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Update: cleaning things up June 17, 2010

Posted by Emily in moving, new house, The Purge 2010.
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I’ve been sort of MIA in life lately, consumed with cleaning at my new house and getting everything prepped for living – and for the painters. It’s going well – we are almost done cleaning walls, we vacuumed and RugDoctored like mad and did my loveseats with the upholstery attachment while we were at it. The water that emerged looked like Coca-Cola. We’ve gone through 2 or 3 boxes of Magic Erasers at this point. And, thanks to my organizing class, I now have a cleaning closet where I can find just what I’m looking for. Here’s the before and after, plus a few more photos from the process.

(blurry) Before:

And after:

Went to wipe the dust off the light switch and discovered another wall color. I guess they had an oven fire at some point.

Stove was more than a little greasy,

but looks like a brand new appliance.

Here are some more “before” photos. Some things currently on the radar/in progress/getting dealt with include:

tub surround (getting regrouted this week)

blinds (soaked in tub overnight, then sprayed with hose outside and wiped down with 409-style cleaner):

(sticky) kitchen floor and cupboards:

The power of the Magic Eraser (before-right and after-left). The color isn’t quite this bad, but close:

side of fridge, before (has also been Magic Erasered into oblivion since this photo was taken):

this entire teapot used to be that dark brown color on the base (this one is thanks to steel wool pads):

My roommate has been powering through so much cleaning while I’m at work, and I’m trying to do what I can when I get home from work, which has led me to drill holes for closet rods after midnight, scrub walls until the wee hours, and generally flit from one project to the next like someone on speed. But I have also been doing some baking, so hey – progress all around.

More “afters” coming soon!


On the move May 2, 2010

Posted by Emily in Missoula, moving, The Purge 2010.
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It’s that time of year again, time to think about leases ending and moving one more time. As my couple of loyal readers may recall, I started asking a lot of these same questions this time last year. Namely,

-why are places so expensive here when wages are so low?

-how can the listing say an apartment is close to two things on opposite sides of town?

-how can people, in good conscience, rent hellholes like these?

After a whole lot of frantic Craig’s List refreshing and a bit of driving, slowly and stalker-like, through neighborhoods I like, hoping to see For Rent signs, I was starting to have my doubts. And then last week happened.

After lots of misses, I finally saw an apartment on Craig’s List that I thought might work. I emailed them back right away. Scheduled a showing. Asked for the application, so I could have it all ready to go. At the showing, I tried to ignore the other people also checking the place out. I wandered around, looking into every closet, checking out every nook, trying to envision my furniture, my art, and myself in the space. And despite the low ceilings and the funky closet spaces, I thought I could make it work. The place had more charm than anything else I’d seen, by a long shot. I thought I could make it mine. And that alone was worth the extra couple hundred bucks I’d probably spend every month. I handed over my completed application and crossed my fingers.

The next morning, I get an apologetic email from the owners. They’ve decided to put the house on the market, so the two tenants (upstairs and downstairs) would have to be ready for showings, the lease would now be month to month, but they’d dropped the price a bit. I thought about it for a little while, because by this point I had decided that this was the place for me, but with strangers wandering through and constant uncertainty that this might be the month they kick me out, I decided it wasn’t worth it. I don’t want to move and attempt to feel settled, only to be politely asked to leave.

Going back to the beginning was a big letdown. The same five places are listed over and over on CL, some with “one day special!!!!!” as part of the title, two or three times a week. Ugh. Mobile homes starting to look like more of an option?

And then another opportunity quickly presented itself, one I hadn’t really considered – having a roommate. I was ready to live alone (was ready last year…), to get over the roommate thing, especially semi-random roommates. But then the roommates of a friend who lives just off campus decided they were ready to move. She didn’t want to leave the house, where she’d lived for five years. So she asked if I’d be interested. It’s a 3 bedroom house, but it would be cheaper with just the two of us than the apartment would have been for me to live alone. Plus, people willing to rent out basement rooms are often total weirdos, let’s be honest. It has a yard with a picnic table and a tree with a hammock. I can actually plant things directly in the ground and not in an ever-growing number of pots. We think we might even be able to paint.

And so after deciding, over lunch, that we were both at a point in our lives where the college house scene – lots of posters and sheets covering crappy couches – was no longer our scene, we decided to take on a project and move in together.

I had so made up my mind to be done with roommates, but I came to see that a lot of the things I didn’t want to repeat were with roommates I didn’t know very well, or who didn’t communicate openly. Moving into a house, versus an apartment, but with a roommate felt like a lateral change at first. But now I’m excited. A bit of space to breathe and decorate and settle in is exactly what I was looking for. I’m excited to clean this place up and make it mine. Well, ours. And that’s cool too.

My organization class also starts next week, so May is going to be busy. I’ll try to post here about some of the upcoming changes  – exciting, spring, fresh changes.

My move may not be quite this artful:

(video via Renee Anne, via Desire to Inspire)

Getting my stuff together (another dispatch from The Purge 2010) April 1, 2010

Posted by Emily in moving, The Purge 2010.
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The spring cleaning bug is officially here. And this year, I decided to actually do something about it and not just have one semi-motivated day in which I do some cleaning and then get distracted by reading magazines. Quite possibly even magazines about organization, for a bit of irony.

So, with a little prodding, I’ve decided to come out and say it: I took an online organizing class. I was sort of embarrassed about the dorkiness of the whole thing, and perhaps more than a little skeptical about the efficacy of a class like this…but it was actually awesome. I’m a total convert. For the cost of a couple of cups of coffee, I took the introductory, weeklong course through simplify101. A few other bloggers I read and like (namely, Chez Larsson) had recommended professional organizer Aby Garvey’s classes and I figured that if the über-organized can feel they get something out of the classes, even the lowly bums like me might make a little progress. And I totally did.

There was basically just one assignment – take 15 minutes a day with a timer and move around a room in your house – not cleaning, not actually organizing, but just plucking out the easy things to get rid of – a couple of kitchen examples are freebie coffee mugs or travel mugs that leak on your way to work, tupperware containers without lids, expired food. Pretty basic. But, as predicted, taking a serious look at all of the spaces in your house helps to unearth other stuff you’ve just held onto for too long. Why did I keep the smiley face mug I received flowers in sometime in high school? Well, because it had memories of some kind attached. But another thing I’ve come to realize in sorting through and culling my possessions, independent of the workshop, is that I really don’t need the actual item to have the memories. Sometimes I can just take a picture of the item, keep the memories, and the smiley face mug can find a home with some kindergarten teacher out there. I certainly never used it for actually drinking anything.

The first time you set the timer, you feel kind of ridiculous. I was sure to do it when I was home alone. But that ticking time bomb mentality, a bit of a rush and a dose of competitiveness (who, me?) was a strange motivator. I didn’t start reading magazines. I didn’t stew over any choices. If I grabbed something and it made me hesitate at all, it went in the garage sale bag. If I had second thoughts, I could pull it out – the next day. And only one thing made the cut there. If I find that I don’t use this multicolored tray in a month or two, out the door it goes. I won’t lie – it’s liberating.

I have plenty of lovely things I plan on having for some time to come, things that make my little apartment my space to come home to. Many of my friends don’t care as much about such things and find my nesting a bit curious. And that’s fair enough. But tidy I’m not, and I feel overwhelmed by so much stuff I just don’t need or want anymore. Why did I move so much of this junk so many times?

I’ve decided to take another class, this one over the course of 6 or 7 weeks. It’s kind of like the gym – even if I can’t make it as often as I’d like, if it’s a motivator to make some change, it’s worth it. And commenting on the forum and getting positive feedback and upbeat congrats is a mood booster.

Chances are, I myself will be moseying on to a new apartment come the end of May, so now seems like a perfect time to take a hard look at what stuff warrants another move. Like this time last year, I’d like to find a little place of my own. And also like last year, I recognize that one bedroom apartments in this town are pricey or shady, and often both. So we’ll see.

I’ll still rent a UHaul. I’ll almost certainly have more stuff than fits comfortably in the space where I’ll land. But at least the stuff I love to look at and use will be front and center, not hidden behind any smiley face coffee mugs.

I’m off to set my timer.

The Purge 2010 January 12, 2010

Posted by Emily in design, The Purge 2010.

As I pointed out to my mom recently, it’s sort of ironic that the covers of all of the January home magazines are about cutting clutter and getting organized, since they immediately follow Christmas, a time in which we inevitably accumulate more stuff. People in the know agree – the National Association of Professional Organizers dubbed January “Get Organized Month.” (the rest of the year? crap everywhere!) Which isn’t to say I don’t love the gifts and Christmas and all, but it speaks to this weird confusion about what we really want. In my case, I keep buying more storage containers, am convinced that living closer to an IKEA would lead to more general storage serenity in my life, and yet I know, deep down, that the real answer isn’t storage – it’s a deep purge of junk I have and don’t need or use.

Well, and a bigger living space would be nice, too.

I started planning a garage sale last spring, a garage sale which didn’t quite materialize when I was working every Saturday over the summer (oops). But one of the perks of my (very) small apartment is the use of a small storage room in the basement, so I’m doing my best to move things into boxes in the basement, ready for a spring 2010 garage sale, followed by a trip to Goodwill. I even bought garage sale stickers, so as I find something that I don’t use or honestly, don’t really even like, I can label it, price it, put it in a box by the door, and take it down to the basement storage. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will make the sale a little bit easier to manage and will motivate me to take some action and not just move all of this stuff all over again.

One of the organizational tools I’ve become somewhat obsessed with lately, maybe because it’s so damn cold outside and that’s accompanied by a whole slew of outerwear, is a coat tree. They are sort of old fashioned and I used to think sort of weird, but I just don’t feel like drilling any more holes in the plaster walls of my place, and there’s a perfect little alcove behind the front door. Our coats are slung over the back of the couch, piled outside my bedroom, hung on the back of the dining room chairs. They are everywhere, and most mornings, in my hurried haze to get to work by 8 a.m., I’m also looking for my hat and gloves. Not my keys or my cell phone – I’ve figured out how to put those in a place I can remember (most of the time) – but these seasonal accoutrements that I hate myself for forgetting when I’m walking to work and it’s 2 degrees, like most of last week.

Here are some coat trees I’ve found that I don’t hate. Think I might try to hit a couple of thrift stores this weekend, see what I can uncover.

ok, not really

(just kidding)

from CB2, Target, IKEA, KMart, Home Decorators, respectively.

Who says there’s no such thing as free? January 7, 2010

Posted by Emily in design, The Purge 2010.
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Other than for flights and magazines, have you ever used your frequent flier miles for anything good? I was convinced that they were sort of useless under 25,000+ miles. I’ve done the magazine subscription thing before, some magazines I really liked and others that just accumulated on my nightstand, but then I got word from United that my paltry 12,000+ miles were about to expire. Figured I’d just renew some magazine subscriptions, but they seem to deal only with newspaper subscriptions – and I have a pretty good hookup there. Buying miles to bridge the gap between what I had and a free flight didn’t make any sense.

But looking through their version of the SkyMall, I found a few things that were available for my miles. One was a baking kit from OXO – the bowls looked awesome, I’d use the measuring cup, but I’m not much of a baker and a lot of the stuff would just sit in my kitchen pantry, never to be used.

So, after some deliberation, I decided to go with the OXO Pop containers – ten of them. The little pantry space I have is sort of a jumbled mess, and in the spirit of my current organizational overhaul, I thought they might reduce some of the random baggies of bulk granola, sunflower seeds, and the mysterious duplicate cereal boxes (I somehow bought the same knock-off cereal twice, once from Albertson’s and again from Safeway. Go figure.) Mostly, pushing the button to release the airtight seal is strangely gratifying.

As amazing and fun as these are, along with the fact that they make me feel sort of grown-up, I was amazed to find out that this little set is currently on sale at Macy’s and elsewhere for $99.99! My set arrived a few weeks ago in the mail, totally free, didn’t have to pay shipping. And yes, I’m feeling quite smug about it all.