purging the house of unnecessary products

I’ve always been the type of person who can’t stand wasting a product — if I don’t care for a particular shampoo, I’ll wash my feet with it until it’s gone. If I don’t like a hand soap that I’ve bought, I’ll put it in the guest bathroom instead of tossing it. I physically cannot throw a container away that’s full of something. Because of this, my closet had become somewhat of an endless abyss.

Over the past month, I cleared out my closet by giving products to friends that I know would use them, along with re-purposing bottles of some products that were near their expiration date or had very little product left. In the end, I’m pretty satisfied with the amount of products that remain (including in the kitchen, bath, and laundry areas) — only what I consider absolute essentials.

Honest Conditioner: this is a product by Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company brand, which recently hit Target shelves in mid-June (previously, it had only been offered via mail orders and subscriptions). What I love most about this product is that it’s fragrance free, aside from the natural essential oils that have been added. Technically, it’s meant for small children, so it can be found in the baby aisle. I had never tried this product before buying it after Target’s press release, but I couldn’t recommend it more — particularly for people with sensitive skin.

(Update: I was able to sample a lot more products from The Honest Company by using the coupon code UBER40 at checkout for 40% off my purchase — new customers only. This is a fabulous deal! I was able to score 8 products — yes, 8! — for less than $30. Expiration of code is unknown. If you’re interested in learning more, click here (note: this is my referral code link — feel free to use, but certainly not necessary if you’d prefer not to). I’m really excited to try out several new products that I might not have had the opportunity to try otherwise.)

~ Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap: I prefer the Unscented Baby-Mild Castile Liquid Soap.I use this as both hand soap in my kitchen/bath, body wash (I use a bit more organic olive oil + a few drops of peppermint oil), and laundry detergent (Borax-free recipe + peppermint oil). While I doubt I’ll ever stray from the hand soap and body wash recipes again, after some experimenting with the laundry detergent, I’ve kept my bottles only for bedding and sheets (+ vinegar in the fabric softener compartment). This is because I found that my work clothes weren’t feeling as “fresh” as I’d like them to be, so I swapped to the free and clear Seventh Generation Powdered Laundry Detergent. I had never used powder detergent before as I generally preferred liquid, but this product received an A rating by the Environmental Working Group, so I figured I’d give it a try. I really like it!

~ Vinegar: I’ve also replaced my household cleaners with various recipes that include vinegar and water, along with a recipe from my grandmother for “the ultimate cleaner” that you can use on any surface: 1/2 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol, and 7 cups of water in an industrial spray bottle. I clean my mirrors, windows, and tough stains on my counter-tops with this. You can find more environmentally-friendly recipes for household cleaners on my Pinterest page titled squeaky clean.

~ Coconut Oil: I’ve been using coconut oil as a hair mask for several months and am more than impressed. I’ll never buy those crazy-expensive hair masks again. Take 1/2 cup of coconut oil (I like to use organic from Trader Joe’s — the best price I’ve found!) or however much you desire and warm it in the microwave. To save some time, remember that coconut oil melts with body heat, so you don’t necessarily need to heat it up. I just feel that it penetrates my hair better. I’ll pop it in the microwave for half a minute to a minute and slather it all over my hair. I’ll then sit with it wrapped in a hot towel while I watch a movie, when I’m doing laundry, or when I’m making dinner. When ready to rinse, just head to the shower and follow your normal routine — but rinse thoroughly and make sure to shampoo because the oil will remain in your hair if you don’t. Definitely give it a try!

(I also talked more about some frugal finds for the home in a previous post, located here — and I still highly recommend my tips.)

a very etsy mother’s day

Since moving four hours from my mom, I’ve begun to realize just how much I miss her (something I’d never have admitted when I threw my car door shut and shouted dramatically “I AM NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVERRRRR COMING BACK HERE!” the day I moved away). I’ve come to pick up the 99 cent cards for meaningless holidays (hello, Columbus Day) and sending them out with little colored dots all over the envelope whenever I get the chance. They’ve really became less of the Lisa Frank style and more trendy than anything, haven’t they? I haven’t been disappointed in quite a while with my finds.

So, when it came to find something for the upcoming Mother’s Day, I began sauntering around my favorite online haunt: Etsy. For anyone who is new here: I’m definitely a person with a budget in mind. If I can find something of great quality for a decent price, I’m doing a little victory dance in front of my computer. While my mother is worth countless dollars to me, I still wanted to find her something that wouldn’t have me scrunching up my eyebrows in concern. So, keeping that in mind, here’s a few fun ideas I found!

Shelley’s Glass Studio | Playful and vibrant glass decorations
Price range: $7 – $30

This cute little Etsy shop boasts handmade glass art for your home, garden, and windows. I bought a bumblebee, ladybug, and snail garden stakes for my mother’s garden. You can choose your mom’s favorite color or ask for a custom color that may not be featured in her shop.

katied

The Wheatfield by Katie Daisy | Beautifully illustrated prints of inspiration in many colors
Price range: $18 – $30

While I haven’t actually purchased a print from this shop, I’ve gazed from afar for years. If your mother enjoys bright, pastel colors and adorable illustrations, Katie has literally a zillion and one to choose from. Her artwork embodies spring itself and would look perfect in anyone’s home regardless of their taste. That’s why I enjoy checking out her shop so often — there’s something for everyone at all times, it seems.

Modern Radar | Screenprinted pouches and prints
Price range: $15 – $22

The pleated pouches featured in this shop immediately caught my eye — I love how playful they are, yet durable as they’re made out of a sturdy cotton canvas material. It appears as if she can take custom requests if you had a specific color or quantity in mind, as well.

Amber Alexander | A unique twist on nature and animal illustrations
Price range: $10 – $35

My mom loves anything that has to do with nature — so when I came across these paintings by Amber, I immediately clicked “favorite” and put them on my list of potential gift ideas. Her shop features everything from rodent to landscape to feather illustrations and also a small array of cute “critter” cards for any occasion.

There’s also several single items in various shops that caught my eye:

Want to make something yourself? Take inspiration from other Etsy sellers and branch out on your own.

Finally, a simple card always does it best.

Embroidered Card by Quill and Fox
Scanatron Card by Besty
You Complete Me by Paper Michelle

Not Raised By Wolves by Pigeon Pie Design

tips and tricks for your home

I’m going to be honest — prior to graduating university, I definitely didn’t spend much time worrying about household items or laundry. University life certainly didn’t count as my dorm room was the size of a small closet and I didn’t have to do too much other than keep it tidy. My incredible mother always did everything for me at home — something I didn’t acknowledge or appreciate enough! Since truly living on my own, I’ve picked up a few things along the way that have helped me (particularly in terms of expenses).

Dryer Balls:

Dryer balls function as a “natural” fabric softener and are sold in nearly every chain store that you walk into. They are marketed to cut down on your drying time, hence saving you a bit of money on your energy bills. I thought I was doing the “right thing” by using a set of the blue plastic dryer balls with the little grips on them. They were less than $5 and I’m sure they function as well as any other, right? After purchasing a new dryer and continuing to use them during every drying cycle, I discovered that they literally had stained the inside ring of my dryer after prolonged use. It took me several minutes to actually realize this, as I thought the dye from my new jeans was the culprit.

I’ve since decided to switch to wool dryer balls. They will cost you more than the store-bought type, but they will last for years and years without leaving any residue in your dryer or on your clothes. You can even have them scented, too, so there’s no need for dryer sheets (which have waxy chemicals on them) or fabric softener. I purchased my dryer balls from CleanSypria (you can purchase them in really cute color combinations and different scents), but there’s several sellers available if you want to look around.

Shower cleaner:

This little concept is certainly making its way around Pinterest — and for good reason! Fill a dishwand with half vinegar and half dish soap (I use one that has bleach in it) and scrub your shower while you’re bathing. I have one in both of our bathrooms and it’s made such a big difference. No more getting on my hands and knees and scrubbing away any longer! You can purchase everything you need at a dollar store, too.

Olive oil dispenser for your dish soap:

It seems like a strange idea, but throw your dish soap into an olive oil dispenser and keep it next to your sink. You can paint it with paint that is suitable for glass or leave it plain as I have. It helps to not have those ugly dish soap containers around but, really, it’s just easier. You’re not squeezing out a big glob when you didn’t mean to any longer — you’re just pouring as much as you need. Some people worry about the color, but I currently have green, clear, and purple dish soap partying in my dispenser and it doesn’t look abnormal at all. If you have a T.J.Maxx nearby, they always have a variety of painted and clear dispensers that are high quality and normally less than $4.

Countertop spray:

My first thought when browsing over the countless Mrs. Meyer’s products: why would I spend $4 on countertop spray that isn’t antibacterial when I can buy Lysol or 409 for less than $2? Sure, it’s “better for the environment” and that’s a really good thing but, when you’re on a budget, you’re looking to save money in any shape or form. Target was advertising MM products with a $1 coupon in celebration of Earth Day this weekend and I decided I’d give the lavender spray a whirl (normally $4.09 a bottle). I’m actually ashamed I was trying to squeeze my pockets to save $2 before. I’ll always keep an antibacterial on hand, but this product smells absolutely divine and is much better than coating my counters with 409 at every chance I can (read: I deeeeespise dirty countertops).

Cleaning paste:
I was asked (okay, pressured!) into going to a Norwex party a year or so ago. Norwex is a company that sells cleaning products through Norwex consultants. It’s the Mary-Kay of cleaning. I felt obligated to purchase something (which is the problem with these parties), so I decided that our stove-top deserved the most love. This cleaning paste (cost: roughly $29) took care of our problem when all other over-the-counter products didn’t. You can learn more about its uses here.

A little goes a long way and I’ll likely have this little tub for another 5+ years. You just use it with a little dab of water and scrub away! They’ll try to tell you that it’s “better” when it’s with their microfiber cloths that are made with silver (oh, come on!) but, as someone who fell prey to such talk, I can tell you that it really doesn’t matter what cloth you use. I’ve had success with even paper towels.

Speaking of clean-freaks, here’s a few useful ideas for your inner germaphobe:

  • 150+ Household Users for Vinegar (Reader’s Digest): vinegar has become my best friend. I love to use it to clean our washer and dryer, along with dumping it down drains with baking soda to prevent any clogs and clean our garbage disposal. Throw a bunch of orange peels into a jar of vinegar if the scent of vinegar truly bothers you. You can also clean your showerhead with the same mixture.
  • Freshen up your kitchen with citrus: throw your orange or lemon rinds down your garbage disposal to get rid of any disgusting scents (further details here). Be sure to chop them up a bit first, though. We used to buy those little lemon drops that were filled with chemicals, but this is much better. You can also clean your microwave with a lemon.

make your own spring wreath

I had the strange itch to create something for my entryway last night. It’s rare that I venture into a craft store, so this was a bit out-of-the-norm for me.

I settled on making a spring wreath in a matter of a few seconds. This was my time ever using a hot glue gun! That should tell you how easy this project is. It would be a great idea for gifts, too: Mother’s Day, showing appreciation to your child’s teacher, etc. I plan to head to the craft store the next time I’m in my hometown, let my grandmother pick out her own colors, and then make one for her door together.

Items you will need:

  • Scissors
  • Foam wreath (mine is 16″)
  • Felt pieces (I used 9″ x 12″)
  • Yarn (I bought two spools in different shades of green)
  • Hot glue gun with 5-6 glue sticks
  • Ribbon to hang the wreath from
  • A bowl to trace circles with (I just used a plain cereal bowl) **
  • Pen to trace on the felt **

I hot-glued the ends of the yarn to the wreath and spun away. It took me a good half of I, Robot to do so as I wasn’t in a rush. It’s good to note that a regular spool of thread should last you two wreaths — I wasn’t sure if I would need more yarn if I decided to make another as a gift. Don’t over-think how you cut the felt for your flowers. Thankfully, felt is extremely forgiving. I messed up several times and can’t tell from the final product. Lines do not have to be straight.

Helpful links if you’re unsure of the entire flower creating process like I was:

  • Chrysanthemums: check out Infarrantly Creative to see how creating different types of cuts makes your flowers look different from one another. I’m glad I came across this site, since I’m not sure I would have put two-and-two together and bothered to do this on my own wreath had I not stumbled upon it. Craft Snob also has a nice guide with photographs of each step.
  • ** Rosettes: I thought this was more complicated than it actually is at first after reading Mrs. Priss’ tutorial. You really don’t need to do any tracing aside from the circle. After a few flowers, I even started free-handing that. I found the flowers looked better if I literally just cut a long strip and didn’t worry about fluctuating the spiral. Just go with it!
  • Blooms: Keeping Life Creative has a great little guide on how to make two different types of blooms. I didn’t use either of these designs, but I was eyeing them before starting.

Bring as many coupons to your local craft store with you as you can. JoAnn’s accepts coupons online and they accept competitor coupon’s, as well. I didn’t know this and have an extremely awful printer, so I came to the store and quickly grabbed one of their sales flyers from the front door to snab the 15% your purchase coupon. But, after watching someone in front of me have her phone scanned, I excused myself from the line and quickly searched for “JoAnn’s 40% off one item” and found a coupon on an external site. An extra few minutes saved me $4!

Scan the clearance bins. You can easily find the ribbon, for example, for less than 50 cents. There’s a lot of ways to cut down on project costs. I ended up making my wreath for less than $10.

Looking for color inspiration? Check out the creative things others have done.

small business monday

I’m a big fan of handbags, as evident by my (give me these) purses board on Pinterest. If my budget allowed, I’d have every single one of them displayed in my closet. A few years back, I went on a “designer binge” where I spent a startling amount of money on Kate Spade bags (much in part to their addictive flash sales that they have every now and again — so, in retrospect, I spent far less than what they were worth). My bank account was definitely shaking in its boots in fear of what I’d splurge on next. I’m a bit embarrassed by this. I thought that a “brand name” was a necessity in my professional environment and, admittedly, I transformed into someone else for a bit and neglected my own personal style.

Flash forward!: I recently purged myself of every single designer bag that I owned. I sold all of them on eBay in an effort to rid myself of clutter. It was startling how many items of clothing, wallets, and shoes that I was holding onto purely due to the memories connected to them and not because of their utility. While I did sell quite a few things (ah, if only my student loans disappeared), it felt marvelous to drop off four crates overflowing with items to Goodwill.

One important note in my purse adventures: I did keep every single bag that I’ve ordered from my favorite little Seattle-based online shop, Stitch and Swash.

After my first purchase just over three years ago, each (ahem: I have three) have withstood the test of time, raindrops, accidental rubs against my filthy car, and subzero, snowy Midwest weather. Angie Bowlds, the shop’s owner, achieved Internet fame nearly overnight by having one of her designs featured in the popular vampire saga — but her leather goods definitely shouldn’t be clouded by the “teen” aura stereotype that surrounds the Twilight films as evident by the reviews of her craftsmanship. They are definitely appropriate for any age or environment and you’re able to customize your leather accessory every which way: be it leather color, thread color, hardware color, or print color. Sometimes, she even creates items from reclaimed leather — such as one of the purses that I have that was crafted from a vintage jacket.

A few of my favorite designs include her famous Peacock bag (someday!), cosmetic bag (how lovely would that be for traveling?), and the satchel (again, perhaps it’s just the feeling of spring in the air, but airports are coming to mind — how perfect for a sturdy carry-on). Personally, I think it’s pretty fun to be able to design whatever you would like. It makes your own purchase feel just that much more unique.

stitchandswash

Perhaps I’m silly, but there’s something about me that just feels good carrying something around nearly every waking hour that supports a small business.

mineLearn more about available designs at:

Note: This post isn’t sponsored by Stitch and Swash in any way whatsoever. I’m just a fan and thought anyone that is leather-friendly and enjoys buying handmade would enjoy a glimpse at some really crafty goods. Enjoy!

things i found while looking around

I waste too much money on my dogs:

  • Island Mutt: I find their idea of using creating dog leashes/collars/toys with the nylon rope that’s used on docks really economical. I’d think keeping their Monkey Fist Dog Toy as an outside dog toy would be nice for the summer and dog park adventures.
  • Parapup and RuggedByDesignME: Etsy shops that offer leashes/collars made out of parachute cord. I’ll likely try this out for my next round of collar buying. It seems they would be far more durable than what I currently use which isn’t holding up to a rambunctious puppy.
  • Bergan EZ Steps Big Dog Dual Leash: I normally try to buy items such as this on Etsy or from a Farmer’s Market vendor since they always have such great patterns that stores do not (and they’re often cheaper or very similar in price — chain stores are such a ripoff for collars!), but I haven’t found anything similar in my searches. I need something that’s durable and tangle-free for both Quinn and Riggs and, while I’ve never, ever tried a dual leash, this one looks to be one the best I’ve found in terms of reviews.
  • ID4Pet: Unique, durable dog tags. I’ve purchased two already (one for Quinn and one for Riggs) and will definitely be returning to this shop in the future. They ship quickly and come with a really shiny gloss on them that doesn’t peel off.

Since we’re approaching spring, I definitely have “spring cleaning” on my mind. This includes getting rid of all the cans that have been in my pantry for weeks (just kidding — months!).

Deeeelicious recipes that have helped me do so:

  • Lazy Girl’s Chicken Enchilada Casserole: I substituted Greek yogurt for the sour cream and a can of Ro-Tel Tomatoes & Diced Green Chilies for the salsa and diced green chilies. I also threw remaining bits of the packages of shredded cheese we had in our fridge. No corn, either. This was fast, easy, and definitely ohmygod-I-have-so-much-crap-in-my-fridge friendly.
  • Lemon Yogurt Sugar Muffins: Minimal ingredients that I normally have on hand. This has been my go-to recipe if I feel the urge to bake.
  • Spicy Sausage Pasta: Um. This tastes like a dish I’d get at a restaurant and my “I swear I followed the recipe!” meals never come out to anything resembling that. I usually steer clear of any type of sausage, but this is really quite tasty.
  • Mexican Chickpea Salad: Why did I have three cans of garbanzo beans in my pantry? For this recipe, of course! I used red onion and RealLemon lemon juice from my fridge. I also didn’t include the avocado that’s suggested — that wouldn’t keep well. Divided into one cup containers and I had lunch made for work for three days. Warning: it’s really that good.

Random handmade goodies:

remodeling laundry area on a budget

I’ve been attempting to focus on paying my student loans off before I’m 92, so I’ve been keeping a close eye on my expenses and have created a new (extremely tight) budget with the help of PearBudget’s free downloadable spreadsheet (highly recommended to spend half an hour tackling this beast yourself) and by being inspired by Em for Marvelous’ Marvelous Money series.

I’ve also spent a considerable amount of time on Mint.com and other finance tools, but resorted to the old-fashioned way of “doing it myself” after reading a few Dave Ramsey articles featuring the envelope system. Since the idea of using paper envelopes is up my dear grandmother’s alley and certainly not anywhere near my preference, I use the free version of the EEBA iPhone app to help track my expenses.

I’d been bored with my laundry room area for quite a while, particularly due to its lack of functionality. The woman who lived in our home prior to us was over 6 feet tall and, clearly, the shelves pictured below weren’t meant for someone my height. I’d have to awkwardly climb on top of the machines to gather any items we haphazardly threw up onto the shelf. Very inconvenient and I found myself being far too comfortable with hanging millions of clothes on the shelf just to make the room less bare. My work wardrobe was constantly on display for all of our visitors.

After being inspired by Kelly’s laundry room remodel via a pin on Pinterest, I decided to take action! I wanted to spend less than $100 on the remodel, including getting our closet/hamper area in order.

Plan: I’d count absolutely everything that I purchased.

 Image

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We took two awkwardly-placed shorter shelves from the closet and disposed of the previous shelf. Since I didn’t have the money to rebuild shelves or purchase a cabinet for the wall (and trust me, I scoured Craigslist for one), I decided to use handy-dandy spray paint for plastic. I didn’t prime them, but did let them dry for an entire week before placing them on the wall. I also decided that I wanted/HAD TO do this remodel in the middle of winter so, hey, spray painting in my storage room in the basement totally wouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong. We had to leave the house for an hour with the dogs as the scent wafted throughout the entire house. I’m smart.

I bought the mirrors at IKEA five years ago to use in my “chic Minneapolis apartment” that never actually happened — they’ve been sitting in storage ever since. I just threw them on the wall with no idea in mind (fun!). Lighted branches will stop us from needing to turn the light on all the time when we entered the house from the garage. The print is from Etsy and is meant to serve as a daily reminder when I leave the house to stop worrying so much and enjoy my day. Sometimes, it does the trick! If you like it, I’d suggest joining the seller’s mailing list as she frequently has promotions — I didn’t purchase it at full price.

  • Deep teal spray paint for boring white wire shelves: 2 cans @ $2.50 each
  • Dark gray paint for wall (satin due to moisture in room): $20
  • Laundry cart for between machines: $25 (via Amazon)
  • 3M Command Strips for behind mirrors: $12
  • Divided pop up hamper (closet – not pictured): $8 (via Amazon – previously on sale)
  • Shelves on wheels (closet – not pictured): $12 (on sale at Target)
  • Broom organizer (closet – not pictured): $7 (via Amazon)

    GRAND TOTAL:
    $89

It was fun to challenge myself into re-purposing the random decor that was in storage in my basement for years. This little project helped me realize that I have far too much clutter and, since completing this, I’ve gone through everything from my messy bathroom closet to everything under my kitchen sink and disposed or donated items that I’d been keeping “for a rainy day” or “what if this unrealistic event happened?” — it has been quite liberating!