Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How to Create a Stylish Fall Wardrobe [when you don't have any money]

Remember that intriguing blog post I was going to write, about building a stylish fall wardrobe when you don't have any money?

I've written it and re-written it in my mind. I've completely scrapped the idea and gone for a broader "Frugal Living" sort of post, but I keep going back to this post. I said I was going to write it, so even though I don't have any new or grand ideas, I thought I'd share what I DO have.

I just don't want to downplay the fact that it's difficult to live "without money," whatever your situation is. And seriously, it can be hard to justify clothes-shopping when money is tight. After all, you could take that same $12 for a shirt and buy oats and beans and rice... Am I right?

Taking that into consideration, here are some clothes-wearing and shopping ideas for you!

First of all, go through the clothes you already own. Find the items that...

-fit you

-aren't pilled or stained or ripped

-you feel great in

and put those items in a "keep" pile. See, the easiest and least expensive way to create a wardrobe is to wear the items you already OWN!

It's a lot simpler to figure out what you need this season, when you have what you own sitting there in front of you.

Next step: figure out what you still need. I like to find items that I can use in multple outfits. 

When I went through my clothes, I found that the items I "needed" most were...

-a long sleeved gray shirt

-a long sleeved black shirt

-brown boots

The three main colors I wear in the fall/winter would be dark purple, gray, and black, and I already have a couple purple tops from summer that I can transition to fall/winter if I wear a black or gray sweater overtop!

I love gray and black because I can wear them with my skirts OR jeans, depending on how I accessorize them!

Another great option would be a simple striped top--whether it's white and navy stripes or white and black stripes. It's another shirt that can be worn casually or formally, depending on what you pair it with.

I've mentioned buying items you can wear in multiple outfits. Basically, you need to be ok with wearing the same clothes over and over again.

I tried doing just this several weeks ago. At the beginning of summer, I'd purchased several tops that just hadn't lasted. They were looking and feeling stretched and worn out. I looked through my summer tops to find the ones I consistently enjoyed wearing, and... guess what... there were two of them.

This wouldn't be possible if you didn't do laundry often (as I do), but I ended up wearing those tops every day for a couple weeks. I'd wear one, throw it in the wash, wear the other one. Then the weather started cooling off, and I could occasionally wear a long-sleeved top to throw in the mix!

Oh, and by the way... I wore them with my dark wash skinny jeans, of which I have two pairs.

You might be wondering if I got completely sick of these tops and jeans. Nope! Once you establish that you LIKE a certain shirt, I think it's easy to wear it again and again. Every time you wear it, you feel prepared and ready for the day--even if you last wore it two days earlier!

As for the boots, I had a pair of brown boots that I purchased for $15 at Gabes several years ago. Besides looking worn out, they're super uncomfortable. I wear boots "out" all the time in the winter, so that's why new boots made the short list!

Third step: figure out HOW you'll pay for these new items. If you're working with a budget, it's recommended that you decrease the amount you're spending in one area, to make up for the extra money you're spending in another area (in this case: clothes).

OR, my personal favorite way to "earn" extra cash: sell things you're not using around your house. Once you determine that you really "want" one thing, it's interesting how you prioritize what is important to "keep" around your house. Maybe I'm a rare example, but if I see something just sitting, that we haven't read/watched/touched in the last few months, I'm happy to see it go.

Several years ago, we bought the complete series of Stargate: SG1. It came in a beautiful box, and there for several months, we faithfully watched it. But since Netflix came along, and we got different interests, we hadn't watched SG1 in over a year. Which meant... it was gathering dust.

No longer. Matt and I discussed items that we'd rather have around our house (like boots), and I listed SG1 on Ebay. It sold within a week for almost $100. I found a great price on some new boots (also on Ebay), and spent a fraction of our earnings on winter boots--with plenty of money to spare.

I call this method "Sell to Buy." You take items you don't need or want, sell them, and then buy what you'd rather have with the earnings. It's a win-win: you get rid of your unwanted and unused items, and now have the money to buy wanted items you'll use all the time!

So now that you have the money in hand, the fourth and final step to creating a stylish fall wardrobe would be...

Four: Buy a few, nice items to round out your closet!

Here's what I would NOT recommend... buying a few CHEAPLY MADE items that will get pilled/worn out/stretched out in a matter of weeks. I've made that mistake a few too many times. I've even had to throw away a shirt after ONE wearing, it was so awful.

My three favorite places to buy inexpensive and yet NICE QUALITY items would be...

-TJ Maxx

-Goodwill (or local thrift shops)

When you're out shopping (even when the items are inexpensive), keep that list of "needed" items in mind, and focus on just buying those. I've had some thrift store experiences where I thought, "Oh! It's only $4! And it's cute!" So I brought it home, and wore it only a few times. You want to buy items that will fit with your style, and you'll be excited to wear it over and over!


If you haven't heard of ThredUp before, it's a GREAT place to find awesome deals--good quality stuff, great prices. Once you know which brands you like, and what size you wear, and what you want to buy, you can do specific searches...

Gap, black long-sleeved shirt, size 2 or 4...

or whatever you're looking for!

My best luck with ThredUp has been with jeans. Now I know that I like American Eagle, dark wash jeans, and what size I wear, instead of buying $50 jeans in the store, I can buy the same jeans I like (gently used) for $10-15--or even less.

And while on the topic of ThredUp, if you click my link, you can earn $10 off your first AND SECOND purchases! (Once you place your order, I'll also receive $20. So it's a great deal for both of us!!)

If I could add a P.S. to number four, it would be...

Have fun with accessories. I mean bracelets, earrings, necklaces, scarves, and so on. If you're looking through clearance racks, it's easy to find some of these items for $2 (which is much cheaper than most clothing items). Accessories make it possible to wear the same shirt and skirt three weeks in a row, and no one would ever know, because you're "dressing" it up differently each time.

So there are my ideas. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why We Got Rid of [Almost All] Our Kids' Toys [and why we don't regret it]

One of the questions I hear from moms most often is, "Where do I put all this STUFF?"

Sometimes they're referring to kids' clothing, or the supplies needed when you have a baby or multiple little ones, but many times... they're referring to TOYS. Books. Puzzles. Dolls. Stuffed animals. Dress-up clothes. Trucks. Cars. Blocks.

Ok, I won't keep going. Add on to that any amount of art supplies that little kids have, and it's easy to see how moms could be so overwhelmed and frustrated!

It's easy to see that, because... I was totally there.

Now, we never had a LOT of toys, but we had enough so that messes were made easily, and I needed multiple storage containers to organize what the kids had.

When we last moved, we downsized how many toys our kids owned, and I even packed half the toys away in a storage closet to help with the scattered-messes-everywhere situation.

And yet still... This is what we were dealing with on a daily basis:

1. The kids would pull out the toy containers and dump them.

2. The toys would get kicked all over the room.

3. The kids wouldn't spend much time actually PLAYING with the TOYS.

4. If one child was playing with a toy, instead of the other children playing with ALL the OTHER toys on the floor, they would end up only fighting (and wanting to play with) that one toy (whichever one it was).

5. It would be time to clean UP the toys, and it would take a very, very long time. Every time.

It was a constant struggle to keep the toys cleaned up. What made it worse is that the kids hadn't especially enjoyed playing with them to begin with! And the fighting. Ohhh, there was a lot of fighting.

Neither Matt nor I was happy about the situation at all. Matt kept suggesting that we get rid of all the toys--or that each child could only have one. I hesitated, thinking, What would our kids play with then?

And then one morning, it happened. We'd asked the kids (like we did all the time, multiple times every day) to clean up their toys, and they hadn't, and the toys were just sitting there, un-played with, but very messy and scattered and frustrating.

I got a trash bag, and we just started filling it. All the toys that were worth selling, we set aside to sell.

You know what was the most shocking part of that moment? How happy the kids were with getting rid of their stuff. Instead of being upset, they were like, "Okay! This is cool! I'll help throw away my toys!!"

We chose to keep two sets of toys--one set of plastic blocks, and my son kept his wooden toolbox (with a few tools inside).

The next few weeks, we could not believe the change in our childrens' behavior.

There was less fighting, because there was less to fight over. There was WAY more drawing, which had hardly ever happened before. I suddenly found the kids sitting at the table with crayons and colored pencils and paper and happily drawing--for very long periods of time!

Which brings me to... they were more content to sit and play the same thing, over and over, than they'd ever been, surrounded by countless plastic and stuffed toys. Their attention spans were longer!

And lastly, they actually became very creative. That set of plastic blocks (which cost me all of $3) has turned into a castle, weaponry, phones, bridges, writing utensils, cups, roads, even a pinata.

As I'm sure you're wondering how long it takes them to clean up all their "toys" now, it's something like 2 minutes and 50 seconds, even if they're not hurrying. Except for the wooden toolbox, which is a little bigger, all their toys can fit in ONE square basket from Target.

If they want to play in their room, they take their basket to their room. It's also been seen in the living room and downstairs. But whenever they're done playing, everything goes back in the basket. And... done.

It's such a relief--all of it--that I can't ever imagine going back. But I know that as our kids grow older, they'll enjoy more games, or puzzles, and I'm sure we'll accumulate a bit more, but for now, this is perfect for us.

Now a couple additional thoughts...

Getting rid of toys (no matter how many issues they may cause) does NOT eliminate bad behavior. Believe me, the bad behavior is still there as long as there are people present! While the fights definitely lessened between the children, they still fight over other things. It's honestly kind of amazing how one child holding something can increase its desirability by an exponential amount!

Secondly, I'm not recommending this sort of action for everyone. As I mentioned at the beginning, I hear moms all the time lamenting their messy family rooms, and asking for help. This is what we did, and I'm so very glad we did, but I'm sure there are other good ways to solve the problems these moms are facing.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fall/Winter Capsule Wardrobe

I've mentioned the idea of a "capsule wardrobe" before, but today... I actually went and created one on Polyvore. Talk about FUN. 

The prices of some of these items? Ha. Not exactly in my budget, but it gives me an idea of what sorts of items to be looking for. 

To clarify, no, this isn't what my closet looks like, and no, I don't own [only] three skirts or a pair of black skinny jeans. But this was nevertheless very inspiring, and what I'm definitely working towards. 

The American Eagle skinny jeans pictured are, in fact, what I own, and true to this Polyvore set, I own two pairs. So that part is true, at least. I couldn't own only two pairs of jeans, though, if I didn't wash clothes so often!

I hope you enjoy! Let me know if there are any "staples" that I'm missing... 

Fall/Winter Capsule Wardrobe

Maurices plaid shirt

Diane Von Furstenberg blouse
$345 - graziashop.com

H M black shirt
$12 - hm.com

Saint James white shirt

Long sleeve tee

Pieces long sleeve top
$38 - pieces.com

Hobbs green top
$41 - houseoffraser.co.uk

Maurices plus size top

Halston Heritage long skirt
$275 - theoutnet.com

Jane Norman long skirt
$38 - janenorman.co.uk

Boden skirt

Glitter Pink flat shoes
$44 - yoox.com

Black pumps

Gorjana long necklace

Beaded jewelry

Gold jewelry

Echo infinity scarve

Chan Luu scarve

Speaking of clothes and budgeting, I'm excited about a post that's in the works regarding just that. Something like, "How to Create a Stylish Fall Wardrobe when You Don't Have Any Money." (And no, I'm definitely not advocating credit cards.) Sounds intriguing, right? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Basic Rules of Etiquette for Kids [in someone else's home]

I'm finding that as a mom, I have a general idea of what I should be teaching my kids (such as "please" and "thank you"), but there are some areas that I can easily forget about. For example, I may have thought of teaching our kids to be good hosts, but I hadn't put a lot of thought into our children being good guests. The sort of guest that people would want to invite over, and definitely the kind of guest that people wouldn't dread having back.

Although these rules of etiquette are pretty basic, I thought it would be a great reminder (for myself, first of all) of something else we can be working on with our children. 

I promise I won't make the list too long. The best way to work on these things is [definitely] going to be at home, because honestly, most of these are probably characteristics you want your kids to have at home.

Hopefully then if your child is in the habit of practicing these "rules" at home, then he/she will naturally adjust these principles in a host's home. 

When your child walks up to the host's home, ring the door bell (or knock) once or twice if necessary, but not repeatedly. (ding DONG ding DONG ding DONG...)

Say hello to the host. Look at their face (instead of down at their feet), and speak clearly.

Take off their shoes, unless they're told they don't need to.

Don't be overly loud or silly. Don't run inside.

If you've been playing outside, and you're coming inside, wash your hands.

Do not open the refrigerator, touch the host's phone, or get on the computer, unless you're given permission.

Ask where the bathroom is (instead of wandering around the house), close the door, flush when you're finished, and wash your hands.

If a door is closed, knock before entering. Never enter a bedroom unless you're invited inside. If you need to use the bathroom, and the door is closed, either knock or wait quietly outside.

If you create an accidental mess (let's say they drop something, and it shatters all over the floor), they need to run and tell either their parents or the host. Accept the responsibility for what happened, and ask what they can do to help clean it up.

If you need to ask the host something, and she (or he) is involved in a conversation, stand quietly until there's a break in the conversation, and then say "Excuse me."

If the parents aren't going to be present, then tell your child that the host is in charge. Within reason, they'll be making the rules, and your child should be expected to follow them (such as at a sleepover, if the parents say "lights out and stop talking," your child should do so.

If you're offered something you wouldn't like, say "No, thank you," instead of "I don't want that" or "I don't like that." Same would apply to if someone asks if you'd like to do something that you wouldn't prefer to.

After playing with toys or a game, clean it up. To the best of your ability, put all the pieces back exactly how you found them.

At the dinner table, do not dominate the conversation. If you need something, ask politely, but otherwise, sit quietly and eat your food. Stay seated at the table unless you've asked to be excused.

Don't touch anything (especially decor, books, furniture, movies, etc.) unless you've been given specific permission to.

If you are doing something, and the host asks you to stop, don't talk back. You're in their home; be respectful of their rules.

Don't climb on the couches, or jump off the coffee tables. Don't slam the doors.

And lastly, say thank you. Say thank you for the food, for being invited over, for all the time and effort the host may have put into your time in his/her home. 

I hope that list didn't overwhelm you. I certainly didn't mean it to! Generally, I think most of principles are deep-down about respect... respecting both others' privacy, and their property/possessions. 

This topic has definitely been something I've been thinking a lot about, and I was excited to share it with you! I'm sure there are more "basic rules of etiquette" that I missed... let me know if you think of some!