Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

The Best Things I Bought This Year

This might seem like a weird thing to write about for someone who calls herself a minimalist, but this post really does have a place here. Part of cutting back on purchases and unnecessary stuff is being able to appreciate what you have and realize what has really made a difference.

I haven’t purchased much this year, although this list has reminded me that I bought more than I realized. This list includes most of what I bought, and for good reason. The things below all made a tangible difference in my life and were the best things I bought this year.

My Best Purchases of 2017

Used Trek Lexa 2

1. Bike

I was pretty devastated when my bike was stolen. It took me months of going to bike shops and relentlessly scanning the internet to find my new bike. I eventually found the perfect used road bike on Craigslist. When I brought her in to my local bike shop to get her all set up the (amazingly patient and super helpful) guy said he never sees used bikes that fit that well.

Since purchasing her (and an unfortunately expensive slew of other necessary things like a helmet and pedals), I have reduced my driving down to once a week. I love flying down hills and racing past traffic. Lexy (yes, she has a name) is by far the best physical thing I bought this year. She makes stupid happy and we go nearly everywhere together. She’s now my main set of wheels.

Allbirds Wool Travel Shoes in Iceland

2. Allbirds

It feels near impossible to find a relatively sustainable shoe that is also comfortable and not hideous. I pined after these wool shoes for nearly a year before I finally purchased some. They were my main travel shoes this year (they went all over Iceland and New Zealand wonderfully). They were also my main every day shoe. From commuting to riding my bike on errands, I take them everywhere.

Patagonia Women's Micro D® 1/4-Zip Fleece – The Best Things I Bought This Year

3. Fleece Sweatshirt

I’ll be honest with you, I have some guilt about this one. I am very aware that my fleece sweatshirt leaches plastic fibers into the environment and the water every time I wear and wash it. The synthetic fibers wash out of the garment and into the waterways, ocean, and even our drinking water. I’m planning to purchase a bag that traps the fibers and helps keep them out of the water, but it will still end up in the trash or blown away.

With that said, I couldn’t find a warm sweatshirt or mid layer made from natural fibers that I could afford. I also needed something that could pack small, get wet, and handle being shoved in a suitcase. This Patagonia fleece is ethically produced from recycled polyester, which made me feel slightly (just slightly) less terrible about the whole thing. It does everything I need it to do, and it will last me for years. I wear this sweatshirt every single day, and it’s on my must-have list for any trip. (Don’t worry, I wash it around twice a month, so it’s not too grungy and it sheds less.)

Zero Waste Handkerchiefs – The Best Things I Bought This Year

4. Handkerchiefs

I never thought I would love using handkerchiefs. I am a complete convert. My nose has never felt better, they wash and dry like a dream, and we have massively reduced our trash. I bought some handmade handkerchiefs off Etsy, but you can find them all over including in thrift stores and zero waste online shops like Life Without Plastic and Package Free Shop.

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots – The Best Things I Bought This Year

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots – The Best Things I Bought This Year

5. Hiking Boots

While hiking in New Zealand I would not shut up about how great of an investment these boots were. After 4 hours of rain and 2 hours of snow my feet were still completely dry. They handled plodding through an unexpected foot of snow for hours on end like a champ. It took me forever to find a hiking boot that my feet accepted, and I was happy to discover that these are made in Europe and that the company takes their impact seriously.

Dyson V8 – The Best Things I Bought This Year

6. Vacuum

I am a cleaning nerd, and I’m not ashamed of it. I dreamed of owning this vacuum* for almost a full year before we decided it was worth the investment (both money and space). I’m so glad we finally brought it home. It works great in our small space, and I’m thrilled to no longer have to sweep the stairs (which really just meant throwing all of the dust and debris into the air).

Kayaking Milford Sound – The Best Things I Bought This Year

7. Time Off to Travel

Of course this is on the list, and it’s definitely not really last. Sure, it’s not something physical, but it was my biggest expenditure this year. I took on extra clients and projects and gave up some weekends throughout the year to be able to spend more than six weeks traveling in 2017. From Iceland to New Zealand to Hawaii to visiting family, it was worth every extra bit of hard work.

Freelance has been a huge learning experience with some serious lows, but the ability to take off when I like and travel has made it all worth it.

 

PS. I don’t make any money off of the links I included here. They’re just for reference/ nosy people like me. 

*Much too patient boyfriend not included.

Why I Deleted My Facebook Account

For years I have been dreaming about this day, but I always told myself ‘I couldn’t possibly actually do that.’ Well past self, I definitely did.

I haven’t used Facebook with any regularity since college. In the years after I would go on and catch up with people’s lives that I never see or talk to. I don’t know about you, but this left me feeling more like a stalker than a far away friend. Once the timeline updated and stupid videos that acquaintances shared started to take over my feed like virulent mold, I stopped logging in altogether.

It’s been at least two and a half years since the Facebook app was on my phone, but I still couldn’t quite bring myself to delete my account entirely.

Why I Deleted My Facebook

Facebook Isn’t for Friends

My account was my ‘binders full’ of friends. I held on to it for so long because I had convinced myself that all of the people who were a part of my life in the past – elementary school classmates, high school friends and lab partners, family that moved away when I was child – were still relevant and connected to my current life. Deleting my account made me face the fact that I never interact with anyone on there. They give me a false sense of friendship when in reality we are strangers with each other’s names on a website.

Facebook has not built my friendships. If anything, it made me feel less connected to the people who are in my life. When I actually used Facebook I would follow along with what all of my high school classmates were up to in their new lives while my college roommates sat in the room with me.

I no longer buy into the idea that social media deepens our relationships or helps us connect meaningfully with new people. Of course you can make new friends via social media, but the real friendship building happens offline.

 

My Last Straw

This has been building for years. Facebook’s lack of response to harassment, trolling, and blatant hatred toward women was reason enough. I was sick and tired of Facebook using predatory ad practices to market me more things I don’t need. I am still tired of all of the all companies selling my data to other companies who want to get me to give them money. Each and every update to the service feels more and more like it’s for brands and people who profit from the site.

The election pushed me over the edge. From the widespread infection of truly made-up ‘news’ and false events to the hate groups that grew their faithful lackeys to the constant barrage of outrage and poorly thought-out rants, I was done.

Facebook’s complicity in Russia’s hostile attack on our election was my final straw. I want them to suffer for what they’ve done, and deleting accounts and rapidly deflating their user numbers is one way that I can contribute.

 

No more fake friends.

Twitter and Snapchat were deleted years ago for failing to hold my interest (and taking up way too much of my tiny 8Gs of space). My Twitter account hangs on by a thread due to career obligations (but my do I salivate about cutting it).

Instagram is still on my phone. And I need to do a lot better about using it meaningfully.

From here on out I want to be better at interacting with the people I follow on Instagram. Like many, I follow people who I admire or who inspire me. As long as that’s still true, I think they deserve space in my feed. For everyone else, it’s time I reached out and used Instagram as a way to build our connection, not just watch from afar. An engaged comment on a friend’s posts, a quick text to start a real conversation, or, even better, a request to hear about their recent stunning vacation in real life would go a long way towards what I’m really after – richer relationships in my real (a.k.a. offline) life.

 

The End of Social Media?

I can’t help but hope so. This article by Nick Bilton in Vanity Fair about the future of social media gave me a little bit of hope.

 

Looking for a little peace in the digital world? You might like my posts about my Distraction-Free Smartphone, Minimizing Social Media, and a hearty Digital Decluttering.

Me in Other Places

I don’t talk much in this space about my daily work. It often feels weird to bring up the projects I’m working on or share endless links here. I can never quite figure out how I feel about posting my published pieces (too self-promotional? A nice change of pace? A smart way to share my work?).

But since I’m traveling this month in New Zealand (and am thus in another place), I wanted to give a better idea of what my life really looks like, how I spend my time, and the work I do. I also want to be able to share the words I write elsewhere with you, and this seems to be the best way to do it (at least for now).

Mount Cook National Park New Zealand

There is a lot of stuff here (and it’s not everything I wrote this month. In total I turned in 15 stories, which is far from what most months look like for me). If I had to only pick one, I’d suggest:

Let Me Tell You What It’s Really Like To Be A Minimalist

Includes more pictures of our tiny space : )

Hello, Holidays

October is often a crazy month for publishing. It’s the last big push for holiday content before everyone turns there gaze to New Year’s. I spent the month fully immersed in Christmas, and it’s been weird to say the least. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to working on holiday stories and gift guides when it’s still 80 degrees outside and I have yet to even eat a bite of pumpkin-flavored something.

15 Gifts Your Friends Will Love – Sunset Magazine

16 Great Gifts for Your Coworkers – Sunset Magazine

11 Gifts Your Parents Will Love – Sunset Magazine

13 Gifts for the Bon Vivant – Sunset Magazine

12 Gifts for People Who Love Camping – Sunset Magazine

15 Gifts for the Garden-to-Table Cook – Sunset Magazine

7 Gifts with Stylish Desert Vibes – Sunset Magazine

Gluten Free Gift Guide – Healthline

Always On the Go Gift Guide – Healthline

Essential Gifts for the Outdoors Adventurer – Healthline

Other Things

Let Me Tell You What It’s Really Like To Be A Minimalist

25 Ways to Fix Oily Hair

Even More Things

October was an exceptionally busy month for me. I was trying to squeeze in as much as I could before going on a longer trip. Even so, the things you see above weren’t the only things I was working on. I also do website production in house for Sunset, copywriting for a local startup, editorial work for an amazing book producer, and in theory, write here for you.

In hindsight, I don’t know how I did it all this month. But I’d say it was worth it.

 

What I Wish I Knew Before Starting New Zealand’s Routeburn Track

I’m spending most of this month traveling around New Zealand, and while I will certainly post more about what my boyfriend and I have done and all of the details (packing list, itinerary, must-sees, etc.), I thought I’d start with the part that most influenced everything else, our Great Walk.

We planned our entire trip around doing one of New Zealand’s famed Great Walks. We didn’t get our first choice (Milford), but we gladly signed up for the Routeburn Track. Outside of booking places to stay, planning for our hike took up most of our pre-trip preparation time. To be honest, we fumbled our way through and learned the hard way that we weren’t quite as prepared as we hoped.

Routeburn Track: The Divide Start

Routeburn Track Itinerary

Day 1 (Nov. 7): Drive to The Divide outside Te Anau. Hike 12km (7.5 miles) to Lake Mackenzie Hut. Sleep at the hut.

Day 2 (Nov. 8): Hike 11.3km (7 miles) to Routeburn Falls Hut. Sleep at the hut and eat as much of our rations as possible.

Day 3 (Nov. 9): Leisurely hike 8.8km (5.5 miles) to the end of the track at the Routeburn Shelter. Drive our thoughtfully relocated rental car on to our hostel in Wanaka before collapsing.

Spoiler Alert: This definitely didn’t happen.

Routeburn Track November Lake Hoden

What I Wish I Knew Before Starting New Zealand’s Routeburn Track

1. The Weather is No Joke

We booked our hut stays in July (4 months before our trip) when weather and the real details of our trip were completely unknown. Our hike was scheduled for early November with two hut stays along the way. We planned for inclement weather that could change on a dime. I had packed thermal tights (meant for running/hiking in the snow), fleece pants, a fleece sweatshirt, a down jacket, a raincoat, two pairs of hiking socks, 1 pair of socks for the huts, a baseball hat, two long-sleeve quick-dry shirts, and two short sleeve quick-dry tops. I figured I would layer up and strip things off as I went. HA.

We were not at all ready to be rained on for hours or to have that rain turn into thick flurries of snow. It rained on us for 4 hours and snowed on us for 2 on the way to Mackenzie Lake. I was in no way prepared to be this drenched. If we would have been able to continue on to the next hut, I would have had to hike all day in wet clothes or risk getting my only dry clothes soaked through. Another pair of clothes would have been essential.

I also desperately wished I had not worn my down jacket while hiking because once it got wet, it was useless. I shivered like crazy and wore my sleeping bag in the hut while being green with envy over other people’s warm, dry coats. I did my best to dry it out in front of the fire and then let it hang overnight, but it was still quite damp the next day.

Routeburn Track Mackenzie Lake Ranger Hut

Lucky for us, it kept snowing and the track was closed between Mackenzie Lake and Routeburn Falls. We were turned back and told to hike back to our car on day 2, which meant hiking for hours in untouched snow (gorgeous) before it started to melt from the trees and leave us just as drenched as the rainstorm.

Lesson: This was the best weather forecast we could find, but it only shows you three days at a time. Plan for the worst case scenario. And if the track may be closed due to snow, assume it will snow or sleet at the lowest elevation too. The weather when you pack your bag will not be the same when you get there.

2. Being in Decent Shape is Not Enough

Ouch. Our poor feet and calves were not prepared for this hike. Training would have made us much more comfortable, and left us with more energy to explore in the days following our hike. We physically could have completed the full hike, but two days of grueling conditions left us immensely thankful to be done.

3. Most Raincoats Are Useless (AKA Rent Real Gear)

I was dry for maybe 3o minutes before my raincoat became more of a wet plastic layer I was wearing for show. After 6 hours, I was drenched all the way through. I really wished I had rented a hardcore raincoat that would have gotten me at least 2 hours of dryness. One of our fellow Routeburn Track hikers had on all of her rain gear and a heavy-duty poncho. She was the happiest, and driest, among us.

4. My Boots Would Bring Me Great Joy

It took me months and painful trips to try on hiking boots before I finally found the right pair. And then the cost almost stopped me at the register. I am so glad I followed through. My hiking boots kept my feet dry and (mostly) warm through 6 hours of rain and 5 hours of stomping through snow/slush. They were even better than I imagined, and I felt fairly secure in my footing given my ankle history. Almost everyone else was desperately trying to dry out their boots and socks at the hut. My feet were so dry I was able to wear my socks for the full two days and give my other dry pair to my boyfriend.

Routeburn Track Lake Mackenzie Hut Bunk

5. The Huts Aren’t Actually Heated

I know, I was upset too. I read that the huts were heated, and that is really far from the truth. Lake Mackenzie had a single wood-burning stove in the kitchen/lounge area. It was maybe large enough to warm a tiny cabin built for 2, not a massive hut built for 60. There were only 10 of us in our hut that night, and we couldn’t all comfortably fit around it. It did zero to heat the bunk area upstairs, which had no heater of its own. With temps below zero that night, our hut was somewhere just above zero (no one’s water froze, but we sure did).

6. Just Pack the Candy

It seemed downright bonkers to me to bring candy on a long hike where I was going to be making unheard of demands on my body. I was wrong, I should have brought the candy. I was fiercely jealous of another woman’s stash. Some gummy bears would have gone a long way to boost moral.

7. More Food

Yes, pack more. Twice as much as you think. We would have been quite hungry on day three if we had been able to make it that far.

Routeburn Track November Spring Snow

Top Routeburn Track Tips:

1. Our car may not have been relocated by TrackHopper, but we were thrilled with their service and I would 100 percent recommend them. They were the first ones to let us know that part of our track was closed (Um… hello DOC… Are you out there?). They assured us that they wouldn’t move our car or charge us unless the closed portion reopened and we were able to hike through.

Our hut-mates were not so lucky. One family was charged for the relocation that didn’t happen and told they would just have to claim it on their trip insurance for a refund. We by far got the better service.

2. Packing our bags for more than three weeks of travel and a three day backcountry hike was not possible. There was no way we could have fit everything we needed into easy to carry bags. Bev’s Tramping Gear Hire saved the day on this one. We picked up our stuff in Te Anau the morning of our first day of hiking. We rented rain pants that kept our legs dry (much unlike our epic failures of jackets), a cooking pot to use in the huts, and sleeping bags. Our car relocation service was going to drop off our rented gear back at Bev’s for us, but we ended up driving back through ourselves given the closure.

3. Most grocery stores around NZ have freeze dried foods and other backpacking food. We brought some from home to try to make things easier with my dietary restrictions, but if you don’t have to worry about that you’ll easily find food here.

 

Questions? Worried about something weirdly specific (yeah, me too). Let me know!

October Books: What I Read This Month

Hellooo, fiction. I’ve finally done it! In October I read a whole five fiction books. That might just be my most yet.

But fear not! I didn’t go too crazy. There are 4 non-fiction offerings and a book of poetry thrown in too.

October Books

October Books Reviews

Double Bind: Women on Ambition

It was fascinating to hear women talk about their ambition and drive or try to skirt around the issue altogether. These essays were eye-opening and hopefully helped me better come to terms with my ambition. I haven’t ever really been one to shy away from going after what I want and being upfront about it, and this book made me thankful for my upbringing and the work I have been able to do so far.

 

Ask the Passengers

Yet another blast from the past, Ask the Passengers was on my list for years and I finally got around to devouring it. A.S. King does a great job of pulling you into the story and keeping you hooked. Astrid’s life feels relatable, and her small town filled with strife maybe a little too real. The book is a little odd or over the top here and there –which is a bit of her style – but overall it was a fun read.

 

The Refugees

What took me so long?!? Viet Thanh Nguyen’s latest book is a collection of short stories about people who have left their country of birth behind in search of a new place to call home. The stories go from harrowing to humorous, but each one left me wanting more. I fell hard for Nguyen’s writing thanks to this quick read. More please!

 

The Bees

Full disclosure: I chose this book because of its cover. It’s gorgeous!

The inside cover compares The Bees to The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale, and I’d say that’s pretty spot on. It was such a weird, unexpectedly thrilling book. The main character is a bee that’s born into the lowest class of her hive. The class warfare and struggles felt surprisingly real and tenable. I wasn’t sure I would get past the first chapter, and instead I almost missed my train stop because I was way too engrossed in Flora 717’s escapades.

 

Turtles All the Way Down

Oh, John, why am I such a sucker for your books? I just cannot resist diving deep into the fantasies John Green creates. Turtles All the Way Down is not nearly as good as some of his past (in my opinion), but it was also a relief not to sob until my eyes looked like watermelons.

Turtles was still engrossing and it stuck with me after I’d read it (as have some of the main character’s biggest paranoias… so thanks for that.) It’s worth the few hours it took to read. (PS. I’m not so secretly proud of how fast I got this one from the library. Love that place.)

 

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011

I love Mary Roach, which is why I read this anthology full of science and nature articles from six years ago. Overall, it left me depressed that some of the biggest concerns of 2011 are still running rampant today or completely swept under the rug where they’re rapidly rotting the floor out from underneath our feet. Unless you’re a huge science writing nerd, I’d wait for the 2017 version to come out soon.

 

Grace and the Fever

I first stumbled across Grace and the Fever on a bookstore date (which I highly recommend if you haven’t gone on one yet). It seemed interesting, the cover was catchy, and the library had it, so I read it.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. At times I was extremely frustrated. It frequently stretched my suspended disbelief too far. I couldn’t come to terms with the weird romance between a fangirl and a pop star. To be fair, this is also just not my area of expertise and interest. I would not be able to name the Jonas Brothers (are they still a thing?) or any other boy bands of the current times. I think I really was too old (and out of touch) to be interested in this one. I would recommend Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (about books and fan fiction) instead.

 

The Princess Saves Herself in this One

Hooray for accessible poetry and young, female voices. That said, I had some trouble really jiving with The Princes Saves Herself in this One after reading Milk and Honey recently (which I loved!). The themes were similar and I found it impossible to not constantly compare them.

 

Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Yes! I knew when I put this book on my list years ago that it fit the way I felt about fast fashion exactly. Cheap clothes = poor wages, low quality products, and environmental ruin.

And I still loved reading Over-Dressed. Elizabeth Cline renewed my interested in finding true quality (mostly from vintage clothing made before fast fashion and shoddy clothes-making techniques hit the scene) used clothing, ethically produced items, and manufacturers that fit my strict standards. It’s one of those books that is an absolute must read if you care about social justice, fair/living wages for all people, environmental protection, and living your values.

Expect to see (many more) posts about this in the future. It’s something I’m really excited to go into more detail about and something I think we don’t talk about enough.

 

Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times

Some of these letters hit me hard, and others really fell flat. It was odd to read people’s thoughts and feelings from the wake of the election nearly a year later. My vantage point from the future did not give me any comfort. It’s worth picking up from the library to see if there is something in here for you, but overall, not electrifying.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

September Books: What I Read This Month (+2 More)

Every month I swear I’m going to write more posts between these book ramblings, and yet each time I sit down to write one I’m reminded that I have yet again only one post sandwiched between them. Unsurprising to anyone, it turns out that writing thousands of words a month for other places (most recently here and here) leaves me with little time or words for myself.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan on reading less, and yes, I am coming up with a plan to set aside a few more words for you. Stay tuned.

September Books

Can someone please explain to me how it is already October? I can’t keep up. Somehow I managed to hit my original reading goal for the year – 52 books – at the beginning of this month. So in true perfectionist/chronic over-achiever form, I have of course made it even higher.

My September books are an odd mix of books I took on vacation (definitely not your traditional beach reads) and young adult fiction. As a bonus there are two books I completely forgot to include in my August list.

September Books

Always Happy Hour

I’m actively trying to like short stories. This set left me frustrated with every single character and their complete disregard for their lives. Each and every woman was portrayed as being stuck with no motivation or care to change anything including shitty relationships, joblessness, and no momentum whatsoever. They made Nick Miller look overzealous and ambitious. It was depressing and infuriating.

 

Mosquitoland

Sometimes you need an over-the-top young adult fiction to get lost in. Mosquitoland hit the mark. It was captivating despite some obvious plot points. For the most part it’s easy to get behind Mim and follow her ride from Mississippi to her former home in Northern Ohio. Stepmothers, vomiting, painful divorce, kind strangers, danger – this book had it all. I definitely stayed up too late one night to finish it, if that’s any indication.

 

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir grabs you by the elbow and takes you through her childhood in Tehran. She explains the revolutions, the political riots, the secret Western hideouts, what was in fashion, and most importantly, what it was like to come of age in a country torn apart by war and oppressive regimes.

Persepolis had been on my list for years, but I picked up this month because I have very little understanding of what it’s like for there to be war outside of your doorstep. To have your family imprisoned for fighting for their rights. To have your entire culture and life structure changed right as you start to grasp it. To have to leave your home behind.

I for one need more books like Satrapi’s right now.

 

The Boston Girl

I am unbelievably late to this party. The Boston Girl made its way onto my list in the height of its popularity three years ago… and then languished there. I’m so glad I finally decided to read it. The library just happened to have The Boston Girl available on e-reader when I was on vacation, and it turned out to be a great ‘beach’ read.

After burning myself out on historical fiction in my early teens, I tend to avoid the genre altogether. But this doesn’t feel anything like that. It read like a memoir in the best kind of way. I loved following Addie as she grew up in the early 1990s in Boston. Her desires and dreams felt so relevant, especially since much of the book takes place in Addie’s early teens and twenties. She tells her life story, not unlike How I Met Your Mother, and keeps you engaged until the very end.

 

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

Yes, I did read this on vacation. In many ways it was oddly comforting and relaxing. Here was a president who had his shit together and a staff member who in a lot of ways is just like me.

Alyssa Mastromonaco’s look back at her time working for President Obama was much more humorous and insightful than I expected. The book is broken up into the life lessons and qualities that supported her along the way. Although more than anything I was buoyed by the knowledge that Alyssa was a woman who fought her way through and surpassed even her own expectations.

The book feels honest – if a little too self-deprecating. She’s upfront about what didn’t go so well (IBS disturbances and stealing from Buckingham Palace included) and willing to laugh at her own expense. If you like Veep, you’ll enjoy it.

 

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

Mandy from SEVEN years ago put this on her to-read list. In a diligent effort to clear it out, I’ve been slowly making my way through the older items. I think I would have liked it better when I was in high school, but it wasn’t bad as a quick read to get lost in.

Overall Please Ignore Vera Dietz was just odd enough to be interesting, although there were some comments/lines that were borderline racist. A.S. King does a remarkable job at building urgency and ushering you along through the pages.

 

No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need

Naomi Klein’s latest is so vital and so important (so much so that it’s going to be in a much longer post soon). In the meantime, you should 100 percent read this. It will leave you feeling like you understand what’s going on around the world and give you the tools to stand up and fight back. No is Not Enough is at times depressing (there isn’t much uplifting about the current White House staff and their pasts), but it gave me the power of knowing what to expect and what can be done to stop it. You seriously need to read it.

 

Bonus Books

Somehow I forgot to include two books from last month, so they are getting thrown in here instead.

The One-in-a-Million Boy

Loved it. A young boy scout’s death incidentally kicks off a grand adventure for the 104-year-old woman he was volunteering for and his father who is struggling to make sense of his son and who he himself really is. The One-in-a-Million Boy is heartbreaking, humorous, and just the right amount of hopeful.

 

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works

I really connected with Dan Harris in Minimalism, but this book did not do it for me. I was dissapointed it. He doesn’t come off well (nor should he), and it didn’t inspire me to start meditating (the whole reason to read it). Not for me.

 

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.

Zero Waste Bathroom Paper Towel Substitute

I long ago cut out paper towels at home, but I have been plagued by paper towels in public restrooms and offices for years. It’s easy to forget just how many paper towels we use in a day. In the U.S. we use an estimated 13 billion pounds of paper towels per year according to the Paperless Project. That’s a whopping 45 pounds per person. To add insult to the landfill-busting number, paper towels use more energy and create more waste than other drying methods.

Since April I have been working in an office a couple days a week. I bring my own lunch and all of the things I need to eat zero waste all day like a cloth napkin and my own fork, but each trip to the bathroom or kitchen would end with me guiltily drying my hands on the only available option – paper towels.

Paper towel conundrums are not new to me. In college I helped launch an initiative to reduce the amount of paper towels used on campus by encouraging people to use the bare minimum instead of cranking out towels longer than toddlers.

But using a single towel or one crank still felt unnecessary and like a lot of trash. As soon as I started working in the office, my daily/weekly trash at least doubled from paper towels alone. I wash my hands a minimum of 10 times a day (between bathroom trips, snacking, and general cleanliness), which means over the course of the month I was using a minimum of 120 paper towels.

While this is still less than the average (according to an reusable towel manufacturer), I wanted to do better. I needed a zero waste paper towel substitute.

Zero Waste Bathroom Towel Substitute: Small Handkerchief or Reusable Baby Wipe

On the Go Paper Towel Substitutes

1. A Small Hand Towel

For a while I had small hand towels that could be clipped to a bag or a drawer to dry. After more than a year working from home, I let them go. They are a great size, and feel more like a regular towel than some of the other options (and I miss them a little bit).

You can also cut a sad looking towel into smaller pieces to take with you. This would work best if the towel is thin, or it will be bulky to carry and dry slowly.

2. Old T-Shirt

Much like an old towel, an old t-shirt can be cut into little hand towels.

3. Camp Towel

A small, quick-drying towel is also a great option. I decided not to go this route because I didn’t want to buy something new, but you might score a good one used. A larger microfiber or quick-dry towel could also be cut into smaller sizes.

Zero Waste Paper Towel Substitute for Hand Drying: Small Handkerchief or Reusable Baby Wipe

4. Reusable Baby Wipes / Handkerchiefs

This is the option I ended up going with. Each day I grab two handkerchiefs off the stack. Half of our handkerchiefs are reusable baby wipes that I bought online, and the other half is handmade tissue-sized handkerchiefs. I honestly can’t tell the difference. Both are absorbent, the same size and thickness, and they work great for nose-blowing or hand drying.

5. Air Dry or Use a Dryer

If it’s available and you don’t have a reusable option, a hand drier is a great alternative to paper towels. Just be mindful of how long you spend with the dryer turned on, and try to use jet air dryers over the old-school hot air dryers to save energy and avoid extra bacteria growth.

How I Avoid Paper Towels

I’m still not in a place where I’m proud of my zero waste solutions. I don’t like drawing extra attention to myself, so my handkerchief solution works great as an incognito alternative. I tuck it into my back pocket, waist band, or a strap before leaving my desk.

So far I’ve dried my hands in front of people, and clearly haven’t taken a paper towel first, but no one has said anything. It definitely helps that my handkerchiefs are close in color to a bleached paper towel. I’m starting to get more bold with it. I used to try to time my drying to when other people weren’t paying attention, but these days I just whip it out and move on with my life.

When I get back to my desk I drape my handkerchief over a handle. If I’m out I keep it in a outside mesh pocket in my backpack so it can dry. No backpack? I typically just choose to air dry with a few good shakes over the sink first instead of shoving a wet towel into my bag to fester.

But Isn’t This Unsanitary?

While I certainly wouldn’t recommend this method for a surgeon before they clock in, using a reusable cloth or a jet air dryer is perfectly hygienic. It’s important to let your towel dry and use a new small towel daily. If you’re really worried about it, you could also bring a small stack of the reusable baby wipes or handkerchiefs and use them a few times before moving on to next.

When I’m really worried about the cleanliness of my towel (like before I want a quick snack at the end of the day), I don’t beat myself up over using a single paper towel or shaking my hands off until they’re dry.

Every little bit saved counts. It’s not about perfection, but about consistently making choices that reduce waste, save resources (and money), and feel empowering. Each paper towel I refuse to use is one less that paper companies can use to justify cutting down old growth forests and dumping bleach into our waterways. Every small rebellion and bit of resistance matters.

August Books: What I Read This Month

When I sat down to write this post I was pretty sure I hadn’t read much in August. Between completing a massive 15,300 word project and trying to catch up on all of my other projects/work, August was sadly spent with tired eyes and working Saturdays.

And yet read I did. My two hour commute to Oakland twice a week has been keeping me on track. It’s looking like I will actually finish my goal for 52 books sometime in October at this rate.

My August books kept on the same path as previous months. There are three books about the lives of daring women and the way the world treats them in return. And two easy reads intended to soothe the mind after all of its heavy lifting lately.

August Books

August Books – Treading Lightly Book Recommendations

The Rules Do Not Apply

Prior to putting this book on my list I had heard Ariel Levy on the Longform Podcast, which is to say that I knew what I was getting into before I started in. But I still wasn’t really prepared for the gut-wrenching twists that come one after another.

The Rules Do Not Apply highlights the indignity of life, the unfairness of the world, and the power and resilience we have to make our lives into something anyways.

 

Sex Object

Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism was my first taste of feminist text. I read it my freshman year of college and became even more incensed about the injustices in the world (which is saying something since I had already gone through my ‘seethe in the dark listening to metal’ phase).

I thought her latest book, Sex Object, would be similarly research-based. Instead it was a horrifying look into how (mostly) men had treated her throughout her life. It was eye-opening and just as incendiary as Full Frontal Feminism, but it also left me with a deep gratitude that I have for the most part been left alone and allowed to move around the world unbothered. (Note to self, never move to NYC.)

 

I Can’t Make This Up

Apparently I am a sucker for books by comedians or memoirs that are billed as humorous (see Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jessi KleinJim GaffiganTyler Oakley). And yet I never learn. Outside of Fey’s Bossypants, I find the genre to be over-hyped and uninteresting.

I picked up Kevin Hart’s I Can’t Make This Up with optimism. He didn’t write the book himself (which isn’t unusual for a celebrity), but it felt like I was being held an arms distance away being told a version of his life that he wanted to share. Between the book and his most recent comedy special, I am a lot less interested in his comedy and his work in general. He comes across as selfish, and his relationship to his children an the women in his life are problematic to say the least.

Bottom line. I didn’t laugh, and it’s not worth reading.

 

Once and For All

Every summer in high school and much of college I would read a Sarah Dessen book (The Truth About Forever and Just Listen were heavy favorites). I brought the tradition back this summer with Once and For All. It was cheesy, mostly predictable, and not as good as some of her other books. But that didn’t stop me from putting off work for most of a day to finish it.

And to be fair, that’s what I love most about her books – they suck you in and make it easy to forget about everything else for a few hours.

 

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman

This book really riled me up. It made me want to be louder, more demanding. It was just the fuel I needed to remind me why it’s important to put my words behind what I believe, stand up for other people, and be the nasty, unruly woman I know I am.

While it featured women I already look up to like Serena Williams, it also gave me a better appreciation for so many others that I’ve never really given any thought or attention to (sorry Nicki Minaj).

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud is way better than any cup of coffee.

Want more recommendations?

Check out what I’ve read so far this year:

July
June
May
April
March
February
January

You can see all of my book reviews here.