Pushcarts: A Small Space WFH Desk Solution

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Small Space Living: Tip #17: Find Versatility in Carts

I am starting to like how my work-from-home space is coming together. It’s looking so good that I can almost call it official. For a year I’ve just been a migratory worker, finding space on the dining table, on the couch, in a corner of our living room, and occasionally, escaping on the tiny balcony. It’s nice to reclaim a dedicated work-from-home space and decorate it more permanently, the way I have always wanted.

I have decided to keep my Herman Miller Aeron Chair (affiliate link) because it is such a classic and have recently upgraded my desk to String Furniture’s Work Desk (affiliate link) in Beige/White. I wrote about my excitable desk upgrade here. However, in making the transition, I did lose drawer space, exchanging it for less clutter and a slimmer desk profile. I debated about buying a minimalist filing cabinet (this one from Branch furniture was my favorite) but decided against it when my frugal side won over my need to be esthetically pleasing.

Instead, I opted for a pushcart from Ikea that was equally pleasing to me, extremely affordable ($28!), and insanely more versatile. Hence, the tip for this post. To be fair, I am partial to pushcarts, having worked as a librarian at USC while going to dental school. While my classmates were studying or relaxing at home, I spent evenings after school in the dark aisles of my favorite, Harry-Potter-esque library on campus, organizing books and tidying shelves. I was left to my own, listening to podcasts whilst I pushed my push cart around. Some nights, the library would be so deserted that I would scare myself in the silence, especially when the vents turned on or the lights of the old building flickered. To say that pushcarts lend a bit of nostalgia would be an understatement for this bookworm, who also spent 200+ volunteer hours at the local library in high-school.

The idea of using a shopping cart in lieu of a filing cabinet for a WFH space actually first came to me when I was perusing Yamazaki Home’s website. Yamazaki Home is my favorite source for all minimalist household products. They mix a Japanese esthetic with modern minimalism and use materials such as ceramic, wood, and metals. I saw this rolling kitchen island cart (affiliate link) and the rest was history! They actually have a number of cart options, all of which can be viewable here (affiliate link).

The reason why the cart was a great solution for me was because of our tiny space. There is only approximately 14 inches between the wall and the desk where I needed to squeeze a filing cabinet through. The Nissafors cart from Ikea is less than a foot wide. It has three levels, with the bottom shelf being deeper. I use an organizer that I talked about in this post to keep my camera and unsightly chargers and cords hidden on the deeper shelf. I use the top shelf to hold a candle, a jug of water, a water glass, my phone, plus other things that I am currently using for that workday. The middle shelf holds paperwork, my planner, my TBC Eyewear Blue Light blockers, and other things that I may not be using for the day but I would like to use in the near future.

I love the wheels on the cart, which took me only fifteen minutes to assemble. I sometimes push the cart to the living room when I want to collect other desk supplies that are hidden in our media console. I sometimes push the cart to the kitchen, when I want to refill my jug of water, or pick up a cup of tea or coffee. When working at my desk, I can slide the cart out slightly so that it is right next to me, like an open drawer. At the end of the day, I tuck the cart back into the nook by the wall.

Apart from being a comrade for my work station, the Nissafors cart can double as a planter stand. I can place multiple plants on its three shelves and trolley them over to the sunniest of windows. If a plant is wanting of sunlight, this cart can easily bring them there for the afternoon, and then bring them home to their resting places in the evening.

The cart also doubles as a serving tray for gloomy weekend mornings at home, when scones and coffee need to be transported to the bed or by the couch. And on days when we host dinners at home, the cart can double as a bar cart, holding bottles of wine on the bottom shelf, stocking cans on the middle tier, and serving cocktails up top. I told you this girl has a penchant for pushcarts.

Anywho, chalk this post up to a simple desk solution for small spaces. Or an absolute nerd talking up storage carts. Whatever the case may be, this is a way for me to be more frugal, minimalist, and creative in making my WFH space a bit more me. Take it or leave it, but please do leave your own solutions to small spaces, in case other readers need ideas.

How to Use Storage Boxes for Organizing the Living Room

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A tidy home equals a tidy mind, or so the saying goes. It’s no wonder most people would assume that I have an already tidy mind by looking at my home. Quite the contrary. The reason why I work so hard at keeping my home minimal is because I have a tendency to be cluttered. It becomes obvious when one analyzes my lifestyle. I am always doing something. I am always trying to be better. I have multiple jobs, and do twenty different things in a day. In order to focus on all of that madness, I need a space that is completely barebones and highly organized.

I have shared before that the best way to stay tidy for me is to keep everything behind closed doors. But things aren’t just thrown willy-nilly into cabinets and drawers all the time. I shared last week how TokoDesign (gifted) helps us keep our kitchen drawer neat. I employ a similar tactic in our living room, where we have one media console. I employ storage boxes and cabinetry to organize my stuff. Inside the media cabinets, we hide a number of things, but keep it fashionably clean.

The biggest thing we hide are our white Sonos 5 speakers. (affiliate link) I despise tech for its wires and unsightly bulkiness, even though I love tech for all the things it allows us to do. It’s a necessary but ugly thing – so my one requirement for speakers was to be able to hide them. The small size fits perfectly in our Ikea Besta media console (we have the combination with white doors/Stelsviken/Stubbarp/High-Gloss/Beige combination with a glass top and without the legs on). The sleek appearance of Sonos displays beautifully, making it okay for me to leave the doors open when it is in use. I love how the white color option really matches our home’s Scandinavian style. My husband enjoys the sound quality of Sonos speakers, and it has been so nice adjusting the volume and playing music from Spotify using our cell-phones. I love playing music from the kitchen island while we cook meals together on the weekends. It also easily connects to our record player and projector via Wifi.

The second thing I hide are all of my notebooks and binders. I use Ikea’s White Tjena Magazine Files to keep non-white colored books hidden. I first saw this tactic used in the Kinfolk Home book. I loved the way you could keep cabinets and open shelving clean, while having my most-used recipe books at-hand at all times. The file boxes are very sturdy and have a notch at the end for easy movement and grabbing. These boxes are sold in beige and black as well, in case white doesn’t match your style. As for the collection of books that have white or black bindings, I display those openly within the cabinet. These books include our Kinfolk collection and Drift magazines.

In this console, we also hold some Ikea boxes from Ikea’s Kuggis collection. This collection has a number of white boxes in different sizes. I use them both in the living room and in the bathroom. One larger box holds my desk supplies, including pens, hard-drives, envelopes, stamps, and paintbrushes. A smaller box holds Mike’s cables and other tiny trinkets. These boxes come with lids and have a circular cut-out akin to the Magazine files, which makes grabbing and moving them quite convenient.

We placed the record player in the center of the console and hide the records in the middle cabinet. I specifically chose the middle cabinet because using the speakers require the left and right cabinets to be open. I couldn’t find a white container that was big enough to hold the records, so I did what I could and hid it where it can stay hidden. Along with it are the main power plug, the cables that power the speakers, Mike’s Switch console and charger, and his gaming controller. The unsightly things go in the cabinet that stays mostly closed.

I make it a point to keep the doors to our media console closed unless we are using our Sonos speakers. This makes it easy for me to “tidy” the space. In photographs, it makes the living room look polished at all times. When guests are over, the clutter stays out of the way. Even if we play music for dinner parties, the white boxes and magazine files give the living room a cohesive look. I know not everyone shares my neatnik tendencies, but for those who do, these are some of the ways I’ve learned to cope with messiness. I’d love to hear your own tips and tricks!

WFH Desk Solutions for Small Spaces

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Well, it’s September and the kids are back in school, if you can call it that. By now, you’ve probably found a work-from-home solution that applies to your situation. Given, of course, that you do have work to do. It doesn’t escape me, the irony of celebrating Labor Day with many Americans outside of work. Or celebrating our hard work, when parents are shouldering schoolwork without pay for the past few months. Or mothers who have never been paid, ever, for that matter.

Regardless, we find ways and solutions. I remember in our own home, when shut-downs first happened, we thought this would be a temporary thing. “It would only be for two weeks,” we said. We made work stations around the only desk that existed in our small space. Mike had his desk in the corner, Kirse took the dining table and laid out the laptop, two monitors, and keyboard that she took home from work, and I sidled next to a side-table in the living room that could barely seat my Microsoft Surface Pro (pictured above). If I needed privacy for a recording or online meeting, I would escape to our tiny balcony and cross my fingers that the garbage truck would arrive an hour later than normally scheduled.

Small spaces in particular make working from home quite tricky. Where does a person create separation between work and home when there is no office space? How to isolate when the living room is the bedroom next to the kitchen where a significant other needs to make lunch? Where does a parent take a call, when there are no doors in the home and an ever-curious child has an everlasting list of questions? How can you keep a professional face on a Zoom call when you see your two youngest kids fighting in the corner of your eye? Lastly, how does one shut off for the evening, when the office desk is always visible in the home?

Thankfully, those who live in small spaces have had plenty of practice with making do. I am always amazed by tiny home dwellers’ creativity when it comes to maximizing a space. For WFH solutions in particular, I’ve heard pod-casters lock themselves in closets for a bit of sound-proofing. I’ve seen folding screens and shower curtains hiding desks in bedroom corners so that a house can actually feel like a home. I’ve read about people using their kitchen island as a make-shift standing desk, and I feel for people who gave up clothing and a dresser to create space for a computer.

Now, with kids schooling at home, parents have the added complexity of creating spaces for their little ones to thrive in. Not to mention, balancing different schedules and timelines, wearing the hat of parent, teacher, tutor, and money-maker, as well as logging into Zoom calls for the kids and the self.

None of this is easy, let alone sustainable. I, do, however find hope in the fact that we are all trying to make do. I want to believe that tomorrow it will be easier. That our reality is waiting for us just around the corner. Meanwhile, I hope these short stories help others feel a little less alone. And for those who haven’t quite found WFH solutions in their small space, perhaps the addition of one of these would make all the difference.

For those wishing to read more, I suggest these WFH solutions by 600sqftandababy and the idea of taking a Gap Year for the little ones.

The planner is from Smitten on Paper.

Laundry Hampers for Small Spaces

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Leave it to me to worry incessantly about finding the right laundry hamper. In the name of transparency, I will admit to having a small break-down over my own laundry bag conundrum. The most mundane thing has caused me to cry as we walked away from Ikea with a solution that was perfectly functional, but definitely not eco-conscious or beautiful.

I have owned the same hamper since I moved out of my parent’s home at the age of 22 years old. I have never upgraded, even after moving four times since. Even after getting married. Even after getting a job and earning a decent living. Because when you are indebted to a system, you have no time to hone in on hampers.

But with the recent events turning my focus inward on where I spend most of my days (home), I can’t help but notice these little details. How the old rattan basket that I proudly bought at Walmart as a symbol of my grown-up-ness is fraying at one end. How twigs have unraveled and fallen off, leaving a little opening at the right-most edge. How it has sat patiently in the middle of the bathroom floor, in between the toilet and the tub, underneath the old towel rod that’s no longer there, waiting for its turn to be noticed. Silently, it endured the slamming of its rickety lid, the careless tossing of dirty clothes into the deep abyss, the merciless plop of its entire being in front of the washing machine. It has weathered weekly abuse, without so much as a peep.

Finally, it was noticed. And thanked for its services. Its time to retire has come.

Its replacement, however, is no easy find. With its retirement came a long list of expectations for the one that would take its place. A few of my requirements, I share below:

I no longer wished to have something wedged between the toilet and tub.
I no longer wanted the laundry to be in plain sight. Which meant it had to somehow fit in the narrow corner next to the washer hidden by a barn door. This narrow space happened to be only 9″ wide.
I didn’t want a hamper that would attract used (but still reusable) clothing until laundry day.
I didn’t want something pricey.
But it had to be eco-conscious and beautiful to look at.
Let alone functional.

I strike hard bargains. I can attest to the fact that, for me, curation is emotionally draining work. Anything that falls short of perfect is painfully inadequate.

What’s the big deal?, you say. It’s just a hamper.

However, nothing in my life is “just” anything. Belittling decisions such as these reduce their importance, which then reduces the end-product of our dwellings. In order to avoid ending up with “less-than”, I need to do the work now. Assuming these things to be trivial would be a mistake. Perhaps that’s a personality thing, but to me, everything is embedded with meaning and purpose, so no, it’s not just a hamper.

The hamper is a symbol holding all hope that I can have my dream home with nothing more than a few pennies to my name. Every item I own is imbued with relentless reserve, discipline and hard work. A reward for my penny-pinching. A sign that it’ll all be okay.

So, yes, I had a break-down at Ikea. After much research, I arrived at the store to find that the one I didn’t want but had come to terms with was sold out. I watched as a customer took away the floor model, having reached it mere seconds before I did. I felt my heart sink, my hopes of a good home dwindle. I walked around for thirty minutes debating on buying the same laundry hamper in black, instead of white. I bought it, resisting the alternative which was to purchase the hamper of my dreams for five times the price. Silent tears fell as I walked to my car.

I’m not saying we should care so much about first world problems such as these. But I hope this post draws attention to the fact that we are human. There will be moments where we will be sad about laundry hampers. Where small space living limitations make life a little harder to live. When decisions have to be made and you need to make do with the one you don’t want. I go through it, too. Like all things, it ends up being okay.

Silver linings still reside in the daydreams.

Below are some of my favorite laundry hampers for small spaces, including the Ikea one that ended up making the cut and entering our home.

  1. Canvas Laundry Bin on Wheels.
  2. A Hanging Linen Laundry Bag.
  3. A Japanese Foldable Hamper.
  4. A Washable Paper Laundry Bag.
  5. A Narrow Ikea Hamper.
  6. A Laundry Station and Hamper.

How to Fall In Love with a Kitchen

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When we first moved in, I used to hate our kitchen. I never said it out loud because I didn’t want it to be true. I took feeling this way to be a sign of failure. Oh goodness, I chose a home with a kitchen I didn’t love. Woe is me. It was as if the kitchen negated all the other good decisions we made about buying a home. For months, I couldn’t separate myself from the idea of wanting to replace everything in that space. “One day”, I kept telling myself.

If you told me to make a list of all the things I disliked about the kitchen, I’d tell you “Easy.”

  • The kitchen faced the alleyway where the garages went, an alleyway leading up to a community trash bin followed by a weekend club called La Santa, from whence loud music always came.
  • The location of the kitchen was tucked away from direct sunlight during most of the day, with a small glimmer of hope shining through a lone window in the wee hours of the morning. If you happened to miss waking up early enough to catch it, then all you get for the day is indirect sun.
  • The counter-tops were of the v. cheap variety (with a capital V.). You know the kind, made of chipboard material covered by a plastic stickered surface in this dark gray speckled color. I disliked it’s darkness, plus the undeniable evidences where the counters have gotten wet (especially around the sink area). Pieces of soaked chipboard are, well, chipping away.
  • The cheap, peeling (also stickered) cabinet fronts with their secondary handles. The previous handles had different screw hole locations, which are accentuated by the white plaster material that the previous owners tried to hide them with.
  • The leak underneath the sink every time we ran the dishwasher, which caused flooding in our cabinets creating soaked cabinets floors. My constant worry over mold growth and wood rot. Oh the joy when we finally solved the issue, after having three handimen look at it.
  • The appliances which are black and silver in color. They looked bulky, outdated, and old. The stove and oven were of the cheaper variety, and the fridge jutted past the counter’s edge.
  • Lastly, the previous owner left a kitchen island that was obviously from Ikea, along with two Ikea stools.

I could have rattled this list out in seconds. But sometime between then and now, I have come to love this kitchen. I love it so much that when my friend offered to have her dad renovate the counter-tops that I “hated” for us this week, I started to fear losing them. Which got me to thinking, when did that transition happen? And I realized that sometime between then and now, I simply stopped focusing on all the bad things and started letting the kitchen be what it was meant to be.

After all, I operated an entire bakery in that kitchen. It was where I spent my days for an entire year. I woke up early every morning to mix bread and that’s when I learned of that precious morning light. I put away dishes from a dishwasher that finally worked and as the dough soaked up the water, I made myself a cup of coffee every day. If I set up the pour over to the right of the sink, the light hits the coffee just right to make it look ruby red. I slaved away over that oven, even in the summer’s heat, trusting it to always make my bread rise. I stood around the island, where I shaped thousands of loaves of dough. I settled into those Ikea stools waiting for the next bread turn, sipping hot coffee and writing on this blog. The kitchen and I became best friends, and now I could spew a list of all the things I love, such as:

  • The little corner specifically for our espresso machine, Fellow Stagg Kettle, coffee pour over options, mugs, and coffee grinder. Essentially, a shrine for my coffee making rituals.
  • The way the light enters through that lone window and hits the fronts of the cabinets, giving them a soft dayglow.
  • The reliability of our oven and the largeness of our fridge, both of which have helped me to host gatherings for twelve or more people throughout the year.
  • The cement floors and their coolness on the feet, plus the ease with which I can clean them.
  • The island, which we all use as a common space to meal prep together. And the fact that it’s mobile and contains plenty of storage space.
  • The stove, with enough burners to allow three of us roomies to cook in the kitchen space at the same time.
  • The corner for toasting our sourdough, and the corner for milling our grain.
  • The sink made of steel, which has saved me from shattering my porcelain wares many times over.
  • The fact that the kitchen now exudes Japanese style elements, as well as vintage vibes. Seems silly to put those two in the same sentence, but from some angles, it looks like it’s made from all bamboo wood. And from other angles, it reminds me of a 1950’s progressive Eichler.
  • The fact that the gloominess in the space actually lends a romantic mood all year long. I just want to make coffee or tea and write all day in a sweater.
  • Lastly, the open layout which makes the kitchen center-stage in our home.

With small spaces, I mean, yeah, there are shortcomings. It’s part of the territory. But if we focus on only the bad parts of our lives and homes, then we tend to miss all the good things that, when considered, could lead to love. Because now, I love the kitchen dearly. It is my favorite part of my home.

Finding joy in small spaces requires embracing what you have to work with. Actively searching for beauty in what you already have is more promising than passively pining for what you don’t have. Where will the latter lead you? Most likely, excess consumption of things that give you brief moments of happiness and eventually leave you back at square one.

Once I realized that the kitchen was “good enough”, I stopped saying to myself, “One day.” I started looking forward to saying “Today”. I started to finally live my life.

Today we decided to buy Mike’s dream espresso machine. Since he got rid of his daily work commute, he sold his motorcycle and de-cluttered a few things in order to make up 85% of the machine’s costs. We hadn’t pulled the trigger prior because we kept saying, “Well, if we are getting an espresso machine then we need nicer counter-tops and if we’re getting new counter-tops we might as well address the cabinets and if we’re sizing cabinets then why don’t we make sure we get appliances that lie flush with the new measurements?” After learning to love the kitchen for all its imperfections (wabi sabi and all that), we were able to move on. We’ll just put the espresso machine in our existing coffee corner. It fits just so with the current counter top actually, even though the white will contrast with the gray. I know we will love it either way.

Small Space Living

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Tip 15: Go without a wardrobe closet.

We only have one closet in our entire home. It is inconveniently located underneath the stairs on the first floor. We rent out the first floor commercial space and live upstairs, where there are no closets – alas, not even doors. Which means any storage occurs in the first floor Harry Potter room.

In our bathroom, we have an inlaid nook, where a short, waist-high cabinet was placed by the previous owner. Likewise, there is a rod positioned there, which I would assume is for hanging clothes, exposed to all. As someone who dislikes visual clutter, I really dislike the idea, though we did try it for some time. Since we also don’t own a towel rod, we’ve designated where our clothes would hang as the place to hang-dry our towels instead. Which means, there is no place to hang clothes upstairs.

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And while the solution seems to easily be, get a wardrobe upstairs, we’ve decided to go without. I’ve hung what few fashion items I own in that closet under the stairs. My most oft used items go in the bathroom underneath that aforementioned cabinet, along with the underwire and underwear (pictured above). I have a handful of tees that I cycle through, which goes in the narrow drawer under the sink, next to my skin care routine and a few jewelry items (as seen below).

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Of course, I’ve done my fair share of searching for beautiful wardrobe closets that I would gladly welcome into my space, if not for the sole fact that I value my space too much to relinquish it. In case it’s helpful to others who are looking to get a wardrobe or dresser, here’s are a few clothes storing options that I find to be functional, but also, minimalist.

+ A Bamboo Wardrobe

+ A Japanese Clothing Stand

+ A Mobile Closet

+ A Full-On Armoire

+ A Modular Rack.

Small Space Living

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Tip 14: Forgo the coffee table.

We have yet to corral a coffee table into our living room. Erm, what we designated in our minds as the living room. In reality, I’m referring to a corner of our small space that our neighbors decided would better fit as a bedroom for them. Regardless of the designation, the room where we have a couch and a projector has yet to hold a coffee table.

I just haven’t  come into agreement with one.

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I used to own a coffee table. It was a big and bulky thing that I came across at a consignment store when I was first (and finally!) moving out of my parents home – at the ripe age of twenty-three. I rationalized to myself its bulkiness, saying that the solid wood meant that it would last. “Heavy-duty” was the word I used, when explaining the table to Mike that evening. I convinced him to accompany me the next day to “look at it”, but really I meant “pick it up and take it home”.

It had drawers (two in fact) for storing things. The upper drawer was topped with glass, so that you could look in on the display. It always felt cluttered though, so all it did was collect dust. The bottom drawer was worse. It collected junk. If things disappeared, that would be the first place I would look.

What’s more, when we moved into our small space, a 900-square-foot loft without any doors, the coffee table we owned took up what felt like half of the living room. Since it was a solid wood table, without legs or airiness beneath, it made our space seem divided and small(er). Plus the dark colored wood – an almost black-grey kind of brown – absorbed much of the natural light.

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We ended up donating it to a family in need, which was its only saving grace. But I’ve been hesitant to add a coffee table again since the trauma of criss-crossing between the guilt I felt for getting rid of it and the hatred I felt for its unbecoming qualities.

I suppose today’s post about forgoing a coffee table originates from negative experiences with mine. We have been making do with a tiny side-table, which I also have half a mind to donate. At least it’s easily movable to the corner of the room, allowing both of us to lay out a yoga mat in front of the couch.

I do prefer the flexibility of a side table. In fact, I’ve considered multiple flexible options in lieu of a coffee table, such as ottomans and foot stools in the form of tree stumps.

Below are a few contenders, in case you are also searching.

+ A camp stool – for the sole purpose of putting tired feet up onto something. I love this stool because you can fold it up and stash it against the wall or behind a console, for a less cluttered look.

+ Maple nesting tables, of the stackable variety, to reduce real estate when not in use.

+ A mushroom tree stump, for holding a drink or two. Bringing natural elements in, without buying more houseplants.

+ A step stool, which has dual-use for shorties such as myself.

+ Actual ottomans, in a rich sienna leather. Extra seating when gatherings resume post-COVID.

Small Space Living

Tip 13: Mason Jar and Ceramic Pitcher Vases

The one thing about living in a tiny home is that there is not much storage room. It isn’t such a problem when there’s not much to store, and for some people, therein lies the rub. I have friends who are affronted by the suggestion of living life without simple “essentials”. Case in point: vases. On the flip side, I have other friends who roll their eyes at such frivolity. Both sides get along just fine with each other and that’s the whole point. It doesn’t matter much which camp you sit in as long as whatever lifestyle you have matches your space. Well, rather, whatever space you have matches your lifestyle.

If I am being completely honest, I own one vase. It’s a tall, cylindrical, long-stemmed glass vase that was given to me by a friend from dental school years ago. I’ve tried to de-clutter it a handful of times, but to no avail. It holds no more than 6 tulips, and funny enough, I have never used it. I suppose this means de-cluttering it definitely requires a revisit…

Which, in my opinion, puts me in the latter camp. When flowers find themselves in our home, I am more likely to grab a mason jar or a ceramic pitcher that we bought during our honeymoon in New Zealand than that darn vase. I have an affinity for assigning twenty functions to household items, if possible, so both solutions actually make me appreciate the bouquet more. There’s something gleeful about re-purposing stuff. Maybe THAT’s why I never use my actual vase. It’s too singular in purpose thus making it unattractive.

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Either way, look. It doesn’t matter whether you like a lot of stuff or a little stuff. It matters more that you love what you do have and use them often and well. It’s important that your things are beautiful in your eyes, even if it’s “just” a mason jar in other people’s eyes. To you, it could be a storage for bulk items, a container for a new candle, a get-together-party-favor holding your famous enchilada sauce, a jar holding homemade jam, a refreshing water glass (or lemonade or wine), or a vase. Maybe I’ve spent too long making do with what I’ve got. It sure as hell isn’t a bad way to live.

Nothing gives me more joy making something out of nothing – vases included.

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Thank you to Sonia for the lovely flowers. 

If you happen to be a vase person, East Fork Pottery is releasing a new bud vase today at 12pm EST. Hand-thrown in their beautiful soapstone glaze, they are a perfect addition to a ‘minimalist’ home.