January Clothing Donation

January Clothing Donation

Three notable things happened this month regarding my clothing ban:

1. We sold our bedroom set and moved all of our clothing into our closets.

I have these six drawers [still hanging around from my college days] which contain all the clothes that currently fit [all seasons] and a top shelf that holds all of the clothes that I can’t fit into while pregnant but that I will [hopefully] fit into again someday. I also have some hanging dresses/skirts/cardigans [maternity and regular].

This feels like a big accomplishment – and also makes our bedroom feel MUCH larger in the absence of the huge sleigh bed with storage, two full dressers, and two excessively large nightstands, which of course we thought we needed when we got married.

My, how we’ve changed. Now, our bed is on the floor, two plastic storage bins serve as nightstands, and we have a laundry basket against the wall. That’s it.

[Well, we also currently have a huge collection of items headed to charity along one wall.]

2. Brett bought me a sweater.

I mean, look at this thing! It is basically a Snuggie that I can wear out of the house without ridicule! Would you say no to this level of comfort???

This is the first new piece of clothing I have bought [indirectly] since last May. I’ve received a new work uniform, two race shirts for the Chicago Marathon, and a dress that was a Christmas present, but this is the first piece of clothing to come from our money.

I kinda feel badly about it. [But only kinda.] It was new and it was from Express. Neither would be my preference. But it’s so soft and so comfy and I have worn it literally every day since I got it.

And I technically didn’t buy it…

As penance, I’m giving away an extra ten items from my wardrobe this month for a total of 36.

Hey, I never said I was perfect.

3. I mended some clothes instead of tossing them.

By “mended” I mean I used a travel sewing kit to [very poorly and by hand] stitch a few holes and tears in a couple of clothing pieces that I would like to wear again. A year ago, I would have tossed these and just bought a replacement. [I wouldn’t have even recycled them! Egad!]

Now I’m wondering whether I should try to fix my socks with holes…

[googling “how to darn socks”]

Additional thoughts…

We are in the middle of the “polar vortex” here in Chicagoland with temperatures in the -20s, which has me thinking of all the less fortunate people in my community without warm clothes, without winter coats and hats, and everyone living on the streets who hopefully found somewhere warm to stay today.

It made me think, Why should everyone in my family have multiple coats, hats, and pairs of gloves when there are people in my own community who have none?

So, I am going to give all of our extra winter gear to local shelters who are providing safety and warmth for the less fortunate in my town. We only need one winter coat. And the extra coat that just sits in the closet most of the time might make a big difference to someone this winter.

If you are as privileged as I am to always have a warm place to sleep and lots of warm clothes and several warm coats, I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

Karis

Trash Update: One step forward, two steps back

Trash Update: One step forward, two steps back

At the start of the new year, we finally used the last tall kitchen trash bag from the box of 55 that we had bought at the beginning of 2018. I had been waiting for this day and, since we’ve been using one bag per week, it was a long wait.

The time finally came, so we bought a box of small 4 gallon trash bags that actually fit the minuscule trash can we use in our kitchen.

If we continue at our current rate, this box should last us over half of the year. After these run out, I plan to have so little garbage that I can start making these handy paper trash can liners I read about in the book Zero Waste by Shia Su:

Or at least, that’s what I was hoping.

Unfortunately, there have already been two weeks when we emptied the can twice.

Yesterday, we had some family members over who brought with them a Starbucks coffee [excuse me, “dirty Chai latte”] and a large styrofoam Chic-fil-a cup. The trash can was full from these two items alone. And then we had cake to celebrate a family birthday and a well-meaning family member bought a package of paper plates [oh the horror! 😱]. The trash bag had to be emptied before I could even squeeze the last plate into the bag.

It had only been two days since I emptied the can last…

But the realization that I am not always in control of the trash that comes into my home AND that I cannot do anything about other people’s perspectives on disposables AND that it is worthless to try to bend everyone to my way of thinking on matters of environmental conservancy [or to offend anyone in the attempt] reminded me to let go of perfection.

I can only control what I can control.

So, maybe this box of bags will last us through April. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

Karis

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!

🧺 🧺 🧺

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!

πŸ›’ πŸ›’ πŸ›’

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 😱], 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. 😁

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!

πŸ₯³ πŸ₯³ πŸ₯³

Karis