Category Archives: Interviews

Interview with The Clean Bin Project

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I just know you’ve been hankering for an interview to read.  Luckily, Jen CleanBin at The Clean Bin Project obliged.  If you haven’t heard about Jen, Grant, and Rhyannon’s quest to live without producing waste for an entire year, then you are missing out!  I’ve been following along with them for most of the project, and now that they’ve finished up their year without waste, I’m looking forward to the documentary they’re making.  What I especially love is that the whole thing snowballed after starting with the idea that they didn’t need to buy any more Stuff.  Now with that teaser in mind, here’s Jen on the subject of living simply:

1.  What is your definition of simple living?

Hmmm, that term always makes me think of living in a streamlined, clutter-free apartment (which is the opposite of where I live).  In truth, I think it’s about being happy without the encumbrance of excessive material possessions.

2.  How do you and Grant practice simple living while simultaneously creating as little waste as possible?  Was this more or less challenging during the year the project took place?

I would not describe my lifestyle as simple living – we always seem to have a ton of things going on, a bunch of ‘to do’ lists piling up, and a basement full of “stuff” – but our project did teach us to find satisfaction from things beyond material goods.  Striving for zero waste surprisingly did make our lives simpler.   We simply didn’t buy any “stuff.”  It didn’t reduce our quality of life, and I’d even say that having specific rules made it easier.  I didn’t have to think about whether a shirt was fair trade, organic, locally made, etc – I just couldn’t buy it, period.

3.  Have you seen an impact on your local community, the places you frequent, and the people you see regularly because they know you don’t like trash?

Definitely.  Lots of our friends have been inspired to change their habits and are now doing things like using reusable lunch containers or bags.  I often have people approach me wanting to share stories about how they are reducing their waste.  On the other hand, sometimes I feel that a wave of guilt goes through the room when we show up at someone else’s house.  We’ve had numerous friends apologize out of the blue for the waste they’re creating as if we’re the “garbage judges”- that’s not our intent at all.

4.  Can you tell us a little about your upcoming documentary and what you hope to achieve when it comes out?

I’m really excited that I can finally say our documentary is almost done!  We will be having our first showing at the end of May in Vancouver.  Then we’ll be cycling across Canada, showing it in different communities and hopefully sparking engaged discussion about garbage and consumption. In the States, we’ll eventually be entering film festivals and hosting community screenings.  Our film is a semi-comedic look at living zero waste.  We don’t want people to feel hopeless and paralyzed thinking about large scale environmental issues; we want them to feel inspired to take personal action. If our film inspired just one person to reduce their waste, I’d consider it a success.

5.  The Clean Bin Project looks intimidating!  What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on trying to produce less garbage?

Just pick one thing and be really dedicated to it.  Maybe it’s saying no to plastic bags or giving up take out coffee cups.  It doesn’t have to be big.  Once it becomes habit, you can move on to the next thing.

6.  What books and/or blogs would you recommend to Simple Savvy readers?

A lot of people think our project was too easy because we don’t have kids.  I like to read My Zero Waste because they show that it is possible with children. Beth at Fake Plastic Fish and Taina at Plastic Manners are the best resources on how to how to live without plastic.  Books that changed the way I think include Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver); The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollen); and Made to Stick (Chip and Dan Heath).  I’m also a sucker for realistic fiction, but that’s another story.

Thanks, Jen!  What great answers — I love that even though you’re not purposely trying to live a simple life, it worked out that way in the end for you two.  Readers, if you’re interested in more about the project, be sure to check out The Clean Bin Project Blog, the documentary, and facebook page!

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©2010 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where The Clean Bin Project is one of the blogs that helped me get started on this venture.  Images courtesy of The Clean Bin Project Facebook Page.

Interview with Making This Home

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As promised, here is an interview with Katie of Making This Home.  Her blog is one of the first blogs I started reading on this simple living venture over a year ago.  She writes on a regular basis about living small, living green, and living in Germany.  She also recently earned her pilot’s license (something that only 0.025% of all women ever achieve)!  If you’ve been a Simple Savvy reader for a while, you know that I link to Katie on a regular basis; I can’t help it, she’s amazing.  And so without further ado, here’s Katie’s take on simple living.

1.  What is your definition of simple living?

Simple living doesn’t mean living with less or making yourself miserable.  I think it’s all about questioning what we really need and feel passionate about in our lives versus our wants.

2.  How do you stick to your definition of simple living when things get hairy?  I’d love to hear about how you manage during big projects like your fantastic kitchen remodel, AND during yearly rituals like the holidays.

When things feel frustrating, it’s important to think about all of the things you do have.  Of course, the problem with trying to simplify is that sometimes you’re overwhelmed with all of the things you have.  To keep sane, I always make sure one area of our house is picked up and clean.  When you walk into our living room, the first thing you see is the kitchen.  So that’s the space I always pick up.  When we feel overwhelmed or crowded (like we have guests or we don’t see the sun in Europe for WEEKS), it’s refreshing to have a space that’s good to go.

Of course, our kitchen wasn’t always like this.  We built it entirely ourselves from sheets of wood… right in our 450 square foot house.  Anyone who has remodeled a home while living in it knows how hard things get.  It’s especially hard when your remodel takes up most of your teensy house.  Sometimes the best thing to do when you’re working on a big or easily overwhelming project is to walk out.  Go to an evening class or go on long walks every day.  You have to do something else that you enjoy.  Your whole world can’t be centered on one project.

Holidays don’t need to be overwhelming either.  The biggest question to ask yourself is, “Am I doing this because I feel like I am supposed to or because I want to?”  Are you going to the office gift exchange because you want to?  Are you making an enormous turkey because you want to?  I think if you’re confident in yourself and what you’re doing, people aren’t going to pressure you (cranky relative exempt if they compain about everything anyway!).  Many are surprised to find Thanksgiving is really enjoyable at our house despite being completely vegetarian.

3.  What led you and Martin toward simple living and eco-friendliness?  Has it become an ingrained habit for you both?

My husband comes from Germany.  Around here, people live in smaller spaces.  They constantly walk or bike instead of drive.  Gosh, they sort their trash into ten different piles!  I think greener living becomes a passion for most people here in Germany.

I grew up with a family of five in a 1,300 square foot house.  We shared one TV, one bathroom, and my sister and I shared a room.  Living a little smaller definitely became a habit early on.  I felt closer to my family.  Sure we literally were closer, but we had to learn to work together and share.  My dad also taught me a love of the outdoors.  We were in a little town in the Rocky Mountains – the most beautiful area I’ve ever been.

Unfortunately, my hometown also contains one of the country’s largest Superfund Sites (i.e. toxic waste dumps from past human behaviors like mining).   So you could look out one window of our house and see all these beautiful snow capped mountains.  You could look out the other side and see a mountainside so ripped up and chemical filled that – get this – that I’ve read the soles of a man’s work boots would dissolve if he tried to walk through the stuff.  You can probably guess which window I preferred to look out.  And it’s the view I fight for today.

4.  Good grief, where is all your Stuff?!  And how do you keep everything so uncluttered?

That’s a funny question, Christine.  The more I think of our belongings as “stuff,” the more I realize we don’t need them.  I’d rather have fewer things with more meaning.  My friend once said that when she dies, she doesn’t want to be remembered for the things she had.  So we purge.  But more importantly, we question just about everything that comes into our house.  I try to pick things that really, really matter or that would really add to our life.

That said, I had a huge advantage.  We moved to a foreign country.  Things become a lot less valuable to you when you have to pay gobs of money to bring them with you.  All of those things quickly become “stuff,” and I don’t want my 100 pounds of luggage to just be “stuff.”

Thanks for your answers, Katie — you always get me thinking.  Readers, if you’re interested in more of Katie’s work, you can check out her brand new holiday e-book that gives you tips and tutorials on having a green Christmas.  Find it at her etsy store, along with creative, custom journals that Katie makes herself.  And don’t forget to visit Making This Home!
UPDATE: Katie put up a post of frequently asked questions based on this interview!  I’m so honored to be a part of her writing process.  Check out the post for more questions and answers about Katie and her simpler living philosophies.

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©2010 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I could look at pictures of Katie’s apartment all day.  Not to be creepy or anything.  Room images courtesy of Thomas White, via Making This Home.  Logo courtesy of Making This Home.

Interview with Rowdy Kittens

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It’s time to get back on the interview wagon.  After a three month hiatus (due in large part to a wedding and a move), I’m proud to present Tammy from the blog Rowdy Kittens.  Tammy writes about living small, with the idea that treading lightly on our planet benefits everyone.

As a reminder, I try to feature other eco-friendly and simple-loving bloggers on Simple Savvy every so often.  I think we all learn from and build off each other, and this is a great way to start some dialogue.  Read on to see what Tammy has to say!

1.  What is your definition of simple living?

Without context the definition of simple living sounds like a cliche. Lets start with a story to put our definition into perspective. A few years ago my partner and I felt overwhelmed and depressed by all the stuff in our lives. This seems odd because at a certain level we equate more possessions with more happiness.

But we felt completely out of balance and began simplifying our lives. At this point many of our friends and family would ask me “why are you downsizing and pursuing simple living?” They were concerned by our behavior of donating and selling many of our possessions. Some even thought we were in need of money and offered to help us out. We assured them we were just “decluttering” and trying to simplify by reducing our quantity of stuff. We explained that “it all just felt like too much.” It seemed like every room we had was crowded and distracting us from what we wanted in life. When asked, we could not quite articulate what we wanted specifically and what our end goal would be, we just knew we wanted less.

It wasn’t until last year that we stumbled across Dee Williams’s tiny house, the Small House Movement, and the concept of simple living. After doing a lot of research and making many to-do lists, we decided to move from Davis to mid-town Sacramento. We scaled down even further, to a 400-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment within walking distance to my work. Dee inspired me to go small and start thinking big. Applying “going small and thinking big” required setting specific goals and organizing our decluttering process. We decided living in a tiny house (<200 sq ft) would be our goal and slowly we began focusing on limiting the quantity and maximizing the quality of our belongings to meet our needs.

Ironically, simple living can be a very complex transition. Downsizing can be stressful, but the benefits are tremendous. Moving to a smaller apartment in the city opened up amazing possibilities. Once we sold our one remaining car and TV, life became even better because we paid off our debt, saved money, worked less and began to regain an intentional balance in our lives.

My definition of simple living is the elimination of distractions and unnecessary possessions. I want to prioritize my life energy (time, money and effort) on my health, happiness, and life goals.

2.  Your blog slogan is “social change through simple living.”  Can you talk a little about the social change you’d like to affect?

I’m glad you asked this question. I’ve been trying to work on my blog message for the last few months and this helped me narrow things down. Your question also prompted me to change my about page too. So thank you! 🙂

The reason behind RowdyKittens: To create social change through simple living. A social movement of people who are living simple, authentic and uncluttered lives. The purpose of RowdyKittens is to help individuals learn to live simpler, happier, calmer lives – kind of like kittens.

Somewhere along the way we start thinking we need more and more stuff to be happy. But is that really true? Do we need a bigger house to be happy, a better car or a larger salary? Imagine what the world would look like if we lived by our values and pursued our dreams rather than more stuff. When is enough really enough?

By living a life without so much stuff, I think people can create an enormous amount of change. Change in their personal lives and in their larger environment. For instance, if you sell your car you will save about $8,000 a year and you can lower your carbon footprint too.

3.  What is the most important thing we can do to affect change?

This is such a hard question. But I think everyone can affect change in their daily lives through simple living. For instance, you can stop shopping, watching television or even sell your car. By taking small steps and exiting the consumer lifestyle you can devote more resources to your health, happiness, and life goals.

On a broader scale, I think it’s important to be aware of how your consumption affects the planet and the people on it. All the stuff people purchase usually goes to the landfill, which causes many environmental problems. (Watch The Story of Stuff for a good summary of this problem). Often, individuals become overwhelmed by the broader scale problems and feel they can’t change the world. So they give up.

The philosophers Descartes and Gandhi demonstrate an idea to manage this emotional barrier. They illustrate that you can not change the world, you can only change yourself. You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

To manifest this change I believe all of us have a responsibility to advocate for equitable public policy that promotes public safety and education. I know from experience working in the political system that doing things like voting, writing your elected official or other types of advocacy has a huge impact on how public policy is shaped.

4. Tell us about the house that you plan to buy (and how you’re going to fit you, Logan, and your cats!).

I had no idea that the Small House Movement existed, until I stumbled across a video featuring Dee Williams’s tiny house. It was New Year’s Eve of 2008 and hearing Dee’s story inspired us to go small and downscale.

Why so small? Rather than devoting large sums of life energy and money toward a big home, we are going to purchase a tiny house. We don’t want a 30-year mortgage or all the headaches associated with maintaining a large home. By the time most Americans have purchased a $300,000 home, buy new furniture, remodel the home and pay interest on the mortgage, the home ends up costing a consumer 2-3 times the purchase price.

We are going to take a pass on the traditional American dream and create our own. We would rather save for an early retirement, spend time with family/friends, enjoy the outdoors, each other, and our tiny abode. Less is more — frugality is in!

Ohhh and I’m sure the kittens will love the tiny house. We have something called Katwallks that give the cats free range beyond just the flat surfaces. Although, I think we will have to install a cat door so they turn into indoor/outdoor kittens. 🙂

5. What challenges have you come up against in your quest to downsize/downscale?

Ohhh so so many!

I think the biggest challenge for us was selling our car. We had to overcome our fear. The “what if fear.” We always thought, ohhh “what if the cats get sick,” “what if we need the car for an emergency,” etc.

When we divorced our car a year and a half ago, I didn’t think biking everywhere and renting cars when we traveled would be so much fun! But we’re having a blast. I’m so thankful that we overcame our fears and took the plunge.

6. What books and/or blogs would you recommend for Simple Savvy readers?

Ohhhh I love to read! Some of my favorite books are located at the RowdyKitten Bookstore [Editor’s note: this is an affiliate link].

My top favorites from 2008 are: How to Live Well Without Owning a Car, Little House on a Small Planet, In Defense of Food and of course Your Money or Your Life.

I’m a big fan of blogs and reading a wide variety of articles. I do a Simple Living News Update every Monday on RowdyKittens and that update contains links to some of my best reads of the week. I find a lot of these articles on twitter or via feedly. 🙂

You can also check out my blogroll.

Thank you for such insightful answers, Tammy!  You can check out more of Tammy’s work at Rowdy Kittens.

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©2009 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I read and loved How to Live Well Without Owning a Car too!

Interview with Smart Family Tips

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Smart Family Tips header -- I STOLE IT

It’s interview time again!  Smart Family Tips is a blog that I’ve admired for several months now.  The simple design caught my eye right away, and when I found out that Beth features different “do-gooders” every Friday, I was hooked.

As a reminder, two or three times a month, I’ll feature a four question interview with simple living-loving, eco-friendly, and foodie bloggers whom I admire. Here’s Beth’s take on Simple Savvy:

1.  What is your definition of Simple Living?

To me, simple living is reducing, to the greatest extent possible, all that isn’t absolutely necessary to make time and space for both our needs and wants.

2.  How does your home life fit in with your ideals?

My family and I are consciously trying to be more ecologically and socially responsible and as a result, our lives have become more simplified. For example:

  • We consume less (like fewer disposables, for one) which has resulted in less trash and less clutter.
  • We’re gardening and composting which helps us focus on where our food comes from and where it goes.
  • We buy locally when possible.
  • We donate the things we no longer need, when possible, directly to people for whom we know it will make a difference.

A nice bonus has been that my young daughters (3 1/2 year old twins) are learning why it’s important to conserve rather than waste, to care for the Earth, and to give to others.

3.  What is your biggest challenge?

Clutter! While it’s true we’re buying less, there’s still a great deal of paper that comes into our house, mostly from my daughters’ preschool. There are loads of toys by way of gifts from family and friends. And ALL the outgrown clothes I don’t get through often enough. It’s a constant battle to stay on top of all of it.

4.  Do you have any books you’d recommend to readers?

I do love books. A few I’m really fond of:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Big Green Purse by Diane McEachern
Green Goes With Everything by Sloan Barnett
The Power of Less by Leo Babauta [Editor’s Note: You can check out more of Leo Babauta’s work at his blog Zen Habits]
And for little kids: Big Earth, Little Me by Thom Wiley

Beth, thanks for your responses!  I love having the chance to interview the people behind my favorite blogs.  Make sure to visit Smart Family Tips for more from Beth!

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©2009 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I don’t have any affiliate accounts with Amazon (or with anyone else!), so click click click away and get yourself some used books.

Interview with Centsible Life

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Have you ever had one of those days?  One of those truly horrible days where even though you try to pull yourself out of it, nothing makes you happy?  That was my day yesterday.

Thankfully, there was one saving grace.  I called for help on Twitter, and Kelly at The ¢entsible Life responded adimirably; not only did she provide me with an interesting read, but we had a short Twitter conversation later.  It was nothing earth-shattering — but it pulled me out of the doldrums.

To thank Kelly, I am featuring her in a special post with a four question interview.  I’ll continue to interview bloggers whom I admire for their simple-living, eco-friendly, foodie ways on a regular basis — two or three times a month.  Check out Kelly’s interview below!

1.  What is your definition of Simple Living?

For me simple living is making my life as peaceful as possible so that I can spend time on projects and work that I love, and time with the people I love-my husband, kids, family and friends. The areas of my life that are necessary and boring or annoying like paying the bills, washing dishes, laundry, etc, all need to get done as quickly and efficiently as possible so I can do more of what I love.

2.  How do you keep your home life simple and/or organized?

I say “no” to a lot of activities, and keep the family’s schedule as simple as possible. I try to maintain a place for everything in our home, and encourage the kids to do the same. I create “homes” for their things, and if they can’t find something then it is a good reminder of where to look, and where their things should be going if they want to keep track of them. I also maintain a 1 in:1 out rule. If you bring home a new shirt/pair of shoes, etc. you must get rid of something else. Of course there are times when the mess still piles up around us (with 6 people in our house it’s inevitable!), so then we do a purge. That usually happens seasonally. Some items are sold, and some are given away. Less stuff=more time for each other and experiences, and my kids are usually pretty good about letting things go.

3.  What is your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge is having patience. I always want everything done right now, but with young kids (we have 4 aged 11,7,5 and 3) there is usually a steady stream of interruptions. I rarely get time home alone, so I try to do things in small chunks like straightening 1 closet at a time.

4.  Do you have any books you’d recommend to readers?

For finances I recommend I Will Teach You To Be Rich, I know cheesy title, but great advice on streamlining your finances, and Your Money or Your Life. I like bite sized simplicity books like Elaine St. James’ Inner Simplicity. I love blogs on simple living — like yours! and Small Notebook.

Thank you, Kelly, for such great answers!  You can check out her blog at The ¢entsible Life for more on organizing, budgeting, and general awesomeness.

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©2009 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I’m flattered to be included in the same class of blogs as Small Notebook.