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  My resources will mostly be so out of date that I won't be using them anyway.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.