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.
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.
Day 3 I worked on Little Fearse’s wardrobe and got rid of a large stack of old greeting cards.
Will you join me? I’m posting pretty much daily on our Facebook page, I’d love to see your progress, too.
Last week I cut off over 35 centimetres of my hair. I didn’t do it to simplify my life, but ohmigosh. It takes about a minute to wash, uses so little shampoo and conditioner and about 5 minutes to dry. It barely needs brushing and it needs no styling. I had completely overlooked how much time I was spending (without ever doing much at all) on maintaining and then, mostly, hiding (in a bun) my hair. I’m so relieved. If you want a truly simple life, cut your hair. (Better, shave it all off.)
I was prompted to cut off my hair to donate to a company that then uses the hair to create wigs for cancer patients. I did this in honour of a beautiful, passionate woman who I both respected and admired. We lost her on June 27th, too soon. I don’t doubt for a second that if I had offered her my hair during her 9 month battle with cancer she would have said “Hell no!” Nevertheless, if someone out there can use my hair, I’m happy for them to have it. I didn’t even know that it was possible to donate hair until my gorgeous cousin posted about doing the same thing on FB last year. I thought this was a good opportunity to share this info with our readers and spread the word a little (although, to counteract advertising for a hair product company I will be entirely forthright – I would never put their products anywhere near my hair).
I don’t miss my hair. I had the choice of keeping it or cutting it. Other’s don’t.
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:
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.
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.
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)
Books (yes, even books were ruthlessly discarded)
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 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. 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!
On the way home from family day care yesterday Little Fearse started a conversation with her BP about our house and whether it was also our home. Later, on the way to Granny and Papa’s for dinner this happened:
Lil Fearse: Bye bye Daddy’s house.
Mama: Bye bye home.
LF: Daddy’s house, LF and Daddy and Mummy home.
M: That’s right, it’s our home.
LF: Go Papa’s house.
M: Yes, Papa’s house and Granny’s house. It’s also their home.
LF: NO! Papa house. Granny house. NOT home!
M: Well, yes, it’s their house and their home, too.
LF: NO NO NO NO NO! Daddy’s house Papa and Granny home.
M: Is our house Papa and Granny’s home, too?
LF: Yes. Mummy and Daddy and LF and Papa and Granny home.
I think it is a most remarkable thing that our two year old wants to distinguish between a house (structure) and a home (heart). For our last year or so we have been working on making this house a place to put our hearts. We are getting there. When our family came for LF’s birthday on Saturday many commented that they were starting to see the difference. There is less stuff and more room for that cosy, homey feeling. It is so restful and calming. It makes me happy.
On Tuesday I stayed in my pyjamas all day. I read my book until late. I did some sewing. I cooked raviolli from scratch. I dug into the deepest depths of our home and continued my decluttering journey.
Sometimes when it’s school holidays I catch up with all my other teaching friends and take Little Fearse on outings and run errands until suddenly I look around and the calendar is full, the holidays are waning and I’m exhausted. For the past year we have battled this by spending a week of my school hoildays at Phillip Island, but this wasn’t something we managed to organise these holidays. I almost fell into my old trap – by the end of the first official day of holidays (Monday) I’d already been off school for 6 days and I had already done so many things and I was already exhausted.
I’m not good at saying ‘no’ and I’m especially not good at remembering to schedule nothing for my own well being. I think it is a weakness in my character that I worry more about letting others down than I do about letting myself down. It doesn’t make a person selfless, it makes them a bit of a push over.
I loved my Tuesday. I felt really good at the end of my Tuesday. I felt like I could start organising new things to do on my holidays after my Tuesday. I recommend you schedule a Tuesday for yourself.
We’ve been having lots of fun together lately, Little Fearse, Big Poppa and I. Play has included; exploring nearby nature parks; dressing up; lots of crazy, unbalanced, creative towers; dressing like Dad; creating a zoo; bathing with rose petals gathered from the garden; cooking pancakes; learning about the fragility of eggs; designing our own ragdoll; deciding that actually, she needs a face; riding on things designed not for riding; sharing fun breakies (and playing musical chairs).
Little Fearse and I had an early Earth Hour with a candle lit bath last week. It was a really lovely way to spend an hour, playing ducks in the near dark. She is thoroughly enjoying her little tent, filling it with blankets and phones and toys – her own hideout. We are visiting the library every second week and falling in love with new stories each time. She loves turning surprising things in to drums and drums into surprising things.
Watching an almost 2 year old create and imagine and explore is such a joyous thing.
We visited a new baby who had smiles and cuddles and a school fete full of cheerful souls and found a pirate tent for Little Fearse for $1. Little Fearse swung on swings and slid down slides and cuddled cousins. We saw itty bitty baby animals and classrooms full of clothes and Little Fearse drank from her first Primary School water fountain. We dressed up in silly masks and costumes and squealed in a photo booth. Today was a warm and happy little day.
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 taskscan 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.
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…