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We’re leaving the tiny flat…

After a little over two years in our tiny flat, it’s time to say goodbye. We’ve signed the papers and handed in our notice, and in just over two weeks we’ll be moving out.

It was a tough decision. We really like our tiny flat, especially in the Australian summer. It doesn’t get any direct sunlight so it stays relatively cool, even when it’s above 40ºC outside (and in Perth in summer, that happens often). We like living in a small space, and it’s been an excellent teacher in living with less and making do with what we have.

Plus we like the area; as we don’t have a car we chose this spot as it had excellent public transport links, and lots of facilities within walking distance.

However, last winter was brutal. When you live in a flat that doesn’t get any direct sunlight, with gaps in the doorframes that cold air blows right through, huge panes of single glazed glass and a bathroom window that actually has a 3inch x 25inch gap with no glass at all, it gets pretty cold.

Australia might be hot in the summer, but temperatures can drop to 0ºC overnight in winter. Brrr. Not only that, but when you have a cold flat, it gets damp. Last winter our bedroom (and everything in it) went moldy. Whilst we cleaned it up successfully (with no nasty chemicals) and the mould hasn’t returned, I was quietly dreading the possibility of having to deal with it again this year.

There’s a couple of other things that are less than ideal. Our toilet/bathroom is en-suite, which makes it awkward when visitors come to stay. It’s too small to have more than a couple of extra people over at one time, and we’d like to have people round more often. It would be nice to have somewhere else to keep the bicycles rather than in the way in the bedroom, where I manage to fall over it at least once a fortnight.

We ummed and ahhed about it for a while (it’s such a lovely place to live in summer that it’s hard to remember the horrors of last winter, but I remember saying at the time there was no way I could face another winter in this flat). The flat is inexpensive for the area, and moving is another expense. We decided that if the landlord didn’t put the rent up, we’d stay for as long as we could stand, and then hopefully find somewhere else.

The landlord decided to put the rent up.

We wrote to him to ask whether they would hold off for three months, to give us time to adjust. The job I was working on finished at Easter, so losing an income source on top of a rent increase was not ideal.

They said no.

We resigned ourselves to the fact that we’d have to start looking, and then something perfect came up.

The flat next door!

In our block of 16 units, only four are one-bed units. The others are two-bedroom, and our neighbour’s flat is one of these. This means it is slightly bigger, and the bathroom is not en-suite. It also has a big front balcony area with some natural light which means we might be actually able to grow some plants at last! Also, it’s not technically next door but across the passageway with a different aspect and far more natural light. In the 8 years our neighbours lived there, it never went moldy. Plus, it’s the same price!

The downside? It’s not in such good condition as our current flat. Most of the features are original (read dated and falling apart). The kitchen is even less spacious than our current (and fairly tiny) kitchen.

We’re really excited to be moving, though…and yet glad to be staying where we are. The best of both worlds. There’s nothing like moving house for the chance to declutter, either – and we intend to move with far less than we currently have. All those things that we’ve been keeping in case they turned out to be useful? Well, if they haven’t been useful in two years, perhaps now is the time to let them go.

Two weeks tomorrow and counting…

The Less is More Festival is (more or less) over…

I’ve been planning for it since May 2013 and it’s taken up almost every spare moment of my time since January this year, but yesterday was the day when all that planning became reality, when all the hard work paid off and people flocked to the Grove Library to take part in the Less is More Festival. And yes, they flocked! Read more

Less than two weeks to go…

Exciting times…the Less is More Festival 2014 is less than two weeks away! There will be more than 23 presenters facilitating 30 unique workshops talking all things sustainable lifestyle-related. There will be drop-in sessions for hands on activities like deodorant and toothpaste making and sewing, there will be eco movie screenings, and for the first time there will be a whole day of kids activities too! It’s going to be awesome! Read more

An unexpected surprise in the mail

Checking the mail this morning, I found an unexpected letter.

LiM LetterjpgThe community event I organised last year has won an award! How exciting is that?! Read more

What I’ve been up to…

Do you ever get yourself into a situation, and wonder how on earth it was that you ever agreed to get involved in the first place? This time last week, that was me. You may have noticed (from the distinct lack of personal photographs on the blog) that I’m not a particular fan of having my picture taken. So how was it that I agreed to be photographed last Monday morning wearing a pair of overalls, sitting in a knitted (yarnbombed) wheelbarrow, clutching a live chicken?

Well…

Let me tell you about the Less is More Festival. Read more

Spreading the sustainability and clean living word

When I started this blog, I was motivated because I felt like I was at a real turning point in my life. I was on a journey… a journey that started with a bigger commitment to being more sustainable, but became so much more than that.  It has led me down all sorts of interesting paths. I felt like I was learning so much, and I really wanted to share what I was finding out, as well as keep a kind-of record of my progress.

I love being able to share what I know, and as part of that I got involved with Living Smart, a not-for-profit organisation based in Australia that provides practical knowledge and skills for people to live more sustainable lives. Read more

Being a tourist in my home city

On Monday afternoon, I picked my parents up from Perth airport. They’ve come all the way from England to stay with us for four weeks, their first visit since I moved here 2 years ago. I say ‘stay with us’, but due to the tiny nature of the flat (with one bedroom and only an en-suite bathroom) we decided to donate our home to them for the ensuing weeks, and we are staying at my boyfriend’s parents house with them.

As my boyfriend pointed out, whilst our flat might be quite small, if they were staying in a hotel such a size would be considered a large suite. And they get to stay there without paying hotel suite prices! Oh, the luxury! Read more

A (dentist-approved) homemade toothpaste recipe

Yesterday I finally had a long-overdue visit to the dentist. I haven’t been to the dentist in two years. Whilst you may not think that two years is a terribly long time to avoid the dentist, I must admit that the last time I went the dentist told me that I needed a filling*, and I never bothered to get one.

*To be fair, the dentist seemed quite vague (I think he was a recent graduate), definitely told me it was to be on the safe side, and from what I could see from the x-rays (knowing absolutely nothing about dentistry of course) there was no urgency. So I saved the £120 or so it was going to cost me and cancelled the follow-up appointment.

Moving continents didn’t help either, and then I was further delayed because I rang a few dentists to find out filling prices and all the dentists were really mean. Really really mean. One was outraged that I hadn’t had a filling and told me I would probably need root-canal surgery by now, and another told me that I’d have to have a scale and polish before the dentist would even see me, as their dentists wouldn’t dream of looking into dirty mouths. (For readers who live in Perth, yep, that dentist was in Claremont).

I finally had a recommendation from someone for a dentist whose receptionist was actually nice over the phone, and so I braced myself for the inevitable expense and booked. I also thought that this would be a good opportunity to get some professional advice about my homemade toothpaste… and find out if it was actually working.

Turns out that the dentist I visited is the Nicest Dentist Ever. She didn’t seem phased that I had been told I probably needed a filling and hadn’t bothered to get one. I told her that I made my own toothpaste and we discussed all the nasties in conventional products as well as the fact that I don’t buy products in plastic. I told her what I used to make the toothpaste (recipe below) and she said it contained all the key elements that commercial toothpastes had and would be absolutely fine to use. She was so nice I even admitted that I don’t floss very often.

So she looked at all my teeth, and took some x-rays. She said the brushing and toothpaste was working fine, all the fronts and tops of my teeth were in great condition. I have the green light to continue with my homemade toothpaste!

Unfortunately I still need the filling.

In fact, I need three.

All of the decay is where the teeth touch each other at the sides. Turns out flossing is probably a useful thing to be doing after all.

So, said the dentist. What would I like to do? Obviously I’ll be wanting to keep things plastic-free. She assumed I wouldn’t like the amalgam (silver coloured fillings) because they contain mercury. She also doubted I would like the composite (white) fillings because they are made from resin – or plastic. When I said I didn’t know much about them, she said if I looked them up she was pretty sure I wouldn’t want them either.

I didn’t actually know there were other options. Apparently there is also porcelain, which uses a small amount of resin to bind it but far less than the composite filling, or gold.

Now I’m no gangsta and I’m not sure gold fillings are quite the look I’m after. Porcelain sounds great… except they’re $800 each. Composite fillings are just over $200.

In the end, I chose the composite ones. Plastic or not, I just don’t think I can justify the extra expense.

Appointment is next Tuesday.

In the meantime, it’s great to know that my homemade toothpaste now has dentist approval!

Homemade Toothpaste Recipe – dentist approved!

I’ve posted my original toothpaste recipe here (and also the reasons I make my own in the first place) but this is the one I’ve been using more recently that I’ve tweaked slightly.

Sodium bicarbonate. This is the abrasive that cleans the teeth. It has quite a salty taste that can take a bit of getting used to. It also neutralises stains and odours.

Glycerin. This acts as the lubricant and binder. In the past I’ve also tried coconut oil. I’ve read that glycerin can coat the teeth and form a barrier that prevents re-mineralisation, and some natural toothpaste users prefer coconut oil. However, because sodium bicarbonate can be quite abrasive the glycerin can help protect the teeth. The dentist thought glycerin was better suited than coconut oil.

Peppermint oil. I add this to give the toothpaste the fresh minty taste that psychologically we associate with toothpaste.

Clove oil. I started adding this recently because clove oil has great anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. You often see clove oil in natural toothpastes and the dentist told me that she still uses it for some of her procedures.

And that’s it! I no longer add extra salt as I found the taste too salty, and the dentist said that with the bicarb it’s not neccessary to have another abrasive.

Method:

Mix 8 tbsp sodium bicarbonate with 6 tbsp glycerin. Add 10 – 15 drops of peppermint oil and 1 drop of clove oil. That’s it!

Store in a jar.

A couple of final things. The dentist also said that what can be more important that the abrasive in the toothpaste you use is the type of brush. Often toothbrushes are more abrasive than the toothpaste. She recommended using a soft toothbrush, particularly if you are worried that your toothpaste is too harsh.

The last thing to bear in mind is that not everything works for everybody all of the time. There are people who only drink fizzy drinks and eat daily Mars bars and have great teeth, and there are others who only eat salad and have mouths full of cavities. This toothpaste contains all you need in a toothpaste to keep teeth and gums healthy, and it is working for me. It should work for you too, but be mindful of what’s going on in your mouth, and if you suspect things are awry, maybe consult your dentist?!

Mini-break in Margaret River

I just got back from a short two-night trip to Margaret River, a beautiful region 300 km south of Perth that takes my breath away every time I go there. For those of you (that’s you, dad!) who think that Australia is just one big red desert, you couldn’t be more wrong.

(Generally when people talk about Margaret River, they are referring to the region, although there is a small town of the same name in the centre of the region and, perhaps not surprisingly, a river. I found this name-sharing somewhat confusing when I first arrived in Perth.)

Rather than write a post today, I thought I’d share some of my holiday pics. Nature is amazing.

MR1 MR2mr3 mr4 mr5mr6 mr9 mr8 mr7 mr10 mr11mr12 mr13 mr14mr15 mr16 mr17 mr18 mr19 mr20 mr21 mr22In other exciting news, whilst we were away my boyfriend asked me to marry him, and I said yes.

My latest shower accessory

Last week my boyfriend and I went to a Water Smart workshop, which was about both the issues Perth is facing with water demand and supply, and how to use water sustainably. On the way home, my boyfriend commented that he wasn’t really motivated to make any changes to our lives, because water didn’t seem as important as other things, like power or transport. I was inclined to agree. I think greywater systems and rainwater tanks are fantastic, but we don’t own our own house, so this is something for the future. It is something I’d definitely do in the future, but it’s probably a long way off, and not relevant to us now. Read more