Day 25: Linen Closet Handles (How to Unscrew a Stripped Screw)

I bought two cinnamon brooms at Trader Joe’s yesterday. I drove all over the city with them in the car while I searched for boxes to hold the homework. I never found what I wanted, so I adapted the magazine file system I used for Mikey. Four stores later. By the time I got home my eyes were watery and my throat itched. I felt off the rest of the day, but put up with the cinnamon brooms a while longer inside the house. By dinner time I had Mikey move them outside. I was convinced I had an allergy to cinnamon.

When I crawled into bed and the sheets hurt, I stared thinking maybe I was just sick. I woke up the next morning worse so, yeah, just sick with a cold. Boo. I looked over my list of projects and searched for the easiest project. Famous last words.

The glass pulls are from Restoration Hardware. I bought them back when I wanted the house to look cottage/shabby chic/sweet/everything I am not. They were an expensive purchase, but I reasoned Restoration Hardware produced a quality product that justified the cost. It’s a decision I quickly regretted. The pull we used the most, the one on the right, snapped in half after a year. The cheap ones from Target we have in another room are still going strong.

Buying those expensive pulls is one of the last times I made a purchase based on slick marketing material. I’m over labels.

I decided to replace the pulls with ones I found at Lowe’s. No muss, no fuss.

Because I was sick and eyeballing my bed down the hall like a bear does a honeypot, and because I chose this project for it’s simplicity and brevity, I should have known the third pull I tackled had a screw so stripped I couldn’t tell if it had a flat or Phillips head. Typical.

I tried almost everything, including the rubber band trick and a screw extractor. No dice. In the end, what worked was old fashioned spatial reasoning. I took out the drawer and saw that one side of what might have been a flat head screw was stripped more than the other. The side with more damage was the side the screwdriver put pressure against to turn.

I knew the screw would turn if I could put pressure on the other side, but that would tighten the screw. So, I unscrewed the screw that wasn’t stripped and flipped the handle 180° to the left. That put the less stripped side of the screw where I needed it, and I was able to loosen the screw with minimal effort. The problem with the technique, as you can see, is that I now have to repair and repaint the exterior. Two steps forward, one step back.

Here’s the closet with the new handles. They are more “me” and look better with our decor. I saw the cottage/shabby chic look in a few blogs and magazines and thought it looked charming and sweet, a place kids would love to call home. I tried it, but I couldn’t get it to work. I can appreciate the style–love it, even–but like white walls, I can’t live with it. Nester has a fantastic post on a home’s No Word and links to a helpful post on Don’t Buy Words. The Don’t Buy concept is brilliant in its simplicity. From now on, I’ll think twice before buying anything cute, sweet, or girly.


New here? For the next 31 days I’m living according to the famous William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” You can learn more about the project here, and catch sneak peeks of my projects by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (I’m @pancakesfries).

Did you do a project inspired by the William Morris quote? Let’s see it!

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. Fee says

    Well Done for working out how to do deal with such a frustrating project, especially when you weren’t feeling too well as well. This is the sort of project which could have been left half done for months (at least at our place!), waiting for the motivation to deal with a pesky stripped screw! Hope you rewarded yourself with eventually getting to bed for some rest!

  2. georgia says

    Get well soon :)
    Must say that the old handles are very cute too. Someone will have a very lucky find at Goodwill, if you don’t sell/recycle them (they make nice towel hangers on the inside or outside of a cupboard – no pulling, no problem).
    I thoroughly enjoy your posts and there is something in this William Morris series that I find particularly endearing (for lack of better word). You are in the process of making your home functional and pleasing… but there is also a sort of “coming of age” theme underlying a lot of the projects. How you move on from expectations/stylistic mandates/whatever, in how you dressing your home and yourself, to something that just feels right. Maybe that’s just implicit in Morris’ quote. Maybe I am just babbling…
    Either way, well done and merrily carry on 😉

      • Susan G says

        Georgia – that is so eloquently what I was thinking this morning. So many levels – I think they need to be numbered which always makes me happy. :)
        1) The drawers need to be straightened out. Neat drawers are good.
        2) Why do I need so many T-shirts/so much stuff?
        3) Why do they have holes in them? What’s up with that? What happened to quality? What’s the real price of cheap?
        4) Do T-shirts look good on me? Do I care? What do I deserve? What do I need from my clothes/surroundings/home?
        5) What really matters?
        Although I love organization as much as – OK more than – the next person, what keeps so many of us from coming back is how you think and talk about all the other issues raised by a too-full T-shirt drawer.

  3. Susan G says

    Great thinking! So sorry you are sick, but honestly I think I’d rather be sick than be allergic to cinnamon. The new handles look great and do fit well with your house When I first started reading decorating magazines and blogs a few years back, I had to “try on” a few styles – fortunately only in small-ish ways like drawer pulls – before I settled on a “modern/retro cottage” look that really suits us No shabbiness or white walls here although I do like them for other people’s houses. I sometimes yearn for a clean, modern farmhouse look but pretty sure it wouldn’t actually work.

    So – great thinking and great insights as usual from you Thank you and feel better! Then make snickerdoodles to celebrate no cinnamon allergy.

    • says

      I really love the clean and modern farmhouse look, too. Have you seen the A Country Farmhouse blog? Trina’s home is GORGEOUS.

      Cinnamon is Mikey’s favorite flavor. I’ve never made snickerdoodles for him, and I don’t know why!

      • Susan G says

        Yes – LOVE that blog Makes me want to live in the country (which I actually do not want to do!). Snickerdoodles are awesome because the ingredients are things I always have (Although my recipe does call for cream of tartar which some people don’t keep around.) YUM!

        • says

          Cream of tartar I don’t have, probably because I don’t bake snickerdoodles often. What’s it for again? It seems like tons of recipes used to have it, but now you rarely see it in baking.

          • Susan G says

            Some muffins have it, and I think it’s a stabilizer for whipped cream. I’ve had the same container for ages so who knows if it really even does anything. I know some snickerdoodle recipes don’t use it.

          • says

            We have cream of tartar because Sweetie uses it when she makes marshmallows. She says it stabilizes the egg whites which makes them stiffen faster and stay fluffy. So anything that you make that calls for fluffed up egg whites would benefit from the cream of tartar. Oh, and I was just informed that cream of tartar is an ingredient in baking powder. Huh, go figure.

  4. Erin says

    I love the look of the new hardware. Interesting that the Restoration Hardware ones didn’t last. I’ve never bought anything from there, but like you, I assumed the higher price meant a higher quality product. Funny, isn’t it?

  5. Karen F says

    Hope you feel better soon!
    I prefer the new handles, too! I’m sure you’ve figured out that once you buy something from RH, you get on their mailing list and they send these 700 page catalogs a few times a year – completely wasteful! I won’t buy anything from them based on that alone! I bought a light fixture for our powder room (on sale, no less) from them 3 years ago, and now I get the huge tomes of things I can’t afford.

  6. Karen F says

    p.s. I know there’s no humanly way you could keep up the momentum all year, but I love your William Morris project and find it so inspiring! Some great lessons that go beyond the surface.

    • says

      Yay! That’s two people that have noticed that. I feel like crap, but that put me in a good mood. :)

      p.s. I don’t get that catalog, but my mom does. She tries to pawn it off on me. No thanks.

  7. says

    I love the new handles. Wanna help me find handles for my kitchen cabinets? I am can’t decide and I have a feeling we are going to have handle-less cabinets for YEARS.

  8. says

    You are a go-getter! I totally would have been using my sick day as an excuse to skip – and make up the missed day by doing 2 projects the next day. Actually, I do that now and I’m not even sick, LOL!

    The pulls DO look so much more “you”. Great thinking on getting that one off. I’m still not sure I understand how you did it, but I’m impressed. I tend to get destructive when the rubber band and super glue tricks fail. I would have left the drawer in need of much more repair than a small circle that needed re-painted!

    • says

      Well, the reason it’s a circle that goes ALL AROUND the cabinet and not a half circle is because I was so mad I was trying to use my Hulk Strength to rip the @#($*@&! thing out of the cabinet. Then I simmered down and used my brain instead of my brawn, which obviously wasn’t getting me squat. 😉

  9. Becky says

    Hi Jules-

    I found your website through a link at smallnotebook, and I’ve spent the better part of the last week reading all your archieves! I had to laugh because I saw the cinnamon brooms at Trader Joe’s, and they smelled wonderful, but I have found that strongly scented items give me a headache after awhile-I bought the cinnamon wisk, and that has worked well for me. I love your blog, and look forward to your William Morris posts-good luck with everything!

  10. Anna says

    Ii do prefer the new pulls! They not only look more “you” but also they look clean, simple and “pulling- friendly”. And I like still more the good advice they (and you ) are giving us.
    Perhaps you could resell the glass ones…

  11. says

    Maybe a quick go at that circle blemish on the drawer with a “Magic Eraser” would do the trick? Those things get marks off of everything! I recently scratched the crap out of my toilet seat trying to repair it myself…no pun intended… :) I thought I would need to paint it, or get a whole new flippin’ seat…but a magic eraser fixed it right up.

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