Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My First Ikea Hack: Skirting Our Desk

Guys, seriously I’m excited, no ecstatic to share this news with you!  I probably should have said “girls” or “ladies” instead of guys, because I’m pretty sure the only guy that reads this is my dad (Hi, Dad), but I’m so giddy right now I’m going to go ahead and use the masculine term just because I’m feeling a little rebellious!  It’s going to be hard for me to wait to reveal this by going through all of the how-to mumbo jumbo, but hopefully you will sit tight with me while I ramble explain what the heck I’m so darn excited about.

In the scheme of things, I should probably not be that excited because the project you are about to witness is not yet completed, but it was such a spur-of-the-moment project that I decided to share it with you spur-of-the-moment, too, because who knows when I will get around to finishing it, and plus, I may need your help.  But stay tuned for the end of the post for that.

So, where do I begin?  Last week, Mr. Converse Sneakers and I headed to our local Ikea to “look around.”  We both know that when we go to look around, we never just look around.  We usually drop about $100 each visit.  Last time we bought our desk there, seen here:

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Let me stop for a second and say a little bit more about this desk, since it will be important later on.  I hope all of this explaining is keeping you in agony for what the project was, but hopefully you aren’t let down when I finally get there because it’s probably not even that great.  Anyway, this desk was a swear word to find (insert any swear word you would like, I’m trying to cut back).  Well, this particular desk was not hard to find, but the search leading to us finding that desk was a MAJOR swear word!  We needed a desk that would fit two people (meaning about 70+” long), yet be slim enough to leave a walkway at the end of our bed.  It also had to be cheap.  Mr. CS and I searched on Craigslist day after day to no avail, using all sorts of search terms like “console table”, “table desk”, “sofa table”, and “long desk”.  Then, when we went to Ikea to, yet again, “look around” we found the perfect affordable desk top and amazingly cheap legs (this desk top with these legs) .  We brought it home, set it up, and were satisfied.  Ever since, however, I have thought that the desk brings the room down in star value.  If our room was a 2-star room out of five, the desk brought it down to 1 measly star.  Because our desk is a necessary element in this room, we brainstormed for a while about what to do with it.  A while back, I commented to Mr. Converse Sneakers that I wanted to add fabric to the front of the desk to hide all the gaudiness lurking underneath, but I never got around to it.

Well, my friends, I finally got back to it this weekend!  On our latest trip to Ikea, we lazily picked up a pack of beige linen curtains (found here) to hang above the window.  We were in Ikea-zombie mode where we get so tired from looking around and coming with ideas, that by the end we always grab a few things we were holding back on and don’t really need.  I now know Ikea’s secret to success!

Anyway, when we got home, I had Mr. CS hold the curtains above the desk.  I realized that:

1. The desk with the file cabinet is not centered below the window and it never can be, so the curtains would make this much more obvious.  Plus, it would look funny since the window is not centered on the bed either.

2. Curtains chopped off at desk height are kind of ugly (at least the way I imagine them to look in this room), and since the desk has to be up against the wall to prevent from wobbling (the cheap legs), the curtains would not work cut to floor-length.

3. The curtain color was all wrong for this room.  I thought it was the yellow light making the walls look beige instead of apartment-white, but when I got the curtains home and held them up to the wall, I realized that they are the exact same shade of beige.  See?

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This was the opposite of the nice, flanked windows that I wanted.  We wouldn’t even be able to see the curtains.

While Mr. Converse Sneakers was at work on Saturday, I contemplated bringing the curtains back to Ikea.  Instead, I rearranged the room (makes sense, right?  Not to me, either), which I will show later, and decided to repurpose the curtains into something I said I wanted to do a while back: turn them into a skirt for the desk.

I was giddy when I decided to go for it while Mr. CS was at work, and the giddiness has lasted for a few hours since the project was finished (at least finished for today).  I swear, decorating should be listed as some sort of drug because of the high I’m left with when I’m doing it!

I knew I wanted to hang the curtains from a curtain rod instead of velcro because I like the scrunched-up fabric look and the ability to simply push them aside to get at any storage we have under the desk.  When I tried the curtains on the rod and held it under the desk, it looked, well, not so appealing because they have fabric hooks that make the curtain hang much lower from the desk top than we would like (we would like it right against the desk top).

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I did not feel up to a bunch of sewing to make these curtains the way I wanted them to, so I almost gave up when I thought about cutting off the fabric hooks, folding over the top of each panel and creating a long hole through which to put the curtain rod.  Then, however, I saw the easiest solution ever!  Maybe everyone knows this and I’m some lame na├»ve curtain newbie, but I was psyched to learn that I did not have to do any sewing at all to make the panels exactly how I wanted them, I did the opposite.

You see that line of stitching a couple inches down from the top of each curtain?

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It creates the perfect width for a rod to fit through the side.  Luckily for me, the stitching running down the curtain panels (seen below) does not go through both sides of the fabric like the one running horizontally does.

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So, all I had to do was rip out the stitches on both ends of the long and narrow pocket and I had myself a new way to hang the panels.

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Here’s the pocket:

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Now that’s what I’m talking about!  After this, I hemmed these bad boys using the hem tape that comes with them and they were ready to be hung.  However, this is the part that has me stumped.

Right now they look like this:

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I may have fooled you with my camera, but the curtains are not hung, they are sitting on top of the desk and held in place by the stack of books.  That’s why they look way too short.

Did I fool you?

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I knew you were too smart.  Oh, and by the way, I left the fabric hooks on the panels since there was no good reason to take the time to cut each one off.  I’m not exactly the most polished decorator, but I am practical!

So, now I am left sitting at a desk with a curtain rod on top of it and I honestly have no idea what the smartest route would be to hang this sucker under the desk top.  Some people are lucky and have the desk flush between two walls or have a desk with square legs where they can use a tension rod, like this awesome one I found at Holly Mathis Interiors, but our legs are round and too far back and away from the edge to keep the rod at the very front of the desk like we want it.

I’m thinking screws and a drill will be involved, but I don’t know where to find a hook that will lay flat on the desk and dip down to hold the rod.  Any ideas?

I promise to share the final reveal and the new furniture in the bedroom, if you promise to share your ideas if you come up with any!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Partaking in the Local Traditions

I’m a Minnesota native.  I grew up on a hobby farm in the middle of nowhere and graduated in a class of 80 students.  I have never lived anywhere else besides this lovely (well, not always lovely) state, so it is home.  I can’t imagine living anywhere else, although I do imagine waking up to a view of the Atlantic Ocean.  Part of what makes it so homey are all of the traditions that so many Minnesotans partake in, creating a statewide community.  I’m sure every state and community has these things, but I like to think ours are unique and special (doesn’t everyone?).

Over the weekend, the tradition Mr. Converse Sneakers and I partook in was going to the Renaissance Festival with my parents.  It’s located just outside of the Twin Cities and it is a pretty big deal to Minnesotans, although I don’t know many who make it a yearly tradition to go, since it’s pretty much the same every year.  I’ve gone probably five times now in my life and have always loved going back after a few years.  If you’ve never heard of a festival like this, it is basically a ton of vendors selling things like pottery, garden sculptures, beer mugs, swords, and renaissance-inspired costumes at high prices mixed with tons of people dressed up and acting in renaissance ways.  The festival also includes many different types of shows to attend including hypnotists, tight rope walkers, comedians, and basically any crazy thing you could think of.  If you have ever seen the TV show Gilmore Girls (my all-time favorite show), you may remember Liz (Luke’s sister) and TJ (Liz’s husband) who sold jewelry at a renaissance festival.  The show did a great job of depicting what these are like.

Here are my sweet parents.  I got some good genes!

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If I were to nickname them something fitting for the blog, I’d call them Mr. Work Boots and Mrs. Comfy Slingbacks (not in the picture since tennis shoes are a must at the Renn Fest where the walking paths are made of dirt).  Not that it really matters since I’m probably the only one who comes up with these strange shoe monikers.

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We were greeted by a trio singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”  I love that song!

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The whole place is lined with these renaissance-inspired buildings with awesome signs and really cool things to purchase, although we rarely buy anything since it is all pretty taste-specific.

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While we were watching the Scottish dancers do their thang, I got pulled up to join them.  I’m the one looking embarrassed as I skip around in my bright floral shirt.  People that work there are basically paid to make a fool out of all the paying customers.  They even have old stocks they put people in and make them say vulgar things to be released.  It is pretty funny, but it can also be a little . . . much.

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What we really like to go for is the food, since you can buy all sorts of things like giant turkey legs, which my parents both devoured, and my favorite, chili in a bread bowl.  When I heard a man shouting out a funny advertisement for frozen chocolate-dipped bananas, I knew I had to have one!  It was delicious.

Unfortunately, it rained throughout the day so all other foods that we tried were not accompanied with photos since I did not want to get my camera wet.  Other things we ate/drank included: macaroni and cheese bites, loaded potato skins, apple dumplings with cinnamon ice cream, oh, and tons of beer.  Well, I didn’t have a drop of beer, but both Mr. Converse Sneakers and my dad are big beer-enthusiasts so we went specifically because they offered a free beer tasting that day.  Mr. CS lucked out since I hate beer, so he was given all of my beer making the day that much more enjoyable for him!

There are so many other cool things to see at the fair, like fifteen year old trained turtles begging for money . . .

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. . . a human bench . . .

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. . . and an enchanted forest complete with miniature houses . . .

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I had a blast spending time with my parents, eating good food, and laughing at all the craziness around me.  I definitely could have done without all of the breasts everywhere (think this times 1000), but the abundance of adorable pooches (it was pet fest day) well made up for it.  All for the sake of tradition, right?

What crazy local traditions do you partake in?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Welcome to Our Home

I debated posting photos of our whole home because, well, it’s pretty ugly right now.  We have not lived here very long, and with the wedding planning and spending, we have not had a lot of time or money to make the place beautiful.  That will change, with time, and I am coming to accept that.  I want my blog to be honest and open, as well as a place for me to look back on my life.  This my first home with Mr. Converse Sneakers and I would like to remember it, ugliness and all.

Now that I’ve prefaced that, I would also like to apologize for the photos.  Our living space (we have a roommate – read about that here) takes up the basement level of our townhouse apartment which has a total of one medium size window that looks out to a bunch of stones that make our fire escape.  I’m slowly learning how to take better photos in the rooms that do not get any natural light.

Front Exterior

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Our home is one of a very large community of townhouse apartments.  We live in one strip that sits facing another strip which you can actually see in the window reflections.  We have a beautiful grassy area in front of our apartment called the courtyard with gorgeous trees.  The landscaping here is beautiful and we don’t pay any extra for it!  If you notice, we even have a little mail slot next to the door – it’s those little details that made me fall in love with the place.

Upstairs Living Room

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From the front door (which nobody uses since the back door leads to our parking lot), we enter the upstairs living room which is technically our roommate’s, but Mr. Converse Sneakers and I use it once in a while.  Interesting fact: my father and I (okay mostly just my dad) made the white bookshelf you see in the photo above.  It worked well in this room so we left it.  Our roommate is quite the artist and painted the painting above the sofa.  I have a lot to say about sources and everything, but I will wait until another day to do that, since most of it is ugly anyway and I’m not sure anyone really cares with the apartment looking like it does right now.

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I love the light up here!  We love waking up and coming upstairs to peek at the cats sitting in the windows in the apartments across the courtyard.

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Kitchen

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The living room opens up into the kitchen.  We love that they are separate rooms but they flow well into one another.  To the left of this doorway is our roommate’s “wing” of the apartment with his bedroom, bathroom, and large hall closet.  The pantry closet is also there but is not worth picturing.

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Although I would never choose these cabinets, for apartments in our price range, this kitchen is awesome.  It is much brighter than most and has a decent amount of cabinets and countertop space.

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Luckily for us, it is a good size and has a special spot just for our table!

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You may be wondering why there are only two chairs when three people live here.  When I show you the bedroom it will make more sense.  We have to make an Ikea run to pick a couple more chairs since both our roommate and I have stolen two of the dining chairs to use as office chairs.

Do you see my pear in the background of the photo above?  That’s one of my favorite pieces!  I got it at TJ Maxx for $7.  It’s pretty much a paper mache pear covered in green leaves.  It’s awesome!

Downstairs (Our) Living Room

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In the kitchen, across from the back door (not pictured), we have a door that leads down to the basement and straight into our living room.  I don’t love that the couch is visible from the top of the stairs, but we make do with what we have.

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This is the most bland room in the whole apartment.  The ottoman was borrowed from the upstairs living room (it goes with the big comfy chair up there), but we just bought a new one and it should be arriving soon!  I hate the access panel seen to the left of the photo above but it’s yet another thing we have to work with, not against.

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Mr. Converse Sneakers likes his video game consoles, and he won’t let me hide them, so they sit out for everyone to see.  Sigh . . . Marriage is all about give and take, right?  He would let me hide all of his games and all of our movies which were an eyesore when displayed in those cubes, so we bought the bins to put everything in and now my eyes are much happier!  The door to the left leads to our bedroom.

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Here is the view from our bedroom door.  You can see the weights and exercise ball we shoved into the corner.  I have plans for all of these things – one day!  We are extremely grateful for my parents who gave/lent (depending on who needs it more in the future) us that beautiful camel back sofa and the nice slipcover it’s wearing.  Underneath the fabric is definitely from the 90s, but with the slipcover, its curves really show, and boy is it comfy!

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From the far wall you can see into our bathroom and back up the stairs.

Bathroom

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Mr. Converse Sneakers and I share a 3/4 bath.  It is actually a very good size (for being in an apartment).  The door in the back leads to our laundry room which I will share on a different day when it is looking a little more presentable.

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That chalkboard will be hung up one day and we hope to switch the towels out for tan ones (most likely) since we have a lot of brown and black clashing going on in here (as well as in our bedroom).

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Here is the view from the laundry room door.

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My mom gave me the four wooden art squares for Christmas a few years back and they matched my bedroom back then perfectly.  Now, I still like them, but don’t really know where to put them.  They are in here for now and they will probably stay here since I have no motivation to spruce up that bathroom.  It’s the least of my worries.

Bedroom

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Since Mr. CS and I both use our computers a lot and I am still in school, we needed a dedicated desk area.  The only place we had any room for it was in our bedroom.  It’s not the prettiest, but it has been great for office storage and for working.  We have plans for making it prettier, too!

In the photo above you can also see the weird access doors in the ceiling (there is a total of three) and the support beam that runs along the middle of the ceiling in both this room and the living room.  Fun, right?

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I love big, white fluffy bedding, but in a space where we can’t paint the walls, it just wasn’t going to do (I’m not a fan of all-white rooms).  I also love patterned bedding, but Mr. CS and I cannot agree on any pattern, so we went with this comforter in my favorite blue and his man-approved tan and brown colors.  The pillows are not permanent.  Notice no wall art.  That’s a theme for us right now.  You can’t really see the headboard buried behind all the pillows, but I made it with my parents a few years ago.  We plan on recovering it since it clashes with our bedding that is a lightly bluer aqua blue.

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We share two teeny-tiny closets.  The one on the left has shelves and the one on the right has two bars to hang clothes.  I will definitely be showing them off once I figure out how the heck to keep them tidy!  The cheap-o Target mirror was hung between the closets, but it fell off.  It’s also on our list of things to do.

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Here is another view of our desk.  We just recently got a new printer, which got moved to the living room (if you want to know where it is – scroll back up and look behind the bathroom door – it’s yet another thing we have to figure out what to do with) freeing up tons of space since the old one sat on the file cabinet.  We would like to add curtains (working ones since the crappy blinds we have to live with do not completely block out the view from outside, giving people a straight shot to view us changing at night from the sidewalk in front of the apartment) and will be making the desk area prettier as time goes by.  Matching chairs are also on the list.

There you have it: our functional, yet not too pretty home!  I will be breaking the rooms in more detail in the future and will definitely be sharing any changes we make along the way (and hopefully there will be lots of them).  I also will be sharing what we would do with the place if we owned it, since right now we are very limited since we are restricted by our lease.  I dream of beautifully painted walls and crown molding, but I’ll save my other dreams for another day.

Are you a renter?  What do you do to spruce up your place when you can’t make any major changes?  If you are married, what did your first home with your spouse look like?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Exercise Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I could write about working out from so many different angles, and over time, I probably will.  When it comes to exercising, I am a born again enthusiast and I love to talk about it!  I will share my love-hate relationship a different day, but today I want to talk about how great it is to work out with a partner, preferably a spouse/significant other.

When I started dating Mr. Converse Sneakers back in 2005, he was 30 pounds heavier than he is today.  However, he was not made fun of, in fact people loved complimenting his round belly (and I did too).  He looked like a little teddy bear and his sweet personality complimented his wholesome appearance.   However, when I jumped on the exercise bandwagon in 2008, he quickly joined me.  He was sick of being unhealthy and wanted to change his body to not only feel good but to look healthy.  He did it all for himself and I supported him 100%.  After four consecutive months of eating well and exercising daily, he became discouraged because he saw no change on the scale.  He continued his diet and exercise, but stayed away from the scale and a month later when he stepped on the scale again, he had dropped 15 pounds!  I cried because I was so proud of him and he was in shock!  That was just the motivation he needed.  Now he has lost another 15, but due to his profession (a banquet chef) and his body type, it has become hard for him to lose inches while building muscle.  For the past couple months, we have made it a priority to work out together.

We can’t afford a gym membership and personally I hate working out in front of people, so we workout to videos.  We just finished Supreme 90 Day, which we bought for $20 at Target.  It is similar to P90X which uses muscle confusion to advance progress on weight loss and toning muscles.

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I don’t know how you feel about workout videos, but this program, my friend, is not for the faint of heart.

This was Mr. CS and me before the hardest workout, Tabata Inferno:

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Okay, so we were faking our enthusiasm because we know this is a rough workout, and having not worked out very much during the week of our honeymoon, we were feeling the pain already from the much easier workouts.

This was me after:

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Notice my glasses were off because the sweat kept making them slide down my nose.  Gross, I know.

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Tabata Inferno consists of, I believe, seven circuits each with 8 sets of exercises (some use four exercises done twice and some are two exercises done four times) done for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between (so four minutes total for each circuit) with one minute of rest between each circuit.  Writing that out makes it sound easy, but by the second circuit, Mr. CS was dripping in sweat and I was swearing at Tom Holland, the instructor, telling him to shut up when he would say, “I am sweating just looking at you guys,” and throwing out some bad expletives when he told us that burpies are his favorite when he just stands there as we are doing them.

I hope the pictures make it clear that this workout is not for the faint of heart (literally), but we love it because it works!

I highly encourage everyone to have a workout partner, especially a spouse/significant other because it not only helps motivate you (whenever Mr. Converse Sneakers feels like giving up, I push him and vice versa), but it will bring the two of you closer.  You will be even prouder of the other’s accomplishments because you have helped them accomplish them and you will feel like an even stronger team.

Do you ever work out with a partner?  Would you ever consider working out with your spouse?

Note: I was not paid or perked in any way to promote Supreme 90 Day.  Mr. CS and I just think it is one heck of a great program, especially for the money, and we like to tell everyone we know about it, including you!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Goodwill = GoodDuds

I am obsessed with reading about people’s thrift finds, whether they relate to cookware, decorating, or clothes.  However, I am most proud of my clothing thrift finds because of how negative I used to be when it came to secondhand clothing.  My dad got me into garage saling at a really young age.  We would go many weekends straight once the weather was nice.  In Minnesota, everyone jokes that the summertime is construction season, but I also like to point out that it is also the best time to get good deals!  Thursdays through Sundays, the street corners are filled with bright colored signs with arrows and addresses pointing to the best deals.  Even though I loved buying things like cassette tapes and VHS movies back in the day at garage sales, I would run screaming in horror anytime my dad held up any kind of clothing item for me to consider getting.

Times have changed, people.  Now, I cannot get enough of buying secondhand.  You want to know why?

Well, first, we don’t have a lot of money, so mostly if I want any new clothes, I usually have to buy them at really low prices and the best way to do this is to buy secondhand.

Second, I like shopping at places like Goodwill because it can be like shopping at all of my favorite stores at one time with the comfort of only looking at a few racks in one store.

Third, I am able to change up my style more easily because much more styles are in my price range.

Last, and most important, I can buy things for super low prices that I would never be able to afford at retail price even if we had a lot more money.  Before I started buying secondhand, I would shop at stores like Aeropostale, Wet Seal, Forever 21, Target, and other more affordable stores.  You would maybe find me oogling over a store’s catalog that was out of my price range, but anything pushing $50 or more for any item I would not even consider.  However now, I have Banana Republic brand new clothes at secondhand prices, I own a shirt from Saks Fifth Avenue (could retail at a couple hundred dollars), and I have pants from Express (normally $80-100).  This blows my mind.  I could shop at Target and pay full price for cute, but affordable items, or I could shop at Goodwill and pay hardly any money on normally very expensive items.  Which would you choose?

Today, I wanted to show off an outfit I put together with a mix of items, some retail, some Goodwill finds.  This is a casual cool summer day outfit that I could wear often.  I might share more outfits if anyone is interested because my closet has been getting crammed with Goodwill finds lately (I just found a great one nearby in a very ritzy neighborhood that has some awesome brands).

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Cardigan: Ann Taylor Loft (normally around $40) – @ Goodwill for $2.50 (on sale)

Tank: Marshalls for $15

Shorts: American Eagle (normally around $40) – @ Goodwill for $5

Necklace: For Love 21 for $5

Total: $27.50 compared to $100 or more at retail price

Although not all of the pieces were thrifted, they all were purchased for under $15.  Even the tank top is less than normal retail price because that is the whole point of stores like Marshalls and TJ Maxx.  My main rule is that if I am not going to buy something secondhand, it better have something that makes it unique and unlike what I will typically find at Goodwill.  This tank top has a vintage floral pattern that I LOVE and it even has little lace ruffles on the strap (as shown in the last photo).  I am willing to pay a little more for that than if it was just a solid color tank.

Would you be interested in seeing more thrifted outfits?  If you buy secondhand, what has been one of your favorite finds?

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