Monthly Archives: October 2011

retail me not: a thrifty Halloween


I’m having a hard time with how fast time is flying these days.  My oldest is in school all day, but my youngest son and I are keeping busy – there’s always playing at the park and coffee at my house or a friend’s place to keep us entertained.  I must say there is a lot of relief in being able to invite people over at the last minute without any thought of “is the house clean enough for company?”  When you go minimalist, there’s a lot less stuff lying around to make your home messy.  While we’ve been having fun with friends and keeping busy enjoying the gorgeous Fall weather, the Halloween season has crept up on us!

Finding a costume for my youngest was a bit of a stroke of luck a few weeks back.  I had made plans to go grocery shopping with a friend, but the universe had other plans – when we pulled up to the store and it was closed!  We circled around to their other store and found it was closed too.  Boo.  As we started to make our way back home, we passed a Value Village and as we noticed Halloween costumes hanging outside, my friend suggested we pull over and have a look.   Before I even got out of her car, I had spotted an adorable Halloween costume for my three year old.  We went inside and were thrilled with what we discovered – an awesome store filled with a ton of second-hand stuff in great condition.  I ended up buying a pair of jeans (that makes two pair in my closet!), a couple of fleece hoodies for my kids, two board games and the aforementioned Halloween costume.  Amazing.

Halloween costumes can get pretty pricey, and since they’re only worn for such a short period of time it seems a shame to make a big investment in them.  Here’s some strategies I’ve developed for honouring a more minimalist Halloween experience:

  • Buy Halloween costumes second-hand.  Whether you’re buying Halloween costumes for yourself or your kids, second-hand is the way to go.  Thrift stores and craigslist are great places to find gently used Halloween costumes.  Most costumes are only worn for a few short hours, so it is not too hard to find costumes that are in good condition that are second-hand.
  • Re-use Halloween costumes from previous years.  My oldest son will be wearing the same costume he wore last year, and he’s happy about that.  When I bought the costume, I bought it a size or two too big, so it still fits this year.
  • Re-sell or donate costumes you are finished with, or pass them on to friends who have younger children.  Craigslist is very popular in Vancouver and there are a ton of listings for Halloween costumes on there right now.  If re-selling isn’t your gig, thrift stores will always accept costumes that they will then re-sell to another lucky person who will enjoy wearing your old costume.  Another thing I like to do is pass things on to friends, and Halloween costumes would definitely be something that you could pass on.  However, I’m always sure to check with them in advance, as I don’t want to be burdening my friends if they don’t actually want hand-me-downs.
  • Consider making a dress-up chest for your kids to enjoy their pre-loved costume beyond October 31.  This is a great way to enjoy costumes beyond the actual day of Halloween.  Kids love dressing up, it is great imaginative play and will keep them busy for hours (literally).  Don’t be afraid to let them wear their old costumes again and again – before you know it, they will have outgrown them!
We have plans to attend a Halloween party with friends following some trick-or-treating in our neighbourhood.  Since we’re all sorted out in the costume department, I’m now looking forward to spending the evening making fun memories with my kids and hanging out with friends.

If you celebrate Halloween, have you found costumes for your family yet this year?  Will you be dressing up for Halloween?  How do you handle outgrown costumes?

2011 in 2011: getting back out some of what you put in


My decluttering challenge challenge for the year is nearly over, and thankfully, it’s getting harder to find things to let go of around our home. Could this possibly mean that we are getting close to having just the right amount of stuff for our family and our home?  I think so, and that’s exciting news!

I’ve reached a total of 5241 items decluttered from our home so far this year – I’m now wondering if I can triple my original goal of 2011.  2011 items to declutter originally seemed like a very lofty goal, but once I got started, it had a way of snowballing.  Who knew that we had so much stuff in our tiny home that we would be gladly willing to part with? Certainly not me!  Lately I’ve started selling things from my own closet that I would have thought prior to the start of this project to be “staples” in my wardrobe, items that I would never part with.  Interestingly enough, once they’re gone I don’t feel any pangs of regret about letting them go.

I did a quick tally of things we’ve managed to sell this year, and I’ve reclaimed over $1800 from things that we were no longer using or no longer wanted. That’s sobering stuff. Here’s a quick breakdown of the things we sold and how much we managed to recoup on those things:

  • Clothing (Adult and Children) – $615.  The majority of sales I made in the clothing department were some higher end, brand name clothing items that came from my own closet.  I sold my remaining Lululemon jacket, as well as an expensive sweater that wasn’t getting any love from me.
  • Toys, Kids’ Gear and Children’s DVDs – $538.  Most of these sales were the result of some major toy decluttering, but nearly $100 came from the sale of some Baby Einstein dvd’s that my kids received as a gift, but never did end up watching.
  • Strollers – $525.  Strollers are darn expensive.  Thank goodness they have some serious resale value in my city.
  • Cloth diapers, disposable diapers and potty training stuff – $150.  Yes, I sold not only the last few cloth diapers I had left in my youngest son’s diaper stash, but a box full of unused disposable diapers too.  Yes, Craigslist is a VERY popular place in my city.
Selling things I no longer want has a way of reminding me that maybe I don’t need to be consuming quite so much stuff in the first place.  The biggest secret to keeping a decluttered closet (and home) is to not replace things once they’ve left, or of course, not bring them home in the first place!  I’ve developed the habit of shopping less, which of course has resulted in buying less – this is one habit I am hoping to keep in place permanently.  In addition to the items I had success in selling through craigslist, we’ve also managed to donate nearly 900 items so far this year to a variety of thrift shops in our neighbourhood, most of which were household items and clothing.

Do you have any belongings you’re considering selling to recoup some of your hard earned cash?  Do you like to eBay your former treasures or do you go the craigslist route? Or do you prefer to donate things when you are finished with them just to get them out of the house?

project 333: inspiration for a fun, stylish and simple wardrobe


I think for many people it’s hard to imagine that you can have a fun, stylish and simple wardrobe, all without breaking the bank.  This past week, I discovered a great blog written by a fellow Vancouver mom who has a passion for dressing well and incorporating classic, comfortable style into her wardrobe.  I particularly love her posts about her outfits that have included thrifted, traded or found items of clothing!  How fun!  She is not afraid to shop at thrift stores and garage sales to outfit her stylish closet, or trade with friends – she even admits to finding a lot of great pieces that have been donated in her community laundry room!  I admire the fact that she is able to participate in recycling (that sounds so weird when it comes to clothes) and reusing pieces that clearly have a lot of life left in them.  So if you’re looking for some inspiration for a simple, yet stylish wardrobe, be sure to check out Simply Stylish Mom!

retail me not: thrift store strategies


Last week I stopped into one of my local thrift stores.  I like to pop in every couple of weeks to check out if there are any gems waiting around to be picked up that can be incorporated into my wardrobe of 33 items or less.  I didn’t find anything worth buying, but I still had fun.  A fellow thrift store shopper, a young guy in his twenties, struck up conversation when he asked me for my opinion on an outfit he was putting together.  He was assembling a costume for a party of sorts (he called it a “Tree Planter’s Ball”) and he had picked out a pink and orange boucle jacket (think Chanel on the cheap) and asked me if I would give him my opinion on what tie would go best with his outfit.  Of course, I selected an equally hideous pink and grey argyle tie.  He thanked me, and was happy with my selection, as he mentioned the tie was actually one he would wear again after the party.  I thought that was pretty brave of him.

You don’t often find too many friendly, chatty folk at the mall or in some of the higher end stores in my neighbourhood.  Heck, I’d venture to say that most of the time I am in any conventional store in my neighbourhood store, the only people who say hello are the salespeople.   And let’s be honest – they are being paid to be friendly. It’s a nice change to chat (even briefly) with locals in my neighbourhood who I probably wouldn’t get the opportunity to strike up conversation with otherwise.

I’ve decided it’s important to have a good strategy for shopping at thrift stores, otherwise, it can be too easy to buy many things simply because they’re cheap.  Here’s a few things I like to keep in mind while shopping at the thrift store, but they’re also good reminders of what I should be looking for when shopping at other conventional stores too:

  1. I am learning to be patient.  There are always lots of items at the thrift shop that either aren’t the right size, style or condition.  For some reason, I’m finding it easier to forego making purchases when at the thrift shop – if something’s not quite right, I’m happy to leave it for someone else who will treasure it.  I know that if I’m patient, any item that I’m looking for will eventually find it’s way to me.  If not, then it probably wasn’t meant to be.
  2. I am looking for quality over quantity.  Of course shopping at the thrift store means shopping through gently used items.  Or sometimes very used or even trashed.  I’ve discovered it’s easier to look for one item that will be the perfect addition to my wardrobe, rather than trying to find a handful of items that suit me perfectly.
  3. I am looking for perfection, or as near to it as possible.  As hard as it is to find excellent quality things in good condition at the thrift store, it’s even harder to find them in the right size.  That’s a good thing, because it means I get to hold out for things that are not only perfect for me in style, but also in my size.  This translates to less buying, and less owning.
  4. I am doing my best to support a good cause.  Whether I’m shopping at Value Village (which benefits the Developmental Disabilities Society) or the Wildlife Thrift Shop, a lot of the profits from thrift shops benefit a good cause.  If you are interested, inquire whether your local thrift shop is a not-for-profit organization and where the proceeds of sales are going.
  5. I am looking to recycle.  I’m happy to send my family’s unloved clothing back to the thrift shop when we’re done with it.  Doing so is an effective form of recycling, as donating to a thrift shop is a good way of ensuring your unwanted things re-enter the stream of clothing available to others.  This benefits all of us, as it ultimately prevents useable things from entering the waste stream and ending up in your local landfill.
I’m going to stick with buying only from thrift shops for the remainder of the year, and I am even going to pledge to buying anything I want to buy for my children for Christmas this year from the thrift shop.  Stay tuned and see what I can find – I’ll keep track of the cost too and see if I can keep to a budget of $25 / child for the Christmas season.

Do you have a great thrift store near you?  Or any good experiences at the thrift shop?  I know some cities have better thrift shops than others – if you have an awesome garage sale story, I’d love to hear that too!

project 333: update for September


One of my goals for the year is to consciously participate in Project 333.  The main purpose of Project 333 is to have a complete wardrobe with only 33 items in it and wear that wardrobe for a period of three months.  I’m hoping that once I get started, I’ll be able to have no more than 33 items in my wardrobe at any given moment.  You can learn more about Project 333 here

As far as clothing goes, Europeans have us beat in both style and function.  A minimalist wardrobe is part of the European mentality, as clothing is not only more expensive in Europe, but is often more well made and follows more classic styles.  Also, Europeans tend to have less access to washing machines and dryers, unlike us North American energy hogs, so it just makes sense for them to have more simple wardrobes.  With two kids, I find myself running my washing machine daily just to wash clothing, and I’d hazard a guess that I’m not alone in this practice.

My parents are currently on a three week trip through Italy and Greece.  I received an update from my mom via email this morning about how much fun they’re having on their trip.  Here’s my favourite part of her email:

We have enjoyed four relaxing days on the lake, taking two ferry rides to different towns and driving up the west side to explore the areas up there.  This is a very nice place – I’ve been keeping an eye out for George Clooney, but have come to realize that I am on the wrong lake!

Oh well.  I’m not really dressed for company these days.  Oh, that reminds me:  Erin, your little gold slippers are the height of fashion out here, especially paired with a neutral dress – how perfect is that?  Also, your “biker” boots are in all the stores and on the streets with skinny jeans.  You wouldn’t believe the prices here – we should probably be very thankful that we have loads of clothes coming from China, or we probably would be going around naked.  All I can say is, “Thank goodness for Winners!”

Love the part about George Clooney.  Apparently we have the same taste.

It’s good to know that I can have a minimalist wardrobe and still be fashionable.  I don’t have many clothes, but I still get compliments from friends on my clothing and footwear. Clearly this means that no one is noticing that I only own one pair of jeans.

Here’s a few practices I’ve adopted when it comes to incorporating clothing into my minimalist wardrobe:

  • Look for classic styles that will stand the test of time and trends.
  • Stick to mostly neutral colours, and pick one or two accent colours to jazz things up.
  • If the fit and condition of an item is not perfect, consider foregoing it for something that is.
  • Look for quality made pieces that can withstand your lifestyle.
  • If it’s on sale, great.  But consider buying it only if you would still pay full price for the item.
  • If you’ve lost that loving feeling for an item in your wardrobe, consider recycling or repurposing it.

I’ve added a couple of long-sleeved t-shirts to my wardrobe after culling several heavy weight sweaters from the line-up.  It doesn’t really get cold enough in Vancouver to warrant heavy wool sweaters, so I’ve sent a couple off to the thrift shop and I even managed to sell one on craigslist.  Score!  You can see the list of all my clothing here, and be sure to check out Project 333 for more inspiration.

Are you participating in Project 333?  I’d love to hear how your experiment with less fashion is going!