Monster knees.

Since I pared down my wardrobe I have only had one pair of jeans to wear.  I am beginning to re-think how I went about removing items from my wardrobe, mainly because I wear my jeans and tees so often and so hard.  I definitely need more of these than I previously thought.  A month ago my favorite (read: only) pair of jeans tore at one of the knees. I planned to patch them, but in the meantime I bought another pair of jeans (which are passable but nowhere near as good as the torn ones). This morning I woke up and went to put on my jeans only to discover they were dirty.  It was totally a jeans kind of day, so I immediately set about planning my patch. I’d seen Monster Knee Patch tutorials before (most notably when my gorgeous friend patched her farmer husband’s work pants in this way… He wasn’t happy but I thought it was great) and was eyeing them for my repair. I perused a few this morning and then set to.  I used left over placemat material from the tool belt I made, plus a bit of t-shirt left over from a baby sleeping bag I made years ago and some vintage buttons. It took about 45 minutes including toddler wrangling, bobbin winding and machine unsnarling. You know that’s pretty good for me.  You could probably make this in about 10 minutes. Here is my take on the monster patch (previously thought to be appropriate only for kids).

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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

Believe in what you buy.

Buy something new. I don’t mind. It’s not my choice, it doesn’t impact on my decisions. That’s the great thing about our BNN project – we buy nothing new. It’s pretty cut and dry, it doesn’t have too many grey areas, we can live by that. It doesn’t mean we feel judgemental towards anyone else for their consuming decision making. What it does mean is that we get to show others that buying nothing new is possible, and it also might give people an opportunity to think about their consumption habits in a conscious way. I think, mostly, the buy / sell process is automatic for most people now. We never really thought about it before our first year began. We had started to buy fair trade coffee and avoid products with palm oil. We were becoming more aware of where our food came from. We knew a little about the unethical production of Nikes. We avoided Nestle. If it was a well-publicised boycott, we knew about it. Otherwise, we were a bit mindless when it came to our spending. We also didn’t realise that there were alternatives to consuming.

The thing about becoming a conscious consumer is that it doesn’t mean you have to stop consuming.  For us it means buying second hand or not at all. For others it may mean buying fair trade, or from stores that provide something back to communities who need it (think Oxfam shops). For some people it may mean buying locally, or supporting small business. For some people it is about buying Australian (or American or Mexican or wherever you happen to be based) made. For some it is about avoiding purchases that may inadvertently support labour camps or that encourage criminally low wages and the exploitation of children. Some may splurge on high quality household goods, knowing they will (probably) never have to replace them. Some will buy branded clothing that can then be passed on at a fraction of the price to people like us who buy nothing new.

The point I’m making, is that buying nothing new is one way. It’s our way, and we like it. We will probably do it forever.

Either way, I think it’s important that we think about what we’re buying, whether we need it and where is has come from. Don’t just be a cog in the wheel of someone else’s design. Make your own wheel, or become a part of something you believe in. Contribute your hard earned dollars to something that matters.

Well, that’s my 2 cents. It’s about all I have spare…

Mama xoxo

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

 

 

Something was not quite right.

On Sunday BP and I went on a bit of a strange splurge. It all started on Saturday…

On Saturday BP smashed my favourite vintage glass jug to smithereens. I should qualify that he definitely didn’t mean to and maybe I could have put it somewhere different where it was less likely to get in the way of the frying pan. There is no point blaming a hungry person when your favourite vintage glass jug gets in the way of their bacon frying. 

I was surprised at how upset I was. Partially because I have recently learned how to make my own lemon cordial (or lemon lime cordial, or orange cordial or.. or..) and had been using the jug a lot. Also, I don’t have another jug. I decluttered all my other jugs. Plus, it was a very lovely jug with printed oranges and lemons on the outside an a turned lip. 

Sigh.

Still, it was just a thing and we are trying to reduce our attachment to things at the moment. 

So, BP suggested we head to Savers on the hunt for a replacement vintage glass jug. I think my heart skipped a beat when he suggested we go to Savers. I thought about Savers for the rest of the day and that night and then throughout Sunday morning.  

At Savers on Sunday afternoon I hunted through the kitchen goods section and didn’t find a jug that fit the bill. I did cruise passed the books and find one that I was specifically looking for to pass on to my brother. I then cruised passed the children’s clothing section with the tenuous excuse that Little Fearse needed a rain jacket and slippers. Half an hour later we left Savers $50 poorer, two green bags teeming with baby clothes. Oops, what just happened?

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A bad idea (creating the product in the first place…and me buying it.) [Image from Sweet Tater Blog]

Across the way BP noticed a Not Quite Right grocery store. When I lived in a share house in Coburg as a student I did a lot of shopping at NQR.  I’m sure you have something similiar somewhere near you – a grocery store where bad food ideas and out of date groceries goes to die (or be snapped up by poor students). I stopped going to NQR after I realised that most of the food I bought there was either disgusting or completely irrelevant to anything I cooked, ever. I think the bottle of green tomato sauce sat in the cupboard untouched for three years. 

I agreed to step foot in this NQR. I’m not sure why. As we walked in BP and I made a deal that we would only buy something if it was food we’d usually buy. BP was almost immediately dazzled by the strawberry and cream sour straps. This does not come under the category of ‘things we’d usually buy’. They kind of reminded us of bacon, which then reminded us of this. So we got some. After that we took a bit of time to regain control of our senses. 

I didn’t look at anything in NQR and wonder how it got there. No one needs a giant bottle of chicken parma sauce. In normal person land we call that tomato paste. And I don’t know who needs 5 litres of seafood sauce. I don’t want to meet that person. The “food” you find in NQR is usually highly processed, nutrient lacking and (surprisingly) not significantly cheaper than the regular grocery stores. 

We left with a kilo bag of frozen berries for smoothies (which was a really good deal at quarter of the price we’d usually pay), sour bacon straps and some bulk spices (the ones I use when making my signature freezer dahl…I use a lot of mustard seeds and tumeric). These were pretty good purchases. I didn’t eat any of the sour straps, but BP assures me they were as good as those he enjoyed as a kid (or…well…an inebriated adult). Honestly though, I think my NQR days are over. 

Both of us felt kind of sullied after our shopping spree and I’m not sure what came over us. Something just wasn’t quite right.

It does confirm, though, that in the right circumstances we’re just as likely as anyone else to have a day of needless purchasing. At least we’re doing it second hand. 

Mama xo