Monday, 28 March 2016

Why I'm getting rid of my favourite things

Yes, that's right. I'm giving away things that I love.

The Time Traveler's Wife is my favourite book, ever. I replay the story line over and over in my head and it never bores me. The underlying messages I got from this book are to love your loved ones right now and that even time can't get in the way of a love that is meant to be. I cherish this story.

In saying that, this physical book is not the story that means so much to me. It is just the physical manifestation of a story that I devoured in less than 48 hours. I know for some that is a slow read but for a mother with young children, that is a big accomplishment. 

How many times have I read this book? Once.

Which made me realise I'm never going to read this book again, I already love it enough. I want to share my love for this story with others. I want someone else to enjoy the story as much as I did. Then I want that person to share the story with others as well. 

Giving the book away doesn't mean I no longer love the story. I know I will continue to replay the story in my mind and bask in the moments of joy and mourn the disappointments long after this book is no longer in my possession. 

I had to develop an understanding that our possessions are not where sentiments and memories lie. The memories that matter the most are filed away in that side of the brain, where seeing a life time friend who you haven't seen in years brings back all the funny and meaningful  times you spent together. Where smelling a certain cologne reminds you of that period where you were falling head over heels in love with your soul mate. Where hearing a song on the radio reminds you of all the fun and mischief you got up to with your friends in those carefree teen years.

Don't worry I'm not getting rid of EVERYTHING and I don't suggest you do either, unless you really want to. In that case, do you boo! I'm just keeping the stuff that actually, really, really, matters. Not the "just in case" stuff. Not the "that cost so much" stuff. Not even the "that was a gift" items.

As hard as getting rid of your favourite, sentimental items sounds, with each sentimental item I think I hold dear, I realise I really hold the memory associated with the item more dearly. 

I can't take credit for this "radical" idea of getting rid of sentimental items, The Minimalists have a great post on this exact idea. Like that post suggests, I'm taking baby steps and I'm getting rid of a few things each week. Have a think about the last time you opened that box of sentimental items and really appreciated what was in there. Just take a moment, that's all I can ask for.

Step 98,

Monday, 21 March 2016

The freedom of minimalism

Minimalism is freeing.

You aren't weighed down. You are free from the time and energy spent dealing with stuff, people, commitments and tasks that you don't place value on.


Less cleaning

I love a clean space but I HATE cleaning. I don't think I know anyone who actually likes cleaning. Sometimes (most times) its boring, tiring and dirty. And if you have kids like me, give it 12 minutes for the once clean space to no be very clean anymore. That being said, our family of 5 live in a small 2 bedroom unit. For a lot of people, that is unimaginable. For us, our small home means the messes happen really quickly but the clean up is quick too. Less clothes means items get worn longer and only go in the wash when they are ACTUALLY dirty or smelly and that means I'm doing less laundry. Yay!

More free time

I love to read but hadn't really sat down to read a good book in many years. I love to blog and I'm slowly getting back into it. I actually like to exercise and I am able to fit in about an hour of working out a week which I think is an achievement for a mother of three. As a family, we have more time to do things together and I mean beyond watching TV together. We've actually started to watch less TV and now we try to play board games and card games as often as we can. Our personal favourites are actually snakes and ladders and Uno. Sometimes it really is the simple stuff that matters the most. Even though there technically is always something to be done, wether its blog stuff, house work or uni work, I sometimes find those odd moments where I feel like doing nothing, and I don't feel guilty about it either.


Money is spent wisely

I used to have a shopping problem. Like many people, I bought things I really didn't need. I bought stuff for a life I wanted. Decluttering has opened my eyes on all the crap we spent our money on in the past, and I hope not to make that same mistakes. Now, we rarely go "shopping" for anything, except for groceries of course. When money does need to be spent on something we ask ourselves;

"do we really need this?"
"do we have something already that can serve the same purpose?"
"can we borrow this or get this cheaper somewhere else?"
"where are we going to put this?"
As a family we realised that we value spending time together doing something, or going somewhere rather than accumulating belongings. 

We also have goals as a family to travel. This of course means saving up. With my new job, saving up seems possible, as does paying off our huge debts.

We owe a lot of money to a lot of people. We also have student loans/ HECS to pay off and of course, there's the mortgage. Now that we are no longer passively, almost unconsciously, spending money on things that are a waste or don't hold value to us, a debt free life seems possible. Having debts has really put a strain on our family and our marriage, mentally and emotionally. Being in debt can sometimes feel like you are treading water but drowning ever so slowly. If anything, being in this financial situation has taught us patience and discipline and that we both need to set a better financial example to our children  so they don't end up in the same situation.

As a family, helping those in need, in any way we can, has always been a priority and with money spent a little wiser, we can help others more than we used to. A great article by Joshua at Becoming Minimalists, suggests a change in perspective to see that you are already wealthy and that a redefining of what wealth and contentment is, is a game changer.

Saying Yes to me (finally)

I used to be a chronic "yes" person. Chronic because I would put others needs and feelings before my own. This meant a lot of time was spent doing things and spending time with people I didn't really want to. As awful as that sounds, it gets draining. An assumption is formed that I will always be there when needed. As lovely as a that sounds, I can't be there for everyone when they need me. I am barely there for myself when I need it most.

Minimalism has allowed me to define what is important to me. With that, there is the reality that I have a finite amount of time and resource to spend and that I have to spend it wisely. It can sound a bit selfish but I think that the idea of taking care of yourself first needs to become a more normal and natural occurrence. As a women juggling many roles, I can feel it on those days where I have not nurtured myself in any way, shape or form, by the end of the day, I am usually slumped on the couch feeling like a dirty tea towel.

I was raised by the most selfless parents and though I got all my needs met, now that my parents are much older I look back and try to see what they have ever done for themselves. As noble as martyrdom is, I don't want my children to think that saying yes to others is more important than saying yes to yourself.


Mental clarity

Every time I load up the car with goods to donate, I come home and it immediately feels lighter and my mind feels clearer. These goods which sit around my house, unused, have the power of purpose to someone else. No one donates their goods, money or time and walks away feeling depleted. With more free time, less stuff to manage and the financial worries reduced, I find my mind not as scattered as it used to be. I used to worry a lot and multitask constantly, which was exhausting and I felt it in my overall health and well being. Mental clarity would have to be one of my favourite benefits. With three kids and a husband and a million things to remember a little clarity is a big bonus. 

The best thing about minimalism is that it is different for everyone. It brings different meanings and benefits. It manifests in many different forms. Minimalism is a spectrum and I invite you to think about letting go of some stuff, commitments and mental clutter and find some free time and mental space.

Step 97,

Monday, 14 March 2016

The challenges of zero waste

The transition to zero waste has had its fair share of challenges. Zero waste is not a wide spread passion of the majority of the community, therefore it can feel a bit isolating and restrictive. The idea of whether I am actually making a difference plays in my mind all the time. Are the changes I am making around my home really enough?

After reading the book Zero Waste Home, and going back the "first R" of REFUSE, it is very true that zero waste starts from outside the home.

Social situations

I'm blessed to have a big family and too many friends to count on my fingers and toes but that does equate to a busy social calendar, where food is normally involved. To be honest I have felt a little apprehensive to pull out my own plates, cutlery and napkin which I brought from home, at a social gathering. I sometimes feel my actions come across as a judgment on other peoples actions. Friends and family have apologised to me when handing me leftovers covered in cling wrap or as they offer me a plastic bag, which I actually makes me feel super uncomfortable, as though people feel accountable to me.

With any new habit, the more I quietly pull out my own plates at a social gathering the easier it gets.


Grocery shopping

The biggest challenge has been finding deli counters/butchers that will consistently allow me to bring my own containers. It's been a hit and miss for me so far. Having worked in a big chain supermarket before, I know how easy it is the tare a container before filling it up. I understand that there could be some hygiene or food safety concerns, so I've decided to make a stand and if the person on the other side of the counter does not accept my container I just go without. Let my dollars do the talking.

We've cut down greatly on how much meat, chicken and animal products we eat but not completely. My containers and I have gotten lots of odd looks, lots of staff trying to shove my purchases in a plastic bag before cramming it into my container. I've even had a cashier put a single, new plastic bag into my tote bag for no reason, so I politely removed it and said "I really don't need this thank you."

As much as I try to avoid supermarkets, sometimes I can't. I shop at the Asian store a lot for sauces, snacks, pastes and coconut milk, but I've come to realise that there is not many zero waste options in there. Noodles and snacks are normally HEAVILY or INDIVIDUALLY packaged in plastic. One of our favourite snacks from the Asian store is dried seaweed and the amount of packaging that comes with it is literally disgusting. The kids and I really miss eating it, but the solution lies in getting the kids excited about picking snacks from the bulk section and letting them try a new snack each time we go.

Eating out

Similar to grocery shopping I'm confused when disposables and single use items and almost forced on me after I have said I don't need them. I have gotten a bit of an attitude at some smaller cafes when asking them to use my own coffee cup. I will never understand cafes and restaurants who use disposables for patrons who are dining in. We don't eat out very frequently for this and many other reasons but I didn't want zero waste to become overly restrictive. Eating out zero waste, like anything else, just requires a bit of planning and being proactive.

Non-recyclables already in my home

As I declutter the way through our belongings, I'm currently in a situation where I have things to get rid of that, but I have no idea where they should go. These items have already been knocked back by the Salvos/op shops. I've tried cash converters for goods that I thought were worth something but it turns out they were worth peanuts. I've offered goods up for FREE on local trading pages and nothing. I've asked friends and family if they needed them, whilst feeling guilty that I was shoving my crap onto others.

So what do I do? This begs the question of why, as a developed country, we don't have sustainable waste management for lots of items, such as worn out shoes and electronics that work but may be out of date. For now these items are sitting in a box in the laundry but I hope this box is somehow  removed from my home by the end of the year in a sustainable manner.

This post is not meant to discourage anyone from going Zero Waste. I want others who may be going through the same adjustments and predicaments as me, to know that you aren't the only one and that there is no such thing as a perfect "zero waster."

My intention is also to show that there will be obstacles and moments where you have to take a step back and see where your values lie. Zero waste forces you off auto pilot and gives you the chance to say "Now, wait, hang on. There has to be a better way to do this."

I hope this post triggers a "Now wait, hang on." moment in your everyday life. Even beyond zero waste, to how you are in your everyday interactions and where you are investing your time and energy. Take a moment and see if you could do something better. Anything. I'm sure, like me, dealing with waste and rubbish was never on your radar, because as long as the garbage person came to empty the bins when they were full, well then we didn't have a problem. I think it's safe to say that we may just have a bigger problem than we think.

Step 96,

Monday, 7 March 2016

Continuing to Zero Waste our home

Okay so we're making some progress with reducing the rubbish we create in our home and diverting as much as we can away from landfill and even trying to reduce our recycling.

As proud as I am of the changes we have made over the last few months, I knew there was still plenty more I could do.

Green Energy

We switched to green energy.

Technically speaking, the actual energy which is served to our home is sourced from a "mix of generation sources", but buying into green energy means we are supporting the production of energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass.
Is it cheaper? Am I saving money? No.

But if more people begin to support and demand green energy, prices will slowly drop and the Earth doesn't need to suffer so I can watch TV, charge my devices and turn the lights on at night. Our provider allows you to select a percentage of your bill which will be accredited green energy on your behalf, anywhere from 10 to 100 percent. Money talks so let your provider know where you would like your money spent.

Saving water

We also switched our shower head to a more water efficient option. Even by reducing the flow from 9L to 7.5L per minute, in a year that can save 5000L of precious water and money obviously!

I also yell gently remind everyone to shower as quickly as possible to save water. Hopefully the water we save will off set my slightly more expensive electricity bill.

We also leave a bucket in the shower to catch the water before it has heated up. This water can be used to water the plants or sometimes I put it in the empty washing machine and by the end of the week its at least half full and we save the amount of water we use to wash our clothes.

I even put a water bottle in the toilet tank so it takes less water to fill up each time you flush.


We were carless for a week recently and it really opened my eyes to how heavily and almost unnecessarily we were relying on it. School drop off and pick ups were done by foot. Grocery shopping and errands were strategically done by public transport. 

I learnt that I'm kind of lazy, to be honest. No car meant I had to manage my time and be aware of train and bus schedules. The usual 5 minute drive to school turned into a 25 minute walk which meant getting up earlier and being more organised. Like any new habit, after a while it becomes routine.

We aren't carless anymore but I do try to minimise my use of the car. Similar to when I used public transport, I try and do errands and groceries in one go. I'm enjoying having days where I can actually just stay home (apart from school drop offs and pick ups of course).

I thought zero waste was all about rubbish management but to be honest, it's more about resource management. 

David Suzuki's Green Guide is an easy read but a great resource of information on how we can all be Green citizens.

We all need to start thinking about how efficiently we are using the world's finite resources and think of ways to live more sustainably. If not for our generation, do it for the next one and the one after that.

Step 95,

Monday, 29 February 2016

Taking steps to Zero Waste

I had never heard of "Zero Waste" before November 2015. Then my (then) 8 year old daughter told me this on a regular day after school. 

"Today we saw this picture of a dead bird at school mummy, it was so gross and disgusting!"

My response was "Oh okay. You get grossed out really easily, tell me what you saw."

My more level headed 10 year old explained that there was a presentation at school today on pollution and plastic in the ocean and that the picture was of a decayed bird carcass and inside its stomach was a whole bunch of plastic and rubbish. I had to see this for myself.

Pictures are worth a thousand words.

This one picture just changed it all for me.

 I Googled "dead bird plastic" and I found it, and I could not unsee what I saw.

It looked too unreal. This had to be staged. Someone must have done this. And someone did do this. 

We all did this.

This image is part of a series by Chris Jordan and is well worth taking a deeper look at.

We all use plastic items in our everyday lives and even though we try our hardest not to litter, to recycle as much as we can, somehow this albatross was eating and ingesting our trash.

My kids went onto say how sad it was that things like this happen. And I agreed, completely. So my kids asked me, "what can we do so this stops happening?" I quickly turned back to Google and came across phrases such as;

"Say no to plastic"
"Micro beads"
"The Gyre"
"Zero waste"

There was A LOT of information to digest.

"Zero waste? What does that mean mummy?"

I had no idea.

So I typed that phrase into YouTube and was introduced to Zero Waste royalty, Bea Johnson from Zero Waste Home who is a wife and mother with 2 sons & Lauren Singer from Trash is for Tossers.

These ladies broke it down with some quick and easy changes that everyone could make that would reduce our waste quickly. Some of the changes I've made aren't for everyone, but there are some really basic steps that EVERYONE can take.

Stop using/accepting plastic bags. 

I always carry a small tote in my handbag for anything that I buy. I leave tote bags in the car and hanging off the pram, so I'm rarely without a tote bag. "I don't need a bag" just rolls off my tongue when I see the sales assistant put my purchase in a plastic bag. I even stopped putting my produce in plastic bags and bought some reusable mesh produce bags for loose fruits and vegetables such as grapes and green beans. Most of the time I just throw all the produce into a tote bag so they can get well acquainted.

Stop buying plastic water bottles and get a refillable water bottle. 

More water goes into making a disposable water bottle than what is actually in the water bottle. It might take some effort to remember to do this every time you head out but after a while, grabbing a water bottle on your way out almost becomes habit, like grabbing your phone, keys and wallet/purse.

Those have to be the easiest steps that everyone can take to reduce our unnecessary and excessive use of plastic. My children and I were ready to go a little more hardcore with this zero waste stuff. I mean, how could I forget about those poor little birdies.

A quick look in my trashcan shows that most of my rubbing is food scraps and packaging. So composting and avoiding composting were clearly the next steps we had to take. Composting alone, reduced our waste by 60-70%. I had to look hard and fast for a small space/no yard composting solution, but I was ecstatic when I found one. If dealing with food scraps or worms isn't for you, see if your local council has a public compost bin.

Avoiding packaging is still a struggle for us sometimes.We are lucky enough to have a bulk store near by where we buy our dry goods like flour, quinoa, cereal, salt and pasta and they have a great snack section which the kids love to choose from. We get our nut butter freshly ground straight into the jar and they have honey on tap too. They even have bulk shampoo and dish washing liquid which I can't wait to try. The kids LOVE going there. They fight over who gets to fill which jar with what and say its a more fun way to shop. The biggest struggle has been giving up... potato chips. As a family we all love potato chips. I'm not going to pretend I'm prefect, because, yes, we still give into temptation sometimes but I will say we went from consuming about 8 big family sized bags of potato chips per month, down to 1-2 bags a month.

We stopped buying a lot of single use products like tissues and paper towels and we use napkins, handkerchiefs, microfiber cloths and tea towels. I switched out throw away cotton rounds for reusable organic cotton rounds. Don't worry we still buy toilet paper, it's just not wrapped in plastic and is made from recycled paper.

We switched out plastic items for more sustainable options like the kitchen sponge for a wooden scrubber, our toothbrushes and hair brushes are now bamboo and even our pegs are now wooden and bamboo. I even bought a menstrual cup

I started making our own cleaning products and toothpaste as well.

It sounds like a bit of effort and sometimes it is. It sounds like it can get expensive and initially you do need to invest in a few things. It can sound a bit exhausting and limiting, as though I am missing out on certain things. A bit of trial and error forced me to leave a "zero waste kit" in the car because, we you just never know.

I think the effort is so important though. I think the world we are leaving behind for our children, and their children is so important. I want my children to have clean air and a climate that isn't so extreme and temperamental. I want my children to have clean beaches to enjoy in the summer time. I want my children and their children to have access to healthy food which hasn't been treated with chemicals or has traveled from the other side of the world or costs them an arm and a leg.

Zero waste has really changed the way I see things. I see supermarkets full of packaging and I can't unsee it now that I am consciously aware of it. I can't comfortably buy caged eggs or chicken that is not free range. I try to cook as vegetarian/vegan as possible during the weekdays, reducing our consumption of animals products greatly. I see consumerism is rampant and I can't comfortably participate and support fast fashion the way I used to.

It's really just a lot of small changes for the good of a greater cause. I always thought recycling as much as I could was enough, but it's not. My family used to fill 10 grocery bags with trash every week and now we only fill 3. 2 bags on a better week. Once I switch over to cloth nappies/toilet training, who knows how little trash we will make each week.

Hopefully I've got you thinking about your use of plastic and how you can help the environment, even just a bit. Let me know what small (or big) steps you could take.

Step 94,

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