Things I Really Wanted But Didn’t Buy

Friends! I made it through week one of my spending freeze. The biggest impact so far has been the increasing awareness of just how often I feel compelled to buy things I don’t truly need. As part of my work with clients, I am often sourcing products from my favorite stores, so temptation is everywhere. As planned, I’ve been jotting down all of the things I really want to buy. When I see something I want, I notice the urge, write down the item that I want, and (get this!) walk away. Apparently, saving money can be just that simple. Below I’m sharing all of the things I saw, and wanted, but did not buy this month.

A one month spending freeze challenge is difficult. Here's all the things I did not buy, but wanted to!

This Travel Bag // This Pepper Mill // These Bowls // This Hand Soap // This Book // This Basket

While I love all of these items to bits, I do not actually need any of them. I have hand soap and coffee table books, and handbags and baskets. I own a pepper mill that grinds pepper perfectly well. A friend of mine recently shared that she travels with a little list of things she needs and only allows herself to buy those specific items when she’s out shopping. I don’t have a nice matching set of mixing bowls so I’m keeping these gorgeous bowls on my list for a future investment.

What’s become very apparent is that even though I consider myself a minimalist, this spending freeze exercise has made me aware of how often I think about material things. I’m often on the hunt for the perfect thing, and I spend time buying things, styling things, contemplating things, organizing things, and inevitably returning things.  It takes a lot of mental energy.

My goal for the next few weeks of my experiment is to go on a real “thing vacation,” and take a break from contemplating things and from buying them. The hope is that I will have tons of mental energy freed up for other things that I care about.

Of course I’ll keep you posted, and I’d love to hear about your personal experiences trying out a spending freeze, or shifting your mindset about consumerism.

xx

A One-Month Spending Freeze Challenge

So, I was out of town for business and asked my colleague, Beth, founder of Bneato Bar, to meet for coffee. Beth replied that she would love to meet, but asked if we could take a walk instead of buying coffee or lunch, since she was on a one-year spending freeze. What? I had to know more.

Beth explained the basics to me and outlined some of the major benefits. In addition to saving gobs of money, a spending freeze can help you to clarify your core values, appreciate all that you already have, reduce your environmental footprint, and force you to get creative and resourceful. As we were talking, we were offered free ice cream from a neighborhood cafe that was switching out their flavors. Beth remarked that things like this happened to her all the time since starting her spending freeze. It seemed that her lack of spending had actually been making her life more abundant, creative, and interesting. I was instantly hooked.

One year seemed like too much for me to commit to – but one month felt like the perfect amount of time to give this experiment a go. Read on and join along for the adventure!

Find out the benefits of a doing a spending freeze challenge and how you can do one, too.

Clarify Your Motivation

As with any goal, it’s always helpful to clarify your WHY and make sure you like your reasons for doing something. My major motivations for trying a spending freeze were to reduce the amount of time and energy I spend on frivolous purchases, and to see how much money I can save just by being more mindful and creative.  What are yours?

Separate Needs from Wants

The first order of business is to jot down all of your basic and necessary expenses. This may include rent or mortgage, utilities, phone and Internet, food and household supplies, prescriptions, etc. Make a list that includes all of your NEEDS. Next, make a new list of your WANTS. This list could include yoga classes or a gym membership, movie tickets, meals out, or anything else that makes your life enjoyable and comfortable. Now that you have a clear picture of your wants versus your needs you get to thoughtfully decide how you want to approach your spending freeze.

Define Your Rules

You get to define the parameters of your spending freeze. Some people opt to skip all extraneous purchases including coffee, snacks, and meals out for months, or even a full year. Anyone who knows me knows that those parameters would make me feel very, very sad.  I decided that I will forgo buying any material objects that were not totally necessary, but that I could still invest money on food and experiences which enhance my life. Take some time to reflect on your values and decide what you want to invest in, and what you want to include in your spending freeze. Make sure your decision aligns with your core values and feels good. Write down your rules, and your timeframe, so you can stay on track. You’re in charge!

Plan Ahead + Get Creative

I’m doing my spending freeze in February. This month my plans include celebrating my husband’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, dinner with friends, and two children’s birthday parties.  By creating a clear plan and budget for each event, I hope to eliminate impulse buys and overspending. I also plan to get creative and resourceful this month. For example, instead of paying for a babysitter and splurging on a pricey meal out, I can invite our friends over and cook a simple meal at our house. Instead of buying a gift for my daughter’s friend’s birthday, we can give her a coupon for a movie night at our house. You get the picture.

Keep a Spending Journal

You know how people keep a food journal when they’re trying to be more mindful of what they eat? The same holds true for your finances. By writing down items you spend money on, you will become much more aware of your spending habits. You can also use a notebook to write down all the things you want while you’re doing your freeze. I think it would be interesting to revisit the list in a month and see if you still want any of those things, or if the desire has waned.

So, who’s in? Who wants to join me for a February spending freeze? Anyone who has already tried this and can share helpful tips, please do! I’ll be back to share my experience soon and would love to hear about yours!

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Toy Organization Tips with IKEA + Say Yes

A few months ago, I collaborated with IKEA and Liz from Say Yes, on a playroom makeover. Liz is a busy mama of three and runs a thriving business and blog. She reached out because her playroom felt cluttered and disorganized, and she was ready for a fresh start. IKEA generously agreed to provide storage and furnishings for the makeover, and my role was to work with Liz and her family to streamline and simplify their multipurpose space. I’m thrilled with how everything turned out, and I had so much fun working with Liz and her sweet family.

See below for a reveal of the space and to check out my top playroom organizing tips!

1. Edit First. Don’t shop for organizing products before doing a thoughtful edit. That way you only buy what you actually need for storage. I had Liz and her family take everything out and put it on the floor, so we could sort through one category at a time and only keep what they loved and actually played with.

2. Involve your kids. Involve your little ones in the editing process so they can feel in control of their belongings. Let them choose what they love and select some items that they no longer play with. It’s especially useful to declutter before birthdays and holidays so you can eliminate toys, games, and puzzles that aren’t played with and create space for new gifts.

How IKEA can help organize your children's playroom.

3. Broad Categories. Separate toys into broad categories and store them in open bins or baskets to make clean-up a breeze. Categories could include blocks, dolls, trains, animals, cars, Legos, etc. We used open bins from IKEA in three different sizes to store the current favorites. I especially loved these white baskets.

Streamline your kids' playroom with these great strategies.

4. A Uniform Look. Choose uniform storage options to create a streamlined look. Playrooms can be overstimulating for little minds. Try using bins and baskets in similar styles and colors for a look that is easy on the eyes. You can see how we used several types of bins and baskets, but we lined them up grouped by style and color for a clean look.

Organize your children's home and playthings with these IKEA storage bins and my great tips.

5. Clear Limits. Set clear limits to maintain a streamlined playroom. Keep only 2-3 broad categories of toys out at a time (i.e vehicles, Legos, Magna Tiles, babies, etc.). You can rotate toys as interests evolve and change. Practice the one-in, one-out rule to ensure that your space stays organized and clutter-free (when knew a new toy comes, time to donate one!).

If your playroom is bursting at the seams, I hope you’ll give these tips a try, and let me know how it goes. Liz has reported that her streamlined playroom has been a hit for the whole family and owning less has made maintaining the space so much easier. Check out her blog for more great tips and loads of inspiration.

P.S. A big thank you to IKEA for partnering with us on this project and providing the lovely storage featured here!

Image Credit: Say Yes

What to do When It’s All Too Much

I set some big goals for myself this year, both personally and professionally. I decided I want to work out four times a week. I promised to carve out more quality time with my kids and husband. I’m continuing to see clients full time while developing, and launching, a virtual Closet Makeover Program. It’s a lot. Normally, I excel when it comes to making lists and executing, but recently, I found myself totally overwhelmed. It all felt like too much.

I know from my training as a coach that our thoughts dictate our feelings, which drive our actions, and ultimately determine our results. So, if I wanted to feel less overwhelmed and get out of panic mode, it was time to work on changing my thoughts. The thought that helped me the most was, “I can break all of this down into pieces and complete one thing at a time.” That mindset shift helped convert my overwhelm into action, and I came up with the following practice:

Start With A Thought Download

When you feel overwhelmed, try writing everything that’s swirling around in your head down on paper. Don’t judge or edit yourself. It may just sound like, “oh my god, I have so much to do, I am so overwhelmed, there’s no way I can manage all of this, gaaaaa…” Just get it out and onto paper.

Break it Down

Now, that you’ve given your brain a chance to freak out a little, jot all of your tasks down onto a master to-do list. When I made mine I sorted everything into categories: professional, family, and personal to-dos, and then created separate mini lists within my master to-do list for each category.  If you were trying to organize your entire home, you would break it down room by room. If you were a student, you could break your list down by course or subject. Just write down every single thing that you want to get done.

Learn how to complete your goals or to-do list with these easy steps.

Trim The Fat

Before you move into action, it’s important to question the importance of everything on your list. Is it really necessary? Can you put it on a “someday” list? Can you delegate it? Can you let it go? Let go of anything that doesn’t line up with your current goals and priorities, or feel urgent and necessary.

Prioritize

Next, it’s essential to rank each item on your master to-do list in order of priority. You will remain overwhelmed and paralyzed if you attempt to do everything at once. (I know – remember, I felt totally paralyzed before I did this.) Assign a number to the items that made the cut with “1” being the most important task. You can also do this within each category if you prefer – I kept my personal and professional lists separate and simply ranked each list in order of priority.

Complete One Thing at a Time

Now, all you have to do is stay completely focused on the first thing on your list. Ignore the rest. It will be tempting to want to knock out some of the easier things on your list, but do your best to stay focused so you can have the experience of completing just one thing at a time in order of priority.

Tip: Check out the book The One Thing, which outlines how focusing your energy on only one thing will lead to greater efficiency and success. Another example is the concept of the debt snowball plan which has you focus all of your resources on paying off one credit card at a time until you are completely out of debt.

Ultimately, using this approach helped me to quiet my buzzing mind and get focused enough to complete one major task. The relief was immediate and allowed me to keep moving through my list one item at a time.

Between ambitious resolutions and existing responsibilities, it’s common to feel overwhelmed this time of year. Try breaking down your to-dos into categories, and then tackling them methodically in order of priority. I’d love to hear how it goes, or if you have other methods that have worked for you.

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Your Kids Don’t Want to Inherit Your Clutter

As my father’s oldest child, and his only local family member, I was left with the overwhelming task of resolving his estate when he died unexpectedly. I remember arriving at his house to assess the situation, and exhaling when I opened his basement door and found a neat stack of bankers boxes with all of his legal documents clearly labeled, and four clear bins filled with his only memorabilia. My father-in-law, who was helping me reconcile his estate, turned to me and said, “Your father did a good job. This will be easy.”

One of the biggest gifts my father gave me when he died was leaving behind an organized home. Because having to sort through excessive amounts of disorganized clutter while you’re grieving is excruciating. I know because as a professional organizer I’ve helped hundreds of families de-clutter their homes, many of which included attics, basements, and garages overstuffed with inherited items. Collections of old china. Crates of yellowed photos. Boxes and boxes of bric-a-brac. It’s challenging enough to contend with your own household clutter, but having to sort through and make sense of someone else’s clutter can feel like you’re drowning.

Nobody wants to think about dying, but if you want to make things easier on your children, it’s important to be intentional about what you leave behind. Here’s how you can avoid burdening your kids when you die:

ORGANIZE YOUR IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS

Whoever is in charge of resolving your estate will need to be able to easily locate your important documents, account information, and contact numbers. Playing detective and tracking down random accounts is not a fun task, so best to make it easy on them:

• Review your paperwork annually, and make sure to recycle or shred anything that is outdated or unnecessary. Ask your accountant or trusted financial advisor for current guidelines on what legal documents to keep. Get rid of the rest. Nobody wants to look at your bank statements from 1982.

• Clearly label your files in broad categories so they will make sense to someone who is not you. Create a designated file (or file box) for all of your most important life documents. Label it prominently. If the file box is locked, or the files are in a safe deposit box, make sure someone you trust knows how to access them.

• Create a comprehensive list of all of your accounts with passwords and contact info for your advisors — financial, insurance, real estate brokers, etc. This is something that will be helpful to you while you’re alive but will be essential for whoever is in charge of reconciling your estate.

Get rid of your clutter now, so your kids don't have to. Here's some great tips!

DOCUMENT YOUR VALUABLES

Do you have precious jewelry, art, or family heirlooms you plan to pass on to your children? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen family members try to sort out which of Grandma Esther’s pearls are the real ones or which of the dozens of paintings left in the attic are actually worth something. Create a list of descriptions and/or images to reference, so ensure your kids know what items are actually valuable and important. Tell them where each item is located and whom you plan to leave what so there is no drama or confusion.

MINIMIZE YOUR MEDIA

This is an easy one! Most music and entertainment platforms have become obsolete in the digital age. If you have a library of dusty CDs, DVDs, or even cassette tapes … well, don’t. These items can be bulky and difficult to recycle so digitize them if you haven’t, then donate them as soon as possible. Most households also have drawers full of old cameras, video recorders and electronics that rarely see the light of day. Match up your cords with the electronic devices you actually use and ditch the rest including the random cords and accessories.

DITCH THE DUPLICATES

Do you have 25 mismatched mugs? Are you storing dozens of reusable tote bags or maybe three kitchen appliances that all do the same thing? Spoiler alert: Your kids don’t want to deal with any of them. Review your household items and streamline. Ditch anything that’s broken, outdated, or unused. If you have duplicates, choose the ones that are in the best condition and donate the rest. Your children will thank you.

RUTHLESSLY EDIT YOUR MEMORABILIA

Here’s what I want to leave my kids: one clearly labeled bin filled with the memorabilia that is truly meaningful to me. One. Bin. Here’s why: I don’t want my daughters to have to sift through an overstuffed basement wondering what I cared about or what they should hold on to. I want to make it as easy as possible for them. Also, I truly believe that the less you keep, the more meaningful it becomes. Once you edit and organize your memorabilia down to your most treasured essentials, store the treasures in waterproof, labeled, airtight bins. Cardboard boxes disintegrate and get dusty over time, and nobody wants to sift through old boxes filled with cobwebs.

Help your kids to not inherit your clutter by following this simple advice.

Bonus: Do your kids a favor and help them to thoughtfully curate their own memorabilia now. One or two boxes of the most cherished treasures is much more manageable and meaningful, than dozens of them. One day all of it will be passed back to them, and most adults don’t want to care for and store heaps of childhood mementos — even their own.

*A version of this was originally published on Modern Loss. This is being republished with their permission. You can read the full article right here.

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5 Reasons You Should Love Your Competition

I’ll admit it – I’m a very competitive person. I like winning. I like feeling successful. But, until a few years ago I was not very good at embracing my competition. I didn’t believe that there was enough room for all of us to succeed. When I came across someone with a stunning website, a new book release, or prominent media attention, I would feel instantly jealous and threatened. I would assume that their success meant there was less available for me. It did not feel good.

Image: Carly Waters Style

All of this changed a few years ago.  A woman named Carly, who had recently left her law career to become a professional organizer, reached out to connect with me. I had been a solo entrepreneur for years, and while I loved what I did, I had also found it isolating. Carly and I connected right away, and when she invited me to join her for lunch with several other professional organizers the next time I was in LA, I jumped at the chance.

That was when everything shifted. I instantly connected with the other women who showed up for that lunch. We talked for hours about business and motherhood and juggling our busy lives. One by one, we opened up about our challenges, and jumped in to share resources.  It didn’t take long for all of the walls to come down.

Image: Practically Perfect

What struck me was that it was clear we were all hungry to connect, collaborate, and support each other, even though we were in the exact same industry building similar businesses. I was incredulous that this could be possible but so excited to be proven wrong.

Fast forward a few years and this circle of supportive women has evolved and just keeps growing. We send each other referrals, share resources, and help promote each other. I am genuinely excited to celebrate their successes. Many have become my dear friends. But here’s the craziest part – not only have I become friends with my competition, I have seen that we have all become more successful not in spite of, but because we support each other.

Image: Jean Gordon Style

Because of my experiences over the past few years, my mindset has totally shifted. When I notice someone killing it and feel a pang of jealousy, I now reach out to connect instead of allowing myself to get paralyzed with envy or insecurity. Although it’s sometimes scary to take a risk and put yourself out there, I’ve been humbled by the reaction. Across the board,  it seems that most people are eager to connect.

So, simply put, here’s why you should not only embrace, but love your competition:

Your Competition Can Help You Identify What’s Possible

Don’t take another person’s success as a sign that you’re losing, take it as a sign of what’s possible. I remember seeing my colleague, Beth from Bneato Bar, collaborate with some prominent bloggers a few years ago. The idea had never occurred to me, but after connecting with Beth (who was kind enough to encourage me) I was inspired to reach out and set up some great collaborations of my own. Your competition may be two steps ahead of you, but instead of feeling jealous, take notes and go out and create what you want!

Why it's important to embrace your competition and how it can make you more successful. Image: Bneato Bar via The Hollywood Reporter

You Can Clarify your Own Goals

Jealousy is a great roadmap to our desires. I’ve learned to be curious when I feel jealous, and to take notes. Let your feelings of jealousy help clarify what you want, or don’t want, in your own life. Once you’ve identified what you’re seeking, you can stop worrying about what someone else is doing and put your energy into moving towards your own goals.

It’s A Major Confidence Builder

The better your competition does, the better it is for you, because their success validates the industry that you’re working in. It is your choice whether you’re going to be intimidated by your competition or embrace them. By asking your competition to meet for coffee, you are showing your own strength and allowing for the possibility of collaboration and growth for both of you.

Image: Carly Waters Style

Your Competitor May Become Your Best Friend

You most likely have a lot in common with your direct competition. Maybe you are driven by the same things, share common interests or goals, or all of the above. By rejecting your competition you may be missing out on connecting with your new BFF.

Image: Life In Jeneral 

It Feels Good to Be Generous

I know a brilliant teacher who encourages her students to use any of her content for their own businesses without even crediting her. I aspire to have that level of confidence in my own ability to create content, and to exercise the same generosity of spirit to invest in other people’s success. Let’s root for each other and help each other grow.

 

Image: Clutter Healing

Simply put, when women support each other incredible things can happen. There is no gain in tearing others apart, no virtue in attacking or belittling your competitors. It feels so much better to come from a place of abundance and to choose to believe that there is enough pie for all of us. And really, who doesn’t like pie?

It's great to be competitive but loving your competition can bring so much to your professional and personal life than you could ever imagine.

Image: Simply Spaced

Thank you to the following women for contributing their beautiful work to be featured in this post. I am inspired by all of them, and I am honored to call them my competitors, colleagues, and friends.

Bneato Bar // Carly Waters Style // Simply Spaced // Practically Perfect // Jean Gordon Style // Life in Jeneral // Clutter Healing

 

How to Set Big Goals and Actually Achieve Them

It’s a new year and a fresh start! If you’re tired of watching yourself set goals and fail to see them through, I’ve got just the thing for you! This is a modified version of an exercise I’ve adapted from a fantastic self-coaching program created by one of my mentors, Brooke Castillo. I’ve been using it in my own life with great success, so I wanted to share it with all of you as we embark on a new year.

Grab a pen and a notebook and let’s get started:

Start With a Thought Download

Let’s start by brainstorming all of the goals you have for 2018. Big or small, trivial or bold, just write them down and get them out of your head.

Learn a major secret to achieving your goals from professional organizer Shira Gill.

Pick One Big Goal for the Year

Now pick the biggest, juiciest goal from your list. Constraining yourself to one big goal at a time will help you stay focused. Don’t overthink which one is the best or most important. Just go with your gut and pick one. Whatever you pick will be perfect as long as you don’t change it.

Write Down Why It’s Impossible

Now that you’ve picked your big goal for the year, let’s give your brain a chance to freak out a little. It will be prone to get anxious and want to protect you when you take risks and move out of your comfort zone, so let’s indulge it a little. Write down all of the reasons your big goal is impossible. Let your mind go to work brainstorming all of the reasons it will never work and you are destined to fail. Fun, right?

Create a Counter Argument

Now, for each reason you wrote down, you’re going to create a strong counter argument. Write down a strategy for each obstacle you came up with, and create a plan for how you will overcome it. Make sure your plans are specific and actionable.

The best strategy to achieving your goals in 2018.

 

Take Massive Action

OK. So you have your big goal. You’ve written down your potential challenges and obstacles and created a specific plan to overcome each one. Now you have to stay totally committed to your goal and map out a plan to take massive action. Write down at least 25 actions you will take in pursuit of your big goal. It may help to tell yourself that you are going to plan “25 epic fails.” When you use this language, your brain has nothing to resist against, and it takes the pressure off. Now you can move boldly forward without the fear of failure because you’ve already decided to fail ahead of time! Tricky, eh?

Plan and Schedule Your Action Items

Once you’ve come up with your 25 actions/failures, make sure to map them all out on your calendar. Block out time to complete each task, even if it’s just a three minute email or a quick phone call. Put every single one in your calendar so you are set up for success.

Are you ready? As we all know, the only true failure is never attempting your goals at all. So let this be the year you go big and take some major risks. I’m certainly going to, and I hope you’ll join me. (Stay tuned – I’ll be launching my “big goal” later this year.) Cheers to 2018!

P.S. If you liked this post and want help tackling the rest of your goals, check out my other post: Goal Setting That Works.

Images: Anne Sage

The Jet Set Guide: My Top 5 Packing Tips

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling recently, and I wanted to share my top tips for those of you who are hitting the road.

Pack Snacks to Refuel

Pack your favorite healthy snacks, and energy bars, so you can avoid splurging on overpriced snacks when hunger strikes in airports and in touristy locations. My favorite grab-and-go snacks are nuts, dried fruit, and these bars.

Keep the Essentials with You

Make copies of your passport, flight info, and important documents to keep with you at all times. If you are checking a bag, make sure to keep a change of clothing, toiletries, medications, and toothbrush with you just in case your luggage gets lost or misplaced. (It’s also helpful to leave flight info and a copy of your passport with a trusted friend or family member.)

Keep It Light

Try to pack as little as possible so you have less to lug around. (This is a great time to experiment with trying a capsule wardrobe!) Make sure to wear your jacket and bulkiest items such as boots and hats on the plane so you can maximize the space in your suitcase.

Be Your Own Pharmacy

Make sure to pack your daily vitamins as well as any basic meds you may need if you get sick. I ended up getting a bad cold in Japan and found it comically challenging to decipher the over-the-counter meds that were all in Japanese. In the future I will bring a mini kit stocked with cold and flu medicine, just in case.

Pack a Gift Tote

Pack a flat tote, or lightweight duffle, in your suitcase in case you pick up gifts or bulky items that can’t fit comfortably into your suitcase on the way home.

Happy holidays, and safe travels!

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Inspiration: My New Favorite Organizing Book

I have been a huge fan of Remodelista for years and when I heard about their new book and website dedicated to all things home organizing, I did a happy dance around my living room.

The book is not only beautiful, but also filled with simple, stylish, practical ideas for every room in your home.

Here's a great book that teaches you all about organization.

I’m also a huge fan of their organizing manifesto which includes sage advice such as: Buy fewer (and better) things, shop from your own home, steal ideas from teachers and shopkeepers, and establish habits and routines that simplify your life.

The book also includes a comprehensive list of resources including closet organizers, carts, hooks, office supplies, and other stylish utility items.

Need a home organization book? Here's a great one that inspires Shira Gill.

Treat yourself to the book (also a thoughtful gift) or check out the website which is also chock full of great tips.

Happy organizing!

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Last-Minute Gift Guide

Sometimes, I don’t follow my own advice and need to pick up last-minute gifts. Here are some of my favorite items (all under $100) that can easily be ordered online in time for the holidays:

Here is a last-minute gift guide that will help you out this holiday season.

Turkish Cotton Robe: Chic, comfy and perfect for weekend lounging.

Chic Sleep Set: This one is on my winter wish-list for sure.

Neck Pillow + Eye Mask: A sweet set for the stylish traveler.

Leather Zip Cardholder: Lightweight and practical and I love the tassel detail!

Leather Tassel Keychain: Monogram for a personal touch!

Gold Tassel Earrings: A little holiday bling at a great price.

The Best Water Bottle: Keeps liquids cold for 24-hours or hot for 12-hours. Enough said.

Simone LeBlanc Gift Set: Loving these super chic gift sets which can be mailed out with a custom note.

Happy Gifting!

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