personal

2016 highlights

I didn’t think 2016 could be nearly as eventful as last year (with our engagement, wedding and the death of our two dogs…) but it definitely was.

Here’s a quick recap of the highlights in chronological order:

  • meeting one of my favorite bloggers
  • having my voicemail played on The Minimalist’s podcast
  • traveling to Taiwan where James and I introduced one another to our extended families for the first time and did a wedding photo shoot
  • becoming a US Citizen (and voting for the first time)
  • attending the Selena Gomez concert
  • continuing the tradition of an annual Palms Springs trip with my college girlfriends
  • driving to SF (stopping by Fresno on the way up & San Jose on the way down) and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge
  • doing the Bridge to Nowhere hike and bungee jumping for the first time
  • attending my first UCLA football game
  • being featured on Miss Minimalist’s blog
  • getting a raise at work
  • buying our first condo
  • celebrating our one year anniversary in the Bahamas

The one major negative event that took place in 2016 was having to put my bunny of 9.5 years to sleep.

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Otherwise, what an amazing year 2016 was.

Happy New Year everyone!

decluttering

$0 white elephant gift exchange

This year, one of my friends proposed a brilliant idea for our group’s white elephant gift exchange: $0 spending limit – bring something(s) you already have in your home that’s either new or gently used.

As a sucker for any excuse to declutter, this idea got me really excited!

Here’s what I ended up bringing as my gift:

  • a white desktop file (similar to this one) with file folders
  • a perpetual calendar
  • an insulated water bottle
  • a cookbook
  • some unused black balloons

And here’s what I ended up with:

  • 2 bottles of white wine
  • several snacks including a box of Turkish delights
  • a shoe cleaner
  • sage
  • men’s deodorant

I kept one bottle of wine and the deodorant (for my husband) and gave away everything else.

This turned out to be one of the most successful gift exchanges I’ve ever participated in because 1) everyone had a good laugh seeing what kind of clutter everyone else was trying to get rid of 2) a lot of people ended up getting something they could use (one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?) and 3) no one had to spend any money!

I will definitely be proposing this $0 spending limit idea for all future gift exchanges.

zero waste

coffee routine

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{photo credit: Trish Hamilton / Today}

My daily morning coffee at work used to be a waste producing routine.  I would pour the pot of coffee into a paper cup, add 3 of those individually packaged creamers, add 2 packets of sugar and then stir it all up with a disposable plastic straw.

Although my coffee routine now isn’t completely zero waste, it is a lot less wasteful than it used to be.  Instead of a paper cup, I use a ceramic cup.  I bought a half gallon of Silk’s Very Vanilla Soymilk and use that as both my cream and sugar, since it’s sweet.  And instead of stirring everything with a plastic straw, I use a silver spoon (or fork, or knife, depending on what’s easier to grab that morning) and then rinse it right away.

I’ve been doing this for a several months now but even just counting how much trash I kept out of the landfill in just one month (~21 working days) keeps me motivated to continue swapping disposables for reusable alternatives whenever I can:

  • 21 plastic straws
  • 21 paper cups (with plastic lining)
  • 42 packets of sugar
  • 63 plastic creamers

Total = 147 pieces of trash!

travel

one year anniversary in the Bahamas

{view from our hotel room}
{view from our hotel room}

For our one year anniversary, we decided to celebrate by taking a short trip to the Bahamas.  To keep things simple, we chose to stay at an all-inclusive resort: Sandals Royal Bahamian.

It was our first time staying at a Sandals resort and we were really happy with our decision.  They run like a well-oiled machine.  After we landed, we went to the Sandals booth inside the airport and they knew exactly who we were.  Within minutes, we were on the complimentary shuttle that took us to the hotel.  When we checked in, they upgraded us to an ocean-view room for free, where a bottle of red wine and cheese & fruit platter was waiting for us along with a personalized note.  All the services they provided were on time: the ferry that took you to and from the private island, the different classes and activities they held, the shuttles, etc.  The staff was very efficient and friendly, always saying “hi” when you walked by and most of them do a great job of remembering your name!

One of the best things about Sandals (besides the unlimited food & drinks, of course!) is that they provide all sorts of equipment for you to use for free.  The only ones we had time to take advantage of were paddleboarding and sailing.  We were planning to snorkel but the day we wanted to go ended up being too windy so they weren’t renting out any snorkels for safety reasons.  I believe kayaks and hydro-bikes were also available to guests.

You also have the option of signing up for off-site excursions at the hotel, which is really convenient, especially if you didn’t have time to book anything in advance or wanted to wait and see what the weather was like and what you were in the mood for that day.  Excursions are with third-parties so they will be an additional cost.  Since we didn’t want to spend too much money, we only did one excursion: snorkeling with Stuart Cove’s, where we got to snorkel with tropical fishes and reef sharks!  (Warning: if you decide to buy fish food to feed the fish, you might get bitten like I did!)  We were extremely satisfied with this excursion, especially for the price.  It was $91 per person, while swimming with dolphins was $240 per person and swimming with pigs was $400 per person!

So, if you’re considering taking a tropical vacation soon, I highly recommended checking out the Bahamas and staying at the Sandals resort!  We definitely plan on coming back and staying a couple days longer next time.

zero waste

plastic bags banned in California

Prop 67 passed on Tuesday, which means, effective immediately, stores will no longer provide single-use plastic carry-out bags to customers.

After reading this article, I learned that this proposition was actually paid for by the plastic bag industry to serve as a distraction.  Plastic bags were already supposed to be banned back in January 2015, but the plastic bag industry wanted Californians to vote on this issue before the law became effective.  The reason behind this was two-fold.  One, they bought themselves another 2 years of selling plastic bags.  Two, they hoped that Californians wouldn’t pay much attention to this issue and that most people would default to voting “no”.

I can’t even remember the last time I took a plastic bag from the grocery store (or even a retail store).  I almost always have a reusable bag with me.  And the few times I do forget to bring my own bag, I will pay $0.10 for a paper bag or just carry the items out loosely.

Even though the ban on plastic bags doesn’t affect me all that much directly, I am so happy that it passed because I know a lot of Californians wouldn’t change their habits otherwise.

personal

Real Life Minimalist

Ever since I stumbled upon Miss Minimalist’s blog a few years ago, I’ve toyed with the idea of submitting my own Real Life Minimalist story one day.  But at that time, there wasn’t much of a story to tell.  I was living in a stuffed (but organized) loft and even though minimalism definitely appealed to me, no one would have associated me with the term “minimalist”.

Fast forward to present day, a lot has changed.  After three years of consistent decluttering and a life-changing move last year, my family, friends and even colleagues now often refer to me as a minimalist.  Twenty sixteen was the year I finally felt like I had a minimalism story to share.  So I started drafting my post.

Multiple drafts later, I was finally done… kind of.  For some reason, I wasn’t quite ready to submit it.  Maybe it was because I was still very insecure about “putting myself out there”.  The only people who knew about my blog that point were a handful of my closest friends.  I was afraid of criticism.  There are a lot of trolls roaming around the world wide web.

In hindsight, waiting to submit my post worked out for the better because it gave me the opportunity to add one more paragraph that wouldn’t have existed until very recently.

After I discovered this YouTube channel, I started caring a lot more about ethics and sustainability.  As I ran out of beauty and skincare products, I started replacing them with vegan and cruelty-free ones.  This newfound awareness and concern even trickled into my eating habits.  I replaced my half-and-half with soy milk and stopped cooking meat at home, for instance.

Once I added this unexpected side effect of minimalism into my story, it felt complete.  At the same time, I didn’t feel as insecure anymore.  Sure, a mean-spirited comment from a total stranger would still hurt my feelings.  But I try to remind myself that I am the expert of my opinion and my journey.  And if my story could help, encourage or inspire another person on their minimalism journey, like how so many others have inspired me, then I shouldn’t let fear stand in the way.

So.

I finally submitted my story.  It was published this week  :).

beauty

beauty & skincare staples

I’ve noticed that whenever I find a staple for a product, I am less tempted to impulsively buy something new to try (or jump on free samples and gift with purchases).

Here are some examples:

Since I have eczema/psoriasis (my dermatologist can’t tell which one it is) on my legs and elbows, I started using CeraVe as my daily body lotion.  And now, regardless of how pretty or delicious another moisturizer looks and smells, I know CeraVe is the most effective for my skin so I don’t bother with purchasing anything else.

For my hair, I’ve been using Jose Maran’s argan oil for a few years now.  Since it does a fantastic job of keeping my frizzy hair at bay, I stopped purchasing other hair serums.  I also recently started applying argan oil to my face and around my eyes after my evening showers in lieu of night cream and eye cream.  Argan oil works just as effectively as those creams but it’s much healthier for my skin.  One way I can tell (besides the long list of ingredients I can’t pronounce in those creams) is when I first switched back to night cream, I felt a mild stinging sensation on my skin.  And when I would accidentally rub my eyes with eye cream on, my eyes would get extremely irritated, becoming all red and itchy.  When I only have argan oil around my eyes, I can rub it all I want and it doesn’t get irritated.  So going forward, I will no longer be purchasing night creams and eye creams.

After trying this, this and this mascara, I think the Too Faced mascara will be my official mascara.  None of the other vegan, cruelty free mascaras have been able to provide the same volume as this one.

Some other products I repurchase regularly but don’t know if I like them enough to call them “staples”: