1-in-2-out

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Last year, I blogged about my zero waste habits quite a bit, and mentioned I have a 1-in-1-out document on my computer to be accountable for my consumption. This year I have decided I am not done minimizing, so I am doing a 1-in-2-out rule. This means that for every (non-consumable) item I bring into the house, I must part with two items I already have. Ideally, the items I give up will be along the same category lines as the item I am bringing in (one book for another, for example), but sometimes that isn’t always feasible.

I keep a box or bag (or whatever I can round up) in my office, and add donation items to it regularly. With a 1-in-1-out rule, I realized I may be doing this FOREVER. But if I’m getting rid of things at twice the rate I am bringing them in, I may eventually be where I want to be. It’s a rather fun, creative exercise.

Just last week, my basement tenants (my brother-in-law’s family) moved out and into their new home. This means we acquired an additional 1,500sf, 3 bedrooms, another bathroom, and a kitchenette, for our use. This is a RIDICULOUS amount of space for our wannabe minimalist family of three, I know. (Someday I will post about why we are in the big home we are in, and may not leave it for a long time, despite my wanting to drastically downsize.)

In the past I’d have already been making a gigantic shopping list of stuff to fill all our new space, obsessing over how I want to decorate it. But I have evolved as a responsible consumer. We have plenty of stuff already. We moved a lot of furniture and other items from our upstairs living area, office, and bedrooms downstairs. Yesterday, we purchased a couch for our living room (since the couch and loveseat moved downstairs). My husband also really wanted a TV, and something to warm up the space, so we bought a TV stand with an electric fireplace. So while we did purchase a few big items, my goal is not to buy a single other item for the basement for at least 60 days. In addition to my 1-in-2-out document, I will be keeping a 60 day list. We may find we need a few other things eventually, but I want to live with what we already have for a while and really decide, as well as take the time to find what we may want/need secondhand. But my 1-in-2-out rule will still apply. There is really no need to accumulate more, just because we have the space.

In 2016 I got rid of so much stuff; and only 17 days into 2017, I’ve gotten rid of 67 items (and counting) just by going through our storage area! One day I may have a smaller home (I hope so!) and we will have to half our possessions again, which would be ok with me. While we still have plenty of useful stuff, I am not attached to much of it at all. I’m loving all the breathing room in our home these days!

library love.

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There are so many good reasons to should use and support your libraries. They are amazing! But I was talking to a friend the other day about a documentary, and I mentioned that I had borrowed it from the library. She was surprised – “they have new movies at the library?” It made me realize that not everyone treats their local library as an extension of their home like we do in our household. Especially since striving for zero waste and more minimalist, the library is really one of our favorite resources.

This post is absolutely written from the perspective of someone who has access to great libraries. It’s one of my favorite things about my community – it really invests in libraries. Sadly, not all are created equally, but you should still not neglect even the shabbiest. Support it! Visit and use it, vote YES on measures to improve it, donate to it, and advocate for it! They are super important to communities. And if you don’t use them, you could be seriously missing out.

Here’s my list of our favorite things to do at our local library:

  1. Books-books-books. We always check out oodles of books. I read to Hannah every night at bedtime, and often during the daytime, too. I can only handle reading the same books so many times before I lose my mind – so I love having a new stack every week to rotate through. And I generally grab a few, too. I at least glance through every homesteading/gardening/food preservation book I can get my hands on, and I am always reading one or two novels at a given time. I add my name to the wait list for popular books, and eventually will be notified when I’m up in the queue- I love this service. (This and this are the books I’m currently reading).
  2. Research. Not just for students. When I want to learn how to do something, I hit up YouTube and the library. Since I switch interests weekly, it only makes sense to “get my learn on” with free resources.
  3. Audio books/ebooks. I borrow audio books for car trips, and can borrow ebooks for my Kindle from the library website without leaving the house. It’s the BEST.
  4. Music and movies. Our library has a great selection of both. I love picking up a few CDs to listen to in my car for the week (lately I’ve been picking up 90s rap) and a movie or two. Sometimes we never get around to watching the movies, but at least there’s no guilt over a wasted rental fee.
  5. Toys. Our library has toys you can borrow! They are pretty much limited to educational toys for babies and toddlers, so eventually they won’t be of any use, but for now they are great. Borrowing and returning is clutter-free, and a great way to gauge what your child finds interest in and what they don’t, without buying something.
  6. Kid play/Socialization. Our library has a great kids section with fun, good quality toys (wooden dollhouse, legos, magnatiles..). We always sit and play for a bit when we visit. It’s good for socialization/sharing teaching for our only child. They also host a “Discovery Time,” a teacher-led activity time with songs, books, and active play with the group. We have been quite a few times and it’s really fun. A great wintertime activity (or those hot hot summer days).
  7. Pre-preschool curriculum. I’ve just started to use the library to assemble very informal “curriculum” on a various subject or theme. One week I’ll seek out materials on a specific topic (both fiction and nonfiction). We will look at those books together and discuss them. (I’ll also try to come up with or seek out ideas online for activities that reinforce the topic). I will be doing more of this now that Hannah’s closer to 3. (I also discovered my library has books of curriculum in their resources, so I won’t even have to do all the work myself to put this together!)
  8. Meet ups. My mom’s group meets up for play dates at the library really frequently (after Discovery Time). It’s the perfect venue because it’s free, the kids love it, and we can return/pick up books while we are there.
  9. Quiet work space. I work from home, and when I can sneak away for a few hours on the weekend to work from the coffee shop or library to get some done, it feels like a great luxury. My library has a café, so that is my spot of choice. (I also take the opportunity to leisurely browse the non-kid stacks while I’m there and end up with a pile of books for myself).
  10. Teaching responsibility. One thing I love about the library is that it provides a great opportunity to teach your little ones how to take care of things. I teach Hannah to treat the library items carefully so other kids can enjoy them later, and she’s always been so good about this (of course, when she was a baby we only brought home the sturdy board books).
  11. Yearly book sales. Admittedly, I haven’t really taken advantage of this. We went to one recently, and while the selection/prices were great, I didn’t prepare for the time it would take to dig through boxes and wait in the checkout line! With a toddler in tow, it wasn’t reasonable. Next time I’ll plan accordingly and go by myself – it seemed like a real goldmine for used books!

How about you – are you a library lover? What are your favorite things about your libraries?

new habits in 2017

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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!

zero-ish waste holidays 2016- gift wrapping

Merry Christmas! I didn’t want to post anything with spoilers ahead of time, but still wanted to share some of my ZW Christmas gift wrapping. There just aren’t a lot of posts out there about this and I wanted to add to the conversation in case it’s helpful to someone later.

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I’ve always loved and admired beautifully wrapped gifts, but had never bothered to master the skill. This year, however, my gifts are wrapped up in such unique ways. Some of my wrapping this year includes: a roll of brown kraft paper I already had, tea towels a hand-dyed, a secondhand scarf (and one from my closet I’ll take back), advertisements from our local alternative press publication, Hannah’s doodles saved throughout the year, the cloth bags from a pair of curtain panels I’d purchased early in the year, a piece of tissue paper and a bow from gifts I’d received from friends earlier in the season, yarn as string, and upcycled cardboard gift tags. Several gifts remain unwrapped entirely because they are beautiful without wrapping.

My little Christmas elf was happy to paint some gift tags for me. I used a couple Christmas cookie cutters to trace onto an upcycled cardboard shipping box, and cut them out. She painted her little heart out, and once they dried I punched a hole and used some yarn to tie them to our gifts. They turned out so beautiful! Hannah also strung beads for bracelets for all her girl cousins and aunts, over the course of the last month or so. It’s a great activity to keep her busy at the kitchen counter while I work on dinner, and the results are so beautiful! I tied them to some of the gifts as well. I LOVE them.

I’ve NEVER had this much fun wrapping gifts (or shopping for them, really). Removing most of that over-consumption guilt was such a freeing experience. I didn’t step foot in a mall. That was like a Christmas gift for myself. To be honest, despite buying fewer gifts, our budget didn’t change much from last year, because we bought things of higher quality and not made in sweatshops. Those items will (and should) cost more. Besides buying less, we offset it with not buying wrapping papers, bows, tags, etc, or buying/sending Christmas cards this year (another carbon-footprint motivated decision).

Next year I hope to hit 100% with a sustainable Christmas, which means better planning for my husband (I did okish, but he’s quite difficult to buy for so I compromised my goals here a bit) and my mother-in-law and father-in-law (my husband took care of their gifts this year and they weren’t ZW). It will also mean no online shopping unless I know for certain their packing materials are plastic-free (I was disappointed with a couple of items that should have been otherwise ZW). I only bought a handful of things online though, so I could have easily avoided this. Next year I will!

I hope everyone has a lovely holiday!

zero-ish waste holidays 2016 – what I’m gifting and wanting

I haven’t been perfect (not even close), but I’ve definitely embraced the zero waste lifestyle this year. 2017 will be the year of tweaking things and really digging in to the waste that I’m still creating (mainly outside of the household – work and when I’m on-the-go, though it’s definitely less than before, too).
I have my own rules for gift-buying this year that are zero waste-light:
  1. No plastic. Above all – no plastic!
  2. 4 gifts for the kiddo. Keep it small.
  3. Gifts must all be either: handmade (by me or otherwise), experience gifts, donations in the giftee’s name, and/or at the very least made from sustainable materials. Bonus points for buying local (so far I’m about 50% here..)
  4. Gift wrapping will be either upcycled materials or reusable (or unwrapped).
  5. We are foregoing the stockings (hubby and I anyway) and multiple gifts for each other. One small gift each (saving the money for some kitchen upgrades later this winter).
  6. We are also foregoing mailing cards. This one is the only one that feels like a sacrifice kind of. But the resources they take – both in materials and transportation – is kind of hard to justify for something unnecessary. I still have a bit of time to work on an electronic greeting with a family photo, but I need to work on it right away!

Without giving too much away, so far some of my gifts are:

  • A wooden dollhouse for Hannah. I am sure there will be some plastic packaging in this, unfortunately.
  • Unpackaged bath bombs and bubbles from Lush for some kiddos.
  • Homemade play dough in all the colors for another kiddo.
  • Fair trade African market baskets (with homemade baked goods inside) for friends.
  • A donation to a favorite charity for a friend.
  • A membership to our local Nature Center for a family member.
  • Handmade and functional items for my parents- one made by me and the other custom made from an Etsy seller (I can’t say more than that right now).
  • Homemade cookies in reusable cloth bags for the neighbors.
  • Homemade treats for the dogs in my life.

So, what does a almost-zero-waster want? At this point in my journey I have reusable everything, a collection of jars and other containers, and mainly just don’t want to hoard more stuff. So I don’t necessarily need anything to support my ZW efforts. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have certain things I need. I have never been too shy about telling people what I want for gifts (if they ask) because if I know I need it, it’s not a waste of money or resources. That said, here’s what’s on my list this year:

2016 Christmas Wishlist

  1. A cute and warm plaid flannel shirt. I am really really trying to be more outdoorsy this winter, so being warm and cute def. helps. I would be super happy to receive one of these if it were second-hand, especially!
  2. See number 1; I could really use a legit winter coat that’s not too bulky but still waterproof. I mean, how long have I lived in this climate without one? All my life. Time to embrace this place.
  3. Wool socks. Because winter. There’s a pattern here…
  4. Unpackaged Lush products. I am LOVING their shampoo and conditioner bars, bar soaps, deodorant bar, and unpackaged hair honey. I’m going to buy it throughout the year anyway!
  5. Wine. The ultimate gift for me!
  6. Books about chicken-raising. This is our near-future undertaking and I am so very excited! We’ve co-owned 8 or so birds for a few years off our property but we are going to be bringing some to our back yard hopefully this spring! I cannot wait and I would love to study up this winter with a few reference books.
  7. Not pictured: if someone were to gift me an almond tree I could plant in the spring, I’d love your forever and name it after you.

I can honestly say that I’ve never been quite as ready for the holidays (in my adult life) as this year, and it’s because it’s going to better line up with my values. I’ve never been big on overspending, over-consuming, over-stressing part of the holidays (are any of us, really?). Truly, my “rules” have made shopping easier. Next year I hope to take it just a little further – handmade everything perhaps? But I’ll definitely need to build in more time.

How about you – what’s on your lists (to give and receive)?

zero waste bathroom

Sorry for the lack of postings! I have over a dozen almost-ready drafts I have yet to publish, because I seem to never get enough consecutive minutes. I sure have missed blogging! I hope to be back more often now, with holiday-related posts and plans for 2017 (I love a good resolution plan).

My 2016 has been a rocky road to zero waste (with plenty of detours), but I’m as committed as EVER. I can’t wait to take it all even further in 2017, as so much of 2016 entailed using up what I still had! It took me 10 months to use up the gigantic bottle of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash I already had before starting zero waste. I was chomping at the bit to make the zero waste switches, but of course wanted to use up the old product responsibly first. It was actually really nice to have the luxury of time to research zero waste options, though. While I was kicking butt in the kitchen with zero waste, I was kind of nervous and at a loss with how to replace toiletry items (and TBH I still am stumped over a few).

But I’ve spent the past months following zero waste bloggers and Instagramers, reading books, and just doing research on some of my options out there. A big goal of mine is always to consolidate products as much as I can, so I didn’t want to swap one-for-one if there was a better alternative out there that can multitask.

This is the extent of what I use body and hair-care wise (though after creating this collage I also began using a Lush conditioner bar and love it, too).

zero waste bath and body1.Lush shampoo bar // 2. Lotion bar (shown is Lush but I make my own) // 3. Stainless safety razor // 4. Lush deodorant bar // 5. Lush tins for the soap, shampoo, and conditioner // 6. Coconut oil (as a leave-in conditioner when needed, and as body lotion), and 7. Lush soap (I also use the soap to shave.)

I chose LUSH products because: they are organic, cruelty free, and naked in packaging.

I have to say it took a week to get used to the shampoo bar, but now my hair looks and feels the same as before. I’ve been using a conditioner bar after each shampoo as well, and I use coconut oil – a tiny amount – as a leave-in conditioner about once a month. That’s it! To extend the life of the bars, I let them dry before putting in the tins, and I keep the tins in a cabinet between showers.

One of my favorite zero waste switches BY FAR is my stainless razor. I now only have to replace a blade occasionally (dirt cheap, packaged in huge quantities in cardboard). The reason I love this so much is that it’s going to save me SO MUCH MONEY over time. The price of razor cartridges for those girlie razors is out of hand, and the packaging is awful. I feel like I’m giving Gillette the middle finger every time I shave my legs.

drawer

This is a (terrible) picture of my bathroom drawer. In it you see: glass jars of ACV (for toning) and coconut oil, a jar of my homemade toothpaste, sustainable toothbrush, various dropper bottles of face oils like jojoba and rose hip, (trying to find the right combo for winter..), reusable eye makeup remover pads, Lush deodorant bar in a mason jar, Lush hair honey in a tin, Burt’s Bees night cream and day cream* (the day cream in plastic:(), homemade lotion bar, glasses, contacts, and contacts case. And a comb and pins/elastics I’ve had for years.

In addition to these items and the shower items, I have a few things under my vanity: a small cosmetic bag with makeup* (most pre-ZW, as I’m trying to use it up responsibly), one (metal) can of hairspray*, sunscreen (in plastic*), contacts solution (also plastic**), hair styling heat tools, a few headbands/headscarves, a small stash of nail polish (trying to decide if I can part with this!) and manicure supplies, a luna cup, and 5 washable menstrual pads. That’s it!

*I’ll be phasing these all out in the coming months..

**There is no avoiding the trash generated by my bad vision, and for that, I am so sad. To cut back on the packaging I do try to wear my glasses more often (so I don’t have to change contacts as often or use as much solution). I also think they make sustainable contact lens cases, but as most solution comes with a plastic one, purchasing additional ones would be redundant. One day I’ll get LASIK, but for the next many years it will probably be my last bit of remaining plastic in the bathroom. 😦

Still, I’ve come so far! I love my new regimen – it all feels so simplified and freeing. I’m completely marketing-proof when it comes to the beauty industry, and I love that because they are the worst. Best of all, I generate so little trash in the bathroom. A big future goal needs to be to convince Hubby to make some switches, too… a post for another day!

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:

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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!

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  • 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.:)