Conscious by Chloé

Chloé Lepeltier - Conscious By Chloé

Conscious by Chloé is a lifestyle blog focused on Zero Waste, Sustainable Living and Ethical Fashion written by Chloé Lepeltier.

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?

Digital Detox

Digital Detox by Conscious by Chloé

Digital/Analog, see what I did here?

Do you suffer from information overload? It happens to me a couple times a year. I let my guard down, I either forget to uncheck the unsubscribe box when I sign up on a website or I do want to go to the trouble of adding a * with the mention "Do not use for promotional purposes" on a form I fill at a new yoga studio and gradually see my inbox filled with unwanted newsletters.

Here are the steps that you can take to regain to control on your inbox and minimize the constant stimuli of social media notifications:

Inbox

  • Sign up for Unroll.Me. It scans your inbox to find how many subscriptions you have, then gives you the option to either unsubscribe or consolidate them into a daily digest called a “Rollup” - in one swipe.
  • Go through your junk folder once a week and. If you're motivated, unsubscribe from these spams (it might be is pointless, but it somehow gives you the impression that their number will decrease over time) or just delete all the messages it contains.

Phone

  • Turn off all notifications and sounds for apps (Go to Settings > Notifications - if you have an iPhone), except for calls, Messages, WhatsApp or whatever is important to you. To me, it's everything I mentioned before (though my phone is always on vibrate mode), plus my home security system and Buffer (to schedule Instagram posts) and emergency alerts.
  • Put your phone on airplane mode at night and leave it out of your bedroom. I leave it in my home office (read about my "No Technology in the Bedroom" policy in this article).

Facebook

  • Unfollow every.single.one. of your friends. This is a little dramatic, but it worked wonders for me. You'll end up with an almost blank feed when you log in which gives you the freedom to chose what information you'll get. If you're curious to know what's happening in someone's life, go check his/her profile. If you fear that you're going to miss something critical, maybe take a moment to reflect on the fact that there must be a way that this person in your life will have let you know of a major event directly.
  • Sort your friends into groups (family, high school, cities) in order to be able to have a quick overview of what's happening in their life. It also makes inviting people to events way easier. If you're my friend on Facebook, you know I'm an over(Facebook Events) inviter (#sorryImnotsorry).
  • Install the FB Purity extension to hide the "Trending" feed and other irrelevant (to you) FB options (games invites, etc). I installed it yesterday and already see the benefits of not being made aware of some politician's latest stupid decision or some celebrities latest birth announcement (I read the news from reliable sources and use Feedly for my daily fix of bloggers stories). Chrome users, you can also download this extension.

Instagram

  • Regularly go through a massive unfollowing session. I do this when I realize that I know more about some stranger's baby than my own family's. Then subscribe again to the accounts the name of which you can remember. Yes, I am an annoying follower.
  • Mute people's stories. You can be interested in someone's interior design style but not care about their family life (certain accounts have Insta Stories that are totally different from the images they post). Know that you do not have to to unfollow that account and can simply mute their story (Open your Instagram app. Make sure it's updated to the latest version. From the Stories bar on the top, tap and hold on the circular profile photo for the story you want to unfollow. Once you hold for a second, options from the bottom of the screen will come up)

What about you, how do you deal with digital clutter? You might also be interested in reading my 10 Ways to Stop Junk Mail article.

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!