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Bookworm Chic

I have a lot of books. This is nothing new. I’m on Bookmooch and GoodReads and consider myself quite the reader. I’m also quite the aspiring owner-of-a-well-decorated-condo. The two don’t always mix.

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I’ve actually Googled “styling a bookcase” because I’d like mine to look a little less like I’ve crammed every book I could find in there sideways. Unfortunately, most tips for beautifying bookcases involve getting rid of your books and replacing them with faux souvenirs or woven baskets. One decorator advised getting rid of “unsightly paperbacks.” If I did this, I’d lose most of my collection.

I am culling. I get rid of books (via swap or donation) as soon as I finish them. I just seem to acquire them at a phenomenal rate. Input is far exceeding output.

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My life is not a magazine. I need my bookcases to hold actual books. Actual paperback books. I know. I dream of wall-to-wall shelving (especially with a sliding library ladder), but until that day, I need to figure out creative storage. My bookcases are full to the brim and books are currently residing there both horizontally and vertically – however they best fit.

In addition to two busting bookcases, I have one of these:

Thus, a stack of five or six hardbacks becomes wall art. I’ve considered getting several more (they’re cheap!) and making a floor-to-ceiling “stack.” I also love this herringbone bookcase, but I was indecisive and West Elm sold out.

Do you have a home full of books? How do you display them? Suggestions, please.

“Upcycled” Jewelry Organzier

Last Summer, on the day I was moving from my old apartment to my new condo, I spotted an old screen in the alleyway. Nothing fancy – about two feet long, 18 inches across, with a two inch black wooden frame. Why did I pull it from the trash? What was I going to do with it? I didn’t know at the time, but I had a feeling I could make this baby into something fantastic. That and yes, I was current on my Tetanus shots.

This past weekend, the moment of inspiration arrived. The screen would become an organizer for my necklaces. I went to the local beading store to get these pins:

They have a flat nail-heads on one end and are blunt on the other. Traditionally, they are used to make the dangly bits of earrings. I planned to use them to make hooks.

First, though, I put black electrical tape on the back of the screen frame. Some bits were especially sharp and snaggy, so I wanted to get them smoothed down.

I then curved the metal pins into hooks. I found my pinkie was the perfect width, so I wrapped them around my last digit and then popped them through the back of the screen so the hook was in front:

Once all the “hooks” were made, I hung my necklaces (in color order, of course):

Now, I can see everything I have and wear some of the ones that were previously forgotten and ignored. Plus, I think it makes my collection look like art.

It currently sits on the top of my bookcase and leans against the wall, but someday I may add sawtooth hangers to the back so that I can hang it to the wall.

Extreme Couponing

Oh, TLC, you get me. You know just how voyeuristic I am and design your shows to let me stare, slack-jawed, at the strange lives of Others. My latest obsession? Extreme Couponing.

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From the time I first heard about the show, I knew I HAD TO SEE IT. I searched in vain online for videos and wasn’t able to find more than wee snippets (come on, TLC, get with the program – full episodes online prettyplease). The past few days, however, I’ve been staying in a hotel with unfettered television access. As Extreme Couponing has been generating a lot of buzz, it seems TLC arranged a mini-marathon for me.

Many hours later, I can relay that the episodes follow the same narrative arc:

First, we meet the Extreme Couponer. Every Extreme Couponer shares some variation of this back-story:

  1. Protagonist does not Coupon
  2. Protagonist suffers Traumatic Life Event*
  3. (Optional) Protagonist receives Personal Directive from Higher Being as to the Holy Merits of Couponing
  4. Protagonist becomes Couponer

* Select all that apply: Protagonist and/or Spouse loses job; Protagonist and/or Spouse develops Un-Diagnosable yet Costly Illness; Protagonist and/or Spouse racks up Unspeakable Credit Card Debt.

Then we get a glimpse of the Extreme Couponer’s sacred Stock Pile. Said Stock Pile  usually consumes the basement or garage of the family’s house, but has also been shown spread into every nook and cranny of available space (e.g., in the master closet, under the kid’s bed, in a makeshift “room” made by knocking out a wall that one hopes isn’t load-bearing). Here we are shown endless shelves of paper towels, more toothpaste than a family of four could ever consume, piles of microwaveable noodles, endless arsenals of deodorant and potato chips. At this point, you could be forgiven for thinking you are watching Hoarders. Except… we are supposed to be oddly proud of these thrifty shoppers (as they are clearly proud of themselves) whereas Hoarders handles mental illness and fragile psyches with a dose of public shaming.

I’m so confused, but I can’t look away (sidenote: Is this how people feel when they watch Jersey Shore? If so, I take back every mocking comment I made about your addiction to Jersey Shore).

We then learn that the Extreme Couponer is – for our benefit, apparently – about to endeavor on their “biggest haul to date.” We watch them Prepare. Said Preparations can involve up to sixty hours (sixty hours!) of clipping, filing, arranging, and strategizing.

Shopping commences. Three or four shopping carts are quickly filled with all manner of non-perishables. After what we are lead to believe is three to four hours of wandering through the grocery store, the Extreme Couponer approaches the checkout lane.

{Cue dramatic music}

Hearts race as items are scanned. Will all the coupons work? Oh, the dramz! One Extreme Couponer notes that the grocery store is “not a restaurant,” and, as such, she can’t “wash dishes” to make up for any amount not covered by her coupons. True, but she could just put the items back. She’s buying Cheetos, not Insulin. Perspective, people.

In the end, everything works out, and the Extreme Couponer leaves the store with enough Orange Soda to last a nuclear holocaust and goes on to live Happily Ever After.

Now, in several episodes, Extreme Couponers mentioned donating parts of their massive wares to charities. If this is the case, more power to them. However, we only actually saw such a donation in one episode. That’s not to say it only happened once… but I have my suspicions.

Let it be said that I love a bargain. I shop sales racks. Garage sales are my Happy Place. I’ve clipped a few coupons in my day. I’m in no way condemning others who want to save money. I am, however, calling into question the benefit of having a basement full of Corn Nuts. Of all the Stock Piles I was shown, I’d estimate that 5% were foods a pediatrician would recommend feeding your children. What good is a coupon for candy when you don’t really need the candy in the first place? What good is a Stock Pile that is eating into your family’s living space? It’s cost savings at the expense of mental clarity.

However, as an Extreme Couponer, you get to be on TV and you’ll never run out of Crystal Light. You got me there, Extreme Couponers.