Minimalism and moving

A few weeks (hang on maybe it was months!) ago, I posted that I was moving to Armidale. I have a job and now I have somewhere to live. As I begin to pack up my house, I am overwhelmed by how much stuff I have! The overwhelm is exacerbated by the fact that to get an affordable price for the removalist,  I am sharing a truck with someone else and have a defined space limit. 

In the past, I have had the truck to myself and have just chucked everything in boxes. This time, every box I pack represents a fraction of a square metre in a truck I don’t have room for. 

Frugal living? Maybe not!

How did I get so much stuff? I have been living a relatively frugal life for the past five years. I have had two “buy nothing” years. I have followed a one in one out rule. I bought nothing new. I had rules! Yet, my cupboards are full. Where did it all come from? Does stuff breed behind closed wardrobe doors? 

The pile grows!

Keeping memories

I have the standard three piles happening; keep, donate and throw out. Unfortunately not much is landing in the throw away or donate pile. While none of it, not one skerrick of it is actually junk, (!) there are a lot of memories. I am struggling to cultivate a minimalist attitude al laThe Minimalists” who propose that memories are thoughts and you don’t need to keep the physical object. They suggest you take a photo.  I have written about my attachment to memories through physical objects before. The idea of getting rid of perfectly good items makes me twitch!

I can feel myself getting frustrated because most of the “memories” I have, I use. They serve a dual purpose. They are functional and connect me to my family. I like using my Grandmothers’ vases. I like stirring my cake mix in her bowl with her wooden spoon. I like using the ancient and wonky flour sifter. It’s at least 60 years old, and even though it’s a bit wonky, it still works. However, even I have to admit that I don’t need the pineapple shaped plates I bought a few years ago, regardless of how cute they are!

These ones did go to the op shop!

Ruthlessness is not my strong suit.

Even though I have made some very bold trips to the garbage bin and dropped off a car load at the op shop, the pile of boxes is growing. I have a limit of sixty boxes. I am up to thirty and I still haven’t started with the essential stuff I am still using. I have two weeks to develop a more ruthless approach! 

Wish me luck!

Eco-friendly Painting? Part 1

Painting and the flow state.

During the last NSW school holidays and while Greater Sydney was into its fourth month of COVID Lockdown 2.0, I painted the interior walls of my home. Coupled with some good podcasts it was a marvellous way to pass a week in home-bound productive mess-making!

Some of you may find painting a chore, but I like it! It requires my attention, but not too much. While it’s within my skill set, I need to concentrate on the tricky bits like cutting in the edges around windows, door frames and cornices. I can do it all day and lose track of time. Some days, I get a sudden pang of hunger only to realise I haven’t had lunch and it’s nearly dinner time.  I know what I have to do and how long it will take so it’s an activity with a clear goal. The new paint job looks fresh and bright and my home is looking good.  You may recognise that these parameters offer a wonderful opportunity to enter a state of flow

The idea of flow is not a new one and the concept was developed by psychology professor and happiness researcher, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the mid-1970s. If you are not familiar with flow, this TED Talk will get you up to speed. (And help you pronounce his name! Chick-sent-me-high!) 

Preparing the walls

My steps to Eco-friendly painting

Finding flow is a bit like finding the Holy Grail for happiness seekers like me but is not really what this post is meant to be about! My goal was to write about eco-friendly painting.

Before I started, I considered the best way to reduce the impact my painting would have on the environment. Even so, I seemed to be using an awful lot of plastic!! The steps I took included:

  • wrapping my brushes and rollers in plastic bags at the end of each session rather than washing them out to save water and save all that paint going down the drain. 
  • using the same plastic wrappers each time to reduce plastic use.
  • using plastic roller tray liners rather than washing the trays out each time,  again to stop water contamination. Mind you I stood in the aisle in the hardware store for a long while debating this point with myself! 
  • using more expensive paper-backed plastic drop sheets that I could re-use next time I paint rather than single-use ones. 
  • Buying wooden-handled brushes (win!) but they had synthetic bristles (lose!). A win-lose rather than a win-win
  • Using old cloth rags to wipe my hands and drips rather than “new wipes” although I still did use a whole roll of paper towel because I am not a very neat painter.

On the whole, I thought I was doing ok! High five to me!

It’s a bit smelly in here! 

With the painting finished and the mess cleared away it struck me (a little late in the piece)  that I had missed an eco-warrior opportunity.  After all, I had essentially just coated my walls with a thin film of plastic, the very thing I was trying to avoid. 

And then there was the smell!   It took the next three days, even with all the windows and doors open, to vent the fumes that lingered. Thankfully the weather was perfect; a light breeze swished through the house to chase that painty odour away. 

Although I deliberately bought a low fume, water-based paint, it still stank! I mulled over a barrage of questions. Were those fumes bad for me? Was there a more environmentally friendly non-plastic paint? Would a non-plastic based paint also be smelly?  Would it work as well? Would it be in the colour I wanted? Would I have been able to buy it in my area? Would I be able to afford it? So many questions!

Google was invented for questions such as these!

After a few hours down the painted internet rabbit hole, I came away with some answers and even more questions. The answers to the seven questions in the paragraph above are: yes, yes, yes, maybe, perhaps, no and probably not! 

The desk was too heavy for me to move, so I painted around it!

So what did I find out? Stay tuned for the answers in Part 2 in two weeks time! 

Old Habits Die Hard!

We’ve all heard the saying “old habits die hard”. Some habits take longer to kill off than others. For example, I have a kitchen broom which I keep in the space between the fridge and the cupboard. There must be thousands of households who put their broom in exactly the same convenient place. Nothing unusual there! However, in my kitchen, there is also a small railing which I use to hang up my oven gloves. Every time I get the broom out, I invariably knock the gloves off the rail and have to pick them up from the floor. 

Maybe not every time but eighty per cent of the time and it’s been like that since I moved in eight years ago! Talk about a habit being hard to kill off! 

In a bolt of problem-solving wizardry, I realised the fridge had two sides and there was a broom-sized-glove-free gap on the other side of the fridge.

Problem solving at its best!

I moved the broom.  

EUREKA! 

What a groundbreaking change!

Mind you when it’s time to sweep, I still automatically look on the glove side. D’OH! Eventually I’ll become habituated to the new habit and look on the other side as a matter of course. 

This may be a tongue in cheek look at my reluctance to change a simple process in my life that was not functioning well. A simple change that was glaringly obvious but not executed. 

I am very certain there would be many more things like this in the world that suffer from the “that’s just the way we do it around here” syndrome. Things that could be changed with little effort but pay big dividends, like working from home

Numbers of people WFH skyrockets!

The number of people working from home has increased dramatically during COVID lockdowns. Once COVID is under control and most of us are vaccinated the necessity for working from home will be removed. But there are plenty of good reasons for it to continue. 

Less commuting is one such reason with a triple win pay off. The employee gets more time in their day, the environment wins especially if it’s car commutes that are reduced and the employer wins because they could rent smaller spaces and hence save money. Not all jobs are of course suitable for working from home, but many “office” jobs are very much suited to it and employees are expressing their preferences.

Some companies are adjusting to a hybrid model where you can combine both working from home days with office days. Another bonus being the “extra” time now available to employees can be used for family or community-based activities enriching our lives. 

On the other hand, all those coffee shops and cafes in the city will have no customers unless they move out to the suburbs and then hey! Guess what? They don’t have to commute either. 

Let’s hope we keep these positive new habits of COVID in play. It will take some adjustment just like me searching for my broom, but it will be worth it in the long run!

a train station with empty platforms
Empty platforms are a part of Lockdown!