Holiday houses and dust bunnies.

This week I visited my parents’ holiday house for the second time this year, but the first time since I started to do some serious reading on minimalism. It gave me a good opportunity to examine how my thinking has changed.

I have always loved spending time there – it’s in a quiet area, by a rocky beach.  The TV doesn’t get turned on much, and if my parents are there we will almost always play a game of cards after dinner. There are rock pools, bays and surf within walking distance. As the weather turns cool a view of the ocean out the front forms a back drop for endless hours of book reading. It’s a simple place to be.

What I noticed this time, however, was that holiday houses tend to become a retirement home for our stuff. Somewhere between usefulness and the junk yard these items find their way into cupboards, shelves and drawers in our holiday homes. I found myself itching to return the jars of shells to the beach and gather up the dusty books, unread for so many years, to be donated to the local book sale. I peeked into each nook and cranny in my old bedroom and was horrified to find the junk I’d transferred there as a ten year old still remained. I spent some time throwing away balls of old blue tack and rusty paper clip chains. There was a bottle of deodorant at least 15 years old. Who knows how long the moisturiser had been there?

Driving by many other holiday homes I spied through windows dusty vases on sills, whole rooms of standing fans, sunrooms overfilled with cane furniture and dusty house plants. It seems that the holiday house phenomenon is not particular to my parents’ house.

Once I would have seen the charm in these dust catchers. I don’t any more. I’m not sure whether to spend some time mourning the loss of that part of who I am. This really is a major shift in my mindset, and not something I expected at all from the BNN year. While this is something that is certainly exciting it’s also left me feeling a little sad. I hope when I am done with my decluttering and the 2-4-1 challenge ends I don’t look around and feel a little empty.

Three steps forward, two steps back.

Mama xo

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I bought something I didn’t need.

I went on a wild op shopping adventure through the ‘posher’ suburbs of Melbourne today, hosted by a friend who knows the area well. When I say “wild” I guess what I really mean is “whirlwind” because it didn’t end with us drinking tequila shots or buying ridiculous taffeta ball gowns. I think those days are over for me. At the end of the day we came home to our beautiful daughters, not a bad trade off.

I was pretty sensible today. I focused on stuff I needed (clothes for work and clothes for Little Fearse in size 2). I managed to find something from my list – a three photo frame – still in its packaging. I got Little Fearse a lovely stuffed Peter Rabbit for Easter. Apparently we are the kind of family who gives Easter gifts. I don’t think we were going to be that kind of family until toady when I went rabbit crazy at the op shop.

So, I was going along nicely buying things we needed or kind of needed or sort of needed and then I came across this…

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Now, I expect you to be underwhelmed by this fruit bowl. I’m clearly some kind of tin weasel peckerwood looney because when I showed this to my friend and to BP they both made the same ‘meeehrgh’ sound. I think it’s sensational. All glassy and flowery and ready for my fruit. And it sure beats the very blah modern green ceramic bowl I currently have. I dig this fruit bowl. I’m going to see this fruit bowl first thing in the morning and feel satisfied.

See,I knew I’d never make it as a minimalist. Stuff makes me feel things.

All glassy eyed with consumerist goo,

Mama xoxo

PS Yeah, I’m categorising this as art. What you going to do about it?

The Rainbow Fish

I was reading The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister to my students the other day and it struck me that the lesson in the book can easily be interpreted as pro-minimalist. The fish is advised by the wise octopus to give away one of his most beautiful sparkling scales to each of his friends. It not only wins friends (hmm) but also relieves the fish from his concern about damaging or losing his shiny scales and allows him to frolic with the other fish.
Marcus Pfister is not wrong. Getting rid of stuff does relieve a lot of pressure. Especially if you have an upwardly mobile almost 11 month old baby roaming the house. As such a situation requires, all our dooby-wats and knickey-knacks have been moved off the bottom shelves and out of low flying cupboards. There are a lot of blank patches, once dust free. It gives you an opportunity to imagine life without those shelves of thing-i-mi-bobs that don’t have a purpose. Frankly, I’m not too fussed about that stuff anymore, no matter how cutesy vintage it is. Well, except the vintage Japanese kitten sugar bowl and milk jug. When you pour milk out of the spout it looks like the kitten is spewing. That’s entertainment right there.
Anyhoo, slight stray from topic. The other day some friends were over with their almost two year old son. He wandered off into another room and his Dad raced after him. I called out “Don’t worry if he breaks anything, it just gives us an excuse to get rid of it.” And you know what? It’s true.
As 2-4-1 carries on (current update: 15 in – 82 out ) the decisions are getting harder. We’re having to face the prospect of giving away sentimental objects and things we love for no reason except that they’re beautiful. Our thinking needs to shift even further to accommodate where the challenge is taking us. It’s kind of exciting.

Mama xo

Philosophies of minimalism.

Before we started BNN I rarely read blogs that dealt with the idea of minimalism. I have previously considered “minimalism” in itself to be more about a particular aesthetic than a philosophy for life. I’ve been really enjoying my reading on the topic, and found myself pondering the philosophies often lately. You may have gathered that I am far from a minimalist in the material sense and it’s not something I particularly aspire to. I do, however, enjoy the idea of simplifying my life – letting go of some of the mental and physical clutter that fills space in my mind and calendar.

I really enjoyed the first six weeks of Little Fearse’s life. I had been geared to experience infinite challenges, emotional turmoil, inability to ‘achieve’ and feelings of being overwhelmed and under resourced. I did feel and experience all those things on and off, but on the whole I just enjoyed my baby. We would often sleep in until 11am because that’s what she wanted to do. I would spend whole days playing with her, holding her, watching her, reading to her, sleeping with her. On these days there was never food ready for dinner when BP got home. The washing wasn’t done, the house wasn’t tidy, the bathroom didn’t smell of bleach. And you know what? None of us suffered. In fact, we all found our lives more gentle and enjoyable for it.

Sometimes this wasn’t possible. Sometimes for whole weeks we had visitors (four lots in one day was our brain exploding record), appointments, places to be every single day. On these weeks our sleep, energy and emotional wellbeing suffered.

I have learnt that to be an effective parent I need to have down time with my baby in every week. I have learnt that to be a happy baby Little Fearse needs whole days where she doesn’t get in the car or see a new face or have a new experience.

In this world we are geared towards productivity. We are driven by a force to achieve and have proof of achievement. We are not to let our hedges get unwieldy or our kitchen floors get grubby, our windows to be streaked or our lawns to be long. We are to socialise, get out of the house, see people – be seen with people! We are to have jobs, do our chores, cook our meals from scratch – be the best, most productive people we can be. One might say like a pig, in a cage, on antibiotics. 

Musical interlude.

Back to regular programming.

Joshua Becker’s article The 10 Most Important Things to Simplify in Your Life has given me a lot to think about. I am constantly trying to multitask to get things done. I will also often jump from task to task as though I’m ticking things off an urgent mental ‘to do’ list. I find on days I do this I really crash at the end. I’ll often be too tired to make dinner, or give Little Fearse the attention she needs or even respond appropriately to BP in conversation (apparently ‘so’s your face’ is wearing thin). And my freezer might be full, my bathroom might be clean, the sixteen loads of washing might be washed and hung up and dried and taken down and put away (hahaha) but I’m useless as a partner and mother. So, what’s the point?

Becoming a minimalist is about more than an aesthetic and more than getting rid of stuff. It’s also about tidying your mind and day. Deciding what is most important because you can’t do everything. BP and Little Fearse are most important to me, followed by laughter and a sense of fun and a healthy lifestyle. I obviously need to balance that with the other sometimes necessary tasks in life. I always need to leave room for these things.

Time Stops When The Watch Breaks

I buy service station watches and wear them with pride. I have enjoyed the disposable side of this practice for many years. The watch breaks, I go to the servo and for under thirty dollars I have a new watch, in the style I like (chunky cheap metal) that will last me anywhere from a week to 5 years. Baby Fearse likes playing with my watch when I take it off at the end of the day, I guess the noise of the metal click clacking is pleasing to her and who am I to deny her that small pleasure? Long story short, she broke it.

The watch is easily repairable, the shopping centre guy that cuts keys, cobbles shoes and fixes watches would probably do it for less than $5. When it broke though I instantly thought BUY NOTHING NEW! Loudly.

Mama Fearse assured me this fell outside of BNN and is under the umbrella of “services rendered” or “repairs:” It made me wonder though, why did I instantly decide the watch was a write off?

I have really gotten on board with BNN despite initial scepticism and fear, I really enjoy finding a way around having to buy something new and am endlessly impressed with the resourcefulness of Mama Fearse, she is more the definitely built for this.

I think that I may have gotten the overall message of BNN and our recent de-clutterification of the Fearse Cave mixed up. I initially thought of disposing of the watch and just using my mobile phone’s clock from then on, like the watch was going to take up so much space that we would be better off without it anywhere near the house.

Then time stopped.

I really want this whole BNN thing to work for our family and I am enjoying seeing the sometimes subtle and sometimes large changes this is making to our environment and home.  I need to find the balance between militant minimalist and crazy consumer that I’m comfortable with, that also suits our family’s needs. I don’t know, I’m sure I’ll get there…

Some Time.

Peace

BPF

I spoke too soon.

I really did mean it when I asked where all this stuff comes from, but I’m beginning to work it out. Today when visiting a friend we were gifted a number of items. Some of them were things we needed, some of them were things we didn’t. Now that I have brought them home BP reminds me that I have to get rid of two items for each one.

Oooh yeah, I remember that late night post now.

Due to a recent roof leak in our bedroom our already crappy curtains absorbed a lot of water and became stained. I think it’s a good enough reason to get off my butt and replace them. They are the type of cheap curtain that is bought in packs and attached by flimsy brackets. The parts are all plastic and break easily. Little Fearse likes to pull the thin plastic rods out and swing them around. They really have to go. I think I can use the material for something like an art mat or a picnic rug, as they’re rubber backed. I will definitely use it.

Anyhoo…today we were gifted a curtain rod. In exchange I will get rid of a blue stripy vase which I keep thinking is useful but haven’t used in years and a book called ‘The Musicians of Auschwitz’ which I bought in an op shop in New York and was translated from French. I will probably never read it.

I once blogged that I was worried about finding shoes for when Little Fearse starts walking. She’s already begun to take steps, so this is becoming a little more urgent.  My wonderful friend’s Mum handed down the beautiful leather shoes she wore when she was a tiny tot (circa 1980). I will add one of my pairs of shoes and a straw hat to the op shop pile in exchange for these two tiny pairs of shoes. I will also take to school for our EQ area two lovely books about feeling happy and feeling angry.

My friend also found a tiny jacket for Little Fearse. I will exchange this for a certain surprise Sesame Street themed parcel for a lovely family we know. I will also finally pass on my DVD copy of The Magical Mystery Tour. No matter how much you love The Beatles (and I do) this is a terrible, terrible film and in the 7 years since I bought it at a garage sale I have watched it precisely 0.5 times.

To solve an earlier freezing food in bulk dilemma my friend had saved a heap of take away containers for us. I am going to cheat slightly with this and exchange these space-wise with all the glass jars I took to my Dad for pickles on Thursday.

She also gave me a cotton reel holder from her Grandma’s house. This is an item I’ve been meaning to acquire (not this one in particular, but one of it’s type) for years to tidy up my sewing corner. I will exchange this for two books of old uni readings, currently taking up valuable space in Little Fearse’s wardrobe.

That was already difficult, but you know what? I didn’t even know we had some of those things. It just took a little fossicking in cupboards to find random items. I don’t have great hopes for us in the long run becoming actual minimalists, but I’ll be really interested to see how far we can go.

Mama xo

PS I’m not going to bore you with posts that list every item we get rid of in the future. The aim of this is for you to really see just how many layers and layers of things we are dealing with. I wonder if people who have less storage have less stuff or just more clutter?

D…d…declutter.

A part of what we want to do this year is declutter our home. With no new things coming in it should be much easier to do this (theoretically). Every so often I’ll read an article about different ways to approach clutter in your house. A lot of them focus on the wardrobe. The rule regarding getting rid of anything you haven’t worn in 12 months just gives me heart palpitations. I have a lot of vintage dresses that I haven’t worn in a long time, but I’m very attached to them.

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I know I will never find anything like them again. I realise that is just an excuse. But seriously, it’s just not happening. So where to next? My books? Magazines? My jars of buttons? I think maybe it’s one of the downsides to being a teacher. Everything is a resource. Most things I keep for crafting / sewing / school do come in handy. They take up so much room, though. And they only come in handy once, maybe twice a year.

Here are a few articles I’ve read that I think have great ideas. The thing I like about these articles are that they make it sound easy and even a little bit fun. I am actually a little inspired to start. Just a little. I’ll let you know if I make any progress*.

33 Ways to Declutter

18 Simple Ways to Declutter Your Home By Going Green

10 Creative Ways to Declutter

Don’t let the junk win!

Mama xoxo

*If you’re after a hair straightener, I’m your gal. It’s the one thing I have so far decided I don’t need, so mine is up for grabs. Let me know if you want it.