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Teaching our kids to embrace their inner geek

IMG_8661 copy.JPGI have always been a weirdo.

From an early age, I have loved horror & sci-fi movies, monsters, magic, and make believe. I loved super heroes and villains, and fell in love with characters from books & TV shows.

And that is why I love any brand that encourages children to embrace their inner geek & explore their interests, and Deboop Shop is a favorite of mine! My son was playing with his masks earlier this week & I decided I needed to write up a post showcasing this brand’s radness! Ran by Kelly & Nell, a mother daughter team, they make play masks and more to encourage young children to pretend play as their favorite characters – from Doctor Who to Wonder Woman, from Minions to Hello Kitty inspired masks, they have something for every young (and young at heart!) geek to wear to their next Comic Con they attend.

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They also take custom requests and can design masks specific to your kiddo’s tastes – like my Mon-stor masks they designed, shown above! You can follow them on Facebook & Instagram to see more, or browse their shop, too. My son is a huge Doctor Who nerd, and I ordered him the Cyberman & 10th Doctor masks for Christmas when he was younger. Still a huge favorite toy & he and his bestie wore them to the KC Comic Con a few years ago! Having a collection of masks of characters he loves helped my son feel confident in his interests & share them with his friends – these masks inspired many hours of pretend play, dress up & role playing when my son was younger!

I think allowing dress up & pretend play at all ages teaches kids to embrace their interests, and to be confident in sharing their passions with others. ♥

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My son has quite a few in addition to his Doctor Who set & at 11 years old, actually still enjoys them! He & his friends still dress up in his Deboop Shop masks & capes from Halloween costumes of the past before Nerf wars & hide and seek championships. So whether you have toddlers or pre-teens, Kelly & Nell have masks for every age & stage of pretend play. I can’t wait until Zoey is a little older and I can order her all kinds of masks for dress up! ♥ I think I am definitely going to add this one to her dress up box:

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This post is in no way sponsored – just sharing some products I love from one parent to another! Pop over to their shop and check it out, and tell me your favorite mask in the comments!

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On mothering a new baby & running a handmade business

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The last time I blogged, I was 40 weeks pregnant & had been struggling with prodromal labor for weeks. Though the last few weeks were incredibly painful and exhausting because of daily contractions that lasted for hours upon hours at a time, it was a painful, uncomfortable, difficult pregnancy from the get go. Zoey Rose was born October 12th, and it was a traumatic birth experience. Basically, it was all super rough. Pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood.

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I still get really emotional when I think of it, so I won’t go into details of her actual birth, but in my last post I talked about my frustration with the constant contractions & false alarms, and with everyone telling me “You’ll know when you’re really in labor”. I didn’t, actually. I had chorioamnionitis, an infection that spread from my amniotic sac & amniotic fluid to my placenta, uterus & cervix. I started having bad stomach cramps, followed within a few hours by a fever of 103.7 & uncontrollable shaking and vomiting. I thought it was just a stomach virus. My doctor wanted me to come in for fluids, and by the time I got there I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk or talk (except to scream a few choice words). It wasn’t contraction pain, it was constant, excruciating, sob-crying producing pain from the bottom of my ribs to my hips. By then my fever was 104.2 & I found out I was 9cm dilated. Thankfully they were able to get an epidural in to relieve some of my pain, and she was born a few hours later, through a fast, traumatizing birth. She spent an equally traumatic week in NICU.

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Finding out that I had a life threatening infection that could have taken both me & my daughter if I had waited just an hour or two longer to get to the hospital, followed by her NICU stay, shook me to the core. In the weeks immediately following her birth, I suffered from severe depression and what felt, inexplicably, like survivor’s guilt. Because of her NICU stay, our breastfeeding journey was a little rocky starting out, which any breastfeeding mother will tell you is an emotional battle to begin with. Due to the antibiotics she received, she had gastrointestinal distress for the following week and a half after leaving the hospital and cried & vomited almost constantly. After that, she was in a hip brace for weeks and constantly screamed and cried, and vomited, because of that.

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My pregnancy, birth experience and the early weeks of caring for Zoey were not bubbly, beautiful moments of motherhood. I struggled a lot with depression & anxiety as I tried to care for an extremely fussy baby, home school a 5th grader & somehow plan to return to my business, as NOT working at all was not an option because we simply couldn’t afford for me to not work at all for several months, unfortunately.

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I won’t lie – in those early weeks of fresh, angry, projectile vomiting babyhood, when she would scream no matter I did to comfort her, nurse to the point of projectile vomiting then scream some more, then wanted to nurse to comfort herself after screaming and crying, then back to screaming as soon as she finished nursing until she projectile vomited again, rinse and repeat, I would weep and tell my partner I was just going to have to go back to work outside of the home because I just didn’t think I could balance caring for her, schooling Gauge & running my own business. I was devastated at the thought of having to give up my monster making, but at the time could not see any way I could manage it all. I would get her to sleep and before I could take five steps or touch my fabric she would be awake screaming angrily again. I just felt so drained & like I would never be able to feel creative again.

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Then somewhere, around that fourth or fifth week, she finally started to chill out a little. That’s around the time she gave me her first smile and it was like the dark sky split open & kittens puking sunshine and farting rainbows spilled out of the crack. I started to put her in a Beco baby carrier my friend Magda sent me or the ring sling my friend Kimberly had mailed me while I was still pregnant, and was actually able to sew a little here and there. We readjusted our schooling schedule & lesson plans a bit, and my son quickly caught up on missed lessons & surpassed our semester goals.

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Over this last month, things have done a total 180. I surrounded myself with positive affirmations, positive people, and started meditating on positive thoughts every morning again, something I hadn’t been able to do in those early weeks no matter how hard I tried. I was able to get a large batch of monsters made & into the shop in time for Christmas – thanks to baby wearing. I think baby wearing literally save my sanity – she only sleeps when she is being held or very rarely, sometimes in her swing for 10-20 minute spurts. But thanks to wearing her, I was able to start sewing every day again while she napped against me, allowing me to slowly settle back into the mindset being a business owner. In the past two weeks I’ve even been able to outline ideas to make 2017 the best year ever for Lu & Ed – with lots of flexibility and options, because with this little firecracker, who knows what the next year will hold?

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Maybe it’s because I had unrealistic expectations about being able to dive right back into monster maker while I wore my happy, gurgling baby right out of the womb. Maybe it’s because I had rigidly blocked off the week following her birth from visitors at our house, unaware that week would be spent sleepless in the NICU unit. Maybe it’s because my son was such an easy pregnancy, birth and baby a decade ago, maybe that is why I felt so helpless & spent. Maybe it’s just because each pregnancy and birth experience and baby is so wildly different and unique, but these past two months were nothing at all like I anticipated. They were dark, difficult weeks & while the past month has been better and I am feeling more like my old self, and I am finally reclaiming and revitalizing my business from it’s stasis of the past several months, I would be lying if I said I was totally out of the dark emotionally and mentally. But I have learned a lot about what it means to be a small business owner & to mother a new baby at the same time, and these are important lessons for maker mamas because the stigma that new mothers should be basking in a happy glow with a pep in their step is just another one of those things that puts pressure on new moms & keeps them from reaching out when they need help & support. Motherhood and small business ownership isn’t some picture perfect Instagram feed. So here’s what I’ve learned about mothering a new baby and owning a handmade business:

It’s okay if you didn’t plan well enough for your maternity leave and unexpected  expenses, losses or struggles arise because of it. There’s no way to plan for every possible scenario, no matter how hard you try. I had a solid plan set in stone for my maternity leave but my last trimester was spent in so much pain I couldn’t even lean over to cut out monster bits, I couldn’t sit to sew, and I was unable to follow through with that plan because I wasn’t able to make the inventory to make the income needed to actually even take a maternity leave, not to mention our NICU stay drained the savings account between gas, lodging, and having to eat out constantly. And that created a lot of stress for me, but you know, c’est la vie.

It’s okay to avoid (or even remove from your life completely) negative, toxic people. I didn’t/don’t have the capacity to handle drama, negative degrading remarks or toxic people – and I’m pretty sure my mama fans know that nothing like a new baby brings out the judgmental and unintentional meanness of others. The first weeks when family members kept lamenting “She’s SO fussy, how do you stand it?”, “Haven’t you tried to get her to stop crying?”, “Does she always cry? Why don’t you do something about it?”, “Maybe she has a disease, have you asked her doctor why she’s always crying?” or “Why don’t you give her formula instead of breastfeeding if it’s so hard?” alongside remarks about how I had a BABY now, it was time to shelf my business; it was soul crushing. From there, I only made room in my life for people who empowered me, comforted me or gave me positive energy. I was not in a good place mentally to allow anyone else access to me without being reduced to a sobbing mess. And that’s okay.

It’s okay to feel guilty. Trust me, no matter how much grace you give yourself, there’s guilt. Guilt for working, for not working, for wanting to work, for not wanting to work, for not being able to work because your baby is needy, for never wanting to work again because you just want to soak up these peaceful, sweet sleepy moments with your baby, for asking someone else to hold your baby for a little while because you’re overwhelmed, haven’t peed all day & just need to breathe for a few minutes. So much guilt. So much stress.

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to lose sight of your goals, it’s okay for things to not go how you planned, it’s okay to miss deadlines, it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to feel like giving up, it’s okay to be unsure & insecure. You can make new goals, you can make new plans, you can set new deadlines. No number is worth unnecessary mental stress, especially during this already emotionally jacked up time of new motherhood.

It’s okay if what worked for someone else doesn’t work for you. You have to try absolutely everything to find what works for you. No one has any magic advice to make all the pieces of new motherhood & business ownership to go together seamlessly. (I don’t even know if they can go together seamlessly).

It’s okay to be frustrated and unsure. What worked yesterday may not (probably won’t) work today. What worked for your business last year may not work for it this year, or next year. What worked to keep your baby happy yesterday, may not work today. I learned you have to try new things, try a new schedule, try new content, try new creations, try new ways to make your baby happy, every single day. Some things work. Some things don’t. And that. is. okay.

It is all okay. All of your feelings are valid. All of my feelings are valid. There is no wrong way to feel. There is no right way to feel. Being a mother is an emotional shit storm. Being a mother to a baby who was in the NICU is an emotional hurricane. Being a mother to an extremely fussy baby while trying to run a business, is like an emotional nuclear explosion. It is all okay.

It. is. all. okay. That is what I learned.

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Home schooling as a maker mama – it’s not easy, but I love it.

In years past, back to school was always a little hectic, but as a work from home monster making mom, it made it a little easier to get out the door in the mornings. We had our system – clothes laid out the night before, breakfast items on the counter, lunches packed & in the fridge ready to be grabbed on the way out the door.

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This year, like all other routines & just life in general since our move, is totally different. My son hated the public school he went to here in WNC last winter/spring. Here’s a quick example of just one of DOZENS of examples of my son’s horrendous short time in Haywood County schools last year: during a science discussion, the teacher told the class the Milky Way is NOT a galaxy, galaxies don’t exist. She told them there’s just one universe, and that’s the Milky Way. When my son tried to correct her by telling her, actually the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, one of at least one hundred billion of potential galaxies in outer space, he was reprimanded and given a silent lunch for “lying” & I received a note about how disrespectful he was. Oh, and first week of school, when I tried to ask for more challenging work for him because he had already learned what they were covering in first grade, she told me right in front of Gauge that he wasn’t as smart as I think he is, even though right before we moved from Missouri he was testing at 8-9th grade level in almost every subject in 4th grade… so it didn’t take much convincing when he asked me if he could be home schooled this year rather than go back to school in this district.

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So, we officially “started” home schooling July 1st. We started in the middle of summer because when the new baby gets here, we’ll be taking a week or two off to bond & adjust as a family. A little over two months “into” home schooling, we are finally starting to find a little balance & normalcy – though with this pregnancy nearing it’s end, it’s been a lot more difficult to balance this new life style, home schooling, running Lu & Ed, and growing a tiny human all at once. But we have found a few things that work really well and for any other maker mamas out there considering home schooling while running their biz,  cheers! You can do it! Here’s what has helped me balance lessons & making monsters!

wake up before the kid(s)

Usually way, way easier said that done. But thanks to baby brewing in my belly, most mornings I am up between 4-5am. It’s rough. And I won’t lie, a lot of times in the past few weeks, I haven’t been able to muster the energy  to get out of bed and do productive things. But some mornings I somehow find the spunk to roll out of bed, brew some coffee, soak up a few minutes of me time while I set intentions for the day, and then get some work done before Gauge wakes up (like right now! 6am & I’m up blogging! Go me!!!). You can read my previous post about making the most of summer mornings as a maker mama here – a lot of it is still applicable as a home schooling mom, too!

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create lots of opportunity for independent studies

This will vary based on the age of your child, but for us, after we work together through math, vocabulary words & science, my son has the rest of the day to work on reading, creative writing or studying history/social studies independently (right now we are covering Early American History, from the discovery of America to the Industrial Age, and I let him pick which time period to study in the evenings that week – right now he’s obsessed with the Revolutionary War!), which is usually done through reading historical stories/biographies, work books, or watching documentaries. While he is doing his independent studies, I get in some sewing! If he finishes up daily lessons while I’m still working, or before his dad gets home/dinner time, his options are educational programs, reading, art projects or outside play. This gives me about 4-6 hours a day to dedicate directly to my business. There’s a ton of ways to provide resources for independent study that allows you time to balance your handmade business – from work sheets to iPad apps, nature documentaries to free play with creative toys (Legos, blocks, fort building, marble mazes, obstacle courses, creating Rube Goldberg contraptions) or “recess” outside if you can work from a place where you can supervise your children!

make your creative business a priority

Home schooling while running a creative business from home means your kids are around you 24/7. It can be a little overwhelming at first adjusting to the new schedule and constant contact if in previous years, you’re child went to school outside the home. This is why it’s so important to set boundaries for you, your partner, and your child(ren). I made sure before we started my son knew that just because he was going to be home, didn’t mean he would 1) play video games all day & 2) have my undivided attention all day long, because I do have a business to run. So he knows during independent study time, to work through problems on his own, research & try to find the answers himself & we’ll review materials/lessons the next morning – so there’s no need to bust into my room while I’m sewing eleventy billion times to ask me questions about his current lessons. (Note: providing age appropriate study material with clear directions is essential to making independent study time, and therefore time for mama to make things, a success!)

get creative: utilize activities & classes

As moms, and makers, and creative business owners, we often feel as we have to do it all alone. You don’t! There’s so many amazing resources, both conventional and more creative, to utilize to make home schooling easier & more enjoyable.

Find your tribe. This was hard for me, because we couldn’t afford a co-op this year, but even if it’s just one other home schooling parent you can meet to have coffee with, chat about your day, share lesson time with or swap kids with for a day for a few hours to get some work done, find those people, love them, give them coffee and chocolate, and schedule a bunch of play dates! Finding a few great home schooling buddies (for both my son & I!) has proven to be the greatest home school aid. Taking time for social gatherings is essential for mental health, plus getting out of the house regularly keeps the creative juices flowing.

Consider outside specialized classes & use community resources. Not only does this take a load off of you if say, you aren’t feeling on par with current math or science standards, or your child wants to learn something you have no clue how to teach (like coding, sign language, Spanish or theater), there are many community resources that offer once a week classes for 1-6 hours a day that your child can participate in – which gives you a little more time to invest in your creative business! If you are in the WNC area near me, check out Elevate’s class list – they have a huge list of interests and subjects, from history & science to dance & parkour! Local zoos, museums & nature centers often have programs for home school students as well. And don’t forget to check your local library’s list of activities – most libraries have “after school” clubs for 1-3 hours a day, once a week. Ours has a Lego club that meets every Tuesday from 4-5:30, a Minecraft club, and a few other specialized interests clubs. Not only does specialized classes & community resources like these give your child a chance to socialize & explore new interests, you can bring your laptop & get some computer work done, or bring along your current hand sewing/crocheting/knitting projects to work on, while your kid enjoys their classes/clubs! This winter, my son is taking coding & Spanish classes. 🙂

teach your child(ren) about entrepreneurship

Having your kids home with you while you run a creative business is a great opportunity to teach them about commerce, budgeting, consumer math, graphs & charts, conversion rates, scheduling, money management, ROI (return on investment, AKA measurable data for an action & it’s corresponding reactions, like purchasing an ad on a blog & tracking traffic/sales that it generates to gauge how much value that action garnered) and most importantly – the value in hard work & dedication to making your dreams come true! Involve them in the process. Give them simple, age appropriate tasks to do to help make the functions of your creative business run more smoothly – my son helps me a bit each day with things like stuffing monster bits, pairing fabrics, sewing, cutting things out, packing orders, and doing postal runs. He also has learned a lot about conversion rates, profit/loss charts, income projections, marketing, photography, public relations & more. He’s always been an active part of my business, but this year I’m really showing him more of the functionalities & processes that go into running an ecommerce business & how he can apply those skills to other parts of his life.

accept that some days, you aren’t going to get it all done

At first I was completely, totally overwhelmed, and between trying to find a good rhythm for lessons & try to find time to sew while dealing with third trimester exhaustion, there was a lot of bad days. For instance, I like to sew first thing in the mornings – Gauge does better with his math first thing in the mornings, and it’s one subject he does need more supervision & guidance on. So I have had to sacrifice my most creative time to do my least favorite thing ever (ugh, math), which sometimes ruined an entire day for me creatively because it just saps my juju; but after a few weeks of this, settling into a new routine of sewing after lunch (while not as creatively charged) is still a routine capable of productivity. It just requires a bit more effort!

I know here in a few weeks when Baby Z gets here, that’s going to throw our entire system out the window and we’ll be starting from scratch again. And that’s okay, because I also know we’ll find our rhythm again (eventually). If you are considering embarking on a home school journey as a maker mama, stay flexible, don’t be afraid of adjusting your schedule time & again, and know that once you find what works for you & your child(ren), it gets easier to balance productivity for your business & lessons for your kids!

Any other maker mamas out there home schooling their kids?

I would love to hear your advice, opinions & thoughts on balancing it all, what works for you, and what concerns you may have about running a creative business while educating your child. Let’s discuss in the comments!

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What Mon-stors are made of – how many monsters can I make from a robe?

It’s been a hot minute since I did a transformation post! I’ve been stockpiling before and after images but with baby on the way, sewing non-stop, babysitting 2-4 days a week… I just haven’t had it in me to sit down and work on blog posts. But this morning baby Z woke me up around 5am so I thought I’d get some blogging done!

So, today I’m sharing my latest transformation! From salvaged robe into…

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A big AND a small Mon-stor! Oh, and…

handmade green monster trick or treat tote

A trick or treat tote/library book bag! AND!

Two mini stuffed monsters!

I was actually really surprised with how many monsters I was able to make from this one robe! Generally there’s some stitching, stains or holes that get in the way but this one was perfection!

I used the smallest scraps from it to make horns and features for other monsters, too.

small mini stuffed monster made from recycled fabrics in Asheville NC

Keeping textiles & scraps from monster production out of landfills is a challenge, certainly more work than just heading to the craft store and buying fabric off the bolt – but it’s so much more sustainable and rewarding to give new life to textiles! Saving the world, one monster at a time!

All of these cuties are currently listed for sale in my monster shop – since I do only use upcycled textile discards, that means each monster is one of a kind – so pop over and snag one before they’re gone!

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10 ways to save money, raise nature loving kids & live a more sustainable life

I get asked a lot about our efforts to live a more eco-lifestyle. Being on a budget it makes it surprisingly more difficult to live an eco0friedly lifestyle, post move and divorce, but I’m slowly finding eco alternatives for daily staples like soap and shampoo, dish soap and even coffee, here in WNC – which is luckily a very earth friendly, sustainably minded place! We are always trying to find ways to reduce our impact on the Earth with our consumption & every day habits, plus opting for ecofriendly alternatives to hobbies.

For all of you who want to start making easy changes with your children, teaching them how to protect Mother Nature, but aren’t sure where to start, here is a list of ten ideas for some easy habits to eco things to do even on the tightest budget that are good for you, your bills, the Earth & your family. Some I’ve blogged about before, but they are worth reiterating here. Enjoy, and feel free to add your eco-life tips in the comments! Together we can be like a superhero team all saving the world together all at the same time, which would be pretty rad!

3418c-10562963_10203220525292133_2713131494612030695_n1. Grow a garden! Not only is it great family time together outside building beds, prepping pots, planting seedlings, weeding, picking and preparing, it teaches your children about earth sciences, compassion for nature & how fun mud and bugs are! I have a Pinterest board for gardening tips and ideas here, including lots of container planting for small spaces!

No matter the space you have, you can save a lot of money growing your own food – even if it’s just a staple item in your house in a pot on your porch, like a few pepper plants or beans if you use them a lot. Pre-move, we had a vegetable garden each year with some staples like cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, beans, and peas. We also had blackberry bushes & blueberry bushes. Now that we rent and can’t totally invest in a full size garden, we have a small bed with cucumbers and green beans, and also volunteer at my mom’s house helping in her garden, which has potatoes, onions, peppers, corn, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, grapes, blueberries & a few other staples. My sister in law also grows a huge garden, plus has pear & apple trees – come crops, we will all work together and swap food, meaning an entire fall & winter’s worth of stock piled dried fruits, canned apple sauce and vegetables, veggie soups, frozen veggies to add to dishes, jams, jellies and canned fruits – all just for the cost of weeding once a week!

2. Take a (biodegradable) trash bag and go for a hike through your local trails, a park or the woods to pick up litter so existing vegetation can thrive. Make sure to put on some bug spray & wear (reusable) rubber gloves! Use two bags – one for trash, for one recyclables, and use this unplugged family time to teach your children about the importance of recycling & protecting water ways and natural habitats.

3. Shop from thrift stores & consignment shops whenever possible – not only do you save loads of money but you also prevent air pollution, energy use & landfill waste from the creation of new products when you purchase gently used items. It also keeps money directly in your community instead of funding international trade for cheap clothing & home goods, which creates a ton of emissions and consumes lots of fuel. By shopping locally at community thrift stores you are directly supporting people who live in your city while having an positive impact on the environment, while saving a boat load of money. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm & fuzzy inside?!

4. If possible, let your kid ride the bus to and from school rather than driving them. This reduces a ton of exhaust pollution from the commute and idling in the pick up and drop off lane. If you can, arrange to have them carpool to after-school activities with friends or volunteer to be the carpool driver! If you live close enough to school, the park, a store, or any place you frequent, walk or ride your bikes whenever possible for some unplugged, active family fun!

5. Reduce the electricity you use & encourage your kids to do the same! Turn off your heat/air and open the windows on days when the temperature allows. Open the curtains rather than turning on lights. Unplug things that are not in use – this alone can account for up to 40% of your electric consumption! Turn off your computer & unplug it when you aren’t using it. Instead of drying bedding in the dryer, line-dry laundry, especially heavy linens. This will greatly reduce energy consumption plus give your linens that sunshine fresh scent.

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6. My first option is to buy products with little to no packaging. Beyond that: Recycle or reuse whenever possible –  paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans. This conserves energy and reduces air pollution & electricity consumption from production. Before you recycle something, make sure you can’t reuse it first. Don’t spend money on mason jars when glass jars from pasta sauces & pickles are perfect for drinking glasses at parties or simple vases, pen holders or containers in the bathroom to hold cotton balls, tooth brushes & other items. Hit up Pinterest for tons of great idea for upcycling & repurposing items. If you can’t reuse something, see if you can compost it. Most paper & cardboard (even toilet paper & paper towel rolls) can be composted. Even paper towels that have been used to clean up water can be composted! Jenelle of TN2T has several awesome boards on Pinterest for upcycling & creatively recycling items.

7. Also, on composting… Did you know that 20% of human produced methane that damages the ozone layer comes from food in landfills? This shocking number is hard evidence of why every home should compost! All raw vegetable & fruit waste can be composted, along with coffee grounds, grass clippings & leaves that typically end up on the curb for trash pick up. So skip the “all-natural” plant food and go for the truly all natural plant food. Leaves can be used as mulch around your garden & plants year round, too, providing nature-intended nutrients for plants that eliminates the need for chemically saturated fertilizers, so it’s a double whammy of Earth saving goodness and saves you money because then you don’t have to buy mulch! Yay! There are so many good resources for composting out there. It’s so easy to get started, it greatly reduces landfill waste & has a huge impact on the environment. Give it a Google & see how you can get started! Kids will have fun watching the process of foods decompose & learning how bugs, worms and mold help break down the organic matter.

8. Purge. Make it fun and reward the kids with one new item or special event (like a trip to the movies) for purging unused toys, clothes, games. Get rid  of (donate, sell or give to a friend) anything you absolutely don’t need or use. Since we are living in very tight quarters, I purged more than half of mine and my son’s clothes  & all but a few linens – now everything has a purpose, plus less laundry to do means less water and electricity used! Fewer toys in my son’s room means more space to play with things he kept, like Legos and Nerf guns.

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9. Use all-natural cleaners – Apple cider vinegar is an amazingly versatile cleaner and at less than $3 a gallon, is a super cheap alternative to expensive, chemical laden laundry soaps, floor cleaners, surface wipes and more. We use it for laundry and our floors! Stop using dryer sheets full of harmful chemicals – Nerd Felt makes reusable dryer balls that soften your laundry for hundreds of loads. Infuse them with essential oils to add a lovely scent to your laundry!

10. Build a backyard haven. A small investment up front for major savings and fun in the long run! Get a trampoline, swing set, pool, whatever tickles your pickles and fits your budget. Don’t forget to check FreeCycle and CraigsList for items before heading to the big box stores! Build a fire pit and pull up seating for relaxing evening fun. Spring through Autumn (or even in the winter, snuggled under blankets with cocoa while it snows around you!). Create a space that’s just as fun as the local park, and invite friends over! You’ll save a ton of money not going out, your kids will want to spend more time outside, and it’s about time we return to a life of having neighbors over for coffee on the porch or beers by the fire. Building a home filled with functional spaces you love & inviting others to enjoy it with you is a great way to build community, foster friendships and have free, ecofriendly fun!

These are just a few of the ways I try to live a more sustainable, ecofriendly lifestyle while on a super tight budget. Do you have any eco-budgeting tips for home life, activities, or shopping? Please share them in the comments!