February Challenges

January 30, 2016

don't forget that the #minsgame challenge ends tomorrow!  leave a comment (or contact me on social media) if you think you have the most items leaving your place, because there's a container store gift card on the line.  i'll take a photo of my donations to go to the salvation army and post it to instagram soon - it's over 500 things.  which feels pretty awesome.

alright, on to february's challenges.  i still have 'make big changes' energy from the new year so i've planned a couple of areas on which to focus that.

first up, diet bet.  it starts sunday, though i think you have more than just that day to weigh in.  it's just $10, winners (those who lost 4% of their body weight or more) split the pot at the end.  just head here to sign up.  lose weight, win money.  pretty simple concept.

second, it's no spend monthsteph is hosting a wallet watch month, where you can make up your own rules regarding your finances.  she's not doing a total spending freeze, but i am.  since it's diet bet time as well, it's the perfect month to put a total freeze on spending, particularly eating out.  i anticipate only spending on minimal groceries and then normal bills like rent and my train pass, etc.  but weight gain and poor spending choices seem to go hand in hand for me, so it'll be good to have one solid month where i do my best in both of those categories at once.

i also have some things to use up, and no spend month usually helps with that.  if you read yesterday's post, i'm interested in moving more towards zero waste.  i currently have some waste-making things (paper towels, tooth paste, things like that) that i want to use up before trying to make my own products or buy eco-friendly replacement products.  you know, clear out the clutter plus figure out what i exactly need before going on a buying binge for 20 glass mason jars and 36 reusable hand towels. 

and third, staying home a bit more.  most people aren't winter lovers like me and they stay in in january, but i don't.  my friend from law school works in my same building, and we've been going for lunches and happy hours the entire month.  i've also had a lot of weekend plans.  so i'd like to stay home a bit more and get some stuff done around the house.  like finally schedule the salvation army to come pick up all my donations.  i'll also be watching my parents dogs from february 20 until march, so there's a lot to do around my place before that date.  even though february is a month heavy in birthdays for me, i think i can still manage to stay in at least one full weekend.

what are your february goals and challenges?  joining me on either of these?

Embarking On A New Adventure: Zero Waste Living

January 29, 2016

i think, i think, once the salvation army comes by and picks up my donation, i'll be done with my decluttter.  while i'll have plenty to do when john's things start appearing (we close on a house in march), my own things are totally decluttered.  there's nothing else i want to or need to get rid of right now.  i have a spreadsheet of what's left, aka everything i own, right here in case you're curious.  i mean, no, i don't tally my makeup or my toothbrush, but you'll see what i mean.  anyway.

is it weird that i didn't feel 'done'?  in marie kondo's book, she said you'd keep going until you hit that sweet spot of stuff, and that the number would be different for everyone.  and i do think, in terms of possessions, that i did hit that point where i don't really need to do more.  besides my 22 lipsticks, i use them all okay.  but still, i kind of felt like going a step farther.  and in my mind, embracing zero waste living was a natural progression from decluttering.  because it's what popped up next on youtube after i watched every declutter video ever put on the internet, duh.


and it's exactly what it sounds like.  living as minimally as possible in terms of the trash you send to a landfill.  ideally, zero waste - you'd reduce, reuse, recycle and compost to the point of there being nothing going to a landfill on your watch.  and there's a lot of good reasons behind zero waste living.  far more morally superior than my reasoning.  which is that i loathe taking the trash out.  no, seriously.  that was the entire basis of my researching the zero waste movement.  taking the trash out is my biggest struggle when it comes to cleaning the house.  i'll do every other task but the whole putting on shoes and dragging the bags outside?  can't do it.  and it's not even about the shoes and outdoors - i was just as bad at it when i lived in a high rise and just had to take the bags to the trash chute down the hall.  there's obviously some sort of mental block but i don't know what it is.  and rather than figure it out and just learn to take the trash out more often, i decided it would be far easier to just make less trash.  that's how my mind works, folks.

as ridiculous as that reasoning is, making less waste is actually a really good thing.  my laziness regarding taking the trash out is actually helping the environment.  so there.  statistics state that each person produces about 4 pounds of garbage a day.  times 300 million americans, that's quite a lot, guys.  can't really deny that.  now, i can't personally say anything about the rest of the environmental claims, like the toxic sludge in the dumps or how things don't actually biodegrade there like you think they will, or about the trash in the oceans killing whales - i read about those things from a basically liberal left wing propaganda book and while they may be true, i don't adopt anything just because a bleeding heart greenpeace volunteer told me to.  i like to research the same stats from an equally conservative republican standpoint and, if possible, a neutral scientific one from a study with no political agenda (unicorn, i know.)  since i haven't had time to do that, just know that i'm starting on this adventure under the simple beliefs that (a) americans put out too many bags of trash and (b) i'm too lazy to keep doing it.  that's it.  no agenda.

it's not just about recycling, if that's what you're thinking.  that's the last step, really.  it's about not bringing in the trash in the first place.  the simple things you already know - use a refillable water bottle, bring reusable bags to the grocery store, etc.  but also some that take it a step farther - bring tupperware too, so the meat and deli counters can put your food in those.  and bring your own cloth bags to the bulk bins.  don't buy foods that come in packaging (which let's be honest, is also better for your wallet and waistline too.)  just don't bring in anything that will be trash in the first place.  easier said than done, of course.  but easy to start with a few baby steps, and if you think about it, it's just more minimalism and frugality - don't buy it.  i can get on board with that.

let's just call a spade a spade here - there is absolutely no way i'll get down to zero waste.  i won't even get close, okay?  the author of the book i read got her and her husband's trash down to 1 shoebox full a year.  what?!  i can't match that.  but currently, i do think my trash is less than 3 pounds a day.  actually i know it is, because my trash is always paper towels, k-cups, and makeup remover wipes.  (people always talk about food scraps too, but i assume they don't have a doggie garbage disposal like i do.)  but when you think about the times you clear out jars, cans, and bottles, which aren't daily, it starts to add up.  add in the stuff you buy and toss when you're out, like disposable coffee cups and gum wrappers, and you really start to notice how much you're putting out there.

baby steps i'm considering:
- switching to shampoo bars.  no more plastic bottles, just the bars at lush.  i can get a tin to keep them in and then go buy a new one in store and not even need plastic wrap or a bag or anything.
- cloth napkins and no more paper towels.  i really use too many paper towels guys, it's bad.  i think i'll start here.
- re-fillable k-cup.  i have it, i just don't always use it.  there's no way i'm giving up my keurig, but i do recognize the boon that those little suckers are.
- remembering my reusable cups when i'm out.  i always use the travel mug when i make coffee at home, but forget to bring it if i stop for coffee on the weekends with my mom.  and i don't have one at all for iced beverages, which i tend to get even in the dead of winter.
- no more makeup wipes.  going to get a set of washcloths and reuse them with good old coconut oil. or some other makeup solution i find.

i'm not going totally crazy with it.  i'm not going to stop buying toilet paper guys, don't worry.  (you can recycle the tube and the outer paper anyway.  though i imagine i'll hate dragging recycling out as much as trash, so i do plan on minimizing this somehow.)  baby steps.  and don't ask me what i'm going to do about my beloved bath and body works 3 wick candles, because i'm not crossing that bridge yet.

where do you think you are on the scale?  more or less than 4 pounds of trash a day?  or do you just not care at all and think i'm totally crazy for even doing this?

Three on Thursday

January 28, 2016

welcome back to three on thursday, a post of my weekly (and all time) top three favorites.  

1. budget bytes one of the best websites out there for cooking easy meals at home, on a budget.  everything i've tried from her has been delicious and cheap, so i highly recommend it as an awesome resource if your new year's resolutions included anything about saving money or eating healthier.  or both.  she also has a book, which has recipes not included on the website.  if you're serious about cutting down your out of control grocery budget, this is such an easy way to do it.


2. acrylic makeup organizers.  there's just something about them that looks so clean, organized, and pretty sitting out on my bookcase.  i know a lot of people go the muji route, but they didn't have the exact system i wanted.  i ended up finding this one i love on amazon for even cheaper.  i don't have a giant makeup collection so it fits everything perfectly and it's held up really well.  no cracks or scratches, and it's super easy to clean.
3. champagne toast bath and body works candle.  i cannot stop with this one.  it's my favorite scent from them.  not that i don't love them all, because i do, but this is always the best.  it's not stocked all year, it's usually just around christmas and new year's time.  currently you can still find a couple in stores, so if you see one, get it.  otherwise, i'll remind you to restock next december!

happy thursday, friends.

6 Reasons Why I'm Surprised I Have Friends

January 27, 2016

a lot of times i tend to hang out with the same people.  john, mostly, but also his brother and his girlfriend (eric and beth), and 3 friends that come to mind.  but when i do branch out and make the effort to see more of my friends at once, like i did on saturday, (this task seems to be getting more difficult as i get older and people move) i'm reminded of the fact that i probably shouldn't even have any friends.  sure i'm loyal as hell once you are my friend and i'd do anything for you, but i'm often surprised by how many people have stuck around over the years.  why?  well:

- i'm bossy af, honestly.  i'll certainly ask what you prefer to do but if you hesitate for a second and don't have a plan, i do, and i will enact it with the german italian efficiency buried deep within my dna.  and if we stray from my plan or you suggest going somewhere i really really hate (looking at you, eric and beth, every time you suggest douches deuces and diamonds) i get downright hostile.

- i have no filter and i'm the tough love friend.  you don't come to me for beat around the bush advice or sympathy.  i'll tell you when you fucked up, i'll tell you when you should dump his ass, i'll tell you that shirt is terrible and makes you look 20 lbs heavier. (ask betsy, i just did it to her a month ago.)  but if you want honesty, i'm your girl.  i will always tell you when you have something in your teeth or when your eye makeup is smearing.  i'll tell you that purple's not your color and call you out when you whine like a 7 year old.

- in the same vein, i'm not the friend to go to when you're sad.  i'm awkward.  like the 'ok... head pats... no more cry...tissue?'  i don't know what to say or do.  but go get drunk?  go pop some tires and key that bastard's car?  i'm that friend.  i'll go do things with you that could get us arrested, but i don't sit on the couch and watch the notebook.  i'm a fixer, not a wallow-er.

- i don't have a sense of shame or pride or dignity or whatever it is that stops people from singing spice girls karaoke or dancing on bars or wearing costumes for every occasion.  if you're easily embarrassed, you really shouldn't be around me.

- i ghost, which i don't see as a bad thing but it drives my friends bonkers.  by ghost, i mean irish goodbye or whatever other term you have for it - i will leave without telling you i do so.  most of my friends have caught on to the fact that me saying 'i'm going to the bathroom' is code for 'i'm leaving and not coming back' but sometimes they forget and then panic that i got stolen or something.  seeing as how i outlast almost all of my friends when out partying, this isn't a regular occurrence, but it bears mentioning since it drives people nuts when it happens.

- i don't answer phone calls and it can take me hours and hours to text you back.  whatever, there's more to life than your phone, guys.  and if i'm out for the night?  forget it, just text the person i'm with instead.  the phone goes in god's pocket (my bra) at 7 pm and doesn't come out until i get home.  i've lost it too many times to be pulling it out for something as frivolous as texting in a bar.  it can wait.  but even at home, i tend to leave it on vibrate in my purse after work so i don't look at it again until just before bed when i go to charge it.  i'm just not a phone person, sorry.

thanks for sticking around anyway, friends.  i like you too. 

Goal Setting Tip of the Month: Habit Formation According to Gretchen Rubin

January 23, 2016

if you're still sticking with me for these saturday tips post, you've made it to the final category i plan on talking about each month - goal setting.  and the first thing i wanted to talk about when it comes to this particular category is actually something i've talked about before, but nonetheless still a great place to start when you're thinking about setting and achieving goals of any kind.  and that's better than before: mastering the habits of our everyday lives by gretchen rubin.

i originally read the happiness project by the same author and really loved it.  her writing style is easy to read, though at times she can sound quite uppity or braggy.  i can get past that, because the information contained in her books is really good and pretty interesting.  this book, in particular, focusing on forming habits.  habits are the basis of a lot of goals - perhaps riding an elephant isn't a goal that requires long-term habit formation, but weight loss, healthy eating, being a morning person, and saving money sure are.  they all start with baby steps.  tiny tweaks in your day to day life that'll make reaching your goal that much easier and more realistic.

definitely one of the more fun parts is the quiz offered (because who doesn't love taking personality quizzes?) and you can do that part here online.  it'll tell you which type of habit forming personality you fall under, and then gives ways to use that to your advantage.  the book, of course, goes into much more detail about how each personality (upholder, obliger, questioner, or rebel) can set themselves up for success.  i'm an obliger, in case you were wondering - i tend to only accomplish goals or form habits when someone else is counting on me to do it.  i won't miss an appointment to see my orthodontist, but i also won't wear my retainer until the straight 72 hours right before i have to go in.  but the book offers all sorts of ideas on how to work around that and with it, how to set my goals in a way that'll ensure i start managing to take small steps daily.  it talks about when to start and how to avoid excuses, all things that i found incredibly interesting.

i highly recommend this book for anyone who's looking to set some goals that may take a long-term successful habit or two.  you'll really learn a lot; not just about habit formation in general, but specifically about your own personality and how you can use it to end up where you want to be.  and go take the quiz to start!  which personality are you?

Best Things I've Done to Declutter

January 22, 2016

as you can tell by my most recent declutter challenge (the #minsgame i'm doing), i've definitely tried a lot of different systems of decluttering, with varying levels of success.  i'm doing the misgame for the first round of clear outs, and then i'll look more closely at each item, like the konmari method.  it's been quite a process downsizing over the years, but the less i have, the more i love it and the more i want to try more methods until i reach the point where i just don't want to declutter any more.

but nothing has been as successful as getting rid of entire collections at once.  yep, you heard me.


so, the best things i've done to declutter in my life?

- i got rid of all my dvds. all my seasons of gilmore girls, dawson's creek, laguna, all my so-called favorites like mean girls, the goonies, and boondock saints. i say so-called because in the last few years, i hardly ever watched them.  dvds were staples when I lived with my roommate in the sorority house and then our apartment, because we didn't have cable and netflix instant watch was not yet invented. (i graduated college in 2007.) mean girls rarely left the dvd player. but once i switched to netflix, i found that i never watched my dvds. all i did was dust them and move them from apartment to apartment. i decided enough was enough and just got rid of them. all at once. i sold some, gave away others, donated the rest. and i have never regretted that decision. (cds were gone a long long time before this, i don't even have a means of playing cds any more.) 

- gave up scrapbooking.  it was so not for me, i'm way too much of a perfectionist.  i like buying the pretty paper and cute stickers, but the love for the hobby stopped the minute i walked out of the store.  i didn't like the actual putting together of books, so my stuff just sat in piles and grew.  not fun.  so i just quit.  gave away every last piece of scrapbook material i owned.  and i've never wanted to start again since.  plus it keeps all those printed photos out of my house - i only print the ones i want to put in the (3) frames i have.  blogging is a better, clutter-free hobby.

- stopped collecting shot glasses.  how many can you use anyway?  i don't own any anymore.  i used to pick one up every time i went on vacation and even had a few that friends brought back for me.  and i never used them.  i don't do shots.  i have a hard line rule about it.  (jello shots excluded, obvs.)  no. shots.  learned my lesson after the infamous 13 shots of jameson after the bar exam night.  shots are the devil's work.

- kept only my favorite hawkeye gear.  i do love iowa apparel, (and this applies to cubs, bears, blackhawks and wildcats too) but i rarely have a reason to wear it.  definitely not enough opportunities to justify keeping basically an entire wardrobe of it.  so i kept only my most loved favorites.  if i ever need to go all out on game day, i'll borrow from tara, who actually gets to wear such clothes at her university job, and thus has a huge collection.

- got a library card.  i do not own any books.  i just check everything out at the library.  sometimes i'll get some audible ones or e-books, but mostly i just use the library card.  there's very very few books i've ever read more than once, and if i wanted to read any of them again, i'll just re-check them out.  or buy the digital copy that'll i keep forever on a backup drive.

now?  now i just don't collect anything.  (i hear you questioning my lipstick collection, betsy, i'm working on it!)  i like it that way.

Three on Thursday

January 21, 2016

welcome back to three on thursday, a post of my weekly (and all time) top three favorites.  

1. wet n wild under the sheets makeup removing wipes they're only $3 for 25 and in store at target they get wrapped in a two pack, so it's 50 makeup wipes.  for 3 bucks.  guys.  buy them.  first of all, makeup wipes are such a ridiculous rip off and i know i could make my own but i don't want to.  i use them every day, because i don't think it's clean enough just using face wash, and i just don't feel like doing a diy of that.  second of all, i've tried a billion different kinds and i dislike them for various reasons, usually price or they irritate my skin.  i'm super sensitive particularly in my cheeks where i have rosacea, and these don't bother me at all.  they work really, really well at taking makeup off!  they aren't as wet as i usually like, so i use one, then wet it a little more with water or with eye makeup remover solution if i have stubborn eyeliner or mascara on, and keep going.  they easily beat any other drugstore brand i've tried.  and you cannot beat the price.  it's worth a try at least, isn't it?


2. drs. foster and smith duck fillets for dogs.  hawkeye's favorite treats and at the best price ever.  plus they're always on sale.  these are 100% duck and a doggie crowd pleaser.  they are made in china (you have to be really careful about dog treats and food made in china) but they have nothing else added and are vetted by the drs foster and smith website, which is extremely reputable.


3. old spice wolfthorn deodorant yeah yeah, old spice is for men.  but no.  not this one.  this smells like cotton candy or gummy bears or something.  hint of peaches, perhaps, which is probably why i love it.  seriously, just go try it, sniff it in store.  it's amazing.  it works really well, and it's cheaper than women's deodorant and always on sale or has a coupon.  what it has to do with wolves i have no idea.  but it's fantastic.


apparently i just want to save everyone money this week.  happy thursday!

and yes, i did change the blog layout, in case you were wondering if it was different or if you were just going crazy.  you're not going crazy.  about this, anyway.  i like it, i may still tweak some things, but if you catch any missing links or anything like that, let me know.

My Favorite Winter Accessories

January 20, 2016

chicago is crazy.  for a lot of reasons, but always for the weather.  it goes from 2 degrees, to 32 and snowing, to 52 and overcast... in one day.  although december was mild (as usual in chicago), january has been cold.  for those of you in similarly cold climates right now, i have for you my favorite winter accessories.  and not just the boring hat, scarves, gloves kind of stuff.


aquaphor.  the healing ointment, not the lip therapy.  this stuff can be used on any dry, cracked skin, but i love it on my lips.  you'll feel better instantly.  i am never without one of these, since i can swipe the sample sizes from my dad's pediatric office, but i also don't find that it's 'addicting' like some chapsticks can be.

i have two lipstick favorites.  first of all, if your lips are suffering from dryness, try the too faced melted lipsticks.  they don't try down like the super matte trend, but they stay so well, have such vibrant colors, and don't dry my lips out.  but if you like the dried down matte option, because it's windy and you don't want your hair streaking through anything wet on your lips and carrying the color wherever, try thebalm liquid lipsticks called meet matt(e) hughes.  this stuff goes nowhere.  it does not budge, i've even eaten pizza without needing a touch up.

jessica simpson coats.  they are really cute and incredibly warm and cozy.  you can get them at macys.  i also love that none of her coats have down, because while i'm sure down is as warm as everyone says it is, i'm also allergic to it and more than that, it's cruel to the bird.  i've had 3 of the coats over the years.  actually still have all 3 and they're still in perfect condition, my mom just bought me new ones so i use them.  they're warm and cute and most importantly, not black.  i loathe black coats, everyone has black coats and they're drab.  (mine are beige, grey, and light pink, if you're wondering.)  i used to get overwhelmed by macy's massive coat selection and finding down-free options, but now i just stick to jessica simpson and i'm good!

fleece lined tights if you haven't bought them yet, what are you waiting for?  they're just $10 at target.  i wear them under my pants on super cold days, so don't think they're just for under dresses or skirts.

nail polish.  i don't do dark colors any more come january, is that weird?  i save them for fall.  i do reds and glittery things in december.  and in january i like pure white or icy colors.  i'm a big butter london fan, so i reach for cotton buds or lady muck.

prada candy perfume.  i get my perfume on scentbird, since it's a little 30 day spray vial and i can try a bunch of stuff and switch out by season.  and it makes it only $15.  if you use this referral link, you get a free month.  they classify prada candy as a fall scent, but i like it in the winter.  it feels cozy to me.  i also use a mist from bath and body works.  they don't currently have the exact one i use, but it smells almost identical to this one.

soap and glory smoothie star body buttercreami always need extra thick, extra moisturizing lotion in the winter.  i've tried a lot of good body butters from the body shop, but my favorite is still the soap and glory one.  it's so soft and smells so good.  i generally shower at night, then use it, and i can still smell it in the morning and my skin feels super soft.

what's on your winter must-have list?


January 17, 2016

yes, i turned my blog name into a hashtag.  that i invite you to use.  if you're an instagram user without all the props and lighting, you may be wondering if your photo is even worth sharing.  it is.

if you want to take a picture of a million colors and not a white rug in sight, i dig that.

if you spilled coffee on your shoes trying to photograph them on a white rug, even better.

if your selfie is grainy because it's dark in the bar and you used the ... gasp... front facing camera, you do you girl.

if you'd just like to post a photo of your lazy dog without spending 40 minutes editing it, heart eye emojis all day.

if your manicure looks like a 5 year old worked on your non-dominant hand, i've been there.  just yesterday, in fact.

use the hashtag #notentirelyperfect and i'll be there, hitting the heart on all your imperfectly lovely photos.  i don't care if your filter is too dark.  or not there at all.  because your real (instant) life is pretty cool too, even if you didn't spend 20 minutes getting the perfect angle or want to post 10 vacation photos in a row.

oh and you can add me at stephs1120, for not entirely perfect photos of hawkeye, my minimalism, chicago, saving money, holidays, and more.  and by more, i mean extra artsy shots of my cans of pbr.  just kidding.  about the artsy part, not about the pbr.  i never kid about pbr.

Pet Tip of the Month: Snow and Ice Safety

January 16, 2016

no thinly veiled game of thrones references here, my friends - winter isn't just coming, winter is here. in chicago at least.  i feel like some of my friends are regretting the things they said about the lack of cold weather just a mere month ago.  but not me.  i love the cold.

luckily my dog loves it too.  she has a hefty fur coat that makes summer kind of icky, but she certainly loves the cool weather and has fun in the snow.  not all dogs are quite as lucky.  and even hawkeye has to be careful out there.  


rather than explain each tip in detail, i thought i'd just list all i could think of.  i think you'll know what they mean!

1. most salt put down is harmful to your pet.  it will irritate their paws and in turn they will lick said paws, and then the salt will make them sick.  if you own a home and salt outside, be sure to buy pet safe salt (even if you don't have pets of your own, it would be so kind of you to do so for the other animals out there!)  if you walk your dog around areas where the city does the street and sidewalk salting, invest in some dog booties.  they hate them at first, but they'll get more used to it, i promise.

2. if you aren't putting the booties on, at least get some musher's secret.  it's a waxy formula that coats the pads of the paws and protects from snow, ice, salt, and everything else.  it even moisturizes and help's heal wounds.  got it's name because it's what they do with sled dogs during the alaskan iditarod.  vaseline will do in a pinch, but this stuff isn't too pricey and works so well.  hawkeye loves it.

3. don't be too cool to dress up your dog.  hawkeye doesn't need a coat or sweater (much to my dismay) but small dogs without all her fur definitely do.  it's not a fashion statement (ok, it is) so much as it's really necessary for the safety and comfort of the dog.  so be 'that person.'  embrace it.  get a dog sweater.

4. live in an area with stray cats?  be a good person and make this outdoor cat warmer from things you already have around the house.

5. car antifreeze smells sweet to dogs.  it's also poisonous and deadly in tiny doses.  clean up any spills, keep your dog out of the garage, and switch to a safer product (called propylene glycol.)

6. cars cool as fast as they heat.  don't leave your dog in a cold car.

7. bring your dog indoors.  there's safety tips out there for people who leave their dogs out during the winter... but i just think those people are assholes.  bring your dog inside.  or bring him to me, he can live in my house.  (if you see this happening and you think the pet isn't cared for, report it.  and then steal the pet.  i'll be your lawyer.)

8. remember your pet in your emergency kit.  if the power goes out, you need food, blankets, water, and meds for fluffy too.

9. puppies and older dogs do not belong outside, they can't handle it. period.  they get frostbite and hypothermia just like people.  so do healthy adult dogs, but they can handle longer walks outside.

10. dogs' needs change in winter.  they need a warmer place to sleep, a little bit more food, and more water.

and it goes without saying how important it is to have updated tags and microchips for you pet this time of year, should they get lost - more dogs are lost in winter than any other season.  have anything to add?  (particularly for cats or other animals, i don't know those things)  please add it in the comments below and help out your fellow animal lovers.

My Minimalism Commandments

January 15, 2016

i mentioned fully embracing minimalism this year.  which i don't think i've totally done in the past.  i've always had minimal stuff, but not to the level i want.  have you ever seen the show tiny house nation?  i'm freaking obsessed.  basically they take people who are just about to move into a tiny house (anywhere from 100 to 500 ish square feet, i believe) from a regular house.  they help build the tiny house, making the most of the space, and the host prepares the homeowners for life in a tiny house.  one of the things he does is outline the area of the house with some string and shows the owners just how little actual fits in there and how much they need to downsize still and really think about how much they'll be able to fit in the new house.

my goal is to have so little it would fit in that little box, even though i'll never live in a tiny house.  i just don't like stuff.  and that led to a (mental) listing of every rule i keep in place to ensure that my stuff never grows like crazy.


1. one in, one out.  before you totally declutter it'll be more like one in, 10 out.  but as i get closer to exactly what i want, it's the one in, one out rule.  nothing new comes in without something else leaving in it's place.  if i get new jeans, the old ones have to go.  if someone gifts me a new lipstick, an old one has to get thrown out.  it's the best way for me to keep my possessions under control.  it's particularly applicable to clothes and makeup, since those categories tend to grow without much thought.  and more important, i ask myself if i can live without it.  i don't automatically replace anything that breaks or gets worn out - i decide first if i actually need it.  if i can live without it, it doesn't need to be replaced.

2. things can be (easily) replaced.  i do not need to keep backups because i live in a big city.  i can replace anything i need to within 15 minutes.  probably even at 3 am thanks to 24 hour walmart.  there's nothing i need to stockpile or keep extras of 'just in case' a product runs out or a sweater rips.  some people find comfort in keeping those backups, but i don't.  i don't want to waste the storage space on things i probably won't even remember i have.  like toothpaste or lightbulbs - by the time i remember i have a backup somewhere, i'll have already bought a new replacement.  this is also the $20/20 rule - if you can replace it for less than $20 in 20 minutes, you don't need to keep it around taking up valuable physical and mental space.

3. don't buy storage containers.  at least, for me.  i have absolutely everything i need.  if i ever get the itch that i need a storage container for something, it's probably a good sign that i have too much and i need to declutter.  i have a few containers i love (a nice one with a red top from container store for christmas stuff, my acrylic makeup organizer, etc.) and if the collection grows outside those boundaries, it's time to rein it in.

4. never impulse shop.  i do not shop without a list.  if i see something i like, i make a note on my phone, or put it in my online cart.  if i still want it days or weeks later, i'll consider it.  but i never stray from the list and i never buy something on a whim.

5. clutter attracts clutter, so keep the counters clear.  do not even tell me this doesn't happen in your house.  you put your junk mail down on the counter for one minute, and suddenly there's your purse, your husband's keys and wallet, a dirty coffee mug, your kid's mittens - clutter attracts clutter.  it's physics, or something.  i try to keep everything off the counters, which means having a space for everything that usually ends up there.  it's particularly key in the kitchen.  i try to leave out only the coffee maker, which i use every day, twice a day, so i'm not putting it in the cabinet.  but i do put away the things that aren't used every day, like the toaster, cooking utensils, dish soap and the sponge, the crockpot.  into the cabinets they go.

everyone has different ideas of what minimalism is (clearly i defined mine with my tiny house nation comparison!) and there's no right or wrong version.  i'm a fan of doing what's right for you, even if that means having all your things about you just so, like my dad.  but for me, minimalism is the way to go and those rules in particularly really keep things in check for me.

anything you would add to my list?  what helps you keep clutter under control?

Three on Thursday

January 14, 2016

welcome back to three on thursday, a post of my weekly (and all time) top three favorites.  

1. untappd beer tracking app.  i'm a beer drinker over anything (besides peach champagne, of course.)  since i put 'try 101 beers' on my 101 in 1001 list, i needed a way to track them.  i found untappd which is as useful as it is fun.  i just open it and add whatever beer i just tried, but you can also track where you were at and how you liked it, and write in any notes about it you want to remember.  convenient for when you find one you love.  my username on it, as on all things, is stephs1120, so find me and add me.


2. thrift thick makeup reviews on youtube.  if you ever want the most honest and detailed review about how a makeup item is going to perform before you spend your money on it, you must watch cassie.  she has her youtube made me buy it videos and her first impressions videos.  she buys almost everything herself so she isn't catering to a company to say nice things.  she shows you the product from beginning to end - the packaging, her application of it, check-ins throughout the day, and then a review at night.  you can actually see how the product holds up, which i love.  i have never seen such honest and detailed reviews, plus she has a fun personality and cute cat.  win.  she's already done a lot of popular products and is adding more all the time, so make her your stop before making any purchases!


3. disney music on repeat, particularly the lion king.  i'm going to do a challenge with betsy for my youtube channel - the disney music challenge.  where you start a song and one person has just a few seconds to guess the song.  if they can't, the other can steal it.  she is a disney fanatic and i will never beat her but i'm so damn competitive that i will try!  so i've been listening and studying all the songs.  it's hard.  my favorite disney song is 'why should i worry' from oliver and company, but i do love all the lion king songs too.  what's your favorite disney movie and song?  i have to make sure i know it!


happy thursday, friends.

Chicago Winter Survival Skills

January 13, 2016

today, it's 9 degrees.  tomorrow, it's going to be 40.  sunday, it'll be 14.  and that's chicago weather in a nutshell.  here's my top things you need to know about surviving winter in chicago:

1. marking your shoveled spots with plastic lawn chairs is absolutely legit.  you did all that work to shovel it, you're going to get it back when you come home!  if someone moves them, and parks in the spot, your neighbors will key their car.  100%.  the city tries every year to discourage this move, but they'll never win.

2. the law in chicago states that when weather is like, well, weather in chicago, it is not the responsibility of those downtown skyscrapers if ice falls off the roof and hits you.  it is assumed that people are put on notice by the weather (we give people too much credit.)  be aware of your surroundings, because you're not getting anything if you fall or get hit by ice chunks.

3. this is not hollywood.  and i love 'what not to wear' as much as the next girl, but the fact is, no one here judges what you're wearing.  so if your coat and boots and flannel long underwear are the ugliest things you could possibly buy, but keep you warm, buy them and wear them at all times.  this is not a fashion show, this is -2 windchill on a good day.  no one is noticing, no one is even looking because if you don't keep your head down, your eyeballs will freeze.  priorities.

4. and the fact is, despite a warm december, it's cold here more often than it is anything else, so you'll get way more use out of your winter wardrobe than your bikinis and sun dresses.  spend accordingly.  a good coat is an investment, and it's not like you need to repurchase every year.  get the best one and be done with it.

5. if you're going to venture out for things other than work, make it count.  i recommend bye bye liver.  it's an interactive comedy drinking game/show.  you'll love it.  and you'll be happily buzzed when you leave.  alcohol coat - it's a real thing.

6. cta public transportation actually isn't any less reliable in the winter than it is the rest of the year.  yes, it sucks the rest of the year, so there's no need to change your schedule.  it's reliably crappy all the time - if your usual bus is 10 minutes late in the summer, it's still 10 minutes late in the winter.  this surprises me too.  the metra however, is an unmitigated disaster.  don't do it.  they cannot operate in the cold, it apparently surprises them every year.  mystifying, truly.

and finally, my favorite tip -

7. there's apps to help you.  download them!  first, track where the snowplows are here, and then, download all the available apps - where the plows have already been, where to find fast street parking, where the 'no parking if snow is 2 inches' streets are, and most importantly - where your car is if you think it got towed.  if someone else is going to do the work for you, embrace it!  (there's even an ismetralate? app for those of you forced to take it.  that's how often it's screwed up, it has it's own app.)

but i embrace it.  bring on the cold and snow, i love it.  anyone out there a winter lover like me?  or are you all residing in warmer climates?

Spark Joy: A Review of the Latest Marie Kondo (KonMari) Book

January 10, 2016

in what seems like perfect timing, given my and everyone else's desire to declutter at the start of this new year, the latest from japanese professional cleaning consultant marie kondo has been released.  marie kondo is the author of the best seller the life changing magic of tidying up and if you've been around here for any length of time, you've absolutely heard me mention it.  her declutter method, the konmari method, is a pretty shocking and drastic way to quickly clean out your home.  essentially, you do it all at once (estimating a full house to take about 6 months), going category by category as she lists them, and only keep the belongings that spark joy.

hence the title of her latest work, spark joy.

this book is actually a companion to the first, so i recommend reading that first.  this follow up is an illustrated guide to everything she mentions in her first book (because if you actually followed her sock folding method without photos, you're a smarter person than i), and she answers the frequently asked questions that have come up.  including ones that i had myself, which i really appreciated.  you could read this one on it's own, the basics are just condensed.  personally, i recommend you start with the first book if you're new to decluttering and tidying.  if you already feel pretty good about the rate at which you're able to declutter, you may be able to just read this book and get a good understanding.

the book begins with a quick overview of the basics of the first and then jumps into the section of 'master tips.'  it's the answers to the frequently asked questions that come from the konmari declutter.  the most helpful section is a more definitive answer on how to decide what to get rid of, since many people were confused by how to tidy according to 'what sparks joy.'  it takes a look at how to define this for yourself, and then includes a section on how to organize what you're left with (which i loved, organizing is my main love of course.)

the second section is the 'tidying encyclopedia', which is where the most illustrations come in.  they're done in a cutesy way, like a little cartoon rabbit, which i was surprised by but i thought it made it whimsical and not so cold.  it shows how to fold and store items, and has a large section on komono, which are the miscellaneous items.  i particularly enjoyed this because it's the part that's really lacking in the first book.  although 'miscellaneous' seems to mean just little things you couldn't place in other categories, it's actually quite a lot and it includes kitchen items, which for me is a big problem.  this was the first time i felt like marie kondo actually addressed what you need to do in the kitchen and gave a pretty good list of what other areas to work through in this komono category.

and the final section just wraps up some smaller details, like tips on how to set up each area of the home in a way that will bring you joy and some stories of how tidying really affects other aspects of your life.

essentially, it is all the tiny details that were left out of the original, as well as some of the 'why' (why start with clothes?  why fold things?), and if you're not a details person, this won't appeal to you.  but although some information is repetitive of the first book, if you're a marie kondo fan and really enjoyed the life changing magic of tidying up, i do recommend you check out this new one.  whether you're 'done' with your konmari declutter or if you're only halfway, you'll still enjoy all her answers and details, and will absolutely learn something new to use on your declutter journey.  

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Financial Tip of the Month: 52 Week Money Plan

January 9, 2016

like last saturday, i'm offering up more quick tips.  but this time, it's on finances.  makes sense to start right at the beginning though, just like organizing, and get yourself on a money plan for the entire year.  don't you love it when someone else does all the work and planning for you?

now i'm not talking about the money saving plan that's always floating around, where you save a different amount each week all year to end up around $1300 by christmas.  (which is great of course, and very doable so i do recommend trying it.)  but i'm talking much more in depth than just saving.  i'm talking about getting your financial life in order, week by week.


this plan was created last year by morgan quinn, writer for go banking rates.  she is the former managing editor of the every popular mint.com, so she knows what's up.  since this plan is all ready to go for you, you can just print it out and rest easy knowing that, if you follow it, you'll be leaps and bounds better off financially come december.  heck, there may even be things you can cross off that you're already on top of (like regularly checking your credit score or cancelling wasteful paper statements.)

just don't skip any weeks!  it's all such useful information.  you'll pay down debt if you have it, you'll save for retirement, you'll have a budget and not overspend at christmas.  all the things you think are too overwhelming and difficult, you'll manage to do easily in this weekly program. you even get time off in august - take it.

come back to me in december and tell me it didn't work for you, i dare you.

My Favorite Things [As Told By Hawkeye]

January 8, 2016


Unlimited duck treats and rides in the car
Filtered ice water and my stool at the bar
A cooling water bed fit for a king,
These are a few of my favorite things

White Castle sliders and licking mom in the face
Digging in blankets and no personal space
Boneless and crispy fresh chicken wings
These are a few of my favorite things

My spot on the couch with a used tissue hoard
And knocking the pillows all off to the floor
John and the bacon-y treats that he brings
These are a few of my favorite things

During vet trips, when the shots sting
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
Like taco delivery when the phone rings
And then I don't feel so bad



you're welcome.  happy friday.

Three on Thursday

January 7, 2016

welcome back to three on thursday, a post of my weekly (and all time) top three favorites.  

i figured for the first three on thursday of the new year, i should share one of my favorite things of all time:

1. amazon smile.  i'm throwing this in for anyone who doesn't know that it exists, because i feel like maybe it's not advertised enough?  or if you don't use amazon enough, you're not aware of the option?  anyway, amazon smile.  just go here, pick your charity, and log into your account to tie it to your purchases.  when you make an amazon purchase, some money is donated to that charity you picked (mine is the aspca, naturally) at no extra cost to you.  so basically you just shop on amazon the same way you always have, just put smile. before amazon.com - so smile.amazon.com, just bookmark it.  but now some money is being donated to a cause you love!  the eligible purchases, like the new keurig i want, will say 'eligible for amazon smile donation' in the description.  it won't interfere with being prime eligible or eligible for free shipping.  so it takes literally no additional effort or money on your part to do some good in the world.  save all the doggies.

and two more good things to start your year off right:

2. year long financial planning and tracking books.  i use ynab software, which i love, but a lot of people do better with pen and paper.  it requires a bit more thought and work and it's been said that writing things down commits it to memory better than typing or entering it in an app.  if you want to get on track with your finances this year, get a notebook dedicated just to budgeting!  i personally recommend the products from blonde on a budget.  you can get printables ($17) if you'd like to go month by month and put it together yourself, or you can order it from her in bound form ($40) for the whole year, if you can snag one of the last ones.  i have both, in case you're wondering - always support your blog friends, they work hard on their products.  (plus printable buyers got a bound form discount!)  i also recommend this one by the etsy shop ninj and ninj ($23 plus shipping.)  the tear out pages for meal planning and shopping lists are just the cutest.



3. soap and glory smoothie star breakfast scrub.  i use it year round of course, but it's especially good for dry winter skin.  also, it smells like pancakes.  they have other scrubs too if you're not into the pancake smell, but i haven't tried them.  this one doesn't leave that slippery film in the tub after you rinse, which i appreciate.  and the scent fades after you rinse too so you can put on whatever lotion you want.  i follow it up with the same lotion because i personally like smelling like pancakes, but that's your call.  i buy mine at ulta, they usually have great sales.  don't let winter ruin your skin!

happy thursday, friends.

All Those New Year Things

January 6, 2016

who else is going to be writing 2015 on their documents for the next 2 months?  no, just me?  anyway, here's all of those typical new year things since i like making goals and i like reading other people's.  if you're as nosy as i am, read on:


- eat out less/less fast food.  i don't really know how to tally this, i just know it needs to be less.  any ideas?
- finish the #minsgame challenge this month.  here's where i posted about it, and it's certainly never too late to join - there's a prize on the line for the person who declutters the most thing.  i have already started and got a good amount of things out, but i do want to see how far i can make it before resorting to counting junk mail or hawkeye's (overload of) toys.
- get to my goal weight.  it's on my first 101 list that ends at the end of march.  not sure if i'll hit it quite by then, depends on my dedication (none.) but i can at least hit it by summer.


- buy a house
- everything on my second 101 in 1001 list.  okay not every single goal, but a lot of them!  whichever i can reasonably get to this year.
- re-read eat to live
- really really really embrace minimalism.  i still feel like i have too much stuff.  particularly in my closet and kitchen.  and i want to do it before moving in with john because i can't convince him to give up some of his 2000 t shirts if i'm still clinging to crap of my own i don't need.  like, why can't i get rid of 1 of my 9 pairs of jeans when i only wear 3?  i don't know.  i don't.  i need to assess that. (and i don't even freaking like jeans.)

so, i guess goals and resolutions are pretty similar?  the difference (in my mind) that my resolutions are more, i hate to say it, negative.  it's like... i don't want to do it, i kind of have to.  i love the idea of decluttering that much, but pushing myself to meet the full challenge is going to be tough.  and the other two just don't sound fun, let's be honest.  they'll be good for me, i just won't appreciate the process.

and finally,

word of the year.  

this always seems harder than the other types of goal setting new years things.  i finally settled on prepared.  which may seem strange to you, what kind of word of the year is that?  but it just works for me for what i want to get done in 2016.  i want to be prepared before things happen.  i like the feeling of getting my christmas gifts bought and wrapped by thanksgiving at the latest and i'd like that feeling to apply to other areas of my life.  i want emergency kits on hand, i want everything scheduled a month before my move, i want blog posts done before the month starts (holla, 210 posts scheduled.  yup.)  no, i can't plan everything, but oh wait i don't have kids yes i can.  i guess another word for prepared would be order.  just having everything in order before something comes up.  i'm giving up the xanax and embracing my ocd.  what could go wrong?

so, what's on your list?  anything you're planning on focusing on in 2016?

EDITED TO ADD: besides the couple of posts that have already gone live, i currently have 250 posts scheduled for 2016.  if you're curious how i do that or how i can help you do something similar, i'm talking all about it in helene's newest course, the blog detox.

YouTube Tuesday: My Apartment, Pre-Declutter

January 5, 2016

today's video is a little tour of my current apartment.  my roommate has moved out, though i still have a couple months on the lease (don't want to bother finding a new roommate in that short time), so all the things you'll see are all mine.  although i've cleared out a lot of my stuff over the years, i do still want to do another big round before moving.  i've started the #minsgame challenge i talked about here - which you still have time to join in on of course - but you'll see i put those things in the spare room, they haven't been moved out yet.  so it's all in pre-declutter state.

not only is it pre-declutter, it's also pre-cleaning service.  i had people over during christmas and new year's time, plus i was with my parents for part of that time making it hard to clean myself.  (and the influx of new things were still sitting out!)  so usually after holidays i have a cleaning service over, and it's worth every penny.  she came over last night and it's much prettier and cleaner now.  but i figured that filming while it was a bit dirtier and more unorganized than usual would make the post-declutter shots seem so much more dramatic.  here we go!

and for those of you at work, i do talk through the video about some things, but you can certainly watch it with the sound off and still see all the clutter.

so what did you think?  more or less clutter than your place?  i feel like my closet is my biggest disaster place right now.  although i have more in the kitchen, it all gets used.  i do plan on getting that closet under control, so i'll be back to share my final count and photos of it all organized!

Organizing Tip of the Month: A 52 Week Plan to an Organized Home

January 2, 2016

welcome to 2016, readers!  it's going to be a good time.  i'm excited.  i just love the fresh start of the new year.  some people don't like january because of the christmas let down, but it's one of my favorite months of the entire year.

this year, i've planned some new-ish things for the blog.  some shorter, some more complicated.  hopefully you'll like what's coming up.  this post being the first of the somethings different - quick tips on saturdays.  there will be different categories coming up, but you can expect that the first saturday of each month will be about organizing.  one of my most favorite topics.

so for the first organizing tip of the new year, it seemed appropriate to start at the beginning - get yourself on the 52 week plan to an organized home!

52 Weeks to an Organized Home

this plan has been totally scheduled for you by home storage solutions 101 (obviously feel free to skip the weeks that don't apply and use that time to catch up or spend more time on a harder area) so you don't have to anything but the actual organizing.  perfect if that happens to be one of your new year's resolutions.  which is very common, you're not alone - last year, it was on about 18% of resolution makers goals lists.  just under weight loss and saving money.

this plan is in it's 5th year so you get the full pdf of what's coming up (free, of course) and you can check back in with that blog each week to see more details and organizing tips.  a lot of people feel overwhelmed when they think about organizing the whole house, but if you follow this plan it'll be broken down into manageable pieces and you won't miss any spaces.  plus you can print it out and skip around if you need to and check off which areas you've completed.

so go check it out!  open the pdf there and click the links, you'll be taken to that week's blog post to get more details on your toughest areas.  you won't be disappointed, and you'll have a perfectly organized home in just one year.  not a lot of time when you think about how many years you've been disorganized.  if you get started, tag me on twitter or instagram and show me your newly organized space.  i love creeping on other people's homes.  like a weirdo.  it's fine.

The #MinsGame Challenge [Hint: There's a Prize]

January 1, 2016

happy new year!  literally right now where i am, since this is getting posted right at midnight.  and seeing as how i haven't posted since before christmas, it feels like a long time since i've been back to this space.  probably feels like a long time for you too, so welcome back.

since january is land of the resolutions, i figured the best way to start my year was with a good declutter.  christmas brings an influx of new things so i like to clear out the old, get the decor into storage, etc etc.  i talked to betsy about doing some sort of challenge, where whoever lasts the longest in the 30 day minimalism game would get lunch/dinner treated.  as i mentioned it, more people were interested in joining, so here we are - betsy and i are hosting a declutter challenge and to the victor goes a prize.  a container store gift card.

starting today, we're playing the #minsgame.  essentially it works like this - on day one, you get rid of one item.  on day two, two items.  all the way up to january 31, when you get rid of 31 items.  (and get rid of means trashing, selling, or donating.)  it ends up being almost 500 items, a major dent in your clutter stash.  but don't worry, it won't be too hard.  think of all the pens, junk mail, broken ornaments, magazines, perfume samples... it adds up.  and think about how much more ruthless you'll be when a prize is on the line.

so join us!  we want to see your declutter.  use the #minsgame hashtag so we can see your progress on twitter and instagram.  tag me in your photos.  start the new year off with a beautifully decluttered house.  (and then beautifully organize what's left with the gift card you could win.)

some basic rules:
- the person who gets the most stuff out of their house wins the prize.  pretty simple!  i'll be following the challenge, 1 on day 1, 2 on day 2, etc, because i know i don't have too much to get rid of.  not sure i'll even make it to day 31, which is why i donated the prize - i know i won't win.  everyone else though, you're in!  if you feel like you want to do it all in one weekend, you can do that too.  what matters is your total count at the end.  which may mean going past 500 items!
- re: sets of things.  it actually counts as two.  say you get rid of a pair of weights or a pair of shoes.  that counts as two items.  but not every individual scrap of paper.  if you get rid of a manual, that's one item.  or a folder of bank statements, one item.  if you have any questions, ask in the comments and i'll answer.
- challenge ends at the end of the day on january 31.  i'll be asking for your totals on february 1.

oh and we're going on the honor system, because i know anyone who's going to be on board for this is a friend.  i believe you if you say you trashed/donated what you said you did.  pictures are always great though, so take a selfie at the salvation army drop off and tag me in it!

so who's in?  let me know in the comments!

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