Cubby for media and charging station

Long ago we had extended this wall to shrink the opening from kitchen to family room. When this wall was built we had carved out a niche that we used as a telephone station. But now who uses landlines? So it’s become a television for the chef to watch and a charging station for phones and other media.


When we built the wall we had run electricity up to the area to power the answering machine. So in the rebuild we had the power but just needed to reconfigure how it would work to charge phones, tablets and television.


The drywall was cut back to enlarge the area to fit a wall mounted television. Since this wasn’t a weight bearing wall we could do whatever we pleased on the hole and the framing. The electric box was turned so it could provide power on the right and the left side. It sits in the middle of the charging shelves.


Next angled shelves were installed. These allow the phone or table to sit on a slant so when the door is open, the face of the device can be seen easily. When planning your own, just make sure that the size allows your hand to go into the cubby to pull out the phone; as these shelves were originally planned they were too tight for easy in and out, so we adjusted their size.




The front was then framed out (as above) and doors were installed on hinges to fold down and up. These were recycled drawer fronts from the island drawers which I pulled out when we redid the island.

When building the unit, we matched the top height lintel and crown molding to the pantry door that was on the same wall as well as the breakfast bay window lintels. The entire thing is painted the same white as all the molding in the house.


It really turned out looking good and its been great to have our phones and tablets so handy as this is the hub of the house!

Organizing the Media

Despite all the moves back and forth, there is still stuff we can clean up, sort, trash etc.. here at the house. Last week I sorted through three tray boxes of paperwork, sorting and trashing paperwork. There was a lot less to go through than I expected and I think that was because of the clean up prior to the move to Missouri.

I’ve already gone through the entire book collection in preparation to moving it to digital. I’ve got my Wishlist set up to look for sales (I may join Amazon Prime for a year in order to get better prices). The plan is to budget $30 or so a paycheck on buying digital formats of book favorites so they will take up less room in the new house and be easily transported to wherever we are.

After the book clean up, I have 6 cardboard cartons of books for the library for donations – I’d trade them if we were still in Springfield as they had a great used bookstore – not so here in Tulsa. It’s just too much bother to put them in a garage sale or on Craigslist though for the thrifty minded person you could do that.

The last four days, I’ve been going through the music collection, and while much was ripped to digital some slipped by and I had bought some new music when in Missouri. Today, I’ve wrapped up the last CD on that chore. I’ll be donating or trading these all in. Again, the point is to lighten the load of what is physically taking up space.

Tomorrow, we’ll see if the VHS to DVD converter machine works. Definitely we do not need VHS tapes here! If we are not successful, I will set them back to be done by a professional. This is one of those chores that should have been done years ago.

I also have camcorder tapes that needs to be transposed but since they were with an old camcorder that is now broke they will most likely have to go to a professional to be done.

Next weekend, we tackle the biggest chore – sorting 20 years of family photos! Most have not been dated. I’ll be relying on how old the kids look in the photos and any other seasonal tip offs (such as Halloween costumes! LOL). This is a HUGE pain but needs to be done. If we work together I think one or two weekends will see the majority done in terms of dating sequence.

These will be transferred onto digital with only the best being kept for wall or shelf display. This will be the biggest chunk of the tedious chore because scanning takes far longer than physically sorting. I bought a photo scanner last Christmas season (heavily discounted) but have not had the motivation to get it done.

All of this just furthers a process of letting go – physically and mentally. During the last move I still felt some twinges in the goodbye process; now I have given myself complete permission that it is okay to get rid of this stuff. I think husband feels the same as he has been less resistant on releasing items, especially some of his books which has greatly surprised me.

In Missouri we lived in a much smaller house and I can see that we can let a lot go to make smaller-home life  comfortable and enjoyable. This realization has given me more ease of mind with the process of discarding items and papers.

In about three years from now we will downsize from 2700 sq. feet to 1200 sq. ft. with our son living on his own post college graduation and our daughter away at college, we need to be working today towards our future home. Besides being organized now with a less cluttered home just makes me feel better!

Adapting drawers for herb and spice jars

The three drawers in the island will eventually be replaced when we build a new island. For now though, I needed a way to keep my herb and spice jars easily sorted.

These French Quarter bottles (Target’s Archer Farms spices) were too big to fit into the drawer with the old organizer, so we came up with this easy and quick solution: a piece of scrap quarter round, trimmed to size, and glued into place. One drawer was warped so a few tacked in finishing nails kept it in place.

This works with any bottles that have a neck as it is the neck that rests on the wooden bar. It angles the jar so it is easier to grab and it keeps them from sliding around in the drawer.



Transfering your Book Collection to Digital

bookmoundsReading is one of my biggest hobbies and we have a collection of over 1,000 books! After lugging book boxes from Oklahoma to Missouri and Missouri to Oklahoma, I knew we needed to rethink this before the Big Move.

In about 3-4 years, the plan is to sell our current house of about 2700 sq. foot home (4 bed, 2.5 bath) to a much smaller home of less then 800 sq. ft. I will not have room for rows and rows of bookshelves (which we own 8 now) in the new house. And if we decide to travel, the collection can come with us anywhere.

If you are big reader, you owe it to yourself to start doing this too – it’s far too expensive to move over a physical collection into digital in one swoop. If you take your time, you can use sales, gift cards, and discounts to help you build back your collection.

Yes, it is irritating that you are buying full price for a book you already own. Yes, it is irritating that you have to re-invest this money. However, the reality is that as Egon said in Ghostbusters, “Print is dead.” Technology is moving forward to digital formats.

FIRST STEP: The first thing to do is assess your collections – books fall into some general groupings:

  • books I am reading now – they are in a hold area;
  • books I love and often re-read – I will keep these until they are replaced;
  • books I love/like that I re-read but not as often – depending on how often, I may just mark them on my list and go ahead and donate them away;
  • books that I read once and won’t read again – immediate donation pile;
  • books that are damaged or need to be replaced anyway – trash after putting them on my list;
  • books that are not available as an e-book – depending on how “favorite” they are I keep or donate;
  • and reference/coffee books that I will be keeping in hardback form as they serve their purpose best in that format

Go through your collection and determine what to keep and what to toss/sell/donate. I donated my books to the public library which is a tax break you can use during taxtime. Another option would be to turn them into a paperback trader but what are you going to do with all that credit? Buy more paperbacks? That is not moving to digital 🙂

Another option is to sell on Craigslist, at a Garage Sale, or if the books are valuable due to age or a niche market, on ebay. It just depends on how valuable your collection is and how much trouble you want to put into recouping some of your investment.

SECOND STEP: Hence at this stage, the best thing you can do is go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and start a wish list. My Wish List was titled “Old Fiction” which was to group it separate from New Fiction I was interested in buying but hadn’t read. Whatever you name your list know that it as your “replacement” list.

Not all books are available in a digital format. I have many that were published over 10 years ago that no one (publisher or author) has transferred to a digital format. With these books you will have to decide if you will keep and treasure or release.

THIRD STEP: We own a lot of books, and when we moved back to Oklahoma from Missouri, we started to transfer all the Agatha Christie mysteries onto an e-reader. You would think that these books wouldn’t cost much – after all Christie has been dead for decades – but they still sell for about $7+ on Kindle!

However, if you pay attention they often go on sale, so using my wish list of books to move onto Kindle – upon each paycheck, I allotted $20-$50 to buy whatever is on sale that is on the list. It took me about five months but at this time all the Agatha Christie mysteries that we once had in paperback (we had more than we decided to buy – sticking to our favorites) were bought on sales.

Amazon Prime members sometimes get special discounts or free books. In my experience, these are usually new authors, not older books.

Also, Amazon finally has put together an option to share accounts so if you are a couple, you can both (legally and easily) have access to each others books.

All you have to do is try out a tablet or e-reader to get hooked on the convenience of being able to read anything, at any time, with a built in light system for those late, under the cover, readings! They are awesome for those who travel or have to wait a lot (in doctor offices, appointments, bank etc…). Husband was devout he would not get rid of physical books… that was before I bought him a tablet. Now that he has seen the convenience for himself, he is gung ho on moving over to digital.

So it’s time to say goodbye to space wasters and hello, convenience! The amount of space saved and the convenience will be massive! I think once you buy into digital you won’t look back.

Transition time from one house to another

We slowed down a lot of projects these last few months in order to get hubby moved into his own place at his out of state job location. We will be downsizing from a 4 bed, 3 bath to a 3 bed and 2 bath rural house. Since we’ll be maintaining two houses for at least another year, we have time to really sort and go through things which really gives a sense of freedom and letting go.

Craigslist is both a blessing and an irritation. A blessing because I can sell larger items for a higher price then a garage sale would bring, but an irritation dealing with no-shows after going to all the time and trouble of posting photos, measurements and putting time aside to meet someone. It’s also become irritating to post something at a good price (since I shop resale I know exactly what an item can bring) and have someone try to get it for next to nothing!

Because I’ve done a lot of sorting and such beforehand, the move is going smoothly though I have some big pieces that will eventually take a rental truck. The house is upside down, and looks totally disorganized but in reality, I have thrown out, donated or sold a lot of items in the downsize. The garage is full of stuff for a garage sale.

On the project front, the master bathroom has a new toilet and the ceiling got painted (diluted the wall paint Sherwin Williams SW Escape Gray #6185 with white for a complimentary pastel version). All the ceiling hall and closet lights got a spraypaint change from1990’s brass to oil rubbed bronze. We’ll be putting up the crown moulding and new sconces in the next week or so. I do plan on doing a board and batten treatment in the master bedroom on the bed wall so will post directions when we get to it!

Right now work is just proceeding and it is mostly boring drudgery!

Narrow closet becomes open shelving

One of the changes I wanted in the kids bathroom was getting rid of the narrow storage closet that was located in the toilet and bath area. The closet was not wide enough to fit a laundry basket inside and was so deep that you lost stuff in the back. Another issue was the door competed with the entry door and made for a totally awkward, and essentially, useless space.

I asked hubby to convert it to open shelving with a cabinet underneath. We removed all the inside shelving, and exterior moulding trim. The depth of the closet was reduced by about 8-10 inches and the height was brought down about 10 inches. We went with a white interior instead of the yellow on the walls to make it look bigger. This was done with 2×4’s nailed into the existing wall which were covered with drywall, plaster and paint.

I put an unfinished base cabinet from Lowes (a closeout) below which gave me a smaller door with a drawer. It was prepainted before installing to save some time  and is the same white as the rest of the moulding. The trim was framed out in the same trim as the wall’s board and batten. We went with a white interior instead of the yellow on the walls to make it look bigger.

The speckle gray counter top (Flint Crystal pattern of laminate) was a scrap from our laminate counter installed over the vanity and was installed with laminate glue onto the old shelf which was re-cut. 

Hubby installed a new outlet inside the closet; electricity was pulled from an outlet in the same wall which opens on the vanity side. This allows me to put in a night light (shade is really a lime green to match towels) so you can use the bathroom without turning all the lights on.

Changing the interior size made the space more visually congruent – this size change probably made the biggest difference so take the risk even if you loose a bit of closet space.

The brush nickel cup pull, silver and porcelian door pull and silver and porcelian towel holder all coordinate and our continued in the theme of the white and chrome lighting fixtures.

The change makes a big difference and helps the toilet and bath area of the bathroom feel far more open. It will also be far more useful without the possiblity of someone walking into an extra door!

Tip: Designing a Room with Kids

As a mom, I idealized what it would be like to design my daughter’s room with her help. I thought it would be really cool to provide her a space that was uniquely designed by her, especially as my own mother was very controlling about my bedroom when I was a child.

However, it quickly got a bit of a hand with some big plans that would not be doable.

For example, she wanted a bunk bed with a desk underneath. Not only were they pricey but I was skeptical that she would want to sleep it all the way through high school. Her room does not have a high ceiling and would she really want to climb up that ladder everyday?

Her idea on painting the walls was also over the top with originally a dark navy blue on all four walls, which later got switched to walls with a pattern and four different colors!

I realized that I would need to take a step back and reduce her involvement. Yet how to do so while respecting her wishes?

1.) Take the child WINDOW SHOPPING… look at beds, dressers, nightstands and bed comforters. Whenever they say “I like that!” try to ask questions that give you a clearer understanding of exactly what they like.

For example, daughter liked extremely different looking (on the surface) dressers but they all had certain things in common:  bowed dresser drawers, drawers that were flush to the unit, little to no molding or carving, and a modern/contemporary style. She also clearly wanted it painted – not stained.

2.) Discover the colors the child likes by looking through her/her clothes and together shopping for bedding. You can even go and look at paint chips. Find 1-3 colors, that go well together.

If the color is strong or trendy, aim at using it in accessories that can later be changed and not wall or furniture paint. Shopping for accessories is also a fun outlet for the child to personalize their room.

3.) Does the child like patterns (i.e. stripes, flowers, circles, checks, plaids) or prefer solids?

4.) And always go back to what the child wants the room to do. Older teens need space for homework and computers; preschool children need plenty of floor space. Let the child brainstorm a list of what they will be doing in their room: sleep, playing with Lego, drawing cartoons, playing their game station, story time with a parent, sleepovers with friends etc…

5.) Storage is essential. Go with clear containers for younger children and a combination of solid and clear containers for teens. Clear allows easier sorting; solids are for decorative purposes and serve as accent pieces.

6.) Wall decor – for tweens and teens, plan for posters, cork and magnet boards, and other things that speak to them of their hobbies and interests.

Start with an inspiration piece. This is even more important with kids, as you can then use it to keep them on track in terms of color and style. If it doesn’t fit the inspiration piece then you know you need to move on.

An inspiration piece should have some of the colors you plan on using as well as inspire the theme of the room – is it a shell for a beach theme? a horseshoe for a girl who loves horses? a group of soccer trophies? a poster…?

For a basic bedroom, look for furniture before accessories:

Bed – twin, full or bunk bed?

Dresser – if the room is small go with a chest of drawers. For clotheshorse teens, you may want to go with a larger horizontal dresser. However, be sure to measure the door width and if a two-story house, how heavy something is before buying, as moving it up the stairs and fitting it through narrow doors and sharp bends can be a nightmare!

Nightstand – definitely needed for pre-teens and teens who require a bedside lamp, clock, music player, place for glasses etc…

Desk with chair – more needed for children who are old enough for writing, doing homework or drawing. Some child-sized desks will be outgrown – if the area for legroom is small or low, your teenager may need to upgrade in size.

Shelves/Bookshelves – for young children make sure they won’t fall over on the child if the child tries to climb the shelves. More necessary for the tween and teen; for a young child I would go with a unit that has drawers below, shelves above to prevent tipping of the unit.

Lamps – task lighting for reading and working at a desk; and night lights. Avoid floor lamps for young children who might tip them over upon themselves. At least two lamps are needed for an even light coverage in a typical secondary bedroom.

The main thing I’ve learned with daughter is to keep focused and on task. She has a lot of creative ideas but we also need to stick to a budget and what mom thinks will last for a few years.

Tip: Tubs as storage

It’s a bit of a joke around here how many tubs I store things in. However, I’m not planning on stopping!

I love tub storage as it stops access by rodents and bugs to your items; it also prevents water damage if for some reason your floor gets wet. Since we hope to move in 3-5 years, I am planning ahead with this purge and by using tub storage I’ll be able to move extra items into a storage locker when the house eventually goes on the market.

Types of Storage

orgainizing tubs clear vs. solid

Opaque tubs – I prefer this type in areas where the tubs will be seen and for items that I don’t necessarily need to see to make a decision (i.e. clothes would warrant a clear container). I have Rubbermaid storage for our camping gear, home decorating items not in use, and for garage tools not used often.

solid color tubs

Clear tubs – I prefer for craft items, clothes, fabric and things I want to see the color or shape of.

orgainizing tubs clear

Colored tubs – I like to group tubs of the same color with related items. All camping items are in blue tubs; all the craft, floral, and fabric in  clear tubs; tools are in gray tubs; Christmas in red and green; Halloween in Orange and Black; Thanksgiving in rust orange, etc… Well… you get the point!

The reason I group by color is that for certain activities it makes more sense to pull out all the tubs, sort and take what I need. This was especially true when I was in charge of our Girl Scout camping trips.

Storage Size

The size of your storage should fit what you plan on putting into it… duh you say! Well, sometimes it’s not that obvious. If your tub is very deep and you put in a lot of items, invariably what you want will always be at the bottom.

It’s why I really like clear, plastic shoe boxes to store items I want to sort through such as beads, buttons, pinecones, shells etc…, shallow storage for hand tools, and deeper storage for items like folded fabric, skeins of yarn, and upholstery foam. Right now plastic shoe boxes sell for $1 a box at Target or Wal-mart so they are a great, and affordable, start to organizing!

orgainizing tubs shoeboxes

I choose storage that stacks upon each other, and is the right size to fit upon the shelving, both in depth and height.

Be aware that clear storage tubs are weaker then opaque rubber tubs. I’m not sure why but I’m assuming it’s the type of plastic used. When storing heavier items go with colored tubs for strength.

Also, I never put extremely heavy items in rubber tubs. The total weight should be something I can easily lift.

Labeling  Storage

When using tubs to store, you must have a labeling system of some sort. The method I like to use may be too extreme for you 🙂 but here it is: I first make a list of items on my computer and print off, take to the copy shop to be put on a nice bright paper, and then laminate. Back home, I tape it onto the storage tub.

The reason I laminate is that I can remove the label and reuse if I change tubs. I’ve also found writing on a tub with a marker just ends up looking messy. Invariably, the tub changes it’s original purpose and then you end up scratching out and making another mark.

Sticky labels are another option however, when I store in the garage or attic they can get grimy. Another problem is trying to peel off these type of labels; probably you will need to make another label and just stick it over the old.

Storage Costs

Storage tubs can start getting pricey, especially if you need a lot. I suggest starting small and picking a group of similar items you want to store. Some of the tub collections I have are over 20 years old – which brings up another plus – long term use which isn’t possible with cardboard boxes.

Storage often goes on sale, especially in Jan/Feb when people are gearing up to spring clean due to New Year Resolutions. Keep an eye on sales sheets for storage sales. Storage can be found at discount, closeout stores like Big Lots.

Re-cycle containers you have on hand. For instance, 5 gallon pails picked up at a local Home Improvements store, I recycle to hold fertilizer by buying a plastic lid to fit on the top. Warning! If you do this, be sure to mark the new container clearly; I also cut instructions from the bag inside and on top so it  is easily seen. Anything poisonous needs to be secured from kids and pets.

Finding a Storage Home

Once you have items stored you have to ask where you’ll put your tubs. The more you use the item the more you need it to be easy access; seldom used items can be stored in harder to reach areas. I also like to store them on shelf units as it makes for an easier method to see all the tubs and labels at one glance.

I  know one thing – the whole organization process is exhausting! And I have yet more to do!

Be sure to check out all the posts about How to Organize