A Zen-filled Bathroom

Adam and I started this year with some relatively lofty goals. As per usual, we finished our chalkboard of goals (which we’re doing excellent on, by the way. The student loan number is already shrinking-hurrah!), and then I add something along the lines of “BUT what if we also do *enter such and such crazy idea here*.” Luckily Adam’s a really tolerant person, and he finds most of my crazy ideas amusing.

Let me backtrack a tad bit. This year, we’re planning on buying a house and land so at some point we can farm. I spend a lot of my time thinking about our future house and what I hope for it, and what I kind of impressions I want to give my children for what makes a home, etc. etc. For some reason, I love hypothetical thoughts and conversations; I feel it helps me prepare for when events start happening. So, bright and early in January, I’m looking around our house thinking about what it means to live a simplified life.

Enter idea.

“Adam!” I say excitedly, “we should go through every room in our house again de-cluttering and reviewing our possessions! We’ll do one room a week, and it will be amazing!”

Needless to say, Adam gave me an amused grin and agrees to my new found task. We decided to begin in the bathroom because it’s one of the smallest rooms in our home, and I thought we wouldn’t find that much to part with. We use everything in there on a daily basis, right?

Wrong.

I pulled everything off the shelves, cleaning and rearranging as I went. Now, mind you, we only have one skinny corner shelf with seven square foot ledges to put our belongs on. And yet, there was a plethora of items hiding in plain site. I even made a pile of them, and snapped a photo because I was surprised at what I’d found.

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Foot powder, old Lysol (gross), old perfume (gross), a host of personal care products, and some old make-up. Perhaps this doesn’t seem like a lot, but for us, it’s quite a bit compared to what we have now. We sent these aging products off to the best disposal places we could find, which unfortunately means some ended up in the dumpster. We’re holding onto a few things to take to our hazardous waste facility once it reopens in the spring.

That being said, now that our bathroom has been cleaned and de-cluttered for a second intensive time, it has this wonderful zen feeling to it. A year ago, I would have told you the same thing the first time we went through our bathroom, but this time, I feel even more so. It’s a wonderful feeling to not have to sift through things I never use looking for what I will use.

Our bathroom has become this easy to clean, easy to navigate, nothing-ever-gets-cluttered-here zen place because we’ve intentionally made it that way. As I marveled at the simplicity this little room now holds, I am reminded of Bea Johnson’s book called Zero Waste Home. This book was responsible for a large part of Adam’s and my’s journey toward simplicity, and I think another round of reading may be in order as we move to other rooms of our house.

Now, one caveat-we definitely are not reaching my goal of finishing one room a week for this intensive cleaning process. But, we are moving forward one space at a time, and that’s good enough for now. I suppose we’ll be able to master our 700 square feet of space long before we move to something larger, and in the end, that’s all I’m really looking for anyway.

Because, once we’ve mastered the little things, much bigger things will be waiting for us.

Stay simplified, stay humbled, my friends.

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the war on plastic

In addition to our war on chemicals, Adam and I’ve decided to tackle another subject that didn’t exist a 150 years ago but is so pervasive in today’s society, plastic.

Why the war on plastic? What did plastic ever do to me? Nothing. And that’s just the problem. Plastic does nothing, as in, it doesn’t degrade, doesn’t break down, can’t be consumed by the circle of life. In effect, plastic is one of the most unnatural things I’ve ever come across. Everything in nature is part of a cycle; the ever changing movement of abiotic and biotic elements is simultaneously the most complex and most simple system I’ve ever had the pleasure to study. Within the confines of the natural world, everything has it’s place. Mufasa says it best in the Lion King :

Mufasa: Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.
Young Simba: But, Dad, don’t we eat the antelope?
Mufasa: Yes, Simba, but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life. 

So what’s the big deal with plastic? According to my google search, it takes at least 450 years for plastic to decompose, but it can be upwards of a 1,000+ years. Think about all the pieces of plastic you come in contact with on a daily basis, and then extrapolate that to a global scale. We are tying up a lot of resources in a form that will take at least the time of four human generations to break down, not to mention all the damage that plastic does to wildlife and ecosystems because of our poor management and lack of care. That’s not particularly tasteful when I consider the kind of environment I want my future children to live in.

So what can we do? Adam and I have been working towards ridding our house of as much plastic as possible, and luckily, there’s a plethora of simple acts that can greatly reduce your plastic usage.

  1. Don’t buy plastic garbage bags. If you think about it, buying garbage bags is throwing your money in the garbage in the most literal form. Why buy something to throw it away when you can use something you got for free? Adam and I get paper bags for our groceries, and then we use them for our kitchen garbage. True, we can’t 20160126_184120throw anything we want in there, but as it’s located under the sink, we can simply drain off any random liquids that might want to sneak into our garbage and go. When it’s time to take the garbage out, we staple the bag shut and we’re good to go! In other garbages, we use old produce bags, as seen here (former apple bag now bathroom garbage bag!)

  2. Reuse plastic bags as much as possible. Adam and I freeze a ton of produce for the winter, as we prefer to eat as seasonally and locally as possible. That means we have to purchase Ziploc bags to store the food in our freezer (but we’re working on finding alternatives for that too!). So, since we’re purchasing them, we’re not just going to use them once and then throw them away. 20160126_184208Instead, we do what we would do with another other temporary food storage, we wash the bags. As long as they don’t have holes, we wash and reuse these bags until they wear out. By doing this, we only buy 1, maybe 2 packages of Ziploc bags a year. They’re easy to dry, and they’re super easy to grab when we need to store food or non-food items quickly.20160126_184244

  3. Take reusable bags to the store. This ties into number 1, because when we aren’t getting paper bags (which is most of the time because we don’t make that much garbage anyway), we either bring our own bag or don’t bag what we’re buying. The easiest way to cut plastic out of your life is to simply refuse it. When we go shopping, we just tell the cashier we don’t need a bag while we’re saying hello. True, some put it in a bag anyway, or they look at us like we’re a little odd, but the only way to normalize something is to act like you’ve done it all your life.

As more of our world becomes tied up in a form that won’t decompose, we get further away from what’s real, and closer to what’s artificial. That’s not the kind of world I’d like to leave behind for my children. Instead, I’d like to follow the lines of a children’s movie, and think about all things in relation to the circle of life.

Stay tuned for part 2, coming next week…

Other Assorted Cleaning Things

Hello friends, Jenn here. Last time, I introduced my war on chemicals in my home, and there are a few loose ends to clean up (pun intended) in the household cleaning arena before moving to other aspects of life. First, I’d like to say that everything is a process. When I first started reading about how to simplify my life and all the things that I should or shouldn’t get rid of, it was very overwhelming. What I’ve learned is that no one changes their life in an instance. One of Adam’s favorite things to say recently is

no one wakes up and decides to be an environmentalist

And he’s right. Certainly our journey is several years in the making now. So that being said, don’t feel like you need to purge your house of chemicals instantly. It takes time to find simple, sustainable , and doable replacements for things you currently use. If you feel disgusted by the chemicals that surround you, use that as motivation to pursue clean alternatives. While I have given away some of our old cleaning products, I mostly content myself with using up what we have and NOT buying anything new. For instance, I still clean our hardwood floors with soap and bleach; once those are gone, I will find a suitable replacement, and I’m excited to share what that will be when the time comes.

Anyways, forward. Last time I discussed vinegar and baking soda, which I use for many, but not all of my cleaning. The other go-to that I have in my house is Norwex products. If you haven’t heard of Norwex, you should check them out here. Basically, they’re a company that specializes in cleaning products without chemicals. Huzzah! Adam and I have several of their envirocloths, which is a microfiber cloth. 20160119_181819[1]

We keep separate ones for the kitchen and bathroom, and these clothes are fantastic for cleaning up countertops, sinks, tables, and tubs. If the initial price seems scary, just know that you will never have to buy a replacement-these are quality clothes that get the job done. We also have their window cloth, and that helps clean any windows/mirrors in our home.

Outside of that, we don’t have a need for any other cleaning products. All our needs are met with these few cleaning habits, and as a bonus there is hardly any storage involved, which is nice when you’re trying to simplify and streamline your life.

Plus, all those chemicals you no longer purchase and send down the drain definitely make a difference for the plants, animals, and people living on the other side, which in turns makes you a better steward of our world. And that feels pretty darn good.

Baking Soda & Vinegar Time

Hello friends, Jenn here again. The holidays were hectic as usual, and the gloom of January has settled in by raining of all things (this is Wisconsin, right?) With the rush and gift giving of the holidays, Adam and I were blessed to receive some very nice gifts from our family. However, as we received new things, we decided to make a policy-“one thing in, one thing out.” As I said before, giving things away isn’t the hardest part, the hardest part of keeping things simple is choosing what to allow in your home. So, we were quickly able to fill our box for the month with a few ornaments and holiday decorations we don’t use, some older clothing, and a mix-match of other items.

Now, on to the fun part!

One of my favorite things about simplifying my home is that it makes cleaning so much easier. If I’m being honest I don’t mind cleaning, but there are better ways to spend my time than cleaning clutter in my home ( I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way).

Enter cleaning products!20160108_162810[1]

Living as a better steward of this world not only means streamlining material belongings, it also means taking a good, hard look at the cleaning products hiding in the corners of your home. Our world is filled with a ridiculous amount of foreign and unnecessary chemicals that are harmful to our bodies and the planet at large. Thus, the second arena I have moved into on my journey towards being a better steward is eliminating every chemical from my home.

Ambitious, I know, but necessary. I have the tendency to be somewhere in the realm of “germaphobe” so this was quite the step for me. As I’ve moved through this process, I’ve learned that I don’t need to sterilize the heck out of everything, and that doing so is actually worse for my body. If I’m never exposed to anything, how can I build up a good immune system? Just as my muscles need to be worked or they get wimpy, so does my immunity. Also, my cleaning products now get things way more clean that the other ones, and I don’t have to wear gloves because I’m concerned about what’s in them. Instead of cleaning products with ingredient lists I can’t pronounce, I use two simple ingredients I can pronounce and eat: baking soda and vinegar.

These two are the power combo at cleaning. I use them in every room of my home. See below for ideas!

  •  For a clogged/smelly drain-pour 1/4 cup baking soda in sink drain (you can do this with any drain) followed by 1/2-3/4 cup of vinegar. Let this fizzle for a while before following with running water.
  • Vinegar in a spray bottle with a couple drops of lemon essential oil cleans up just about anything. I use it for spills/accidents on the floor and furniture-including cloth.
  • Toilet cleaner-sprinkle 1/4-1/2 cup of baking soda around the toilet bowl. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2-3/4 cup vinegar and 3-4 drops of lemon essential oil(optional: lemon just makes things smell cleaner), and pour over the toilet bowl before scrubbing. Use the spray bottle to get any areas you missed pouring. Scrub well and flush.
  • Baking soda is a great replacement for soft scrub (think bath tub floors or sinks). Sprinkle some over the area in need of cleaning, dampen, and let sit for a few minutes. Use a dish scrubby (I use old ones that are beyond use in my kitchen) and rub stains/scum away. If the stain persists, mix some dish soap with your baking soda to form a sort of paste, smear it on, and let it sit for at least thirty minutes. Then scrub away as usual, and your stains should come out.

There are plenty more ways to use baking soda and vinegar, but these are some of my favorites. We buy both in bulk. They’re pretty cheap, they help limit what we bring into our home, and I never have to worry if I’m hurting myself or the planet. Talk about a win-win-win.

If you have a favorite way to use baking soda and vinegar, we’d love to hear it!