Monday, August 30, 2010


Lately, the volume of clutter on my side of the closet has been bothering me.

My clothes were so squashed together that they were getting wrinkled just from being in there!

My poor husband only gets about 1/4 of our closet to himself.

So tonight I committed to a closet purge. I went through each and every piece of clothing in there (as well as the sweaters and jeans in my dresser), and decided to get rid of every piece that I didn't really, truly love and could see myself wearing multiple times within the next year. If I hadn't worn it in the past 12 months, it was automatically disqualified.

And you know what? I discovered that I actually like an awful lot of my clothes!

Keepers are on the left. There are a lot more on the left than on the right.
And yes, that is a Care Bear on my nightstand. Grumpy Bear, to be precise.
The left side of the closet hasn't been this empty since before we moved into the house!

Now, mind you, this only includes actual clothing: dresses, skirts, tops, pants, blazers, etc. Pajamas, undergarments, and shoes are not included in this count. (Not including shoes feels like cheating, but I got rid of a bunch of shoes a few months ago, so they weren't part of the problem.)

  • 128: Total pieces of clothing I started out with.
  • 35: Total pieces of clothing to donate/sell (32) or throw out (3).
  • 3: Pieces in limbo. I need some time to think about these.
  • 90: The amount of actual clothing left in my closet and dresser.
My goal was to hit 100 pieces or less, so I'm pretty pleased with myself. I managed to reduce the size of my wardrobe by more than 25%!

~75% of my clothing.

Oddly enough, my side of the closet still looks awfully full, albeit considerably less squished. The biggest difference, which isn't very apparent in this photo, is the big empty space in the bottom left side of the closet. As of right now I only plan to replace 2 pairs of tights and a couple of button-down shirts (I only have 3 left!) for the fall/winter. Apart from that, I will only buy something new if I was already planning to get rid of something I have.

I learned a couple of important things tonight.
  1. I am awfully lucky. I may not be able to afford every single piece of clothing my heart desires, but I'm not exactly experienceing a clothing deficit.
  2. I've had a lot of the clothing in my closet for quite awhile. And I still like nearly all of it. I've come a long way from picking stuff that either falls apart or I dislike after one season.
  3. In spite of #2, there was still an awful lot of stuff in my closet that had no business being there.
  4. I can no longer fit into a juniors size 3.
  5. I'm ok with #4. :-)

Update: I just realized I had a couple of items in the hamper when I did this. Add 3 camis and 2 short-sleeved tops (all of which I love and intend to keep) to the final count. ;-)

Lost in a Good Book

I have not been reading nearly enough lately.

Because of my ridiculously busy summer, it took me nearly 2 months to finish The Dew Breaker, by Edwidge Danticat.

I picked this book because I read The Farming of Bones by the same author for a class in college and really enjoyed it. I think I'd have enjoyed this one a bit more if I'd been able to sit down and read it for more than 20 minutes at a time. The narrator keeps changing, and it's really hard to keep track of who's speaking it's been a week since I last picked up the book. But even in spite of that fact, I found the ending of the book completely heartwrenching. I finished it while I was in a bowling alley bar waiting for a comedy open mic to start, and I nearly started crying.
Now I'm re-reading Ragtime.

It's one of my favorite E. L. Doctorow books, as well as one of my favorite Broadway musicals. I was listening to the original cast recording last week, and suddenly found myself overwhelmed with the desire to read the book again. I actually own two copies of it: a signed 1st edition, given to me as a wedding gift by my WONDERFUL bridesmaids nearly 4 1/2 years ago, and a regular hardcover edition for actually reading. I'm going to have off from work this Wednesday through Monday, so I plan on using part of that time to allow myself to get thoroughly lost in this book.

Have you read any good books lately??

P.S. This past weekend I got those jewelry supplies I was talking about in my last post, I'll be working on a piece for my autumn giveaway this week! :-)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Weekend Off

I didn't really do much work related to any of my three jobs this past weekend. My extra hours at the library are done for the summer, and pretty soon I'll be focusing on doing fall craft shows, so having a little break was nice.

I had a bridal shower to go to Saturday afternoon, where I was promptly recruited to make the bow hat. I ran out of room on the plate for all the bows, so I also made a bow bouquet. Unfortunately, no pictures have materialized on Facebook yet, but apparently my handiwork wowed the other guests. ;-)

I spent that evening in New York watching my husband do stand-up at Comix. We drove in with Pat, who also had a show that night, at the Broadway Comedy Club. Two of my college roommates came out to see Glen, and we all got together after the show.

Faye, Jency and I pose with Pat

Toasting to a successful night of comedy

Sunday was rainy and gross and I had an awful sinus headache, but I played a concert at a retirement home with the community band because I am just that dedicated. ;-) We played some Sousa, some Sinatra, and medleys of songs by Duke Ellington and Leroy Anderson. I've had "The Syncopated Clock" stuck in my head for the last two days. :-P

But apart from the concert, I mostly just lounged around the house on Sunday with Glen and Elvis. Here they are hanging out on the futon in my office:

The full picture is funnier, but for propriety's sake I had to crop it, largely because Elvis likes to splay his legs out and it was kind of indecent.

By the way, I just ordered some more supplies, some of which will be perfect for autumn-themed necklaces. Keep your eyes peeled for new items in the shop (and a giveaway here!) next month!

P.S. Melissa of Oh, My Darling just opened a vintage clothing shop on Etsy. Stop by her blog to get a discount code for 10% off! :-)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One Year Wiser

This post is pretty wordy, so bare with me here. ;-)

This month marks one year since I first decided to make my idea of starting my own little jewelry business a reality.

I did some things right, and I did some things wrong. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't change a thing, but I am glad I decided to jump right into it. If I'd hesitated, waiting until I knew exactly how to do each and every little thing perfectly, I'd have been paralyzed with fear and never actually done anything.


I didn't neglect to prepare altogether. I spent an awful lot of time perusing the IRS website. I considered what kind of business structure to choose. I decided a sole proprietorship made the most sense for now.

I also read the IRS Tax Guide for Small Businesses publication several times. And printed it out. And put in a binder for future reference. Seriously, if you think you want to start your own small business, consider this mandatory reading material. And if you're going to be selling a product, read the part about inventory more carefully than I did. (More about that later...)


From what I gather, this is the part that seems to intimidate a lot of people the most: registering your business and obtaining whatever license(s) you need to make sure you're operating legally.

I decided to register right away rather than start out as a hobby and convert to a business after the fact. I knew from the start that my intent was to make at least a modest profit, and if I had a loss my first year I wouldn't be able to claim that loss on my tax return unless I was registered as a business. Not to mention, if I did manage to turn a significant profit, I didn't want to risk getting audited and being penalized for not paying taxes on my earnings!

I did a little research
here and found out exactly what I needed to do to start a business in NJ. As it turns out, in my case I simply had to register as a business and get a license to collect sales tax.

Since I live right on the border of NJ & PA, I also registered to collect sales tax there so I could do craft shows, jewelry parties, etc. in that state as well. I had to register as a "transient vendor" since my business is based outside of PA.

The specific rules may be different depending on the state, county, and municipality where you live, but I only had to file a total of 3 (short!) forms to make things official It's really not as difficult as it might seem, I promise!


Naturally, I needed a means of buying supplies to make my jewelry. I was prepared to put my own money into my business, since I wasn't planning on making a huge initial investment. But I wanted to make sure whatever purchases I made were clearly for business, and not personal, purposes.

So as soon as my business was registered, I signed up for a business credit card. This was the first real goal I set for myself: Charge my initial supplies and try to make that money back in time to pay my first bill in full. Mission accomplished. :-)

Now, the ideal situation would be to have a totally separate checking account for my business right from the start. But considering the fact that I wasn't accumulating a lot of cash, just reinvesting it into my business, I didn't want to risk dropping below a minimum balance and getting charged an unnecessary fee each month.

Instead I was stuck depositing money to pay my Mischievous Kitty credit card bills and such through personal checking, which I've really hated doing. However, I'm finally at a point where I can open a business checking account, and I'm incredibly excited to do so!



I designed a workbook in Excel that has served very nicely so far. I have a sheet for Expenditures and another for Inventory/Sales, and each of those feeds directly into my cash flow statement. I can use formulas and filters to figure out what types of pieces are selling best, how much sales tax I need to remit for each state, whether I made a profit monthly, yearly, or cumulatively.
I also use the spreadsheet to track my business-related mileage so I can take a deduction for that when I do my taxes at the end of the year.

I'm continuously tweaking it, but it served its purpose quite nicely when I filed my 2009 taxes. I had no problem taking my records for revenue and expenses for the most part... except when it came to calculating cost of goods sold. Which brings me to the one area where I really wish I'd done a better job:


This is where I let myself down, considering I have a business degree. I
should have known better, but I was so excited to dive right into my business that I didn't think about the difference between tracking inventory for resale versus manufacturing.

If you're planning on buying and selling finished products, inventory is pretty straightforward. Decide whether you want to use
FIFO or LIFO, then track the cost and sales price of each piece.

If you're manufacturing something, it's a bit more complicated, and I failed in a major way. I tracked how much, say, a string of beads or a length of chain cost, but I didn't break it down to cost per bead or per foot of chain. What a headache when I had to figure out cost of goods sold at tax time.

Lesson learned. Now I'm tracking how much each individual component cost and recording the materials cost for each finished product. Is it tedious? Yes. But considering the time it will save me in in the future, it's totally worth it!


I really needed this first year to develop a brand identity. I wasn't really sure what I was doing when I started out, so I spent a lot of time playing around, experimenting with different styles and materials. Very few pieces were alike, but they did have a similar aesthetic. I've settled into a somewhat vintage style using mostly natural materials like semi-precious stones, pearls, coral, etc., occasionally working actual vintage components into my pieces. This sort of style makes sense, since my company is named after my grandmother. ;-)

After a year, I have a better feel for what will sell, and my pieces are becoming less eclectic and more focused. Most of what I've been making lately has been variations on just a handful of styles, instead of being completely all over the place, like it was in the beginning. It's not fully reflected on my
Etsy shop yet, but as I have time to photograph new pieces I think it will become more apparent.

Speaking of which, I'm hoping that by getting a bit more focused in the styles of jewelry I make, I'll be able to reuse more product photos on Etsy, which would save me a TON of time.

One thing I really wish I'd done from the start was establish more brand identity with my packaging. This was a step in the right direction. But I'm still stuck with your standard, boring price tags and earring cards for shows. I have some ideas though. Once I get a chance to test them out, I'll share them here. :-)


I haven't done a heck of a lot of traditional advertising. Initially this decision had more to do with budget than anything else.
I advertised a bit online, and it appeared to get me a handful of sales, but nothing earth-shattering.

I quickly found that one of the best forms of advertising is free: word of mouth. I've made more sales based on someone seeing my jewelry being worn by someone else (or me!) and w
anting to get something like it than for any other reason.

The result has been a lot of in-person sales, but less online. I have mixed feeling about this. Do I want to focus more on getting online sales in the coming year? Or keep my focus primarily on craft shows and jewelry parties?

I think the biggest surprise for me as I write this is that one of the areas I felt I did worst (or at least was most hesitant to attack) was marketing/branding. My concentration within my business degree was marketing! If anything, I'd have expected to drop the ball on accounting and render myself completely incapable of properly completing my
Schedule C. But aside from my little inventory snafu, I think I did pretty well in that regard.

I suspect the reason for that is the fact that I was more worried about the areas I perceived as my weaknesses and put more effort into them. On one hand, this approach was a disadvantage during my first year. But on the other hand, I managed to hammer out the areas I expected to have trouble with right away, and now I am more free to focus on the things that come more easily to me.

Can't wait to see what
Mischievous Kitty Jewelry's second year in business will bring!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Shades

In the den...

Old lamp shade.

New lamp shade, up close and personal.

New lamp shade in its natural habitat. ;-)

...and in the hallway above the linen closet.

They came with the house - much too frilly for my taste!

MUCH better.
And now they match the lights in the bathroom, which is right next door.
Hurray for continuity!

For real, if you've got a space that doesn't quite match your style, just updating a *part* of the lighting makes such a tremendous difference. Bonus points if you don't pay a penny for them because you have a gift card AND a coupon. ;-)

P.S. I know I haven't been writing much about entrepreneurship in general OR my jewelry specifically lately. But I'm working on a post looking back on my first year in business. It'll be up sometime this week, promise!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by the night sky.

Whether it was staring up at at stars and point out constellations during camping trips with my Dad at Worthington State Forest, looking at the amazing photographs in Carl Sagan's Cosmos, or insisting that my husband accompany me when Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a lecture at a nearby college, I've always been drawn to all things astonomy.

The "sexiest astrophysicist alive" signed my copy of The Pluto Files!

This week marks one of my favorite times of the year - the peak of the Perseid meteor shower.
Photo by Wally Pacholka, via NASA
Thursday evening into Friday morning, the Perseids are supposed to peak, at least 80 meteors per hour.
Just how much do I love the Perseids?

I'm taking a vacation day on Friday so I can stay up late Thursday night and hang out in my back yard on a beach towel.

Will you be watching the sky tomorrow night?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Paring Down

Yes, I'm still alive! But 5 full days + 4 half days of work crammed into only 6 days did not treat me well. By last night I had a sore throat and a stuffy nose. And now I'm 10 hours into yet another 12-hour work day, which has been filled with copious amounts of tissues and hand sanitizer.

But now for the actual point of my post. While I was on my lunch break at the day job today, I saw this article on Yahoo. It got me thinking about how ironic it is that Glen and I spent our first 3 years of marriage living in a one-bedroom apartment, acquiring things, andnow that we've nearly doubled our space and are living in a 3-bedroom house, I have a weird fixation on paring down our possessions.

I don't think I could ever go to the extreme this couple did:

My husband comes from a family of 7, and with marriages and babies, that number is increasing. 4 plates, like this couple has, would not be nearly enough if we have even part of his family over for dinner.

Heck, as tempting as it sounds I'm not even sure I could go for the "100 personal items" thing if I have to include toiletries and undergarments in that number. But I'm tempted to have a go at whittling down my actual clothing (tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes) down to 100 pieces. Sounds like it should be easy, but I have 30 pairs of shoes alone. And I wear almost all of them on a fairly regular basis. But having less to choose from, especially if I really love the pieces I have left, would making picking outfits SO much easier.

I'd also love to get rid of all the unnecessary stuff in my office closet. Ideally, I'd use the entire thing exclusively for Mischievous Kitty supplies, but there's stuff from the apartment in there that I just haven't bothered to weed through yet. I haven't used it in more than a year, so it's probably safe to say I won't miss it much. The clutter definitely affects my motivation to get stuff done for my jewelry business, particularly during busy times like last week and this week. I'd love to just go in, sit down, and start making something, but it's easy to lose motivation when I'm already tired and have to clean and organize just to get the overflow off my desk.

I think I'll have to set aside a weekend in the near future to do both of those things. Perhaps I'll post some before and after pictures. Maybe I'll even finish fixing up the (almost finished!) den!

Has anyone out there done any paring down of their "stuff" lately? Have any inspiring success stories to share with me? ;-)

Monday, August 2, 2010


I came home from work at the library this evening to find my storage solution for finished products conveniently delivered to my doors

No more bags inside bags inside a box.

Behold: a hardware storage cabinet!

It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it sure is functional. And I'm planning on getting some cute little labels (purple ones, of course!) to put on each drawer so I can tell exactly what's inside.

I doubt I'll have much time for blogging over the next couple of weeks. In addition to my day job at the courthouse, I'll be working shifts at the library every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday for the next two weeks, plus a Saturday, plus two family reunions and a party. And possibly more things I've managed to forget.

P.S. Breaking news: Glen just informed me that a piece of the Aggro Crag is for sale on E-Bay. His suggestion: we lower our car budget by $1000 so we can bid on it. As cool as an Aggro Crag trophy would look on the mantel, my answer is no. ;-)

Sunday, August 1, 2010


When I find myself spending large chunks of my somewhat meager spare time editing jewelry photos I tend to leave the memory card plugged into the computer instead of putting it back in the camera where it belongs.

Which wouldn't be so bad, except that on really cool occasions like this:

...when I take my camera out to take a picture during the encore and only have room for one picture in my internal memory, what I get is this:

Not cool.

Oh well.

The show was amazing, that's what really matters. I don't consider myself a fan of bluegrass and originally got the tickets because Steve Martin is one of my husband's childhood heroes so I thought Glen would enjoy seeing him live. But all the musicians were super talented and I enjoyed listening... and of course Steve Martin was cracking jokes the whole way through. And "King Tut" was the encore.

Good music + laughter = an awesome night.

And by the way, this time I remembered to put the memory card back in my camera after putting them on my computer. ;-)
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