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”.

Clean Tidy house home happiness domestic cleaning organised
The thing is, cleaning never ends

I’m back! Or am I?

Yes, this is my first post in a while. A long while. Have I been shameful hiding because I went on a shopping spree and broke my Buy Nothing Year pledge?

I must confess I did buy something yesterday. Something I already own and that I don’t actually need. Something that definitely breaks the rules. But something I just wanted to buy SO MUCH that temptation got the better of me. What would break you?

For me, it was a yoga mat. And also, in a way, the reason I haven’t posted in a few months.

When I started this blog, I was mindful that I’m a pathological action addict. I do too much. I overcommit, I underestimate the effort required to do things and I overestimate my ability to do them. I start up a project and quickly burn out, because it’s just one of too many.

I didn’t want this blog to be another burn-out project. I didn’t want it becoming an energy-sucking chore. I started this blog because I wanted to document my Buy Nothing Year challenge and because I enjoy writing and have long wanted to try blogging. But I had to make a rule that if life got too hard, I would give myself permission to stop.

Life got too hard.

And I did give myself permission to stop. I’m quite proud of myself for doing this, as it’s an achievement in itself. I allowed myself to take a break, to set my own rules for what I ‘should’ do, to look after myself, and to not feel guilty about it.

So much so, that in 10 days I’m hopping on a plane to Bali for 10 days of massages, spa treatments, naps, books and yoga…. on my new yoga mat! It’s in the mail at the moment and I’m so excited to get it.

1248202105_601f80b685_z

Now, I’m sure I could have gotten by without a new mat. I’m sure you can borrow or hire a yoga mat in Bali. I mean.. it’s Bali! But….

Yes. There’s always a ‘but’. Here’s why I bought a yoga mat during Buy Nothing Year:

  1. The only yoga mat I’ve ever bought is about 15 years old now. It’s ripped, warped, stretched and squashed into random waves (no longer unfurls flat).
  2. I’ve been thinking about buying a new one for a few years now, but haven’t because I go to classes in a martial arts dojo that has the entire floor covered in thick matting (no at required at all!). I’d probably need a new mat if I ever changed yoga studios.
  3. My current mat is too thin for my dodgy knees, meaning I have to borrow a mat to double up with or to bring a towel or jumper to fold up under my knees for each kneeling or lunging pose.
  4. My current yoga mat has always annoyed me. The colours are too bright for class (I stand out like a sore, and very pink, thumb) and it’s way too short and narrow. I’m always having to adjust my poses just to fit onto the mat. It interrupts my flow and my focus, and frustration is not something you want to bring into your practice.

Are these reasons or justifications for buying a new mat?

The purpose of Buy Nothing Year is to help declutter by stopping the inflow of stuff into my life, to make me reassess what I really need, to break shopping habits, to change my relationship with stuff and to shift from mindless consumerism to intentional purchases.

It’s ok to own things. It’s ok to buy things. So long as they are the right things.

This will be the only yoga mat I buy for years. So I made sure it was a good one. One that is as ethical and sustainable as possible. I scoured the internet for yoga mats made of natural, biodegradable or compostable materials, made with minimal chemicals and packaging, made by a socially sustainable, ethical brand and one that is durable, high quality and enjoyable to own.

I bought a ‘Grounded’ Mukti Mat, made from natural (not petroleum derived) rubber and jute. And it’s even a local brand!

http://www.muktimats.com.au/products/grounded-mat
Mukti “Grounded’ Yoga Mat

 

My yoga mat is an intentional purchase. A mat is essential for home practice, which I want to do much more of. The mat will bring more yoga into my life, and yoga makes me happy and helathy. It is good for me physically, emotionally and mentally. The yoga mat will improve my life.

Of course, this is exactly the kind of thinking that results in ‘aspirational purchases’. “If I buy good running shoes, I will get fit”. “If I buy this treadmill, I will use it all the time”. Wrong. You’ll use it a couple of times and then it will gather dust for a few years until you finally chuck it out.

But in this case, I’ve been practicing yoga for nearly 15 years. I realised last year that my relationship with yoga has changed from something I try to do to something I can do. I no longer watch other people with envy and awe, wondering how they can bend like that. I am now comfortable enough with my practice to call myself a yogini and not feel like a fraud. I love yoga. I need yoga in my life. I am a yogini. I am going to Bali to practice yoga for 10 days. I am taking my new yoga mat. I will keep using my yoga many for many more years to come. And when it is old and worn and no longer usable, I will use it on my garden as weed matting, where it will slowly biodegrade and became part of the soil.

This is a good purchase. I am happy I’ve made it.

Meditating
Woman doing yoga at sunset, lotus position, copy space

But what have I been up to the last few months? What have and haven’t I bought? Have I failed at my challenge or am I still going strong? You’ll just have to wait until my next post to find out.. if I write one 😉

 

 

 

Spending time

It’s day 18 of Buy Nothing Year with nothing bought.

I was reading these 10 ways to stop shopping and thought about what makes me stop shopping. I really think it’s a habit you have to learn. I’ve taught myself to stop and ask myself ‘How will this make my life better?” with each purchase.

But it’s easy to kid yourself. “This dress will make me so happy because none of the 40 dresses I already own flatter me like this, and it has slightly larger polka dots than the three other polka dot dresses I have.”

It’s much easier to not even let yourself find a purchase to question by not going into or near any shops. A question I ask myself then is “What could I do instead?”

SpendingTime

How many hours have you spend browsing shelves and racks, trying on clothes, or just wandering around between shops? What could you have done with that time instead? I think it’s too easy to just fall into shopping by accident.

Last week, I found myself leaving work earlier than usual. I work in the city, surrounded by shops. I walked towards the bus station and thought “Maybe I should make the most of this extra time and have a look in some shops?” I even veered towards a gift shop, full of pretty things. It didn’t take long for me to catch myself falling into the trap.

Is mindlesss shopping (even if it’s just window shopping) really ‘making the most of it’? What else would I do with that time if I walked right past all the shops? I would squeeze in some extra play time with my dog and cuddle her and my husband. I think it’s pretty obvious which would make me happier. I really enjoyed my puppy play time.

Buy Nothing Year – The Rules!

Buy Nothing Year really should be called Acquire Nothing Year, but that’s not as catchy.

The goal of Buy Nothing New Year is to have less stuff. To have fewer distractions, less to clean or maintain, less clutter, less to worry about. Buy Nothing New Year is about realising that I do not need more stuff to be happy. It’s about reducing my environmental footprint by consuming less resources and generating less waste.

Saving money is not the goal, but it is a rather obvious benefit of buying nothing. Because it is just a side-effect, not the goal, this means I can’t just hop on freecycle and still acquire loads of stuff this year. The same rules apply to stuff at any price: retail, cheap or free. It’s still stuff, and the rules apply equally.

STOP-Buying-Crap

The rules for Buy Nothing New Year

My Buy Nothing New Year goes from 21 July 2015 until 20 July 2016.

What’s allowed:

In a word: consumables – the stuff that I need to live and that won’t stay in my life permanently. But even these I’ll try to keep to a minimum.

Specifically, I am allowed:

  • Food & drink but I will try to use up my pantry and freezer contents first, wherever possible.
  • Toiletries and cleaning supplies only once all supplies are used up.
  • Cosmetics, but only foundation and mascara (I have too much of everything else).

I will also allow some non-consumables:

  • Dog stuff – things like a new dog bed, harness, collar, toys… but within reasonable limits. Really, I should only buy new things once the old things no longer do their job (e.g. her harness is starting to wear through and her bed is flat and lumpy).
  • Gifts – because the challenge is about acquiring stuff, not just buying it, this one applies to giving and receiving gifts. As hard as I may try to convince people not to buy me stuff, and to buy my friends and family experiences instead of material possessions, gifts will remain a part of my life.
  • Furniture and house renovation items – hubby and I have lived in our house for 5 years now, and we’ve been waiting until we finish renovating before buying furniture. Renovating and furnishing our home is one of my main priorities, so it would not make sense to put it off for a sixth year. I really hope to have a new kitchen and floor tiles before this challenge is over.
  • Materials needed to repair, upcycle or create items that will prevent me from buying new stuff.

What’s not allowed:

  • Kitchen equipment or supplies like glad wrap or aluminium foil (dishwashing tabs count as ‘cleaning products’ and are allowed).
  • Clothes, shoes, handbags & accessories.
  • Unnecessary makeup, cosmetics, cleaning products or toiletries (this includes more than you think! More on this later…).
  • Decorative items and nick-nacks.
  • Books or jigsaw puzzles (though I may borrow them from friends or the library, provided they are returned or passed on).

The exceptions:

If I genuinely need something, like if a shoe fetishist were to break into my house while I slept and take off with every single pair I own, then I may allow myself to buy something. But  it wouldn’t be much of a challenge without a few restrictions, would it?

If I decide that I need something:

  • I will ‘shop on paper’ and write it down. Unless the purchase is urgent (damn you, shoe thief!), I will only be allowed to buy items off the list after 20 July 2016. This will allow me to re-evaluate the list after some time has passed. I bet half the items I ‘need’ will turn out to be ‘wants’.
  • Before letting any new item into my life, I must rehome three other items. This means completely removing them from my life, not just throwing them on a decluttering pile to be dealt with later (my tendency thus far!). This will guarantee that, no matter what happens, I will have fewer things in my life at the end of the challenge than at the start.
  • I will first try to borrow the item, then try to buy it second-hand, and only buy new if I can’t get it any other way. This will keep my environmental footprint and waste generation to a minimum.

That’s it for now! What do you think? I’d love to hear what rules you would add to the challenge, or what dilemmas you think I might face! Is there anything you might try doing too? Or did you maybe read something and think “Impossible! I could never  do that!”?

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