Communing with Nature.

snail pic

For the past two weeks I have taken part in a Joyfully Green online photography course. It has been such a lovely step outside my day-to-day life. I can even say that I love some of the photographs I’ve taken. The wonderful thing about the course was that I could do it using any camera at all. My own camera broke (and then broke some more when I attempted to fix it) a few weeks before the class started, so I was left with only my phone camera to use. I found that this was pretty good for taking nature photographs (though, of course, there are things I’d like to do but can’t really) and I even learned about some cool features on the camera just by playing around with it on a daily basis.

miniature flower

I love that now when I’m out and about in the wintery weater I’m looking for something unusual or beautiful to photograph, rather than bemoaning the grey skies and constant drizzle.I’m so grateful to Joy for giving me the confidence to explore photography in this way.

rose

 

I look forward to sharing more of my artistic endeavours with you in the future.

Mama xo

hidden gnome

Give. Life. Hack. Hair.

Last week I cut off over 35 centimetres of my hair. I didn’t do it to simplify my life, but ohmigosh. It takes about a minute to wash, uses so little shampoo and conditioner and about 5 minutes to dry. It barely needs brushing and it needs no styling. I had completely overlooked how much time I was spending (without ever doing much at all) on maintaining and then, mostly, hiding (in a bun) my hair. I’m so relieved. If you want a truly simple life, cut your hair. (Better, shave it all off.)

hair after

I was prompted to cut off my hair to donate to a company that then uses the hair to create wigs for cancer patients. I did this in honour of a beautiful, passionate woman who I both respected and admired. We lost her on June 27th, too soon. I don’t doubt for a second that if I had offered her my hair during her 9 month battle with cancer she would have said “Hell no!” Nevertheless, if someone out there can use my hair, I’m happy for them to have it. I didn’t even know that it was possible to donate hair until my gorgeous cousin posted about doing the same thing on FB last year. I thought this was a good opportunity to share this info with our readers and spread the word a little (although, to counteract advertising for a hair product company I will be entirely forthright – I would never put their products anywhere near my hair).

I don’t miss my hair. I had the choice of keeping it or cutting it. Other’s don’t.

Mama xo

 

A rookie mistake.

BP and I made a rookie mistake last week. I call this a rookie mistake because it’s the kind of decision we would have made thoughtlessly in our pre-BNN life. And here we are, 19 months later, making the same sorts of mistakes. Unlearning life-long habits is hard.

My laptop isn’t functioning all that well and really needs to be kept in one steady place. In addition to this my back doesn’t thank me for using my laptop as it’s intended (on my lap). We decided to get a small desk for our living area so that I could remain a part of the gang while using my computer.

BP recalled, with sentimentality, how much he’d loved his childhood desk The Fearse Family: A Rookie Mistake- an 80s style map top desk (chunky and brown). He asked around and found that it was located at his sister’s house. She kindly offered to have it fixed and delivered it herself.

We have had it less than a week and it has served its function as a table for my laptop quite well, but it has also quickly become a new surface to add clutter to. We knew this was going to happen. Everything we have learned about removing clutter from our home tells us that we need less surfaces and less storage, not more. Everyone who has lived in a house knows that it is going to take less than a month for those drawers to be loaded up with stuff.

Although we had already discussed the need for a dining table in the front room, sentimentality clouded our vision and we brought in this desk that is all wrong. During the winter months we only heat the front half of our house. The back half has few blinds and curtains and most of the heat would be lost. The only time we use that end of the house is for eating dinner. We could easily have solved this issue and the desk issue with a small, compact dining table in place of the big, chunky desk.  If we had a dining table here it would still be a surface, but at least it would be one that we had to clear every night to eat.

I’m disappointed in our thought processes which basically showed no growth from our impulsive decision making prior to our first buy nothing year.

Of course now we have a fierce Fearsian stand-off. BP is sentimental and wants to hold on to the desk and I am a cold-hearted clutter clearer and want to move it on (or at least out of the house) to make room for something more practical to our purposes.

When you make significant changes to the way you lead your life, you owe it to yourself not to relax on those ideals. We have worked too hard to claw our way forward to now allow ourselves to slip backwards into old habits that don’t suit our purposes.

This week, to help us remember how far we have come, BP and I used ingenuity to repair a squashed, shattered and near destroyed washing basket. When I bought this basket, several years ago, I bought the cheapest one I could find. Everything about it was nasty. It didn’t take long for it to start deteriorating. Recently someone sat on it, or stepped on it, or was pushing someone else around in it as though it was a car and it collapsed into itself. Since we’re working on reducing our waste, and there was no way this was recyclable plastic, we knew that we had no choice but to find a way to repair it, or reuse it. I made the decision to buy the shittiest, cheapest basket I could find and I’m now responsibleWashing basket
for where that ends up. So, how do you repair a shattered plastic washing basket? Start by connecting all the broken bits back together with a few handy pipe cleaners, then insert a hardy backdrop (in this case some cardboard that came as the packaging for one of Little Fearse’s birthday gifts) and go to town with gaffa tape. Ta da! I reckon it will last us another decade, don’t you?

The daily decisions we make about our consumption and about the things we bring into our home need constant examination. This way of life is not yet ingrained in us, which is not helped by the fact that it is far from the norm in society. I see that there is a shift and change happening around us and I hope that things will change in this lifetime. All I can control are the choices that I make and hope that I can mostly make good ones.

Mama xo

Do you dare count your clothes?

The Fearse Family: Wardrobe tips and traps.

 

When I initially wrote about counting the clothes in my wardrobe it opened up quite a bit of discussion, around the blog and off the blog. I still have friends who talk to me about doing a clothes stock take as an idea and how it frightens them. It has been over a year since my initial count and my decision to no longer purchase any clothes. I did an interim count in January, but was still unhappy with the numbers. I’ve spent the past 6 months paring down my wardrobe further.

When I first did the count the number of items that were going to stay in my wardrobe (this didn’t include the things I had set aside for eBay) was 371 items. I was pretty shocked. I’d taken out an additional 30 – 40 items to sell, so my real number was very high.

When I did my January count I hadn’t bought an item of clothing for eight months. I had actively analysed all the items I had in my wardrobe and removed as much as I felt I could. I was given three items of clothing for Christmas, which were the only new clothes I’d added to my wardrobe in that time. At this stage I still had 304 items in my wardrobe. This time I also found a stash of ‘sentimental’ clothes in the storeroom and some ancient clothes that had been put away to repair and forgotten about. This would have bumped the original number up even more, but let’s try not to think about that too much!

So, we’re now in July. It’s been more than 13 months since I stopped buying clothes. I have added, in that time, 7 items from a friend, 3 items as gifts at Christmas time, 1 item that was cut down from an oversized 60s dress to a wearable skirt, 1 vintage shirt from the market and 1 pair of $3.25 jeans from the op shop. Most of those items have been exchanged with items I have then donated, so they haven’t added to my overall total. I now own (excluding some items still waiting to sell) 265 items of clothing. That means I have reduced my original number by more than 100 items. Am I happy with that? Yeah, for a start, I am.

Here are some of my best improved areas:

May 2012 July 2014
Undies 59 38
Socks 41 29
Leggings 18 8
Bras 22 9
Dresses 38 23
Singlets 28 11
Cardigans 12 4
T-shirts 27 8

How did I do it?

  • I have learned that white clothes don’t store well, so any white maternity clothes or unworn sentimental clothes have now become yellowish rags. Either wear your white clothes or donate them.
  • I looked at the items I had far too many of in the first place with a critical eye. I noticed what I wore most and what I had too many doubles of and pared down those numbers. There is still room for improvement here. I have 4 black singlets, for example, and I probably wear two of them at least four times as much as the others. (Conversely I have four black cardigans and they are all worn as regularly as each other and are perfectly justifiable in my wardrobe.)
  • I tried to let go of sentimental attachments. If I am not wearing stuff, maybe someone else will. I know the thrill of finding just the right thing second hand, so passing on those sentimental or beautiful vintage pieces might make someone else’s day. I still have 7 sentimental items in my wardrobe which I am not willing to part with. These include shawls and scarves of my grandmother’s and old school shirts from graduating classes I have taught.
  • I have been experimenting with the hanger trick for the past few months and have discovered that most of the clothes in my wardrobe that are in season have already been worn. I guess this means I’m doing something right.
  • You’ve probably heard the rule that we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. I am finding this is very true, especially for my non working days (more than half the week). I will generally wear, at this time of year, many layers of singlet, long sleeved top, t-shirt, cardigan and jacket with jeans and boots or sneakers. This is my standard winter uniform. It may vary in different shades of grey, black and purple but day-to-day I’m dressed pretty much the same. I have, unfortunately, reduced my t-shirt and jeans wardrobe so much that the one pair of jeans I own get very worn and my four t-shirts that I regularly wear are getting very stretched and faded. It’s important to know your wardrobe and the way you use it before you start reducing. 
  • The good side of the above point is that on the days my jeans are in the wash I’m forced to dress with a little more thought. This means other items that might be ignored get a bit more of a work out, breaking me out of that 20% that gets overworked. On work days I rotate between several dressier outfits which gives the other 80% even more time in the fresh air.
  • Sometimes I get bored of my wardrobe, but in reality I’m not a trendy or particularly adventurous dresser, so it wouldn’t make a difference what is in there. I’ll still keep going back to the same old tried and true jeans and t-shirt combos.
  • When you know exactly what you have in your wardrobe you don’t need to fear donating something that you’re keeping just in case. I have often found that I don’t like donating long sleeved tops because they are so useful for three out of four seasons of the year. The thing is, if I don’t like the top then I’m not going to wear it. Even if I get desperate and all my other stuff is in the wash. I’ll probably just wear one of my 6 shirts instead. Keeping stuff you hate wearing for “just in case” times in some kind of rationalised lunacy when you have, say, 264 other things you could wear. 
  • Also, you know, what do we wear clothes for? To keep warm and dry, or cool and modest, or whatever. Clothes don’t make us anything, other than dressed. Why do we give them so much of the space in our house, so much of our time purchasing / cleaning / maintaining them, so much of our budget? Humans are pretty ridiculous, right?

And on that note.

Mama xo

PS I’m keen to do a couple of months worth of photos of what I wear each day to see how the 20/80 rule actually pans out for me. I haven’t had a great track record with taking a photo a day, so we’ll see how I go with that. I will also not be uploading these as I go as I really have no desire to have a discussion surrounding my daily wardrobe choices. I’ll chuck them all together some how at the end to show you how it looks from a statistical perspective.

 

As June 30th approaches (goal update)

The deadline for one of my January goals is fast approaching, so I felt it was a good time to update you and, in turn, keep myself on track.

1. I would like to reduce the stuff in our house by 1000 more items by Jan 1st 2015.

  • By our last update I had removed 191 items and added 55. We’re faring a lot better now, but I have been a bit slack in keeping track. Let’s call these numbers approximate.
  • Our outgoing stuff, helped along by the Minimalist Game, is at 635 items. I still have a lot of items in the out-going pile that just haven’t been moved on yet. I hope to focus on that a little these school holidays.
  • Our incoming stuff is at 101 items. This has been added to a lot due to Little Fearse’s birthday and, also, me losing focus a little. I’m getting less good at saying ‘no thanks’. I need to continually remind myself that we don’t need stuff. 
  • So, really, this brings our total for removed items (if I’m going to be strict) back to 534 items.
  • A little over half way at a little under the half way point. Not bad! Of course getting rid of 500 more items is going to be more challenging given the depths we have already gone to in our decluttering. I’ll let you know how I go.

2. I would like to further reduce the number of tubs in the storeroom by at least one 60 litre tub by Jan 1st 2015.

  • I have reduced the stuff in these tubs by half a tub. So, I guess, that puts me at the half way point, too.

3. I would like to maintain a clear dining room surface, permanently. (With the exception of times of high volumes of at home work, such as report writing time, when it doubles as my desk and some clutter is necessary.)

  • Here, you be the judge. Not toooooo bad.Image

4. I would like to sell (or, failing that, donate) all of the items that I currently have set aside for eBay by June 30th this year.

  • I have stopped selling things in eBay due to ludicrous fees and postage costs. I’m thinking about opening an Etsy store for my vintage dresses and BP’s vintage cup cake stands, but this is something I need to investigate further these holidays. I won’t be meeting this goal by June 30th, but will probably reassess and set a new goal once I know what I’m doing.

5. I would like to read 5 books on my to-read shelves by 1st Jan 2015.

  • This is the goal I am doing the best with. I have really prioritised reading lately, especially since BP’s new job means less reading time in the mornings. I use every free opportunity, including getting to school a little earlier to read in the car, reading in the bath, reading instead of watching movies or TV shows, going to bed earlier to read…reading, reading, reading.
  • I have read, since the last update, two more books from the shelves Last Words by George Carlin and Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro. This brings my total to four already!
  • My to-read shelves are now down to 99 books! I can’t remember the last time I had less than 100 books on this shelf. BP asked if I wanted some books for my birthday and it was so hard saying no, but I really want to get down to a less overwhelming number of unread books.
  • I have been borrowing a lot of books from friends and the library, and have been gifted some recent blockbusters which I raced through and passed on. None of these made it onto my to-read shelves, so I need to, perhaps, focus a little more on reading from the shelves and less on borrowing yet more books!
  • With my recent focus on reading perhaps I can set a goal within a goal and see if I can double it – 10 books by January 1st? You’re on!

Mama xo

The Winter of Contentment.

We really challenged ourselves in April. I mean, more than usual. Every day in April we were working on the Minimalist Game, putting together the dolls’ house and working around the (worthy) challenges of avoiding the supermarket. It was a great, eye opening month, but I was glad when it was over.

I feel like I spent most of May catching our readers up on April and now we’re here and it’s June and in many ways, I’ve run out of words. So here, instead, are some pictures of fun BNNish stuff I’ve been doing lately.

The Fearse Family DIY Cress Men

Making Cress Men on Easter Sunday. Little Fearse asked to see the “Cress man and cress lady” every morning and gave them a kiss hello until their hair was ready to eat.

The Fearse Family DIY Scrap Material Rag Doll

Making a Jemima style rag-doll from a very sketchy pattern in the 1980 edition of Play School’s Useful Book. Little Fearse helped choose all the materials and even sacrificed her favourite (but very worn) PJ pants for Jemima’s striped leggings. An old pair of jeans was used to make feet and the rest were scraps found at the bottom of my material bench. One of her arms has already fallen off twice and she was given a much nicer Jemima for her birthday anyway, but it was a really fun holiday activity to do together.

The Fearse Family DIY Old Jeans and Place Mat Tool Belt

Making a tool belt for a friend’s third birthday using a place mat, old jeans (the waist band of the jeans was used as the belt part – vintage buttons were added to make it adjustable and they even kind of matched the place mat) and tools collected from the op shop and market. I looked at lots of tutorials for these but ended up making my own by combining different ideas. Worth exploring!

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Curtain Material Zoo Skirt

I used some vintage curtain material to make my first ever Little Fearse skirt, using a combination of this tutorial and this tutorial. I made this one for a special trip to the zoo. It’s very zooey

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Fabric Scrap Dolls' Bedding

Little Fearse has been asking me for awhile to make blankets for Maggie in the dolls’ house. Yeah, true, this did take me al of about three minutes to sew, but I love the material Little Fearse chose from my new stash of vintage fabric scraps. I look forward to whipping up some more blankets for the rest of the dolls’ house inhabitants.

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Scrap Patchwork SKirt

Using the same lot of vintage scraps and a similar concept to the zoo skirt I patch worked some of my favourite scraps together and (lacking elastic) I used an op shopped skirt (with bonus shorts inside!) and attached my patchwork to the skirts original waist. I am absolutely thrilled with how this turned out.

You know, Winter isn’t my favourite time of year, but I’m really determined not to let it get me down this year. I hope that with the satisfaction I gain from these mini projects (plus lots of reading, which I’ve been indulging in more and more lately) I will while away the gloomy days and bring on Spring a little faster.

Mama xo

Phone vs Fearse

Today the 18-month War of the Phones has finally ended. Those of you that have been following our story may recall my frustrations at dealing with my 2.5 year old phone at the beginning of our BNN year. I have since learned that the average life span of a smartphone is believed to be somewhere between 18 and 21 months. I guess can feel some sense of achievement that my Galaxy S lasted me 44 months, which is at least double the average phone. I haven’t used it less than other people, or treated it better, or protected it more from dirt and damage. I’ve just been persistent and I have never once coveted a newer model.

In order to use my phone in any usual way I had to be willing to research fixes and curious back door pathways. To phone someone required me to have the phone plugged in at all times. To text took an average of 5 – 10 minutes. Sometimes it took my phone up to 30 seconds to register a word when I typed or swyped it into a text. It would take an unseemly amount of time to open any apps and if I clicked on something more than once (think it hadn’t registered it the first time) my phone would often jam and shut down. I couldn’t use my camera (it took so long to take the photo that the subject was almost always gone by the time the shutter snapped). If I did manage to photograph a stationary object I definitely could not upload said photo to social media. What I could do is play solitaire. For about three minutes before my battery shut down. I could receive texts, and notification of missed phone calls (often the phone hadn’t even rung).

I’m not saying I’m some kind of technological saint, but I was more persistent than most people would be. Today, after trying to call me for three hours and being transferred straight to message bank, BP told me he was putting his foot down.

“I’m taking you to the *insert generic phone company name here* shop and you are getting a new phone.”

But…I’ll end up paying more.

But…I have no service at home anyway!

But…I’ll have less data.

But…I don’t want to get locked into a contract.

But…I don’t want a new phone.

“Mama! Enough. You are getting a new phone.”

I actually felt physically sick on the drive to the shop. I was certain I was going to get sucked into some deal I couldn’t get out of, that didn’t really suit my needs. I knew that I was going to have to get a new phone. I’ve been researching reconditioned and second hand phones and I haven’t found any that were affordable or that I could confidently spend hundreds of dollars on. I know that some of those phones may have been barely used and were only being passed on because the previous owner had upgraded, but how was I to know which ones these were? I had long ago accepted that this is something I’d need to buy / obtain new. My old phone will be destined to the Melbourne Zoo to help raise money for gorilla protection.

On the way into the store I grabbed a pamphlet and was stunned to learn that I could get a new phone (two models up from my current phone and two models down from the most recent model) with the data and calls I’d need for $15 less a month than I was currently paying. Yeah, I took a data cut and I have also made a commitment for another 24 months. I think it’s worth it for, in this case, the convenience of having a phone that actually functions and also paying a lot less than I have been. Although we had a squirming, exhausted toddler, and the whole process took a lot longer than predicted (mainly due to my old phone being an arsehat) it was surprisingly painless.

Ultimately, although I hate to admit it,  I think this shitty bit of expensive, overrated technology is actually going to make my life simpler.

Due to a new job which will require decent phone and internet access BP has also upgraded to his first ever smartphone. I think he is partially mourning the buttons on his old phone and partially revelling in joining the rest of the pack in their general swipe-ish behaviours.

We walked out of the store with two new phones and no exchange of money. It was a strange experience and I could see how easy it is for people to be sucked into upgrading, upgrading, upgrading all the time.

I’m torn between the feeling that I have cheated on my ideals (the phones won) and the feeling that we have done well to hold out so long (Fearses won). We may never definitively know who won this war, but either way, it is over (until next time…)

Mama xo