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?