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).

 

 

 

life right now.

Life has slowed down, and it’s good. I just celebrated my 31st birthday camping with my little family of five (counting the dogs, of course), and I’m currently enjoying the beginning of my third week as a part-time-work-at-home mom! A lot of thought and planning went into the decision to stay home, and I know I made the right one. It’s a big change, financially and otherwise, but it’s a good one. The offer to stay working a bit from home was the icing on the cake. I feel so lucky to still have a toe in work-life for the extra income and resume fodder.

sahm(source)

That doesn’t mean it’s not still hard. Being a SAHM has to be one of the hardest jobs. I mean, we all know that but it’s hard to know just how taxing it can be to feel like you aren’t being productive, yet still staying incredibly busy all day, til you do it. As someone who can’t sit still and can’t stop making to-do lists, it’s a real mental adjustment. But every day is different. I am in constant view of a sweet baby and her funny sounds and gummy smile. I won’t miss the big or little things. Someone said the days are long but the weeks are fast, and that’s exactly the truth of it. Hannah is almost 5 months old and I while I feel like I’ve aged 10 years in those months, I still can’t believe she’s that old!

I’ve got lots of plans for productive things to do while I’m in my semi-retirement. But not much is happening now except spending time with my girl, taking walks and hanging out in the garden, taking naps together and teaching her about the world. It’s perfect.

unnamed(My coworker & office)

Post topics to come: adjusting to one income, keeping sanity as a SAHM, and a billion-and-one cute baby pics.

green your lunch (@ the office)

Do you take a lunch to work? I read something that said the majority of workers go out to eat for lunch every day, costing an average of $2,000 per year. That’s insane! While I do occasionally go out to eat, most days I bring lunch from home. Leftovers, a quick bento, or a sandwich usually do the trick, plus a few snacks.

Using the bento system has seriously greened up my routine, as it’s a no-waste system that doesn’t require plastic utensils or little Ziplock baggies of anything getting tossed out after your meal. But I’m not perfect and still end up using too much packaging in my daily routine when I’m not planning ahead well. So I decided to do a little post on how to green up your meals at the office to inspire myself and maybe you, to do a little better (kinda like my “green your grocery shopping” post I did way back). It all adds up!

green your meals at the office

Some ideas:

  • Use a Bento box (I use the one shown, which you can get on Amazon), or if it’s an all-in-one meal, a mason jar is awesome! I especially like the short, squatty ones for this.
  • A small tote makes a good lunch box if you have a fridge at the office (no need to have an insulated cooler).
  • BYO silverware. I have a bamboo set and I love them! I use them all the time, but if they are in the dishwasher I toss in regular old silverware with my lunch. I hate plastic utensils!
  • Invest in a couple cute, dishwasher safe travel cups, water bottles, and mugs. And use them.
  • DIY your snacks. I’ve been making our own “Lara Bars” and they are SO easy if you have a food processor. Just chop up some dates, dried coconut, and cocoa powder, then heat up some brown rice syrup and almond butter – mix together and press into a pan. After a couple hours in the fridge, cut into squares to take with you on-the-go! I will have to do a proper post on this because I’ve made lots of fun variations and they are better than the store bought kind, and wayy cheaper.
  • Take whole fruit, and keep a paring knife at the office to cut up the fruit at your desk. No need for brown apples in a throwaway baggie!
  • Make your coffee at home. Extra points for fair trade bulk beans and a reusable coffee filter. 🙂

Any ideas I missed? Any on-the-go conveniences you can’t seem to give up? For me it’s definitely coffee; I only hit up a coffee shop occasionally, but I NEVER remember to bring a travel mug on those days. Must be better! I feel so guilty every time I get a disposable cup (even though I do try to recycle it!).

priorities & pie charts. {& unplugging the television}

This week I start my very last class in my MBA program. By mid-May I will be school-free. That doesn’t just mean less time in class and studying and writing papers. It also means enjoying things more because the should-be-studying guilt won’t be there. Or planning things I really want to do because I won’t be worried if my next class will be too time-consuming to add another commitment to my plate. I am SO ready to move on to the next phase in my life. It got me thinking about how I currently structure my time, and how that could potentially change.

Which of course means pie charts. Naturally.

I thought about all the things I currently do with my time in a week, and estimated the hours spent. I even added some things to the list that, while I do them, it doesn’t really factor into my weekly average significantly. Of course, everything’s a guess, but I imagine it’s pretty close to this.

Current State

Anything of note? First, with sleep and work taking up over half of life, everything else is crammed into the other 43%. And that’s with not getting enough sleep. While I do appreciate my employment status and a dual income, my job is just a job to me, and that’s a bit depressing to think about.

Taking care of the household cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, meal planning, yard work, etc. takes up a lot of time. I feel like it’s about the second priority in my life – making sure the house is clean is second only to work (because I have to be there) and comes before school (because I can’t focus on studying in a house that needs cleaned). So it’s really no wonder social time is rather low on the scale of importance, including time with the hubby. Although we have been hitting the gym together lately in a sort of multitasking scheme of mine to spend more time together, really it’s only the drive to and from that we spend any time talking. And TV/movie time is usually husband-adjacent.. but that’s all it really is.

Probably my biggest revelation was my estimated 16 hours a week spent on entertainment-related screen time (blush). That doesn’t account for my office job (in front of a computer), homework time (in front of a computer), and gym cardio time (in front of a bank of ~20 televisions). I’m far too wired in. It is so easy to fall into mindless leisure time, then wonder why I never feel truly recharged. I wonder if I could talk husband into unplugging with me…

This exercise actually made something very clear. It’s no wonder that my life often feels out of balance. I spend 65% of my waking hours doing things I dislike, and the remaining time is comprised of things I feel really neutral about (like watching tv)!

In fact, if I made a list of the things I think about while I’m supposed to be working, studying, sleeping, cleaning, etc, it’s more like this:

  • Opening my own shop. Maybe online first?
  • Planning a garden.
  • Traveling.
  • Books I want to read.
  • How can I be a better Earth citizen? Help people? Help animals?
  • Friends I never see anymore.
  • Immersing myself in ____ (insert random creative hobby here; currently I’ve been wanting to try stained glass).
  • Saving money.
  • Throwing parties.

That in mind, I decided to do the same thing but allowing more time for things that make me happier, move me towards my actual life goals. Here is my near-future ideal state (because my distant-future ideal state is TBD):

Ideal State

Sure. My ideal state still includes work and laundry because those things are necessary. But I would love to eventually work fewer hours while I devoted more time to planning for my future possible business (more later). More of my work hours would actually point me in the right direction. This could take some real negotiating to make happen, but my place of employment is more flexible that it’s ever been, in part because budgets are tighter (and fewer hours are easier to negotiate than more money).

With school wrapped up, working fewer hours, and devoting less time to mindless time wasters like watching TV and reading blogs (ha!) I could theoretically get more sleep, do more creative things, spend more time with my husband and be more social in general. I also have worked in more fitness variety, some volunteer work, and time to read/write, which, I currently only really do in theory but not practice (sad).

Of course it’s simple, and embarrassing that it took a pie chart to realize why I am stressed out. I started to think about balance. Remember Freshman Psych? Hello, again. Which facets of life balance are missing in my life, and why doesn’t watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons 1-7 really fit in any of them?

balance-wheel

There are things I feel are actually missing from my life.. appreciating nature, helping people, and putting the ideas in my head into something concrete. Creating. Spending more time on meaningful relationships (rather than avoiding all people because I’m so burned out from dealing with the few who suck the life out of me). Reminding myself that it’s ok to work towards making the things on my happy list mesh with the things on my to do list. Figuring it all out is something worth working towards and constantly improving on.

More to come..

selling my sole.

*AKA, a review of leather shoes. AKA, vegetarian problems. AKA, bad shoe puns.

I have kinda weird self-imposed rules when it comes to buying shoes. A) They need to be of man-made materials whenever possible. And B) If they are over $40 or so, I have to prove to myself that I can make them work in at least three every day situations before I can buy them, to ensure I will actually wear them. Due to these rules, I own probably too many cheap, uncomfortable pairs of shoes that are ruining my feet. It’s taken pretty much all of my 20s to come to terms with the fact that I simply can’t do that to myself anymore if I want to maintain my mobility in my older years. Wisdom and all that. Due to years of coming home and limping around. LIMPING!

Last weekend I boxed up about 10 pairs of shoes I’ve been wearing, and suffering through, for months or years. They are being donated. In their place I ordered five pairs of comfy/cute clogs from Zappos (knowing all but two would be going back after picking my favorites). I settled on two black pairs, one practical goes-with-everything pair by Frye and one these-are-so-ridiculous-I-hafta pair by Alegria. And sadly both surviving pairs are made of leather.

Let the justifying begin.

I wish this were a review of awesome vegan clogs. The other pairs I ordered were man-made, Vegan-friendly options made by Dansko and Doc Martin in a similar price range, and I was really pulling for them to win. Sadly, they didn’t make the cut because they felt far too cheap (especially for the price)/weren’t that comfortable. I hate that I bought leather shoes, but I feel like at the very least the leather items in my life get worn out far past their aesthetically-pleasing lifespan. For a super casual shoe I will always pick a leather-free Sanuk, TOMs or Saucony shoe, and until now have been buying some very cheap, very uncomfortable man made shoes to wear to the office. If anyone knows of a nice-looking, professional non-leather shoe, please let me know!

I sheepishly admit I am in love with my new shoes, and in my guilt at least proved I will appreciate and wear them down. Here are a few of my style boards:

1. Spring Picnic. Cargo pants, a chambray shirt, and cute accessories are a good alternative to jeans and cardigans in the spring. (In my imaginary picnic I pack cute Bento-style meals and we drink Shiraz – it’s highly specific, but it’s my well-styled fake life.)

spring picnic

2. Weekend City Explorer. For a shoe with a heel, these clogs are seriously comfy. I could walk around all day in them on a city vacation without wearing my usual dork tourist hemp Saucony sneakers.

 

weekend city explorer

3. At the Office. Cuz, duh, I spend most of my waking life there (sob). I actually recreated this outfit this week and felt really put together. These look amazing with long, flare leg black pants.

at the office

As for the Alegria’s, they are beyond comfortable and even with a floral pattern are surprisingly versatile. I have been wearing them most evenings around the house and twice this week to work (once with gauchos and tights, and today with wide-leg trouser jeans for casual Friday). I’ve found them to be extremely polarizing at the office, which I sort of liked. Meaning, I got both compliments and strange looks and that entertained me. I’m secure with my weird style, I suppose.

IMG_1440

PS: if you liked this post, I did a similar “ways to wear them” post with my glitter TOMs here.

practically free friday #11 – beaded necklace

Back with more beading from the shiny object collection. This time in the form of a simple but bold necklace. I totally love it! To make this I actually disassembled a boring black beaded necklace (long ago) I rarely wore and added some different beads for more interest.

I like the length of this necklace a lot because it’s great for layering with another shorter pendant.

It was a nice pick-me up today – I’ve been feeling totally blah at the office lately and as of today I’m vowing to amp it up style-wise. I start a new job Monday, sort of. A new company is heading up our contract, and while many of my job duties will remain, it’s a bit of a promotion. More responsibilities, more autonomy, and I’ll work directly for the Program Manager. This doesn’t necessitate dressing better but I love the feeling of a new start, so I’ve been thinking a lot about updating my look a bit in conjunction. More to come on that later, cuz now it’s time to think WEEKEND!

navy blazer

So, I bought a navy blazer the other day because it just called out to me… I am the perfect blazer! I will make you look to put together and sharp! I will land you a job or a candid on the Glamour “Do” page!

And then I brought it home, and while it IS super flattering, I realized I don’t have the confidence to style a navy blazer. It can go to Ivy League soo quickly. I cannot (and do not want to) pull off Tommy Hilfiger ad. I want to pull off this:

For some reason I have a really hard time carrying off a grown-up style, and blazers can make me look like I am playing dress up – even super cute ones. But since my retail therapy was, in the first place, my “I’ll show ’em” response to not being taken seriously professionally, I tore the tag of the blazer so I couldn’t return it and made myself a collage of outfit ideas. Oh, yeah, take THAT, judgers! That’s right. I Photoshop angry. Be intimidated.

No suits for me, but one grown-up item in an otherwise wearable ensemble is a good start. I shall break it out next week.