Anniversary thrifting + an entryway makeover!

At the end of May, Matt and I celebrated 2 years of marriage! Our anniversary fell the day after Memorial Day this year, so we took off Thursday through Monday and had a staycation! Staying home saved us a ton of money because MDW + hotels = EXPENSIVE, and we still had a lot of fun eating at our favorite vegan-friendly restaurants and visiting with friends.

We also spent some time working on our thrifty anniversary presents: furniture! I know, year two is supposed to be for cotton, but Matt has been jealous of my “reading chair” for some time, so we finally made time to go hunting for one. I wanted to try secondhand first, and our search took us to a consignment shop in Greensboro that I frequented in college. A great thing about consignment shops is that many of them will drop the price after an item has been sitting for a while, so check to see if they have a color-coding system or dates on the tags and you might find a great steal. We ended up in a room past the main showroom, where a bunch of chairs were packed in against a wall, and found this chair all the way in the back.

Our cats have actually been getting more use out of it than we have…

It had been there for long enough that the price had dropped twice, and we took it home for around $50! Our cats have really taken a liking to it, and I can’t blame them because it’s so comfortable! I also found another little something I’m hoping to write about soon.

Pardon the mess and other projects in progress.

My present was technically already sitting on our back porch. Several months ago, Matt found this little desk laying on the side of the road, and brought it home. I’ve had plans to sand and paint it ever since, but our weekends are usually packed to the brim, and I just hadn’t found the time. So Matt helped me pick out the paint, did most of the sanding, filled the holes in the top where it used to have partitions (which were too damaged to salvage), and then we painted it together.

I’m pretty pleased with the final product:

That green 😍

Once it was done, I used the opportunity to completely reorganize our entryway area (not technically our “real” entryway, as the front door comes into the kitchen, but this wall serves as our landing pad). We have been using a white bookshelf in this space for a while, and the multiple shelves were honestly just begging to be filled up with junk. The “new” table only has one small drawer, so I had to be more careful in deciding what to put on and in it. This area is now really well organized to help us get in and out of the house quickly, and to handle our incoming mail.

Before – and this was on a good day.

Overall, the change only cost us about $4 for the two baskets, and the price of a quart of paint. Everything else was already in our house. To give you an idea of how everything came together, I’ve broken down the different items, where I got them, and why I put them there.

  • Two baskets – both from Goodwill. I shared photos of what the white basket looked like when I brought it home, and how it cleaned up, on Instagram. The small basket is for incoming mail, and the white one is for paper recycling. I’m hoping to get more into our new mail system in another post (the shredder is also involved).
  • Books – inherited from my grad school advisor’s collection. I like using pretty books to create height when I’m arranging decorative items, and I also enjoy that they highlight our interests (these are all old science books).
  • Faux rose vase – a hand-me-down from my grandmother’s house after she passed away. I love thinking of her whenever I see it.
  • Clay vase – bought at a small shop in Costa Rica back in 2008. I’ve since seen similar vases from Nicaragua go for 5 times as much here! I love having that memory of my first international trip close at hand, but it’s secretly also a place for us to drop our loose change πŸ˜‰
  • “J” coffee mug – a gift. It keeps pens handy.
  • Dish – thrifted. It may be Depression glass, but I’m honestly not sure (in any case, I like it because it’s pretty). It makes a perfect spot for holding Matt’s wallet, keys, and work badge.
  • Paper tray – Matt actually brought this home from one of his deployments with the Army. A previous tenant of his office had left it behind. He was pleased to see that I didn’t take any of the labels off; I actually like that it has a bit of character to it. It holds important pieces of mail and documents that need further attention.
  • Step stool – bought from a friend who decided it didn’t suit her needs after she bought it from Ikea. It keeps my laptop bag at an accessible height. I keep my keys, sunglasses, wallet, etc., in my bag instead of on the table so I can’t ever forget them, and that keeps the space looking tidy. The stool is also still accessible if I need it for its intended purpose.
  • Mirror – thrifted. For last minute hair checks before walking out the door.
  • Cross – bought new when I moved into my first apartment (eight years ago!)

You might notice that all but a few of these items are functional in some way, but they’re also things that I like and I enjoy the way they look together. As I have worked to figure out my personal home decor style, it has become a guiding principle that things which are functional should also be decorative where possible. Β That idea has helped me choose items which I have loved for a long time, and which I’ve been able to use in several different apartments. I’ve also learned in my thrifting adventures to be patient and wait until I find exactly what I want, which has kept me from bringing home things that ended up in the donate pile six months later (although I have sometimes learned that lesson the hard way). Minimalism as a decor style is not my thing, but I do think having less turnover in the things that we own is a good thing. Creating a home I enjoy spending time in is important to me, especially because I’m an introvert and a homebody, but I don’t want to use that an excuse for carelessness in my purchasing habits. I love that I was able to create this new space without compromising on my values.

So that was our Memorial Day/Anniversary weekend : ) Moral of the story: Secondhand shopping can be an adventure, and you can find some great deals while not contributing to the demand for the production of new materials. And sometimes “trash” furniture just needs a little TLC to bring it back to life!

Do the next thing

“We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”

– Calvin Coolidge

When I tell people that I’m vegan, a common response I hear is “That’s great, but, I could never do that.” They might agree with the tenants of veganism, they just don’t think they’re up for living that way. This can be a frustrating thing for me to hear, because I honestly feel like if I can do it, anyone can. But recently, I found myself on the other side of the metaphorical table.

Around Earth Day in April, I started seeing a huge number of posts about the zero waste movement.* I had heard of this idea before, and had even watched one of Lauren Singer’s videos. But I was highly intimidated by the idea of producing less than a pint worth of trash in two years, and decided I was not up for that sort of thing. I thought, “Oh, I could never do that.”

Where have I heard that before?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my attitude toward zero waste was similar to the attitude I’ve encountered toward veganism. I also came to feel that at the heart of this attitude is a comparison problem. It’s looking at someone else’s lifestyle and saying “that’s too different from how I live; I’ll never be able to get to that point.” For someone who eats meat or animal products every day, the difference between their diet and mine is enough to feel overwhelming. That’s understandable. Likewise, I was looking at my trash can and deciding that I was “too far gone” to make a change for the better.

The reality is that most people who live differently from how they used to didn’t make those changes overnight. Granted, some people do. I’ve read many stories of people who were meat-eaters one day, and vegans the very next. If that’s you, I admire your resolve. But when I looked back at my own vegan transition, I realized that it was really a series of small changes that added up over years to where I am now.

My (slow) vegan transition

My transition to vegetarianism in early 2010 was accidentally very quick. I originally gave up meat for 40 days as part of a fast. I decided the morning the fast started that I wouldn’t eat meat for this period, so I didn’t have time to work my way into it. Over the course of the 40 days, as I was doing research to make sure I was eating well, the resources that I found convinced me that I never wanted to eat meat again.

The transition to veganism was much slower. I knew early on that it was a direction I wanted to go, but living with roommates and sharing groceries made it difficult. I started with the “easy” things: I started buying my own non-dairy milk and butter. I experimented with vegan baking (my first attempt, brownies, were disastrous, but things improved from there).  I chose vegan meat alternatives when I bought them. I started shopping for vegan-friendly toiletries and cosmetics, and cut leather out of my wardrobe.

When I moved into a studio apartment in 2011, I decided to go “at home vegan,” meaning that I never bought anything at the grocery store that wasn’t vegan. I was less strict at restaurants or when others were cooking. The hardest part of the full vegan transition for me was getting comfortable with asking questions of servers to make sure I wasn’t going to be served eggs or dairy, and requesting that friends and family serve not just a vegetarian option, but a vegan option, or turning down food someone had made. So in the meantime, I ate vegan 90% of the time, and slowly got more comfortable and knowledgeable about vegan options when eating out. I finally went “fully vegan” in January of 2012.

Since then, there have been many micro-transitions, especially to a healthier, more whole-foods veganism. I don’t eat as many faux meats or cheeses as I used to. I can and will eat tofu straight from the package, especially in place of cheese on pasta or pizza (which I recognize is absolutely bizarre to the average person). I find avocado to be a perfectly acceptable alternative to sour cream and sometimes mayo. I love the darkest of dark chocolate, and will drink my coffee black if I have to (although my stomach doesn’t prefer it). I couldn’t have said any of these things five or even three years ago. Veganism is still a continuous journey for me.

So why should I expect that something like zero waste would be any different?

Small steps, over and over

The reality is that almost any serious, sustainable life change is probably going to happen in stages, not overnight. Healthier eating, ethical purchasing practices, living on a budget, working out, etc. all seem to work better for me if I make small changes over and over, rather than trying to do everything at once.

I realized that I was letting the enormity of my current waste output keep me from doing anything about it, and that’s a little crazy if you actually think about it.

So instead, I’m choosing to take those small steps. I’m identifying some areas where I can make small, fairly convenient changes and have an impact. I have recommitted to always, always using my reusable shopping bags (an area where I had gotten slack), and have started making an effort to carry other reusables such as to-go containers and mugs. I’m in the process of evaluating my shopping list, and seeing what fits within our budget to buy from bulk bins or buy in the most recyclable packaging (i.e. glass or cardboard over plastic). As I move forward, I’m sure other areas will become obvious to me, and I’ll find new ways to reduce our waste.

I don’t say this to pat myself on the back, especially because I feel like I’ve only started, but to make the point that baby steps are better than no steps. If you’re looking into a life change like veganism or zero waste, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by other people’s progress. But, take a deep breath, step back, and think, “What is one small step I can take to move in that direction?” Do it. And then?

Do the next thing.

 

*For those not familiar, the idea behind a zero waste lifestyle is to reduce the amount of trash you send to landfill (ideally to zero – hence the name). This is accomplished by refusing single-use items such as to-go containers and grocery bags in favor of reusable items, by buying primarily un-packaged items or items in recyclable packaging, making items instead of buying them pre-packaged where possible, and by intentional reusing and recycling. The movement generally also prioritizes the reduction of plastic use altogether, even when items can be recycled, because plastics cannot be recycled indefinitely (as can glass and metal) and take a great deal of time to break down in landfills.

My Dressember challenge

How in the world are we at the end of November!? It’s insane how fast this year has flown by.

As much as I’m perplexed by 2017Β quickly approaching, I am pleased to announce that I’ll be taking part in Dressember next month!

Dressember is an annual challenge where women wear dresses for the entire month of December to increase awareness of human trafficking, and raise money for anti-trafficking organizations. To quote their website:

DRESSEMBER IS A COLLABORATIVE MOVEMENT LEVERAGING FASHION AND CREATIVITY TO RESTORE DIGNITY TO ALL WOMEN.

Throughout the month, I’ll be wearing a dress every single day. In addition to the “base” challenge, I’ve decided to challenge myself to wear primarily clothing (and especially dresses) that I’ve ethically sourced. At this stage in my ethical wardrobe journey, and with my current budget, that primarily means clothing that I’ve bought at thrift stores, and a small handful of items that I’ve bought new from ethical companies. I also have a number of dresses that I bought new pre-ethical wardrobe days, but I’ll be wearing them only sparingly.Β The official Dressember guidelines state that skirts don’t count. However, I have some great thrifted skirts, and so to add some variety to my wardrobe, I will let myself wear a few skirts.

I’ve decided to set a few specific guidelines for myself:

  1. I will only wear a “bought new” (pre-ethical) dress once per week.
  2. I will allow myself to wearΒ a (thrifted) skirt once per week.
  3. When I share outfits, I will say whether each item was “bought new,” “bought used,” or which company I bought it from.

I’m so looking forward to starting on December 1st! I hope you’ll follow over on Instagram @notthosejoneses and @andriahjones! You can donate to my campaign here.

-Andria

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Things I’m Loving Thursday – July 2016

I love sharing new things I’m enjoying with my friends and family, so I thought this week I would share some things I’m enjoying right now:

This blog post by Sharon Hodde Miller – I have really loved watching Sharon’s ministry grow since I knew her back in her college ministry days. Her thoughts on “effortless perfection” really resonate me, and with what this blog is about. As women, we often feel the pressure to have perfect lives without looking like we try at all, but that’s not what grace and the gospel are aboutΒ at all. Her post is an encouragement thatΒ having to work hard at something is not a sign that there is something wrong with you (everyone is working hard, even if they want you to think they aren’t), and that God’s calling will often lead us to messy, difficult places. It’s also a reminder to me to be careful how I present myself to others. It would be counteractive toΒ mission for this blog if anyone came away from it thinking I have it “all together.”

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