Friday, July 4, 2014

New Website!!

Hello my very few, very loyal followers! Just a quick update to say Tales From A Tiny Apartment has become official, with a re-designed webpage over at

I'm excited to share this because I crafted everything when I had insomnia and stayed up until 6am watching Pretty Little Liars. However this message is pretty much for any subscribers as the site will redirect to the new address immediately. So, if you see this, good! I'm really not sure how it'll work. See you on the other side!

Saturday, June 28, 2014


By the time this is posted, my Mum & Dad will be on their way to my place for the first dinner I've ever hosted, and of course, this means my place is so clean that it could pass as an operating room (without the tragic lighting... anymore). What better time to snap some photos and show how far everything has come along in the past two months?

And why will I know that they're on their way when this is posted and not a moment sooner? Because I've waited 2 months for the chance to show them the finished product and I do love a big reveal with "ooo"s and "aah"s.

Needless to say, I'll go into more detail down the road about things that have been changed, added, or taken away, but for now I'll just briefly outline the transformation process room-by-room.

See "Before" for the full comparison

Living Room:

My biggest problem was the cracks in the wall running between the kitchen and closet doors. They appeared to be cracks in the actual wall (yikes), so my Dad offered to come in for a couple days and fix them up properly for me. (Thanks again!)
But here's a fun fact: this place was stripped down to the bone in 1961 and wallpapered (not before someone so generously wrote '1961' on the wall). After that it was painted, oh I don't know, a hundred times? I believe my square footage has been drastically decreased by how many times this place has been painted.
So why does this matter? Because sometime between 1961 and 2014, amidst the hundreds of layers of paint, a small leak sprung upstairs and water leaked in behind the wallpaper, causing the paint on top of it to crack. The wall was in perfect condition once this was all pried off. It's funny to think how myself and my Dad are likely the only people who know any damage is just due to wallpaper.

Tragically, all doors and mouldings are original and in perfect condition under all the paint (partially due to what is likely a layer of lead paint that formed a perfect barrier overtop the majestic stained wood). It would have been very satisfying and not too difficult to chip it all off, but it would have taken days and... well, this is a rental.

We also pried off (and I do mean pried off) the original antique doorknob plates and my Dad got them back to original condition. Whoever is painting over all this lovely original material should be shot.
Other than that, it was a lot of filling holes, sanding, painting, scraping, cleaning, and decorating. You'll see I also swapped out the hideous paper-esque light fixture for my mason jar fixture. Much better, and less people will hit their head off it.

Same problem in the kitchen with the cracks, and more or less the same solution.

And of course, we all know the debacle of the kitchen cabinets.

I had to remove a lot of screws from windows and door frames (more on that shortly) and change out the lightbulbs (the light was uneven and very industrial). You'll see the microwave carts were swapped; a wise recommendation from several people. Added a curtain to cover the old exhaust outlet, added my usual kitchen organization, scrubbed the stove half to death, and we're in business. I love the amount of space in this kitchen. It may not be used wisely in the general layout of the apartment, but the fact that I have all my furniture back is lovely.


I should mention, there was a lot of sanding happening in the apartment in general, but the bedroom especially. From bad patching to bad painting, there were lumps and bumps all over. Some fun with a belt sander on both walls and doors lessened that a little. I'll admit by the end of the bedroom I was really bloody sick of sanding so, I didn't mind a couple remaining dimples.

I haven't put a curtain in here because of the window frosting (which is just frosted MacTac), and the need for a curtain just hasn't arisen. Okay, fine, I don't want to hem the ones I bought, alright?

Added fold-out hooks that you can probably find in your grandmas's sewing room to the back of the door for my expertly curated collection of sweatshirts. The dresser is new (well, not really, obviously) and I really like the shabby chic aesthetic it adds to the the room.


As I mentioned before, I didn't have a lot of photos of the bathroom. I can tell you that a major problem though was sanding down the wall and the cabinet (more bumps), and filling in holes. It's not clear, but there are two knobs at the back on the left wall and it took me a while to figure it out; turns out the kitchen and bathroom used to have heaters and they were removed. Why? I don't know, but I'm sure I'll be seeking answers in 6 months when my morning showers are a bit more death-like.

Since the main wall is cement, I wasn't able to mount any fixtures, so I kept the two decrepit, bent nails in the wall to hold my towels. Judge me if you will, but it gets the job done. One of the former radiator knobs serves as a washcloth holder.

Also scraped a lot of paint off the floor, walls, fixtures... clearly dropcloths weren't a concern in the past 50 years. Also got a cover for the curtain rod so it's white like everything else.

BONUS: Remember how I mentioned removing nails and screws from the wall? Well that's not all. It seems no one has bothered to remove any of their curtain brackets in the past 50 years and I was left with a hell of a collection to remove myself...
I felt like I was going insane from all these curtain brackets. To the point where when I saw this in the oven, I was sure I was losing it...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Shopping For Your Home At The Dollar Store

A stock image from a Google image search, but funny enough, this is the Parkdale location I frequent.

I'm a cheap little lady, so when I wrote about organizing my baking cupboard, I mentioned that I wanted to talk about the premise of shopping for home necessities at the dollar store (specifically Dollarama, in this case). If you've ever been to a big-box dollar store, you've surely gone in for one item (or none at all) and come out having spent $40. This is much easier these days, with no dollar store truly charging $1 anymore, but the majority of things you can buy there for $1, $2, or $3 are still a pretty good deal. Take the jars for my baking cupboard; even paying a maximum of $3 a jar was still easily a third of price I'd be paying in a proper store for the same quality.

Buying large amounts of apartment necessities never really occurred to me until I was standing in a checkout line, watching a young couple in front of me unload a cart full of stuff that clearly indicated they'd just finished moving into their first place; brooms, candles, plates, cookware. It suddenly dawned on me that I would have immediately gone to Wal-Mart for a broom and never to Dollarama. Since then (and since my unemployment), Dollarama has always been my first stop before going shopping for small housewares and knickknacks (is that one word?)

Obviously, some things aren't a deal. When I bought a mini-pack of Clorox wipes for $1, it seemed like a good deal until I saw the same pack at Wal-Mart for 97¢. That's not much, but you get the idea. I do buy a bit of food there (non-perishables), but to play it safe, pay the extra 50¢ for the brand name and maybe stay clear of the tuna; some things just shouldn't be sold as a discount item.

Some of my favourite dollar store finds.

The key to successful dollar store shopping for your home is still having standards; yes, you could buy everything you think you might use later on because it's cheap, but junk is always junk unless you truly have a purpose behind buying it.

a) What will you use it for?
The big question is, will you be able to take it home and put it to use immediately? Know where you're going to place it? What the specific purpose is? Don't buy things you "think" you'll use, buy things that you see a meaning in owning. I wasn't looking for a new measuring cup, but when I saw it I knew it was better than the cheap, broken plastic one I owned currently.

b) Could a similar item be cheaper somewhere else?
There are cleaning items like Lysol wipes and toilet cleaner. However between size and quantity, brand name items like this aren't a great deal. The $2 wipes are for half the amount you would buy in store, and the toilet cleaner at $3 is likely more than Wal-Mart charges. Know the base price of items you're going in for. Items like my baking jars were a no-brainer since I knew they were great quality for a buck or two. Shop around before or after visiting the dollar store.

c) Do you like it?
Many times I'll buy something at Dollarama because I have a use for it and it's cheapest, but in the end I'll toss it a year later because I can't stand to look at it anymore. I needed a watering can long before I found the one I own now (above), but I waited until the spring stock came in and a cute little metal, turquoise one popped up rather than the standard white plastic ones available year-round. A purchase is far more useful if you're proud to own it in every aspect.

So here are some excellent product examples that you may or may not think of buying at places like Dollarama:
Betty Crocker (and other) cooking utensils
Bathroom supplies (I got my tub plug, shower curtain, liner, and rings here and they're all great)
THE BEST. Come here before buying painting/hardware supplies at any other store. I've painted all my apartments with Dollarama supplies.
Selection varies throughout the year, but you can find some pretty decent linens (also, DIY tiling supplies)
Bulbs, plugs, mini-lights; all very cheap and very reliable (just don't overload them as a small electrical fire proved)
Home decor - curtains, tie-backs, stencils, much more.
Gardening. Depends on seasonality, but I got some pots, soil, watering can, etc.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Art Of Being Alone

As I write this, I'm on a mini-break where I've been more or less left to my own devices by my host as I look out over the St. Lawrence river surrounded by trees and islands. Being alone on vacation probably isn't something a lot of people are eager to do, but much like going to a movie alone, I ask, why not? If you're craving peace and quiet and the chance to absorb nature, then a day or two by yourself surely can't be the worst way to go. It sounds pessimistic, but there's no one else there to ruin your holiday; no one to get drunk and pass out at 6pm, no one to get into arguments with. Most importantly though, it's about enjoying your own company.

Most of my life, people have labelled me anti-social or an introvert, and at times I won't deny it's true. However it's mostly been a matter of being conditioned to enjoy my own company; often times friends are busy, loved ones are away, or you just don't have the luxury to be in someone's company. What surprises most people is that what comes off as anti-social behaviour is really just the fact that I've come to be my favourite company. I can be out with a group of friends at a bar and having the time of my life, but somewhere deep inside, I'm always looking forward to going home at the end of the night to peace and quiet.

I'm a big believer that being alone is important. Not all the time (as I found when I went a week without human contact and nearly went bonkers), but we all need to stop and learn to enjoy the only person we're guaranteed to spend our entire lives with. It gives you time to think about your past, your future, and make sure you're really happy with where you are. Of course if you aren't then it's a little like torture having to stop and think about it, but it's still a good idea to check in with your psyche every now and then.

It's also incredibly valuable after ending a relationship. I've never been one to jump from one long-term relationship to another with ease and incredible timing (and I've never understood those who have) so I've always had the chance to sit and reflect on everything that's happened and what my next plan is. I was incredibly independent in my last relationship (to the point where that was probably a fault), but regardless of how much you retain your independence, you always lose a small part of yourself when you're involved with someone. Not in a "I'm dead inside" kind of way, but you just kind of forget what it's like to truly be free and alone and be happy with yourself without consideration for someone else's opinion. You should always be happy with yourself before committing to someone, and it's seems a hard concept to grasp for those who go on about just "wanting a boyfriend" - how can you expect someone else to love you if you don't love yourself?

So go on a trip, watch a movie, see a concert, have a meal, take a class. You know what activity you need a partner for? Double-dutch. There isn't any reason you can't enjoy every moment of life with the best company you were born with.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Apartment Must-Have: 3M Command Velcro Hanging Strips

It might be hard for you to get excited about little strips of Velcro, and maybe I've been unemployed long enough that my excitement is easily roused, but these things have changed my life. Or at least my apartment's life. I would suggest these for those of whom:
  • Live in temporary rental units
  • Live in dorms
  • Want to hang on impenetrable walls
  • Swap out artwork frequently
  • Just don't want holes in the wall
  • Don't own a hammer and nails
Now, putting a nail into the wall is far cheaper than buying several sets of strips, yes, so if it's a budget you have in mind and you don't fall into any of the above categories, then go hammer-crazy. However, for the rest of us...

These strips vary from other Velcro products by having two pieces of plastic hooks that lock into each other - there isn't one side for hooks and one side for the loops (yes, I just Wikipedia'd Velcro for that little explanation). Two pieces are involved in each set - one sticks to the wall, and the other sticks to whatever you're hanging, with the hooks facing inward. I love this system because not only can they be straightened out AFTER hanging, but if you have to take something down temporarily (moving, repainting, etc.), half of the strip stays on the photo so you don't have to re-buy as many next time. They're non-sticky as well, so they only stick to themselves (unlike regular Velcro, which will latch onto anything - probably your favourite knit sweater from New York that can't be fixed easily).
This may not seem like something that innovative, but being able to take down and put back up posters that would have otherwise been mutilated by thumbtacks and sticky tack is something that matters to me. I've been able to utilize entire walls that would have otherwise been useless due to the cement. While the strips claim to be "damage-free", anyone who's ever used one of these can tell you, that's a pile of crap. When you take off the frame from the wall, yes, no damage will occur, no matter how many times you do it. However if you take the Velcro strip off the wall, paint IS coming with it. Keep this in mind if you tend to vary the hanging patterns a lot or are moving out. When I hung a picture about a foot off-centre and had to re-position, a chunk of wall came out (not really, there's just so many layers of paint here that I think it's decreased my square footage - more on that later). This was a good thing because it reminded me to not throw out my paint, so, don't throw out your paint. As a tiny apartment frequenter, I know I always did.

Like other 3M strips, they can also be cut. In the case of this frame, the flat area of which I could mount was too small to use a full strip, so I improvised:
I did that to a few frames and a couple weeks later, no one's complaining.
They come in small, medium, and large. Larger is harder to find. There are also packs with multiple sizes, like these on Amazon, or they can be found at Wal-Mart, Target, any major hardware store, etc.

This sounds like a sponsored review but I assure you no one knows my blog exists enough to sponsor me. I just reeeeaaaally love this product and feel the need to share something so handy to me. That said, hey 3M - wanna toss me some free strips to make this all official? :)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Quick Project: DIY Instagram Photo Wall

I have two areas in my apartment for personal photos; one is for photos taken with a proper camera and the other is for Instagram photos. I have a lot of Instagram photos that I love because so often, they were never planned. My cell phone is what I pull out to take a photo of a moment I didn't expect, and that's what makes these so important to me. Even if it's just a photo of some fruit or even myself, I remember how I felt at that moment and what made it important. The photo of my college campus was taken on my last ever day; my parents' bathtub looks pretty insignificant, but it reminds me how relaxed I am when I visit; the snapshot of "307" was the day I moved out of my old apartment. Some of them are just visually interesting to me, but most of them hold a special meaning for me, so I really wanted to have some copies on display.

This took really no time; the thing that took the longest was choosing my photos. I went to Printstagram (or Social Print Studio, as they also like to be called), where a set of 24 4x4" prints is only $12 plus shipping. I couldn't decide, so I ordered 3 sets. Ordered late at night on the Monday, shipped Wednesday, arrived Friday morning. Really impressed with the arrival time, even more impressed with the quality of the prints.

Anyway, there are many ways this could be done, but I decided to go old fashioned with some twine and clothespins. You could use full-size clothespins but I thought they would look too big for such small photos, so I went on a hunt for miniature clothespins. I thought this would be easier. I'll skip how I went to a bunch of craft and stationary stores and tell you that these can be found in the stationary department of Wal-Mart with the paper clips. Not Target, Wal-Mart. You're welcome.

I'd recommend going with nails, but I went with pushpins because this particular wall is cement and likely wouldn't hold a nail.

Things You'll Need:
  • Photos
  • Nails or Pushpins
  • String (some more creative DIYs also use Christmas lights)
  • Hammer
  • Clothespins or other clips
  • Scissors
  • Measuring Tape (optional)
I don't even think I need to go into how it's done. Hammer in a pushpin, tie string to line up the next pushpin and make sure it's straight, tie off the string once that's hammered in. Continue for however many strings you need, possibly measuring between the strings to make sure they're evenly spaced (mine were not but that's sort of what I wanted). I don't recommend cutting the ends off the string until you're completely done (photos hung and all) just in case some end up being too loose. The tightness of the strings is up to you, but I found it rather tricky to get any of them particularly taut.

Easy peasy. Takes maybe half an hour and it can be done even in dorm rooms since it's just a couple tacks in a wall. Enjoy!

A New Tiny Roommate: Welcoming The Cat To A Tiny Apartment

Growing up, we had a couple family cats in our house; Agatha was my brother's, Linus is my Mum's, and my Dad and I had shared custody of Puddy. Puddy was unique in how amazingly absurd he was, and when he passed away a year and a half ago, it was hard losing a friend of 16 years who made such an impression on me while growing up. Needless to say, I was raised as a cat person, and for a long time now I've wanted that presence in my home again. Kyle wasn't wild about cats, and the apartment was too small for the two of us as it was, so I never took the opportunity. When I knew I would be living on my own, I thought about getting a cat of my own. It was on my moving day when my Dad casually said "You want a cat?"

My main hesitation came after I cat-sat my friend Liz's kitten. I'd always thought I'd want a kitten, to make him my own, but after that weekend of neuroses I knew I was in no way fit to parent a hyper, furry child by myself. So this worked perfectly; a former coworker of my Dad's was looking to get rid of their long-hair, black adult cat due to allergies and some poor behaviour. Rather than banish him to a shelter (where black cats have a low adoption rate), or worse, who was I to turn down a beauty like this?

Meet my new roommate, Indy (or Henry Jones Jr. as you may formally know him). Luckily, his behavioural problems seem to have been left behind, so he's been a perfect roommate. Be nice if he did some dishes once in a while though.

In honour of the new arrival, I wanted to do some quick tips on bringing a feline addition to a tiny apartment.

1. Invest in the good litter
How many times have you walked into someone's house and immediately known they had a cat? Even if the litter is clean, a smell always lingers. It might seem easy to just get the 30kg bag of the cheap stuff, but the bottom line is a few more bucks can go a long way to keep your home smelling like it's not a kennel. Through an Arm & Hammer media event I attended a couple years ago, I was given a coupon for a free box of Arm & Hammer Ultra Last litter and gave it to my family since they had two cats at the time. They haven't gone back since and I've started using it for Indy and already had several comments about how there isn't even a hint of cat smell here. It's coated in baking soda so it stops the smell regardless of whether or not it's been scooped. If it's the money you're worried about, think of how many scoops you'll be able to get out of one change. Indy's been here for about 3 weeks now and I've yet to do a full change of litter; just two scoops and one top-up and still no smell.

2. Match your cat to your belongings (or vice versa)
It seems ridiculous, yes, but unless you have your heart set on a particular cat or a particular breed, it doesn't hurt. This occurred to me when I was at someone's house a few months ago and they remarked on their white cat with the black shag carpet. Having lived with Linus (a large, fluffy, orange long-hair), I knew that I wanted a cat whose hair might at least kind of blend if nothing else. I'd always wanted a black cat, but it became necessary when I found out Indy was long-hair. He sheds. A lot. But it's actually not that noticeable thanks to hardwood floors and dark wood and black furniture.
If you already have the cat, the next time you're looking for new furniture, maybe just think about colour co-ordinating.

3. Nothing is safe
Since there's less room to run around than a house, I've had to compromise on where some knick-knacks live. Candles that sat centred on the bathroom windowsill now sit on either side so the cat can sit there. The watering can had to move from a window to the radiator so he could climb up easier. Basically all my belongings that sat on top of my bookshelf have been re-homed elsewhere because that's HIS spot. It won't take long to realize that some areas are sacred to him, and if you don't realize it, he'll wail at you until you figure out that you've put a photo on top of the toilet so now he can't hop onto the windowsill anymore.

Good thing he's pretty.