why I don’t live in a tiny house.

less is the new more

When you want to change your life, you first have to accept where you are right now. I talk a lot about my goals to live zero waste and become more minimalist. While I’m not perfect, those two goals have shaped most of my decisions and efforts for more than a year, and that alone is progress.

However, I don’t want anyone to think I am hiding anything or being hypocritical. I don’t want the fact that I don’t yet live like a minimalist to detract from talking about my eventual goals. We all have to start somewhere. I’ve read about couples who decide to become more minimalistic and one day they sell most of their possessions and move into a tiny home or an RV. I read their blogs and follow their Instagrams! The beauty is they can work less, and live more. It sounds like the dream. I live vicariously through these bohemian spirits from my big ol’ suburban rambler and wonder why I didn’t find this inspiration earlier.

But I think the thing is, you have to have an “enough is enough” epiphany. And usually to get there, you have to have hit a point where your life just doesn’t FIT YOU anymore. And then, when you share that life with others, you have to compromise until those others have the same moment (if ever). It will be a long process for us, and I am accepting that.

So here’s the deal.

I have a 3400 sf house in the ‘burbs. Because a couple of years ago we finished our basement in time for my brother-in-law’s family to stay with us, we now have 6 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and 1.5 kitchens. We have a 3 car garage, two vehicles, a big fifth wheel camping trailer, and 3 tvs. We are not exactly living the minimalist lifestyle I daydream of constantly.

Believe it or not, though, it was actually a practical decision to buy this house. Our mortgage is now our only debt (as of last year). This house was government-owned when we bought it, and needed a LOT of love (despite being a few years old). But it was steal, we had equity from our last fixer-upper, and we knew it was a good investment. I don’t think I ever thought we’d live here for long. But now that we are closing in on our house being “finished,” and realizing that with a finished basement, this house is ridiculously huge for us, we’re in a weird place. At least in our area, we cannot downsize any time soon, without paying MORE. We could downsize and downgrade, yes, but ideally we would want to live in a smaller house with a bit of land, in a safe neighborhood. That criteria doesn’t much exist unless we wanted to have a larger house payment than we currently have. It doesn’t make sense for us any time soon, because we are in such a good situation financially with our too-big house. It’s a weird (First World) “problem” for a wannabe minimalist such as myself.

I think we’d make the switch for the right place. Even if we weren’t getting the square-footage bang for our buck we have with our current home, we’d do it if we loved the house, neighborhood, school district, etc. At least I would. But so far we haven’t found that. Perhaps one day.

In the meantime, I don’t want to feel like I can’t still chip away at my goals of having a simpler life. Just because I have more house than we need doesn’t mean I need to fill it. When we finished our basement, we doubled our square footage, but we only bought a couple of items; and I’m even in the process of selling off some small furniture pieces we have had stored away. We will have two completely empty bedrooms, and many of our other rooms will be pretty sparse. I’m ok with it. I like the space, and feeling like everything can breathe.

Even though I get overwhelmed and impatient sometimes, I like the process of easing into a more minimalist life: decreasing our possessions, increasing the value of our home with our DIY-spirit, committing to less, focusing on our long-term financial goals. All of those things will make us more free to jump on an opportunity to downsize when the time is right, whenever that may be.

my minimalist dining essentials

So earlier I blogged about our kitchen revamp and some plans for minimizing and streamlining my cooking and baking supplies. I am back with a post on my minimalist  dining essentials. Until I started listing all my kitchen items, I never realized how much I still have! Since my last post, I’ve unloaded about 10 more items (through donating and selling locally).

Everything on my dining essentials list, and my last post about my minimalist cooking and baking essentials, are of the “buy once” mentality. The idea is if you invest in good quality, timeless stuff, you won’t have to switch out and upgrade constantly! As things in my kitchen need replaced, I am replacing with the mindset of only replacing it this one last time – so I’ll invest in things that will last forever.

It’s so easy to go overboard collecting dishware. It’s functional art, after all. If you love it, keep it. But if you are out of space or don’t use half of your stuff, it’s always a good challenge to pare down. A good tactic may be to pack up anything you aren’t sure about, and if you don’t retrieve anything from the box in 6 months to a year, consider selling or donating it.

Here is my absolute dining essentials (these are not the exact items I own, this is just my #goals collage):

mnmlst-dining

  1. Entree plates and dessert plates (mine are Fiestaware and I also have a “set” of mismatched thrift store plates and dessert plates for when I have a lot of people to feed). If it did it over again, I’d forgo the Fiestaware; while it’s fun, I actually find the rainbow explosion of color kind of limiting when I’m trying to go for a minimalist aesthetic..
  2. Wooden serving utensils.
  3. Cloth napkins. I only have everyday ones, but I plan to make or buy a set of nicer napkins for entertaining.
  4. Stainless flatware.
  5. Basic (nesting) small glass tumblers that work for water, juice, and cocktails. (No fancy bar ware collection needed.)
  6. Soup bowls.
  7. Stemless wine glasses. (These copper ones are amazing! I’m not sure if I’d miss the clear glass; currently I just drink my wine from small jelly jars, but I may start acquiring proper glasses.)
  8. Mugs. I’d love a collection of handmade mugs. Boo to perfectly matching mugs.
  9. Serving bowls. The soup bowls and a nice mixing bowl can also perform the job when entertaining and serving multiple dishes.)
  10. Large platter. (Extra dinner plates, a wooden cutting board, and small prep bowls can be used for serving appetizers.)

I listed most of my additional kitchen goods in my last post, but I didn’t mention that I also own the following serving/dining items (the asterisk (*) means they are on the chopping block):

  1. Gravy boat*
  2. Nesting bowls*
  3. A long melamine platter*
  4. 2 misc serving bowls
  5. Stainless ladle
  6. Stainless serving spoons
  7. Stainless serving spatula
  8. To-go dining items like stainless water bottles, stainless coffee cup, metal tiffens, glass food containers, bamboo utensils, and a stainless lunch box. This kind of stuff is pretty critical to minimizing trash, but does tend to take up real estate..
  9. Toddler food dishes, utensils, and cups (I could further pare down the cups). We are using RePlay brand dishes which are sturdy and made from recycled milk jugs. In hindsight I wish I’d have invested in stainless dishes, but I won’t be upgrading, as ours are perfectly functional for as long as we will need them.

This post (and my last) are the kinds I wish I’d seen when I first began to set up a household. Do not trust the wedding registry suggestions, the “off to college” guides, etc, unless they were written by minimalists! Had I invested in good, classic, multifunctional cooking and dining items 15 years ago, I’d have saved myself a bundle of money, not to mention all the resources. For example, now on my 4th set of skillets in 15 years, I finally invested in cast iron, which means this set will actually outlive me.

What’s on your must-have list?

a fresher, lighter kitchen

Fun news: we are revamping our kitchen this month! We moved into this house 6 years ago, and we always planned to make the kitchen nicer. But I am weird, and I settle in/nest where I am, and have been perfectly content with its imperfections. But now that we are rolling, I am really looking forward to the new-and-improved space! On the agenda is staining the cabinets, replacing the tile, tiling a back splash, and getting solid-surface counters. My husband is doing all the work (minus counter installation). For the sake of later comparison, here’s what the kitchen looked like (this was a while ago, but the finishes are the same):

kitchen2

While our kitchen’s torn up, we have moved into the basement, where we have a second kitchen area with some refinished secondhand cabinets. (My brother-in-law’s family used our basement for a couple years while they built their house). The basement kitchen is much smaller, so I am taking this opportunity to pare down to the very basics for now. This means fewer place settings, only a handful of gadgets, utensils, and bake ware, and a pared down pantry. (The irony is not lost on me that I am striving for a minimalist kitchen while having TWO kitchens in my house, trust me).

downstairs-kitchen

Right now I LOVE my smaller, efficient kitchen, multi-tasking tools, and simplified menu plan. It’s a great lesson to remind myself how little I really need to cook for our family. I’m always happiest when I can simplify! It’s inspired me think about how I’d set up my kitchen now, knowing what I now know. Obviously it’s not practical to just discard and replace everything I already have, when it’s all perfectly functional. But I am definitely thinking about my eventual goals for our kitchen, especially now that it will be spruced up and sleeker. So my plan is to keep everything additional packed away (except for food), even after we move back in upstairs; I will get out other items as I need them, but if they are still packed away in six months, I’ll seriously consider parting with them (some maybe sooner if I can sell them).

I thought I would do a few posts on setting up a more minimal kitchen, if doing it from scratch. Today I’m focusing on just the cooking-related items. I will do a later post for dining essentials and cleaning essentials! Here are my essentials for cooking (I don’t own all of these exact items – this is just my #goals collage):

mnmlst-cooking

  1. A nice wooden cutting board.
  2. Wooden cooking utensils, a silicone spatula, and a metal whisk.
  3. Kitchen scissors for cutting greens, herbs, etc.
  4. Three good knives.
  5. Stainless measuring spoons.
  6. Stainless measuring cups.
  7. A box cheese grater.
  8. Glass prep bowls. I have various sizes from a thrift store and I use them all the time.
  9. A medium cast iron skillet.
  10. A graduated, pouring measuring cup.
  11. A heavy mixing bowl.
  12. A metal colander.
  13. An enamel Dutch oven. I have this exact one from Lodge, and I love it. I use it all the time.
  14. Salt and pepper grinders.
  15. Mason jars (and other glass/stainless storage) for pantry item storage, produce storage in the fridge, leftovers, picnics, taking food to people, and to drink from when hosting large groups (so you don’t have to store more glassware).
  16. A good food processor. I love my 9-cup Cuisinart. I’ve had it for almost 10 years and I still use it regularly.
  17. Stainless pots. I have 2, but 3 would be more practical.
  18. A glass French press. I love my Mr. Coffee, but French pressed coffee does taste better..
  19. A Vita-mix or other blender. I use ours almost daily for smoothies, and also to make almond milk, peanut butter, dressings/sauces, and grind coffee beans.

And my baking essentials:

mnmlst-baking

  1. A half sheet baking sheet (and cover)
  2. Cooling rack
  3. Rolling pin
  4. Silicone baking mat
  5. Baking dish
  6. Loaf pan
  7. KitchenAid stand mixer
  8. Bread machine (yes, I really do use mine weekly!)
  9. Silicone muffin cups

I own far more than those items. I also own the following probably non-essential items (the asterisk (*) means they are on the chopping block):

  1. A toaster*
  2. A juicer*
  3. Deep fryer (given to us, never used)*
  4. Yogurt maker*
  5. Electric mixer*
  6. Tea kettle*
  7. Second 9×13 baking dish*
  8. Tart pan*
  9. Multiple loaf and mini loaf pans*
  10. Mini muffin pan*
  11. Tortilla bowl makers*
  12. Ramekins*
  13. Stock pot*
  14. A citrus juicer*
  15. Sifter*
  16. Tortilla press*
  17. Pizza stone*
  18. Nesting mixing/serving bowls*
  19. Mesh strainer*
  20. Salad tongs*
  21. Multiple silicone spatulas*
  22. Dough scraper*
  23. Cocktail shaker*
  24. Tea ball*
  25. Sun tea jar*
  26. A toaster oven
  27. Belgian waffle maker
  28. Crock Pot
  29. Kitchen scales
  30. Immersion blender
  31. 9×9 baking dish
  32. Muffin pans
  33. Donut pan
  34. Large cast iron skillet
  35. Cast iron pizza pan
  36. Second cutting board
  37. Tile trivet I use as a cutting board for garlic
  38. About 10 various knives
  39. Vegetable peeler
  40. Can opener
  41. Jar opener
  42. Ice cream scoop
  43. Small metal colander
  44. Silicone tongs
  45. Pasta server
  46. Ladle
  47. Silicone flipper
  48. 5 cookie cutters
  49. Pastry brush
  50. Cork screw
  51. Wine stopper
  52. Various BBQ tools
  53. Cooking thermometer
  54. Mortar and pestle
  55. Nut milk bag
  56. Silicone bowl covers (to replace cling wrap/tin foil)

I wouldn’t consider any of the above items to be critical to a kitchen, but many are really nice to have for my particular cooking habits (like the second cast iron skillet, silicone bowl covers, nut milk bag, and cork screw).  But looking at the list, there are plenty of duplicate-function items. Silicone muffin cups eliminate the need for muffin tins; we don’t need a toaster AND a toaster oven; we don’t really need two colanders AND a mesh strainer AND a nut milk bag; I can boil water without a kettle… The trick will be figuring out the most versatile items to keep.

What do you think? What’s in your ideal kitchen? Am I an insane person for listing out what I own? (Don’t actually answer that).:)

new habits in 2017

planner2017

Happy 2017! I am always anxious to start a new year. And 2016 was just particularly hard – and I know I’m not alone. It was just a sucktastic year in many ways. (Yeah, if you live in the U.S., and depending on your personal and political views, 2017 is shaping up to suck even worse. But I am going to try and stay positive anyway and at least put energy into things I can control.)

2016 was my year of zero waste. I started the year with a detailed plan of what I was going to accomplish in each month of the year, but I didn’t follow that plan at ALL. It didn’t make ANY sense to keep buying single use items and plastic-packaged stuff until I came to the month I was going to focus on it. That was not well-planned on my part. The good news is, I accomplished even more than I set out to. It’s NEVER happened before that I’ve completed and exceeded a New Year’s resolution. I think the reason is that it wasn’t something with a set end-date, but a lifestyle change that just made sense to me. It’s not even goal-motivated anymore; it’s just what I do. I love it.

In 2017, I am going to focus more on creating habits and routines. Rather than make statements like “In 2017 I’m going to ____” I am just resolving to set aside some time each week and each month to schedule appointments with myself for specific things. Basically it’s a way to use my planner to accomplish some of my goals in weekly and monthly bites. It was pretty easy for me to identify what I have done well in (downsizing possessions, being more social, going zero waste, etc) and done poorly at (taking time for myself and making time for one-on-one time with my husband). So my goals this year will focus on some of those things.

For example, I want to do more yoga. So every Sunday I’m going to spend a few minutes scheduling a yoga appointment for myself that week. If I plan a set day for something, I’m much more likely to follow through. So my plan is to spend time each Sunday planning a time/day to schedule time for my weekly goals. And then at the beginning of each month I’ll spend a few minutes planning or scheduling time for my monthly goals. I have a reminder written in my planner at the beginning of each month to schedule/accomplish these things, so I won’t forget.

My weekly habits will be:

  1. Identify and plan a new “learning theme” for the week for Hannah. (Each week I’ll come up with a subject or theme for the week, picking up some library books and planning a few activities to reinforce the theme. This is a kind of pre-preschool thing I want to do with her.)
  2. Meal plan for upcoming week (I’ve been doing this already, but it’s a habit I want to build into my weekly planning session specifically).
  3. Schedule one yoga session.
  4. Schedule time for one creative project – either new or work on something existing. Just identify it and set aside the time for it each week, even if it’s only for 30 minutes.
  5. Plan and execute one blog post.
  6. Work on planner spread for the week (with time for these goals blocked out).

My monthly habits will be:

  1. Schedule a “sanity day.” (Each month I’ll take part of a day to myself to do whatever I want! This involves arranging childcare in advance and making an appointment with myself!)
  2. Schedule a date with hubby (I need to arrange child care and make a monthly plan for couple-y time we desperately need!)
  3. Schedule a family day (or at least a fun activity to look forward to) that we commit to.
  4. Choose and read at least 1 book.
  5. Go over previous month’s budget, and create a new one for the month.
  6. Review upcoming holidays/gifts needed and plan accordingly (to accomplish zero waste gifting).

Best wishes for 2017, everyone!

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).

 

 

 

recapping my first 6 months of zero waste.

FullSizeRender(1)It’s hard to believe that 2016 is halfway over! I feel like it just started. I’ve been doing monthly updates about my zero waste progress, and while I’ve made some really good long-term changes, in other areas I’ve faltered a bit recently. If I compare myself to so many of those great zero waste bloggers, it’s easy to feel like I am not doing all I can. There are some inspiring people out there living a zero waste lifestyle. They set the bar and keep me motivated to do more. But it’s all a process. I feel good about everything done so far.

Rather than write a May recap post, I thought I would recap the first half of 2016 and set some goals for the rest of the year. As I looked through my lists of goals and accomplishments, I noticed that not all the things are technically aligned with zero waste, but more general minimalism. I could be a complete hoarder while living zero waste, but that’s not how I wanted to do it. It’s taking me a while to go through my stuff, eliminate excess, and sometimes replace things that will make a long term impact in my waste reduction. My goal isn’t just to stop adding to landfills, but also to simplify my life by reducing clutter (and keeping it out). I still have a ways to go, but I am getting there.

I’ve effectively stopped contributing to the landfill in these areas:

  • Boxed hair color and rubber gloves (stopped using)
  • Conventional tube toothpaste (DIY) and plastic toothbrushes (for compostable)
  • Teeth whitening strips (stopped using)
  • Face moisturizer and night cream (for drops of rosehip and jojoba oils)
  • Most makeup and hair products (stopped using)
  • Shaving cream (using up expired sunscreens and body wash in place)
  • Eye makeup remover pads (for flannel pads and coconut oil)
  • Tampons and pads (for reusable menstrual cup and cloth pads)
  • Dryer sheets, fabric softener, ammonia and bleach (I use wool dryer balls, and stopped using the rest)
  • Commercial cleaning products (for Norwex cloths, vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils)
  • Dish soap (DIY castile and essential oils)
  • Plastic grocery / shopping bags and produce bags (reusables, eliminating purchases in clam shells except on a couple of occasions)
  • Plastic wrapped toilet paper (for some wrapped in paper, shipped in a cardboard box)
  • 75% of plastic and tin food packaging I was previously bringing home(changing my shopping and cooking)
  • Plastic straws (stainless steel)
  • Disposable dishes and utensils (reusables, bento box, metal tiffin)
  • Paper towels and napkins (cloth napkins and rags)
  • Ziplock bags and plastic containers (mason jars and Pyrex)
  • Plastic wrap (beeswax wraps)
  • Coffee filters (metal reusable)
  • Water bottles, soda cups and coffee cups (BYO reusable)
  • Food scraps (compost or to feed the chickens or ducks)
  • Books (library or Kindle)

I’ve made the following lifestyle changes:

  • Experiences over things – I keep my toddler’s toys edited to a *relatively* small number (she still has PLENTY but I try to put a cap on it) and instead we enjoy library toys, play group, her cousin’s toys, toys at the gym daycare, and of course we DO THINGS. Our favorites are the Nature Center, playing in the garden, art projects, parks, picnics, and visiting Grandma and Grandpa. I use her old baby bath tub as a water table on the patio and it’s her favorite! With the toys she does have, I rotate them regularly to keep them interesting.
  • Tiny wardrobe – I’m still working on this, but I reduced my wardrobe significantly to only what I actually like wearing. I am down to about 40 items (not including workout clothing, camisoles, pajamas and underwear). I could do with a bit less, probably, but that is the number I was left with after purging the things I didn’t really love. This works for me since I only have to go into the office occasionally. The biggest change here is I don’t have a seasonal clothing stash hidden away any longer! Everything I own is hanging in the closet and there’s plenty of space to spare.
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  • One-in-one-out – With all purchases, if I buy something non-consumable, I have to donate or recycle a similarly categorized item. This has been so helpful separating the needs from the wants; now I generally only purchase something if it’s to replace something else.
  • Monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) decluttering – This year I’ve sold or donated tons of clothes, shoes, kitchen items, disposable items I replaced with reusables, DVDs and CDs, books, craft supplies, linens, décor, and just extra STUFF.
  • Almost plastic free – I eliminated plastic containers and baggies (I donated and gave away the unused stuff and still wash and reuse the few I already had until I can invest in more glass containers) and a huge chunk of plastic food packaging. I donated plastic kitchen utensils, colanders, bowls, cups, etc. and replaced with glass. I replaced Teflon pans for cast iron. I purged toys with the most toxic plastics. I’m not completely done, but the worst offenders are out of the house.
  • Essential oils – I’ve been using oils for about 5 years now, but I’m getting more educated on them and practicing with them. I am working toward replacing more products with them and using them to keep the air in our home purified.  Currently I use oils in place of headache meds (about half the time; sometimes they don’t do the trick), bug spray, countertop cleaner, toilet cleaner, floor cleaner, sleeping aids (I used to take melatonin), and perfume. I use them in lots of other ways as well, but those are ways they help with my zero waste efforts.IMG_5323

Goals for the rest of the year:

  • Products I will eliminate or swap for ZW by the end of the year (I’m still using up what I already had):
    • deodorant (by making my own again)
    • lotion (making my own again)
    • razors (switching to a stainless steel men’s safety razor)
    • shampoo and conditioner (not sure what to do here..)
    • most makeup (just by giving most of it up)
    • laundry detergent
  • Lifestyle changes:
    • Cook mostly vegan again. The majority of our garbage is now wrappers from cheese and meat. I can almost completely avoid packaging with all other foods. I need to do this for my health anyway.
    • Be more diligent about zero waste toddler snacks. I’ve given in to simple packaged snacks (yogurt, crackers, etc) too often lately because I’ve been so busy and we’ve been on the go a lot lately. Gotta organize and prep better on the weekends!
    • Gift what I preach. I have a hard time extending ZW to my gift giving. I feel like there are expectations and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I’ve done a BIT better this year than previously (reusing gift wrap, seeking out eco toys, limiting wastefulness within the immediate family) but I could do SO much better here if I planned ahead. Much of the problem is I don’t begin early enough. Birthdays and holidays seem to sneak up on me. It’s a horrible excuse.
    • Bring my own plates, cups, forks, even my own food if I have to. I’m not great about ZW out of the house when doing social activities.
    • Be a better refuser/be more vocal about my goals. I find it hard not to just graciously accept all things handed to me. To include little old ladies handing out samples at the grocery store, flyers, coupons, free magazine subscriptions (the guilt that keeps on giving), free samples, or well-meaning friends giving me things they don’t want but think I do. I need to learn to say no.
    • Extend ZW to my workplace. I am the card holder so I buy all the supplies for the office. It is TRAGIC to me that I keep having to buy Styrofoam cups and plastic spoons in huge quantities. I am considering a proposal to buy everyone a nice reusable mug and utensil set…
  • Big goals:
    • A really well-planned ZW holiday season. I’m anticipating that it will be the hardest time of the year to keep motivated and focused. But I am looking forward to the challenge!
    • Potty train the kiddo. Fingers crossed, no more diapers by 2017!

The most surprising thing about this transition to zero waste is that it’s not that difficult once you organize your life slightly differently. It took some real motivation and time early on to examine my habits and figure out the best way to make the most impact. It also took patience; I wanted to use up what I already had or get it out of the house in the most responsible way. Most of that work is now done which means I can move on to the other areas of my life. Every little thing makes a difference!

Thanks for reading my monster post! Feel free to ask questions of give me any tops you’ve got. I (obviously) love talking about this stuff.

start where you are.

earth dayI think the biggest hurdle for me to making changes is it can feel hypocritical or pointless because I’m not a blank slate. I’m talking specifically about my zero waste goal, but this can (and does) apply to other things in my life.

I live in the suburbs, in a big house with a big lawn. We own two vehicles (and neither are hybrids). I look at it all and sometimes think that because I’m not making the BIG changes, like moving into a tiny home, or replacing my lawn with naturalized flora and edibles, my little changes are worthless.

But then I remind myself that kind of thinking is what got our planet into this mess. The thinking that because we can’t do everything, that we shouldn’t do something. Or that you have to be perfect to begin. Or that because someone else does less than you that you are absolved from doing more. THAT thinking is worthless.

For one, little changes add up. My last grocery trip: prevented lots of food packaging waste; helped a local business; added healthy, real food to our weekly menu. That’s not small. I love the quote about how every dollar you spend is casting a vote for the type of future you want. It’s true, and this week I voted for sustainable food and packaging options; local businesses; organic and sustainable small businesses.

For two, we can never say never. I might never live in a tiny house. But maybe this living with less lifestyle will inspire more and more gradual, sustainable changes that will ultimately lead to bigger ones in the future. Maybe we will move into a smaller house (I already want to, but it’s not in the plan for the family right now). Maybe I’ll run for a local office to make changes in the community. That sounds absurd to me right now, but once upon a time so did I lot of things that are now part of my daily life.

For three, you never know who you might be inspiring with your actions. The butterfly effect is real. Even complete strangers I follow on Instagram can make me want to do a little better. I’ve implemented their ideas only to have my real life friends impressed and inspired. It’s pretty amazing!