Back to School on a Dime

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Send the kids back to school – can it be done in a frugal and sustainable fashion?

What I’ve been wondering is how to send them back to school inexpensively but also sustainably; I do not want to spend a fortune but I also do not want to buy cheap items that aren’t sustainable. I’ve been researching stainless steel lunch container options and they are sustainable and adorable.

They don’t feel frugal considering the price compared to plastic, but this is one of those times spending a little more money upfront and only spending it once as opposed to every single year is probably more responsible. I just HATE spending a lot of money on stuff.

Last year I threw my daughter’s backpack away. It wasn’t in good shape and it looked disgusting. Yes, it probably could’ve been salvaged, and yes I feel a little guilty about being so wasteful. I donated her lunch bag and plastic sandwich boxes. We are tired of plastic and she’d outgrown Paw Patrol phase. I feel good about donating things we don’t use. I don’t feel so good about throwing something away, but it looked a little too nasty for goodwill.

First Grade – Frugal and Sustainable

This year my daughter goes to first grade. We are fortunate to live in a district that only requires a $35 supply fee and they provide everything in the classroom. All we have to buy is a backpack and lunch gear (if they aren’t eating cafeteria food). I’m thinking this is a great opportunity to be a little more sustainable in our choices. We are already making the switch to stainless steel at home, so why not continue? I’m still cheap!

We chose to steer her toward more quality options and use them longer. We got also got a little more creative this year with her lunch bag. Our first stop was Academy since they have great prices on kids footwear and last year we got an inexpensive backpack that fit a kindergartener more than the options we found at Target. Since this is the tax-free weekend in Arkansas and we waited for Daddy to get off work before shopping this afternoon the selection was pretty limited.

What We Bought

We quickly settled on quality over price since the price point I was after was gone anyway. We got her this Jansport half pint backpack with a lifetime warranty for $29.99 (if you click the link you’ll see it is $5 less online) and a pair of BCG Prestige running shoes. Total spent was $54.98. I will launder the backpack when needed and she can use it again next year.

frugal and sustainable

Our next stop was Duluth Trading, which is not a kids store, but they were participating in the tax-free weekend and my husband gets a 40% discount. Our daughter had her heart set on a pencil bag and we wanted a better quality bag for lunches.

The Kavu lunch totes are excellent quality but were a little large for her. She also had her heart set on purple, so we found this canvas zip-top bag just the right size for a sandwich box, snack item, and kid’s water bottle. She also wanted a pencil bag so daddy directed her to this zippered pouch called a parts bag.

The purple bag will be perfect for when school is out for her to carry a tablet and headphones, note pad, pencils, or other items. Our total price with employee discount was $23.78.

frugal and sustainable

Since the bag is on the smaller side I settled on these stainless steel sandwich boxes on Amazon for $11.99 each. I found less expensive ones, but the reviews were not great.

Our total amount spent was $102.74 and everything we bought will be used past this school year. I don’t think we did too bad on the frugal or sustainable fronts. It also fits my budget quite nicely. Tell me how your back to school shopping is going. I’d love to hear your frugal and sustainable shopping hacks!

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How to Get Organized on a Dime in 3 Easy Steps

get organized

You may be wondering about the title of this post – I just preached to get rid of all your clutter to free up space, so what could I possibly have left to organize and store? Quite a bit actually.

We still live in our house. We still have kids. I couldn’t donate them even if they are the biggest source of clutter in my house. So we organize. On a dime.

I posted in my Instagram stories during Clutter Week about a few purchases. Yes, I bought things while I was decluttering. They were planned purchases and I spent a minimal amount of money. Less than $10 came out of the budget. This may sound petty, but we had our DVDs stored in bins. The bins were chosen for our first place, a duplex, where we had a modern color scheme of red, black, and beige. Now that we are settled into our farmhouse I am decorating mostly in blues. The red and brown bins in my blue and gray living room irked me every time I looked at them. 

Get Organized in 3 Easy Steps

Step One – Declutter

The first step you’ve (hopefully) already done! Declutter your stuff! Get rid of what you don’t use so you can make room for what you do! If you haven’t already done this go back and read the Clutter Week posts to get an idea of how to get started.

Step 2 – Decant Some Categories

This is a fancy way of saying to take bulky stuff out of its packaging when possible. With food, it may mean storing snacks in clear containers that make it easier to look in the cabinet and see what you need. Then you can recycle the original packaging.

With CDs (if you still have or buy those) it will look like taking all the discs and the cover art/tracklist out of the case. Hopefully, you live near a place that recycles them.

Step 3 – Group Items by Use

Group items by use after decluttering/decanting. In the kitchen, it makes sense to put all the decanted snacks together, dry foods together, spices, etc. All CDs and even DVDs can be stored in an organizing binder by category. I actually got rid of most of my CDs. They were already organized, but after spending a year in storage I didn’t miss any of them. I am good streaming.

get organized

I keep our movies organized in simple galvanized tubs that actually drink dispenser stands. They were exactly the right size and on clearance. Double win! All trilogies and sets are in one tin organized by set. Video games and Wii controllers are in the tin below.

get organized

I even got my oily items organized this past week when my handy hubby built me an oily shelf for the master bathroom. Now my oils and lotions aren’t taking up counter space or rolling around in a drawer. The best part was this little project was less than $10 to complete! One specialty router bit to make a groove for the large bottles to nestle in was all that was needed! This was accomplished with a coupon!

get organized

After our son’s accident, we decided not to take any more chances. My husband made a wall shelf out of leftover plywood from other projects to store detergent and other items that need to be kept out of little hands. You don’t have to spend a lot (or sometimes any) money to get organized. Paint supplies are kept on top so I don’t have unexpected art on the walls but don’t need to ask my husband to get in the attic if I feel the urge to get crafty.

Shop Your House First to Save Money

Sometimes I also shop around my house to see if there are storage items that can be used in a different way. We use bins in drawers and closets. Sometimes I borrow between rooms if I’ve decluttered one area and no longer need a bin or box but may need something in another room. For example, I kept eggs in a wire basket that proved too deep and resulted in a few cracked eggs. It made a perfect basket for K-cups in the cabinet.

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Let’s Talk About Digital Clutter – Then Let’s Deal With It!

digital clutter

Digital Clutter Can’t be Ignored

Let’s talk about digital clutter; we know we have it, but how often do we do anything about it? I know I get really frustrated when I try to hop on my laptop or my PC to do one quick thing… and I can’t find what I need for all the digital clutter in the way. It is so frustrating, but thankfully so easy combat.

Monday I talked about Dealing With Physical Clutter. Just like purging and organizing our physical clutter, we have to occasionally purge and organize our digital clutter. It just makes life easier. It may seem easier to deal with our digital clutter when our phone is warning us it is dangerously low on storage space or our computer needs a good scan, but it really isn’t; when I first started this site I would get so frustrated when I wanted to upload a picture to a post. Where was it? Why are these old photos in this folder? Which phone did I take that photo with? What is that? It was so distracting and every little thing took longer than necessary.

Deal With it on Your PC

By not dealing with my clutter I was setting myself up for frustration every time I turned on the computer. It wasn’t going to go away on its own. Clutter by nature only gets worse when we don’t deal with it. I can either get my stuff organized or I can be frustrated every time I opened my laptop; luckily I chose the former.

I got started organizing photos on the laptop by making a new folder for “old photos to organize,” and I put all pictures that didn’t belong in existing folders in that folder and focused on the files I need to access now. Photos and files I needed first took priority and then I worked on the folder of older photos as I had time. Once I got my photos organized and I could sit down and get what I need to do done and move on in much less time. My focus is on the task at hand and not the task I put off causing me more work.

Deal With Digital Clutter on Your Phone

I have a problem with storage space on my phone. It is a problem I couldn’t foresee happening when I got my first smartphone. Why have a camera on a phone? How could I possibly use a computer’s worth of memory on a phone? The answer? Easily.

It wasn’t long before my phone started sending me warnings that I was dangerously low on space. What the danger is exactly other than not saving a picture I do not know, but I decided the status quo probably wasn’t working anymore. The phone wasn’t gonna give up til I gave it some space.

The first thing I did more for ease of changing phones also works great for managing space. I save all my contacts and photos to Google rather than my phone. Now I have access to everything on any device. This way I don’t have to wonder what phone I took a picture with (going forward at least). It’s all in the same cloud; I then made a point from time to time to back up and delete pictures from my phone before I started receiving dire warnings.

Having small children sometimes translates to terrible short term memory, so I tend to save texts I may need to remember. I have 400 plus texts in one conversation and can’t find ANYTHING let alone the time I’m supposed to meet so-and-so tomorrow before I know it. I do mass purges, but need to get in the habit of doing them on the regular.

Deal With it on Your Tablet

My tablet admittedly doesn’t get much use these days; it’s obvious when I see a three-year-old picture as the background. My youngest didn’t even make the cut for pictures! To be fair, I use a Kindle, which is a great reader, but not compatible with my Android phone like it was with my old Fire phone.

I don’t have much clutter on it, but I do need to update and delete apps to make it more useful to me now. I also need to find an app similar to Libby in the Amazon store as opposed to finding it on my phone in Libby and then defaulting it to open in the Kindle app so I can read it on a bigger screen. By making some simple changes I will get a lot more use out of the device and save my eyes the strain of constantly using my smartphone for everything.

Deal With That Digital Clutter for Clutter Week!

I’ve found that when I have my digital life in order I work faster, with more focus, and feel more inspired with the rest of my day. I didn’t spend all my time getting frustrated with not finding a file. That left me with less patience for my kids. A frustrated mommy is not the nicest mommy.

I’ll be over on Instagram today showing my digital decluttering in stories using #clutterweek. Use the same hashtag to show me your digital decluttering this week!

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Let’s Talk About Physical Clutter…

physical clutter

What Is Physical Clutter?

You know what it is; physical clutter is that “stuff” lying around your house, hiding in closets, toy boxes, maybe even lining the walls and floors… it gets everywhere. And let’s just be honest; that stuff cost money. Maybe you regret spending it or maybe you are hung up on the amount spent on it and don’t want to let it go.

As a noun, Merriam-Webster defines clutter as, “a crowded or confused mass or collection.” Crowded and confused? That sounds about right. As an intransitive verb, it is, ” to run in disorder.” If your life or home feels like a confused crowded mass that runs in disorder then you probably have a clutter problem.

Do you know what this cost?

That’s probably what you think when someone mentions getting rid of your clutter. I have a different question for you, “do you know what it costs you to keep?”

Is it costing a storage unit fee every month? Whatever it cost you to buy it’s costing more to store. Is it costing you your peace? Do you walk around the house wondering what happened? Do you feel overwhelmed at the sight of it all and think it’s hopeless? Does it make you not want to come home at the end of the day because you’ll be faced with all the… stuff? Worse yet, do you fight with your family over it? Chances are your physical clutter is costing you more than you realize. A lot more.

You Can Do Something About
Physical Clutter

When I think of clutter I’m reminded of a Dave Ramsey quote on debt that floats around a lot on social media, “The bad news is you are the problem. The great news is you are the solution.” I think the same principle applies to clutter. Heck, it probably applies to any and all our issues. But back to clutter…

You made the mess by bringing home too much stuff. Plain and simple. You let it come in the door. Stuff doesn’t walk in on its own, not even the stuff with its own legs. Someone has to get it in the house. Even if you weren’t doing the heavy lifting you allowed it in. Let that sink in for a minute. It’s not a very good feeling, is it?

I’ve been there. You can read all about my Beginnings of a More Minimalist Approach here. Trust me, I know it’s overwhelming. I know it can feel hopeless. I also know that just a ten-minute walk through of your house reevaluating things and picking even one thing per room to donate or sale can feel so good. Dare I say it even feels better than retail therapy? Yes, yes it does.

Unlike retail therapy, you aren’t spending money to temporarily fill a hole that probably requires actual work and time to fill properly, decluttering can help lighten the load physically and mentally. By freeing yourself of things that no longer serve you (if they ever did) you are also freeing yourself of the need to replace them with more things that won’t serve you. Stuff is stuff. The moment you realize that big changes start to happen in your home. And in you.

How to Rid Your Life of Physical Clutter

Yesterday I started working on decluttering my kitchen more. Today I hope to pick up some empty boxes so I can safely pack away glass items to donate. I don’t want any more accidents around here!

I have also started to declutter my bathrooms. Again. This is an ongoing process at our house since our kids are still young, but growing and our needs change. We need to reevaluate from time to time if things are still serving a purpose, and if is there is a need to replace with something that would sere a purpose better.

Most people have heard of the one-in-one-out principle where if you buy one new thing you need to get rid of one thing you already own, but if you haven’t done a thorough decluttering this isn’t going to work. You aren’t getting rid of any clutter this way; you’re simply maintaining the status quo with newer clutter.

One Room at a Time

Pick a room and spend some time in it evaluating the items in that room. Chances are you’ll fill a bag or box, or four rather quickly if you haven’t done an edit recently. Once you get some momentum going and see the items piling up in your donate and sell piles you will likely have some sobering realizations about your choices. That’s okay. You’ll also have feelings of relief and the ability to move around and breathe a little easier at home (literally and figuratively – stuff collects dust and just gets in the way!).

This will motivate you to keep going and will hopefully cause you to stop and think next time you pick up a trinket or doodad in the store and consider taking it to the register. You’ll start asking yourself if you really need something, if it will really bring you happiness in your home as opposed to buyer’s regret, or if it would be better left in the store.

You may even find that you aren’t as tempted to go to certain stores anymore. I know, shocker right? I didn’t use to think I could live without going to Target on a weekly basis, which is weird to me now because I survived most of, if not all of the first two decades of my life without one. Now I almost dread going; there is so much stuff. So much stuff.

Part of this comes with age, maturity, and minimalism, but part of it admittedly comes with having kids. I don’t want to go to most stores now! I have two little helpers eager to put anything and everything in our cart and bring it home.

If you have triggers or stores you know you don’t currently have the willpower to get out of with just the essentials you may just have to find a way to get around that for the time being. You can pick a new store you don’t like spending much time in but seem to find most if not all you need, or if you are brand loyal on certain things try putting in a grocery pickup or drive up order for what you actually need. I love doing this.

For example, I prefer up and up diapers for my youngest but don’t buy baby food or formula anymore so I don’t get free shipping or $15 or $20 gift cards for stocking up on baby food and diapers once a month like in the past. I have taken to placing a monthly drive up order and asking my husband to stop in on the way home from work. This saves time, money, and gas.

I have recently also started placing a grocery pickup order for things I can’t or don’t like to buy at my regular store. Any day I can avoid going into a supercenter is a good day!

Time to Get Started!

Ready to get started?! We’re here all week just for this! Even while I discuss different types of clutter I am re-decluttering my own home and showing you on my Instagram feed, @alifeonadime, my progress throughout different rooms. I’m not just talking about it I’m doing it with you.

Check out my decluttering efforts and post your own to share and motivate others using the hashtag #clutterweek. Happy decluttering everybody!

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Join Me This Week and Let’s Talk Clutter

Let’s Talk Clutter and Excuses…

let's talk about clutter

Let’s talk about clutter. It is so easy to come up with excuses why you have clutter and why you don’t do anything about it, and they sound like, “We’re busy,” or, “We have kids. They come with a lot of stuff.” Maybe it’s, “But this may come in handy someday.”… Then there’s my personal favorite, “do you know what this cost?!” As if the fact that you wasted money on something means you’re saddled to it forever.

Murphy came to visit and threw our week off. I could use that as an excuse to put this off, but if I can do this with all the excitement going on at my house then what better way to show you that you can do it as well?!

Let’s Talk Clutter and its Consequences

The accident last week with our son (see my post on Our Emergency: Why We Cash Flow Medical Bills here) actually spurred us on in our decluttering efforts. We are now getting rid of a lot of glass items. Talk about clutter having potential consequences; someone at my house got hurt. That particular item wasn’t necessarily clutter, it was serving a purpose. But it did open our eyes to how much glass we have in our house that is not in use and how a lot of these items were probably another accident waiting to happen. Case in point, I had eight empty pasta sauce jars in a kitchen cabinet waiting to serve a purpose. I have more recycling than usual to take in this week.

We don’t want the stuff in our house anymore. Projects I was excited about are now on hold while I get rid of what I will no longer use and slowly replace all those glass jars with metal canisters. Looks like my gift cards from my taste testing side hustle are going to be put to good use!

I had quite a wish list on Amazon of all the glass meal prep containers and cleaning bottles I was hoping to purchase slowly, but those items are being removed and replaced with stainless steel and silicone options. You can see my list of recommended items on Amazon here. My wish list items aren’t on there because I haven’t bought and tried them yet. Whenever I try a product and love it I will add it to the list of items I recommend.

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Let’s Talk Clutter and What it Robs Us of

This leads me to a really good point on clutter; if you stop wasting money buying lots of little, cheap, random items and get rid of all that isn’t useful or valuable to you (and this looks different for everybody) you will have a better idea of what you truly want and need.

It is quite sobering if you try to imagine the sheer amount of money going out the door when those items were bought. You can recoup some of the money by selling items whenever possible, but keeping it in a closet or stacked up against the wall in a corner isn’t going to regain your money or your sanity. You have to let it go for that to happen.

Once you have your possessions down to a manageable amount you will get more use out of them and this may lead you to discover that some of these things are no longer working for you. That is okay. It isn’t like you still have everything you started with and aren’t using and bringing more junk home.

Let’s Talk Clutter that isn’t Stuff

We live in the digital age, so we’re bound to have some digital clutter. We will talk about that this week as well. It can be very overwhelming even though it isn’t technically a physical item taking up space.

Did you know there is also mental and emotional clutter? Your mind and emotions can get crowded with unwanted junk from time to time as well. We’ll touch on unpacking that as well.

Gonna Practice What I Preach

It wouldn’t be fair for me to just sit here and type about what clutter is and what to do about it if I didn’t walk through it with you. All this week I will be walking you through my decluttering process in different areas. I will post everything on my Instagram, @alifeonadime, so you can follow along. I will use the hashtag #clutterweek and invite you to do the same as well so we can do this together! This should be fun!

It is amazing even though I thought I did a great job before we moved, while things were in storage, and again as we unpacked I seem to have no problem filling the back of my car every week with random stuff we do not need.

Who’s With Me?

Let’s do this! #clutterweek starts now!

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