Category Archives: Home + Garden

Now & Then—The Yard

We bought our house 7 years ago, and it was kind of a fixer upper. It wasn’t horrible, but it was outdated and the yard was a mess. A lot of my earlier blog posts documented my home improvement projects. As much work as it was fixing up the inside of the house, working on the yard has been much harder. After 6 years of slow progress there’s finally a noticeable difference between when we moved in and now, so here are some before and afters (which are really “durings”, because it’s still a work in progress).

In the beginning our front yard looked like this (below). The previous owners told us they liked it “natural”, which was code for “a wreck” and entailed plenty of poison ivy and thorny brambles that were nearly impossible to pull out by hand. We hired a guy with a bulldozer to scrape up the “natural”, and we planted grass. The grass didn’t really grow due to the dense shade, so now we have a sparse moss/weed blend that we keep mowed short to somewhat resemble grass. Whatever, it’s better than poison ivy. I’m still waiting for the rhododendrons I planted along the foundation to fill out. You’re going to fill out, right guys?

Before (2009):

front yard, curb appeal, before after

After (2015):

front yard, curb appeal, before after

A couple years ago my parents helped us rent a tiller and prepare a big garden bed along the street (documented on my Dad’s blog—pardon my suspenders). We added a fence to keep it from becoming the neighborhood dog toilet, and I’m slowly filling it with the tangle of flowers I envisioned. This summer things are finally starting to fill out nicely. My goal is not to be able to see the ground due to all the flowers. Oh, and remember those trees I mentioned we were considering removing? We did it a few weeks ago! I like it so much better without them—no regrets. It’s like our house escaped tree trunk jail.

Before (2009):

front yard, curb appeal, before after

After (2015):

front yard, curb appeal, before after

So… I got distracted by this butterfly and took a million photos of it and forgot to take anymore “afters” of the yard, but surely you got the gist of it. I love butterflies. I’m such a girl like that.

front yard, curb appeal, before after

front yard, curb appeal, before after

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, how’s that for a melodramatic title? I think I’ve seen this book on nearly every blog I follow sometime in the last 6 months, so I’m sure you’ve heard of it by now. It’s by Marie Kondo, a Japanese “cleaning consultant” who has a weird obsession with tidying up. Thankfully she channeled her weirdness into this lovely little book about the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.

Marie Kondo Tidying Up

The book’s core lesson is to get rid of everything you own that doesn’t spark joy. Marie suggests paring down your stuff by category rather than working room-by-room. First you sort through clothing, then books, papers, miscellaneous items, and mementos last—donating, recycling, or trashing whatever leaves you joyless. There’s a bit of crazy in the book, and a few sections apply specifically to Japanese homes, but overall it was an interesting read with plenty of helpful tips. Keep in mind the book doesn’t address the fact that there are some items in your home you have to keep around regardless of their joy factor, like a toilet brush. No joy there, but I totally need that.

Marie Kondo Tidying Up

I read this 6 months ago, and since then I’ve worked my way through the categories. I donated at least 2/3 of my wardrobe (maybe more) and haven’t bought any new clothing since. I don’t even miss the stuff I gave away—apparently I wasn’t wearing it anyway. I donated many boxes of books, but I kept even more (shh don’t tell Marie). Shelves filled with bunches of books bring me joy, regardless of whether or not the individual books do. Papers were up next—I must have recycled 20 lbs of old instruction manuals. Miscellaneous and mementos were harder to pare down because the categories are so vague. I was more scattered about sorting through those, but I made good progress, and this list helped me identify those pesky miscellaneous items.

Our home doesn’t have a traditional designated storage space like a garage or attic. We have a handful of small closets and some shelving I put up here and there. I’ve always liked this about our house, because I thought it kept us from collecting extra stuff. Before I started “tidying” I didn’t feel like we were drowning in junk or even needed more storage, yet somehow I donated more than 40 boxes of stuff. I don’t even know where it was all hiding! I wouldn’t call it life-changing, but I feel lighter knowing all those unneeded things are gone. Now I just have to be vigilant so that a new collection of joyless junk doesn’t find its way into my home.

Having an orderly environment makes a huge difference when it comes to my creativity. Sometimes I can’t get started making things until I have a clean space to work in. Is anybody else like that? I love the look of those cluttered, messy artists’ studios, but I’d never get anything done in there!

Have you read and/or applied this book? Any thoughts?

Outdoorsy Stuff

Back in the fall of 2013 I planted some tea plants, and I was hoping to be able to do a series of posts on growing, harvesting, and processing the leaves into green, black, and oolong teas. Unfortunately things haven’t worked out as I planned. Two of my three tea plants are still alive, but they are almost the exact same size as they were when I planted them. In the summer their leaves were nibbled down to nubs by various creatures, and every winter they die back to twigs and slowly regrow in the spring. I chatted with the owner of Tin Roof Teas about it, and he has also tried and failed at growing tea plants. That made me feel a little better. I think our climate just doesn’t work well for tea plants. (I’m in zone 7, for the garden nerds out there.)

growing tea plants

growing tea plants

In other outdoorsy news, we’re thinking of having some trees taken out of our heavily forested yard. I’ve been poorly Photoshopping some different options, since I’m basically incapable of making decisions without Photoshop. The strip of land along the fence is the only sun we get in our yard, so I want to take advantage of it and fill it with beautiful plants instead of scraggly pine trees. A weeping cherry tree might be a nice replacement for the trees on the left. It’s scary to take the plunge though, because it’s so permanent!

having trees removed

tree removal