life in a tiny apartment.

June 6, 2018

Survival Tip #165: Paint the plunger.

The handle anyway. It’s probably advisable to leave the rubbery part alone. But the wooden handle? Why not help it along a bit? Maybe it still has the remains of a price tag sticking on it somewhere. Maybe it’s a bit dusty and little used, but it lacks a cabinet for hiding away in inside a tiny apartment. Get a bit of sandpaper and a bit of paint and brighten the sucker up a bit. Ditto anything else that needs cheering.

If you’ve been reading for awhile, you already know that I consider white paint to be the Wite-Out of adulthood. Am I revealing my age? (33, for inquiring minds.) Does anyone even use Wite-Out anymore? Regardless of color, when I paint utilitarian objects it’s to achieve a bit of calm, a bit of cohesion, to encourage a bit of a disappearing act. But if bedazzling is more your speed, then of course go for it. Rhinestone encrusted toilet plungers wouldn’t be my preference, but they might well be yours. The point is consideration, and identifying how particular objects contribute to the sum of your space.

Last week, as we waited for what felt like forever to be given the go-ahead to move back into our apartment, I busied myself with at least ten little projects. On nights after the kids were asleep, I snuck back upstairs to dabble with a  paint brush. What I was fixing weren’t glaring problems, really, but little things that grated. A liquor-box-turned-craft-box that I rescued from the trash years ago and never painted is now gray, and sits more quietly on a closet shelf we’re experimenting with leaving exposed, without a curtain to cover it. A wooden footstool we’ve used since long before we were married is now white, better to match the bathroom where it lives. The plunger, well, you already know.

In a week where I felt restless, tackling little projects helped me feel better, mostly because channeling my energy into change I could see felt better than waiting for change that I couldn’t. I eventually also decided to embrace a few projects of a slightly larger scale and greater budget (more on those to come) but where time or budget is lacking, this kind of dabbling can be just as affecting. 

So, paint your plunger. Paint the wine crate if you’re sick of staring at it. Paint the wooden piece that keeps your toilet paper roll in place. Patch up the bit of paint you knicked while dragging your dresser across the floor. Here’s a friendly reminder that paint goes far and you won’t need much. If you lack a larger stash to steal from, or want to experiment with a particularly daring hue, you can always order a jar of sample paint and see how far you can stretch it.

For the curious:

I dipped into paint supplies I had for other projects for the objects you see here, Benjamin Moore’s Natura Paint in Simply White OC 117 (the same color as our walls) and Farrow & Ball’s Plummet (more on this to come!)

Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – #164.

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  • Reply Colleen Wisniewski June 6, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    I love the idea of painting objects to make them sort of disappear in our homes. Such a clever idea! I’d have never thought of this + now I think i’m going to be painting my plunger white today.

  • Reply Archana June 6, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    Erin, the way you nest is wonderful. Do you think you will one day move into a not so tiny apartment and not miss this life ? ( Please ignore if its too personal a question. )

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 6, 2018 at 12:19 pm

      I honestly don’t think I would change much if my space were bigger, but who knows what the future holds!

  • Reply Katie June 6, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    I can’t wait to change what’s drab around my condo with this new perspective! Thank you for helping point out the easy, but not so obvious!

  • Reply Jennifer June 6, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Oh, the perfect timing! Your adventures in a temporary move have coincided with my adventures in moving from the tiny apartment we’ve been in for many years to a still small but not tiny place a mile away. (It gets harder to live in a tiny place when the kids get bigger). I’ve been itching to pack everything up & be done with it, but our moving crates don’t arrive until Monday. In the meantime, I’ve been doing these little projects as well—deep cleaning, sorting through the stuff that’s not coming with us, even further simplification. Simply white is my white of choice too. Hooray for being settled.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 6, 2018 at 7:52 pm

      Happy nesting!

  • Reply Emmy June 6, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    I keep being amazed at what a difference a touch of paint makes. Two months ago I spruced up the living room and hallway and its door frames with a fresh coat of paint and this week I’m tackling smaller projects as well. All heating tubes are now white instead of dirty old yellow and my stairs white instead of badly painted grey. Tomorrow it’s the light switches turn anf flower racks turn.
    With every step I feel my house becoming alive again after decades of neglect. I love how a lite dab of paint can make me a house feel more than a home!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 6, 2018 at 7:51 pm

      Yes! Makes the biggest difference!

  • Reply Heidi June 6, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    Do you like eggshell or satin finish on your walls and trim?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 6, 2018 at 7:51 pm

      Eggshell on walls, semi-gloss on trim

  • Reply JoannA June 7, 2018 at 6:27 am

    Oh gosh I too tend to open the paint to dan some on the corner of our table and end up woaking up and down my old house fisning new bits to cover, old bits to refresh, stairscase, old wooden shelf, old lamp(??) around the windows you name it… paint gone and I am left on my knees scratching the droppings from the old white to be floorboards;)

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 7, 2018 at 6:33 am


  • Reply Laura June 7, 2018 at 9:53 am

    I’ve thought about painting my plunger handles for years and always told myself that was going too far in the name of aesthetic ideals, but you have emboldened me! Mine’s going red–this weekend.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 7, 2018 at 9:55 am

      Never too far!

  • Reply Swissrose June 7, 2018 at 11:10 am

    I had to laugh reading this and remembering my grandmother, who remained very active into her late nineties. She had always done her own home decorating incl. painting and wallpaper and was giving her under-stair pantry a fresh lick of paint (she was about 95 at this point) and had just a little paint left over that she wanted to use up… next time we visited, all kinds of things were now white – stool legs, the leading in the coloured lights of her front door… I could really see her painting the plunger handle lol!!!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 7, 2018 at 11:14 am

      Woman after my own heart!

  • Reply Sarah June 7, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Paint samples are magical! I just painted my son’s dresser/changing table a lovely grey to soon be shared with his new sister, and my husbands previously sad and beat-up dresser is currently drying in the basement waiting to come upstairs and match my cream one. I only used two 8oz sample cans for each project, making the upgrades less than $10 each! Now this baby just needs to get here before I start painting all the rest of the things in the house 😉

  • Reply karen June 7, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    Hi Erin,
    I was curious if you considered VOC emissions when you paint? I too always want to paint this or that, but get concerned (perhaps overly) that painting pieces in a small apartment with a toddler and not-so-great air ventilation (due to our window guards prohibiting wide open windows) that VOCs and paint fumes will linger and be bad for our health. I know there are low-VOC paints out there so was wondering if that was something you have given thought to.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 7, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Yes! Have given lots of thought to it! Both of these paints are no-VOC! More about that in the archive if you do a search! And I’m working on another related post, too!

  • Reply Kathy McKay June 7, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    We put our plunger in a #10 can with a hole cut in the plastic lid, the store toilet paper rolls on the handle.

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