Minimalist Game Weeks 3 & 4: KonMari Saves Me

Towards the end of the second week of this Minimalist Game, i found myself standing at two points at the same time: 1) at a point of giving up and 2) at a point of no return. I had been struggling with another thing other than stuff: trash.

It’s embarrassing how in that second week i got my right hand injured by stuffing trash into ecobricks. BITCH, I HAD BEEN STUFFING FOR DAYS. And it was all because of my own fault. Last semester, i asked my students to make ecobricks and submit them once full. I told them that while their ecobricks and reflection essays will be graded, i will only accept perfectly stuffed ecobricks. But alas, at the end of the semester i got so much busy and stressed out that i was not able to “quality check” the ecobricks and ended up taking them home.

So in between those weeks of decluttering and tidying i restuffed the ecobricks that didn’t meet their weight goal. In the process, i had to “unstuff” a bottle, cut up its contents, and stuff them into another bottle. I was able to empty six to seven bottles with a combined volume of approximately 5L! In addition, i also stuffed all plastics i could find as i declutter.

And, bitch, it ain’t easy. Not just physically. But also mentally. I can deal with the pains my hands, back, and butt went through while i sit on the floor and cut and stuff and cut and stuff. But the most difficult parts were the moments when, in the middle of all this trash–other people’s trash!–i would ask myself, “Why am i doing this? Why am i zero wasting? Why am i wasting my time dealing with other people’s trash when i should be working on something else? Why can’t i just throw all these into the garbage? Ano bang pinaglalaban ko??”

You know you’re in a very ugly situation when you start questioning your values and the things you’re fighting for. You’re forced to reevaluate everything, especially yourself.

And when you do, you realize there’s nothing wrong with your values. And the things you’re fighting for are worth fighting for. The problem is in the way you’re taking things, especially things of important matter.

Not that trash isn’t an important matter, because it is. But i think zero waste is not just about lessening trash; it’s also about being mindful of our use of resources, such as time, so that they won’t go to waste.

During those frustrating moments, i thought that had i checked the quality of my students’ ecobricks, i wouldn’t be wasting my time restuffing. Had i done it right the first time, had been sterner as regards requirements, i wouldn’t be punishing myself. While I believe that we should all learn to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings and failures, i’m also one who’d lose sleep if i don’t take full responsibility for my actions. And so, even if i had forgiven myself, i couldn’t bring myself to throw the poorly done ecobricks away,  move on, and start zero-waste-sent-to-landfills afresh. If i do that, it’ll be harder to forgive myself. So I carried on with the restuffing, vowing never to do this ever again.

And this is where Marie Kondo comes in. It was during those many frustrating, sometimes anxious, moments that i realized i should speed things up so that i can focus on important matters other than trash and clutter. I had heard of KonMari’s “spark joy” method before but i thought it just wasn’t for me and so i opted for the Minimalist Game instead. When i finally finished the ecobricks by the end of Week 2, i tried reading the sample pages of KonMari’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up on Google Play. Only a few pages in and i knew KonMari was thinking of me in particular when she wrote the book. Bitch, i tell you, that book was written for me! :’)

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The ever beautiful Bretman Rock perfectly captures my feelings as i read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. ❤

And so i ditched this Minimalist Game and went into a tidying festival the next 10 days (i finished tidying in less than two weeks). I will write about my tidying festival next. But for now let me just say that while i’ve only managed to finish tidying my personal spaces (in her books, KonMari spoke against tidying other people’s spaces), i was able to let go of more than the target 465 things. And with that i can say that i’ve felt much lighter, much better.

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Minimalist Game Week 2

Minimalist Game Week 2

As the days go by, i realize it’s becoming harder and harder to look for things that should go. The difficulty is mostly because i’ve already downsized my possessions through constant decluttering. As such, many of the things i’ve let go this week were those that were recently moved from our old house to our present house, which is actually good because my main reason for doing this game again is exactly to minimize the stuff that were brought to our present house so that we can have a breathable space again.

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The two kitty bags were my and my sister’s fave when we were very little.
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All the stuff i gather in this game are categorized as such: (1) for donation, (2) for teenage cousins (such as those unused pair of shoes my mother gave me. Like i said previously, i’ve repeatedly told my mother to stop buying me anything), (3) for recycling (such as the two broken nail cutters), (4) trash (such as the Japanese fan, which shall be composted. Nonbiodegradable trash shall be placed in an ecobrick), (5) e-waste, and (6) fff****ck-idk-what-to-do-with-these-stuff!!! (such as the casing for a Casio watch and the unused and expired perfume given to me as a gift). Help. If anyone knows how to properly dispose of those, please let me know in the comments.
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Too many notebooks. Guess what? None of them were ever used. I think some of these were party giveaways.
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Some of the things i find come in pairs bec if i have one, my sister has also (we’re like twins). And some things come with a company name. I used to just unmindfully accept freebies. Not anymore.
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Perhaps second to mugs, picture frames were the usual things you’d get as gifts in Pinoy Christmas parties. Last Christmas, i made an announcement to family, friends, co-teachers, and students to not give me gifts.
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I’d always go back to my closet and surely i’d find items i no longer use or have never used!
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Some stuff, like toys and figurines, used to spark joy.
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I struggled with the swimming cap. But i don’t train anymore, so bye.

So this week i was able to let go of 100 items. That makes 136 out of the target 465. Bonus: this week we donated three of my grandmothers‘ wheelchairs to a hospital.

Let’s go, Week 3!

Minimalist Game Week 1

Minimalist Game Week 1

As i’ve previously said, we recently moved almost all of the stuff in our old house to our present house. (The only ones that didn’t make it were my aunt’s stuff.) Hence, our garage looks like a Japan surplus shop and our patio a Customs warehouse.

Decluttering is hard and takes forever. So i decided to do the Minimalist Game or #MinsGame again, but following the actual rules this time.

Week 1 has been pretty easy.

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I’m not a Catholic and don’t pray the rosary. I got this from a school mate at a high school retreat.
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One thing i have told my mother recently is to stop buying me clothes and underwear. Sometimes, she doesn’t get my style or size right.
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Gifts, gifts, gifts–one of the culprits to stuff accumulation!
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When i decluttered last time, i got rid of sooo many key chains. I’m surprised to have found more.
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I think these were freebies from our TIME Magazine subscription before. I used to look forward to TIME issues before and i still have hundreds of them with me. Sometimes i dream of having my own library cafe where my books and magazines will be available for borrowing. So yeah, i’m keeping some magazines. For now.
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These pambahay (house clothes) do not fit me anymore.
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More clothes that i don’t feel like wearing anymore. All of these were either gifts or hand-me-downs, except for the Hello Kitty shirt, which i bought for a Hello Kitty-themed party.
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I love plays and musicals. I used to purchase playbills, but i realized they contained more ads than information about the play or production.

So that’s a total of 36 items for Week 1. Crossing my fingers for Week 2!

Minimalizing is hard AF

Minimalizing is hard AF

At the very moment, my entire family is confronting with the reality of years of accumulated stuff. I hope i can share a picture of what our house looks like now, but i don’t want any of my random audience to have nightmares of rooms filled with stuff you can barely breathe.

At least that’s what i feel like when i’m in the garage or the patio where stuff from our old house are temporarily kept.

Before we moved to our present house in late 2008, we used to live in a bungalow-type house. When typhoon Ondoy hit Marikina City on September 26, 2009, my grandmother and aunt’s house got submerged in flood almost up to the roof. Since that traumatic experience, they moved to our old house. But with my grandmother now gone and my aunt waiting to move abroad to live with her son, she had to move out. And when she did, she and my father brought almost all of the stuff in that house to our present house.

Imagine inserting an entire house into another house.

Presently, our garage looks like a Japan surplus shop, our patio a Customs warehouse what with balikbayan boxes stacked on one another.

I have offered my parents to have Caritas Manila’s Segunda Mana pick some stuff up, but they’re not ready yet. Perhaps unearthing these things from the old house have brought up memories that have been unnecessarily attached to these stuff. Yesterday, my mother told me, “I wish i didn’t look through these stuff.” She was the one who insisted to not leave anything behind in the old house. Interestingly, she was also the one who insisted that our present house be minimalist. Back in 2008, our present house was indeed minimalist. But it has accumulated stuff throughout the years. And now we have just welcomed an entire house into it.

So if they aren’t ready to let go of some of the stuff, well, i am. I am doing the Minimalist Game again, this time following the actual rules. Maybe i should do this monthly. Perhaps that way we can all finally breathe again.

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Caritas Manila’s pickup van in front of our house in January. This was the first time i had stuff picked up for their Segunda Mana (literally, secondhand) store.

 

“I Designed a Menstrual Cup That’s Easier for Disabled People to Use” [Reblog]

NOTE: This is a reblog.

The menstrual cup is hands down my favorite zero-waste essential. As i’ve said before, it is life changing. It is also the very reason i’m doing all this zero wasting. Since i’ve been a “cupvert,” i’ve been on a mission to tell women to switch from pads or tampons to this holy grail of zero waste menstruation. I’m the happiest whenever a friend finally does the switch. I’m not only happy for the environment, i’m also happy for my friends because they’ve experienced the menstrual cup magic.

Because i’m a menstrual cup fanatic, i religiously check out “menstrual cup” tags on my WordPress Reader. As in. Idk, but i just enjoy reading others’ experiences with the cup.
I think the menstrual cup is the best innovation of the pasador (it’s basically a reusable cloth pad that our grandmothers used on their red days): it is reusable like the pasador, but offers convenience that caters to the needs of our contemporary lifestyles.

Just when i thought the menstrual cup can’t get any better, i saw this in my Reader. The Keela Cup was co-designed by Jane Hartman Adamé, a person with disability (PWD). What’s amazing about this cup is that it was designed with accessibility in mind. Check out its Kickstarter page to see how cool it works. I’m only judging from the looks of it, but to me its clever design seems better than the ordinary cup.

Currently, zero waste is not inclusive (and the word “inclusive” itself is still problematic). And the Keela Cup somehow reminds me that in our effort to save the environment through zero waste, we must also work on making the movement accessible to all. This requires going beyond personal actions and innovating current alternatives and solutions. We also need to work on long-term systems change.

Adventures and Musings of an Arch Druidess

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I made an accidental experiment. The finding: nobody needs straws.

I made an accidental experiment. The finding: nobody needs straws.

After my grandmother’s funeral in November, our big family, together with some close relatives, gathered for dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

I think i was going to a rest room when i saw our drinks being prepared by a waiter. All 30+ glasses had already been filled with iced tea and the waiter was putting a plastic straw in each glass. He had already put in some ten straws or less when i approached him and asked him to stop. I asked him politely to remove the straws, keep them, and only give one if someone asks for a straw. He happily obliged and i thanked him. He then asked the other waiters to bring the drinks into our room. (Some Chinese restaurants have rooms for large groups.)

Disposable straws are a trigger so my butting in was kind of automatic. I really didn’t intend to do an experiment. But then during dessert (hence, last part of the dinner), i saw the waiter again and remembered the straws. I suddenly realized, to my amazement, that nobody there had asked for a straw. I looked around our room and saw that nobody had straw in their iced tea. Nobody even noticed there wasn’t a straw in their iced tea. In other words, nobody there needed a straw.

This accidental experiment shows us that straws aren’t truly necessary, at least for the abled. Imagine all the waste it would make if i didn’t tell the waiter to remove the plastic straws, if people who didn’t need a straw actually used one simply because the straws had already been provided. That would be 30+ straws uselessly, needlessly wasted.

And then when i was decluttering last December, i saw these.

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What should i do with these?

Back in July 2014, i bought these straws for a party. The company i worked with then had a tradition wherein every month birthday celebrators would throw a pakain or party. New to the company, two of my officemates and i were excited about our turn to throw a party for the month of July. Because we were also the young ones, we decided to have a kids-themed party. We bought party hats and, pardon me, those colorful disposable straws. The straws were my idea. I put them on the table for anyone who’d need one. And guess what? Very few took a straw. Heck, only three! Its packaging says “40 pcs.” I just counted the unused straws: 37. And if i remember correctly, i didn’t even get one myself. So here they are in 2018 completely unused. Now i don’t even know what to do with them.

From these events one can see that people can do away with straws because straws are not truly necessary, at least for abled people.

Despite this, however, i still think straw was invented (and much loved) for a reason. I mean, i know people will look for a straw if the situations were different. Perhaps they didn’t ask for a straw because they weren’t travelling or their drink didn’t have pearls. In addition, there are people, like the elderly and people with disabilities, who find it easier to drink with a straw.

But the pollution plastic straws make is extremely problematic. In the US alone, over 500 million plastic straws are used and discarded everyday. Imagine then how much waste the world generates each day!

It is not ridiculous (or too minimal an effort), therefore, to try to save the planet by refusing single-use plastic straws. If any, the war against single-use straws (and plastics) must be fought with seriousness.

Interestingly, one way to win this battle against single-use plastic straws is to introduce a sustainable way of sucking.

And so despite my empirical finding that many abled people can do away with plastic straws, last Christmas i gave away reusable metal straws to family and friends as gifts. I also raffled off three metal straws to my advisory class.

I did this because i thought that through reusable straws people might realize how wasteful it is to throw something that can in fact be reused over and over again. I thought that through reusable straws, people might rethink straws in particular and stuff and waste in general. This is also why i opted for stainless metal instead of other alternative materials for straw, such as bamboo and glass: i thought it’d be more likely that people will keep their metal straw for a long time since it’s just like stainless spoon and fork  (not to mention, also stylish). With  bamboo or glass straws, i worried people would throw them away improperly if they get moldy or dusty (bamboo) or if they break (glass).

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Suck sustainably. Thank you, Go Zero!

To conclude, the waste unwasted by not using plastic straws is tremendous. Just look at the figure 37 out of 40 and you get the idea. That said, the simple act of refusing single-use plastic straws saves the planet big time.

January Is Zero Waste Month

January Is Zero Waste Month

January is Zero Waste Month in the Philippines. In celebration, i decided to do my own beginner’s guide to zero wasting! Hopefully, this will help people to start their own journey.

STEP 1: Identify the source of your trash and know how much trash you generate.

How? Simple. Look at your basurahan (trash can). Like really stare at it. Then, identify and describe the contents of your basurahan. Are they mostly food wrappers? Tissue papers? Are biodegradable and nonbiodegradable stuff together?

If you share a basurahan with other people, do this experiment: after reading this blog post, get a plastic bottle. Stuff all of your day’s trash in that bottle. If you want a little challenge, make it three days or a week. After that duration, identify and describe the contents of the bottle. After three days, is it almost full?

***I really encourage you to do Step 1 first before going on. Come back to this page when you’re done with Step 1. :)***

STEP 2: Learn how to refuse.

After Step 1, you probably realize now how much trash you generate as a single person (maximum of 1 kg per day if you’re in Metro Manila; imagine then how much a household generates!) and where your trash comes from (yes, trash doesn’t just happen; you are directly responsible for it). You probably now realize too that, yes, all of those trash will most likely end up in landfills. (I get your shock. I’ve been there too.)

Also read: 45 percent of Metro’s garbage not properly disposed

So now that you know where your trash comes from, learn how to refuse them. If you found plastic straws in your trash, then from now on refuse straws. If you found too much food wrapper, then avoid buying food in wrappers/packaging. If you found single-use plastics, then refuse single-use plastics.

STEP 3: Ask questions then develop new habits. Also: google alternatives and solutions.

How to avoid then plastic utensils? Bring your own reusable utensils.

What if i get thirsty and i need to buy a bottle of water? You should bring your own water.

How about menstruation? There’s such a thing as menstrual cups. :’)

How about food waste? Compost.

MMDA data showed that the No. 1 type of waste thrown in 2016 was kitchen waste, which accounted for 33.67 percent of the more than 9,000 tons of garbage collected per day.

Source: 45 percent of Metro’s garbage not properly disposed

How about personal care products that are packaged? There are tons of alternatives!

What shall i do with tons of paper? Reuse the back side. If that can’t be done, sell them to junk shops. May pera sa basura!

Once you get a whole picture of where your trash comes from, you’ll have a clear idea not only on how to avoid them, but also on how to deal with them properly.

STEP 4: Join The Plastic Solution.

Zero waste can be a challenge here as zero waste alternatives are not yet widely available. Ritual is the only totally package-free store at the moment. (But then there are now online zero waste stores which i will soon blog about.) In addition, refusing stuff can be quite a challenge too. As such, it’s quite understandable to fall short and resort to convenience once in a while. (Well, for now. The aim is still to go close to zero.) It’s important to understand that zero waste does not happen overnight or even over a year.

Good thing, there’s The Plastic Solution, a movement that aims to repurpose nonbiodegradable trash as ecobricks. So if you happen to still make trash and don’t know how to deal with it, stuff it in a plastic bottle. Once full, turn it over to their drop-off centers so that it can be used to build low-cost constructions.

My ecobricks, along with those of my students’, ready for drop-off at The Plastic Solution

***

And that’s it. That is zero wasting. It’s simple and doable. Doing these steps may be challenging at first. But when you’re committed, they easily become new habits.

And zero wasting doesn’t end there. It’s a life-long commitment. Simultaneously you’ll learn about mindfulness and minimalism. Immediately you will realize there is no turning back. There’s only going forward, towards becoming kinder to the planet.