I’ll admit. When I first signed on for Apartment Therapy’s January Cure, I was skeptical that I would notice much difference in my home, much less feel any different. But halfway through the month and I am truly finding dozens of little things to feel happy about around the house! There is progress! There is organization! There is satisfaction! And though I’m trying not to think about it, I’m already feeling sad for the day when I don’t receive a new assignment in my inbox.
I’m so glad this was an assignment because now I finally get to show off our new entryway that Alex built almost 5 months ago! As evidenced by the “before” photo below, our front entry once looked a bit plain. We had a mail sorter that I found at TJMaxx and which I spray painted a more neutral color to better match our decor. But it just looked so…first-apartment-ish. In the summer I became obsessed with DIY entry wainscotting/board-and-batten and used tutorials (here and here) to draw my inspiration. I won’t post a tutorial on how to do it because a) I didn’t take those kind of detailed process photos, and b) there are already tons of very nice tutorials out there. Luckily, Alex was totally on board with this project and kind of took charge to make sure everything came out perfectly (thanks, babe!). I was in charge of painting it afterwards. I think it adds tons of function and value to the entry of our house. What a relief!
P.S. In case you’re wondering, the artwork atop the wall currently includes: the wooden J, O, and Y from our 2012 Christmas card; a bridal portrait of me with the back of my dress; our wedding “guestbook” painting “signed” creatively by our guests with the phrase “EST. 2011” in wooden letters glued (and decorated) to the bottom of the canvas; and a portrait of Nero posing with a stick in Atlanta (that was impressively shot with a cell phone camera – thanks, Mike!). None of these are affixed to the wall, so we can swap them out as we please.
But back to the assignment. Because of the numerous hooks we added (which we use for our keys, and, as you see, jackets and scarves in the winter), I was practically halfway done with the landing strip already! My challenge was shoes. Though we try to keep the shoe pile contained – two pairs each, the rest go in our bedroom closets – it was still looking messy. I kept my two pairs on the steps that lead upstairs, and Alex kept his on the floor where they sometimes fell prey to the clutches of a playful puppy’s jaws. They were homeless shoes! (Tangent: All this talk about shoes… I just remembered that when I was an RA in college, I organized a service project for my residents and we went down to the local Salvation Army for a big “shoe sort” from shoes that had been donated and would be redistributed for a big sale to be held for folks who needed them. We spent an afternoon sorting hundreds of pairs of shoes by size inside a gymnasium. It was smelly, dusty, and I sneezed and sniffled for days afterward. It was a good cause! But I’m sure glad we only have a couple pairs to sort at the entry of our house.) To solve our homeless shoes problem, I used inspiration photos from the Cure to hunt down a nice-looking boot tray and stowed it on the floor just around the corner of the steps. I am so relieved at how much more intentional our shoe storage looks now. I’ve been practicing my “entering the house” routine with great zeal.
As I mentioned last week, the project I chose to work on is the dogs’ area of the living room. As a result of yesterday’s assignment, I realized that we really have two entrances that get a lot of traffic, and perhaps I could benefit from two landing strips – one by the front door, and one by the back where we let the dogs in and out and where I venture out to the garden.
Re-envisioning the top of the dog crates as another landing strip gave me a great direction for what to do next. I sorted the pile o’stuff that had accumulated into five groups: shoes; collars/leashes; “human” dog stuff like flashlights, gloves for walking in the cold, etc.; towels for wiping off muddy paws; and stuff that doesn’t belong here (and which I promptly returned to their rightful places).
I bought a second, cheaper boot tray for our outdoor shoes. I re-sorted the baskets so that everything has its place (the open one in the back is for bags, gloves, flashlights; the fabric-lined one in the front is for leashes and harnesses; and the one with the lid is for hiding towels). And I found two simple hooks at TJMaxx a while ago which I spray painted white and had Alex help me hang. Like the hooks where we hang our jackets in the foyer, the dogs have their own spot to hang (and display) their collars. Although, let’s face it, they could care less where their collars are, unless it’s time to put them on because that means we’re going somewhere – celebrate!! Ahem. Maybe it’s tacky to display your dog collars in such a visible spot in the house, but lacking a mudroom or other more enclosed entry, this is what we’ve got. And, if we ever did want to hide them, we can simply slide that curtain over to cover them up. No problemo!
My plan for finalizing this area includes:
– considering alternative options for the blue blanket on top of the crates
– adding more art or possibly a small shelf to the blue wall, and arranging artwork accordingly
There is no photographic evidence of this assignment because the fast prohibited me from using my phone (by which I usually instagram my progress), computer, TV, iPad, etc.
I spent the bulk of my morning working from home and researching zoning ordinances for my county. There is a little pocket of land in the middle of our otherwise “rural area” zone, and wouldn’t you know it, our neighborhood falls into that space. I did find minutes from a planning meeting last summer wherein the board was open to exploring urban agriculture options (such as laying hens and goats!), but I don’t know if anything has been done since. Needless to say, I’d had about enough staring at the computer screen, so I was happy to take time away from the computer in the evening.
What did I do instead? I went to a book talk at my local bookstore given by Jackson Landers, author of Eating Aliens (read more here). Then I came home and made a belly-filling batch of seashell pasta with bacon, peas, a touch of cream and cheese. I may have eaten two bowls! Alex got home late from the gym, so by the time he ate and we both did our dusting chores for the evening, I found myself getting in bed and reading a new book. I don’t watch that much TV anyway, and there are several nights where I just don’t feel like getting back on the computer, so I can’t say that this challenge was terribly difficult, but it wasn’t unenjoyable either.
Ah. Perfect timing. I was hoping to tackle this anyway. The above photo shows how, with a little help from my friend Carrie at DreamGreenDIY (and, by extension, Young House Love), I de-cluttered and began re-styling our primary bookshelf in the upstairs office space (thanks for the tutorial, Carrie!). It’s much better organized, and I tried to make sure to have some “empty space” so it doesn’t look so crowded. Alex and I ended up choosing about 20-25 books that we were willing to donate to our local library’s used book sale so that we were only hanging onto the tomes that we really truly love, or intend to read again. I set some of my cookbooks aside in hopes that I will be up for arranging a cookbook swap, but if it doesn’t work out (i.e., if I’m still holding onto them 3 months from now, I’ll donate them as well). Now we have room for new acquisitions, including some interesting bookends or knick knacks I hope to add to give the whole thing a more polished look.
And though I don’t have a photo of it, we also pared down our DVD collection. I pulled out 5 that I haven’t watched in the past year and wouldn’t be sad about no longer owning. For Alex, I pulled out 5 and had him try to figure out what was missing. If he could identify the missing movies, he “earned” them back. Two of the movies he earned back had never even been opened! But he was a good sport about it and still chose five to donate.
I have really enjoyed having fresh flowers in the house! It’s inspired me to keep my eye out for unique $1 vases at thrift stores to give me styling options. I’ve even decided to plant one of my garden beds entirely with flowers this spring so that I can cut fresh blooms all summer long!
I won’t be deep-cleaning the bedroom this weekend since a) our daily chores helps us stay on top of the big things; b) I just dusted the blinds last week when I noticed how bad they had gotten and couldn’t stand it any longer. But, I will plan to help Alex de-clutter his area of the dresser and tidy up his closet. Come to think of it, my closet could use a little tidying too.
Updates on last week’s assignments:
I have a few things to follow up on from last week’s assignments! Here they are:
– Living room lighting: I decided not to add light in the dogs’ corner of the living room. However, I did purchase a unique alabaster lamp for another place in the living room. It’s amazing how much homier the room looks after two years of near-darkness.
– Gallery wall artwork: Remember, I had two empty frames in need of artwork. Plans have been set in motion. The small frame will feature an old spoon that I plan to spray paint (color TBD) and affix to the frame. The larger frame will hold a food-themed 8×10″ photograph that I purchased from a seller on Etsy. Stay tuned for the reveal in two weeks.
– My after-party will be in the middle of February, and I did decide to call it a “Punch and Pinterest-Potluck Party.” I’m still working on the invites but the gist is I’ll provide the party punch, guests will bring a treat to share from a recipe they’ve pinned, and then we’ll make a couple of Pinterest-inspired crafts.
– Kitchen clean-out: Well, I did clean out the fridge, but I didn’t get to the cabinet organization that I was hoping to do, so I don’t have any progress to report there.
There’s still a little time left if you want to join me in the January Cure! How has it been going for you? Even if you haven’t been officially participating, what other things have you done this month to welcome your home into the new year? Do tell.