Tiny Living || Reducing Waste in Our Kitchen

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Since the beginning of my #InspiringZeroWaste challenge in January, I’ve hesitated to tackle one of the biggest areas that my household (and most households, I think) creates waste.

The kitchen.

Smaller space, as I’ve learned, doesn’t mean less waste and sometimes, it can mean producing even more waste for the sake of convenience.

This post won’t portray me as a perfect zero-waster, because the reality is that, especially in the kitchen, I’m far from it. But I’m working on implementing small steps (that I can actually stick with) thanks to this monthly challenge.

Today, I’m excited to share a bit of what I’ve already done to decrease waste in my kitchen — in this post, I’m welcoming the help of Do Good Shop (although you don’t need to buy anything to lessen your waste!). I’ll also share a few goals that I have for the coming month(s) and hopefully spark a bit of inspiration on your end as well.

If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for ethical home goods, Do Good Shop is a great resource. They’re a non-profit marketplace stocking items that support artisans, end trafficking, and encourage traditional craftsmanship. You’ll be hearing lots more about them in the coming months.

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In my “waste audit” of my tiny kitchen, I learned that packaging and food waste are the two biggest areas my family and I create waste. Although I’m not sure we will ever fully eliminate packaging from our home (packing school lunches without single-wrapped foods is HARD) and I may never find the perfect balance of buying and cooking the perfect amount of food, I’ve found a few ways to consciously reduce waste in these areas that have helped tremendously.

We still produce far too much trash than I’m comfortable with, even for a small family, and I would ideally like to recycle even less than we do (consuming less in general) but reducing waste as a family isn’t easy and I’m choosing to celebrate each small step instead of beat myself up for the long ways I have left to go.

Here are a few ways I’ve gotten started that you can try too:

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  1. DIY as much as you can

    DIY-ing, as much as my aesthetics-loving self hates to admit it, doesn’t have to be pretty. First and foremost, it should solve a problem or expense in your life, ultimately saving you time and money. I’ve fallen in love with DIY-ing my own cleaning supplies which saves my home from unnecessary plastic packaging and the unnecessary toxins found in most cleaning supplies. I also DIY things like tupperware, meaning I’ll reuse packaging certain foods come in to save other food before eventually recycling it. Things like cheese cartons, or even the twist ties found in the produce section can be used in other ways.

  2. Swap cloth for disposables

    It can be a beautifully-made swap, like my cloth napkins from Do Good Shop made by artisans in India using time-honored block printing, or it can be as simple as a cut up old t-shirt to use as cleaning rags. I have (and use) both daily. While my tee-cloths are essential for cleaning the daily messes, I wouldn’t use them to serve as dinner napkins or even something to clean up crumbs or coffee grounds. With these two “products” I’ve eliminated paper towels and other disposable cleaning wipes from my home.

  3. Shop seasonally and avoid plastic where you can

    I won’t even pretend that shopping zero-waste for groceries for a family of almost five is easy, because it isn’t. We have limited access to farmers’ markets and bulk food stores, so I’m usually left with shopping from the organic produce section and crossing my fingers that I remembered my reusable shopping bags. BUT it’s do-able to make a dent in your packaging and plastic intake and it’s worth trying, even if you can’t do it perfectly.

  4. Use your food scraps

    It’s hard to plan how long your food will last and, similarly, how much of it your three and five year old will eat once you make it, but there are ways to reduce your food waste by cooking with unused food scraps and strategically cooking/shopping to reduce extras. I learned about some great ways to use food waste from Going Zero Waste and her newly released book, but you can also do a quick Google search to find lots of inspiration. There are also lots of foods you can regrow from the stems and bottoms, so I’ve been experimenting a lot with that lately too.

  5. Meal Plan

    I’m the worst at meal planning. The absolute worst. In my almost six years of marriage and 5 years of motherhood, I haven’t consistently stuck with it until this year, when I realized how much of a money and sanity saver it really is. Meal planning, it turns out, can significantly reduce your waste in the kitchen too.

Not a super glamorous list, I know, or even what you may have expected (a list full of products you need to buy and eco-switches you need to make). Although products can be helpful for convenience and keeping you motivated, I’ve learned that reducing waste is really a mindset (and ultimately a lifestyle) shift, especially in the kitchen.

I love keeping a few "pretty things” around to keep things cheery and bright, like my Olivewood Serving Tray from Do Good Shop that serves as an in-bed tray, a plant display, a snack server and so much more, and a few pretty napkins and hand towels. But other than that, the kitchen is a place to make messes and get creative, and reducing your waste in the kitchen may not be as pretty as you’d expect either.

My #InspiringZeroWaste goal for this month is to research small space composting! I’d LOVE any resources you know of or tips that have worked well for you. I’m not opposed to an outdoor composting bin (in fact, I’d prefer it) but it needs to be bear and wildlife proof! (#mountainliving).

How hard has reducing waste in the kitchen been in your life? I’d love to hear your tips!


*This post is part of a long term collaboration with Do Good Shop. But all opinions, creative direction, and photographs are my own. Shop the links in this post to support brands that create a better world for artisans all over the world!*

Kitchens are one of the most wasteful areas of most rooms, but you might be surprised at how simple it is to start reducing your trash, even with kids in the house.

Beating the Winter Blues || “The Jar” Method + 21 Ideas to Stay Busy

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I purposefully live in a place where it’s winter for the better part of the year. I also purposefully live in a 37 foot RV. These two “purposely’s” can lead to some wonderful adventures, but, in our four months in this tiny home, I’ve also come to expect the stir-crazies as well.

Regardless of where you live, winter can be long and depressing and, especially when there are children involved, leave you counting the days till the sun shines again. Whether you struggle with seasonal anxiety or depression or are just looking for a few ways to keep your family busy this winter, I thought I’d share a few of the ways I’m proactively staying busy with my girls to ward off excessive winter blues.

The Jar

After seeing this post from Erin Lochner, I decided to do my own take on “the Jar” for winter (and likely each season afterwards). I simply wrote down every activity I could think of on a strip of paper, folded it up and placed it inside an empty jar. Each day, or whenever the winter blues hits especially hard, I have my girls draw one piece of paper. Regardless of what the activity is, we have to do it that day.

The Jar forces me to get beyond my home-body nature and ensures that my five and three year old children are getting the activity they need to stay healthy and engaged in a small space.

It seems rigid, or maybe overly simplified, but when given the choice to go out or do nothing, I usually choose doing nothing. This option forces me to do things that my girls will love and not default to letting them play on their own or, honestly, just throwing a movie on when I get overwhelmed.

My list isn’t exhaustive, but so far, it’s been so helpful for getting us out (or at least doing something new inside) each day.

  1. Build a snowman

  2. Make a fort inside and watch a movie together or read books

  3. Write a letter to grandma (or a friend)

  4. Pick 2-3 toys/clothes/items to donate and go thrifting for a new treasure

  5. Get bundled up and go for an adventure walk outside

  6. Go swimming at the local rec center

  7. Schedule a play date

  8. Bake cookies

  9. Have a picnic on the kitchen floor

  10. Have an at-home spa day (complete with manicures from Handmade Beauty, of course).

  11. Make hot cocoa and watch a movie together

  12. Go to the park and play in the snow

  13. Take the pup on a walk

  14. Play Eye Spy

  15. Draw a picture of…

  16. Play a board game

  17. Make homemade play-dough

  18. Play restaurant

  19. Go to the library

  20. Do 15 jumping jacks

  21. Go sledding

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WInter can drag on, espeically when you've got kiddos to entertain. Here are 21 of our favorite things to do when the winter "stir-crazies" hit.

What would you add to your own Jar? How are you warding off the Winter Blues?



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 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!

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?