Long Overdue Garage Clean-Up

The garage is not a room I like to show guests on “the tour”. It’s where Jeremy’s car lives, and where we hope to have a workshop. Over the past 3 years the items in the garage have varied, but most of the time it looks like this:

Garage Mess Garage Mess Garage MessOkay, I will try to identify most of this mess. As you can see, Jeremy’s car was not in the garage during the photos, and the mess is more spread out than normal because Jeremy was starting Phase One of the clean-up. We have the original cloth seats from Jeremy’s car, a broken IKEA dresser, a work bench, lots of tools, car cleaning stuff, a basketball hoop backboard, extra drywall and wood, a disassembled photobooth (maybe someday I will blog about that?), brooms, more car parts, ladders, trashcans, a pallet, and a not yet installed garage door opener. I am sure there are more items lurking around, just not featured in these photos.

So, Phase One was primarily sorting through all the items in the garage. Jeremy finished disassembling the photobooth, and organizing the wood into a pile. We put away items that should not have been in the garage. And the best part? We made a huge pile of items for bulk pick-up. The saddest item was of course our old mattress. I tried selling it on Craigslist and donating it, but no one wanted it without the box-spring. So, to the dump it went. The best part about bulk pick-up? For our county you sign-up online and list the items to be picked-up… and they keep track of the pick-ups. So, in 2006 the previous owner has 4 mattresses and an entertainment center hauled away. For some reason that entertains me. After Phase One the garage looked like this:

End of Phase OneActually, this was before we moved out those trash items for bulk pick-up (see the backboard and the white dresser?) . Even still, this was an improvement over those original photos. Our next order of business was to get items off the floor and put away.

HooksWe spent about twenty dollars at Home Depot on these various hooks. Interesting note about the grey “U” hooks – the instructions say to soap-up the threads for easier installation. We did and it was super easy to hand-screw them into the wall, even into studs, without pilot holes.

Hooks at WorkWe used the two big heavy-duty hooks to hang this 11ft ladder, and a “U” hook to hang the snow shovel. The Long WallThe metal brackets were used to hang the saw horses. Getting those items off the ground (and in some cases, out of the laundry room) freed up floor space. On this wall I moved Jeremy’s car items – ramps, blocks, jack, filters, cleaning supplies. Eventually we want to build shelves to house some of these items.

The Other SideI used the other two “U” hooks to hang these brooms. This side of the garage needs more work. That ugly blue “shelf” was left by the previous owner. As previously mentioned, we want to build shelves, which would make this shelving obsolete and we can get rid of it.

ToolsThe back wall of the garage is looking especially nice (not pictured: the pile of wood). Jeremy was finally able to clear off his tool bench and make use of the pegboard. My grandfather gifted Jeremy his Craftsman tool chest, which has more than enough room for all the tools we currently own. We’ve filled out the drawers nicely so far, but still have some organizing to do.
P1080475How do you like that pegboard? We wanted to keep our most commonly used tools out and accessible.

There are still a couple of items left on our to-do list:

  • Building shelving
  • Install garage door opener
  • Purchase a fire-safe cabinet to house all our paints/solvents/oil/etc
  • Clean/treat the floor
  • Make drywall repairs
  • Improve insulation

Although that list seems long, it is definitely more refined than “Clean the Garage”. Hopefully with a few more improvements, the garage will be a pleasant workspace, instead of a dread place to dump junk.

What cleaning and organizing activities have you been undertaking? Any major overhauls you’ve been avoiding?

Continued Clean-Up

Last week I posted about the little bench cushion revamp. Moving the bench to the other side of the media room left the corner by the window looking like this:

Hot MessThe first order of business was cleaning up the items on the shelf. Jeremy replaced the chunky green surge protector with a smaller, off-white one. He was also able to replace the ethernet wire and coaxial cable with shorter ones. The other wires were cleaned up with a few twisty-ties.

ImprovementHard to believe something so simple could make such an impact. While the wires are still not ideal, it’s much cleaner than before. We did some brainstorming about how we could possibly do a little built-in cubby for the routers. This is the only access we have to the internet, so we don’t have any options for moving the routers to a hidden location. But the shelf is hollow, so we could possible build-in a nook for them. We’ll see if those ideas come to fruition.

Owl BookendCarved BookendsThe routers are sitting on these cool wooden owl bookends Jeremy found at the thrift store. It’s a weird combination of bookends and shelf, which connects the two owls. The shelf has some cool carvings, which I forgot to capture before covering them with electronics. The shot above was the best I could do, without moving everything. Since we have our horse bookends and built-in bookcase we didn’t need these owls for books. using the bookends with the routers makes the mess feel more contained.

At the end of the shelf, I placed our music books (sheet music and guitar tabs). Then we brought over the keyboard to make this music corner complete.

Music CornerPlus, the keyboard helps hide those two remaining wires. Do you think it looks better than before?

Hot MessI don’t know if it is the new arrangement or the bright sunshine coming through the window, but everything just feels so much lighter. All I need to do now is update the keyboard’s cover with fabric that matches better. Did I mention I have a fabric problem? And the ladies at the quilt shop are enablers.

A Little Revamp

We have a lot of problem corners in our house. That is, things get placed out of the way, in the corner, to live indefinitely.

Hot MessOne such area is this corner of the media room. On the shelf we have our routers and such, our remote charger, batteries, etc. In front of the shelf is a bench that became the drop-zone for Rock Band guitars, real guitars and their accessories. I decided it was time to move the bench, and deal with this mess a little.

Bench's New LocationI moved the bench into the empty corner of the room, where we put up the Christmas tree. This bench was in my father’s house, and thus holds a lot of sentimental value. Although the dark wood doesn’t really match the other elements of the room, we don’t want to alter it. For now, we’ll work with it as it is, in the space where we can use it.

The real problem anyways is the cushion. The cushion is from the photo booth Jeremy built for our wedding. Our colors were hot pink and black – hence the fuchsia velvet of the cushion. When Jeremy started deconstructing the photo booth, the cushion moved to this bench, because it is the same length.

Cushion Shape-upThe foam was however too wide. A great trick for cutting foam is to use an electric carving knife. Just draw a cutting line and the knife will move through the foam smoothly, like warm butter.

New FabricI chose this fabric to compliment the other green tones downstairs. I suppose it gives off a little winter-sweater vibe, but I love how graphic it is.

To construct the cover, I use the same type of techniques as when making bags (like messenger bags). Check out the book Sew What! Bags for excellent instructions. Basically, you cut rectangular panels for each side of the cushion, leaving 1/2″ for seam allowance. For the bottom of the cushion, cut two panels so that they overlap in the middle. This is where you will insert the pillow/cushion.

New CushionThe new fabric helps the dark bench blend better with the room. The hot pink was just screaming, “Look at this weird furniture that doesn’t fit in anywhere!” From far away, you can hardly tell the fabric is patterned, it just looks lime greeny.

GreensHere’s a better close-up. New cushion, bench and other colors of the room. The cushion fabric picks up the lighter green tones of the paisley in the fireplace vent covers. I have some art ideas to help further tie the darker colors all together. Hopefully more about that soon (we’ve got some serious thrifting to do).

And as for the other corner of the room?

Hot MessStill a hot mess. We’ll share our ideas for how to fix that later.

What clutter projects have you been tackling? What elements of your home need a revamp?

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Kitchen Purge and Reorganization – Again

Christmas 2011 was a very kitchen Christmas, resulting in me reorganizing the whole kitchen, as documented here. This Christmas we were also blessed with kitchen gadgets (like the Soyajoy and a SodaStream), dishes, glasses and bakeware. So, yet again I found the need to make room in our cabinets. I was definitely inspired to finally take on the task after reading about kitchen purging and organizing on IHeartOrganizing. So, here we go!

Junk Drawer #1Junk Drawer #2I started with the two “junk” drawers next to the sink. When we first moved in these drawers were a catch-all for random things like outlet covers and screws removed for painting, take-out menus, pens, batteries, appliance warranties, etc. I emptied the drawers, organized the contents into piles and cleaned the drawers.

Organized Junk

Here are the different categories of drawer contents: appliance manuals, beer brewing recipes, batteries, a carabiner, a container of odd screws and nails, scissors, pens, notepads, candles, lighter, flashlight, chip clip, wood pencils, rubber-bands  twine, outlet covers/switchplates, those little nubby screw covers for the banister that I keep vacuuming up and furniture felt pads. Not pictured: the trash/recycling piles. After putting items away properly – filing paperwork, putting hardware and outlet covers with the rest of like items in the laundry room, etc – I was able to fit the rest of the items into ONE drawer:

New Junk Drawer

I really liked the acrylic drawer organizers that she used on IHeartOrganizing, but could find none like them at Target. So I settled for these metal-mesh dividers from the office section. They fit the drawer pretty well.

And the best result is that I emptied an entire drawer. I decided to relocated the silverware drawer next to the sink (below the upper cabinet that contained all the dishes) and put the empty drawer next to the stove, below the upper cabinet that holds all the cooking/baking necessities (flour, spices, etc).

Drawer Swap

I guess it is a little odd to keep spices in a drawer, but I think this is an improvement. First, most spices need to be stored in a dark cool place – not on your counter-top or in a rack above the stove. Secondly, when they were stored in the cabinet, even with some slight height-staggering, I could not see everything I had. Thus I couldn’t always find what I needed, and have repeats of ginger and cumin. Now in the drawer I can easily access what I need while cooking and be more aware of when things are depleted. Now that the spices are in the drawer, I have freed up a seemingly epic amount of space in the upper cabinet – allowing me to make room for the 10 lbs of almonds Jeremy bought (for almond milk, of course).

The next order of business were the cabinets that hold dishes that we don’t use very often – pie dishes, large bakeware, serving platters, etc. Most of these dishes were in the cabinet above the fridge, but I often forgot they were there, and there was one platter that was too long to fit in that cabinet. So, it was time to get creative:

Makeshift BuffetIn the absence of a buffet, I turned to our TV cabinet in the living room as a storage option. I love this cabinet, from Pier One years ago. It has doors that close to conceal the TV, and a drawer at the bottom that used to store DVDs. Well, most of our DVDs are in “long term storage”, since we store them digitally – which means this drawer was free for the taking (with the exception of those lonely DVDs off to the side). So, here now resides my larger platters, a ceramic casserole dish inside an insulated carrying-case and a box that houses my napkin rings and cloth napkins. This drawer is basically an instant dinner party.

After clearing out drawers and rearranging cabinets, it was time to modify a few spaces. First was under the sink:

Under the Sink - Before

This space looks crazy with the cleaning products, sponges and towels/rags piled on top of each other. First step was to pull everything out and figure out what could be relocated. A multitude of rags and microfiber clothes were relocated to the storage/laundry room (that is an organization project for a different day). In this cabinet there is a lot of wasted vertical space, due to the pipes and garbage disposal. I decided to rectify this.

Hanging "Bucket"

Under the sink - After

I installed a small plastic bin to the side of the cabinet to hold microfiber cleaning cloths and sponges. Now those items will not be buried in the bottom of the cabinet. The bin is a foot long, and about 6 inches deep. I drilled pilot holes in the bin at the 3″ and 9″ marks. I then positioned the bin where I wanted it in the cabinet and marked where the holes were. After using a level to get everything relatively straight, I drilled pilot holes in the cabinet as well. Then I screwed the bin in place with our awesome right angle drill. I put a little hook on the front to hang my pig scrubbie.


In the cabinet next to the refrigerator I installed some hooks for the mandolin and rolling pin. This cleared up floor space in the cabinet. Since these tools are so oddly shaped they cannot be stacked and thus it is better to have them out of the way. The mandolin is hung with an adhesive “command” hook. This hook can support up to five pounds and was the only hook large enough to accommodate the mandolin’s thick handle. The rolling pin’s hook is one normally used for brooms or rakes and is screwed into the cabinet. The hook came in a two pack for less than the command hook (at Home Depot). Jeremy thought I was a little crazy for screwing all of this stuff into the cabinets, but if it keeps me from doing a whole kitchen overhaul – then it is worth it.

And now for the greatest change of all:


P1080165Clearing some “junk” off of the counters and relocating the microwave. The microwave sat angled under the corner cabinet, taking up a lot of counter space. This counter top was prime real estate – between the sink and the stove where I liked to do my prep work for cooking/baking. Now with the microwave on the far side of the kitchen there is a lot more space for cooking. The bread and Soyajoy machines fit nicely in the corner, taking up far less room than the microwave. Jeremy is worried that I have broken my work triangle, but we the microwave shouldn’t be an important part of food preparation anyways.

I have kept the “pantry” organization that I started last year (here and here) and it has been very successful. I am hoping these new kitchen changes will be just as successful. Jeremy and I both love the increased counter space. We do have trouble remembering the silverware has moved though. I think the most important lesson is the same as before: just because it is the way you have always done it (or had it) doesn’t mean it is the best or most efficient way!


A Little Clean-Up

To make the most of the 3-day weekend, I started with some cleaning. While working in the office/guest room, I decided to tackle this unsightly pile next to the bed:

It is a strange assortment of files, art, electronics and junk. There is a crate of electronics – which I gave to Jeremy to sell or add to his computer bin. Two file-boxes of assorted documents, while I filed accordingly in the filing cabinet, and then stored the boxes in the closet. The art in the pile is left over from our use it or lose it initiative. These are pieces that we either tried to give away and failed, or couldn’t agree on – like my framed Mallrats poster.

Thankfully, I was able to convince Jeremy to let me keep Johnny Depp. A friend from high school drew Johnny for me as a graduation gift. I thought he would get along well with Uma at the bottom of the stairs.

My Mallrats poster didn’t fair was well, that got listed on Craigslist. Several other items from the pile got the boot too. We were able to get a decent bog of items together to take to the thrift store (more about that later).

Here’s what’s left in that crate: my old monitor (listed on Amazon), VHS tapes that I want to convert to DVD, and a shoe box with items that belong to Jeremy’s brother. Let’s take a 360 of the room:

This weird shelf used to store shoes in our old closet. Now it holds some plants and a self-portrait from 2004.

The view into the room is so much nicer without that pile trying to hide behind the bed!

Here is what remains of our original office. We eventually want to get rid of this desk and build a smaller desk. I also have summer plans to try to reupholster the chair.

It is funny how a task so small can make you feel so good!

Upcycled Organizing

As you may know, Jeremy is a “computer guy”. Not only is he a software developer, but he also enjoys building computers. Hence, we have a bin full of old computer parts.This weekend we dumped out the box in an attempt to organize the components better.

In the photo you can see some keyboards, a monitor, solar panel, various drives and a giant pile of tangled cables. You might also be wondering about the cardboard tubes. Jeremy saw a tip online about using old toilet paper and paper towel tubes to wrangle wires.

First we spread out the mess by categorizing the wires into piles. I am sure that you don’t really want to know about all the different types of wires. Some of the wires actually belong with the A/V wires (yes, we have a box for that too), and other wires were trashed. This freed up some room in the box.

Here are the same wires – only now they are neatly bundled. We have a fun assortment of power cables and adapters. Next it was time to put everything back into the box. I started by putting the lowest priority items on the bottom – namely CD drives and power cables.

As you can see, I stood the taller tubs in the corner of the bin. The shorter tubes formed a layer of the strata:

With the improved organization of the wires, it should be easier to retrieve exactly what you are looking for. Also, through this process we disposed of some items (like finding excess keyboards a new home) and were able to put more computer related items into the box. Jeremy’s mantra is that as long as all his computer parts fit in one box, he can keep whatever he wants. This “one box” mentality cuts down on hoarding. We have a similar rule for Christmas ornaments.

Anyone else tackle some small yet important projects this weekend? Upcycle some cardboard tubes in an exciting way?

Master Closet – Part Two

To see our former master bedroom closet, read this post.

Now that the closet was patched and painted, it was time to install the new shelving. We chose the ClosetMaid adjustable shelving because installation seemed simpler than the fixed mount. All we had to do was mount the standards, and then the shelf supports could be positioned wherever we desired. Hence, the majority of the work was figuring out where to place the standards.Our closet is 84″ long. Standards must be mounted at most 24″ apart, with less than 4″ of shelf overhang.

We started by mounting the 84″ standards in the center of the closet (31″ from each end) and working our way out. First, Jeremy and I held the standard on the wall where we wanted it to go (1″ above the baseboard) and traced the screw holes (5 of them). The stud finder was giving crazy readings, so Jeremy drew 1/16″ pilot holes at each location. He didn’t hit any studs, so he drilled the 5/8″ holes for the toggle bolts.

These holes are way scarier than the multitude of anchor holes I patched up. We inserted the screws and attached the toggles. I learned not to spin the toggle on too far, or it won’t deploy in the wall. We inserted all the toggles into the wall, and I held the standard in place and level while Jeremy tightened all the screws. Then we repeated with the second 84″ standard.

Here are the two 84″ standards in the center of the closet with a test shelf. I was pretty excited by this point. Next we installed the shorter 60″ standards on either side. From the existing standards I measured 14″ away. After we installed those standards, I measured 14″ away from them. This resulted in the end standards being 1.5″ inches from the corners of the closet.

All of the standards are at the same height. For each installation Jeremy repeated his process of pilot holes to test for studs. We didn’t hit any. Next we put all the shelves into place:

The top rack is as high as I can comfortably reach. The lower shelves were later repositioned to accommodate the hanging length of our clothes. The ClosetMaid website recommends that the top shelf be 84″ from the floor and the lower shelf 42″ from the floor. The top shelf and lower shelves are from our original closet configuration. I did cut down the 44″ shelf to 31″. The shoe racks in center was made by cutting a 48″ shelf in half and using the special shoe rack supports.

And now, I am very excited to show you our new closet:

We lost some vertical storage by making the top shelf shorter, but we doubled Jeremy’s hanging space.

This is the view from the back corner of the closet. On the back of the door are hooks for belts, hats and scarves. Our closet is like a real walk-in now! The clothes are not smashed up against each other like they were before. We can see all the items clearly. I even said “Oh I forgot about that shirt!” a few times. I anticipate that things won’t get lost in this new closet.

The beauty of the adjustable shelving is that we can change it when ever we want to. Also, future owners of the house can adjust the shelving to fit their needs. Sadly, if they don’t like the shelving system they have some pretty big holes in the wall to patch.

Do you like it? It’s difficult to convey what an improvement this is!