Neatly Organized Drawers with TokoDesign

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

This post is sponsored by TokoDesign, a new modular minimalist company fabricating eco-conscious organizers for messy drawers. The name “Toko” comes from the Japanese word ‘tokonoma’, which describes a special alcove for displaying art. As I’ve alluded to in other posts about the home, I believe that our homes should be artful representations of ourselves. I am all about letting the furniture do the decorating, substituting architecturally historic or artist-driven products for hanging paintings, sculptures, or other traditional methods of home decor. By being mindful of the products we allow into our home, we can create art using house items that are equally functional and beautiful. TokoDesign plays an ode to those ideals – mimicking the emphasis on minimalism, versatility, and natural beauty in traditional Japanese interior design. TokoDesign has gifted me a set of organizers so that I may try it out myself. As always, this review and the opinions held within are my own.


I have a secret about my home, and that is, that it’s incredibly messy. However, I have tricks stashed up my sleeve to make it appear clean, neat, and minimal on social media and to my friends and family who visit, one of which is quite simple to do. I create the illusion of tidiness and sparsity by putting things behind closed doors. It doesn’t help that we have a shortage of doors at our home, living in a live-work loft open floorplan that has no door to separate our bedroom nor our bathroom from the rest of the space. It also doesn’t help that our space is tiny, in general.

Even though I don’t own a lot of things compared to the general public, the limited hiding places and my desire to hide everything from plain sight means that our few items still get a bit crowded. One of the banes of my existence are the kitchen and bathroom drawers. Filled to the brim with accessories, utensils, and gadgets, my items get jostled around with every opening of the drawers. Some people find the solution in placing cooking utensils in a beautiful holder on the countertop, but I have this insane itch to keep counterspace clear.

Luckily, TokoDesign has come to my sanity’s rescue. This minimal, modular organizer is probably the best organization tool I have come across since Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy book was published. The wood is made from renewable bamboo and has a beautiful look to it. The rails come in either black or white, which works for different home styles. I personally chose the white, because the exterior of our drawers are a light wood color and the inside is white. I preferred for the rails to blend in rather than stand out (there I go again with hiding things from plain sight!). I can see the black rails working with more modern kitchen schemes, like Ikea’s charcoal grey cabinets, or dark wood finishes.

The design is thoughtfully made so that the organizer can work for different drawer sizes. My qualm with other organizers is the pre-determined dimensions and the need to find ones that exactly fit a space. The rails of the TokoDesign have adjustable lengths thanks to a knob that you turn at the end of the rail to make it flush with your drawer length. There are multiple length options and the width of your drawer will determine which dividers you choose. There are three divider widths available, and even if it doesn’t span the width of your drawer perfectly, the end section can still be used as storage, as I’ve done below.

The rails ended a bit short in my drawer but I used the last sliver of drawer to the right of my last panel as a compartment for rubber spatulas and a TDS measurer.

What makes the process even more fun is the accessories that TokoDesign has produced. Kitchen knives stack neatly in the knife block, cutlery lay neatly in the silverware trays, spices align on the rack, and tiny trinkets and bobbles stay contained in boxed compartments. A person has the ability to create the combination that works for them digitally on their online order form. You can visualize how the items you purchase will look in the drawer before you even order them. I really enjoyed playing around with the different combinations once can make. I was even able to combine TokoDesign’s boxes with my pre-existing bamboo silverware tray, and it blended perfectly!

The versatile box system went well with an already existing bamboo cutlery tray that I had sitting in this drawer. The boxes now hold a number of small items such as our chopsticks holder from Notary Ceramics, my limited number of pipette tips and clips that we use to close coffee bags or chips.

Of course, I used TokoDesign for the drawer that gave me the most grief – the kitchen drawer that holds all our cooking utensils. However, I can see this system working just as well in the bathroom drawers, work desk drawers, and even nightstands. For women who have a lot of jewelry or makeup products, the boxes could prove quite useful for showcasing your favorite things in a way that makes you proud to open your drawers.

Ever so grateful for companies who implement zero plastic packaging.

They ship everything with as little plastic as possible, by the way. Only the side rails were wrapped in a thin sleeve to prevent scuff marks. All the divides and boxes were packaged without plastic, and the big shipping container in came in was also without plastic. I was so excited when the package arrived that I opened it immediately and started playing with the dividers right away. It seriously felt like a new toy on Christmas morning, which goes to show the extend of my OCD. It was easy to set up and assemble and it requires no tools to do! Most importantly, it really stays in place and nothing slides around. When I was finished playing with my TokoDesign, my drawer truly sparked joy.

The final product! Now things stay where they belong and are grouped by similarity in function. The middle tray, for example, are the items we use most when we make cocktails. The whisks are together, as well as the rubber spatulas and can openers (yes, we have two, a friendly reminder that minimalism isn’t a state of perfection.)

Play Pretend: A Morning At Your Desk

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

After writing about my new, beloved String work desk yesterday, I started to daydream about what an ideal morning at my new ”office space” would look like. When I first quit dentistry, at the time when I was very unhappy with where I was working, I spent an entire month brainstorming why things did not work out. I read books on how to organize your work space, how to make your work line up with your dharma, how to create a good work-life-balance, and how to create an environment that increases the chance of happiness at work. Books I read included Joy at Work by Marie Kondo, The Kinfolk Entrepreneur, and Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty. I learned that my previous job did not align with my dharma and the environment I was placed in was not conducive to my personality.

I spent days writing lists of what items I imagined would be in my ideal workspace. Some of my requirements included a carafe of water, a beautiful everyday coffee mug, a minimalist laptop, a few plants, a scent diffuser or candle and a beautiful pen. I also jotted down activities I would like to do each morning, and how items could help me to achieve things I wanted to do. For example, a beautiful carafe of water be a great reminder to drink 8 glasses of water each day. A beautiful coffee mug will make fueling my energy more enjoyable or meaningful. A minimalist laptop will allow me to work on blog posts without distractions. A few plants will keep me joyful and breathing quality air, while a scent diffuser could help emit aromas that create a calm atmosphere. Lastly, a beautiful pen would inspire me to plan wonderfully productive days.

On the flipside, I also wrote down items I did not want in my space. I did not want a clock anywhere in my office, because I believe that creative work should not have a time frame. I also find the ticking sound distracting as well as stressful. And the clock would cause me to lose focus from my work, as I would be ever-conscious of my progress. I did not want a lot of drawers as I knew I have the habit of stock-piling paper. I did not want an insane number of pens (do you know I use one at a time and own no more than three?), as I get frustrated by clutter. And I did not want to face the inside of my home, because it would cause me to get up from my desk and do chores and errands. This is why my desk used to face the dark corner of the living room, and now faces out onto the street.

This isn’t to say that our work depends solely on the stuff we own, but it does make a difference. I find that having the right items really make or break my productivity level. Also, surrounding myself with special items make work more enjoyable. So in today’s play pretend post, I imagine all the things that I would love to eventually surround myself with in my future work space.

  1. A water carafe (affiliate link) as a reminder to drink plenty of water.
  2. A daily coffee mug that’s beautiful to use.
  3. A thick throw (affiliate link) for colder mornings.
  4. An accessory tray (affiliate link) that works as a pen holder as well as a coaster.
  5. A candleholder to write by firelight.
  6. A diffuser (affiliate link) to create a calm environment.
  7. A narrow filing cabinet to organize paperwork by.
  8. A plant baby for reviving the space.
  9. A desk lamp (affiliate link) that’s adjustable but doesn’t get in the way of work.

Small Space Living: My Minimal WFH Desk

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Creating my ideal from-home workspace has been a long and arduous process. My intentional habits tend to get in the way of progress as I am quite particular in the function, overall look, and general meaning behind each item I introduce into our home. Couple that with my tendency to talk my way out of purchasing things, and it becomes easy to see how I get in the way of myself. It’s all migraine-inducing, but I finally feel like we are getting somewhere.

To say that we haven’t quite come to grips with our final WFH environments after a year-and-a-half into this WFH state does sound laughable. To be honest, I’ve been making do with the kitchen table, eventually upgrading to a tiny $50 Ikea Micke desk. My husband was holding meetings and conferences in our bedroom, and yes, it has been odd having no doors in our home to create any sort of privacy. In order to talk to someone during Mike’s workday, I have been stepping onto our balcony and shutting myself out, imposing my conversation on our neighbors, while the streets around us impose their city noise. We ended up getting Herman Miller chairs sometime earlier this year, and by doing so, cluttered our bedrooms and living rooms respectively. However, with the advent of our roommate moving out at the end of August, we reclaimed the downstairs space which we are now turning into Mike’s permanent WFH area, after the company’s recent extension of remote work.

Meanwhile, I’ve moved from my dark nook in the living room to the bedroom, where Mike used to be. And with this new location comes a bright, shiny new desk. Well, shiny to me, but in reality, it’s quite humbly muted. I upgraded to the ever iconic Work Desk (affiliate link) from the Swedish company, String Furniture, and I must say that I am beyond excited about this improvement.

Famous for the modular system that they created in the 1950’s, the work desk is made up of rails and a large, hanging platform. I chose beige for the rails paired with a classic white desk. Positioned right next to three window panes that look out to the downtown streets below, the rails allow plenty of light to pass into our home and my workspace, where many plants reside. I made sure to position myself right beside the windows, so that I may look out and daydream, as that is part of a writer’s job.

The entire desk took three months to ship from Sweden but came packaged in two thin boxes, lighter than the desk from Ikea. I could lift both boxes easily. Essentially, the desk is founded on the two light-weight side rails mounted to the wall by four nails. The desk sits on four pins hooked onto the rails. The height of the desk can be changed so that it can work for a child as well as an adult. The back bar for the desk holds the platform down, locking it into place.

This simple design and easily shipped product is the reason why they won the national competition in Sweden in 1949, and why they have been classified as Applied Art under the Copyright Act in 2009. So yes, the desk is a piece of artwork itself. This is something I have been trying to do in my home – that is, adding art in the form of furniture and design, rather than the traditional painting, print, or sculpture art. In essence, this is a way for me to add beauty AND function using fewer pieces, thus maintaining minimalism in the home. Let the furniture do the decorating.

String Furniture hasn’t just made a desk, by the way. This modular system was originally designed to produce a shelf (affiliate link), which once decorated the UN headquarters in NYC in the ’50’s and which became the best-selling Scandinavian furniture in Germany in the ’60’s. The shelf has turned into a system that can also be a nightstand, media console, desk, dining table, and kitchen cabinetry.

In true fashion, I’ve ordered the most minimal combination. The rails are floor panels that only reach halfway up, contrary to the original desk design that used panels that reach higher to place shelving above. I have the desk without the drawer as well, just the platform on which to work. Eventually, I would like to put a small filing cabinet in the 12-inch space between the desk and the wall, and I’ve got my eyes set on this one by Branch furniture. I want a filing cabinet that triples as a drawer, a paper organizer, and a side table as well.

Having the desk situated by the windows is useful as the sill doubles for a place to stack my planners and notebooks within arm’s reach. I also charge my phone on the sill at night, further away from my bed, which is a habit I’ve adopted a few years back to create distance between my phone and I. Meanwhile, my desk mates consist of plants which surround me on either side, adding a bit of life and fresh air to this space. Most of the plants I own are gifted, some from The Sill (affiliate link), a company that ships plants directly to your door, pottery et al.

I’ve also loved my Herman Miller chair but I recently saw this modern, ergonomic option by Noho Co (affiliate link)., and have been contemplating switching out my wheels for a more grounded sitting situation. The going is slow in my space but I am so happy with the current state and what I’ve put together so far.

My daily coffee mug is from Hasami Official and the water glass is Pokal from Ikea. The linen coaster is from Fog Linen.

I also wanted to share with you the contenders I had for desk options, in case you don’t love the String desk but are also hoping for your own minimal desk upgrade.

My favorite, runner-up desk options.
  1. Copenhagen 90 Desk by Hay (affiliate link)
  2. Rail Desk by Menu Space
  3. Shelf Library System by Frama
  4. George Console by Skagerak (affiliate link)

Travel: An Overview of Snaefellnes National Park on the West Coast of Iceland

Snaefellsnes National Park is a beautiful, secluded area on the western coast of Iceland, only two and a half hours away from Reykjavik. It was voted one of the most romantic areas to get away in Iceland, and is the perfect place for both hiking in the summer and Northern light viewing in the winter. We stayed two days in this area and I absolutely fell in love. I wish we could have stayed an extra day in order to explore more of this region, but we were short on time in general. There are many things to see in this national park, and some of the most iconic images come from this area. The experience is unparalleled by other national parks we have visited, coupled with the seclusion and moody weather (even mid-summer!). Here, I will highlight a few sights but to be honest, none of these photographs do it justice and you really have to go for yourself to believe it.

Note: the sights are listed in order if you drive around the national park counter-clockwise, which is the direction that you approach it from Reykjavik (the south). The best way to get to the Snaefellsnes area (and all around Iceland) is by renting a car or campervan. We rented a car from Hertz which had the best deal at the time. Just a side note, there is plenty of gravel roads and F-roads in Iceland so you want to rent an F-road approved car if you want to reach the most remote of places. Also, we got car insurance for peace of mind since flying gravel is a common occurrence and we weren’t willing to risk car dents and broken windshields.

Related Posts:

Gerduberg Cliffs

A wall of columns make up this famous cliff.

These cliffs are encountered on the way to Snaefellsness National Park via a tiny road splitting from the main highway to the right. Parking wasn’t an issue as this place is usually deserted, allowing you to revel peacefully at its glory. Evenly spaced, dark grey basalt columns made from lava rock line the cliff walls and have baffled scientists for many years. It isn’t so much the fact that the columns extend for miles but rather, the fact that the evenness in width of each column makes it seem as if this natural beauty was carved by hand. The explanation comes from the way in which the lave rock must have cooled evenly. Small indentations in the grass show a path by which you can climb to the top of the cliffs to get a better view of the valley below.

Ytri Tunga Beach

This beach is comically famous in island as it is the only yellow sand beach present. To which Mike replied, “So like every beach in California?!” I suppose to an islander who is used to black sand beaches, this is a sight to be seen. It is still worth a visit as this is the stomping grounds for different breeds of seals. We visited during golden hour and the seals were playing in the water, bobbing their heads along as Mike and I climbed rocks to see them. Although we were originally unsure whether the “sameness” of this beach to one you would find in sunny San Diego is worth the drive, I was pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed our sunset there. We must have watched the seals for an hour, before heading off to dinner.

Budakirkja

Budakirkja set against the mountains in Snaefellsnes National Park.

This black church is similar to many churches in island, so if you’ve already seen one, there is no need to pull off the side of the road to see this one. However, it does mark the start of an eight-hour hiking trail that I wish I was able to do. It is hardly mentioned in the blogs online or in travel books, but it travels from Hotel Budhir to Hellnar. We did end up doing a portion of it, hiking from Anastarpi to Hellnar, but when we return to this region (which we surely will!), I would like to set aside the proper time to do the hike that starts from this church.

A bit of a ways at the beginning of the hidden trail. You can see the worn in grass which marks the path for the hike. All you need to do is walk away from the church towards the ocean.

Bjarnafoss

Such a beautiful waterfall. I can only imagine how much stronger it would be in the Spring.

This grand waterfall is so close to the road that you can see it on the road. The sign to the right of the road is small and easy to miss, but it is definitely turning back around for. There is a short hike that gets you closer to the falls, but not right up to the tippy top. Pro advice: a tiny picnic area hidden among the trees at the base of the waterfall makes this a great place to eat lunch.

The trail Mike is standing on leads to a hidden picnic table behind the trees.

Anastarpi

Bird-watching from the Cliff Viewpoint.

I’ve written about what can be found in Anastarpi in my previous post highlighting the hike from Anastarpi to Hellnar. This tiny town is a great place for bird-watching from the Cliff Viewpoint. It also has the famous Bdar Saga Statue that was built from rocks and towers over the town. You can climb the stone bridge and take a photograph that makes you look like you are high-up in the air, too. And I wrote in that post about the pizza we had for lunch, which I totally recommend. If you have a few days in the national park, I would really recommend hiking from here to Hellnar, as it is a short 1-hour trek and would break up the site-seeing quite nicely.

Bdar Saga Statue looking over the town.

Londrangar Viewpoint

Snaefellsnes is a bird-watcher’s paradise. There is no shortage of cliff areas to watch birds from.

There are many viewpoints along the highway running around Snaefellsness National Park. This one is just a few steps from the lot. It isn’t much different from the bird-watching that can be found in Anastarpi, but the rock formation was sure worth the two-minute detour.

Vatnshellir Cave

The entrance to the cave, although you must take a tour to see inside.

The Vatnshellir Cave is an 8,000 year old lava tube created during a nearby crater’s volcanic eruption. As the lava flowed down a hill onto the lava river, it cooled on the surface as the lava river continued to drain out, thus creating a roof-top over the existing cave. One company does tour guides for the cave and they are the only ones with a permit to enter. That means that you need to do a tour with a guide to see the cave. We decided not to join the tour as we had many other sites on our list. It doesn’t seemed to be booked in advance, which is good, as we saw cars pulling up and signing up for the next tour. You do need to wear proper gear which they provide (such as a helmet), and they ran 45-minute tours every hour at the price of 3500 ISK per adult.

Djupalonssandur Beach

The view of the beach from the top. If you look closely, you can see the ship-wreck remains – bright orange bits of rusting copper.

This beach was another area in which I sadly did not set aside enough time for. I was expecting nothing more than a black sand beach, but to my surprise, there were multiple hiking trails to take from the car park and this beach actually spans a large area. We did do one of the shorter hikes which took us down to the black rock beach, where the remains of a ship wreck can still be seen. To the right of the beach are steps that leads one to a small pool where previous settlers (mostly sea people) had to walk to to get access to drinkable water. There were two other hikes that I really wanted to see, each of which took 1-2 and 3-4 hours respectively. I will definitely be back here to explore! I think it would be best to set aside a half-day to see this beach at leisure.

The hike to the left of the beach took us to this secluded pool where sea travelers had to go to get drinking water.

Saxholar Crater

The Saxholar Crater is nothing but a huge hole in the ground that is viewable after climbing a surmountable number of steps. The cardio work was fun, don’t get me wrong, but the view was anti-climactic and honestly not worth the climb (unless you’ve never seen a crater before?). It is a five-minute detour from the road, if you just want to see it. But Iceland had so many other things to see!

Svortuloft Lighthouse

This was definitely not worth driving to as it required a 1 hour driving detour from the main road on a gravelly path (which meant a 2 hour detour total) just to see a lighthouse. There was, however, cool signs at the end that gave a bit of history about how the sea travelers who landed in this part of Iceland survived. Some of the old dwellings are still visible as mounds in the soil, and there is a scary looking well that you can look at. Mike was brave enough to walk into it, but it was too claustrophobic for me to even try. To be fair, we were coming to the end of our very long day of sight-seeing and I was getting cantankerous from the hunger pains signaling the need for dinner, and soon … so there’s that.

Mike bravely entering the under-ground well.

Kirkjufellsfoss

This waterfall and the background mountain reminds me of Mount Crumpit from Who-ville where The Grinch lived. It is so fairytale like that I wouldn’t believe it was a real place if I didn’t see it myself. The fall itself isn’t as grand as it seems from the photographs but the background can’t be beat on a clear day (luckily, it did clear up in the latter half of the afternoon). There is a lot on the side of the road and it is a minute’s walk from the car park to the fall itself. I had to open this entire post with this photograph, although here is another view of it without the mountain in the background from the base of the fall. Not as grand, right? It is one of the most famous sites for Google stock photos, and looks even prettier (or so it appears in other people’s pictures) with the Northern Lights in the background.

Sights we did not see:

  • Skarsdvik Beach
  • Berserkjahraun
  • Ondverdarnesviti
  • As mentioned at the beginning of the post, a few days was not enough time to see it all. Here are sights we did not see but will make the list on our second go around. Also, the hikes mentioned in today’s post are also going on the list for our return trip! These photographs are only a sneak peak of what there is to see in this area of Iceland. The pictures do not do the beauty justice. ‘Til next time!

    Afterthoughts on: “10 Steps for Financial Success for New Grads”

    This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

    This past week, I had the pleasure of hopping on an InstaLive session with Dr. Unorthodoc once again. In this week’s Live, we talked about my recent post: 10 Steps for Financial Success for New Grads. She even threw in two bonus recommendations, which you can surely review on her Instagram @dr.unorthodoc. In typical fashion, I’ve spent the last few days conjuring up a few afterthoughts that I wanted to share in this post.

    Regarding Financial Success:

    Financial success” can mean different things to different people. The vision could include accumulated wealth, fancy things, or financial freedom. For me, it is certainly the latter. A quote that I recently read sums up my idea of success:

    “A nice car and a big house are the old status symbols. The ultimate flex is freedom. Time freedom, location freedom, and financial freedom.”

    Obviously what was success to my parents’ generation is not financial success to me. The same goes for a peer of mine who might hold different values, be in a different situation, or have a different upbringing. There is no judgement in that fact. It is simply an observation. When I talk about my own journey, I don’t want to exclude people and make them feel like the information is irrelevant to them. I want them to tailor my experiences to their own needs and versions of financial success. Because of this, not every tactic we discuss will apply to everyone and certainly the order in which you do things may change. We went into some of those details in the InstaLive so feel free to check it out!

    Regarding Where to Spend Your First Paycheck:

    Some of my classmates spent their first paycheck investing in the stock market or contributing to their 401k’s. Some saved up for their first home’s down-payment or upgraded their cars. I used my first paycheck to pay for a financial planner. (The two recommendations we mentioned in the podcast were Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner and Andrew Paulson from White Coat Investor.)

    This is a prime example of how we can use our money to get closer to our ideas of financial success (wealth, stuff, and freedom). For me, I wanted to be free from debt or anything that would prevent me from living as I please in a day-to-day basis.

    Regarding Financial Literacy:

    What this also shows is differing levels of financial literacy. I think that’s what makes my financial journey so relatable is the fact that I started at the bottom with zero financial literacy. Meaning, I have been through every possible stage of wealth accumulation so many people can relate to the different phases of my financial journey.

    I have classmates who have more money awareness than I did at graduation. Heck, I had friends who had more money period! One of my closest friends spent his mornings in dental school investing in the stock market. I was not even exposed to that world at that point in my life. I also did not have access to generational wealth being a zero generation immigrant.

    I am not saying this in an accusatory way or anything like that. But, certainly, they were better versed and can invest in things right out of school because they were at a stage in their life where they were already set up for that. Just because I started at the bottom doesn’t mean every has to hire a financial planner. You might already know everything a financial planner has to tell you!

    Remember: the path to financial success is mutli-factorial. The level of financial literacy, current phase of wealth accumulation and your personal definition of financial success all play a role towards your path post grad.

    Regarding Student Loans

    The best advice that I can give is to choose a path that works for you.

    Not everyone should aggressively pay student loans back, and I don’t mind going on record saying that! Those whose definition of financial success falls under wealth accumulation or having nice things would be better off with the loan forgiveness program, granted that they invest their money in preparation for the tax bomb at the end of the 20-25 years. Those who yearn for freedom or value frugal living would benefit from paying it off aggressively.

    The question new grads need to answer is, “What lifestyle do I want to live?”

    Since my values are centered around gaining financial freedom, the reasons why I decided to pay my student loans off aggressively are as follows:

    • I don’t like having debt looming over my shoulder. It causes me stress and holding on to debt has a psychological and emotional toll on me. Even when it comes to a to-do list, I am the type of person that prefers to check off tasks as quickly as possible, in order to alleviate worry. If you asked my husband, my famous saying that would follow me to the grave would be, “Let’s get it over with!”. Regardless of whether the task at hand is enjoyable or not, the part that matters more to me is getting it done. At the end of the day, it gives me more peace to get rid of my debt.
    • I am not the type of person to only do one thing for the rest of my life. Right after graduation, I knew that I wasn’t going to be the type of dentist who would happily work a 9-5 shift Monday through Friday, running a practice until I was 65 years old. I am a creative person and I wanted to have the choice to quit dentistry all together, whenever I want. If anything, the last four years since graduating has been proof that the 25 year loan forgiveness is not for me. I’ve already quit once (here I wrote about How to Gain Enough Financial Independence to Quit Your Job) which happened to be a job that did not bring me joy at a time when I wanted to recreate myself (we can blame that on Saturn’s return.) I’m the type of person who wants to be a baker some days, a writer other days, a pet caregiver on my time off, and a world traveler not tied down by a consistent job. I want to work remotely in my pajamas at home sometimes, and interact with people other times. I want to think up of ideas as much as work with my hands. Because this is the person I am, I decided having no debt gave me more freedom to live wherever, work however, and be whomever. This required a deep understanding of the true me, which is where the real work lies.
    • Lastly, I am a numbers gal and while there is wealth growth potential to doing the loan forgiveness programs, it appealed to me that paying the loans off in ten years time is still cheaper than waiting 20-odd years – cheaper by more than $100,000! Of course that profit margin increases even more if you pay it back quicker than 10 years, which is what I am trying to do!

    Regarding Emergency Funds:

    I like emergency funds because it gives me that layer of added security and ease of mind. That being said, emergency funds don’t have to be that traditional idea of putting away a monetary amount in a savings account or in a safe under your home. I don’t like that idea anyway because that prevents you from growing your wealth. You should at least invest it as a hedge against inflation. I like to make every single dollar work for me and I love the idea of passive income. There are many ways to have an emergency fund without reducing the chances of wealth accumulation.

    • Open a brokerage account and invest your savings into something. Even a mutual index fund like SPY, VTI, or VTSX will be better than keeping it in a savings account, especially if you don’t know much about stocks. Your brokerage account can be you investing in stocks, but also a source of funds in cases of true emergency.
    • We travel hack a lot so that we never have to spend our hard-earned dollars on our travels. Which means we have multiple credit cards open at the same time that have maximum limits. Since we pay all our credit cards in full every month, we have those funds readily available for emergencies. Between my husband and I, we have over $100k in unused credit card spending (I alone have $83k) and that is a source that we can turn to in case of a true emergency.
    • Depending on your loan situation, you could use pivoting your plans to gain access to more money during tough times. For example, even though I am paying off my loans aggressively, I remained with REPAYE the first three year’s to benefit from the program’s promise to pay half of the interest fees. My minimum monthly payment was $900 per month, but I was paying $6,500 or more per month. When 2020 hit and my husband lost his job for 10 months, we paid only the minimum payments to my loans and used the left-over to cover his income loss. Luckily, the interest rate since the pandemic has been at a miraculous 0%. Regardless, this was a good example of using loan repayment pivoting in cases of emergency.
    • Just like you can gain access to money by selling stocks, you can do the same if you have equity in real estate. We own a commercial/residential property and can sell it if things go south, immediately gaining access to our equity.

    Regarding Investments:

    We briefly touched on investments here but I think the InstaLive had better content within the banter that Dr.Unorthodoc and I had. I just want to summarize with the following: Investments are GREAT but require a bit of heeding. Do your research, don’t let emotions carry you away, and use your head.

    Regarding the big picture:

    I am all about balance – as you can tell from my lifestyle. Paying loans off aggressively does not hinder us from

    -maxing out our 401K

    -buying a property

    -growing our wealth and investing in stocks

    -building businesses

    Do a bit of everything! It makes life more fun and interesting. I view life as one big social experiment. Novelty is good for the soul and honestly, I know very few people who can do the grind and truly call themselves happy.

    I am choosing happy.

    XOXO

    How to Deal with Paper Clutter

    This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

    There is a really quick way to deal with paper clutter. That is, to get rid of it. As in, ALL of it.

    Paper clutter used to be my biggest problem, next to books and clothes, although not necessarily in that order. But I’ve devised a system for dealing with paper clutter and it’s quite simple, really. Get rid of paper as soon as you can. Keep it out of your home. Digitize it and then begone. Keep a filing system for only a handful, and declutter it twice a year. Paper can become really agonizing and stacks up quite quickly without us realizing it. Have you ever tried to shred ‘important documents’ before? If you have, then you’ll know.

    I recommend the following:

    Don’t take home flyers.

    You know, the one they hand out at events or stick to your windshield? Or worse, the business cards one may pass along to you. I know it’s hard to do, but practice saying ‘no thank you’. For those sneakily slipped beneath my windshield wipers, I find a public trash can right away.

    Unsubscribe to mail.

    Mail can get a bit unruly. The trick is to limit the mailman’s load. Unsubscribe to all magazines, flyers, companies, etc. Even the non-paid subscriptions are a hassle. I’ve found that these companies somehow regain access to my address and weasel their way into my mail box. I just keep calling and telling them to put an end to it. Do you really need to look at more of the things they want you to buy?

    Go Paperless.

    Almost every company has a paperless option by now. When possible, we choose paperless. The reason being, these companies are usually the ones that send account information home. Bank accounts, electric bills, and mortgage updates – all paperless for us! The reward is two-fold; less chances of someone else getting access to your information, and less mail to sort through and shred.

    Open mail right away, sort and discard.

    The most common thing people do when they get the mail is put in a basket ‘for later’. Man, what an eyesore! We don’t even keep a basket. Mail that gets brought in is looked at and discarded ASAP. Those that have tasks associated with them (making a payment or appointment) are completed as soon as possible which kills two birds with one stone – it gets the job done and it clears the table of hideous mail. Voila!

    Digitize, whenever possible.

    This, I had a problem with for a long time. I was quite fond of paper, even though this post wouldn’t hint at it otherwise. My class notes I kept after college. Letters from friends in middle school were tucked away in a drawer. I have essays that I wrote once, diary entries meant just for me. All of that is now gone. I realized that the more I threw away, the easier it was to let go. For those I couldn’t bear to part with, I scanned and digitized. Since scanning takes work, I decided it would behoove me to be very selective, but also, to vow never again to collect as much paper as I did. Call it a lazy person’s curse, but I hardly wish to keep paper things anymore.

    Keep the most important pages in a filing cabinet.

    There are a few papers that you can’t digitize, then throw away. My degree, for example. My license. My naturalization papers and my passport. These we keep in a filing cabinet. My motto is: Out of sight, out of mind. This one is my favorite minimalist option, although CB2 has a number of options, too. Pro tip: Declutter twice a year to prevent stock piling. Perhaps what you once thought was necessary no longer feels that way after de-cluttering.

    Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

    Travel: Hiking in Landmannalaugar, A Remote Gem in Iceland

    Landmannalaugar is a space shaped from fairytales. The silica-rich mountains of the area are made of rhyolite, a type of volcanic rock, and streaked with the colors of a rainbow – red, blue, pink, green and yellow. It was historically a geothermal retreat for settlers, and the little pool at the base of the mountain was named The People’s Pool. Today, it still remains a bath for adventurers wishing to rest tired limbs after a long day of hiking. It’s no wonder this place is known as Iceland’s Pearl of the Highlands.

    How to Get to Landmannalaugar

    Starkly contrasted against a black lava field called Laugahraun, this gem of a place is tucked away in the heart of Fjallaback Nature Reserve and takes about two and a half hours to get to from the closest town (three hours if you’re coming from Reykjavik). We stayed at Fludir near the Golden Circle, and took the Northern Route, which according to the reviews was the easiest.

    The first hour of the drive was on paved road, and I would recommend filling up the gas tank at Fludir or Arnes, as there will be no gas stations for miles around. After an hour, the road gradually changes to gravel, and then to F-Roads. You need to make sure you have an F-Road allowed car when you rent one at the airport. The F-roads were rough and really slowed down our driving. Some people were zooming along in their trucks, but even they were bouncing past the rocky terrain. After about an hour of F-Roads, the last stretch was on gravel, which was much easier to manage. Thirty minutes more until we got to the first parking lot. There are technically two parking lots but to get to the second, you must cross a river. We came on a summer day and the river tide was low. Still, we chose to park in the first lot since the walk to the second only took five minutes. We didn’t want to risk ruining our rental car. I have heard that getting to Landmannalaugar from the North is the only way to avoid a river crossing.

    The river crossing on a summer day in July. Low tide!

    Despite this, it is worth the drive, even for a day trip. If you wish to make the most out of your drive, there is a campsite at the base of the mountains. Or better yet, Landmannalaugar is the start of an epic, three-day trek called Laugavegur Trek, which is rated the number one multi-day hike option in Iceland.

    The Campsite at Landmannalaugar

    There is a campground at Landmannalaugar and a decent number of people were posted up. Since there are multiple day-hikes in the area, I assume it was common for people to stay overnight. The campsite has a stand where you can buy snacks and supplies. At this same stand, you’ll need to purchase a wrist band to use the facilities. Since we were hiking all day (and chugging water on those steep ascents), we did pay for a restroom pass. It became useful when we changed out of our hiking gear and into our bathing suits for the People’s Pool later on. It isn’t necessary to purchase anything ahead of time or to reserve a camping spot. We saw a number of people walk up to the window and ask to buy a spot for the night. Nomad living and campervan life is common in Iceland, so most of the people just post up where they please. I can very much understand why Landmannalaugar is one of those spots. To note, there are also beds to be rented out in two huts behind the supply store (if camping isn’t your thing). A peek into the building windows indicated that there was a working kitchen and common room with electricity and running water. I would look into how to reserve these huts ahead of time.

    The campsite from far away. The huts can also be seen from here.

    Laugahraun Lava Fields

    We started our hikes behind the aforementioned huts. Into the lava fields we went. There was an initial hilly climb that took less than a few minutes to complete. After that, it was an easy stroll for half of the loop trail. The best thing about this area is that all trails are marked by color-coded posts. The lava fields were demarcated with orange/green/white posts – since they are also the start of two other trails.

    The Lava Fields.

    There was a lot to be seen in the lava fields. Crazy rock formations and a stunning sea of black volcanic rock surrounded you completely. It felt like being on Mars, or being the lone survivor after the world’s doom. Eventually, you will come to a clearing that gives you a great view of the beautifully colored mountains. The view from the bottom is just as amazing as the view from the top, so I would stop to gander. Halfway around the loop trail is the opportunity to veer right. Tall grass beckoned us towards the Brenneinsteida Loop (green posts) and we hugged the mountain side going in a counter-clockwise direction. It seemed that clock-wise was the popular decision, but I do think counter-clockwise was the easier path since the steepest of hills were climbed upwards rather than downwards. This isn’t to say that sliding down gravelly hills is impossible, but I would prefer to do steep descents with walking sticks which I didn’t have at hand on that day. In the end, the counter-clockwise decision on our part was pure luck, and like most things in our life, we do have a knack for going against the grain.

    Black rock juxtaposed against white snow.
    The valley view before you leave Lagauhraun to chase Brenneinsteida.

    Brenneinsteida Loop

    From the lava fields, you hug a grassy trail around the mountain’s base. Even in mid July, there was a patch of melting snow on the back side of the mountain where the light doesn’t hit it as much. Hiking boots are a must for this trail, although hiking poles are not. The melting snow is nothing but a short patch and if you’d like to stray from the trail a bit, you could cross the tiny stream and walk in the grass. From here you can cross the plain and there is a trail that goes into the mountains on the right. However, we hugged the mountain on the left until we reached a very steep hillside for ascent. It was incredibly brutal, but the whole way up, I was thanking the heavens that I was going uphill instead of downhill. My fear was that thee would be a similar hill on the other side of the mountain, but luckily it was more gradual and easier to descend. Like I said, clock-wise is the way to go.

    The melting snow mudpile you’ve got to maneuver around.

    After the steep ascent that took no more than 10 minutes for us to climb, there is a series of upward slopes with areas of flat terrain in between, giving us a good number of breaks. I found myself constantly stopping and turning around, as well as looking to my sides. There was beauty to be seen everywhere and I have never seen such magical colors come out of the Earth before. In geothermal pools, yes. But not from mountains!

    Mikey taking in the views from the top.

    At the very top of the mountain, there is a view of the lava fields below, and of Blahnukur Trail (Blue Mountain). It was breath-taking. If you have it in you, you can continue this loop to the Blahnukur Trail. A few hikers at the top mentioned that there is a river crossing required (maybe up to the knees, you must remove your shoes, and the glacial water is freezing cold!) and a scramble up some scree on the initial hill. (If you were doing the hike clock-wise, the scree scramble would be at the end of Blahnukur Trail, on the way down, which in my opinion is worse). Other than those two things, the trail was described by others as fairly moderate and straight-forward. The mountain man giving us advice had a 6-month old baby strapped to his chest – which either says something about his abilities at scrambling, or the level of difficulty of the hike. We decided it was the former, and skipped Blahnukur due to the fact that we still had half of the lava fields to do. If we were camping overnight, I may have done it on a different day.

    The view of Blahnakur Mountain from the peak of Brenneinsteida Trail. The wall of scree is visible, and the river crossing is right in front of the lake, hidden by the hill in the foreground. The trail wraps around the mountain side and looks moderate after the steep start.

    The People’s Pool

    After we made our way through the second half of the lava fields (the latter portion has more rocky terrain and isn’t as easy as the first half), we decided to take a dip in the ever-famous People’s Pool. We changed in the restrooms and walked the plank over to the natural, geothermally heated pond. It is not as nice as the Reykjadalur Hot Springs and since it’s more of a pool rather than a river, you have to be okay with stagnant water. Mossy greens float in the water and it isn’t clear in color. Rocks cover the bottom of the pool, so do bring sandals if you’ve got tender feet like me. I was okay wading through the rocks but it did hurt and it took me a while to meander to the warm part of the pool.

    There is a changing deck with stairs leading into the water. It’s a bit frigid until you get to the part of the pool where the running water enters it – these are the sources of geothermal heat. Which is a great spot to meet other travelers and converse about the beauty of Iceland. Sometimes, it does require a bit of moving around, as areas tend to get too hot, depending on the rate of water flow. It was exactly what our muscles needed! I was even okay with smelling like geothermal water (rotten eggs) on the entire car ride home!

    The heated areas are easy to spot.

    This is definitely one of our top five experiences in Iceland. I know that it’s far from Reykjavik but it’s well worth the drive. Next time we’re back, we’ll save time for a three-day trek down the Laugavegur trail, perhaps even connecting to Fimmvorduhals Trail for a total of five days. This area is not to be missed!

    J. Hannah’s Newest Nail Color, “Compost”, Is the ‘Ugliest Color In the World’ and I Am DIGGING It.

    This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

    First and foremost, I am a lover of all things misunderstood and socially unaccepted. It’s in my hard-wiring, perhaps in recognition of my own youthful quandaries as an immigrant, introvert, and straight-arrowed studious female. I have a soft spot for defending the outcasts and arguing the other side. For example, I decided in my teen years that my favorite number would be thirteen, donning it on my soccer jerseys because the movie ‘Freaky Friday’ had all my classmates hating on the number. I chose it because “it wasn’t fair”. And when my mother asked what color I wanted to paint my room after we moved for the tenth time in my life, I mortified her by picking a dirty greige-green, the color of mossy detritus. It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, that I equally love J Hannah’s newest polish release named similarly after my self-described teenage room. In fact, I adore it.

    Compost

    The color, called Compost, was fashioned after Pantone 448C – a color that market researchers agreed upon as The Ugliest Color in the World. A mix between olive-green and brown, Pantone 448C was originally invented by the marketing agency to slap onto the face of cigarette boxes to deter users from continuing their smoking habit. The message was plain and clear: stay away from this hideous substance, like tar dripping down one’s throat, or the color of ashen decaying lungs after years of smoke. But rather than repulse from this cursed tint, J. Hannah instead embraced the color and revived it as something sophisticated, without changing it.

    On Instagram, she writes:

    “A study in Jolie-Laide, ‘Compost’ is a statement in the nuanced line between the revolting and the luxurious, between the hideous and the refined. A reminder to not flatten beauty’s complexity into a single note. (In other words, if you know, you know.)”

    J. Hannha’s Instagram

    For you see, this Compost color is, to me, a beautiful color indeed. It is the color that I seek on my travels abroad, the one I am drawn to in nature and calmed by. Likewise, it is the base shade in my home – a color that sums up the beige, grey, green, and brown hues. I present to you a personal color study of Compost, that hopefully by the end, has you DIGGING it, too.

    It reminds me of the first signs of life, in the form of lichen and moss, on our most recent trip to Iceland.
    It reminds me of mountain terrain in the fjords of New Zealand.
    It reminds me of Fall in Germany, the foliage around the Neuschwanstein Castle.
    It reminds me of Alaskan Hills,
    And the California Coast.

    It reminds me of Michael’s hazel eyes, when the morning light hits it just right.

    It is the color of our Parachute Bed Sheets, or this linen set,
    menuaw18-aprilandmay
    As well as the most luxurious rooms in the world.
    The Audo - a new hybrid space from Menu | These Four Walls blog
    It is described as baroque mulch and organic drab.

    It is the exact nail color I want on my nails to carry me through the Fall and Winter Seasons.

    Compost

    I have had the pleasure to have been #gifted a bottle of polish and have already tried it on myself. It is the third in my J. Hannah Polish collection- along with Patina and Miso. It pairs quite nicely with all the J. Hannah silver jewelry too (The Pearl Demi Signet recently replaced my wedding ring. Meanwhile the Form Hoops I is my daily earring and I carry a tiny milled Emax tooth in my Objet Pendant.) One thin, watery coat makes for a limey-green moss color, not far from the olive trees lining Jenni Kayne’s home. Two coats adds a smidge of brown, similar with the photograph above, complimenting the color of ground coffee beans. Three coats, though, is my favorite. The color of MENU Space’s NoNo Coffee Table, Nordic Knot’s Norr Malarstrand 01 Rug, and Bemz’s Zaragova Vintage Velvet in Olive Green. The color pairs nicely with black, brown, cream, and rustic terra cotta orange and reds. It is, in my opinion, the jewel tone of today’s modern world, as our field of acceptance and inclusion expands, in a year when it becomes most necessary to make the ugliest of circumstances beautiful. Iykyk.

    Compost