Archive for August, 2008

Come into my living room!

Just a quick post tonight to share a few pictures of my cozy living room. It is my favorite room in the house and is the best living room arrangement I’ve ever had. I am absolutely tickled pink with how it turned out!

I wish I had a better camera so I could capture the ambience of the room with its warm lighting, but when I tried photographing things with no flash, the pictures were just too dark. So you’ll have to settle for “flashy” pictures and just imagine the warmth and comfort of this cozy room!

First, here is the view from the inside wall when you stand with your back to the dining room and kitchen. The corner cupboard that used to be in the dining room of my old house now has a place in the living room due to the corner fireplace in the trailer dining room. I really love it in here, though, because it adds a lot of cottage character!The rocking chair was a gift from dear friends when we had a new baby, and I never seemed to have a place for it in the old house (in spite of its being a larger home!). It works so nicely in this room.

As you can see, we have  French Country color scheme going here with the reds, blues, yellows, plus black accents. I hung the curtains right at the edge of the ceiling (about a foot above the windows) to give the illusion of greater height. The curtains are a mixture of ones that were in my old dining room (blue) and ones from my old bedroom (the sheers over the windows). I love the soft, flowing look. The overall effect of the room is so homey and cozy that I find myself using this room far more than I ever did a formal living room in the past. The children and I love to cuddle up on the couch and read together.

I pulled the room together with a wonderful oriental rug we received from my father-in-law. This creates a defined area for the rest of the furniture. At first I was afraid it wouldn’t fit without blocking some of the air vents on the floor, but my husband figured out the best placement, and we just love the look. At right is the view when you first come in the front door. You can just see the hallway and the end of the dining room behind the couch. We have lots of artwork from our old home, and we’ve managed to find space for almost all of it. We figured we’d just imitate the British and cover the walls with paintings, prints, and photos! The red couch is probably my favorite piece of furniture in the room. I have plans to slipcover it so I can change its look from season to season. I have about 12 yards of a blue and creamy yellow Waverly stripe that I found on eBay for $41 — that’s 12 yards for less than the retail price of two! Gotta love it. Don’t know when I’ll get around to that project, but I’ll be sure to blog about it. I’d love to have the cover made by next spring, since it will make a nice change in the room and will make things seem cooler when the hot weather rolls around.

Finally, here is the view of the entry wall with the plates over the table that I’ve shown in a previous post. I still have plans to make the table skirt, and now that I’ve found the fabric, I hope to get that done in the next week or so. It will really soften up that wall, which has a lot of hard lines with the long painting, the table, and the bookcase. You can see a hat in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. That’s hanging on a hall tree stand that my husband loves to use for his own hats. Now they are right within reach when he goes out the front door! I put one of my favorite hats there as well. This is just a really wonderful room.

I’m filing away mental notes for our future dream house (the one we hope to build ourselves one of these days!). I’ve learned so many things from the various houses we’ve lived in, and I’ve got a big folder of notes about what has worked and what has not. Some of the things that work so nicely about this house are probably the very things that would make a double-wide unappealing to some folks. Yes, this is a fairly small house, but the smaller size makes housecleaning a real breeze! It takes half the time to clean this house than it did to clean the old one. I also love the fact that the kitchen, dining room, and living room make up a friendly triangle where I can be with my children and easily carry on conversations with family and friends. The walls are thin, yes, but that makes it easy to hear my children and speak to them without having to raise my voice as much as I did in the old house with all its far-flung corners!

Just before bedtime tonight, the children and I sat together in the living room, tired but happy after a long day. I looked around at all the smiling faces and said, “Children, don’t you love living in this cozy cottage of ours?” There was a loud chorus of “YES!” followed by lots of grins and comments about how great it is to live in the country and have plenty of room to explore and play together. Have I mentioned that I love this place? ūüôā

Now’s the time to get “gazelle intense” with Dave Ramsey!

If you know nothing about Dave Ramsey and his “Financial Peace” series or his “Total Money Makeover,” there has never been a better time to get acquainted with this excellent system for becoming debt-free and living free. Jump on over to Dave’s website, because everything is $10 through September 2nd! This includes all the books, DVDs, audio CDs, and software.

If you want to learn how to break free from the bondage of all-American debt up to the eyeballs, then you need to read Dave! He also has a radio show that streams from his site, so if you’re not ready to plunk down money for books, take a few days to listen to what he has to say before you make a decision.

I don’t get any kind of kickback by promoting Dave Ramsey; I’m just extremely happy to be able to recommend¬† his common-sense approach to spending wisely, saving for the future, and staying debt-free for life. Yes, that even means mortgage-free! Dave uses biblical wisdom and old-fashioned common sense to demonstrate how easy it is to get control of your finances and “tell every dollar where to go.” If you don’t tell your money where to go, it will just grow wings and fly away of its own accord!

Whether you have debt or are debt-free and just want to save wisely for the future, you can’t beat Dave Ramsey’s excellent resources. Check them out!

Tiling Laminate Countertops – Part Two (The Grout Stops Here!)

Since I’d run out of mastic before placing the small tiles on the edges of the peninsula or adding the backsplash, that was the first order of business when I returned to the trailer. It didn’t take long to finish placing the tiles along the front edge and to set the backsplash along the short area at the wall end of the peninsula. It was so exciting to see everything coming together so beautifully. I decided to mix up the grout and do the other counters while the peninsula was drying, so I pulled out all my grouting tools and read the directions on the 25-pound bag of grout mix. Grout is extremely caustic and can harm eyes, skin, and lungs, so I had purchased heavy-duty rubber gloves just for grouting, and I carried the grout out to the front deck to mix so the grout dust wouldn’t be in the house. I also tied an old shirt over my mouth and nose to avoid breathing the dust. In the photo below, you see my grout bucket, grout float, rubber gloves, clean-up sponge, and cheesecloth (for removing the haze afterwards).

After adding the correct amount of water, I began mixing the grout with a large paint stick. Grout has to be stirred for five minutes, then allowed to rest for ten minutes, then stirred again before spreading. I found out which muscles are out of shape about a minute into stirring the heavy grout! 25 pounds of grout takes about 1/3rd of a 5-gallon bucket, and it’s heavy! I set the timer to allow the grout to rest for ten minutes, then gave the grout one last stir when it beeped and began using the float to spread the grout over the tiles on the small counter next to the fridge. There was no way to get a picture, since I couldn’t hold the camera with grout all over my gloves, and I couldn’t take off the gloves with all the grout around!

Let me just tell you that I had forgotten how extremely messy grout is. The last time I grouted was when I helped my mom tile a bathroom over twenty years ago. In my hazy memory, that was a totally clean and easy job. Ha! If I had known how messy grouting was going to be, I’d have waited to redo the kitchen floors. Failing that, I’d have been smart enough to place drop cloths on the floor first! As it was, I made quite a big mess that I had to clean up quickly before the grout had a chance to harden onto the floor or cabinet fronts! Pushing grout into the grooves with a float isn’t at all difficult if you’ve gotten the grout to the right consistency. It just kind of seeps down as you gently pull the float over the surface of the tile. Then I followed this 20 minutes later with a damp sponge to make everything neat and smooth. I had the small counter grouted in about ten minutes and was ready to move on to the sink countertop:

In this picture you can see the haze forming as the grout dries. This is normal. You wipe the haze off a couple of hours later, once the grout has had a chance to set in the spaces between the tiles. If you’ve been paying attention, you may wonder why there’s no backsplash on this countertop. After I’d placed the backsplash on the peninsula, I stepped back and had second thoughts. It would probably be easier to grout the countertop first, then go back and set the backsplash and grout it. That way I could also be sure that I’d filled in the crack underneath the backsplash between the tiles and the kitchen wall. So I ended up creating yet another step for myself. If I had it to do over again, I’d just go ahead and place the backsplash and do all the grouting at once!

I moved next to the long sink counter and grouted it. This went pretty quickly as well, though I had to stop several times to clean up grout I’d dropped down the cabinet fronts or let dribble on the floor. Messy, messy, messy. But I was absolutely thrilled at the beautiful appearance of my grouted countertops! Everything was looking gorgeous–even better than I’d hoped.

But here’s where I must confess to yet another rookie mistake. I’d come out to the trailer later in the day, thinking it wouldn’t take very much time to finish up what I’d started. So I took a leisurely lunch with our next-door neighbors after laying the last of the peninsula tile, chatting for about an hour before heading back over to the kitchen to do the grouting. By the time I had finished mixing the grout, grouting the first counter, and cleaning up the colossal mess from that area of the kitchen, it was already 3:30 pm. I had to head home by 4:30! Even though the sink counter grouting went fairly quickly, it was 4:15 when I was cleaning up the mess from it, and I knew there was no way I’d get the peninsula grouted and cleaned. My children were playing next door, so I’d have to clean up, pack up, pick up the kids, and head home–all within fifteen minutes. I inwardly berated myself for foolishly thinking I could get so much done in so little time. Worst of all, I had to dump the last third of my grout out, since it would harden in the bucket while I was gone. Rats. Another half day added to this project unnecessarily. Thankfully, my neighbor was willing to run over later that evening and wipe the haze off the grouted counters for me, since that didn’t need to sit for so many days!

I headed home, mentally going over my calendar to figure out when I could get back and finish the grouting job. We were already packing for our move at that point, and I had less than a week left before we’d planned to load up and vacate the old place. So I decided I’d just have to take a day off packing and run back over to the trailer to finish the grout and do the backsplash. Four days later, I did just that. I stopped at Lowe’s to pick up more grout on the way, but I couldn’t find the exact same color. I was sure I’d bought “Sandstone,” but Lowe’s only had one called “Sand.” I went ahead and bought a 7-pound bag and another cheesecloth for final clean-up. When I arrived at the trailer, I saw the original paper bag for the first batch of grout lying on the deck and had an “Uh-oh” moment. By now, I’m sure you’ve lost count of my rookie mistakes, but let’s trot this one out as yet another word to the wise: Remember where you shopped! I hadn’t gotten the grout at Lowe’s at all. If you read Part One, you know that I deliberately got the grout at Home Depot, since Lowe’s didn’t have the color I wanted!

Feeling sheepish, I trekked the 12 miles to Home Depot and picked up the Sandstone grout. With that in hand, I was ready to get back to work and not waste any more time. I followed the mixing directions as before, but this grout came out clumpy and sandy in texture–not at all like the first batch. I re-read the instructions, wondering what I’d done wrong, but I’d definitely added the right amount of water. So I wondered if I’d added too much water to the first batch. A glance at the first bag nixed that idea, but I decided to use the grout as it was anyway. It was like trying to force play dough into the spaces between the tiles! So I disobeyed the instructions and added more water. Bingo! Worked like a charm. I quickly finished grouting the peninsula and its backsplash, then grabbed my mastic and finished placing the backsplash tiles on the other two counter sections:

Above is the fridge counter, with some spare tiles lying on the front. Below is a close-up of the backsplash on the sink countertop:

Now we come to my final rookie mistake. When I’d bought the second batch of grout, I’d only counted the square footage of the peninsula and its edges. I hadn’t thought to include the backsplash for the other countertops. So, yes, I ran out of grout and couldn’t finish the other two backsplash areas! There wasn’t time for another trip to Home Depot. I had to get back home. I knew I wouldn’t have time to get the grouting done before our move, so I figured I’d just have to do it after we moved in. I did manage to get the grout sealed before we started using the kitchen. Here you see the handy-dandy sealant dispenser with its little wheel that is sized to go between the tiles and roll on the sealant. Below is a picture of the sealant drying on the grout. You can wipe off any excess as you roll it on. Sealant prevents your grout from staining as you use your countertops, so it’s definitely a step you don’t want to omit.

Now that we’ve moved in, I am loving my tiled countertops. I can place hot pots and pans directly on the counter, and I love the color. It looks fantastic with our old curtains and furnishings. So, without further ado, here’s the finished kitchen!

Our small round table fits nicely into the center of the room with two chairs. I’ve got a spare chair over by the pantry. A toile valance goes with the toile slipcovers on the chairs, and the blue china on those end shelves of the peninsula help pull everything together for our blue and white color scheme.

Here’s a closer view of the sink counter with our new sink installed. I love my sink!

And here’s a nice close-up of the tile next to the stove.

This was a project well worth the time and effort–and the silly mistakes! If you learn from my errors, you could easily cut this down to a two-day job for a similarly sized kitchen. Best of all, you can save serious money by doing this project yourself. Here’s a rundown of costs for several countertop upgrades, beginning with most expensive:

  • Granite – The average cost for granite is $55 per square foot. That would obviously have been overkill for a trailer like ours, but if we’d gone that route, it would have cost us $2,640. Stainless steel would have come in even higher at $3,360.
  • Solid surface (like Corian) – $1,920
  • Poured cement or wood (butcher block) – $1,440
  • New laminate/formica – $720

So, what did we pay when all was said and done? Here’s the breakdown:

  • Countertop mosaic tile: $94.56
  • Backsplash tiles (the splurge): $82.80
  • Tile spacers: $2.97
  • Mastic: $16.92
  • Grout float, sponge, cheesecloth, tile sealant and applicator: $58.22
  • Grout: $31.82
  • GRAND TOTAL: $287.29

That’s almost two-thirds less than it would have cost to replace the laminate, and it’s way, way below any other replacement options. You could bring the price even lower if you eliminated the backsplash tiles, which were definitely a splurge, as they cost nearly as much per tile as the 12×12″ mosaic sections! If I’d left those out, along with the extra mastic and grout needed for them, that would have dropped the full price to $180.67. Amazing, isn’t it, what a little elbow grease will do?

Looking back on this project, I’d say it is something I definitely wouldn’t want to do after moving into a place. Having the time to do it before a move is really wonderful, so if you are able to, do it that way! I can’t imagine the hassle of trying to live for several days without the use of our kitchen while re-doing countertops. But it certainly could be done, so don’t let me discourage you! Just be prepared for the time, effort, and mess. All three are absolutely worth the end results! Below are photos of the before and after–what a difference!

Tiling laminate countertops – Part One

I’ve got a bit of time this evening to write about the counter tiling job, but I’ll make this a two-part post, since this was a bigger job than any of the others I’ve attempted thus far! In this post I’ll cover preparing the laminate countertops and doing the actual tiling. Next time I’ll cover grout, clean-up, and sealing. I learned several things during this whole process, but the most important one fits the old Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared!” This is true confessions time, and I hope all my goofs will help the next person avoid time-wasting mistakes. At left you see the original pea-green laminate countertop. The old sink has been removed so that I can tile right up to the edge of the hole. The new sink will fit down on top of the new tile.

This is the old sink we removed. It was one of those typically shallow stainless steel sinks for manufactured homes–barely over five inches deep. I knew this was going to make washing and even food prep difficult (hard to stand a deep pot in a shallow sink to fill it with water for cooking). Strolling down the sink aisle at Lowe’s and Home Depot left me cold. There were lots of gorgeous kitchen sinks, but the prices bordered on the ridiculous ($289 for a basic white sink?). So I got back online and started shopping around for deals. eBay came through for me again, and I found a seller offering this fabulous white sink in a size standard for mobile homes–but deeper:

This sink, though brand new, was listed as “with blemishes” and so was only $29.99 instead of $80. The seller explained that the sink had minor scratches or pitting–but nothing that would effect the overall quality of the sink. With $20 for shipping added on, I had a beautiful sink for just under $50! When the sink arrived, I opened the box and unwrapped it to check out the blemishes. For the life of me, I could not see them. The sink is made of a special composite (tough like PVC), and it is white all through. I guess that must make the blemishes invisible, because I’ve never been able to find them! Before shipment, I requested the seller to drill a fourth hole in this standard three-hole sink so I could add a water purifier later. This has been one of my favorite finds during this trailer remodel. You’ll see later how beautiful the sink looks installed.

But let’s move on to tiling! According to the helpful DIY instructions I found (and contrary to popular belief), you can tile directly over laminate counters. The old methods decreed that you’d have to put plywood over the laminate or use a special fiberglass paper (called “thin skin”) to cover the laminate completely prior to tiling. This just isn’t the case. To prepare laminate to accept mastic (tile glue), you simply need to rough up the counter with #50 sandpaper on a hand-held rotary sander. And so we arrive at my first mistake. When I glanced at my sander’s accessories (including several circles of sandpaper), I thought I saw #50 sandpaper there. So I didn’t bother to stop at Lowe’s and pick up sandpaper before heading out to the trailer to put in a day’s work. On this trip, I’d hoped to get all the countertop prep done and start laying tile. I also planned to rent a tile cutter from the local Home Depot (12 miles from the trailer).

After arriving at the trailer, I mentioned to our landlord that I’d be renting a tile cutter, and he told me that Home Depot in our area doesn’t do tool rental. However, he gave me the names of two other places that rented tools, so I drove 12 miles to check them out. Wouldn’t you know, both of them were closed that Saturday! I didn’t want to drive 20 miles to get to the next closest Lowe’s, so I just headed back to the trailer to rough up the counter tops, figuring I’d at least get that done and not make the day a total washout. When I began sanding the countertops, I noticed that they felt smoother rather than rough. So I pulled the sandpaper box out to check the number again. Whoops. #150! That was a far finer grain than I needed. I was actually just making the counter feel even silkier to the touch than ever! I dug through my stash of sandpaper rounds and had nothing lower than #100. Rats. That meant a trip back to town. I could have kicked myself for not double-checking the sandpaper earlier, since I could have gotten correct sandpaper at Home Depot on my first trip to find a tile cutter. Phooey.

Knowing I couldn’t proceed without the right sandpaper but unwilling to make yet another trip into town, I decided on a whim to see if the tiles would fit without any cutting. I seriously doubted this was possible, but I had time to try it, so I opened the boxes of tile and started laying them out on the countertops to see where I’d need to cut tile when I did have a tile cutter. On the first counter I tried, I was elated to discover that the sections of tile fit perfectly. I would not need to cut a single tile:

I even tested the backsplash tiles I’d gotten, and those were a perfect fit, too. The tile I purchased came from Lowe’s in one-foot square sections. Each individual tile is slightly under two by two inches with 1/8″ spaces in between. The tiles are held together in a square by dots of glue. This is called “mosaic” tile and is typically used in showers, but it’s also fantastic for counters. I liked the shades of brown (doesn’t show dirt as easily) and the fact that I’d be able to set hot pots right on the counter. Can’t be beat! I’d already measured the counters to see what kind of square footage I was looking at, and from that I knew I’d need 50 12″x12″ sections (really 46, but I also planned to use individual tiles to cover the front and side edges of the counters). I’ll give you the cost breakdown in part two once I’ve added in mastic, grout, and the backsplash. You’re going to be amazed at how inexpensively you can redo your countertops!

Now that I knew one counter could be done with no cutting, I headed over to the most difficult counter–the sink section. I didn’t think it was possible to get around that sink hole without cutting at least some tiles. Imagine my great surprise when the tiles fit there exactly as well! Here you see the tile all laid out. Because the tiles were less than 2×2″ individually, it was easy to simply cut through the dots of glue to create smaller mosaic sections. As you can see, it only takes a row of tile one deep to go across the back of the sink. It’s a double row across the front. Below is a photograph showing how I cut through the glue to separate the tiles as needed.

With a little snip, the scissors go right through the glue. Any glue residue left on the edge of the tile can be peeled or scraped off afterwards to leave a smooth edge (particularly important for tiles that will line up with the edge of the counter–you don’t want glue showing there).

Now I was down to the last counter–the peninsula. This one was a bit tricky, since it has a display shelf unit on the end that tile has to go around. I was just positive I’d have to cut tile here, but check it out:

No need to cut a single tile! So now I was thrilled that I hadn’t rented a tile cutter after all. I wasn’t going to need it. Quite providential. Now, when I’d pulled all the tiles out of the boxes, I found that Lowe’s had shorted me three 12×12″ mosaic sections (they come ten to a box, and one box had already been opened, unbeknownst to me). I knew all my tiles would fit on the countertops, but I still had those front edges to do, so I counted all the leftover pieces to make sure I had enough. Nope. I definitely needed those three extra sections. The day was drawing to a close, so I decided to head back home and come back the next Wednesday to do the extra tiling, stopping at Lowe’s first to get the three that had been missing from my box and to purchase the right sandpaper.

When I stopped at Lowe’s four days later, they only had four pieces of my mosaic tile left, and two of them had broken sections. I spoke with the lady at the customer service desk, and she not only gave me the three I’d been missing, but she discounted the fourth I’d need to cover the broken tiles. Never hurts to ask for a discount when something is broken or damaged! I headed back to the trailer and jumped right in to sanding the countertops with the #50 paper. The difference was not as noticeable as I thought it would be, and the counters still felt relatively smooth to the touch. I worried that the mastic might not stick, but I went ahead and followed the DIY directions, wiping down the counters to remove any sanding residue before tiling. This is where the real fun begins!

Believe it or not, laying tile is actually very easy with the right tools in hand. I had my notched trowel and my 1/8″ tile spacers, so I was ready to go. I slathered on the first section of mastic and laid the tiles as directed, putting a section of mosaic down and giving it a slight push to move it into position. You don’t want to lay it down far from where it needs to be, because the idea isn’t to mess up the mastic. The slight push is just to encourage the tile to stick into the mastic. With the first section down, I laid the second section, then placed spacers between them to make sure the 1/8″ spacing remained consistent between sections. Here you see the first four sections in place on the far right edge of the sink countertop. The mastic to the left has been spread and then “combed” with the notched edge of the trowel. You don’t want a very thick layer of mastic or it will ooze up between the tile spaces (as you can see on the tiles just to the right of the mastic!). Here’s a closeup of the spacer to show you how it works:

I purchased the spacers that have a little “handle” on the top to make them easier to remove when the tile is set. Conventional spacers can get stuck in the mastic, which means you have to pry them out later with a knife–no fun. The tile guy at Lowe’s recommended these spacers, and another video demonstration I watched online also showed how easy they were to use. I was very happy with the way they worked.

Tiling the rest of the countertop went very quickly, since I’d already laid out the tile to begin with when I tested the fit to see if I’d need to cut anything. That added step ended up saving me lots of time, since I didn’t have to stop to do any special fitting. I just troweled on the mastic, tiled, placed spacers, and moved on. The only real challenge was setting the tiles onto the front edge of the counter, which is a tad bit trickier, since you don’t want to drip mastic or drop tiles. Here you can see the front edge with mastic and some tile (over the dishwasher):

At right you see the sink countertop completely tiled and ready for grout. All told, it took about twenty minutes to tile this counter. I was amazed that it went so fast, and I moved on to the smaller counter next to the refrigerator, saving the more complicated peninsula for last. Mastic only takes about 45 minutes to set, so I intended to go ahead and grout the counters once I finished tiling. I figured I’d begin at the sink area, which would be set by the time I finished the other two counters. I’d purchased my grout at Home Depot, because Lowe’s didn’t have a color I liked. I wanted a brown grout that wouldn’t show stains, so I got a sandstone color from Home Depot in a 20-pound bag. The tile guy assured me this would be more than enough to grout the entire kitchen, including the backsplash (you can see in this photo that I hadn’t placed the backsplash yet).

Next I moved to the short counter next to the fridge, which went even faster:

Finally, I tackled the last counter. This peninsula turned out to be a lot tricker than I’d anticipated, even though I’d already pre-fitted the tiles around the display shelf and on the odd little notch that sticks out next to the stove. By the time I got to the end of the counter, I was also completely out of mastic, so that meant I wouldn’t be able to get the backsplash up that day or grout the countertops, either. I was disappointed, because I’d really hoped to wrap up the entire tiling job in two days. Word to the wise: a pro could get this done in two days, but amateurs need to add at least another day and a half for the learning curve and for silly mistakes (I was about to make another one–but that’s for part two!).

At the end of the day, I did have all three countertops nicely tiled and ready for grout. The following Saturday I’d be back to place the backsplash and tile the edges of the peninsula (there wasn’t enough mastic even for the small tiles). All in all, a good day’s work. I was just thrilled to see the difference between the old laminate countertops and the beautiful new tile. I cleaned up and headed home with the children, who had enjoyed a day playing at the new house while I tiled. In part two I’ll reveal a few more blunders and show you the beautiful end results of my amateur labors. If I can do this, so can you!

Nearly unpacked…and some musings…

We did find the keys. I had a “Eureka” moment when I remembered laying them down on the counter at the neighbors’ before church on Sunday. My husband had started the van with his set of keys that afternoon, so I never felt the need of my set until it came time to unlock the POD! Thankfully, I found them Tuesday morning, so we had all day (and ample help) to get the POD unloaded.

Let me tell you, it is a real adventure to forcibly downsize yourself–going from 2200 square feet to 1700 is truly revealing. I’ve prided myself for years for not being a pack rat, yet I have to ‘fess up to some pretty wacky things that have come out in this move. In our last three houses, we’ve either had a huge attic or a storage building out back, so I think I just lived in denial, believing we really didn’t have that much stuff. ::Cough:: We have enough stuff to choke a small army.

With the contents of the POD emptied all over the front deck and the lawn and stacked inside the house, I felt a slightly grim foreboding coming over me. There was no way all that stuff would fit into our trailer. No way. I got back to feverishly unpacking things that could go where they belonged–like pots, pans, dishes, clothes–daily stuff we use all the time. A sudden thunderstorm forced us to run out and schlep a whole bunch of stuff back into the POD to avoid a drenching, so I just focused on unpacking and settling what was in the house. Felt pretty good, as long as I could forget what lurked in the POD.

But I had to face it eventually, and I started thinking about storage buildings. I decided to look online to see if it was cheaper to just go ahead and buy one rather than renting storage space. If you go on a monthly payment plan, you can get a nice 12x8x8′ building for about $39 a month over a year’s time. Sounds pretty reasonable compared to $69-119 per month for similarly sized storage at a rental place. So I decided to be a smart shopper and actually go check out these handy dandy sheds. Both Lowe’s and Home Depot have over a dozen sitting in the parking lot, so my oldest son and I walked through a few. The pricier ones with real windows and lofts we ignored. We finally ended up at the bottom rung of storage building Hades in an 8x8x6′ metal shed with no windows. Hey! Only $199! We could just buy that outright! So we headed inside to ask about ordering.

No one seemed to know who was in charge of buildings, so I got passed around to three different people before an indifferent cashier finally handed me a phone and asked me to talk to whoever she had called about buildings. The rather testy lady on the other end informed me that the particular model I had looked at did not come with a roof or a floor; I’d have to buy those separately. WHAT? You mean what I see isn’t what I get? Nope. “Oh, and you have to put it together yourself,” Testy Saleslady said. “It doesn’t come built. None of them do.” All righty. So, now we’re looking at having to purchase flooring and roofing materials and build this thing from a kit. Now I understand the Glory of Storage Rental Units. But I’m not willing to pay over $1000 a year to store things. We made this move to get seriously frugal and save money–not blow it out the window by giving the Christmas tree an air conditioned apartment!

So I head back home, my brain on overdrive, thinking, thinking, thinking. There’s no way around it. All that stuff in the POD isn’t going to fit into that trailer. I park the car, walk through the front door, and announce to my husband, “We’re selling it, giving it away, or throwing it away.” He raises his eyebrows, surprised that I’ve come to this conclusion so quickly and decisively. He’d had that idea all along, of course. So we roll up our sleeves and attack the contents of the POD. Here’s where Embarrassing Confessions of a Closet Pack Rat come in to play. Wanna know what I found?

  • Two boxes of letters and notes dating back to high school and college. Drum roll: These boxes had not been opened or looked into since at least 2002. They had come through more moves than I want to admit and were filled with stuff I have no intention of keeping. What on earth did I think I’d need my eleventh-grade biology notes for? This coming from a woman who has laughed at her mother for saving her fourth-grade spelling tests in the attic for 20 years!
  • One box of items complete with price tags from a yard sale we had in 2003. This box of leftovers was supposed to go to Goodwill after the sale and somehow ended up in our moving pile. Go figure….
  • Two boxes labeled “scrapbooks” that contained photos I haven’t organized since I was a newlywed. The boxes had been taped shut in 2001 and never opened since. I managed to consolidate all of the scrapbook stuff into one nice plastic bin for the “someday” when I have enough time to put pictures in cutesy arrangements on pretty acid-free pages complete with captions (that is, if I can remember the captions by then).
  • Two bags of clothing that should have gone to Goodwill two moves ago–including a cap and gown from college graduation.
  • Three boxes of paid bills and bank statements dating back to 1995.

The list goes on, but we haven’t finished yet. We do see the light at the end of the tunnel, though! The POD gets picked up empty Tuesday, after all, so we have good motivation to keep at it. My husband has been happily shredding the old bills and statements, since you don’t have to keep those for thirteen years, and I’ve been ruthlessly putting things in the Giveaway or Sell Pile. Today I managed to clear out a large corner of the utility closet here to fit four boxes of books that we cannot fit on our shelves but don’t want to part with. I also managed to go through three boxes of fabric, dumping all the scraps too small to use and organizing all the ones I want to keep or give away. Oh, and does anyone need five rolls of black and white toile wallpaper?

Though it hasn’t been easy to go through everything (especially in 95-degree heat and dripping humidity), I am very thankful that moving into a smaller place has forced us to actually look at what we’ve been schlepping around all these years. There have been surprises and there have been moments of hilarity, and, at the end of it all, there is deep satisfaction in knowing that what is in our closets now is stuff we really do use. No storage buildings for us. No paying rent so our boxes can sit for another year. Paring down can be painful or it can be an adventure…or it can be a painful adventure. But it is well worth it. We’re excited to see that our family actually can fit into our cozy, double-wide cottage and live on less.


About the Queen…

Amanda Livenwell is the pen name of a stay-at-home mom who shares the adventure of living large on one income in, yes, a double-wide trailer! Join our family as we say goodbye to suburbia, trim down, and start saving to build our own home. We're going to talk about doing it yourself, living beautifully on less, making do or doing without, and counting it all joy in the process. We'll cover prep-work and painting, refacing kitchen cabinets, flooring on the cheap, tiling over laminate, upholstering furniture, and just rolling up our sleeves in general. If you love home improvement, this is the place for you. Let's get cracking!

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What Inspires Me Most!

"She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms. She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hand holds the spindle. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness." ~ Proverbs 31:13, 17-19, 27

"Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings;he will not stand before unknown men." ~ Proverbs 22:29

"The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich." ~ Proverbs 13:4

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