went minimalist and found space for what matters

Tag: minimalist

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.



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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.

 


 

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.

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