5 Easy Minimalist Kitchen Hacks to Simplify Food Prep for Home Cooking

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The home goods and food service industries always seem to be trying to find ways to make home cooking easier, because well…we don’t have time for cooking, just like we don’t have time to see friends, spend time with our children, clean the house…but we have time to follow enough pop culture via shows and junk news stories to win at trivia bars. Millennial joke aside, our overscheduled and overbusy lives are cutting into food preparation time, and simply put, a lot of us simply don’t have the patience, not to mention the experience and know-how required from putting time into cooking our own meals. With so many convenience options available, cooking from scratch takes a back seat. Hungry? Grab a Snickers. Want to lose weight? Grab a Weight Watchers box and zap it in the handy dandy microwave. Want to cut vegetables perfectly or store them optimally? How about a plastic device to perfectly slice your [insert produce here] or store your [insert produce here]?

I suffer from a constant need to optimize my lifestyle habits, and I discovered a few useful tips and tricks along the way as I managed my kitchen. As someone who loves cooking, I have been suckered into the brilliant marketers that sell devices that are supposed to save you time in the kitchen…but end up taking up space and being impossible to clean sometimes.

Fortunately, after quite a few years of making my way in the kitchen from a minimalist viewpoint, here are 5 original ways to simplify your kitchen prep time that I’ve discovered from simple trial and error.

  1. Salad spinners are a magical tool. Not only will they get all the excess water out of your leafy greens so your stir fries don’t turn into sludge, but they are also really good at washing things and contain the splashy mess of water. As in, tear up your greens, chuck them in the basket, fill it with water, and either agitate the greens with your hands or spin the basket as if you were spinning the water out! Then just lift the basket, dump the water, and repeat until the water is clear and has no dirt. I can recommend this one. Also related – get a pot with an inset steamer, and steam your vegetables instead of boiling them to a sad wilt. It will do double duty as a colander to drain pasta. Now you can get rid of that extra plastic colander.top-view-1248955_1920
  2. Don’t peel off individual leaves or stalks from cabbage/lettuce heads and celery – get a sharp knife and cut everything all at once. Mother nature has wonderfully grouped all the stalks for us for easy, fast cutting. While washing your vegetables makes them rot faster, you’ll still save yourself some time down the line by cutting them in advance. You’ll only need to bust out the cutting board and knife once. And how nice it is to have your vegetables prepped and ready to go next time you’re cooking!

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    Just cut it and then wash it after it’s cut. In your salad spinner, obviously.

  3. Someone’s gotta say it – but I found that limiting my meat intake has saved me a lot of time in the kitchen. I am not vegetarian, but I find that meat is very time consuming to prepare, and while it is tasty, it is also expensive and requires a lot of extra precautions and prep time. When you add up all the work you need to do to flavor it, cut it, store it, and sterilize everything it has come in contact with, meat can be its own time suck (of course, there’s always the option of buying it pre-seasoned or pre-cooked, but then again, we all know that eating processed meats in moderation is better for us, and pre-prepped meat costs more). Soy is a great plant-based complete protein, and a block of organic firm tofu is only $1.99 at my local Whole Foods (might be even cheaper at Asian markets!). Tofu can be crumbled as a substitute for taco meat or used in vegan omelette recipes. Tofu acts as a sponge and soaks up the flavors and sauces in whatever you’re making. Eggs are also a great, cheap protein source. I usually eat meat a few times a week instead of every day.DSC_0914 copy
  4. Use a melon baller, ice cream scoop, or the tablespoon size of these babies (which is basically a melon baller) to scoop out the flesh of watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydews, or basically anything else with a thick rind. Less juice spilling all over your counter and evenly sized bite-sized balls of fruit for all!

    Delicious melon-balled watermelon via my Instagram

  5. If you have a double basin sink, ditch the dish drying rack and simply get one of these drying mats. I was inspired by Scandinavian kitchens when I visited Iceland where the sinks had built-in dish drying areas. Drying racks are unsightly and over time accumulate a lot of grime. You can put a cutting board over it and even cut vegetables on top of it – the water that tends to pool while I’m cutting things drains directly into the sink!DSC_0913 copy

What other kitchen hacks can you add to the list? I’d love to hear them!

The Advent of Women’s Techwear

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Techwear is clothing that uses technical fabrics and features to emphasize “movement, comfort, and presentability.” Let’s not confuse techwear with athleisure – athleisure clothing is simply athletic clothing worn in casual settings. This is a phenomenon that has only recently come to fruition, and I only discovered there was such a term for it when I began building my cycling wardrobe. Indeed, any outdoor sport or activity requiring special fabrics and features in attire and gear utilize techwear principles when designing products, but only recently have they also begun to consider aesthetics (a good example of this is ugly travel clothing). Numerous small companies are popping up and they cater mainly to the outdoor sport crowd, like backpackers and cyclists. Unfortunately, this also means they often only carry menswear or have a limited stock of women’s clothing. With stores carrying hearty stock of women’s clothing, it’s unfortunate that there aren’t more techwear companies out there that cater to women.

The Ridiculousness of High Maintenance Clothing & Accessories

I once worked for a company where I was told that skirts and dresses are considered more formal than pants and that high heels are basically required for formal occasions.  Huh. We need to require women to wear unquestionably uncomfortable attire that is proven to be bad for the posture? My working career is only 5 years, but I’ve noticed a shift to more casual offices, and I really appreciate that shift, because it reduces the time I need to spend getting ready in the morning and taking care of my clothes. Of course, there are always going to be some people who still find that a formal outfit is going to earn them more points in the business world (and it has even been proven), particularly if you’re trying to climb the corporate ladder, but I think that dressing well will not make up for a lack of a professional demeanor or business acumen.

The idea of dressing up or owning lots of formal clothes and accessories used to excite me, but I’ve started to see it as just another chore. There is nothing practical about formalwear. Suits have to be fitted to your ever-changing body, dry-cleaned, ironed, stored a certain way, and have to travel in a suit bag. Floaty blouses are often made with overly delicate fabrics and need to be hand-washed and often don’t travel well, as they wrinkle when packed in a suitcase. High heels are hard to travel with as they are a very particular shape and tend to be heavy and uncomfortable. Stilettos can’t be worn on anything other than hard ground. Excessive jewelry weighs you down and has to be carefully stored and taken care of (and comes with a need to buy specialty storage, cleaner, etc.). The more expensive the pieces are, the more obsessed you may become about keeping them pristine, and companies have latched onto this need by selling “specially formulated” cleaning solutions: example 1example 2, and example 3. Corporate offices are still hubs of Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, and J Crew catalog personas, arms full of dry cleaning and cubicles full of spare heels.

I was very relieved after getting rid of all my high maintenance clothing – almost everything I own can be machine washed – but that doesn’t mean I am by any means cheap. I’ve splurged considerably when building my wardrobe, because I care about a lot when it comes to clothing. I want to be able to wear the same dress to a fancy dinner and on my bike (thanks to Nuu-Muu, I can now achieve this). I want to be able to machine-wash all my clothes, pack them all down small, and wear them in multiple settings. I want clothes that last, don’t cost several thousand dollars, and don’t quickly go out of fashion.

Blending Aesthetics & Practicality

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Typical brand name designers take into account two things: aesthetics and durability, while techwear takes it one step further and adds an element of movement and ease of maintenance into their pieces. Their models are not just pretty faces and skinny bodies – they also tend to be athletic. “Fashion” focuses entirely on aesthetics and trends. It’s really an art form – meant to evoke a reaction or tell a story, perhaps, or meant to impress others with social standing. But unless your hobby is spending a lot of time experimenting with your outer appearance or trying to impress other people with your stuff, I find that stuffing your closet with tons of clothing, expensive or not, causes more stress than having only your favorite clothes.

The problem is, “practical” clothing also tends to be synonymous with boring, ugly, and just generally unflattering. A great example is “travel shirts” that are boxy and come in pastel colors only, despite being easily washed and packable. This is where techwear comes in to save the day. If we must wear suits, why don’t we make suits that not only fit well, but also can be machine-washed, packable, and lightweight? Why do jeans need to be heavy and take forever to dry? Why do we need to wear pants that require a belt? Why do athletic clothes need to only come in clashing neons and plastered with logos? Lots of major retailers have already picked up on this, but it is pretty rare to see it put into practice so far.

Techwear for Women?

People who know me well also know my obsession with Lululemon. I’ve been following Lululemon for 4 years now, and my first piece was a $42 (now $48) black Free-to-Be bra which I still use and wear every week.  Yesterday, my beloved Lululemon Heart Opener tank ripped to shreds while practicing an aerial silks triple star drop, and it is the only piece of Lululemon that has actually worn beyond repair. It lasted over three years of weekly use. Lululemon has a team of great designers, though their releases tend to be hits or misses. They regularly release thoughtfully designed clothes and accessories that intersect fashion and practicality. Uniqlo is another great example of a company that has begun to intersect all of my expectations for clothing, and the bonus is that they are also affordable. They point out features that make something worth buying instead of creating a “persona” for a brand.

Unfortunately, most of the brands that have started to do this, like I mentioned before, only create menswear. Even Outlier has stated that there hasn’t been strong enough market for women’s techwear and discontinued their women’s line as a result. I often wonder if it’s because women don’t know that techwear exists, or that men still dominate the landscape as far as outdoor adventures go, so there is no incentive to cater to women. But I’m confident that as we move forward, more women will catch on.

Obscure Brands that make Women’s Techwear

I have only purchased a couple jackets from Aether and have no experience with the other brands below, but feel free to browse to get an idea of what is out there.

Aether Apparel

Nau

Triple Aught Design

For further reading, look no further than this 5-part series by Dressed Down.

10 Simple Living Starters for Aspiring Minimalists

via PixabayI used to be a millennial with extra-fancy (read: expensive) tastes. I had an eye for the ornate, which was fueled by a trip to Versailles and the antique treasure troves of Buffalo, New York. I was dazzled by porcelain with gold trim and expensive leather goods. I bought expensive food at Whole Foods and regularly ate froyo. I dumped money left and right on short term pleasures. Wanderlust was eating at me, but I was so bogged down by expensive, unfulfilling habits that my travel dreams could not be realized.

Being an unmarried, single millennial is a really good time to learn minimalist habits. Not owning a home, not owning a car, and not being a parent frees you from many “normal” adult responsibilities. Some of us may as well adopt minimalism for the sake of our financial situations, especially if we’re in student loan and credit card debt. We can establish habits that will expand our life skill kit and self-sustainability – critical keys to minimalist lives.

Before anxiously diving into assuming “normal” adult responsibilities, like taking out a mortgage or auto loan, why don’t we simplify our lives first and see if we can possibly reduce our footprints first? The less we need to worry about, the more clarity we have in our lives. Here are some starters for those of you who aren’t sure how to tackle this whole minimalism thing, or just want to see if it’s right for your situation.

1. Break free from your past. Confront your emotional baggage from the past, and find a way to break free from it. Making peace with your past will help you focus on the present. You can even make your own personal ritual as a way to represent letting go. For example, you can set it as your intention when you do yoga, or declutter one thing a day related to a painful past.

2. Start to get rid of your crap – especially the stuff that is tied to a past version of yourself. Yes, I do mean all the useless memorabilia and random things that have followed you into the present day without you noticing. Decluttering is hard, and that is why it took me several years to do and numerous trips to Goodwill. But it will also help you break free from worrying about your stuff, which we do too much anyhow. Don’t underestimate the cumulative effect of slow, consistent decluttering. It’s very un-KonMari, but it worked very well for me.

3. Make a list, on paper, of loose-ends that need to be tied. Schedule that doctor’s appointment. Pay off that loan. Open that bank account. Close that credit card. Buy that thing you need. Get that thing fixed. Then, set aside one day to tackle all of them (realistically of course). At the end, celebrate with ice cream.

4. Clean out your refrigerator. All the sauces you never use, the expired stuff, the moldy stuff – toss it out. Wipe down the surfaces and start anew.

5. Cook all your meals for a week. If a friend wants to go out, invite that person over to cook with you instead. Cooking with someone is a wonderful way to spend quality time together.

6. Start to read simple living books (see my reading list) to give yourself a mental boost.

7. Go for a run or a bike ride. 30 minutes is only a small percentage of your day – you can afford 30 minutes to devote to your body.

8. Trim your online presence. Employers do look you up. Assume that nothing you have online is private. Delete subscriptions from mailing lists, hide or delete photos (that one time you were drunk out of your mind? Who needs to see that, really?). Rewrite your short bios. Update your LinkedIn. You’re better than you were yesterday, and make sure all the channels you’re on reflect that.

9. Have an electronics clean-out session. Unless you’re a tech junkie, chances are, you’ll have spare cables and connectors lying around. You can organize them by using gear ties and labels or simply declutter them. Unplug all the things that you rarely use, save power, grow money mustache.

10. Reduce your commitments. At the risk of looking like a commitment-phobe, I’m certain that a lot of us have a hard time saying “no” to events that we really don’t feel like going to. I really don’t feel sad, for example, if somebody doesn’t attend my graduation. I find formal ceremonies to be incredibly boring, and while some of them have excellent speakers, I went to a high school where I had to sit through 1,100 names on the stage, and the three-hour ordeal was (mostly) a waste of time. I wouldn’t expect friends and family to be willing to sit through that. We’d find another way to celebrate that is less boring and time consuming.

Decluttering Passive Entertainment (Media – Television, News, Radio, Sports…)

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What do TV shows, movies, sports events, Netflix, and radio talk shows have in common?

They all involve other people talking or doing things and you watching or listening. Open any news site, turn on the radio, watch the television, or open a magazine and you’re probably going to be bombarded with things like:

  • How [insert sports player’s name here] made a WINNING PLAY! And [insert someone’s opinion/prediction here].
  • How [insert celebrity’s name here] got involved with [insert 2nd celebrity’s name here] and said “[insert scandalous phrase here]”
  • How [insert product here] will relieve you of your pain and that you should talk to your doctor about it
  • How you might be the next big lottery winner

I admit, I have the fortune of naturally resisting passive entertainment. Even as a child, I hardly watched television, preferring to play with friends or play pretend outdoors. My brother and I would get on our bikes and pretend to order fast food at the mailbox at the end of our driveway. When I was in high school, I had an epiphany about myself that I still remember ten years later: I dislike watching things. I have very little patience for sitting somewhere and watching things happen, like they do at sports events, shows and concerts. I had a much stronger preference for doing those things. At the time, being able to “do” things was not within reach, because so much of my time was consumed by school and well, I was a kid. But when I was released into the real world, I earned my freedom, through hard work and becoming physically fit (read: discipline), and I earned access to doing more activities. That excites me more than any celebrity scandal or sports event.

In life, we are gifted a limited number of hours with which we use our time. Inevitably, some of those hours are going to be used for unpleasant, but important things, like filling out your taxes, dealing with a plumbing problem, calming a screaming baby, or just making some darn money. We do these things in exchange for peace of mind, health, or freedom. Once all the necessaries are done, instead of saying to ourselves, “all I want to do is collapse on the couch and do nothing,” let’s say, “now is my chance to do what I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t had the time.” I don’t know that vegging in front of the tube is something most people wish they had more time to do.

Your freedom is dependent on your financial means, physical means, and mental means (all of which are interrelated). That’s why it kills me that so many of us are using it not to find ways to optimize our lives and get ourselves some more freedom, but throw away the hours watching, sitting, and not creating, crafting, contributing, or well…being active and present in our lives.

Let’s avoid chaining ourselves to the tube of passive entertainment when there is so much out there for us to do. Famous people can be inspirational, don’t get me wrong, and some of them do deserve our attention. And there’s a lot of value in supporting people you care about at their own events and celebrations. But so many people that get the most attention don’t need it, and every time you devote your time and attention to them, you’re voting with your most valuable resource, your time.

Let’s devote ourselves to pursuits that align with our deepest desires. News stations, sports channels, and mobile games are sensational; not necessarily well researched or worth your time.

We can do better. Let’s declutter them.

You Don’t Need to be Privileged to be a Minimalist

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Recently, minimalism has come under fire for being oppressive, boring, offensive, and being a form of lifestyle porn. That minimalism can only really be enjoyed by the privileged, and primarily bachelors. That minimalism deprives our lives of joys like art, fashion, nice things, hobbies, momentos, symbolic objects, and other tangibles, rendering us powerless, more consumerist, and stressed out.

First of all, a lifestyle or a concept being “boring” is inherently a subjective judgment. What one may find boring could be someone else’s life’s passion. But today, I want to address point number 1. I admit that my previous experience as a maximalist did drive me toward minimalism, and that I have the privilege of choosing minimalism rather than force myself into it. First by living in the United States, and second by being raised by dedicated parents whose efforts enabled me to make it big. For me, minimalism is a choice I can enjoy.

Unhappiness comes from wanting what we don’t have. Lots of articles about minimalism are written by relatively wealthy people who gave up their formerly ostentatious lifestyles for simpler ones. Examples like, “I gave up my fancy BMW for a used Honda Civic and am much happier for it!” They’ll then go on to talk about how fancy cars and televisions didn’t end up making them happy (I guess I am an example of that too) and even put them in debt. Critics then retaliate and point out that there are people in other parts of the world who live simple lives because they are victims of systemic issues, but aren’t getting lauded for their even more simplistic lifestyles. For them, minimalism is not by choice, but a necessity.  For them, making do with what they have is characteristic of being poor.

Rich people who choose not to indulge in consumerist luxuries shouldn’t even be looked up to, really, because this whole concept is just putting a well-off person on a pedestal for not succumbing to materialistic desires and then slapping a sexy label like “minimalism” on his or her lifestyle. Mix up the minimalist lifestyle with an art form that just happens to also have the same name and of course minimalism becomes a symbol of the ultimate first world problem. It’s an aesthetically pleasing luxury that only gets attention when privileged people talk about it, and the holier-than-thou undertones that some minimalists employ tends to irritate people.

Minimalism isn’t meant to be a one size fits all solution! There is no one way. If someone has a greater problem at hand than too much stuff, that person should probably focus on tackling that problem before even thinking about minimalism. But that is true of a lot of issues in this world. If we’re going to start attacking minimalism for being unfair to the rest of the world, we might as well start telling everyone in America to stop complaining about everything for the sake of starving families and war-torn countries everywhere. Criticizing people for trying to eliminate waste and live with less isn’t helping anyone – at the end of the day, we might as well call such articles clickbait. We aren’t trying to tell people to live with the least amount of stuff possible, we are trying to promote the efficiency of our lives in ways that work best for our own unique life situations. If that means we are keeping some “stuff” because we can’t afford to replace it, that doesn’t mean we’re not minimalists! There’s no sense in beating ourselves up over not being the most minimalist, whatever that even means.

The point is, we should stop reading media clickbait, and feast on real stories of everyday people who reaped benefits of minimalism, from small scale changes to large scale changes.

For further reading, I recommend this thread.

Clean, Organize, or Neither? The Choice is Yours

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Who thinks they never have enough time?

*raises hand*

We always talk about being busy and complain that we don’t have time to spend with one another. Our busy-ness is sabotaging our relationships and making us exhausted and stressed. We’ll talk about decluttering our schedules another time, but one way we can free up some of our precious time at home is reducing the amount of home maintenance we need to do.

The idea of needing to spend a day “preparing the house” for guests is not new to me. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a large family in a very large house, but whenever guests were expected, the kids were responsible for helping Mom wipe everything down, put things away, pretty up all the rooms, weed the garden, polish the wooden floors, vacuum the carpets, shake out the rugs, and organize all the messes – magazines, bathroom products, clothes strewn everywhere, and so on. Because the house was so big, these were whole day affairs. Kudos to Mom and Dad for splitting the labor among us and teaching us home maintenance skills of course, but after doing it over and over again, I developed a strong desire to severely reduce the amount of maintenance I needed to do in my own home.

I was never taught about decluttering. Throughout grade school, classmates would crowd around the kids who owned glitzy cool stuff. Just having a cool thing earned you a ticket to popularity. But no one told me about the burden of ownership, so I thought that having things was equivalent to having friends. Sometimes this mentality leaks into adulthood – being friends with the one person with the cool house or cool car, for example, earned you inclusion into that social group or social standing. At home, my family taught me to conserve and capitalize on the resources available to me and appreciate everything we had. We never threw things away if they were salvageable in some way. The idea of not wasting things and money was drilled into my head, from eating every last scrap of food on my plate to the clothes I owned. Reducing waste is important, no doubt. But not throwing anything away led to a steady accumulation of stuff over the years, and I learned something along the way:

The intention is to save everything to waste nothing. But keeping everything does end up wasting something very very special:

TIME!

Time, our most precious, nonrenewable resource! How can we forget?

Cleaning and organizing are simply maintenance of existing spaces. And when you have to clean and organize over and over again – putting things back in their places day after day after week after week for years and years – every second you’re spending reorganizing is another second of your life gone forever. Sure, we won’t be eliminating it ALL or we will take it too far, but removing anything will still help reduce the constant organizing and reorganizing. Without that need, how many minutes of our lives can we save, I wonder?

Next time you reach over to pick up something to throw out, ask yourself if the time you’re spending is better spent elsewhere. Ideally, you’ll want to reach a state in which your home is guest-friendly within 5 minutes of picking up after yourself.

If no one else has faith in you, I do. Start today. Here’s a list to kickstart your decluttering efforts (and here).

More Consumption, More Boredom

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Minimalism is frequently criticized as stark, empty, boring, and dull. Some find themselves fearful of the aesthetic, the spartan lifestyle, the “less is more” mantra. Lack of decorations  and unwelcoming, bleak eggshell whites conjure up visions of hospitals and cold laboratories. Not an inviting, “homey” place.

America is a society, a culture if we will, where we buy things to solve problems. Stylishness promises confidence, so we purchase tasteful decor and fashion. Buying a FitBit promises that you’ll be healthier. The large house promises a comfortable, rich, life. The fancy car promises to make your commute or daily drives more fun and tells the world about how sophisticated we are.  We also have tend to consume things to solve problems. Drinking makes us better at socializing. Taking in caffeine to get us through the workdays. Eating (junk food) to prevent boredom while we work. “Killing time,” as they call it, through consumption. Then, in our land of plenty, why are we so unhappy and stressed out?

It is when we think the things we own validate of the importance of our own existence. That we deserve fancy stuff, or think that an upgrade in a gadget will generate dramatic improvements to our lives, that we get stuck in the consumerist frenzy. We’ll finally lose weight, magically have more time, and that thing will be that kick we need to be motivated to be better versions of ourselves. The improvements do happen sometimes, but over time, the new gets old, and the cycle repeats itself.

Buy, get bored, buy, get bored, rinse, repeat. You see what’s happening here?

Consumption cycles can cause us to be bored more frequently as we desensitize ourselves to new things and experiences.

When I feel stuck, I start looking at expensive flights to other countries and fantasizing about travel plans. Yet, if I travel too much, I lose that excitement.

When I feel like I have a lot of unpleasant tasks to do, I feel like getting something to eat while I’m doing them. Yet, if I get in the habit of eating while I work, I’ll work up a dependency on it.

Life tends to get harder as we get older and our bodies and safety nets fall apart.  So when someone suggests minimalism as a method of making life easier, we first resist. Why should we purposely relegate ourselves to less? Gosh, how would we ever prepare ourselves? Say we have a dull day – how do we get through life without relying on autopilot consumption mode?

Think of minimalism as a blank piece of paper or an empty dance studio, where the space is full of possibility. Any little Thing that you add to it diminishes its potential just a little bit. But let’s keep in mind that minimalism is not the solution either. It is a way of focusing ourselves so we stop the consumption cycle and refocus.

The fresh new gadget may refresh your old one, but some empty space just might give you fresh room to breathe, and it costs nothing.

How Cycling Can Teach You Minimalism

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Cycling is generally seen as a weekend activity or a “nice” way to spend a day. For me, cycling is a quintessential part of a minimalist lifestyle.

A good friend of mine told me that if more people could experience how much easier a road bike is to ride compared to a typical Wal-Mart bike, more people would take the plunge into cycling. A new road bike runs a pretty penny if you’re used to the usual run-of-the-mill less than $200 range of bikes, so of course I hesitated for a while. I was very much sold on the car-lite idea, after reading posts like these. For a while, I got into the habit of biking everywhere less than 10 miles away with my cheap Wal-Mart bike. As the end of the cycling season drew near, I walked into one of my local bike shops last year, not knowing that I would walk out with my very first road bike with a 20% end of season discount. That was August 2015. I’m coming up on my one year anniversary with my bike and I’ve ridden over 2,200 miles on it.

dolce

My Specialized Dolce Sport!

Cycling is an activity associated with both rich white men who dominate the sport – the Tour de France is entirely male – and poor people who cannot afford a car.

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This polarization concerns me, because cycling is an activity that can be enjoyed by anyone in reasonably healthy condition and intact limbs, but it has a mix of negative reputations, such as

  • Being unsafe. More on that below.
  • Full of fashion faux-pas….understandable. Like race cars, cycling kits are portable billboards for sponsors eager to plaster their logos and names onto jerseys and bibs. Spandex is not generally a fashion statement, nor was it meant to be. But it is going to help you go faster.
  • Being a “bro”-y activity. Except in Amsterdam where female cyclists outnumber male cyclists.
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If you want to know what a bike city looks like, go to Amsterdam.

How Minimalism and Cycling are Related

Cycling is about efficiency. And so is minimalism. Cars are laughably inefficient vehicles – so much bulk to transport a tiny human! When I walked into the shop to try my first road bike, I had no idea I needed to get sized for it. Different bikes have different geometries to fit people of different proportions, namely for height, leg length, and reach. If you fit your bike perfectly, the power you put into the bike to make it move is not wasted.

When I embark on a journey with my bicycle, I have to be more thoughtful about what I choose to bring with me. Whether or not you install panniers on your bike or carry a backpack, every ounce of additional weight will reduce your potential speed.  Part of the reason why people choose road bikes is how light they are, and while they can be incredibly light, the weight you bring on the bike can negate it. You quickly learn the advantages of being lightweight and are less inclined to bring too much stuff with you. You learn to optimize your load, especially on longer journeys.

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But What About Safety?

Let’s face it, hitting something on a bicycle is going to do way more damage to you than if you were in a car.

To make matters worse, many cyclists skirt the rules of the road, nonchalantly riding down streets the wrong way, running red lights, speeding through intersections without checking for drivers, wear headphones while cycling, among other heedless behaviors. With cyclists being so unpredictable, it is no wonder drivers get uneasy or even resentful of cyclists. Ticketing cyclists is rare, so the problem persists.

The problem is largely systematic. Cities do not always build the appropriate infrastructure to reduce the risk of accidents. If the bike lane is right next to a row of parked cars, then riding in the bike lane could potentially be more dangerous than riding with traffic due to the risk of being “door’ed.”  Some roads are simply too narrow. Add that to a crowd of impatient drivers and you have a perfect formula for accidents. Still, most accidents can be avoided. All I can say is, with the proper precautions and avoidance of high-risk routes, cycling can actually be safer than driving. Find a route free of cars and clutter, bring just the essentials, and enjoy the journey. There is something just so relaxing about the feeling the fresh breeze as you glide around town by bicycle.

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Perhaps you can start by taking your next trip to the grocery store by bicycle. I guarantee you’ll be more wary about how much you buy, and in a good way!

10 Things to Declutter – Bathroom Edition

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With decluttering, sometimes we need that little push to get us started. Reading other people’s decluttering stories can sometimes give you the much-needed push when you hit a decluttering slump.  The “10 Things to Declutter” series is intended to do just that.

Bathrooms are special. They are temples for self-pampering and renewal, either to rejuvenate ourselves after a sleep, freshen up after a long day, or get ourselves ready for the world. They are relaxation hubs where we can reflect in peace. And so, naturally, it would make sense to keep them clutter-free.

via Pixabay

If I was to envision the perfect bathroom, I think of a serene, open space where I don’t feel overwhelmed by personal care products. Of course, we can highlight the plump, fluffy towel and tasteful soap dispenser, but as a general rule of thumb, bathrooms, like bedrooms, as relaxation rooms, should ideally be kept as minimal as possible, if even simply to make them easier to clean. And everyone prefers a clean bathroom. You know it.

via Pixabay

So now, without further ado, here are 10 things you can safely declutter from your bathroom.

  1. Are you a bar soap person? If not, why do you own bar soap? Declutter the soap, and the soap holder.
  2. Spent bath poufs and rags. They don’t last forever.
  3. That pile of beauty samples you collected. The world will go on if you don’t use them.
  4. Old, unfinished containers of lotions (Bath and Body Works has a way of making you buy millions of flavors of shower gel with matching lotions, hand sanitizers…you name it). You know the one you always reach for when you need to moisturize? Keep that one.
  5. Those dried out tubes of mascara and eyeliner. And the giant eyeshadow palettes too…unless you are a make-up artist or work in a profession that requires complex makeup (circus anyone?). While you’re at it, toss away the foundations and moisturizers that didn’t work for you.
  6. Those cheap razors that always make you bleed.
  7. Extra toiletry bags, and the junk in them that are in there because you don’t use them. You know the saying, out of sight, out of mind?
  8. Makeup brushes that you don’t use. Yes, it’s okay to declutter them, even if they came in a set. If you’re not using one piece of it, then your set is just a bit more minimal. You’re just make it work for your needs!
  9. Extra hair brushes. Why do we need so many again?
  10. Do you take baths? No? Maybe once a year? You really don’t need all the drama that goes with it. Declutter the candles, the bath bombs, and the bubble bath solutions.

Happy Decluttering!

Decluttering Furniture

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To me, furniture is the most satisfying category of stuff I can declutter. It’s so freeing to finally unload a heavy, bulky item from your living space and give your home some breathing room. I’m of the belief that less is more, but especially so with furniture. We worry about making our rooms look “homey,” so it’s tempting to fill our havens with lots of fancy furniture. This often leads to our rooms becoming cramped if our efforts get out of hand.

Since the amount of furniture in your living space is dependent on your living arrangements, it’s important to understand that everyone’s situation is unique. I am unmarried without family, and I live in a two bedroom condo unit which is just the right amount of space – not too much space that I need to clean and not too little that I feel cramped.  It has a small kitchen, a dining/living area, and a small bathroom with just enough room for a bathtub, toilet, and sink.  One of the bedrooms has a closet and the other bedroom has two closets. There is a linen closet by the bathroom and a coat closet. I also have a storage locker in the basement where I can store bikes (but I do not store extra furniture there). In other words, I already have a lot of shelf space and closet space. The smaller bedroom is usually occupied by a roommate, so I will not count the furniture in that room as it varies when roommates switch.

With that in mind, these are the furniture items I currently own (the below are not affiliate links).

  1. 2 couches (1 3-seater and 1 2-seater) (inherited from family – not at all fancy, but do the job)
  2. 1 platform bed (this particular one comes with built-in nightstands)
  3. 1 rolling coffee table – I tried to do without one for a while
  4. 1 console table
  5. 1 rolling tv table
  6. 1 round dining table
  7. 4 stackable plastic dining chairs (plastic = easy to clean!)
  8. 2 folding chairs (for guests)
  9. 1 standing desk
  10. 1 rolling C-table

One theme you’ll see from the list above is my tendency to buy furniture with casters. Casters make furniture moving so easy. I love CB2’s “peekaboo” acrylic pieces because they don’t take up much visual space, making my rooms look bigger than they are (and making it easier to find things in general – no need to look underneath a table if it’s transparent!).

These are the furniture items I’ve decluttered:

  1. Ottoman – in a small space, ottomans take up too much floor space. I ended up needing to move it around all the time until I finally decided it wasn’t worth keeping.
  2. Dresser – after decluttering my closet, I happily got rid of my dresser. Behold my suddenly spacious bedroom! There are so many ways to optimize closet space. Since all of my clothes are stored in one place, I only have to check that one place to find something I want to wear.
  3. Extra chairs that don’t fold – another space saver!
  4. Side tables – typically they are just space hogs. I have my rolling C table in case I’m in need it extra table space.
  5. 2 small couches or loveseats – I had two darling couches from my antiquing days. They ended up looking dated and out of place in my modern space, so I sold them on Craigslist.
  6. 2 twin beds with mattresses and box springs, which I replaced with a single queen bed.
  7. Extra card table – the dining table does the trick. If I’m entertaining, I can put food on the kitchen counter instead of the dining table. Fewer spaces to wipe down, and fewer items to store.

Must you need more inspiration?

via Pixabay

Open kitchen and dining area – an example of how empty walls actually open up a room

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Just like my bedroom – a sanctuary that is simply a place of rest

Pixabay

If only my bathroom was this big…but even if it was, why fill it with stuff? It’s so serene the way it is.

Extra floor space – yes, please.

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