I don’t like using a lot of harsh chemicals to clean my house, because of the dangers that chemicals can cause to our physical well being . So I tend to use a combination of natural products. For scrubbing, I like to use a combination of Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap, as well as baking soda as an abrasive. I like to use a simple brush to scrub services, because those are easy to rinse off.
I’ll use a combination of water and apple cider vinegar to wipe down surfaces as well. I will use old cotton wash clothes and cotton rags to wipe down surfaces.
For cleaning my toilet, I will usually use apple cider vinegar, and a simple toilet brush to scrub the surface. If I need to use an abrasive to scrub my toilet, I’ll use baking soda to do so. I do get nervous about harsh chemicals be in the home because I don’t like the idea of inhaling toxic fumes. I think that now that we know more about toxic chemicals and how harmful they can be, we have the power to make better choices about what we use in our homes.
When it comes to cleaning the hardwood floors, I have a dust mop and also a floor broom and dust pan set. I do have a vacuum that I use, but it’s only once a while that’ll pull that out.
If I need to clean the surface of the floors, I’ll first use a combination of Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap and water to dilute the concentration of the soap formula. I’ll first wipe down the floors with the soapy liquid, than, I’ll go over the cleaned floors with a clean wet rag, to pick up the soap residue. I just wipe down the surface with rags. I do it by hand because the floor seems to be cleaner with this method.
For the rest of the surfaces, dust is really the only issue when it comes to cleaning my other furniture services. I can wipe down the surfaces easily with a simple rag.
I have a fairly simple cleaning routine, and it really doesn’t take much time to get through it on a weekly basis. It also helps to not own many items and keeping my surfaces clean, also speeds up the process. But I’ve been fairly happy with my cleaning routine, and by using non toxic chemicals, I can sleep better knowing that I’m not creating a toxic indoor air environment for my family.
I definitely have plastics in the bathroom. I did try to transition to glass bottles for my bathroom products, but the glass was too slippery and didn’t seem efficient. When it comes to products are used in the bathroom, I do have a set amount of items that I can refill. However, there are items that do come in plastic packaging and plastic bottles, that end up being recycled or go into the landfill.
I have bottles that I refill for my Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap, my body lotion, and my conditioner. I use bar soaps a lot, so I buy bar soaps that either don’t have packaging at all, or come in recyclable paper packaging.
For the items that do come in plastic packaging, that includes my sunblock, my face moisturizer as well as dental floss.
My bathroom isn’t completely zero waste. I do use plastic containers and refill them as needed. And for specialty items, they come in plastic containers. I wish sunblock didn’t come in plastic containers, but so far, mine do. I think it’s entirely possible to have zero waste bathroom though; mine just isn’t. When it comes to my conditioner, I will transfer some of it into a larger stainless steel water bottle, and add water to dilute the formula. I’ve noticed that my hair responds better when my hair doesn’t have residue left over from the conditioner. For my other items that come in plastic containers such as dental floss, face moisturizer, I haven’t found a good alternative is for my skin yet. I’ll keep looking though, I think the battle is always on going when it comes to striving for a zero waste 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.
I’ve talked about what I don’t buy, but I thought I’d tell you about what I do buy in relation to my daily bathroom routine. When I go grocery shopping, there are items I do keep an eye out for. These items are the items I will use on a daily basis and keep stock of at home. So here it is…
What I stock up on:
Eyeliner (used often)
Mascara (used often)
Eye Shadow (used often)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Not used often:
Liquid Foundation (Vegan Makeup)
Matte Bronzer (Vegan Makeup)
Lipstick (Vegan Makeup)
Angled Blush Brush
There are other investments that I bought a while back, which did produce some form of trash, but they were only a one time investment.
One time investments:
Set of Dental picks
Set of stainless steel ear pick tools
Morning: Before Workout Routine: In the morning I will wash my face with soap and brush my teeth with baking soda. I’ll then apply sunscreen before heading out, because skin cancer is real and the exposure to the sun’s rays can be very dangerous, so I take precautions.
Morning: After Workout Routine: After working out, I’ll wash my face again and apply some dry shampoo (combination of equal parts cornstarch and Hershey’s Cocoa, here is the link to my blog post about DIY Dry Shampoo). I’ll then apply my makeup, and depending on the occasion, it might be more or less. My makeup is cruelty free and not tested on animals, but it does come in packaging that is not recyclable. The good part about my makeup routine is that I don’t use excessive amounts of it so I don’t use up my makeup quickly.
When I do decide to get more dressed up, my makeup packaging includes all of the following packaging below. All of my makeup will come with the makeup container as well as the makeup packaging as well.
Evening Routine: My evening routine mimics my morning routine, where I will floss my teeth, brush my teeth, wash my face with soap, and then apply my evening cream.
Non-Daily Use Items: There are a few “one time purchase” items that I did invest in, which did produce some form of trash that was not recyclable. However, these were one time purchases and they’ve lasted a very long time. These items include my deodorant crystal, pumice stone, dental pick set and my set of stainless steel ear pick tools. (The Visine is rarely used and I doubt I’ll ever purchase it again.)
For the Bathroom: Products I use to clean my bathroom or need to stock up on, include Apple Cider Vinegar, paper wrapped toilet paper and essential oils. The essential oils does get used, but not often. I always buy toilet paper wrapped in paper so that I don’t produce any extra plastic trash.
Living a zero waste lifestyle can never truly be completely zero waste. Trash will be produced at one point or another; whether it’s in the beginning of the production line or at the very end where the consumer is left with it. When you purchase products in bulk, a lot of the packaging is left for the distributor to deal with.
This post was a transparent view of the reality of my own bathroom trash. Even though I do still produce a bit of trash, I have significantly reduced the amount of my bathroom trash since I began this zero waste journey. Still, to this day, I know I can reduce it even more, but that means I have to give up using certain products or try to find alternative products.
I wanted to revisit my 30 Piece Capsule Wardrobe for this post. And it turns out, I needed to number to be bumped up to 32 pieces of clothing (including shoes and accessories), I realized that I needed some extra pieces of clothing for other uses as well. I added my scarf, hat and gloves (which originally were in my snow bag).
These pieces bumped the overall capsule wardrobe items up, so I thought I should mention it. I also wanted to point out that I do have sport clothes that pertain to specific sports, which I also don’t count.
For my own needs, I also realized that I needed a set of extra clothes because I like to work on my house. I need extra shoes and clothes that are able to get dirty and torn. I don’t count my extra pieces of clothing in my overall Capsule Wardrobe clothing count.
My sport clothes are specific to each sport. For instance, my running shorts are only to be worn when I run. I don’t count my sport clothes and my extra clothes because I can’t wear these clothes for day to day attire.
Capsule Wardrobe: 32 Pieces
Tank Top- Casual- Grey
Long Sleeve- Grey
Short Sleeve- Grey
Short Sleeve- White
Sweater- Light Grey
Jacket- Casual- Tan
Jacket- Dressy- Black
Blouse- Navy Blue
Shorts- Casual- Denim
Skirt- Mini- Black & Leopard Print
Pants- Casual- Denim- 2
Heels- Ankle Boots- Black
Flats- Closed- Blk
Boots- Tall- Blk
Boots- Casual- Brown
Dress- Convertible- Black
Purse- Navy Blue
Necklace- Short- Dressy
Earrings- Dangle- Formal
Bracelet- Silver and Pearl
BEACH- Bottoms- 1
BEACH- Tops- 1
BEACH- Bathing Suit- 2
RUN- Shorts- 2
RUN- Pants- 2
RUN- Tops- 3
RUN- Sneakers- 1
RUN- Gloves- 1
RUN- Hat- 1
SNOW- Pants- 2
SNOW- Jacket- 2
SNOW- Tops- 2
Boots- 1 pair
Sneakers- 1 pair
Sandals- 1 pair
Tank Top- 2
Long Sleeve- 1
Collar Shirt- 1
Sports Bra- 1
My capsule wardrobe also doesn’t include intimates, mostly because I think counting each underwear and bra you own might be a little much, especially since a lot of people have different preferences for these items. I genuinely love my capsule wardrobe because all of my clothing pieces can match each other no matter how I pair them up. It makes picking out clothes in the morning much easier for me.
So there you have it, this is my updated list of my year round capsule wardrobe along with my sport clothes and my extra clothes. For anyone who wants to create a capsule wardrobe, I highly recommend it. Some people prefer seasonal capsule wardrobes or perhaps color scheme themed capsule wardrobes too. The amount of items really a individual preference. I have a pinterest board which also was a great resource when I first started this project years ago, Pinterest Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe . My color scheme is very specific to my own taste, but there are a lot of example of different types of capsule wardrobes on Pinterest.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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:
Extra: Matches to melt the ends of the twine together so it doesn’t come apart over time)
Drill & Drill Bits (Need 1/8″ drill bit for all holes)
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.
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.
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.
Christmas lights (Used a 25′-0″ length Christmas Light cord)
Paper clips (Used 14 for the tree + a few extra)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Having an Eco-friendly holiday isn’t as daunting as it sounds. It might sound complicated because the concept is different, but it’s actually pretty simple. So for each holiday there are basic aspects of the holiday celebration I like to check off: decorations, food and entertainment. I don’t always cover all three categories equally and majority of my focus will usually be on the food.
Decorations tend to be covered easily being that Christmas is such a huge holiday celebrated. Honestly, any type of decoration that is compostable or reusable is a good idea. Here are some ideas for zero waste holiday.
Seasonal leaves, fruit, create a centerpiece suing branches and colorful seasonal leaves.
Use existing jars filled with some seasonal and colorful leaves to decorate the table
Use branches and leaves from outside to decorate the table surface
Zero Waste Food
Consider using fresh fruits and vegetables as ingredients in your dishes. You can compost the skin or the non edible pieces after
Buy your ingredients from the bulk aisle or bulk bins
For ingredients that usually come in packaging, consider making your own homemade version or looking for it in paper, aluminum or glass packaging
Share recipes or give the gift of different types of dishes to one another
Gift ideas can be tricky for this holiday since it’s based around an iconic tree as well as what surrounds it on Christmas Day. However, here are a few ideas for zero waste gifts, you might want to consider. Check social media sites (Groupon, Living Social, Ticketmaster, etc.) for great deals for events and activities for family and friends during the holidays.
Food, snacks, bulk candy wrapped in reusable packaging or compostable packaging
Buy bulk foods and create a recipe kit for a gift
Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
Gift of Goods and Products
Consider checking out thrift stores to find a gift for the recipient
If you want to give a new gift, look for gifts with no packaging or recyclable paper packaging
Theme parks (check for local theme parks near you or near the recipient)
Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing, etc.)
Gift card or money for food & drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee, tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
Gift card or money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining, etc.)
Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
Gift card or money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
Service Ideas (This will differ based on location, so check your local listings)
Volunteer for a charity or organization that will help hand out food during the holidays
Donate toys, clothes, coats, shoes to an organization that will help distribute them this season
Volunteer your time in a hospital, care home, nursing home to those who may not have family near or at all
Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
Fabric sheets or bandanas to wrap and tie around gifts
For the larger gifts, I’ll use a pillowcase or really large bed sheets to wrap the gifts
For medium sized gifts, I’ll wrap the gift in an extra t-shirt.
Entertainment during the holidays can be daunting as well. Usually families have kids around or simply need entertainment playing while the day is happening.
Movies- if you are able to stream movies, there are a few great resources to stream holiday movies during this time. Check YouTube or other streaming media, they usually have full movies uploaded to watch.
Board Games – Ask your guest if they have any board games to play or would want to bring for the kids to share and play with
Card Games – these games are always fun because a deck of cards can be really versatile
I hope this outline helped to brainstorm ideas for you. This is an overall idea list and if you want to check out other holiday blog posts, check out these holiday blog posts from these websites:
As someone who likes to make my routines as simple as possible, I also try to create simple cooking habit routines as well. This approach simplifies the ingredients I buy and my grocery shopping haul trips. Here are seven simple tips and tricks for cooking hacks.
1. Focus on Whole, Single-Ingredient Foods
Whole, single-ingredient foods are the key to good health.
Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish, poultry and eggs are great examples. These foods are incredibly nutritious and satisfying.
When you focus on whole foods and high-quality ingredients, you will automatically start to eat less processed junk foods.
Processed foods often come with misleading health claims and long lists of ingredients, many of which you can’t even pronounce. However, truly healthy foods don’t even need an ingredients list. They are the ingredient.
Bottom Line: Eating healthy can be quite simple. Stick to whole foods and avoid processed foods made with refined ingredients and artificial chemicals.
2. Use Simple Flavorings
If you buy high-quality ingredients, you don’t need to add a lot of flavoring. Olive oil, salt and pepper may be enough.
Fresh herbs can also do wonders for a meal.
Try to avoid buying new flavorings unless they are something you think you will use often.
If a new recipe requires hard-to-find spices and condiments, you can most likely replace them with something you already have.
A rare ingredient that you will end up using only once is a waste of money and space in your kitchen. Most of the time, you can stick to common ingredients that you already own and know how to use.
Bottom Line:You don’t need to own a lot of rare ingredients in order to add flavor to your food. Simple ingredients like high-quality olive oil, salt and pepper can be used in almost anything you make.
3. Clean Out Your Spice Cabinet
Most people keep a lot of herbs and spices on hand. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you use them regularly and don’t have duplicates.
If your spice cabinet is disorganized and overflowing with spices you never use, you might want to tidy it up a bit.
Try to combine duplicates into one container and donate spices you never use. Throw away/compost spices that are old or bland.
Having a tidy spice drawer will help you cook faster because it will be easier to find the spices you’re looking for.
A good rule of thumb is to go through your spices at least once per year.
Bottom Line:Having a tidy spice cabinet will make you more efficient in the kitchen. Keep spices you use regularly within reach and combine duplicates. Throw out old spices and donate the ones you never use.
4. Keep an Organized, Minimalist Pantry
Keep a clutter-free pantry stocked with quality foods you use regularly. Preparing healthy meals will become much easier.
A clutter-free pantry also makes your food less likely to spoil, since you’ll be able to see all your food items neatly organized.
You’ll find it easier to navigate your pantry and locate the items you’re looking for when cooking. Here are a few tips to help you organize your pantry:
Optimize storage: Store items you often use on the bottom shelves or near the front. Items you use less often can be stored in the back or a little higher.
Sort and group: Designate shelves for similar items, such as keeping your canned foods on one shelf and your breakfast foods on another.
Label everything: Label all of your pantry items and store them in clear, well-sealed containers so that your foods don’t spoil.
Increase accessibility: Try to place items so they are either directly accessible or you can reach them after moving just one item.
Bottom Line:Taking the time to plan and organize your pantry will make both shopping and cooking easier and more enjoyable.
5. Simplify Your Kitchen Tools
There are tons of clever gadgets you can purchase for your kitchen.
Yet many are nonessential, single-purpose appliances.
You don’t need fancy kitchenware to cook a great, healthy meal. Simple meals require just a few basics.
If your kitchen is cluttered with items you rarely use, consider selling or donating them. Focus on keeping the functional items you use on a regular basis — it’s a plus if they serve multiple purposes.
However, figuring out what’s essential is entirely up to you. This varies, and something you regularly use may seem unnecessary to someone else. What you use depends on your lifestyle, how you cook and what kinds of foods you like to eat.
Try storing the items you rarely use in a box. If you haven’t opened it in six months, then it’s probably safe to sell or donate those things.
Bottom Line: You don’t need highly specialized, fancy tools for most tasks in the kitchen. Consider selling or donating kitchenware you don’t use often and keeping only the most useful kitchen items.
6. Think Before You Shop
You should think carefully before you purchase a new kitchen gadget.
Start by asking yourself if you really need it. If you’re not sure, think it over for one week before you decide to buy it.
Setting yourself a rule of “one in, one out” may also help. So for any new item you bring into the kitchen, another needs to go.
Think creatively and you might even be able to use something you already own in a different way than you’re used to.
Bottom Line:When it comes to kitchen appliances, less is more. Think carefully before you decide to add another item to your kitchen, especially if it’s an item that’s designed to perform just one specific task.
7. Clear Your Kitchen Counter
It’s time to de-clutter your kitchen counter.
Store kitchenware you use less frequently in your cabinets and drawers instead of on the countertop.
This is especially important if you live in a small apartment with limited counter space.
You’ll have more room to prepare meals and you’ll probably enjoy cooking more if there is less clutter around you.
This will also allow you to be more organized and focused while cooking.
If you need to keep items on the kitchen counters because of limited cabinet space then make sure they’re frequently used and essential for food preparation.
If you like to store items like keys, mail and wallets on your kitchen counter, make sure everything has a place where it belongs.
Bottom Line:Kitchen counters tend to attract clutter. Keeping them clear will give you more space to prepare meals and enjoy your time in the kitchen.
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.
A 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.
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.
Three 7 inch-8 centimeter, white zippers (for one pillowcase design)
Two 12 inch, pink zippers (for the second pillowcase design)
Two Velvet Hangers
Sewing Machine or sew by hand
I always try to take up less space than necessary when it comes to my home. It’s not that I dont’ have the room to spread out, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t like my items and possessions spread out over a large space because it takes more energy to find things and living a more compact lifestyle helps me keep my possessions to a minimum. As a designer, it’s an interesting challenge to minimize the space that I take up.
So I decided to create a slim organizer for my closet. I had a hanging closet shelf but I wanted to get rid of it. In order to get rid of it, I still needed some type of organizer in its place. The items that I needed to organize were small clothing items as well as small accessories. This slim organizer only needed to hold the weight of those items. I did move some stuff out of the original hanging shelf to other areas of the house, so what you see in the images below isn’t a direct transfer of items to the new slim organizer.
Hanging organizers actually already do exist in stores, but from what I’ve seen, these organizers tend to have the user access the pockets from the front of the organizer. It would be easier for a person who has a walk-in closet to use those organizers, but I wanted to make a slim organizer which I could access from the side.
So in the end, this organizer helped me reduce my space by half:
Here is what I did…
I gathered my pillowcases and designated one of the pillowcases to be divided into three sections and the other pillowcase would be divided into two sections.
I took one pillowcase and hemmed the open end of the pillowcase. I then folded the pillow case into thirds and marked the lines using sewing pins. This pillowcase would have the three 7 inch-8 centimeter, white zippers sewed to it.
I sewed along the lines to close off the three separate sections, then I placed my zippers down to mark the location of the zippers. Depending on how I wanted to access my slim organizer in the closet, I had to choose which side of the pillowcase to attach the zippers. Since I wanted this slim organizer to be on the right side of my closet, I wanted the openings on the right side of the pillowcase so that when it was hanging up, I could access the slots easier. I also left about an inch margin between the zipper and the edge of the pillowcase because the items inside will create a bulge that I had to take into consideration.
I used an ink pen to make tiny dots at each end of the zipper. I actually marked the dots in between the zipper teeth at each end, this way, it also centered the location of the zipper. I connected each set of dots to create the cut lines in order to fit my zippers into the pillowcase. I just used scissors to cut these lines.
After I cut the lines, I inserted the hanger into the opening that was on the end of the pillowcase that was originally closed. I folded the pillowcase in half (vertically) to find the center and pretty much wedged the metal hook through the pillowcase. I chose to place my hanger on the original closed end of the pillowcase because if I used the hemmed end of the pillowcase for the hanger, the weight of the items in the organizer might weaken the that end of the pillowcase over time. I had to consider the weight of each pocket that was created, so I constantly thought about the overall weight that would pull on the material itself.
Once I placed my zippers into each slot that was made, I folded the edges of the pillowcase down to the zippers and pinned them together with sewing pins. Then I hand sewed the zippers to the pillowcase (making sure I sewed both the hemmed layer and the top layer of the pillowcase to the zipper).
Once I was done, I used the same process to create the double pocket slim organizer. The triple pocket slim hanging organizer will be used for small items and the double pocket slim organizer will be used for some extra pieces of clothing items.
I don’t know if this is a favored design, but I personally like how much less space it takes up. this design works for me and, my space. Hopefully this design may jog some space organizing ideas for you as well.
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.