5 Ways to Freshen Up Your Apartment (On a Budget)

If you fall prey to the time-honoured tradition of spring cleaning, you may inevitably fall into another annual spring home ritual: thinking that your place is actually pretty boring, and that it’s time to give it a makeover.

I usually partake in this by browsing expensive furniture sites until I’m depressed enough to give up,  but there actually are ways to give your living space a refresher without dropping thousands of dollars. We’ve got five of those ways here.

1. Go Green

Photo via rebloggy.com

Dare I say it, but plants are trendy right now. Adding a little green to your home is a great way to add some life to empty spaces and freshen up a cramped space. Some may go all out with plants, filling their places with mini-trees with huge, sprawling leaves, or with something nearly impossible to care for like orchids.

The rest of us are going the way of the succulent and it’s easy to see why. Succulents are affordable and relatively easy to care for. (They actually DO need to be watered, just not as often as other plants.) You can get some teeny-tiny fellas to pop into a windowsill and call it a day, or go with something a bit more extravagant. As someone who is terrible at keeping things alive and has two succulents, it is important to do a bit of research into their care before you get one. If I’m being entirely honest, both my plants have one foot in the grave at this point.

If any level of plant care is too much, there are always fake ones. And honestly, with some of them, you can’t even tell the difference right away. No care required, but your apartment will still look fresh and fancy af.

2. Art

Gif via Tumblr

Let me be very clear. When I’m talking about art, I’m not talking about art. I don’t mean you can finally put up that original Rothko you inherited or anything, but if you have lots of blank wall space, why not fill it?

Photo via Pinterest

You can decorate your walls with anything. Maps, photographs, old postcards. I have a penchant for space-related posters and charts. You could put up old movies posters (ask at independent theatres if they keep their old posters, and if they have any you can take). If you can find an antique market near where you live, a quick browse there could give you lots of ideas.

It’s a way of decorating your place, sure, but these are the kinds of things that make the place you live your home. It’s glimpses into your personality, your interests and likes, and it adds character to a place that could very well be boring.

3. Scent

Photo Source

You ever have that moment where you’re walking through your apartment and something just smells…off? Nine times out of ten it’s the garbage you’ve been meaning to take out for like, three days, or it’s your neighbours experimenting with cooking again. I’m a person who likes my apartment to smell good, if I can help it. I’ll open windows to get fresh air inside, I’ll spray Febreeze all over my pillows and I’ll light candles.

Candles are my way of adding a little extra to my apartment. They’re a really nice touch on a cool, rainy day and I always have one going when I’m expecting company. It’s the perfect way for people to assume you have your life together.

If you’re scared of fire or candles in general are not a good option for you, may I recommend diffusers, a flame-free way to bring scent into your space. If you don’t like artificial scents at all, there’s the option of sticking some bounce sheets into choice places: one in your bed, tucked into the sofa, behind a pillow.

Last but to leas,t may I reinforce, do not underestimate the power of opening a window. Getting a breeze going through a stuffy apartment is like an I.V. for the soul.

4. Revamping Your Furniture

Photo via Pinterest

No one can afford new furniture. Or at least some of us can’t. Most of the apartments I lived in while at university came with their living room and dining room furniture already there, and at the time that was a godsend.

If you are living at a place where the furniture was already there, or you’ve bought your own older, maybe second-hand stuff, there are still so many ways to make them seem new. Re-varnish your dining room table, or at least throughly clean it. Get a cover for your sofa, or even use a cool curtain you found at Value Village. This is especially helpful in covering up mysterious stains on couches.

If you have some cash to spare, pick up some throw pillows or a blanket to add some comfort to the living room. These things are also helpful in the event of unexpected overnight guests.

If your bed is feeling a bit old or unappealing, consider some new pillowcases or a duvet cover. You don’t have to break bank on bedding. There are so many places you can find affordable and nice stuff, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Society6, Urban Outfitters and yes, Ikea.

5. Storage

Photo via Pinterest

Every apartment has something akin to The Corner or The Chair, a place where everything that does not have a place winds up. It can be an eyesore in your space and is a black hole of miscellaneous paraphernalia. Event though you know what lies there, you can never seem to find it.

Storage solutions doesn’t sound fun. It sounds like buying a giant plastic bin and putting everything in that bin and leaving it in a closet somewhere.

What it can be is reusing items you already have or finding inexpensive alternatives for storing things. Leftover baskets or containers from market produce can be washed and used to store small things. At one of my old apartments, I kept my books in milk crates that I stacked on their sides to create a makeshift bookshelf. When you hit the bottom of a candle, freeze it and then scrape out the wax so you can use it as storage for jewellery, hair accessories, anything you need.

And if all of this is sounding a bit too crafty, I will once again defer to the ever-wonderful Value Village, or any local thrift store, where you can find storage baskets, containers and old shelving units. When it comes to fixing up your apartment on a budget, secondhand is the only way to go. But also watch out for secondhand furniture that may be haunted. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but I am saying I’ve seen Oculus and you were warned.

Toronto Dancer Creates Beyoncé and Rihanna Sweaters to Help Charities

Owner and creator of 1Club, Shawn Bracke says his 50/50 percent cotton/polyester sweaters are perfect for an active person, someone in a creative space. Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Whether he’s teaching a dance class or sketching in his notebook, Shawn Bracke always uses his art to support charities. Now he creates sweaters with faces of celebrities on them and donates 35% of the proceeds to a different charity each month. Founded in September 2016, his online clothing brand 1Club stands for the idea of “all for one and one for all”.

Sveta: Hi Shawn! It’s exciting to learn a new artistic side of you besides dancing. How did you come up with the idea of creating your brand?

Shawn: The idea was always charity, donations. But not all. I was sketching a lot for the last five years or so, and I started putting it on clothing myself. People really liked that. On top of that, I was donating once a month from classes that I teach to different charities. So I kind of just fused the two ideas together. I thought, instead of donating from the classes I would start a brand.

Sveta: Did you have any background in fashion?

Shawn: Yep, I used to be a stylist. I used to live in London, U.K. I was a stylist there for two years, mostly just like on set for music videos, TV, and films. So it’s not the most creative because you can’t do really much with film and TV — you literally give them like this template —, but I definitely had an understanding of the industry. Honestly, fashion doesn’t really apply to my brand. The whole goal for it is to be comfortable and wearable and easy.

Sveta: How does the design of your brand express its idea?

Shawn: We stand for all for one and one for all. So the goal of the brand is essentially to create all-inclusive type of company, something comfortable and supporting. Originally, they [sweaters] are just faces of people that really inspired me. People who are using their celebrity styles to make a change in the world. There are pretty big names, like Beyoncé and Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, Victoria Beckham. They all are known for what they do either as musicians or designers, but I love all of them because they are affiliated with charities. And obviously, I know that people would love to wear a Beyonce sweater or Rihanna [sweater]. And I like that it’s all strong women. A lot of charities that I focus on are geared towards helping women.

Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Sveta: What are some charitable organization you work or have worked with?

Shawn: Right now we are with Red Door Family Shelter. We’ve worked with Covenant House. They are cool. They are like a shelter for the homeless slash for people who are distressed. So they help a lot of women who are in bad situations with their husbands or who are trying to escape.

Sveta: What is exciting for you about working with charities?

Shawn: I’ve always loved donating to charities, but as a dancer I would just do it with my credit card online. With the company there’s different formatting. You obviously have to build relationships with them [charities]. It’s been very cool to see their responses and meet different people within the charity. And also, knowing where the money goes is comforting. I was kind of nervous going into it, that these different charities wouldn’t be that interested and would just kind of take a donation, but they all have been so lovely and so caring. Just hearing the cool things they do to change people’s lives is awesome.

Sveta: Does anyone help you to run the business?

Shawn: Yeah, so the sketches I do myself, and then I have a company, actually, a friend, who prints all the clothing. He works in film and TV, so it’s cool we have that relationship. And I also have some friends who help me to run the company. Primarily, it’s just me, but we do a lot of events. We go to different markets, so I have a crew who sometimes writes the emails and does the administrating.

Sveta: What is the most difficult part of running a clothing company?

Shawn: I would say, continuously promoting our brand. The more promotion you do, the more you need new people. And it’s not even bad. The most difficult is the most fun in a weird sense. I think it’s just the nature of any creative person: anything that’s difficult, you like doing because you know that it’s a challenge for you. I don’t know if as a journalist and a dancer you can agree with me. I hope that answers the question.

Sveta: I think I agree with that. Would people who wear your sweaters be creative as well?

Shawn: Obviously, I would love everyone to wear the sweaters. The goal is to benefit charities and feel comfortable and cool, yeah? But, generally speaking, the people, who have been gravitating towards it, are people like us, who work during the day and take a dance class or a yoga class or go to the gym at night… Or maybe they just wanna have like a Sunday-cozy sweater to go to a brunch and go for a walk after. My mum and her friends wear it too. They wear it on Saturdays if they go out for a show or something.

Sveta: Do you have your favourite sweater?

Shawn: Right now the Beyonce-embroidered is my favourite just cause I haven’t seen anyone do an embroidered sweater and I just love the texture of it. I’m excited that my drawing can be transmitted into an embroidered sweater.

Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Sveta: How do you build your collections in terms of frequency, colours…?

Shawn: As we partner with a different charity every month, the goal is to do a new sweater every one to two months. The first collection is all white, and the second collection had like that salt-pepper and safari [shades]. And then for the next one we are gonna go back to straight one colour. I definitely want to keep them neutral. For me, as a dancer, rehearsing, I like to wear very basic colours or shades rather. And my clients love that kind of neutral shades, so… We might play with colours later, but for now we are gonna keep it.

Sveta: Are you planning to add more items to your collections in the future?

Shawn: In September we have few other things coming. T-shirts and some other stuff, which I’m gonna keep secret.

Sveta: Were you thinking about creating 1Club physical store?

Shawn: Right now it’s an online-brand. I think we are gonna keep it there for a while. I don’t really have any goals to make it a physical shop… like in the near future.

Sveta: What does 1Club mean to you personally?

Shawn: 1Club for me is a nice escape from the dance world [we both laugh]. That sounds terrible! I couldn’t live without it [dance]. It’s like who I am, but there’s so many sides of me. Just like there’s so many sides of you. So it’s like a break from always focusing on like, Oh, I need to do this with dance. I need to focus on this with dance. For me it’s to meet different types of people with 1 Club that I would never be able to meet in the dance world.

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Lessons to take away from Almost Adulting by Arden Rose

When I turned 13 years old, I was convinced that people past 18 were put together, wholesome, mature adults. To me, they had one foot in the grave — they were so old! Then I turned 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and realized that I still had the mentality and maturity level of my 13-year-old self. Did the guy in my lecture think I was cute? Do I have a muffin top in these too-skinny jeans? Can people tell the shirt I’m wearing isn’t Comme des Garcons but was on sale because I pulled out a 50% off card from a woman standing with a box of discount cards in front of the Gap? It hit me that there was a child living inside this developed body. But it was okay because everyone still treated me like a kid, right?!


On the day of my twentieth birthday I woke up expecting to be showered with gifts and happy birthday voicemails. Instead, I woke up too early with my alarm going off, telling me to get to my university lectures. When I got there, my professors assigned pages worth of work. I received a call from my mother with a reminder that this year I’d be learning how to do taxes as well as understanding how our finances worked — ‘oh, and happy birthday.’ I felt myself sweating. Were people seeing me as an adult now? But I’m only 13 years old inside!

A few weeks passed, and I buried myself in YouTube videos as I pretended to myself that I’d do my work after just one more video. Then there she was, a YouTuber whose video shone like a beacon of hope through my computer screen. I clutched the sides of my dirty laptop, pulling Arden Rose’s words closer to me. A month later, I ran to Indigo to purchase my very own Almost Adulting book while my boyfriend silently judged me for being in the Teen Reads section.

Needless to say, I read the book in two days. To all the almost adults, here are some of the lessons I took away:

1) It’s okay to not know what the hell you’re doing. No one turns into an adult overnight. Just keep on learning.
2) Being happy and sad at the same time is normal. Some days will be better than others.
3) Mental health is really important and we need to take care of ourselves. It should never be pushed to the side.
4) Tinder is alright for meeting people but you might not find what you’re looking for. Try and use other online platforms to find people! (Except MySpace because who the hell uses MySpace?)
5) Embrace yourself and your sexuality. However cliché it sounds, it’s crucial to understand what you like and don’t like in order to feel fulfilled in life.

For more, check out Arden’s book trailer or just read the damn book!

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Super Bowl for People Who Don’t Care

Super Bowl is this Sunday. Huddled up in front of the screen are the ones who’ve watched the whole season, placed bets, and waited for the kickoff. Then there’s people like me, who don’t actually care. I’m there for the Halftime show and guacamole. Luckily, you don’t have to be into the game to get into the Super Bowl spirit! Here are a few tips to host a Super Bowl party for the uninterested, and impress the fanatics.


1. Set up a Photo Booth

Who doesn’t love a corny photo booth? Holding chalkboard signs and wearing stupid hats make for happy times. For a basic DIY photo booth, just cover the wall with a black sheet. Then give your photo booth a Super Bowl spin using football props. This includes football helmets, pom-poms in team colours, life size cutouts of your favourite players, etc. Photo booths are always guaranteed fun.

Photo: mydomaine.com/superbowl-party-ideas/slide10

2. Make a Chilli Spread

Photo: http://catchmyparty.com/photos/2178579

People love making their own variations of food. Having a chilli bar is an interactive way of serving food to your guests and everyone’s happy with their own customized chilli bowl. The first thing you need is of course, the chilli. It’s simple enough to make and is a versatile, hearty food made to satisfy everyone. You can lay out base ingredients such as tortilla chips, french fries and even hotdogs. Toppings include shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, diced tomatoes, jalepenos, olives, guacamole- the list goes on. Don’t forget the condiments for the hotdogs if you choose to have them! You’ll end up with a massive spread that will look impressive, but took hardly any effort.

3. Decorate- A Little Goes a Long Way.

Photo: organizeyourstuffnow.com/football-banner

It’s the little things that make up the entire atmosphere of your party. Hanging garlands and bundting are a party staple that’s sure to get you in the spirit. It can be as simple as cutting triangles out of construction paper in team colours and stringing them together.

Photo: www.countryliving.com

You can get crafty at the snack table also. It’s amazing how 4 pieces of white washi tape can turn anything into a football. Stick one long piece of tape down one side of a mason jar or clear plastic cup. Then stick three other shorter pieces of tape horizontally under each other so it looks like the stitching on a football. You can pretty much do this to anything, including the jars you can use to hold utensils.


4. DIY Your Own Concession Stand


This is a cute idea, especially if you’ve got a sweet tooth. Chocolate covered strawberries never get old. Dipping strawberries in melted chocolate is simple enough. Super Bowl them up by making them look like footballs by drawing on football stitching with melted white chocolate or white candy wafers. Use a piping bag with a really small tip or just cut a tiny hole at the end of a Ziploc bag to draw the lines. You can do this to brownies, cake pops, pretzels the tops of cupcakes, etc.

Photo: www.redbookmag.com

If you’re tired of the white, green and brown and looking to add a bit of colour, make Rice Krispie balls in team colours (learn how to make them here). You can also make some gourmet looking popcorn using sugar, corn syrup and food colouring- recipe here. These are all extra touches that will make your party delicious for the eyes and mouth.



Whether you love the game, or the only thing you’re watching are the commercials, time spent together with family and friends is always a good time. Hopefully these ideas will give all of you Martha Stewart wannabes (including me) some inspiration. Happy Super Bowl-ing!


Christmas is literally right around the corner and I’m sure everyone is scrambling to get their last minute shopping done. With jam packed malls and crowded stores, it makes you not want to get up and head over to your favourite shopping centre. But an amazing gift doesn’t have to be sitting on a heavy duty rack, surrounded by people fighting over the same item. Shopping online definitely has its perks and the best part is, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own bed. So this is where I introduce to you, HelloFresh.

HelloFresh is an international meal delivery company that offers sustainable packaging and delicious, healthy meals. There are three different plans to choose from; the Veggie Plan, which offers delicious vegetarian dinners; the Pronto Plan, filled with a variety of farm fresh ingredients; and the Family Plan, which feeds up to four people. Every plan is assembled with three different meals in one box. You never know what type of veggies or meats you’ll be receiving each month, which makes the whole process even more exciting.

To keep all of the ingredients nice and fresh, everything is packaged into 100% recyclable and biodegradable cardboard. It is then insulated with silver box liners and filled with recyclable plastic icepacks. To ensure freshness, certain ingredients are then placed in food-safe plastic packaging. Once you receive your box, you want to store everything directly into your fridge or freezer right away, unless you can’t wait and decide to whip up a quick meal. If you’re not too sure how to make the best out of the ingredients you are given, HelloFresh has recipes for each meal on their website. If you’re not one to follow recipes, get creative and put your own twist on it.

This subscription box is absolutely perfect for anyone who loves to spend time in the kitchen, or enjoys experimenting with new foods. And you never know, maybe you’ll get a tasty Christmas dinner from it.

If you are interested in trying one of these delicious subscription boxes, visit www.hellofresh.ca and have your pick. When checking out, use my code ‘NOVELLA60’ for $30 off your first box. If you decide to order another one, use the same code to receive $30 off your second box! So lets get cooking this holiday season. Cheers, and enjoy.

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