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Year of Zero – third quarter review

Well accountability partners, it’s the end of September already and time for my 3rd quarter review of the Year of Zero. This year is simultaneously dragging on at a snail’s pace and flashing before our eyes like a racing car. COVID19 remains in the headlines and continues to cause massive disruption. 

It’s hard not to become complacent about hygiene and social distancing restrictions. However, it is obvious the impact will be long-lived and wide-ranging. 

My Year of Zero and the resultant frugality has given me some stability and a focus for my energies which have (as I have reported) been waning. I am on track to achieve my savings goal. 

3 old fridges being used as mailboxes!
Repurposing fridges as letter boxes

My self-report in the declared categories follows:

  1. No overseas travel

Once again nope! None! I couldn’t if I had wanted to! An easy win!

Score: 10/10

  1. No extended travel within Australia

I have had some short intrastate trips this quarter. 

  • Twice to visit family on the mid-North Coast,
  • An overnight stay on Cockatoo Island 
  • A weekend jaunt to Armidale with family 
  • When this post is published I will be in Broken Hill with a friend. 

These trips fit in with my allowed short adventures category and have been within the budget set. Plus I can add that I have been helping it the economies of our struggling tourist sector.

The Old Leyland  P76!
The Old Leyland p76 in a scrap metal pile!

Score: 10/10

  1. No new stuff

My goal is to buy no new items and only replace things that have broken or worn out. I have done better this quarter than at the half-year review.

Allowed items: 

  • I did some more wardrobe decluttering and bought a couple of new-to-me items from the op shop.
  • I had to buy another new car seat for my Grandson because the other new one I got was not suitable and a bit uncomfortable.

Items not on the list:

  • I bought three new books. I did originally lend them from the library but ended up deciding to buy them as reference books. 
  • The other purchase I made were some silicone muffin cases to cut down on using single-use patty cases. 
  • A replacement for the travel cup I made before and then smashed 🙁

Score: 8/10

  1. Reduction in expenditure on groceries

After a big hit last quarter, I made some really good savings this time around. I was able to live from my pantry and freezer for another  6 weeks. I managed to use up everything this time and I did very little cooking. I bought some fruit and fresh green veggies and that was it. It wasn’t the most interesting menu BUT I feel good that I wasn’t wasting stuff. 

Score: 10/10

  1. Side Hustle Happenings

I may as well just copy what I wrote last time. Except for one course at the community college, all my earnings came from the day job.

Score: 2/10

  1. Only sign up for free courses

I only did one course this quarter. A Mindfulness in Schools course. It wasn’t free, but my school paid for it so, theoretically it was free for me. I didn’t sign up for any other courses, not even free online ones. I am not sure whether that means I should give myself 10/10 or 0/10 for not doing anything new?

On reflection one of the books I borrowed was about how to meditate so this was almost like a course….

As I wrote in some earlier posts, my motivation has been running pretty low. I watched a lot of Netflix this quarter.

Score: 6/10 (as a compromise)

  1. Sell some of my stuff

Once again not really possible. 

Score: 1/10

  1. Concentrate on free activities

If you count Netflix as a free activity I aced this one! I’ve watched SO much telly this quarter. Some new (to me) series like Schitt’s Creek, Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid Heat. (Amazing!!), Line of Duty Season 5. Crappy movies, re-watching some old favourites like Offspring and so much more I can’t remember.  I didn’t even have the energy to be inventive in the vein of my Hugh Grant Film Festival. I just vegged! 

Score: 10/10

  1. Rewrite/revisit my 60 for 60 goals

I can cross off Broken Hill road trip and astrophotography this quarter. Not free but it’s two more items off the list. 

Score: 6/10

  1. Zero-waste-eco-warrior

I am maintaining a steady course with this goal. My zero-waste kit has come in handy several times now. I have stopped using tea bags, and single-serve coffee mixes replacing them with loose leaf tea and ground coffee. A double win here as it tastes better as well as saving on waste. My goal is to continue to find more ways to reduce plastic packaging. I have found a way to recycle the plastic blister packs from my contact lenses locally.  

Score: 7/10

  1. Year of Zero Booze

Winner winner chicken dinner! Still going strong with no booze and on 30th September it will be 276 days. Kombucha, the occasional zero alcohol beer and herbal tea are still doing the trick. 

Score 10/10

This quarter my score on the frugal-o-meter is once again 67%! It certainly seems like I’m a glass three quarter’s full person!

Furious Fiction 15 -September 2020

You know the drill! Another month, another Furious Fiction story. This month I had to deviate from my Frankie adventure as one of the prompts was a picture of a cruise ship.

The prompts for September 2020 wereScreen Shot 2020-09-07 at 20.29.48

Check out the Australian Writers Website to see who wins Furious Fiction this month.


Stevie and Nic’s Romance at Sea.

“Should we go inside?” Stevie asked “It’s starting to get cold. We don’t want to get sick, not now!”

“Wait a little longer? We can watch the sunset one last time.” Nic replied

“Stay here and I’ll get us a jacket. We can switch sides and watch the moon rise too.”

Nic liked that about Stevie.  So thoughtful and romantic, sprinkling the world with loving-kindness wherever they went.

It was hard to believe they had met less than a month ago. Nic had first spied Stevie sitting in a full lotus position at the Yawn-Dawn Yoga Class. Decked out in white baggy pants, tight singlet and one of those stretchy bandana things that claim you can wear them fifteen different ways, Stevie was the epitome of stylish serenity.

Nic?  Well, Nic couldn’t even hold tree pose for more than 15 seconds without a significant death wobble cascading the tree to king dancer to forward fold all with the grace of an elephant.

“Did anyone notice?” Nic asked themselves as they stayed head-down-bum-up in the only pose they knew they had mastered: downward dog.

Stevie had noticed. Yes, Stevie had certainly noticed Nic. Nic was so unsure of themselves. Their perky energy not harnessed or restrained, but bubbling over in a torrent of words as if they feared the silence. Feared silence and the thoughts it may bring.

When they had introduced themselves to each other,  Nic started laughing.

“Haha we must have been made for each other! Stevie Nic,” Pointing from one to the other. “You know, like Stevie Nicks! The singer…” Their voice trailing off as they realised that  Stevie had in fact, got the joke. Realising it wasn’t that funny and they were probably just making themselves look sillier by the second. Contrary to Nic’s fears, Stevie felt like they had scored the winning goal and found a potential life partner.

By coincidence, their 8-day cruise had been extended by another 14 days. The cruise company said the all-expenses-paid extension was a beyond their control. Many of the other passengers complained. For Stevie and Nic, it was a chance to cement their relationship even further. No point whinging, whichever way you sliced it they had more time to spend together.  More time to discover if this holiday romance had hope once they were on land.

****

Stevie came back up on deck and broke Nic’s reverie. They put their jackets over their shoulders and kissed softly.

“Last day tomorrow,”  Nic sighed.

“Yes, back to normal, well new normal anyway!”

“Yes, new normal.”

*****

In the morning as they lined up to disembark they had to wait for the Medical Officer to stamp their forms.

COVID-SAFE in bold red letters.

This passenger has been isolated for 14 days and tested negative for COVID.

They walked gingerly down the gangway into a barrage of questions from the jostling media frenzy, “What was it like? How many people died?”

New normal indeed.


Gender ambivalent storytelling?

I am hoping it is a gender-ambivalent story and that Stevie and Nic could both be male or female or neither. The story is not about gender but about people making the best of a tough situation. It was a new experience for me to deliberately use nongendered pronouns to replace he/she and him/her.  Some of that difficulty arises from it not being my usual form of speaking or writing and also because they/them frequently refer to a plural form.

I am not sure if I succeeded and this story was penned in the final few hours of the Furious Fiction’s competition window after I had tried to force Frankie onto a ship, then developed 3 other stories lines before hitting on the Stevie and Nic story. It’s not my best story, but I got it done!

497 words submitted at 20:15 on Sunday night.

 

Is it just me or is everyone in a COVID funk??

a train station with empty platforms

Am I suffering (post)-COVID funk? Last week I talked about the idea of mini habits suggested by Stephen Guise and the strategies used by Michele Bridges in her 12WBT Challenge (12 Week Body Transformation) as ways of getting myself off the couch, or more correctly out of bed and into action.

Let me set a few things straight, it’s not that I am NOT exercising or eating OK it’s just that I know I can do better.  A lot better. I know that once it’s done I feel GOOD after I have exercised first thing in the morning. That smug sense of self-satisfaction gives me a real boost for the rest of the day. My problem has been maintaining or re-establishing my preferred routine.

There have been two factors that have led to my routine crashing around my feet, one novel and one that happens every year. Firstly, the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 and the second, winter.

Been here, done that, sort of.

I can see from my Facebook memories that this time last year and the year before and most likely the year before that, I was in a similar space. On top of that, we have COVID.

Speaking with friends, reading social media posts and a quick search of “post COVID funk” on Google shows that I am definitely not alone.  There are a plethora of articles already published claiming   we’re all feeling like this. That is, unmotivated and not liking it.

Articles published by the Sydney Morning Herald right through to a blog post about getting back into your bass guitar practice are offering support and advice.

The advice is consistent. Get off social media and get outside (after you finish reading this post of course). Stop watching the news. Eat well, sleep better, connect with friends.

The bass guitar blog even agrees with me on the benefits of mini habits

It is common to hope for motivation to show up to make us want to practice. But a more useful strategy is for us to show up for a small, doable task – regardless of motivation being involved or not – and then celebrate the fact that we did the task.

Motivation is overrated.

Regular short practice bits (and feeling better about ourselves for having done them!) are underrated.

Focus on a short task – one scale, one verse of a song, one technique exercise. Then high five yourself for having done them. The good feeling the high five creates will have you coming back tomorrow. (If you want to know more about this, check out this book).

More serious concerns

My personal situation is not a dramatic problem and I anticipate my laziness will begin to evaporate once we head towards spring and the mornings are brighter and warmer. I have a secure “essential job”, I have a house where I can retreat to if needed. I really have very little to worry about.

There are real concerns that some people will develop more serious health issues and potentially post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the months of uncertainty and stress. For many Australians, particularly those on the east coast, COVID hit when we weren’t yet over the devastating fires of summer. Just as families were getting back on their feet, we were locked inside. Health care workers and other “front line” people haven’t had a chance to catch their breath. They have lurched from one crisis to another.

According to a report from The Black Dog Institute (one of Australia’s peak mental health bodies) people who have had  positive diagnosis of COVID-19 are also at a specially high risk.

“In past pandemics, patients who experienced severe and life-threatening illnesses were at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, months to years following their illness [12, 13]. Appropriate systems and supports need to be put in place to screen patients, especially hospitalised patients who have survived COVID-19, to screen for common mental health problems and to provide appropriate psychological supports.”

Problem solved.

I have spent enough time wallowing and when I look at the hardship some others are experiencing, I am embarrassed. I need to recognise the privilege I have and stop whingeing! I’m going to use the idea of mini habits and JFDI to drag myself up by the shoelaces and get out there and exercise.

Next month, I  am going to look more closely at mini habits or more specifically Tiny Habits. I will post a review and executive summary of  the Tiny Habits book by BJ Fogg. (Similar idea to Guise’s mini Habits)

In the meantime,  I am off for a run.


If you are suffering from severe anxiety and are seeking more useful help than I am talking about here please reach out to people who can help.  There are some great resources here at the Black Dog Institute’s website.

Australian readers can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for mental health support.

The Search for the Missing Mojo Begins! 

Last week I declared that my mojo was missing. I reported my feelings of laziness and malaise. Exercise has become a chore and eating right a battle. The anxiety monster is lurking just around the corner waiting to pounce on me if I let it. Last week’s goal was to start searching for answers.

Perhaps it’s not mojo I’m looking for?

As a first step, I decided to define a few terms. What even is mojo? Am I using the term correctly? Googling led me to this:

1ZoqnzE0nzLuetceuE9Sby61Olhscfit7ylDyIAwwMKWxOJZy7dmbTdObytOhUSs

Am I looking for mojo? Or am I looking for enthusiasm? Is it motivation I need or more willpower?  Some further search terms lead me to this blog article

Should I Get Motivated Or Use Willpower? The Ultimate Guide For Taking Action When You Don’t Feel Like It

Now that sounds like what I’m after!

According to the author, Stephen Guise, you are better off relying on willpower and habit rather than motivation. He defines motivation as a desire to take action, whereas willpower is forcing yourself to take action even if you don’t feel like it. Creating habits is the ultimate goal. When something is a habit you don’t have to make a decision, you just do it because you have built it into your life. I’d recommend the article. It’s long but his writing style is easy, amusing and straight forward. He has a book to sell called Mini Habits.

Working SMARTer

Guise recommends taking action even when you feel unmotivated. Just get out and do it.  This is the same strategy Michelle Bridges uses in her 12 Week Body Transformation Program. (12WBT)

Her motto is  JFDI (just f*^%#$ do it!)

Just get out of bed. Don’t think about it! Just put your workout gear on, don’t think about it. Once you start, you’ll keep going.

I have signed up for the 12WBT three times in the past, and every time it has worked well for me. I’ve gotten fitter and stronger. At the conclusion of the 12-week program, I have felt empowered, healthy and proud.

Why does this style of program work so well for me and others? It boils down to a few simple factors:

  1. The program isn’t free. The fact that I’ve paid for it is a huge part of its  success for me. The idea of wasting money if I don’t stick to it is an important external motivator.
  2. It’s for a well defined period of time. Long enough to see results, short enough to maintain interest.
  3. It is measurable. There are some very carefully planned milestones that involve actual measuring including a weekly weigh-in and a monthly fitness test. On top of that, you take your body measurements every four weeks.
  4. The program asks you to set mini-milestones and a final goal. For my last round, these goals were timed running events and culminated in a final event where I aimed to crack the 56-minute mark. (missed by 5 seconds!)
  5. There is a supportive online and IRL* community attached. I didn’t join in on this aspect much but it was there if I wanted it.

That list sounds very familiar and a lot like SMART goals. That is goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Make a start – even if its small

While SMART goals are a tried and true strategy for many people, Guise suggests another option. Using brute force! In a strategy, he calls ‘taking stupid small steps” he suggests you take a very small action which you repeat over and over again until it  ‘turns into a powerful, healthy habit.’

The idea is to force yourself to do one push up (or another similarly very small step), then do another and then another and before you know it you’ve done a workout. Guise says that harnessing the power of stupid small steps will increase your willpower, stamina, build momentum, lead to action rather than just thinking about taking action and finally bring a greater level of consistency.

Here’s a good summary of the idea.

What’s next in the mojo hunt.

My Year of Zero precludes me from signing up for another round of 12WBT so I am just going to wing it on my own with a very strong mini habits flavour thrown in. I’ll set some milestones, do some measurements and give myself 12 weeks to whip myself back into shape. I have a 5 km race booked in for December. Maybe I can get down to 25 minutes. (My previous best time is 26 minutes)

Yep, that’s what I’m gonna do…Starting next week…I really really mean it this time! 


Next week’s post: I know I’m not alone in this potentially COVID induced funk. Next week I’ll examine the possibility of this lack of motivation being a bigger shared problem. 

* IRL = In real life

 

 

 

Losing your mojo

Lighthouses of scotland - Kinnaird Head Lighthouse

Mojo no-go!

If you were browsing through my past posts dear reader, you would be excused for thinking that I am a paragon of virtue. You’d see that I exercise regularly, look after my gut bacteria, care for the planet, meditate, volunteer, make stuff from scratch and can make a darn fine photo. My curated self is a frugal homemaker, a canny traveller and witty writer.

Darn! I might just nominate myself for “Domestic Goddess of the Year” while I’m at it because I can cook and sew and when I put my mind to it I CAN make flowers grow.

Steel Street - Cringila
What’s stopping me?

Excuse me; have you seen my Mojo?

Just of late though, like many other people in the world, I am in serious danger of losing my mojo. My get up and go is close to getting up and going, except it’s too lazy to put its shoes on. 

The dark, cold mornings are making it tough to rise and shine and do the exercise I know will make me feel refreshed. The spectre of coronavirus particles lurking on the gym equipment has kept it a no-go zone.

My knees and hips might be enjoying the interlude from pounding the pavement but my tightening waistband is reminding me of the self-sabotaging messages being sent to my brain. “Stay in bed,”  my knees say, “you can exercise this afternoon,” chime in my hips. “Snuggle under the blankets a little longer…”

Winning mojo medals
I’m not winning mojo medals right now!

On other fronts, my diet has been marginal and my gut bacteria are in danger of switching to the dark side!  I have gained 3 kg in 3 months. I still fit into the healthy weight range but my curves sure aren’t flattening! If I keep on this trend I’ll be tipping into unhealthy before I know it.

I am sticking to my no alcohol for a year pledge and more or less sticking to my Year of Zero spending goals, but these are negative or passive goals, I don’t actually have to do anything to make them happen.

My rational self knows that something will happen in the afternoon that makes exercising impossible.  I KNOW that the best time for me to exercise is in the morning before the rest of the world intrudes. I KNOW THIS! I know that my mood is better and my brain more sprightly when I eat well. I KNOW THIS TOO!

I have discussed my plan for living in some previous posts. I use goal setting and big picture thinking. I have thought about this before.

So why am I struggling?

Where did the Mojo go?

Why is it that sometimes we can be at the top of our game, pumping on all cylinders and slam-dunking the goals we set ourselves, while at other times we self-implode and eat the whole packet of Tim Tams?

Is there such a thing as motivation fatigue? Am I just in a COVID-funk? Do I need to find different goals?

I’ve been here before and I know I’ll get over it. I know I need external accountability but is there another tactic I could try?

The Mojo-quest begins.

I’m looking for answers to find my misplaced mojo! I have started to research by reading books, listening to podcasts and falling down into a  deep YouTube Vortex.  Join me on my quest to find the path to the Mojo warehouse and let me know what works for you. Over the next few posts*, I’ll be writing about my findings and I’ll share the treasure map by summarising the salient points from the source materials.

Mind you it might not be next week… I might still be in bed!

 

Smart Mojo
Having a specific time-bound goal that I sign up for, helps my mojo stay on track.


* You see what I did there? I set myself an accountability trap! 🙂

Know your currawongs

Currawongs vs Magpies

At a recent family gathering where physical distancing was strictly enforced, my dear Uncle pointed out that in my blog post about the Victorian Fortifications at Middle Head, I had made a mistake!

I had incorrectly identified magpies as currawongs. This is a grave error and my family of amateur but deadly serious twitchers were somewhat disturbed by my rookie faux pas.  There was a great deal of comment about my journalistic credentials and accusations of “fake news”.

I, therefore, apologise most humbly for my error and all future posts which include the identification of native Australian birds will be subject to strict quality checking by the newly established Family Ornithological Committee.

I’d like to thank my most esteemed Uncle for not calling me out publically and highlighting my error in the comments section.

🙂

These are magpies, not currawongs.

Check out the cheeky magpies at this site

 

Magpies have a lighter coloured beak and extensive white markings. There are significant regional differences between magpies. Juveniles are grey. They should also not be confused with pee-wees which are much smaller. Currawongs, on the other hand, have a black beak and only a small amount of white on their under-tail area. I don’t have a photo of a currawong or pee-wees to share.

Furious Fiction 14 – August 2020

Another month, another attempt at the Australian Writers’ Centre’s Furious Fiction Competition. 500 words in 55 hours for a $500 prize.

This month the criteria were

  • Your story must contain HUMOUR/COMEDY (which is defined).
  • Your story must include the following five words: DIZZY, EXOTIC, LUMPY, TINY, TWISTED.
  • Your story must include a sandwich.

 

If you have been following my stories over the last few months, you’ll know I have centred them around Frankie the Flamboyant Dresser.  Last month, I couldn’t progress the story because there was no wedding or funeral needed in Frankie’s world.

This month’s criteria fell into Frankie’s lap! I was looking for a way to create a bridge between him meeting his kindred spirit, George in the Gibson Desert, to his arrest and entrapment in the park. This story gets me part of the way there. Next month, with suitable criteria I can make to next leap.

On the other hand, I am also looking for a route to the finale where Judge O’Mallory, Andrea and Frankie join forces. But that’s beginning to give too much away!


Fried up Kombi

Teetering on the window sill of the 18-wheeler rig, George was making exploratory darts left and right, up and down with his boot searching for any foothold to stop him from dropping to the ground or falling into the cab completely.

Attempting to charm the driver, a lumpy-arsed blue-singleted specimen, he agreed that yes it was a long way, but it really wasn’t that far out of his way to take them to Perth.  Or…  no… no worries, if that didn’t work for him, Adelaide would be fine too. Just anywhere other than here next to the fried-up Kombi.

Frankie, George’s companion, couldn’t resist the obvious next line, “Just smile and give him a Vegemite sandwich George! That’ll convince him!”

George twisted his neck out of the window at such an angle, that Frankie thought his head would snap right off and onto the road.

“Shut up Frankie!” George hissed “He’s agreed to take us to Adelaide. Stop acting like a dick!”

Frankie held his finger to his mouth in an exaggerated shush, “Yes Boss!”

Seconds later, Frankie was twerking down the road like an exotic dancer, singing to himself. He stopped abruptly and spun around  “Hey, where exactly is Brussels, anyway?”

Shrivelling away from George’s withering glance, Frankie spun back around and continued his dancing only to stop even more abruptly before exclaiming “Shit, I’m dizzy!” and spewing all over the road.

That ended George’s discourse with the lumpy-arsed, blue-singleted driver who unceremoniously pushed George out the window, as he put his truck into gear and sped off. Well, as fast as a fully laden 18-wheeler can speed off from a dead stop.

“Bloody wankers!” the driver yelled out the window as he rumbled away in a cloud of bulldust.

Photo 27-04-13 8 51 02

“Nice one, Frankie! Nice one! Now we’re stuck here until the next truckie comes along, and who knows when that’ll be!”

“Sorry, I  got a teeeeeensy bit too excited!” Frankie slurred, trying to defuse George’s anger with a cute voice and a gesture with his fingers showing exactly how tiny his excitement was.

“You’re pissed” George sighed.

“YES, I AM!!” said Frankie “And dehydrated and hungry! And smelly!”

It had been a long night since George’s Kombi had literally fried, leaving him stranded six hundred kilometres east of Broome with a lost soul he had only just met.

A long two-bottles-of-bourbon night, where Frankie and George had talked and talked about ALL the things, cementing their new friendship with secrets and dreams.

All the bourbon was in Frankie’s belly now, so it could only get better. They’d just have to sit and hope the next driver would take them to Perth or Adelaide or anywhere! Anywhere, before THEY fried.

“Hey George, do you reckon he says chunder or plunder?”

With that, George stood up with a menacing smile and rolled Frankie into the ditch whispering, “You better run, you better take cover!”

And then he whistled like a flute…Do-diddle-do-Do-da-di-da-di-do-da!

(You’re singing it, aren’t you!)

Desert Pano3


In case the cultural references are too parochially Australian, they refer to a Men at Work song  From the Land Down Under, a big hit in the 1980s.

Safe Travel in the COVID era

Will it be safe to travel after COVID?

Will there be an after?

Or will we just have COVID21, COVID23 and on and on?

I had plenty of travel plans, pre-COVID. My next big adventure was still unscheduled but I had Iceland, Scandinavia and the remainder of the UK on the list. It was going to be a race to get my bucket list covered before I was too old and wobbly on my feet to hike 30 kilometres a day.

I was not planning on going anywhere in 2020 anyway, but with COVID19 still impacting our lives, many people are posting about their missed travel opportunities.

Their are sad tales of cancelled trips and lost deposits. Would-be travellers are wishing they could be somewhere else. Anywhere else than where they happen to be. Stories of cabin fever and boredom are flooding the internet!

People!?  Think of all the money you’re saving and the mega-trip you’ll be able to take when things settle down! Rumours abound, but some media is predicting that international travel out of Australia will not even begin until mid-2021 and then not return to normal for a few years after, that if ever.

The bucket list gets an update.

I am seriously contemplating whether I will return to international travel at all. I’ve been rethinking factors other than health risks such as my carbon footprint, over-tourism, exploitation of developing countries for cheap holidays and the positive impact, both environmentally and economically, spending my tourist dollar in my own country would have.

That’s all very pie-in-the-sky thinking as the only travel that is 100% safe right now is time travel! Since I have no new travel photos or stories  I have been trawling back through my archive to find some oldies to share.

These ones are from a trip to Vietnam in 2015. I’ll post some more from other travels over the next few weeks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Ecohack 6 – Op shopping.

I love op shopping, and I have become something of an expert.  Op shops, short for opportunity shops are variously called charity stores or thrift stores depending on where you live.  I’ve been going to the Salvos (Salvation Army), Vinnies, (St Vincent de Paul), Lifeline and The Smith Family stores for decades! When I travel, I always visit the local charity stores.

I even created a blog The Op-Shop Queen back in 2011.  It was based on giving op shops reviews and buying a complete outfit, not including shoes, for less than $20. It’s archived and no longer accessible although I may resurrect it.Screen Shot 2020-08-09 at 10.16.06

Why Op Shops?

I earn enough to buy new stuff but don’t for several reasons,

  1. I’d rather spend that money on other stuff.
  2. I like the challenge of building a wardrobe from the quirky pieces you can find.
  3. The quality is often better. I’d rather pay $10 for a second-hand designer brand than $2 on a piece of crap made in Bangladesh under dubious labour conditions. Mind you the designer brand may also have been made in Bangladesh under dubious labour conditions, but it is likely to be better quality material and hence last longer.
  4. The feel-good feeling it gives me for keeping clothes out of the waste stream and doing my bit for the environment.
  5. It fits in with my buy-nothing-new-unless-there-is-no-other-way philosophy.

Keeping clothes out of the waste stream.

There are plenty of stats about the impact discarded clothes have on our waste stream. Fast fashion which is fuelled in part by social media, is an ugly trend where people wear an item once and throw it away. The desire to be seen in something new for every insta-moment is a real thing for many consumers.

Me? I have never really been into fashion. Ooops back up a bit there! I did wear shoulder pads and peplums back in the 80s, and I am conscious of not looking like an utterly uncoordinated bag lady. These days I try to go for a classy, elegant, timeless look that will withstand the “what colour is on trend this week” trend. If you keep things long enough, they’ll cycle back around anyway.

Keeping clothes for longer means that energy and resources used in making them is saved. We should be aiming for more wears per item.

 

Picking up a bargain.

I buy everything from op shops. Clothes, kitchenware, shoes, towels, stationery, books, magazines, storage containers, toys for my grandson. If I need something I go there first. My best buy to date is an evening dress which was brand new, with tags and still in the shops (i.e. it was still in season). The labelled price was over $900, I got it for $100. I even bought my Iains from op shops!

I am lucky my home town of Wollongong has several substantial op shops which are clean and bright.

You never know what you might find! A year or so after I got divorced, I went into my favourite op shop to find many of the items from my own kitchen on sale! The items that had been part of his split. I was a bit peeved that a lovely fruit bowl which was a wedding gift was there for $10! (I knew it was mine because of a unique sticker on the bottom). I decided not to buy it back.

Op shopping is now on trend!

Op shopping is becoming so popular that it is getting harder to get bargains. The charities who run them obviously want to make money, and I have noticed there has been a rise in prices. Back in the old days, designer brands were on the racks cheek by jowl with the Kmart stuff. Now, most stores have these items in their own section with much higher prices. I guess getting an Armani cashmere jumper at $30 is still a bargain.

I used to hide the fact that my clothes were from op shops. When someone asked me where I bought that fabulous dress or whatever, I’d say “Oh just a little place in Wollongong.” Now I reply “from my special shop” which my colleagues know means the op shop!

Decluttering trends and the time made available for decluttering by the COVID lockdowns have meant that many op shops are packed to the rafters with items discarded by others. Now’s a good time to start op shop if you’re not into it already!

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That entire outfit not including shoes, socks and undies was less than $10

My tips for op-shopping.

  1. Remember that the clothes are there for a reason. The previous owner did not want them anymore. This could be because they are slaves to fashion, have put on or lost weight, gotten older and the thigh-high split skirt is no longer part of their look, or they died. The items could be damaged or stained. There could be buttons missing. CHECK them out carefully. Turn the items inside out and have a look for moth holes, rips, broken zips, missing buttons, stains. I need to improve on this front.
  2. The clothes are checked by the staff before being put on the racks, but they are not washed. There may be stained items. Make a decision if you think the stain will be treatable, otherwise leave it on the shelf.
  3. If it is missing buttons or is ripped is the item worth fixing? If it’s a beautiful item that suits you, maybe you could replace all the buttons, or put a cute patch over the rip. There are some good books about mending available.
  4. Try it on!! This is my biggest downfall. I too often buy things without trying them on, and they end up back in my own donations bag when I find they don’t fit or look terrible.  And while yes, I haven’t wasted much money and I have not contributed to the waste stream, it is still a waste.
  5. Be adventurous, try different colours and styles.
  6. Don’t be tempted to buy more than you need because it is cheap, and ‘environmentally friendly.’ Overconsumption is still overconsumption whether it’s brand new or second hand. You still have to find a place to store all that shit when you bring it home! Buying things just in case is still a waste.
  7. Challenge your family to do op shop gift-giving, where all presents have to be either homemade or second hand. Use scarves or other fabric found at op-shops to wrap your gifts. There are usually plenty of used-once gift bags available too.
  8. If you are a super bargain hunter op shops often have colour coded tags and these may attract a discount. Look out for signs in the store. Eg “all green tag items 50% off today” or “all pink tags only $2”. Some shops like the Salvos, have bargain days on Mondays and Tuesday where all items under $15 are only $2 and other items are 50% off. Since I work full time I can only get along to those days in the school holidays.
  9. Remember to take your own unwanted and no longer needed items to the op shop when you’ve finished with them. But don’t take your junk. Op shops have to pay to get rid of any unwearable, unusable items dumped at their doorsteps. This reduces their profitability and how many people they can help. It’s not the tip, so please dispose of real rubbish thoughtfully.

Plans for the future

I have written a post before about my inability to travel light! I have had an idea on how to solve this problem. Next time I travel, I am only going to take two changes of clothes and buy everything else from local op shops as I need it. This, of course, will depend on IF I travel internationally again. Who knows!

Don’t be scared, op shops are no longer smelly dank places where only the homeless people hang out! The car park is full of Lexus and Range Rovers and people snapping up bargains while doing their bit for our planet!