Maximize Your Vertical Space

Raise your hand if you need more space. Me too! Here’s how you can maximize your vertical space in any room – I did my laundry room because, well, it needed something. My laundry room is 36 sf. with 6 sf. of that being a small recessed area where the previous owner had a rod to hang clothes. Nothing wrong with that, but it was definitely not the way to maximize vertical space. Here’s what I did in that little nook.

proud diy lady in front of shelves with canvas bins
pretty pleased with myself!
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3 Ways to Use a Rolling Utility Cart

The ubiquitous rolling utility cart. We love them, but we sometimes wonder what to do with them, amiright? Here are 3 ways to use a rolling utility cart that work great in my home and just might in yours too.

First, let’s briefly discuss where you can purchase a utility cart: just about anywhere. The carts shown in this post came from IKEA and from Michaels. They’re at Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Wayfair, World Market, Walmart, Office Depot, you get the idea. They’re everywhere, so there must be something to this trend!

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Making Lists to Ease Anxiety

Surprisingly, one of the simplest actions that can help ease anxiety is making a list. Yes! Apparently making lists to ease anxiety has been around for a long time. I’ve always been a list kind of person–it was a necessity in coping with A.D.D. I’m getting off track a bit, but often women with A.D.D. are hyper-organized because from a young age we learn that is how we can function. I was diagnosed in my 40s, but have been meticulously organized since I was a child. Makes sense.

Back to the lists. There are several types of lists that can be helpful in dealing with anxiety. I’ll touch on two that I use on a regular basis and give you links to other resources and articles discussing the benefits of lists. Ready?

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How I Curated and Digitized My Photo Collection

It was almost a year ago that I began the photo project. I decided to store all of my photos digitally and toss many of the print copies. The space occupied by the volumes of photo albums was too much for me to handle. As usual, I thought this would be a two-week job; after two weeks, I thought it would take a few months; after a few months I lost interest for a while; and a year later I am finished. I have never been so happy to complete a project in my entire life!

Here is what I started with:

Boxes, albums, and stacks of photographs
The bulk of my photo collection

There were photo albums, boxes of photos, and envelopes of photos in the media cabinet, the front closet, the bedroom closet, under the bed, and in the kitchen junk drawer. In other words, they were everywhere!

I decided to keep some of the photo albums as they were. These are albums from specific trips that are organized and contained, and I wanted to keep print copies of all of them. My trips to Italy, Costa Rica, and the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque are among those that were untouched. However, I was able to empty and donate a whopping 12 photo albums!

12 empty photo albums
These albums were emptied and donated

Photos in stacks according to year
Many, but not all, of the photos to be digitized

You’re probably wondering what took so long, right? Why didn’t I throw these photos in a box and drive them to the photo store and have them scanned, right? Because I had over 3,000 photos to be scanned. Because Costco charges $1 per photo, Target charges .99 cents per photo, and a local Mom and Pop charges .49 cents per photo. I was not about to pay $1,500-$3,000 to store a bunch of snapshots.

So, yours truly started taking photos of the photos with her iPhone. Snapping 3,000 photos normally wouldn’t take that long, but, of course I couldn’t just leave it at that (and some of it I learned as I went). Here is how the process looked in its final form:

  • Sort all photos into piles by year, tossing the truly trash pics that I didn’t need to keep in any format. That took it from roughly 3,100 to roughly 3,000.
  • Photograph each picture with my iPhone. Yep, all 3,000!
  • Edit each photo. Nearly all of them needed to be rotated, cropped, and lightened.
  • Copy edited, digital photos from MacBook to external drive.
  • Rename each photo on the external drive to include the date of the photo, e.g. 2015-04-13 01 followed by 2015-04-13 02, and so on.
  • After the photos were renamed on the external drive, copy to a back-up external drive and then delete from the iPhone and MacBook.

Now you know what took so long. Sheesh! I admit, I lost interest last summer and did most of the work over the winter when the weather was too cold to go out anyway. All total, it probably could have been done in four to six months had I stuck to it a few nights per week. But who wants to do that? I’m more of an “admire the finished product” kind of girl rather than a “hunker down and get it done” kind of girl. Ha!

But, speaking of finished product, here it is:

Eight photo albums and three small black boxes
The glorious after shot

I have eight photo albums and three small boxes. The boxes contain photos from the 1940s with tabs dividing them by year. I tossed a lot of the prints knowing I now have them digitally, but kept prints that are old or have sentimental value. It was around 2010 that I stopped having photos printed, and those are digital already, so all I need to do is transfer them to the external drives.

My only cost for this project was $200 on the external drives. I bought two Seagate 2T drives from Amazon, and have made them mirror images of each other. If one crashes, I still have all of my photos on the other. I’m still nervous about throwing everything in cloud storage, so the external drives are perfect for me.


This was a lot of work, but I like knowing where all of my photos are, having them backed up on external drives, and having cleared some space under the bed, in the closet, and in the junk drawer. You know me…I’ll sleep better with that extra space under the bed!

If you like what I write, I invite you to follow my blog, follow me on twitter @kellygropp, or like Chubs Lived Here on Facebook.



Quick Tip to Air Your Laundry (jeans, I mean)

I’ll let you in on one of my dirty little secrets: I don’t wash my jeans after every wear. Egads! There has been a lot of talk over the past couple of years, with Anderson Cooper confessing that he washes his jeans about four times per year, and Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh stating that jeans should seldom be machine washed. He was wearing a pair that had not been washed in a year. A sponge or toothbrush along with a little detergent is what he recommended.

Once a year sounds a little oogy to me, and even four times per year can be dicey depending on where you wear them and what you do in your jeans. I typically wash mine after every third or fourth wear (again, depending on what I’ve been up to). On my volunteer days at the animal shelter, you better believe the denim hits the machine immediately. But, for the low-dirt contact days, I like to hang them somewhere in the open so they can get some air between wears. The closet doesn’t work well for that since the doors are usually closed and I haven’t purged enough clothing yet to allow for good air circulation.

So, here’s what I came up with: pot rack hooks on a towel bar in my master bath. Yep, less-than $10 for a pack of six pot rack hooks!

DSC_0005 DSC_0003

The towel bar is on the inside of the master bath door, and across the room from the shower, so I never use it for towels. It works perfectly for airing my jeans. You could also hang these in your closet if you have the space. It keeps me from having to fold them after wearing – they can enjoy the wind in their threads. Feel free to share your tips in the comments. We can all use another shortcut in our day!


Quick Tip for Small Spaces – Purse Hook Works Just as Well at Home

We all have at least one purse hook for hanging our handbag when we’re out and about, but have you thought about using it at home? I live in a small space, and there truly is no place for my purse. The entry closet is spoken for, the pantry only provides shelves for food items, and if I keep it in the bedroom, I risk rushing out without it. So I took my prettiest purse hook and placed it at the end of my dining table/desk and that is where my purse resides.

Purse Hanger at Home

As long as your bag isn’t overloaded, it’s pretty safe to leave it hang full-time. If you’re a heavy bag carrier, the weight might be too much strain on your straps. But there you have it, another space saving idea for apartment, condo and small home dwellers.


Improvised and Inexpensive Closet Organization – Mom’s Place

Yep, another closet. Everywhere I turn, there they are. Even at Mom’s. Back in October I took a little trip to visit Mom in Wisconsin. It was too cold to enjoy the outdoors (26 degrees for my a.m. run), and Mom goes to bed early, so I was itching to find a project. My shopping options were limited since she lives in a small town. There was a dollar store, a Shopko, and down the road a hardware store. I made use of all three for this little fix-up.

Mom and her dog, Beamer – they are a cute pair.
26 degrees, but the sunrise was beautiful!

I hadn’t planned on doing a before and after while on vacation and had only my cell to take pictures. And the lighting was not so good.  But you’ll get the idea.

Anywho, I spied a really messy closet (I lit up like a kid on Christmas morning!). Actually, two closets that are kind of one. It’s an odd set-up. I deemed the right side a broom closet and the left side a storage closet. Mom was hanging her coats on nails in the broom closet, stacked her cookbooks on the shelf above, and had a ridiculous number of plastic bags tossed in with a lot of other stuff.

The storage side was even worse. It’s a good-sized closet given the size of her apartment, but there was a lot of wasted space. There are two shelves along the back wall, and the rest of the space is open floor. Not even a place to hang coats.

The split closet was a mess. Mom needed help!
Coats on nails and cookbooks piled above.

So the first thing I did was install a tension rod supported by end brackets. Back up, the first thing I did was ask Mom if I could organize her closet. Then I installed the tension rod. Finally she had somewhere to hang her coats – and all of them, not just a couple. Above that, I attached a wall-mounted coat rack (similar to this one) for her purses. I did some good old cleaning out and organizing (like putting the cushion for the sofa bed on the sofa bed) and things were looking better.

Coat rack and place to hang purses!

I bought some white plastic bins from the dollar store to wrangle the smaller, everyday items Mom was always searching for and made labels from a paper grocery bag and string.

Dollar store bins handle small items.

I pulled everything out of the broom closet, and without the coats hanging on nails, there was room for – of all things – the mop and broom. I straightened up the cookbooks by putting the loose recipes in a bin and setting the books upright.

Finished product – not perfect, but much better!


A little funny, but not surprising, that I was organizing while on vacation. Even when I’m shopping I’ll tidy up products on the shelves. I can’t help myself. But, when it was all said and done, Mom loved it. She still uses the bins and is so happy to have a coat rack. I was kept busy and Mom is happy (and a wee bit more organized). That, folks, is called a win-win!


Closet Organization Sans Tools

Because of the compact nature of my condo, even the real estate within my real estate is at a premium.  I’m always looking for ways to eke out a little more storage space where I can.  Well, I found a little space on the inside of the door to my coat closet.  I have shoes hung on the inside of the master closet doors, so I thought hey, why not use the entry closet too?  I installed two open top file boxes from the Container Store (also at most office supply stores; about $6 each) to serve as catch-alls.  I used those 3M Command Mini Hooks to hang them and added a couple of 3M Command Medium Designer Hooks to hang individual items.
Two storage bins and two hooks. Easy peasy.

The file boxes are great for my scarves, gloves and dog leash, and the two hooks are perfect for my backpack and hat. The best part – no tools!  Full disclosure – I did use a level and a pencil to be sure I attached the hooks evenly side-by-side so the file boxes would hang level.  But other than that, it was pretty much an eyeball kind of project.  If you’re comfy with the tools, go ahead and drill some holes and attach those boxes with screws, but it sure is nice to know you don’t have to.

3M Command Mini Hooks
Who doesn’t love a little organization and more storage space?

Cash for Your Clutter, and Help Others!

I’ve been on a household purge and declutter kick…in a big way. For about a year. You’ve heard this before from me, but seriously, nothing is safe in my home these days. I typically deliver a box or bag to Goodwill about every month or two. This happens because I try to stick to the rule of thumb “if I buy a pair of shoes, I get rid of a pair of shoes.”  Insert whatever item for shoes. That helps keep the stuff to a manageable amount. But every now and then I do a massive dump, and over the past year I’ve really been focused on downsizing and simply not having a lot of things hanging around that I don’t use or that have no sentimental value.
My usual outlets are Goodwill, Craigslist, and consignment. This time around I found a few new avenues for releasing my goodies into the wild and making or saving a few extra bucks along the way.


I sorted through all of the boxes of stuff that have been following me around for the past 15 to 30 years. Stuff I felt obligated to keep but never saw the light of day. First up was an entire box of tchotchke from my teen years. I sorted through all 47 pieces, chose a few I would actually display now, and put the rest in the Goodwill pile. Lots of current tchotchke went. Games. Clothing and shoes – if it hadn’t been worn in a year, it went. Books I enjoyed but would probably never read again. The bamboo shade from the bathroom window that provided zero privacy. Honestly, I don’t even recall what all went in those boxes. I was possessed and had to get rid of stuff. It felt good.


These items are not quite right for consignment. They still have value and will likely sell for more online than the cut I would get from consignment. Or they are so big that I’d rather not deliver them to the store. SOLD: Black Forest cuckoo clock! SOLD: halloween wig! SOLD: 35 Ikea votives! It amazes me what sells and what doesn’t. I listed an armless stuffed chair and a side table and haven’t received any nibbles. I’ll load them in the car after all and add to what I already have at consignment. BTW, the Hippie Go-Go costume is still on Craigslist. Halloween is just around the corner…
Sold – cuckoo clock – $40
Sold – votives – $10
Sold – wig – $7


Clothes with a label, tchotchke with a name (Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, etc.), sofa pillows, and small pieces of furniture that are in like-new condition. The stuffed chair will be the largest piece (and toughest to deliver) that I’ve consigned. I’ve been consigning about every three or four months and typically have anywhere from $50 to $100 waiting for me every time I stop in with a new load. Nice. The other positive about consignment is that it gets the stuff out of your home now. No waiting for someone to reply to your post and no meeting crazy folks in public places. Even better.

Didn’t sell.
Away with you to consignment!
Didn’t sell (I know, can you believe it?)
Off to consignment!

A friend was doing a donation drive for Dress for Success, an organization that provides business/interview attire and accessories to disadvantaged women. I was happy to donate some work clothing and jewelry. What a need they are serving!

The new avenues I’ve found for donating start with the Boys and Girls Club. I had a bunch of old trophies from my pool league days. About ten of them. I heard that the Club took old trophies to be reused, so I gave them a jingle just to confirm. Sure enough – bring ‘em in! I was happy to have found a home for them and to help the Club. I figured they would give me a receipt to fill in myself, much like Goodwill, and I would list a value of $50. Oh no. They handed over a typed letter receipt that stated the value of the donated trophies at $300. Yep, $300!

Apparently these had value. Who knew?
The other surprise came when I donated two pairs of eyeglasses. I used to drop them in the Lions Club box and be happy to have donated. This time they went to an optometrist’s office and again, a letter receipt was given stating a donation value of $400. Holy deduction Batman! I might even be excited for tax time next year.
I have a couple of old cell phones that went to a local organization, Interact, that provides safety and support to victims of domestic violence and rape/sexual assault. Now here, like Goodwill, they allowed me to complete the receipt and value my items. I humbly put $50. It’s a win-win when Interact can program the phones as 911 devices for the women they serve and, there is that additional little tax deduction again.
Lastly, the Big Kahuna of it all is my old 90s jewelry. Remember those paper thin gold chains we used to wear? I had a few of those and a couple of Black Hills Gold pendants that had been hanging in my jewelry box since, you guessed it, the 90s. I threw them in a bag and into my purse (big mistake there) and off I went to National Pawn. The mistake was putting them all in the same bag. When I got there they were in a giant knot. Because each piece must be weighed separately, I had the job of untangling them. I stepped to the side and spent about 15 minutes unknotting gold. Oh well, it paid off because when all was said and done, the nice lady told me it was worth $300. Hot Dog! I walked out with $300 cash in my pocket. Woot woot!

This is what came out of my purse. Drats.
Unknotted and separated.
The chain at the bottom left wasn’t gold.
Odd man out was tossed.
So let’s do a little recap, shall we?
  • $150 – Donation to Goodwill (YTD)
  • $300 – Trophies to Boys and Girls Club
  • $400 – Eyeglasses to optometrist
  • $100 – Business attire and jewelry to Dress for Success
  • $  50 – Cell phones to Interact
  • $  57 – Cash from three Craigslist sales
  • $150 – Cash from consignment (YTD)
  • $300 – Cash from National Pawn for old 90s jewelry
Not too bad for simply cleaning out the closets 🙂
My plan (ahem, challenge) is to not replace all the stuff I’ve worked so hard to get rid of this year. So far I’m on track. Not as much shopping, and when I do shop, I use a lot more self-control than in the past. And it’s getting a lot easier! I really have to want something before I’ll buy it these days. But let’s not forget an incredibly important part of this – the giving. Yes, I am more than happy to get those tax deductions, but more so than that, I want to help. I have the Food Bank on autodraft from my checking account. I donate to the various runs and walks that friends do throughout the year. I donate to the major natural disaster funds. It feels like the right thing to do (for me).
So, if you’ve been meaning to clean out the closet or the attic or the basement, do it! You’ll do yourself a huge favor by freeing up some space, you’ll help your community by donating to charitable organizations, and you can make (or at least save via tax deductions) some cash along the way! I love it!

What are your favorite ways to reduce, reuse and recycle?

To Keep or Not to Keep (and how?)

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably noticed a post about greeting cards. More specifically, cards received and the question of whether, or how many, to keep. All who commented were adamant that the cards be kept. After all, they are keepsakes, mementos. As one friend pointed out, the hand written note, sadly, is becoming rare. This is true. I’m giving away the ending here so you don’t fret – I kept them. Not all, but many of them, and I’ll show you what crafty little project ensued in organizing them. However, I may not keep them forever, and here’s why.

Pile-O-Cards to keep (and fit in that box)

Those who had strong feelings for keeping the cards all have one thing in common: they have children. Some have grandchildren. They have someone to whom to leave a legacy. I don’t have children, nor will I ever. I am younger than all of my siblings by quite a stretch, so if we all live the average lifespan, it stands to reason I’ll outlive them. Also, I live nearly 1,000 miles from my nearest niece or nephew. I realize that could change, but given the winters back home and the mild and beautiful weather here in North Carolina, it’s not likely.

For several years I’ve contemplated the fact that when I’m old and gray and it’s my time, all of my stuff will be just that. Stuff. There really is no one to leave a lifetime of living to, and even if I tried to push my treasures onto my family, I don’t see any of them making a thousand mile trek with a U-Haul to collect Aunt Kelly’s said treasures. And the practical, somewhat minimalist in me is pretty much indifferent about that.

Realistically, I don’t expect anyone to sort, ship, and store my belongings that they may or may not appreciate as I did. And after it stews in their attic for 30 years, then what? I have a couple of Rubbermaid Totes full of things I feel obligated to keep because of who gave it to me, who made it for me, or who isn’t with us any longer. I often wish I could let go of that stuff without feeling guilty; it’s as if the giver would know! I don’t mean to sound callous or ungrateful, but for me it’s the relationships, memories, and photographs, those are what bring me joy and help me to feel connected long after the moment has passed.

I wasn’t sure if it was just me or if it was a common feeling among those of us who will remain childless, so I talked with one of my non-mommy friends, and she feels the same. She has just a few cards from a close family member, but beyond that, she does not keep every little thing for the very same reason – it’s only going in the trash one day anyway when she is no longer.

I ran this post by Ken to be sure I’m not coming across as depressed or morbid, because I am neither. He agreed that it is not depressing at all, rather, it is the reality of who I am – a woman who will not have children. A reality with which I am entirely at peace. So please don’t read this post as melancholy; it’s just the facts Ma’am!

Now, with that said, here’s the flip-side. I really enjoyed reading the notes written in those cards! Haha! I have a couple of cards from the 80s, but I began more consistently keeping them in the late 90s (I used to be more of a keeper of things than I am now). I enjoyed my stroll down memory lane, but it took me 20 years to finally take the trip. If that’s my benchmark, I’ll be looking at them again as I retire! Suffice it to say, I threw out some. Cards from old boyfriends who wrote nothing more than “Love, _____.” Cards from people whose names I didn’t recognize, or who didn’t bother to sign the card. But all of the others were kept, and here’s what I did (finally, the good stuff!):

The few that were tossed

I bought a single hole punch and some binding rings from Archiver’s. I could have used the two-hole punch at the office, but the holes are much bigger and would have taken out more of the hand-written notes inside. So I opted for the single punch that left more of the note intact. I separated the cards by person/family, sorted them into date order, and started punching.

Binding rings
Finished product! This stack is from Mom and Dad 🙂

The box started with a few things in it already – copies of old photos, photography awards, concert tickets and bracelets, etc.

The box already in progress
And now with the cards placed on top
all sorted by family
From L to R: Christmas, stationery and note cards,
and cards received

So, even though I try not to keep a bunch of stuff hanging around, at the end of the day I really enjoyed reading what folks had to say to me throughout the years. Even Miss Practical gets a little sentimental every now and then. I won’t say I’m keeping them forever, but they do have a place for the moment. Someday it may simply be in my heart, but for now their home is right there on the closet shelf.

I’d love to hear what you all have done with your cards; how you’ve organized and preserved them, or whether you’ve kept them at all. I agree the written note seems to be going the way of the dinosaur (makes me sad), while space is always at a premium. How about we write more and save less – no rings attached 😉