A Consideration for Indoor Air Quality in Our Homes with this Molekule Air Mini Review

This post is sponsored by Molekule and may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

COVID has made me particularly more sensitive to what’s in our air. I already think about this quite a bit as my job as a dentist involves the respiratory tract and airway. We even have an air purifier in every operatory at our dental office to protect our patients. It wasn’t until recently though that I thought to myself, “Why don’t I have this in my home?!” By the time I came across Molekule, I knew that bringing an air purifier into my space was a no-brainer. What I didn’t know was how different it was going to make our home feel.

Owning a Molekule has been a breath of fresh air for me and my family. I can tell that it works because the air immediately smells cleaner. As a cat owner, I always wondered whether visitors can smell our cat upon entering our home. I mean, when Theo uses the litter box, you can definitely tell that we are cat people. But after the Molekule arrived, you can’t even tell when Theo uses his litter box. Which shows me that the Molekule is doing something. Below is my honest Molekule Air Mini review.

What does Molekule do?

Molekule creates professional-grade air purifiers that use PECO technology to break down pollutants at the molecular level. Some air purifiers only trap pollutants in their filters, but Molekule destroys them. Simply speaking, PECO technology uses free radicals to break down VOCs, bacteria, mold, allergens, and viruses. In goes the pollutant, out comes carbon dioxide, water and trace elements. According to Molekule, there is no ozone by-product. PECO technology has been tested for 25 years and currently, Molekule’s FDA approved PRO RX air purifiers are being used in a number of hospitals – another consolation regarding their product’s efficacy.

Which Molekule is right for us?

The version that we have at home is a Molekule Air Mini, which is advertised as ideal for up to 250 square feet of space. To put this into perspective, my entire living space is less than 1,000 square feet. 250 square feet covers a room – either the bedroom or the living room. Molekule does sell two other versions that have higher capacity: The Molekule Air and Molekule Air Pro which stands on the floor and improves air quality of rooms up to 600 and 1,000 square feet respectively. So technically, a single Molekule Air Pro could handle my entire living space. However, as a minimalist, I prefer the Air Mini’s smaller shape and don’t mind moving it to whichever room I am at. The good thing about the mini is that it is easily portable, thanks to a handle fastened at the side that allows me to carry it from room to room. Our space is so small to begin with, so it isn’t a bother to me at all. However, I can see why a two-story home would be better off having a Molekule Air Pro on the first floor and Molekule Air Minis in individual bedrooms.

What has the Molekule experience been like?

The Molekule Air Mini arrived fairly quickly in a box with very simple set-up instructions. First, removal of the top portion of the air purifier was required in order to remove the plastic around the PECO filter inside. The top lid securely fastens by twisting in a clock-wise motion until it clicks into place. It requires a bit of elbow grease to get it closed all the way so I had Mike help me with that. Make sure you hear the click to ensure that it locked. Otherwise, when you lift your air purifier by the handle, you may find the bottom half clattering on the floor!

After the plastic is removed from the filter, it’s a matter of plugging the device in. A cord can be found on the bottom and can be unraveled to length. I like that the rest of the unused cord can stay hidden and tucked away underneath the device. There is a notch too where the cord can exit the bottom so that the device sits evenly. With a press of a button, you’re off and running!

There is a central button on the top of the unit. Pressing it would start the fan speed at level one. You can continue pressing it to go up to level five. I have found that level one is silent as a mouse, but level five is as uproarious as a vacuum. I prefer to keep it at level three during the daytime and turn it down to level one in the evenings, however, I wonder about the efficacy in relation to fan speed. The fan speed determines how fast air gets sucked into the device, hence the whirring sound. I would imagine that the more air gets brought in, the more action, but the sound is just way too loud to bear at level five. I love my quiet space and will likely remain at level three or lower. Holding down the button for a few seconds places the device on stand-by.

Final Thoughts…

The Molekule Air Mini is honestly a wonderful addition to any home. It is modern and minimally sleek. The design is impeccable from the beautiful grey felt handle to the top air vent. It is subtle and quietly does the difficult work.

With more people choosing to stay in, it’s time we focus inward on ways we can keep our homes clean – and that includes the air that we breathe!

Of course, every home is different. We live in a small space so I feel comfortable with having only the Molekule Air Mini. For larger homes, one can purchase multiple air purifiers in bundles in order to properly tackle every corner of the home. Also, if you are unsure of which purifier would work best for you, Molekule has a 30-day trial period. Try the product and if you are unsatisfied, you can always get a full refund.

One thing is for sure: Considering indoor air quality will become a new normal moving forward – whether the concern be due to local fires, pollution, or viruses.

Molekule allows me to breathe easy, knowing that my family is kept safe and our home is kept a sanctuary.

With the advent of yesterday’s Southern Orange County fires and all fires that has plagued the West Coast this year, I wanted to increase accessibility of air purifiers for all households. Readers may use the code thedebtist to receive a discount on their Molekule purchase – $25 off Air Mini, $32 off Air Mini+, $50 off Air, $77 off Air Pro. I think that air purifiers are more important than ever and I want to do my part in making sure we all have access to cleaner air.

This post is sponsored by Molekule, a company dedicated to providing cleaner air in our homes and our businesses. I have had the privilege of trying their Molekule Air Mini in my home and this my review of the product. The links from this blog post are affiliate links which means TheDebtist earns a small commission from any purchases made from this site. As always, thank you for supporting the companies and businesses that support this small space. I can say in all honesty that all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Minimalist Year Round Bedding with Parachute Home’s Linen Sheets

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

The seasons are turning and we are sticking with our linen duvet cover and pillow cases from Parachute Home. Typically, linen is the fabric of choice for summer months. However, I am an enthusiast for the stuff – linen table cloths, linen napkins, linen coasters, linen clothing, linen couch cover… you name it. So it doesn’t surprise me that I chose linen fabrics for our bedroom year round. Perhaps it is the right choice for you, too!

Before winter hits, I want to make a case for why linen sheets are ideal for modern minimalists who wish to only own one set of sheets all year long.

Why We Chose Linen Year Round

Linen is a classic material that comes from flax. It has historically been valued for its strength and durability – two characteristics that are necessary for something so oft used as bed sheets. At first, I was afraid linen would be too delicate, prone to snags and pilling. However, after living with linen sheets for six months, I have come to realize that it is not delicate at all.

Our cat Theo loves to chase fly toys on the bed every morning, and digs his claws into our duvet cover. And while he gets caught occasionally in his fervor to catch his toy prey, the tiny holes that his claws create never get bigger. In fact, the strength of these fibers is apparent in the way the holes close up over time. The linen never breaks and the hole caused by his nails gets pulled in different directions until it finally closes again. As far as pilling goes, my Parachute Home linen duvet cover comes pre-washed and even though we wash them every other week (to avoid cat dander accumulation), I have yet to see my first signs of pilling!

If anything, these sheets get softer over time. This makes linen great for those who have sensitive skin, such as myself. I developed skin rashes about a year ago and whenever my skin comes into contact with something itchy like wool, a hypersensitivity reaction develops. That is why the softness of linen sheets are important to me. Some people argue that linen is a harsh fabric, but I would attest to the fact that our sheets are softer than cotton and are getting softer with use.

Additionally, linen is versatile enough to combat the seasonal temperature changes. The fibers have a hollowness to them that allows air to move throughout. Egyptians valued linen for its wicking abilities and breathability, which is why it is a great choice for California’s summer months. But as the mornings turn colder, I have noticed that our sheets have kept us warm. The fabric is of medium-weight and acts as a natural insulator.

Lastly, linen sheets are a beauty. There is elegance in simplicity. The natural wrinkles imbue a gentleness to the fabric and fits in with our no-fuss lifestyle. It gives our bedroom a lived-in feel that photographs as nicely when the bed is made up as when the sheets are left rumpled and undone.

The imperfect state in which we leave our bed somehow still exudes charm in ways that cotton sheets do not. Which then allows us more time for playing with our cat, sleeping in, reading a book, and all the slow-living things that we love. Honestly, an unmade bed is underrated.

The Benefits of Only Having One Set

I live a simple life and that’s the bottom truth. In fact, I work very hard to maintain my life’s simplicity. Having only one set of sheets means I don’t spend my hard-earned dollars on unnecessary stuff. What’s the point of owning two pairs of sheets when one of them is always unused and collecting dust? For me, it’s best to invest in one set to be used daily and be well-loved. Plus, duvet covers and bed sheets are expensive!

The argument for having a spare set for “just-in-case” doesn’t fly. These aren’t life-or-death “just-in-case” situations here. Soil a set of sheets? Wash them during the day. Stain them beyond repair? Keep until you get a replacement. I don’t really know of a “just-in-case” scenario that would be worth wasting money on.

How to live with just one set of sheets

Living with only one set is simple. We wash our sheets every two weeks. Our cat loves to play on the bed with his feather toy and cuddles up between us every night. His lazy afternoons are usually divvied up between the bed and the couch. Washing our sheets frequently is a no-brainer, especially with my sensitive skin. Which is why durable linen works so well for us!

We usually throw our sheets into the washing machine in the morning. Our sheets are Sateen sheets by Wattsuma, a wedding gift from almost four years ago that has been so reliable for us. We also have Parachute Home’s Linen Pillowcases in Bone and our duvet cover is Parachute Home’s coveted linen duvet cover in Terra which has sold out twice this year! We wash on delicate cycle and dry on delicate cycle. Surprisingly, the linen fabric did not shrink – a fear that I initially had when I first bought the duvet cover. Like I said, linen isn’t as delicate as I once thought.

Occasionally we will hang dry the sheets over our banister to let it air dry to completion. We make our bed in the early evening and enjoy for another two weeks.

For those seeking simplicity in their lives, I really think linen sheets are a worthy consideration. Whether or not you choose linen as your fabric of choice, having only one set is a minimalist must. The decorative pillows are Flecha Pillows in Cream gifted from Territory Design, the book I am reading is The Vanishing Half, and my pajama set and scrunchie are from a boutique store in San Clemente called Melrose in the OC, although a similar product can be found here and here.

Below are a few Parachute favorites to welcome the colder seasons, and this simple lifestyle. Even though linen is my own personal bedding choice, there are other options that may better fit your lifestyle!

Top Parachute Home Winter Bedroom Picks

1. Honeycomb Duvet Cover Set 2. Washed Velvet Quilt 3. Vintage Linen Bed Cover 4. Linen Venice Set 5. Washed Velvet Sham 6. Oversized Knit Throw

Minimalist Decor with Houseplants

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

I am not one for house decor. My white walls speak for themselves. My furniture fills up what little space we have. My husband and cat are more than enough. My creative work takes up the rest of the room. So I find it absolutely ironic to be giving home decorating advice in this space. I do, however, try my best.

To be completely transparent, I find deciding on decor a stressful activity. Nothing ever seems right. I worry about the decor’s permanence. My likes and dislikes change with the weather, so I’m certain that a photo I want to frame today would look lame in a month’s time. I obsess about the lack of function. What good is a wall-hanging to me?? I fret about the white noise. I view most decor as distractions, subtracting from my life instead of adding value. I suppose that’s the minimalist in me. I worry about the cost. Not just the monetary cost, but the true cost, like “who made this?” and “which ocean will it end up in?”

However, when outfitting a home, there is one exception (isn’t there always?). If there is one form of decor that I happily allow into our tiny home, it’s going to be houseplants. Living, breathing things that bring me great happiness. Take me to a nursery and out the window goes minimalism, out the door goes my hard-earned dollars. There is no such thing as frugality in a greenhouse at Lowe’s. Still, I leave richer than when I entered, a new plant baby in my arms. Or perhaps two.

There are many reasons why I proclaim plant life as the optimal form of decoration. First, they have increasing permanence. For those arguing against this with anecdotes of black thumbs, this previous post I wrote on how to care for houseplants is a good place to start. Anyone who has ever taken in a chain of hearts or a Monsterra will attest to the fact that these tenacious plants are going to outlive even you one day.

Second, they have function. Plants liven up any space. More than referring to their rich, vibrant color (I prefer leafy greens over florals), I also speak of their ability to freshen the air which we breathe. The fact that they can detox our home environment is just as important as the way in which plants detox our minds, boost our moods, and speak to our spirit. We have a deep-rooted connection with plants, an unexplained symbiosis and harmony that is arguably stronger than that with animals.

Lastly, plants have the ability to teach us a thing or two about the art of introspection. Its growth depends on our awareness to its surroundings, our willingness to take time to listen and observe its needs, and our ability to care for something other than ourselves. I, myself, am still learning. It’s a process. In exchange, our reward: happiness. I have yet to outgrow that excited feeling … a skip of a heart-beat every time I see a brand new leaf unfurling.

Which leads me to my final point about home decor: adding value to human life.

This post was sponsored by The Sill, a company delivering joy to people’s doorsteps in the form of foliage. Think of a food delivery system, but for plants. Based in NYC and California, The Sill has a few storefronts for locals to shop at, but they mostly operate via their contact-less delivery service.

They recently collaborated with The Met, who celebrated their 150th Anniversary this summer. In the collaboration, The Sill joined a number of other companies (a line-up that includes Catbird, Allbirds, BAGGU, and more) to create products inspired by famous artwork found at the museum. They kindly sent me a Bird’s Fern nestled within one of the pots from The Met 150 collection. Inspired by ancient Precolombian vessels found in the museum, the matte, yellow pot with its tiny saucer (a MUST feature for plants needing well-draining soil and newbie plant owners alike) exudes a subdued elegance that adds character without overshadowing its plant’s beauty. Their collab also includes a smaller, brighter planter in Met Red with a smooth finish for those homes in need of a pop of color. You can shop the entire MET 150 Collection here. You can shop The Sill’s collection here.

I can’t recommend The Sill enough. If you have doubts about whether a plant can survive a shipping, rest assured knowing that The Sill packages the plants quite securely using cardboard housing and an innovative nest that prevents the soil from falling out. Of course, unwrapping the plant may result in stray dirt falling from the box, so do be mindful of where you choose to meet your new plant baby. And for those who question their abilities to parent a plant, The Sill hosts a number of online workshops walking newbie parents through different plant preferences and care. Plus, your order is shipped with a care guide for your greenery of choice. Still unsure? Opt for a faux plant so that you may still decorate a home with confidence.

Bird’s Nest Fern; Asplenium nidus

Origin: Southeast Asia, Polynesia

Plant Care:

  • Thrives in medium to bright indirect light, but can tolerate low indirect light.
  • Water weekly; adjust frequency depending on the light levels provided. Allow potting mix to dry out at least two inches down between waterings.
  • Do not water directly into the center of your fern, but instead, water around it.
  • This plant is pet-friendly.

Sad Plant Signs:

  • Pale green leaves, dry potting mix: Thirsty plant, underwatered.
  • Yellowing lower leaves, wet potting mix: Overwatered.

A Laundry Bag Worthy of a Minimalist’s Home

While bloggers around me clamor relentlessly about 20 glamorous laundry room remodel ideas, I’ll be over here quietly boasting about one: a laundry hamper worthy of a minimalist’s home. Sometimes, one is all you need.

Let’s start from the beginning. Washable paper. That’s where this story begins. Stylish and practical, this laundry hamper is from UASHMAMA, a family business based in Tuscany. Born from a shoe-maker’s wish to create innovative, functional and sustainable house products, his Italian family came together to invent an entirely new fabric – “AGGO”. AGGO is made with materials from trees that have been cut in a controlled manner, with a little added vegetable wax. In the process of creating this unique fiber, unwanted chemicals are also removed during the washing process.

All UASHMAMA products are made from this innovative fiber via classic Italian design principles to ensure functionality in everyday living. The workforce consists of local artisans in the surrounding Tuscan area, wherein the manufacturing of their products is done. “We are proud to be Italian,” their About section reads. I am proud to own their products.

It may not seem glamorous, paper bags. I never said it would be. But, in reality, it is the nicest paper bag I have ever touched. With a sensation similar to leather, this bag is made of sturdy material meant to do the tough stuff. There is no delicacy required for the task. You can stuff its space full of clothes, yank on the handles, slam it down with a kerplop in front of your washer’s drum. It can take a beating, I can tell.

But I would never treat it so terribly. This bag is a beaut. It is the perfect solution to many of my storage problems. UASHMAMA bags come in a variety of sizes, and can be used in lieu of kids’ toy chests, pots and planters, food storage, trash bins, and of course, hampers.

We got the laundry bag specifically. It is tall and narrow, which fits tricky spaces inside any minimalist’s home. The Avana is a rich color that blends so nicely with our wooden barn door. One is enough for our family of two, even with all the cat hair floating around. For larger families, adopt a few. The bags connect with each other to create a long system of laundry hampers. There are also attachable labels for each bag, which you can write on with chalk. You know, for the organized types such as myself. And if you have no laundry unit inside the home, then I would suggest the Positano bag, for easy closure during your trip from home to the laundromat.

I’ll leave it to the other bloggers to wax poetic about entire laundry rooms. I’ll let other audiences swoon over rugs and countertops and cupboards meant for laundry. I’ve only got a small space. And my UASHMAMA bag. I need nothing more.

This post was sponsored by UASHMAMA. The bag is gifted but my opinions are true and my own. To see other laundry hamper suggestions for small spaces, check out this post.

Laundry Hampers for Small Spaces

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

Leave it to me to worry incessantly about finding the right laundry hamper. In the name of transparency, I will admit to having a small break-down over my own laundry bag conundrum. The most mundane thing has caused me to cry as we walked away from Ikea with a solution that was perfectly functional, but definitely not eco-conscious or beautiful.

I have owned the same hamper since I moved out of my parent’s home at the age of 22 years old. I have never upgraded, even after moving four times since. Even after getting married. Even after getting a job and earning a decent living. Because when you are indebted to a system, you have no time to hone in on hampers.

But with the recent events turning my focus inward on where I spend most of my days (home), I can’t help but notice these little details. How the old rattan basket that I proudly bought at Walmart as a symbol of my grown-up-ness is fraying at one end. How twigs have unraveled and fallen off, leaving a little opening at the right-most edge. How it has sat patiently in the middle of the bathroom floor, in between the toilet and the tub, underneath the old towel rod that’s no longer there, waiting for its turn to be noticed. Silently, it endured the slamming of its rickety lid, the careless tossing of dirty clothes into the deep abyss, the merciless plop of its entire being in front of the washing machine. It has weathered weekly abuse, without so much as a peep.

Finally, it was noticed. And thanked for its services. Its time to retire has come.

Its replacement, however, is no easy find. With its retirement came a long list of expectations for the one that would take its place. A few of my requirements, I share below:

I no longer wished to have something wedged between the toilet and tub.
I no longer wanted the laundry to be in plain sight. Which meant it had to somehow fit in the narrow corner next to the washer hidden by a barn door. This narrow space happened to be only 9″ wide.
I didn’t want a hamper that would attract used (but still reusable) clothing until laundry day.
I didn’t want something pricey.
But it had to be eco-conscious and beautiful to look at.
Let alone functional.

I strike hard bargains. I can attest to the fact that, for me, curation is emotionally draining work. Anything that falls short of perfect is painfully inadequate.

What’s the big deal?, you say. It’s just a hamper.

However, nothing in my life is “just” anything. Belittling decisions such as these reduce their importance, which then reduces the end-product of our dwellings. In order to avoid ending up with “less-than”, I need to do the work now. Assuming these things to be trivial would be a mistake. Perhaps that’s a personality thing, but to me, everything is embedded with meaning and purpose, so no, it’s not just a hamper.

The hamper is a symbol holding all hope that I can have my dream home with nothing more than a few pennies to my name. Every item I own is imbued with relentless reserve, discipline and hard work. A reward for my penny-pinching. A sign that it’ll all be okay.

So, yes, I had a break-down at Ikea. After much research, I arrived at the store to find that the one I didn’t want but had come to terms with was sold out. I watched as a customer took away the floor model, having reached it mere seconds before I did. I felt my heart sink, my hopes of a good home dwindle. I walked around for thirty minutes debating on buying the same laundry hamper in black, instead of white. I bought it, resisting the alternative which was to purchase the hamper of my dreams for five times the price. Silent tears fell as I walked to my car.

I’m not saying we should care so much about first world problems such as these. But I hope this post draws attention to the fact that we are human. There will be moments where we will be sad about laundry hampers. Where small space living limitations make life a little harder to live. When decisions have to be made and you need to make do with the one you don’t want. I go through it, too. Like all things, it ends up being okay.

Silver linings still reside in the daydreams.

Below are some of my favorite laundry hampers for small spaces, including the Ikea one that ended up making the cut and entering our home.

  1. Canvas Laundry Bin on Wheels.
  2. A Hanging Linen Laundry Bag.
  3. A Japanese Foldable Hamper.
  4. A Washable Paper Laundry Bag.
  5. A Narrow Ikea Hamper.
  6. A Laundry Station and Hamper.

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.

How to Fall In Love with a Kitchen

When we first moved in, I used to hate our kitchen. I never said it out loud because I didn’t want it to be true. I took feeling this way to be a sign of failure. Oh goodness, I chose a home with a kitchen I didn’t love. Woe is me. It was as if the kitchen negated all the other good decisions we made about buying a home. For months, I couldn’t separate myself from the idea of wanting to replace everything in that space. “One day”, I kept telling myself.

If you told me to make a list of all the things I disliked about the kitchen, I’d tell you “Easy.”

  • The kitchen faced the alleyway where the garages went, an alleyway leading up to a community trash bin followed by a weekend club called La Santa, from whence loud music always came.
  • The location of the kitchen was tucked away from direct sunlight during most of the day, with a small glimmer of hope shining through a lone window in the wee hours of the morning. If you happened to miss waking up early enough to catch it, then all you get for the day is indirect sun.
  • The counter-tops were of the v. cheap variety (with a capital V.). You know the kind, made of chipboard material covered by a plastic stickered surface in this dark gray speckled color. I disliked it’s darkness, plus the undeniable evidences where the counters have gotten wet (especially around the sink area). Pieces of soaked chipboard are, well, chipping away.
  • The cheap, peeling (also stickered) cabinet fronts with their secondary handles. The previous handles had different screw hole locations, which are accentuated by the white plaster material that the previous owners tried to hide them with.
  • The leak underneath the sink every time we ran the dishwasher, which caused flooding in our cabinets creating soaked cabinets floors. My constant worry over mold growth and wood rot. Oh the joy when we finally solved the issue, after having three handimen look at it.
  • The appliances which are black and silver in color. They looked bulky, outdated, and old. The stove and oven were of the cheaper variety, and the fridge jutted past the counter’s edge.
  • Lastly, the previous owner left a kitchen island that was obviously from Ikea, along with two Ikea stools.

I could have rattled this list out in seconds. But sometime between then and now, I have come to love this kitchen. I love it so much that when my friend offered to have her dad renovate the counter-tops that I “hated” for us this week, I started to fear losing them. Which got me to thinking, when did that transition happen? And I realized that sometime between then and now, I simply stopped focusing on all the bad things and started letting the kitchen be what it was meant to be.

After all, I operated an entire bakery in that kitchen. It was where I spent my days for an entire year. I woke up early every morning to mix bread and that’s when I learned of that precious morning light. I put away dishes from a dishwasher that finally worked and as the dough soaked up the water, I made myself a cup of coffee every day. If I set up the pour over to the right of the sink, the light hits the coffee just right to make it look ruby red. I slaved away over that oven, even in the summer’s heat, trusting it to always make my bread rise. I stood around the island, where I shaped thousands of loaves of dough. I settled into those Ikea stools waiting for the next bread turn, sipping hot coffee and writing on this blog. The kitchen and I became best friends, and now I could spew a list of all the things I love, such as:

  • The little corner specifically for our espresso machine, coffee pour over options, mugs, and coffee grinder. Essentially, a shrine for my coffee making rituals.
  • The way the light enters through that lone window and hits the fronts of the cabinets, giving them a soft dayglow.
  • The reliability of our oven and the largeness of our fridge, both of which have helped me to host gatherings for twelve or more people throughout the year.
  • The cement floors and their coolness on the feet, plus the ease with which I can clean them.
  • The island, which we all use as a common space to meal prep together. And the fact that it’s mobile and contains plenty of storage space.
  • The stove, with enough burners to allow three of us roomies to cook in the kitchen space at the same time.
  • The corner for toasting our sourdough, and the corner for milling our grain.
  • The sink made of steel, which has saved me from shattering my porcelain wares many times over.
  • The fact that the kitchen now exudes Japanese style elements, as well as vintage vibes. Seems silly to put those two in the same sentence, but from some angles, it looks like it’s made from all bamboo wood. And from other angles, it reminds me of a 1950’s progressive Eichler.
  • The fact that the gloominess in the space actually lends a romantic mood all year long. I just want to make coffee or tea and write all day in a sweater.
  • Lastly, the open layout which makes the kitchen center-stage in our home.

With small spaces, I mean, yeah, there are shortcomings. It’s part of the territory. But if we focus on only the bad parts of our lives and homes, then we tend to miss all the good things that, when considered, could lead to love. Because now, I love the kitchen dearly. It is my favorite part of my home.

Finding joy in small spaces requires embracing what you have to work with. Actively searching for beauty in what you already have is more promising than passively pining for what you don’t have. Where will the latter lead you? Most likely, excess consumption of things that give you brief moments of happiness and eventually leave you back at square one.

Once I realized that the kitchen was “good enough”, I stopped saying to myself, “One day.” I started looking forward to saying “Today”. I started to finally live my life.

Today we decided to buy Mike’s dream espresso machine. Since he got rid of his daily work commute, he sold his motorcycle and de-cluttered a few things in order to make up 85% of the machine’s costs. We hadn’t pulled the trigger prior because we kept saying, “Well, if we are getting an espresso machine then we need nicer counter-tops and if we’re getting new counter-tops we might as well address the cabinets and if we’re sizing cabinets then why don’t we make sure we get appliances that lie flush with the new measurements?” After learning to love the kitchen for all its imperfections (wabi sabi and all that), we were able to move on. We’ll just put the espresso machine in our existing coffee corner. It fits just so with the current counter top actually, even though the white will contrast with the gray. I know we will love it either way.

Small Space Living

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Tip 14: Forgo the coffee table.

We have yet to corral a coffee table into our living room. Erm, what we designated in our minds as the living room. In reality, I’m referring to a corner of our small space that our neighbors decided would better fit as a bedroom for them. Regardless of the designation, the room where we have a couch and a projector has yet to hold a coffee table.

I just haven’t  come into agreement with one.

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I used to own a coffee table. It was a big and bulky thing that I came across at a consignment store when I was first (and finally!) moving out of my parents home – at the ripe age of twenty-three. I rationalized to myself its bulkiness, saying that the solid wood meant that it would last. “Heavy-duty” was the word I used, when explaining the table to Mike that evening. I convinced him to accompany me the next day to “look at it”, but really I meant “pick it up and take it home”.

It had drawers (two in fact) for storing things. The upper drawer was topped with glass, so that you could look in on the display. It always felt cluttered though, so all it did was collect dust. The bottom drawer was worse. It collected junk. If things disappeared, that would be the first place I would look.

What’s more, when we moved into our small space, a 900-square-foot loft without any doors, the coffee table we owned took up what felt like half of the living room. Since it was a solid wood table, without legs or airiness beneath, it made our space seem divided and small(er). Plus the dark colored wood – an almost black-grey kind of brown – absorbed much of the natural light.

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We ended up donating it to a family in need, which was its only saving grace. But I’ve been hesitant to add a coffee table again since the trauma of criss-crossing between the guilt I felt for getting rid of it and the hatred I felt for its unbecoming qualities.

I suppose today’s post about forgoing a coffee table originates from negative experiences with mine. We have been making do with a tiny side-table, which I also have half a mind to donate. At least it’s easily movable to the corner of the room, allowing both of us to lay out a yoga mat in front of the couch.

I do prefer the flexibility of a side table. In fact, I’ve considered multiple flexible options in lieu of a coffee table, such as ottomans and foot stools in the form of tree stumps.

Below are a few contenders, in case you are also searching.

+ A camp stool – for the sole purpose of putting tired feet up onto something. I love this stool because you can fold it up and stash it against the wall or behind a console, for a less cluttered look.

+ Maple nesting tables, of the stackable variety, to reduce real estate when not in use.

+ A mushroom tree stump, for holding a drink or two. Bringing natural elements in, without buying more houseplants.

+ A step stool, which has dual-use for shorties such as myself.

+ Actual ottomans, in a rich sienna leather. Extra seating when gatherings resume post-COVID.