Make Your #BlackFriday Shopping Matter

ethical shirt, jewelry, boots and heels

As you know, I’ve been on a minimalist journey for a few years. I remember feeling that urge to get swept up in the Black Friday fun. Because let’s be honest, shopping IS fun! But having a closet overflowing with junk I didn’t wear wasn’t. Knowing the true cost of cheap clothes on the people who make them wasn’t. Feeling trapped in a materialistic cycle where I never had enough to feel like I was enough was not worth it.

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#FridayFinds: Skillshare, Kid’s Cardigans, and Freshly

An Online Skillshare Class by Brit + Co

1. Skillshare Classes: There’s thousands of classes to choose from, for everything from art classes to email marketing to WordPress, and there’s hundreds of free classes too! The next class I’m going to take is “DSLR Photography for Bloggers” by Brit + Co.

2. Kid 2 Kid: As far as I can tell, this is local to the Phoenix valley, but I’m sure this model exists elsewhere too. Kid 2 Kid is a consignment store for kids clothes, toys, and baby equipment. It’s and affordable and ethical way of getting some awesome clothes. Some of my favorite clothes and shoes for Edison have come from here, including his navy blue moccasins. I’ve snagged Baby Gap sweaters for $5! Here’s my latest haul, in preparation for a trip up north:

Boots: $6.99
Winter coat from Zara: $14.99
Baby Gap jacket: $5.99
Blue and green striped sweater: $4.99
Alpine sweater: $3.50
H&M gray cardigan: $4.99
White softsole shoes: $9.99
Converse: $4.50

I think I’m also going to try selling some of Edison’s old or unworn stuff here, so I can get store credit!

3. Love, Lincoln: Another mama-made shop, they sell everyday clothes for babies, kids, and women. If you’re not lucky enough to find a cute cardigan at your local consignement store, check out the cardigans they sell, in 48 colors!

4. Freshly: First of all, Blue Apron didn’t work out for us. We were paying $60 for three meals a week, and there were no leftovers. But the biggest reason it wasn’t working for us was the time it took to make the meals – each one took at least an hour, minimum, even though the time estimate was 30-40 minutes. The food was also kind of unusual. So, the main goal of saving time wasn’t happening. After I cancelled, Brian sent me a link for Freshly. Not only does the food arrive in a box at your door, but it’s already cooked. It just has to be warmed up in two minutes! It costs less for more meals. It sounds a little too good to be true. Anyone else have any experience with it? Let me know!

INSPIRE: 5 Tips for Your First Clothing Swap

Ever since I started learning about ethical fashion, I wanted to participate in a clothing swap. A clothing swap works like this: everyone brings clothes from their closet that they no longer want, and swaps. You get to shop the closets of your friends!
Clothing swaps vary in structure from getting a ticket for each item you bring, which you can then use on items you want to take home, to going section by section and giving each person a turn to pick first, going for as many rounds as possible, until there’s not much left. The one I went to Friday was more of a free for all, no one kept track of how many items you brought, and many people, like me, brought much more than they intended to bring home. 
Some clothing swaps are small and intimate at around four or five people, others are upwards of twenty. The quality of items can vary, depending on what the rules of the swap are.
One of the benefits of a swap is getting to see your clothes go to good homes. For instance, I had a jacket that I’d bought from an online designer outlet that at retail, cost around $300. Since the measurements were in Italian, I didn’t get the right size, so I never wore it. Even though I didn’t pay that much for it and it didn’t fit me, I just couldn’t seem to donate it to Goodwill. Swapping it just felt much better!
And unlike just donating to Goodwill, you get something back for the things you donate. I find it frustrating when I have piles of clothes to donate each season, because I know I’ll never get that money back. It’s motivating to be more careful of what I buy in the future!
So why would you need some tips? Well, it can be overwhelming. I consider myself a pretty experienced thrift shopper, but even I felt overwhelmed at times. So, if you’re considering attending one or hosting one, here’s a few things to keep in mind. 

1. Bring Good Stuff

If it has holes, stains, buttons missing, or broken zippers, don’t take it to a swap – put it in the trash. If it’s from two decades ago and is clearly NOT coming back in style, don’t take it. Older clothes in good condition are fine if you have a mix of generations at your swap, but those MC Hammer pants are probably not a good idea. Just take those kinds of things to Goodwill. A good rule to follow: don’t bring something you wouldn’t want to take home yourself.

2. Know What You Want

It defeats the purpose if you take a bunch of clothes you don’t like, and bring home a new bunch of clothes that don’t fit well, aren’t a good color, or don’t match anything you have. This tip applies to thrift shopping too – know what shapes, colors, and even fabrics flatter you and make you feel good, and what doesn’t. 
I hoped to find some business casual clothes, specifically a pencil skirt, blazer, and button up. I did find a blazer, I didn’t find any button ups that I really loved, but I did find a great pair of black pants. To keep from getting overwhelmed by all the options, know what you need or want, and feel free to skip sections. 

3. Keep An Open Mind

Even though I was looking for business casual clothes, I didn’t ignore the rest. As a result, I found a fantastic ring and a great pair of jeans. You never know what you might find, so when in doubt, try it on! Sizing varies so much from brand to brand, you really never know until you try. 

4. Ask For Help

When you try something on and you’re just not sure, go ask for your friend’s opinions. They might be more objective, and have some tips to make it work, like adding a belt. If you really want a specific item to go with something, ask around. Maybe someone saw the perfect top for those pants, and they can take you right to it.

5. Plan To Stay Awhile

I thought I’d be in and swapped in an hour. I actually stayed three hours. It took longer than I expected to sort through piles of clothes and find my size, or, since sizing varies so much, something that looked close, and then to try things on, and make a decision, and going back for the next round. Plus, there’s lots of talking and eating going on too. Plan for plenty of time so that you don’t feel rushed. 
And have fun! That’s it! If you’ve been to a clothing swap, what tips would you add?

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STYLE: My First Clothing Swap!

As I mentioned in my last post, if you were inspired and motivated by watching or reading the embroidery 101 tutorials on Liz Makes, today you can enter to win all four Just Beachy patterns! Head over to Liz Makes for the giveaway, and also check out her super fun crafts while you’re there!

On Friday, I participated in a clothing swap! 

In short – it was awesome! Several people pitched in to help organize, sort, and prepare for the two day affair. My friend hosting the event is super creative, as you can tell from the “Swap ’til You Drop” decor. 
I got to be chief cupcake baker! For three hours before the swap started, I baked and frosted about 125 mini-cupcakes!

I also forgot the last batch in the oven… which we discovered some time later. Woops. The ones that I didn’t forget about were both cute and delicious with the little paper shoes on top!
We had purses and bags in the kitchen; shirts of all sleeve lengths as well as some assorted things like decor and craft supplies in the family room; coats, blazers, sweaters, dresses, and skirts in the hallway; jeans, pants, and shoes in the living room. 

And that was only the stuff they decided to put out for the first day. There was lots more for day two!

I donated about 29 items total, including jewelry sets, tops, and bottoms. I didn’t want to bring that much home, and because of the way the swap was structured as a free-for-all, I didn’t have to. So I brought home seven items, including two composition notebooks I didn’t take photos of.

This ring! It fits me perfectly, and I love, love, love the color!

These Old Navy bootcut jeans, like new.

This boxy gray sweatshirt, perfect for a “slouchy Saturday” look, as one of the ladies said.

Even though it’s casual, I love that it has sequins on the shoulders!
A pair of White House Black Market pants, and this cream blazer with the tag still on it!

There were many, many things I could have gone either way on, but in the end, I’m happy with the things I decided to bring home. Since clothing swaps are growing in popularity, I’m planning another post with a few of the things I learned that you might find helpful if you decide to go to one, or host one yourself!

Since we all knew each other, there was lots of: “What do you think of this?” “Is this a good color for me?” “You should try this on!” “Put that belt with it.” “This didn’t fit me, but I think it would be great for you!” And we had a blast!

Have you ever gone to a clothing swap, or would you like to go to one? Share your experience in the comments!

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Beauty Find Friday: Thrifty Finds

Last week, a friend we hadn’t seen all summer dropped by to catch up with us. We sat around the living room and talked; actually, we listened, our friend did most of the talking. We knew there were major, difficult changes going on in their life, but that’s not what they talked about. Lots of “Remember when…” but nothing deep. When they left, in a way I felt like we hadn’t really caught up at all. 
Which I totally understand. I’m in a similar place – there’s so much going on inside my head and heart, I’m struggling to put words to it. Hence, I’ve been a little light on the blogging here lately. I’ll be back to three times a week soon, I promise. I have so much to say that I haven’t had time or energy to say, I might actually post more than that!
Even though I feel like I haven’t caught you up here, I have been busy talking about other things elsewhere. I was interviewed on Sage Grayson Coaching and I wrote an article for Sweet and Sage, and this next week, I have a guest post by Alana of Sparrow and Grace here on Monday and I’ll be on her blog on Wednesday. She is sharing here about how she finds beauty in everyday, and I’m sharing there about contentment and my confidence journey. You won’t want to miss next week!
This week was hard, emotionally and mentally, so yesterday I decided to do something just for fun. I haven’t gone thrifting for ages! It was the perfect cure. 
I know some people would love to have a shiny gold snakeskin bag like the one above. It looks pretty similar to this bag by Ralph Lauren for $158.

I’ve seen dozens of DIY tutorials for making these macrame plant holders. Unfortunately, I don’t have plants, and so, no use for it. 

Someone decided to get rid of their NSYNC posters. Is that Justin Timberlake?!

Aladdin slippers! These are the real deal. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a flying carpet to go with them. I’ll have to try again next week.

I brought home a navy blue Banana Republic tee, a GAP black and white tee, and a fold-over clutch. The tees were $5 each, and the clutch was 70 cents! I wanted to make my own fold-over clutch when they first became super popular using A Beautiful Mess’s tutorial, but you just can’t beat that price!
By the way, Brian is recovering well from having his wisdom teeth removed. He’s eating solid food again!

Next weekend, I’m going to a clothing swap for the first time! I’m getting rid of 18 tops, four bottoms, and seven accessories, and I’m not planning to bring that much home with me. I’ll have to do an outfit post before too long to show you what I find!

Speaking of finds, have you discovered any treasures thrifting lately? Let me know what you found in the comments so I can ooh and ahh with you!

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Beauty Find Friday: My Latest Thrifted Finds

Like I mentioned Monday, I found some fantastic finds thrifting in Iowa. After lunch at the local taco establishment, my friend and I went to Goodwill, as is our tradition. I’d been looking for a big black purse for some time, so this jumped out at me: 
A purse like this at Target would cost around $30, so when I found out it cost $3, I had to get it!

It’s in almost new condition, and since it’s super roomy inside, it worked perfectly for carrying my magazines and books on the plane.

Then I saw this…

Just kidding! This was so crazy, I had to take a picture of it, but even I would not attempt a project that daring. I’ll let Marisa handle that!

 I also found this belt. I’ve never really seen anything like it, and I debated about getting it. But since it was only $1.50, I splurged and bought it.

Last Sunday, this is what I wore to church:

The necklace you’ll recognize from Noonday Collection, with the thrifted belt, and the thrifted cardigan from Savers a couple weeks ago, and a black dress from Sears.

(Also, notice the fighter jet calendar in the background. Brian and I have different ideas when it comes to bedroom decor!)
My former voice coach and friend from church spotted these at another local thrift store, and since she’d seen my living room decor post, said “Emily must have these!”

Right now, they’re chilling in the dining room until I find the perfect spot, and the perfect candles.

Aren’t they perfect though?! I love that they don’t match, because most of my blue and white stuff doesn’t match, so it fits perfectly!

Have you found anything awesome thrifting recently? Last night Brian and I found some great stuff at Target on clearance, but I’m saving that for the bedroom/bathroom reveal post!

Happy thrifting adventures, and have a beautiful weekend!

How to Thrift for Spring Trends

I’m planning a more in-depth post about this Spring’s trends and where you can shop for fair trade and ethical clothing to fit the trends, but Saturday I went thrift store shopping with a couple friends, and I’m super excited about what I found! Using Pinterest for inspiration and to narrow my focus, I came home with two tops that are exactly what I wanted.


Stripes are a major trend this spring! As you know, I’m addicted to stripes, so I’m looking forward to seeing them everywhere. After my last closet clean out and reading The No Brainer Wardrobe e-book, I’ve been hunting for a black and white striped top. I pinned these to my style boards, and kept my eyes peeled for something similar:

Source: via Emily on Pinterest

When I saw this BCBC tee on the rack at Savers, I snatched it up.

However, after trying it on and debating with myself for some time, I decided not to get it. Mainly because then I saw this:

It’s a little too big, unfortunately, but nothing I can’t fix. I’m going to use a similar alteration method I used on my bridesmaid dress last summer, and use a well fitting tee as a guide.

The fabric is in perfect shape, and although it’s a little thick, I think I’ll be able to wear it a few times before summer, and then all through fall and winter. I’m positive it will become my new favorite top.


Another popular trend that I LOVE this spring is lace. I’ve been pinning lacy dresses and tops like crazy, which was the inspiration behind this DIY Embellished Lace Dolman.

I also pinned these lacy items on my boards that I wanted to find something similar at Savers:

Source: via Emily on Pinterest
Source: via Emily on Pinterest

This gorgeous New York & Company sweater caught my eye:

I loved the color and the lace right away, but I was a little unsure about the puffed sleeves. In the end, I decided they didn’t bother me enough to not get it. It will be perfect for a date night with skinny jeans and my blue ballet flats, or adding a pop of color to a little black dress.

Totally unrelated to spring trends, I also found these:

Total spent: $19.54. I call that a success!

To recap:

  1. Use Pinterest to save your style inspiration. Identify aspects of your pins that you like, such as color, sleeve length, pattern, fabric, etc. 
  2. Shop your thrift stores with an open mind. Does this fit some of the aspects of your pins? Does it fit well enough to be worth it, or will it just sit in your closet unworn? If it needs minor alterations, are you willing to do it yourself or take it to someone who will? Ask yourself these questions to avoid bringing home something that might be a good deal, but you won’t actually wear.

What spring trends are you excited about? What have you recently scored at your thrift store? Share it in the comments!

DIY Kate Spade Book Clutch for $5

A few months ago, I discovered Kate Spade’s ingenius book clutches: book on the outside, clutch on the inside! As a bibliophile (book-lover) who often carries a book around in my purse anyway, I really loved this idea. It’s nerd meets chic!
However, I didn’t love the price: $325! So, I set about making my own own, which I’m going to share with you today!

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Fashion For Freedom Closet Update

After my 31 day series last October of wearing only ten items all month and blogging about ethical fashion, I set a goal of downsizing my wardrobe to 100 items. To recap, when I started the series, I counted all the clothing in my drawers and closet except for socks and underwear, and came to a total of 354. By the end of the month, that number had dropped to 252. My goals going forward were as follows:

  • I’ll look for fair trade products first. 
  • If a fair trade option isn’t available, I’ll look for a used item from thrift stores or eBay. 
  • If I can’t find it there, I’ll buy it from a company that has a higher Free2Work grade or is made in the USA/Canada/Europe. 
  • I’ll buy less so that I can buy better. 
  • I will invest in multi-tasking pieces and high quality ethically made products that will stand the test of time.
  • I’ll continue to go through all of my clothes every season and objectively pare it down. 
  • My goal is to shrink my closet down to 100 items. I’ll continue to sell off and donate my clothing, anytime I buy or receive clothing as a gift, something else has to go. That’s going to be really hard. 
  • I will be a conscious consumer, thinking about the people behind the barcode who are affected by my purchasing decisions. 
And, I’ll keep the Fair Trade Pledge. 

“I pledge to consume responsibly. I recognize that as a consumer, my buying power matters. I understand that each product I purchase plays a role in a larger narrative, affecting the life of an individual. Because of this, I will do my best to purchase products that have been made by hands that are treated fairly. I will seek to support supply chains that treat farmers and workers fairly and demand the assurance that items I buy have been made responsibly from start to finish. This means no tolerance for child or slave labor, dangerous working conditions or substandard pay. I will no longer support systems of oppression and will insist that companies I trust operate with a conscience.”

So, now it’s February, four months later, and time for an update! 

It’s still hard to buy less so that I can buy better. It’s also still hard to get out of the mindset of just buying cheap clothes because they’re a good deal, when A, I don’t need them, and B, there’s a very high chance they’re made in less than desirable conditions. I’m still learning to rethink how I view pricing, and realize that cheaper prices often mean less pay for those involved in making it. 

Getting rid of old items whenever I get something new is also a challenge. Especially last Christmas, when I received a couple sweaters and some shoes. Eventually, I parted with a couple sweaters and a pair of shoes I didn’t wear as often anymore. 
Shopping at thrift stores like Savers and Goodwill helps a lot with keeping clothing affordable. Speaking of Savers and Goodwill, a couple weeks ago I finished selling on ebay and took the leftovers to Savers. Then I purchased the ebook, The No Brainer Wardrobe, and now I have another “donate” pile waiting to go. As a result of all this purging and pairing down, I’ve accomplished two things: 
  • The total from selling my clothes and a few donations from friends on eBay came to $81! After fees and shipping costs, all the rest was donated to Polaris Project, 4 the 1, and Not For Sale
  • 108. The new total of clothing items in my wardrobe!!!
I’ll confess, there’s been many times I’ve despaired of ever reaching 100 items and having anything left to wear. But seriously, 108 doesn’t feel much different from 352, except that it’s easier and faster to get ready in the morning without all the unnecessary and unworn clothing clogging my space! 
If you’re curious about why and how I wore ten items for an entire month, or you’d like to know where to shop for ethical fashion, I recommend you start with this post that contains all the links to the entire month long series. 
And if you’re on Pinterest, be sure to follow my Fashion for Freedom board, where I still share fair trade fashion finds and articles. 
Thank you for your continued support and encouragement! Believe it or not, it’s not as hard as you might think to make a dent in human trafficking. You can make a difference, and I hope you’ll take the time to learn about the issues and support companies with a conscience, because it’s so worth it!
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