My Simple Living Cleaning Routine

My Simple Living Cleaning Routine

In the ongoing saga of simplifying my life, I have now simplified my cleaning routine.

Check out my new cleaning schedule for 2019 next to my new chalkboard planner.

The schedule isn’t actually new. I used the same system last year too. And it made cleaning a breeze.

I hate cleaning. I would much rather be playing with my kids [which is why I read them 26 books before lunch today] or exercising or napping or doing crafts or daydreaming or …pretty much anything besides cleaning. But, alas, it must be done.

My chores schedule involves a weekly rotation of daily cleaning that equals about an hour a day and covers the whole house twice a week, and also a monthly list of additional things that don’t need to be completed as frequently.

This doesn’t actually look very simple, now that I think about it, but, believe it or not, it has significantly reduced the amount of time I spend cleaning…and the amount of time I spend wondering what needs to be cleaned…and the time I spend wondering when that thing was cleaned last.

I’m not saying anyone should follow my exact pattern here, but I have found these three tips to be key in simplifying my household cleaning:

Keep space and possessions to a minimum. Obviously, the smaller the home, the simpler [and faster] to clean. We moved from an 1800 sq ft home to a 1000 sq ft home and, quite frankly, I would never go back. For me, the benefits of a small house far outweigh the benefits of a big house. I can clean my entire house twice a week. In my last home my goal was just to hit each area once a week. A smaller home gives me more flexibility because I don’t need to sweat it if I can’t get to the mopping on Sunday. There is always Thursday.

Make a monthly check list. I may not do everything on my checklist each month, but I always have a record of when it was done last. I also keep track of the dog’s meds and baths and how often we feed the python [only once a month – I know, right?? Why don’t more people own pythons?] and put new salt blocks into the water softener. But it also has cleaning projects that I would just never do if I didn’t have a running list, like cleaning the ceiling fans and the door handles and the refrigerator and the oven, etc.

Do laundry once a week. I have one day a week dedicated to laundry. I don’t do any other cleaning [well, besides general picking up and washing dishes]. I actually enjoy doing the laundry, but I hate how it seems to take days to complete when added to the other usual tasks. There always used to be a pile of clean clothes left in the dryer or a basket of folded clothes sitting in someone’s room. It never got done from start to finish in one day – until now. I started doing this a few months ago and found that not only does all of the laundry get done in one day, BUT I also run fewer cycles in the washer and dryer, AND it feels like a break from the regular cleaning schedule.

So basically a win, win, win!

This system has allowed me to keep things clean and tidy without having to do any major deep cleans and has prevented me from freaking out when unexpected guests pop over. Hallelujah!

I finally feel like I’m adulting!

Now I just need to laminate this list so it will be dry erase and [nearly] zero waste too!

๐Ÿงบ ๐Ÿงบ ๐Ÿงบ

Karis

Two Words that Taught me Contentment

Two Words that Taught me Contentment

Two years ago, we started on our journey to minimalism. At the time, I didn’t even know that it was an actual movement with a name and everything, I just knew that there had to be a better way to use my money than just to buy my family’s comfort and happiness. [We all know money doesn’t buy happiness anyway, right?] I wanted to spend less money on stuff we don’t need so we have more money to spend on people who really do have needs.

I found Minimalism and it helped me be less focused on getting more for myself and more focused on giving more to meet the needs of people around the world.

After two years of changing our perspective on money and possessions [and getting rid of a lot of excess as well], I have found one phrase to be the key to maintaining a simple, minimalist lifestyle – and ultimately to finding contentment.

Do without.

It’s not enough to get rid of our excess crap – we have to stop bringing in new crap. In the past year, I’ve been tempted to buy things that I thought I “needed” only to do without and realize that I didn’t need them at all. Bath mats, dish towels, pizza cutter, organizers, end tables, new dishwasher…the list is seriously long.

Now, before I go out and buy something that I think I need, I do without and see how it goes. Turns out, I don’t “need” nearly as much as I think I do.

Of course I’m not saying you should not buy legitimate things you need like food and toilet paper. I’m saying we need to do without all the extra stuff that we don’t need. And we need learn to tell the difference.

Well, the craziest thing has happened. The more I realize how little I need, the more I see how wealthy I am. The more I feel content with what I have. The less I want.

Now I look around my home see tons of stuff that I don’t need or want – especially when I think of the needs of other people. And all of that stuff represents money that I wasted and can’t get back. Money that could have bought something that someone actually does need – like food or clothing or shelter or clean water or medical supplies or an education, etc. The list of needs is long and the list of people on this planet who need them is so long it breaks my heart.

People think Minimalism is “extreme” or too restrictive. But [for me anyway] minimalism is the greatest freedom. Freedom from American consumerism. Freedom from trying to keep up with the Joneses. Freedom from wasting money on junk that just clutters my home. Freedom from feeling like I constantly need more or never have enough.

Freedom to give more away to people who really do have needs.

So, if minimalism seems like too much for you, don’t worry. You don’t have to purge all your belongings, or own a monochromatic capsule wardrobe, or leave all your walls white and bare. All you need to do is do without the excess. Do without that new shirt you don’t need. Do without that appliance that you’re only going to use once a year anyway. Do without the knick-knacks. Do without the new jewelry. Do without the pizza cutter and bath mats. Life will go on. And chances are you’ll be more content with what you have.

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Aldi

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Aldi

A few months ago, I stopped shopping at Aldi – partly because every other grocery store in my area has better sales each week and partly because [nearly] all of Aldi’s produce is wrapped in plastic.

BUT, today was one of those days when a killer avocado sale happened to coincide with my desperate need to restock toilet paper and the promise of being in and out in ten minutes sealed the deal.

[I also appreciate that I can seat both of my toddlers next to each other in the front of the cart. AND I don’t get a bunch of weird looks when I bring my own bags.]

For being the first big grocery chain I have ever heard of to not offer bags, I’m surprised that they aren’t a little more eco friendly in the produce aisle…but I don’t know a thing about the grocery business. I’m sure there is a reason that a 2lb plastic bag of honeycrisp apples costs $2 and two pounds of loose honeycrisp apples costs $4.

Anyway, I did what I could and here is what I got:

Gallon of milk – plastic carton will be recycled. I am still unable to convince my husband to trade milk for a non-dairy variety. And I still haven’t convinced myself to buy milk in glass containers – but that day is coming. I would really like to find a refillable situation from a local farm, but haven’t found one yet. Does that even exist anymore?

Cartons of eggs – cardboard containers will be recycled or composted. I plan to buy my eggs as part of my farm share this summer and just refill my carton each week, but in the meantime, we buy only cardboard cartons.

Box of pasta – I didn’t have to buy this, but I wanted it to make lemon butter shrimp pasta later this week with shrimp we were given…and the box will be recycled. I don’t have the tools necessary to make any pasta noodles besides lasagna at this point.

Toilet paper – plastic wrapping will be recycled via store drop off and the tubes will be recycled or composted. I am still working on bringing my husband around to the bidet idea…

Loose produce – bananas, pineapples, avocados, cucumber – all loose and at decent prices. In general, I have found Aldi’s produce prices [even on sale] to be pretty terrible compared to local produce sale prices. Every part of these foods that aren’t eaten will be composted. The stickers are the only waste.

Romaine lettuce – I couldn’t find a single type of lettuce that wasn’t packaged in plastic, so I got this bag of romaine which seemed to have the greatest lettuce to plastic ratio. The plastic bag will be recycled via store drop off – but it still makes me kind of sad.

Sauce, pesto, syrup – all in glass bottles. Aldi offers cheaper pasta sauce and syrup in plastic bottles, which I passed on. Glass is a great material than can be continually reused and recycled.

As I was shopping, I passed all the usual stuff that I used to buy every week – pretzels, applesauce, salad dressing, yogurt, cottage cheese, bread, buns – but I make all that stuff myself now.

The stuff I can’t make, I buy. The stuff I buy, I try to find without packaging. The stuff that I can’t find package-free, I try to find in sustainable packaging like glass or cardboard.

That’s my [nearly] zero waste game plan. It has some weaknesses and I’m not perfect [still super far from storing my annual waste in a jar] but these small attempts at mindfulness when I’m shopping go a long way over the course of time.

Happy shopping!

๐Ÿ›’ ๐Ÿ›’ ๐Ÿ›’

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste Planner System for 2019

[Nearly] Zero Waste Planner System for 2019

Two years ago, I was gifted my first Happy Planner.

I was in heaven. Doesn’t this look like so much fun?! [Or is it just me?] I could lose myself for hours just in decorating my planner pages. Which, come to think of it, was not the greatest use of my time…

However, after our transition this past year to zero waste and simple living, I realized that I needed to find a simpler, smaller, less wasteful way of organizing myself.

I thought about buying an eco-friendly planner made from recycled paper [but would rather find a reusable option]. Or making a white erase board out of an old picture frame, like I’ve seen in Pinterest tutorials [but I have no place to put one]. Or maybe use an app on my phone [but I don’t want to be tied to my phone again after I just broke the habit]. Or maybe try to do without a planner at all [but I know this would end in total chaos].

I know that the most zero waste option would be a digital planner of some kind but I haven’t found one that satisfies my need to physically cross things off a list – or that I would see often during the day since I don’t use my phone or computer very frequently anymore.

In the end, I decided to use what I already have available: a white board monthly calendar and a chalkboard.

These aren’t perfectly zero waste, but they are reusable and I already had them, so I didn’t have to buy anything new. The monthly calendar has my schedule and special dates. The chalkboard has my habits list and a meal plan and a shopping list. I will likely add a place for a daily to-do list eventually, but for now I am using up the pad of paper on the board.

I’m not certain how this will work out in the long run, but I am going to try it for now.

I’m curious what system other people use? If you have a suggestion for a better zero waste option to try, let me know!

Happy planning!

Karis

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Well, it’s the start of a new year which means that the gyms are going to fill up with all the newly resolved exercisers, which used to annoy me back when I was just a fitness junkie, but now that I am a personal trainer, I love seeing all the people fill the gym. [And, of course, it’s good for business.]

So what if most people will be gone by March? Two months of healthy habits are better than none, right? While I wish people would stick it out, change is really hard and making the effort is the important first step. I’m sure every year there are a few who make it past March and become regulars.

According to a magazine I was reading the other day, 20% of people who make resolutions will keep them!

That’s actually pretty good!

Those 20% are giving the rest of us hope!

Last year, I set resolutions as I usually do – stop using disposable paper products, reduce my family’s waste, run the Chicago marathon, take up baking, have family fun day once a week, visit the dentist [it had been 10+ years ๐Ÿ˜ฑ], be more intentional about my marriage, double our charitable contributions, and send birthday gifts to all of our family members – all of which I accomplished.

Some of these goals were rather vague, which is fine with me because not everything can be definitively measured. I did some intentional things to invest in my marriage [baking competitions weekly and packing his lunches for a few months], but the “what” isn’t the point. The most important thing is that I can look back on the year and say that my relationship with Brett got stronger.

Some of these goals [like reducing waste] took on lives of their own and produced lots of mini goals throughout the year [like stop junk mail, declutter the home, ethical purchasing, sustainable living, simplify, simplify, simplify].

In 2019, I plan to continue with my goals from last year, but with some new added goals.

Health-wise, I want to practice yoga. Truthfully, I hate yoga. I’ve done a fair share – even taken clients through yoga workouts – but it’s not my favorite. It’s great for pregnancy though, so I am going to try to improve by adding a yoga workout once a week. Oh, and floss daily. Since I’ve managed to get myself to the dentist, I would like to maintain my oral health. Plus, I got a water flosser for Christmas. ๐Ÿ˜

New skill this year is knitting. I already bought myself a small starter kit of knitting needles. Hoping I can make a baby blanket for the new kiddo before he/she arrives in June.

At home, I want to start making my own cleaning products. I am still using up a lot of products that we’ve had lying around and as soon as they are gone I am going to start making my own. There are other things around the house that I am still phasing out as well. I hope to reduce our trash [and recycling] output even more this year, as well.

Personally, I would like to read two books a month: one fiction and one non-fiction. I prefer non-fiction, but I find myself most able to relax and unwind when I get lost in a good story.

For my family, I want go spend more time outside. I loved our month of focused time on getting outside. I hope to be able to emphasize that throughout this entire year.

And for this pregnancy, I want eat well [something I struggled with during my other pregnancies] and enjoy it as much as I can [I do not like being pregnant], because it will most likely be my last.

So, I guess that’s it.

Happy New Year!

๐Ÿฅณ ๐Ÿฅณ ๐Ÿฅณ

Karis

November & December Clothing Donation

November & December Clothing Donation

Last month I didn’t gather the required 26 wardrobe pieces for donation mostly because I wasn’t doing much of anything in November due to debilitating morning sickness [and a general feeling of laziness]. So this month I have a pile of 52 clothing items from my closet that will be donated or recycled [depending on their condition].

I’ve now gotten rid of 208 pieces of clothing that I don’t need. I started with 486, which means I have almost cut my wardrobe in half.

And, after 8 months, I still have not bought a single item of clothing for myself. [I did buy a pair of socks for each of my kids’ Christmas stockings…]

In a few more months I plan to move all of my remaining clothes into my closet drawers and get rid of my ginormous dresser altogether, which will make our room feel so much bigger [and also provide a space for our pet, Petunia the Python, to live].

Cheers.

[I was up til 1am binging the entire Body Guard series on Netflix last night. Between that and The Great British Baking Show, I find myself using great British words like gobsmacked, bloke, dodgy, and – best of all – cheers! ๐Ÿฅ‚]

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste Christmas Gifts: how we gave mindful and meaningful gifts this year

[Nearly] Zero Waste Christmas Gifts: how we gave mindful and meaningful gifts this year

This entire year, I have been on a journey to become a more mindful consumer, a more generous giver, and a less wasteful person in general. [Besides that, I have also worked very hard to eliminate all of our extra “stuff.”]

So, when Christmas time came around this year, I knew that some things had to change about the way we do gifts for our kids and loved ones.

But – how?

How do we still show everyone how much we love them without giving them a bunch of “stuff”? And how do we make more conscientious purchasing decisions while still giving people things that they will appreciate? And how do I provide my kids with the fun of unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning without a lot of toys that will just end up cluttering our space?

I still don’t have perfect answers, and we didn’t do a perfect job [I should have asked these questions before Christmas to get some help from the blogging world], but we made an effort, which is the most important thing.

Here’s what we did:

Experience gifts for extended family. We gave all of our siblings and their families experience memberships [like to the local zoo for those with little kids] or gift cards to spend on an experience [like jump zone for those with older kids] or amazon/restaurant gift cards for family members without kids.

The nice thing about this type of gift is that it doesn’t even require anything to be physically exchanged [I actually texted the amazon gift cards to my siblings – thank you, 21st century!]. Can’t get much more zero waste than that. And [for the most part], the gift can be enjoyed many times throughout the year.

BUT, the downside is that there is no physical gift to open.

Used toys for our kids. If we are going to have toys to open on Christmas, I felt like we should get them used [as much as we are able]. My kids are young enough to not care at all if a gift is new or not. [Hopefully, they will never care, but that is probably wishful thinking.] We bought an AMAZING wooden train set complete with a table and rails and trains and cars [probably 100+ pieces] for $35 from a family that no longer used it. And we got an art easel from friends who were getting rid of theirs and graciously gave it to us for free. These are types of things that last for years and can be loved by many children – and are plastic-free!

That being said, we did purchase new consumables for the art easel like markers and paint and notepads and things like that. Some things cannot be purchased used. I probably didn’t put enough thought into getting these things from responsible sources [or making my own]. I know I can improve in that area in the future.

Consumable gifts from the family. Anyone who asked what to get our kids, I suggested consumables like art and craft supplies, coloring books, temporary tattoos, bandaids, or gift cards for ice cream. This really helped cut down on the toys they received and this way everything will be used. We received ornaments from two families which the kids loved. Some were homemade which were adorable and meaningful and some were supporting international orphans – also very meaningful to us.

Homemade, meaningful, or consumable gifts for others. We made chocolate pretzels for our neighbors. We gave chocolates and amazon gift cards to Evangeline’s preschool teachers. We made ornaments for our aunts/cousins.

Our Auntie Paula, who does so much for our family, got a special homemade ornament: three hearts [one for each of my kids] hanging from a moon that said “Love you to the moon” – the special saying she shares with my kids. It might have been small and not cost us anything, but sometimes something special and made with love is the best gift.

Any other ideas/suggestions? I know there are other ways to give mindfully and meaningfully. If anyone has ideas to share, let me know so I can continue to improve in this area.

We love giving to our friends and family – but now I feel the pressure to purchase from responsible sources and not burden the recipients with stuff they don’t need. It is a strange balancing act that I am new [and not very good] at.

Overall, we stayed within budget and [hopefully] made everyone feel loved and appreciated this holiday season.

๐ŸŽ ๐ŸŽ ๐ŸŽ

Karis