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When we moved to Montana, we bought land. The insurance money we had to rebuild our house with was for the structure only. Had we rebuilt where the house that burned had stood, we had our land. Since we moved, we needed land to put a structure on. Some days we don’t have a lot of confidence that buying the land we did was right. right.

We could have bought a somewhat less expensive piece of land but after looking at over 100 houses and more land that I thought could exist jammed into one community, we only found one place. It was our place.

We pooled our personal property money (stuff that burned) with our structure money (the building that burned) and our landscaping money. We have a gorgeous bit of land, a moderately deep (expensive) well, a septic tank, a long driveway and the power box at the road was a long dig to the house. We love the land and we agreed together that we would do some of the work on the house ourselves and some we would just wait on. I am also trying to repurpose things we have collected the past year.

For example, we are not going to get kitchen cabinets yet. I figured how to convert some console bases from an entertainment center into what promises to be pretty decent base cabinets.

Now-days in an effort to economize, I am like a pack rat going around our building site snagging and running off with scraps of wood. I don’t really have a place to pack-rat things yet. The garage is filled with compressors, generators, big yellow electrical power units, BCI, boards and other building things. Surveying the equipment, I asked our contractor if I could have a little corner in the basement to set up shop so I could work on my tasks. To my surprise, he said they would be out of the garage completely this week. Wow. Even without garage doors in January I have an overwhelmingly positive feeling of having our own space.

Starting this week I will have place to pack-rat my scraps of construction materials. I will even make some scraps of my own doing the work I promised to do. I feel a little like one of those homeowners on the remodeling shows who get left with homework in order for the professionals to continue the next day. I am trying with all my might to get my homework done so no one on our professional building team has to wait on me.

One of the rash things I said was that I would take care of the finishing off of the little basement apartment we are planning to move into in three weeks. I did not want to pull people off of the other work they were doing. I asked if they would do the plumbing, wiring, flooring and tile. I could have done the sheet rock, maybe, but they are going to do that too. Among other things like building storage units, trim work and painting, I am in charge of building the tiny kitchen and making sure everything is set for the electrician and the plumber who will work this week and then finish off the following week.

Today the best method I could find to quell my mounting panic over costs and about holding up the construction was to plan out what I need to do step-by-step. I made a power point.

I already have some cabinet things for the tiny kitchen. I bought a base cabinet for $30 and need to convert it into a sink base cabinet. I bought a cheap 48″ counter top that has to go on that base. Since there is only one base cabinet, I have to figure out something to hold up the other end. I have the templates to cut the hole in the counter top for the sink and faucet so I am feeling pretty confident on that one.

Since we will be living until spring in a 390 sq ft apartment with one 3’2″ closet, we are going to need some storage space. I designed a dresser/shelf combo that will be the headboard for our bed. It will have three 8 ft shelves and two small but useful dressers that come together to make a bridge over the bed.

Today I decided to build a couch. Our apartment living room is so small that I could not find a couch that would fit. After looking for weeks for something we could afford and would fit I decided I would grab some 2 x 4s and a sheet of OSB and build a couch. As I made my mental repurposing walk thought what we had I came up with upholstery fabric from a mis-sized bed coverlet. We have two uselessly oversized throw pillows that came with our replacement couch we ordered a month after the fire. They will make a fine back for this new small couch. We can also use the two memory foam pillows that came with our bed. They give us neck aches but will make good sofa parts. For the cushions I set out to buy a cheap twin memory-foam mattress but soon realized that a thinner, less expensive topper bought in a queen size would be perfect. It only takes one cut down the middle and we have 2 sheets of memory foam that fit together like a sandwich.

Which brings me to cutting things. I am well known to my friends for my inappropriate use of cutting implements. A circular saw in the wrong hands can do a lot of damage. When I build things I make cut sheets and have someone else, usually my spouse, cut the wood for me. If I get my cut sheets wrong, I am dead in the water until I can get someone to cut more wood for me. I have to be very careful with my plans. I have to be confident in my cuts when I ask someone to take the time to cut them for me.

I have three cut sheets. One for the kitchen, one for the bedroom storage unit and one for the couch. I spent all day drawing little pictures with a, b, c and d. I drew arrows and dotted lines to indicate this part goes here. I have step 1, step 2, step 3 and step 4. I have drawings that show where to cut the parts board by board. I feel very satisfied. I am confident that I have them right and I can press forward to transform my pack-rat wood into a home for us.

It is not so often that we can have confidence that you have something right. You can always second guess yourself. It is different when I build things from my cut sheets. If I put it together wrong what I am building falls apart, usually immediately. In life when you put things together wrong it may not show for a long time. Like our house with its entertainment console kitchen, in real life there is not just one way to put things together.

view of bedroom with office chair in the front and bed with a black bookcase storage unit built around it.

Our bedroom in our little basement apartment is 8 feet wide and 11 feet long. It also serves double duty as an office.