On happiness, women and cleaning

I’m reading an eye-opening article. I’ve always wondered how it’s possible for my husband to “relax” in the middle of a filthy, cluttered room when there’s pets to feed, rooms to clean, stuff to tidy, weeds to pull, errands to run and a house to maintain.

While he ‘relaxes’ in front of his computer or the TV, I rush about trying my best to finish everything so I can ‘find time’ to relax with him.

Women have long been oppressed by the deep-seated cultural expectation that our leisure can only begin once our domestic obligations have been met.

Have I succeeded in escaping the consumer and corporate rat race only to fall into a Konmari trap?

 

There was a severe weather warning yesterday. The day was dark, cold, wet and rainy. I woke several times this morning only to fall back asleep because it was too cold to get out from under the doona.

When I eventually emerged at 11am, still exhausted from the last few days of rushing through work and chores, I found the sun had come out and was drying the garden and warming my  dog’s fur. Today’s a lovely day.

I could spend my Sunday relaxing with my Sophie dog, taking her for a long, leisurely stroll and hanging out with her in the garden. Or I could feel guilty for sleeping in, turn on the laptop to get some work done while I have coffee, hoping the coffee will give me just enough energy to fill the wall unit back up after I’d moved it and decluttered it a bit.

Guess which option I naturally fell into?

Ruth Whippman, the article’s author, clearly shares this domestic guilt. Is this an internal struggle all women have? Can you relate?

I harbour a constant fantasy that one day I will have a perfectly clean home. I feel guilty sitting down when there is wiping to be done and I am constantly telling my kids to “wait a second” while I just pick up or dispose of or fold One More Thing.  After buying Kondo’s book, I squandered entire minutes of my one and only life staring at a bottle of dishwasher liquid pondering whether or not it “sparked joy”.

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The thing is, cleaning never ends

A little inspiration… from a hamster and a fish

I just love local Perth artist Little Sketchy - meet Hammy the Hamster.
I just love local Perth artist Little Sketchy – meet Hammy the Hamster.

Seeing Hammy on his little boat reminded me of a saying that has always inspired me.  I’ve seen many version of this quote and its been attributed to many people, including the Dalai Lama. No matter who said it first and how, it’s just as inspirational.

“Many drops an ocean make”

As much as you might like to, you don’t have to change the world. You don’t have to fix the problem. All you have to do is something. Just a small change. Just be one voice. You are never alone, and with enough voices and people making small changes just like you, we can change the world together. And if not.. well… at least you made a ripple.

Have you seen Finding Nemo? I’m amazed at just how inspirational that movie is. Particularly this scene:

Nemo was just a drop in the ocean, just one fish. But when he rallied others to swim with her, she became an ocean. All the little fish together became as powerful as a shark.

I often find myself muttering a sing-song “Just keep swimming.. Just keep swimming…” That’s really all you need to do. Just make one small step at a time. Try and convince others to make one small step at a time too. Small actions can achieve great things.

There’s quite a lot out there saying that long-term change is best achieved through setting small goals, or through building small habits. Once that new habit becomes second nature, you can add one more little habit to it – it’s called habit stacking. And that’s how you get your ripple.

I’m on a mission to simplify my life and to save the environment (including living a zero-waste life). That’s a pretty big ocean. Here are some my drops; here’s how I keep swimming:

  • Swap a disposable item for a reusable one, one thing at a time – buy a reusable bag, a reusable coffee cup, a reusable water bottle.
  • Say no to buying that item you’re looking; you don’t need it.
  • Choose one thing to declutter.
  • Put away one thing where it belongs.
  • Tidy/organise one space.
  • Ask for one drink to be served without the straw
  • Choose one item from your to do list and do it or ditch it.
  • Fix one thing (and be glad you don’t have to buy a replacement)
  • Remember your reusable bag on this shopping trip.
  • Put the plastic-packaged item you’re holding back on the store shelf and reach for another product with cardboard/glass/recycled packaging instead.
  • Learn to make one thing from scratch.
  • Have one conversation about reducing waste

 

What are your drops in the ocean? Are you taking small steps towards anything big? Have you ever made a ripple? I’d love to hear your stories!

 

 

 

 

 

One man’s wise words and one woman’s new challenge

So my husband says to me “We should declutter”.

I laughed. “I’ve been decluttering for 2 years!”

Although when I thought about it, it’s been much longer than that, more like 5 or 6 years.

“Yeah, in dribs and drabs. We need to make a real dent in it. We need to be free”.

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He’s completely right. I’ve been decluttering forever and I still feel completely buried by stuff. It’s overwhelming. As soon as I get rid of one carload at a swap meet, I start throwing things in boxes and piles until I have a messy spare room and another carload of stuff to get rid of.

How does that happen? Why is decluttering a neverending process? Is decluttering like a ‘to do list’, always promising to one day be empty, but always being overwhelmingly full? Judging by the growing minimalist movement, I’d say I’m not the only one struggling with this problem.

One reason for starting Buy Nothing Year was to stop new stuff coming into my life so I could actually have less stuff. It’s not ‘less’ if you get rid of three things in a week but buy five.

Buy Nothing Year is going well, but it’s only half of the equation. It’s time to start another challenge. It’s time to get serious about decluttering. It’s time to tackle this head on.

Stay tuned for my post on my decluttering challenge!

Oh, but it needs a catchy name. If my first challenge was Buy Nothing Year, maybe this should be Give Away Everything Year? Ditch All the Things Year? Clearly, I need help naming this challenge – what would you name it?

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I’d love to hear from you. Are you decluttering? How are you doing it? What’s your best tip? What’s the hardest thing about decluttering? Or, if you’re not doing it – what’s stopping you?

Op Till You Drop!

Well my Buy Nothing Year is going well (Day 33). I haven’t bought anything new other than gifts and consumables. I am struggling a little with free items given to me by others, but more on that later.

Today, let’s talk about SHOPPING. Op shopping, to be precise. For those of you on the other half of the world, I’m talking about charity shops, second hand shops, good will shops, whatever you like to call them.

Australia’s National Op Shop Week started today and runs until August 30th, 2015.

Why this week? The start of spring is the most popular time of year for women to clear out their wardrobes. Nearly a quarter of women sort and de-clutter during September. That means a whole bunch of new stuff appearing in shops, and shopping heaven!

It’s also great timing for the Garage Sale Trail, which will be happening all over Australia on October 24th. If you’re a little behind in your spring clean or you’d like to make some money for your efforts, maybe it’s time to start planning your garage sale.

Here are some scary stats to motivate you to cull your wardrobe:unnamed

  • 62% of women have clothes that have never been worn or still have tags on.
  • 83% of women have clothes that they’ve only worn once or twice.

Luckily, it sounds like we’re already on to it:

  • 97% of Australian women have donated an item to a charity op shop at some point in their lives.
  • nearly 9 out of 10 women (88%) have purchased something from a charity op shop.

Before I started Buy Nothing Year, I did a Buy Nothing New Year. You have no idea how much time I spent on op shops that year. These are my top tips for celebrating National Op Shop Week:

Donate

Op shops aren’t just an easy way to get rid stuff you no longer want. They don’t make their money from the clothes, they make money from the sales. There are way more reasons why it’s better to shop second hand than buy new than I could fit into this post.

If you are donating, remember that anything you give has to be of good quality. Look at the item that you’re donating and ask yourself if you would buy it. Op shops have to do something with all the stuff they can’t sell. Some clothes might be turned into rags, but many items end up being thrown away. Don’t think that an op shop can throw something away just as easily as you can. Charities pay millions every year to dispose of rubbish and unusable ‘donations’. The more they throw out, the more they pay, and the less money they have for a good cause. Don’t be a dumper, be a donor!

The best thing to do is find out what each shop is willing to accept. Look at their website, give them a call, or bring your stuff to them during opening hours. Many charities will also collect items from your home. Check out these tips for how to donate to op shops.

Grab a bargain

You really can’t beat op shop prices. I’m still chuffed with an op shop purchase from a few months back. After already having scored a Cue top and several other fabulous work tops, I felt like a shoplifter upon finding an Alannah Hill top (worth at least $150) on the ‘Manager’s Special’ rack – for 50c! I was sure it was a mistake and had paranoid visions of someone catching me committing this fashion crime. I was certain that the instant I walked out of the store someone would come racing after me, yelling out that it was actually $20!

And you know what? I didn’t pay 50c for it. When the teller added up my purchases and named a price I wasn’t expecting, I felt even more like a criminal. I couldn’t even think clearly enough to do the math. I quickly grabbed my things before they realised and rushed out of the store, only to later realise… I’d been overcharged!! I’d paid $1!!!

I didn’t complain.

But don’t be fooled by the bargain

How many clothes have you bought because they were a steal, and then never (or rarely) wore? Pay attention to your inner dialogue when op shopping (or new shopping). Maybe you could relate to my typical shopping experience, which goes something like this:

“Hmm… this top is alright, I wonder how much it is… $1.25! Wow! That’s amazing! What a bargain, I must have it!”, I think as I quickly pull the top off the rack, miraculously adding it to my hand already holding 12 other items as I madly continue to hunt through the racks.

Later, as I stand frowning at the changing room mirror, the monologue becomes a conversation:

“It’s a bit tight under the bust.”

“Well I have just had a really big lunch. I’m sure it’ll fit once the curry goes down.”

“The straps keep slipping down.”

“I guess I could shorten them,” and as I pinch the straps to see how that might look “Yes, I can sew that up easily”, forgetting I have no sewing skills.

“I’m still not sure about the style.”

“Oh stuff it, it’s $1.25!”, and I rush to the checkout.

I would say that about 10% of my ‘bargains’ are well worn and loved, and make me happy every second I wear them. About 50% are ok – they’ll do. The other 40% annoy the hell out of me. They squeeze or scratch or flop or crease or slip or jab… or just don’t look right. They’re the first to go, but eventually all 90% of my unloved bargains end up being rehomed. So were they really a bargain? Would I have ‘saved’ more by keeping that $1.25 and saving myself the stress of imperfect clothing, clutter, and the ordeal of finding clothes a new home?

I’ve now started asking the same questions for a $1 item as I do for a $100 item. Do I love it? Will I still love it in a month, a year, 5 years? Is it durable? Do I need it? How will I get rid of it when I no longer need it? Is there a better alternative? Do I reeeaally need it? Shop within reason!

Find an op shop

So what are you waiting for? Head down to your local op shop to donate or upgrade your wardrobe or home (I am obsessed with buying old teapots). To find charity shops in Australia, check out this list or search using your postcode.

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I’d love to hear from you. Do you love op shops too? What’s the best/worst/weirdest thing you’ve ever bought?

A quick hello

I’ve been happily surprised to have followers and people reading and commenting on my blog already. I really didn’t expect such an encouraging reaction. Thank you! I look forward to getting to know you.

I’m just popping in to say hi. It’s been a very busy and stressful week, leaving me little time to focus on Buy Nothing Year.

Today, I realised in horror that I’d forgotten all about my challenge! But when I wracked my brain going over the past week, I realised I’m winning anyway. Still nothing bought! I’ve even managed to throw a few things on my decluttering pile.

Maybe being busy is the key. Focusing on the important things leaves little time for distractions, and that’s all that shopping is, isn’t it?

A lot of minimalism

My next post will be about why I decided to buy nothing for a year.

The real reason behind it is to have less stuff. Spending less money is a secondary benefit.

I’m not sure yet how I’ll capture the million reasons to buy less stuff in just one blog post. While I figure that out, here is a collection of Ted Talks about minimalism, as explained by people who are much more articulate than me.

Enjoy.

PS: It’s day 5 of Buy Nothing Year and so far I’ve only bought food, drink and yoga classes (all allowed – stay tuned for a post on the rules).

And so it starts

Are you a night owl? I’m cursed with a brain that wakes up when the sun goes down. It makes for all sorts of interesting ideas, thoughts, musing and decisions made in soft glow of the moon and my laptop screen. And so it was that last night, as my husband slept in our warm bed, I decided to start a year-long challenge:

The Buy Nothing Year

I’ve done it before. Kinda. 2013 was Buy Nothing New Year, where I pledged to cut waste and ditch consumerism by only buying secondhand… with some exceptions.

I got mariied that year, so of course wedding stuff had to be excluded, because planning a wedding is hard enough without any extra challenges! And we went to Brisbane, home of one of my favourite shops. I made an exception then – holiday purchases don’t count. And then there are gifts – we can’t stop buying those, can we? (although I did manage to buy most gifts secondhand).

I’m happy with how my Buy Nothing New Year went. I caved, I struggled, but I made it. And it changed my relationship with stuff, permanently. At the very least, I became very good and finding the things I wanted secondhand (this doesn’t always mean used!).

But it did feel like cheating. While I hardly set foot in shopping centres, my ebay and op shopping went through the roof. And I did have all those excuses (I mean exceptions) to fall back on. Inspired by an exceptional blog post by Blonde on a Budget, I decided to do another Buy Nothing New Year, but properly this time.

When I thought about it some more I realised that I already have everything I need to be happy. In fact, I have too much. Stuff it (pun intended), let’s just go all the way, let’s not buy anything at all. And why not declutter too!

No exceptions! Apart from food… and toilet paper… well, maybe some exceptions. But this time, the rules will be decided upfront, not changed and softened while I stand in a Brisbane shop admiring a dress on sale.

Stay tuned for a post explaining how my Buy Nothing Year will work, including all the rules and goals I’ve set for this challenge.

I hope you will join me over the next year as I try to make do with what I already have and get rid of what I don’t need. Take on your own challenge for a year, a month or a day, join in some discussion, or just read along. Either way, I hope to see you around!

x Ania