Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Clean With Me Videos — and Kittens!

Are you guys pulling your hair out too every time you check the news?

It puts me in a perpetual state of disbelief, despair and discouragement. I will still continue to protest, call my representatives and give to organizations that need our help — but I do think it’s important to balance out activism with sanity breaks.

That break might be different things for different people, but I really like to watch cleaning videos on YouTube. Yes, videos where people wander around their homes and dust, and put things in the dishwasher, and fold their laundry. It’s calming and soothing. And even when my own house is messy, watching these videos still (inexplicably) feels calming. My personal favorite is How Jen Does it. Outwardly, I have very little in common with a stay-at-home-mom in suburban Michigan who has two teenage boys, but I love how clutter-free yet homey her house is. I think she embodies “living with less” but still having her own style really well.

I know watching someone clean doesn’t do it for everyone (the videos made Matt want to run for the hills — houses that are too clean give him the heebie jeebies), but I encourage you to find or rediscover your guilty pleasure. And then, let your brain focus on that, instead of the news, for at least 15 minutes a day. The world may be blowing up around you, but somewhere near Detroit there are gleaming, clutter-free granite countertops and cookies baking in the oven.

And if that doesn’t work, try this. If you are a Chrome user, install this widget (Make America Kittens Again). It turns all photos of Trump to pictures of kittens. If that doesn’t lower your blood pressure just a wee bit, I don’t know what will. Oh. Baby sloths. Those work too.

Cleaning White Sneakers

In the eight nine ten? years that Lar and I have been writing Asian Cajuns, I think I’ve written at least three posts about shoe care. I don’t what it is, but my love of shoe polish and shoe cleaning runs deep. I caught the bug early on when I discovered my dad’s shoe polish kit in his closet and watched him buff his work shoes. Newly cleaned shoes are as satisfying as a new coat of paint  and it’s so quick. Instant gratification, my friends.

stan-smiths-before-cleaning

A couple of months ago I was lamenting to Lar about how stained and sad my Stan Smiths were looking. I love having a minimal shoe collection, but it means my shoes start looking worn really, really fast because I wear the same pair almost every day. And because Stan Smiths are white and I live in a state that has mud that is as red as the president-elect’s face while he tweets, my sneakers were looking rough.

In the past, I’ve had some success with baking soda and water when cleaning my white canvas sneakers , but felt like I needed something was less harsh for leather. I think it was one of Lar’s co-workers who recommended this Jason Markk essential kit:

jason-markk-cleaning-kit

It comes with a brush and a cleaning solution that is 93% natural and biodegradable – and has a nice fresh clean laundry-like scent to it. To clean your shoes, you put a few drops of the solution on the brush, dip the brush into a bowl of water, and then start scrub-a-dub-dubbing away on your shoes.

sneaker-cleaning-supplies

I only used a few drops to clean both shoes and then just wiped off the soapy water from the shoes when everything looked clean enough. No need to rinse. The solution is so light, it doesn’t leave any residue on the shoe. And ta da!

stan-smiths-after-cleaning

Brand spanking almost-new shoes! They’re not perfect (there are some stains from the laces that wouldn’t budge), but once I put the laces on, they looked so fresh and so clean clean. See?

clean-stan-smith-sneakers

I cleaned the laces with my whites on laundry day (without bleach) and then did a little happy dance in my new-looking Stans.

Good to the Last Drop

This post is less about minimalism and more about trying to save money, but I find that the two topics overlap quite a bit.

I’ve been trying to get better about sticking to a budget for the past two months, which means all thing fun things eating out, clothing purchases, and makeup buying have been severely cut down.

I had my makeup budget set for the month when I realized I was at the end of my primer. So out of desperation I cut the container open and realized that I had at least another two weeks worth – score!

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Just look at that!

plentyofprimer

I picked up a little sample container last time I was at the Nordstrom beauty counter (pre-budgeting, obviously) and used a small spoon to scoop the remaining primer into the container.

filledsample

Alright, I know this isn’t a groundbreaking post, but I love it when I end up being more of a minimalist when I’m not even trying. Instead of going out and buying some more primer, I’m fully using what I have. If that’s not minimalism – I don’t know what is.

Plus, now my face primer matches my eye primer and they’re both in my favorite colors – black and white. It’s the little things, am I right?

primersfinished

And yes, I see how unminimalist-like it is to have two primers, but minimalism is a journey. . . not a destination. Well, it kind of is like a destination, but I’m obviously still working on that!

Empties

Ever since I started this journey towards minimalism, I’ve been practicing this not-so-novel method: not buying replacement products until I completely run out of them. I know, it’s not groundbreaking, but for me it’s a complete mind shift – especially when it comes to beauty products*.

Pre-minimalism-journey, if my favorite foundation or cleanser was feeling every so slightly empty, I would rush out to Target/CVS/Sephora to replenish it. So for at least a couple of weeks, I would have two of the same product in my bathroom cabinet. I blame my dad for having this mentality. Growing up we never ran out of shampoo, nail polish remover, toothpaste, canned goods, paper products, body lotion, or any other number of products because we always had extra in the house. This was due to the fact that my dad would alway buy products that were both on sale and had a coupon regardless of whether or not we needed said item at that moment.

I’m sure he saved our family a lot of money in the long run, but with minimal storage space and a *ahem* slightly more expensive taste than my dad (goodbye Suave and VOL shampoos), coupon cutting and stocking up doesn’t work for me. Plus, the more I buy, the less I know what I have – stuff always gets stuck in the back of a closet somewhere and I never see it again.

And there is an added bonus to waiting. Now that I’ve been using this method of only purchasing items when I’m completely out, I find that I can live without some products. I used to use a fancy toner. When that ran out, I spent a few days using witch hazel before rushing out to replace it, and found that witch hazel worked just as well.

So that brings me to the topic of this post – empties! I always like watching empty videos on YouTube because it’s so satisfying to see things that have been completely used up. For those of you who feel the same, here are my most recent empties:

Bumble and Bumble Dryspun Finish – This is basically the same thing as Oribe Texturizing Spray. It doesn’t smell quite as good, but it works just as well and I can get it at my local salon. I really love how it makes my hair look piece-y and it adds the perfect amount of volume. The main drawback is the price. It’s $31 and the bottle runs out super fast. I’m on my second can and I probably won’t repurchase it again unless I win the lottery or throw my budget out the window.

Bioderma – Lar got me hooked on this micellar water years ago when she was living in Scotland. I purchased this bottle a while ago in Canada. It’s available online in the states, but I don’t know of any stores that sell it (it’s available everywhere in Europe). It’s lightweight and non-greasy, but also really effective at removing makeup. Once I finished the bottle, I purchased Garnier’s michellar water at CVS since I didn’t feel like ordering a bottle of Bioderma online. It’s a nice dupe, but not quiet as good.

Korres Greek Yoghurt Primer – I go through periods where I try to purchase only all-natural makeup products. I grabbed this at Sephora when I was going through one of those periods and fell in love with it. It’s hard to describe the smell – yogurt-y, but in a good way and not overpowering – and it works just as well as other primers I’ve tried. I couldn’t find it the last time I was in Sephora, so I couldn’t replace it when my tube ran out – sob!

Pixi Glow Tonic – I don’t know why, but I feel like such an adult by upping my toner game with an exfoliating toner. Fancy-sounding, right? It’s not the cheapest skin product out there, but it’s available at Target and makes my skin feel so refreshingly smooth. I’m almost done with my second bottle and will repurchase it again as soon as I’m out.

Josie Maran Whipped Argon Oil Body Butter – I got this in a gift set. I loved the scent and it reminds me of a lighter version of the Body Shop’s body butters. The only downside is that I used it up too fast. I didn’t repurchase it because I’ve tried to be a little more money conscious and have started making my own body butter. More on that in a later post 😉

Holly Beth Organics Chamomile Cleanser – I love everything that Holly Beth Organics makes and it’s a local Atlanta brand – woohoo! The only reason I didn’t repurchase this is that I find foaming cleansers, no matter how gentle, are just too drying on my skin.

Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Foundation – This is hands down my all time favorite foundation. It has a light-to-medium coverage, smells amazing, and never ever broke me out or felt greasy. I purchased this over a year ago in Scotland and I should have bought out the store’s supply. You can purchase some Bourjois products online in the states if you do a quick Google search, but you can buy directly from Bourjois’ website. So I’ll just have to stock up next time I’m in the U.K. If anyone knows of a good substitute or a reliable online store to purchase Bourjois foundation, let me know!

Acure Eye Cream – All natural, affordable, and easy to find (Whole Foods, Target, Earth Fare etc.). I haven’t repurchased it because it didn’t blow me away and I wanted to try some other brands. What I did like about it is the feel, it’s light and non-greasy, and the fact that it lasted forever.

*Obviously there are some products that this process doesn’t work for as well: toilet paper, dish soap, wine. . .

In which I (inadvertently) wear two pairs of underwear

queenieOne of the wonderful results of living with less is that you know exactly what you own. For instance, I used to have a mess of a sock drawer, but I now know exactly what’s in there: orderly wool socks, posh socks, sporty socks — the whole Spice Girls gamut of sockdom.

I also know exactly where to find the stuff I need because I don’t have to keep track of so many things. Generally speaking, things don’t go missing because there’s a space for everything. Since my KonMari weekend a few years back, nothing gets relegated to a miscellaneous closet that never sees the light of day.

Well, that might not be exactly true. I don’t actually know everything I have. But I really thought I did — until last week.

You know what they say, pride goeth before the fall, etc.

I bought this new hoody back in early spring. It’s light-weight and super soft – perfect for a bit of light layering. I ended up wearing it all day last week because Seattle hadn’t quite warmed up to a proper summer just yet.

I went to meetings, I went out to lunch, I had multiple water-cooler chats with coworkers. It was an unusually long day, but my super-soft hoody made me feel comforted even after blinking at a screen for 9 hours.

And then I came home.

I dropped my bags on the floor and shook off my hoodie and on to the floor falls a pair of undies. Mine, thankfully. And clean ones! With no holes (thankyoubabyjesus)! But still!

I have a sneaking suspicion that they were sticking out of my hood all day after comingling with my hoodie in the laundry. I’m praying everyone just thought I had a purple-lined sweatshirt.

So here’s a fair warning to you all: check your hoods before leaving the house, kids! You thought the pant-leg undie-rider was bad, just think what would happen if you casually popped on your hood and a pair of frilly knickers slides over your forehead. (I bet Queenie, pictured at the top of the post there, checked her hood and scarf before venturing out for a bit of fox hunting or what have you — one can never be too careful).

So this really isn’t a helpful post on owning less, but this incident has really made me seriously reconsider the true genius of days-of-the-week underwear.

Oh and guess what, guys?! I actually have two outfit posts lined up for this week and next. So hold on to your hats, kiddos, AsianCajuns is back in business!

Tip #3 Living with Less

You’re out shopping and you see something that catches your fancy. Even before trying it on, you think, “I must have this thing!”

Now, pause.

Take a hard look at it, that thing you must have. And now imagine it rumpled and crumpled in your laundry basket. Or how about how it will look after a few washes — hanging forlornly in your closet with the hem slightly askew and the color dulled.

Do you still love it? Or was it just the “new car smell” that wooed you?

I know I’m totally guilty of buying into a store’s display. Color-coordinate like items and place it on the rack with room to breathe, paired next to an air plant and a brimmed-hat for “this-could-be-your-lifestyle” inducement. Gets me nearly every time.

Visualize that-thing-you-must-have away from the yummy scented candles of the store, and it gets way easier to put that item down. I know I really want an item if I imagine it a few years old smushed in a Goodwill rack (with that second-hand smell). If I want it after that visualization, it’s usually a keeper.

Have you ever done this — visualizing new clothes worn? Let me know if you have, or if you give it a go!

Pic above is from the Iris Van Herpen exhibit at the High Museum (closes May 15).

Tip #2 Living with Less

Tip2

Take a trip to the library! Now, I know that might not sound exciting to all of you (and, full disclosure, I’m the bookiest of book worms), but hear me out.

The library is not just good because you will buy fewer books (keeping a library of just books you absolutely love — not just keeping books that you feel you should read at some point in your life), but also, because it’s like shopping!

No, seriously, it is. Not only do you get to browse a huge selection for hours, you get to “buy” things for free! Sure it’s just a loan, but you still get to take your “purchases” home and curl up in your favorite reading nook and get lost in other worlds.

And these worlds don’t have to be Jane Austen’s or Jame Joyce’s if reading isn’t your thing. Check out the fashion books, art books, interior design books, or hunker down in the library with back issues of Vogue or Real Simple.

Checking out books is also a great way to take potential purchases for a test drive. I checked out Patti Smith’s latest on my Kindle at the beginning of the year and loved it so much, I bought a signed hard copy. It’s one I know I’ll return to again and again.

But sometimes the opposite happens. I found myself in Anthropologie the other weekend (the queen siren of consumption temptation!) and spied the new Audrey Hepburn book, Audrey at Home, and immediately my greedy paws snatched it up. My consumer brain started rationalizing this potential purchase right away: “I love Audrey Hepburn! I’ve read all other biographies on her and this is the latest so yeah! Pictures of Audrey never shared before?! Lemme see! I’m sure I’ll cook her recipes again and again because that lady knows how to eat and how to hide it.”

Luckily my much more reasonable other half (thank you, Matteo!) was standing next to me and gently said, why don’t you read it at the library first and then if you love it, you should definitely get it.

My consumer monster brain wanted me to snatch the book from his hands and scurry to the register in defiance, or at the very least have a good pout. But I couldn’t deny he was right.

A month later, after waiting in a hold queue of Audrey-loving library-goers, I had Audrey at Home in my hands! I read it all cover to cover and then flipped through it again and again to soak up all the new Audreyness. And then … I was done. I didn’t actually need to read it again and even turned it in 11 days early because there were other Audrey/library fans waiting for it just as I had been.

Standing in Anthropologie I could have sworn that I NEEDED to have the book — and I really would have felt convinced of that. In that moment. Having a library to turn to, and giving the idea of that NEED some room to breath (away from the heady scent of Anthro candles), surprisingly saved me from making a purchase I ultimately would have enjoyed a few times and then forgotten about.

Yea or nay? Are you also a library fan?

Instead of shopping, ogle some art

Kicking off our new series “Instead of shopping” (aka what to do instead of impulse buying), is art! Now before you think “daubs of paint — yawn,” let me explain (with a bit of a preamble):

I am an art history major (also known as the most-employeable degree ever known to humankind! Errr not). I had no intention of becoming an art history major until I sat in on a introductory class my freshman year and just swooned. Not over the beauty (or the fact that it was easier than a International Relations/Spanish Literature major), but because it made life feel bigger, deeper and more wonderful than anything I had studied before.

And even if you aren’t an art major, or even an art fan, what can change your approach to art is learning just a wee bit about what you’re looking at. And you can do this even if you don’t have a museum in your town or can’t find any satisfying art history books in your local library. Here are two great starting points:

Watching Sister Wendy on the youtubes

This beautiful and free art history site called Art History Project

And now what does this have to do with not shopping? Immersing yourself in a new learning experience (specifically one so enticingly visual) will completely trick your brain out of thinking that getting a pair of booties to go with that dress is of the utmost importance (I mean, you can’t beat this guy at the boot game anyways — Karl Lagerfield wishes he came up with those!).

Let me know — did it work? Did you curb your shopping impulses for the moment?

Tip #1 for living with less

Know that you will get itchy fingers to shop and that’s okay. On those days, avoid Target and other Target-like temptations (see bowls from Anthropologie above — I hear your siren call and I resist. Resist!) at all cost. Cath and I are going to start a series called “Instead of shopping” to give you ideas of what to do when your phalanges get the urge to creep toward your wallet.