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It Began With Chocolate Brownies…

On Wednesday it was my boss’s birthday, and I decided to make chocolate brownies to take to work. These raw chocolate brownies that I originally posted the recipe for back in 2013. (They are extremely simple to make, do not require baking and are so delicious – you must make them!)

I knew the recipe was buried deep in the archives of my blog, and I managed to find it. I realise though, that if you didn’t know that the recipe existed, you wouldn’t have searched for it, and you’d never have known it was there. That’s an awful lot of people missing out on delicious chocolate brownies!

The same goes for lots of other things I’ve written about. They’re lost in the depths of the internet. It’s pretty rubbish, not being able to find something unless you already know it exists. I’d like to think that some of that information would be useful to people!

Feeling inspired (and with the extra energy given to me by eating too many offcuts of chocolate brownie) I’ve set about rejigging my site to make it easier for readers to browse through old content. It still looks pretty much the same, but now there are four tabs at the top that link to pages that showcase some of the old archived posts.

The four new categories are:

Minimalism and Simple Living

Real Food and Recipes

Zero Waste

Plastic-Free

They aren’t perfect (I’m not a website developer!) and they don’t list every single post I’ve ever written, but it’s a much more user-friendly way to browse the site. I promise I’m going to work on making the introductory text a bit more exciting!

I hope you like them. Now you have plenty of things to do to keep you occupied this weekend – reading and chocolate-brownie eating! What a perfect way to spend your time! : )

Please give me your feedback! I’d love to hear your thoughts so please let me know any idea or suggestions in the comments below. Do you find the new pages helpful? Are there any categories you feel I’ve missed? Is there any other information you think I could add? I really want to make this site more helpful and user-friendly for you, the reader – so tell me your ideas!

Reflections and Lessons from 2014

As we hurtle towards the New Year and 2015, it’s easy to get swept up in plans for the year ahead – all the things we’re going to do, all the habits we’re going to change and all the goals we’re going to accomplish. But what about the year that’s just been? The year might be (almost) over, but I don’t want to brush those lessons, achievements and experiences under the carpet in the excitement of planning the future. After all, this year (and all those lessons) will no doubt shape the coming year. Not only that, but in amongst the “could do better”s and “should try harder”s there’s a whole heap of other stuff – goals that I achieved and moments that I’m really proud of. I don’t want to forget about those in the excitement of what’s around the corner!

Rather than getting ahead of myself and blindly wrapping myself up in all my big dreams for 2015, I spent some time looking back at 2014. After all, this year was no doubt just as big a year as next year will be.

What Happened this Year?

Quite a lot, actually! The Less is More Festival happened again in February after many months of planning, and was really successful. My blog had its first anniversary; I was asked to write some guest blog posts; I was a finalist in the Waste Authority Infinity Awards; I spent time back in the UK, my family came to visit, I got married, started a new job and signed up to buy an apartment.

Phew!

It was by no means plain sailing. I spent a few months unemployed in the middle of the year, which led to a lot of soul-searching. I tried desperately hard to find a job in a field I’m truly passionate about, but alas, it was not to be. Life doesn’t always go the way you want it, does it?!

When we think about the year just gone, we always seem to start with the mistakes and plans that fell through, and proceed to beat ourselves up. I’m gonna turn this on its head and start with the things that went well; the things I’m proud of achieving this year.

My Highlights of the Year:

  • The Less is More Festival was awarded Community Event of the Year, and my second year as Festival Coordinator saw the event grow and attendees almost double to almost 1000! Not bad for an event with a total spend of $72! After achieving everything that I set out to with the 2014 event, I’m happy with my decision to step aside and let someone else take on the Festival and lead it down a new path.
  • My blog had its first anniversary and readership has steadily continued to grow. It’s so encouraging to know that I’m not the only one with a slight obsession with waste and a craving for a simpler way of living! Thanks guys : )
  • My wedding! Glen and I finally figured out a way to celebrate our marriage without generating too much waste, sticking with our values and not taking out a mortgage to pay for it : ) I’ll be writing about this in the New Year, so if you’re keen to know more, keep your eyes peeled!

What Fell by the Wayside?

Of course, it wasn’t all trophies and gold stars and roaring success. Here’s the not-so-good bits – the bits I hope to learn from and build on this coming year!

  • At the start of the year, Glen and I declared 2014 the Year of Exercise. It began well, with long walks and bicycle rides, and I got back into going to yoga regularly. And it felt good. However, the job, wedding and family visits meant exercise has completely fell by the wayside over the last few months. Definitely a priority for the coming months!
  • I still haven’t gotten myself a sewing machine, despite my many assurances to you all that it would happen :/
  • My plans to woo you all with awesome recipes on the blog this year fell apart when we moved to our new flat with an impossible gas oven. My last attempt at chocolate brownies required five hours of baking time. Five hours. And yes, they were still gooey in the middle after all that time.
  • The “no new* clothes” rule. No idea quite what happened there. What happened to my wardrobe minimalism pledge?! (*new meaning new for me)

What Lessons Did I Learn?

Quite a few! The main one being that we can’t do everything at once. Social media may make it seem like we can, but life is all about balance. Balancing health + exercise + working + chores + pursuing your passions + giving back + creating + learning new skills + relaxing + spending time with family and friends… that’s a lot to fit in! It turns out you can’t do all of it, all of the time. I definitely have a tendency to take on more and more until it’s too much, and then have to let go, and then start to build and build and build again… Compromise is something I’ve talked about on the blog a lot in the last year, and whilst things often feel like compromise, maybe there would be less compromise if there was more balance to begin. I’m not sure, but it’s something I’ll be working on in 2015!

What’s Next?!

My word for 2015 is… “b a l a n c e”. That’s the theme to guide how I’ll live my life in 2015. How I’d like to take care of my mind, body and spirit. Working on balancing my commitments with my desires, my needs with my wants, passion with practicality. What this means in real terms?! Doing all of the things some of the time. Choosing what’s important and building that around what’s necessary. With a good dose of what’s fun thrown in!

Now I’d love to hear from you! What were your best bits of 2014? Let’s focus on the good stuff – tell me what you achieved, what you’re proudest of, and what your favourite moments were in 2014! Were there any lessons you learned that you’ll be holding onto in the coming year? Any guiding themes or words to focus on? Please share them by leaving a comment below!

My Meeting with the Minimalists

A couple of weeks ago, the Minimalists were in town promoting their book “Everything that Remains”, and held a free talk which I went to. The Minimalists, in case you haven’t heard of them before, are two Americans (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus) who both had successful corporate careers, earning 6-figure salaries and living the American Dream (read – buying lots of stuff; gadgets, cars, huge homes, getting into debt) and who both gave it all up, becoming minimalists and embracing a slower, simpler, more meaningful way of life.

My husband has been following the Minimalists for a while. He feels he can relate to their story. He finished university and secured a good job straightaway, and progressed through the ranks. He spent his money on nice furniture and fine dining (he even bought a brand new car…and waited five months (!) for it to be available in the specific colour he desired). But despite the money and stuff, he wasn’t particularly happy. After getting rid of most of his stuff, travelling overseas and working as a volunteer (and meeting me!) he came to the same conclusion as the Minimalists – money doesn’t buy you happiness. Experiences, connections and living with meaning are what are important.

I can’t really relate to the Minimalists’ journey, because it has been very different from my own. I’ve never had the big six-figure salary. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever earned more than (or even the same as) the national average. When I got my first job after graduating, in 2005, I earned £12,000 a year. (In 2005 the UK national average was £22,411.) I never had the spare cash to spend on fancy gadgets. That said, I still saw shopping as a form of stress relief, and I still aspired to have/earn more – because more would make me happier, wouldn’t it? I had a few epiphanies in my late twenties and early thirties that have led me down this minimalist path – stories I’ll share with you another time. My conclusions have been the same as the Minimalists, however – stuff doesn’t make people happy. Neither does money. We may have followed different paths to get here, but we have the same philosophy.

Well…partly. I have my big zero waste/sustainability focus, which can be at odds with the minimalist philosophy. (Get rid of it. You can always buy another one if you need it. Something I struggle with!) A friend came with us to the talk. “Look around you!” she said. “None of these people are into sustainability!” People everywhere around us were clutching plastic water bottles and takeaway coffee cups. She was genuinely surprised. Another sent me a text: “Are you going to the talk by those Minimalist guys with the enormous ecological footprint?”

But minimalism isn’t about avoiding flights or bringing a reusable cup, it’s about living consciously. Living with meaning, rather than living on autopilot. Building relationships. Giving back. Recognising what is important – and what is important is different for each of us. Joshua and Ryan aren’t dictating a lifestyle. They aren’t telling anyone what to do. They are just sharing their story in the hope it will inspire others.

As someone very familiar with the idea of minimalism, the most inspiring thing for me was a room packed out with people who wanted to know more…but others were so moved they left in tears. It’s a reminder that each of us are a different point in our journey. I could easily have rocked up three years ago with a takeaway coffee cup in hand, without a second thought.

The Minimalists’ Perth talk was their 100th tour date – their final one. In the time they’ve been touring, their popularity has grown and there were a thousand people queuing around the block to see them. In order to avoid turning people away, they held another talk straight afterwards as the venue could only accommodate 400 people! I love that they genuinely tried to reach as many people as possible. Ecological footprints aside, these guys have a mission, and a great message to share.

The Minimalists have critics, of course. Not just my friends! People say it’s easy to eschew money when you’ve had it. If you’ve been rich, then isn’t it hypocritical? But minimalism isn’t about advocating poverty. It’s about recognizing what is enough.

Did the Minimalists come to a city near you, and did you have the chance to see them speak? What did you think? Do you like their message? Or is minimalism something that you just can’t embrace? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please leave me a comment below!

Life changes, Soul Searching and Time to Reflect

It’s been silent on the blog for a while, and if you’re not subscribed to my newsletter you probably won’t have any idea why. (If you don’t like missing out, why don’t you sign up? It’s free!) If you are subscribed, hopefully you found my excuse a good one! You’ll have to wait a little longer for the blog posts relating to that, but stay tuned – they are coming!

The last few weeks have been interesting. Most of the time I feel like life is unfolding before me and I’m just treading my path and taking things as they come. The last month has not been like that. Choices have needed to be made. There have been big, black-and-white decisions. This path or that. Choose one. There’s been some soul-searching, and plenty of reflection, but the decisions are made and this is the path I’m taking.

Firstly, there was the job. There’s no doubt I need a job to pay the bills. I’ve tried for so long to find a job that is a real extension of who I am, that allows me to follow my passions to the full, but alas, these jobs are few and far between. Eventually the need to find work won over the quest to find the perfect job. That doesn’t mean I’ve sold my soul and gone to work for a big corporation. I’m working for a family-owned event hire business (and the owners are two of the nicest, fairest and most generous-hearted people you could wish to meet) and there’s no compromise in ethics or morals. Plus I like the role!

The need for a job came from the decision we made to buy a flat. I’ll write a blog post on this sometime soon but it wasn’t a decision we made lightly. We’ve been discussing it for months. We love renting and we love the idea of tiny houses, but in the end the ‘conventional’ house-buying won. Property in Perth isn’t cheap, and it means we will need to get a big mortgage. We will also need a big deposit – which is where the job comes in. We plan to move this time next year. The job and the mortgage and taking the conventional path seem at odds with how we want to live our lives – which I suppose is why it took so long to make a decision, and why there’s still some soul-searching going on now. I really want to write more about this soon so keep your eyes peeled!

Then comes the lack of free time to pursue my passions that comes with working. It’s like adding insult to injury – I’m not working in the sustainability or waste field, and I have much less time to pursue these passions outside of work too! It’s easy to wish I’d done more with the free time I had, but I don’t want to lament the past. Nothing lasts forever, and I’m sure there will be time to pursue all these things again! No doubt the world will still need saving when I’m less busy : /

The lack of free time has also meant that I’ve decided not to organise the Less is More Festival next year. This was a big decision. It’s been such an important part of my life for the last two years, and I’m so proud of how it’s grown and how many people it reached, but I feel like I need time out. Fortunately the Earth Carers, who supported me for the last two years, have decided to take the helm and will take on the running next year, so the event will still be going ahead. They have some plans to take it in a slightly different direction and their ideas are really exciting. Whilst I’m sad to be stepping back, I know in my heart it is the right thing to do.

One decision we are still grappling with is whether to buy a car. Glen’s office is relocating and whilst it will be very close to our new house, it is a painfully long and awkward commute from where we live now. My new job is just a few minutes from our current flat – and we have just renewed our lease. Buying a car could solve the commuting problem – but what about our values? We debated buying an electric car (expensive, and another step down the conventional corporate road?). We thought about buying an old banger (much less embedded carbon but far more polluting). We also thought about what buying a car would mean to our identities and how it fits with our beliefs. We are still trying to make the decision. I could write a whole blog post on this too (and plan to).

All these changes have meant taking time out to adjust, but really, of course, I’m still the same. My values haven’t changed. My passion for zero waste and plastic-free remains. My quest to minimalise continues. My obsession with vegetables (particularly sneaking them into desserts in a quest to make them healthier – chocolate avocado mousse anyone?) goes on unabated. My desire to connect and share and grow my community still burns as strongly as before. So I’ve made the obvious decision.

Get back to blogging! There’s still so many things to talk about, people to connect with, and ideas to share. I’ve missed you guys, and I’m glad to be back : )

Green Living Inspiration from my Holidays! (A Summary in Pictures)

Now I’m well and truly back in Perth, Australia (having finally adjusted to being in the same time zone as everyone around me) I thought I’d do a bit of a recap of my holiday. No, I don’t mean a whole heap of holiday snaps featuring stunning sunsets, glorious landscapes or what I ate for dinner, but rather all the cool stuff I saw relating to living sustainably on the European and English side of the world. Far more interesting, don’t you think?!

I’ve only been away for two years, but I’d forgotten how much further along Europe and the UK are down the path of making sustainability a mainstream topic, and how much more people seem to embrace it! I found it hugely inspiring to see how individuals, community groups, small businesses and even big chains were trying to do their bit to reduce their impact on the environment. Hopefully this is a sign of what’s to come for this side of the world. Bring it on, I say!

Zero Waste and Plastic Free

My favourite topic! I’m always intrigued to see what can be done to reduce waste and there was plenty of inspiration to be found…

Refillable bulk oil and vinegar Bruges

Bulk stores pop up in surprising places, and more often than you might think, if you only keep your eyes open for them!

Bruges bulk vinegar store

Bulk buy spirits! These barrels contain cognac and other alcohols. You can find everything in bulk if you look hard enough!

Returnable bottle deposit scheme Belgium

“Leeggoed” means “empties” – Belgium has a refundable bottle deposit scheme! You are charged 10 cents when you buy a bottle, and get your money back when you return it. Such a great way to reduce waste : )

Bruges Dine In Only

Good for you, waffle shop! If you want to eat a waffle, sit down and enjoy it properly : )

Loose blooms no plastic in sight

Farmers Markets are always inspiring, but what I particularly loved about this one was all the loose blooms you could buy without all that unnecessary plastic to accompany them.

Blueberries and Raspberries in Metal Aluminium punnets

These berries at the market were packaged in aluminium foil punnets rather than plastic ones. These punnets have more potential for reuse than plastic ones, plus foil is far easier to recycle than plastic. Bonus points for signs made out of old cardboard!

Packaging Free Fruit and Veg London

I loved how much fruit and veg was available loose and unpackaged from this greengrocer in London. Even fancy mushrooms come without uneccessary plastic bags.

Bulk tea in York

Bulk buy tea at a shop in York. And my, what a lot of tea they had!

Faversham cafe Reusable Keepcups

KeepCups might have been invented in Australia, but it’s good to see that they are catching on across the other side of the world too.

Sustainable Transport

Bicycles in Bruges

Bicycles rule in Europe, regardless of the weather. Less cars and more bikes and everyone benefits!

Free air bike pump Bruges

Free air for pumping up your bike tyres! Cycle infrastructure at its best.

Building Community

Makers Workshops Bristol

There are so many community-led initiatives all over the UK, but it was particularly great to see new things popping up in my old haunt of Bristol.

Companies (and Organisations) Taking Responsibility

Recycling in Belgium Station

Bin systems like this one were almost everywhere in Europe and the UK, making it easier than ever for people to dispose of their waste responsibly. Much better than one “landfill” dumpster!

Free Hangers Reuse Upcycle Hate Waste

Even the local shopping centre was doing its bit, offering unwanted coat hangers to the public for free to stop them heading to landfill.

Eurostar Green Britain info 2

Almost every company, no matter their size or industry, has some kind of statement publicly available about how they try to be sustainable. Most people are aware than train travel has far less impact on the environment than flying, but its good to see companies addressing these issues and telling people what they are doing to make a difference.

Eurostar info board

I might not agree with the amount of waste being generated, but I was impressed that they are actually thinking about what they are doing – it’s a step in the right direction.

Eurostar Green Britain info 1

What can I say…it’s a start!

Charitable Water Project Thali Cafe Frank Plastic Free

I noticed that lots of restaurants offer filtered water in refillable glass bottles rather than plastic bottles. I loved this scheme at the Thali cafe in Bristol where customers pay a donation for filtered water, which goes to funding water projects in India.

Cafe Kino Waste and Recycling

The waste and recycling statement hanging proudly on the wall of a local Bristol cafe.

Yorkshire Dales 2

The Yorkshire Dales are beautiful, and surprisingly free of rubbish…

Yorkshire Dales National Park waste management

…but it’s something that’s actively worked towards. No litter bins encourages people to take their litter home.

…And the Not-So-Good Bits

Whilst there was so much good stuff to see, it wasn’t all perfect. Here are just a few examples of things that made me want to tear my hair out.

Apples from NZ in our hotel during British summer

We stayed in a hotel in Yorkshire that I chose because of its commitment to green principles, use of local produce and ethical credentials. It was the height of summer when British fruit is in abundance. So why on earth were they providing apples shipped all the way from New Zealand?!

My Worst Nightmare Plastic Shop Bruges

Arghh! This shop has to be my worst nightmare! Even the name sends a shiver down my spine!

Krispy Kreme Wasting Plastic Straws

Clearly not all companies have quite got the green message. Seriously, Krispy Kreme, quality is not measured by the number of disposable plastic straws you provide. I think you need a new marketing team : /

As you can see, there were so many things that made me feel really inspired. Most of them are little things, but all of these little things add up to make real change! It made me realise that increasingly, people, companies, businesses and groups “get” that they need to act more sustainably, and they are embracing it and having fun at the same time!

Of course, there are also those hair-pulling moments that make me realise whilst we are heading in the right direction, there is still plenty more work to be done!

Right, no more holiday snaps from me. Promise! : )

Zero Waste Week is Coming Up…

You know me…any excuse to bang on about waste and I’m onto it! Which is why I’m super excited to be an ambassador for Zero Waste Week 2014. Zero Waste Week is…yes, you guessed it…a week of living with less waste, and it runs from 1st – 7th September.

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2013

As part of the challenge, you need to make a waste pledge, and the theme this year is “one more thing”. I’m already reasonably close to zero waste and I had a go at a completely zero waste week back in June with reasonable success (completely zero waste meaning no landfill and no recycling – only compostable waste), so I wasn’t sure what my pledge should be at first.

What extra thing could I manage?

Then I realised, I’m actually away from home that week, and it’s always much harder to keep standards up when on holiday. So I decided I’m going to commit to not sending anything to landfill during Zero Waste Week, although recyclables are acceptable.

No matter how zero waste I try to be, there’s always something that sneaks into the rubbish bin, so I think this will be a good challenge!

Lindsay Treading My Own Path Zero Waste Week Pledge 1

Do you like my Zero Waste Week pledge? I wrote it on the back of the cardboard packaging from an empty box of pasta! (Which then went into the worm farm.)

The challenge began in the UK, but you can take part no matter where you live. The problem of waste is global, after all, so let’s make this an international challenge! There’s still plenty of time to make a pledge. Check out the Zero Waste Week website for some more inspiration, and then join us and sign up for the challenge yourself : ) There’s no excuses: you still have almost two weeks to prepare!

Once you’ve decided what your “one more thing” will be, please leave a comment below telling me what you’ve pledged. I’d love to hear from you!

The Age of Sustainable Development

On Monday afternoon I went to a lecture about The Age of Sustainable Development. I’m normally fairly skeptical of these men-in-suits type events, but this one caught my eye. It’s good to get out there occasionally and hear what the men-in-suits have to say.

The lecture was by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, a Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York. Actually, Wikipedia tells me that he has a whole lot of other impressive credentials, including Special Advisor to the UN on the Millennium Development Goals, Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and has twice been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Ticket

Before the lecture began, a video was played entitled “Sustainability at Curtin University” (the WA university hosting the lecture) which I found rather uninspiring. It had the familiar messages about sustainability that make me cringe when I hear them: that sustainability means value for money for industry; that sustainability innovation means efficiency, which passes on to the mining industry; and that we can invent and innovate our way out of the pending crises of climate change, resource depletion, water shortages and extreme weather conditions.

It’s not that I disagree that technology and science have important roles to play. I just felt that the underlying message was “business as usual”, and in my opinion, no amount of streamlining and resourcefulness is going to make up for the fact that we still expect infinite growth, and we still live on a finite planet.

I’m glad to say the lecture was far more inspiring. It was refreshing to hear Professor Jeffery Sachs, one of the men-in-suits, stand up on stage and say that we can’t have unlimited growth on a finite planet, that climate change is real, it is happening NOW, we have our backs against the wall and we need to act immediately.

Of course, it was also quite alarming.

Professor Sachs said that America is more divided than at any time in history – meaning the gap between the rich and poor is widening, and inequality is widening. He referred to a book entitled Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America by Martin Gilens, who found that the opinions of the bottom 90% of people in America had no impact on policy making in America.

Only the top 10%, the really rich, have any real influence over government.

I imagine it’s a similar case in many other places. The Australian budget was announced last week, and it has been described as the harshest and most unpopular federal budget in two nearly decades. The main beneficiaries were the super rich and big business; election promises were broken, and people are angry.

Governments, Professor Sachs concluded, aren’t going to lead the way. They’ve been talking about sustainable development for over 20 years, he said, and they’re still talking about it, but they aren’t doing anything. Events are changing a lot faster than our institutions.

The solution he offered: universities are going to have to lead the way. Young people (who generally “get” the sustainability message more than older generations, he said) are going to have to lead the way. We need massive energy efficiency; we need electrification of vehicles and heating. We need to make carbon sequestration work on a massive scale, or we need to stop burning coal. We need a strategy. Carbon taxes aren’t strategies, they are tools.

It’s easy to sit in lectures like this and feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems the world faces. The world is a big place, and it’s easy to feel small and helpless. But overall, I felt that Professor Sachs had a positive message: yes, we are facing a challenge, and yes, the government isn’t ready to anything about it, but we can still make change happen.

It is reassuring to know that some of the men-in-suits, these people with authority, power and influence, actually understand… and not only that, they are doing something about it. Professor Sachs is touring Australia as part of a global project for the UN trying to map strategies for countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly, in a way that will keep global warming below 2 degrees (considered the limit of safe rises). In September, New York is hosting a World Leaders Climate Meeting; an attempt to build momentum towards December 2015 climate negotiations in Paris. Professor Sachs thinks the Paris meeting is our ”last chance” for the world to keep global warming below 2 degrees.

To me, the lecture felt like a call to action. We can’t just sit back and watch our governments continue with “business as usual”. No way!

“Achieving sustainable development will be the great challenge of the coming generation.” ~Professor Jeffrey Sachs

Best get to it then…there’s no time to waste!

Doubt and What to Think About What Other People Think

It’s been almost two weeks since we moved from the tiny flat to the palace. I’ve found these last few weeks quite difficult. After we made the decision to move, the initial feelings of excitement and elation were suddenly swapped with feelings of doubt and panic.

“What am I doing?!!!”

Our old flat was comfortable, familiar, well maintained…and our home. We liked it. The new flat is new territory. It’s unfamiliar, and not particularly well maintained. People would ask us excitedly in the weeks before we moved: is the new flat better? We’d shift about uncomfortably, look at our feet and say…well, no.

Why does it have to be better? We have more space (which we wanted), we have an outside balcony, the new flat has a sunnier disposition and is warmer, and without the mold or damp problems of our old flat. However, it really needs repainting. And possibly rewiring. The bathroom and kitchen are the originals – so they are decades old. It looks tatty. Being a rental, there’s not much we can do about these cosmetic things, but these are the things that other people see.

What will people think?!

The thought kept going round and round in my mind. Would I feel embarrassed inviting people round? What would people think? Would they judge us?

What didn’t help is that right after the move (probably as a result of the stress that change causes) I got sick. When I get sick, I feel really sorry for myself. The sorry-for-myself thoughts compounded the doubtfulness I already felt. When we’re ill, we want to be comforted, and I found the unfamiliarity of the new place a little unsettling. Being sick also meant we didn’t get everything unpacked and into place straightaway, which delayed the feeling of homely-ness.

Over the last three weeks I questioned myself a lot. I questioned my journey, my motivations, and the way I was choosing to live. I felt really confused, and I struggled to write. I just couldn’t put into words what I was thinking.

Now, two weeks later and (finally) with a clear head, I’ve gotten over myself. No more self-pity for me; no doubts and no regrets either! I want to share some wisdom with you: words I really needed to hear three weeks ago!

What other people think of us is none of our business.

Who cares what other people think of our home? It only matters what we think; and we like it. I thought I gave up caring what other people thought a long time ago. Obviously I didn’t. I try not to care, but sometimes it can be hard. Change can be confronting and lead to doubt. The truth is, if this is the way I want to live, and I’m happy, and it doesn’t impact on anyone else, then it doesn’t matter what other people think. We don’t need the approval of others to validate our decisions.

Of course people will have their own opinions. We all have opinions! I just don’t need to know what they are, because they don’t affect me. I’m out to please myself, not someone else.

Don’t compare your life with others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

For me, the move caused a huge case of comparison-itis. What will people think also translated as would other people do what we’re doing? No? Why wouldn’t they? What are they doing instead? Should I be aspiring to what they’re doing?

I’m not living their lives, I’m living mine. Whatever they are doing is their own journey, and one I know nothing about. I only know about my own journey. I know my own values, my own circumstances, and my own plans and dreams and schemes… and the choices I make reflect this. In the same way that I mustn’t care what other people think, I mustn’t compare with what other people do. My life is about me, not them.

Looking back now this all seems so obvious. Yet at the time those doubts were very real. I think it was a good experience though…to question everything, and find the answers. Change is what makes us grow. Ultimately it’s made me more sure that I’m on the path I want to be on.

As for the flat, whilst it’s not exactly like home yet, it’s getting there, and we love it. On Mothers’ Day we invited both Glen’s parents and his sister and her family over; something that couldn’t have happened in the last place as it was just too small.

And check out the new view from my desk:

View from office window

I get to look out of this window every day! How could I not fall in love with a view like this?!

What about you? Do you ever worry about what others might think? Do you suffer from self-doubt? Do you find change a little unsettling? Or have you learned to just do what makes you happy and not worry about anyone else’s opinions? I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below!

Cardboard Castles, Celebrity Coffee and Social Contracts

I had a busy, productive and inspiring weekend. Don’t you just love those weekends? It nearly didn’t happen – I’d been brewing a cold/virus for the previous few days – but in the end the sun was shining and it all worked out perfectly.

Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights.

The Celebrity Photo Shoot

Well, not exactly “celebrity”, but my boyfriend has been asked to be one of the faces for the new Plastic Free July campaign, which meant a photoshoot at 9.30am on Saturday morning along the main shopping strip where we live. So Glen spent 30 minutes pacing up and down past the shops, whilst a guy with the longest camera lens I’ve ever seen snapped pictures, and Rebecca (from the Plastic Free July campaign) and I looked on. As did a few other Saturday morning shoppers; it’s interesting how people are drawn to the camera.

No-one asked for his autograph though, which I found disappointing.

Annoyingly, I forgot to take my camera, so I’m going to have to wait for the official ones to be ready before I can share them. Hopefully not too long to wait!

The Mosman Park Eco Fair

The Mosman Park Eco Fair is a glorious day out; set in the beautiful community gardens at St Luke’s Church in Mosman Park, featuring all things green, including sustainability workshops, ethical and environmental stalls and with a real focus on reducing waste.

There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer, but after organising the Less is More Festival not too long before, it’s nice to go to an event as a punter and be able to enjoy everything that’s on offer.

The Earth Carers have a big presence as always. In addition to running their Washing Up Station to reduce disposable cups at the event, they also ran a children’s activity – make cardboard castles!

CardboardBoxes

EcoFair2

I wrote about the Washing Up Station at last year’s event (and why I think it’s so important here), but the castle-building was a new activity and a very popular one!

It was really great to catch up with so many people I know, as well as learn about all of the interesting projects that people are involved in, and hear about their latest achievements. Personally, I find it really inspiring and motivating reconnect with people from my community, and I always feel like my passion is re-ignited afterwards.

Permaculture Day

Sunday was International Permaculture Day, and there were some workshops at one of the local Farmer’s markets. I’ve been wanting to learn about beekeeping for ages, and made the effort to trek across town on a rather chilly morning for the 8.30am workshop. It was so interesting! Something to save for another blog post, but I felt a real sense of achievement in having taken a step closer.

My Glass Jar Trade

A few weeks ago I nearly put some of my glass jars into the recycling. In fact I did put them in, but then I took them out again. Most glass in Perth isn’t actually recycled (it’s trucked to Adelaide, turned into road base or landfilled) and I was sure that someone could use those jars. Just after I retrieved them, a friend requested jars for bottling her honey. I exchanged several of my finest jars in exchange for one jar of her finest honey. An awesome trade! I wouldn’t have got that from the recycling peeps!

Honey

Even better, once home I turned the honey into a delicious cake. Yum!

CakeThe cake is a chocolate pear rosemary cake that’s gluten- and dairy-free. You can find the recipe here; I used honey rather than sugar and it was perfect!

The Social Contract

In my last blog post I mentioned that I didn’t have a “no junk mail” sticker on my mail box. I know I needed one, I’ve been talking about it for months, but I could never quite get round to getting one. In fact, I didn’t just mention it once, I mentioned it 3 times. I didn’t want anyone to miss it.

Why? Because if you have an intention, there is nothing better than to tell EVERYONE your intention. Comments were made to me both on the blog and on Facebook about how should get a “junk mail” sticker. People taking an interest not only reinforces what I already know (that I need to get a sticker), but also makes me feel guilt and shame for not getting on with it. I don’t want to be asked by these same people over the next few months whether I’ve got one and have to say no – so this is a great way to force yourself into action!

I’m pleased to say I’ve been and got a new sticker. No more junk mail for me! Except, it still needs to be stuck on. A minor detail!

JunkMail

So that was my weekend. How was yours?!

The gift of giving (and what it has to do with minimalism and living simply)

Meet Grace. She’s 15 years old and lives in Uganda. She’s attending secondary school, thanks to a great little charity from the UK called ACE.

UWIMANA GRACEACE stands for Aid Conservation through Education. They are committed to supporting rural primary education in rural Uganda in communities bordering the national parks, believing education is the key to conservation and poverty eradication. Whilst primary education is free in Uganda, parents have to supply pencils, exercise books and uniforms. This is complicated by the fact that many children have been orphaned dues to the AIDS epidemic, so rely on more distant family members to support them. A single class may have more than 200 children, with only one teacher and no teaching materials. Classrooms and other buildings are often in poor condition, and without electricity and safe toilet facilities.  ACE help by providing equipment including books, desks and chairs, and funding repairs and construction of new buildings and latrines.

Back to Grace. She was a pupil at one of the primary schools that ACE support. She was one of the brightest pupils, in fact, but also one of the poorest. To go to secondary school in Uganda you have to pay, and it is unlikely she would have been able to attend… were it not for ACE. In addition to their core work, ACE run a sponsorship program for the brightest and poorest pupils to attend secondary school. Which means that someone like me can pay the fees and expenses so that someone like Grace can attend school.

Their sponsorship scheme is well thought out. ACE realised that pupils who board do better than day pupils, who have to walk long distances between the school and their homes and don’t have time to study in the evenings because of needing to help their families. They decided that all sponsored pupils would board at the school. So in addition to day school fees and equipment, I also pay the boarding fees.

The money they ask for correlates with how much they need to spend in Uganda; £30 a month (around $50). It costs what it costs. If people can’t afford to commit this much, of course they are happy to accept donations for their other projects, just not for the sponsorship programme. If you’re wondering how much it all costs, it is laid out below. Total transparency.

KisoroVisionAdmissionLetterIt’s not a fluffy ‘sponsor a child’ scheme with membership packs and yearly Christmas cards. They only have one paid staff member – in Uganda. They choose their pupils based primarily on exam results but also on the poverty level of the family; not by how photogenic they are or whether they’ll look good in a glossy brochure. They don’t do glossy brochures. Their website may not be flashy, and the children in the photos may not be all smiles and laughter (that we’re used to seeing), but it just makes them more real. After all, if I was 14 years old and leaving my family for the first time, having never been away from home before, and going to a strange new place, I would probably not be all smiles either.

Being part of this means I’m making an actual difference to someone’s life. To Grace’s life. Whilst I don’t know a great deal about Grace (she sends me letters three times a year, but English isn’t her first language), I do know that when she’s not at school she lives with her mother in a temporary house built from mud, poles and metal sheets, with no electricity, no running water and a single paraffin lamp for lighting. They are too poor to own any livestock. I hope her education will open up opportunities for her as an adult.

For me, this is another great benefit of minimalism, or living simply. By not wasting my money buying stuff I don’t need, I can give it to people who can really benefit. I don’t miss the money being taken from my account. I could easily spend that same amount on coffee or chocolate or an evening out every single month and not even notice. When I think about how far such a small amount of money can go, and what a real difference it can make to someone’s life, how could I not want to do something to help?

“No-one has ever become poor by giving.” ~Anne Frank