Some Items You Can Probably Go Without (Part III)

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. 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. The following is just a very small sampling of everyday items you might want to reconsider. (Click to view Part I or Part II of this series.)

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. Design and decor should be different and enjoyable for everyone. 

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Pet Beds
I am all for showering animals with love. StanLee and Sophee are some of the greatest joys of my life. But if we didn’t have our garden space, I would’ve given up on buying pet beds long ago. (Hear me out— I’ll explain.) If you’re tight on space and looking for ways to reduce the larger items in your home and/or save money, simply repurpose some washable items from around the house. A spare bathmat, fluffy towel, outdoor seat cushion, or miscellaneous thicker linens could possibly work just fine. It might take a few tries to find what your pet likes best. 

We have two pet beds that we keep outside, day and night. Our pups love them, as do I. But are they NEEDED? No. (Hell, StanLee sometimes likes to nap in a pile of rocks. Does he really require a lofted, K9, wicker daybed?) Sophee sleeps at our feet on our mattress, while StanLee chooses to sleep in the narrow corridor between my side of the bed and the wall. At night, I place a machine-washable, cushioned toddler-sized comforter over the hardwood, and our senior is quite content to lounge on that throughout the night.

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Desktop Gear
I feel as though we’re blissfully beyond the era of receiving randomly customized photo and logoed mousepads… but perhaps that’s just because I’m so far removed from traditional office environments. Either way, if you’re looking for ways to simplify your home-office, keep in mind that you don’t need a desk protector or a mousepad. My Magic Mouse leaves marks on my white, wooden desktop, so I simply slide a leather laptop case under it throughout the day while working. Books, catalogues, or a thousand other items would work just as well. 

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A Hamper
For years, we kept our dirty clothes in a built-in oversized drawer under our bed. It worked flawlessly, as hampers can be really tough to accommodate in a tiny home, regardless of whether they’re hanging or foldable. Everyone’s needs vary, but depending on your situation you might be able to repurpose a larger drawer, cubby or shelf in your closet, bath or bedroom for gathering the garments that need to be washed. No empty drawer to spare? Bonus points for giving away enough items to free one up!

Ironing Board + Full-Sized Drying Rack
While this won’t work for everyone, it might work for you: can you live without an ironing board and a full-sized iron and drying rack?

For little things like burp cloths, napkins, and other items that need to dry before stashed in the to-do laundry, a suction-cup, swing-arm drying rack can be extremely helpful.

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For larger items that need to dry after a proper swim or wash, a no-frills clothesline made of twine, tacks and clothespins could be all you need, indoors or out.

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Use your bed, couch or a table as your ironing board, and let a “travel” iron/steamer do the rest of the work for you. 

Upright Vacuum  
I’ve posted on this before, as we test a lot of these products as part of my job. Gone are the days of needing a massive upright vacuum. An iRobot Roomba, a collapsible / combo cordless design, a combo mop-vacuum, or even a handheld vacuum might be better options for your small space. 

Serving Platters
If your kitchen is compact, skip the oversized entertaining platters and plates. Cutting boards and misc trays from around the house can pull double-duty as serving surfaces. Just add a layer of of reusable beeswax wrap to make them “food safe.” Or, if your surface spaces are also cramped, use a collection of smaller plates dispersed around your available countertops, or add wax paper or beeswax wrap directly to your table. I honestly believe these clever workarounds usually make for more interesting and beautiful hosting setups than most traditional formats. 

A Full Grill
If you only grill on very rare, special occasions, consider a single-use, 100% natural, biodegradable, portable grill. (If you take it camping, simply toss it in the bonfire when you're done.) See photos of one in use at the Cottage, here.

Picnic Set
I’m a sucker for a beautiful picnic. But dedicated gear takes up a lot of space, and is nowhere near essential to our lives. Make your own picnic set when the occasion arises. A myriad of baskets, reusable shopping bags, or even a suitcase will help you tote food and accessories. Have you made an eco-friendly to-go + take-out dining pouch? USE IT. And remember, you don’t need a “picnic blanket.” Any linens that are machine-washable will suffice, as will lightweight outdoor mats. Need some shade for the meal? Try a table runner suspended from a tree branch or pegged to any sort of makeshift poles. Look around. Challenge yourself. Have some fun CREATING. You most likely have everything you need already— don’t waste your precious storage space and funds on a comprehensive set if you’re trying to save money, reduce your environmental footprint, and/or declutter. 

Summer Grilling in the Tiny Garden

This post was sponsored by La Brea Bakery. All images, words, and opinions are my own.

Since West entered into our lives, Adam and I have found that our small space entertaining style has changed greatly. 

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Our beachside summers in Venice were once spent hosting cocktail gatherings of up to 60 people here at our tiny home and yard. These days we are much more content to host easy, healthy, low-key meals in the garden with a few friends at a time. 

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In years past, we shared a giant grill with our neighbor across the porch. Over time it slowly fell apart and he decided to get rid of it. Adam and I never acquired a replacement. We usually grill at a friend’s house— it’s always nice to have little adventures beyond the cottage, and I delight in avoiding having to purchase more objects for our home. But every now and again we still grill in the garden, embracing the tiny life with the help of a biodegradable, 100% natural mini grill. (I’m still pretty much a disaster in the kitchen and on the grill, but luckily Adam is a wonderful cook.)

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We changed our dietary habits not too long ago, and we’ve since been enjoying more greens and fruit, as well as indulging in our love of bread. 

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Adam tried our first pescatarian-friendly meal prepared on a grill, and it turned out to be easy and light— the perfect meal for a warm, relaxing summer evening. 

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Our family tries to get most of our food from the Friday farmers market just off the canals. 

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However, we stopped buying our weekly supply of bread from the market a while back. It would either go stale before we could finish it, or we ended up eating way too much of it immediately in order to avoid wasting food. 

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We found our balance with La Brea Bakery’s Take & Bake breads

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They’re easy to prep fresh for any meal, and they’re completely yummy. 

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For our lil’ al fresco meal, Adam made us a grilled peach salad with fruit, honey, cheese and arugula from the farmers market, rounded off with two Take & Bake French Baguettes from La Brea Bakery. 

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(I may or may not have put a few pieces of arugula on the bread and topped it with a cheesy peach and eaten it like an open-face sandwich rather than a salad.) It was simple and delicious. 

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Here’s to slowing down this summer and enjoying healthy, happy meals with the ones we love. 

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INGREDIENTS
(Note: This served 4 of us, and took 40 minutes on the mini grill.)
4 Large Fresh, Ripe Peaches (Halved) // 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil // 2 Sticks of Honey (or 1/4 cup) of Honey // Chopped blocks of herbed Cheese // 1/2 lb Arugula // 3 Tbsp. Softened Butter // Grilled French Baguettes // Pine Nuts (which we got, but then totally forgot to use) // Salt & Pepper

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You can find more summer recipes here!

A Look Inside, Entry 1: Kitchen Storage

Lately I've received numerous requests to show the inside of our cabinets and drawers on social media and the blog. I'll do a gradual tour-- today, I'm starting with our biggest kitchen cabinet. Here are the contents and sources for most of the items. I hope this helps! 

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Get Organized-- But Stop Buying Organizers 

One of my favorite ways to outfit our Cottage is by using vintage, handmade, or hand-me-down items in unexpected ways. It’s a wonderful way to uniquely dress up your space and tackle organizational issues while putting sentimental items to use, and without contributing to the rapidly increasing environmental problems due to mass production and waste. If you’re interested in testing the waters, I’d suggest starting with your “junk drawer.” Notoriously messy, these makeshift homes for frequently used, nomadic items are the perfect place to start. 

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You don’t need a custom-crafted or store-bought drawer organizer— just look around your space and consider what you already have available to you. Are there items stashed about that you want to keep for sentimental reasons (or others), but aren’t regularly using? If so, can they be either permanently or temporarily repurposed as a petite storage vessel? 

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Consider items such as used packing materials, compact baskets, chooses, mugs, votive holders, food containers, shells, old iPhone boxes, etc. Depending on the size of your drawer(s) and the dimensions of the objects in need of wrangling, you might have some ideal solutions already at your fingertips. 

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Our shallow “junk” drawer, which is at the end of our kitchen, holds matches, rechargeable batteries, chalk, infrequently used keys, string, tape, eyeglass repair instruments, and more. We access these little odds-and-ends every day, so the drawer can get really messy really fast. In lieu of purchasing a new plastic or bamboo divider, and instead of spending time scouring Etsy for a properly-sized vintage option, I saved time and money by putting some miscellaneous collections of ours to additional use. 

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For example, we have a few jars and recycled tealight cups that we use for candles, but they’re only out on special occasions. By giving them the extra responsibility of keeping our drawer tidy, we’ve eliminated the need to find a dedicated storage space to house them in their downtime. 

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Similarly, Adam and I had a random mix of old mugs that mean something to us, but that we don’t actually use for tea or coffee. Rather than stashing them in the back of the cabinets  (where they’ll consume valuable inches) or donating them, we now see and enjoy them again in this practical, purposeful way.

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This concept doesn’t only apply to drawer dividers, of course. I keep office supplies and handbag contents in vine baskets that are actually vase covers, and many of my little accessories around the house are stashed in woven drinking glass sleeves. And my business documents are filed in old picnic baskets, rather than file boxes

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I know this is a 101 task and concept, but it can be surprisingly helpful in tiny and/or cramped spaces! Start small, and test out how your first attempt looks, feels and functions. If you’re pleased with the results, then tackle more zones. This can actually be a delightful, creative challenge.

Minimizing Mess: Dog Toys

I savor signs of LIFE in a home— wild branches shedding leaves, tabletops primed for working, creating or dining, worn floors, and books and games in various stages of use. While I love organized spaces, pristine spaces generally don’t sing to me. 

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The two tricks that make "mess" work for me in our tiny house are: 1) We don’t own much stuff to begin with, so there’s only so much chaos to be generated. 2) Most of the items here I find to be both useful and visually-appealing, so I don’t mind when they’re left out of place for a while.

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These concepts come into play even with the toys we make or buy for our dogs, StanLee and Sophee. 

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Since dog toys primarily exist to be torn to shreds within seconds, I’m reluctant to spend money on them. When I visit boutique pet shops, I can’t help but gawk at the price tags— $19 for a plush doll that Soph will burst through instantly? That’s neither doable nor sensible to me.

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Adam and I either upcycle worn-out, everyday items into games for the pups, or we buy new toys for special occasions via a discount retailer nearby.

UPCYCLING
I’ve seen some great DIY dog activities online that don’t require anything new. My favorite find was a cupcake tin filled with tennis balls, with a nibble hiding under (or within) one of the orbs. This clever little game will give your best friend a fun challenge to tackle before devouring his or her treat. (Although I myself have never tried it, as I’ve never owned a cupcake tin.) 

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Here, we frequently opt for a basic water-soaked cloth left in the freezer and transformed into a cold, soft chew. This is particularly effective in cooling down the pups while also keeping them entertained during the hotter summer months.

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Another go-to for us is the bottle-in-the-sock toy. We eliminated plastic bottles from our lives, but they still randomly surface every now and then, whether via a guest or some unexpected occasion. When that happens, we insert the empty bottles into a clean but tired old sock that needs to be retired, and this simple toy can keep one or both of our dogs occupied for a while.

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Ultimately, the bottle goes in the recycling bin. But keep in mind that only 14% of plastic is collected for recycling! I think of the likelihood of the bottle being dumped in a landfill and shudder.

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Sometimes I wrap parts of older dog toys or balls into a worn kitchen cloth and knot it off, then shred and braid the ends to create a solid tug toy that will outlast a typical plush. And since our old towels or undershirts tend to work well with the aesthetic of our home, these makeshift toys fit in quite well.

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BUYING
To purchase new toys for the pups, we bike to the local Ross, where we can find the same $19 toys I’ve seen at the boutique shops for just $3.99. (Despite the low price tag, we only do this about 4x/year to help cut back on material waste.)

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We scan the inventory to find styles that we know StanLee and Sophee will enjoy. From there we select the models that come in textures and/or tones that match our interior.

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This helps minimize the “mess” within our Cottage throughout the day. There are constantly dog toys left all over the place, but I hardly even notice them since they blend right in. (These photos were taken right after I brought home a round of new goodies for our beagles. When they're not scattered around the house, the dog toys are stashed in a built-in drawer on my side of the bed, as shown here.)

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Details such as these can have a significant impact on the overall look and feel of a tiny home, and help us all embrace (and even love) a lil' mess.

The Cottage Grapevine

When we first moved into the Cottage, we couldn't believe our luck: There was a thriving grapevine that produced Concord grapes on the north side of our tiny home, and an overgrown tree with a seemingly never-ending supply of avocados on the opposite end-- we could lean out of our kitchen window to grab the fruit. That season, we also planted peppers, strawberries, herbs, and citrus trees, all with surprising sucess. 

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This abundance of home-grown goodness lasted a few years before our neighbors on the south side sold their house... and with it, the sprawling avocado tree.

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The new owners hacked off most of its branches. (I admit, I cried.)

 Above: Adam clipping grape clusters.

Above: Adam clipping grape clusters.

Soon thereafter, aphids (or something similar) ate through almost everything we'd planted in our tiny garden. The only thing still standing strong was the grapevine, thanks to ongoing care and maintenance by our wonderful neighbors, Donna and Kevin.

 Left: Clipping the grapes in 2014. Photo by  Monica Wang . Right: Picking fruit between our home and the neighbor's. Photo by Lily Diamond of  Kale & Caramel .

Left: Clipping the grapes in 2014. Photo by Monica Wang. Right: Picking fruit between our home and the neighbor's. Photo by Lily Diamond of Kale & Caramel.

Fun fact: Kevin and Donna's beautifully designed, environmentally-savvy, vibrant cottage is featured in Justina Blakeney's 2nd book, The New Bohemians Handbook. Their house was built via the same blueprint as ours back in the 1920s. Much like our little home, it has undergone numerous changes since then, but the similarities are still very evident.

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Adam and I have reaped the benefits of this grapevine every spring and summer since we've lived here. The fruit is ready to eat in August when it turns a rich purple. But my favorite month as far as the vine is concerned is late May.

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That's when the leaves and tendrils rapidly stretch far and wide, and create a cooling canopy over our little yard in preparation for the summer months, which seem to keep growing hotter and hotter.

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Around this time of year, our neighbor, Kevin, spends hour upon hour clipping and cleaning the grapes, with which he makes delicious sorbet, jam and preserves. Adam and I have joined him in this process in the past.

Recently, Adam and I have been able to share the joy of the vines with West.

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Our son has been climbing up on the bench in the garden and picking the fruit off the vine ever since the clusters began forming.

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He's so excited to finally be able to eat them.

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The grapes are sweet. They have seeds and tough skin, but our little one has already gotten the hang of squeezing out the fruit and plucking out the seed.

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 Above: We used West's  toy wheelbarrow  to sort batches of grapes-- it's larger than any bowl we have on-hand.

Above: We used West's toy wheelbarrow to sort batches of grapes-- it's larger than any bowl we have on-hand.

As always, home-grown food is my favorite gift to both give and receive. It's eco-friendly, created with love, and requires no extra storage space! I believe that the simple stuff is oftentimes the best.

 Above: Gifting grapes in 2015.

Above: Gifting grapes in 2015.

Smart Updates to Our Little Live/Work Space

This post was sponsored by Pottery Barn / PB Apartment. All opinions are my own.

Our tiny home has experienced so many alterations in the past 2 years, keeping pace with our growing son and our evolving practices. The one area of our cottage that remained the same the entire time was my workspace, despite the fact that my work routines and methods have changed drastically since West was born. This area of the cottage is my full-time office, but it's also our living room, dining room, guest room, and a general play space. As such, I didn’t want to rush my workspace update, and was determined to wait until I found the perfect solutions for the little spot from which I run my business. 

I knew that I wanted a place to work while standing, and a place to work while sitting. I couldn’t accommodate 2 pieces of furniture, nor could I comfortably fit an optional, add-on riser that would lift my computer. I explored convertible desks, but every one I saw offered decent utility, but was far from stylish. And nearly all the options seemed better suited for a traditional office space, rather than a compact home.

When I discovered the Petaluma Lift Desk from PB Apartment, the bell went off. It was EXACTLY what I needed— from the color, to the size, to the functionality, to the design details. I am SO excited to share this piece, as it’s by far and away my favorite new addition to the cottage since we replaced our kitchen countertops. 

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In it’s first position, the desk is a standard table height. The entire desktop can also extend upward into a second position, smoothly converting the desk into a standing workspace within a few seconds.

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The hardware for lifting and lowering the surface of the desk functions gently and easily, but is still strong. I’m never worried that the top is going to collapse, nor do I have to physically struggle when converting between the two modes. When the top is lowered, I simply use any desk or dining chair. When the top is raised, I can stand and enjoy working on the entire desktop (as opposed to a mere section, as with a computer riser).

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The color lightens up the office wall, which in turn appears to enlarge the room. The finish is ever-so-slightly weathered, which is a look that sings to me. It helps conceal inevitable wear-and-tear, while still looking bright and beautiful.

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The drawer is a convenient size for the basics, such as a compact shredder, select hardware, and small office supplies. But the ledge around the desktop is the best bonus. It keeps items from rolling off at a great height when in standing mode, but also keeps toddler hands from pulling down every item on the surface that’s within reach when the table is lowered.

And on the topic of toddlers— West is the real reason why I wanted this office update. I spend several hours sitting at the computer at night or when West is out of the house, but I spend just as much time working while my son is playing here at home. I wanted to be ready to pivot on the spot and run around with him whenever he’s nearby. And this design works perfectly for that without cluttering up our home. It’s funny how little design changes like this can make a sizable impact on your day.

(Also pictured: Small Daytrip Lidded Basket + Throw Blanket)

I also upgraded our laundry set-up with the Galvanized Rolling Cart. Thanks to our indoor/outdoor lifestyle, the sand from the beach, two pups that shed, and our cloth diapering system, we spend a lot of time doing laundry these days and wanted to make that routine more comfortable. (I’m almost 6’ tall, and Adam is 6’2”, so hunching over various laundry piles was getting old.) 

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This clever cart is on casters, allowing it to tuck into our closet or into the bathroom with ease when not in use. It has two removable laundry bins, and a lift-top work surface / lid for easy access to the compartments below.

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When we’re ready to sort, fold, or spot-treat, we simply roll the cart out into the bedroom or stoop. 

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I'm reluctant to admit it, but I’ll be honest… I actually kind of enjoy doing our laundry these days. Although seeing the numbers on West’s clothing tags increase every few months still astonishes me… sigh. I truly appreciate how these small yet significant home changes are enabling me to work more efficiently, providing me with precious extra minutes to share with my rapidly growing son.

(Also pictured: Small Daytrip Lidded Basket + Throw Blanket)

Some Items You Can Probably Go Without (Part II)

I tend to post stories about designs and practices that help us live comfortably and contentedly in our little house, but I think it’s just as important to share information about the everyday items that we happily live WITHOUT. 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.

The following is just a very small sampling of everyday items that you can probably make do just fine without. (Explore Part I of this series here.)

Before we jump on in, here’s a lil’ disclaimer: To each her or his own. While these items don’t work for me, they might be gems elsewhere. You know your own needs and space best, folks. Design and decor should be different and enjoyable for everyone. 

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Random Sets
From office supplies to hair accessories, lots of smaller goods tend to come in sets. Unless you’re buying packs of supplies for an entire staff, I expect that one or two mindfully-crafted, beautiful versions of whatever you’re seeking will probably suffice. 

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For example, I haven’t bought a pack of pens in years. I now have three handmade pens on my desk, and a few handpicked color markers in my desk drawer. Because I chose these deliberately, and selected versions I thought to be beautiful and practical, I’m more careful with where I leave them. (If you have an excess of office supplies that you want to offload, I'd recommend donating them to a local school. Teachers often end up buying school supplies out-of-pocket, and your contribution could save them time and money, and help their students.)

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Similarly, do we require 100 hair ties at a time? I’ve had long, thick hair my entire life, and I frequently wear it pulled back-- but that's no excuse to buy a million elastics and pins. Since paying closer attention to my consumer habits, I’ve stopped absent-mindedly grabbing packs of clips or bands at once, and have managed to keep track of a small handful of these tools instead. By being more careful with how I use them and where I store them, I've been able to keep the same ones for years. 

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Vases & Candle Holders
I appreciate that so many homewares are works of art. If you have a collection of vases or candle holders that you love, that’s great— show them off and enjoy them often. But if you’re just starting out or looking to reduce your inventory at home, consider upcycling an ever-changing assortment of glass jars and other similar containers for tealight candles and/or vases if and when you need them. After they’ve lived out their second life, they can either be tucked away in a cabinet for future use, or dropped in the recycling bin.

 Photo from the Cottage in 2014 by Monica Wang

Photo from the Cottage in 2014 by Monica Wang

Frames
I worked closely with art galleries and museum collections for over a decade. I appreciate the need for a protective frame for a piece of fine art, and genuinely enjoy the process of picking out moldings, mats and fillets that compliment original works when designing a supporting frame. But if you’re hanging posters, personal photos, textiles, or inexpensive prints that you anticipate wanting to regularly switch up, try skipping the frames. Bulldog clips with flat thumbtacks will cost you about $1 total, save about an inch (or more) of space on your walls, and won’t go to waste if and when you want to change your walls or artwork.

Ash Trays and Palo Santo Holders
If you’re not a regular smoker of any kind, chances are you’ll never need an ash tray. Just use an upturned metal cap, a shallow glass jar, or a petite ceramic plate instead. They can all be washed and reused for their original purposes and beyond. (As always, please use your brain and keep safety at the top of mind when it comes to fire and ash.)

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Changing Table and Accessories
We had a changing table that doubled as a baby bath (our sinks wouldn't have worked for bathing an infant), and storage space. But now, in retrospect, I can see that we didn’t NEED it. I am glad we had it for that initial year with our first child, but we ultimately gave the unit to friends who we're expecting. I hope that they too passed it on when the time came. A Gathre Mat or portable changing roll work just fine as a surface for diapering your baby. (I prefer the Gathre Mat because it comes in an array of larger sizes, which can help when you're cleaning a squirmy little kiddo.) 

Wipe warmers and diaper stackers are even more unnecessary. Your hands can warm up a wipe if needed. And if you want a neat stack of diapers, an organizer can easily be made out of a spare basket turned on its side and nailed to the wall or placed on the floor.

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A Top Sheet
I recently got a new round of my favorite bedding from Parachute to replace the linens we’d worn out over years of co-sleeping, and realized that we didn’t actually need a top sheet. It took some getting used to over the first few nights, but now we don’t miss it at all. In fact, it’s a mini relief not to have the displaced fabric bunching down around our legs at night as it always inevitably did. Plus the lack of a top sheet speeds up the time it takes to make our bed in the morning, and cuts back on laundry, as well as the need for more storage if you have a spare set.

Tiny Adventures: Idaho

One of the things I enjoy the most about small space living is that it inspires us to seek new experiences beyond our four walls. Last month, my sister and her family left LA and moved to Boise. So Adam, West and I decided to take a tiny adventure and travel to Idaho to explore their new home. (View the post about how we prepared for air travel with our toddler here.) Below are some images from our trip, with a few comments scattered throughout. 

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We stayed at The Modern Hotel & Bar in one of their new one bedroom apartments, which we thoroughly enjoyed. The staff was incredibly kind, and the accommodations offered everything we needed to feel and function as though we were staying in a home-away-from-home. 

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We were conscious to reduce our trash (particularly plastic) as much as possible while we were away, just as we aim to do at home. We transported our own beverage containers, on-the-go utensils and tins, etc. The Boise businesses we visited seemed to be inherently eco-minded, offering paper straws, not providing plastic bags for purchases, and appearing at our tables with sturdy mason jars with reusable lids for West in lieu of plastic single-use cups.

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Our apartment at The Modern was much larger than our tiny cottage, but the staff still used some clever space-saving tricks to maximize their square-footage. One example is this wall-mounted storage basket on the back of the door of the laundry closet.

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We visited the library, the Boise Contemporary Theater, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Hyde Park shops and restaurants, the Rose Garden, and the Boise River, among other spots. We biked (despite the 100+ degree heat), we spent quiet time at my sister's beautiful home, and we celebrated my nephew's 5th birthday. 

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This lil' getaway was such a delight. Thank you, Boise. We'll be back soon!

Coastal Living: Cleaning and Caring

This post was sponsored by Dawn® in celebration of its 40th year of helping save wildlife affected by oil. As always, the stories, words and photos are my own. Any images showing West and/or the pups were taken while they interacted in their own, natural ways.

Both Adam and I grew up in Florida— he was raised in Miami, while I was in the Gainesville area. My husband and I have chatted at length about how growing up on the peninsula impacted our habits as children, and how they’ve carried through to our adulthood. In the 80s, our families and friends always cut up those plastic 6-ring can holders for fear of them getting wrapped around animals, and we would never, ever conceive of leaving trash anywhere but in a bin. We’ve read about or watched oil spills with heartache and horror. A deep love of the beach, marine life and coastal birds was innate with us, which is presumably why the two of us ended up here in Venice along its ocean-fed canals. While we were each separately drawn to Los Angeles for different reasons, we’ve both always felt the instinct to live near the water. 

 Left - Photos from my neighborhood in Florida (from a book by photographer and friend  Mac Stone ). Right - West on my lap as we picnic here by the Pacific and watch dolphins in the waves.

Left - Photos from my neighborhood in Florida (from a book by photographer and friend Mac Stone). Right - West on my lap as we picnic here by the Pacific and watch dolphins in the waves.

Despite the fact that we live in car-crowded LA, our lives on the Westside are surprisingly filled with wildlife. This week alone, our son, West, ran behind mallards and coots at the park, watched herons and egrets catch fish in the canals, saw dolphins swimming close to the shoreline at the beach, laughed at sea lions who propelled themselves from the water in the marina up to the boat docks to sunbathe, and observed as a pelican swooped under a bridge on the waterways and flew towards to Pacific. I suspect that our child will grow up with an admiration of marine life and birds that echoes the feelings of his parents— these things have a magical way of living on between generations.

 Left - The prairie in Florida on which I grew up. Right- West running with a duck along the Venice Canals here by the Cottage.

Left - The prairie in Florida on which I grew up. Right- West running with a duck along the Venice Canals here by the Cottage.

Not only have I held close the lessons my parents shared with me regarding respect for wildlife, but I’ve also carried a countless number of their lifestyle and household habits with me. These issues intersect with our mutual use of Dawn, which is currently celebrating its 40th year of helping to save wildlife. I can distinctly remember my mom and dad using Dawn in our home on the prairie, because— as they said then and now— “it actually works.” Plus we were all aware of Dawn’s reputation among wildlife experts, who use it to clean oiled animals. (And we’ve since learned that more than 75,000 birds and marine animals have been helped with Dawn, and were released back into the wild after their rehabilitation. Thousands of  bottles of their dish liquid have been donated to clean animals directly affected by oil pollution.)

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Here at home, we use Dawn for 3 specific tasks that are a bit out-of-the-ordinary. (So much so that I actually store this bottle of dish soap with our tire pump, where I use it most often…)  

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Cleaning the Tires of Our “Company Car” - We use our cargo bike more than we use our car. Its tires and rims get dirty quickly after rumbling over worn LA roads and through scattered sand on the beach bike path, so we use Dawn and a soft toothbrush (or a standard scrub brush) to get the wheels looking shiny and new again. (Instructions here.)

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Cleaning our Wooden Cabinetry - Our kitchen is a mixed of exposed and closed shelving, and we don’t have a range hood. As such, the nearby surfaces get covered in grease. The cabinet covers in the bathroom and on the right side of our couch also get extra wear from busy fingers, as do parts of our pocket doors. We use Dawn and a natural sponge to clean them all. (Instructions here.)

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Cleaning the White Porcelain Sink in our Lil’ Kitchen - Our white sink in the kitchen is an under-mount, which we love, but it gets dirty around the upper rim, and the basin shows every spot quite clearly. We use Dawn to return the sink to its original, gorgeous, sparkling bright white. (Instructions here.)

Happy 40 years of helping save wildlife, Dawn! 

 Left - The old handmade Morris birdhouse on the prairie where I grew up. Right - Ducks on the Canals by our tiny home in Venice.

Left - The old handmade Morris birdhouse on the prairie where I grew up. Right - Ducks on the Canals by our tiny home in Venice.

Air Travel with a Toddler: Working with What We’ve Got

This week, we’re traveling to visit my sister at her new home in Boise. She and her family moved from Los Angeles earlier this summer, and I am eager to experience the place they now call home.

We've flown many times with West for business trips-- several times across the country, over the Pacific and across the Atlantic. He seemed keen on every flight except for two. (Turns out he had a bilateral ear infection during one. The other was rough for us all thanks to a 24-hour journey, coupled with a 9 hour time-zone difference.)

We love adventuring beyond our cottage— it’s one of our intentions behind living tiny. But we deliberately paused our non-essential air travel in the months after West stopped nursing. Every child is different— we knew that flying would’ve been tricky with and for our little one at that time of his life. Now that he’s almost two, so we’re testing the skies again with this shorter getaway to Idaho.

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A friend of mine travels constantly with her daughter, and her advice to me from the beginning was to use washi tape and recycled paper to wrap books, toys and food for flights, then invite your child to unwrap things when needed, prolonging his or her excitement and joy during air travel. Adam and I tried it out, and it worked wonders. We aren’t big on screens here, and try our best to keep our child happy and engaged without a device at home, in restaurants, and during all types of travel. (Let me be very clear-- I'm not passing judgement on folks who use iPads with their children. I've never had to travel with multiple little ones, nor with a family member who has special needs. And some days just ROUGH-- for the kid(s), for the parent(s), or both. In those cases, I imagine that a little screen time could be a huge help. You do you. We're all trying our best.) But in preparation for this short trip, I’ve been slowly composing a little bundle of surprises for West to enjoy, all inspired by my friend’s clever tape-and-paper tactic.

I’ve read numerous “travelling with toddlers” tips online that make me wonder... do I really need to bring stacks of disposable diapers, brand new toys in shiny wrapping, and plastic bags for trash when we fly? I refuse to believe it. I’m pretty sure that most of us can find economical, eco-friendly, and space-saving ways to captivate our kids. 

We have a reusable, waterproof bag that holds used silverware after we dine on-the-go, so we packed that instead of plastic shopping bags. (Why are single-use plastic bags still in production anyway?!) We use a cloth diapering system, which came with a standard, leak-proof bag that securely holds dirty fabrics. When we travel to a place where we won't have access to a washing machine or a cloth diapering cleaning service, we temporarily use GroVia BioSoakers (which are natural and almost entirely compostable) in West's cloth diaper shells. 

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As far as toys are concerned, the little bundle I’ve been preparing is made up of items from varying sources: hand-me-downs from neighbors and friends, random party favors we received at events, smaller components collected from other games or activities, loose pages from coloring and sticker books, and objects that we keep in rotation so our son doesn’t get too attached to (or too bored of) his daily toys.

I’ll wrap some of these goods in old papers from around the house, such as unwanted mail, used packing kraft, drawn-on pages, ribbons from miscellaneous deliveries, etc. I didn’t have to buy anything new— everything was already floating around for one reason or another. And yet I’m sure every piece will feel like a gem to our son when he unwraps it.

The two things we did buy are his travel bags, which I expect will last for several years to come. I selected a little handmade drawstring backpack from Etsy. (The maker and I communicated, and she offered to replace any strings that need repairing in the future, and/or to re-wax the canvas if it starts getting overly worn.) I also invited West to pick out his own suitcase, which he did with such enthusiasm. While I love neutral homewares and natural materials, I don’t want to constantly impose my preferences on my son. When he outgrows his little suitcase for one reason or another, we can either pass it down to our second child if we go that route, or we can pack it with linens and donate it to a disaster relief outlet.

I’ll update this post to reflect the realities of our trip. Fingers crossed, but I’m confident that we can operate more mindfully without sacrificing convenience. And even if something takes a touch more effort, it’s nothing compared to leaving our children a crumbling planet overburdened with single-use plastics and spilling landfills.

We can do better. And we can do better beautifully.

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Update post-flights: Despite several hours of delays, West was a trooper in the airplanes and at the airports. The bag of tricks was a hit-- even at 2am in the air. The biggest success was this simple box of oversized buttons, paired with a wooden dump truck. The sorting kept West occupied for long stretches of time, as did the little chalkboard and bag of chalk, and pages of reusable stickers.  

Market Friday 7.20.18

This week's Farmers Market Friday in photos:

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Healthy Home, Healthy Planet

This post was sponsored by Grove Collaborative. All opinions and photos are my own. All photos including our son and/or the pups were taken as they happily interacted in their own, natural ways. 

Dedicated URL for free gift set: www.grove.co/tinycanalcottage
(See full details at the end of this post.)

PART I - Paring Down Small Space Cleaning
One of the joys of cleaning a small house or apartment is that it takes a fraction of the time and requires a smaller portion of the products than cleaning a larger space. But, unlike items in many other categories, home care products rarely come in compact sizes. So what do you do when you need all of the essentials, but only have a sliver of square-footage? 

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There’s so much advice out there for how to save money, time, and be eco-friendly when it comes to cleaning your home. But practices that work for one family might not work effectively for the neighbors. For example, buying in bulk can save time, money, and in numerous instances, be helpful for the environment. But buying large quantities of anything is challenging when you’re living little. (It can be tough to fit a roll of paper towels under your sink, let alone a dozen rolls.) Similarly, making your own cleaning solutions from scratch gives you control over what goes into your products, but those ingredients require space themselves, as well as containers for the cleaning process. And what if you feel like you don’t have the patience or the time to DIY?

Recently I opened our under-the-sink cabinet at the Cottage and did a double-take. I receive a strange satisfaction from keeping our tiny home pared down and simplified, but somehow this section of our kitchen was overflowing with pell-mell bottles, things we never used and don’t need, and our clever storage hacks had collapsed under the weight of it all. I’d broken my own psudo-minimalist rules. 

So the search was on. I wanted to get our cleaning products down to one box, and make the switch to non-disposable goods when doable. And, as always, I wanted to keep everything cruelty-free, organic, natural, and as transparent (in terms of the the ingredients supply process) as possible. 

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I discovered Grove Collaborative— a Certified B Corp— via a GOOP event I attended in LA, and was interested in their story. I took a deep-dive to discover more, and I’m genuinely glad I did. They ended up being the answer to our household product clutter issues. 

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Their site is carefully curated with brands that are good for homes, families and the planet. Their offerings are delivered every month, and you can swap out items in your bundle as needed. I selected their Cleaning Concentrates pack (all-purpose + glass + tile formulas), their reusable glass bottles, some absorbent cleaning cloths (no more paper towels here), and a few other items that we happened to be out of here at home. 

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Thanks to this clever bundle (plus a metal Grove caddy in which to put everything), I was able to hand off our numerous unused bottles to a neighboring Airbnb that’s always in need of supplies, and then organize our simplified setup.  

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Since nearly everything in a small home is on display at some point or another, it’s wise to chose products that you don’t mind seeing out in the open. The Grove bottles and accessories are well designed and understated, and their concentrated cleaners take up less space than a tube of toothpaste. 

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We try to upcycle as much as possible here. We ended up using packaging from the Grove shipment to create some tabletop organizers for West, and he put the cardboard packaging to creative use on his own within minutes.

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PART II - The Cottage vs The Summer Mosquitoes
One of the reasons we focus so much on cleaning is that we live a very indoor/outdoor lifestyle here at the cottage. With 2 pups (who shed a lot) and an extremely active toddler, the garden and the house get delightfully wrecked on the daily. 

Unfortunately, for the second summer in a row, the dogs and our son have repeatedly been attacked by mosquitoes after the sun goes down, since we keep our doors and windows open all day long. Rather than holing up the house with screens, we decided to try some other ways to ward off the pests. 

 Left: West the day before we started using the bite balm, incense and wipes. Right: West last summer under a mosquito net we had to drape over our shared bed.

Left: West the day before we started using the bite balm, incense and wipes. Right: West last summer under a mosquito net we had to drape over our shared bed.

First, I got this all natural bug bite balm for West from Grove. It was apparently effective— he indicated to us that he wanted us to reapply it the following days while his welts subsided. 

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Next, we started using these mosquito repellent incense sticks out in the garden, and these handy wipes, which are deet-free and safe for sensitive skin. 

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Lastly, we placed some plotted lavender and rosemary around the garden, which I hear helps, too. (Fingers crossed!) So far, we’ve only seen one mosquito (in the shower) during weeks since introducing these new products, compared to the numerous bugs we were seeing nightly.

SO! Here’s to making our homes and bodies more comfortable, saving some space, simplifying our shopping habits and engaging in thoughtful decision making that helps us improve our day-to-day lives while also ensuring a healthier future for generations to come.

Want to try Grove Collaborative for yourself? We’ve partnered with them to give you a free Cleaning Essentials gift set when you try out Grove and spend $20 or more on your first order. Use this dedicated URL www.grove.co/tinycanalcottage to claim the following introductory products for free:

  • Grove Collaborative Cleaning Concentrates (3-pack)
  • Grove Collaborative Glass Spray Bottle
  • Grove Collaborative Microfiber (3-pack)
  • Free Shipping & VIP Trial

As always, thanks for reading!

Some Items You Can Probably Go Without (Part I)

I tend to post stories about designs and practices that help us live comfortably and contentedly in our little house, but I think it’s just as important to share information about the everyday items that we happily live WITHOUT. 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. 

The following is just a very small sampling of everyday homewares that make me face-palm, as we definitely do not need them. But before we jump on in, here’s a lil’ disclaimer: To each her or his own. While these items don’t work for me, they might be gems elsewhere. You know your own needs and space best, folks. Design and decor should be different and enjoyable for everyone-- you do you.

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Bath Accessory Sets
Bath sets almost always make me cringe. These bundles are usually made up of components such as soap dishes, lotion dispensers, toothbrush holders, drinking cups, tissue box covers, cotton swab containers, and q-tip jars. That’s an insane amount of stuff for limited surface space, plus most of these items are flat-out unnecessary. Even if you do manage to cram all those items into your bathroom, you’ll probably not have the space left over to navigate through your rituals. When I visit a hotel or vacation rental that has all these items, I usually find myself relocating them into an empty drawer so I actually have room for my family's toiletries. 

Repurposed glass jars are more eco-friendly, come in sizes that require far less space, and can be recycled or reimagined when no longer needed. As for the other items— look around your home and see what sorts of things you already own and want to keep, and can repurpose to serve more than one function. 

And why do we think we need tissue box covers? As a matter of fact, we might not even need tissues. A single, machine-washable handkerchief made from sustainable materials for each member of the family might be enough. Voila. No waste. No need for tissues. And, thus, no need for a tissue box cover.

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Beach Towels and Toys
If you’re a serious beachgoer or beach athlete, then that’s one thing. But for most of us, the occasional outing— or even weekly visit— to the beach doesn’t have to require its own set of goods. Turkish towels or linen throws are incredibly versatile. They can be used as spare towels when your primary set is in the wash, when you’re hosting overnight guests, and when you visit the pool or beach. Great news— they can also double as tablecloths, throws for chilly evenings outdoors, and fort toppers for your kid(s). They fold up smaller than standard bath or beach towels, dry quickly, and only get more beautiful with every wash.

 Above: A mop bucket holds all of our spare towels for the beach, guests, and more. The pail itself becomes a toy for West when we visit our local beach.

Above: A mop bucket holds all of our spare towels for the beach, guests, and more. The pail itself becomes a toy for West when we visit our local beach.

Similarly, you probably don’t need a set of dedicated beach toys for your kids. Bowls, pails (if safe for little hands) from around the house, and oversized spoons can be just as fun. In fact, it might spark a bit more creativity from your child if he or she is challenged to find rocks, shells, leaves, and/or seaweed with which to decorate their sand creations.

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Napkin Rings
I'll admit that I have it out for napkin rings. They’re just another set of things to spend money on, find storage for, and have to set out or clean up around mealtime. I much prefer to twist our napkins into a knot and thread our silverware through the tie. Clipped soft vines or reusable twine will also decorate your cutlery rolls just as effectively. 

Having said that, one of my closest friends uses napkin rings in a brilliant way in her home in Pennsylvania. Her family is huge, and everyone uses a single, distinct ring (rather than a ring from a matching set) to keep track of of which reusable napkin is theirs. (Think of it as a wine stem ID tag, but for their table linens. Genius.)

Full Printer/Scanner
This definitely isn’t for everyone, but it worked for us: We recently donated our printer/scanner. We realized that we only used it a few times per month, so we now walk or bike up to the nearest shipping store whenever we need to print anything out. My mini scanner, which sits on a rack attached to the back of my desktop computer, can accommodate all the scanning necessary for our home and small business. 

 Photo of the Cottage kitchen taken by Lily Glass for  SFGirlbyBay

Photo of the Cottage kitchen taken by Lily Glass for SFGirlbyBay

Fruit Bowls
We have limited counter space, so rather than keeping a fruit bowl in the kitchen we simply store/display our fruit in our saucepan on the stove-- clearly only when it’s off.

Fly Swatter
Nope.

Bookends
Skip the objet— simply put a few books in a horizontal stack at the end of your upright titles to keep everything in place.

Summer Dining in a Small Outdoor Space

I'm over on the Garnet Hill blog today, sharing some tips for hosting summer meals in a small outdoor space. A few excerpts are below-- the full post with additional images can be viewed here. Thank you, Garnet Hill!

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Reduce Waste with Natural Decor
Rather than adding sculptural pieces or elaborate vases to your tabletop, decorate with clipped greenery from your garden. Repurposed glass jars can serve as temporary water vessels for stems, and then be recycled at the end of the gathering. 

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Create Visual Interest Without Overcrowding
Use lush greenery that’s also low in profile, such as creeping vines. This will add a dynamic touch to your tablescape without consuming your limited surface space, and without obscuring your view of guests across the table. Buds in spice jars can lend pops of color without cluttering the table. 

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Create Beauty Through Simplicity
With our environment in mind, consider a home water carbonator in lieu of purchasing sparkling water. In the end, it will save you time, money, space, effort, and cut back on waste. Recycled-glass drinking glasses are beautiful when paired with earth-toned stoneware plates and unfussy linens. Similarly, skip the name plates and napkin rings. Tying napkins in a knot and threading silverware through the loop is a great way to save space on your table, and cut back on an unnecessary accessory without undermining your display.

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Mind You Own Comfort
When hosting, we’re frequently on our feet, running around and getting our body temperatures up a bit. It helps to remember to take a deep breath and just enjoy the experience, and to consider our own comfort as much as that of our guests. Sustainable linen is the  ideal fabric to wear when hosting in the summer. It’s versatile, strong yet airy, naturally antibacterial, and grows softer with time.

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Daily Efforts to Reduce Waste

I received so many follow-up questions and comments on our recent eco-friendly stories (“Reusable Goods to Carry Daily” + “Reusable Bags” + “Cloth Diapering”) that I wanted to follow up with further details about the items we use in the cottage and on the go to help reduce waste and/or curb our dependency on plastic. This blog entry encompasses a bit of everything, from recycled toys to feminine care. 

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Some of our efforts to reduce our footprint have been more substantial commitments, such as cloth diapering, dietary changes, and getting rid of one car and replacing it with a cargo bike. Others have been simpler, like using stainless steel drinking and snack cups instead of their plastic counterparts. Either way, everything was worth evaluating and adjusting, as our Earth needs some love, and she needs it now

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Not too long ago, we had an old mattress hauled away from our house by an LADWP bulky items truck. When the driver arrived, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind also taking a collapsed but oversized and thick cardboard box that was proving to be a challenge for the recycling bin. The driver kindly told me that he would take the box, but that he strongly recommended I find a way to break it down myself since it wouldn’t end up in the recycling center if he hauled it away-- it would instead go to a landfill. It was sobering to hear him reveal just how bad the trash situation is here. I appreciated his advice and honestly. (Later, Adam and I quickly spritzed the box with the hose and then drove our little car over it a few times to soften it up enough for us to fold it further and cut it down for our recycling bin.)

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The point is this— I think many of us make consumer and lifestyle decisions based on immediate convenience at the expense of the longterm ramifications. So, from our morning cup of coffee to West's diaper wipes, we’re sharing some of the efforts we've made to reduce the waste coming out of the Cottage. Hopefully this list will continue to evolve and expand.

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TOYS
I'll admit that West has a set of tiny plastic trucks he loves, as well as a few plastic tub squirt toys for his folding bath/water table. But otherwise, we've tried to stick with wooden, handmade, and/or recycled toys. Our two favorite sources are ETSY and GreenToys. You can find so many beautiful and wonderful handmade wooden items for kids of all ages on ETSY. And GreenToys makes their non-toxic plastic toys here in the USA out of 100% recycled milk jugs. (The two trucks in the image below are from GreenToys.) 

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PUP SUPPLIES
This isn't the prettiest topic, but let's get right to it. Poop/litter scoop bags. (Ugh.) After doing some research on the topic, I discovered that many pet waste bags can print claims that they're eco-friendly, when perhaps they're not entirely. We tried using old newspaper and repurposing old packaging to clean up after our dogs, but it was just too messy. Now we use BioBag, which is derived from plant and vegetable based materials that make them 100% compostable and biodegradable. We opt for standard packaging rather than the rolls to avoid that little plastic tubing that comes in the center of the roll.

We've found healthy and ethically-produced dog food that our pups really enjoy, but the packaging is a concern for us. So we're still on the hunt! We might start prepping food fresh for the pups, depending on the economics. I'll report back soon...

GETTING AROUND
About 2 years after moving into the Cottage, Adam and I decided to donate his SUV (via KCRW), and we now share our little 2009 Honda Fit for longer distance trips. If possible, we opt to ride the LA Metro-- particularly if we're visiting a museum, attending a rally, or going to a concert. 

It's liberating to avoid the extra cost and responsibility of a second car. We simply use our cargo bike or other bikes for local errands and adventures-- it's better for our bodies, and far more enjoyable than sitting in a car in LA traffic.

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DINING IN AND ON-THE-GO
I have a tiny bag that's packed with the reusable goods we carry daily-- from straws to produce bags to napkins to to-go containers-- view the roundup here. At various markets and shops, we've been able to offer our tupperware or stainless containers to fill in lieu of plastic packages. When items get dirty from use when we're out, we drop them into a leak-proof BPA-free bag and wash everything at home later.

We've also been reducing our dependency on plastics within the Cottage. West uses these beautiful handmade wooden plates by Timberchild, and stainless steel snack cups + drinking cups + sippy cups. Munchkin has some great hybrid designs, and Pura Stainless has fantastic, adaptable Earth-friendly items for all ages from infants to adults.

Instead of getting plastic plates, bowls or utensils for West, we have wood or metal versions of everything. They hold up just as well to being tossed around, and they're easy to care for.

As far as beverages are concerned, we go through a ton of carbonated water. Instead of buying bottles and cans, we use a Soda Stream here at home, which cuts back on cost and eliminates bottle waste. For coffee, we now have a mini Keurig with a reusable pod so there's zero waste (not even a basic filter) beyond the compostable coffee grounds.

As for West, he was exclusively breast-fed for the first 6 months, and then fed with breastmilk in tandem with his food for another year beyond that point. He now drinks water or milk from stainless steel containers, or paper cartons if we're in a pinch out the door. When we buy milk, we try to select paper cartons that have no plastic components.

We never use disposable cups, nor do we use disposable plates or napkins. We never use cling wrap, and opt instead for beeswax wrap.

Lastly, Adam and I recently adopted a pescatarian diet-- both for environmental reasons, and out of concern for animal cruetly. 

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CLOTHES / LINENS
We have a reusable/cloth diapering system, which we love. You can read about it here. While we do use baby wipes if needed, we also have reusable cloth wipes, which we use during every changing.

When possible, we skip the dryer (which we share with our neighbor) to save energy, and use a makeshift clothesline that runs between our cottage and a ficus tree. I have some work to do on this topic though. I do still use the dryer for linens that have notable amounts of dog hair on them, since the dryer is basically a magical pet hair remover. We use a Seventh Generation detergent that comes in compostable and recyclable brown packaging.

For West's few pieces of clothing, we try to use ETSY as much as possible. As for me, I use Rent the Runway for special occasions, and have started wearing lots of no-fuss linen, as well as clothes by Daniella Hunter, which are made of eco-fabrics that utilize sustainable plant-based threads like hemp, silk, organic cotton and lyocell. (Meanwhile, Adam basically never gets anything new ever. He's still wearing the shirts he wore when I met him, and I love him for it.)

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PERSONAL CARE
When it comes to feminine products, menstrual cups are solid options, as there's zero waste beyond their initial packaging. If a cup doesn't work to your comfort, tampons without applicators are a mindful alternative. For example, Natracare organic tampons are naturally biodegradable and vegan.

I recently swapped out disposable cotton rounds for organic reusable/washable cotton cloths. These are available in a myriad of places, such as ETSY and Wild Minimalist. Similarly, we rarely use tissues-- even on West-- and use handkerchiefs instead. (If our skin needs a bit of softening or relief, we just apply coconut oil.)

Our razors are made from recycled plastic, but I'm not really wild about them. Our wood-handled ones fell apart years ago, so I think I'll try a Rockwell Safety model next. Hopefully that will be the last!

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CLEANING
I have a separate cleaning post in the works, so I'll pause on this topic until that entry. But I've found that reusable glass bottles filled either with homemade all-purpose cleaner or cleansers from concentrate are not only eco-friendly but space-saving. We use towels and rags rather than paper towels for all forms of cleaning. 

I'm sure I'm forgetting so many details, but I look forward to expanding upon all of these topics soon. (In the meantime, if you have any questions, please email us!)

Registry Picks for a Small Kitchen

This is entry no.2 from a 3-part wedding registry series, sponsored by Macy’s in partnership with MyDomaine. (View part one here.)

Sharing a small home is not only doable— it can be completely delightful and fulfilling. Adam and I have enjoyed our tiny cottage together for over seven years, and we both agree that we’ve become such better partners to one another because of it.

We partnered with Macy’s Wedding Registry to show to engaged couples some of the compact yet sophisticated appliances and dinnerware and serveware, that make everyday life in a small kitchen enjoyable.

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Remember— your wedding guests will WANT to give you tokens of celebration, love, and support. If you’re living in limited square-footage, make it easier on yourself and on your guests by carefully curating your registry to suit your wonderful and unique living situation.

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JUICING

This Breville Juice Fountain is small but mighty. It takes vegetables and fruit without pre-cutting, slicing or peeling, and turns them into healthy juice within seconds, all while requiring just 7.5” diameter of counter surface space. And the unit disassembles into smaller pieces so it’s easier to store.

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I was nervous the first time I used ours because I’m not the best in the kitchen. But it’s super fun and easy to use and clean, and now I’m totally addicted.

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COFFEE PREP

Adam and I realized recently that we were spending a small fortune on to-go coffees in the name of “convenience.” But what could be more convenient than quietly brewing coffee in the comfort of your own (tiny) home? The K-Select K80 Brewing System can accommodate four different cup/brew sizes, and can even fit a travel mug.

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Plus, great news— the K-Cup pods are now easy to recycle. But where to store them? Simply slide them under the coffee machine itself with an Under Brewer Storage Drawer, which sits beneath the brewing system. It will maximize your breakfast station while organizing all of your coffee essentials.

SPACE SAVING SERVEWARE

Villeroy & Boch offers timeless plates and trays, as well as several clever space-maximizing serving tools. The Artesano 3-Tiered Server is particularly handy in a tiny home or apartment. When entertaining, you’ll be able to display decor and/or offer several dishes on a small table, thanks to the vertical design. Maximize the potential of this design with the complete set, which includes three narrow serving bowls perfectly crafted to fit each level. Remove the tiers and collapse the tower for streamlined storage.

There are several more pieces from the Artesano line that are both beautiful and streamlined in design. Some of my favorites include:

Artesano Wood Tray Cover for 7" Bowl - This beautiful wood tray cover is a true small space star. It can act as the perfect topper for a 7" bowl , or it can be used on its own for serving appetizers.

Serveware Artesano Collection Porcelain & Cork Lidded Sugar Dish - Never underestimate the impact of the little details. In an apartment or small home, it helps to have pieces that can live in the cabinets OR on the countertops, like this petite porcelain and cork sugar dish.

Artesano Dip Bowls -  These simple, elegant little ramekins can come in handy nearly every meal. Stack them vertically when not in use, and they’ll barely take up any space.

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I also really love Villeroy & Boch’s Coffee Passion Collection— particularly the clear glass designs:

Coffee Passion Collection Latte Macchiato Glass Mug & Saucer Set - This dishwasher-safe glass mug retains heat when in use, and stacks neatly with others.

Artesano Set/2 Large Hot Beverages Cup - Adam and I use our hot beverage cups all the time. The glass style helps keep surfaces feeling clutter-free, and the double-walled design keeps our coffee hotter longer. (Which is good, because I never seem to get through breakfast and an entire cup of coffee before I get distracted and start doing something else. I appreciate that the cup is still warm when I return so it doesn’t go to waste.)

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CLEAN UP

It’s kind of a dream to have something tidying up after you, while you relax and enjoy your breakfast with your partner, right? Meet the Roomba, folks.

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I never thought I’d be into robotic vacuums, but this thing is complete magic. It is SO much smaller than a standard vacuum, and it quietly glides around our Cottage, collecting dog hair before it turns into terrifying tumbleweeds. (Plus, our pups are totally fascinated by it.) Win, win, win.

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View more of my curated collection with Macy’s here.

Updates to the "Company Car"

It's been a year and a half since we got our "Company Car"-- a wonderful cargo bike by Virtue. Now that West is a toddler, we made some adjustments to the seating setup to keep him and the pups safe during our adventures around town.

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The bike comes with seating and safety belts for up to 4 children, but we're predicting that West won't be large enough to ride without some sort of support seat until he's around 4 years old. When West was an infant, Adam and I used to secure his first-stage car seat into the cargo bike. But once he outgrew that arrangement, we began searching for other methods of keeping him safe while riding in the bucket.

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In order to fit West, both pups, and a few bags into the bike, we removed one of the two benches that come with the Virtue. We left the back bench in place, an attached a "Child Seat" next to a "Toddler Seat" from My Amsterdam Bike. Currently, West fits in the toddler seat, but he or his friends can sit in either of the chairs.

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We also added two tethers to the interior of the bike to keep Stanlee in Sophee safe in traffic in case they try to jump out. These two tethers are connected from the bike to harnesses on either beagle-- we never attach the dogs by their collars. If a pup does jump, there's enough slack so that they can land on the ground without dangling, but there's not enough slack for them to run away. (Neither pup has ever jumped out while on-the-go, but I don't want to take any chances.)

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This is by far my favorite way to get around Venice and the nearby neighborhoods of LA. Not only is it a joy to ride with our family all together, but the bike inspires great reactions from the community, and we've met several lovely folks this way.

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West has a toddler helmet (the "BabyNutty") by Nutcase. I highly, highly recommend this brand, as their helmet buckles are magnetic rather than traditional, so there's little to no chance of pinching your child's neck when applying or removing the helmet.

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Adam also wears a Nutcase, and I wear a Bern.

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While we use a monster lock to secure our bike around town, I also got a double-loop cable to string through our helmets and empty baskets so we don't have to lug them around with us when we're popping into businesses.

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With this bike (and the occasional Lyft ride when necessary), our simplified, 1-car lifestyle works out beautifully!

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Folding Wagon for Kids, Pets, & Shopping

We bought a folding wagon for West and the pups about a year ago, and we still receive numerous inquires about it. As such, here's a quick review with photos and product links. I would've loved to buy a previously-owned / vintage wagon, but this one navigates smoothly over wretchedly-paved roads or natural ground, is washable, and is practical for a compact home or apartment. As such, it was the right fit for our needs. We routinely use ours to wheel around our son, his friends, the pups, plants, groceries, and medium/large boxes. 

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We selected a version of the Wonderfold that comes with telescoping corners for an optional sun canopy, and I'm so glad we did. It takes about 15 seconds to apply or remove the canopy, and it functions perfectly for bright, hot days. We also added a safety seat for West when he was a bit smaller. It kept him upright, safely harnessed, and prevented him from knocking his head into the wagon's frame. (Another optional add-on is a mosquito net.)

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Most importantly, the entire wagon folds up or expands within a couple seconds, making it practical for multi-tasking folks in confined living quarters. (It also fits easily into small trunks when collapsed.)

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Some handy details include two mesh pockets on the exterior for reusable water bottles and coffee thermoses, a zippered back storage bin for medium-sized goods such as handbags, and an interior pouch for small  books, leashes, etc.

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Conveniently, the handle of the wagon doesn't crash to the ground when you release it-- it either stays put, or very slowly lowers, depending on how forcefully you release it.

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It's easy to remove the canvas of the wagon for machine washing. (I simply hang-dry the material before reinstalling it.) Ease of washing was important to me, because West regularly draws on the fabric with chalk, the pups shed on everything, and I somehow always manage to get sap and floral water all over the interior.

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I hope this helps. Here's to tiny adventures beyond our homes!

Year 12

Stanlee, our senior adopted beagle-mix, turned 12 yesterday!

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I adopted him when I was living on the east coast over a decade ago. He has since been all over the country with me, and has romped through forests, cities, snow, beaches, prairies, endless flower fields, the mountains, and deserts. He has stopped a robbery in progress at the Cottage, was here for our tiny home wedding, and has watched over West like a hawk since our son was born.

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We spend Friday mornings together-- just the two of us-- and I wouldn't be who I am without him.

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Here are some of our favorite pet products that we've enjoyed with him (and his sister) over the years:

When we moved into the cottage, we initially tried to keep him off of the couch and bed. But after a few days we realized that he’d basically have nowhere to go if he wasn’t welcome on those surfaces, since our home is so small. Now 7 years have passed, and we have 2 more family members— West & Sophee— who have mastered the Art of the Cushion-Smash pioneered by their big brother. I love watching them scramble up and down the built-ins. Meh, the dirt can always be cleaned. (And machine-washable throw blankets are our friends.)

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It might sound childish, but Stanlee is my best friend on the planet. #AdoptDontShop, folks. It can change your life in the most wonderful way. 

 Left: Stanlee at the cottage, photographed for  the chalkboard  in 2015. right: stanlee at the cottage, photographed for  sfgirlbybay  in 2018.

Left: Stanlee at the cottage, photographed for the chalkboard in 2015. right: stanlee at the cottage, photographed for sfgirlbybay in 2018.