Got Rid Of My Bookshelf

02.13.2018

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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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Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions

12.15.2017

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Towards the end of each year, I like to think about what goals I’d like to set out for myself for the following year. Each year lends itself to different points in my life so my goals change as I change and get older. I tend to break down my goals into three categories: daily goals, weekly goals and yearly goals. This is what I came up with…

 

Daily Goals:

  • Spend more time outdoors. Learn to enjoy nature again. Make a habit of taking a weekly walk outside. We have become so used to live in our houses and in our cars, many people have no idea what nature looks like anymore.
  • Take Care of yourself by scheduling time for yourself. Even reading a book for an hour a day counts!
  • Exercise your body for a happy mind, or maybe a quick morning meditation.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Read a book or a magazine, take a break from technology.
  • Get enough sleep.

Weekly Goals:

  • Make your home efficient. By now, I assume most of you have switched to CFL lightbulbs – so it’s time to take home efficiency to the next level. Check your house for heat loss (there are companies specialised in this if you don’t feel expert enough) and make it your DIY project to fix them. If you haven’t yet, lower the thermostat during the night. The ideal temperature to sleep is around 16 degrees Celsius or 60 degree Fahrenheit. If that’s too cold for you, do it in steps – half a degree less each month. You might realise you even sleep better – and you will see it on your heating bill!
  • Pick seasonal and local fruits and vegetables. While it can be tempting to eat strawberries in winter, when they have been imported from halfway across the planet or grown in energy-hungry greenhouses, they’re hardly sustainable. Do some research into what is naturally grown in your area in the season, and prefer these. This way, you’ll also rediscover the pleasure of meals changing with the seasons!
  • Take your bicycle out of the shed. People who re-start cycling to work and/ or the supermarket often say that it’s lovely to rediscover their neighborhood that way. In fact, unless you live in a very mountainous area, this could be the most relaxing resolution you take!
  • Use public transport more. Granted, in the middle of the mountains or when there is half metre of snow outside your door, cycling sounds less appealing. If that’s the case where you live, start using public transport to go to work and the supermarket. If public transport connections are poor in your area, then it’s time to wake up the local campaigner in you and ask for it – make 2018 the year when your community stood up for sustainability.
  • Take recycling to the next level. You probably have two different bins in your kitchen, sorting your waste to have it recycled. It doesn’t end here though. In 2018, try to reduce the amount picked up by the garbage truck. If you have a garden, start your own compost. When you’re at the supermarket, prefer products that are not over packaged (you know the one: plastics wrapped in plastic, itself wrapped in cardboard…). If there are too many of these items in your local supermarket, time to start campaigning! Write to the store manager and express your concerns – and convince your neighbours to do so as well.

Yearly Goals:

  • Become a toxic-free household. This might take a while in research, so plan to do it over the whole year. From beauty products to clothes detergent and computer parts, we have become used to toxics products in our daily lives. Time to stop it. When buying new products, check what they are made of, and pick the one that will have the least toxic residues.
  • Keep your electronics for the year. New cellphone? Must absolutely have the latest iPad? How about the newly released gaming console? Our consumption of electronics is reaching records. Make a break, and promise not to buy new electronics this year, unless the one you already have breaks down (and when it does, ensure it is recycled properly!).

I usually push my daily goals because those goals are habit forming. When it comes to the monthly goals, I’ll set time aside on the weekends to work on them. The yearly goals are scheduled where I’ll tackle them by picking a day of the week and focusing on one yearly goal. The good thing about the way the goals are organized, is that the daily goals are the hardest to tackle, but you get to continuously work on them throughout the year. The daily goals are more focused on personal reflections, so it’s a nice reminder to not forget about taking care of yourself on a day to day basis. These are my goals that I’ve come up with, What are some of your goals you’d like to reach in the upcoming year?

Check out some other Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions from some other fellow bloggers:

 

 

Blogger Recognition Award

11.14.2017

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I am very happy to announce that Design Life Hacks has been nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award! After many topics and posts that I’ve covered, I’m glad that I still can create interesting content. 😊

What is the Blogger Recognition Award?

Blogger Recognition Award is given to bloggers by bloggers to encourage and acknowledge the hard work and effort that goes into creating posts. It’s an opportunity for bloggers to recognize one another for each of our contributions. A big thanks to Emilia Cantero Dieguez from The Green Choice for the nomination!

How my blog started?

Living in the Bay Area in California, located in the United States of America, life can be pretty stressful. Nationally, a middle class yearly income for a household of three people is considered to be between $42,000 and $125,000, according to the Pew Research Center. Low-income would be anything under $42,000 and upper-income is above $125,000. Here in the Bay Area, an income of $100,000 is now considered low income.

I believe that if I can share a design hack to make life more simplistic and easier to manage, I should. Transitioning into a zero waste lifestyle started this momentum for my blog. Living a zero waste lifestyle made life simple, cleaning became quick and easy, I even saved money and minimized the errands I had to run during my free time. My daily routine improved and I enjoyed going to work each day as well as coming home and relaxing. You can read more about my story here.

Two pieces of advice if you just start with your blog:

  • Schedule out what topic you want to talk about and how to correlate them with your social media. Also, stay on top of your social media.

  • Network, network, network… find bloggers who blog about similar topics as you and collaborate with them. Whatever the purpose of your blog , finding a community to share your ideas and posts with will greatly help expand your viewing statistics and increase visitors to your website.

My nominees!

When you are nominated, there are a few simple steps that you need to take to accept the award nomination. These are the guidelines:

  1. Write a post about your award

  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to her blog

  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started

  4. Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers

  5. Select up to 15 other bloggers to nominate

  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

Congratulations to all nominees! You are an inspiration to me! Once again, many thanks to Emilia, from The Green Choice, for nominating Design Life Hacks.

With Love Always,

Yen-Van Tran

 

How I Got Started

11.07.2017

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San Francisco, it’s a beautiful city with so much history, it’s mesmerizing. This city made a significant impact on my life because my zero waste journey started with this city. I don’t share this story often, but I thought I’d finally give a background to how I started my zero waste journey seven years ago.

I had moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school. It was a big city with so many places, restaurants and activities to explore, I couldn’t even keep track of everything I wanted to do. At the time, I was working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for a large, and well know ambulance company.

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Fulton Avenue and Stanyan Avenue path into Golden Gate Park.

I had moved into a studio apartment in the Richmond District and it was on the third floor of a three story building. It was a beautiful studio. With hardwood floors and a cozy interior, I settled in. My building stood directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. It was an interesting location because on the weekends, the park was closed to cars on Saturdays, so the foot traffic was busy. I could also open up my windows on the weekends and I listen to the music performances from inside of the park. Since I was on the top floor, sunlight consistently illuminated my apartment all day and all year long.  I lucked out on that part because San Francisco can become very cold and foggy during certain seasons.

Golden Gate Park Entrance

One of the Golden Gate Park entrances off of Fulton Avenue. (at Fulton Avenue and Arguello Avenue)

I was raised and lived in the suburbs my entire life so living in a condensed large city was quite a new experience. All of my routines including grocery shopping, working out and even parking was new and took a bit of an adjustment. I parked on the street since my apartment didn’t have a parking lot. This is also how I learned to become a stealth car parking spotter. Understanding and knowing which streets you could park on in the city was a must in order to avoid parking tickets. San Francisco streets are each scheduled for street cleaning all week long on different days and at different hours, so you have to be careful of where you park, or you’ll get a ticket for blocking the street cleaner.

Living in San Francisco also introduced me to trash chutes. A trash chute is a smooth, open shaft in a multistory building, used to convey trash from upper floors to a collection room. My building’s trash chute could only be accessed from the exterior wooden staircase on the side of the building. From each floor, there was an door which allowed access to the staircase. The problem was that these doors were very heavy and never stayed open. It took quite a bit of effort to even open these doors and step out on the balcony in order to access the trash chute; it seemed that they were installed to slam shut. It could have been an issue with the spring on the door, but regardless, it took a lot of force to open the door and hold it open.

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San Francisco also separates their trash out into categories: trash, recyclables and compostables. Therefore, I had to separate my disposable items. This is where my problem lay. When I first moved into the apartment, I thought the trash chute was great. It was useful, accessible and being that I was located on the third floor, it seemed convenient for me. However, it only gave access to the trash bin, not the compost bin or the recyclables bin.

When I used the trash chute, my trash bag would bounce around the chute all the way down to the trash bin. It made quite a bit of noise and I thought that wasn’t appropriate since I didn’t know if my neighbors worked night shifts or slept during the day. So I would carry my trash all the way down the narrow exterior stairs. These stairs were very old and were designed to be very narrow. This meant I had to carry my three seperate bags directly in front of me. Some weeks this was not ideal since  my bags would be so full, so I had to take two trips. Taking two trips meant that I would carry two bags down together, let the stairwell door slam shut behind me, walk down the exterior stairs and throw my bags away, exit the side yard in order to enter my building from the front. I would then walk up the inside staircase to my apartment, and grab the last bag to repeat this routine. In order for me to throw away all three bags, I routinely had to exit my building twice and enter it twice; all the meanwhile walking up and down two sets of stairs. I didn’t like taking two trips just to throw out trash, so I decided that I had to eliminate one of the bags.

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This is where my zero waste journey began. In order to simplify my weekly “taking out the garbage routine,” I decided that getting rid of my trash bag would be the easiest solution. I had to first start swapping out all of my disposable items and figure out how to either replace the items with more sustainable solutions or eliminate them from my life completely. I decided to tackle all of my disposable items in the kitchen first. I started by swapping out my kitchen sponges for smaller washcloths, and then started buying food without packaging. That took a little bit more planning because I had to purchase glass tupperware and change my diet slightly. Changing my diet included giving up certain foods that came in packaging such as certain types of meat, candy, snacks and cereal. I switched those out for bulk snacks such as nuts, granola mixes, whole vegetables and fruit. I started eating whole grains for breakfast and really took solace in my progress towards a zero waste life.

Although swapping out disposable items meant that my laundry load would increase, it really didn’t increase by a lot. I went through my kitchen items and then moved over to my bathroom items. I paid attention to the materials of the items I was replacing my disposable with. I always tried to choose 100% cotton material, bamboo, stainless steel or glass. I then went through my clothes and started donating everything I didn’t need.

My journey to a zero waste life took about a year and half. It sounds like a significant amount of time, but if you think about auditing your entire life, there’s a lot of stuff to go through and get rid of. During my zero waste journey, I also started minimizing my life where I also implemented a minimalistic lifestyle.

I’m writing about this story of how I got started because truth be told, it started because I was lazy. That’s the honest truth. Each blogger has a story of how they got started and this is mine. A lot of bloggers tend to move towards this lifestyle based on their awareness of their own plastic use and it’s commendable that they started living with less plastic. I wanted to write my experience so that my audience may know that not all zero waste journeys need to start with fighting for the environment. Sometimes it happens on a fluke, a chance encounter, but that it’s very possible to live this way. I did notice the benefits of living a zero waste life as I dove deeper and deeper into it and the environmental impacts  became more evident as I continued on. But my story doesn’t start with an ethically conscious mindset. It started because the exterior stairs at my apartment building was too narrow to carry three bags down to the trash bin.

This is my story of how I got started to living a zero waste life. #truth

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What’s My Carbon Footprint?

10.10.2017

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I wanted to calculate my carbon footprint because I haven’t ever done so. I know that I watch what I buy and how much energy I use so I was hoping it would be low. There are aspects of my life I could probably change to reduce my carbon footprint, but I wanted a base number to start with. There are a few different carbon print calculators available, but this is the one I used. Also, I’m located in the United States of America, so I used the Nature Conservancy Carbon Calculator, from the Nature Conservancy.

Because these calculators consist of a lot of smaller chunks of information, I thought I would at least list out the information needed for this calculator. I had to go searching for a large chunk of information to input, when I filled out my survey. So here is the the many pieces of information I needed, that you might need as well if you choose to use this carbon footprint calculator:

  1. Get Started: A QUICK CARBON FOOTPRINT ESTIMATE
    1. Zip Code
    2. City
    3. County
    4. State Country
    5. How many people live in your household?
    6. What is your approximate gross annual household income?
  2. Travel:  HOW DO YOU GET AROUND?
    1. Car(s): (Miles per gallon)
    2. Public Transit: (Miles per year)
    3. Air Travel: (Miles per year)
  3. Home: HOW MUCH DO YOU USE IN YOUR HOME?
    1. Electricity ($/year)
    2. Natural Gas ($/year)
    3. Heating oil & Other Fuels ($/year)
    4. Square ft. of living space
    5. Water useage ($/year)
  4. Food: HOW MUCH DO YOU CONSUME OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING?
    1. Simple Menu: (Daily calories per person)
      1. Meat, fish, eggs
      2. Grains & baked goods
      3. Dairy
      4. Fruits & vegetables
      5. Snacks, drinks, etc…
    2. Advanced Menu: (Daily calories per person)
      1. Beef, pork, lamb, veal
      2. Fish & seafood
      3. Other meat (processed, nuts, etc…)
      4. Poultry & eggs
      5. Grains & baked goods
      6. Dairy
      7. Fruits & Vegetables
      8. Snacks, drinks, etc…
    3. Shopping: HOW MUCH DO YOU SPEND ON EACH OF THE FOLLOWING?
      1. Simple Menu
        1. Goods  ($/month)
        2. Services  ($/month)
      2. Advanced Menu
        1. Goods  ($/month)
          1. Furniture & appliances
          2. Clothing
          3. Entertainment
          4. Paper, office & reading
          5. Personal care & cleaning
          6. Auto Parts
          7. Medical
        2. Services  ($/month)
          1. Health Care
          2. Information & Comunication
          3. Medical
          4. Vehicle Services
          5. Personal business & Finance
          6. Household Maintenance & Repair
          7. Organizations & Charity
          8. Other Services

So my results stated that my Total Footprint is 20 tons CO2/year, which is 59% better than average person. This is a good standing to start from. I’m actually quite happy with it. I could try to adjust my daily decisions to see if I can reduce my footprint a re-take the survey, but it’s a good starting point.

The last section in the calculator allows you to sign a pledge to stand with Climate Action. There are a few different carbon footprint calculators. I encourage you all to take a look at how large or small your carbon footprint is. It’s amazing when you see it written down in a calculated measure of your daily decisions. Here are a few other websites that also have carbon footprint calculators that might be of god use as well:

  1. Carbon Footprint Calculator
  2. The Nature Conservancy Carbon Footprint Calculator
  3. EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator
  4. WWF Footprint Calculator 
  5. Carbonfund Calculate 

TheNatureConservancy- Household Footprint

 

 

I Was Like This As A Kid

08.22.2017

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My search for minimalism started at a very young age. I didn’t understand what I was searching for or what it looked like, but I knew I always wanted to donate my toys and I always felt relieved afterwards. I genuinely loved how I felt after letting go of a possession, so that someone else might enjoy it. Granted, I still held onto my favorite toys, but I always wanted to give away the rest. When I was younger, between my brother and I, we had one cardboard box that held all of our toys. It was approximately 15″(W) x 21″(L) x 18″(H), but with no lid. We each had about 2-3 toys outside of that box that stayed near our beds, but the rest were stored in that box. The box consisted of Legos, small figurines, small games and other items. Clean up was easy because we just tossed all of our toys into the box and slid it into the closet, underneath an existing built-in shelf.

When we each got separate rooms, that’s when the amount of toys increased for the both of us. A lot of the toys were passed down from friends and relatives. And although we greatly appreciated them, over time we grew out of them too. Keeping track of the toys became more time consuming and even keeping the rooms clean seemed like more work. I even became overwhelmed with the amount of toys I received from friends and family at one point.

When I look back on it now, I really did like the fact that all of our toys fit into that cardboard box. During that time, since my brother and I shared a room, we had to keep our separate spaces clean because there wasn’t much space in the bedroom.

When I entered middle school, I lost a lot of interest in toys even though my Hello Kitty collection started growing. I became interested in journals and just writing down my thoughts. I turned my journal into a sketchbook/journal/sticker record. This is where I subsequently stuck all of the stickers I had collected over the years. The journal was an Ampad Gold Fibre Personal Compact Notebooks – 130 Sheets – Printed – Double Wire Spiral 5″ x 7″ – Green Cover – Micro Perforated, Pocket.

AsAKid- Ampad Gold Fibre Personal Compact NotebooksA childhood friend of mine, Juliana, had a bible cover for her bible (which I thought was a regular book carrier at the time) and I thought was the coolest thing ever. I saw this cover as a perfect carrier for my journal, so I went out and bought one. It completed my journal into a perfect package. I would also keep letters I received from family members on the inside pockets. I didn’t need a library of pens or pencils, I only needed my favorite pen for this journal.

This is how my journal became my most prized possession.

 

AsAKid- Green Bible Cover

It didn’t take me long to realize how much I valued words and writing. I didn’t care to buy new clothes or accessories. I still enjoyed playing sports, which came with equipment that I needed, but within the confines of my bedroom, my journal meant the world to me. As long as I had that journal, and I could write down my thoughts and draw my sketches, I was a happy kid.

Fast forward almost two decades later, and I’m still writing, but for a slightly different reason now.  I like the act of writing for the pure fact that it marks a moment in time. It expresses my age, my thoughts, the events surrounding that moment and even the people in my life at that time. It also reveals how my past self changed into my future self.

I still enjoy owning a minimal amount of possessions, and I value my time with family and friends much, much more. I still write, but it’s either stored on the internet or in an external hard drive.

I didn’t know what minimalism was as a child. I only knew that I didn’t want to own a lot of stuff and I loved to write and draw. I was a child who set out to own less and now as an adult, I really understood what I had been looking for all along.

 

Time Marches On

07.24.2017

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Time, it moves fast yet it’s all we have as we live day to day.

The past month has been a difficult one. A lot of that has to do with deaths and a series of unfortunate events around me. Although deaths happen a lot, from a variety of situations and circumstances, these deaths were directly linked to me somehow.

Whenever I receive news about the demise of other people, I always reflect on my own memories, knowing I won’t ever see or talk to those individuals anymore. I reflect back on the happy times and what they brought into my life. For a moment, time seems to stand still, as if my brain can’t comprehend the news. It’s a weird feeling and the moment feels like it’s never going to end. When I think back on the last time I spoke with the person or saw them in person, I always wonder if I said everything I needed to say and meant to say; wondering if I missed any moments.

It’s amazing how fragile life is and how fragile people are. At the same time, people are strong enough, and powerful enough to hurt each other too. There’s always so much going on in this world from health issues, the future of this country, environmental issues, selfishness, greed; it’s a lot to take in. I’ve talked to a few of my friends about television and watching the news. I know a few of my friends don’t watch the news because they say it’s too depressing. I watch it because I want to be informed about events happening,  not necessarily the views of each television network. In a weird way, I want to know about all the bad that’s going on. I simply need to know.

Those more weighted news stories tend to take over social media and the evening news.  Then there are the other struggles that live between the lines, between those stories. The silent struggles that no one may notice because it lives in between the noise. Sometimes those silent struggles, only come to light when another person leaves this world. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Even after our loved ones or other people in our lives pass, time still marches on. It’s an uneven struggle between the event that just happened and life simply continuing. Technically, that’s the only way the world exists. The sun will still rise and set, people will still wake up and go to work, go out to eat, go workout, go do whatever. And yet your reality has just changed indefinitely.

I do believe time heals wounds, maybe not all wounds, but most. The earth will still rotate, the sun will still rise and set, but after losing a loved one, you’re life changes. There’s a collateral effect when death occurs. Hopefully, you can take away something powerful and positive.

My hope is that everyone finds happiness among the noise; that the good outweighs the bad in your lives. Fight for your happiness, because you deserve to be happy. We’re all on our own journeys here on earth. The people who cross your path may not stay for long, but I believe that they were meant to cross your path for a reason. Talk to one another, reach out to one another, even if it’s only through a text or a message on a social media site. Love conquers hate on any given day. And if you can’t do that, just smile. Those are infectious.

Personal Note:

Thank you Chester Bennington, thank you for sharing your pain and reality by singing words that so many of us appreciated. You gave a voice to so many who were at a loss for words. You are truly loved and the loss of your musical talent and brilliance, will forever be remembered as you helped shape and change the music industry. You will be missed, rest in peace. Heaven gained another angel.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

(800) 273 – 8255

 

Happy Independence Day 2017

07.04.2017

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Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.

Independence day was always a special holiday for me. It marked the existence of summer and it came with barbecued food, swimming and fun with friends and family. The days were longer and the nights were warm. As a kid, July was a particularly a fond month for me to remember, the smell of summer in the air and the empty school playgrounds allowed us to use the basketball courts and soccer fields freely. School life had come to a halt for a few months and you knew you would run into your classmates outside of school. It was a chance to interact with them in a different environment. It was a welcomed break for a daily school routine.

Although now that I’m an adult, the smell of summer still brings back great memories, but there is no break in the daily work routine. I still love the smell of summer but it passes by quickly. I still go and watch fireworks, and I reflect on how lucky I am.

This holiday also marks that the year is halfway over. Time passes by so fast when you’re busy, although being unproductive is also not a good habit. Finding that balance as an adult is critical. We work our entire lives to go to school so that we can be successful in our careers, so we can have enough income that would support a comfortable life, and before we know it were inching towards retirement.

That reality is why I make it a routine to enjoy my evenings each night. Even if it’s only an hour, I work at shaping my daily routine around a simplistic schedule. This leaves time for me to just sit back and relax for the evening. Even on the weekends I have routines that help me enjoy each morning. During these mornings I usually reflect on what I’ve accomplished during the year and what I still want to accomplish.
Even though July marks the halfway point of the year, it also means that we can all take advantage of the rest of the year.

I think about what goals I’d still like to accomplish and set up a plan to follow though. Goals are like meetings, prepare for the meeting, be on time and be ready to interact and engage. You can’t postpone these meetings, set up those goals and get them done- no more excuses.

So my questions to you are:

What goals did you set out for yourself that you haven’t started or finished?
What projects do you have left to do?

What have you been “meaning to get done, but haven’t had the time”?

 

Returning To The Beach

06.06.2017

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On my journey to a more minimalistic life, I donated items and slowly learned to not live without others. I didn’t donate everything to donation stations, but I also tried to donate to organizations that I knew, could use my items. For my college textbooks, I donated some of them back to the school libraries so perhaps other students could use them. For my alumni collegiate programs, I donated my scanner and other art materials to the materials library for future students.

When it came to items that I had collected from camping trips or even small rocks I collected throughout my childhood, I knew I had to return those items back to their rightful spots.

The beach was always a place where I still have fond memories of, along with my family. The smell of the air and the sand between our toes, and watching the ebb and flow of the tide coming in, all form a significant part of my childhood memories. We never lived by the beach, but it certainly impacted me enough to this day.

Among my “items to donate,” I found a bag of sea shells that my brother and I collected when we were young. I knew I had to return them to the beach, because that’s where they belonged. As a kid, I was so fond of the beach, I always wanted to take it home with me. I remember being excited to create a small sea shell collection and that all of these smaller items were mine. I wanted to know why I felt this way, and why I approached collecting items the way I did.

Our sense of ownership emerges at a very early age. Growing up, we learn to become attached to items, and the feelings of ownership over our possessions is a part of our culture. In psychology and behavioral economics, the endowment effect (also known as divestiture aversion and related to the mere ownership effect in social psychology), is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. This means, that we value items more more highly as soon as we own them. Part of this reason is tied to how quickly we form connections between our sense of self and the items we consider ours. Even as children, we believe that our objects have a unique essence and prefer to not have a duplicate of the same item.

Looking back on my collection of sea shells, I never separated the idea of owning an object, and keeping the memories that the object produced. It seemed that having an object from that event, could and would bring forth the memory of that event. Even so, if I had to attach an object to the event, I think I would only choose to attach a photo to it now. But with all of the social media and everyone seemingly documenting their lives, even photographing events wears on me.

So I’m returning the sea shells. I’m returning them to their rightful home and where they belong. I return a lot of items that I know have homes other than my own. I’ve returned dry cleaner hangers to my local dry cleaners, I’ve donated my books to the library,  and I’ve donated my old records to Rasputin Music & Movies. (Most of the records were not in good condition, but I knew the store would dispose of them properly). This list could go on and on, but I really do try to return items to appropriate locations and organizations.

There is a home for every object in our lives. If we take a little time out, and do a little bit of research on your own, perhaps you can find the best home for it.

Adopted 16 Acres Of Wildlife Land

05.30.2017

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Who knew that when I joined TerraCycle, that I would end up adopting and protecting 16 acres of land. Let me start from the beginning…

I first joined TerraCycle in an attempt to recycle my beauty products, this included my makeup and bathroom product bottles. They offer programs that will collect certain kinds of trash and recycle them. They have free recycling programs, large scale recycling programs as well as zero waste boxes, which are not free.

There were about 28 free recycling programs when I first joined in 2015 and they now they have about 36 free recycling programs. The programs all have a different point reward system for how much trash you’re able to return to the program. They also offer a variety of contests and promotions for different programs at different times.

You can collect points and either receive a cash reward, collect point for a specific school or organization or donate the points to a good cause.  The organizations can provide resources such as clean drinking water, provide a meals, adopt wildlife land, reduce two pounds of carbon from the atmosphere, provide education or even help disaster victims.

As for me, I donated my points to adopting 1,800 square feet of wildlife land and I wanted to know more about the program so I visited National Wildlife Federation’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program.

Here is the conflict:

Yellowstone is home to the most diverse assortment of wildlife found anywhere in North America. But once these iconic species leave the protected borders of the park—they are often at odds with neighboring ranchers who utilize public lands for livestock grazing. Grizzly bears and wolves are often killed or relocated when they attack livestock on National Forest lands where ranchers hold grazing privileges.

National Wildlife Federation’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre program addresses the conflicts between livestock and wildlife with a voluntary, market-based approach. We offer ranchers a fair price in exchange for their agreement to retire their public land grazing leases.

In most cases, livestock producers use our funds to relocate their livestock to areas without conflict. Wildlife has secure habitat, and rancher’s cattle can graze in an area with fewer problems.

It’s an interesting program and I really liked contributing to it. I initially donated my points to towards this program but then, decided to make a donation to cover more of how much I was helping protect the wildlife land.

This goes without saying, but there are many different organizations to donate to and it’s up to you to decide how much you want to participate in each. I wanted to share what the decision of joining a recycling program lead me to.  I never thought I’d adopt 16 acres of wildlife land. This has been an amazing journey and I’m so glad I took a chance to start with this organization.

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Tips for Staying Inspired

05.02.2017

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It’s currently Spring season in the United States of America and summer is right around the corner. We said goodbye to our winter and it was quite a memorable winter season across the country.  For some, this means staying motivated in all aspects of our lives might be lacking. Summer usually means long summer nights and days where we may want to be outside and enjoying the nice weather versus cooped up inside classrooms or work environments. It also means heading to the beach, barbeques, festivals, camping trips, local park festivities and visiting hiking trails. As much as life would be easier to simple have fun all day long, I still work and I do enjoy my job.

I like to tackle four areas of my day to keep myself motivated throughout the day. My categories are my health, my ‘To Do List’, education and happieness.  Here’s a simple outline of what you can do to stay motivated to get through your days.

  1. Health- Stay Healthy
    1. Drink a glass of water when you first wake up in the morning
    2. Workout!
    3. Get enough rest
  2. To Do List- Plan Your Day
    1. Tackle the top 3 tasks you want to get done on that day
    2. The 50/10 rule- Work on tasks for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break
    3. Reflect daily- 10 minutes of reflection and self evaluation
  3. Education- Keep Learning
    1. Reading- Will increase your knowledge, which will keep you inspired
    2. Browsing- Learning from tutorials and actively researching on topics will increase your capabilities
    3. Brainstorm- This can lead to a gold mine of ideas of tasks you haven’t finished or have yet to plan out
  4. Happiness- Focus On What Makes You Happy
    1. Express gratitude- Think about 10 things you are grateful for each day
    2. Clean your desk- A tidy desk will be less stressful and less distracting
    3. Indulge in your favorite things- Set time aside to relax and enjoy your favorite things

Tips To Stay Inspired

The Concept of Collecting

03.14.2017

0800

 

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Collecting is for some people a childhood hobby, but for others a lifelong pursuit or one that begins in adulthood. Collectors who begin early in life often modify their aims when they get older. Some novice collectors start purchasing items that appeal to them then slowly work at learning how to build a collection, while others prefer to develop some background in the field before starting to buy items. The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. The scope of collecting is unlimited, which is expressed in the hyperbolic expression: “If something exists, somebody somewhere collects them.”

The concept of collecting items became an odd concept to me as I moved closer to a minimalistic lifestyle in my adulthood. As a child I had started collecting items made by the Japanese company Sanrio. I specifically collected items with the character Hello Kitty printed or embedded on them. These items include pencils, pens, notebooks, plush toys, erasers, stickers, sticker books, etc. I started collecting these items because a close friend of mine had her own collection, and she frequently traveled to Japan, so she had access to rare items with Sanrio characters printed on them. I remember as I child, Sanrio had many characters, which in turn, produced many product items for each character. There always seemed to be an endless supply of designs, items, and apparently, extended family members of those characters that would pop up. There was no end to the Sanrio empire. For this reason, I stopped collecting these items. There was never a cap on anything. I could never own a set collection of anything with my love of the Hello Kitty character. I realized that had collected and created my Hello Kitty collection to look at. It was there to be admired of its perfection, but was never to be used. The perfection of the product was so valuable to me, that the items had to stay in mint condition; just sitting on my desk or in my drawer, but never used and taking up space.

When I finally made the decision to actually use what I had bought over the years, it literally took me two years to finish using all of the erasers I had collected, and it took me another three years to use up all of the pencils I had collected. I honestly couldn’t believe that I had a large enough pencil supply to last that long. I realized how much money I had wasted in my love for this character. I tried to use up all of my stickers and even that task took years to finish. I had to decorate a lot of handwritten letters, birthday cards and Christmas cards with those stickers.

Fast forward to my college years, and you’d find me collecting pressed pennies. Now I thought the idea of pressed pennies was such a cute concept. I only paid $0.51 for each souvenir, which was two quarters and a penny. Each time I went to any vacation around the United States, I would seek out these Penny Souvenir machines and pick my design, and there it was. A quick freshly pressed penny with a design I had chosen from the three options that the machine allowed.  It was cheap, quick and easy to find, or so I thought.

Then, I took a vacation to Vietnam during my college years, and there were no penny souvenir machines over there. What was I to do? Start a new type of collection- so that this vacation was still documented by some arbitrary object? Does this penny souvenir collection count if it doesn’t include this international vacation? Should it be a “Vacations in the United States where I technically could find a Penny Souvenir machine collection?” It was absurd. Was there even a reason for me to not include this vacation, because technically I was forced to exclude it. My penny souvenir collection seemed pointless at that point. I knew my tiny little collection of pressed pennies had no value, it was an interesting concept, and it was cute, but beyond that, it held no value in my life. None of my collections that I’ve ever had in my life held any value. At one point during high school, I collected pins, and also badges, and again- no value. With all of these collections, I did have photos attached to those memories, and those photos I did keep. Over the years, I got rid of my pins, badges, and gave away my Hello Kitty collection to a young girl who, like myself, was fascinated with the cute character.

Jump four years and digital photos became more common. I wanted to photograph everything. I wanted to buy a terabyte external hard drive just so I could collect and keep all of these photos. The more I became concerned about documenting everything, the more I realized I was always pulling myself away from the valuable moments in my life. I would digitally archive everything I could find, that included articles and photos. As a college student, I think you’re trained to document almost all of your work, whether it’s for a portfolio, referencing papers, memories or ‘just in case I spill soda all over my laptop, because I stayed up all night writing this essay and yet- I’m still not finished’ scenarios. I have been guilty of that too.

After college though, I started to slowly pull away from the habit of documenting everything. It just wasn’t necessary for me anymore. As long as I had the correct information for my resume and my portfolio was intact, I was set.

Some people collect items that can gain monetary value as years pass. From antiques to creating a collection of rare items. Some of those may pay out in the long run. Some people make a living collecting rare paintings and antiques, but even then, each item is a rare and unique piece. To put the time and effort into a valuable collection is a art form in itself. Mine were not any of those qualities.

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Fast forward seven years out of college, and you’ll see me rarely take a picture anymore. I’ll take pictures for my blog, and instagram images, but you’ll rarely see me take a picture otherwise. I don’t take selfies. I don’t care much to document my face, for me or anyone else. I do like to document events with my family or gatherings with my friends, but you’ll see me take maybe three pictures for each event. If anything, the title sequence to The Wonder Years, really left a lasting impression. I prefer to take a video now more than ever, but just one for each event. It won’t be too long, just long enough to capture the sounds and the voices, in that space and at that time. They’re videos that are just enough of that memory.

I’m learning to be completely 100% present, whether it’s in the conversations I interact with, the people I listen to, watching the next generation play on the playground, or simply knowing that I’m being present with the minutes passing by. This is my approach to collecting now. I collect memories and moments. I try to pay attention to everything my brain handle remembering. Being present is so important in my life, caring about people in my life and spending time with them. I’ve lost people over the years, as many of us have, and I know that all I can hang onto are my memories. Time passes us by so quickly, and life catches up with us easily. We all grow up, time marches on and just knowing that simple realization, makes me want to be more present with those around me. Maybe a picture or two will suffice, but honestly, I’ll take my memories with me wherever I go.

If I leave you with anything from this post, be present. Be present in the moment, with the people you’re with and engage your mind with everything around you. Let yourself remember the colors, smells, voices and sounds. You’d be surprised how easily we will forget those details as time marches on.

 

 

Goals for 2017

02.21.2017

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My 2017 Goals…

So each year, I try to set up attainable goals. Sometimes I achieve them, sometimes I won’t and sometimes I only achieve a few goals each year. Either way, the ones that were not achieved, will bleed into the upcoming year. I approach this goal setting a few different ways and this year I thought I’d share with you a format that I frequently use now. These goals have two concise categories and that’s personal goals versus professional goals.

My professional goals will be whatever and however I decide to navigate my professional life. That includes where I work, the length of my career, the job titles I want to move up towards and licenses that I need to attain those job titles. In a nutshell, the idea is to layout where you want to be and the steps it’s going to take to get there. This is a sample format that I tend to follow:

  1. Professional Goals:
    1. Job Position
      1. Profesional steps to move into the job position you desire and with desired pay
      2. Certificates and licenses needed to qualify for desired position
        1. Which certificates are needed
        2. How much does each certificate/license cost
        3. Frequency of the continuing education credits needed per year
    2. Professional community
      1. Steps to network more, and how to come in contact with more people on a more frequent basis
      2. How frequent will networking occur (ie quarterly, yearly, etc.)

You can use the above format, or elaborate on it however you choose. My personal goals has a different format that I use which includes daily goals, weekly goals, yearly goals and long term goals. With this format, it’s a fairly straight forward setup. However, there are a lot of templates floating around on the internet that will map out each week of each month in a play by play format, if that’s what you chose to use. I tend to not have that many goals that would need a more rigorous format, so I use this the style I use.

  1. Personal Goals:
    1. Daily Goals:
    2. Weekly Goals:
    3. Yearly Goals:
    4. Long term Goals:

I like to focus more on general time constraints than day to day time constraints. Also, with the general time goals, it allows for unexpected events to occur.  This list may change in the sense that new goals may be added to it or adjusted, but I’ve written it out and now it’s a personal contract. So let me show you what goals I’d like to achieve in 2017.

  1.  Professional Goals:
    1. Continue to work towards becoming a licensed architect.
    2. Continue to work towards my LEED AP certification
    3. Take scheduled breaks from blogging and the upkeep of my social media
    4. Continue to blog, but post once per week, and continue to push for better content
    5. Be more active on my social media accounts
  2. Personal Goals:
    1. Daily Goals:
      1. Stay healthy
      2. Buckle down on my workout routines
    2. Weekly Goals:
      1. Surf more
    3. Yearly Goals:
      1. Community Involvement: Get more involved with the non-profit environmental organizations that I currently support, perhaps add some more to that list.
      2. Grow specific vegetables and enough to sustain a household for weekly meals. (This is an ongoing experiment)

So this is a glimpse into what I plan to do. What are some of your goals? Do you like the daily/weekly/yearly/long term goals format? Do any of you have goals set up for 2017?

The Princess Project 2017

02.14.2017

0700

I discovered The Princes Project a few years ago, back in 2002. I actually gave my prom dress away along with the accessories that I wore with it. I really respect this organization and I encourage anyone to donate to it. Although you will pay for dry cleaning for the dress initially, it’s really not a big deal, consider it a gift you’re giving along with the dress. The Princess Project is a local nonprofit that promotes self-confidence and individual beauty by providing free prom dresses to high school teens. They provide free prom dresses and accessories to high school teens who cannot otherwise afford them. Each year they set up multiple locations for donations around the Bay Area as well as in San Diego. For more information, please visit their general website at The Princess Project Silicon Valley .

I wanted to show you my journey this year with The Princess Project. I actually don’t donate each year because I don’t always have gowns to donate, but this year I reached out to friends and asked for their donations. The Dress Donation Guidelines are as follows:

  • They DO accept:
    1. Dresses MUST be current styles from 2008 to present
    2. Dresses MUST be dry-cleaned and on hangers
    3. Dresses MUST be prom dresses, formal gowns, bridesmaid dresses, or fancy party dresses, short and long, appropriate for teenagers, sizes 0-30
  • They CANNOT accept:
    • out of style garments
    • garments that have not been dry cleaned
    • accessories, shoes or purses
    • make-up
    • casual dresses
    • wedding dresses
    • tuxedos or men’s clothing
    • dresses your mother would wear!

I initially asked for donations from my friends and had the task of dry cleaning them. (It’s requested that all dresses be dry cleaned before donating). My friend Julia had more dresses to donate than me, and thank goodness she had already dry cleaned three of them, so I didn’t have to dry clean all of them. I took the time out to research which dry cleaners I wanted to spend my money at. I found an eco-friendly dry cleaners in my hometown. Green And Fresh Cleaners. They are the first environmentally friendly, green dry-cleaners in Mountain View – 100% PERC Free. Green is better for your clothes, better for the environment, and better for you. I don’t’ ever dry clean clothes, so I did take the time out to make sure I spent my money where it would harm the environment less. I didn’t even know about green dry cleaning until I spoke to my brother and subsequently did research on it.

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Did you know that most dry cleaners use  PERC (also know as perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene), a chlorinated hydrocarbon classified by the EPA as a Toxic Air Contaminant. PERC can irritate eyes, nose and throat. It can cause headaches, dizziness or fatigue and is classified as a possible to probable human carcinogen by the EPA. We use an eco-friendly and green cleaning solution called GreenEarth. This solution is made from sand, the most abundant natural resources. In fact, it was discovered by a scientist working with a solution used in cosmetics. It’s the same base ingredient found in everyday shampoos, soaps and lotions, so it’s safe for you and your family.

At Green & Fresh Cleaners, they are 100% PERC free! So the images below shows the bundle that I brought into the dry cleaners, and the following picture shows the result after the dresses were cleaned and ready for transport to the donation site.

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After I picked up the dresses from the dry cleaners, I dropped it off at Tuxedos & More. The last image is the collection of dresses building up at the store. Our contribution is on the right side of the line of dresses. The store employee actually informed me that the left side of the dress collection was from the owner of a gown store that just went out of business, so technically, all of the other dresses were brand new! I’m so proud of our contribution to this organization this year. Prom can be expensive or even slightly out of budget for some families and this organization eases the gown part of it for the girls.

Did you know:

  1. A new study (April 2016), by Visa found that the average cost of promposals is a whopping $324. Here’s how the costs breakdown by region:
    1. Northeastern families will spend an average of $431 on promposals and $738 on prom night for a total of $1,169.
    2. On the west coast-$596 on the dance and $342 on the promposal totaling $937
    3. In the south, the prom night averages $544 and the promposal $305 for a total of $859
    4. Midwestern Families will fork over $515 on prom and $218 on the promposal for a total of $733.
  2. In 2015, American families spent an average of $919, according to Visa Inc.’s ‘ annual prom survey.
  3. A full 80% of respondents said they planned to spend money on the “promposal,” — an average of $324 — about a third of the average prom budget.
  4. For girls, the whole “prom look” will cost around $400, and a new survey from Visa found that on average, families will spend $1,139 on prom in 2013.

This organization wasn’t around when I was in high school, but I’m so grateful that it’s here to lend a hand to families who may need it. Prom is a privilege and not everyone will experience it for a number of reasons. The cost and look of the dress was always a stress factor when I was younger. I hope more organizations like this become more prevalent. I hope I will be able to contribute each year, but if not, I hope that it stays and grows as our society grows and the next generation grows up.

Please consider donating to an organization like this around your area. This community effort brings people together and to help one another is what bonds us together as humans. Although you may have to pay for dry cleaning, consider it a gift along with the dress(es). It’s for a great cause and you may be contributing to a young girl’s dream to go to prom without the stress of the dress.

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Tips For Staying Organized

01.31.2017

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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.