Recycling can be Clutter Too

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At our home, one week is yard waste week and one week is recycling week. We have a very small trash bin and a very large recycling bin. I have always tried to recycle as much as possible and not throw away a lot. However, the other day I got an “oops” notice that I could not recycle takeout containers or frozen food boxes. It turns out there are several items that cannot be recycled in our area.

Then, about 2 weeks ago for some reason the truck forgot to take our recycling. Our bin was very full, so now we have an overflow of recycling in our garage. I have boxes I am filling with recycling until it is picked up again on Wednesday morning.

Given that I spend quite a bit of time on recycling and dealing with it, especially when there is a backlog, it really made me think about the packages of items that I was bringing home after grocery shopping. So many things come in plastic clam-shells, plastic bags or other types of plastic tubs and containers. Very few plastic containers (even if they have a recycling symbol/number on them) can be recycled in our area. So, even though it may make it to the recycling plant, it may get thrown away anyway. And, recycling takes quite a bit of energy.

In a way I am glad that we have had these experiences recently because it made me think- “Wow! Having too much recycling or bringing in too many packaging items when grocery shopping is a form of clutter as well.” I was cluttering up our garage with lots of extra packaging that may or may not be recyclable. This realization made me take lots of action. It will be a gradual, continual process of change which I will update you all on, but I feel that I have made headway already.

My goal is to get down to mostly recycling: glass, paper and metal. These materials are much easier to recycle and take less energy to do so. Recycling these items is a win-win because we save a lot of water and raw materials by recycling them.

Plastics on the other hand are very complicated to recycle and also just because it has a number on it doesn’t mean it will be recycled in your area, or at all. Those number just state the type of plastic that is used. Single-use plastics are the ones that we should be most concerned about. These are ones that are used for packaging or things like takeout containers or forks, spoons, knives used at food trucks, for camping or picnics.

Here is a quote from an article I found online by Viv who sells compostable food supplies:

“While a number of plastics are now recyclable, EcoCycle encourages you to avoid plastic and single-use packaging as much as possible—in the past 45 years, it’s increased more than 10,000%!”

Wow!! An increase of 10,000% in single use plastic use. I can believe it as I look around my kitchen cupboards and realize there are many products I will not be buying anymore unless I can find them in non-plastic packaging.

Here are some things that I have started doing to reduce plastic waste and reduce our recycling as well.

Reducing Plastic at the Grocery Store:

When you go grocery shopping you can reduce the single-use plastics that you bring home by paying close attention to what the products are packaged in. Also, I have stopped using plastic bags at the store for my fruits and vegetables. I can either use mesh bags, put them in re-usable bags I have brought from home, or just put them straight into the cart. I have started to make sure that as many bottled items come in a glass bottle and preferably with a metal lid. Yesterday when I went shopping I decided to buy broth base in a glass jar with a metal lid instead of buying broth in a carton with a plastic lid. All in all I only came home with 1 plastic jar of a condiment that I couldn’t find a current alternative for. I will continue to find ways to reduce and ultimately not bring home any plastic packaging as time goes on. Next will be to buy in bulk using my own bags or jars.

Farmer’s Market:

I am also going to make a real effort to shop more at the local farmer’s market because plastic packaging is not so prevalent there. I of course have a lot of reusable bags I can use and many of the products are packaged in paper or in glass jars. Also because the products are produced locally it doesn’t take as much fuel use to get them to shoppers. This is a great win-win situation where you are creating less waste, fewer items to recycle and you are supporting local farmers and makers.

Making Your Own:

Another way to reduce single-use plastic packaging is to make some of the items that you usually buy in the grocery store yourself. Three examples that I have tried or will try that usually come in plastic packaging are the following:

Bread: While you sometimes can get bread in a paper bag, many loaves come in plastic bags. Knowing that we buy at least 1 loaf a week, I decided to teach my son how to make bread. We made 2 loaves and then wrapped them in fabric bags to be stored on the counter for slicing for sandwiches and toast. My son was thrilled, had fun and noted that the bread tasted amazing!

Pasta: Many types of pasta come in plastic bags or in cardboard boxes with plastic windows in them. This week I am going to show my son how to make pasta since we have a pasta roller and cutter at home. We will make a batch of fresh pasta to use for dinner and it will save packaging!

Yogurt: Usually every week I buy Greek yogurt. I always buy the largest container that I can, but it is still a plastic container. For this reason I looked up how to make yogurt online and it is so easy! As soon as I am done with the yogurt I have in the refrigerator I will make my own.

As time goes on I am sure that we will make lots of other items that we usually buy in packages. We will continue to reduce our waste and recycling.

Take Out Containers:

Last night I tried an experiment and it worked great! We went to a local restaurant to celebrate my husband’s birthday. I know that we always take leftovers home with us and since these containers cannot be recycled in our area, I decided to bring two glass containers from home to the restaurant to put our leftovers in. This worked perfectly! Sure enough, we filled both containers with our leftovers and there was no food waste and no container waste either!

Buy Locally:

When you buy items locally (not just groceries) you reduce the amount of packaging because you can bring your own bags and you are not creating more recycling by having all of those cardboard boxes and packing materials to sort through. Also, it takes less fuel/transport to get the items to you. There are some wonderful zero waste products that you may need to order online, but those companies usually use very little packaging and it is easily recycled or even can be sent back to be re-used. I know that my local UPS store will take packing materials and re-use them which is a plus for those times when you need to order certain things online.

Vintage Clothing:

For my summer wardrobe(since I have de-cluttered old summer outfits) I have my eye on going to the local, beautiful vintage clothing store for a couple of special items. In this way I am reducing waste because this clothing is getting re-used and given a new life. Much of vintage clothing is also made from more natural fibers such as cotton and silk. It’s great to be excited about making old clothing new again by getting a “new-to-you” outfit.

I would love to hear your ideas on reducing plastic waste and other waste. Comment below or send an email to me:

trista.signe.ainsworth@gmail.com

Joyful Minimalism:

If you are ready to explore your things but need weekly/daily support and would like to work with me one on one, feel free to reach out to me by email and I can send you a client survey and set up a call with you. I can work with local clients and long distance clients. I have accountability packages & coaching packages: 

trista.signe.ainsworth@gmail.com


Possibility Space

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Recently a client told me that de-cluttering and clearing her home was like seeing the sunshine come through the clouds. If you have a home that is covered in clutter in the form of piles of paper, boxes of things, overflowing bags and shelves your home feels like a dark, cloudy day. There is a beautiful, charming and lovely home underneath, you just have to take a few minutes a day to remove the clutter and begin to see the light shine. You begin to see the possibility of the home that was always there, of the space that you have been craving and searching for. You are peeling back the dark layers to reveal a sparkling space.

I have noticed through work with clients and through my own home clearing process and continual care of my home that layer after layer of clouds start to go away, and the light of new ways of life and new ways of being start to shine through. It is not just about our physical space, it is about the mental clutter that the physical items create as well. Here are a few examples I would like to share with you about my personal experience.

Play Space Possibilities:

One super fun result of our recent de-cluttering of our entire home has been that we have started to thin out a large collection of board games. This is a process that will take some time, but in the meantime we can actually see the games that remain on the shelves, pick them out and play 1-3 games a week. My 10 year old son has really taken a liking to some games that we hadn’t played in years. It’s been fun and such a great evening activity for the three of us! I look forward to playing more games together.

Time Possibilities:

Another thing that I have noticed as I have de-cluttered is that I have more time. As a result of going through my memory boxes and wondering why we may be afraid of the present moment and thus are spending too much time on our phones and other devices, I have decided to spend very little time on my phone. I was spending upwards of 4-5 hours on it every day. I have noticed in the days following the choice to be on my phone as little as possible, I have gained those 4-5 hours in my day back and then some. I have had more time to spend with my family relaxing, more time to read books, meditate, write in a journal, think about ideas, draw, explore art projects and more. This is a huge revelation to me. I think that I was losing so much time every day not only when I was on my phone but because of the after-effects of constantly checking email and social media. I felt like my brain was really scrambled from information overload. I felt like I was spinning around thinking that I had to do 10 things at a time when really I only needed to do a few things each day. I feel so at home now just in the present moment, just being. It is so amazingly refreshing.

Peace of Mind Possibilities:

Recently we finished getting all of our tax paperwork ready for our accountant. It was a relatively quick process and as a result of my de-cluttering I found an important document we needed for our taxes. Also, after we got our packet ready to drop off at the accountant’s office I was able to find exactly where to file the remaining papers since I only have 1 file drawer to keep papers in. I no longer wonder if the papers are in the office or garage. This is fantastic peace of mind!

Are you beginning to see the possibilities of clearing more space for play, creativity, peace of mind and being in your home? If you’d like some help and would like to work one on one with me, I’d love for you to reach out. comment below or email me at:

trista.signe.ainsworth@gmail.com

Joyful Minimalism: 

If you are ready to explore your things but need weekly/daily support and would like to work with me one on one, feel free to reach out to me by email and I can send you a client survey and set up a call with you. I can work with local clients and long distance clients. 

trista.signe.ainsworth@gmail.com

Why are you hanging on to stuff that stresses you?

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Let’s get curious for a moment. (Just like the cat in the picture above, looking through the boxes). Do you feel stressed in your own home? Do you have piles and boxes of things stored away or in plain sight that leave you wondering what to do? In this post we are here together to answer the question: Why are we hanging on to stuff that stresses us? Here I’m going to explore three reasons why we may be hanging on to all of that stuff and how we can let those reasons go.

The Case of What If:

We all hang on to things because of the thought “What if?” For example, we hang on to a very specific piece of cooking equipment because we think “What if I decide to make _________ for a party.” We probably haven’t used it for many years, or ever, but that “what if” lurks around as if it were speaking to us every time we look at or think of that item. We may keep a piece of clothing because “What if I decide to go on a trip and I need to wear ____________.” Even though we really don’t like the color, or we bought it on sale because of the “what if.” What if takes over our shelves, drawers, cabinets and closets. It takes up residents in our thoughts. Every time we try to de-clutter or let go, the “what if” is there saying “no” to us. The “what if” can come up also if it’s an item that was a gift. What think “What if __________ comes to my house and wonders where that item is?” Chances are the person will be thinking more about enjoying time with you than if you kept that item. “What if” is like a sneaky gremlin stopping us from getting rid of the physical items causing us stress. It’s always blocking us from letting go. You can stand up to “what if” by powerfully saying “I’m living in the present moment now. What if cannot have a hold on me. I will make choices based on if this item is really serving me right now.” That will make the “what if’s” voice much quieter, and eventually “what if” will retreat and go away.

The Case of Living in the Past:

If you have boxes and bags full of old graduation programs, certificates, journals, letters and more, those things can cause you to live in the past. I believe you can keep part of your past and still live in the now, but it is important to choose carefully the items that bring you joy now when you look at them rather than those that cause you to relive some past pain. Items that are from an old relationship or a friendship that is no longer part of your present moment are ones that are important to let go of. Letting go of those items can open up your possibility space in the present moment and you will feel much lighter for getting rid of them.

The Case of Living in the Future:

Sometimes we can even hang on to things that we think we will do in the future, and that keeps us from enjoying our present moment and the things that we choose to do now. It can cause us to feel like a failure even before we have started anything. Those are another type of little gremlin called “Someday I will.” These are like the weights, yoga mats and exercise DVDs that are gathering dust in the garage while you have found a way to exercise that you enjoy right now. Those items say to you every time you pass by them “Someday I will….and then….” They seem to taunt you and cause you to think twice about the choice you have made in the present moment. Who needs those when we can feel good about who we are and the choices we have made right now? For example, I went through a phase when I thought that I wanted to start a weight-lifting routine again. I put together a weight set, bought books, etc. Then, I realized that I enjoyed working out on the elliptical that we already had set up in our family room first thing in the mornings much more. It was exercise that I knew I would stick to as a 5 day a week habit. It was something that I could be in the present moment with. So, I am letting go of the equipment and books and applauding myself for finding what’s right for me, not something I thought I ought to do. The “someday I will” gremlin will go away when we are able to face those “future” items and let them go with grace.

What if we lived in the now?

If we live in the now we can just ask “Is this item serving me now?” Items can serve us now by being useful in our present moment lives, or being something that gives us joy right now as we display it or look at it.

Are you hanging on to stuff that stresses you? If so, comment below or send me an email at:

trista.signe.ainsworth@gmail.com

Joyful Minimalism: 

If you are ready to explore your things but need weekly/daily support and would like to work with me one on one, feel free to reach out to me by email and I can send you a client survey and set up a call with you. I can work with local clients and long distance clients. 

trista.signe.ainsworth@gmail.com

Are we afraid of the present moment?

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A little while ago as I was working away daily on clearing my home of extra clutter, I went through several “memory boxes” I had of old letters, journals and other mementos. It was a very interesting process because it had been so, so long since I last looked at these items. Most of them were from the 1990’s when I was an exchange student in Mexico or later on in college. A quick look at most of these items made me realize that by keeping so many of these although I didn’t look at them, symbolically I was living a lot in the past. I began to wonder- Are we afraid of the present moment?

I posted a photo of my memory boxes and journals on social media and so many people said that it would be so very difficult for them to get rid of those items. It made me ponder my own attachments to these letters, journals and documents. Yes, it is important to have a record of where you have been, and maybe my son or future generations would like to look at these items to get to know more of who I was or what I did in life and my relationships. On the other hand, by keeping so, so much of this old stuff, I felt a bit stuck in the past and part of me felt held back by even having so many boxes and bags of the past hanging around. It felt like a strange old security blanket telling me to hold on, but not to look at my present moment and live here.

Here’s what I did with those old memories that I feel at peace with here in my present moment. I can tell you that I had to take 2 passes at my old papers in order to be at peace with what I kept and what I recycled. I didn’t look at every single letter, but I did save sections of letters from people that still matter to me now in my present moment. The limit I put on myself was that I could keep 1 notebook full of old cards and letters and one box of memories of journals/mementos. The last go-round of looking through those things and making the notebook took over two hours. However, I really feel so very much lighter and able to live right now in this beautiful moment with the rain falling outside my window. Right now I am content with who I am and who I am becoming and some memories along the way that I did choose to keep brought me to this moment here today.

This process made me realize that I was really afraid of the present moment. I was hanging on to a large amount of the past in the physical form of these items. A lot of times physical and also mental clutter from the past can hold us back from living our true potential right now. Having fewer of these items means that i can begin to live in the now.

Beginning with paring down the past by de-cluttering my old papers and journals was a great foundation for me to build upon to start being less afraid of the present moment in other ways as well. I began to get curious about why I kept checking email and social media multiple times a day. It can falsely feel like we are living in the present moment by checking up on “what’s going on.” but really we are still not in the present when on our phones so much. Things people post have already happened and you won’t get an important e-mail every 5 minutes. I noticed that every day starting in the morning I would be continually distracted by checking way too many apps. I was shocked to see that I was spending sometimes more than 5 hours a day on my phone!

Determined to get that time back and be more present with myself, my family, my friends and activities that matter to me, I experimented beginning with last weekend. I decided I would spend very little time on my phone, especially in the mornings. Mornings are my creative time, a time when my brain works best on things like writing and creating. I made sure to start my day out with meditation, tea and breakfast instead of the usual round-robin of checking email and social media. It felt so relaxing. It reminded me of the few letters that I did keep. I remember a time that we couldn’t instantly share what was going on in our lives every single second. We would save up our news and write it into letters for those living far away. We took extra care and time with those letters. We could live our lives in the present moment more, and just take a bit of time to write letters when we wanted to communicate with someone out of town.

My weekend experiment worked very well. I only checked email a couple of times and didn’t check social media at all. I was amazed at how much time I had to read, study my Japanese, do a bit of writing in my notebook and just relax a bit with my family. I really did reclaim those several hours a day and my brain didn’t feel as scrambled as it did when I was on my phone so much. It felt like real rest, real connection to the present moment and real connection to myself and others.

My question to you is: Are you afraid of the present moment? Can you get curious about what is going on there? How can you change your connection with the present moment and be there more each day? Leave a comment below or email me at:

trista.signe.ainsworth@gmail.com

Joyful Minimalism: 

If you are ready to explore your things but need weekly/daily support and would like to work with me one on one, feel free to reach out to me by email and I can send you a client survey and set up a call with you. I can work with local clients and long distance clients. 

trista.signe.ainsworth@gmail.com