Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Now is Our Time

It is easy for me to feel...well, uneasy...during these times. It is not, for instance, a particularly good time in history to start a family. It is disconcerting to see my investments shrink. It is alarming to hear reports of political and environmental concerns abroad.

Make me Feel Better
During these moments of anxiety, I often want to look to someone to make me feel better. A leader who can offer solutions that I can apply in my own life. Someone, or some group, that has answers or ideas or even a consistently positive attitude. Unfortunately these people are few and far between. Too many politicians are corrupt, too many CEO’s are greedy, and too many figureheads are ego-maniacs.

And so I’m going to--just this one time, and never, ever again--quote Dr. Phil: If you need a leader, be a leader. And so I think that now is our time to lead.

Be A Leader
Without getting all “Viva Revolucion!” on you, I’ll simply say that this recession is a perfect opportunity to rise to the challenge. And I firmly believe that we ladies are particularly equipped to do so. Because the antidote for a lot of what has gotten us into this mess (ahem...bloated institutions expanding their global reach via grossly inflated claims) lies in it’s counterpoint: in small, community, home-centered (and dare I say
female?) places.

Ignore the Naysayers
These solutions, and opportunities to lead within them, are undoubtedly offensive to many.
What do you mean you can solve the global economy troubles with the help of a bunch of gals selling trinkets from home and growing food in their yards? Why, that’s a bunch of kum-ba-ya hooey! Even I hesitate to overstate our influence for fear that some will think I’m preposterous. Hooey aside, though, I’ll endure some criticism if it means that gardens and cottage industries and creativity get some attention during these times. And of course attention for the ladies behind them, too.

So please, give Recessionistas a chance to inspire your leadership, and pay no mind to the naysayers. Sometimes what we’re looking for is small, and simple, and right in front of us.

Previous Recessionista posts:
Your Inner Entrepreneur
Homegrown Resilience
Smarty Pants: Jobs vs. Livelihoods

Monday, March 30, 2009

Marketplace Mavens: featuring Tamara Cramer from Nurtured Mother

Sometimes in life we just need a good coach. We need someone who can help us address our fears and expectations, provide encouragement, and walk us through our future plans. Tamara Cramer, from Nurtured Mother, is one of these coaches.

A Doula

Tamara is a doula, meaning that she coaches women through one of the most challenging (albeit rather short) events in life: birth.
She meets with moms-to-be in the weeks preceding their deliveries to tackle their fears and concerns (and maybe even naive illusions) about childbirth, and helps them to create a plan for the Big Day. And then, when the day finally arrives, she’s there by their side offering encouragement and advocacy. Tamara’s motto i
s simple: tackle your fears and then create a plan with lots of contingencies, because birth--like life--is full of the unexpected.

The Unexpected
Tamara knows about confronting the unexpected--and the value of having contingency plans--from personal experience.
After having her second child, she returned to her 9-5 career in marketing expecting to pick right up where she left off. She was surprised to quickly discover that she wanted, and needed, to be home instead. The challenges surrounding that choice were daunting--financially and emotionally--and she confesses that she didn’t exactly have the plan in place like she would have wanted.

Over a year later, she is nurturing Nurtured Mother, working part-time in marketing, and enjoying lots of time at home with her two young children. And even the money--the most challenging aspect of her transition--has been a scary-turned-rewarding process of budgeting and setting goals and making progress.

Key Points
There are two key points that Tamara stressed during our interview. They were:
1. The value of having contingency plans in life. Just like she encourages her birthing clients to keep their minds open about the Big Day, so she would encourage women to keep their options open regarding career and motherhood. Want to stay home? Then start making a plan for that now, and be proactive about “grassroots” opportunities to work from home! Want to work full time? Great! But make room in your life financially and emotionally to change your mind if want to. Flexibility is like gold, but you have to plan for it!

2. Remember that labor is hard work--or else they wouldn’t call it labor. There are seasons of life when struggle is unavoidable--times of financial stress, unexpected twists, and emotional lows. But confronting fear and persevering often leads to rewards on the other side, be they a new baby, a entrepreneurial venture, or a fulfilling lifestyle. You can't skip over the labor, but you can be successful in the midst of it.

Learn More
To learn more about Tamara’s doula services, seminars she’s teaching, and the Your Best Birth Ever upcoming event, visit her website at www.nurtured-mother.com or her blog at www.nurturedmother.blogspot.com.

Previous Mavens:
Laura of Uproar
Whitney from Lucky Me Beads
Heather of Pink and White Designs

Your Inner Entrepreneur

Welcome back, readers, to week 2 of Recessionistas! Today is Entrepreneurial Monday (no, I’m not starting a new column--I just dubbed that title for today), because entrepreneurialism is one of my favorite qualities of a Recessionista.

If you’re anything like me, you might be intimidated by the thought of starting a business, or selling anything, or working for yourself. I, for one, was Never one of those lemonade stand kids. I would have rather been subjected to playing the wicked witch (oh dreaded role!) in a game of princess than try to make money from my friends and neighbors. Funny that I work from home now. Even funnier that I still haven’t quite conquered my intimidation.

Not About Size
What I’m learning, though, is that living entrepreneurially is more than just business licenses and accounting spreadsheets. It’s about recognizing our talent and skills, stoking our confidence a little, and offering them to others in the marketplace. Most importantly, it is Not about size.

Let me say that again. It is Not about size.

Because the problems in the economy are so Big right now, it is easy to look for Big solutions. But sometimes it’s the hobby-on-the-side that helps a family make ends meet. It is tiny, cottage industries that shine through when big corporations are faltering. And it is these small, nimble industries--often overlooked and undervalued--that get me excited.

Waiting to Come Alive
Now I’m not saying that everyone should become an entrepreneur. But I am suggesting that maybe you have something valuable to offer to others, and that you keep it to yourself because it seems too small or insignificant or intimidating. Maybe you are an entrepreneur-in-the-making and just don’t know it. Maybe you have a tiny cottage industry waiting to come alive. I hope so.

Of course I have A Ton more to say on this topic, and will be gushing in the weeks to come.
But for now I’ll sign off with one last thing: one of the best ways to start exploring your inner-entrepreneur is to read the stories of others. Thus, this afternoon I’m excited to bring you one such story, from Tamara Cramer of Nurtured Mother. She is the first Marketplace Maven of 2009! Don’t miss it!

Previous Recessionista posts:
Servin' up Solutions
Creative Salvation
Homegrown Resilience

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mental Break

Friday is here at last, and after several days of some deep talk, I'm ready to take a mental break and enjoy the weekend ahead!

So, to get a head start on leisure, I've been decompressing with the aid of a new book to adorn my shelves: Practically Posh by Robyn Moreno. Part magazine, part reference guide, this book has provided some of the reprieve I need.

Thank you for joining with me this week and talking about becoming a Recessionista. I appreciate your friendship, and love hearing your comments!

If You Haven't Done So...
On that note, I bid you a Friday farewell. If you haven't already done so, please take a minute to sign up for my subscriber newsletter to take part of some insider Recessionista fun, including the chance to win your own Buttercup Bag! And come back next week to hear more about entrepreneurship and leadership, two of my favorite topics.

Hope you have a good weekend!

Catch up on this week's Recessionista posts:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Smarty Pants: Visualizing a Trillion Dollars

No series on the recession can be complete without some chatter on the tremendous amount of money that is being tossed around these days. The billions are quickly approaching the trillions, which is an extremely difficult number to comprehend.

So, for comprehension aid, my friends over at Mint.com (read how I love Mint.com here) have created this little ditty on the value of a trillion dollars.

It is shocking to say the least. Thank goodness there's a silver "Recessionista" lining!

Previous Smarty Pants posts:

A Wallet Full of Friends

So far in my introduction of Recessionistas, I've mainly focused on things that we can tackle individually, in our homes or with our talents and skills. But a Recessionista is no island. She's well-connected, and sees her friends as her best support and ally in these times.

Easy to Drift:
I don't think this is a hard quality to sell. We tend to be social, after all. I figure it won't take much persuading to convince you that friends and family are important right now. It's making the time for these relationships that is the hard part--at least for me. Whether you work full-time, or from home like me, busyness and isolation are easy to drift into. I know because I find myself drifting all the time.

A Secret:
But there is a secret in relationships that applies directly to a recession. A secret that I think we all instinctually know but rarely hear about. The secret is this: relationships are some of the best currency we have. Sometimes they're even more valuable than real currency. True--you can't pay your mortgage in favors to a friend, or buy a new car with dinner parties, but you can do a lot. You can, for instance, barter and swap a multitude of goods and services with those you know. You can borrow instead of buy, and lend in return. You can multiply your impact, or just boost your motivation, with the help of friends. You can split costs on bulk items, or share garden real estate, or carpool. All of these examples accomplish two things: they make the recession less scary, and they save you money.

But while these things are simple, they are not easy. They do require a bit of organization, and certainly an investment in time. The investment, I speculate, is worth making. So we'll be experimenting in the weeks to come about how to gather and spend this new "currency." And I'm hoping that we'll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Become an Insider:
And what's the best way to hear more about these goals and experiments? To sign up for my newsletter, debuting very soon! Enter your email address above, or click here to learn more.

Previous related posts:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

DIY: Buttercup Bag

I made a promise earlier this week that creativity would be a Big part of this Recessionista series, and that I would be posting plenty of DIY projects and before & after makeovers during the coming weeks. Because pie charts, after all, are boring, whereas super cute handbags are not.

Weekly Project:

Thus my project for the week, or at least the onl
y one I've actually finished, is this bag. I've seen this Buttercup bag from Made by Rae all over the web this month, and decided that I had to join the crowd and make one myself. This is the first bag project I've undertaken, and other than a few self-induced roadblocks, it was fun and easy to make.

Bags are Great!

One of the great things about bags is that they require so little fabric.
I had plenty of options from my stash of scraps (you might recognize the trim as the same fabric I used for my coverlet in my newly redesigned bedroom), saving me time and money. My favorite part, I think, are the buttons. They were the la
st thing I added, and just seemed to be the perfect finishing touch.

Perhaps I can tempt you a bit by hinting that my first prize of the Recessionista series will be a buttercup bag. But you have to be an insider to join in the raffle. Curious? Click here to learn more about signing up!

Stick around for more tomorrow. I'll be continuing my introduction of Recessionistas by writing about the value of friendships.

Homegrown Resilience

I've written many times in self-deprecating jest about the demise of my budgeting sensibilities in the aisles of Target and the troubling state of affairs in my pantry. And I've argued many times that although these things might seem trivial on the surface, especially in the face of larger events like the dissolution of the modern global economy, they are, in fact, quite important.

Home Matters:
So on the third day of Recessionistas, I would like to say that home matters. It matters a lot. For instance, I like to think of my home as many things: a sanctuary, a refuge, a place to create and design, a source for inspiration. Well, right now my home is also a fortress for me; a place where I can shore up my strength and resolve, and minimize my vulnerability to outside events.

This last quality is one that I'm finding more and more valuable when I start to feel fear creep in (which is often does when I'm paying attention to the headlines). It is also why I say that preparedness on the homefront is a great antidote to fear. There are a lot of things that we cannot control about this recession, but the things we can positively impact usually start at our doorsteps.

The Many Faces of Preparation:
Thus, being prepared takes on a lot of different faces. Certainly budgeting household income is one form, and I've got some experiments up my sleeve on that topic (and some friends I've recruited to help me, too). But there are other faces I want to explore as well, like being prepared to flow with the unexpected as it relates to work (buffering for a job loss, for instance, or amping up to (re)enter the workforce). Or like taking stock of your household resources and filling in the gaps.

This is also where we'll chat about growing food, and applying our creativity in clever and resourceful ways. Because preparation can be daunting (not to mention boring) if there isn't some creative reward in it. Fortunately I think such rewards can be found.

Active, not Passive:
My favorite part about pursuing preparedness is that it is an active (as opposed to passive) response to the economic recession. And action is a quality I definitely want to cultivate as a Recessionista.

Taking it Further:
Stick around later today when I share the latest creative project I've been working on. And click here to read more about how you can become a Recessionista insider and receive regular updates, chances for prizes, and activities you can try at home!

Previous Related Posts:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Free Art!

I've been posting a lot today about the value of creativity during a recession. Along that vein, take a minute to see this idea in action, courtesy of Etsy's IndieFixx's "Feed Your Soul: the Free Art Project" campaign.

Enter to win some free art of your own, and let the creativity continue!

Smarty Pants: Jobs vs. Livelihoods

note: smarty pants posts are my reflections on current events, trends, and perspectives.

I wrote this morning that as a society we tend to gravitate toward utilitarianism when we are stressed out about money. So I thought that this afternoon I would give you an example of what I mean by this...

I was reading last week's issue of Time magazine where they featured a series of short articles on "world changing" ideas happening right now. The very first idea that they listed was titled "Jobs are the New Assets," and I was curious. On the surface this article seemed to make a lot of sense. The basic thesis was that right now our jobs are the most important thing we have going for us. Since our investments are in the toilet, and our homes are losing value, our jobs have become the one nugget of security we can, and should, hold on to.

A Burr in My Saddle:
Underneath the top layer, though, something about this thesis bothered me. I mulled it around for awhile, and came to the conclusion that it was precisely this "utilitarianism" I've been writing about that bugged me. Let me explain.

One of the key points of the article was that our human capital translates into our economic output. In other words, our skills and knowledge can be "invested" into our jobs and earn "interest" in increased economic output. Now that's all fine and well, but I'm not sure I like being defined into categories like "capital" and "output." And therein lies the burr under my saddle: in a recession, particularly when our incomes are threatened, it is easy to start thinking of ourselves as little more than worker bees. The "bottom line" become a primary measure of value. Now this may be a practical (aka utilitarian) and helpful way of looking at things if you are an accountant, economist or banker, but it does not figure as well for stay-at-home moms, artists, writers, and caregivers.

An Unfortunate Temptation:
What I am finding is that during this "economic crisis," the temptation is to look at everything through the lens of "output" and "interest." Unfortunately, day-to-day life is not so easy to quantify. What "output," for instance, do we assign to raising children? What "interest" is earned from creating something beautiful? And do we really want to start measuring everything from that perspective anyway? I certainly don't!

To be fair, the article ended on a higher note, touching on the virtues of finding meaningful work that reflects who we are as individuals. Which leads me to my final thought: "jobs" are truly an important "asset," but I much prefer the term "livelihood" because it implies a better measurement for value: life. I want the work I do to impart life, not just "output." And I want to resist the temptation to start viewing the value of my work under and artificial register of "assets" and "liabilities."

What are your thoughts?
I'm curious to know what your thoughts are about this "recession perspective" of seeing everything in terms of capital and output. Do you find it helpful, or stressful? How do you view the work you do daily, especially during this time? Please share by commenting below!

Previous Smarty Pants posts:

Creative Salvation!

Perhaps after reading yesterday's introductory post about the new Recessionista series, some of you are a little skeptical. You might be thinking that several weeks spent on the topic of the economy sounds like going to the dentist. Perhaps you are worried that images of charts and graphs are going to replace those of creative room makeovers and DIY projects. And that shortly I will begin to sound very much like your high school Home-Ec teacher who droned on and on about the finer points of a budget spreadsheet.

Get Serious?:
I understand your fears. The truth is that during tumultuous times, society does tend to veer toward the comforts of utilitarianism. We suddenly feel like we need to "get serious" about the p's and q's of daily responsibility, and shelve anything that seems frivolous or unproductive. In other words, we feel compelled to take up our Quicken account registers and lay down our scrapbooks and sewing projects.

This, truthfully, is one of the things I hate most about this recession so far. This idea that utility--as in paying bills, working, eating food, etc.--suddenly trumps everything else, including creativity, upsets me. That is why the first thing I want to emphasize at the start of this Recessionista series is that creativity will be front and center. I will not abandon my projects for pie charts, and I don't want you to either!

Creativity is a Helper:
Why am I so fervent on this point? Because I firmly believe that creativity is a refuge and helper in times like this, not a hindrance. I resist the tyranny of utilitarianism because frankly, utility just isn't all it's cracked up to be. Paying bills is important, yes, and so is job security. But thriving--not just surviving--through times like these requires more.

One of the hallmarks of being a Recessionista, then, will be intentional creative expression. In fact, I want to dedicate a portion of time in my day specifically for creative pursuits. Sewing, knitting, decorating...whatever. And I will be inviting you to join me. And you can bet that we'll be talking a lot more about the virtues of creativity in hard times in the months to come!

Coming Later Today:
In fact, I'm picking up the conversation later today in a Smarty Pants post I've prepared in response to a Time magazine article I recently read, and to highlight a free art program I stumbled upon. Stay tuned to read more! And tomorrow I'll be sharing some pics from my latest DIY creative venture. Don't miss it!

One more thing--I posted yesterday about a new, exclusive feature that I'll be launching shortly, which is a subscriber newsletter. And you can be sure that one of the first things we'll be exploring is this idea of the "creative hour." I can't wait to hear your thoughts and see your projects! So sign up today to take part in the fun!

Previous Related posts:

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Newest Gossip...

The start of spring has always felt like a time for new announcements and fresh ideas. It makes sense, then, that I've already introduced you to one new beginning here on Deviantly Domesticated, which is a fresh feature series called Recessionistas. And while I am very energized by this new series, I am also excited about another launch I'm preparing in the very near future: my first-ever newsletter.

Hopes for the Newsletter:
Now, please don't yawn! I know that email newsletters are as commonplace as the daffodils peeking up through your neighbors lawn, but what can I say? I like common things. Furthermore, I have all kinds of exciting plans for this newsletter. For instance:

* I want to start adding a lot more activities, weekly challenges, and events related to the content of my daily posts--but only for insiders. For example, I have some ideas I'm dying to try related to Recessionistas, and I'd love to invite you to try them with me!
* I want to inspire creativity and encourage feedback by giving away more prizes (yay!)! Be they creations from my own hand, or super finds from sponsors, this newsletter will be the channel for raffling great gifts.
* I want to start hearing more from all of you. The newsletter will give me a chance to share some things I don't normally post on this space--more personal updates and plans for the future--and hopefully it will open doors for me to hear more about your lives, too. What projects are you working on? What are you doing to stay positive during these times? And how do you share your leadership with the people you know?
* I want to pave the way for future ideas and initiatives. I have all kinds of proposal clattering around in my mind, and I'd love to try them on for size. So, for example, subscribers can help me figure out if my community gardening idea is gold or bust.
* Finally, I want to use your testimonies and stories to encourage other readers. Was there a budgeting idea that helped you save money? Or maybe an article that sparked you to think in a new way? I want to know, and I want others to know!

No Spamming:
Please know that I will not sign up people without their consent. In fact, the service I'm using requires you to opt into the newsletter twice, and always gives you the chance to opt out anytime. So you can rest assured that I won't start spamming your inbox! And of course I won't be giving away your addresses, either, because that's just uncool.

Sign up!:
So, if you're interested in becoming an insider (and I hope you are), please sign up for my newsletter in the box above. You'll start receiving regular Recessionista news and challenges very soon!

And on a personal note-- I consider all of you faithful readers my friends and encouragement. Your daily visits and comments mean so much to me, and I'm thankful for you!

Servin' up Solutions

A New Series:
It is true that I usually start chewing on ideas for a new series long before I actually introduce it to you, dear readers. The process begins with vague inclinations toward topics that are interesting to me, and then steadily builds into more definite themes and issues. One of the last things to come--something I usually struggle to find--is the title and "brand" of the series.

And so it was with Recessionistas. I've known for awhile that I wanted to begin to thoughtfully and intentionally engage the issue of the "economy in crisis," but I wasn't sure what approach to take. Would I become a humdrum prophet, lamenting future days and warning of dire straights ahead? Would I make references in passing, effectively turning a blind eye to the elephant in the room? Would I be flippant and cloy, glossing over the very real concerns and fears that effect day-to-day living? Worst of all, would I be boring, droning on and on about a morose topic that frankly we'd rather distract ourselves from?

Boring? I hope not!
Hopefully the answer is "no" on all accounts. With Recessionistas, and it's chirpy, coffee house impressions, I hope to address the current economic situation in a way that is relevant and practical and positive. Because I believe that a) we all could use a little down-to-earth conversation on the subject, and b) such talk could Seriously use a feminine touch!

What I mean by this last point is that I firmly believe that there are many, many ways to positively respond to these times, and that as women, we are particularly equipped for such a response. Even more, I believe that a lot of solutions we need are home-grown. Home-grown, I realize, is neither glamorous nor sensational (qualities our culture has strong affections for). But it just might be effective.

Five Tenants:
So, I purport a few tenants that will mark the conversation ahead. They will be the backbone of Recessionistas (you and I) in action. They are:
1. that creativity is our lifeline in times such as these. And by that I mean undertaking creative endeavors even if--nay, perhaps Because--they seem frivolous.
2. that preparation is a great antidote to fear.
3. that our relationships are perhaps the best currency we have.
4. that in terms of "economic recovery," the sun will shine on the small and nimble (which, incidentally, is us...)
5. And that our leadership is needed now more than ever.

First Impressions?
I'm curious to hear about your first thoughts. Are you nervous about the economy? Are you tired of talking about it? Do you feel, as one friend of mine does, that thinking about it induces too much stress, and you'd rather avoid it altogether? I want to know! Share you comments by clicking on the "comment" link below.

And stick around later today as I unveil another new feature for this blog that coincides with Recessionistas. I can't wait to share!

Previous Related Posts:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Work-in-Progress: sewing project

It started as this...

And then became this...

And now it's this...

Don't you love works-in-progress, especially when they start from old sweaters you don't wear any more?

Guest Writer: a final word on Nesting

Today marks the official start of Spring, and so begins new beginnings.  Next Monday I'll be launching a new series, Recessionistas, here on this blog, and I'm already brimming with ideas!  But before I switch gears completely, I thought I'd assign one last day to Nesting.  So, to give the series a proper close, I've asked my sister and friend, Sheryl, to write a quick quip on Nesting from her perspective as a new stay-at-home mom (my nephew turns one this month).  You'll find that she is both poignant and funny.  Here's a clip from her article, "An Odd Bird":

Most people think that all female birds create nice cozy nests for their young.  But research shows that not every bird nests the same way.  The petril creates its nest in rock cliffs because it likes to fly and swim.  Condors do not make nests at all...  When I was pregnant with my son, people kept asking me how my nesting instinct was setting in.  I had mixed feelings about the question--mostly because I was unsure of my answer....I associated nesting with an image of a woman sitting in the corner of her neatly cleaned home, knitting something special for her impending arrival.  I didn't fit the mold.  I was the petril of the bunch--an odd bird.  Click here to read the full article.

Thank you to Sheryl for contributing the last (and funny) word on the Nesting series.  I hope you enjoy a little comic relief on this Friday, and make sure to come back on Monday for Recessionistas and the start of new things!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Springtime Resolutions

Even though spring isn't officially here until Friday, I'm invoking a new spring "resolution," which is to get outside every day, particularly in the morning if I can.  So far I've been out gardening the past two mornings, and I'm loving it!  The smell of the air, getting my hands dirty, and hearing the birds chirp is an instant (and free) mood lifter.

This recent habit has got me thinking a lot about gardening, including projects I want to start, and changes I'd like to make.  For instance, last year I planted my first ever kitchen garden, and then subsequently discovered that "cold crops" really weren't meant for June.  They were, however, meant for March, and so I've already cleared away the remnants of cauliflower and brussels sprouts (some survived the winter!) from last year, and am now ready to amend my soil and plant seeds for this year.  I'm also plotting a list of new trees I'd like to add to our modest property (a suburban lot), including an apricot tree (I can already taste the cobbler...) and some ornamental pears.  

I've been seeking out garden inspiration too, and finding it in spades.  I'm in love with this English Garden, featured in this last (sadly, The last) issue of Domino Magazine (sniff, sniff), and have my sights set on my sideyard to attempt something similar.  If only my house really were a stone cottage to match....  I also snagged up a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about her experiment to eat locally for a year, and am already filled to the brim with ideas for growing my own food and supporting community agriculture.  

Of course, all this inspiration is trickling into ideas for my next series, Recessionistas, and I'll be sharing more details soon!  You can definitely expect to hear more about gardening and the value of growing food during a recession in the days to come, so get your spades ready!

Previous Related Posts:
Marketplace Maven: featuring Sharon Astyk (an author who blogs and writes a Ton about growing food)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Accessories (Part 2)

I mentioned yesterday that I like to swap out my room accessories (usually via slipcovers) from season to season to freshen up my living spaces and keep me from getting bored.  Incidentally, I usually do the same for my wardrobe every year, only I'm not always as resourceful.  For instance, last year I stood in my closet, looking at all the spring stuff I had from years passed, and inevitably felt like something was missing.  So,  I headed out to the shops to liven things up with a couple new shirts, a skirt, or a dress.  

Partly this routine is preening--you know, the practice animals do when they get all dussied up for mating season.  Similar to the birds, I think I picked up on this habit in high school, when I was eager snatch up a prom date (Not so much for mating, of course.  More for dancing and having fun.).  The habit remains to this day.  

This year, however, I don't have the cash to spend on new shirts and dresses.  So I decided to apply the same principle--swapping out accessories--for my wardrobe as I did for my house.  Instead of getting clothes, I snagged a cute pair of red wedges (with a peep toe, of course!), and a fedora.  Both of them coordinate with almost everything I own, and cost me about $30.00 together.  And I'll get a lot more mileage out of those $30 than I would from the same amount spent on a new dress or shirt because I don't have to wait for laundry day to wear them again.

I know, I know--this is Fashion 101.  But getting back to the basics this spring has been refreshingly good for both my pocketbook and my look!  It is also helping me get ready for my next series, Recessionistas (starting soon!), since pinching pennies without abandoning creative expression is a Big part of persevering through economic dips.  Stick around to hear more, coming soon!

Previous Related Posts:
Super Spring Fashion Finds (in case you do want more than just accessories...)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Accessories (Part 1)

One of my favorite design tricks is to swap out accessories at the turn of each season.  So every year, for instance, when the holidays roll around, I pull out my ruby satin and toile prints, sewn into slipcovers (a girl's best friend, really), and pull them over my throw pillows for an instant festive uplift.  

When spring starts to dawn, I start getting antsy to lighten up my look--similar to lightening up my wardrobe from sweaters to cardigans--and search my linen closet and fabric stash for a few quick fixes.  

So out with the pinecones and in with the green.  Adios to the ruby, and hello to linen ticking stripe and waffle muslin in creamy white.  

My theory is that our rooms need refreshing as much as our fashion does.  The trouble is that furniture costs A Lot more than a new pair of shoes (unless, of course, you're talking about Manolo Blahniks).  So the remedy for a tight budget?  Slipcovers, of course.  Swap out your old duvet for a new one, and your pillow shams for a fresh set.  I'm not particularly crazy about mine right now, to be honest, but I'm sure that my fabric stash holds the key, as soon as I make the time to unlock my creativity.  The cost for these upgrades is cheap, cheap, cheap, especially if you sew them yourself.  And the effect is just what I need!

Incidentally, I'm applying the same reasoning to my spring fashion this year.  Stick around to see more.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Farewell to Nesting...for now

Monday morning finds me sipping my breakfast tea and watching the sparrows dive toward my porch in search of a nesting place.  I know the feeling; I've been following the instinct to do likewise this whole winter.

Winter, however, is rapidly drawing to an end.  And so you might already notice a few changes that the up-coming spring has ushered in.  Like a sneak peak in to my next series--Recessionistas--which I am eager to start.  More changes are on the way, too.  For instance, you'll notice very shortly that the format for leaving comments on this blog will get a serious makeover--hopefully making is easier to chat (I know there have been some technical problems along those lines lately...).  I'll also be launching a regular newsletter for special subscribers, full of updates and personal insights that you won't find on my day-to-day posts.  And you might notice some new faces on the sidebar--like Tracy from Art of Whimsy photography, who take marvelous photos--and I'll be inviting you to learn more about them by clicking on their images.

Admittedly a small part of me is sad to leave Nesting behind.  I have greatly enjoyed these past weeks spent in cozy comfort, knitting and decorating and baking to my heart's content.  Along the way I've reflected a lot on the nature of being a woman, of preparing for motherhood (a journey that continues for me), and of caring for my personal spaces.  I've relished moments of creativity and even--I know this seems shocking--moments of scrubbing and mopping.

All told, I think that the most important thing I've learned is that I benefit greatly from seasons of relative rest.  And this past winter provided me with opportunities for just that.  Chances to slow down and appreciate the simpler things in life, like macaroon cookies with hot tea, and the sheer satisfaction of shiny floors and polished wood.  And although I am certainly welcoming the spring, and that sense of moving on to newer things, I hope that I can retain some of that simple appreciation going forward.  Certainly I'll be surrounded by pleasant reminders of this Nesting season, like freshly decorated spaces to enjoy, and fun, creative projects to pursue.

Thank you all for joining me during Nesting, and I hope you, too, found some rest and appreciation for the simple.  In case you missed it, I invite you to scroll through the archives for the months of January, February and March to read more!

Now...time for new adventures and more creative fun!  Stick around this week to learn more about Recessionistas, new design ideas, and more!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Modern Benefits from a Vintage Chore

Since I left my 9-5 career a little over a year ago to pursue more creative and domestic pursuits, I have been struck again and again by a few reoccurring themes.  One of them is mindfulness.  You know--the practice (and I do say "practice" because it is definitely a process for me) of thinking more deeply about my relationship with my resources.  Practically speaking, of course, mindfulness is the art of shutting my wallet when the impulse to consume consumes me.

So it has not been too surprising for me to encounter lessons in mindfulness--poking into the room and out from under the sofa--while spring cleaning this month.  I've already alluded to this in recent posts--about how seeing all my Stuff has forced me to take a pause and contemplate how much a person (me) really needs.  And so I won't rehash what is simple to say, which is that cleaning and decluttering has tempered my desire to rush out to the stores and buy stuff, effectively refilling the spaces I labored so diligently to clear.

There is another quality of mindfulness, however, apart from this consumer conviction, which is a heightened appreciation for the things I have and renewed creativity.  This is the other side of the mindful coin.  While hearing daily reports of resource struggles (foreclosures and shrinking retirement accounts, etc. etc.), it has been an unexpected silver lining to find a bit of thankfulness for what I do have.  Because I have a lot!  If mindfulness is thinking more deeply about my relationship with resources, than I think that I am blessed.  And appreciation--more than conviction--will reform my habits in the stores and the attitude in my heart.

Furthermore, resources have a way of reminding me to be more resourceful.  And my definition of resourceful is the art of seeing new possibilities in old things.  The pleasure of taking a square of  old fabric and printing some Orla-Kelly-inspired motifs on them and then sewing them into tea towels is Far more enjoyable than buying her towels at Target for $5.99 (sorry, Orla).  It is practicing mindfulness at its best!

So, upon those reflections, I have basically finished with the "cleaning" part of my spring cleaning this year.  I have a few odds and ends to do, but the bulk of the work is over.  And as I prepare to tackle a few remaining projects (getting my financial records in order and stored for 2009, reviewing my budget, uncluttering my hard drive, etc.), I have to say that I have been very pleased with the process.  Not only do I have a cleaner house, but I have a renewed appreciation in our sophisticated world for the benefits of simple, old-fashioned tasks.  Tasks that, in review, save me money, improve my wellness, and transform my attitude.

So if you haven't taken up your mop and broom yet, I encourage you to do it!  Nevermind the traditionalism of it--give simple cleaning therapy a try.  I think you'll find a lot of modern benefits in this vintage chore.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pinching a Pretty Penny

As I sat down to post this morning, I heard a little voice in my head ask, "are you really going to evangelize more about spring cleaning?  Won't people think that's lame?"

And the answers: yes...and perhaps, yes.  Lame or not, I just can't help but sharing insight gleaned from simple and yet overlooked activities.  I mean, I recognize that in today's culture, with all of our fancy gadgets and important careers and highly developed parenting methods, that spring cleaning seems quite antiquated.  But as with all things domestic, I'm learning that sometimes rewarding solutions can be found in unlikely places.

So it is with the financial rewards of spring cleaning.  I already highlighted one possible financial benefit of clearing away your clutter yesterday, which is donation.  Not only do you get a little tax relief (and who couldn't use that!?), but you can invest in good causes in your local area too.  It's a win-win.

Beyond donation, there are other financial benefits I have discovered along my scrubbing path.  I wrote last week about "Make Do and Mend," where I testified about the convicting impact of seeing all my "stuff" piled up.  My well-developed affection for buying pretty things has been seriously challenged under the light of Windex sparkle, reminding me of just how often I purchase new things when the old ones will satisfy.  Why do I need new books when I've never even made it through my copy of Jane Eyre?  And can I really justify a new quilt for my bed when I have enough fabric stashed around to make my own?

Can you see how asking these questions can have a positive effect on my wallet?  As in I am persuaded to spend less?  Spring cleaning has unexpectedly refined my "do I really need this?" litmus test.

Finally, while rummaging through my medicine cabinets and pantry, I discovered that my disorderliness has lead me to buy a lot of stuff I already have.  Case in point, I counted 4 bottles of heartburn medicine and three boxes of butterfly bandaids while sorting--evidence that I've purchased these things from the store under the false impression that I had run out.  I wondered, how often do I do this?  How many times do I pick up things from the store because I'm not familiar with what I have at home?"  Can I honestly feel good about the stewardship of my resources when I don't even know when I've run out of something?

Getting clean and organized has reacquainted me with the contents of my cabinets and cubbies, and just in time!

Now, call me crazy, but I don't know of any personal accounting and/or tax software that will locate donation items, prevent me from purchasing duplicates, and improve my consumer conscience for the cost of some rags and a bottle of Windex.

Spring cleaning wins again!

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