Non-Consumer Photo Essay — Thrifty Decor Edition

by Katy on March 12, 2015 · 26 comments

I have a shocking confession to make, which is this:

I love having fun with decor, but I hate spending money on decor.

Yup, real shocker!

My 1914 house went through a 1940’s kitchen remodel, which included these built-in spice shelves. And although I labeled my spice jars at some point, those labels had become faded and crappy looking.

Spices  - before

Impressive, no?

Old label -- before

But then I somehow remembered that my cousin’s wife had attractively labeled spices, and sent her an e-mail to ask what the brand was. (Yes, I am exciting, so colossally exciting!) Although her spice labels were Martha Stewart, she’d just picked up some similar ones at Target and offered to mail a pack to me. (My cousin married a very nice woman!) And since I still had a fine tip white pen leftover from when I made that painted argyle table for my son, it was just a matter of attempting some decent handwriting.

Better, yes?

Spices -- after

Even though I’d gone until the second week of March before buying anything other than food this year, I finally broke down and make a purchase. I love the look of vintage needlepoint and embroidered pillows for my midcentury couch, so I was utterly unable to resist this adorable handmade froggy pillow. Do you not see the dragonfly border?! And since I’d recently been gifted $50 in Goodwill gift cards, the $4.99 price tag fit nicely into my spend-nothing budget.

Goodwill frog pillow

So perfect with my blue floral Goodwill pillow and my mother’s 1972 patchwork needlepoint pillow that I snuck out of her house.

Needlepoint pillows

Isn’t it groovy? I used to love choosing which square was my favorite when I was a kid.

1972 patchwork pillow

Having fun with decor without spending more than a few dollars here and there. That and straight up thievery.

Such a shocking confession!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Sabrina | Frugal Italian Family March 12, 2015 at 4:35 am

I love to renew my home decor spending little money too. Your spice jars look fabulous!


Diane March 12, 2015 at 4:47 am

That froggy pillow is exceptional! Last summer I rearranged everything in my small space for a new lighter look. Amazing how little changes can bring a new spirit to a room.


Katy March 12, 2015 at 7:15 am

Thank you, I kind of love the pillow as well!


Nathalie March 12, 2015 at 4:50 am

I love the new look of your spice jars, Katy, and it’s awesome that you were able to get the labels for free from your cousin! You did a nice job with the calligraphy too.


Katy March 12, 2015 at 7:14 am

I did send her one of my $5 Swagbucks Amazon codes as a thank you. I’m a mooch, but a frugal one!


mary March 12, 2015 at 8:22 am

love your blog, but for some reason, i havent got your dauly emails anymore


Karen March 13, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Happened to me too. I suddenly realized I was not getting my NCA anymore, waaaah! I had to choose a new RSS reader and then I started getting them again. Maybe you need one too?


JD March 12, 2015 at 8:26 am

Oh my gosh, I made a pillow front similar to that when I was a teen. And guess what? It’s gone. I don’t know where. How I wish I still had it. I love your mother’s pillow — I mean YOUR pillow. Ahem.
I’ve realized I’m um, settled (sounds better than boring) in my decorating. I have loved basically the same colors all my life. These days, when I want to redecorate on zero budget, I can often go to an old item I already have and just put it in a new place without fear of clashing, because I’ve been pretty consistent in my decorating colors for over 30 years. I realized I use the same colors over and over when I was putting up my then 20 year old wedding china when we moved into our new house, and I suddenly noticed I had unknowingly had my walls painted in colors taken straight from my china, which had been hidden in boxes when I chose the wall colors. It sure makes decorating easier when the old décor items match the current colors. It may be boring to some, but those colors are my old friends and make me feel good.


Katy March 12, 2015 at 9:46 am

Maybe I bought your old pillow! 😉


LatteLaura March 12, 2015 at 10:11 am

New reader here really enjoying your blog! What cool pillows, and I love how the spice jars turned out!


Lilypad March 12, 2015 at 11:05 am

I haven’t been getting the daily emails either, since the end of February. I have been a subscriber since 2008 – 2009 or so. I subscribed again under a different email and I just realized I haven’t been getting any there either. You may want to look into it when you have time. Fortunately, as a member of your Facebook group, I’ve been alerted when new posts are up.


Elizabeth B March 12, 2015 at 11:11 am

I’m pretty sure that thievery works out better in the long run if you don’t announce it to the world. ;D

The spice jars look wonderful. Amazing what a good wash and new labels can accomplish.


Jill March 12, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Aawww! Froggy pillow! I love it – what a great find.

Just FYI, the RSS bookmarks function stopped working, so I subscribed through Feedburner but haven’t gotten any messages. Some weird Wordpress thing probably.


Marcia March 12, 2015 at 2:58 pm

I like vintage stuff and I like not spending a lot on it, although I WILL spend on something I love. Found myself explaining to my granddaughter not long ago that one of my living rooms lamps cost $300 and the other cost $30. Because I liked them both, although I would have liked the more expensive one to be cheaper.

Much of my decor is photos of friends and relatives anyhow, and a lot is also little “souvenirs” of past travels. May not mean much to others but they remind me of good times past. I am 72, and the word for the year is DE-CLUTTER. Without a lot of help from my pack-rat husband, I am determined to get rid of stuff we no longer need or want or just plain are tired of. Not making fast progress so far, but progress all the same. I am not into moving furniture around as once you’ve found an arrangement that works, I don’t see why it needs changing. But I do change out decor items—I have several different ways to arrange “collections” on the shelf that serves as a mantle. When I get tired of family photos, I can switch to lighthouses, etc. Or move pictures on the walls to different rooms. Only real purchases these days are likely to be replacements—whether furniture, food, or other household items.


PoppyEcho March 13, 2015 at 9:21 am

Try the Marie Kondo method!


Jean Schultz March 12, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Love your mom’s pillow! I too love to “refresh” my decor via thrift shops…..especially this time of year.


Christine March 12, 2015 at 7:03 pm

I’m glad others mentioned the missing posts from Katy. I haven’t received an email since March 2. I re -subscribed under a different email just today.

Love the spice jars, Katy. I did something similar. I saved up old pickle jars, cleaned them out really well, then spray painted the lids a pretty red and put labels on them. They look great!


Katy March 13, 2015 at 8:11 am

Yes, this recently came to my attention, and I realize that I haven’t been getting the e-mails either. I’ll see what I can do about it. This has happened before and then it fixes itself, which is always my first choice.


K D March 13, 2015 at 4:47 am

Your spice jars look amazing. One of the best before and after cases ever.

Right now I am working on decluttering to spruce things up.


Isabelle March 13, 2015 at 9:16 am

I have this love/hate relationship with everything ”decor”, because…

* I appreciate a great decor, but I don’t like to spend on ”futile” things
* I have 2 young kids that are great at making messes, so my ”decor” is very functionnal. Nothing fancy or too expensive that they can ruin.
* I find that when you start buying fancy things, then you just can`t stop because then it would look silly. So then everything need to be bought fancy. So I don`t even bother starting to try to fancy-up the place. Too much work, too much spending.
* I hate clutter and knick-knacks. And more decor, to me, means more stuff laying around for ”nothing”
* I don`t dust very often. Then again, more ”decor’ = more dusting to do.
* I tend more toward mimimalism. We have a lot of stuff in my home, but it mostly belong to my family. I, myself, like to clear the space and since I can`t get rid of their things I tend to minimize mine.
* I want to live in a place where I can go around without fear of breaking something, and that if my kid makes a mark on the kitchen table it`s really not the end of the world. Just a “place to live“, not a place to walk around on eggshells.

So, all and all, I can appreciate the visual of a beautiful house with a great decor, but I am quite happy with my small functional/liveable/cosy/down-to-heart/no-pretention town house! 🙂

Have a great frugal day!


Katy March 13, 2015 at 9:34 am

I think you have a incorrect vision of my home. Nothing is particularly breakable, which is tested on a daily basis as my younger son is constantly practicing soccer tricks in the house. My decor focus is that if I’m going to have something in my home, I’d like it to be either functional or beautiful. And if those two can combine, all the better!


Isabelle March 14, 2015 at 3:30 am

Oh no, i was just talking in general. Our homes are probably similar in fact. Too me, when I ear “decor”, I see fancy expensive stuff that’s all. I know this was not the kind of stuff you were talking about. I guess I was thinking more in the lines of “decor magazines” when I answered.


Katy March 14, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Ahhh . . . I see. 😀


Thea March 13, 2015 at 1:37 pm

I have to say, home decor is a huge weak spot for me. I love buying stuff to make my home and garden nice. I buy most things used through craigslist, because I love finding cool stuff, but I have to say I give in to temptation too often on new items as well.

Craigslist and thrift shop finds are so great because you know that you’re not adding to the cycle.


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