How to Add Personality to a Room

One of the things I liked best about my new home was the clean, white walls. That was also something I didn’t like because it made my rooms look bare. It also created a lack of style and personality in the rooms despite them being full of furniture.

It doesn’t help that I’ve yet to do any painting because I’m still trying to really finalize my decorating style and don’t want to spend a lot of money on paint and painters only to find out it doesn’t work with my decor.

As a happy, cost-efficient compromise I started to add art to the walls. Once I started doing that I was amazed at how different every room looked and much more like a home it feels.

Tips for adding personality to the rooms in your home | arelaxedgal.com

I have a lot of empty wall space and while not all of it is getting wall art, what is could cost me thousands of dollars. Not what I need to or want to spend right now.

None of the wall art I have hanging in my rooms came from an art gallery or cost a lot of money. Having nice home decor doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Here are places you can get wall art at a budget price.

1. Ross

When I used to think of Ross I only thought about clothes. Now that I have a house I’m slowly decorating I’ve discovered the home section of Ross. They don’t have a huge wall art section, but they do have a variety of styles available.

2. Home Goods

I’ve probably shared this before, but this is my new favorite store. I always see something in there I like including the wall art. Not only can you find painting and photographs, but also wall hangings made out of different materials like metal or wood.

3. Thrift and consignment stores

Two of my favorite wall art pieces were a surprising find at a thrift store. Also pretty much all of the wall art in the guest bedroom my mom decorated came from thrift and consignment shops. One thing to keep in mind, specifically for consignment shops, are the prices may start out high, but if the item doesn’t sale after a while the price may be lowered.

Tips for adding personality to the rooms in your home | arelaxedgal.com

4. Flea markets and yard sales

Confession, this is purely hearsay as I haven’t been to a flea market since my grandfather took me when I was a child. I also haven’t been able to find any art I liked at yard sales. But if you ever watch HGTV shows like Fixer Upper you’ve probably seen how pretty much anything that can hang on a wall can be transformed into wall art and some of the best places to find those types of items are flea markets and yard sales.

5. Children’s drawings

When paired with a nice frame look like modern art. All of the images in one of my guest bedrooms are paintings I did in middle school and high school.

You can get nice, inexpensive frames from stores like Michael's or Hobby Lobby, especially when you use a coupon. Yard sales are another great place to get budget-friendly frames. As well as your own home by recycling picture frames from old pictures that no longer fit your decor.

What stores are your favorite places for buying wall art?

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3 DIY Homemade Facial Toners

Toners are an essential part of a healthy skincare routine. Sadly they aren’t something that I use on a daily basis. Mostly because the store bought toners I’ve tried in the past would dry out my skin, cause me to breakout and cost a lot of money. But I may be changing my tune.

Recently I was suffering from several unexpected pimple breakouts on my face. I couldn’t figure out why. My routine hadn’t changed and I was using the same products I had before, but the pimples kept coming.

After having this go on for several weeks I had a thought “maybe these breakouts are because my pores aren’t as clean as I think they are.” Outside of washing my face multiple times or trying to find a new cleanser I wasn’t sure what to do.

3 DIY Homemade Facial Toners | arelaxedgal.com 

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My 5 Biggest Financial Regrets

We all do or don’t do things during our lifetime that we end up regretting. These regrets can be as simple as having one scoop of ice cream too many, wearing heels instead of flats or having a messy house when surprise guests show up.

Other times these regrets can be bigger and have a greater impact. Sometimes they can have an impact on our finances. Some of my biggest regrets are financial related and some of them had a lasting impact on my finances. The good thing about having these regrets is I’ve learned from them and can share those learnings with you.

My 5 biggest financial regrets and what I learned from them | arelaxedgal.com 

Financial regret 1: Staying at the same job for 5 years

I got my first full-time job about nine months after graduating college. I was so excited about that job. A few years in I wasn’t happy anymore. I didn’t feel like my career was being nurtured or that I was getting the kind of experience that would help me grow my career. As a result, I seriously considered leaving to the point that I was interviewing at other companies and had accepted other offers, but something or someone would convince me to stay.

I soon came to regret staying because after being at that job for five years I was laid off. That company was known for having layoffs every 1 ½ - 2 years even to this day. So I wasn’t too surprised it had happened, but it was still a shock.

Since then I’ve come to realize that staying at that job and the layoff both had a huge negative impact my earning potential. If I had left that job after a couple of years I could have
  • Increased my salary sooner and earned more over time. According to a Forbes article “staying at the same employer for over two years on average can cost you 50% or more in lifetime earnings.
  • Not lost my job and been out of work for a few months which ate into my emergency savings and negatively impacted my retirement savings.
  • Gained greater work experiences that would have enriched my resume putting my career on a better growth track. Apparently many other people have come to realize this because 59% of respondents in a LinkedIn survey who had changed jobs selected their new job because they saw a stronger career path or opportunity there.

Financial regret 2. Taking a job for less pay

This happened after the layoff I mentioned in the previous regret. I had been unemployed for a few months and was getting worried I wouldn’t get another job. So I ended up taking one that paid $10,000 a year less than what I had been previously making.

This played a role in putting me behind in my lifetime earnings by putting me in a salary bracket lower than I should have been in. I’ve been playing catch up ever since which means I could be earning less over my entire lifetime.

Financial regret 3: Not increasing my retirement account contributions

When I first started working I made sure to contribute to my retirement accounts religiously. I increased those contributions regularly and whenever I got a raise. That is until I was laid off.

When I was laid off I stopped contributing to one of my retirement accounts and drastically reduced the contributions to another. When I started working again I didn’t resume those contributions for several months. The reason being I felt I needed to replenish my emergency savings in case I was laid off again. Because of this I’ve gotten behind in my retirement savings and will be playing catchup for a while.

When I did resume my retirement contributions they were minimal. It wasn’t until recently that I increased them to a point where they are substantial and closer to where they would have been had I not stopped making contributions.

My 5 biggest financial regrets | arelaxedgal.com 

Financial regret 4: Missing a few credit card payments

I’m a person who pays her credit card off every month so I don’t carry over a balance. This has been great for my credit history and put me in good standing with my credit card companies.

So it may come as a surprise that I’ve missed a credit card payment or two. These payments weren’t missed because I didn’t have the money. It was pure stupidity. I just forgot to make the payments.
While this only happened a handful of times the reason I regret the missed payments is because I ended up wasting money. I had to pay late payment fees on the balances and some crazy interest. Additionally, a few of the late payments were added to my credit history and impacted my credit score.

Financial regret 5: Not working with a financial advisor sooner

Within the last year I started working with a financial advisor. She helped me map out my short and long term financial goals, took a look at my overall financial picture and gave me recommendations on how to reach those goals. This has been helpful as I work to get my retirement savings back on track.

I wish I had worked with a financial advisor sooner. Per a Putnam survey, those “who work with a financial advisor are on track to replace 80 percent of their income in retirement.” Those who don’t are most likely going to replace about 56% of their income in retirement. That’s a big difference.

Do you have any financial regrets?

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15 Bad Hair Care Habits I No longer Have

When I started on a journey for healthier hair it was because I started to notice things about my relaxed hair I didn’t like. I naturally have really thick hair, but over time I started to notice my relaxed hair was thinning. I also started to notice that my hair was shedding more than usual and it felt dry most of the time.

I naively thought that I could search online and find a product that would fix all of those issues. What I didn’t realize was many of my hair habits were the main contributors to these issues. So even if I could find a product that existed to fix all of my issues they would continue coming back until I broke those bad hair care habits.

Over time I was able to identify these bad hair care habits and slowly work through breaking them. The thing about bad habits is even though it may seem like they’re gone, they will sometimes pop back up. So I have to vigilant in making sure I don’t revert back. A great way to not revert back to bad habits is to periodically remind myself what they were.

Here are the 15 bad hair care habits I had to break

15 bad hair care habits I no longer have | arelaxedgal.com 

1. Detangling from the root down

This was probably one of the hardest habits for me to break because pretty much all my life I was detangling my hair incorrectly. Why I don’t know. Especially when all during my childhood I can remember my mom detangling my hair starting at the ends and working her way up.

When tangled hair is combed starting at the root it just drags the knots down and can tighten them making them harder to get unraveled. This can lead to longer detangling sessions, knots that can only be removed with scissors or hair breakage.

What replaced the bad habit

Now when I detangle I use my fingers and work in sections starting at the ends and working my way up each section. You can see more about how I finger detangle in my post The Best Way to Detangle Your Hair.

2. Detangling on dry hair

Not only would I detangle my hair starting at the root, but I would also detangle on dry hair. I’m cringing at the thought. By dry hair, this means I would
  • Fully dry my hair after washing and then detangle
  • Not apply any product to my hair before detangling

By not detangling on dry strands I was making my hair prone to breakage and snapping. And believe me break and snap it did.

What replaced the bad habit

Now before I detangle I make sure to hydrate my hair by applying some type of conditioner, or spritzing my hair with water.

3. Washing my hair by piling it on top of my head

We’ve all seen the hair commercials and watched movies and TV shows with women washing their hair. They fill their hair with suds, pile the hair on top of their head and massage. Naturally, I thought that was the proper way to wash your hair. I mean who wouldn’t after seeing those images. Especially when their hair would look shiny and bouncy afterward.

As I’ve progressed on my healthy hair journey I’ve realized that way of shampooing is only going to result in tangled hair. It doesn’t matter if I detangled my hair before washing it. Piling my hair on top of my head equals tangles.

What replaced the bad habit

Through tips from other bloggers and trial and error, I discovered the benefits of washing your hair when it’s in its natural position. I also will sometimes wash my hair in sections decreasing the potential for detangling even more.

4. Never deep conditioning

This is another one that I cringe at. Before I started taking better care of my hair I think I only deep conditioned when I went to the salon every 6-10 weeks. This is probably one of the key reasons my hair would constantly feel dry and would rarely look good in the weeks following the salon visit.

What replaced the bad habit

Once I learned about the benefits of deep conditioning it became hard for me to not deep condition every time I would wash my hair. Nowadays I deep condition on a weekly basis and have tried several deep conditioners. Two of my favorite ones are Eden BodyWorks Jojoba Monoi Deep Conditioner and SheaMoisture Mongongo & Hemp Seed Oils High Porosity Moisture-Seal Masque.

5. Flat ironing my hair every day

Yep. I was one of those. Every morning I would get up and before heading out I would run a flat iron down my hair to either straighten it or curl it. When I look back I can’t for the life of me understand why. By flat ironing my hair every day I was drying it out and damaging it.

The constant heat from the flat iron was drying out my hair which resulted in damage. The additional damage came from flat ironing dirty hair. The heat from the flat iron would open up the hair cuticles and my hair would absorb all of the dirt, grime and environmental elements that say on it.

What replaced the bad habit

Since starting my healthy hair journey I think I bring out the flat iron maybe about four times a year. And I use it on clean hair.

If I decide I want to wear a curly look I use my steam rollers or do large Bantu-type knots overnight. The curls actually look better than when I would use a flat iron.

6. Not using heat protectant when using heat on my hair

When I used to style my hair I would blow dry on high heat at least once a week, and then would flat iron every day. With all of this heat, I would rarely use a heat protectant. I’m not exactly sure why, but I vaguely recall thinking that my hair wouldn’t be damaged by the heat and heat protectant was expensive and a waste of money.

I can only sadly laugh at that now. I’m amazed that my head even has any hair after all the torture that I put it through.

What replaced the bad habit

Not only am I using less direct heat, but I’m using a heat protectant when I do use heat. The two heat protectants I’ve used most recently are Jane Carter Solutions Revitalizing Leave-in Conditioner and Silk Elements MegaSilk Olive Heat Protectant.

7. Always using sulfate shampoos

Shampoos with sulfates can get hair really clean. They can also be harsh and dry hair out. So just imagine what I was doing to my hair when I used a sulfate clarifying shampoo when I washed my hair every week.

I shudder at the thought. It’s no wonder my hair was dry. I had thought I was being good to my hair by getting it squeaky clean, but in fact, I was doing the opposite.

What replaced the bad habit

At the start of my hair journey, I switched to only using sulfate-free shampoos and co-washed. I eventually added a sulfate shampoo into my product rotation to help combat the hard water where I live in Florida. So now I have an every other week rotation for my sulfate-free and sulfate shampoos.

8. Going six weeks or less between relaxers

Before starting my healthy hair journey, I didn’t have a set number of weeks I would go between relaxers. I would go to the salon to get a touch up when it fit in my schedule and I felt comfortable with spending the money.

While this ended up being anywhere between 6-10 weeks, there were several times I would go less than 6 weeks. Many of those times I’d get a touch up at 4 weeks post.

What replaced the bad habit

I started stretching my relaxers and now go 12+ weeks between my relaxer touch ups.

9. Not moisturizing my hair between washes

Oh yeah. You read that right. After using a sulfate shampoo, drying my hair on high heat and flat ironing I didn't moisturize my hair. For some reason, I didn’t feel the need to apply any product to my hair. I can’t for the life of me wonder why other than I couldn’t find a moisturizer that felt good on my hair. One that didn’t weigh my hair down or make it feel greasy.

What replaced the bad habit

I now moisturize my hair every other day or when my hair looks and feels like it needs moisturizing. I also seal in the moisture using a natural oil or hair serum.

10. Not drinking enough water

All throughout my life I’ve suffered from periods of dry and flaky scalp. When I was natural as a child and even after I was relaxed.

Over time I realized that drinking water helps my scalp feel moisturized which reduces the itching and flaking.

What replaced the bad habit

I make sure I drink a glass of water before leaving for work in the morning. Then I carry a water bottle with me all day and set a goal of having to fill it up at least twice. I also make sure to drink another glass in the evening before bed.

11. Constantly manipulating my hair

By styling, combing and brushing our hair we cause friction to the strands. This raises the hair cuticles and causes unwanted damage - frizz, damage, breakage, etc.

When I constantly combed, blow dried and flat ironed my hair I was causing a lot of friction.

What replaced the bad habit

I don’t comb my hair every day. I’ve also stopped using a hairbrush because I found it did more damage to my hair than good. I also wear short-term protective styles like buns and ponytails that I can keep my hair in overnight which leads to less overall manipulation of my hair.

12. Only using hot water on my hair

I like hot showers. I think they’re fabulous. I’ve always thought the more steam the better. While the steam can be beneficial for my hair, the hot water itself isn’t.

Hot water keeps the hair cuticle open which is fine when conditioning your hair, but not for the final rinse. At that point, the cuticle should be closed to help seal moisture in and make the hair look shiny.

What replaced the bad habit

I’ve started doing my final rinse using cool or cold water. Since doing that I’ve noticed my hair retains moisture better than when I did the final rinse with hot water.

13. Using different hair products

When it came to the hair products I used on my hair I wasn’t picky. I would use any and all brands. Basically whatever shampoo or conditioner was cheap or on sale at the store. I didn’t have a brand that I stuck to. Nor did I pay attention to the hair type or problem the product was formulated for.

So when I started my hair journey I didn’t have clue about what products worked for my hair and which didn’t. This probably explains why I would have different results each time I washed my hair.

What replaced the bad habit

When I started my hair journey I tried many different products in an effort to find the ones that worked best for my hair. Now I have a few brands and products that I stick with. By doing this I have more predictable results each wash day.

14. Using a towel on my hair

We’ve all seen the images of women with freshly washed hair wrapped up in a towel. It’s an image that I’ve mimicked pretty much my entire life. But once I started paying more attention to how I cared for my hair I started noticing something. After removing the towel I would see several strands of hair stuck to the towel. It was pulling my hair out.

After doing some research I learned that many towels have little grooves in them that can pull out hair strands and cause split ends. Additionally, towels tend to absorb moisture from the hair which can cause frizz.

What replaced the bad habit

I now wrap my wet hair in a t-shirt. They don’t have the grooves that towels do and they absorb water instead of moisture from the hair.

15. Wearing tight hairstyles

I prefer to wear my hair out, but know that wearing my hair up with the ends tucked away is better for it. When I would wear ponytails or buns I pulled them so the hair was tight. This put lots of stress on my edges which probably caused some thinning. It also caused headaches.

What replaced the bad habit

When I wear my hair up I do loose buns or ponytails. This puts less stress on my edges and keeps the headaches away.

Since I’ve broken or stopped these bad habits I’ve noticed healthier and more manageable hair.

Do you have any past or current bad hair habits?

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The Importance of SEO for a Blog

SEO is an abbreviation of Search Engine Optimization. In a nutshell, it is the process of getting your site or blog ranked on the unpaid list of results of a search engine.

To create these lists, search engines 1. Crawl pages to build an index and 2. Determine which websites are most relevant and provide a ranked list to searchers.

SEO is the best free way to drive traffic to your site or blog. According to internetlivestats.com, Google can have an average of over 40,000 search queries worldwide every second. This equals to more than 3.5 billion searches each day. Can you imagine capturing just a little bit of that traffic for your blog?

The importance of SEO for a blog | arelaxedgal.com 

For several months I’ve been trying to capture as much of this organic search traffic as I can. In May I captured more if it than I ever have. Comparing May to April my organic traffic increased 16% month-over-month! This made it my largest traffic driver for the first time ever! I couldn’t believe it.

This increase in organic traffic couldn’t have come at a better time as my social traffic decreased 50% month-over-month. This completely due to Pinterest. My traffic from Pinterest decreased 58% while my traffic from Facebook and Twitter both increased.

Another thing I saw this month was the visitors coming in from organic search tend to read few more posts during each visit than those who come in from social media.

When I saw this all I could think about was what a few other bloggers have started saying. You can’t and shouldn’t depend on social media to increase your blog traffic. SEO is very important for growing a blog.

To help increase my organic I did several things to SEO optimize my blog. Some of the key things I did were
  • Included keywords and longtail keywords in old and new posts
  • Added related post links to old and new posts
  • Updated headlines to be more compelling and use keywords
  • Changed to a more mobile and SEO friendly design them

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to continue this trend with my organic traffic.

How I’m Doing with My 2017 Goals

1. Fully optimize arelaxedgal.com site for SEO by the end of Q1
Completed. As noted above my organic traffic increased 16% month-over-month and social traffic decreased dramatically due to a 58% decline in Pinterest traffic.

2. Retain readers on my site
In May I had slightly fewer new visitors than April. My bounce rate decreased less than 1%.

What really stood out to me is the Pages per Session increased by about 7% and Average Session Duration increased by 13%. This shows that visitors were interested in my content and stuck around to consume more content.

3. Grow my social followers and increase engagement
I saw a slightly greater increase in social followers in May than I did in April. This was driven primarily by Facebook.

The downside is my overall social engagement decreased. Not the direction I wanted this metric to go.

4. Grow my email subscriber list to at least 1,000 by 12/31
In May I got more serious about my email list and made several changes and updates. The biggest change I made was how my subscriber lists are set up.

Another thing I did was send out more emails in an effort to keep my subscribers engaged. I didn’t have many unsubscribes and I also got a little bit of site traffic from those emails.

Unfortunately these changes only led to about 15 new subscribers, but taking into account unsubscribers, I had one new net subscriber. This brings my total number of subscribers to 89.

5. Do a least one paid post a quarter
I’ve had a few brands reach out to me about sponsored posts. I’m working on getting more information and finalize details. Hopefully one of these will pan out into something viable for the quarter.

6. Create an image library of at least 24 images by year end
In May I added seven more images to my library bringing me to a total of 19 images in my library. I’m not five images away from my goal. I’m hoping I might surpass it.

What was your blog's biggest traffic driver in May?

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