Too Thrifty Chicks

Think.Thrift.Create


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When Less is More: Thoughts on a Minimalist Life Pt. 1

I must admit I came to minimalism through tragedy.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my mother was diagnosed with early onset dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Part of dealing with her diagnosis has been dealing with her stuff: her house, her physical personal belongings, her finances.

I discovered that my mom, retired Army veteran, lover of all media, homeowner and divorcee had an overwhelming amount of stuff! Honestly, if she wasn’t so neat and tidy, I would call her a borderline hoarder.

And I, her only child, had to dive in, when she couldn’t.

The experience of going through her house — our house — and trying to decide what to do with it all broke me down. I cried. Sobbed in fact. I was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff, but also by the memories.

At some point in the process I realized my mama wasn’t ever going to live in her house again. She had no need of all of the things she had accumulated over her now 58 years of life. Me, her only daughter? I haven’t lived in the same city longer than four years. Ever. I’m a nomad, at home every where and no where. Where would I put all this stuff if I kept if for nostalgia’s sake? I don’t have a house and the way this journalism thing is set up, I might never have one.

I’m still dealing with what to do with my mama’s stuff. It’s come a long way since that very first time I went through it, but the process continues. Dealing with her stuff forced me to have a come to Jesus meeting with myself about my own stuff. I had questions.

  • Why did I continue to drag things from my imagined life of living in a permanent space into my actual life of living in temporary spaces?
  • Did I place more value on “owning” a thing, rather than on its function in my life?
  • What would happen to my self-worth, self-esteem if I gave a lot of it away?

These are questions that I am still trying to answer.

In the beginning

When I got my first full-time gig at The Tuscaloosa News, I was stoked. And I wanted a grown up apartment to go with my new job. I did no math. Rent in Tuscaloosa and Alabama can be cheap. I would not discover until two years later how cheap it could be. All I knew was that I could get a whole townhouse for less than $500 a month. But a whole house needs furniture, right? And decorations, and, and, and…..

Yeah. That was a thing. Until I realized how much money I did — or rather, didn’t — make. I had to move to a less expensive apartment across town and try to get my mid-20 something head around the dismal state of my finances. I moved from Tuscaloosa, Ala. to Sarasota, Fla. in 2005, for a job that paid more, but I couldn’t afford to take my stuff, which I’ moved to Georgia. The re-location money wouldn’t cover getting all that stuff to Florida and I was broke. I also didn’t have a place to put it. This was Florida, pre-housing bubble bursting. Apartments were being converted to condos and rents were outrageous compared to Tuscaloosa.

Instead, I shared space with great roommates until I moved to Anniston, Ala. for graduate school a year later. I was moving toward minimalism mostly by circumstance, and a little by choice. I lived for three years without most of my stuff. I told my mama to keep what she wanted for her daycare and sell/giveaway the rest. I was on the road to Montgomery, Ala. vowing to never, ever accumulate that much stuff again.

A broken vow

While I never accumulated a house full of furniture again — Reese can attest to this — I still managed to amass a closet full of clothes, kitchen supplies and books. Oh, and there were the huge pieces of art that I had been dragging around since my summer internship in Zambia, circa 2001! And did I mention the heavy, vintage typewriter? Yeah. That was a thing. My house was mostly a statement in minimalism, but it also didn’t feel like home. It felt empty. Disconnected. I knew I wanted less stuff, but I didn’t have the language to talk about it when everything about growing up seemed to be about getting more stuff.

Two steps forward, two steps back

I got to test these questions again when I moved to the DMV. I left Montgomery, Ala. with only what I could fit into a two-door, 1997 Saturn SC2. Clothes, kitchen supplies, books. I was jammed in that car like toes in too small shoes. And still I ended up leaving a lot of things behind at a good friend’s house.

Though I had successfully managed to give away a ton of stuff, I still couldn’t bear to part with anything more. I mean, for goodness sake, I got my book collection down to four small banker’s boxes. Who does that? I vowed to purchase a Kindle and to never physically turn a page again.

And then I met Reese. This girl loves books. When she became my roommate, she came with books. Her books reminded me how much I enjoyed reading. How much I enjoyed turning a physical page and devouring a book in a 24-hour period. Her books reminded me how good it feels to walk into a book store, especially in Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capital is home to Sankofa Video, Books and Cafe, The Children of the Sun, Busboys and Poets and Kramerbooks & Afterword Cafe. Not to mention thrift stores where you can find out of print books dirt cheap. (True story: I purged my suitcase while in Memphis because I bought books at a thrift store. Reese still had to bring some of them when she last came to visit.)

Ahh, glorious books. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for Operation Do Better, we would have spent every dime we made on books. The public library near our house, saved our pocket books to be sure.

But then it was time to move. And we both realized that in creating a home together, we had managed to amass a lot of stuff. That troubled the minimalist spirit that had developed in my heart from all my previous moves. Orchestrating a move is not my most favorite thing in the world, even though I have moved a lot in my 35 years. (Hello, Army brat.). I felt it whenever we visited friends, who had these spry, carefully edited apartments. Nothing more, nothing less. We had created an amazing space, but it was starting to feel like too much. Moving helped us both realize just how much it was.

Throw it out

When a friend posted a great article that encouraged us to throw everything away, ish got real. We jumped on a challenge to intentionally get rid of three or four things every day for 30 days. Because I was in transition, I had to modify the challenge. But I’m happy to say that by the time I unpacked my last box at my new space in New Haven, I managed to purge about 200 items over the last month.

While my stuff is still a little bit more than is necessary, it’s not much more, and that feels right. I learned while living with Reese what it means to create a space with intention, and I believe I have achieved minimalism without sacrificing comfort in my new place. I have some thoughts about how to ensure that I continue to travel light and ready for new adventure that I will share in another post.

So, I’ll leave you with these additional question to ponder: If you had an opportunity to pick up your life and move it to another country, state, city would your stuff hold you back? Would you chuck it all for the experience of a lifetime?

My courageous line sister recently did it. Check out her story and blog chronicling her adventures teaching abroad.

Do you consume, therefore you are? Share your thoughts on minimalism in the comments below.

-Ricks


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First Day of School!

Ok, not really. More like new faculty orientation. But I was excited. I woke up, went for a nice run, leisurely got dressed, and then went to meet about twenty other new faculty members, which was pretty awesome. Before I left, Ricks insisted on taking “first day of school” pictures, so here they are!

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This is my “I’m so excited” look. lol

My top and skirt were thrifted and the shoes were 50% off at Old Navy (had to have a pop of bright color). Not too formal, not too casual.

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Y’all know I’m still getting settled in….excuse the stuff.

 

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One more picture on the way out the door….ok Ricks, that’s enough now.

How do you like to present yourself on your first day at somewhere new?


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Swap it Out!

IMG_9863When in doubt, swap it out.

Spring is quickly giving way to summer, and you already know that in addition to it being toe-out season, it also is spring-summer dress season. Spending money for new-to-us dresses is something we’ll avoid if we can and nothing was more true for us this Easter.

I know you’re all like,  “But Thrifty Chicks, Easter was months ago. Why are we talking about what you wore from way back then?”
Well, because we’re rusty at this blogging thing and because any time is a good time to swap it out. Whether it’s Easter or some other occasion where you want to look cute without cost, swapping can be an even thriftier option than actual thrifting.IMG_9883

Swapping can be as easy as asking to “shop” a friend’s closet, or it can be a more
formal meet-up where everyone brings something to an agreed upon location to swap with everyone else. In fact, it’s a great way to clean out your closet and replenish it at the same time.

Instead of buying new dresses for Easter, we swapped. Our friend Tasha gifted  this fitted floral number to Ricks, and Ricks gifted a yellow frock to Reese. New fashion for each of us. Zero cost.

 

 

 

 

 


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Spotted: Go Go’s Retread Threads

A converted school bus with super cool vintage and second hand goodness, you say? Yes, please. And Thank You!

A converted school bus with super cool vintage and second hand goodness, you say? Yes, please. And Thank You!

Reese and I have a thing for converted school buses. We are drawn to them and the cool things that some people manage to do to transform them into something other than what they were. One of our earliest posts — nearly a year ago — was about the pop-up that the eyewear do-gooders at Warby Parker put on for its Class Trip. Warby Parker has brought the Class Trip back to D.C. through Dec. 22, so don’t miss it.

Me and Stacy "Go Go" Chambers, owner of Go Go's Retread Threads, a mobile boutique based in Baltimore.

Me and Stacy “Go Go” Chambers, owner of Go Go’s Retread Threads, a mobile boutique based in Baltimore.

On a recent trip to Reese’s place of employ, we saw the most wonderful thing parked on the campus of the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus — a mobile fashion boutique called Go Go’s Retread Threads. Not only were we drawn to all the amazing vintage clothes and accessories staged outside the bus, but also to the rad art that covers it too. According to owner Stacy “Go Go” Chambers, her converted school bus is Baltimore’s first fashion boutique on wheels.

Because her business is on the move, her overhead is low and her prices are pretty reasonable. Specializing in vintage and gently used clothes, Go Go’s has it all. Stacy hunts for her amazing finds at thrift stores and estate sales. I was immediately salivating over all of the vintage accessories. Reese was pretty partial to a snazzy nearly floor length sweater situation that promised equal amounts of comfort and pizzaz.

Reese trying to resist the bounty of Go Go's Retread Threads.

Reese trying to resist the bounty of Go Go’s Retread Threads.

Stacy doesn’t get down to the D.C. metro area much, but if you’re in the Baltimore

metro area you can catch her and  her carefully curated menagerie of upcycled and eco-chic apparel, footwear and accessories at festivals, farmers markets and in various neighborhoods.

To keep up with Stacy check out her blog, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Laters,

Ricks


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Mellow Yellow: A Little Touch of Sunshine

When one of my favorite people in the world let me know that her boo “Liked it and put a ring on it,” I wanted to turn cartwheels. When she told me soon after that she and said boo had no plans to wait and were getting married in Las Vegas in July, I almost fainted. Not because of the quick turnaround, but…Las Vegas…in JULY?! There was no doubt that I was going to be at the ceremony, but Jesus be a fence, a bottle of water, a kiddie pool and a sprinkler.

If you’ve never been to Las Vegas in the summer, you don’t know about the triple digit heat that cools down to 99 degrees when the sun goes down. The only thing that is remotely equivalent is if you stood in front of your oven, turned it up as high as it could go and then opened the door. It is that HOT! How were we going to keep from dying of heat stroke? Could we be sweaty and cute? But more importantly, what in the name of all that is holy was I going to wear?

Operation Do Better was already being thrown a curveball by the unexpected trip and I knew that buying a dress to wear for the ceremony was out of the question. Enter Reese and her giveaway pile of clothes. My roomie extraordinaire just happened to be chucking this adorable yellow dress that she liked, but didn’t really love. She suggested that I give it a try before I broke down and bought something new. Lo and behold it looked great. All I needed to do was take it in around the bust area.

Check out these snaps of me rocking the frock and me and the newly made missus, Tia C. Harris-Kinard!

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Me and Mrs. Tia C. Harris-Kinard. This was taken before the actual deed was done, but isn’t she lovely? 🙂

I always thought orange and red were my favorite colors, but I think yellow is my ministry. This sunny shade pops off my skin and just makes me feel really beautiful. The light, airiness of the dress was perfect for letting me get a little ventilation without looking under dressed for the occasion.

Speaking of yellow — I bought a little something at the 1st Annual FABULOUS Second-Hand/Vintage Clothing Pop-Up Shop that we blogged about in June. I never got a chance to show you all the fabulous find I snagged from Patrice “Patty B” Boone of The Prissy Tomboy and BTwenty3.

Well here she is in all her glory. I wore this vintage jumpsuit in NYC during Blogging While Brown for an advance screening of Fruitvale Station, a must see movie about the death of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who was shot and killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer on New Year’s Day 2009. It is a powerful movie and it is in theaters now. I recommend that you check it out. Me and the roomie plan to go see it again this weekend.

As for the jumpsuit, my goal is to add some straps to the top part since I’m not particularly blessed with enough bust to keep it up, but I look forward to rocking this look many times this summer! Enjoy the view! — R&R

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Thrifty Transformations: A Multi-purpose Space Makeover

At the Thrifty Palace there is only one place more popular than our kitchen and our couch — our basement. And until recently it was the place where we stored the little bit of junk we have, the place where we worked out and the place where Reese occasionally worked on her dissertation.

What warranted the need for a thrifty transformation? So glad you asked. As you know almost a month ago, I quit my job and decided to give the self-employed life a go. After about two weeks of working from the couch and most nights falling asleep on said couch, I realized I was spending too much freaking time on the couch! At my previous place of employment, I’d had a stand up desk that I utterly loved. In fact, my “office-thigh jiggle,” a condition that I believe office workers develop from sitting at their desks all day, was starting to dissipate because I spent the majority of my day standing up.

I had no plans to develop “couch-thigh jiggle” and wanted to recreate the magic of a stand up work space at home. I decided that the opposite corner of the basement would be as good a place as any to create my own home office, for little to no money. Real talk, stand up desks start at about $500 and can cost more than $1,000. As Sweet Brown said, “Ain’t nobody got time for all that!” Luckily, we had all of what we needed to make such a project possible.

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All you need, really, is some cinder blocks and some left over scrap wood to create a flat surface. We already had a number of Sterilite modular drawers in the basement and I used them to provide further support to the blocks. I covered the scrap wood in leftover fabric. Put up a piece of cork liner, decorated with pictures, quotes and keepsakes and presto! I have an office space I love. The other perk is when I get bored, I can hula hoop or bellydance to pass the time and burn some calories as the majority of the space between my corner of the basement and Reese’s corner is still our personal fitness studio. Total cost: Zero dollars.

Reese had carved out a space for herself to work, but she hadn’t really done anything to make the space personal. I knew that she was going to be on assignment shooting engagement photos for friends and I got a wild hair to really jazz up her side of the room so that she might be inspired to go down there and work. I knew she was tired of her binders full of papers not having a dedicated home, and her small desk was losing valuable real estate to her printer.

20130716_163102Fortunately, we had an extra piece of wood that I knew could be used as a tabletop for her printer and other keepsakes such as framed photos. We had two smaller Sterilite modular drawers, but I didn’t think they would be sturdy enough for the printer. A box of books we are supposed to go through at some point provided the perfect amount of stability. I covered the wood in a leftover piece of fabric from Reese’s window seat project. I also repurposed the extra shutter that she had purchased for her headboard project as a space for her to stick notes and pin pictures.

We picked up some inexpensive metal clips and these cute little buckets  at Target for additional storage. All together this thrifty transformation cost about $10.

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We plan to add more lighting because the basement is rather dark with just two bare bulbs and a lamp. We also plan to add a world map to chart our thrifty travels and to paint vibrant, inspiring quotes on these blank canvases that we call walls. I’d also like to put a cute rug down on my side and I suggested that we add some spray paint, which we have an abundance of, to Reese’s basic black desk.  All mostly inexpensive ways to make our basement a much more user friendly and inviting space. Transforming a space that has multiple uses can be a big, challenging project that is hard to visualize, but my best advice is to always keep in mind what the space will be used for and then decorate with what you’ve got on hand. Besides, if you hate it, you can always change it.

— R&R


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Just FABBulous: ALDO A-List Event Recap

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The Too Thrifty Chicks got it in gear on a rainy Sunday afternoon to hang out with the wonderful fashion and beauty bloggers of the FABB Girls Club.  ALDO Accessories at the Fashion Centre, Pentagon City, kept their doors open long after closing time to give ladies a chance to meet, greet, play dress up, win amazing accessories, and most of all, SHOP.

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We’re regular readers of blogger and FABB Girls Club member Brea Ellis who blogs about her adventures in fashion over at What I Wore: Tip to Toe. We saw her promotion of the event bounce into the inbox and knew it would be a nice way to spend a Sunday evening and we weren’t disappointed. What’s not to love when handbags were 30 percent off and accessories were buy three, get 20 percent off? Yes, please. Thank you. Thirst quenching beverages and snacks also were on deck, which was a nice touch for those of us who can shop until our blood sugar is low. Can we get an amen? Amen.

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The Too Thrifty Chicks and the super sweet blogger/fashionista Brea Ellis!

In addition to getting our shop on, we also got to meet FABB Girls Club creator Lauren Scott, who is putting down the hauteness over at Haute off the Press. Special shout out to her for taking this lovely picture of  the two of us, since we’re rarely in pictures together!

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ALDO Accessories is one of Ricks’ favorite places for fun, affordable and funky accessories that give a thrifted ensemble just the right amount of wow factor for any occasion. We both left with some goodies for the Too Thrifty Chicks accessory stash, and you’ll be seeing those pieces served up in a thrifty post coming to you soon.  Check out some more of these candids from the event.

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