it, how hard would it be to replace? I had a conversation once with a cousin who was afraid she might get rid of something valuable, a concern lots of us have. I pointed out that if it was a box of gold bricks, she’d probably keep it.😁 Most things can be replaced and your life won’t be a shambles but for the excised object.

5. Go through all your belongings on a regular basis. What seemed important to keep two years ago might no longer seem so now. I’ve been surprised by what the passage of time can do to my desire to hang onto things.

My (“new”) Semi-Italian Kitchen!

I’ve had a productive winter, starting in December. I was feeling vaguely dissatisfied with my kitchen, which I last showed here a  year ago. I thought I could do better.  After all, I am in the kitchen a lot and I want it to be cute, usable, and inspiring. I was looking at stuff on Amazon when I saw these Tuscan stick-on tiles. I was immediately smitten (at the time I was able to get two packs of four for $20; they are higher at the moment).  The tiles gave me an idea. Why not an Italian kitchen? Or a semi-Italian kitchen? After all, that’s what I am! Semi-Italian.

My kitchen was busy, there was no getting around it so I decided best to just give in to the busy look. (I see those sleek, modern empty kitchens in magazines and on TV and while they can look great, that’s just isn’t happening here.) I was thinking also of something somewhat retro in theme. I’m a renter so a major overall is out of the question but I still have a lot of leeway.

I took down and dismantled the mug rack I built over the stove and extended the utensil rack I made in its place. I took down the spice rack I built and made a new, more compact one. I painstakingly removed the (free) blue glass tiles I’d put up as a back splash over the sink. That was a bitch. Apparently I put ’em on real good!  For the cabinets I found  wonderful ivy stickers on Amazon as well as the yellow glass knobs. I toyed with getting bright colored ceramic ones, like a bright yellow but decided to go with something a little more subtle.

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The vinyl tiles have a clear plastic cover that adds dimension and makes it look more like real tiles. I didn’t extend it over the oven because the manufacturer said not to on the product page and besides, that would have cost more. I ditched the silly two-outlet tap and replaced it with this  six-outlet tap. (By the by, whoever installed the outlets did so upside down which I finally realized but after taking a look inside I decided that level of electrical work was beyond my pay grade.) I used double-sided tape squares to put the tiles up (instead of permanently installing them by removing the backing).

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Because I eliminated the mug rack I needed to make more room in the cabinets. I previously made shallow shelves for the back of the lower cabinets so I opted to make more so that there are narrow shelves all along the backs. Very convenient!

I found great little Moondance (by Circleware) salt & pepper shakers at Ross for the back of the stove. I found the sugar dispenser at Dollar Tree years ago. That’s a “vintage” tea kettle I’ve had a long time now (it came from a house that was being cleaned out). I previously put decorative stick-on paper on the back of the stove (where the word “Sunray” is) and took many days peeling it off in tiny, tiny, tiny, bits. The color part came up but left the sticky back in place which I proceeded to remove by fingernail (I didn’t want to scratch the stove surface with a tool and nothing I tried would dissolve the sticky stuff). It was the worst part of the project.

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The shelf unit to the left of the stove is one I made from scrap wood a few years ago. I fixed it up a bit now by adding colorful place mats I found at Dollar Tree to the bottom door and the top. It was only after I bought them that I saw “Moroccan” on the receipt. Oh well, I’m not splitting (Italian/Moroccan) hairs here! That small $2 fix really spruced up the shelves. I found the retro kitchen timer at a rummage sale last year. It works great.

 
The cabinets extend on the left side of stove so you can see below where the ivy starts.  I took the blue-checked fabric off the window where it’d served as a curtain and instead hung it in front of an ugly water heater and various cleaning tools (vacuum, brooms, etc). It might be fun to have a red-checked one eventually… but I already had this blue one from a thrift store.

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My canned tomato stash is on shelves below the far left cabinet. I also moved my glass jar collection there (from above the kitchen cabinets). I am proud to say I have wittled it down to what you see here in the bag, so far as jars I’m not currently using. (I tend to hang onto glass jars for fear they will one day be unavailable.)

Initially I tried fire-retardant decorative foil-look film over the stove, thinking it would be reflective and add light to the space. It didn’t. I didn’t like it. It absorbed too much light and looked cheap. Instead I put a small piece on the bottom of this 1800’s (or thereabouts 😁)
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Recessed lighting of some sort would be nice but plug-in under the cabinet lights suffice. I had one light and added another; they link together. The photo on the left is how it looks straight on and the one on the right lets you see the actual light fixtures.

I found cute retro-style coffee curtains on Amazon. Looking at Amazon gave me general ideas because I wasn’t too sure initially what inexpensive things I could fairly easily do for an Italian theme. Much of what I saw was to cutesy (fat chefs were featured on a lot of decor) but I wanted more authentic, subtle touches.

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I eliminated most of the fire-engine red color I’d previously added to the kitchen- I decided it was too much – but have left this lone cabinet over the washing machine that I painted long ago. I toyed with painting it white but as it’s different from the other cabinets, I think it kind of works as red and adds character. I also wanted to show you my “plastic bag hanger” for freshly washed bags that I hung over the washing machine; it’s actually a small laundry hanger in design. And those are just-fit shelves I made a few years back for laundry detergents. It may not look it but you can still open the  right cabinet door.

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I took off a dark wood handle I’d put on the kitchen’s token drawer and put this simple white one on instead. Some time back, in search of more space, I’d opened up the area under the sink and made a slipshod “drawer.” It never worked very well so I ditched it and put in this wire basket instead. See where I added more of the ivy stickers just under the sink too. (To the right of the stickers, with the small white-handled door, I made a simple shelf for microwave pans, in what was previously unused space.)

Turning our attention to the other side of the galley kitchen, I painted this previously bright red, tall cabinet door white and added a few ivy stickers. The inside of the door looked awful where I’d tried to peel off stick-on paper rather unsuccessfully, so I added new wood-look paper and a place to hang bag clips.

In my quest to eliminate the fire-engine red (a change I started before I came up with before the Italian theme) I painted the posts and the defunct pipe this red-orange. I eliminated an ugly shelf I’d put over the doorway – the board was warped & the stuff on it wasn’t attractive – and re-housed the stuff I had up there in other places. I got an inexpensive olive-themed clock from Amazon to hang over the doorway but sent it back because it was mediocre quality. I am still looking for the right thing to put there like maybe a tin sign featuring food.

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I put fresh paper from Dollar Tree on these open shelves. I didn’t do anything new to these jar shelves by the window that I made (I don’t think) but just wanted to show them to you again.

Here’s a view from outside the kitchen.You can see the new color on the posts, which closely matches the chair. I got a new chair pad for the chair too. The “stone wall” stick-on paper was an earlier project but it complements the Italian theme so that worked out well.

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In keeping with my semi-Italian theme, I added these placemats I found on Amazon to the small table.

I don’t think I’m quite done with my kitchen project but I’m really happy with what I’ve done so far. It’s a cheery place to go into now!

Let’s fix up a roadside find!

I took my bike out for a short spin and on my way home, I spied a piece of furniture by the road that hadn’t been there on the way out. At a distance I thought it was a wood chair, which I wasn’t too excited about – wood chairs, broken and not, turn up a lot.

As I drew closer and got a clearer look, I grew more interested. A bench! Ohhh, benches I like. Now, I knew if I wanted it, I’d have to take it right then and there. I have learned my lesson. If you find something you want in a spot 15 miles due East from the Last End of the Earth with no signs of human activity or habitation in sight, and tell yourself, “I’ll come back and get that later,” and go on your (naive) merry way without it, I’ll be damned if when you return, that thing will be GONE, even if prairie dogs and rattlesnakes had to drag it off to their dirt homes.

As found, no wonder they threw it out

As found, no wonder they threw it out


I took a cursory look at the bench and this not being my first rodeo, knew the best option was to get it onto the bike and walk it home from there. I easily picked it up and balanced it on the seat and handlebars (watch and learn kids!). Just as I’d done that a man came biking behind me and said, Would you like a hand with that? I can help carry it as far as I’m going. Ha ha! He really said, That will be hard to take… on a bike. As he continued on by. Yeaaaah. It was already on the bike for starters. And I mean, come on, I’m fairly spry and such, but I was going to ride the bike while carrying a 3.5 foot long bench? Perhaps I could balance a person sitting on the bench with a dog wearing a party hat in their lap, like in the circus, too.

I easily walked the bike/bench the short distance home. Once I got in there, I saw it had a few issues, ones that might have made me disinclined to take it had I noticed them earlier. The front left leg was broken near where it attached to the bottom of the seat, and not cleanly either. A spoke came apart. The seat was unbalanced too, even with a clearly homemade “peg leg” addition to the right front leg. The dull black surface looked like it had been painted with tar.

Although the bench seemed old – both from the state of the wood and techniques used in its design – it did not cry out “valuable antique.” Old but poor workmanship are an odd combination. Plus features: the arms “scroll” under at their ends, the legs taper at their tops and actually go up through holes in the bench seat, the two long slats on the bottom sit in cut-outs in the legs, and each of the nine back spindles taper to a surprisingly skinny and more surprisingly, unbroken 1.5″ diameter.

On the not-so-plus side in addition to the flaws already noted: one armrest visibly turns out and the other turns in, sloppy-looking screws attach the arm rests to the back and seat, the wood is cracking in spots on the seat, and that seat at a depth of 13.5″ is very shallow for sitting. The bench would offer a few challenges, but this is the kind of project I really enjoy. I get to be analytical – solving the problems – and I get to be creative – making it purty.

First, I used Shoe Goo, the best glue I had on hand to connect the spoke that came apart and more importantly, reattach the leg to the seat. I pried off the homemade leg additions and pulled out a host of odd nails. I used a white plastic bottle cap to prop up the right front leg. Then I put on a coat of primer; I had just enough left in a can to eke out the job.

"Ghost bench" but still looking better

“Ghost bench” but still looking better


I knew I wanted red and just two days earlier, someone I’d received Freecycle paint from last winter, offered me a quart of “Cabernet Red” which I was delighted to have. Once I started, I thought having the legs and back spindles white would make it more interesting than solid red.
First coat, what a difference!

First coat, what a difference!


Welcomed inside after its second coat

Welcomed inside after its second coat


"Fancified" with cushions I already had. Voila!

“Fancified” with cushions I already had. Voila!