With us moving in together next year and with an upcoming wedding, Eric saw it high time to renovate his master bedroom closet to utilize maximum space and accommodate two people. Having purchased his our home new in 2007, he has slowly been setting out to make things his in the house and upgrade the “contractor grade” construction materials most folks end up with in a new place.
We’ve summed it up in both a video tour and also in text below.
To save money and have that accomplished feeling, we decided fairly early on to tackle the project ourselves.
After discussing our ideas for a few weeks, a couple rounds of purging on his part, and looking through some Pinterest boards for color ideas, we removed all of his clothing and linens from the closet on Saturday, October 5. After these items were removed, we (as carefully as possible) took down the Rubbermaid-style, white wire shelving lining 3 walls of the closet. This was attached in a way, that some areas were left with damage in the drywall and required some serious patch work. A couple of days of spackling, sanding, and oh, let’s not forget that in the process, Eric created a small hole in a set-back wall to see what was behind it.
Leaving No Space Untouched
This wall he was opening up is the one immediately inside the closet door to the right and was clearly not the same wall in the bedroom. There was about 12″ or so of space between the two walls. Well, he expanded the hole to discover there was about 20-24″ of space in the middle, between some ventilation, where we could put a recessed shelf. To save the time and hassle from constructing our own shelf unit from scratch, we picked up a small 17″-wide BILLY shelf at IKEA. I built it, Eric stayed up late one night, setting it back into the wall, relocating some studs for structure, and patching up the hole he created to set it back.
Prep Work is Foundation
Once the spackling and dusting was done, and this took days, the room was ready for painting. Remember how I said we had looked on Pinterest boards for ideas? Well our color idea ultimately came from the master bedroom photo that we both liked and therefore was a natural selection for the closet color. (Ladies, I “pinned” a slew of photos into a Bedroom Looks pinboard and then one night, we went through the photos together. This ensured anything in the folder was something that I already liked and then when he said “I like this look” we kept all those photos in a separate pool knowing that WE BOTH liked, and then narrowed it down to one).
A Shiny New Coat
So, I handled the painting. Brought a bunch of supplies over from my home to save some money. We bought Gray Morning (490F-4) Behr paint after narrowing it down to that and a similar color, Smokey Slate (460E-3). Both of these colors had the green-blue-gray, midtone look we were going for in a gender-neutral couple’s room. We’re both fans of Behr paint from previous use and reviews in Consumer Reports and it’s about the only thing you’ll ever find either of us in Home Depot for. And, I’m a big believer in still doing a separate coat of primer and not buying the all-in-one. So, one day of primer, two coats of color, and whala, a brand spanking new room with a fresh coat of color.
Next, it was picking out our shelving and clothing rod materials. We looked at IKEA, and while impressive, their systems to look really good would need a lot of space and were not practical for our needs. We looked at Home Depot, and though we loved that the Martha Stewart line had a corner vertical shelf piece, we did not like how “cheap” the materials looked. We settled on the allen+roth brand at Lowes. It comes in a white, medium brown, and dark brown color. We went for the medium brown, which we thought would compliment nicely with our wall color.
The allen+roth brand is nice looking wood and a brushed nickel finish. It also allows for some customization on the vertical shelves, if you want to add drawers instead of shelves.
Then, it was onto planning out the shelving. We each wanted a vertical shelf and as much clothing rod space as possible, so we thought double-stacking in most of the closet would be smartest. In one area, it will be tall for dresses and longer items to be hung.
It was less expensive to buy four 96” rods and cut them down to size with a hacksaw, than it would have been to buy the 48” we needed and cut the other sizes down. Allen+roth assumes you are only going to be hanging the rods underneath shelves they make and they are either in 48” or 96” versions. No customization for real-world sized closets.
Some Con’s to Allen+Roth Organization Products
Unfortunately, the allen+roth brand does not accommodate corners really well (the shelfs do, but there’s no clear way to handle a corner with rods), and they don’t make an easy way to install lower rods without having to do a shelf above them. We don’t need a shelf there, since clothes will be hanging above it and will be utilizing that space where a shelf may come in handy for some. And, don’t use the stud/drywall anchors that are provided. Instead you’ll want to buy a box of E-Z Anchor self-drilling: 79lb-rated Twist and Lock drywall anchors (for straight drywall, Lowes #71537), 50lb-rated (and higher when in the stud) Stud Solver anchors (for studs, Lowes #169762), and 100lb-rated Toggle Lock (for straight drywall, heavy items, Lowes #68734). For the lower rods, we secured them to the wall with two parts we found on Amazon: rod brackets and rod flanges.
We also had to buy the Rubbermaid brand of rod end caps, since the allen+roth brand assumes that all poles will either run to walls or vertical shelves and therefore not allow hangers and clothes to fall off the end. Rubbermaid makes an end cap (Lowes #307516) that is plastic gray and looks brushed nickel from a distance.
Most of the pieces, and especially the full closet kit, are not really suitable to a custom-sized closet. You will need to be prepared to resize the items (shelves and rods).
We were also a little disappointed initially to find out that the vertical shelf “legs” were only available for the dark brown line and not the medium color we had selected. But, without the legs, we were able to use the space created underneath the shelf for even more storage.
Raising the Bar
Because we knew we were double-stacking the rods and clothing, we knew the top rod would have to start up fairly high. We installed the first vertical shelf unit, the one that went up against a wall then leveled out from there with a laser-level, the entire rest of the installation. It took about 3-4 days of spare time. The first vertical shelf took the longest, and we learned that allen+roth assumes you will have two studs to go into, and because our location on the wall did not match up with that, we installed four 100lb-rated drywall anchors, and then also backed that up with screws straight into the area we knew a stud fell. We filled that in with wood putty and used a furniture marker to fill that in, so no one would notice. Another night, we installed the other vertical shelf. A third night, the horizontal shelving that did not need customization (only two pieces). And, finally on the fourth night of install, the two shelves that needed a little trimming.
Operation: Maximus Spacious
We made sure that all the curved shelf supports did go into studs (and used anchors whenever we could) and then went into drywall (also with anchors) anywhere we needed to. We over-engineered this baby. All-in-all, we were left with 9″ of room under the two vertical shelves (the Boot Box at The Container Store fit nicely). And, 10″ of space was left above the entire installation (the 9.75″ tall open-top bins with labels that Bed, Bath, & Beyond sells fit well — and each with a 20% off coupon brings them down to about $8 ea.)
On our trip to The Container Store, we found a grid system that would work well for the “purse wall” I was envisioning. But, first, I bought and built a 25 shoe rack on clearance at Lowes to sit on the floor of that space. That allowed us to measure up from there to install three of the grids horizontally to take advantage of the space. We got S hooks on Amazon to allow for purses (with wide handles), hats, etc. to be hung here.
We swapped out the light switch cover to be consistent with others Eric had already put throughout the house, and it seemed to blend with the color scheme we had going so far. Above and below this, in the 16” of angled wall, we installed two medium wood colored tie/belt racks.
Then, to finish off the front of the shelf that we had earlier set back into the dead-space wall, we stained some trim and cut to size and glued to the wall with Liquid Nails.
To brighten the space, we purchased a 6-bulb track ceiling light at Lowes (allen+roth, Lowes #9320) and swapped out the original single-bulb contractor-grade light.
Last, but not least, we had some wall space left above the belt/tie racks, the doorway, and in two vertical areas of the closet as well. Here, we decided to utilize the space for our many baseball and other assorted hats by screwing standard kitchen cabinet door knobs into the wall. Well, these knobs are generally made assuming you’ll be holding the screw on the inside of the cabinet door and screwing the knob on from the outside, however we were going into drywall with no way to reach the backside. So, we bought hanger bolts (Lowes #605496, basically screws with no head, that were the right thread size for the knobs) and screwed the knobs onto them. And, because you can’t just put a screw into drywall, or it would pull right out, we put one of the plastic drywall anchors (that the screws can break through with a manual hand-crank) into the wall for each screw and then manually screwed each knob into each anchor. Took a little bit of time, but looked really nice in the end. We spaced these about 8” apart horizontally and 12” apart vertically.
In the End
It took 35 days of spare time, mostly two sets of hands on deck, considering all else we have going on in life. We sat there for about an hour when it was done staring at our work in amazement and our appreciation that we had done this masterpiece ourselves. No contractor would have ever got it just the way we envisioned it without charging us a pretty penny.
We thought the project would only take a week or two. We were wrong. Double it, and double it again.
We then started loading stuff back in. Everything is working just perfectly.
Now to determine which house project to tackle next.
750 Shelving + Rods + Hardware
130 Ceiling Light
100 Recessed Shelf + Glass Shelves
50 Recessed Shelf Trim
100 Paint + Stains + Supplies
100 Twelve Upper Shelf Bins
80 Wire Rack + “S” Hooks for Purses
40 Tie + Belt Storage
40 Shoe Caddy
20 Boot Boxes at The Container Store
50 Knobs + Hardware for Hats
40 Rug + Floor Vent Cover
40 Step Stool
50 Wall Anchors
$1,620 TOTAL PROJECT
(I really don’t even want to think about what a contractor might have charged us).
The closet is the master bedroom walk-in closet in the Halifax Model of Ryan Homes builder/construction in Central Maryland.]]>
Since I last posted, a lot has happened. It has been nearly a year after all. I ended a long-term-relationship that was not meeting my needs and future goals, started a relationship with a friend who had years ago been recommended to me as a match and I had ignored the memos, fell in love with the guy (he’s smart and handy and has his own interests and so into me, it was an instant connection on both sides). In July, he got down on his knee at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC while we were on a weekend getaway. It was sincere and sweet and I just couldn’t be happier for the future. Oh yeah, and I started a new job, a month in, and loving it so far.
Now, here we are engaged, mid-30’s, planning a simple destination wedding, each managing our own single-family homes and mortgages. Though I love my location in the heart of Howard County, and especially my neighbors, his home is a little newer and has more space for all of our hobbies, gear, and pets (now we have four furbabies combined). Eric has a roommate with two dogs, so there is not space for me yet, nor can I move my cat over until it is just those three dogs he and I have. Slowly I’ve been moving some holiday stuff, clothes, etc. We’re getting there and I will be starting to really move stuff to Anne Arundel County (but still work in HoCo) this Winter.
Which brings us to our first major home improvement project, as a couple. Eric’s always envisioned renovating the master bedroom closet, but it took the knowledge that two people would be soon sharing that closet and exactly how much stuff I have. Hey, I am a girl. And, yes, I do purge ALL the time.
So, on October 5th, the demolition work began… The first steps to building our home, so I can move in next year.
Stay tuned, we’re gonna share our project, steps, tips and tricks, realistic timeline and more coming very soon. We’re getting closer and closer to wrapping up the project any day now.
November 11, 2013 Update:
Experience the thrill of breathing underwater and get the most unusual photo ever. You know no one else will have this one on your mailing list! And, do this all the while of helping out a local charity. And, for those who don’t want to get wet or meet the minimum age for SCUBA (age 10 to 100 eligible), you can still come out and get your photo on dry land and help out charity too. Never used SCUBA? No worries! All participants will receive safety instruction from our dive professionals before being escorted to SCUBA Santa.
So, bust out your swimsuit and bring non-perishable food items and/or cash donations of $5 or more. Preferred foods include:
The 12th Annual SCUBA Santa Food Drive takes place this Sunday, December 2, 2102, from noon to 4 pm at the Olney Swim Center, intersection of Georgia Avenue and Emory Lane. Food and fund collections will go to support the MUM Capt. Joseph A. Mattingly, Jr. Food Pantry.
Pre-registration will guarantee your spot in the pool with SCUBA Santa.
The event is sponsored by the Olney SCUBA Adventure Dive Club. For more information, call 301-938-6220 or email ScubaSanta@ScubaAdventure.
Less than two months ago, one of my best friends succumbed to breast cancer. Jennifer Campbell battled it like no one I know ever could…with a smile on her face. When diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer three and a half years ago, she still managed to find the positive in everything, even though her struggle got a little worse every day. She passed at just 32 years old, after starting the fight at 25. (I’m trying to be careful and not say “lost her battle,” because anyone that could wear a smile on her face through it all like she could…did not lose at the game of life). Metstatic Breast Cancer is an often forgotten breast cancer. This is the terminal, Stage IV, breast cancer, that often is driven by hormones. Metastatic means the cancer has hopped from the breasts to any number of host sites in the body, most often: the bone, lymph nodes, lungs, brain, and liver. Jen had MBC in all of these places, except brain (which she, like other MBC victims fear the most), with ultimately the liver not being able to fight it off. And, yes, young women can get it too.
There are many cancers out there, I know. Many great causes for awareness, research, and financial support too. But, no one, especially with a spirit like my friend Jen should have to leave this Earth way too soon. It’s irreversible. She is now forever in the hearts of many.
Jennifer is one of the many young breast cancer stories out there. But, this one is close to home for those of us in HoCo, because up until the diagnosis…she was an independent thriving dental hygienist at Dr. Becker’s office in Ellicott City, she lived off of Guilford Road in Owen Brown, and was a busy-body in several local Meetup.com groups, like Columbia-Dogs-on-the-Go, Charm City Social Club, and 20s and 30s Baltimore Nightlife Group, and non-Meetup group, Maryland Outdoor Club. Her dogs, Shadow and Chloe, even have their photo hanging at the nearby Pub Dog on Dobbin Road. I make sure to say a prayer every time I walk by that photo now.
October has become widely known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My email inbox is flooded with all these great ways to help women living with breast cancer and to help researchers determine the cause and stop BC from ever happening in the first place. Some of the great lesser known fundraisers and awareness events that I’ve seen so far:
A friend of mine pointed out that the White House and London both “turned pink” for October too. And, anyone driving by fire houses in Howard County have probably seen this as well.
How I’m helping this month:
I may be doing a lot of different things this month, because it’s my outlet to keep Jen’s spirit alive, but really even the smallest things add up. And, I’m telling you about it, to show you the many different ways there are to help out. I’m curious to hear in what way, you, your business are helping raise awareness or funds for research. Or, how having met Jen has changed your life for the better. Please add your comments below.
Thank you for reading.
Between the Fall Fest going on in Ellicott City this weekend, and Oktoberfest having kicked off at the nearby Blob’s Park (German Bier Haus), the Smithsonian Magazine is offering free admission into thousands of nationwide museums tomorrow, some national parks are free too for National Public Lands Day, like Shenandoah National Park (PDF), and all the fundraising events (Best Buddies Maryland, Franciscan Center Baltimore, Grassroots Crisis Intervention, MD SPCA [PDF], The Samaritan Women, and the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults) going on in the surrounding weeks, there’s just way too much to do and not enough of me to do it. But the one thing that unfortunately caught my attention way too late is the Pyrate Pub Crawl going on from noon to 6 pm in Annapolis (Naptown) tomorrow afternoon. While I may “try” to make an appearance for a little bit on the way to my evening function from my morning kayak excursion to Mallows Bay in Southern Maryland, I fear I may have to keep my radar on this particular event for next year instead.
In the meantime, a brand new Meetup.com group, Pirates of Chesapeake (Facebook | Twitter), would like to form a group to go even in my absence. So, if you’re free tomorrow, and not loaded with too much to do…I suggest you check it out. It sounds quite fun.
I also think I may be needing to upgrade my pirate wardrobe soon. Thank goodness for Etsy.com! Arrr!
Check back, I keep be updatin’ th’s page through’t de day…]]>
When I think to describe Jennifer, just one word will not suffice. I can come close with three words however. La Bella Vita. It means “a beautiful life” in Italian. This small phrase is what Jen lived. Her life blog and recent permanent tattoo both showcased this. And, it was a beautiful life…she has given me much material to work with.
Hello, I’m Amy Pickwick. I first met Jen at an Intro to Indoor Rock Climbing class at the Earth Treks gym in Columbia, Maryland in July 2008 through a womens group that I had started. Little did I know at the time, the influence this special friend would have on me. We became quite close friends overnight, because we started climbing at the gym together weekly, went to dog-friendly and social events with many of the same Meetup.com groups, were close in age, and lived just a few miles apart. For close to eight months, I along with other friends had the privilege of belaying Jen weekly on 44-foot-tall rock walls. The word belay in its most literal sense means “to protect, to provide safety.” She was there to belay us too, providing us with safety and protection. But, as a friend, she was so much more.
Jen was always there as a shoulder to lean on through our own difficult times. At times, I felt like she was more concerned with helping people with their own problems than her own daily struggle. I’m sure you would agree, that this is the Jen that you knew too. I can only hope that we gave her as much as she gave us.
Faced with an unbearable diagnosis in 2009, she continued to live life to her fullest ability: working as long as she could, continuing to fill life with friends and the enjoying the things she wanted to do. We had many talks about dying over the last couple of years. It was amazing to me that from very early on she had accepted her fate and was fully at peace with it. Jen was grateful for the opportunity to live 32 years and 8 months and not a moment less. That was Jen…always, always, always seeing the positive in everything. And, never taking anything for granted.
If you have been friends with Jen long enough on Facebook, you might remember another key phrase of hers: “NEXT!” Though Jen loved to use this phrase immediately following a bad date, this was her m.o. for life in general. She never dwelled on anything for long. Instead, she picked herself up and got back on the horse each time. One thing I personally will try and take from this is to not sweat the small stuff in my own life. Surely whatever we are about to complain about is far less significant than a more insurmountable challenge someone else is about to face. And, there can be a positive spin to every situation. She was certainly proof of that.
Jen was a great friend. I’ll never forget the morning of our journey to visit the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina in January for a girls weekend away and I asked Jen how she knew about the Biltmore, and why she picked to go there. Her reply was “because it was on your list to go there.” This is who she was though…always doing what she could for others, even when she was not well. Needless to say, it didn’t matter where we went that weekend, or even that we ended up at a hospital in Bristol, Tennessee, we were together and that’s what mattered.
Jen was a teacher. Not only at YTI career institute. But, when Jen had this first ever overnight hospital stay in January on our way to that girls weekend in Asheville, North Carolina, I remember her offering up dental advice to the nurse tending to her.
Jen was also a prankster. She loved to get joy out of life and make her friends smile. I’ll never forget the day I drove down my quiet street in Columbia, Maryland to find a bright red light bulb glowing from the lightpost in front of my home. I made sure to keep this information to myself assuming the culprit would eventually fess up. And finally, one day, she asked me about it and I knew. Damn was I impressed with her sinister ability to pull that off while I was out. She definitely got me.
I really hope, when the sadness fades a bit, that we don’t remember Jen for having breast cancer. That we remember her for her signature smile, her laugh, confidence, independence, determination, strength, grace, humbleness, and positive energy through it all. That we remember the things she took joy from in life, like playing with her nephew Ben, Meetup.com groups, dinner parties, rescuing dogs, teaching, traveling, friends, family, bike riding, and motorcycle riding with her dad. We need to be thankful for the time we had with her and not dwell on the time we lost. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
On a recent trip to a Pennsylvania casino, Jen walked away down in money but up in the experience. In my eyes, Jen did win in the game of life. She understood fundamentally what was important. Life experiences, the people that you surround yourself with, the love you give, and the smile that you wear everyday. Knowing that I will never be able to talk to her again, see her inspirational messages is painful right now. But, as we all come together as a family, realizing each one of us is suffering this loss in our own way, in time we will be able to heal. Whether you lost a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, dear friend, or coworker here today, know that we are all going through this with you. We should lean on one another through this, as we would have leaned on Jen. And, certainly she would have introduced us all on her own if she could have. Always helping friends to connect the dots.
I have an unbelievable amount of hope in finding a cure for breast cancer, to eradicate this beast once and for all. And, until we do, I will continue to pray and think of all the women, especially the young survivors, that Jen became so close to through the message boards online. They continue to fight this battle every day.
I’ll be forever thankful for that Intro to Rock Climbing class in 2008 … as I am confident that Jen will have no problem climbing her way to Heaven. Especially with all of us at the belay end of her rope.
As I conclude, it helps to know, that even though Jen’s body is gone, I fully believe that her spirit is still alive in each and every one of us. Jennifer was an angel sent to live amongst us here on Earth. She leaves this world with the biggest heart of anyone I know.
And though our time together was brief, know that we all loved you angel more than words will ever say.
I started out Friday morning at the Baltimore Business Journal (BBJ) 2012 Enterprising Women Breakfast in Cockeysville at the Valley Mansion. I felt like I was at a fancy, sunrise wedding, complete with “cocktail hour” except it was 8 am and coffee instead of liquor. With 52 numbered tables, each sporting ten chairs, the mostly female audience enjoyed coffee, a plated breakfast, some bakery items, and fruit, while listening to four selected women entrepreneurs in the Baltimore area answer tough questions about business in the current economy. I was especially fond of the answers from Cara Joyce, Owner, Urban Pirates. Well, her business is after my own heart after all. By the way, I must add that until this event I didn’t know that the owner of Urban Pirates was in fact a woman, and I really think this needs to be public information to show what in such short time and with such little to start with (except a big dream), women can accomplish in a trying economy. The overall theme throughout the answers from the four women was to take care of the people below you, they help rise you up and support you. And, to take advantage of the down times in the economy to study, research, grow, and learn. One of the women also mentioned a weekly, Monday morning inspriational tip, I think that she gets emailed to her every week from a friend. This friend starts out every workweek on a good note by thinking of something positive that recently happened, maybe from the weekend. I really like this idea, and I’ll get to it in a moment.
Following the breakfast, I met up with the outgoing and incoming Maryland Outdoor Club treasurers at a bank in Nottingham to sure up the signature file. Luckily this was smooth and didn’t take long at all.
Next, it was onto a friend’s house nearby to the bank to relax in the pool throughout the middle of the day. A couple of friends that had Friday off or a long break in the day came to join us.
Once back home in HoCo, I finished packing up the car for the weekend activities, including my kayak and my dog.
And, then headed to Annapolis for a monthly Full Moon Paddle event, starting with a cookout and potluck, offered by the non-profit Annapolis Community Boating. Unfortunately the 12-15 mph wind kept us from going too far safely. We did have some brand new kayakers in the group of two dozen. What a way to experience kayaking for the first time — in the dark!
Around 11 pm, when the event concluded, I continued across the Bay Bridge to Tuckahoe State Park in Queen Anne, MD (off MD-404), where luckily (thanks to my friends Jenny & Justin) my setup tent awaited me at close to midnight. This event, being held by the Watersedge Kayak Group on Meetup.com, was to paddle the Tuckahoe River on Saturday. And, that we did. A total of eleven people and my dog, paddled 10+ miles, some of which was dead into the wind, starting at 10:45 am on Saturday morning. The shuttle prior to the put-in took a little longer than expected. We had an attendee not feeling well and confusion over where to put-in vs. take-out. By 10:45 am, we had those kinks all worked out and were on the water. We paddled until about 3:45 pm, including three breaks: one of which was a swim break, another lunch, and another just to rest, which probably totaled 45 minutes combined.
Upon returning my friend’s rental kayak, we swung by a really cute Irish Public House (a.k.a. “The Pub”) in Denton, MD, and had some cider and delicious snack-food. Later into the evening, when everyone was all showered up, we shared a group potluck meal on site #46 at the Tuckahoe SP campground. Chili, corn, banana boats, potato salad, chicken, cookies, cornbread, etc. filled our bellies. Needless to say, after the long paddle, I crashed hard and early.
Sunday morning, we awoke bright and early…possibly due to the heat, making it difficult to sleep. So, packed up and headed home.
Finally, I rounded out the weekend, on International Friendship Day no less, by visiting a good girlfriend of mine in the Harrisburg, PA area, who is on Hospice at home with Stage IV (metastatic) breast cancer at age 32. She warned me prior to coming that she was starting to turn yellow, had a little pain, and is starting to feel the effects of liver failure. We just sat for an hour and a half and had girl talk, caught up on each other, I let her show me her morphine pump, watched a little TV, held hands, etc. and had a great visit. I really miss her being close by here in Columbia, MD where she owns a townhouse.
So, back to that Monday morning inspirational tip I mentioned earlier. I am going to try and do this weekly. We’ll see if I have the time. But, I think this is a great idea for me and for others, to kick-start a great day that will lead into many other great days. I do want to come up with a name or tag for it, so I can group them up on my blog.
This morning, I am SO grateful for the time I got to spend with my close friend Jen yesterday. I’m also thankful for a positive outcome for a elderly kayaker that got separated from the ACB group on Friday night, but was later found lost, unhurt, and unharmed. And, I’m grateful for a great time meeting the members of the Watersedge Kayaking Group and possibly making some new friends over the weekend.
What Monday morning tip or note can you share to give your week a good start? What catchy name should I use for these weekly Monday tips? Comment below.]]>
I have directly been working in social media for four years now, but using social media far longer, and have been waiting for something like this. After being the victim of crime in my neighborhood twice in one week last year (two separate incidents), I felt like there was no quick and easy way to get word out to my neighbors. Sure, I stopped who I could on the way to the mailbox and contacted the folks I knew through Facebook, and later learned about a small email list, but there was no easy way to reach the folks that I didn’t yet know. And after three years in the neighborhood, I do admit I met many new-to-me neighbors last summer, but with over 100 homes off of our main and cul-de-sac streets, there were still a lot of people that I didn’t know. Immediately following the incidents, I remember feeling a sense of relief and more connected to the neighborhood than ever, and man was I getting a lot of waves from people I didn’t or did know. The good news is, the word got out. My sense of community was there more than ever.
Part of why I fell in love with and chose to buy in Howard County, was because of the founding principles behind Columbia, the connected community. But, I imagine that with busy lifestyles and a different generation having moved in, that some of the sense of community has been lost over the years. I do wonder what it would have been like to be the first homeowner in my house in 1977. Though, I was one at the time, and too young to know where I would be so many years later.
So, when I read this article, I figured I would give this new social network a shot. After joining Nextdoor, and being the first one from the neighborhood to do so, it asked me to state the boundaries of the neighborhood on a map, so I included the homes on the main street and the cul-de-sacs too. But, then it said that my new neighborhood site would only stick if I had 10 neighbors join within 21 days. “Oh, dear. How would I do this?” I thought.
But, I tried anyway…and I invited everyone I had email addresses for, and then the site also gives you the option to send postcards to other neighbors for which you know by name (and even later allowed me to postcard the entire neighborhood). Postcards are helpful when you are not allowed to post flyers on the community mailboxes. And, I hate littering up the neighborhood with flyers (on doors or trees). Plus, the flyers you print from the site all have a unique code, which would mean I would have to print more than 100 and individually hand them out. The good news is, I didn’t have to go that far. Luckily, I have a neighbor that is connected to friends on the cul-de-sacs through PTA and a stint on the community village board. And, when she saw the site, she too thought it was a great idea.
A few days after joining Nextdoor, I got a postcard in the mail with a unique code on it to verify my accuracy on my residence. Well thought out, Nextdoor!
Almost immediately do you find the benefits from Nextdoor. When you define the neighborhood, the first thing it does is build a directory of all the neighbors that join by both alphabetical list and better yet, by a map! So, now, it’s much easier for me to know neighbors by name. And, yes, it lets you pull in a photo from Facebook or upload one — to help your neighbors recognize you.
Additionally, it has a “Status” wall, similar in style to Facebook. You can attach documents here. So, I have uploaded photos with posts that need them. I especially love the “Recommendations” part of the site, allowing you to share your favorite local businesses (think home contractors and services here) with your neighbors. Think of how much time this will save working from recommendations instead of researching new businesses every time you need them! There is a “Buy / Sell / Free” area too, to recycle and share items amongst the neighborhood. A “Groups” area too, so that you can create a subgroup for a portion of the neighborhood, or maybe for the parents in the neighborhood, you decide. And, an “Events” area, to share both community happenings and neighborhood specific events (like block parties).
Now, lost dog alerts, last minute baby sitters, and recycling have become much easier to get the word out about. I just need to stop and talk to every neighbor on the way to the mailbox, and let them know about this site with the hopes that they will join! And, that they will tell more neighbors they know too!
The only real drawback I see so far, is also the benefit, that the social network is private. So, posts about recycling items and/or local contractors that may help my friends just a few miles from me, are only private to just my neighborhood. Not a big deal to copy-and-paste, but I could see how it would help to allow community leaders or local law enforcement who live in other nearby communities to join (neighbors could “Approve” these people with so many votes in)…but then, I guess it would be just another Facebook.
A post that I did copy-and-paste to a good friend a neighborhood away was for an outdoor child playhouse. Being a new mom, and both hardcore into recycling and helping the environment, I immediately thought of this particular friend. She blogs about her Upcycling adventures on zMOMbie for HoCoBlogs.com.
Nextdoor is also a sponsor of National Night Out, the nation’s largest annual crime prevention / safety event, and gives you an easy way to promote your neighborhood’s National Night Out event, create an event listing, and print customized flyers from your event page. National Night Out is just seven days away…but with this site, it might be enough time to pull a hyper-local neighborhood happening together.
Since joining Nextdoor, I am seeing even more smiling faces waving at me as I walk the dog.
So, will you go to Nextdoor and see if your neighborhood already exists from a “Lead” that has already started it? Or, will you be the one that brings your community together and starts the neighborhood private community on there? Whatever you decide, I’m curious to know how Nextdoor will or has helped you. Let me know by Commenting below.