De-Cluttering without Wasting — 5 Tips for Conscious Downsizing

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The topic of living a “clutter-free” lifestyle isn’t a new one around here. I’ve been through several downsizing/minimalism phases, each one varying in severity and longevity, and bits and pieces of my journey are littered throughout the online pages of this blog. Getting rid of stuff, it seems, comes and goes in trendy waves. I’ve ridden several and, I hope, crossed over into a balanced lifestyle of intentionally living with less without the guilt or restriction I once felt about the label “minimalist”. (A label I don’t subscribe to, by the way).

With the recent success of Netflix’s rendition of Marie Kondo’s not-so-new method of tidying up, it seems minimalism is on another trendy high, with folks all over the world declaring which items do and don’t spark joy in their lives. I love lots of things about Kondo’s method, especially the subjectivity, but one thing I’m hesitant to love about this “mass exodus” of ex-hoarders into minimalist territory is the sheer amount of waste that’s bound to be created, despite the KonMari warnings to dispose of things mindfully.

It’s inevitable, somewhat, creating waste initially when you begin to live a more conscious lifestyle. But I think it’s possible to Marie-Kondo your life without throwing all of your non-joy-sparking possessions into a landfill.

This blog post could go much more in depth, but, for sake of time and practicality, here is my quick two cents on how and why to de-clutter as mindfully as I think we should do anything else. Whether it’s your first bout of downsizing or you’re a veteran minimalist, living with intention requires you to be mindful in all areas of life, including where you put the things that don’t serve you anymore.


Infographic via  Trade Machines.  See the entire image  here  - it’s very eyeopening.

Infographic via Trade Machines. See the entire image here - it’s very eyeopening.

  1. Get rid of clothing responsibly

    Americans purchase one article of clothing per week and we keep our clothes for only half as long as we used to 20 years ago. It’s estimated that Americans toss about 70.5 pounds of textile waste into landfills each year, with a measly 15% ever being donated. The pictured infographic is wonderfully helpful for explaining more.

    Here are a few simple ways to be mindful with your downsized clothing:

    • Host a clothing swap

    • Sell or re-gift them

    • Send pieces to relevant charities

    • Send them to a certified textile recycling center (a full post is coming soon on textile recycling, but here’s some great info in the meantime!)

  2. Purge Heirlooms Carefully

    Sentimental clutter is one of the hardest areas for most people to purge. The memories associated often seem to attach themselves to the physical item. I’ve never ascribed to the “rule” that you can’t keep any sentimental items, but here are a few rules that I follow when getting rid of anything with sentimental value.

    • Send the most valuable to other family members

    • Keep what you love without guilt

    • Host a garage sale or “free sale” to purge the rest

  3. Declutter your Kitchen without Throwing it all in the Trash

    Things like spices, mismatched sets, and appliances that you never use all probably fall in the category of “not sparking joy”. Be careful that you don’t lump it all into the trash when, chances are, each item needs individual consideration.

    • Sell/donate appliances and supplies in good condition

    • Combine extra spices/herbs or use them up before recycling the packaging

    • Compost food waste

    • Recycle as many containers as possible

  4. Find charities/organizations that may need your miscellaneous extras

    For odds and ends that you don’t use and aren’t sure what to do with, there may be a charity or organization that will take it off your hands. Many schools will accept musical instruments, office supplies, or children’s toys. Homeless shelters often take clothes, unused food, and the like. Do some digging into local organizations and send some items their way.

  5. Carefully consider future new belongings

    The cornerstone of a mindful lifestyle with less clutter (which ultimately means creating less waste), is what you do moving forward. If you purge your belongings only to replace them shortly after with “new and improved” ones, you’ve missed the point.

    That’s not to say you shouldn’t shop or buy things that do, indeed, spark joy or fill a gap. However, once the initial purge is over, being extra cautious of what you buy/accept/bring in means that you’ll have less clutter and less to worry about downsizing later.

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As you Kon-Mari your belongings, remember to do it without creating unnecessary trash. Here are a few ways to de-clutter without waste.

Of course, none of us do this perfectly. It’s impossible to exist without creating waste of some sort. However, I hope these tips inspire you to Kon-Mari your life away and dispose of the joyless items responsibly.

Did I miss anything? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat more!

#InspiringZeroWaste || January Goal

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As promised, the first installment of my #InspiringZeroWaste goals. I’m so excited about the reaction to this challenge and can’t wait to hear how your months go and which areas you choose to work on. I sat down with my planner today to map out each of my goals (I got halfway through the year and will reevaluate what I need to focus on as the year progresses) and was surprised by how tricky it was choosing what to focus on.

I’m not new to the “Zero Waste” lifestyle — I’ve been slowly working on reducing the waste my family and I produce for three or four years now. However, despite the progress I’ve made, I still found myself getting discouraged and overwhelmed by the amount I still had left to tackle. All of the little conveniences that we don’t even pay attention to until we realize how wasteful they are, all of the road trip stops at gas stations for a quick (plastic wrapped) snack, all of the in-flight plastic cups, or waste created while on vacation. It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?

This challenge, as I mentioned in my introduction post, is meant to aid you in cultivating an overall awareness of what you’re consuming and where your lifestyle is headed while making tangible progress towards your goals. How is it going for you so far? Let’s support each other along the way and watch as our goals become habits over the year.

So, my first goal of the year is to “zero waste-ify” my shower routine. I’ve been using clean, organic and healthy beauty products for a while, but of course, each of them usually comes in (recyclable) plastic. There are a few other options I’ve found, like Plaine Products’ amazing refillable aluminum containers, or Seed Phytonutrient’s biodegradable recycled packaging. But I would ultimately prefer to skip the “packaging” step all together and use a product that was truly waste-less.

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For Shampoo: I trying my hand at shampoo bars (gasp! I know). I’ve wanted to for a while, but have either been testing other brands or waiting for my old shampoos to run out. The timing was perfect for this month, so I decided to jump right in. I’ve been using the bar shampoo from Natural Vegan Club for a week or so now (washing my hair usually twice per week) and am pleasantly surprised. I’m still using up an old conditioner, but plan to buy a conditioner bar from Unwrapped Life.

For Bodywash: Similarly, I’m waiting for a bottle to finish (that I’ll recycle) and then I’ll use bar soap for shaving and washing. I have quite a collection built up from several brands, so I don’t suspect I’ll be buying any new soap for a while.

For Shaving: This is the area I’ve struggled with the most. I use my razor a lot — daily in some way or another, so I’ve tried just about everything. Except a safety razor. So this month, I’ll be buying one (I’m debating between Leaf Shave or Oui Shave — I’d love your recommendations!) Safety razors are zero waste in that there isn’t a plastic cartridge or handle that you throw out (because, as far as I know, they can’t be recycled) every few weeks. Their blades can be saved and sent to centers that specifically recycle razor blades. I’m nervously excited to order mine (they’re a bit of an investment) and will definitely be sharing about how I like it.

My favorite part about this routine is how versatile it is. My kids can use the same products I do (except the razor, of course) and each of them travels extremely well without needing to waste travel-sized products or cram giant shampoo bottles into my carry-ons.

I’ll plan to write an update on how each month goes (maybe as a “quarterly update” if monthly updates don’t work out), but for now, I’d love to hear what your goal for January is and/or if you’ve ever tried zero waste-ing your shower routine.


Don’t forget to use the tag #InspiringZeroWaste to share your posts with me and others in the community!


#InspiringZeroWaste for 2019 || Tackling Low Waste Living One Month at a Time (+ free downloadable calendar)

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Is it cliche if I ask how it’s nearly 2019 already? Or say “where did 2018 go?!” Or ask you to “start the New Year off with a bang?” Probably. So I’ll save you the cliche’s and jump right in to my goal for this post.

If you’re anything like me, you love the idea of living a minimal, slow lifestyle that has minimal impact on the planet and community around you. However, (if you’re like me), you might be equally overwhelmed by the sheer intimidating magnitude of implementing this kind of lifestyle into your day to day.

Living low or zero waste in today’s world isn’t simple or convenient most of the time.

A few statistics to put it into perspective:

I could go on, but then you’d all probably get too discouraged to keep reading this post and join me in my little challenge.

What is the #InspiringZeroWaste Challenge?

True to my usual form, I love challenges and need to feel like my actions are making a difference. But, I’m also a creature of habit and convenience. Tackling the waste of my lifestyle in an all encompassing way seemed too overwhelming and impossible to stick with, so my efforts have been half-ditch at best. I carry a reusable water bottle and coffee mug everywhere, but often forget to bring reusable shopping bags. I shop for secondhand clothing, but send my fair share of textile waste to landfill through over-consumption and donation. I’m not perfect, nor am I trying to be, but I wanted to create a way for a more sustainable and earth-friendly lifestyle to actually STICK, without guilt trips or failed new years resolutions.

And so I decided to take it a month at a time.

For the #InspiringZeroWaste challenge, I will tackle one “project” each month of 2019 to reduce my (and my family’s) waste. Instead of trying to get rid of all waste at once, I’ll take smaller steps, all working toward a mindset of overall sustainability and ethical living.

Statistically speaking, smaller more manageable goals “stick” better over time. The truth of failed “New Years Resolutions” is all too staggering and is the opposite of what I’m going for this year. Don’t think of this challenge as yet another resolution to stick to (and fail mid-February). Think of it as a gradual lifestyle change, using proven techniques to make sure it sticks.

What the Challenge Isn’t

Of course, this monthly challenge isn’t meant to downplay the hugeness of our deeply ingrained issues with single-use plastics and “disposable culture”. I don’t think tackling one goal per month will save the world.

The challenge isn’t meant to give you permission to waste in other areas that you’re not focusing on each month. (ie. you’re not using plastic bags this month, but you didn’t say anything about tossing your disposable coffee cup in the trash). It’s meant to be cumulative — building healthy habits on top of one another one at a time, instead of fighting overwhelm every time you buy something wasteful.

Who is #InspiringZeroWaste for?

Simply put, anyone and everyone.

I’ve purposefully left the challenge as customize-able as possible to make it achievable. You will set your own goals for each month depending on what areas you’re hoping to reduce waste in the soonest. In my planner (free and downloadable below!) I’ve given examples of “sample goals” you can set, but really it’s completely up to you and where you think your lifestyle needs the most improvement.

Maybe you want to stop eating out and reduce “to-go” trash. Maybe you want to invest in a nice reusable water bottle or KeepCup. Maybe you want to learn more about composting or cooking seasonally. Maybe you want to stop buying new clothing or learn more about textile recycling. There are so many ways to reduce waste, so don’t get overwhelmed and tackle the challenges that seem most important to you one at a time.

How to join in

Again, it’s simple. You can do the challenge all on your own, or you can use the resources I’ve created to make it a little more organized and do-able. My free planner has space for each month of the year for brainstorming and implementing your goal, as well as accountability and reflection.

You can also join in with me and the ZW community by sharing your progress and monthly goals using the hashtag #InspiringZeroWaste on Instagram.

Be sure to check back here each month and follow along on Instagram for updates on my monthly goals, my inevitable failures, and progress reports. A few of my personal goals for the year are to learn more about cloth diapering (and start doing it) before baby arrives in May, start composting officially, completely cut out my plastic shopping bags, and learn more about textile recycling.

Finally, please reach out to me, tag me, email me, comment here, etc., if you decide to join in. The more the merrier and I’d love to see how your goals are going as the year progresses.

Living a low-waste lifestyle is intimidating. Join me in tackling one goal per month during #InspiringZeroWaste 2019!

Are you in?

Click here to download my free planner (or click the giant button below) for the full year and decide on your goal for January. Remember to take it slow and don’t get overwhelmed by the scope of the challenge. Take it a day, a week, a month at a time and watch as your habits and awareness grow.

Here’s to a beautiful (and less wasteful) 2019!

Introducing Findlay || Minimal, Sustainable, Elegant

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I’ve written before that bags seem to be the “gateway drug” for easing into sustainable shopping. They’re easier to integrate into your pre-existing wardrobe, don’t require as much planning, and, not surprisingly, there are lots of incredible brands making ethically made handbags. I’ve written about my fair share this year, but I wanted to wrap up 2018 with a post celebrating a newly launched brand that I believe in wholeheartedly and think you just might too.

Findlay officially launched in November with a Kickstarter campaign that highlights their minimal aesthetic, elegant design, and versatile function. I’ve been lucky enough to test out their Combo Crossbody Clutch before they officially “hit the market” and, also not surprisingly, I can’t get enough.

The Story

Findlay is the brainchild of Andrea, who fell in love with leather for it’s durability and quality. Her story is similar to many other brand owners and designers — as she struggled to find a bag that would transition well through all the hats she wore, she decided to try her hand at designing her own. Andrea designs and produces all of her totes in Los Angeles using vegetable tanned leather from an ethical factory in Italy.

Sustainability

Currently, only 10% of the world’s leather is tanned with tannins from tree bark and plants. This process, called Vegetable Tanning, is free from the harmful chemicals of Chrome tanning and is an “artisanal process” that’s safer for the environment, the workers, and the consumer.

Findlay’s bags are also lined with organic cotton — a feature that, I believe, increases the elegance and functionality of the bags while prioritizing eco-friendly materials.

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Quality

Of course, with the materials mentioned above, Findlay’s products can be nothing but beautiful. I’ve had quite a few leather bags in my day and I’m still amazed at how each one is different. Findlay’s leather is sturdy, not floppy, with a gorgeous sheen that will wear well with time. The lining of the bag gives it an air of class and makes it perfect to dress up or dress down. I could just as easily wear my Combo Crossbody Clutch to a New Years Eve party as I could to preschool pickup.

Giving Back

Don’t stop now, because Findlay gets even better. As tempting as being one of the first to test their bags was, I was hesitant to accept this partnership because I’ve reviewed several other leather goods brands this year and didn’t want to appear repetitive or overly consumerist. I’ve even turned down other partnerships for the same reasons. But, when I read about Findlay’s mission, I realized the timing was perfect, and I’m so proud of the steps this newly launched brand is taking already to make an impact.

10% of all of Findlay’s proceeds go to non-profits in the LA area committed to ending human trafficking locally. With Dressember coming to a close, it’s an honor to highlight a brand who will continue to contribute to rescuing survivors, making a livelihood for victims, and funding the operations who make it possible.

Andrea told me that this focus on social justice is integral to Findlay’s business structure and it’s so exciting to see a brand prioritizing not only ethics when it comes to eco-friendliness and worker safety, but when it comes to using their business to contribute to a matter so close to my heart as well.

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It’s possible to find a brand that produces with eco-friendly materials. It’s also possible to find one that designs with minimalism and functionality in mind. It’s even possible to find brands who give back.

But a brand who does all three? That’s something worth supporting.

You can shop Findlay’s first collection of bags on their Kickstarter campaign until December 29 — after that, the prices will increase, so don’t wait too long. Each sale from their campaign will support their full production launch and, trust me, these bags are worth getting your hands on.

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*Thank you to Findlay for sponsoring this post (I don’t take it lightly when newly launched brands put their faith - and budget - in influencer marketing) — as always, all thoughts, photos, and opinions are my own.

Outdoor photos were taken by Shutter Story Photography.*


Outfit details: Striped top (Elegance Restored), Dress (Sotela — designed by me and Emily!), Booties (Adelante Shoes), White tee (The Great Beyond).

A Tiny Christmas || Keeping Christmas 2018 Simple

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It’s officially our first “tiny” Christmas in the RV and, although I’ve always tried to keep the holidays simple and pressure free as much as I could, this year it feels like we’re taking it to new lengths, literally.

This season has, as it usually does, felt like a blur, but I’ve tried to keep my mindset on doing “less but better” be it an activity, buying a gift, or deciding whether to decorate or not. I’ll keep this post short and sweet, but I’m excited to share a few photos of our Christmas setup and a few (really simple) goals I’ve been sticking to over the past month or so.

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1. Keep Decorations to a Minimum

As much as I love to deck the halls, this year it felt overwhelming to try to add too much Christmas decor, especially when we’re still in the organizing and settling in phase of RV life. I stuck to setting up a mini artificial tree (reusable and easier to clean up than a real tree) and buying one pre-lit garland for the kitchen.

For the tree, the girls and I made salt dough ornaments and made a little garland using cotton balls and yarn and filled in the gaps with the few ornaments we already had (plus the addition of our RV ornament that I couldn’t say no to).

Our living area feels festive but not overwhelming and I’m not worried about where to put it all when we take it all down.

2. Focus on cultivating a sense of Christmas, rather than feeling pressured to do It all

This has been huge for me. We live in a very tourist-y area with LOTS going on over the holidays and although we’ve done a few of the events, I’m hoping to portray to my girls that the holidays can still be festive and exciting without having to be busy. So, we’ve decorated cookies, read Christmas stories, gone sledding and drank hot cocoa, and even went to the Denver Zoo lights, but I don’t feel pressure to say yes to every Christmas-y thing that comes our way.

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3. Keep gifts simple, but don’t stress if others don’t

Perhaps the most important tip for me this year has been to not stress about what I can’t control. I love gifts of experiences for my kids and meaningful things that don’t take up much space and encourage exploration and creativity. But. Not everyone else does. I can make my “wish list” for my family, pass it on to relatives with the note that we live in an RV so please don’t go overboard, and leave it at that.

As the packages for my kiddos arrive at our doorstep I try to appreciate the love that went into them, thankful for how many people love my girls. Instead of feeling stress about the new toys we will have to make space for, I’m working on controlling only what I can control.

How are you keeping the holidays simple this year?