The beauty of blank spaces.

I’m not a blank spaces kind of girl. I like to see those spaces used for their purpose. Bookshelves full to overflowing with interesting books and drawers full of pretty clothes and knickknack shelves full of (preferably vintage) thingies.Over the past two years I have learnt to love blank spaces. They show me that I have made progress. By leaving them blank they incite my imagination. All the things I could do with that space, the way I could curate it or fill it with stuff I love. And being able to imagine is enough.

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

Here are some of the blank spaces I have cultivated since we began our BNN year. Even though they are spaces filled with nothing, I sometimes think this is my biggest Buy Nothing achievement. Currently I am piloting an e-course for Bethany of Our Journey to Ithaca (which I will look forward to recommending to you when it’s up and running. The e-course runs alongside reading the e-book Clutterfree by Leo Babauta and Courtney Carver (full disclosure: I purchased this – but education is something I’m always willing to invest in). I haven’t read enough of the book yet to recommend it, but so far it reconfirms a lot of the things I have already learned about living a less clutter-some life, and also reminds me of some home truths I choose to forget sometimes. This quote, which I read today, is particularly relevant to this post: When you have emptiness in your home you have space to fill it with conversation, play, laughter, and silence. 

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces  The Fearse Family: Blank spaces The Fearse Family: Blank spaces The Fearse Family: Blank spaces The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

The Fearse Family: Blank spaces

I’d love to hear your tales of blank spaces! Share photos! 

Mamaxo

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

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.

 

As June 30th approaches (goal update)

The deadline for one of my January goals is fast approaching, so I felt it was a good time to update you and, in turn, keep myself on track.

1. I would like to reduce the stuff in our house by 1000 more items by Jan 1st 2015.

  • By our last update I had removed 191 items and added 55. We’re faring a lot better now, but I have been a bit slack in keeping track. Let’s call these numbers approximate.
  • Our outgoing stuff, helped along by the Minimalist Game, is at 635 items. I still have a lot of items in the out-going pile that just haven’t been moved on yet. I hope to focus on that a little these school holidays.
  • Our incoming stuff is at 101 items. This has been added to a lot due to Little Fearse’s birthday and, also, me losing focus a little. I’m getting less good at saying ‘no thanks’. I need to continually remind myself that we don’t need stuff. 
  • So, really, this brings our total for removed items (if I’m going to be strict) back to 534 items.
  • A little over half way at a little under the half way point. Not bad! Of course getting rid of 500 more items is going to be more challenging given the depths we have already gone to in our decluttering. I’ll let you know how I go.

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 reduced the stuff in these tubs by half a tub. So, I guess, that puts me at the half way point, too.

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.)

  • Here, you be the judge. Not toooooo bad.Image

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 have stopped selling things in eBay due to ludicrous fees and postage costs. I’m thinking about opening an Etsy store for my vintage dresses and BP’s vintage cup cake stands, but this is something I need to investigate further these holidays. I won’t be meeting this goal by June 30th, but will probably reassess and set a new goal once I know what I’m doing.

5. I would like to read 5 books on my to-read shelves by 1st Jan 2015.

  • This is the goal I am doing the best with. I have really prioritised reading lately, especially since BP’s new job means less reading time in the mornings. I use every free opportunity, including getting to school a little earlier to read in the car, reading in the bath, reading instead of watching movies or TV shows, going to bed earlier to read…reading, reading, reading.
  • I have read, since the last update, two more books from the shelves Last Words by George Carlin and Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro. This brings my total to four already!
  • My to-read shelves are now down to 99 books! I can’t remember the last time I had less than 100 books on this shelf. BP asked if I wanted some books for my birthday and it was so hard saying no, but I really want to get down to a less overwhelming number of unread books.
  • I have been borrowing a lot of books from friends and the library, and have been gifted some recent blockbusters which I raced through and passed on. None of these made it onto my to-read shelves, so I need to, perhaps, focus a little more on reading from the shelves and less on borrowing yet more books!
  • With my recent focus on reading perhaps I can set a goal within a goal and see if I can double it – 10 books by January 1st? You’re on!

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

Purge

For a long time I have been a “collector”, from basketball cards when I was a kid, to music and film on basically every kind of media you can imagine. I took pride In my collection and some weird way it gave me a sense of accomplishment. During this month we have been getting rid of the same amount of “things” as the day in the date. Today on the 23rd of April, I have purged and am not seeing the sense in the collection anymore. The first thing that took a shellacking was the DVD pile.

In this day and age, EVERYTHING is basically available on free or paid streaming, as well as the other means that one may obtain content from the good old internets. Instead of having a wall of DVDs I have a small black box that holds thousands of hours of music, film, tv and every other thing I could ever want that sits on a shelf next to the TV. Our TV aerial hadn’t been plugged in since the end of football season last September and was only plugged in recently for the very same reason, to watch one game of football a week. We don’t watch broadcast television and therefore are not advertised to or watch any of the lobotomy style programming the major networks in Australia pass off as entertainment or news.

Looking at my DVD stack, I realised I have most of the stuff digitally now and have pulled half of them out, to never be put back again. We maybe watch an actual DVD twice a year, all they are  doing is filling the space in our TV cabinet they could be better utilized. Out with the old in with the none.

I have even offered up three of my pairs of sneakers to the cause of a less cluttered life. More on that soon.

 

BPF

 

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.

Image

 

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