Frugality: For Certain Professionals During COVID-19

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

This post is catered towards a small niche of professionals which include medical doctors, first responders, military personnel and nurses. If you are within these fields, then you have a huge opportunity to practice your frugal muscles during this time! This is largely due to the fact that these professions get extreme discounts, benefits, and, well, FREE STUFF, as a thank you for the work you are doing during COVID-19.

It seems highly unfair that these professionals are all considered “essential” workers who have (for the most part) kept their jobs, and on top of all that, they get additional benefits, too. I am one of those professionals (dentist) and feel a bit guilty about how much “help” we’ve personally gotten out of this situation. Considering that our need is not as large as those of lower income families, it seems unjust that we get even more discounts than they, as well as a higher EDD payout for my husband. It’s true that in the most trying times, the rich get richer. The system isn’t fair, but at the same time, I’m not one to let opportunities pass by. In all honesty, I feel very guilty of trying to make the most financial benefit out of this situation, but I continue to do so in the hopes of digging myself further out of the financial rut – which is my half-a-million dollars of student debt.

I’m writing about this because it was only recently that I discovered how far the benefits go. I learned just yesterday that there was a time where you can order up to 5 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for free, get McDonalds meals for free, and even get Starbucks drinks for free. While those food deals are gone, other deals last until the end of the year, such as 20% off of Sonos, $60 AllBirds, 50% off Nike, 40% off Adidas, and more. On top of retail discounts, phone servicers are giving free monthly subscriptions, apps like Headspace are providing free usage until the end of the year, and even car dealerships are giving discounts on new car purchases or future services. Also, until the end of May, you’ve probably heard that many hotels are providing free lodging across the nation for healthcare professionals. Other than the latter, it remains unclear how the rest of these help with the COVID-19 situation except for the fact that it does provide alleviation for people in the aforementioned fields which is a sign of gratitude that I am grateful for.

So why is this a post about frugality?

Because if you are like me, paying back $575k worth of student debt due to a medical profession of your choosing, then perhaps this could help catapult you financially forward. We’ve done things like get FREE tacos from TacoBell four Tuesdays in a row. We’ve saved our EDD payments and are considering buying a rental property. I think it would behoove a few of us trying to pay loans aggressively to cut out the cell phone bill for at least three months. Of course, we shouldn’t be buying new cars or going shopping exuberantly. Although we are guilty of a bit of that, too…

With the 0% interest rate for student loans, grads trying to aggressively pay back their debt are in a very good situation. Make use of every perk available. To avoid taking credit where it’s due, I would suggest just google searching the list of healthcare discounts available due to COVID-19.

Like I said, I didn’t know of this yesterday. If I had, I would have definitely gotten a McDonalds meal every day and brought my co-workers doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. I am just sharing this here in case you haven’t heard it, too.

Minimalism: Bathroom Routines

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

If you were to walk into our tiny home right now, barge yourself up to our bathroom and pull back the shower curtain in one fell swoop, you may be shocked to find the bare-bones tub that we bathe in. The amount of products that we allow ourselves are few and far between. I never realized before that it was uncommon to house only a single bar of soap in the shower. It wasn’t until my mother-in-law stayed with us for a few weeks and commented on how “bizarre” our bathroom was that I thought to myself, “Maybe we ARE outliers.”

When I asked her why, she mentioned how most people would have products up the wazoo strewn over their bathing areas. I suppose it never occurred to me that some people have soaps, shampoos, conditioners, face moisturizers, loofahs, and whatever else (I don’t even know what else as I’ve run out of things to list). She said that most couples have his and hers products, because the beauty industry would like us to think that we need separate goods.

So we don’t own many things, and she may have stayed with us back when we were practicing zero plastic living much more stringently, hence the singular bar, but in our defense we’ve lightened up a bit on both counts since then. There are a few luxuries that we’ve afforded ourselves recently, one of which is this beautiful Japanese body scrub, which said mother-in-law gifted me for Christmas. And while the tub still usually holds only a bar of soap and this loofah hung up to dry on the shower curtain rod, we also own gifted bottles of Aesop products which we take into the tub occasionally.

I know that I may not get most people on board with me on this one, but may I pitch the idea that minimalist bath routines are the way to go? Firstly, we can reduce our environmental impact by just limiting the products that we buy. There is no need for his and hers segregation. Even though they are advertised as such, I don’t see why he and I need different products. Is that weird?

Secondly, we reduce packaging by reducing our consumption. In fact, people may find this odd, but we shampoo perhaps one to two times a week. We use the conditioner less frequently than that. We own beautiful products that were gifted to us but this miniature Aesop body soap has lasted me six months. Not because I never wash, but I don’t use it in excess. A tiny drop is good enough to bathe in. The shampoo and conditioner have also lasted us just as long, and we aren’t close to finishing. I would gander that the conditioner would last us the entire year.

Yes, they are in plastic bottles. No we are not perfect. Perhaps being gifted these and using them isn’t a sin. I like to think it’d be more eco-conscious than shipping more ethical shampoo and conditioner options across the country? I don’t know.

From a frugalist’s perspective, Aesop products are not cheap. In this case, they were free, but even if they weren’t, limiting consumption of Aesop bath products could save you more money than a person squandering Dove products on the daily. With less products to use, you can also reduce your monthly water bill. I like to shower in less than five minutes and Mike turns the water off every time he uses a bar of soap.

Phew, after this discussion, perhaps we are whackos. Just out of curiosity, how may items do you have in your bathtub?

Also, two of my favorite companies have 20% off sales on their entire site this weekend, which is sort of post related.

+ Bath towels and accessories from Parachute is 20% OFF through Monday. My favorite is this classic starter bundle in the color Bone.

+ Territory design also has 20% off everything and that is where my mother-in-law bought this body scrub

 

Finance: The Third Year of Paying Down $575,000 in Student Loans, An Update

Every May, I post an update on how we are doing with our path to financial independence, which largely depends on our student loan repayment plan. If you haven’t already heard the story,  I graduated at the age of 26 years old (turned 27 a few weeks after graduation) with more than half a million dollars in debt. A weight that was too heavy to bear, I decided to shun the common notion of waiting 25-30 years for loan forgiveness and instead to get rid of the debt as fast as I can.

Three years of aggressively tackling my loans is coming to an end, and what a journey it has been! You can read about my first two years here and here. As every year before, I will summarize what we have accomplished financially since last May, and how we plan to move forward and snowball our way down to being $0 in debt.

A Summary of Accomplishments for Year 3

This past year, there have been numerous accomplishments that I am very proud to share. It has been a year of experimentation and discovery for us both. But also, a year of triumphs over a few financial hurdles. Here is what we’ve done.

  • I opened a bakery and managed my own small business with one employee for an entire year. One of my life goals was to pursue my hobbies and possibly make them into mini-side-hustles. Other jobs that I had last year on top of dentistry was this blog space and dog-sitting via ROVER. After a year of baking for local restaurants, coffee shops, and markets, I closed my bakery two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic took place.
  • My husband wanted to switch careers. He has been interested in coding for some time and he decided to take a coding boot camp in order to be able to do systems analytics for large data sets. We enrolled him in a program which started January 2020 and paid for the schooling in FULL (it cost $8k) without reducing the amount we put towards student loans. We took the money from our “emergency fund” and built it back up over the course of 3 months. In February of 2020, when the company he was working at was doing lay offs, he requested to be considered for it due to a nice severance package for two months which ended on April 7, 2020.
  • COVID-19 epidemic happened which ended up helping us financially. My husband, whose severance ended in April, then applied for EDD and instead of getting very little money during this period of professional transition, he gets paid $4200 a month from the government.
  • As a dentist during COVID-19, I was in a precarious position. I split my time between two dental offices and was working 6 days a week prior to March 15. However, the government decided that dental treatment should be limited strictly to emergencies, thus causing one of my offices to shut down for the time-being. Luckily, the other office located 3 blocks from my house stayed open and I was able to work 3-4 days a week due to a particular patient pool. A 3-mile radius around our office houses over 330,000 residents who are mostly within a lower social-economic status. They usually do not have time to worry about preventative dental care and go to the dental office only when something hurts. Thus, emergencies ran amok. Additionally, 80% of the patients I see have Medical. Therefore, Medical covered all root canals and extractions at 100%, and everyone who came in with a medical emergency pretty much had a free pass at getting the treatment started on that day. Since most other dental offices were closed, patients from 30 miles away were driving to see us, too. If it were any other dental office, I would have been sitting at home like all my other colleagues but due to sheer luck, this actually kept us afloat.
  • COVID-19 helped us even further by reducing the interest rate on student loans to 0% until the end of September. This is a dream for all graduates paying off student debt, especially if they are paying it off aggressively. With the uncertainty that came in March, we paused student loan repayment and kept all our incomes liquid. However, now that we realize that the stipend from EDD for Mike and my work situation puts us at a stable financial position, we have enough set aside for student loans to bring us in the $300,000s ($375k to be exact)! Which is CRAZY! That means that in three years, we were able to go from $575k to $375k at a 6.8% interest rate. So now, we are tossing and turning the option of partially withholding some of that loan repayment money and putting it into buying a second property that we can use as a rental unit – thus increasing passive income. We are still up in the air about whether to experiment with real estate or focus on paying down loans. Perhaps we get both?
  • This past weekend, we finished off my husband’s car payment, a loan that lasted five years. My husband has owned three cars and three motorcycles. Five years ago, he was convinced by the dealer that he should take out a car loan to improve his credit. His other motor vehicles were always bought in full and in cash. The dealer recommended a car loan to improve his chances of being able to get a house mortgage in the future. Since Mike has no history of accruing debt, opening his first credit card AFTER graduating from college, he technically had “bad credit”. Mike signed up for a car loan and while I agree it improved his credit tremendously, I also get weak in the knees thinking about all the money we lost on interest. It’s a screwy system. But now it’s all over, which adds that monthly $585 car payment towards liquid assets which we can put into our loans or a rental unit.
  • Speaking of mortgages, we are finishing up our home refinance, which if successful would reduce our monthly payments by $500 a month. Add this to the savings from the finished car payments, and that’s an extra $1k to put towards snowballing our path to FI.
  • Lastly, we made a few adjustments including switching our car insurance and our homeowner’s insurance to a different company so that we can shave off an extra $100 per month. Now that Mike is at home working on his course, we have saved money on dining out since someone is always home making meals. Also, without the bakery, I have less stress and can focus on improving our finances and other aspects of our personal life.

How to Continue Snowballing

There are many ways in which we are snowballing the loan repayment so that we gain momentum and speed as time progresses. An example of this is the car being fully paid off, which then adds an additional monthly $585 towards our repayment plan. We had created many ideas along the way on how to make our repayment system better. Here are a few ways.

  • The Repaye program pays 50% of interest for the first three years of the program. By switching to REPAYE within the first year of repayment, we have saved thousands of dollars on interest. The final year of REPAYE is this coming year. We hope to reach mid to low $300k by the time it ends.
  • After the 50% perk of REPAYE ends, we hope to be at a low enough dollar amount to refinance the entire student debt. If we can refinance at 3% instead of the 6.8%, that would speed up our progress tremendously. Also, as the principal amount decreases, more of our repayments go towards the principal itself.
  • We are debating about purchasing a second property as a rental unit. If we do, we are searching for one that would at least cover the mortgage and it would be swell if we could find one that can actually rake in a bit more than the mortgage per month. This builds equity under our name and sets us up for passive income in the future in case we pursue early retirement. As we get closer to the end of the student loans, we always have the option of selling it (assuming it accrues value) towards the end of repayment to get a chunk of liquid assets and put it into the loans. Of course, the latter option is less financially savvy.
  • Currently, with me working and Mike unemployed, we can still afford our monthly $6.5k student loan payment and our living expenses. My hope is that Mike will get a job after the coding program that he enjoys and we can funnel 100% of the additional income into loans.
  • Currently, we are renting the bottom floor of our loft to my brother’s girlfriend for a very cheap rate to help her out. My brother is currently in Arizona starting his second year of dental school in the Fall. There has been discussion about them moving in together in a year or so. Of course, we would love for her to stay with us forever and ever but if she does choose to move to Arizona, we can definitely rent the bottom space closer to market value. Since our live-work-loft is commercially zoned and faces a downtown area, we can rent the bottom space to either a business or a resident. Our options are widened by the fact that it can act as an office space or a storefront.

When we first started our student loan repayment journey, we thought it’d be great to pay it back in less than 10 years. The first plan we made put us at 9.8 years. We made such good headway the first year but it wasn’t until Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner tipped us off on switching our repayment plans in order to save more money that our trajectory put as at paying back the debt in 7 years. With COVID-19’s help, I did the calculations at the current rate, I can repay it in 3.5 more years. But assuming Mike gets a job soon after his coding camp ends in June, I think we can actually finish this in only 2.5 more years.

And to think that people almost convinced us not to do it. They said life would be very difficult for us personally and financially. Yet we are the only couple we know who are calling the shots at work, creating our own schedules, switching professions if we wanted to, pursuing hobbies as options to replace work, traveling the world freely, and living a relatively stress-free life. Choosing the harder path, the road less traveled, really set us up for a different life.

Which is to say that sometimes, it pays off to follow your gut. Reach for your dreams. Look at more than just numbers. Surround yourself with like-minded people, cut out societal expectations, go rogue and run like vagabonds toward the nearest exit signs. Be afraid and do it anyway. Live life to the fullest, you’ll have no regrets.

Here’s to Year #4! Cheers!

Tips for New Grads with Large Student Debt

  • Get a consultation with Travis Hornsby of Student Loan Planner. I know it costs money and it feels difficult to pay more money when your goals are to save and pay back debt. But you don’t know what you don’t know and Travis is well-versed in student loan repayment options. Even when we were already aggressively tackling our student debt and working with an amazing financial planner whose wife was a dentist herself, Travis still taught us a few things we didn’t know. He saved us about $10,000 by simply placing us in a different repayment plan!
  • Run the numbers. This may be hard without someone’s help, but you’ve really got to run every possible repayment scenario to see which one saves you the most money. Of course, in the end, you may choose the one that affords you the lifestyle you want. In our case, we chose the one that does both. By choosing to aggressively pay back debt, we are saving more than $100,000 than if we just waited for forgiveness 25-30 years later. We also are freeing ourselves us 15-25 years sooner than our peers, which is a huge psychological benefit. Notice that I said we chose the one that saves us the most money. Travis will argue that we didn’t choose the one that would make us the most money. Which is true considering you can invest over 25 years of working. But I guarantee you we chose what was right for us.
  • Figure out your priorities in life. The best thing our financial planner did when we started talking about our finances was to spend a few sessions in the beginning asking us the hard questions to try to figure out what exactly we wanted. It was like marriage counseling for money. The top few items we had were to spend time with family, travel the world, and have the freedom to pursue our interests and hobbies. Freedom and independence dominated the conversation, and it was because of this that we decided aggressive repayment was the way to go.
  • Master a budget. You have to start somewhere. Mastering the budget is where you have to start. You can always increase your income, but if you never learn to curb your spending then there is no point. I made this course FREE on my blog to help as many people out. We use YNAB to manage our budget.
  • Surround yourself with a community of like-minded people. There is that saying that you are as good as the 5 people you surround yourself with. I choose to surround myself with finance resources. My favorite finance podcast is ChooseFI, but there is also Afford Anything and FIRE drill. My favorite book is Your Money or Your Life  by Vicki Robinson but other goodies are The Simple Path to Wealth and Goodbye Things. And then, of course, there are blogs, including Mr. Money Mustache, Mad Fientist, JL Collins, and The Frugalwoods.

Play Pretend: Memorial Day Weekend Staycation

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

I once posted a guide to staycations less than a year ago and I find that post to be excruciatingly relevant as Memorial Day Weekend nears. I doubt many of us will be jet-setting across the globe with our families, but at the same time I would gander that many of us are tired of hunkering down at home. The trick to any staycation, of course, is to rid the self of routine. Anything that you would do on a normal weekend should be shoved under a rug, if only for the holiday weekend.

Now staycations don’t just marvelously appear out of thin air. The most successful ones require meticulous planning, should a simple chore meander its way to make a ruinous weekend. I like to plan a few activities throughout. Not so many that we can’t remain fluid, but enough to avoid the sinking feeling that all this is was a wasted holiday.

Everything you need to create a delicious weekend – as if you haven’t had enough practice this quarantine season – below.

A few tips, if I may.

  • Get dressed for the occasion. Even if it means you will be in your home all day long, I really do feel that getting dressed will make this time more special. Put on some earrings and shoes. Wear a nice dress if weather permits. Remember the days when you were a child playing dress-up? It’s the first step to playing pretend.
  • Start the day setting the tone at home. Draw back the curtains, fling open the windows, light a candle. Make the bed by straightening the sheets and fluffing the pillows. These are the first few things I do to make the home feel like someplace I want to be.
  • Plan time outdoors. I know this may seem a bit anti-staycation but in all honesty, cooping up all day isn’t the best thing for any of us these days. Even if it means stepping out on your tiny-home balcony in order to breathe fresh air and get some sunshine. I like to wear my bathing suit and lay out on fake grass. You may prefer to sit in a swing and drink white wine.
  • Set the table. Let’s face it. We are all probably eating at home. But instead of cooking up Top Ramen like we always do, why not spruce up the event? Perhaps a cheese board of your creation in the afternoon. A farmer’s market fruit bowl. Freshly baked scones for tea time. Support a local restaurant that you’ve been wanting to try for AGES. Order delivery and set the table. Pull out all the stops. Linens, your best china, and candlesticks. Set the mood for something more special than TV dinners.
  • Add a spa-like quality to rest. Some vacations are for adventure. Others are meant for reset. Since the former is inaccessible to many of us at the moment, I’d like to propose a relaxing staycation for all. Forget the flower petals on the bed. That will only result in more clean-up. Keep it simple. Put on silky pajamas, soak feet in herbal water, crank up the essential oil diffuser. Turn on slow jams and dim the lights.

For those wishing to spruce up the weekend with a bout of shopping, here are a few sales going on for which my readers can receive discounts.

Looking for new shoes? From now until the end of the month, readers get an additional 20% off all sale styles from Nisolo with the code MDWDEBTIST . For those looking forward to decluttering rather than shop, send your unwanted but still usable shoes to Nisolo and save $40 credit for a later date. 

Preparing to lounge in your underwear all Memorial Weekend long? TheDebtist readers get 15% from Organic Basics using the code DEBTISTOBC. This weekend only, get free international shipping using code GLOBAL. Check out my reviews of other sources for Intimates in this post

Planning to spend the weekend outdoors? Right now, Prana has 25-30% off select styles until the 25th of May. If you’d preferOutdoor Voices, here is a code that gives $20 to you, $20 to me. 

Curating Closets: Swimwear

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

I don’t like much physical activities that require sole training (I’m more motivated in groups or teams) barring a single exception: swimming. In high-school, I was not athletically dedicated enough to sign up for a sport but I did get out of the required Phys Ed classes by signing up for swimming – an alternative that did not require us to compete but that entailed endless laps of different styles day in and day out. I’m not exactly a fish out of water, but do I love the pool!

Since my preferred water activity is freestyle, I like bathing suits that will assist me in a good workout without the worry of whether a bottom will have the ability to hang on. Having been traumatized in my early twenties when a massive Southern California wave tossed me around and took my swim undies with its recessing tide (true story – I had to wear my male friend’s flashy gold water polo brief which he happened to carry around in his beach bag), I am extremely picky about choosing my swim attire. I get irked when I kick off the walls of a pool and feel a slight tug on my swim wear.

Therefore, I’ve stuck with one-pieces in the last decade. As a minimalist of five years, I have only owned one suit at a time (whereas young-me owned 4-5 pairs). And while I’ve likely wasted away my best years sitting in a cover up that acts as a full bodysuit armor, I’ve also spent much of my time poolside frolicking in the waters freely, a trade-off that I have no regrets over. As I watch other girls sun-bathe on decks with lotion in hand, I am the one cannon-balling with my guy friends into the deep end. Which isn’t to say sun-bathing isn’t cool. Only that you choose the suit that fits you.

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So on to the point: When perusing for a new suit, I try to search for sustainable brands trying to mitigate a balance between creating hydrophilic attire and using environmentally-friendly fabric materials. Therein lies the rub. However, I was able to wrangle a few brands to rally behind.

Here are a few favorites.

+ Summersalt – I personally currently own a black SummerSalt one-piece (pictured throughout this post) with a classic racerback cut-out and a mesh upper half. The cut is supposed to be full coverage for the bottom half but even with my short stature, I think the cut is pretty high on the hip, exuding a big of that 80’s Baywatch style that puts this suit far away from being considered grandmotherly. It is, what I like to call, “the Little Black Dress of Swimwear”.

+ Reformation– When I was conisdering which swim suit to buy a year ago, Reformation was not only a contender but the second runner-up. I have a soft spot for vintage design. Reformation is one of the more famous companies in the slow fashion industry. Their retro styles spot high-waisted bottoms and bandeau tops, among other modern cuts. My favorite is this minimalist Brittany one-piece and readers would be happy to know that they are currently offering 30% off site-wide with free shipping around the globe.

+ Vitamin A– Vitamin A is the site for all bombshell ethical consumers. Their large selection of suits in Ecolux fabric is mostly made locally in Southern California. They also partner with a number of organizations to protect the environment (mostly marine habitats) by donating a portion of their proceeds. This is a company that believes in sustainability as much as female empowerment. Use this link to receive 25% off your next purchase.

+ Land of Women – This is for the essentialist woman. This New York based company cuts and stitches all products by a family-owned manufacturer. They offer a small collection of basics in practical cuts to simplify the shopping experience.

+ Nude – The Nude Label is another option for the minimalist who prefers bikinis in black or brown and high hip huggers. Their suits use 82% recycled polyamide without the frills or fuss. It’s a perfect stop for those shopping for intimates as well. See my review post on Intimates here.

+ Prana – Prana is my husband’s favorite source of activewear. We both own a pair of hiking pants by Prana from when we went on our honeymoon three years ago and since then, those pants has gotten us through exceptionally difficult hikes all across the world. Suffice to say, they have high-quality products, swimwear included. Bathing suits use econyl recycled nylon, however I am still not sure how I feel about the percentage of elastane still being used. Of course it isn’t the perfect solution, but their company as a whole tries their best at creating sustainable clothes.

I suppose the main point of all this though, is the importance of our planet, the preservation of marine habitat, and the taking for granted simple things such as beach access and laying out on the sand. I do miss the ocean. I can’t imagine a world where younger generations have no access to such things. Hence the importance of choosing wisely what we consume, how we consume, and which companies we support.

Looking forward to summer days by the water…

XOXO

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Small Space Living

Tip 10 // Hide the remote control

When it comes to small space living, it becomes important for a neatnik such as myself to have a few simple solutions regarding clutter. Small spaces can feel overwhelmingly full much quicker than larger spaces, and neatniks can feel overwhelmed much quicker than carefree individuals. Rules such as keeping surfaces clear or walls white help tremendously in creating a peaceful sanctuary for mindful living. Whereas a regular sized home may house a grand clock over the fireplace, for example, a small space home would be better off sticking to bare walls.

As a minimalist living in a tiny home, the importance of these basic ‘rules’ becomes magnified. I am not a naturally tidy person. However, I am an introvert who does not like an excess of stimuli and who works most efficiently out of a space without distractions. Therefore, I work diligently in order to maintain the environment that lets me thrive. Which leads me to the conversation of hiding remote controls.

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I am greatly averse to tech because of the endless amount of wires, routers, chargers, connections, et cetera that come with them. I like the devices themselves, if only they could be invisible and not need to be attached to something to communicate. As you can see here, I try with all my might to disguise mangy cables and the like. I mean, we don’t even have a TV because I did not want anything bulky hanging on our walls. Instead, we have a portable projector that creates a screen on our wall bigger than any TV we could buy but remains non-existent when not in use … a win-win situation for us both.

Unfortunately, a projector still requires wires to hook up to speakers and power. It also came with a remote control. This is the only remote control we own, which is already quite the statement considering the number of controls my parents have. It’s quite tiny too, but it still felt like a visual nuisance, until now.

We’ve decided to stash the remote control in a place unseen. Instead of always looking for it (sometimes it would be on the kitchen island, on the dining table, on the projector itself, on top of the speaker, etc.) and instead of always being an eyesore (because previously it belonged on the tiny side table), I am happy to say that it has a designated spot out-of-sight. With the help of two pieces of velcro that we had lying around in the garage, we decided to velcro the control underneath the side table that it’s supposed to sit on. The project was hardly a project at all. We simply cut a small piece of velcro and placed the felt-type part on the remote and the scratchy-part underneath the table.

Now our surfaces are clear of clutter, our remote control is safely stashed in it’s proper place, and peacefulness has been restored.

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I know this may seem less dramatic than I make it sound, but I cannot emphasize how important small details such as these are to creating an intentionally curated home. Simple solutions in small spaces bring me such joy. I wanted to write about it as yet another example that storage solutions does not always lie in buying storage containers, as more begets more. There are equally easy solutions that can be found with a bit of resourcefulness and creativity. Most of the time, these are solutions that save you money. And of course, there is always the option of getting rid of. If you think about it, a remote control is quite unnecessary since the projector sits right behind the couch and every button you’d need is within arm’s reach. Whereas most people would think that purchasing a basket to stash the control in would be the better solution, I would argue that it goes against curation as a whole.

How about you?DSC01147

 

 

Simple Things: Ikebana

It’s Mother’s Day and while most of the Western world is showering their moms with love in the form of large bouquets and wreaths, I figure I’d share a personally preferred minimalist and intentional flower arrangement – ikebana.

The art of ikebana is a Japanese way of making bouquets. Translated literally, it means “making flowers alive”, which to me is poetry itself. Rather than focusing on gathering as many flowers as possible, the art requires a curation of sorts. Typically, only five to thirteen stems are used, and a flower frog with pins are employed to arrange the flowers in a romantic way.

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Unlike flower bouquets lining groceries and florist shops, these arrangements use stems and leaves, even blades of grass. Whatever is calling to the artist is included. It’s the ultimate proof that beauty can be found in even the simplest of things.

I like the practice of Ikebana because it adds an element of mindfulness to the process. Not needing to drive to a floral shop or pay for flowers, I pick simple buds or greenery that I find on walks around the neighborhood. What captures my attention depends on the day, and sometimes even twigs will appear wondrous in their own right. I collect a handful of treasures and curate them when I get home. Curating is arguably the most difficult part, but also my favorite. I put to use everything I know about creating an intentional home and apply it to ikebana.

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I’ve chosen these beautiful vessels from Notary Ceramics, a hand-thrown pottery located in Oregon dishing out the most beautifully minimalist pieces. There are two that I like – one with a water bowl in the center and only a few spaces for stems, and a smaller one with more opportunity for fronds and the like, but without a water bowl.

The water is another element of ikebana. It is said that one shouldn’t care whether petals or leaves fall into the water, for there is beauty in the imperfections, too. I love when soft petals float over the water’s surface, or when small buds break off from their stems into the pool.

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As you’ve probably guessed, for Mother’s Day I gifted my mother one of these flower frogs from Notary Ceramics. I hope that she keeps it by her bedside table, or in the center of the kitchen island for the morning light to shine on. I imagine her finding a few whimsical strands of nature when she walks our family dog with my father. I hope she remembers what it was like to be a child, carrying treasures home from her adventures. May she find a creative moment each week that lends beauty to her home as she carefully chooses her pickings. May more people practice a simpler art, daily, and bring joy to mother’s everyday after Mother’s Day.

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