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Cheap DIY Key Holder / Key Hanger!

Between my husband, myself, our friends that live with us, and visitors, we have a lot of cars in our household.  Getting someone to move their car temporarily while I run out for pet sitting or an errand usually wastes an extra 5+ minutes of chatting, waiting, and then leaving.

I decided to solve this problem last year by asking for everyone who lives here to provide their keys or spare keys so we can all just grab, reposition, and go on our way.  Well, that works great except that a pike of keys on the counter was ugly and I couldn’t find a good central location for a basket to be placed.  I solved this yesterday.

My Do-It-Yourself Key Holder / DIY Key Hanger

Here’s how I made a cute key hanger for our house:

1.  Found a cute metal sign on a book shelf that I received from my friend, Isabelle, at Christmas.

My Metal Sign

Thanks, Isabelle!

2.  Bought a $1.25 pack of 3 hooks from Lowe’s using a gift card.

Three Hooks from Lowe's

I forgot to take the picture of the package, but here are the three hooks I used.

3.  Used my friend’s hot glue gun and a little super glue to affix the screws to the back of the sign.

Sticking the Hook to the Sign

I tried using my regular super glue to stick on the hooks, but metal-to-metal wasn’t happening. I then used the hot glue gun to stick on the hooks, but it was easy to pop off the dob of hot glue once it cooled. So then I super glued the hot glue dob to the sign and it works great!

4.  Hung the sign using two dry wall nails.  It’s works and looks awesome to boot!

DIY Key Holder

My DIY Key Holder / Key Hanger

It makes me smile and is located on the wall of the room right in front of the door.

Other Options and Substitutes

  • The sign can be any metal or wood sign or picture frame that you want to use.
  • If you don’t already have a sign or picture frame that you want to use, you can find something cute and cheap at garage sales or Goodwill for less than $2.50.  I saw some wooden picture frames at Goodwill last week for $1 each that would have done the job.
  • You can use small or large hooks, eye hole screws, plastic stick-on hooks, or even clothes pins.  Use your imagination.
  • If you use something with a wood frame, you could screw in the hooks instead of sticking them on.
  • Strong tape or metal-to-metal glue can be used instead of a hot glue gun and super glue.  The point is simply attaching it and it being able to hold the weight of a key ring.

What sort of DIY projects save you money and make you smile?

Service So Good That I Didn’t Mind Spending $400 on Gutters

I had been putting it off for more than 2 years, but my house needed gutters in the front.  My friends and roommates were getting drenched coming into the house and my $60/year garden mulch kept washing away.  The guy who added the mulch for me actually texted me specifically to say that he put out the new mulch, but that the old stuff was nearly completely gone and exposing a few rose bush roots.  He suggested I get gutters to save my plants but he didn’t have a recommendation for me on who to use for the installation., Of Course

Last Wednesday, I decided to ask my neighbors on for recommendations on who to use for the job.  One guy responded that he and his friend are retired and have been doing home improvement jobs like this for extra cash.  He said he’d come over and get me a quote in 2 days, on Friday.  Then another neighbor recommended a company called DAJ Gutters.  I called a guy named Daniel at DAJ on Thursday, and he actually popped by within 2 hours.

DAJ Gutters’ Estimate

Daniel measured out the sections I was requesting AND a longer section up top that I wasn’t sure that I needed.  He explained what he would install – seamless gutters made by a special machine – and we chose a color that was nearly identical to my trim.  He asked me where I would want the down spouts, pointed to where he would install diverters (those bumpers for water to keep it from splashing), and showed me where he would add black drainage hose under my mulch to direct all of the water away from my flower beds.

I asked about warranties, and he said all of his labor and parts would be warrantied for 3 years.  He quoted me $275 for the section I asked for and $175 extra for the longer section up top.  He also let me know that he could get it all done Sunday morning (yesterday).

Neighbor’s Estimate

On Friday, the retired neighbor from stopped by to give me an estimate too.  He also measured the two sections.  But he would be buying beige gutters from Home Depot and installing them in 10 foot sections (not seamless and not matching nearly as well).  He and I also agreed on where the down spouts would feed.

I asked about his warranty, and he said he’d give it 6 months.  He also let me know that the earliest he could make it was the following Wednesday (2 days from now).  And he was going to text me his estimate the next morning.  He ended up sending it over in a couple of hours instead.  It was for $979.50 for the requested section and the extra one.

We Have Gutters!

We went with Daniel at DAJ Gutters for the $275 option.  He showed up yesterday morning and was completed in a couple of hours with the first parts.  It looked amazing and I noticed him adding a slight tilt the way he should.  He also mounted the down spouts correctly into the mortar.

Then he said, “You know, in a couple of weeks you will want the top section done since you will start noticing that all of the other houses have it.  It will also protect the seals of your upstairs windows right there more.  If you want, I’ll do it right now for another $125.”

“Congrats, you just made an upsell,” I said and shook his hand beaming from ear to ear since I already knew that I wanted the top section.  I HAD already noticed that all of the other houses had it AND that it would protect my guests from another onslaught of water.

He finished early yesterday afternoon.  It took him about 4 hours to install our 50 feet of gutters and 3 downspouts. It looks amazing – somehow it matches my trim color perfectly and his machine fed out seamless gutters specifically measured for my house.

Love my new gutters!

Love my new gutters!

Service Matters Even More Than Price

So, once again hooked me up with someone awesome.  But I have come to the conclusion that Daniel would have gotten my business no matter what.  He had more experience, offered a better warranty, and sold himself well.  He didn’t seem to mind answering any of my questions and explaining what was going on.  And he was a bunch cheaper to boot.

Have you had any home stuff done lately?  Found a great handyman or service person?  How did you find them?  I left a great review of DAJ Gutters on and Craigslist since he isn’t on Yelp.  Where else should I leave a review of his services?

Roommate Update

One of my newsletter subscribers, Jen Eldredge, asked:

You really are diversified and as I read your blog, I wonder if people realize how much of your life is spent diversifying. You and your DH have made it a way-of-life. How do you feel about having a roommate? It is a big sacrifice, I am sure, and something you never have discussed, as far as I have noticed. Just curious…

I haven’t covered the roommate stuff in a while since I forget how much time passes between my update posts.  I generally write like crazy about something when it first happens and then I’ll forget that a lot changes with time, lol.


Our Roommates Are Our Friends

Nearly 3 years ago, a board gaming acquaintance of ours, H, and his girl friend moved in with us while we were living in our first house.  They were finishing college and needed a safe place to live while they studied and worked part-time.  They moved with us into our new home too.

Now H is a licensed paramedic that has a weird schedule, and he still board games with the group.  His girl friend, Mandy, has become one of my close friends.  She has less than a year left in college and then she’ll be a special education elementary teacher.

Having friends as roommates is very different than finding a stranger on Craigslist, which we have done before.  We all care for each other, so we get along overall since the small stuff doesn’t matter as much anymore.  It’s easier to talk too.  If they break something that does matter, they fix it or pay to have it fixed.

Roommate Pros

Obviously, their rent is a great benefit for us.  We pay $1000 a month for our mortgage and set aside about $650 a month for property taxes.  Our roommates chip in $600.  So they are covering more than a third of our home’s basic costs.

But the main benefits lately haven’t been monetary.  It’s nice to have friends around.  We have late night chats.  We all have different expertise, so we help each other with different issues.  For example, Mandy sews and can do professional makeup.  H can fix things MacGyver-style and has all sorts of tools.  Mr. BFS cooks really well.  I help them with their budget and occasionally help them buy or sell things like their new-to-them car.  We all run little errands for each other if we’re out anyway.

They also used to take care of our dogs for us if we took longer to get home than expected (our two dogs passed away in early 2014).  We do the same for them now that they adopted one of the foster dogs that we were taking care of for SMART Rescue.  There’s nearly always someone in the house, which is great for security.

Roommate Cons

The obvious con to having roommates is that you are sharing your space with someone else.  That means that you have to actually go to a different room to be alone.  If you share something like a DVR, you have to communicate and decide who gets to record what.  Someone else makes your home dirty other than you.  Privacy is harder if you have a small space.  Parking is more crowded.  If your roommate isn’t nice, they can make your life suck by simply being messy or rude.

We got lucky.  Yeah, it is annoying when H accidentally leaves finger prints all over the stainless steel, but he also helps fix torn shoes and will help with anything anybody ever needs.  If their dishes stay dirty too long, I just remind them and keep in mind the homemade quilt that Mandy made me last Christmas.  Honestly, having roommates is occasionally frustrating, especially on bad mood days, but overall, the pros far outweigh the cons for us.

If you are looking for a roommate, reach out to your acquaintances and friends first since you may be surprised about who is looking for a new living situation.

Retiring the 2012 New Home Wish List

In April 2012, I posted about our wish list for the new home that we were moving into by the end of that year.  I stated that we would only buy something on the list if “it has been on there for at least 6 months and we already have the cash on hand in our Wish List ING Savings account to buy it.  The only exception will be if we see the item on a sale so good that it is literally 50% or less of its normal cost and perfect for our house.”

The 2012 New Home Wish List

Well, we never actually created a wish list account, so that became moot.  But we did take our time to jump on some solid deals.

Refrigerator.  We found our refrigerator in September 2012, a month before we moved in.  I kept cringing at $1500-$2000 price tags, but a Sear’s mega-sale popped up along with a $50 coupon.  We ended up paying about $1050 for a giant, stainless steel Whirlpool.  I love it’s water filter, but it’s ice cube making system was a little annoying throughout 2013.  It’s been fine for the last year though and its two repairs were covered by Sears and Whirlpool respectively.

Covered Patio. We were going to have one built after-the-fact but we decided to have it added on during the build itself for $4750.  That means it ended up in our mortgage, but it also matches our house perfectly, is brick and professionally roofed, and it was poured along with our foundation to be seamless.  We probably overpaid by about $1000-$1500 from having it built after-the-fact, but it’s too late to worry about it much now.  :-)

Built-ins for the Library, Media Room, and Master Walk-in Closet.  We ended up getting library shelves and built-in DVD shelves for a steal from the builder.  $1150 covered it all – the wood itself was about $1000 when we priced it out.  We had them build everything…


We couldn’t have built this cheaper ourselves…

Media Room Shelves

These look fantastic and I hugged the dude who made them…he was covered in saw dust and I am an asthmatic, but he totally got Crystal pounced anyway. :-)


Washer and Dryer. Found a brand new energy-efficient washer and matching dryer right before we moved in for $1000 total at the same Sears sale.  They are holding up well although I do miss our old set once in a while.  The new machines are too smart for their own good.

Projector and Screen. We ended up buying a whole projector system and screen off of Amazon in early 2013 for $1650.  That included the projector, screen, surround sound, blu-ray player, and receiver.  Had to replace the $40 bulb about 9 months later, but it is all going strong.  We’ll use the whole system until it stops working outright.

Seating for the Media Room.  We just sealed the deal on this.  We are now proud owners of a 3-piece recliner set with cup holders and a separate recliner for $1235.

Recliners for Media Room

Here’s our new media room set.

New Couches.  We have 20+ year-old dark green leather couches right now that were hand-me-downs from my parents.  We have decided to put off replacing them since they are still comfortable and that works for us.  Thanks, mom!

Rugs and Linens for the Extra Bathrooms.  I’ve spent $100 on new towels, linens, and bathroom rugs in the last 3 years.  That works.

Seating for the Library.  We found a scratch-and-dent chaise lounge for $200 – works great and is super comfortable.  Many people accidentally fall asleep on the chaise lounge…that is a great library chair, hahaha.

Chess Table for Library.  We have put this off indefinitely.  We did end up with a $180 HUGE ottoman that has built-in seats and storage though.

Dining Room Set.  My in-laws swapped around dining room furniture, and we now have a great set.  Nice table, china hutch (now liquor cabinet), and a side buffet table.  Looks great and was free.  That’s a win!

Dining Room

Thanks to family (and their swapping of furniture), we have this room pretty much finished off, yay! The white cabinet in the back corner is actually our roommate’s pantry, lol. So it’s a temporary piece. ;-)

That’s a Lot of Money on Stuff

When I look at those totals, I see about $2100 in appliances, $6000 in home upgrades like a patio and built-ins, $1500 on furniture, and $1650 on entertainment electronics.  That’s $11,250 over 3 years.  We can afford that, we like what we bought, and we use it all regularly.  But let’s not fool ourselves, we spend money on wants – not just needs.  Stuff doesn’t make up a good life.  It just adds to personal comfort.  That’s not a bad thing, but we do watch ourselves to make sure that a pursuit of things isn’t actually driving our general lives.  The butts that go into our chairs are attached the people that matter.

I’m done with that wish list now.  I’m sure we will want new things yet again, but it’s time for using what we have and thinking about the extras later.

Have you ever had a wish list like this?  How is it/did it go for you?

Another Leak, Feels Fixed!

We had a leak in our ceiling in October 2014 that we thought was tracked down and fixed.  It may have been, but then a second leak popped up in our ceiling in early December…2 years and 2 months after we moved into our home.  Pipes are only covered for 2 years.  You can see why I was freaking out a little, right?

New Leak

The leak in October was fixed and seemed to be fine for about 2 months.

Ceiling Patch

This is what the patch in our living room ceiling looked like after the repair in October 2014.

Then we saw a small wet spot start up again in mid-December 2014.

New Leak

Saw this wet spot and just sighed…


When they opened that spot, we saw the water dripping down from the supply lines to one of the upstairs bathrooms.

A new hole popped up and then we could see the water on the pipes.  That doesn't make the actual source easy to find though.

A new hole popped up and then we could see the water on the pipes. That doesn’t make the actual source easy to find though.

I texted and emailed our home builder.  Then it was just a matter of sending emailed updates until the matter was fully handled.

How It Was Handled

  • The home builder sent a plumber to confirm the leak existed and to look for it.  My home then had two small holes in the dry wall.  The source wasn’t located.
  • Less than a week later, the same plumber and his supervisor came out, searched for the leak, and even removed the guest toilet to see if that was the problem.  Plumber #1 accidentally busted the toilet when he reinstalled it.  They couldn’t find the leak.
  • The next day, they replaced my toilet with a better, elongated one.
  • I email updated the home builder on December 18, 2014 to ask about the next plan.
  • Christmas rolled around and we heard nothing for 2 weeks.
  • On January 7, 2015, three plumbers and my home builder came back and spent 2 hours narrowing down and finally locating the problem – the supply line to that upstairs toilet.  My house now had 4 holes in it, but we were on track.
  • The leak was repaired the next day (January 8).
  • We were asked to keep an eye on the hole, ceiling, and new pipes for a week while the excess moisture evaporated.
  • Last Wednesday (January 14), the holes were patched and textured.
  • Last Friday (January 16), the walls were re-painted.
  • As of yesterday, everything is dry and looks new again.  Even the October patch was re-textured properly.  The water damage marks in the bedroom were painted too.
The paint is now completely dry and everything looks great!

The paint is now completely dry and everything looks great!

It’s taken about a month, but my house better again.  Same walls, texture, and paint.  We are sleeping better knowing there isn’t any more water in our walls or holes in our ceiling.  We liked seeing that the new pipe is way hardier than the old one.  When everything was said and done, I am a satisfied customer of Travis Homes.  They did end up paying for everything.  Fingers crossed that this is the end of our leak saga for a nice long time!

A New Leak in Our Walls…

I mentioned it in passing, but we have another leak in the house.  Our handyman cut out a small hole and we can see that the sub floor above our living room/master bedroom wall is wet.  There is also some mildew to remove and the leak itself to repair.  Overall, bleck.  I’m trying to get the home builder to respond as soon as possible, but overall, I’m not extremely worried yet.  No matter what, our handyman can fix everything.  Hopefully by the new year, we’ll be leak-free.  I’ll keep you all updated!

New Ceiling Leak

It obviously sucks, but I know it can be fixed. I’m trying not to stress too much.

My Home Feels Like Home Again

How It Started

In mid-October, I wrote about a really bad week.  I had come home from pet sitting at 5:30am and our bed was soaked from water that came in through our ceiling fan.  A day later, a crack opened up in the ceiling of our living room.  A day after that, our oven’s top heating element literally exploded in a burst of fireworks and flames.  A couple of days after that, my husband received a red light camera citation.  It was simply a crappy week.

Last Update

A few days after I told you about all of those problems, I wrote an update for you.

  • We paid the $79 ticket without any problems.  You can read that update post to see why I was laughing hysterically as I electronically sent them money.
  • Our roof was inspected by the builder’s chosen roofing company, and they blamed wind-driven rain.  So I was scheduling a guy to fix everything.
  • An AWFUL oven technician came out on behalf of GE Appliances and ticked me off badly.  GE decided to send me the part for free and schedule an appointment for a different technician to come out and install it for me after a couple of sincere and polite, though not perky, phone calls.

Handling the Issues

I ended up scheduling an all-in-one handyman for the roof and ceiling issues that I knew about thanks to a friend.  He came over, took a quick look around, and quoted $400 to elongate the vent hood to decrease the risk of wind-driven rain in the future and to patch the crack in the ceiling.

A few days later, he arrived as planned…and found a crack in the vent base on the roof in less than 5 minutes.

It wasn’t wind-driven rain damage!  It was a crack caused by scoring the vent base when they cut a shingle to fit!  The crack must have opened up during the storm and that’s where all of the water came from.  Mystery solved.

It did mean that he spent longer on the roof since he sealed the crack and the shingle very well.  He also elongated the vent hood just in case.  While he was handling that, I was sending videos and pictures to my home builder and requesting them to reimburse me for every dime…

Cut Shingle

That is what a shingle looks like that was cut down the middle to fit in front of the vent hood…

Crack in the Vent Hood / Vent Base

And that is the crack in the vent base that let all the water into my ceiling…

Once he was done outside, he also finished patching up my ceiling inside.

Ceiling Damage

This is what the ceiling crack had turned into within 3 days.

Fixed Ceiling

Goodbye crack!

His final bill came to $490 on Monday, October 20, 2014. I paid it, of course.  Then I texted a picture of that invoice to my home builder and crossed my fingers that they wouldn’t fight me too hard on the claim.

With the oven, they forgot to send me the element.  But I expected that, and called the Tuesday it was supposed to arrive to check on it since my service appointment was set for Thursday. They overnighted me the part.  :-)  The technician arrived Thursday as planned. He had it fixed in less than 15 minutes. He also showed me how to do it if it ever happened again, showed me how to replace the burnt out light bulb without unscrewing anything, and walked me through taking off the front oven door to be able to reach into it easier.  Woot!

Oven with Obvious Gap

This was our broken oven…


Working Oven

Now our oven works again!

Life is Good Again

I’m happy to report that home feels like home again.  :-)  The oven was fixed for free.  The roof and ceiling damage was reimbursed completely by my home builder on Halloween.  The stray dog was officially adopted.  And the red-light citation was handled.  My house feels less broken.  Now to just finish cleaning up all of the Halloween decorations and random party stuff.  :-D

How are you doing right now?  Get some stuff off of your to-do list?