Demolition Diaries: KaZoo Kitchen Reno

Newsflash: We are back in demo mode! The KaZoo Kitchen is no more. Well, the old one anyway. When we bought the ‘Zoo in December 2013, our kitchen looked like this:

Kitchen1

It was a typical builder kitchen with basic white appliances, stock thermofoil cabinets, beige laminate countertops, beige vinyl tile, and a micro pantry. All the essentials, and all functional (mostly). Once we brought our old (but newer than theirs) fridge and a new gas range, things were looking up:

IMG_3062

After installing our hood vent in summer 2014, which necessitated the removal of some of our wall cabinets, the kitchen took a turn for the worse functionally and aesthetically. We added some hardware to facilitate drawer and door opening, but the loss of so many upper cabinets was rough. We painted to help the kitchen feel happier until we could do a real renovation.

IMG_3095

In the interim, we began discussing ideas for our future kitchen. Almost immediately, we began dreaming of relocating the refrigerator: Its position in the southeast corner meant we could never open the refrigerator door fully. Stuffing pizza boxes, jugs of milk, watermelons, holiday turkeys, etc. in the refrigerator was next to impossible, but even regular things like heads of lettuce, bagged carrots, and leftovers saved in Pyrex containers proved difficult. While buying a French door fridge might help matters somewhat, we were also frustrated with the inefficient pantry on the opposite end of the kitchen (deep but not wide = digging out 10 things to get 1 item at the back). While having a pantry is nice, we decided we’d rather have more cabinets and counterspace…and was it remotely possible that the fridge would fit in the pantry’s spot if we tore down the pantry?! We couldn’t shake the idea, and after measuring, there was joyous celebration in the KaZoo Kitchen for the kitchen-to-come.

Of course, we were concerned the pantry might be structural, but other homes with our same floorplan in the neighborhood didn’t have a floor-to-ceiling wall at the pantry (the boxy area above our pantry was completely open to the living room in the other homes), which gave us hope. We took everything out of the pantry (feel free to play “Where’s Hermes?”)

IMG_5912

and tore into the drywall above the pantry to check things out.

IMG_5920

Our basic understanding of structures was telling us we were looking good, and after getting a licensed professional to confirm our suspicions, Mission Fridge Move was a go! That’s when the fun of Demo Day began. Kicking down drywall is so…satisfying!

Once the pantry was torn out, it was amazing how open the kitchen felt! While we had attic access above the old pantry/new fridge location, my dad and I installed a new electrical circuit and outlet so that the refrigerator would have its own independent circuit. My dad is a professionally licensed electrical engineer, and while I could do the wiring myself now after years of helping him, I’d rather have a professional on the site.

There’s a lot of shoddy DIY structural, electrical, and plumbing work out there that might get missed in a regular home inspection that can be the ultimate nightmare, so be skeptical of any home that’s obviously been renovated (especially if you see signs of bad workmanship, like the worst painted-over, patched drywall you’ve ever seen). Chances are, those homeowners may not have gotten the licensed professionals, permits, or inspections necessary to ensure a quality job. Installing or moving electrical, structural, and plumbing is a huge deal. Just because a friend or family member ‘taught’ you how to do something back in the day doesn’t mean it’s up to current code or would meet the code for the state in which you now live (Florida and California have specialized requirements, for example). Calling a professional is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of intelligence. 

We then took out the island, scraped and cleaned the remaining vinyl tiles up, lay the underlayment, and tiled the first part of the kitchen. We also patched, taped, mudded, and sanded the drywall in the new-fridge area.

 

After allowing those tiles to set, we took out the rest of the cabinets, only to discover damaged drywall behind the sink, where the previous residents clearly had experienced a leak at some point. We expected some damage because of the water damage we had seen in the cabinets, but it was more extensive than we had hoped.

IMG_5996

We had a mold inspection when we purchased the house that came back good to go (otherwise we would not have purchased the home), but we definitely wanted to get rid of the water damaged drywall (and the insulation behind it) ASAP, now that it was exposed and accessible.  At this point, our fridge got to move to its new, happier home. Behold the wonder and glory of being able to open the doors completely!

Can’t you hear angels singing? Hallelujah! We can. Every time I open the fridge now I can’t help but smile. You’ll note that we left the wall to the left of the fridge (a) because it had the kitchen switches on it) and (b) because we wanted the wall to hide the fridge from the view in the rest of the main living and dining area, which it does rather well.

Anyway, out went the damaged drywall, followed by the insulation, as carefully as possible to minimize possible mold spore diaspora. We took out everything in all areas evidencing any water damage plus a bit beyond the damage, both vertically and horizontally, just in case. The studs were fine, though. Whew. We installed new insulation and mold resistant purple-board (the new green-board), which was made easier with a compass-like drywall cutter than enabled us to cut clean circles for the pipe fittings and wiring.

We taped and mudded the new drywall, then lay more underlayment. The floors would already have been finished, but we wanted to keep our range connected to the gas, which has meant flooring in phases.

IMG_6074

Hermes is ready for things to be finished. So are we. Next time we’ll be sharing the finished flooring, painting, and all about the cabinets. I can’t wait to put ALL THE THINGS in the cabinets. And now back to work. 😉

Advertisements

Demolition Diaries: A Cat’s Eye View of DIY

It’s official: The humans have gone completely mad, and we’re fed up. As if it weren’t bad enough that they took away all the soft things (and most of the hard things, too!) and shoved us into the smallest room crammed full of what’s left, we’ve had to deal with the WORST…Oh, did we forget to introduce ourselves? Forgive us. In case you haven’t read this page where the humans briefly mention us (before going ON and ON about themselves), we’re Cleopatra and Hermes, the resident felines.IMG_4867

I (Cleo) am the seal point Siamese wisely choosing the soft bed, and Hermes is the flame point Himalayan who prefers the cool concrete. We have our differences but have decided to unite together in a mission to restore order and comfort to our home.  We miss the lazy Saturday mornings spent in the humans’ bed. WE MUST TAKE IT BACK.

IMG_4740

Anyway, we’ve temporarily taken over this machine the people use to communicate with other humans to express our disdain for this incessant need they have to ruin our lives ALL. THE TIME. Okay, so maybe not all of the time–just lately.  Just when things were getting to a semi-normal state around here, we were locked up, and when they let us out again, ALL THE THINGS were gone.  We don’t know why they felt compelled to get rid of all the nice things.  I mean sure, we might have used that thing they call a “loveseat” for a scratching post, and we might have used the table as a runaway/launchpad for sailing onto the bookcase, but we didn’t think the scratch marks were that bad. Clearly they don’t understand the important of nail care and exercise.

IMG_4607

Then, they locked us up AGAIN. When we emerged the second time from our confinement, they had ripped up ALL THE FLOORS. Oh, sure, that carpet was NASTY…in fact we wouldn’t even lie on it, but it sure was fun to shred! Well, except for the edges where those sharp metal teeth were.  Okay, maybe tearing up the floors was a good idea.  I mean, we really got it started for them, so it was probably pretty easy work.

But the NEXT time they locked us up was the worst. Oh, the torture. The agony! There were horrible noises like a thousand metal hyenas howling. We buried our heads in our beds to no avail. The female human stayed with us and covered her ears, too, so the culprit must have been the male. He’s usually the quieter of the two, so we were surprised that he could even make such noises. When he peeked in the door to check on us, he was covered in white dust. We can’t imagine why he would want to be so dirty. Ugh. Completely shameful. Humans clearly do not understand good hygiene.  The dust was everywhere, too, and if the female hadn’t kept us in our room, we would have choked to death.  Maybe the confinement was for our own good….

After that, they locked us up again (starting to understand our frustration yet?), and when we emerged from our third round of imprisonment, half of the house was covered in this weird orange plastic carpet.  Big Foot (Hermes) hasn’t minded it, but I (Cleo) am not really a fan–too hard on my dainty paws.  The only bright spot in all of this has been the fact that the once forbidden guest room has now been made available to us, and we get to gaze wistfully at all the mockingbirds in the front yard.IMG_4966

Recently, they’ve started putting these long, cool planks on top of the orange carpet. They are perfectly sized for one cat to recline on them.  Of course, it is completely annoying that they keep picking them back up and shuffling them around in some places.  Why not put more of them down on the orange stuff? Is it not clear what we prefer?

IMG_5008

Anyway, it’s been two months of this, and we’re sick of it.  We can’t remember the last time we had a fast and furious playtime with the green magic light that moves around or with the jingle balls and rattle mice.  I mean, it’s just not fun to play in a confined area. Seriously, people. What were you thinking? You’ve ruined EVERYTHING.

We don’t like to admit it, but we’ve resorted to some counter tactics to make our voices heard. Hermes, the more athletic of the two of us, easily hurdled their childproof gate, once he realized that he no longer fit between the bars.  Childproof–not cat proof, people.  Seriously.  After the gate breach, they put up some cardboard “doors” to block us from the rest of the house, but we shredded right through those.  Silly humans.  More recently, Hermes has taken to jumping on the keyboard and waking up this computer machine screen at 4:30 a.m. to ruin the people’s sleep. This also ruins my sleep. Kittens. Sheesh.IMG_5005This practice works okay for the male, but the female just rolls over. She is immune to our night assaults.  Trouble is, the male banishes us to the other small room when Hermes does this, which means being relegated to the items they refer to as ‘pet beds’ and ‘cat condos’. Don’t they understand the importance of sharing when it comes to cohabitation? 

IMG_4950

This is a serious problem, and we must think of other ways to retaliate that don’t result in less comfortable quarters.  We’ve tried to play nice, but we are getting desperate, folks.  If you have any ideas, let us know in the comments below!

From Indoor Beach to Dust Bowl

Remember reading about the Dust Bowl in everyone’s favorite Steinbeck novel, The Grapes of Wrath? Remember how miserable everyone looked in the old black and white pictures of the Dust Bowl in our history books? Remember when we used books for learning?  Well, we now have a greater appreciation for what it was like during the Dust Bowl because we’ve gone from Indoor Beach (Yay!) to Dust Bowl (Boo!) in a matter of three weeks. Cue the sympathy symphony.

IMG_3723

That picture isn’t blurry.  That’s all the dust. Choke.

Last time we posted about our 40 Days of Flooring project, we had just solved our vinyl adhesive fly-trap-like sticky situation by spreading sand across our floors, resulting in an indoor beach effect. We were planning to hit the cleaning and prepping of the concrete fast and furious when tragedy struck.  My grandfather passed away, so we took a week hiatus from floors to focus on family.  I’m also continuing to travel back and forth across state lines to help take care of my grandmother while my parents tend to my grandfather’s final affairs.  This means our 40 Days of Flooring has turned into 50 Days of Flooring (if we’re lucky).

In the meanwhile, we’ve spent two weeks scrubbing, scraping, grinding, and cleaning the concrete for the underlayment and fighting the concrete dust that is now our constant companion.  Short version? Getting up the vinyl adhesive residue + paint overspray + splotches of wall/ceiling mud + poorly poured self-leveling concrete from who knows how long ago + random unidentified charred-looking black holes everywhere was is NOT. ANY. FUN. AT ALL. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE.

Long version for all you detail-oriented folks: Although the stickiness was mitigated by the sand, the adhesive was still strongly adhered to the concrete slab.  Our arsenal consisted of the following materials:

  • Long handled scraper
  • Sponge mop
  • Scrub mop
  • Grout brushes
  • Scrub brushes
  • 3 five gallon buckets (1 for dirty mop wring outs, 1 for clean water, 1 for TSP)
  • TSP
  • warm water
  • Angle grinder with adhesive removal blade
  • Heavy duty tarps and painting tarps
  • Furniture cloths (old sheets is what we used)
  • Painters’ tape
  • Dust Deputy + Shop Vac
  • Long sleeves, closed toe shoes, knee pads, eye protection, ear plugs, legit respirators, and chemical resistant glovesIMG_3816

After doing a lot of research, it became clear that we were going to have to get aggressive if we were going to subdue the adhesive.  We used TSP and our Cinderella power {aka elbow grease} (SO MUCH SCRUBBING. SO MUCH SCRAPING. RINSE. REPEAT.) to clean the formerly carpeted areas of the house. LivingRoom1

We also took the time to demo the tiled fireplace that eats into our living room floorspace. The bottom ledge that costs us in usable square footage was simply tiles laid on cement board laid on concrete block that just required a gentle love tap with a sledge hammer to come loose from the slab. Then we just had to scrape that adhesive off the slab, which turned out to be a much easier and more satisfying task than anything else. The wall tiles didn’t come off so smoothly, so we’ll have to replace that drywall when we finish the fireplace later.

IMG_3845The scrubbing and scraping work was tedious and took its toll on our hands.  I even managed to wear down an annoying palmer wart on my right middle finger that I’ve had for more than five years and was continuing to grow increasingly larger and more painful. It’s gone now, hopefully for good. Don’t want to smell like apple cider vinegar and wear duct tape? Scared of those freeze at home kits or a visit to the dermatologist? No worries. Just hand-scrub paint overspray from your whole house, though I wouldn’t recommend this particular remediation method. Also, don’t work with (or have?) wee, virus-carrying children if you don’t want warts, as I didn’t get them until after I started teaching the infectious little grubbies. 

The adhesive-stricken sections of the house were a different story entirely.  Chris had to use an angle grinder with a coating removal blade in the foyer, kitchen, dining area, laundry room, and guest bath (we are doing a major master bath reno in the next couple of years so decided to leave that room’s floor in tact  for now),IMG_3722especially in places where the original construction crew poured self-leveler to patch dips in the floor. resulting in (a) hills instead of flattened valleys and (b) a cement version of a poorly frosted cupcake. Gorgeous, no?

IMG_3844With our extremely open floor plan, this was profoundly problematic, so we bought GINORMOUS heavy duty tarps to seal off the work zone from everything else in attempt to confine the dust to the extent possible {key word: ATTEMPT}.

IMG_3836

We also purchased a Dust Deputy from Ace Hardware to minimize the dustiness from the grinding: IMG_3696

The Dust Deputy connects to your shop vac and filters 95% of the dust before it enters your shop vac so that the shop vac exhaust doesn’t deposit that dust back into your home.  We bought a pool vac hose (note the blue hose going into the house) so that we could put the shop vac and dust deputy OUTSIDE to minimize dust in the house even further. We have a newer shop vac but chose to use our old one so that all the concrete dust wouldn’t ‘ruin’ our new one.

IMG_3835

During the grinding, we were fairly certain the neighbors were going to call the Fire Department, as we set off the fire alarm and had mad crazy dust clouds billowing out the door, but they didn’t.  Not sure if this is a good or bad thing, really….Meanwhile, I cowered in the farthest away room with the cats.  Apparently I cannot breathe through a respirator, so I was not much help during this phase.

Despite sealing all visible cracks and covering everything with old sheets and protective tarps, the dust found its way into every nook and cranny of everything we own.  EVERYTHING. All our books are now dusty tomes (including my old high school copy of The Grapes of Wrath), and everything in the kitchen has needed washing multiple times, thanks to dust continuing to settle. Suffice it to say, our house is officially a living (but not breathing) diorama of the Dust Bowl, minus the abandoned farm equipment and clapboard siding.

Chris gets husby points for (a) doing all the grinding and (b) admitting that we should have done the floor demo, prep, and clean BEFORE MOVING IN like I originally wanted to do.  No glory in “I told you so” here, though.  I am suffering severe respiratory issues from all the concrete dust and probably have concrete lung {if that’s a thing, and if it isn’t, it should be}.  Chris only sneezes occasionally, and the cats seem to be doing okay, too, other than going bonkers from being kept in a confined space far from the madding crowd grind zone.

Now on to the underlayment and tile! Sneak peek:

IMG_3877

A Sticky Situation: The Giant Fly Trap That Is Our House

This time last week, we were eagerly preparing to begin the laborious task of floor prep for our new tile.  Here’s the recap of what we accomplished through Sunday:

  • renting storage unit to store garage things and furniture so that we have room for 1850 square feet of 6 x 36 wood look porcelain tile coming on 4 pallets (and can move furniture out in sections to prep floors and lay tile) (did this Tues)
  • moving garage things and furniture to said storage unit (Wed-Thurs)
  • ripping up carpet, carpet pads, tack strips and hauling to curb for pick up (Thurs-Fri)
  • renting PRO stripper from Big Orange and scraping up vinyl tiles, glue, and paint and hauling to curb for pick up (Sat)
  • purchasing  DITRA 
  • purchasing DITRAset and other supplies as needed (trowels, etc.)

IMG_4778Note that the HD PRO stripper we rented did not get up the glue and paint as hoped (and advertised…MAJOR WOMP WOMP), so we applied natural, nontoxic solvents and even resorted to Goo Gone, plus a lot of elbow grease, to try to get the sticky up, but to no avail. Oh sure, we knew the 20 year old vinyl tile and its adhesive would be a chore to remove, but man-oh-man.  Arduous doesn’t even begin to describe it. The stripper did get some of the glue up, but whoever originally installed the vinyl tile before applied so much glue that the stripper couldn’t get deep enough in the sticky mire to strip down to the concrete.IMG_4785 The glue was also pulling up chunks of concrete with it, so we are wondering if whoever did the concrete slab didn’t use enough water, resulting in a crumbly crust, which we like on some things (apple crisp?) but not on our foundation.  Good thing we were already planning on patching holes and flashing the floor.  As it stands right now, our house is officially a giant fly trap.  Seriously.  Stand in one place for more than 1 second and your shoes are stuck fast.  Try to walk, and you’ll walk out of your stuck shoes onto the most disgusting flooring ever.  If you are building or remodeling your own home, please do not use horrible products like vinyl and vinyl adhesive in your house if at all possible.  Bad all around.  At least ours didn’t contain asbestos…and it was picked up within 2 hours of being hauled to the curb….

IMG_4780

You may be wondering why we decided to get rid of these super stuck floors in the first place if they were so “well done” initially.  If we had sheet vinyl, maybe we would have kept it as is for a longer time and eventually tiled over it.  However, these delaminating vinyl tiles were installed with little faux grout lines over a slab that clearly has significant enough hills and valleys to merit concern about tiling over without flattening. Dirt collects in the faux grout lines that then sticks to the adhesive spread underneath, rendering it impossible to vacuum, sweep, mop, etc., and the hills and valleys mean that eventually any tile we would install over it would buckle and crack.

In DIY land, Big Orange and Big Blue are helpful to a certain extent, but they have their limitations.  We know there are more potent (and also flammable, noxious) solvents for remediating our sticky situation, but we were trying to avoid this at all costs.  When seeking other possible methods, the flooring “specialist” with whom we spoke at Big Blue wondered (a) why we didn’t want to keep the vinyl tile (erm, what tha what?) and (b) now that we had already stripped the tile, why didn’t we just tile over the adhesive despite the hills and valleys (there. are. no. words.).  This goes against EVERY recommendation from tile installation experts and every instinct I have, based on the tiling I’ve done in the past.  I’m not one to call people dolts, and we normally love Lowe’s.  BUT COME ON, PEOPLE.  Clearly this guy knows zilch about tile installation and should not be in charge of the flooring department.  We walked away empty-handed and fairly disgruntled, especially because he shouted, rather aggressively, “Don’t walk away from me,” as we were walking away.  He was rude, patronizing, unknowledgeable, and a bully, at best.  In sharp contrast, the flooring lady at Big Orange recommended using a concrete grinder with a wheel of blades designed to scrape up the adhesive and paint after she and her husband ran into the same issue in their home.  He painstakingly ground away at the gunk from 3 layers of vinyl (Three! The Horror!) using a handheld angle grinder on their own concrete slab and did such a good job that they were able to polish the concrete. Pretty amazing. Even though she was delivering somewhat discouraging news about what it would take to solve our problem, her willingness to help and gracious, understanding attitude scored Home Depot a purchase of an angle grinder and coating removal wheel of terror.

IMG_4788

Now that we are going to be meticulously grinding away the grime in each room, I’ve had to make a more detailed plan of attack.  The layout of our home is just open and juuuuust closed enough to be problematic for floor work in sections in the limited time we have together after work while still having access to an entry/exit, a bathroom, and room for furniture that we cannot store in the interim anywhere else because we refuse to pay to move it AGAIN {read: baby grand}.  Here’s the breakdown of what’s next on the 40 Days to the Floors We Love list:

  1. Mon: Amy paints guest hall (GH), laundry room (LAR), and master hall (MH) while Chris takes out shoe mouldings + baseboards (we didn’t have time to do this as planned prior to stripping)
  2. Tues: Amy paints second coat in BR2 and BR3 while Chris grinds LAR + MH
  3. Wed: Amy patches LAR concrete  while Chris grinds BR2 + BR3 + GH
  4. Thurs: Amy patches BR2 + BR3 + GH concrete while Chris grinds foyer (F) and living room (LR)
  5. Fri: Flash BR2 + BR3 + GH; demo fireplace tile
  6. Sat: Amy patches F + LR concrete while Chris grinds kitchen (K) and dining room (DR)
  7. Sun: A + C go to tile school at HD (refresher for Amy, first time for Chris)
  8. Mon: Flash F + LR (except for study nook = path to backdoor from MBR)
  9. Tues: Move life to guest suite, clear MBR
  10. Wed: Amy patches K + DR concrete while Chris grinds MBR
  11. Thurs: Patch MBR + MH concrete
  12. Fri: Flash MBR + MH
  13. Sat: Flash DR + Study Nook of LR
  14. Sun: Rest
  15. Mon: Ditra LAR + MBR + M. Hall
  16. Tues: Mark + Dry-fit LR Tile
  17. Wed: Mark + Tile Laundry
  18. Thurs: Mark + Tile MBR
  19. Fri: Grout Laundry
  20. Sat: Grout MBR
  21. Sun: Rest
  22. Mon: Mark + Tile Master Hall
  23. Tues: Ditra DR + Study Nook
  24. Wed: Grout Master Hall
  25. Thurs: Mark + Tile DR + Study Nook
  26. Fri: Ditra BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  27. Sat: Grout DR + Study Nook
  28. Sun: Rest + move life back to master suite
  29. Mon: Mark + Tile BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  30. Tues: Ditra BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  31. Wed: Grout BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  32. Thurs: Mark + Tile BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  33. Fri: Ditra Music Nook
  34. Sat: Grout BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  35. Sun: Rest
  36. Mon: Mark + Tile Music Nook
  37. Tues: Ditra Living Room + Foyer
  38. Wed: Grout Music Nook
  39. Thurs: Mark + Tile Living Room + Foyer
  40. Fri: Grout Living Room + Foyer

Even if we don’t stick to the 40 day plan, we will definitely be knocking out the floor project in this order.  Goodbye, sanity; hello, blisters!

Prepare to be Floored

Last Thursday we made our most expensive home improvement purchase yet {gulp}….We finally ordered flooring for our whole house!  We talked about the porcelain wood plank tile we chose, Spice in the American Heritage Series by Marazzi (#3 in the pic), here.

IMG_4472We have a couple of weeks between now and the delivery date, so we will be spending that time prepping the rest of our house for flooring. This involves the following exciting (and overwhelming) activities, some of which we started last year, here,  

IMG_2642

and the rest that we will be tackling this week:

  • renting storage unit to store garage things and furniture so that we have room for 1850 square feet of 6 x 36 wood look porcelain tile coming on 4 pallets (and can move furniture out in sections to prep floors and lay tile) (did this Tues)
  • moving garage things and furniture to said storage unit (Wed-Thurs)
  • removing baseboards and shoe moulding (carefully) (Fri)
  • ripping up carpet, carpet pads, tack strips and hauling to curb for pick up (Thurs-Fri)
  • renting PRO scraper from Big Orange and scraping up vinyl tiles, glue, and paint and hauling to curb for pick up (Sat)
  • patching holes and cracks in concrete, sanding, cleaning, and flattening where needed
  • purchasing and installing DITRA (maybe/maybe not) Update: We are definitely going with DITRA!
  • purchasing DITRAset and other supplies as needed (trowels, etc.)
  • snapping chalk lines to form grid and dry-fitting tile
  • purchasing a commercial wet saw (none for rent in our area are large enough to rip 36″ tile) [if needed, based on our dry-fit]
  • pre-cutting tile

Fun times, right? Or crazy times.  Getting ALLLLLL this done in two weeks while working should be interesting. Oh, and we have a fence to finish, too. If you want to track our progress in more real time, check us out on Instagram: @kazoopartyoftwo

Here goes nothing!

Getting the Backyard Party Started

Nothing says spring like outdoor fun in the backyard, so this year we are getting the backyard party started. BackYard1Last year, we focused our landscaping efforts on the front and west side yards, filling the overgrown beds in the backyard with leftover plants from these projects and plant-gifts from my mom’s yard (mainly canna lilies).   My parents also gave us a cantilevered umbrella they were no longer using for our patio, but it didn’t see a lot of action.  Neither did the rest of our meager collection of patio furniture, despite the relatively nice weather year round. In fact, I have ZERO pictures of our backyard with the patio furniture in it, which is consistent with how much time we spent out there.

Why, you might ask, when the backyard was a major selling feature of the ‘Zoo? Well, after spending more time in the backyard, we realized that our ‘privacy fence’ wasn’t very private because whoever installed it left three inch gaps between each board. We have nice neighbors, but we still felt awkward about eating a meal on our porch and being stared down (and howled at) by the neighbors’ dogs or catching some rays in our swimsuits on days the beach was too crowded, only to realize that your neighbors could watch you snoozing in the sun, a scenario with all the makings of a creepy stalker, made-for-TV movie.  We also didn’t have enough room for entertaining with only 4 chairs and a tiny, overcrowded patio.

We’ve got big party plans for the backyard this year, though, so this spring we are hitting the ground running with a host of improvements. Here’s the plan:

  • Replace old, rotting, peeping-Tom wood fence with new vinyl (actual) privacy fence
  • New storage solution for our dilapidated deck box that takes up way too much prime real estate on the patio
  • Spruce up the patio with a new area rug to make it feel like an outdoor living space and less of a here’s-where-the-outdoor-things-sit-unused-and-collect-pollen space
  • Start a manageable (hopefully!) mini-garden with fruits and veggies for home-picked produce (not that we don’t love our farmer’s markets, but nothing tastes better than homegrown, right?)
  • More seating so we can actually have people over and not ask them to sit in the grass
  • Get creative with space to have room for more seating yet not have to spend $$$ to expand our patio
  • Make a fire pit because they are awesome for evening gatherings (and our shredder died, so there’s that)
  • Bring in more colorful flowers to brighten things up because color makes things happier
  • Up the mosquito-fighting power because two citronella candles aren’t doing the trick

First up: the peeping Tom fence.  We originally looked at the cost of shadowboxing our existing fence, coupled with replacing some of the rotted boards, but we couldn’t justify it when the cost of a nicer fence was only a little bit more.  Then my parents threw us a bone in the form of leftover posts and post caps from the white vinyl fence they had installed around their pool, and because we already have a white vinyl fence on the west side yard, we thought, What if we just do the fence replacement right now?! This led to the application for a building permit for replacing our fence (this is a  building code requirement for our city, though not many people observe it…but we are rule followers and, as HOA president and treasurer, are trying to set a good precedent for the neighborhood), and the great backyard makeover officially got started.  Nothing says party like fence demolition, right?  Oh wait, that’s just my crazy family.

IMG_4308

My dad and I made quick work of the old panels with a few simple tools while Chris was at work, and then the east side yard looked like this:

IMG_4307

Crazy, right?  I don’t think I realized how much higher our yard was than our neighbor’s.  Then we began to set posts for the new panels (different panel length of new fence meant setting new posts) and put the new panels up.

IMG_4309

Then the rain started.  We worked in the rain to get this side done because our neighbor on the east has a dog, and we wanted to make sure that Amelia {the dog} would be able to come out to play safely.  Chris joined us for the latter half of the fence work and for the next day of party fun  hard labor.

We managed to get the east side yard fence complete, but we’ve had some seriously bad weather the past couple of weeks that have hampered efforts to get the rest of it done.  We anticipate putting in the gates on each side next, followed by the back/south fence.  We currently only have a gate on the northeast side, which is ridiculously annoying because our garage, where all the materials and tools are stored, is on the northwest side.  Consequently, we are adding a gate on the northwest side to make things easier. Stay tuned!

Master Closet Part III: Remix

In last week’s great purge of our master bedroom closet, we cleared out our closet in order to scrape ceilings, paint walls, rip out carpet, and add more racks for storage, using leftover wire shelving from our garage that we took down to make room for paddle board racks.  Chris also attempted to put on pants from high school. Spoiler alert: They didn’t fit.

We painted the walls before doing anything else (usually we wouldn’t), primarily because the taller KaZoo was on work-related travel, and the shorter KaZoo couldn’t reach the ceiling well enough to handle the scrape, patch, sand, prime, and paint all by herself. When Mr. KaZoo left, the closet looked like this:

MasterCloset

When he returned, he found the closet looking like this:

 IMG_3197

Then we combined forces to tackle the ceiling.  Our usual prepwork involves removing the carpet, tarping off things we don’t want covered in dust, and then scraping the ceiling, but this time, we used the carpet as a floor tarp to catch all of the popcorn debris raining down since the carpet was going to be leaving anyway.  I don’t recommend this unless you like slogging through a sea of popcorn ceiling and shag carpet while covered in drywall dust.    We first tried the dry-method of popcorn removal–simply scraping away at it.  Although this method resulted in fewer scratches and fuzzy places in the drywall, it was also considerably more tedious than the wet method we have used in the past.  We normally use one of those garden sprayers, but ours had recently been used for weed killer, so we just used a regular spray bottle filled with water to mist the ceiling, rather than gassing ourselves in the closet.  After waiting a few minutes for the water to saturate the popcorn, it came off in nice, soggy strips, rather than little chippy dry sections.2014-09-25 14.42.49

We brushed everything down to get rid of residual dust on the ceiling surface, applied joint compound to areas needing to be smoother, and let that dry overnight.  The next day, we sanded, brushed, and sponged everything down (again), after which we ripped out the carpet.
2014-09-26 12.38.48

After vacuuming up the residual dust and debris, we were ready to paint the ceiling.  We decided to paint the ceiling the same color as the walls (Sherwin Williams Sea Salt) for three reasons (a) We have plenty of it. (b) It is not the typical white. (c) It is light enough to not make the closet feel like it is caving in on us while trying to find clothes in the morning.


2014-09-26 19.08.53

While waiting for the painted ceiling to dry, we measured and cut the extra wire racks we removed from the garage to be the sizes we needed for the closet.  Then we forged ahead to installing the racks.  This was a tedious process that took the form of this cycle:

  1. Chris holds rack while Amy marks one spot for height and width of crevice between wires for wall bracket.
  2. Amy uses level to measure and mark all spots for back wall brackets and side brackets.
  3. Chris drills holes for all back and side brackets.
  4. Amy and Chris hammer in the anchors and nail-ish things (we like to use the technical language for things around here, in case you haven’t noticed).  The instructions said to tap gently, but the long wall had extra plywood backing that meant we had to break out our steel-driving John Henry skills.  We’re fairly certain we woke up the neighbor’s baby doing this, which means our neighbors probably had a great Friday night. Except not at all.  
  5. Amy and Chris snap wire rack into place and set into side wall bracket.
  6. Chris adds C-clamps for maximum support, using a manual screwdriver.  The directions said to use 1 1/2 inch screws.  This was a total impossibility, and we ended up using 1 1/4 inch screws instead, with much more success.
  7. Amy holds support arm brackets in place while Chris drills holes, taps in anchor, and hammers in the nail-ish things.
  8. Repeat four times.

After installation of all the racks, I sponge-washed the walls to get rid of residual dust from the drilling and vacuumed the baseboards and floor.  Once we installed the racks in their new location, the closet started looking less like a secret safe room and more like an actual closet.  Of course, adding clothes back in the closet helped with that, too.

To plan the new location of our racks (and determine the measurements for our cuts), we inventoried how many categories of clothing items we had (i.e., how many skirts, pants, shirts, dresses, etc.) and decided where it would be best to hang the respective categories.   We decided to do two long racks (keeping the existing long rack plus a new long rack cut from the garage shelving), one for each of us to hang our shirts and pants.

IMG_3198

With the residual section of the garage rack, we made another short shelf/rack for my shorts and knee length skirts to hang opposite the long wall.  We trimmed an existing closet rack to fit the same wall for my long skirts and capri pants.
IMG_3201

We decided that a galley-like closet arrangement was more functional than the previous corner system that rendered part of each shelf useless for hanging items where they t-boned into each other.  Plus, this provides easier access to the outlet and gives us a nice path for a runner rug.  Not that room for a rug was a major part of our planning and decision making, but having a rug over the concrete floors (until we get our wood-look porcelain tile) definitely softens things up a bit underfoot.

IMG_3204

The mid-sized existing rack we raised a few inches to allow for long dress and suit storage for both of us, storage for my purses, and room for Chris’s shoes.
IMG_3200

While cutting the shelving, Chris noticed that the garage wire racks weren’t the same kind of rack as the ones already in our closet: They didn’t have the clothing “bar” at the bottom.  Aesthetically, we thought it may not look the best, but after install, it is barely noticeable and is actually a functional improvement in some ways because the divided sections keep you from cramming too many clothes in one location..  Plus, if we upgrade to a real closet system down the road, we only have to live with the mismatch for awhile. Given my perfectionistic, OCD tendencies, I really thought it would bother me more than it does.  Maybe I’m too short to really see the top rack, so I don’t notice the difference.IMG_3198

 

I hung my flip-flop shoe organizer back over the door, and we mounted our coat rack behind the door to hold hats and scarves.
IMG_3199

On the left wall (as you enter the closet), we brought the 3 x 3 Cherry Cubeical back, which is currently holding my swimsuits, swimsuit cover ups, board shorts, work shorts, and work pants.

IMG_3206

Note: The purple labels hanging on the blue handles differentiate my ocean swimsuits from my pool suits.  This may seem ridiculous to some of you, but if you have ever had a home with a pool, this may make some sense to you.  Basically, if you wear a swimsuit in the ocean and then wear it again to swim in a pool, you can introduce algae to that pool, and algae (especially some kinds) are hard to eliminate from a pool.  If you wash your swimsuit in hot water every time you swim in the ocean before swimming in a pool to “kill” living organisms, there still may be some algae stuck to it (especially if you have a lined swimsuit), and your swimsuit may now be faded and ill-fitting. A simple rinse of your suit between ocean and pool or showering in your swimsuit between venues does not suffice. Since I frequent both the pool and the ocean, I handwash my suits after wearing them and choose to keep two different sets of suits to avoid the risk of contamination.  

The middle sections of the Cubeical are currently empty (!), but I’m sure they’ll be filled soon, too.  We also added some interest to the wall in the form of a pinboard with a coral motif, a panoramic photograph of Neyland Stadium, and Chris’s diploma (because where do you hang those if you don’t have a dedicated home office or man cave)?  My diplomas aren’t framed, so they don’t get a place of honor in the closet like his does.  Maybe someday I’ll get around to framing my first two diplomas.  Probably about the time I frame my third and final one. Which could be never at the rate my dissertation is going.

Eventually we plan to upgrade the light fixture from its mushroom-like state, add the wood-look tile I mentioned earlier, and install a real closet system, perhaps with some additional shelf lighting to help with visibility.  For now, our under $100 fix will work just fine.

Organizing Clothing:

IMG_3202

For Chris’s clothes, organizing was simply a matter of hanging his shirts from dressy to casual, followed by his pants, also from dressy to casual. My clothes required a little more work, and I organized them in a slightly unconventional way.  I typically sort by kind of article and keep like with like: dresses with dresses, shorts with shorts, etc.  For shirts, I normally vacillate between organizing by color and by category (business casual, casual) as the primary category, followed by type (sleeveless, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve).  On the one hand, I like organizing by color because there is just something harmonious about color continuity that I prefer, but I keep wearing the same tops over and over because I know how to pair them with other things to make outfits, rendering much of my wardrobe useless.  On the other hand, organizing by category shows me more options for particular occasions, thus increasing the likelihood I try wearing something different than usual, but walking into the closet is a visual jarring experience that makes selecting anything difficult.  When re-doing this closet, I decided to analyze my clothing pitfalls and use that to come up with a happy medium.

I frequently find myself stuck in three kinds of clothing ruts: (1) I wear the same tops/outfits over and over. (2) I prefer casual to dressy.  (3) I gravitate to neutrals. After having to conduct my dissertation research out of state and live in a hotel for six weeks, I re-learned the art of capsule wardrobes.  I used to be good at this when traveling internationally.  In high school, I took a small size carry-on for a month in Europe and laughed at all my friends lugging giant Samsonites up nine flights of stairs in Greece. I love the simplicity of capsule wardrobes.  I am a minimalist at heart, so having a closet full of clothes overwhelms me with too many possibilities.  Consequently, I’m planning to start cataloguing outfit ideas, beginning with my neutrals that I love.  Rather than fighting my preference for neutrals, I’m going to use that as the starting point for developing my outfit building skills, essentially building a capsule wardrobe with neutrals as the base.

My neutrals are sorted into three categories: up, up/down, and down, a.k.a. classy, convertible, and comfortable. Up clothes are dressier and more likely to be considered businesswear in a traditional workplace setting.  Items in this category are more likely to closely resemble menswear and/or have an element of elegance about them, such as being made of better material, adding a touch of lace or silk, or creating an interesting neckline or back.   Clothes in this category have a certain feature that makes them seem classy.

I love gray, but I hate gray areas.  The murky gray clothing area is what I call up/down wear, or clothing which can either dress up an outfit or dress it down.  Clothes that could be considered business casual in a less formal work environment or in a trendier/artsy environment fall in this category.  To qualify as an up/down top, the style and cut of shirt is likely based less on menswear and/or may be made of a material that makes it appear more casual.  For example, the blouse on the left is an “up” blouse, but the one on the right is an “up/down” blouse because of the material and style. Note the sleeves of the blouse on the left are nicely cuffed, whereas the sleeves on the right blouse aren’t.  I would wear up/down clothes when I’m wanting to appear put-together, but not necessarily needing to be “polished.” Here, the emphasis is on the versatility of the piece–can it be easily converted from work to play?

Down clothes are items like basic tees and polo shirts–anything that is decidedly more casual or sporty.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t throw a blazer over a tee and turn it into a work outfit (my default, in fact), but the tee itself has a dressed down, at home, casual feel, where comfort is king. This is literally my comfort zone when it comes to clothes.

The rest of my tops are organized by color.  Here at the coast, the weather is warm enough year round that having entire sections of my closet devoted to long sleeves is unnecessary, but because the air temperature can feel cool in the early mornings and evenings, even in summer, having access to all kinds of sleeves year round is essential.  Consequently, I elected not to do the secondary sort I typically do by sleeve length.

We’ll see how “the best of both worlds” turns out.

Master Closet Part II: The Great Purge

Last time we left you in the master bedroom closet, you were probably wondering what we were going to do to solve the builder basic brainteaser.  Our answer?

An at home fashion comedy show.  Seriously.  Well, it would have been serious, were it not for the hilarity resulting from how ill-fitting some of our garments were. The first KaZoo family fashion show was instituted to clear out as much of the unnecessary items languishing in our master closet before moving the remaining garments to the guest room closets in preparation for wire rack removal/addition, ceiling scraping, carpet removal, and painting.

Before the great purge, our closet looked like this:

Over the door was where most of my sandals/flip flops lived.  Yes, I have a lot of flip flops.  And shoes period.

IMG_3178

Behind the door was a rack with all of Chris’s shirts, suits, and ties. His shoes lived beneath that rack.

IMG_3177

On the left you can see we had some temporary storage for folded clothing and a coat rack for hats and bags.  Along the long wall were the rest of my shoes, most of my clothes, bags and baskets of old t-shirts remnants to be turned into cleaning rags, and some Christmas decorations.IMG_3175

The small back wall held some more of my clothes plus Chris’s pants (and if you look to the far right, you can see a garment bag holding my wedding dress). Still not sure what to do with it.

IMG_3176

We took out the existing wire racks because they aren’t staying in their current positions for various reasons (see this post for details), although they will reappear in this closet because we can’t afford to upgrade to a nicer closet system at this time.  After patching and sanding a million holes and large gouges in our wall from the anchors, the closet was looking a little better, albeit very sterile.

IMG_3194

We haven’t scraped the ceilings and removed the carpet yet (today’s task), but some paint on the walls (2 coats of Sherwin Williams Sea Salt) has already made a huge difference in the way the closet looks and feels.  It almost makes the carpet not seem so blah. Almost.

IMG_3197

Now back to how we got the closet emptied for those of you interested in the great purge:

We find it difficult to part with anything in good condition because it seems wasteful, but we remind ourselves that it is more wasteful to keep things that we don’t/can’t use or wear than to pass along these items to someone who actually could use/wear them.  Remember that suit that can’t be let out anymore but has scarcely been worn because you work in a more casual office setting and haven’t had to do a job interview since senior year of college? Someone else could wear that to an interview to get the first job they’ve had in years.  It’s actually more wasteful NOT to think of others when paring down your closet.

There are a number of helpful organizational tips about trimming down closets out there, but here’s what has worked for us:

1.  When in doubt, take it out.
If you haven’t worn something in the last three months, take it out of your closet.  Most people say “in the last year,” but I have a hard time remembering/keeping track of things I’ve worn recently, let alone a year.  The trick where you turn the hanger backwards so you know you’ve worn it?  Doesn’t work if you (a) fold some of your clothes (b) don’t remember to put that exact same shirt back on that exact same hanger or (c) have multiple people putting away laundry who don’t know that the green polo shirt went there originally.

For those of you who need to have seasonal clothing or who are in the maternity phase of life, no need to panic.  The one-season rule of thumb doesn’t mean it’s going to the giveaway pile just yet, it just means that you really can’t be sure that the piece is a significant contributor to your wardrobe yet.

2.  Bare to pare.
Perhaps more men would like organizing if it involved nudity.  Well, a clothing closet purge does, so get excited. Wait, forget I said that.  Strip down, and try on things you’ve taken out of the closet.  Host your own home fashion show and take turns laughing modeling with your spouse.  It’s better if you have at least one other person there to help you decide what to keep in the interest of objectivity. Have you ever noticed that an old, ratty, but super soft t-shirt is like the adult version of a kid’s blankie? You can’t bear to part with it, even if it is past the point of embarrassing/should not be seen in public.  You’ve probably dragged worn it to Starbucks or to the grocery store.  Just sayin’.  Anyway, it’s way more fun to laugh together over the ridiculous state of closet affairs than to laugh at yourself in the mirror alone, which will likely lead to a chocolate eating binge.  And more ill-fitting clothes.  And more depression.  Break the vicious cycle with a friend, folks.

How do you know if it’s a keeper? At this stage in the game, it must meet two or more of these three criteria:

1.   You like it.
2.  It looks good on you.
3.  It is in good condition.

Ideally, what stays in your closet meets all three criteria, but we all have things that don’t.  Confidence is just as much a part of your wardrobe as your clothes are.  If there’s a shirt you absolutely love and it’s in good condition, by all means keep it.  Red isn’t exactly one of my best colors (auburn hair), but there’s a red plaid shirt in decent condition hanging in my closet that I absolutely love and have worn every fall for nearly fifteen years.  What can I say, it was well made and still fits well.

If the only criterion it meets is good condition, donate it.

If there’s a shirt you love that used to look good on you but is looking worn, allow yourself five “sentimental saves“–five items that you can keep no matter how horrible your spouse/friend says it is.  But if it is truly horrible, consider recycling it for the sake of your marriage or friendship.  Limiting yourself to five saves helps you prioritize the garments you are keeping purely for sentimental value.  For example, Chris has quite a few of those short sleeve, button up, surfer dude casualwear sport shirts. Yup, that’s the official name for them. Kidding.  Several of them have been worn to death, and most were blue.  He chose to keep his favorite threadbare green one as a sentimental save plus his favorite of the blue ones that was in better condition than the others.

3.  Dare to compare.
Now that you have a hopefully smaller pile of keeps, start comparing the utility, quality, and versatility of particular pieces.  If you have two black skirts that are similar, consider parting with the one that doesn’t look quite as good on you or is made of a cheaper material less likely to last through the years. If you have one white dress shirt and one ivory dress shirt in the same cut, look in the mirror and ask your helper to tell you which looks better on you.  Usually one or the other will look better, depending on your complexion and other features. I’m one of those anomalous people who by all “color/seasonal analysis” recommendations should wear soft/warm white instead of bright/cool white, but anything other than a true white makes me look sallow and sick.  Years ago, when buying my wedding dress, the dress shop manager/owner was completely surprised how much better the bright white dress looked on me, compared to the soft white dress. If you have one colorful pair of shorts that only goes with one shirt and another colorful pair that coordinates nicely with several shirts, consider keeping the more versatile pair and donating the more limited pair.

Once you’ve completed these three steps to closet-paring success, a trip to your local donation center to donate and/or recycle clothes is hopefully in your near future.  Many of these donation centers will recycle garments that are beyond “gently used,” so don’t just chuck these in your trash to sit in a landfill without checking for a recycling drop-off location first.

Once we followed tips/steps 1-3 for Chris, his portion of the closet was looking good.  He ended up with some items relegated to the “everyday/casual” section of the closet that can still be worn to run errands (but not to work), ill-fitting items to donate, and items that looked like moths waged an epic war (and won), which will get recycled.  My favorites were the pair of high school soccer shorts with the elastic so stretched that they would fit a baby elephant (with room to spare) and the cargo pants that wouldn’t make it over his hips.  Quote from Chris: “Do men’s hips spread, too? I can’t help but feeling that I’m wider than I used to be.” Cackle. And yes, they do. 

In my experience, men tend to have a more streamlined wardrobe, possibly because the criteria for acceptable attire are clearer, in my opinion.  Take business casual, for example.  Khaki slacks and a polo shirt. Done.  Need to take it up a notch? Throw a blazer over it. Need to take it up two notches? Swap the polo for a dress shirt and tie.  Day to night for men? Swap that pair of slacks for some jeans, and lose the tie.

Business casual for women has to be the worst gray area imaginable (or the best, depending on your perspective).  I personally hate the gray area of business casual for women because how some women (and workplaces) define business casual varies widely from others.  A lot of advice out there for women tells you to find your personal style and go from there. This could be helpful unless you have eclectic tastes like me, where my fashion style is more mood-driven than anything.  When I was collecting my dissertation data, I wore a variety of business casual, work appropriate attire composed of a limited, capsule-like wardrobe that fit in one suitcase #HotelLiving.  One day I wore a dress shirt with a sweater vest and pin-striped slacks, and one of the male students said I looked like a professional (no doubt thanks to the menswear look I was sporting).  On a different day, I wore a knee-length green skirt with a navy shell and cardigan and was told by my (male) videographer that I looked like a sorority girl.  Men. Fashion. Ugh.

I do have a couple of other considerations for the female wardrobe that can apply equally to the male wardrobe but may be especially helpful to women like me with eclectic tastes, lost in the gray (and potentially stormy) clouds of business casual and gender stereotypes.

Dress to express.
Clothing, like other forms of expression, is also a form of communication.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), communication involves two parties (as evidenced by the two different people described above in my personal anecdotes), so it’s a good idea to consider others when deciding what to wear.  How you dress communicates your values, how you value yourself, and how you want others to value you.  Why was I so disturbed that a small child thought I looked more professional in typical menswear and that an adult male thought I looked like a sorority girl when I wore a skirt? Values, people.  They were projecting their beliefs and values onto me, simply based on what I wore.  People do this no matter what you do or how you dress, but considering other perspectives of your attire may help you gain fresh perspective on being intentional with your wardrobe and what it communicates.

I’m short, relatively fit, and youthful looking, so I can still rock a mini-skirt, right? Not exactly.  Anything that detracts from the primary message I want to communicate is a distraction.  If we are living life on purpose, we should have a purpose for our wardrobe.  Why do people wear suits to a job interview? A put-together outfit communicates a put-together person–likely an asset in any workplace and definitely a key message you want to communicate to prospective employers.  Decide what your primary message is, and dress to express it.  Anything that doesn’t fit your primary message merits additional scrutiny for keep/purge.  For me, a mini-skirt does not effectively communicate my primary message, so it isn’t a part of my wardrobe. If a mini-skirt helps you express your primary message, you may want to think about why, especially if you are in the 30+ category like me.  Just a thought.  

Note that this is about message, not role.  If you are a stay-at-home mom, what message does your clothing communicate? To some people, mom jeans might say you are complacent, sacrificing your personal health and appearance for your cherished family.  If you want to communicate that you put others before yourself, that can be a totally noble primary message, and mom jeans will help you communicate exactly that. I really don’t care that mom jeans are making a comeback on the runway.  They just aren’t part of my aesthetic.  If you wish to communicate that you are an unconventional SAH mom who may spend a lot some of her time in PJ pants but can also rock some skinny jeans on date night with the hubs because you take care of yourself and your family, do it.  I personally can’t wear skinny jeans (gymnast legs), so those of you who can, rock them for me so I can wear them vicariously. Just once.

Simplify to a Suitcase
Have you ever been to the grocery store where a parent was giving their child choices in that overly loud and proud “I’m the best parent ever” voice? “Which apple would you like, sweetie? There’s Gala, Red Delicious, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Fuji, Golden Delicious….” The kid can’t make a choice because there are too many options, and you just want to grab your apples and run but can’t because their cart is blocking the entire apple section.  Because this has never happened to anyone in my family.  Ever. Why not ask your kid, “Do you want Gala or Red Delicious today?” Providing fewer options makes decision making easier, both in the produce section at the grocery store and in your closet.

I have been guilty of standing in a stuffed closet with “nothing to wear” except the same old things despite lots of options.  When I was living out of a suitcase for weeks while collecting my dissertation data, I was much happier with fewer but more versatile pieces.  I like the simple life, and a simple wardrobe appeals to me.

Once you have pared down your wardrobe to what you like, looks good, is in condition, and communicates your primary message, pretend like you are going into witness protection with only one suitcase like Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in the movie, Have You Heard about the Morgans?, but perhaps with a bit more sense.  Underwear and a sequined dress will only get you so far.   

What would you take?  Most likely the most versatile pieces in your wardrobe (basic neutrals) plus a few vibrant pieces you love and can’t live without in your new secret life.  Check that each item going into your pretend suitcase works with at least five other items in your suitcase so you can maximize its utility.  For some people, it is hard to choose favorites, so you may need to ask yourself,  What would I definitely not take?  

Items that you definitely wouldn’t take but meet all the other criteria I recommend putting in a basket, bin, or shopping bag somewhere in your closet (or in a different storage area in your house) that is out of sight and/or out of reach.  If you don’t wear these items for a year, give these away, too.

Important: If you live in a climate that requires a vastly different wardrobe for the different seasons, consider trying the suitcase trick, only with two suitcases–a smaller one for lightweight warm weather items, a larger one for bulky cold weather items.  Ideally, you would have versatile pieces in these suitcases that would make the transition between warm and cold, such as having a tank in the summer suitcase than can be paired with a cardigan from the winter suitcase for autumn/spring, so you wouldn’t need a suitcase for each season.

Equally Important: If you are pre-, during-, post-, or in-between maternity mommas, the suitcase trick likely only applies to your regular wardrobe.  If you don’t want to overspend on maternity wear and want to try applying the suitcase trick to limit your maternity wardrobe, consider packing another suitcase with mid- and late-term garments as well as nursing bras and other such items befitting a new or new-again mother.  If having lots of children (and being in various stages of maternity for many years) is part of your life plan, you may consider making your maternity wardrobe your primary wardrobe and packing suitcases with early, mid-, and late- options so that all your bases are covered.

As always, we’re just sharing what is working for us, so feel free to scoff at our system if it doesn’t appeal to you.  Next time we’ll share the rest of the closet redo, including ceiling scraping, carpet removal, shelving installation, and the final result of our closet purge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Demolition Diaries: Kitchen Upper Cabinets

Today’s diary entry is another chapter in the range hood saga, which began here.

We knew we would need to take down the cabinet over the existing range hood because we were installing a chimney hood, but after reading the installation manual (yes, we do that), we discovered that this range hood is supposed to have an extra 3 inches on each side of it, which meant taking down the two uppers on either side.  At some point we plan to replace the cabinets anyway, so this wasn’t too disappointing. Plus, this will give us a chance to try open shelving in the kitchen!

On Monday, my dad came over and helped us demo and do the electrical work we mentioned in the last post.  We kept the old cabinets intact as much as possible (sorry, no crowbars in this demolition diaries entry!) so they could be reused elsewhere–most likely in the laundry closet that just has a wire shelf.IMG_3082

Our process:

  1. We pulled the range out from the wall (we have a 5 foot flexible gas line, so we just unplugged the electrical cord and moved it out from the wall) and covered it with thick towels to protect it from debris.
  2. We used materials around the house to build up a structure underneath the first cabinet (we started on the left and worked our way around to the other side) to support the weight of the cabinet.  We used an “Ames Lawn Buddy” rolling garden caddy (on another towel to prevent it from rolling) and three college textbooks, which turned out to be the perfect height we needed.  Other things like an old cooler would likely have worked, too, but we have a relatively new cooler that I didn’t want to damage.
  3. We took the doors off the first cabinet and labeled these so we would know which doors went with which cabinet once they were all in the garage.
  4. We scored the caulked edges of the first cabinet (edge by wall or where spacer strips were used to fuse cabinets together) with a pocket knife.
  5. We took the whitish caps off the screwheads and undid the screws of the first cabinet, a little at a time.  Our screwheads were very corroded and a few of them required a hammer-tapping-screwdriver action to get them to loosen.  Two screws would not unscrew at all.  For these, my dad used a drill with a metal bit to rout out the cabinet around them (just enough for the screwhead to pull through with minimal damage to the cabinet), and then he wiggled the cabinet away from the wall.
  6. My dad held up the cabinet while I pulled the stack of stuff out from under it.  The cabinet over the range he handed directly to me, but the others he set gently on the base cabinet before transferring them to the Lawn Buddy, which we used to wheel them out to the garage.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 for each cabinet.

Our cabinets around the range were EXTREMELY sooty (Yikes!), and there was evidence of water damage where someone had plants on top of the cabinets and watered them regularly, resulting in little drips down the walls, swelling of cabinets, and bubbling/peeling of the thermofoil (Ugh.).

IMG_3081

If you like to organize, you probably know that a space sometimes has to go from cluttered to disaster before it can be well-organized, and such is the case with demolition of spaces, too.  So here’s the messy middle of our kitchen demo thus far:

Before:

IMG_3062

Messy Middle:

IMG_3084

Next up: wiring and patching and sanding and priming and painting and….you get the picture.

Demolition Diaries: Cleaning up the ‘Hood

When we bought the ‘Zoo, we knew that most of the things in the kitchen needed to be replaced sooner or later, starting with appliances for functionality.   The ‘Zoo came with these gems of a hood and range, you may recall:

IMG_1423

Substituting the existing fridge with ours and installing a new gas range were major improvements, but after Chris began cooking on the gas range, he realized the ineptitude of our recirculating range hood meant another appliance purchase.  Best way to describe it? It performed at two settings: wimpy and wimpier, accompanied by a whining sound to mask its false industry.

IMG_2955

 

Meanwhile, I was still living in the city, so I began trolling Craigslist for possible options, where I spotted an ad for this Bosch chimney hood for $350 (retails for $899-$999).  The price was a little higher than what we would pay for a nice recirculating hood at a big box store, but it was also a much better hood than those we could normally afford.  Plus, it’s better to vent outside, especially with gas, so we thought it might be worth investigating.

 

(Picture courtesy of Houzz)

I called to ask some questions and found out it was being sold by a kitchen/bath design store because it was installed in a kitchen model but never used.  It had some scratches that didn’t seem too noticeable, so we decided if it was still available the following weekend, we would take a look.  Why wait, you ask? We wanted to give the purchase some thought since it was really more than we’d originally planned to pay but knew it was a great deal.

Sure enough, the hood was still available the following weekend, and it was way more functional than our existing hood.  After I pointed out a gouged out section in the insulation for the electric cord that had not been mentioned in the ad or when I called to inquire about it (they hadn’t noticed it because it was on the side of the cord you couldn’t see without really looking closely and feeling around), they agreed to knock the price down to $325.  We walked away with the hood for $358 (we did have to pay tax because we bought it from a home design store but thought it was worth it).

We also had to purchase a mounting kit ($11.97) and brackets (2 @ $7.99 each) plus $8.99 shipping because the person who uninstalled the hood from the model kitchen didn’t keep all the parts.  We also purchased some Sugru from Amazon for $22 to patch the insulation instead of buying a $27 plus shipping for a replacement cord, bringing our total purchase to $416.94.  Compared to buying it new at the lowest retail price we could find, we had a total savings of $482.06.

Time for Amy’s demo dance (yes, this is a thing)!

Last weekend, we uninstalled the old wimpy hood and discovered this awesomeness:

IMG_3109

Apparently the builder’s crew didn’t install an outlet for the hood and couldn’t find where to hardwire it, so they hired a woodpecker drilled holes in the drywall until they found electrical.  Then they didn’t bother to clean up their mess because it was hidden by the old hood. Classy, huh?

This means we will be installing a new outlet and doing some serious dry wall patching in addition to taking down the upper cabinets so the new range hood can be installed.  While we’re doing electrical work, we’ll go ahead and install the outlet for the range that was missing (you can read more about that here).  Keep your wires fingers crossed that all goes well!