lifestyle

Shades of Pink Peonies

four varieties of pink peonies in a white vase

I’ve been spending most of my time taking care of my mom’s garden over the past few weeks, (as she’s on holiday) and we are now entering into a heat wave, so I have not been spending much time on projects of a creative nature, or on outfit posts to share here.

However, I have been getting up early to go out and appreciate the flowerbeds before it heats up for the day, and today I gathered a bouquet of several varieties of peonies. It’s too hot to enjoy them outside, so it was time to bring the beauty inside. We have five varieties of peonies and they are planted in various locations with different conditions, so they all bloom at slightly different times, which is nice since it extends the season. In this bouquet I have what I believe is a white and dark pink centre Festiva Maxima, a medium pink variety of which I do not know the name, a Raspberry Sundae which is yellow fading to pink, and finally a Sarah Bernhardt pale pink variety.

Which is your favourite?

closeup of sarah bernhardt pale pink peony

raspberry sundae peony, sarah bernhardt peony and festiva maxima peony

rasberry sundae, festiva maxima and sarah bernhardt peonies in a white vase

 

Beautiful Books & Lilac Bouquets | Anne’s House of Dreams First Edition

cover of the 1917 copy of Anne's House of Dreams book surrounded with lilac blooms

I love old books. There is just something beautiful about them. Not only have the stories survived through the years and hopefully brought much pleasure to many readers, but the books themselves have become an object of interest outside of the story held within their pages. If you want to read the story Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery, you can pick up a paperback copy at your local bookstore or borrow an e-book for your e-reader. However, it’s a completely different experience opening the cover of a book that was held over 100 years ago by someone also eager to read about Anne’s next adventures.

anne's house of dreams 1917 first edition book open on a table with cup of tea and a bouquet of lilacs beside it

I’ve never thought particularly much about collecting books. By that I mean, seeking out copies of specific books. I’ve always picked up pretty books at thrift stores and the like, but most of them are not my well loved favourite stories. I have a friend who collects the Anne of Green Gables series. She owns a first edition of Anne’s House of Dreams, (and another in the series, but I can’t remember which) so when I saw a listing on Poshmark for a 1917 first edition, it made me think of her. I was in love with the cover of this book, and then the more I thought about it, I realized that it made me think of…me. Why couldn’t I begin a collection of antique, or at least old, copies of the stories I love? I thought about it over a few weeks, periodically clicking on the listing and admiring it, and then when I saw that the seller was closing their closet and accepting offers, I made an offer and purchased the first of my very own collection of L.M. Montgomery books.

So, of course a photoshoot with perfectly coordinated lilac blooms and the ubiquitous cup of tea was required. There are a lot of photos, but the lilacs were just so beautiful this year that I had to keep taking photos.

anne's house of dreams 1917 book sitting on a table with a teacup and a vase with lilacs beside it

white vase with a lilac bouquet in it sitting on a chair and an antique book sitting beside it

top view of the first edition of Anne's House of Dreams by L.M.Montgomery

a gold and white teacup beside a lilac bouquet

a white and gold teacup surrounded by purple lilac blooms

anne's house of dreams first edition book sitting on a table with lilacs and a cup of tea beside it

a gold and white teacup and the cover of Anne's House of Dreams from 1917

Anne's House of Dreams first edition book with a purple cover beside a cup of tea and a bouquet of lilacs

multi shades of purple and white lilacs in a bouquet

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

Sewing a Zero Waste Pouf (And Using Up Fabric Scraps!)

zero waste pouf made out of a recycled white quilt with vintage books sitting on top of it

The sewing project I’m sharing with you today has taken me years to complete…literally, and there were two things that sparked the idea for this project. One, I read a news report several years ago, right when the Canada Goose winter coats were super popular, about a company making counterfeit coats filled with factory floor textile sweepings instead of goose down. Aside from the fact that they were scamming people, I thought that using up fabric scraps as insulation was actually a pretty ingenious idea. Then, right about that same time, I saw a blog post by Brittany of Untitled Thoughts (I can’t find the specific post) about a pieced scrap pouf which had been filled with cotton quilting fabric to use as a means of storage in your sewing room. So, I melded the two ideas and now several years, and a LOT of scraps, later I have finally finished my (almost completely) zero waste pouf!

What exactly is a pouf and what makes it different than an ottoman or a footstool? Well, an ottoman or a footstool has legs or is made of a frame with a padded top, whereas a pouf is just like a giant pillow, without any kind of base structure. So are you interested in making your own? Here’s how I did it!

a giant pile more than a metre long of textile scraps

First, you will need to start saving scraps, and this is the longest part of the project. I saved everything including synthetic fibre clothing such as t-shirts, hoodies, jeans and pantyhose which couldn’t be used for rags. I also saved the seams out of the garments that we did cut up for rags. And, of course, I saved sewing scraps of all sizes, like I mentioned in my post last week. I saved these textile scraps in a giant black garbage bag and though I initially thought I had way too many scraps, I actually ended up using all of them plus more. In the image above, that is a metre stick for reference.

Once you’ve gathered about 1.5 times the amount of scraps you think you’ll need, it is time to start readying your pouf lining!

drawing of the dimensions of the fabric for the lining

Figure out the dimensions of your pouf. I made mine 20″ across, so the circumference was approximately 63″ around. I mapped out my pattern pieces on a grid paper determining what size of pieces with seam allowances would fit exactly into the fabric I was going to use. Also note, depending on which kind of fabric you’re going to use, you might want to make the bottom out of a more durable (and affordable!) fabric like canvas since it won’t be seen anyway. Originally I was going to make my pouf out of mustard velvet, and pleat the top into the centre like a vintage round pillow, but once the fabric arrived (from Etsy)…it was not the right colour of yellow, so I ended up changing my plan.

Cut out 2 circles, with seam allowances, to use as the top and bottom and then either one piece or 2 pieces for the sides.

lining fabric cut and ready to sew

I used cotton canvas as the fabric for my lining bag, and I did a double layer with an old worn out mattress cover to prevent any lumps from the stuffing from showing through. You could use fleece, a wool blanket or towel as an interlining. If you are using a thick upholstery fabric, I don’t know if this step will be as important, but if you are using a thinner outer fabric, then I would definitely add that second layer. Sew the two layers together and then work them as one piece.

Sew the side piece together at the ends. Then measure the bottom circle and side piece into 4 even quadrants and pin together at those points and sew together. Do not sew the top circle on, because it will be added later.

unstuffed canvas lining bag sewn with top not attached yet

Now it is time to stuff the lining bag! You don’t want to just wad the fabric in, otherwise it will get very lumpy and misshapen. Here is the method I used to avoid as much lumpiness as possible.

textile scraps cut into tiny pieces

First, sort your scraps into piles of soft materials like fleece etc. that you will use to smooth out lumps, bulky and heavy or large pieces of fabric, and any tiny scraps. This step of sorting through and cutting the scraps will definitely make you feel like you are one of the children in the pawn shop in the 1951 movie “A Christmas Carol”. Take your small scraps and cut into 1″ or smaller pieces. I did this over several days to avoid my hand cramping.

textile scraps cut into tiny pieces and layered several inches in the bottom of the lining

Once you have a large batch of shredded pieces, place a layer several inches thick across the bottom of the bag.

folding and stacking larger textile pieces in the centre of the lining

Then, take your larger scraps and fold them. Lay them flat in the centre of the pouf and keep stacking until you have a layer several inches thick. Take more of the small shredded scraps and sprinkle them in between the centre folded “pillar” and the lining bag to create a bit of soft insulation. (Folding the pieces into the centre means that they won’t compress too much over time, so you won’t end up with a lopsided or deflated pouf.) Keep folding pieces into the bag and adding the small scraps around the outside. Once you’ve reached the top of the lining bag, it is time to attach the top.

hand sewing the top of the lining to the sides

Again, make sure to pin on four equal quadrants like you did for the bottom and pin the top circle to the side piece. Hand stitch the pieces together. You can use any colour of thread for this since it won’t be seen; I used up a bunch of old spools of red thread that had only tiny amounts left on them not enough for a larger projects.

Once you’ve stitched the “lid” halfway around the circumference, knot your thread because it’s time to start stuffing again!

stuffing the top section of the pouf with more soft stuffing

This is the time to use any fleece, batting or other soft materials, so you’ll get a nice smooth top to your pouf. Fill in any gaps with more shredded pieces. Keep pushing scraps into the bag; it will take more than you think you need. Once you’ve got the one half pretty well full, then sew another quarter of the top closed and with that final small section, push as many scraps as you can into the bag. Then finally stitch the last section closed.

lining all stuffed with textile scraps

You are not quite ready to cover your pouf, though. It is time to sit on it and squish it down and punch it into shape and let the pieces settle for a while. It will be pretty solid, but after while of use, it will slightly deflate and then you can add more scraps to the top. I left mine for a couple of months (because I was trying figure out how I wanted to cover it once the velvet didn’t work out) but it actually worked out perfectly that way, because it really gave time for the scraps to squish down. I would recommend leaving it for a few weeks, making sure to sit on it every once in a while to press it down.

Once the scraps have settled as much as they are going to, open up a quarter of the seam in the top and add more scraps! Use more tiny shredded scraps to fill in the top and then once it is stuffed to overflowing, stitch the top back together. You will now have a very solid (and heavy) pouf form ready to be covered.

There are lots of ways you can make a pouf (like a Morrocan style or gathering the top like I mentioned earlier) but I ended up doing a simple 3 piece top, side and bottom since I chose to cover mine with a quilt!

white mattelasse quilt with frayed edge

This was the quilt that I had on my bed for about 14 years, and it has started to show it’s age. Now that I have a new quilt, it was time to retire this one. At first I was debating dyeing it, but then I realized that white would actually be the perfect colour for my very light and bright bedroom. Maybe if I eventually get the sofa of my dreams (vintage yellow and cream floral) I will recover the pouf in yellow velvet and put it with my sofa, but in the meantime it works quite nicely in my bedroom beside my closet. And since I’m not actually putting my feet up on it, like if it was in front of my sofa, the fact that it’s white should be all right. (I hope!)

cover pieces cut out of white quilt and ready to be sewn

My quilt had a border pattern which I utilized as the side piece- I cut one long strip 15″ wide the full length of the quilt. Then I cut the top and bottom circles out of the middle diamond quilted section. (PS. There was just enough fabric to use the end pieces of that strip to make a square cushion cover too!)

sewing outer fabric pieces together

Cut your outer pieces the same dimensions as the lining. Sew the top and side pieces together, again pinning in even quadrants and easing it all the way around.

Once I placed my cover on the pouf, I realized that the fabric had stretched out quite a bit and the top edge was hollow, so I brought it back to the sewing machine and sewed a 1″ seam allowance all the way around, instead of a 5/8″. Make sure to test the fit of your outer fabric, just to make sure that it fits well.

machine sewing 1" seam guide around the edge

Next stitch a seam guide along the edge of the bottom circle and the side pieces (in the same colour of thread as your fabric) so when you hand stitch them together, you will have a guide to follow. I stitched a 1″ seam allowance guide from the edge.

NOTE: This time we are sewing the top and side pieces by machine, not the bottom and side pieces as we did with the lining, because we are going to hand stitch the bottom this time, not the top. If you are using a fabric other than your upholstery fabric for the bottom, then that is the piece you will be hand sewing later.

measuring and fitting outer fabric onto pouf form

Again, measure your 4 quadrants on your bottom circle and side pieces and mark with pins or chalk. Place your cover onto your pouf and then flip it upside down. Now, line up your 4 points and pin together. Then work your way around between the 4 points and pin together, easing as you go.

Your stitched seam guide will help here because now you’ll know how much to fold under for your seam allowance. If, once you’ve pinned the pieces together, it looks like it’s going to be too loose then you can fold it more as needed. It’s OK if your bottom circle is a bit smaller than the top, because then the seam will tuck underneath the pouf and be hidden.

hand stitching bottom of outer fabric to side pieces

Now it’s time to start hand sewing again. This is best done while listening to an audiobook or podcast (I listened to A Tale of Two Cities)! When stitching, don’t start at one point and work your way all the way around, but instead start at one point, sew about an 8″ section, then rotate the pouf 180 degrees and sew a section directly across. Again, sew a section and then turn 90 degrees and sew a section and so on, until all of the sections meet. This way you can ease your fabric pieces together without ending up with bubbles, and, if needed, you can make adjustments- pulling the fabric in tighter etc.

Once you’ve knotted your last thread and turned the pouf right side up…then you are done. Congratulations, you have managed to save a huge amount of textile waste from the landfill and turn it into something both useful and beautiful!

finished pouf made from a worn out white quilt and fabric scraps sitting in my bedroom

recycled pouf made out of a white quilt sitting in front of the closet

I love how this project turned out and I had a lot of fun making it. It fits perfectly into my bedroom, and I am very pleased that I was able to use mostly salvaged materials; it was the perfect way of using up fabric scraps! The worst part about finishing this project is that I already have a bunch of new textile scraps…what on earth am I going to use them for?

Do you think you’ll make a project like this? What fabric would you use to cover it with? Do you have any other ideas for ways of using up fabric scraps?

vintage blue books sitting on top of the white quilted top of the pouf

zero waste salvaged pouf made out of a white mattelasse quilt with vintage blue books sitting on top of it