life in a tiny apartment.

October 28, 2015

tea bags tiny apartment reading my tea leavesTip #134: If it’s not your cup of tea, get rid of it.

I do not like licorice tea. After offering cups of licorice tea to nearly everyone I’ve invited into my home in the past year, I’ve discovered that I am not alone in this particular distaste.

And yet I have kept the licorice tea bag among the other tea bags in my glass jar full of them. There was also a funky smelling rooiboos. A very lemongrassy lemongrass.

I enjoy having a robust tea collection. It’s a nice thing, I think, to be able to offer a visiting friend a cup of tea. And to be able to offer a choice among several teas of different types is even nicer. On Thursdays when my mom’s here with Faye, I like to make sure there’s Earl Gray to greet her off the train. In the evenings before bed there’s something awfully soothing about choosing from between two favorite herbal teas.

But despite the fact that it’s a far lovelier thing to have a tea collection filled only with teas that you love, the teas I didn’t much love persisted. When I fished around in my tea jar for a bag to offer my sister last week, I realized that my collection was indeed filled mostly with teas that I kept out of a sense of obligation or thrift or hopefulness that I might someday stumble upon the rare licorice tea lover upon whom I could foist my stray tea bag and finally feel a sense of triumph and relief. 

I urge you, feel the rush of excitement now, not later, and send that licorice tea bag packing.

This weekend, I had myself a tea purge. I gathered into a paper bag all of the tea bags and bags of loose tea that had been hanging around, but that I knew I’d never enjoy. I left them on my stoop. An hour later they were gone, to a good home, here’s hoping.

If this sounds like a familar refrain around here, that’s because of course it is. The easiest solution to small space living is to live with less. And to live with less we must ruthlessly identify what we like best. For even the most resolute among us, this requires some amount of regular maintenance. There will be tea bags sent your way that you did not expressly choose. You will use up all of the tea you do like and be left only with an entire box worth of spiced something or other that’s just not your cup of tea. 

Don’t put it back into the cabinet. Bring it to the communal kitchen at work. Include it in a care package for someone else who you think might like it. Offer it to the daycare staff. Donate it. Compost it. Just get it out of your cupboard.

In place of a motley collection of tea that you don’t love, fill your jars up with teas that you do. And yes, this is a metaphor as much as it isn’t.

If you’re looking for more kitchen inspiration, see this post on buying in bulk. And this one on keeping things wrangled in tiny bags. And this one about paring down your spices.

Tiny apartment survivial tips #1 – 133, RIGHT HERE

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  • Reply claudia October 28, 2015 at 9:34 am

    We only have 3 small jars with favorite teas (black, green and herbal) from our favourite local bulk stores. We also said good bye to “sachet”…better taste (to my opinion) and more eco-friendly (to my opinion) 🙂

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 28, 2015 at 11:40 am

      Yes! Totally agree. This is just a little encouragement to purge what makes its way in *despite* your best intentions!

      • Reply Emily October 28, 2015 at 1:45 pm

        Yeah, I recently pared down to an earl grey, a green, a black from Bew Brunswick that we like, and a mint (my favorite), and am looking for a stellar herbal tea to add to the mix. But pretty much everyone will like at least one of those, and it’s nice to clear out space and simplify.

  • Reply Christine October 28, 2015 at 10:24 am

    On a similar note: drink the good tea. I feel like I have a tendency to hoard all the really good stuff, and I should just enjoy it!

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 28, 2015 at 11:39 am


  • Reply MJ October 28, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Weirdly, I just made a cup of tea before sitting down to read blogs–I mean check quickly–and said to myself, “I really need to get rid of some of these teas that I never drink.” And now I will. Thanks for the push.

  • Reply Susurrus October 28, 2015 at 10:37 am

    I have a small collection – some, I drink and others stay in the cupboard until I pass them on. I actually find they tend to stay in that cupboard too!

    I drink camomile tea most days, and have a couple of spicy ones I like. Nettle tea smells nasty to me, but tastes ok if I can get past that. Liquorice is just too sweet for me.

  • Reply Mary Kate October 28, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    I have a box of super-fruity-filled-with-chemical-ingredients tea that my boyfriend’s mom gave me that’s been in my cabinet for ages. I am a big fan of purging–but I hate, hate, hate just throwing stuff in the trash that’s not actually trash, be it food or clothes or furniture–I don’t like creating waste. I love that you can just put stuff on your stoop and someone will take it, but I don’t think my neighborhood (in Jersey City) is like that (plus I live in a big building with no stoop to speak of). So what to do with the tea remains to be seen…

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 28, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      Office? Compost? Fruity-tea-loving friend? Lots of options!

      • Reply Jenn October 28, 2015 at 1:21 pm

        Wrapped/boxed teas can be donated to food banks or shelters, and I bet community and senior centers that have meeting space would appreciate them too.

        I bring extra tea/food I don’t like to work first. Gives people the chance to try something new.

        • Reply Erin Boyle October 28, 2015 at 1:30 pm


  • Reply Joy October 28, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Ah, how many times I wished I had a stoop, or something similar, to offer our unused goods/furniture to the world without schlepping to Goodwill (we’ve had a serving platter, two giant mugs, a coffee maker and a wine tote sitting in the corner for about three months now waiting for that trip). When we lived in L.A., we put stuff out on the curb all the time, and it was always gone in less than an hour!

  • Reply Lauren October 28, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Erin- I just purged my unloved teas this past weekend and need to restock. Could you share your favorites?

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 28, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      I’ve really loved loose tea blends from Portland Apothecary and Bellocq!

  • Reply Miss Bibliophile October 28, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    You’ve inspired me to weed out my tea collection, and bringing them to the communal work kitchen is such a great idea. An obvious solution that had never occurred to me before! Maybe now I will have some extra room for licorice tea, which I actually do enjoy 🙂

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 28, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      Ha! Fantastic!

  • Reply Kari October 28, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Too bad you couldn’t send your licorice tea my way. That’s the first choice of a lot of my friends. I guess I have weird friends. I can’t stand the stuff, myself.

    • Reply Jessica October 29, 2015 at 9:53 pm

      It’s a nice, sweet-tasting tea for someone (me) who can’t have a lot of sugar in her diet! 🙂

  • Reply julia October 28, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    so so true! and (as with most of your tiny apartment advice) applicable to even those of us who live in larger spaces. it’s amazing how these tiny things can really weigh you down. the tea shelf is definitely one i could tackle in a short evening.

  • Reply Rebecca | Seven2Seven8 October 28, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    It’s too bad we don’t live closer (I’m in Missouri). I adore black licorice flavor and would happily take your tea! I missed drinking it while I was pregnant earlier this year (glycyrrhizin is not recommended in pregnancy).

  • Reply Melanie October 28, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    I tend to be a K-cup hoarder…I have the random ones that were at the end of a box or a random Hazelnut for when my friend comes but it’s been a while! I’m in so in need of a purge!!

  • Reply diana October 28, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    I thought of you as I was carefully cleaning out a desk this week- I found a handful of Danish coins that I am putting in an envelope and mailing to a relative that is going to Denmark in a few weeks with a silly card. There is something very satisfying about a slow and mindful decluttering. (and she can always put the coins in one of those charity bins in the airport if she doesn’t use them!)

  • Reply Anna October 28, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    I love tea, and friends and family know this. Which means they keep giving me tea as gifts, but unfortunately they rarely pick kinds that I actually enjoy. I haven’t yet figured out to tactfully explain that it’s better if they don’t give me fruity fancy teas.

  • Reply Lara October 30, 2015 at 9:07 am

    Just did this very thing a couple of weeks ago! It was freeing! I realized I do not like rooibos tea, nor do I like Bigelow “Eggnoggin” tea. It was a clearance buy, but now I am wiser – eggnog and tea should not rub shoulders.

    I want to try more loose leaf teas. Will look into the ones you recommend!

  • Reply Kaolee October 31, 2015 at 3:37 am

    This post came quite timely. We just moved, and somehow it seems like we have picked up a box everytime we have gone to the store. We have so much! And some aren’t even good. 🙁 So it’s time to pare down.

  • Reply Esther November 17, 2015 at 11:25 am

    This was just what I needed to read a few weeks ago – and here just now commenting to give you a thank you. I “cleaned out” our tea drawer and felt liberation. And now I know that Lady Grey is more my jam, although Earl Grey will wake me up! The Lady is good for sleepy time. This only keeping what I love is my go to mantra as we get our apartment ready (we have four kids!) to be packed up to be moved in to a slightly roomier condo (basically better closet space!). Thank you for chronicling all you do to live pleasantly in your small apartment. Its a joy to see how someone else lives life in a space of contentment.

  • Reply vivien_noir December 7, 2015 at 3:30 am

    Oh, I LOVE licquorice, and would have loved to enjoy pure licquorice tea! Unfortunately, here in Austria or middle europe in general, you don’t find such packed wonderfulness a lot.
    I am a tea lover and collector, and sure I’ve stumbled upon teas I didn’t like. If I knew they were of fine quality and just not my taste, I’d gift someone else with it (e.g. “Romance” green tea with flakes of exotic fruit and rosebuds – I just don’t like any other flavour than tea in my tea) and bring joy to them!

    On the other hand, I used to take over a bad habit from a former person I knew, who was always buying gifts in advance and not for special occasions or people. When suddenly a birthday reminder popped up, this person always had gifts ready (unlike me). On the other hand, I now noticed these gifts were not personal enough for my taste, and now I’m trying to get rid of my own small “someday I’ll gift someone with this” collection.

  • Reply stacy December 31, 2015 at 7:55 am

    i have a great collection of teas. loose and bag. always looking for one for bedtime. what is your bedtime tea?

    • Reply Erin Boyle December 31, 2015 at 8:52 am

      i really do love the traditional medicinals cup of calm tea that i wrote about last winter. it’s calming but not cloying or sleepy-making exactly.

  • Reply Lorraine January 21, 2017 at 3:56 am

    I’ve just discovered your blog after reading your book from cover to cover today including the acknowledgements…one knows one’s onto winner when that happens! So now I’m on a binge read of your blog and this one resonates. I love Twinings Earl Grey tea, I drink mugs of it every day, but I’ll drink gumboot if I have to (I keep some English Breakfast for those who don’t like their tea perfumed) and I have a jar of peppermint teabags just for my friend Rose. I can barely stand the smell of it when I open the lid but she’s my best pal and I love her lots so I holds my nose and pop it in the mug. Love can be keeping something for someone else that you yourself wouldn’t touch with a boat hook. But I draw the line at broccoli…

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