Free-For-All Friday: My Repurposed Life with Gail Wilson

Gail Wilson

Gail Wilson

Today, we're pulling back the curtain to meet the creative woman behind the immensely popular blog, My Repurposed Life. My Repurposed Life's Gail Wilson doesn't see trash. She's a visionary who rescues old or worn items and "repurposes" them into something new and fabulous. That's the premise. And that's what has drawn THOUSANDS of people to her Facebook page and blog. Gail Wilson's literally gone viral and is leading the charge into a repurposing revolution.

What is your name?

Gail Wilson

Tell our readers a bit about My Repurposed Life and how it came to be.

First, I'd like to say thanks so much for wanting to get to know the woman behind the blog My Repurposed Life. The name of my blog has a double meaning. I enjoy giving new purpose to old unwanted items, as well as I am in the process of repurposing my life after many life-changing events. I was busy being a wife, mom and teacher, when I was thrown a few curve balls. My only daughter Jamie went off to college, graduated and moved to nearby state. My marriage of 29 years fell apart, and I was alone for the first time in my life. Within a couple of years I was adjusting pretty well, but then came another blow. The school where I had been teaching pre-k for 19 years was closing their doors. So, not only was I alone, I had a lot of time on my hands. I watched a lot of HGTV, in particular the popular show Decorating Cents. I loved the idea of giving new life to items by not just dusting them off and giving them a new coat of paint, but reinventing the items. Being on the HGTV message boards I shared lots of before and after pictures with friends, and then on a whim--I decided to document it all in a blog. My daughter Jamie is responsible for helping me name my site. About 1 1/2 years after I started My Repurposed Life, Jamie hired a friend of hers to create my branding as a secret birthday present. It's been a long, hard road with a lot of work in both aspects of repurposing my life and my projects.

How has social media impacted your life and your business?

I was slow to get on board with social media. Facebook came the easiest to me because I was already on there with a personal account. I've seen a lot of changes with the My Repurposed Life Facebook page. In recent months there has been a huge spike in growth, averaging over 1,000 new fans a day. It's obvious that many people still aren't familiar with blogs, and they either don't know how, or don't feel comfortable leaving a comment on the blog, but don't mind leaving a comment on Facebook. I love the personal engagement between myself, the fans, and each other. I was a little more resistant to Twitter. I'm still not a huge fan, and generally only Tweet from my computer. I find it difficult to navigate Twitter on my phone. The life of a tweet is so fleeting, that I don't think it's that beneficial to the growth of my site. I enjoy Pinterest a lot. I've always been a person to save/bookmark favorite pages. Being very visual, Pinterest has totally changed the way I do that. It has really made it so much easier to organize and find projects. I also like seeing my images and projects pinned, because it helps me to see what type of projects are most popular. Instagram? It took me a long time to hop on that train. I rarely use it, generally only posting while I'm out of town or working on something special to keep people up to date. Of all the social media platforms, Facebook brings the most traffic to my site.

What was your favorite repurposing project and why?

There are several projects that are near and dear to my heart. Two of my favorite home projects would be my fireplace makeover, and the changes I've made to my kitchen. All of the changes were on a very tight budget, and done by me alone. I've lived in this home for almost 38 years, and now that I make all the decisions I was ready for some changes to make it "mine". As for repurposed projects, most of them get re-homed one way or another. There are two that I kept, and wouldn't part with ever. As for choosing a favorite, it would be like asking a mom to choose her favorite child. The first one is a desk my daughter used as a teen, through middle school and high school. I repurposed it into a kitchen island/craft center. It is in my kitchen, but it is primarily used for crafting. The drawers are filled with tools and supplies, NOT cooking utensils. I purposely raised the height above counter height because I wanted to be able to stand at it comfortably to paint and work on small projects. 100% of my Etsy store signs are made right here in my kitchen. The second one is a much older desk that my daughter Jamie used during elementary school. When she no longer needed it, we stored it in the basement. A couple of years ago I repurposed it into something I fondly refer to as the "tower of terror". I cut the two drawer sections apart and stacked one on top of the other. I use it in my bedroom to store my biz cards and such in the shallow drawers. The deeper (file cabinet sized drawers) hold shoes, boots, and accessories. It offers so much storage, but a much smaller footprint than a desk.

How do you come up with your design ideas when repurposing? Do you sit down and make a plan or just go with the flow?

I have never made a plan for any of my projects. Because each and every one is so different from the other, I generally have no clue what the process will be until I'm actually elbow deep in dismantling and reassembling. There have been some, like the "tower of terror" that I get into and wonder how it's all going to come together.

You know your way around a set of tools. How did you learn your craft?

When my daughter Jamie was young, before I started teaching, I enjoyed making play things for her. I furnished a playhouse with a stove, refrigerator and a table. The only tools I owned were a jigsaw and a cordless drill. After losing my job, I slowly acquired DIY tools, and taught myself to use them with some trial and error and a few YouTube videos thrown in for good measure. I'm happy to pass on what I've learned, and even some failures to inspire others to jump into doing their own projects. I still see myself as a teacher, with a larger classroom, and much more mature students, I don't even have to wipe noses or tie shoes.

In addition to your blog, you have a My Repurposed Life Etsy store. Could you describe your merchandise to our readers?

My Etsy store consists of wedding signs made from reclaimed lumber, primarily fence boards. I saw so much of this used fencing being thrown away--what a shame! The patina of the wood is so perfectly grayed and weathered. A friend encouraged me to open a store by letting me first sell through her store. I guess I'm pretty stubborn and resistant to change. I like building and didn't really want to deal with the shipping aspect of running an Etsy store. If anyone is thinking the same thing, let me encourage you to go for it. I have had such wonderful feedback from my brides, and the Post Office really has made it so easy for me. I ship all of my domestic packages from my own mailbox, while printing the postage online. Shipping this way saves me and my customers about $1 per package.

What are 3 things many people don't know about you?

Well, isn't this an interesting question, 3 things many people don't know about me. If I spill the beans here, what secrets will I have? Seriously, most people don't know that I have been separated from my husband of 38 years for the last 9 years. It happened shortly after Jamie graduated college and moved away. I suppose if you asked how we get along, I'd tell you the second thing most people don't know about me--he lives next door. I utilize his garage for storage and his carport for painting my projects. My readers never really ask personal questions, but I'm basically an open book, with no secrets.

What are your goals for the upcoming year?

I don't set goals, I believe what will be will be. Que Sera Sera. There are some things I'd love to do/have. I'd love to have a brick and mortar store to display/sell my projects. Currently I use Craig's List, and I do one show a year. Do I think that will happen before I get too old to keep doing this? No... but that's okay. I have been given a LOT of great opportunities to travel and work with companies/sponsors. I'm open to seeing what comes next for me and My Repurposed Life.

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I hope I didn't ramble on too much, but when someone wants me to talk DIY & blog, I sort of get carried away. I really appreciate being here today. I hope your readers find some inspiration in what I love to do. I'm always available for questions on Facebook. I look forward to making new friends.

Posted on December 26, 2013 and filed under Free-For-All Friday.