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

Goal update.

Two months on, I thought it might be timely to give an update on the goals I set for our family in January. Here is a recap of the goals I set and a few points about our progress.

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

  • We have removed 191 items from our house since January 1st.
  • On the flip side, we have allowed 55 items to enter our house since January 1st.
  • We can do much better here. In April we are going to play the Minimalists Game for a month. We’d love you to join us on our Facebook page by posting the items you remove.

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 made no progress with this, but as I write I have asked BP to bring the tubs in from the storeroom for me to get a start.

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.)

  • I am mostly doing really well with this. Each night I dedicate 10 minutes to putting away the things that have made their way onto the table during the day. I now use the table as desk, which adds a little to the confusion.
  • In general what I have learned from this is that routinely dedicating small amounts of time to difficult tasks can greatly reduce the stress they cause.

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 am making progress with this. I have listed 17 items and so far sold 7.

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

  • I have read two books from the to-read shelves, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (which, strictly speaking, I listened to on audio book travelling to and from work) and NW by Zadie Smith.
  • I am currently reading a third book, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.
  • I may have pitched this goal a little low, but at least it’s achievable!

I love that these goals are keeping me on track. I would highly recommend setting your own goals if you want to achieve great or small things in simplifying your life this year.

Mama xo

10 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Trash

When we buy a product it is so easy to neglect to envision the whole life cycle of that thing. Where something has come from is relevant to us – we should be aware of what the product is made from and how that effects us and our environment. We should try and buy products that have been ethically produced, whether we’re thinking about the impact on the planet or the impact on communities. People are starting to show more awareness of ethical issues when purchasing new products. The mass boycott of products containing palm oil is one great example of this. How often do we neglect to consider where our product will end up when it’s life is over?

Thanks for the image,

Thanks for the image,

This summer I’ve been reading Amy Korst’s The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live well by throwing away less. I have found it incredibly inspiring. (And, by the way, I am also recommending it as an easy, engaging and particularly instructional read.) As a household we have a long way to go before we can consider ourselves rubbish-free, but every day we are learning to make better choices for ourselves and our environment. The idea of living with no waste at all can be really daunting.

There are degrees of living this type of lifestyle – you might be an individual or household who wants to halve their waste or find a better way to dispose of what they already use. Perhaps you’d like to downgrade from your current size curbside garbage bin to a smaller (and cheaper) version. We pay for the size bin we use in our rates in Australia. Could you be saving your household money by throwing away less? You may be someone who believes you can get to the stage where you only create a shoebox full of waste a year, like Amy and her husband. We don’t think we can get down that far, but we would like to reduce our waste by at least 50% this year. When we get there I’d like to see if we can go further, but for the time being we’re sitting at that goal. By now you’ll have learned that I I’m particularly motivated by goals.

The reality of throwing an item away is that it ends up in landfill. There is no magical land where our rubbish goes, breaks down and ceases to be. It sits in huge mounds, creating a dangerous atmosphere in which it is nearly impossible for anything to biodegrade, even your “biodegradable” rubbish bags.

If you think you are ready to make the change to a less trashy life, here are ten quick things you can change now.

  1. Think about every single thing you put in the rubbish. Think outside the box. How could you re-use this instead of throwing it away?
  2. Don’t buy packaged goods. You can buy packaged everything, but in the same vein, you can get most things unpackaged. Avoid anything with double layers, too much plastic and styrofoam trays. Shop at stores or markets where you can return the packaging. Shop in bulk when you can. Recently I *accidentally* purchased a four pack of mangos at Aldi. They were housed in a little plastic box with four mango shaped molds. They even had nutritional values listed on the front. For mangos?! They were inexpensive and they looked great. I completely forgot about the rubbish they were creating – buying four mangos should always be a zero waste purchase. Think hard about everything you put in your basket.
  3. Search Google for alternative uses. The world is full of innovative and resourceful people. The web is full of their ideas. For example, when I searched alternative uses for styrofoam trays I found that they could be used for planting seeds, making toys, creating collages, framing photos and crafting in a gazillion ways. One savvy trasher even created a Pinterest board dedicated to reusing the sly old styrofoam tray.
  4. Which brings me to our best trashing resource – Pinterest. If you have a child, or are associated with a school, kindergarten or childcare centre (or if you know someone with a child…have I covered most options here??) then you have somewhere to pass on your crafting resources. Pinterest is a whole world of new ideas for ordinary things. This summer when I caved and accidentally bought the cheaper (and more fun) frozen yoghurt pop sticks, instead of the less trashy tub, I washed and kept all the pop sticks. I know these little wooden blighters will come in handy one day. Similarly, I collect bread bag ties. At the moment they are helpig my worn out thongs (if you are not Australian read: flip flops) last out the summer. Maybe one day I’ll make a gown out of them.
  5. Sell it. I have a friend who sold a broken answering machine, which was declared as such,  at her garage sale. Just because you think it is trash, it isn’t to everyone. Did you know that in the US you can sell toilet tubes in bulk lots on eBay? There are about a billion crafts that you can do using them. In Australia we are not allowed to use them in schools anymore due to dubious hygiene concerns. What a shame! Check out where your trash can make you some money and be re-used or repurposed.
  6. Have fewer bins. This suggestion is straight from Amy’s book. If you take the bins out of the bedroom and bathroom you’ll have to think harder about where that rubbish goes. While you are transporting that rubbish to the kitchen bin you’ll have time to think about what it is, how it could be reused or, failing that, recycled. What is is made up of? How did it end up in your house? How can you avoid it in the future?
  7. Don’t buy one use items. They are everywhere! My Mum bought a packet of 6 sippy cups when my nephew was born (almost 6 years ago). She only realised much later that the brand name was “take and toss”. They were designed to be thrown out. These sturdy, colourful sippy cups are still in use. It’s unfathomable that people buy things like this to throw away. Many one use items, including tissues, nappies, wipes, breast pads,  sanitary items, razors, paper plates, plastic bags,  plastic cups, take away coffee cups and plastic cutlery can easily be replaced with reusable items without too much stretching of the imagination.
  8. Stop lining your bin with bags. Check your council regulations. Some will allow you to put your rubbish directly into the garbage bin without a bin liner or bag. Others require you to contain it so it doesn’t fly away when the bins are emptied into the truck. Our council requires this, but there is no reason for us to have a fresh bag every time we empty the bin. Buy larger garbage bags to cover your bin, if this is necessary, and fill that throughout the week. One. Bag. Otherwise, use paper bags. If you’re composting (this is easy, too!) then you won’t have much mushy waste and paper bags should suffice.
  9. Recycle plastic that can’t go into your curbside bin at Coles. Did you know that Coles collects biscuit packets, plastic wrap, pasta packets and the like to recycle into playground equipment. I know! How awesome! You can read more about that here.
  10. Find a better way. Crunch this: If you replace your toothbrush as recommended (every 3 months) and youIMG_5208[1] live, say, 70 years, how many toothbrushes will you throw into landfill in your lifetime? 280. Two hundred and eighty toothbrushes! That’s 280 for you, 280 for your spouse, 280 for your children, 280 for your parents, 280 for your neighbour. That’s a huge amount of dental hygiene waste lying around in landfill. A little bit of research brought us to Environmental Toothbrush – an Australian (yay!) company who create compostable toothbrushes. They’re made from sustainable bamboo and are entirely compostable. Also awesome – they cost about the same as a normal toothbrush and come in cardboard packaging. We’re in love. When at all possible, if you cannot avoid the product, find a better way.

These ideas are designed to be easy to implement, but they are just the beginning.

What do you do to reduce your trash? What’s your number one tip for those getting started?

Mama xo

Review: It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh

On a recent trip to the library I stumbled (naturally) into the 640s. This area, generally speaking, is where you will find your books on Family Living and Home Economics. It is where you will find books on changing your family lifestyle for the better. It is where you will find your books on decluttering and zero waste.

In my browse, I found Peter Walsh’s book It’s All Too Much: an easy plan for living a richer life with less stuff.Image I couldn’t resist having a squizz. Has Peter Walsh worked out things I haven’t yet? How are we going with this decluttering stuff? I took the book away on our summer holiday and found it was so readable that I was happy to dip in and out throughout the week. I didn’t expect to read it cover to cover, but that’s exactly what I ended up doing.

Peter Walsh may be better known to those of you in the US for his series Clean Sweep. I’ve never seen the series, but I presume from the explanation he gives in the book that it is something along the lines of Hoarders but with more success. I’m kind of shy of anyone calling themselves a ‘professional organiser’ because my plan is to have less stuff, not more ways to organise it. Turns out, Peter Walsh should really be called a ‘professional chucker’ because he advocates throwing pretty much everything in the trash. He is a lot more ruthless than I am as a declutterer, but what he says, generally, makes sense. Our attachment to our stuff is out of control.

I enjoyed the earlier chapters the most where Peter Walsh discussed the theories behind why we gather clutter and the excuses people use not to get rid of their clutter. This was followed by instructions on how to decrease your clutter, a room-by-room. The book strongly advocates creating a family approach to decluttering and working towards changing your family values in relation to ownership and things. There are even games in there designed to include your children in the whole process.

I did find it a little disconcerting that he wants you to throw everything in the rubbish. I think that reading this coupled with the zero waste book I’m reading gave it a new slant. If we are responsible for buying a lot of stuff we should also be responsible for where it ends up – and better that the final resting place for our junk is somewhere other than landfill.

I was pleased to see that we had already implemented a lot of the strategies outlined in the book. We haven’t been as hardcore as Peter Walsh would like us to be, but we have come a long way. The book wasn’t really ‘talking’ to me. I felt as though it was designed for people at the very scary beginning of their decluttering journey. I did really enjoy the later chapters which gave real, solid strategies for making keeping yourself on track once you’d done the first big declutter.

Most of all, the book inspired me. I came home and tackled a cobwebby corner I’d been avoiding for months. If you’re in a cluttersome rut, borrow this from your library. It is a fast read and is very friendly with lots of sub titles and grey pop out boxes for info. Read it!

Mama xo

A break from Buying Nothing New

Since January 1st The Fearse Family has been on a break from Buying Nothing New. It was very liberating to not be bound by the rules of our BNN year. We knew we’d need a breather if we intended to go on with Buying Nothing New in 2014. There were things we’d been holding off purchasing and it was very important to give ourselves the opportunity to purchase these things before we begin again.

In the past 9 days we have purchased the following new things:

  • gloss paint to finish our wardrobe doors.
  • a gigantic pile of nothing.

What do we need? Well, I’m out of tinted moisturiser, and when I can find a brand I am happy with ethically I will purchase this. I’m not a big make up wearer, but there are times this year I have missed it (it ran out half way through the year). We have no other plans to buy anything new.

So – what are our parameters for 2014? We will continue with the same exceptions and rules, though we will also add anything needed for repairs. We usually came up against problems when needing to fix things around the house and repair broken things with different types of glues. This exception will help us to maintain what we have and seems logical to our main aim – to look after and use up what we have.

For the time being I will continue with the book embargo and I will not buy any clothing at all. I received a handmade skirt from a friend for Christmas and a voucher for a dress hand made using vintage material from my brother and his fiance. These are two incredibly beautiful items of clothing and so much more special for my not buying any new clothes throughout most of 2013. These two decisions (books and clothes) will be reviewed throughout the year.

In the event that we are unable to find something that satisfies our needs second hand we will buy from either local businesses or small businesses. This will allow us to support those that we believe are offering a good and ethical service.

We are also on a quest to reduce our trash, so this will involve some new purchases, such as reusable sanitary products. This is something we will blog about in more detail later this month.

We’re excited! Who is going to join us? Please leave a link below if you discover any other blogs for those that are buying nothing new in 2014. We’d love to offer our support. We are looking forward to following the journey of Inked in Colour, who has recently made the pledge.

Much 2014 love,

Mama Fearse

Best of 2013.

We’re going to take a week’s break from the ‘blog as a part of our BNN conclusion celebration. In the mean time, you may like to read back over some of the most popular posts of 2013. The most popular of these is about 10 times more popular than any of our other posts, so it almost doesn’t even feel right to have 9 other posts in this list. We will be publishing a follow up to this post when Little Fearse returns to Family Daycare this year, in a week or so.

Is your favourite Fearse Family post here?

1. 30 Days of Day Care Lunches for a 12 Month Old

2. Stuff – A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance

3. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month

4. Why are we doing this?!

5. What will we NOT buy second hand?

6. The Book Embargo

7. A big ‘to-do’ about nothing

8. My 2-4-1 challenge

9. A clothes shock take. Arg!

10. Challenges we already anticipate


We hope you enjoy reading back over some of the high and low lights of our year.

The Fearse Family xo



Level up!

Since coming across the term on Pinterest I have become interested in the idea of life hacking. Life hacking runs the gamut of fixing broken thongs with bread bag tabs (true story, mine are sporting one of these at this very moment) to finding better use of  time. The term ‘life hack’ relates to levelling up in a video game, without doing more work. That’s my focus – improving my life without adding more stuff or responsibilities.

Yay! It took 33 years, but I'm finally at level 2.

Yay! It took 33 years, but I’m finally at level 2.

Lately two areas of my life have been suffering due to tiredness and…I was going to say ‘busyness’ but if I’m honest, it’s Breaking Bad that’s the true cause. I finally caved after avoiding it for all five seasons and started it from the beginning. It’s Anthony Hopkins’ fault. So, each night after Little Fearse is asleep we try to knock out another few episodes. I often fall asleep during the second one, which hampers our efforts. There are nights I have had an after dinner coffee to combat this. It’s like some kind of monster.

The first area that has suffered is reading. I love reading before bed, but I’m often too tired even without Breaking Bad marathons to blame. I’ll read a page and fall asleep with the book on my head. In addition to this my self education through multiple modern classic book lists has suffered greatly, as many of these books require more concentration than I can summons. On a recent visit to the library I discovered they have a brilliant and expansive collection of audio books. I currently have Grapes of Wrath on loan and have been listening to it on my way to and from work – time that I previously found quite frustrating as I’m often stuck in traffic. I have life hacked this time – I now read while I drive. As a bonus, I have tried to read Grapes of Wrath a bunch of times but found it a bit snoozy. Having it read to me has been great and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. So much so that I’ve kept up-to-date with my physical copy of the book and will read a page or two at home when I have a snatched moment. Finding a way to make the drive to and from work something I look forward to has been a revelation for me. Level up!

The other area that has caved under the pressure of Breaking Bad is chat with BP. I mean, we still talk. We ask about each other’s day and share concerns and tell Little Fearse stories, but aside from that, we’re just focusing on Walt and Jesse. That is about laziness and anti-priorities. Luckily we only have two seasons to go. Imagine if I was starting Bold and the Beautiful  from the beginning. (Sorry. Don’t imagine that, it’s a waste of imagination.) So, we hacked our lives and our relationship at the same time by the simple act of doing the dishes. Other people worked this out ages ago. We have generally been the lazy after dinner types who mutter something about doing the dishes tomorrow. Then maybe one of us will do them tomorrow, but it might be the next day, until one of us (me) cracks it and washes the lot. (They have traditionally been left to drip dry, creating another havoc of sorts on the drying rack.) This aspect of our relationship has to be left over from share housing days. Anyway, this week we (I) had enough and declared that after dinner we were going to do the dishes together every single night. This means we spend an extra 15 minutes together a day, we get that extra talk in and (get this!) the kitchen is clean in the morning. THE KITCHEN IS CLEAN IN THE MORNING. Revolutionary. Level up!

Most importantly, these level ups involve something I was going to do anyway – driving to work or doing the dishes. I’m not adding another responsibility to my life and I’m not manically multi-tasking.

How do you level up? Got any life hack tips to get me up to level 3?

Mama xo

Links we’ve loved #13

There is something really heart warming about these colourised photos. They made us both smile.

Speaking of photos, we love this idea. It takes such commitment.

Keitha combines reads books with her child and then THEMES HIS LUNCH TO THE BOOK. Seriously the best thing ever.

BP has been a little thrown by the revelation that Ben Affleck has been cast as the new Batman. But then again, Heath Ledger wasn’t a popular choice for Joker either.

This family is sharing a new experience every week for a year. Awesome.

Down to Earth Mother has the luckiest kids ever! This eco cubby is sourced entirely from recycled materials. Inspiring.

So, I suggested this to my brother, who is currently engaged. He wasn’t up for it. If BP and I had our wedding over again we’d totally have his Nan as a flower girl. She’d rock it.

BP’s long awaited album comes out next Sunday. We’ll be Fearsebrating.

Little Fearse broke out new moves when listening to Bob Marley this week.

Also, if Australian politics confuses you and you want to bone up before our Federal Election in two weeks time, this should clear things up a little (funny and true).

Have a great week,

The Fearses xoxo

Links we’ve loved #11

So, Mama tried to make these tortillas today. The recipe looks so simple – how could she fail? Well…she did. Any sticky dough advice welcome. You should try this recipe, because it looks perfect. The best bit about attempting to make tortillas was when Little Fearse threw a very clear and definite “tortilla” into her nonsense sentence this arvo. 

This Sons of Anarchy parody is brilliant and happens to merge two of BPs favourite things (which two things, though?). 

This series is written by a 5 year old. We love 5 year olds. This is why. 

This article explores the importance of slowing down with our children. It’s really hard to do sometimes, but so important. Today at the market we let Little Fearse lead the way for the first time. It took heaps longer but we saw things we’d never noticed before, and so did she. 

It is not terribly difficult to find gift wrap in op shops, or to re-use wrap from gifts given to us, but we love these unique and inexpensive solutions to wrapping presents. 

Mama cleared out over 50 books this weekend. BOOKS! Seriously! It was liberating and not at all painful. This excerpt from the Slow Home Bootcamp is what made it possible. If Mama can do it, anyone can.

When Little Fearse and Mama watched this version of Swan Lake both of their jaws hit the floor. Also, Little Fearse started dancing with her arms all ballet over her head, which was the cutest thing ever.  

We hope you had a fun weekend.

The Fearses

Oops, forgot the most important link

It’s National Bookshop Day (Praise for the library and a book recommendation).

Normally I like to go to my local bookshop on National Bookshop Day because I love having a local bookshop that I can browse. This year I can’t bear the temptation of visiting my local bookshop on this day, for a browse or otherwise! If I wasn’t Buying Nothing New I wouldn’t hesitate. My local bookshop needs support – it’s up against the Internet for goodness sake! The whole dang Internet. I’m glad the Internet isn’t my enemy with its cheap goods and free postage.

So, instead, I went to the library to pick up some books I’d conveniently placed on hold from the comfort of my own home (using THE INTERNET). One of these books, Simplicity Parenting has really caught my attention. Other than the fact that libraries have dvds and magazines and CDs and books you can borrow FOR FREE, it is also a great way to force yourself to read something. You only have it for a few weeks. It can’t sit on your ‘to read’ shelf waiting for the right time. I really need to stop buying books so readily in the future and make better use of the two week library book turn-around.

Anyway, Simplicity Parenting is a book I’m finding very relevant to my teaching (probably less relevant to my parenting). It is written for the parent who is already having an issue with their children. I do no have an issue with Little Fearse. I also hope that through our care to maintain a simple life, and a reverence for her childhood, that we may be able to avoid ever having these issues. A lot of the children I teach present as the author Kim John Payne describes – as children who are overwhelmed by life’s complexities. I hope that in my reading of this book I can perhaps help their school days to be simpler and more manageable.

In discussion our brain and its neuroplasticity in adult hood I read the following paragraph that both surprised and delighted me.

“[Sharon] Begley describes how neurologists have been astounded by the measurable, replicable effects of meditation practice on the mind and brain. Their brain scan evidence showed that the neural activity of highly trained monks was “off the charts” (in relation to standard measures, and in relation to the neural activity of more novice monks), even when they were not meditation. The areas of the brain where such emotional complexities as maternal love and empathy are believe to be centered (caudate and right insula), and feelings of joy and happiness (left prefrontal cortex), were actually anatomically enlarged  structurally altered by virtue of the monks’ lives and their mediation practices.”

Hey, we’re a long way off being a highly trained monks, but perhaps we are closer than we used to be. 

I’ll write more as I read more, so far I’m still in the first chapter “Why simplicity”. I look forward to reading the practical sections, too.

Mama xo