Simplified makeup

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Makeup is one of life’s luxuries that I have always enjoyed. I never feel fully groomed unless I have some makeup on. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of money on makeup products that I didn’t use very often, if at all. I’ve simplified my makeup routine and products to what I now consider to be the bare essentials; as a result, I like and use everything I own.

Most of my cosmetics come from two Canadian companies: Cosmic Tree Essentials, located in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and Pure Anada, located in Morden, Manitoba. Both companies make vegan mineral makeup and are committed to reducing their product packaging. I can buy a selection of their products from local stores in Halifax.

For the face, I use an undereye concealer from Pure Anada.

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I use a liquid foundation from Cosmic Tree Essentials. I used to wear loose mineral powder, but I find the liquid version works better for my dry skin.  I sometimes skip the foundation, as my skin tone is generally even, as put on a light dusting of arrowroot powder instead. This foundation comes in a reusable silicone food-grade container.

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I have only two eyeshadows now; gone are the days of having those multi-shade pallets. I use one shade of blush. Both the blush and the eyeshadows come in metal containers that fit into a reusable magnetic compact.

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I use a pencil eyeliner sparingly, as well as mascara, both from Pure Anada.

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I am down to two lip colours: “walnut” from Gabriel Cosmetics, and a tinted lip balm from Tin Feather, which comes in an aluminium container. If I don’t want any lip colour, I use pure shea butter as my lip balm, which I buy in bulk from The Tare Shop.

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Everything now fits into a small makeup bag, which makes me very happy, and nothing is wasted.

Low impact laundry routine

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I’ve gone through a number of different low impact laundry routines over the years. I’ve tried to make this routine as simple and earth-friendly as possible. At one point, I made my own laundry powder, but I found that it didn’t clean that well over time, and buying three ingredients to make one product was inefficient and hardly low impact. The routine below is much simpler and effective.

I wash sheets separately, as well as any throws, but the rest of my laundry is unsorted. In other words, I wash towels together with cleaning rags, socks, handkerchiefs, and so forth. I use Turkish towels, which are very thin, and which do not deposit fibres on other items in the wash. I wash EVERYTHING in cold water. I know that you’re supposed to wash sheets in hot water to kill dust mites, but my mattress and pillows are all encased. Hot water requires far too much electricity. I use the Cora Ball to trap microfibres and cat hair.

I handwash my clothes, as I maintain a small wardrobe and want to ensure that my clothes last as long as possible. I invested in the Panda spin dryer for my hand-washed items, as this helps speed up the drying process enormously, and uses far less energy than the spin cycle of my washing machine.

For laundry detergent, I use soap nuts (or soap berries), which I buy in bulk. Because I use cold water, I don’t find that soap nuts release enough saponin if I place them in a muslin bag, so instead, I make a liquid detergent with them: I boil 1 litre of water with 7 soapnuts and simmer for 30 minutes, adding a half tablespoon of salt as a preservative.  I place the used soap nuts in the compost. I use 60 ml of the detergent per load. I will sometimes add an earth-friendly brightener (a combination of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide) from The Soap Company. This brightener comes in a paper bag. I do not use fabric softener.

My sofa slipcover is the only thing I place in my dryer, as it’s too cumbersome and heavy to hang. I dry everything else on an indoor clothes rack.  I live in a condominium, so line drying or using the balcony are not permitted. I invested in the Juwel Twist clothes dryer, which allows me to dry even larger items like sheets.

This routine works well for me; yes, it may take 24 hours for items to dry, but I’m in no rush, and I actually find the process of putting items on a drying rack and removing them to be soothing. I even love ironing 🙂

 

 

Are minimalism and zero-waste living wasteful?

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I have been increasingly struck by the irony of how wasteful zero-waste living, as well as minimalist living, can be. Two recent articles have helped to reinforce this thinking; their focus is on minimalism, which I will tackle first. These two articles were written in response to the popular Marie Kondo Netflix series. Benjamin Leszcz and Katherine Martinko argue that we should not dispose of items based on whether they spark joy; rather, that we should examine our possessions in the light of “making do”, a deeply pragmatic philosophy. It means asking of our things the only question we should ever ask of them: “Can you fulfill your intended use for me?” (Leszcz).

When I declutter my home, my approach mirrors more closely the concept that Leszcz and Martinko propose. I’m a pragmatist at heart: If something doesn’t serve a purpose, I don’t need it. I’m actually more concerned about the waste that minimalism and zero-waste living can generate. In our rush to declutter our homes, how much of our possessions end up in the landfill? It could be argued, of course, that they are destined for the landfill at some point; we’re simply doing it now rather than later. At the very least, we should donate as many of our decluttered items as possible, which is what I have tried to do.

The move to zero-waste living can generate a large amount of waste. The graphic above for a zero-waste kitchen is an example of what I mean. I know that I have been guilty of buying “zero-waste swaps” instead of making do with items I already have in my home. So, for example, I’ve bought sets of travel cutlery, when it would have been simpler to use cutlery I already owned. It’s tempting for us to want the shiny stainless steel or bamboo items that proclaim “zero waste,” but aren’t we simply creating more waste when we do this? We have, in fact, fallen prey to zero-waste marketing.

I’m cautious about articles such as the two above because I fear that they will encourage people to not declutter their homes. The article could reinforce the “I might need it someday” mentality that continues our hoarding habits. Rather, I think we need to consider the “do I use it approach” when we assess our possessions, and the “do I need it” approach when we consider purchasing something new. This is where “making do” comes in. I think the bigger question we need to tackle is why we purchase so many items that we don’t need and that we never use. I’ve been fighting this tendency for the past several years; I’ve made significant progress, but I do need to constantly question myself. Let’s look at a recent case in point. While I was in Ottawa this past month, I stopped by a favourite store, Zone, which sells home accessories. I absolutely love home accessories and, in particular, linens, so this type of store is my achilles heel. I know this, yet I still went in, as I love to look. While there I came across these linen kitchen towels. I absolutely love linen, and the price of these towels was very good. I grabbed two and walked around the store: I forced myself to take this time to mentally run through my kitchen linen drawer. I could see the large stack of perfectly usable kitchen towels in this drawer. I already have far more towels than I need, thanks to my past shopping behaviours, so I put the towels back on the shelf. Yes, they were an excellent price, and they were pretty, but I DID NOT NEED THEM. Thankfully, I wasn’t shopping with a friend, because I likely would have been convinced to buy them. It’s taken me a long time to get here. I think I go to stores such as Zone to test my resolve; it would be easier, of course, to simply avoid the stores completely, but I love beautiful things and enjoy looking at them (hence my fondness for art galleries). It’s a dangerous line, however, and I have faltered once or twice.

Making do is a philosophy I want to continue to explore and embrace. Something I’ve considered doing is creating an inventory of certain items I own that are the most tempting to buy; in my case, this would be handbags, kitchen and bathroom linens, and makeup. I can check the inventory to see whether I already own it, or something like it,  e. g., do I need a third shade of this colour lipstick? I think all of us need to make a clear distinction between wanting something and needing it; just because something is pretty, or on sale, or a steal, doesn’t mean that we need to bring it into our homes. Can we reuse what we already own, or put it to another use? Case in point: When I switched to loose-leaf herbal tea, I explored tea infusers in the stores, but I found them all to be too fiddly and awkward.  I looked at the French press in my kitchen cupboard and thought “why not use this, instead?” In other words, I shopped from my kitchen and made do with what I already owned. I recently sewed old napkins into produce bags. I have turned into my grandmother Georgina and am perfectly happy with that.

Simplifying my cleaning products

I have gone through various processes to simplify my household cleaning products. My goal is to find a solution that is as minimalist and zero-waste as possible. I’m happy to say that I’ve boiled down my cleaning to two products: Laundry detergent and liquid dish soap.

I’ve used a variety of cleaning products in the past. I’ve made my own products but, frankly, found that I needed to buy too many items in the process, which is hardly cost effective or efficient. I’ve used soap nuts in the past to clean clothes and to make an all-purpose cleaner, but now that I’ve switched to a high-efficiency front-loading washing machine, I don’t find that the soap nuts work as well anymore, especially since I wash all my laundry in only in cold water. I used a bar of Savon de Marseille to wash my dishes for the longest time, but this meant having a separate product to clean surfaces.

Organic Earth market to the rescue. I am beyond excited that Organic Earth now has a refill station for Down East laundry detergent and dish soap; I take my own glass jars, which they weigh that the store (after deducting the tare weight). These two products are all I need to clean my home. The laundry detergent works very well for my HE machine as well as for hand-washing my clothes. I use the liquid dish soap to wash dishes, as well as to clean counters, the toilet, the windows, etc. It’s a simple matter of adding a small amount of dish soap to a spray bottle of water. A nice bonus: Down East products are made across the harbour in Dartmouth. I much prefer to use dish soap than the more popular castile soap. I can buy liquid castile soap in bulk from The Tare Shop, but I think it creates a little too much lather, and is also more expensive than the dish soap. Two products; that’s it.