Tag Archives: decluttering

Beer Tour and Life After the Kitchen

Well, the beer tour was fun! Ticket sales were down a bit this year, which meant that the crowd fit into my house better than last year. I forgot to take photos but picture about 3/4 of this. Also look at the unfinished banister and the pig tail!


Now, some people said that no one would notice any changes from last year. Based on this comment, you were half right: “It looks so much more finished than last year! Did you get new counter-tops?” Ironically, my sister told me the very next day that her boyfriend was looking at the kitchen’s current state and he said that now I need to replace the counter-tops because they look cheap next to the doors. This is fitting because I paid $50 for them. See where the edging is missing to the right? Gluing that back on should make them look a little less cheap.


I’m grateful for LOTS of help getting the place clean since less than a week before I was still painting. My mom’s help came of course with free advice: from here on out, I should keep the house clean all the time and also finish all the painting. I’m still leaning closer to none, or maybe some odds and ends and touch-ups, until January.

But anyways, here’s what the place looked like the day after the tour.


Aside from the clean house I had half a catering tray of mac and cheese left behind. My mom said I should give it to the Irishman’s family, but she doesn’t know what it’s like to be a bachelor. I ate it for breakfast every day last week. Only one coworker said anything about this.


So, Chad’s retiring from house projects until January? Not quite. I really need to clean out the basement. It became a dumping ground and a half this time.


On top of the light reorganizing that my basement ends up desperately needing about once a year, there are some things in this lumber-hoard that I may be ready to work with soon, so it’s time to go through it. Does anyone want 125 year old rough sawn lumber? I have an awful lot of it. My next door neighbor growing up made made this table out of my lumber.


Aside from that, I could stand to make 2 Homasote bulletin boards, (I already own the Homasote) install the mahogany boards currently in the lumber-hoard at the top of my bookcase (even though I’ll take them down again later once I figure out staining them),


Re-glue the counters of course, and replace the missing insulation and beadboard up here:


The last piece up there has saw cuts in it and has to go. I’m thinking the way to fix this mess is to cut the nails holding that piece up with a Sawzall, then pull it out as cleanly as I can. I’ll check how many of the removed boards are salvageable, and then buy replacements. My dad suggested boarding over all of it. Replacement boards are $8 each, so I’d rather patch it so this job keeps a 2-digit price tag. I have some cellulose insulation in the basement, so I think I’d want to put up some kind of mesh and then stuff it in. It’s only missing from about 2 cubic feet. I can, sigh, even paint the boards before they go up, though they’ll need touch-up painting again next year when it’s warm enough.

A Large Decluttering Fail

I was all ready to write something boring about getting rid of stuff after a few triumphant rounds to Philly AIDS Thrift and assembling shelves in my basement. I mean, remember my parents’ basement? Not like this you don’t.


And I did a decent job clearing out mine.


More organizing will be needed. I put all the miscellaneous hardware and tools from 3 years of remodeling into one box of horrors. Then there’s another box of things I’ve been too lazy to file! Luckily I have filing cabinets, and these really great tobacco cans with really great labels. You know I put the maroon one where it shows on purpose.


And Saturday I loaded up some fluorescent lighting my dad gave me from his hoard and that mini-fridge that kept my beer cold through the remodel and went to the ReStore. I didn’t think that stuff was a good fit for Philly AIDS Thrift. They priced the fridge at $20, or $5 less than I paid for it. I guess that’s fair.

But while I was there I decided to poke around. I’m not looking to buy any more stuff ever again, but you never know. And among a whole lot of mediocre furniture, gasp. This would be great for someone to have. But not me because I don’t need dining room furniture.


I should check the price though. I mean they must have someone here who knows enough about furniture to price this. And I choked.


So I started pacing. The idea of not getting this bargain was stressing me out. Should I start buying furniture to resell at a profit? I called my dad but he was not on board. But there was an extra 10% off on big furniture that day and I had shrink wrap at home and it’s not that far and then this happened.


Yes, I went to the ReStore to divest myself of a refrigerator and some odd building materials and when I got home I had 2 dining room sets.

The good news is, my roommate didn’t want to kill me. My parents don’t want to kill me. The 2 Couchsurfers who were staying with us while this was happening thought it was a good idea. The room does look a whole lot airier now. (And the table doesn’t look skimpy in real life.)


Does anyone know anything about Vejle Stole & Møbelfabrik Furniture? I found maybe the same table online at over 20 times the price I paid for the set so it looks like I was not an idiot for doing this. Plus this table gets super long with leaves that stow inside it while they’re not in use. And with a little less of Nana’s stuff in the room there’s room for her nice plant stand down from my bedroom. Now can I keep house plants alive?


And the down side. My parents’ basement again.


But there’s something you can do to help. Buy our stuff! Yep, the table is already on Craigslist. And yeah, again, I’m happy about this.


The Great Yard Sale of 2016

Yes, it happened! My parents along with 5 other neighbors. Here are a few little stories.

The next town over had a borough wide garage sale event this weekend, starting at 9 both days. I wanted to start at 7. The other neighbors refused. I got in a huff and said it’s not their decision if I’m making the Craigslist ads, and I’m more concerned with selling things than being well liked by former neighbors. I lost and we advertised starting at 8, but started setting up at 5:30. The first customer was there at 6:40. I wasn’t playing around. We wanted to get rid of all this!


We sold about half of it and made $430. Let’s try to ignore how much time we spent prepping for it over the last 2 months. At least we were thorough saying goodbye to our stuff and finding it a good home!

We had so much stuff we had to  get things out and fill the basement to sort, appraise, clean, and advertise things. Then we boxed them up and they disappeared to where we’d never find them again. Then we had to do it all a second time in the 2 days before the sale.

I joined about 12 yard sale groups on Facebook to advertise the sale. I thought it was an achievement to get my newsfeed to show me mostly news and a minimum of dinner plate and workout information. Now it is overrun with junk furniture spiffed up with Annie Sloan chalk paint.

15 years ago after my grandfather died we had an estate sale inside his house after taking away the things we wanted. One dealer was walking around the house peering through windows after we made her leave and locked the doors. Dealers fought with each other, made piles, dragged the items they claimed away from other dealers. My grandmother grew up in a Polish coal mining family and so you can guess how many times her dining room table even saw the light of day in the 45 years they owned it. That day it got scratched for the first time. One woman came in wearing what my mom said was a $500 coat and found a half empty box of sanitary napkins in the bathroom and asked my mom how much we wanted for them. Mind you, there weren’t women young enough to need them staying in his house very often. We were hoping for all of that stuff this time around.

This time, everyone was disappointingly sensible. The craziest person was the man next door. His wife said that my grandmother’s dining room chairs were pretty and close to what she wants but not quite, and too big for the room. My mom said, “Watch him come force them on her.” He came by and offered $50. My mom refused. If she really wanted them, they’d have been free.


We thought it made sense to group things by style. People would be into one type of thing, right? But no one did it that way. The first customer to buy lots of things had one old fancy thing, one old rustic thing, some basic frying pan from the “dorm” department, and 5 fishing rods. Yes, this was basically the department store of yard sales. Next one my dad plans to clean out the garage so it will be more like Sears.

Remember what my parents’ basement looked like when it was a storage unit for me? Remember, this is not and never will be a blog of pretty staged pictures.


No sooner did I get my stuff out than my grandmother moved AGAIN and the clutter came back. After everything was out to sell, my mom came down here and said, “Let’s pretend this is real.”


In the end, we sold about half. We made $433. Which sounds great as long as you never, ever, ever think about how much time we spent on this. And the basement looks like this again, but you’re looking at all the stuff!


So. We’ll try to consign what’s left of this fancy stuff, then give it to a church sale in the next town over. Not that we have any connection to this church but they’re having a sale soon. That means it’s not to late! Most of what you can see below can still be yours today! (Of course we both know that it’s hard to even give this stuff away.) Our remaining listings are here.


But my mom resents giving away the things she paid top dollar for. The good pewter and the Baldwin brass and the one old ironstone piece that doesn’t have pink cabbage roses painted on it are all up in the attic now. Because my mom can’t stand to just give this all away. I was kinda glad thoe 2 coffee pots in the back didn’t sell. One of them is from my great great great grandmother. But it’s not going to my house anytime soon.

So. A lot less stuff. But also a lot of remaining stuff. And their storing a big box for my roommate now. But overall I think we undid what I did to them for the past 6 years.


Rediscovering More Shoddy Work

It feels like it’s 2013 all over again! You’d think I was done with the astoundingly bad repairs that I found all over the Crooked House, but here’s one more. Along with a whole lot of boob lights, the house came with a builder’s special grade chandelier.



It stuck around into the demolition, so needless to say it was a little dirty.


And then it stuck around in my parents’ attic. A family friend was selling her house and they wanted to offer her something to leave if she took her chandelier with her. That didn’t happen so it was one more piece of clutter in the attic.


But… what’s going on with the chain? It can’t stretch out; it actually was this bunched up. (And sorry for how blurry this picture is.)


The chain is doubled up and the wires are kinked and twisted together. I sorta knew about this but ignored it because I wasn’t keeping the chandelier anyway. Well, I figured out what it is. Bending chandelier chain is kind of a pain, so they just did it to one link. And then they doubled the chain up and braided the wire through both layers of it. And then left the one link open. It made no sense at all. But I fixed it and cleaned the light.


So I kinda get that someone was working on my house and they were really high and decided that they could bend out fewer chain links this way. But why was the wire so kinked up? I must be underestimating just how high they were. And I shouldn’t after all the coins stuck in the floor finish, drywall screwed on over woodwork, and mismatched studs inside walls that were barely fastened together. The old plan was to charge $20 and get rid of this fixture fast, but after all this work I raised the price.

Also, my grandmother’s old mattress went super fast, which means we’ve now sold all the biggest white elephants and my parents’ basement is starting to look like a room again! Well, maybe not till after the yard sale in a month. But I’m still happy to hang out down here because it’s cold.


In other news, I got in trouble today. A friend of my mom’s said she wanted 2 5-inch serving dishes. My mom said she’d give her a pair. I said, “Yes, take them now.”

I brought them up, and she pulled out a $20, and asked what we were trying to get for them. I made a face and said $2 each. My mom yelled at me for telling her. She tried to force my mom to take 5. A battle ensued and I don’t remember who lost and was forced to go away with the 5 dollars.

And while we’re at it trying to figure out what to do with heaps of old things, I think this picture of my great-great grandparents should go right here. (Incidentally they were also my neighbors in South Philly, only a couple hundred feet away!) My mom thinks it looks weird because the wall isn’t on center with the stairs. Tell her I’m right, Internet people!


Anyways, this yard sale is a month away. This prepping job is getting to be almost another remodel. And also, buy our stuff.


The Dreaded Post-Construction Clutter

Amid all the odds and ends and this goal to not work too hard on the house, I’ve been chipping away at the dreaded clutter. And there were some pleasant surprises. First, I had some old kitchen cabinets in the basement but decided they won’t be reusable after all. I was ready to drive them out to my parents’ place in the Land of Good Public Services. But luckily for me, the Irishman was cleaning out his basement, too. And he rented a very large dump truck and loaded it up. And now my stuff is gone, baby, gone! This also marks the first time, I believe, that there is absolutely no scrap wood or scaffolding anywhere in the back yard. I still do have a big pile of Belgian blocks in the alley but they can stay.

Then there were lots of boxes to go through. But it turns out most of those were half empty. And half of what was in them was construction detritus. I found broken trim pieces from the old recessed lights, small strips of bathroom floor tile that were cut off, and of course lots of dirt. I also finally found the roller ball catch for the linen closet door! I was not willing to buy this again since I knew it was down there, so now I’m finally free to make all the interior doors operable


(If you forgot, I put a dummy knob on this door because it’s too thin for a mortise lock. At one time it had a latch more like a cabinet door.)

And this is now all that’s left in my big dumping ground under the kitchen. Trust me, it’s progress.



And the same thing happened in my bedroom and the bookshelves in the living room. I’ve passed Peak Box and shedding cardboard fast.


But there is a downside to all this. The bookshelves are much tidier, yes. But what’s left on them is morphing into the physical manifestation of a to-do list. There are hinges for the doors that aren’t hung, missing pieces to the kitchen drawers, rolls of non-slip shelf paper, laminate adhesive… but I’m loving being able to put these jobs off.


Of all the random junk sitting out, I started with instant gratification. I owe Mary Elizabeth a big thank you for mailing me curtains for the only room that’s ready for them, the one that I don’t use.


And I’ve finally hung up the bathroom mirror. This was probably the most pathetic thing to hold off on, but apparently I found it less aggravating to sit on the floor to shave than to put 2 screws in the wall. It’s kinda junky thermofoil over particle board and didn’t hold up very well to being stored in the basement through demolition but I’m thinking of painting it a fun color to spruce it up until the Phase 2 bathroom work happens. Whadaya think? Maybe not worth the trouble since it’s going in 2 years.


And I hung up “Ne buvez jamais d’eau,” which was easily the best piece of artwork in my grandmother’s house. I thought it was too small for this wall but it’s actually fine. You can kinda see the scale in the photo above.


Working out of a rut

I was starting to feel stuck in a rut. Mainly because I can’t handle tons of small jobs. And because I thought I needed way more help from my dad than he had time for. So this weekend I made a new plan. Just do all of them. It meant a lot of jumping around, but I can handle that better than thinking about it all.

So… I finally put blinds up in my bedroom. Not super cheap like I planned. There’s a street light right outside my window so I got room darkening ones.

And the first few door strikes are in. I was scared to do this by myself. And my mortising job isn’t perfect but it’s good enough… I hope. Also, this back bedroom is the only room in the house with super shiny new hardware. I did it because I couldn’t afford solid brass. And the super frustrating thing. I will still be one door short.  because the strike I bought for my bedroom doesn’t fit the latch. Another trip to the salvage yard is in order.


And there’s a pile of drywall scraps left in the basement. I need to finish the stairwell before I make them disappear. Remember that I have a removable panel on this wall so I only need to drywall the ends. The extra elbow room in the middle is nice.


And my dad came down today and got the thermostats wired up. Except we can’t find the tiny screwdriver we need to connect the last thermostat. Oh well.

And I still had a bunch of trash cans full of lathe in the basement. I had ideas for creative ways to reuse it, but then I couldn’t stand the sight of it anymore. So instead I cut it all in half so it will fit into my parents’ incinerator fireplace. My parents had those friends who own the old Suburban over for lobster last night, so that seemed like the perfect time to borrow it again. And so my dad drove it down and we took out all this! (I’m on good terms with those neighbors… for now.)


They’ll be having a lot of fires. Also a third of it is trash. And what does my basement look like now?


Womp. Still pretty terrible, but at least there’s room to turn around. And we brought in the big fancy mirror that goes on my dresser.


But somehow the big fat screws that go to this disappeared so now it’s staying against the wall. Also, can you see that the fancy part at the top is damaged and missing pieces? I may have to leave it off at least for now. But I guess that’s a problem for another day.

I still need a bit more from that Suburban, so it may stick around all week. Up next is getting rid of my parents’ extra set of couches and… drumroll please… a refrigerator!


Pre-Taping Fever

The fever was rather literal. I had tonsillitis last week. Fine time to get it. The plan was that the Irishman would put up corner bead and Zip bead (where drywall meets exposed beams, exposed brick, etc.) while I put up small patches of drywall in the many spots where little bits were missing. Then this weekend, the crookedness-related gaps around drywall and chunks missing from the old plaster could be filled in with setting compound while other odds and ends of cleanup were finished off.

Instead, the Irishman worked by himself last Saturday. The bead went up, but not much else. He called me while I was cocooned in my (suburban) bed fighting fever chills to tell me there were 4 days’ worth of work left in the house. I flipped out… weakly. Went back to work before I should have, got caught up on things, and my boss didn’t have a problem with me taking a day or two off work if I needed to. I’m lucky with that.

But this weekend, everything came together! The Irishman redid these small drywall squares a half inch higher than I had them, and they look way better. The Zip bead is on with aerosol glue that he said took a few years off his life.


Zip bead around exposed beams

And all the random bits of drywall are up. And the house is (pretty much) cleared out!
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Cash for Clutter… and beautiful old plaster!

I just did my Home Depot run. Some of it was stuff I bought shortly after I bought the house… almost 2 years ago. Some of it was stuff I didn’t even recognize… maybe things my plumber left behind. Some of it was visibly dirty, and it must have come from dozens of different receipts. I didn’t even try and just took store credit. And my shame while that poor woman was checking every nut, bolt and washer on the size chart so she could enter the item numbers by hand… and as I watched the line form behind me… let’s just say I wanted to bore a hole in the floor, crawl in it, and die. The only thing to console me was watching the refund amount slowly creep upward. In the end I got $390.48 in store credit. And I got to see this wall again. Until I moved all my doors against it

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I have a date! And cleaning to get ready for it.

It’s nothing lame like dinner and a movie.* It’s gonna work like this. At the end of the month, Mario comes in. He’ll have another guy or two with him. I hand him a bank envelope. They’ll be in and out in about 2 hours. Wham. Bam. All the walls in my entire house will be taped and mudded. They come back the next day and do it again. The day after that they sand.

*Note: any time I claim to have no interest in actual dating, I’m probably lying. Probably.
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Back to real work: The crooked teeth wall

You remember I said I had to cut notches for 5 beams at the other wall in my kitchen? Well, the Irishman did it. He did the same thing I would have done, but probably 3 times as fast. I’m not a master carpenter

Here’s how it worked. First the piece at the top of the wall went up a few inches low so the beams could be marked out.

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