Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Decrapification - The Laundry Closet

I don't have a large luxurious mud/laundry room in my house.  It was one of those things I wasn't crazy about when we bought the home, but I was willing to live with.  The problem with having a teeny closet to store your washer and dryer in is that there is not much space for storage, and with it being right in the kitchen a lot of stuff tends to just haphazardly get thrown in there. 

So, I've been really wanting to organize my home, and it started in the fall with my medicine cabinet, but with the Holidays I got thrown off track. I've been reading Beneath My Heart, and her and her sister who blogs are doing a series "Organize your heart and home."  She inspired me this week to go ahead and clean out that laundry closet. 

I've been meaning to pull out the washer and dryer for a while now. We had a massive washing machine leak several months back that flooded our den. We ended up having to pull out all the carpet and get new carpet. I had this sinking feeling that there also may be water damage behind my washer and dryer, so it was time to pull it out and inspect it while I was cleaning back there.  I searched the internet for inspiration on storage and ideas and ran across this from Fine Home Building:
SIGH.  Someday my husband WILL build me this.  But this year we are getting out of debt, and this year is not the time for large projects.  It did however give me some ideas on how I wanted to store items.

So, I started with this mess that you see here (that is my little one eating breakfast.  She is such a cutie pie):

Next, I yanked everything out of the closet and either tossed in the garbage it or put it in a pile to take where it belonged in the home.

I found about $2 worth of coins while cleaning back there.  I also found 2 Euros.

I also found water damage in the drywall, nothing massive but it is going to have to be fixed in the spring. I was planning on putting a coat of paint in there today just to make it look cleaner, but since we will be fixing water damage soon, I decided not to waste my time on it. Another day for that.

So, I wiped the walls and shelf, wiped down the washer and dryer and then put it back in place.

I then made a list of what I needed to buy to help me organize. I didn't have a large budget for this, only about $20, but again, we plan to redo this entire area someday, and for now, I just need a cheap storage solution to get me through until that day comes.  So with my list in hand and two little ones in tow, I headed out to Dollar Tree and Goodwill, hoping to find my storage solutions.

I found some old contact paper that I believe was bought at the dollar store several years back to cover my shelf.  I say "contact" paper lightly.  This stuff did NOT want to stick.  (I'll just say this, the contact paper MAY be stapled to the underside of my shelf.  I'm not proud of this but hey, it works).

I got some bins and hooks at the dollar store and some mesh bags to hold dirty dish towels (which normally just get piled on top of the dryer for about a week).  My total so far was ($5).

I still needed a solution for my brooms and mops and something for the dog bowls.  I went to Goodwill and found a nice basket ($1) to hold all my reusable shopping bags, but nothing for the dog bowls and brooms.  I didn't want to just hang them on a hook because they would move all over the place when I opened and shut the door, so I needed something that would hold it by the rod to keep it sturdy.

I went shopping to four stores that evening and found nothing to hold the brooms.  I did get a packet of racks to hang on the opposite door to hold cleaning products, paper sacks and other stuff.  I paid $6 for them at Wal-Mart.

I got grounded by a snow day and it took me a few days to get back out.  I ended up buying a rack at Bed Bath and Beyond to hold them all.  The cost of this was $15.99.  I had a 20% off coupon and it ended up coming to $13.00.

I was only TOTALLY bummed to find out this thing did NOT hold my Swiffer Sweeper very well.  Turned out to NOT be what I was looking for at all.  I needed something more industrial and heavy duty so I went to Lowes and found EXACTLY what I'd been looking for AND it was $4 cheaper!  Guess I'll be trekking back to BBB to return the other one.
I scored some locker shelves at the thrift store for $1 each and they worked nicely in there as well, flipped one upside down and it held the dog bowls nicely.

So, here it is completely finished!  Remember that HORRID before photo?  Well, take a look at how GREAT it looks now!
Total cost of project $28.00 which was a LITTLE more than I wanted to spend, and it took me about a week to get around to all the stores to get exactly what I needed (at the right price).  It was the broom holder that put me over (and took me the most time to find), but it was totally worth it!  I LOVE having a nice, clean, organized laundry area!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Money Saving Tip #1 - cooking a whole chicken

I'm not big on New Years resolutions, but my husband and I decided that this year we are going to really focus on trying to get completely out of debt. We are taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University at our church to help us get motivated. We KNOW the principles, but we really think that the class we help keep us accountable. Not just accountable to ourselves, but to a group as well. At the same time we hope to meet other couples that are going through the same thing we are.

So, I took most of November and December off of couponing, and just let it slack, but I'm back in full swing. I took all day Monday and clipped about six weeks worth of coupons and re-organized my big binder.

I thought along the way of me trying to save a penny here and there that I would share some of my successes. Here is my money saving tip #1.

I take a whole chicken (about $3-$4 at Aldi) and cook it. I usually get 3 meals out of it and the best chicken stock you will ever have.

So here goes.

I take the chicken after it's thawed, rinse it and put it in a large stock pot with onion, celery, carrots, salt, pepper and garlic. I don't bother peeling the onion or garlic because I drain that out at the end and it adds flavor. Cover it with water and boil it until the chicken is falling off the bone.

After it is done, I pull out the chicken and drain the broth into a big pot, using a strainer to remove all the vegetables, so I'm just left with the broth.  I separate the broth into containers and place it in the fridge.  It needs to cool so the fat can come to the top.  Once the fat is floating on the top you just skim it off and can freeze it for use later to make some of the best chicken soup you will ever have.
While my broth is cooling I cut up my chicken and pull it from the bone.  Make sure not to get any bones in your meat.  It should be coming off the bone pretty easily.
I chop up my chicken and freeze it in labeled bags.  I usually freeze about two cups of chicken at a time because I have a large family and usually double my recipes for chicken pot pie and chicken and dumplings etc...if you have a smaller family you could freeze it in one cup portions and your meals will stretch farther.
I was able to get three meals worth of chicken and some awesome broth for about $4.  It costs some time and patience now, but in the long run it will save me time and money on dinners to be able to just thaw out the cooked chicken and throw it in a easy meal.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Santa's Workshop

So I've been reading this blog by this awesome chick Ana White.  She is a GIRL woodworker who lives in Alaska and makes this awesome furniture. I've fallen in love with about a thousand of her woodworking plans but one in particular stood out to me and that was the kitchen play set (click on link for plans to it on her blog).

We decided to undertake this project for our girls, and at the same time made two more for people my husband works with (figured if we were making one we could go ahead and make three and just do an assembly line).

This was a really fun project.  It got a bit crazy doing the mass production, and I'm not certain I would undertake such a project at Christmas time again, but looking back I did enjoy the time in the garage with my husband.

We went to the hardware store and picked out the materials the weekend before thanksgiving.  We came home and cut the pieces for the sink and stove in no time.  It was when we started mass producing them that things began to slow down a bit.  We spent about three weekends working on the project in December.  Thankfully we had a small space heater in the garage and an insulated garage door.  It was really fun woodworking next to my husband.  I learned a LOT (when I wasn't acting like a miss know it all and would shut up and actually listen...something I'm NOT great at).

Anyhow, the people we made it for at my husbands work wanted pink for their kitchen.  We finished those first and here is what they turned out like.

I decided that I didn't want the one for my girls all pink and since their room has daises in it, I wen with daises on the door rather than the swirly flowers.  The colors pink, purple and white match their room perfectly. 
Here it is Christmas morning waiting for them

We used wooden tires from HL for the knobs on the stove, and purchased the handles from Habitat for Humanity.  They have the larger pulls at Ikea but unfortunately OKC does NOT have an Ikea yet....we used dog bowls for the sinks from Petco and we purchased the cheapest laundry faucet we could find at Home Depot for the sink faucet.  They ran $17 each and was probably the priciest part of all the kitchen other than the wood. Others recommended Ebay for faucets, but I just couldn't find any that were not like $15 for shipping.

I sewed the sink skirt for my girls kitchen out of fabric scraps and my MIL sewed the other two (which turned out MUCH nicer than mine and unfortunately I didn't get a photo of those but they were SUPER cute).  I also made pot holders to go with them and found small wooden spoons at the thrift store to give the girls.  They also got TONS of food and kitchen misc items for Christmas to go with the kitchen.  So far they have had a BLAST playing with it, and I'm really proud of how it turned out!

The finished project in their room!
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