Video: Easy projects for beginner DIYers

Here in Pennsylvania, winter is reluctant to let us out of its clutches. We woke up to more snow today! Despite the weather, I’ve been infected with a serious case of spring DIY fever and am officially in project mode. This past weekend, I finished up two easy projects I wanted to share with you today, particularly because they are perfect for beginner DIYers.

The first project is a driftwood candle holder and the second is a cabinet-mounted, magnetic knife block.



For complete details on how to do both projects, check out the short video tutorial below:

To help you prepare, below are the lists of materials I used for the projects.

Driftwood candle holder


For this project, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • 1 small stump or log piece (clean, dry and able to sit flat on a tabletop)
  • Power drill
  • 2-inch Forstner drill bit
  • Wood stain (I chose a combination of Rust-Oleum® Driftwood and Willow stains, available at Lowe’s.)
  • Polyurethane (I chose the Rust-Oleum poly in a satin finish.)
  • Votive holders (Mine measure 1 1/2″ in diameter at the base.)
  • Votive candles

Cabinet-mounted magnetic knife block


For this project, you’ll need the following supplies (available at Lowe’s):

  • 1 1″x2″x8′ section of lumber (I chose poplar and used a miter saw to cut it.)
  • Pre-glued, iron-on wood veneer edging (I chose poplar, to match my lumber. You’ll also need an iron to apply it.)
  • Block magnets
  • Wood stain (I chose Rust-Oleum Traditional Cherry and Kona stains.)
  • High-strength, clear epoxy adhesive
  • Mineral oil
  • Command™ strips or mounting hardware

QUICK TIP: If you have worn-out kitchen knives that need discarded, it’s important to use a safe method of disposal. First, check with your local metals recycling depot to see if they accept knives. If not, wrap the knives in bubble wrap, cardboard or layers of newspaper. Then use a generous amount of tape to secure the packing materials and dispose of the knives in a plastic or metal trash bin.

Have you caught the spring DIY fever yet? What projects do you have in the works?

3 ways to find clarity amid life’s chaos

First of all, let me offer a big “Helloooooooooo!” I am finally back home after eight long weeks of military training and I am so excited to reconnect with all of you and return to DIYing and blogging.

AMS graduation

Can you spot me in this picture? (Courtesy photo)

Stepping away from regular life for such an extended period of time has given me the rare opportunity to gain perspective about what really matters and what my priorities should be.

Today, I thought I’d share with you three ways I’ve found clarity through my experience and how I’m trying (yes, this is a lesson I re-learn every day) to make choices that will give me more peace and joy despite the struggles that come with a jam-packed life.

1. Embrace your insignificance. I confess that, as a wife and mom, I often have this notion that the whole world rests on my shoulders. It is my daily duty to feed and care for, clean up after, make happy, and instruct and correct all members of my family (spouse included). I guess I believe that, without me, nothing would get done … or get done right anyway. Admittedly, operating from the premise that all decisions should begin and end with me is an incredibly narcissistic – and anxious – way to live. And it can be really annoying for those who live with me. Being away for two months taught me that the show goes on without me around. People get fed, clothed and to school and work on time. Despite my fears, no apocalyptic-level crisis was triggered in my absence. ;)

Although this may seem like a depressing revelation, it’s actually very freeing because it reminds me that my family loves me and wants me around not for what I can do for them, but for who I am. And it’s OK to let go of my annoying perfectionism and let people do things their way. I really can depend on others to take care of important things. And I.can.delegate. I have smart and capable people all around me who will rise to the occasion. Who am I kidding? I never had the time or energy to do it all myself anyway.

2. Say yes to only the best. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve read in a self-help article that we need to learn to say “no,” I’d be a wealthy woman. I realize this phrase has become cliché. And I think we all understand there’s simply not enough time in the day to say “yes” to everything. The real problem is that we aren’t clear about how often we need to say “no.” In other words, we’re still saying “yes” to more than we can comfortably handle.

So the growth and change is not in learning to say “no.” Rather, it is in understanding what is really possible to accomplish well in any given day, week, month or year. The word “well” is the key. To gain clarity on what to say “yes” to, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • What can I take on today that I can do well?
  • What can I devote the proper attention to and do thoroughly, using my best efforts?
  • If I say “yes” to this, will I feel good about the finished product?
  • Can I take this on without sacrificing my health or well-being?

This is one of the biggest struggles I deal with I have so many wonderful things I want to do. Awesome … noble … fun things. But the truth is, I can only devote 100 percent of myself to a few tasks. This year, my goal is to give 100 percent to my most important priorities and fuggetabout the rest.

3. Get comfortable with pain. Here’s a sobering truth: Growth and positive change in life rarely, if ever, happen without pain attached.

We all have goals and dreams we want to accomplish. Many of us even have detailed plans laid out for how to meet those objectives. Many times, however, we get derailed from our plans to improve our health, work, relationships, etc. because we haven’t come to terms with the fact that getting where we want to go will require ongoing discomfort.

Climbing-wallMe climbing a rock wall during training (Courtesy photo)

Simply put, if you’re not experiencing some discomfort or pain, you’re probably not growing. “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” as the old Marine recruiting slogan goes. We must push through discomfort to reach our potential in life; it’s the only way to get there.

The beauty is that what begins as discomfort or fear quickly evolves into strength, accomplishment and fuel for the journey.

Do you have any secrets for gaining clarity amid life’s chaos? I’d love for you to leave a comment and share the tips you’ve learned along the way.

4 ways to save money by hiring a design pro

Hey there, fellow friends of Susan and fans of Living Rich on Less! I’m Cindy from Daisies and Crazies. It’s an honor to hang out with you here today while Susan is furthering her training to serve our country. Thank you, Susan!


Since you are a reader of this blog, I will assume that you are interested in creating and maintaining an inviting and attractive home for you and your loved ones, and that you like the idea of doing so without spending more than necessary along the way. You may enjoy being thrifty and tackling projects on your own like building, painting, repurposing, sewing and decorating.

I have all those same interests too.  A couple of years ago, a mid-life crisis light bulb went off for me and I finally decided what I want to be when I grow up, so I returned to school and I’m on the home stretch of getting an education in interior design.

Maybe you think like I used to – that only the wealthy can afford to use the services of an interior designer or decorator. Don’t get me wrong … throughout my schooling I have heard stories and seen projects that involved a mind-blowing amount of cash. But the good news is, interior designers can be accessible to those of us who aren’t in the “ladies who lunch” crowd.

Here are four ways that hiring an interior design professional can help you save money.

  1. Access to the trade products

Did you know that there are entire showrooms full of lines of furniture, fabric, flooring, etc. that are available only to those in the interior design trade? In fact, many of these businesses won’t even let you in the door unless you are accompanied by an interior designer or decorator.

Here’s an example of why purchasing through a designer in this way may be a good idea for you. You are in the market for a new major piece of furniture like a sofa. By going through a showroom, you will have the ability to create the piece that’s exactly right for your taste and your needs by selecting the size, shape, number and construction of cushions, feet and fabric. The sofa is then made especially for you and received and styled in your home by your designer. Will you pay more than you would if you walked into a big box furniture store and chose a sofa from off the floor? Almost certainly, in the short term. BUT, you will be spending your hard earned money on a piece of much higher quality. It will be the right size for your space, it will better constructed and more comfortable, and it will be more durable. Imagine buying a classic sofa that will last you for 20 years rather than needing to replace an inferior piece two or three times in that same time frame.

  1. Do it yourself 

Maybe you enjoy doing your own home improvements like painting, tiling, or flooring installation. Either you relish the satisfaction of working with your hands or you do the work yourself out of necessity because you want to stretch your dollars by not paying for installers. A designer/decorator can still be a very valuable resource here through a one-time design consultation, because you have a higher likelihood of making good color and product choices from the get-go.

An example from my personal experience is when my friend/client Lindsay was ready to make over her kitchen and dining area. I visited her home and we talked through what she did and didn’t like about the space and what kind of updates her pocketbook would allow. I suggested some changes to the space and worked with her to select new paint colors to coordinate with the surrounding areas. I later followed up with a summary that included the list of paint color names and some fabric options that she could purchase online. Lindsay then served as her own general contractor.


(Designer fabric swatches turned into curtains)

She hired someone to redo the hardwood floors, hired my referral to paint the kitchen cabinets and island, and hired a painter to freshen up the walls. She sewed and installed her own drapery panels and bench cushion, replaced the hardware on her cabinetry, painted a dresser to repurpose it for a buffet, and created a special gallery wall in the dining space with family photos and personalized art. Our consultation allowed Lindsay to feel confident in her overall design direction and to decide what tasks she wanted to hire out versus what she wanted to do herself.

  1. Commission an e-design package

Along with everything else Internet access has made easier and faster, modern technology has made working with interior design professionals an affordable alternative. Many designers/decorators offer online consultations and have a menu of costs available on their websites. Usually this will require a deposit at the beginning of the project with the balance due at project conclusion.

The designer will ask you questions about what you want to change and what your tastes are, ask you to send room dimensions and photos, and maybe even use Skype or Facetime to have you virtually show him/her around your space. You will then receive at least one design/mood board showing a suggested color palette, furnishings and accessories along with a source list for each element.

Mood board

(Mood board inspiration for Living Rich on Less office space)

Depending on the package you purchase, your master plan may also include a floor plan or even some home accessories or fabric shipped right to your doorstep.

  1. Hire a home stager

Some interior designers and decorators offer home staging services that might be wise for you to consider before you put your house on the market. You know how you don’t realize your child has grown so much over the summer until someone who doesn’t spend regular time with him exclaims, “Oh my, Junior has gotten so big!”? Sometimes living in our homes is kind of the same thing; after awhile we stop noticing that loose baseboard or the dusty knick knacks or the dated wallpaper that are under our noses every day. But those very things will show up in the photos that buyers are looking at online, and they will be obvious during showings. A home stager can come into your home with a fresh, unbiased eye and advise you how to edit your belongings, rearrange your rooms to make them look the largest, and freshen up the inside and outside to make your home attractive to potential buyers.

Have you ever seen real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran on Nate Berkus or Shark Tank? According to Barbara, “Home staging is no longer optional in this real estate market, but a MUST. It’s what will make the difference in whether your home sells or not.” She asserts that home staging can add 5 to 7 percent to the sales value of a home. Other sources put that figure at closer to 10 percent. I think most people would agree that hiring a designer to stage your home is money well spent.

Most of us pay someone to cut and/or color our hair because if we tried to do it ourselves, we wouldn’t like the end result and would end up paying someone anyway to correct our uneven bangs or that funny green tint. Sometimes hiring some interior design help is money well spent to help ensure that we make good choices and avoid costly mistakes.