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A Weekend of DIY

Usually when I think of DIY, I think of crafting.  We don’t do huge home renovations or make furniture from scratch around here.  Most of what I do myself is small craft and organizing projects around the home.  Last weekend, we must have been in the mood for a little more robust DIY at our house–or the impending cold snap spurred us on, but we did tackle a few projects around the house that we had been putting off and that we intended to DIY.  For each one of these projects, I did consider hiring someone to do it for us, but they appeared to be fairly simple in nature (or at least that’s what I was told) and we would definitely save money by doing it ourselves.

1)  Fix winter coat.  This one really was fairly minor and something I really thought I could DIY by myself.  My winter coat has snap buttons on it and the top two buttons broke.  One side totally fell off and the other got smooshed (technical term) enough on the inside that the snap would no longer snap.  The time I would need to go buy supplies and then fix the coat let me to seriously consider just buying a new coat, but I really liked this one and it really was just two snaps.  I also considered going to a seamstress to have them done, but that would probably be a little pricey.  But, I also knew that in the long run it probably made more sense for me to just make the time to do the repair myself.  So instead, I headed to a chain fabric store and relied on the expertise of the fabric counter employee to know way more than I did on how to go about replacing my snaps.  She showed me the wall’o’fastners, recommended the heavy duty snaps, and helped me find ones that matched fairly well with the ones on my coat, though not exactly.  She also showed me the “tools” I would need to purchase to attach them to my coat.

I honestly wish I had taken pictures of this process, but I did it after we did project #2 listed below (and once you read about it, you will understand why I just didn’t have it in me).  The person at the fabric store warned me that the hardest part of this whole process would be getting the original snaps off–because if you tear the fabric–game over.  I grabbed a pair of needle nose like jewelry pliers and set to work.  It wasn’t as hard as advertised, but the smaller side of one snap set was a total booger and ended up coming through the hole after being smashed instead of actually separating into two pieces.  Thankfully, the fabric wasn’t damaged.  The actual hardest part was figuring out the directions–of which there was one small picture on the back of the tool kit.  The trouble is there are 4 pieces to the snap set–two for each side which look remarkably similar to each other.  The picture doesn’t give you very detailed instructions on which goes with which side or even how to insert the items into the little tool!  Youtube even failed me!  The video I watched didn’t give a close up enough shot of the pieces for me to tell them apart.  I finally found something remotely helpful on a random website and attempted to attach the parts.  Before I realized I had one of the items flipped upside down, I ruined about 2 sets of snaps.

This above picture of the parts would have been incredibly helpful when I was wrestling with the coat, but of course I just find it now. Hopefully, this will benefit someone else. Note, the cap also has a post on the other side. This post goes through the fabric. Then, you place the socket onto the post so the fabric is in between and the socket looks more like a bowl (as pictured)  Then, you use the tool to smoosh down the post to hold the socket in place. I did the same thing with the stud on the other side as I wanted the cap look on the outside portion of both sides of the coat.  One tip here, use the tool on a solid surface like concrete as you have to hammer on them and you wouldn’t want to mark up a table or counter.

2)  Replace pulleys and belt in dryer.  Our dryer was making a horrible squeaking noise when it was running, and the guy at the appliance repair store said it sounded like our belts and pulleys needed replacing.  Since our dryer still functioned ok otherwise, we didn’t see the need to actually replace the entire dryer.  So, I grabbed a bag of the parts and brought them home–in July.  We finally got around to getting them installed (because life is just life sometimes) last weekend.  The appliance repair store guy assured me we could do it on our own just by simply watching a YouTube video–we just needed to search for belt replacement for our type of dryer.  Who knew they had so many home appliance repair videos!  I tackled this DIY with the hubby, and I am so glad I did.  There is no way I could have done this one on my own.

New Dryer Repair Kit ER4392065 for Whirlpool 4392065 80046 8106 8237 8238

This is what came in our kit. I think the hardest part to reattach were the tiny little plastic triangles–breaking them would be very easy to do and very, very bad.

Here’s a few things I learned.  First, it was definitely less expensive for us to replace the parts ourselves than to have a service call or to buy a new machine.  Second, if you are going to watch a YouTube video on how to do something, you may want to watch some of it before you begin.  Third, if your dryer is older (ours is about 12 years old), then chances are it needs cleaned in a big way.  We basically had to take the thing apart to get the new parts installed, and we were AMAZED by all of the lint that was lurking everywhere in the dryer and loose change under the drum (no lost socks surprisingly).  We vacuumed and cleaned everything out and even removed the back panel and the dryer lint chute to clean things up.  I am so thankful we did this, because it was a definite hazard.  We are hoping that the new parts and thorough cleaning will equal better dry times and more efficiency.  We already have lost the squeaky noise!  Note:  This process took us a few hours, because we had to take several areas apart a few times as we found even more places that needed vacuumed or in one instance a screw fell down and under a part we had already reattached.

The appliance repair store is the same one that helped us when I replaced the fabric softener cup in our washing machine.

3)  Prior to and right after fixing the dryer, I cleaned the carpets in our two main living areas (one room before and one after).  My mom gave us her carpet cleaner when she moved to an apartment, and we use it quite regularly.  About every six months, I break out the machine and clean the main living areas of our home.  As a young couple without children, when we built our house, we selected light grey carpet.  I’m not sure if I would make the same choice today, but doing regular cleanings certainly helps maintain the light color.  In between, we spot clean with Woolite carpet spray.  The whole process takes about an hour to complete, and my right arm is a little sore afterwards, because the machine is heavy, but I can always see a noticeable difference right away, especially in the heavy traffic areas.


If you add up the cost of a new dryer or a service call, carpet cleaning for two main floor areas, and the cost of a new coat, in one day we saved several hundred dollars with a few hours of time and a little DIY elbow grease.  What have you chosen to DIY instead of buy or hire a service for?

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Re-Post: My Top 7 Organizing Tips

As  I shared last week, this month I am tackling a few other writing projects, so in order to keep the momentum going, I am re-posting some of my favorite posts here and there.  Any time I organize these tips go through my head to help me stay on the right track.

Want to start getting organized–or want to become more organized?  After reading a ton of organization books over the last year, attending an organization seminar this summer, and living through my own organization journey, I have come up with these Top 7 Tips.

1) PURGE–be realistic.  What do you actually need/use.  Donate what you can (though you may not be able to with some products), throw away what is broken or damaged, and put misplaced items where they truly belong (especially if it is in another room).  For sentimental items, figure out why they are sentimental.  Can you take a picture of the it and hold onto that memory just as well, would someone else love it more than you, are you keeping it out of obligation?  A yes to any of these questions means let it go.  Do you or someone in your house use it frequently or love it dearly?  If yes, keep it, but find a way to organize it better so it doesn’t cause you stress.  Some people call this de-cluttering.  I like the word purge–because it helps you eliminate and cleanse your space opening it up to new possibilities.  (Eliminate and cleanse are both synonyms for purge…)

2) Think about where you are most likely to reach for/use items…and put them there.  Seems logical, but that’s not always what we do.  We put it where it might look best, but not where it would work best.  If you find yourself constantly looking for things, you are losing valuable time every day.  Place items where they make the most sense and make sure they get back there each and every time.

3)  Use storage containers that make sense and fit your space.  Do not buy everything you think you need right away.  Chances are you’ll end up returning something (or in my case reusing it somewhere else).  For that matter, before you run out and buy something, look around your house to see what you already own that you could possibly re-purpose.  If you do need to buy something, do some research to check out the possibilities first–buying on a whim can create more clutter and stress.  And be sure to measure!  You want containers that will fit.

4)  Use labels when you can.  This helps you (and your family) get things back to their home location (which you established in step 2).  If you don’t have a laminator or label maker–no problem.  Print out or hand write your label and use clear box tape as your laminate.  Or buy sticky labels from the store to write on or run through your printer.

5)  Make it visually appealing for you.  Having a pretty space can help relax you and lower stress.  It is much more pleasant to cook, get ready in the morning, or do paper work in a pretty space than a drab one–and an organized, uncluttered one for that matter.  At least I think so.

6)  Do not get overwhelmed.  You will not be able to organize your whole life in one day, week, or month.  Organization is a process that takes time, but does not have to be time consuming.  Many people don’t have an entire day to devote to organizing a room of their house, but they might be able to find 15 minutes each day to tackle one part of one room.  For example, break your kitchen up into sections (pantry, lower cabinets, upper cabinets, drawers, fridge, etc.) or your bedroom into sections (dresser, closet top, closet bottom, night stand, under bed, etc.).  Once you’ve finished everything in one room, move onto another.  I’ve heard tackling the most annoying problem area first is best, but I’ve also heard getting easier tasks out of the way is better, both for the same reason.  They give you a sense of accomplishment.  Pick which one you think would be best for YOU and go with it.  Once you have finished a room or space, move on to the next.  But, have a plan.  Decide what order to do things in and when–schedule it in your calendar if you need to.  By having a plan, you are more likely to finish your project, because you know exactly what you want to accomplish in that space and will not wander around from room to room only partially starting/finishing things.

7)  Realize that you will probably make changes.  It can take multiple tries to get something the way it will work best.  Chances are you may still make small changes as you get older and your life changes.  Be open to that possibility.  And, if something isn’t working the way you thought it would, change it.  So the organizational tool/system you thought would work best didn’t.  Big deal.  Do not think of this as a failure.  You’re just implementing system 2.0.  Don’t be afraid to try again!  You know more now than you did the first time and chances are you’ll get it closer to right this next time.  Plus, I’ve found that organization is fluid process that is never truly “done,” because our lives are changing all the time and our systems should therefore change too.


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Thanks and Giving as We Enter the Long Holiday Season

For parts of the month of November, I will be reposting some of my favorite posts from the past years.  I am working on a few other writing projects, and I want to devote some clear time to them.  That being said, I think all of these posts are worth a second (or for many of you a first) look.  There will be NEW posts sprinkled throughout as well.  Hope you enjoy some of my blasts from the past.

This was originally posted the Fall of 2013.  I am adjusting the time frames to fit this year and update how we are changing some things this year.

A few years ago, we decided our kiddo needed a healthy dose of thanks and thoughtfulness (something that seems to be necessary more than once in a lifetime for all of us–not just kids).  It is easy for kids to get wrapped up in the “I want” mentality of having new toys, games, etc. this time of year.  The toy ads for Target and Toys R Us have already landed in our mailbox and thankfully we can avoid commercials most of the time as we do not subscribe to cable TV.  It can be difficult for kids to really understand and appreciate what they do have and realize that giving back to others can be just as rewarding.

This all started two years ago when my daughter and I created our very own 25 days of giving for the month of December.  I made a list of ways we could give back to others, and we did one every day leading up to and including Christmas.  I tried my best to make it cute and wrote out the activities in the form of a pine tree instead of a list and included a fun holiday border around the outside.  I then placed the list in a class fronted frame, and we were able to check off our activities every day.  This past year the kiddo got super into crossing the items off our list, because she could use various colors of dry erase marker which made it look festive.  Some of our items were scheduled for certain days/times and some were done randomly.  It was really rewarding for both of us, I think.  My daughter got really into some of the ideas, and some of them changed a bit throughout the month.  For example, our trip to the local Humane Society to drop off food and old towels led to us adopting a kitten the next day.  We gave an animal in need a new home!  I think that was her favorite act of giving over all.

This is this kitty we rescued last year during our Days of Giving.  He's not really kitten sized anymore.

This is this kitty we rescued last year during our Days of Giving. He’s not really kitten sized anymore.

Last year, I wanted to go one step further.  Our kiddo is really thoughtful when it comes to other people, but she sometimes forgets to be thankful for what she already has or for the people/experiences in her life.  To help with this, I also decided we needed to do days of thanks.  The past couple of years, I have seen people post what they are thankful for on social media like Facebook each day leading up to Thanksgiving.  While that doesn’t really work so great for a young one, I love the concept.  We just needed to change the way it was shared.  My kiddo loves crafts and colorful crafts especially, so I thought we could make something festive together that would easily include our messages of thanks.

Starting November 1st, we will begin our 28 days of thanks.  Every day, she tells me one thing she is thankful for–and every day has to be different.  To display her items, I thought it would be fun to use a turkey and write the thankful items on its feathers.  To do so, I used a turkey cut out from brown construction paper and cut out four feathers each from seven different colors of paper.  I wrote, “I am thankful for” on the turkey’s belly and each feather will say “what she is thankful for.”  Last year she picked out the feather color and item of thanks each day, and then after I wrote it down, we glued it on the turkey.  We did have a bit of trouble fitting all 28 large feathers on the turkey last year.  This year, I think we will do a double row with smaller feathers.  I am also going to have her write down the item she is thankful for on the front to practice her writing, and I will write the because on the back.  The “because” is the important part as it makes her really think about why that item is important to her.

In a moment of inspiration last year, I decided it would be more fun if our turkey stood up on a table or counter instead of being attached to a wall or the refrigerator.  I used two toilet paper rolls I had been about to recycle as a stand for the turkey by gluing them to the back.  This wasn’t terribly sturdy, so I am going to try and do something a little stronger this year.  In the picture below you can see where we added the first two feathers last year.  Coming up with 28 items (we’re going to do the day after Thanksgiving this year too) to be thankful for with no repeats sounds daunting, but she did a great job (with a little coaching).  She picked some items that were present all the time (like our family members or cats) and some things that happened to go on that day or week.  I cannot wait to see what she chooses every day and see our turkey proudly displayed for Thanksgiving dinner.

Here is our turkey on day two!

2013 Turkey

Turkey 2.0.  I took a lid to a shoebox and covered it in wrapping paper. I am hoping the lid gives the turkey a bit more stability and we can either lean it up against the wall in the kitchen or hang it up without too much fuss.  After the lid was covered, I taped the turkey to the box. We also gave him a beak, waddle, and eye this year by gluing scraps of paper left over from the feathers either on top of or behind the turkey. The feathers are the same shape as last year, just a bit smaller. We will make two rows of 14 when all is said and done. Not sure why the color came out weird, but it’s the same construction paper as the picture above.

2014 Turkey

2014 Turkey

Since Thanksgiving is so late this year, we might take the last few days of November off to prep ourselves for our 25 days of giving.  Each year I have tried to adjust the list to reflect our lives for the current year–for example we had to change preschool giving activities over to elementary school activities.  Below is a picture of our list from last year as it stands now, though it is a work in progress for this year. I did ask for input on our activities from the kiddo last year, and will do so again.  Since they are things we do together, I want to make sure they are meaningful to her too.  One thing to keep in mind is that your 25 Days of Giving doesn’t mean 25 days of giving away money.  Many of the items on our list do not cost a thing for us monetarily, but they still matter.  If your budget is tight, you could very easily create a “no cost” 25 Days of Giving list.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea.  A link to the .PDF is below.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea. A link to the .PDF is below.

25 Days of Giving

I am really excited about both our days of thanks and our days of giving.  Not only do they really reinforce character traits we want our daughter to have, but we are able to share such wonderful experiences together that I really believe we are given a gift too.  No matter how cheesy that sounds, I am truly happy to kick off our holiday season by acknowledging the blessings in our life and sharing kindness with others.

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