lifestyle

A Pretty And Practical Craft Room Tour

mugs with knitting needles, crochet hooks and paintbrushes sitting on a wooden shelf

Our new sewing room/ studio has been “in progress” for about 9 months, but when the last piece of shelf trim was attached last week, it was finally done. I am so excited to share a tour of this creative space! After many years of sewing at a desk in the living room or creating art in the corner of my bedroom, it is so nice to have a dedicated “studio” room. Crafting is a messy business, and while I do love a creative mess, I don’t love it so much in the living room. It is nice to now have a room that houses not only the desks and supplies but the mess as well…and a door to close on that mess. This room is my former bedroom and though I miss having that wallpaper, it wasn’t the best bedroom because it is over the boiler room. When my sister got married last year, I moved into her bedroom, and we decided to turn this one into a studio and sewing room. (And, yay, I still get to enjoy the wallpaper!) We also tried to make it both a pretty and practical craft room; we needed storage, but also wanted to have a space to decorate.

This room is also a bit of a catch all for other things… donations waiting to brought to the thrift store, chairs without a home, the ironing board… I moved most of that transient stuff out for the pictures, and tidied up, but other than that, this is a fairly realistic representation of what the room looks like most days. 

tiny watercolour painting by Rosemary Piper in a white frame

As you enter the room, the first thing you see is this lovely painting I bought in the Yukon many years ago, by artist Rosemary Piper. I love her tiny watercolours, and that is where I got the idea to do some of my own tiny pieces.

full craft room with sewing desk, wall mounted shelves above and a shelf unit beside the desk housing sewing supplies and notions

This room is 9′ x 11′ with a closet. On one side of the room are my two desks and across from them is the shared sewing desk. As you enter the room, the closet is to the right of the door. Originally it had a basic shelf and rod, with bifold doors. The shelf was in bad condition, so my dad built new shelves with a small section of rod to hold “in progress” sewing projects. We also removed the doors to open up the useable space.

closet with built in shelves to hold fabric and craft supplies

The shelves are 12″ tall and 42″ wide, and they perfectly hold all of our fabric, foam, leather, extra sewing machine, projects in progress and craft books. I’ve got the fabric sorted into sections based either by fibre content and purpose, or by who owns it. The baskets hold slippery fabrics and smaller scraps that don’t fold well into stacks. My mom and sister each have their own sections of fabric and my personal stash is housed in the basket on the bottom shelf and a stack on the second shelf. The white boxes on the floor hold my seasonal decorating supplies, the rubbermaid bin houses wool sweaters for felting projects (such as these and these) and the basket of fabric on top holds old sheets for use as fitting muslins.

shelf unit painted black with milk paint holding patterns and sewing books. A dress form stands beside it

To the left of the closet there is this little area which perfectly houses a hook to hang painting aprons on, a giant roll of Kraft paper we use for patterns and wrapping paper, my dress form and a shelving unit. My parents bought this shelf to use as linen cupboard in a bathroom in a past house, but never ended up using it because we moved. Now 15 years later we finally have a spot for it, so my mom and I painted it with milk paint and finished it with linseed oil. The reason we chose milk paint is because it soaks into the wood for a very durable finish that won’t scrape off.

On the shelves we have two boxes of patterns, sewing and crafting books, stationery and my printer. In the bottom cupboard are miscellaneous crafting supplies such as hot glue, raffia, spray paint and batting. On the top of the shelf is my sister’s basket of UFO’s (UnFinished Objects).

framed 1950's dress pattern and dress form with vintage ribbon and lace pinned onto it

The dress form isn’t my size, but it has come in handy in the past, nevertheless. I got it years ago from a lady in my church and I now use it as a little display area. I’ve got some pretty vintage trims and a collar pinned onto it and I also hung my new bodice block on the side so it doesn’t get crumpled. The pattern hanging above is one that my Gramma sewed in the 1950’s to wear to her sister’s wedding. I love the tiered skirt paired with the shirtwaist top!

wooden wall mounted shelves with pegs. Baskets, vintage sewing supplies and framed patterns fill the shelves

Now to get to the wall shelves; my favourite element in this room! We put some thought into this area because we wanted it to be functional for storage, but also to have space to display our vintage sewing notions, because if they weren’t going to be displayed in this room, there was nowhere else for them to go. I liked the idea of having shelves with wooden brackets, rather than metal ones, and incorporating some pegs to hold things; this is a workspace after all.

wooden pegs holding vintage scissors and spools

My mom and I found a few pictures of shelves we liked and then my dad built these for us. (I stained them with the colour “Provincial” by Varathane, by the way). The shelves are 5′ long, 9 3/4″ deep and hung with 16″ between them. The baskets hold lace and ribbons wound onto cards, the green box holds serger thread and then the rest of the space holds our collection of vintage sewing notions and books.

mini vintage hand held sewing machine and a framed 1960's dress pattern

This little portable sewing machine is hilarious, isn’t it? I’ve never used it…I wonder how well it would work? The two framed 1940’s and 1960’s patterns are from an antique market.

vintage sewing pincushion that looks like a lamp, and a glass apothecary jar filled with vintage wooden spools of thread

I’ve also got my collection of wooden spools in an apothecary jar- I’ve been wanting to do this for years! And, this was my Great Grandmother’s pin cushion, shaped like a little lamp, isn’t it sweet?

thread spool organizer made out of nails and a whitewashed wooden board with thread organized by colour

I skipped over the new thread holder in my excitement to share the shelves, but my dad also built us a new thread organizer! I took all of the nails out of my old one and whitewashed a wooden board, and then he spaced the nails wider apart and used a jig to hammer them in at an even angle. It holds 84 spools, and fits perfectly in this spot beside the shelves.

For the sewing desk we have my parents’ old IKEA desk and… it is very orange. It’s got a strange textured veneer, but it is height adjustable and it was free. I would like to eventually invest in a different top; I was thinking of a wooden countertop or something like that since I like to share projects here on the blog and the orange colour is not quite my style! However, it is perfectly functional for now, and I do really like the length of it: 6′ 7″.

serger and sewing machine on top of sewing desk

The most important thing was to be able to have the serger and sewing machine both out on the top of the desk to easily switch between them as we are working on projects. There is enough leg room to slide your chair in whichever direction you need, and there is plenty of room on the left side of the desk for spreading out your project for working on details, pinning, or even cutting small patterns out. (For most projects, we still cut out fabric on the dining room table.)

ikea alex drawer unit underneath the desk for holding sewing supplies

Finally, the thing that made the biggest impact for the sewing space was biting the bullet and buying the Alex cabinet from IKEA. I looked for ages for a second hand one, but no one was selling this short and wide version…I guess everybody was happy with their purchase? My sister bought one of these years ago for her craft supplies and I’ve been jealous ever since because the shallow drawers are perfect for crafting and sewing supplies.

Is it cheaply made out of MDF and quite expensive considering the materials? (Wow, I just realized it’s gone up in price since I got it too!)

Yes.

Would I prefer a beautiful vintage wooden apothecary or drafting drawer unit?

Yes.

Am I still happy I bought this one?

Absolutely!

top drawer of the ikea alex drawer full of sewing supplies

It holds almost all of our sewing notions including pins, tailors chalk, bobbins, sewing tools, sewing machine accessories, zippers, buttons and snaps, buckles, my mom’s leather beading supplies, boning, elastic, sleeve board, pressing supplies, tracing paper, hem marker… and I’m sure we could even fit in more than this. The only downside to the unit is that the drawer stops prevent the drawers from opening fully, so you have to move the items in the front to access ones in the back, but we just put infrequently used items in the back, and it works fine. I do really love this cabinet (although, if you are a woodworker, I would say to build a beautiful wooden one yourself instead!)

wooden schoolteacher style art desk sits beside a window and wall shelves are hung above holding boxes and baskets of supplies

Now on to the other side of the room; my art space. My parents gave me this schoolteacher desk several years ago and, though it is definitely a refinishing project, I am using it as-is in the meantime. (I’d like to stain it a rich, dark brown one day.) Beside the desk I have a bin of wrapping papers and a vintage basket that houses fabric scraps and my sewing UFO’s and fabric scraps.

schoolteacher desk drawer open showing pens, pencils and office supplies

I love the large, deep work top and the huge amount of concealed storage this desk has. I keep all of my supplies such as scissors, hole punches, beads, fabric for flowers, rubber stamps, ribbon and lace, paper cutter, pencils and pens, watercolour paints, tissue paper and wrapping supplies, 8×10 mats, stationery and computer accessories in the drawers.

magnet board with papers and pictures hung on it

I hung a metal strip above the desk to use as a bulletin board for pretty “inspiration” things, as well as notes and patterns I’m working on etc. I like my desk placed here in the room because of the natural light from the window. The window also means I get to have my Marble Queen Pothos in here! On top of the desk I keep a tray of frequently used items on the corner of the desk, a basket for project’s I’m currently working on, and my computer. I usually have tons of other things piled on top, but I’m working on finding homes for everything.

a pothos plant on a shelf and a tray of art supplies sitting on top of the desk

I hung shelves above this desk as well, which is a great storage solution for all of my supplies; I’ve never had wall mounted shelves before, and I love them!  The shelves are 5′ long and 11 3/4″ deep. I used pine shelf boards, sealed them with linseed oil and used simple L brackets I already had (painted white to minimize their appearance). After I saw how nicely my dad built the other shelves in the room, I wish I had stained mine and made them a bit nicer too…oh well these can be the “practical” and the others the “pretty”!

wall mounted shelves holding art supplies in boxes and baskets

On the top shelf is all of my stock from my shop along with my camera bag and accessories. I hung one half shelf so I could fit taller items on the left side and shorter boxes on the right.

wall mounted shelves holding art supplies in a vintage train case and paper boxes and a plant trailing off the end of one shelf

The orange train case on the half shelf holds my tools and the boxes house ephemera, vintage postage stamps, paper scraps and stickers. Miscellaneous paint and glues all fit beside the boxes and then paper, boards, canvases and art books fill in the middle section.

ikea orfjall desk chair in grey and wall shelves holding paper, books and a sewing basket

Though I originally I wanted to have a bit of a display area at the end of the left side of the shelf, which is why that painting is leaning in behind, I did end up putting my sewing basket on the end because I just have too many supplies for the length of shelf. Maybe if one day I use up all of my supplies and the stash decreases, then I will be able to have more decorative space! (But I doubt that will ever happen, haha)

I use my IKEA desk chair interchangeably between all of the spaces, and am still searching for the perfect fabric to either reupholster or slipcover it with. I’d love to find some vintage fabric, so I keep my eye out when thrifting, but haven’t found the right thing yet.

work from home desk with a vintage window above it with a cotton wreath hanging on top

Finally, right beside the door, is my comparatively unexciting work-from-home desk. I made this skinny desk with metal IKEA legs and it works well because it can sit close to the door in this room without impeding the traffic flow. I also hung my vintage turquoise window above the desk with a grapevine wreath over top. I like to change the stems on the wreath to reflect each season- I can’t believe that soon it will be time for acorns and fall berries!

And now that we’ve made it back to the door, that means the tour of our new craft room/ sewing room/ creative space is over. I am so happy with how this room turned out and I spend so much time in here now! It’s an enjoyable room to be in, and I love that I can come in here and work on things and leave them out without having to put everything away in time to use the dining table for supper. While having a separate crafting room is not a necessity for creativity, it was a treat to be able to organize this room specifically with our hobbies in mind. And I love that we were able to make some space to decorate and display our vintage collection, making this both a pretty and practical craft room!

Do you have a dedicated creative space? What are your best storage solutions for craft areas? 

11 Tips for A Clutter Free Space (But Not Getting Rid of Everything!)

bouquet of parsley in a blue and white ceramic pitcher sitting on an antique dresser with a beadboard wall in the background

That was an unexpected absence from the blog, but I have been keeping busy elsewhere. Well, sort of. We had a heat wave, so in the moments between melting and sitting in front of my fan, I went on a decluttering rampage. I started getting interested in minimalism in 2019, and have gotten rid of a LOT of stuff over the past few years. I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist quite yet, but I am aiming for a clutter free space. As someone who enjoys collecting old things, whether it’s clothing, furniture, or dishes (I have a weakness for pretty vintage pieces!) I don’t think I’ve quite reached that “sweet spot” yet, but I am definitely getting closer to my goal.

This last decluttering whirlwind was sparked by (and “sparked joy” by!) reading and watching some books and blogs and videos. I’ve been decluttering a few items here and there, and going through my things a little bit at a time. I’ve read quite a bit of minimalism content over the past few years, so I wanted to share 11 of my favourite tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that have helped me to let go of my excess, and have a more clutter free space, in case these might help you too.

First, though, I wanted to quickly mention the difference between Minimalism as an Aesthetic and Minimalism as a Lifestyle. People often get these confused with each other, and because they don’t like blank white walls and sleek, low-slung furniture, they think that can’t be minimalists. However, Minimalism was originally an art movement that came out of the 1960’s featuring simple square and rectangular shapes. It came to be referred to as Minimalism because it was made of a minimal number of colours, textures and shapes, unlike the art that came before it.

As with most things, Art reflects culture and while the term Minimalism was coined to reflect this specific art movement, it had been present in the world of Design since the 1920’s. Much like how the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 1800’s was a reaction against the Victorian era’s excessive ornamentation, the Minimalism design movement was characterized by those same open spaces, quality pieces and thoughtfulness of design… just in a slightly more modern way. The Minimalist movement took the “paring back” even further than the Arts and Crafts movement did; the function of an item became the form, and the beauty of an item was found in its simplicity.

Minimalism as a lifestyle takes it’s name from these movements, and reflects the idea of removing the excess from your space, paring back to the minimum amount of items needed and finding the beauty in the simplicity of your lifestyle. (For more info, this is a great article)

gallery wall of vintage pictures and mirrors with an amber glass vase with a dried flower arrangement in it

While I do admire minimalist design, with white open spaces and graceful modern furniture, that is not my personal decorating style at all! When it comes to decorating my space, I love collecting beautiful antique and vintage pieces, filling my walls with galleries of artwork, and I can never pass up pretty blue and white ceramics. Although I do love the blank feature wall in my bedroom and like to keep many of my surfaces bare, I also really love ornamentation. What I am trying to achieve is a minimalist approach to the belongings that I own and bring into my home. This means being choosy with the pieces I have and not collecting more items than my space can hold in order to avoid those dreaded piles of clutter! I want my home to be full of the items I enjoy, without the extra things that just clutter it up.

gratitude journal open with a black pen resting on top

1. Practicing Gratitude

I’ve been reflecting on how blessed I am to be in a position where I am struggling with too much, rather than too little. I have been making sure to thank God for those blessings, both as I declutter and by keeping a gratitude journal. As I declutter, I want to make sure that I have a good perspective of my belongings, both in thankfulness for what God has given me… and also in remembering that everything I “own” is His anyways!

2. Blessing Others

And on that note, as I consider items to part with, I try to think of someone I know who could be blessed by that item. For example, we’ve been able to give toys, craft supplies and children’s books to young families in my church. I’ve also been able to pass on duplicate copies of my Agatha Christie books to friends who enjoy reading mysteries, and teacups and dishes to ladies in my church who enjoy hosting. When you can think of someone else who would be able to use and enjoy something you don’t need anymore, it makes it so much easier, and even fun, to part with it. It’s much better for someone else to be able to use something right now, than keeping it in storage indefinitely.

vintage blue and white dishes sitting on top of a vintage dresser

3. Picturing the End Goal

Perhaps I should have mentioned first the most helpful tip, from Marie Kondo: visualize what you want your ideal life to look like. This does not mean what your fantasy life would be like, but what you would realistically like to achieve….and what is holding you back? One way I put this into action was when I realized that, while I love to collect pretty vintage dishes, I actually want to be able to display them all in a china cabinet to enjoy them even when not in use. I don’t want to have to dig through boxes or climb precariously to the top shelf of the kitchen to pull down teacups and cake platters. I also don’t want to have a wide variety of colours in my china cabinet; I like a palette of white, blue, green and glass. This made it so much easier for me to decide which pieces to keep: if they won’t fit in the china cabinet, and they aren’t in the colour palette, then I am OK with parting with them because they don’t fit my vision.

4. Be Realistic

Be realistic about what your lifestyle is like. If you don’t enjoy dry cleaning or hand washing your clothes, then only keep machine washable pieces in your wardrobe. If you don’t like hosting people at your house, but would rather go out to socialize, then pare down your serving ware to only what you need for your family. For me, I love high heels, but my feet do not. I’ve never been able to wear high heels to work or long periods like that, but now I struggle to wear them even for a few hours. I’m not quite ready to get rid of them all, but I have started reducing my shoe collection to include only flats that can fit my orthotics, and lower heeled shoes that I can wear for a few hours to church without causing my feet to ache for days. While I love tall heeled shoes, they don’t fit my lifestyle anymore, so there’s no point in keeping them and feeling sad that I can’t wear them.

clothing hanging on vintage wooden hangers in the closet

5. Keeping Rather than Getting Rid Of

I like this quote by William Morris (one of the founders of the aforementioned Arts and Crafts movement): “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Or put another way, by Marie Kondo, keep what “Sparks Joy”. I like this tactic because it focuses on choosing what to keep rather than what to get rid of, and it places an emphasis on your personal feelings towards an item, rather than just what is practical. I used this question when curating my closet; choosing which items to keep by how they make me feel when I wear them. I wrote more in depth about that in this post series here. I have some fancy evening dresses that I will probably never wear again, but they are so pretty and they make me happy. Even though they aren’t useful, they definitely spark joy, so they were an obvious keeper.  On the other hand, my basic black t-shirts are nothing exciting to look at, but I wear them at home every day because I love how comfortable and neutral they are. I know them to be useful, so I kept them. And I suppose they “spark joy” too, because they clothe me! I have removed a lot of items from my closet over the past few years: things I never wore because they didn’t fit quite right, or I never felt confident in because of ___ reason or because they didn’t coordinate with anything else in my closet (but I didn’t want to buy items to go with them). My every day wardrobe still has some empty spots, but I wear almost all of the pieces on a regular basis.

6. Choosing Your Favourites

Once you’ve decluttered the easy stuff, but need to do more, then it’s time to start looking at items that made their way through the first round. I ask myself “If I could only keep 5 of my ____, which ones would they be?” This forces you to prioritize your favourites of a collection, and decide whether you actually want to keep all of them. At one point I had close to 30 houseplants, and while I did like them, I discovered that I don’t actually want to have a house full of plants; I just want to have a few for each room. When I started picking out my favourites, I chose my purple shamrock, Marble Queen pothos, snake plant, English ivy and air plants. Further down that list were my Wandering Jew and Umbrella tree…in fact they were so far down that list I decided to get rid of them altogether. (I even sold one, which was nice!)) I still have more than five houseplants, at last count 17, but that’s OK. The goal wasn’t to get down to a certain number, but to clear some space while making sure I enjoy each of the plants I do have.

a kraft paper shopping bag with clothes folded inside

7. Using an Outbox

I was never drowning under clutter, so if you’re needing to move out a lot of stuff quickly, then this tip might not be for you. Sometimes I immediately know when it’s time to declutter something, but not always. I don’t want to make snap decisions and then regret them later so I take my time with items I am on the fence about. Oftentimes I will see something and think, “I should get rid of that”, but then immediately think of a reason why I shouldn’t. If I either keep that thought in the back of my mind, or physically place that item in an outbox (or bag) for several days or weeks, then I think more objectively about it and most of the time will decide to part with it. The outbox works really well for breaking an emotional hold on an item: do you have a reason to take it out of the box, or are you OK with passing it on because you realize you don’t need it as much as you think? I do this with sentimental items and gifts, because I tend to keep gifts because they remind me of the giver. However, if I never use something, it’s not serving any purpose in my life except guilt. It was very helpful to realize that the purpose and value of a gift is in the giving. Once it’s been given and received, it has served it’s main purpose, so if it’s not serving any other purpose for you, then it’s OK to put it in the outbox and eventually pass it on to someone else who could use it.

white ikea expedit bookshelf arranged with books by colour

8. Guidelines for Books

As a bibliophile, I have my own set of rules when it comes to books. I find that many minimalists either don’t talk much about books or just say if you haven’t read it yet or aren’t going to re-read it you should get rid of it. I love books, so those guidelines don’t work for me. Here’s how I decide what to keep on my shelf:

  • First, I stop the influx of books by using the library. I read about 40 to 50 books each year, so that is a lot of books coming in! I automatically check to see if I can get any book I’m interested in from my library through an inter-library loan. So far this year I have saved $471.13!!! (They print the total on my receipt each visit). Not only does the library save me money, but shelf space as well. If I borrow a book from the library, and enjoy it so much that I’d like to own it, such as reference, fashion or decorating books then I’ll buy it (or ask for it as a gift) and add it to my personal library.
  • I only ever buy books that I haven’t read yet if I get them at a thrift store, or if I can’t get them from the library.
  • If I have a book I haven’t read yet, but am still interested in reading, I will keep it. Many minimalists recommend decluttering books you haven’t read yet, but I sometimes have books for several years before I finally get around to reading them (so many books, so little time!) Any books that I no longer find intriguing though, I will definitely remove… to make space for new ones, of course!
  • I keep almost all of my Classics, at least the ones that I enjoyed reading and which hold a bit of nostalgia, even if I’m not sure I will read them again. I like to keep them because they seem like good friends. I also like to listen to audio books of Dickens, but one time the disc was scratched so I was glad to have a hard copy of the book so I could finish the book. (It was 1:00 am and I was desperate to find out the ending of A Tale of Two Cities!)
  • I label my books with bookplates or with a “This Book Belongs To” stamp. I’ve discovered that if I don’t want to take the time to put my name in a book because I’m not sure if I will get rid of it someday then it probably means I can declutter it now. (Although I could always go the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society route and perhaps meet someone new because my name is written in the front of a book…)
  • I have an IKEA Expedit sixteen cube shelf to hold my books. It’s a nice large size to hold a lot of books, but that also means that if there are more books than can fit on the shelf, it’s time to see whether I need to weed some out. (And yes, I do organize by colour because I not only find that more “visually pleasing”, but it is actually easier for me to find my books that way!)

top of a messy desk with books, a laptop a basket and sewing supplies

9. Respecting the Amount of Space You Have

A big part of living clutter free is deciding where to store the items you keep. Many professional organizers and minimalists suggest that you should start to figure out organization and storage only after you’ve finished decluttering. This makes sense, because if you start organizing part way through, then you’ll either end up keeping way more than you need, or you’ll run out of space for your stuff and have to go back and declutter all over again. Instead of wishing for more space, I want to instead keep only as much as can comfortably fit. For my crafting area, if something does not easily fit in my desk or shelves, then I have to either get rid of it or remove something else to make space. Having a finite area to keep projects has helped me to be realistic about how many supplies I want to keep, and I go through them regularly. It’s hard as a creative person, because I can come up with all sorts of project ideas, but I’m realizing that just because I could start a new hobby, doesn’t mean I have to (or maybe even want to), and having a clean and organized desk is more important to me. I want to be able to walk into the craft room and be excited to start a project, not have to clear away piles of stuff before I can even start. I haven’t achieved this yet, as evidenced by the top of my desk this morning, but I’m getting closer!

stack of white storage boxes

10. Beware of Bins

Don’t store things, other than off-season items, in storage bins because it is way too easy to accumulate stuff: as long as there is room in the bin, you keep adding and because you have to unpack the boxes to see what is inside them, you can end up with duplicates. Also, because they aren’t usually easy to access, you won’t use the items inside regularly, so what’s the point of having them? Even though you can get nice, attractive looking storage boxes, that still doesn’t solve these problems. I am living with storage boxes at the moment, which I would like to find other solutions for, and a perfect example of this accidental accumulation is a set of luncheon/snack dishes I have. I’ve been collecting them for the past 10 years, but have never had a place to display them. I would find a few cups at one thrift store and a few plates at another and I just kept putting them into a storage bin. I knew that some of the cups were foggy and chipped, so when I picked up some more cups a few months ago I decided it was the time to go through the bin, pair up the cups and plates to make a complete set and get rid of the ones that weren’t in good condition. I thought I had about 15 or 20 pairs, but when I opened the bin I discovered that I had over 30 pairs (64 pieces)! I had no idea I had accumulated that many. I got rid of over half of the dishes in that box, keeping only 16 pairs for myself, because I can never imagine hosting more than that number of guests at once. (And that gives me a few extra in case of breakage).

11. Selling Makes it Easier

My final tip is that selling items can make it easier to part with them. While many people advocate for cutting your losses and getting items out of your space as quickly as possible, I think that if something is valuable or in good condition, then it’s worth it to try and sell it. Sometimes it can be hard to declutter items that you paid good money for- not only does it seem like a failure but, even though the money is already gone, it also seems like it’s setting you back financially.  For me, it was worth the time and effort in order to recoup some money, especially since I was replacing some of the items in my closet that didn’t “spark joy” with new ones that did. I was able to set that money aside for my wardrobe and didn’t have to spend any extra money on clothes that year. Selling through Poshmark also made it easier for me to part with a lot of my vintage clothing- especially my hats- because, even though I didn’t want to keep them all, I didn’t have anyone to give them to, and I didn’t want to send them to the thrift store where I knew they’d be mistreated and perhaps damaged. Selling these very niche items online was a win-win situation: people who like vintage hats got some fabulous new pieces, and I cleared out more space in my closet!

clothing and hats stacked and folded on a table ready to sell to create a more clutter free home

Well, there are my tips for how to adapt minimalism to suit yourself and to live a more clutter free lifestyle. At the end of the day, I want to have the “just right” number of possessions. I don’t think I’ve reached that yet, but I’m getting close. Some people may look at my space and think that I have way too much, and others may think I have way too little, but the best thing about minimalism is that each person gets to decide what it looks like for their lifestyle. As long as you’re not overwhelmed and surrounded by clutter and when you walk into your space your first thought isn’t “there are so many piles” but rather enjoyment of what you have, then that seems to be the “sweet spot” to me!

What are your favourite decluttering and minimalism tips and what ways do you create a clutter free space for yourself? Do you read or follow any other Minimalist accounts or books? 

Ps. Here are some of the other resources I’ve been reading and enjoying lately:

-Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

-Marissa of A to Zen Life blog and Youtube channel

-Miquillyn Smith’s book Welcome Home (I also got Cozy Minimalist Home from the library, but haven’t read it yet)

-The Minimal Mom Youtube Channel 

Reading the minimalism books Welcome Home and Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith in order to get inspiration to create my own clutter free space

A One Day Bouquet

lilac bouquet in a tiny bottle sitting on a windowsill with a lace curtain

Lilacs are one of those flowers that are best enjoyed outside on the hedge…but I just can’t resist cutting a bouquet to bring inside! Their large, bouncy blooms are perfect for creating wild, abundant bouquets.

light purple lilac blooms covering a hedge

If you cut lilacs and either smash the stems or cut them vertically, they are supposed to last longer, but I didn’t have much luck getting these to last more than a day. But, even if the blooms only last a day or two, it’s still worth it to enjoy their beautiful scent wafting through the house.

dark purple lilac blooms covering a hedge

And apparently the conditions were perfect this year for lilacs, because we got two full weeks of lovely, scented blooms to enjoy. And when the first bouquet wilted, I just went and cut another!

light purple lilac blooms framing an vine covered roof in the background

hedge row covered in light and dark purple lilac blooms

close up of a dark purple lilac bloom

Do you have lilac bushes, or access to some? Have you had any luck getting lilac bouquets to last longer?

lilac bouquet sitting on top of a bookshelf with a vintage mirror behind reflecting the blooms

bouquet of lilacs sitting on a bookshelf in front of a wall covered in vintage pictures

bouquet of lilacs sitting on top of an antique dresser with a mirror

lilac bouquet sitting on top of a dresser with beadboard in the background

lilac bouquet sitting on a dresser with a vintage hand mirror reflecting the blooms

How to Plan and Host a Tea Party

round wooden table with lace doilies and a runner on top. The table is set with teacups and a bouquet of tulips

Despite the fact that there is still snow here in Alberta, the calendar does say that it is now Spring! And now that Spring is finally on its way…that means it’s time for a tea party to celebrate, right? I hosted a small party last week for my mom and sister and a friend and, since I’ve hosted quite a few tea parties over the years, I thought I’d share some of my tips for how to plan one for yourself. Whether you are planning for a large or small group, here are my tips for how to plan and host a tea party!

bouquet of tulips wrapped in paper

Choose an Occasion or Theme

While you can always host a party “just because”, it is also fun to host one for an occasion. Your occasion could be something simple, like mine in honour of Spring, or something much more elaborate and involved like an Anne of Green Gables themed tea, or a Hat and Glove or Victorian tea where guests dress up in appropriate attire. The benefit of choosing a theme or occasion is that it gives you something to work around, and will make your other decisions a little bit easier.

Outdoors or Indoors?

I love hosting outdoor events- there is nothing more photogenic than a tea table set out on the lawn. However, the most beautiful of table settings can quickly turn into the most disastrous when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Any outdoor event calls for two times the amount of planning: a Plan A for if the weather cooperates, and a Plan B in case it doesn’t. If you plan for an outdoor event, you have to consider rain, sun, heat, wind, bugs….the list goes on. Make sure that you’ve thought of how to deal with those things, and whether you can move the tea party indoors if the need arises. I’ve hosted two parties before where we had to go inside last minute because of rain.

table indoors set and ready for a tea party

Small and Cosy… or Large and Social

Once you’ve chosen the occasion and location for your party, it’s time to decide how large of a group you would like to host. Both large and small gatherings have their benefits, but they also have unique considerations.

If you are thinking of hosting a larger group (and by this I mean 20+ guests) take into account the size of the room or outdoor space you are planning to host in and how much seating the space will allow. How many chairs will you need? How many teacups and plates do you have? Will you be able to borrow, rent or buy more, if your group is quite large? Also, how much advance preparation and cleanup do you want to do? Will you be able to get someone to help you?

china cabinet with stacks of teacups and plates

Large parties can be fun, because you have lots of opportunity to mingle and visit with people. When we have hosted larger parties for the ladies in my church, we’ve had between 20-30 ladies show up which is great for visiting with people I don’t know very well already. My family has a huge living room as well as outdoor space, to accommodate a lot of guests, but we did have to borrow tea cups since we didn’t have enough. There was also a lot of upheaval in the planning, baking, moving furniture around, and cleanup for this large of a group; and there were three of us sharing the workload. As well, in this day and age, people don’t always RSVP, so you have to account for surprise guests as well as guests not showing up (in which case you might have a lot of leftovers!)

If you choose to host a smaller group, many of these considerations will be negligible. A party of six can easily fit around most dining tables, or in your living room without having to bring extra chairs, and you’ll most likely have enough dishes to go around without borrowing extras. Another advantage of a small party is that you probably won’t break into smaller conversation groups, which gives you a chance to visit with all of your guests. However, you’ll want to make sure that you choose your guest list carefully so you don’t end up with a group of introverts who have no idea how to get a conversation going!

Invitations and RSVP’s

If you are having a smaller more informal gathering, you might be able to invite people on short notice, but if you are hosting a larger group, you really will need to give more time for people to schedule it in. You generally want to invite people several weeks before the event so they have time to check their schedules as well as allowing for time to RSVP. In my experience, most people won’t RSVP (so frustrating!) so you’ll probably have to follow up with them closer to the date as you begin to plan for food.

tea party invitation

A real paper invitation is always an elegant touch and is also helpful for guests, so they don’t forget the date or time. In this day and age a real invitation stands out, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate; I usually print out invitations. But, of course, if you are planning only several days in advance, then texting or phoning is fine too.  The most important thing is getting the information to the people you want to spend time with, of course!

Decorations & Centrepieces

Now for the fun part: figuring out how to decorate your table(s). For a larger group, you may want to have a buffet style serving, in which case you could add your decorations to the food and drinks tables instead of the tables you’ll sit at.

Since my tea party was to celebrate the arrival of Spring, I chose a bouquet of tulips- my favourite Spring flower! Unfortunately the pink tulips didn’t last long, and you can see how they are bending downwards. I had them in a shorter vase, but they were touching the table top, so I had to change out the vase for taller one…which meant I couldn’t actually keep them in the centre of the table during the party. You should always keep your centrepieces either low or high so as not to obstruct the guests’ view across the table. Since this vase was tall it meant that the tulips were right at eye level, so once we sat down at the table I removed the flowers so we could easily pass the food around and converse.

table set with lace and pink and white floral china teacups for a spring tea party. A bouquet of pink and white tulips is in the background.

As for setting the table, the fun part is pulling out the pretty dishes and linens! I took cues from my flowers and chose a pink and white colour scheme for the dishes. I didn’t have a tablecloth the right size for this table in white, so I used a runner and two doilies as placemats, and I quite like how it turned out!

a drawer open with linens and lace doilies spilling out

Always try out your table setting in advance of the party, so you can see if you need to change your plan. I was originally going to use a different Battenberg lace runner and two placemats, but I couldn’t find the second placemat! After looking everywhere for it (except where it was, obviously…) I had to change my plan to these doilies instead. Of course, I did later find the other placemat, but I decided to use this arrangement since it was already set up to go.

If you’re hosting a themed event, this is time to bring that theme to life with your decor. For example, at the aforementioned Anne of Green Gables tea, how about using vintage books and a slate with a quote written on it as your centrepiece?

Plan Your Menu

Of course, there will be tea, at a Tea Party… but what do you want to serve alongside it? A themed tea can definitely guide your menu- for example- at the Anne of Green Gables Tea serving ice cream, raspberry cordial and carrot cake would be a perfect fit. But if you don’t have a theme, you can also do a variety of foods of your own choosing.

plate of lemon squares

I usually do sweets at tea parties, but if you are planning a high tea (so named because you sit at a “high” table, not with occasional tables) you might want to serve a variety of sweet and savoury. This time, I chose lemon squares because they seem to capture the essence of Spring; something about citrus always tastes like Spring to me. If you’d like to try my recipe, you can get it here.

It is also a good idea to ask your guests if they have any dietary restrictions you can reasonably accommodate. And if you won’t be able to bake something for everyone, you can serve fruit on the side. Fruit makes a nice palette cleanser as well as being something almost every guest can eat. Toasted nuts are also a good choice.

plate with a lemon square on it and pouring cream into a cup of tea

As well as choosing food, what varieties of tea will you serve? I love black Orange Pekoe, and drink it every day, but for a tea party it’s nice to offer some other blends, as well as having a variety of caffeinated and non caffeinated versions. I usually make a pot of one tea blend- this time we chose Lavender Earl Grey- and sit other options on the side that guests can choose to make single cup of if they’d prefer.

a plate of lemon squares with a bouquet of pink and white tulips sitting behind it

Prepare What You Can in Advance

Finally, this is my best advice: prep everything you possibly can before the day of the party. And if you are a list person, like me, you should definitely write a list of everything that needs to be done- right down to the smallest task. That way you can make sure that everything that can be prepared in advance is done beforehand. It’s fine to do some things last moment, but you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen trying to finish cutting up squares as guests are arriving. I like to have the table all set and ready, the desserts baked, and maybe even cut and plated, the day before. It really takes a lot of stress off to have as many things finished in advance as you possibly can. You don’t want to be running around like mad at the last moment, with curlers in your hair and flinging dirty dishes into the dishwasher as guests are coming up the driveway (yes I have done that!)

a pink and white floral teacup with tea in it

I love hosting tea parties, and while elaborate plans can be fun, remember that the most important thing is spending time with friends. With a bit of planning, hosting isn’t difficult at all, and even if something goes awry, it’s not the end of the world. I hope that these tips inspire you to start hosting your own tea parties…writing this post has definitely inspired me to start having them more often!

Have you ever hosted or attended a tea party? What theme would you choose if you were hosting? And is it feeling like Spring where you live?

round dining table set for a tea party with tulips and pink and white teapot and teacups

a small plate with a lemon square on it and a cup of tea in the background

Finding and Styling Thrifted Home Decor

thrifted home decor items on a table: a teacup, pitcher, picture frames and vintage books

I was recently inspired by one of my favourite bloggers, Sarah from She Holds Dearly, to do my own version of her series “Styling Thrifted Finds”. Almost all of my decor is thrifted or secondhand, and it would actually be easier to find the pieces that were purchased new so this is just my “recent” thrifted home decor; otherwise I would have to post a picture of my entire bedroom!

I love thrift shopping, and we have an excellent thrift store in town. It’s housed in the ground floor of an old building from 1912, and is a rabbit warren of rooms full of treasures waiting to be unearthed. It always requires a lot of digging past junk to find those treasures, but the prices are so good that it’s worth it. And because it’s a charity shop, I am always more willing to buy than I am at a for-profit shop. (And to donate my old items to as well!)

a gold enameled vintage oval mirror

First up, here are some items that made their way into my recent gallery wall. I found this vintage gold mirror from that thrift store in town. It was originally priced at $25, which I thought was a bit steep for that shop, and when I brought it up to the till, the lady who organizes the shop knocked $5 off (without me saying anything), because she thought it was a bit steep too! It pays to have a good relationship with your local thrift shops.  There is some of the gold enamel worn off on the bottom edge, but it just adds to the patina. The oval shape of the mirror fit perfectly over top of my bookshelf, and it lines up perfectly with my dresser mirror opposite, so I can use it to see how the back of my hair looks.

three vintage frames leaning against the wall

Thrift stores are also excellent places to find picture frames. The wooden frame with the oval opening cost $0.50, and even though it doesn’t have glass, it was still a bargain. If I want glass for it someday, I could always buy another frame for the same price and steal the glass and it would still only cost $1.00. The oval opening in the frame was perfect for this antique styled photo of my friend and I. (Ps. the black frame with the fashion illustration, below, was originally white, but I painted it with black chalk paint and waxed it and it looks so much better. I also painted the mat with acrylic paint. If you find frames that are the perfect size, but not the colour you’re looking for, you can always transform them with a little bit of paint!)

vintage wooden oval frame; styling thrifted home decor in my gallery wall

Both the wooden frame and the large gold one were frames that I saw at two different second hand shops, decided to not buy, and then wished that I had. Amazingly when I returned to the shops weeks later, the frames were still there, so I brought them home, of course.

vintage gold frame with view from the elbe landscape painting

I wasn’t in love with the watercolour that was originally in the large gold frame (for $8.00 by the way), so I removed it and decided to print some new artwork. I found a couple high resolution downloads of vintage artwork online and got them printed as poster prints. Because they are in the public domain, they are free to use and some can actually be downloaded directly from museum collections. I also printed an artwork for this black frame, below, at the same time. The two pieces I chose are this gorgeous black botanical “Still Life with Roses” by Elias van den Broeck”, and for the gold frame, this landscape which is titled “View from the Elbe” by Johan Christian Clausen Dahl. If you are looking for a different landscape, there are some other really lovely ones available here. (I love the one of the cottage with the chickens in front, but it was the wrong aspect ratio for my frame).

dutch floral still life with roses

I found the vintage brass frame with the convex glass on Poshmark (that’s a dangerous place to browse) and I have put a Victorian calendar page in it for now, but if I ever find a Victorian portrait, I will replace it.

tiny hanging picture frames

I also picked up these little brass frames to add to my gallery wall. I put pictures of my mom and both grandmas in them, and they fit in perfectly.

stack of vintage books

Moving on to finds of a different sort, vintage books are always a great thing to look for. The bottom one, Mary Queen of Scots, was from a thrift shop for $1.00 and the top three were from a library sale; all three for just $1.50.  The library books had dust jackets- always make sure to look behind the dust jackets of vintage books to see if they are clothbound. The top one, unfortunately, had glue residue from the ancient library tape which had ruined the colour and finish of the spine, so I painted it over with gold paint. It originally had gold lettering, similar to the bottom book, so it was too bad that the spine wasn’t in good condition, but for $0.50, I don’t mind. I have gathered all of my vintage books onto the bookshelf in my bedroom, for now.

styling vintage books on a bookshelf

Vintage books also make a nice backdrop for other decor. In the past I have used my vintage books to create vignettes on my IKEA bookshelf. They can also be used as risers to give height to seasonal decor, and large ones can be used as a sort of tray to ground other items when placed on a table. And, of course, you can read them too!

silver spoons before and after polishing

Another thing to keep you eye out for at the thrift stores is silverware. It is getting harder to find, but I do still come across it sometimes. These pieces looked so terrible and tarnished they were mixed into the bin of loose stainless steel cutlery, and were only $0.25 each. After a polishing, they are ready to add to my mismatched silverware set! To polish silverware easily (I wouldn’t use this for anything too precious, since I’ve heard it can blur delicate detail work) this is the method I use.

Line a heat proof container, or your sink, with tin foil. Place silver on top of the foil, leaving space between the pieces. Sprinkle 2 tbsp. of salt and 2 tbsp. of baking soda over top. Boil a kettle full of water (mine is 1.7 L). Pour the boiling water over top of the silver until they are submerged and watch the tarnish magically disappear! Let soak for up to 2 minutes, remove and rinse the pieces and then buff dry with a soft cloth to remove any remaining colour. It works amazingly well!

brass pillar stand

Another find was this brass stand. It is approximately 6″ across and 3″ tall. I think it may have originally been for a pillar candle? Or perhaps it originally had a glass cloche?

plant on top of the brass stand

The top was very scratched, but it makes a perfect plant stand. It gives the purple shamrock at the back of the buffet just enough height from the plants in the front.

vintage transferware pieces

And the last thrifted finds for today are these two transferware pieces- one featuring a scene of an English estate and the other of an 18th century man riding a horse. The teacup didn’t have a saucer, but that was fine because I had another plan for it. Likewise, I didn’t know what I was going to use the little cream pitcher for, but I quickly had an idea. I think the teacup was $4 and the pitcher was $2, from two different shops.

transferware pieces in a drawer and on top of the dresser

I store all of my makeup and toiletry supplies in baskets and castoff teacups. They work perfectly to hold my brushes and lipsticks and makeup wipes, and look so much prettier than usual organizing bins. I added this teacup in with a few others I have in my makeup drawer.

And for the pitcher, I put a bit of stuffing and a piece of black felt inside to create a cushion to hold my hat pins. I wear these pins on my berets, and it’s nice having them easy to access on my dresser as I get ready.  

That’s how I have styled my recent thrifted home decor. I’m always on the lookout for unique home decor pieces, though I leave more pieces behind than I buy these days. I’m trying to be more of a minimalist…but that doesn’t always work out.

What sorts of things do you keep your eye out for at the thrift shops? What is your best thrifted find ever? Do you have any good charity shops where you live?