100 Tips to Declutter Your Home

reading light

Later is the best friend of clutter… – Peter Walsh

Clutter articles range from judgmental, hoarding horror stories to useless, vague suggestions to advertorials for decorative organizational bins. Regardless, the peaceful state they all promote is both much-sought-after and mysterious to attain. Such was my struggle when I dumped my bags into my first apartment, a 400-square foot bungalow in South Florida.

As I compiled a long list of DIY projects and purchases, I also started absorbing artifacts from my parents, castoffs of caring friends, and unsolicited housewarming gifts. I just took everything with a “Thank-you” and added it to the pile. Very quickly, my apartment took a form that did not reflect who I was or how I wanted to use the space. So, I started thinking back to my missteps over the years. I remembered my hard-to-clean, impossible-to-organize childhood, teen, and college rooms. Those habits grew into a similarly unchecked living situation. So, determined to take ownership for my home, I began research.

Read Up

The stories that impacted me most where ones that focused on the journey of the person writing the article. They imagined a specific life and sought that state of being. For example, The Minimalists lifestyle was inspired by a desire to break with the corporate world and the related consumerism. Below are ten websites that I would recommend.

  1. The Minimalists
  2. FlyLady
  3. FrugalWoods
  4. ZenHabits
  5. Unclutterer
  6. 356 Less Things
  7. My Unhoarded Life (archive)
  8. Organized Castle
  9. Reading My Tea Leaves
  10. Not My Hoarding Mother

Each of these stories contrasted my awkward, messy world. I wanted to be able to focus at the end of the day. I wanted to sit in peace on the weekends. I wanted to spend less time cleaning, and I wanted that cleaning to be quick. So, I decided to make a list to break down what could stay and what needed to go.

Make a list

My first place was very full and very dysfunctional. I had a plethora of cheap tools, knick-knacks, and bobbles with nowhere to store or display them. Buying a host of organizational systems wasn’t the solution. Figuring out exactly how much room I had in my place set the benchmark for curating my stuff.

  1. Consider how many things you actually own. How many boxes would you need to pack up and move? How much time do you need to spend cleaning your stuff? Find a meaningful way to measure your belongings. For me, I measured each existing surface and cabinet to estimate how much stuff the apartment could hold without buying furniture. Then, I placed the existing furniture in a pleasing arrangement, discarding anything that didn’t fit. This left me with a specific amount of space to fill, both for storage and decoration. This was my limit.
  2. Document your belongings in list or photo form. You’ll begin to realize there are so many things that you don’t want to acknowledge or curate. However, that is what you’re doing by owning them. You are committing to caring and keeping those items- passively every day. You’ll use these later when you decide to sell your stuff.
  3. Look at lists of people who live smaller lifestyles. Capsule Wardrobe and Minimalist bloggers can give some perspective on how many items  you can reasonably use.
  4. Write down the tips that challenged you most. Post there somewhere that you’re regularly reference.
  5. Restrict your consumption until you understand exactly how much room you have and how much you want to one. Nothing new should come into your space until you finish the decluttering process.

Cut the Easy things

  1. Expired body product and makeup must go.
  2. Manuals and guides usually have digital versions. Bookmark those pages and recycle the paper ones.
  3. Bottles, jars and cans should be recycled if you aren’t using them.
  4. Cardboard boxes can be recycled.
  5. Go through your games and look for the broken or missing parts. Swap with someone who has the same game. One of you will end up with a complete set.
  6. Look through your Tupperware and recycle the most scraggly pieces.
  7. Old candles and potpourri that have lost their scent, lose a place in your home.
  8. Expired food should be composted or disposed.
  9. Samples that you’ve never used should be thrown out.
  10. Old medications can be turned in to an appropriate station.
  11. Excess wire or plastic hangers can be donated to thrift stores.
  12. Ditch that smelly sponge.
  13. Swap your old air filter.
  14. Trash your oldest, broken shoes.
  15. Donate old Halloween costumes and props.
  16. Trash full coloring books, after you frame your favorite pages.
  17. Socks that don’t have a mate, should be cut up for rags.
  18. Old spices that have lost their flavor must go.
  19. Swap your old toothbrush for a fresh one.
  20. Cards, mail and papers that have no meaning can be recycled with paper.
  21. Old calendars can be recycled.
  22. Sell any movies that you don’t want and don’t watch.
  23. Cookbooks usually contain only a few good recipes. Copy them and donate the book.
  24. Takeout menus are meaningless in the digital age.
  25. Takeout condiments fill up little nooks. Clean them out.
  26. Old prescription glasses can be donated and recycled
  27. Random business cards can be turned into digital files and tossed
  28. Check your cables. Recycle any that don’t match a device.
  29. Old paint doesn’t get better with age. Donate or recycle depending on the condition.
  30. Digitize and file receipts. Most paper copies aren’t needed.
  31. Pick through your paperbacks. You will probably find some that you don’t want to read again.
  32. Curtains from a previous living space can be sold or donated.
  33. Remove any body products that make you itch or breakout.
  34. Recycle any old containers for empty products.
  35. Infrequently-used kitchen appliances can be donated or sold.
  36. Clothes that are the wrong size should be donated.
  37. Shoes that are worn out, should be tossed.
  38. Pet toys that your furbaby won’t play with should be donated to a shelter.
  39. Magazines, all of them, should be recycled.
  40. Leftover supplies for craft kits and hobbies should be donated.
  41. Mismatched sheets and pillowcases, should be donated.
  42. Extra, or old blankets and pillows should be donated.
  43. Broken decorative items should be repaired or discarded.
  44. Your button collection can be donated to a sewing enthusiast or crafter.
  45. Old, unworn jewelry can be gifted or loaned to family members.
  46. CDs should be donated or recycled.
  47. Junk Mail should be recycled.
  48. Old, expired cleaning supplies should be disposed of per label directions.
  49. Duplicate tools should be sold or donated.
  50. Stained or soiled clothing should be recycled or tossed.

Take a Count

Next, you must match your belongings to your actual lifestyle. The examples below can help guide you to determine what you need for how you like to live.

  1. Count your seating and compare it to how much you actually host. You may find you don’t need any many chairs. If you have two people and never host large dinners, you can probably do with a small kitchen table and two chairs.
  2. Sort your pillowcases. You only need 2 sets for each bed. 1 on the bed and 1 in the wash.
  3. Sort your bedsheets. You may find you only need a warm and cool set.
  4. Look through your towels. 2 towels per person will work if you do your laundry every week.
  5. Sort your blankets. You only need 1 per person for an extra snuggle. Extra, pilled ones can go to an animal shelter.
  6. Consider your tablecloths. If you only pull out those linens a few times a year, you may find you need 1 nice tablecloth total.
  7. Look through your mugs. These collect over time from gifts and events. 1 or 2 mugs per person is plenty and will cut down on the dirty dishes.
  8. Think about your tableware strategically. If you aren’t much of a host, you may be better served by 1 durable, plain set of dishes than several fancy sets you don’t use.
  9. Make sure you don’t have duplicate utensils or unitaskers. You only have 1 kitchen and two hands. Keep that in mind while you’re sorting items.
  10. Make a list of your actual hobbies that you actually did this month. Sell all the supplies and tools that don’t match that list
  11. Check your recreational items. Whether it’s sporting equipment, outdoor furnishings, board games, or musical instruments, you may not be using every piece. These items are usually easy to sell.
  12. Measure your bookshelf. If the average book is about 1-2 inches thick, you can divide the length of your bookshelves by 2 to figure out how many books you can actually store.
  13. Measure your closet and clothing storage space. There is a finite amount of clothing that you can keep in your home. Limit your wardrobe to that number.
  14. Work through your wallspace. Photos or art should be displayed and will be limited by those dimensions.
  15. Do a time study exercise. Seeing how you spend your time reveals what kind of stuff you actually use. For example, you may not need many kitchen gadgets if you rarely cook. Or that aspirational yoga mat may actually sit in your closet for months.
  16. Count your collections and do the math on their value. If you enjoy collecting as a hobby, think about how you can limit the grouping to your favorite and most valuable pieces. If you are trying to collect to build a profit, make sure you turn the inventory regularly. Regardless, the amount you keep should be limited to the available space.
  17. Count the number of boxes that work in your deep storage spaces. Once shelving is installed, you will be able to calculate the number of bins that can fit. Heirlooms and seasonal items shouldn’t exceed these limits.
  18. Tally the time you spend cleaning and organizing your things. Consider how you want to spend your time and make sure your possessions remain proportional.

Then work in a circle

  1. Make a list of all the rooms in your space in a spreadsheet. Then, make a list of all the storage areas in each room. This will give you a list to work on weekend by weekend when you’re clearing out your space.
  2. As you’re working through the list, just take one storage area at a time. Pull everything out of the space. Get rid of any trash or broken items. Move anything that is out of place. Then, see if the rest will fit back in the space. If it doesn’t, challenge yourself to remove items until they fit the space in an organized manner.
  3. With the remaining, “Don’t fit” items, toss them all in a laundry basket. As you work, you’ll keep adding your second tier stuff to that basket.
  4. Second Tier items are anything you feel doesn’t quite belong in that space. You may not love it. You may have a better version worth keeping. It may just not fit and needs a new home.
  5. Moving from space to space and room to room, keep tossing the trash and delegating second tier items to the laundry basket.
  6. Once you loop through your space, make sure all the trash is tossed.
  7. Then, poke through the second tier stuff. For whatever reason, you felt like it didn’t belong in that space. Try selling all of it, for reasonable prices, at a yard sale. Don’t think twice- Just do it.
  8. With the remaining items, think about anyone less fortunate than you. If you know anyone that might be able to use that extra stuff, just give it to them. Don’t think twice- Just do it.
  9. Look through your space again and enjoy the openness. It’s different right?
  10. Make a plan to regularly go through this loop.

Plan for the Future

  1. Most ascribe to the “One in one out” rule. Hold yourself to this.
  2. Practice polite phrases for kindly rejecting new clutter. People won’t understand and you will be asked to explain often.
  3. Map out habits and hot spots that contribute to disorganization. Plan to tidy those regularly.
  4. Build new hobbies and habits to replace consumption. For example, walking in the park with a friend can replace social shopping.
  5. Moderate your access to new stuff. This can be anything from unsubscribing to brand emails to avoiding your favorite bargain basement.

Although the decluttering process remains highly personal, my favorite tips can shift the way you think. Ownership requires time and energy. Consider how you want to use yours before you bring something into your space.

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5 Tips to Rent Like You Own

Orange reading chair

Hello! I’m Danielle and I’m a serial renter. I’ve rented four apartments in seven years, only to move again this spring. While many people see homeownership as both a financial milestone and personal rite-of-passage, I am philosophically linked to the many millennials that reject homeownership. In fact, a segment millennials forgo ownership completely, from cars to clothes to technology. Just check out this infographic from Goldman Sachs to see what I mean. The causes are as various as the people making the choice to perpetually rent. Many can’t afford a home. Others are pursing careers and don’t want to be tied down. Whatever the reasons, there are many people who want to buy a house and simply can’t.

Initially, I saw homeownership as a hallmark of stability. After graduating from college, I worked hard to pay off my student debt and first vehicle. Working through the #adulting checklist, I planned to collect a down payment for a house next. Although it took longer than expected (life happens), I did pull together the funds. My husband and I got pre-approved for a mortgage. We visited a few open houses. But, we never took the next step. Each time we’ve selected to rent over buy, it has been the best choice for us.

That said, renting grates everyone’s nerves at times. The plentiful drawbacks leave many renters wishing they could own.

#AllTheReasons

Home lust – it trips all of us apartment dwellers from time to time. It manifests as a feeling of comparison or a subtle discontentment. Below is a list of reasons you may (mistakenly) hate your apartment with their rebuttals.

1. It’s too small: People tend to expand and outgrow the space available. The trick to enjoying a small space is living with less stuff. It won’t feel small when there is a place for everything. Look through your extra stuff and decide if you want it more than the open and airy feeling.

2. It’s temporary: This mental obstruction keeps a lot of people from enjoying their apartment. They feel like it’s not a “forever home.” Therefore the effort to decorate it seems to be wasted. However, I find a freshness comes from moving around. It makes you really consider filling your home with things you like and will take with you, instead of just buying stuff to fill your current space.

3. It’s up stairs without a yard: While I love a yard, not having one doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing all the green. Ideas for porch and indoor gardens are becoming more mainstream.

4. It’s not custom: Just because you don’t have built-in shelving or a pallet accent wall doesn’t mean you can’t make your space reflect your personality. There are a lot of great temporary ideas to decorate apartments without losing your deposit. Personally, I like to line walls with shelves to create a little gallery.

5. It’s cheap-looking: I’ll admit that I’m not fond of the builder-grade fixtures or the white carpet. However, fixating on it doesn’t make it go away. Instead, I find ways to shift the focus away from the cheap elements and move it to the parts I like. For example, I center furniture around the windows as the focus point. This draws my eye to the view instead of the floor.

Fall in Love Again

Quote from Jane Eyre by Charlotte BronteIn general, I believe that dissatisfaction with temporary situations like renting is the idea that you can’t take ownership of the space. Although there are rules, the environment is yours month-by-month or year-by-year. Besides those four walls, everything inside the home and the decisions about how you use it are yours.

Therefore, I find that the more that I care for my apartment, the more I fall in love with it. Cleaning the windows, wiping the counters and cleaning off scuff marks is not a waste. It’s the gift to myself right now because I live there. Below are ways that I make my rental feel like home.

1. Borrow furniture that works “right now”. When a living situation is temporary, it’s not wise to buy a lot of furniture just for the space. However, many people own more furniture than they are currently using. Ask around to see if someone has an item that will work for your space. If you don’t want to buy a small table, borrow one from a friend.

2. Use art that you like. Although the best design takes the dwelling into consideration, you don’t need to decorate around a temporary living situation. If you have art that you like, hang it up- even if it isn’t in the same style as your abode. You’ll enjoy seeing something that you find beautiful.

3. Store whatever doesn’t fit. Temporary situations are more frustrating if you are tripping over misplaced objects. Consider putting extra decor and furniture aside if it doesn’t have a home in your space. This will make you feel more at peace and settled.

4. Build memories in the space. Plan something fun and take pictures of yourself in the space. It won’t feel temporary if you make it into a home. Creating memories while you are living there will mark the apartment as your home for a season of life.

5. Write a list of what you do like. Maybe the small space is easy to keep clean. Perhaps you get good sunlight through your bedroom window. Find the features that you enjoy and elevate them to celebrate them.

Homeownership may not be one of your milestones, now or ever. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t feel at home in your rental. In fact, you may find (like me) an inspiring freedom in leasing a space. Mentally and emotionally, I’ve truly started to enjoy making little temporary homes.

Wishing Upon a Shore

Beach feather in the sand

As a child, I spent my summers at the family beach rental — getting up early to watch the sunrise and falling asleep at night on a couch in the screened porch. Everything was a little damp and too warm — perfection. At that beach house, I made a lifetime supply of bad watercolor art. I sketched and read back issues of national geographic. I talked to strangers. I acted precocious and peculiar. If there is a place where my soul was formed, it was sitting on the end of a bulkhead, endlessly trying to capture the toxic waves of the Jersey shore in green and gold glory.

Atlantic City Feeling

“I’m going to be a diving girl!” proclaimed Sonora at the outset of Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. Released in 1991, this film rolls along with the nineties nostalgia by reminding us of our romanticized Great Depression fixation as we head into our own roaring twenty-twenties. As much as I am prone to mock the melodrama, I still replay the “jumping on the horse” scene each time I need motivation. Because I can often relate to the metaphorical, “Look ma, there’s a girl climbing the tower.”

 

The ambition, the angst, and windblown bob continue to capture my imagination. Currently, the shift dress silhouettes and boardwalk beachwood inspire my  aesthetic.

A Seaside Place

At the aforementioned getaway, I would often paint at an aluminum table on the porch — which I begged my family to keep in storage. The ornate legs were difficult to sand and refinish, which I kept in their original glossy white. The green top always capture’s people’s imaginations. For some, it reminds them of a similar piece in their own home. Others have never seen a similar vintage piece. This table fits with my overall home vibe: a simple, seaside place.

 

The beachy inspiration may be hard to detect if you assume themed seashell and beach umbrella style. My look does not hearken a tourist motel room scream toward theme. It’s a feeling inspired by the rush of grass on the dunes and the quiet, bleached tones of a wabi-sabi vacation home.

I’ve always yearned for a simple space, with useful, trusted, practical belongings, that provides a sanctuary for my art. With each apartment, this table sets the style – simple, useful, and trusted.

Vintage Dress- The Conscious Mercantile, Espadrilles – Target, Sunglasses – Franchesca’s

Homeworthiness

Each object should deserve space it occupies in your dwelling. That’s a lofty goal, especially for those who embrace a minimalist lifestyle.

Everything in this collection is homeworthy.

This sets the standard for everything in my collection. Through careful and conscious craftsmanship, I offer art, furniture, and accessories in the greater Lynchburg, Virginia area. Everything you’ll find is a result of my desire to consume less and make more.

Home design

But you may be asking, where this goal comes from and why I came to pursue it.

I care about what comes into my home, and I’m sure you do too.

My journey in making actually started as a change in my consumer habits. For my first apartment, I mixed vintage, hand-me-down pieces with any cheap homegoods I could find on sale. I quickly noticed that the pressboard, cardboard, and temporary pieces looked cheaper with age. However, handmade goods, just looked better with time.

I learned to appreciate hand-made, and often, slow-made things.

So, I completely changed the way I consumed. I sought out older, better pieces to fill my home. I looked for real art from local artists to adorn my space. I learned to appreciate hand-made, and often, slow-made things.

But there were still a few gaps, a lot of room for creativity. So, I’ve started a collection of homegoods and accessories inspired by thoughtful consumption.

Festival Season After College

Woman painting

The closer I move to chanting “I’m thirty, flirty, and thriving” the more I question how festival style works after college. My first, cynical reaction brought me back to my retail days where shop girls quietly judged adult women who shopped in the “juniors” section – no matter whether the sizes fit. My inner critic started censoring items saying, “You’re too old for that.”

Music is the universal language of mankind. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

However, I considered the needs of my actual stage of life. Sure, I don’t spend my nights sleeping in vans anymore but, I still do go to outdoor festivals and concerts. Now, I actually afford whimsical vintage items that will last in my closet for more than one summer season. Now, I can actually take the time to soak in shows and festivals.

So, I am rolling back that grumpy-cat attitude and embracing the truth of this stage of life. If twenty was fun… thirty will be awesome.

Wrist bands on, fest vibes strong. The countdown is on! The official start of festival season is less than one week away and kicks off summer in the Cali desert. For the next two weekends, nothing matters but the music (and the fashion, of course). To get you desert festival-ready, we’re showing you looks that…

via AEO FESTIVAL FASHION: What To Wear This Fest Season — American Eagle Outfitters Blog

Welcome (Back) to “The Jungle”

Upton Sinclair The Jungle

Business regulation, food or otherwise is currently a hot topic, with literary origins. Often, when politicians talk about deregulation, they are referencing a time after the industrial revolution but, before current policies. Simultaneously, whenever people become aware of their consumption habits, questions about factory conditions. Within this history, the novel The Jungle by Upton Sinclair holds a position of infamy.

The contrast between the intention of the author and the reaction of to his novel, inspired me to read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I had first heard of the tome during an American history lesson for its contribution to food safety regulations. During Sinclair’s time, critics dismissed the author as a sensationalist. However, public outcry after the novel’s publishing fueled food regulations shortly after the Great Depression in America.

Uncomfortable Questions

Upton Sinclair quote from The JungleInside the reader discovers squeamish sentences such as, “…and as for the other men, who worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,—sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard!” The Happy Meal experiment pales  in comparison to these assertions.

“I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach,” Upton Sinclair said in an interview with Cosmopolitan Magazine about The Jungle, 1906. Although the conditions of the meat packing facility are secondary to the drama of the main character’s trials, they became the focus after the novel was published. In reality, the novel is a melodrama detailing the underbelly of European immigration to America around the turn of the century. All of the characters meet horrible fates, notably including:

  • Dying in childbirth
  • Working as prostitutes
  • Sleeping on the streets
  • Being eaten to death by rats

Synopsis

The story begins with the main character, Jurgis, arriving in America with his young wife and extended family. They are tired, unskilled, and hopeful. Soon, they fall prey to Chicago’s harsh meat-packing district. Corruption and greed controls the city. Jurgis naively fights against it for most of the tale. Eventually, he caves in to the corruption as his family falls apart. His morality must be sacrificed for the sake of survival. His trials include:

  • The meat-packing factory
  • Prison
  • Theft
  • Becoming a hobo
  • Joining the graft
  • Working for the union
  • Turning on the union
  • Working as a con artist
  • Begging
  • Day labor

It is in the socialist movement that Jurgis finds his passion for work and life again, although he still mourns his dead wife and children. At this point, the story concludes with a hopeful and determined protagonist.

Fear and Food Safety

These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meat would go into the hoppers together. This is no fairy story and no joke; the meat would be shoveled into carts, and the man who did the shoveling would not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one—there were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Even though Jurgis does not spend the entire book working with meat, it remains the most jarring and referenced part of the story. The inhumanity of slaughtering animals, grinding up all their parts, and mixing toxic chemicals into the food of unsuspecting consumers is bleak. Also, food safety concerned privileged members of society. Even the elite need to eat. In an era of minimal oversight, pure capitalism devolved into nauseating greed.

“In 1904, Sinclair spent seven weeks in disguise, working undercover in Chicago’s meatpacking plants to research his political fiction exposé, The Jungle,” Wikipedia states. Contaminated food scandals are familiar to a modern reader. However, during the late 1800s, people assumed that their food was clean and safe, without added chemicals. In our generation, people can rightly assume that much of their food has been processed. Wikipedia notes that the novel, “…exposed conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry, causing a public uproar that contributed in part to the passage a few months later of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act.”

Quality of Life

As the story progresses, many of the main characters perish. Interestingly, the family traded a simple, healthy existence for a competitive life.  Previously, they lived in a rural locale and worked with their hands. However, in coming to America, they found a situation that perpetuates poverty with a lower quality of life. At first, the family falls prey to ignorance, as big businesses and unscrupulous people take advantage of their naivety. Later, Jurgis understands that those same people act unethically for their own survival. As the story continues, the family finds that their simplicity and hardworking attitudes will not help them survive.

Other immigrants try to explain the phenomenon to the newcomers. Basically, the companies wear employees out. Then, hurt and unable to work, each employee succumbs to homelessness. Indeed, Jurgis’ family does fairly well until they start to one-by-one become injured by dangerous working conditions. The danger of living in America is contrasted by the situation in Lithuania.

Their children were not as well as they had been at home; but how could they know that there was no sewer to their house, and that the drainage of fifteen years was in a cesspool under it? How could they know that the pale-blue milk that they bought around the corner was watered, and doctored with formaldehyde besides? When the children were not well at home, Teta Elzbieta would gather herbs and cure them; now she was obliged to go to the drugstore and buy extracts—and how was she to know that they were all adulterated? How could they find out that their tea and coffee, their sugar and flour, had been doctored; that their canned peas had been colored with copper salts, and their fruit jams with aniline dyes? And even if they had known it, what good would it have done them, since there was no place within miles of them where any other sort was to be had?
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

The lack of social programs compounds the issue as workplace injuries result in debt, prison, or death.

Chaos and Calamity

Throughout the story, Jurgis finds himself unable to cope when he is hurt or abused. He is continually falling prey to dangerous and difficult circumstances. Occasionally, a employees would disappear and people would wonder about their fate.

It was said by the boss at Durham’s that he had gotten his week’s money and left there. That might not be true, of course, for sometimes they would say that when a man had been killed; it was the easiest way out of it for all concerned. When, for instance, a man had fallen into one of the rendering tanks and had been made into pure leaf lard and peerless fertilizer, there was no use letting the fact out and making his family unhappy.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

As the people are treated like animals, they begin to act like animals. Jurgis finds himself moving from a muscular, ethical family man to a scrawny creature that leaves his extended family to starve. The main woe of the book is that Jurgis is not unique. All of the meat workers behave like this, leading to larger social problems.

They lodged men and women on the same floor; and with the night there began a Saturnalia of debauchery—scenes such as never before had been witnessed in America. And as the women were the dregs from the brothels of Chicago, and the men were for the most part ignorant country Negroes, the nameless diseases of vice were soon rife; and this where food was being handled which was sent out to every corner of the civilized world.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Believing America’s establishment has failed them, the immigrants begin to favor the new socialist movement. Jurgis, seeing how he has been ruined by the New World, begins to dream of a different life. The story ends on a positive note, as Jurgis bonds with fellow socialists and tries to resist the injustice around him.

Deregulation and Class Systems Today

In America,” Drewnowski wrote in an e-mail, “food has become the premier marker of social distinctions, that is to say—social class. It used to be clothing and fashion, but no longer, now that ‘luxury’ has become affordable and available to all.” – Lisa Miller, WHAT FOOD SAYS ABOUT CLASS IN AMERICA, Newsweek

Today, food is still one of the biggest indicators of class divide in America. Those of better means are more likely to have access to, and knowledge about, better food. Conversely, food deserts separate low income communities from healthy options. Starting with Paltrow’s SNAP gaffe a few years ago, several journalists experimented with living on food stamps or trying to stick to small food budgets. While talking heads debate whether it is possible to eat healthy on a low income, we can all agree that it is difficult. Eating healthy takes energy, knowledge, money, and time.

Personally, I believe the ability to make changes in this area is one of the distinctions between being broke versus being poor. Broke people have a way out of food deserts. Poor people cannot leave. For example, I started my adult life as low income with entry level pay and student debt. However, I was college-educated, growing in in my ability to earn, and knew that I would eventually have better access to healthy options. Even while I was technically living on the poverty line, I  wasn’t systematically poor . This is why I have never classified myself poor even when I didn’t have much money.

From those experiences, I have started to understand that essential priorities often compete with other essential priorities. That strain, over a lifetime, becomes exhausting.

Below are food insecurity areas that need greater awareness for change:

  • Limited resources and lack of access to healthy, affordable foods
  • Cycles of Food Deprivation and Overeating
  • High Levels of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
  • Fewer Opportunities for Physical Activity
  • Greater Exposure to Marketing of Obesity-Promoting Products
  • Limited Access to Health Care

Because of our current climate of deregulation and recent push for smaller government, The Jungle maintains some relevance. Certainly, Sinclair’s style is alarmist. However, the story relates to modern discussion about food, work, and class in America. The emotions of Jurgis’ struggle mirror the emotions of modern low-income families, especially those trapped in a multi-generational cycle of poverty. The story still uncovers the same questions about our society and why it is structured to place barriers between our citizens and access to healthy food, safe working conditions, and fair wages.

Do you think The Jungle maintains any relevance today?

5 Reasons You (Mistakenly) Hate Your Apartment

cool coffee table

Four apartments in ten years have hosted my life and belongings. In each, I have experienced seasons of both comfort and frustration. Throughout my nomadic renting, I learned to focus on making the space work for my lifestyle and adjusting my lifestyle to the space. With this balance, a temporary living situation becomes a freeing and empowering experience.

My First Place

Do you ever get angry about something because you know a situation your fault? My first apartment revealed my gaps in life management. Everything was a mess, perpetuating my stress and discomfort. I couldn’t afford the necessary organizational items to corral my belongings, more so the large pieces of furniture like desks, dressers, and bookshelves. As I started to dumpster dive for furniture, I noticed an overwhelming imbalance of tiny junk and useful places to store it. Knick knacks, clothes, textbooks, and random gadgets littered all of my surfaces. However, I really needed a couch, some dishtowels, and a filing cabinet. Eventually, I piled everything into cardboard boxes by item type and started googling.

Frustratingly, most home keeping advice is focused on houses and families. I didn’t need to organize children’s toys in a playroom or create a bin system for Christmas decorations. I needed a plan to take the piles of stuff from college and childhood and make my apartment function for my single, working life. Projects quickly became clear as I began outlining my problems:

  • Furniture arrangement for sleeping, working, and entertaining
  • Clothing cycle that can be maintained
  • Meal plan and regular grocery list
  • Organization for existing belongings
  • Filing for paperwork and a process for paying bills

Although I thought I functioned well in college, my adult life needed much more management. That meant taking ownership of my space and making my apartment work for me.

#AllTheReasons

Home lust – it trips all apartment dwellers from time to time. The resentment stems from a feeling of comparison and manifests as a subtle discontentment. However, renting makes sense for a lot of people. Below is a list of reasons you may mistakenly hate your apartment.

1. It’s too small: People tend to expand and outgrow the space available. The trick to enjoying a small space is living with less stuff. It won’t feel small when there is a place for everything. Look through your extra stuff and decide if you want it more than the open and airy feeling. Then, make a plan to control how much you consume in the future.

2. It’s temporary: This mental obstruction keeps a lot of people from enjoying their apartment. They feel like it’s not a “forever home.” Therefore the effort to decorate it seems to be wasted. However, I find a freshness comes from moving around. It makes you really consider filling your home with things you like and will take with you instead of just buying stuff to fill your current space.

3. It’s up stairs or without a yard: While I love a yard, not having one doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing all the green. Ideas for porch and indoor gardens are becoming more mainstream. Also, you can spend more time outside because you have less space to maintain. Focus on the parks and green spaces around your apartment. Make those a part of your routine.

4. It’s not custom: Just because you don’t have built-in shelving or a pallet accent wall doesn’t mean you can’t make your space reflect your personality. There are a lot of great temporary ideas to decorate apartments without losing your deposit. Personally, I like to line walls with molding to create a little leaning gallery.

5. It’s cheap and ugly: I’ll admit that I’m not fond of the builder-grade fixtures or the white carpet. However, fixating on it doesn’t make it go away. Instead, I find ways to shift the focus away from the unsightly elements and move it to the parts I like. For example, I usually center furniture around the windows as the focus point. This draws my eye to the 3rd story view instead of the floor.

53b2729d15a7e0a9287e0a3041d56aa3Love Your Space

This month, I’m moving again and my new space is actually smaller than my last two apartments. Instead, I chose this spot based off of location because I wanted walking access to certain amenities. As I’ve begun packing my belongings, I am reminded of how much my consumption habits have changed. I keep clutter to a minimum by limiting my possessions to the amount of space I have.

The process requires a total understanding of my priorities. For many people, it will require deep research if you didn’t grow up functioning in a rental situation. I needed to consider my most basic needs and focus my living situation on what I could control. Then, I prioritized the space around that.

You will find yourself challenging norms and slowly shifting your habits. With time, you may even find that you no longer own items that were previously a standard part of your routine. Also, you will remember that as seasons of life change, so do your needs. A mindful evaluation of your stuff and your space will help you maintain an apartment that works well for you.

 

 

An Intentional Day Keeps the Clutter Away

I don’t have salt and pepper shakers. This is a shock to most people. First, they must process my presumption that I have properly seasoned your food. Then, there they consier my audacity in skipping over this mainstay of culinary tools. Why no shakers? Simply put, I haven’t found the right ones yet.

Quote from THe Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis StevensonQuestion Everything

As Tyler Durden in Fight Club explains, “You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your —– khakis.” Similarly, I started a journey several years ago to question what I own and what “owns me.” So, I refuse to bring something into my home that I don’t love or need. This is one of the quirks of careful consumption, which permeates my home. In our consumerist society, I find that waiting to get the right object is considered a little bizarre. Below are some quirks of this process.

You won’t settle for “just now”. This means you refuse to bring something into your home when you feel it doesn’t belong. For example, I’m using my kitchen chairs as part-time desk chairs. I’m not sure I truly need a desk chair or that I’ll keep my current desk. So, I’m making do with double-duty furniture.

You are willing to borrow for the short term. I know this seems cheap but, I will borrow or rent things before I buy them. Trying them out to see if they work in my life is the best way to make the decision. This really helps with tools for new hobbies or furniture in a temporary space. More than once I have assumed that I was going to need tools or supplies that I never used.

You do a lot of research — online and in person. You probably think about a purchase for months before it actually ends up in your home. You ask a lot of questions, especially for current users of the product. And when you are finally sure, you buy it.

In the meantime, your life will seem a little odd — missing a few normal pieces. But, it’s a refreshing habit in our consumer culture to be a little more deliberate about purchases.

Questions to Ask

If you’re interested in a lifestyle focused on careful consumption, you will find yourself questioning every purchase. This is a journey that I started as a young adult and it is starting to shape both my consumption and creation. Below are some of the questions I use during the buying process.

Is it in my budget? If it’s not in the budget, you probably shouldn’t buy it. Obviously, you have to start by having a budget. Then, you need to get your spending on track with the budget. This helps with impulse buys that you may regret later.

Can I borrow it? This works well for tools, instruments, and large items. Often, family and friends have stuff in storage that they prefer to see used. I’ve even had people loan me art or furniture because they would prefer someone enjoy it. As long as you’re responsible, borrowing is a good way to figure out whether you want to own one for yourself.

Can I get it secondhand? Careful consumers look for ways to use items that have already been produced. This lowers the overall amount of waste in our society. If you can save something from a landfill, that is a win. Figure out if the item is something that you can get used.

Do I already have one? While it may sound obvious, many shoppers repeatedly buy items because they lose them. It’s a common problem with clutter. To avoid this issue, make sure you organize and declutter your home before shopping again.

How long will I keep it? This question speaks to the durability and sustainability of the product. For non-consumable purchases, try to buy items that you intend to keep for a while. For consumables, give some thought to how you will dispose of wrapping and waste.

Where is it made? There are several questions related to this can help with ethical consumerism. This question  forces you to acknowledge the origin of the item and understand how it came into existence.

If you’re starting to think more carefully about what comes into your home, then you will find yourself asking the questions above.

Tips and Tricks

With each new month is a chance to save a little cash and look at ways to declutter our lives – like with the 30-Day Minimalism Game. After a month of conservative financial choices, most people are a burned out on frugality. So, below is a list of ways I try to feel richer without spending money.

1. Go to the library: This is one of those tired tips from frugal people that no one seems to use. Our local library is often very empty. If you feel a little deprived in the spending area, get some new media from the library. The new stories will make your world feel a little bit richer.

My tip: Start with a book of quotes. These small ideas can be digested quickly and inspire a new tone for the day.

2. Propagate a plant: Not only is it cheap, propagating a plant allows you to duplicate your possessions. The extra sprout can move to your office or make a nice future gift. Also, the process of researching and growing a new plant feels rewarding.

My tip: Work with a green-thumbed friend on this little project. They can help you make sure you maintain both plant’s health.

3. Rotate your stuff: Pack some stuff away for a few months. Whether you choose clothing, accessories, or home decor, a little free space feels good. Then, switch the items out every few months. It will make things feel fresh, like you’re shopping in your own home.

My tip: Set a personal limit on how much you’re willing to store. For example, I have limited home decor to 4 bins total, 3 for Christmas decorations and 1 for other decor. This means I have to get rid of something before I bring in a new decoration.

4. Use those supplies: Almost everyone has random leftovers from hobbies lying around their house. Pull them together and start looking for ways to use them. If they’re cooking ingredients, find a few recipes to use them. If they’re crafting supplies, create something new with them. Not only will you free up some space but, you might get something new through the creative process.

My tip: Mark Montano’s blog gives a lot of ideas for supplies that most people are trying to use up. He posts frequently so, keep your eyes on his site.

To summarize, holding back the clutter in your life starts with an intentional thought process. Each day, you will find yourself choosing between chaotic clutter and calming free space. Whether you are a creative person, Type A or super busy, you will benefit from this shift toward anti-consumerist thinking. I’d like to know, how do you get control of your environment?

Grow Your Own Lucky Bamboo

Maybe you bought your bamboo on an impulse walking around an open-air market. Lucky bamboo’s popularity stems from easy maintenance and low-key watering routine. In fact, the plant grows well in difficult environments like offices or dingy apartments. With time, you’ll find that the leaves grow tall and stretch toward the light. With that growth, you can actually propagate your lucky bamboo plant(similar to those crazy romaine lettuce videos).

 

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Instructions

After the trim, all you need to do is clip off the stem and leave it in water to root. Below are a few more tips for a successful rooting.
1. Use clean scissors. I washed mine, rinsed them in alcohol, and rinsed again in water. This makes sure that both the stem and the main plant don’t get an infection.

2. Strip down some of the lower leaves. There shouldn’t be any submerged leaves. Also, less leaves to support allows the plant to focus on sprouting roots.

3. Keep it away from fresh produce. This goes for all houseplants but, especially new sprouts. They do much better away from that fruit bowl.

With these tips, you can simply slice off a stem and root it in water.

It’s not Actually Bamboo

Did you know that Lucky Bamboo is not actually bamboo? The plant originated in West Africa and continues to grow in popularity in several countries. Because of this, Lucky Bamboo grows best indoors.

In a small space, greenery adds color and life without creating more clutter. In fact, it can put some cute trinkets and containers to better use. For example, a cherished mug or heirloom dish can be repurposed as a planter by simply adding a bamboo stem, water and stones. Personally, I cleaned my own seashell and rock collections to root a few new bamboo stems. For years, I had three little terra cotta pots from my trip to Brazil packed away in a box of keepsakes. Now, they support three fresh, green lucky bamboo plants.

Plants as Gifts

Plants are my favorite gifts, especially as a replacement for celebratory bouquets. I can’t prove that it is a greener or more eco-friendly choice. However, growing your own gifts must cut down on some of the ancillary affects to the environment such as packaging, shipping, and fertilizer run-off. A plant grown from a cutting a a particularly personal present. Grown from a stem in your own home, the gift can symbolize your connection.

While a bundle of roses or peonies are fun, a potted plant won’t die after a week. And with this life, you can actually encourage new life, by propagating them. Lucky bamboo, a commonly gifted plant, is actually easy to propagate once it sprouts a stem. What plants do you have in your home? Tag me –I would love to see photos!