Category Archives: Big Projects

Five Organizing Tips for the New Year

If you’re like most people, you made a resolution for the year 2012. You probably also made one for 2011, 2010, 2009… going back as far as you can remember. You may have kept these resolutions and you may not have. Whatever your goals and your intentions, I have some quick helpful hints for organizing yourself that are so simple, yet so effective, you will be wishing that you made it your resolution.

You don’t need to tackle the whole house in one day.  And if you’ve developed bad habits over time, you obviously won’t change in one day.  If you start with these five small tasks (try 1 per week) you will see such a difference that you will be inspired to keep going all year long.

1. The kitchen junk drawer.  Do you have a drawer in your kitchen that has so many tools, utensils, and gadgets that you don’t even open it anymore?  Take all the tools out and put in a few drawer organizers. Since you know you haven’t used most of the things in this drawer sort out the stuff you use from the stuff you don’t.  Put the most used items near the front and the least used items in back.  If you really don’t use anything at all, get rid of it.

2. The Sock drawer.  Just take it out and dump it.  Throw away any socks with holes and any socks without partners.  You can get clear plastic draw organizers very cheaply these days.  I think these are great for socks, underwear and t-shirts.  When you put your socks back in the drawer again put the most used socks in front and lesser used ones towards the back.  It’s always easier to keep things organized when the things you reach for quickly are actually within reach.  This is a technique you can use for all of your drawers, once you are inspired.

3. The dumping spot.  Do you have a dumping spot where you put everything when you walk through the door.  The keys, the mail, etc.  Rather than have a dumping spot that accumulates clutter, create a station where you can keep your items.  When you create this station look at where you naturally go when you come in the door, the station should be located within the path that you naturally follow when you come in the door.  If you you have to go out of your way to use it, you won’t.  Use a couple of hooks to keep your keys hanging and not lying on a surface where they will get moved around.  Near the hooks keep a standing file or a magazine type of file where you can put your mail and other items.  I actually have my entire station hanging on the wall where I can put my mail and keys all in one.

4. The puzzles.  A while back, I wrote a blog entry about how to organize and store all the kids puzzles.  Take the time now to get them organized and you’ll never have to do it again.  At least not until you buy more puzzles.

5. Batteries.  I hate batteries.  They always create a mess. You can never find them when you need them. The best way to organize batteries is to put them in a battery organizer.  There are some great ones out there that you can put in drawers or hang on the back of a door or a wall.  I like this one.  Since it has spots for specific types of batteries, it helps you know when you are almost out, so you won’t be stuck in an emergency without batteries.  Don’t forget that old batteries have to get recycled and not thrown away.

Good luck. May the organizational ideas keep coming to you all year.




Filed under Big Projects, Common Household Chores

Broken Porch Step

We had a porch step that was loose when you stepped on it.  Not only was it annoying, it was beginning to become dangerous. The balancing act of going down the steps without jiggling the step was not good. It’s a stone porch which is made up of layered slate-like stone and mortar.  The actual steps are heavy rectangular slabs of stone that are about 6 feet long by 8 inches wide.  Fixing one step on the porch didn’t seem like something that would require calling a mason so this is one I tackled myself. Now, if there was more than 1 step loose it might be worth calling in a professional.  This project took about 2 hours, cost less than $50 and it is definitely a 2 person job (and at least one of them has to be relatively strong).

First thing you need is the mortar and tools. Our home depot seems to keep a regular salesperson in the concrete mix section, which was a good thing for me, because there are so many different types of mortar that its quite overwhelming.  What we determined I needed was a quick-set mortar that is very fine in consistency (meaning it doesn’t have any little rocks or stones in it).  Looking back I might question the quick-set part and try to find one that takes a little longer to set.  Tip: Look at the amount of mortar that the bag makes its deceptively less than you think. After I got home I realized that I didn’t have nearly enough mix and needed to go back and get more.  Also needed for this task are a shovel like trowel (or 2), a big disposable bucket, heavy duty gloves that you won’t feel bad about throwing away, something to stir the mortar with, and lots of rags.

I was actually excited to work with the mortar.  I was looking forward to it.  Unfortunately, there was a decent amount of prep work that needed to be done before the fun sloppy part.  My husband helped me remove the extremely heavy loose step.  It wasn’t connected to the porch in any way since all of the old mortar underneath it was crumbled and rotten.  It was not easy to pick up though.  After that, I had to take out all the old mortar as best I could and clean the surface.  I scraped it with the trowel and removed as much of the junk as I could.  I couldn’t get it flat to the bare stone underneath – some of the mortar was still intact.  Then I used the garden hose to clean it up and dried up the pools of water with a rag.  I also tried to clean the bottom of the slab of stone that is the step.

Now, on to the fun part.  This is another area where you will need two people.  Because this was quick-set mortar it starts to harden in 15 minutes.  Yikes, that means it needs to be mixed, troweled on, leveled out and the reassembled in 15 minutes. Uhg! We put the water into the bucket and I started to scoop in the mortar mix, while my husband stirred.  The instructions on the bag said to mix 1 part water to 4 parts mortar. That was totally wrong.  As we were starting to mix the mortar our very handy neighbors from across the street came over and asked us if we needed any tools.  “This is really a tool-less job” was my husband response. Aside, from the two tools mixing mortar in their front yard.  Our neighbor offered that it should have the consistency of making meatballs (very helpful).  So it turned out to be a mix of just slightly over 2 parts mortar mix to 1 part water.

We were trying to work quickly.  The quickest, and most fun way to get the mortar on the porch was by using my hands (covered with gloves, of course). So I just scooped it out and slopped in on.  It was awesome.  I could feel the mortar getting hot as it was starting to cure.  Once we had it all on I used the trowel to level it out.  Then we picked up that super heavy slab of stone and put it on top.  The consistency of the mortar was thick enough that the step really didn’t squish out the mortar the way that I though it would have. I was imagining putting the step back on and watching all the mortar squirt out the sides.  But that didn’t happen.

Then the boring, annoying part. Cleaning up.  Really, you can just squirt everything down with the hose.  Trow away the bucket, the gloves, and the rags.  They’re not worth trying to clean out and by this point any left over mortar will have hardened anyway.

So the step is on and it is supposed to cure in 1 hour. At last check it was not moving so that’s a good sign.

my front porch

It' the 2nd step from the bottom. What do you think? You can't even tell the difference, right?


Filed under Big Projects