HOW WE GOT RID OF HALF OF OUR STUFF

We’re downsizing, in a big way. Going from a sprawling suburban apartment (okay, it’s 820 square feet) to cramped (but charming) place in the city means we’ve had to downsize. In order for our new space to not look cluttered, we need less furniture and less stuff. So we got rid of about half of it. Here’s how we did it:

How We Got Rid of Half Of

1. THE CLOTHES HAD TO GO.

I made strict guidelines and went through my closet at warp speed. Split second decisions only. I had to go with my gut. Here are the questions I asked myself:

  • Have I worn it in the last 6 months?  This doesn’t apply to seasonal items but if the whole summer went by and I never wore that sundress, it’s out. I’ve heard that others use this rule and it seemed solid.
  • Does it actually fit?  Or am I just hoping that someday it will? I’m looking at you, size 1 jeans. If I can’t wear it TODAY, to Goodwill it goes!
  • Does it have a hole in it?  Somehow this was the hardest. It’s embarrassing how many items I have that I adored but have tiny holes in them (thanks to Archie carrying them around in his mouth).
  • Am I just keeping this because it’s a brand name?  I had many items that I never wore and didn’t really love but justified keeping around because “but it’s Banana Republic” or “but it’s J.Crew”. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you don’t wear it, it goes.

How I Got Rid of Half of My Clothes

Items that were in style and in good shape, I sold at a consignment store. Everything else went to Goodwill.

2. WE BOOTED HALF THE FURNITURE.

My boyfriend (N) and I sat in our living room one day and made a list of all the furniture that is not coming with us. We’ve accumulated a lot of furniture over the years, as I love Goodwill and frequently find items that I love but have no use for (and then buy anyways). These are the questions we asked ourselves about every piece of furniture in our home:

  • Is it structurally sound? Our Ikea bookshelf is wobbly like whoa. It isn’t joining us in Philly.
  • Do we use it regularly? The desk, vanity, antique table, and dining room table all don’t get much use.
  • Do we have room? We need and like two dressers but two dressers will not fit in our new apartment. The newer dresser is coming with us, N’s dresser is going back to Goodwill where it came from. Plus we’ve gotten rid of half of our clothes so hopefully we can make this work.
  • Is it just plain ugly? Our coffee table is so far past needing to be refinished, it isn’t even worth it. Speaking of ugly, I don’t care how ugly our recliner is, it’s coming with us.

All furniture that isn’t coming is going on Craigslist, to Goodwill, or in the trash.

3. IF WE HAVEN’T SEEN IT IN A YEAR, WE DON’T NEED IT AND WON’T MISS IT.

The desk drawer was full of stuff but and had not been opened in a year. The extra products (that I never use) under the bathroom sink were out of control. The extra linens (i.e. old sheets and dog towels) we had were exploding out of our hall closet. I couldn’t possibly tell you what was in my nightstand, but it was completely full. And there was an entire closet that was just “miscellaneous”.

We had to be ruthless. What I kept in mind was this – If N threw it away when I was out of the house, would I even notice? In most cases, the answer was no. There is just no reason to move a hand cream that you hate the scent of, the duvet cover you’ll never put back on your bed, or your scientific calculator from 10th grade. You don’t even remember what sine or cosine are. Make peace with that.

4. NO EXTRAS ALLOWED.

Does anyone else have an absurd amount of tupperware? We’ve got way too much tupperware, thanks to restaurants now using it as to-go boxes. It’s not coming with us.

No duplicates of anything. No keeping extras of things just because.

5. OUTDATED TECHNOLOGY IS NOT INVITED.

N announced recently that our DVD player isn’t coming with us. What?! He claims we never watch DVD’s which is true except that every time he’s gone for the weekend, I watch at least two Harry Potter movies. All on DVD. So sure, we don’t use the DVD player but I do. He still insists that he doesn’t think we need it or my DVD collection. I’ve agreed to this deal IF he buys me all the Harry Potter movies on Google Play or iTunes.

Harry Potter DVDs

And if you’re a fellow Harry Potter lover, make sure you check out this post.

6. CUT THE COSMETICS.

Since we are ditching both my vanity and a small antique table that previously housed my hair and makeup products, I now had to figure out where they were going to go. Turns out, I’m a hoarder of almost finished lipsticks and old tubes of mascara. I asked myself these questions and got rid of over half of my cosmetics and nearly all of my hair products:

  • Is it super super old? If I couldn’t remember when I bought it or when I used it last, I tossed it.
  • Did it just never work for me? There’s just no reason to keep a $5 lipstick that I hated from the moment I put it on for the first time. If that hairspray just never held your curls, ditch it. If the foundation was always kind of the wrong color, throw it out.
  • Is it almost empty? I’m totally that girl who kept a lipstick because there was maybe a wear or two left. But come on, we all know that by then I’ve already bought another lipstick to replace it. If it’s empty or even close to empty, throw it away.

7. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.

We found that as we really looked at our apartment piece by piece, there were a lot of things that we actually didn’t like. There were lots of mentions of things like “why do we even have this?” or “is this yours?” (said in a judgy tone). Turns out, our home decor style was really just a hodge podge of what we found in my parent’s basement and at Goodwill. We’re upping our game for our new place.

So that’s how we got rid of nearly half of our stuff. It feels good to get rid of the clutter. Do you have any other suggestions to help us downsize before our move? I’d love to hear how you got rid of the clutter in your life!

6 WORKOUT TIPS YOU HAVEN’T HEARD BEFORE

At a recent doctors appointment, my doctor brought something to my attention.

“Nadine, you’ve gained 7 pounds since the last time I saw you, less than a year ago…” Like a punch in the gut.

“For someone of your stature, that’s a pretty significant weight gain….” Jab, jab, right hook.

“Have your eating or exercise habits changed?” Bam, uppercut.

Well Doc, if you count the fact that I had not been to the gym since before my trip to California last August then yeah, I guess they’ve changed. And um, maybe I got a little too friendly with the Dominos delivery guy. Also, somewhere around 26.5 years of age, I’m pretty sure my metabolism disowned me.

“You are in the healthy weight range now but if you gain 5 more pounds, you’ll be in the unhealthy range.” Boom, knockout.

So I decided that if A. I want any chance of being “young and hot” again, I needed to hit the gym and B. with my current habits I am never going to live to be 100, which we all know is my ultimate life goal.

I’m proud of myself. I’m actually sticking with it. And I’m doing it differently than I have in the past. Here’s what is actually working for me.

6 Workout Tips You Haven't Heard Before

1. DON’T WAIT TO BUY THE GEAR

I’ve read articles that say that you should reward yourself with work out gear after you’ve made a habit of hitting the gym. Ignore that advice, it’s stupid.

I can’t be the only woman in the world who used the excuse “but I don’t have any clean sports bras” to pass on the gym. When I decided I really needed to get it in gear, I went straight to T.J. Maxx and bought 4 new sports bras, 1 new pair of capris, and 2 new pairs of athletic shorts. Having clean (don’t pretend like you haven’t re-worn a dirty sports bra) and cute work out gear every day has encouraged me to actually put it on and subsequently, work out.

2. SET SILLY GOALS

I try to do one Grey’s Anatomy episode worth of cardio every day. That is actually how I measure my time. I don’t go for any number of calories or miles, I just get on whatever machine I’m getting on, put Netflix on my phone, and let Seattle Grace Grey Sloan Memorial take me to another place.

cristina-yang-

Whenever Cristina references cardio, for a second I think she’s talking about working out.

3. WHEN SOMETHING ISN’T WORKING, GIVE UP

I’ve tried to become a runner so many times. I get a couple of days in and my hip flexors hurt so bad that I skip a day. And then I skip 6 months.

So I recently tried jogging on the treadmill and when I wound up hating it, I opted for the bike or elliptical instead. Just because it feels like everyone else is training for a half-marathon doesn’t mean you have to. Give it up and do what works for you.

4. IF YOU HAVE THE TIME TO BLOG (OR READ BLOGS, FOR THAT MATTER) YOU HAVE THE TIME TO WORKOUT

Just sayin’. These days I might only be posting 4 ish times a week but I’m healthier for it. When I don’t post for a day, I remind myself that the time I would have spent blogging, I was working out.

I also daydream about feeling good enough to take the occasional pinterest worthy outfit photo, come fall. We can be honest here, right? Good. #bloggerdaydreams

5. DON’T LEAVE YOUR HOUSE

On days that I just don’t want to do boring cardio, I do a fitness youtube video. Many videos don’t require any equipment (although Meighan once wrote that she used cans of squash to work out when she didn’t have hand weights so seriously, no excuses).

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred Level 1 (requires hand weights – or canned vegetables)
  • FitnessBlender 37 Minute Cardio Workout at Home
  • FitnessBlender 45 Minute HIIT Cardio and Abs Workout
  • FitnessBlender 10 Minute Abs

Okay, you get it, I really like FitnessBlender. Usually I put the video on my laptop in front of my TV and put (what else?) Netflix on my TV. It’s a fabulous combo.

6. GIVE YOURSELF A GOLD STAR

Workout Tracking

Or in my case, a big pink check. I searched for a while for an app to record my workouts in and never found one that felt really satisfying. Now I use a basic calendar to keep track of the days I work out. Something about adding that big pink check for the day just feels really really good.

What weird things have you found to motivate you? Any tips for us workout newbies?

GOD?

Today I’m sharing something that maybe seen as controversial or may be hard for some people to read. Please know that I’ve tried my best to get my words out in a thoughtful way. I’m human. What you believe is what you believe, and that’s okay. We can still be friends. We can agree to disagree. Here are my thoughts on where my life experiences have led my beliefs.

Cross

For the past two years I’ve worked with families of kids with cancer. What I’ve found is that as kids get sicker, families seek God. Each day I opened thank you notes from families across the country thanking us and praising God. Families of kids with cancer, thanking God, talking about how blessed they are. And I’d just sit at my desk and stare at the letters, feeling strangely proud and slightly confused. When the absolute worst happens, why is God the answer?

Over my two years, I had many intense conversations with loved ones about this. Each time I couldn’t see how any God would let such terrible things happen to wonderful families. To beautiful children. Any merciful God would not have let a dear friend of mine, age 18 and dying of Osteosarcoma, linger for so long, in so much pain. She retained her faith until the very last moment, while I lost hope of ever finding mine.

When I’d have this discussion with the faithful people in my life, they’d implore me not blame God. But if we can’t blame God for the bad, why should we praise him for the good?

I’ve had many people use the phrase “God only gives you what you can handle” and let me tell you, I (and many families I worked with) strongly dislike (see how I didn’t use the word hate? I wanted to, oh I sure did, but I didn’t use it) that phrase. I’ve yet to see a family who can “handle” the loss of a child or sibling. A piece of them is gone forever. This phrase doesn’t lessen pain or provide hope.

Certainly we can’t blame anyone but the individual(s) for human acts of terror. But when it’s something as tiny as one cell mutating (after all, that’s how cancer starts), who do we blame, God or science? Perhaps it’s my lack of maturity to look for someone, something to blame. Although I’m not sure how anyone could see kids dying and not look around and wonder why.

N and I have talked a lot about what we believe and what we want to raise our kids to believe. Neither of these involves a higher power. I’m a good person. I know that in my heart. A heart that doesn’t beat for Jesus or because of him. It beats because of electric impulses in my body. It beats because I grew cell by cell. Just as you may believe in scripture, that is my belief.

Until he met me, N had never been in a religious building of any kind. He hadn’t been in a mosque or a synagogue or a big stone Catholic church. He didn’t know what it meant that I was baptized Episcopalian but that I come from a predominantly Catholic family. He’d never heard the nicene creed and was shocked to see me recite it, word for word, the first time we stood in church together at the obligatory Christmas service. He had almost zero religious influences in his life. Today, he is one of the best people I know. We both agree that religion isn’t necessary to turn out “right”.

And I’m sure you’re wondering (or you know, without a doubt), what if she’s wrong? Well I might be wrong. With all the world religions, all the atheists and agnostics, someone has to be wrong. I’m telling you, it could definitely be me.

But here’s what I’m hoping: If there is a God, if I get up to those pearly gates and Jesus, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, or even my great-great grandmother comes out to greet me, I’m guessing they’ll know I lived my life in a good way. That I tried to help people. That my moral compass was strong and that I deeply loved and truly lived and hopefully, made the world a better place. And I bet they’ll let me in anyway.

So no, I don’t believe what most of the world believes. I’m definitely in the minority in blog world. But that’s okay. I sleep just fine at night.

7 PLACES TO FIND FREE PHOTOS TO USE ON YOUR BLOG OR WEBSITE

You know what? I don’t want to get sued. And I bet you don’t either. But if you are using photos from other websites, you are technically stealing (I know it doesn’t feel like it, but it is). Even if you provide a link (like “via” or “source”) at the bottom of the photo, it’s still really a no-no.

I’ve been guilty of this before (I love GIFs) and will probably be guilty of it again someday (cause God knows I’ll keep using GIFs). But for most of my posts I either use my own photos or I get them from one of these free photo sources. This is one of those things I think about and go: I wish someone had told me about these when I first started blogging.

free stock photos

Photos can set the tone for a blog post. They break up wordy posts and hey, they make your post look prettier (and more clickable) on Bloglovin. I like photos that I’m allowed to edit – usually to create a “pinable image” for Pinterest. You can do that with the photos from the links below (just like I did with the image above!). It’s a bloggers dream.

1. UNSPLASH
Unsplash is probably my favorite, in terms of the quality and diversity of the photos. It’s where I head first to get some idea of what I’m looking for. There aren’t many photos of people (which I like because I don’t want to post pictures of people I don’t know on a personal blog) and you are allowed to do whatever you want to the photos.

It’s easiest to look through the photos if you immediately click “archive” when you arrive at the homepage. Then you can see little thumbnails of all of the photos instead of scrolling through them one by one.

2. LITTLE VISUALS
Little Visuals releases 7 new photos every 7 days. There aren’t as many photos here and many are landscapes but the photos they have are beautiful. And again, you can do whatever you want to these photos.

3. FREE RANGE STOCK
This site has a ton of interesting photo options. Their search feature makes it easy to find what you looking for. The only downside is that you have to register to be able to download. Registration is free and just takes a minute.

You can also do almost anything with these photos. Here is how their license reads: “You can do nearly anything with the images, commercial or not. Just don’t redistribute them – this means don’t host the images or repackage them, just post a link to this site and let others sign up download them, just as you did.”

4. GRATISOGRAPHY
This eclectic collection is all photographs taken by Ryan McGuire. There is a lot to work with here and all photos are completely free of copyright restrictions.

5. MORGUEFILE
Morguefile is the most hit or miss of all of these. If you head over there and search, you will immediately find that many photos on this site were taken by amateur photographers and some are quite old. That being said, if you click “popular” you’ll see a ton of high-quality, beautiful photographs. Again, you can use these for anything.

6. PIXABAY
Pixabay may have the most images available of all of these sites. The search feature pulls some quality photos and lots of cartoon type photos so the fastest way to find the good stuff is to click “explore” at the top and then select “editors choice” or “leaderboards”.

These are also photos that you can do whatever you want with but just to be sure, once you click on a photo, check the license information in the bottom right corner. You have the ability to download each photo in various sizes. Again, you have to create a free username and password with this one but it just takes a minute.

7. PICJUMBO
This is a fantastic website with high-quality photos. I love that you can search by category on the left side. Though there aren’t a ton of photos (yet) there is a lot to work with and you can do whatever you want with them. The site design of this site is user friendly and is my favorite of all of these.

Have any photo sources to add to this list? Leave a link in the comments below. And if you liked this post and it helped you 1. bookmark these fabulous resources and 2. please use the pin it button below to pin this post on Pinterest so that others can find it!

IS YOUR ONLINE PERSONA REALLY YOU

IS YOUR ONLINE PERSONA REALLY YOU?

This weekend I was at my parents house, standing around the kitchen chatting with my Stepmom. Sometimes I attempt to talk to the non-bloggers in my life about blogging. She’s one of those people who has to hear me use words like sponsor, link up, Pinterest optimization, etc. She also has a plethora (God I love using that word) of ideas and feeds me some good ones. I don’t remember exactly how it came up but she mentioned my “online persona”. “What do you mean?”, I asked, confused. “Who you are on your blog isn’t really you. It’s your online persona.”

In an instant, I felt dishonest. Had I been betraying my readers? Have I been truthful about myself? Who am I, on the internet, if not me? She insisted that it wasn’t a bad thing, but still, it stuck with me.

Later, on the phone with Kaylin, I asked her. “Do you think I have an online persona?”

“Yes,” she replied, no hesitation. “Who you are on your blog isn’t all of you. It’s part of you. I can see you in it.”

I’ve written over 400 blog posts. When you think about it, it seems obvious that I’d never be able to convey exactly who I am, all 25 years of me, in 400 blog posts. There are so many facets of my life that you don’t know about, and never will. There are things I’d be embarrassed to share, things that would embarrass or hurt other people if I shared, and things that are just too private. This isn’t to say that I’m some crazy complex person. It’s just that everyone is an onion. Everyone has a past.

This didn’t just make me think about me. It made me think about you. About other bloggers. Who you are on the internet can never be all of who you are. When I think of what other bloggers don’t know about me, I think about all the things I must not know about them. Sometimes I’ll be reading a blog and realize, huh, she doesn’t talk about this area of her life much. We all have our reasons.

I think what confused me most about discovering my own “online persona” is that it wasn’t done intentionally. I thought I’d been conveying the real me this entire time. I’ve tried to get people who know me in real life to tell me what is different but they can’t pinpoint it. It’s a strange feeling, to feel like I’ve done something wrong in a way. So I guess what I’m asking you to see is that behind the words on your computer screen, there is a whole person. If you’re reading this, you’re a whole person too. No 400, or hell 4,000 blog posts could possibly convey the whole of who you are. That’s what makes life online both beautiful and dangerous.