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How To Build A Thrifted Home

Mixing The Old & NewThe wood is scratched, the back leg wobbles, and the brass knobs could use a shining. But my first thrifted piece of furniture—a Baumritter mid-century high boy dresser—tells the larger story of my space. My home is built with and around pre-loved pieces, many of which are from bygone generations, passed down from various owners’ homes and hands.

“[Thrifting’s] about finding the pieces you love while also allowing them to find you.”

Building a thrifted home is rewarding (because, saving $$), but it also requires patience and persistence. Preferences go the wayside here; it’s not always about sourcing brand names or decorating around specific trends. Rather, the thrill of the thrift is all about opening yourself up to surprise! It’s about finding the pieces you love while also allowing them to find you. Everything else falls into place.Ready to build your own thrifted home? Here are a few of my favorite tips and tricks for bringing it all together!Thrifting For Home Goods1. Find Your Thrifting Platforms & Set Up NotificationsThe internet is a powerful tool for thrifting—as if we needed more reasons to be on our phones! Sigh. The trick is to pick two to three platforms (some listed below) so as not to get overwhelmed and then to scour them a few times a day. I do a quick scroll at the beginning or end of work, then sometimes at night during commercial breaks of my favorite shows. 

Notifications I have set on OfferUp

So that you’re not glued to your phone though, many platforms have a notification feature to give you first dibs on the next best treasure. You can set your search (down to location radius) for a specific brand or style.For example, I was recently on the hunt for matching lounge chairs. I bookmarked a few search terms using OfferUp’s notification feature (e.g., “mid-century lounge chairs”, “leather side chairs”, “matching chairs”, “vintage accent chairs”), and I set a search radius of 40 miles—the farthest I was willing to drive for the right chairs. OfferUp then pinged me every time a new listing with my search terms went live. A win-win!One insider tip: Many thrifted items in my home are because of friends—shout-out to our social and community lead, Alyssa, for helping me get a pair of vintage Steelcase lounge chairs for $150. She saw the chairs on OfferUp and immediately texted me the listing (they were in my house by that night). Likewise, I text my friends when I come across an item I know they’ll love. We thrifters have to stick together, you know?My Favorite Thrifting Platforms: OfferUpCraigslist (or Gumtree for UK thrifting)Facebook Marketplace (if you browse regularly, the algorithm will begin to show you items that match your recent searches and home aesthetic)Goodwill OnlineeBayFreeCycle (for free items!)A few additional platforms2. Learn The Jargon & Be Ready To Bargain!You found something you like—yay! Before contacting the seller, verify the listing is authentic. Do they have real photos of the item (rather than just stock images)? Is there a seemingly accurate description of the product? Does the seller have a profile photo? Where are they located? What is their star rating from other buyers? These are a few things you can quickly check on apps like OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace to ensure a safer, smoother transaction.

My seller profile on OfferUp

Also, there is an entirely different language for thrifting! Don’t worry; it’s easy. Here are a few terms to keep in your back pocket for your next marketplace exchange: OBO = “or best offer” MCM = “mid-century modern” Curb Alert = “free & first come, first serve!”Firm / Price Firm = “the price is not negotiable”PPU = “pending pick up”NWT = “new with tags”EUC = “excellent used condition” Oh, and be ready to bargain! This isn’t rude—it’s often expected unless the seller has used the aforementioned “price firm.” I’ve found many people are open to negotiating within 15 to 20 percent. Don’t lowball though; your message will likely get ignored. It’s kind of an unwritten rule, but you’ll want to agree on the price before you go to pick up the item. I only bargain in person (outside of yard sales) if the piece has flaws that weren’t advertised or reflected in photos. This is also to say: You are not obligated to buy a piece if, when you arrive, it’s not what you were hoping for!You can ask other questions beforehand, too—hopefully to help eliminate any confusion or awkward conversations. Always ask about pets and smoking when buying fabric furniture, and read the ad thoroughly for any notes about scratches, stains, or tears. (Here are a few additional concerns to keep in mind.) Finally, it’s okay to request additional photos, measurements, and information about where the piece came from (especially if it’s being marketed as vintage or mid-century; ask about “stamping”). You are an interested potential customer after all! Here’s an exchange I had with a buyer who ended up purchasing my couch: 

 A quick note about safety: Don’t send money over the internet unless you’re buying through a secure site like eBay. Most sellers accept payment via Venmo (do this exchange in person), but it’s always good to ask beforehand in case you need to swing by the ATM. And always meet in a safe place or share your location with a loved one when picking up an item alone.3. Regularly Visit Thrift Shops & Garage SalesI recently found matching art deco table lamps for $10 at a garage sale just a few blocks from my apartment. I still can’t believe it. I’ve also found plants, clothing, and this incredible Los Angeles Times collectors book for two dollars at small yard sales in my neighborhood.Garage sales (especially moving sales or estate sales) are my favorite source for secondhand goods; there’s nothing like shopping in person, interacting with the seller, and getting to see a range of pre-loved items all at once. You can often bargain when buying in bulk, too.Likewise, I’ve familiarized myself with thrift shops in my city and know which ones are best for big furniture or smaller items. For example, ACTS in Altadena always has oversized frames for artwork, and I’ve recently discovered my local Goodwill receives frequent Picasso prints—who knew! Someone nearby must be clearing out their collection because I’ve scored 24” by 35” prints on two different visits, all under $20. Garage & Yard Sales TipsVisit early if you want the best items (but respect the start time—don’t pick through goods before the sale begins!).Visit later or on the second day of the sale if you’re looking to get the best prices.Always bring cash—the smaller the bills, the better!Use sites like estatesales.net and garagesalefinder.com, or simply drive around on the weekend looking for signs (my personal favorite).Thrift Stores TipsShop local thrift stores to support small biz when you can.Ask the staff when they get their donations and what times they put items out on the floor.Most thrift stores use color-coded tags and offer discounts on specific days, so take notes!Bring Your New Finds HomeYou bought something (or many things) you love! Now it’s time to bring your new treasures home. The below tips will help you get that dusty dresser from the neighbor’s yard into your fourth-story bedroom!1. Transport Your TreasuresWhen I first moved to LA and bought a couch, I had no way to transport it from the seller’s apartment to mine. That’s when I learned about Dolly—an app for on-demand moving help and furniture delivery. After seeing the couch in person, I booked a same-day pickup on the app, costing around $50. The couch arrived safely in my living room (they help with this too!) a few hours later. Craigslist is another great source for finding people with trucks who will help transport large furniture for a reasonable fee. Alternatively, you can make friends with your neighbor who always seems to be going to Home Depot (you know the one). Offer a trade service—e.g., your homemade lasagna for their help moving a credenza!2. Clean Your Goods!I know, I know—cleaning? But yes, cleaning your thrifted finds is necessary when passing hands and homes, to disinfect them but also to give them new life, love, and shine. 

“Cleaning your thrifted finds is necessary when passing hands and homes, to disinfect them but also to give them new life, love, and shine.”

Before bringing your new furniture into the house, give it a good wipe down, following any specific instructions for the fabric or materials. Here’s how to clean a fabric sofa, tips for rug care and cleaning, and some recipes for homemade nontoxic furniture cleaner.3. Don’t Be Afraid To Play With PiecesMy home is always evolving, and that makes thrifting more fun! While you can choose to thrift for a specific style or aesthetic, you’ll likely have a mix of items from different decades and designers. That’s okay! It’s about playing with your new pieces and moving them throughout your home to find what works best for you and your space. Don’t be afraid to mix fabrics, colors, or wood tones, either. A hodgepodge of rugs, an assortment of wine glasses, and mismatched nightstands may not sound visually pleasing in theory, but these choices can work! It just depends on a few design variables:Have a dominant wood in each room rather than mixing too many tones or stains (e.g., walnut vs. birch vs. teak). You can always DIY a piece if you love the bones but want to update the color or the hardware.Use neutral shades to balance out statement pieces. Our couch is moss green and velvet 😍, so I’ve chosen to surround it with blacks, creams, warm woods, and more neutral tones.Go big with artwork! It’s easy to change pieces out. For the best flow, stick within a certain decade. Most pieces in our home are from the ‘60s and ‘70s, with a few pops of art deco decor. This way, the lines and curves of furniture match and better complement one another, as opposed to mixing, say, a luxurious 1920s chest with a sleek, modern coffee table.4. Embrace That Thrifting Is A ProcessThrifting is a never-ending process—and part of the journey is learning that not everything will work well in your home. Earlier this year, I was on the hunt for a credenza and made an impulsive decision, buying this old piece of office furniture that I thought we could make work. But it wasn’t what I was searching for. And once we got it up into our apartment (which was no small feat), I knew I’d have to resell it. 

“You can always resell pieces—and sometimes even make money if you spruced it up or added a new coat of paint or stain.”

So consider this your reminder that you can always resell pieces—and sometimes even make money if you spruced it up or added a new coat of paint or stain. I’m often rearranging, selling, and trading items that no longer serve me or my space.  A few tricks to avoid ending up with the wrong item: Try not to buy something on impulse, if possible. Thrifting is often a first-come, first-serve game, but if you can give yourself some time on pieces you’re just not sure about, do it.Text photos of the item to trusted friends. I’m known for this. I regularly send my friends and sisters pieces I’m considering for their opinions.Don’t be afraid to say no—repeating this because I often get buying anxiety! Even if you drove across the city and the piece isn’t what you expect, it’s okay to say, “No, thank you.” Most people in the thrifting community are kind and considerate—if you change your mind, just say so.5. Not Everything Will Be Thrifted—And That’s Okay!Finally, it’s important to remember that not everything in your home will be thrifted. I have dishes from Ikea, a kitchen table from Wayfair, and bathmats from World Market. My Article coffee table was a housewarming gift to myself. And during COVID, after years of owning only secondhand couches and then reselling them whenever I moved to a new place, I finally invested in a made-to-order sectional from sustainable brand Sabai. 

“Living sustainably is about progress, just as building a thrifted home is a process without hard rules.”

Living sustainably is about progress, just as building a thrifted home is a process without hard rules. Will you eventually find a working coffee maker at Goodwill? Likely. Do you sometimes just need to grab a coffee pot at Target because you don’t have time to go to every Goodwill in your city? Also yes. It’s about balance and finding what works best for you, your home, and your lifestyle. My hope is that these tips and tricks can make curating a thrifted space just a bit easier—Target coffee pot mixed with thrifted mugs and all.Do you have tips for thrifting home furniture and decor? I’d love to hear about your favorite finds and methods in the comments below! xxRELATED READING

Kayti Christian (she/her) is a Senior Editor at The Good Trade. She has a Master’s in Nonfiction Writing from the University of London and is the creator of Feelings Not Aside, a newsletter for enneagram 4s and other sensitive-identifying people. Outside of writing, she loves hiking, reading memoir, and the Oxford comma.

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Why The Mundane Matters

The truth is, life is 99% mundane; a person’s life is a collection of all the moments that happen in the middle. Sure, there are adventures and excitement along the way, but it’s the unassuming parts that fill in the blank pages of our stories and shape us into who we are. Think about your favorite adventure books from childhood, the ones where the main character embarks on a brave quest. Sure, they slayed a dragon, but that was never the full story. In the chapters we didn’t get to read, these characters returned home to their very ordinary lives—working, eating, playing, caring for their families. Perhaps then it’s not just the “dragon slaying” that shapes us, but also the moments before and after. Consider the seasons—they come and go as expected. Every morning, the sun rises then sets. The facts of this are boring. But look at the colors in the sky and you’ll see a very different story. Or there are the tides. They rush in and out twice a day, two high and two low tides every 24 hours. It’s always been the same. But have you ever walked on the soft sands of a shoreline freshly swept by saltwater? The birds and butterflies follow patterns, too, surrendering to the familiar flow of migration. And then there is us; humanity. Even we live by the rule of cycles, from inhales and exhales, from life until death. 

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How To Handle The Holidays As A Highly Sensitive Person

Tips For Celebrating The Holidays On Your Own TermsIf you’re anything like me, you feel a mix of anticipatory excitement and anxiety around the holidays. On the one hand, I love the chance to be festive and celebrate with cherished friends and family. But the idea of a crowded social calendar (and facing literal crowds!) also makes me cringe. I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), so the holidays can be a lot to handle. My nervous system is more sensitive than the average person, which means I’m constantly picking up on energy and the moods of others around me. I like to think of myself as a kind of human sponge—I soak up even the smallest subtleties. 

“I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), so the holidays can be a lot to handle.”

HSP, which is also known as sensory-processing sensitivity, is a personality trait that may affect as many as 20 percent of the population, according to psychotherapist and author Dr. Elaine Aron. And around thirty percent of HSPs are actually extroverts. While there are definitely benefits to being an HSP—my sensitivity helps me be empathetic and hyper-tuned into how others are feeling—I can get drained quickly at gatherings and parties, feeling the urge to constantly meet others’ needs or resolve any perceived conflict or pain. Stimuli also heighten my senses, and I get easily overwhelmed by lights, blaring music, or loud chatter.So what’s a social HSP to do? Here are a few strategies I use to celebrate the holidays on my own terms.Set An Intention To Guide Your SeasonSince HSPs are so deeply aware of everyone’s feelings, we often place other people’s needs above our own. When planning for the months ahead, take a moment to step back from all the “shoulds,” such as family expectations and societal traditions. Take a step back and reflect inwards. How do you truly want this holiday season to take shape?Clarifying a values-based intention for the season can be incredibly empowering, and tapping into your values (like connection, creativity or comfort) can help serve as a guidepost as you navigate RSVPs and rituals. 

“Try imagining yourself at an upcoming event. Then, sense if your body reacts with anxiety or ease.”

Do you crave quiet coziness this season or new memories with friends and family? Do you feel excited about connecting with others during a large gathering, or would you prefer hosting a small group at your own home? Personally, I’m limiting my RSVPs for big, in-person gatherings, instead prioritizing virtual celebrations with faraway friends and creating special holiday rituals in my own home.If you’re struggling to separate external expectations from your desires, try imagining yourself at an upcoming event. Then, sense if your body reacts with anxiety or ease. Do you tense up or feel a knot in your stomach? Or does your chest expand alongside a sense of lightness? It might be a cue to reassess if you don’t receive a strong “yes” from your body.Calm Your Nervous SystemDuring a season filled with hustle and bustle, we need to take extra care of our sensitive (and highly powerful!) brains and bodies—including our nervous system. A primary job of the nervous system is to scan the environment for safety. Based on its assessment of risk, it then prepares the body to react accordingly.For HSPs, even exposure to ordinary stimuli can cause the brain to set off an “internal alarm system.” Calming down the nervous system looks like intentionally directing efforts toward soothing and stabilizing ourselves.  

“In the days leading up to a social event, make time for extra rest and limit unnecessary stimuli.”

In the days leading up to a social event, make time for extra rest and limit unnecessary stimuli. I like to think of this as turning the dial on my body’s sensory input all the way down so that when a social event turns the dial back up, I don’t immediately hit my boiling point. During activities and gatherings, you can intentionally work to keep your body from reaching a threshold of overstimulation. I’m a big fan of physically stepping away for a few minutes to get some literal peace and quiet, allowing the nervous system to settle back down. I promise, no one will notice you’ve slipped upstairs for a few moments! If you can practice a breathing technique while you’re there, even better. After the event, I do everything to get out of my overactive headspace (which ruminates on conversations and what I could have said or done differently) to regulate my body. Soothing my nervous system might look like taking a long bath, doing breathwork, and grounding myself by spending time in nature. My nervous system gets overstimulated while traveling, too, and the extra stimuli can be really draining. My biggest tip? Give yourself lots of compassion, acknowledging that this is hard for you. Try to add in extra time on both legs of your trip for dedicated self-care, extra sleep, stretching or meditating in the airport, walk breaks on the plane, or a bath upon arrival. Also, maintain as much routine as possible to let your nervous system know it’s “safe” by keeping your favorite snacks or items with you.Set Boundaries With Loved OnesThe holiday season is rife with potential emotional triggers for us HSPs, and it can be challenging to protect our inner well-being and speak up for ourselves. One of my favorite strategies to prevent emotional burnout is limiting access to my time and energy. We can guard and spend our limited amount of “fuel” wisely. Speaking up for yourself can go a long way in turning your sensitivity into a strength. You’re allowed to be direct about what you need—without hesitation, shame, or an apology. It can be really helpful to reach out to family and friends ahead of time too, letting them know you may need to step away or that you’d love their help in meeting new people. Having conversations ahead of time can minimize the awkwardness or even embarrassment we sometimes feel when bringing something up in the moment. 

“Limit access to [our] time and energy. We can guard and spend our limited amount of ‘fuel’ wisely. ”

Remember, your sensitivity doesn’t make you “high maintenance.” Although you might feel uncomfortable at first asking for what you need, know you’re also more likely to recognize the needs of others around you and help to honor them, too.Finally, lean into the power of saying no. Though you might fear disappointing someone, you can only show up as your best self when you’ve taken care of yourself first. Every time you intentionally say “no” to something that isn’t going to serve you, you’re really saying “yes” to yourself.Reconnect With Yourself During months traditionally focused on group celebrations, don’t forget to nurture the most important relationship of all: the one you have with yourself! HSPs need time and space to process experiences and work through complex feelings. Try to carve out dedicated “you” time in your schedule to unwind but also to reflect. Journaling is an excellent outlet to get back in touch with your innermost self and make sure that your needs aren’t being lost amid the many “shoulds” and aspirations of the season. Whether unpacking a family conflict or musing on nostalgic memories, writing can give you a place to process your past, be still in the present, and dream about your future. 

“Screen-free, quiet rituals can help us recharge from social activity and care for our mind, body, and souls without numbing out.”

I also try to limit my time on social media during the holidays. Information overload can contribute to a chronic, underlying sense of stress and a general feeling of FOMO that can confuse what we want with what others are doing. Screen-free, quiet rituals can help us recharge from social activity and care for our mind, body, and souls without numbing out.Without an intentional approach, the holidays can quickly become more exhausting than exciting. Make sure to care for your delicate nervous system, give yourself ample time to rest, and find ways to honor the magic of the season that match your personal values. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you plan to navigate the holidays and nourish yourself during busy days. Share your stories and tips in the comments below!RELATED READING

Carolyn Rivkees is a DC-based writer and brand advisor focused on making well-being more accessible, less lonely and easier to understand. She is the voice behind Chronically Cheerful, an IG community that informs and inspires others living with health challenges. When she’s not creating or coaching, you can find her debating what book to read next and drinking copious amounts of tea. Read more of her writing over at her newsletter!

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Our Home Capsule Collection For A Conscious & Cozy Space

1. Linen Duvet Cover by By Mölle, €139 | 100% flax linen (grown, woven, and sewn in Europe), handmade in The Netherlands, customizable sizing and closures, worldwide shipping2. Chamber Ceramic Table Lamp by West Elm, $199+ | Hand-formed ceramic body, handcrafted in a Fair Trade Certified facility in the Philippines3. Placemat Set (4) by Morrow Soft Goods, $55 | Four color options, 100% flax linen (double ply), OEXO-TEX certified, made in Portugal 4. Ecopots from Bloomscape, $25+ | Five color options, waterproof, made with up to 80% recycled plastic harvested from the ocean, CO2 Neutral Company certificate5. Framed Textile Wall Art by LRNCE, €350+ | Natural dyed wool, hand-embroidered designs, custom sizing options, worldwide shipping 6. Sol Potholder by MINNA, $32 | Three colors, double-sided, 100% cotton, handwoven by pedal loom weavers in Guatemala7. Wool Felt Coasters by Graf Lantz, $24/4-pack | Responsibly crafted from 100% merino wool (renewable and biodegradable), stain-resistant8. Ceramic Plates by East Fork, $18+ | Seven color options, handmade in Asheville, North Carolina using locally sourced clay, certified B Corp, climate-neutral, worldwide shipping9. Throw by Dazed but Amazed, AU $75 | 100% flax linen, hand-dyed and stonewashed, OEKO-TEX certified, family-owned and operated company, worldwide shipping10. Textured Organic Towels by Under The Canopy, $64 | Six-piece set, eight colors, 100% GOTS certified organic cotton, OEKO-TEX certified, made responsibly in Pakistan11. Hand-Knit Rug by Parachute, $69 | 100% long-staple Turkish cotton, hand-knit in Turkey, gives back12. The Essential Chair by Sabai, $645 | Five colors, FSC-certified wood, recycled and upcycled fabrics, no toxic off-gassing, CertiPUR-US certified high resiliency foam, made-to-order, closed-loop system13. Collective Wisdom authored by Grace Bonney, $35 | 400 pages, hardcover, features interviews with women including writer Roxane Gay, NASA team member Elaine Denniston, stylist Stacy London, and Black, transgender community leader and activist Miss Major14. Stagg EKG Electric Kettle by Fellow, $159 | Seven color options, stainless steel, ETL compliance15. Kaya Striped Ceramic Cups by Justina Blakeney from Jungalow, $20 | Fair trade, artisans receive fair wages, designed by Justina Blakeney, sets available, international shipping16. Custom Marble Mirror by Katie Gillies, £70+ | Handcrafted by Katie Gillies and her small team in Nottingham, England, made-to-order, available in small batches17. Minimalist Candles by Brooklyn Candle Studio, $28+ | Made in Brooklyn, 100% soy wax, lead-free cotton wicks, vegan, phthalate- and petroleum-free, worldwide shipping18. Area Rug by Cold Picnic, $120+ | Hand-tufted, deadstock & natural materials, handmade in India by skilled artisans, Goodweave- and C&F-certified factory, production space is 100% dependent on solar energy

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9 Sustainable Furniture Sources For A Stylish Home

Furniture Type | Seating & tables, storage, office, accessoriesFeatures | Eco-friendly & upcycled materials, recyclable packaging, responsible productionWhere to Buy | Online only, showrooms in the USAPrice | $45 (pillow cover) – $6,595 (sectional)Burrow makes the internet’s favorite couches, and it’s easy to see why: Not only are these sofas and sectionals comfy, stain-resistant, and pet-friendly, but they’re also responsibly sourced and made. Shipped in 100 percent recycled cardboard boxes, furniture arrives in modules that can be easily assembled and disassembled, re-arranged, or even added to. Plus, Burrow’s furniture is free of lead, flame retardants, and formaldehyde, so it’s made to last with your safety in mind.Shop Burrow

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The Prettiest Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper For The Holidays

Materials | Cotton fabricEthics | Sustainable & recycled materials, eco-friendly packaging, nontoxic stamps, carbon-free shipping, reusable, locally made in MichiganShips To | USPrice | $5.95–$11.95 for one wrap/bagThe Fab Wrap is a mother/daughter duo from Milford, Michigan, focused on affordable, reusable, and colorful wraps. The cotton fabric for each wrap is stamped with nontoxic paint for delicate designs, like holiday ornaments, fir trees, and mini-hearts. The Fab Wrap ships plastic-free using recyclable cardboard, and thanks to Etsy, ships carbon-neutral. Support this small business and find wrapping paper for years to come.Shop The Fab Wrap

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These 9 Artisan Fall Wreaths Will Have You Embracing Autumn (Plus, How To DIY Your Own!)

Seasonal Decor For A Festive MoodWhat’s more festive than a fall wreath? Nothing, we say! These nine brands below are handcrafting autumn wreaths for the season—some are made with dried greenery, florals, and foliage, while others embrace eco-friendly faux alternatives that last year after year. For DIYers, a few of the listed brands also offer wreath-making kits. Prefer to create a wreath from scratch? We love that option too! You’ll need just a few supplies: A hoop or floral wire A base—think twigs, eucalyptus leaves, or firEmbellishments like berries, pine cones, or dried flowersTools to help prune and shapeGlue or tape to hold everything in place Start by wrapping your base materials around the hoop using the floral wire, glue, or tape. Once it’s set, carefully lay out your embellishments over where you’d like them to go. After you’ve confirmed everything looks as you’ve envisioned, secure them in place with glue or tape. You can add larger accents like mesh ribbon, burlap bows, or palm leaves, too. We like video tutorials from Jenny’s Wreath Boutique and Joy Sandifer to help us out.Once everything is secured, use nose-tip pliers or pruning shears to ensure that the pieces are angled and adjusted to your taste. Finally, put it up for display—many tutorials suggest fishing hooks or wires for door wreaths, or you can also leave them as is on a table or even the floor!Whether you buy or DIY your fall wreath, we hope it brings some warmth to your space. Decorate with your favorite candles, throw pillows and blankets, or seasonal art for the ultimate cozy fall home.

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A Meditation For My Fellow Older Siblings: It’s Okay To Release Control

Learning To Let GoWhen I think about my childhood, I picture my siblings and me running through the woods in northern California, dragging our plastic sleds across a snowy forest floor. Summers are shaded with simplicity: my sister and me tacking up boyband posters in the treehouse, untangling the garden hose and turning the hot tub into a “swimming pool.” Also the petty fights: over clothes, over hair clips, over who gets to use the phone first.

“In my memory, I was always in the lead, my troop safe and close in my footsteps.”

My fondest memory though is a recurring one. Every Christmas Eve, my younger brother and two younger sisters would pile into my bed, a nest of blankets and pillows holding us together. I’d wake them in the middle of the night once I was certain Santa had come and gone. We’d tiptoe down the hallway to peek at our new toys, the hem of our Christmas pajamas dusting the hardwood floors. Four tiny pairs of feet, growing larger each year. In my memory, I was always in the lead, my troop safe and close in my footsteps. As the oldest sister, I’ve always felt responsible for my younger siblings—I still do. It wasn’t that my parents weren’t wonderful caretakers, but for 10 years of our lives, at least one child was in diapers. I was expected to help then—with dishes, with math homework, with running my baby sister’s bath. My birth order also meant I was first in line for most experiences, from riding in the front seat of the car to being the one driving it. I was also first for the bumps and bruises, and then the broken hearts. Facing these nuances of life before the others often meant smothering my siblings with a bossy and controlling demeanor, especially during those earlier years. I wanted to protect them from pain but also share with them the magic of the world as seen through my eyes. More than anything, I wanted my siblings to trust me, need me, to feel loved and safe and like they could always come to me with their problems.

“It feels intuitive for us older children to impose our wisdom, perceived as it may be.”

I think it feels intuitive for us older children to impose our wisdom, perceived as it may be. Perhaps this is how we make sense and meaning of our own experiences, which are sometimes scary as we’re navigating uncharted waters first, without a big brother or sister to go before us. If we can tell our siblings what we’ve learned, maybe our lives matter just a bit more—maybe we matter more. Can I tell you something I struggle with? I still spend moments worried about my brother and sisters; I feel a void in my chest when it’s been too long since we’ve last spoken. It’s been 30 years, and my siblings and I live in different states and time zones, all of us with jobs, partners, and pets. Yet, while I’ve learned to tame the big sis/bossy energy (though they may disagree), I continue to feel a deep sense of responsibility for them. I struggle with letting them go.Even still, my brother and sisters are their own people now; they always have been. They are not mini-me’s, as much as 10-year-old Kayti (okay, sometimes 31-year-old Kayti) would have liked that to be true. It’s important and necessary then to release my grip, as well as my expectations. This is a gift I can offer to them, but it’s also a gift for me. To help with this transition, I recently wrote a meditation to guide myself into this next season of life, one where I am still the big sister but have also released any need for control. Perhaps it can serve you too and help with releasing any fears or worries you still have for your younger siblings. Together, we can learn to soften our grip while still offering our support and love. xxA Meditation For Older SiblingsDear Oldest Sibling,   For all your years and many roles, your title as oldest sibling has always felt most sacred to you. How lucky you’ve been to witness the birth and subsequent lives of your younger brothers or sisters, to help usher them in, to bestow your wisdom in real-time, as you too were learning to navigate the world.  You have been both protector and leader for a long time now—also likely antagonizer and a grade-A tattle tale! Yet, despite the bickering and “hands on hip” stance you’ve perfected, you were always fiercely devoted to the ones who looked up to you. You still are.

“It’s okay to soften your grip, to let your siblings create their own lives outside of the one you all shared as children.”

Now though, your siblings are grown, and adult sibling relationships can present their own challenges, one of which you’ve discovered is releasing that “oldest child” control. You still want to protect, to be in the know, to be the first phone call for every heartbreak and every bruise.May this be an assertion of your role: It is okay to be the leader, to usher younger pairs of feet down the hall on Christmas Eve to peek at the toys. To maintain the magic long after you’ve all left the nest. But also: It’s okay to soften your grip, to let your siblings create their own lives outside of the one you all shared as children. They have wisdom aplenty—but first, you must welcome it, create space for it, learn to listen to their stories and tales and experiences, to also ask for their advice.They want to hear your affirmations—and not always as their older sibling, either, but as their peer and as their friend. Be proud of them, and tell them such. They are so much more than their label as “little brother”, as “little sister”; address them by name and respect their autonomy, acknowledging that they too are individuals moving through the world—as they need to and as works best for them. Also, learn to love the people they love. This one can be difficult, but it’s important: Open your arms to your siblings’ friends; invite their partners in as you would want them to with your own. Be inquisitive and caring, ask questions and let these strangers in on family jokes and quips. 

“You don’t always have to lead by inserting your opinions or asserting your role. Instead, love your people fiercely and always be the first to call, the first to listen, the first to show up.”

Will there be times your siblings love people who don’t seem quite right? Yes. But that’s not for you to decide. They’ve likely felt this way about you, too. Let them pave their own paths and make judgments about people on their own timing. If they see something magical in someone, look for that magic too.Oh, and say you’re sorry when you are wrong. Set an example by being first to step up and admit your failures and shortcomings. Be honest and vulnerable, kind and loyal. You don’t always have to lead by inserting your opinions or asserting your role. Instead, love your people fiercely and always be the first to call, the first to listen, the first to show up. You are the oldest after all, “firsts” are kind of your thing. You can still be the first one to check in, to send texts, to get on a plane when feasible. There doesn’t have to be a significant reason, either. Facetime just because; go on trips for no other reason than spending more time together. Usher in this new season of adult sibling relationships by reminiscing on old memories and making new ones. Swap your stories, whether you share the experience or not. Remind them what it was like to be little together. Make sibling playlists you can share on Spotify to bridge the distance; use that big sib energy to plan trips, especially as you all create new families and they grow.Don’t forget to laugh either! You can still poke fun and tease! Be youthful again, playful, mischievous and rebellious—let the youngest sibling teach you how to get away with things! Fill up the hot tub with hose water, go sledding in the forest with your kids, with their kids. 

“Let them teach you and celebrate you and boss you around in the moments you need it most.”

Finally, let your siblings lead and take care of you—yes, you. Let them teach you and celebrate you and boss you around in the moments you need it most. Allow them to host you, to rub your back, to Venmo you money for a coffee when your spirits or bank account are running low. Let them feel what you often feel: the pride that comes with caring for others and keeping them safe. Someday, you may just find yourself dancing at your youngest sister’s wedding. It will be a late October night, and rain will fall as your brother holds his girlfriend close, as your other sister snuggles her sleeping baby. When this happens, you’ll take every moment in, allowing it to wash over you until the music stops, until everyone gets in separate cars and drives their separate ways. Then, you will wave farewell, as you’ve discovered how to, and whisper into the night:“I will always be here.”Release your control by releasing your expectations, your fears, and the titles that box us all in. You are still the oldest, and so much more—life just looks a bit different now that we’re all grown. And that, my dear fellow oldest sibling, is such a beautiful thing. Sending love to you and yours.Sincerely,An oldest child xxP.S. If you’re reading this and don’t feel these things, that’s okay too. If you’ve been hurt, if you’re estranged from your siblings, or if you’ve lost one too soon—my heart goes out to you as you mourn, feel a sense of loss, or even feel nothing at all. Relationships are complicated and sometimes messy; may we be gentle with one another wherever we’re at.RELATED READING

Kayti Christian (she/her) is a Senior Editor at The Good Trade. She has a Master’s in Nonfiction Writing from the University of London and is the creator of Feelings Not Aside, a newsletter for enneagram 4s and other sensitive-identifying people. Outside of writing, she loves hiking, reading memoir, and the Oxford comma.

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How I'm Preserving My Family's Story—And How You Can, Too

Documenting The Stories Worth KeepingIt was the first night of Diwali, the annual five-day Festival of Lights celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists around the world. I sat down with my parents in front of our miniature home temple.We were celebrating Dhanteras, the auspicious—and supposedly lucrative—kickoff to the most important days of the year. As I held the small plate of offerings hoping for blessings, my mom recited the Namokar Mantra (a Jain prayer) while my dad followed along in an old prayer book that had belonged to my grandmother.I had never sat with them to do this puja before, and I didn’t have all of the prayers memorized or fully understand the context of the day. Then when I thought about it, I realized that I would have avoided learning about or participating in these activities for most of my life. In fact, I probably would have rolled my eyes at them. (Ah, teenage angst.) 

“So much of my family’s history will be lost if I don’t work to preserve it now.”

But this time was different. It was the first time in a decade I had been physically in our house to celebrate with my parents, and it felt like coming home with fresh eyes. I’m reminded of a stat often attributed to Donn Felker: By the time you’ve finished high school, more than 90 percent of the time you spend with your parents is gone. This particularly hits home for me (pun intended) this year since my dad turned 70. I’ve become painfully aware that our time together is fleeting—once that time is gone, I can’t get it back.But there’s another reason, too. So much of my family’s history will be lost if I don’t work to preserve it now. Because, as a first-generation child in the US, I’ve grown up with American culture; that’s all I’ve known. But in immigrant families like mine, losing my parents means losing my family’s traditions, cultural nuances, and storied pasts—like what Dhanteras is and why we celebrate it.And the process of losing my family’s background has already started. While I still understand our native language of Gujarati, I find it increasingly difficult to speak. When my grandmother passed, I had to accept I wouldn’t be able to recreate her papad ever again, food I had taken for granted as a barely thirteen-year-old and still miss today. I know the same will happen with my mother too, and restaurant versions of her spicy mircha, street-style sev puri, or pav bhaji won’t cut it.

“In immigrant families like mine, losing my parents means losing my family’s traditions, cultural nuances, and storied pasts.”

For the last few years, I’ve been on a mission to preserve my family’s story. The anecdotes I’ve heard a million times and the ones I’m just now hearing for the first time—like how my father learned to drive automatic in a Toyota Corolla in North Jersey, the same streets I’d later drive on as an adult in my own Corolla. Or the fact that I was partially named after Henna, a 1991 Bollywood movie I didn’t even know about until writing this piece.There is still so much I want to know about my parents and our lineage, and I’m lucky to still have them around to ask. Here’s how I’ve been documenting their lives, and how you can do the same with your loved ones.1. Find Your MediumI suppose it’s no surprise that I’ve chosen to write about my family’s background and traditions as my preferred method of documentation. 

“The most important question I’ve asked myself is, ‘What will best represent and honor my family’s story?’”

Maybe for you and yours, it’s scrapbooks, displaying heirlooms, sewing together a multigenerational quilt, crafting a recipe book, or recording family interviews. (I love some of the featured family gifts here for inspiration.) My husband recently gifted his family a digital frame, so they could preserve photographs that might otherwise be lost in a box or attic.The most important question I’ve asked myself is, “What will best represent and honor my family’s story?” Not only does writing feel most natural to me, but it is also most fitting for my parents, considering they left most of their tangible family possessions back in India and could more easily speak to their lived experiences.2. Consider What To AskWhen I first sat down to document our family story, I remembered—as we often forget—that my parents had entire lives, before I ever entered the picture. So I start right at the beginning in childhood then moved ahead in chronological order.I began with broader questions like, What do you remember about growing up in Jher? How did you spend your free time? What classes did you take in school—which did you enjoy the most? No detail is too small, no question too minor to ask. 

“No detail is too small, no question too minor to ask.”

As my parents went through the questions, I furiously transcribed their answers into a Google Doc. I didn’t worry too much about editing or flow; it was more important to get their responses on paper. If I had to do it again, I’d say to record their responses on audio then transcribe. I’m sure I missed important points in my haste (plus, it’s a nice auditory reminder of their voices).When their answers began to fizzle out on the details or they couldn’t remember, I tried to shift to more specific questions instead like, Which sibling did you spend the most time with and why? What was your favorite outfit that you remember? How long was the walk to school? Their detailed responses enriched both my writing and the visuals I could now imagine in my head—like my dad as a child heading to school two hours away.Though this process was more organic with my parents and questions flowed freely, you can compile a list of what’s most important to know ahead of time, especially if you have limited time or space (like post-Thanksgiving dinner, when many generations often come together). Need a place to start? Here are 150 questions to consider asking family members.3. Consider Broader Cultural Contexts, TooMy parents’ memories aren’t all I want to honor. I’ve additionally asked for further background on religious holidays and our traditions, as well as details about our particular family nuances.In India, holidays differ vastly from Western culture, so we don’t often get to celebrate them with the same weight as, say, Christmas in the US. And as a child who grew up embarrassed to feel like an outsider, I wanted to avoid celebrating unique-to-us holidays. Along the way though, that meant forgetting what traditions were most important or even knowing about certain celebrations at all.

“Without my parents, I would have never known about this equally important holiday.”

For example: Growing up, we celebrated Raksha Bandhan, a day honoring the bond between brothers and sisters. Sisters tie a bracelet known as a “rakhi” on their brothers, as a symbol of protection. In exchange, brothers give their sisters money or presents, a tradition I loved and didn’t care to ask why. 😉But I didn’t know about Bhai Bij, a similar holiday celebrated near Diwali time, which I only learned about more recently. Still centered around sibling relationships, sisters host lavish feasts at their home for their brothers and gifts are exchanged. Without my parents, I would have never known about this equally important holiday or how our family celebrates it.For multicultural families or third-culture children—like my husband, Jovanni—those traditions and contexts can be twice as complicated. Jovanni, who’s half Filipino and half Puerto Rican, knows that there are aspects of his background he’ll never know about if he doesn’t ask.

“Those traditions ground [my husband’s] understanding of his family and their respective cultures.”

But one part of both cultures that he’s intimately familiar with? Food. He grew up around pancit and lumpia at family dinners, and still tops off his Thanksgiving plates with pernil and arroz con gandules. Those traditions ground his understanding of his family and their respective cultures.Here are some relevant questions you can ask your family about culture and traditions (and you can find more here):What are the most important holidays to celebrate?Do we have any unique traditions in our family? If so, how do they work?Which cultural aspects are most important to our family? Food, clothes, music, movies?4. Share It BackI want my parents to be a part of this process, rather than just the focus of it.That’s why I’ve shared my writing with them (21 Google Doc pages and counting), asking for clarification and opportunities to make the memories more robust, like with pictures or recipes. This has ensured my writing is as accurate and representative as it can be, and asking for their sign-off has been seen as a sign of respect. The stories I will share with future generations have been “approved” by them.Our stories aren’t static; they’re dynamic and ever-changing one day after the next. Setting the foundation now will inevitably ease the process of preserving their stories later. That means we can continue keeping this in mind to honor newer family memories, too.

“Our stories aren’t static; they’re dynamic and ever-changing one day after the next.”

Next year, maybe I can take the lead and host Dhanteras puja or a Diwali party—because I finally understand why it’s so important to my family.Now that I’m closer to my childbearing years, I’ve been reflecting on what I want to teach my future children with my husband, in a mixed Indian, Puerto Rican, and Filipino household. I want our kids to not just know our parents’ names and birthdates, but to also understand their lineage and how they came to exist one generation after another. What our families had in common, what they didn’t and was unique to them, and what part they’ll play in our family legacy, forever.RELATED READING

Henah Velez (she/her) is an Editor at The Good Trade. Prior to her work here, Henah worked in the nonprofit sector for more than seven years including at She’s the First, a nonprofit fighting for a world where every girl chooses her own future. Based out of Santa Barbara, you can find Henah roaming around local downtowns and small businesses, hanging with her pets, or traveling as much as possible. Say hi on Instagram!

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15 Sustainable Gift Ideas Under $50

Affordable Gifts We LoveDuring gift-giving season, we look to brands who create thoughtful keepsakes and provide us with the opportunity to give back with our purchases. But in addition to being conscious of our values, we still need to be conscious of our budgets. Below is our roundup of gifts under $50 from brands that are fair trade, handmade, or sustainable, and all are on a mission to make the world a better place.Looking for more ethically made and sustainable gifts for the holiday season? Check out our 2021 guide to the best sustainable gifts (and best gifts for him, too). Happy giving!

A pro tip: Consider doing your holiday shopping with Aspiration, a sustainable banking alternative, and plant a tree with every purchase!1. Super Fruit Spa Duo | 100% PUREThe Good Trade PartnerFor the one person who does it all, this mini-spa set is a soothing way to enjoy some self-care. The kit includes 100% Pure’s best-selling super fruit facial oil and cream, both of which are vegan, cruelty-free, and natural. (And the set is more than 30 percent off the retail price!) Offer rest and rejuvenation this time of year.Shop | $42 

 2. Paint Your Pet Experience | Uncommon GoodsGive the gift of memories with a chance to paint a pet. This unique experience from Uncommon Goods includes a watercolor kit mailed to you beforehand and a hands-on 90-minute class with an experienced art teacher. It’s the purr-fect gift of a lifetime.Shop | $50 

 3. Arch Propagation Kit | BloomscapeGo from one plant to a whole nursery with a propagation kit! Just add a clipping to this gorgeously crafted terrazzo stand and glass tube and let nature work its magic. The kit also includes rooting hormone and a step-by-step guide. What a beauty it’ll be on any countertop.Shop | $35 

 4. Midi Hoops | MejuriThe Good Trade PartnerFor everyday earrings, we’re big fans of Mejuri’s minimalist pieces. These simple yet stunning Midi Hoops are made with gold vermeil, layering ethically sourced 18K gold on sterling silver, so they’re sure to last. (Just to be sure, Mejuri offers free 60 day returns and a two year warranty.) They’re also great for second lobe piercings.Shop | $50 

 5. Rippled Bud Vase | Maid2Love CreationsTransform any space with these gorgeous earth-toned vases. Each one is 3D printed using biodegradable materials, and it’s made-to-order just for you (or your recipient!). Choose from one of five sizes and four neutral colors (black, tan, gray, brown). Shipping is free, carbon-neutral, and arrives in under 10 business days.Shop | $19+ 

 6. Ocelotl Blanket | Happy EarthThe Good Trade PartnerSnuggle in this season with the Ocelotl Blanket. This Mexican-inspired blanket—one of six gorgeous color patterns—is made with 100 percent recycled and reclaimed fibers, and sent in recyclable packaging. Plus, your purchase helps either plant 15 trees, prevent 150 pounds of emissions, or remove a pound of ocean trash—you decide!Use code GOODTRADE15 for 15% off sitewide.Shop | $42 

 7. Reusable Facial Rounds | cocokindSkincare aficionados and makeup lovers alike will love these zero-waste facial rounds from cocokind. Instead of relying on disposable cotton pads, these are made with reusable bamboo and cotton. Once used, put them in the mesh bag and throw them in the wash. (The best kind of present is one you can use over and over again, right?)Shop | $18 

 8. DIY Embroidery Kit | Create the CultureFor the pop culture stan in your life, you can’t go wrong with one of these DIY embroidery kits from Krystle Collins. From Maya Angelou and Angela Davis to Beyonce and Biggie, there’s an iconic design for everyone, or you can purchase a completed piece instead. A wonderful activity for your hands—and to hang on the wall.Shop | $20+ 

 9. The Vegan Set | OmsomOmsom brings the loud, proud flavors of Asian cooking right to your home with its starters. This 100 percent vegan set includes Chinese, Filipino, Korean, and Japanese packets, each inspired by signature dishes like Sisig and Bulgogi. With 12 starters total and suggested recipes from acclaimed East & Southeast Asian chefs, you can enjoy up to 24 delicious meals.Shop | $45 

 10. Hit Snooze Travel Eye Mask | ADAYIt’s been a year to say the least. Gift sleep to those who need it with this travel eye mask, especially those heading near and far for the holidays. This cutely designed mask is made with 90 percent Lenzing modal, a plant-based fabric, and 10 percent Spandex for just the right amount of stretch. Sweet dreams. 💤Shop | $28 

 11. Curve Clip | ChunksHair clips and claws are back in, baby! We love this eclectic design from Chunks, which proudly supports responsible manufacturing in China and prioritizes eco-friendly materials. This gorgeous Curve Clip works on both fine and thick hair, however you like to style it! Mix and match with Chunks’ other one-of-a-kind styles.Shop | $14 

 12. Create-A-Candle | Made by DWCThe only gift better than a candle? Getting to make your own! This kit includes supplies to make three candles, in either “Night Blooming Jasmine” or “White Sage & Lavender” scents. (Not into DIY? Choose from one of Made By DWC’s aromatic soy candles instead.) This LA-based nonprofit supports houseless women, and your purchase helps provide gainful employment.Shop | $48 

 13. Zero Waste Lunch Kit | Package Free ShopKids and adults alike will love this Zero Waste Lunch Kit, especially as we head back into the world. The kit includes a bamboo cutlery set, a stainless steel container, organic hankie, a reusable silicone sandwich bag, and a product bag to carry everything in. They’ll never need disposable spoons or plastic to-go containers again.Shop | $50 

 14. Pinafore Apron Dress | Wilshire Goods ShopPart-apron, part-dress, this cottagecore-inspired piece can do it all. It’s the present for someone who’s…well, looking to stay in the present. The dress is easy to throw on for gardening, cooking, and painting or just layering for extra warmth. So versatile and lovely.Shop | $17.50 

 15. Organic Tea Sampler | Arbor TeasFor the friend who swore off coffee this year (or for the friend who just loves a cuppa!), treat them to a delightful tea sampler set from Arbor Teas. Every tea is certified Fair Trade and USDA organic, wrapped in compostable packaging, and carbon-free. Choose from Japanese green teas, decaf teas, English favorites, Indian black teas and more—or pick one of each.Shop | $12–$15 

 This article was brought to you by Aspiration.A 30-second newsletter delivered to your inbox each morning with tips for self-care and sustainable living. 🌿 Join over 215,000 readers who start their day with something good.✨💌 VIEW A SAMPLE ISSUE 💌

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Do Dropps Detergent Pods Actually Provide A Conscious Clean?

Then I found out about Dropps, a brand dedicated to creating zero-waste cleaning products, as well as laundry detergent. Dropps was founded by Jonathan Propper and his mother, Lenore Propper Schwart, in the ‘80s. The family had their own cotton mill and saw firsthand the effects of chemical-rich laundry detergent on natural fibers. To protect their fabrics, they created a more gentle and natural detergent. Later, Dropps’ toxic-free, plastic-free, and cruelty-free pods for both laundry and dishwashing were born.For my own Dropps journey, I opted for the Sensitive Skin & Baby Detergent (since our little one is on the way!). The formula is free of artificial fragrances, dyes, enzymes, phosphates, phthalates, parabens, optical brighteners—and never tested on animals!I also wanted to try Dropps’ color-safe bleach alternative, Oxi Booster. The plant-based formula claims to remove stains and brighten whites without the harmful chemicals found in bleach.When my Dropps shipment arrived, I was first impressed by how minimal the packaging was. My order came in compostable boxes with messages about sustainability and earth consciousness. Inside, the 64 pods (one pod = one load) sat alone without any other packaging. The shipment was 100 percent carbon-neutral, too. 

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Are Blueland’s Cleaning Products As Effective As They Are Eco-Friendly?

But the hand soap, laundry tablets, bathroom and multi-surface cleaner all did as promised, clearing stains and grime from wherever applied. And Blueland’s mission is one I can’t help but support. Since 2019, its products have helped eliminate nearly two billion single-use plastic bottles from landfills and oceans. They’re made without parabens, ammonia, VOCs, and other toxins, and formulas are sourced from vegan, gluten-free, and soy and nut-free ingredients. (It also has all the certifications a conscious consumer could ask for: B Corp, Cradle to Cradle, Leaping Bunny, Climate Neutral, EWG Verified, and more.) Plus, with refills starting at two dollars, it’s a truly affordable essential.But for me, the formulas need a bit of work before I can click “subscribe.”Key Takeaways:Blueland’s product line feels comprehensive and complete: full of essentials, no more, no less. I love the option to subscribe to certain product sets, rather than making it a requirement.The business model—”Buy the bottle once. Refill forever.”—is legitimately eco-friendly, having diverted 1 billion single-use plastic bottles since 2019.The glass cleaner left streaks on my mirror and the dishwasher tablets left little dried flecks on my dishes, so the formulas might benefit from a bit of improvement.

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