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Top of the Afternoon to you folks!

It is amazing how many emails can pile up when you are away from the computer for a week ‘While You Were Outing’ a family member’s room.

No, you will not be seeing us work-work-work on the TV any time soon. You see, we ‘While You Were Out’-ed the room ourselves!  And we only spent $1.97 too. Awesome huh? 😀

*I have to say that this was meant to be a short blog post describing our experience, not a how-to guide. And since it has morphed a bit, this post will undoubtedly be subject to edits during the coming days.

It was a fun task and it took us a lot longer than we had anticipated. It involved shuffling a lot of things we did not know we’d have to shuffle. Remember that adage that went something like: you have to make a mess to clean up a mess? Well, I pretty much made sure that’s what we did. Haha..I had books and videos all over the place.

You see, we had to gut the room first (a.k.a completely, or almost so, empty the room), move the furnishings around, and then place everything back…neatly. LOL. It was fun…did I say that already?

There were several moments that created a déjà vu feeling from the various times we’ve moved. I couldn’t help but laugh when these feelings surfaced.

The day we started the ‘While You Were Out’ project, I thought We’ll finish this room by tonight. Then tonight came and we had hardly dented our ‘To-Do’ list. Then the next day I thought, We’ll finish everything by the afternoonHa! Let’s just say it came down to the wire – hours – before the person we were doing this for would walk in and see the room – finished or not. (Spoiler: We finished with time to spare.)

In the end, while it took us a lot longer than we had anticipated, we were even happier with the remodel than we thought we would. By simply rearranging areas and putting things (like the tv) on different walls, we freed up extra floor space, which made everything in the room comfortably accessible, and enabled everyone to be able to work in the room at one time without being in each other’s way.

You know what that means? I can see jam sessions in there now without anyone being scared of accidentally fencing with their respective guitars! (An issue before).

If you are wondering about what we spent the money on, wonder no more! We bought a table cloth at the dollar store that was to act as an ottoman cover. We also bought a small chalkboard sign from Wally-World that hangs on the door (97 cent). This sign was a precautionary step – we didn’t want the person we did this ‘While You Were Out’ for to walk in accidentally when we were not there. That would not be funny.

So, what can you take away from this?

The Prep-Work Preliminaries

  • Don’t be afraid to re-organize.
  • But don’t go gutting a full room without a plan. For about 6 hours over the course of several weeks, I’d sneak in to the room in question with a clipboard, a few blank sheets of paper, a pencil (not a pen) and a tape measure.
  • I couldn’t break through with this massive re-structuring at first, but God gave me the idea to write down specifics and develop a plan of action from that.
  • I sat down in the middle of the space and made a list of all the pieces of furniture that I saw in the room (and that needed to be in the room).
  • After making the list, I went one by one and measured the size of each piece of furniture – both big and small – don’t leave any piece out, no matter how small. In our case, I just needed the measurements for the width and the depth of the furniture. But in some cases, having the height of the pieces could come in handy.

After this, I could sit down and look at all the pieces and I knew what I was working with (if you are a good packer, you probably already think about that!). But I still didn’t move anything out of it current space. Here’s why:

  • I measured the wall space in the different areas of the room. But I measured from the baseboards and window casings instead of the actual wall because these wood pieces would really be the true width of the space. I measured how far the window/door was to the wall, etc.
  • I also measured the usable floor space we had at that moment. In the case of our project, we really needed the re-arrangement to yield a larger empty floor space than we currently had.
  • While I measured the room as best as I could (remember the furniture was still in the way), I sketched out all the possibilities I could think of – furniture here and there, what would be freed up, what foot/floor-space I’d get from these arrangements, etc. Several layouts that I thought seemed good actually gave us less open floor space. But, I kept at it and as I calculated we finally found an arrangement that gave us the extra space we needed, plus, it altered the traffic flow perfectly. No more bottle neck traffic jams. Yay! [If I had not measured the current floor space, then I might not have chosen the more efficient layout for the room.]
  • Note: Some areas might be hard to measure because the furniture is in the way. While it might not work all the time, I was able to get in the right ballpark by taking the size of the furniture in question and adding it to the amount of room I could measure (i.e. the room from the wall to the large table was xx inches long. The table is xx inches wide. Add both numbers together and I’d have the width of the room.)

Plan Before You Gut

This is extremely important and not to be underrated.  Before you gut the room you plan to re-arrange, make sure you have a plan on what you plan to do with everything

  • Make a list of all the furniture in the room that will have to be emptied (bookcases, tv stands, computer tables, etc)
  • Then underneath the pieces, write down the things that will have to be moved (i.e. TV Stand could have electrical cords that need to be unplugged.) If there is a bookcase that needs to be emptied write down an idea of how many books or tapes will have to be moved.
  • In some events you might need to get sticky notes and label components, cords, etc so they don’t get mixed up or confused with other similar items. (Especially if you are moving someone else’s stuff around).
  • Pre-designate where in your house/living space these gutted items will live temporarily. Keep in mind that furniture will be moved around and some pieces might need to be taken out of the room or brought in – a.k.a. Don’t Block The Walkway!!!!!        Don’t I know.
  • Also make sure you gauge the volume of big bulk items so you don’t start placing them in another room only to find out there isn’t enough room. It saves time when you are placing everything back in the re-modeled room if all the books are together and all the dvds are together.
  • I am stressing this because if you have a good packer in the house (pleading the 5th here) you might be surprised at how many books can be stored in one bookcase. Just a suggestion.
  • Did you mention wall hangings? In our room we had several pictures and posters. You might have this too. You might even have expensive pictures or shadowboxes. Hopefully, they are framed and/or laminated so you can easily remove the pictures from the walls without mishap. Find a safe place, away from hazards where you can tuck the pictures/posters/etc until you are finished with the remodel. If there are posters that have not been framed, but simply tacked to the wall, see if you can a lot time to go laminate or frame the picture! For us, there were several pictures that we had to take down, but we were not sure where the family member would want them, so we decided to forgo re-hanging them and would let the person do that after the room reveal.

Preparing Yourself for the Re-Arranging Process

  • I have to say that it is important to pace yourselves. If you can get a few helpers all the better. If you can’t, keep your strategies for gutting the room in mind like a budget and don’t try to do it all at once. I know that it can seem tempting, especially when there is only one or two pieces of furniture left to empty. But you have to remember this is at minimum a three-legged race/project – gut the room; move the room; re-stage/organize the room.
  • TAKE PICTURES!!! That’s all caps because I actually forgot to take some pictures that I would like to have had during the reveal. Let your kids or the scrap-booker among your group be in charge of the camera – and don’t forget to get a picture during the reveal if you can.
  •  It is amazing how much exercise you can get from re-arranging rooms! The second day of the re-arrangement I had the opportunity to feel some aches and pains. This is when I recommend you spend time in the Word of God – Jesus took your pain so you aren’t obligated to ache….just sayin’.
  •  Also, I recommend having lots of water and snack foods prepared and on hand. I actually had some green tea brewed too for when I got tired of water. Go ahead and prepare the food or simply get it ready to cook – this way you will not take up work time with food prep. You’ll be less likely to snack on quick foods that will carb you out and steal your energy away! Remember, steady pace is the name of the game. And stay away from sugary and diet drinks! :p
  • Did I mention steel-toed shoes? Well, that might be a bit extreme, but let’s just say that flip-flops or bare feet are not the best foot attire when moving heavy objects around.
  •  Have something in the background. This was important for us. The room we were working in soon did not have any entertainment devices plugged in.  If movies in the background helps you work faster, try playing a film you know by heart in an adjacent room and turn the volume up so you can hear it above your working. If music, sermons, or radio dramas are more your speed, get a boom box or portable iPod device playing in the room you are working in and simply keep it out of the area that you are working in at the moment.
  • If your project takes as long as our project takes, you’ll be glad you paced yourself, prepped food and refreshments ahead of time, and had some diversion playing on the airwaves.

Prepare For the Unexpected

  • 1st things first, pray before you start. Pray for guidance, wisdom, safety, and a dash of fun!
  • Have a first aid kit handy…when was the last time you re-shelved a bookcase with a pair of pliers?
  • Spackle anyone? When you re-arrange, you have to remove pictures and brackets, etc. So make sure you have some spackling to flush out any holes you will not need anymore. And since spackling probably isn’t going to match your wall color, have some left-over wall paint handy – making sure you leave time for the paint to dry before you get near it and have a way for the paint fumes to safely disperse.
  • Flashlight – you never know when you might need a little like on the subject.
  • Vacuum – be prepared to fight dust bunnies and dead bugs alike!
  • Do all this during the store hours of your favorite hardware store (preferably Lowes) 🙂 We had to make an unplanned trip for an L-bracket (to secure a bookcase we moved) and they were quite helpful in aiding our search down the hardware aisle. I’m sure I looked like a L-bracket tourist.
  • If higher and higher you need to be a sturdy tall ladder is what you should seek. Lol. Yes, when those tall items need moving, you’ll have to figure out a way to fit a ladder in the room. When you don’t need it, just close it up and place it nearby but out of the way. The last thing you want to do is take it back downstairs or outside only to need it again.

Remember to Stage

  • When you are finally finished, you will get to a point where some things will have to be placed by the person who spends the most time in the room. If this is the case, step back and look at the room as if you are just walking in to the space.
  • Make it look good. If there are little things that go all around the computer, but you are unsure where, take the main standby items and ‘stage’ them – place them where they look nice, taking the extra items and placing them in a gadget drawer or box hidden out of sight or placed in another room.
  • Think about what you want the person to focus on the most. If you want to highlight the entertainment area, put one of their favorite movies on in the background – remember to keep the volume low – we aren’t here to watch the film, just to use it as a prop.
  • If the computer or desk is a focus, turn on the computer.
  • If you take before-and-after pictures, progress-along-the-way pictures, or pictures of the other rooms, etc. Make sure you take enough pictures to document your progression and allow everyone to see all their hard work. You’ll be surprised at little things you forget about along the way (like the bookcase that was emptied, moved, and the placed right back in its original spot.) If you use the same camera for all these pictures, you can upload them to the computer in the room and place them in a folder on the desktop. Then, after the room is unveiled, the surprised person can go through the pictures in the order the re-arrangement occurred — before, middle, and after — and see what story unfolded.

If you decide to re-organize a room in your living area, leave a comment on how it works out! If you find another tip, add it! Personally, I think re-arranging is a lot of fun. It is easier to do one room at a time, but that is not always an available luxury (especially if you are moving into a new place with boxes everywhere!).

Until next time,

Keep Living4Real and enjoying the puzzle of re-arranging!

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