Bea Johnson lives waste-free with her family since 2008 and is the author of the bestseller Zero Waste Home (Zéro Déchet en francais)
"Since embarking on the Zero Waste lifestyle, our lives have changed for the better: We feel happier and lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff. My goal is to share its incredible health, financial and time saving benefits!"

Wardrobe Update

Well, you've asked for it, so here it is, and in full! A close look at the contents of my current, minimalist wardrobe (it even includes intimates!).

I was recently asked if, having graduated from Fashion school, I am not tempted to buy new, add pieces to my wardrobe or shop more often than twice a year...

My answer was: Once you discover the advantages of a small wardrobe, you'll find that they are too great to give up!

Buy new? What a waste of money that would be! 
I did buy one piece of clothing new in the past two and a half years, but the rest of my wardrobe is secondhand and the prices of the pieces that I purchased are so good, I could not go back to retail! The leather combat boots cost $2.50, the leather high heeled booties $10, the strappy heels $10, the nude pumps $8.50, the navy blazer $2.50, the leather skirt $5, the sunglasses $2, etc.

My pumps still have their price marked on them ;)

Add pieces to my wardrobe? No way! I'd lose mobility.
We not only save a lot of money buying less, it's also owning less (the fact that our wardrobes fit in carry-ons) that allows us to easily rent our house while we're gone. And both of these have made some truly awesome experiences possible (see below). I would not want to give them up for a bigger closet. They are core to our happiness and well being.

My 19" Carry-On

Buy more often? What a waste of time that would be!
Life is short. Rather than shopping, I much prefer planning an adventure or living one, like kayaking overnight in the Everglades, as we did during the Holiday Season/Shopping Madness. We saw manatees, alligators, and Leo even found himself face to face with a Python. Facing the fear of his life, he never felt more alive!

Kayaking with my family: so much more memorable than clothes shopping! -and Max: being a teenager and hiding his joy;)

Buy less, waste less, live more...

Call it what you want: A New Years' Resolution?

I am not a fan of New Years' resolutions. I know myself well enough to realize that I've never really followed through with them in the past. I find them intimidating, imposing and weighing. Plus, if I truly want to do something, I don't need to wait to turn a new year. I just do it then and there!

So, for years, I resisted the temptation to take one on and announce to my entourage that I planned on doing this or that for the rest of the year, because I knew (and they too) that there was a good chance, that I wouldn't stick to it, that I would break my word... And end up looking like a flake, as most of those that take them on, do.

I entered 2015 with no resolution at all. But I did have one aspiration: To volunteer more.

I jumped on With a packed, but flexible, work schedule, I looked for anything within the realm of waste - if I found something super cool, I'd find a way to fit it in. But very little choice (only 6 options) came up in my area. I could help serve a hot meal in San Francisco, but the idea of commuting by bus into the city stressed me out. I could pick up extra food and deliver it to local organizations, but I don't enjoy spending time in the car. I could become an "environmental leader" for a local chapter of The Sierra Club, but I didn't want to get on their mailing list again: It took me years of calls and letters to get my name off of it in the past.

Nothing seemed to jump out at me as something exiting that would make me leap out of bed or be worth shuffling my schedule around. What I was really hoping to find was some hands-on ("dirty") work, outside, where I yearned to be; One that does not include a lengthy presentation about waste - I have been frustrated with past engagements when the organizers give a speech while I impatiently wait to get to work... What I was really hoping to find is a litter pick up.

And so I did last week, on my own.

I packed a lunch, two reusable sand bags, a pair of gloves, and the dog's leash, and headed for one of my favorite beaches in Marin County. Being a Monday, Zizou and I were on our own, well almost...

An Elephant Seal came to encourage us

The pieces (mostly plastics) that I picked up that day were so small that it took me two hours to fill up the two bags that I had brought. 

This fine point marker was in excellent, usable condition: I gave it to a cashier this week

Once home, I separated the found bits, threw some in our old trash can, others in the recycling bin. My neighbors probably thought my family had a setback, when they saw our trashcan out on the curb for the first time in five years;)

Sure, I pick up litter around town and have participated in organized cleanup events before. But this one was different. Getting some much needed solo time, breathing the fresh air, taking in some vitamin D, getting a workout (the hike back to my car, carrying the litter was 1.5 miles and included a steep ravine), walking the dog, getting the honors of the visit of a fury friend, doing good for the environment, and finding a present for my son's upcoming birthday (LOL)...

From litter to gift (don't tell Max, it's a surprise!)

...all at at once, on my own terms: now that's a rewarding experience. My kinda volunteering activity.

I can't wait to go again, and I made room in my schedule to go once a month. Would that be considered a New Year's resolution, just because I started in January and plan on continuing? Call it what you want; I call it Bliss, an activity that connects what I think, what I say and what I do.

Zizou, very much enjoying the endeavor and hoping for a next time

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony" - Gandhi

Did you take on a New Year's Resolution that makes you happy?

Zero Waste Home Essential: Multi-functionality

Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for embracing voluntary simplicity. It's truly been a gift and an awakening! It's made our family's household chores effortless, it has naturally eliminated toxic products from our routines, it saves a lot of money, but best of all: It saves a lot of time!

At the core of it, was the decluttering work that I have covered before. But a lot of my family's minimalism also lies on adopting products that are multi-functional throughout the house.

Considering that the average American spends an estimated $2000 annually just on hygiene products, I am happy to share with you how economical, multi-functionality can be in the bathroom alone.

We purchase this bar of soap for $2/unit (Good Soap, 3 for $6 at Whole Foods, a few times a year), and use it as:
  1. Shampoo
  2. Facial cleanser
  3. Hand wash
  4. Body wash
  5. Shaving soap

I fill this little jar with organic, bulk cocoa powder, once a year. It costs 72 cents and I use it as:
  1. Blush
  2. Dry shampoo
  3. Eyebrow powder
  4. Eyelid powder
  5. Body bronzer

I buy baking soda in bulk for $1.71/lb at Good Earth a couple of times a year, and use it as:
  1. Toothpowder
  2. Deodorant
  3. Tile scrubber
  4. Exfoliator
  5. Mixed with water as an antacid for guests (our family does not suffer from heartburn)

Three, simple, natural products, purchased in bulk/unpackaged have eliminated 15 packaged, toxic ones. No longer buying them evidently saves money, but the time savings are incredible since I no longer have to:

  1. Drive to the store to buy each one of them
  2. Load them in the car
  3. Unload them from the car
  4. Take them up 51 steps to our bathroom
  5. Stack them in a cupboard
  6. Throw the empty containers in a bathroom recycling can
  7. Take that bathroom recycling can down 51 steps to the curb
  8. Empty it into the curbside recycling cart
  9. Walk back up the 51 steps
  10. Start over again 

When did we start listening to bogus marketing claims telling us that we need different products for different applications? Or start thinking that consuming saves time? Or forgetting that soap is, simply put, soap

If you are looking to simplify your life this year, favor multi-functionality in the products that you buy or already have, you'll be amazed at how much space, time and money you'll save.

In 2015, Buy Less, Live More. Happy New Year!