Thursday, October 30, 2014

Small Kitchen Storage Solutions

After almost 3 weeks of living in our new home, I've finally made some progress in our kitchen. I was stuck for a little while with my Tupperware. It seemed like no matter where I put it, it didn't all fit in one cupboard, or it did fit but would all fall out every time I opened the doors.
Every night I would work on my Tupperware, moving it from one cupboard to another, with my family getting cross because they could never find anything! It was just my plastics cupboard that was affected, it was everything that I was constantly moving in my quest to find the right place for it all.

Finally it's all fallen into place with the purchase of a series of baskets, extra shelves. and clear plastic tubs. My kitchen is finally unpacked, and everything officially has a home. I even have some spare room left in the ridiculously deep and pointless corner pantry so that I can start to move in things like spare dinner sets, seasonal crockery, and party ware - all things I have previously stored in the garage or linen cupboard.

We were working with two problems. 1. Very few cupboards, and 2. The cupboards that exist have unusably deep and awkward to access shelves.

In the long term we are saving up for a new kitchen. That's years away though, so here are our short to medium term solutions to our kitchen woes. Some of these will work in a rental, others may only be suitable if you own the home and can do what you want to it.

Additional Temporary Pantries

Excuse the messy middle photo, it's from BEFORE I finished unpacking!
We ended up purchasing 3 of these from Masters for $149.95 each. After we made use of an online 15% off voucher, plus a further 5% off for using Woolworth's vouchers that I purchase through my work benefits program for the discount, these cost us around $122 each. By far the cheapest option I could find. If you don't have time and patience to hunt down the vouchers, we saw similar pantries at Fantastic Furniture and Bunnines as well for a slightly lower starting price.

These pantries gained us double (or more) kitchen storage, but you need to have the wall space to accommodate them, which fortunately we do.

Additional Wire Shelving

The new pantries only came with 4 shelves, which made for a lot of wasted space. We pushed the top shelf up higher and used the wire shelves from Kmart ($4 each) on the center shelf to create an additional space. It doesn't fit heaps underneath, but cans and small items are OK. We bought 7 of these, 2 each for the temporary pantries, and 1 for our super deep built in corner pantry. Less because there isn't enough space in there, and more because so much of that space isn't accessible.

Door Storage Baskets

In an effort to remove clutter from our cupboards and counter tops, we went for a series of baskets for our cupboard doors. In one of our temporary pantries, we have 2 tiered spice shelves screwed in. This means my spices no longer have to live in a counter based spice compendium, freeing up valuable counter real estate. All the fatter spice jar used to have to live in the cupboard as well as the compendium could only accommodate the slimmer jars. This centralises them and stops them being clutter. These were bought at Kmart as well for $3.

Under the sink we've used a similar basket to store the detergent, sponges, and brushes in use for washing dishes. I'm not 100% satisfied with this as the basket feels too open for much of it, so I'm looking one from Ikea that still has open grills on the bottom to release any liquid, but is closed elsewhere to stop smaller items falling out. We can continue to use this basket for the detergent and various sprays we use. Under the sink is crammed in so another door basket will come in handy! I picked this one up at Howard's Storage world for $10.95 but I feel like I probably could have found it for less if I had kept looking since it's pretty basic. Because it comes from Howard's it beautiful quality though.

This last one is a Tupperware lid storage container that I have owned for years. It's called The Place for Seals and is a limited item that I've not seen in the catalogue since I bought it. I used to have it sitting on a slant on the shelf storing lids, but we've screwed it into the door now which gets all the lids in one place out of the way! I'd love a second one, but it looks like I'll be paying top dollar on eBay if I do. At least $25 + postage.

Shelf Storage Baskets

We re purposed many of our current white plastic baskets to hold like minded objects together. It's not ideal, but it does stop the clutter of tumbled items that just won't stay standing up or in place when kids are rummaging through them. Now I just grab the basket of condiments, or kids plastic bottles, or crackers and rummage in that small space. We didn't have to buy any new, but I recall they were only a few dollars each to start with and were bought from the supermarket in my regular shop.

These final baskets were my big spend, the ones that I resisted as long as possible. These two huge baskets were $41 each from Howard's Storage World (they're part of the Elfa range). I didn't find anything comparable anywhere else so I eventually bit the bullet. After spending many nights stuffing around with my Tupperware, it occurred to me that 2 big baskets on the bottom shelf could hold all of our less used plastic goods. Less used doesn't mean never used, for me it means most of these items would only get used a few times a month. Because I want to be able to see everything, I definitely needed wire baskets and not boxes or crates. These baskets stop everything tumbling out every time I open the doors, which is something I hate. They might have been a little costly, but these baskets are solid, and come with a 10 year guarantee. My cheaper wire shelving or baskets definitely feel more flimsy,

Plastic drawers.

These plastic drawers were my final Tupperware solution. They sit on the top shelf and store the plastic goods we use daily - our sandwich or lunch containers, and our microwave containers for our leftovers. These have such a high rotation that they need to be easily accessible. I did see these in Howard's Storage World, but found them cheaper for $7 at Kmart. What I love most is that they have 2 wheels at the back so I can pull the deep drawer out to see everything without scraping it along the shelf.

I'm feeling so much more in control now that the kitchen seems to be in order. I finally feel like I can pay some attention to the rest of the house, so hopefully from here we will see some headway!

Do you have a small kitchen problem like me? Any storage solutions here catch your eye?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

4 Area's to Save Energy In Your Home

This post was brought to you by Energy Australia who have a terrific step by step guide to making an energy savings plan for your home. See how much money you can save by making a few simple changes in your home.

One of the first things we've done in our new home is do an assessment of where and how we can save money by making our house more sustainable. As we save money for our (long!) list of home improvements, our first priority is investing in cost saving initiatives for the house such as solar panels, window glazing, and even possibly solar water panels for that day when the current water heating system gives up the ghost.

None of these are small improvements, but we know the sooner we introduce them the sooner we start to enjoy the cost benefits. In the meantime, here are our 4 hot spots where we try to focus a conscious effort on simple and cheap energy saving idea's.


When we purchased our first fridge years ago we neglected the 6 star rating in favour of the most affordable fridge the size we wanted. Which was also a 2 star model. 13 years later we estimate that decision has cost us somewhere between $750-$1,000 in energy costs - the cost of a new fridge!

When purchasing a fridge look for size (too big and you are paying unnecessary running costs, too small and you may need to run more than one), star rating, and warranty.

With a new kitchen a few years and more than a few dollars away, and a fridge with a broken seal on our hands, we are definitely regretting our thoughtless purchase last time. We plan to reseal our fridge to sort out our immediate energy problem, and put some time into researching the right fridge for us when we finally get our pennies saved for our new kitchen.

Rechargeable Devices

Reader Tip: Charge devices in the car as much as possible to reduce charge time at home.

This is a hard one with a teenager in the house, but we also try to not leave devices on charge in general. We use them till they run out then let them charge again. This means they are not perpetually charging and when the chargers are not in use they are turned off at the point.

Heating and Cooling

Another hard one with a teen in the house, but in the extreme temperatures (hot or cold) we make sure we use the same living spaces. Headphones mean that not everyone needs to be doing the same thing at the same time, but using the same spaces also means that we are not heating or cooling so many rooms.

Use double glazing on windows to keep cooling costs down, and ensure your whole house has insulation. Local governments offer a variety of rebates and incentives in this space that may help with the costs.

Taps and Shower heads

We were happy to find that our new home had energy saving shower heads, but all our taps are quite old and use a lot of water.

A quick trip to our local hardware store produced a set of 4 water saving discs for only $5. These are a quick and easy way to reduce your water consumption (and water heating costs as a result!) by reducing how much water comes through the tap. The water pressure is still retained though, so washing is not affected!

Shower heads and taps are a quick win - check in with your local council before purchasing anything as often there are promotions or rebates that may apply. Our old council gave us free water saving packs to install in our home.

What energy saving idea's do you implement in your home? We are always looking out for new (and sometimes not so new but so logical they've slipped our mind!) idea's to save some money.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Cheap Kitchen Makeover

This is my favourite house makeover piece so far. I could not be more overjoyed with how well the kitchen turned out. The photo above is actually from when the original tenants lived here, Dad was painting so quick I didn't get a chance to get a photo of the kitchen in it's new pretty, pale blue colour before he also went on to do the kitchen cabinets. 

The cabinets were a spur of the moment decision. The space looked terrific once it was painted, but the cupboards were really frustrating me because they were scratched up in a lot of places. It's going to be years before we can afford to replace this kitchen, so in the short term we are looking for lots of cheap options to help it look fresh and us. Since we still had heaps of the white enamel leftover that we used to paint all the trim in the house, we decided to take a leap of faith and paint the cupboards as well. I don't think I would have been brave enough to paint newer cupboards, but because these aren't in the best condition and we know we want to replace them as soon as we can save the money, we thought we could afford to be adventurous. They've come up fantastically, but I expect we'll need to touch them up over the years as the enamel starts to wear away.

We used enamel for all our trim and these cupboards because I like how easy it is to clean and the slightly, shiny, new looking effect they have. I consider this one a free makeover since it was done using leftover paint, so I'm calling it a win!

You may notice the cupboard space is beyond pathetic. These wasn't even close to be enough cupboard space for our family with all our accumulated appliances, Tupperware and bulk food purchases, so just to keep things real, here's a photo of the other side of the kitchen - the side which is still in the process of being unpacked so has crap everywhere courtesy of the preschoolers that love "helping" me unpack.

This side houses the three emergency pantries that had to be purchased, one at a time, over the course of the last 2 weeks. I had hopes that I may get away with one full and a half pantry, or maybe two at the most, but I'm actually still struggling with three. It's taking all kinds of alternative solutions (that I will share another time when the kitchen is finally unpacked and finished) to find places to put everything - especially all my Tupperware. I love and use the stuff religiously, but I still have a cupboard full of Tupperware that is in between uses at any given time. Not that I'm a person who buys the newest stuff just because it has a new colour, but I do love how they preserve and store food so I have a fair bit.

These are some of the idea's we have for the kitchen space over the coming weeks. Since I can't afford a new kitchen for many years to come, I'm thinking some pretty and bright bar stools would be nice, along with some pretty teal features like a fruit bowl. In addition, to free up some valuable kitchen counter real estate, we are looking at putting some open (but with sides) shelving up for our microwave, modem, and random junk.  

Thoughts of what might be to come
Moving into my next post I'll be sharing what I've done to make the most of my limited cupboard space, and how I've dealt with the super deep spaces that make it very easy to lose anything that goes inside.

Have you tried painting cupboards before? How well did they wear over time?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Everything Else

3 year old Lorelei is growing up so much. Suddenly her conversations are articulate, she reasons, she makes up songs and games, and she helps around the house.

Tonight she was singing to herself at bedtime, keen to show off her ABC song. We've been singing this with her for a little while, but so far she never really seemed to have the hang of it by herself. Tonight I was tickled to hear her sing it all by herself, crystal clear and with perfect pitch.

"A,b,c,d,e,f,g.....h,i,j,k,l, and everything else. And everything else y,z.

It was pretty, and not even my giggles deterred her from finishing. I'm going to have to get the video camera out tomorrow morning before preschool before she gets too much more practice. Because this song is perfect as it is and I want to catch that memory!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Disappointed Mermaid - A 3 Year Old Room Makeover

Lorelei's room is done and beautiful, but sadly she is the only kid disappointed. I had visions of a beautiful seafoam bedroom, complete with a pearly pink roof, with an idea that it would evolve via accessories into a mermaids bedroom. Lorelei is obsessed with mermaids, but sadly she doesn't have the same vision when she looks at her room as I do.

Even though we talked about her room being under the sea, when she saw it she was a little upset that it wasn't pink! Her only original request was that it be a mermaid room, and she's always been a girl that would ask for blue or green when given a choice, so it never occurred to me that she would want a traditionally girly room with pink walls. I have some idea's for transforming it, but money is starting to run out for this house makeover so it might have to wait for a little.

Lolly was partially consoled when I pointed out her pretty pink roof, but I actually wasn't too happy with the roof myself.

While her walls were done in a Wattyl colour named Peaceful Lake (how perfect was that for a mermaids room?), her roof was done in Rose Garden (also a Wattyl colour). Once again we colour matched to the Pascal wall paint we were using, although we actually don't mind Wattyl as a brand, it tends to wear really nicely on the walls. (See my previous post for a hot tip on colour matching).

We also chose tried out a special effects product from the Resene range called Pearl Shimmer. Its a "waterborne pearlescent glaze ideal for creating sparkled features". Quote: Resene Kids Colour guide.

In the sample booklet, the Pearl Shimmer adds a beautiful, light glittery effect that I thought would add that perfect pearly sparkle to Lorelei's roof. In  reality we can barely see a difference, although if I lie on my back when the room has sunlight, and twist my head to an awkward angle I can sort of see a glaze that makes it seem shiny-er than it might do without the Pearl Shimmer. Although I can't find the receipt and this product is mysteriously non existent on the Internet in terms of price, I recall this was not a cheap product for the small pot. Given its claims to add a little fairy dust, this seemed fair enough. Since I ended up with slightly shiny, I'm not as happy as I could have been. To be fair, we didn't put it over a Resene colour to start with, per their recommendations, and I am wondering if we might have had better luck with the Pascal shimmer pot.

I have a few tweaks to make but all in all her room is done. I'll accessorise a little and see if we can get Miss Lolly back on the thrilled train.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Fresh New Room for a Teen

For those of you following along, I've got some new room updates for you. Dad managed to have everyone's bedrooms painted in time for moving day, so Madeleine arrived home from Melbourne to her gorgeous new room which she was thrilled with.

We've done Maddy's room in some really bold colours. Not what I wanted for the rest of the house, but since she loves vibrant and bright things, and turquoise is her favourite colour, we painted her walls a really solid turquoise colour, with a royal purple feature wall.

My father in law is working on a built in robe for her complete with mirror doors and internal shelving designed to suit her. While it's frustrating that she has to make do without a wardrobe for a few weeks, we kind of like that we can get the right wardrobe for her.

Maddy's room was done in colours chosen from the Resene range, although admittedly I got them made up in a Pascal paint. Dad preferred it that way, and I defer to him in all things paint! We needed 4Litres (with plenty left over) for the turquoise colour (Seeker) but had to go back to the store for another sample pot (500ml) of the purple (Pukeko), because the original 2 sample pots were not quite enough. The wall need 4 coats of the purple before it had full coverage, but only 1 coat of the turquoise.

Hot Tip for Colour Matching

If you are having colours matched across different ranges, it's really important to hang onto your paint tins so that the formula can be matched up if you ever need more. Sometimes the colour matching service can differ using the same swatches or samples just due to lighting, shadows, positioning of the machine, and you can end up with a pot that is a little different. If you are touching up a room this can be really noticeable! We keep at least one of each paint tine in the shed, although I think from now one I might just photograph the formula rather than keep empty tins,

While Maddy was thrilled with her room, Lolly was not, but I'll save that for another post!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

1 Week On

We've been in the new house for a week now, and life is only marginally less chaotic than it was. I'm still drowning in boxes, but hooray, the Internet is now connected.

I took the opportunity of moving to reevaluate all of our service providers. I've stuck to the same Internet and Gas providers, but had to accept a lower discount offer than my previous plan which was frustrating. I was previously on a 16% discount, but as they no longer offer this plan and do not transfer, my new plan includes only a 12% discount. No amount of negotiating won this battle for me, and as they were still the cheapest plan in the suburb I stuck with AGL.

Our home phone and Internet providers I changed. Even though Dodo had the best value plan I could find, which I was really happy about last year when we made our move into the rental, both their customer service and line service has been abysmal over the last 18 months and I just couldn't face spending hours on the phone with them again trying to facilitate the move. We'd had outages more times than we can count, and have spent hours on the phone with their IT department and it got to the point that we would just wait out an outage rather than ringing. Generally the service will drop and and out all evening, frustrating, but not as frustrating as pulling plugs in and out repeatedly at the request of an overseas IT department, especially when it doesn't produce any noticeable difference in service. It cost $168 to break our contract, as opposed to the $50 to transfer our contract to the new house, and I consider the $118 difference + setup costs with a new provider to be well spent.

Curiously we are still waiting for our old Real Estate to let us know the final rental amount owed to them. They aren't in any rush to confirm a final inspection, acknowledge receipt of our vacating, or give me a final amount. I owe them money, (probably only a partial rent week though) so I find it interesting that they ignore every effort I make to contact them. Hoping this does not bode poorly for our bond which I'd really like to get back.

On the home front, the whole inside of the house has been painted, although I will keep the photo's for another post. Dad has started work outside now, and we have appointments to gt someone out to give us a quote on painting and repairing the roof. It doesn't have any major damage, but there are some broken roof tiles, and we want to refresh it up colour wise as well. I'm just not in love with the maroon edge tiles, especially now that I'm having the gutter work repainted black from maroon.

Real life has taken over from moving. Even though I'd love to be unpacking, there is still laundry to be done, bags to be packed, dinner to be cooked, and children to not kill.So my dreams of finally having a beautiful display home might have to be postponed 10 or more years.

On the alarming side, does anyone else realise there are only 10 more weeks till Christmas?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Moving and Shaking

It's over. We've moved. I think this weekend just about broke me, but it's done. I still have to go back to the old house tonight to clean some dishes because I just couldn't face transporting dirty dishes amid all the chaos to the new house, but other than that it's done.

We finished unloading our last truck load at midnight. The little ones were underfoot all weekend making it almost impossible to move the big items. While Lorelei could be distracted by a TV babysitter, Seb was so excited by everything that was happening. He wanted to climb in and out of the truck, help carry the couch, and generally unpack boxes as much as he could. Mummy's little helper. 

I loved my helpers so much that the minute my in laws pulled into their drive after a long weekend in Port 4Macquarie I was waiting with the kids in pajama's ready to hand them over at 7:30pm. It made all the difference to getting the last load done, because otherwise one of us would have had to stay with them while the other loaded the truck on their own.

I at least had the dignity to drive around the block a few times so I could pretend I didn't beat them there in my desperation to offload my little helpers. It put one of the kids to sleep at least.

The house is chaos. I'm too embarrassed to show you photo's our beautiful new walls right now, because every photo is punctuated by mess and boxes. Dad is still painting some of the living rooms, which means we haven't been able to move everything into the house, and I need yet another pantry so it will be a quick stop into Bunnings again this afternoon. 

We've painted the whole house a soft bluey gray shade, a little lighter than Sebastians room, which has come up really well. I haven't been able to get great photo's in good light. The photo on the left shows the original house colour in daylight, which was an orangey cream, with the new colour in the hallway behind, and the photo on the right shows the dining space also painted the new colour, although the hallway is heavily shadowed as it's a night photo taken with ceiling lights light. I love the crispy white edges, it makes me very happy as long as I hide the browney colour tiles in the room from the photo! The background on the left is probably the truer colour.

I gave myself the gift of hiring a bond cleaner to get the old rental into shape so that we can offer the keys back faster, and so that I don't have to lose another weekend to just cleaning. But when I saw the state of the rooms following the move I was mortified, so late last night I was sweeping and vacuuming lest the cleaner think we are pigs and charge us double for the garbage dump I found under Madeleine's bed.

The Internet switches off at the old house today, and I've had my computer running through a back up to a cloud service all this last week. It still has days to run, but I've felt this urgent need to get everything backed up so I thought I'd take this chance to use up the last of the bandwidth on my old plan rather than chewing up the whole first month of my new plan. We've lost a few hard drives of data recently, nothing too earth shattering it's mostly entertainment media, but I would be just about suicidal if it was one of my main drives with our financial data or photo's so the backup is happening. Hopefully by tonight as much will have been done as possible.

If I'm not online much this month, it could be because I'm still waiting for the Internet to be connected. It could also be because I got lost somewhere in the hallways of boxes that is now my home. Better photo's to come soon!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Settling the House and Kicking into Gear

After a nail biting experience Monday where I couldn't decide whether to murder or fire my conveyancer but ended up doing neither, we settled on our new home Tuesday! It's been a long road to get here, and a last minute setback involving an express post envelope gone astray should have been expected. If it's going to happen it's been happening to us.

We thought we had a leisurely 3 weeks to make the move to the new house, because the lease on the house we are renting does not expire till the 24th October. Bizarrely enough though, I received a call from our agent, who happened to also manage the house we purchased (although it was sold through someone else) and they had gotten wind of the fact that we would obviously not be renewing our lease. I hadn't given the mandatory 2 weeks notice yet assuming there was plenty of time but the call was to let us know that the owner is happy to let us out of our lease early with no penalty. There must be some reason behind it, but we aren't looking a gift horse in the mouth. So with the prospect of saving about $1,000 in rent we are suddenly in a huge rush to have the house ready to move into this long weekend. Not quite the slow and organised move I had planned but oh well!

Within hours of settling I had picked up my retired Painter father and dragged him to the house and then Masters (a new Bunnings competitor in our area) to buy paint and put him to work. Our new home is about 15 years old and seems to have its original paint job. I'm not a fan of cream, and while clean, all our walls are a dingy, institution, cream. Since we have a limited budget on just what work can be done to the house for now, we have started with a fresh paint job inside and out, a built in wardrobe for Madeleines room (the one room missing a robe), a wardrobe upgrade for everyone else, and some small essential repairs.

Our list for the rest of the house is endless, and I'm sure there is plenty that won't ever be done, but just look what a difference the paint has made so far!

This is Sebastian's room, his is the simplest of the kids bedrooms, because I plan to do a lot with accessories for him to achieve a superhero room. His room has been painted a soft gray with pale blue undertones, with crispy Antique White for the ceiling and trim. The white just pops, and makes the whole room look refreshed. We're also going to paint the back of his door with black chalkboard paint. I'm not worried about chalk dust for now. The carpet is on the list of things to go, but for now we are living with the usual rental stiff, thin carpet that vacuums pretty well so a bit of chalk dust won't hurt it.

We ended up spending $561.54 on paint, rollers, trays, brushes, drop clothes, rags, turps, and tape at Masters. We chose Masters because their prices seem to be comparable to Bunnings, and while their range is definitely smaller, the 10% vouchers that Woolworths give out on our receipts was definitely a big part of the appeal. They also had an out of this world special on some specific Pascal paints, meaning we picked up 15 Litres of Antique White ceiling paint for $44.10 (after the discount). To put that price in perspective, 15 Litres of my basic gray toned house colour in a Pascal Trade paint was $94. The catch was that there were only 2 colours available, a creamy colour, and the Antique White, which fortunately for me was one of the colours I was after. Definately saved us a chunk on the ceiling costs. 

Dad was able to navigate the intricacies of best price vs best product, and we walked away with many of our colours provided in a Trade paint (although unluckily for us the 10% discount did not extend to the trade paints) which saved me a fair amount of money. I know as soon as I start picking all different colours for each of the kids rooms that I'm running up a bill, so anything that offsets that is great. Another trick to look out for is the small quantities. If it looks like you only need 1 litre to complete a wall or small space, ask about the pricing for sample pots. Sample pots are 500mls, and at $6.95 each it works out to be much cheaper to get 2 sample pots than to buy a 1 Litre tin at way more than double the price. It helps to go to Bunnings or Masters during quieter times, as the staff are more inclined to share these little tips when they don't have a big line to get through.

Looking forward to a busy few days ahead of me, but will be trying to blog as much as possible so that we have the evolution of the house documented for ourselves down the track.