Small Space Living

Tip 13: Mason Jar and Ceramic Pitcher Vases

The one thing about living in a tiny home is that there is not much storage room. It isn’t such a problem when there’s not much to store, and for some people, therein lies the rub. I have friends who are affronted by the suggestion of living life without simple “essentials”. Case in point: vases. On the flip side, I have other friends who roll their eyes at such frivolity. Both sides get along just fine with each other and that’s the whole point. It doesn’t matter much which camp you sit in as long as whatever lifestyle you have matches your space. Well, rather, whatever space you have matches your lifestyle.

If I am being completely honest, I own one vase. It’s a tall, cylindrical, long-stemmed glass vase that was given to me by a friend from dental school years ago. I’ve tried to de-clutter it a handful of times, but to no avail. It holds no more than 6 tulips, and funny enough, I have never used it. I suppose this means de-cluttering it definitely requires a revisit…

Which, in my opinion, puts me in the latter camp. When flowers find themselves in our home, I am more likely to grab a mason jar or a ceramic pitcher that we bought during our honeymoon in New Zealand than that darn vase. I have an affinity for assigning twenty functions to household items, if possible, so both solutions actually make me appreciate the bouquet more. There’s something gleeful about re-purposing stuff. Maybe THAT’s why I never use my actual vase. It’s too singular in purpose thus making it unattractive.

DSC01430

Either way, look. It doesn’t matter whether you like a lot of stuff or a little stuff. It matters more that you love what you do have and use them often and well. It’s important that your things are beautiful in your eyes, even if it’s “just” a mason jar in other people’s eyes. To you, it could be a storage for bulk items, a container for a new candle, a get-together-party-favor holding your famous enchilada sauce, a jar holding homemade jam, a refreshing water glass (or lemonade or wine), or a vase. Maybe I’ve spent too long making do with what I’ve got. It sure as hell isn’t a bad way to live.

Nothing gives me more joy making something out of nothing – vases included.

DSC01433

Thank you to Sonia for the lovely flowers. 

If you happen to be a vase person, East Fork Pottery is releasing a new bud vase today at 12pm EST. Hand-thrown in their beautiful soapstone glaze, they are a perfect addition to a ‘minimalist’ home.

Small Space Living

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

Tip 12: Introducing Color

For the past few years, I have been quite averse to introducing color into my life. Not that my life has been any less colorful. It’s just, I learned through my de-cluttering of closets  that a minimalist earns more success by sticking to a neutral palette. And it’s true. I’ve lived a simplified life that has allowed me to blossom in other, more prioritized aspects by sticking to a curated few guidelines: Less is more, clutter-free is productive, and neutral reigns supreme.

Prior to my minimalism journey, I was a person in love with color. My closet was an exploding rainbow tucked into drawers. My duvet cover was a painting printed on fabric, and I myself painted and hung up my art on the walls. I had a hodge-podge of jewelry and accessories and my signature bag was Kate Spade – the funky kind. But when I graduated from dental school with a huge student debt, I found all of that to be overwhelming – which is what initially led me to de-clutter, whittling down all I owned to nothing but white, black, brown and grey. And for three years, that decision and lifestyle carried me through some very tough times. For that, I am grateful.

After what I would consider to be a wild success with my loan repayment journey, we are finding ourselves entering a new stage in life – one wherein I do have a little more space to allow a tiny bit of myself back in. And when I turned to making the house a home these past few months, the items I was attracted to had, well, color.

DSC01303

Which is what this post is about. Introducing color is absolutely scary for me. Mostly because, I have found that color tires the eyes. It disrupts the space. It can be loud and encroach on the mind. And to be honest with you, I will get sick of a color after a while. That’s just the way it is. Unlike whites which last forever (especially with the help of bleach), colors will likely only be loved for a few years. They will fade, both physically and metaphorically. And for a very long time, this fact is what stopped me from introducing color back into my home and my closet. Because I didn’t have money to waste on a few year’s worth of joy.

But what I’ve learned is that, life without joy is not really living. I keep re-learning that intentional living is as much the frivolous little things as the journey to get there.

DSC01312

There will be many a blog space and minimalist person chanting the pros of an all-white space. I mean, Jenni Kayne has certainly proven the timelessness of blanched walls and bleached linens. And small spaces can appear larger with white everything. But the truth of the matter is, we all have a calling to certain colors. Who’s to say that a formula fits all? There are colors that, for whatever reason, are subconsciously reminiscent of a previous lifetime – and for every person, these colors are different. In fact, for the same person, these colors change over time. Whatever the science is behind all of this, I am going to say that as a small space occupant and minimalist writer, I am giving permission  (mostly to myself) to introduce color.

Everyone’s tolerance will be different, and one should aim for the amount of color that works for their particular space, but if you are like yours truly and are hesitant (or afraid), may I suggest the following guidelines that have helped me?

  • Start with a section of the color wheel.
  • Begin with smaller items; Accessories in blue rather than a full-on velveteen couch.
  • Choose “color neutrals”, as coined by my dear friend when speaking about this Parachute bedding of ours. An undoubtedly terra cotta color, but its closeness to brown makes it more neutral. Other color neutrals would be seashore blue or dusty rose, a pale yellow or olive green.

DSC01299

  • Start not necessarily by adding color, but by knowing your emotions toward certain colors. Which ones are exhaustingly loud? Which are depressing or make you moody? Which ones give you energy?
  • Don’t choose a color because of a trend. Trends will change come next season.
  • Before making the purchase, find similar examples online and check-in on how they make you feel.
  • Lastly, follow your gut reaction. You know more than you think.

For the curious, the wool pillows are from Territory Design

Small Space Living

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

Tip 11: Finding Cable Solutions in Media Consoles

I am really adverse to adding furniture to our small space, especially if it entails taking up floor space. It pains me to clutter up a home, and for this reason I have been fighting the urge to add anything but a couch to our living room. So why did I buy a media console?

To be honest, the media console stemmed from my contempt regarding cables. I wrote prior about how I detest the sight of wires running along walls like snakes, connecting different gadgets throughout the home to each other so that they may work in harmony. It isn’t the tech itself that I despise. It’s the inability to make the tech look neat and tidy and clean.

Currently, we have an amp near the kitchen area that connects to a projector behind the couch that wires to two speakers and a record player, and somewhere in the vicinity sits a Switch console. Don’t ask me how they interplay with each other. The moral of my story is that the unsightly array of wires drives me crazy. And we came down to the solution of trading our five speaker system and amp with a sleeker, minimalist pair of Sonos 5 speakers (in white, of course), which can plug directly into the record player and the projector. Wire management is the name of the game here.

And with a media console, I would have the ability to hide both speakers behind sliding doors. I could connect them to the record player that sits atop, and run the wires out of holes around the back where a plug remains hidden. The Switch consoles and controls can also be tucked safely inside, and the only thing to hide is a single wire connecting the projector to one of the Sonos 5 speakers. Everything moves from the kitchen to the living space and it brings me such peace to know that, finally, the cables can be nearly invisible, even if it means at the expense of floor space.

DSC01330

However, outfitting a home with media consoles that are sustainably sourced or ethically made is near impossible, barring the case that you know of a particular woodworker who would be willing to custom create you a shelving unit at an affordable price or that you do woodwork yourself. Thankfully, West Elm provides a few options that was aligned with a mid-century style. The particular one we bought was a narrow and short (48″) low profile console which was barely deep enough to house the speakers. All of the wood is FSC-certified and therefore sustainable sourced and the product is a fair trade product. Additionally, it is GREENGUARD gold certified.

There were only a few things I did not like about the console. First, it’s very narrow, so if you were considering hiding a few vinyls behind the sliding doors, then you’ll be out of luck. However, it holds coffee table books well. Secondly, the color was a bit darker than pictured, which isn’t too much of a bad thing. All furniture from West Elm comes with white glove service which is a mandatory additional fee, but the service was actually very good. Plus the delivery came two days from ordering, a few weeks in advance from when we would get the speakers.

DSC01333

Speaking of the Sonos 5 speakers, we used a perk for being a healthca[;’pre worker during this time, as Sonos is offering a discount of 20% to all medical professionals and first responders. To learn more about potential COVID-19 perks for certain professionals, check out my post here. It could serve to be a very frugal opportunity until the end of 2020.

Ethical Furniture and Home Goods

I know that ethical and sustainable options are few and far between when it comes to home goods. While slow fashion is starting to garner attention, slow homes are lagging behind. Here, I list a few of my favorite go-to sources.

Furniture

Home Goods

Small Space Living

Tip 10 // Hide the remote control

When it comes to small space living, it becomes important for a neatnik such as myself to have a few simple solutions regarding clutter. Small spaces can feel overwhelmingly full much quicker than larger spaces, and neatniks can feel overwhelmed much quicker than carefree individuals. Rules such as keeping surfaces clear or walls white help tremendously in creating a peaceful sanctuary for mindful living. Whereas a regular sized home may house a grand clock over the fireplace, for example, a small space home would be better off sticking to bare walls.

As a minimalist living in a tiny home, the importance of these basic ‘rules’ becomes magnified. I am not a naturally tidy person. However, I am an introvert who does not like an excess of stimuli and who works most efficiently out of a space without distractions. Therefore, I work diligently in order to maintain the environment that lets me thrive. Which leads me to the conversation of hiding remote controls.

DSC01159

I am greatly averse to tech because of the endless amount of wires, routers, chargers, connections, et cetera that come with them. I like the devices themselves, if only they could be invisible and not need to be attached to something to communicate. As you can see here, I try with all my might to disguise mangy cables and the like. I mean, we don’t even have a TV because I did not want anything bulky hanging on our walls. Instead, we have a portable projector that creates a screen on our wall bigger than any TV we could buy but remains non-existent when not in use … a win-win situation for us both.

Unfortunately, a projector still requires wires to hook up to speakers and power. It also came with a remote control. This is the only remote control we own, which is already quite the statement considering the number of controls my parents have. It’s quite tiny too, but it still felt like a visual nuisance, until now.

We’ve decided to stash the remote control in a place unseen. Instead of always looking for it (sometimes it would be on the kitchen island, on the dining table, on the projector itself, on top of the speaker, etc.) and instead of always being an eyesore (because previously it belonged on the tiny side table), I am happy to say that it has a designated spot out-of-sight. With the help of two pieces of velcro that we had lying around in the garage, we decided to velcro the control underneath the side table that it’s supposed to sit on. The project was hardly a project at all. We simply cut a small piece of velcro and placed the felt-type part on the remote and the scratchy-part underneath the table.

Now our surfaces are clear of clutter, our remote control is safely stashed in it’s proper place, and peacefulness has been restored.

DSC01149

I know this may seem less dramatic than I make it sound, but I cannot emphasize how important small details such as these are to creating an intentionally curated home. Simple solutions in small spaces bring me such joy. I wanted to write about it as yet another example that storage solutions does not always lie in buying storage containers, as more begets more. There are equally easy solutions that can be found with a bit of resourcefulness and creativity. Most of the time, these are solutions that save you money. And of course, there is always the option of getting rid of. If you think about it, a remote control is quite unnecessary since the projector sits right behind the couch and every button you’d need is within arm’s reach. Whereas most people would think that purchasing a basket to stash the control in would be the better solution, I would argue that it goes against curation as a whole.

How about you?DSC01147

 

 

How to Care for House Plants

We’ve been mulling a question for a while, tossing it around, letting it linger on our lips. “When this is all over, what will be the first thing you’ll do?” We’ve got answers up the wazoo that show signs of who we are, and what we miss – the little things that meant more than we could even know. Happy hour cocktails and cheap pub food surrounded by a large group of friends; Gym memberships to be rid of the COVID-15 and to be a part of a community; Sand in my hair and thongs between my toes.

To the last one, I say “Cheers!”

4CD12E12-D567-4D73-B40D-9ED3FA8987FF

Rather than lamenting the current situation and wallowing in self-pity, I do think that we can start to amend for the last bit of longing by bringing the outdoors in, or at least, introducing a bit of nature to our internal spaces. Houseplants can be a reprieve from the cabin fever signs and symptoms that we have all been exhibiting. They are especially useful in calming the distraught and frustrated, feelings which I’m sure have surfaced during this time of personal introspection. Additionally, they boost overall mood, purify the air of toxins, boosts creativity, and makes the indoors more aesthetically pleasing.

We are all dying to get outside. The weather is turning nicer by the day and we’ve pretty much written off Spring and moved on to summer. But despite the long list of “firsts” that our house has planned once the stay-at-home mandates lift, I have also been enjoying this time at home (truly!) and it would be a shame to rush on to to-do lists and whatever the future holds when there is so much work left to do here in the present.

Today, I go over a few houseplant care routines to help refocus the mind into the now, to facilitate a continual tending to the home, and to, well, bring the outdoors in.

DSC00853

  • Repot plants in new, healthy soil. Plants outgrow their vessels and their soil. Every year, around Spring time, we repot our plants by gently easing them out of their current vessels, removing some of the soil around the roots, and placing them in their new home. It may take a while for a plant to adjust to a new pot, so don’t be discouraged if you see a pause in growth. Over time, you will find that the soil helps to grow your plant much quicker than before.
  • Wipe the leaves of your plants. Some plant leaves take up a large amount of real estate. All the more to take in sunlight! But also, all the more to collect dust particles. Plants like Monsteras and Fiddles can accidentally collect too much dust, which will then prevent them from absorbing light. Try wiping down plant leaves regularly with a cloth towel and water. Be gentle so as not to damage tender greens. Get ready to admire your plants even more – they’ll look fairly glossy and polished!
  • Rotate plants a quarter turn every week. Technically, you can follow a different rotation schedule, but just try to rotate the plants every once in a while for even growth. Plants are in love with the sun and if they aren’t rotated, they can start to lean towards a single direction or grow unevenly, which doesn’t make for a pretty sight.
  • Prune off dead or wilted leaves. When leaves start to yellow and wilt, don’t take it as a sign of failure. Perhaps the plant is making way for new leaves to grow. I can’t recount how many times yellowing leaves have been a signal for two more to grow in its place. However, you will want to remove these leaves as they can affect the health of the rest of the plant. Don’t wait until they start to rot, as this can cause unwanted fungus or mold to start cohabiting with your favorite shrub.

260D19C6-22A1-4C9C-99D1-5AB75BA1618B

  • Mist plants with water.  Plants love a good misting. The cat, however, hates my spray bottle and runs away until it’s all over. I place water in an amber bottle which remains at hand on a shelf for random spritzes throughout the week. The leaves definitely perk up after a nice splash. I like the effect so much that sometimes, when I water my plants, I haul them into the shower to mimic a rainforest environment and drizzle the water right over them. Unfortunately, my Monsterra and Fiddle are getting way too large to move around, but I’m not complaining!

DSC00847

  • Propagate. When you’ve done all you can to care for your existing plants, the only thing left to do is … MAKE MORE PLANT BABIES! My favorite to propagate are fast growing plants like our Pothos. It’s quite easy to do. Snip off a few stems with the node still intact, and place them in a glass container filled with water (no soil). After it starts to root (about a month later), gently pot the plant, surrounding the baby roots with healthy Earth. Plus, plants make great non-material, frugal gifts and I have gifted two propagated Pothos plants in the last year!

CAD89D98-DE64-405D-A953-3B1FBFDA03B3

I hope these tips have at least helped to pass another five minutes of your morning. I hope your plants have calmed you down, and you are energized by the fact that you’ve already taken care of one small aspect of your home today.

I know we are all itching to get outdoors and for quarantine to be over, but mayhap our discomfort with being at home signals an even deeper mal-alignment. I encourage you to hang in there and stop burying unrest with things to do in the future. It’s what we’ve always done … but it wasn’t working. It takes a great deal of strength and courage to sit in an uncomfortable situation but a presence of mind can really bring light to what is at the root of our malaise. Whenever you feel like moving on to “better days”, I ask that you pause and take the opportunity to dig just a little deeper.

7A881B54-4AF9-4158-997B-3B72D4B774A7

Below are a list of my favorite indoor houseplants. I favor sturdy greens over flowery or delicate types.

  • Split Leaf Philodendron
  • Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
  • Pothos
  • Snake Plant
  • ZZ Plant
  • Rubber Plant
  • Pilea

How to Reupholster A Couch with Bemz Couch Covers

I would say that the first rule to outfitting a home is knowing thyself. And when it came to finding a couch suitable for our living space, I had to know myself very well before pulling the trigger. Reason being, well, I prefer things to be aesthetic and beautiful, but I also expect them to be affordable. Not cheap, by any means, but not a grand gesture either. There were so many considerations with buying a couch including finding a sustainable option that I could live with, finding a couch that wouldn’t break the bank, finding one that elevates the space aesthetically, and lastly, finding one that would be functional enough for large gatherings in a small space. The solution that ended up satisfying all my requirements was found in the magic of reupholstering a used couch.

DSC00740

The first couch I ever fell in love with was the iconic Cloud sectional at Restoration Hardware, but I could not find it in me to be agreeable with the price point which approached $10,000. Then, it got worse when the second couch we fell in love with was a Timothy Oulton leather sloucher that neared $14,000. Both of them exuded class and style but also reeked of a money drain.

So, I dragged my feet for years on buying a couch for our home. I alternated between bemoaning my lack of a cloud and praising our hand-me-down pleather sleeper of six years. We considered more frugal options but kept landing on the fact that they felt cheap in the material sense. Some days, I felt more at peace with my decision. Other days, I was a wreck.

One afternoon three days into our marriage, a year and a half into our first home, I came across a YouTube video of a re-upholstery of a couch. After a few astute observations, I came to the realization that a majority of couches on Instagram are nothing more than the iconic couch from Ikea named Soderhamn. World renowned as the most versatile couch, I found it had potential especially after learning that a handful of couch cover options made the couch transformable into a Restoration Hardware look-alike.

An already fairly priced option, I decided that we could be more frugal (what’s more frugal than an Ikea couch?) while also being sustainable if I could find the couch for sale on Craigslist, used and unwanted. Being a fairly popular and mass-produced couch, I found that it was not difficult to do. In fact, there were three decent options close to my home. After finding a fairly new and well-taken-care-of Soderhman not more than 10 miles away, I decided to pull the trigger.

We bought a three-seater and ottoman in a color apart from ideal for $350 (originally $599) with the plans of extending the foundation into a sectional that can seat 6 people. In order to do that, we decided to buy an arm-less seat to add to one end of the sectional. We could have waited to find one on Craigslist at a bargain price but due to an eagerness which could only result from waiting for years for a viable couch option, we decided to go ahead and purchase the arm-less seat new at a local Ikea for $229. We chose the same color to match the already existing used couch so that we could live with it until we were able to remake the fabric. We removed the existing arm rest on used couch and tacked it on to the new arm-less chair that we just bought, transforming the previously 6-foot couch into 9-feet long. Below, you see the original fabric of the Ikea couch – a dark blue cotton.

DSC00682

Enter the re-upholstery project. As I mentioned in the introductory comments of this post, making a house a home requires a knowing about oneself. And although a DIY sort of re-upholstery project would have been the most frugal option and possibly the most sustainable option, I also knew that it was not the right one for me. Apart from possibly hacking off a finger during the renovation, I was not eager to start a feud with my husband who will likely be dragged into this project of “mine”. Plus, after watching the video on Youtube, I was enamored with the ease of having a well fitted sheet sent to my door and using zippers as an easy way for me to “reupholster” the couch. Call me spoiled, but the price was well worth the effort and time saved, both of which are arguably more valuable resources.

I went through a lot of options but landed on Bemz after noticing that they had a recycled fabric available. I spent hours perusing the available colors (and there are many!) and sent five complimentary swatches to my home. After much debate, we decided on a Silver Grey linen fabric instead, for the sole reason that it felt better to the touch. As much as I liked the idea of ordering an up-cycled fabric, I just could not negate the fact that the feel of the linen supersedes the desire to be as ethical as possible. I suppose this is what it means to be human.

DSC00699

Bemz also provides couch remodeling enthusiasts with alternative leg options. It has the legs 14 cm and 18 cm in height in a variety of colors and shapes. We opted for the shorter of the two which happens to be the original height of the Soderhamn because, as you can probably tell from the Cloud and the Sloucher, I prefer low-lying couches. I  primarily wanted to change the silver legs to a wooden variety that made the couch look more Scandanavianly mid-century modern and less, shall I say it, cheap.

DSC00708

You can also choose to have a loose-fitted cover that acts as a floor-length gown for your sofa, but we opted for the traditional style with the legs exposed so that our Roomba can sweep undisturbed underneath the couch. That decision boiled down to practicality and my preference for spotless cement floors. After all this consideration, we were finally ready to order.

I waited patiently until a 20% off sale email landed in my Inbox. For those who can’t wait, first-time buyers do get a 10% off code after an email subscription. Happy to say, ordering was a breeze. It took about 2-3 weeks for the cushions to be custom-made, but once shipped, took only two days and a weekend to arrive at our front door.

When it arrived, I couldn’t wait to put them on. I begrudgingly followed my husband’s wishes to wash them before trying them on, and since they were linen, we chose to air dry them to avoid chances of shrinkage. Which meant I had to wait until the next afternoon to put on the new covers. I woke up early, scarfed down breakfast, pulled out my roommate’s steamer and lovingly worked at straightening out a majority of the wrinkles and creases. In the afternoon, we tackled our project.

DSC00698

Between the both of us, the project which involved a 3-seater sofa, a sectional chair, and an ottoman took 2 hours. This was after I mistakenly confused the ottoman base cover for the single chair cover and we have to disassemble the arms and back one more time to swap the two. Which proves the point that we made the right choice in not doing a DIY version of this endeavor. Surprisingly, we finished unscathed, with our relationship still intact.

The couch looks just as good as the Restoration Hardware Cloud Sofa, and feels fantastic too! You can’t even tell it’s an Ikea couch. The fabric from Bemz really dressed up its appearance but also softened up the cushions. The wooden legs really elevated the look as well. I am so glad we choose to swap those out, too.

DSC00739

The one gripe I have with Bemz covers, though, is the packaging it came in. All couch covers came in big plastic bags and the legs came in bubble wrap. I wish they would ship it with less plastic. Its partial saving grace was that the plastic is made of 50% recycled material and is recyclable itself. I would still have preferred paper wrap, though.

Overall, we saved a LOT of money. Below, I write a breakdown of our spending.

3 seat Soderhamn Sectional + Ottoman used from Craigslist – $350
Arm-less Soderhamn Section new from Ikea – $229
Bemz Covers + Legs – $668

GRAND TOTAL = $1,247.00

That is 13% the cost of a Restoration Hardware couch!  More affordable couches of similar design found on websites such as Article lie in the $1900 range. Mid-range couches such as that of West Elm lie in the $2k-3k range. So yes, I am VERY very happy with the financial savings!

And the best part is that these covers are replaceable and washable, a factor unignorable by two cat parents. We have a second set in the form of the original blue grey covers from Ikea as well, for back-up. In all honesty, the OG covers grew on me and we are considering it as an alternative for the moodier winter months.

DSC00722

It’s wonderful that down the road, “getting a new couch” simply means “getting a new couch cover”. The flexibility that Bemz offers allows for a long-term sustainable option. They have many fabrics including velvet, cotton, and linen, all in differing colors. They have styles that cover the legs and styles that don’t. Even the leg options are versatile in shape and color. Lastly, Bemz also makes covers for other types of Ikea couches, thus increasing the range of probability. The number of combinations are endless so I have no doubt that people can find a vibe and feel that works for them.

DSC00743

How about you? Any couch hacks of late?

If you are interested in learning about how to reupholster a couch DIY style, check out this blogger’s advice on the matter. For more Bemz inspo, check them out here.

Small Space Living

Tip 07// Rugless

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

Our home is a live/work loft wherein the living space above makes up less than 950 square feet, while the business below makes up 600 square feet. It is an industrious home, with vaulted ceilings, exposed air vents, and, well, cool gray cement floors. While the floors lend us something to covet during the summer months, they make it a bit harder to get out of bed during early morning routines when it’s cold. So as winter descends, it becomes easy for one to start considering rugs to cover such floors.

As usual, I am writing here to pose the idea of going without. Currently, we are rugless.

The beauty of our space lies in its flexibility, wherein one is not tied down to specific room designations. As example, our bed lies is where the next-door-neighbor’s living room resides, and we’ve placed a dining table dead center in the loft. So why place a rug, whose purpose includes separating spaces and making distinct rooms out of nothing? I had made some autumnal adaptations to our home recently, in an effort to promote gather within our limited square footage, and adding rugs would leave my intentions robbed.

Additionally, adding rugs may just complicate things. My qualm with having more things in general is the worry. When we accumulate stuff, we add to our minds an additional thing to consider. Will we spill coffees on this rug? Will the dogs we sit mistake it for a place to go? Will the cat start to tear at it with it’s claws the same way I imagine it would if it were carpet? Plus, I worry about the mess.

I find that rugs have a tendency to collect all sorts of detritus, serving as platters presenting an array of things, including, but certainly not limited to, cat hair from a cat that would enjoy such a rug, dried flour bits falling from my apron, and bread crumbs sloppily stuck on my shirt from morning’s breakfast.

It would complicate things because, currently, we run the vaccuum 3-4 times a week. We have a Roomba that actually runs on its own. The decision for such a vaccuum is plenti-fold. We like it’s sleek minimalist appearance and the ability to stash it underneath a book case, sight unseen. We also like that it is self-sufficient, and we can turn it on from our phones when we are away, or let it run on the weekends while we lounge on the couch. Our ability to live life unperturbed while still maintain clean floors is highly valued. It was a very intentional purchase, which we were too frugal to actually buy, so really, it was a house-warming gift from a pair of parents who refused to go giftless.

Having a rug amidst it’s trajectory can cause problems. The Roomba will likely get stuck, the way it does when it encounters the bathroom rug. The rug will likely get dragged around, mopping the floors. Or the Roomba and rug will devise a plan against us and team up to coagulate all sorts of dust particles into the deep crevices of the rug. Yes, I’ve been told I think too much.

So while I have been fancying a rug ever since I decided rugs were beautiful, I also have my reservations. Deep down, my desire for beauty is restrained by my knowing that less is more, my inability to stomach spending money on something so accessory, and mostly my effort to keep things at home simple

How about you? What are some winter decors that you can do without this year?

Small Space Living

Tip 06// The Most Sustainable Couch

I am thirty, and I have still yet to own a couch of my choosing. Every couch that has permeated my living space has either been already provided by previous tenants or handed down to me by someone I know. What does that say about me, exactly?

While it is quite obvious that our personal successes are not defined by an ability to own a couch, I think it is implied that a medical professional of thirty would have been able to afford one by now. But buying a couch is no easy thing. In fact, buying ANYTHING for me is never an easy thing these days. The entire process involves a hefty amount of serious pondering and a mild case of deep-skin writhing.

In this line of work, I am approached by others in general for my thoughts on stuff. In a sense, my job here is to help make a value judgement. I am presented with the following questions: Who made it? How is it made? Where is it made? What materials are used? Why is it necessary? Which option is best, in terms of sustainability both in terms of the environment, the social implications, the global effects, and least importantly, my personal repercussions. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a matcha whisk, or a set of pajamas. It’s even more pressure on large scale purchases, such as a brand new couch.

I have been in search for a sustainable couch for years. Ever since my husband (then-fiance) and I moved into our own place two months after I graduated dental school in 2016. Specifically, I have looked for a couch wherein I can trace exactly where it was made, whose hands were used to make them, and in what environmental conditions. I have yet to find one that comes close. Most furniture companies don’t even bother to tag couches as sustainable, and those that do only involve a small level of sustainability (like using reclaimed wood without any consideration for the fabrics of the upholstery) that I cannot even take them seriously.

So then I started to reach out to acquaintances about possibly fabricating a couch. Our favorite piece of furniture in our home is a 12 foot dining table hand-made by the two girls who provided our wedding furniture. We thought maybe we could do the same with the couch. I reached out to a fellow wood-worker-baker and an at-home clothing seamstress to ask about making a sustainable wood frame and sourcing end-of-the-mill fabrics. But sourcing the fabric will take lots of work researching jobbers and the wood-worker friend was busy with current projects as well as a baking schedule. It wasn’t the path to take.

So we turned to the next sustainable option, which is to buy a used and unwanted couch from Craigslist, which would prevent an additional item from entering a landfill. I know that it would put us in the same spot as before, owning a couch that’s a hand-me-down of sorts, but at least it would be a couch of our choosing. When we went to Melbourne in January, we stayed at a really nice AirBNB, and we fell in love with a mid-century modern couch in their living room.

airbnb melbourne
AirBNB stay in Melbourne, Australia. To save $40 on your next booking, visit our referral link here.

I was surprised to find a similar couch made by West Elm selling at Craigslist for $800. The same couch is still selling at West Elm for double the price. While West Elm sells some sustainable products, couches are unfortunately not one of them. But sustainability as defined by environmental impact is achieved with this option, and the fact that it was already owned means the buying of this Craigslist couch does not have an ADDITIONAL social impact or global effect, except for the positive effect of side swiping it from the landfill. So where’s the hitch?

It all came down to sustainability as defined by my personal life. $800 is no chump change. Maybe  in proportion to brand new couches (why do they cost so much?) $800 seems like a steal. Perhaps it is. But in terms of my personal financial goals, $800 is almost double what we set aside each month for travel. $800 is almost three months worth of groceries, or eight months worth of dining out. $800 is a year’s worth of cat food for Theo, and probably all the Christmas and birthday presents we want to buy. It is one-third of our portion of the mortgage, which is helping us build equity – can a couch do that? It is 12% of our monthly loan payment, which is buying us freedom. How much freedom can a couch buy you?

In the end, we chose the most sustainable couch, which is the couch we already had. It buys us freedom from the cycle of continually searching for something better. It helps build us equity by not taking way from our ability to build equity. It fuels our financial goals, without taking away from our time. In the end, it came down to the answer of not which couch is best, but which couch is good enough. That’s what sustainability is all about.

I  sometimes wonder how well these superlatives, and our quest for the best of something, end up serving us. What about the possibility of replacing better or best with good enough? The reality of my own day-to-day life is that living simply and keeping a pared down collection of well-loved items often isn’t about having the best. It’s about making the best of what I already have.

Erin Boyle, ReadingMyTeaLeaves, Simple Matters

Like Erin, we search for ways to make the best of what we have. It’s the ultimate way to live without forever needing to chase. In our space, we have shades where walls should be, wooden panels where doors should be, and a bed where some might put a living room. But it IS enough, and there we still sleep soundly.