How to Upcycle Old Kitchen Cabinets For Any Room

We just pulled some really old, 1970s kitchen cabinets from our garage. They had probably been the original kitchen in our house, but were then relegated to garage storage about 15 years ago. As you can see, they were dark wood formica, square and simple type of design. Unfortunately because they’d been in the garage, they’d become stained, chipped and the laminate was peeling. Despite all of this, I decided they were probably salvageable.

I peeled off the peeling layers of laminate and underneath I found 40 year old, decaying and yellowing glue. This had to be cleaned off, if I had any chance of saving these from landfill. Cream cleaner didn’t shift it, so it ended up being a tough job with a Stanley blade scraper. Even then, they didn’t come up clean and I knew I wouldn’t be able to paint over that combination of laminate and old glue successful.

Cue- Fablon! Remember that sticky-backed plastic from Blue Peter, that seemed to be in every make?! Well, it turned out to be a fabulous, cheap fix for my vintage cupboard. I bought 1 roll of white wood effect and 2 rolls of this beautiful, contour rose, pink lace patterned for the inside. It definitely sticks better to the smooth laminate surface, but it’s done a good enough job at sticking over the rough gluey surface and making the cupboard look passable again. Just make sure that you measure twice and cut once! I also purchased a Coral smoothing tool and it was definitely worthwhile. It can also be used to smooth wallpaper, should I ever get around to anymore decorating.

As you’ll notice, I removed the doors and discarded them – I wanted that modern, open shelving look. These may not be perfect, but I was looking for good enough. Plus, you’re not going to see much of them, once they’re up and filled with books and knick-knacks. I have 2 more kicking about in the garage and I’m very tempted to upcycle the rest. After all, I’ve only had to pay for the Fablon, approx £20 and new cupboards would have been a hell of a lot more.

After this success, I can see myself attempting a whole range of projects with Fablon. It gives a really professional finish, if you take the time to do good preparation. It has utterly transformed this cabinet and I can see myself doing simple tasks too, like covering books or other pieces of furniture to match.

Over to you – have you ever tried Fablon? There are a huge range of colours and patterns available.

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Zero Waste Cleaning Fails

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I recently mentioned that I was having little success cleaning my toilet with natural products, like soda crystals and citric acid. I did give up, I just could not remove all the limescale with citric acid and it was building up way faster than when I use a chemical cleaner. I think this was also the reason the toilet was smelling bad because nasty compounds clinged to to the limescale – gross! We do live in a very hard water area, which may be why this was presenting such a problem. It would have cost me an absolute fortune to continue to clean this way, as I was needing to buy new products every fortnight at the cost of £2.50 – such was the volume of product I needed to use to even get the toilet partly clean! Now, I can buy a chemical toilet cleaner for £1 and it lasts for a couple of months. I continue to use my natural disinfecting spray on the outside. This is the best I can do, although I have just purchased an eco toilet cleaner from Waitrose to see how it goes. I was totally unimpressed with Ecover’s offering, so we will see.

I recently used up my ceramic hob cleaner, so I thought I’d give natural alternatives a go. I tried using bicarb but it was difficult to use, hard to mix and hard to remove and it couldn’t tackle grease on the hob. I tried using vinegar, as I hoped the acid might break down the grease but it failed to shift it either. So, sorry to the planet but I am going back to my Hob Bright if soda crystals also fail me.

I don’t mind using natural methods, IF they work. But what is the point if they don’t?! I’m sorry but I’m not going to have a dirty home in the name of being zero waste. Homemade dishwasher tablets were another massive disaster!

All this said, I have great success with natural disinfectant, citric acid to descale the kettle, soda crystals to clean the oven and vinegar to clean glass. Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Where am I going wrong?

Things that have Gone – 17

I’m back on the decluttering bandwagon again! Now that summer is over, it’s time to get my house in order again. I’ve always got more clothes to get rid of, I’ve admitted before that I have faro many. But this year, I have made a real and concerted effort to address this. A lot of my clothes are vintage items and although I love vintage clothes, I think it’s time to admit that most of the time they are just not as practical to wear. They tend to be the ones left hanging for months and years, and that just makes no sense. So, I am trying to downsize my collection. The other area of weakness in this house is the acquisition of DVDs. So we have resolved to try not to buy any more, without watching some of what we have.

In the last couple of weeks, I have sold 13 items on eBay.

 

  1. Jasper Conran Applique Cord Skirt
  2. Vintage Laura Ashley tea dress
  3. Vintage Laura Ashley gypsy skirt
  4. Underwear set
  5. John Rocha T-shirt
  6. Vintage Laura Ashley tea dress
  7. M&S leather skirt
  8. M&S cashmere cardigan
  9. Thor DVD
  10. Vintage Laura Ashley tea dress
  11. Maleficent DVD
  12. The Skeleton Twins DVD
  13. Phase Eight Sequinned T-shirt

I plan to get ruthless this time, I’m giving myself a deadline and if things don’t sell – then they’re going to the charity shop. I’m not keeping things going round and round on eBay for a year, before they sell. My space is more valuable!

Are you decluttering? If you care to share, then I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

Upcycling a Child’s Table to Make a Board Game Table

We’re big board game fans in this house and we regularly have friends over for ‘Games Night’. We’re all feeling our age and finding it a bit hard going to sit on the floor for hours. Our dining room table is quite small, as there’s just the two of us normally and it gets used for food on these nights. So we’d been keeping an eye out in all the usual places for a suitable ‘games table’. My idea had been that we would acquire one of those retro card tables from the 1950s or earlier, which have a felt top and often fold out. However, as they’re mostly designed for Bridge – they tend to be quite small. All of the ones we saw were also in poor condition or had very high asking prices! We also looked in charity shops for some kind of gate leg table, but as minimalists – it would be a big decision to bring another large item of furniture into the house. They also require chairs and we really wanted something more like a coffee table height, so people could either remain in armchairs (or sit on the floor – more on an answer to that later).

I spotted this child’s play table in a charity shop locally and knew instantly it was a great find. I described it to my other half, but he was unconvinced (mostly because I’d shown him so many unsuitable items on eBay! lol) They were also asking £25 for it, which seemed quite steep to us. Still, he dutifully agreed to come and look at that weekend.Well guess what – the shop was closed! We then got tied up with well, life and totally forgot to go back until we were passing about a week later. Helpfully the table was still there and they’d reduced all furniture to half price, to try and clear some space in the shop. We expressed an interest in the table and asked if we would pull it out, to fully check the condition of it. The manager said we could have it for a tenner! (She obviously wanted rid of it).

It turns out that this little beauty is made of solid wood and retails for about £150 when new. You can also be lucky enough to pick up second-hand ones on eBay for around a tenner too, if you look at the right time. The legs come right off, so we can fold it down and tuck it out of sight, when not needed. The top was a little scratched and we didn’t love the green colour. So we decided to send it a little upmarket, with its own blue felt top which has the added advantage of stopping the board games from sliding all over the place. You can see in the photos above, that we are part way through our little renovation/ upcycling job. The felt cost under £3 from my local fabric shop and we already had the all purpose glue at home, from other craft projects.

My other half announced that some bean bag cushions would mean we could all sit comfortably, at the right height. You could easily pay £15-£25 each for these in the shops and I have an abundance of leftover material from other projects. So I picked out some that matched our lounge curtains, some heavyweight corduroy that I picked up in a charity shop for a song and another piece leftover from some bedroom curtains. I purchased 6 zips, at a cost of 64p each and 2 bags of beans at £6.50 each. Perhaps I will do a tutorial soon, but for now here is a picture of 2 of the cushions I have made. They take a couple of hours each, but the savings are evident.

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And lo, we are the proud owners of a custom games set-up, all for the princely sum of £20. Can’t be bad eh?

Things that have gone- 16

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We recently re-configured the storage in our garage, so it was a good chance to go through a whole bunch more stuff. I was able to turn out a variety of items that we haven’t used in the 2 1/2 years since we moved in.

  1. 20 mixed cardboard boxes for moving (Since we don’t plan on ever moving again and we’ve redecorated most of the house now, there will be no further need to keep boxing our stuff up. We don’t have the room to store all of these boxes anymore and decided there are other priorities for storage. Also, if we did keep them; we’d have to pay out to board more of our loft which seems crazy for some boxes! They’ll only deteriorate up there, so it was the best decision to let someone who needs them, take them).
  2. Bundle of car care stuff (this wasn’t even ours, someone had left it in the shed in our last place and I took it because it seemed wasteful to leave it or chuck it. That daft ‘just incase’ scenario again. Thankfully I was able to give it all to a family member who would use it).
  3. 3 metal poles (Used to hold up the storage we removed from our garage. Freecycled on to a gardener who wanted to use them to prop up their plants – perfect).
  4. A cake tin (Purchased as a recipe specified it was needed, but it never worked as well because it was too large. Decided to stick to standard tins and freecycled this on to someone who could use it).
  5. Bunch of rubbish (Took a large box of broken carpet gripper rods, odds and ends of carpet that were too small to use, empty paint cans and a broken drill to the tip).

That’s actually quite a lot more stuff gone when you look at it! I think I’ll be able to let go of some more, once we’ve organised our new space a bit. Stay tuned minimisers!

What did the World use as Packaging before Plastic?

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What did the World use before plastic existed? The answer is ‘jute’. Jute is a reed which grew in the rivers around Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India. It is extracted from the bark of the white jute plant (Corchorus Capsularis) and to a lesser extent from tossa jute (C. olitorius). Jute was woven into sack cloth and used to transport everything from potatoes to coal. In Britain, Dundee was the capital of jute manufacturing for the UK.

Jute is a natural product and should be at the forefront of any moves towards sustainable production and transport of goods. It is known as ‘the golden fibre’ partly due to its lovely shine and colour and also due to its ability to be woven into various textiles. It is incredibly strong when woven. But it is 100% biodegradable and therefore – more environmentally friendly. It is versatile and can be used as a yarn on its own, woven with other fibres and also made into more rigid products like baskets.

Perhaps jute is not confined to the history books and is about to have a resurgence? What do you think? It’s an annual crop which takes only 120 days to grow, during the summer months (May, June, July, August). It’s a rain-fed crop, with no need for fertilisers or pesticides. It also produces good yields, making it a very affordable crop.

Note: If this subject interests you, then you should catch up with Joanna Lumley’s India on the ITV Hub.

Zero Waste Fails – Homemade Dishwasher Tablets!

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Don’t all the blogs you read about Zero Waste preach about everything that works for them. I’m getting a little sick of it actually, it’s like the edited version of many people’s lives that are portrayed on Facebook. It’s simply not real!

So, I’ve been trying to find a Zero Waste alternative to individually, plastic wrapped dishwasher tablets for some time now. It’s been one massive fail. I’ve tried recipes for liquids, powders and tablets. None of them was successful, not successful enough to switch to anyway. They contained in varying proportions; soda crystals, bicarbonate of soda, borax substitute, essential oils, castile soap and citric acid.

The tablets fell apart as soon as I removed them from the ice cube moulds. Alongside that, they were only halfway effective – leaving nasty, gritty residue on my cups, making my stainless steel cutlery marked and rusty. In addition they were totally useless on tea and coffee stains – meaning that I had to wash many items again by hand or soak them in  a special solution to remove the stains.

The dishwasher powder was the same, only this added a terrible white residue to everything which I had to scour off with a metal scourer. The liquid was no better, with horrible water residue marks on everything. The whole point of having a dishwasher is to remove that heavy burden of washing up, multiple times per day. Because we cook most meals from scratch, we normally have a large amount of dishes and pans to clean.

Whilst I’d love to be writing about my fantastic homemade dishwasher tablet recipe – it just didn’t happen. I don’t know if it’s because we live in a hard water area, or something else. I ended up making a trip to the supermarket just for dishwasher tablets because I couldn’t bear the white residue on everything any longer and I was worried I was going to ruin my expensive cutlery permanently. On top of having to wash everything again, it simply wasn’t worth it.

What are your Zero Waste fails? Do you have a successful dishwasher tablet recipe you can share?