Got Rid Of My Bookshelf

02.13.2018

0600

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Since I was 9 years old, I’ve always had a bookshelves. These bookshelves were used to store games, books, stuffed animals, my old boombox and a number of other odd items. I’ve had all different kinds of bookshelves, but now I was down to one. When I really started to minimize my possessions and pare down my physical objects, I wanted to get rid of my bookshelf.

However, I didn’t feel ready to make that decision. When you get rid of stuff, you’re also eliminating surface area for the other physical objects associated with that item. By getting rid of my bookshelf, I didn’t know where to store the items that were sitting on it. The only solution I could find was to donate my items or somehow find a new home for the item.

This didn’t mean I was going to shuffle my items around my space. Clutter is still clutter even when you move it around a space; you simply distributed it instead of grouping it in one location.

It meant that I had to really want to minimize the number of items and ONLY keep what I needed. It took a little bit of time, but slowly, my bookcase started to look more and more bare. I’m lucky that it’s a fold up bookcase, so I knew I could tuck it away easily.

My bookcase is simple piece of furniture. It folds up, it’s made of birch wood and was pretty cheap when I bought it.  However, my profession requires books and I still have some books from college. Even when you flip through most architecture magazines, you’ll see some type of shelf that displays reading material or other items in the living space. It seemed that for me to get rid of my bookshelf, was me breaking standard design rules.

My other worry was, “What if I need it in the future?” That question comes up quite a bit when I declutter. I’ve learned to answer that question with, “I’ll find a way”. Since I do have extra room in my living space, finding room for storage isn’t the problem.

The journey to living a curated minimalist life is a flexible path with a bunch of turns. I’m not sure if there is an end. As our lives change, we will too. Over time, we’ll need items we’ve never needed before, so we adapt. It also takes work to let go of what you “think” is normal, and consciously choose to live with less. Breaking away from what you’ve always known and accepting it is an important step in this process.

A lot pf people struggle in this area. To break away from what we’ve envisioned our lives to be and what our standard of “normal” is, can be a mental exercise. Some people are more comfortable with change, some are not. I’m a creature of habit, so perhaps that’s why this was a victory for me. Owning a bookcase was normal for me, until I decided it wasn’t.

If you’re conscious about the amount of clutter you have, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Being conscious of your actions means you’re holding yourself accountable and that’s a part of this lifestyle. It’s also easier said than done.

So farewell to my bookshelf, you’ve served me well. But I no longer need your services. May you find a new home with a new owner.

Where did my books on my bookshelf go?

I donated my old textbooks back to my alum colleges (including art materials as well). I also donated some books to a few Little Free Libraries, and the rest to my local library. If you don’t know about what these Little Free Libraries are, check them out at Little Free Library Organization, and you might be able to locate one near you. I now keep the very few books I have left in my ottoman.

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Upcycling Milk Crates to a Shoe Rack

02.06.2018

0600

Materials:

  • 2 Milk crates (about 12″ cubes)
  • Twelve 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws
  • (Optional) Three 1″ wood screws – (for creating the holes)
  • 2 Wood boards (12″ x 11-1/4″ x 1/2″)
  • 16 small screws for holding seats in place
  • Pencil

Tools:

  • Power Screwdriver
  • Table saw / Mitre Saw (or saw it by hand with a rip hand saw)

So I needed a small bench shoe rack piece of furniture. All of the designs and products I flipped through on the internet weren’t quite what I had in mind. I needed a fairly short lengthed bench that didn’t need to store a lot of shoes. I also wanted a compact design. I only own six pairs of shoes and I don’t wear them all in the same season so the rest of the room would be for my family.

I knew I had a few milk crates, which I saw the potential use for this project. It was simple idea and I knew what I wanted the final product to look like.

The interior space within each milk crate was 12″ wide, 12″ high and 10-1/4″ deep. The height of the crate was enough room for two levels for shoe storage.

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Since I was going to use two milk crates, I went ahead and found two random wood boards about 1/2″ thick. The boards I found were slightly wider than the depth of the crates, but I left the extra inch for larger shoes.

So using a miter saw, I cut each piece of wood board down to 12″ x 11-1/4″.

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Next I divided the interior height in half and created a guideline down the middle. Since the crate is plastic, I used an exacto blade to lightly score the midline.

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Using the wood screws and my power screwdriver, I pinpointed the locations of where I wanted my 2″ screws to be located. I like using the wood screws when locating holes in plastic because I can hold the shank of the screw and still guide the power screwdriver to create the straight hole.

wood screw Diagram

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After the holes are created, I took the 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws and screwed them into the premade holes.

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For the four screws that were located further towards the back of the box, I screwed the 2″ Multi-Purpose Construction Screws inwards. And for the two screws located towards the opening of the box, I screwed them outwards.

I wanted the back of the box to be supported more since it was further back. Also, I didn’t want anything sharp located towards the front opening.

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I simply install each box with a board, placing the boards on top of the screws. The boards fit well and were snug enough where they didn’t move either.

Most shoes are longer than 10-1/4″, so leaving the extra 1″ helps with different sized shoes. If you need to store boots or shoes that wouldn’t fit the original designed space, you can simply remove one of the boards and the two screws closest to the opening. (I left the two screws here to show the original design)

So there you have it, you can create a simple seat and shoe storage very quickly and with simple materials. You can install a wood board on top to create a bench or stack these crates on top of a 2″ x 4″ frame to have one more level. There’s a variety of designs this can break out into. I might just do that when the spring season rolls around.

Hope this post jogged up ideas!

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Update:

I wanted to secure a seat on top of the crates so I took another extra piece of wood board and lined it next to the piece I usually keep on top of the creates.

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I took my pencil and traced the crate pattern on the underside of each board and then used small screws to outline at least two crate holes using the small screws. In order to know where I had to place my screws, I flipped my screws over so that they would be standing on their heads and then gauged where the sharp end of the screw would land. The head of the screws had to hug the insides of the traced corner, so I knew where to place it. Wherever the screw could touch both edges of the location, was where I knew I had to place the screw.

I measured the location for the screws in this manner because I wanted the screw to fit right inside of the hole I traced. The head of the screw as well as the thread of the screws had to fit comfortably into the existing holes, once it was flipped over.

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I didn’t screw the screws in the entire length of the thread, so be very aware of the depth of the wood piece you pick out and the screw length that you choose as well. The idea here was to still have the screws sticking out of the board so it would fit nicely into the holes that were traced.

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Once I placed the boards back onto the crates, the top was created into a quick seat to use while putting on shoes (or taking them off).

 

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So there you have it! I like this much more now with the seat on top, and secured into place.

 

Upcycled Coat Rack From Spoons

01.09.2018

0600

Materials:

  • Wood board (18 inches long x 5 inches wide 1-1/2 inches deep)
  • Four 3 inch wood screws
  • Ten 1-1/2 inch wood screws
  • 5 Spoons

Tools:

  • Power Drill
  • Power Screwdriver
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Slip Joint Pliers
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves

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So I wanted to make a coat hanger but I didn’t want to buy one. Apparently I had materials at home to make one of my own. This project is a fairly easy DIY for any of you who are curious.

My board was 18 inches wide and I wanted a minimum of 1 inch on each side, for margins. This left me with 16″ to work with. So initially I wanted to use 7 spoons for the hangers, but after I measured the distance, I decided to only use 5 spoons.

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I divided the board up into three sections. The height of my board was 5-1/2″, but if you don’t want to use numbers, simply take a piece of paper and fold it into thirds. Then with a pencil, mark the first line and then the second. I wanted to offset my rows of spoons so the red line is for the top row of spoons and the green line is for the center of the bottom row of spoons.

Where the red line and margins intersect is where I drilled my top mounting holes. My bottom mounting holes is where the green line and the margins intersect. These holes are marked by the yellow circles in the image.

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For the spoons, I wanted to drill 2 holes to mount each spoon and I knew I had to create hooks by manipulating the spoons. I picked out a drill bit that was a similar size diameter of my screws I was going to use on the spoons. Usually I choose a drill bit smaller than my screw, but that working with wood only. When working with metal, you want a drill bit that the same size as the screw since metal won’t give. Also, if you don’t choose a drill bit smaller than your screw, there’s a good chance you’ll strip the screw’s threads as you drill.

The green line marks the point of where I wanted my spoons to bend upwards, so they could be used as hooks.

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When I drilled the holes, I wore gloves and my safety glasses because the metal slivers would fly off of the power drill. I applied slow but steady pressure while holding the spoon still and then I dumped the metal shavings into one side of my purple container. I did this to contain the shavings but also because it would be easier to discard them after I finished.

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I first started bending the spoons by using the edge of my step ladder, then I used my Slip Joint Pliers to hold the spoon while using the Needle Nose Pliers to bend the spoons into hooks.

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Once all of the spoons had holes drilled into them, I spaced the spons apart from each other in three inch increments. I proceed to attach the spoons to the board. For the wall mount attachment holes, I sunk the holes into the wood so that there was a slight design detail. I initial had made 2 drill holes so that I could mount it to the stud in the wall (those are the extra holes you see floating on the left half of  the board), but I changed my mind and decided to directly attach it to the drywall instead. Because I was planning to use three inch screws, I knew that mounting it to the drywall wouldn’t be a problem.

But because I changed my mind on which drill holes I wanted to use to mount the coat rack, I now had two random holes that looked out of place. To fix this, I mirrored the holes to the other side of the board and then filled in the extra holes will extra wood filler we had left over.

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I centered my coat rack and attached it to my wall. As you can see, the mistake holes look like design elements with the wood filler.

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So there it is, my coat rack made from spoons. These spoons are a few extra spare spoons from my mother’s kitchen and I really like that I was able to upcycle these extra spoons, knowing that a part of her kitchen was now used in an item I really needed. It’s a nice homage to my mom in a subtle way.

Our homes and possessions hold a great deal of different types of materials in which we can reuse and upcycle into new items.   Once you breakdown how different types of materials are used, the possibilities are endless. Scan your home and surroundings, I’m sure you’ll find a lot of resources.

 

 

Upcycling Fabric Shower Curtains

12.05.2017

0600

Materials:

  • Two 72″ x 72″ Fabric Shower Curtains

Tools:

  • Sewing Machine
  • Sewing Kit

 

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Fabric Shower curtains are usually  made with polyester fabric. A few years ago, I had ordered extra fabric shower curtains and I really wanted to use up the material. I had previously posted a quick blog post about using fabric shower curtains as temporary screens for doors in Alternative Screen For Doors.

But now I wanted to see if I could upcycle the material again for another purpose.  This upcycling project works well if you have solid color curtains. I wanted to create a sheer curtain layer to hang with each of the three sets of my existing window curtains. I thought it would be interesting to upcycle my extra fabric shower curtains to sheer curtains for my windows. I still like the patterns I choose and with the sheer curtains up against my windows, the patterns would be illuminated as the sun hit them each morning.

So I took down each of my existing window curtains and measured them to see how much fabric I needed from the shower curtains. The width of the window wasn’t a problem since I had 72″ to work with. The only variable was the height of each curtain.

For my multicolored shower curtain, I divided the shower curtain in half length wise and width wise equally. I had planned to use the top half of this curtain to create my first sheer window curtain set. The bottom half would be combined with the top half of the bamboo curtain, to create the third set of window curtains.

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For my bamboo print shower curtain, I measured the height that I initially wanted starting from the bottom of the curtain. I did this because I wanted the second curtain set to be completely covered by the pattern. I left the white void at the top of the bamboo curtain because I knew I was going to use it in the third set of window curtains. I had planned to sew the top half of the bamboo shower curtains to the bottom half of the multicolored shower curtain to create the last set of sheer window curtains.

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I then pinned the edges that had been cut using sewing pins and hemmed them to clean up the trim around the shower curtain.

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Since the width of each shower curtain piece was wider than the individual window curtain pieces, I tucked and folded the shower curtain pieces to fit each window curtain width accordingly. I only sewed about 6″ up the shower curtain piece to hold the folded in piece in place, and across the bottom. You can sew the entire height of the folded piece, but I simple choose not to.

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Since I know I want to keep these curtain designs as is, I decided to sew the new sheer curtain layer to my existing window curtains.  You don’t have to sew them, you can use safety pins as a temporary solution if you’re not sure about keeping the sheer layers, or if you want to change them out. Make sure you decide which side of the sheer curtain you want to face towards the window and which side of your existing window curtain you want to face inwards into your home. I personally don’t care about what my curtain looks like to the outside world so I have the nicer pattern facing inwards. This is why adding a sheer layer helps the presentation of my curtains to the outside world.

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To secure my curtains, I had initially made cord tiebacks with leftover material from an old bed sheet, in order to keep my curtains open. With the new sheer layer, I can tie back the solid color window curtain and leave the sheer layer or I can wrap them both back to let in even more sunlight.

 

Cooking And Serving Preparation Hacks

07.18.2017

0600

Quick, easy and simple are always my goals when I do any type of task. If I can hack a procedure to simplify steps in any task, then I will. I find more value and satisfaction in saving time and energy when I do tasks. I’m simply not the type to make extravagant dinners or parties. There are always ways to simplify life and that is always a goal in life for me. My personal hacks might cut out one extra step but one less step is still saving time.

Cooking Preparation Hacks

When you’re in a hurry, and you need to eat or prepare food fast, here are some hacks that I use so I can speed up the preparation process.

  • Using a spoon to scoop and round produce or vegetable that fits in the palm of your hands
    • Hard boiled eggs, avocados, kiwis or any other small round produce that will fit in the palm of your hand

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    • Dicing or Cutting on a cutting board
      • To change the direction of the cuts, rotate the cutting board or move your own position towards the board. Don’t move the produce on the cutting board.

 

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  • Sliding produce to pan from cutting board
    • Once done with dicing or slicing your vegetables on the cutting board, use the opposite side of the knife blade to slide the chopped items the pot or larger container. This way, you don’t ruin the blade of the knife.

 

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  • Cutting oranges
    • Cut oranges in half by cutting the first slice horizontally, and then create the divides from there. That way you create small triangles when you peel bech each individual slice.

 

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  • When cutting long vegetables
    • When cutting long vegetables, always cut the produce in half for each cut, so it takes less cuts to reach the desired length.
    • When I cut carrots it’s in a similar manner. I cut them in half and then split the halves into halves. I pretty much use this method for most any vegetable I cut.

 

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  • Extracting garlic
    • Gently extract garlic out of its skin by using the side of a large knife and simply pressing on it, on the counter. The garlic will loosen from its skin and simply cutting off the end of the garlic will release the skin from the garlic meat

 

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Serving Food Hacks

A lot of my workday consists of time management so my hacks really stem from my desire to save time.

  1. Serving Food
    1. I use glass tupperware bowls when I eat, that way, if I have leftover food, I throw on the tupperware lid and I’ll have leftovers for a snack or for another meal. Also, there are less dishes to wash after the meal.
    2. Mugs with handles are our friends for foods that have temperature issues such as hot soups, or cold ice cream.

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Cheap and Easy TV Mount

06.27.2017

0600

Materials:

  • One 1-1/2″ (width) x 5-1/2″ (depth) wood lumber about 18″ (length)
  • Two 2-1/2″ wood screws (to hold the first wood piece against the wall)
  • Two M4-7.0 screws , at 40 mm in length (to hold the second wood piece against the television)

Tools:

  • Drill
    • Drill bits (drill bits to drill holes for the screws that will hold the wood piece against the wall as well as to drill holes in the wood piece that will attach to the television.
    • Flat wood drill bit (to create the holes that I’ll use to sink the screws into the wood, so that it won’t pop out)
  • Table saw (or saw it by hand with a rip hand saw)
  • Measuring Tape
  • Heavy duty block magnets

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Locating the studs in the wall:

So I wanted to mount my TV up on my wall, and I wanted to do it in a simple and cheap way so I figured that a French Cleat would be the best. First I located my studs in my walls, and I used a different method this time. Usually, I can differentiate stud sounds through the gypsum board, but I thought I would share the other method I use. If you take strong magnets and move along the wall, they will be able to locate the existing nails embedded on the studs. Now, because this can leave scratches along the paint on your wall, I actually sewed little fabric sleeves for each one from fabric I had left over from other previous projects. You don’t have to use fabric, you can wrap paper around it and locate the studs that way too. Sometimes it takes a bit of searching to find the first nail, but once you do, the rest of the nails will be located within the same location on the other studs.

Knowing where the studs were located, gave me the general length of how long of a piece of wood I would need, so I chose an 18″ piece of wood.

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I first divided the piece of wood in half. Because the width of the wood was 1-1/2″, I moved the center line off by 1/4″ to offset the width. I did this because the next step was to cut the wood piece in half at a 45° angle. By offsetting the divided line by 1/4″, the 45° angle cut would be more centered. I then designated which piece would be screwed against the wall and which one would be attached to the TV. To avoid confusion, mark the surfaces of the pieces which will need to be screwed into the wall and TV with a black line in the corner. So mark the actual surfaces which you know will have screws entering the wood piece.

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To start this, first unhook all of the wires and cords from the back of your television set and place it face down on a towel. It’ll be easier to measure the mounting holes this way.

For the wood piece that would be attached to the TV, I measured the width of the mounting holes on the back of my TV (each flat screen television comes with). I simply measured the same distance on my wood piece and marked up the two locations. I marked these holes slightly higher on this piece because I knew the bottom inch of the wood was the angle and I wanted to avoid it. Once you remove the screws where the mounting holes are, you can bring these screws to the hardware store to find longer ones which will be used to attach the wood piece with.

To find the existing depth of the hole on the back of your television, I actually folded a tiny piece of paper and stuck it in the hole until it couldn’t move any further. When it stopped, I marked it with a pencil. My television mounting holes were 1/2″, in case you wanted to use that as a reference. When buying the new screws for attaching the wood piece to the TV, make sure you take into account the depth of the hole and the thickness of the wood. Because I could only find 40mm length screws, I knew I would have to “sink” my screws into the TV wood piece.

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I used the same method for placing the screw holes on the wood piece that would be screwed to the wall. I measured the distance where my magnets were hanging and placed the holes slightly lower on the wood piece. (Always measure the center of the stud to the center of the next stud.) I did this because I knew the top inch of wood was the angle cut.

I drilled my holes accordingly, and the diameter of the holes was based on the diameter of the screws I was going to use for each wood piece. I personally like a slightly snug hole for my screws, so I always measure the drill diameter to be slightly smaller than the diameter of my screw. I like that the screw will fit snug, but it’ll embed itself in the wood as well. For the drill bit that created the holes for the wood piece that attached to the television, I placed that aside, because I would need it to pre-drill holes in the wall when it came time.

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Once the drill holes were made, I took a Flat Wood Drill Bit to create the sinking spaces for the screws. The depth for the sinking holes varied because I used 2-1/2″ screws for the wood piece that would attach to my wall and only 40mm screws for my wood piece for my TV.

For this part, you have to measure the depth of each set of screws. As long as the screws are sunk into the wood and the surface is flush without anything protruding out, it’ll hang nicely. For the TV wood piece, I made sure that when the screws were screwed all the way in,  that they would only protrude out 1/2″ (which would be where it would attach to the TV). Because the other piece of wood would be attached to the wall, I just had to make sure I pre-drilled holes into the wall.

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I took the wood piece that was designated to be attached to the TV, and screwed it in. I then located the height at which I wanted to place my TV, then I pre-drilled the holes into the wall. I took the wood piece that was to be attached the wall and screwed it to the the pre-drilled holes.

I attached all of the television cords while my TV was still faced down on the towel, and then hung it up on the new French Cleat Hook. This is a really quick way to hang almost anything. This method is cheaper than buying a mount and with leftover materials, you can create this too. I really liked this design hacks due to the fact that it’s such a strong hook and it was so cheap to make.

Maybe this might help you find solutions to hanging furniture issues.

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Creating Sliding Drawers

06.20.2017

0600

Materials:

  1. One sheet of brown peg board
  2. KOMPLEMENT drawer handles from IKEA
  3. Bulk rope from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store
  4. Extra nuts and bolts to secure the handles to the peg boards

 

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I first had to measure the width of my cabinet openings, due to the fact that they were old up-cycled cabinets from when we had first moved into this house. The cabinet drawer opening measured 12″ wide and 24″ deep. Ideally, most new cabinet installments would add a nice overall look and clean up the space a bit, but the way new sliding drawers are built, the thickness of the wood would eat up a lot of the width opening. This is why I decided to make some generic sliding drawers.

I measured out the dimensions of 11-1/2″ wide and 20″deep on the peg board, and I had just enough board to make up three drawers. Because the peg board came with pre-drilled holes, it was easy to guesstimate where the handles would be located, and not all of the handles would necessarily be centered. Also, the screws that came with the handles accessories package were designed to fit a 3/4″ thick board, but the peg board was only 1/4″ thick. this is why I had to gather a few extra nuts to infill the space between the original handle screw and the end of the handle itself.

Once I cut the boards to the right size to fit the openings, I placed the handles where I wanted them to be located and attached the nuts and screws accordingly. Because I wanted these drawers to slide, I went to a local fabric store and bought some thick bulk rope. I used this rope to wrap around the long sides of the drawers so that they would slide out easier. The rope also evidently contained the items sitting on top. You can also contain the items that would sit on top of these drawers by screwing a thin piece of wood onto the top of the drawer so  you have a more secure way of holding your items.

Because the motion of the drawers is more of a pull-out motion when in use, I was more concerned about the items falling off in the back of the drawer when the drawer was pulled outward. Once the rope was tied on, I placed my items inside my small rectangular, fabric containers.

 

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Drawer Guides:

I nailed down 12″(L) x 1/4″(W) x 3/4″(D) wooden pieces on each side of the drawers, inside the cabinet, as guides for the drawers. I chose to use a 12″(L) because the depth of the cabinet is 24″. I braced the guides up against the front of the cabinet, in which these guides will help slide out the drawers along a smoother line.

Conclusion:

These drawers are very simple sliding drawers made form material found around the house. There are a number of designs to secure drawer guides in place, and this one was a very simple design. If I had used a 1/4″ bottom for the drawers, I would have secured a different drawer guide design underneath the drawer. I genuinely like the fact that these drawers slide on the rope and it makes virtually no sound when pulled out and pushed back in. It doesn’t’ scratch the surface of the cabinet shelves and it’s simple enough to take apart if I no longer have the need for this design. Maybe this design will work for you, in other areas of your home. I hope this post might have helped brainstorm some ideas.

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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!

Zero Waste Take Out Food

03.28.2017

0700

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Ordering take out food is the one thing I didn’t want to give up when I started living a zero waste lifestyle. The concept of always going out to eat when I didn’t want to cook, seemed viable when I first started this journey. Of course, going home, not wanting to cook and  finding the energy to go out to eat was also another challenge. So, after some investigating, and research I had to put together a “Food Take Out Kit”. Most of my research was simply through trial and error with this kit, and finding restaurants willing to serve food in my dishes. I’m lucky that I live in a city that is trying to be more environmentally friendly so I did find a lot of restaurants willing to serve my take out food in my own dishes.

I first called a lot of the restaurants in my downtown area, to see if they were willing to participate in my zero waste effort. A lot of the restaurants were more than willing to participate, but with different methods. Some were willing to take my dishes to the kitchen where they would directly serve my dishes right into my containers, and some were more adamant about bringing the food out on one of their own plates and then transfer it into mine, so to not contaminate their kitchen. Either way, it was fine with me. However, during my research, I did come across some restaurants that were not willing to do either method.

I furthered my research by ordering take out from as many restaurants as I could, when I could. It takes a bit of trial and error, but if you have a Food Take Out Kit, I think it make these trips much smoother. The one thing that seemed a bit tricky was the different types and sizes of side dishes these restaurants offered. Also, I had to slowly gauge what sauces or dips would come along with certain dishes. I didn’t really know what sized to go container each restaurant used, so I used large glass tupperware in hopes that the volume of my tupperware would suffice.

I usually go to the prospective restaurant and order my food with the hostess right then and there, so that I can hand them my glass tupperware dishes to fill up. I had to make a couple of trips to really get this kit down correctly, but here it goes. In my Food Takeout Food Kit, I have:

Food Take Out Kit:

  1. Containers:
    1. Three 54 oz. containers (for main dishes)
    2. Three 35 oz. containers (for smaller portion dishes and side dishes)
    3. Four 1 cup containers (for sauces)
  2. Reusable cloth produce bags
    1. Three medium sized bags
    2. One large bag

I use tupperware by Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6-Piece Rectangular Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 54-Ounce Each for my larger dishes, as well as Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6 Piece Square Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 35-Ounce Each for my smaller dishes, side sides or appetizers. I use Pyrex Simply Store 1-Cup Round Glass Food Storage Dish for sauces or dips that the dishes might come with.

I also will bring my dishes to my local grocery stores, to their deli counter to fill up on whatever I need to. It’s also easy to fill up on cheeses or meats at the deli counter with large rectangular dishes like these. It’s easier for the deli worker to tare the weight of your dish and to fit your choices easily as it’s also easy for them to move around the items to fit more snug.

The downfall of this system is that not every restaurant will allow you to use your own dishes so therefore you either have the choice of eating out at the restaurant or not at all. On the other hand, there is a way to bring that food home which you may have a good selection of restaurants willing to participate in it, and you’re not producing unnecessary trash. I don’t mind that certain restaurants opt out of this participation. They have every right to run their business as they please. However, I’d prefer to buy from restaurants willing to do this though.

If you want to try this Food Take Out Kit, you actually may already have tupperware at home that you could use. If not, I included links to the ones I use. To clear up any confusion, make sure to show the hostess that you already have the 1-cup containers for sauces and dips ready to be filled. I’ve noticed that their concerns are usually associated with the condiments that come with the dishes. The last bonus with creating a zero waste take out food system, is that if you’re not finished with the meals once you bring them home, just place the lids back on and you can save the food for later or eat it the next day. It’s such a simple clean up system!

Yes, I use two bags to carry these dishes around.

Yes, it gets heavy at times.

Yes, it’s worth it, knowing that I’m not contributing to more trash to the landfill.

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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.

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.

The Problem With Disposable Chopsticks

11.17.2016

0800

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Asian cuisine is one of the most popular types of food in the world.  With China alone feeding a population of over 1 billion people, it’s important to consider how the utensils commonly used are impacting the environment.  Throwaway chopsticks that are commonly used in most Asian restaurants are mostly made of wood, not plastic, and the statistics behind them are staggering:

  • In China, about 57 billion (that’s “billion”!) pairs of wooden disposable chopsticks are made each year. Cottonwood, birch, spruce and bamboo are the main sources of these one-use chopsticks.
  • Half of these disposables are used within China itself. Of the other half, 77 percent are exported to Japan, with South Korea taking most of the remainder.
  • About 24 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks are used in Japan each year. This is equivalent to nearly 200 pairs per person per year.
  • Globally, about 1.4 billion people throw away 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year
  • In the U.S., Americans threw out 31 million tons of plastic — including plastic utensils — in 2010, making up 12.4 percent of the nation’s municipal solid waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 8 percent of that plastic waste was recovered from recycling.

The impact of so many discarded chopsticks is of course unsustainable. With China now the world’s largest importer of wood, governmental organizations are aware that the nation cannot sustain the level of deforestation needed to manufacture so many throwaway products. In 2006 China imposed a 5% tax on disposable chopsticks, a move which resulted in a drop in manufacturing.

“We must change our consumption habits and encourage people to carry their own tableware,” said Bo Guangxin recently at a gathering of China’s National People’s Congress. The chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group noted that only 4,000 chopsticks can be created from a 20-year-old tree, 2 million of which were being cut down each year to produce them. Even more radically, Bo Guangxin suggested that restaurants might have to offer metal knives and forks instead of traditional chopsticks.

Deforestation caused by so much wood use not only harms the local environment – leading to mudslides and weakened resilience against flooding – but also affects global warming by the removal of trees which capture and store CO2.

Out of all the animal protein options available, I tend to favor fish. My friends and family are also big sushi fans. Whenever we go out we tend to chose sushi diners to indulge ourselves with. (Good thing is that sushi fills us up quickly.) Almost every sushi restaurant I’ve ever been to, uses disposable wooden chopsticks. I always felt bad for using these chopsticks because I know that all of these chopsticks will end up in the landfill. For this reason, I added a pair of chopsticks to my travel utensil bag. It is a bit odd to pull it out during diner at times, but then again, making waves is always odd in the beginning.