We also stopped being quite so chuffed with ourselves for buying second hand…

Far too long ago I wrote a post promising to update you on how the year of nothing new changed my relationship with people. This is hard to write, and I am probably going to phrase things in the wrong manner. And if I cause offense, please forgive me.  This has been a while in the thinking, and can be a bit of a minefield.

Shopping second hand was a lot of fun most of the time, and even more so now that I know I can go to the shops and buy whatever we don’t find second hand. For us, it was a challenge based on ethical considerations. We felt pretty proud of our selves, about our ‘year of nothing new’ helping to save the world one pair of shoes at a time… hey, we even wrote a blog about it….

This pride ran alongside the intellectual knowledge that we are financially stable – we both have well paid, permanent jobs, with incredible benefits. We have a house, fully furnished, and after all our bills are paid we have money for fun and investment.  Why am I telling you this?

Because I had no idea.   I had no idea how many people in our community lived and how poor many people were. I mean, I knew the numbers, but not the reality and I probably still don’t.

I remember the moment it really struck home. We were at a charity shop, and the woman in front of us in the line paid with a voucher. I went to ask the cashier “You can buy gift vouchers? Awesome, presents solved!”  But I paused as it occurred to me, that voucher wasn’t a gift, it was a weekday, Thursday, and welfare distributed vouchers on Thursday.

This wasn’t a treat for this woman and her family; this was their clothes for a summer break;

  • swimmers? check,
  • towels? check,
  • boardies? check,
  • thongs? check.

The chef responded before I did, going back to hang back up a suit. The jacket had fit perfectly, but the slacks hadn’t.  It was a filler piece for him, but he realized that for someone in need it could be perfect.

After we left the store we pondered it for a little while, and both acknowledged we hadn’t really considered that our fun adventure was in fact how a lot of people lived.

We went home and  re-evaluated our wardrobes and as mentioned earlier in this post we began to remove clothes from our wardrobe that we no longer used. The Chef removed about four suits, and when offered suits from a family member declined them, but offered to take them to a good community center*. The reality was we were hoarding clothes when people in our community couldn’t afford to buy clothes.

We donated a lump sum to a community center’s annual appeal – because at that time, we could afford to do so, and others couldn’t afford to eat. (At the time it was a simple equation for us – but it’s not always, so only donate your time, money or stuff as you can afford to and want to.)

We also stopped being quite so chuffed with ourselves for buying second hand as … well, it was a bit of a dick move.  For many people, it’s not a choice.

Then Christmas came around, as Christmas is wont to do. And we unexpectedly had Christmas out in the Chef’s home town…. without a lot of lead time we had to find affordable, fun Christmas presents for 10 children between 3 and 15 (ok teenager).  So we bought some new stuff and some old stuff.

A couple of second have guitars were found, but we had to buy new music books and tuners; new toys for the toddlers (but of course, recycled, made of renewable resources, or a gift that the money went to an agency like the WWF, ‘cause that’s how we roll) and my inspired idea, a triple set of suitcases filled with costumes, masks and craft activities for one family of three girls.

The suitcases were found second hand, and the fillers were sourced mostly second hand with a visit to the dollar shop for some more craft stuff. To fill the costume boxes meant a mad day running all over town to every second hand shop to find children’s costumes, we ended up with a dinosaur, a spider man, a pirate, an native American, some princess crowns, fun hats and glasses, and some faux fur jackets. A pretty good haul and – a success as a Christmas present.

We’d spent just under $300 and had gotten all the kids a fun gift that (hopefully) they’ll actually use. And it was fun, thinking outside the box for presents… which is what it was for us.

For many people we saw at the second hand shops, those shops were the only way they could afford presents for their children for Christmas. I’m not saying that Christmas is about the presents, it’s not,  but it was eye-opener to see a five year old understand that mum couldn’t afford that $2 second hand my little pony. Or how distressed a parent would become when they realized they’d bought too much up and couldn’t afford it all. Or, seeing older people, immaculately groomed, collecting groceries from the community center and walk alone back to the bus stop with their bags.  Or a refugee asking a neighbor if they had any spare clothes to send back to Africa, because their family there was in more need (A group of us did a clothes swap and what wasn’t re homed went to said refugee).

This isn’t distant or removed; these are our neighbors, our colleagues, our classmates.  It really bought home to us was how lucky we are – to have the jobs, the education, the family and the opportunities to be as financial stable as we are. It doesn’t mean we’ll give it all away, but it  does mean we value the right things more; the time to spend with people, good food with friends,  a heater that works every time we need it, or being able to afford the doctor’s when I need to, and buy the medications I need.  It means we are more conscious of giving back to the community, whether money (like the aid appeal for Vanuatu after the cyclone), collecting and donating youth novels to a youth refuge, campaigning to set up donated libraries on campus (fun books, none of your text book nonsense), or just running our neighbors bin up for them.

It means we endeavor to make educated decisions about our purchases. Where is it from? Who benefits? Is it ethical? Is it renewable?  Can we buy something for a little more or slightly different that gives back to the community?

So yes, I still buy frivolous shoes, but we try to balance that consumerism these days with thoughtful consideration and giving back to our community, locally, nationally and globally.

*Seriously, if you want to donate something really useful, donate good men’s shoes to someone like Communities at Work (https://commsatwork.org/ ) – why? Because they don’t receive many in good repair and good shoes for men make a real difference, at formals, job interviews, or weddings.

 

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Rubber Ducky….

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So a month has passed and I have not posted  my three happy things a day… Why? Not because there aren’t any happy things, but because by the time I get home from the gym post work, commune with my chooks for half an hour, help with dinner (see “sit with a glass of wine and chat”)  and do whatever chore has to be done it’s time for bed and I have a strictly “no electronics devices in the bed” rule which means that I always think I’ll do it tomorrow morning.

And then I get to work and have to hit the day running and suddenly it is 9 pm and my phone is telling me time for bed.  ( yeah, about that, I now have an alarm to remind me to go to bed)

So to cram a month of awesomeness into one post

 Firstly stuff from “the list…”

  • I wore a sari ( and looked amazing if I may say so) IMG_4431
  • Went to the multicultural festival  (meat on a stick, beer, and sangria… nom nom)
  • hosted the first shindig of 2015
  • (And having some of neighbours attend with their adorable toddler who had been taught to  say my name…very sweet!)
  • Made our first photo book! (only 6 to go???)
  • Had my second fitness assessment at theGym (not that I hit the numbers I’d dreamt of, but I’m fitter than I was)
  • Starting Iyengar yoga – AMAZING!

Other random awesome stuff

  • Seeing lots of out of town friends
  • The chooks being super happy in their new enlarged enclosure
  • Buying new jeans… OMG
  • Made an adorable baby shower cake for a colleague (see above)
  • Recovered and repainted our outdoor furniture (check out this blog)
  • Helping my mum rehang a lot of her art work to give her house a face lift
  • Finding out Harper Lee is publishing the “sequel” to “To Kill a mockingbird”
  • Cleaning out my linen cupboard and taking lots of stuff the charity shop

And this – A story – this makes me smile very time I think about, and I’ll try to  pass on the awesomeness of my trip to buy milk.

Picture summer, at the local grocery shop, and mum with three boys, under 10 – at a guess I’d say twins with a friend?

One twin is wearing chino shorts, a collared shirt, complete with shirt braces and a bow tie.   Oh my?! Do I spy a little whovian?  But wait, it gets better – this boy stops, listens to the music, and precedes to dance to Beyoncé’s “put a ring on it” and his friends (siblings?) drop into formation – all finished with hair toss and strut down the aisle.  Mum? She just keeps shopping like this normal. Parenting done right.

Seriously – made my week.

Something Wicker this way comes ( or, how to rejuvenate old cane furniture)

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A year or so  ago we built this amazing deck, white washed wood, open smooth spaces that intersect perfectly with the lawn, and looking out to a fishpond… all in all an amazing outdoor space.

Pity about the furniture.

We had some hand me down sofas from my mum out on the deck but they were quite visually heavy and weren’t really outdoor appropriate.  We re homed them to a friend, who loves them and hopefully they’ll see 40 ( they’re already 26 years old!). We then tried some second hand Ikea furniture, but again, not really outdoor furniture and didn’t provide yours truly with the right support to lounge with a book.   Those too have found a ‘forever home’ with a friend ( and the longevity that comes with being inside).

So rather than standing awkwardly on the deck we’d looked at shops, on line, at second hand sales, everywhere really, to find a set we liked, and we ran up against two things. A) outdoor furniture is REALLY expensive or B) it is often poorly made so is both uncomfortable and won’t last long.

So we decided to make and or uprecycle a set.

What we had found for $75 was an old cane furniture set at the tip.  For an extra $50 we had it delivered home.  We’d been looking for a while, but we wanted a completed set, that we really liked and that was in  in fairly good condition so that we would get at least 5 years out of it. It did have to be painted as the original varnish had come off, and repainting would add years of life to it.


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We found this set.  Which then sat on the deck for months untouched.  And – using a party as inspiration to get our act together- we finished it in four days.

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This is what we did;

Divide and conquer works with DIY projects – The chef was assigned the job of painting the set and I was assigned the job of covering the cushions.

Lets start with painting;

Materials

  • A paint spray gun
  • Two liters of outdoor paint  ( we used the left over paint form our deck)
  • Drop sheets (lots)
  • A Wire brush

Method; 

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brush the cane with a wire brush- this removes any lose varnish/dirt

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Buy, rent or borrow a paint spray gun

 

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While the gun is empty use it to blow air across the furniture to remove any dust

Once you’ve prepped the surface find a big space with good ventilation and  that you don’t mind if the ground gets painted.   Spread the drop sheets far and wide. Seriously – spray guns send paint everywhere…

Place the furniture upside down on the spread sheet.  Always start on the underneath of the furniture – this means you can figure out what you’re doing where no else can see it and that you get a better finish on the top.

Load up your paint gun using the instructions supplied with it, as they do vary machine to machine, then slowly and methodically spray the furniture.  We weren’t aiming for a super thick layer as our deck is white washed, but two layers looked like this.  IMAG0603 IMAG0600

Whilst he finished that- I worked away inside at cushions.  Back in the day, like 10 years ago, I was a more then competent sewer, but since then the most I have done is sew a button back on.

I figured square cushions was an easy place to start…. so

Materials

  • New outdoor foam for the seats X 4
  • A bundle of second hand thrown cushions (washed in 60 Celsius to make more hygienic)
  • 4-5 meters of matching marine fabric for the covers – We had grey for the sofa, bright blue for one chair and black for the second, plus some random colors for throw cushions)  
  • An overlocker
  • A sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • A measuring tape
  • And an un-picker is you’re as uncoordinated as me

Method 

To be honest – I was pretty ad hoc about the whole thing, I used the sewing machine manual to teach me out to install a zip and kind of went from there. I was sewing cubes so as long the seams were straight it seemed to work out ( with some unpicking….)

I could have made it easier for myself by measuring, but I had lost my measuring tape that week so was doing things like “Well that’s one and half tea towel lengths…” not a genius way to do it.

Anyway – with luck and an over-locker it worked out and we now have a great, individual out door furniture set for just under $400 (or $800 if you include the sewing machine and over-locker).

And I have some where to lounge.

 

 

 

Lesson One: New shoes and Smaller Wardrobes

We’ve both been asked recently how the year of nothing new went.  And I had to think about it. The query was just after a weekend that we’d gone shopping, second hand, but I’d also bought new shoes for the first time in a year.

I’ll talk about clothes first – as I genuinely think after last years experience that our culture’s relationship with clothing is broken.  We all have that friend that “only owns X amount of shoes” or “ only travels with carry-on luggage”  and we speak about them in hushed tones of awe. Why?

Because most of us have cupboards over flowing with clothing and shoes. We travel with 23 kilos of clothes for one weekend, and buy a new dress for every wedding we go to. And hey, if you’re the bride, there is a serious chance you’re wearing the sartorial equivalent of a house deposit.  (And we don’t think this is weird…?!)

Which brings me to what the challenge taught me about clothing.

In the first 6 months of the challenge I doubled my wardrobe with second hand clothes (and then some). If it fit I bought it even if I wasn’t sure, and because it was second hand it was cheap, and I could buy more.

But as the year went I stopped buying everything that fit… I had to be seriously fond of it, it had to be quality and it had to be in great condition. And I started culling what I wasn’t wearing.  If I took it off after putting it on in the morning it went into the donation pile, which grew very quickly. If the item stayed there for 2 months it was donated. Joel started doing the same and we both noticed our wardrobes were not only shrinking, but had become smaller than before we’d started the challenge.

We found that by buying only second hand we’d removed ourselves from the cult of clothing. Which achieved two things, one, I don’t feel that I need to buy when I enter a shop, and two, that if I do buy something, I don’t in fact have to keep it forever. Suddenly it was OK to donate a cocktail dress I’d only worn once – rather than hoard it ‘because I might wear it again’.  And if a piece of clothing didn’t make me feel good, I was allowed to part with it. I owned it. Not vice versa.

Not one person looked at us last year and said we looked unfashionable (though no doubt some thought it…) and that shifted our attitude from “this so NOW”, to, “does this make me look and feel my best?” and consequently we had more compliments on our appearance because we dressed for ourselves and allowed our quirks to come through.

It has inspired us to pursue the micro wardrobe (this is a great blog about it  http://theproject333.com/how-to-build-a-capsule-wardrobe/) and just generally remove the clutter from our lives.

The process isn’t only in the wardrobe but throughout the house.  A few weeks ago I cleaned out our bedroom, and gave it a face lift  (check it out here) , and in that shuffle alone we took 6 chairs to the green shed,  (6 Chairs in a bedroom,  Seriously?  Yep, seriously. I have a yen for funky vintage wooden chairs).

And the year changed my relationship to my body – if I couldn’t find something that didn’t fit, it wasn’t about  me, it meant a) someone the same size as me had already found all the treasures, or b) only people smaller than me had donated recently.

So, I am bigger than many, and smaller then some. But that is OK – I’m still me and I am as healthy as I can be right now. I am training and eating better, but that’s a long term investment for me and mine, not about fashion.

The second big lesson was very different as, for lack of a better phrase, it removed the clutter in how we relate to people… that’s harder to write so I’ll update you next week.

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These are the shoes, aren’t they fabulous?

Something new….

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Last night we cracked… WE WENT SHOPPING.  Big deal I hear you say, but after a year of (mostly) nothing new we finally gave in and went out to spend….on linen… Whoa! Slow down there I hear you say! On linen? How is that possibly exciting?

Because Wednesday night I had the alarming epiphany – our bedroom was no longer nice…  it was rumpled and sad, the  pillowcases had holes, the doona was stained, the sheer curtains missing, one lamp was broken, the floor under the bed used for dust bunny breeding and DIY project storage. There were no candles, no clean clear surfaces, no unity… just, well a rumpled (albeit comfortable) bed, and crowded dressers…making the bed every day wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  I realized that knowing renovations were in the foreseeable future had meant we’d stopped doing nice things to our home and our home had therefore stopped being nice to us…!

So I googled.. ‘romantic bedrooms’, ‘sexy bedrooms’, ‘beautiful bedrooms’  … they all talked about peaceful colours, multiple lighting points (three at least, two for reading and one that illuminates without being a stadium light), why to avoid yellow light, soft floor furnishings, why cushions are GOOD, and why flowers are a must have (some also talked about mirrored ceilings, leather bed heads and cold showers, I choose to ignore those).

I didn’t have a big budget, so we decided around  $200 or so to upgrade our bedroom, including new sheets and here my princess certainly comes out… I love high thread count… WE love high thread count… so that budget had to include 1000 thread sheets. Good thing there was a sale on!

At a spotlight sale the budget stretched to cover new sheer curtains, a queen sheet set of 1000 thread count, 4 more pillowcases, and  two throw cushions… and we then blew the budget by $50 by buying a very cool stylised throw cushion with a camera on it. When we go home I banished Joel to the kitchen and proceeded to ‘dress’ the room.

I pulled out our tallboys and put them in the guest room, because you know what? Contrary to my previous belief system, guests don’t need an independent room that is shrouded in their absence, that room can be our dressing room in-between guests.  Our matching ‘dressing chairs’ (which are super cute I still think)  went out to the  “dressing room” ( guest room…)  so all I was left with was the dust bunnies and the bed. The bed was moved to give more space and then I started putting stuff back in. An old velvet winged back chair that we recoloured years ago became a corner piece, a bit decadent, a bit battered and otherwise hiding in the study, dressed with a stellar cushion a talented niece made (also a handy reminder for the names of all ten as well!). IMAG0584

Two fabulous old re-purposed missile crates that used to be our TV stand and coffee table – (we’ve come up in the world – we now have a heirloom teak coffee table from some friends… and an Ikea TV cabinet second hand….),  and also a very paint stained set of steps were used.  The steps and one crate became the bedside tables, the other crate placed in the corner. Even better, the crates double as shoe storage…

I raided the rest of the house for things to dress the room with, in the corner I placed a vase (the flowers are fake at the moment – mid summer and flowers are not a good mix), candles, nice smelly stuff and a tea tray – because I’ve decided among other things a pot of tea on weekends in bed is the best idea ever, on my bedside table a Buddha I covered in silver leaf years ago, and on the walls a painting by my aunt, a brilliant artist and an art deco poster from a cruise we went on a few years ago.

Then I hung the gauze curtains, straightened the doona cover, elegantly placed the ‘throw cushions’ and bam! New bedroom!  The before photos are pretty ghastly as my phone in its final death throws but the afters a pretty awesome.

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Before….

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Clutter, stuff, and no breathing room

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Corner crate with tea tray

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Freshly made bed… *sigh*

Now I’m on the hunt for some soft floor coverings….

(And best thing – last night Joel went out to buy new bulbs… turns out the lamp wasn’t broken…  and nice lighting it fabulous!)

Summer Garden

I have sadly neglected the garden over the past  few months – Joel’s been awesome, me not so much. But the best thing is our garden for the most part seems to be thriving on benign neglect. I thought I’d share how much our veggies patches have taken off…

Before…3 months ago…

 

wicking beds

Yesterday….

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Nom nom nom… all the tomatoes… in there we have MANY tomatoes, strawberries, corn, lettuce,  onion, garlic, jalapenos, herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme), nasturtiums, beans, potatoes and pumpkin!

And we’ve only had to water once since we installed them which was after 4 week period with no rain. It has been fabulous! So far the wicking beds have been success and if you’re keen to try check out how here