Closet Makeover – Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning always brings back fond memories of my days working at Banana Republic because my favorite spot in the house to clean is my closet. I love switching out my seasonal clothes and reinvigorating my wardrobe with new and old favorites. It reminds me of the work I did arranging and re-arranging the racks in the store to best showcase the clothes. The past few years have been crazy trying to keep up with my expanding and contracting belly on top of the changes of seasons so my wardrobe is now a hodge-podge of clothes from many different lifestyles and sizes. Finding my Mom-Style has been a challenge. On top of the sizing woes, my husband and I have completely different perspectives on how I should dress. However, we’ve finally settled on a pretty great compromise and I’m excited about my new spring wardrobe.

This year, I’ve picked 6 pieces from Athleta to be the base of my style. I was OK with splurging a little because last fall I cleared out my closet and sold a trunkload of clothes to Clothes Mentor for almost $300. They bought my former work clothes, my maternity clothes, and a lot of dresses that I loved but would probably never wear again. It felt great to get a big pay-out for the items and to know that they might end up in someone else’s closet as a new favorite instead of a landfill.

With all the empty space in my closet and my new favorites, it is time once again to rearrange the shelves. I’m sticking with my organizational standards that have helped me organize my closet since the days when 85% of my wardrobe was pink. I still have a closet full of pink in the house, but now it is size 2T.

Here are my tips to help you organize your closet:

Spring cleaning, Easy steps to organize your closet from Eco IncognitoStep 1: Clear out any clothes that you haven’t worn in the past year. Separate the ones that need repairs or no longer fit.

Tip: At the beginning of a season, turn all your hangers to face the opposite direction. As you wear clothes, rehang them the right way. By the end of the season you’ll know what you haven’t worn.

Step 2: Repair clothes if possible, or sort into piles for donation or upcycling.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to keep a bin of clothes for future projects. I store sweaters, jeans, tees, and pretty fabrics for inspiration. Last year, I used some clothes for our fall Scarecrow display.

Step 3: Group shirts by sleeve length and separate skirts, shorts, and pants the same way.

Tip: Place the group of clothes you wear most often at the easiest-to-reach spot in your closet.

Step 4: Arrange groups by color using the rainbow as your guide and then by shades of lightest to darkest.

Mr. Eco Incognito Takes on The Ultimate UpCycle Challenge

VOTE for MR. ECO INCOGNITO IN THE ULTIMATE UPCYCLE CHALLENGE HERE: Click this link to vote on Facebook
Ultimate Upcycle Challenge

It’s time to unveil my project for the Ultimate Up-Cycle Challenge being sponsored by the Philadelphia Home Show and Habitat for Humanity. In case you didn’t see it coming, I turned a big old worn out dresser into a rockin’ manspired bar. It’s even complete with some sweet swag from Victory Brewing Company. That dresser was a beast. She’s still heavier than sin and she looks really good. It’s hard to see her go, but good to know that the proceeds from the auction will go to the Habitat for Humanity. So I have to ask… What would you pay for my bar?

victory beer label bar

A few weeks ago, we shopped the ReStore for a piece to upcycle. It took me a while to decide on the best project since there was a lot of inspiration in the store. I settled on a huge dresser because I’ve always wanted to build a bar and that thing had really good bones for the project. I started by separating the top and bottom. Then I had to saw down the base since it was taller than I expected. I took apart the shelving from the original base unit and reserved the fixtures. Next, I faced the side that was the back of the dresser with hardwood flooring to make it the new front of the bar. I spray painted the ledge black and added some storage for the bartender. Finally, the top of the bar has a sheen lacquer over a carefully planned collage of Victory Beer Labels.

Check out all the pictures from the process on pinterest: pinterest.com/mrecoincognito/ultimate-upcycle-challenge/

This is a bar that I’d be proud to keep in my man cave. It’s made from items that otherwise could have ended up in a dump. Hopefully people will see the potential in old furniture and get inspired to recreate from my project and the others in the Ultimate Upcycle Challenge.

ultimate upcycle challenge

Eliminate the Top 5 Budget Busters for Financial Freedom

Last year my family cut costs and stocked our home with useful goods for promoting financial freedom. I finally realized that eliminating wasteful costs could open opportunities that would have taken us much longer to attain. We bought a home, paid for a home birth out of pocket, and completed a myriad of household repairs. This financial windfall would be difficult on any budget, but it was even harder to attack as a single-income family. We did it by leveraging responsible debt and substituting the biggest budget busters for sensible alternatives.

budget busterWhat are the Top 5 Budget Busters?

1. Diapers

2. Paper towels

3. Ziplock bags

4. Food and Beverage Waste

5. Cleaning Supplies

By purchasing these items month after month, we were literally throwing out money. Although it may seem like disposable products save time through convenience, when you factor in the need to purchase them repeatedly and the time spent earning the money to pay for them, they are not nearly as great as they seem. Attacking these parts of your budget first can free up funds for entertainment and experiential rewards. As a new family, it’s easy to literally throw away TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS in the first two years of your baby’s life. Spending money on diapers, wipes, trash bags, and gasoline for trips to the store doesn’t make sense compared to the simple alternative of using cloth diapers and washing them at home.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m standing on a soapbox here, but I really think it is important to put this in perspective. For all the Moms I meet that are burnt out, that $2000 could easily be spent on a maid, a relaxing getaway, or multiple spa visits. I suggest spending this money directly on yourself as opposed to initiating a college fund or adding toys to the playroom. You deserve a reward for your hard (and downright dirty) work! Whether you use a disposable or reusable diaper, you will still be handling poop. I guarantee that a bright fluffy cloth diaper will soften the experience and open your eyes to a great green world of savings. Plus, when it is time for Baby #2 (no pun intended) you will relish the savings even more!

At first, establishing a family budget was an uphill battle with my husband. No matter how much we talked through plans, we would always go overboard and add unnecessary stress to our marriage. Ask Mr. Eco Incognito about the 3 months we spent without cable and he will tell you that it practically led to a divorce. Even though I would eagerly ditch cable again at a whim, I recognize the importance for him and have worked around that. Bending other budget lines to accomodate that made me realize that entertainment should be one of the first line items to fill, not cut! Why else should we work so hard?

Here’s my suggested breakdown for a well-rounded budget that will suit your needs and fulfill your wants at the same time no matter your income bracket:

25% – Home

15% – Food

15% – Auto

15% – Entertainment

10% – Outdoor Experience

12% – Clothing

5% – Garden

3% – Cleaning Supplies

Why Bother Being Resourceful?

Even more important than saving money for today is teaching our children how to be resourceful in the future. We are constantly hearing that our resources are dwindling, so we must all take the time to educate the next generation on how to live in an eco-conscious fashion. If you ever question the value of going green, look at a young child’s reaction to practices that aren’t green. Her fascination with trash isn’t merely intended to annoy you. In fact, she may just be searching for a way to repurpose those goods!

Which of the top 5 budget busters would you like to eliminate from your household?

Mr. Eco Incognito Takes on The Ultimate UpCycle Challenge

A message from Mr. Eco Incognito…

Ultimate Upcycle ChallengeI’ve got one week to tackle my newest challenge. Just got selected to compete in the Ultimate Up-Cycle Challenge being sponsored by the Philadelphia Home Show and Habitat for Humanity. My project will be displayed and then auctioned off at the Philly Home Show. They gave me 100 bucks to purchase an item from the ReStore and then re-purpose it. I went in there with an open mind and left with a truckload of supplies for my newest project.

There are a few reasons that I want to make this piece great. First of all, I want it to look like anything else that would go into my home. When I design for my family, things have to be the best. Period. It’s also pretty cool that the funds they raise from auctioning it will go back to support the Restore. The other important thing is that I want to show that some of the best designs are recycled projects. I just look for things with good bones and go from there.

Now that I’ve got my dresser, I’m going to tear it apart, turn it around, add in extra pieces, and build greatness. Help me out by voting for my project when the contest goes live and I’ll continue to serve up fresh DIY inspiration. Plus, you’ll make my wife happy. Thanks guys.

Check out the progress on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/mrecoincognito/ultimate-upcycle-challenge/

The Trash Man

mr eco logo

A Message from Mr. Eco Incognito…

For some reason, my bone-headed wife thinks that because she told me several years ago how much she hates the trash that she is exempt from this chore for life. I think that’s total horse sh*t, but luckily her green nonsense has backfired and bit her in the ass. Recycling, reusing, and rewashing are keeping me from rewalking to the trash can and I’m all for that.

The first thing on her eco-agenda was cloth diapering, which was totally cool from the start. Easy enough to wash out the diapers and throw them back on the kids. Major plusses include not buying diapers and not having permeating poop fumes from the trashcan. Things got a little dicey when she took away my paper towels. At first, I was not on board, but I gave in to make her happy. We gave it our best shot and did manage to cut back a lot. They are still a necessary evil for bacon grease, though.

Next up came the reusing of every piece of trash imaginable. Am I really supposed to believe that she’s going to make a craft out of an oatmeal container? Come on, Pinterest, give me a break. I have to sneak quite a few things out to the recycling bin behind her back to keep the house from becoming her eco-hoarding haven. Again, I’m still happy I don’t have to haul the overflowing trash out on a daily basis.

Did I mention the craziest part? She finally realized that taking out just a little trash is really not all that bad. Looks like someone may have finally grown into her big girl panties. Our friends suggested the next step on the eco-agenda should be experimenting with reusable trash bags and composting. Not sure I’m ready to take the plunge on that one because we have a small yard. Any advice on how to make that work?

Thankful For More

Last year I was Thankful For Less at Thanksgiving, but this year I am definitely Thankful for More. Our little family is growing quickly and we are eagerly anticipating the Holiday season with the girls. This year we bought a home, had a baby (in said home), and raised Hannah from a smily glow worm into a delightfully adorable toddler. It has been a whirlwind of activity and we’ve had our ups and downs, but today I feel very lucky to live in a warm home with the three people I love most.

More than anything else, I’m thankful that my family has a home to call our own. It has truly given us roots and allowed us all to blossom in the community. My husband Zac began to thrive right away by meeting our wonderful neighbors while I waited out bed rest and the post-babymoon. When I finally emerged from the cocoon I was so happy to be welcomed into the community by the friendly group. Our neighborhood itself is beautiful and I’m glad that my husband pushed me to run outside so that I can enjoy it. At first I marveled at the scenery while the leaves changed. Now that I have tackled the intricate challenges of running uphill I have the confidence to run any course. Amidst the beauty of the outdoors, our house is taking shape into a comfortable home as my husband upgrades and updates every detail of the inside. He’s moving from room to room creating his “masterpiece.” With each project, I feel overwhelmed with pride that my daughters will get to grow up in a house that he worked so hard on to make beautiful.

Family Home

Family photo at the new house with Audrey on the way

The year ahead promises a bright future and I’m not one to take that for granted. We’ve all worked hard to get here and we’ll continue to work hard now that we know that results are beginning to pay off. It doesn’t take a lot of money or things to be happy. It simply takes a strong desire to be resourceful and the ability to put other’s needs ahead of your own. Motherhood is an amazing journey and my heart truly swells when I think of all the wonderful mothers I’m meeting along the ride.

I’m wishing you and your family a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!

Being Green isn’t Just for Moms

Mr Eco Incognito

Mr Eco Incognito

  A message from Mr. Eco Incognito…  

Guys, if your wife has been sucked into the whole green phenomenon, there are lots of ways that you can and should get on board. My wife has gone crazytown with being green, but the kids are awesome so I guess some of it is working. I have to keep her in check a lot and the best way for me to do that is to help along the way so that she knows I’m trying to work with her. Women don’t have to do all the work when it comes to saving the environment.

Here are a few easy things you can do while she’s busy:

Season her skillet

Use her eco-cleaning crap every once in a while

Move the permanent poop cloths (cloth diapers) through the laundry

Suck it up and wear the baby (Bonus: the kid hides your “post-partum” gut, too.)

Salvage building materials to reuse

Clean up with cloth towels instead of paper towels as much as you can

Get the kids dirty

Shave less often to save razor blades (comment deleted by moderator)

Rinse out and recycle beer cans

I hope you feel more eco friendly just from reading the suggestions. If you are ready to tackle one of these challenges but don’t know how, leave me a comment and I’ll teach you how to work some green magic in the house.