Showing posts with label Simple Living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Simple Living. Show all posts

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Clothing and textiles in the simple living home (Part 2)



Using thrift shops, freecycle and clothing swaps as your main sources for family clothing and home textiles, you can provide the bulk of your family’s needs at little to no cost. The keys to efficiently and successfully using these resources are as follows:

1. Know what you need by keeping an updated list in your wallet or purse at all times. This eliminates unnecessary purchases and prevents you from buying new at the last minute. If you are prepared in advance for coming seasonal weather changes (or growth spurts in children), you’ll have plenty of time to source what will be needed BEFORE you actually need it.

2. Aim for minimalist wardrobes for everyone in the family. Look for basic key pieces that can be worn together (mix and match) to bring the greatest flexibility and the most “bang for your buck”. 

3. Regularly go through closets, drawers and stored clothes (whether off season or the next size for children to grow into) to take stock of wardrobe gaps that need filling. I suggest doing this task monthly or at minimum, seasonally. This helps you to maintain a truly accurate needs list so you can “shop” efficiently in second hand stores or at clothing swaps.

4. Keep your “inventory” well organized at home. If you have several children and can hand clothes down to younger siblings, be vigilant about boxing clothes up and labeling WELL as to what is inside (gender, size and season). Don’t keep too much as this can become a “clutter” liability rather than a clothing asset.

5. Purge regularly. Needs and lifestyles change and children grow. Donate or sell anything no longer useful or serviceable to free up space for incoming (needed) garments.


Supply and demand plays into the household economy as it relates to clothes and textiles. Some items are as rare as “hen’s teeth” (pants for 10 year old boys, for example as most boys wear through their pants with their rough and tumble play). This fact means that boys’ pants might need to be purchased new. Look to seasonal sales and plan ahead so that you never pay full retail price.


Only consider paying full price for quality items that you know you can get many years of use out of (an adult winter coat that will be worn for many years or a child’s coat that can be handed down to younger siblings). Never pay full price for something that is in great supply second hand in your area (such as a child’s t-shirt).


Special occasion garments are often costly budget breakers, but they are very easily sourced second hand. Most of them have been worn once and often, not at all. If you have an upcoming special occasion to attend, be sure to source your clothing early to avoid last minute costly new purchases. Note that dress shoes are also widely available second hand, often with barely a scuff (usually having been worn only once).


Additionally, sheets, towels, curtains, blankets, quilts and aprons are all available through the sources listed above and many thrift stores offer garbage bags full of worn towels selling for just a few dollars. These can be cut up for cleaning clothes or shop rags and eliminate the need for buying expensive and/or disposable cleaning cloths and shop towels. You can also cut up your own worn clothing and linens to be used in this manner for free (the ultimate in recycling). 

Using these three resources wisely and efficiently, home managers can fill nearly every family and household textile need for a fraction of the cost of new, with very little effort. Happy shopping, simple living style!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Clothing and textiles in the simple living home (Part 1)


We all need clothes and outerwear to protect us from the elements, and every home should be stocked with a variety of textiles to help us keep our houses clean and comfortable. The cost of buying new clothing and textiles is staggering, so it makes good sense for any home manager to find thriftier solutions to meet these essential home and family needs. Using creative resourcefulness we can stretch those hard earned dollars until they squeal!

Most communities have at least one charity/thrift shop, which is a home manager’s best, most reliable resource for sourcing a varied selection of clothing and textiles for the home and family. In modern times, excess of all kinds surrounds us, which translates into thrift stores bursting with gently used clothes, outerwear, linens and home goods. It makes no financial sense to buy new when such abundance exists in our communities for pennies on the dollar. The key to sourcing most of your family’s clothing and textiles at a thrift store is to visit it regularly and know when new items are put out (usually early morning before store opening although sometimes, this occurs on specific days only).


Another fantastic clothing and textile resource for home managers is freecycle. This fast growing, FREE, online network provides everyday people with tremendous networking power to share goods no longer needed. Our family loves donating bags of clothing no longer needed directly to people in our community and we greatly appreciate the reciprocal generosity. Freecycle builds strong communities through the sharing that it facilitates and it is a tremendously powerful budget stretcher. I encourage you to set up an online account on your local network to begin using this valuable resource.


Community clothing swaps are another way for people to share and trade clothing and outerwear at no cost. Usually, these events are held annually and are geared toward children’s clothes, as the steady growth of children requires nearly constant wardrobe purging/purchasing. Clothing swaps often take place in community centers, recreation centers or church halls but many women’s groups are now offering clothing swaps as well. If you can’t find a local clothing swap, consider starting one yourself!

To be continued tomorrow ...

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Ethical clothing

by Rose @ greening the rose

When I was a child in the 1960s most of Australia's clothing was made in Australia. As of my 60th birthday Australia produces about 5 percent of its clothing. As a kid my wardrobe consisted of  a school uniform, a couple of outfits for play, a good outfit for Sundays and not a whole lot else; my parents wardrobes were similarly lean. Warm clothes were hand knitted, a good dress or skirt was made by hand, clothing was passed down from one child to the next, my father's one suit lasted many years.

In 2015 many of us have more clothing than ever, more to wear, more to hang in already overstuffed wardrobes and even more to wash. Since we outsourced the making of our clothing and the sourcing of our textiles we are buying more at a cheaper price, using more resources and paying less for clothing than we ever had throughout human history.

This increased consumption is a global phenomenon. We seem to have gone from a four season a year clothing cycle to changes that are monthly, even weekly. Does anyone pay full price anymore? Sales appear to be ubiquitous, 50 percent or more off at the beginning of a season is not uncommon and 70 percent or more occurs often enough to be noticeable.



Shoes for $10, a pair of jeans for $15, a dress for $14 it's as if the 1970s never went away. Or is it?

Why is the price of clothing so cheap?

Outsourcing of the developed world's textile industry has placed a huge labour intensive industry in the developing world where many of the world's poorest workers live. More than 80 percent of these workers are women and children, who are paid less than a living wage, who work in unsafe often-times  unsanitary conditions, who are in some cases deprived of human rights.

In many cases western clothing houses contract to the lowest bidding group who may perform the work themselves or further sub-contract it to another group (at a lower price).This "devolves" responsibility (ahem) from the clothing house as the supply chain becomes less transparent and more fractured so is harder to trace.

The demand of western tastes prepared to pay limited dollars encourages the growth of questionable practices and techniques.

Perhaps the distressed jeans you are wearing caused silicosis in the person who made them? Garment workers can contract silicosis when small particles of silica dust from the sand used to distress jeans embed themselves within the lungs. This causes shortness of breath, coughing, weakness and weight loss. It's incurable and can be fatal.

The waste from textiles amounts to millions of tons of environmental damage per year in the country of making, in the country of consumption the problem is dumping into landfill of cheap non-biodegradable clothing.

All is not lost, there are ways to have an ethical wardrobe:
  • Know what you need, make a list and buy from it.
  • Consider used clothing that offers so many benefits, it's cheap(er), it recycles and you can upcycle it, it doesn't require the use of precious resources.
  • Buy from accredited clothing companies (see below)*.
  • Choose the best quality you can afford so that your garments last as long as possible.
  • Make your own clothing. Yes, quality fabric and yarn aren't cheap, but the garment you make will be customised to your size, style, taste and requirements. I have handknitted jumpers (sweaters) that are decades old.
  • Buy/source from the most ecologically ethical brands you can.
Ethical Clothing Australia is an independent body which studies the supply chain of Australian clothing companies to determine if they should be accredited for ethical production. You can check on your favourite brands to see if they have received accreditation.

Oxfam is asking questions of some of our well known clothing stores, especially those who still won't sign industry-endorsed workers' rights agreements. Check out more from Oxfam here.

Similar organisations include

Valuable reading and viewing on this issue includes

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Dressed simply = simply dressed


As we relaunch the Co-op we thought we'd discuss the everyday matter of clothing, how it fits into our simple living journey, how to be more mindful of reusing, recycling and purchasing our garments.

Have you noticed that when you have too much of something it clouds your mind in the same way as eating too big a meal clouds your digestion? In the pursuit of our simple living goals we may be quick to declutter an unworkable kitchen cupboard, a bathroom cabinet or a pile of paper gathering on the kitchen bench, but what about that area that you face every morning as you begin your day?

A simple wardrobe of clothes that fit you, that suit the tasks and activities you undertake each day, that will stand up to regular washing and the work you do can take you one more step in achieving your goals.


A simple wardrobe will hold clean, folded or hung items that serve you well. For some simple lifers this will include some form of a suit, for others it will be three pairs of jeans and accompanying t-shirts, for others it will be a blend of items across the formality spectrum.

A simple wardrobe won’t include an overstuffed underwear drawer of garments in various stages of dilapidation. It will include a drawer of socks/stockings/tights/long johns suitable for the climate you live in and the work you do each day.

A simple wardrobe will reduce your carbon footprint if it:
  • includes only items that you wear (so they fit and are appropriate) even if some of those items include only the “occasional wear” category; 
  • is planned to curb unnecessary shopping (or making); 
  • is tailored and edited for you thereby reducing the size of the pile to be laundered.
So how do we attain this simple wardrobe? By moving in and decluttering the surplus-to-requirements items, donating those in good condition to your charity of choice and composting those which are too far gone if made of natural fibres. Dress the body that you have today, not the one you are aspiring to in twelve months, dress for the climate that you live in and the work/activities you do. And don’t forget your feet!

Once you have edited your clothing you may be left with a neat rack of clothes on hangers or folded on shelves and in drawers. But what if you find you haven’t made much of a dent? 

There is a wealth of ideas online which suggest practical means for developing an appropriate yet simple wardrobe. Courtney Carver’s popular Project 333 challenges you to live with 33 items for 3 months (a season for many of us). Courtney’s challenge suggests packing away the items not included in your selected 33 which gives you the option to put them back later if you choose.

Capsule wardrobes can, on first glance, look suitable only for the fashion conscious such as the one for women here and the one for men here until you look more closely. A capsule wardrobe is designed to mix and match so a few items will provide you with a range of outfits.

Finally, evaluate what you like to wear. Are comfort, colour, cut priorities? Think a little deeper -- what makes a garment comfortable for you, what colours do you like, what cut (say of jeans) satisfies you the most?

Then, just as you would after clearing out-of-date items from your pantry, make a shopping list to carry with you. It may read something like:
  • pair of jeans (straight cut, navy) 
  • pairs of cotton socks (dark) 
  • pair of cotton pyjamas
This list is your shopping guide, resist buying anything else and/or substituting unless there is a very good reason that meshes with your goals. If it takes three months to save for these or find them so be it. Getting dressed in the morning is about quality over quantity, clothes that fit and maintaining your own look or work uniform. Such a clothing collection would fit in your great grandmother’s bedroom cupboard.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Upcycling Pillow Slips

by Amanda of Live Life Simply

I made a couple of grocery totes from vintage pillow slips during the week. They were quick to sew up, use an entire pillow slip (no waste), are durable being double layered and roomy enough to fit plenty of farmers market goodies inside!



The pdf pattern for this tote can be found at Spiderwomanknits .It is a free tutorial and is very easy to follow. I did however make a small change to mine and I top stitched the edges of the handles.


I like that these bags are super simple, thrifty and green. I'm making more of these this week!


There are many more ways to upcycle pillow slips. I designed a pre-fold nappy last year from a flannel pillow slip and it is still going strong. I have also cut embroidered pillow slips down into a square shape and made them into simple cushion covers


Here are some more ideas for pillow slip upcycling that I am adding to my list!

Pillow slip into a:

Pretty top
Apron
Little Dress

There are plenty more ideas out there and I would love to hear if you have made something out of a vintage pillow slip too. I have a collection of slips waiting to be transformed into useful things!

Amanda x

Sunday, 8 July 2012

My Frugal Limits

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches























Every now and then I hear about a large family with the same food budget as our more avearage size family, or a family in size similar to ours, with a much more modest food budget and I question why I'm not able to be as frugal. I wonder where I am going wrong and I usually sit down committed to read their blog, or the article and learn something. The goal? To reduce our expenditures. I begin reading feeling like I'm doing something wrong, I finish, feeling like I'm doing something very right. You see, we all have to do what is right for our family and I believe, what is kinder and gentler for the earth and those who are more vulnerable. But reading the nitty gritty about what people are willing to compromise on, I actually leave feeling like it is a compomise too far. I'm personally not willing to:

- Shop once a month: access to fresh fruit and veg is too important
- Purchase ready meals or packaged foods with coupons
- Skimp on fruits and vegetables - one blog which which received much attention for being frugal and healthy posted a menu plan which included only 2 fruit and 1 veg a day (most studies recommend a minimum of 5-6 a day)
- Purchase factory produced animal products
- Build a diet around cheap fillers without much nutritional value. For example, a pasta dish served with bread was recommended as a cheap meal. Whereas e may have pasta, but it would be served with a fresh spinach salad and a veg.
- Shop at unethical major corporations

The more I think about it, the more I realize that while I certainly do budget and work hard to stick to it with food, I do see placing priority on green living, simple healthy meals and supporting others (for example by purchasing fairtrade items) as more imporant to me than slashing my budget another $50 or $100 a month. And for somewhere between $300 and $350 a month we purchase:

- Free range eggs from local farms
- All organic animal products
- Fairtrade: sugar, bananas, tea, coffee, mangos, flour and cocoa
- Green cleaning and laundry supplies
- Pet food & litter
- About 50% of our fruits and veg organic
- Enough fruits and veg for 3 fruits and 3 veg (plus a salad) a day
- A locally sourced produce box
- Seeds for our community garden plot

Yes, I could probably shave at least $50 a month off the budget if I changed to what some frugal bloggers recommend. And that $50 would come in handy. But more than that, I want my children, who have experienced malnourishment prior to joining our family through adoption, to continue to make educational and emotional gains that good food has allowed them. I want my hard earned money to tred softly on this earth and help people. I want to invest in our health now, to safeguard us for the future. And if that takes another $50 - $100 a month, I'm really OK with it.

What about you? What is your line when it comes to compromise? Is it only about money, or like me, something more?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

What They Live

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


























My Children

:: Couldn't tell you the last time they watched tv, but can tell you what they planted in our community garden

:: Have no clue what the latest gadgets or toys are, but can list books and board games we love to read and play

:: Don't know what a play station, gameboy, or Wii is, but can tell you tale after tale about dolphins

:: Won't sit for hours in front of a screen, but spend hours putting together puzzles

:: Aren't sure of the real names of all the shops we visit, but can tell you the names of all the shop owners and what fairtrade items they sell

:: Haven't yet figured out the politics behind big corporations, but can articulate why we boycott certain shops in very simple terms - "they aren't kind to their workers" is usually suffice.

:: Politely listen to hurried tales of weekend busyness from peers, teachers and friends, but quietly whisper in my ear "Mama lets just be at home and sit under a tree"

:: May not yet be fluent readers, but love that their Mummy is in a bookclub

:: Graciously receive gifts, but find real joy in the making of the thank you card the second the gift is opened.

:: Know we have to watch pennies, but remind me each week to make sure our home has flowers.

:: Don't live in the country, but as of yesterday learned how to gently hold chickens

:: Don't eat meat, but love hanging out with pigs at the city farm!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Weighing Up Organic & Natural Newborn Options

by Amanda 

Instinctively mothers want the best for their babies. Our main concerns are for their health and well being. Before and after new babies arrive we are bombarded with information from well meaning family members, friends and books, blogs, informative websites and magazines. It can be overwhelming and often times leads to uncertainty and utter confusion. Try to pay attention to the things that matter most to you, consider what is practical and listen to your instincts. There are options and choices for everything baby - new, second hand, borrowed, hired,  handmade, organic and eco friendly. You may choose a combination of these things depending on your budget and lifestyle or may choose one only. Whatever YOU choose will be the best for YOUR baby.

When I was expecting with my last son I had a bee in my bonnet and I only wanted to use organic skincare, organic bedding, organic bath linen and organic clothes. But when I started to investigate these options and products I realised we simply couldn't afford everything and as it was our last baby it didn't make sense to be spending that much money. I did manage to pick up a few items from ebay, but not every item I was seeking could be found there. I then started to weigh up how often these items would be used, their value after use and what items would be in direct contact with my baby's skin.

I prioritised the wish list and skincare wasn't an option for me. It had to be natural even though I didn't plan to be using it all the time. As skin is so porous and can absorbs traces of all kinds of materials, I didn't want any products to go near our baby that had ingredient lists with long words that I couldn't pronounce or understand. Natural and organic skincare was an easy choice. It had to be simple and in most cases I can make the products myself.

I then looked at bedding and decided to buy a secondhand cot and mattress. As new mattresses 'off gas' chemicals (that's the 'new smell') a new one was not on the shopping list and as we couldn't afford an all natural one, a secondhand one was the best choice for our child. I was lucky to pick up one locally that was in excellent condition. My compromise was to layer the bedding with organic linen and I purchased two sets of fitted, organic bamboo sheets for the bassinet and the cot. I also chose an organic mattress protector. Admittedly I did have a few sheets left from my previous children's bedding and these are my spares. Using pre-loved sheets are a wise choice for bassinets as they are only used for such a short time and most are in near new condition.

Bath linen was another priority for me, as again this would be used directly against my baby's skin. I chose two organic bamboo towels and a 3 pack of bamboo muslin washers. Muslin washers are by far the most gentle cleansing cloth for newborns and I highly recommend them. The bamboo towels being so absorbent, dry the skin very quickly and the fibres are soft and super gentle against a baby's skin. I am still using all of these items today along with some hand knitted washers (see pictured) and they will last beyond the toddler years.


When it came to newborn clothing I chose to buy and use only secondhand items made from 100% cotton and wool where possible. Items that have been used and washed over and over again have had their manufacturing residues washed away and this put my mind at ease. We were gifted many items and I chose to buy a few organic undergarments, again because these items were against his precious skin. Style wasn't an issue for me. Items had to be practical, easy to put on and take off with minimum fuss.


Other items that I chose to buy organic were the Organic Ergo Baby Carrier (half was a gift), natural medicines and remedies, cloth nappies, feeding products and a handful of toys for gifts. I didn't require bottles to bottle feed, but if you do, you may want to use glass bottles or at the least BPA FREE plastic ones. There are plenty of options and compromises and secondhand can be the most eco friendly if this is something you strongly value. Make your own decisions about what items you really need and weigh up the choices and alternatives in relation to your budget.

Don't forget to make the most of the opportunity whenever someone asks what you really need or want for your new baby and don't be afraid to share your core values and wishes. You may not like to ask for something organic due to the price tag, but there are small organic items that will be appreciated like organic socks and scratch mittens or you may know someone that makes beautiful crocheted hats...so ask for one in organic cotton! The path into parenthood can be an opportunity to learn as much as you can about the impacts of the living environment you create for your child and sharing what you learn with your family and friends provides a supportive environment when your baby arrives.

What decisions did you make or do you plan to make about choosing products and items for your babies in relation to your values?




Sunday, 27 May 2012

How Simplicity Prepares You For The Harder Times

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Late yesterday evening I wrote on my personal blog about the difference in the experience of frugality when it is forced vs. it being a choice. The days grocery shopping "adventure" was still fresh in my mind. And in truth, my mind was on the black formal dress shirt school is insisting each child owns by Monday (for a concert), my daughters need for sandals, my son outgrowing his trousers (again!), four prescriptions that need renewing this month, three bills which recently arrived and a petrol tank in the bottom 1/4.

I've lived a frugal and simple life for many years. You will find us hiking instead of shopping, watering our community garden plot instead of going to an adventure playground or theme park, and spending our evenings reading, playing games, riding bikes or volunteering instead of frequenting paid activities. But this is the first time under our new circumstances of it not being an adventure, or a reason to save for something (emergency fund, car repair fund, holiday fund, long term savings plan). This is no longer about choice, but circumstance. The two very different c's.

The difference for me is two fold. Firstly, the "what if' thought is never far from my mind (what if there is another bill, or an emergency which costs $$ arises) and secondly, the constant need to prioritize, or choose what to cut in order to make it all work. And that isn't a nice feeling at all.

And yet, honestly, I see beauty in how we live. Yes, I've certainly learned that when things are already tough, more seems to go wrong - like a double blow that seems, at times, ridiculously unfair. But I've also learned about joy, faith, perseverance and commitment to a choice, and owning that choice even when it no longer feels like you've chosen such a path. If we had an extra $1000 a month, the reality is, our activities would not change, you would still find us hiking, bike riding, visiting parks, cooking from scratch, playing games, making art and crafts and loving life. None of that would be any different. What would change is the bank balance, our ability to easily deal with the emergencies that arise and perhaps a little bit more peace. But the reality is, we are not poor, we have a very nice roof over our heads, our fridge and cupboards are full, everyone has all the clothes they need, we have more books than we could possibly read (though we are trying!), we have our garden plot, a car that gets us from A to B, each child has a hobby, or two, that they enjoy each week. And our life really isn't any different, except that I need to be far more creative at times. And you know, the artist in me knows, creativity is never a bad thing!

I'd love to hear from you. Do you have any tips for me, or other readers, about embracing forced frugality or living well on less?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Creating A Positive Vision Of The Future

By Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin


Writing most days about living a more sustainable lifestyle is so very rewarding, and I have come to treasure telling my family's story via this blog and my own.  I strive to keep my posts as positive as I can, given the ever approaching post-petroleum future and climate chaos that we now face. Most of the time I succeed.  I have come to learn that positive visions are increasingly important in engaging people which help them to avoid and overcome fear and inaction due to these issues being constantly bombarded at them.

So many activists and environmental messages are filled with doom and despair which attempt to engage via negative emotions in an attempt to urge people into action.  It is not working, because I believe that this is backfiring more and more.  It is simply alienating ordinary people further by disengagement.  People do not want to hear negative messages by choice.  I know I don't.

However, people are becoming increasingly aware that our current consumer culture is not exactly Earth friendly, or is conducive to a long and fruitful future for mankind.  Without a positive vision to be drawn to, or role models from which to learn good examples of simple, green and frugal solutions, they probably just switch off and continue on with business as usual or get stuck in denial of these events.

I have come to realise that there is no us and them, and that we are all in this together.  People want a better future for their descendants, and are willing to work hard at a better life, but will only strive in the right direction if given all the facts, and a positive vision of what they can achieve.  The future is not set in stone, and with each decision we make, they can have a remarkable effect upon it.

So I urge you all to paint that positive vision in everything you do, say or write.  As we begin to share our positive vision of the future, we will find that more and more people will become interested and engaged, and hopefully strive towards one that will have the best outcome for all life on Earth.

Chance favours the prepared mind.
-Louis Pasteur

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Exiting The Rat Race



Back a few years ago, I remember thinking many times that something was missing in my life. I could never put my finger on what it was, and strived for answers. I would buy the latest consumer and electronic goods, upgrade my computer yearly to a faster model, buy the latest PC games to spend endless hours of my free time on. I worked hard and long in my quest to earn more money so that I could afford more material possessions in the vain hope that I would find satisfaction and fulfilment. 

It didn't work, but like many other people stuck in the rat race, and due to my inaction and consumeristic habits, it was as good as it got. No-one wants to be unfulfilled in life, but sadly many of us are still looking for that "something" that is missing. Credit card balances were through the roof, and I was living a lifestyle way beyond my means.

I also found it hard to unwind each day, and realised that my head was swimming with so much stuff that my mind raced a fair bit of the time. I wasn't in touch with my surroundings, sometimes out of tune with the wonderful people I shared my life with, and I certainly was not in tune with the plight of the planet. I was blissfully unaware of my impact on it and to the ecosystems that exist upon it. I had drifted on the tide of a life half lived for far too long.

What a sorry state of affairs! I had an inkling of what might be wrong, so Kim and I started to attend meditation classes so that we could both learn to relax. I really enjoyed the experience, and things began to change. After a meditation session, I felt connected to my inner self in a way I hadn't experienced in my life.

Then came the day that I went to the cinema to watch a free movie provided by work, and it changed my life. It was as if I awoke from a horrible dream, and if you have read this my personal blog from the beginning, you will know the rest of the actions I have taken to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

All the actions aside, I think I have only once described the emotions and personal changed that have taken place with in me. Firstly, I have taken a step back, and had a really hard look at myself and the way I lived before my epiphany. I have managed to come to grips with who I am, and what I want to do with the rest of my life. I found that by looking within, rather than searching for answers in the outside world, I found that I was already complete and that my life was complete. I found that a simple life had meaning, albeit occasionally hard work, and it was not about blatant consumerism that the TV blasts at us, day in, day out. In fact, I found myself watching less and less TV, and began the research and learning that ultimately helped my understanding the climate change problem, and the ways I could reduce my carbon footprint.

At first my family thought I had lost the plot, but found that their husband and father began to talk about more interesting things, and made them think about things that challenged their own understanding of how our civilisation works. I had another purpose other than the daily grind of work. Not only did I feel fully connected to my family, which brought me great joy, I began to feel connected to the Earth, through my gardening endeavours. I may have said this before, but growing your own food is one of the most uplifting and spiritual things I have ever done, and certainly one of the most fulfilling. All of the things that my family and I have done over the last two years have brought us closer together, and we spend more meaningful time together. I now stress less about work, and am more relaxed at home, but more active and took a pay cut so that I could work a 9 day fortnight. I have also lost 10 kg in the process and now know that by looking at my inner self, I changed who I was for the better.

Nowadays, we rarely go out anywhere by choice, but we have a fuller lifestyle. We have comfort in knowing that we produce our own solar electricity and solar hot water, drive less, and have reduced our consumption across the board. We make things together, we grow food together, we cook together, and most of all we have fun together, which is really the simple home truth that people caught in the rat race just don't realise. Living simply, and honesty, like our grandparents, is what a full life was, and still is, all about.

It makes me sad some days, when I realise that it took me about 42 years to get it, but my goodness, I am making up for it now. I still work to pay off the house, and actually enjoy work without the stress, and find it a great way to spread the word about my lifestyle. I stopped sweating the small stuff. We are paying off the house and our other debts very quickly, so we should be debt free in about five years time (maybe a little longer). We don't live in a McMansion (never did anyway), and now live within our means. Credit card debt has gone, with the nasty consumerism troll now living at the bottom of the compost heap like the rotting matter it is.

It feels great to be alive, and to have a goal as big as the planet for the rest of my time on it. I have found the "something" that I was missing. It was inside of me all along, and I just didn't know it at the time!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Days Like These

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















It is days like these when we have nowhere to go and no real commitments, that I wonder why it isn't possible to be still more often. Today I declared it was a "home day". And just what is a home day? A day where we never leave home; no shoes need to be put on, no hats, scarves or gloves need to be tackled. It's a day where I stand at the window, cup of tea in hand and watch the world go by. It is a day where I enjoy simple crafts with my children, no one needing to be hurried, no one making us late. It is a day where I smell curries and soups and muffins cooking and baking, ready to nourish us through far too many busy and hurried days ahead.

It is days like these where I reflect on our choices, our dreams, our aspirations and instead of planning I think "be still". It is days like these where I accomplish our greatest goal - simplicity. It is days like these when absolutely everything else can wait and I'm reminded of a favourite poem...

Cleaning and cooking can wait 'till tomorrow
For babies grow up, as we've learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep

Anon

It is days like these, where my greatest wish for this world is for everyone to stop. Stop the negative and anxious thoughts. Stop the dash to the shops. Stop the hurried list of things to do. Stop. Stop. Stop. Be still. Be still. Be still.

I hope each person reading this soon has a plan to be still. To breathe. To relax. To be...

Monday, 9 January 2012

Journeying

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Yesterday I posted my 1000th post on my blog. 1000 "essays" over the last 3.5 years about this journey. This downshifting, simplifying, greening, frugal journey. A journey which has seen me:

Give up paper products
Use reusable toilet cloth (as opposed to toilet paper)
Leave a corporate city job
Learn to cook
Give up tv
Begin shopping locally
Really commit to vegetarianism
Learn to reuse and/or refuse
Learn to knit
Use a vermicomposter
Move countries
Commit to cleaning without pesticides
Volunteer overseas
Become more passionate about Fairtrade
Learn to say no to things which don't reflect my/our values
Adopt two children

But honestly, it is more than all that. I could list 1000 things I've done since beginning this life, this new more simplified, frugal and green path. But here's the truth, the most important thing I've learned through the 1000 posts is to be still and to walk in grace, not only towards others, but towards myself too. That tender dance of stillness and grace means more than learning a frugal recipe or saving money on my utility bills. It is a dance that allows me to only see the beauty in a moment with my children, when other stresses and strains are hard to keep quiet. It is the dance which lets me know the importance of hope in a world where messages are often of doom.

1000 posts of journeying have led me to standing still. And from my still space on a very cold wintery morning, the frugal, simple and green life looks like a grand one, the world looks postively beautiful. The noise is shut out and the stillness is let in.

May we all journey well in 2012. May we all journey towards a place called simplicity. May be journey not as if in a race, but as if on a path with lots of forks, twists and turns, all leading you just where you need to be. All leading towards a quiet moment and a little sound whispering hush.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The green and simple life - as it actually is in a small urban house, with small children

Aurora @ Island Dreaming


 
I have to admit, I am at a bit of a loss as to what to write about this week.


It isn't that we haven't been doing anything. I have baked bread, I have started two batches of wine, a batch of from-grain beer. We have further  decluttered and redecorated the house, celebrated Halloween and Christmas, cooked almost every day from scratch. Nappies have been washed, laundry gloop made. But my own blog has been silent for two months now, because the wherewithal to coordinate doing something worthy of writing about with having a charged camera battery, time to sit at the computer and compose something and the brain capacity to write acceptable English more often than not fails me.

The reason? A six month old teething baby. The beautiful routine we had begun to get into? Gone out of the window, replaced by fractiousness, separation anxiety and broken nights. Broken nights for everyone, because her three year old brother in the next room often wakes with a jump at the onset of a midnight screaming session. We are not a well rested household.

Herein lies a problem. The main attraction of a simple life is to be more rested than those panicking to climb the material and social ladder. I feel not rested, I feel overstretched for the first time in many months. A steady diet of doctors appointments, preschool sessions, vet appointments, scheduled activities,work and study commitments on top of all our day to day frugal activities is interfering with a previously plodding, calm schedule. Life does not feel simple and deliberate. It feels slapdash.

The reason I tell you this? I have been reading a few too many beautiful blogs of families with small children where everything is rosy and beautifully staged and calm and organized and tidy - and this has been bad for my mental health. It is, I realise now, no different to looking at adverts for expensive cars and anti-aging creams and feeling angry and inadequate for those things that are beyond your reach. I know that many bloggers actively admit they show the very best of their days, their blogs are a medium for them to focus on the things they are most grateful for and this is not a dig at them. I may have been guilty of this on my own blog. It is a dig at myself for falling into the trap of comparing our life unfairly with those edited blog lives.

I have neglected to keep up with a few of those delightful blogs that unfortunately I cannot help comparing myself too at the moment. My own blog has fallen by the wayside a little and instead I schedule my fortnightly appointment here and look forward to it. Our allotment is still awaiting its autumn tidy up, the garlic and broad beans have not been sown. Dishes sometimes stack up on the side. The hoover sometimes doesn't come out for a few days. Knitting gets left out in the rush and unravelled by a passing three year old. The cat knocks a house plant onto the floor and I shout and use choice words that I would never dream of typing. The dining table piles up and we eat on a rug in the living room. I raise my voice sometimes and lose my patience and sometimes I just scream into a pillow, cry and feel sorry for myself. Mindfulness escapes me to be replaced by racing thoughts and deep seated feelings of inadequacy.

I have nothing practical to share with you at the moment; I can't share with you tips for soothing a teething baby, as none of the things that worked with the first of my children is working with the second; I cannot get my brain (and camera) together enough to write the wine tutorial I have been planning for most of 2011. Instead I just want to say go easy on yourself and enjoy the start of this new year. If you are struggling to keep your head above water right now, because of overtired small children or for other reasons, then let something go and do what you can with the material or spiritual reserves you have. Keep on keeping on. I'm off to find my camera battery.




Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Making Broth a Habit

by Throwback at Trapper Creek



Being almost done with the holiday eating season, I figured an article about broth would timely. We can all use a few health giving and cleansing eating habits, not just to deal with holiday food overload, but everyday.

I've found in my kitchen that upping the nutrition level in foods can achieved easily by using more broth in place of water during the cooking process. This adds flavor to sometimes bland foods, broadens their appeal and makes food easier to digest.

In our household we go through about 7 - 8 quarts of broth or stock a week. What triggered all this was my husbands autoimmune problems. He needs every calorie to count, so all his meals and snacks need to be nutrient dense. I first had to attack this problem by making more broth and stock. What was an occasional foray in the kitchen with the results committed to the dungeon of the freezer became a weekly habit. I rarely freeze any broth and if I have any leftover, I can it so it is shelf stable and convenient. But for the most part I devote space in the refrigerator for the weekly broth. If it's there, I use it, and it's an added incentive to use it before it gets old.

We use broth for:

Soups and stews.

Hot broth for a quick pick-me-up on a cold day, or to begin the day.

Braising vegetables, or for adding a dash of liquid to stir fry.

Cooking grains.

How do you incorporate broth into your cooking?

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Winter Checklist

by Throwback at Trapper Creek


Sweet Meat Winter Squash.

Just a quick winter checklist from the farmstead:

1) Check stored vegetables and fruits for signs of spoilage, use up blemished specimens first. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.

2) Check home canned foodstuffs for bad seals. Discard any spoiled food safely.

3) Make a mental note of what home preserved foods you are really using up and which are not too popular. This information will be helpful when planning your next garden.

3) Stock up on winter emergency kit supplies, such as stored water, first aid supplies, batteries, flashlights, lanterns etc.

4) If you have livestock, try to keep at least two months of feed on hand. In extreme cold weather animals can easily eat twice as much. Count salt as feed too, adequate salt intake along with water really helps an animal regulate their body temperature.

Stay warm and have a great holiday!!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Nature Deficit Disorder - Holiday Decoration Edition

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

With Thanksgiving behind us, there is no denying Christmas is right around the corner. Our quiet country road was abuzz with traffic on Black Friday with families heading to the neighbor's Christmas tree farm. Conifers are king in our neck of the woods, with Christmas trees being a major agriculture crop due to our high rainfall and acid soils providing perfect conditions for growing trees. In fact it's hard to keep land clear here, it naturally wants to grow trees.

That being said, many people do get a natural tree, but still buy many decorations for the rest of their homes that aren't natural at all. I have to admit I am a sucker for the bright colors of ornaments and lights, but I'm trying to end it there, and have more natural decorations to go along with the fir tree we will decorate.

Douglas Fir bark with lichen.

No matter where we live we can look outside in our surroundings and find something to decorate with. My daughter and I challenged ourselves to make a bouquet to get us in the Christmas spirit. But, it had to be out of ordinary plants available nearby, and put together quickly. She took off with the camera, and I took off with my trusty Felco pruners.


Cotoneaster, bird planted.

She was attracted to the berries on various plants, all these are natives or wildings and just part of our landscape on the farm.


Snowberry.

English Holly.


In the wintertime we cut firewood on any dry day that we are all available. We're taking out dead or damaged trees, and the dead trees have loose bark. Living in a rain forest means moss and lichen grow on anything that doesn't move. It is lovely and perfect for bringing in to dress up a vase or to decorate with.

For our impromptu arrangement we went for scotch broom and sword fern for filler and just added a spray of holly and a multi-branched snowberry to add some contrast.



We know this bouquet wouldn't win any prizes at the fair, but it was fun, didn't cost a penny, and we brought a little bit of the forest into our house to enjoy.


What types of greenery or natural items do you have in your neck of the woods to decorate with?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

We're Different And That's OK

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Yesterday, my email provider had a front page article about the biggest mistakes people make when giving Christmas gifts; totally out of my character, I clicked on the article and began to read it. Lo and behold, one of the biggest mistakes, according to the author, anyone can make is to give homemade gifts, particularly knitted items. Apparently such things are ghastly and embarrassing for the giver and receiver. Who knew?!

When I got over my initial one second check in (I had just, the hour before, finished putting together a few little handmade gifts) I enjoyed a little laughter at the hilarity of it all. Not only did the article suggest homemade things are totally inappropriate, but so is anything useful, including some items of clothing, giftcards etc. And I began to think of the hilarity of it all, one person, who came across as incredibly spoiled and pampered, a person who is probably quite young and used to having money spent on them, is dictating what is acceptable/normal/OK. Well, here's the truth, his/her norm is certainly not my norm.

And there in that little article was the theme of my life over the last few months. As I navigate motherhood and find what other parents view as normal is vastly different to our life and the norm I want for my children. As I chat with colleagues and hear their views on necessities (a family can not live in less than 2500 square feet, apparently, nor can they function without TVs in their van), I've come to really think about being different and being OK with being different.

We are all on a journey. In my teenage years I desperately wanted to fit in and truth be told, for most of those years didn't. Sometimes, when I compare "notes" with the lives others have, I fleetingly think how nice it would be to have what they have, because in the throws of it, we are all human beings with needs and emotions. But the truth is, I'd rather be different. I'd rather put thought into what comes into our home, than accept the toys a manufacturer tells me my children need. I'd rather give money to help causes, then fret over which new car/van/TV/laptop to buy. I'd rather spend a couple of hours making a dishcloth, then pick up 10 for $2 and I'd certainly rather have to shop at 4 or 5 local shops/farmers stalls, than go to one big conglomerate and feel proud of how much more I could get for the same money.

Sometimes being different is challenging. Sometimes I can feel too different. Sometimes it would be easier not to think critically about each choice, not to have to wonder where something came from, or how its production impacted others. Sometimes it would be lovely to simply roll up at a particular fast food joint and be done with dinner in 2 minutes flat. But the truth is, 99.9999% of the time, I am totally head over heals in love with this different life, bad gift giving (knitted items!) and all. My greatest hope, is that 20 years from now, my children are OK with being different too.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Gratitude





I am envious.

I can step outside of my door every day and choose to see what I want to see; and like most people, my default is to see what I lack - a surprisingly easy task in such a wealthy country. It is so much easier to compare myself to those 'doing better' - to see the flash cars, billboards, airbrushed magazine covers, aspirational homes - than to see the reality of those struggling below me. Some days I am filled with angst for all the things that I don't have. My neighbours own their home, I only rent. My colleagues go on several holidays and weekends away each year, I might have just one week away. Some of my acquaintances can spend money without a second thought, I have to balance a food budget. Poor, poor me.

If I didn't take the time to stop and really look, I probably wouldn't appreciate the roof over my head, rented or otherwise, until I lost it. I would take for granted that we have running water, running HOT water. That my children are growing up in peacetime, on UK soil at any rate. That I can afford and can access good healthy food for us all.  That I had an education, that I can read and write and do maths. That my partner and I both, for the time being at least, have jobs. That I have an awful lot to be thankful for, in comparison with the vast majority of humans on this planet; and even some of my close neighbours. There are some things I lack. Sometimes things are a little tight. But mostly, I am blessed.

I sometimes wonder what is the most important skill for living a simple life and I change my mind regularly. I know that it isn't bread baking, or sewing, or knitting or cooking from scratch, these are merely means to an end. I wonder if it is knowing when to say 'enough' - and to acquire this skill is to be able to look at your life once in a while in the light of all of the things that you do have and be filled with gratitude for them.       

I am envious that we do not have a day in the UK dedicated to expressing gratitude for all that we have.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American friends.


Friday, 4 November 2011

keeping warmer


by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

chimney

One problem with living in an ancient stone house built directly above a chill, humid wine cellar is that, though it's wonderfully cool in summer, heating it in the cold season is hard.  To keep heating costs down (while not freezing to death), we've found some simple and efficient ways to stay warm - which I wrote about on FuoriBorgo last year (I've linked the relevant posts below).

hot water bottle

-    Hot water bottles - a time-tested and yet vastly underestimated method of keeping warmer.
-    Felted blanket curtain - we added a thick layer of insulation to our largest double-glazed window.
-    Warm slippers - yes, warm feet do make a huge difference!

How do you keep warm in your wintry house?