Functional Decor - Perpetual Calendar

I often talk about the concept of “functional decor.” With the planet suffering from the effects of our overconsumption and staggering waste, it’s more important than ever that we cut back in general. I aim to avoid purchasing new, mass produced, unsentimental, decorative tchotchkes for the sake of decor. Instead, I try to enrich our home with sustainable, ethically-produced, practical goods that can serve a function while delighting our senses. 


When it comes to toys, I usually prefer hand-me-downs— particularly with items such as LEGOs, things-that-go, and magnetic tiles. They cost very little (if anything), and since they’ve already been produced, transported and purchased, there’s no point in dooming them to a landfill or storage after they’ve been used by a single household. We might as well pass these items down the line as long as possible, especially since most are made of plastic that won’t biodegrade. 


West’s toy collection is also largely made up of handmade wooden designs that we enjoy using (and seeing… and stepping over) throughout our home and garden.


Thanks to library books and interactions with friends, there’s no lack of “new” games and activities for our son to experience. But some months have passed since we got him anything more permanent, so I decided to invest in a beautiful, playful, wooden perpetual calendar I found on Etsy. 


A perpetual calendar is a handy, lower-waste item for spaces of any size, and I found this one to be the perfect tool-meets-toy for our tiny home/office.


At 2 ½ years old, West is creating his own daily rhythm, and understands that particular days of the week mean that set activities will be taking place. I figured that a functional, updatable, interactive calendar would be useful to him for years to come.


So far, he loves it, even though he doesn’t fully understand it... and even though he insists the weather tiles be stored in his wheelbarrow. 

Beyond the Cottage: Bond Group Office Makeover

The cottage blog has been a bit quieter in recent weeks, as I’ve been focusing on work offline. We’ve been diving into several new projects and I’m eager to post the details of those soon. Today I’m introducing one that’s particularly precious to me— an office space for a production company here in Los Angeles. 

I don’t usually handle many larger interiors from scratch. I tend to prefer troubleshooting small or tricky spaces, as well as working with existing layouts to make them more efficient, eco-friendly, and/or versatile. But I said yes to this gig without hesitation. Here’s why.

In January, I got an unexpected call from a friend. We rarely chat on the phone, so the first thing I asked her when I picked up was whether or not she’d pocket-dialed me. Luckily for me the call was intentional, and she offered up a delightful challenge: Could I take her newly rented, modern office space in Beverly Hills and make it feel like our old tiny Cottage?

I had hoped and planned to start the new year by tackling a more diverse body of work, so her ask was perfectly timed. I accepted, and we got right to work.

Here’s why I’ve enjoyed this job thus far:

  • While the entire office is a fairly large area overall, most of the rooms themselves are compact. They feel like 8 unique yet overlapping small spaces.  

  • One of the reasons I do what I do for a living is that I love mixing my personal and business worlds together— it makes my work extra gratifying. As such, I’m so happy to work with and for my friends. 

  • The client and her partners needed me to design within their rental parameters, avoiding bigger changes such as built-ins, wallpaper, paint, overall structure, window treatments, etc. This is something I often prefer, because I feel like it makes the concepts and “takeaways” from each job more relatable for others— particularly renters and folks working within tighter budget constraints. 

  • I’ve liked finding ways in which to weave the partners’ and staff’s personalities into their dedicated spaces, all while keeping the office visually unified through its glass walls.

Above: Lobby decor installation in progress. (Print by   Arielle Vey  . Handmade ceramics by   MQuan  . Handmade leather   script straps   via Etsy. Vintage bowl from   Tumbleweed & Dandelion  . Wooden tiled   buffet   from West Elm.)

Above: Lobby decor installation in progress. (Print by Arielle Vey. Handmade ceramics by MQuan. Handmade leather script straps via Etsy. Vintage bowl from Tumbleweed & Dandelion. Wooden tiled buffet from West Elm.)

But here was the trickiest part of all: How could I share this undertaking on my blog and Instagram without leaning into the professional successes of the client? She is a genuine friend of mine, but she also happens to be a well-known and highly-regarded actress. Her name is relevant in the scope of my work— her personality and the background of her production company played heavily into my design choices, and her comments and likeness are part of my before-and-after content— but her privacy is something I deeply honor and respect. I asked her outright about this at the onset, and she generously gave me her blessing to publish this project online. 

As such, I look forward to sharing my lil’ makeover of Amy Adams’ Bond Group Entertainment offices with you very soon.


I turned 38 this month. I’m not sure what my younger self envisioned I’d be doing by this point in life, but I know I never expected for it to be THIS.


Living and working in a tiny house with a lil’ family.


Sharing an office (in the living room) and a 10 year-old car with my husband and loving it that way.


Finding new grays and lines regularly without being bothered by them (yet). Running a small business that — for better or worse— is all my own. Listening to my child (I have a child! I still can’t believe it!) casually say things like, “I love you too, Mommy,” as he confidently steps out the front door with his father.


Rejoicing at how lucky I am to still have my beloved best friend, StanLee, curled up by my desk during the day, and perched below my side of the bed at night— often with Sophee enjoying him as a pillow.


THIS is not glamorous.

It’s constantly in need of a paint job, a watering, a trim, a disclaimer, a refresher course, and a tune up. It’s covered in dog hair, applesauce, sweat, sand, and muck. It’s pulsing with epic worry, guilt, embarrassment, foolish earnestness, and unrelenting mistakes.


But it’s also overflowing with immense love. It all just makes me feel so much happiness.


As this blog is a major part of my business— and my work is a source of purpose and joy in my life— I wanted to take a quiet, reflective moment to thank you for reading along.

Composting at the Cottage

Our cottage is located in Venice, which is part of Los Angeles County. Our location provides us access to the largest residential curbside recycling program in the United States, which gathers a variety of recyclables from over 750,000 households each week. Among these materials are those that can be tossed in the city’s “Green Bins.” These outdoor containers are reserved for yard clippings, branches, flowers, a variety of grasses, leaves, and fruits / vegetables from any source that have NOT been prepared for consumption and have NOT been partially consumed. But here at our tiny home/office, we still have so much waste left over that can’t be dropped in the bins… but it can be composted. So, when we started our garden makeover earlier this year, one of the things we knew we wanted to have out in the yard was a compact compost tumbler.


Per the EPA, food waste is the largest component within landfills in the USA. We’re hoping that by composting here at the Cottage (and sharing our journey as newcomers to the process) that we can do our part to help divert organic materials from landfills, and cut back on the energy use, wasted resources and emissions that result from hauling away so much organic material.

We’re in the first month of our city-life composting journey, and we have so much to learn. Many resources on the subject offer contrasting advice about what should go in a composter, and what ratios should be maintained. We look forward to discovering what works best for our lifestyle, environment, and gear.


We got a 33 gallon Jora Composter tumbler, which sits in our lil’ back garden. In the kitchen, we have a compostable countertop bin, which we fill up throughout the day before pouring it into the Jora at night.


We eat a vegetation diet, composed primarily of plant-based ingredients. Between those scraps and the greenery from our yard and my styling projects, the Jora is filling up quickly…. which helps us realize just how much unnecessary waste we were generating.


When it comes to food and beverage prep, we strive to stick strictly to refillable and reusable containers and accessories of all sorts.


This saves money and space, and — in my opinion— looks far more beautiful.


We’ll continue to study and try what we can, I’ll share future posts regarding what we learn from our method of composting here at our tiny cottage.

Improving the Functionality of a Small Space

When I’m out helping clients and friends declutter, organize, streamline, simplify, and/or make their homes more eco-friendly, I’m pretty terrible about taking before/after photos to share here and/or on Instagram. I either forget because we’re so deeply into the process, or I don’t want to invade their privacy. (Understandably, most folks aren’t keen on having the personal contents of their overflowing drawers broadcast to the world.)

My latest on-site was no exception. I worked with a friend (and former client from when I used to operate my creative firm,) to help streamline elements of her small bungalow here in Venice, and naturally we got so wrapped up in chatting and troubleshooting that my camera sat neglected on her couch throughout both of my visits. But there were some quick and inexpensive adjustments that we applied to her space that I believe could be helpful to share, regardless of the lack of adequate visuals. 

Some background on Eloisa: She lives in an 800 sqft house with her husband (Anderson), their toddler, and their two large rescue dogs. Eloisa is the founder of The Wolf Nest, and runs much of the business from her home. (Tour the space and learn more about this wonderful family here via Apartment Therapy.)  

Eloisa’s main hurdles were the following:

  1. Some miscellaneous items were scattered throughout the house and had no set place. They were either hard to find, hard to reach, or totally unnecessary.

  2. The main work hubs are not located in an office. Instead, they’re located in the kitchen and by the couch. As such, papers and wires were piling up haphazardly.

  3. The kitchen counter was crowded, and the dish drying rack stood plates high and upright, preventing Eloisa and Anderson from opening up a crucial upper cabinet.

  4. The back of the laundry room door was so packed with hanging bags that the family couldn’t fully open the main door to access the space.

  5. Anderson’s personal spot for worship and reflection was located in their toddler’s room rather than in a more appropriate setting, as there was no other space for it.

  6. Eloisa and Anderson were having trouble housing spare rolls of paper towels, boxes of wipes, cleaning supplies, and various toiletries.

  7. Eloisa didn’t know how to best get rid of items they no longer needed.

Above: Anderson’s space for reflection and worship was in their toddler’s room (pictured here), as there was no other space available. (Photo © Marisa Vitale for Apartment Therapy.)

Above: Anderson’s space for reflection and worship was in their toddler’s room (pictured here), as there was no other space available. (Photo © Marisa Vitale for Apartment Therapy.)

We approached each challenge one by one with a fair amount of brevity. Our solution to each issue was as follows:

  1. We made sure that every necessary item that was previously nomadic throughout the home was given a dedicated space. We increased storage by introducing three rolling crates to the spare inches below the couch. This made everything easy to find and access. (Any miscellaneous item that wasn’t essential was flagged for giveaway.) 

  2. We added a bamboo power strip box / cord keeper to the living room to corral and conceal the exposed wires. This made everything safer for their young son, and cleaner and better organized. We then added an oversized envelope / laptop sleeve to the kitchen table to temporarily hold pending paperwork without making the area feel like an office. I also told Eloisa about our mini-scanner and tiny shredder, which will hopefully help them eliminate the hard copies of their documents, freeing up storage space and preventing paper build-up.

  3. We swapped the clunky metal drying rack out for a set of machine-washable drying mats, which allow the cabinet above to open and close as intended. We also replaced the paper towel holder with a Uashmama washable paper bag filled with reusable Grovia wipes/cloths. (No more bulky and wasteful paper towels!)

  4. We improved the function of their laundry room by better utilizing vertical space. First, we removed an old, tall laundry cart/rack, as the family was only using the bottom half of it. We replaced it with a rolling laundry cart that includes a lift-top surface that can be used during chores or as basic surface storage. In the newly-exposed stretch of wall behind and beside it, we redistributed several backpacks and bags that were previously hanging on the back of the door in a disorganized clump. Now the door opens completely, and more items in the room are immediately visible and accessible. 

  5. We were able to free up space to relocate Anderson’s altar from their son’s room to the master bedroom by making wiser use of surface space. The master bedroom’s horizontal dresser offers ample inches for all of the sculptures, artwork, photos, and artifacts included in the altar, but a bulky changing pad and corresponding diapering accessories were consuming the surface. I asked Eloisa to donate enough clothing in the master bedroom dresser to free up one of the smaller drawers at the top to hold the diapering accessories. Then, we cleaned and flagged the diaper pad for donation, opting instead to use a medium Gathre Mat as a diapering surface. The mat can be suspended by its loop when not in use, and is easy to toss out over the bed with one hand during changing time. This opened up the entire dresser surface for Anderson’s items. 

  6. We freed up inches throughout the home by eliminating the need for paper napkins and paper towels. Three to four bundles of 12-pack reusable wipes consume roughly the same space as a single disposible paper towel roll. We also traded the old, oversized, bright, toxic cleaning supplies for new, refillable glass bottles and organic concentrates from Supernatural. I then asked Eloisa to please get rid of all her expired toiletries, along with the “what if I need this some day products that she’d been holding on to for a long time, but never used. From there, everything went into Uashmama washable paper bags, which are particularly handy because they can adjust in size, or fold down for easy storage themselves when no longer needed. Plus they’re beautiful and eco-friendly. (We used them to organize her son’s clothing, too.) I recommended that Eloisa stop bringing products into the home that are not essential.

  7. We then discussed the most fitting donation methods for the items that didn’t make the cut. Books and certain toys can be donated to libraries and children’s hospitals. Unopened or lightly used bath and beauty products are often welcome at shelters and community housing facilities. Clothes can be sold online or to thrift stores, or donated to nearby centers. Larger housewares, if in fair condition, will often be picked up quickly when left on the curb or in an alley on a weekend (depending on your neighborhood)— or many organizations will pick up your oversized home goods. Towels and blankets are helpful for disaster relief organizations, and at homeless shelters. 

Note: The following photos are from my iPhone, and were taken for reference purposes. Apologies for the poor image quality.

Above: Adding shallow rolling storage to the inches beneath the couch maximized space and greatly improved ease of accessibility.

Above: Adding shallow rolling storage to the inches beneath the couch maximized space and greatly improved ease of accessibility.

Above: We were able to make better use of the master bedroom dresser by replacing the changing pad for a  portable hanging mat . This frees up enough space for Anderson’s alter to be relocated from the child’s room into the parents’ bedroom.

Above: We were able to make better use of the master bedroom dresser by replacing the changing pad for a portable hanging mat. This frees up enough space for Anderson’s alter to be relocated from the child’s room into the parents’ bedroom.

We used   Uashmama   washable paper bags to better organize almost every room / category in Eloisa’s bungalow.

We used Uashmama washable paper bags to better organize almost every room / category in Eloisa’s bungalow.

I’ll check in with Eloisa and her family in the near future to see how the little changes are suiting them. But this was a perfect example of how a small number of low cost, simple modifications can have a positive impact on the functionality of a small space.

Lil’ Garden Makeover (Part I)

This blog post was sponsored by The Home Depot. As always, the imagery and words are my own.

When Adam and I were planning our home-wedding 3 years ago, one of the obstacles we had to tackle was our garden. We’d stopped watering our grass long ago due to the California drought, so the grass went from lush to patchy to non-existent. Most of the yard was a giant dirt-patch, surrounded by ficus trees, bougainvillea, and a single succulent barrel (which we’d planted with my mother upon moving into our home several years prior). 


We didn’t want our guests standing in a dusty (or muddy) pit. So, in an effort to find a quick, budget-strict solution for the garden floor, we opted to cover the surface with faux grass. 

The design of artificial grass has come a loooong way, but despite the more subdued color of the green and the higher, denser blades, I was never comfortable with the concept of glorified turf. (To each her/his own! That’s just me— I’m a North Florida girl at heart, so artificial greenery in general just isn’t my thing.) But the grass served its purpose for our wedding, and for that I’m grateful.


I had hoped to quickly pass along the rolls of turf to someone else and replace the foundation of our yard a few months after our wedding, but by that point I was working non-stop and in my third trimester. Then, once West was born and I began writing my book while working full-time, my available time to tackle a garden makeover completely evaporated.

Luckily, while working with The Home Depot on our more recent kitchen updates last summer, I mentioned my frustrations about the garden, and we realized that we could also partner for the overdue garden makeover. They offer everything from soil to gravel to drought-tolerant greenery to planters... and even outdoor showers. 

I set about the redesign of the garden with the local designers at Big Red Sun. (More on that to come via a later post.) When conceptualizing the space, I communicated that I appreciate the delight in the aesthetics and low-maintenance of desert-inspired landscapes, but that our particular setting feels much more like a deeply nestled old cottage than it does a modern beach bungalow. As such, I wanted a design that felt ALIVE, with branches and leaves that would move with the wind and be soft to the touch, all without requiring too much water.


The first step was to determine what would (and wouldn’t) work as the main ground cover. We had several factors to keep in mind:

  • The main thoroughfares throughout the garden sit above paths of pipes leading to both our home and the neighboring tiny cottage. As such, oversized custom pavers, grasscrete (which I love), and decking were out of the running as options, as they’d be too cumbersome to move if and when we have to dig up the yard. 

  • Depending on the season and size of the Ficus trees, the same spot in our outdoor space will get anywhere from 30 minutes of soft light to 8 hours of blazing sun per day. That pendulum swing is huge and tricky when it comes to selecting grass and creeping ground cover that can actually thrive in such wildly varying conditions. 

  • Our yard gets SO MUCH TRAFFIC. It’s obviously small, so every usable inch is traversed numerous times per day. 

  • We have dogs and a toddler. There WILL be messes... of all sorts. And some surfaces are easier to treat than others. 

  • The main pathway through our garden is not only a racetrack for our delightfully wild son, but it’s also used by our neighbors. We wanted a walkway that wouldn’t easily trip anyone (we used to stumble on our pavers ALL the time), but could also be forgiving in case of a stumble. 

The solution appeared to be Pea Gravel


At first I was hesitant, knowing that the dogs and West would kick it up and deliberately skid through it. However, after dumping out a couple of tester bags and seeing how much they enjoyed the tiny pebbles, which inspired outdoor activities and imaginative play, my fears dissipated. 


I get such satisfaction from hearing and feeling the crunch of the gravel underfoot, and I like the look of the grey and beige rocks when they’re wet as much as when they’re dry. 


The gravel also drains easily and naturally without trapping odors, which helps if the pups have accidents between walks. 


Watching the fake grass come out was so satisfying:

I will miss the uniform look of the green (oh how I yearn for REAL, healthy grass). And it goes without saying that I sincerely regret the waste. But I am thrilled to now have a natural foundation in our outdoor space. 


We raked and tilled the dirt that had suffocated under the turf, and added fresh new layers of Kellogg organic all natural soil. It helps establish strong roots, and adds organic matter to the soil, and retains valuable nutrients. Plus Kellogg is locally made and family owned. 

We topped the soil with the Pea Gravel, which won’t attract pests (a concern here when it comes to termites and ants). The gravel will also help retain moisture and reduce erosion. Plus it will be easy to build upon if ever we have to tinker with the pipes. 


Next came the plants. 


We potted most of the greenery that had long been living in scattered pots, and we replaced some of the overgrown plants along the perimeter with alternatives that were more fitting for the space and how we use it. 


For example, I really loved the bougainvillea that grew mid-way along our main path, but it caught our hair, skin and clothing multiple times per day. It also wove through the ficus branches and grapevines in a way that made it feel impossible to manage on our own. So it was trimmed down and relocated, as was the plant growing beneath our bedroom window. 


The mixture of new plants adds texture, color and depth to the narrow space. Certain types will welcome butterflies and hummingbirds, all while being able to thrive in varying sunlight. When the young plants grow in a bit more, I expect that the yard will appear so lush and lovely.


The Home Depot’s plants are no longer treated with neonicotinoids, so precious bees will be safe, too.


Strategically placed groupings of Mother-of-Thyme, Pennyroyal and other gound cover tucked between the rocks and the plant beds will spread beautifully while smelling deliciously fragrant and repelling fleas and ticks. 


If planting Pennyroyal or any new plant in your outdoor space, please research standard toxicity warnings before-hand so you can make your own informed decisions about what will be safe and work best for you and your family. Luckily our pups and son don’t try to ingest things they shouldn’t.


One of the major motivations behind the garden makeover was to provide West with a safer outdoor environment. I was never sure what chemicals were in (or being released from) the fake grass, and I never trusted that it was properly draining, as it was installed in such a rush. Since we’ve gotten heavier rains in recent winters, messier grapevine debris in the summer (thanks, raccoons), and daily wear-and-tear in between, I always cringed when West stepped off of the outdoor rugs or pavers onto the turf. 


In fact, that’s the main reason why we converted our 8’ porch into a playroom. But now that the garden is a safer space as far as chemicals and surfaces are concerned, our son has spent hours upon hours outside with the pups by his side, enjoying the gravel and his garden activity table. 


West is also super eager to use the new outdoor shower, as are Adam and I. 


Since removing the shed from the back garden, I’d envisioned adding an outdoor shower to the space. 


We live a short walk from the beach and right next to the canals, so the 5 of us often return home with sand or muck on our skin (or fur and paws), clothes and gear. In the warmer months, an outdoor shower will be such a joy! By adding a shallow teak tray beneath the platform (and by using a simple, organic shampoo + soap bar), we can collect water to use for the plants. 


I’m working on another blog post about the garden design and details, as well as our new composting system. I will share that soon! In the meantime, I want to thank The Home Depot for helping us create a healthier, happier garden here at our tiny cottage. 


"What's Next?"

One of the questions I’m asked the most often is: what is the plan for when West gets older and wants more privacy, and if we decide to have a second child?


While these are topics that Adam and I discuss at times, we’re still so content here in our lil’ home that we don’t see the need to leave until/unless the need actually presents itself. 


While there are obvious realities for which we need to plan (retirement, West’s education, emergency situations, etc.), I don’t feel the need to adjust our living situation in anticipation of whatever the future might hold. 


The same sort of questions popped up time and time again when I was pregnant with West— everyone asked us when and where we’d be moving. But we took things day-by-day, and it all worked out better than we could’ve ever imagined. That’s how I want to live— planning wisely for the fairly standard “givens” in life, but also allowing the future to unfold naturally as we enjoy the present. That way, when the time comes, we will know what we need and why, rather than acting half-heartedly (and perhaps wastefully) on predictions.


People make all sorts of living situations work for them and their families, whether by choice or necessity. (Look at @themayesteam— a family of 6 living on a converted bus, or @readtealeaves— a family of 4 comfortably nestled in a single bedroom in NY.) Diverse lifestyles and homes are all around us, but they’re rarely integrated into entertainment in a way that makes them seem like anything other than a problem or a quirky novelty. 


Anyway! To all of you lovely folks who’ve written kind messages and inquired what’s next for us as far as our living situation is concerned, my apologies for not replying— your guess is as good as ours. But in the meantime, we feel so happy (and unbelievably lucky) to be right where we are.


Built-In Bed Refresh

Now that West is accustomed to sleeping in his “big kid bed(wail!), Adam and I felt like it was time for a refresh of our built-in bed. All of the linens here weather a daily storm of heavy use— in part due to the realities of life with a toddler and two pups, but also due to the small size of our home. As inches decrease, use of each and every space increases. As such, the bed takes on numerous roles throughout the day before being slept in all night, so our bedding has to be durable as well as beautiful.


Additionally, we strive to use ethically-produced and natural products as often as possible, so we also wanted to modify our bedding with this in mind.


In our search for the perfect fit for our needs and preferences, we decided to upgrade our bedding with Rough Linen.


I’ve purchased a few items from Rough Linen in the recent past. After years of using the same two traditional bath towels, Adam and I finally needed replacements, so we purchased and fell in love with Rough Linen’s waffle-weave towels.


We also got a linen runner, which fits our compact table like a full tablecloth, and a child’s apron for West.


After feeling and using these items in the kitchen, bath, and living room for a couple of months, I knew I also wanted to introduce Rough Linen to our bedroom. We started out with a lightweight, Raw Edge Linen Summer Cover, which we thought would work perfectly for our SoCal home. (And we soon discovered during a rainy day that the cover doubles splendidly as a toddler fort with the help of some oversized wooden clips.)


We added some standard pillow shams with invisible zippers, which I prefer over buttons or a typical envelope-style version. The design is so clean and minimal, which sings to me.


Lastly, we got a linen coverlet. (I’m not a fan of duvets.) The coverlet is simple but elegant, rich with texture and slightly naturally varying tones It’s dry clean only, but I expect that its high quality combined with the ease of washing the summer cover that we drape over it will make it easy to maintain.


We added some more variegated english ivy plants to the bookshelf to bring the built-in to life. I simply placed a slim porcelain plate beneath each to collect water and protect the wood.


The central plant in the Ollie Ella Hanging Book Basket on the headboard is still snug in its nursery pot, and wrapped in a waterproof liner.

I miss how West used to fall asleep with us here every night. I don’t think I would have ever been ready for that to end, but HE was ready.


He’s so happy in his big kid bed. And Adam and I are delighted with our newly upgraded bed, too.


Greener Solutions for Household Unmentionables

This blog post was sponsored by Grove Collaborative. As always, the opinions and imagery from the Cottage are my own.

I didn’t watch much television when I was growing up, but I do remember seeing ads for toilet paper and feminine products wondering every time: Was the Talent being compensated more for being the faces of such delicate topics on camera? Were they embarrassed? Did the crew feel awkward?

In the subsequent years, I grew up and became comfortable with such household realities— nothing will sober you up to the unmentionables in life like cleaning up after pets, changing diapers, dealing physically with childbirth + recovery, and assisting unwell loved ones. 

I began searching for greener alternatives to widely marketed, everyday household products— both for my family, and for the readers of this blog. (I receive numerous direct messages via Instagram inquiring about what sort of pet waste bags and trash bags we use here, along with questions about everything from eco-friendly feminine products to composting options in the city.) I discovered several helpful products via Grove Collaborative, so I reached out to them to inquire if I could do a blog post sharing some details about their compost bins, toilet paper, pet waste bags, bin bags, menstrual cups, and unique sponges. 

If you had told me 20 years ago that I’d be volunteering myself up as the “Talent” for a reusable feminine product I would’ve balked. These days, it brings me joy. This planet needs for us to mind our waste, and switch to sustainable products within our homes and beyond.

For a while, we were placing kitchen scraps into LA’s green bins, not knowing that this actually wasn’t permitted. Only yard trimmings such as grass clippings, leaves, branches, and fruits or vegetables that have NOT been prepared for consumption and have NOT been partially consumed are allowed in the green bin. Eggs, partially eaten fruit, and scraps are not contenders.

It’s frustrating how hard it can be to compost in a city. Especially since 52% of all produce in the US goes uneaten*, and that when food is disposed in a landfill it rots and becomes a significant source of methane. Plus, growing and transporting wasted food emits as much carbon pollution as 39 million passenger vehicles.** We have a small garden, so we’re got a compact compost tumbler into which we can toss the scraps from our Kitchen Compost Bin from Grove. But, depending on where you live, there might be local options for community and municipal drop-offs and pick-ups for compost collection.

The Kitchen Compost Bins & Lid Starter Set from Grove is completely biodegradable kitchen food waste bin made from end-of-life recycled cardboard. The cardboard bin is breathable and allows for airflow, helping to avoid smelly, moist contents. Safe for both home and municipal composting. The same bin can be used multiple times. Fill with kitchen food waste, and once full, cover with paper seal provided (or the optional add-on lid) and put out for municipal pick-up (depending on your town) or empty into your home compost pile or tumbler and reuse the bin until it starts to biodegrade.

BioBag makes small and medium bin bags, as well as pet bags that are 100% compostable and biodegradable. 

They’re also fragrance-free, not tested on animals, and packaged responsibly.

I have to admit— I purchased a handmade, non-disposable sponge for our kitchen with the best of intentions, but it didn’t work well and thus didn’t last long. It was a bummer and a waste. In searching for responsible alternatives to synthetic sponges, I found my favorites via Grove. The Walnut & Cellulose Scrubber is sustainably made, and is both resilient and subtle in appearance. 

Meanwhile, the European Dishcloths are fantastic alternatives to paper towels, as they can be washed in the dishwasher and then reused— plus they are biodegradable. (These have been particularly great for cleaning up my son’s crayon marks and toy scuffs.)

The Seedling by Grove Tree-Free Bath Tissue is 100% tree-free, and composed from a proprietary blend of bamboo and sugarcane. Bamboo absorbs 5x the amount of CO2 as trees, and takes as little as 3 months to harvest (whereas trees take 20+ years). Also worth noting is that Seedling by Grove has partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation, and a portion of every roll sold goes to plant trees across the United States.

I liked the idea of a healthy and sustainable alternative to tampons, but it took me a while to get used to the practice of using a menstrual cup. Now I’m fully on-board and can’t imagine ever going back to anything disposable. Not only does using a cup like the Lena prevent an astounding amount of waste, but it saves money and eliminates the need for those urgent and ever-inconvenient dashes to the store for tampons or pads. If you feel like you need a little extra protection while getting used to using a cup, washable cotton liners are effective and easy to use. When not in use, I hide my Lena in plain sight by simply placing the cup + provided pouch in a drawstring sac that matches our decor, and I suspend that from our towel rack. 

(It’s also easy to hang the little pouch on the inside of a cabinet door, if you’re pressed for drawer space in a small bathroom.) The Lena is BPA free, fragrance free, gluten free, hypoallergenic, made in the USA, not tested on animals, responsibly packaged, reusable, suitable for sensitive skin, vegan, and is the product of a women owned business.  

As for the Grove packaging itself in which everything is delivered: we reuse almost every part of it. Any brown paper or small cardboard pieces end up covering West’s drawing table surface and become fresh canvases (and are ultimately recycled). The main cardboard box is always refilled with donations from drop-off, or other outgoing items that we ship from our home. Even the extra compost bins are put to use as toy storage before they step up to their intended role in the kitchen when their time comes.

Everything available via Grove is healthy, effective, sustainably produced, and cruelty-free. You can customize the timing and contents of your refill shipments, which themselves are eco-minded. Additionally, Grove curates a gift set of some of their favorite household essentials, included in the first order (of $20 or more) by new customers. View a sampling of their gift sent contents, below:

Grove is giving away a $100 gift credit to Grove Collaborative, plus a bundle of the products featured in via my blog post. Just enter your name and email address below to win. ( values your privacy, and will never share or sell your address.) One entry will be selected at random and announced via my @WhitneyLeighMorris Instagram Stories on Feb. 7th, 2019. (No purchase necessary. Continental US only.)

Name *

Source: *Give A Sh*t by Ashlee Piper, 2018 |** Forbes, 2018

January Stories Roundup

Recently, I consulted with Domino Mag about ways to elevate your string lights, and why this form of lighting is so great for spaces of all sizes. You can view the interview here.

Additionally, we did a shoot and interview earlier this winter with One More Thing. The images and story are live here, and a preview is below. (Photos were taken by Angi Welsch, courtesy of One More Thing.)


Under One Tiny Roof While Under the Weather

’Tis the time of year to get sick… repeatedly, apparently. Adam, West and I all got our first colds of the season on our trip home from the East Coast after Thanksgiving, and none of us have quite gotten back to 100% since. This week, West and I caught a new round of something— his was symptomatic of a rude stomach bug, whereas mine was an epic assault on my sinuses. 

When possible, our family prefers to stick with natural approaches to healing. (However, we’re not opposed to taking prescribed medications when necessary— for example, we all have our flu shots.) Since our tools for soothing and healing are rarely contained in a pharmaceutical pill bottle, they could quickly overrun sections of our small home if weren’t deliberate with them. 

However, when you’re sick it’s tough to summon the energy to pick up a sock, let alone clean up larger messes after they’re made. But it’s obviously unhealthy to leave certain items sitting around when you’re sharing a tiny petri dish of a home-office as a sniffling, sleepless family. So, as I sit here, bleary-eyed with my hot water and lemon at 4am, I figured I might as well share a roundup of the items we have, and why they work for our small space. 

I was intentional when I acquired the following goods for our Cottage. And, of course, I’m considering them in detail now as I formulate this post. But the great thing about these pieces is that they require very little consideration while we’re in the throws of cleaning up toddler vomit, managing migraines, or moping together in bed. 


An Out-of-the-Ordinary Indoor Activity 
Since our little one can’t go on his usual adventures when sick, Adam and I feel like it’s wise to offer him a major new activity to calmly enjoy while recovering. As we don’t like the idea of him sitting in front of a screen for hours on end, we got him a cardboard playhouse, which we shuttle between the main room and the covered porch, depending on time and temperature. It’s HUGE, yes, but it’s also completely perfect for the occasion. We’ve decorated it with twinkle lights— inside and out— and West retreats to it for long stretches of time to color and sticker the inside walls, or build with his legos and blocks.

When it’s no longer needed and West is back playing outdoors and with other kids from the community, we can deconstruct the playhouse and store it behind our clothing in the closet. I like that it’s a grand, plastic-free, special present that can be tucked away until another sick day. 


We don’t use tissues— instead, we use little reusable cloths from Etsy and Grovia that we stash around the house. After we use one, we toss it in a washable paper bag that we usually keep on the built-in seat/shelf in our shower, where the cloths sit contained until the next round of laundry. The Grovia ones in particular are super soft and don’t irritate our skin (like standard tissues), and little cloth squares don’t take up space on the bedside as an entire tissue box would. This also helps us avoid accumulating mounds of paper in the recycling bin. 


I remember the humidifier my parents used to fill up for my sister and me when we were young. It was HUGE, and it was loud… and mildly terrifying for a young, ill child. Thankfully, design has come a looong way. At the Cottage, we use a slim Muji humidifier that is almost silent, and at 3.5” in diameter it’s slim enough to slide onto a bookshelf or cabinet when not in use. Since our “nightstands” are cut-outs within our built-in, I can’t keep it there when it’s on. So I simply pull out a drawer next to the bed (slightly below the mattress), and cover it with a wine box top to create a stable surface on which to keep the humidifier overnight. It works perfectly. 


We also use a simple drying rack in the bedroom at these times for a hint of extra moisture in the air.


Neti Pot 
I’m a big fan of our Eco Neti Pot. It works wonders while also being affordable, petite and durable. When I’m using it regularly, I let it dry out on an s-hook on our towel rack. And when I don’t need it, it only takes up bout as much space as a hairbrush, so I just hang it from a tack-and-string on the interior, upper perimeter of the bathroom vanity. 


Clean Drinking Glasses 
Since you’re supposed to drink clear fluids when sick, I want to be sure that West always has access to water. But I also don’t want him drinking from a straw and bottle that are just incubating the germs. A space-savvy way to offer up clean vessels without having to constantly stand over the sink and clean cup after cup is to use stainless steel ramekins or a removable silicon sleeve on a 4oz mason jar. Both of these “cups” can be used for many other things around the house as well.


Ouch Box
Our First Aid kit is accessible for adults, while out of reach of the littles. It holds any medications we’re currently taking, as well as our most-needed supplies. (Our full emergency preparedness kits are stored elsewhere.)


We have a compact Muji electric kettle that’s so small and cleanly designed that it can stay on the counter for weeks at a time without consuming many inches. It slides into a cabinet by the stove when not in regular use. (We don’t use a stovetop model, as our stove is usually in use as a dish drying spot and as a surface for cutting boards when it’s not in operation.)

Plate / Platter per person
To keep mugs, cloth tissues, stirrers and more separated so we know whose is whose (so as to keep from passing serious germs back and forth to one another while our bodies are trying to heal), we dedicate individual small plates or platters to everyone on the countertops. We try to corral our individual collections here, whenever possible. It also makes things easy to move around, which helps when we need to open up space for cooking, crafts, and/or work.

Hot Compress
I don’t bother with a dedicated compress. A simple washcloth or small towel can be heated with hot water (and salt, depending,) and used in the same manner. (Just be careful!)


We are extremely satisfied with our Dyson Hot-Cool Link Air Purifier, which manages our entire tiny home. But if we need a boost of concentrated heat— like while I’m at my desk, or when West is in his bed— we use a very small, personal heater. In limited square-footage such as ours, it’s all that’s needed. It’s footprint is small enough that it can rest on the low wall between our kitchen and main room when it’s on. (When it’s off, we just place it into the cabinet by the stove between the kettle and the mini-Vitamix.)

Tiny Update for a Tidier Built-In

Now that West is sleeping in his “big kid bed,” Adam and I figured it was time to address a few issues we’ve been having around the couch, starting with aspects of the built-in shelving. As such, we outfitted the exposed cubbies in our main room with custom drawers that allow us to use the entire height, width and depth of the cavity. (This is what these ledges looked like for 7+ years prior to this lil’ update. I very much liked the relaxed, natural look, but it just wasn’t the most efficient use of the interior space.)


I intended to add drawer pulls of some sort (probably vegetable-tanned leather) to the front, but West has had so much fun putting pebbled and crayons in the finger outlets recently that I haven’t had the heart to change them quite yet. Plus they match the holes in the under-sofa storage doors, and they are most likely keeping our son from pulling the drawers out onto the floor (and onto his adorable feet). Meh, I’m in no rush.


I am so accustomed to seeing the old baskets there that these white, squared-off drawers make me feel a bit like I’m at Space Camp. But They brighten up the space, and they’re so much more useful.


While I’m always an advocate for fewer belongings over more storage, it made no sense for us to continue to ignore the inches being lost by the baskets, which only filled up about 2/3 of the cubbies. Now this funny little built-in zone feels cavernous to us.


The middle drawer holds my office supplies, such as envelopes, tech dopp kits, and a few small accessories in pouches.


The top is where we keep StanLee and Sophee’s pet bags, deshedding brush, harnesses for the cargo bike and car, and specialty collars (like a safety collar and the one StanLee wore during our home wedding). I also keep a lint roller in here, though I plan to switch to a sustainable brush once this one is worn out or chewed up.


The bottom drawer holds West’s wooden train track parts. (The apple basket in which they were stored before made a perfect plant holder for a new variegated rubber plant that we found at Venice Plants.)


I’m always amazed by what an impact a tiny change like this can have on the appearance and function of a space our size.


Sofa → Toddler Bed → Sofa

From a mini-crib, to a Dock-a-Tot, to bed-sharing, we’ve tried a few different sleep environments on for size here to see what works best for our lil’ family and space. I wrote a comprehensive post on that topic here, in which I explain why (and when) we made the decisions we did. Now that West is 2y3mo old, we feel as though it’s time to get him comfortable with his own bed, even though we’re not fully shutting the door on bed-sharing.


For a while, we debated: Do we craft a mini-Murphy bed in the closet? Do we create a daybed-style built-in? Do we make a fold-out platform at the foot of the bed? Ultimately we decided on the simplest course of action— a bumper pillow for the couch.

While this particular move won’t land us in any decor magazines (what— no picturesque telescoping guard-rail or accordion extension on the build-ins?!), it is easy, affordable and practical. And while it’s admittedly not the most aesthetically-rewarding choice, it’s not an eyesore either. Plus it’s easy to for others to recreate in their own small homes or apartments, without requiring extra inches or big budgets.


Above all, it works— at least for our family. All it took for us is a slip-proof bumper pillow and a waterproof, fitted twin mattress protector.


When we make our bed in the morning, we slip the bumper out of sight against the headboard behind our normal pillows. Unless the linens need to be washed, the mattress protector and fitted sheet fit within a repurposed plastic bag, and are stashed under the bed or sofa. West’s Ketzal Blanket folds up and remains by the couch, while his Parachute Baby Quilt + Pillow go onto our bed, as they always have.


(Ah, Sophee, why must you stick your nose in EVERYTHING? Please note that we do not leave plastic bags out where the pups or our son can get to them. This repurposed storage bag is usually tucked safely away unless actively in-use. Safety first, folks!)


The whole thing takes about 5 minutes to set up / and 5 minutes to break down. Adam or I encourage West to join us so that he can find joy and pride in the process of constructing his own space at night, and deconstructing it for the entire family’s use in the morning.


By adding books (which West chooses every night), a hand-me-down rotating nightlight gifted by his cousins, and a few plushies (which we only bring out at bedtime so that the dogs don’t mistake them for their toys), the space instantly becomes West’s own little zone.

We are really relaxed when it comes to hid bedtime routine. We go through the same motions nearly every night, but we are flexible with time and place.

If he is sleepy and wants to get in bed at 7, great. If it’s more like 8, that’s fine, too. If he wants to read 10 books instead of 5, we go for it. And if he’s only in the mood for a single story and wants to sing and watch the night lamp rotate in lieu of finishing the stack of books, we do that together instead.


Similarly, we ask him which bed he prefers. He can choose his “big kid bed” on the couch, or the “family bed.” This has allowed him to naturally gravitate towards his dedicated sleep space comfortably and at his own pace. He chooses it now more than our family bed, and is clearly excited about his independence. There was no fighting, no bribery, no pleading, and and no struggling to stick to arbitrary rules. West still loves getting in bed and falling asleep, as he did before— it remains easy and delightful for everyone.

As far as noise and light are concerned once our son falls asleep… we lucked out. The kid seems to be blissfully immune. (I discussed this more comprehensively in our bed-sharing post from January 2018.)


When we have visitors over after our son’s bedtime, if we’re hosting an overnight guest, or if West has a rough night, he’s fine to simply sleep in the middle of our built-in queen bed in the bedroom instead, as he’s done for years. The great thing about bed-sharing for so long is that West contentedly falls asleep nearly anywhere and in any reasonable conditions, and he isn’t upset by change.


I know that many people can’t imagine parenting life without a crib— I completely get it, and I’m not advocating for or against any sleep methods or tools. But it has been such a happy surprise to discover that 12+ hours of sleep per night for West is doable thanks to inexpensive and space-savvy gear, such as a Dock-a-Tot (initially) and now the bumper.


While we’ve had fun trying out and reviewing other methods and products (both for our lifestyle and for our business), we continue to learn over and over that pared-down and simple solutions are usually the best for our family and our tiny home.

Toddler Folding Table

I moved West’s folding table from the porch back into the Cottage today, as he hadn’t been using the setup too often lately. Thanks to the minor change of scenery, he suddenly fell in love with the table again, and played here for hours.


One of my goals for 2019 is to reinvent/repair/repurpose far more, so this has been the perfect way to spend the first evenings of the new year.

When he outgrows this piece, we can fold it away and stash it in the back of the closet when it’s not needed, but still continue to use it regularly in other ways around the house and on adventures.


Here’s to making it work with what we’ve got. It is better for our wallets, better for the planet, and can even spark a lil’ creativity. 

Corralling and Concealing Toys in a Small Space

You wouldn’t know it upon first glance, but the main room of our cottage is filled with a reasonable amount of books and toys— they’re simply hidden in plain sight.


Rather than opting for traditional “toy storage,” we simply use items from around the house, or pieces we’ve found locally or via Etsy that suit our aesthetic while being easy for West to open and close.


By breaking the storage up throughout the space where possible, we’ve eliminated the need for bulky, dedicated playroom trunks and similar storage furnishings.

Above: Baskets from  Kembali collective , tin from muji. vintage coffee table from  super marché .

Above: Baskets from Kembali collective, tin from muji. vintage coffee table from super marché.

It only takes a few minutes for our home to turn into a disaster zone. But, luckily, one joy of a tiny house is that it only takes about takes about 3-10 minutes to put everything back together again.


While we strive to only purchase responsibly-sourced and ethically-produced eco-friendly toys and accessories, we are also fine with using hand-me-down plastic and metal toys, because if the products are already out there we might as well put them to good use. They’re already sunk goods, so there’s no point in sending them directly to a landfill where they’ll sit until the end of time. Our hope is to pass on all items to friends, families in need, and places like the library where they’ll live out new adventures.

Between a woven suitcase, a book trolley, a built-in drawer, and a few baskets, we can accommodate nearly every toy West uses on a daily basis right here in our mini home without it looking or feeling overwhelming.

Small Space Skylight

In less than 400 square feet, we’re lucky to have, not one, but two beautiful skylights. The window over the main room (which is the space that serves as our living room, kitchen, office, dining room, playroom, guest room, entryway, and more,) is generously sized, and is the unsung hero of our lil’ home. It permits the SoCal sunlight to pour abundantly into nearly every area within the Cottage.


I can’t imagine our house without this skylight, but during the winter months it poses a bit of a challenge for my workspace. The sun moves in a path that lands smack on my monitor for about two crucial hours of the workday (10-12), meaning that I can’t shoot, adjust photos, or edit videos at my desk during that time.


Obviously this is a great problem to have, and clearly there are several easy work-arounds, such as moving the iMac or using the laptop. But more often than not, I end up jumping up on the roof and throwing an old tablecloth over the window so I can continue my work uninterrupted.

I took to Instagram Stories to make fun of myself for doing this when my friend Hilton Carter (the talented creator of Jungle By The Falls) sent me a DM suggesting that perhaps I block the bulk of the temporary, problematic light with… plants. (I’ve suspended plants from our beams before, but I’d never, ever thought to dangle them from the skylight as a decorative solution to harsh sunlight.)


I’m a big fan of Hilton’s. He possesses such a rare blend of talent, humor, kindness, creativity, and style. (And his feature in our book, Small Space Style, is one of my absolute favorite parts of the entire publication.)


All it took was a sturdy tension rod, ever-handy s-hooks from the toolbox, a couple of my favorite hanging baskets from around the Cottage, and some variegated English Ivy to bring his recommendation to life. Et voila:


Problem solved— and solved simply and beautifully, with minimal purchasing.


The tension rod and s-hooks are only clearly visible if you’re standing directly under the skylight when the plants aren’t in the baskets. Within moments, everything can be scooted over to block transitioning sunlight, or taken down for watering or alternative placement.


And hallelujah— I can finally see my desk for the duration of the workday!


Thank you, Hilton. (As always.) Our house is a happier place because of you!


An Ode to Washable Paper Containers

Ah, storage. While I believe that we should strive for fewer belongings (as opposed to more containment methods), stylish and space-savvy storage is undeniably something we can’t entirely do without. As a result, I have a mild love-hate feeling about crates, baskets, buckets, and bins (of which I admittedly have several).


With the new year around the corner, folks are forming lifestyle resolutions and establishing fresh habits in their homes. The urge to tidy, downsize and start anew is widely shared at the close of the holidays, so curbing clutter while beatifying the home will undoubtedly lead many to seek out organizational/storage accents. For those living in limited square-footage, operating with a tight budget, and trying to be more environmentally-minded with their purchases, the options narrow.


Well-designed storage can get fairly pricy, and pieces are often made of synthetic materials. And some moments in life require more storage than others, but then there’s no place to stash typical containers in a small home or apartment when they’re no longer necessary for the time-being. Inevitably you end up getting rid of them, only to need more later down the line. (The cycle rolls on.)


Washable paper bags are clever options for customizable, affordable, simple, eco-friendly, easily-to-clean, small space storage.


Depending on the design and format, washable paper bags can be used for nearly everything: toiletries storage, laundry, plants, pantry goods, toys, tabletop organization and display, and even as a market tote.


When you no longer need them, they fold flat to fit on a bookshelf, in a drawer, or behind stacked items such as cutting boards or books, where they wait unobtrusively to be called into action once again in the future.

There are numerous makers on Etsy selling washable paper bags,  and there’s also UASHMAMA, which makes a myriad of additional items from washable paper. Their designs look and feel like leather, but washe with ease and stay soft while remaining resilient. They’re also made of a cultivated fibre and does not contribute to deforestation.


We use washable paper bags everywhere around the house lately. The applications are ever-changing, without being wasteful.


Some Items You Can Probably Go Without (Part IX) - Travel Edition

While it's great to share stories about designs and practices that help us live comfortably and contentedly in small spaces, I think it’s just as important to discuss the things that we can happily live WITHOUT— particularly during the holidays, when “stuff” just of all sorts just seems to swell. After all, making a home of a small space isn’t mainly about figuring out how to cram as much stuff as possible into your compact quarters— it’s about experiencing more by owning less. As always, before we jump on in, here’s a lil’ disclaimer: To each her or his own. While these items might be easy for easy for some folks to forego, they might be gems elsewhere. You know your own needs and space best. Habits shift, tastes change, lives and practices evolve. Design and decor should be different and enjoyable for everyone! The following is just a small sampling of travel items you may want to reconsider. (View all the entries in this series here.)


The Overzealous Skincare Routine
At home and on-the-go, I used to use an obnoxious (and expensive + space-space-consuming) number of products: makeup remover, face wipes, cleanser, toner, face oil, serum, add-in powders for the serum, moisturizer, under-eye cream, sunscreen, and primer. It was absurd, costly, cumbersome, and wreaking havoc on my skin. Meanwhile, Adam had his small arsenal of products as well. We finally look a long-overdue plunge and tried Vintner’s Daughter, and it instantly became my favorite for many reasons.


When my hormones went wild after West stopped nursing at 18 months, this little bottle of magic saved the day. (I’ve not had a notable breakout since, nor have I had to visit the dermatologist or get a corrective facial.) Adam and I can BOTH use Vintner’s Daughter. Despite it’s higher price tag, it ultimately saves us money by reducing the number of products we buy. Plus it helps us greatly cut back on waste from packing/shipping/trash, time spent our morning and bedtime routines, and it preserves space within our home. The bottle lasts for months, yet is small enough to slip into your pocket. Now I remove makeup with a dedicated reusable wipe, wash with a mild bar soap, apply toner via a washable cotton round, use Vintner’s Daughter, and, when needed, top off with a clear sunscreen that can double as a primer. VOILA. (Adam does the same, but uses his own SPF-moisturizer afterward.)

Neck Pillow
These silly things always, always make me laugh… until I imagine how many are likely disposed of between trips, and how many new ones are purchased daily. Try rolling up a scarf or a sweater… or dare we simply make-do with ever-so-mild discomfort for a few hours and then move on with our clutter-free lives.


Luggage Scale
If you have a regular scale at your home, then you have a luggage scale. If your bags are hard to weight by themselves, just weight yourself with each suitcase in your arms, and then subtract your weight sans-suitcase. My 5 year old nephew can manage it— you got this.


Disposable Makeup Remover Wipes
I was guilty of keeping a stash of these disposable goods in my bedside drawer, in the medicine cabinet, and in my travel toiletries pouch for years. Then, recently, we were paddling down the canals and I saw a crane pecking the discarded plastic packaging from the same product. So… no more. I now have three reusable makeup remover pads, which can be washed up to 200 times each. If I’m wearing particularly stubborn eye makeup after a en event or shoot, I just use a bit of coconut oil on a washable cotton round and it’s managed.  


Pre-Packaged Travel Convenience Kit
These drugstore kits are usually filled with plastic bottles containing filler-laden formulas with toxic ingredients. And, most likely, you probably don’t even need (or want) all the products, but accept them as a bundle. Invest in a few reusable travel-sized bottles and containers instead— then just syphon off an appropriate amount of your everyday necessities within them and go. Sample sizes work well for this, too.


Passport Cover
I’m not going to lie— we have these. I bought a handmade trio for our first trip out of the country with West, simply because I was so excited about the journey. But it was silly of me. As long as you keep your passport safe while at home and on the go, you don’t need a dedicated cover. And, according to NPR, e-pickpocketing by RFID-hackers can be blocked by wrapping your wallet, cards, or passports in aluminum foil when you’re in places in which they’re potentially more vulnerable. (Consumer Reports claims that this works just as well as most RFID protectors on the market.) Our passport envelopes are pretty for sure, but we really only see them for a minute or so per year. I should’ve taken that bit of money and put it into West’s education account instead. 


Conversation Cards
What? No. These are on par with neck pillows. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you require a deck of cards to carve a path through your social interactions during long rides. 

Airplane Footrest
Some people have injuries and conditions that require special gear for travel. However, if you don’t have a medical issue, then you probably don’t need things like airplane footrests. Can you prop your feet on your under-the-seat bag or nearby hardware? Can you perhaps walk up and down the aisle, or do some basic stretches if you get achy? I have faith that most folks can make-do without their own suspended footrest.


“Shoe Bags”
I wrap up my shoes when I travel, but I do so with washable canvas totes, cotton drawstring sacks, or even the unfortunate plastic bags that still come with various deliveries. (Does your dry cleaner wrap your attire in plastic, even when you’ve asked them not to? You might as well get some more milage out of it all… better than just throwing it directly in the trash, right?)


Compact Blanket
These dedicated blankets roll up tight into their own clever little built-in pouches, but they’re likely unnecessary, and usually manufactured in conditions and with materials much like fast-fashion apparel. Just use your coat or an oversized large scarf when you get a bit chilly in-flight or on a drive. Adam, West and I wear our larger LSA scarves (as seen above in a photo by Sebastian Artz) when we travel for this exact purpose.

Above: Folks always ask how we get the pups to pose. We don’t. We just catch them doing what they do best: adorably photobombing.

Above: Folks always ask how we get the pups to pose. We don’t. We just catch them doing what they do best: adorably photobombing.

Travel Accessories With Which I’m Unapologetically, Totally on Board
I personally like the following because I use them to stay organized every day, whether in our tiny home or when we’re away:

In Lieu of Screens When On-The-Go

We’re not big on screens for entertainment here— we don’t even have a television. Adam and I do, of course, stream shows or movies from time to time on the computer, but that’s about it. I didn’t have much access to TV when I was younger, as my family lived in the middle of nowhere and there were only 3 channels. So sitting for hours in front of the tube has never felt natural for me. As such, my son has extremely limited screen time. 


I want to offer up-front that screen time is a personal decision based on a multitude of factors. I’m neither judging, nor on a soap box— I’m simply sharing our reality. Adam and I work from home and have only have 1 child, and all three of us are healthy and able-bodied. As such, it has been easy for us to stick to our plan as far as screen time is concerned. This is certainly not the case for many families. To each his/her/their own— we are all trying to do our best! 

West is never allowed a device in the car. If he gets upset, we pull over. By his carseat, he has a divided basket of books, window clings, and soft toys that he can access on his own as he chooses.


He’s also not permitted to watch an iPad or iPhone during a meal. If he loses his cool, we take him outside the restaurant until he calms down, and very rarely we just abruptly pack up and head home. We almost always use a to-go kit of books and activities at restaurants to keep him interested when his attention to the meal and conversation wanes. (More on that below.)


When West wiggles wildly during diaper changes, we give him audio/mechanical greeting cards to keep him entertained. 

Adam and I do let our toddler watch an 8 minute episode of Sarah and Duck or Puffin Rock after he showers while I’m brushing out his long, messy curls and clipping his nails, because otherwise I think he’d be terrified of that somewhat uncomfortable routine. And, occasionally in the early evenings when Adam is making dinner and I’m not yet done with work, West gets to watch an episode. When he was sick with a fever recently, he watched The Snowy Day. He also uses FaceTime with family for however long the conversations happen to run. 

Above: Chatting with his grandparents via Facetime.

Above: Chatting with his grandparents via Facetime.

I frequently post Instagram Stories showing West at restaurants with his little to-go trunk of books and activities, and I’ve received many inquiries about the contents of the bundle, so I’m sharing details via this post.


While we change the items up slightly every week to keep things interesting, the collection usually contains these or similar items. West is nearly 2yr3mo, and has been using some variation of this kit for about a year. I’d say that 9/10 times, it keeps him happy and engaged for an hour-long meal or event.


I read Bringing Up BéBé when I was pregnant, and wondered if I’d stay on-track with raising a child who was content to sit, eat and interact with the rest of the group at dinner. While I’ve fallen short of that thus far, I gotta say that dining out is still totally delightful and manageable… most of the time. (On occasion, it feels like running a marathon. But c’est la vie.) 


Another thing I like about the to-go kit is that it helps us cut back on waste. A refillable little stainless steel ramekin is enough for his water or ice cubes, so he doesn’t need a restaurant sip-cup. A few items, such as his magnet-box and mini-mat easily double as a placemat or plate, so we’re not likely to break any porcelain.


A chewable silicon straw and set of bamboo cutlery or a stainless folding spork helps keep him safe while allowing him to engage with his meal like the big kids he so admires. Some chalk and/or a roll-up crayon pack allows us to politely decline new, individually packaged sets often handed out at the host stand.


The toys are a mix of things we were given, picked up at local shops, or nabbed as hand-me-downs. Everything is a success— particularly the pack of magnetic blocks (not pictured). 

We keep everything in a sturdy and beautiful Steamline Luggage train case that has traveled with us via train, plane, bike, stroller, wagon, and car, but we’ll sometimes syphon off bits and pieces into a mini canvas bag that West can carry himself when he wants.


Both containers fit easily in our tiny home, and work with our decor as well.


If we’re going to an event with a bit of room, we bring his combo play-mat + storage bag instead. While he doesn’t stick to it, it’s a good rallying spot for kids and toys, and takes mere seconds to gather up and go.


I hope this helps!