Small Space Living

Tip 02// There is ALWAYS room for a loved one

When we tell people that we are not ready to have children at this time, their next step is usually to inquire about the likelihood of us owning a pet. A feline friend or a canine, perhaps? To which we have shot them down with equal fervor, choosing our own privacy, space, and time over additional responsibility. Why would we want to complicate our lives after everything we’ve done to create space? What we didn’t know was that the universe had plans of their own, and decided that if we were not going to search for an animal to love, I suppose it was going to dump one on our laps, or rather, in the midst of our nightly walking path. I guess it’s a way to fill up the space that we’ve purposefully made room for, with things of meaning and value. After all, that’s what this life we created is all about.

As you can probably guess, we have added a new member to our home. Which begs the question of how to even begin thinking about bringing in an additional breathing being into small space living. The answer is simple and easy. Which is that there is always room for another loved one.

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We were still renting at the old loft and were doing our usual mid-summer night’s walk through the neighborhood, when this orange ball of fluff appeared out of nowhere, and approached us. He didn’t approach with hesitation or signs of fear. Boldy, this little guy walked right up to Mr. Debtist’s bare ankles meowing and literally head-butted him, an obvious indication that someone needing some pets. Mr. Debtist knelt down and gave him a little head pat, which was invitation enough for the fellah to continue purring and head-butting his way into our little hearts. After getting a minute’s love from Mr. Debtist, he came after me. Nudging me with his little ears and rolling over to get some belly pats, it was easy to see that he definitely was an affectionate little creature. Once ten minutes of giving him attention passed, we got up to continue our walk home, and he followed us for a ways, meowing his farewells.

After our first introduction, we started visiting him every night. He was reliably  found in front of the same door, which made us think that perhaps he was owned by someone else. However, the occasional interview with the neighbors taught us that he was a stray cat that appeared around the time we first saw him. One neighbor let him into his business front every morning for the entire day while he was working. When he left for home, he would put the kitty out. Another neighbor would feed the cat when she got home from work. When I asked her why she only fed him wet food, she told me it was because he was toothless, a dagger delivered straight to a debtist’s the heart. A third neighbor took the liberty to name him Tucker.

In mid-September, we closed on escrow! As we were preparing to move, my woes were mostly centered around leaving the loft that was our home the past two years. We started living in that loft before we were even married. We experienced so many moments with close friends and family, and on our own, too. We imagined we would buy one loft just like it in the area. But that’s not where life took us. It took us away from where we first set our roots to grow, and it took us away from that darned cat.

Of all the things I missed most about that place, I didn’t miss anything more than our feline friend. Admittedly, we made some ventures back to the old place for tying up loose ends, and looked forward to seeing his face. Each time, I feared someone else had fallen in love and taken him away from us. Each time, there was a moment I held my breath, in case we found him no longer there.

One week ago, we went on our usual visit, when a neighbor popped up from his balcony and tried to get us to take him home. He praised that cat and really pushed and shoved, but we didn’t budge. We weren’t interested in taking a cat in, or so we said. We would jokingly say, “Let’s take him home,” and look at each other and grin. Mike said he was down if I was serious, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was ready to give up space in our new home. Small enough as it is, where would a kitty scratch post go? Or a litter box? More importantly, where does it go so that it is considered to be even remotely sightly? Where can it be placed so that I won’t have to gawk at its ugliness, that fiendish plastic bin being?

Then this past weekend came and went, along with it a series of natural events.

It has been so long since California experienced rain, I can’t even pinpoint when it was. Perhaps we missed the rain while we were away on vacation? My memory pinpoints to June, of LAST year. Well, rain it did this weekend. Sunny, 98-degree weathered Friday brought in thunder and lightning in the early evening, along with a torrent of rain drops. Angry rain, momentarily, and then a drizzle until next morning.

I was walking the three blocks it takes to get to work, in the cold, on the wet, and thought about that cat. How was he faring? Meowing his head off, no doubt. Asking for a warm body to hug, maybe? It rained all of Saturday, and that’s who I kept thinking of. I voiced my concerns to Mr. Debtist, who agreed and repeated that he was down to take the cat home. But still, I hesitated.

Sunday was lovely, in contrast. A day well spent with my parents and brother. In between the socializing, Mike and I teetered between going to pick up the cat, or not. Since it was a sunny day, and I was busy entertaining family, there wasn’t anything to push me over the edge.

Monday … Monday was a different story. Providence brought about dreaded Santa Ana winds. I woke up at 5:30 in the morning, and could not go back to sleep. The double-paned windows creaked in misery, singing a sad song that brought my mind to the cat, once again. Darned cat. Trees have fallen over, in surrender. Has that cat, too? My co-worker brought news of a lady who was killed in the morning by </s>the wind</s> a tree pushed over by the wind. Has the cat suffered the same fate? I couldn’t torment myself anymore.

I texted Mr. Debtist to pick up the cat after work. He drove back to our old place, and there was the cat, waiting. This furry creature weaseled his way into our hearts, and now has a warm home, just before the winter months. We took him to the vet yesterday, and we picked up the minimal necessities. Turns out, there IS room for a loved one and his things. Our small space just got a little smaller, but our lives just got much more grand. The cat’s, too.

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Meet Theodore:

  • Age: Guesstimated to be about 4-5 years
  • Physical Appearance: Orange, Short Haired, Green-Yellow Eyed. Has a small tip of his ear cut off, for when the Rescue and Release Program took him in and neutered him in the past.
  • Almost toothless. Has severe periodontitis, so we are extracting what few, decayed teeth he has left in a few months, to make it entirely official.
  • FIV+. Poor guy, must’ve gotten in a fight at some point with another FIV+ cat. It doesn’t mean he can’t live a long and happy life. Only that his immune system is weak and we need to monitor his health a bit more closely. Hopefully, we give him happy days for the rest of his cat life.
  • Personality: Loves cuddles and head scratches, is very talkative, and social. Feels unsure about his carrier, and does not like the way we pick him up. Not a picky eater, and loves to take cat naps.
  • The newest addition to our home.

 

 

Small Space Living

Tip 01// Make Use of Baskets

A daily qualm for small space living is answering the never-ending question of where to put things. Complicated by a desire need to have everything look tidy and put together, storage solutions run short in our home. Well, acceptable solutions anyway.

Five years of working as a product specialist for retail stores has its pros and cons. Con: Jumbled messes and unabashed eye-sores cause anxiety. Pro: I know just how to fix it.

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Enter the use of baskets. The perfect vessel for wrangling things together in one space, without the need to organize or neatly fold. For well-loved, most-oft-used pieces, stock-piling them into one spot is kind of a necessary thing. The basket keeps everything corralled in a neat space, is beautiful to look at, and hides one dark secret: that I am not perfect and though I can fold a stack of clothing like a machine with perfectly even edges, I do not necessarily want to do it all the time.

For me in particular, the basket I am referring to holds a number of soft sweaters and cardigans. Too delicate to throw on a hanger in the recesses of our only closet, and too often used to continually fold, stack, re-fold, and re-stack. They’re forgiving enough to avoid wrinkles, and look more beautiful laying askew than they do folded into a boxy shape.

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Off course, this applies to many things that are unsightly, but you want to hide. A basket is perfect for holding shoes. Kicking off shoes as you enter the home is a part of life since my mother brought me into this world, and small spaces are less tolerant of shoes lying around, lest someone trips on a stray sneaker. Likewise, we use a basket to hold my beloved Fiddle Leaf. The pot it came in is one of those standard black, flimsy, plastic bins with a clear water tray at the bottom. Throw it into a basket, and voila! Only you readers would ever know.

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The ones we have in particular are made by Olliella. A brand based in London, England and born in 2009, it was created by sisters Chloe and Olivia Brookman. The baskets are made of natural materials which are sourced sustainably. They are fair trade certified and are ethically produced.

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How about you guys? Any storage solutions to keep small spaces organized? Share away!

Curating Closets: When You Have None

It’s been a while, since I’ve written about curating closets, but closets have been at the forefront of [our] minds lately. Mostly, because we have none. I revealed in this post that our living space on the second floor has absolutely no closet space, not even in the bedroom.

Or pantry space.

Or a bathroom door.

Or a bedroom for that matter, technically. Loft living for the win.

So where to put storage? Our lifestyle is salvaged by a lone closet underneath the stairwell, located on the first floor (in the business space). We’ve placed a rod in this “coat closet” and have hung most of our clothes there, underneath the linens. There’s shelving above it, wherein sits our few sweaters that avoid hangers, to prolong their sweet little lives. The space is limited, and what minimalist closets we once thought we had have proved to be, well, not minimal enough. The husband owns too many tees, while I own too many formal a dress. So, a few words on curating, once again.

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It’s dawned on me that the de-cluttering process is one of the most mindful practices I engage in. And I do it repetitively, because there’s still room for self-improvement, as well as self-reflection. Here’s what this new “space” has reminded me:

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

I keep returning to this quote. I first discovered it perusing a shelf of cards at Daydream Surfshop in simple black lettering across a blank card. I loved it so much that I gave it as a birthday card to our roommate. When curating closets, I ask myself these two questions: “Does it have a purpose?” and “Do I love it?” Some may say “love” is a bit too extreme of an emotion, but I have found that liking something is not enough to stand the tests of time.

When you must choose between practicality and an item you love, sometimes it pays to choose the loved and less practical.

I was standing in a dressing room stall, holding two pairs of pants in my hands. I had been hiding away in there for thirty minutes or more, and the dressing room lady has checked in on me five times by now. Surely, she must wonder whether I’m in there solely because of the free AC. Not entirely untrue. But also, I was going through a tough dilemma, arguing with myself back and forth. Do I get the pair of practical denim which goes with everything in my closet and which can be worn on most days in casualness, or do I go with the auburn pant that wears beautifully, matches with a lot of my basic tops, but that I might hesitate doing some cooking in, lest it gets dirty? The truth of the matter is, I needed neither. In the end, I had walked out of the store with the pair of red pants in my hand. While practicality would have landed me a pair of denims that have everyday usability, I chose the thing that will make me ultimately the most happy. With something practical, one can wear it every day and never notice anything different. The practical one would not add anything to my life, except maybe a reason to de-clutter other denim pants that I already own. The red pair, on the other hand, will add joy to the every day. Plus, I’ve come to realize that when you love something, you end up using it as much as you possible can anyway. The moral is to choose actions that makes life happy, which is ultimately what we are living for. And when it comes to having items around,  living surrounded with items that you actually care about is the thing that matters most.

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Know what you need for your particular lifestyle.

Speaking of having items around, know what works for you. I have been guilty before of buying things that other people have, with the illusion that I myself may need them too. However, as I grew to know myself, I have found that my lifestyle is quite different from other people’s lifestyle. There were so many things we owned previously that we found we didn’t use at all. A toaster that we had asked for on our wedding registry. Cosmetics that I thought every girl required. A beer tasting set, ’til I realized I no longer wish to consume beer. Specifically for wardrobes, I used to think I needed high heels to compensate for my height, and short dresses to make my legs appear longer. I used to think that tight clothing helped me, and that having my hair curled made me appear more adult. Today, I’d likely grab a tee, prefer overalls, and get itchy when my hair is anywhere near my face. Also, I enjoy the freedom that walking, running, jumping (?) in flat shoes afford me. My lifestyle has slowed down quite a bit, so blogging on couches does not require the same attire as going out to happy hours do. Coffee shops are more forgiving than clubs and house parties. Denim pants are more suited to bread baking than mini skirts. You get the gist.

Learn to recognize sentimentality and guilt. Learn to let the burden go.

The most difficult, and final advice. Too many times have I stared at an item which has not been touched, used, or even looked at for many months [ahem, years], yet still it remained in my possession. Always, the culprit holding me back from saying sayonara was sentimentality, followed by guilt. Handkerchiefs handed down to me from my mom when I was 8 years old, for example. The thought of letting something go makes me feel like I was stabbing someone I cared about in the back with a knife of betrayal. The wild imagery pulls me towards being a “good person” and keeping it for the sake of sentiment, and also, to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. We must learn to recognize these moments, and then to ask, “what is it’s purpose?” If the only thing the item does is weigh us down with emotional burden, is that really worth keeping? Surely, your loved one did not mean to cause you such turmoil. I have found that creating space gives a higher ability to receive, while releasing negative physical, emotional and mental energy. Be kind to yourself, and know that the weight of the relationship should not come down to material things.

How about your closet space advice? I could use some inspiration. One day, I hope for that downstairs closet to have decent breathing room.

Small Space Living: We’ve Joined the Small House Movement!

It’s likely apparently obvious to those who enjoy this space that I have a slight infatuation with decreased consumption, which stems from a cognizance regarding third world countries, from whence I came, and the less-ness that exists (in terms of material goods) in correlation to the comparative abundance of happiness levels. So when the small house movement came into my radar, as I was exploring theories of minimalism, essentialism, and frugality, I was on board like a runaway child on a boxcar train.

The small house movement is embraced by those privileged enough to have an interest in reducing their living quarters to something more practical than the escalating housing  trend in the early 2000s. Technically, small housing is defined as a space less than 1000 square feet (still grand enough for a family of deux), whereas a tiny home is defined as one having less than 400 square feet. The more I browsed adorable photos of RV living and tiny guest homes, the more I thought to myself, “Why don’t we do this?”

Off course, extreme as I am, I immediately jumped to the thought of tiny house living. I approached Mike with talk of buying an RV, and posting up shop at a parking lot by the ocean. Imagine hanging macrame holding plant pots, a teeny kitchen with an oven big enough to make my own bread, a fold up dining table that double serves as a desk, and still room for a king sized bed. All thoughts of which were resisted heavily by a six-foot-three giant with claims of not being able to stand tall inside a camper. Fair enough. Just because I can fit inside a hobbit home, does not mean that a hobbit home is livable for my tall husband. So there goes that idea.

So then I started looking at homes bordering tiny. I set limitations on my Zillow searches for homes 600 square feet or smaller. Unfortunately, very few searches came up in Southern California, and unless we wanted to co-live in someone else’s backyard, zilch came up in Orange County. Somewhere along the way, I realized that my desires came from something external, specifically, from the appearance of tiny living. The homes that I was searching for did not move us towards the life we saw ourselves living. It may keep us away from over-consumption, out of necessity due to lack of space, but I realized we didn’t need to buy a tiny home in order to do that, too.

Once I saw that, I started to go back to our original idea, which was to buy a live/work loft like the one we were currently renting. The dream is to one day, wake up and walk downstairs for work. To work together doing something that seems mundane, but involves creating something as well, to share with the community. In order to make this dream a reality, we started looking at properties that would set us up for a future business. So that’s what we ended up doing.

We bought a 1,500 square foot live work loft in the heart of downtown Santa Ana. The greatest part of all? We technically joined the small house movement too! Our living space resides on the second floor, and the downstairs is partitioned specifically for a business, or a roommate for co-housing. Since the business has over 500 square feet of space, it leaves us with around 900 square feet of living space on the second floor. I’ll pretend that counts as small house living! It has everything I need and more, but without the excesses of a typical home. For example, there’s not closet on the second floor. There’s not even a bedroom or bedroom door. In fact, it’s an open floor plan, with no doors at all, not even a bathroom one. Minimalist to a high degree, but made even more functional in its sparseness.

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In this new series, Small Space LivingI hope to delve into the pros and cons of living with less. Some of the things I look forward to most about living small include:

  • Increased cash flow – When we were searching for a live/work loft, we had the choice of accepting a counter-offer for $650,000 and a counter-offer for $499,900. We obviously went with the latter. Now imagine if we were going to compare this place to a stand-alone home! Smaller homes might afford you a smaller mortgage, but there is the added benefit of lower property taxes, decreased homeowners insurance, and less maintenance costs. Imagine if you took the extra money you saved to improve on your home insulation or invest in solar roof panels and skylights to reduce energy consumption. Or you know, funnel that extra cash into paying down student debt, or creating the life you want to live.
  • Less Maintenance – Nothing excites me more than the fact that I will not have to spend hours of my days off keeping a large house clean. I recall my mother sweeping the floors day in and day out, and wondering to myself if she would have more time to relax if only we had a smaller home. Cutting down the hours needed to maintain a home leaves more time for enjoyable activities, furthering a business venture, or simply spending time with loved ones.
  • Lower utility bills – It costs less to cool down a small home in mid-summer’s heat than it is to cool down a large mansion, especially in deserty California.
  • Reduced consumption – The thing I love most about limited storage is the limiting effects on gaining even more stuff. Gone were the days when I would go rogue at a shopping mall, and there’s hardly a purchase I make now that does not involve hefty consideration. I avoid the cycle of buying more things, and then buying more storage for said new things. So many Americans use their garages as storage space, and when that isn’t enough, rent out a separate storage unit to store even more of their stuff! What’s the point of owning things that you never use? Currently, I have made a habit of getting rid of something that no longer serves if I need the room for something that adds more value to my life. So yes, I guess you can say I am pretty excited about the limited storage space.
  • More time with family – Have you ever left a family gathering and realized that you never saw Uncle Bob, or didn’t have a chance to catch up with your cousin Joe? Less space means that more room must be shared. When I was growing up as a teen, I thought having my own space was the most amazing thing ever. Now, I realize that we humans are social beings, and there is so much to be garnered from our togetherness. I’m all for a space that encourages bonding over group activities and dinners, strengthening relationships and creating memories. I now know the truth, which is this: Our dreams will end once we achieve them, but our memories will last our lifetime.

Off course, all this isn’t to say that small house living is entirely fantastic, let alone easy. Easier for some, but still, there is the question of where the clothes will go, and how to make do. Hopefully during the journey, I’ll share some solutions, and reveal some tips, that even I have yet to discover. What I do have to say about it is this: thinking about all that we already have, rather than what we don’t, leaves plenty of room for gratefulness to abound. For example, vaulted ceilings and 25 foot windows that grant me an abundance of natural light (and joy). A balcony for escaping, when spaces are not enough. Working appliances, and a roof over my head. An opportunity to celebrate our home with both sets of parents tonight. You know… the basics.

 

 

Play Pretend: A New Bathroom

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

As thirty days of escrow continue to creep on by, I can’t help but daydream about all the fun we are going to have in our new place. Off course, not all at once and definitely not right away. Buying a home doesn’t completely absolve us of all other responsibilities! No, we’ll be making the home feel more like OUR home at a s-l-o-w pace, as if that wasn’t already expected. No need to rush in, all foolhardy. But for now, a girl can dream.

Currently, the obsession lies with the bathroom, specifically the one upstairs. It will likely be the first room that we plan a renovation for, with the hopes of tackling it sometime next year.  Why not right away? Because we believe in YNAB budgeting and maintaining a healthy balance between student loans and property ownership. Because we recognize that renovating any space is a WANT and not a NEED. Because sometimes, you just have to live with the selections of the previous homeowner, and still be grateful there’s a roof over your head, you know? Not in dire need of anything at all, the reno can wait, but my thoughts have a mind of their own. In an effort to source things ethically, here are a few products that I am playing pretend with. All products are either Fair Trade Certified, organically made, solutions for sustainable living, or have a social impact in third world countries. Some of them check off more than one box, too.

+ For clean butts and minimalist stylesTushy Bidet – I’ve written about a history of not using toilet paper until I was in my teens, here. Plus, friends rave about bidet living and I am pretty much ready to go back to a zero toilet paper life. For now, Who Gives A Crap has my back. But I still dream of a bidet for the sake of reducing my carbon buttprint. The US spends $6 billion on toilet paper alone. That crap is unsustainable. Additionally, in an effort to fight the Global Sanitation Crisis, Tushy has partnered with Samagra and has helped provide clean latrines for over 10,000 families. If you’re interested too, get 25% OFF all original Tushy bidets here! Plus, get Tushy towels for ONLY $5 with the purchase of any bidet. Ends 9/30.

+ For drying off after five-minute showersCoyuchi Towels – Fair Trade Certified and GOTS certified, these are loomed in India using organic cotton. For a no frills towel, I am looking at these guys, specifically in the slate color.

+ For keeping puddles off the floorCoyuchi Rug – A matching mosaic canyon bath rug, off course! Organic cotton and hand-woven, also in Slate. Why this infatuation with Coyuchi? Let me count the ways

+ For vanity above the vanitiesThe Citizenry Provdencia Mirror  –  Two matching mirrors over the vanity sinks. You’ve likely heard about The Citizenry by now, but these mirrors hold a special place in my heart. These mirrors were designed by Cristobal and Valentine, a husband and wife duo that lives in Santiago, Chile, and did you know that I, too, lived in Santiago, Chile for a bit? Citizenry gives people access to a market that they wouldn’t have otherwise, and in a fair trade working environment, these mirrors brought together multiple artisans from multiple backgrounds, such as glass, stone-cutting, and wood working. I want to support people from the city I once lived.

+ For the clothes that served usThe Citizenry Hamper – Hand–crafted from locally sourced palm leaves by master artisans in Guerrero, Mexico. Each basket takes three days to complete, from start to finish in a fair trade working environment.

+ To cover up – Ty Shower Curtain – A simple recyclable shower curtain made of #2 plastic material. Unlike other vinyl showers, it does not off-gas and it breathes, making it less likely to grow mildew or mold. Ty is made of 100% HDPE, one of the most common recyclable plastics and is PVC free. At the end of Ty’s life, you may recycle it locally or send it back to Grain to do the recycling. For the artistic, they also sell a customizable version here.

How about you? Any sustainable bathroom faves?

Curating Closets: Saying Goodbye to High Heels & Saying Goodbye to Select Styles + An Additional 10% OFF of Nisolo’s Annual Summer Sale

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

My height is officially 5 foot 1 inch. I have been this tall since I was a freshman in high school. You could say I peaked at 14 years old. No growth spurts ever visited me again (I am not sure if they ever did to begin with). At around this age, I was learning about super models, reading magazines, watching Project Runway, and working for clothing companies as a style specialist who dressed mannequins that were 5 foot 8 inches tall. The concensus was universal and the messaging was definitive: Taller girls are prettier. Taller girls are more desirable. Clothes are made for taller girls.

As young as sixteen years old, I started experimenting with making myself appear, or actually be, taller. I fitted my tiny feet into even tinier high-heeled shoes and walked around everywhere in them. I wore them to high school, and ran in them occasionally in order to get to my next class on time. I remember returning home with bruised feet and pounding heels. I wore them to work as an eighteen year old, climbing ladders as I made the window displays of my retail store pretty, dressing and undressing those towering mannequins. Even with heels on, I barely reached their shoulders.

When I met my husband in college, I started wearing 4-5 inch wedges, with the desperate desire to get anywhere near to his 6 foot 3 inches frame. Obviously, I was never close. But it was a booster to my self-esteem.

To this day, I thank providence that my husband was the person I ended up meeting. A very simple man, he never noticed things of vanity and outward appearances. After eight years of being together, he still can’t tell the difference between when I wear make-up and when I don’t. He won’t realize that I’ve chopped my hair, unless I’ve already told him before-hand. To be fair, he has pointed out time and again that I don’t realize when he’s shaved off three weeks worth of beard, either. All of this to say that he has taught me the lack of importance of outward appearances.

I remember when we first started dating, I became overly obsessed with stocking up on very tall shoes. I asked for them for birthdays and Christmases. One particular Christmas, I even requested he buy me these ridiculous, tall and spikey Sam Edelman heels, which sell for $200 a pair. Ugh, the joys of being naïve, and the qualms of being reckless. But he just didn’t understand it. I think the only reason he noticed that I was wearing towering heels was because I was struggling to keep up, stumbling on cracks on the sidewalk, and scurrying in small, calculated steps. He kept asking me, “Why do you do this to yourself?”, pointing out the impracticalities as well as the dangers of walking on stilts. But I was convinced that walking stilts gave you power, that being taller made you more covetable. Reinforced by other women’s oohs and aahs at my pretty shoes, this is what I continued to believe. I think the best part in all of this was his apathy towards whatever I chose to wear. Equally so, his apathy to whatever HE chose to wear. Over time, I realized that neither he nor I used appearances to measure a person’s worth. So why were they so important to me?

It took me eight years, but I can finally say that I have outgrown that misconception that heels make you beautiful. Or that they’re attractive at all. Looking back, there was nothing attractive in the way I tip-toed to class, the way I looked down all the time at where I was going to step next, or the way I tripped, twisted ankles, or stumbled. I have given away all of my very tall shoes. I still have heels for those special occasions, but we are talking one to two inches, and few and far between. I have replaced my favorite brands with more subtler types. I embrace shoes that are more empowering in their ability to get me through a busy day. Off course, I have written extensively about how the majority of my shoe collection consists of Nisolos, because they have a curated collection that does just that.

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For those interested in curating their own closets and replacing their shoes with ones of practicality and durability, this week marks Nisolo’s Annual Summer Sale, their largest sale of the year. Products for both men and women will be marked down 30-50%. Additionally, they are giving an additional 10% OFF sale styles to The Debtist Readers, when you use the code DEBTIST10 at check out. The sale and this offer is valid from 7/23/18 to 7/27/18. If you would like to receive more offers such as this, sign up for the newsletter below, where you will also get posts delivered straight to your inbox!

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My hope is that when we talk to young girls in future generations, we refrain from complimenting them on how cute they look, or how pretty their dresses are. Instead of saying these things, we should be complimenting them on their character. I imagine a world where we say, instead, “How kind that was for you to share with your friend”, or “how brave you are for trying something new.” We compliment them too much on how they appear, rather than how they are. Instead of putting the emphasis on appearances, we should reward them for their actions.

 

 

 

Novelty, Unlocked in the Form of Hand-Me-Downs

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

Last weekend, K and I were de-cluttering our possessions, as usual, continuing our slow, constant progress towards living a life of less. It’s amazing to discover that you can keep going on this path for so long. While I am not adding much of anything at all back into my life, I am finding hidden, forgotten about gems constantly in the backs of closets, nooks of cabinets, underneath piles of more oft used stuff. I came downstairs for a quick swig of water after lightening my closet for what feels like the thousandth time, just as K was coming up the stairs, carrying her favorite purple North Face jacket (a similar one here).  I must have seen K wear this jacket multiple times as one of her go-to pieces in her closet, so I was surprised when she extended her arm and offered the jacket to me. She voiced that she was ready to let it go, and she asked if I wanted her hand-me-down. I laughed because I had just de-cluttered my own closet upstairs and just finished contemplating how in the world I end up with so much stuff. Funnily, I did want to take the hand-me-down too, because I could use a more muted fleece jacket for the everyday, instead of my bright red one (see, minimalist doesn’t mean owning nothing, or deprivation!). Really though, I was hesitant that this was yet another thing that I would have to de-clutter in the future. But then I thought about it, and decided to hold on to the jacket, and I am glad I did!

If anything, I am prolonging the life of the article of clothing. K mentioned how she did not know where to donate the stuff she is constantly decluttering, and I have also come across this problem numerous times. The amount of clothes that are being removed from homes is extremely large, mostly thanks to the fast fashion industry which is bent on creating 52 seasons in one year. Companies that used to take and re-sell lightly used clothes are becoming more and more critical, and are accepting only a small percent of what comes through their doors, because there is just not enough room. Donations to other charities are also overflowing, and most are sent to third world countries for processing, where the overflow sometimes, ultimately, end up in landfill. A lot of people who don’t want to deal with the inconveniences of finding their old clothes a home simply send them straight to the landfill anyway. So K asked me to take it and I thought to myself, “keep it out of the landfill.”

I haven’t had a hand-me-down since my sister, Dee, and I started fitting into different sizes in college. Only a year apart, the first twenty years of our lives were constantly filled with, “Can I borrow this?” or “I’ll trade you this article of clothing for that!” It used to be such a fun game, frantically looking through my closet for a piece I knew she would want, whenever I wanted to borrow or have anything she had. We were very good about striking deals and bargains, and because of our system, our closets were technically twice the size. Sometimes, we would trade back the pieces we originally had, and it was like new. I was surprised to relearn all of this with the simple act of accepting K’s gift.

I have worn K’s jacket everyday this week, since she gave it to me. The jacket has brought me so much joy and excitement. It’s been a bit cloudy in the mornings (the sun has been slow in waking up this past week) and the office is always cold, so it’s proved useful despite the fact that it’s already June in California. Yesterday, Mike and I were at the beach watching the sunset, and I commented on how I have worn the jacket every day this week, as I was zipping it up to ward off the cooling temperatures. He responded with, “You’re excited to wear it because it’s new.” Which got me thinking. Sure, it isn’t brand new, but in my life, it IS new to me.

Research shows that we are not necessarily constantly searching for newness, but rather, novelty. Advertisement companies and social media understands this human need for novelty greatly, and they use it to their advantage. They sell products as novel experiences to the general population. Buy said product, find happiness. Buy this trip, find peace. Buy this workshop, find creativity. They package novelty as something you need to buy, and time and time again, I have proven that concept wrong through slow living. The truth of the matter is, “buying happiness” is a temporary fix, leaving people feeling empty, and wallets feeling emptier. Creating novel experiences is much easier, leaving people feeling fuller, because it did not come at a cost. Hand-me-downs are a great way to create this novelty. Accepting K’s jacket reminded me of a truth that Dee and I knew as children. Newness does not necessarily mean physical newness. It only requires a sense of newness to us. One day, I will write more about ways I create novel experiences in my life, without spending a penny, and how that is contributing to the observation that I live a happier life than some of my peers. But today, I just wanted to share this story, in hopes to maybe convince more people to creating a hand-me-down system among family and friends. Share, borrow, trade, it’s all fun. See how it makes you feel. Who knows. You may unlock a secret that only kids once knew.

For those interested in finding a place for their used clothes, why not support companies that have programs dedicated to repurposing used goods? Eileen Fisher has a Renew Program which accepts used EF clothes. Depending on the condition, they resell them, refurbish them, or break them down into scraps to make a one-of-a-kind. Nisolo has a Shoe Reclamation Program that accepts used shoes, creating a market for shoemakers in less fortunate communities who can then refurbish the soles and resell the “new” shoes to their communities in need.

Getting to Know: Heather McDougall of Bogobrush

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

Heather McDougall is the co-founder of Bogobrush, along with her brother John McDougall. Both are children of a dentist who pursued careers in other fields but they have come full circle and returned to the toothbrush. More importantly, they are using this single, everyday, taken-for-granted item and using it as a means for social change. More than just another toothbrush company, Heather has some very inspiring ideas about the ways in which the toothbrush can affect our environment and under-served communities, as well as communities in other impoverished areas outside of our borders, in a positive way. The Bogobrush is a great example of how the items we choose in our lives could carry a value that goes way past a monetary number. 

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How did Bogobrush come about? What were the inspirations, motivations and goals that fueled the birth of the Bogobrush?

John and I say the idea came from when we were kids, growing up as children of a dentist. But, really, neither of us had any intention of following the family business. John went to design school while I went to law school. During those years, we realized our shared passion for sustainability. We wanted to do our part, so we talked about a lot of ideas. We kept coming back to a toothbrush. It’s something people use everyday! More than half a billion manual toothbrushes end up in landfills or polluting natural habitats in the U.S. alone, and more than 80 million Americans lack access to adequate oral care. We had somehow come full circle from childhood.

What was it like growing up with a dentist in the house? I am sure you learned a lot of oral hygiene tips and tricks. Is that the part of the reason why you felt a calling towards helping people with their at-home oral hygiene?

Growing up was a blast. Our mom and dad always encouraged creativity, play, and adventure. Naturally, we also learned a lot about oral health: tips for best ways to brush teeth, what the best toothbrush bristles are, the foods and drinks that are harmful to oral health, how oral health affects heart health, and as we got older, we’d hear how lack of access harms a variety of communities around the country and world, and how policies and diet habits are barriers to quality care. I don’t think we felt a calling at the time, but it certainly helped us see oral health as a real issue to tackle for sustainability.

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Heather and John as little tykes, brushing away.

I understand that currently there are two models for your brushes- a recyclable plastic and a biodegradable handle. Could you describe each in more detail? Why did you guys decide to have a plastic one, rather than going entirely with biodegradable options?

Our plastic brushes are made from entirely recycled plastics that would have been thrown in the landfill. We use what is technically called “re-grind,” which is the plastic waste from other manufacturing projects. We get it from those projects, re-grind it up, and it become the recycled Bogobrush. The handle is 100% recyclable – just toss it in the recycle bin when it’s use is over.

The biodegradable Bogobrush is made from leftover plant material from farms across midwest America. The plant material gets mixed with a vegetable based oil and turns into a material that can be molded like plastic but is biodegradable! Both options can be found here.

We have both options so Bogobrushes can choose which end of life stream is best for their lifestyle. Not everyone composts or has access to community compost so recycling is the best bet. Same thing in reverse. And while composting is awesome, recycling has now become more energy efficient than landfills, and that’s an important industry to help advance.

I totally agree! We, ourselves, do not have an option for composting, and I am a huge proponent of supporting the recycling system in order to advance its abilities for future generations. So, what now? What exciting plans do you guys have in the future for the Bogobrush?

Later this year we’ll be launching a whole bunch of new products. We’re launching new colors, new biodegradable materials, and an updated design – still the same beautiful product, just more refined and less material so it’s better for the planet. Plus, the cat’s not quite out of the bag, but we’re also working on a children’s collection. We have some really fun things launching with that, and we hope you’ll follow along later this summer when we announce it fully!

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Definitely! I will be very much interested in the kid’s toothbrushes, since we see a lot of children in our office! Besides Bogobrush, what are some of your other favorite oral hygiene brands?

I love Cocofloss for my dental floss. I’d love to do a partnership with them for Bogobrush some day, too. 🙂 I also really love the Toothy Tabs from Lush Cosmetics. So easy to travel with and they have super random flavors. One of my faves is Grapefruit and Black Pepper. Mint toothpaste loyalists beware. Ha!

Bogobrush stands for Buy one, Give one. I think it’s amazing that you guys are devoted to making a social impact in the lives of under-served communities. What are some communities that benefit from the Bogobrush?

To date, we’ve worked with low cost health clinics in communities across the U.S. For instance, in Detroit, we partner with Covenant Community Care. These clinics serve populations who are under-insured or don’t have any insurance at all. They provide a beautiful health clinic, and top quality care. We think quality matters and helps everyone feel valued.

Recently, we decided to start expanding our giving beyond clinics and even beyond toothbrushes when the case is right. This past May, we partnered the Engineers without Borders from North Dakota State University on their work in a partner community in Guatemala. This will be an ongoing relationship and we’re excited to see how we can help support their work for educating about engineering, clean water, and health. We’re also working to get connected with urban farming and art education. Anything that we think relates to sustainability, we want to join the communities and lend our support.

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Partnership with NDSU Engineers without Borders

Currently are you guys accepting applications from other organizations to be a part of the Give Back program? If other communities are interested in benefitting from the Bogobrush, how might they became part of the program?

Yes! We are actually just creating an official application process for this. We’d love to hear from folks interested in partnering – once, twice, on-going, or any ideas welcome. Send an email to contact@bogobrush.com to get started.

Do you guys plan to extend your outreach program to international levels? I have a bit of wanderlust in me, so this question definitely peaks my interest.

Yes again! The Engineers Without Borders program is international support. We’re also working on a relationship with some folks in Spain who are doing reforestation and ocean clean-up work. For us, it’s all about the community of Bogobrushers and their communities of giving back. The Engineers Without Borders are at NDSU, and North Dakota is where John and I grew up so we have loyal supporters in that community. As long as people feel a personal connection to the give, we aren’t too concerned about geography. The folks in Spain will sell Bogobrush, so their sales and customers will be connected to their outreach work.

How may dentists in particular become more involved with spreading Bogobrush’s impact?

We’d love to talk to dentists about providing Bogobrushes to their patients. This could be through resale, or the brush dentists often give after hygiene appointments. Longer term, we’d love to develop a program through our subscription service online that helps dentists remind their patients of appointments and other important oral care check points. And, if dentists have any outreach causes their connected to, let us know and we can find a way to work together. Of course, on the simplest end of support dentists can spread the word on social media, offer to write blog posts, and share knowledge with our community.

What is the most difficult obstacle in trying to convince others to switch to a Bogobrush?

Our biggest obstacle has been getting the story out. Most people don’t care about their toothbrush. It’s an object that they have to use, and they dont’ think about it much beyond that. This means, a toothbrush, especially a manual toothbrush is mostly commodity and price-based. We are using values to sell a toothbrush. That means our job is to tell stories. To show people why a Bogobrush is worth paying a few dollars more for – the environment and helping your community. This fall we’ll be doing a lot more sharing our story because we have funding for marketing!

Bogobrush_ Heather and John

How do you guys overcome difficult times?

Stay focused on the bigger mission. If we wanted to sell a cool looking plastic toothbrush, the hurdles would be much smaller. We’re trying to push the needle on a variety of fronts, though. We talk about our dreams for the world, we talk about our dreams for our own lifestyle, we talk about our vision for the company as it expands beyond Bogobrushes and into even more products that can help the world. Bogobrush is an amazing toothbrush, but for us, it’s so much more than that. It’s the start of something so much bigger.

How do you unwind and refresh?

Unwinding and refreshing happens for me whenever I turn off the switch on work, and let my mind roam freely through other adventures. For instance, John and I both love to be active and moving. For me that means yoga, hiking with my husband, or walking my dog. For John, he snowboards, hikes, or goes indoor climbing. Unwinding can even be dinner as a family, ditching my phone for a few hours, dancing in my living room, or playing music.

What would you consider your greatest success so far? And what is one moment you won’t ever forget?

Regarding success with Bogobrush, there are moments in time that we celebrate, but right now the greatest success that comes to mind is the very first step. The first decision to type into google “toothbrush manufacturer.” A close follow-up to that is learning to evaluate the balance of persistence and pivoting. We’ve been working a long time on this. We could give up at any number of challenging times, but our persistence and faith in our vision keeps us going. And our ability to see that sometimes the path forward is to turn right or left allows persistence to pay off.

One unforgettable moment is from 2014. John and I were in our bristling partner’s facility watching our first run of recyclable handles go through the machine, and success! We’d first tried to make Bogobrush from bamboo with overseas manufacturers. This didn’t work, and in bristling we lost more than half of the handles to breakage. Being with John, 2 years later to watch our pivot turn into success was so amazing.

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Bristling the Bogobrush.
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Success! Bogobrush bristles in the making!

If you could give one piece of advice to other creative entrepreneurs wishing to create social change, what would it be?

Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Question why you’re doing what you’re doing. I don’t think 100% certainty is necessary, but a gut level peace and energy will keep you moving. And bonus advice – when you get stressed, do something else that’s fun! Nothing is as big of a deal as we think it is. I’m super guilty of this, but step out, do something fun – even if it’s forced. 🙂

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Canyoning in the Snake Canyon on a trip to Oman. “It was one of the most epic things we’ve ever done!” Heather is on the left with her husband David and John is on the right with his wife Hannah.

Thank you Heather for taking the time to interview with me. You’re an inspiration to the dental field and a wonderful reminder that we can make changes beyond the doors of a dental office. Bogobrush is currently offering TheDebtist readers their first subscription for free. Mike and I have personally been using Bogobrush since January of 2018 and we will not go back.