Car Hacks

 

05.30.2016

0850

Materials:

  • Shoelace
  • Carabiners
  • S-Hooks
  • Metal rings
  • Velcro straps

As someone who frequently uses a purse, I find it very annoying that there never seems to be a place in my car to hang it. When I used to own a smaller purse, I was able to place it on my console area because it was small enough to sit there. Since I’ve upgraded to my shoulderbag, and needed  to hang it up so that the contents inside stay organized, I still didn’t have a place in my car to hang it. Although cars do come with a multitude of amenities, sometimes  when you have an older car, like mine, you have to design it yourself.

For my shoulder bag hanger, I use shoelaces, an S-Hook, a carabiner and rings to reach the rings attached to my bag. There are rings were left over from my purse hack and I would hook those rings to the S-Hook for quick access.

I looped the shoelace extension to one of the poles of the passenger headrest. I wanted a soft material in the beginning of this line, in case the passenger needed to lower the headrest to its lowest point. An S-Hook was then attached to the shoelace at the end, which could be height adjusted by moving the S-Hook to different knots on the shoelace line. Because I knew my bag needed different types of height extensions depending on what I carried in my bag for each day, I wanted to make a few knots in the shoelace so I could choose the tension  that would be needed. This way, my bag rings would be taught while hanging, but not floating off of the center console. The carabiner is there in case I have items that really needed a secure anchor, the S-Hook is used for items that will only need temporary security when in motion.

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My second car hack is my phone holder. It’s a simple rectangular case that came with my external hard drive. But since I keep my external hard drive in another case, I didn’t think it was necessary. So I repurposed it as my car phone holder. I’m sure that any rectangular case could be used for this purpose, as long as it’s large enough to place the phone in and take it out without a struggle. I cut two rectangular holes in the hard case itself, one to view the screen and one for the charger location.

Since my car is so old, I don’t have a auxiliary connection but I do have a cassette tape adapter. So my cable for my cassette tape adapter is hanging on the right side of my phone holder.  Although it covers my car climate temperature control as well as my car climate mode control, I don’t usually need to access those often. I can also flip up the phone holder and peer underneath if I need to.

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In my car I tend to use the Hitch Knot in order to secure my rope. I keep an extra rope tied with a Hitch Knot, attached to one of the bars to my front vents. I do this in case I need to hang anything in the front area of the car. Although the item can’t be heavy, it’s still handy in dire situations when I need to attach a bag quickly.

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For my trunk area, I’m not a big fan of simple placing my groceries in the back of my car. I’ve had more than a few incidences when I took a turn in my car and my items from my grocery bags slipped out of the bags. As a precaution, I now hook my bags to the interior of my car. There are a number of ways to keep your groceries contained while in your trunk, this is just the way I do it since I don’t have a lot of trunk space. I use carabonders for the heavier items and velcro straps for the lighter items.

I’ve seen some people use cardboard boxes to contain their loose items in their trucks or even laundry baskets. I pretty much don’t have a separate trunk so my method can’t take up too much room. Also, my carabiners are pretty good at keeping bottles upright.

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Donating Even More Stuff

 

05.25.2016

0800

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It takes awhile to really clean out your life. It takes a tremendous amount of time to go through every single part of your life, to go through every single room and then analyze every single routine that you go through with these items. These routines don’t just focus on the day to day routines such as your morning routine or evening routine, but seasonal as well as special events (ie. birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc.).

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I’ve been living this zero waste life for the past six years and I still find ways I can improve and reduce my green footprint. (I’m also donating a large amount of clothes due to my recent capsule wardrobe creation.) Only recently did I start to combine my zero waste lifestyle with a minimalistic approach to my lifestyle. Not producing waste is simple once you can refine your system, but my newest challenge was to figure out how to live with the least amount of stuff in each area of my life. With that challenge, I had to continually purge my life and re-evaluate everything I owned.

Regardless, donating items is a great way to repurpose the item to another person and it’s a great way to save the item from ending up in the landfill. I’ve donated to several charities over the years. I’ve donated to Goodwill Industries and  The Salvation Army International. Both of those charities have their own missions and visions and some may favor one over another. I personally donated to both for different reasons. Most recently, I discovered a program called the Homeless Prenatal Program, located in San Francisco. Their mission is “In partnership with our families, break the cycle of childhood poverty”. It’s a great program that I encourage people to donate to, if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area.

When I purged my closet, I also came across two gowns that I’m planning to donate to the The Princess Project Silicon Valley. This organization ‘…promotes self-confidence and individual beauty by providing free prom dresses and accessories to high school teens who cannot otherwise afford them. Our effort is made possible through invaluable volunteer, donor, and community support.”. I previously donated my own prom dress shortly after I went to college, but these other gowns now need new owners. There are actually quite a few organizations in the Bay Area that collect prom dresses, but there is a small window of time to donate the dresses, so please check the donation date ranges.

Also, there are a few websites that also allow for donating or exchanging items between neighbors such as CraigslistFreecycle and  Second Harvest Food Bank. I’ve actually used all of these organizations for donations in the past. With Craigslist and Freecycle, it’s pretty straight forward with donating items. You usually list your item on the website and offer it to whoever you choose. You can xhose, “first come, first serve” or perhaps there is a direct agreement of time and place of item-pick-up with the other person. Please be careful when using these types of sites and take extra precautions when making your exchange. If at all possible, make the exchange in a busy and public area.

I volunteered at the Second Harvest Food Bank when I was in college, and it was a pretty busy place. It was very organized, but busy nonetheless- especially on the weekends. It was a great experience and I wish I could have spent more time with the organization, but I wasn’t able to.

If you are not in the San Francisco Bay Area, please seek out any local charities, donation centers or even churches in your area, that might need your donations. You never know who might need your items or your time.

Zero Waste And Minimalism

05.23.2016

0800

DSC_4565As I’ve traveled along this zero waste journey and learned to design life hacks along the way, I’ve noticed that I’ve needed fewer and fewer items in my life. The definition of a zero waste life is “to live a life without producing trash”. The definition of minimalism is “used to describe a trend in design and architecture, wherein the subject is reduced to its necessary elements. This design strives to achieve simplicity”. In a strange way, these two lifestyles can become intertwined.

For myself, I think that I’ve dwindled down my lifestyle so much, that it’s become as minimal as it can possibly get, yet I still strive to live a life without producing trash. With each routine that I have, whether it’s my morning bathroom routine, my morning kitchen routine or even my evening bathroom routine, the steps in each routine have been analyzed and reconsidered to make each routine to have the least amount of steps possible.

When it comes to my possessions, I keep only what is necessary and those possessions usually have more than one use. The less possessions I have, the clearer my mind tends to function, because I have less responsibility to take care of each item. That sounds lazy right? Maybe it is. The visual aspect of my living space is simple and easy to maintain yet it is as functional as I need it to be. When I move through my spaces, my gestures and motions are purposeful and tactful. When I have to start a task, I know the limitations of my tools and materials and I know how easy it is to access them. Each task is mapped out in a clear cut list that doesn’t falter.

For my wardrobe, I have created a 30-piece (year round) capsule wardrobe in which all of the pieces I own, match to one another. I did this because I wanted to hold myself accountable for the items in my wardrobe. Each day, when I pick out an outfit, there are a set amount of choices I can make. There will be another post on my capsule wardrobe soon.

Even in my bathroom and kitchen, I keep only the tools I need and nothing more. In my kitchen, I substitute a few tools for other uses, due to the fact that I think the amount of kitchen tool designs has gotten way out of hand. There’s literally a tool for every single cooking task, yet, twenty years ago they didn’t exist- and people still managed to produce edible and delicious food. The way I see it, is the more stuff I have, the more time and energy I have to dedicate to maintaining the use of that product. If I can somehow eliminate that product, yet still find the same use from another- I’ll donate the item.

Mind you, I’m also not a gourmet cook. I don’t care about presentation of any dish, which is why I don’t care for a library of tools that one might want for food preparation.  If the food is on my plate or my bowl, tastes good and won’t make me sick- I’m pretty happy.

Lead By Example

05.18.2016

0800

So I got a new job recently and there was a lot of new people to get to know and a new environment to get used to. I also had a new routine to make a part of my day-to-day life. With my new job, my day gets started pretty early which also means that I don’t make my morning coffee at home like I used to. I usually make my morning coffee in my French Press. At my job the company has a Keurig machine, and my co-workers love using it. I love my morning coffee and I like getting my started with a warm drink.

However, I disliked using the Keurig machine due to the painful reputation that Keurig cup pods go straight to the landfill. Instead of giving up coffee and leaving out a part of my day that I love to experience, I had to find an answer to the Keurig cup pod dilemma. I started researching on different ways to recycle these pods and I came across two different comapnies. The first company is TerraCycle and they have a Coffee Capsules Zero Waste Box where you can pay a small fee for the box and then print out a packaging slip to send back to TerraCycle when the box is full. The other company I found is called Grounds To Grow On which is a part of the Keurig company. For a small fee, they will drop off a Grounds To Grow On box and pick up when the box is full. This program offers two different sized boxes, so one can sit on the kitchen counter or sit on the floor. I prefered using the Grounds To Grow On program due to the benefit of the free delivery and pick up advantage.

I didn’t know how my co-workers would feel about the program because it wasn’t free. We would be paying for Keurig to haul away our used pods AFTER they already bought the machine and still continue to buy the pods. So essentially, they would pay for more trash to be hauled away. I spent a week to get to know my co-workers and the culture at my new job. During that time, I continued to collect the Keurig cup pods on my own knowing full well that the company may not want to join the recycling program. I knew that even if they didn’t want to join, I would join and recycle the pods myself.

A few of my co-workers did see me bring pods back to my desk, but I always just smiled and kept walking, I honestly don’t know what they thought I was doing. Maybe they just thought the new kid on the block was just strange and liked to collect trash. At the end of the first week, I finally brought it up to the office manager and she researched the program. I found out that a lot of my co-workers were on board with the program and saw my cardboard box of Keurig pods that I had been collecting. They were all very supportive of the program and I was relieved to hear it. There is now a new location to toss the used pods into, and I couldn’t be happier.

Living a zero waste life isn’t an easy lifestyle for everyone to adapt to. It takes time, energy, and sacrifice to even start it. Not everything we eat is organic, not everything we own is toxic free and even everyday routines and possessions are used for the most part, out of convenience. The speed at which we tend to run our lives moves so fast, that it’s sometimes hard to take time out to adjust your day-to-day routine, but if you tackle one task a day, it eventually becomes a smooth and less stressful ride through life. For me, this  issue with the Keurig cup pods was a task I wanted to tackle. The other alternative answer to this problem is to not use the machine at all, not order pods anymore, but who am I to demand that everyone in the office give up their expensive machine? With this Grounds To Grow On program, perhaps it will spark a conversation to convert the office into a zero waste office.

So lead by example. Lead by example knowing that you might be standing alone. I signed up for the program, knowing full well that the office may not want to join it. I was prepared to be known as the Keurig Cup pod collector of the office and I would pay for the program on my own, but is that a very big sacrifice? In the overall scheme of the Keurig cup pod crisis, paying a small fee to have this specific trash hauled away , doesn’t seem that bad. At least with every sip of coffee I made from that machine, I know I was trying to do my part in the larger Keurig cup pod pollution.

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Clothing Edits

05.16.2016

0800

Sometimes after I purchase a clothing item from the thrift store, I’ll come home to find out that some adjustments are needed. If the item is not exactly what I need, I’ll add design edits to the product with my own creative touch to get to the specific use that I was really looking for in the store.

For my light blue blouse, the button holes of the blouse were stretched larger than the buttons, so I had to shrink the size down. The buttons were able to unhinge without much effort. With a little bit of thread and hemming, my button holes were sewn smaller and fitted accordingly.

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For my shoulderbag, the bag was designed with double straps but I’m a single strap kinda gal. I  also hate trying to grab both straps, of any purse or handbag, each time I need to pick up the bag. This is what the bag looked like when I first bought it with both shoulder straps intact.

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With a little bit of cutting and resewing, this is what my strap for my shoulderbag looks like now. I left the other two rings on the bag because I use them to hang my bag up in my car (that’s for an upcoming post about how I hack my car). I’ve done this with another bags, one of which is actually my camera bag. I use the extra rings to hook carabiners when I go on impromptu photo shoots. Idealy I want the top to be closed, and once I figure out a way to design it, I’ll add that in too.

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My Mom

 

05.12.2016

0800

So this is blog post is going to be slightly different from my normal posts. In this post, I want to take some time to celebrate my mom.

My mom is a versatile woman, a woman of many strengths and many stories. She grew up in the in the 50’s and lived through the Vietnam War. By the time she had reached the young age of 23, she had established a well respected career as a flight attendant with Air Vietnam. During her young adult life, she also met my father (that story will be for another time). As a flight attendant, she got to travel around southeast asia and experience different cultures and met many people. She made her own money and enjoyed life tremendously.

I do give credit to my parents for being role models who always told me to grow up to make money. They never told me to grow up, get married and have kids. Perhaps they worried about my financial security, perhaps they simply didn’t want me to live paycheck to paycheck, but regardless, I did just that.

After my parents split, it was her strength that guided and paved the path of the following  years. She managed to balance being a single mom, staying sane and still taking care of two kids. I admire her strength and I hope that when I reach her age, I will still be as strong as her. To this day, when we sit and talk, I still enjoy hearing the stories of her childhood. As an adult, my relationship with her has become even closer and for that, I will forever be thankful. She has blessed me with my life and I’m so grateful that I get to spend one more day with her.

As children, we understand our parents are our leaders and rule makers. In adolescence, we test those rules to see where the boundaries lie. And as tenagers, we’re trying to figure out where we stand among the population of adults and our peers, yet we still test the boundaries between being deemed a child or an adult. As young adults, we’re still trying to get to that comfortable place to call ourselves an “official adult”, but we still seek guidance from our parents. Now as official adults, we can see the flaws in our decisions- and also theirs. Lastly, as adults, we can look at our parents as friends and maybe even peers. We can sit down and have a cordial conversation, with the understanding that where we sit now, is how our own children will view us as their leaders and their rule makers.

For a relationship between a parent and child to come full circle, is quite special to watch and be a part of. I value those conversations with my mom over dinner or in a phone call, because I know she still has many more stories to tell me, and I hope to hear each one of them.

SO HERE’S TO YOU MOM- HAPPY BIRTHDAY! May all your wishes come true, and know that when you look back on your life- you’ve accomplished so much and lived through so much more. I’m proud to call you my mom, and also my friend.

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Shopping At Thrift Stores

 

05.09.2016

0800

Shopping at thrift stores can be a very fun experience. Thrift stores and discount stores are big stores that sell items that are ready to be picked apart and reused. Sometimes you’ll find treasures and sometimes you’ll find standard house ware items. The way I see it, is that every thrift store sells many gems and moments from the history of design. It really is a bunch of stuff squished onto to a rack or shelf for the next owner to pick up. When I walked around the clothing area for men and women, it felt like a sea of fabric, but old fabric that didn’t smell like chemicals and more like time and dust. There were rows upon rows of clothes to chose from. I needed to find two blouses and I actually found them really fast. The clothing was not divided up by color but instead by size. I was looking for blouses with collars so they were easy to spot on the rows of squished hangers.  I honestly wanted to keep looking for more stuff, but I know I didn’t need it and it was better that I leave the rest for those who are actually in need of those clothes.

I then proceeded to move over to the bags, I was looking for a a bag to store my tools in as well as a new shoulderbag. I’m going to switch out my toolbox and purse for more efficient bags. (That topic will also be posted in the future). When I found the bag section, it was an amazing wall of colors. The photo I took was only 1/3 of the wall, but there really was a lot of variety to choose from.

Whenever I buy a new item, I always have a smal criteria list that I go through.

Criteria List:

  1. Function- Will it logically serve the function(s) that I intend it for?
  2. Materials- Is it made of durable material that is also easy to clean? (Basically, can I toss it in the washing machine?)
  3. Future- Will it be able to grow with my lifestyle? Or will I need to replace it in one to two years

As long as those three questions can be answered, I’ll most likely purchase the item. Aesthetically, not everything that fulfills those criteria points will look high end. A lot of the times when I purchase items, I alter the design somehow to fit my lifestyle better.

You can always get what you want and with a little creativity, thread and a needle- I tend to extend my personal touch in many of the items I bring home. I still think that thrift stores are a great place to purchase items and seek out needed items. In addition to that, by purchasing second hand items, you’re saving it from the landfill and giving it another chance to be used once again.

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Below are some of the few items I purchased. The last image is of the trash I produced from my purchases.

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Choosing What To Keep

 

05.04.2016

0800

When it comes to choosing what to keep versus what you want to throw out, it’s a toss up between how you feel about the object and how will it serve you. I tend to approach the choice of keeping items based on function. I don’t have much of an emotional attachment to objects and for the items I am attached to, they’re usually small enough to fit into my photobox. For all of my paper items that are sentimental, I digitize them and keep a PDF or JPEG file of them in my external hard drive, as well as my clouds. For all of my other sentimental items that are larger, I select a handful to keep and I integrate them into my everyday life sceneries.

With living a zero waste life, I try to be aware of how much trash I’ll produce by donating items or simply tossing out trash. A lot of the times, when I donate items, I try to donate items in good shape so that it has a better chance of being purchased or picked up.

Recently, I had to make a decision about keeping my set of clear glass cups or keeping my mismatched mugs. Although my cups are a nice set, and none of them are chipped or cracked, nor have I lost one to gravity and clumsiness, I still wasn’t happy with owning so many beverage containers. I actually inherited these cups when one of my friends moved from California to Virginia to be back in her home state with her family.

I took all of my mugs and set them out on a table and then I compared them to my clear cups and honestly- the mugs had so much more character and history that the decision was easy. Although my mugs are of all different heights, thicknesses and diameters,  they can contain temperature better than my cups and have handles (always a plus when working with hot beverages). Each mug comes from a certain time period in my life and each evoke a fond memory. Although, I don’t want to own anymore mugs after I took a look at this set, unless I accidentally break one. This is the perfect amount of mugs for my collection and I’m glad to have it.

Owning mugs seems like such a minor issue, and it probably is. This post is written more for the sake of the moment when I decided that imperfection is perfect, at least for me it is. I’ve always been conditioned to own sets, sets of dishes, sets of cups, sets of books, sets of jewelry, etc. Even when I went into stores, items on display were displayed in sets with matching cups, dinner plates, bowls, gravy dispenser and so on. After I moved into my own studio I felt the need to have “perfect sets”. The clear glass cups that I traded out for my mugs were a perfect set too, yet I was not happy with them. Ironically, it was in my first apartment when I decided to live a zero waste life too, so perfection slowly went out the window.

Perfection doesn’t lead to happieness for me and I came to that realization when I donated the glass cups. However, I did wrap each individually and carefully and donated them to a local charity, so the next owner would receive a clean and carefully put together set.

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Work Desk Essentials

 

05.02.2016

0830

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I keep a small desk essentials kit at my work desk so that I don’t have to carry items back and forth from home constantly. I keep some loose leaf green tea along with a tea infuser, and some dry snacks. At my job there is a kitchen with a microwave, an electric kettle ready for employees, so I base my small kit on the available resources. In my bag which I do carry back and forth from home, I keep a stainless steel travel mug, and a set of utensils along with a fabric napkin. The reason why I keep my utensils and coffee in my bag is due to the fact that I like to be ready to go out to eat  when the opportunity arises. I also will  use my coffee mug for coffee, teas and water as well.

The variable items that I tend to carry is my stainless steel water bottle, whatever lunch I’ve packed for the day, and my “to go” breakfast which is usually oatmeal in a small mason jar. Depending on the days schedule or how much time I have before I step out of the front door I may or may not carry along the variable items.

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