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. 

Living Slow: Season of Becoming

This post is in partnership with East Fork Pottery,  a company slinging hand-thrown, timeless pottery in Oregon using regionally-sourced stoneware clay. Their beautiful food-safe glazes are made in house and lend their pieces character, but in an unfussy and classic manner. The collection is, truly, a treasure trove.

It’s been a bit quiet here for the past week, which should be indicative of the fact that I’ve been restless in real life, struggling with a personal decision that’s difficult to make. Usually that’s how it is. Cyber silence equates to a madness that requires its own space and time. But I wanted to put thought to digital paper for a moment, as an observance of this period of growth.

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Last week, I was presented with an alternative job opportunity that, when on paper, holds better weight than my current position. However, there are some non-practical reasons why I want to keep my current position. Ultimately, it came down to production limited by the number of days, or production limited by fees. I had to consider adding a 1.5 hr  round-trip daily commute to my currently non-existent one in exchange for much easier work. I had to decide whether having newer and better materials that made my job easier was more important than sweeter and easier patients who made my job easier. I was pulled between something new and something familiar. It was a week full of angst, emotion, and pressure to make a decision. I sat by the window sill staring into space, deep in thought, reflection, and sometimes just straight up brooding. Tears were involved.

If I took the easier job that is farther away which has more difficult patients but newer materials, I would only work 2.5-3 days a week, and still make the same amount of production at 4 days a week. But when you add the hours of commute and subtract the amount of money spent on gas, those 3 days really equate to 3.6 days, and is that difference worth it. The physical work will be easier due to newer materials, but demanding patients increase the mental and emotional energy required to work. The gratitude will be centered around the ease of work, rather than meaningful work. Both cups are half-full. Which would you choose?

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The paradox of choice is real. Both options are starkly different, but both are also good. My husband pointed out that I couldn’t go wrong either way. It’s a fantastic position to be in. But the fear of choosing wrong is what cripples. If the opportunity didn’t present itself, it wouldn’t be hard for me to continue what I was doing. There would be a distant nagging of the things I could improve if the practice were my own, but I wouldn’t be restless like I am now. When there is an alternative, it is much harder to ignore what could be.

Equally crippling is the feeling that a choice needs to be made. If I am going to leave  the first office, it would be best to tell them as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the office of opportunity is waiting on the sideline, seeing if I would take their job offer. I think it’s hard to be in-between. The pressure prevents any real growth.

In my life, I‘ve tried to reduce choice in order to increase bliss. In general, it has worked very well. While I don’t like choicelessness, I like having reduced options. But I know making choices is the hard part of growth. So choices need to be made.

I have an evasive tactic that I turn to when faced with difficult decisions. I just pick one -the one that intuitively seems most appealing – and then I move on with my life. I do that because I know I can always pivot. I do that because I know that there are worse things to choose from, and that outcomes in general are not bad  in the grand scheme of things. But I also know that I do it to alleviate the guilt, stress, and responsibility of that choice. I am only ever choosing one real thing – to run a way from my own discomfort.

This has led me to even deeper consideration for things beyond the job itself. The job, it’s just a stage in my life. In the end, neither choice is perfect, but neither is also wrong. Both are transient, not one being the end point. But I’ve thought about my tendency to run when things get difficult. My wish to reduce, in order to ease. My need to asphyxiate in hopes of control. My obsession with doing, instead of just being.

I can say I’ve been much better the past two years. Slow living has been a great mentor in that. But this is one of those moments where I need to tell myself, “Wait“. Instead of searching for clarity, wait for the fog of emotions to roll out and clear. Instead of wishing to tell people about it, wait for them to ask you of your thoughts. Instead of trying to get every answer imaginable, wait for that inner knowing to surface from within. Stay to see what happens, instead of going to see where the river runs.

I came across this quote  from @trustandtravel’s Instagram, and it spoke.

“Do not fast-forward into something you are not ready for, or allow  yourself to shrink back into what’s comfortable. Growth lives in the uneasiness. The in-between. The unfinished sentence. You are a season of becoming.”

-Danielle Doby

Becoming is a hard thing. But it’s also necessary. So much of the time, we do, and therefore we are. But we never just “be”. How do we ever expect to become?

The espresso cups in soapstone are perfect for tiny hands, mid-afternoon espresso shots, as well as after dinner green tea. For the bold, sake shots and other libations fit well within this tiny vessel. We are very much in love with this cups and can only speak highly of the quality and the beauty of these products. They are not placed in cabinets with the other dinnerware but are on display on open shelving. Today only, East Fork will be having a Seconds Sale. A discount of 30% will be applied to a handful of clay goods that did not quite make the cut. Although with slight blemishes, these pieces are still functional and beautiful. I urge people who have been hankering for dinnerware to consider salvaging these pieces and including them in your home. I appreciate East Fork for their zero waste attempt. Seconds sale begins at 12pm EST, and pieces will go fast (or so I hope). This post contains affiliate links and TheDebtist may receive a commission if  you so choose to purchase.

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Minimalist, Sustainable, and Frugal Suitcases with InCase.

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

My carry-on gave out. It was bound to happen. After all the years we’ve been through, hopping from AirBNB to hotel, thrown into multiple airline bins, and staying with friends and loved ones, it was time for my carry-on to move on with its life. Unfortunate that it happened to be as we were heading to our Alaskan destination, already at the airport and too late to do anything about it. Probably its way of protesting against being selected at the TSA check, inspected for “Taboo” of all things. (The boardgame, I mean.) Afterwards, the handle refused to unlock, as if to say, “Enough!” I respected its resistance. It was gifted to me by my parents when I turned twenty-one, right before Mr. Debtist and I took our first trip as a couple to Hawaii of all places. Nine years of hard work should always be respected. But as kids these days say, the struggle was real. I tried sitting on it and wheeling myself around like the five-year-olds sitting on their dog-leashed suitcases. I tried carrying it but obviously did not pack light enough and I did not go far. Mostly, I broke my back pushing it down airport hallways in this weird half-lift yoga position.

Since then I’ve had to do without, borrowing my husband’s carry-on thereafter and trying the hiking backpack strategy, without any luck. So when we were lounging poolside with a few friends at Santa Rosa on one particular wedding weekend, a friend of mine made a recommendation to buy an Away suitcase. Seemingly a very popular brand these days, I had to look into it. But despite all its allure as the suitcase every millennial needs, it just wasn’t for me. The price range was out of reach, even though affordability was one of its selling points. Additionally, research into the company yielded no efforts to be sustainable. And it was too trendy and not minimalist enough. But her comment did lead me down a rabbit hole, and I happen to find a solution with InCase.

I’ve heard of InCase previously as a company dedicated to creating cases for Apple products. That was as far as I went, since tech isn’t exactly my forte. Maybe I saw an Iphone7 case years ago when I went to Best Buy last, who knows. However, I was not aware until recently that they also make luggage. They have some really nice options for different types of people, including techy, minimalist, frugal friends, and environmentally conscious consumers. Okay, so it isn’t posh and trendy like Away bags, but isn’t minimalism its own trend these days? Seeing Marie Kondo on the cover of magazines and Netflix make it seem like so.

Regardless, I’m in love and I’ve jotted a few thoughts of my new InCase luggage below.

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WELL-PRICED

While Away has disrupted the suitcase market for its accessibility, I would love to point out that I nabbed my InCase Novi 4 Wheel Travel Roller at $59.99 when a similar carry-on from Away costs $225! You can also get the larger check-in versions of the Novi luggage at $67.49 and $74.99 now! Compare that to $275 and $295 at Away, and I think it’s pretty obvious which choice the frugalist would go for. At least, which one this frugalist chose. Plus, it’s quite simple to order online. Since the San Franciscan based company is only a short way from SoCal, I was able to receive my suitcase within a few days. Talk about accessibility!

TECH-FRIENDLY

Techy geniuses out there will also have plenty to appreciate with this brand. In particular, there are suitcases that open to display all your tech gear in a TSA approved manner without removing your digital-ware. Multiple pockets allow for easy organizing of chords, chargers, and other gadgets. As a blogger and photo-enthusiast who is always carrying around her camera, I love that their suitcases are well designed for tech. I also like that their cases sport a built-in TSA approved lock, which gives me an added feeling of security for my carry-on.

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MINIMALIST STYLE

In contrast to Away’s multitude of color options, the InCase luggage sports only a few neutral  colors. For example, the carry on that I purchased only came in sleek black or asphalt grey. As a huge proponent of eliminating the paradox of choice, I appreciate that the color choices are minimal, which prevents overwhelm (or worse, the feeling that you need a suitcase in every color to match your mood). I am a true believer in limiting options, to save our brain power for more important, relevant, novel, and progressive thinking. Their medium check-in luggage has more color options and to rid myself of the noise, I refused to even consider it. I chose the small carry-on in asphalt grey and am very happy with its sleek look. If you are worried at all about scratching the hard shell, the case comes with a fabric protector that you can slip on once everything is packed and you’re past the TSA check (assuming you don’t open and close your luggage frequently). Then you can throw it into the overhead bin with ease of mind. However, in my most honest opinion, I don’t think I’d bother. That’s just one extra thing you’d have to do (another example of intentionally saving brain power), and I greatly enjoy the aesthetics of the asphalt grey. Lastly, I am not a big fan of brand labeling and would much prefer the understated tiny font on the suitcase over the bold printed branding on the fabric cover. That may just be my own personal protest.

Other details include removable wheels in case you’re living in a tiny home with a lone closet and wanting to store a carry on inside a bigger luggage to save space (which I do). The interior the luggage is very minimal. It unzips in the center, and there is a mesh cover for the top half of the suitcase so that clothes remain well organized and intact upon opening. The center divider is a ziplock bag perfect for laptop storage, thus making it very easy to remove or access. The divider also doubles as a separator for the bottom half of the case. There is also a tiny pouch big enough to hold the most basic necessities (such as toothbrush and toothpaste). Some may argue that the interior does not have enough pocket space, but a minimalist would disagree. If anything, time to practice those light-packing skills and welcome to the club. The suitcase also comes with a draw-string laundry bag, which I love since we usually bring carry-ons on our longest of trips so it comes useful when separating used from fresh clothes. My only gripe with the case is that there is only one handle at the top, when I think a second one on the side would help with loading onto an overhead bin. But since I always travel extremely light, lifting the thing can’t be too much of an issue.

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SUSTAINABLE OPTIONS

Also, this case in particular was made with (dare I say it?) plastic! And while there was a more sustainable option within the company,  price and minimalism outwon sustainability. But, I still felt comfortable with my purchase knowing that it contributes to a company that is making efforts to be sustainable and eco-friendly. Their Ecoya line has a carry-on called the EO Roller that is catching the attention of many frequent fliers. It was voted a top pick by Business Insider and it’s easy to see why.

Ecoya fabric is used for this case which is created through an eco-dyeing process that introduces coloration in the raw material stage instead of at the traditional yarn phase. This process reduces CO2 emissions and uses 89% less water than conventional yarn dyeing methods. It also results in a more colorfast fabric that stands up better to light, water and washing.

AND MORE

In terms of practicality, I love the four wheels. The case glides very easily and doesn’t get hung up when I do 360 degree turns. In fact, the wheels are one of my favorite features. Hubless, they make the case feel much lighter, and the double wheel gives it a great aesthetic, and added bonus to its exceptional function. The handle easily unlocks with a simple push button. The exterior is hard cover but extremely light. I feel quite relieved knowing that the laptop lies in the middle divider at the center of the bag, so even if the case gets dropped, it will be cushioned in between soft clothes. And quite honestly, I like that it looks good. The asphalt gray reflects natural sunlight and has a sheen to it. It matches every outfit and is unlikely to get dirty. I expect scratches and scuffs to be better hidden in the gray than in the black. Overall, I know that I will be traveling well with this case and could not be more happy with my purchase.

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If you are looking to shop InCase for your travel needs, you can use my affiliate link and the code AFF151 to receive 15% off.

Save 15% Off at Incase

Simple Things: Wooden Hangers

Sometimes, simple things matter. Sometimes, it’s all that matters. Our household lives by the adage, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Curating a home is part of living an intentional life, and the things with which you surround yourself does define your lifestyle. In my opinion, a few simple things bring so much more beauty to your home and value to your life than a hundred gadgets.  This series is dedicated towards those simple things. 

I’ve wanted wooden hangers for a majority of my adult life, which equates to about the last ten years. Many a time I’ve visited department stores and turned towards the hanger aisle, if only to longingly run my fingers along the smooth edges of polished pine, or unfinished walnut. But the cost of wooden hangers is too great, at about a dollar a piece, for me to ever make that leap. So I have spent years begrudgingly using free, hand-me-down plastic hangers that leave pointy shoulders in my tees and dismay in my heart.

But providence proves just and patience is the best virtue, for this weekend when we were walking the two dogs that we were sitting on Rover (get our side hustle monthly income report here), we swung by the recycle bin behind our garages to find it overflowing with unwanted things from what we assume to be a recent neighbor’s move. And there, sitting on the floor next to the miniature Australian shepherd was a box FULL of wooden hangers. Now I am not one to dumpster dive, but in the name of frugality I am also not completely opposed to it. As my roommate fairly stated, it can’t even be considered dumpster diving. Rather, it’s as if someone plopped a box of beautiful wooden hangers in the middle of my path, already unwrapped and ready for use.

I looked to Mr. Debtist hopefully and with pleading eyes. Can I please take this home without you judging me? He carried the hangers home himself. Once we got inside, I started wiping them down with white reusable rags. They were in pristine condition. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was completely prepared to polish them up but there was no need. In fact, there was hardly any dust.

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No chore could stop me from immediately switching out those icky, flimsy, plastic hangers in our bathroom nook for these “new” wooden ones. You see, we have no closet in our main living space (only one under the stairs) and so we’ve lived with this makeshift rod hung up in a tiny indent next to the shower. Our clothes have been hanging on plastic hangers exposed to all guests and visitors who use our restroom. We’ve made do, but it’s not been pretty.

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Now, they still do hang exposed, but my heart is full. The beauty that I feel from wooden hangers make living with no closet that much more bearable. In fact, it makes it that much more exciting. I could live without a closet forever if it means I could stare lovingly at these wooden things every day. Plastics be-gone! Don’t worry though, they won’t end up in the trash. We got these plastic hangers from my parents and they will be returned just as my brother conveniently leaves for college in two weeks. I am sure there they will find a new home.

What about you? Things you’ve found in the trash that have made your home that much more beautiful?

 

Simple Things: Candlesticks

Sometimes, simple things matter. Sometimes, it’s all that matters. Our household lives by the adage, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Curating a home is part of living an intentional life, and the things with which you surround yourself does define your lifestyle. In my opinion, a few simple things bring so much more beauty to your home and value to your life than a hundred gadgets.  This series is dedicated towards those simple things. 

My general stance on adding conveniences into our lives in the form of objects huddles around the idea that most times, we can do without. Partly, this stems from the need to keep items in the home to a minimum, for my sanity’s sake, but also, from a grade-A-neat-freak’s wish to keep the house always tidy, without doing the work frequently. Luckily, my upbringing has trained me well to do without. Mum’s always got some saying or other to motivate my siblings and I to toughen the skin, and push through with what we were given to get one thing or another accomplished. Comforts were not exactly at the fore-front of her mind, what with starving children back home from the country whence we came. We can survive a little cold water shower mid-California-winter. We can survive yet another round of rice and beans for dinner (and lunch). We’ve triumphed through 90-degree summer days without air-conditioning, and warmed each other with smiles instead of heaters in the cold winter months.

But I was shocked at how miserably I fared when Mike and I decided to step off the grid and do a three day hike through farmlands in New Zealand. Mostly, I blame the weather for being wet, rainy, windy, and cold. Hiking uphill to an elevation of 700 meters within 6 kilometers was hard enough without the mud, tall wet-grass, cow and sheep manure, and slippery boulders. Interestingly, what I couldn’t mentally overcome was knowing that we were going to end our hikes in really, reaaaalllllyyy old buildings, some lacking electricity, or indoor toilets for that matter. One of the farm homes that we stayed at was so old that it was actually the THIRD home ever erected by a European in New Zealand. Cobwebby doorways and a two minute trek to an outdoor porta-potty was what I had to look forward to mid-hike. In retrospect, it really wasn’t that bad. In fact, there were some joys that I really miss, now that I’ve returned to the year 2019.

Oh the joys of outdoor porta-pottys.

On the third night of our three-day trek, we stayed at a place without electricity. I didn’t realize then but I do now, that it was a joyously pleasant stay. Showering outdoors facing a tree trunk was an exhilarating experience, once I got used to ignoring the large green spider near my foot. Other hikers took pleasure in taking an outdoor bath, warming their water by lighting a fire underneath the tub! Sitting on a wooden plank was mandatory, lest you burn your bum on the hot porcelain above the open flame. Joint efforts in keeping the cabin warm by stuffing acorns, newspapers and just the right-sized log in the stove were joyous. Cooking our meals and dining as a “family” by candle light made our relations all the more special. Of all those memories, it was the candlesticks that got me. That simple comfort was what I have the fondest memory of.

When I was little and still residing in the Philippines, thunderstorms were a regular occurrence. Which meant that electricity frequently failed us. Much childhood-reading and dinner-making was done by candle light. I have memories of quiet nights of story-telling as well as rambunctious nights of pretend talent shows, all lighted by a yellow, flickering glow.

Traveling to Banks Peninsula was like time travel. Not only did the way of life change, like wringing out clothes with a mechanical machine, or hanging them up on logs above our heads, raised via a pulley system and thus making one feel like you were living in the pre-Industrial era. But also, memories that I haven’t thought of in a long while have re-surfaced. Those of my mom sitting in a bathtub and soaking in some peace and rest, reading her book by a single flame. Of moments kneeling on cement floors, praying the rosary in its entirety during times of religious holiday. Of making hand puppets on a blank white wall and giggling uncontrollably. Of trying to do homework before bed-time, when it’s taken more than an afternoon to complete. Do all children have such memories of candle light?

So yes, now that I am back, once again surrounded by modern day commodities, I am feeling a little nostalgic of the candle sticks that we burned in that isolated place. Isn’t it weird, the things that linger? And while I am all for doing without modern conveniences, I’m now of the mind that I can’t do without a candelabra and candle sticks in my home. Should we use limiting electricity as an excuse? If I add this one thing in my life, does occasionally ridding the self of light bulb usage make it okay? I can tell I’m sounding too desperate in justifying this. Nevertheless, obsessing over candle holders for the moment. While vintage stores will probably give me the best (and most sustainable) finds, here are a few new age ones that are also attractive.

More practically, anyone got any candelabras they’d like to de-clutter? Preferably from Grandma, brownie points for brass? I’m all ears (and heart eyes)!