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.

Frugality: Paint Thine Walls

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

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: There’s nothing a can of white paint can’t fix. I love white walls, and I’ve fervently written about them, that’s for certain. While there isn’t a foolproof recipe for how a minimalist home shall look, I’ve found that having a clean canvas sure helps me. Any decor is left in the details – minuscule additions that help with frugality, but also, accounts for frequent mood swings. To me, white walls are the basis of a fresh, clean home. In order to avoid sounding redundant, let’s jump right to the topic of this post which is, if you’ve got a hankering to turn your walls white, I would suggest painting thine own.

In our house, there was one room that hasn’t been painted white. Our bathroom, the smallest, most closed off space in the loft, has always been a charcoal gray. It made the space feel cramped, dark, and dingy. All emotions you don’t want in the room that’s meant to be restorative. It didn’t help that there were no windows to let light in. We decided to (finally) paint it to match the rest of the home.

I did consider hiring a painter to do the job in order to save us time and effort, but I am so glad I didn’t. The total cost of the project was $90. We went to Sherman Williams to match the Egret White walls that we already had in a semi-gloss finish. We also bought a single paint roller, some foam, and a few brushes. We had the paper to lay on the ground and blue painters tape already sitting in the garage. My parents brought over the extension rod for the roller and a ladder. It was a whole birthday affair. Having a painter do the job would have probably run us another $300+.

The amount of time it took was 6 hours – including taping the edges, painting the corners, and applying two coats of paint. Mike and I did the majority of the taping the night before. We also prepped by painting the trimmings. My mom and dad swung by the next day and did the majority of the painting. It took them about two and a half hours, while leisurely conversing and taking breaks. It definitely is no more than a two person job. It was a situation of having too many chefs in the kitchen, so Mike and I were pretty much kicked out left to cheer on the sidelines. To be fair, my parents were professionals. Having moved ten times before high school and growing up with a mom who was very into design, I would say that they’ve had their fair share of practice. It may take a newcomer another hour to figure things out.

Regardless, it was surprisingly very easy to do. We had enough time to clean up, put the bathroom together, and have a lovely dinner and cake.

I think that for a room or two, painting thine walls isn’t bad advice. It saves you a decent amount of money, and it’s a fun event when you invite others to join. All you have to do is play live music on the speakers and call it a party.

Now that the bathroom is finally white, there’s more to be considered. For today, it’s enough of a miracle, but I’ve definitely got a wishlist going…

Small Space Living

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

Tip 12: Introducing Color

For the past few years, I have been quite averse to introducing color into my life. Not that my life has been any less colorful. It’s just, I learned through my de-cluttering of closets  that a minimalist earns more success by sticking to a neutral palette. And it’s true. I’ve lived a simplified life that has allowed me to blossom in other, more prioritized aspects by sticking to a curated few guidelines: Less is more, clutter-free is productive, and neutral reigns supreme.

Prior to my minimalism journey, I was a person in love with color. My closet was an exploding rainbow tucked into drawers. My duvet cover was a painting printed on fabric, and I myself painted and hung up my art on the walls. I had a hodge-podge of jewelry and accessories and my signature bag was Kate Spade – the funky kind. But when I graduated from dental school with a huge student debt, I found all of that to be overwhelming – which is what initially led me to de-clutter, whittling down all I owned to nothing but white, black, brown and grey. And for three years, that decision and lifestyle carried me through some very tough times. For that, I am grateful.

After what I would consider to be a wild success with my loan repayment journey, we are finding ourselves entering a new stage in life – one wherein I do have a little more space to allow a tiny bit of myself back in. And when I turned to making the house a home these past few months, the items I was attracted to had, well, color.

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Which is what this post is about. Introducing color is absolutely scary for me. Mostly because, I have found that color tires the eyes. It disrupts the space. It can be loud and encroach on the mind. And to be honest with you, I will get sick of a color after a while. That’s just the way it is. Unlike whites which last forever (especially with the help of bleach), colors will likely only be loved for a few years. They will fade, both physically and metaphorically. And for a very long time, this fact is what stopped me from introducing color back into my home and my closet. Because I didn’t have money to waste on a few year’s worth of joy.

But what I’ve learned is that, life without joy is not really living. I keep re-learning that intentional living is as much the frivolous little things as the journey to get there.

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There will be many a blog space and minimalist person chanting the pros of an all-white space. I mean, Jenni Kayne has certainly proven the timelessness of blanched walls and bleached linens. And small spaces can appear larger with white everything. But the truth of the matter is, we all have a calling to certain colors. Who’s to say that a formula fits all? There are colors that, for whatever reason, are subconsciously reminiscent of a previous lifetime – and for every person, these colors are different. In fact, for the same person, these colors change over time. Whatever the science is behind all of this, I am going to say that as a small space occupant and minimalist writer, I am giving permission  (mostly to myself) to introduce color.

Everyone’s tolerance will be different, and one should aim for the amount of color that works for their particular space, but if you are like yours truly and are hesitant (or afraid), may I suggest the following guidelines that have helped me?

  • Start with a section of the color wheel.
  • Begin with smaller items; Accessories in blue rather than a full-on velveteen couch.
  • Choose “color neutrals”, as coined by my dear friend when speaking about this Parachute bedding of ours. An undoubtedly terra cotta color, but its closeness to brown makes it more neutral. Other color neutrals would be seashore blue or dusty rose, a pale yellow or olive green.

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  • Start not necessarily by adding color, but by knowing your emotions toward certain colors. Which ones are exhaustingly loud? Which are depressing or make you moody? Which ones give you energy?
  • Don’t choose a color because of a trend. Trends will change come next season.
  • Before making the purchase, find similar examples online and check-in on how they make you feel.
  • Lastly, follow your gut reaction. You know more than you think.

For the curious, the wool pillows are from Territory Design

Small Space Living

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

Tip 11: Finding Cable Solutions in Media Consoles

I am really adverse to adding furniture to our small space, especially if it entails taking up floor space. It pains me to clutter up a home, and for this reason I have been fighting the urge to add anything but a couch to our living room. So why did I buy a media console?

To be honest, the media console stemmed from my contempt regarding cables. I wrote prior about how I detest the sight of wires running along walls like snakes, connecting different gadgets throughout the home to each other so that they may work in harmony. It isn’t the tech itself that I despise. It’s the inability to make the tech look neat and tidy and clean.

Currently, we have an amp near the kitchen area that connects to a projector behind the couch that wires to two speakers and a record player, and somewhere in the vicinity sits a Switch console. Don’t ask me how they interplay with each other. The moral of my story is that the unsightly array of wires drives me crazy. And we came down to the solution of trading our five speaker system and amp with a sleeker, minimalist pair of Sonos 5 speakers (in white, of course), which can plug directly into the record player and the projector. Wire management is the name of the game here.

And with a media console, I would have the ability to hide both speakers behind sliding doors. I could connect them to the record player that sits atop, and run the wires out of holes around the back where a plug remains hidden. The Switch consoles and controls can also be tucked safely inside, and the only thing to hide is a single wire connecting the projector to one of the Sonos 5 speakers. Everything moves from the kitchen to the living space and it brings me such peace to know that, finally, the cables can be nearly invisible, even if it means at the expense of floor space.

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However, outfitting a home with media consoles that are sustainably sourced or ethically made is near impossible, barring the case that you know of a particular woodworker who would be willing to custom create you a shelving unit at an affordable price or that you do woodwork yourself. Thankfully, West Elm provides a few options that was aligned with a mid-century style. The particular one we bought was a narrow and short (48″) low profile console which was barely deep enough to house the speakers. All of the wood is FSC-certified and therefore sustainable sourced and the product is a fair trade product. Additionally, it is GREENGUARD gold certified.

There were only a few things I did not like about the console. First, it’s very narrow, so if you were considering hiding a few vinyls behind the sliding doors, then you’ll be out of luck. However, it holds coffee table books well. Secondly, the color was a bit darker than pictured, which isn’t too much of a bad thing. All furniture from West Elm comes with white glove service which is a mandatory additional fee, but the service was actually very good. Plus the delivery came two days from ordering, a few weeks in advance from when we would get the speakers.

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Speaking of the Sonos 5 speakers, we used a perk for being a healthca[;’pre worker during this time, as Sonos is offering a discount of 20% to all medical professionals and first responders. To learn more about potential COVID-19 perks for certain professionals, check out my post here. It could serve to be a very frugal opportunity until the end of 2020.

Ethical Furniture and Home Goods

I know that ethical and sustainable options are few and far between when it comes to home goods. While slow fashion is starting to garner attention, slow homes are lagging behind. Here, I list a few of my favorite go-to sources.

Furniture

Home Goods

How to Care for House Plants

We’ve been mulling a question for a while, tossing it around, letting it linger on our lips. “When this is all over, what will be the first thing you’ll do?” We’ve got answers up the wazoo that show signs of who we are, and what we miss – the little things that meant more than we could even know. Happy hour cocktails and cheap pub food surrounded by a large group of friends; Gym memberships to be rid of the COVID-15 and to be a part of a community; Sand in my hair and thongs between my toes.

To the last one, I say “Cheers!”

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Rather than lamenting the current situation and wallowing in self-pity, I do think that we can start to amend for the last bit of longing by bringing the outdoors in, or at least, introducing a bit of nature to our internal spaces. Houseplants can be a reprieve from the cabin fever signs and symptoms that we have all been exhibiting. They are especially useful in calming the distraught and frustrated, feelings which I’m sure have surfaced during this time of personal introspection. Additionally, they boost overall mood, purify the air of toxins, boosts creativity, and makes the indoors more aesthetically pleasing.

We are all dying to get outside. The weather is turning nicer by the day and we’ve pretty much written off Spring and moved on to summer. But despite the long list of “firsts” that our house has planned once the stay-at-home mandates lift, I have also been enjoying this time at home (truly!) and it would be a shame to rush on to to-do lists and whatever the future holds when there is so much work left to do here in the present.

Today, I go over a few houseplant care routines to help refocus the mind into the now, to facilitate a continual tending to the home, and to, well, bring the outdoors in.

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  • Repot plants in new, healthy soil. Plants outgrow their vessels and their soil. Every year, around Spring time, we repot our plants by gently easing them out of their current vessels, removing some of the soil around the roots, and placing them in their new home. It may take a while for a plant to adjust to a new pot, so don’t be discouraged if you see a pause in growth. Over time, you will find that the soil helps to grow your plant much quicker than before.
  • Wipe the leaves of your plants. Some plant leaves take up a large amount of real estate. All the more to take in sunlight! But also, all the more to collect dust particles. Plants like Monsteras and Fiddles can accidentally collect too much dust, which will then prevent them from absorbing light. Try wiping down plant leaves regularly with a cloth towel and water. Be gentle so as not to damage tender greens. Get ready to admire your plants even more – they’ll look fairly glossy and polished!
  • Rotate plants a quarter turn every week. Technically, you can follow a different rotation schedule, but just try to rotate the plants every once in a while for even growth. Plants are in love with the sun and if they aren’t rotated, they can start to lean towards a single direction or grow unevenly, which doesn’t make for a pretty sight.
  • Prune off dead or wilted leaves. When leaves start to yellow and wilt, don’t take it as a sign of failure. Perhaps the plant is making way for new leaves to grow. I can’t recount how many times yellowing leaves have been a signal for two more to grow in its place. However, you will want to remove these leaves as they can affect the health of the rest of the plant. Don’t wait until they start to rot, as this can cause unwanted fungus or mold to start cohabiting with your favorite shrub.

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  • Mist plants with water.  Plants love a good misting. The cat, however, hates my spray bottle and runs away until it’s all over. I place water in an amber bottle which remains at hand on a shelf for random spritzes throughout the week. The leaves definitely perk up after a nice splash. I like the effect so much that sometimes, when I water my plants, I haul them into the shower to mimic a rainforest environment and drizzle the water right over them. Unfortunately, my Monsterra and Fiddle are getting way too large to move around, but I’m not complaining!

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  • Propagate. When you’ve done all you can to care for your existing plants, the only thing left to do is … MAKE MORE PLANT BABIES! My favorite to propagate are fast growing plants like our Pothos. It’s quite easy to do. Snip off a few stems with the node still intact, and place them in a glass container filled with water (no soil). After it starts to root (about a month later), gently pot the plant, surrounding the baby roots with healthy Earth. Plus, plants make great non-material, frugal gifts and I have gifted two propagated Pothos plants in the last year!

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I hope these tips have at least helped to pass another five minutes of your morning. I hope your plants have calmed you down, and you are energized by the fact that you’ve already taken care of one small aspect of your home today.

I know we are all itching to get outdoors and for quarantine to be over, but mayhap our discomfort with being at home signals an even deeper mal-alignment. I encourage you to hang in there and stop burying unrest with things to do in the future. It’s what we’ve always done … but it wasn’t working. It takes a great deal of strength and courage to sit in an uncomfortable situation but a presence of mind can really bring light to what is at the root of our malaise. Whenever you feel like moving on to “better days”, I ask that you pause and take the opportunity to dig just a little deeper.

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Below are a list of my favorite indoor houseplants. I favor sturdy greens over flowery or delicate types.

  • Split Leaf Philodendron
  • Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
  • Pothos
  • Snake Plant
  • ZZ Plant
  • Rubber Plant
  • Pilea

Play Pretend: Living Room Remodel

The timing of finding a sustainable couch option earlier this month and the sudden transformation of said couch into a work space has caused me to infatuate about an entirely brand new living room. Part of the plan for finding a used Ikea Soderhamn sectional on Craigslist was to revamp what we found to be a sustainable option into something that was aesthetically pleasing as well. After ordering a Bemz linen cover in silver grey and natural wood legs, which I felt would give it a Scandinavian mid-century modern vibe, I started to wonder about what other improvements in the room I could do.

Hence, large bits of my free time have been sullied into scrolling social media for inspiration as I fall down a digital rabbit hole on my way to remodel wonderland. And while I sit here pining away at wood based decor, ethically-sourced rugs, and modern cat furniture (yes, we went down that rabbit hole as well), I can’t get myself to pull any triggers. Because on the flip-side, I am also itching at the thought of paying down my student loans aggressively. At 0% interest rate, it would behoove us to pinch pennies and funnel what we can into a metaphorical envelope for the day when we return back to working-like-normal. At which time we would pay all of the money we’ve saved to dramatically decrease my student loan debt before the interest rate returns back to normal again on the last day of September.

So as I sit on my “new” couch awaiting its pretty covers, I do nothing else but daydream of Saharan hues and of buying my financial freedom instead of a new room. The couch has been, for years, the only thing this room needed. Having practiced making-do, I don’t exactly lament the lack of a remodel. If anything, it’s been quite a stressor considering all the possibilities. Rather, I perceive it as an opportunity to appreciate our newest addition to its fullest, without any distractions. I find that adding too much can detract from what you already own. If I rode this wave and bought a side table in the form of a stump, artwork in the form of pillows, and a rug for the cat to scratch, well, I’d sit here put-putting around worrying about spending enough time and attention on those things without being able to just sit on the couch. Whether that be reading a book, watching a movie, writing this blog or doing nothing, the new things would rob me of a simple enjoyment. So I’ll choose to do nothing.

In this journey, I’ve found that making a house a home is a process of learning who you are. After years of gate-keeping, I have found that this is, in fact, who I am.

But a girl can still day-dream of a desert-themed living space. As an ode to what I’ve been up to:

+ A neutral rug as a haven from cold cement floors.
+ Art in the form of pillows.
+ Tree tables for ceramic vessels.
+ A rattan chair to remind me of home.
+ Comforting touches for aforementioned tables and chair.
+ Space for a Feline.

 

Less Waste: All-Purpose Cleaner

Considering the current global health pandemic (is it bad that I’ve written enough posts about COVID-19 to warrant it’s own digi-folder?), I think it suffice to say that this is a time of utmost cleanliness. I don’t know about you guys, but we’ve found ourselves cleaning more frequently and I, in particular, have been under a spell of continuous organization that one could argue seems borderline unhealthy.

So I wonder … have the skin on your hands been rubbed raw yet? Dried out? Cracked under pressure, scorched by warm water, and dehydrated by suds and soap? For at-home workers, hasn’t this become the ultimate distraction, getting up every few minutes to clean after touching a pen?

Have you completed a bout of spring cleaning, or have you forgotten? One which resulted in a reorganization of the pantry, de-cluttering of closets, and tidying the messes?

With extra time to twiddle my thumbs, I’ve also kept up with wiping down surfaces, re-filling the humidifier and vacuuming the floors. Everything kept to their squeaky clean selves.

Which brings me to the matter that I had originally intended to write – All Purpose Cleaners.

More specifically, All Purpose Cleaners of the less toxic, zero-waste variety that is homemade AND pretty to look at. Not possible, you say. Well, I beg to differ.

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There will be some of you who protest against my barbaric suggestions of DIY All-Purpose cleaners, arguing that my versions are devoid of all the chemicals made for cleanliness. And while some of you may be non-believers in the efficiency of make-it-yourself products, especially during a time of  global pandemic, can I interest you in a little wariness over the hazards of these cleaners’ unknown ingredients on your overall health and of those you love?

The rows of cleaning products presented to us in stores are quite seizure-inducing. Labeled with bright colors and big text, it’s a wonder why I have a strong avoidance to the stuff. In the interest of simplifying our lives, the solution (see what I did there?) lies in choosing less ingredients rather than more. Sticking with household items that already belie our pantries and shelves, such as baking soda and vinegar, is more aligned with my minimalist tendencies. I’m not even touting long, complicated recipes that require a mixology degree, here. I’m referring to quick fix-it-yourself formulas that we can all have in our arsenals in order to come up with cleaning solutions faster than you can get-in-you-car-to-go-buy-them-in-store. Plus, it safely follows the stay-at-home mandate.

But the REAL reason why we’ve turned to fewer, simpler cleaning solutions in the first place was, of course, plastic-related. In an interest to rid our home of plastic products, we’ve switched to glass bottle carriers and bulk items whenever possible. We have been getting our bulk refills from The Ecology Center, but due to the Stay-at-home mandate, we’ve recently run out of said products and have no interest to traverse the twenty-something miles just to get refills.

So I turned to a few resources and the ever-handy web, and have decided to make do with a DIY project of my own. I chose a traditional water-and-vinegar recipe using a 1:1 ratio with ten drops of lemon essential oil. That was the recipe, and if  you blinked, then you missed it. This All-Purpose cleaner works for cleaning different types of surfaces, including glass, stovetops, and fridge doors. I would be careful with wiping down granite or marble counter-tops (we don’t have such things), perhaps sticking to Castille Soap and Water for these types of surfaces.

We store the solution underneath the sink in a clear spray bottle, although as you can see here, I am particularly partial to amber vessels. Shall you choose to add fresh lemon juice, I suggest storing it in the fridge, instead. Our household uses washable dish cloths to wipe down surfaces, and we haven’t bought paper towels in YEARS. See also, wooden cleaning alternatives to compliment your less-waste solutions. For those who prefer to sweep and tidy rather than scrub, this here will do. Whatever draws at your neatnik heartstrings, may you please consider at-home cleaners.

After the house has gotten a good tidying session, I spritz a bit of Aesop’s Istros Room Spray, creating a positive feedback loop in the hopes of helping this habit stick post-COVID-19. I throw open the windows to let some fresh air in, sink into the couch with some blankets, and rejoice in a job well done.

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Simple Things: Wooden Hangers

Sometimes, simple things matter. Sometimes, it’s all that matters. Our household lives by the adage, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Curating a home is part of living an intentional life, and the things with which you surround yourself does define your lifestyle. In my opinion, a few simple things bring so much more beauty to your home and value to your life than a hundred gadgets.  This series is dedicated towards those simple things. 

I’ve wanted wooden hangers for a majority of my adult life, which equates to about the last ten years. Many a time I’ve visited department stores and turned towards the hanger aisle, if only to longingly run my fingers along the smooth edges of polished pine, or unfinished walnut. But the cost of wooden hangers is too great, at about a dollar a piece, for me to ever make that leap. So I have spent years begrudgingly using free, hand-me-down plastic hangers that leave pointy shoulders in my tees and dismay in my heart.

But providence proves just and patience is the best virtue, for this weekend when we were walking the two dogs that we were sitting on Rover (get our side hustle monthly income report here), we swung by the recycle bin behind our garages to find it overflowing with unwanted things from what we assume to be a recent neighbor’s move. And there, sitting on the floor next to the miniature Australian shepherd was a box FULL of wooden hangers. Now I am not one to dumpster dive, but in the name of frugality I am also not completely opposed to it. As my roommate fairly stated, it can’t even be considered dumpster diving. Rather, it’s as if someone plopped a box of beautiful wooden hangers in the middle of my path, already unwrapped and ready for use.

I looked to Mr. Debtist hopefully and with pleading eyes. Can I please take this home without you judging me? He carried the hangers home himself. Once we got inside, I started wiping them down with white reusable rags. They were in pristine condition. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was completely prepared to polish them up but there was no need. In fact, there was hardly any dust.

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No chore could stop me from immediately switching out those icky, flimsy, plastic hangers in our bathroom nook for these “new” wooden ones. You see, we have no closet in our main living space (only one under the stairs) and so we’ve lived with this makeshift rod hung up in a tiny indent next to the shower. Our clothes have been hanging on plastic hangers exposed to all guests and visitors who use our restroom. We’ve made do, but it’s not been pretty.

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Now, they still do hang exposed, but my heart is full. The beauty that I feel from wooden hangers make living with no closet that much more bearable. In fact, it makes it that much more exciting. I could live without a closet forever if it means I could stare lovingly at these wooden things every day. Plastics be-gone! Don’t worry though, they won’t end up in the trash. We got these plastic hangers from my parents and they will be returned just as my brother conveniently leaves for college in two weeks. I am sure there they will find a new home.

What about you? Things you’ve found in the trash that have made your home that much more beautiful?