a thrift haul, & 1-in-1-out

I have been paring down and donating so much this year, so it feels weird to bring much back IN to our house. But my shopping habits, even when thrifting, have changed a lot. Everything has to be functional and plastic-free. I keep a second-hand wishlist where I write down anything I want to shop for. I always refer to it before shopping. Some of these items weren’t on the list, but they are still pretty and functional (and plastic free/zero waste).

I love a good thrift haul, so I am going to start sharing them here. This week’s latest haul was a big one – $71 – which is a LOT for thrifting. But I brought home lots of good stuff:

FullSizeRender(2)

On the list:

  • 15 dinner plates & 20 dessert plates – all mismatched, yes! However, I decided that rather than buy disposable dishes for entertaining (when we need more dishes than the 12 place settings of Fiestaware that I have) I would keep a collection of funky, mismatched dishware to use for this purpose to mix in with my existing dishes. I just picked all neutrals, blues, and greens and I think they are so beautiful. I have a couple of parties in the works, so I’ll put these to use soon!

IMG_6138

  • Two pairs of pants to replace my work pairs that looked just horrible (they were once secondhand as well and have seen way better days).
  • A pair of flannel PJ pants I am going to cut up for a project/gift..
  • A dress to wear to an upcoming wedding (my original Ebay’d dress didn’t work out. Always a risk to order clothes online that you can’t return – oops!).

Not on the list:

 

  • A big basket – because who doesn’t need another basket? This wasn’t on my list, but I liked the size and handles. I will probably stain it with a slightly darker stain. (If I can’t find an immediate use for it, I may use it to hold a gift for Christmas or something. The thing about thrifted baskets is they are cheaper than a new paper gift bag – and obviously way more reusable!)
  • A big wooden bowl and a small wooden pillar holder. These weren’t on the list either. These are just for year-round seasonal decorating purposes. I thought I’d put mini pumpkins from my garden in/on them this fall, then possibly plant succulents in them later. I’ve gotten rid of SO many decorative items. Now I just want to rotate a few seasonal items from nature (compostable) or plants.
  • A wooden bird house. Total impulse buy, but a fun one (for $2). Hannah and I love looking at the bird houses at the Nature Center, so I thought she’d like working on our own. We will paint it together and maybe glue on some random costume jewelry I wanted to upcycle rather than donate, then we will donate the finished bird house to the Nature Center next spring!
  • A cute silky kimono. I’ve been wanting a kimono since the trend started, but they are always sweatshop made (or I can’t afford them). I was stoked to find one secondhand. It’s be favorite new item (even if I do need to fix a seam first..).

I keep a “1-in-1-out” list on my computer. Whenever I bring in a new item, I add it to the left. Items going out are on the right. My “out”list is MUCH longer, currently. But I do still try to get rid of one item for each new item anyway – I am still wanting to pare down our items, not just maintain the number of items we have.

However, I am not going to try to get rid of 35 items to make up for the dishware! They are solving wastefulness of disposable items, so I’ll just count it all as one item. I am also not counting the PJ pants, since they are just to use as the materials for a gift. So, I have 9 items to part with after this trip. Those are:

  • My two pairs of old work pants I was replacing (2)
  • A dress I originally bought for the wedding (reselling on Ebay) (1)
  • Two clothing items of Hannah’s (not in great shape, but donating anyway..) (2)
  • 1 plant pots I haven’t used (1)
  • 2 picture frames (2)
  • A decorative item (1)

I keep a box or bag in my office to accumulate these items, and make a monthly donation run (except items I am selling or giving to people I know, which I try to deal with within a week if possible). So far I’m loving this method for controlling clutter. It keeps my impulse-buying in check, as I have to think about what I want to get rid of at home in place of a new item. I also rather love that I am getting rid of more than I accumulate overall, and want to keep it that way for a while! I still have some areas of the house yet to tackle so my “out” list will be growing again soon; my eventual goal is to only have what I use and love in my home.:)

 

paper love (& hate)

I write this post to keep it real. When I follow zero waste bloggers, I can feel like I don’t measure up. But writing my own posts, I want to make sure I’m not only highlighting the victories and practices that I’ve mastered. I just want to write about how I’m being mindful; not perfect, but at least living with the intention of doing better. I have a love/hate relationship with the term “zero waste.” I understand that it’s an intentionally high bar – getting as close to zero as possible is the goal. But it can also make me feel inadequate or hypocritical when I don’t achieve perfection. But truthfully, I don’t even want to. I simply want to be the queen of my own castle. I don’t want toxic plastics, unsolicited junk mail, or sweatshop-made clothes taking over my life. But I’m ok with consumption that feels purposeful and truly makes me happy.

Stationary, journals, planners, scrapbooking.. I’ve always been partial to paper. My favorite gifts are of the paper variety, to give and get. I like tech to a point, but when documenting life or making lists, paper is my go-to. Productivity apps – I’ve tried them all – don’t cut it for me. Partly because my office was in a high-security (i.e. no cell phones and outside gadgets) facility, so I couldn’t fully rely on them. It was always paper and it’s likely that for me, it always will be paper.

I’ve tackled most other household areas by now; paper remains one thing I’m so tethered to. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot as I phase out the wasteful products in our household – is it ok for me to justify all the paper? I’ve decided that for me, it is. To a point. But whether it’s good paper or bad paper, it all comes from trees. I’ve decided to take a look at what I feel ok justifying and where I can make some real changes.

bookshelf

  1. Books. I’ve made a big dent in this already this year. I got a Kindle for Christmas, which I LOVE. My library loans eBooks that deliver to my Kindle, which means my YA fiction can be read on the DL. (It’s a truly great time to be alive.) I still love physical books though, but again, my library is so great. I have donated many books in 2016, but have only bought one second-hand. One strategy that made it easier for me to part with the books taking up my shelf space was determining how difficult they’d be to find at the library. No more hoarding books I may never read (or re-read). The picture above shows the remaining books I own (aside from about 20 cookbooks in the kitchen). This is less than half of what I had a year ago (but let’s not discuss Hannah’s growing collection of books..)
  2. filoOrganizing/Productivity. My lists. My Filofax. Nothing else does the trick to making me feel in control of my day than keeping a paper agenda and to-do lists; I don’t think it will change. I have used planners since the 7th grade. My notes, calendar, lists, contacts, work info, ideas, doodles, etc. all fit in a small binder, and my supplies in a small canvas riggers bag. As far as hobbies go, it’s a minimalist and functional one that keeps me sane. Sorry, trees. I am, however, trying to lessen my gravitational pull toward stickers and embellishments, instead working on my doodling skills. (A girl’s still gotta decorate all the things.) I also avoid over-printing the fun printables, and use scrap paper for notes instead of post-its and virgin paper.
  3. Recipes. I am a recipe printer. I know, the shame! I have a binder of favorites, knowing if I save them on whatever device I found it on, I’ll never find it again. I have failed at having a digital method that makes any sense. Not only that, but when people give me hand-written recipes or I tear one out of a magazine, or I copy one down in a notebook, they all have to go somewhere. I need to make it a goal for the near future to tackle this digitally or at least vow to only print recipes that are either zero-waste or absolutely critical to the happiness of someone in the family.🙂
  4. hannah paintKid Art. This is a legit category in my home already! Hannah loves all things artsy, and I don’t want to ever discourage that. We use the backs of bills and junk mail, and single-sided print outs, and random stuff from the recycle bin, in addition to always having coloring books on-hand. I am going to try to use up everything we have before getting anything new in this category. It’s tempting to, with a desire to support all creative whims, buy all the supplies! I need to remind myself that the alternatives are truly more creative – nature crafts and using what we already have.
  5. Memory Keeping. No technology will replace physical photographs and albums. I love looking through old albums and I want to pass them on for future generations. I’m currently working my way through preserving memories from our wedding (2005) to present, as well as Hannah’s baby book, using the Project Life system. Scrapbooking can get pretty out-of-hand when it comes to supplies, but Project Life relies on printed papers and pockets for photos so there’s no need for extra embellishment. All my supplies used to take up several totes and drawers, but now fits in an IKEA Raskog cart. My ultimate goal is for all my paper crafting supplies to fit in this cart (I still have some using up and donating to do, but I’m not too far off). My albums are kept on the IKEA Expidit (also shown above).
  6. Magazines. I am kicking myself for signing up for all those free subscriptions last year! I haven’t cancelled them, as they are all ending soon(ish). But I currently subscribe to 6 or 8 magazines. I read them then pass them on to others (ripping out a few things here and there). I need to cancel them all. I also recently went through all my hoarded magazines, donating and recycling most. I haven’t been able to part with my back issues of Domino (from their first printing life in the mid-2000s). I’m not sure why, but I still love flipping through them! Maybe one day soon I’ll part with them.
  7. Bills, statements, etc. I have requested e-statements and e-billing where at all possible, but that doesn’t mean we prevent all the paper. It’s crazy that some places offer auto-pay but still send paper statements! UGH!
  8. Junk mail. Beginning now, and for about 2 weeks, I’m going to keep all junk mail in a stack, then spend a couple of methodical hours demanding that it’s stopped. This means phone calls or returning some forms with their prepaid envelopes. I’ve already put my name on the lists to stop junk mail, but much of ours comes in the name of prior owners of our home! It’s been 5 years! I’ll do a post on this battle later. I also recently found this post detailing how to stop unwanted phone books (which is all of them, as far as I am concerned). I haven’t applied the tips, but I plan to.
  9. Gift-giving/cards. I’m a re-user of gift bags and tissue paper, so when you receive a gift from me there’s a 98% chance the gift wrap was previously used. As I run short on it now (as my family and friends have so lovingly been gifting me with unwrapped gifts(!), I am not replacing. I have a good stash, so it will be a while before I come up with clever zero waste gift wrap. I also have a pretty good stash of paper (upcycled and otherwise) to make cards from. Until the Christmas season, this will be an area that will be easy to prevent waste. While I love and appreciate beautifully wrapped gifts, I never perfected the art anyway. So I guess now’s the time to practice the art of beautiful zero waste gift-giving.
  10. Work paper. The final frontier. I wear many professional hats, but all my tasks seems to require so.damn.much.waste. I’ve implemented many electronic systems, but I can’t entirely avoid the paper monster. One way to avoid as much as possible is to print everything possible to PDF and save to my hard drive. I also call vendors who want a faxed PO, requesting to email instead (mostly out of necessity.. I don’t have a fax machine). I do all the supplies ordering for my offices as well, and while I’ll never convince everyone to bring their own mug instead of purchasing those paper coffee cups, I can at least request minimal packaging, buy in bulk to cut down on the packaging-to-product ratio, buy items made from recycled paper, and pick up what I can locally and deliver when I go into the office anyway (reducing the carbon footprint where I can). None of it’s ideal, but at least it’s slightly better. I’ve got a long-term goal of proposing less wasteful practices, but I haven’t actually gotten around to it yet. Does anyone have any tips on this?

As with all categories in my life, this once seemed overwhelming. But now I actually look forward making a significant dent wherever I can (and then continue to refine and improve).

So this is going to be my zero waste focus for the month of August. Here is my to-do list; I will update at the end of the month with how much progress I’ve made.

  1. Ensure I’ve signed up on all junk mail lists (for myself and my husband).
  2. Apply the phone book opt-out tips here.
  3. Hoard any/all junk mail, paper statements and bills for 2-3 weeks, then spend the time making phone calls, sending emails, and returning postage paid envelopes insisting to opt out.
  4. Cancel all the magazines I am subscribed to.
  5. Find something to propose cutting out at the office, or at least look into some alternatives to make the office a bit greener (where I can control it).

 

 

 

zero waste bathroom cleaning

Bit of a boring topic, but we all have to do it, so I’m going to talk about my zero waste bathroom cleaning method. I rather enjoy bathroom cleaning, actually. Years ago I stopped using all toxic cleaners (in favor of Mrs. Meyers brand). Now that I’m trying not to generate waste, I’ve made another switch to some really simple, but just as effective products.

cleaning

My entire arsenal of supplies includes vinegar (poured into a spray bottle from a glass bottle in the kitchen // baking soda in a jar (bought in bulk bins) // tea tree oil (melaluca- I don’t usually use my dōTERRA oils for this, but I ran out of the less expensive one) // a wooden toilet brush // Norwex mop, envirocloth, and window cloth // basic rag.

If you aren’t familiar with Norwex or other e-cloths, they are worth looking into. I love mine. I know I’ve had them for 5.5 years because I was texting my order to a friend while I was signing the mortgage paperwork for our house, and they are still holding up great after using them many times a week. They are made with a technology that allows you to clean with just water (antimicrobial silver is woven into the fabric); and if you rinse between uses and hang up, they are ok to use again (although I do not use the bathroom cloth in the kitchen, nor clean the toilet with them ever). There are other similar brands out there I cannot vouch for, but might be worth a bit of research if you go this route. They are a bit expensive upfront, but I know they pay for themselves over time (especially if you cut out commercial cleaners).

IMG_4146

Here’s my process:

I start from the top down, so I wipe the mirrors with the envirocloth, then polish with the window cloth. Then I wipe the faucets and shine them. I use the envirocloth to wipe down the sinks and counters. Admittedly I don’t clean the shower and tub each week. I am lazy! But when I do, I use the envirocloth to wipe it down as well. Occasionally I need to use some baking soda on the soap scum and scrub with a Norwex mitt or scrub brush. Then I rinse out the Norwex rags and hang it to dry so it can be used once more before laundering (since I only do laundry weekly). YES this is ok to do with Norwex because of their antimicrobial properties.

Then I spray the toilet and toilet seat all over with vinegar and wipe down with my regular rag. I flush the toilet once, then sprinkle baking soda in the bowl, and put a drop of melaluca in the water. I spray the inside of the bowl with vinegar and let sit for about 2 minutes, then scrub with the toilet brush and flush.

I wet the Norwex mop pad and mop the floor. Sometimes I’ll drop a few drops of essential oils on the mop pad first so the bathroom smells fancy for a while (like if we are having company). Again, rinse out the mop pad and hang to dry so you can use again before laundering.

The whole cleaning time-frame is about 10-15 minutes (for our Master bathroom and small bathroom).

I have a really ghetto method of hanging things to dry! I keep a collapsible clothes drying rack standing in our bathtub. It’s always there unless people are coming over that may use that bathroom or want to tour our house for some reason. Or I am cleaning or using the tub of course. Generally you will find some combination of drying wash cloths from showers (before putting them in the hamper), bras I’ve hand-washed, and my Norwex cloths/mop pads. It’s not pretty, but it’s functional and out of the way.

keeping a second-hand wishlist

Thrift stuff

One of the best things I’ve done since trying to live zero waste is to keep a running second-hand wishlist in my Filofax. As I replace plastic items in my household, wear holes through my favorite hoodie, or think of any random thing I need, I write it on the list to look for a used option (or remember to ask around to borrow).

Today I had a donation run to make to my local charity thrift shop. After we dropped off a good SUV trunk full of stuff, we went in to look for a few things on my running list. Today was a great haul! – I found most everything on there (above), including:

  • Two laptop sleeves (for my personal laptop and work laptop)
  • A simple black leather cross body purse (trying to achieve that small and efficient capsule wardrobe..)
  • A basic black hoodie (to replace the one I parted with that was in terrible shape)
  • PJs for my growing girl
  • Wooden cooking utensils
  • A glass half gallon water pitcher (I just need to find a cork lid)
  • A ceramic sugar bowl

The total for my haul was a whopping $12.50. Man I love thrift shopping. I am trying to only buy things that will last for the long haul, so it’s taken a bit of willpower to not just buy any/all second hand stuff I like (like I used to do) just because it’s cheap. My 1-in-1-out rule definitely helps.

Another great thing about my running list is that by delaying purchasing things, I will many times come up with an alternative and not need to buy it in the first place. Or the desire for whatever it is will pass. I kind of love it when that happens; it feels like putting money back in my pocket somehow.

messy thoughts.

There are days I feel like the world is just a string of senseless tragedies. Some far away, others just down the street. When you empathize without knowing what you can actually *do* to make this world better, to help this world to heal, it can be a constant exercise in frustration and hopelessness and insomnia. There are so many problems. So much pain. So much hate. My heart goes out, I grieve silently and rage silently.

When tragedies occur that we cannot comprehend, we look at life through a different lens, at least for a while. It’s hard to take seriously the unimportant drivel deemed “news” when the Big Bad is looming. I don’t begrudge people for needing distractions in this world.  Numbing the mind is a time-tested coping mechanism. I get it. I do it. I funnel my frustration and outrage into something I can see. I more intently cling to my family and love on my dogs. I crank the music and make soup and rearrange the furniture and essentially hermit up from the outside world, wishing I could keep us there.

And then I crack the door when I remember everyone else I love on the outside, and become re-fueled by anger, that these tragedies can touch everyone and destroy for varying stretches of time- make us forget-  the good in the world.

A dear friend and I were talking about this the other day – both of us very much bleeding hearts – tired of hearing about problems we cannot only not fix, but even begin to understand. What do we do? What will be done if everyone feels like us – that change is out of our hands? If not people like us, who?

I cannot begin to understand the fear a black man may feel when confronted by the police, nor the fear a police officer must feel as he or she does their job each day. I don’t know what it’s like to be gay, where simply being true to yourself incites disgust and rage in complete strangers. However, I assume the experiences by those different than me are real, and true, and equally valid to my own. This, I believe, is all that is meant by checking your privilege.

Like most of the world, I’m all too often grieving and wanting justice for those I don’t know, in my own way. I’m sorry, to all those lives cut short, to all those grieving families and friends. To those the system has failed, and those who were unfairly punished for sins of those who looked (or wore uniforms) like them. Those with an underlying fear they could be the next statistic or hashtag.

Please everyone, let’s stop this.

33 years & when your people come through

My birthday was yesterday. I have to admit that I was cringing at the idea of my birthday this year. Not the aging part – 33 is a cool number and a favorite Smashing Pumpkins song (1996 4eva!). But as I’ve been trying to eliminate extra STUFF in my life, and move toward an eco lifestyle, I was afraid that birthday gifts would throw me off track.

I was worried that I’ve failed to convey my zero waste goals to my immediate circle. I talk about it here and Instagram about it occasionally. I am walking that line of always wanting to start up the conversation with people without seeming abrasive or superior or like a weird hippy. I want to be an example, but I don’t want to come across as inflexible or ungrateful! I don’t want to make people feel guilty. Ever. And so, with a birthday looming, I didn’t want to suddenly have to tell people how to shop (or not shop) for me. The idea of that was just too weird.

Well, my family and friends were amazingly gracious, and I should have known. They could write a guide – all my gifts were nearly zero waste! I received Amazon gift cards (so I can buy things I need and download books for my Kindle), beautiful potted flowers, a mason jar mug, a hand crank butter churner, hand crocheted dish cloths and Swiffer duster covers, cloth napkins, a metal tiffin, a hanging fruit basket (from my Pinterest wishlist), and a wooden sign for my garden. Most of my gifts were unwrapped. My sister-in-law wrapped the metal fruit basket in a cloth scrap from her fabric bin. The crocheted goodies were given to me in an upcycled gift bag.

Amazing, right?

Everything is functional and infinitely reusable. Thinking about how grateful I am that my people *get me* makes me a little weepy. A bit silly, I know. But I just appreciate them so much!❤

zero waste coffee {addiction}

Coffee is the one thing I have every single day, without fail. I always start my day with a cup or three. So it was one of the obvious things to apply zero waste to quickly. I absolutely love how simple and elegant zero waste can look, and my coffee habit is no exception. No more plastic containers with words printed on them to assault you every time you open the cupboard. No more disposable paper cups. Ahhh.

ZW coffeeI make my coffee at home in an unfancy Mr. Coffee coffee maker. If I were looking into buying a coffee pot now (as in, now that I am trying to do zero waste) I would probably look for a used appliance or invest in a good French press. But I am using what I have.

I buy my coffee beans in bulk and grind them at home. At my grocery store, organic beans cost the exact same as regular, so it’s a no-brainer. But even if it costs a bit more, it’s worth it to buy organic when you can. I simply use one of my bulk bags, writing the code on the outside with a washable crayon. Then I bring them home and store the beans in a mason jar. (If your store allows you to weigh and tare your jars you could skip the cloth bag step and buy them directly in your mason jar.) I grind enough for a week or so at a time, keeping the grounds in another canister near my coffee pot.

I make my own coffee creamer with almond milk (which I make with my Vitamix), sugar, and homemade vanilla extract (and sometimes a pinch of cinnamon). Sometimes I just use milk and sugar. As our milk is delivered in returnable bottles, both are zero waste options (except for the milk cap). (PS, I don’t have that cream and sugar set in the collage above, but it’s so beautiful isn’t it?) There are actually bulk powdered creamers at my grocery store, but I’ve given up creamers – the ingredients just seem TOO sketchy. It wasn’t as hard a habit to kick as I thought it would be!

I have replaced paper filters with this gold tone mesh filter. I paid $5 for it and it should last indefinitely. Each night when I set up the pot for morning, I scoop out the coffee grounds from that morning into my compost pail and just rinse the filter out with hot water. I hand wash the filter a couple times a week when I am doing other dishes. I run white vinegar through my coffee pot to descale it, about once a month (then follow up with clean water to get all the vinegar out). It works like a charm. (I then use the hot vinegar to clean my sink and inside of the microwave.)

IMG_3153My owl mug makes me happy every day. It was a spontaneous no-reason gift from my sister-in-law and brother, and I use it nearly every morning. Also, I’ve gone through a lot of travel mugs in my day. But I love this basic Thermos mug. It actually keeps coffee hot for most of a day and is leak-proof. I donated all our other travel mugs, so we now have one hot beverage mug and three stainless water bottles now – one is a small one for Hannah – as opposed to a cabinet full of plastic crap.

On the rare occasion I go out for coffee, I take my Thermos mug with me and I’ve never had a barista tell me no; in fact some places will give you a slight BYO discount. If you’re a coffee drinker, it’s truly one of the easiest places to go zero waste. Good thing, since it’s my addiction..

One more tip – if I have leftover coffee I save it in a jar in the fridge and use it to make afternoon pick-me-up smoothies sometimes. I blend about 1 cup of cold coffee, one cup of almond milk, some ice, a tsp of cocoa powder, and a frozen banana. It’s DELICIOUS.