Zero Waste Week 2018

08.12.2018

0600

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Zero Waste Week is almost here! This year we have more participants and the event is hoping to reach a larger audience. Rachelle Strauss is the creator and director behind Zero Waste Week, an annual awareness campaign since 2008. It takes place in the first full week in September each year, and promotes awareness in producing rash and the disposal of trash. Zero Waste Week encourages the public to be more aware of how much trash they produce as well has encouraging people and businesses to live and work more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. She has been featured in The Guardian, National Geographic and The Sun for her efforts in promoting awareness for a more sustainable future.

This is my second year participating in Zero Waste Week as an ambassador. I’m so grateful and proud to be a part of this movement. There are many others who are and have been a part of this movement long before I came along, you can meet them at Zero Waste Week Ambassadors. You can also read all about this week and get involved at Zero Waste Week- About Use the hashtag #ZeroWasteWeek to show us your progress! 

Each day has a theme of Zero Waste which focuses on different aspects of creating less waste. For Zero Waste Week 2018, I listed the topic for each day and I linked some of my blog posts that pertain to each topic

September 3, 2018, DAY 1

We will be discussing the difference between ‘necessary’ and unnecessary plastics. The amount of plastic polluting the ocean is astounding. By 2050,plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish, predicts a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Herare a few past blog posts which explain how and why I became very conscientious about my purchases. 

  1. Shopping At Thrift Stores
  2. 5 Questions to ask Before Purchasing
  3. My 30 Piece Capsule Wardrobe
  4. Zero Waste Shopping And Why

September 4, 2018, DAY 2

Auditing our daily personal care routine! Plastic containers in the bathroom are nothing new. However, because we use bathroom items so frequently, the amount of plastic containers we go through can be unnerving when you  look at the statistics. As the zero waste movement has caught on, more stores are offering bulk bathroom items and refill stations. If you want to read about some of my zero waste bathroom blog posts, check them out below. 

  1. A Zero Waste Bathroom
  2. Bulk Bathroom Shopping Kit
  3. DIY Simple Face Exfoliant And Facial Mask
  4. Bathroom Update
  5. Toilet Paper Is Not Zero Waste
  6. What I Stopped Buying- Bathroom Items

September 5, 2018, DAY 3

Plastics in the kitchen and food packaging seem to be a huge problem for those starting out on their zero waste journey. To make your kitchen zero waste, can be quite challenging.  Creating a zero waste kitchen took time and trial and error in my own experience. To read more about the challenges I faced, check out the blog posts below. 

  1. Bulk Grocery Shopping Kit
  2. Food And Bath Storage Containers
  3. Zero Waste Shopping And Why
  4. What I Stopped Buying- Kitchen Items
  5. How To Store Fruits And Vegetables Without Plastic Bags

September 6, 2018, DAY 4

Household cleaning seems to be a sensitive subject for many. There are a variety of sanitary concerns and medical concerns. As for me, I use a vinegar and water mix, baking soda and a bristle brush to clean. You can read more about my method in the link below. 

  1. Zero Waste Cleaning

September 7, 2018, DAY 5

Zero Waste is for life, not just a week! Plastic pollution, trash pollution, water and soil pollution is an ongoing battle. A zero waste lifestyle does require an awareness of oneself and decisions. There are parameters that some of us deal with, and that others don’t, such as medical conditions, personal health and financial constraints. As long as the effort and awareness of product consumption is considered on a day to day basis, reducing trash is inevitable. If you want to read about my moments and lessons throughout my zero waste journey, you can check out the links to my previous blog posts below. 

  1. A Zero Waste Lifestyle
  2. Seven Tips To Begin A Zero Waste Lifestyle
  3. Zero Waste And Minimalism
  4. Spreading the Zero Waste Word
  5. Sometimes You’ll Produce Trash

I hope you will want to take the pledge and reduce the amount of trash you consume, and if you want to read about my journey and how I got started, you can read that here in, How I Got StartedAt the end of the week’s festivities, it’s time to take all you’ve learned during the week and start/continue your own plastic free journey. There are a lot of Pinterest boards, Facebook Groups and forums that offer tips to start a zero waste lifestyle or tips for different experiences with the zero waste lifestyle. You can check out my own social media boards and follow me, or you can follow the Zero waste Week community on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram

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What’s In My Purse?

06.12.2018

0600

DSC_9989Since I’ve written about What’s in My Makeup Bag? and What’s in My Sport Emergency Kit?, I thought I’d show you what I carry around in my purse too. These are the items I use daily and essentially, and these include my zero waste essentials.

So an overall view will reveal that I usually carry my water bottle, my eyeglasses case, purse, keys, sunglasses, my reusable utensils, my cloth napkin and my cloth handkerchief.

Sometimes I will switch out my water bottle with my tumbler, if I’m going to grab coffee. Most of the time I’ll usually carry my water bottle instead of my tumbler because water is more critical for me on a day to day basis.

In my purse, (which is a pencil bag, because pencil bags tend to have more pockets and are washable) I’ll carry my cards and cash, a small bottle of lotion, a comb, my business cards case, a barrette, extra hair ties, my lip balm, lipstick, eyeliner, my mini 3 in 1 stainless steel screwdriver key chain eyeglass repair tool, extra bobby pins (because you can never have enough), and a nail filer.

 

DSC_9999The only perishable and wasteful items I carry on a daily basis is my lip balm and my lipstick. I refill my bottle of lotion from my bulk lotion bottles. Anyone who uses hair ties knows that they tend to break and I haven’t yet found a good alternative to tie up my hair. I might lean towards going back to the scrunchie though. With the extra protective fabric around the hair tie, the life of the hair tie can last longer.

So there you have it. My purse is simple, and I don’t carry extra stuff around to the point where I can’t find anything in my bag. I tend to divide my items into smaller bags so that they’re grouped together in a more organized fashion. These are my day to day essential items, what do you carry around in your bag?

 

Bathroom Purchases With Packaging

06.05.18

0600

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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:

  1. Baking Soda
  2. Sunscreen
  3. Toothbrush
  4. Face Moisturizer
  5. Eyeliner (used often)
  6. Mascara (used often)
  7. Eye Shadow (used often)
  8. Lip Balm
  9. Dental Floss
  10. Night Cream
  11. Apple Cider Vinegar
  12. Toilet Paper

Not used often:

  • Essential oils
  • 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:

  • Cornstarch
  • Cacao Powder
  • Crystal Deodorant
  • Pumice Stone
  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

 

Zero Waste Closet Part III

02.27.2018

0600

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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

  1. Tops
    1. Tank Top- Casual- Grey
    2. Long Sleeve- Grey
    3. Short Sleeve- Grey
    4. Short Sleeve- White
    5. Sweater- Light Grey
    6. Jacket- Casual- Tan
    7. Jacket- Dressy- Black
    8. Blouse- Navy Blue
    9. Blouse- Blue
    10. Blouse- Wht
  2. Bottoms
    1. Shorts- Casual- Denim
    2. Skirt- Mini- Black & Leopard Print
    3. Pants- Black
    4. Pants- Casual- Denim- 2
  3. Footwear
    1. Sandals- Black
    2. Heels- Ankle Boots- Black
    3. Flats- Closed- Blk
    4. Boots- Tall- Blk
    5. Boots- Casual- Brown
  4. Other
    1. Dress- Convertible- Black
    2. Pijama Top
    3. Pijama Bottom
    4. Robe
  5. Accessories
    1. Sunglasses- Black
    2. Purse- Navy Blue
    3. Necklace- Short- Dressy
    4. Earrings- Dangle- Formal
    5. Scarf- Grey
    6. Hat- Black
    7. Gloves- Black
    8. Bracelet- Silver and Pearl

 

IN ADDITION…

Sport Clothes:

  • SURFING/BEACH GEAR
    • BEACH- Bottoms- 1
    • BEACH- Tops- 1
    • BEACH- Bathing Suit- 2
  • RUNNING GEAR
    • RUN- Shorts- 2
    • RUN- Pants- 2
    • RUN- Tops- 3
    • RUN- Sneakers- 1
    • RUN- Gloves- 1
    • RUN- Hat- 1
  • SNOW GEAR
    • SNOW- Pants- 2
    • SNOW- Jacket- 2
    • SNOW- Tops- 2
  • TRAVEL GEAR
    • 2 items
  • EXTRA CLOTHES
    • Boots- 1 pair
    • Sneakers- 1 pair
    • Sandals- 1 pair
    • Pants- 1
    • Tank Top- 2
    • Sweater- 1
    • Long Sleeve- 1
    • T-Shirt- 1
    • Collar Shirt- 1
    • Hat- 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.

 

Got Rid Of My Bookshelf

02.13.2018

0600

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Since I was 9 years old, I’ve always had a bookshelves. These bookshelves were used to store games, books, stuffed animals, my old boombox and a number of other odd items. I’ve had all different kinds of bookshelves, but now I was down to one. When I really started to minimize my possessions and pare down my physical objects, I wanted to get rid of my bookshelf.

However, I didn’t feel ready to make that decision. When you get rid of stuff, you’re also eliminating surface area for the other physical objects associated with that item. By getting rid of my bookshelf, I didn’t know where to store the items that were sitting on it. The only solution I could find was to donate my items or somehow find a new home for the item.

This didn’t mean I was going to shuffle my items around my space. Clutter is still clutter even when you move it around a space; you simply distributed it instead of grouping it in one location.

It meant that I had to really want to minimize the number of items and ONLY keep what I needed. It took a little bit of time, but slowly, my bookcase started to look more and more bare. I’m lucky that it’s a fold up bookcase, so I knew I could tuck it away easily.

My bookcase is simple piece of furniture. It folds up, it’s made of birch wood and was pretty cheap when I bought it.  However, my profession requires books and I still have some books from college. Even when you flip through most architecture magazines, you’ll see some type of shelf that displays reading material or other items in the living space. It seemed that for me to get rid of my bookshelf, was me breaking standard design rules.

My other worry was, “What if I need it in the future?” That question comes up quite a bit when I declutter. I’ve learned to answer that question with, “I’ll find a way”. Since I do have extra room in my living space, finding room for storage isn’t the problem.

The journey to living a curated minimalist life is a flexible path with a bunch of turns. I’m not sure if there is an end. As our lives change, we will too. Over time, we’ll need items we’ve never needed before, so we adapt. It also takes work to let go of what you “think” is normal, and consciously choose to live with less. Breaking away from what you’ve always known and accepting it is an important step in this process.

A lot pf people struggle in this area. To break away from what we’ve envisioned our lives to be and what our standard of “normal” is, can be a mental exercise. Some people are more comfortable with change, some are not. I’m a creature of habit, so perhaps that’s why this was a victory for me. Owning a bookcase was normal for me, until I decided it wasn’t.

If you’re conscious about the amount of clutter you have, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Being conscious of your actions means you’re holding yourself accountable and that’s a part of this lifestyle. It’s also easier said than done.

So farewell to my bookshelf, you’ve served me well. But I no longer need your services. May you find a new home with a new owner.

Where did my books on my bookshelf go?

I donated my old textbooks back to my alum colleges (including art materials as well). I also donated some books to a few Little Free Libraries, and the rest to my local library. If you don’t know about what these Little Free Libraries are, check them out at Little Free Library Organization, and you might be able to locate one near you. I now keep the very few books I have left in my ottoman.

How I Keep Long Cords Organized

01.02.2018

0600

Materials:

  • Velcro straps
  • Cardboard

Tools:

  • Cables
  • Rope
  • Christmas Lights

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

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

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For long extension cords:

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

Digital Studio- Studio Safety: Coiling Cables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

How To Daisy Chain Your Long Ropes

12.26.2017

0600

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

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

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

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

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

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Then bring the rope through the loop you just created.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions

12.15.2017

0500

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Towards the end of each year, I like to think about what goals I’d like to set out for myself for the following year. Each year lends itself to different points in my life so my goals change as I change and get older. I tend to break down my goals into three categories: daily goals, weekly goals and yearly goals. This is what I came up with…

 

Daily Goals:

  • Spend more time outdoors. Learn to enjoy nature again. Make a habit of taking a weekly walk outside. We have become so used to live in our houses and in our cars, many people have no idea what nature looks like anymore.
  • Take Care of yourself by scheduling time for yourself. Even reading a book for an hour a day counts!
  • Exercise your body for a happy mind, or maybe a quick morning meditation.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Read a book or a magazine, take a break from technology.
  • Get enough sleep.

Weekly Goals:

  • Make your home efficient. By now, I assume most of you have switched to CFL lightbulbs – so it’s time to take home efficiency to the next level. Check your house for heat loss (there are companies specialised in this if you don’t feel expert enough) and make it your DIY project to fix them. If you haven’t yet, lower the thermostat during the night. The ideal temperature to sleep is around 16 degrees Celsius or 60 degree Fahrenheit. If that’s too cold for you, do it in steps – half a degree less each month. You might realise you even sleep better – and you will see it on your heating bill!
  • Pick seasonal and local fruits and vegetables. While it can be tempting to eat strawberries in winter, when they have been imported from halfway across the planet or grown in energy-hungry greenhouses, they’re hardly sustainable. Do some research into what is naturally grown in your area in the season, and prefer these. This way, you’ll also rediscover the pleasure of meals changing with the seasons!
  • Take your bicycle out of the shed. People who re-start cycling to work and/ or the supermarket often say that it’s lovely to rediscover their neighborhood that way. In fact, unless you live in a very mountainous area, this could be the most relaxing resolution you take!
  • Use public transport more. Granted, in the middle of the mountains or when there is half metre of snow outside your door, cycling sounds less appealing. If that’s the case where you live, start using public transport to go to work and the supermarket. If public transport connections are poor in your area, then it’s time to wake up the local campaigner in you and ask for it – make 2018 the year when your community stood up for sustainability.
  • Take recycling to the next level. You probably have two different bins in your kitchen, sorting your waste to have it recycled. It doesn’t end here though. In 2018, try to reduce the amount picked up by the garbage truck. If you have a garden, start your own compost. When you’re at the supermarket, prefer products that are not over packaged (you know the one: plastics wrapped in plastic, itself wrapped in cardboard…). If there are too many of these items in your local supermarket, time to start campaigning! Write to the store manager and express your concerns – and convince your neighbours to do so as well.

Yearly Goals:

  • Become a toxic-free household. This might take a while in research, so plan to do it over the whole year. From beauty products to clothes detergent and computer parts, we have become used to toxics products in our daily lives. Time to stop it. When buying new products, check what they are made of, and pick the one that will have the least toxic residues.
  • Keep your electronics for the year. New cellphone? Must absolutely have the latest iPad? How about the newly released gaming console? Our consumption of electronics is reaching records. Make a break, and promise not to buy new electronics this year, unless the one you already have breaks down (and when it does, ensure it is recycled properly!).

I usually push my daily goals because those goals are habit forming. When it comes to the monthly goals, I’ll set time aside on the weekends to work on them. The yearly goals are scheduled where I’ll tackle them by picking a day of the week and focusing on one yearly goal. The good thing about the way the goals are organized, is that the daily goals are the hardest to tackle, but you get to continuously work on them throughout the year. The daily goals are more focused on personal reflections, so it’s a nice reminder to not forget about taking care of yourself on a day to day basis. These are my goals that I’ve come up with, What are some of your goals you’d like to reach in the upcoming year?

Check out some other Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions from some other fellow bloggers:

 

 

Rollup Christmas Tree

11.28.2017

0600

Materials:

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

Tools:

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

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

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

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

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

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Minimalist Christmas Tree

11.21.2017

0600

Materials:

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

Tools:

  • Measuring Tape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blogger Recognition Award

11.14.2017

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I am very happy to announce that Design Life Hacks has been nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award! After many topics and posts that I’ve covered, I’m glad that I still can create interesting content. 😊

What is the Blogger Recognition Award?

Blogger Recognition Award is given to bloggers by bloggers to encourage and acknowledge the hard work and effort that goes into creating posts. It’s an opportunity for bloggers to recognize one another for each of our contributions. A big thanks to Emilia Cantero Dieguez from The Green Choice for the nomination!

How my blog started?

Living in the Bay Area in California, located in the United States of America, life can be pretty stressful. Nationally, a middle class yearly income for a household of three people is considered to be between $42,000 and $125,000, according to the Pew Research Center. Low-income would be anything under $42,000 and upper-income is above $125,000. Here in the Bay Area, an income of $100,000 is now considered low income.

I believe that if I can share a design hack to make life more simplistic and easier to manage, I should. Transitioning into a zero waste lifestyle started this momentum for my blog. Living a zero waste lifestyle made life simple, cleaning became quick and easy, I even saved money and minimized the errands I had to run during my free time. My daily routine improved and I enjoyed going to work each day as well as coming home and relaxing. You can read more about my story here.

Two pieces of advice if you just start with your blog:

  • Schedule out what topic you want to talk about and how to correlate them with your social media. Also, stay on top of your social media.

  • Network, network, network… find bloggers who blog about similar topics as you and collaborate with them. Whatever the purpose of your blog , finding a community to share your ideas and posts with will greatly help expand your viewing statistics and increase visitors to your website.

My nominees!

When you are nominated, there are a few simple steps that you need to take to accept the award nomination. These are the guidelines:

  1. Write a post about your award

  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to her blog

  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started

  4. Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers

  5. Select up to 15 other bloggers to nominate

  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

Congratulations to all nominees! You are an inspiration to me! Once again, many thanks to Emilia, from The Green Choice, for nominating Design Life Hacks.

With Love Always,

Yen-Van Tran

 

How I Got Started

11.07.2017

0600

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San Francisco, it’s a beautiful city with so much history, it’s mesmerizing. This city made a significant impact on my life because my zero waste journey started with this city. I don’t share this story often, but I thought I’d finally give a background to how I started my zero waste journey seven years ago.

I had moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school. It was a big city with so many places, restaurants and activities to explore, I couldn’t even keep track of everything I wanted to do. At the time, I was working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for a large, and well know ambulance company.

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Fulton Avenue and Stanyan Avenue path into Golden Gate Park.

I had moved into a studio apartment in the Richmond District and it was on the third floor of a three story building. It was a beautiful studio. With hardwood floors and a cozy interior, I settled in. My building stood directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. It was an interesting location because on the weekends, the park was closed to cars on Saturdays, so the foot traffic was busy. I could also open up my windows on the weekends and I listen to the music performances from inside of the park. Since I was on the top floor, sunlight consistently illuminated my apartment all day and all year long.  I lucked out on that part because San Francisco can become very cold and foggy during certain seasons.

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One of the Golden Gate Park entrances off of Fulton Avenue. (at Fulton Avenue and Arguello Avenue)

I was raised and lived in the suburbs my entire life so living in a condensed large city was quite a new experience. All of my routines including grocery shopping, working out and even parking was new and took a bit of an adjustment. I parked on the street since my apartment didn’t have a parking lot. This is also how I learned to become a stealth car parking spotter. Understanding and knowing which streets you could park on in the city was a must in order to avoid parking tickets. San Francisco streets are each scheduled for street cleaning all week long on different days and at different hours, so you have to be careful of where you park, or you’ll get a ticket for blocking the street cleaner.

Living in San Francisco also introduced me to trash chutes. A trash chute is a smooth, open shaft in a multistory building, used to convey trash from upper floors to a collection room. My building’s trash chute could only be accessed from the exterior wooden staircase on the side of the building. From each floor, there was an door which allowed access to the staircase. The problem was that these doors were very heavy and never stayed open. It took quite a bit of effort to even open these doors and step out on the balcony in order to access the trash chute; it seemed that they were installed to slam shut. It could have been an issue with the spring on the door, but regardless, it took a lot of force to open the door and hold it open.

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San Francisco also separates their trash out into categories: trash, recyclables and compostables. Therefore, I had to separate my disposable items. This is where my problem lay. When I first moved into the apartment, I thought the trash chute was great. It was useful, accessible and being that I was located on the third floor, it seemed convenient for me. However, it only gave access to the trash bin, not the compost bin or the recyclables bin.

When I used the trash chute, my trash bag would bounce around the chute all the way down to the trash bin. It made quite a bit of noise and I thought that wasn’t appropriate since I didn’t know if my neighbors worked night shifts or slept during the day. So I would carry my trash all the way down the narrow exterior stairs. These stairs were very old and were designed to be very narrow. This meant I had to carry my three seperate bags directly in front of me. Some weeks this was not ideal since  my bags would be so full, so I had to take two trips. Taking two trips meant that I would carry two bags down together, let the stairwell door slam shut behind me, walk down the exterior stairs and throw my bags away, exit the side yard in order to enter my building from the front. I would then walk up the inside staircase to my apartment, and grab the last bag to repeat this routine. In order for me to throw away all three bags, I routinely had to exit my building twice and enter it twice; all the meanwhile walking up and down two sets of stairs. I didn’t like taking two trips just to throw out trash, so I decided that I had to eliminate one of the bags.

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This is where my zero waste journey began. In order to simplify my weekly “taking out the garbage routine,” I decided that getting rid of my trash bag would be the easiest solution. I had to first start swapping out all of my disposable items and figure out how to either replace the items with more sustainable solutions or eliminate them from my life completely. I decided to tackle all of my disposable items in the kitchen first. I started by swapping out my kitchen sponges for smaller washcloths, and then started buying food without packaging. That took a little bit more planning because I had to purchase glass tupperware and change my diet slightly. Changing my diet included giving up certain foods that came in packaging such as certain types of meat, candy, snacks and cereal. I switched those out for bulk snacks such as nuts, granola mixes, whole vegetables and fruit. I started eating whole grains for breakfast and really took solace in my progress towards a zero waste life.

Although swapping out disposable items meant that my laundry load would increase, it really didn’t increase by a lot. I went through my kitchen items and then moved over to my bathroom items. I paid attention to the materials of the items I was replacing my disposable with. I always tried to choose 100% cotton material, bamboo, stainless steel or glass. I then went through my clothes and started donating everything I didn’t need.

My journey to a zero waste life took about a year and half. It sounds like a significant amount of time, but if you think about auditing your entire life, there’s a lot of stuff to go through and get rid of. During my zero waste journey, I also started minimizing my life where I also implemented a minimalistic lifestyle.

I’m writing about this story of how I got started because truth be told, it started because I was lazy. That’s the honest truth. Each blogger has a story of how they got started and this is mine. A lot of bloggers tend to move towards this lifestyle based on their awareness of their own plastic use and it’s commendable that they started living with less plastic. I wanted to write my experience so that my audience may know that not all zero waste journeys need to start with fighting for the environment. Sometimes it happens on a fluke, a chance encounter, but that it’s very possible to live this way. I did notice the benefits of living a zero waste life as I dove deeper and deeper into it and the environmental impacts  became more evident as I continued on. But my story doesn’t start with an ethically conscious mindset. It started because the exterior stairs at my apartment building was too narrow to carry three bags down to the trash bin.

This is my story of how I got started to living a zero waste life. #truth

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Zero Waste Hallowen

10.24.2017

0600

Growing up Halloween has always been representative of dressing up and going out at night to trick-or-treat. As a kid, Halloween was a fun holiday for me because if all the free candy we would receive as we went out at night to go trick-or-treating. I didn’t grow up with much candy in my household so Halloween also meant that I would get to stock up on a large amount but I also had to ration my favorite candy pieces to last for awhile.

When I moved towards a zero waste lifestyle this holiday became slightly tricky. A lot of the joy I experienced came with the inevitable result of producing trash. All of the small wrappers of the individually wrapped candy pieces added up to a lot of trash. I wanted to figure out how to celebrate this holiday but still practice my zero waste lifestyle.

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There are three areas of each holiday I like to tackle: decorations, food and entertainment. For Halloween, you can decorate your spaces using

  • Reusable fall and Halloween decorations which you can pull out each year
  • Use dried leaves from trees in a bowl or a jar. I usually string rope across areas of rooms and I’ll hang  up the leaves using clothespins.
  • Use fresh fruit or vegetables as edible decor such as pumpkins and then once the holiday is over, you can even make delicious dishes using thm
  • You can arrange twigs and fall leaves in a vase
  • You can tie pieces of sticks together and create a wreath to decorate with colorful leaves
  • Any decoration that is compostable or reusable is a great option

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Food options can vary due to location, seasonal fruits and vegetables available.

  • Look for seasonal fruits and vegetable to make dishes with
    • Some seasonal vegetables to keep an eye out for:  pumpkins, winter squash, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, sweet potatoes
    • Some seasonal fruit to look for: cranberries, apples, pomegranates, and grapes
    • Search for recipes available on the internet for this seasonal favorite. Websites such as YouTube , Pinterest , All RecipesFood Network, Better Homes and Gardens and Taste of Home. If you’re anything like me, my searches always start with “simple” in front of my topic because I tend to lean towards simple ingredients and fewer steps when making dishes.
  • Bulk candy is also a great way to sneak in sweets during this holiday. A lot of bulk candy locations have a variety of options from chocolates to sour candies. The grocery stores I frequent have these options but my local movie theater has the name brand candy in bulk, that I love to eat as well.

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For Trick-Or-Treaters, consider handing out non-candy options. I’m still a big believer in feeding a child’s creativity so some of these items on the list are geared more towards art than just toys. During this season, children are usually in school, so if you hand out items they can use during school, it’ll also benefit the children. Here are some options other than candy, that you can hand out:

  • Crayons
  • Bouncy Balls
  • Play Doh
  • Coloring books
  • Mini notepads
  • Halloween Pencils
  • Mini slinkies
  • Bookmarks Pencils
  • Halloween Erasers
  • Hand out mini packets of herb seeds
  • Loose change such as dimes and quarters
  • Decks of playing cards
  • Compostable packaged snacks (crackers, raisins, pretzels, etc.)

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Entertainment can vary depending on what you have planned during Halloween.

  • Costumes
    • Check out costume rental stores, they always have a lot of variety and sizes to choose from, but remember to to check the stores early so there are more options available
    • Check out thrift stores for options of clothing to create your costume from
    • For families, check if you can swap costumes with neighbors, classmates or friends. You can even set up a costume swap meet if that helps get the word out.
    • Borrow clothes and items from friends, family or neighbors to see if you can assemble your costume and look of your character
  • Movies
  • Karaoke
  • Board Games or Card Games

Check out these other blog posts from some other Eco-Sustainable Bloggers:

I hope this list is helpful in creating a zero waste Halloween. If you choose to adopt only one of these ideas, you’re still helping the environment by creating less waste. It’s a step away from the standard Halloween traditions but it’s a more environmentally friendly outline for this holiday. Have a great Halloween!

Eco-Friendly Christmas

10.15.2017

0600

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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.

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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.

  1. Decoration Ideas:
    1. Seasonal
      1. Seasonal leaves, fruit, create a centerpiece suing branches and colorful seasonal leaves.
    2. Christmas
      1. Use existing jars filled with some seasonal and colorful leaves to decorate the table
      2. Use branches and leaves from outside to decorate the table surface

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  1. Zero Waste Food
    1. Consider using fresh fruits and vegetables as ingredients in your dishes. You can compost the skin or the non edible pieces after
    2. Buy your ingredients from the bulk aisle or bulk bins
    3. For ingredients that usually come in packaging, consider making your own homemade version or looking for it in paper, aluminum or glass packaging
    4. Share recipes or give the gift of different types of dishes to one another

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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.

  1. Gift Ideas:
    1. Compostable Gifts
      1. Food, snacks, bulk candy wrapped in reusable packaging or compostable packaging
      2. Buy bulk foods and create a recipe kit for a gift
      3. Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
    2. Gift of Goods and Products
      1. Consider checking out thrift stores to find a gift for the recipient
      2. If you want to give a new gift, look for gifts with no packaging or recyclable paper packaging
    3. Gift of Experiences
      1. Sporting events ( football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, etc.)
      2. Theme parks (check for local theme parks near you or near the recipient)
      3. Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing, etc.)
      4. Gift card or money for food & drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee, tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
      5. Gift card or money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining, etc.)
      6. Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
      7. Gift card or money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
    4. 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

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  1. Gift Wrapping:
    1. Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
    2. Fabric sheets or bandanas to wrap and tie around gifts
    3. For the larger gifts, I’ll use a pillowcase or really large bed sheets to wrap the gifts
    4. For medium sized gifts, I’ll wrap the gift in an extra t-shirt.

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Entertainment during the holidays can be daunting as well. Usually families have kids around or simply need entertainment playing while the day is happening. 

  1. Entertainment
    1. 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.
    2. 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
    3. 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:

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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