Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Clean-spiration

As I've mentioned before, I don't mind cleaning. In fact, I find it kind of relaxing. And I really, really enjoy it when the house is clean.

Plus, one of the bonuses of living in a small house is that it takes a lot less time to clean.

Sure, sometimes I go for my lighter cleaning routine (vacuum, dust, and clean the kitchen and bathrooms only) versus a full-on deep cleaning, but I rarely skip cleaning entirely.


Even though I'm in the minority of people who don't completely loathe cleaning, I still often need some inspiration to stop my relaxing-drinking-coffee-and-surfing-the-internets Saturday routine and start cleaning instead.

That inspiration comes in the form of cleaning and decluttering shows. There's just something about seeing people clear out, clean and fix up a dirty, cluttered home that really makes me want to clean.

First it was Clean Sweep on TLC. Then came Sell This House and Sell This House Extreme on A&E (yes, that was a real estate show, but it still involved clearing out the crap, as well fixing and tidying up things, so it worked for me). Then after both those shows stopped being syndicated, I found Clean House on Netflix.

But then, horror of horrors, Netflix dropped Clean House from its instant streaming service. And Hoarders never really worked for me because those shows seem to be less about helping people clean up and more about finding the grossest houses possible.

I began procrastinating my Saturday morning/afternoon cleaning into the evening and beyond.


Luckily, I found a nice stash of episodes of How Clean Is Your House on YouTube so I can get my fill, for now.

But sometimes I wonder, how come decluttering shows aren't as popular as they once were in America? Are they just passe or could it be that it's easier to get sponsors for shows that encourage people, directly or indirectly, to buy a new home, remodel or go vacation shopping, rather than encouraging people to pare down and use what they have?

Am I the only one who uses these type of shows as clean-spiration? And, if not, how do you get your fix?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

What home items have you had the longest?


"What home item have you had the longest and what is its story?"

This question on Apartment Therapy really got me thinking and finally spurred me out of my long, unplanned blog hiatus.

It didn't take long to figure out which home items I've had the longest....

My mom had just gotten a "big tax refund" and we were on our way to the Lazarus furniture store (the long-ago closed furniture branch of a now extinct local department store chain) in our nearest big city to spend it. 

I was in my early teens and my mom had decided it was time for me to have a bedroom set of my very own. It was just the two of us then, and working as a bank teller my mom didn't make a whole lot of money. We had everything we needed and enough for small luxuries, but something like new furniture was quite the splurge. 

Looking back, I'm sure there were many new things my mom might have liked to have for herself at the time, but that's how she's always been. Doesn't have a selfish bone in her body and seems to get much more excited about giving rather than getting.

I already had bedroom furniture of course, a mismatched set, patched together from my mom's antique collection and items purchased or borrowed out of necessity. It worked perfectly well and I don't recall lusting after new furniture, but of course I was soon thrilled at the idea of picking out something brand new that would be new and mine alone.


my first grown bedroom set in its original home, my childhood room

After seeing all the options I chose a pine four-piece wood set, with very orange tones and a carved ivy leaf pattern. It included a bed complete with headboard and footboard, a tall dresser, a second dresser with mirror (which I've always used as my pseudo vanity) and a nightstand.

Turns out it was an unexpectedly good choice because 20 years and many decorating fads later, I still like the furniture enough to have kept three of the original four pieces. Maybe that's what mom had in mind, especially considering that she kept her own girlhood bedroom furniture for decades after moving out of her parents' home.

I left it at home during college, taking an old set of my grandmother's instead and leaving my good furniture at home. That was wise as well considering the amount of not-so-careful moving I did in college. That furniture I had no affinity to whatsoever and gladly gave it to friends after graduation.


Once I got a job and moved into my first solo apartment, my old friends came with me and we've been together again ever since. Due to the tiny size of my bedroom I use the nightstand as a side table, but both dressers are still used as intended in the bedroom. I did finally sell the bed a few years ago after keeping it in storage for several years. The full size just no longer worked and I long ago grew to feel that footboards might look nice, but were way overrated when it comes to the practicality of actually using a bed.

Nightstand as side table

The item I've personally owned second longest, but has been in my family since before I was born, is my great grandparents' drop-leaf kitchen table. I love the idea of eating off of a table that's been in use by members of our family for four generations now. A new kitchen table is in the plans if we ever finish the full kitchen renovation--to enable having four people comfortably eat at the table--but I'll continue to love this little workhorse.


What home items have you had the longest and what's their story?


Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Year Winter Came Back


Winter is back this year with a vengeance and I know we Buckeyes aren't the only ones caught in another brutal spell of cold and snow. Living in the northern U.S. (Ohio), you might think we're used to this kind of winter weather, but this one is extreme. We haven't seen temperatures this cold in 28 years, according to local meteorologists. And we're most accustomed to seeing snow come and go in 24-48 hours, but this year the snow is sticking around.

Winter started unusually early. Our first snowfall was a few days before Thanksgiving, with three inches of snow falling well before the December 21 official start of winter. This weekend we received another five inches with a bit more to come possibly. The wind was so strong yesterday that at times you could barely see the house across the street. So far this season we've received 26.5 inches of snow, with months of winter to come, compared to average winter snowfalls of 27.5 inches. Snow is pretty and all, but it is also a giant pain to shovel, drive in, etc.

yesterday's blowing snow made it hard to see across the street

But the really painful bit of this winter, to me at least, has been the number record low temperatures and below zero wind chill days. The worst so far being January 6 and 7, where we saw a new record low of -7F (-22C) and wind chills of -25 to -40F (-32 to -40C). And they're calling for it to be even colder than that tomorrow and Tuesday, with an extended period of extreme cold slated to last until mid-February. Mid-February? Seriously? It's sad that our usual January average of 30F feels like a heatwave in comparison.

Living in a house built in the 1940s means that even though the inside temperature remains unchanged at 68F, or even a degree higher, it definitely feels chilly on extremely cold days. I layer up with a long sleeve shirt, my warmest sweater, socks, slippers, a blanket and often a cat and still sometimes can't get warm and toasty. I've put extra blankets and pulled the cat bed out of storage so they have plenty of warmer sleeping options. And forget going outside without my warmest parka, a hat, gloves, a scarf and boots. Even then my block-long walk from the parking garage to work is brutal.

cold weather makes the cats extra cuddly

This winter has also meant a lot of hibernating, which can be fun for a weekend or two but can get old when you feel like you can't, or shouldn't, go out.

While these temps seem newsworthy today, it's only because we're not used to cold snaps which were considered normal in the past, according to Treehugger. While I worry about the consequences of global warming, not dealing with this crap every year doesn't seem all bad...

How are you faring in this weather (or for some of you, the record heat waves)?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Serial Decluttering


Magazines are cheap, published monthly and designed for limited use, so why do I and many others hang on to so many?

In the age of blogs and online decorating sites, does anyone even need  to keep magazines anyway? Yet, there is something I enjoy about a shiny new decor mag.

I've decluttered my magazine collection many times, maybe more than any other item, yet I still count 48 magazines in my current collection. I've culled my magazine subscriptions down to zero, then added a subscription or two that I missed back in. I've tried getting my magazine fix at the library only, which I found to be more trouble than it's worth.

First, the non-negotiables. I have 27 issues of the discontinued Domino (25) and Cottage Living (2) magazines that I'm still not able to part with. At one point those Dominos were almost worth their cover price on ebay, although prices seem to have peaked and dropped like a rock since then.

endtable magazine storage
I find the "William Morris criteria" (That is, Morris' famous quote to "Have nothing in you home that you do not that find to be useful or know to be beautiful"), to be helpful for deciding what to cull or keep. Accordingly, I should probably declutter them all, as I don't really look at the magazines often or consider them particularly useful. But, I'm not willing to do so. I don't need the space they take up and I like having them, for whatever reason. Maybe outing myself on the blog will change this as it has before, but for now, they stay.

That still leaves 21 magazines up for grabs. After one last flip through 3/4 of them I let 12 go, which is enough to eliminate one stack under the coffee table. A 25% reduction isn't too bad, I guess.

Do you find it hard to let go of magazines or have another decluttering weakspot?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Small, Stylish and Low-Maintenance: Lustron Homes


The idea of well-designed, small homes taking less time to maintain while being just as pleasant to live in is not a new one. Lately I've been fascinated by one such example from years past: Lustron houses. These prefabricated enameled steel houses were developed in the post-World War II era. Marketed as "the house America has been waiting for" the small, yet well-designed homes were promoted as affordable, low-maintenance solutions for modern families.


The Lustron Company, headquartered in my town, Columbus, OH, manufactured just under 2,500 two- and three-bedroom homes between 1948-1950, before declaring bankruptcy. This was much less than expected, with production delays, the lack of a viable distribution strategy, and the escalating prices for the finished product all contributing to the company's demise.


Four Lustron homes remain in my neighborhood, and this summer I was able to fully explore the one pictured here, which is on display at the Ohio Historical Society until 2018.

master bedroom vanity
The exhibit was fantastic, and one I highly recommend if you're in Columbus. Not only is it amazing to have a entire house inside a museum, but the decor is completely period and they encourage you to explore, open drawers, etc. Or you can take a video tour.

Although compact and built to be shipped in pieces and assembled on-site, the rooms were a good size (bigger than my house anyway) and surprisingly full of storage. There was a built in bookshelf/display area in the living room, tons of closets, a built-in vanity in the master bedroom, and great bathroom storage. Plus, since they're constructed from metal, hanging a picture is as simple as throwing up some magnets.


The Lustron house exhibit was also appointed with something I've never heard of before, a Thor Automagic hybrid washer/dishwasher. Now there's something that makes me go hmmm, and I guess it made a lot of other people do the same since it never really caught on.


If you're curious about how Lustron homes appear with current decor, check out this Columbus-area Lustron.

As cute and cool as they are, I'm not sure I would want to live in a Lustron, especially as their advanced age takes away the low-maintenance aspect in many cases. Could you live in a Lustron, or is there another small home from an era gone by you lust after?


Thursday, December 5, 2013

A year's worth of clothes

A few of my go-to looks - NOT! Photo: Hegemony777

According to Elizabeth Cline's book, Overdressed, the average US shopper spends $1,100 per year on clothing and purchases 68 items plus 8 pairs of shoes.

Sixty-eight items per year seems rather shocking, but since reading that I've wondered, do I buy more or less clothing than the average American? Yet I hadn't gotten around to listing my purchases until being inspired by a recent post on Exacting Life.

Before I started counting, I thought that I couldn't possibly have purchased more than 10 items of clothing this year. I have a large existing wardrobe, but there is much room for improvement as it includes items of various sizes and clothing I don't love wearing.

I've never loved buying clothes and shoes like the stereotypical woman, but this has been particularly light year even for me. This is mainly because I'm at a higher weight than I'd like and I haven't wanted to admit defeat and invest in a larger wardrobe for this size me. But, a girl's gotta have something to wear so in the end I've bought some new items.

Items purchased in 2013:

  • Two pairs of dress pants for work: $55
  • Black knit blazer for work (the only blazer I've ever liked wearing - it's SO comfortable): $36
  • black and white summer sweater: $28
  • Two black t-shirts: $14
  • Black and white shell blouse: $21
  • Black summer sweater: $22
  • Black knit top: $15
  • Black shirt with beaded sleeves: $16
  • Black NYC shirt: $9
  • Blue sweater: $21
  • Jeans: $27
  • Peach sweater from thrift store: $4
  • White capris (thrift-store): $4
  • Black comfty flats for work: $64
  • Black sandals: $54
Total spent: $390
Total items: 17

Accessories purchased:
  • Black purse (thrift-store): $5
  • Red purse: $30
  • Scarf: $22
Total spent: $57
Total items: 3

Besides the fact that I'm heavily in a black and white clothing phase (they're slimming colors you know), this has been a pretty good year in that out of these purchases, I really only regret and don't wear the peach thrift store sweater.

I don't set a clothing budget, as I'm pretty good at reigning in my spending month to month. I'm completely fine with spending $447 on clothing and accessories for the year, in fact, I'd be okay with twice that provided I bought items I love and feel great wearing. 

How does your clothing spending compare to the average?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Myths of the American Dream: Part I


One idea that is continually spoken as fact is that home ownership is always a sound investment. Renters are perceived as throwing their money away, while home owners are building equity!

Home ownership is the expected thing, the thing many aspire too. It's what you're supposed to do.

Often, I'm not sure if home ownership is all it's cracked up to be. Never was, but I bought this little house anyway. I wouldn't say I regret it, exactly, but I think you really have to make sure you know what you're getting into before you buy. Heck, before you go to an open house and fall in love with a property even.

About that throwing away money on rent...let's just look at the numbers shall we?

First, if I take the full 30 years to pay off my mortgage, I'll end up paying more than double the purchase price, and that's WITH a heavy 20% down payment. It would take more than two years of my entire current salary to pay the interest alone.

My mortgage may equal what I paid in rent before I bought this house (which is only because I bought a tiny house), but consider that I'm paying double that with interest and then add an extra 40% for property taxes.

I haven't even gotten to maintenance yet. If you own a home then eventually something is going to break or need replaced. And sooner or later than something is going to be expensive.

The day I signed the purchase papers and got the keys to my house I came over and found a leaking faucet, a roof leak in the kitchen  and a leak in the furnace room. none of these things were there a few days prior. Luckily, with some help from my stepdad, none of them were very expensive, but still you get my point. In the seven years I've owned min hus I've paid for chimney repairs (twice), replaced the AC/furnace, repaired the roof, replaced the hot water heater, bought two dehumidifiers for the basement, and spent hundreds of dollars on paint, painting supplies, tools, sandpaper, and miscellaneous repair expenses. If I hadn't had lots of kind help in making those repairs (thanks boyfriend!!, stepdad!) it would have cost three times as much. And I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting.

Have I mentioned the lawn and garden equipment I never had to own as a renter? Or all the projects that still
need to be done?

Call me a pessimist, but with the drop in home values I don't see how I'm going to get all that back if I sell anytime soon....and probably not when I sell it no matter how long away that may be.

Why is paying rent "throwing money away," but paying interest, taxes and maintenance aren't?

Don't get me wrong, if you want to own your home for other reasons then great. If you want something to call your own, decorate as you like it, by all means. Maybe you enjoy DIY and maintenance, and in that case, boy will you love owning a home! Buy an old one for extra fun. Just don't buy a home because you think it's an investment or something adults do.

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