Sunday, May 30, 2010

Out of the closet

I'm about to do a terrible horrible no good very bad thing to my husband, who doesn't really deserve it.  After all, he could do lots more decluttering if I didn't demand that he take the children out of my sight for extended periods of time during the weekend.  And he does do very well at shedding things when he gets a chance. And if he didn't love computers and electronic bits and bobs and whoosits, his earning power could be greatly diminished...and with our goal of my staying home with kids, I can't have it both ways...

So honey, this really isn't extremely public nagging.  Consider it....the ultimate before shot! 

Because I sometimes imagine what our house would be like if our closets didn't look like this...

and this...

and don't forget the sauna...

and these aren't even in a closet...

I'm very suspicious of these boxes in the garage because I don't know what's in them and they're too high for me to get to easily...

No doubt about it; some of those boxes have my stuff in them.  But I can't wade through the rest to find them unless I'm aching for my daily workout.  As for the rest, I just don't know what's in them.  I mean, I've looked inside and I still don't know what's in them.  Of course, anything I don't understand isn't important, so I could dump it all.  But I know better.  Close family members fight their own "You never use this!" vs "You never asked me before you got rid of this!" wars, and I've innocently caused too many tightened lips mentioning this or that object, now MIA.

OK, so instead of this silicon jumble, how many small families could we house?  But seriously, I would love to have enough space to make some passive income boarding a foreign student (harking back to my goal of staying home with the children as long as desired).  Empty space...hellooooo empty SPACE...I know you're there somewhere....

Perhaps I should run a fundraising raffle - 1st prize to the closest guess (to the month) for sorting through the last computer bits box...  On second thought, let's get real.  There are boxes filling up even while others are emptying.  How about a prize for guessing the oldest computer in the house?  Family members may not participate.

Any and all advice welcome!  Do you and your partner struggle with different "stuff" personalities?  What about greatest loves collections and serious hobbies?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

More (I mean less) housework

The best kitchen tip I ever adopted is this - zone your kitchen!  All the pros do it!
(I'm sorry I can't credit this idea due to my wide-ranging browsing style, but I thank whomever from the bottom of my heart.)

Kitchen zones
This means:  designate particular areas of the kitchen for particular tasks, and stick to it.

I only needed to designate two zones to make a huge difference!  (I also tidied for visitors and took the photo opportunity :-)

I'm giving you one rather difficult angled picture rather than several better ones, and I hope it works.

I chose the far left of sink surface to be food prep and the right to be cleanup in waiting.  (The size of each area is roughly equal in real life, unlike in the photo.)  Note that I had to choose the best compromise in my sadly imperfect you can too.

The bulk of my food prep is for the microwave.  (And the oven is across from the sink next to the fridge, with so little prep surface around it that it is unworthy of a photograph, phooey!)  I also have my cluster of kettle, food processor, and toaster, all ready to go.  And the pantry cupboard is just a turn around away.  But the dishwasher is under the food prep side and the cutlery and cookware drawers under cleanup.   OK, so with those problems, why even bother? I hear you ask.  Control freak, you mutter under your breath, but I hear that too.  No really, this is cool!

With these zones, I can start food prep at any time without having to clear away a stack of dirty dishes.  Any waiting dirty dishes not in the dishwasher are either soaking in the sink or stacked to the right.  Purists might argue that I should clean up before I start anyway, or not leave dirty dishes around in the first place, but I've failed for years to adhere to that, whereas this works pretty well.  Plus, with something prepped and cooking in microwave or wherever, that is the perfect time to multitask for a few minutes and load the dishwasher - whereas any time you must spend clearing beforehand is spent and gone.
  • Having the dishwasher on the opposite side isn't so bad - the dishes travel via the sink for a rinse and then to the dishwasher anyway
But wait, there's more!  Food preparation mess is also contained in the one area.  Obviously, dirty dishes have their own stickiness, but this can't compare with food prep.  I like having a natural containment site for porridge glops, scatterings of broccoli floretettelets (you know, the little round tips of the broccoli that go everywhere when chopped) and cauliflower powder.  Before, I used to pick out wherever was clean and make it messy too :-)

A few microrules help even further.  Soaking is an important part of my routine - it saves water and effort.  I even reuse soaking water when I can, even if it gets gungy.  But I try to soak the breakfast bowls and other small items that collect during the day in the small sink only.  That leaves the big sink free so the tap can be used (filling the kettle, during food prep, etc) and in extremis, for the days when I am so rushed I don't get around to the breakfast dishes until after dinner, the dinner plates still have a place for their own quick soak and rinse right after dinner instead of balancing dangerously and ineffectively on bowl and saucer towers or having to wait until even later.

And don't forget the rinse and reuse.  Act now, and some dishes rinse off so clean it would be a crime not to reuse them.  I don't care, and the kids don't notice.  I have a small special stack for those, and DH knows he's to front up with his breakfast bowl.  Don't put these gems into the sink, for soon they will be swimming in gungy water and they will be dishwasher fodder.

You remember I said my stove and fridge area wasn't worth photographing?  Well, that's true.  But have a look at the shelves over that side of the kitchen... before...

and after....

Hooray for me!

So now share your best kitchen tips and tricks....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Minimalist around the house, or you be good to Mama, and she'll be good to you!

Above all else, the way to minimise your housework is....

...don't be the only sad sap in the house doing it.

Seriously.  The days when Mum dutifully dashed after everyone in the house who puddled piles of mess behind them are so over.  And about time.  Certainly, since my job is at home with the children, the bulk of the work falls to me.  But it will do no harm and the world of good for the other members of the house, so drag them away from the TV to do their share! 

They will learn
  1. valuable skills that serve them in later life (that includes DH, by the way) - please don't raise tomorrow's useless flatmate or partner
  2. how much effort it is to clean up and therefore gain some consciousness about making the mess
  3. that it isn't respectful for everybody in the house to be relaxing while Mum keeps on going and going and going and going....
 Suggestions for real littlies to get them in the habit
  • Setting and clearing the table - even tinies can carry an empty plastic cup or sauce bottle or some cutlery -  graduate them as appropriate.  They can even "wash" the table.
  • Doing laundry - handing me dirty clothes to put in the tub, help pouring soap, pushing the start button on the machine, removing small dry things from low bars on an airer, putting clothes in the basket, handing me clothes from the basket to put in drawers or even putting clothes in drawers
  • Cooking - I can have kids up on chairs while I do dangerous things like cutting, and they can put pieces in cookware and push some buttons on the microwave
  • Tidying their own toys, putting things in the rubbish...
I seek and seize opportunities to show the family that everybody contributes.  Naturally, each individual chore would get done more quickly and better if I did it myself.  But that's not a winning longterm strategy for anybody, particularly me.  If I always have to do all of those individual chores, it adds up to more time than I want to spend.

Often kids will have lots of fun joining in.  And sometimes not.  Wait for a natural break in their other activities, and if necessary, use the resumption of that activity (or something else) as motivation to get the job done.  When there are major dramatics, I remind myself that I am not asking them to walk long distances to the river to beat clothes against rocks, or pump their own water from village wells and carry the bottles back strapped to their foreheads.  And I persist until I get some measure of cooperation.

You won't be surprised to hear that I don't believe in the tidy-up fairy - and that I don't want my kids to either.  (The untidy fairies?  Of course they exist!)  So even when I don't enjoy the mess, I try not to spend my precious after-kid-bedtime tidying up their toys if we haven't managed to do it earlier.  Past a certain age, it's counterproductive to let them experience making a playful mess, and then another, and then another, and then make that mess magically disappear without any of their participation.  

Husbands are even less likely to get excited about household chores.  But if we agree on even one helpful task that he doesn't hate to do, we''ll all be better off.  And many husbands, including my DH, will do quite a lot if asked politely.  And will do even more if yelled at, but it's better to save that for emergencies.

Next, I'll write about specific things I do to minimise different types of housework around our house.

How do you get your family involved in the house business?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Should it stay or should it go now....?

OK, so you're looking around your house at all the things that got in sometime, somehow, and for some halfway decent reason.  How do you decide what needs to be kindly shown the door?  And my goodness, where do you start?  Everyone has their own methods - and here's mine so far.

It can be very tempting to tackle the obvious: all those ugly piles of clutter.  But I don't start there.  My visible clutter is often full of things I use on a regular basis.  So I could work hard one day every week decluttering and only accomplish pile shrinkage.  That sounds a little biological, and it's even less attractive than it sounds.

You hide your junk

Dig deep first.  Drawers and cupboards are gold mines for things I can release.

If I
  • don’t use it 
  • don't care about it 
that's great news!  It can go.  I have enough things that I do use or care about.

How do I know I won't use it?

To me, this means: - don't use now, don't foresee any use, and don't try to make one up.  If a use doesn't immediately spring to mind, then most likely, I will never need it.  99.9% of statistics are invented on the spot, but successful unclutterers unanimously report only isolated cases of declutter regret. I would prefer to declutter 100 things from my house even if I later found a use for 1 thing and had to buy it.  Because the charity shop would be stacked with all my "just-in-case" clutter and my house would look great.  Priceless.
  • Just in case, if you are releasing something of noticeable monetary value, consider how you might recoup some of that value.  But I don't bother selling any item that won't get me at least $15 - my time and trouble is worth more.  Your arbitrary time value may vary.
I DO care about these things...
This can be very hard; some things I do care about, and some I will keep.  But remember:  "don't care about it" is different from "don't care for it."  I don't have to dislike it;  I might quite like something, but be honest - would I miss it if it weren't in the cupboard the next time around?  Wait, there's more!  "Don't care about it" is also different from "don't care about the person who gave it to me."  A gift is not your friend or your family. I know it is not always that simple: gifts deserve an entire post to themselves.

I then watch the space magically appear in my cupboards, shelves, and drawers.  Really!  Here are pictures of actual empty shelves in my house:

I admit this is not our main bathroom.  But that glass shelf up by the mirror used to be full of clutter.  All tidied or tossed now, and it holds only the toothbrush charger.

This shelf used to hold my icky marble jars and a stack of platters (one now donated, the rest tidied into the lounge cabinet with our good dinner set and why didn't I do that a long time ago?)

Lots of storage is not always good!

Here is a work in progress:

A bit of history:  We have 50? 100? of those groovy cubes in various stylish pastel colours, formed into a groovy pyramidal cube stack shelf.  That wasn't as useful as we thought, so instead we have them in various places where they have been useful.  Cool.  When I got a hankering for some extra junk shelves in the kitchen, I commanded my handy dandy DH to slap some of these pretty cubes up there.  For telephone books and stuff.

OK, I'm still convinced they could have been secured invisibly just by their backs or something.  Antigravity generator, maybe?  But nooooo, DH mumbles something pointless about wall studs and weight bearing and the next thing I know, my beautiful dream is surrounded by naked wood braces and visible screws.  And I'm too vertically challenged to use the top row, much less the top top.  I know how Alex got those dinosaurs up on the top top, but I don't want anyone calling child services on us.

My point (and I do have one) is that I have these shelves in my sights.  Look how empty they are.  All I have to do is hide DH's belt bag and they could be (like the dinosaurs) history.  Wish me luck!


So, I've cleared shelf and cupboard space.  Now is the it's time to look at those clutter piles.  Once the rubbish is sorted out, maybe there is a home for the rest, beautifully tidied away somewhere.

I then watch the space magically appear on my flat surfaces.  Aaahhhhhhhh!

So why is this process so complicated and difficult?  Many reasons.  But it really is, otherwise, everybody would have already accomplished it without talking about it.  It's not just you and me.

What are your projects and processes?

Some other great posts on this topic: A Thing A Day and Mind Over Clutter.  And don't miss 101 things to reduce.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How do I know if I'm being minimalist?

Gypsy asked me a great question - how do I keep my meals minimalist?
I have an answer for what I do for meals and cooking, and I can explain why I think it is minimalist.
  1. Vegan cooking - takes a lot of the complexity out of meal planning, cooking, and cleanup
  2. Home cooking with fresh foods (mostly) - cheap and healthy.  We are what we eat.  And being healthy has got it all over being sick!
  3. Meal plan - we stick to some basic meals with simple variations
  4. Bulk buying - I stockpile what we eat when it's even cheaper than usual, and we are members in a wholesale grocery outlet.
But looking at my list of meal activities, I wonder, "Am I kidding myself?  THAT'S minimalist? What exactly have I minimised?"  Lots of our time and space are invested in our food system.  We have large cupboards and a good sized fridge freezer in our kitchen and a very large extra pantry and extra freezer downstairs.  I've minimised expenditure, but maximised complications elsewhere.  Are such exchanges inevitable, and how do we know whether they are worth it?

I remember a couple in a tiny apartment who don't ever cook in their kitchen.  They always eat out.  They don't have to shop, store food, cook, serve, clean up, etc.  I envy people in eco-villages like Earthsong (here in Auckland, New Zealand) who often share a communal kitchen for meals, making food preparation really efficient and friendly compared to the one-kitchen, one-family grind.

But I've made a minimalist choice if what I'm doing is the simplest way to my own goals.

My goal is to stay at home with my young children until I don't want to anymore.  Since I don't want to be forced out to work, a huge part of my job is keeping costs down.  And eating out is just not as cheap in New Zealand as it is in New York.  No kidding, I'd still love to live at Earthsong; one of my dearest friends was a founding member and it is fantastically kid friendly.   But in this case we are minimising my husband's commute - he can't work entirely from home yet.  And as he's bringing in the dosh, that's a major goal component.

So each path to minimalism is individual.  But it must be a conscious and evolving one.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Living the life you have...

I would claim not to be a collector or hoarder, but I've just discovered I have a very large collection indeed.  Of marbles.  How can this be?

My mother was quite the marble champeen in her day.  This is not hereditary, so I'm not pointing fingers.  But there was a collection of marbles (in a blue metal tin) from my parents when I was growing up .  I like marbles (what's not to like?) so when I had my own home, I put them into pretty glass jars by color and displayed them on windowsills as suncatchers.  Pretty.

Pausing for true confessions - I admit that for all my air of puzzlement and wonder, I do have a magpie sparkly acquisitive streak a mile wide.  Despite having such severe shortsightedness that the New Zealand taxpayer funds my contact lenses in the infrequent intervals they need replacing, I have in a tiny little bag one tiny little cubic zirconia and one great hurking 1 carat plus CZ.  Both of these I spotted on the street and my little beady eye somehow processed them as not just random glass cracklings.  You explain it, I can't.  I also always find coins on the road.  In one moment too unlikely to invent, my husband once gleefully pounced on a nearby coin, only to have me stroll over and pick up the $2 one not far away.

Fast forward to our current house, which has wooden Venetian blinds everywhere.  Bye bye windowsill displays.  With nowhere to put my precious pretties, I naturally... put them back into a box for years.  I took out one jar because my son likes marbles, but I doled them out super carefully (I'm sure I had a great reason for this that escapes me now.)

With the large collection stored out of mind, and with both children enjoying the feel of marbles and other smooth glass objects during their preschool activities, I started buying bags of marbles when they appeared at my favourite secondhand shop.  $2 for a big bag of marbles and glass treasures, hooray!  Tuck that away for next birthday... oh, the cleverness of me.

In my grand decluttering effort, I have rediscovered my marble display jars, much the worse for wear from storage.  Still nowhere to put them even if I wanted to display icky jars.  But with my new mindset, of course I decanted them all into the current marble collection.   And thus I have an embarrassment of marbles.

At two litres or so, I have exceeded any possible normal fondness for marbles.  I admit enjoying plunging my hand into the bucket and rolling them around, but you can only do that so many times.  The kids look a bit confused, play with a few of the cool ones, and eventually dump them all over the floor.

This chronicle is the longhand history of only one lot of unnecessary stuff that's innocently taken over my life, simply because I didn't bother to acknowledge that certain things I owned no longer had a home in our new home.

We have kitchen things committing the same crime - our new house has an insanely small oven which can't even take a standard cookie tray.  Yet we still have large expensive roasting pans from the days of yesteryore when our oven was from the good old days and could roast the Christmas turkey.   The only way we can use these pans is with a kitchen remodel.  Yet they are only now appearing on the "begone" list.

And hands up anyone else who has stacks of clothes for the size they want to be again?  I admit I'm still not giving up on this one!

How much of your clutter is from places you used to live, or for the home you wish you were in, or for the  person you wish you were?

I assure you, I will be working very hard to lose my marbles.  And what would you make of two wildly mismatched cubic zirconias?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Baby steps

It's time to do before and after shots!  I can see I'm going to have to plan these better, because I've had to search hard for a decent before shot, and the comparison isn't as easy as I'd hoped. 

Clearly, tidying would make the after shot look even better, but that wouldn't be authentic. Cropping is quicker. 

Our lounge, after we accepted some wonderful furniture from my sister.  I couldn't let go of all our old furniture.  Because it's nice to have all that seating, right? And it fit, sort of.    And now?

The big tub chair is gone (from the house, not just from that room).    My display cabinet is much less cluttered.  Fewer knickknacks and cookbooks, and one of those 3 drawers is EMPTY!   I still have my eye on you though, cabinet...

The big speakers are gone.  The plant is on a TV stand rescued from its unused TV.  The TV stand tidies some toys away.

Net lost seating?  Absolutely zero.  That extra seat was always cluttered.

Pan to the TV corner of what seems like just yesterday.  Oh my god....  well, the kids looked good.
Note:  toy libraries are a great idea.  If you don't already have too many toys.  Let's move on quickly.

Yay, gigantic speakers GONE!  Baby guards GONE!  Kids GONE...oh wait, they were the cute part.
I can open the door, I can open the blinds.... whenever I want.  Can you feel the excitement?
I hope you enjoyed that as much as I do.

And here's a photo of our "out basket."

Yes, it's all gotta go...I'm so proud of us!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

If you're minimalist, what are you doing having kids anyway?

This is popular on environmental sites -
"The biggest thing you can do to help the environment is have no kids!" These are invariably from those people who (coincidentally?) don't want kids. Haven't heard many people saying, "I desperately wanted children, but didn't, for the earth's sake." Moment of silence. (Refer back to note from self about doing what you want and then justifying it. I see this a lot. I do this a lot.)
And there seem to be a lot more unencumbered minimalists talking out there, too. Life with your backpack on your back is much more doable if your baby isn't in your frontpack too. (There are some wonderful exceptions to this, of course. Leo and Becoming Minimalist are inspirational!)

- take up more space
- use more furniture
- eat more food
- make more mess
- drain your productivity :-)
- draw on your minimalist white walls :-)))
compared with no kids. No argument. Especially in the developed world.

- water (kids prefer deep splashy bubble baths to low-flow showers)
- power (kids kick off blankets instead of hibernating into them on cold nights)
- laundry (kids are just grubby, and they like it that way)

Hmmm, and it's too late to send them back. And yet...

There are many things you can do to reduce the footprint of these human beings you have so recklessly added to the earth's burden.

- Some of mine are here.
- Another one is co-sleeping - sharing your body heat and space with your babies means less heating and fewer rooms to heat.
- We also have the same size cars and house that we did pre-kids. (Same cars, different house.) OK, we already had cars and house that were bigger than a couple needed. But we have reduced our own space in the house to allow for the kids instead of adding on. And I'm very proud to have resisted the pressure to upgrade to a people mover car, because my smallish sedan still does the job.

So your choice to reproduce does not necessarily mean a plunge into the abyss of overconsumption. (And believe it or not, some childfree people don't even adopt needy children! Some use their economic freedom to fly to other countries, purchase imported luxury items, insist on purebred pets...)

If caring and thoughtful world citizens must choose not to have children, then all children are going to be raised by SUV driving, fast food guzzling, clear felling foresters and baby seal clubbing driftnet fishers who don't turn off the water when they brush their teeth! How will that make us better off?

If you have no children, they won't squander our future. But they will certainly never save it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The minimalism of the stay at home mum

Being the proud mother of two children and only one point of view, I see the choice to stay at home with my young children as the ultimate minimalist mum decision.

But I also think we do what we want and then justify it :-) I was exhausted and suffering from PND and PTSD after my son's birth, and even after a year of maternity leave I still couldn't face a part-time job.

I know, I know... "We can't afford to do that" or "I don't/didn't want to be a SAHM"! Since becoming a mum, I feel a combination of awed respect and heartfelt empathy for all other mums, regardless of their parenting choices. But focussing on your children as your occupation while they are small and needy seems less complicated to me. Not necessarily easier, but simpler.

I mean, do I really want to

- find that "high-quality but affordable childcare" that everyone wants
- pack children regularly to care - like it or not
- go out to work where generally they'd rather not know about your home life
- earn enough to pay for the care
- manage somehow when the children are sick
- maintain separate wardrobes for my double life
- get in as much quality time with my children as possible when we are together

My routine is: wake up and figure out what the kids and I are doing today - also whether I like it or not :-)

At home, I've been able to do the cloth nappies (and even homemade cloth wipes), more home cooking and networking with other mums to pass on clothes and other gear.

We also have the freedom to let the children self-wean, since I am always available. New Zealand's 20/20 is going to feature our family among others in a piece on extended breastfeeding on Thursday, May 20, 2010. I have mixed feelings about this - I feel very strongly about promoting this option, yet I'm wary of the possible negative attention.

I'm very keen to hear other mums' views on all sides. Mums who work out of the home, is it as complex as I imagine, or am I exaggerating?

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Eating a vegan diet can be:
- super simple
- super healthy
- great for the environment
- great for the animals
- frugal
- much easier to clean up (clean the oven? Why? :-)

Most of this is in hindsight. I went vegan (lowfat wholefoods vegan, pardon me) to lose weight. My sister found this cool doctor called Dr McDougall and I haven't looked back. Check me out here. (Feel free also to note that I'm not as svelte now after 2 kids - work definitely still in progress :-)

I'd never thought of going veg before, but the info I got was convincing that I could eat this way forever and still be healthy. And the more I eat the way he recommends, the better I feel, and vice versa, to this day.

As a point of interest, I had an operation for an ovarian cyst in my early 20s and was diagnosed informally as suffering from PCOS, and to be prepared for more cyst problems. I've had no more cyst problems. I'd been eating this way for about 10 years by the time we started trying for kids, and both times (even being REALLY OLD) I got pregnant at the drop of the zipper. PCOS then, maybe. PCOS now, I don't think so.

So I didn't start this because of my love for large bovine animals or woolly pasture jumpers. But I'm a research addict, and while I have been eating this way, I couldn't help finding out more and more. And what I found out, I couldn't not know again, and I couldn't not care.

So now I'm a vegan for three main reasons - because it's healthy, ethical, and eco-friendly. Within those three areas, it's almost impossible for me to find a solid reason for eating animal products. And it is actually sorta cool to pass by a field full of cows or sheep (quite a few of these in New Zealand) and think "You're not in there because of me."

VegSource is my favourite allround vegetarian site. Raising the kids vegan seemed like a no-brainer - if it's the healthiest for me, that's what I choose for them too. I have a great book on raising vegan children - Pregnancy, Children and the Vegan Diet. It's got all the answers to the common concerns about kids and vegan diets and some stunning pictures of the Phoenix family (the actors) who have all been raised vegan.

In fact, becoming a breastfeeding mum has made me even more aware of the problems with having cow milk in your diet. Who's really supposed to be drinking that cow's breastmilk? Why is it in your refrigerator?

And my vegan kids are turning out just fine, and then some!

Here are some great links for going vegan:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

So how am I a Minimalist Mum?

Enough already about getting rid of furniture and stuff. How can you actually be a minimalist about mum things? Well, even before I called myself one, I was doing lots of minimalist stuff for my mumhood.

1. Homebirth - right, this is a tough one, because I planned a homebirth all the way to 37.5 weeks and then had a major bells and whistles emergency c-section under general anaesthetic. And transfusions for the haemorrhage. And SCBU care for my wee Alex. And with that history, there was no way anybody was going to take me on for baby delivery #2 except for a team of obs. Delivery #2 - emergency c-section, this time while awake. So I actually had two maximally complicated births, but I didn't want it that way. And that just has to count for something.

2. Breastfeeding - mums, you can't go past this for being minimalist. I did pick up lots of equipment for expressing with Alex, but he never did take to the bottle. Breast is best, eh? I really wish we had a milk bank so I could have donated that milk instead of melting it down the drain when it was too old. I never expressed with Nadia and the gear has all gone to other mums (as part of the grand releasing effort). Most mums can bf with no special equipment at all (insert joke of your choice here). If you don't know everything you'd already like to know about BF, check out your local La Leche League, because they're the best mother's group around.

3. Cloth nappies - don't buy the Huggies hype - disposable nappies really do create an incredible mess. We always used some disposables for some situations, but for everyday use I eventually settled on Fuzzibunz, in two sizes, and both Alex and Nadia wore them. After than I passed them on to be thoroughly worn out on some other baby's bottom. Nadia pees in an overnight nappy every few days, but I know we avoided lots of landfill load by getting our cool modern cloth nappies. Check out the Nappy Network for lots of info. There are some good brands now that are genuinely one-size, and there's also some real advances in composting disposables - roll on the day that's available everywhere!

4. The Keeper - reusable menstrual cup. We're mums and not easily grossed out, right? :-) Anyway, once you get used to the idea and the hang of using it, this is SO convenient as well as being environmentally friendly. Goodbye, TSS!

5. Vegan diet - maybe more detail on this later, but both my kids and I eat a vegan diet, which is both cool and minimalist!

6. Slings and carriers - we do have a pram and we use it a reasonable amount now, but in the beginning both my bubs got carried around a lot on Mummy's chest, hip and back. Good exercise and great for snuggles. Slingbabies and they're on Facebook too. Now that Nadia's older, I'm carrying her in my Ergo backpack to go get Alex in the afternoons, and they're both walking back home with me on their own feet! The backpack stays on my back and I have both hands free to keep the kids safe.

7. TV - in my heart I'd love to be screen-free, but at the moment we stick with commercial free and our own DVDs - hooray for TV6!

Somebody stop me! Tell me about your mum stuff...

Minimalist goals!

What are your dream goals?

I want

- a house that we can easily clean ourselves because tidying isn't exhausting

- all storage boxes in storage closets

- all stockpiled groceries tidied away

- one size of clothes (that would be for minimalist me, about 10 kgs lighter)

- one file tray and everything else in the filing cabinet

- an exercise routine that's really fun

- to earn some money doing what I enjoy

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Minimalist links

All I really need to do to reach my goals:

1. Lift bottom from the computer chair
2. Find clutter
3. Remove clutter
4. Repeat

It's still lots of fun to read about other are some of the places I go to for inspiration:

The Everyday Minimalist

But wait, there's less - next, I talk about some of my goals.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Minimalist? But kids are so untidy!

Untidy city. And another not so secret - I'm only about average in the tidy department myself. Total slob? No. OCD neatnik? Don't make me laugh. But do you know what? If you're not the naturally tidy type, minimalism is an even better idea.

If you have too much stuff, and not enough space or inclination to put it all away, what's going to happen? Yeah, you know it, and that's what happens at my house too. Generally, things are where they shouldn't be. When expecting a visit from someone who might object to your inhome obstacle course, with a herculean effort, things get tidied and/or hidden. And the next time you look around, the untidy fairies have sprinkled their wee magick again.

You can't ever win unless you actually get stuff out of your house.

I have been working harder on releasing my own things than the kids'. I have been working some minor miracles getting rid of outgrown toys and clothes, but I unashamedly keep kid toys in many rooms of our house. We have more great toys than they can possibly play with at once.

How is that still minimalist?

1) It reflects my values. Even if at 10pm, I am faced with a lounge covered with three sets of scattered toys plus those kicked for touch into the kitchen, I have a wee frisson of triumph if I know that this joyous abandon kept them away from the TV. TV for kids is a constant battle for me. I'll revisit that. And maybe I'll tidy up myself, or maybe figure there's some magic left in them for early risers the next morning.

2) This toy bonanza is housed in various baskets, trays and boxes, and many of them live out of sight underneath couches. Last week, I even filled a storage bin (recently emptied of bathroom stuff following VERY successful purge and rehoming) with many of the less organised toys that are still age appropriate. Boxed up, out of sight, unmissed, but all the more entertaining when they appear again.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

But wait, there's do you keep things under control at your house?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Only keep what you use and love

  1. Even if I like something, I can still get rid of it.
  2. Why spend my whole life moving stuff from one wrong place to another?
I'm in love with minimalism. Simplicity, frugality, anticonsumerism, veganism, greenieness - it goes with all of these and nothing has made me this happy since the children were born. Apologies to the DH!

No shortage of great stuff online for being a minimalist - I'll be linking to lots of my favourites. But a minimalist with kids? Looks like I have to start my own. That's cool, because New Zealand is a really great place to be a minimalist.

My house...well, it still looks like a house occupied largely by children. But I've applied my minimalist mantra so many times recently that the change is visible. And peaceful.

Amazingly, I've owned BIG things for years and never considered whether they were good or bad for the house and my sanity. Furniture. An old TV. Metres of books that I never read. Stacks of blankets and cushions.

Some of these improvements have not even been frugal. We have had some gigantic speakers on permanent loan from a family member since we all left university, some AHERAHMMMMHUM years ago. They work really well. In days of yore, you could hear this system all the way up and down Grafton Hall from the 6th floor.

But because of the awesome humongousness of these speakers, we never ever opened one of our sliding doors. Well, hardly ever. For 2 years. Why does it take so long to notice these things? Is "good enough" always the main thing? The happy ending includes wall-mounted surround-sound speakers, and free access to our sliding door in time for the summer. And the ginormous speakers have gone to a more appreciative audience.

There's so much less, but wait!