Saturday, December 18, 2010

Smart New Year's Resolutions

A better year is in store
You probably have no more willpower than the next person, but it is possible to make New Year's Resolutions that stick.

It isn't how much you want to do what you resolve, it's how you plan to do what you resolve.

Drunkenly babble a few heartfelt wishes as the clock strikes midnight.
Design your resolutions as SMART goals.
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely
I want to do more voting with the family dollar to support environmentally sound industries and improve the nutrition of family meals, so...

Wishy washy resolution
Buy more organic groceries. 

SMART resolution
  1. Buy organic bananas and apples from the local health food supermarket
  2. Buy organic baking flour from the local health food supermarket

Food processing
Wishy washy resolution
Buy fewer processed foods

SMART resolution
  1. Replace at least one kids' lunchbox food with a wholegrain alternative
  2. Replace at least one basic dinner choice with a wholegrain alternative 
  3. Experiment with one basic dinner choice from scratch instead of bought packaged

So what's so SMART about it?
There's no difference in the emotion and desire behind either version.  But the SMART version will be something you can easily see yourself doing, or more importantly, notice when you are not doing it.  The wishy washy version fails because you can't be certain you are achieving or failing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry Giftmas?

How do I look in this?

The kid in all of us loves to get presents - and the kids around us love them even more.  So now's a great time to get creative with your imagination instead of your wallet and make your gifts unforgettable.

And it is also a perfect time to sort through what can be regifted.

This is not to everyone's taste, I know, but it can be a real win-win solution.  You give, declutter, and save money all at once. 

Golden regifting rule
It must look unused.
Hand me downs can be used and even look used.  Special occasion gifts must play the part.

I have an underbed box with great condition "baby and bigger" clothes saved from my regular purges of outgrown clothes.  Due to wrong seasons, too much, or buried, or whatever, I've never had a shortage of great gifts for new parents.

I also have a box of emergency kid gifts.  Some gifts are perfect finds from charity shops, some are unused gifts we've received, and some are even retail bargains!  Colouring and sticker books are favourites for us to receive, so when the bookstores have sales, I collect lots of handy, light, storeable, fun, recyclable presents at once.

More Posts of Christmas Presents

Have a Merry Christmas (not a Merry Giftmas :-)

P.S. Recent decluttering success
  • One large bag of toys, puzzles, rags, miscellaneous to the charity shop
  • Our overflow MegaBloks to Nadia's Montessori preschool
  • Set of infant Lego trains and blocks, sold on Trademe
  • One large bag of disposable nappies and trainers, awaiting target delivery

Monday, December 13, 2010

Keeping Santa Simple

Won't anyone save our children?

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!  Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17.
Better watch out, or your kids are going to ask one more question about the magic of Santa than you can answer.  You'll find yourself saying "If you don't believe in Santa, you won't get any presents!"

Kids are smart

Most kids actually take the trouble to analyse situations more thoroughly than adults do.  They're still exploring the universe with wonder, which is why the "whys" come at you faster than you can bat them away.

And yet, as a culture, we persist through generations of playing a game with the hearts and minds of our dearest treasures.  I'm sure some of you will just assume I'm no fun (there's some truth to this), but instead consider this.

Why Santa is a risky business
  1. You are telling them a story and pretending it is true
  2. You are creating an exciting person with a personal relationship with them - who does not exist
  3. You are encouraging them to accept unrealistic things based on their trust of you (and possibly greed)
  4. They may suffer serious disappointment with the world and with you when they learn the truth
  5. They may suffer ridicule from children who already know the truth
  6. You have no control over how they eventually learn the truth

Santa Sanity

You can still enjoy Santa as a family without embarrassing side effects.  After all, you can hardly go out near Christmastime without encountering the jolly old fat dude, and you can't control what other people say to your child about Santa.

With our children, we simply appeal to their natural love of story characters - Santa isn't real any more than Bob the Builder, Ben 10, or Dora, but all of them capture a child's imagination and the Santa story can be lots of fun.  It can even be educational, if you allow that sort of thing during your happy holidays, and can give you another option for "the reason for the season" if you aren't religiously inclined.

If your children already "believe" and any of this makes sense to you, then consider item 6 in our list.  You can at least take control of presenting them with the truth instead of letting them find out from an older child who laughs at them in front of a large group for being such a baby.


If this post has contained any spoilers for you personally, remember, it's always the parents' fault.  Ho Ho Ho!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Make a statement!

No, how can I help YOU?
 Have some fun and spread the word too.

  1. Pick a cause.  Any cause, or as many as you like.  You may already have several favourites to choose from.  If you are already fundraising for something worthy, even better.
  2. Collect a pile of free handouts from that cause (or fundraising materials)
  3. Position them near your front door.
  4. When someone comes to your door (uninvited) wanting you to do something for them, listen politely and then offer them your cause's pamphlet(s) or ask if they want to buy from your fundraising promotion or donate small change.
Personally, I wouldn't pull the fundraising stunt on someone else trying to fundraise, only companies trying to sell me something.  But everyone at your door is fair game for pamphlets in your interest, at least.
This is especially good for those of us who are at home for our jobs, but unsolicited visitors happen after hours too.  At least this way, your time answering the door will benefit you instead of only the person disturbing you.

Wish me luck! I'll give you a full report later, and if you try it, let me know how it goes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How many great reasons do you need to use minimalist cleaners?

Ready, aim, clean!

1.  The children 
How many locked cupboards do you want in your house?  Most cleaners from the supermarket are dangerous poisons and your small children can't really understand that.

If you do most of your cleaning with baking soda and vinegar, your biggest worry is whether they will overdose on salt or rise an hour earlier than usual, or perhaps want to be salad dressing for Halloween.

And there's the longterm exposure danger as well.  It's very difficult to do scientific double-blind studies to prove such damage, but common sense leads me to the precautionary principle.  I wish more companies practiced this.

2.  Your skin (and eyes, and...)

The cleaners that "eat through grease and grime like magic" will do their work on your hands and anything else you let them touch.  Of course, rubber gloves look great and are lots of fun to wear - a regular hand sauna every time you clean.

3.  The environment

All those cleaners end up outside,  In the water, or in the ground.  Read the ingredients (if the cleaners actually list them, of course) and think about whether the earth is a better place with more of these chemicals floating around.

When you choose to use these cleaners, animals and plants die.  Yes, your house water does go through pipes to get treated, but pipes leak. They are known to leak (up to 50% of contents in older systems!), and that is an accepted part of the system.  And when water is purified, the resulting chemicals don't just disappear.

4.  The clutter

How many different bottles and cans of cleaner do you have for your house?  How hard is it to find the one you want underneath the others?  How often do you have to go back to get the right one for the next cleaning job?  How much poisonous rubbish goes into a landfill over a year from buying cleaners?

A big bag of baking soda and jug of vinegar can be stored anywhere it suits you.

5.  Your health

Thanks to modern science, there are lots of things new under the sun these days.  Laboratories create substances that nature has no remedy for, and it's old news that overuse of antibacterial soaps is causing an unnatural imbalance in bacteria populations.  Remember, not all bacteria make you sick.  Many of them keep you healthy and alive.  

Advertisers would have you believe that your house is only clean if it's been thoroughly disinfected of all those nasty germs.  They want to frighten you into buying their product.  They don't want you to ask how their product knows which are the nasty germs.

And of course, your house isn't clean unless it smells of artificial fragrance, right?  But you may not know which visitor to your house is allergic.  Many reputable sources consider multiple chemical exposure to be a major contributor to the "mysterious" rise we are suffering in allergies, sensitivities, asthma, etc. 

6. The cost

At the price per millilitre for supermarket cleaners, you might as well be buying water with gold dust thrown in.  Minimalist cleaners are cheap and you can buy them in large quantities, saving even more money.  Many minimalist cleaners can do more than clean, making them an even better bet.

How do I start?

If you search the web for information on natural household cleaning, you'll probably never run out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Perfection Project - spread the word

Is it time to get realSingle Dad Laughing's message really hit home for me (and for so many others).
  • Can I acknowledge the bad as well as the good in ourselves and others?
  • Can I ask a friend how she is and listen to more than "Fine"?
  • Can I be honest, in public or private, about my struggles and fears as well as my successes?
  • Can I stop comparing my inside to other people's outside?
I'll start being honest and say, "I don't know if I can."  There are so many things that seem too painful to share.
I bet it takes a lot of practice.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Climbing disposable mountain...

Now that both Alex and Nadia are out of nappies, I've cleared the various caches and shelves and made a collection.  Look at that!

I feel a bit sick actually.  Like being caught sneaking ham onto my plate when I've been a vegan for 15 years.

That's almost 60 nappies and pull-ups - a huge shopping bag brimming over.

Obviously these are the last from packets we bought but didn't use.  Behind (haha) that substantial pile lingers a much higher ghost pile of the other packets and their contents that went used into the landfills.
We really did use mostly cloth, but over years even one or two a day really piles up.   And as far as I know, the groundbreaking nappy composting technology isn't in our neighbourhood yet.
We can't change (wow, the puns are everywhere) the past, but we can look at our choices today that seem small but add up over time.

For example, I do buy some individual serving products for the kids' lunchboxes.  Not a huge number, but it wouldn't be that hard to buy the full size snack packages and use packaging I already have to keep them fresh. On one hand, as with the disposables, I've been excusing myself since it isn't a large part of our lifestyle and our overall waste stream is quite low.  On the other, I bet I could do the same embarrassing photo shoot for waste packaging if I tried...

Is there one small change you could make in your purchasing this week that better represents your hopes for our environment?  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

When it's crucial and you know it, ACT like it!

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa...guilty guilty guilty! 

Ultimate sin
Wanting something, telling people you want it, perhaps even writing about wanting it...but never doing enough to make it happen.

My biggest desired improvement is in my fitness.  But I haven't been acting that way, and my fitness has gotten even worse.

Walking the talk with priorities
Prioritising is a crucial skill for a successful life.

I therefore pledge to make fitness my highest priority.
I will do my exercise first and other things afterward.
My fitness is more important than:
  • the housework
  • relaxing and reading a good book or the internet
  • emails
  • La Leche League (sorry, gals!)
  • this blog (yah, already did my workout first)
  • routine family duties
After this morning I have another addition - if I come back from exercise and the house is  messier because DH is handling everything on his own, that is worth it too.
Family and other emergencies
OK, that last one is a toughie - we all know there are things that we can't and don't want to avoid.  But most things are simply a distraction, and other things can be worked around with some imagination.

For example, it is lovely that my kids want to join me on my precious morning walks, but Miss 2 almost 3 can't keep up the pace I need and all my exercise time is taken up in a frustrating stroll.  (Mr almost 6 can outrun me without breaking into a sweat.  He's welcome to come along to set the pace.)

So this week when she wanted to come with me, I popped her into my Ergo pack and did one hill with her as a free weight - that was a great workout and she loved it!

What about other responsibilities?
The exciting truth - I have more energy to do things after I've exercised.

How about you? Are your important things getting the attention they deserve?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nappy free babies

No more nappies
With a slightly odd feeling, I just unsubscribed from BabyOnline's email list for specials.  With not much fanfare, Nadia has toilet-trained - night and day.  Thereby adding weight to the old saying that girls are easier than boys.  Alex still gets woken up for a late evening pee stop and is still known to have an accident every once in a while.
In fact, there wasn't much training involved.  She's preferred to use the toilet for more than a year now, and on her own she has simply stopped peeing while asleep.
Fantastic - I am super pleased!  But after almost 6 years of nappy changing it is funny to be done with it all.  Now I just need to think who needs a few nappies and pull-up pants.

Warning - the dangers of co-sleeping!
I've been a fan of co-sleeping since before Alex was born - most health professionals exaggerate the dangers, ignore the benefits, and prefer blanket bans (pun intended) instead of sensible safe co-sleeping advice.  Nadia still sleeps with me and I love the time I have with her. 
But it's time for the does have its dangers.
I have a very sore and bleeding hole in my lip from a head-on collision in the dead of night.  I never even saw her coming, officer.

She's so cute, she's bound to get off with just a warning.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Back to basics - decluttering!

I feel much happier when I have a decluttering project on the go.  Will I end up in a house full only of echoes from empty rooms?  I can only imagine!

With storage - less is more!
Aha - an awful clutter corner in my boy's room.  Here's the before shot. (Look in the centre, between bunks)

It's an awkward narrow space between the end of the bunkbed and the wall.  I'd made it even worse with tall set of 5 coloured baskets and a small wooden bookshelf with the reading lamp.

The baskets held mostly clutter, dust, and some book overflow.  Did I mention we have too many books?  Baskets seem to be clutter magnets and they are hard to find things in!  
We need storage for stuff, but storage can also encourage clutter - you spread items around more, toss things in when you are short of time, and the storage itself is taking up space.
I knew this was the problem here - bye bye baskets!

More flattering angle, but the baskets are gone...
It wasn't quite as simple as that but it was astonishing how few keepers were taking up so much space.

Those books are some of their favourites (Dr. Seuss and Lynley Dodd) and now anybody, no matter how short, can get one.

As so often happens, it looks better now and will keep on looking better because I can keep it clean!  I can get into the corner, vacuum, reach under that end of the bed - sweet success.

Very glad to be back in the decluttering saddle...hmmm, what next?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Five ways to maximise your holidays!

The stores already have their Christmas (pardon me, holiday) displays out, and the Santa Parade flags festoon Tamaki Drive as you cruise the waterfront.  I bet we're not the only ones.

So it's not too early to prepare for the festivities - the stores know what they're doing and your holiday success depends on this too.

My earlier post discussed the commercialism of the holidays, and how you can choose celebration in a different style.

1.  Focus on people, not stuff
Your gift shopping doesn't have to be the biggest part of your journey.  Spend some time (not money) thinking about what your most important people would enjoy the most from you.  Odds are, you won't be able to buy it at the mall.

Kids love to see, anticipate, and unwrap presents - I don't suggest denying them that!  But the more presents, the less memorable each one is.  And quite young children get simply overwhelmed once their nose disappears under a sea of wrapping paper.

2.  Plan for healthy holiday food (I'm drooling already).
If you think that holiday feasts must mean compromising your healthy, earth-friendly, budget-conscious goals, click that link up there.
  • If you like vegetarian food, or always secretly liked the stuffing better than anything else, you're in luck!
  • If you eat meat, there are better choices out there.  Make no mistake, cheap meat means cheap and nasty.  Buy quality instead of quantity.

A traditional Christmas meal doesn't have to be a heartstopper.  And if (like me) you have a summer Christmas, what about changing the tradition and sharing a seasonal light but lavish banquet with lots of fruits and salads instead of roasting yourself with ovens and boiling pots?

Everyone will feel better for your efforts once the holidays are over!

3.  Enjoy your decorations - but maybe don't deck the halls?
Holiday decorations add a lot to the feeling of celebration.  Keep this in perspective, though!  If decorating with everything you've got has become a chore, have a think about using only your favourites in special spots like entryways and family rooms.  With the first festive impression, your visitors won't notice that every corner isn't full of holly.

4.  It really is the thought that counts
Nobody wins when present-giving goes bad.  Having a dollar value placed on the love you feel is a dangerous step.  Most of us can't afford to exchange expensive gifts, even when we care deeply about another person.  If you feel pressure to spend more than you can manage because you expect to receive a costly gift, perhaps now is the time to open a discussion with the person involved.

The discussion might be a bit awkward if you have to suggest a big change to your habits, but less so than a post-holiday credit hangover or hurt feelings when expectations are not met.

5.  Remember the truly needy
For a real holiday buzz, do a lot of giving to people who really need more.  You know which charities you wish you'd donated to during the year - they could use your help a lot more than anybody on your list needs more stuff.  And some people on your list would enjoy choosing their favourite charity for you.

If you have time, spend that time volunteering for those organisations!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Scrooge - the ultimate minimalist?

Happy Halloween!  

Sort of.

In New Zealand, it is October 31st already.  So it is Halloween.  Except that in the Southern Hemisphere, we're heading into summer, not winter.

Dusk arrives after 8:30pm, especially on a perfect sunny day like today, and it isn't even slightly spooky until well after most little goblins should be tucked up into their beds.

This year, our only trick-or-treaters were my own children and one invited guest.  As an expatriate from the USA with fond memories of ghosts of Halloweens past, I made them change into different costumes from the dress-up box and knock on the door again for their meagre handsful of treats.  I had fun, and they got candy - fair trade.

But no other door-knockers.  In fact, Halloween goes in and out of fashion here, and it's hotly debated.  Clearly it's the wrong season, and it feels like it.  Apparently on talkback radio, the grumpers were grumping "It's American" or "it's so commercial!"

As American as...
It's Celtic, OK? The Halloween traditions date back from before America existed.  Ancient Britons, Scotland, Old English era...

I'm totally anti-commercial - you may have noticed.  But this argument gets trotted out at Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Christmas:  you name a holiday and yes, it has been commercialised by those people who hope you will buy more stuff
Someone please explain to me why this means we should stop celebrating?  Who has too much fun in their lives?  You can celebrate and have fun without spending much at all - at any holiday you choose...
Dressing up can be just plain fun, if you like it.  Having cute kids in costumes arriving in droves on your doorstep can be charming when it doesn't happen every day.
And I wish had a jellybean (coconut Jelly Belly please) for every time I've heard "But we tell our children never to take sweets from strangers so why do we send them around to strangers' houses on Halloween?"  Let me see - for the same reason that we don't slap sweets out of their hands when they catch one thrown from a parade?  Because it's different than having some random shuffler in a long coat offer a sweet and a ride to their house?

Good old non-commercial British celebrations only please!
For those anti-American traditionalists who would like to protect New Zealanders from having to shell out $10 for some Pascal family packs to soothe rampant hordes of greedy children, never fear!  A few days later, you will be celebrating Guy Fawkes Day, the great British tradition in remembrance of the man who...failed to blow up Parliament.

The main salute to Guy Fawkes (apart from burning him in effigy) is in the language of fireworks - that $10 doesn't go very far at the local "made in China" fireworks stands...

Keep the cats and the children indoors.  Brush up on your first aid and volunteer at your local Fire Department.  And have a happy holiday!
And now for something really scary...

We put DD down to bed with no nappy or pullup or anything tonight.  That's scary!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What do you think is going to happen in there?

Too many of us spend too much time staring into a screen as if it meant more than the world around us.

Clicking, as if that next click would make us happy.

Never Never
In this game, you have to drink if you have done any of these things...
  1. Checked Facebook, Twitter, or emails more than once an hour to see if anything exciting has happened to someone else in that last hour that you can read about
  2. Delayed family time ("come and play please Mummy!") to continue a stinging online debate with a stranger
  3. Read the comments on a deliberately controversial topic just to watch the same old vicious arguments
  4. Commented with esoteric knowledge on a lightweight article in the mainstream media
  5. Checked back repeatedly on your own comments to see if anybody else liked them, or replied
  6. Interrupted important work to see if your favourite comic or funny blog has a new post
  7. Developed passionate interests in causes - but only read about them online
  8. Kept on clicking way past your bedtime to make a bad start to the next day...
Anyone drunk yet?  Guilty as charged.  There's something so compelling about "reality Internet".  There's no end to the show - willing volunteers doing weird and wonderful things, or being outrageously rude to total strangers.  And yet the real world is going on around you, without you.  Is that what you want for your day?

Where's YOUR impact?
I highly recommend this very timely free ebook by Leo Babauta which runs along very similar lines to my own musings these days in a much more thorough and helpful treatment.  Leo discusses freeing yourself from distractions (often online distractions) so you can focus on creation.  He mentions the small ego boost available each time you get a response to your thoughts online.  I would go further:
The internet encourages you to become a passive perpetual consumer who never creates anything. 
The internet never runs dry of interesting looking connections - and you can effortlessly, brainlessly, spend all the spare time you have, plus some that wasn't so spare, following these leads and then looping back to check your social networks.  What difference are you making?  We all have our own road to creativity but we have to get our own feet moving on it.

Constant consumption replacing intentional creation is as bad as always eating and never exercising.

Finding the energy
I once commented online that if someone was making no progress with decluttering, perhaps they needed to stop using their precious spare time to read about it (and write why they couldn't do it) and start doing it.  The response was both aggressive and defensive - clearly a nerve had been touched.

We can all come up with excuses for why we don't do what needs doing.  The internet makes it so easy to ignore your problems - you don't have to look at anything but the screen! 
There's nothing in here to beat the thrill of something you accomplished yourself.  There's nothing in here as satisfying as reaching the end of the day knowing you spent hours making your life better.   Accomplishments are as energising as exercise, and just as necessary.
You could visit Facebook once a day just to post your own exciting news...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

For you! Absolutely free!

It's the #1 word for getting attention. 
There is no such thing as a free lunch.  Or, if you say it a lot and want to sound geeky, TANSTAAFL
I would go further and say TANSTAFFA - there is no such thing as a free anything.

I didn't pay for it, so it's free!
Not quite.  If it costs you nothing, then it's free.

I am a major fan of freecycle and I've used it both as a giver and a receiver.  Use it wisely!

When someone offers you something for free - an object or a service - resist that first natural "ooh, gimmee" response and think seriously to yourself about what it will cost you.  I challenge you to tell me a story about something that cost you absolutely nothing.
Do look that gift horse in the mouth, and carefully.  Who's sharing the bedroom with the horse?  Will the neighbours complain?  I lived without it before - was I really looking for one of these?
Hidden costs of free things
  1. All too often, free really means selling your contact information for the goodie.  Once you have provided that information, it stays on that company's database for an unknown time, even if you later request not to be contacted.
  2. Reputable companies will swear up and down that they do not sell on your details.  Many of them are telling the truth.  But none of them have perfect security systems (mainly because they don't exist) so each time you transmit your details you are risking having them in unintended hands.
  1. There are entire Web networks dedicated to sharing information on free stuff - I've had a play myself.  You can spend hours trying to find something cool and free.  You have nothing better to do?
  2. Free stuff is sometimes almost good enough to use - and then you spend a bunch of time, energy, and sometimes money on it.  And sometimes then you still don't like it!
  3. When you have scored a free thing, you have to figure out how to use it and where to put it.
  1. That free thing takes up space, whether you manage to put it out of sight or let it become visual clutter.
  2. Without a conscious effort to release old things when you acquire new, we all know what happens to our living space!  And is the new thing really better than the old?  (More on this later...)
  1. A free sample in the supermarket means you will feel increased pressure to buy a product not on your shopping list. If you have children with you, you may hear that pressure very loudly!  Roleplay the possible outcomes of having the free sample - how often is your life better afterward?
  2. Free samples in the post will usually be followed up by some other commercial contact requiring attention.
  3. A free service ("one room cleaned for free") never is.    
It oughta be illegal to use the magic word free when it is actually just a discount.  If you must pay money to get something free, it's not free.  It is cheaper.  Maybe.

New lamps for old....
Or in this case, mobiles.

I couldn't resist it when my sister generously offered her older mobile to me - it's so much cooler than mine, whose bells and whistles end pretty much at the predictive text...

I passed my old one on to Mom and she now even uses it!   So it's a win-win scenario.  Until...

The more bells and whistles, the more things to go wrong..
The touchscreen on the groovy mobile suddenly broke.  (I did type "stopped working" but honestly some impact may have been involved.)

The groovy mobile is now frustratingly disabled.  The only key which works for screen selection is the centre one.  No keys are programmed to choose options displayed on the left or right.  But that only affects unimportant tasks like Answer Phone...Yes
But did I really want to talk to that person anyway?  Hmmmm....
And I can't delete any text messages.  And it's stuck somehow out of predictive text mode and I can't change it.  Oh, I can trawl through 10 menus and find the option to change the mode, but the Save Changes button is displayed on the left.

I could go on, but I can't really go on with this phone.  Some dogged research later, a few hundred dollars, and a couple of weeks' wait and I have another nice new cellphone.  You may be unsurprised to hear that I chose one with no touchscreen.

What If?
If I had not fallen for the temptation to upgrade for free, would I still be happily using a simpler cellphone and not needing to buy new?  I really don't know.  Anything could happen - if I had my old cellphone I'd be much more likely to break it than Mom is!  But I can't help wondering...

What's the point?
It is admirable to be generous with the things you don't need, and there are many great reasons to accept things you do need.

But it pays to ask yourself the same smart question with free items that you do with purchases:
Will the benefit outweigh the cost?
 Have you been bitten by the lure of a free item?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today's gifts

Some days you get extra opportunities to practice the crucial skill of acceptance!

You might have been expecting to have a relaxing childfree morning.  Instead, due to agents too small to see with the naked eye, have a tired mopey child resident on your La Z Boy - plus the job of dripfeeding him fluids by the teaspoon in the hope that there will be no more dirty laundry.
Hypothetically, of course.
There is a positive side to almost any change in circumstance - the hard part is overcoming natural emotional responses in order to seek it.  The negative side is usually the first thing that jumps up and down, screaming for attention.

Being content with what you already have is key to minimalism.  So is being content with what you get and making the most of it.

So, hypothetically, I could:
  • Let the child get his much needed rest watching his favourite shows and napping when needed.
  • Get some rest myself
  • Get some more organising done in the house
  • Let the two children keep each other company instead of having full entertainment duty
  • Enjoy the break from pickup duty and afternoon activities
I think I'm ready to enjoy what today brings.  How about you?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You've got to be in to win... your odds in life's lottery

Be in to win - those are wise words to guide your life to true success.

But this is also a slogan to sell lottery tickets in New Zealand (and probably elsewhere).

And lotteries do not make winners.  They encourage and feed off the same commercial fantasies that drive people to consume beyond their means.

Looking at the Lottery
Just a bit of fun, right?  And who knows, it could be you!  So where's the harm?

The lottery is gambling, as much as the slot machines and the roulette table - all luck, no skill.

Like all other gambling:
  1. The hook is the dream of being a big winner, but the odds are impossibly stacked against you.  It's not easy to get hold of actual figures, but average lottery gamblers will invest far more in tickets than they will ever win.
  2. Any money you do win is from other people just like you - the losers
  3. Most of the gamblers are spending money that isn't really spare.  They have mortgages, and credit card debt, and car payments...and usually, limited incomes. 
 Unlike other gambling:
  1. Lottery outlets get prime space in supermarket entryways and shopping malls, normalising them for the young.  
  2. They have flashy TV shows bringing the "fun" into your home.
  3. Their reputation is cleaner, because from the fact that a portion of the money gets donated to organisations chosen by the government (i.e., a levy or voluntary tax).
But some money goes to help people
Let's be honest, if you want to help an organisation, you donate money directly.  Buying a lottery ticket is not about charity, it's about the dream of changing your life by winning lots of money.  And it makes sense that people with less money are more susceptible to buying what seems like a cheap chance into the big time. That's how all good scams work.

When a small organisation fundraises with a raffle, which is basically the same but with a small prize, everyone understands they are unlikely to win and that their money is meant to help fill a need.  But in a lottery, the prize is big and the donation aspect smaller, and the fantasy and greed dominates - even though the odds are far less.

Like all large pools of money, lottery money is from many people losing a small amount - and a lottery is unproductive.  Every time the lottery rolls around, there's a huge sucking sound in the economy as the masses open their bank accounts into a black hole.

Studies and reports
Just a couple here...
(US) National Gambling Impact Study Commission Commissioner Richard C. Leone stated in June 2001:
“In my view, state lotteries have paved the way for great increases in legalized gambling. They have promoted the notion of beating the odds, they have been able to advertise while others have not, and they have propagated the myth that gambling is good for society in general and the government in particular. Lotteries are perhaps the hardest form of gambling to justify in terms of their costs and benefits. The best studies all point in the same direction: Lotteries prey on the poor and the undereducated.”
A study examining the Georgia state lottery revealed households with an income of less than $20,000 spent $250 a year on lottery tickets, while households with an income greater than $40,000 spent only $97 a year.
I could easily go on.  Whenever anyone looks deeply into lottery patterns, they turn over the same ugly facts - those who can least afford it spend the most - in absolute terms and percentage of income.

Yes, but I could be a big winner? How cool is that?
You'd think. But the majority of big winners blow the lot within a few years.

Why?  The average person doesn't know what to do with lots of money.  The big players are generally even less savvy than average (they're gambling on the lottery).  Often, prizes are in the form of expensive consumer goods like cars and houses that require upkeep to maintain their value.  Generally, again, these people are more likely to have friends and family also in need of money.  And money disagreements are the #1 cause of relationship breakups.

The lucky big winner is instead an accident waiting to happen, and you are welcome to Google for the innumerable references to the horror stories, not only involving money but the tragic breakdown of families. 

Why doesn't winning make them happy?
For minimalists, this information will not be a surprise.  Above the amount needed for comfortable living, it's been consistently shown that money does not buy happiness and brings its own problems.

And your money used to belong to a lot of people with not enough - who have been conned through ads to buy into the dream.  You have benefited from an organised scam.  Is that OK?  Most of these people have already lost several rolls in life's lottery compared to you.

Of course, if you won, perhaps you would be different.  Perhaps you think you wouldn't change really, and that your friends and family would simply wish you joy in your new lifestyle, no strings attached.  Perhaps you can beat the odds again, if you've done it once.

But a ticket doesn't cost much!  Chill...
The economy is not treating many of us very well right now.  Even $10 each week gambling on the thrill of a lottery could instead be:
  • organic produce instead of the usual
  • about 5 kgs of flour, rice, or oats for your pantry
  • craft supplies for the kids
  • rented movie for a date night
  • donation each week to a charity you choose as a family
  • $520 lump sum payment toward debt
Inspire me!  Tell me what you can do with a small amount of money that would bring extra joy to your world...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yo-yo day success!

I've been quiet for longer than I meant to.  Sometimes life just gets so darned exciting that it's hard to sit down and write it all down.  But along with
  1. surviving school holidays
  2. editing the next issue of La Leche League New Zealand's magazine
  3. attending the La Leche League New Zealand Conference (and hopefully getting the T-shirt)
  4. organising the La Leche League New Zealand photo competition
 ...I have kept on minimising my life's burdens. 

Now you see it....
Today I got rid of a yo-yo before even posting about it - how good am I?

This little bouquet was a gift from DH's work when DS Alex was born.  
Hmmmm, I must have decluttered the photo, too.  Onward and upward!
It was a cunning blue arrangement of fabric flowers and rolled up baby washcloths and onesies.  I obviously  valued it because it was a true yo-yo - I can't count how many times I looked at it and then put it down again.  Until recently, I hadn't even removed all the baby items from the arrangement, and that meant that instead of using some of the onesies (like, 5 years ago when they would have fit), they are now in my gifting box!

But I have today passed the remains along to my favourite charity shop, and hopefully some crafty soul will breathe new life into it.

But wait, there's more!
I also donated the crossbars of a baby gym  - because I've lost faith that we are ever going to find the fabric part of it.  I mean, we lost a digital camera in that move, so I'm sure we could have lost a piece of fabric not much bigger than a pillowcase.   And those crossbars got used as weapons just once too often.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The best shopping value around! Shhhh, it's a secret....

I'm going to share a huge secret with you - where the best deals are!  Always.  OK, you might have to work hard, sort through a few big piles, wrestle with some other people who are always in the way, but in the end, you have an unequalled bargain.

Shop at Home
No, I don't mean shop from your computer, or have trucks visit you at home.  I mean, shop from the piles of unused things in your own house.  Those things that you already spent money on and haven't used up.

Sound way too boring?  Try thinking of it this way instead.
  1. It's free.  You, know, that word that gets the most attention for advertisements around the world and triggers more spam-catchers too.  No more hard-earned, tax-paid money is going to leave you for these finds.
  2. When you find something you won't use - it can live somewhere else.  Whether you can make some money from it or just take it to a better place, there's a net gain.
  3. The time you spend shopping at home improves your own home instead of somebody else's bottom line.
And so waste turns into profit - for you! 

Home shopping stories
Tea, for me
In a cluttered shelf, I found a box of Raspberry Leaf teabags with one survivor.  One pleasant cup of tea later, my shelf looks better.  Score = 1 for me.

Break out the barbecue, it's looking like summer!
I found a packet of metal skewers in my lesser utensil drawer (not the greater, but the lesser).  These keep getting bounced back in because I think veggie shish kebabs are cool!  This time, I put them up with the barbecue tools and the very next day, made extremely cool and delicious veggie shish kebabs for myself and a visiting vegetarian guest.

Score 1 for me for placing these in the right home and score 2 for DH for manning the barbecue.  Mwah!

Greater and greater heights
Behind a box, I discovered a hanging height chart I've been meaning to use for literally years.  I got this when Alex was born, and he's now 5 and a half.  I measured from the floor, tacked it up, and got Alex to stand by it.

He had grown about 10 cm from his measurements at the chiropractor's office!  Wow!

Then I had a closer look at this chart...

Really close...
Let's all count together, class.  90, 95, 100, 120, 125...?!?!?!?!

I am not making this up.   As DH said, growth spurts just aren't what they used to be!

Score = 1 for me for finally using it to discover that it wasn't worth keeping even behind a box on a shelf.

 I score points on a win-win basis - and so will you!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Our family went to a wonderful extended gathering of our Auckland Explorers club.  This winter camp was themed Telecommunication & Information Technology - right up our collective family alley, so to speak!  DH is super Microsoft computer network guru, before kids I was an technical communicator employed by Intel and others, and Alex and Nadia are already proficient mousers.

I've discussed the state of our historic technology museum - DH was able to provide for working display a Commodore 64 (or was it a Trash-80?) and an Apple IIe.  The car didn't have room for my old Atari 1040-ST.  Atari is best known for games computers, but I bet you didn't know (why on earth would you) that they produced the first personal computer with 1MB of memory and beautiful graphical interface, etc.  Shame they didn't build on their successes.

DH had a blast with his old friends (the computers) up and alive!  And he enjoyed showing his old favourite games to the new generation.  Of course, at home these computers live in a closet.  He once set one up connected to the TV in the lounge, to Alex's great delight and...not to my great delight.  Seeing DH with the computers made me wonder if he couldn't donate them as a named exhibit to MOTAT, where he could at least visit them every once in a while.

Internet Safety
In the main hall, Netsafe talked about Internet Safety.  The speaker was not a techie but perhaps PR, and she regularly gives such presentations at schools.  While we are all pretty familiar with the benefits of computers and the Internet, the dangers include:
  • bullying
  • inappropriate content (sex and violence)
  • fraud
  • viruses
We were asked whether the benefits outweighed the dangers.  While the group agreed that they were, I pointed out that it is a moot question, because almost nobody chooses for and against.  It's here and we're using it.  More accurately, we will not give up the benefits despite the dangers, because most of us assume we will never be a victim.

Netsafe is an organisation backed by various business, government, and educational groups to educate about such safety.  Technical dangers and criminal activities were highlighted.  The topic turned to the damage done to people of any age (but in particular children with maturing brains) of spending increasing amounts of time on their bottoms and online instead of in the real world and face to face - and the Netsafe spokesperson presented more and more dodges around this issue.

She discussed how parents used to be worried if their kids spent all their time reading books (?!), the implication being that this was a parallel.  She even said, "We discourage using the term 'the real world" as opposed to 'online' - to them this is the real world too."
Hello!  Can anyone say The Matrix?  
With Netsafe's backers, they are not interested in encouraging less time at the computer.  They basically want to provide reassurance that we all, including our darling little loved ones, can continue to use the computer that we do continue, despite the very real dangers. 

 And make no mistake, Internet addiction is a real danger.  Reduced attention spans and rising obesity is real.  The internet is not the real world, and it is not the same as a physical library.  When anything and everything is just a click away, the rules are totally different.  All concerned parents do need to watch our children's development and relationship with these very powerful technological tools.
Hey everybody, this is the real world - seen in a way impossible before computers!
Most importantly of all, as in every other parenting dilemma, the example you set is key.  Your child is watching you even more closely than their favourite game.

Losing our minds provides more valuable insights into the ups and downs of being connected.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Staying healthy for your family - Clinton goes veg*n!

Woo hoo!  Former President Clinton is following a low-cholesterol, plant-based diet and talking about it!  He looks so much more healthy now...

The main reason I follow a vegan lowfat wholefoods (mostly :-) diet, is our real Big Mac, Dr John McDougall.  He has followed Clinton's heart disease progress with concern and recommendations throughout:
  1. Letter before surgery
  2. Discussion of Clinton's personality changes
  3. Further discussion of the behavioural issues
  4. Invitation to attend Dr McDougall's proven clinic
Maybe something finally sank in?  In any case, I am thrilled that such an important and intelligent person is giving himself the best chance to be around to support his children and grandchildren (and maybe even great-grandchildren)!  Long may he continue to be an ambassador for miraculously improved health.

Monday, September 13, 2010

When life doesn't even give you lemons...

Yes, those are lemons.  Not grapefruit!
Ask and you shall receive...

In Auckland, it seems like every other house has a lemon tree or some other citrus tree. My neighbour has a lemon tree.  I wish I had a lemon tree.  More accurately, I wish I had a lemons tree - the tree growing in our backyard has produced one (1) lemon in several years.  I don't blame it.  If I saw as little sun as it does, I wouldn't feel fruitful either.

So every once in a while I reluctantly buy a bottle of lemon juice from the store and am always on the lemon hunt so I can make hummus and guacamole and winter chill potions.

Sometimes I visit houses with lemon trees and try to remember to beg politely.  The neighbours of our Plunket clinic have a good tree which overhangs the fence - and a few of us mums have gleaned what we can.  I once did this before noticing the resident working at a computer in clear view.  He waved me to continue, thank goodness!  But I'm not going regularly there anymore.  What to do, what to do...?
I just can't stoop to buying the pale lemon imitations they sell in the stores.  I don't know why that bothers me more than buying the juice, but it does.
But while exercising on our big neighbouring hill each morning, I finally clicked - there is a very nice-looking lemon tree in a yard halfway down, an older couple also walks at a similar time as I do, and I've spotted them going into that house!  The next time I met them on the hill I...begged politely.  

Well!  Not only did I meet some nice people and immediately end up with 3 of the largest lemons I ever did see, I also received an invitation to visit their even more fruitous lemon tree further into their property and their lime tree in the back yard - "just knock on the door!"

So I have fresh lemons when I want them, and a couple of happy tasks:  a thank you note, and perhaps a lemon seed planted in a sunny spot sometime this spring.
Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat. - Peter Paul and Mary

War and Peace
 We have moved into a house in the eastern suburbs of Auckland, an area where the cockroach life is prolific.  I was born in the United States and have an ingrained horror of cockroaches, as they represent filth.  If you have cockroaches, you might as well vacate, you dirty thing you, and they are almost impossible to get rid of.  Cockroach jokes are endemic, from New York to south of the border.  I grew up in the Pacific Northwest - we had huge slugs instead.  I don't recommend them either. 

So in our new house, when I encountered a cockroach, my "all life is beautiful" attitude disappeared entirely.  Stomp.  Or sometimes, call DH to handle.  I would get very grumpy with him when he would toss them outside, as I knew they would probably wander in again.   In my own defense, I once found one on me in bed

However, as I have learned, although all cockroaches are rather ugly, they are not all the same. These are  "Gisborne cockroaches."  They live in woodpiles and eat wood or paper, rather than infesting the pantry or swarming the walls of your house or carpeting your floor at night.  They wander inside mostly by accident, although they do find an old toilet paper tube to be a tasty treat so watch out.

They are actually no more offensive or ugly than spiders or the native New Zealand weta - an insect I first met soon after my arrival in New Zealand.  I turned on the hot laundry tap and it crawled out, feelers waving!  Yes, it was horribly freaky...

So I have declared peace with these insects.  I have actually retrained my instant disgust kill reflex back to my normal wary mild distaste I have for large, swift, but harmless creepies and unless they are in my way, they can go on their way.  If they are in my way, I dump them outside as I would a spider.  I'm proud to say that I hardly quiver when I find them on the gate latch.

The only thing that has changed is my attitude - and a good thing too.  Unless you constantly poison around your house and yard, you can't get rid of these cockroaches either.

The answers to your challenges are in yourself and all around you.  
Look there first, and you will save time, effort, or money!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Did the earth move for you?

So forget about what happens when an itty bitty burglar takes a few itty bitty things from your haven.  Let's face the big one, as so many of our compatriots in Christchurch did a few days ago.

What happens to your sense of priorities and security when your house does this?

(C) Ian Chan

And what happens to your stuff?  Feel your perspective shifting already?  I rate mine about a 5.2.

Christchurch has so far been incredibly fortunate in having almost no loss of life (while tragic, it's hard to tell if a heart attack is a casualty or a coincidence) and not very many serious injuries, considering the bricks and walls and glass that went tumbling down.

Our niece attends Canterbury University in Christchurch.  Since her house cracked up a bit and the chimney is no longer where it should be, she's living... well, somewhere else, I guess.  Her landlord is not answering messages.  "I am SO not paying rent this week!"

They are still experiencing significant aftershocks and large ones are very possible.  Many have no power or water, and this is the tail end of winter in a place where it has been known to snow.

For me, the scariest thing (since Auckland is about 600km away from epicentre) is that this was totally unexpected.  Not only did our fancy schmancy seismological equipment fail to detect any warnings about this major shakeup, we didn't even know about this faultline!  It could be brand new. 
This road looks familiar - I think we belted down it at some sociably irresponsible speed during our South Island road trip some years ago.  New trap for speeding drivers...

Not a happy thought for someone living on a city with something like 50 dormant volcanoes.

So it's probably time to look around you and appreciate what you have right now.  Like this guy:

Lots more amazing pics...

Source NZ Herald:

* 500+ Buildings damaged
* 90+ CBD buildings damaged
* Estimated cost of damage: $2 billion
* Magnitude of Saturday's quake: 7.1
* 58 Aftershocks
* 245 Residents housed in welfare centres
* 15 per cent of Christchurch homes still without water
* 3500 homes still without power
* 300,000 litres of water transported to Christchurch by rail yesterday
* Distance of epicentre from Christchurch central: 40km

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Objects of our affection - five relationship rules

  1. What would a burglar take from your home?
  2. What would you miss?
The answers to these questions may vary depending on whether you can afford good contents insurance.  But it's certainly worth considering what your emotional attachments are to the objects in your home, should they disappear due to burglary, or fire, or some other mishap.

Burglary - a case study

We've never had a houseful of interesting late-model or high-fashion goodies. (A houseful of other stuff, guilty!) When we were burgled several years ago in our previous home, they scored a mixed haul including my husband's work laptop, a knife block with an incomplete set of pretty good knives (!) but only thing they took that I cared about was my good jewelry.

One pair of earrings was a gift from my sister and the rest inherited from our grandmother, including my specially-designed (me and sis) engagement ring with vintage diamonds from her ring that I did not wear all the keep it safer!

These lived in the beautiful wooden jewelry chest my husband bought me as a gift, in the bedside drawer. Beautiful, thoughtful, and for the record for any other innocents out there, obvious target for burglars. It took me a very long time to accept that the ring was really gone forever.  Now, I always wear the replacement ring, and the other good stuff I have is in a small box somewhere else that is less obvious.
Also for the record, handyman DH had our house secure: doors and windows.  The burglars forced the wooden window frames until they broke.  At a certain point, if they want to get in, they will.
Losing your stuff

Losing your stuff is actually the least of it.  Far more disturbing is that it changes your viewpoint in a number of unpleasant ways.  I have nightmares where I arrive home and see the strange disarray that means someone has invaded my home and helped themselves.  And after the burglary, I felt silly and naive for using this lovely box and thereby gifting so much so easily to the burglars.  Now I only use it as a decoy for old costume jewelry that I don't wear due to nickel sensitivity.

So neither my husband nor I wear the rings we exchanged at our wedding.  Admittedly, he lost his on our honeymoon, which must be some sort of record!


Should we avoid owning precious items, so they will never be taken?  That is one way of handling the problem, but it won't suit everyone.  You can miss out on some of life's real joys by rejecting attachment entirely.  So remember...
  1. Enjoy what you have while you have it
  2. Anything you have, you might not have tomorrow
  3. Owning more precious items than you can enjoy will make your life less joyful
  4. Losing a sentimental item does not mean the memories are also gone
  5. People matter.  Actions matter.  Memories matter.  Places matter.  Things... looks like they are at best fifth place.
And one more rule, just for me
  • It's dumb to let burglars ruin my enjoyment of a treasured gift, along with their other damage
So I'm going to start using my jewelry box again! But I'm still not ready to put it by the bedside...

Have you any other pearls of wisdom for those of us who really love our stuff?
This post was brought to you courtesy of the letter A, the number 12, and the Everyday Minimalist.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Yo-yo day an update

Today's yo-yo is another keepsake from my grandmother:

It's very wee - about the size of a man's thumb tip, so you can see the detail is lovely.  Doesn't take up much room.

The tough thing is, although beautiful and sentimental it is not particularly useful or (as far as I know) valuable.  I can't think of anything really small I want to keep in it.

I wonder if one of my nieces would enjoy it...not that either of them need more clutter!

Suggestions welcome...  Do you have a limit on the number of sentimental items you keep?

Yo-yo updates
I'm making more progress than before, so I claim success, just not 100%.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Two tidying tips I taught myself

Even with my progress toward minimalism, I still have to do just a little bit of tidying, every once in a while...

I've l earned some great tricks from organising/time saving sites.  But here are a couple of my very own.

Tidying 20 items of clutter to 5 spots! Your room may vary.
Baby Central

When I have stuff scattered all over the floor, the temptation is to run around and pick up each piece as it catches my eye and return it to its proper home.

It's much quicker to push everything on the floor into the centre of the room (or into a box or bag) and only then take all the stuff back home.

I call it Baby Central because...well, make one and you'll see!  Youngsters will be drawn to this irresistible pile studded with their favourite toys. Even if you do nothing else with the pile, your room already looks better. And you can walk again or even vacuum it. Some days, Baby Central is all I can manage.
  1. Visit each messy segment of the room only once to push stuff into Baby Central. This saves you from  running 25 laps around the room, once for each item. 
  2. From Baby Central, it's simple to see 6 items that all belong in one shelf or toy tray or another room and take them in one trip.  Scattered all over the floor, you might only see 2 or 3 at once and take many trips.
  3. Even really small kids can help - they might not know where anything goes but they can sure run around the room for you and put everything in the middle.
  • I remember our last minute packing efforts under the amused eyes of our moving men.  I was still trying to organise the last few things to make unpacking easier.  The guy said, "You're running all over the house - just throw everything in a box!"  And that professional was right.  Not only had I run out of time to be organised, I wasn't even doing my organising efficiently.

Don't forget how grandma used to do it
We have mixed surfaces - carpet, tile, and wood floors. And my vacuum has a setting for hard floors.

But a broom is much easier to use, especially under the table where the kids eat.  So I sweep my hard floor mess into a pile near the carpet, then vacuum it all up at once just before doing the carpet.
  • After sweeping, you can also get some water/cleaner onto sticky spots on the floor (under the table where the kids eat) that can work while you vacuum
  • It's also lots quieter and more enjoyable - I listen to music during housework and I don't enjoy VRRROOOOMMMMMM quite so much
  • It's actually safer! The noise of most vacuums is above the recommended decibel level for extended exposure. So unless you like wearing safety earmuffs (great look), you might as well keep the vacuum on for only as long as you must. 
  • There is some small savings in power too, and every bit adds up, right? 
Bonus vacuuming tip - do you feel lucky?
If you catch yourself thinking "That's big but I bet the vacuum can still get it" then STOP!  Slap yourself with your dustrag and pick that big thing up right away.   A clogged hose is no timesaver.

What sort of vacuum do you have and do you like it?  Anybody have a backpack vacuum?  That's what all the pros seem to use....
  • I like our Dyson but the Dyson co was surprisingly cagey when I enquired if they were ever going to release a backpack model.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

5+ a Day - help your kids eat their veggies!

Alex at his chubbiest ever!
My Secret 
Serve chocolate dipping sauce!

But Seriously....
I've posted some vegan dinners that I serve to my family.  But we all know that in today's environment of ample and (on average) unhealthy food, it can be a real chore to do your duty and get fresh fruits and vegetables that last step off their plates and into their tummies.

My children are no angels at my table but they do eat a pretty decent share of the good stuff.  Apart from sheer luck, it's possible that the following helped:  

1.  Start them young
My children were both exclusively breastfed until well after 6 months, and then I started with fruits like avocado and banana as well as kumara - all lovely and sweet!  I like my broccoli and cauliflower and courgettes and carrots cooked pretty soft (and sweet), so it wasn't hard to encourage an adventurous table-tyke to steal from my plate.

As vegans, we moved from baby fruit foods to baby grain foods, and they never had the baby foods with the strong and addictive tastes of cheese, milk, or meat.   This probably made a difference.

Several mums I know use baby-led weaning for introducing solids, and don't use mashed foods at all.  It's certainly easier for young children to eat veggies and fruits in this process than fibrous meats. 
2.  Walk your talk (well, eat it)
I've been vegan all their lives so they see me with a plateful on a regular basis.  There is no better teacher than example.

You don't have to be a vegan to set a good veggie example.  But you do have to eat them, and be seen eating and enjoying them. 

3.  Veggies first!
Starches, especially refined starches, satisfy your sweet tooth as well as being extremely filling.  Meats, cheeses, and other rich savouries overwhelm your taste buds.

Kids and grownups alike - eat a nice pile of veggies as the starter to your meal 
  1. You are hungrier
  2. They will taste better
  3. You will eat more veggies
  4. (Optional benefit) You will eat less of the rest of the meal
Expect no joy from reluctant foragers by offering the fronds of health after a big plate of chips and tomato sauce.  While my kids don't eat meat or cheese, they do love the meat substitutes that we have at some meals.  But they don't get them unless the veggies go in first.
  • One popular concern is that if you feed children too much fibre, they may not get enough calories.  If you feel your child is now eating too many vegetables and is therefore wasting away :-) please use your own judgement.  The opposite problem is way more common.
Mine eat too much starch, and now more refined starches than when younger.  Alex was more adventurous in his tastes when younger and Nadia is copying him in everything.

My kids' favourite veggies
For what it's worth...both of my kids vary quite a bit in their tastes so yours will too.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower cooked nice and soft
  • Nadia has joined Alex in the cucumber fan club
  • Alex eats the part of the tomato with not one seed please.  Nadia eats the seeds.  With a bit of "look over there" we can get through quite a bit.
  • Alex will eat raw carrot sticks under duress, but heaps shredded carrot and lettuce on wraps.  Nadia's also keen on shredded carrot
  • Black olives
  • Gherkins
  • Alex wishes corn on the cob grew year round.  Me too.
The usual kid preparation tricks apply: making it fun with shapes or dips can go a long way. 

Also check out:
And if you haven't succeeded on the veggie front, you can score some points with fruits:
  • apples, bananas, mandarins, kiwifruit, avocado...
  • dentists don't recommend dried fruits but they do pack well in lunches
Go forth and vegetate!  You won't regret it...