Tag Archive | diy

The TownHouse story

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After!  After much work in only 10 days it looks great.

September ended with as much busy and crazy as it started.

As I mentioned we did not renew our tenants lease.  We expected some cleanup and we expected to have it rented for Nov 1, maybe with an early move-in mid-October.  I’m very glad I did not procrastinate because the day she was moving out I was there with the clipboard writing the to-do list.  Luckily I got a painter to start the next week and flooring scheduled for the following Tuesday and in the week and a day from her handing over the keys I;

  • replaced the dishwasher <- ended up doing this DIY with the help of vacation mom.  Together we have more courage and actually, we work well together.  We both laughed when one of us got sprayed in the face because we turned ON the water that was apparently already off…  We notice the thing the other doesn’t and it works out well. Only took 2 trips to the store to get the right part.
  • replaced the doorbell – how it broke nobody knows… Glad I had experience with installing my Ring earlier this season so I knew how absolutely simple a device it really is.  img_2486
  • I found a great light fixture with VacationMom at the re-home store and then had to fight with it for over an hour to get modified to fit the space. (it had a too long downrod) and as is common I’m finding with second hand, it didn’t quite have every bit and part needed for an install.  I got creative and a little Frankenstein and 3 trips to the store and finally it is up and looks great.  The old one is now in my garage because it really was not bad, it was just dated, and is now in my list of projects for future garden decoration.

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    bever.  only answer.  Look at the difference in old (top) and new (bottom) paint, looks so fresh and clean and bright!

  • Found a perfect match to the door that was eaten by a beaver (only logical explanation), ordered it, bird-dogged it through the manufacturing system and actually got it 5 days post order instead of the 2 weeks they estimated.  Asking nicely does work!  I also figured out how to chisel out the hinges to match and now you can’t even tell what door is new.

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    prehung door… well, it got me 50% of the way to hang it, chisel got me the other half

  • Replaced all the doorknobs/locks – because that is always what you do.  I can change a doorknob and deadbolt in under 15 min, faster if the packaging is already open.
  • Picked paint and picked it up.  This is fairly minor overall but it was harrowing because I had to go to my least favorite paint place and even though I gave myself 40min to get this done I was still nearly late to pick up the kids.
  • revarnished all the windowsills – a skill I picked up from fixing our old house last year.  I’m very glad to have painted wood in this house.
  • Picked carpet!  easiest part but I’m mentioning it because I am proud I talked the sales guy down $500 on the price.  The install guys were really nice and also fast, the entire place was done by 4pm.
  • Purchased and installed roller shades.  Again, something that is easier than I expected but also a bit of a pain.
  • Replaced the patio door handle.  These are not standard by the way, took 2 trips to find the right one even with detailed measurements and pictures.  Once I had it, it was a fast job, probably because of all my deadbolt training over the years.
  • Installed a blind on the front window.  Easy once you figure out the clippies and what way goes up.
  • Installed a shower head because a new one was faster than cleaning the old one
  • Last but not least, I scrubbed and scrubbed.  Every door, every switch, the tub was tragic but now much less so, counters, floors, fridge…  She actually left it ‘ok’ but I wanted it to look good.  There was less that 1 trash can full of stuff to put out and a desk was left behind but the new family seems ok to keep it.

That is a long list and I got that done around kid duties, Homecoming week, and I even managed a workout and my own house didn’t devolve into chaos for lack of attention.  The hard work paid off though because upon listing we got a plethora of applicants and my top pick looked at it on Sept 27th and called me that night to take it.  It was a frantic rush at the end because they ended up arriving a day before I expected but I had been trying to be done early anyway so the last hour was frantic but enough and all weekend it felt great to have it off my plate.  When I got rent on Oct 1 with no issues or delays or stories or anything it was better than my birthday!  We didn’t get any rent for September so I’m double happy to see the cash flow after the spending to rehab in the month.

The rental home experience is probably different for everyone, I’ve gotten a ton of hands-on experience as well as a network of professionals I can call on.  The plumbing and electrical I’m doing is more because there is a lack of professionals, but, it also isn’t as hard as it seems if you go step by step and have a pocket computer at hand to look up all the things.  We have been truly lucky with tenants, even the ‘worst’ one was not all that bad.  I tell myself that she honestly saved some sanity because the paint and carpet should have been done a year ago but I was mid move then and had zero energy for the project and she didn’t care about paint or carpet (should have been a sign!) but she did pay rent 13 of 14 months and that counts for a lot.

This week the kids had off Monday so we were lazy around the house and yesterday I got to all the things that had been on hold during the project.  Today I burned nearly the whole day on computer things but October bills are paid, odd things are handled and/or asked about and I’m moving on to the next big set of projects – garden shed and driveway expansion.  Both are started and both are stalled but now both are going to get some special attention and I hope to have progress on them soon.

Sitting still for 30min is still rare

Did I say that things would get more quite in September?  School has been in for nearly 3 weeks, I should be eating bonbons by now.

Well….

First, it took a little to get into the school routine.  For anyone who thinks you have ‘tons’ of time while the kids are at school, it is actually 9am drop off, 3:40 pickup – a nominal 6h and 40min.  So while I’m technically child-free for 6h and 40m lets chop off 10m for the amount of time you need to dwell in the parking lot so you have a spot.  This is a *me* thing, I’m more happy and calm with a few min in the car waiting then rushing or getting there late and worrying about running over a kid in the parking lot. Then take out 45min for commutes and you end up with around 5.5hours to get everything done.  Don’t get me wrong, every once in a while that feels like an epic stretch of time.  Compared to the time I have in the summer or what time I had with 3 at home it is an amazing gift of minutes and seconds to use as I see fit.  BUT.  They fill up fast especially because everyone thinks you have tons of time since your kids are in school!

Mini rant finished, I used that first week to actually get out from under the laundry and housekeeping backlog, the storage room is no longer a pit of shame, and the garage isn’t exactly clean but it also isn’t a disaster.  In the middle of August, I decided that our renter really didn’t need another year of mutual stress – she is really great but the house was a struggle for her and I was along for the ride like it or not.  I’m glad I’ve met her, I wish her well, but I also curse her love of double-sided tape that I’ve been scrubbing off the walls.    On the plus side, I already have a painter hired, carpets selected, new (to us) dishwasher waiting on an install and more or less the place was ok.  This is a project I’m equipped to handle but it is a ton of non-routine work that I’m bumping any fun projects to get done on the timeline.

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how I feel about cleaning other peoples messes….

Fortune (and a good market) is smiling on us because within a day of listing the place (Tuesday) I had 50 people interested, 10 filled in an application, 3 were fantastic and I’ve offered it to the top already with #2 and #3 informed.  If anyone is in the position to be listing a place, and, for my future self here is my method this time;

  • List on Facebook Market place, Zillow, and Craigs list
    • I would note Craigs list is NOT on future lists, 3 inquiries only and nobody followed up by actually filling in a form
    • Zillow yielded 3 however, they have a vetting process for renters where they do a background and credit check and keep on file, very nice perk
    • Facebook was the majority for sure and ate my time replying to each and every inquiry
  • Once they started pouring in I created a Google Form asking for all the info I felt I needed.  Key points for me are monthly income and number of people in the house but I also asked all the reference questions etc.  I just googled ‘application form’ and typed up a combo of the questions I felt worked for us
    • As with any form, do what you can to add a free answer “other” or “anything else” because you would be truly surprised with the great info that comes from asking an open-ended question.  My current #1 bumped someone because of their answer to one of those.
  • I answered every inquiry with a copy/paste sentence and link about getting lots of interest, please fill in this form (link). This simplified the process because I basically deleted the 50 conversations and relied on the people who cared enough to fill in a form.
    • 2 days post I have modified my reply with ‘we have a list of applicants but if you would like to still be considered (form link)’.  I’m still getting requests but this makes me feel better just in case my 3 tops fall through.

Even with my streamlined method, I’ve used an hour or so a day working on the computer to manage it all.  The process of choosing contractors was straightforward, for me it was a combo of price and timeline, I filled 2 days with research and interviews and got it done.  I’ve been going non stop on this since Monday night and I’m taking a break today because I need it but plan to bring it home this weekend as primary prospect is viewing on Wednesday and I want it to be move-in ready.

 

For my sanity, even though I should have been doing something more productive for my own house, I did this project that has been on the list for 2 months.

Right now it looks pretty normal, framed print, good size, generic frame.

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HOWEVER it is actually an Ikea frame that I flipped so the deeper back is facing out and I filled the entire area with cork so I can pin up kid art more easily, and, change with the seasons.

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The frame fell in the spring and broke the front glass but the frame was ok.  When I got it I intended to change the art frequently, but, the metal pins holding in the back were fragile enough that they started to wear just changing the print once so I don’t feel bad gluing them in place by putting cork on top of the tabs.  It cost $12 in cork tiles because I needed two-pack but I like the way it looks and I hope it will function like I want.  Making changing art easy will make me actually do it!  Prying apart the frame was certainly not easy.

Other than home stuff, #1 has joined a running club 2x a week and likes it. #2 and #3 are in a new gymnastics gym that is really working them hard, both were put up a level and the coach is teaching them a ton already – 90min class and I get 2 sweaty, happy kids. We went to an event 6h away from home so we made a weekend of it and the weather was perfect fall.  School Board stuff is back in full swing with committee meetings and obligations that are fun but do eat up the evening.  I need to get on the planning of Halloween and all my favorite fall outings, fingers crossed that the house gets rented easily and I can move on to the next thing that may or may not consist of me building something big, the biggest thing I’ve ever contemplated attempting.  I’m getting help but it is still a big one!

And now we are up to date in my world of running around.  Hope you all are having a productive fall too.

Play structure age 7+

I must remind myself that this time last year our house didn’t even have sheetrock or toilets so I can’t feel down that we don’t have a brilliant patio, garden, playset, and yard.  I’ve been working hard and I can say we do have a fairly cool playset and 1/4 of a garden structure.  I got semi-firm timing on when the builders will be able to finish our yard grading and the grass is after that.  I know I’ve posted a little about the play structure already but for the sake of complete info,  here is a pretty complete summary;

1.  I purchased this set* from Amazon since it came with hardware and swings and I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel.  It was a good choice and I learned some nice tricks from the instructions that I used in my extra structures.   I did need to buy the GIANT drill bit and spade bit but they proved useful in all other parts of my building so an extra $30 well spent.  It took me about a week in little bursts to get the base set done.  If I just ‘did it’ I estimate 6 hours and you absolutely need a 2nd person for at least one part but I did the vast majority alone.  Let’s just say that time in the gym isn’t wasted because I lifted a lot in making this.  (*I get nothing from you buying, just telling you what I got)

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The base kit is everything to the left of the monkey bars.  Still deciding still about a slide v rock wall for one side of the ‘tower’.  Twin swing hardware is MIA in the garage but I’m sure it will turn up soon.

2. I had this set of monkey bars from when we had them in our old house.  I originally thought I would put them from the platform end but once I saw the 3d version I scrapped that plan and moved the monkey bars over to the end.  The plan was to use the A at the end for one of the supports to increase stability.  This could have been done in about an hour but took me 4 days because of the lack of an hour in a row.

  • I measured and dug holes for the other 4x4x8 3 legs based on the anchor of the swing set
  • I assembled the bars 17 inches apart on the 2x6x12s set onto a set of saw horses so I didn’t have to use a ladder.  This did create a pretty heavy thing to lift up and bolt so my solution was to put a couple screws half way into each leg at about the goal height to lift and prop the monkey bars on top of.  It isn’t safe to leave this way so make sure you have time to do at least 3 of the 4 legs or just put it down again.
  • With the bars up lifted up (team lift) and resting at the height, we decided on (78 inches) based on the scientific method of having the kids reach/jump and show me where they wanted – I bolted the first ‘corner’ to the swing set using 3/4 x5 bolts and these nifty washers that nail into the wood.  I sunk each in about an inch and drilled using my giant drill bit purchased for the swing set.
  • From that first point, I leveled the system on leg number 2 (same side, other end).  I generally ignored the level left/right at that time and things stayed reasonably steady on their screw rests.  I could pretty easily lift the little bit to make it level and then reused the screws to fasten it while I made the bolt hole.
  • Turned around and did the 3rd bolt, leveling left/right and repeating the screw, drill, bolt procedure.
  • Last leg, I had to level both lengths and left/right but it was pretty easy with the other 3 set tight.
  • Finally, I cut scrap to add bracers/steps and attached them.
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Monkey bar addition!  Ps. I’m not that messy with my scrap, the kids play with them and they are messy.

The monkey bars were a wild success and my monkey children loved it.  After a few days it got a left/right wobble on the end away from the swing set.  I didn’t use concrete or set them super deep so that would be a good choice if you want to eliminate this issue.  Personally, I didn’t concrete because I didn’t know how long this will be up, and, I didn’t want to mess with it.  Instead, I added a flip bar to add to the fun, and, stabilize the system.img_0926

  • I purchased another 4x4x8, a 3/4in 45inch long threaded stainless pipe (they come that way at our store) and 2 floor flanges.
  • To be super stable we sunk this 4×4 super deep, so deep we hit water.  There is at least 4 feet below the ground (FYI the reason why we don’t have a basement).
  • I already had the giant drill and the spade bit from the swing set and I easily drilled a set of holes and banged the pipe through.
  • thread on the flange and screw it onto the posts, not like it was going anywhere but now it really isn’t.

The flip bar was actually the easiest thing because I already had the tools and really it was already 1/3 built because it latched onto leg 3 of the monkey bars.  Amazing what not going to the store does for the speed of a project.

Future plans for this structure include a balance beam on the other side of the monkey bar to further stabilize, although it is pretty good now.  I’m also adding a ninja line at some point too, still researching the right one for us.

If you found this because you want to DIY a backyard swing set or playset this worked for me.  I would say I have medium building skills and I read the directions many may times.  For the part I ‘made up’ it is all about keeping stuff level and bolting it together.  The rest of the yard is not much to look at but the kids have a playset now and that was goal #1 of the yard.

All the things

I missed recording a few things in my crazy little life here.

Most importantly; #2 is now 9!  As we say ‘It’s time for 9″.  She claims she had to wait FOREVER for her birthday and all her friends are older, however, given the number of birthday parties we have attended for her friends this month, she was born peak season.  We did another sleepover with a fun painting project to pass the time.  All the girls did great with everything and eventually went to sleep.  The party was on a Friday night to have a prayer of fitting into graduation/recital season and we actually had everyone attend and the bonus was we still had the weekend.  On her real birthday, we had lunch together at school and she skipped jujitsu to hang out with me and then we went for sushi.  It was a full day and I think she enjoyed it.

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9 year olds love puppies

Speaking of parties – in the past 2 weeks, we have had 4 kid birthday parties, a house warming, a bridging ceremony, a graduation, and 2 grad parties that we got to.  It has been an intensely social couple of weeks.  Most of these were in succession, going from one to the next to the next.  A few were concurrent where we dropped a kid at a birthday and went to another celebration and back in time to pick up again.  Exhausting but exciting and fun to see so many friends achieving things in their worlds.

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On to brownies!

The weather… has been a factor in all things.  Currently, it is raining, again.  Yesterday it was perfect.  That is the way, we get a couple gorgeous days and a couple soggy days.  I have two lists at all times; things to do outside and things to do inside.  It also has been mild to cool here still.  I know other places are melting already but we are still using layers.  I wonder if I can ever put away all the winter?

Remember when I said I was doing a lot of field trips this month?  This past week I went on a 3 day trip ‘up north’ with the 5th grade.  It was thoroughly educational and the staff at the place was incredibly good with kids and making science exciting.  Every activity had a running dialogue of history and science and social interactions that was like sneaking veggies into a cookie.  We spent tons of time in the woods, in the ponds looking at micro-organisms, and even some classroom time.  They have a magic formula going up there I’m glad to have participated in.  It was worth the time, however, three days away still has a price in things NOT done elsewhere and it was also not exactly relaxing keeping track of 130 kids.

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on top of a 4 story high observation tower

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a view of some of the 6000 archers in the preserve we visited

We also got a new minivan.  This was a process that spanned about 4 months but we finally got it this Saturday.  It is still a little amazing to be in, so new and full of tech to learn.  We decided on the Pacifica – great safety and stats – but we needed one that had 6 seats in the back.  That turned out to be a special order but it was worth the wait because since we were factory ordering we could get or leave out any option we wanted so no compromises because it was ‘on the lot’.  I listed our Oddysey and hope it sells to a nice person.  That will be its own post someday because it truly was a good car.  We have always done a trade in so it is odd to still have our old car too.

Between parties and rain storms, we have gotten more of the play set up, I added monkey bars and then a flip bar that is both fun and helps keep the system stable.  The kids are enjoying it both for its built purpose of swing/monkey bar/flip and also as a centerpiece of imagination games that I can’t even start to describe.  Let’s just say my 3 have no shortage of crazy imagination scenarios that they can play all day. This set lures them out of the house.  There is still a list of building projects not to mention yard work in general.  We did get our yard mowed.  Note I didn’t say grass…. we are waiting on the builders to finish some drainage fixes so we didn’t plant yet, however, plenty of volunteer green items were filling the void and we mowed them to a socially acceptable level.  Next year we might have grass… maybe.

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monkey bars and flip bar.  May they never lack for upper body strength

Sports were dominant this month with #1 doing track and #2 doing softball and #3 doing gymnastics and they were all stacked on Monday and Tuesday making them crazy afternoons. We survived though, the last track meet was Monday and #1 did very well.  She was 3rd overall for the 800m and had fun on all her events.  Everyone got t-shirts and ribbons and I got to see parent friends from all over I wasn’t expecting. Now we ‘just’ have softball and gymnastics (and jujitsu) but the schedule is much less crazy.

Last but not least, I looked and there are less 2 weeks of school left.  This year flew by but we did do quite a lot so we earned our summer.  The next 2 weeks are full of end of year things, a final field trip, #2 has a wax museum presentation that parents are invited to, and I need to do one last birthday party.

I’m closing in on 1000 words here so that is plenty to read with your coffee, I will keep ‘blogging’ on my list for inside time and hopefully, I get back to a bit more regular schedule when things click over to summer life.

ps.  while uploading pictures I was reminded that I also went to school for their field day, a 5th-grade concert that was actually really good, we dealt with our first major behavior in school issue, we attended the agriculture fair at the high school and got to pet the baby goats and I helped a friend rehab and stage his house to sell – reminding me I don’t really like packing but packing someone else is more fun.  Now I don’t feel so bad about the basket of towels that just never seems to get folded.

 

knife/ax target how to diy

Today we were *supposed* to be building a swing set, however, my hardware is not here yet so we jumped onto a project Lars has been really wanting for a long time.

We got super lucky that a friend had a pile of deck wood in his yard that was 2x6x14.  (This made our project virtually free) This time Lars did all the research and after a year of using a really bad stand and then searching the internet, he found this target on youtube that was the ‘best’ in many respects. I watched it a few times and figured out the dimensions as we went.  In the video he says he uses 2×6’s but they really didn’t look like 2×6 to me, but, I just went with it figuring that if you are using 4×4 blocks a 2×4 would be a little skimpy.  After acquiring all the 2×6’s and making the frame I found in the comments that he actually used 2×4’s. Oh well, mine is stronger.  He also used bolts and I used screws, again, preference.  So, up to you if you use 2×4 or 2×6 or a mix; here is my how-to so you can save some time on dimensions.

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A great pile of free wood!  I have plans for the remainder to be garden structure to keep out our deer heard

Wood

  • 4×4 – enough to make 100 4in blocks
  • 2×4 and 2×6 – I am skipping a precise list here because it depends on the length wood you have what you need, look at the cut list instead.
  • 1/4 plywood – enough to cover 3.2 x 3.2, I used 2 pieces I had scrap

Hardware

  • 110 1.25 screws
  • 28 (min) 3in Spax #10 <- maybe it is overkill but I love these things

Tools

  • chop saw and circular saw
  • measuring tools
  • protractor
  • drill/bits

Measurements/cut list

Target;

100 blocks of 4x4x4.  Despite being called a 4×4 it is not 4 inches, my set of 10 measured 3 feet. <- glad I double checked this or it would have been a re-do.

Stand

  1. Uprights; (2) 7f
  2. Foot/bottom; (2) 4f
  3. Diagonal; (2) 4f
  4. cross piece for the bottom; (1) 3f 6in
  5. top and bottom of the ‘frame’; (2) 3f **double check your row of 10 blocks and adjust to match.  If you want a different sized target to adjust to compensate.
  6. Spacer; (2) 8in apx (scrap ok, big enough to accommodate the wood you use on an angle)

 

Order of Operations.

There are probably many right ways, this worked for me well.

  1. Cut 100 4x4x4 blocks.  Double check the measure <- Lars did this while I did everything else
  2. On upright (1) mark 4f from the top of the stand, mark.  take your actual lower frame piece (5), line it up at the mark and then mark below it.  (sorry I didn’t take any pictures of it on the ground!)
  3. Lay foot (2) down, put the upright (1) perpendicular 11 inches from the front of the foot.  Check 90 degrees with a protractor/square.  Fasten with 2 fasteners.
  4. add the spacer (6) 3in from the back of the foot.  Fasten with 2 fasteners.
  5. Put the diagonal (3) between the spacer and the bottom of the mark on the upright to make a triangle, there will be some sticking out at the top and bottom.  At this point, you can either mark the angle and cut to make it neat, or, leave it overhanging. (I left mine, helped on my lumpy ground for stability)  Fasten with 2 fasteners on each end.  **see pictures below for a visual**
  6. Repeat 2-5 for the other side, make sure you mirror it so you have a left and right side.
  7. Stand up a side, with the foot on the outside and the angle on the inside, fasten the bottom of the frame (5) perpendicular at the mark you made onto the upright.  After 1 fastener, make sure it is level front/back.  Add the second fastener.  **Might not be 90 degrees because of gravity, it will be better after the 2nd half is on.
  8. Stand up other side and fasten bottom of the frame at the mark.

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    bottom of the frame and cross piece (next step)  *note* I added scrap wood under the front to compensate for my uncut angles in the back to get levels right.

  9. Put cross piece (4) across the front of the foot at the upright.  Check that the uprights are level/90 degrees and fasten.

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    bright white is the ‘cross piece’.  You can also see the arrangement of the foot, upright, spacer, and angle.  

  10. Add all your blocks!  This is fun for kids.  Make sure the end grain is out.
  11. Insert the top of the frame, there will be extra protruding up.  This is another variation from his design, he has the top bolted into the end grain to ‘clamp’ down the blocks.  I have had bad luck fastening into end grain and this method clamped just fine.  Fasten from the sides, both sides.
  12. Put the back on, fasten around the sides and then into each block.  We used an offcut to make marks where each block is.  Does not need to be exact, but, this is a necessary step because it is the best way to keep the blocks ‘in’ when you are pulling knives out of them.  Also, when one is ruined it can easily be replaced and the other blocks don’t fall or shift.

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    100 blocks screwed in place

We actually moved our frame between step 9 and 10 because I was worried it would be very heavy but whatever you do, don’t move it until the blocks are fastened, you will see why.

This is great for knives, ok for axe.  I have a few ideas for axes in the future and if it works out I’ll share.

After 3 days use and one massive windstorm, all is well with the stand and everyone enjoys it.

 

Never ending projects

Sometimes a project is absolutely necessary and so you just do it.  Time is found, maybe counters are dirty for a day but the projcet gets done.

Then there are projects that aren’t really neeeeeded right away so you do some planning, then pick up some supplies intending to do it ‘that weekend’ and then step over said supplies for a month (or more).  At a certain point, you might actually clean up the supplies to the garage and then have to go find them again.  I didn’t get that far this time, I finally finally got some of our storage shelving up today; only took 3 months.

Note I say ‘some’ because, in my mental fog of life+too many projects, I got 8f long shelves and 2 shelf brackets each.  Yeah, um, gravity etc.  Now I have 1 shelf left to go up and a single bracket.  Can I possibly complete a project without going to the store 3x?

I also got a tad frustrated because I had a great plan for spacing.  I got a new stud finder because my old one took a little too much head trauma over the past 10 years and it makes noises but not very accurate ones.  I marked studs, I marked and measured and used a level.  However, on THREE of my brackets, the spot for the screw was EXACTLY where the builder used a screw to attach the drywall.  I guess I should be proud I have the instincts of a builder but they got there first so I can’t also use that exact spot.  I adjusted around and maybe one of my brackets only has 1 fastener, this shelf is not holding up bricks, but it is up.  Do I go to the store for more brackets to finish the darn thing?  I’m not sure, once I get shelves up then I just have to clean and organize so if I never get that shelf I can leave it the way it is right?

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storage room ‘so far’

I’m glad that I pulled myself away from computer work and routine housekeeping to get this done.  I always feel better for making headway even if I don’t finish.  That last shelf might just decorate the floor for a bit longer but probably not forever.