Saturday, June 30, 2007

Budget "Remodeling"

During the time we've been in our apartment, I've probably changed the furniture around in a wholesale fashion at least 6 times. Usually, it involves rotating around every piece in a room and sometimes totally swapping around furniture from one room to the other. I do this, in part, because women like to do this. I don't know why but it's often joked about in T.V. shows. For instance, in an episode of "The Simpsons", there's a bachelor auction and Apu proves how attractive he will be to single women by saying he likes to make furniture, place it in different parts of a room and then discuss how it looks.

The other reason I like to do this is that it usually completely changes the look of the place, even when the pieces being used are old ones we've had for years. It's a form of cheap remodeling. I also feel that each move makes the apartment look better. I think that finding a "perfect" layout is like the mathematical notion that the universe is growing colder and will approach absolute zero but can never reach it. I can keep moving the furniture around and it approaches a perfect state but it'll never reach it. That doesn't mean it isn't worth continuing to try.

Every time I've done this sort of work, it's gotten harder and harder for me to manage. I always do it alone because my husband tends to be pretty confused and also the dust that gets kicked up sends him into coughing fits which can rapidly turn into a bad asthma attack. It's simply unrealistic for him to do more than help move the heaviest items (which he kindly does and will do this time as well). Given that I have to do it alone and I get fatigued more rapidly than I used to (and I have a bad back), I've learned to break the work apart into stages which do not leave the place in a chaotic state as I progress.

Even if you don't have my physical limits, these steps are helpful in making the job go more smoothly and perhaps in refining your plans and getting a better result. They'll also almost certainly make the process cheaper, more thorough and less tiring.

Step 1:

Measure everything including the height of your pieces. Draw up a plan if you can using computer software. I usually use Illustrator and convert centimeter measurements to millimeters so everything is to scale. I then reduce the size of the entire graphic by one-half or one-third so I can print it. Try to visualize the "landscape" you're about to create in terms of how the tops of items will appear on the wall in addition to how it will fit on the floor. While considering the "landscape", consider how your wall space is going to look particularly in terms of the blank spots and how you can decorate them. Try to consider whether or not the line the tops of items make across the wall will look ragged or unbalanced. You can change the order of items to improve the "landscape" to make it appear the most attractive. Generally speaking, tall pieces are best on both ends and short pieces in the middle.

"Live" with your plan for a few days or so and let it roll around in your mind. You may find that better ideas occur if you sleep on it.

I was able to completely empty out this DVD shelf because I tossed out a ton of outdated computer equipment and my husband got rid of a bunch of books. I moved the DVDs into the space vacated by other items.

Step 2:

Go absolutely crazy de-cluttering. Toss out everything you haven't used for a year or two. Doing this will make the process of moving things much easier and possibly free up space/furnishings for other uses. Since most shelves have to be emptied, moved, then filled back up again, you have to manipulate less junk by de-cluttering before the swap. You'll probably also find you have some breathing room for decorative objects if you toss some junk that is choking your shelves.

Once you de-clutter, re-consider your plan and whether or not you can ditch any pieces of furniture entirely or you can re-purpose in some creative or more utilitarian fashion. In my case, the move I'm planning will force me to give up using part of my closet as a desk so I'll lose surface area behind the desk. I really want to keep my free desk space so I decided that I'd attempt to store things up and down rather than behind the desk.

Since I'm not looking to spend money, I re-purposed my now empty DVD shelf by removing the back piece (so wires can fall behind the shelf). In the picture above, it's set up above my desk with a cavernous closet behind it so it looks somewhat unstable. It's mainly held in place by the weight of the monitor. After the move, it'll not only be flat up against a wall but I'll be solidifying it's position with self-adhesive Velcro strips attached to the wall and shelf. I'll also be adding the router and DSL modem to the top shelf in the final move so that all the computer equipment will be close together (unlike now where it spans two different rooms).

Step 3:

Fine tune the placement of your shelves before the move. This may seem pointless because you will have to remove items, move shelves and put everything back in them. However, I have found that leaving this until the end of having moved everything leaves you with a great many niggling little tasks which you are too tired and over-stimulated (and possibly dirty) from the move to deal with. In the past, I've left these changes until the end and found that I have a bed covered in crap I need to put away and no energy to deal with sorting it out and messing with moving shelves.

This also has the additional benefit of allowing you to clean every shelf and dust items beforehand. If you're like me, you may be pretty good about dusting what is easy to reach but the back of your shelves and a lot of your items are covered in dust. If you clean everything up before hand, moving things will see less dust falling on you and the floor when you move each piece of furniture.

Step 4:

Clean walls, carpets, tops of tall pieces of furniture and windows systematically a bit at a time as much as possible so you won't have to do it all at once. Even if you don't get as fatigued as I, you'll find you clean more thoroughly if you do a bit at a time. Of course, there are some spots you won't be able to reach but you can do those when you do the move.

Step 5:

After you've done the cleaning, you can evaluate what you may want to pay for to improve the look of the room. In my case, I bought a new carpet though I'd probably paint the room as well if I thought I could handle it physically alone. I'll have to settle for washing the walls as best I can. You may also want to buy cleaning supplies or other incidental items that you'll use in setting up the new arrangement. I had to buy super-long Velcro strips, a rug cutter, and some cable ties which I hope to employ to control the snarled cable spaghetti I can't seem to avoid no matter how careful I am. I also bought a frame for a poster I want to put up.

When this is completed, the entire move will likely cost me ¥15,000 in supplies ($121) and occur across about two weeks of time. The bulk of that expense is in the carpet (which cost ¥9,500/$77). It'll likely be completed next Tuesday and I'll post a new guided tour of the apartment shortly thereafter and you can decide for yourself if it is an improved look or not.


Roy said...

Doesn't it drive you crazy with your PC tower on your desk like that? As you know, I'm sensitive to all kinds of noise and the sound of PC fans and HD spinning drive me crazy. I put all my peripherals in the closet and connect to them remotely.

Also, a good book about clearing away clutter is by Karen Kingston called "Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui" It's not so much about Feng Shui and has lots of great common sense. I bought the Japanese translation of this book and gave it to a couple of my messy friends.

Shari said...

I'd certainly prefer it weren't on my desk like it is. The original plan was to put it on the lower part of the desk but the bottom shelf of the desk is too shallow for that. In fact, I did a test run set up of it and it hung out way too far when the cables were attached.

Unfortunately, I don't have a closet to put the stuff in once I move to the living room as there's only one closet in the entire apartment which I expect to reclaim for clothing storage after the move. The sound from the equipment doesn't really bother me so much as it's white noise. Specific sounds like people talking or loudly bashing on their keyboards drive me nuts but the low hum of a fan doesn't trouble me so much.

I wanted to put all of my peripherals (except the speakers) on the racks I installed in the lower left hand corner of the desk but the USB and Firewire cables are too short to stretch from there to the back of the PC and I can't move the PC to the right side of the desk since my husband will be using his computer at a the next desk and I'm afraid the heat and way in which it'll block his view won't be a good thing.

My technology is also quite a bit older than yours because I'm pretty tight-fisted with my cash and won't upgrade until obsolescence is threatening to cut off my service. Right now, only one of the three computers we use has wireless installed (and that's my husband's notebook) so remote connection wouldn't work so well for us anyway.

By the way, my sister's library keeps its server in a closet and heat is a serious problem. I'm guessing this isn't an issue with your peripherals or you keep a fan in there? A closet in the Japanese summer would really bake your electronics.

Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll have a peak at it on Amazon. :-) And, as always, thanks for the comment!

Roy said...

By peripherals I'm refering to external hard disks, printer, router, hubs and server although I don't have one at the moment. If I had a tower like you, I'm put that in there too and just use remotedesktop when I wanted to use that particular PC. Just recently I got an Airport Extreme which allows sharing of USB hard drives via 802.11n. I don't need to mount drives anymore!

I don't have a problem with the heat in the closet because I've keep this particular closet farily empty so it doesn't get too hot.

Shari said...

Heh, my computers are all too old and slow for one or another to use remote desktop software. ;-)