Travel Packing Tips from a Minimalist

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

Minimalism is the practice of surrounding oneself with less stuff in order to decrease what otherwise would be distractions from a life well-lived. I have found this lifestyle especially useful when traveling.

When I travel, I want to be focused on learning about different cultures, immersing myself in history or nature, connecting myself to others, or simply collecting experiences and memories. I don’t want to be physically burdened by the weight of the things I carry. I wish not to be mentally exhausted from keeping track of my belongings when I move from place to place, which when traveling, I frequently do. Lastly, I don’t like the emotional toll of losing checked-in luggage, forgetting belongings at a hotel room, or ruining a sweater during one of my wild adventures. In order to make sure I soak in the joys my travels have to offer, I practice minimalism exuberantly while jet-setting around the globe.

Intentionality is key when packing one’s belongings for an upcoming trip. As long as both the purpose and the value of each item are well considered, one can not go wrong. However, while there are no rules to minimal packing, I do have a few guidelines that I personally follow, which might prove useful for those just starting to give this a try.

10 Packing Tips from a Minimalist

1. Find the perfect suitcase. When it comes to suitcases, I have a few requirements. First, I prefer small suitcases. I travel with only a carry-on and personal item, no matter how far the destination or long the vacation. Not only do I like to keep my belongings with me at all times, avoiding baggage claim hassles and potential loss, I also like to bring only the few things I need. Second, I look for light luggage. I am petite and 5’1″ tall. Being able to easily lift my case into the overhead bin is important to me. Third, I look for suitcases with ease of use. I want the ability to roll in different directions and I prefer a handle that extends to multiple different heights. I used to struggle with my previous suitcase, which only had two wheels and a finicky handle. After I finally said goodbye to it, I whole-heartedly decided that ease of use was going to be one of my must-have requirements. Lastly, I like the suitcase to be durable, favoring hard-shell exterior over a soft exterior. I want something that protects my tech, such as laptops and cameras, which I usually bring along on my trips for my blog work.

My case is from InCase. I wrote about it here, once.

2. Practice capsule ward-robing. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of versatile clothing from which one can create many different outfits. Ideally, you want your capsule wardrobe to contain only your most beloved things, so that on any given day, you would be willing to wear anything. I think that travel time is the best time to practice capsule ward-robing. It is a stage in your life where you will be in a particular place for a certain time period, which makes it very easy to hone down your wardrobe. And hey, perhaps after all your adventures, you decide to keep your capsule wardrobe for your daily living.

3. Pick neutral colors. Hand-in-hand with selecting versatile pieces is purposefully choosing neutral colors to mix-and-match with. That doesn’t mean bring only black, white and tan clothes. Some of my favorite “color neutrals” are Terra Cotta, Olive Green, Navy Blue, and Beige. Together, these colors create a palette that looks as good together as they do apart.

4. Compartmentalize the suitcase. I am an organized minimalist. Meaning, I have no qualms about adding extra stuff for the sake of organization. As they say, minimalism isn’t about having the least amount of things possible. It’s about having the perfect amount. And these compressible packing cubes are perfect additions for neatniks such as myself.

5. Wear the bulkiest items on the plane. This is a trick that I constantly use. In order to make my suitcase as light as possible, I layer on my bulkiest items when I travel. I usually wear a sweater and a jacket on the plane, paired with my hiking boots and favorite leggings. It works out really well for me since I am always cold on the flight and I try not to use the provided blankets due to an aversion to the plastic packaging. My husband also does the same, since his hiking boots take up half of a carry-on and his clothing takes up twice as much space as mine. For outerwear that I choose to carry in a suitcase, I store them in a separate compartment, providing plenty of breathing room for my coats and jackets. The last thing I want is to have wrinkly outerwear, since that is the most presentable thing in my arsenal. I would rather sacrifice bringing a few items if it meant I didn’t have to stuff my bag to the brim.

Outerwear goes in a separate compartment.

6. Bring only two pairs of shoes. I will have one pair in my luggage and another on my feet. Usually, one shoe option will require socks and other does not. Since we are avid hikers, I usually pack a pair of hiking boots and a pair of slip-ons. Having both options allow me to travel comfortably no matter the weather. And the slip-ons double as slippers at the hotel.

7. Pack zero-waste, if possible. Traveling zero-waste can seem difficult, until you realize that you don’t need those disposable travel bottles. I bring a bar of soap, a shampoo bar, a bamboo toothbrush, Bite toothpaste, Cocofloss, and amber bottles galore. I try to avoid all sorts of disposable things, and it actually reduces the amount of things I take along.

8. Bring only one jewelry set which you wear onto the plane. I tend to choose simple jewelry that go with all my outfits. I go through seasons, but for the past year and a half, my go-to has been a pair of Gorjana mini studs and gemstone bracelet (both gifts from my sister-in-law), two Mejuri cuffs, and my wedding band. Since I am wearing all of my jewelry the entire trip, I don’t have to worry about packing it, ever. This gets rid of an additional jewelry case in my bag, as well as the hassle of keeping track of tiny belongings.

9. Take only a handful of underwear and socks. As rule of thumb, I never take more than a week’s worth. Even if I am traveling for three weeks! I simply hand-wash and hang-dry to cycle through them. Some AirBNBs even come equipped with washer and dryer, these days.

10. Make your personal item a backpack. Mine is this sturdy, leather pack from Nisolo, which holds my water bottle, a book, a notebook, an extra sweater, my Nutrient Mist, any important documents that I need to travel, as well as a pouch (yet another compartment!) that keeps my lip balm, hand-lotion, pens, and wallet together. There are many reasons why I like having a backpack. It can hold many things, is equally useful for sight-seeing as well as grocery shopping, is usable by both my husband and I, and is an ergonomic method of toting things around.

Of course, the best piece of advice when traveling is to enjoy the journey, searching for memories, not the destination. As long as you do that, I have no doubts you’re already on your minimalist way.

This post is sponsored by Monos Travel. I am absolutely in love with this company. They recently released compressible packing cubes for easier organizing when traveling. The cubes come in three colors (tan, black, or grey) and in two different pack sizes (one with four cubes for a carry-on luggage and another with six cubes for a check-in luggage). They sent me the six pack in Tan and the compression allows me to use all six to organize my carry-on. If these cubes aren’t your jive, Monos Travel is currently hosting a sale and TheDebtist readers can get 30% off all luggage with the code SUMMER30. This promotion ends on the 30th of September, 2020. Of course, my go-to Monos luggage choice is the carry-on in either Desert Taupe, Terrazzo, Terra Cotta, and Olive Green. I would also like to draw attention to their CleanPod UVC Wand Sterilizer, a worthy addition for all travelers, especially post-COVID-19 era.

Slow Hosting

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

On the heels of my previous post about simple recipes made for slow gatherings, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite tips when hosting a get-together or party. Slow hosting, if I may term it as such, takes upfront planning and work. Intentionality is key when deciding what to do in preparation. You could fall down rabbit holes and never dig your way out when considering what details need attending.

Surely, there are sources out there overwhelmingly filled with styling and decor, recipes of feasts fit for kings, as well as libation ideas invented by only the best bartenders. Perhaps I am alone in this, but I’ve fallen privy to over-thinking, and certainly over-doing, a few of my past parties. It’s easy to fall into that trap. However, it’s just as easy to avoid it, as long as I pay attention to a few details.

There are a few things about myself and hosting that I’ve learned to be true.

  • I would rather be a guest to my own party than a server and maid.
  • I would rather participate in deep conversations, delving into original ideas or passionate opinions, than skim the superficial waters of, “hi, how are you?”.
  • I would rather have a good, relaxing evening rather than stress and worry.
  • I want to care about the important things in life, like friends and family.
  • And lastly but most importantly, I want to have a good time with my husband rather than begrudgingly nitpick over details regarding some preformed, overly high expectation. I’ve found that if I set the bar too high for a gathering, I set the success rate extremely low for us as a couple.

So I’ve gathered a few tricks that keep me grounded when it comes to throwing parties. I hope it preps you for the future, where we will surely make up for lost time, gathering in safety and in peace.

  • Opt for a table cloth to immediately dress up any table. Seriously, after this, I feel like the decor is done.
  • Put down the table setting prior to your guests arriving to reduce work once the party starts.
  • Add simple stems in amber bottles or stick tall candlesticks in candle holders, rather than investing in expensive bouquets.
  • Forgo the place cards. Let guests sit where they like and mingle as they please.
  • Forget hanging up banners and buying party balloons, or other disposable item that will only add to the landfill. Trust that your home is good enough to celebrate in, without the temporary frills.
  • Place a linen napkin out for each guest, to reduce the amount of times you need to get up from the table to grab the paper towels.
  • Opt for glassware that can hold water, wine, beer or cocktail, in order to reduce the dishes you need to set out (and later wash).
  • Limit the amount of food types or drinks available. Sometimes, I have a theme or a set menu so as not to overwhelm the guests, or myself.
  • Choose recipes that can be made ahead of time. I am not only talking about side dishes and salads. I also include desserts and appetizers.I try to keep the main entree fresh.
  • Instead of mixing cocktails (which should really be fresh), opt for sangria or table wine. Also, beer or mimosas. Simple things that get the job done.
  • Clear the table at the very end, but toss all the dishes in the dishwasher (my favorite) or the sink. Do not wash them while the guests are here. There is time for that later. No space? A fellow small-home-dweller actually stashes them in the bathtub, to address after the guests have left, which I thought was genius.
  • Don’t be afraid of ordering food. You’d be surprised how many people favor pizza or Chinese take-out. You’re not a 1950’s housewife who has to prove your worth in the form of housewivery. You’re feeding a group of people who already love you for who you are. It’ll be fine.
  • Avoid white noise. That includes music. I suppose depending on the party. I dislike pausing conversation to lift up the needle on the record player. I also dislike when a playlist stops suddenly and someone has to fumble with a phone. My opinion is that, unless your gathering is focused on music listening, music is a distraction.
  • Don’t plan an itinerary. Trust that as the night progresses, things will naturally fall into place.
  • Ensure that there’s a hand towel and toilet paper rolls in the bathroom. Light a candle and set out hand soap.
  • Avoid the goodie bags and give-aways. It requires too much extra work and creates too much extra trash. If you really want to have the guests take home something, opt for consumables. One year for Thanksgiving, we gave away a jar of our favorite enchilada sauce, which we cooked and packaged the evening before. Another year, we baked everyone pastries for the following morning.
  • Finally, let go. Let go of all your expectations. Let go of the pretty Instagram pictures. Let go of your guarded nature. Just be a guest, really.

Curating Closets: Sunglasses for a Minimalist

This post is written in affiliation with Warby Parker, a revolutionary eye wear company that gives people an alternative for modern, quality specs. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and creative content are my own. 

Eye wear seems to be my thing in 2020. Perhaps it’s the new decade that’s brought a keen awareness towards the need to protect my health. Perhaps it’s the long list of current events. Either way, I’ve been terribly conscious of my waning physicality. I have never been overly zealous in protecting my youth, but suddenly, at the ripe old age of thirty-one, I have become obsessed with it.

Is this what they call a mid-life crisis?

I previously wrote about the need to protect our eyes from the blue light emanating from the screens attached to our hips, like oxygen tanks that we carry around in order to breathe. But let’s be real. I am not wearing my blue-light blockers all day, everyday. Yet we are still exposed to light rays twenty-four seven. Erm, at least, I hope you are still able to get some sun?

My entire life, I’ve found sunglasses to be a nuisance – something too expensive and too easily left behind (or sat on). I have owned very few, and the last pair that I purchased were discounted from when I still worked at a retail store ten years ago. Yes, you heard that right. My last pair of sunglasses was purchased ten years ago.

So I would say it was high time that I finally invested in a pair to protect my eyes. Most important to me was finding sunglasses that I would actually want to wear. Ones that were simple, light-weight, elegant, timeless, and well, minimal. Obviously.

I settled on Warby Parker when I learned of their mission to provide a pair of glasses to someone in need for each pair purchased. I was intrigued by their origin story, seeing as how the inspiration came after a founder lost his sun-specs after a backpacking trip (already relatable) and lamented on the insanely expensive prices of quality sunglasses. Reason being, of course, that the eye wear industry was dominated by a single company that keeps prices high. The rebellious Warby Parker was created as an alternative option for good eye wear at revolutionary prices. They set out to create a personal customer experience while providing exceptional prescription and non-prescription specs. They exude everything I love about a company, so how could I not love them?

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I came across my first Warby Parker store in Newport Beach about a year and a half ago. Back then, I wasn’t interested in buying sunnies. It just so happened to be a storefront within a store next to the Aesop that I frequent. I walked in and was charmed by the different styles and friendly staff. I ended up walking out and forgetting about it.

Earlier this year, we were walking the streets of San Francisco when I entered my second Warby Parker store. I vaguely remembered seeing them before and even picked up a few frames to try on. I found styles that I liked, but I still wasn’t interested in buying glasses. This was in February.

Then, in June, I turned thirty one. I got my first pair of blue-light blockers. I started blinking a lot. The sun hurt my eyes. I got extremely conscious about light – too much light, lack of light, weird lighting in general. I debated whether UV curing lights at the dental office were more harmful than computer screens that I stare at as I type posts like this. I started to think about sunglasses, and why I wasn’t wearing them.

The truth? I don’t have a pair that works for me. I don’t like the one I owned, it didn’t fit my style, and it didn’t work with my lifestyle. If there’s anything I learned about myself, it’s that I use most the things I love dear. As for everything else, I just don’t.

This was around the time I seriously considered buying Warby Parker.

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The thing I love about them is that they give people the option of trying on their eye wear prior to purchasing. Even during this difficult, quarantine life, they allow you to ship up to five frames to your door FOR FREE just so you can try them on. If you don’t like them, simply ship them back within ten days. I literally had five frames in my cart the weekend before we left for Colorado in July when…

We drove by a Warby Parker storefront in Boulder, Colorado. I knew right away that I wanted to walk in. The store was limiting only two parties at a time due to COVID so I waited in the car for five minutes until it was my turn. The staff was incredibly helpful in guiding me towards the right frame for my personality and lifestyle. One thing about me. I am incredibly picky. But when I know I like something, I KNOW. It took five minutes to find the pair I wanted and check out.

I have a narrow, heart-shaped face, but the frames that worked best for me were Wright, Percy, Robbie, and Fisher. The first two were too girly, posh and trendy for me. They were also a tad heavier. The choice came down to the last two. Due to my high cheekbones, the flat, squarish edge to the Robbie ended up accentuating my plump cheeks. I ended up going with Fisher, which is a mix between the Merrick and the ever-popular Raider. There were two color options – a gold frame with colored lenses, or black on black on black. Need I say more?

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These are the lightest pair of glasses I own. I put them away in the case they came with as soon as I’m done wearing them. Hopefully I never sit on them, even though Warby Parker has my back. Scratched lenses and bent frames can be taken to any storefront and they will try to the best of their ability to fix the glasses for you. Luckily, the metal frames on the Fisher are easier to fix than the plastic frames. And lenses with scratches can be replaced completely within a year of purchase.

I don’t wear prescription glasses (yet!) but if you do, no worries! When I went to the store, they had optometrists working who seemed very knowledgeable about eye wear. A few storefronts also offer eye exams, which I think is awesome! It’s your one stop shop.

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If you are on the fence about the price, then I would highly recommend doing a few things.

  1. Try on the glasses virtually here.
  2. Pick a few frames that look good on the app (up to five) and send them your way.
  3. Wear your five frames for ten days. Whichever ones don’t work, send back.

No harm, no foul. Personally, I fell head over heels with Warby. I don’t see any other way.

Minimalism: Bathroom Routines

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

If you were to walk into our tiny home right now, barge yourself up to our bathroom and pull back the shower curtain in one fell swoop, you may be shocked to find the bare-bones tub that we bathe in. The amount of products that we allow ourselves are few and far between. I never realized before that it was uncommon to house only a single bar of soap in the shower. It wasn’t until my mother-in-law stayed with us for a few weeks and commented on how “bizarre” our bathroom was that I thought to myself, “Maybe we ARE outliers.”

When I asked her why, she mentioned how most people would have products up the wazoo strewn over their bathing areas. I suppose it never occurred to me that some people have soaps, shampoos, conditioners, face moisturizers, loofahs, and whatever else (I don’t even know what else as I’ve run out of things to list). She said that most couples have his and hers products, because the beauty industry would like us to think that we need separate goods.

So we don’t own many things, and she may have stayed with us back when we were practicing zero plastic living much more stringently, hence the singular bar, but in our defense we’ve lightened up a bit on both counts since then. There are a few luxuries that we’ve afforded ourselves recently, one of which is this beautiful Japanese body scrub, which said mother-in-law gifted me for Christmas. And while the tub still usually holds only a bar of soap and this loofah hung up to dry on the shower curtain rod, we also own gifted bottles of Aesop products which we take into the tub occasionally.

I know that I may not get most people on board with me on this one, but may I pitch the idea that minimalist bath routines are the way to go? Firstly, we can reduce our environmental impact by just limiting the products that we buy. There is no need for his and hers segregation. Even though they are advertised as such, I don’t see why he and I need different products. Is that weird?

Secondly, we reduce packaging by reducing our consumption. In fact, people may find this odd, but we shampoo perhaps one to two times a week. We use the conditioner less frequently than that. We own beautiful products that were gifted to us but this miniature Aesop body soap has lasted me six months. Not because I never wash, but I don’t use it in excess. A tiny drop is good enough to bathe in. The shampoo and conditioner have also lasted us just as long, and we aren’t close to finishing. I would gander that the conditioner would last us the entire year.

Yes, they are in plastic bottles. No we are not perfect. Perhaps being gifted these and using them isn’t a sin. I like to think it’d be more eco-conscious than shipping more ethical shampoo and conditioner options across the country? I don’t know.

From a frugalist’s perspective, Aesop products are not cheap. In this case, they were free, but even if they weren’t, limiting consumption of Aesop bath products could save you more money than a person squandering Dove products on the daily. With less products to use, you can also reduce your monthly water bill. I like to shower in less than five minutes and Mike turns the water off every time he uses a bar of soap.

Phew, after this discussion, perhaps we are whackos. Just out of curiosity, how may items do you have in your bathtub?

Also, two of my favorite companies have 20% off sales on their entire site this weekend, which is sort of post related.

+ Bath towels and accessories from Parachute is 20% OFF through Monday. My favorite is this classic starter bundle in the color Bone.

+ Territory design also has 20% off everything and that is where my mother-in-law bought this body scrub

 

Simple Things: Ikebana

It’s Mother’s Day and while most of the Western world is showering their moms with love in the form of large bouquets and wreaths, I figure I’d share a personally preferred minimalist and intentional flower arrangement – ikebana.

The art of ikebana is a Japanese way of making bouquets. Translated literally, it means “making flowers alive”, which to me is poetry itself. Rather than focusing on gathering as many flowers as possible, the art requires a curation of sorts. Typically, only five to thirteen stems are used, and a flower frog with pins are employed to arrange the flowers in a romantic way.

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Unlike flower bouquets lining groceries and florist shops, these arrangements use stems and leaves, even blades of grass. Whatever is calling to the artist is included. It’s the ultimate proof that beauty can be found in even the simplest of things.

I like the practice of Ikebana because it adds an element of mindfulness to the process. Not needing to drive to a floral shop or pay for flowers, I pick simple buds or greenery that I find on walks around the neighborhood. What captures my attention depends on the day, and sometimes even twigs will appear wondrous in their own right. I collect a handful of treasures and curate them when I get home. Curating is arguably the most difficult part, but also my favorite. I put to use everything I know about creating an intentional home and apply it to ikebana.

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I’ve chosen these beautiful vessels from Notary Ceramics, a hand-thrown pottery located in Oregon dishing out the most beautifully minimalist pieces. There are two that I like – one with a water bowl in the center and only a few spaces for stems, and a smaller one with more opportunity for fronds and the like, but without a water bowl.

The water is another element of ikebana. It is said that one shouldn’t care whether petals or leaves fall into the water, for there is beauty in the imperfections, too. I love when soft petals float over the water’s surface, or when small buds break off from their stems into the pool.

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As you’ve probably guessed, for Mother’s Day I gifted my mother one of these flower frogs from Notary Ceramics. I hope that she keeps it by her bedside table, or in the center of the kitchen island for the morning light to shine on. I imagine her finding a few whimsical strands of nature when she walks our family dog with my father. I hope she remembers what it was like to be a child, carrying treasures home from her adventures. May she find a creative moment each week that lends beauty to her home as she carefully chooses her pickings. May more people practice a simpler art, daily, and bring joy to mother’s everyday after Mother’s Day.

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Intentional Living: How to Curate a Minimalist Home

Growing up, I was always impressed by still-lifes and images of homes. Museum-like staging of historical dwellings on field trips and home-decor magazines alike had me imagining what my ideal house would look like. As an early twenty-something, I would peruse magazines and circle with a pen the items that I would love to own one day. Along the way, I collected trinkets here and there every time I visited Ikea, Crate and Barrel, and Target … until one day, I woke up to having too much stuff. I realized that instead of the clean, well-manicured homes that I looked up to as a teen, what I had was a very dirty rented room that held a hodge-podge of mismatched items and styles. I didn’t know who I was, which style was “me”, and I suffered many hours keeping things tidy.

These, of course, weren’t my biggest life problems – only a reflection of other aspects that bothered me about myself. After spending months (then, years after the first phase) of de-cluttering, I decided that I was not going to put in all that effort just so I can fill my space back to an over-whelming state, where I had to spend most of my free time organizing stuff, tidying up after trinkets that find their way out of their proper places like the toys from Toy Story.

Like with everything else, I decided to slow. it. down. Limit what I purchased and bought for my home, so that I could discover the whos, whats, whens, and whys of things. I wanted to be the curator of my own museum, and while homes aren’t meant to be museums themselves – they’re meant to be lived in and touched and loved and messed up, even – neither are they meant to be storage units holding symbols of our financial status. But as curator, I wanted to make sure that what I had was worth keeping.

The skill of curating doesn’t magically come from a bout of de-cluttering. In fact, I would go so far as to call it a completely separate ability that places more importance on our stewardship of what we allow in, rather than our selection of what we get rid of. You could be very good at de-cluttering without being good at maintaining your clutter. You need both skills to be able to create a minimalist space that allows for maximalist function.

With books up the wazoo about how to properly de-clutter a space, and movements that have people Marie-Kondoing their homes, I think what people still struggle with the most when creating a minimalist home is the inundation of stuffs through our doors – aka: the curation itself.

A curator for a museum needs to have a passion for the job, a knowledge about history and the arts, an eye for detail, patience and superior organizational skills. They research different pieces before deciding on one and manage the finances and lending needed to get the best piece for their space.

A curator of the home requires similar things, requiring knowledge of the self, patience, and the willingness to research options before a purchase.

Personally, I simplify the process down to three questions – which I ask of myself before I make a purchase. I ask them in the following order of importance:

Is it beautiful?

Beauty is my first question because I find that without beauty, I can easily fall out of love with something and lust after a nicer alternative. And while there are always nicer options, when you fall in love with the beauty within an everyday thing rather than the thing itself, no matter what happens to that thing or to you, you will have a sentimental connection with the piece that makes it hard to even look at another. Metaphors aside, I find that beautiful things hardly feel like clutter. A hand-made ceramic mug left sitting on the table with coffee drips dried from the lip is an artful piece on its own. A beautiful cardigan thrown over a chair looks almost staged when in reality, it was flung there forgotten after a more pressing life-matter beckoned. We are attracted to beautiful things, and of the three, sentiment is the strongest decision factor as to whether an item earns its keep. Because when something no longer becomes necessary or breaks and become dysfunctional, when it has lost its purpose and meaning, a person may still choose to keep it simply because it is beautiful.

Is it functional?

I like to think that what I own earn their keep. They do the hard work for me. They help me to not only live, but also to thrive. My things deserve my deepest gratitude for the sole reason that without them, my life would be a little less than. So it goes that my second question is to the functionality of a piece. Will it do it’s work? Is it practical? Will it hold against the tests of time? Things considered include the brand (is it reputable?), the material (I prefer iron, wood, ceramics, and linen), the maintenance (I don’t like delicate thinks that require looking after) and whether it does the job well (it must be efficient as well as easy).

Is it necessary?

This is the last question that I ask of myself, because sometimes, after you’ve determined that something is both beautiful and functional, you may also realize that you already own something else that does the same. And if two things fill the same void, then one of them will, eventually, have to go. An example that I have is tupperware. We love to cook. And we always run out of tupperware. But our tiny tupperware cabinet is 80% full with containers when all are available. I could choose to buy more containers so that we never run out, but I would hate to have a weekend where all are empty and spilling out of the tupperware cabinet. That is the exact definition of clutter! Not to mention the stress and waste of time spent on said weekend organizing tupperware into kitchen cabinets. So I refuse to buy more. Instead, I look for alternatives. I grab a casserole dish and put a lid on it. I store things in glass jars that we’ve kept instead of recycled.  Currently, on our kitchen island is a dutch oven holding everything bagels with the pot lid on to keep them from going stale. These and more, just so the home doesn’t accumulate things for the sake of having them. It’s a fun game I play. The less stuff you have, the more creative you can get.  What I’ve learned from this experiment is that in the moment, we may feel the need for something, but the moments often pass, the need – temporary. Most times, it is this final question that stops items from entering our home.

Surely, there is a long list of people who have Marie-Kondoed the ish out of their homes during quarantine. To you, I say congratulations. Before we all re-enter back into what once was, I wanted to share this tip on curating. Good judgement about what to consume can easily be clouded when we are stressed, which tends to happen at our usual pace of go-go-go. So before we return to “normal”, do recall that normal wasn’t working, and de-cluttering was more than a trend. This period has shed light on what was uncomfortable and what you felt was most important, so let’s hang on to that just a bit longer. And continue to take it slow.

Curating Closets: One Work-out Outfit

I have never been one to stick to a work-out routine long-term. I find that we train our minds to have grit with certain things, but with physical activity, I haven’t had much practice. However, with the turn of the decade, for the world but also for myself, my thirtieth birthday brought on an awareness of muscle aches, tenderness, and fatigue. Instead of dwelling on the regretful lack of physical activity in my earlier years, I decided to start setting it all straight.

Since there are only two exercises that I ever liked, swimming and yoga, I decided to sign up for an unlimited membership at CorePower. I did this a year ago and regretted my decision from a financial perspective. But I realized that without the discipline for sticking to a regular workout routine, I would not get anywhere without a financial reason to push me. Spending money is a great motivator for someone who seeks getting the most value. The last year has taught me the value of outsourcing certain things in order to get high returns. I knew it was the right choice for me.

Which brings us to the topic of work-out clothes.

Having Just One

For those curating closets, I am here to tell you that one work-out set (a top and bottom) is enough for all of your work out needs. I attend yoga classes at least FIVE TIMES a week, and I have one set. In black, of course, not that that’s a pre-requisite for all. Just for me. (Why black? I like to streamline my clothes so that it works for every season. Your color could be rainbow, and that wouldn’t matter so much as the fact that it’s a color that works for you despite changes in weather or mood. For me, black looks good whether my skin is tan or not, whether my nails are painted a bright color or nude, and just makes me feel confident and comfortable overall. Curating closets, after all, is about knowing yourself.)

Maintenance

The secret with having a singular outfit is being pro-active with keeping work-out wear clean. The yoga sessions are heated and intense, and I don’t have an anti-sweat recipe up my sleeve. Yes, I do come out of those sessions drenched. But I shower right after those sessions and in the shower, I hand wash my top and bottom and hang them to dry. I am not so good (yet!) as to attend back-to-back sessions, so my workout attire can typically hang to dry until the next day. In the morning, I take the drying towels and yoga wear and toss it in my “yoga bag” which is nothing more than a ten-year-old enlarged shoulder tote that happens to fit a water bottle, my workout attire, and a yoga towel. At the end of every week, I toss the workout set into the wash with the other clothes.

Avoiding Decision Fatigue

One of the best things about having a curated closet is the avoidance of decision fatigue. Our brains require energy to make decisions and it is not proportional to the size of the decision. This means that making little decisions is just as taxing for our brain as making larger, life-altering decisions. To save brain power for the important stuff, I avoid having to choose for the smaller things in life, yoga attire included. Imagine how much stress and energy it takes to decide which outfit works well for you today while you are rushing to make class. My timelines are always filled with to-do’s, so it isn’t worth wasting time and energy on the mundane. Plus, I guarantee you’ll enter yoga class with a clearer mind, ready to accept all the benefits that the class has to offer, instead of fretting about whether you made the right outfit choice.

Easier Organization

I have met many girls who struggle with organizing their workout wear. Intricate straps make it difficult to hang and bulky to fold. Silky leggings slip right off the hanger. Drives a neatnik quite mad.  It helps to choose workout wear that skips all of that. For me, I have a T strap top with no inside bra cups to lose in the wash. It has an empress style body to hide the fact that I just engulfed a burger prior to class. The bottom of the top has a cinch that can tighten around my hips, for yoga inversions that tend to be unsuccessful. The leggings are cropped right underneath my knee caps, with enough coverage for the winter and enough air flow for the summer. The pants are fairly light, with a drawstring around the waist and no pockets.

Instead of trying to hang my slippery workout wear, I fold my clothes into tiny squares and toss in the bag. The bag hangs on a hanger in our bathroom, making it easily accessible when I’m ready to dash out the door and keeping it off the floor. The hanger is on a rod next to the shower, where I wash the clothes. When wet, the clothes hang on a shower curtain rod to drip into a tub until dry. The next morning they are dry enough to toss into the bag, which helps control clutter, and eliminating the need to search for them later on.

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Accessories

I have only a few accessories for yoga. The first is a Maduka yoga mat which is inside a yoga mat bag that stays in the back of my car at all times. Inside this yoga mat bag is a yoga mat cleaner and a lock for the locker room. Additionally, in the cold winter months, I wear a white Eileen Fisher sweater. This sweater is dedicated to yoga only. I don’t wear this sweater for other occasions, and it stays inside the same bag as my workout clothes. I do not change the sweater I wear to yoga either. It is always the same (see “decision fatigue” above). Lastly, I have one yoga towel that I lay over my mat. This yoga towel is also folded inside the bag that holds my clothes. I lay this towel over my yoga mat, and also hand wash the towel with my clothes. I use this same towel to dry myself off after my showers, too. Then it gets hung up to dry on the shower rod, just like everything else.

Having a routine helps me focus on the yoga itself. It makes gym-going a calm and easy experience. For anyone looking to curate their closet, I would highly recommend trying this! If you already own a ton of workout wear, I wouldn’t get rid of them right away. Pick one and see if its an outfit that jives with you. See if you can do without the others. When you’re ready to finally pull the trigger and slim your closet down even more, donate!

I’d love to hear some of your curating closet tips! Leave a comment and say hello.

Plant Paper, A New Toilet Paper Alternative for Body and Eco-Conscious Individuals

This post is in partnership with Plant Paper, a toilet paper company focused on creating an everyday product that is both body and eco-conscious. All thoughts and opinions are my own. If you wish to check out Plant Paper in person, they can be found at OtherWild General – a bulk and zero waste store located in Los Angeles, CA. 

Environmental change isn’t going to happen overnight placed in a consumer’s hands. At least, not enough of it. Sufficient change required to turn the tide will involve support from large organizations and changes at the macro-level by government bodies. But as a person who believes in the strength of the smallest of action, I also think we, as consumers, have some power. That power is strengthened when our product choices are intentional, especially when buying products required for daily activities whose redundancy magnifies the effect of our actions.

So here we are again, talking about toilet paper.

Toilet paper is a privilege, which I spoke about in my original post featuring Who Gives a Crap.  But for most people in the United States, toilet paper is a “necessity”. And when certain household products are viewed as such, it becomes more urgent to source these products mindfully. If we can curb the way we use, purchase, and choose toilet paper, then we can really make an impact.

So after a year of advocating WGAC, which is based in Australia, I was ever so excited to come across a California company also shedding light on creating eco-freindly toilet paper alternatives.

Introducing … PLANT PAPER!

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Plant Paper is a company imagined by Lee Reitelman and Joshua Solomon, two individuals who recognized that the ways in which we produce toilet paper does not align with neither our bodies nor our environment. The two then partnered with Scott Barry, creative director of LA’s all day breakfast joint, Sqirl, and on a December morning in 2019, I was able to hop onto a call with Rachel Eubanks, business and life partner of Scott.

The calling to create new toilet paper came after Reitelman and Solomon recognized the amount of energy, formaldehyde and chlorine it takes to convert wood to soft paper. We have a tree-based system of toilet paper-making that was not in effect until the Scott Brothers and Dupont Chemical got into the business. Prior to their invention of the toilet paper that we now see in our minds, toilet paper was made from hemp and sugarcane, both materials that take less chemicals and water to dissolve. The first person to ever invent toilet paper was actually Dr. Gayetty and his T.P. was of hemp!

Interestingly enough, when Gayetty first introduced toilet paper to the public, it did not take. Most consumers at the time could not fathom why one would pay for paper that you throw away. It wasn’t until after the 1880’s that toilet paper began to be seen as a product that signifies upper middle class status – and when you have a product that sells a lifestyle, well, it sells itself.

One thing’s for sure. With the growing attention on climate change, intentional living, and ethical consumer consumption, Reitelman and Solomon are right. “Tree paper should be, and will be, a thing of the past.”

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Great for the Environment, Swell for the Bum

The focus of Plant Paper is to create a toilet paper that is good for the body and the environment. The amount of chemicals used in the production of paper used to wipe butts is a long list – the most toxic ingredient included is chlorine which is used as chlorine bleach.

When you think of toilet paper, what color comes to mind? Usually, white. All white toilet paper require a bleaching process that turns the paper from a natural brown tree-color to a color that is deemed “sanitary”. Plant Paper wishes to change consumer perception of what toilet paper looks like. Plant Paper is BROWN, and avoids harsh chemicals such as bleaching agents and formaldehyde. If we can get people to embrace naturally colored toilet paper, then we can eliminate unnecessary chemicals that we are essentially wiping all over our bodies.

In fact, I would wager that not many Americans are aware of the fact that 37 gallons of water go into every roll of tree paper, plus a gallon of chemicals. Chemicals such as bleach and formaldehyde are known to cause UTI’s, hemorrhoids, and fissures in our bodies. But these are things we’ve grown accustomed to because we don’t stop to think that there is another way. 50 to 60% of women will get UTI’s in their lifetime and half of all people will get hemorrhoids by age 50. Something to think about.

Additionally, we must consider the environmental implications. Options on the market for eco-conscious toilet paper include recycled paper such as that of Seventh Generation, which is where most conversations stop. However, the resources required to recycle paper are often more than simply producing from new trees. In a world where resources in general are running scarce, we must consider more than the number of trees we save. We must consider the true cost. Recycled paper is no longer an option that is good enough.

Plant Paper looked at alternatives to both trees and recycled paper. They landed on the notion of using a type of grass to produce their toilet paper. Grasses grow incredibly faster than trees do. They first considered hemp as an option but eventually landed on bamboo, one of the fastest growing grasses in the world. Bamboo can grow up to 36 inches every 24 hours. Because of this choice, they had to turn make their production China-based, which means there is the logistic of still shipping their toilet paper half-way around the world.

When asked how they mitigate that choice, Rachel from Plant Paper explains that they try to reduce the impact by shipping in containers and sending in bulk. This reduces the shipping frequency, and all fulfillment of orders originate from centers in North Carolina. Currently, all orders may only be made via their online site, but the goal is to bring ethical toilet paper to locations near you.

Their dream is to eventually create a dispensary system where people are encouraged to bring their own bag and take as many rolls home as they need. Currently, they have their toilet paper stocked at OtherWild General in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. You can find Plant Paper in the Zero Waste/Bulk Section of the general store. Hopefully, these babies will start popping up at more folk shops and zero waste stores.

Beyond Environment and Health

To say that the environmental and health benefits are secondary to the real reason behind the creation of Plant Paper is true. This goes beyond current consumer trends and green washing and embracing the new status symbols of upper middle class. The true reason to buy a product like Plant Paper is simply because it is the best product out there.

We are a society trained to be content with unsatisfactory products and to accept that “it is what it is”, so much so that we even have a saying for it. We can no longer settle for mediocrity. We got to the point where we created recycled toilet paper with Seventh Generation, ticked off the box that said we were eco-conscious consumers, and stopped further conversation. But that’s not where it ends.

Plant Paper pushes the envelope to do more. How can we replace trees with a more sustainable material? How can we deconstruct the expectation that toilet paper should be white and thereby get away from all the chemicals? How can we reduce the amount of toilet paper usage all together? Perhaps we raise awareness of the recentness of toilet paper, and tell the story of it’s initial rejection by society. Perhaps we shed light on the fact that it is a monopoly controlled by one company, and that is why change at the macro-level is so difficult to achieve. All of this was discussed in my one hour conversation with Rachel, and it has got me excited about this company.

As Reitelman and Solomon worded it in another interview, we’ve created a hybrid car but the end point is an all electric vehicle.

The Verdict:

So now, the question most of you wish to be answered: How is the quality of toilet paper?

Plant Paper is double-sided and 3-ply. One side is soft and silky, what the team jokingly say is for dabbing, whereas the opposite side is textured, you know… for grabbing. With a smile on my face and a giggle in the air, I can see that it is this kind of whimsical thinking and creativity that has the power to change the world.

The branding for Plant Paper is simple, at best. Unlike Who Gives A Crap’s enthusiastic and colorful branding, Plant Paper may appeal more to minimalists who wish not to inundate their bathroom with colorfully wrapped rolls. If I am being honest, I myself prefer a more calm loo environment that reminds me of a zen spa and am relieved to know that such an eco-conscious option exists. Additionally, I prefer the buy-as-you-need approach of Plant Paper over the bulk orders of Who Gives A Crap. I think that what separates Plant Paper from Who Gives A Crap is their vision to be a wellness product in addition to being an environmentally friendly product, but what sells it to me is their hope to change a social norm by getting consumers to question, “Why?”

If you wish to try Plant Paper for yourself, I highly do recommend. I do not receive a commission from Plant Paper for your purchase.

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