In my last post I wrote about my frustration of how little I have managed to accomplish this past several months due to the realities and physical limitations of being middle aged as well as having a recent spell of mild depression (something I have dealt with the majority of my life). I also mentioned that there had been some small wins in those months. So rather than dwell on what I didn’t get done, I am going to share what I did get accomplished.
Small Win #1 – Window ShakersBeing an apartment dweller my entire adult life until now, I have always prided myself for having a smaller than average carbon footprint by a sizable margin. This has allowed me to live guilt free with one very privileged luxury… Air conditioning. To know me is to know that I don’t handle summer heat and humidity very well. I need to be able to come home to a cool comfortable home. Now that I am living in a 2,000 sq ft house instead of an apartment, and have a car for the first time in 25 years, I realize that my carbon footprint is bigger than it was. Thankfully, after a recent re-evaluation of my current carbon footprint (including my current use of air conditioning), I come in about 40% below the average American. Higher than it was, and there is room for improvement, but I will continue to feel slightly less guilty about keeping our house comfortable.
Eventually, our home will have whole house air-conditioning (and insulation) and will be much more efficient, but until that day arrives, we are reliant upon window units (aka: window shakers). With rooms still unoccupied (awaiting future renovations) we decided we needed to keep the main floor comfortable, as well as the room we sleep in. I also wanted the ability to cool my studio on the third floor when I am using it. To that end, we installed four window units. Two on the main floor running nearly all hours in economy-mode, keeping the parlor, dining room, and kitchen quite comfortable. The one in the bedroom is also almost always running, albeit at a higher setting during the day when we aren’t in there much (but because naps happen, we need to be able to cool the room down quickly). The one in my studio is only on when I am up there working. The amazing thing is that with three of the four units running nearly all the time, our highest electric bill has only been about $130, which is far less than our summer electric bill in our New York apartment.
Small Win #2 – Keeping the Heat OutThanks to neighbors on both sides having a third story at the rear (we only have two) as well as our windows being deeply set into thick brick walls, most of our back windows are shaded much of the day. But the third floor rear windows are full on sun pretty much all day long. It doesn’t help that the uninsulated attic is also baking in the sun all day long. Keeping the main floor a comfortable 75 has been relatively simple and light(ish) on the wallet, but things change the moment you start to ascend the stairs. Less than halfway up to the second floor, the temperature starts to climb and the difference is palpable. I have a thermometer at the top of the stairs and can report that since the end of May, I haven’t seen it below 85, and it has been as high as 97 (ugh). This is only intensified by the fact that there is ZERO insulation in our house, and there won’t be before next year.
So to help reduce the heat gain from the windows, I decided that I needed to install solar film to allow light in while blocking heat gain. I didn’t do the nicest finish job on them, but I am thrilled by the results. As soon as I completed the top sash on my first window, I could feel the difference in the suns warmth on the back of my hand as I moved it between the upper and lower sash. And the difference is dramatic! I have no doubt that it would be even warmer on the third floor without the window film.
Small Win #3 – Vertical Pot RackWhen I did my Lipstick on a Pig facelift on the kitchen last spring, my original plan was to hang a pot rack from the ceiling in front of the window. I even went so far as to build one, only to realize that there were no ceiling joists where I wanted to hang it. Not wanting to rely upon the strength of our lath and plaster ceiling to hold the weight of the pots and pans, I abandoned the idea. But digging around for our pots and pans in the cabinets wasn’t working either as our space is limited and pulling out three items to get to the one on the bottom is a pain in the ass. (First world problems, true… But still annoying).
It turns out that the solution was already here. Back in June I purchased a metal peg-board system from Wall Control to organize my tools on my future workbench (*Amazon sells this version for kitchens as well). In July, with the workbench still unbuilt, it occurred to me that the peg-board would make perfect storage for pots and pans in the kitchen. So, I used two panels and some hooks and within 30 minutes, the storage in our kitchen was greatly improved, and quite attractive at well! It is so much easier to grab a pot off of the wall than to dig around for it in a bottom cabinet. Quick, Simple, Affordable, and absolutely Beautiful!
Small Win #4: When it Rains, it Pours
We learned that the previous owner who wasn’t very diligent about maintenance, never cleaned the downspout out and the rain has been overflowing the top for decades. This explains the dark streak on the wall, this explains the completely rotten wood window frame in the dining room, and this explains why the wall is damp on the inside. It also explains the two or three inches of standing water in the backyard after every storm and the damage that has been caused over the course of time. But… As you can guess, I’m not very keen to the idea of climbing a ladder to disconnect the downspout and clean out nasty fetid leaves every year. There had to be a better solution. Our 166 year old house does not have standard gutters, and standard off-the-shelf products for keeping leaves out of the downspout aren’t an option, so it was time to do some research. After several hours of sleuthing the Internets, I came across a device that just may work.
The *Leaf Eater Advanced Downspout Filter from Rain Harvest Systems is essentially a rain head which is installed directly below the downspout from the roof before the downspout turns to line up with the sewer. Because I needed to be able to access the filter screen without a ladder, my only option was to run the downspout straight down, directly in front of the dining room window. Not a very sexy solution, but until we do the renovations to the rear of the house (kitchen, dining, guest bedroom and bath) in a few years, it will work. Here it is in action!
Small Win #5: Let there be Art!We are still many months away from diving into the parlor (living room) renovations. (Remember the medallion? Yes, I am still working on it.) But just because the room isn’t even close to being started doesn’t mean we can’t make it livable in the meantime. Every summer we spend a week at the same art filled house in P-town and coming home to blank walls this year made me sad. Up until this point, all of our art had been leaning along one wall in my studio on the third floor. In addition to the small collection we amassed in New York, we have continued to acquire a few works from eBay and Etsy, as well as some pieces in Cuba, so our collection has grown a bit. Of course, one of the major reasons we chose our house is because it is filled with rooms with lots of walls for art. Up until now, there have only been two pieces of art on the wall, both hung when we finished the facelift on our kitchen. That had to change…
I told Y that I think we need to hang a few pieces, even if we aren’t close to getting to work on the room and he agreed. So over the course of a Thursday in Mid-July, I pulled out my supply of Command Strip Hooks and went to town hanging art. I hung some big pieces in the parlor, but also several around the house in hallways, our current bedroom, and the bathroom. Immediately, walking around our tired and unfinished interiors was made a bit more pleasurable. It also made our temporary set up in the parlor much more enjoyable. Instead of looking at hideous peach colored walls, we now get to look at our favorite artwork hung on hideous peach colored walls. In due time that will change.
So that about sums up my small wins. I have to admit the pot-rack in the kitchen was the easiest and quickest project and has had a big impact on day to day living. I have a bigger project reveal coming later this week. It is very sexy and it involves my favorite color (red). Check out my Instagram @ourphillyrow for a clue… Also, please consider following me if you don’t already. There is also a clue above in this post 😉.
One more thing: In my last post I wrote about my debilitating battle with Plantar Fasciitis. Well, I am pleased to say that things are better for me. Only time will tell, but I think I have discovered a specific type of brace that while uncomfortable to wear, seems to help with the healing and reduced the heel pain by 75% within three days.
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