Pros And Cons Of Minimalism

10.07.2019

0600

So I’ve written a lot about the benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle, but I admit, there were adjustments during the process as well. I tend to talk about the positive benefits of minimalism, and living a minimalist lifestyle, but I never talk about the struggles that I had to go through. There are a few drawbacks when it comes to a minimalist lifestyle, especially when starting out.

A lot of The process is trying to figure out your footprint and how you want to go about living in this lifestyle. Categorizing your life from daily routines to evening routines, what is necessary and unnecessary, and then going room by room to illuminate items is a bit daunting. Sometimes, this can be a guessing game where a small pile of “maybe items” gets created. That pile did come in helpful though, and it lived in a closet for awhile.

However, if you think through the declutering process slowly and carefully, having regrets will not likely be the end result. With everything you own in this world, everything can technically be replaced. During my decluttering process, that temporary pile really helped me out. It helped me mentally and emotionally detach room the object, which made it easier to part with. Once I knew that I hadn’t pulled anything from the pile out in awhile, I would donate that pile.

Here are some Pros and Cons with transitioning to a minimalist lifestyle:

Pros:

  • Less clutter
  • More organized
  • Save money
  • Value experiences over stuff
  • Cleaning is easier
  • More time to enjoy your life
  • Freedom
  • Less stress after getting rid of toxic “friends”
  • You’ll spend your time better because you’ll be more organized and you’ll know what to do.
  • You’ll have fewer tasks simply because you’ll be fully aware of your priorities.
  • You’ll have more money because you’ll spend money only on the essential things;
  • You’ll clean your home faster simply because you’ll have fewer things;
  • You will know what to wear because you’ll be wearing pretty much the same clothes every day.
  • You’ll be more focused and more productive.

Cons:

  • Accidentally getting rid of something you later need
  • You might look poor
  • Spouse might not be willing to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, causing arguments
  • If you have kids, they will always want stuff and while they can’t have everything, as a parent you don’t want to be cruel.
  • If you love shopping, minimalism will not come easy to you.
  • Not everyone will understand what you’re doing. Probably your spouse won’t be happy with your decision and you’ll have conflicts. Your kids, well, they are kids. They will want more stuff all the time.
  • It’s hard to resist new cool gadgets especially if you love technology.

Admittedly, I have donated items in which I did have regrets about, but those items were not meaningful items. They were items that were simply useful to specific situations. More so, my adjustment to this lifestyle was an adjustment for those closest to me. When the holidays or my birthday, rolled around, it was difficult for me to explain to my gift giving family members that I didn’t want physical gifts. If I had to choose a gift, I just wanted to spend time with them, and share a meal. Sometimes that went over well, sometimes it didn’t.

There were also moments, when I wanted to buy a particular product, but I really had no need for it. I’m human, and I still have desires to own certain products because it’s technically it’s an upgrade to something I own. I always end up lecturing myself and reminding myself of the many reasons why I don’t need it. I still like cool products. I still like interesting clothing. I still have wants that I have to pull back on. This will never go away, so I just have to figure out an exit plan, each time it does come up. Most of the time, I default to the responsibility of maintaining the new item. That’s usually the ultimate reason why I won’t end up buying a product.

There are always benefits and drawbacks to every lifestyle. These lists are the items I remembered about my experience with the transition. Even though there are drawbacks to living minimally, the gains outweigh the losses. the change in my mindset also helped me transition to the lifestyle easier, because I realized that I didn’t need much to be happy to begin with. If you want to test out this lifestyle for awhile, I highly recommend it. Make use of the “maybe pile”, if you unsure about donating an item. Think through your decisions, and enjoy the process along the way. It can be a wonderful learning experience, and you may discover that you are happier, owning less items.

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Minimalism Philosophy

09.30.2019

0600

The principals of simple living, describe a minimalist lifestyle pretty well. Minimalism itself, is more commonly used to describe art, “A trend in sculpture and painting that arose in the 1950s and used simple, typically massive, forms.”

In the last decade, minimalism has become more mainstream, and has grown in popularity. Through social media, and the release of the documentary, “Minimalism”, it has gained quite the following.

To use the word minimalism as a lifestyle, we have to look at the definition of simple living. Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one’s lifestyle. These may include, reducing one’s possessions, or increasing self-sufficiency. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they have rather than want.

People who practice simple living, may do so for a variety of reasons. Some may live this lifestyle for personal reasons such as spirituality, health, increase in quality time for family and friends, work–life balance, personal taste, financial sustainability, frugality, or reducing stress.

Simple living or minimalist lifestyle is a conscious decision to live with less material possessions, and refrain from excessive materialism and excessive consumerism. Minimalism doesn’t necessarily mean that you are only allowed to live with the bare minimum to maintain your life, but to live without the excessive items that don’t add to your life.

When I started my transition to a more minimalist lifestyle, I noticed a change in my mindset as well as the time spent on my daily routine. Choosing outfits on a daily basis became easier and my life became easier to manage. I didn’t waste time on maintaining unnecessary possessions or routines. I simplified my life by only keeping possessions that are important to me, and letting go of the rest. It was a conscious decision for me to transition to this lifestyle; it just made more sense to me. I sought out happiness where my possessions did not fulfill. Granted, I still love to dress up for parties, gatherings or to go out to dinner, but I did get rid of all of the other unnecessary items.

I’ve never regretted my transition to a minimalist lifestyle. As time has passed, I have evaluated and continue to re-evaluate possessions that I might still want to donate. I always look for more methods to design my life to become ever more simplistic; it never ends.

I enjoy life more now, than I ever did before. I enjoy going to cafes and drinking my coffee on the weekend mornings. Enjoying every sunset I can take in, and being thankful to even experience it. I love having conversations during a good meal. I love going outside to spend time in nature and I love to spend time with family and friends. I love white walls, a clean floor and clean surfaces. My home brings me peace and my space is serene. Minimalism has changed my life in so many ways. Over ten years ago, my life changed for the better, and I can never go back to the way I used to live.

How To Start A Minimalist Lifestyle

06.10.2019

0600

I’ve been asked this question before,

“How do I start a minimalist lifestyle?”

Truth be told, you start small, start with baby steps. You have to look at this challenge as the fact that you’ve accumulated your items over a period of time, technically, your entire life. Don’t look at decluttering your home all at once as a whole, that’s too overwhelming and no one needs that.

When I initially started minimizing my possessions, I envisioned a goal for myself, that applied to each area of what I wanted to tackle. The vision didn’t include everything that I would end up decluttering, but there was a feeling of peace and tranquility I was seeking.  I wanted to see more space between my possessions, clean surfaces, simplistic routines and a more uniform look with my wardrobe.  I started out by going from room to room, and I filtered through items that I knew I did not use anymore, or would not use in the future; items that I kept “just in case I need it”. Getting rid of definite YES items was easy, but then I would make a pile of MAYBE items. I always gave myself a few days, and would then return to the MAYBE pile of items, and see how I felt. Almost every time, I returned to the MAYBE pile, I never kept the items. The initial shock and emotional attachment I had when contemplating about getting rid of a possession, was a feeling I had to recognize and get used to. 

I started with my bedroom because it was the easiest room to declutter. It’s a lot easier to declutter your personal items versus communal areas. The biggest area to tackle in the bedroom, was my closet, specifically my wardrobe. I created three piles. One pile was for items that I frequently wore, one pile was for items I knew I did not wear at all or that I had not worn in a very long time, and the last pile was the maybe pile. If I was unsure about any items that I wanted to keep, I would hide them from my view. What I mean by that, is I would hide in the closet; literally, a closet. The reason why I did this was because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t need the possession emotionally or physically. Most of the time when I hid my items, I really didn’t need them any longer. I was still emotionally attached to the possession, and that’s what my hesitation was. Hiding items out of view, out of sight is an emotional training method that I use to really test my need for the object. I didn’t end up hiding too many objects.

Also, for my wardrobe, I adopted a capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing for a season. There are many different types of capsule wardrobes, and it really boils down to your own preference and climate. Some people have seasonal capsule wardrobes, in which they have a set wardrobe for each changing season. Some people will combine seasons so that they may have a set of clothes for the colder seasons and then one for the warmer seasons. Some have year round capsule wardrobes, which they don’t change out their clothes at all. The set number of garments they have, they will use for the entire year. I have a year round capsule wardrobe. My capsule wardrobe also sticks to a specific color palette, so when I do buy a new piece item, I can only choose from that palette. It actually makes shopping easier, since I only look for certain colors and certain styles. When I started my capsule wardrobe, I started with 30 items, but it’s now become a 40 item capsule wardrobe. I’m more comfortable with 40 items, since life has changed a bit.

For my bathroom, I evaluated my morning and nighttime routine and really set a goal of what I wanted out of those routines. Honestly, I just wanted a simple routine. I didn’t want to constantly buy products and spend my money on questionable personal care items. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the mornings to get ready. At night, I don’t mind as much if my routine takes a bit longer, since I’m still trying to wind down; in the morning though, I want to get out the door.

So, I used up all of the bathroom products I knew I didn’t need, or were items that were not ideal for my lifestyle. I invested in vegan makeup and replaced toxic chemicals in my bathroom, with non toxic products. I cleared off my vanity counter and reduced the items I needed to maintain a clean bathroom. The irony was that the more products I had, the more complicated my morning and evening bathroom routines were. You’d be surprised how many products you don’t really need, and how toxic those products really are to your health. By simplifying the items in my bathroom, I was re-setting my expectations and standards for myself.

I went through each room and each area, and applied the same methods. I would first evaluate why I didn’t like the space or wasn’t happy about the space, and then I would envision what I wanted to feel, see, when I entered the room. I would then evaluate each item and really ask myself, “Is this necessary? Why do I still have this?”

Eliminating items can be a difficult process, and it’s not going to be quick. It will feel like a mess when you first start, but it gets easier. And the likelihood, is that you’re going to re-evaluate your items repeatedly over time.

Marie Kondo uses her KonMarie Method in which, she will tell her clients to take all of their items out and lay them in a large pile, for each category. She created this step in the process, so the client could see everything they had accumulated. We’re good at hiding our clutter. We hide our clutter in drawers, cabinets, and inside of other items. Laying everything out in the open can feel embarrassing, even shameful. But it’s a good thing, because everyone is good at hiding their possessions.

To this day, I STILL will walk around my house and go through each drawer, cabinet, shelf, etc. to make sure I still find all my possessions necessary.

My main goal when I started my minimalist lifestyle, was simplicity. I wanted more room and less stuff. I wanted more time in my life, and less stuff to take care of. I wanted non-toxic products in my home and that took time to research and educated myself on alternative solutions. I wanted to feel like my walls were breathing and my spaces were tranquil. That was my ultimate goal. In order to get to that point, I had to break down where my routines and spaces were not bringing me that tranquility.

More time in my life, meant that I could enjoy life and not feel pressured to run errands or maintain a possession. I could go to the beach more, go on more hikes, spend more time with family and friends, or simply enjoy doing nothing… but more.

Living a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean to purge all of your possessions. The concept is to really only keep items that matter to you; the rest is unnecessary. Hopefully this post will help you start living a minimalist lifestyle, if you’re looking to start one. I will say that starting this lifestyle was one of the best decisions I had ever made in my life and there’s no going back to what it was before.

Quick T-Shirt Pocket

09.07.2018

0600

Materials:

  • One T-shirt (or two, but definitely at least one)

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing Kit

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Living a Zero Waste life means that I create simple solutions for simple problems since I don’t want to go buy anything new or seek  out another possession to take care of.

So I usually carry my phone around with me when I’m doing certain types of household tasks. These tasks don’t require a lot of vigorous movement, but I’m definitely moving around. A lot of the time it’s annoying to remember to carry the phone from one place to another when I’m running around the house and if my hands are dirty, I really don’t want to touch my phone. I needed a quick solution where I could carry the phone along with my keys without much hassle. I didn’t want to go out and buy a separate cell phone holder strap that would wrap around my arm. I have one for workouts, and that strap holds down my cell phone securely since I’m running. But I just needed a quick solution where I could carry around my phone and my keys easily for a few hours.

My quick solution was to see my t-shirt sleeve in half and create a pocket. my t-shirt sleeves are usually longer than I need them to be. This gave me the extra material to work with. I simply folded my sleeve in half and pinned the sleeve all the way around.

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Depending on the width of your cell phone, measure that distance out on the top of the sleeve. Just make sure you divide the width of your phone in half and center the opening on the top of the sleeve.

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For the other sleeve, I made the opening just about the same size since I knew I was going to use the other pocket for keys or my credit card.

Then just sew the sleeve from the front to the back or back to the front, making sure you still leave enough room for your cell phone. Then tie off the open thread ends.

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If you put smaller items in the short pockets, they tend to fall towards the bottom of the sleeve. This can be annoying for some but for me it gives me a sense of security knowing my items won’t fall out. I just need to go fishing for my keys at the end of the day.

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So there you have it. My quick and dirty solution to built in t-shirt pockets. I like to move the pockets towards the front of my body for easier access to my cell phone, but that’s simply more comfortable for me. I also will sometimes secure the t-shirt using a binder clip, that I’ll use to clip my t-shirt to my bra.

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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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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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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.

 

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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.

 

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.

Zero Waste Christmas

12.01.2016
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My family has used a fake Christmas tree for the month of December  since I was brought into this world. I’m not sure if we simply did not want to go get a fresh chopped down tree or if it was more that when my family came to the United States, buying a fake Christmas tree was just more convenient. Either way, I’ve never had a real Christmas tree, and as I got older, I understood the extra steps needed to take to keep a real tree in your home for a whole month.

After the Christmas, the sidewalks around my neighborhood had dead Christmas trees laying out on the sidewalks or street curbs for pickup. However, this was not always the proper way of discarding Christmas trees in accordance with each city’s municipal recycling center. (Check with your local city’s municipal recycling center for holiday recycling items) After seeing all of the trees laying out on the street curbs, I was thankful that my family used a fake tree after all these years. In fact, we never seemed to buy new holiday decorations either.

We use the same holiday decorations and the same tree that we’ve used for years. Unfortunately, there was a time when we had family staying with us (let’s just say that they’re not the brightest bulb in the family) who had decided to take it upon themselves to throw away all of my family’s Christmas ornaments and replace them with brand new ornaments. They didn’t comprehend the concept that ornaments hold sentimental value and also mark a point in time when it was brought into the home. They saw our nineteen years of old ornaments as ugly and had no value, so why show it off. All of my brother’s and my childhood ornaments were tossed out, that included ornaments from when my parents first came to the United States too. For years after that, we slowly built up our ornament collection again.

This was when I started making ornaments from my family’s sentimental items that included small memorabilia we had collected over the years. (My next post will give you instructions on how I make key chains into ornaments- it’s actually very simple). Our tree is now covered in memories of  vacation trips, landmark life events, graduations, jobs and companies we were once a part of, and so much more.

For gifts, we actually don’t give gifts to one another as much anymore. Counting the birthdays, mother’s day and Tet (Vietnamese New Years) celebrations, Christmas is just a time for our family to get together, watch movies and indulge in delicious holiday food. During the year, the items that each family member may need usually gets purchased throughout the year. We don’t really ever save up a wish list and make it known for the holiday. So here are some of the gift ideas as well as some gift wrapping ideas that I’ll go through to give as gifts…

  1. Gift ideas- Zero waste ideas
    1. Experience ideas
      1. Sporting events ( football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, etc.)
      2. Theme parks (Great America, Raging Waters, Six Flags, Disneyland, etc.)
      3. Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing)
      4. Gift card/money for food / drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee / tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
      5. Gift card/money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining)
      6. Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
      7. Gift card/money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
    2. Food gift ideas
      1. Main dishes, side dishes, trade food/drink recipes
    3. Fruit gift ideas
      1. Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
    4. Zero waste shopping starter kits
      1. Cloth produce bags, shopping bags, reusable jars, water soluble crayons to write PLU codes onto the bags and jars
      2. Help tare the weight on all of the reusable items
    5. Bulk bathroom gifts
      1. Soap bars, bulk soap, bulk bath salts, recipes for homemade makeup
    6. Bulk kitchen gifts
      1. Bulk staple foods, bulk spices, combination of some bulk spices, create a meal kit from bulk items for  a loved one
  2. Wrapping Ideas
    1. Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
    2. Fabric sheets/bandanas to wrap and tuck around gifts
  3. Service Ideas (This will differ based on location, so check your local listings)
    1. Volunteer for a charity or organization that will help hand out food during the holidays
    2. Donate toys, clothes, coats, shoes to an organization that will help distribute them this season
    3. Volunteer your time in a hospital, care home, nursing home to those who may not have family near or at all

Here are links to some more Zero Waste Christmas ideas from other bloggers:

T-Shirt Quilt Process

 

09.28.2016

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Materials:

  • Old Comforter you want to use as the backing for the quilt
  • Enough t-shirts to cover the back of the comforter easily
  • Sewing machine

Tools:

  • Sewing machine

Not everyone in my family is big on donating items as quickly as I do. I don’t mind that, so I wanted to come up with a solution that would satisfy the use of the items but still make more room in the closet. In this case, the clothing item were the cotton t-shirt collections my family had accumulated. My older brother has a small collection of printed shirts from years of working for different companies or they were from different social events. I have kept a small collection for my mother over the years from elementary school t-shirts, to college t-shirts. I kept these because they marked a point in my life history that was significant. It bothered me that my t-shirts were stuffed into a bag in my old closet, so I wanted to make good use of them.

For both collections, I decided to make a t-shirt quilt for each family member. My brother’s shirts filled up one quilt and by combining my t-shirts as well as some of my mom’s, I would be able to create a single quilt for her. I found my brother’s old comforter which had The Transformers print on it and used that as the backing for his. I used my old comforter which had The Wuzzles print on it, for my mom’s quilt.

A few examples of t-shirt quilts that I’ve come across, suggest to cut out perfect squares in which the logo or image is centered in the middle of the square. I didn’t want to use this method because I didn’t want to waste any t-shirt material. I didn’t see the point in having perfect squares when the images varied so much on where they were located on each shirt. Also, I knew I could overlap the rows and create a slightly thicker quilt by leaving the extra material in place.

I decided to make this process in bullet form since a formal post would be too long to read, so here it goes:

  1. Cut off all of the sleeves and collars from each shirt. Put aside the shirt sleeves which have logos printed on them because you will include them in the quilt later on as gap fillers. Keep your scraps when you make this project because you never know when you may need the extra material to fill in gaps.
  2. Lay out the rows to see how you want the over all tile pattern to sit on the quilt and move them around if necessary. (I wanted each color shirt to create a checkered pattern with their base color)
  3. Gather the sets of t-shirt rows and placed them on the blanket in the order from the top of the quilt, to bottom of the quilt. (You can take a picture before you move the tiles from the final layout on the blanket too) dsc_4946
  4. Start pinning the t-shirts together with the shirts all facing upright and face to face. During this time, you may notice that come of the “t-shirt trimming” might be crooked, but that’s fine because that’s why you have the filler pieces. dsc_4950
  5. Sew the tiles together in each row of shirts so that the rows become one piece. dsc_4951
  6. Lay each row on the blanket as you want them to look and start pinning the rows to the blanket. Use as many sewing pins as necessary and be careful, because you may get pricked by those. Keep in mind that these pins may come apart once you move the blanket to the sewing machine, so you may want to pin the fabric together and give extra room on the pin for movement error. dsc_4982
  7. For the areas that I saw were lacking in t-shirt fabric, I added in the t-shirt fillers. This usually happed around the edge of the blanket. dsc_5002dsc_5001
  8. In order for me to fit the comforter into the sewing machine, I rolled it up on one side and sewed it through like this: (you my want to unravel it due to the weight of the blanket and that it may pull against the sewing machine as you feed it through) dsc_4982dsc_4987dsc_4993
  9. Keep sewing, patient and you’ll finish. I sewed these tiles across the blanket. I have seen some people sew in a grid pattern along the tile edges. Since my tiles don’t line up exactly to the row above, I decided to only sew my tiles across the blanket. dsc_4995

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This is a process and it takes time. There were a number of times when my sewing machine stitching backed up and I ended with a clump of thread on the backside of my quilt or when my needle broke twice. Just keep going and you’ll end  up with the final product in no time. It’s an interesting project and you can put a spin on it however you like. This is a completely customized project which makes the intent that much more meaningful. I really am happy about how the blankets turned out and I know that my family is too.