Simple low waste kitchen hacks

I often hear people talk about a zero waste kitchen. For most of us (unless we grow a majority of the food we eat in our own backyard) this is something that’s quite difficult to achieve.

For quite a few years, I have actively looked at where I can waste less and be smarter with how I shop for groceries and store my food. In the current global pandemic (it’s July 2020 as I write this), I’ve found it’s much harder to access food markets and some of the places I used to buy bigger bulk items from, but I’m still doing my best to reduce the amount of plastic bags and packaging that comes into my home.

Here are my top 5 favourite tips of how to reduce waste and plastic in your kitchen!

  1. Bring your own shopping bags. Goes without saying that bringing our own bags to the shops (not just the grocery store!) is a great first step. I always have a few canvas bags in the car, but I also keep a small fold up bag in my handbag and another one in my gym bag. That way I always have a bag with me for groceries and other shopping so I can say ‘no thank you‘ to any unnecessary plastic.
  2. Reusable produce bags. I bought similar bags to these ones about 4 years ago and I use them every single week. If they get dirty, I just wash them in hot soapy water, they dry very quickly. If you don’t want to pay money to buy something similar, it’s super easy to make your own produce bags using old t-shirts, pillowcases or pretty much any type of fabric you have laying around your house.
  3. Bees wax wraps and reusable silicone bags. I have found that bees wax wraps are great for that half of an avocado, onion, tomato or other thing you need to wrap up and use later. I have bought most of my bees wax wraps at local markets over the years, but you can of course buy them online or even google how to make your own. I wash mine out in lukewarm or cold water and sometimes it’s good to use a sponge or gentle scrubber to get any stubborn food stains off. Instead of ziplock bags, I bought reusable silicone bags a few months ago and absolutely love them! They store things really well in both the fridge and the freezer and wash our really easily with warm soapy water. They have also worked really well as sandwich bags on a few hikes.
  4. Food storage containers and glass jars. As an avid meal-prepper, I have a bunch of different types and sizes of food storage containers on hand. Glass jars from your old pasta sauce or mustard can easily be washed out and used for storing salad dressings, soup and a bunch of other things.

    Over the past few years I have gradually started replacing my plastic food storage containers with glass tub versions. You can pick these up online or at your nearest well Kmart or similar. I do still use my old plastic containers for storing food in, I just make sure to not reheat the plastic tubs in the microwave, but rather put the leftovers on a plate for reheating. It makes me a bit sad when people throw all their perfectly good storage containers in the trash just because they happen to be made of plastic. Reducing your plastic waste is a great intention, but where do you think most of those plastic tubs you threw out actually end up? In landfill waste. So rather than throwing things out and creating more short term waste, use the items responsibly until they break and then replace them!
  5. Wash out and reuse ziplock type plastic bags. A very simple hack that saves both money and plastic waste. If I use ziplock bags (which is rare), I make sure to wash them out with hot soapy water, let them dry out and then use them again. If you buy frozen berries or fruit, they often come in sturdy resealable bags which you can easily wash out and use again. For any plastic bags that are torn and can’t be washed and reused, I make sure to recycle them.

I think zero waste is a great intention, but for most of us it’s very hard to achieve it. Rather than thinking we have to be perfect or not try at all, I welcome you to join me and do your best to reduce the waste that’s generated from your kitchen and household. I believe in progress over perfection and hopefully that’s something that can help you too!

How to declutter sustainably

It’s February 2020 as I write this, and I keep noticing that people are still working on kicking off the year well. Let’s face it, January is a bit of a ‘soft start’ month, but February is when the rubber really hits the road, right! A big part of that kick off and positive energy is decluttering your space/home and getting rid of things that no longer serve you. If you’re keen to declutter your life, I’d welcome you to join my simple 7 step declutter challenge, which I’ll share in the next blog post.

I’m a BIG fan of decluttering, but I have noticed in a range of videos and posts online where many people seem to throw most of the stuff they don’t want straight in the trash. I’m sure a lot of people do the right thing and sell, donate and recycle things behind the scenes. But if most of the declutter goes straight in the trash, this breaks my heart a little, because it’s both wasteful and irresponsible.

I know that in the past I have definitely thrown things in the trash that should probably not have gone there, and over the past few years I’ve promised myself to do my bit in reducing my footprint on this planet. My philosophy is that we are just as responsible for HOW and WHERE we get rid of things as we are for bringing those things into our life and home in the first place.

It can be frustrating, because most of us prefer things to happen instantly (once we have decided to declutter something, we want it done and out of our house ASAP). That’s why it can be so helpful to approach decluttering with a bit of a method to tackle one area or room at a time. This way we have time and space to do it properly and sell, donate and throw away anything that we no longer use. You may want to use a specific method (Konmari is a popular one), or you might be like me and prefer to tackle one physical area at a time, rather than going by category. In my next video and blog post I’ll share the 7 step declutter method I tend to use and welcome you to join me on the challenge if you’d like to!

First I wanted to cover a few very important ground rules before you get started on your sustainable decluttering:

  1. Have a ‘declutter zone’ for the things you’ll be clearing out
    With a dedicated space before you start, the declutter is a lot easier to manage. I can assure you that you’ll get a bit overwhelmed otherwise! A garage, storage room, corner of a spare room or similar is ideal if you have a lot to go through. I would recommend you don’t keep things (except the things you’re selling) for more than a week, otherwise you’ve just moved the clutter from one room to another. My partner and I have decluttered a lot over the past few years, so nowadays we normally just have a small bag or box in our closet where things go for donations and one shelf for things to sell.

  2. Think repurpose!
    Often when I have decluttered one area I find great use for a storage bin, container or lamp in another room. This is why you have your dedicated space to put the things in, sometimes it helps to take the item out of its first space to see how useful or pretty it could be somewhere else.

    Now a word of warning here if you like the idea of DIY projects and repurposing an object (like painting a picture frame or something). Only keep these things/projects if you know for 100% sure you’ll get around to doing them in the near future. Otherwise you’re just holding onto clutter and wishful thinking. Be honest with yourself and be OK with getting rid of things that you know you’ll never get to repurposing.

  3. Sell things that are in good condition!
    Selling things might take time, but you’d be surprised how much you can get for an item that you no longer use. I’ve had great success with Facebook marketplace, eBay, (or similar pages if you’re not in Australia) where people have collected the item same day and I’ve got some of the money back that I originally paid for the item (#winwin).
    This also goes for things you list for free collection (we did this with our old printer/scanner) to get someone to come and take something for free that you can’t sell.

    I’d recommend if you’ve got a lot of things to sell, only list 2-3 things at a time so you don’t overwhelm yourself dealing with people asking questions about the item. Local buy/swap/sell Facebook groups or noticeboards can also be a good thing to check out to get rid of things that still have value.

  4. Give to friends and family.
    If you have clothes, makeup, shoes, toys, books, bedding, towels, movies, kitchenware or anything else you no longer need, it’s worth asking friends and family if there is anything they need. Often when I’ve moved countries, I have donated most of my old kitchen stuff, bedding etc to a friend setting up their place.

    If you have people in your life with hoarding tendencies, I would recommend to not give them anything, unless it’s to replace an item that is broken or no longer working. It’s not your responsibility to manage other people’s choices, but hoarding is a difficult pattern to break, and you can help a little by not bringing more stuff into their home.

    Please don’t just bring your stuff over and force people to take your old stuff if they have not asked for it, make sure to ask them first and don’t just dump your clutter onto someone else!

  5. Donate responsibly
    Once you’ve checked with people in your life, feel free to donate most of the remaining things. Remember to only donate clothes, furniture and other items to charity that are in good condition to be worn or used. Otherwise you’re creating unnecessary work for the charity shop to go through your old stained t-shirts and chipped kitchenware. You can always call your local charity before you head down there and double check what sort of donations they accept.

    Old socks can be recycled via organisations like this instead of going to landfill. Shops like H&M and Zara in Australia accept clothes in any condition to be recycled through them, instead of going to landfill. Old towels and blankets can often be donated to a local vet clinic or animal shelter. Some non expired food items (especially canned things) and hygiene products can be donated to local charities who support disadvantaged people in the community. Google is your friend here, so just look up what you can donate in your local area.

  6. Always recycle what you can
    Every city and country is different, but there are some things that should NEVER go in your garbage bin! Electronics, paint, old mattresses and batteries are things you can normally drop for free or a small cost at your local recycling centre. Your normal recycling like metal, paper/cardboard, glass and plastic can naturally be recycled in most places (just check the plastic packaging to see if it has a recycling symbol on it). Soft plastic/plastic bags usually need to be taken to designated spots for collection.

  7. Learn from what you have to throw away
    Some things that are broken, stained or expired products will need to be thrown out in the trash and that’s ok. If you’ve gone through the above steps, there should be far less trash than it could have been otherwise.

    Depending how much trash and recycling you accumulate through this challenge you might need to divide it up over a few weeks to fit in your bin. After a declutter it can be difficult to look at all the waste you find in your home, but use this as a learning for the future and don’t beat yourself up about it! By being honest with ourselves we can do better in the future.

Keen to get started? Keep an eye out for my 7 step declutter coming out soon!

An introduction

It’s always tricky to simplify and tell a story in a short and concise way. In some ways, I don’t believe people’s life story is something that should ever be short. Every person we meet have a unique story about how they got where they are today.

It’s essentially all about the journey and the many milestones, some of them very sad and difficult ones, that shapes a person. Some of the best stories I’ve heard about people (and what made them who they are now) have been told around campfires, over the phone, on long drives and every single one of those stories deserves space and time.

Getting to know someone means relating to part of their story, so in this week’s blog post and the below video I wanted to share a bit about me and my background.

Edit: the below was written and filmed before the pandemic impacted Australia and the rest of the world. It goes to show that we never know what will happen and that a simple life helps us be grateful for what we have and make the best of very challenging times.

My brief timeline:

  • 1982: I was born in the south of Sweden and grew up on a small family farm. In 1984 and 1988 I also became a very proud older sister to my 2 awesome brothers.
  • 1998: My first overseas trip without my parents. Went to England with a friend for a summer class to learn English. That same year mum and I moved from our tiny village to the nearest big city for me to start high school.
  • 2001: One of those truly life changing milestones. I graduated from high school and left Sweden for the U.S. where I spent a year outside San Francisco working as an au pair. Awesome experience overall and some of the best road trips I’ve ever had. Confronting in many ways to be so far away from home, especially when 9/11 happened. Finished the year with an epic month long bus trip down the west coast, across all the southern states and up the east coast to fly home from New York.
  • 2003: Started university to study political science on the Swedish west coast. Loved student life and most of the things we learned. Statistics never made it to my list of favourite topics though.
  • 2005: Awesome summer backpacking trip for 2 months with 3 of my best friends through big parts of Asia. We basically travelled from Helsinki to Singapore by train and bus (via Russia, Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia). Some hard moments for sure, but an amazing adventure. And yes, we flew home from Singapore!
  • 2007: Graduated university with a Master’s Degree in political science and communication. That same year I moved to England (Manchester) for both love and work.
  • 2010: Left the rain in England for sunny Australia. Started out briefly in Western Australia and then working in Sydney for a few months, before making Melbourne my home in December that year. Had a few fantastic months of traveling too!
  • 2013: Studied coaching and started my part time coaching business whilst working full time in corporate. Learned a lot about human behaviour and running a business. Difficult, but incredibly rewarding experience. I also ran a full marathon that year. A very full on year looking back at it now!
  • 2018: Met my partner Paul in May. So incredibly grateful that our paths crossed.
  • 2019: Paul and I made a big decision to take a career break together and spent 3,5 months traveling around Europe. Beautiful moments reconnecting and spending time with many of my friends and family as well as seeing a bunch of new places together.
  • 2020: Let’s see what happens, shall we?!

Looking at that list you can probably tell that I’ve moved, explored and in some ways simplified life consistently over the past 20 years. And a few things have remained very consistent. I tend to value experiences and relationships much higher than physical things. I have never borrowed money to go on a trip or adventure, I have always had a budget and saved up the money first. I try to always consider the environmental impact of my decisions, which is not always a straight forward thing. having lived overseas for a long time, I have still gone back home to Sweden for a holiday most years, given my family and many of my friends still live there.

More than anything, I feel like my urge to travel have taught me a lot about people, languages and culture. It’s easy to see how there is always a connection between places and the simpler we live, the less clutter and noise we have to cut through to see those connections. To live simply is never about taking the ‘easy way’. When we focus on the simple things by making hard decisions, life opens up with lots more opportunities than we were able to see in the first place.

The easiest way to organise your life in 2020

Every year I choose a theme or keyword for that year and for 2020 my theme is creativity. Having a key theme for your year or month is a great way to start keeping things simple and focused.

Years ago, I used to blog about my travels and life in Australia, but as life and work got busy, that creative writing fell away. So I decided to pick it back up again and hold myself accountable to not just thinking about creativity, but sharing it as well. Check out my first YouTube video here if you’re curious to listen in.

So, what about that key question? How do I simplify my life in 2020 and beyond? My answer would be to welcome simplicity into your life. This is not going to happen overnight, but it’s been the most helpful tool for me over the past few years. I find that it’s best to approach simplicity from 2 angles:

  1. To simplify things is a way of life. It’s asking yourself some basic questions as you encounter clutter, noise, decisions and other things in your day to day life. Some of those helpful questions might be “How important is this for me and those I love?” or “Is this something I should be focusing on right now?“.
  2. Simplification is also a helpful process. It’s about looking at different areas of your life (ideally one at a time) and clearing out, organising and nurturing the parts of your life that needs some extra attention.

My partner Paul and I have both been on the simplification / minimalism / essentialism journey for a few years now, and I’ve noticed that I have worked through both of the above approaches in tandem during most of that time.

Here in my blog and YouTube videos you will find that the underlying theme will always be simplicity. Each week I’ll unpack a particular tool that will help you get more organised, have more clarity and simply get down to what’s really important.

The key themes you’ll see coming back are:

  • Budgeting and finance. We need to know our finances well to know what we have as well as what we want going forward.
  • Organisation and structure. This covers home, digital, calendars and a bunch of other things. When we organise our physical and digital space our mind tends to settle a bit.
  • Health and well-being. This is key for a happy life if you ask me, without our health it does not matter how rich we are. In this area we’ll cover meal prep, exercise, mental well being and mindset. I’ve worked as a coach for many years, so I’ve got lots to share here!
  • Travel, expat life and exploring. I moved away from my native Sweden in 2007 and had travelled lots before that as well. To travel and explore is something my partner and I love, and I’ll share some of our adventures and plans with you here too.
  • Sustainability and environment. To try and reduce my footprint on this planet is key for me. There are so many ways to achieve that with day to day decisions, from how we grocery shop to how we dress or travel.

In a world where so many people feel lonely, let’s share that journey to simplify (including the many obstacles it comes with!) and slowly improve together. I’m only human and I’d like to share the things I’ve learned and implemented in my life with you if you’d like to join in!