This has been my writing/drawing/organizing #EverydayCarry arrangement for about a month now, and I love it. It’s everything I could possibly need for basic writing tasks, as well as casual drawing and professional comic-making. (Minus the brush and ink.) Moreover, it all fits into my traveler’s notebook.

My Everyday Carry consists of the following (from left to right):

Not pictured: my trusty Opinel penny knife. I left it in the notebook and the TSA had to take it last time I flew to Vancouver. Boo. I’ll be buying another one, though – they’re very handy, and still made in France.

To make your own sketchbook, just divide your sheet of paper up, leaving a little extra as possible, cut, and fold the resulting sheets in half to form your book’s pages. For slipping into a traveler’s notebook, you don’t even need to bind them together – the elastic band or rubber band or whatever you’re using to hold it in will keep the pages together also.

What’s your #EDC?

*A 25×30″ sheet of Canson paper gave me a 24-page booklet that would fit in the notebook (about 4.5×8.5″). Any decent art store should sell sheets of paper like this individually and without packaging. Sometimes without even a barcode sticker! I recommend heavier weight paper like this for writing or drawing with a fountain pen, though – normal paper will undoubtedly bleed.


Tidying, Japanese-Style

Well, I’m in Canada. Finally. Sort of. For the most part.

Some of my stuff is here, but most of it is still kind of en-route… basically it’s at an uncle’s house in Oregon and I plan on making small trips to get up here bit by bit. The hubs had only sorta moved in back in April, mostly waiting for me to come so that we could both really settle in together.

Not surprising, though, is that a few spats have occurred regarding the number of things we own (though mostly him) and how much space we now have to put them. This sort of thing has happened plenty of times before with us, but this time we mean business: this is basically the apartment of our dreams, and it’s the last place we plan on living before buying up our land and heading off the grid, and we don’t expect that to happen for at least another 10 years down the road.

How did we get here?

Well, I married a collector; he collects toys and memorabilia from his favorite franchises (mostly 80’s stuff). And when we met, I was a collector too. Or at least, I was trying to be… sort of hard when you’re in college and wind up moving 6 times in as many years, having to almost start over every time for a number of reasons, some legitimate, and others not so much.

And in a roundabout way, global warming happened. The BP oil spill. The disappearing Greenland Ice Sheet. Memories of the weather patterns in winter being different back home, growing up, than what they are now. Memories of hail storms and Santa Ana Winds that don’t seem to happen anymore. Bisphenol-A happened too. And rising gas prices. Then, the dawning realization that humanity was making a huge mess and refusing to clean it up. And then after that, the understanding that only certain, special, parts of humanity were predominantly responsible for that mess.

So I started doing a lot more reading about all sorts of subjects that an environmentalist might find useful. The waste stream; food production; conservation; green tech; social alienation; advertising; capitalism; colonialism.

And like my about page says, I eventually found Bea’s Zero Waste Home via an episode of the How Stuff Works podcast, in which they talked about refrigeration, and the feasibility of living without it. Her book was mentioned more or less in passing, but after doing a bit of my own research and happening on a copy at a local bookstore, I bought it and was hooked.

It spoke to me as someone who was deeply unhappy, and was for a long time. I was diagnosed with major clinical depression in 2012, which validated many, many, years of feeling just slightly “off”. Not sad, but distant and somewhat hopeless; I was prone to bouts of explosive anger, was a chronic complainer, and sometimes found myself so inexplicably mad, frustrated, and self-loathing, that I would cry myself to sleep and wake up despondent.

Ever since I could remember, I’d felt like a square peg in a world full of round holes. Very little about the outside world or the dominant hegemony of society ever made any sense to me, and I had a very hard time imagining myself as an adult navigating that world. Not being able to imagine any kind future for yourself takes its toll, and as a child and teenager I roamed around in some very dark places, flirting with self-harm and suicidal ideations. What’s interesting to me is that I was never in a place of despair and trying to escape by hurting myself or ending my life; I think for me, those were some of the only ways I knew how to reconcile my lack of an imagined future with the real world. If you’re 12 or 13 years old in the US and can’t picture yourself being 30, or having a job, or a household, then what is there to imagine? I couldn’t picture myself existing under those terms. So, nonexistence, death, is what’s left. In a sad and twisted way, that was the only way (along with artistic self-expression) that I could prove to myself that I was a real person that was capable of having a future, even if that future was truncated by something terrible– that terrible thing was something that I at least knew could probably prove my realness when it seemed nothing else would.

In the years since my diagnosis, I’ve come a cross a lot of literature, academic and non-, theorizing about what depression and anxiety really are. But one of the proposed explanations that has always stayed with me is that depression is a symptom of the alienation that our capitalistic society has constructed. Without which we wouldn’t have such a need for things like self-help books, beauty products, drugs, and countless other products designed to capitalize on that inexplicable gnawing emptiness that seems to characterize and propel so much of Western civilization.

The author of the piece, The Problem With Society Isn’t Greed. Greed Is a Symptom of a Deep Need Going Unfulfilled, nails it:

All aspects of our culture conspire to strip us of our connection and belongingness. Let me name a few more:

– Religious indoctrination into self-rejection.

– Schooling that keeps children indoors, fosters competition, and accustoms them to doing things they don’t care about for the sake of external rewards.

– Hygienic ideology that fosters a fear and rejection of the world.

– Immersion in an environment composed of standardized commodities, buildings, and images.

– The alienating effects of living among inorganic shapes and right angles.

– Property rights that confine us most of the time to our homes, commercial environments, and a few parks.

– Media images that make us feel inferior and unworthy

– A surveillance state and police culture that leave us feeling untrusted and insecure.

– A debt-based financial system in which money is systemically scarce: there is never enough money to pay the debts.

– A legal culture of liability in which everyone is assumed to be a potential opponent.

– Patriarchal belief systems that oppress the inner and outer feminine, confine intimacy, and make love a transaction.

– Racial, ethnic, and national chauvinism, that makes some of our human brothers and sisters into Others.

– An ideology of nature-as-resource that cuts us off from our connectedness to other beings and leaves us feeling alone in the universe.

– Cultural deskilling that leaves us as passive, helpless consumers of experiences.

– Immersion in a world of strangers, whose faces we don’t recognize and whose stories we don’t know.

– Perhaps most importantly, a metaphysics that tells us that we are discrete, separate selves in a universe of Other.

18 months after hungrily devouring Zero Waste Home, I know now that what I was sensing in its pages wasn’t an asceticism, but this.

The book came into my life at something of a crucial period. I was a few years out of school, living with a relative for very little rent, in a neighborhood I practically grew up in, and most importantly, I had a job. Like, a real, grown-up job. It still didn’t feel quite real, thanks to the aforementioned depression, but having a good-paying job was half the equation of adulthood. Moreover, I could afford practically whatever I wanted. I was  beginning to surround myself with furniture that wasn’t made of plastic, clothes that didn’t come from Target or H&M, foods from health food stores. I was acquiring so many nice, quality, things that I’d previously only been able to dream of owning.

So why was I still unhappy?

Bea’s book hinted at the answer in living her life for experiences, not things.

But as someone who had gone so long with so few meaningful possessions, how would getting rid of all my stuff help? Wouldn’t I feel just as transient and place-less as I did in college with all that moving around? I wanted to feel grounded!

I quickly learned that weighing myself down with stuff is not a substitute for having a sense of place.

I know that in my bones, now.

The problem is, how to reconcile this new understanding with finally cohabiting with my husband?

Well, I happen to have a friend who has a problem with acquiring junk; actually, both she and her fiance do, and they have for years, but it’s something they’re making a concerted effort to work on. So I told her about the issue, and she told me to get a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingAnd wow, I could not have gotten a better recommendation.

The author, a life-long organizing and cleaning aficionado, came up with a method called KonMari (based on her name), that she swears has worked for every single one of her clients since she came up with it. It is both rigid and subjective at the same time, and basically is as follows:

1. Going through your things category by category, and everything within those categories all at once, get rid of everything that “doesn’t spark joy”

2. Once you’ve gotten rid of the excess, put everything back in its place

I love this, and the hubs does too. There’s no endorsement of fancy, expensive, organizing gadgets and systems. (In fact, she actively disparages them.) There’s no emphasis on meeting quotas or other rigid systems that require you to take inventory of the number of X things you have. In fact, she encourages readers to think of our possessions’ feelings as we go about our day, and to talk to them.

That’s because the book is heavily rooted, intentionally or not, in Shinto philosophy, something both the hubs and I found to be very refreshing. We don’t want to get rid of stuff because we hate stuff, we want to get rid of stuff because we want to love that which really means the most to us, all the while giving us room to breathe in our own home, and fewer reasons to stay inside on a beautiful day. We want to respect our things. It’s win-win-win.

I feel like this is a big deal for someone like me. For the first time, I have a sense of who and where I want to be in the future; I can imagine it. I can picture myself living my ideal life, and I can know for certain that such a life will never again involve mindless consumerism, clutter, things that weigh me down, things that would tear me apart if I were to lose them. There’s a lot more to being alive than any of that!

I have so much hope for this new life, in fact, that I can see myself not being on anti-depressants at some point in the foreseeable future. If only I’d known sooner that my lifelong depression was caused in no small part by the culture and society that I live in; if only I’d known there was a way out.

But hey, at least I figured it out at all, right? And at 26 no less?

I thought that I’d done all the purging that I needed to do, that it was up to the hubs now. But reading Kondo’s book made me realize that I still had a ways to go; not just in terms of number of things, but psychologically as well. I’ve got some emotional housekeeping to do, you might say.

My mom is flying up to visit at the end of the month for Canada Day (and to bring my cat for me!), so I expect that hubs and I will have started “tidying” the KonMari way in preparation before that. I would love to do something of a “house tour”, Apartment Therapy style,  at some point after all the purging and organizing; that way you all can see our zero waste systems and decor aesthetics in action.

If you’re interested in reading Kondo’s book but don’t have the money to buy a copy, email me and I might be able to work something out for you. ;]

Systems: Skin v.2 + Hair

This is my first systems “update”. The first time I took a serious look at the products I used on my skin was a whole 3 months ago… seems like a lot longer than that, doesn’t it?



Granted, I forgot the sunscreen and moisturizer in this second pic, which are still the same from above, but still… big difference!

  • Crystal deodorant
  • Lavender oatmeal soap packaged in paper (this is still the same bar too, btw)
  • Pumice stone (synthesized pumice… I’d like to switch to the natural stuff next time)
  • Sea sponge
  • And this should have gone in the “hair” picture, but still: stainless steel safety razor. (I am saving RIDICULOUS amounts of money with this thing. I estimate that I’ll be going through only $10 worth of razors every year from now on instead of $10 a month.)

As for the oil from the first photo, I still use it a bit, but I might be donating it because I’m really liking the way plain cooking oil feels on my skin.


  • Pomade in glass jar
  • Lush hair spray in recycled plastic bottle
  • Cider vinegar “conditioner” in stainless spray bottle
  • Baking soda and water “shampoo” in plastic squeeze bottle
  • Flat iron
  • Hair clippers
  • Hair scissors

I haven’t had hair longer than shoulder-length since I was 4 or 5, but I understand now just how green and economical having short hair really is. I have what’s called a “quiff”: about an inch along the back and sides with a 3-6″ mess on the top. The most important thing about this haircut other than that I love the way I look with it is that I can cut it myself with hair scissors and clippers. I don’t even need help from a second person at this point. As a teenager, I had no idea that I could cut my own hair without it being a messy act of rebellion, so off to the hair salon I went once every month or two to pay $45 plus tip for mediocre cuts. (It was always such a pain in the ass to find someone willing to butcher my hair just how I wanted it anyway; almost every single stylist I tried wound up trying to salvage my femininity in the face of my decidedly butch personal style. “How many times have I told you that I don’t want it to frame my face?“)

Anyways, the “no ‘poo” stuff is self-explanatory, but I feel as though the hair spray and pomade need an important detail mentioned. The first being that I take forever to go through product, and that’s the only reason I still permit myself to buy it. I had a plastic jar of pomade that I’d used maybe 2/3rds of, and I’d bought it 8 years ago. So this little glass jar should last me just as long, I predict. But if I went through these things like toilet paper, I’d definitely be looking into alternatives.

Oh, and one last thing: I love how simple my bathroom routines are now.

Systems: Food on the Go

So this is my collection of food storage reusables for brown bag lunches, take-out, leftovers, coffee, and what have you.

  • 12oz. stainless mug from Starbucks
  • 16oz. stainless mug from Amazon
  • Wooden chopsticks
  • Titanium “foon” by Light My Fire
  • Reusable cloth napkin from Juniperseed Mercantile
  • Two-tier plastic bento box by Monbento

I love everything in the kit– yes, plastic bento included. A stainless tiffin would probably be more to the liking of most everyone reading this blog, but versatility, being microwavable, leak-proof, and lightweight were absolute musts for me. I just can’t help being a sucker for a matte gray finish, either.

What’s in your kit?

Systems: Eat Out Kit

Titanium ‘Light My Fire’ spork (which will also be awesome for lightweight camping), wooden chopsticks, unpaper towel, and bandana to furoshiki it all together.

Stainless water bottle, wrapped up utensils, and 12oz stainless hot/cold mug.

(Yes, my stuff tends to be visually interesting and/or colorful. I can’t stand the sterile hospital look.)

Systems: Teeth + Skin

  • Extra-narrow brush flosser (I have a permanent retainer behind my front lower teeth, so they need special care and this is the only way I can floss between them)
  • Wooden toothbrush by Izola
  • Easy flosser with disposable heads (I use each head for a few weeks at a time)
  • LUSH ‘Toothy Tabs’ solid tablet toothpaste in cardboard box

  • SPF moisturizer
  • Brazil nut oil (in lieu of body lotion)
  • Sunscreen (my more casual stuff; I use 50 SPF for when I’m outside for a long time in shorts/tshirt or by the pool)
  • Burt’s Bees face wash (with walnut shell scrubbies instead of plastic; kinda too weak for my face tho)
  • Escents deodorant
  • Pumice stone
  • Lavender oatmeal soap (all natural olive oil, purchased wrapped in paper)
  • Hemp exfoliator

Needless to say, I’ve already got ideas on how to streamline these a little further in the coming weeks!

Systems: Jewelry + Shoes

I’m starting off with the easy stuff right now. The things I know for sure I don’t have to do much of anything about.

This is my jewelry collection, which might get pared down even more in the future (the bracelet on the top is mostly sentimental–the last of my “kandy” from my rave days–and the necklace on the far right was an old gift, but I don’t really think its me). I’d like to keep things about here, though:

  • 1 ring
  • 1 bracelet
  • 3 necklaces
  • 3 plugs

I had my nose pierced a couple weeks ago, though, so I’ll be acquiring a couple extra pairs of nose screws and maybe a backup septum retainer in case something happens to this one. Fortunately, those pieces are about as big as nail clippings. :P

The one thing that always bothered me about stretching my ears was what to do with all of the jewelry I suddenly couldn’t wear anymore once I went to the next size up. According to the site I’ve ordered most of my jewelry from, I’ve spent upwards of $350 since I started stretching at 18, and I’m still only left with 3 wearable pairs out of the dozens I’ve purchased over the years. Plugs are hard to get rid of because of sterilization issues, and organic materials can’t be autoclaved, so good luck finding someone who wouldn’t mind taking a chance with your old jewelry. I’ve still got tins filled to the brim with jewelry I haven’t been able to wear in years because I can’t bear to throw it out, and it’s stuff my friends aren’t interested in. Maybe the thrift store will take it.

Here’s my shoe collection. In order, I have: leather boots, walking/exercising/hiking-lite shoes, classy sneaks, junk sneaks, house slippers, leather loafers, and 2 pairs of flats.

The boots are about 10 years old, impeccably made, but have seen a lot of action. They’re not waterproofed anymore, and they just don’t jive with my style quite like they used to. I think I’m going to try and sell them on ebay and replace them with a new pair from Oliberte (they’re a certified B corp, the only fair trade shoe company in existence at current, AND they will recycle your shoes for you at the end of their life to make sure none of them end up in a landfill). Unfortunately, I’m likely going to need a pair of hardier hiking boots this year as well as I lead up to my first  backpacking trip at some point next year. So all in all, I have need for 9 pairs of shoes apparently.

The rest brings me to an interesting intersection: that of ZW and gender. Organizing your wardrobe is easier if you have a rigid sort of presentation that doesn’t waver from day to day. But for someone like me, sometimes I like to dress a little more “masculine” or a little more “feminine” (for the record, I refuse to put those terms in anything but scare quotes because they’re largely meaningless descriptors), so I need to have both on hand. It would be nice if I didn’t–my closet would be a bit smaller too–but that’s just how it is.