Author: Melyssa Williams (page 1 of 11)

How to Turn an Old Shed into a Writer’s Cottage

A home office, a “she-shed,” a man-cave, a reading nook… here’s how I fixed up the old shed in my backyard as a retreat for my writing.

Creating A Writer’s Cottage

… from an old gunky shed.

I was lucky enough to have a shed in my yard.

If you don’t, you can find plans to build your own or have one built. Before you get too jealous, I do rent my home, so this is not a forever space for me, and also I was determined to spend next to nothing on this project.

Because… I rent.

And also… I’m cheap.

Like, my parents always told me I squeaked when I walked.

‘Cause I’m so tight, get it?

Anyway. Once upon a time, I had a week off of work, and my middle daughter had recently moved away. In other words, I was eating my feelings and needed a project.

I’m not much of an artist or crafter (unless it’s my Haunted Dollhouse project, which is about to come back in from the garage for Halloween d√©cor soon), and like I said, I’m cheap, so transforming this icky space into a workable and adorable office on a shoestring was key.

My daughter was using it as a sewing space before the ungrateful brat moved. JK.

Sorry about Margaret, the haunted dress mannequin, there.

I should have warned ya. Just be grateful my kid had moved all of her creepy dolls and clown collection out before I took this picture.

I kid not.

It was definitely dirty.
Pretty grody.
I had spent so little time here I originally thought all the built-ins would need painting. But actually, I kinda dug the green. The floors on the other hand? Even with the offer of a rug from a friend, I knew they needed some shiny white paint.

Step One: Paint

The cheapest can of paint at Walmart is only $9. Add in their painting kit (consisting of a tray, a roller with two foam inserts, and a brush) for $5.

I mean, for $15 (oh wait, I also bought the extender for the roller so I didn’t need to get on my hands and knees. That ran me another $4), so for $19 it pretty much transformed the space already.

One can of paint put three coats on the floor and one coat on two walls. This can of paint was like Mary Poppins’ carpetbag: it just kept giving and giving. I expected it to be terrible, but it went on well and dried so dang fast it was awesome.

I didn’t do every last wall space: in and around the shelves didn’t get any, or up top. Oh, and if you think I got under every last heavy piece of furniture, you’d be wrong. This is the woman who once painted a wall AROUND a huge bookcase because she didn’t want to move it.

I hadn’t planned on doing any walls at all, but the fresh paint on the floor made the walls look even nastier. And why oh why do people paint walls off-white/beige? Antique white, my great aunt Fanny. It’s the color of used bandaids. If you’re gonna do white, DO WHITE.

This concludes my Ted Talk tutorial. Thanks.

Next to go, cracked, broken, yellowed plastic shades. Also one of my least favorite inventions in all of creation. We also have them in the house. Blech. But did I mention it’s a rental? Sooo… whatcha gonna do, am I right?

Step Two: Stuff Decor

I had initially put it out on FacebookLand that I was starting this project, not because I was hoping to find free stuff, but more looking for ideas. However, it just worked out that these friends had a rug and chair that needed a good home.

I was so lucky to have a friend who needed to get rid of a rug, and another friend who had this sweet chair.
Thrift stores are my favorite places. The throw pillow was $2.99 and I kept the price tag on in case you didn’t believe me. Why are throw pillows so spendy at normal stores? Mylanta.

I know. This is where you get annoyed with me. It’s like those dang articles on How I Retired at Age 32 or Paid Off My Mortgage In Two Years. And then you read them and they have wealthy parents who let them stay in their poolhouse free of charge for three years, or a rich uncle who willed them $40,000 or something. So annoying.

But, okay, I got lucky with the rug and the chair. If your friends aren’t as accommodating as mine are, check Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, or just raid your own house!

Just be prepared with Craigslist and the like that if it’s a good deal you have to hop on it quick. Yard sales are another great place to find inexpensive things.

I refused to shell out $65 at Homegoods for the antique style fan I wanted, but I did find this little cutiepie version at Goodwill for $5.99.

I’m a bit of a minimalist anyway, so I didn’t feel the need to fill every shelf and cupboard with stuff. I don’t really like stuff, to be frank. Or tchotchkes. Or knick-knacks.

If this was our forever house, I would likely fill up the shelves with old books. But I have a sneaking suspicion that were I to do that, we’d end up moving lickety-split.

My vintage typewriter was a gift from my hubby and it is really a pivotal piece in here. The books are Edgar Allen Poe. The photo is my other daughter WHO ALSO LEFT ME. My kids are the worst.
$12.99 at Goodwill, this piece of art was one of my more spendy purchases but I think it’s so pretty.

The trunk works as a coffee table and place to set my glass of wine or cup of coffee when I’m writing.

It also would be perfect to store some blankets for winter. It ran me ten bucks at a yard sale.

Step Three: Heating & Cooling

Speaking of winter, the shed doesn’t have heat or AC, so a window unit for hot summers and a little space heater for winters will be ideal.

Or I can just spending mornings in here until it gets too hot. Then I go in my air conditioned house and watch true crime docs.

Flip that for winters.

Looky what Santa brought me!! Isn’t it the most adorable heater ever to heat?

Step Four: Windows

There are two windows, and once I yanked down the old blinds and cleaned out the tracks (baking soda and vinegar and lots of paper towels), I hung up curtain rods (one from Walmart for $5 and the other from Ross for another $5).

Finding sheer white curtains was harder than I expected! Goodwill (all of them, we have three in the area), Salvation Army, Ross, TJ Maxx, Homegoods, Target, Walmart, they were all a bust!

They were either too expensive or they didn’t have any at all. But St Vincent’s de Paul didn’t let me down! They had three panels for a mere $4. I used scissors to cut each in half, leaving me with six pieces. I only needed four, so I pretty much scored there. Love me some St Vinnie’s.

The same friend who gifted me the rug also had a mini fridge up for grabs. Some sparkling water, cheese, and a bottle of white wine? It’s important to feed your writer. We get persnickety.

Step Five: Lighting

The lighting is something I couldn’t do much about. Those ugly old florescent tubes just aren’t something I’m willing (or allowed) to remove, so I just pretend they aren’t there and don’t look up.

I suppose I could drape some fabric, boho style, on the ceiling? What do you think? Please advise.

The little cupboard came with the shed and it’s super cute, but I don’t know what to put in it. Please advise. Don’t tell me essential oils because I’m the only middle-aged white woman who doesn’t do oils.

Okay, the lamp was a set of two I found at Goodwill: one was $6.99 and one was $4.99 (because one had obviously been dropped at some point and had some chips), but they were both half price, so such a steal. I’m kind of a weirdo who doesn’t like lampshades, so I decided to put these funky, vintage-esque, big bulbs in instead. The pack of two was actually my most expensive purchase, funnily enough.

$14.99 for the two pack.

My friend said they look like the Eye of Sauron, and I’m not mad.

The other decor you see I already had lying around, with a few exceptions that came from the Dollar Tree, like the pinecone flowers and the glass bottles with fairy lights inside.

I wasn’t sure if the wifi would reach but it does. However, not having wifi as a writer can sometimes be beneficial. You can’t get distracted by the internet if you can’t access it.

That’s a helpful hint from me to you. The first one’s free. Next time bring a friend.

So all in all, it took me about four days, two generous friends, and about $70. However, I sold a desk on Craigslist for $30 and two broken sewing machines for another $30, so my out of pocket was even less than that.

Maybe next year I’ll paint the outside a more vibrant color!

And that is how you turn an old shed into a writer’s cottage. For, like, ten bucks.

I Hate Laundry. Should I Join a Nudist Colony?

So, I hate laundry. I don’t wanna do it anymore.

It never ends, and that’s depressing. I mean, I like the dumping in the washer part just fine, and the soap part, but then I’m way over it and I just want to sit around and bemoan Lady Mary and Matthew for a while.

Maybe Pinterest something.

But not the folding. Not the putting away. Ugh.

I hate laundry.

I don’t wanna sort underpants. And it’s just mine and the Hubster because I wisely taught my offspring to do their own dang washing at the tender ages of eight.

This was especially amusing for the short one who had to pull over a chair to the washer and was nearly consumed in full trying to reach the last sock.

So, if you have Littles and are doing the whole household’s laundry, I have the solution!

Join a nudist colony.

I think we should join a nudist colony.

It seems the only logical thing to do, and also very green, which is very hipster of me considering I don’t even recycle. But I care deeply about the planet, goshdarnit! *

* the only reason I don’t recycle is because it isn’t offered in my location anymore, except for milk jugs and newspapers, neither of which we use. Don’t come for me.

But, the thing is, I don’t want to join a Fit nudist colony, do you? It’d have to be Frumpy nudist colony.

Maybe a nudist colony/fat camp? Do they have those? If not, they should.

We could start one. It’d be motivating for the members, although it’d backfire on me. They’d all be out doing deep knee bends and squats and I’d be eating cheese. Pretty soon, it’d be a Fat Camp for one and that’s hardly a camp, people.

But…. muffins.

On the other hand I don’t know what Gloria, my muffin top, would do if I gave her room to breathe, and frankly, the idea is a little terrifying. I can keep her under control with some flat tab Yoga pants, or some jeans in a size that some mature adults would call, too small, or some high¬†waist-ed¬†granny panties.

If I gave her room to, you know,¬†maneuver, she might spread or something, like Jabba the Hut. She could ooze into things, like small children and puppies, and also, she hasn’t quite forgiven me for the Waxing Incident of Which We Do Not Speak (story to follow), and she may get revenge yet.

Also, this would be a family affair and sons especially, should not be encouraged to flaunt their birthday suits. Mine already speaks of body parts with disturbing nonchalance, usually at the most inopportune times.

Like when conversing with pastors (“did you know weenies can grow?!”) or swinging at the park (while shouting, “underdogs make my weenie tickle!”).

An alternative laundry solution.

My other idea, if the whole nudist colony doesn’t pan out (or if they reject our application for membership), is disposable clothing.

I came up with this idea when I had babies and they were constantly pooping out their onesies and making yellow stains all over creation. Pop-up onesies that come in a tissue box!

How do I get on Shark Tank?

Another application? Really? More paperwork? Forget it.

Or I could just finish the laundry and threaten to cut the next person who casually flips their socks into my empty hamper.

I am always harping on everyone about how¬†you never need to wash jeans.¬†Okay, not NEVER never, but MOSTLY never. I can go weeks without washing my jeans, but I confess it’s not just because I fret about the planet, it’s because I hate that dance you have to do to get back inside them after washing.

You know the one:

shimmy, shimmy, shake, pour, groan, kick, stretch, gasp, cry, ooze, shimmy, nap, suffocate, whimper, pep talk Gloria. 

A laundry-minimizing game.

We like to play a really fun game at my house. It involves me picking my Hubster’s jeans out of the hamper and folding them and putting them into his dresser, while muttering under my breath, “you wore these for one day and didn’t even DO anything in them, you bloody sod.”

Of course, he doesn’t know we’re playing.

I think this is why homeschool moms wear denim jumpers. No, not because they’re fashion challenged, but because they don’t have the time for such nonsense; they’re too busy homeschooling. Also, they’re too busy writing letters to the Homeschool Association about rejecting my membership. I think they feel threatened by Gloria or something.

The waxing incident of 2002 of which we do not speak.

So my blogging window is limited because we’re totally stealing internet access from our neighbor’s because the router we bought was bad.

We only get a sliver of a half of a fraction of a percentage of a bar and only if I place myself precariously on the side of my craigslist mattress which folds in the middle like a cheese sandwich, and aim the computer towards the window.

I don’t think our neighbors would mind because they are listening to country music as they work in their yard and anyone who listens to country music are good people. I know this.

Anyway, I have to blog fast before the sliver of a half of a fraction of a percentage of a bar becomes nil and void and poof! vanishes into a world wide web graveyard from which no one ever returns.

Dead zones follow me.¬†It’s weird.¬†I’m like those people who can’t wear watches because they’re magnetized or some such thing.

Luckily, good ol’ WordPress saves what I’m writing every few minutes. They’re good people too. Except when it comes to allowing people to leave comments and then they twirl their handlebar mustaches and tie those comments to the railroad tracks where I never get to see them again.

I’ve been a little obsessed with hair lately. Not the stuff on my head, which is just irritating beyond belief and going gray at the speed of light, but the other stuff. I bought a new razor, spurring my budget¬†conscience¬†obsessed husband to say sweetly,

Hey, honey, could you quit spending like a drunken sailor?

I almost felt guilty for my shiny new green razor all perched pretty like on my shower wall, but only almost. It had been almost six months since I had a new one and I might as well have been shaving with construction paper for three months of that time.

May I remind you that I am a pale-ish white person with nearly black hair?

I am not one of these lucky duck blonde girls who only have to shave bi-annually: we’re talking daily in the summer and even then I sport a five o’clock shadow on my ankles by dinner time.

I know, I know.¬†This is really more than you want to know about me.¬†Be quiet. I’m sharing my soul here.

So I refused to feel guilty about my splurge and I even didn’t care about the cut on my shin bone that almost made me bleed to death.¬†It was the sign of a freakin’ good razor!

But sadly, the whole purchase came back to bite me in the tushie.

Late last night a huge, we’re talking ginormous, crash rocked through our sleeping house. I tend to suffer from what is called Emergency Situation Tourette’s Syndrome which basically means I cannot be held responsible for what I say when confronted with ginormous crashes in the middle of the night,¬†loss of blood,¬†scary movies, or scary movie previews.

I also suffer from Pregnancy Tourette’s,¬†which means I can’t be held responsible for what I say when confronted with smells, bad drivers, empty cupboards, or toilet paper commercials.¬†But I don’t have that malady currently, so no worries.

Great. Now I want a baby.

But back to hair. The crash from my bathroom made me jump to the logical conclusion that mutant alien zombies were coming through the window. But it was only the new razor falling off the shower wall where it was SUPPOSED to be hanging nicely from its included-at-no-charge shower wall hangy thing. I still suspect mutant alien zombies.

Mutant alien zombies with suspiciously smooth legs to boot…

Anyway, back to my hair stories. Confession time: my belly button gets a little fuzzy when gestating humans.

That rustling sound you just heard was the sound of all males leaving their computers in disgust.

Okay, now that it’s all women here, let’s dish!

I grow a tummy like a cute little fuzzy peach. Or a kiwi.

So, I get this brilliant idea while eight months pregnant to use this hot wax thing I’ve had in my bathroom cupboard for like, ages.¬†This seems super dooper logical to someone whose braincells have recently leaked out their ears and onto the floor.

What? Your brain cells don’t do that when pregnant? Huh. Interesting.

Well, anyway, I smear the hot wax all over my sasquatch belly and poor little Gianni, who is swimming around inside, all fishy like and bouncy and practicing his own stunts. I wait until it hardens.

If you’ve never waxed, it’s a painful procedure, but heck, at least it’s fast, right? All I had ever done at this point was my eyebrows, and that’s like, a centipede worth of skin you’re messing with, so who cares. You can do it! Grit your teeth and it’s over in two seconds!

Well, not so much with a giant belly that holds an eight pound sumo wrestler and all the baggage and furniture and supplies said wrestlers carries.¬†We’re talking major real estate.

Needless to say, Pregnancy Tourettes reared its ugly head.

I did finally get all that wax off, but it was not without tears and begging for my life to be spared to the Waxing Gods.

If ever I become with child again, I will embrace my kiwi belly, for it is beautiful and round and furry like a kitten. And who doesn’t love kittens? Ummm, no one.¬†Everyone loves kittens.

Now that I think about it, no small wonder poor Gianni was bald.


These are the sorts of things I think about when I get worked up about how much I hate laundry. So, enough.

I’m joining a nudist colony until someone invents that disposable clothing tissue box.

And gives me royalties for the idea.

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