Friday, December 16, 2011

One Less: stack of empty pots

Today we cleaned out the shed.

I've put off cleaning out the shed, partly because it's full of geckos and who knows what else, partly because the stuff in there represents so much time and money invested in me thinking I could be another Peter Cundall or Jackie French.  

Piles of empty pots ready to propagate in.  Bags of fertilisers and bottles of organic pesticides to treat this deficiency or eradicate that pest.  Seeds past their plant-by-date.  Shovels, trowels, rakes, gloves, hose connector doodads.

It all goes with the pile of barely read gardening tomes inside.

So much money spent, so little return.  Rotting.

I thought that I wanted to be a gardener, but it turns out I just like gardens.  All I need is an easy care yard, with the occasional spectacular flower (there are some of these sprung up at the moment that I'd forgotten about), a little vegetable patch, and a fruit tree or two.  I don't actually want to be spending hours potting around the garden: there are too many fantastic books to read, and I have too many children to play with!

Friday, December 9, 2011

One Less: Box of Papers

Once upon a time I used to be a music teacher.  I trained to teach secondary school Music and English, but ended up teaching Music from preschool through to year ten, and middle school English and SOSE (history/geography/civics).   When I left teaching seven years ago it was fairly abruptly, and at the time I didn't know if it would be for one year, two years, ten years, or forever. So I just packed everything I had into five boxes and put them into storage.  As it turned out, I had a baby before I had opportunity to take up another teaching job.

Two years ago I did the sums and worked out that if I did teach again I would have been out of it for ten years, probably twelve.   There are already new syllabuses in place for the subjects I taught, and will be yet another new one by the time I return to work.  My resources will mostly be so out of date that I won't be using them anyway.

So I sat down with my five boxes and culled.  I threw out class sets of worksheets that I never used.  I threw out bits and pieces of English resources that I had collected but never taught a full unit on.  I threw out doubles of assignment task sheets and extra copies of exams.   I managed to pare it down by half.

Today, the Small Boy wanted to play out in the garage where the boxes are stored, so I set to work culling again.  It felt rather momentous because I looked at my materials in the box mentally marked 'music' and realised that I would probably never teach Senior (year 11 and 12) Music.  I never taught it when I was working, and don't really want to teach Music if I do teach again.  The bits and pieces of materials for teaching Senior Music that I was saving in my box are worthless now and will be even more worthless if I were to return to teaching.  So I threw them out.  I also pared back all of my P-10 resources so that I have just the bare bones.  I stuffed one display folder with unit plan overviews that I can build from again if I ever need to.  My 2 1/2 boxes is now down to 1 2/3.  When I next get a chance, the box mentally marked 'English/SOSE' may not be safe!

I'm not willing to part with all my teaching materials just yet.  I will possibly teach part time one day in the future, and don't want to have to start everything from scratch.  Until I can say definitively I will not be teaching ever again, I don't think it is wise to part with it all, but I do want to pare down to just enough to get me started if I need it.

But, as an added bonus, my husband (who is a primary school teacher) looked at his six boxes of resources and starting culling, too.  He's barely looked in those boxes in five years and knows a lot of what he owns is also out of date.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Confessions of a Tupperware Junkie

I have recently been to a rash of Tupperware parties, and been reminded why I loathe them.  It hasn’t always been this way: a few years ago I hosted Tupperware parties, went to every party brimming with excitement about new products, and even considered becoming a consultant myself.  In those days, like many others, particularly women, I got excited about Tupperware and bought mountains of it because it was Tupperware. It is expensive, but it has a lifetime guarantee, and can save money in the long run. Besides, it’s Tupperware, it must be good. 
Tupperware do make a good product, and there is a lot of it that I do love. The Modular Mates keep my pantry tidy and organised.  The FridgeSmart containers really do keep my vegies lasting longer in the fridge.   A few of the utensils - the spatula, corkscrew, vegetable peeler - do a fantastic job, though no doubt other brands make something similar.  The quality of the plastic and the effectiveness of the seals on many of the plastic containers are second to none.  
But for a year or two I went to a ridiculous number of Tupperware parties. A few friends had become consultants and would put on demonstrations to drum up business, and other friends would have parties to support them.  Of course, I would dutifully go along to the parties.  But the more parties I attended, and the more products I bought that didn’t quite meet my expectations, the more I began to see through the spiel and the pretty brochures.   
This is the thing that I’ve learnt about Tupperware: they goal isn’t to make your kitchen more organised, their goal is to make money.  Tupperware know that they can make money from women who want an organised kitchen, and to save time with their innovative products.  Products come and go from seasonal catalogues, and limited edition products show up in monthly specials catalogues. Colours changed every few years, so that the Tupperware junkie just has to have the Rock ‘n’ Serve in that gorgeous new purple colour, even though they have more than they need in the previous blue, orange and black. 
Some of the innovation, to me at least, is more gimmick than innovation.  I bought a mixing bowl set from the Bake 2 Basics range as a hostess gift once when I hosted a party.  It seemed a such great idea, with its ergonomic design to make it easy to hold with one hand while mixing and pouring and it’s splatter guard to stop bits of meringue or flour coating the kitchen when using handbeaters.  Actually, I used the splatter guard once.  It’s easier to just to put the wet ingredients on top of the dry, or to stir it all through gently first, and to pay attention to what I’m beating!  The bowls are really just plastic bowls that don’t stack neatly, and don’t fit well in either my dishwasher or dish drainer. 

I’ve sold some of my unused Tupperware on Ebay, where it can fetch a reasonable price. Some of it just sits in my cupboard.  Some of it gets used regularly.  
I can’t imagine a need to buy any more Tupperware for a long time.  In fact, there is very little I can imagine needing to buy for my kitchen for a long time, short of a broken wooden spoon, and the Kitchenaid Mixer I have been drooling over.  
And next time I get invited to a Tupperware party I need to consider whether the opportunity to chat with friends over a cuppa is worth the sitting through the demonstration, and whether to bother going at all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stocking Fillers

The Christmas junk mail has been arriving in my letterbox, full of pages of 'stocking fillers'.

When I think of a 'filler' I think of inessential things that have been included to make it fuller, or look fuller.

And that seems to be what 'stocking fillers' are, too.  Gifts that you buy people just so that they can have more stuff at Christmas, or to make it look like more.  Buying for the sake of buying.

We aim to have a small number of carefully chosen gifts at Christmas.  There are thousands of things we could buy for our children, but we don't want Christmas to be about getting a pile of presents that end up forgotten about.  For me, Christmas has a twofold meaning: celebrating the birth of Christ and celebrating family.    We don't do 'stocking fillers', though we do have an advent calendar with a treat each day - something yummy, a small toy, a fun place to go - and it is for the whole family, not just the kids.  This year we are adding the unfolding Christmas story in each window as well.    But the challenge is giving just the right amount of gifts, because opening presents is a lot of fun, but too many becomes overwhelming and wasteful.  We gave the Big Boy nothing for his first Christmas, and only one present for the next two Christmases, and three presents for the last two Christmases.  That combined with presents from grandparents and aunts and uncles is well and truly enough for someone so young.  The Small Boy (who is only one) this year will probably get just one present from us, and The Big Boy will get three or four or five, plus they'll each get six advent windows and maybe something from Santa (I'm not overly keen on Santa, and have taken The Big Boy's lead as to whether he would like Santa to visit).

NB: Yes, I get junk mail.  You can tar and feather me right now.  I don't mind reading it, and watching out for things to be on sale that I genuinely need/want to buy.  They don't really tempt me to buy more stuff: in fact, I'm working out that most things don't look anywhere near as good in real life as they do in the catalogue.    Plus, I used to deliver catalogues to earn extra money, and it made not one iota of difference to the number of catalogues I was given to deliver and the number of No Junk Mail stickers.  The number of catalogues had to do with the number of houses in the area, and I didn't need to report back how many weren't delivered.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Style and Sustainability

I came across this article on Style and Sustainability today.

'Green' clothes are expensive and hard to come by - the only place I know to 'touch and feel' clothes that come with some sort of sustainability credentials is the local World Vision shop where they stock a small range of Etiko branded shirts and shoes.  But I think they are worth it.

What do you think?  Do you wear 'green'?

Less Waste: Washing Basket

My washing basket had a big crack in the bottom, and things were starting to catch in it.  I was concerned that I would tear something trying to get it unsnagged.

It seemed such a waste to throw away a whole basket.  I only have one washing basket: it helps me keep on top of the laundry if I can't leave baskets of clean clothes piled around the house.  The basket isn't that old, not even five years, and I've done my best to bring it in out of the sun (instead of leaving it under the line to collect the clothes when they are dry) so that it doesn't get brittle and break.   I chose a strong, solid basket designed to carry on one hip, which makes it easy when there is a baby on the other.

Then I had an idea.  I covered the crack with some duct tape that we already had in the cupboard.  Hopefully that will do the job and I can use the basket for a few more years.

It seems such a small thing, to be concerned about not throwing away a simple washing basket, but the truth is that there are so many things that I do throw away without thinking, that small changes like this start to form a pattern for big change.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sticking to Budget

I have never seen myself as having a spending problem because we've never been in debt, other than our home loan.

I do know I have a problem sticking to budget, but we put extra payments onto our loan and they cover any over-spending.

Hang on.  Alarm bells!  Just because we aren't in debt, and just because we have the money, doesn't make it okay to overbuy!   That money would be a whole lot better off reducing our mortgage debt.

I have a fairly simple budget, with a set amount ($260) each week which is for 'spending': groceries, clothes, gifts, coffees, books, movies, bus tickets, aquarium membership, small donations etc.    Money for the home loan, miscellaneous expenses (doctors, mechanics, trips to visit family, house maintenance), school fees, and bills automatically come out of the account each fortnight.   I keep track in a spreadsheet how much cash I have taken out each week, and how much I have spent on the credit card, and at the moment I'm over budget.

Averaged out over the 42 weeks of the year already past, I'm about $30 a week overspent.  This means I have only $130 a week to spend for the remainder of the year before I rework my budget for 2012, and I haven't even thought about Christmas yet.   Hmm.

The problem is that I've been in this same position at this time of the year for the last three years, ending the year about $1200 overspent.   So even though the amount I spend in a week in total is less than some people I know spend just on groceries, I'm consistently spending too much.

The Man says that maybe I haven't allocated enough money, and maybe the cost of food has gone up more than I think.  I still think that maybe I'm buying stuff I shouldn't be, including food.   I'm still struggling to not buy things just because I want them and they are a good price. I avoid shopping, I consider whether we really need it or not before I buy it, and try to stick with just using cash.

I'm thinking through some more strategies to keep on top of my spending.

What's your best strategy for keeping within budget?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Eating for (more than) two

I have lost 8 or 9 kg since the Small Boy was born, almost a year ago.

I had put on over 10kg in the four years between babies, and it was frustrating me because I couldn't quite work out how.  I know I probably could have exercised a bit more, but it wasn't like I was sitting on my backside all day.  I wasn't eating a lot of junk food or takeaway, but probably snacked a little more than I should have, though not that much more.

After the Small Boy was born, I was less than happy that I'd ended up 3 or 4 kilos heavier than my already-too-much pre-pregnancy weight.  I wasn't ridiculously overweight, but it was enough to be bothersome to me, and the trend was upwards and that was a problem.

A few months after he was born I happened to read an article when I was flipping through a magazine, and I was finally able to recognise my problem.  (The Old Me would have torn out the article and kept it for later, but I just left it in the magazine and changed my way of thinking, and my way of eating.)

This is what I learnt: stop eating for Just In Case.

I have no idea if I took away the message the author had intended, but what I realised was that I was eating for in case I got hungry, not because I was hungry.  I have stopped eating a mid-afternoon snack most days because I'm not actually hungry in the mid-afternoon.   If I don't feel like much lunch, it doesn't matter, I'll just eat something small.  I'm also trying to make just enough for the evening meal, rather than feeling like if I don't make enough we'll be hungry.  If anyone is still hungry after they've eaten, well there is fruit in the fridge!

Monday, October 17, 2011


After six weeks of waiting for a new laptop, and then some time deliberating over whether or not to continue my blog, I've decided to resurrect One Less.

I'm going to make a few changes, with a view to self-hosting in the future.  I'm still going to write about my  journey from hoarder to minimalist, but I'm going to expand that to what intentionally living with less looks like from the perspective of a Christian wife and stay-home mother, who is concerned for the environment but has been bought up in a society where 'green' equates to 'mung beans, armpit hair, and chaining yourself to trees', and is from Australia.  

Nice to see you all again.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Out of service

An incident involving my laptop, my husband's cup of coffee and an insurance claim has rendered me unable to blog until it is sorted out. On the upside, I'm being forced to spend less time online and am pleasantly surprised how much I can get done in a day (when the boys let me that is).

Friday, July 15, 2011

A New Paradigm

I've decided to put my money where my mouth is.  I've already changed my buying habits to be more conscious of how much I buy, now I want to become more conscious about what I am buying.

I am concerned for the wastefulness of our society's insatiable desire for stuff, and the effects that it has on the environment.   I am also concerned for the people who make my stuff, those who are being paid pittance to make my stuff so that I can have them so cheap, and those whose homelands are being being poisoned in the process.  I want to show love for my neighbour, and I believe that I am currently showing contempt because those who produce my stuff are invisible to me.

I'm starting with clothes and footwear, but also considering homewares, stationery, food and whatever else comes into my house.  I am willing to concede that my laptop and mobile phone probably won't meet my new standard.  

New things must be one or more of the following:

  • handmade
  • made in Australia (to ensure it hasn't travelled too far to reach me)
  • made from recycled products
  • organic and/or fair trade
  • secondhand 
  • durable and reusable
It will probably cost me more, but maybe it won't.  If I pay $30 for a t-shirt and it lasts a year, that's actually better than paying $8 for a t-shirt that lasts for three months. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Taxing Issue

On Sunday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced her Clean Energy Future and the details of the Carbon Tax.  

The idea, from what I understand, is that the biggest polluters will be charged a tax based on how much carbon dioxide they emit.  The big polluters are required to clean up their proceedings, but because of the extra costs to them, some costs will be passed on to the consumer through raised gas and electricity prices amongst other things.  Because prices will be higher, households will reduce their consumption, which in turn will reduce the amount of electricity etc that needs to be produced, and that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  The government is restructuring the tax system and increasing family assistance and pension payments to help cover the increased costs for those who can least afford them.  The proceeds of the tax will be invested in renewable energies and clean energy production. The opposition to the scheme is that everything will become more expensive, people are being overcompensated and will have no incentive to reduce consumption, it will destroy our economy, and it won't work anyway.

That's it in a nutshell.  I think.  Correct me if you think I've got it wrong!  I think a lot of Australians are a bit confused (at least, I hope I'm not the only one).

I have no idea whether this is a good thing or not.  I think we should be investing in renewable energy, and cleaning up our air is a brilliant idea, and if lots of countries do a little bit it all adds up to a lot. I have no idea if this is the right or wrong way of going about it.

However, from what I've seen everyone is talking about how much it's going to cost and avoiding the big elephant in the room: we need to reduce consumption.

This new scheme, if it does indeed come to pass, will cost the average household $10.10 per week, but the average household compensation will be $9.90 per week.   See, it's going to cost us all a lot!  But hang on, if they average household reduces consumption by $10.10 per week, won't they actually come out ahead?   That seems incentive to me to switch off more unused lights.

Cleaning up the air is only half the problem.  How have we got ourselves in the position of needing to reduce our carbon emissions? Overconsumption.   Whether you believe climate change is real or not, and if it is caused by human activity or not, can you accept that the insatiable desire for more stuff is not good?   Personally, I'm a 'climate change agnostic' who thinks it's better that we do something rather than nothing.  I am quite certain that there is only so much coal and copper in the ground, and only so much space we can devote to landfill. Eventually we will run out, whether it's very soon or not for a hundred years or more.

Everyone is saying we need to cut our carbon emissions, but no-one is saying that we need to change our lifestyle.  We are happy enough to save electricity, but we don't want to give up the good things we've got.   It's become normal that every driver has their own car, and that we live 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, two hours away from where we work.  We live on our own 'private estate' on a block of land in the suburbs and chew up agricultural land to do so, and so need to import more and more food.  We expect to be able to eat apples and tomatoes and bananas and broccoli and beans all year round and so we artificially ripen some, and ship the shortfall from the other side of the world.  And the food we do grow here: tomatoes grown in Bowen get sent to the distribution centres in Brisbane and Sydney, then back to Townsville. My tomatoes are being shipped thousands of kilometres when they are grown two hundred kilometres away!  And I was horrified to see when I visited Melbourne that tropical fruit cost less than it did here in the tropics.  On that, we expect to fly from one city to another whenever we want a holiday.  We want a bedroom for each of our children (plus a study) so they can house their own television, iPod and the mountain of toys we are told they need.  One cannot survive the Australian summer without a fully air-conditioned house, and pools are no longer for only the wealthy. We expect to do what we want, when we want, any time of day or night.  We need new clothes every season because the old ones are 'out of fashion' and we want them dirt cheap, so we send our cotton to China and they send it back as $5 t-shirts.  I say 'we' because I'm included.

If we in Australia are only contributing 2% of carbon emissions, and China contributes 20%, but we ship our resources to China so that they can make all sorts of goodies to ship back to us so we can buy them as washing machines and shoes and homewares and dolls so doesn't that make us responsible for some of China's emissions?

Sure, we can slap a tax on the big polluters and make them clean up their act so we can all feel good about ourselves,  but we aren't solving the problem.  

I am cutting my consumption - and not just of electricity - so that my kids can grow up in the beautiful and prosperous Australia that I love.   Will you join me?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

One Less: Washing Trolley

A few months ago our washing trolley lost a wheel, then another.    I don't actually use the trolley for pushing the basket back and forth from the laundry, and I tend to walk back and forth from the basket to the line anyway.  If I was honest, I would say I had a washing trolley because everyone needs a washing trolley.

I had just been using the trolley as a stand for the basket until we had to clear everything from the backyard before Cyclone Yasi in February.  Since then I have just put the basket on the ground and the basket of pegs hangs off the line. It's working surprisingly well.

My husband keeps saying just go out and buy a new one.  I was happy to make do without one until we had spare cash.  But now I've decided I'm just not going to bother.  I don't really need it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Staying Home

I left the workforce indefinitely before our first son was born.   I am university educated, but decided the most important thing for our children was to have Mum home full time.   Through a series of wise moves and some financial good luck, we can easily afford to live on one income if I manage the money well.

When I say I left the workforce indefinitely, I mean I have no intention of returning. Not even when all my children are at school.

As far as I'm concerned, parenting doesn't finish when I pass the kids off to their teacher.  I want to be available for my kids without the pressure of an employer.  After school, school holidays, vomiting bugs, trouble with classmates, athletics carnivals, school excursions, show and tell.  I want to be available for them all.  I want my kids to know that they can come home from school in the afternoon and debrief about their day if they need to when it's fresh in their minds, not when I've picked them up from After School Care and have to rush home to get food on the table before they watch some TV then go to bed.  I want to be able to know my kids' friends.  Until they are grown-ups, they need a grown-up to steer them through their choices: not so that I can keep them out of trouble, but that I can help them learn how to not get themselves into trouble.  I believe parenting is about quality AND quantity.

I can't quite bear the thought of spending my days making the house pretty and baking cakes, so I'm taking up writing - something that I've wanted to do since I was 13 - and we are hoping to split the work hours 50/50 between my husband and I so that he doesn't have to be so stressed by his job.

My husband teaches at a private school at the moment, and the Big Boy is enrolled to start Prep there next year.  The fees for the school are quite hefty, and being able to afford them on one teacher's salary will be a stretch.  If it gets too tight, I'm happy to move the kids to a public school.  (I'd be happy to send them to a public school now, but my husband thinks differently.)

The best school plus two incomes to pay for it, or an average school and a parent home to support the children?  I want the latter because I know that schools aren't perfect, and just because the school is brilliant doesn't mean that all the students are people you want your children to be friends with.

My family is the most important thing to me, and I don't want to be chasing after so many things that we need to full time incomes to pay for them all.  Something has to be sacrificed: my family or the things. The wonderful thing about having discovered minimalism is that I've learnt that things are easy to sacrifice when you learn that they don't matter.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Shopping Rules

I love a good bargain.  I can spot clearance signs a mile away!  Even my wedding dress was $99, marked down from $549!

However, I have had a tendency to buy things marked down because they are cheap, even if they don't fit, or I don't have an immediate need for it. It is cheap, therefore I will buy it because that might come in handy one day.  Fellow hoarders, I'll let you in on a secret: it rarely actually comes in handy! 

Here are a few rules I try to follow, to keep my bargain hunting in check:

1. Try It On!  Do not buy an item of clothing if I haven't tried it on to make sure it fits properly.  I seem to have size 10 shoulders, 12 bust, 14 waist and 16 hips.  Even if it is only $2.87 on a clearance rack at Target, I still need to make sure it fits my bust without gaping around my shoulders, or my hips without gaping at my waist.  I have bought far too many things that haven't fit well, and ended up getting rid of them because I don't like wearing them.

2. Be realistic about repairs and alterations.  Sewing a button back on is easy, and worth getting the marked down item for.  Replacing a zip isn't.  I have methods for taking in waists, but only as a last resort.  Adjusting sizes is easy on some things, but not others. I found a skirt once for $6 that was two or three sizes too big, but was a simple a-line that I took home and ran a new seam up the side and then got a tonne of wear from it.  I also have a cute dress in my box of unfinished sewing projects that, well, it proved a little too hard to make the skirt part bigger.

3. Only buy it if I actually want it, not because it is dirt cheap.  I have bought marked down stuff at the supermarket a gazillion times because it's cheap but then don't find a use for it, or no-one really likes it anyway.

4. Only buy it if I need it.  It's better to get the marked down option rather than the full priced one if I was buying it anyway, but not just because it is marked down.   Kitchen gadgets, sewing notions, gardening supplies, clothes, books: I'm guilty of buying all these things because they are cheap, even though I don't need them. And, surprise surprise, most have been left unused or only used a few times before realising they were a waste of money.

5. Only look at sales racks, especially clothing, if I'm looking for something in particular, and be satisfied to pay full price if I can't find something on the sales rack.  I have settled for second best too many times because I haven't wanted to pay full price.  Second best ends up as clutter.

I once heard a saying: a bargain is an item that you don't really need but is too cheap to leave behind.   I'm practising leaving it behind because spending money on things I don't need is just wasteful. no matter how much it has been reduced by,

Friday, June 10, 2011


It’s a long weekend here.  Our church is holding it’s annual camp, and we are going.  I wasn’t planning on going this year because of the logistics of camping with a baby, but Big Boy has been asking for the last eleven months when we would be going on Family Camp again, so off we go.  
The problem with camping is the amount of equipment we need, and how much I need to get organised.  Tent, sleeping bags, something to sleep on, cooking equipment, food, chairs, clothes. It’s hard to pack small when you have to fit everything in the car with four people.  And I have to do it all myself this time because my husband is working overtime to get his report cards written.
I’m doing my best to take only what we need, which is a fair bit when we are travelling with small children who need entertaining during the grown-ups talks, and who are likely to get too dirty to re-wear clothes. We need a table and stand for our little BBQ to make meals easier and safer.  We don’t need chairs, but I’d rather have a chair to sit in while breastfeeding, and it’s nice to chill back in a comfy folding chair.  It’s also expected to be a little colder than usual this weekend. I’m doing fairly simple food so as to take as little equipment as possible  , but I need to make sure we have enough food so that we aren’t caught short.
We do love camping, but unfortunately we haven’t done much of it for the last few years.  I think we have only used our tent five times in the last 2 1/2 years since we bought it.   Our options for going camping are for a one night trip on a weekend, but weekends during term time are full of doing schoolwork and “stuff maintenance”, or we can go for a few days during on or more of the school holidays, two of which we spend travelling down to visit my in-laws who are unable to come to us because of ill health, and we spend the other two holidays catching up on “stuff maintenance” that we’ve fallen behind on during the school terms.  And it all seems like a lot of effort with little kids when we can’t find others who want to come with us.  
If we had less “stuff maintenance” because we had less “stuff” - lawns, windows, overstuffed cupboards that need sorting, that sort of thing - then we could spend more weekends or a few days in the holidays, throwing a tent and some food in the back of the car and spending a night in a National Park somewhere.  Being too busy with “stuff” means we are missing out on an activity that we actually like doing, and have to allocate a portion of our house for storing camping equipment that we only use once a year.   In reality, we need to either ditch the surplus “stuff” or ditch the camping gear.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Bus? But where's your car?

We only have one car.  We manage quite fine.   If I need to go anywhere, I either arrange to have the car that day, or I go there on the days that I already have the car.   If the bus is convenient, one of us is happy to catch the bus.

My husband is a school teacher, and in Australia it is coming up to the end of first semester when report cards are sent home.  He needed to go into school today for a few hours, so after church he took the car to work, and the kids and I caught a bus into the markets in the city mall, then caught the bus back to school.

In conversations after church this morning I mentioned that we were going to catch the bus, and I got two screwed up noses, one with a 'Where's your car?'

'Normal' people don't catch buses here. Buses are seen as for people who can't afford a car.    But if people were the least bit interested, I'd be happy to explain to them that every 10km I drive in my car costs me $1.45 in petrol, and just owning a second car would cost us between $7 and $12 a day. I'd happily tell them that the most I would ever pay for a return bus trip is $7.40, but my usual fare is $2.20 for a one way.   I would tell them that second car would be one extra thing to look after: to service, to clean, to insure, to find a place to park out of the weather.    I'd be quite happy to explain to people that we probably could afford a second car, we but we don't really need one and can find much better uses for that money.  I'd even happily tell them what bus routes go past their house, or at least how they could find out.   I'd happily tell them how I structure my week so that we barely notice not having two cars.   I'd love to tell them how I swallowed my pride and discovered that buses aren't all that bad, even if our local network isn't quite as efficient as it could be.

But unfortunately, no-one is really interested.  Most people will just screw up their nose and say "Why would you catch a bus?  Where's your car?"

(Actually, two people are interested.  My little sister who admitted to me this morning that she doesn't even know how to catch a bus, but is interested to know more.  And my four-year-old who told me the other day that cars are better than buses because you have to pay to get on a bus.  I explained that we have to pay the government to be allowed to drive on their roads, and pay for petrol, and pay for insurance, and he told me 'and you have to buy a car to drive!'  He's getting the idea!)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The removal of another shopping temptation

Yesterday I found myself in Bunnings because I wanted a nice trellis to grow my beans up.  I didn't need it: I surely could have worked out a cheaper, simpler option, but I wanted obelisk shaped trellises to look pretty.   Bunnings was on my way to where I was going, so it was a good place to shop.  I haven't been to Bunnings for a long time, definitely not since I have taken on minimalism, and probably not in almost a year.   I have been doing so well avoiding temptation buying stuff and yet in Bunnings I felt compelled to buy.  I didn't buy anything I didn't need - I left with only the trellises, and a hose nozzle that I remembered my husband had asked me to get - but it was hard work to do so.

For those outside of Australia and New Zealand, Bunnings Warehouse is a hardware store.  A massive hardware store, with a tagline of 'Lowest prices are just the beginning'.  My local Bunnings is directly under the flight path, about 2km from the runway.  When you see the planes go overhead, they look as though they could probably fit inside the massive shed.  Inside are rows and rows of timber and nails and tools and fertilisers and taps and light fittings and barbeques and outdoor furniture and mosquito repelling candles, and outside are rows and rows of playground equipment and plants and pots and bricks. They advertise as having over 45000 products, and have an awful lot of those on display.  There are plenty of staff running around in red shirts, and if you are lucky enough you might be able to get the attention of one of them, who may or may not belong in the department you need help in.

Most things in Bunnings are cheap, or at least appear so.  Because they are so big they can buy in big quantities and get a better deal.  Bunnings advertise that they will beat any price by 10%, which makes them appear a whole lot cheaper than what they are, but it is a little sneaky.  There is a noticeboard in the doorway which shows pages from other store's catalogues, with items highlighted and the Bunnings price shown as comparison.  Yesterday I noticed a packet of batteries for $3 in the Kmart catalogue with the Bunnings price: $2.97.  But, the vast majority of products are Bunnings' own lines.  They don't say 'Bunnings' on them anywhere, but neither will you find them in any other stores.  These products are comparatively priced to something you might find in another hardware store, or another department store such as Kmart (who are, incidentally, owned by the some company).  So even though they say they will beat any price by 10%, they know full well that the customer aren't going to find a lot of their products elsewhere, anyway. The quality of their own lines of products are ordinary at best.

The truth is that there is so much more in the store than we need.  And by 'we' I mean 'most people who live in Townsville'.  Yesterday I saw braziers and brussels sprouts seeds: it is not cold enough here for either!   (Okay, I'll be honest tonight it is cold enough for a brazier, but it is one of about ten nights of the year.)   Bunnings plays on our desire to have the beautiful gardens we see on Better Homes and Gardens, to renovate our kitchen like on Domestic Blitz, and be our own home handymen like real Aussie blokes.  Bunnings run DIY workshops every weekend then direct you to where to buy all the equipment.  Everything to make your 'castle' more beautiful is there, out on display, tempting you to take it home.

It's not just the things to make our lives more beautiful that are out on display, it's all the practical stuff as well.  Down the main aisles are bins of goods like buckets, extension leads, WD40, lightbulbs, spray bottles.  Oh, that is a good price, and I could always do with another - , I'll get one.  But isn't that how most department stores make their money, lots of people buying lots of little things they don't really need?  The reality is I just don't NEED all the things that they are throwing in my face.  Those extra torches, extra fertiliser, the metal butterfly for my my garden, and the pack of five rolls of masking tape, all just end up in my cupboard doing nothing.

Yesterday was my final trip to Bunnings.  It doesn't matter if they are actually cheaper.  There are other hardware stores on the odd occasion that I actually need one.  Like the True Value up the road from where my husband works.  I've been in there once before, and the man in the store was incredibly helpful. Thinking about it, I'm not sure why I haven't been back.  The lure of lower prices I guess.  There is a local nursery a bit our of my way, but it's not like I need to go there every week.

You're right Bunnings.  Lowest prices ARE just the beginning: the beginning of filling my home with needless clutter.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

One Less: Box of Staples

You know, I don't really need 10000 staples, six pairs of scissors, six sharpeners, 10 Post-it note pads, 5 liquid paper pens, 20 bulldog clips, 8 erasers, or 4 rulers, especially not when most of those have been sitting in a box, unused, on my shelf for 4, 6, 8, 10 years.

Stationery downsized from two boxes to one.  Excess stationery going to my sister who is 1/6 of the way through a business degree, so will probably benefit from it more than me.  Broken and no-longer working stuff: binned.  Remaining items in the box are on borrowed time.  I think we can drop to a box 1/3 of the size.

What was I thinking buying that many staples in the first place?

Monday, May 30, 2011

One less: outdated clothes

I pulled out all my folded clothes, threw them on the bed and sorted them into piles according to style.   Should I confess right now that I found unworn clothing, still with tags?  And I have multiples of the same colour.

I decided now was the time to part with my graduation outfit from when I finished high school.  Yes, yes, it was only 13 1/2 years ago, but I figured that I'm never actually going to fit it again, seeing as I don't even intend on being my grade 12 size again, and after two babies I'm just generally bigger.  Besides, I cannot actually picture an occasion to which I would wear a black and gold lace halter top.

It was also the time to part with a few tired clothes that I've kept to just wear around the house - how many do I really need! - and the parachute silk pants with the broken zip that I've kept in case we do another trip to the snow.  Also gone are the jeans that never really fit properly.  Winter only lasts a few weeks here: here's to not spending those weeks in uncomfortable pants!

I am hanging on to things in multiple sizes. Shock, horror, gasp! A big minimalist no-no, I know, but my breastfeeding size is a little bigger than my ordinary size, and I'm actively trying to lose the extra kilos I found in between babies.  It's not actually multiple sizes, it's two different sizes to accommodate my body's not-finished-having-babies-yet flux in size and shape.   I promise that when I'm done all the too big stuff will go!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

One less: shirt

I have one less shirt in my wardrobe today, and one less pair of shoes.   Neither of them I actually wanted to get rid of, but the shirt had been eaten by something and was riddle with holes, and the heel broke off my boots.

It was a favourite shirt.  So soft, so comfortable.  If it was such a favourite, how did it get eaten, I hear you ask?  It had 3/4 length sleeves and was made from pure wool.  I live in the tropics, and the weather here is only mild enough to wear things with such sleeves for a few weeks a year.  Those few weeks last year I was wearing maternity clothing, so the shirt has been in amongst a pile of clothes for nearly two years.

To be honest, I have too many shirts with sleeves.  I kept buying them because I really like that style and they were on the clearance rack.  I just kept buying shirts because I liked them, and now I have more 'winter clothes' than I can wear each winter.  Now, to choose which ones to let go....

The boots I let go of broke today.  I'd bought them on ebay for 99c.  Living where I do, I couldn't justify $99 for a pair of boots that I would only wear a few times a year.  I had them for two or three years, and the soles fell apart completely today, and I had to put them in the bin.   The problem with this is that I now have one less pair of shoes that I can wear socks with which means I need to stop putting off clearing out my sock drawer.  I am pretty sure I have more pairs of socks than we have days of winter, and I wear open shoes on most of the non-winter days.

I need to clean out the bottom of my wardrobe, too. It kind of vomited when I went looking for a shirt when winter arrived suddenly this week.  I'm hoping to have plenty to give away by the time I'm done.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Power of the Shopping Mall

From last night's Hungry Beast:

Unfortunately, Blogger wasn't letting me embed the video, so if it won't play for you try here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

More or less cluttered?

I've been sorting through my digital photo collection - over 7000 photos!    I noticed in a few photos that the house looked less cluttered three years ago than it does now, despite having devoted a lot of time over the last three years to decluttering.  Some days I feel defeated by the mess and clutter, and the appearance of no progress doesn't help.

I have a few theories:

a) we have more furniture.  A piano and a 8 seat dining table will make a room look a lot fuller than just a 6 seat dining table.
b) we have more toys.  I thought we had too many toys when Big Boy was a toddler, but we have twice as many now.
c) we have less stuff stored in cupboards and bedrooms, because I've sorted a lot of that stuff.
d) it is only in the last year or so that I have been consciously buying less, and only in the last six months that I have started to get the hang of buying less. Really, as much as has been coming back into the house as has been leaving the house.

But it has given me a little more motivation to:
a) continue buying less
b) try and be a little tidier.  I'm not a tidy person to start with, let alone with three other people in the house who don't tidy up after themselves either (yes, one of those is a grown up).  I need to declutter and tidy together in order to not keep feeling defeated by the clutter and mess.
c) continue to get rid of stuff that I don't need.
d) be patient.  The clutter didn't get here overnight, no will it disappear overnight, especially not with two children who need a lot of my attention.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Home Inventory

Last night, my computer had its systems updated and this morning a new App Store icon showed up on my dock.  (Of course I'm a Mac user: it's the first step to becoming a minimalist, isn't it?)

Having a little browse tonight I've become quite excited about Home Inventory.  It looks like the perfect program for a nerd like me who likes to categorise everything, but more than that, it looks like the perfect way to keep track of receipts, product names and model numbers, and when we bought the item without having to hang on to the paper copy.

I'd also been considering taking an inventory of my whole house, partly because we are considering a move in the near-ish future, and want to seriously consider how much space we actually need.   I might consider buying this app to do the job, rather than making up a spreadsheet, unless I can easily attach scanned receipts and photos to a spreadsheet.

Has anyone used this, or something similar?

A procrastination post

I decided I had better deal with a box full of junk.  A box that I had thrown in various things one day when I was doing one of those 'people are coming! quick, tidy the house!' clean ups.  You know, the ones that I wouldn't need to have if I didn't have so much clutter.

I've sent the 'artwork' to the recycling bins. There are only so many Kindy projects that I need to keep, and that's a pretty small number.

I've got a pile of things that need to just be put away.  A couple of board game instructions, a few articles that I need to read and decide whether to keep it or not.

There is a sewing project that just needs ten or fifteen minutes of attention to be finished.

Then there is the rest:  a pack of cards (I guess I should determine whether it is a whole pack or not), a heap of candles from when I went through a candles-and-oils-to-make-the-house-smell-nice phase (that only lasted a few weeks), some coins I saved from our New Zealand trip last year to go into my husband's coin collection (don't even ask how they still haven't got into the collection nine months later), some photos to be scrapbooked (some of them are from Big Boy's second birthday, and now he's four -and-a-half - I haven't scrapbooked much in a while), a pair of swimming goggles, a timber whistle, some computer games that don't work on my computer, the charger from our old camera (which died in NZ), a peg, a pen, nail clippers, dolls clothes (despite having two sons), wood glue, a tennis ball, my spare glasses (I'm paranoid about breaking my glasses and not being able to see until I can get them fixed!), and some manicure stuff (I don't really pay much attention to my nails, so they were probably a gift).

Some of these things have been shifted from one place to another, and then another.  I tend to get caught up in the fact that something is still useful, or that a paid good money for it and hang on to things that I will never use anyway.   If I want to avoid last minute clean ups, and not have a cluttered home, then I need to make those tough decisions about the things in my box.    And I need to stop procrastinating.

I WANT to be a minimalist, even if the journey is painful at times.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Maintaining Our Lifestyle

There is something that has been bothering me for a while, something I haven't been able to put my finger on.   Minimalist Mum touched on it last weekend, which got my cogs turning, because it was just as I finished a fantastic book, Confessions of an Eco Sinner: Travels to Find Where My Stuff Comes From, by Fred Pearce.  Then I just saw an online ad for income protection insurance and it crystallised the problem:

You can't always maintain your current lifestyle.

Life and income insurance are marvellous products - we have both - but something sat wrong with me while we were getting quotes and more information.  I had always assumed that if something happened to my husband, I would pay out the mortgage with the existing insurance on my husband's superannuation, sell and move somewhere smaller, work a few days a week, and get by with support from my family and church.  If I lost my husband my whole world would be turned upside down: I know, because it happened to our family when I was a child.   But life insurance is sold as a way to safeguard your current way of life.  It is recommended to have enough insurance to replace the other person's income for equivalent years as if they had remained alive.   We have enough insurance to cover the remainder of the house, and a year or two of income until we found our new normal.   You can't always maintain your current lifestyle, no matter how an insurance package is sold.

Fred Pearce's book was a very thought provoking book.  My husband commented that it must have been good, because I took so long to read it.  Pearce travelled the globe in search of information about the sources of his food, clothing, and general goods, as well as the working conditions of the people producing them.  I was inspired to use less stuff, as my innocent purchases had big impacts on the lives of other people, often less fortunate than myself.  But his conclusions were that we just need more sustainable solutions.  Much of the 'green economy' is about that - you don't have to give up anything to live an ethical or environmentally considerate life, just choose 'natural', 'eco-friendly' products.  A lot of these products are fantastic, and green is better than not green, but I'm not convinced that is on its own is the path to environmental sustainability.  You can't always maintain your current lifestyle, no matter how much you are 'greenwashed' into thinking that you can.

I am not in paid employment.  I spend my days at home with my kids.  I haven't gone back to work because we see huge value in kids having a parent home full time, and we are able to make do on one income.  There are many, many families who can't manage on a single income.  But there are families like my brother-in-law and his wife: he earns more than my husband, but she has put her young children into childcare to work part-time because money is always so tight.  Not because their needs are great, but because their wants are great.  Going back to work isn't a bad thing in and of itself - sometimes it is a necessity, but it isn't always.  You can't always maintain your current lifestyle, no matter what the Joneses and their kids have.

Before our last Federal election there was much talk about ideal population size for a 'sustainable Australia'.  Both sides of politics sprouted policies that would mean growing our population without sacrificing the Australian lifestyle.  How?  Won't we run out of space if we keep expanding our cities outwards? Developers put in lots of green space and walkways, but all miles away from amenities so we are still car dependent.  You can't always maintain your current lifestyle, no matter how shiny the bureaucrats can make it look.

Lifestyle, I've realised, is codeword for stuff.  Lifestyle is having the spacious house, the second car, eating at nice places, holidays, upgraded TVs and Nintendo DSs.  Lifestyle is not giving up what is comfortable.  Lifestyle is keeping up appearances.

Change happens.  Sometimes by choice, sometimes not.  Sometimes it is good, sometimes not.  Sometimes we have to be willing to change our lifestyle to go along with our voluntary, or involuntary, life changes.  

A simple lifestyle seems to me to be far more conducive to change and flexibility.  Whether it's a positive change, like a growing family or looking after our planet, or a negative change, like losing a family member or a job, a lifestyle of needing less stuff means a lifestyle more adaptable to having less stuff out of necessity.   

I know what lifestyle I want to maintain.

Monday, April 25, 2011

the memory box

This morning I sorted through a box of sentimental junk.   I do this periodically.  I throw out stuff that doesn't hold the same meaning as it used to.   I'm still upset that I accidentally threw out a box of letters a few years ago, but I've never missed anything that I've lost.

It's all gone now into a clear 10L plastic box, which is only half full (though, I've got a feeling there's more in the garage).  The cockroaches can't get it, and it's a limit to how much I can keep.  I have an identical box for special pieces of the boys' artwork and first handwriting etc.  I threw out a few things that I have no idea why I kept them.

They stack nicely in the top of my wardrobe, with a third box of old toys that belonged to my late father.  They are over fifty years old, and some are still in their original condition (hmm... maybe the hoarding is genetic?), and I'm not sure what to do with them.  Mum held on to them because she thinks they could be worth a bit of money, and some are probably worth displaying.  I guess I should do some investigating, because I don't know if I need them hanging out in the top of my wardrobe!

I haven't really kept much sentimental stuff for a long time, maybe because I'm semi-conscious that I've thrown out quite a bit over time.  Most of what I had kept was from my last few years of high school, and my years spent teaching, both bittersweet periods, more so than any other time.  In fact, all that I've put in their over the last few years has been the clips from my babies' umbilical cords!   Maybe I'll need to downgrade to an even smaller box in the next few years?      

How not to have less!

This morning, I was flipping through a food magazine that my grandmother had passed on to me.  She buys a lot of them, and they get passed to her daughters and then on to me.  I used to read them all and tear out recipes to try, but after realising I was never going to get through that pile of recipes, I now just flip through a couple of magazines and pass the whole lot on to someone else.

A paragraph struck me in the 'everyday cooks notes' section:
Investment Strategy
Considering a new kitchen appliance?  Before you hand over the credit card, ask three key questions; where will I put it, how often will I use it, and this time next year, will I be finding a new home for it? Then, to keep things interesting, allow yourself one irrational purchase per year.
And that one purchase, does it matter where you'll put it, how often you'll use it or whether you'll still be using it next year?      But, magazines make their money from advertising, and if people were always rational with their purchases, then the magazine industry would probably collapse.  What a shame.  Okay, end sarcasm.

I think the thing that most struck me was that this snippet struck me at all!   How much has my thinking changed.   I'm not going to buy a Cuisinart ice-cream maker ($119) or a Redecker vegetable scrubber ($8.95), both advertised on the same page, because I don't need them.  Okay, I want the ice cream maker, but the three or four times a year I would use it doesn't really warrant the purchase, or the space in my kitchen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

One Less Pile of Papers

I had a subscription to Gardening Australia magazine for three years, and occasionally buy Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  After I'd read each issue I'd tear out all the 'useful' pages and put them in a folder.  This afternoon I went through the whole lot and threw out three quarters of the pages.

The problem with magazine articles is that they only provide limited information: they mostly contain nice pictures.  The problem with gardening information is that I live in the tropics, but the bulk of the Australian population doesn't.  Sydney and Melbourne are far from tropical - more mediterranean and temperate climates - so much of the information about what to plant when is irrelevant to me.  Crikey, if I waited until Melbourne Cup Day (first Tuesday of November) to plant my tomatoes I would never have tomatoes: they are a winter crop up this way.

I've just kept a small pile of 'ideas' for if we want to do some renovating, or decorating.  Just a few things.  I threw out a lot that I didn't like anymore, so I'm okay with keeping a few things if I'm willing to sort through them every so often.


I bought a new handbag yesterday from the World Vision shop.  It's handmade by a lady in Ghana, and is small, light, and has a couple of pockets for my bits and pieces - like a spare nappy, and a comb.   When I need to take extra stuff, I'll take an extra bag.  I'll attempt to sell my oversized bag.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pure Wipes

In my posting haste last night I forgot to add a link to Pure Wipes.   I originally bought them to clean grubby hands and faces when we were travelling around New Zealand last year, because they were very compact to fit in my bag.  They come in a little tube of ten, and are made of pure cotton. Just add a little water, about a tablespoon does the job, and you have a face washer.  Refill packs of 80 wipes are available.  

Just thinking about it, I could probably ditch the baby wipes and just use Pure Wipes when we are out.  We aren't often out long enough to need to do nappy changes away from home, and I usually only use wipes for a messy job (if you get my drift).  I don't use baby wipes at all at home: only face washers.  I bought a bulk pack of wipes because that was the most economical solution, but I usually only use disposable wipes and nappies full time when we are travelling. (More on that another day.)

Pure Wipes are considerably more expensive than Huggies wipes, and Huggies are the most expensive brand of wipes.  I buy Huggies because they do the best job. The tube of ten Pure Wipes takes up no more than a fifth of the space of the Huggies Travel Pack.  The Pure Wipes need water. But, considering I only use one or two wipes a week on average, and if I need to use a wipe I'm hopefully going to be near water anyway: the change room, a drink bottle, a coffee shop (dirty faces not dirty bottoms!!!).  

The space saved by the Pure Wipes outweighs the extra cost ($10 a year?). The convenience of the already-wet-wipes is a little harder to give up, but if I'm organised enough to always have water with me - and, I live in North Queensland so I should anyway- that shouldn't be an issue.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Excess baggage: my handbag

My handbag is too big and too full and too heavy. I bought a new one just before Christmas, and it’s been annoying me since just after Christmas. 
Once upon a time I used to just carry my wallet, phone and keys in a tiny little bag.  During the semester I would also have a pen and my student diary, but I’d leave them at home during term breaks, and would usually change handbags on weekends.  If I didn't need it while I was out, why bother lugging it around with me! 
When I had my first baby my handbag contained:
  • wallet
  • phone
  • keys
  • travel size baby wipes
  • one disposable nappy 
  • glasses case (I now wear glasses full time and prefer to wear sunglasses when I’m outside, and obviously need prescription sunglasses) 
  • pen 
  • a muslin wrap which I used as a breastfeeding cover, or a change mat, or a light blanket, or to wipe up spills.  
  • when the baby was a bit older I also kept a small container with a couple of biscuits in it, and a drink bottle, and left the wrap out because I didn’t really use it anymore. 
I kept two more spare nappies and a change of clothes in the car, and if I knew I would need more than that I would take it with me. 
But, seeing as somehow in between babies I’ve managed to make my whole life incredibly more complicated, I’ve now ended up with a huge handbag with far too much in it.  Well, I think it is huge.  Apparently it’s not that big.  
In my handbag today I have:
  • wallet
  • phone
  • keys
  • glasses case
  • small notebook for writing things down when I think of them at the shops
  • larger notebook for when I want to do some writing at a coffee shop while Big Boy is at Kindy and if Small Boy is asleep
  • a disposable nappy
  • a slightly larger travel case of baby wipes (but it is refillable, so I don’t mind too much that it is bigger)
  • muslin wrap
  • spare clothes for the baby and spare underpants for Big Boy. 
  • a folder with crayons and a notebook for Big Boy’s amusement
  • a small pencil case containing a pen, lipgloss, lip balm, an emery board, and a tube of Pure Wipes
  • A small stack of loyalty cards for various stores all tied up with a rubber band (it means I don’t have them all in my wallet and can have a smaller wallet but still have the loyalty cards)  
My bag is twice as big because I have twice as much stuff in there. I don’t hear my phone ring, and I have trouble finding my keys.  And guess what. I don’t even need it all. I don’t need the Pure Wipes when I’ve got baby wipes anyway: they’re left from when I only had a toilet trained but still messy toddler. I forget about the lip balm because it’s tucked away inside a case, and don’t really use it that often anyway.  I don’t use either notebook enough to warrant carrying them all the time.  I managed without spare clothes in my bag when my first son was a baby, I’m sure I can still manage now. 
Sadly, I spent a lot of money on this bag.  I wanted a nice leather handbag that would see me out five years or more, and had been looking few a weeks weeks at different bags and had narrowed down between two or three bags. I had a 30% off voucher for a particular bag store, and had decided I would get a bag there.   But then I saw this other bag, one that I hadn’t seen before.  It would definitely hold all I needed (or didn’t need, as it turns out), and it was very stylish bag.  It was black, not the red that I was hoping for this time, but it was very nice.  It also cost somewhat more than what I had intended on spending.   But it was ‘perfect’ and i had to have it.  And the kids were getting grumpy and my husband was starting to get that ‘just make a decision’ look in his eyes.   It was an impulse purchase.
It is still a lovely bag.  It’s just too big for me.   I might try selling it and getting something smaller and a little more wieldy.  But first I need to get all the unnecessary junk out of it!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I Love Shoes

When I was 19 I had a pair of leather sandals (much like the ones in the picture) and a pair of dark green Doc Martens, and rarely wore my other shoes: a pair of imitation reef sandals, a pair of slippers, and a some old black army boots that I wore to work (I was working in a cleaning job.)  That was all I needed.
Then the sandals wore out. And I bought a pair of joggers so I could walk to work from where I was housesitting.  Then I started my teaching prac and needed appropriate shoes.  Then I was bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding.  Then I needed shoes to go with a dress to wear to the races on Melbourne Cup Day.  Then I had a job where I was on my feet all day and needed a good comfortable pair of shoes. And then and then and then. 
Ten years later and I have four pairs of high heels, one low heel, two sandals, a pair of joggers, black patent knee high boots, black leather mary jane style shoes, a pair of loafers, thongs (flip-flops?), sandshoes, another cute little pair of mary janes with butterflies on them that I love but they hurt my feet (I bought them on Ebay and think I’ll sell them again), a pair of slippers (possibly the same pair I had ten years ago), and my green Docs (yes, I still have them). And last week I threw out two pairs of shoes that had fallen apart.  A couple of months ago another pair of shoes fell apart and I threw them out, I sold my seldom worn Chuck Taylors on Ebay, and I have another pair of shoes sitting in my pile of things to sell.  
I love going into shoe shops and looking at the cute shoes and the funky shoes.  The problem is, the shoes I really like cost a lot of money.  And my foot is a little wider than average, and not all shoe brands make half sizes, and even then some don’t fit.  And I don’t have places to keep nor occasion to wear most of the shoes that I see and like.  And remember those days when I just had two pairs of shoes I wore everywhere... I loved that.  And when I think about it, it’s actually not that broad a range of shoes that I actually like.  I (mentally) screwed up my nose at shoes that my sister had bought recently, and I do that with a lot of shoes in the fancy shoe shops. It’s just that the shoes I love seem to outshine all the ones that I’d never dream of wearing.  
My ideal minimal shoe wardrobe contains high heels, low heels, a comfy-wear-anywhere slip-on shoe, a comfy flat sandal, a pair of shoes I can go walking in, closed in shoes for the cooler months, and a pair of thongs.   Bonus luxuries would include my knee high boots, which I only wear a handful of times a year because it is rarely cold enough (I bought mine for 99c on Ebay because I couldn’t justify the expense of a new pair), and another pair of coloured shoes - high or low heels, sandals, mary janes, doesn’t matter - because that would add a little more variety and help keep my clothes to a minimum. 
If I could only have two pairs of shoes? Black leather mary-janes and a comfy brown slip-on thong-style shoe.
I don’t really need all the shoes I have, I just thought that I because I love shoes, and collection of gorgeous shoes would be a good thing to have.  The truth is, I love having a small range of comfortable shoes.   And it isn’t shoes that I love, it is a particular style, into which shoes often fall.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The high chair dilemma

We have a high chair that we used with Big Boy.  Small Boy is almost ready to use a high chair.  The problem is that the high chair has been sitting out in the garage for 3 years and is looking a bit yuck.   A quick Facebook poll yesterday showed most of my friends would bin it and buy a new one.  There is an appropriate one on a good sale this week: simple, easy to clean, $34.

But, waste is still waste, and $34 is still $34.  I'm trying to learn to not buy things just because I want them.

I'm going to use up the last of some generic brand Napisan that doesn't work as well as the real thing and give the chair a scrub, douse it in some vinegar, and leave it in the sun for a couple of hours.  I've got a roll of that sticky book covering plastic that I don't need, and that will make a good cover for the tray - the only bit that food comes into contact before going into bub's mouth.  If I don't think it has come clean enough for my baby to eat from - and let's face it, in a few months he's going to be crawling around on my floor (gasp!) anyway - then I will buy a new one.

My new motto, which I read somewhere on the blogosphere but can't for the life of me remember where, is Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.   I will only buy new things if I genuinely need it and actually have the money for it!   Even high chairs.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Post Maternity Clothes: lessons learnt

After Small Boy was born I couldn't fit into most of my clothes, so I bought a 'temporary' wardrobe, which I'm still wearing four months later: 6 skirts, 2 shorts, 9 tops.   I haven't been bored with my selection, but I have been a little frustrated because it was mostly bought in a rush and just had to buy what would fit and not necessarily what I would ordinarily choose.  I've lost all the baby weight, so I should try on some of my old clothes and see what fits again.
To be honest, I’m hesitant to start raiding my old wardrobe because I like having so few clothes. 
I can’t quite believe that I’m actually saying that. Somewhere, somehow, the connection between my clothes and my identity has been detached and I didn’t even notice.  
I remember the days when I would dream up outfits the day before. Clothes were an outlet for my creativity, but also a means of drawing attention to myself.  An emotionally tough childhood saw me doing a lot of things as a teenager and young to get people to notice me and like me. Which is crazy, because, in reality, I’m an introverted person who likes to stay out of the spotlight.  I have found people now who love me unconditionally: my husband and two sons. I don’t need a wardrobe full of clothes to impress them! 
But more recently, my clothes were a symbol of who I was.  I wanted people to know I was more than just a mum.  Soon my shoe collection was expanding to include more heels and pretty shoes, and my clothes became more dressy than cargo pants and t-shirts.  But, I know that I am more than just a mum: I’m a wife, a musician, a writer. I am an intelligent, educated woman.  I thirst for knowledge and I read and analyse everything that comes in my path.  Wearing jeans or a cocktail dress doesn’t change who I am. 
Having less clothes hasn’t meant I am less creative in what I wear.  Necklaces, scarves and earrings don’t take up much space and can change an outfit.  Heels instead of flats can change an outfit, and I only need one of each.   Less clothes doesn’t mean not choosing items that I love and that suit me best. I can still buy a piece of fabric and make my own skirt that I won’t find in the shops.  I just don’t need ten of those skirts hanging in my wardrobe at once. 
Less clothes means I can see easily what’s in my wardrobe. I don’t have a mountain of ironing that needs to be done.  I wear shorts and skirts two days a row if I can (it’s too sweaty here to wear shirts twice!).   In future, there won’t be things hanging in my wardrobe that I feel bad about buying and not wearing because I will have purposefully bought the item, not just grabbed it off a clearance rack because it was cheap and looked nice. 
So what have I learnt from having such a tiny selection of clothes for the last four months?  I don’t need as many clothes as I thought I did.