Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Yearly archive for 2017

Minimalism And Sustainability

Minimalism is something you can do to improve your life; but the ripple effects improve our surroundings. By cutting down on consumerism, you’re not just helping your wallet or your closet; you’re helping the planet.

minimalism sustainability

Here are 4 ways to use minimalism to become even more environmentally responsible:

1. Try A Bamboo Toothbrush

I’ve recently made the switch to bamboo toothbrushes and I love it. Plastic toothbrushes don’t ever break down – and they are creating quite a problem for landfills. It’s estimated that 50 million pounds of plastic toothbrushes enter landfills every year! Bamboo is a compostable material, so by making the switch, you’ll be saving the landfills a few extra toothbrushes every year.

2. Minimize Packaging

minimalism sustainabilityThough it’s common to use reusable grocery bags now, did you know that you can also purchase reusable produce bags? I bought two mesh produce bags, which has allowed me to do a large part of my grocery shopping plastic-free. If you aren’t ready to take the plunge yet, try just taking a look at the plastic that you do use. Is it necessary to put onions, garlic, or lemons into a plastic bag?

3. Buy Second Hand

I recently watched a documentary called The True Cost. I was not aware, prior to this documentary, of the impact that our clothing has on the environment. Becoming a minimalist vastly reduces the amount of clothing that I purchase, but after watching this documentary, I decided to start purchasing as many of my clothes second hand as possible. This documentary shows not only the working conditions of sweatshops, but it really shows the impact that fast fashion has on our planet. So many clothes are being made, bought, and discarded at alarmingly rapid rates. By combining minimalism and buying second hand, I do as much as I can to help the planet in terms of clothing waste.

minimalism sustainability

4. Consider What You Have Before Buying Something

I recently wanted to switch from using a hairbrush every day to a wooden comb. I searched for wooden combs for months before finding the perfect one. I was so excited to become more sustainable by using a wooden hair tool instead of a plastic brush that I’ve had for three years. But right before I checked out, I realized that this would not be a more sustainable choice at all.

My plastic hairbrush still worked just fine. There was nothing wrong with it, and the only reason I wanted to switch was for my own convenience (and what I thought was sustainability). Luckily I realized this before checking out, and have now decided to use my plastic hair brush until I no longer can. At that point, I’ll check out with that wooden brush. Sustainability is about creating less waste – not about buying something new because it’s more eco-friendly.

minimalism sustainability

These tips have helped me become more sustainable on my minimalist journey over the last two years. Minimalism in itself is a wonderful way to be more eco-friendly, but I love learning more about how we can help the Earth even further.

Your Turn!

  • Which tip will you try?
  • What are your favorite tips for environmental sustainability?

 

 

 

How to Season and Care for Cast Iron Cookware

When cast iron is well-cared for it easily becomes your trusty standby that you wouldn’t dream of cooking without. The more you use it, the more the finish builds up and becomes part of the pan. Before long you will be slipping a fried egg out of it faster than any non-stick pan out there.

seasoning cast iron

As the finish builds up so does the flavor! The oils that you cook with and the fats from your food are what bond with the pan to create that non-stick coating. Many people have concerns over using Teflon to cook with because of concerns over chemicals leaching from nicks or scrapes in the finish. Cast iron is the perfect solution to that problem. A well-developed finish is nearly indestructible and if for some reason rust develops you can always re-season the pan.

What does it mean to season cast iron?

Cast iron cookware is made of raw metal without any coating on it which means that if exposed to water it will rust. That is why it needs to be seasoned. Seasoning your cast iron cookware is a process of heating oil beyond the smoke point to create a smooth, durable finish.

vintage cast iron

How to season a new pan!

You will want to season your pan when it is new, if it has rusted, or anytime the finish has been compromised. It is a very simple process. You will need about a tablespoon of oil. Flax seed oil is considered one of the best oils for creating a durable finish. I really like avocado oil too.

Dribble a little oil into the pan and then use a clean, lint-free rag or a paper towel to wipe the oil all over the pan. Now take an additional rag or paper towel and wipe off any excess oil. Leaving a thick layer of oil on the pan will cause the finish to build up too quickly and leave a sticky residue. The finish that you create with thick coats of oil does not bond to the pan, so they easily flake off while you are cooking.

old cast iron skillets

Now take the pan with all excess oil removed and place it in the oven face down and then heat your oven to 400 F degrees. Once the oven has reached 400 F degrees, continue cooking for ten minutes. You want your pan to get hot enough that it begins to smoke a little bit. That is how you know the oil has reached a high enough temperature to bond to the pan.

Turn the oven off and allow the pan to cool down in the oven. Do not pull the pan out of the oven and do not submerse it in water when it is hot.

How to clean cast iron cookware

cleaning cast iron

It is ok to submerge the pan and to use soap. Just make sure you do not leave the pan in the sink to soak. Rust will develop, and then you will have to season it again. I use a stainless steel scrubby on my cast iron. It doesn’t absorb the oil and seems to preserve the finish on the pan better than anything else.

Now that you have a great finish on your pan how do you clean it up? Start by scraping any food bits out of the pan. It is ok to submerse your pan in water while you are washing it, but you don’t want to soak it at all, or it will rust. Heating water in the pan is how I deal with food that gets stuck to the pan.

season cast iron skillet

How to maintain the finish.

Once the pan is all cleaned up again, it is important to add to the finish of the pan and seal it again. However this time it is a simplified version. Pour a little oil into the pan, wipe off all of the excesses, and then heat on the stove top. You want to heat just until you see little wisps of smoke then promptly remove from the heat. Set it aside and let it cool. There really isn’t much you can do to mess it up, just make sure that you wipe off all of the excess oil so that you don’t end up with a gummy build up.

Don’t be overwhelmed by any of this. I am sure it seems a bit foreign if you didn’t grow up with cast iron cookware but it is tough to mess it up. Even better, if something does get messed up, you can just scrub the pan really well and start again.

cast iron finish

 

Your Turn

  • What do you remember your grandma cooking in her cast iron pan?
  • How do you season your cast iron pans?

7 Ways to Prepare for Retirement

Financial independence doesn’t just happen once you turn 65. It takes planning and living on less than you make so that you can save and invest. Regardless of your age though, it’s good to know that it’s never too late to prepare for your retirement.

Retirement on beach

1. Pay off Your Debt and have an Emergency Fund

If you have not finished paying off your consumer debt or do not have a fully funded emergency fund in place, you want to focus on these things first before you start setting money aside for retirement. You want to set up a debt payment plan that would see you free from your consumer debt within 2-3 years and then very quickly move your focus to getting that emergency fund filled.

When you’re dealing with a reduced retirement income, the last thing that you want to be doing is still devoting income to your debt repayment or emergency savings. The goal here is to make sure you’re on a solid financial footing and are in a place where you can enjoy your retirement income that you’ve worked so hard for.

2. Start Saving and Stick To Your Goals

The sooner you’re able to start saving for retirement and able to stick to your monthly savings goal, the better off you’ll be. Ideally you’ve put yourself in a place where you can begin setting aside 10-15% of your monthly income into your retirement account. If you’re debt free including your home feel free to put in more than this.

In your monthly budget, make sure that you have a line for retirement savings and that you are sticking to your savings goal each and every month.

3. Know Your Retirement Needs

What you’ll need to save is dependent on the type of lifestyle that you would like to have when you retire. Most financial experts suggest that in order to retire comfortably you should aim to cash flow 70-80% of your peak pre-retirement income.

This amount is not written in stone. Many couples can retire on 60-70% of their pre-retirement income providing that they are debt free and their children are financially independent. There are many retirement calculators that you can use to help you determine how much is enough when saving for your retirement.

4. Contribute to Your Employers Retirement Savings Plan

If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, you want to make sure that you take advantage of it. Not only will you be able to take advantage of compounding interest, but your taxes will be lower, your employer may offer a match to kick in extra money, and automatic deductions make saving easy.

If your employer offers a traditional pension plan, you want to make sure that you ask for an individual benefit statement (if one isn’t sent to you automatically every year) to see what your benefit is worth. If you are planning on a career change or changing employers, you also want to find out what will happen to your pension benefit.

5. Put Money into an Individual Retirement Account

Don’t just stop your retirement planning with your company’s 401(k) option or pension. You also want to make sure that you take advantage of the tax benefits that an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) offers.You can put up to $5,500 a year into an IRA and you can contribute even more if you are over the age of 50.

There are two different types of IRAs to choose from. If you go with a Traditional IRA, the yearly contributions you make are tax deductible on both your state and federal income tax while any withdrawals are taxed at your income tax rate. The Roth IRA provides no tax break on the contributions, but earnings and withdrawals are generally tax-free.

6. Find Out About Your Social Security Benefits

Social Security pays benefits that are on average 40 percent of what you earned before retirement. You can use a retirement estimator to see what your expected benefit may be as you get closer to your retirement age.

7. Ask Questions

When preparing for retirement, the most important thing you can do is ask questions. Not only ask, but make sure that you understand the answers that you are given.

Be sure to ask your employer and union about retirement planning that is available through work. You also want to talk to a financial advisor when setting up your investments to make sure that your investments are diversified and you are taking the appropriate risk level for your age, goals, financial circumstances, and your personal comfort level.

Your Turn!

  • What are your retirement goals?
  • What steps have you taken to help reach them?

 

2 Second Lean – Eliminating Waste And Making Life Easier

I recently came across this book (which is free) and was blown away.  Lean is a philosophy of eliminating waste in our daily lives, at work or at home, to improve how we get things done.  There was a lot of overlap with a lot of what we hold dear as tiny housers.  It’s primarily oriented to manufacturing, but has a lot of practical applications in any workplace and even in our homes.

get rid of waste in life

What struck me was that 2 second lean was approachable. I’ve read a lot on Six Sigma, Agile, Scrum, and other systems, but this just clicked better.  The method had a lot of very simple lessons and application was super easy.  A lot of the techniques employed are things that we already do as tiny housers, but some new ones as well.  There some practices that really stuck out for me.

Here are a few key terms before we get into it all, most are from the Japanese who developed a lot of this stuff:

Kaizen: is a Japanese term continuous improvement.  Though slow and steady improvements we attain a better way of life.  Example: when we notice something bothers us constantly, we fix it.

Poka Yoke: this term is designing things so we can’t make mistakes or minimize them drastically.  It also is design that when a mistake is made, it jumps out at us so we can identify it.  Example: a front load washer will not start until the door is fully closed, preventing spills.

Kanban: is a technique we provide cues to remind us to refill something, buy another of an item etc so we don’t run out.  Example: I take a bright colored piece of paper, cut it to the size of a toilet paper roll and place it on top of my last one.  When I use the TP, I suddenly see the bright paper, I know I need to order more.

Visual Controls: This is employing marking and other visual cues to help people understand what’s going on at a glance.  The ideal situation is to be so clear a person could walk in and find anything or understand the flow without external direction.  Example: label bins so people know what is in them without having to look inside.

Lean is all about seeing and eliminating waste.  In our own lives we want to remove waste to make our lives easier, to give us more time to do things we’d rather do, to improve the work we do, and enjoy things more when we are relaxing.

There are 7 types of waste

At Work
At Home

  • Defects: we make a mistakes
  • Overproduction: we do extra work to fix know problems over and over again
  • Waiting: When we sit around waiting for someone to do something
  • Missed Potential: We don’t use the best person for the job
  • Excess Inventory: We have to much stuff, which leads to clutter and stress
  • Wasted Motion: we don’t have what we need close by or at hand
  • Defects: Time consuming mistakes
  • Overproduction: We don’t fix something that bothers us
  • Waiting: Wasting time on things
  • Missed potential: We don’t empower others to help
  • Excess inventory: We have clutter
  • Wasted Motion: We are constantly walking to get something

Kaizen at home:

how to declutter

When you are decluttering an areas have three boxes handy: one for trash, one box for things you want to keep, and a third box for things to donate.  When you declutter an area pull everything out.  While you’re in your downsizing process, consider having a set of general boxes so when you find something that needs to be dealt with it has a place to go right away.

Poka Yoke at home:

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Think about how you can make sure things get back to where they’re supposed to be, to make sure people have the tools at hand to do the job and error proof things as much as you can.

Kanban at home:

kanban boxes in life and at home

These are bins that are mostly blue, but one end is red, an adjustable divider lets you set your threshold.  Let’s say you have 6 cans of soup, you’d put four in the blue half and then two in the red half.  Start with the blue side out, but when you run out of soup in the blue half, you’ll be forced to flip the bin to the red side.  You’ll have two more soups to go, but your bin now signals that you need to get more soup because you look for the red.

Visual controls at home:

Organizing things with visual controls will let you know exactly what goes where and identify quickly what is missing or out of place.

Taping spots for things will show people where things go.

Kanban Board in real life:

kanban board to do list

So for those of you who want to check the book out, it’s called 2 Second Lean and it’s free in a pdf and audio.  You can check it out here:  read 2 second lean here

 

Your Turn!

  • How do you eliminate waste in your life?
  • How do you make small improvements in your life?

Minimalism and Internet: How To Minimize Your Internet Use

Minimalism can apply to so many aspects of your life, but minimizing your internet use can have one of the biggest impacts of all. When I applied minimalism to my internet use, I discovered so much more free time to work on what is really important to me.

It can be difficult to get off the internet sometimes, especially if you use it for work, or have an addiction to social media ( it’s estimated that 75% of millennials feel addicted to social media).  So, how do you quit using the internet so much? Here are five tips to cut down your internet usage:

minimalism internet

1. Install a Blocker

There are apps that you can install into Safari or Chrome to block sites of your choosing when you turn the app on. When I started to cut down on my internet use, I installed an app called Strict Workflow. Sites such as Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest, Tumblr and Reddit are all blocked. This is really helpful if you work online and need some time to focus.

2. Put Your Phone Away

It’s polite to put your phone away when you’re spending time with a friend. If I’m out with a friend, I’ll leave my phone in my bag, or my pocket. To cut down on your internet use, do the same when you’re focused on a task on your own. If I’m reading a book, I’ll move my phone to somewhere I can’t see it. Out of sight, out of mind.

3. Disable Notifications

minimalism internetMy life changed when I turned off all notifications on my phone. I no longer get any notifications – no Facebook notifications, no Instagram notifications, not even notifications of my incoming text messages. Because I’m no longer getting that distracting noise coming from my phone, I am more able to focus fully on what I’m doing at the moment. My friends know that if they really need to get ahold of me, they can call; otherwise, they know that I may not respond to messages for hours.

4. Try an Internet Fast

An internet fast is where you don’t go online for a certain amount of time. You can simply do a 15 minute internet fast at the same time every day, where you go for a walk or get a coffee with a coworker, or you can check out for longer periods of time. I try to schedule at least two weeks a year where I am not online. I’ll go camping in a remote area for a week (without my laptop) for some quality family time, then later in the year I’ll go to a yoga retreat (preferably in a remote area without wifi). This helps me rejuvenate my mind, and when I come back to the internet, I come back focused, determined, and ready to work.

minimalism internet

5. Cut Your Wifi

If you work in an office and would really like to cut down on internet use at home, consider going without wifi. This will save you money and make it a lot harder to spend your free time scrolling. When you aren’t capable of getting online, you’ll be able to find much more productive and fun things to do.

I hope these five steps to cutting down on your internet use help you to spend your precious free time more wisely. Minimizing my internet use has led to so much more happiness in my own life – I have more time to read, write, and do the things I love.

Your Turn!

  • Which tip will you try to cut down your internet use?
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