As most of you know, I gave up spending for Lent. That’s right – 40 days without going to Target, Michaels, Marshalls, Hancocks, JoAnns, HomeGoods, Home Depot, or Lowes (to name a few) or logging onto Amazon or Fabric.com or Fat Quarter Shop or Etsy (to name a few more). Admittedly, this penance was only partly a spiritual endeavor – it was really driven by some major lessons I’ve recently learned about a life lived with too much “stuff.” After witnessing firsthand how fast stuff can accumulate and how overwhelming it can become (and how money can be wasted!), I knew I needed to hit the pause button and get my own spending and consumption habits in check.

With the arrival of Easter just over two weeks ago, Lent ended and so did my self-proclaimed spending hiatus. It’s taken me these two weeks to not only catch up here on the blog of everything I accomplished during that time, but also for me to gather my thoughts about what I experienced, what I learned, and how I am going to move forward! Originally, I thought this would be all one post, but then it got really, really long (sorry about that!). So for my sanity and yours’, today I am just going to reflect on how it went and what I learned. Then I’ll be back next week with Part II, my plan moving forward. Sound good?

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Lesson Learned #1: Use What You Have, Already! 

The alternative title for this post could have been “Learning to Get Creative and Start Using What You’ve Got!” I’ve been pretty open about the size of my craft “stash” here on the blog and have even shown you lots of photos of all my fabric, notions, paints and more! I have a lot of good craft stuff! Even with such a hefty arsenal of supplies, I was 100% guilty of running out to the store every time I got a new idea or wanted a different color paint or fabric or whatever. Accomplishing projects using only the supplies I had in my house turned out to be a challenge I really needed to take on. Looking back, I am amazed at what all I was able to create and organize without stepping foot into a craft or home decor store! It really showed me that while it may certainly be more convenient to run out and buy something new, I can get some pretty great results if I get creative with the stuff I already own! Want to see what I mean? All of these projects below were done during the 40 days of Lent!

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Puzzle Storage Cases. These puzzle cases moved to the top of my priority list when I was tired of picking up scattered pieces for the gazillionth time. My first instinct was to head out to the stores and see what I type of container I could find to corral our puzzles. When that wasn’t an option, I hunted around my house for a solution. When I realized I had enough clear vinyl to make envelop-style pouches, this project was born!

Last-Minute Bob and Larry Party. I almost didn’t throw this one on the list; but truth be told, besides food, I didn’t purchase a thing for this party. All the decor and party essentials were found in my parents’ basement and around their house!

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Pantry Makeover. I purchased the Name Bubbles labels long before Lent started, but my plans for updating our “pantry” included a bit more than slapping some labels on some jars. I really wanted to create some type of boards to place over the rung shelving to give more sturdiness to items on the shelves. Normally, I would have gone out and purchased some MDF or fresh foam core, as well as some new shelf liner or wrapping paper. Because shopping was out, I pieced together some foam core scraps from old projects, covered it all in white contact paper and gave the boards some blue vinyl trim instead of an all-over pattern (which I didn’t have enough of). Not only did this update cost me nothing, but I got rid of a bunch of scrap supplies and I love the streamlined-look and perfect function of this update!

Typography Art. The typography-style art I made for ForRent.com was also done using supplies from around the house. I showed you on Monday how the frames got a white-paint makeover; and the art was all created using supplies bought for projects dreamed up but never executed!

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Henry’s Hutch Makeover. This is probably one of my favorite accomplishments during my 40 days of no spending. Every detail you see in these photos was created or collected using stuff from around the house. You might recall that I had to paint my rhino with craft paint instead of spray paint (which would have been my preference), and I am sure I would have “picked up” some other accessories for this nook while out shopping if I was up to my usual MO. Little did I realize how many on-themed accessories we already had in the house…I just had to go hunt around for them!

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Craft Room Re-Org, Again.  Upon arriving home from cleaning out my Mom’s craft room, I was over-flowing with new-to-me craft supplies, requiring that I re-organize my craft room once again if I had any dream of being productive in there! As I drove past IKEA on my way home, I soooooo badly wanted to stop and get some new closet storage to make better (and prettier!) use of this space. But yet again, shopping was out of the question. And let’s be real here for a minute: I had some pretty good storage already going for me in this closet. I had to do quite a bit of shuffling things around and trying some new solutions in old spaces, but it turns out I am more smitten than ever in my craft space…no new storage solutions necessary!

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Two-Toned Green Planters. These planters, formally pink and purple, had been sitting in my living room for months waiting for inspiration to strike. Once I finally decided what I wanted to do, I had to turn to supplies I already had to pull it off: some quart-size cans of BM Advanced Paint. Yes, spray painting these would have been a heck of a lot faster and easier than the 3 coats of paint I had to apply by brush. But the final result is stunning; and those six bucks I would have spent on spray paint stayed in my wallet!

Spring Decor. Since I was hosting my family for Easter this year, I really wanted to put up some Spring decor. Here, I was somewhat thankful to have my self-imposed spending ban because I am too guilty of buying holiday decor for one season and then never using it again. While this year’s Spring mantel does look a lot like last year’s, I did dig through my craft supplies to bring in some fresh details. That green bunting on the wreath is one of my favorite new additions, and…you guessed it, I already had everything I needed to make it happen!

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The Very Wild and Very Green Quilt. I did buy all of the fabric for Henry’s new bed quilt before Lent started; however, you might recall that my original plan was to use green, white, black and orange. It wasn’t until after Lent that I decided the orange was a no go, so I was left to dig through my own fabric supply to find an alternative. Maybe it was luck that I had enough of the perfect spring green fabric to use instead. But honestly, before this no-spend challenge, the fabric store would have been my first stop, not my own closet! Shameful!!

Cardboard Drawer Dividers. Like my pantry, this is another project that I would have typically gone out and bought some fresh sheets of cardboard or foam core for. Instead, I cut down some leftover boxes from Henry’s birthday gifts to make my dividers. Yes, I would love to find different shelf liner to line the drawers; but for now, these dividers are working perfectly and didn’t cost me a penny, so I can’t complain!

Lesson Learned #2: Start with the supplies you already have…not the ones you need to go buy.

This lesson piggy backs off the last one, but it reflects a subtle shift in how I (now) go about projects. Before this “social experiment,” I would start with an image in my head of how I wanted a certain space or a certain project to look when it’s done. Everything from materials to color to size etc would be planned out in my head. Then I would trot off to collect my supplies…some from my own home; but quite often, most had to be bought new.

During Lent, I found that rather than dreaming up a pretty little image that would look great on Pinterest, I instead took a mental “step backward” and figured out what I was trying to accomplish. For example: “Okay, I need some way to keep Henry’s drawers organized.” Sure, my gut reaction was to run to the store; but instead, I examined everything in my house for its potential to become a drawer divider. When I came across the cardboard boxes, I was off and running. And to be honest, it was probably done in less time than it would have taken me to get to Target!

In recent weeks, I’ve really loved letting my supplies inspire my projects rather than pretty little pictures I see on the web. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing better than having a vision and bringing it to life with raw materials and my own two hands…but if a similar vision can be brought to life using things I already have…maybe I should start there instead? Moreover, I’ve found that challenging myself to use on-hand supplies really gets my creative gears turning, forcing me to think outside the box and expand my skills…making the end result that much more gratifying! You know…it’s the whole “lemonade from lemons” thing 😉

Lesson Learned #3: It’s hard to buy things if you don’t go to the store!

When Lent first began, I was amazed at how easy it was to stick to my no-spend commitment. At first, I was super motivated by the mental picture I had seared in my memory of the amount of junk in my parents’ basement. I was also encouraged by how much I was able to accomplish using my own supplies (see above) AND by how much I was using up some things around the house (double bonus!)! Oh, but the main reason it was so easy? I was avoiding all “near occasions of sin” (aka – stores) by not going shopping!!! I was all, “this is easy,” and “I can do this forever!” And then I had to go to Target for something, shoes for Henry or toilet paper or printer ink or something like that. And the pull of all the “treasures” was almost palpable. Suddenly, this whole no-spend stint wasn’t so easy when I was face-to-face with little red clearance labels and the latest Threshold merchandise. I made a b-line for the door and got out without breaking my Lenten promise, but I was honestly embarrassed at how much I wanted to break it for a silly little item on clearance!

I’m telling ya, friends…this was a light bulb moment: “I’m not buying anything because I am not making my weekly rounds to Target, Michaels, Marshalls and Lowes. ” Ding ding ding!!! As obvious as that is when you read it it, I don’t think it ever occurred to me how much my casual “errand days” were filling up my house. I am very guilty of walking into a store looking for nothing in particular and walking out with a bag full of stuff that one could argue I really don’t need. As I’ve transitioned back into the world of shopping again, I have made some good progress on this specific point. I’ll share more on that next week!

Lesson Learned #4: “It’s not about the money-money-money.” 

I’m a pretty good budget follower – I have been since I graduated college. My secret is to rely on cash. When the allotted cash is gone, the spending stops until payday comes around again and I make another predetermined withdraw. When I say here “it’s not about the money,” I simply mean that my shopping habits weren’t breaking the bank or raking up tons of debt. I was spending well within our means and sticking pretty well to the cash budget that my husband and I had agreed upon. But I was using all of my cash allotment every cycle, and I was usually chomping at the bit for the next one to roll around. And what for? To bring home more things to sit on shelves, fill baskets, and look pretty. Some are even things that will ultimately make their way to a thrift store or garage sale when my design mood change (which is more frequent than I care to admit!).

My point here is that even though we have the money, do I need to be spending it on things we genuinely don’t need? Now, don’t get me wrong. I love to decorate my house, I love pretty things, I love shopping, and most of all, I LOVE working on projects – and these things all require “stuff” and shopping and spending money. But I was finding I was spending the money just because I could…because I had the time, the money was budgeted, and I somehow convinced myself I needed all the stuff I was dragging home. Bottom line: just because we can afford it doesn’t mean we need it. Within our means or not, I was still filling our home and our lives with possessions that were sometimes meaningless and clutter-ful…which eventually become a distraction, a burden, and ultimately…a waste.

It was a very pleasant experience over these last 40 days to not be so fixated on the amount of cash still in my wallet or how long until payday rolls around again. I felt more in control of my money, and our higher bank balance sure was nice. I do really well with a cash limit (since I’m a spender by nature), but I am still working out how I will remedy this “spend till it’s gone” issue moving forward!

Phew!!!!! Did you make it this far? If so, a gold star for you!!!!

So now what? Lent is over; and truth be told, HomeGoods and Target were among my first two stops in the days after Easter. I can tell you that I have changed in some ways and not in others. I can also say that I realized very quickly that I needed a good plan for moving forward if I wanted to keep hold of these eye-opening lessons…especially as I forge my way into a life of less stuff, less spending and less waste. That plan though, my friends, will be shared next week in another post. I think I’ve done enough reflecting in one day for all of us!

Thanks for reading this far and for indulging me and my thoughts as I have reflected on the big ol’ topic of “stuff” over the past few months.  I am sure there will be more to come on this topic – if you have any thoughts or suggestions on the matter, I’d love to hear them!

I’ll be back later this week with more of the good crafty stuff and less of the chitter chatter. See you soon!

 Megan

See You Soon!
Megan