went minimalist and found space for what matters

Author: mamaadmin

A fresh start

What is it about a clean slate that I love? Is it the possibility of a new beginning? It is a clean crisp white space? Is it the optimism that comes with starting fresh? Is it theoretically erasing old mistakes or bad habits? I believe it is all of the above.

 

A new year is the opportunity to make better choices, to create more intentional habits. A new year is an opportunity for a brighter future. For me a new year is not an opportunity to fall into the trap of making a resolution that is surface level like I have so many times in the past… lose x lbs, workout x number of times, etc… only to fall into old habits a month into the year.   It is so easy to get sucked into resolutions that aim to change your exterior. What if the resolution aimed to change your interior?

 

I do much better with broader goals such as: I will always have a book that I am reading. I will continue to expand my knowledge in subjects that interest me. I will try to incorporate more meditation and reflection into my life. I will choose to create before I consume.

 

So this is what this post is about. Let the new year be an opportunity for self growth not an opportunity to feel worse about some exterior factor or a setting yourself up to fail. Why not create a resolution to watch less TV? To buy less processed foods wrapped in plastic? To go to bed with a clean kitchen so you can start each day fresh? To let go of items that no longer serve you? To bring along a reusable jar or water bottle when you leave the house? To remember all of your reusable bags when grocery shopping? To chose to shop fast fashion less? To begin composting? To write in a journal? To get outside every day?

 

Why not choose a resolution that can uplift you and create space for a cascade of positive change.

 

Happy 2019!

Reducing waste during Thanksgiving

 

This Thanksgiving is my first since beginning my zero waste journey. For the past three years we have hosted Thanksgiving at our home outside of Dallas.  This year we hosted my parents, both my brothers, and their significant others along with my family of four.  Everyone stayed for an extended period of time, my parents stayed almost two weeks!  It is such a wonderful time of year to reunite since we all live plane rides away in different states.  Our holiday was full of joy, game nights, outdoor time, group bowling, and even group yoga at my nearby studio.  While this was not a waste free holiday, it was a huge improvement from past years. For me it is not about perfection as I can only control me and I was only 1 person out of a group of 10 people.  But I have noticed others enjoying some of the switches we have made in our home.  #progressoverperfection

 

A few techniques we reduced waste this year included

  • Eating more plant-based sides.
  • Using compostable decor including pumpkins, acorns (from our local park), and fresh rosemary (from our garden) in mason jars
  • Omitting any single-use items (i.e. no plastic forks, plates, cups etc.).
  • Using cloth towels for clean up and a homemade all-purpose spray.
  • Composting all plant-based food scraps and food soiled paper.
  • Buying many ingredients from the bulk bins using reusable bags
  • Making almost everything from scratch including dairy-free corn bread and homemade bread
  • Opting for glass containers over plastic for items such as olive oil and grape seed oil
  • Opting for cans of broth instead of cartons for those recipes that called for broth.
  • Using cloth napkins that were gifted to me from Myrtlewood  (which were super soft and looked great on the table).
  • Saving turkey bones to make turkey soup the next day.

How have you reduced waster over Thanksgiving or other holidays?  For me focusing less on material items and more on “being” has gone hand in hand with my zero waste efforts.  Hope you had a great Holiday! I’d love to hear your suggestions on future blog post requests!

How I became a minimalist.

 

It all began with coming home from my son’s 3rd birthday and unloading the presents.  We are so fortunate to have many friends and a large extended family that care about our son… and who together gave him A LOT of presents.    The reality of seeing the amount of stuff brought into our home all at once was eye opening.

I knew I did not want to teach my son that things equate happiness. I felt anxious.  I felt as though our house (a large suburban home) was becoming over run with toys.  Our daughter was 6 months old at the time and she too had so much “baby stuff” lying around the house as well, (bouncers, blocks, blankets, clothes, bibs, balls, toys, etc.), most barley bring used. I felt as if my mind was bouncing from one item to the next, and I could not find the sense of calm I wanted my home to bring.   I began to separate toys that I thought were good learning tools, but I was kind of lost in how to get control of the situation as a whole.

I remember that a good friend had mentioned Marie Kondo’s book The life-changing magic of tidying up to me previously when I commented on her very neat looking storage closet.  I thought that might be a reasonable place to start. I devoured the book.  I began to follow her steps methodically and started to research other decluttering methods one after another. I felt like I was on a crazy decluttering spree, and it was all I could think about.

I was lucky that I was staying at home, my baby wasn’t crawling yet, and my son went to preschool 2 days a week. That toddler free time (when not tending to the baby) was my decluttering time.  I followed her phrase “does it spark joy?” However, I replaced her phrase “discard it” (if it does not spark joy) with ‘let go of it’. I knew even then that I did not want to fill landfills with things that were perfectly usable.  I proceeded to recycle, donate, and find new homes for so many of our items as I went category by category through our house.  Little did I know this was the beginning of a journey towards not only living with less but producing less waste (more on that in another post).

This minimizing of our possessions gave me a sense of control in the chaos of being a parent to two young children. I felt an energetic buzzing inside myself.   I began waking before the kids to continue getting the “things” out of our house. I felt a switch turn on inside me. I was now dedicated to finding simplicity and calm.  

I began to move on from Marie Kondo’s process to books on minimalism. The more I read about minimalism the more it intrigued me.  I had always thought I loved shopping.  I enjoyed the thrill of finding a good deal, or following the trends, and dressing in style, but it really did not bring me happiness. What it brought was a temporary boost in mood, satisfaction of the “hunt,” and then once the excitement wore off it only brought me a feeling of emptiness and even guilt.

The item of clothing would sit in my closet for years as I thought I would wear it again.  I had kept things because I was thinking what IF I needed them? What IF one-day it would fit better, what IF one day there would be the perfect event to wear it to.  What if I get bored with all of my other clothes? The reality was I needed so much less than I had.  The more I decluttered from our home, the lighter I felt.

The podcasts and books on minimalism resonated with me.  I knew I still wanted to feel good about how I cared for my family and myself.  I also knew I wanted my home to bring me calmness and joy, so there was a limit to how much I would get rid of.  I have found that it is all about balance and finding that balance is an ongoing and dynamic process.

I knew that you have to consume in order to live, however the excess consuming of goods is what I needed to put a halt to.  I found it was important to remember that more does not mean better.  More does not guarantee you are any closer to finding happiness. In fact, more typically means more obligations, more stuff to clean, more stuff to organize, more stuff to maintain, more stuff to think about.  When you free yourself up of the excess you can simply enjoy.  For me, the result of pursuing simplicity is being able to actually pursue my own interests and really do what speaks to my heart, as well as being able to be more present with my kids and husband.  

Traveling light

My husband and I took an eleven-day trip to Greece to celebrate his 40th birthday. Neither of us had ever been to Greece, let alone Europe together. It was such a wonderful way to celebrate and enjoy a kid-free trip. We are very lucky to have supportive parents and family who agreed to help with caring for our two young children while we took this trip.

 

Taking a trip like this together without the kids was a big decision. It took a lot of consideration and planning, but for us it was important to have some time to connect and experience this trip as a couple. It was also a perfect excuse to finally take the trip we had been talking about since we got married. We hope as the kids get a little older we can include them on more overseas traveling.

 

We both decided to pack lightly for many reasons, but the main one was not checking bags. We had a lot of flights, trains, buses, and even boats to catch. The last thing we wanted was to be weighed down by too much stuff we didn’t need.

If you are interested in packing lighter on your next trip, I highly encourage it. We did not check any bags, and even with that, I would bring less on our next trip. The key is to pack clothing that you really love wearing and find comfortable. Also, don’t be afraid to hand wash items that get dirty in the sink with a bar of soap and then hanging them to dry.

 

Here is exactly what I packed for an early fall trip to Europe (including what I did not need which is striked through). Below that is also a description of how to travel lighter in terms of the waste you produce while traveling (zero waste being the goal).

What I packed: 

1 pair of jeans

2 pairs of jean shorts

1 pair of white jean shorts

1 exercise outfit

2 bathing suits 1 bathing suit

1 linen white shirt

3 casual dresses 2 casual dresses

1 pair of gym shoes

1 pair of platform black flip-flops

1 pair of water sandals

2 sets of pajamas 1 set of comfortable pants and 2 shirts to sleep in

2 day time tank tops

1 dressy tank top

3 tee shirts

1 long sleeve cardigan

1 windbreaker

5 pairs of underwear

5 pairs of socks

4 regular bras 2 regular bras

3 camisole bras

1 straw hat

1 visor hat

1 necklace

1 pair of earrings

1 beach tote bag

 

Backpack:

2 to-go containers (one small and one medium size)

1 refillable stainless steel water bottle

1 set of stainless steel cutlery

1 stainless steel straw

1 cloth napkin

1 foldable reusable tote bag

laptop and charger (for writing only- so very optional)

journal

book (plus audible and kindle books)

ear plugs

shea butter for lips/moisturizer in a small container

1 neck pillow

 

What I wished I would have brought:

1 pashmina or wrap

1 small purse

 

 

A few zero waste hacks to reduce waste while traveling:

  • Refill your reusable water bottle whenever you see a water canteen or when you are at a restaurant
  • Put left over food from meals or snacks in your own to-go container.
  • Wash your water bottle or container in bathrooms
  • Use a bar of soap for body and clothes (and hair if it works on your hair type)
  • Choose sit down restaurants- they most likely have reusable plates, cutlery, and cups.
  • Say “no straw please.”
  • Bring your own bag if you purchase anything or put it in your purse/backpack
  • Don’t use the hotel toiletries and bring your own
  • Only buy items you think you really need or find to be useful
  • Do not buy gifts or souvenirs.
  • If you want to show kindness to a friend or family member back home, consider buying edibles: (candy from a bulk store, olive oil, wine, etc.).
  • Try to avoid shopping or places like malls and choose to go exploring instead

 

A final tip is instead of shopping remember to take lots of pictures and collect moments not things.

Zero waste: where to start

 



1. Look in your trash – What do you throw away? Is it actually recyclable? Do you actually need it? Could you purchase it with out the trash it creates (i.e. in the bulk food bins, glass, metal, or paper- all of which are easily recyclable)?

 

2. Compost – Research if your area has a service, if your farmers market will take food scraps, or compost on your own. I use an open air bin and put all my food scraps in there (minus any dairy or meat). You need 3 to one dry to wet. (or brown to green). So, I often put in shredded paper with the food scraps since we don’t have a lot of dry grass or leaves in our area.   It is surprisingly easy to maintain. I just dig a hole dump my food scraps in it. Then, I cover it up. We do not have any bug or pest problems. It does not smell which was the most surprising part of composting for me. If you do not have a yard, don’t worry there are indoor composter bins or worm bins. You can also just dig and bury your food scraps in your yard! The ultimate goal is for your compost to turn your food scraps and yard waste into rich soil.



3. Bring your own bags- Put them somewhere accessible. I keep mine in my car and a collapsible one on me.   This includes reusable produce bags as well. Even when on errands like the pharmacy or a clothing store you will be surprised how many bags you can refuse just by carrying one or putting your item in your purse/diaper bag.

Reusable produce bag link

 

4. Change your buying habits- Research alternatives for each item you currently purchase in plastic. This is an ongoing process so don’t get discouraged. See if you can purchase an item second hand.  Also, rethink what you purchase.  One example is the cleaning supplies you use. Do you really need 20 different cleaners with toxic chemicals to clean your home? Odds are a combination of vinegar and water will work on almost any surface in your home!  Here is a vinegar cleaning recipe I use daily:

Soak used citrus peels in a jar of white vinegar (purchased in a glass container) in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

Combine that with water in a spray bottle (1:1 ratio)

Spray as a disinfectant!

 Glass spray bottle link

 

5. Be prepared- Bring your own drink and food container. A simple jar could cover both areas. For example: When you know you will go out to dinner remember to bring your own to go food container.

 6. Be ok with saying “No thank you”  any times Freebies come with a cost to the environment. Think grocery store samples, the free promotional gear at work events, the free plastic cup, or the free toy at the dentist. If you refuse it, it will hopefully reduce the number produced next time.



7. Make it yourself- Is there something you buy in plastic that you can make yourself? A few items I currently make myself are my cleaning sprays, laundry detergent, tortillas, bread, muffins, facial toner, eye make up remover, lotion replacement, soup broth, cookies, almond milk etc.

8. Be proud- Every little step you take to reducing the amount of trash you make is a positive step. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are not perfect. We do not live in a zero waste world so just do the best you can and feel good about the steps you are taking.



______

A few followers messaged me the following questions regarding zero waste.  I will share the responses here so that others can learn as well:

 

Q: How to compost in the winter:

A: The same as the summer! Food scraps may be frozen but they will decompose once everything thaws.

 

Q: What to do about allergies and cross contamination in bulk bins?

A: Your health is number one. I would never suggest you do anything to jeopardize you or your family’s health. That being said, my son has multiple food allergies (nuts, fish, dairy, and eggs to name a few). We have shopped in many different stores using many different bulk bins and never had an issue. Obviously use your judgment. If the scoop is shared with other bins then that could present a possible cross contamination risk. In recent memory most bins have a scoop attached to the bins themselves. Also, pay attention to the location of the bins in relation to the allergen. For example, if the rice is right next to the peanuts and your child has a peanut allergy, you may want to skip the rice purchase. Also, all bulk bins are labeled with ingredients, and if it is made in a facility that processes certain ingredients.

 

Q: How to get meat plastic free:

A: Go directly to the butcher counter and either bring your own container and have them tare the weight of the container first or ask them to wrap the meat in only paper.  I believe most butcher paper is coated in a fine wax or oil that can be composted afterward.

 


 

10 Steps to Jump-start your Decluttering Journey

 

Minimalism: Where to Start


  1. Read

Check out a list of books here to read to learn more on decluttering and living with less. Try to resist the urge to start decluttering before at least doing a little reading so you don’t end up discouraged or making common mistakes.

 

  1. Envision

What do you want out of this process? What do you hope to feel when you come home? Create a vision board on pinterest for what you want your space to look like. Write down why you want to declutter. Come back to this when you get discouraged.

 

  1. Sort by category

Marie Kondo suggested this order: clothing, books, miscellaneous, and finally sentimental items. I will note a few suggestions. Only start a category that you will be able to finish or be ok with the mess if you cannot finish it in the given chunk of time that you have. This was the hardest part of decluttering initially for me. I had to do it all on limited time chunks (#momlife). I ended up breaking it down further into smaller subcategories to be able to finish the category in the allotted time for that day. (for example I did just towels one day, another day I did just sheets, another day I did just makeup, another day I did just utensils, etc.).

 

Toys sorted by category

  


  1. Make it a priority.

If you really want to change this is crucial. I skipped social gatherings, I simplified our schedule, I consolidated errands, etc. during my initial decluttering. Believe me it will be worth it. It may take you months, but you can do it especially if you truly want to. And in the end I really liked having fewer things on my schedule and errands to run.

 

  1. Donate/rehome/sell

Please do not throw away your unwanted items. Sort them into piles of items you want to donate, rehome, sell, and recycle. There really should not be much trash if any from the process. Make frequent trips to your donation center. Fill your car each time. It will be shocking and liberating each time.

 

  1. Halt your purchasing

It is important that during this process of decluttering you really don’t buy much of anything new. It will just cloud your vision and make the process more confusing.

 

  1. Say “No thank you” often

Just because it is free does not mean you need it. Say no thank you to that free coffee mug, to that bag of hand me downs, to the goody bag, to those work freebies. When is the last time you actually enjoyed using any of those items? You will just have to get them out of your house eventually anyway so save yourself the time and just say no thank you.

 

  1. Change your purchasing habits

Be a conscious consumer. Put thought into what you are buying after decluttering. Does it align with your values? Ask yourself why before you buy.


  1. Continue to donate

Just keep a bin accessible and once it is full go donate it and start again. Think items such as clothes your kids grow out of, extra cups you never use, that vase you never wanted in the first place, that gift that you don’t love, etc.

 

  1. Remember it is a journey

It is SO much easier to continue to buy and buy and buy than it is to sort, sell, donate, and finally put away all of the “stuff” that you have purchased. It will take time. All of those items did not show up in your home in a weekend so be kind to yourself. Know that it is a process.


 

Too may toys?

Children need space to be creative. Too much stuff can actually be over-stimulating to little ones.

A study from the University of Toledo observed 36 toddlers by inviting them to play in a room for 30 minutes with 4 toys or 16 toys. The researchers found that the children were much more creative when they had less toys available to them. These children also played with each toy for 2x times as long. The study suggested an increased number of toys may create more distraction.

“When provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively”. – Dr. Carly Dauch in the journal Infant Behaviour and Development.

I saw this repeatedly when providing speech therapy. Bringing too many options or toys would lead a child to jump quickly from one thing to another without focus. I would need to hide items until we were ready to use them. If everything was accessible, the child would be less attentive and productive than if only a few toys were available.

 

I myself feel over-stimulated when I am in a space with too much stimulation (i.e. a crowded indoor mall or electronic store)… Or even when there are lots dishes in the sink, music is blasting, and both kids are hyper. In my own family, I have found the fewer toys we have, the more my children play with them and the more creative they are with the ones they have.

Fewer toys means that you can be selective with the ones you bring into your home. You can possibly invest in quality items that will grow with your child, as you are saving money on not buying cheaper toys all the time. You will likely find that, in fact, you spend less money on toys overall as your child learns to play more creatively with non-toy items (i.e. kitchen measuring cups, egg cartons, dad’s hats, the dog’s food, etc.). Or you may find that you can thrift quality wooden toys (think blocks, wooden animals, baby cradle, etc.) at a fraction of the cost. And along the way be kinder to the environment by not using new resources.

Family counselor Kim John Payne was quoted in the book New Minimalism saying “Too much stuff deprives kids of leisure, and the ability to express their worlds deeply…We are the adults in children’s lives…we can expand and protect their childhoods by not overloading them with the pseudochoices and the false power of so much stuff.”

 

As the parent you are the one in charge over what comes in and what stays in your home. It is important to have open conversations with your children about your choices. For example, when choosing to donate unused toys, explain to your child that you are donating them so that another boy or girl can play with them. Explain to them that having less stuff means that you can play outside more. Explain to them that you want to spend less time cleaning and organizing and more time being with them. Also, explain to them that that if they find a “new” carefully-chosen item or toy, there will be a spot in your home for it. Remember to include your child in the process of decluttering if they can handle it (think maybe 4 or 5 years and up).

 

MOST importantly try to change YOUR buying habits to prevent too many toys from just “appearing” in your home.

 

The following quote really resonated with me during my decluttering journey whenever I felt overwhelmed: “It is better to own less than to organize more.” –Clutter free with kids by Joshua Becker

 

 

TIPs on toys to donate or rehome:

  • Toys your child only dumps on the floor and never seems to play with (there goes half of your toys already, right?)
  • Toys that, once completed, they are done. (Think building or craft sets that can only make one thing).
  • Toys that are motorized and thus reduce your child’s creativity and physical play (think motorized ride on toys or remote control cars)
  • Toys that your child has outgrown (store a few quality toys for younger siblings if you like, but the key words are a few)
  • Electronic toys with loud noises and lots of buttons (kids have their whole adulthood to play on their phones…)
  • Duplicate toys. If you have 40 stuffed animals… consider pairing them down to a few select loved ones. (I believe we currently have 3… all of which live in my daughter’s crib).
  • Toys that reduce your child’s creativity (think plastic play food… it’s so much more creative to imagine there’s a pancake on your plate than to go searching through hundreds of plastic play food items to find it).

Remember childhood is a season. Lets try to enjoy our children as much as possible by reducing the distractions cluttering our thoughts and spaces.

___________

 

A simple birthday

A simple birthday

Children want our attention and love. Most of us correlate that with the giving of material items. I have been on a journey to simplify my family’s life to allow us to enjoy the little moments more. Oftentimes, I look to my four-year-old son as a shining reminder of what is important.

When I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday he said “Yo quiero estar con tu, Dada, Daniella, y Abu y Dodo y Tia Nanny” (Rough Translation: I want to be with my family). That’s what he wanted: to spend time together.

A year and a half ago I threw him a large 3rd birthday party. I used Pinterest, I prepackaged fruit cups, I bought lot of balloons, I rented a large space, I bought lots of pre-made food, I bought lots of single use plastic cutlery and plates, I bought take home gifts, in other words did what a lot of us have done routinely to some degree.

My son’s party last year

After all that work I looked at my son during the party and he seemed be unconnected and almost in a daze. 

Fast forward to his 4th birthday: we opted to do a casual gathering in our neighborhood park with a few neighbors and guests that my son selected. I sent a quick text message to those friends and stated “no gifts please.” Short and simple.

I made some fruit skewers and homemade banana zucchini muffins for the gathering.

Zerowaste birthday snacks

I bought a handmade piñata from Etsy as my son expressed excitement when I talked to him about the idea of having a piñata. And I included my son in the process of filling it (which according to him was the best part of the birthday- the experience of doing something special together). We filled it with low waste, plastic-free items: crayons, chalk, raisins in boxes, a few lollypops, chocolate coins, a few rubber bouncy balls, and some silicone bracelets. And that was it for the “party.”

Piñata fillers

This simplified birthday allowed us to focus on what is important: celebrating completing another year of life. I was not stressed about putting together goody bags of things that would quickly end up in the trash. I was not out buying one time use décor or balloons that often end up going directly in the garbage bin, or ordering fancy cakes and entertainment, I was not stressed the day of and was able to enjoy the birthday boy who multiple times through out the day looked at me with sheer joy and said “Mommy you are the BEST.”

The decision to not buy him anything was an easy one. I am trying to create a culture in our home that does not revolve around buying more. It is so easy to be convinced that buying more equates to happiness and success as we are surrounded by that message day in day our through countless advertisements. Digital Marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day.   That’s just crazy and pretty much completely out of our control.

It is clear to me that new things do not equal happiness when I watch my children with new toys. A new toy might give them entertainment and temporary thrill, but almost always that toy just ends up in a pile unused. It becomes another item to pick up and clean, another item for them to dump on to the floor, another item cluttering your thoughts. Children seek out attention, love, and new experiences. The association with stuff equating happiness is something that is learned and not inherent. Yes, we need things to survive as consuming is living, but these things can be thoughtfully purchased or acquired and not as an impulse buy because you think you need it, or you think you should have it, or because you think it will bring you happiness.

Yes. I gave my child nothing physical for his birthday. But what I did give him is my attention, a new experience, and an afternoon to be surrounded by people who care about him. We went out for pizza after the park gathering, baked a cake together at home, and sang to him in the evening. The look of wonder and happiness in his face glowing in the candlelight of birthday bliss said it all… simplicity may in fact be the key to happiness.

 

 

14 tips to have a simpler children’s birthday party

  1. Request no gifts please (make a specific thought out list for relatives of things your child needs to wear, read, or create).
  2. Ask for experiences over things- for example classes, memberships, gift certificates to favorite places (think restaurants ice cream place, water parks, etc.).
  3. Instead of gifts you could have people bring donations to a specific charity or donate to specific cause.
  4. Create an education fund for your child and have a link on your invitation.
  5. Use an evite/text invite or hand make invitations out of your child’s artwork.
  6. Do not give out goody bags – how often does your child use those items? You could opt for a book exchange instead.
  7. Use reusable décor, opt for very simple décor, or hand make simple reusable décor with your child.
  8. If weather permitting opt for an outdoor party (easier clean up- and fresh air makes everyone happier- in my opinion).
  9. Use reusable plates, cups, napkins etc.  – You could get some second hand or borrow from friends.
  10. Bring your own recycle bin/compost container to the party to reduce the waste created.
  11. Bring a large water jug and refillable cups instead of juice boxes and water bottles. (You could bring a pitcher of lemonade/tea too).
  12. Have your little one participate in planning the party as much as possible.
  13. Invite fewer people. Ask your little one who they want to have at their party (after all it is their party).
  14. Most importantly: Enjoy the moment as your little one will never be this age again.