Archive for the ‘simple living’ Category

A Weird New Goal of Zero Bottles in the Shower   Leave a comment

Not very long ago I was looking at my bottles on the shelf in the shower and realized that I don’t actually think I need any of them. For a long time I’ve been on a slow progression of simplifying my personal care routines (not that I was ever the stereotypical 20-bottles in the shower/over an hour to get ready in the morning woman), and it seems like I’ve reached a point where most of the rest of my products just seem pointless.

When I say slow progression, I do mean that. This story starts over a decade and a half ago, when I stopped shampooing my hair every day and switched to every other day. Over the years that became more like a couple times a week, then once a week. Then a few years ago I decided to try going shampoo free, using the baking soda and apple cider vinegar method. I had to switch back to washing my hair every time I showered (which was so hard as I had gotten so lazy about washing my hair!). Then gradually I was able to BS/ACV my hair only a couple times a week, and then weekly, while just rinsing with water in between. I’ve now reached a point where I don’t actually remember when I last used the BS/ACV, so I’m guessing I use it a couple times a year or so. When I last cleaned the shelf in the shower I realized that there’s really no reason for me to be keeping bottles of the baking soda and apple cider vinegar solutions in the shower, as I can easily mix up “single serve” batches when I feel like using them. Plus then I can customize the essential oil blends mixed in if I feel I need anything. I’ve also got a bottle of conditioner from back in my shampooing days, which I only use after getting a hair cut to make it up to my hair and restore a coating on the follicles. It’s going to take me another decade to finish that bottle, but there’s no reason it can’t join the extra bottle of shampoo for guests in the hall bathroom. So hair care: 0 bottles, 1 natural bristle brush.

The next simplification was a couple years ago when Conan was born. In the days/weeks after his birth I could find the time to splash my face with cold water every day, but not to use the cream cleanser that I’ve been using for years. After a while I realized that not using a cleanser and/or warm water on my face was not causing any breakouts. So why keep buying/using a cleanser? Then I started wondering if I really needed a moisturizer, and found that even my dry skin doesn’t generally demand a moisturizer if I’m only rinsing with cold water. At that point I started wondering about using oil, not a commercial moisturizer. Shockingly, when I switched to using grape seed oil on my face after showers (i.e. rinsing my face with warm water), I didn’t start breaking out. So facial care: 1 small jar of grape seed oil (the bottle lives in the kitchen for cooking), 1 facial brush.

The only thing left in the shower is the shave gel. I wax my legs, so it’s just for my underarms. Now I want to find out if we really do need special shave products as opposed to soap to shave. I suspect that it may be true for those who shave daily, and for legs, but for underarms that get shaved 2-3 times a week I suspect soap will be fine long term. If true that would mean shaving: 0 bottles, 1 razor.

Don’t worry, I’m keeping the soap.

Posted February 21, 2015 by mayakey in frugal living, goals, personal care, simple living, unshopping

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Keeping Cool Without Breaking the Bank (Or Not)   1 comment

It’s been a hot summer here in Sacramento this year. I don’t know if it has actually been hotter than normal, but it seems like there have been more no-Delta-breeze nights with subsequent day temps near or above 100 degrees. Keeping cool has been a priority.

A few years ago I posted about some of my strategies of keeping a house cool (here and here). The first strategy is to block the sun from shining in/on the windows and exterior walls. Curtains will block sun from coming in the house but the windows and walls still heat up. Shade trees, awnings, or extended eaves keep the sun off the windows/wall so that they don’t heat up. We’ve got awnings over all of our east and west facing windows, and tall rosebushes in front of the south facing windows. The shade trees on the south side of the house aren’t yet big enough to offer shade.

The second strategy is to take advantage of breezes. At night, the breeze coming in through open windows may be able to cool the house down sufficiently to delay or prevent turning on the A/C the next day. (This strategy works great in Sacramento…when there’s a Delta breeze.) When there’s no breeze or it’s hot as blazes outside, though, fans can serve in some situations to help you cool off.

There’s a third strategy that I use but haven’t written about before and that’s to not heat the house. Sounds obvious, right? But as my husband has pointed out, most people don’t really think about it. Is it summer and the forecast says it’ll be around 100 degrees? Then don’t run the dishwasher, stove, oven, or vacuum during the day. It’ll just heat up the house and make the A/C turn on earlier. Even TVs, computers, and any other electronic appliance will generate heat. The TV on in our house for long enough for my husband to get in a game of Battlefront can raise the temperature by a couple degrees. A computer? I’ve worked from home and watched the temperature tick up as I sat in front of the thermostat (in the office) working on my laptop. Even when the A/C turns on, unless the room with the heated appliance is next to the thermostat and therefore controls the thermostat, it will still be warmer and less comfortable than the rest of the house.

We’ve managed to have a couple days early this summer when it reached 100 degrees outside and our A/C didn’t turn on because we were out of the house part of the day, didn’t turn on the TV or computers until later in the day, and moved the toaster outside for breakfast. (There are many more days when we’ve added plenty of heat load to the house, but small victories, right?) I should also mention that in summer our thermostat is programmed to 83 during the day, and my husband usually turns the cooler on manually at around 79 or 80 degrees.

One great thing about the strategy of reducing heat load is that it’s double $ savings. You’re saving money by not using electricity to power the heat-generating device(s) and saving money by reducing energy spent cooling the house. However, as we learned this year, casual applications of these strategies aren’t enough to “tunnel through the cost barrier” to borrow a phrase from Amory Lovins. I was sorely disappointed early this summer when our A/C died and had to be replaced. For a while I forgot about all the monthly savings these strategies have netted us as I stewed about having to spring for an expensive new A/C. As much as I would have loved to be able to live without heating and cooling, we’re not there yet and the new system has won me over with its super-efficiency and quiet operation.

Posted August 17, 2014 by mayakey in conscious living, energy use, frugal living, home, simple living

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Furnishing a Nursery, My Way   1 comment

Preparations for Baby’s birth are slooooowly happening. I hope that I don’t regret the balance that I have right now between experiencing the pregnancy now and preparing for the baby. Of course one of the big tasks is getting the nursery ready. If you walk in our house, though, I have to confess that it doesn’t look like we’ve gotten anywhere on that task. But looks can be deceiving. I hope.

Decor is a third of the way done: The room was painted a year and a half ago, with no-VOC paint for the top half and very low-VOC high gloss cabinet paint on the bottom half (hopefully easy to clean). The carpet isn’t installed but I’m working with the contractor and trying with some success to not get too frustrated at the slow pace (we’re installing the same carpet as in the other two bedrooms). The curtain rod is sitting on the floor (hopefully to be installed this weekend), and I’ll order the same organic black sateen as in our room to make the back curtain. The decorative front curtain can wait; we might as well see what the kid’s personality is first. The ceiling light installation will have to wait until the highs are no longer triple digits so we can hire someone to go into the crawlspace (yes, even always-cold me is ready for temps to drop from the 90’s and 100’s). We’ll get some black construction paper and make a fun black shape mobile, eventually to be replaced by a fun colorful one in a couple months. I plan on taking the “full length” mirror that I bought in grad school, flipping it sideways and installing it somewhere on the lower wall. And I have an adorable old calendar that I’ve been keeping so I could mount the pictures and put them on the walls to make it fun for me while we wait for kid personality to rise.

Furniture is two thirds of the way done. Rocking chair? Check, I have the one my parent’s bought when we lived in Costa Rica. Comfy chair? Check, we have the love seat from the old sofa set that has a few more years in it. Dresser? Sort-of-check. We’re not going to get a dresser right away. I have a hanging sweater rack that seems like it would be really convenient for storing the “clothing that fits right now”. And we’re going to move our old TV cabinet into the nursery to provide additional storage. Changing table? Sort-of-check. We have an office table that we were using as our dining room table when we moved into this house. I’m going to cover it with organic cotton batting (which I have), and a fabric cover (which I need to order still). It’s big enough to be able to fit a changing pad and have room to lay out the diapers and stuff.

The only big-ticket items that we don’t yet have are the crib and bassinet. The crib has been ordered but there’s a three-month lead time. We’re getting a solid maple wood crib, handmade in Oregon, with a low-VOC finish. In a week or two the mattress should be here: an organic cotton and wool mattress. The wool puddle pad and fitted sheets (Fair Trade organic cotton with natural dyes and no formaldehyde or other problem finishes) have already arrived.

The bassinet has been a sticking point. I have found some absolutely adorable Amish-made wooden ones, but they cost the same as a full-size crib. I’m really struggling with spending almost a thousand dollars on something that’ll only be used for a few months. I have looked into the Arms Reach bedside sleeper, and I’m thinking that we might go that route if I can see one in the bedside sleeper configuration first. It is plastic, but according to their FAQ it is nylon and polyester, not vinyl. I just need to confirm that I can get an organic and untreated mattress for it. It’s a trade off. I’d rather not be buying something plastic and probably-not-low-VOC paint, but it doesn’t really look like there’s a really practical alternative. And our bed is a conventional mattress anyway, which I’ve been sleeping on throughout the pregnancy, so I think this is a choice I can live with as one that doesn’t make a situation worse but only maintains the status quo.

Posted October 3, 2012 by mayakey in fair trade, home, organic, pregnancy, shopping, simple living

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Clothesline, Finally   Leave a comment

This past weekend, with the impetus of spring cleaning, we finally finished our clothesline. It’s been on the wish list since we moved in, but we just didn’t get around to it, until this year. We started putting in the posts in winter, after weeks of dry sunny weather, and then it started raining. So this weekend we finally got up the crossbars and lines so that we could dry the comforter, mattress protector, and pillows way way faster than a dryer can do.

Disclaimer: This was another one of our cheap, winging-it DIY projects; we weren’t designing/building something to last 20 years or more. We started with a couple 4×4 posts that came from the makeshift awning the previous owners had on the side of the house. There was some discussion over where to put the line, taking into account sun exposure, wind direction, clothing flappage allowance (no lines located inches from the fence), fruit-tree access, prevention of knocked foreheads, and the as-yet-unplanned layout of play and gardening space when we get around to ripping out concrete. Then we  hand augured a couple holes through the hard clay (good thing Mike has good upper body strength or it might have taken me all day!). We dug down roughly 2-feet, giving us about 6-feet aboveground, and then filled the holes with concrete around the posts. As I mentioned before, then it started raining so the concrete cured for at least 4 months before we moved on to step 2.

For our crossbars we used a 2×4 from the old awning, cut into roughly 3-foot lengths. It’s an arbitrary length, picked because we had one piece of wood that was 70-inches long, and everything else was much longer. With eyebolts spaced at just under 1-foot we have 4 lines plenty long enough for a couple loads of laundry, with space to move between them while hanging/removing clothes. We’re both most familiar with plastic coated metal lines, but at the hardware store all we found was nylon clothesline so we’re giving it a try. I’m assuming we’ll have to tighten the lines at least a couple times in the first month as it stretches.

The clothesline withstood the first weekend of laundry, and it was so nice to hang up the comforter and come back a couple hours later to find it dry rather than repeatedly have to reposition it in the dryer. We’ll see how this goes in the future, and how long the lines last. I did a search and found a Mother Earth News article that recommends using 8×8’s buried to 4 or 5-feet with knee braces.

Posted May 15, 2012 by mayakey in energy use, frugal living, home, simple living

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Simplifying My Travel Packing List   Leave a comment

When I was a kid and we packed for trips I was a “what if” person. I packed ALL KINDS of contingency items, extra items, and superfluous items. Of course I didn’t necessarily see them that way at the time. I wanted to put my best foot forward around strangers or infrequently seen family/friends, but was too insecure to really know what it was. I remember a family reunion where my dad yelled at me for packing hair spray. At the time I just kind of rolled my eyes because I was well aware that hair spray was not close to being the most excessive thing that I had packed, I mean at least that was something I used at the time!

Fast forward to today. When I travel I’m probably flying rather than road-tripping, and therefore having to deal with luggage and liquid restrictions. I don’t yet have children. I’m secure in who I am and much prefer to just travel as “me” and not some put-together facade. Oh, and one minor change is that with my desire to live more simply I just have less stuff to pack. All this results in a leaner packing list, and a slightly easier travel experience both in the sense of lugging the luggage and finding things inside it. This does result in the debate about luggage: when everything fits into a carryon-sized suitcase is it a better travel experience to check it and then have to wait for baggage claim or carry it on and have to carry it down the aisle of the plane and lift it into the overhead compartment. I haven’t decided yet, although usually default to just carrying it on the plane.

The best way to simplify what personal care products are needed when traveling is to simplify personal care routines. At home I use a cream cleanser at night for my face, and just cold water in the morning; but when traveling for 3 days there’s no reason not to just use water and a washcloth and not have to find a way to transport the cleanser. This is a two-birds-one-stone situation as well since it means there’s no need to pack a moisturizer for my face either. For my hair I do have a pomade that I got when I cut off my long hair but since I’ve used it less than a handful of times in the month and a half since getting the haircut it was no problem leaving it at home. So hair care required nothing more than a comb. (Note that I don’t wash my hair every day, so just rinsing my head in the shower was fine for a 3 day trip.) Deodorant was a bit more tricky since I’m in the middle of almost a year of experimenting with alternatives (which eventually I’ll write about), but putting a small scoop of coconut oil in a little jar worked for me, and also provided me with a backup moisturizer if needed.

Where do I not simplify? Teeth and eyes. I get headaches when I wear my glasses all day when traveling or at work, so I absolutely have to take my contacts, case, and cleaner. And while I’ve tried leaving my tongue scraper at home, even on a two day trip I’m desperately feeling the need for a good tongue scraping, so along it comes in all its awkward dimensioning. For the purposes of avoiding the purchase of a mini-tube of toothpaste to get me past security I did just bring a baggie of baking soda instead, but that’s not really simplifying.

Where did I REALLY not simplify? Clothes? No, wore 1 pair of jeans all weekend and an easy-to-pack outfit to the wedding. Makeup? No, only brought the makeup that I actually wear on a regular basis. It was reading materials. I brought my entire stack of magazines, plus the Tao of Fertility book, plus the Mists of Avalon book, plus my journal, plus my computer. My shoulder and back do not thank me. They say: next time choose between the 2+ inch thick book and the stack of magazines, and make it an unplugged computer-free weekend. All of my time that wasn’t on a plane or waiting to get on a plane was spent hanging out with family anyway.

Anything that I missed having with me? Shoes, actually, but that’s mostly because I don’t have a really good pair of pant boots right now. I only took my pant boots and my calf boots for dressing up, so when my aunt suggested going for a walk one morning my heels and arches complained for about 2.5 miles of the approximately 3 mile walk. I rarely pack my running shoes since they take up so much space, but my current everyday boots are horrible shoes for any significant amount of walking.

Posted April 3, 2012 by mayakey in personal care, simple living, travel

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Simplicity is Harder than Complexity   Leave a comment

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.

Steve Jobs

Posted February 10, 2012 by mayakey in psychology, quotes, simple living

Starting The New Year With Less Dead Weight   Leave a comment

The run up to the start of a new year is, in my opinion, a great time to declutter and start the new year without a little of the “dead weight” that we accumulate over time. Some of this decluttering is easy, at least if done regularly. Sorting through clothes, getting rid of more cookware with non-stick finishes, passing on unused decorative items, or sending old books out to find new readers are all relatively easy steps. In my annual purge I’ve so far managed to get through the entire house except for the side yard and the office, and the clock is ticking down with one day remaining before winter solstice.

But in addition to the physical purging, some mental purging may help usher in a better new year as well. Anyone like me have a crazy backlog of “projects” waiting to be done? They do weigh me down, I have to confess. So in the last day of the purge as I tackle the office, where the physical manifestations of many of these projects reside, I’ll try to let go of some of those projects. This is especially important this year since we’re at 15 months of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. A child is a life change, and what if  the piles of little “projects” in my office are making my life too full and not leaving “space” for a child? I’ve been saying that it’s not a problem, but that could be denial. Isn’t there some kind of saying about keeping open space in your life so that there’s room for new things?

Posted December 20, 2011 by mayakey in pre-pregnancy, psychology, simple living

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