Decluttering despair!

Wentworth Emporium

I have spent the last couple of days decluttering (Again!). Rather than feeling joyful as I sort things into piles nominally labelled ditch, donate and decide later; I am getting more and more depressed!

It’s bothering me because over the last few years I have tried REALLY, REALLY hard not to bring unnecessary things into my home BUT I still have a mountain of stuff. It’s all useful stuff in some form or another, but I am not sure it will all get used in my lifetime! I have followed the one-in one-out rule but I still have every available bit of storage in my home filled. I had a successful Year of Zero where I bought nothing (well nearly nothing) new in 2018 and again in 2020.

So why do I still have so much stuff? I should have less stuff! When I look at the offending items, most are things I have had for a (really) long time, like stationery that dates back to my first time at Uni, forty-odd years ago! I even have a blank exercise book that belonged to my grandfather! Now that’s serious dedication to resource husbandry and storage stamina!

Writing paper anyone?

I have so much blank and lined writing paper it’s embarrassing! You know that scene in Gone With the Wind where Scarlett is forced to write between the lines on a previously used piece of paper? Well, I need those circumstances to be recreated where paper is in short supply and everyone is desperate for sheets of unused paper! I could corner the market with the amount of ageing writing paper I have managed to accumulate! 

Another overstocked item in my stationery cupboard is packets of paper clips! I haven’t bought any in the last 10 years and for some reason, I have 3 unopened boxes of 100!

I know if I were decluttering in the style of Marie Kondo or the Minimalists I would have piles labelled something like: discard, recycle, donate and sell. Well, let me tell you no one wants to buy a hundred or so blank exam writing booklets that I purloined because they had widely spaced lines! You see, I prefer to write on blank paper or paper with 10 – 12 mm feint ruled lines. I hate the standard 8 mm stuff and the fat lined paper is so hard to come by.  When my school was ditching some fat-lined exam booklets back in 2009, I grabbed them! 

Just hate skinny lines!

And… I’ve still got them! I have used some but not as many as I obviously thought I would.  I guess my plan is to just keep using them until I fall off the perch. Or hope we get a paper shortage! Whichever comes first.

Hoarder or Frugal?

I’m beginning to think I might be a closet hoarder! (see what I did there?) Or am I just frugal? It is all very tidily arranged and nothing is spilling out and there is a place for everything but it’s overwhelming. I don’t agree with throwing things out for the sake of it. If I threw all the paper out eventually I would need to buy more and that would be a waste of resources and just add to landfill. In my mind, it’s better to plough through it one ream at a time!

My vow today dear reader is to not buy, accept or otherwise obtain any more writing paper until what I have is used up! I had better start writing a War and Peace length novel by hand! 🙂


I have written about minimalism, decluttering and consumerism before. If you’re interested, you can start at my post about the Konmari Bandwagon.

Camping adventures

What’s not to love about a great camping adventure?

I love camping adventures! When I was a kid they were the preferred holiday style on my mother’s side. While my own nuclear family had very little in the way of camping gear, we would join the canvas city set up at places like Green Patch for weekends and extended holidays. My happy memories of the camping adventures are strong, but the recall of actual details is low. (Perhaps my Chief Editor will add a comment below to correct my poor recollections?)

My Hundt family camping adventures were the real deal. By that I mean, they were not in fancy caravan parks with amenities but in camp grounds where you needed to look after your own wastes and shower from a canvas bag hung from a tree. Translation: The kids didn’t have a wash other than swimming in the ocean/lake and there was a wee “Wee tent” or a designated latrine area in the bushes. The tents belonged to my Grandma and Papa and other aunts and uncles. There was a communal cooking area and various sleeping tents. The cars were parked Wild-West-Wagon style to set up a perimeter.

Selecting a flat spot, large enough to accommodate the tents, was left up to the camp master, Papa. As a Scout Leader, he knew his stuff. Once the survey was complete, the heavy bundles of neatly folded white and green canvas were hauled out from cars and taken to their assigned spots. Everyone had a part to play in getting them set up. The unfurling was left to the older kids and adults and the delivery of the various wooden tent poles, guy ropes, tent pegs assigned to children of appropriate size. (The photos above are scans of old slides)

Come back at meal time!

The troupe of seven cousins (ranging from 5 – 15) were set free during the day and reported back to camp for lunch and dinner. The rest of the time we played in sandhills, in the water and on the shoreline looking for treasure. I’d like to think there was an adult somewhere watching from a distance but there probably wasn’t! Cousin Susan, at 15 was likely charged with this responsibility. We would get outrageously sunburned. We would be covered in insect bites. We ate a LOT of cheese and spaghetti jaffles cooked over a campfire. But we were safe and happy. 

Lake Tabourie

As a teenager, my Aunty Colleen and Uncle Graeme continued the camping adventures but had moved to a more or less permanent camp in Lake Tabourie Caravan and Campground. They’d set up with a group of friends at the beginning of the school holidays and stay put for the duration. People would come and go. My brother and I would go down for a few weeks in the long summer break. 

Our activities here were a little more structured although still more or less unsupervised. We had the option of joining in on the Christian Holiday Groups that occupied these places in the ‘70s. They would run activities like craft groups, liberally sprinkled with Scripture of course. There was a shuttle bus that would go into the nearby town of Burrill Lake in the evenings and here we would watch movies in the open-air theatre, sitting in chairs made from a strip of canvas strung on two metal poles. I remember watching all the (original) Planet of the Apes series here. 

Pre-Schoolies – Schoolies

When I graduated high school, the Ex and I went on a camping adventure to Ballina, with two of our school buddies. (These days this post-school graduation trip is called Schoolies). We told our parents that Trish and I would be sharing one tent and Mark and the Ex would be in the other.  (Yeah right!)   It rained a lot and we spent a lot of time in pubs playing cards. But still, I recall it as a happy time.

As we got older and richer, The Ex morphed into a 5-star hotel man. Ready access to fine food and wine was the priority. Our 1980’s style Wolf-of-Wall Street jobs meant we didn’t go on many holidays anyway. Most of our downtime was spent renovating houses or with my parents who had moved to Bellingen. Sitting on their verandah looking out over cow paddocks was as close as we came to the great outdoors.

The last extended tent camping adventure I had was 14 years ago when I was teaching my daughter how to drive. To get her logbook hours up,  we went on a road trip through western NSW and alternated between camping and rural pubs. 

Glamping

In 2013, I flew to Adelaide and hired a camper van to do a circuit through North-West Victoria, Broken Hill and back to Adelaide. Now, THIS became my favourite holiday – glamping! Accommodation, transport and dining all wrapped up in the one package! The ability to pull over and make a cup of tea wherever you felt like was so appealing! Pulling into the caravan park with nothing to do beyond plugging in the electricity! Bliss! 

Bliss!

Such simple healthy pleasures! Camping has been shown to be really good for your physical and mental health. You can read those benefits here in a post by Sports Fitness Advisor, it’s a US site but just as relevant to us here in Aus. Waking up with the dawn light and enjoying the dark night resets your body clock among other things. I am not sure if these benefits extend to glamping! I have not yet tried hardcore camping which requires you to carry EVERYTHING in a backpack to a remote wilderness, but I will soon!

My own (new) tent!

Why this trip down memory lane? I have bought a tent for my upcoming Great Southern Road Trip. My plan is to camp most of the time interspersed with forays into cabins and hotels. My return to camping  is motivated by my memories and as a way of saving some money (see my Year of Zero series). I investigated a camper van but since I’m switching States and doing a walking tour and going to Flinders Island, it would not be economical to have it sitting parked for 12 days. On top of that, it is almost impossible to hire one! With Australians confined to the continent due to ongoing concerns for COVID overseas, EVERYONE is road-tripping!

The tent is EASY to erect. The main support poles are attached and it goes up a bit like an umbrella. It’s big enough to stand in and while nominally a four person tent it will be plenty big enough for me and my gear. I still have to get a few things like a camp bed.

I’ll be doing a practice weekend camp with my grandson in a few weeks in a place not too far from home, to check I have all the gear I need. I have already set it up in my garage to test the “instant-up” claim and yes it is easy, but do you think I can fold it up neatly and get it back into that little bag it came in?? Not easy! 🙂

I can’t wait!

Year of Zero – End of Year Review

We have made it to the end of this mad, bad, sad year and here I am with the Year of Zero – End of Year Review. At least in Australia, things have returned more or less to “normal” with no community cases for COVID for X days. The US and Europe are in mid-winter and things are getting worse. (I wrote this piece in mid-December and since then Greater Sydney which now includes Wollongong, has been hit by another bout of COVID19 with partial lockdowns and borders re-closing. My return to normal prediction was a little early!)

End Of Year Review

Over the last three months, (October – December) I feel like I have taken my foot off the spending brake and not stuck to my plan well. I did reach my savings goal but I think I could have done better. I have made a few purchases in preparation for my Great Southern Road Trip and although I am putting those on next year’s balance sheet, it has led to a change in mindset. I have been less frugal and more ‘spendy’. I have succumbed to some unnecessary purchases and while for the most part, they were second-hand op shop finds they were still not essential. AND of course there was Christmas! Although I don’t need to buy many gifts there was some outlay.

On top of that, in late November I discovered that I have to do a very expensive plumbing job on my home as the roots from a large tree have cracked and blocked my stormwater pipes. The build-up of water is flooding my neighbours’ yards. It’s going to cost several thousand to fix. Thankfully, I can split the bill with the other strata owners and most will come from the Strata funds. However, I think it will be more than we have set aside. 

My ultimate financial goal is to pay down my mortgage debt so I can retire by 2023. As a result, next year and the year after will need to be Close to Zero Years as well.

My self-report for the Year of Zero – End of Year Review follows.

1. No overseas travel

A stunning success! All year I have not stepped off the continent of Australia! 

Score: 10/10

2. No extended travel within Australia

I did go to Broken Hill in late September which I included in the last quarter review. I also went to my Mum’s for Christmas. Only cost being the train fare so all good on this front too. 

Score: 10/10

3. No New Stuff

My goal is to buy no new items and only replace things that have broken or worn out. 

Allowed items

  • My phone screen needed to be replaced. This was expensive – but the repair was ¼ the cost of a new phone so worth doing.
  • The zip on my wallet broke so I had to replace that – 2nd hand. 

    Items not on the list

  • A book “Designing Your Life” by Burnett and Evans
  • I got my 2021 wall calendars printed but have sold enough to cover the cost so this does not really count. 
  • Gifts for family members including (too much) Lego for my Grandson. 
  • I spent a fair bit buying some unnecessary clothes from Op Shops this quarter. I justified it by clearing out some other stuff from my wardrobe but I really could have done without it. At least it was not new!
  • Not “stuff” but I did pay for a subscription to Future Crunch and The Guardian.

Score: 4/10

4. Reduction in expenditure on groceries

This category is back on track. I have been making good savings on food and usually have some leftover cash at the end of each fortnight. I have been squirreling this away to use as a food kitty for the upcoming festive season. I also have been stocking up the freezer so will be able to have a few “free weeks”. For those of you who might say why don’t you cook less? Well, it’s a bit hard to make a single serve of spag bol!! I think next year I could investigate cutting back the allocated budget a bit more.

Score: 10/10

5. Side Hustle Happening

I actually made some progress here. As I said above I have sold enough of my calendars to break even and cover the cost and I sold some of my beeswax wraps. I’m not ready to list myself on the stock exchange yet but at least I made a bit of cash! (BTW there are still some calendars left if you’d like to buy one!)

Score 8/10

Buy one!

6. Only sign up for free courses

I didn’t do any courses free or otherwise this quarter.  I have been snowed under with the day job! 

Score: 10/10

7. Sell some of my stuff

No, no action here

    Score: 0/10

8. Concentrate on free activities. 

I think I have done OK in this category. I went on a few adventures with my grandson which required only train fare and food. We got free tickets to the Australian Museum when it reopened. I did a long walk (31 km) with some friends in place of the Seven Bridges Walk, this was “free” although we did make a donation to the Cancer Council. I went out for dinner once with a friend and although I went to trivia several times, my expenditure was very low as I ate before I went and I stuck to one non-alcoholic beer. 

Score: 7/10

9. Zero-waste-eco-warrior

I am still using more plastic-wrapped foods than I‘d like as I am having trouble finding suitable replacements. I made a one-off investment bought some salad vegies and herbs. I think I could grow those in summer at least. Apart from this, this goal is going well. It’s become ingrained, rather than special now. 

Score: 7/10

10. Year of Zero Booze

The day before this post is published will be the 365th day of my Zero Alcohol challenge. I made it right through!  It is no longer a challenge and it will be a big decision as to whether I start drinking again. 

Score 10/10

and the final score is…..

This quarter, my frugal-o-meter score is 76%. The highest so far, so despite feeling like I let the side down buying clothes I didn’t need, I have ended up OK!  

Here end-eth the Year of Zero 2020. I’ll let you know at the end of 2021 if I have stuck to my savings target despite not having a declared Year of Zero. I intend to remain frugal but will be doing some extended travel! Stay tuned for the Great Southern Road Trip!