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.