Can I…SIMPLIFY…this year?

Word of the day? Word of the week? Maybe even word of the year? Simplify.

I am really excited about this article I read in this month’s Sunset magazine. It’s all about a family who lives a zero waste lifestyle. The family lives right here in the Bay Area in Mill Valley. The mom, Bea Johnson, is a professional organizer and a blogger. They have two kids and a dog.  What amazes me is just how much they have simplified their life. I love the pictures of their home in the article. That’s actually the most appealing part of the article for me. The words tell you how to do it but when I saw the pictures of this clutter-free home I thought:  I.WANT.THAT. How nice would it be to come home and have no clutter, no crowding in your drawers, no cramming in your closets? To love the things that you own and to release the stuff that doesn’t serve you? It has definitely motivated me to do more this year to simplify my life.

Here’s my story of one important thing (for me) that I’ve been motivated to do so far:

Books. In the article Bea talks a lot about how they don’t own books. They go to the library regularly. When I first read that I had mixed thoughts. The part of my that clings to stuff said “No books? Sacrilege!” Then the part of me that wants to simplify said, “Well, we have a library less than 3 blocks away. Why not share a few more books with the library. Besides if I decide I want to read one then it’ll be there at the library.” So my simplifying self won that argument and I took a good look at my bookshelf. And there it was “Ulysses” by James Joyce.  I bought this book when I lived in Ireland, in 1999. I had great intentions of reading it. It has now been with me though 3 moves and eleven years and I still have not read it. So “Ulysses” and several other acquired-with-good-intentions-but-never-got-around-to-them books went into my box to donate to my library.

Now here’s the part where I’m not completely there with the simplifying. The simplest thing would have been to just donate all those books along with the other clothes and household items I dropped off at the thrift store yesterday.  I held the books back because I plan to take them to our library this week. I know that the library may not accept all of them and that will require another trip to drop them off at the thrift store. I’m OK with that. See long ago I started to realize that when it comes to my own personal attachment to stuff sometimes I have to make little bargains with myself – the little Clinging Angel on my shoulder versus the little Simplifying Angel on my other shoulder. In this conversation the Clinging Angel was able to release the attachment to the books because those books would be available at the library. (Nevermind the fact that all the books I’m donating are probably already available in the SF Public Library system). Attachment to stuff is not simply logical. We carry a lot of emotional attachment to our stuff. My “Ulysses” book was part of my special time in Ireland, the time I spent devoted to learning about my Irish heritage. My Clinging Angel didn’t want to let go of that special memory or admit that I probably wasn’t going to get around to reading Ulysses. So my Simplifying Angel had to take a baby-step by donating the book to the library instead of the thrift store.

Logical, no. Effective, yes. Score one for my Simplifying Angel.


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What to do with old T-shirts – Part 2

Picture 073, originally uploaded by kellyinbernal.

After I cut up old T-shirts in squares for casual napkins I had lots of T-shirts strips left over. I simply tied the ends together in double knots and strung them up in the entry way to welcome home my special someone who had been away for a couple days. Totally silly but it made him smile. 🙂

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What to do with old T-shirts – Part 1

Picture 038 tshirts (2), originally uploaded by kellyinbernal.

We all have them. T-shirts that are no longer in our wearing rotation. What to do with them aside from donating to Goodwill? Well we definitely try to minimize our use of paper towels but it’s a work in progress. I got to thinking that if I cut up old t-shirts into squares – similar to the size of paper towels, that these would make good reusable napkins. So some pinking shears and an hour later and Voila. I have a brand new set of casual napkins. We’ll probably only use them for everyday and not for guests. Nevertheless, I love them.

Don’t they look pretty all folded up?


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Whimsical Repurposing

Picture 027 repurpose art, originally uploaded by kellyinbernal.

I love art that comes from repurposing things that would otherwise be trashed. Awhile back I was in the charming town of Capitola walking around enjoying the houses by the riverwalk and I was completely enchanted by this whimsical art.

I love every single thing about this tree. It’s a tree stump, instead of tearing it out they made it a gorgeous lawn sculpture. The miniature houses and shingles and decorations are all enticing and adorable and upon closer inspection are mostly found objects repurposed into art.

Simply marvelous!

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One of a kind iPhone case

My iPhone case, originally uploaded by kellyinbernal.

OMG! OMG! OMG! I am soooo delighted with my new iPhone case.

Sorry, this post is not about repurposing, it’s all about new product love.

I read about this site,, where artists load their artwork and you can select a piece that you like and turn it into your own custom iPhone case. You even get to center and crop the photo on the case just how you like it. Completely out of character for me I bought one right away. Usually I shop around, look for the best deal, etc, etc. This time I couldn’t resist. And it’s worked out perfectly for me. I’m in love. I love the artwork I chose. It’s an illustration by the incredibly talented Christopher Lee. The case is beautiful. It’s nice quality, feels good in my hand, all the buttons function just right and best of all it’s mine, all mine. I chose it. I customized it. I love it!!!!

Prize Alert: In the comments section, share your own story of your last impulse buy. One lucky blog reader will win a 20% off coupon for


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Crafty sweater wreath

Blog Projects 012, originally uploaded by kellyinbernal.

I saw a similar item in the Viva Terra catalog and had to try to make it myself. I love how it turned out. It’s actually just old sweaters of mine cut into squares and threaded onto a wire hanger fashioned into a hoop.

First I picked my colors. Then I cut the sweaters into roughly 4×4 squares. I realized that I like how it turned out better when the squares are not exactly the same size. I also rolled a few of the squares here and there and threaded them onto the wire hanger instead of threading through the center of the square. This gave it more texture and interest.

I love how a wreath is so welcoming on the front door. Since the colors are red, gray, and blue it’s not too Christmas-y. I haven’t wanted to take it down since I made it.

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Custom Hallway Runner for practically free

Blog Projects 009, originally uploaded by kellyinbernal.

My 103 year old house has a winding road of a hallway. I love it. But when it came to putting down a runner it was a real challenge. I simply could not find anything I liked for a price that felt ok. My local carpet store could cut and bind a runner for me – for $400. I wasn’t interested. Then I stumbled upon several craft geniuses who had posted their own DIY carpet runners – Flor style. Inspired, I went to my local carpet store, received several carpet squares for free, and set about placing them in a pattern until I found something I liked. I did consult my artistic boyfriend and one of my fellow crafters on the design before settling on the pattern you see in the picture.

How did we do it?

(1) Go to carpet store and ask for freebies. It was actually incredibly easy to get co-ordinating squares since most samples are part of a collection.
(2) Buy duct tape or carpet tape. We tried both. Duct tape us better.
(3) Buy a Carpet pad that you can cut to size. This is actually the most critical element because it keeps the squares from shifting. The tape will not hold unless you have the help of a carpet pad.
(4) Lay out your squares until you find a pattern you like
(5) Tape in sections of three or four squares at a time. Do not try to start at one end and go to the other. The more squares you have taped together the harder it is to keep lifting it up to tape more.
(6) Cut you carpet pad to size.
(7) Enjoy

I love how it turned out. The colors are soft but interesting. They coordinate with the rest of my hallway. It looks like stepping stones. My little 6 year old niece played hopscotch on the runner during her last visit. Best of all my downstairs neighbor is happy.

Here is my inspiration:

And more links to awesome carpet sample reuse:


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