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.

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!

Photo 25-04-13 12 06 54
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! 

 

Ecohack 5 – Reducing plastic use

Reducing my environmental impact

Is plastic use a problem for you too? I am trying hard to reduce my environmental impact. In a previous post, I quoted a research paper that showed a tiered approach to reducing your impact. From those activities that have a big impact, like ditching the car or having only one child, down to things that while helpful, have a fairly small individual impact. Having said that, if every individual on the planet did that small thing, like switching to a mostly plant-based diet, the impact would be huge!

Roasted Beetroot Salad
Eating a plant-based diet makes an impact!

 

High Impact Decisions

In my thirties, I made a high impact decision to have only one child based on environmental impacts. At the time, back in the 1990s, it was a bold decision that copped flack from my peers and my (ex)partner.  It came about when I did a subject as part of my teaching degree about the environment.  We went on an excursion to a property on the Georges River near Lugano in Sydney. The owner, an old fellow called Ted, had some ramshackle displays made from recycled bibs & bobs and warned us of the dangers of climate change. I was deeply affected and feared the world my child would inhabit.  He was definitely ahead of his time. Most of my classmates thought he was a looney. I don’t remember his last name and the interwebs are so far silent, on his activities. Nonetheless, the information changed my life.

Plastic is everywhere!

As to moderate and low impact actions, I am consuming less, wasting less and travelling less. [Although travelling less seems like cheating as there is no way to travel far at the moment!] I buy second hand whenever I can.

Despite all these good intentions, I am thwarted by plastic!  Plastic use is my big downfall,  an epic fail. On July 1 when I decided to give Plastic-free July a try, I came home from the shops with 4 bits of plastic wrapping my food! My garbage/recycling bin is still full of plastic stuff.

I don’t know the origin of this quote, but it sums things up pretty well

“It’s pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it, and bring it home is considered to be less effort than what it takes to just wash the spoon when you’re done with it.”

 

Epic Plastic Fails

Plastic Fail number 1: I wear contact lenses. I use daily disposable lenses because I had serious issues with adhesions from the longer-term ones. As a result, every day, I end binning the two little plastic wells and the foil lids.  I have tried to think of ways to recycle them or at least repurpose them but have yet to come up with an idea. It seems like I am not the only one worried about this waste. There are collect and return systems in the US but I don’t think they are in action in Australia. They could make little paint pots?

Solution: I could wear glasses, a money-saving option. I could get laser surgery on my eyes, an expensive option. Wearing contacts is pure vanity, although I did try multifocal lenses a few years back, they made me nauseous and dizzy. Perhaps it’s time to try again.

Plastic Fail number 2: Plastic containers. Everything comes wrapped or packaged in plastic! Milk, dishwashing liquid, shampoo, soap etc etc etc. On the food front; berries, cherry tomatoes, bread are a few examples. Nearly every damn thing is in plastic!

Solutions: I have switched to making as much of my own food as I can with the time I have available. This reduces some of the packaging. I buy my veggies loose, and use fabric produce and shopping bags. But you can’t buy some things without plastic. I guess the choice is not to buy them all.

IMG_5095 2
I am getting pretty good at making my own bread!

I could try solid shampoo bars and buy other liquid products from the bulk store and re-use the containers. That’s on the agenda as a new zero-waste bulk grocery store has opened up near my home. The Port Grocer advertises itself as “affordable”. Let’s hope so.

I recently tried to buy milk in glass bottles. I could only find one shop about 15 km away, and the milk was literally twice as much as the regular milk!

Processed with VSCO with fn16 preset
Glass bottles for milk would be great!

Sigh! Whatever happened to the milkman and the return of the empties at the end of the driveway? Whatever happened to home-delivered bread in wax paper wrapping which was then used to wrap the sandwiches?

Modern, fast, wasteful life! That’s what happened!

 

Ecohacks – Episode 3 – Beeswax wraps.

Beeswax wraps are pieces of cotton fabric which have been soaked in melted beeswax. When the beeswax hardens, the fabric becomes water-resistant. The wraps function to replace plastic film in most, but not all situations. This helps reduce the amount of single-use plastic you use. It won’t save you much money, but you can feel good about making the swap and reducing your impact on the planet.

How to use the wraps.

Because the wax melts at a low temperature you can use the heat of your hands to mould it around the object you are wrapping.

You can not use the wraps for food that is:

  • Very wet or sloppy – they are water-resistant not waterproof.
  • Likely to leak. They do not form a very close seal with the edge of a bowl or plate so you can not create a leak-proof barrier.
  • Intended to be stored for a long time. The barrier is not perfect, bread for example will dry out after a few days.
  • Hot – the wax will melt.

Beeswax wraps are perfect for

  • Wrapping the sandwich which you make in the morning for your work lunch.
  • Covering a plate or bowl of food in the fridge for a day or two.
  • Wrapping up some crackers or popcorn.
  • Wrapping up things like muffins and bread rolls.

Do it yourself Beeswax wraps.

Beeswax wraps are super easy to make in your own kitchen and there are lots of YouTube videos to show you how.

Essentially the process is

  1. Pre-wash and iron the fabric before you start. This will remove any sizing or other chemicals that are lingering on the surface.
  2. Cut your fabric to size using pinking shears. I find a good mix of sizes is 25 x 25 cm, 30 x 30 cm and 35 x 45 cm.
  3. Preheat the oven to about 80 – 100ºC. If you can set it at 70ºC that would be better. The wax melts at around 60ºC. If the oven is too hot you will burn the wax.
  4. Line a deep baking tray with baking paper or foil (keep this to re-use)
  5. Lay the fabric in the tray and sprinkle with wax pellets. Approximately 1 pellet per 2 cm².  Another guide is about 15 g of wax for a 25 x 25 cm square.
  6. If the fabric does not fit in the tray, you can fold it over and sandwich the wax in between the folds.
  7. Place in the oven and keep a close watch. It takes about 2 – 3 minutes for the pellets to melt.
  8. When the wax melts, take the tray out and use a brush to spread the wax evenly.
  9. Pick up the fabric carefully by the corners and let it drip into the tray for a few seconds.
  10. Lay it down somewhere to cool and set. Repeat.

A few tips for your DIY:

  • Use lighter colours rather than dark colours. The folds in the fabric turn the wax white and you get ugly lines in your wraps.
denin wax wrap
This is a wrap I made with dark blue denim. Not recommended! Still works but it looks gross!
  • Use lightweight fabric like lawn or gingham. Denim is too thick and soaks up too much wax making them uneconomical. Do not use synthetics.
IMG_6012
This is made with organic cotton. The lines might still be there but you can’t see them.
  • Use pinking shears to cut your fabric. This, in combination with the wax, will stop them from fraying.
  • If you are going to make lots of wraps,  buy a 1 kg bucket of wax pellets, don’t buy the block. The block is cheaper and yes, you can grate it, but it takes ages and is very tedious. I buy mine from Australian Wholesale Oils or Happy Flame.
  • The organic wax is yellow and will change the colour of your fabric. The refined wax is cheaper and whiter.
  • Put a big sheet on the floor to catch the drips of wax. Believe me, you’ll be grateful you did. The wax is hard to clean up.
  • Put a towel or another sheet on your workbench to catch crumbs of wax.
  • Buy a silicone pastry brush to help you spread out the melted wax.
  • Some recipes use pine rosin. I don’t. The pine rosin makes the wraps stickier but some sites say the pine rosin is carcinogenic. It is also expensive and hard to get.
  • Make a big batch and give as gifts.  You’ll get a bit of a production line going.
  • If you want to earn extra eco-warrior points, use pre-loved fabric. The material used for men’s shirts is a perfect weight. I have also bought old serviettes and used them. They are already pre-cut and hemmed.
  • To care for your wraps, wipe down with warm soapy water. You should not wash them.
  • Some recipes also call for jojoba oil. I bought some and used it but to be frank couldn’t tell the difference.
  • I have also tried using the iron to melt the wax. I sandwiched the fabric and wax between sheets of baking paper. It worked OK, but made a bit of a mess! It was however very quick! If you have an old iron and a spare ironing board cover it’s worth a try.

I have been using beeswax wraps for 3 IMG_6009years. I have made lots, with the intention of selling them.

I have discovered that after a few months of use, the wax wears off. I have re-waxed these ones to rejuvenate them rather than making new ones. If they are really past their best you can compost them. Vegans can make wraps using soy wax, but I have never tried that.

 

 

 

PS if you don’t want to make your own, you can buy some of mine! Most of the wraps I have seen at markets are very ‘girly’. I have used more gender-neutral colours and patterns. I call them KingBee wraps. Cute hey! You can leave a comment or click on the contact page to arrange to order.

 

KingBee2

Eco-hacks- Episode 2 – Toilet paper trade-off

Category: Reducing single-use items.

It seems like another lifetime ago, but in March 2020 things went wonky in the supermarket aisles. The shelves were empty; denuded of basics like rice and pasta. If you had canned soup on your shopping list? Think again, there was none available! The lack of food staples was nothing compared to the hullabaloo happening away from the fridges and freezers, away from the breakfast cereal and flour.

Over in the paper goods aisle, there was some really serious shit going down.  People were panic-buying toilet paper in preparation for self-isolation. They were fighting over the last eight pack. Enraged shoppers were swearing at the cashiers. Rumours were fueling rushes on shops. “Coles at Figtree has toilet paper! Quick! Too late!”

The world went genuinely crazy! Over toilet paper? Yes, over toilet paper.

IMG_4764
Empty shelves: Woolworth’s Figtree March 22nd 2020

NOT ME! I was sitting pretty, because, in January, ignorant of the impending doom of Corona, I had bought a year’s supply of toilet paper (and paper towels, toothpaste and all those non-perishable, non-food type things) as I intended on only going to the fresh food market. I planned to stay out of Woollies for the year and save some money. I had made my estimates, done my calculations and bought in bulk. It was all part of my big Year of Zero. My plan to cut back, par down and save money.

Worth its weight in gold?

Bazinga!

I had a goldmine in my linen press! I decided not to cash in. In fact, I went the other way and thought “well how can I make what I have last even longer”? I was spurred on by an article in the Guardian about reusable “toilet paper” or rather, washable wipes that can be reused and potentially eliminate toilet paper from your shopping list and our environment.

Ever resourceful, I got a large towel from the op shop and used my overlocker (serger) to cut it into small strips about 12  x 8cm. From one $2 bath towel I got 66 little tiny towels. I bought a small flip-top bin with a well-sealed lid for $8 and I’m set. That ten measly bucks sets me up for the next five years! (or until I need to replace them)

I will still use some toilet paper because I am not gutsy enough to use the tiny towels for faeces, only urine. (Thank god I hear my friends sigh!) The used wipes get tossed in the little bin, and I wash them with non-clothes items like towels or sheets and hang them in the bright UV-laden Australian sun to dry. It turns out these small reusable towels are called “family cloths” and are big business on Etsy! Family cloths sounds a bit ooky to me, so I’m sticking with tiny towels.

I’ve used two double-length rolls of paper in the last six months. I hasten to add that my bathroom habits are… umm… shall we say, healthy and regular, so I’m not under-using my stash.

On top of the financial benefits, there are loads of eco-warrior princess points to be won here. Toilet paper typically comes packed in plastic, uses high-quality virgin paper and water in its manufacture. Although it breaks down quickly in the sewerage system it is still a single-use product that is chucked out. Sewage treatment is a significant drain on our community’s coffers and not one we can scrimp on if we are to keep safe and healthy.

Toilet paper is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it takes just one virus to bring us to our knees and create chaos.  I wonder how many people have got a truckload of unopened paper in their garage?

Toilet Paper Hoarder?
It turns out this buyer also bought the stash before COVID. Incorrectly ordering 48 boxes instead of 48 rolls. Image from Courtesy US NEWS and Report.

The history of toilet paper

This sort of crisis gets you (well me anyway) thinking about what did people do in the olden days before the invention of snowy white toilet paper?

Sticks and stones as it turns out. Snow, seashells, wooden scrapers, communal sponges on sticks, flat rocks, leaves, moss, lambswool and fingers have all been or are still used as cleaning/drying implements after the business is done.

Ewww,  if the thought of washing a little tiny towel grossed you out, think of those alternatives!

Toilet paper, as we know it is a relatively recent invention. The first commercially produced toilet paper landed in the grocery store in 1857.

If you’re interested, these websites have some interesting stories on the history and commercial development of toilet paper.

https://www.history.com/news/toilet-paper-hygiene-ancient-rome-china

http://www.wonderbarry.com/TP%20Site/index.html

So how much will I save?

Back in January, I calculated that I was buying a four-pack of double length toilet paper every month. So I figured I’d need 48 rolls for the whole year. I paid about $6-7 a pack. So my upfront expenditure was about $90 tops for the year. My current rate of use sees me using 6 rolls over the year, let’s say $10. Over 5 years I’ll save ~ $400. (Maybe)

It’s not really about the money; it’s about reducing my footprint. In terms of eco-princess brownie points, this is right up there! I’m doing my bit to save trees, water and electricity and come the second wave I’ll be doing fine!

Toilet paper cartoon
A hot commodity?

Yuck factor?

The title of the Guardian article referenced above refers to the ‘yuck factor’ of reusable solutions to cleaning or drying ourselves after we have been to the toilet.

Now, for you fellows out there here is a bit of private women’s business. We use toilet paper every time we wee. All things going well, it’s really just a little dab to wipe a few drips. For this little bit of liquid I have known some women to use more than ten sheets! What a waste!  Why have we become so separated from our bodily functions?

Personally, I am still not ready to go commando and use the wipes for faeces as well. I am not done analysing the reasons why as I was a cloth nappy mum and it’s not the poo that worries me…just my poo I guess. I have also proven my poo-brave face by doing voluntary faecal analysis to see what bugs I have in my gut and for a bowel scan. Maybe I’ll get there but I won’t tell anyone.

Anyways, if using your own reusable wipes is a step too far, at least switch to a more eco-friendly option. Seek out paper made with at least some unbleached, recycled paper in paper wrapping. Bidets are also a very good alternative if you have access to one. The water used in the bidet is a fraction of that used in the manufacture of paper and the washing of tiny towels.

Check out “Who gives a crap” a socially responsible company who makes good toilet paper and gives back to the community. It’s not white and snowy but then neither is your bum!


PS: Visiting friends and family? Don’t worry; the guest bathroom is stocked with the real deal!

 

Year of Zero – Half Yearly Review

Time for the half-yearly review already??? It’s hard to believe that I am halfway through my Year of Zero. 2020 has, so far, been a very challenging year for the planet and its peoples.  After fires and floods, we faced disease and now there are riots and civil unrest brought about by racism. What’s next? A second wave? An economic downturn for certain, after that who knows!

When I published my first quarter review back in March, the Coronavirus had just hit Australia and we were entering a period of lock-downs. Now, three months later things are returning to normal, or the new normal some of us are hoping for.

I have not been as focused on my savings goals as I would like to have been these last few months. There have been some legitimate distractions. I haven’t strayed too far, but I do feel like I have lost some traction.

Some of the slide has come about because I was not prepared (or able) to go from place to place to do my grocery shopping. I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible which meant reverting to shopping in one place and that one place was Woollies. I had been trying to avoid Woolworths in favour of using smaller more independent outlets.

Despite this lack of focus, I have saved money simply because it was not possible to go anywhere anyway! So here is my self-report in the declared categories for the three months from April – June.

The itemised half-yearly review:

1. No overseas travel

Nope! None! I couldn’t if I had wanted to! Given the current ban on travel, I might not be travelling next year either!

Score: 10/10

2. No extended travel within Australia

Once again, easily achieved! The furthest I have been from my home in the last three months is 90 km into Sydney to drop my Grandson off, 3 times. Otherwise, I have stayed in sunny Wollongong. I was booked to go on a cruise to nowhere to celebrate a friend’s 50th, but I pulled out due to work commitments and then it was cancelled anyway.

Score 10/10

3. No new stuff.

I haven’t done so well in this area. I bought several items which did not fit into the categories I had set myself. (Essential, secondhand and only replacing broken or worn out items)

I bought some brand new items. (GASP!!)

  • Firstly, a plastic bread slicing guide. Apart from the fact that it was a lot more expensive than I thought it would be, it seemed like a reasonable purchase.  I have been doing lots of iso-baking (as has the rest of the world) but I can’t cut bread to save myself. I guess I could have just practised cutting the bread more carefully.
  • I designed a souvenir coffee mug, just for the fun of it.
  • A new book – on reducing kitchen waste
  • I paid for some custom made key rings to use as gifts.
  • And of course, I bought a few NEW things for my Grandson! (eg Lego)
coffee cup
You have to admit that’s pretty funny!

The items that did fit in the restricted category were,

  • A replacement iron after my old one shorted out the electricity. I had to call an electrician but thankfully I was able to re-set it myself after about an hour of unplugging everything and plugging it all back in one item at a time.
  • Some winter clothes to make up for the things I got rid of as part of another massive wardrobe cull.
  • A replacement phone case and screen protector,
  • Expensive socks,
  • A new booster seat for my grandson, he’s outgrown the old one and I need to keep him safe.
  • Fabric to make tea cosies.

Score: 4/10

4. Reduction in Expenditure on Groceries

This is the area that took the biggest hit. Returning to Woolies and the inability to use cash* meant that I did not keep such a tight reign on grocery expenditure. I went over my budget 4 out of 8 fortnights in this time period. On the other hand, for almost a full month, I was living out of my pantry and freezer and only bought a few fresh items. Perhaps with the swings and roundabouts, I broke even.

Score 5/10 

* most retailers were insisting on contactless payments.

5. Side Hustle Happenings

Not much happened here. The photography business, OCE generated no income and no apparent interest. I did sell a few of my postcards and A (single) tea cosy through Etsy but taking into account the cost of materials, I am still running at a loss there. The courses I had scheduled for the local Community College were cancelled. I pitched a few story ideas but had no luck. To be perfectly honest I don’t think this side of things will get off the ground till I am done with the day job.

Score: 5/10

6. Only sign up for free courses

I did for a free TAFE NSW course and completed it in a couple of days. I also signed up for three more courses through Future Learn. I finished 2 of them. One on Disaster Preparation was not relevant to Australian conditions so I didn’t bother completing it. The nutrition course was disappointing as it was quite outdated and I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. The third course on science writing was good but again not something I hadn’t already covered in a paid course a few years ago.

I did pay for an online gym membership BUT this was because I could not go to the gym. My gym provided a 60-day free trial to Les Mills on Demand, in lieu of access and after this expired, I paid for another 30 days as they were still not open. (They reopened on the 22nd June).  I have actually made a net gain here. ($40 so don’t get too excited!) The online classes were good and I enjoyed them, but being at the actual gym is better.

Score 10/10

7. Sell some of my stuff

Not possible. COVID restrictions meant you could not do this sort of stuff. I did sell one of the kombucha kits to someone at work.

Score: 1/10

8. Concentrate on free activities

This was easy!!! I couldn’t do much else! My trivia buddies and I tried a few virtual quiz nights, but everything else was cancelled. I did splurge on hiring and/or buying movies for the Hugh Grant Film Festival.  In total this was around $60 and I am counting these as experiences.

Score 7/10

9. Rewrite my 60 for 60 goal

My 60 for 60 list is a work in progress. I did do a big jigsaw. That’s one more ‘free’ item ticked off. When I look through the list now, many items seem irrelevant. Perhaps it’s time to admit the list was ill-conceived and start a new one altogether?

Score: 0/10

10. Zero-waste-eco-warrior

No new wins and no losses to report. I am doing OK here. I am continuing to reduce the amount of packaged food I buy and I am making more things from scratch. I have got better at bread making and have abandoned the automated breadmaker for fully hand prepared bread which tastes good! I have found an excellent recipe for focaccia. My freezer is well stocked with baked goods. I have been literally clearing out my fridge before I go shopping again and have only had to toss some food scraps that would not fit in the worm farm. I have switched tea bag tea for loose leaf tea.

My zero-waste kit did not get a work out as I did not eat anywhere that required them. I took lunch to work every day, ate at home every night up until 4 June when I went on my first ‘going out adventure’ to the pub!

Score: 6/10

11. Year of Zero Booze

By the time this is published it will be 184 days since I have had any alcohol. This has become a no effort resolution. I have switched kombucha for herbal tea as the weather has cooled down, and since I have not been out, its been easy to avoid social situations where drinking is the norm. I have genuinely enjoyed a few zero alcohol beers. A friend gave me some zero alcohol wine, which they had bought accidentally. It seems a waste of calories. I’d rather do without.

Score: 10/10 

So once again my total score on the very arbitrary scale is 67%. I didn’t even try to manufacture that! It just happened!

I am on track to make my year-end savings target but only just!  In previous years, travel has been by far my biggest expense and this is where I’ll make my biggest savings.  The remaining items are just tinkering around the edges, but still, with diligence, the savings will add up to few thousand dollars over the year.

Goals for next quarter.

  1. To return to a more focused approach to grocery shopping, once everything is reopened.
  2. Buy NOTHING that does not fit the criteria.
  3. Sell a few items. I have an idea, that may be too challenging, to raise $1000 in a month by selling some “stuff”. I’ll think about it….I will make it an action step and first make an inventory of sell-able items and get them onto the local buy-swap-sell site.
  4. Do the side hustle thing! Really really!
  5. Win the lottery!

 

Merch? Maybe

This short Sunday Post is to direct traffic to another page on my website. The Merch Page.

I don’t have any merch (merchandise) yet, but I am dabbling with the idea. I have designed a key ring to start off with. I am hoping you’ll take a look at the page and tell me if you’d be interested if I went ahead. The key ring is a good gift for those approaching a significant birthday like 50 or 60. It could be rounded out with an Official Old Chook’s Membership Certificate.

Membership cert

So click on the link have a look and let me know.

 

Planning your best life Part 2 – My Plan

View in a car's rear view mirroe

I was chatting with someone at work the other day about the Corona Lockdown and how comfortable I had felt with having a socially and legally acceptable excuse for staying at home.

I said to my  colleague, “I know I am not shy and I am pretty outgoing, but deep down I am really an introvert”

He said, “I know you are, you have too many self-improvement goals not to be an introvert!”

He explained further, perhaps in response to the look on my face which was somewhere between horror and amusement,  “I mean you find your sense of being and energy from within you not outside of you. You set your own goals and don’t rely on others.”

That made me feel better. In the seconds between his first and second statements, I was in my usual way, dissecting what he had said and imagining that I must be presenting to the world as some crazy list driven old lady rabbiting on to anyone who’ll listen!

But hey! I am a list driven person! I need external accountability. I need apps like Habitbul to tell me how many days I haven’t eaten sugar for, or how many days I have been without alcohol. I am the sort of person who starts “eating better” on the first of the month. If it’s a Monday, that’s particularly portentous! I tell people I am having a Year of Zero. Telling anyone who has access to the internet, (via this blog), to hold me accountable. You all become my accountability partners!

Strategic planning meets ikigai.

It should not surprise you then, that I have a written plan for my future. Plan is perhaps a bit generous, as it is not a sequential step by step map, but rather a framework of intentions. A reminder to myself of what I want to do and achieve in the time I have left. It is based loosely on the model for ikigai and my school’s strategic plan!

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that translates as “your reason for getting out of bed in the morning”.

To be happy and thriving, your life pursuits need to be harmonious. Your values, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you can make money from should combine to make an elegant and mathematical Venn diagram.  Your mission, passion, vocation and profession can combine to give you a longer life.

This diagram from Thrive Global, illustrates the concept.

Screen Shot 2020-05-19 at 17.45.50

 

NSW public schools must have a three-year strategic plan with three strategic directions. These strategic plans are published and must be reported on at regular intervals. The strategic directions are then broken into activities or projects which determine what the school is going to be focusing on for the next three years. (I copied these plans from a random high school)

 

My Framework for planning my best life.

I like the idea of having an overarching framework and combining the elegance of ikigai, with the logic of the school plan, worked for me. The interdependence of the different aspects of projects is something not illustrated in the strategic plan.

My framework has three spheres

  1. Health and Wellbeing
  2. The day job
  3. Creative maker.

 

strategic directions update October 2018_Page_1

strategic directions update October 2018_Page_2

 

In each of these spheres, there are some projects which I consider to be important for this time in my life. When I retire, the “Day Job” circle will have to be adapted.

This framework gives me some direction and helps me stay focused. I re-read it every couple of months and do a mental check of how I am travelling. Do I need to reconsider or refine my Projects? Are they still relevant? On the other hand, the framework is not an ironclad promise, but a guide.

I think without it I would be lost and chasing after every shiny thing that comes my way.

I think it is helpful to sit down and take stock of what you are doing, where you have been and where you are going. This is especially important after a big change in life circumstances like divorce or even after something like this Pandemic.

What is important to you? How can you make it your focus? What do you have to start doing and importantly what do you have to stop doing to make it happen?

Yes, I do make lists. Yes, I do have self-improvement projects. They give me a map to follow but also allow me to look for new paths. I am happy for you to share my framework, but make sure you fill in your own blanks.  Find you own ikigai!

Boomers and television.

An idea that hit me recently was that my generation and a little older, say up to about 65, is the first generation to have had television available from birth. People older than this would have had some time in their life when a television in their home was not a thing.

I quizzed my editorial team (my Mum and step-dad Mauri!) on what they remembered about the introduction of TV and life before the Goggle Box.

Memories of TV’s first years

My own mum and dad used to hire one from Radio Rentals as they were too expensive to buy outright for most families. I was 3 months old when the first TV came into our family home. Before that,  radio serials were a big part of life. With some of the favourites being When a Girl Marries, The Goon Show and Caltex Theatre.

You needed to buy a  license for listening to the radio and watching TV. My mum didn’t pay for hers once and ended up in court!

There were many more cinemas than today. Mauri says:

“The visual appetite was satisfied by the local cinemas. When living at Kogarah we had the choice of Rockdale, Kogarah & Carlton – all within walking distance. Two more at Hurstville weren’t much further away. I can’t remember the entry prices but it must have been affordable because we went quite frequently.”

When TV’s were first introduced they were the focal point of attention. People would stand outside shops and watch with a crowd. Since not all households had a TV, families with them became very popular! If you went to someone’s place, eyes would stay locked on the television and there was no conversation. I remember my paternal Grandfather being glued to the set in his TV room. My brother and I had to tip-toe past and not disturb him.

Transmission time was limited to certain hours and the stations would close down. Even I remember the test pattern! Colour TV came to the Australian market in time for the 1976 Olympics. The first colour transmission on ABC TV (the government-run station) was Aunty Jack.  Aunty Jack is an Australian enigma. You’ll need to see it to believe it!

test pattern

 

These days podcasts step right back in where radio left off. The ability to be freed from a screen while still being entertained is very satisfying. I have added to my list of favourite podcasts.  The most recent addition to my listening library being “A Beautiful Anarchy”.

Back in the 1950s TV was the big disrupter. A technology that no doubt caused many people to lament the state of future generations.  We talked about “square eyes” in the same way we are now concerned about screen time.

These days I watch very little “TV” as in free to air shows. I do use the TV for streaming of shows on subscription services like Netflix. We no longer have to wait a week for the next installment of a series, as we can watch on-demand. In fact, many people wait until the whole season is available and binge-watch it. Many shows are released all in one go for just this express purpose. I wrote about some of my favourites in a previous post.

YouTube has become the instruction manual for so many aspects of our lives. Need to know how to change the seal in your washing machine? You’ll find 50 different versions.

The internet has meant that we have the ability to create our own version of TV. This is good and bad. It gives people a voice but also means that some of the loudest voices are the ones that mean to do us harm. It also means we get to hear about things that perhaps others would like us not to hear. It’s power to the people, use it wisely!