Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Paring Down & Upcycling — by Guest Mom Starr Keller

I will never forget the look on my sister's face several years ago when she first walked through the front door of the home I had full intention to buy. Old, yes. Nearly dilapidated? Check plus. As my sweet honest father walked around and pointed out things of great concern: exposed electrical wires, etc., she just took a big breathe and said, "Well, Starr. I'm certain you will make it nice."

We laugh about that conversation now — both of us were going through divorces and finding our own way as 20-something mothers, and we were literally bulldozing our way through each day and minute as it came. I decided on a house to own, as she signed lease papers for an apartment in town. Often during those first months of realizing what I had actually gotten myself into would my thoughts drift to how easy she had it with no yard to look after (or poison ivy vines to rip off her siding, for that matter!) and when a maintenance issue arose, she simply dialed the front office of the complex.

Regardless, the elbow grease and long hours of scrubbing and such have paid off — my little humble abode is now quite comfy and although my growing family of five now fills every nook and cranny, we are decidedly happy with our surroundings.

One thing that I absolutely had to quickly come to grips with in our historic parlor home was that space was, obviously, a big issue. And my years of pack-ratting (I'll admit it, even though I do love organized chaos) things from high school and even love letters from my grade school days were over. With the main renovation underway in the form of a spacious bathroom, I relearned what it took to stay organized, on-track and dedicated to creating space for my family.

My saving grace, especially while contractor numero uno came and ripped my entire center of living space and left me with literally no walls and a standing toilet (talk about relearning the importance of privacy!), was to first: cleanse and purge high traffic areas. But the best part, and the point of my sharing this post: finding organizational tools to make this momma's life easier.

Here are a few of my favs and pointers on how I stayed sane during the rebuild of my bathroom and how a discovered "secret closet" became my laundry nook.

1) I pared down. Anything: lotions, sprays of all scents, laundry items that were not used were tossed. I made myself stay on one or two shelves so that the rest of the space could be used for a work area (folding laundry, etc.) And instead of turning to the trash, I asked my mom and sisters and friends if they were in need of some of the things I just didn't use - some of the scents and such were more their "smells" than my own.

2) Because I don't like to dry most of my clothes, I installed a hanging rack that actually folds into itself for easy storing. The Frost from Ikea holds 20 yards of clothes and fabric, which is quite spacious. Another favorite: The Jabba, a 16-clip drying system that comes in the most adorable shade of blue and green. For around $5, it is a steal.

3) The most important thing, as we geared towards moving into our new space(s), was to have accessible "storage" for our kids. Ages 6, 5 and 3, they are all quite independent when it comes to getting their own coats, hanging up bath towels and the like. I liked the idea of storage hooks, but if they were going to be in plain site, I wanted something different. Worldmarket has the best options: For $10-20, you can find pieces that are three-prong and have a great vintage feel.

4) I needed a place to put my personal jewelry collection - the things I make to sell are packaged away as they are created and posted on my site, but as for the pieces that I wear everyday? I had not a clue how to display. While cleaning up after our new freezer was delivered, I found a black rack, of sorts, in the bottom of the cardboard pile. I turned it over and over again in my hands and instantly knew what it was going to be upcycled to be: my jewelry organizer! It's functional and matches the other black accents in my new bathroom space, and it's nice for me to display my pretties when guests are in our home.

5) Finally, as the finishing touches were coming around, decorating was of course on my agenda. I have a soft spot for all things upcycled and wanted to be as eco-friendly and as easy on my pocketbook as possible. I walked through my house and piled everyday items that I looked at day in and day out on my big dining room table. From that gleaning, unexpected artwork came to my attention: My collection of antique bottles from the 1800s were split apart and placed on a barn-siding cabinet in the bathroom to serve both as decorative bits and also perfect tiny vases for spring blooms. A hand-stitched tea towel that I kept setting aside for fear of staining it in the kitchen became a unique wall-hanging. A woven basket placed under our open vanity sink is a perfect container for our kid's washclothes and hand towels.

Now, our renovations are at a standstill until the fall, when Indiana weather pushes us back indoors. Until then, I keep re-organizing and reminding myself on what my family really needs to have around and what we can give away. And even though our space of home is becoming more spacious, I keep my eye out for inexpensive "cures" to chaos ills!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too funny -- your mysterious jewelry rack is actually the back panel of a small-ish dog crate :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 3:45:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Minnie said...

Ohh, I would love to see that bottle collection. I'm getting ready to do a collection round-up. As much work as moving can be (and with five kids to boot!), the best part is redecorating and the side benefit of that is letting go of things you realize you no longer need so your house can look pretty. Freecycle is great even for used toiletries (not Dove bars!) I recently gave away a bag of barely used hair pomades/sprays/mousses, etc. I confess I'm easy prey for the hairstylists' salesmanship. I had lots of potential takers and the woman who took them said her teen-age daughter would love them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 7:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Christian e Naomi Sampson said...

wow your jewelry is amazing! beautiful!
I'm just about to start trying to make my first earrings.. I love earrings, my favorite. I'm a designer but that doesn't mean I can make anything.. So if you have any tip for someone who likes to work with her hands, but has never made any type of earrings before.. I'll be glad to listen to a great pro!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 10:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lizzy said...

great drying racks. i'll have to bribe someone to pick one up from ikea and send it to me!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 10:15:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post and links, thanks!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 10:16:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Michelle hoard said...

A lady after my own heart... And state too! I love your jewerly and even better to give back to a fellow Hoosier!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 11:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Leslie said...

We are also in a situation of paring down. I appreciate the handy links to the clothes dryers, very helpful. Great ideas for repurposing! Thanks for sharing.

Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 7:22:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Leslie said...

Starr, I would love to visit your blog but can't seem to find a link here to get to it. Can you send me the URL? Thx, Leslie

Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 7:30:00 AM EDT  

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