Beware of Free Stuff


You have the best intentions, I know this about you already but here is the thing…just because it’s free doesn’t mean you are obligated to take it.

Think about it…

conference pens,

obscure flavored tea samples that are given aways at grocery store openings,

10K t-shirts,

cosmetic freebies with the purchase of a new mascara,

taking something your friend or family is trying to get rid of…

and on and on it goes.

“Look at this! It was free!” Then a month or ten years later, that travel sewing kit still sits as clutter in your closet, because let’s face it, when are you going to repair a button on the road? Never.

Do yourself a favor and say no to begin with.

“Are you sure?” they’ll ask you.


“But it’s free!” they’ll exclaim.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” you’ll say back.

They might give you a weird look but secretly admire your resolve. Just think of it that way and take care of your future self.

The One Touch Rule

You’ve probably heard this one before, but if you haven’t it can be a game changer in making your life so much better.

Once is Enough

The rule is to touch stranded or misplaced items in your house only once. This is basically another way of saying put things away immediately (laundry, dishes, shoes, you-name-it). Now this of course assumes that you have a place to put things in the first place. That’s a given. Everything needs a home and hopefully one in which you don’t have to play a game of tetris in order to put it away.

The biggest culprit in our home? Mail and paperwork. My husband brings it in and lays it on the dining room table. I distribute the mail and walk the rest of it upstairs EVERYDAY to the office where I have an “In” file box that I put pending papers. I’ve gone paperless with what ever bills I can, that helps. Most bills have statements online if you ever need a history or a quick phone call should do the trick.

The one touch rule is one of those things that you do for your future self. Is it a pain to always put things away immediately? Yep. But it’s essential if you want a tidy space in which to live and the sanity that comes along with it.

Edit Your Décor

Recently, I streamlined my décor by getting rid of two bookshelves: one in our dining room and one in our living room. My family thought I was being extreme, but each bookcase held items that remained relatively ignored; ceramics that our now-teenagers made as preschoolers, leather bound books of classic stories that I thought I would someday read out loud to my family (never happened), candlesticks, photographs, surplus vases (pick one favorite vase and if you need more, use a large mason jar), umpteen cookbooks and field journals.

One of the things I like to do is purchase new moving boxes to store things that I’m not yet ready to let go of, but want to experiment living without. A new moving box is clean, sturdy and label-less so that you can clearly write on it. They sell them at your local hardware store. All of our tchotchkies went into a box, I sold the shelves and leather books on Craigslist, then dropped off the cookbooks and field guides at our used bookstore (if you need a recipe or need to identify a bird, Google it). Not only am I experiencing more time for myself by eliminating a lot of dusting in my cleaning routine, but I no longer feel the emotional burden of by-passing décor that is outdated and overlooked. I want to have more time for exercising and eating healthy meals with my family. Not dusting tchotckies!

Try living with less stuff. Place a maximum of three items per horizontal surface. See how that looks. What décor or furniture can you edit? Give the empty space a week or two to get used to. I’ll bet you’ll love it in the long-run.

White Dishes for a Clean Slate

Do you covet seasonal Chrismas dinnerware or have fantasies about inheriting grandma’s hand-me-down-china set? I used to but not anymore. About the time I stopped decorating with seaonal throw pillows, I streamlined our dinnerware to white dishes that can be dressed up or down. I do not have to store a separate set of dishes for special occasions. Everything is dishwasher safe. This makes my life so easy.

Once, on a trip to IKEA, I used their glassware for a soda at the cafeteria and really liked the aesthetic and size. I thought it would make a great all around drinking glass. So when I got home, out went the various sized drinking glasses (juice sized for the kids, iced tea sized for me and pint sized for the hubby- it’s exhausting just writing about it!) and in came these:

GODIS 14 oz. glassware are the size between juice cups and pints. Now, anyone can empty the dishwasher, put the glasses away in the cupboard and done. No longer does anyone have to think about the small cups belonging on the lower shelf, or vice versa, or having a favorite drinking glass because they are all the same. We use them for juice, milk, iced tea, lemonade, water, beer, everything!

Same sized anything makes a beautiful aesthtic. Varying sizes of things can feels overwhelming and haphazard.

Another example: I was always disappointed when the small salad forks were the only clean ones left, because I don’t like the size of them. Who says you need two sized forks? For formal dining? For guests? I am the one living in my home and I wish it to be however I like. I don’t enjoy entertaining, so out they went. Now we only have my favorite sized fork and I love it.

Next, I am going to experiment with only one sized bowl and one sized plate for simplicity. It may be too streamlined but if it doesn’t work, I can always add them back into my life. Usually though, it makes my life so much easier and better.

What kitchen streamlining have you done that makes your life better? Share below!

Worth It/Not Worth It: Shark Navigator Freestyle Cordless Stick Vacuum

Welcome to my Worth It/Not Worth It series where I give you my unsponsored, unadulterated opinion about certain household products. You’re welcome.

(Note: this post may have affiliate links which means I make a small amount to help support this blog if you end up purchasing the thing-a-ma-jig through the link on this post)

I abhor vacuuming. Hate it. It’s the chore that takes the longest, is the most cumbersome and as much as I love our dog, makes me question the day I thought it was a good idea to bring her home. The joke in our house is that if you open a can a beans, you’ll find a dog hair in it!

So. Not. Funny.


But my hair tastes so yummy!

Really, with four adult-sized humans living in our home, a dog, a cat and the intense Colorado four-season weather, our floors take a serious beating. The canister gets full to the brim every time and I vacuum twice a week. I have to lug the vacuum up and down three sets of stairs (what’s that? I think I hear the tiny house revolution calling my name!), untangle the cord, plug and unplug it, it’s heavy (I already have a gym membership thank-you-very-much), and before I’m finished, I always fantasize about buying a ticket to the end-of-the-line at the nearest train station.

Drumroll please…



Enter the Shark Navigator Freestyle Cordless Stick Vacuum (SV1106). This baby has changed my life. I’m not even kidding you. Probably saved my marriage and prevents me from giving away my teenagers and pets. This vacuum is so freaking light, I worried it wouldn’t really work. It does, I’m happy to say. It works like a charm.

When I bopped around the house using it for the first time, I turned it off and exclaimed, “I think this vacuum just brought me back from the edge!” My family sat on the couch giving me blank stares. But you know what I mean, don’t you? This makes my life so much better! Totally freaking worth it.

I also bought the Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Hand Vacuum for vacuuming the umpteen million stairs, the couch that the dog likes to sleep on, and the ottoman in the TV room (nacho crumbs begone!). Easy-peasy. I cut my vacuuming time in half with these upgrades. That’s more time to write blog posts, read, or whatever else. And you know my favorite saying around here, better is better. Huzzah! It’s soooo much better!

What household products make your life better? Share below!

p.s. I first learned about the Shark cordless vacuum from More Melody on Youtube. She’s got some great life hacks and I’m a sucka for a good life hack. I just can’t believe I waited so long to buy this.

p.p.s. I will try to remember to give a six or twelve month update, as I need the tools in my life to endure and it would disappoint me greatly if this broke suddenly, but I’ll let you know.

Edit (08/12/17): Not good for intense heavy use. Had to start cleaning it out every week=too much effort. Local vacuum guy said it is for light use only (like say, if you wanted to vacuum the crumbs from your kitchen floor, but not intended for whole house carpet use. I have to agree). Ended up buying the Dyson cordless vacuum on sale (still an exorbitant cost) at Target. This has further reduced my vacuuming time because of it’s brilliant engineering. The caveat? Runs out of battery quickly and canister has to be emptied frequently. However, instead of going outside like I used to, the canister is so small I just empty it over my compositing bin next to the kitchen sink (Did you know you can compost the dirt/dust/lint from your vacuum? You can.). 

Don’t Let Perfection be the Enemy of Good

I have an aerospace engineering degree from Purdue University. I don’t say that to brag, I haven’t used it in eighteen years. My point is that most people who’ve been trained in engineering suffer from a serious case of perfectionism syndrome. After all, you don’t want your planes and spacecrafts falling from the sky. It’s essential that your engineers are smart, responsible, organized and detail oriented. I am just saying we are predisposed is all.

Nothing is perfect

Part of starting this blog is to help remind myself that in daily life, better is better. Nothing has to be perfect, I no longer design satellites.

Good enough

Yesterday, I was cleaning our oven by hand (my life is so glam now!) because when I tried to use the self-cleaning part, the oven caught fire due to a globbity mess on the bottom. So I began the tedious task of scrubbing (I used How Jen Does It). Needless to say, it was messy and took awhile. Some of that nasty, crusty, burnt stuff got on my kitchen floor. My thought process went like this…

“I need to sweep that ash up before someone (the kids) gets it on their shoe and spreads it to the carpet.” Sigh. “I really need to vacuum the whole house and I should start at the top (we have four stories) and work my way down because that’s how you’re supposed to do it.” Sigh. “Really, I should dust first, then vacuum, then mop. That is the right way.” Sigh. “But that will take forever and I’m already tired.” Sigh. “Okay Cari, get over yourself and just clean up this mess in front of you and that’s it. That’s good enough.”

Do you see? It took some convincing myself to stop trying to make everything perfect. I’m getting better, but as you can tell, it’s still a work in process.

Most people suffer varying degrees of this. How to you deal with perfectionism syndrome? Can you relate? Comment below!

Stop Buying for your Fantasy Self

I used to hike many of the 14,000 foot peaks throughout the state of Colorado. It wasn’t uncommon for me to spend every weekend up at altitude. The common question amongst my friends was to ask, “How many 14ers have you hiked?” Racking up the hikes became the goal, and enjoying the outdoors a pastime.

Back then

Once I married and had two kids, I suffered from plantar fascitis and two knee surgeries that quickly curtailed the high impact sports I used to participate in. Recently, I needed a pair of light hiking shoes. I no longer hike 14ers but I do like to hike the moderate foothill trails in and around the county. A pair of trail running shoes would suffice but once I went shopping, the lure of hiking boots and fantasizing about my old way of life became hard to resist. So I bought both. One pair for “light” hiking (included in my budget) and one pair for “heavier” mountaineering (not included in my budget).

Three months later, I had not even used those mountain hiking boots. Oh sure, I had visions of mountaineering again but that fact remains that most of my free time is spent on bleachers somewhere watching my teenagers participate in athletics.

My life now

And when I get the odd day off just for me, I generally want to stick close to home and not wear myself out by hiking up at altitude all day. So I made peace with the fact that I’m not a mountaineer anymore, returned the hiking boots and haven’t looked back since.

Are you buying for your fantasy self? What do you find hard to let go of? Please share below!

Try “No Goals” as a New Year’s Resolution

If you’ve already let go of a New Year’s resolution then you’re gonna love this suggestion. I recently ran across Leo Babauta’s no goals post and found it intriguing. I’m really not that into New Year’s Resolution’s anyway. I figure if something is good for my life, then I should just start doing it. But there is a definite consensus that the New Year is a time for new beginnings and all that. In years past I’ve gone crazy in listing too many resolutions only to fail. But ‘No Goals’? I’m like, how do you get anything done? I live for my planner. I luuuuv crossing stuff off of my to-do list. I didn’t understand how this could work.

So, I thought I’d try it for a half a day as an experiment. Guess what? I got more done in that 2-3 hour period than I had all week. How’s that you ask? I’m not entirely sure. I know that once I decided on having no goals, I felt a weight being lifted off of my shoulders. It felt wonderful and uncomfortable all at the same time. Suddenly, because I didn’t have to do something, I just felt like to doing something. Weird, huh?

Start Small

My suggestion? Start small. Try no goals for a few hours and see where it gets you. If you just do nothing, I think that’s best. Doing nothing is the hardest thing to do in our production-oriented society these days.

I’m going to try this experiment again because it made my life seem a little better. And as you know, I think better is better.

If you try this, I would love to hear about your experience below.

Got the post-holiday clutter creep? I’ve got an answer.

The gifts are unwrapped, the tree is on it’s way out, the last of the cookie crumbs have been eaten and lo, you find yourself amidst a pile of post-holiday-clutter-creep. What’re you going to do when you’d rather go bury your head under the covers? You’re going to get up and start by cleaning the kitchen sink.

But what about the Christmas decor that needs put away? Start with the kitchen sink.

But what about the mountain of laundry? Start with the kitchen sink.

But what about the credit card bill? Start with the kitchen sink.

But what about the cat hairball? Start with the kitchen sink.

Whatever life happens to be throwing at you in this moment, start by cleaning your kitchen sink. You will feel immediate beneficial results that will carry with you throughout the day. I’m not kidding about this. It’s better than therapy (well, probably not, but you get my point).

Look, I get it. We’ve all got ten million things to do and only 24 hours to do them in. No matter the length of your to-do list, always begin with the sink. The beauty of starting in the same place is that you won’t question it. It’s just what you do. It becomes routine. You don’t even have to think about it anymore.

Everything begins with your kitchen sink, mostly your health. It’s where you will make up to three meals a day for yourself and/or your family. It’s where you will eventually start your morning by drinking a glass of water to re-hydrate after waking up (you’re doing this, right?). You can’t fill up your water bottle thorough out the day if the sink is filled to the brim with dirty dishes. Believe me, I’ve tried. So start with the sink. That’s it. That’s all. Don’t worry about those other things right now. If that’s all you get to, great. As I like to say around here, better is better.

Now. After your sink is clean, you’re hydrated and fed, you can tackle the clutter. Put on some good music and separate it into keep, giveaway, donate and trash.

Please share your tips and tricks for reducing holiday clutter creep below. I’d love to learn from you!

p.s. This post is NOT sponsored but it is inspired by Flylady, who encourages people to start with the kitchen sink. She’s got all kinds of great advice on keeping your house clean.

Holidays and Stress: let go of one thing

Xmas lights

Anytime my best friend and I are chatting on the phone this time of year and feel overwhelmed by the holiday mumbo-jumbo, she starts singing the lyrics to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and we both start cracking up.

Let’s face it, the holidays are both happy AND stressful. Surpriiiise! They can be both. This often brings up complicated feelings of joy– in giving and witnessing the general holiday splendor, and dread– at the sense of obligation and endless to-do’s.

After writing down my holiday list last week (then wondering how it was all going to get done), I thought I could as least let go of one thing. And quite possibly, that might feel good and lead to letting go of more things. It could be addictive, even.


I started by downsizing the Christmas tree.

Usually we get a big ole Christmas tree and trim the heck out of it. Not this year. I bought a small tree from the local grocery store and called it good. Then I accidentally knocked it over and all the needles fell off, just like a scene out of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Fortunately, Whole Foods had beautiful table top trees that looked hearty enough to withstand a couple of weeks in our dry, arid climate. My Knight In Shining Armor (MKISA) didn’t want to spend more money on a tree (I understand his point, Christmas is expensive enough), but this little pine got put into the cart anyway. My position is this, “He who hath lift no finger to help in Christmas celebration, planning, budgeting, buying, wrapping, packaging, shipping, gifting, baking, decorating, shall hath no opinion on the matter, and be grateful that someone else is willing and able to do all of it.”*

A simplified ‘Deck the Halls’. I like it.

Letting go of the big Christmas tree was easier than I imagined– much to the dismay of my teenagers, who wanted the full-blown-decked-out Christmas tree of yore and MKISA, who would prefer to just skip Christmas altogether. I might be disappointing my loved ones but I figure I can live with that. If it scars them for life, I reason, they can look forward to having fodder for juicy therapy sessions later in life.

A small tree seems like a nice compromise: we get to admire the pretty lights, it smells like pine, and is a nice place to deposit the gifts, despite the fact that my son is worried it isn’t a BIG enough spot (please note * above). Another interesting phenomenon is that as your child grows into a polite, thoughtful and gracious teenager *insert canned laughter here*, the gifts get smaller and more expensive. So what I’m saying is, the gifts will fit underneath the tree just fine.

And as I like to say around here, better is better!

What might you let go of this holiday? Comment below!