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

 

What’s My Carbon Footprint?

10.10.2017

0600

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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

0600

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.