Upcycling Milk Crates to a Shoe Rack

02.06.2018

0600

Materials:

  • 2 Milk crates (about 12″ cubes)
  • Twelve 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws
  • (Optional) Three 1″ wood screws – (for creating the holes)
  • 2 Wood boards (12″ x 11-1/4″ x 1/2″)
  • 16 small screws for holding seats in place
  • Pencil

Tools:

  • Power Screwdriver
  • Table saw / Mitre Saw (or saw it by hand with a rip hand saw)

So I needed a small bench shoe rack piece of furniture. All of the designs and products I flipped through on the internet weren’t quite what I had in mind. I needed a fairly short lengthed bench that didn’t need to store a lot of shoes. I also wanted a compact design. I only own six pairs of shoes and I don’t wear them all in the same season so the rest of the room would be for my family.

I knew I had a few milk crates, which I saw the potential use for this project. It was simple idea and I knew what I wanted the final product to look like.

The interior space within each milk crate was 12″ wide, 12″ high and 10-1/4″ deep. The height of the crate was enough room for two levels for shoe storage.

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Since I was going to use two milk crates, I went ahead and found two random wood boards about 1/2″ thick. The boards I found were slightly wider than the depth of the crates, but I left the extra inch for larger shoes.

So using a miter saw, I cut each piece of wood board down to 12″ x 11-1/4″.

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Next I divided the interior height in half and created a guideline down the middle. Since the crate is plastic, I used an exacto blade to lightly score the midline.

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Using the wood screws and my power screwdriver, I pinpointed the locations of where I wanted my 2″ screws to be located. I like using the wood screws when locating holes in plastic because I can hold the shank of the screw and still guide the power screwdriver to create the straight hole.

wood screw Diagram

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After the holes are created, I took the 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws and screwed them into the premade holes.

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For the four screws that were located further towards the back of the box, I screwed the 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws inwards. And for the two screws located towards the opening of the box, I screwed them outwards.

I wanted the back of the box to be supported more since it was further back. Also, I didn’t want anything sharp located towards the front opening.

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I simply install each box with a board, placing the boards on top of the screws. The boards fit well and were snug enough where they didn’t move either.

Most shoes are longer than 10-1/4″, so leaving the extra 1″ helps with different sized shoes. If you need to store boots or shoes that wouldn’t fit the original designed space, you can simply remove one of the boards and the two screws closest to the opening. (I left the two screws here to show the original design)

So there you have it, you can create a simple seat and shoe storage very quickly and with simple materials. You can install a wood board on top to create a bench or stack these crates on top of a 2″ x 4″ frame to have one more level. There’s a variety of designs this can break out into. I might just do that when the spring season rolls around.

Hope this post jogged up ideas!

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Update:

I wanted to secure a seat on top of the crates so I took another extra piece of wood board and lined it next to the piece I usually keep on top of the creates.

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I took my pencil and traced the crate pattern on the underside of each board and then used small screws to outline at least two crate holes using the small screws. In order to know where I had to place my screws, I flipped my screws over so that they would be standing on their heads and then gauged where the sharp end of the screw would land. The head of the screws had to hug the insides of the traced corner, so I knew where to place it. Wherever the screw could touch both edges of the location, was where I knew I had to place the screw.

I measured the location for the screws in this manner because I wanted the screw to fit right inside of the hole I traced. The head of the screw as well as the thread of the screws had to fit comfortably into the existing holes, once it was flipped over.

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I didn’t screw the screws in the entire length of the thread, so be very aware of the depth of the wood piece you pick out and the screw length that you choose as well. The idea here was to still have the screws sticking out of the board so it would fit nicely into the holes that were traced.

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Once I placed the boards back onto the crates, the top was created into a quick seat to use while putting on shoes (or taking them off).

 

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So there you have it! I like this much more now with the seat on top, and secured into place.

 

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Upcycled Coat Rack From Spoons

01.09.2018

0600

Materials:

  • Wood board (18 inches long x 5 inches wide 1-1/2 inches deep)
  • Four 3 inch wood screws
  • Ten 1-1/2 inch wood screws
  • 5 Spoons

Tools:

  • Power Drill
  • Power Screwdriver
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Slip Joint Pliers
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves

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So I wanted to make a coat hanger but I didn’t want to buy one. Apparently I had materials at home to make one of my own. This project is a fairly easy DIY for any of you who are curious.

My board was 18 inches wide and I wanted a minimum of 1 inch on each side, for margins. This left me with 16″ to work with. So initially I wanted to use 7 spoons for the hangers, but after I measured the distance, I decided to only use 5 spoons.

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I divided the board up into three sections. The height of my board was 5-1/2″, but if you don’t want to use numbers, simply take a piece of paper and fold it into thirds. Then with a pencil, mark the first line and then the second. I wanted to offset my rows of spoons so the red line is for the top row of spoons and the green line is for the center of the bottom row of spoons.

Where the red line and margins intersect is where I drilled my top mounting holes. My bottom mounting holes is where the green line and the margins intersect. These holes are marked by the yellow circles in the image.

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For the spoons, I wanted to drill 2 holes to mount each spoon and I knew I had to create hooks by manipulating the spoons. I picked out a drill bit that was a similar size diameter of my screws I was going to use on the spoons. Usually I choose a drill bit smaller than my screw, but that working with wood only. When working with metal, you want a drill bit that the same size as the screw since metal won’t give. Also, if you don’t choose a drill bit smaller than your screw, there’s a good chance you’ll strip the screw’s threads as you drill.

The green line marks the point of where I wanted my spoons to bend upwards, so they could be used as hooks.

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When I drilled the holes, I wore gloves and my safety glasses because the metal slivers would fly off of the power drill. I applied slow but steady pressure while holding the spoon still and then I dumped the metal shavings into one side of my purple container. I did this to contain the shavings but also because it would be easier to discard them after I finished.

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I first started bending the spoons by using the edge of my step ladder, then I used my Slip Joint Pliers to hold the spoon while using the Needle Nose Pliers to bend the spoons into hooks.

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Once all of the spoons had holes drilled into them, I spaced the spons apart from each other in three inch increments. I proceed to attach the spoons to the board. For the wall mount attachment holes, I sunk the holes into the wood so that there was a slight design detail. I initial had made 2 drill holes so that I could mount it to the stud in the wall (those are the extra holes you see floating on the left half of  the board), but I changed my mind and decided to directly attach it to the drywall instead. Because I was planning to use three inch screws, I knew that mounting it to the drywall wouldn’t be a problem.

But because I changed my mind on which drill holes I wanted to use to mount the coat rack, I now had two random holes that looked out of place. To fix this, I mirrored the holes to the other side of the board and then filled in the extra holes will extra wood filler we had left over.

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I centered my coat rack and attached it to my wall. As you can see, the mistake holes look like design elements with the wood filler.

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So there it is, my coat rack made from spoons. These spoons are a few extra spare spoons from my mother’s kitchen and I really like that I was able to upcycle these extra spoons, knowing that a part of her kitchen was now used in an item I really needed. It’s a nice homage to my mom in a subtle way.

Our homes and possessions hold a great deal of different types of materials in which we can reuse and upcycle into new items.   Once you breakdown how different types of materials are used, the possibilities are endless. Scan your home and surroundings, I’m sure you’ll find a lot of resources.

 

 

Blogger Recognition Award

11.14.2017

0600

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I am very happy to announce that Design Life Hacks has been nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award! After many topics and posts that I’ve covered, I’m glad that I still can create interesting content. 😊

What is the Blogger Recognition Award?

Blogger Recognition Award is given to bloggers by bloggers to encourage and acknowledge the hard work and effort that goes into creating posts. It’s an opportunity for bloggers to recognize one another for each of our contributions. A big thanks to Emilia Cantero Dieguez from The Green Choice for the nomination!

How my blog started?

Living in the Bay Area in California, located in the United States of America, life can be pretty stressful. Nationally, a middle class yearly income for a household of three people is considered to be between $42,000 and $125,000, according to the Pew Research Center. Low-income would be anything under $42,000 and upper-income is above $125,000. Here in the Bay Area, an income of $100,000 is now considered low income.

I believe that if I can share a design hack to make life more simplistic and easier to manage, I should. Transitioning into a zero waste lifestyle started this momentum for my blog. Living a zero waste lifestyle made life simple, cleaning became quick and easy, I even saved money and minimized the errands I had to run during my free time. My daily routine improved and I enjoyed going to work each day as well as coming home and relaxing. You can read more about my story here.

Two pieces of advice if you just start with your blog:

  • Schedule out what topic you want to talk about and how to correlate them with your social media. Also, stay on top of your social media.

  • Network, network, network… find bloggers who blog about similar topics as you and collaborate with them. Whatever the purpose of your blog , finding a community to share your ideas and posts with will greatly help expand your viewing statistics and increase visitors to your website.

My nominees!

When you are nominated, there are a few simple steps that you need to take to accept the award nomination. These are the guidelines:

  1. Write a post about your award

  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to her blog

  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started

  4. Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers

  5. Select up to 15 other bloggers to nominate

  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

Congratulations to all nominees! You are an inspiration to me! Once again, many thanks to Emilia, from The Green Choice, for nominating Design Life Hacks.

With Love Always,

Yen-Van Tran

 

Creating Sliding Drawers

06.20.2017

0600

Materials:

  1. One sheet of brown peg board
  2. KOMPLEMENT drawer handles from IKEA
  3. Bulk rope from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store
  4. Extra nuts and bolts to secure the handles to the peg boards

 

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I first had to measure the width of my cabinet openings, due to the fact that they were old up-cycled cabinets from when we had first moved into this house. The cabinet drawer opening measured 12″ wide and 24″ deep. Ideally, most new cabinet installments would add a nice overall look and clean up the space a bit, but the way new sliding drawers are built, the thickness of the wood would eat up a lot of the width opening. This is why I decided to make some generic sliding drawers.

I measured out the dimensions of 11-1/2″ wide and 20″deep on the peg board, and I had just enough board to make up three drawers. Because the peg board came with pre-drilled holes, it was easy to guesstimate where the handles would be located, and not all of the handles would necessarily be centered. Also, the screws that came with the handles accessories package were designed to fit a 3/4″ thick board, but the peg board was only 1/4″ thick. this is why I had to gather a few extra nuts to infill the space between the original handle screw and the end of the handle itself.

Once I cut the boards to the right size to fit the openings, I placed the handles where I wanted them to be located and attached the nuts and screws accordingly. Because I wanted these drawers to slide, I went to a local fabric store and bought some thick bulk rope. I used this rope to wrap around the long sides of the drawers so that they would slide out easier. The rope also evidently contained the items sitting on top. You can also contain the items that would sit on top of these drawers by screwing a thin piece of wood onto the top of the drawer so  you have a more secure way of holding your items.

Because the motion of the drawers is more of a pull-out motion when in use, I was more concerned about the items falling off in the back of the drawer when the drawer was pulled outward. Once the rope was tied on, I placed my items inside my small rectangular, fabric containers.

 

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Drawer Guides:

I nailed down 12″(L) x 1/4″(W) x 3/4″(D) wooden pieces on each side of the drawers, inside the cabinet, as guides for the drawers. I chose to use a 12″(L) because the depth of the cabinet is 24″. I braced the guides up against the front of the cabinet, in which these guides will help slide out the drawers along a smoother line.

Conclusion:

These drawers are very simple sliding drawers made form material found around the house. There are a number of designs to secure drawer guides in place, and this one was a very simple design. If I had used a 1/4″ bottom for the drawers, I would have secured a different drawer guide design underneath the drawer. I genuinely like the fact that these drawers slide on the rope and it makes virtually no sound when pulled out and pushed back in. It doesn’t’ scratch the surface of the cabinet shelves and it’s simple enough to take apart if I no longer have the need for this design. Maybe this design will work for you, in other areas of your home. I hope this post might have helped brainstorm some ideas.

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Make-Up Brush Bag Hack

05.09.2017

0700

Materials:

  • Plastic store bought brush bag

Tools:

  • Razor Blade or scissors (Please be careful when using the razor blade)

So I bought an e.l.f. Angled Blush Brush from Target back in 2016 and it came in a clear plastic bag such as the ones in the pictured below. I didn’t want to add it to my trash collection, so I set out on trying to figure out how to convert it into a product that would be useful in mylife.

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I knew I wanted to create a holder for all of my brushes (luckily I only use two types of brushes) So I came up with this design to hold my vertical make up tools, such as my mascara, eyeliner pencil, angled blush brush and my EcoTools, Bamboo Smudge Eyeliner Brush.

I sewed the flap that covered the holder to the bag itself. I did this because, I didn’t want to remove the flap to access a clean opening but to also reinforce the bottom of the holder. (At this point I had decided to hang this object as a vertical brush holder).

I opened the other end of the holder by cutting a small slit across the top side of the bag and hold punched a hole on the opposite side. I only put one hole punch on one side because I would be using that side to hang the bag and I didn’t want anything blocking the opening of the bag. Lets call the hole punch end the “Top” and the sewed end of the bag, the “Bottom”. (you kinda have to picture this bag vertically hanging like that)

I used a permanent marker to show you where I placed my cuts on each side of the bag. On the same side as the hold punched hole, I sliced a longer slit on the bottom third of the bag. On the opposite side of the bag, I sliced a shorter cut closer to the top. These cuts do not cut through both walls, please keep that in mind. This design will only work if both walls of the holder are not cut at the same spot.

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For the taller brushes, I am able to insert both of my brushes through the opening at the top, however, I can also slide the brush I tend to use through the slit towards the top.

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The same rule applies for the slit towards the bottom third of the bag. I can use the slit I had created to hold my mascara and eyeliner but be able to access them from the outside. The next few images demonstrate the versatility of the cuts better than how I’m describing them.

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Here is what the bag looks like when it’s hanging up and being utilized. You can see that my EcoTools, Bamboo Smudge Eyeliner Brush is inserted through the opening I had created (towards the top of the bag) and that my angled blush brush is actually on the inside of the bag. I use my Eyeliner brush more than my angled brush so this is why I keep it on the outside, for easy access. On the opposite side of the bag, you can see my small eyeliner and mascara sticking out from the small opening I had created towards the bottom. I also use my mascara and eyeliner often so I like to have access to them easily.

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When I travel or move around with my makeup brushes, I can easily tuck everything inside the bag and nothing with get caught during transportation. I actually do have a bag for my toiletries when I travel and this brush holder goes into that bag as well.  The last image shows what the brush holder looks like once everything is tucked inside the entire bag. I know that this bag with eventually fall apart and I will end up adding it to my trash pile, but as long as I don’t stretch the plastic by putting too many items into this holder, it might hold up well.

This is a simple and interesting design manipulation of what we receive along with products we buy and how to re-design them to accommodate to our own needs.  I really like this design manipulation because I tend to hang things a lot and I didn’t have to throw any packaging away.  I hang things a lot because I like to keep my surfaces clean. Maybe this design might accommodate you somehow, I hope it will.

Revisiting Design Hacks

02.28.2017

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Design is ever changing. It evolves, grows up, mutates and sometimes dies. As someone who consistently designs functions for different objects, and re-designs those function issues, I’ll come across methods that are better for the product itself. It never stops. As people grow in the sense of mentally, physically, emotionally, we will change our habits and routines. Sometimes it’s based on a simple scheduling issue, sometimes it’s a physical disability that we all the sudden need to integrate into our routines. Maybe our routines change due to new people coming into our lives and that includes children and adults.

For these many reasons, I re-visit many of my design ideas. I re-visit them as often as I can.  know that I’m designing from my own perspective and from what I know, but I also know that there’s a whole different world out there who may not have the same resources or the same materials readily available.

So let us take a walk down memory lane… and we’ll re-visit some of my old blog posts and some updates I have for this one.

In addition to my Car Hacks blog post, I had to add one small change. I actually learned this from my mom, but since it made sense, I started doing this as well. It’s very simple. IF you have the room, it’s easy to organize you’re items using boxes in your truck. I have two different sized boxes so that when I go grocery shopping, I can place my bulk liquid items in the smaller box and I know that they won’t spill on the drive home. I use the bigger box for larger bulk items and even for my take out food containers. It’s nice that the smaller box fits well inside of the larger box and I can limit the movement of the objects when in motion.

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For the front of the car, I actually looped an S-Hook through the rope that I exists from that original Car Hacks post. The S-Hook allows me to hang my purse when I need to as well as smaller bags that may roll around. When I brought my lunch to work, I would hang my bag from this hook, and (thank goodness for the consistency of gravity) my food never spilled or toppled over. I really like this hack.

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At my work desk, which I wrote here, Work Desk Essentials, I now changed items out and the final setup is a jar of bulk green tea, and a jar of raw almonds and dried cranberries. I have one extra jar in case I run to a grocery store to grab some hot food from the hot foods bar. My coffee tumbler is by Contigo and it has a 20 oz capacity.

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On my desk… I now keep a set of utensils, tea infuser, lip balm and hair bracket in a bag. In the other bag I keep my earphones and phone charger together too. I carry  a handkerchief now and store it along with my napkin. I use my leftover Aquaphor to help me moisturize my skin during the winter.

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In my shoulder bag, I now carry a pair of chopsticks and a handkerchief along with my set of utensils and cloth napkin. Although when I air travel, I will replace the metal utensils for my bamboo set (knife, fork, spoon). My coffee tumbler is also by Contigo who has an excellent spill proof lock.

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These are only a few design hacks that I keep revisiting. As a designer, your perception of a good design always changes and it take a few trial designs to settle one final design. also, as life moves on and time marches on, your routines and needs will change- so your designs will have to adapt.

Examine Products Closely

01.06.2017

0800

I actually did this experiment back on August 27, 2016, but I finally decided to upload it now. I had other topics that I felt were scheduled before this post. (If you look through my Instagram account, you’ll see the date of when this image was taken and posted)

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Although the craze of sustainable products has made their way around the internet, it is important to always examine your products closely and investigate the companies you invest your money in. There is plenty of companies that practice greenwashing and may not think that their consumers would investigate, but I encourage you to.

Greenwashing is a form of spin in which green Public Relations or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.
Not all claims of products being 100% natural or biodegradable are true. Take for instance my biodegradable toothbrush. I pulled it apart and found metal flakes that held the bristles in place. I also held a lighter to the bristles to see what would happen and they melted as opposed to burning.
Not all companies are bad. Not all claims are false, but check out the companies that you trust your health and your family’s health with. It is a risky game at times and blind trust has to be executed in certain situations.
The internet is big and vast and a lot of people review products. Take a look at what they say and hopefully it’ll guide you in a direction you are comfortable with.
This has been a public service announcement. Ha! yea right.

Functionality Above All Else

01.27.2016

0730

So I was tired of watching my mom cook on the dim lit stove. I wanted to buy an under cabinet light, but as I scrolled through the cabinet light section of local hardware  and appliance stores, I realized that although they are very nice lights, they all require a specific mounting system as well as specific light bulbs- which I would also have to purchase. I didn’t want her to have to go out and buy a new light bulbs for her under cabinet light each time it burned out. It’s a hassle and they always come in packages of ten bulbs.

Now mind you, I am the type who likes to keep my “supplies” to a minimum. (ie. I prefer to need a AAA than any other battery, and I own 4 items that need batteries) I also prefer CFL light bulbs, and I mean the kind of light bulbs that fit into every kind of socket (which also means all of my lamps need to require the same type of light bulb). I don’t want to have to go out and buy a different kind of light bulb for every single kind of lamp that I own.

So this design problem lead me to come up with this solution. I have an extra clamp light that I don’t use anymore. I like clamp lights because they’re quite versatile and they’re gravity friendly.

The solution I came up with was to use the clamp lamp and clamp it to one of the cabinets. I wrapped some extra white athletic tape wrapped around the neck so it doesn’t stand out as much. I then used screws to pin the cord under the cabinet to hide it a bit. I used a piece of extra shoelace and tied a loop so that the cord can be hung up and out of the way when not in use. I also wanted to make this loop because I knew she wouldn’t be able to reach the lamp switch easily, so I wanted her to be able to control the light from the cord plug instead.

This was the solution I came up with:

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This is what my mom’s stove looked like without the new lamp plugged in (basically with the current lighting set up):

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And this is what the stove looks like with the new lamp plugged in with the new light brightness:

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I know this may look strange, but my requirements for what comes into the home is very specific. Although buying a new under cabinet light would have been the ideal solution, in the long run, there would still have to be a surplus of different kinds of light bulbs for all of the lamps in the home. If I’m able to keep that number to a minimum (as in only 1 kind of light bulb), I’m going to. By purchasing a new under cabinet lamp, it would have solved the lighting issue, but would have brought on another issue of keeping that light bulb in stock. From that problem, also brings up the issue of recycling the lamps and how often that needs to be done (ie. if the light bulbs from the under cabinet light burn out quicker than regular CFL light bulbs)

So I didn’t have to buy a new lamp, which would include packaging that would end up in the landfill, new light bulbs to accommodate it and I used an item I already owned. With this solution, all of the lamps in the house can use the exact same type of light bulb. Invest in clamp lights, they’re very useful 🙂