Conscious by Chloé

Chloé Lepeltier - Conscious By Chloé

Follow Chloé’s journey to a simpler, greener and happier life.

Conscious Cohabitation

Conscious Cohabitation by Brandy Young for Conscious by Chloé

Last year, I was asked by my local Minimalists group to give a talk about Conscious Cohabitation. It was an interesting exercise for me to reflect on what it's like to share a home with Octave. I got a chance to discuss with the attendees about their own experience of sharing a home with their parents, significant other or roommates and learnt a lot!

I've updated my presentation according to their comments and thought I would share it with you here as well.

First, there are a couple things you should know about me:

  • Octave and I have been living together for 3 years now (less than one in Switzerland and the rest in 2 homes/cities/States in the USA).
  • I grew up an only child.
  • My parents live together, but were never married.

This should give you a better idea about how and why I decided to implement the following system at home. I divided life at home in 4 categories: admin, finances, scheduling and housekeeping.

And last but not least, please bear in mind that I am here presenting a system based on my own experience and that I in no way assume that it's a one fits all.

Admin by Conscious by Chloé

1. Admin

Raise your hand if you've ever been in this situation where you think you're super ready for a meeting with your banker, real estate agent, mobile provider and they suddenly ask for a document they totally failed to mention before.

Based on this scenario, and on the fact that Octave and I moved overseas and had no intention to pay for the shipment of all of our admin archives, we digitized the majority of our papers. And here is how I organized them.

Google Drive

I've been using Google Drive for as long as I can remember, so I just created the following folders and shared them with Octave.

  • Create 1 shared folder that will contain 3 shared sub-folders (2 personal, 1 common).
  • In each of the 2 personal folders, scan and add the following personal documents for each person: ID, drivers license, passport, visa, birth certificate, ID picture.
  • In the common folder, scan and add the documents that are relevant for both parties: marriage license, rental agreement, insurance, accounting spreadsheet (see Finances). You can also add another subfolder and name it "Old" where you will archive items that are no longer relevant (previous car insurance, former lease agreement).

1Password

If you've been following me for a while, you've already read this article and know how much I love 1Password.
Long story short, this app will create complicated and safe passwords for all the websites you use, will remember all your important info (SSN, credit card number) and will even autocomplete forms online (oh the time you'll save not having to type your name, date of birth, address, bank info etc) and all you have to do is remember one. single. password. or use the touch ID on your phone.
We installed it on our phones, tablets and desktops and shared the passwords that are useful for the both of us (car insurance, home insurance, health insurance, utilities).

Finances by Conscious by Chloé

2. Finances

Before we moved to the US, Octave and I each had our own bank account. We meant to open a joint one, but the timing was never right, we had different banks, worked in different cities and never got around to being able to meet at the bank before it closes.

But as soon as we moved to the US and met our banker, we opted for the following system:

2 personal bank accounts

One for each. No messing with the other ones expenses, the household/family is on track, the rest is personal.

1 joint bank account

  • Open one joint bank account.
  • Select the paperless option.
  • Set a monthly automatic payment from your personal account to your joint account (calculate and estimate of your monthly household expenses and divide it by 2).
  • Opt for automatic payments for: rent, utilities, Internet, phone, home insurance, health insurance.
  • Get one debit card for each and use it to pay common expenses: groceries, common hobbies, restaurants, trips, home improvement.

Side note: To differentiate our personal card from our joint one, Octave drew a heart on the joint one while we were still at the bank. My heart melted.

2 savings account

As responsible adults, and as we are both freelancers and do not know what tomorrow will be made of, we each opened a savings account.
We set a monthly automatic payment from our personal account to the savings account so we save without even thinking about it.

Accounting

As our income is fluctuant, sometimes one of us is not able to make the scheduled monthly automatic payment. So the solution I found to keep track of our accounting is to:

  • Keep a shared accounting spreadsheet in the common shared folder and keep track of expenses related to the household (the payments made by each of us to the joint bank account or extra expenses for the household that we paid with our personal account)
  • Meet twice a year to keep track of your common finances.

Side note: I usually set up a meeting in our shared calendar (see Scheduling) well in advance and chose a café in our neighborhood with a wifi connection. Being outside of our home helps us focus on the task to accomplish.

Scheduling by Conscious by Chloé

3. Scheduling

Once again, our freelance life pretty much shapes the way we have to organize our lives. With our irregular schedules and off-location assignments, I felt like we needed a platform to let the other know of major commitments. As we are both Apple products users, we decided to use the Apple calendar and:

  • Share our professional calendar with each other.
  • Create a common calendar for: reminders, invitations, events, trips, family visits, cleaning up days (see Housekeeping).

Side note: I recently discovered that you could export your Facebook Events (and Facebook friends Birthdays) to your calendar, check it out!

Housekeeping

4.Housekeeping

Utilities & co

We deal with things together, mostly, but we have a tacit understanding that he deals with all things related to the phone, Internet, car & home insurance and I deal with the landlord, rent, electricity, gas, water.

Side note: Chose what you have interest in or knowledge of and share the tasks equitably.

To-Do Lists

Wunderlist is a to-do list app like many others that exist on the market. This is the first one that I used, I tried to switch to another one later on but came back to this one. It does the job, there's no need to change what works.

We mainly use it to share our grocery list. It synchronises the data in real time so that we both know what to get when one of us decides to stop at the store, even unexpectedly. I have to admit that we use it less and less now that be both work from home and usually shop together but it's still there in case we need it.

We also have a general to-do list (mostly home improvement) and a bucket list of all the places we'd like to visit some day (couple day trips in Oregon/Washington).

Grocery Shopping

We usually make one big trip to our coop once a month (on the 10th, we get 10% off), the date is in our shared calendar so we don't forget it.
We update our shopping list on Wunderlist for non bulk items and look for the empty containers in our pantry (our empty containers are our shopping list).

Side note: To learn what you'll need to go on a bulk shopping trip, go back to my Zero Waste Shopping Kit article and to learn how to shop in bulk check out my Shopping in Bulk 101 article.

Cooking

Octave and I keep sending each other recipes that we want to try. I didn't know how to store them until I found the Pepperplate app. What I love about it is the fact that there is now a bookmarklet that makes importing the recipe on your desktop so much easier by filling in the fields automatically. The fact that the app is also on my phone makes grocery shopping so much simpler. Now I just need to stop importing recipes and start cooking them...

Side note: Our deal is as follows: He cooks, I do the washing up.

Cleaning

By now, you should everything about my Cleaning Routine.

Whether it's a deep-cleaning session or routine cleaning and, more importantly, if you share this task with a partner or housemates, knowing that a special date or time in the week or month is dedicated to this task makes the decision-making way easier. No arguing, no convincing, no debating, it's in the calendar so that's when it should be done!

Here is my personal schedule for quick maintenance:
Monday - Bedroom
Tuesday - Bathroom
Wednesday - Mudroom/Pantry
Thursday - Kitchen
Friday - Living Room
Saturday - Office

I try to keep the same schedule for weekly maintenance cleaning but mostly rely on our common bimonthly cleaning session, scheduled on Wednesdays, every other week.

Waste

As I am now a proud Master Recycler, I set up a new sorting and recycling station at home composed of:

Trash, Recycling, Compost

  • 1 recycling box (paper, metal, plastic bottles and tubs).
  • 1 glass box (for curbside recycling and to bring to the Bottle Bill & Redemption Center).
  • 1 compost tray that I keep in the freezer and bring to the compost pile once in a while when I go to open the chicken coop.
  • 1 trash can (yes, we still produce some trash).
  • 1 box for special items: soft plastic, corks, batteries, light bulbs can be brought to specific locations for safe disposal, recycling or reuse.

Side note: This sorting station is designed according to the Portland, OR infrastructure. We signed up for weekly reminders in order to be informed of the collection schedule.

Decluttering

We keep a donation box by the back door where we put items that we no longer use and are still in good condition for donation.

Junk Mail

Getting junk mail is one of the things that frustrates me the most in my journey to zero waste. I feel like all the efforts I'm making to prevent trash from entering my house are ruined by the junk mail that filtrates through my mailbox.
Through research and experiences, I came up with the a list of solutions which will help you dramatically reduce the amount of junk, promotional or unwanted mail in your mailbox.

6. Conclusion

This system is the result of a couple months of trial and error, even though it pretty much stayed the same after we implemented it). First, you'll need to sit down with your housemates, identify what your needs and priorities are and build a system around them.

If you're more interested in producing less waste, focus on your pantry and the recycling station. If you're more interested in keeping your financial independence, run to the bank and open a joint bank account. You do not need to do it all at once. Start small, see what works for you and adjust along the way.

The one thing that I found very important is this endeavor was to balance the roles. Sharing a house is sharing responsibilities.

I hope you've enjoyed reading my conscious cohabitation tips and hope they will help you make your life simpler, greener and happier.

Conscious Cohabitation by Brandy Young for Conscious by Chloé


Top and bottom pictures by Brandy Young for Conscious by Chloé.

Now, I'd love to read your comments on this subject. What system have you implemented at home? How do you distribute the roles? Who's in charge of what? Do you hire a house cleaner? Roommates, how to do deal with rent & utilities?

A winter Iceland Road Trip

Iceland winter road trip - South West Iceland Road - by Conscious by Chloé

Last winter, Octave & I flew back to Europe for the end of the year celebrations. As we would spend Christmas apart, each in our own family, I wanted us to have a couple days to ourselves before flying to Oregon and diving back into work. So I suggested we give a try to this Icelandair offer and stopover in this dreamy island for a couple days at no additional cost (the ticket was actually cheaper than a direct flight to Paris).

So, after having spent a couple days apart, we met at the airport in Paris and flew to Reykjavik to start our 7-days winter Iceland road trip.

Here is a map of our itinerary and the places where we stayed and visited (or wished we could have visited):

In winter time, most of the smaller roads are closed or hard and dangerous to access, so our itinerary was pretty simple, we sticked to the ring road and went around the island counter clockwise.

Day 1: Landing & Prep

We landed at Keflavík International Airport and picked up the 4x4 Toyota Rav4 we had rented. We chose this model because, according to our measurements, Octave would be able to lay down in the trunk once we pulled down the back seats. Did I mention that we planned to car-camp for most of the trip?

Should you travel during winter or summer, you'll want to rent a 4x4, either to drive in the snow, or explore the trails. I have to admit that I was surprised that no shovel was provided with the rental (we haven't had to use one during the trip, but I would have felt safer with one in the trunk).

We drove to Reykjavík to stock up on groceries and buy a propane canister to cook on the road. Later on, we tried to find a good restaurant for a well-deserved meal in town but all were packed, booked or closed. So we ate at a Mexican hole in the wall.

Then we headed off to spend our first night at an Airbnb a couple miles from the city. I remember having some work to finish by the end of the night and watching the fireworks through the living room window while Octave was sleeping and our flatmates were having fun in the snow... It was New Year's Eve!

Note: Check the Airbnb's "community cupboards". There's usually extra propane canisters that previous travelers have left there as they are not allowed on airplanes. Save some money and just grab a used one instead of buying a new one at the shop. Also, hot water smells like rotten eggs, you'll notice that when you take your first shower. Don't worry, it's safe.

Day 2: Seljafoss & Black Sand Beach

We got ready and started our day early. Some of you might know that the days are pretty short in Iceland in the winter (around 4 hours of light per day when we were there), so you want to make the most of it by doing most of the driving at night.

We first stopped at the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, then the Skógafoss Waterfall and finished our day trip by spending some time on the blacksand beach.

We then drove to Vik and parked our car on the Klettsvegur camping grounds.

Note: Camping grounds are closed for business in the winter, but some are still accessible. So whenever possible, we parked there, otherwise, we found a calm spot on top of a hill or outside the city/village to spend the night.

Iceland winter road trip - Seljafoss - by Conscious by Chloé Seljafoss

Iceland winter road trip - Skógafoss - by Conscious by Chloé Skógafoss

Iceland winter road trip - Black Sand Beach - by Conscious by Chloé Blacksand Beach

Iceland winter road trip - Black Sand Beach - by Conscious by Chloé Blacksand Beach

Day 3: Jökulsárlón & Höfn

After our first night in the car, we prepared breakfast and headed to Jökulsárlón. We hiked around the lake and Octave shot some time lapses.

We finished the day in Höfn.

Note: We would usually cook breakfast at our camp spot, picnic for lunch and have dinner at a restaurant or café, to get warm before our nights in the car and get some wifi to prepare our itinerary for the following day.

Iceland winter road trip - Jökulsárlón - by Conscious by Chloé Jökulsárlón

Iceland winter road trip - Jökulsárlón - by Conscious by Chloé Jökulsárlón

Iceland winter road trip - Höfn - by Conscious by Chloé Höfn

Iceland winter road trip - 4x4 Toyota Rav 4 - by Conscious by Chloé

Day 4: East Coast

We drove most of the day and settled down in Eggilstaddir for the night.

Iceland winter road trip - Iceland East Coast - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Iceland East Coast - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Iceland East Coast - by Conscious by Chloé

Day 5: Hverfjall Crater & Myvatn Thermal Baths

We got up early and made our way to the Hverfjall crater. The road was covered by many inches of snow but we felt adventurous. We drove down the trail, parked our car and started our hike up the crater at sunrise. Driving back up the trail was finally less difficult than we had expected but our adrenaline levels definitely reached a peak.

We stopped for a moment at the Namafjall Geothermal Area and I convinced Octave to dip into the Myvatn Nature Baths. It was a great idea to make this kind of relaxing stop in the middle of our road trip and beat the usual crowds of the Blue lagoon.

Note: Don't forget to pack a swimsuit.

Iceland winter road trip - Hverfjall Volcano Crater - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Hverfjall Volcano Crater - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Hverfjall Volcano Crater - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Hverfjall Volcano Crater - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Namafjall Geothermal Area - by Conscious by Chloé

Day 6: Kirkjufellsfoss & Iceland horses

Once again, we spent most of our day driving but it might have been my favorite day as we got to watch the most beautiful and long-lasting sunrise. The skies were blush and purple, so surreal!

We stopped at the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall and then got to pet the cutest horses.

As the sunset approached, we decided to treat ourselves to a night in the cutest cottage.

Note: We chased the Northern Lights during our trip but the forecast was not in our favor.

Iceland winter road trip - North West Iceland - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Kirkjufellsfoss - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Kirkjufellsfoss Horses - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Kirkjufellsfoss Horses - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Kirkjufellsfoss Horses - by Conscious by Chloé

Day 7: Þingvellir (Thingvellir) & Reykjavík

We woke up well rested after a night in our warm cottage and started our last full day in Iceland, on our way back to the capital. We made a stop at Thingvellir and walked with the crowd in the Almannagjá Gorge.

Finally we made our way to Reykjavík for a walk while the sun was still up.

We had lunch at the Kex hostel. Then we visited the infamous Hallgrimskirkja and got coffee at Reykjavik Roasters.

We might have also got yet another coffee at the Laundromat Cafe.

Dinner was uneventful. Feeling unadventurous, we spent our last night in the same Airbnb as our first night, but in another room.

Note: Our friend Eva had recommended us the Grillmarkaðurinn and the Fish Market (Fiskmarkaðurinn). We're keeping them on our list for our next Iceland trip (probably in the spring or summer this time!).

Day 8: Krýsuvík & Taking off

During our last morning, we visited one last geothermal site, the Krýsuvík Geothermal Area. We passed the Blue Lagoon with no regrets and headed to the airport.

Note: Before leaving the Airbnb, we made sure to put our propane canister in the community cupboard for a lucky traveler to find. Also, we forgot an indie SoCal band's CD in our rental car and hope the next road tripper will enjoy it!

Iceland winter road trip - Kleifarvatn River - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Krýsuvík Geothermal Area - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Krýsuvík Geothermal Area - by Conscious by Chloé

Iceland winter road trip - Iceland South West - by Conscious by Chloé

Tips

Driving

You will find some useful information about driving in Iceland on unpaved roads, highland roads and in winter conditions on this leaflet. Or watch this video.

You car rental company will also probably give you this flyer.

In short:

  • Everyone must wear a seatbelt regardless of where seated in the car.
  • Headlights are required around the clock, while driving.
  • If you are not driving a 4x4, you are not allowed to drive on mountain roads (as identified on maps).
  • Driving off-road is forbidden!
  • Respect speed limits.

Use the Vegagerdin website to check the road conditions.

Safety

112 is the single emergency number in Iceland, representing all the response parties to accidents, fire, crime, search, rescue and natural disasters on land, at sea, or in the air.

Download the 112 app to call for help by pressing the red Emergency button. Your location will be sent by text message to the 112 response center. Remember that even though your phone shows no signal there is a possibilite that you can send text message. You can also press the green Check In button regularly to send your location so if something happens. Only the 5 last location’s are stored so it is recommended to check in regularly.

Gas

Fill up your tank whenever you can. You never know how far the next gas station will be. Here is a link to all you need to know about gas stations in Iceland, including a map.

GPS/Map

With our US T-mobile contract, we had data at no extra charge. So we did not care to buy a local SIM card or get a paper map (also considering we were sticking to the main road).

Northern Lights

Check out the forecast, be patient.

Groceries

Stock up on groceries in Reykjavik before you leave for your road trip. We shopped at groceries and gas stations along the way, no complaints!
Here is our shopping list:

  • In the bulk aisle: nuts, pistacchios, dried fruit, fruit.
  • Oatmeal
  • Apple sauce
  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salami
  • Fish jerky
  • Toilet paper
  • Gas can

Iceland winter road trip - Car camping in a 4x4 Toyota Rav 4 - by Conscious by Chloé

Packing list

Sleep

Eat

Electronics

Wear

  • Hiking boots
  • Raincoat
  • Ski pants & jacket
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Thermal t-shirt and leggings
  • Swimsuit

Octave shot Four Hours, timelapse series, during our one week trip through Iceland during the month of January, 2016.


Have you ever been to Iceland? What was your favorite part? Where will your next road trip be? Pictures by Octave Zangs for Conscious by Chloé.

Simpler, Greener, Happier

Oregon Coast Moody Weather

So it's been a while since I last wrote here. The last couple months have been full of projects, trips and new adventures and I've relied a little too much on my pre-scheduled posts, so when September came, I realized I had many post drafts, but no pictures and no time/inspiration/location to take any, and became a little disillusioned.

I found many excuses for ending up in this situation. I started taking classes and went on a couple field trips on week-ends as part of this training, I co-wrote an e-book, I started a new part-time job, I taught green living classes while continuing to work as a freelance translator with a couple big projects scheduled for the end of last month. I felt it was a little bit much to add blogging to the equation.

So, instead of posting irregularly, I decided (or it happened) that I took a real big break. A 2-months long one. It wasn't planned, and weirdly happened on my 1 year "bloganniversary" as they call it.

Not only did I stop blogging, but I also stopped posting on Instagram, which is pretty uncommon for me.

Nonetheless, I continued to repost relevant news and events on Facebook, and have had tons of fun using Instagram stories. This break was just what I needed to read books, watch eye-opening documentaries (and a couple TV shows along the way) to get inspired again. It was also a great occasion to take a step back, identify issues and redefine my vision for the blog and reflect on my use of social media.

I identified the following issues:

  • I have trouble finding the time or motivation to take and edit pictures.
  • I tend to overthink the content (length, links, images).
  • I have doubts about keeping my personal Insta for the blog.

I also realized:

  • I missed writing here.
  • I missed you guys, our discussions, your comments, your ideas.
  • I missed the rhythm of having a weekly assignment (Creating habits is very important to us freelancers).

So here's what I'm gonna try:

  • Be regular.
  • Don't overthink it.
  • Draw the line between my personal and blog social media platforms.
  • Schedule time to shoot and edit.

And here are the measures I already took:

  • I asked my landlord whether we could repaint the house (I can't stand the yellow mustard and beige walls): --> epic fail!
  • So I bought a white board to shoot flat lays and I'm thinking about setting up a photo studio in the garage, or maybe in the living room.
  • I opened separate Instagram and Twitter accounts for the blog.
  • I connected with awesome creatives here in PDX and project a couple collaborations.

And, last but not least, I reminded myself of the blog's motto:

Simpler, Greener, Happier

Be ready for some changes over here.


In the meantime, I'd love your feedback. What would you like to see more of in here? Tips, looks, DIY, recipes, random articles, Portland-specific articles? Are you a blogger? What issues do you face? How do you overcome them? I'd love to have your insights!

Reset your phone, reset your life

Girl with hat looking in the distance by Conscious by Chloé

You know how sometimes one little event ends up making you reflect on your life in general?

This happens to me a lot, especially when I'm clearing my closet...

This time, both a book and my phone made me re-evaluate my habits. Here is how it went:

During our road trip - which I highly documented on Instagram and that will be the subject of an upcoming article - I read many books, different kinds of books, and one of them was by my favorite happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin.

As you know, I listen to her podcast and was also very inspired by The Happiness Project, her best-seller. Unsurprisingly, her latest book, Better Than Before, was on my reading list. This time, she tackles this critical question: How can we make good habits and break bad ones?

With September coming up, a big project that will keep me busy for weeks and this general feeling of going back to school, the long hours driving along the Western States roads were the perfect opportunity to reflect on my habits. I assessed my New Year Intentions and formulated some new ones for the coming month.

But the implementation of these habits came in a funny way. I had been having issues with my phone for a while now and had postponed the inevitable restoration for too long. A thorough restoration is something you really do not want to have to do. It means losing all of your beloved settings, reinstalling numerous apps and re-entering a countless number of passwords (At least, I was glad I used 1Password. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, head out to my favorite apps article.)

In the end, it took me an entire afternoon to tackle this nagging task. What I would never have imagined though, is that evaluating whether every single app in my phone was worth reinstalling would make me reflect on my lifestyle in general.

Better Than Before helped me identify certain aspects of my personality. I'm a questioner, a procrastinator and probably an abstainer. This came as no surprise, but actually writing it down in my notebook helped me realize that what I needed was a) tools to organize my life and prompt me to do certain activities at certain times, b) an accountability partner and c) to identify activities that should be paired together in order to ensure they will be done (you'll understand what it means later).

I fell into a fitness-related vortex and spent way too much time linking well-being related apps to the Health app (I use an iPhone) and installing new ones that were suggested to me. Since my health data had completely been erased, I was motivated to start afresh and capitalize on the good cycling and hiking habits we had set during the holidays. So I reinstalled Runkeeper and Strava for walking, hiking and cycling. I also reinstalled my precious Clue app (period tracking), and the fun Sleep Cycle one. As one of my goal for the year was to drink more water, I also installed the Waterlogged app. And it's been pretty successful so far. Even Octave asks for a glass of water whenever he hears the waves sound of the app reminder.

Octave got me into mountain biking during this trip, and as we got back home, I finally managed to convince him to go indoor bouldering with me. We went to an intro class this week and got a pass for the next two weeks. Let's see how it goes. Accountability really works for me, so I hope that this fitness & fun partnership will go a long way.

As for work organization, I followed a friend and colleague's technique and set reachable daily goals in order to finish on time (duh!) and avoid the stress of the upcoming deadline, the sleepless nights, etc. I also try to wake up and go to bed at the same time, start working and stop working at the same time and take a break to listen to a podcast while walking after lunch (Rubin's strategy of pairing activities). That's basically office life at home, except that I'm allowed to make a couple exceptions.

This will hopefully give me more stability and eventually make me healthier, and happier!


Have you ever had such an experience? What happened? Did you quit your job after painting your nails? What are your habit hacks? I'd love to hear it all!