Mending to Save the Planet

Leave a comment

The current television series, ‘Fight for Planet A’, has opened some vigorous debate in some forums.  Some people believe that promoting the use of renewable sources of energy is reckless as this is simply perpetuating the problem that is the ‘growth economy’. Unless we actually participate in degrowth the planet is doomed.

I am not totally of this mind, however, I do believe that much of our future depends on a serious change of mindset and questioning what stuff we actually need.

A really good place to start is to think twice about replacing broken or damaged items. I want to give you an example which confronted me this morning.

We have a laundry hamper in our bedroom and one of the handles snapped when I picked it up to take it to the laundry this morning.

I decided to mend the handle and found some strong navy fabric in my collection. It happened to match nicely, however, I would have used any colour or pattern if required.

I applied a small strip of double-sided interfacing to the wrong side.

The job was a bit tricky with the handle still attached to the hamper. I basted the 2 ends of the handle together and then pressed the interfacing to the handles.

The remainder of the fabric was folded over and around the existing handle. Here it is pinned and ready to stitch.

I stitched all around the patched handle and reinforced the ends and this is the result.

My repair effort is far from perfect but it is functional. I even managed to put a twist in the handle, despite my best efforts not to. However, this does not detract from the usefulness of the handle.

There is no right or wrong way to approach a repair so this is simply an example of what can be done.

The repaired hamper will hopefully last for many more years.

This is degrowth in action. Do not buy things that you do not need. Think laterally and repair or reuse what you already have. If you are not able to do you own repairs, check out your local repair cafe or ask a friend, neighbour or relative. We all have skills and we need to support each other in whatever ways we can.

Gift Giving

8 Comments

I have probably been reading far too much on various groups on social media but I am feeling really fed up with what Christmas gift giving seems to have become.

Just to give some context to this post, I am 58 and grew up in what some would regard as a simpler time.  I am one of 4 siblings.

As far as I can remember, we each received a gift from our parents and one from Santa.  We would buy, individually or jointly a small gift for each of our siblings as well as our parents.  Our pocket money, sometimes supplemented by Mum, was used for these purchases.  There were modest gifts from our grandparents and some aunts and uncles but these were often for the family (a tin of biscuits or perhaps, a lottery ticket).  There was no buying for sundry work colleagues, friends, neighbours, teachers or classmates.

I am amazed by the number of people who are busily trying to give gifts to dozens of people who barely rate as acquaintances.  For a variety of reasons (eg: budget, environmental or anti-consumerist) many are choosing to give gifts which they have made.  This may seem a noble idea but is it really very smart?

Consider a teacher with 25 children in the class.  How many boxes of chocolates, handmade candles, sleighs made from candy canes, homemade fudge and so on can one person realistically use?  Whatever happened to a writing a thoughtful, heartfelt note as acknowledgement of a job well done?

The final straw, as far as I am concerned, came from a forum in which someone posed the question, “Talking about homemade Christmas gifts (specifically food items). Is it standard for people to just throw them in the garbage?”  There were in excess of 150 responses which ranged from “I never eat anything that I have not prepared myself” to “How wasteful – of course I would eat it” and everything in between.

2016-12-15-01

It seems that the reality is at odds with the fancy photos in recipe books, websites and Pinterest.

My contribution to the discussion was, “I am very disappointed that this happens. It serves to remind me that no presents is actually the best idea”.  Of course, I am not talking about immediate family or a select number of friends to whom you are very close.

2016-12-15-02

This brings me back to the point of this post.  Why is everyone madly rushing around buying (or making) gifts for people we barely know? Are we simply trying to keep up with (or outdo) everyone else?

Half of these gifts are unnecessary, unwanted ‘stuff’ which may end up in the garbage, landfill or op shop before January is over.  How would you feel if you knew the fate of your gifts?  Would it change you pattern of behaviour?

What are your thoughts and experiences?

 

The Emotional Stuff – Part 2

5 Comments


About 10 days ago I wrote this post.

2015-06-22 01Tonight I would like to follow that up with this piece, also written by my friend, Patty.

 In the town of my youth, behind the double brick home that is my mother’s neighbour’s house, is a hoarder.
The daughter of a very cranky, intolerant almost-100 year old father, (who lives in a nursing home on the other side of the river) she lives by herself with her mother’s memories and furniture.
Downstairs, you are barely able to squeeze past the belongings of her mother’s old home.
The furniture, the tables, the sofas, dusty with age and just covered with plastic, the china cabinets, and boxes, and boxes, and boxes of glassware and who-knows-whatever-else. All stored.
Filling up her house, cluttering her own life.
She moans to my sister as they hose their lawns. “I wish I could travel! It’s too expensive.”
My sister and I would sympathise and suggest she sell some of her mother’s possessions.
“Oh no! I could never do that! It’s too precious!”
And so her life is unlived, her home a rambling, chaotic mess of someone else’s life.
There’s barely enough room for herself. Her mother lives on, in every room.
It’s physically demanding, cramped and unacceptable.
She lives within the shadows, unhappy, miserable, resentful, and unable to move on.

She knows the answer to the situation, she just hasn’t asked herself the question.
Why keep it all, and what happened to MY life!

I have said to my own sons: “When I go, keep what you want, no obligation, and chuck the rest!”

While this is probably an extreme example, it is a stark reminder that we cannot live our lives if we are weighed down by emotional attachments to the stuff of previous generations.

How do you feel about this?  Have you had to deal with this sort of situation?

The Emotional Stuff

2 Comments

Firstly, I would like to say thank to all of you who have sent your caring thoughts and healing wishes for my mother.  She continues to improve and will be home again in no time.

Tonight I want to share some words from my friend, Patty.  She posted this on Facebook today and I immediately thought that it may be useful to those of you who are struggling with the loss of a parent and the possessions that are left behind.  Dealing with them can be a challenging and time-consuming process.

Some of us are struggling with our elderly parents; in our care, in their death; in recent passing. My garage downstairs is full of my parents’ lives, and every time I go to unpack it, and sort it, I am taken back to my childhood and the re-living of this emotion is draining and emotionally exhausting. As much as we loved our parents, there’s a lot of “stuff” to be dealt with, in a practical way.

I hope this might help you? The Amen is complimentary.  Light a candle, and say this out loud. Tears are optional. It’s all release. No rules.

Parents Prayer

To my parents, grandparents, and my earthly ancestors who came before me, thank you.
Thank you for your love and guiding wisdom.
Thank you for loving me, every day; in every way.
Thank you for all of your hard work, your concern, and your complete acceptance of me and my spirit.
Thank you for your precious gift of life and love.
It is received with gratitude.
Thank you for our family, for all of the good times, for your precious memories.
I am now able to live my own adult life, and walk with my face towards the sun.
I shall swing my arms with happiness and freedom, knowing that this is what you want me to do.
Mum and dad, I release you, with love. Thank you for everything.
I love you all, forever.
I will remember you with respect and gratitude. Thank you.
I release you all, back to the universe. I release you all; back to the earth and beyond. Thank you.
It is so.

Amen.

2015-06-22 01Remember, it is the memories that are important and will sustain you.  The stuff is a separate issue.

Away From Home

2 Comments

I have been away for a couple of days as I have had some family commitments.  Luckily, I had prepared the ‘Wordless Wednesday’ post on the weekend so it was ready to go.

I don’t have anything particular to share but I have noticed recently that everywhere I turn there seems to be discussion about excess stuff and decluttering.  Is it just me or have you noticed the same?

2015-05-28 01For ‘Flashback Friday’ I will find one of my previous posts on decluttering and living with less.  In the meantime please share your thoughts.  Have you decluttered?  Do you wish you could?  Is there any particular aspect you would like me to write about and discuss?

2015-05-28 02

You Must Remember This…..

10 Comments

Remembering, memories and shared experiences all combine to be part of what we are today.

The past helps to shape the future.

For many people, our memories seem to be inextricably linked to things from the past.  It may be the souvenir trinkets you bought on holiday last week, your college sweater from 30 years ago or great-grandma’s fur wrap.

Eiffel Tower

What would happen if you removed all of this stuff from your life?  Would the memories disappear?  The memories will remain because the human brain is so smart that we do not need physical reminders of events and people from our past.

College sweater
Let us take the college sweater as an example.  Does it add value to your life by being stashed in a box in the attic.  Perhaps it is sharing a box with some old text books or the corsage from your debutante ball and the suit you wore to your first job interview?  If you got rid of the sweater, corsage and suit would that mean that you did not attend college or your debutante ball and the job interview didn’t happen?  No, of course not.  Moving items such as this along will not destroy the memories which you have kept alive, despite having no day-to-day physical connection to the item.

The holiday souvenirs are insidious.  The Eiffel Tower keyring, leprechaun fridge magnet and so on – are these the ‘real’ memories of your visit?  Did you need a keyring or fridge magnet?  Will you forget that you visited France and Ireland if these things are no longer stashed in a shoebox in the top of your wardrobe?  Time to move them on and remind yourself not to be sucked in to buying these knickknacks in the future.  Save your time and money for things that really count and add value.

Then there are the family heirlooms such as that fur wrap.  Do you wear it?  Can it be refashioned into something you will use?  If the answer to both these questions is no, then perhaps you could ask other family members but if no-one wants it perhaps it is time to let it go so that someone can gain some benefit from it.  Think of the alternative – the wrap sits in that box in the attic, gathering dust and probably deteriorating until you depart this earth and someone has to go through your possessions.  It will be tossed out without a second thought.

If you are struggling with decluttering stuff, stop and put yourself in the shoes of your children (or others) who are sorting through your stuff when you are gone.  Ask yourself, “What would they do with this?”  Better still, ask them if they would like the item now.  If they don’t, you can be rest assured that they will not want it in 10, 20 or 50 years time when you are gone.

Boxes in attic
I am not saying that you need to get rid of all of your possessions but rather, we need to evaluate what we have and keep that which is useful, we truly love and which adds value to our lives.  Anything that has been stashed in a box or cupboard for more than a year needs a careful re-assessment.  Depending on what it is, put it on display, use it everydayor refashion it so that it fits with your current needs.  If none of these actions are right, move it along to someone who will love and use it.

Don’t let your memories hold you back.  Let go of some stuff, free up time and space, go and create new memories.  Enjoy!

STREAMLINE – Narrow it Down

Leave a comment

This is where it starts to get really challenging.  Now we need to ask ourselves the question, “What is the minimum that I need to live?”  Francine notes that you do not need to worry that you will be expected to sleep on the floor or live in a tent but you do need to challenge yourself.  It is not enough to wave your magic wand and say that you need everything that you have.

There is no magic number of items or even a formula that you can apply.  Everyone’s ‘enough’ is different.  It can depend on your location, family, children, hobbies, upbringing and experiences.

Embracing minimalism is a personal choice.  It is not about depriving yourself but giving yourself the freedom to live and enjoy the moment.  There is a liberating lightness which comes from letting go of possessions so take the time to look around you and decide what you can live without.

Contents of cupboard

Some of things you could consider when attempting to narrow down your possessions:

  • Duplicates – these are easy – you don’t really need 2 (or more) do you?
  • Sentimental stuff – Francine suggests ‘minituarising’ as a way of dealing with these – an example could be a place card, photo, swatch of dress fabric and a dried flower from the bouquet all in a simple frame as a wedding memento rather than keeping a wedding dress and all the trimmings.
  • Digitising – scanned photos in files on the computer rather than shelves full of albums that gather dust.  If the digitised files are well catalogued they are actually more accessible than hard copies.  You can also keep back-ups in different locations in case of disaster.

I do not purport to be perfect in any of these ways but am certainly working on it.  What about you?

STREAMLINE – Limits

5 Comments

In years gone by our stuff was limited to a large degree by the availability and cost of most items.  Goods were generally produced locally and in a relatively labour-intensive manner.  Disposable incomes were less and stuff cost more when compared to incomes.  Global manufacturing and transport, cheap labour and distribution have meant that there is a seemingly endless supply of stuff for you to purchase at your local shopping mall.

Since the natural limits of accessibility and affordability have been removed, it is up to us to take control or we will end up drowning in our stuff.  The ultimate limit is the size of your home; you can fit a lot more in a 2 storey, 4 bedroom family home than a studio apartment.  However, even this does not deter some people as evidenced by the burgeoning industry of off-site storage facilities.

You can easily apply limits to things like your books by simply choosing not to have the shelves overflowing.  As you buy or acquire new books, make space for them by moving others along.  We all have books that we are not sure why we are keeping them.  Will you read them again?  No?  Time to go.  This way you will eventually end up with a selection of books that you really love and are proud to have on your shelves.

Bookshelves
Perhaps you can choose an arbitrary number such as 20 DVDs, 10 t-shirts or 6 champagne flutes.  Make sure that you don’t simply choose a number that allows you to maintain the status quo.  It needs to be challenging yet achievable as well as pertinent to your unique situation.

No matter what the item, you need to ask yourself the question, “Do I really need x of this item?”  Nothing needs to be immune from this process – lipsticks, plates, socks, CDs, towels, candles and cookbooks are all fair game.

Linen cupboard
Once you set limits on your stuff and force yourself to choose, you will naturally choose ‘the best’.  How you make that choice is a personal decision but making the choice means that you consider the merit of each piece carefully and you will appreciate its worth to you and your life.  The stuff that makes the cut will have an opportunity to shine in the decluttered environment.

It is not only physical stuff that you can set limits on.  You can set limits on your participation in events.  For example, you may decide that you will only spend one night a week playing sport, therefore you will choose the one you enjoy most.  This may give you a chance to excel rather than putting in a mediocre performance in 3 different sports on 3 different nights of the week.  You may choose to limit your association with people who do not enhance your life.

Limits can be seen as restrictive but the limits you set on your stuff will actually be liberating as you are the one making the choices.  Don’t let your stuff rule you and your life.

STREAMLINE – All Surfaces Clear

2 Comments

Today’s gem from Francine is pretty simple to say but not quite so easy to achieve.  Keep all surfaces clear.  Clear surfaces provide us with possibilities.  Somewhere to eat your dinner, prepare a meal, pay bills or simply to sleep.

She also reminds us that surfaces are not for storage.  If you have too much stuff for your available storage spaces perhaps it is time to let some it go.

This is one area with which I have had partial success.  For instance, my dining table always is clear apart from a doyley and vase which provide a decorative element.  I am also pretty good at keeping the vanity bench in the bathroom as well as the laundry bench clear.

Dining table

The study desk is generally a failure and the kitchen benches range from good to bad depending on the day of the week and work in progress.

Kitchen bench

It takes time and effort to achieve the state of a completely clear surface.  Like all changes you need to start small.  Don’t expect to turn the study desk which is overflowing with stuff into a minimalist’s paradise overnight.  If you have sufficient storage in the bathroom, I think the vanity bench is a great place to start.

The dining table is also a good one to tackle because anything that is on here is definitely in the wrong place – a dining table is to sit at to eat a meal.  Since most of us eat 3 meals a day there are plenty of opportunities to make sure that it is clean, clear and ready for use.  Since it is also a public part of your home everyone will benefit from it being clear and ready to use for its designated purpose.

Please let me know – do you have any constantly clear surfaces of which you are particularly proud?  What are the areas that seem to defeat you?

Tomorrow we will move on to something a bit more interesting than my kitchen bench.  Modules – containing what you have.  It is definitely a new twist on rushing out and buying containers to store your stuff.

STREAMLINE – A Master Plan

4 Comments

The first and most important thing I need to do with this post is to acknowledge that it is not my own idea.  This is the basis of the book, “The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay.

I have mentioned the book previously in a couple of posts here and here.  “The Joy of Less” is a book that I keep going back to and it continues to inspire me.  That is no small feat as it seems that everyone is writing a book on organisation, minimalism and/or decluttering.  Many of them do not offer anything new but “The Joy of Less” really hit a chord with me.  In particular, I liked the philosophy in the early chapters.  This helps you to understand what clutter is, how it affects us and our relationships with it.

However, today I am going to focus more on the actual process of creating a minimalist home which works for you.

S – Start over

T – Trash, treasure or transfer

R -Reason for each item

E – Everything in its place

A – All surfaces clear

M – Modules

L- Limits

I – If one comes in, one goes out

N Narrow it down

E – Everyday maintenance

This is the step-by-step process that Francine uses and to do justice to the information, I plan to discuss each point in depth in separate blog posts.  There will be one every day or so, depending on my workload so keep watching to get the full story.  Some are reasonably clear but other concepts need more explanation.

The important thing to remember about minimalism and decluttering is that it can fit any situation and be as much or as little as you want it to be.  However, if you are reading about decluttering, there is a very good chance that you are feeling the need to unburden yourself for some of your stuff.  Don’t hijack your goals by thinking that you will declutter your house on the weekend.  You can certainly make a start but don’t ever imagine that it is a one-off weekend job!

Tomorrow we will “Start Over”.  I look forward to hearing about your goals and achievements with respect to decluttering and minimalism.