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5 Reasons Why Smaller Homes Can Save You Money and the Environment

18 Apr
Image: Creative Commons, mission-sustainable.com.

Image: Creative Commons, mission-sustainable.com.

With Earth Day just around the corner many of us are thinking about ways to create less impact on the environment. We will remember to do little things like bring our own reusable bags to the store, recycle our paper and plastics or turn off the lights when they’re not in use. While these are all points to consider, one thing most of us don’t really think about is how our homes can potentially leave a carbon footprint.

Home ownership has always been part of the American Dream. To some this means buying biggest, best house one could afford. While house size is a matter of preference, it may not be a practical reality for many. With larger homes comes more responsibility in terms of time, money and resources, which many of us don’t have with work, family and other life obligations.

This spring, the real estate market is expected to rebound and buyers can expect sticker shock as home values rise according to Realtor Magazine. While more square footage is desirable, it may not always be the best solution.

Here are five reasons to consider a smaller home:

1. Less Expensive Mortgage  Have we learned our lessons from the 2008 housing bubble and credit crisis? Many were reduced by circumstances to move from McMansion-sized homes to smaller spaces which caused us to rethink our home owning options. Want to read up on extreme cases small living? Check out this one family affected by the crisis who went from a large home to a less than 700 square foot sized cabin. For even more extreme cases, read up on the Tiny House Movement where people opt for less than 200 square of living spaces.

2. Less Maintenance Costs While HGTV has great profiles of beautiful dream homes, one thing it fails to present is the cost to maintain. Let’s say you buy a 7000+ square foot home filled with massive, chef grade kitchen, eight bedrooms, six baths, tons of living space, a pool, sports complex, beautiful gardens. We don’t live in the age of Downton Abbey where you have Carson the Butler and Mrs. Hughes the Housekeeper and their staff on hand. That’s fine if that’s really your dream and you have the resources to make it work, but most people find it more cost effective to either themselves. With a smaller space you can maintain your own house and save money on labor.

3. Less Hoarding With less space, you can’t hoard or have a collection of rarely used tchotchkes. Have you ever seen TV shows like Hoarders or Clean Sweep where people have tons of junk and keep accumulating stuff? Not to say that people don’t hoard in small homes too, but if you wanted to be able to live comfortably in your space, you’d have to get rid of stuff you don’t need or use or you’d literally be consumed with all your stuff.

4. Less Clutter Having little space will require you to ruthlessly edit your possessions and keep only those things that you truly need. You are forced to rethink buying habits and make decision about what you need versus what you want.

5. Eco-friendly By default, smaller home means you will use less natural resources. You won’t need a large sprinkler system for the large lawn. You will spend less time and energy mowing the lawn and general yard maintenance. Your heat and electricity bills will go down as you won’t have a lot of spaces using energy. If you’re building a new home from scratch and opt for a smaller sized home, you’ll use less building materials as opposed to if you were to build a larger home. It’s a win-win.

What are your thoughts on small home living versus living large?

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Minimalist Parenting: 3 Ways to Reduce Noise Toy Clutter

21 Jan
Chalkboard Laptop, Anthropologie, $40.

Chalkboard Laptop, Anthropologie, $40.

One of the biggest challenges as a parent is keeping the amount of noise toys (and toys in general) to a minimum. Of course it’s easier said than done. Toys are one of the best ways for children to learn, grow and develop their motor skills. Some amount of toys are necessary to keep young children occupied and engaged. However when you find that every room in the house is becoming a playroom and the noise toy engagement level becomes too much, you know it’s time to clear some of the clutter.

Here are three ways to simplify:

1. Streamline with the 80/20 Rule. Have you noticed your children play with 20% of their favorite toys about 80% of the time? I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the Pareto Principle where 80% outcome is caused by 20% effort. (In clothing terms we tend to use about 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time.) The same could be applied to toys. Anything my son has outgrown or is no longer interested in I usually donate to charity or pass down to a younger kid who might appreciate it.

2. Rotate toy selection. With the streamlined toys you do have on hand try to change things up on a regular basis.  While I keep my son’s favorites out for him to play with, I also have containers of toys that I keep out of sight in storage. I rotate a small bin of toys (especially noisy ones)  in and out about every week. This keeps things fresh and makes it seem like he’s getting new toys.

3. Opt for simpler toys. This could include learning flash cards, blocks, puzzles, etc. After becoming a parent and receiving an onslaught of high-pitch sounding noise toys from well-meaning relatives, I was pleasantly surprised to come across this old school chalkboard laptop from Anthropologie. What’s nice is that it allows for kids to be creative and work on motor skills without all the over-stimulation from noise toys. It’s also portable enough to take on trips and keep a child occupied.

 

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Baby Steps: How to Opt for the “Less Waste Home” before “Zero Waste Home”

30 Dec
Image: Sfgate.com

Image: Sfgate.com

When Jess Chamberlain came out with her story in Sunset Magazine about the Zero Waste Home I was fixated! How could this family of four + 1 dog manage to go through an entire year with just one small jar full of trash? It boggled my mind that this family was able to do just that. It’s hard enough just keeping a home clutter-free, but garbage free – wow.

Image: theepochtimes.com

Image: theepochtimes.com

On the one hand, it would be ideal to go cold turkey and follow every single one of the tips suggested on the Zero Waste Home blog. Seeing the long list, it would be impossible to implement all these at once.

It’s certainly a huge commitment and takes dedication to get to that place of no waste.

Rather than see the glass half empty, I decided I’d rather start small, see what works, what doesn’t and adjust as I go along.

The Zero Waste Concept involves 5R’s:

  1. Refuse what you do not need
  2. Reduce what you do need
  3. Reuse what you consume
  4. Recycle what you cannot
  5. Rot (Compost) the rest

Thus, here was the challenge, here’s what I did, what worked, what didn’t and what I intend to do.

Challenge: An almost impossible dream – create a Zero Waste Home.

Small Steps
Here’s a couple tips I tackled:

1. Swap paper towels for reusable rags.

Use rags and less paper towels.
Pros:
Spend less money on paper towels.
Cons: Small towels have to be washed. Although we still use the occasional paper towel, it’s made a difference in the overall waste we produce.

Use cloth napkins as opposed to paper napkins.
Pros:
Don’t have to buy napkins, napkin bill went down.
Cons: Cloth napkins also need to be washed and that adds to your laundry bill.

Rethink the recycling bin
Ironically only a small percentage of recyclables actually get reused and the rest ends up in the landfill anyway, so recycling should be a last resort. What I did was use clementine crates for gardening tool organizing, donate glass jar containers to my son’s schools for paints, reuse christmas cards for craft projects for son’s school and reuse aluminum foil, take out containers and sandwich baggies before recycling.

2. Curb Holiday Consumption

Every year we typically buy presents for family and friends. We curbed overspending this year by bailing out of exchanging presents for everyone and offering 1 big present where needed. Example, my family and sibling’s family pitched in for an outdoor grill for my parents. Throughout the year, some potential gifts were purchased either on sale or second hand. Example, for my son, we got a good amount of outdoor toys and kids consignment store and Craigslist finds that were his presents.

What I plan to continue to do and follow up on:

  • composting
  • junk mail
  • add more indoor houseplants (to absorb toxins and clean the air)

What baby steps have you taken for reducing household waste?

Why DARLING magazine is great for women’s personal growth

29 Dec

DARLING mission statement

DARLING mission statement

I picked up DARLING magazine in the Sale section of Anthropologie expecting it to have your typical aspirational lifestyle photographs and content you could only use in everyday life if you had the money. I mean, I love reading shelter and women’s magazines but my biggest complaint would be that there are too many ads that distract from the stories, too many product placements in pricepoints way beyond what I’m willing to spend and tips I probably wouldn’t use- in essence most women’s magazines are ironically not for the average, everyday woman.

Plus, there are too many impossible standards to live by. How can you not be made to feel inadequate if there’s a bunch of airbrushed size two models in hyperpriced wardrobe in most of the glossy pages.

I was pleasantly surprised that DARLING magazine was not your typical women’s magazine. Don’t get me wrong, the photographs were near perfect and yes slim models were used for some photoshoots. At least they had their clothes on and weren’t super airbrushed and overly provocative like the women portrayed in Cosmo. Well DARLING magazine’s tagline is The Art of Being a Woman. Maybe this is the first real woman’s magazine of it’s kind. How progressive. It makes me want to read more and forget ad sponsored magazines trying to sell me something. This is the first magazine with a real mission statement and authentic voice I’ve found in a long while.

Pros:

  •     There are no ads or product placement stories so content was coming from an authentic place
  •     There are actually useful tips that you could implement today – like building a capsule wardrobe
  •     Lots of eye candy and beautiful photography that’s inspirational
  •     Stories are positive, empowering and inspirational
  •     Advice comes from people who followed their own advice and show how it worked for them
  •     Great mission statement, sends positive messages to women – read their mission statement
  •     Digital issue ($5) is cheaper than the print issue ($20) – there’s also free content on their site

Cons:

  •     Print magazine is expensive
  •     Not enough time to read all the content – there’s SO much information
  •     Print magazine is not readily available – could only get it at Anthro or online

Check it out and see for yourself here!

How Anthropologie and the Drought Got Me into Gardening

19 Aug

My jalapeno pepper plant

I’ve never had a green thumb. Most of my house plants tend to die. The ones that did survive were the Ikea ZZ plant and miraculously this hand-me-down jalapeno pepper I received from a lady at my puppy‘s playgroup. Since I’ve started simplifying and decluttering my wardrobe through the Glam Save Style Challenge, I’ve found the time to learn how to garden.

Alys Fowler‘s Garden Anywhere

Alys Fowler‘s Garden Anywhere from Anthropologie‘s clearance section in Boston has become my nighttime reading. (It sat on my bookshelf for awhile though.) I always wanted to start a garden but never knew where to begin. Anthropologie always had some gardening books and garden-inspired displays which piqued my mild interest in gardening.

Lauren Santo Domingo’s garden, Vogue (Sept. 2012)

I was also inspired by Lauren Santo Domingo’s garden in Paris featured in this month’s Vogue. Those large terracotta pots of lavender along with the purple salvia, bay, jasmine and roses reminded me of my mental note to start a garden (more for herbs and veggies, although flowers would be nice too). Seeing those pots made me think how container gardens seem like a good way to start since they’re smaller than traditional gardens and seem easier to manage.

Image from Alys Fowler’s Garden Anywhere

Nowadays with the drought affecting food prices, now may be a good time to learn how to grow some of our own herbs and vegetables. I remember after reading Barbara Kingsolver‘s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan‘s In Defense of Food  how I’d wanted to try to find some small way to go back to the land. This is one way to start.