...because home doesn't happen overnight.

DIY trash enclosure text

The warmer weather has us turning our attention outside. While our home’s interior is mostly done (I use that term loosely…nothing is ever done here), there are a few things we’d like to tackle outdoors. We were hoping to install a few shade sails in the backyard but that project has been put on hold while we wait for the verdict on Everett’s medical bills. Until then, we’re trying to knock out a few smaller scale (i.e., less expensive) projects while the weather is cooperating.

We had been brainstorming a trash / recycling bin enclosure for over a year, and we finally tackled it a few weeks ago. Our trash can and recycling bin sit on the driveway against the house just past the overhead garage door. We wanted something simple in appearance with horizontal slats, without gates or lids. After pricing out materials for a DIY version made with composite decking, we decided to go with plain ol’ cedar for less than half the cost. Here’s what we did:

DIY trash enclosure steps

1 – Up until a few weeks ago, the bins sat with their backs against the house. We turned them 90º with the backs facing the backyard. This allowed us to design a simple L-shaped enclosure off the side of the house. We measured the bins in their new orientation, added a few inches for maneuverability, then installed two fence post brackets in the driveway with concrete anchors. We added a treated 2 x 4 to the brick facade with Tapcons. This provided a surface to tie the slats in to.

2 – We wanted the enclosure high enough to hide the bins but lower than a nearby windowsill. (No one wants a trash enclosure staring at them through the window.) We measured accordingly then screwed a treated 4 x 4 fence post into the first bracket. Scrap pieces of lumber stood in as temporary supports to keep the fence post from jostling around. For a narrower slat, we ripped 1 x 6 kiln-dried cedar boards (from Menards) in half. Working from top to bottom (to ensure full top and bottom slats) and using stainless steel deck screws, we installed the first cedar slat and checked it with a level. Subsequent boards were added with ~1/4″ spacing. Each board was cut to size and mitered on the outside corner. To avoid rot, we kept the slats a few inches off the driveway.

3 – Once the shorter side was finished, we moved on to the longer side using the same materials and methods.

4 – The slats are up!

DIY trash enclosure 2

We added a treated 2 x 4 vertically to shore things up on the longer side but didn’t take it all the way to the driveway.

DIY trash enclosure 4

Finally, we capped the enclosure with two (non-ripped) 1 x 6 kiln-dried cedar boards for a finished look. We decided to hold off on sealing the cedar for now and see how it holds up since it’s mostly under an eave and is usually blocked from rain / snow by our parked minivan. (Yep, we held out as long as we could but the minivan was inevitable. I love it and I hate that I love it.)

DIY trash enclosure b+a 1

Bins be gone! The fragrant cedar is a welcome distraction when taking out the trash.

DIY trash enclosure b+a 2

This little area looks so much tidier from the road now. (Btw, I lost the DirectTV battle. HOWEVER, we’re canceling our service once our contract is up later this year so that dish is going buh-bye. Netflix ftw.)

DIY trash enclosure 3

The bins are easily pulled out on collection day.

DIY trash enclosure 1

It’s pretty basic and no-frills but we’re really happy with how the enclosure turned out. I’m a sucker for the narrow slats and natural wood. And tidy is always a winner in my book. We’re going to use a similar design to create a hanging screen / planter to conceal the electric meter on the back of the house. I’m on a mission to HIDE ALL THE UGLY THINGS WITH CEDAR SLATS!

How do you conceal your waste bins? Electric meter? What outdoor projects are you working on this year? Last year I painted the peeling garage door as a stopgap measure and we had the elderly asphalt driveway replaced with concrete. Even if we aren’t able to do the shade sails this year, we’d still like to put in a few raised beds, install a clothesline and start a compost.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

*THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.*

jack and ella giveaway 3

I am longtime fan of Jack + Ella Paper. Before we became virtual friends, I was Jessica’s customer. (I mailed out the new digs postcards when we moved.) A little while later when I was contemplating paint colors for my bedroom, Jessica sent me pictures of her cozy bedroom and office and even allowed me to share them here on the blog. So when she emailed me about the newest additions to her stationery shop, I had to share them too.

jack and ella giveaway 1

The I’ve got it together notepad set is ideal for serial list-makers. (That would be me.) Printed on 100% recycled paper, the weekly menu, weekly to-do list and daily to-do list help you manage everyday life. I plan on using them to create an organized, interactive side panel next to the fridge. I’m also keeping the card stash on hand for last minute note writing. (You know how I feel about store bought cards.) The cards have the cutest fonts and prints on the front, and they’re blank inside for personal, handwritten messages. As always, they’re printed on 100% recycled paper and kraft card stock.

jack and ella giveaway 2

Do you live your life in lists? Jessica is offering up her eco-chic paper goods to one lucky House*Tweaking reader! See entry details below.

PRIZE: one I’ve got it together notepad set and one card stash box from Jack + Ella Paper ($56 retail value)

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please). This giveaway is open to international readers! One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this post proclaiming “LIST ME!”

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, May 27th. One random winner will be chosen and announced Thursday, May 28th.

WHILE YOU’RE AT IT: What’s on your to-do list today? I’ll go first: tennis, blog post, check in on progress at the studio, get my mom a birthday gift, oil change, finish up some laundry, scout out some marble remnants for a client…among other things. I’m hoping to squeeze in some outdoor time with my family, too. It’s beautiful here today!

Good luck!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

clean house

It’s no secret that one of the perks of living small is a quicker cleaning routine. Our previous house was >2,700 square feet laid out over two floors and it took me a good 1-2 days to clean it thoroughly. At the time, I was working as a pharmacist and eventually I hired a housekeeper to come in once a month for a deep clean. (Initially, I felt extremely guilty and hoity-toity about hiring help. But the first time I came home to a clean house that I hadn’t cleaned, all negative feelings subsided.) I would try to follow a daily cleaning schedule to stay on top of things in between the deep cleans but I felt like I was constantly cleaning. Cleaning that house was the bane of my existence.

Fast forward to 2015 and cleaning still isn’t my favorite pastime but it’s much less painful in a smaller house. Not only do I have less house to clean, I have less stuff to clean. And I love it. I gave up the daily cleaning schedule in exchange for once-a-week whole house cleans. Daily cleaning isn’t necessary in this smaller space and, honestly, I enjoy an entire just-cleaned house. Otherwise, I start thinking about what isn’t clean or what I have to clean the next day.

At first, I did whole house cleans on Saturdays. I thought that everyone would pitch in and things would go more quickly. This went on for months unsuccessfully. Yes, everyone was home. Yes, everyone had a job to do. But it wasn’t quick. At all. We didn’t have a good rhythm. Not to mention, we were spending our rare family time cleaning. And as soon as the house was deemed clean, everyone was home to mess it up again in no time.

So I made the executive decision to stop cleaning house on weekends. Now I clean house on Mondays and, I have to say, it’s wonderful. We do laundry over the weekend but it’s a task that is easily broken up and sprinkled into our schedule with little disruption. On Sunday nights, we do a quick pickup of the entire house. On Monday mornings after everyone is off to school / work, (Mabrey and) I clean. I finally have a good routine and can clean the entire house in a little over an hour. I start wiping, dusting and vacuuming in the kitchen and then work my way into the living room and mudroom. Once the common areas are done, I check off the bedrooms. (Bed linens are washed over the weekend so things go quickly.) I use a Bona floor mop on the hardwoods throughout before moving on to the bathrooms. I finish up in the master bathroom where I clean the tub while I shower to save time. When I’m all done, I have several hours to enjoy a clean house before the post-school / post-work chaos ensues. I savor it.

Of course, we still have daily chores (emptying dishwasher, post-meal cleanup, litter box scooping, wiping down bathroom counters, taking out the trash, putting toys away, etc.) to attend to during the week but those are things that happen regardless. I think the biggest difference with this cleaning routine is that I’m not cleaning in anticipation of guests when I clean on Mondays. It’s more of a maintenance thing and I get to enjoy the fruits of my labor afterward. On the weekends, I’ve stopped fretting about our house’s appearance and focus on the people around me instead. Plus, I realized that most of our guests don’t really notice the difference between a Saturday clean versus a Monday clean (as long as we tidy up, wipe down the bathroom counters and swirl a brush around in the toilets before their visit). One weekend we had our good friends over and when they arrived I was folding a pile of laundry in the living room. My girlfriend said, “I’m so happy to see laundry in your living room! It’s like a real house.”

What about you? How long does it take you to clean your (big or small) home? Do you follow a daily schedule or do you prefer whole house cleans? Do you clean on weekends? Any advice for quicker cleans? Obviously, this routine works for us because I’m home. If you work outside of the house, don’t feel guilty about hiring out if you can afford it! And I would encourage you to choose a day of the week that allows you to enjoy your clean house as much as possible on your time off.

P.S. – A quick cleaning tip from my grandma: Lay old newspapers or used tissue paper on the top of exposed upper cabinetry to collect dust. On cleaning day, just fold up the papers and replace. Easy!

P.S.S. – My quick cleaning tips are: 1) Start with a tidy house. (I’m easily distracted if I have to walk into another room to put something away.) 2) Keep cleaning tools and products close to where you use them. 3) Let little kids wipe down base cabinets and call it done even if you would do it better. 4) Buy a smaller house! Get rid of stuff!

More cleaning-related posts: how I clean the globe lights, how I clean the wood floors.

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking