Declutter 2015: The Kitchen

Decluttering the kitchen

Challenge: I am tasking myself with going through my entire house and getting rid of everything that we don’t need anymore. I’m also taking this opportunity to repair things that are broken, eliminate annoyances, develop new systems, and just streamline as much as possible. See more posts in the series >>

Turns out our kitchen really wasn’t that cluttered. It’s a place (maybe the only place) where everything has a place, and I try to keep things pretty organized, so there wasn’t much to declutter.

Even so, I got rid of:

  • an entire shelf of baby sippy cups we no longer used
  • all the mismatched kid plates, in favor of those that nest together
  • two Halloween-themed baking pans (think I used them once and didn’t even remember I had them)
  • a scratched non-stick pan
  • a bunch of expired medications

I also relocated a few pieces to different, more accessible cabinets and a few lesser-used items (like cookie cutters) to storage in the basement.

We spent a few months making meals from things in our pantry and freezer. It took a while, and they weren’t the most fabulous of dinners, but it was pretty satisfying to clear it all out.

And this is a very small thing, but I couldn’t stand my can opener. It was one of those that cuts the edge of the can instead of the top, but I swear it didn’t work like it should. No one else can seem to get it to work right either. Annoying things have to go. I replaced it using a gift card that had long been languishing in my wallet. Double win!

We also finally (finally!) called the stove repairman. We had a weird issue where the stove intermittently wouldn’t light. Sometimes it was fine. Other times, I had a pan of something waiting to go in and no heat. There was an issue with a film on the ignitor or sensor or something. Easily fixed and now no more trouble. It was even under warranty!

Microwave on the counter

For a while I’ve had this idea to build a shelf for our microwave to get it off the counter and make it look more built in. But before I actually did that, I constructed a little makeshift shelf out of some scrap lumber and squinted to pretend it looked nicer than it did. And you know what? The whole concept was uglier than you can imagine. So I’m going to shelve that idea. And sometimes cutting the reins on a “someday I will do this” idea is important as letting go of physical things.

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up

I just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Have you heard of it? I found it completely inspiring, and it’s changed the way I feel about things and taking care of things. I sort of want to read it a second time!

I’ve been tackling our house room by room, but I’m going to switch things up and start following the method as suggested in the book, which dictates an order based on categories of items (clothing, books, papers, etc.). We’ll see how that goes.

So, next up: The return of the clothes.

Printable Mickey Mouse party banner add-on

Mickey Mouse party banner

For Etta’s Minnie and Mickey Mouse party, I added these Mickey Mouse flags to one of the printable Happy Birthday banners from my shop (available for instant download). I was going for simple, and it doesn’t get much easier than print, cut, and hang with clothespins.

I’m making the Mickey silhouette flags available here as a free printable. They coordinate with any of the banners in my shop to make cute and easy decorations for your Mickey Mouse party. Print on any color paper to match your party’s color scheme.

Click here to download the Mickey PDF >>
Personal use only, please.

Mickey Mouse party banner

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What should I sell on Etsy? 14 tips to help you decide

What should I sell on Etsy? 14 tips to help you decide

For years before starting my business, I had a deep-seated desire to make things and sell them. The only catch was I wasn’t sure what those things should be exactly. I’m a creative person, and I’ve made a lot of different things over the years. This blog documents that. Still, if you had asked me three years ago what would be in my future shop, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you.

There were certainly kernels of ideas, but it took a lot of thinking and a lot of trial and error to decide what I could sell and what people wanted to buy. And even since opening my shop, my offerings have evolved almost 100 percent as I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. It’s an ongoing process.

So you’re crafty too, and you want to sell on Etsy. You’ve got ideas, but you’re not sure which idea is the right idea. If you are just getting into business, and you’re trying to develop your products, here are some points to consider.

1. Are you making something people want to pay for?

This is probably the most important question to answer. And it’s OK if the answer is “no.” Just because your craft doesn’t translate to a salable product doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

Ask a trusted friend or two what they think. Seek honest opinions rather than ego boosting. Don’t cloud your own judgement with too many opinions, though. In the end, trust yourself.

If the answer is still “no,” and your heart is set on starting a business, what can you do to tweak your idea to be more attractive to potential customers? (Experiment with different materials, get some help picking out trendier colors or patterns, add interesting details, etc.)

2. Do you enjoy making what you make?

It seems a bit silly to even ask this, but pretend this is going to be what you’re doing for the next 3-5 years. I like to sew, but I don’t think I would like to sew everyday, all the time. If you’re going to stick with it, you’ve got to find the thing that you can do over and over and over and over that still makes you happy.

3. Search to do research.

Take a look around Etsy. Are there similar products to yours already listed? How are yours different? Are they better than what is already there? Will they stand out? How many results do you get when you search? When you type your keywords in the search box, what phrases are displayed in the drop down box? Those are clues to what people are searching for and how it’s phrased. Use the clues.

4. Don’t invent a product.

Not to discourage anyone from being clever or creative, but online, people have to know your product exists so they can search for it.

Maybe you want to start selling fashion elbowpads. Or shoes for cats. Or even something not quite so ridiculous. That’s great! Maybe they’ll take off; who am I to judge? But you are going to be spending a massive amount of time and effort educating your customer about your product. People won’t get it. Confused customer = no bueno. It’s not that they won’t like it, but you’ll have to do a lot of explaining and “selling” before they realize they want/need it. And they may not stick around for your whole sales pitch.

On the other hand, let’s say you want to sell t-shirts. Everyone already understands what a t-shirt is. No need to explain. And people are searching Etsy for t-shirts. Get my drift?

(But hey, if you really believe you have a world-changing idea and the passion to back that up, just go for it. Don’t let me stop you!)

5. What are your start up costs?

Do you need tools or equipment you don’t own already? How about a camera or a sewing machine or computers or printers or software? Can you afford any/all of the things? Even if it’s only a few hundred dollars, it can be hard to spend money without any guarantee of sales. Don’t fret. Figure out the bare minimum of what you need to get started. Maybe you won’t be able to execute all of your ideas at first. Start small. Sell enough to fund the next step in your business. Build your business off your profits.

6. You need to make the same things over and over again.

I’m pretty sure I would have scoffed at this advice prior to opening my own shop. And who am I to stop you from doing things the hard way? But unless you are making high-end pieces, selling only one-of-a-kind items can be tough. Making the same thing over and over again comes with efficiencies. Certainly, you get better and faster at making things with more practice, but also:

  • You take the product photos and write the description once. This works for made-to-order items and others with little variation. If it’s not clear, make sure you state that the item your customer will receive is not the exact item in the photo, but a duplicate.
  • You know what the item weighs, how to package it, and what it costs to ship. You can estimate all day long, but the actual experience makes things a lot easier.
  • You can set the item to auto-renew if it sells. Your total number of items in your shop doesn’t decrease. Someone else can buy the item again as soon as it’s relisted.
  • Renewing listings is good for SEO. Sometimes Etsy listings are indexed by Google. But what if your one-of-a-kind item sells? If someone lands on that page through a Google search and the item is sold, it’s gone, and no one can buy it. If you have renewed the listing, the page your customer lands on is live, and they can buy your item.

Certainly you can have some variation with this; switch up the colors or fabrics or make other minor adjustments. Just remember to update your photos and descriptions to reflect the changes.

7. Is it worth your time?

How long does it take you to make something? Even if you are charging appropriately for the time you invest, can you make enough product to fill a shop? An Etsy storefront with only a handful of items won’t get you noticed by buyers.

8. Choose plentiful and reliable raw materials and supplies.

Are your raw materials and supplies easy to find at reasonable prices? Can you buy more when you run low? Craft stores are OK for some things (when taking advantage of sales and coupons!), but you will probably need to seek out some sources where you can buy in larger quantities at cheaper-than-retail prices. I promise this will lead you into endless Google searching, so be careful not to fall down the rabbit hole. If you are using rare, vintage, or found materials, make sure you have dependable sources and a large stock pile. Also, be conscious of the time you’re putting into research and sourcing.

9. Think about how to photograph the item.

Have you tried taking pictures of your items yet? Are they reflective? Are they big? Do you need models? How easy will it be for you to accomplish this? Photos are everything on Etsy. Assess your photography skills. Spend some time taking sample photos, and see what issues you run into. You might want re-think your items if the photography is too much of a project for you. (Or consider hiring out or bartering with a photographer!)

10. Do your items look good in photos?

Even with great photos, there’s a disconnect in online shopping. Etsy buyers can’t touch your item to see the time and care you put into creating it. Online shoppers are buying a photo and a promise that the actual item will be the same or better than what they see in the photo. Do your photos give them confidence to take that leap of faith with you?

11. Consider your profit margins.

Can you sell your items at reasonable prices while still valuing your own time? Price out your raw materials, Etsy listing and transaction fees, credit card fees, and shipping supply costs. Don’t forget you will be paying taxes on your profits! What’s left? If you ever plan to do wholesale, cut that figure in half. Can you still make a decent profit? There is no right or wrong answer to this, but be nice to yourself. Value the time you put into your craft. Don’t work for free or a pittance, even if it’s a “hobby.” (Pssst: A hobby is no longer a hobby if your intent is to make money.)

12. Don’t forget about shipping.

Shipping products is a big part of online selling, so consider it from the very beginning. How much do your items weigh? Pack one up, weigh it, and get an estimate for how much it might cost to ship. Is it reasonable? Would it be a deterrent to buyers? Are your items large? Can you ship via regular mail or will you need a special carrier?

What kind of shipping supplies will you need? How many types/sizes of envelopes or boxes will you need to stock? It’s easy to tie up a lot of money in shipping supplies that just sit there until you get a sale.

13. You never know what is going to sell until it does.

Ultimately, it’s all trial and error. No one really knows what will sell and what won’t. Most of the time, it’s hard to predict. Give an item a full year on Etsy before deciding it’s unsalable. I’ve had items listed for nine months before the right buyer came along. Twenty cents for four months is a minimal investment to keep an item in the shop, so unless it’s somehow hurting the look of your shop, just keep it up. Stick it in a “sale” category, if you must. It’s another item to bolster your total number of items.

14. Some things are going to sell better in person.

Maybe you own it at craft fairs, but Etsy seems intimidating. That’s OK. Etsy is a different animal with its own rules. There’s a lot of competition out there, and many items will be easier to sell when customers can touch and feel them in person. It’s OK not to play the Etsy game. Find a venue that works best for you, and stick with it.

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Get more tips about selling on Etsy >>

14 Tips from my first year on Etsy

Minnie Mouse birthday party punch board activity

Minnie Mouse Birthday Party Punch Board

This punch board took Elise and me less than an hour to make. It’s a kids’ party version of The Price is Right game “Punch-A-Bunch”. And who doesn’t love a good TPIR game?

I love this idea because it is so adaptable to any party or theme (or no theme at all!). You can fill the cups with candy, notes, prizes, or even number the cups and make up some elaborate choose-your-own-adventure-type game.

Dollar store paper cups used to create the punch board compartments

I started with a round MDF tabletop I picked up at a thrift store because it was what I scrounged up in the basement. Of course, a sturdy piece of cardboard or something like that would also work too. I’m a big proponent of use what you’ve got.

I took a couple of packs of dollar store paper party cups and arranged them on the board. I decided to do way more compartments than the number of kids at the party so they could do more than one or adults could give it a try.

Set up cups for punch board

My circle ended up being 19 cups. While I was figuring things out, Elise filled the cups with Hershey Kisses.

We inserted secret notes in some compartments!

A few of the cups contained a special note that told the lucky puncher to punch another cup.

Cut squares of tissue paper

I cut one sheet of tissue paper into squares/rectangles big enough to cover the mouth of the cup plus a little overhang. This was very imprecise. Just rough cuts.

Use a glue stick on the top of the cup

Add a square of tissue paper on top of the cupWrap tissue paper on top of the cups

Then Elise ran a glue stick around the mouth of the cup, and I took a small square of tissue paper and placed it on top and pressed everything secure.

We let the glue dry for a while, then I used a hot glue gun to glue the cups to the board. Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of that, but I just eyeballed it. No measuring or anything.

I added ears and a bow to complete the Minnie Mouse look. The ears were actually the foam core cutouts from the ball toss activity I also made. The bow was made from a scrap of leftover fabric.

This was so easy and the kids loved it so much. Don’t be surprised if this idea pops up again for our next party!

Get a kiss from Minnie!

Party punch board for kids Party punch board for kids Party punch board for kids

The punch board after all the fun

Mickey and Minnie Mouse birthday party

Mickey and Minnie Mouse Birthday Party

Etta turned two a couple of weekends ago, and there was no doubt this girl needed a Mickey and Minnie Mouse birthday party. She is obsessed. I decided to steer away from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse direction and toward something simpler: red, black, white, polka dots, and Mickey ears.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse Birthday Party Invitation

I created the invitations by printing on blank polka-dot note cards I found on clearance at Joann. I scanned an Instax photo we took at Disney World and printed copies. The Mickey and Minnie stickers are a free download from Disney that I printed on label paper and cut out.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse Birthday Party Door SIgn

Mickey and Minnie Mouse Birthday Party

The large Mickey and Minnie banner is actually a cotton fabric panel (like to make a quilt or something). I had a vague notion that I could draw some oversize Mickey and Minnie cutouts on cardboard, but this was just so much easier. I sewed a simple rod pocket at the top and slid in a dowel so that it would hang flat.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse cupcakes

Mickey Ears cupcake

I ordered the cupcakes from the grocery store bakery. They had the Mickey and Minnie design in their catalog, and it was too easy to say, “and a dozen of those, please.” I added the cookie ears to the chocolate cupcakes using mini Oreos. Took about two minutes. So simple.

Mickey Mouse cookies

We made the Mickey ears cookies ourselves, though, with this Mickey Mouse cookie cutter. My mom made the cookies, and then I dipped the ears in melting chocolate. We also packaged them up as party favors. (See below!)

Minnie Mouse birthday party

Mickey Mouse birthday party

I made a bunch of ear headbands for guests to wear, but they all ended up falling apart over the course of the party. I used stiff felt and hot glued the ears to dollar store headbands. I should have known hot glue and plastic aren’t best friends, so if you’re going to attempt it, I’d advise to use some other method. In hindsight, I should have just made the Mickey ears party hats like I did before.

Mickey Mouse birthday party decorations

I almost forgot to mention the red pennant flags! I made them for Elise’s grocery store birthday party last year, and was excited to use them again. I never really get to reuse any of the party decorations I make because they are usually too specific.

Mickey Mouse Happy Birthday banner

I printed this happy birthday banner from my own shop, and made some Mickey silhouette flags as an add-on. Look for a printable soon!

Activities

For the parties we’ve had thus far at our house, I like to have activities that require little supervision, where kids can come and go. There’s no party agenda or schedule. It’s a mixed group of ages and not at all organized. Anyway, the stations seem to work; everyone can do what they want to do, and skip what they want to skip.

“Get a kiss from Minnie” Punch Board

Minnie Mouse birthday party punch board

I saw the idea for a “punch board” here, but basically, it’s a kids’ party version of The Price is Right game “Punch-A-Bunch”. We filled the compartments with Hershey Kisses and told the kids to “get a kiss from Minnie!” All the kids really loved it. I will have a post about the specifics coming soon.

Get a kiss from Minnie sign Party punch board for kids

Mickey Mouse Ball Toss


Mickey Mouse ball toss party game

I originally saw the Mickey ball toss game here, and decided to make my own out of black foam core. I traced some bowls and cut out the circles with an X-ACTO knife. It took all of about 10 minutes. Then I joined it with another piece of foam core with some packing tape on the underside to make it more like a sandwich board. We ended up resting it on the ottoman so it didn’t get knocked over as much. We have a set of ball pit balls we rarely use, so I had my girls sort out all the red ones, and we put them in a black and white bin we had from Target.

Mini notebook craft

Kids party craft table

I always try to come up with a party craft that won’t make a huge mess and doesn’t require a lot of adult help. These mini notebooks fit the bill perfectly. I assembled an assortment of decorations the kids used to decorate the covers. Mickey stickers, alphabet stickers, paper scraps, Mickey Mouse stampers, a Mickey paper punch, washi tape, markers, pencils, glue sticks, and scissors. Ninety percent of it were supplies I already had, so I was happy to use it up.

Handmade notebook party favorsKids party craft station

As an extra touch, I printed out some images I found of how to draw Mickey Mouse and taped them up on the wall near the craft table. I have a range of ages to consider from my niece who is 12 down to a one-year-old. So having activities that can scale is important. Plus the old timey sketches are super cute.

Vintage how to draw Mickey Mouse Vintage Mickey Mouse sketches

Hidden Mickeys

Hidden Mickey party game

If you’re a Disney fan, you might be familiar with the “Hidden Mickey” concept. Mickey head silhouettes are scattered throughout the theme parks (both on purpose and accidentally) where observant park guests have a fun time spotting them. I thought it might be fun to hide a few around our house for the party, so I created these paper Mickey silhouettes with some circular paper punches. Elise helped me “hide” them, so many were not exactly camouflaged, though all were in plain sight.

Mickey Mouse party game Hidden Mickey party game

Party Favors

Mickey Mouse cookie party favor

My recent decluttering spree has me feeling uneasy about buying lots of little trinkets as party favors. I kind of go back and forth about junk toys because the kids just get so much joy out of them. Mine do anyway. But then you know, they end up on the floor and everywhere and eventually in the landfill. The dilemmas of a modern mom. Anyway, this time for favors, I opted for the consumable kind.

Certainly, the notebook craft I mentioned above will get used up and eventually recycled. And the cookies will be eaten. No junk toys here.

Mickey Mouse party favor

etta-2

This was a super fun party to create, and I know Etta loved the Mickey and Minnie theme. Can’t believe this girl is two!

Want more Mickey Mouse party ideas?

Check out the Magic Kingdom party we threw a few years ago >>
Mickey Mouse party favor tags >>
Mickey Mouse ears party hats >>