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.)

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.

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.

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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!