Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Do Rabbits and Junk Have In Common?

If you're anything like me, the sight of all the crap (where the hell did it come from!!) that seems to mysteriously appear out of thin air right in that spot you just cleaned really begs for a solution this time of year. Yes, this is the year all the crap is gone so you can stop spending time cleaning stuff, and just wipe the counters and go on to something more fun... And haven't we all said that before.

But it can be done, I'm almost finished with my crap clearing out and I've learned a few things I want to share to (hopefully) make yours a little easier:

1. Evaluate your space - either the space you're in now, or if you are downsizing, the space you're moving into. (I'm moving from an 800sq ft two bedroom house with full attic and basement to a tent. Granted, some of my stuff will have to go into storage...) If you have three bedrooms, are you using all of them? Can one be an office or playroom? Can one bathroom be a designated guest bathroom, and therefore, decorated as such, and the other having only what your family needs? Decide what you're going to do with the space you have.

2. Once you have made that decision, determine what furniture you need, and what you can reasonably expect to use to accommodate guests and family gatherings. Make sure you allow for valuable family heirlooms and antiques in this, and if you're not using them, pass them on. Get rid of everything else. Sell it, toss it, strike a match putitonthecurb just GET RID OF IT!

3. Everything else has to fit in/on/under what you have left (this includes closets, cupboards, pantries, etc). If you have collections of three different sets of figurines but only have room for one collection, choose your fave and get rid of the rest. Just remember you'll still be dusting them, and that is cleaning stuff.

4. When sorting through clutter, expect it to take time. It is not a one-day job. And once you start, you'll want to keep going. Take a three-day weekend if you want, or do one room every weekend day, and one closet every weeknight. You might want to stock a couple of frozen pizzas...

5. Don't be too sentimental. My parents saved work from my childhood - which was great, really, now my son knows my handwriting was sloppy and I had crappy hair once, too. But really, is it going to contribute to my life? Am I going to haul it out and make a slide show out of it? I don't need it. I kept 2-3 things and old school yearbooks (which I probably didn't need, either). I tossed all the stuffed animals. I unceremoniously dumped a lot of junk that was taking up space so I could look at it once a year while I was trying to determine if I should keep it or not. Decide you will live for tomorrow, not yesterday.

6. Are you really going to use that? Decide how much space you want to devote to storing items for projects that you want to do or may have to. Pick and choose what you will keep, the cream of the crop, and dispose of the rest of it. Do this with everything else in your house - how much space do you want to use to store the items (clothing, pots and pans, kids' toys, cosmetics, etc.) and keep only the items you get the most and/or best use from. (Keep the LBD, even if you only use it once a year, toss the parachute pants and expired food.)

7. Go through it all again.

8. Repeat step 7.

9. If you have been serious about this, you should be at a manageable pile of stuff. Try to organize it - winter clothes in one color of storage container, kids' toys in another. (I don't have all the toys out at once, I rotate them so instead of buying new things, the children feel they're playing with new toys when in reality they haven't seen them in two months.) Organize your pantry, your closets, bathroom, kitchen, and drawers so you know where to find things, and can clean and tidy up easily. Arrange the decor you kept and keep it streamlined - rotate seasonally instead of having all the non-seasonal items out at once.

10. Take a look around at your bright, clutter-free house. Doesn't it just have a designer feel to it? Congratulate yourself and figure out what you are going to do with all the extra time you can use now to NOT clean up stuff. Like maybe invest in gardening. But be careful, if you get a new hobby you might be doing this all over again next year!

Junk, it multiplies faster than rabbits. I hope these clutter-busting techniques prove to assist you in making the junk deluge disappear from your house.

Is anyone else out there decluttering or downsizing this spring?


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Haven't You Always Wanted a Tree House?

Do you like tent living? How about long-term tent living in a mass-produced, readily available, nylon tent? Sound safe? Secure? Weatherproof? I thought not. Well, it seems unlikely to be fun past the first week for me, and I've been deliberating various methods of throwing up a structure that will be not so large as to preclude the building of the HOUSE house, but large enough to allow us to live relatively comfortably (that's relative to tent life and possibly acceptable for a winter just in case) while building the HOUSE house. 
I have thought of everything - from tying a few trees together (no kidding) to fortifying a cave (which I don't have on my property, by the way) to erecting some sort of log cabin out of the trees on my property. I considered a wall tent - too expensive; a trailer home - too many chemicals, big fire hazard, little insulation; stacking straw bales and throwing some plywood on the top - too unstable; building a 12x12 house with attic bedrooms - would take too long once you add in the foundation and everything else that goes with that type of conventional building; and many more. I have determined the best course of action I could follow would be to build a treehouse, replete with multiple staircases, swinging rope bridges, different levels a la Swiss Family Robinson, and we can't forget the fairy tale roofline. Imagine the possibilities! The creativity, the artistry!!

*Snicker* Cackle, Hahahahahaha I had you going there for a minute, didn't I?

Actually I want to build a very simple platform tree house - my goal is to not put in a foundation for the first structure and I don't exactly relish the thought of living in a tarp over the dirt. Realistically, I could, if I had to. But by that same token, it wouldn't be tons of happy for a while. Probably just the opposite. So I'm going to use the assets the land has to offer - its trees.

Now, I'm no expert on tree houses, but they really do fascinate me. I wish I could build one that would take me away faster than Calgon. But TIME consuming, right? So simple it is. I could put up an 8x8 for about $100, give or take, but that would be no better than a tent. So I've designed a 12x12 - it's basically a canvas wall tent, four feet or so off the ground, made from 2x6s and plywood. Yes, chemicals, I know, but they'll air out eventually, and the goal is to get this up quickly. I have to account for the movement of the trees - bear with me as I try to explain this without drawings.

Under the frame of the house you have what I call the subfloor. Joists hold that up. Under that would be the foundation. Essentially, in a tree house, you have a cantilevered foundation, or a joist foundation, or you just saw off the trees at a certain height so they are all level and use them as your foundation. If you use a joist foundation, you would attach two joists to either side of one tree, parallel to each other. The subfloor joists rest on top of the foundation joists. They are attached to the tree, but not to each other. Does that make sense? This allows for movement with this type of construction. Cantilevered tree houses and chopped off tree houses would not necessarily factor in the same type of consideration. 

I will probably use a combination of "foundations" for my tree house. And possibly a rope ladder (because you do need some effect) or wooden ladder which is not attached to the frame, but instead set into notches to prevent it from moving when we go up and down. 

Of course the final design will take into account the position and number of trees and if the lumber I am able to purchase will hold the load etc, etc. But if you wondered about my plans, here they are:

In the beginning, I'm going to leave off the "Teensy Weensy Bathroom" and kitchen area and it will just be an open porch. Those plans are there just in case and we need to overwinter in it. But I'm hoping to leave it open, I think it will make a very nice guest house.

If a tornado doesn't get it first.

Happy Thoughts Tuesday Everybody!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Morning

It's a beautiful morning outside. It is a mere 69 degrees with a touch of humidity and breeze. It's a perfect morning for sipping coffee and gazing out onto the trees of the forest.


Not in the forest yet. Still in the city. But it is beautiful weather! The birds are chirping and the dogs are barking at them, and everyone else is still quiet. I love mornings like this.

Happy Sunday!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Test Driving a "New" Vehicle

Cabela's Grizzly Bear Display
So I was driving around my little 1987 Jeep Cherokee Sport, which leaked fluids from everywhere, had holes rusted through the floorboards, and was in the shop for expensive repairs every other month. Grrrrr. My parents bought it new in '87, and gave it to me in 2008. It was actually a pretty good little vehicle - and would get through any kind of snow! I mean, really fun to drive over rough terrain. The heat wasn't great though. At least it defrosted the windshield. Well, kinda.

After the last repair (January - new clutch - money ouch - did I mention the repairs were pricey?) I just couldn't take it anymore! I started looking for vehicles. I actually found several options in my price range - Ford trucks w/4WD under $2k. Yep, I'm a cheapskate. Really, though, I wanted to pay cash. Given that I'm leaving for uncertainty in 2.5 months I don't need to take on debt, and even if I wasn't leaving, I still wouldn't take on debt for a vehicle. They're always out there - those vehicles that don't necessarily look so hot but run pretty well. (But be careful if you try this, you don't want one that hasn't been taken care of at all [read, no oil changes, crappy engine] - mine is a work truck so it got beat up by age and virtue of hauling lumber and drywall everywhere...)

I bought a 1994 F150 4WD with virtually no problems. Needs brakes, shocks, and a rear gas tank. That's it. The total price of repairs and purchase will be less than 2k. I'm so excited!!

So I've had it for a month now and decided to take it for a test drive. Moving to MO with 1 boy, 2 dogs, and a whole bunch of stuff is not the time to find out that it breaks down after 2 hours on the highway. Where'd we go? We went to Cabela's. And from there to lake Erie. And back again. 300 miles.

I have to say, Cabela's is largely overpriced. I can find most products they offer, or similar items, online for less than 75% of the retail cost at Cabela's - or even less than that! However, what a place to go! We went to the one in Dundee, MI. They have large displays of stuffed, formerly living wild game animals there. (Not to be confused with the stuffed animals we all loved as children. Or love now, or whatever. :) )

Yep, that moose right there.
There's a close-up of his behind on my phone!
It was really just kind of cool to go see, and to be able to walk inside the tents and see how big or small they are, and my son definitely enjoyed the animal displays. He even used my phone to take a picture of a moose's behind for me! And if you're in the market for a firearm, they have a decent selection - including used and collectible firearms. They have a cafeteria-style restaurant - I ate a buffalo burger there. It tasted like beef. Not the best for wait times or hot food, though, just a heads up.

After that we went out to lake Erie - it was cold so we only stayed for about 20 minutes. It was great to be at the lake for a little bit. We brought back one shell. Maybe I should gold-plate that sucker, and in five years I can say, remember when we went to Lake Erie when the truck still worked? Lol

The truck made the drive just fine. I get a wonderful 15mpg highway. Which is about what I was getting anyway. Bonus - it even started the next day! (Does that tell you something that I would be excited over that?)

So, now I don't have to worry about how I'm going to get out there. Got that part covered. Frees up room in my head for worrying about everything else.

Did anyone else do anything exciting this weekend?