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.

It’s replacement, however, is no easy find. With its retirement came a long list of expectations for the one that would take it’s 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 felt my heart sink when I realized the one I didn’t want but had come to terms with and was able to accept was sold out. I watched as a customer took away the floor model, having reached it mere seconds before I did. 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.

Which isn’t saying that 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.

Simple Things: Art

A simple life is an imaginative life. Sometimes, you have to make do with what you’ve got, and when that happens, you best give way to creativity lest you fail to maneuver a solution out of thin air. When it comes to decorating the home with artwork, I think that sticking with what you’ve already got is best, especially from a frugal standpoint.

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Our perception of what constitutes as “good” art is lacking in credential. We’ve oft walked into a museum of curated work and commented to each other that a kindergartner can do the work. Obviously, this isn’t true. We definitely lack a certain appreciation of what professionals consider masterpieces. But I just can’t justify the expensive prices tacked onto most art pieces. Add this to my short span of appreciation for any piece of work and you’ve spelled out trouble for this art buyer.

So I stick to what works for me – that being simpler art solutions in the form of magazine clippings, posters, or in this case, printed work on a reused Aritzia bag. Free stuff, dorm room style. Transient things that I can throw away in the end without a worry. Things that I actually like hanging up on my walls.

 

This past weekend, our dear friends swung by to drop off a gift for my birthday – a pair of latte mugs and wooden coasters from GoodiesLA. It was wrapped in a reused Aritzia bag with a few bundles of tissue paper. The bag, however, had two different prints on either side on what I would consider quality paper. I decided to cut out both sides, leaving a white border around the image. In lieu of a picture frame, I taped the two images using paper tape with a leaf print on it.

Thus, new art hanging in our kitchen wall.

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I know it seems a bit tacky for some. But I enjoy this way of  decorating. I am able to spruce up the home without spending money or stressing about whether I’ve made the right choice. Let’s face it. Paying for pricey masterpieces leads met to a long trail of anxious thoughts. Did I make a worthy purchase? Does it match the space? Will I like it tomorrow? Am I a crazy person? (Mayhaps).

This is a happy life for me. Truth be told, there’s something about embracing what you lack. This life stage of mine where I can’t pull the trigger on an expensive art piece is how I’ve always lived – stuck in the perfectly imperfect. It’s nice to know that, even now, I’m still growing up, still tied to my early twenties somehow.

A good birthday gift all around.

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Simple Things: Ikebana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Simple Things: Blue-Light Blockers by The Book Club Eyewear

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

When I was a child, I was (subconsciously) vastly irritated by external stimuli. Jarred by sounds, I could not watching movies or television. Stymied by shyness, I preferred not to go out of my way to make friends. In an effort to be left alone, I burrowed my nose in books (quiet things) and spent much of my childhood avoiding tussling with other kids or listening to adults gossip.

At family gatherings, of which there were many, I would sneak into bedrooms to read, or otherwise take up space on the couch, refusing to relinquish my place once settled. On car rides, with typically hours long, I would pack two to three chapter books and read, staying up the entire way using a dim book light. Even at the school playground, I would sit cross-legged on the cement floor with the heaviest novels I can get my hands on. There was no time to waste falling on tanbark and chasing people to tag when there were many other worlds to travel and see. Some children may have found this habit haughty, but I didn’t care what they thought. While they found joy in rough housing, I made myself a personal book club.

A one member only book club.

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This is the Twelve Hungry Bens with the clear Chunk Chain.

Adults in my life would comment the same thing anytime they found me engrossed in a book, face inches away from the page (only the better to smell the yellowing mustiness with), eyeballs tethered to words. “You’ll ruin your eyesight if you aren’t careful.” Reasoning ranging from, “You’re reading much too close” to “The light is hardly bright enough”, landed on my ears as adults prompted me to immerse myself in society the normal way – playing with children my age. In retrospect, they had a point, not about the importance of social interaction (for books can teach you more about society than kids can) but rather about the risk of losing my vision, and I surprise even myself to say that after all these years of incessant reading, my eyesight is still registering 20/20.

This is a shocker considering that 75% of America using some sort of device for vision correction. Perhaps, it was the books that saved me.

You see, I was quite an imaginative child. Reading a book meant lifting my head every few minutes to process what I’ve just read. This would cause me to look at a point farther away from where I was sitting while my  eyes glazed over and my mind transported me to another place. Since I did most of my reading in my room or outdoors, these mini-breaks meant staring at a far-away tree, or watching a sibling across the hallway in play.

When I am engrossed in a truly gripping tale, you’ll find me scatter-brained, flipping through the pages back and forth, trying to skip parts, piecing the story together impatiently. My eyes were trained to constantly move around, not lock in on one distance or place. According to research, this is a good thing. We need  to stimulate our eyes to different focal lengths to prevent fatigue. Thanks to my spacey brain, I unknowingly protected my eyes by doing just that.

Additionally,  I spent a majority of my time away from screens. Saturday mornings didn’t mean early cartoons, because I usually stayed up too late on Friday nights trying to finish a book under the covers. I didn’t watch TV, I didn’t use computers too often (until my junior year of high school when AIM took over my life), and I didn’t play video games. I didn’t own a smart  phone until I was graduating from college. It was a hand-me-down I-phone 4 when the I-phone 6 was coming out. I didn’t take notes on a laptop like 90% of students. I hand-wrote everything, all the way through dental school at the ripe old age of 26 years old, when my classmates took photographs of Powerpoint presentation on their phones instead of write actual notes. I still had pen and paper in hand. I have had about 8 part-time jobs in my lifetime (Jamba Juice worker, Banana Republic Visuals Specialist, Dental Assistant, Math tutor, School Librarian, Dog-Sitter, Baker), none of which relied on computers, and my actual profession, dentistry, has me mostly occupied in an operatory room rather than at a desk

My only screen-time vice would be this space – my beloved blog. Quarantine has made me especially aware of the impact increased screen-time has on my vision. Stuck at home the past few months guilty of habit-scrolling and incessant COVID-update-refreshing coupled with more blog work, I’ve come to notice a slight strain on my eyes that could only indicate fatigue.

Which makes me wonder, does 75% of Americans need vision correction because of eye damage due to an increasingly digital age?

Enter The Book Club. I fell down a rabbit hole of searching for protective eye wear after I started to notice the symptoms of a stressed vision. I first heard of blue-light blockers from Dr. Hyman’s Farmacy podcast episode with Dave Asprey, who created the simile, “It’s like noise-cancelling headphones for the eyes” when describing a similar product. Both the podcast and TBC reported studies that alluded to the fact that blue light exposure has been linked to disruptive sleep patterns (melatonin regulation), headaches, dry eyes, and reduced attention span. After being in quarantine for only three weeks, I knew that I had to get some.

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When I found The Book Club, I fell in love with the Warby Parker-like chic frames that they had to offer. The price range was very affordable considering the health benefits of the product and the fact that it could save you from years of upgrading prescription glasses. If you already have prescription eyewear, not to fear for they also offer differing grades of prescription lenses. Plus, each pair comes with a fabric case to keep your new frames safe.

Lastly, and most importantly, I appreciated the eco-conscious efforts of the company. Their frames are made of 100% recyclable plastic, and their site demonstrates a fairly easy way to recycle so that it is an accessible act to all. Simply pop out the lens and remove the two screws holding the temples in place. Even the chunky chain and accessories that they produce are recyclable! Their frames are packaged in a box in the shape of a novel made from 100% recycled cardboard. The only plastic present was a small window that I assume is for marketing purposes when the product belies stockist shelves.

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After a day of use, I would vouch that there is a difference in the way screens affect my eyes. The glasses are said to block 30% of UV light and screens have a warmer hue when these glasses are in use. I wear them when I use my laptop, scroll through Instagram, or even watch Netflix or Hulu series on the projector. I try not to use them for regular activities or when I am outdoors. I also do not recommend using them when reading a regular book, as the glasses may cause more eye strain than reading without them. Since the main goal of the glasses is to reduce exposure to blue light from screen use and studies are still being done around its full effects or repercussions, I choose to wear them for only times during the day that I use screens.

Perhaps the best solution, however, is to reduce screen-time, but in a world where separation from our screens have become difficult, I am not sure how valid that noble solution may be. All I know is that I am lucky to have had the history regarding eyesight that I had. I am blessed to have a profession that does not require staring at multiple screens for eight hours a day, five days a week. And I am grateful for TBC Eyewear, who has my back when it comes to protecting my eyes.

This post is in partnership with TBC Eyewear. All content, thoughts, and opinions are my own. The mug is from East Fork Pottery in Morel. The glasses pictured are Fan of Seen Labels in Sky with a Chunky Chain and Twelve Hungry Bens in Bourbon

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

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

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

So here we are again, talking about toilet paper.

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

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

Introducing … PLANT PAPER!

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

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

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

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

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Great for the Environment, Swell for the Bum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond Environment and Health

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

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

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

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

The Verdict:

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

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

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

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

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Organizing the Mind for the New Year with Smitten on Paper

This post was sponsored by Smitten on Paper but all opinions, thoughts, and tips are my own. Smitten on Paper is a paper company based in Monrovia, CA. They have daily planners as well as wedding services including invitations and thank you notes. They also host a number of workshops, for those into stationary and calligraphy.

In 2019, I was repeatedly asked the following question: How do you juggle it all?

As a dentist and President of my dental SCORP, a small business owner of a cottage food bakery called Aero, a baker and manager of that bakery, a dog-sitter on Rover, a cat mom, a writer on this blog (and others), a wife, a daughter, and a sister, amidst other relational obligations and labels, I can see why many people wonder. And if I am being completely honest, at times, it is very, very hard. The juggling part I mean … But the secret itself isn’t so tough.

There is one trait that I attribute all of this juggling to, and I would call it my one and only “super-power”. It is an ability to organize my thoughts and mind in a systematic way so that I can take on more activities than an average person.

In essence, I am able to do more by organizing my mind in the form of planning ahead.

At an early age, I was taught the power of organizing the world around me. My mother recognized that I have an artistic way of thinking. My mind wanders and I reside in an imaginative world of my own making. I saw the world in minute details and failed to see the big picture even when it’s staring me in the face. I substituted reasoning with emotion, and  made all decisions based off of how I felt. I think she realized that with this creativity, I would never be “successful” in the way that the world views success. So she set me up for that success by instilling a number of simple habits that would take the place of the logical reasoning that I lacked.

These habits entailed:

  • writing things down
  • prioritizing tasks
  • grouping thoughts and tasks together and
  • planning ahead

She appealed to my interest in play by getting me to think of tasks as things to be categorized and re-categorized. She promoted experimentation with my organizing skills, and taught me to not lose heart when something  fails, but to always try again. She saw my affinity for small details and equated that with the power of small steps. Lastly, she taught me that by planning ahead, I could accomplish all of the wild dreams that I conjured up. This was in the early 90’s when computers and smart phones didn’t reside in every household. We were living in a third world country. All she had to teach me these habits was pencil and paper.

I am a person who still uses a paper planner. I carry notepads with me wherever I go. My husband jokes that I plan more than I do, and occasionally will sneak silly reminders such as “BREATHE” or “SHOWER” into my daily plans. But anyone else on the outside looking in will comment on how much I actually do, which goes to show that planning is the fuel necessary get things done.

I owe what I’ve accomplished in my life to those first few years when my mom honed in my skills.  I wanted to share with the world how it is that I can juggle so many things.

Tips on Planning the New Year

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  • Start with Goals: There is no need to create a vision board, but having a clear vision is necessary for success. I like to start every month with a set of goals. My goals fall into multiple categories: personal, work, home, health, finances, and other. After I have identified my goals, I ask myself the questions “why?” and “how?”. The former is to identify if the goal is actually aligned with my values and worth the effort. The second is to decrease the effort by formulating the game plan. The more detailed, the better. Below, I share with you some examples for January 2020.
    • Personal – Let go of desire for fame and wealth by saying no to opportunities at this time in order to create more space and time for myself. Be present and grateful by docking the phone when at home and keeping a gratitude journal in order to decrease the feeling of overwhelm.
    • Work – Take initiative in order to be more proud of your work – you need to own it by practicing leadership and setting more boundaries with your clients, patients, and co-workers.
    • Home – Keep a tidy space by assigning a location for everything you own and keeping all surfaces clear to prevent the mental clutter that follows physical clutter.
    • Health – Adopt a healthy lifestyle by signing up for SFW’s health and wellness program to maintain a balanced lifestyle, getting into a daily yoga routine to improve posture to increase the longevity of dentistry, wearing sunscreen daily to improve the skin, and eating more veggies and fruit to improve digestion.
    • Finances – Increase the monthly student loan payment to $7k a month in January and then to $7.5k a month in June after the car has been paid off in order to snowball method our way to financial freedom in 3-4 years.

By these examples, you can see that the goal is focused by a habit or task with trackable progress and with a “why” attached to it.

  • Track Habits:

“Motivation won’t always be there, but good habits will.” – Michaela Puterbaugh of SFW

In order to pave a path to success, you need to start with building your habits. Little habits will add up over time. If you want to be physically fit, create the habit of exercising daily. If you want to be less dependent on social media, create a habit of docking the phone once you get home. If you want to be financially stable in the future, make a habit of paying off credit cards in full or saving 10% of your income after every paycheck. How will you know if you are on your way to success? Track your habits. See how many days you were able to stick to a regimen. Find the habits that work and those that don’t. Maybe you’re pursuing habits that don’t align with you. Readjust accordingly.

  • Write everything down. Immediately! In fact, write it down as it comes into your head. Your brain switches from passive creativity to rigid logical reasoning continuously. It is during the passively creative phases that you come up with ideas. But if you don’t write it down, you lose the accessibility of these ideas. Most times, they are forever forgotten and this is when you miss out on opportunities. Don’t rely on memory. We are notoriously bad with recall, and you never know when the idea will resurface. I carry paper and pen with me wherever I go so that an idea never has the chance to escape me.
  • Prioritize: Prioritizing is key! Without proper prioritization, we would all be running around like bunny rabbits switching from one task to another, without getting anywhere. We would feel accomplished, in a very delusioned way. A trick that I’ve found very useful is to write down the top 3 things that are easy to do and the top 3 things that need to get done TODAY. I start with the easy tasks first because it gives me that motivational boost! Then I make sure that before I sleep, I accomplish the MUSTS, to set myself up for the next day. Everything else can wait.
  • Have a checklist: Motivate yourself by checking off each task. Our brains release dopamine whenever we experience novelty and having a checklist is a way for our brains to register that we have completed something and are starting on something new. I keep a checklist of other tasks separate from my TOP 3 EASY and TOP 3 MUSTS. It’s a running checklist that rolls over to the next day (or the next week). It’s a log from which I can choose the following day’s prioritized tasks. In a way, it also acts as a reminder of all the things I can do. This checklist is more flexible than my schedule or my priorities.
  • Set Aside Time for Yourself: Here is where I can improve. Mental fog and brain exhaustion is REAL. Let me tell you. There are days where I’ve switched between so many roles that I feel almost insane. Our brains are not multi-taskers. When we think we are multi-tasking, we are actually attention switching. We are switching from one task to another very quickly. Research has shown that this is energy consuming for the brain. We need to reset the brain in order to keep going, otherwise we may suffer from overwhelm and fatigue. Suggestions include surrounding oneself in nature, with art, with friends, or my favorite, setting aside daily 30-minute blocks of do-nothings so that our thoughts can simply wander.
  • Organize your day into blocks. As mentioned previously, it is quite costly to switch from one task to another. Not only does the brain use up oxygenated glucose with every switch, it also increase the amount of decision-making necessary. It has been shown that small decisions take up as much energy as big decisions do, so trying to multi-task and filling your day with small decisions detracts from your ability to focus and get things done. The best thing to do is to avoid having to switch between tasks, especially tasks that are unrelated. Group together cleaning the kitchen and cleaning the bathroom back-to-back rather than using the dog as an excuse to take a walking break in between. Have a designated time to check e-mail once or a few times a day instead of checking every five minutes. Don’t use your phone when you are walking from place to place, or watch TV while you are doing homework. Think of ways to group activities, in much the same way that you would organize the home by grouping like-minded items in the same containers. And most importantly, avoid distractions!

How to Use a Planner

As you may already know, I try to be intentional with each purchase I make. When it comes to planners, I am especially diligent in researching the perfect planner that fits my lifestyle. This year, I chose Smitten On Paper’s Weekly Agenda to accompany me in 2020.

I chose this planner because it is very attuned to my personality and lifestyle. Additionally, I think that it has many of the principles of organization that are crucial in balancing a busy life.

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The first few pages include a monthly overview that shows important dates in list form. Each month is then preceded by a calendar which I use to visualize important dates and events.

Each month also begins with goal-setting. It is set up exactly the same as the goals that I wrote about above. Next to the goals are two habit trackers, but off course, two habits are not enough, so I use the trackers to keep me accountable for four habits. I list two habits that I want to implement and mark each day with either an “X” or an “O” or both. There is a space to write down a reward if you keep up with the habits, which could be very motivational for some!

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The weekly agenda is separated into three columns. The first is a schedule, where I write down how I plan for the day to go, assigning specific time periods for each task. Events or appointments that are non-repeating are highlighted with marker. When the day is especially busy or the schedule feels cluttered, I use Smitten on Paper’s Legal Pad to break my day down. If it is even busier than that, this larger notepad has worked for me.

The second column is a checklist of tasks. This is where I list my to-do and these tasks run into the next day or week. Throughout the day, I carry this notepad with me and every time an idea or thought pops into my head, I write them down so I won’t forget. I have no trust when it comes to my memory. These thoughts include reminders for things I that need to get done. I then transfer the tasks to my weekly agenda at the end of the day and throw out the note. There is no deadline to these tasks, which relieves the pressure to complete them by a certain time.

The last column is the most important and is highlighted in blue. It is a box for priorities. I list my MUST DO’s in numbered form and my EASY TASKS with bullet points. This is where my focus for the day is.

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At the top of each week, I also write down “how I want to feel” for that week and I try to write a word at the very beginning of the week. Then at the end of the week, I write down one thing I am “grateful for”, and three “weekly wins” – things I have accomplished that I am especially proud of. At the end of the year, it is nice to read over these weekly wins to see just how much was done. And since I am especially hard on myself, the moments of gratitude keep me grounded and remind me to acknowledge that although it may not seem like it, I have already come so far.

So there you have it! All the secrets of maintaining my lifestyle and juggling my hobbies and passions. It was one HECK of a year, and definitely a HECK of a decade!

Wishing you all the best, and happy New Year!

XOXO

 

Simple Things: Photo books from Artifact Uprising

This post is sponsored by Artifact Uprising, a paper company celebrating memories for paper people.

When it comes to gift receiving, I err on the side of sentimental, favoring things such as freshly baked goods and home-made candles over easily store-bought trinkets. The more effort to make or find an item, the more value I place on it. This, of course, is my own bias, one that requires a bit more patience and generosity from those who are kind enough to tolerate my tendencies.

For those who have like-minded acquaintances but who wish to ease the holiday gift shopping, might I suggest a material gift worth buying that is equal in thoughtfulness?

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These Artifact Uprising books are my most cherished books. Despite the dust that hovers over the cover from infrequent use, they are books that consistently bring a smile to my face when opened. Their ephemeral practicality is offset by their long-lasting insinuation of good vibes only. Apart from these books, I keep a small handful of physical photos that reside in a wooden box, most of which were, too, taken from the night we wed. These books are a collection of snapshot moments from that happy time.

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In it lies all the hope of a future ahead,
roads unpaved and in our control,
challenges accepted which we did not yet know,
triumph from overcoming hurdles which taught us we can
and trust in what forever is supposed to bring.

Custom photo books from Artifact Uprising are nothing short of gorgeous. Their layflat album is made from premium linen and comes in 12 color options and 5 album sizes. The wedding variety includes foil stamped text, preset or of your own design, in either gold, copper, silver, or white.  There is an option to include a protective wooden box to house your book and keep it safe. It’s similar to my own wooden box that keeps my prints and memory sticks.

Multiple book options are available as well. I personally chose a simple hardcover book with a sleeve depicting my most favorite photo. I like the simplicity of uploading and re-arranging that digital scrap-booking has to offer these days. Less fuss, for an equally fine finished product. The books are just as beautiful with or without the cover.

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However, if you prefer a more creative or tangible collection of memories, there is a scrapbook that you can physically put together, old-school style. The book comes as a binder, which makes the addition and removal of pages simple. There are envelopes for those who are inclined to pick up sea shells or fallen leaves as commemoration of stolen moments in time. Each scrapbook comes with a credit of up to ten free prints, as well as pen, note cards, picture corners, and adhesive. The option to provide the supplies makes it easy to gift to those acquaintances with whom you share very little or no photos, or who you know have a particular way of doing things … thinking only of myself here. I never said I was easy to love.

All Artifact Uprising products are made with utmost consideration for our environment. They use Mohawk Options Paper which contains 100% post-consumer fiber. All of the electricity used to manufacture the paper is matched with renewable wind generated electricity.

“Occasionally you’ll find a storied spec of this paper’s past from the recycled fiber within—we see these as beauty marks of a better choice for the environment.”

For their wooden products, they use reclaimed wood from already fallen pine rather than source from completely healthy trees. 250,000 feet of fallen pine has been reclaimed from the Rocky Mountain forests as AU works to harness wasted resources into products that  accompany life’s best experiences.

Photo books aside, if you are looking for other sentimental holiday gift ideas, here are a few.

+ A single large format print, and a minimalist frame to hold it in for the decorator.
+ Walnut desk top calendar, plus a wooden desktop frame for an office worker.
+ Table numbers for the engaged, and thank you cards for the newly wed.
+ A baby book for a new momma, and a baby board book for what the stork brought.
+ Custom folded cards as this year’s stationary set for someone you love, holiday cards for yourself.

A shipping reminder:

If you are gifting Artifact Uprising for the holidays, products must be ordered by December 15 with USPS shipping in order to arrive in time for December 24. Orders placed between December 16 and December 22 will need to be shipped using FedEx shipping for arrival by December 24.

This post is sponsored by Artifact Uprising, a paper company celebrating memories for paper people. TheDebtist may receive a small commission on the goods purchased from this post’s affiliate links. My utmost thanks for supporting brands that support this blog.