The fruits of a busy week in November (and a delightful surprise).

In November last year I had a sudden urge to get stuff done. Almost desperately. I booked in a dentist appointment (first in two and a half years), waxing, hair, optometrist (first in five years) and car servicing in the space of three days. That Sunday I found myself removing everything from the pantry for a stocktake. At this point Big Poppa looked at me closely and asked “Are you ok?” I stopped and thought about it and replied the only thing that seemed logical at the time. “I think I’d better do a pregnancy test.”

For those of you that have been following along, the year that followed our miscarriage was really tough. While grieving for our loss we tried month after month to conceive. Some months my period was up to 9 days late and I would have done 6 or 7 pregnancy tests, all negative. I hate to think over the space of a year how many of those little plastic sticks we sent into landfill.

Anyone who has experienced difficulties conceiving will know about the woes of tracking or charting your cycle (something I tried to avoid, fearing I’d get obsessive about it), forcing yourself to have exhausted sex between putting the toddler to bed and doing the dishes because IF WE DON’T DO IT RIGHT NOW IT’S ALL OVER FOR A MONTH AND WE MIGHT AS WELL GIVE UP NOW

(deep breaths)

and then the dreaded two week wait where you allow yourself to get hopeful every time you experience something vaguely different in your body (and find yourself Googling ridiculous things like “Is finger pain an early pregnancy symptom?”) and then trying to wait until the right time to take a test, then taking one early and getting a negative result but reassuring yourself that it’s just too early and then taking one at the right time and it coming out negative and convincing yourself that there is definitely a shadow and then taking another half a dozen just to be sure and then stressing yourself out so much your period ends up being late anyway, causing more angst.

Plus, crying in the doctor’s office. Crying in your boss’s office. Crying on the way to work. Crying on the way home from work. Crying in the middle of the night. Crying into your child’s hair. Changing your diet. Not drinking alcohol. No sugar! No caffeine! No additives! No fun!

Convincing yourself there is something dreadfully wrong and avoiding having your scheduled pap smear on time because you don’t want to find out and sending your husband off for tests because you’re afraid to send yourself off for tests, then three blissful months of acupuncture (if you exclude the three months of dreadful mornings and evenings of drinking foul tasting Chinese herbs) and finally you realise you can’t afford to keep that up and something has to give and…

Well – around comes October. We’ve passed the painful anniversaries of our baby’s due date and the date of our miscarriage the year before. I’ve come to an agreement with myself (and a very accommodating Big Poppa) that every new period will result in eating one full wheel of soft cheese, drinking one full bottle of red wine and booking in one full overnight, getting loose, letting it go girls’ night with my friends. We have decided to stop acupuncture and stop focusing on getting pregnant. We’ve started to think about all those other things we could plan for our future that don’t involve having another child. We have (again and again) celebrated the beautiful child we already have and have decided that’s enough. We’re thinking about working in Alice Springs and taking Little Fearse to New York and maybe even Disney Land. Our last hurdle to endure in our conception journey is a fertility appointment, booked months ago and coming up fast. After that we’ve agreed that armed with whatever knowledge we gain we will refuse any invasive tests or treatments and just get on with our lives.

And then, BAM. I’m booking a thousand appointments in a week and emptying out the pantry and taking a pregnancy test and WHAT? Two lines. Two lines. Two tests with two lines. FOUR LINES. This is more shocking than the 300 tests we’ve taken this year that were negative. Three tests, six lines. Four tests, eight lines. So we cancelled out fertility appointment and readjusted our future again.

And here we are. We’re 22 weeks along. It’s been anxious. There have been weeks of bleeding and blood tests, there have been 5 ultrasounds and 8 instances of hearing a healthy beating heart. We are at a stage now where we are finally feeling that this is something that is really happening – that come July we’ll have another Little Fearse (Mini Fearse? Tiny Fearse?) in our lives.

[Cute pic of Little Fearse and the bump to come when I’m…you know…not in my PJs and she’s…you know…not covered in Vegemite.]

Mama xo

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.

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

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.

 

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

The end (of April).

Today marks the end of two challenges we set for ourselves for the month of April; The Minimalist Game and Supermarket Free Month. Along with continuing to focus on reducing our waste and renovating a dollshouse for Little Fearse’s birthday, it’s been a big month.

The Minimalist Game became quite challenging towards the end and we still need to get rid of 28 things for Monday and another 13 for Tuesday. I have grand hopes that these things will be removed from Big Poppa’s office because I’m out. I have hunted everywhere! Here are some of the places we further decluttered to get to our total of 465 outgoing items:

  • DVD cabinet (this must be the fourth time we’ve been through these and still found more to get rid of)
  • Big Poppa’s office (a so-far untapped resource for stuff)
  • My jewellery box (again!)
  • CDs (for about the third time)
  • Clothes (unbelievably we are still getting rid of clothes from our adult wardrobes)Image
  • Books (yes, even books were ruthlessly discarded)
  • Furniture
  • Toys (although we did have some incoming for Little Fearse’s birthday – not as many as anticipated, our family and friends know us too well!)
  • Shoes (even Big Poppa!)
  • The shed
  • The cupboards in the spare bedroom (wowsers, they just keep filling up)
  • The garden (old pots, mostly)
  • Old electronics (yay for e-waste!)
  • The kitchen (again)
  • The linen press

The fabulous thing about this month of purging is that we really started to see our space with re-newed eyes. After finally moving on our beloved but large couch (yes, the one I mentioned here, right at the beginning of our journey) we were able to see that our back room had far more potential than we previously realised. We swapped my beautiful 1920s writing desk with the booksheves and created a whole new reading nook to house an antique coal shoot my Mum’s cousin passed on to us and one of my Mum’s antique library chairs. This also meant that Big Poppa finally got around to staining the coal shoot and it’s ready to go.

Our newly arranged, calm, functional, enjoyable dining room.

Our newly arranged, calm, functional, enjoyable dining room. And you know what else? I went in and took this photo without rearranging a thing. I love that there is so little purposeless clutter these days.

 

We also rearranged our kitchen to create a more cohesive preparation space and learned that we have an issue with our electrical plugs. This is something we need to get sorted, but with less stuff it just seems so much easier to do these things.

I also mounted a shadow box in Little Fearse’s play area that BP painted two years ago. We started a wall of family photos, something we’d been intending to do since we moved in three years ago.

Removing the stuff has really given us an opportunity to enjoy our home again. Even after a year of purging we still have such a long way to go but it’s beginning to get to the stage where we can see our progress and enjoy the empty space we’re making.

The actual act of physically removing stuff from our home has had an impact on so many areas of our lives – it is easier to invite people over, it is more enjoyable to be in every part of our home and spaces function as they’re intended.

If you haven’t started decluttering – I highly recommend it. Do the minimalist game this month. You won’t regret it!

[Coming up next: Our Supermarket Free month and a series on the dolls house renovation.]

Mama xo

Mama

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