I have a lesson in sanity for you today.  From me to you, because I’m very kind for someone who sometimes kills things with her bare hands.

The lesson I have for you is this;  if one day in the future you decide you would like to have built in bookcases in your home, and you ask someone “How much would it cost for you to build built in bookcases for me?“, and they say “142 million dollars.  Plus materials.”, hire them on the spot.  No matter what number they throw at you, my advice to you is HIRE THEM ON THE SPOT.

Billy bookcases the built ins


This is no small job.  You know how you read blogs and they say LOOK!  Ikea Billy bookcases, are SO easy to turn into built ins!, know these two things:  a) chances are the person writing the blog didn’t do the work themselves, they got someone else to do it and b) chances are the person writing the blog didn’t do the work themselves, they got someone else to do it.

If I had more time, like a week off, I would find this process much easier to stomach because I could just wake up, work on the bookcases until I fell over into my nail gun, had a horrible accident, went to the hospital, got admitted for nail gun wounds, convinced them I needed to be held overnight due to risk of infection (and possible emotional imbalance) and get a nice meal served to me in bed.  But that’s not the case. I have only evenings to work on the bookcases.  And nobody brings me meals or pills in a little paper cup.

Even when I’m not working on the bookcases and I’m doing my actual work of taking pictures of jars of pickles or writing a super fantastic Gift List for you, I’m thinking about doing my bookcases.

corner of billy bookcases built ins

Partly because I really, actually, like doing it and it’s kindda fun.  And partly because I’M SICK OF BEING IN SUCH A MESS.

I’m still not in trouble though.  You know how I said I had until December 1st to finish them?  Well, I still have time.  No, I don’t have a special time travelling machine that I’m willing to admit to.  What I have is a hidden week.  You see, I write my posts a week in advance. Which means I’m writing this post that you’re reading right now, on November 23rd.  A full 7 days until December 1st actually arrives!  I know. Imaginary time travel due to Internet blog scheduling is mind blowing. These photos were all taken on November 21st and 22nd.  Soooooo I still have 7 days to:

Finish the trim.

Install the crown moulding.

Caulk everything (including filling all those extra holes for shelves in the bookcases)

Prime it and paint it.

Plus whatever else pops up.

One of the things I hope pops up is my screwdriver.  I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time looking for my special screwdriver that I love so much, which could be just about anywhere in this mess.


Nope, it’s not up there.



And nope it’s not up there.

As an example of one of those things that “pop up”, take this for example. I cut all my wide trim pieces a little too short.  All of them. Which means I had to buy all new MDF boards and cut new ones.  Or did it??  If the hardware store had been open at midnight when I discovered this, I guarantee I would have gone right up there to buy more MDF, but because it was closed my brain went into overdrive trying to figure out how I could fix my mistake.


I cut little slices of MDF and glued them to the bottom of my trim, then pressed them into place.



You need to see how gross things look before they look great so you realize that when you’re home doing things and you think OMG THIS IS A DISASTER, you won’t feel bad.  Of course things look like a disaster. They aren’t done.  I mean, how does your hair look when you’re only halfway done drying it?  Like a disaster.

And by the way, with regard to killing things with my bare hands, that fruit fly had it coming.


  1. Ei Con says:

    We all know that your IKEA bookcase hack is the best ever, but I thought you might enjoy this link:
    Since it included a library ladder.

  2. Melissa Keyser says:

    I’m back to the idea of doing a wall of built in Billys and came back to re-read this. I caught something very important I missed the first time- you painted the MDF? Please tell me more. I have to hobble together various IKEA stuff because I also need a dresser/something wider to support the printer in the mix, and I’m concerned about non-matching whites. How do you paint on laminate?

  3. Dana says:

    This is s late comment but I’m curious to know as I’m in the middle of installing my own closet system I’m making from melamine…you mentioned painting your Billy, the melamine? If so, how are the results and how did you prep them? Thanks and happy new year!!

  4. Veronica says:

    Excited to see those bookcases completed!! Great job Karen 🙂

  5. Shellie says:

    Karen, your blog is truly entertaining. I truly appreciate how honest and straight-forward you are. You don’t gloss things over, you’re a “real” blogger. I also appreciate that you are able to laugh at yourself and share these moments with us – your audience. And yet, even while entertaining, you’re teaching us with your ever so humble manner! Thanks for the laughs!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Shellie. I’m not all that humble 😉 But there’s no sense in making things seem like ‘poof’ magic! Everything goes off without a hitch. It doesn’t happen for me, it doesn’t happen for anyone, lol. ~ karen!

  6. Connie says:

    I love your blog and of course feel the same as most of your comments. Today I tared to enter the Robot Cat Litter box and jumped through a gazzillon hoops but never could enter. They had me going to many sites to enter – nothing.
    I would dearly love to win one of these Litter boxes as $445. is a lot of money for this do it your self gal, but I’m guessing they must not really want people to enter into this contest.

    You I trust, not so much this other site.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Connie, lol. Litter Robot is perfectly trustworthy although I agree the contest is a bit curious. Basically they’ve teamed up with 24 different bloggers etc. with each blogger being assigned a day to give away a Litter Robot. My day will be Tuesday. There are many ways to enter. Either just be entering through the Litter Robot giveaway site, or by entering by liking/signing up for various things (newsletter, Twitter, Facebook etc) associated with the participating blogger. Each thing you do gets you an additional entry. Make sense? For example, when Tuesday rolls around the Litter Robot giveaway page will be featuring my site and to gain extra entries to the contest people will have the option to like my Facebook page, subscribe to my blog etc. But yes I agree. It’s a lotta figuring out. ~ karen!

  7. Kari says:

    Lol I hate it when I think something will be super easy and EVERYTHING about it is impossible.

  8. Kelliblue says:

    But…but…wouldn’t you want to keep the holes available for future shelf movement? I know they make those little plastic hole-pluggy thingies that blend in with paint? Or are you just going for ultra minimal?

  9. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    So since you had a week to time travel to today..did you finish them??

  10. jainegayer says:

    I hate fruit flies. And I don’t have any comments about the bookcases.

    • Brenda says:

      Me too – why do we still have fruit flies in December! I wonder if Karen got the last one with that bare handed whack … so unfair … spontaneously appearing from nowhere … and where’s the screwdriver – that’s what it should do right about last week or so ago!

  11. JulieD says:

    Karen, I really feel for you! I’ve been there too. That’s a big job!
    The level, caulk, and paint are such great friends during times like this. Hope you find your screwdriver!

  12. Carolyn says:

    I have a question about the Robot Litter Box….I watched the video on their website and see it rotates so the clumps get dumped out the bottom.
    My question is, usually with my cat’s litter box with clumping litter, I scoop out the clumps daily. As long as there is a sufficient amount of litter in the box, I do not actually have to completely empty and wash the box out that often as the cat pee and poop doesn’t get on the sides or bottom that often. However, sometimes kitty pees down the side of the inside of the box, or some cat poop gets stuck to the side. Then I do need to wash it out.
    Do you wash out the inside of the robot litter box? How does that work? I looked for that in their FAQs but did not find it.
    Does it make a lot of noise while spinning? Were your cats afraid of it?
    Thanks & sorry for all the potty talk.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carolyn! One cat took the Litter Robot right away, the other cat, who is afraid of everything and everyone had to be trained to use it. The spinning noise is the sound of a motor basically. I don’t notice it anymore, but if you’re worried about it waking you, you can push a button before bed which puts it into a mode where it doesn’t rotate for 8 hours. And then it follows that schedule every day. You don’t have to clean out the Litter Robot. It’s made from some weird thing that nothing seems to stick to. I’ve owned it since the summer and I’ve wiped it out once. And it has absolutely NO smell whatsoever. You could keep it in your kitchen if you wanted to. Not that you want to, lol. ~ karen!

      • dee says:

        Also re the Litter Robot (what a great invention), I noticed the rules allow only Americans to play. Do they realize you’re not one of them?

  13. Debbie from Illinois says:

    Ok Karen, do you have super tall ceilings or are you short in stature? Is it a combination of both? Lol! Inquiring minds need to know. 😉

    Looking forward to seeing the reveal!

  14. Alena says:

    I think we share the same S&M gene. Because even if somebody told me they would make the built-ins for $124 (no need to go into millions) I would still want to do it myself. And I have done enough around my house (although not as much as you) to learn a lesson. But no, at night I lie in bed awake pondering what torturous futures project I will inflict on myself.
    Like Jim Donohue, I immediately wondered around the spot where the CM meets the bookcase (or the other way round). I understand your reasoning but I think it would still bug me (because I am just wired that way).
    But thumbs up re the slapping on of the little pieces of MDF. It’s a good think the store was closed because you would have wasted $ on new pieces of MDF. But this, too, also reminds of something from my own life. After the kitchen reno, I had to reuse the same baseboard trim (because it is the same in the entire house and my kitchen does not have door, but it has two doorways. New trim of the same kind does not exist anywhere). So I mitered the corners very nicely and then I notice that I am tad short on the entire piece. Maybe 1/3 of the width of your MDF extension. So I cut a thin biscuit from a left over piece, pop it in, fill, sand, paint, repeat 3 times (mind you, it’s an inner corner that will be hidden behind the fridge, but I just CAN’T leave a smidge of a gap there.
    And when I am finished and the baseboard is reattached with industrial strength adhesive and long nails, I notice that now it is a smidge way too long in an outer corner (where the wall meets the wall the doorway). I still haven’t figured out if I should try to cut it with my fileting knife or what.

  15. Linda in Illinois says:

    Karen, you have a lot of determination.. by now I would have given up on those shelves.. frustration is not my strong suite. lol

  16. Diane Schurman says:

    OMG the comment section is a riot!

  17. Karin says:

    As we say in our house, ” I cut it twice and it’s still too short “.

  18. Sabina says:

    Karen is there supposed to be a link to the Litter Robot contest?

  19. susan dachille says:

    Too bad the contest for the litter robot is only for U.S. citizens and not Canadians also.
    A cat owner in Canada.

  20. Barbie says:

    Oh KAREN! I feel for you…. Been there more times than I can count! However.. Once they are done ( which they probably are by now) every time you walk by them you will feel a little shot happy! They look great!

  21. trackeyb says:

    I just found your blog. It is a refreshingly similar to the events in my home. I was impressed with the first photo where you are actually in daytime clothes and then later on in PJ’s. I can relate. I stopped wearing PJ’s and opted for “house clothes” that can get me to the hardware store without looking like a slob. The bookcases are going to look great. Keep going!

    • Karen says:

      Hey Tracey! Welcome to my site. I do stupid things like this all the time. 99% of the time it works out and I’m able to show you how I did it. 1% of the time it doesn’t and I show you that too. ~ karen!

  22. Lynn says:

    You are doing a great job on those Billy Book Case Builtins . Cut to short, I think not it was your way of showing us all there is a solution without starting over as long as we take the time to think about it. So I say way to go Karen ?. Of everything went as planned we would have no need of imagination.

  23. Karin in NC says:

    Can. Not. Wait. To see these bookcases finished. You as well, I’m sure. I know they will look fabulous. I bought my house based on the fact that it already had built-in bookcases and after watching this I’m so glad I did.

  24. Monique says:

    I am sure..we will all be in awe!
    I am sorry..I hate when projects turn out to be so much harder than we thought..but since I found your blog I have found that you can do anything..I think they will look GREAT.

  25. Rosie Walsh says:

    I have almost no sense. I jump into projects with an “I Can Do It” attitude and have been operating under this misguided premise forever. I’m old now, but still dreaming up cool stuff. Admittedly, I do have more challenges now, but………………….I persevere. Results a mixed bag, but more successes than failures.

    Love you, Karen. You’re such a bright light in our lives.

  26. Maria says:

    Thank you, Karen. You’ve saved me from Billy Bookcase hell.

  27. Gayle M says:

    Karen, your project is coming together beautifully! And no project is complete without an oops, anyway. Can’t wait to see them all finished, as I imagine keeps popping into your head as well.

  28. Roylyn Parks says:

    I hope you had some good Memphis barbecue while you were here. Love your blog!

  29. Jacquie says:

    My mantra is “it always looks worse just before it comes together”. I have it on constant repeat in my head through most of my projects. Then of course there’s the “well that didn’t go as expected” which crops up from time to time. Great job Karen.

    • Gayle M says:

      I’ll have to work those out in cross stitch! I’d be like “WTH-HOW’D-THAT-HAPPEN!” and lose my cool. lol Something hanging on the wall in front of my face will remind me to “keep calm and buy more wood.” My hubby hesitates on projects (or is that procrastination disguising itself as trepidation?), fearing a foul-up. I tell him it’s only wood-we can buy more. Oh. Maybe the trepidation is that I’ll find something else (for him) to do with the “scrap” wood? lol

    • Louise says:

      Oh God, Jacquie, you made me laugh with the “well that didn’t go as expected” comment! I’ve said that a couple of times myself.

    • bellygrl says:

      Those really would make cute cross-stitch sayings, not that I can cross-stitch. But I would buy the pillow! Funny girl. 🙂

  30. jen says:

    ‘Killing with bare hands’…When descending into my basement (to read your latest installments), I’ve learned to carry my coffee in my left hand so as to have my right ready to be clenched into a fist -fleshy side towards the wall. Then I’m prepped to lightning-quick lash out and pulverize the occasional centipede scurrying across it. Proud to say, I’ve become quite adept at this grisly maneuver with no spillage of coffee or harm to hand. DIY of the woodworking type…not so much. Love reading/viewing about your successes though!

  31. SuzanneLH says:

    Been there, waaaay more times than my poor little aged mind admits to…you have my condolences. You will get there. With some wine, a lot of #%*&#% and pure cussedness. And cookies.

  32. Jim Donohue says:

    Hi, Not to be a buzz kill, but… In the first picture I see that the Bookcases are up against the Crown moulding and that the CM extends into the corner and does a 90 degree turn. In the future,if you decide to ever to do this again, lol. Buy yourself a multi tool, best investment you will ever made, because you can make plunge cuts in many different materials. So using your new multi tool make a plunge cut in the CM where the bookcases would start and rip the rest down, this will bring you bookcases closer to the wall and give you more floor space. If you decide to continue the CM check out a coping saw and cope the ends of the CM. I think that’s enough to drive you to a nice single malt. So enjoy and have fun.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jim. You think I own a compressor but not a multi tool. 😉 I didn’t want to take down or interfere with the crown moulding or baseboard in case I decided to one day get rid of the bookcases. It ended up making a bit of a difference in the footprint of the bookcase, but not much. ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      Oop, just saw the coping saw comment. Yup. I have one of those as well. Pretty much the only thing I don’t have that you mentioned is a single malt scotch, lol. Although I do have a recently gifted bottle of Irish Whiskey. ~ karen!

    • Ellen says:

      Jim, you sound like the right kind of person to HIRE to do this sort of work.

  33. Mindy says:

    You’re an idiot. Okay, not really, but that’s what I say to myself when I’m in the middle of a shitty project. Also, Who’s friggin idea was this anyway!?

  34. Lisa says:

    Wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff – nailed! 🙂

  35. bill keiser says:

    I love you, Karen! I have been there so many times. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Yeah. My algorithm: Calculate generously how much time and money you think it could POSSIBLY COST and triple that. If it comes under that, – it won’t come under that.
    (when are you going to post the rest of the patio bench story?)

    • Karen says:

      Which patio bench story, Bill? (any sane girl has many) ~ karen!

      • bill keiser says:

        The massive couch thing made of wooden beams. (Aspen Collection copies)

        • Karen says:

          Oh that! Yes, I did the post on the completed project, I’m guessing you saw that. But I decided not to do the entire how to with measurements etc. until the spring. I had just finished up the set near the end of the summer when it was a bit too late for anyone to get into making it themselves so I thought it’d be best just to leave it until the spring when everyone is ready to get started on a big summer project. 🙂 ~ karen!

  36. Roylyn Parks says:

    What are you doing wearing a Gus’s Fried Chicken shirt???? I live in Memphis about 2 miles from Gus’s!!!!!

    • Karen says:

      That’s a whole lotta question marks and exclamation marks Roylyn, lol. I went to Memphis with my mother and 2 sisters just over a year ago. Last September. We hit every classic food joint I could search out. Gus’s being one of them. And yes the chicken was delicious! And the chess pie too. I had never had it and obviously HAD to try it. 🙂 ~ karen!

  37. Steve says:

    Although you have probably finished it now with your cheeky week time travel. Don’t get too down on yourself, it looks fantastic.

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