practically free friday #1 – make a shadow box

Back in January, when I dubbed 2012 be a super frugal year, I started a list of free, or nearly free, things I wanted to do. My intent was to come up with 52 of them and blog about one each week – free and fun things to do, using stuff I’ve already got on hand. Alas, I have magpie syndrome.

Better late than never, right?

So I am starting this feature this week. Practically Free Friday will be a post about something, uh, practically free, that I did that week and thought it was cool enough to blog about it. Hopefully other thrifty folks will find inspiration out of it; if not, oh well, I did. 😉

This week’s project came off the list I made back in January: Make a shadow box.

I had some old IKEA Ribba frames lying around unused. I have held onto them because I thought they would make cute shadow boxes. The depth is perfect. So, for this one I knew immediately that the perfect thing to corral into one weird little collage is some of the goofy toys I’ve collected. Voodoo dolls from New Orleans, gifts from people, Hello Kitty merch, that kind of thing. The stuff I stash in drawers because I don’t know what to do with them except say “Oh yeah! This thingy is sooo cool!” then stuff it back in the drawer.

To make the shadow box, I cut a piece of scrapbook paper to fit the frame, and used Velcro squares {AKA the best invention ever} to secure each trinket to the paper {so I could remove them if I decided to put them somewhere else.} Worked like a champ!

Where to hang such a masterpiece? Well, semi-hidden from public traffic areas, like our office. Here it is hanging over the filing cabinet.

With my Lack bookcase and desk chair, it’s pretty much obstructed from view of the hallway. I like putting weird, interesting things in neglected corners. Like little surprises. {oops, window glare. You get the idea.}

Cost: zero-dollars-and-zero-cents. Time: 20 minutes or so. Happiness factor: 8 out of 10. I have 2 more frames and other assorted knickknacks so this may turn into a “thing.” We’ll see. For now, I really like the little guy.

If tchotchkes aren’t your thing, there are plenty of  cool and non-weird things to put in a shadow box: seashells, baby shoes, memorabilia, vintage finds, spoons, keys, or a mixture of photos/flat objects with three dimensional objects. Pinterest has about a million ideas.

Welp, what do you think of the feature {if not the project – I admit it’s kinda a weird kick-off project!}? Hopefully it’s a fun one!



I actually completed this 10-minute project nearly two months ago and forgot to blog about it til now. This is a SUPER easy way to temporarily make over a piece of furniture. This was my cute little desk pre-Chevron. I didn’t mind it as-is, but the poor thing kept getting scratched up from moving those file boxes in and out, or sliding a textbook across it. It was making me sad. I was planning to get a sheet of glass to protect the surface, but that ended up being a rather spendy solution.

So, I found some incredibly pretty, not-your-momma’s contact paper at Joann’s (40% off coupon, of course, making it all of $12.00). The brand is called Domestic Bliss Decor, but I can’t find a website for them. Just check Micheal’s and JoAnn’s. There were a few really stressful moments trying to match up the pattern on something that would stick to the surface or itself constantly. I now know this would be infinitely easier with a helper. Still, it only took a few minutes.

Fun, huh? The vertigo-inducing pattern probably defies eleven rules of fung-shui or OSHA standards or something, but I love it. I want to color in every white space with different colors of Sharpies one day because I’m insane like that.

And it’s 100% removable. I have lots left over, which I plan to use in the drawers of my made-over yellow desk, perhaps.

a little paint love and kitchen command center

My two posts a week resolution is off to a horrible start {but I suppose there’s still hope for 104 total posts for the year, right?}. It’s not because I’m lacking things to post about. I have a running list. I’ve just been short on time! Here’s a project I actually finished up weeks ago, but haven’t gotten around to sharing (one of the many!)

My parents gave me this cute little roll-top desk they’ve owned for at least as long as I’ve been alive. It’s super cute. It’s where the thank you cards were located when I was little, so that’s what I think of every time I saw this desk! Writing those “Grandma and Grandma, thank you for the {insert weird tchotchke from Mexico here}. I love it!”

I asked permission to paint it and they were like – duh, that’s why we are giving it you. Oh. Right. Yippee!

This was going to be perfect for the kitchen. Our big island becomes a dumping ground for mail, coupons, pens, etc, and it drives me insane! This would be a perfect solution for organizing all of that household clutter.

Here she is in her refurbished glory:

I just love it! The yellow is kind of random for the color scheme I had planned {I CANNOT be nailed down to 3 colors, it’s a flaw}. But I think it looks great there. It’s super functional, too. Here’s what the inside looks like:

This is the kind of stuff that just lives in the kitchen in junk drawers, no matter if you have a separate office or not. Stuff just happens in the kitchen. Now there’s a little place for it. And it made for an obvious place to finally hang a calendar so now I feel so much more organized.

So it’s kind of a little command area that worked right into what I already had in there. That bookshelf is a workhorse, PS. Calendar on one side, books, plants and kitchen supplies, and the other side holds my cute apron collection:

Apron close-up {this girl doesn’t get to take photos in morning lighting too often, indulge me!}

A final view of the whole dining area, with my pretty new desk:

Woop! One post down. Promise to be back with more soon!

September organizing project recap

Wow, happy October!

Here’s a recap of September’s organizing project list. A few are spilling over into October, which is ok with me – lots of things cropped up on me {of course}.

  1. Create a go-to list of 20 easy, healthy, frugal, vegetarian meals, to hang in the pantry.
  2. Start my gardening notebook.
  3. Streamline the ol’ bag collection in the trunk of my car. How many reusable bags does a girl need?
  4. Come up with a composting system. Inside and outside.
  5. Find a local tire place and oil change place. Take care of necessary business, and write in my planner when it should be done again!
  6. Ditto on haircut, dentist, doctor, etc. Create a reminder system and put contact info in address book and phone.
  7. Clean out my car. Glove boxes and everything. I didn’t vacuum her out yet, so not done. Though it’s de-junkified.
  8. Find a way to organize coupons so I actually have them with me (I have the cutting them out part down – haha).
  9. Create a “landing strip” in the laundry room (where we enter from the garage).
  10. Organize the year’s photos so far. Back up all to hard drive. Put it on calendar to do this every 3 months.
  11. Make a list of Christmas gifts I will need to start planning for, and jotting down ideas.
  12. Get my recycling under control! (can you believe we don’t have curbside pickup???)
  13. Organize the garage with the hubby’s help. This is going to be a huge ordeal.
  14. Organize the painting supplies and leftover paint. {Ended up loaning out our painting supplies to my brother, so this will be a project when we get them back}
  15. Tidy up the basement. There’s not much down there but it’s willy-nilly.
  16. Cull the closet.
  17. Come up with at least 10 nice work outfits. {Started but not finished. I ordered some clothes so it’s all in if they make it to me (FedEx lost them) and if I like them when they get here.. I really hate shopping.}
  18. Organize dog stuff. Fail.
  19. Organize the office closet/office supplies. Started but not finished.
  20. Find a solution for storing gift wrap. Fail.
  21. Make a memo board for the office. Fail.
  22. Organize the file cabinet.
  23. Organize recipes. Sort through cookbooks!
  24. Organize the freezers.
  25. Create a cleaning schedule.
  26. Create a workout schedule for the next 30 days (with the intention of doing this monthly).
  27. Organize kitchen sink area. This is going to require some help and some online shopping for what I need.. yet to do.
  28. Put a clock in the living room.
  29. Prioritize home to-do projects. I did a budget instead and determined that we need to be done with all house projects for a while! I did jot down some things to do this winter which can be done on the super cheap, however.
  30. Prioritize yard to-do projects.

Of you super organized types – do you feel truly organized or do you just appear that way? Because I honestly feel like although everything’s in its place and things look tidy, I never feel like I truly have a handle on life. I have no problems doing the work to invent a system, but keeping it is another story entirely. Maybe I focus on too many things and too many systems? Forget to leave room for incidentals? Take on too much because I can’t say no? This probably deserves some thought…

office closet cleanout

I was a cleaning and organizing MACHINE this weekend. Just in time, too, cuz I am feeling like I might be coming down with something today. Uhoh!

Welp, here’s one of the completely gratifying projects I took on this weekend. The office closet. Yuck. It became the landing place for old phones, cords, boxes, etc. I’d actually taken many boxes away for recycling before the “before” picture because I wasn’t planning on posting anything when I first began. Anyway. Here is the unsightly before shot – ACK!:

On the right there are my old prom dresses and a couple bridesmaid dresses. Really. I just haven’t been able to part with them for some reason! So finally I created a “costume box” for all my weird stuff like this, crazy shoes I can’t wear except maybe for an hour as part of a costume. It’s tucked away in the crawl space now by the Halloween junk, yay!

I took out everything and sorted away. More cords and such to send to Green Disk. I grouped things together in plastic drawers, like the million notepads I found:

Here’s the after:

That blue bin on top of the drawers is stuff for recycling so the day I round it all up I can just collect from the office, too.

One more shot. Ahh. I love opening these doors and admiring my work. (:

another office makeover

I wanted to post a little teaser.

Thanks to hubby, our formerly spring-green office got a bit of a makeover this weekend. {Not that I didn’t totally love the green. It’s just that change is good.} Here’s a semi-recent before shot:

Here is a {tiny} sneak peak for ya… I can’t reveal much until things are back in place and I spruce up the room a bit more!

new work space.

Totally digging my new craft room/office.

I finally came to terms with the fact that I’m not the crafty gal I want to be. I just don’t have the time. Sure, I whip up a pillow or a pair of earrings occasionally. But I do not need a room devoted to crafting. {Thus the craft-room-slash-office}. Last weekend I delved into dejunking and realized that with some sorting, I didn’t even need a whole room devoted to storing stuff for crafting. In my weekend quest for Zen, I tossed clothing, books, magazines, files, gadgets, etc. I sorted and labeled and tossed, asked friends to take some of it and donated the rest. I didn’t want my dejunking euphoria to end there so I decided to spruce up my little blue craft room now that much of the extraneous junk was gone.

Here’s a “during” picture…  all that junk is no longer cluttering up my house:

before craft room

It’s the planning part I like so much.

1. I jotted down a list of all the things I do in this room. It included: school stuff {studying, writing, research}, paying bills/budgeting, blogging/photo editing/other computer stuff, planning/list making, ironing my clothing, wrapping gifts, storing things temporarily {such as gifts to give, things to donate, etc}, craft projects {sewing, jewelry making, scrapbooking, painting}.

2. The room needed: a decent place to study and work, a surface I can clear off to make room for craft projects, a system to store a mishmash of random functional objects, a place to tack up pictures and lists and things to remember.

3. But I wanted it all to look pretty and cohesive. I decided to bring the room together with a neutral, unifying color. {I loved that blue but nothing matched it.} Store random seldom-used things {which includes craft supplies, sadly} and focus on usable surfaces for often-used things {like my camera accessories and school/office supplies}.

4. I set out with a shopping list: paint, a filing cabinet, a desk lamp, a small tray or basket for bills, and a bulletin board. {I ended up with a few other items but scrimped on the filing cabinet in favor of a basket large enough to fit file folders.}My budget was $150, and I spent just under that. Everything else I used to accessorize I pulled from other areas of the house or spray painted things I had in storage. {the bulletin board, mirror with the scrolly thingies, and little square picture from all got a few coats of glossy white spray paint this weekend.}

Here’s the after. {Please excuse the cords and other poor styling. I am no set designer.} That paint is a Martha Stewart color called Midlands Gray.

office 1

Table-turned-desk is pimped out with some photo boxes I already had used now to store iPod and camera accessories. That little basket contains little notebooks, thumb drives and other stuff I need frequently. The “k” mug was a steal ($2) at T.J. Maxx. I heart monograms. Pharmacy desk lamp from Target.

office 2

This little bulletin board is perfect for sticking pictures I like, notes and ideas all in one place.

office 4

As for the craft supplies… they are hidden in the dresser, as is all my gift wrapping supplies. The big stuff (batting, fabric stacks, yarn skeins) are boxed up in the closet. And the other side of the room is pretty boring… maybe some curtains are in order? I can’t decide. But… I like it for now. =)

office 5