Tuesday, March 12

Functional Bathroom Updates (on a low-budget!)

Today we're talking bathrooms! And specifically three functional changes that have made a huge difference in how our bathroom works for us. There isn't a huge reno involved but just a few small, inexpensive updates that can help in just about any bathroom!

But first you need to know: the one big sacrifice we made when we bought this house was a master bathroom. *gasp* And yes, we lived to tell the tale of a shared bathroom. It's fine, guys. But that means this bathroom has a big job since it's the main bathroom for our entire family. All six of us.

Tuesday, March 5

Affordable Magnolia-Style Throw Pillows

The internet has been all a-buzz about Joanna Gaines' sneak peek of her new Spring pillow line for Loloi Rugs. They are stunning. My couch would cry tears of joy to have such pillows. But then I found out... Loloi pillows average around $75 each. Spending freeze or not, that's gonna be a hard pass from me. Even on the Magnolia website a beautiful pillow will set you back anywhere from $40-130! There just has to be a better way. So I did a little searching and rounded up a few budget-friendly Magnolia-esque pillows just for you!

My first mega-deal is in-store, but if you keep scrolling I have a few online options and even some DIY options down near the end. If you find a deal too good not to share, let me know in the comments!!

1. Hobby Lobby
This was by far the best deal and best selection I've found. And it was totally a surprise! I didn't even know they had this pillowcase selection until I stumbled across it (ironically while searching through their upholstery fabrics for something to DIY a magnolia pillow). Hobby Lobby doesn't sell online, but if you have a store nearby you're in for a treat. And nothing beats being able to hold an item in your hand before buying!

At our store this section was right next to the upholstery fabrics and the pillow forms. And the best part? When I went Saturday, the whole section was on sale for 50% off! Hobby Lobby runs a rotating list of sales so, even if you missed it this time, you can keep an eye out for the pillowcases to hit 50% off again. Because they will. And if you don't want to wait, they always have a "40% off one item" coupon on the website that's almost as good.

Enough chit chat, let's get to the pillow goodness. I took pictures of the ones I loved most, but there were dozens more to choose from! Hold on to your hats, folks. You're not going to believe these prices. 

1.  $14.99 ($7.50 on sale!) with tons of thick yarn and beautiful texture (a hallmark of magnolia pillows!)

2.  $10.99 ($5.50 on sale!) super-clean farmhouse-style stripes on a medium-weight fabric (higher-end feel than thinner fabrics!) with pom poms to boot. I love this one so much.

Friday, February 8

Mountain Dresser Tutorial {Easy Dresser Update!}

This is the story of a dresser.

I don't know where or how long ago its story begins, but I can tell you how this dresser came to me. A free, broken-down, ugly little duckling. And I can tell you how it came to be one of my very favorites.

Along the way I'll show you how to create this subtle-but-stunning mountain silhouette pattern on your own favorite dresser! Perfect for any adventure or wanderlust fans out there. Spoiler: this is exactly how it became my favorite. And I'll even show you how to repair a dovetail drawer. So get ready for lots of DIY goodness!

Several years ago a friend called me up with an offer I couldn't refuse - she was moving and had an old tumble-down dresser that wasn't worth dragging along. The paint job was rough and one drawer was in pieces but she new I loved a good project piece. I could have it if I just got it out of the way.

 This is how it looked once the drawer was fixed... and for the next 5 years.

Let me tell you, it's so good to have friends who know you like that.

After I finally refinished the drawers.

Saturday, February 2

7 Thrifting Tips

I'm loving the new #thriftandtell tag on instagram. You guys know how much I love a good second hand find, and I love seeing your finds just as much! So let's talk thrifting!

Thrifting is one of my very favorite ways to turn a house into a home. I firmly believe that any house can be beautiful and welcoming and cozy, and that you don't have to drop big bucks to get there. Thrifting has allowed me to decorate our home even when the budget was tight. Plus here are benefits to second-hand items that you just don't get with new off-the-shelf items:
  • unique and one-of-a-kind pieces
  • real, vintage character
  • sturdy real-wood furniture pieces
  • lower price tags!
Seriously, it's one of the single best ways to furnish and decorate your home on a a budget and with a style that's uniquely yours. But if you're a thrifting novice it can be a bit overwhelming. So today I wanted to share some of my favorite tips for shopping second hand!

$0.25 succulent pot from a garage sale (check out all my thirfty finds here)

1. Look at what you have. This is so important if you want to be a thrifty shopping ninja. You're looking at what you have for two important reasons. First, to see if you already have something that can fill the need. Because there's nothing thriftier than free! When I was looking for a new console table for our living room I brought up an old dresser up from the basement and it fit beautifully without costing a dime! Second, you want to look at what you have so you don't over-buy or buy a duplicate item. You may see some cute cups when you're out shopping but if you already looked at what you have and know you have enough cups, you can save that money up for something spectacular. (In fact, we're doing our best to not buy a single thing in 2019 so we can get out of debt and build our savings. Check out this post for all the details.)

These glass bottles were only $0.25 each at a garage sale.
2. Know what you need. This kind of fits with #1, because you also need to take a good look at the space you have. Take the time to study the space you're working on and build a vision of what you want and need. If you know you need a large pot and a 2' painting to create the vignette you imagine, you won't be tempted to buy whatever bowl or candle sticks might work because you already know what you need.

These chairs were $5 each at a garage sale. They just needed a coat of paint.

3. If you want to FIND, you have to SEARCH. Once you're settled on what you have and what you need, it's time to actually look for those items. Whether you prefer garage sales, thrift stores, or online sources like craigslist or fb marketplace, there are new items every time you look. The only way to find what you need is to keep looking. So if you're looking for a specific piece, look often and look as many places as you can. There will days when you'll leave empty handed. But the more you look, the more you find. And one day they will have the perfect thing for an amazing price. It's hit and miss for sure, but you'll never hit if the fear of a miss keeps you at home.

And it often means actually getting in there and digging through piles of dishes or clothes or rugs to see what's hiding underneath. The first time I dug through a mountain of paintings at a thrift store I uncovered this treasure:

Original oil painting I found at a Salvation Army thrift store. One of my all-time favorite finds!

4. Patience, my Padawan. Really, though. Like I said in #3, there are different items every day. Unlike walking into a store and picking what you want off the shelf, you may have to wait days, weeks, or even months to find a good fit. The people who lose faith in thrifting are usually the ones who don't understand that it's a waiting game. Some days you'll come home with nothing. And that's okay. Because if you're patient it will pay off in both the money you save and the fabulous items you find! Because you will find them in time. So don't give up, and don't be afraid to turn down an item that miiiight work but just doesn't feel quiiiite right. Because you are a patient thrifting ninja who knows what items are worth waiting for.

I found these vintage jelly jars at a thrift store for $0.50 each. We love using them as kids' cups! 

5. Focus. Especially if you're making a bigger purchase. Don't buy the first desk (or chair or mirror or whatever you're looking for) just because it's cheap and "it will work." Hold out for one that is affordable and beautiful. If you jump the gun and buy one you don't really love, you'll just end up replacing it later and the money you spent on this one = wasted. I looked at dozens of desks before I found the one for our home office, but by the time I found it I knew what I really, truly wanted and I was able to jump on it with confidence.

Now don't get me wrong - if you move in to a new place and literally don't have a table to eat at, go ahead and buy the first and cheapest thing you can find. Your first priority is a home that works for your family and this is the right time to buy a place-holder piece. But if you're looking to replace a table that you don't like or isn't quite the right size, it's worth waiting for one that fits all your criteria.

The desk, chair, and glove are all second-hand! Check out how we totally updated this space for just $35.

And while we're talking about focus - focus on what you really need. If you're shopping for that new desk, don't buy every candlestick in the store just because they're cute. Go back to #1 and #2 and get your head around what you have and what you still need. Thrifty ninjas don't whittle away money on little extras they don't need. Focus.  We still want to be thoughtful with our purchases and what we truly want to bring into our homes. We don't want to waste money or space on purchases we'll regret later just because they are a good deal. This is a lesson I'm still learning. It's hard not buy all the deals! But I've made leaps of progress since we started our spending freeze/money makeover. As my husband likes to say: the best deal is buying nothing.

6. Don't be afraid of quirks. If something needs a little work, the price often reflects that! Minor repairs, a worn out finish, and unique details are nothing to turn your nose up at. Most people will pass over those items, which helps lower their price even further. And you are a thrifting ninja who can see the potential in the most affordable items.

 This dresser was painted black and one drawer was in pieces... and I got it for FREE! Tutorial coming soon for that mountain silhouette detail at the bottom!

7. Make an offer. This won't apply in, say, a Goodwill, but sellers online, at garage sales, and at privately owned shops are often open to bartering! And some think it's half the fun. If you're kind and respectful, you may just walk away with a bargain! There are a few keys to bartering success:
  • Be kind. Oh, did I say that already? Well it's important so listen up! Don't talk down to them, don't act like you're doing them a favor by buying their item, don't low-ball, etc. Imagine how you would want a buyer to treat your grandma, and treat your seller the same way. Nothing will ruin a deal faster than a bad attitude. If you act like a jerk they will turn down your offer in a second, and might decide not to sell to you at all. Just be kind.
  • You get a better deal if you bundle. If a yard sale is offering dining chairs for $10 each, you could offer $50 for a set of six. But you can try bundling anything that's for sale! Most people will be glad to give you a deal to get rid of more items!
  • Sellers like fast pick-up. Many sellers just want the item out of their house or off their sales floor. Especially for online sales. When I'm dealing with FB marketplace I'll often phrase my offers like this: "Would you take $20? I can pick up tonight!" And then I actually pick it up that night (this goes back to be kind). I've rarely had someone turn down that offer.
  • The longer it's been listed, the lower you can offer. So if something is outside your budget, keep an eye on it for a while. You might get lucky! The timeline depends on where you're shopping - items that have been in a shop for a week, online items (craigslist, etc.) that have been listed for a few days, or garage sale items that are still there the last hour before closing up. Those are your best chances to get a great deal! This tip is more helpful if there is a more expensive item you love. Maybe something that looks just perfect but it's outside your budget. If it's a little more than you'd like to pay go ahead and make an offer right away, but if it's quite a bit out of your budget you can watch it for a week and if it's still for sale, go ahead and make an offer within your budget. They are much more likely to bite at that point! And if they still say no? Say thank you anyway, and let them know you'll still be interested if it doesn't sell and they decide to go that low. Be kind. If they still don't get any bites, they'll have you in the back of their mind when they're ready to be done with it. Shopping at a yard sale? Leave your number and let them know they can contact you if it hasn't sold at the end of the day! However, if you see something you love that's in your budget go ahead and buy that baby before it's gone. Don't risk someone else swooping in with a full-price offer. In your budget means in your budget, and it's okay to just pay what they're asking and lock down the item.
  • Don't take it personally if they turn down your offer. Remember it's their stuff and they can sell it for whatever you want. And you get to decide if you want to pay that price. So chin-up and no grumbling.  
I only paid $2 for this whole box of dirty old jars. They cleaned up beautifully and they've been holding my dry goods in the kitchen for seven years!

You're ready! Go out and find that second-hand goodness. Let me know what you find! And you can check out all my thirfty finds here.

P.S. Don't forget to #prayforramona http://www.prayforramona.com/

Sunday, January 27

Homemade Wood Stain and Sealer

Remember this office space refresh I pulled off for just $35? It's one of my favorite corners of the house, and I still can't get over how little it cost to make this beautiful nook! One way I kept my budget low was by making my own wood stain and wood sealer with household items I already had on hand. So today I'm sharing how you can make your own - and it's easier than you might think!

I went back to my decorating roots for this one. And at my roots... I'm cheap. I come from a low budget use-what-you-have background and I wanted to update this space as inexpensively as possible, while still creating a beautiful space I love to work in. Because, guys, at my core I believe that any house can become not just a home, but a home you love, without spending a fortune. You can stick to a small budget and still do amazing, beautiful things!

So I set my budget at $50 but wanted to stay as far under it as possible - literally not spend a dime more than I had to. I added some DIY budget shelving and a second-hand chair, but the real star of this makeover was a super budget-friendly desk! I started hunting for a desk first because I knew a large piece like that would make or break my budget. If I spend too much on that one item, I wouldn't have budget left for the other upgrades I wanted.

I ended up finding a perfectly-sized desk for a bargain (more on that in a minute) but the finish was in rough shape. That's probably why the price was so low. I wanted to try sprucing it up without spending $$ on new stain or poly, so I took to the interwebs and you know what? Turns out you can make your own wood finish products with everyday items you might already have around the house! I actually had everything I needed!

But let's start with the desk story.

This desk popped up on FB marketplace one day and it seemed like a good fit for this space. Just the right size, plenty of drawer space, and a perfect fit for my simple style (because I "like plain"). I saw it posted for $30, but it had already been listed for a week so I offered $20 (and offered to pick it up that night! - most people want to get rid of things quickly and will give you a deal for fast pick-up!) and they said yes!  

I brought it home and sanded off the old finish. I also tried to remove the laminate top that had been added at some point... and discovered a huge hole cut in the original top. Bummer. So for now it went back on.

The wood looked so pretty sanded down and I wanted to keep the desk light to contrast the dark walls, but I also wanted to warm it up just a bit. But... I didn't have a light enough stain on hand. And I didn't want to spend a good chunk of my budget on stain, so I started looking into DIY options on pinterest. I looked at several recipes and they all said basically the same thing: steel wool + vinegar. But I kept thinking "no, that can't be right." and looking for a different recipe. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it just seemed to simple. Or maybe I didn't want to wait a day for it to soak. But the internet totally agreed that this is the best method. Come on, Georgia. So here's the basic method, followed by a bunch of tips gathered from the interwebs for your convenience:

Homemade Wood Stain
  • very fine steel wool
  • vinegar
  • mason jar
Short instructions: drop steel wool into a mason jar. Cover it with vinegar (make sure you use enough to for your whole project!). Let it sit in a quiet spot like under the sink with the lid vented for 24 hours, then remove the steel wool. BOOM. Stain. Apply it to your wood and let it dry.

It looks almost unchanged, apart from a little rust on the steel wool. It gets more rust-tinged the longer it sits, but it will still stain your wood looking like this! It's crazy.

But there's always a catch:
  • the biggest downfall in this method is that it's unpredictable. You don't know for sure what color you will get until the stain dries. And you probably won't be able to recreate the exact same color twice, so make sure you make enough the first time! I made a first batch of stain and applied it to half of one drawer before m3 tripped on it and spilled the entire thing. I had to sand that whole drawer down because it didn't match my second batch.
  • you can use different vinegar to get slightly different colors (I found some great info in this post), but the biggest change seems to come from these factors:
  • more steel wool = darker color
  • longer soak time = darker color
  • finer grade of steel wool = darker color (you need to let coarser wool soak longer or it won't work)
  • when you first apply the stain you won't notice any change apart from the wood being wet, but as it sits it will begin to get darker. It actually reacts with the wood to change its color and that takes time! According to pinterest it can take up to an hour for it to reach its final color. So if it's not looking as dark as you hoped, be patient and see how it turns out when it's done reacting. 
  • since I wanted such a light color, I used a small piece of steel wool and let it sit for just 18 hours. This worked to make a nice light change for my first batch, but with my second I used a less-fine steel wool and it definitely wasn't long enough. Oops.

Stain applied, waiting for it to dry:

You can see my test spot in the photo below. Just a slightly darker, grayish patch. Plus some splatters from the first batch spill that I didn't realize splashed on this drawer.

I loved the color once it was all stained. And if you want it to stay the color (or at least close to it) you should probably try sealing it with a regular polyurethane. But... I again took the cheap DIY route with a homemade beeswax + olive oil sealer. And it dramatically changed the color of the wood. I don't know how much difference the stain in the final color.

Beeswax + Olive Oil Wood Sealer
  • 1 part beeswax (1/4 cup)
  • 3 parts olive oil (3/4 cup)
Melt the two ingredients together in a double boiler (or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water) until combined. Let it cool slightly before pouring it into a container, then let it cool completely. Once it's cool you can apply it to your wood with a soft rag (or piece of an old tshirt). Fun fact: this is actually the same wood sealer recipe that I use to seal my wooden teething toys! You can read more about the process with photos in my teething ring post.

See how much darker?! And more yellow. I don't know how much of that is from the sealer and how much is the undertone of the wood. I should have done a test spot of poly to compare. My bad, guys.
Honestly, I was pretty disappointed when that beautiful gray tinge disappeared into this darker, more yellowish finish. Ugh. Fortunately once I moved the desk into its new home, the color grew on me pretty quickly. And at the moment I'm very happy not to mess with it anymore. Sometimes that's all we can ask for.

Apart from the color, I've been really happy with how the sealer actually worked and how it has help up so far. It smelled great, went on smoothly, and I haven't had any problems with it! I actually love having this finish in my wheelhouse, especially to use around the kids.

Oh, also keep in mind that I have a laminate top on here that I didn't need to seal. I do wonder if there would be any trouble with the sealer leaving oil stains on papers or fabric left laying on a sealed surface (similar to the problems with that frustrating butcherblock in the kitchen)

With the desk done, we were ready to start moving things into our home office/library.

Those sticky notes on the wall are my high-tech stud markers.

We hung simple shelves using these brackets I made for less than $1 each (more details on that here).

Then slid the desk into place along with an extra chair from our dining set (another FB Marketplace find that I updated with black spray paint).

And that's the rest of the story on our low-budget office refresh!

The only thing I've changed since the big reveal is adding a string of twinkle lights (that's what you call Christmas lights so you can leave them up year-round. you're welcome.) above the bookshelves on the opposite wall. This wall is why we call it a library instead of an office.

Feeling inspired to tackle your own space on a budget? Always remember the best place to start: rearrange and work with what you have first. Then you can see where you really need to spend money to make the space the best it can be. After that, see what you can get second hand for low cost (I'm working on a post with my best thrifty shopping tips to help you out with this step!).

Love this reminder from erkiabault!

For all the pictures and details of the full office update, check out this post:


What space would you love to tackle on a small budget?

Friday, January 18

12 Things You Should Be Buying at Ikea

You probably know by now how much I love Ikea. You might also know Ikea is a big store with thousands of products that can overwhelm even the most enthusiastic shopper. Well I'm here to help with that! I've spent enough time there that I know my way around, where all my favorite products are, and which products are worth the trip! There are a few things I've bought over the years that are my tried-and-true favorites. The items I go straight to Ikea for that have impressed me with both quality and price.

So I've made a list of my 12 must-have items at Ikea!

1. Pillow Inserts

It's no small feat to keep your pillow covers looking plush and amazing, but a good pillow insert doesn't need to break the bank! Ikea carries polyfil inserts for just $3 and fluffy down-feather inserts for $6! It's a steal! 

Sunday, January 13

7 Coat Closet Organization Tips (from our family of 6!)

Something about a new year always has us itching for a fresh start!  I'm ready to organize, declutter, and simplify (along with another huge overhaul you can read about here). And I started with this little coat closet that sits just inside the door. 

Two years of coats on the floor and piles of shoes was all this momma could handle. I did some very basic "organizing" last year with a few baskets I brought in the move plus a couple empty diaper boxes (yup.). It was enough to get us by for a while, but I finally had to face the fact that it just wasn't serving our family as well as it could. The good news? It was a super simple fix and it didn't cost much!

Saturday, January 5

Confessions of this Shopaholic (and a journey toward less)

Hello, my name is Georgia, and I might be a shopaholic.

I was reading a book last week that opened my eyes to what a shopaholic really is. It's not the lady in high heels carrying and armload of shopping bags. I mean, sure, she's probably a shopaholic too, but that's not who I'm talking about. Because shopaholism (probably a word. maybe.) doesn't always look like that. The shopaholic also looks like the tired mom-of-four who goes to the store for two things and leaves the store with five things. Every single time. They may be little, inexpensive things - a new mug, an extra fuzzy scarf, two rolls of ribbon (they were on sale!) - but they are still extra things, compulsively bought, and most likely not accounted for in the budget.

I decided our house was too cluttered. No more! We need to purge! Then I went shopping after Christmas and brought home all this. Because sales! It's so beautiful! The deals! This is where my story of shopaholism begins.