The up-cycle project inspired by Zach Braff.

When Big Poppa and I first met we spent many, many hours lying around watching Scrubs. We’d hang out for every new season, buy it on DVD and watch it until the discs wore out (I mean this quite literally). When we met we used to joke that all we had in common was a mutual love of Bill Murray, but the thing that probably kept us together was our common brand of humour. We loved the crap out of Scrubs and both of us were pretty fond of Zach Braff. We didn’t write this song, but we probably would have if we’d thought of it first.

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So, years ago, when I discovered this t-shirt available for sale of course I bought it for BP. Of course I did. BP was leaner then (okay, if I’m going to be fair we were both so much leaner then), but he’s always been particular about the shape of his shirts and he prefers black, so he never wore it much. With all the decluttering and shifting of stuff, I just haven’t been able to pass this one on. It doesn’t fit BP and it doesn’t fit me, but maybe one day…?

Today a post that promised 25 minute sewing projects came up in my feed. I’m always looking for 25 minute sewing projects, because then I am absolutely certain they won’t take me more than 8 hours. Waking today and realising that no one had any plans (an oasis in a storm of activity) we decided to have a pyjama day. Big Poppa has been working on a mixtape for someone special, so I figured I had time for a mini project. This DIY kids nightie caught my eye. Even better – it boasts that it’s a 15 minute project. That’s only about 4 hours in Mama time. Super!

I rummaged through the sewing box and found the vending machine t-shirt. At men’s size XL I knew I was stretching being able to do this in just 15 minutes, but I figured I could probably get something to work. Even if it just kind of worked. Little Fearse is never particularly critical of my sewing adventures, so I reckoned it was a safe bet.

The Fearse Family: Zach Braff t-shirt upcycle.

It took me about 2 hours in the end. Due to the size of the t-shirt I also had to cut out and reset the sleeves. I only knew this was a possibility from reading other t-shirt up-cycle tutorials previously and I’m sure that if anyone who actually knew anything about sewing checked this out they’d be horrified. It works, anyway, and Little Fearse (although very grumpy for these photos) seems wiling to wear it. And I reckon she looks just as spiffy as Zach Braff.

Mama xo

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A rookie mistake.

BP and I made a rookie mistake last week. I call this a rookie mistake because it’s the kind of decision we would have made thoughtlessly in our pre-BNN life. And here we are, 19 months later, making the same sorts of mistakes. Unlearning life-long habits is hard.

My laptop isn’t functioning all that well and really needs to be kept in one steady place. In addition to this my back doesn’t thank me for using my laptop as it’s intended (on my lap). We decided to get a small desk for our living area so that I could remain a part of the gang while using my computer.

BP recalled, with sentimentality, how much he’d loved his childhood desk The Fearse Family: A Rookie Mistake– an 80s style map top desk (chunky and brown). He asked around and found that it was located at his sister’s house. She kindly offered to have it fixed and delivered it herself.

We have had it less than a week and it has served its function as a table for my laptop quite well, but it has also quickly become a new surface to add clutter to. We knew this was going to happen. Everything we have learned about removing clutter from our home tells us that we need less surfaces and less storage, not more. Everyone who has lived in a house knows that it is going to take less than a month for those drawers to be loaded up with stuff.

Although we had already discussed the need for a dining table in the front room, sentimentality clouded our vision and we brought in this desk that is all wrong. During the winter months we only heat the front half of our house. The back half has few blinds and curtains and most of the heat would be lost. The only time we use that end of the house is for eating dinner. We could easily have solved this issue and the desk issue with a small, compact dining table in place of the big, chunky desk.  If we had a dining table here it would still be a surface, but at least it would be one that we had to clear every night to eat.

I’m disappointed in our thought processes which basically showed no growth from our impulsive decision making prior to our first buy nothing year.

Of course now we have a fierce Fearsian stand-off. BP is sentimental and wants to hold on to the desk and I am a cold-hearted clutter clearer and want to move it on (or at least out of the house) to make room for something more practical to our purposes.

When you make significant changes to the way you lead your life, you owe it to yourself not to relax on those ideals. We have worked too hard to claw our way forward to now allow ourselves to slip backwards into old habits that don’t suit our purposes.

This week, to help us remember how far we have come, BP and I used ingenuity to repair a squashed, shattered and near destroyed washing basket. When I bought this basket, several years ago, I bought the cheapest one I could find. Everything about it was nasty. It didn’t take long for it to start deteriorating. Recently someone sat on it, or stepped on it, or was pushing someone else around in it as though it was a car and it collapsed into itself. Since we’re working on reducing our waste, and there was no way this was recyclable plastic, we knew that we had no choice but to find a way to repair it, or reuse it. I made the decision to buy the shittiest, cheapest basket I could find and I’m now responsibleWashing basket
for where that ends up. So, how do you repair a shattered plastic washing basket? Start by connecting all the broken bits back together with a few handy pipe cleaners, then insert a hardy backdrop (in this case some cardboard that came as the packaging for one of Little Fearse’s birthday gifts) and go to town with gaffa tape. Ta da! I reckon it will last us another decade, don’t you?

The daily decisions we make about our consumption and about the things we bring into our home need constant examination. This way of life is not yet ingrained in us, which is not helped by the fact that it is far from the norm in society. I see that there is a shift and change happening around us and I hope that things will change in this lifetime. All I can control are the choices that I make and hope that I can mostly make good ones.

Mama xo

The hierarchy of the three Rs.

Today when I watched Waste Deep I was reminded again that many people are still unaware of the true function of the three R’s of sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The three Rs don’t just suggest three ways of being more sustainable. It is a hierarchical model for leading a greener existence.

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Often the first thing people who are trying to reduce their waste will notice is that their recycling bin is now much fuller than their rubbish bin. While this is a really great start, the reduction in waste starts with just that – reduction!

Part of the reason our family buys nothing new is because we believe that all of the things we need in this world have already been made, purchased, in most cases used and have plenty of life left in them for a new life with us. If we are unable to buy something second hand we will usually not buy it at all. This means that we are instantly reducing our impact on the earth. Every new item that is purchased is created by using a variety of resources from production of initial materials and assembly of the product to packing, shipping and promotion. I’m not just talking about clothing and stuff here. I’m also talking about food. If we buy processed food (and try as I might not to, there is a whole pile of it in my pantry right now) there is often a hefty drain on resources before those items even hit the shelves.

So, what’s a better choice?

Reduce the processed food you buy and reduce the amount of food you buy overall. Really think about the type of packaging on your food – can it be composted or returned to nature? Is it plastic that can be recycled? Or is it foil or styrofoam that is much harder to dispose of? Think about this for all the stuff you buy.

Try and find a reuse for items, even recyclable ones, first. Glass jars have a bajillion uses. I give mine to my Dad for jams, sauces and pickles (and often get them back filled with goodies). I have a friend who offers her jars up in bulk lots for free on classified sites. Some people use them for storing collections (I can’t speak from experience because I do not have a large collection of vintage buttons sorted into colour lots in glass jars on my sewing shelves). You can use a glass jar for transporting soup, or as a vase. Tins, like jars, can also be used as a variety of receptacles. One of my favourite reuses for tins was seen in a cafe recently. They had used a variety of pretty tomato tins for utensils on the tables. I actually took a photo of this to share with you, but can I find it now? No, sir.

Glass and tin are two things that actually recycle well. They tend to retain their quality through recycling processes over and again . What’s really challenging and helpful is when you find ways to reuse plastic products, which reduce in quality every time they are recycled. I always try and find second, third and fourth uses for the least recyclable plastics, such as margarine and yoghurt containers. These are of such low quality by the time they’re produced, due to being made from a variety of recycled plastics melted together, that they can only really be recycled into plastic lumber which is in limited demand.

The final step in the three RRRs of sustainable practices, is recycle. This is certainly a better option than sending your goods to landfill. People often forget that recycling is a process which involves the use of transport and energy, as well as large amounts of other resources such as water. Recycling is what prevents much of our resources from going to landfill, but the recycling plant is the last step before landfill.

I’d love to see many more people putting many more steps between purchase and disposal. 

Mama xo

Sentimental paper gifts: DIY Memorabilia Mini book


Minibooks edit

For Big Poppa’s 30th birthday this week I wanted to make him something special, which also reflected his new status as an “old man”. BP is affectionately thought of by many who know him as a grumpy old man. At the age of 24 he did start saying things like “I don’t understand young people any more”. Now that he’s officially tipped over into his 30s we have joked that he can now really start his decent into grumpy old man territory.

This project included finding a use for some of the paper memorabilia I’ve saved from our honeymoon in New York, as well as creating a mini book explaining the dice game Farkle. I found a gorgeous set of dice at the market in a little leather case. I couldn’t resist buying them for my-young-old man, but we’ve never played dice games, so I thought I’d better find a game we could enjoy. Farkle seems to be a popular and fun game we can play with just the two of us.

[I have also made a mini book comic about how we met for BP for our first wedding anniversary (paper) and last year I made a friend a mini book from a gorgeous old raggedy 70s picture book that was falling apart. The possibilities are endless really.]

Step 1 Minibook edit

1. You can use any paper of any size to make these books. If you want to use some paper from a special holiday or event, you can choose bits and pieces, like I did, and glue them on to a larger piece of paper. I glued these papers onto an A4 page. As well as the paper you will need scissors.
2. So here is my paper to start with (each side is different).

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3. Fold the page in half.

4. Fold the page in half again.

5. Fold the page in half a third time. By this stage you will need to apply quite a bit of pressure to get a good crease.

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6. Unfold your page to step 4.

7. With the fold towards you, cut up the middle crease to the centre of the page.

8. When you unfold your page it should look like this, with a slit up the centre of the middle four rectangles.

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9. Fold the page in half lengthways and open the slit out like a diamond.

10. Push the top and bottom points of the diamond together and press the pages into a booklet. This is where you might have to readjust your creases to ensure the pages are even.

11. Voila! Mini book.

I used the pages from a tiny note pad inside my booklet and hand wrote the information. You can do whatever you like inside yours – use photos, stickers, lined pages, sketch paper…be creative!

If you do make a mini book using these instructions I’d love to see it! Please leave a link in comments or pop a photo up on our Facebook page.

Happy birthday to my beautiful beardy man. xo

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, wehatewaste.com.

Thanks for the image, wehatewaste.com.

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

Links we’ve loved #10

We have really loved finding the perfect recipient for things we are decluttering. Sometimes it’s an item of clothing that would better suit a friend, sometimes a DVD we know someone will love or something we no longer need that someone else does (often a charity that is looking for something very specific). Liesl Clark’s post 365 Days of Giving is a lovely post that looks at giving from a new perspective.

This post about the first day of marriage equality in Minnesota made us envious. We wish Australia would get with the program.

Great short film. Watch.

We love Dads here at Fearse Industries – especially special Dads. Also, regular Dads. And wise, funny Dads. And cool Dads.

How do you feel about bear decapitation? We are fans.

We think this petition is worth signing.

Big Poppahumour.

We always like to follow when Vladimir Putin is in the news. Don’t you? He pretty much awes us and terrifies us in equal amounts.

The first time Little Fearse saw this she was completely awe struck (so were BP and Mama).

We’d love your recommendations for great links from the week. Hope your weekend was splendid.

Happy Sunday,

Mama, Big Poppa & Little Fearse xoxox

Links we’ve loved #5, Part 1.

My parents tried to sell their piano for years. When that failed they tried to give it away. No one wanted it. I was really shocked. Like many people I had thought that pianos were expensive to buy and something people valued. I was wrong. When BP and I bought our house he asked if he could have the piano. I wasn’t so sure, but as it turns out it has been a great addition to our home and a beautiful instrument for Little Fearse to explore. This article talks about putting free stuff on the curb, but also includes a really upsetting youtube clip of pianos being tossed in the tip. Adopt a piano, you won’t regret it!

If you want to squee a little go here.

This isn’t my favourite article on this topic, but it is the most recent I’ve read.

This is pretty cool – imagine being plastic bag free entirely.

This article made me really glad to know that we have so many strong females in our lives.

Our FB page includes links and photos throughout the week. We’d love to see you there.

Have a great weekend,

Mama xox