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.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

One Less Belt

Last week I had six belts.   So I got rid of the three that don't fit around my post-childbirth waist.   Two of them are on borrowed time and will need to prove their worthiness to me.   The other one is a nice brown leather belt that I wear regularly.  


Sunday, March 13, 2011

So. Much. Space.

I saw a house for sale in a riverside suburb of my town yesterday.   I had a look at it on the realtor's website.  It was stunning, to say the least.

Five bedrooms, five bathrooms.   His and hers studies off the parents' retreat.  A media room.  I counted three different lounge rooms in the photos, as well as two dining rooms.  The laundry had more benches and cupboards than my kitchen, and a kitchen double the size of my kitchen.  Then there was a patio that looked like it could have been as big as my whole house!

The ad claimed floor space of 1200m2.  That's 13000 square feet.

I have no idea what I would do with that much space. Maybe share it with another family, or two.  Or three.  And hire a full time cleaner.

But fortunately I don't have $2.5 million to spend on a house.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Maternity clothes: a lesson learnt

During my last pregnancy I needed maternity clothes from about 12 weeks.  With my first baby, I managed with mostly what I had in my wardrobe until 20 weeks, but this time my belly popped out sooner.

I started out buying a belly band, so that I could extend the wear of my regular clothes for a little longer, theoretically for the entire pregnancy.  That's all well and good if your waist and hips are the same dress size, but mine aren't, and it just kept gaping around my waist.  So I ended up sticking with a couple of elastic waisted skirts I already had, and a few maternity items.

This was my wardrobe (I could have missed something!):

3 dresses - one print, one black, one black with white embroidery
5 t-shirts
7 skirts
1 pair of jeans
5 blouses (3 had 3/4 length sleeves, so they were too hot past 7 months just because of the weather)
1 pair of yoga style pants that didn't look so great, but were okay for if I was just at home doing housework and were incredibly comfortable in the first few weeks post-partum.

So I had twelve complete outfits with two spare tops over 5-6 months, and most of them were interchangeable. I didn't start out with that number, or finish with that number: I had to get a couple more things towards the end when things were getting too short and tight to wear in public!  They were all casual clothes because I'm a stay-home mum.

As it turned out, I had plenty to wear.  I never got bored with my wardrobe; some things I wished I could keep wearing.  I bought a pair of red shoes to jazz up a couple of things because my pink heels got relegated to the unwearable-for-the-time-being pile, and accessorised with what I already had.  

It was probably less than a third of my regular wardrobe. No wonder there are things that never get worn.  There are only seven days in a week after all.

Lesson learnt: I probably don't need as many clothes as I think I do.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

To drive, or not to drive.

We couldn’t go car-less for the following reasons:
  • We don’t have great public transport where we live.  Taking the bus at least doubles our journey time to most places, especially since we rarely experience traffic congestion.  Most services run 20, 30 or 60 minute intervals; changing services can mean a long wait. 
  • Only a few of the bus routes operate on a Sunday; the route we live on doesn’t. 
  • A lot of places we might go with friends and family, including friend’s houses, aren’t accessible by public transport.
  • We have small children and riding bikes isn’t an option, especially at night.
We do try and go car-light:
  • We only have one car. My husband takes it to work 2-3 days a week, I drop him off and pick him up the other days.  In four years this has hardly been an issue.  Once a week the boys and I get dropped off in the morning, then we catch the bus home from playgroup.  
  • We are now experimenting with my husband catching the bus home from work one day a week.  It’s a half hour round trip to pick him up from work. If he is able to get the right bus, he can get home in less than 40 mins for the same cost of fuel to pick him up.  If he can’t get that bus, it’s about 15 minutes on the bus, then a few minutes each way to pick him up from where that bus stops (or a 25 minute walk home). 
  • I don’t make special trips. If I need to go to a specific place, I do it to/from work or kindy pick up/drop off, and group together things in the same area of town.
  • My husband has tried riding home from work, but has had a few problems with his bike and hasn’t got around to fixing them.  It’s too far and too hot for him to ride to work in the mornings.
  • We have Big Boy’s name down for school next year at the same school as my husband works at, partly to cut down on time I spend ferrying people around.  
Future considerations: 
  • If we were to move house, we would consider location in relation to riding distance from work and proximity to bus stops.   Our town does have great bike paths right along the river.
  • Child restraint laws are pretty stringent in Australia.  Big Boy still has 2 1/2 years sitting in a booster seat, and God-willing we hope to have a third child in that time. Three car seats probably won’t fit in the back of our current car, so if we need to change cars we will get the smallest and most economical car for our needs. 
  • My estimate is that insurance, registration (state taxes) and maintenance probably costs us $2200 a year, or $6 a day.  By driving less, we have less wear and tear on the vehicle which means longer time between things like new tyres and new brakes, but we can’t reduce much more by driving less.   I think $6 a day depreciation is an appropriate figure, considering the price we paid for our car and what we could get for it now.  Driving less might help with depreciation.  Less kilometres on the clock should mean more value when selling.
I would consider catching the bus more often but the only place the bus runs to is the shops, and I’m trying to avoid the shops!  We could catch the bus into the museum/aquarium.  It would be an hour on the bus each way, plus a 750m walk each way (according to Google maps), and it would cost $3.90 each way in bus fares. Alternatively, we could catch the bus from my husband’s work (15 minutes from home), which would be 20 minutes into the same bus stop, for $3.50.  That would be during peak hour, and I don’t like the idea of taking the pram on the bus in peak hour (I have a much smaller stroller, but Little Boy is still too young for it). My husband still has to get to work, which is about $2.50 in fuel.    Total cost for the day would be $9.40 - $9.90, with about 2 hours travel time (including the walk). 
The other option is to drive the 17km, dropping off my husband on our way, and stopping for a play at a park or running an errand in the time before the aquarium opens, parking just outside the aquarium, then driving the 17km home again, then having to go pick up my husband from work in the afternoon, which is roughly a 20km round trip.  Fuel for the day would cost $6 - $7, total travel time would be a little under an hour and a half, but I would also have to pay parking fees of no more than $3.  
I can’t think of many other places we go that we could catch the bus, that isn’t already on the way to or from work. 
We have no trouble living with one car, but it is not realistic for us to have no car.