My guide to a minimal Zero-waste Christmas: Part 1

Hi everyone, it’s that time of year again. The crazy last minute mad dash between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or as I like to call it “the month I avoid malls and shopping centers” 🙂

We’re finally past Black Friday and the whole weekend of mindless consumerism and right about now you’re probably wondering how in the world you’re going to mesh your minimalist/and or/ Zero-waste lifestyle with the holiday season. I’ll admit, it can be quite the challenge to try and mesh the most consumer driven holiday of the year with a lifestyle that isn’t so dependent on having tons of stuff…but I assure you it CAN be done…with a bit of planning and preparation, of course.

thQN8F9RIS

So over the next few weeks in my Christmas guide series I’m going to give you all my pointers tips and tricks to make your holidays as simple and waste-free as possible.

Let’s start with the most obvious subject…..Gifts. We’ll separate this into two parts, the first being gifts YOU buy for other people, and the second being the gifts you are likely to receive.

Gifts you buy:

As a rule, I tend to always get consumable gifts, i.e. something they can eat or use up (in other words, no tchotchkes). My two go-to gifts are 1. Candy/goodies from the bulk bins, hugs-and-kisses-mason-jar-2_thumband 2. Some sort of scrub/body wash/lotion I make my self that requires only a few ingredients (Google easy home-made salt scrubs and you’re bound to find something you’ll like).

To keep the gift minimal as well as zero-waste, I will save old glass jelly jars or mustard jars (anything you still don’t make yourself but buy in glass jars). I then wash them out, peel the labels off, and it makes for an easy and cute container to store your gift. If I’m getting something from the bulk bins I’ll usually take one or two  of my own larger jars that are already tared to the store and fill them up with a couple of treats I know everyone will love. Then when I get home I separate it into the smaller jars.

Packaging: once you have the jars filled with your consumable gift, I personally like to leave the jars plain and simply set them under our tree…no muss, no fuss. But for those of you who love to wrap gifts I’d recommend either reusing newspaper that was headed for the recycling bin….or….like I like to do, save wrapping and bows/ribbons from gifts people get for my birthday, etc. and simply reuse them.

More gift ideas…

~Experience gift like concert tickets, movie tickets, etc.

~Put together a Zero-Waste starter kit with extra jars, bamboo toothbrush, etc. you have lying around the house.

~Hot chocolate mix in a jar- just need some cocoa, maybe mini marshmallows….you get the idea 🙂

~Really, any sort of mix in a jar.

~Home-made goodies of any kind

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When in doubt about a gift….cash is always acceptable…at least for me it is lol

Gifts they buy for you:

The simplest way to avoid unnecessary packaging/junk you don’t want in your home is to ask for something specific ahead of time. It could be something tangible that you need/want or you could ask family and friends to donate to your favorite charity.

For some family members I can tell them not to get me anything and they’ll totally understand and not get me anything. But if your family is anything like mine, there are always a few people who are determined to give gifts, legitimate hold them in your hand and unwrap them sort of gifts….the type of family member who isn’t swayed by anything you say about not needing anything, blah, blah blah. You could get pissy with them and fight about it, or you could circumvent it. My strategy is pretty simple… in order to avoid any item I might mot like/use, I ask for a specific budget-friendly gift from that person/people.

For example, for my birthday I specifically requested socks….yep, you read that right, SOCKS. My ten year old self would pout at a gift like that, but my adult self loved not having to buy my own socks. And for Christmas I have asked for an adult coloring book, because coloring is relaxing, and the book will be made of paper, and they don’t have any extra packaging to them except whatever my relative wraps it in. (which I will take and reuse to wrap a future gift…I might even use the colored pages to wrap future gifts when I’m finished with them 😉 )

Side-note: for those of you with kids, the holidays can be tough. But you can always make a specific list for people to choose from, or even open a college savings account for each kid that people can gift to, or even ask for experience gifts (like a trip to the zoo) in lieu of a physical toy 🙂

So overall, it’s pretty simple with a bit of planning. The only thing you have to do ahead of time is scoop out a few eco-friendly, package -free gift options beforehand and be ready when you get asked what you want for Christmas. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have this….

Than this…1-corinthians-12-4

Anyways 🙂

 

Hope you liked part 1 of my Christmas Guide series. Stayed tuned for part 2: Christmas Cards

What kinds of gifts do you give for Christmas? Do you reuse wrapping and bags? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Advertisements

My inventory of stuff.

All right, this is something that I said I would probably never do…like ever. But I finally did it, I wrote down a master inventory list of all of my stuff. Yep, I said it, I catalogued everything I own.

Honestly, it took FOREVER to write the list, and I don’t have a ton of stuff to begin with! Or at least I didn’t think I did. I’ve already done about a dozen purges, each time getting rid of more and more that I don’t really need but was holding onto for the moment of “just in case”.

Forcing myself to sit down and write a master list of what I own really made me take a hard look at each and every item and wonder “Is this item really necessary?”, I mean seriously, after writing so many different items down you get to the point where you would rather donate an item than have to write down anything else haha.

I won’t kill you all with every single detail of my inventory, but I thought I would share a bit of it.

When I started this list I thought I would make the lists organized by room, then I thought better of it and separated it into further categories. The categories are:

  1. Closet/Clothes
  2. Room Accessories
  3. Art supplies
  4. Technology
  5. Furniture
  6. Wardrobe Accessories
  7. Oils, etc. Consumables
  8. Personal items (pads, menstrual cup, razor, etc.)
  9. Items in my Armoire
  10. Items stored in the basement
  11. Desk contents
  12. Kitchen contents (only pots and pans, I didn’t count food at all)

The majority of items I found were smaller items that everyone has such as pens and pencils, miscellaneous desk items, and office supplies.

My biggest numbers were definitely in the Art supplies category…there I had 11 brushes, 43 paints, 5 sponges, 2 sketchbooks, 3 oils, 10 markers, 1 paint thinner, 16 pastels, 9 pencils, 9 erasers…..well, you get the idea. 🙂

I’ve always had a thing for creating paintings and sketches, it is a great creative outlet that is relaxing and in the end you are left with something either beautifully amazing or half-ways decent. My goal with the art supplies is to use the supplies that I have before I purchase anything else. I would eventually like to get to the point where I make my own supplies like paints etc. There was this book once that I browsed through that said you could make a paint brush out of cat whiskers….I have two cats who drop old ones all the time, I should have been saving them all these years!

Anyways, onto the other categories. I’ll spare you the details of my wardrobe since I already did a post on it here. Since that post I have minimized a few more items, but not enough to do an updated post yet. I also have eliminated most of the plastic from my closet. I no longer have the plastic bins, and half of my hangars have been swapped out for wood ones. But I digress…

The smallest categories tended to be those with larger sized items. My furniture category is as follows:

  1. Queen bed frame
  2. Queen mattress and box spring
  3. Armoire
  4. Dresser
  5. Desk
  6. 2 sitting chairs
  7. 2 lamps
  8. 1 desk chair
  9. 1 clothes hamper
  10. 1 chalkboard- it’s quite large and hangs on a wall so I classify it as furniture

That’s it for furniture, but then again I do live with other people, so I am fully prepared that when I live on my own I will probably need a few more items. 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another category that I have kept rather small is my room accessories/decorations category…

  1. 3 blue glass jars/vases
  2. 1 glass tiger
  3. 1 candle
  4. 1 figurine
  5. 3 ceramic masks
  6. 1 African rain stick

The only thing that is sort of a decoration that isn’t in this category is my paintings, I left them in the art category just to make my life simpler.

For those of you wondering, I’ll throw out a few other numbers of things that most of us own.

DVD’s- I own 14 (I’m thinking about getting rid of a few)

VHS’s- 17…Yes I do still have access to a VCR, I’m a weird person but I still like my VHS’s.

Books- 225….this is still a large amount, but I used to own TWO THOUSAND, so it is quite an improvement. The one thing I have always loved is books.

Sheets- 2 sets, one for winter and one for summer. I also have 1 comforter.

Hair ties- 20

Hair pins- 20

X-mas stuff- 1 small metal tin of my favorite wood/metal ornaments that I display for the month of December and then put them back away. I can use hooks to display them on a wall or a metal jewelry holder to hold them up, I nixed my Christmas tree.

Sentimental items- I have mine confined to a space rather than a number, all of my sentimental items such as photographs or old school accomplishments are in one cardboard file box. That’s it, if it doesn’t fit then I get rid of something…like pictures of old birthday cakes or Christmas trees lol Who needs those?

Those are some of the numbers, which you may or may not consider minimalist. For me it is a far cry from what I used to have, and I continue to reevaluate my items on a weekly basis. What I like to do is keep one box by the front door and as I go about my daily business I can throw an item in there if I come across it and realize that I no longer need it. When the box is full I make a trip to the donation center.

I never thought I would do an inventory like this, but it has been an eye opener.

1. About the number of things I actually own.

2. About how many of those things are one-hit-wonders or made out of plastic (I’ve been phasing out the plastic on my journey to being plastic -free and a Zero-waster).

3. About how much is truly necessary, and how much is just extra fluff. We can survive on very little, but tend to consume to excess. I am now making more mindful purchases that I mull over for a time to really assess if they are a necessity or if they will add value to my life.

Now, considering the fact that this number is changing on a daily/weekly basis I am not currently 100% sure if it is accurate, but I will finally answer your burning question…right now my total number of possessions is somewhere around 900. 225 of which is books lol Another hundred or so are art supplies. So it may seem like a big number, but surprisingly enough it doesn’t take up a huge amount of space. I have 1 regular size room with a closet, and 1 shelf of space in our basement.

Have you done an inventory of your items? If so what did you learn? If not, would you ever consider making one?

DSC03770

If you have any specific questions about numbers of any item, ask them in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

Getting into the holiday spirit :)

Alright, I’ll admit it….sometimes I can be a bit of a scrooge. I think it all boiled down to my absolute disgust with how the holidays have turned into pressurized consumerism mega days. I mean, come on, black Friday deals starting at 6pm on Thanksgiving day? Really?

I don’t know about you, but I am busy eating a Turkey at that time thank you very much.

Then there is always the pressure to buy the best Christmas gifts and of course you have to buy things for everyone.

I’m shaking things up this year 🙂

The holidays are about spending time with family, and being thankful for what you have…I am going to live that statement this year.

Minimalism and Zero-Waste are the things I am going to apply to my holiday plans.

Starting with food.

I hate how much packaging there is on ALL foods, even organic produce comes in plastic wrap more often than not now. What do you think a banana’s skin is for, decoration? No, it is the fruits natural protection.

So, to kick things off I pulled out an old favorite. A gorgeous cook book from the 1950’s that I found at a used book store. (I used to have dozens of cookbooks, but I minimized them down to only this one. It is so pretty that it makes me smile every time I pull it out)

WIN_20151124_151315

My theme for thanksgiving, is going to be “completely home-made”…no preservatives and processed foods allowed lol

Today I decided to try out my hand at some scratch made oatmeal cookies. I topped them with a home-made vanilla frosting. The entire batch took me maybe 25 minutes from start to finish…that’s a shorter time then it would be for me to go to the store and buy pre-made packaged ones.

Take a look at the results:

WIN_20151124_151047

Here is the recipe for the oatmeal cookies (left page, towards the bottom):

WIN_20151124_151245

And the frosting (left page in the middle):

WIN_20151124_151302

I had all of the ingredients on hand already. My favorite part of the recipes is how simple they are, easy recipes are always the best 🙂

The oatmeal is easy to buy in bulk, as is the flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking soda. Cream of tartar can be bought in bulk as well.

Butter is a tricky one, I buy an organic butter that is just made with cream and salt, but it is wrapped in wax paper.

Eggs you can get at the farmer’s market. Right now it is winter in Michigan, so the farmer market was out but I bought one in an easily recyclable cardboard from the health store (organic and free range)

Vanilla extract I buy in small glass jars with metal lids (haven’t found it in bulk yet)

Molasses is also bought in a glass jar with a metal lid. When I finish I will probably reuse it before eventually recycling it.

All in all, not bad for a few dozen cookies 🙂

Here’s to getting into the holiday spirit, one minimalist and zero-waste step at a time.

 

 

My Zero-waste/Minimalist holiday plan

Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner 🙂 This time of the year everyone gets together with friends and family to reconnect and enjoy the holidays.

They even started playing Christmas music on the radio 24/7 already.

This time of year is also known for tons of consumerism…..filling stockings and wrapping gifts, and lots and lots of toys if kids are involved…..

thQN8F9RIS

And tons of waste…..wrapping paper, plastic packaging, food scraps, food packaging, etc.

Don’t even get me started on the evil that is Black Friday….I refuse to step foot out of my front door that day just on principle.

I am planning to buck the trend of buying useless crap, dollar store trinkets, things wrapped in paper and plastic.

I plan to have the holidays be stress-free. No last minute shopping or wrapping, everything will be done ahead of time. I am going to spend quality time with family and friends and try to lessen my impact on the planet while I am at it.

THE MASTER PLAN:

  1. I have only one item on my Christmas list this year. A bamboo oil diffuser. I have been thinking about getting one for months now, since I use a lot of essential oils. I am going to tell my family that they can all pitch in and get it for me if they want, but that I DO NOT want anything else. I figure $50 six ways will make it affordable.
  2. Gifts for others– I have been doing this for a while, but whenever I have to get someone a gift for birthdays or holidays, I usually give an edible gift. You would be amazed and the kinds of goodies you can find in the bulk bins 🙂 That way there is no physical clutter when it is consumed, and they can enjoy it without having to find a place to store it. I get it from the store with my own reusable container, so no plastic baggie waste, and then I reuse a glass jar from one of the food items I purchase to “wrap” it in.
  3. Wrapping paper– I don’t use it. I have a few decorative bags that I use to put the glass jars in.christmas_jars I always reuse any bags that are given to me, and if they do not want to keep the bags I give them, I can always take them and reuse them again.
  4. Decorations– Simple is great. We used to have a six foot tall reusable tree, and tons of decorations but it got tiring putting them up and taking them down each year. wonderful-rustic-christmas-decorating-ideas-with-bald-tree-and-silver-balls-ornamentsNot to mention having to store all that junk. Now I have a small 3foot tall tree, that is pre-lit and one shoebox of decorations for it. That’s it. No Outside lights or crazy displays. Just easy decorations that don’t feel like clutter, and can be assembled in less than 20 minutes. Thanksgiving decorations consist of the delicious food on the table.
  5. Food– I will get as much of the food I can without packaging. I plan to make a lot of the baked goods myself, avoiding preservatives and the like. Home-made pies and bread always taste better anyway.
  6. As for spending time with family, we will probably start a fire in the fireplace, eat our goodies, watch a movie like “White Christmas” or Charlie Brown.

What are your Holiday plans?

I will post pics of my home-made gifts as I put them together. Stay tuned 🙂