I am not, as a general rule, a how-to type of blogger. That is because I don’t really know how to do much of anything. Oh, I could tell you how to scream like some sort of hillbilly gameshow contestant while you’re watching a televised football game, or I could tell you how to streamline your ordering process at the Popeye’s drive-thru, but by and large these skills aren’t what you would call in demand. Plus, I’m wordy – and it’s probably not a very efficent how-to post if it also includes an anecdote or nine about the time that clown scared me when I was four.
An unexpected bonus to my time in Houston a couple of weeks ago is that I was totally inspired by my friend Merritt’s house. It is such a warm and cozy home. There are personal touches all over the place, and it’s orderly without being fussy. Everything has a place, and everything looks pretty, but more than anything the whole house just feels loved and cared for. Like I said: home.
When I got back to Birmingham, I was encouraged for the first time in LONGER THAN I CARE TO ADMIT, THANK YOU VERY MUCH to get our house back in order. It’s been a wee bit chaotic for the last few months – with a dominant decorative motif of stacks and also piles – and the result of that is that instead of walking in our house and feeling relaxed, I’ve been walking in our house and feeling overwhelmed.
So, as I thought about Merritt’s house and remembered how relaxing it is to be in a peaceful, orderly home (granted, part of that equation has very little to do with decor and everything to do with relationships), I made a little mental list of a few problem areas I wanted to tackle. Since I can be the queen of making a 62 item to-do list that I would prefer to complete within the next 45 minutes, I tried to keep the list to around four or five things so that I could actually accomplish everything.
(Don’t tell anybody, but I think I may have taken a rational and reasonable approach. This is quite a departure from my normal haphazard and scattered approach.)
(WILL WONDERS NEVER CEASE.)
So for what it’s worth, yesterday I did some super-simple things in my house that, for whatever reason, made me feel like I’d accomplished big-time results. I don’t care one iota about having the nicest furniture or the finest accessories – in fact, I sort of prefer it if furniture has lived in two or three other people’s houses before it makes its way to me. But I do like for a house to feel like home. I like personality and order and fun and function – and more than anything I like warm and welcoming.
There. I believe I’ve over-explained enough.
Mini-Makeover #1: The Stove
We have an older stove that has burners on one side and a grill on the other. I almost always have the grill covered, and that’s where I keep my kitchen utensils, my olive oil and my kosher salt. The salt has been in a Christmas coffee cup (KLASSY) for several months, and the olive oil and utensils are forever getting scooted around the grill cover. Drives me crazy.
So I bought a small kitchen tray at TJ Maxx. I bought a bowl for my salt at Pier 1. I put everything in the little tray, and y’all, it makes me so over-the-moon happy that I’m not sure why it took me about three years to come up with this solution.
(Please excuse the subpar picture quality. I was using my phone, and the flash was out of control. I would’ve used my real camera, but the battery was dead – because I am nothing if not woefully unprepared.)
Mini-Makeover #2: The Kitchen Door
For the longest time I had a runner in front of the door that leads to our garage. But then I moved the runner to another part of the house, and I never replaced it. Instead I just walked in and out of the door about fourteen times a day and thought Gosh, I could really use a rug back here. Because I’m productive like that.
So this past weekend I bought a rug at TJ Maxx. It took two minutes of my time and $20.
It’s so nice to walk in and out of the door and smile instead of spending six more months thinking about how I need to buy a rug.
Mini-Makeover #3: The Breakfast Area
Merritt has an adorable embroidered piece outside her laundry room, and I loved that it was sort of retro and kicky and fun. Well, when Sister and I were in one of the three TJ Maxx stores that we visited this past weekend, I saw a stack of embroidered stuff back in the home goods section – and lo and behold, it was all really similar to what Merritt has in her house.
I looked through them and picked the one I liked best. Then I hung it above our breakfast table because it makes me happy, and I’ll see it a whole bunch of times throughout the day if it’s in that part of the house.
Alex looked at it and said, “Wow. Those are some good rules, Mama.”
I am prone to agree.
Mini-Makeover #4: The Chair
In the office next to our kitchen, we have this really sad rocking chair that we bought after Alex was born. It wasn’t necessarily sad when we bought it – it was very practical and serviceable, in fact – but it’s gotten progressively sad over the last seven years. It’s squeaky, it’s missing a spring or two and the cushions have seen better days. But I have this weird sentimental attachment to it, and it’s a strangely comfortable place to read or maybe just think about bacon.
There’s a whole lot of blue and turquoise and green on that end of the house, so I draped a throw that we already had across the back of the chair, and I added this World Market pillow to the mix. The pillow was way on sale when I bought it, and the colors are my favorites.
And suddenly the chair doesn’t look nearly as sad anymore.
Mini-Makeover #5: The Post / Pillar / Column Thing-y
There’s a big ole post / pillar / column thing-y between our kitchen and our office. I think it used to be part of some funky 70s louvered door set-up, but the previous owners removed the door and opened up the space. I’ve never known what to do with the PPCT-y – do I ignore it? Accent it? Ask our guests to sign it with a Sharpie? (I’m still not completely opposed to that last option, by the way.)
When we were in Houston my friend Elise gave all of us a gorgeous carved wooden cross, and I wanted to hang it some place special. It was too big for the areas above my doors, so yesterday I walked all over the house looking for the perfect spot. And finally I thought, I think it might look good on the PPCT-y. So I hung it there.
And I love it. It’s the first thing you see when you walk down the hall to the kitchen, and somehow that seems just about right to me.
Mini-Makeover #6: The Mail and The Papers
We have a problem with mail in our house. I’m not sure how it started, because we used to be the kind of people who went through the mail immediately and never let it pile up. But then D started working in an office that’s not in our house. And then the seven year-old started bringing home forms and whathaveyou from school. And then the corner of my kitchen counter started looking like I was the proud owner of a paper collection. IT DROVE ME CRAZY – but I felt like I was always waiting on D to sort through the stuff with his name on it or I needed to keep an information sheet or whatever.
So I bought a basket that cost five dollars.
All the mail and papers are still there, but they look so much cuter now. There’s no pile of stuff to drive me to distraction. And while I have no idea why I’ve just stood in my kitchen and shot dirty looks at the ever-growing stack of mail without bothering to do anything about it, I’m just as tickled as I can be with that basket. That corner of the kitchen counter no longer makes me think that my head is going to explode. You can imagine my joy.
All righty. I’ve rambled enough. So what about y’all? Do you have any fun hints for mini-makeovers? Have you had any why-didn’t-I-do-that-sooner moments in your house lately? Because now I’m wondering what I can do with all the stuff under my bathroom sink. And how I can better store the 9500 phone chargers and camera cords and battery chargers and iPod accessories that seem to multiply in this house.
The fun never ends.