Car Hack For Cell Phone Calls

09.19.2017

0600

Materials:

  • Cotton Rope

Tools:

  • Know your knots
  • Scissors

This is a very simple hack and I use it when I put my phone calls on speaker mode. I simply tied two ropes around my car visor where it was tight enough to carry the weight of my cell phone. The ropes still don’t interfere with my visor mirror use as well.

The rope loop on the left side of my visor was tied as it was placed on my visor, then tied off. The rope loop on the right side was actually measured by gauging how much rope I needed to wrap around the visor and then I tied a knot to close off that piece.  I slid it over the visor and because it was a tight squeeze, I knew the knot would naturally tighten more as I was trying to stretch the rope accordingly. I wanted this lop to be tight because it would carry more weight compared to the other one.

The right rope loops is tight enough to hold my cell phone in place in a vertical position. Sometimes I’ll write down my directions if I know I’m going somewhere, where I know I won’t get good reception and place the paper behind the left rope loop. These are good for lists too (ie. grocery lists, errand stop offs, to-do lists, etc).

If I’m driving long distances and I need to swing my visor out to block out the sun from the driver’s side window, I’ll usually slide the phone in on the other side of the visor. It will still hold it in place and technically, the microphone will be even closer to hear and speak into. If you do use this method, just remember to not swing the visor too aggressively. If you do need to use your visor for a short time, keep in mind which side of the visor your phone is on.

So there you have it, my very simple car hack for cell phone speaker mode.

Please don’t text while driving.

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Upcycling Shelves

06.13.2017

0600

Materials:

Tools:

  • Miter saw
  • Electric drill  and drill bits

So my family usually keeps leftover material from previous house projects or from items that were disassembled. A lot of the time wood planks are left over. These vary in sizes so I try to upcycle them around the house. My father had a book shelf a while back and it had two 42″ shelves that were 1″ thick and two 72″ shelves that were one inch thick.

I  knew those shelves could be used elsewhere in the house so I designated the shorter shelves for the upstairs kitchenette and created shelves with the other two longer pieces, in two other separate areas of the house.

I bought four grey Everbilt 10 in. x 8 in. Gray Medium Duty Shelf Bracket for the kitchenette and I bought two white Everbilt 9.75 in. x 7.75 in. White Elegant Shelf Bracket for the shelf in the bedroom. The shelf in the hallway will be mounted up with two wood 2x4s on each side.

For the kitchenette, I located the studs by knocking on the wall (you can also use magnets to locate the nails located in the studs as well) and since I wanted the top shelf to have at least 16″ of space from the shelf to the ceiling, I had to create two marks that marked both the top and bottom of the top shelf. I then measured another 11″ below the bottom line of the top shelf and made two marks for the bottom shelf. I wanted to leave at least 22″ above the countertop so there was enough room for using the countertop surface.

Because the shorter shelves didn’t reach across the wall of the kitchenette, I offset the shelves to make the weight of the items on the wall even. I measured the distance between the studs for each shelf, and transferred that onto each shelf. It’s easier to attach the shelf brackets to the shelves first, and then attach them to the wall. My studs were 30″ (on center) between each, so I knew to leave half an inch from the edge of each shelf edge and then measure inwards 30″ to mark the next center of the next bracket.

Once I attached the brackets to the shelves, I had to pre-drill the holes for the screws in the studs on the wall. If you screw in the top screw on the bracket closest to the wall (where the blue arrow is pointing to), and then place a  small level on top (where the violet arrow is pointing), then you can swing the other bracket up (where the maroon arrow is pointing), until the level shows that the shelf is at an even plane.  This seemed to be the easiest way for me to attach the shelves and also double checking the correct balance of the shelves.

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For the shelf under the window, I first located where my studs were and made sure I cleared the electrical outlet. Ideally, I would have place a bracket where that electrical outlet is located, but there wasn’t any room. I wanted the height for this shelf to have an 8″ clearance, so I simply measured 8 inches below the existing shelf and marked two lines for the top and bottom of the shelf. For this shelf I trimmed the edges so it would fit the width of this space better. I also drilled a hole above where the outlet was located, so there would be access to the outlet.  I attached the brackets to the shelf based on the width of my studs. For this shelf, I literally held up the shelf with one hand, and traced the inside of the drill hole locations with the other. As long as I continued to press the shelf against the wall, it didn’t move much. I did this because I wanted to mark where the drill holes were and also to pinpoint the center of the holes. There wasn’t room to swing the shelf up to level it out, (such as the kitchenette example), so when I placed the level on the shelf, I only had to adjust the shelf slightly to even it out. Once the first screw was placed, it pretty much held up it’s own weight until I could drill in the last three screws.

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The shelf in the hallway was mounted with a different method. I actually had to cut this original shelf piece in half. It was the other 72″ long shelf piece, and by placing each of the halves next to one another, I created a  18-1/2″ depth shelf. I first located the studs in each wall and measured 11″ height clearance for the space above this shelf.  The width of the space was so small, that putting up brackets would have taken up too much room. I pre drilled the holes in the 2x4s based on the width of my studs I had located. Always remember which 2×4 belongs on which wall, so you’re not accidentally drilling extra holes. After that, I placed each piece on the new mount and held the shelf pieces in place with finishing nails.

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This was just one of my upcycling projects using materials I found in the garage. If you can find materials that are still in fairly good shape, I would try to upcycle it for a useful piece of item that you may need. It’s cheaper than going out to buy brand new material- especially since you’ll still have your extra supply of material laying around.  I like to use up what I buy, it’s habit of mine and it’s saved me money over the years. I hope this post helped jog some ideas for you!

Creating A Locking Mechanism For My Carabiners

05.16.2017

0700

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I’m a big fan of carabiners. I have all different types and designs, however, I tend to favor the Asymmetrical D-Shape. On a whim a few years back, I bought two S-Binder carabiners. I really liked this design because the items I would place on the bottom half of the carabiner were separated from the top half. The top lever was the lever that I would use to hook and unhook the carabiner to other objects.

This also lead to an issue with the way in which I used it. Each time I would wrap my hands around the carabiner to press open the top lever,  I would inadvertently press my palm against the bottom lever and the objects had a very good chance to slide out. This involuntary action happened a few times and I had to come up with a quick solution.

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First, I wrapped a small piece of Velcro around the bottom lever, but over time, the Velcro started to become weaker and would become unattached, which left the end flap of the Velcro unattached. I knew I had to come up with a more permanent solution. I knew other carabiner brands sold their Asymmetrical D-Shape carabiners with locking mechanisms or had an external accessory that helped lock their levers in place. I had to make my own locking mechanism in order for me to not drop my keys all over the place.

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I took a old piece of an iron on elbow patch (I had bought a set years ago and never used them all up), and I cut the length to the distance that it would take to cover the lever and half of the basket of the carabiner. (If you don’t know where the ‘basket’ is, I labeled all of the parts of a carabiner in the first image).

With a few sewing needles, I marked the locations of the fabric of which I would have to sew the fabric together. I removed the fabric from the carabiner and sewed it up. I needed to create a snug fit for the locking mechanism so that the fabric didn’t move easily when in use. When I sewed my second locking mechanism, I sewed it a little too snug, but with fabric, you have a slight chance to stretch the length and width of any product due to the material. This was material for iron-on elbow patches, so it was a very, very slight stretch .

Once I was finished sewing both the locking mechanisms, I slid the pieces on, moved my key rings over them and then slid it back over the levers. It’s a simple solution to a very basic tool I use everyday.

If you use any other kind of fabric, perhaps 100% cotton,  you may have to sew it a little tighter because cotton tends to stretch more. And, you may want to extend the length of the locking mechanism so that it can’t slide back and forth on the basket as easily. The idea is to make the fabric slight “stuck” on the spine of your carabiner. If it has a hard time sliding around the basket, then it most likely won’t slide around when in use.

I hope this might give any of you some ideas as to how to approach design problems such as this one. Happy sewing and don’t loose those keys!

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A Climber’s Guide To Carabiners

The Dangers Of Microfiber Cloths

03.07.2017

0600

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You know when a new product comes out, and it promises to eliminate chemicals and cut down on the process of cleaning, and then we wait ten years or so and figure out the drawbacks from this said new product? Yeah, that’s what this post is about. So when microfiber cloths hit mainstream media, I purchased a set just to try it out. They worked as the company had stated, they worked efficiently and I never had to use any chemicals ever again. They seemed like the perfect clean up rag for tile surfaces, mirrors and I even tested it out on some pen marks on room walls.

Because I used these rag mostly for cleaning up and wiping down surfaces that were wet from water, I washed them when it was necessary. The first time I washed them, they stuck to the rest of the rags in the load so after that, I used a laundry delicates wash bag to contain them.

Then more research started popping up, and here’s what was discovered…

What are microfiber cloths?
Microfiber cleaning cloths are made of microfiber fabric comprised of polyester and nylon. Microfibers are much thinner in diameter than human hair. Those used in cleaning textiles are split in a way that creates spaces within each fiber. Regular microfiber, such as Split microfiber vs cotton that used on furniture or in clothing, is soft but not useful for cleaning because it is not absorbent. Conversely, the spaces within the split fibers in split microfiber can absorb up to 8 times their weight in liquid and trap dust and germs so they are not spread around or released into the air. Studies have found split microfiber products can reduce the bacteria count on surfaces much more effectively than cotton. Check a product’s packaging to determine if it is split microfiber or not. If it’s not labeled, you can check by running your hand over the cloth. If it doesn’t grab at the imperfections of your skin, then it’s not split microfiber.

Uses for microfiber cloths

  • Dusting surfaces. Simply wipe the surfaces with a dry cloth. No sprays are needed because a static electric charge that attracts and traps dust develops when the cloths are moved across a surface.
  • Cleaning mirrors and glass. Slightly dampen a portion of a cloth and rub the glass surface with it. Once you’ve removed any spots or smudges, use the dry portion of the cloth to dry and polish the surface.
  • Cleaning counters. To superficially clean counters, use dry cloths to pick up surface dust, dirt, and hair. To deeply clean counters, slightly dampen a cloth and use your usual cleaning spray.
  • Washing dishes. Use just as you would any other dishcloth.
  • Mopping floors. You can use a dry cloth to pick up surface dust, dirt, and hair or a slightly damp cloth to wipe down your floors with your usual cleaning solution. You can also purchase mop heads made of microfiber fabrics. Many people who own Swiffer-type mops designed for disposable mopping pads simple attach a microfiber cloth to the mop instead of a disposable pad.

Cleaning microfiber cloths

If you take good care of your microfiber cloths, they should continue to perform at their peak for years.

  • Remove trapped dust, dirt, and hair by presoaking the cloths in water and a mild detergent.
  • Wash the cloths in cold water (hot water damages the fabric so it is no longer effective). Only wash the cloths with similar fabrics because they will pull lint out of cotton or other materials during the washing process. Bleach and fabric softeners shouldn’t be used (bleach deteriorates the fabric and fabric softeners clog the spaces in the microfibers so they are no longer absorbent).
  • Line dry the cloths or use the lowest heat setting on your dryer and do not iron them. This prevents heat damage to the microfibers.

Environmental ramifications
There is debate over the extent to which microfiber cloths are environmentally friendly. They are beneficial to the environment in that they aren’t tossed out in the trash after each use like paper towels, nor do they need replaced as frequently as cotton cloths. Moreover, they significantly reduce the amount of water and cleaning products needed when cleaning.

Despite these advantages, microfiber cloths are made from nonrenewable resources and are not biodegradable. There is also concern about their role in microplastic pollution. This sort of pollution occurs when tiny bits of polyester and acrylic rinse off of fabrics during washing and end up collecting on the coastlines of densely populated areas. Fish can ingest the harmful debris, as can humans when they eat affected fish.

Inevitably, choose your products wisely. There are positive aspects and negative aspects of every product you purchase. I’ll probably keep my microfiber cloths to wipe down mirrors still, but I’ll switch out for cotton rags to wipe down my surfaces instead. I would like to get rid of them, but that would also mean that because these are not recyclable, they would inevitably go to the landfill. I have used them to protect my glassware and dishware when I was moving, so that seemed fine. Pick and choose how you want to use these cloths depending on your lifestyle and routines. Microplastic pollution is everywhere and it’s up to us to change our thinking habits about the products we use and how we go about discarding them. Maybe we will not be able to eliminate the pollution, but we can certainly reduce.

 

 

 

Seeking Simplicity

02.07.2017

0800

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I think people in general will seek a level of simplicity in their lives. I know I  strive for my own simplicity. This may boil down to simplifying a routine or a room in my home, or simply clearing my mind of clutter. It makes living and creating memories much easier to accomplish and it frees up my time for activities that I want to participate in, rather than feel obligated to do.  I honestly work at this each day. Due to the ever changing winds that we deal with in life, I constantly reevaluate my routines and make sure that I’m not taking on activities that I either don’t want to do or know that it will complicate my life in ways that are unnecessary.

Sometimes the clutter in our lives will come in, even for a short period of time. But let it only stay for a short period of time. I found this article from Apartment Therapy, who outlines steps to Seeking Simplicity very clearly. I hope you enjoy it.

Seeking Simplicity: How to Start Living a More Minimal Lifestyle (from Apartment Therapy)

  1. Give yourself a clear, personal goal (and a timeline)
    1. What is your personal definition of a more minimal home and life? Is it to have only the bare minimum of objects? Is it to declutter a whole room of stuff you haven’t looked at in months? Is it to learn to live with less or stop buying things you don’t need? There’s no “right” way to be a minimalist; we can all have our own definitions of simple and stress-free. Just take the time to define it for yourself. Not sure where to start defining what you don’t want in your life? Focus on what you do want — what makes you feel alive, what you’re passionate about — and then begin to strip away the things (physical and otherwise) that are getting in the way of you doing more of what you really want to be doing.
    2. Give yourself a clear goal, with broken-down steps to attain (and remember to write down the things you need to complete those steps). And then give yourself a time frame to achieve each step (not just the final goal). Consider making alerts on your calendar so you are held accountable. And don’t just write down what the goal is — write down why you want to live more minimally (less stress, more money, less stuff to haul on your next move — it can be anything that means something to you).
  2. Decide how your home can help you live a more minimalist lifestyle
    1. Your quest for a more minimal lifestyle might point you in the direction of a smaller or simplified home. This is a big step for folks who own or rent homes, but not impossible. Again, start with a goal of what you want — be specific. Not sure what you want? Do some traveling — and look to stay in homes in the size range you’re thinking about. You’ll be able to visualize your future life easier if it’s a size you can downsize to. Or perhaps the size and type of your home is okay but it’s what’s in it…
  3. Declutter
    1. This seems pretty obvious, but it can be the most painful step for folks who have a real attachment to many of their items. Start slow and intentionally. Throw out or donate everything you obviously don’t need first. Then take and hide everything you think you could do without for a few months, to give yourself distance to be able to give them away. Then use that motivation to gather the courage to take decluttering as extreme as works for your dream, minimal lifestyle. Keep reminding yourself that stripping away as much stuff from your life will make it easier to achieve a more simple life and allow you to have more freedom. You don’t have to only live with a bed and a laptop; again, you get to decide what living more minimally means to you.
  4. Train yourself to live with less
    1. If you’ve been used to creature comforts for a long time, you might not be ready to take a minimal plunge all at once. Consider having comfort-free weekends or months, slowly eliminating comforts and luxuries (even as simple as pricey haircuts or weekly movie dates) and seeing what feels okay to lose, and what things are too valuable to your happiness to give up.
  5. Ask yourself “do I really need this?” all the time
    1. Before you swipe your credit card, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” And ask yourself all the time. At first you may easily justify purchases out of habit, but as the question sinks in, you might find yourself realizing you don’t need many of the items you impulsively buy.
  6. Be a re-user
    1. Another great habit to explore on the path to a more minimal way of living is learning to be a great re-user. Save packaging to reuse for other things. Learn to repair and fix things rather than replace. Use old clothing for scrap fabric for DIY projects. Be open to being creative to find ways you can reuse something you already have rather than buy something new.
  7. Invest in high-quality
    1. When you do have (or want) to buy something new, splurge on high-quality items that are meaningful for you. Remember that it might be nicer to have a sparse home filled with dreamy designs you adore versus full of things you just sort of like. But also remember that, again, you define what minimal means.
  8. Be clear about why you want to be more minimal (and remind yourself often)
    1. Go back to the first step above regularly, especially when things get tough, so you can remember why you’re trying to live more minimally in the first place.
  9. Forgive yourself and keep trying
    1. As someone who has given away everything they owned one and a half times now, I can assure you, we manage to acquire stuff at impressive speeds. And also sign up for a lot of work obligations, too. This is just human nature. But don’t give up on your quest to simplicity if you wake up one day and notice you’ve let a lot of unneeded stuff clutter up your home or schedule. Just start over at the top, breathe in, and keep trying.

Tips For Staying Organized

01.31.2017

0800

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So it seems that organization can be an issue for any household. Depending on how much your daily routines take up the extra time you have, and what needs to be done within that time frame. Household size also counts as well as square footage of said household size. I thought I would list some tips of how one might go about organizing daily life and personal organization. Although my mantra is to eliminate excessive amounts of items for these tips to apply to me, but everyone is different. I live a zero waste and minimalist lifestyle so maintaining it is simple since I don’t have to do much to get by 🙂

In Your home:

  1. Develop daily routines – Get into a regular routine to simplify your to-do list and plan better.
  2. Make your bed every day – Check out this video… Fast forward to the 4-minute mark and watch through the 6-minute mark and you will see how making your bed will simplify your life The Head of the Navy SEALs Explains Why Making Your Bed Every Day Is the Most Important Life Lesson.
  3. Delegate chores to household members – Don’t try to do everything around the house if you have others that can help. Ask for help to reduce your workload. Here’s a post for how to get your household members on-board with organizing the home.
  4. Place wall hooks in your entryway – Invest in a wall rack system or a few 3M hooks to hang keys, backpacks, coats and umbrellas so they are up and out of the way as soon as you arrive home.  Be sure to check out our post for 10 Items You Need to Organize Your Home Like a RockStar with more ideas.
  5. Sort mail immediately – This ensures bills are not misplaced, other important items are not forgotten about and paperwork clutter is reduced.
  6. Write your to-do list before bed – Get things off your mind before bed so you can sleep better.
  7. Fold your clothes standing up – Try the Kon Marie method which allows you to easily see contents in drawers.
  8. Pack your lunch the night before – Reduce time spent in the morning getting ready by having lunches ready to go the night before. Better yet, prepare them all at the beginning of the week!
  9. Pack healthy snacks the night before – Here are a few healthy ideas for snacks to pack the night before.
  10. Keep a weekly meal planner – Try a meal planning journal like this and simplify grocery shopping, meal planning and your budget.
  11. Create a recycle station – include bins for recycling, trash, donate, sell. Try this one to get started.

For Personal Organization:

  1. Invest in a clear purse/briefcase organizer – Stop digging in your bag for an item. Invest in something like this and easily find what you are looking for.
  2. Use an online birthday reminder – Never forget another birthday (try punchbowl.com/reminders or Google contacts).
  3. Write down daily tasks – Electronic calendars are wonderful if you are on-the-go, but handwritten tasks are easy to cross off once completed. Try a paper day planner like this one or this pretty one.
  4. Get your finances in order – Create a budget if you don’t already have one. Try Mint.com and read this book (listen to it on Audible to save time).
  5. Create a follow up email folder – Place all unread emails there until read then delete.
  6. Flag important emails – Respond to flagged emails then archive or delete.
  7. Create folders for your emails – Try creating folders for electronic bills, electronic receipts, create a folder for each household member, etc. File important emails in each folder to reduce your primary inbox.
  8. Create a temporary folder on your computer – Place temporary items in the folder and delete files regularly.
  9. Organize multiple emails in one inbox – Forward all email addresses into one email inbox and set to auto-delete the forwarding emails copy so you never have to log into each email account individually.
  10. Organize your social media accounts – Organize your Facebook groups, Pinterest boards or create Twitter reading lists for a particular theme.

Proper Disposal Of Razor Blades

 

01.04.2016

0800

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Razor blades are made from recyclable metals,  but you cannot recycle them. In fact, in some places it’s actually illegal to recycle razor blades!This is because razors can harm the sanitation workers and animals that come into contact with them. They are also very thin, so they easily get caught in recycling equipment and cause damage.

You can’t recycle razor blades, but you can’t just toss them in the regular trash either. So how do you dispose of them safely?

Find an empty glass jar with a lid and when you’re done with your razor blades, keep them in there. Check with your local recycling center about how to dispose of blades properly, perhaps they have a “sharps disposal program” for your county. I’m lucky enough that in my county, my recycling center actually has a medical waste disposal bin so I usually will drop it off in there.

Most of my blades are replacement blades for my Economy Cutter H-595 by Uline, my Fromm Shaper Replacement Blades and my Astra Platinum Double Edge Safety Razor Blades. I use a glass jar because it’s easier to see among the trash pile and the blades will definitely not penetrate the glass jar. This is a simple solution to what can become a disastrous situation for sanitation workers. Please, please take proper precautions and dispose of your blades in a safe manner, for all of the people involved in the long and complicated process of  discarding your trash.

I have yet to fill up an entire glass jar. Oh and if your county doesn’t have a ‘sharps recycling program’ just pawn it off on someone else who lives in a county which does have one. As for me, I’ve become a razor blade mule among my acquaintances… but you know… I don’t actually carry them IN me. I’m more like the mule who carries around a shopping bag and a sign around my neck. (Mules don’t have arms- stop it.)

Yea, I’m that guy.

Tips For Keeping Clutter Away

12.22.2016

0800

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I thought I would list some general tips for keeping clutter away. I use most of these techniques. I own very few items now so it’s easier for me to keep track of household items, including my own possessions. It will come to a point when you will de-clutter so much, that the majority of these tips won’t apply any longer. When you get to that point… it’s BLISS… so ready, set GO! … or you know… just start whenever you’re ready to.

General Home Rules:

  1. Remove at least 1 thing per day from your home that you can donate or sell – If you are able to complete this task, by the end of the year you will have removed 365 items from your home..
  2. Host a yard sale – Sell unwanted items faster than you would on Ebay or Craigslist.
  3. Commit to only keeping 1 or 2 special pieces of your child’s artwork per month – At the end of the year, opt to have your favorites made into a keepsake book (try Shutterfly.com).  Check out our post How to Organize School Artwork and Projects for more ideas.
  4. Put items away after use – Putting things back in their home after each use will make cleanup easier.
  5. Clean as you go – Try cleaning at the same time you are cooking and you will have less mess to cleanup afterwards.
  6. Schedule to de-clutter your home for 15 minutes every night – This is the strategy that the most organized person you know uses.  Check out our post How to De-Clutter When You Only Have 15 Minutes or Less.
  7. Adopt the “one in, one out rule” – With this rule you will never own too many things.
  8. Stop shopping when you are bored – Buying items because you are bored will create debt and unnecessary items cluttering your life. Direct your energy to another feel-good activity, hobby or project.
  9. Stop using paper coupons – If you don’t have time to clip coupons, stick with electronic ones through apps.
  10. Commit an ongoing effort to keep your life free of clutter – Don’t fall back into old habits after you worked so hard to create a simple life. Be consistent and remember why simplifying your life is important to you.

Kitchen:

  1. Create a Sunday basket and place all incoming and outgoing papers in the basket– Refer to this post to see what a Sunday Basket is all about and how to create one of your own.
  2. Keep your dining surfaces clear – Use this 15-minute de-clutter strategy to make sure your dining spaces are always ready for eating or entertaining.
  3. Get rid of extra sets in the kitchen – If you have double measuring cups, measuring spoons, etc., now is the time to get rid of the extras.

Bedroom

  1. Limit toys to 7 per child – If you have 3 kids, that’s still 28 toys in the house! Most kids only need their favorite 1-5 items that they play with daily.
  2. De-clutter your closet – Many people have more clothes than they need. Refer to this post for tips to de-clutter your closet.

Living Room:

  1. Keep home décor minimal – Less clutter around the house makes it easier to clean.
  2. Organize your junk drawer or get rid of it– The junk drawer is often forgotten about until it’s so packed full that it will no longer close. De-clutter your junk drawer regularly. Only place items in it that you use every day.
  3. Get rid of old electronics, cords, cell phones, etc. – Still have that mobile phone from 8+ years ago? Now is the time to donate it.
  4. Use the back side of printed paper – Recycle paper that has a blank backside by placing it in a clipboard and using as a scrap notepad. Once the backside has been used completely, place in a recycling bin.
  5. Delete old files from your computer – Schedule a de-clutter session on your devices. Keep an external hard drive of of files you may want to keep, but don’t clog up your computer’s hard drive. 
  6. Declutter your social media accounts – Unfollow people with annoying status updates or FB groups that no longer interest you.
  7. Declutter your mobile apps – Delete apps from your phone that you don’t use regularly.
  8. Ditch junk files on your computer – Try piriform.com/ccleaner to purge useless items.

Use What You Have

 

12.20.2016

0800

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“Why I don’t recommend a lot of separate items…”

You’re looking at everything I own in my kitchen. That’s all of it, although my silverware and kitchen tools aren’t pictured. Some kitchen items are marketed to have specific uses, but you’d be surprised at how many kitchen items can have multiple uses and how some kitchen tools really aren’t necessary at all. Even when it coms to bathroom items, I don’t have a separate soap for my body and my face (I use separate bars… but it’s still the same bar soap brand). I use baking soda as toothpaste and I don’t use band aids (I use paper tape with gauze).

For those of you who are moving into this lifestyle, I understand the need to buy compostable cotton swabs or a bamboo set of utensils to carry around, instead of grabbing a set from your existing silverware. In order to transition to this zero waste lifestyle, you’re altering your behavior that you’d developed for however many years you’ve existed on Earth.

However, I don’t recommend buying into the “buy all new things because nothing else can substitute it” mantra. The likelihood is that you already have items that you can use, but for different purposes and the transition is simply altering your behavior and mindset. I understand the novelty behind this zero waste movement, but a lot of the times, I’ve noticed that a few bloggers will recommend a lot of new items. Part of this movement is to try to NOT create waste and when you buy more stuff, more than likely you’re producing some form of waste.

For kids, I understand that it make take a few colors and some ownership of their personal products so they can personally take part in this movement or to break away from what they already like and know. Also, a lot of glass and stainless steel items  may be to heavy for them to carry around, or that they may not be careful enough to take care of such items. For adults however, I think we should really try to  create as many uses for a single product, as much as possible. Products that are designed for a specific use and a certain function, will likely not be as versatile for any other use.

Here are some of the items you don’t necessarily have to buy:

  1. Handkerchief –> Use existing fabric napkin or you can make your own from old pillowcases (just try to make sure the material is 100% cotton)
  2. Cloth napkin in  your “To Go Lunch Kit” –> Use existing fabric napkin
  3. Silverware in  your “To Go Lunch Kit”–> Use existing silverware (unless you’re going to pass through TSA [Transportation Security Administration] at the airport or some kind of security metal detector, then carry around a set of bamboo utensils)
  4. Eco lunchbox –> Use existing Tupperware
  5. Placemats –> Make your own from old bed sheets or pillowcases (Just remember to layer them up so it’s a thicker pile)
  6. Re-useable Produce Bags –> Make our own re-useable produce bags from old bed sheets and pillow cases (just make sure it’s cotton, with a decent thread count so it won’t fall apart as easily.)
  7. Spice Jars –> Just re-use the space jars you already own (remember to tare the weight before you refill it up. I usually carve the weight into the lid so I never forget)

This list could go on and on, but I’m keeping in mind that each person has a different journey on this path of zero waste. But if you can, reuse what you already own, there’s no point to wasting your money if it’s not necessary. Also, the more stuff you buy and if you’re not purging items in your home, you’re essentially just adding to the amount of possessions you’ll now be responsible for. So don’t give yourself more work, seriously… life will do that down the line… apparently it’s plentiful.. like pens.. stupid free pens.

Decluttering Sentimental Possessions

 

11.22.2016

0800

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For my sentimental possessions, I own a 3″x 12″x 6″ box, which holds just about every sentimental object in my life. A couple of years ago, I scanned all of my photos, drawings from my childhood, awards I got in school, just all of the paper I held onto. I scanned them and uploaded them to my cloud and also backed it up into my external hard drive. I did this because I had the notion in my mind that wherever I was in the world, I could access all of my photos via the internet. I actually tossed out many of my photos after I scanned them, I kept the ones which I knew were important to me.

My sentimental box includes my collection of elongated pennies from different places I visited or vacationed, a few letters from relatives who have passed on, pins from different events during my lifetime, items from important people in my life, etc. Ironically, I did purge quite a bit of my sentimental items before I started writing this post. I had never purged this collection before and I kept only 1 sentimental items from certain points in my life. However, this is how I approached the situation for decluttering my sentimental items.

In the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, she guides readers through tidying up each section of their home; sentimental items are the last to be dealt with. Her method, which is called The Konmarie Method, tells readers to hold each item and decide if the item brings you joy or no longer does. Then, with the items that no longer bring joy, bid adieu to the item, thank it for being in your life for that period of time and then place it in the trash pile, donate pile or sell pile. This is a great way to approach sentimental clutter because of the dynamic relationship we each have with our items. I don’t have enough stuff to go through the Konmarie Method where there would be a significant volume difference, but I did consider why I wanted to keep each of my sentimental items as I went through and purged.

If you’re thinking of purging your sentimental items, you can check out her book or simply follow some guidelines that I listed below. There are many books on decluttering, however with the Konmaire Method, you examine what you want to keep verses what you want to donate.

Here are some helpful tips to help you declutter your sentimental items:

  1. Keepsakes
    1. The key is to keep only mementos that are meaningful for us and for future generations. I tend to keep photos (which I digitize as well), and smaller pieces of keepsakes. I will keep a single handwritten letter or card from people who I hold close to my inner circle. I digitize everything else though, even those paper items, in case anything were to happen to them.
  2. The Quick Purge: Big Stuff
    1. I will purge the bigger items first. Part of the reason why I do that is because bigger items usually give me more room to save more stuff. If I don’t have the extra space, the purge has tighter parameters for me to work within.
  3.  Why Did I Keep That?
    1. This question comes up a lot when I start going through my items. It’s the first question I ask myself. You’re likely to find some things you have no idea why you saved.
  4.  Display Your Keepsakes
    1. If you want to keep the rocks, shells or spoons you collected from vacations over the years, create a place to keep them where you’ll see them and enjoy them instead of boxed up. Or if you can upcycle some of the items you can’t let go of, at least the clothing/fabric/item will be displayed somehow and integrated into your life.
  5. Stuff Your Kids Made and Other Gifts
    1. This category is a little harder to purge. Too bad all schools don’t make all small project items out of compostable materials. This category varies greatly in how or what small items you want to keep. Personally, if you can take a picture of the item and discard the physical item, that would be the ideal situation.  Requesting no gifts is always a good start.
  6. Letters, Cards, Kids’ Paintings and Other Papers
    1. With schoolwork, paper items, awards, etc., I would scan or take a picture of these items and only keep the more important documents. You can create a small binder for each school that they go to so for instance, one binder could be for elementary school, one for middle school and one for high school. Ideally, as kids get older, paper keepsake items become less so the binders tend to be thinner. However, the binder will also give you a limitation of how much you can keep from each school as well.

We have a tendency to equate our memories with stuff, but when you carry so much stuff with you, and you never see it- how valuable is it really? Your memories will always be there; the event did happen. Although, if you have alzheimer’s or dementia- this point in my post would fall flat…

My point is that it’s really up to you.  The question is, what are you willing to keep and why. Don’t think of this process as being forced to get rid of everything all at once. Just imagine if you had to fit the most important sentimental items into a 56 quart storage container, what would you keep?

If you want, start out with two 56 quart storage containers, or whatever size container you can handle. Some people are more attached to their items and it will take some time to go through it all. As long as there’s progress, you’re headed in the right direction.

So go… go assemble your Alzheimer’s storage containers, full of memories that you chose to keep. Actually I don’t call my container my Alzheimer’s storage container, it’s just a box, but I do have an external hard drive that I call “My Ut-Oh HD”. It contains everything I ever took a picture of or scanned. It’s my life as a photographic archive. I have yet to screw up the hard drive, and if I do, and everything is erased from the hard drive AND I subsequently have some form of memory loss… maybe I’ll just be a cat. They seem happy and angry- it’s perfect.

What I Stopped Buying- Garage, Living Room and Holidays

11.10.2016

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My last part in my ongoing list of “Items I’ve stopped buying” focuses on my garage, living room and holiday items. This list is very small in reference to the items I frequently bought. The garage items focus around doing laundry and the items needed to do laundry. The holiday items refer to items I used to buy for wrapping gifts.

Doing my laundry is my least favorite chore and ever since I simplified the amount of clothes I own, it’s not as bad as it used to be. (My capsule wardrobe now consists of 27 items.) But also not needing dryer sheets or dropping my items off at a dry cleaners also make for a simple laundry routine. I have so few items when I do laundry, that I simply hang everything up when I’m done. I used to sit and fold my items for a good amount of time, and had to set aside time to do it.

Admittedly, my simplistic routines have made me slightly lazier, but it’s also saved me time so I’m not packing my days off with things I need to get done. I actually HAVE time to be lazy- it’s weird. But I’ll take it. It’s weird because I’ve been conditioned to constantly be busy or with the tasks I need to get done each weekend or every other weekend. These tasks are supposed to take up a good amount of my day (that way I feel I’ve accomplished something for that day). When you get to the point when you find time to breathe (I mean a lot of time), it’s well worth the zero waste journey.

There’s more planning involved in the beginning and routines to get used to, but honestly….. who doesn’t love naps??

GARAGE

  1. Dryer Sheets ——————-> N/A
  2. Dry Cleaning ——————-> Hang items in bathroom while showering so they can steam.(I’ll iron if I ABSOLUTELY have to.)
  3. Laundry Soap ——————> Paper Packaged Powder Laundry Soap

LIVING ROOM

  1. Candles (Bed Bath & Beyond) ——> Sage leaves
  2. Flower Bouquets —————-> Fresh Flowers from backyard

HOLIDAYS

  1. Wrapping Paper —————-> Colorful Bandanas  [wrap and tuck] & old t-shirts made into reuseable gift bags.

Understanding Recycling Light Bulbs

 

10.20.2016

0800

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Recycling Light Bulbs Link

Trying to understand how light bulbs are recycled takes a little more research on my part. I honestly have never known how recycling centers go about recycling light bulbs. Due to the many different materials that make up light bulbs, I could only guess that the process was tedious. So here is an overall step by step process of the recycling process:

  1. Lamps are sent to the recycling facility
    1. Upon arrival at the recycling facility, lamps are removed from their containers and fed into specialized machine for recycling lamps. The entire process is fully automatic and incorporated in a container in which the air is brought to subpressure, thereby preventing mercury from being released into the environment.
  2. By-product separation
    1. With the aid of a sophisticated patented air transportation system, the phosphor powder is separated in different steps from the glass and metal by-products.
  3. Glass and aluminum stored
    1. Clean glass and aluminum end-caps are separated and stored for re-use.
  4. Mercury is isolated
    1. The mercury bearing powder is collected in distiller barrels beneath the cyclone and the self-cleansing dust filters
  5. Mercury is extracted
    1. The powder is then retorted to drive out the mercury.
  6. Elements are ready for re-use
    1. At the end of the process the glass, metal end-caps, powder, and mercury can all be re-used.
  7. Recycling certificate is issued
    1. Once the materials have been fully processed by the recycling facility, an official Certificate of Recycling will be produced and emailed to you for record keeping.

This is an overall general process of light bulb recycling. As much as you can- please, please recycle these products carefully and appropriately. There are a lot of different materials that go into the production process of producing lamps that can harm the environment and the toxic materials will always come full circle back to us.

Understanding Recycling Paper And Cardboard

 

10.18.2016

0800

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Paper Recycling Process Link

Paper is one of the more utilized materials that we use in our society. It’s an amazing material that is very versatile in many uses. Although recycling paper seems like a simple process, different types of paper, create different issues when it comes to the recycling process.

In 2011, 66.8 percent of paper consumed in the United States was recycled. Every ton of paper recycled saves more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, and if you measure by weight, more paper is recovered for recycling than plastic, aluminum and glass combined. Paper is a material that we’re used to recycling, since 87 percent of us have access to curbside or drop-off recycling for paper.

The process of recycling paper can be summed up into a few simple steps:

  1. Paper is taken from the bin and deposited in a large recycling container along with paper from other recycling bins.
  2. The paper is taken to a recycling plant where it is separated into types and grades.
  3. The separated paper is then washed with soapy water to remove inks, plastic film, staples and glue. The paper is put into a large holder where it is mixed with water to create ‘slurry’.
  4. By adding different materials to the slurry, different paper products can be created, such as cardboard, newsprints or office paper.
  5. The slurry is spread using large rollers into large thin sheets.
  6. The paper is left to dry, and then it is rolled up ready to be cut and sent back to the shops.

Here Are Some Facts About Paper Grades:

  • Paper Grades – There are five basic paper grade categories, according to theEPA. While these terms may be most useful to paper mills looking to process certain kinds of paper, you may hear these terms once in a while, and it’s possible you’ll need to be able to distinguish between them.
    • Old Corrugated Containers – You might know this as “corrugated cardboard.” It’s most often found in boxes and product packaging.
    • Mixed Paper – This is a broad category of paper that includes things like mail, catalogs, phone books and magazines.
    • Old Newspapers – This one is pretty self-explanatory. Mills use newspapers, a lower grade paper, to make more newsprint, tissue and other products.
    • High Grade Deinked Paper – This quality paper consists of things like envelopes, copy paper and letterhead that has gone through the printing process and had the ink removed.
    • Pulp Substitutes – This paper is usually discarded scraps from mills, and you probably won’t have to worry about running into it, though it may find its way into products you buy.

Some Paper Recycling Curiosities:

  • Once you know what kind of paper recycling is available to you and which types of paper are recyclable, you might still have some questions about paper recycling. Here are a few common items that cause confusion:
    • Shredded Paper – Ever wondered whether shredded paper can be recycled? The answer is yes, though you may encounter some restrictions regarding the size of the shredded pieces and the way the paper is contained. Check with your local recycling program for specific information.
    • Staples & Paper Clips – Believe it or not, equipment at paper mills that recycle recovered paper is designed to remove things like staples and paper clips, so you don’t need to remove them before recycling. It is probably in your best interest to remove paper clips, though, so they can be reused.
    • Sticky Notes – If your local recycling program accepts mixed paper, it will most likely accept sticky notes. Paper mills that process mixed paper are able to remove adhesives. To be on the safe side, check with your local program to make sure sticky notes aren’t a problem.

Understanding Recycling Batteries

 

10.06.2016

0800

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Recycling Car Batteries Link

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Processing Alkaline Batteries Link

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Recycling Lithium Batteries Link

I question the honesty of how items are recycled (especially electronics) and to be more informed is always better. The next series of posts I’m going to post up with cover a small section of the majority of materials that are deemed recyclable. Although the concept of recycling seems like a savior process for all items- it really isn’t. There are uncomfortable truths that the public is not informed about. I hope these next posts will be helpful for those who are seeking more information.

In a nutshell, batteries vary in how they are recycled. Batteries range from lead acid based to alkaline, lithium ion, nickel, zinc and even mercury batteries. Here is an overall information haul about the variety of them but I also included links to some recycling processes under the infographics above. I always hear mixed reviews as to what actually happens to batteries when we recycle them and this is why I thought I should post some information. I tend to use more alkaline and lithium batteries in my day to day life, so those infographics apply more to me. Hopefully this will bring some more information to you as you come into contact with your day to day electronics that use batteries.

  1. Lead Acid– The battery is broken apart in a hammer mill, a machine that hammers the battery into pieces. The broken battery pieces are then placed into a vat, where the lead and heavy materials fall to the bottom and the plastic floats. At this point, the polypropylene pieces are scooped away and the liquids are drawn off, leaving the lead and heavy metals. Each of the materials goes into a different recycling “stream”.
    1. Plastic- Polypropylene pieces are washed, blown dry and sent to a plastic recycler where the pieces are melted together into an almost liquid state. The molten plastic is put through an extruder that produces small plastic pellets of a uniform size. The pellets are put back into manufacturing battery cases and the process begins again.
    2. Lead- Lead grids, lead oxide and other lead parts are cleaned and heated within smelting furnaces. The molten melted lead is then poured into ingot molds. After a few minutes, the impurities float to the top of the still molten lead in the ingot molds. These impurities are scraped away and the ingots are left to cool. When the ingots are cool, they’re removed from the molds and sent to battery manufacturers, where they’re re-melted and used in the production of new batteries.
    3. Sulfuric Acid- Old battery acid can be handled in two ways:
      1. The acid is neutralized with an industrial compound similar to household baking soda. Neutralization turns the acid into water. The water is then treated, cleaned, tested in a wastewater treatment plant to be sure it meets clean water standards.
      2. The acid is processed and converted to sodium sulfate, an odorless white powder that’s used in laundry detergent, glass and textile manufacturing.Lead acid batteries are closed-loop recycled, meaning each part the the old batteries is recycled into a new battery. It is estimated that 98% of all lead acid batteries are recycled.
  2. Alkaline batteries– Alkaline batteries such as (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) are recycled in a specialized “room temperature,” mechanical separation process where the battery components are separated into three end products. These items are a zinc and manganese concentrate, steel, and paper, plastic and brass fractions. All of these products are put back into the market place for reuse in new products to offset the cost of the recycling process. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  3. Lithium Ion– Prior to the recycling process, plastics are separated from the metal components. The metals are then recycled via a high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) process during which all of the high temperature metals contained within the battery feedstock (i.e. nickel, iron, manganese and chromium) report to the molten-metal bath within the furnace, amalgamate, then solidify during the casting operation. The low-melt metals (i.e. zinc) separate during the melting. The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  4. Nickel-Cadmium- Prior to the recycling process, plastics are separated from the metal components. The metals are then recycled via a high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) process during which all of the high temperature metals contained within the battery feedstock (i.e. nickel, iron, manganese, and chromium) report to the molten-metal bath within the furnace, amalgamate, then solidify during the casting operation. The low-melt metals (i.e. zinc and cadmium) separate during the melting. The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  5. Nickel Metal Hydride– Prior to the recycling process, the plastics are removed from the cell portion. The cells go through a drying process to remove moisture (potassium hydroxide (KOH) electrolyte and H2O) from the cells. The drying process heats the cells in a time and temperature controlled manner via a proprietary and proven formula. Once these cells are dried they become a valuable feedstock for the stainless steel and or alloy manufacturing industries.  The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  6. Lithium Batteries– The contents of the batteries are exposed using a shredder or a high-speed hammer depending on battery size. The contents are then submerged in caustic (basic not acidic) water. This caustic solution neutralizes the electrolytes, and ferrous and non-ferrous metals are recovered. The clean scrap metal is then sold to metal recyclers to offset the cost of recycling these batteries. The solution is then filtered. The carbon is recovered and pressed into moist sheets of carbon cake. Some of the carbon is recycled with cobalt. The lithium in the solution (lithium hydroxide) is converted to lithium carbonate, a fine white powder. What results is technical grade lithium carbonate, which is used to make lithium ingot metal and foil for batteries. It also provides lithium metal for resale and for the manufacture of sulfur dioxide batteries.

  7. Mercury Batteries– The batteries and heavy metals are recovered through a controlled-temperature process. It’s important to note: the percentage of mercuric oxide batteries is decreasing since the passage of the Mercury-Containing Rechargeable Battery Management Act (The Battery Act) of 1996. This act prohibits, or otherwise conditions, the sale of certain types of mercury-containing batteries (i.e., alkaline manganese, zinc carbon, button cell mercuric-oxide and other mercuric-oxide batteries) in the United States.

  8. Zinc-Carbon– Zinc-carbon (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) and zinc-air batteries are recycled in the same way as alkaline batteries or by using high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) method to melt the metals. These metals are then reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  9. Zinc-Air– Zinc-carbon (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) and zinc-air batteries are recycled in the same way as alkaline batteries or by using high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) method to melt the metals. These metals are then reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

Understanding Recycling Plastics

 

09.26.2016

0800

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Know Your Plastics

The Plastic Recycling Process

The plastic recycling process begins with sorting the various items by their resin content. The chart above shows the seven different plastic recycling symbols marked on the bottoms of plastic containers. The recycling mill sorts the used plastics by these symbols and may perform an additional sort based on the color of the plastic.

Once sorted, the plastics are chopped up into small pieces and chunks. These pieces are then cleaned to further remove debris like paper labels, residue from what was inside the plastic, dirt, dust, and other small contaminants.

Once cleaned, certain plastic pieces are melted down and compressed into tiny pellets called nurdles. Once in this state, the recycled plastic pellets are now ready to reuse and fashion into new and completely different products, as recycled plastic is hardly ever used to create the same or identical plastic item of its former self.

Does Recycling Plastics Work?

In a nutshell: yes and no. The plastic recycling process is fraught with flaws. Some of the dyes used in creating the plastic can be contaminated and cause an entire batch of potential recycling material to be scrapped. Additionally, there are still a large percentage of people who refuse to recycle, thus the actual numbers of plastics being returned for reuse is roughly 10% of what is purchased as new by consumers.

Another issue at stake is the fact that producing recycled plastic does not reduce the need for virgin plastic. However, plastic recycling can and does reduce the consumption of other natural resources like timber, due to its use in making composite lumber and many other products.

The 5-Step Process for Plastic Recycling

1. Collection – The recycling facilities gather available recyclable plastic material in their area, such as from roadside collections, special recycling bins, or even directly from industries. In this way, both post-consumer and post-industrial plastic items are collected.
2. Manual sorting – All plastic items that are collected are then sorted according to the various plastic types indicated by the plastic recycling symbols and codes on them. Unwanted non-plastic materials found in the piles are promptly taken out.
3. Chipping – After sorting, the sorted plastic products are prepared for melting by being cut into small pieces. The plastic items are fed into a machine which has sets of blades that slice through the material and break the plastic into tiny bits.
4. Washing – At this step in the process of recycling plastic, all residue of products originally contained in the plastic items and various other ‘contaminants’ (e.g. paper labels, dirt) are removed. A particular wash solution consisting of an alkaline, cationic detergent and water are used to effectively get rid of all the contaminants on the plastic material, making sure that all the plastic bits are clean and ready for the final step.
During washing, the wash tank agitator serves as an abrasive, stripping the adhesive off any labels and shredding any paper mixed in with the plastics. The alkaline, cationic detergent (which is similar to the formulas used in shampoos and fabric softeners) is used because plastic materials have a positive surface charge, and only positively-charged chemical compounds (which in this case are cationic detergents) can properly clean them, and effectively remove dirt and grease from the positively charged plastic surfaces.

5. Pelleting – The cleaned and chipped pieces of plastic are then melted down and put through a machine called an ‘extruder’ in this stage of the recycling plastic process. The extruder shapes the melted plastic into thin noodle-like tubes. The plastic tubes are then cut into small pellets by a set of rotating knives. The pellets are then ready to be reused and remade into new items.

What About the Bag?

Plastic bags go through the same five-step process as other plastic products. They too are sorted into their various plastic types, washed and rinsed. However, in the case of plastic bags, they are chopped rather than chipped. The chopped shreds of plastic bags are then melted down during the pelleting stage.
What’s Next?

The plastic pellets derived from the recycling plastic process are usually sold by the recycling company to other businesses which would then mold the plastic pellets into an assortment of plastic products for various uses. Some products use a combination of recycled plastic pellets and virgin plastic ones.