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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Handmade Handkerchiefs

10.03.2017

0600

Materials:

  • A few shirts (I used collar shirts for the fact that I like this material and these were extra shirts I found)

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing Kit

 

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So there was a recent heat wave that spread through California, and it was HOT. I only had two handkerchiefs and those were being used up fast. I knew I needed more. Although I could have bought a set of twelve for about $5.00. I thought making my own would be more fun.

I found some old collar shirts, that had never been worn (and would never be worn) to make into handkerchiefs. Since these shirts were dress shirts with a tight thread weave, I knew these would be durable over time and the material was still 100% cotton.

I had no idea how many handkerchiefs I would produce from these three shirts so I was curious about the end product. Most handkerchiefs are square shaped and I knew these would vary in size, so I kept that in mind. My current handkerchiefs were 10″ x 10″.

First I took apart each shirt. this meant I had to tediously unravel each thread that made up these shirts. This took awhile to do since certain parts of the shirts had double layers. I also needed to be able to look at each piece of each fabric that made up these shirts. I needed to be able to size up my handkerchief template accordingly.

 

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Once I took apart all of the fabric pieces that made up my shirts, I started to map out 10″x10″ sections on the fabric. There were pieces that I knew I could not use, such as the cuffs and collar of the shirts. For these pieces, I put them aside for future projects. Parts of the shirts such as the Yoke, would have to be sewn together to create enough surface area for a handkerchief.

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Due to the shape of each piece of fabric, I wasn’t able to make perfect 10″x10″ squares. Instead, the shape of the fabric pieces gave me some very unique shapes to use for handkerchiefs. Who said a handkerchief had to be a perfect square anyway?

For each piece of handkerchief, I hemmed the edges by first folding in the edges in to create a margin of 1/4″ and pinning them down with sewing pins. From there, I simply sewed the edges down and tied off the leftover thread.

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From the three collar shirts, I originally started out with, I was able to make a total of 47 handkerchiefs. The breakdown is:

  • six – 9″x10″
  • six – 11″x11″
  • twelve – 10″x12″
  • six – 9″x12″
  • twelve – 10″x18″ (used for cloth napkins)
  • five – 8″x10″

Because the result of the shirts varied in size and shape, I decided to use the twelve 10″x12″ for napkins instead of  handkerchiefs (Luckily I ended up with twelve in this size).

This was a fun upcycling project that took me longer than expected. Taking apart the shirts was the most time consuming, but it was well worth it in the end. Handkerchiefs don’t need to be perfect squares, but preferably 100% cotton. I hope this post inspires you to give it a try to making your own handkerchiefs as well. I’ve learned that although carrying around a handkerchief is an old tradition and I personally don’t see it practiced too often where I live, having one handy can be a lifesaver. Sometimes I’ll use it as a napkin when I don’t have my reusable cloth napkin available. And sometimes, when a stranger needs a kleenex, I’ll give my handkerchief for them to use. I have so many that I can give it away as well. It’s a gesture out of love and caring for humanity.

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Tank Top Bags

09.12.2017

0600

Materials:

  • Two Tank Tops
  • Sewing Kit

Tools:

  • Sewing Machine

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This hack has been published before, but I made these years ago and I thought I would share it. Depending on the type of material the tank tops are made out of, the bags may be better used for carrying smaller and lighter items. These tank top bags stretch well, so a lot of items can fit into these bags.

First I turned the tank tops inside out and hemmed the bottom of the tank tops. I pinned the hemmed edge using sewing pins and tied off the thread ends.

I turned the tank tops inside out and that’s about it. Using the straps of the tank tops as the handles, the tank tops become small bags.
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These are really simple and quick solutions if you have extra tank tops or shirts that you may not want to get rid of. For t-shirts, just remove the sleeves, and hem the existing openings of the shirts and you can use the collar opening to fill up the t-shirt bags. You can always repurpose items into useful items. Living a zero waste life doesn’t necessarily mean to live with only glass or aluminum items, it also means to repurpose items so that you won’t purchase unnecessary items as well. Considering where materials are foraged for the products we use, and how much clothing is donated each year, sometimes repurposing clothing just seems to fit better for some memorable pieces. It’s the reason why I tend to repurpose clothing items when I can.

For the clothing items that mean more to you than others, consider making it part of a quilt or a bag or even a pillow cover. You’ll be able to hold onto the items, and they will also serve another purpose as its initial purpose may have expired.

Fact:

In less than 20 years, the volume of clothing Americans toss each year has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons, or an astounding 80 pounds per person. The EPA estimates that diverting all of those often-toxic trashed textiles into a recycling program would be the environmental equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars and their carbon dioxide emissions off the road. Trashing the clothes is also a huge waste of money. Nationwide, a municipality pays $45 per ton of waste sent to a landfill.

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Creating Sliding Drawers

06.20.2017

0600

Materials:

  1. One sheet of brown peg board
  2. KOMPLEMENT drawer handles from IKEA
  3. Bulk rope from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store
  4. Extra nuts and bolts to secure the handles to the peg boards

 

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I first had to measure the width of my cabinet openings, due to the fact that they were old up-cycled cabinets from when we had first moved into this house. The cabinet drawer opening measured 12″ wide and 24″ deep. Ideally, most new cabinet installments would add a nice overall look and clean up the space a bit, but the way new sliding drawers are built, the thickness of the wood would eat up a lot of the width opening. This is why I decided to make some generic sliding drawers.

I measured out the dimensions of 11-1/2″ wide and 20″deep on the peg board, and I had just enough board to make up three drawers. Because the peg board came with pre-drilled holes, it was easy to guesstimate where the handles would be located, and not all of the handles would necessarily be centered. Also, the screws that came with the handles accessories package were designed to fit a 3/4″ thick board, but the peg board was only 1/4″ thick. this is why I had to gather a few extra nuts to infill the space between the original handle screw and the end of the handle itself.

Once I cut the boards to the right size to fit the openings, I placed the handles where I wanted them to be located and attached the nuts and screws accordingly. Because I wanted these drawers to slide, I went to a local fabric store and bought some thick bulk rope. I used this rope to wrap around the long sides of the drawers so that they would slide out easier. The rope also evidently contained the items sitting on top. You can also contain the items that would sit on top of these drawers by screwing a thin piece of wood onto the top of the drawer so  you have a more secure way of holding your items.

Because the motion of the drawers is more of a pull-out motion when in use, I was more concerned about the items falling off in the back of the drawer when the drawer was pulled outward. Once the rope was tied on, I placed my items inside my small rectangular, fabric containers.

 

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Drawer Guides:

I nailed down 12″(L) x 1/4″(W) x 3/4″(D) wooden pieces on each side of the drawers, inside the cabinet, as guides for the drawers. I chose to use a 12″(L) because the depth of the cabinet is 24″. I braced the guides up against the front of the cabinet, in which these guides will help slide out the drawers along a smoother line.

Conclusion:

These drawers are very simple sliding drawers made form material found around the house. There are a number of designs to secure drawer guides in place, and this one was a very simple design. If I had used a 1/4″ bottom for the drawers, I would have secured a different drawer guide design underneath the drawer. I genuinely like the fact that these drawers slide on the rope and it makes virtually no sound when pulled out and pushed back in. It doesn’t’ scratch the surface of the cabinet shelves and it’s simple enough to take apart if I no longer have the need for this design. Maybe this design will work for you, in other areas of your home. I hope this post might have helped brainstorm some ideas.

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Upcycling Shelves

06.13.2017

0600

Materials:

Tools:

  • Miter saw
  • Electric drill  and drill bits

So my family usually keeps leftover material from previous house projects or from items that were disassembled. A lot of the time wood planks are left over. These vary in sizes so I try to upcycle them around the house. My father had a book shelf a while back and it had two 42″ shelves that were 1″ thick and two 72″ shelves that were one inch thick.

I  knew those shelves could be used elsewhere in the house so I designated the shorter shelves for the upstairs kitchenette and created shelves with the other two longer pieces, in two other separate areas of the house.

I bought four grey Everbilt 10 in. x 8 in. Gray Medium Duty Shelf Bracket for the kitchenette and I bought two white Everbilt 9.75 in. x 7.75 in. White Elegant Shelf Bracket for the shelf in the bedroom. The shelf in the hallway will be mounted up with two wood 2x4s on each side.

For the kitchenette, I located the studs by knocking on the wall (you can also use magnets to locate the nails located in the studs as well) and since I wanted the top shelf to have at least 16″ of space from the shelf to the ceiling, I had to create two marks that marked both the top and bottom of the top shelf. I then measured another 11″ below the bottom line of the top shelf and made two marks for the bottom shelf. I wanted to leave at least 22″ above the countertop so there was enough room for using the countertop surface.

Because the shorter shelves didn’t reach across the wall of the kitchenette, I offset the shelves to make the weight of the items on the wall even. I measured the distance between the studs for each shelf, and transferred that onto each shelf. It’s easier to attach the shelf brackets to the shelves first, and then attach them to the wall. My studs were 30″ (on center) between each, so I knew to leave half an inch from the edge of each shelf edge and then measure inwards 30″ to mark the next center of the next bracket.

Once I attached the brackets to the shelves, I had to pre-drill the holes for the screws in the studs on the wall. If you screw in the top screw on the bracket closest to the wall (where the blue arrow is pointing to), and then place a  small level on top (where the violet arrow is pointing), then you can swing the other bracket up (where the maroon arrow is pointing), until the level shows that the shelf is at an even plane.  This seemed to be the easiest way for me to attach the shelves and also double checking the correct balance of the shelves.

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For the shelf under the window, I first located where my studs were and made sure I cleared the electrical outlet. Ideally, I would have place a bracket where that electrical outlet is located, but there wasn’t any room. I wanted the height for this shelf to have an 8″ clearance, so I simply measured 8 inches below the existing shelf and marked two lines for the top and bottom of the shelf. For this shelf I trimmed the edges so it would fit the width of this space better. I also drilled a hole above where the outlet was located, so there would be access to the outlet.  I attached the brackets to the shelf based on the width of my studs. For this shelf, I literally held up the shelf with one hand, and traced the inside of the drill hole locations with the other. As long as I continued to press the shelf against the wall, it didn’t move much. I did this because I wanted to mark where the drill holes were and also to pinpoint the center of the holes. There wasn’t room to swing the shelf up to level it out, (such as the kitchenette example), so when I placed the level on the shelf, I only had to adjust the shelf slightly to even it out. Once the first screw was placed, it pretty much held up it’s own weight until I could drill in the last three screws.

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The shelf in the hallway was mounted with a different method. I actually had to cut this original shelf piece in half. It was the other 72″ long shelf piece, and by placing each of the halves next to one another, I created a  18-1/2″ depth shelf. I first located the studs in each wall and measured 11″ height clearance for the space above this shelf.  The width of the space was so small, that putting up brackets would have taken up too much room. I pre drilled the holes in the 2x4s based on the width of my studs I had located. Always remember which 2×4 belongs on which wall, so you’re not accidentally drilling extra holes. After that, I placed each piece on the new mount and held the shelf pieces in place with finishing nails.

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This was just one of my upcycling projects using materials I found in the garage. If you can find materials that are still in fairly good shape, I would try to upcycle it for a useful piece of item that you may need. It’s cheaper than going out to buy brand new material- especially since you’ll still have your extra supply of material laying around.  I like to use up what I buy, it’s habit of mine and it’s saved me money over the years. I hope this post helped jog some ideas for you!

Sewed Fabric Bags For My Makeup Tools

05.23.2017

0600

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So originally, I had created these bags for my Utensil To-Go Kit, and I realized that I could create smaller bags for my make-up tools. So I tested it out and this is what I came up with.

I had some old zippers from awhile back that I never used and these were a great fit. I first undid and removed the drawstring from the bag. Then I cut the original bag in half and sewed the sides of each to create two smaller bags. Because I cut straight thorough the original drawstring hem, I took the string and also cut that in half.

I measured each zipper and made appropriate cuts on the front of each bag for each zipper. Using small sewing pins, I attached each zipper to each bag and then I hand sewed the zippers to the bags. I inserted the smaller drawstrings through the new drawstring hems and tied them off.

The end product were bags that could be accessed through the zipper or through the top where the drawstring closed the bag. This was an interesting solution because when I place items in these type of bag designs, I never have items of all the same height. This bag allows me to access the taller items from the top opening and the smaller items from the front where the zipper is located. I’ve used this for make up tools, writing utensils and also my “Take Out Silverware Kit” that I keep in my purse.

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Make-Up Brush Bag Hack

05.09.2017

0700

Materials:

  • Plastic store bought brush bag

Tools:

  • Razor Blade or scissors (Please be careful when using the razor blade)

So I bought an e.l.f. Angled Blush Brush from Target back in 2016 and it came in a clear plastic bag such as the ones in the pictured below. I didn’t want to add it to my trash collection, so I set out on trying to figure out how to convert it into a product that would be useful in mylife.

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I knew I wanted to create a holder for all of my brushes (luckily I only use two types of brushes) So I came up with this design to hold my vertical make up tools, such as my mascara, eyeliner pencil, angled blush brush and my EcoTools, Bamboo Smudge Eyeliner Brush.

I sewed the flap that covered the holder to the bag itself. I did this because, I didn’t want to remove the flap to access a clean opening but to also reinforce the bottom of the holder. (At this point I had decided to hang this object as a vertical brush holder).

I opened the other end of the holder by cutting a small slit across the top side of the bag and hold punched a hole on the opposite side. I only put one hole punch on one side because I would be using that side to hang the bag and I didn’t want anything blocking the opening of the bag. Lets call the hole punch end the “Top” and the sewed end of the bag, the “Bottom”. (you kinda have to picture this bag vertically hanging like that)

I used a permanent marker to show you where I placed my cuts on each side of the bag. On the same side as the hold punched hole, I sliced a longer slit on the bottom third of the bag. On the opposite side of the bag, I sliced a shorter cut closer to the top. These cuts do not cut through both walls, please keep that in mind. This design will only work if both walls of the holder are not cut at the same spot.

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For the taller brushes, I am able to insert both of my brushes through the opening at the top, however, I can also slide the brush I tend to use through the slit towards the top.

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The same rule applies for the slit towards the bottom third of the bag. I can use the slit I had created to hold my mascara and eyeliner but be able to access them from the outside. The next few images demonstrate the versatility of the cuts better than how I’m describing them.

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Here is what the bag looks like when it’s hanging up and being utilized. You can see that my EcoTools, Bamboo Smudge Eyeliner Brush is inserted through the opening I had created (towards the top of the bag) and that my angled blush brush is actually on the inside of the bag. I use my Eyeliner brush more than my angled brush so this is why I keep it on the outside, for easy access. On the opposite side of the bag, you can see my small eyeliner and mascara sticking out from the small opening I had created towards the bottom. I also use my mascara and eyeliner often so I like to have access to them easily.

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When I travel or move around with my makeup brushes, I can easily tuck everything inside the bag and nothing with get caught during transportation. I actually do have a bag for my toiletries when I travel and this brush holder goes into that bag as well.  The last image shows what the brush holder looks like once everything is tucked inside the entire bag. I know that this bag with eventually fall apart and I will end up adding it to my trash pile, but as long as I don’t stretch the plastic by putting too many items into this holder, it might hold up well.

This is a simple and interesting design manipulation of what we receive along with products we buy and how to re-design them to accommodate to our own needs.  I really like this design manipulation because I tend to hang things a lot and I didn’t have to throw any packaging away.  I hang things a lot because I like to keep my surfaces clean. Maybe this design might accommodate you somehow, I hope it will.

Revisiting Design Hacks

02.28.2017

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Design is ever changing. It evolves, grows up, mutates and sometimes dies. As someone who consistently designs functions for different objects, and re-designs those function issues, I’ll come across methods that are better for the product itself. It never stops. As people grow in the sense of mentally, physically, emotionally, we will change our habits and routines. Sometimes it’s based on a simple scheduling issue, sometimes it’s a physical disability that we all the sudden need to integrate into our routines. Maybe our routines change due to new people coming into our lives and that includes children and adults.

For these many reasons, I re-visit many of my design ideas. I re-visit them as often as I can.  know that I’m designing from my own perspective and from what I know, but I also know that there’s a whole different world out there who may not have the same resources or the same materials readily available.

So let us take a walk down memory lane… and we’ll re-visit some of my old blog posts and some updates I have for this one.

In addition to my Car Hacks blog post, I had to add one small change. I actually learned this from my mom, but since it made sense, I started doing this as well. It’s very simple. IF you have the room, it’s easy to organize you’re items using boxes in your truck. I have two different sized boxes so that when I go grocery shopping, I can place my bulk liquid items in the smaller box and I know that they won’t spill on the drive home. I use the bigger box for larger bulk items and even for my take out food containers. It’s nice that the smaller box fits well inside of the larger box and I can limit the movement of the objects when in motion.

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For the front of the car, I actually looped an S-Hook through the rope that I exists from that original Car Hacks post. The S-Hook allows me to hang my purse when I need to as well as smaller bags that may roll around. When I brought my lunch to work, I would hang my bag from this hook, and (thank goodness for the consistency of gravity) my food never spilled or toppled over. I really like this hack.

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At my work desk, which I wrote here, Work Desk Essentials, I now changed items out and the final setup is a jar of bulk green tea, and a jar of raw almonds and dried cranberries. I have one extra jar in case I run to a grocery store to grab some hot food from the hot foods bar. My coffee tumbler is by Contigo and it has a 20 oz capacity.

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On my desk… I now keep a set of utensils, tea infuser, lip balm and hair bracket in a bag. In the other bag I keep my earphones and phone charger together too. I carry  a handkerchief now and store it along with my napkin. I use my leftover Aquaphor to help me moisturize my skin during the winter.

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In my shoulder bag, I now carry a pair of chopsticks and a handkerchief along with my set of utensils and cloth napkin. Although when I air travel, I will replace the metal utensils for my bamboo set (knife, fork, spoon). My coffee tumbler is also by Contigo who has an excellent spill proof lock.

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These are only a few design hacks that I keep revisiting. As a designer, your perception of a good design always changes and it take a few trial designs to settle one final design. also, as life moves on and time marches on, your routines and needs will change- so your designs will have to adapt.

Freebies And Give Aways

01.24.2017

0800

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I don’t like to receive freebies and giveaways. I tend to refuse small gift bags and trinkets that are included in them. When I received them from family members and friends, that’s when I came up with a plan that I implemented years ago, when I lived in San Francisco.
Years ago, when I lived in San Francisco, my studio was directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. This park is the largest park in San Francisco and it was approximately 1,017 acres and over 3 miles running West to East and  half a mile running North to South. I would visit my family on the peninsula and always ended up bringing back food. I was given Nutrigrain bars, health bars, and even packaged produce. Because I was starting my zero waste lifestyle in San Francisco, I didn’t want to open these individually packaged items. Instead, I would create care packages for the homeless population, who slept in the park after everyone left.
Let me explain, Golden Gate Park is open from 9am every morning, and closes at 5 pm each evening. Since I lived across the street from the park, I was very aware of the public presence in the park. Each night, after the park closed, the homeless population would move in and set up camp for the night. I used to run along the street that framed the park’s north edge. I would run West and head out to Ocean Beach, then turn around and run back, and I would see them heading into the park.
During that time, I worked the swing shift when I was and EMT, so my hours were strange. But I would put together care packages in which I would hand out to the homeless when I can back from work.
I know that those individually packed items still produced trash but I had a decision to make. The dilemma was, either I refuse the items and inevitably they go into the trash, or I can somehow make good use of it. Not everyone can live a zero waste life and I understood that. Not everyone cares to live a zero waste life and I understood that too.
This was my way of trying to make a positive contribution to a situation I was aware of. When the packages were made, I would hand them out. None of the individual packages were opened so the recipients knew that the food had not been tampered with. Most everyone was open to accepting the food and were thankful for the snacks.
I wrote this post because recently I received a few airline amenity kits from a relative who travels on Delta Airlines for work.  She travels a lot so she had a bunch stocked up. I decided to go out and find recipients to give these kits to.
In the day-to-day rush that we live through, it’s reasonable that not everyone is noticed or acknowledged. But if you slow down and look closely, you’ll notice a population that sits in the shadows; a population made up of many circumstances and perhaps painful past stories. Living in California, has its risks and high stakes to bet on. It takes a lot to survive here, much less start a family and establish yourself here. I accept that anyone can become homeless at anytime and it’s always an unfortunate outcome.

Christmas Ornaments Hack

12.06.2016
0800

Materials:

  • Keychains
  • Extra thread or string

Tools:

  • Sewing Kit

So when I decluttered my sentimental possessions, I pulled out the few keychains I had leftover and decided to turn them into Christmas ornaments. I’ve done this before for other years as I was slowly decluttering my sentimental possessions, but these are the last keychains I own. So with the last set of keychains, I thought I’d show you how I upcycle these items.

I have a habit of writing the year I received each ornament on the ornament somewhere. I actually didn’t start doing this up until about a decade ago. For the ornaments that came before then, I literally reserved a random Saturday and recalled ALL of the years that each ornament came into our lives. The years help me remember a time in my life, or what was happening during that year, and even what was going on around the world. Keychains hold the same sentimental value for me that ornaments do. I used to collect keychains, but that goal was short lived being that I realized that I didn’t have enough zippers to attach them to. Also, with the certain keychains, they get in the way of the function of the bag I’m using or it just becomes an extra piece on my bag that will inevitably get caught in something as I’m walking or moving around and rip off. I also don’t use keychains for my keys.

I know that sounds strange, but as I got older, and I had to be responsible for more keys to more places and items. I prefered to not weigh down my keys with so much excess weight. (It’s also annoying when I’m driving and I have a large chunk of metal just hanging and swinging from the car ignition). I like my leg room. I also don’t want to hang to much weight from the ignition in case it ruins the tumblers in the ignition over time.

Some of my keychains are from my own purchases and the rest were given to me. For this post, my last keychains that I used (from left to right), a pewter cat keychain from my brother when were first took in an older feral cat who was a variation of greys. She was a sweet and fat cat. She left us after four years or so, never saw her again.

The next keychain I bought was when I went to Vietnam in the summer of 1998. This was my first trip to Vietnam and as a teen, it changed my view of the world and I knew how blessed and lucky I was to be born a United States citizen. My father and I had a stopover in South Korea after 12 hours in the air. I played soccer for a very long time throughout my childhood, and I continued to follow different clubs and leagues  from around the world. Although this keychain said “2002 World Cup Korea”, it was the first World Cup to be held in Asia, the first to be held on a continent other than Europe or the Americas, the last World Cup during which the golden goal rule was in force and the only World Cup to be jointly hosted by more than one nation. It was a landmark world cup tournament and it was exciting to have Japan and Korea join together to co-host such a celebrated event. I actually bought this keychain at the airport where we stopped over, it wasn’t anything big, but it was the first marketing item I had seen for the 2002 World Cup. The United States hadn’t even released marketing for that World Cup yet.

The third keychain is a beetle, yup a beetle. My father had mailed me the keychain from Vietnam for my sixteenth birthday. It came with a card. Although it was pretty unconventional, the beetle was actually a beautiful specimen. I don’t have a fear of many things at all, and I actually understood why my dad had mailed it to me. He was purely focused on the the colors of the beetle and how nature could create such an interesting yet iridescent bug. I kept that keychain on my backpack throughout high school. It was either a great conversation starter, or I simply received strange looks from passer byers.

The last keychain is from my mother when she went to the Grand Canyon. I’ve actually never been there but she brought this back for me. It was a fun trip for her with her friends and I thought that I should finally add it to this project.

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Using pliers, I unhinged the chains that attached the metal rings to the metal chains. I keep all metal rings from items that I manipulate, because rings are very versatile when creating my DIY projects.

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I rummaged around my mother’s sewing kit (good thing she keeps her thread samples from old clothes) and found some thick thread to use for these ornaments. I chose thread that was dark, so that it would blend in with the fake Christmas tree branches.

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Because keychains come with a built-in loop for the metal chains, I simply created large loops so they could be placed on the branches easier. I carve or write the year of each ornament on the it before I put it away.

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I actually haven’t bought new ornaments in thirteen years. I’ve been creating ornaments from small memorabilia that I’ve owned for a long time. Each year, I go digging through the decluttering process (I told you it takes time to go through everything), and I’ll create one or two more ornaments each year.

With making my own ornaments, I actually donated quite a few sets of nice ornaments to different causes. By keeping my ornament count low, I’m not unnecessarily hoarding a bunch of extra ornaments. My Christmas tree is only five feet tall, and it’s actually the same Christmas tree my family has had for the past twenty-five years. I have just enough to cover it.

I hope this might give you some inspiration to make ornaments from your own keychain memories. Now, go grab pliers, thread and all the keychains you’ve got! Because who doesn’t want a iridescent beetle hanging next to Christmas Snoopy?  And if you carve the date into your ornament and get cut, blame the Electoral College. It’s always their fault.

Here are some other ideas for homemade ornaments. They’re eco-friendly and easy to make. Check these out from some other sustainable bloggers…

Zero Waste Christmas

12.01.2016
0800

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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:

Decluttering Sentimental Possessions

 

11.22.2016

0800

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For my sentimental possessions, I own a 3″x 12″x 6″ box, which holds just about every sentimental object in my life. A couple of years ago, I scanned all of my photos, drawings from my childhood, awards I got in school, just all of the paper I held onto. I scanned them and uploaded them to my cloud and also backed it up into my external hard drive. I did this because I had the notion in my mind that wherever I was in the world, I could access all of my photos via the internet. I actually tossed out many of my photos after I scanned them, I kept the ones which I knew were important to me.

My sentimental box includes my collection of elongated pennies from different places I visited or vacationed, a few letters from relatives who have passed on, pins from different events during my lifetime, items from important people in my life, etc. Ironically, I did purge quite a bit of my sentimental items before I started writing this post. I had never purged this collection before and I kept only 1 sentimental items from certain points in my life. However, this is how I approached the situation for decluttering my sentimental items.

In the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, she guides readers through tidying up each section of their home; sentimental items are the last to be dealt with. Her method, which is called The Konmarie Method, tells readers to hold each item and decide if the item brings you joy or no longer does. Then, with the items that no longer bring joy, bid adieu to the item, thank it for being in your life for that period of time and then place it in the trash pile, donate pile or sell pile. This is a great way to approach sentimental clutter because of the dynamic relationship we each have with our items. I don’t have enough stuff to go through the Konmarie Method where there would be a significant volume difference, but I did consider why I wanted to keep each of my sentimental items as I went through and purged.

If you’re thinking of purging your sentimental items, you can check out her book or simply follow some guidelines that I listed below. There are many books on decluttering, however with the Konmaire Method, you examine what you want to keep verses what you want to donate.

Here are some helpful tips to help you declutter your sentimental items:

  1. Keepsakes
    1. The key is to keep only mementos that are meaningful for us and for future generations. I tend to keep photos (which I digitize as well), and smaller pieces of keepsakes. I will keep a single handwritten letter or card from people who I hold close to my inner circle. I digitize everything else though, even those paper items, in case anything were to happen to them.
  2. The Quick Purge: Big Stuff
    1. I will purge the bigger items first. Part of the reason why I do that is because bigger items usually give me more room to save more stuff. If I don’t have the extra space, the purge has tighter parameters for me to work within.
  3.  Why Did I Keep That?
    1. This question comes up a lot when I start going through my items. It’s the first question I ask myself. You’re likely to find some things you have no idea why you saved.
  4.  Display Your Keepsakes
    1. If you want to keep the rocks, shells or spoons you collected from vacations over the years, create a place to keep them where you’ll see them and enjoy them instead of boxed up. Or if you can upcycle some of the items you can’t let go of, at least the clothing/fabric/item will be displayed somehow and integrated into your life.
  5. Stuff Your Kids Made and Other Gifts
    1. This category is a little harder to purge. Too bad all schools don’t make all small project items out of compostable materials. This category varies greatly in how or what small items you want to keep. Personally, if you can take a picture of the item and discard the physical item, that would be the ideal situation.  Requesting no gifts is always a good start.
  6. Letters, Cards, Kids’ Paintings and Other Papers
    1. With schoolwork, paper items, awards, etc., I would scan or take a picture of these items and only keep the more important documents. You can create a small binder for each school that they go to so for instance, one binder could be for elementary school, one for middle school and one for high school. Ideally, as kids get older, paper keepsake items become less so the binders tend to be thinner. However, the binder will also give you a limitation of how much you can keep from each school as well.

We have a tendency to equate our memories with stuff, but when you carry so much stuff with you, and you never see it- how valuable is it really? Your memories will always be there; the event did happen. Although, if you have alzheimer’s or dementia- this point in my post would fall flat…

My point is that it’s really up to you.  The question is, what are you willing to keep and why. Don’t think of this process as being forced to get rid of everything all at once. Just imagine if you had to fit the most important sentimental items into a 56 quart storage container, what would you keep?

If you want, start out with two 56 quart storage containers, or whatever size container you can handle. Some people are more attached to their items and it will take some time to go through it all. As long as there’s progress, you’re headed in the right direction.

So go… go assemble your Alzheimer’s storage containers, full of memories that you chose to keep. Actually I don’t call my container my Alzheimer’s storage container, it’s just a box, but I do have an external hard drive that I call “My Ut-Oh HD”. It contains everything I ever took a picture of or scanned. It’s my life as a photographic archive. I have yet to screw up the hard drive, and if I do, and everything is erased from the hard drive AND I subsequently have some form of memory loss… maybe I’ll just be a cat. They seem happy and angry- it’s perfect.

Also, check out these printable checklists from MintLife Blog to help the decuttering process, “How to Get Rid of Sentimental Clutter and Spend More Intentionally“.

Alternative Dish Scrub

11.15.2016

0800

Materials:

  • Two Laundry Mesh Bags
  • Sewing Kit

There are a few things that I struggled with replacing in the zero waste lifestyle realm. The dreaded dish scrub was always one that I consistently tried to tackle with different alternative solutions. So breaking away from the traditional dish sponge was an issue I constantly had to re-visit.

At first, I tried to use cotton dishrags, but I wasn’t a fan of the oil and stains that would show up, even after throwing it into the washing machine. I then moved to the stainless steel sponge, but at times, this material was unnecessary and a little harsh on my dishes.  I needed something that fell between these two materials. I needed a zero waste solution that was durable, breathable, washable and readily accessible.

So I finally decided to tackle this issue once and for all, and I came up with a solution. I made my own dish washing srubs from laundry mesh bags. So this is what I did…

  1. I took a delicates, laundry mesh bag with small holes and one with large holes, and took them apart. I separated all the pieces that assembled it. I choose the two different sized holes so there would be more grit during scrubbing and more variety in the uses.
  2. I unstitched the bags to remove zippers and separate the individual pieces.
  3. I then folded the large pieces of material so it would end up as a rectangle shape and sewed the edges of the rectangle to keep its shape. I then sewed the two shorter edges together but left the center of the rectangle to form a loop . (You can shape your scrubs however you like, mine just happen to fold into square shapes.) I used a dark thread on the heavier grit scrubbers so that if the thread stained or became discolored, you wouldn’t see it as easily. I also used lighter thread just to see how much it would stain. I did this because I wanted to hang the scrubbing pads on the neck of my sink spout. This way, it can air dry and it has a place to be hung up when not in use. It will also drip into the sink when it is air drying. I know that this part of the design concept may not apply to everyone, but you can still hang it up wherever you want or hang it off of whatever you want in your sink area.
  4. These can be hand washed and rinsed or thrown into the washing machine.

For my own use, this dish scrub has helped me solve my dish sponge/stainless steel wool pad/dish washing rag issue. My scrubs dry pretty fast so this design had worked out well for me. They seem to lather well and rinse off even faster. I actually enjoy hanging them on my sink’s spout neck because I know it’s the last step in the design of this product. I hope this post helps for those of you who would like an alternative to the dish scrubbing sponge issue.

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Understanding Recycling Batteries

 

10.06.2016

0800

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Recycling Car Batteries Link

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Processing Alkaline Batteries Link

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Recycling Lithium Batteries Link

I question the honesty of how items are recycled (especially electronics) and to be more informed is always better. The next series of posts I’m going to post up with cover a small section of the majority of materials that are deemed recyclable. Although the concept of recycling seems like a savior process for all items- it really isn’t. There are uncomfortable truths that the public is not informed about. I hope these next posts will be helpful for those who are seeking more information.

In a nutshell, batteries vary in how they are recycled. Batteries range from lead acid based to alkaline, lithium ion, nickel, zinc and even mercury batteries. Here is an overall information haul about the variety of them but I also included links to some recycling processes under the infographics above. I always hear mixed reviews as to what actually happens to batteries when we recycle them and this is why I thought I should post some information. I tend to use more alkaline and lithium batteries in my day to day life, so those infographics apply more to me. Hopefully this will bring some more information to you as you come into contact with your day to day electronics that use batteries.

  1. Lead Acid– The battery is broken apart in a hammer mill, a machine that hammers the battery into pieces. The broken battery pieces are then placed into a vat, where the lead and heavy materials fall to the bottom and the plastic floats. At this point, the polypropylene pieces are scooped away and the liquids are drawn off, leaving the lead and heavy metals. Each of the materials goes into a different recycling “stream”.
    1. Plastic- Polypropylene pieces are washed, blown dry and sent to a plastic recycler where the pieces are melted together into an almost liquid state. The molten plastic is put through an extruder that produces small plastic pellets of a uniform size. The pellets are put back into manufacturing battery cases and the process begins again.
    2. Lead- Lead grids, lead oxide and other lead parts are cleaned and heated within smelting furnaces. The molten melted lead is then poured into ingot molds. After a few minutes, the impurities float to the top of the still molten lead in the ingot molds. These impurities are scraped away and the ingots are left to cool. When the ingots are cool, they’re removed from the molds and sent to battery manufacturers, where they’re re-melted and used in the production of new batteries.
    3. Sulfuric Acid- Old battery acid can be handled in two ways:
      1. The acid is neutralized with an industrial compound similar to household baking soda. Neutralization turns the acid into water. The water is then treated, cleaned, tested in a wastewater treatment plant to be sure it meets clean water standards.
      2. The acid is processed and converted to sodium sulfate, an odorless white powder that’s used in laundry detergent, glass and textile manufacturing.Lead acid batteries are closed-loop recycled, meaning each part the the old batteries is recycled into a new battery. It is estimated that 98% of all lead acid batteries are recycled.
  2. Alkaline batteries– Alkaline batteries such as (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) are recycled in a specialized “room temperature,” mechanical separation process where the battery components are separated into three end products. These items are a zinc and manganese concentrate, steel, and paper, plastic and brass fractions. All of these products are put back into the market place for reuse in new products to offset the cost of the recycling process. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  3. Lithium Ion– Prior to the recycling process, plastics are separated from the metal components. The metals are then recycled via a high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) process during which all of the high temperature metals contained within the battery feedstock (i.e. nickel, iron, manganese and chromium) report to the molten-metal bath within the furnace, amalgamate, then solidify during the casting operation. The low-melt metals (i.e. zinc) separate during the melting. The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  4. Nickel-Cadmium- Prior to the recycling process, plastics are separated from the metal components. The metals are then recycled via a high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) process during which all of the high temperature metals contained within the battery feedstock (i.e. nickel, iron, manganese, and chromium) report to the molten-metal bath within the furnace, amalgamate, then solidify during the casting operation. The low-melt metals (i.e. zinc and cadmium) separate during the melting. The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  5. Nickel Metal Hydride– Prior to the recycling process, the plastics are removed from the cell portion. The cells go through a drying process to remove moisture (potassium hydroxide (KOH) electrolyte and H2O) from the cells. The drying process heats the cells in a time and temperature controlled manner via a proprietary and proven formula. Once these cells are dried they become a valuable feedstock for the stainless steel and or alloy manufacturing industries.  The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  6. Lithium Batteries– The contents of the batteries are exposed using a shredder or a high-speed hammer depending on battery size. The contents are then submerged in caustic (basic not acidic) water. This caustic solution neutralizes the electrolytes, and ferrous and non-ferrous metals are recovered. The clean scrap metal is then sold to metal recyclers to offset the cost of recycling these batteries. The solution is then filtered. The carbon is recovered and pressed into moist sheets of carbon cake. Some of the carbon is recycled with cobalt. The lithium in the solution (lithium hydroxide) is converted to lithium carbonate, a fine white powder. What results is technical grade lithium carbonate, which is used to make lithium ingot metal and foil for batteries. It also provides lithium metal for resale and for the manufacture of sulfur dioxide batteries.

  7. Mercury Batteries– The batteries and heavy metals are recovered through a controlled-temperature process. It’s important to note: the percentage of mercuric oxide batteries is decreasing since the passage of the Mercury-Containing Rechargeable Battery Management Act (The Battery Act) of 1996. This act prohibits, or otherwise conditions, the sale of certain types of mercury-containing batteries (i.e., alkaline manganese, zinc carbon, button cell mercuric-oxide and other mercuric-oxide batteries) in the United States.

  8. Zinc-Carbon– Zinc-carbon (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) and zinc-air batteries are recycled in the same way as alkaline batteries or by using high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) method to melt the metals. These metals are then reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.

  9. Zinc-Air– Zinc-carbon (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) and zinc-air batteries are recycled in the same way as alkaline batteries or by using high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) method to melt the metals. These metals are then reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.