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One less: outdated clothes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.