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

Feeling all fancy with my first order at my Mariposa Blossoms Etsy store (yes, I’m still bragging about it), I was thinking about what kind of gift wrap I should wrap it with. I want to maintain this DIY/homemade theme, so I looked around the craft room/baby room to see what I can find.

And what I found was my big ol stack of newspapers and magazines that I have acquired over the last year or so. I’ve asked my mom to save her magazines for a long time and while she’s been diligent about doing so, I have not been so diligent about using them.

In fact, when we did our last move, my boyfriend informed me that he would not help move the two boxes of magazines I had packed. He would not put them in Storage and he definitely would not move them into our new digs. He allowed me one box, and I even had to fight for that. I can’t blame him though. I’m known for hoarding all sorts of “crafting material” and never using it, then complaining about how cluttered everything is.

Alas, I ended up donating the majority of the magazines and then promising myself I would never do it again. Then we moved in with his dad, who gets the daily paper. Not being able to throw the paper away when it was no longer needed, I started storing it. Cringing every time I look at it, I need to start doing something with it. Which is where the gift wrap idea comes into play!

Here are some neat ways to reuse magazines and newspapers as gift wrap:

Image belongs to Redfly Creations

Image belongs to Redfly Creations

Magazine Gift Bag Tutorial from Redfly Creations – Melissa, who runs the blog, is a mom of three and she offers a lot of tutorials, recipes and printables on her site. I actually found her site from a Mason Jar repin on Pinterest, and landed on the gift bag tutorial, which inspired today’s post. She also has a tutorial on DIY photo shoots, which I love! Not sure Sam will love that idea, but that is just par for the course.

Image belongs to The Gunny Sack

Image belongs to The Gunny Sack

Magazine Gift Bags Tutorial from The Gunny Sack – And if you are handy with the sewing machine (which I am not…yet), here is a tutorial from The Gunny Sack. I have featured her DIY Mason Jar tutorial on a previous Thrifty Thursdays, so obviously I really like her site. She is full of tutorials, recipes and help with photography, so check her out!

Image belongs to Junk Mail Gems

Image belongs to Junk Mail Gems

Gift bags out of Junk Mail from Junk Mail Gems – This is the first time I’ve visited this site, and I think it’s kind of amazing. It’s true to it’s name and offers a whole lot of projects that use, well…junk mail. If you have an address, you know you get junk mail, so why not put it to good use! I normally just give all my junk mail to Cecilia to destroy, but this might be a little more handy.

Image belongs to Easy Homestead

Image belongs to Easy Homestead

DIY Newspaper Gift Wrap from Easy Homestead – Ok, so I followed the link to find the original tutorial, but apparently the website is no longer. But, I did find Easy Homestead on Facebook where they share a lot of tutorials and fun ideas for reusing and upcycling stuff.

Image belongs to Two Shades of Pink

Image belongs to Two Shades of Pink

Gift Wrap Ideas from Two Shades of Pink – And finally, to top off your DIY newspaper-wrapped gift, a newspaper flower! This was part of a gift wrap series that Jessica, the author of the blog, featured on her site. Her website is all about celebrating…celebrations, and is definitely worth checking out. I think I’ll be returning to this site when I’m planning the little one’s first birthday.

I can’t believe I’m already thinking about her first birthday.

Do you know of an innovative way to wrap your gifts in newspaper and magazine clippings? Share here in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #diygiftwrap. Find more of my DIY newspaper and magazine gift wrap inspiration on Pinterest!