Upcycle & Donate

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My Mom was in town this weekend and she helped me complete this simple upcycle project. I took all my washcloths from college (which were already pretty ‘rustic’ looking when I purchased them brand new), washed them well, and then snipped off all the loose ends and strings. I mixed-matched them in sets of four and then tied them together with a bit of yarn.

20150606_085849_resizedI ALMOST kept them for myself, BUT the whole point of getting rid of them was not because we need new washcloths (per se), but because we currently have 30+ washcloths! This upcycle project is part of my ongoing efforts in decluttering and making space in our cabinets and in our lives! These cloths could also be used for cleaning, but honestly, Corey’s old undershirts are abundant and last a really long time. Here’s  hoping someone else can get a few more years of use out of the washcloths…
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Give this easy project a try before purchasing new washcloths, or before donating old ones. And as always, please share ideas you come across for decluttering and upcycling!

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Sole-Searching, or Declutter Day 2

I ha20150417_211225-1-1ve been doing a lot decluttering lately. Just little stuff, not enough to write an entire post about. Getting rid of extra plastic to-go cups here, an extra coffee-maker there, and even adding a few clothing items to the pile as I do laundry or sort through winter clothes to put away till next year. I have been really inspired lately by Japanese Organization Guru Marie Kondo, who was actually just named on of TIME’s “100 Most Influential People” this year. A  dear friend of mine turned me onto her a few weeks back and I have been watching a few of her youtube videos and lectures. What most attracts me to her method is this issue of “joy.” Kondo argues that in order to maintain a truly organized and clutter-free life, we have to be intentional with the things we keep near us. Her approach is basically that each and every item must be taken in hand and assessed, “does this object/item/thing bring me joy?” If a particular things does not “spark joy” in your heart, simply be rid of it.

Spring, of course, is notorious for this impulse to freshen things up,  reorganize, and to take inventory of one’s life. So this is exactly what I have been doing, SLOWLY, because that is how I roll. What’s not surprising is that waste-conscious living is much easier when you are not surrounded by clutter or wasteful items stored up in and around your house. When unnecessary things are gone it is easier to see the big picture– to breathe easier!

Here is a little update on what I have been either trashing (I know, I know), or dropping off to goodwill. Hopefully it will inspire some of you to start decluttering your space too!

  • Extra/Unused Appliances
  • Boxes that you hoard around the house for “moving things”
  • Deep Dark Depths of your Clothing Drawers. If you haven’t worn it in a year, and/or if its not “sparking joy,” donate it to someone who can/will wear it
  • SHOES! (Keep Reading)
  • Books! Books! Books! We donated all of Corey’s old seminary books (4 entire shelves clean!), and several armfuls of my old tweenager books, unused cookbooks (because by now you know I don’t use them), novels/books/magazines that will not be reread
  • Trinkets. We had a few weird prize giveaway type things, bobble heads, trophies, and odd ball trinkets. We are not collectors, so it was really easy to say goodbye to these wasteful things
  • DVDs, because let’s be honest, you don’t watch DVDs anymore. OR get rid of the ones you know you don’t want to lug around the rest of your life, because NETFLIX, REDBOX, and the internet
  • Extra kitchen tools, like extra measure cups and spoons, shot glasses, plastic silverware you purchased in bulk at one time, plastic cups, coffee mugs, and/or holiday additions of household items that only get used once a year (if you remember to take them out)
  • Pictures! My mom sent me a box full of printed images that has been haunting our guest room for almost a year now. I finally when through it and threw away two thirds of them, most of which were doubles, blurry, awkward, not of me or anyone I remembered or cared to remember, etc. The last season in life when I printed pictures regularly was middle school, so you can guess how horrific most of these discarded images were.

This just about covers the last few weeks. I’ll probably post another update and another few images as the process continues! But finally I am getting to the heart and sole of this post.

SHOES!!!

A few months ago I donated several sandals and all of my Toms shoes. I had like 5 pair of Toms and if I wore them for 5 minutes my back was killing me, so I finally let them go. After these donations I was feeling pretty good about my shoe situation, and promised that for every new pair I purchased I would donate an old pair. Good idea, right? Welp, I had a change of heart/strategy.

Last night I put the Marie Kondo method to test– I took out ALL of the shoes I own and arranged them on our guest bed. I picked up each and every questionable pair and before putting it back into our closet I asked myself, “do I absolutely need these shoes? When was the last time I wore them– do they spark joy?” Some of the shoes I didn’t even need to pick up, I just left them on the bed. By the end of this declutter ritual I was able to donate 14 pairs of shoes!!!20150417_211421

I swear this method works, because it forced me to come to terms with the excess, while meaningfully reflecting on each item’s purpose and necessity. When I have tried to get rid of shoes in the past, I would think of shoes individually and in the moment, and of course would always default, “but I’ll need those some day,” or “I wear those when I go here, or wear this” (which turned out to be NEVER).

I am a little embarrassed by these images, but I am feeling so much better now that I am not cramming shoes into the racks in my closet. There is some extra space–room to breathe!20150417_211318-1 20150417_211403-1

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Donated Shoes!

Baking Soda Magic

I must admit– I have been skeptical of homemade cleaning products since jump. To be completely honest– I love my chemical shit-storm-smell-good-pretty-bottle promises that I use to clean with (only on occasion, because I’m lazy).  So never in a million years did I imagine writing anything, let alone a public blog post, on the magical qualities of baking soda. Since rededicating myself to a waste-conscious lifestyle, I’ve been doing a lot of research on ways to live more intentionally for both the environment and my family’s health, and what is in my cabinets–specifically, what is in those flashy-smell-good-chemical-death spray bottles must also be taken seriously.

After reading through several recipes for homemade cleaners, I realized they all had one thing in common– baking soda. Honestly, I didn’t know where to start and did not want to waste of bunch of money experimenting, so I just did it. Yesterday, I was looking at my dirty kitchen sinks and I just pulled the stuff out of the spice cabinet and started sprinkling it all over the place. I even kind of did it with an attitude– “let’s see what you can do baking soda!”

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I took the rough side of a damp sponge and started scrubbing my sinks and countertops and to my amazement– they got shiny and clean!!!! …but really really shiny! This process was also EASY, too easy! NO EXHAUSTIVE SCRUBBING and NO SOAPY MESSES. My sinks have never been this clean–they weren’t even this clean when we got our place 3 years ago! Excuse the bad photography and take a look!

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(before)

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(during cleaning)

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(after)

I was so addicted to the baking soda magic that I cleaned all my sinks this way, including our master bathroom sink (pictured below) which we have been wanting to replace because it’s pretty gross. And while our bathroom sink is no where near the shiny newness that the baking soda achieved with the stainless steel kitchen sinks– it is so much better and a lot of hard calcium and water build up has been eliminated.

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(before)

 

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(after)

Now, I’m not quite ready to start making all my cleaning products until I figure out what to do with old cleaners (I might just finish using them?). But I did want to take a minute to testify to the magic of baking soda (all on its own). I may never go back to cleaning my sinks with anything other than baking soda, and maybe a few drops of essential oils, maybe some bleach?

We’ll see…

Declutter Day 1

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I’ve been reading a lot about how it is necessary to address the issue of clutter before you can start making real strides towards a waste-free environment. As a graduate student, an artist, and probably a closet hoarder, this part is obviously the most challenging.

 

Alas, I am headed to Salvation Army today to drop off my first round of donations! The two areas I focused on this week were my linen closet (where we also keep extra toiletries and medicine), and the kitchen. Because I am taking this SLOW I will probably come back to these areas again in another few weeks…but for now, these are some of the things that were taking up space in our life.

 

Linen Closet:

  • Travel size toiletries, which I have been hoarding from hotels. I used to keep these for guests, but now I’m going to get some permanent guest toiletry staples and store under the guest bathroom sink (refillable shampoo, conditioner, wash, and lotion). These babies that are cluttering up our life can go to people who can use them now, instead of the occasional guest in our home.
  • Unopened over the counter meds. I am not sure if they will take these, but Corey and I rarely medicate. Somehow we have ended up with several packages of unopened Nyquil, off brand cold medications, cough drops, and allergy medication. I hope someone will get some good use out of these before they expire! That being said, I also threw away (:-() several medications that had expired years ago, so meds are a good place to do some decluttering.
  • Cotton balls and cotton pads.
  • Old towels that need to be transitioned to cleaning rags.

Kitchen (Phase 1):

  • Plastic plates, cups, and bowls. I have been wanting to get new dishes for a lonnnnng time! I’m hoping now that our collection has been cut in half by getting rid of toxic plastic dishware– new stuff is on the horizon.
  • Plastic to-go silverware and paper party plates (we rarely use any of this stuff and it just takes up space under our counters)
  • Canned food. I didn’t have any of this, but I think this would be a good donation to make in Kitchen Phase 1
  • Coffee mugs, to-go cups. I got rid of 2 mugs, 2 plastic commuter mugs, and 2 plastic to-go cups with straws (a small dent in my unwieldy collection, but…SLOW).
  • Plastic tupperware. I also went pretty conservative on this, since we still use tupperware everyday for lunches. I got rid of just enough so that on our next few paychecks we can slowly replace with one green lunch storage option at a time.
  • Clean out refrigerator for expired goods.

 

And this was enough for us this week! It was just enough that I could get it done in between writing breaks and feel good about the small things that I was able to accomplish. If you are unconvinced you can actually pull off the whole waste-free life-style– I get it! Corey has been giving me side-eyes for days since I have started taking the actions I have been lip-servicing for years. Especially for my family and close friends, start small with me! Spring is around the corner, let’s declutter!