Decluttering challenge: 40 Bags in 40 Days

I am participating in White House Black Shutter’s 40 Bags in 40 Days 2015 challenge. This challenge officially started last Wednesday, on the 18th of February. I started a day or so late – you can really do this any time. It is started on this date to coincide with Lent, but you don’t have to do it for this reason (I’m not).

What I love the most about it is the planning template and the ideas of places to declutter. I had difficulty stopping at 40. Maybe I won’t. So far I’ve chosen a mix of big and small tasks, some I’ve completed quickly, some have taken longer, some I thought I’d complete but only got half way through. I don’t think it really matters – it’s about momentum. I’m already finding stuff that I had no idea I still had and getting rid of stuff is easier than it has been in a long time.

Day 1 I cleared out the junk drawer / BP’s coin drawer and took $130 to the bank.

The Fearse Family: 40 bags in 40 days

Day 2 I cleared out the expired medicines and returned them to the chemist. I also gave away a Little Squirt nappy hose that I bought second hand at the beginning of our BNN challenge and which never fitted our toilet properly.

The Fearse Family: 40 bags in 40 days.

Day 3 I worked on Little Fearse’s wardrobe and got rid of a large stack of old greeting cards.

The Fearse Family: 40 bags in 40 days

Will you join me? I’m posting pretty much daily on our Facebook page, I’d love to see your progress, too.

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The beauty of blank spaces.

I’m not a blank spaces kind of girl. I like to see those spaces used for their purpose. Bookshelves full to overflowing with interesting books and drawers full of pretty clothes and knickknack shelves full of (preferably vintage) thingies.Over the past two years I have learnt to love blank spaces. They show me that I have made progress. By leaving them blank they incite my imagination. All the things I could do with that space, the way I could curate it or fill it with stuff I love. And being able to imagine is enough.

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

Here are some of the blank spaces I have cultivated since we began our BNN year. Even though they are spaces filled with nothing, I sometimes think this is my biggest Buy Nothing achievement. Currently I am piloting an e-course for Bethany of Our Journey to Ithaca (which I will look forward to recommending to you when it’s up and running. The e-course runs alongside reading the e-book Clutterfree by Leo Babauta and Courtney Carver (full disclosure: I purchased this – but education is something I’m always willing to invest in). I haven’t read enough of the book yet to recommend it, but so far it reconfirms a lot of the things I have already learned about living a less clutter-some life, and also reminds me of some home truths I choose to forget sometimes. This quote, which I read today, is particularly relevant to this post: When you have emptiness in your home you have space to fill it with conversation, play, laughter, and silence. 

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces  The Fearse Family: Blank spaces The Fearse Family: Blank spaces The Fearse Family: Blank spaces The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

I’d love to hear your tales of blank spaces! Share photos! 

Mamaxo

The Lizzie List: Our top 5 tips for Buying Nothing New

The Fearse Family: Top 5 Tips for Buying Nothing New

Recently my friend and colleague Lizzie told me that after reading our blog she was thinking about taking on a buy nothing new challenge of her own.  She asked me for my top five tips for starting a journey such as ours. I told her it might take me a day or two to compile a top five, but when I pressed, this is what I came up with. I feel like this top five is the kind of list that would be completely different for every person undertaking the challenge – how it is done varies so much from person to person. I often find my passion for this project again when talking to someone new about it. So to celebrate that burst of renewed buy nothing energy for 2015, here is the Fearsian “Lizzie List”: top five (read: ten) tips for buying nothing new for a year.

1. Know your limits. Make your own rules. You can read ours here.

2. Stop going to the shops.

3: Stock up on stuff used to repair things. We used heaps of glue, electrical tape, packing tape, sticky tape, gaffa tape, nails, fabric etc. Alternatively, make this an exception. If you are going to avoid buying new things you will need to repair your old things when they break down. This is all a part of the overall philosophy. If repairing stuff becomes hard you’ll be more inclined to try and find second hand replacements, which still leaves you with the issue of ethically discarding the original. Repair, repair, remodel, redesign, repair!

4: Build up your resources. Join your local buy/swap/sell groups, join Freecycle, join your local Buy Nothing group (or start your own – I highly recommend this), lose any shame you have in asking people for their unused or unwanted goods. Interestingly this is one of the biggest criticisms I’ve read of people doing challenges like us – that they are leaning on others to resource them when they are unable to purchase something new. I find this a really narrow view point of how we work as a society and I like to think that we can be much more generous and connected to each other if we stop putting a force field over our stuff and start seeing them as resources to be shared and used, rather than symbols of who we are and what status we have in society.

5: Delay gratification. When you think you need something, put off buying it (second hand, of course), for at least a week. Nine times out of ten you find you no longer need or want it. Find a second use for all the stuff you already have and you’ll probably discover that broken / missing item is unnecessary anyway.

6: (Because all top 5s should have a 6??) Really look at what you have. Pare back – use this as an opportunity to get rid of all the excess stuff in your life that you don’t need. Find the best new home for stuff, not just any new home.

7: If you buy new, buy the best. I’m not talking the most expensive here (though sometimes it’s the case). Find it made locally, or artist designed, or super durable, or ethically sourced, or buy it from a charity. Find a way to buy stuff that also helps another individual, not just a corporation.

(Ok…it’s going to be ten.)

8: Don’t beat yourself up. If you buy something new, or you find you have to, learn from the situation. Last week we bought a new litter tray for our kitten because we were disorganised and didn’t seek out one second hand early enough. Shit happens.

9: Enjoy what you have. Stop bemoaning what you don’t have. Having that stuff won’t make you complete. There will always be other stuff you don’t have.

10: Be open and tell others what you’re doing. It helps explain why gifts might be a little different for now on, or that you can’t go shopping with mates any more. It also helps keep you accountable. Allow others to have an opinion about your philosophy (you can’t prevent it!) but don’t let people bully you. You make your own rules. Make your life your own.

I hope that Lizzie will take up the challenge. If she blogs about it, I’ll let you know.

Mama xo

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