green inspiration: a reader’s diy garden shed

Reader Taj and his wife just built their own garden shed using reclaimed materials and it’s great! What an inspiration. Taj says:

“The shed’s about 6×8 — smaller than what you’re building, but big enough for our needs. We both really like the weathered look of the old fence boards as ‘siding’ combined with the old French doors we found free on Craigslist. It fits with the rest of what we’ve done in the back so far — it looks old and comfortable to us. Neither of us like the ‘manicured garden’ look; we like it a little more wild and natural.

“In addition to re-using the fence materials, the floor used to be the outdoor landing off our back door, which I tore off to excavate the patio area. Pulling out all the nails and reassembling it to use as the floor was…slow going. I also ended up building the shed almost entirely with hand tools as buying new power tools would have exceeded our budget. Before we moved in here, we didn’t have a need for a circular saw or nail gun, though, boy, they would have made it a much faster project! The next step is a ramp out of still more scrap lumber, and then installing pegboard and shelves — more scrap — so we can organize the inside.

One bit of advice on building the shed: if you have to buy some lumber, make sure it’s really dry.”

Taj, thanks so much for sharing! I can only hope ours turns out as well as yours. –Mary T.

product i love: sinktastic strainer & stopper

Who knows why sometimes you can get obsessed with the silliest things. That was the case with the SinkTastic Strainer & Stopper I spied at a friend’s house back in March. The glitter! The slightly yellowed resin! (It’s not quite as bright in person as it looks in the photo.) There was something about it that looked straight out of the antique kitchen fixtures of my youth. Plus the functionality of the thing — not only did it look cool, it was a much better way to open and close the drain than the crappy, never-quite-fit-right rubber and metal strainers I was using. The problem was, my friend couldn’t remember what it was called. She got hers at a Thriftway, but we couldn’t find them there. It wasn’t until this past Friday that my sharp-eyed husband saw them at Bed Bath & Beyond. A mere $5.99 later, it was ours. I’m already using and loving it. You can get them online at in several colors, but you’re going to pay a little more for them there. Bed Bath doesn’t seem to have them in their online store, but perhaps you’ll find one at a store near you. –Mary T.

win a dustbuster — confess your mess!

The DustBuster is celebrating its 30-year anniversary, and we get the present! Our friends at Black & decker are giving us a 4.4V Cordless DustBuster Cyclonic Hand Vac to award to a lucky Shelterrific reader! But not so fast — first you have to prove how much you need it. None of us is perfect, and we confess that even though we love our homes, it doesn’t mean they’re perfectly free of dust bunnies or dog hair. So tell us — what’s your housekeeping shame? Do you have a forbidden closet of clothes you haven’t worn since the Clinton administration? Have you thrown out a rug rather than clean it? Confess your mess in comments now through the end of Wednesday, June 24. The story that amuses (or appalls?) us most will win the Dustbuster. Bonus points if you provide a link to photos. Get commenting now!

Comment now to win a Black & Decker DustBuster:

- 14.4 volts of power for extreme suction
- Cyclonic action — powerful spinning action keeps dust and debris away from the filter so suction power stays strong
- Accu-reach nozzle extends for reach in tight spaces
- Filter refresh dial clears debris from filter to improve suction
- 3 stage filtration prevents dust from escaping into the air

Thanks, Black & Decker!

keep your cords in order with cabledrops

I need some of these CableDrop cable clips from Bluelounge. I thread all the cords for my computer through the small space between the back of my desk and the wall, which takes all my patience and a bit of contortionist skill. Inevitably, every time I take my computer to the couch, the unplugged cords practically dive back down into the space behind my desk. I would happily stick a couple of these to the desktop (they come in packages of six for just $9.95) to hold my cords and save me this frustration. Has anyone used these, or any other similar product? Is there a quick-fix DIY version someone can suggest? –Erica P.

Click here for another cool laptop fix.

building a patio with recycled concrete

What — you thought the shed project was enough? Well, apparently I’m not happy until I’ve begun more projects than can be finished in a summer. You may recall that we’ve had some issues with playful dogs killing our grass, so we’ve decided to pave our yard with as many stepping stones as we can, plant grass between them, and hope. Because we’re on a reuse/recycle/don’t spend kick, we turned to Craigslist to source our patio stones. Searching for “free concrete,” we found several local homeowners who had just jackhammered out sidewalks and driveways and wanted someone to take the pieces away. Three trips yielded about 40 decent-sized chunks that we are slowly placing in the yard. The price was right — free! — which is a big difference from the last time we built a stone patio, when we paid $600+ for materials. And because we’re reusing, we’re keeping concrete out of a landfill and we’re not stripping rock from the side of a mountain.

Of course, if you’re using recycled concrete, you have to expect that the pieces are going to have a rather rustic look, but this suits us just fine. The only downside we’ve experienced is that depending on the source, the pieces vary quite a bit in thickness — it does take awhile to dig a hole big enough for a seven-inch-thick stepping stone! I’ll post more photos when we get it all in. –Mary T.