Let’s Talk About Self Care: a top 5 list

Face it, when you think about self care, you are probably thinking of spas and pedicures. Right? Full disclosure, I am writing this while waiting for a blue Dead Sea Minerals mask to dry. I’d take a picture, but I can’t smile since the mask is drying and honestly, I am not a selfie person. But that isn’t what self care is all about.

Self care is taking a moment to do something for your mental health. The benefit of visiting a spa is that you can disconnect. But really, how many of us can afford that? Monday was my birthday and I thought about going to get a pedicure, but instead I did my feet myself at home because spending money gives me anxiety. So dropping a chunk of cash in the long run really wouldn’t make me feel any better mentally.

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know my husband is having health issues. We are currently waiting to see if he has been approved for disability. It is a tough reality, but we have accepted it. So that means that we have to find ways to save rather than spend since he is not working. Things have also been tough at work too because two people in my department resigned. So overwhelmed is not even strong enough of a word right now.

So here is a list of my top five low-cost/no-cost self care things that you can do for your mental health:

1. Staycation

To celebrate my birthday and the fact that I had just returned from a week long conference trip, I took the two days off before July 4th. That gave me five days to unwind since my office is closed on the weekends. It would have been nice to have taken a real vacation somewhere, but not this year. Instead, I spent $18 on a cheap vinyl kiddie pool that my son and I setup in the back yard. We have learned that you can’t put a pool in our yard gracefully because of the slop of the yard. In the end, we sat in the pool fully clothed while it was filling with water just to keep the sides up long enough to self stabilize. It was a heat index of 105 degrees, so the pool was really needed if we wanted to be outside. The rest of the time was spent reading and watching movies with the family. Family time is very important for your mental health because the connection with people is something you need even if you are an introvert. Remember that experiences also trump things when it comes to happiness. So an $18 pool wins out over a $1800 vacation because of the experience it gave me and my son. Though he would probably have argued that a trip to Universal Studios would have been better. Honestly though, what will he remember. The only times I remember our family trip to Disney when I was a kid is when I see photos. Instead, my memories are filled with seeing fireworks at the local community college or barbecues in the backyard. Those are the memories that have stuck with me.

2. Budget

I know what you are saying…money gives you anxiety, so how is this self care? There is a piece of mind when you know that it is okay to spend on something like that kiddie pool. Also, even though money is tight, I know that we will be okay. Budgeting helps take out that ambiguity factor. According to Maslow, our happiness is at the top of the pyramid of the Hierarchy of Needs. However, we can’t reach that level if we are constantly worried about food or even a roof over our head. Which leads me to the next item…

3. Safety Net Fund

This could probably be lopped in there with the budget section, but a safety net fund is something everyone should have. For a long time, my husband and I put this on the back burner for when we would get our debt paid down. Then he got sick…when I took over the bills last year, it was one of the first things I did. The idea is that you want to start with $1000 set aside for when those big ticket emergencies pop up. So I set up a free savings account with Capital One because even though they were not exactly the best interest rate (though 1% is not too shabby compared with other banks), the ease of use for their system is really nice as I also have credit cards and my car loan with them. So it is all one interface that I log into. I started out small with $25 deposited ever paycheck. When money was a little better, I adjusted that to $50 and then back down to $25 when things started getting tighter again. When I got a little extra money, that also went into the account. I also opened an account with Long Game which is a gamified savings account app from a bank in Virginia. You receive tokens for depositing money into your account. Those token are used to play games of chance like scratch offs, match games, races with friends, and lotto drawings. You can win coins to play more games or even cash. The games don’t cost you anything, it is all based on how much you deposit. The more you deposit, the more you can play. It is FDIC insured and has a really low interest rate of .1%, but the draw is that some of the games give you a chance to win money. So far I have won about $3. I know, not much, but it is more than my son’s savings account has gained in almost six years with the same amount of money in it. Between Long Game and Capital One, I have reach that $1000 goal,for my safety net fund.

4. Gardening

Gardening is one of those activities that has a two-fold benefit. It can be a mindfulness based activity because of the tranquility feeling it can give us to putter in the dirt or trim leaves, but it can also be a nice benefit for our pocketbooks. I tried for several years to have a traditional garden and every year I failed. So I started small with a patio container garden using pots and herbs. With container gardens, you have many options for what you can grow things in. I have containers from the dollar store that I drilled holes in and added gravel for drainage below the dirt. That same year, my son tried to grow a cucumber plant in a pot. We had basil, mint, and cucumbers all summer. This year I expanded the pot garden. We have cucumbers, peppermint, basil, oregano, rosemary, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, lavender, cucumbers, butternut squash, and zucchini. Most of these were purchased as seedlings from the garden section of the hardware store, but some we also started from seeds. We didn’t think most of the seeds would sprout, but now I have roughly fifteen zucchini plants. My son hates zucchini. I am going to have to get creative when it is time to harvest. So factor in the price of purchasing these fresh at the grocery store and you have your money back and then some in the output. I use a dehydrator for all the herbs that we can’t eat fresh. Honestly, I am Italian but even this is too much fresh basil for me. During the summer I constantly drink ice water with lemon and mint. A health alternative to sugary or caffeinated drinks. It is also nice to sit on the deck in the morning with my coffee and smell the herbs. Very soothing!

Garden Tower Project

Here is a picture. It is a bit overgrown at the moment, I need to harvest some of those herbs.

5. Clean

I know, this is another one that has you shaking your head. But the truth is that clutter and mess is overwhelming to our senses. When our house/apartment is a mess, we feel like we are a mess. It also becomes another thing on our to-do list. You can start small, with just fifteen minutes a day (or broken down into fifteen minutes sections with lots of breaks between sections like my son likes to do). Purging the stuff you don’t need can also be very satisfying. You can donate or have a yard sale. There are also free sites you can post your stuff on if you still want money, but a yard sale isn’t an option. I have been holding on to a lot of clothes since moving to Maryland. They don’t fit, but I always had in the back of my mind that one day I would lose the weight and be able to wear them again. That is something else that can sabotage your mental health. Holding on to those items is just a reminder that there is something wrong with you. But hey, I am healthy and I can always buy new clothes if I do start to lose the weight. So I have been bagging up all those too small clothes and sending them off to thredUP…and using the money gained to buy cute shoes.

There are a lot of other self care things you can do to benefit your mental health. These are just my top five recommendations. Other than a spa trip, what would be some of the things that you would put on your Self Care list?

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Thrifting Haul: a ThredUP Review

I have been experimenting with ThredUP and admit that I have a slight addiction. I had checked out the site a year ago and was not impressed. But recently, I thought I would try it again…especially because I found myself needing to buy new pants. So here is my thrifting haul from the past two months.

That Tahari dress and Chico’s black & white jacket are my two favorite finds. Also that skort is simply amazing! So comfortable and I can style it up to wear to work because it looks like a skirt. Who knew? I am expanding my style repertoire here.

One of the nice things about the site is that you can return items if you decide you don’t really like it or the fit is not quite right. I had a lot of back and forth with packages. Some of the things I ordered said like new, but then had stains or holes when I received them. I think I exchange the same $60 like three times before I finally kept an order. See what is so nice about the returns is that as soon as the preprinted label gets scanned at the post office, your money is credited back to your account. So you can place another order before it even gets back to ThredUP. I had to return boots at Dick’s yesterday for my husband and I am still waiting for those funds to be recredited. You have to be careful though because final sale items like the shirts I ordered are items that you can’t return, so you need to make sure you really love it and that the size will be okay. I got lucky that everything fit, but I did change my mind of somethings in my cart that I was just not sure about.

It looks like I have a lot of clothes and money here, doesn’t it? Well, one of the ways I saved in addition to buying secondhand was to sign up for the site Honey which saved me extra money by automatically checking for discount codes before placing my order. I admit it feels really good to see emails like these:

…and know that you only actually spent like a total of $200 out of pocket. So checkout those discount sites. If you are new to ThredUP, you can also get $10 off by using my code to signup (full disclosure, I also get $10), then share your code with a friend and you both save money too.

I also sent in a clean out bag

…now this is where it gets a little controversial. If you search the Internet, you will find that people have plenty to say about ThredUP when it comes to selling. Honestly, they do not pay much. I sent in 24 items and four still had tags. Eleven were accepted. They bought ten items outright and gave me the credit. One item was listed as consignment which means that they weren’t sure how it would sell, I would also have control over the pricing of that item if it didn’t sell. I didn’t have to worry though because it sold within a week. So how much did I make from my bag? About $15. There was probably about $200 worth of items that still had tags. So lesson here is that you are not going to make money off of selling to ThredUP. If that is you plan, just take your items to a consignment shop. However, if you are just going to donate to one of those clothes bins (which actually just sell your clothes wholesale anyway), then why not try ThredUP and see what you get? I already have another bag ready to go. The tip is to check out their blog and see what they are in need of. I sent in 8 pairs of shorts that were in good condition that just didn’t fit me anymore. They accepted all 8 because that was listed as one of their current needs. If it is summer and you send sweaters, you are unlikely to get such a high acceptance rate.

Buying secondhand can be a great experience. I have had so many compliments on the items I have worn so far. I also feel like I have upgraded my wardrobe a bit better than my Target and Old Navy budget can afford. If you decide to give ThredUP a try, here are some tips to make your experience successful:

  1. Items only stay in your cart for 24 hours. So if you love an item, buy it as soon as possible. Items sell quickly. I had a pair of shoes that I was debating about and missed out when my cart expired. I only missed it by five minutes, but they sold that quickly.
  2. Make sure to check for discount codes before you checkout. If you are new to the site, there is also first time buyer codes as well as first time app user codes. They also had a special sale for Earth Day, so watch for special events like that too.
  3. If you are not buying right away, make sure to favorite the items you are adding to your cart. I missed a cart expiring, but was able to quickly find my items because they were listed on my favorited items page. I currently have another group of items I like, but won’t be devastated if they sell to someone else. This way, when my second clean out bag is processed, I have a list of items waiting for that account credit.
  4. Use the filters for searching. You can search for items by brand like Ann Taylor Loft or by item like dresses. You can also set a filter for your size. Remember though that brands differ in their sizes. I might be a large with one brand, but a extra large with another. I wish you could search by prints, but the closest the keywords work is for colors. So if you are looking for a blue blouse with dragonflies, no luck. However, if you are looking for any blue blouse, you can filter for it. The filter still needs a little work though. Now that I have discovered the magic of skorts, I have tried searching for them. No luck, but scrolling through the all items category there are several listed in my size…and they go quick!
  5. Check out the descriptions. All items, except for purses and final sale items can be returned. So if you unsure, just remember that you can return items, but even the description might be inaccurate. I was buying like new items only at first and one sweater had a big hole and a blouse a paint stain on the sleeve. I sent them back for the credit to my account. Buying only like new was going to be my deciding factor, but then I had that experience. Once my clean out bag was processed, I also saw that one of the new with tags dresses was listed as showing wear and no mention of the tags. So now I am a little more open about my selections…as long as it is returnable.
  6. Wash items carefully. Once you receive the item and are sure you are going to keep it, make sure to wash it. These are secondhand items after all. I urge you to be careful though. I turned a load of laundry splotchy pink because of a scarf I bought. Thankfully, I caught it before it went in the dryer. A second wash with a scoop of Oxyclean saved the day.
  7. Do some sleuthing before buying. A lot of the retail prices are guesstimates based on the market. So if you are not familiar with the brand, check out the prices on their site first. For example, a lot of the Old Navy stuff can typically be purchased for similar prices brand new on clearance on the Old Navy site. Though I have purchased items if I really liked them and knew it was no longer being sold. ThredUP tries to carry only items in style within the past five years.
  8. If you are planning on selling, make sure your items are clean and something you would buy yourself. i.e. don’t sent items with stains or holes. Check out the blog for what is selling. Pants right now are a no. My first item to sell actually was a pair of khakis, but there are so many dress pants on the site, that they are unlikely to take them. Also suits will be listed as separates.

Happy Thrifting!