Josephine’s [Nearly] Zero Waste 1st Birthday Party

Josephine’s [Nearly] Zero Waste 1st Birthday Party

My sweet baby girl turned one this month so yesterday we threw a small [nearly] zero waste dinner party to celebrate.

For my older two kids, I threw big themed parties for their first birthdays. For Evangeline’s ice cream themed party, I made a ton of paper decorations including huge ice cream cones that hung from the ceiling and a “Sweet Shoppe” banner. I also catered the food from a grocery store. For Theo’s Cubs baseball party, I hung a huge stadium backdrop and ordered a photo booth prop package. For both of those parties I served everything in disposable dishes with disposable cutlery and disposable napkins.

Still, I wanted Josephine to have a party that was just as special – but without all the waste. I tried to marry our new “simple living” philosophy with our goal to reduce our waste and what we ended up with was a beautiful party that was inexpensive and elegant.

Here’s how it went:

The Food

I made three roasted vegetable lasagnas, Brett baked two batches of rosemary focaccia [his specialty], and we also served a yellow watermelon we got from the farm share [or CSA, if you’re just now joining us].

Since I made the lasagnas myself, including the noodles, tomato sauce, and ricotta cheese, there was very little waste. The only waste was the plastic bags from the mozzarella and parmesan, which we will recycle. Brett made the focaccia from scratch using the yeast and flour I bought at Walmart a while back [more about that zero waste trip here] and the rosemary from our herb garden on our deck.

Waste: cheese bags [recycled]

The Cakes

I also made all the cakes and frosting from scratch – a total of four different kinds of cake with three different types of buttercream. [Before you go thinking I’m absolutely insane, I had to make a special vegan cake for the birthday girl and my cousin who is on a special diet for health reasons. Then I wanted to make two small special cakes for two other family members who also have birthdays in the same week. And then a big cake for everyone else.]

The butter wrappers cannot be recycled so they ended up in the trash before I found this amazing article about all the brilliant ways to use the butter wrappers [spoiler alert, they still end up in the trash] BUT I probably need to just make my own going forward. The most waste was actually from the piping bags, which were not necessary but made the cakes so pretty. Next time I am going to invest in a reusable option since I am out of disposable piping bags now anyway.

Waste: butter wrappers and piping bags [trash], butter carton and whipping cream carton [recycled]

The Tableware

We used all of our regular tableware. With a guest count of twelve adults and eight kids, we had enough dinner plates to feed everyone, but we didn’t have enough dessert plates for the cake so some people ate their cake out of bowls. But, really, cake is cake no matter what it’s served on, right?

We served the drinks [cucumber lemon water and sweet tea lemonade] from big glass beverage dispensers [one of which we borrowed] and everyone used cloth napkins [well, I don’t know how many people actually used them…why are people so afraid of cloth napkins???].

After dinner, my sweet auntie rinsed the dishes and loaded the dishwasher and we gathered all the dirty napkins and put them in the laundry room.

We even fed the scraps to the dog who was in heaven – but there were very few scraps. Oh, and the watermelon seeds and rinds were composted.

Waste: None!

The Decorations

I decorated with a pallet from my backyard [don’t judge me from having pallets randomly lying around my back yard] and signs from Josephine’s nursery [the flowery “J” and the painted sign with her name that I made for her before she was born and the floral bunting that hangs in her room].

I printed the photos for the typical monthly timeline, but I needed these photos for her baby book anyway, so they will not be wasted. I up-cycled old wine bottles and used mason jars as vases for flowers. I even used some of the small buds that had fallen off the flowers and carnations as “confetti” on the table.

The biggest waste [which I had not even thought about] was the plastic wrapping from the flowers [along with the rubber bands and the flower food packets]. I’m not sure how to get flowers without the plastic besides cutting them from your own garden. At least the film can be recycled by dropping it off at the store, so not a total waste.

Everything else I used to decorate [like the paper and burlap runners] are compostable or recycleable or reusable AND everything was already in my home and therefore technically already wasted.

Waste: plastic sleeves for flowers and paper decorations [recycled]

The Gifts

I asked for no gifts, but I knew that the chances of not receiving any gifts was slim. And I was right. But it was SIGNIFICANTLY reduced compared to what it would ordinarily be. [Also, I have noticed that when I request no gifts, which I always do, people tend to give us practical, useful gifts]. Josephine got two baby board books, a helium birthday balloon, and an elephant bath towel and homemade soap.

Waste: gift bag and tissue paper [which I will reuse] and balloon [which will end up in the trash but will entertain my kids for the next week, so I’m not upset about it at all].

All in all, it was a good party – not because of the small amount of waste, but because we spent time with family celebrating our sweet baby girl being so grown up!

Of course, the lack of waste makes me happy. We didn’t even have to empty our little trash can under the sink. Come to think of it, I don’t think a single thing was thrown away the entire party. [It helps to hide the trash can – and the paper towels.]

That’s a success in my book!

Karis

September Clothing Donation

September Clothing Donation

This month I’m giving away several sweaters and what’s left of my business casual pieces: some cardigans, skirts, blouses, and dress pants. I had been hanging on to these things “just in case” [which is by far my most frequent excuse for hoarding things I never use, by the way].

For most of these clothes the excuses were: “just in case I go back to work in an office” [BUT I have been so spoiled by working in the fitness world for the last five years that I never want to work for a company that requires this dress code again] and “just in case I visit a church that expects people to dress up” [BUT I know that I’ll never conform to a church dress code again either].

I still have a few nice dresses that I really like for hot dates with my husband or weddings or special occasions [or maybe that aforementioned visit to a church] that I would actually enjoy dressing up for.

But here is one “just in case” I’m not ready to let go of yet: I’m keeping one black mini-skirt just in case my husband takes me out dancing like back in the day.

Hint, hint, Babe. 😉

Karis

Decluttering: The Master Bedroom

Decluttering: The Master Bedroom

[Please forgive my poor photography.]

When we moved into this house almost two years ago, I hated everything about it – but I hated the master bedroom the most. [I wish I had a photo to show.] It had stained green carpet and brown walls and a popcorn ceiling full of cobwebs and a ceiling fan that had literally not been dusted once since the house was built. But we had more pressing projects so we didn’t even update the paint [we did clean and change the carpet] until a year ago when I decided to give birth to my third baby at home and nearly had a panic attack when I thought of bringing my baby into the world in that bedroom.

So, one night when we thought I was going into labor, my husband painted the whole room and we got all new bedding and we hung new blinds and new curtains and we made a wooden sign to hang above the bed with words from the song that was played at our wedding [“Come What May” from Moulin Rouge].

And it looked beautiful.

It still had [and still has] the popcorn ceiling, but it is much, much better.

[I didn’t even end up giving birth to Josephine in the bedroom – we were in a birth tub in the living room – but we did take pictures there after, so it was worth it.]

[The photo above was taken by a professional – not me, obviously!]

Fast forward one year, to three weeks ago, and the room was cluttered and filled with boxes we never unpacked and basically a disaster.

Seriously, I can’t even believe that I’m sharing these pictures. The saddest part is that this is how the room always looked.

Well, anyway, to wrap up it up and get to the point of this post, I wanted my bedroom to be an oasis again. I wanted it to feel like a spa – calm and quiet and clean and most of all…free of clutter.

So, I spent the better part of a day decluttering every surface, every drawer, every nightstand, every corner until everything had a home and everything that didn’t was no longer wasting space in our room.

The result was magical.

I actually love this room now.

And the best part, since I didn’t just clean the room, I actually cleared it, the room has stayed this clutter-free for three weeks. No really. I took the “before” pictures on August 28th before I started and I actually took the “after” pictures last night before bed because I was amazed that we’ve managed to keep a clean room for three weeks! Our room literally always looks like this now!

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m much more motivated to keep the room clean now that it is free of clutter. When the room looks pristine, I’m a lot less likely to throw clothes on the floor or leave the bed unmade. It’s so clean, I don’t want to mess it up. And I think that is what has allowed us to keep it tidy for so long – and hopefully from now on!

Karis

Zero Waste: Beeswax Wraps

Zero Waste: Beeswax Wraps

In January of 2017, I made a New Years resolution to stop using all disposable products [i.e. paper towels, plastic bags, disposable cups, paper plates, paper napkins, etc] and switch everything in the house to reusable. At the time, I didn’t even know that zero waste was an actual thing and I certainly didn’t suspect that I would fall this far down the rabbit hole…but here we are.

It has been a long process [obviously] as we have slowly eliminated different disposable items from our lives as we’ve run out of them.

And today, I started using beeswax wraps.

Truthfully, I don’t use plastic wrap very much any more because I store pretty much everything in mason jars or plastic storage containers or reusable baggies. BUT on a few occasions [such as when making jam or prepping a salad ahead], I need something to cover a bowl. Today, I did both – so I used my beeswax wraps for the first time.

When I make jam [which I do every time strawberries go on sale for less than $1/lb], I follow Martha Stewart’s no-pectin recipe and soak the strawberries in sugar and lemon juice overnight. I usually cover the bowl with plastic wrap – but last night I covered the bowl with my beeswax wrap and it worked great.

Afterward, I just washed gently in the sink and hung to dry.

I also made a cabbage salad [that is a lot like an oil based coleslaw] that gets better as it sits in the fridge, so I covered the bowl with a beeswax wrap.

These wraps are also good for storing sandwiches or anything that can be fully wrapped – but like I said, I typically use containers for those things. The tackiness goes away over time, but these are supposed to last for at least a year.

Another disposable product GONE! Yay!

Karis

August Clothing Donation

August Clothing Donation

This month I donated mostly workout tops that I don’t prefer any more, but also some sweatpants and pajamas I never wear, bras that don’t fit, and a Guess hoodie that I would like if I could fit my arms into it…but I can’t, so BUH-BYE.

All of these things have been well-loved at one time or another. Some of them even brought back wonderful memories of my early running days or special nights out with Brett… some were even [almost] hard to put in the “donate” pile. BUT my body and my style have changed a lot since those early days of marriage when Brett was constantly buying me trendy, form-fitting clothes in wild colors and prints. Now, if I’m leaving the house to go anywhere other than the gym, I much prefer my plain gray t-shirt (yes, it has a hole in it) with my one pair of jeans or, if I’m staying in, a loose fitting tank top over a bandeau with my jean cut-offs [or maybe sweat pants].

Maybe for date night I’d trade the ratty t-shirt for something a bit nicer…like a black t-shirt…but probably not. I like to be comfortable.

What can I say? I’m a casual gal. Plus, I don’t like being trendy. I’ve never been good at it – mostly because I’ve never been good at conforming. I prefer simple, monochromatic, functional clothing.

Here’s a secret I love to share: Brett has been buying all of my clothes [yes, ALL OF IT] and dressing me [not literally…] since we got married seven years ago. How many women can say that their husband is the fashionable one who picks out all of their clothes???

Anyway, another month down, a third of the way done. So far I’ve donated 104 items of clothing. 👍🏻 208 to go!

Also, in the past four months, we [Brett and I] have not purchased any clothes or accessories for myself or the kids. The kids did get some clothing as gifts for birthdays. But we have far more going out than we have coming in the house, so that’s good.

Karis

Decluttering: Junk Mail

Decluttering: Junk Mail

Did you know that in Canada [and apparently other places around the world], you can put a “No Junk Mail” sticker on your mail box and effectively avoid about 80% of unwanted flyers, mailers, and the like?

Of course, it’s not that easy in America.

Today I had a bit of time since I’ve been stuck home with sick kiddos, so I decided to go through the pile of junk mail to start unsubscribing.

Turns out, it’s quite challenging to stop unwanted mail.

I was able to unsubscribe from some mailers that had a web address or phone number listed and also some catalogs that I accidentally subscribed to at some point when I bought a product.

I also switched all my bills to paperless. 👍🏻

In Zero Waste by Shia Su [pick up your copy HERE, or borrow it from the library like I did], she lists a few online resources to help reduce junk mail.

DMA Choice ($2 fee)

Catalog Choice (free service, but in my experience, often just directs you to the catalog’s website to unsubscribe)

Opt-Out Prescreen (free service that provides 5yr or permanent option to opt-out of insurance and credit card mailings)

And the app PaperKarma (4 free unsubscribes for new members, then a subscription [ironic] fee of $1.99/month or $19.99/year)

For the most part, I think a simple call or email to customer service asking to be removed from the mailing list is an effective way to stop a lot of unwanted mail. Besides that, DMA Choice and Opt-Out Prescreen should take care of a lot of the junk mail that’s left – although I won’t know for a while because it apparently takes up to 90 days for the mail to stop coming.

So, while I’m waiting, I’ll be unsubscribing from the mailers as they arrive.

Oh, joy…

I also found this article from Eco-cycle helpful: How to stop junk mail in 6 easy steps.

Happy decluttering!

Karis

Decluttering: The Junk Drawer

Decluttering: The Junk Drawer

This journey to minimalism is definitely a process – a LONG process. For years, since before I even knew there was an actual term for it, I have been incorporating minimalist principles into my life. And yet, everywhere I turn, there is unnecessary junk.

For instance, The Junk Drawer.

No, really. That’s the actual official name of this drawer in our home. It is a catch-all for whatever scraps of paper and knick-knacks are lying on the island that we don’t feel like dealing with when we are “tidying up.”

[As if hiding the mess in the drawer is actually making things tidy…]

The drawer gets so stuffed full of junk that by the time I clean it out, the drawer will barely close.

Well, I decided to take the advice I found in New Minimalism [by Fortin and Quilici] and give everything in this drawer a permanent home AND redefine my concept of “full.”

[This book is FABULOUS for the aspiring minimalist, by the way.]

Rather than viewing this drawer as full only when I can no longer cram anything else into it, the drawer should reach capacity when everything can still be easily seen and grabbed AND when it contains only the things that actually belong there.

So I took everything out and sorted it by like type and determined what we actually use frequently and want to reside in the drawer permanently. Then I put everything else where it truly belongs.

Now The Junk Drawer looks like this:

Ah. That feels much better.

I guess now I need to change the name…

Karis