Yo Momma Monday: Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Meet Gretchen Fleener, 34, from Mound, Minnesota. She is an Industrial Designer, Web Designer and face painter. She runs her own business, Junk Mail Gems, where she sells fun items that she makes out of junk mail. She is also an awesome momma to her two sons, who are three and five. Gretchen took time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about how she manages everything, and what she wants her sons to learn from her business.

Gretchen got into junk mail art when she was making magnets from junk mail to preserve patterns that she liked in a functional way. She heard over and over again that she could sell her magnets, but it wasn’t until her sister urged her to start selling online. And that is where Junk Mail Gems was born, six years ago.

“She and I came up with the Junk Mail Gems name because the magnets looked like little gems.  I had a lot of fun designing the logo, then website, and coming up with more things to make out of junk mail to fill my store!”

Although  it may not be for everyone, Gretchen says that being the boss is the best part of running her own business. She loves that she can work when it fits in her life, rather than having to wait for work to be over to enjoy life. A life-long multitasker, she can be found packing items during a commercial break.

As for most small business owners, finances are a worry of hers. Fortunately, she has an incredibly supportive husband whose stable job covers the important bills, allowing her to work from home. He fits her business schedule into his and will come home early to watch the boys if she needs to go to a face painting job or a client meeting.

“He never talks down about my businesses or makes me feel less important because I don’t work 9-5 in an office anymore.”

Before she had her sons, doing anything creative or artistic gave her the most fulfillment. Now, she gets the most fulfillment from using her artistic skills (and revenue earned through them) on her boys.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“My kids blow my mind with the things they create already at age 3 and 5 and it’s so cool to see that part of me in them.”

As you might imagine, her boys love crafting with her, and her five-year-old has even caught the bug for turning junk into something he can use and play with! To help cultivate her boys’ creativity, Gretchen labeled a Rubbermaid bin “the project box” and throws odds and ends that the boys can use for their crafts. She also keeps all the kid-friendly crafting supplies at their level so they can create on their own.

“I love coming up with projects to do with them, but my favorite thing is to let them loose and see what they come up with on their own. One of my 5 year old’s most used Christmas gifts is his collection of brightly colored masking tape rolls that my sister gave him.  He is constantly rescuing things form our recycle bin and turning them into things…rocket ships, monster trucks, and houses for his stuffed dogs!”

Not only do her boys love crafting with her, they also love going to yard sales and thrift stores, too! Gretchen says that she talks to them about not wasting things or money, which has also taught them to be patient when they find brand new toys in a store, as they will probably end up at a yard sale or thrift store in a matter of time.

Much like her children, Gretchen loved going to yard sales as a kid and quickly became a big collector. Her collection is now limited to what she can use to decorate her house, and what her family can actually use. I feel your pain, girl. Her vintage finds came in handy last year when she redesigned her kitchen and decorated it with her scores from the 50’s. After facing the normal collector problem of acquiring more than she could use, she set up an Etsy shop.

“This gives me the thrill of the hunt, without the worry of collecting too much.  I love to imagine people looking through my site and getting as excited about finding the perfect thing for their kitchen as I do for mine!”

Gretchen says that she finds inspiration from everywhere – like an oil slick on the street or an old brick building. She also finds inspiration from surrounding herself by other creative people.

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

“I take TONS of photos and am always collecting inspiration for art, graphic, design or craft projects!”

As an Industrial Designer, Gretchen likes to stay current and is always looking into current and future trends. However, when it comes to her personal style, her love for the ’50s does not stop at kitchen utensils. She also leads a life that is deemed old-fashioned by many people today.

“..Staying home with my kids, canning stuff from my garden, baking cookies, making things by hand and cooking a family dinner each night!”

While Gretchen has always considered herself a motivated person, she says that she is now motivated by different things – like getting her work done early so she can spend more time with her family.

“I know that if I get overtired or overworked, I won’t be as good of a parent or spouse, and my family come first.  So in a way, getting in a little “me” time or letting the laundry sit there one more day  can be better for the family and everyone’s mood!  “

Gretchen credits her ability to get everything done to multitasking and creating lists, just like she used to make fun of her mom for doing years ago. Along with that, she stays super organized, and will rework how shes does something if she feels she’s not doing it efficiently enough – often finding a tool or an app that will help.

“But the one thing I don’t compromise on is sleep.  I just can’t function well on any less than 8 hours a night, and when I get enough sleep, being super productive comes much easier during the day!”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Although Gretchen says that she doesn’t really feel like her work is “work,” she does like to get outside and go fishing, biking and gardening. Living on a lake doesn’t hurt, either. She also likes to paint and work on something creative that is related to her businesses. One craft that she would like to practice more is knitting.

“I’ve done a little, but I love to crochet and really like how much faster it goes!  I’d love to learn how to make my own soaps or candles.  And I’d really love to learn Henna.  It seems right up my alley and would be a great addition to my face painting offerings!”

Gretchen also runs as a series of “Momtreprenuer” Interviews on her blog, as she says that she is always encouraged by hearing how other moms run their businesses and homes.

“So, I thought others might enjoy them too!  It’s also one small way that I can help support fellow moms by spreading the word about their businesses.”

She hopes that her Junk Mail Gems business gives people a new way to look at “junk.” She shares tutorials on her site for various recycling projects, so that people can get new ideas for their own projects.

“I hope to inspire them to find a way to do what they love and maybe even make a little money doing it!  I am always so happy to hear from people who were inspired to try a project I’ve shared too.”

Since Gretchen’s sons will be in school full-time pretty soon, she plans on adding more jobs to her line of work (as if she doesn’t have enough already) like freelance retail fixture design and body painting. She also wants to expand the merchandise section of her online face painting store and seek out more retailers for Junk Mail Gems.

“Right now I have no desire to go back to the corporate gig, but have a huge list of things I’d like to do to grow all of my businesses”

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

Image belongs to Gretchen Fleener

If you are feeling inspired by Gretchen like I am, you can connect with her through Junk Mail Gems and ID Mommy and can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest. If you know someone who would be a good fit for Yo Momma Monday (your beautiful self included), post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find more Yo Momma Monday inspiration on my Pinterest!

Thrifty Thursdays

thrifty thursdays

Of all the things my poor mom has tried to teach me to do, knitting is probably the only project I completed. I made a scarf and a beanie a couple years ago, and now that the weather is getting colder, it’s about time to get back into action. Of course, I will have to set aside time to do it after Cecilia goes to bed as the yarn will be a big ol’ tangled mess on the ground if she gets to it.

We usually look up patterns in one of my mom’s many pattern books, but I’ve also found some cool patterns online that we have made before. I found some more patterns online today, and the best part…they are FREE! Instead of sharing individual patterns like I would normally share individual tutorials, I’m going to share the sites I got them from. Each site has so many patterns, that would be unjust to only share one with you.

Image belongs to Creating Laura

Image belongs to Creating Laura

Creating Laura – I was guided to this site from All Free Knitting, an excellent resource for finding knitting patterns, stores, reviews, giveaways and tutorials. Back to Laura, now. She offers a dozen knitting patterns on her site, and she also blogs about food, crafts, sewing, beauty and of course…knitting. You can find a tutorial for a beer cozy and an infinity scarf, all in the same place!

Image belongs to fearless homemaker

Image belongs to fearless homemaker

Fearless Homemaker – This is another All Free Knitting find. She offers two knitting patterns on her blog, including this dark leaf ear warmer. There are plenty of other craft tutorials on her blog, and she also shares some yummy recipes, like a healthier version of chilli-cheese macaroni! I think I know what I’m making for dinner!

Image belongs to Fiber Flux

Image belongs to Fiber Flux

Fiber Flux – Jennifer, who runs this blog, not only shares free knitting and crochet patterns, she also shares tutorials! Be sure to check out the strawberry jam neck wrap pattern and the flower patch button wrap pattern. I checked out her tutorials and you can seriously learn how to knit and crochet pretty much anything your heart could desire.

Image belongs to Cut Out + Keep

Image belongs to Cut Out + Keep

Cut Out + Keep – This is an awesome community site that I found that offers an assortment of craft projects and tutorials. There are quite a few free knitting patterns, like this awesome fox beanie. You can sign up as a member and share your projects and tutorials while learning from others. And it’s totally free to join!

I hope you were able to find some knitting patterns to inspire your next project. As always, I will only share projects with you that I am planning to make sometime in the near future. I am not compensated for any of this, I just love sharing what I find with all my friends on here. You can share your knitting projects, tutorials, patterns and more in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #staythrifty.  And if you are craving more knitting inspiration, check out my Pinterest! Stay thrifty, my friends.

Thrifty Thursdays

thrifty thursdays

I’ve been collecting plastic bags FOREVER. I always used them as my trash bags in my room and then later when I felt capable enough to have a pet or two, I used the bags to clean up after my animals. In fact, I had so many bags that one time when I moved, my friend told me that I could only pack one huge bag full of smaller plastic bags. The others would have to go. I hated that idea, but Pinterest wasn’t around back then, so I had no idea what to do with them.

I still have a bag full of small plastic bags that I use as our trash can liners, or for lunches when my boyfriend forgets his lunch chest at work. Now that big bag is getting overloaded with plastic bags, so I need to think of some more ways to use the bags that will last longer than a trash can liner or lunch bag would. Here are some ideas:

Image belongs to Etsy

Image belongs to Etsy

Fusing plastic bag tutorial from Etsy Labs – I guess I’m WAY behind the times because I just discovered that Etsy had a “lab,” and it hasn’t been updated since 2007. Damn. There are still a lot of great tutorials on there, like how to turn jeans into a skirt, and how to make envelopes. Now, they have a blog on their main page and share some tutorials on there, as well as recipes and profiles on some of their shop owners. I’m still going to check out those tutorials on Etsy Labs though.

Image belongs to Blog A La Cart

Image belongs to Blog A La Cart

Plastic Bag Bags tutorial from Blog A La Cart – This tutorial from Ashley Weeks Cart shows how to turn your plastic bags into yarn to use for crocheting a bag. Now, you need about 80-100 plastic bags so this might take me a little while to accomplish, but maybe we can have a huge plastic bag party and everyone can bring all of their unwanted/unused plastic bags and we can crochet. I started to count how many tutorials Ashley shares on her blog, and then I lost count. So go check it out – you will fall in love with the design, and all of the beautiful pictures.

Image belongs to Jana Trent

Image belongs to Jana Trent

Recycled Plastic Bag Weaving tutorial from Weave Zine – When I first saw this picture on Pinterest, I didn’t think that all of that “yarn” was really plastic bags, but it’s true! Jana Trent shares her step-by-step tutorial for weaving plastic bags on Weave Zine. The tutorial includes photos, which always helps me. Once you get the weaving down, I suppose you can really make anything you want. She used hers for a pillow case, but I’ve seen mats and more.

Image belongs to Mami Made It

Image belongs to Mami Made It

Plastic Bag Flowerpot tutorial from Mami Made It – This tutorial is both in German and English, so if you don’t know German already, you get a little lesson as well! Petra crocheted plastic bags and turned them into a flower pot, which is pretty sweet. All you need are 7-8 plastic bags, which I totally have. It will be perfect for the winter, when my garden is no longer but I still want to keep my herbs going. And I can crochet some extras to give as gifts. Now, I just need to learn how to crochet.

Have any plastic bag crafts to share, or did you use one of these tutorials to make something? Share in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #plasticbagcrafts. Follow my Pinterest for more plastic bag craft inspirations. I’m also open to any ideas you want to see on Thrifty Thursdays so feel free to share those as well!