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.

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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.

 

Upcycling Denim Jeans

01.30.2018

0600

Materials:

  • One pair of denim jeans

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing Kit

So recently I started going auditing my traveling items such as my bath bag, travel accessories as well as my sport bags. I wanted to find 3 pieces of clothing to donate, but I also noticed that my bath bag wasn’t containing my bath items comfortably.

So I had the choice to go buy/find a new bath bag or find another solution. Out of the items I decided to donate, I found a tank top, sweater and a pair of jeans. Denim is one of my favorite materials to work with. I love upcycling denim into new items. The idea of donating the pair of jeans wasn’t exactly what I thought I would do, so I decided to make a stand up bath bag for myself, or at least a few stand up bags.

I’ve owned bath bags before, but the material was with a polyester or nylon blend. Over time, my bath bags would have soap or toothpaste residue stains. I figured that with a denim bath bag, I could simply throw it into the washing machine and it would clean easily.

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I divided each leg in half by folding it in half. I then cut the legs off from the pair of jeans and then divided each piece in half.

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I turned each of them inside out and designated the wider end of the pieces as the bottom of the bag and the smaller ends as the top of the bag.  I folded the top of the bags down to create the drawstring tube. This is where I wanted to install the drawstring later.

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I hemmed the bottoms of the bags by simply sewing a sew line across the bottom. I then sewed the drawstring tube. I measured 2″x2″ squares on the corners on bottom.

I marked these white dots on BOTH SIDES OF THE BAG, near the bottom section of the bag. These white dots will be used as guides of where you will sew in the next step.

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I then flipped the bag upside down, and so that the right side seam was facing up. I then folded the bottom of the bag to create a diamond shape. You should be able to locate all four dots that were created in the last step, when molding the diamond shape.

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The dots are guides to sew where you will sew horizontally across the diamond. After sewing the two lines, the diamond should look like this.

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Since I was initially thinking of making a new bath bag, I wanted to sew a small pocket inside of that bag. I had this extra pocket left over from my Handmade Handkerchiefs project, so I added it on the inside. To find the opposing edges of the box, you can locate it by finding the perpendicular lines of the top and bottom hemmed lines.

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If you want to make a small pocket inside, you can sew a piece of material to the inside of the bag, as long as you leave to top of the material open.

In this case, because the pocket was more than half of the height of the bag, I placed the pocket towards the bottom of the bag. I also knew that I would be folding the bag down when in use, so placing it towards the bottom gave me room for the top to be folded down.

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Once I pulled the drawstrings through the bags, this is what they looked like. They stand up pretty well, and I can fold them down to create a top frame for the boxes.

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This is what my bath bag looks like now.

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I like the fact that I can simply fold my bag down and be able to access everything I need inside. I also have the habit of attaching a ring to the interior of any bag. So I attached a metal ring to the inside seam of the bag, because I wanted to hang small bath items for easy access.

So there you have it. This was my solution to my travel bath bag issue. I genuinely love denim and to make these stand up drawstring bags with this material is one of my favorite kinds of sewing projects that I like to get involved in.

I used my other bags for some camera gear and for another bag I use for traveling. The denim creates a nice thickness for the bottom of these bags, which is why I like to use them for electronics.

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As a bonus…

I made a bag out of the top part of my denim jeans. I simply flipped the top inside out and hemmed the pant leg openings.  Due to the nature of how the jeans were cut and sewed, I folded the outer edges of the jeans inward when I hemmed them.

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I then sewed a zipper to the top opening of the jeans using sewing pins to hold the zipper in place and then sewing it to my pants. I used the same sewing steps to attach the zipper as to when I  Created Slim Hanging Organizers.

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Since my zipper wasn’t quite long enough for the length of the jeans, I closed off the jeans by sewing the top together.

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I used an extra tie to create the handles of this bag. This was a simple choice but some people may prefer to use a belt or something more to their taste. I chose the tie because I wanted to be able to throw everything into the washing machine.

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And as always, I attached a metal ring to my zipper for a slightly easier access.

I use this bag to hold some smaller items that need a bit of cushion like camera gear or smaller electronics.

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Emergency Oil Candles

01.23.2018

0600

Materials:

  • Olive Oil
  • One Shoelace (fairly long)
  • 2 Glass jars with metal lids
  • 2 Paper Clips

Tools:

  • Hammer
  • Punch tool or Long nail
  • Extra pieces of wood to work on

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I first flipped the lid so that it was flipped upwards on top of the extra piece of wood. So basically I faced the inside of the lid upwards. I punctured a hole through the top using the punch tool. You can create a hole using a long nail too.

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I then poured the olive oil into the jar so it was filled one quarter of the height of the jar.

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I slid the shoelace through the lid, going in from the bottom and only leaving a bit exposed on the other side.

I placed the lid back on tha jar and let the shoelace soak up the olive oil.

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These types of candles are used for EMERGENCY ONLY. If you use the cotton shoelace method, it’ll burn fast if it is burning well above the oil level. If the shoelace is very saturated with the oil, it should burn slow.

However…. I wasn’t satisfied with this design because I wanted the flame to burn right up against the surface of the oil.

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So I took a paperclip and bent it open at the Mars Loop to open it up. I wanted to hold up the shoelace at The Hemicircular Returner, but I had to swing the Abbott Point over the Thunder Straight. (Yea I didn’t know that paper clips were comprised of ten different sections either. The internet is awesome.)

Paperclip Parts

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This design was more efficient and the flame was able to burn much slower. I prefer to burn the wick much closer to the level of the oil so that it won’t burn the wick as fast.

With this design, the flame is protected by the glass from any gust of air from the sides. However, it’s very important to keep the wick in the center of the container. I can still use the lid to cover the candle during storage, so it won’t go to waste.

*NOTE: Please be careful when handling this type of candle, keep it in a location with no flammable materials around it. If it spills onto a flammable material and that ALSO catches on fire, you’ll have a really big light source that you never intended in the first place.

I hope this blog post helps you in an emergency. This is a really easy hack for a candle and it should burn at least six hours or so. It won’t smell very pleasant, but it will definitely fulfill its function.

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Creating Fabric Boxes

01.16.2018

0600

Materials:

  • Hanging Fabric Shelf Organizer
  • Quilt Batting (optional)

Tools:

  • Sewing Machine or thread and needle
  • Sewing Kit
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Iron and Ironing Mat

Hanging Fabric Shelf Organizer

So I had a hanging fabric shelf organizer which I had replaced by sewing slim hanging organizers from pillow cases. You can find that blog post at Created Slim Hanging Organizers. But once I replaced the canvas hanging organizer, I didn’t know what to do with it. So I decided to create small fabric boxes with the leftover material. I first took it apart, literally took it apart piece by piece. I recycled the cardboard and I was left with rectangular pieces of canvas.

This project works best if you have perfect square material, but I didn’t want to waste any material so my pieces were left as rectangular pieces. Rectangular canvas pieces yield rectangular shaped boxes. Square fabric pieces will result in perfect square boxes.

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So I first worked on the larger fabric piece. I first sewed the edges of the fabric so it wouldn’t com apart. I wanted these boxes to have a rougher look to them so I didn’t hem the edges. You can insert a fitted quilt batting piece in between your fabric pieces if you are using a softer fabric and if you want your box sides to be a stiff frame. I didn’t use batting because my material is canvas in this project.

I folded it in half (doesn’t matter which direction), and then I marked off a 3 inch by 3 inch triangle on each corner of the folded side. These triangle marks are the red lines in the photo. The larger the triangle, the higher the height of the fabric box will stand.

 

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I opened it up and I folded the fabric piece in the perpendicular direction, with the first set of triangle marks still facing upwards.

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I then proceeded to fold the fabric and mark off the second set of 3 inch by 3 inch triangle on each corner of the folded side. These are located with the blue lines in the photo.

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From there, I sewed over the lines of where I had marked each set of triangles. I sewed the blue lines first. I then opened up the fabric piece, lined up the other corners in order to sew over the red lines.

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Once you sew all of the four corners, when you open the fabric, it should look something like this. However, now you have to flip the box inside-out. Once you do that, the rectangular tabs you created should be on the inside.

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With the four triangle flaps sticking straight up, fold them down to create a straight edge of the box. You can pin it down with sewing pins to watch the shape take form. Once you fold down all of the standing flaps, you should have a similar box like the photo below.

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Now you just need to sew the standing flaps down to create sharper straight edges of the box and then sew the flaps on the inside of the box to keep them flat against the sides.

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I’ve used the large fabric boxes to organize items in my linen closet as well as my camera gear items. Although these aren’t perfect squares, I like the idea that these fabric boxes are easily modified to most objects.

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For the smaller piece of fabric, I hemmed the edges to keep the fabric together and then I measured a 2 inch margin all around the edges. Here, you can insert a piece of fitted quilt batting before sewing the edges together, to give your fabric box a more framed look.

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I folded each edge over and ironed the lines to define the bottom of the box.

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Using sewing pins, I folded in each corner and held them there. These smaller triangles will help define the corners of the box.

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For each triangle corner, I found the center of the triangle and folded it in half. Once the triangle folded in half, the edges of the box came together naturally. I hand sewed these edges together by using a running stitch pattern. I sewed the running stitch in one direction, then simple went back the opposite direction to fill in the gaps in the pattern.

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Once I sewed all four corners, I proceeded to sew the triangle flaps on the inside of the box to the walls.

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I’ve used the smaller fabric boxes to keep smaller items organized that sit on shelves and table tops. So there you have it, these were very simple boxes made from the canvas material I had left over from the hanging fabric shelf organizer. You can use pretty much any fabric you want, but you may need to use quilt batting to strengthen the sides of the boxes.

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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.

 

 

How I Keep Long Cords Organized

01.02.2018

0600

Materials:

  • Velcro straps
  • Cardboard

Tools:

  • Cables
  • Rope
  • Christmas Lights

Organizing long ropes is always a bit tricky. There are many different methods and techniques that people use in different professions. I discovered a few that help me keep different types of cords organized.

Every cable has a natural coil. When you try to fight that coil, bad things happen. The cable eventually twists on the inside, and when you needed it the most, the cable will fail.

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For long extension cords:

For extension cords, I use the “Over-Under Technique” to keep my longer cords in a loop form but also to keep it from twisting was I’m wrapping it up. This method eliminates unnecessary twists in the cord and allows the cord to coil in it’s natural state (like it was wrapped from the factory). You can check out how this technique is used at Digital Photo: “Studio Safety: Coiling Cables”. The technique looks like this:

Digital Studio- Studio Safety: Coiling Cables

Basically, you take the cable at one, holding the cable in one hand with your thumb holding that end down. With your other hand, and your thumb facing the same direction as your other hand, bring the cable around to create a loop and let that loop sit in your holding hand.

Then create another loop but face your thumb away from the holding hand’s thumb, bring it around to create another loop, but when it reaches your holding hand, make sure your thumb is facing the opposite direction of the holding hand’s thumb. Repeat these two types of loops until you finish with the entire cable. When you coil your cables in this sequence, the cable does not twist while you coil it up.

If you need to use the cable, you can grab the end of the rope that is on the outside,  throwing the coil away from your or just pulling on one end, and the rest of the cable will unravel quickly.

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For shorter cables, I wrap the cable around my hand, using the space between my thumb and index finger.

With Christmas lights, I take a piece of cardboard and I cut it into an “I” shape, with small slits cut into the four inside corners of the cardboard piece. These slits are about half an inch and marked where the red lines are located in the picture. If you want to know the measurements for my cardboard holders, I included it in the image below.

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Tuck the female end of the christmas lights into one of the slits. Continue wrapping the cord around the middle piece of the cardboard until the entire cord is wrapped. Then take the male end of the cardboard and tuck it into the nearest available slit.

When you need to use the Christmas lights, simply plug in the male end of the cord and unravel while decorating your tree, or just decorating inside as needed.

I also label each cord using masking tape, with that type of light it is (marked with the yellow circle) so it’s easier to identify each year when we set up the Christmas decorations. I also write the length of each cord on both the male end and female end, which is identified with the orange circle.

  • White Solid = White lights that don’t blink
  • White Blink = White blinking lights
  • Color Solid = Color lights that don’t blink
  • Color Blink = Color lights that blink

 

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So these methods are how I keep my long cords organized and I’m sure there are more techniques as well. Hopefully these ideas will spark some new ways of how you can organize your cords.

 

How To Daisy Chain Your Long Ropes

12.26.2017

0600

Storing long ropes can be a hassle, but if you know how to organize the ropes, unraveling them each time won’t seem as daunting. I like to wrap my long ropes in a daisy chain so that when I open the rope, it’s a quick process and it doesn’t get tangled.

A daisy chain is a simple method to store long ropes. It’s also known as a chain sinnet. It’s a method of shortening a rope or other cable while in use or for storage. It is formed by making a series of simple crochet-like stitches in the line. It can also reduce tangling while a rope is being washed in a washing machine. Rock climbers, concert stage workers have used this method in their professions. I’ve found that wrapping the ropes up in a daisy chain can be just as quick as unraveling it once you nail the method down.

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First find the middle of the rope and tie a knot to mark the middle point. It’s easier to create a loop while making the knot to make it more distinguishable.

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At the ends of the rope, tie knots to keep the rope from fraying.

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Before starting the chain pattern, it’s easier to step on the two loose ends of the rope so that the chain is taught when you’re creating it.  Take the end with the middle knot and loop the other end over it creating a loose loop.

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Then bring the rope through the loop you just created.

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Pull the new loop through the opening and bring it downwards so that you can see the hanging rope through the new loop.

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Grab the rope through the new loop and bring it through, towards yourself.

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Once you grab hold of the rope, bring down the chain so that the loop pattern is more taught. Once the pattern is tighter, you can bring the chain back up and repeat the process. DSC_8310DSC_8311DSC_8312DSC_8313

Once you get towards the end of the rope, just grab the leftover rope and pull it through. Make sure the ends of the rope won’t slip through the opening by tightening the last loop.

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When you need to use this rope, simply open this end of the daisy chain, give it a little tug and your rope will unfold quickly and easily. I’m sure there are other methods of storing long rope, but this is my favorite way of storing my own. I usually use these ropes in my Sport Emergency Kit, so it comes in handy when I’m in the snow. This method also allows for a quick unravel for my gloved hands.

I hope this blog post helps you store your long ropes if you choose the Daisy Chain Method.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in My Sport Emergency Kit

12.19.2017

0600

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Depending on the season, I participate in annual sport activities each year. Since I enjoy hiking, snowboarding and surfing each year and each needed emergency kits, I figured out a way to combine my emergency kits into one kit. I had to create a Sport Emergency Kit that would work all year round. So this is what I included in my kit…

My larger items include:

  • First Aid Bandages (white bag)
  • Dry Bag (for wet clothes, which is the blue bag)
  • Emergency Flashlight (with a Radio, Compass, Flashlight and)Siren
  • Ropes
  • Bag of smaller items (black bag)
  • Female Urinal Funnel (black handkerchief wrap)

 

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In the white bag for bandages, there are:

  • 3 black bandanas
  • 1 triangle bandage
  • 2 Elastic Wrap Roll Bandages

 

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In the black bag of smaller items I have:

  • 1 pocket knife
  • 1 knife
  • 1 mirror
  • 1 knife sharpener
  • 1 SE FS374 All-Weather Emergency 2-IN-1 Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar
  • 1 deck of cards
  • 1 collapsable frisbee

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This is just an example of what is in my Sport Emergency Kit. it’s an example to follow if you chose to. You can add to it or simply use it as a template for what you might have in your own kit. I hope this helps and I hope the kit comes in handy when the time comes. If you want to check out what clothing items I keep on hand for each sport, check out Zero Waste Closet- Part II.

Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions

12.15.2017

0500

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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:

 

 

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.

 

Rollup Christmas Tree

11.28.2017

0600

Materials:

  • 8 baseboards at 28″ long
  • 15 pieces of 12″ long thin twine rope
  • Extra: Matches to melt the ends of the twine together so it doesn’t come apart over time)

Tools:

  • Miter Saw
  • Drill & Drill Bits (Need 1/8″ drill bit for all holes)

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  • Measure each base board at appropriate length
  • Organize each baseboard to it’s general location on the tree formation and mark the corners of where you plan to make the 45° cuts. I made my marks for my 45° cuts on the bottom edges of my baseboard pieces so my baseboard lengths would stay consistent.
  • Using a Miter Saw, take each baseboard and cut each end of each baseboard at 45°
  • Starting with the top of the tree, mark off each of the holes for each piece.

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  • Drill each hole to create openings
  • Using the twine pieces, start tying the pieces together. To keep each space consistent, I tied the knots towards the end of the rope and the same amount of twine end to melt later.

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It’s a simple tree where the clean up is just rolling up the tree.  When I put up the Christmas lights, I simple wrap them around the edges of the pieces. I usually go in one direction so that the lines are more evenly spaced. Same as my blog post Minimalist Christmas Tree, I hang my ornaments off of the lights. For the more fragile ornaments, I hang them from paperclips and then hang them from the cord.

This was created as an option to not use push pins on the wall, but it was an interesting take on a holiday tree as well. Give it a try if you’re interested, and you can even change out the material I used too.

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Minimalist Christmas Tree

11.21.2017

0600

Materials:

  • Christmas lights (Used a 25′-0″ length Christmas Light cord)
  • Ornaments
  • Paper clips (Used 14 for the tree + a few extra)

Tools:

  • Measuring Tape

Christmas is one of those holidays that comes with more decorating than the others. It’s not just the food that’s plentiful, but the decorations as well. Which means of course, that I was determined to minimize my decorations for this holiday.

My family has always used a fake tree so we always knew exactly how much mess to expect when decorating for this holiday. However, I wanted to figure out a way to simplify that. This lead to my Christmas tree design, made up of Christmas lights.

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I wanted the base to be 36″ wide, simply because it was the width of a standard door. For a 25′-0″ cord I was using, it seemed like a good base point. I first plugged in my cord and measured out 36″ in the direction I wanted my tree to be located, and then 6″ up. At that point, I placed a pushpin. I then hooked a paperclip to my cord so that it would reach the pushpin. This 36″ length of the cord would create the bottom branch of the tree.

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From there, I measured out 34″ of the next section of the cord and moved in the opposite direction of the bottom branch and measured 6″ up, where I placed the next push pin. I straightened my 34″ section of the cord and placed a paper clip onto it and hooked it onto that pushpin.

I repeated these steps, for each branch of the tree, where each time I subtracted two inches for each branch and measured six inches up to place the next push pin. The height of your tree will really depend on the width of your bottom branch. If you have a longer length of cord and you want the bottom branch to be wider, you can do just that. However, if you have a longer cord and you still start out at a 36″ wide bottom branch, your tree will be taller, which may look just as beautiful.

If you really want to test out how far your can push this design, link up two cords and see how tall you can make it. However, the longer the cord, the wider the base should be. The sequence for each branch will still be the same. The height of this tree ended up at about six feet high from the floor.

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I hung my ornaments around each light and distributed them as needed. If you have trouble hanging the ornaments up, hang the lighter ornaments on the lights themselves and hang the heavier ornaments on the pushpins. If you have delicate or fragile ornaments, consider double looping them around a Christmas light or using a paperclip to hang them up by securing it to the branch (the way you secured the previous paper clips to the pushpins).

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A lot of my ornaments are fairly light and I create ornaments from old keychains I’ve collected over the years. You can click on that blog post, Christmas Ornaments Hack and read about how I made them. It’s interesting when I stand back and look at the tree, because even the keychain pendants have a unique memories tied to them.

You can place a blanket in front of the tree to place presents on and it’ll still look like and regular Christmas Tree. I like to wrap my gifts in reusable fabric and reusable fabric bags and place them under the tree. I wrote about how to create a Zero Waste Christmas or an Eco-Friendly Christmas, in my other blog posts and you can check it out if you’d like any ideas.

Well there you have it, my minimalist Christmas tree. If this works for you that’s great! I hope this blog post inspires you or jogs up some ideas for you.

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Blogger Recognition Award

11.14.2017

0600

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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

0600

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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.

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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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