Posts Tagged With: bills

DIY Mail Sorter


That word can mean several things.  Some might think of ducks, some might think of a past president or celebrity.

When I see that word, I think of money: dollar bills, and the pieces of paper that come in the mail and take those dollar bills away.

Over the past few months, Sam and I have shed a bit of our newlywed status by becoming more independent and accepting more responsibilities.  That means paying for things we didn’t pay for in college: cell phone service, electricity, water, rent… It’s a lot to keep up with, and it’s exhausting to think that the bills will keep coming for the rest of our lives.

Since Sam is busy with his first semester of teaching, I’ve taken over most of our financial obligations.  I’m still looking for a job, but I’m still running into constant dead ends because I don’t have enough experience.  I only graduated last spring, so I don’t know how I’m supposed to gain experience if no one will hire me.  So, at this point, Sam makes the money and I spend it!  I don’t go on shopping sprees, though; I spend our money through bills, making sure we don’t get kicked out of our apartment for not paying rent, or get left in the dark when our electricity provider shuts us off.  I spend our money on groceries to make sure Sam doesn’t starve.

Keeping up with our mail has been an issue for me because it tends to float all over our apartment.  Sometimes I drop it off on the kitchen island, sometimes it ends up on the desk in our bedroom… It’s easy to lose track of it all.  I’ve been looking for a good mail sorter for a few weeks now.  Our town has several great antique stores, but none of them had exactly what I was looking for: I needed something that would have vertical slots for me to sort our mail so our bills don’t get lost.  I found baskets and other containers that were close to what I needed, but not quite.  I even went to Office Depot and considered buying a $40 stacking tray set, but couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money.

So, what’s a girl to do when what she wants doesn’t exist?  Do it herself!

Here’s how I made my simple mail sorter for my kitchen counter out of three basic magazine holders.  It was an easy and fun project that I completed in less than an hour, but it makes a huge difference in my house.

First, I started with three black magazine holders I found at Target for $4.99 each.  They’re made out of sturdy cardboard.

I removed the metal label holders on the front of them.  They popped off pretty easily.  After that, I stacked them on their sides and decided how I wanted them to fit in the corner on my counter.  Here’s what the corner looked like before:

Clutter!  An ugly, cheap toaster we never use, Sam’s Gatorade powder, some random ribbon, and a stained plastic cutting board.  The only thing I deemed worthy to stay was our adorable desktop panda calendar.  I wanted the mail sorter to fit in the corner where our Darth Vader cookie jar was, so I planned accordingly and glued them together with a hot glue gun.

Looks great, but I wanted to dress it up a bit.  I found these old reading flash cards at a local thrift store and thought they were charming.

I love the classic font and the antique, stained look.  I cut them to size and glued them to the side to give the mail sorter a fun, whimsical feel.

After that, the black top felt too plain.  I pulled out an old paperback copy of The Ponder Heart by Eudora Welty that I used in a previous craft project.  A professor assigned the book in a Southern Literature class in college, and I ordered this copy off Amazon for a penny.  It arrived with the first chapter missing, so I replaced it and use it for crafting now.  It has beautifully yellowed pages because it’s so old.  I used it to decoupage the top of the mail sorter.

Then, I cleared off my counter.  Everything found a new place, including Darth Vader, who now guards the fridge against Rebel forces:

And the mail sorter looks great on the counter!  It adds a lot of character to my kitchen.

This is a great project because it’s completely customizable.  You could use different patterns of scrapbook paper to make any color combination you want.  You could even make cute labels for each of the slots.

What do you think?  Should I have sprung for the stacking trays, or was this a good alternative?

Categories: DIY | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Summer Camp Conspiracy

Growing up is hard.  Today, we got a paycheck for the first time in five months.  That brief stint of joy was quickly squashed by the arrival of a handful of bills in the mail.  This morning, a woman called me offering me a job as a kindergarten teacher… I have childcare experience, but absolutely no credentials to teach kindergarten.  Meanwhile, I still haven’t heard back from that interview I attended, and I was feeling a little hopeful about it.

I think everyone has several important moments from childhood that stick around, moments of growing up bit by bit.  For example, I vividly remember catching my mom taking my letter to Santa out of the mailbox and putting it in her pocket.  It caused a huge fit of tears as I tried to grasp what it meant.  I remember the first time my dad let me drive.  We were on a dirt road in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  I nearly killed us both as I ran his jeep into (and almost off of) a cliff.

I found this picture the other day and it got me thinking about another “shove-out-of-innocence.”

This is a picture of my cabin at the summer camp I attended in elementary school.  That’s me on the far left… Yep, the one in the velcro sandals and wide-brimmed denim hat.  Hey, it was the nineties.

This was one of my last years at summer camp.  After my family moved the following year, I wasn’t able to attend anymore.  I remember this year at camp for a lot of reasons: there was an annoying boy who would pull my hair every time he saw me and run away giggling, there was an epic food fight, I tried to mountain bike (not very successfully), and our cabin didn’t get along very well.  That year, I arrived early to camp and stayed with my uncle, the camp director, for a few days.  The counselors and staff were having a meeting one day at lunch before all the other campers showed up, and I happened to sit in on it while I was eating.

Everything was ruined.  I heard all the secrets campers aren’t supposed to know!  I learned the food fights were planned ahead of time, the midnight dances had a curfew, and, most shocking of all, the sneak-outs were scheduled and pre-approved by the camp director.

“Sneak-outs” were the highlight of camp.  Once or twice, the counselors would wake us all up in the middle of the night with flashlights.  We had to be completely silent and dress in all black.  Then, under the cover of darkness, we would secretly sneak out of our cabins and cause some sort of mischief.  Usually this involved playing pranks on the boys’ cabins, like stealing their shoes or decorating their porch with silly string.  Once, we snuck into the kitchens for ice cream sundaes.  It was such an adrenaline rush because we knew if we were caught it would result in terrible consequences.  Miraculously, we never got caught, except once.

That year at camp, our cabin was full of girls clashing with each other.  A girl would borrow a hairbrush without asking, and the entire cabin would erupt in an all-out Girl War.  The counselors were sick of it, and that’s why it was so surprising that they would risk taking us out on a sneak-out.  I was the only one who knew that the sneak-outs were all set up, but I didn’t want to ruin it for everyone else.  They woke us up one night with a secret plan: we would sneak over to the older kids’ camp and switch places with a girls’ cabin there.  They would come sleep in our beds and we would sleep in theirs.  It was so exciting to think of sleeping in the older girls’ beds.  The counselors led us through the woods to a truck that was waiting to take us to the other camp.  We all climbed into the truck bed and curled up as they put a tarp over us.

(Yes, I realize at this point this could easily become a horrific story, but come on… It was camp.)

They drove us down the road and we made it to the other cabin.  The older girls taught us one of their “cabin cheers” and gave us candy.  We all picked a bunk and slept like babies.  The next morning, we were awoken by yells; a member of the camp staff had “caught” us before we could sneak back to our own camp, and we were in big trouble.  I was flabbergasted.  We weren’t supposed to be punished; that wasn’t part of the plan.  Still, we were assigned clean-up duty at the worst place in camp: the landfill at the top of the hill.  It’s where all the camp garbage went, and a flock of buzzards lived there picking at all the trash.

That’s where we served our sentence.  Together as a cabin, they drove us all to the top of the hill with a box of trash bags.  The counselors sat there for an hour being mean, barking orders and telling us to stop talking as we gathered spare pieces of garbage the wind had scattered.  I was so angry at the time.  I knew they had planned for us to get caught.  Now I understand that they were just trying to build camaraderie.  The cabin that suffers together, stays together.

I wish I hadn’t known.  I might’ve never found out, and I could look back and remember my counselors risking everything to show us a good time.  But, growing up hasn’t let me.  Growing up has taught me that of course the counselors wouldn’t be allowed to take a group of 11-year-olds out into the woods at 2 a.m. and load them into a truck without asking permission.  That’s part of growing up: losing the illusions that mask the crueler aspects of the world and make them easier to accept.

For example, I never understood why my dad always followed me around the house turning off lights when I left the room.  Now, I get it. The electric bill came today.

Categories: My Life | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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