One man’s treasure, trashed.

Mid Century Modern Basement with Bar

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

I went to an estate sale this morning.  I’d never been to one before, but the craigslist ad said there would be pink pyrex there.  I’m wanting a set of pink Cinderella bowls, so my husband and I went to breakfast then stood in line for the sale.

It was a small mid-century house, which had never been remodeled or redecorated.  So it was filled with mid century modern furniture and decor.

We were the only people in line who were not dealers, all of whom were looking for specific types of items.

The first young lady in line has an etsy shop for vintage clothing.
The second one wanted the starburst clock.
The next several people were furniture dealers.
Then us.
Then the lady who was a pyrex dealer.  She got the only two pieces that were available.  I was looking in upper cabinets, while she was moving quickly through the lower ones, where they were.  They were casserole dishes, not the bowls I’d wanted, so I wasn’t disappointed.

The interesting part of the morning was the wait in line before the doors opened, listening to the dealers.

Some were quite pragmatic.  They tended to be the older ones.

Conversation Pit, Modern Decor

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

The younger ones – mid to late twenties, I’d guess – were more idealistic.  They were lamenting how often older people ruined mid century furniture.  Original owners and their children committed such travesties as drilling holes to refit pieces for new technology and – gasp – painting the wood.

I just listened, amused.

I grew up in a mid century home, with mid century modern furniture.  Many of my neighbors had it, too.  When it went out of style, it was sold at garage sales, given to Goodwill, or – gasp – painted.

When my parents moved to a new colonial style house, very little of the mid-mod stuff was kept, including the starburst clock.

Mid Century Modern Living Room

photo credit: ooh_food via photopin cc

Maybe it takes a decade of adulthood to realize that there is a difference between collecting things and living with them.

Or maybe it takes becoming a parent.

When you live with your stuff, you get tired of it, or it no longer suits your needs, and you either replace it or remake it.  In the meantime, your kids bang up the tables, spill things on sofa, and leave dripping cups on everything.  It’s called life, and, yes, sometimes it ruins the furniture.

I have some old furniture, things that belonged to my grandmother, things that are not really my style but which I love anyway.  Although I wish they were in better condition, I look at them and see generations of people who cared more about their family than their stuff.

I am keeping up a fine tradition, then, even if one day collectors will turn up their noses at everything in my house.


What is the opposite of a hoarder?

What is the opposite of a hoarder?

A de-clutter-er?  A simplifier?  Minimalist?

That’s what I am.  I enjoy getting rid of stuff as much as I enjoy getting stuff.  Sometimes more.

Last week, I gave half a trunk load of stuff to the ARC.  I would have given more, but I honestly could not find anything else that I don’t actually use or wear or love.  And I tried.

I perpetually feel like my spaces are cluttered, but the truth is they are  barely accessorized.  The clutter is, quite simply, papers that need to be filed or tossed, books that need to be put away, and shoes and nylabones all over the place.

Because I am a de-clutter-er, not a clean freak.

Teddy Bears?  According to my mom, they were just Dust Collectors.I think the two are related.  One of my objections to decorative items is that they require dusting.  This might be rooted in a childhood in which my mother referred to stuffed animals as “dust collectors.”

I’m not sure why dust on toys was worse than the dust on our end tables, lamps, and everything else.  It just was.

I don’t even know why this anti-dusting mindset is still with me.  Dusting is easy; I do it every week.  It’s not like scrubbing the shower doors or cleaning grout.  Or cleaning horizontal blinds.

I should really stop looking at things and imagining the bother of dusting them and decorate my home.  I should also throw away the stack of veterinary receipts and coupons I will never use.

I’ll get on that right after I search the closets for more things to give away.

Perhaps I’m not so much a minimalist as lazy.

This is more like what I had in mind.

I did not even make it all day yesterday.  I repainted the canvases after lunch.  Then I touched them up some more before going to bed.

Here is the result:

DIY Ocean Abstracts Improved

And the first attempt:

Craft Fail: DIY Ocean Abstracts

Once again, keep in mind that the wall behind them is a pale blue grey.  Even with lights and flash on, I’m not getting true colours in my photographs.

I like the sky better, and the overall colours better, but I think the ocean isn’t quite right.  It seems less friendly than the first ocean.  I think I can live with it, though.  If not, I’ll let you know.  (What do you think?  Is the ocean too brooding?)

I used the same paints, but I watered them down with white and/or navy blue to neutralize them a bit.  I also blended them together more in the pie tin, so the effect isn’t as striped-y.

And, just because she hasn’t appeared on the blog recently, here is Trixie, engaged in part of her morning routine:  checking for chips or crumbs that may have been dropped after she went to bed last night.

How to paint an ocean abstract

This is not exactly what I had in mind.

When my husband is away, I like to surprise him by accomplishing household tasks I’ve been avoiding but not mentioning.  Not every time, because that would ruin the element of surprise.  Just sometimes.

Since he was away this week, I listed the dining set on craigslist, but nobody bought it.  So I decided yesterday afternoon to paint the canvases I’d bought a year ago.

I don’t know anything about painting, but acrylic craft paint was on sale 3/$1, so I bought $2 worth of blues and a yellow.  I had the vague idea that I could paint big splotchedy stripes of blues which would somehow look like water.  Or sky.  Or both.

So I spent way too long looking at paint under fluorescent lights, wondering if they’d look at all similar in my basement, getting annoyed with how indecisive I was, and finally just buying the ones that caught my eye.

Once home, I slapped them on the canvas.

Craft Fail:  DIY Ocean Abstracts

I wish they actually looked like this, but they are much more lurid in person.

As I went along, I realized that I should have listened to my artist friend Lillian.  Quality matters.  The paint brushes I was using were shedding, sprinkling the canvas with what looked like eyelashes. Hundreds of eyelashes.

Also, one of the canvases warped like a cookie tray in a hot oven as I was painting.  I thought it would flatten back out when the paint dried, but it didn’t.  This is what you get for $6.

If you think brush lashes can be easily wiped up, you are wrong.  The paint comes up, but the lash stays put.  I used tweezers to remove the larger, more noticeable ones, and decided the rest added texture.  I’m not a perfectionist.

Which is good, because I swear, these blues looked totally different when they were horizontal on a table.  Or maybe they looked different when wet, because they were not this lurid when I was plucking the lashes off them.

I was aiming for peaceful and soothing, and this is not it.

Craft Fail!  Ocean Abstracts

This gives a better idea of how insanely bright the “art” is.

This might be more of a surprise than I intended for my husband.  More surprising than coming home and finding no place to sit down and eat your dinner.

The wall also looks slightly purple behind them in comparison.  What bothers me most is that my theory that all blues look fine together has totally fallen apart.

What should I do?  I’m debating starting over or trying to fix them.  Could they be fixed?  What if I tried to tone them down by painting over them with watered down white?  Or tinting modpodge for a glaze – the reverse of cleaning the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, when we discovered how vivid and bright the colours were under the years of grime?

I think years of grime would improve this Craft Fail.

I did line them up nicely on the wall, though.  I’m not totally inept, even if I wasted $14.

How buying a pillow makes me want to knock down walls.

Trixie cares more about pillows than kitchen cabinets.This week, I bought new covers for some throw pillows and restuffed the others in the basement family room.

Within 24 hours I went from looking at furniture on craigslist to researching the feasibility of cutting a sofa down to loveseat size so I could eliminate the main level family room and have more seating in the living room.  Then I could revert that family room to a giant eat in kitchen, and eliminate the dining room.

I’m not sure what I would do with the dining room then.  Perhaps a conservatory?  Flowers would do a lot to get me through the long brown winters.

Am I the only one who spirals out of control like this?

I don’t despise my home, but it’s not the most efficient use of space.  More accurately, it has a lack of space for things I need (storage, bedrooms) and too much space I don’t (three rooms with sofas).

Now that it is looking like I will not be moving within the next few years, all the things I’ve been ignoring for the past couple are grating on my nerves.

I’ve lived in this house for ten years.  That is significantly longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my adult life.

It was easy for me to overlook the faults in houses when I knew I’d be gone soon.  Ten years has given me a lot of time to mull over what I don’t like.  My bathroom, for example.

I’ve been ready for a change for the past five years.  Now I’m at the point where I stare at walls and think, “If I’m not going anywhere, maybe I could move that wall.”

It’s crazy talk.  I haven’t the budget for it.  (And, frankly, if I did, I’d use the money for a nice, long vacation instead.)

My budget is new covers for the throw pillows.

They do look nice, and Trixie seems to find them comfortable.  It’s enough.  For now.

Five Secrets to a Cleaner House

Keeping a house clean and tidy is a lot of work, but it can be made easier by following a few simple “secrets.”  Because I like you, I’m willing to share mine with you.  If you follow them, your house will always be company ready.

Here are my Five Secrets to a Cleaner House:

5 Secrets to a Clean House:  #1 Do Not Have Pets1.  Do not allow pets in your home.  They shed.  They smell.  They destroy things.  Dogs bring in mud and dirt from outside, and cats climb all over everything.  Things will get scratched, spilled, bashed, chewed, dinged, and dirtied if you allow pets.  Do not be tempted to bring in small mammals or birds, either.  They might not track mud through the kitchen, but they stink.

Five Secrets to a Clean House:  #2 Do Not Have Children2.  Do not allow children in your home.  They are 100% worse than pets.  Not only do they leave a trail of dirt and destruction in their wake, they don’t even have the decency to look ashamed when you point it out to them.  Children come with a lot of stuff.  It will be all over your house.

Five Secrets for a Clean House:  #3 Do Not Let Men Use Your Bathroom3.  Do not ever allow any man to use your bathroom.  I read once that in France people do not use the toilet at other people’s homes.  It’s considered rude.  I would not be surprised to hear that French women simply don’t allow men to use the indoor facilities at all.  It would explain a lot.

5 Secrets to a Clean House:  #4 Do Not Cook4.  Do not cook at home.  Bring home take out if you must, but if you want your stove and countertops to stay clean, no home cooked meals.  Do not own a microwave.  They are clutter and disperse odors into the air.  If you have leftovers, eat them cold.  Try not to have them, though, because cleaning the refrigerator is a chore.  Actually, buy as little food as possible, and you won’t have to worry about stinky trash cans, either.

5 Secrets to a Clean House:  #5 Only Sleep at Home.5.  Only sleep at home.  If you work all day and eat out, you should only have a couple hours at home when you are awake.  If you insist on staying home to “relax” on weekends, do not engage in messy hobbies.  Watch a bit of tv, read my blog, and resist the urge to start a project that you know you will not finish.

If, like me, you’ve ignored all these tips, accept that you are not the tidiest woman on earth, and your home would still be slightly disheveled, but not nearly as happy, if you eliminated the cause of every mess.

If you love to clean, you are welcome to come over for a “visit.”  I’ve been avoiding scrubbing the horizontal blinds for way too long.

My childhood home

My childhood home, by Levitt & Sons

This was the home of my childhood.*  Stereotypical of mid century suburbia, it was built by Levitt & Sons, in a planned community with matching street names, walking distance schools, and children everywhere.

At about 1500 square feet, it never felt small to us kids, and we certainly knew bigger families than ours living in the same house.

My sister and I shared the room in the front right corner.  In my memory, it was big.  Our matching twin canopy beds and dressers left plenty of floor space for laying out Barbie homes and villages.  Carefully building a house for each Barbie and her family was a day long process for my sister and me, and, once built, we’d leave them up for days on end.

Years later, my husband and I looked at homes in the Levitt community.  Like a nostalgic character in a movie, I was surprised at how small the houses were compared to my memories.  More than that, though, I was struck by how practical these houses were.

There was less redundancy in these homes, no matching living and family rooms.  The family room labeled above was where everyone placed their kitchen table and chairs.  We only used our dining room for holidays and company, but I knew larger families who used theirs regularly.

Not a fan of the McMansions which dominate the housing landscape today, this appeals to me, but I know the original homeowners did not all feel that way.

Many people converted those garages to living space.  Others, like my parents, built an addition off the kitchen. Nobody really wanted their children’s toys strewn about the living room, so these rooms were called playrooms or rec rooms.

They quickly became family rooms, leaving the living room as a show room, and children were still not allowed to leave toys laying about.

When I was eleven, my parents moved to a larger home, a newly constructed traditional colonial style which better suited my mother’s tastes, and, foremost in my mind, allowed my sister and I to have our own bedrooms.

My mom still lives in that house, or, rather, she lives in three of its rooms.  I wish she lived in this more manageable one, but she likes having the extra space when her children and grandchildren come to visit.

Levitt & Sons Rancher, Bowie, Maryland

*The closet configuration in our house was slightly different than in this rendering.  The laundry room was only accessible through the garage, and there was no side door in the garage.  The living room had a fireplace between the two windows, but there was no door or window in the dining room.  Other than those small differences, the floor plan is accurate.  Our house was not brick like the one in the advertisement; brick cost extra.

What was your childhood home like?

Am I the pot or the kettle?

Small kindnesses and small irritants can make or break a day or a mood.  I know that.  Why don’t I remember it more often?

Laundry is my favorite household task.  (In other words, I hate most housework, and merely don’t mind laundry.)  For the first too many years of my marriage, every time I would take the laundry out of the hamper, I’d grumble to myself about my husband’s balled up socks and rolled up sleeves.  “Why is he so inconsiderate?  It only takes a minute to unroll things before tossing them in the hamper.  Can’t he do this one little thing?”

KETTLEYears of that went by until I finally thought, “It only takes a minute for me to unroll them, too, so why do I fuss about it so much?  Am I that self-centered?  I can’t spare a minute?”

Pot, meet Kettle.

I decided to look on the unrolling of sleeves and socks as a kindness on my part instead of an irritant, and after a while, I found that it truly didn’t bother me anymore.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of other things that I still allow to irritate me, like dirty dishes unwashed or shoes not put away.

Like most people, I overestimate my own positive contributions, and overlook my own shortcomingsBlack kojoko teapot I see the mess of stuff my family leaves laying around the house, but my eyes gloss over my stack of unsorted papers.  I wonder why my daughter won’t replace a roll of toilet paper, while I put off going out to buy her school supplies.

Kettle, meet Pot.

Sometimes it feels like the only thing I get better at over the years is recognizing my own hypocrisy.

What little kindnesses have you experienced lately?

Before my husband left for his trip, he brought home individual Fage yogurts for my breakfasts and Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey for my evenings.  I’ll start and end every day this week thinking about how loved I am, and I’ll wonder why I ever let those stupid shoes bother me.

How to drive your family crazy, Christmas edition.

In case you want to know…

Rearrange your mantel, or some other highly visible area (focal point:  the experts call them focal points) to an asymmetrical display.

I decided to take down a picture from my mantel and give it a more Christmas-y look.  Nothing fancy.  I like things simple.  I moved the candlesticks, and painted a blue backdrop for the stocking holders.  My daughter drew and cut the star.  Simple.

My daughter, my husband, my eldest son all  – independently of one another – told me that the blue board should be horizontal.  Or moved on center.  They flipped the board to show me what they meant.  I assured them that my choice was intentional.

My husband readily accepted that I’d achieved more or less the look I wanted, and moved on to other things.

My eldest, who strongly dislikes asymmetry, rearranged it several ways, showing me layouts he found less jarring.  One of his arrangements was rather nice, and I did agree that a wider blue board would have been better, but this was a zero cost project.  I’m not going out to buy a bigger backdrop.  (The blue board is a piece of foamboard that was purchased and not used a couple years ago, painted with leftover navy blue paint.)

My daughter, after seeing the star in place, asked, “What are you going to do with all that negative space?”  I told her I was going to leave it negative.  Her eyes widened in horror.  She likes to fill in all blank spaces.  Her bedroom is evidence of this.  I told her that I want uncluttered, so the eye would go to the star, then to the tiny nativity below.  She remains dubious.

I’m waiting to see if my youngest son says anything about it when he gets in later this week.

You can’t tell in the photo, but the star is glittery.  I am tempted to take a can of white spray paint to the stocking holders, but I’m undecided on that.

What do you think?  Honest opinions, please.  Would my mantle drive you crazy?