Nearly Worthless Planter

Once I mostly painted the Minnipin House, I turned my attention to other outdoor aesthetics. There’s no one who’d call my front yard a showpiece but I’m trying to improve things incrementally.

First up was the undistinguished front stoop. It looked better than it did pre-paint but needed a little gravitas. Or drama. Or something. So I poked about and stumbled on Ana White’s Frame & Panel Planter Plan.  That inspired me build a tall, painted planter for the stoop. Topped with an old topiary frame, I’d say it generally worked out OK, though I’m still waiting on my vine hydranga to blossom.

Here's the undistinguished front stoop with the first Ana White plan tall planter
Here’s the undistinguished front stoop with the first Ana White plan tall planter

Still the stoop looked . . . incomplete. Because of mailbox placement, I didn’t want to try to match the existing planter exactly in terms of height, but it needed something. And I did have a second swirly trellis that I wanted to do something with, but I just wasn’t sure what. Deep in No Spend Spring, this project seemed to be on endless hold.

Sorting wood in the garage the other day, I made a pile of leftover outdoor wood, mostly bits of fir and cedar and some mystery stuff that had clearly lived outside for a time. As part of No Spend Spring, I’d already used some old fence tips to make a rustic succulent planter but until I started really looking at the pile, had assumed I didn’t really have enough to do a larger, more distinguished looking planter that would sort of match the one already in place on the front stoop.

Also, I was guilty of doing that silly thing where you assume you need to use all the same kinds of materials to make something great. I didn’t have enough fir for a whole big planter. Or enough cedar. Or enough mystery outside wood. Or any 1x3s. But combining the scraps? Making it smaller? And painting my standard accent black it so the differences in wood would be invisible? Possible!

Outdoor-suitable scrap lumber pile.
Outdoor-suitable scrap lumber pile.

So that was my first near-miss opportunity. Time to eyeball it, measuring again and again.

I looked back onto the Ana White plans to refresh the project in my mind. I’d try to make this one look like a shorter version of my original. I scanned the recipe and got to work.

Because I wasn’t using the plan’s exact measurements, I decided to cut all the big pieces first and just make sure I had enough scraps as I went along. There would be just enough leftover cedar and fir pieces if I went for a 15″ height. 15″ would give me enough of a rise for sweet potato vine to tumble prettily over the stoop. I could stick something in the middle to go up and climb over my second swirly trellis. I also decided vary from the plan by using only salvaged 1x2s, and not any 1x3s, which I didn’t have anyway.

Here’s how all that cutting played out.

Side panels of fir and cedar.

Side panels of fir and cedar. Rails of 1x2s salvaged from another disaster project.

Panels with frame pieces
Panels with frame pieces
Things to watch out for: salvaged wood missing pieces, unextracted nails or screws
Things to watch out for in salvaged wood missing pieces, unextracted nails or screws

Next I used the trusty pocket hole jig to make the frames. So proud of myself! I actually remembered to  make sure the crappy, damaged parts of the wood faced inside the planter, where they’d never be seen. And I remembered that two panels needed to be 1.5″ wider than the other two.

Pocket holing the frame pieces
Pocket holing the frame pieces
Imperfect sides need to face inside the planter.
Imperfect sides need to face inside the planter.

Now it was time to nail the cedar fence planks to the frames . . . and I discovered I’d cut them too short. Like seriously too short. Impossibly too short. Hard to salvage too short. Why didn’t I read the plan more carefully? Too damned short. Argh!

No! Oh no! My planks are too short for my frames. I JUST MEASURED WRONG. ALL ON ME. ALL OF IT.
No! Oh no! My planks are too short for my frames. I JUST MEASURED WRONG. ALL ON ME. ALL OF IT.

At this point I was seriously tempted to just go buy a few more cedar fence planks. They’re pretty cheap when you’re only buying 2-3; my cost would be $5-$7.50. But that would be the opposite of the spirit of the project and a direct violation of my No Spend Spring commitment and all the things I’ve been learning. If nothing else, I know myself well enough to know that every time I looked at that planter, it would bug.

Humph.

The frames could be cut down. I could turn them into a 12″ frame instead of the 15″ I was going for. That would change the look not for the better. And, for once I’d let my frames set up properly so the glue and screws were just about perfect. Busting them apart to whop 2-3″ from the frames would be tedious, would damage the wood even more. And I just didn’t want to.

This is the point in time where it’s a really good idea to take a long, tall drink of water and do something else for a time. Deep breaths. Just because my easy project didn’t turn out easy . . . well, it could be abandoned. No one but me would know. Or I could blow the budget. Or I could figure something else out.

The issue was mounting the fence planks when they were too short to stick onto the frame. And coming up with something that wouldn’t shorten the frame.

Hmm. The stubby cedar & fir planks did have middles! A bar across the middle of the frame could solve that. And I did have enough leftover 1×2″ to make four little bars. So that’s what I did. It wasn’t going to exactly match the look of the bigger planter but painted black, it wouldn’t be jarring. I can live without matchy matchy as long as I can get some harmony going.

Here's a frame with the unplanned middle bar added.
Here’s a frame with the unplanned middle bar added.
Here's the assembled planter with the middle bar holding the panels onto the side.
Here’s the assembled planter with the middle bar holding the panels onto the side. Mind those gaps! If you look closely, you can see that my panels don’t go all the way up the frames.

The end result was a little wobbly. You can see some air at the top, where the planks aren’t big enough. I decided that should work okay because I’d be lining the planter with black landscape fabric so the gaps would hopefully sort of disappear. And the weight of the dirt would stabilize the wobble a bit. This planter wasn’t going to move around basically ever, so this precarious plan might not be so ridiculous.

 

Yes, you can see air between the top of the frame and the panels. Not ideal but my reality.
Yes, you can see air between the top of the frame and the panels. Not ideal but my reality. This pic also shows the slats inserted into the planter to save dirt.

Though 15″ tall, I wanted a shallower planter because I’m pretty parsimonious about dirt. I really am. If I have extra good quality dirt, I want it to go into raised bed vegetables or as many containers as possible. So I used some scrap 2x2s to create a ridge and nail in some slats, making the planting depth about 8 inches.

I inserted 2x2s in the corners to provide a ridge for the inside slats and add a little stability.
I inserted 2x2s in the corners to provide a ridge for the inside slats and add a little stability.

Now it was time to add the top ridge, which would help the cosmetics quite a bit. Unfortunately, I’d used up so much of my scrap 1×2, there would not be enough to do the whole rim. Time to patch the little left over gap.

Here's the patched top edge.
Here’s the patched top edge.

This is what I ended up with. Made from salvaged wood, it was — and still is — riddled with holes from extracted screws and brads. This is the point where you’re supposed to whip out the hole filler and get to work.

Here's the assembled leftover/salvaged wood planter, riddled with holes and dings from
Here’s the assembled leftover/salvaged wood planter, riddled with holes and dings from assembly and past lives. Ready for paint!

Only I couldn’t. Because I’m out of that stuff and we’re in No Spend Spring. So I got to work with my left over black SharkSkin Deck and Siding Stain, hoping for the best. While that stuff doesn’t totally fill in gouges in a beat up deck, it does have a smoothing over effect.

And this is the result.

 

Here's the finished salvaged planter. That's sweet pea climbing inside the trellis.
Here’s the finished salvaged planter. That’s sweet pea climbing inside the trellis.
Here's a looking down view. I yanked some sweet pea from one of the window boxes to climb through the trellis. I'm hoping the sweet potato vine in two colors will spill prettily down the stoop. I think it's  pretty hard to see where I patched the top rim of the planter.
Here’s a looking down view. I yanked some sweet pea from one of the window boxes to climb through the trellis. I’m hoping the sweet potato vine in two colors will spill prettily down the stoop. I think it’s pretty hard to see where I patched the top rim of the planter.

 

Here's the undistinguished front stoop with the first Ana White plan tall planter
A look back at the before.
Here it is with two semi-matching planters and topiaries.
Here it is with two semi-matching planters and topiaries.

 

And here's the stoop with the flag flying.
And here’s the stoop with the flag flying. We’re ready for 4th of July now!

So, I am pleased to have moved these outdoor wood scraps into being something useful, that gives the front stoop a little more balance. And I think that the middle bar I had to use essentially disappears painted black.

I still have dreams of a bigger front stoop, the kind you can put a rocker on. And railings. And a lot of other things. But this is it for now.

What do you think? What would you have done differently (besides measure twice)? Is the stoop now too matchy matchy? Should I paint the concrete dark gray (that’s what the concrete base of the house is painted.

As always, thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North End Largesse

New to Boise, I picked this neighborhood because of park proximity, walkability, and the charm of older homes. Though pricey compared to other neighborhoods in Boise, these amenities outweighed any fantasies I had about a home with a master suite, gourmet kitchen, or swimming pool.

What I didn’t know then was how generous a neighborhood it would be. I was prepared for California-transplant hate (which I didn’t get, ever), but not the active welcome and practical help.

Today I am grateful for the gift of plants from my kindly North End neighbors. Thanks to them, seven tomato plants are now in the raised bed, ready to go to town in the coming heat. And the bald patch in the front yard is now planted with day lilies that one neighbor thinned from her bed. I’m so excited to have plants in a spot I thought would be bare all summer due to No Spend Spring!

Wheelbarrow full of lillies, free!
Wheelbarrow full of lilies, free!

The Mints are as grateful as psychopaths ever are, as well. Another neighbor lost her cat and showed up on my stoop with a bin full of dry cat food.

I don’t remember this happening in my old neighborhood, even though I lived there more than a decade, and had lovely, friendly neighbors. When neighbors dropped by, or hailed you outside, it could be to chat, comment on one’s landscape, complain about something, or demand support for some issue. Not to just give.

North Enders seem to be heavy NextDoor users, and they use it well. Sure, there are a fair number of lectures, issue related, and for sale posts. Yet there seem to be even more about found pets, creatures who need homes, and useful free things (lumber! plants!). Now and then there are calls for help, refreshingly creative ones. At the holiday one neighbor asked for help for some homeless friends, struggling to get into housing with a disabled child. Her plea wasn’t focused on cash but on the short term assist that was needed. This meant specific items to help this family with practical needs and a holiday celebration. OK, not rocket science but my California-jaded self is just so used to pleas only for cash.

I posted once, trying to find a home for a puppy a friend was fostering. This was met with practical offers for help for the little guy. Sure, there were a few unhelpful lectures as well, but scanning — and ignoring — those were a small price to pay to help the puppy. That puppy quickly found a home.

It’s not just online. I notice it out dog walking as well. There’s a genuine interest in my beast, the occasional invite to sit down by a front yard fire, collegial alerts about foxes in the area (the Mints seem impervious), and the like. Sometimes free stuff is just left out for the taking. Or the lost posted on telephone poles (and found again). The North End Neighborhood Association (NENA) is active too, and volunteers kindly deliver a quarterly newspaper.

I’m not sure what inspires all this kindliness. Is it a Boise thing? Is it smallish city  living? Not sure. Just lucky.

 

 

 

Natural Curiosities Gallery Wall / Ernst Haeckel

At the holiday my dear Diane gave me Natural Curiosities, a 12 poster 2015 calendar of prints by Ernst Haeckel. She knows I love those Victorian era biological illustrations. They’re so passionate and meticulous at the same time. This set was particularly nice, published on card stock by the Library of Congress. Beautiful jellyfish, octopi and more.

 

My intentions started out with self discipline. I would patiently wait each month for the new illustration. At the end of this year, I’d do something beautiful with the illustrations. Didn’t make it. These babies were just too tempting and I was feeling project twitch mightily. I told myself it made sense to do something with them now, to avoid them getting dinged, as things always seem to, by the Mints. Respect, Diane. That’s what I was feeling for you!

From last year’s holiday project of jewelry organizers, I had a bunch of picture frame backs. Varying sizes. Perfect!

For my gallery wall, I had six matching ones so I positioned six of the prints on each backer board. A box knife made a nice clean cut against the backer board. Next it was simply a matter of spray adhesive and I had wall art ready to go.

I was able to keep the titles of these six favorites, discarding the calendar part. That was ideal because the Latin / German titles are almost as interesting as the prints. My guest room gallery wall:

Guest room gallery wall with Ernst Haeckel prints, lit by crazy thrift crystal chandelier.
Guest room gallery wall with Ernst Haeckel prints, lit by crazy thrift crystal chandelier.

Another reason I love this wall is I stenciled it, Country Cotton white over the a creamy / tan color from some found-in-the-basement paint (No Spend Spring hard at work). It’s a imprecise stencil over fairly rough walls. I wanted a subtle, pretty look.

Now I love it even more. There’s something so delicious about the delicacy of the Haeckel prints against the traditional damask shape from the stencil. Maybe it’s that thing about the echoing of nature in all art shapes.

Close up of wall stencil juxtaposed against Haeckel prints.
Close up of wall stencil juxtaposed against Haeckel prints.

I also mounted the rest of the prints on smaller backer boards. These are strewn  about the house more informally, kind of a nice little surprise around every corner. I can’t stop looking at them. So glad I get to enjoy them far beyond a simple month’s display!

What do you think? Have you turned a calendar into more permanent art? Success or failure?

Coffee Sack Outdoor Pillows

Last year I found a couple of coffee sack banners at a garage sale, two for $5. This was a better deal than the $15 you usually see and I liked the colors. I also liked the text on the sacks: Costa Rica for one and a portion of my name on the other.

I thought of using them for a rustic roman shade but that didn’t really work for the pretty little egg house. The burlap was too rough for indoor pillows so outdoor pillows it would be, ideally something flat for the outdoor bench.

No Spend Spring came around and with it, that twitch to get the outdoor living spaces in shape. I had the material for the covers, but nothing for the guts.

One day I was cursing myself for dropping $20 on an ugly lounge chair cushion. At the time it was “good enough” and $20 didn’t seem that much. Now I was stuck with the cushion and would rather have had the $20 back. (Yup, there’s yet another lesson in wise spending.) I’d tried painting it with some latex and fabric medium but it just stayed ugly. Its two virtues were its waterproofness and relatively flat shape.

Lightbulb moment! Could it be reused to serve as the guts for one of the coffee sack pillows? I tried stuffing one with it and it was just too long. Hmm. Back to hating it unless . . . hacking it in two at one of the seams would right size it and give me two cushions. The cut would compromise the waterproof aspect, but not too much. Plus I’d never have to look at the hideous old cushion again.

Found the scissors, hauled out the sewing machine. Fifteen minutes and two seams later . . .

Coffee and Costa Rica, wonderful to dream of
Coffee and Costa Rica, wonderful to dream of

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It was a huge relief when Tattoo indicated approval.
Whew! Tattoo says they can stay.

But now there’s this question: should I leave the bench in natural pine and just seal it? Or SharkSkin it black or blue?

And back on topic, what have you done with coffee sacks?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

The salad bar!

I’m late to plant salad greens but I did get some arugula in. For me, food planting needs to happen in boxes and beds because of the horrible Mints. Cats are so appreciative of loose dirt and are never troubled by anxiety over destroying your seedlings.

Poking about one day, I saw a lovely idea for some small scale raised box plantings. Out of my price range but perhaps possible with some leftover lumber.

Inspirational planter ladder at a home decor shop. Lovely  and $100+
Inspirational planter ladder at a home decor shop. Lovely and $100+

Diane was moving and gave me the ladder from her kids’ bunk beds. This was perfect for my salad bar, helping me elevate a few boxes out of convenient reach for the cats. And it could lean up against the house, shielding the greens from harsh afternoon light. Easy, simple paint project. And exactly in keeping with the goals of No Spend Spring.

the bunk bed ladder before
The bunk bed ladder before.

The arugula is now sprouting. The grass underneath it is destined to be mowed. Really soon.

The salad bar is almost open. Yum!
The salad bar is almost open. Yum! The planter boxes are made from found lumber (rafters!) and leftover stain. They could be screwed in but I left them loose for easy repositioning
Yum! The nice thing about thinning arugula is you get to eat the rejects
Yum! The nice thing about thinning arugula is you get to eat the rejects

I hate the idea of thinning, seems so wasteful. Plus I get so excited when anything sprouts. On the flip side, when it’s food, you get to eat the tender shoots. These I sauteed with a splash of toasted sesame oil and onions. It’s a perfect bed for a roasted portobello mushroom with a side of rice.

Arugula shoots! Also tasty
Arugula shoots! Also tasty

Refreshing the coat alcove /closet

I’m lucky enough to have a coat alcove in my small front entryway. Like the entryway itself, it’s not at all big. Yet since so many small houses of my 1947 vintage have no place to store outdoor gear by the front door, I know myself to be fortunate.

A challenge is that it is an alcove. It’s convenient that there’s no door to open but it also means that the first thing you see when you step in is a bunch of coats. I want it to look pretty and be functional and useful. I’m not sure I got to pretty with this refresh but I think it’s an improvement. Here’s what I did:

Defined the use: For me, this is a place to keep outdoor wear, shoes, and dog walking supplies (leashes, collars, earbuds for that audiobook, waste bags) that I use every single day, several times a day. It’s also a place for guests to hang coats, away from all the cat hair opportunities that abound in my house. I’d love the entryway to be glam, but convenient access to these items was most important. I decided to aim for organized and pleasant over glamorous.

Mask or Edit? One suggestion I got was to put up a curtain to mask the contents. In this small opening (22″), this would harm access so I decided against it. It might look peculiar. Plus I sometimes have commitment issues when it comes to fabric choices. Edit it would be. First I decided that the coats needed rotation every month. In this four season climate, not all coats need to be accessible at all times. So keeping the the coat/hoodie limit to five-seven seemed reasonable, even generous. This would take up about half the hanging rack at any one time, leaving the rest for guests and access to dog supplies. Then I decided that accessories would be grouped in bins and stored high. Sometimes these are in heavy use. Sometimes they are not. Finally, I edited shoes. I still have a lot, but I don’t buy shoes every year so I kept the good quality shoes I actively wear.

Freshen the paint: The alcove was still the bizarre dank mushroom color they  the whole house was painted when I moved in. I had fantasies of an exciting colored alcove, contrasting mightily with the Kelly-Moore Windham Cream that is the paint in the living room and entryway. This logical article from A Color Specialist in Charlotte helped me decide to stick with a simple white. There’s a helpful graphic so if you’re pondering closet colors, check it out.

I want the colors of what’s hanging there to essentially pop, and I didn’t want things to get lost in an already dark closet by choosing a darker color. It’s possible that someday I’ll go with the Windham Cream to match the entryway, but I’m out of that paint and didn’t want to buy anything new right now. So a warmish white (my house indoor/outdoor standard of Kelly-Moore Country Cotton) it was. I painted everything in the closet white except the space over the top shelf and the inside walls that you can’t see unless you are standing in the alcove. (I am that lazy. Also, I don’t stand around in the closet. Also, people who do, maybe aren’t the best sort of guests.) I’m still thinking of painting the above shelf area the light blue/gray I use in the shoe storage unit (below) but I dunno.

Add shoe storage: This is a shoes off household, partly because of the way I was raised and partly because it just keeps your house cleaner. That means I want everyday shoes by the front door, easy to see, use and put away. I definitely don’t want anything but special occasion shoes in the bedroom closets. A boot try couldn’t hold enough shoes in an organized manner and it would provide too much cat access. I don’t love shoes bundled in a basket because then I only use the ones at the top, and it scuffs some. I decided to knock together some wall storage that would tuck into the sides of the alcove. These were inspired by a great article on Remodelista. (Ana White also has a good one.) I made a test bin with some lumber from the free pile at a garage sale and liked it so much, I made a bigger whole wall bin (again with leftover lumber). I also kept my boot tray. It’s handy for tall shoes which don’t fit well into the shoe racks as well as drying the occasional soggy shoe.

Here's the full-wall shoe bin. The height is 40"
Here’s the full-wall shoe bin. The height is 40″
Here's the test version of the wall shoe rack / bin. Not as big as I needed but still useful on the opposite wall of the alcove. There's a whole shelf for dog waste bags!
Here’s the test version of the wall shoe rack / bin. Not as big as I needed but still useful on the opposite wall of the alcove. There’s a whole shelf for dog waste bags!
Here's the shoe rack, fully loaded
Here’s the shoe rack, fully loaded

Made the most of the top shelves: I had three black & white lightweight bins and I used these for gloves, sunglasses, scarves&hats, and miscellaneous stuff. I thought about paring down the hats and gloves but though I don’t use them all, I get a lot of out of town visitors who do. And I put some dog stuff (extra tags, collars) in a small metal bin. I pull from it on bath day but don’t much need it any other time.

Bins organize outdoor gear on the shelf
Bins organize outdoor gear on the shelf
But the bins aren't really visible when you're just glancing at the closet. I'm still on the fence about painting the over the shelf area it is nearly impossible to see
But the bins aren’t really visible when you’re just glancing at the closet. I’m still on the fence about painting the over the shelf area as it is nearly impossible to see

Installed a back corner rack for scarves or purses: I don’t change out either of these items a lot but I wanted easy, back-of-the-closet access. This rack is one I bought from Restoration Hardware or Williams Sonoma about 20 years ago and never put up. Time to put it to good use.

This corner rack has moveable arms. It's handy and got installed in the back corner of the closet.
This corner rack has moveable arms. It’s handy and got installed in the back corner of the closet.
And now here it is loaded with long silk and cashmere scarves. These will become invisible once the coats are on the rack but I'll know they are there when I want 'em
And now here it is loaded with long silk and cashmere scarves. These will become invisible once the coats are on the rack but I’ll know they are there when I want ’em

Used hooks and ledges: the closet came with a few much-painted hooks and these were great for dog leashes and the dog towel. I just painted over these instead of spending an hour scraping and reinstalling them. Inspired by Ana White, I added a little leftover lumber ledge for supplies like leather conditioner.

Here you can see the tiny ledge. It's handy for stuff I want to be able to see without pulling down a bin
Here you can see the tiny ledge and the little dog collar metal bin wedged in the corner. The ledge is handy for stuff I want to be able to see without pulling down a bin. Example: dog walking flashlights.

Added art: Maybe it’s silly to put a picture inside a closet but I wanted just a little pretty to draw your eye away from the clutter. Plus I like surprises in rooms. This is a snap from a trip to Moraine Lake years ago.

Moraine Lake in the alcove
Moraine Lake in the alcove. Not a masterpiece but a serene note against all the shoes, leashes and coats busyness.

Hung some lavendar sachets to the guest hangers: I don’t think my shoe collection is smelly but I think it’s nice to get hit by a waft of lavender when you walk in any room.

Loaded it all back into the closet: And that was it. I feel pretty good about this improved storage situation.

Alcove fully loaded
Alcove fully loaded
And now here's the alcove, fully loaded
And now here’s how a visitor first sees the alcove when coming in the front door

What do you think? How do you handle small front door closets? Would you paint the over-shelf area that gets no light? How ridiculous is it to hang a picture in a closet? If it isn’t, should I put in something more attention grabbing?

As always, thanks for reading and your helpful opinions!

 

 

 

Rustic fence tip planter

I was lucky enough to score some old cedar fence slats from my local ReStore on the cheap. These were destined to become my decorative shutters, which meant cutting off the dog ear tips.  There wasn’t much to them, maybe six or seven inches but I think of cedar as so precious, I was at loth to put them in the recycle bin.

Time flowed. Spring sprang. As is usual for Spring, outdoor projects floated through my brain. I’d been itching to build some planters but this Spring was not  just a regular one, it was a No Spend Spring, so I was in heavy making do mode. Planters were definitely on the want-not-need list, so I was on lumber restriction for making anything.

One day I was looking at an over-crowded succulent plant pot and the messy little pile of fence tips caught my eye. About 45 minutes later we had:

2015-04-25 16.13.13

This looked incomplete and was a little rickety so I stapled a metal band around for a little extra stability. Hopefully it will rust soon.

Here's the rustic fence tip planter
Here’s the rustic fence tip planter

2015-04-26 09.28.52

If you’ve got old fence tips and want to do something similar, here’s how:

Materials:

  • Fence tips leftover from another project
  • Leftover lumber for base, ideally fir, cedar or something water resistant
  • Nails/nail gun
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Stapler
  • Metal flashing or other material to create band

Building the planter:

  1. Figure out how big your planter can be given your leftover materials. Mine was about a 16″ square.
  2. Build a simple base. I had leftover fir, which also does well outside so I several pieces, cut them to 16 size, and screwed them into a base
  3. Nail your tips into sides of the base
  4. Drill drainage holes in the base
  5. Staple a metal band or other band to all sides. If it’s too shiny, scratch it up with a wire brush and rinse it in vinegar.
  6. Plant

I love this bad boy! I’ve got it wedged next to the lawn so the succulents can benefit from sprinklers and won’t require much from me. And it’s making me think that maybe a rustic style planter filled with succulents is a good future thrifty gift idea.

Have you cobbled together a planter from found materials? What’s your favorite planter project?

No Spend Spring

Circumstances dictate that this is a No Spend Spring for me.That means no cash outlay on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Dog food? Yes. Crystals to finish my chandelier project? On indefinite hold. And what I must buy, I must find less costly ways to purchase and use less of it (sorry Max, that goes for kibble too).

This No Spend living is often NOT FUN. It’s tedious to always be counting, counting. It’s not fun to juggle or re prioritize a grocery list which started out modest (no really, peanut butter is a thrifty choice. And yes, we’ll be freezing that leftover baguette). I know I’m blessed not to be desperate. My version of No Spend living is about figuring out how to cover the important stuff until cash gets better.

In my heart and in my head, I know that this time is really good for my intellect and my character. Already I can feel myself stretching to figure out how to do the things I want to do without spending money. For middle class folks, it becomes so easy to do the convenient thing, especially if it seems modestly priced. No Spend living has raised my awareness of the general American addiction to convenience — and how that siphons away precious resources that most of us will wish we had back one day. Because right now I do wish I had that $20 back I blew on a “good enough” outdoor cushion that I now loathe.

I think also, it’s so easy to forget how hard it is for so many when you live in that middle class bubble. Living No Spend means living a lot like the the poorer among us. Little driving, a lot of walking and biking. Everything takes more time. A wickedly self-indulgent meal out is at a crappy drive through. Coupons are interesting. Socializing is sharing a home cooked meal, taking a walk or game night. All this reminds me that for so many, this endless figuring is an enduring fact of life, not a (hopefully) temporary glitch. So I feel like this is making me more aware, slightly less insensitive to the struggles of others.

Another benefit of No Spend Spring is that projects, instead of getting started and stalling when something else takes precedence, are slowly getting completed, especially if the supplies were already on hand. Also, because of the No Spend thing, many of the projects don’t get done in that idealized way that was the original plan. Sometimes frustrating, it’s actually always quite an interesting challenge. My view of a dollar has changed. Because I’m serious about No Spend, I think on every dollar, apply the want/need test, and only rarely indulge in satisfying the want.

So this is me, trying to embrace this time and way of living, hoping to get some lasting lessons from it. And it’s me, experiencing a lot of smug moments, as I do accomplish goals without reaching for my wallet. Living No Spend does not mean living No Do. Projects are my therapy and joy right now. Speaking of which, here are some of this No Spend Spring’s Projects:

DIY Shoe Rack: I wanted those shoes organized and accessible. The budget for new wood wasn’t huge but it wasn’t in the plan either. No Spend Spring scored me some free garage sale lumber and reminded me to shop the rafters of my garage first.

Landing strip chair: In my shoes off home, seating at every outside door is a must. I was making do with an awkward chair (kept hitting my elbows) when I lucked into one from a downsizing friend. I had a dream of what to re-cover the seat with but that beautiful new fabric would cost $17 . . .

Rustic fence tip planter: This is the perfect project for leftover lumber of awkward sizes!

Salad bar!: Diane’s old bunk bed ladder is now my salad bar!

Correcting the basement stairwell walls: Did it wrong the first time. Thought I’d have to wait and redo it when new plywood was in the budget. Turned out there was a “vintage” piece lurking in the basement rafters.

Gallery wall: No spend doesn’t mean no decorate. It just means mining your existing supplies.

Closet refreshes: Entry way or bedroom, No Spend Spring is an ideal time to freshen a closet.

Coffee sack pillows: The sacks had been languishing in the garage. If I could just find the right cushion insert, they could be come pillows.

What about you? Do you go through No Spend waves or is it just me who hasn’t managed things ideally? What lessons have you taken away?