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Some Recommended Reading

Yesterday afternoon I dropped my parents off at Perth Airport for their flight back to the UK. They visited for just over four weeks, and it has been insanely busy. Partly because they have been staying in our flat, and my boyfriend and I stayed at his parents’ house, which means I have been making the hour-long commute (one way) between houses each day, and then taking them out to see the sights, before trekking back. This was compounded by us sleeping in a bed that was far too small for us (well mostly my boyfriend, whose ankles stick through the railings meaning it is impossible to move without waking us both up), meaning we have been running on minimal sleep. I had a lovely time, and it was great to be able to spend so much time with them, but now they’ve gone I’ve been hit by a tsunami of exhaustion. I’m tired, emotional and mentally frazzled… which wouldn’t matter so much if everything else in my life wasn’t still going full steam ahead.

This isn’t a blog post about woe is me, though. All I need is sleep, time to unwind, the chance to relax and to eat some nourishing meals and I’ll be ready to go again. I’ve had an awesome month; I’m blessed that my parents were able to come to visit, and for such a substantial amount of time. No complaints here : )

In order to get these things though, I need to prioritize my workload. I was really hoping that I’d be able to keep blogging whilst they visited, but unfortunately I didn’t have the time. Now that they’ve gone, I have a number of looming deadlines to address, and that doesn’t include blogging. I really want to write but I don’t have the time to do justice to the millions of thoughts that are whirring away in my mind. I have still had time to read the posts that others are writing, so I thought that rather than write a rushed, garbled post of my own, I’d share some posts I’ve read over the past month that I have enjoyed. I get so much enjoyment/knowledge/motivation/inspiration/etc from the bloggers that I follow and so I wanted to share in the hope that you might enjoy them too. Far better to share inspiration than write a blog post about not writing a blog post – who wants to read that?!

My recommended reading list

  • EcoGrrl wrote a great post about how conventional beauty and advertising sell women the message that they aren’t good enough in order to shift their chemical-containing products. She’s taken so much time to research this and all women should read it:  Tuesday Go Ponder: Redbook’s Bevy of False Claims, Misleading Ads, and Shaming Women. [NB This link has been removed as it now points to a wrinkle-busting scam, and I can’t find the updated link. If you find it let me know!]
  • Journey to Ithaca shared a great post entitled Thoughts on “Rants”. I probably don’t need to explain what this is about. It begins with the line “I used to be a ranter”, and is thoughtful, well written and definitely has a lesson or two in there!
  • Westywrites is starting preparation for Plastic Free July next year early – 8 months early! She has so much energy and passion for the subject – check out Plastic-Free Me: An Introduction if you’re interested in trying to be more plastic-free (or any of her subsequent posts). Her enthusiasm is infectious!
  • I’ve also been following blog posts by A Girl Called Jack, who blogs about feeding a family for less than £10 but is also a campaigner for Oxfam and Child Poverty Action Group. That description doesn’t actually do her any credit – she’s opened my eyes to all kinds of issues, like foodbanks, benefits, poverty in the UK, how completely immoral the Daily Mail is (and I thought I knew this, but no, turns out they are worse than I could ever have imagined). She’s made me question my own feelings and actions regarding food, poverty and sustainability – in a good way – and I’m still processing all my thoughts.
  • Lastly I wanted to share with you Make it Your Job, a blog post considering why we get resentful and angry. It is the most recent post by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, a minimalist who embraces simple living. I think every post he writes is super inspiring.

Of course there’s many more amazing blog posts and writers out there who I love, but I don’t want to overload you all! I hope you enjoy some (or all) of these posts. I’m off to get on with my to-do list!

Having a simple, eco-friendly birthday

Last Thursday was my birthday. I’m not into having a big fuss made, and I struggle with the idea of presents, which potentially means getting a heap more stuff that I don’t really need. The more I travel down this road of minimalism/low waste/sustainability, the more I struggle with it, which combines with the fact that as every year passes by, I have less and less need for new things.

That being said, I am not at the point yet where I want to eschew all presents. I don’t really feel like I need presents to celebrate my birthday, yet there is something nice about acknowledging it – and I think people often feel that one needs the other. I pondered on requesting that nobody buys me anything – but it was only a couple of weeks before and would have been a little half-hearted. Read more

My public holiday nightmare… and some advice needed

This Monday was a public holiday here in Perth, and we had plans to take in Kings Park and the wildflowers and go for a leisurely walk around Lake Claremont, relaxing and generally enjoying the extra free time.

Until, on Sunday night, my boyfriend pulled a bag out of the wardrobe. “Do you think this is mould?”, he asked, showing me some white marks. Hmm, it did look like mould. We pulled a few more things out. More mould. The further we looked, the more we found. Arghh.

And so it was, we were able to make the most of the glorious weather that is so long overdue… Read more

Beware, the Diderot Effect

Have you ever bought something brand new, taken it home and positioned it pride of place amongst your other things, marveled at its shiny-ness… and then realised that your other things look slightly more drab than they did before? Slightly less satisfying, slightly more tired?

Have you ever felt that now your new shiny thing is making all your other stuff look bad, maybe it’s worth upgrading all of that too?

Before you act on you impulses and head straight back to the shops, be warned. It will only bring tragedy.

At least, that’s what happened to Denis Diderot.

Denis Diderot was an 18th Century French writer who was given the gift of a beautiful scarlet dressing gown. Initially he was very pleased with it. However, he felt his other possessions looked shabby in comparison, and slowly began replacing them with more luxurious ones that matched the splendour of the dressing-gown. His straw chair was replaced with a leather one, a wooden plank bookshelf was replaced with an amour, some unframed prints were replaced with more expensive artwork. Not only that, but new items were added: a writing desk, more art, a bronze clock with gold edging and a large mirror over the fireplace. He wanted his home to be as luxurious as he felt whilst wearing the gown.

These new purchases spiralled Diderot into debt, and led him to write the essay “Regrets on parting with my old dressing-gown, or a warning for those who have more taste than fortune”. He came to regret his new purchases, all the result of the scarlet dressing gown, and wished he had kept his familiar old dressing gown.

“I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one.”

Diderot was the first one to write about it, but the experience he writes about are actually a recognised social phenomenon – the process of spiralling consumption resulting from dissatisfaction brought about by a new possession. It’s called the Diderot Effect.

Next time you buy something new, you’ll probably feel some dissatisfaction with your old things. That’s understandable; no doubt the new thing is bright and polished and shiny and packaged splendidly. However, you can be mindful of these feelings without acting on them. Remember Diderot’s lesson. Let the feelings pass. There’s no need to rush out to the shops to replace everything else too. Shiny new things fade with time. Unpaid credit card bills don’t.

My 100 Things Challenge

I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed this week. It started with the washing. But it’s been a busy week too. I’ve had meetings, I’m currently participating in a course, I’m working with a couple of organisations on two different projects, I’m presenting next week on sustainable transport, all on top of all the regular stuff I need to do and all the things I want to do. I like to fill my time, get involved and keep busy, but then sometimes I stop and look at everything I’m planning to do, and I get that ‘whoah!‘ feeling where I don’t even know where to start.

And if my schedule is feeling cluttered, so is the physical place of my life, my tiny flat. I think, maybe, that when one aspect of your life is busy or cluttered you look for solace in the other parts. Well there’s no solace in the tiny flat! I talked a bit on Monday about how slowly I’ve been accumulating clothes, but it’s not just clothes. Yesterday we picked up our new sofa. It’s not actually new, but a bargain find from the Salvation Army charity shop, and we’d needed a new sofa since we sold the old one. (The old one had to go as it took up half the flat, literally, which I hadn’t realised when I bid on it on eBay because I didn’t actually bother to check the dimensions.) The new sofa allows us to seat people whilst leaving enough space in the tiny flat to fit in some storage so we no longer need to keep piles of things on the floor. Since losing the old sofa we got also got a set of drawers to put all the stuff in. Which is great…

Except the piles of stuff are still sitting around the place, or shoved in the drawers. They’ve not been sorted. I have that uneasy feeling that comes with not being entirely sure where any of your stuff is.

And the other thing that makes me uneasy, is this word ‘need’. We ‘needed’ the sofa. We ‘needed’ the drawers. We ‘needed’ the glass pyrex storage containers that I bought last week because we don’t have enough food storage. I feel like I’ve been spending like crazy and accumulating stuff, and when I look around the flat and in the cupboards I see too much stuff. It’s so easy to justify everything, to think it will make your life better, or easier. But all that stuff needs sorting, and tidying, and cleaning, and finding again when I’ve tidied it away and don’t remember where away actually is. And for all the new stuff that I ‘need’, there’s plenty of stuff that is no longer useful.

I love the idea of simplicity, but I am a natural hoarder. It’s a constant battle. I want to believe that those things will become useful again. Something has to tip me over the edge and push me into action. Well this week, that has happened. So whilst I’m still in the moment I’ve made a pledge. I’m going to get rid of 100 things.

I have no idea which 100 things. I have no idea if that’s a lot, or once I get started I’ll be able to get rid of 300 things. (Wouldn’t that be nice?!) All that stuff in the kitchen cupboards that I haven’t used since we moved in? That’s going. The clothes I haven’t worn since arriving in Australia? Out. The stuff in the bottom of the boxes that never got entirely emptied when we moved in? It’s not staying.

I’m going to give myself a month. And I’m putting it out here in a public forum because it should motivate me to actually go through with it! I’m hopeful that less clutter will mean a more positive environment, less stress, fewer chores (more time!) and more freedom.

Remember the film Fight Club? My friend and I were obsessed with it in school, particularly because of all the great quotes (there are many). Even now, I can remember many of them. I wanted to finish with one because I think it’s so true. It’s another reason to de-clutter your life.

“The things you own end up owning you.”

The weekend and the washing

laundryjpgI had a really great weekend. Friday night sushi and a rare trip to the theatre with my boyfriend (Death of a Salesman by the Black Swan State Theatre Company), a Saturday afternoon afternoon trip to Fremantle then dinner with friends on Saturday night, and lunch with family on Sunday afternoon. Busy, fantastic company, amazing food, loads of fun. Read more