If I had a million dollars…

When I was a kid, I used to sit with my best friend Bernadette, and we’d play the game “If I had a million dollars”. We’d imagine all the amazing things we’d buy, all the stuff we’d own – palaces and slaves (that was me!) and yachts and jewellery. So much stuff.

We had no idea how much a million dollars actually was, only that it was a lot.

As we got older, we remained friends, and the game morphed into “When I win the lottery”. We’d imagine buying nice houses and fancy cars and going on holidays all around the world staying in plush hotels with hunky pool boys serving us cocktails (that was me again!) and all the chocolate we could ever eat (me too!).

We’re still friends after all these years. Neither of us is a millionaire, and we’ve neither of us ever won the lottery.

But I know quite a few millionaires. Including my parents, and several of my old school friends. I even know a billionaire or two. And my uncle won the lottery before he died as well – enough that he never needed to work again.

Funny thing is, winning the lottery never made him happy. And all those millionaires and billionaires, they’re not any happier than me either.

In fact, I’d say I’m probably among the happiest of all my friends.

I’m no millionaire. I own about 30 items of clothing. A five year old car. Half a house. An old box-style TV and a beat-up DVD player. Some books, not even a bookcase full. A few dollars in the bank, enough to keep me going a few months should the zombies come😉

But I’m happy. I have a partner who adores me. I have awesome kids, and solid friends who are good people. I have everything I need. No albatrosses around my neck. Nothing to hold me down.

They say, Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. My treasure is here, with the people I love, and within me, in the memories I hold. It’s in the blue sky above me, in the earth below me, in the wind on my cheeks and the fire in my soul.

I could have a million dollars one day, but so what? It’s just paper.

I’d rather have my treasure.

theorchard_treasure

What is minimalism? Not just weird art…

Minimalism is…

  • A growing movement in response to the crazy consumerist lifestyle that is killing our communities and destroying our planet.

  • A way out of the madness…a breath of fresh air…a way to find peace and solitude.

  • An understanding that less is more, and that too much stuff makes life stressed and difficult.

  • A recognition that there is such a thing as enough.
  • A philosophy that teaches calm, common-sense and practicality.
  • An idea that can work with any religion… or no religion at all.
  • A way to reflect on who we are and what we truly need to be happy.
  • A desire to place people and communities above things and profits.
  • An understanding that stuff will never truly fulfil us and make us happy.
  • Knowledge that the best things in life aren’t things.

happy_bigtrees

Sick of consumerism? You might just be a minimalist!

Sick of consumerism?
Not into trashing the planet and buying stuff that you don’t need which immediately falls apart at discount stores?
Hate the idea of sweatshops and junk food and cruelty?

You might just be a minimalist!

I first heard about minimalism when I read a book years ago called Affluenza. At the time, I was living in a big city and spending every cent I had buying more stuff, but I didn’t know why. I was unhappy too but I didn’t know why.

I was trying to create my life in the image of something perfect – something other that what I was and what I had. Buying more stuff – which was supposed to be the solution – just resulted in more clutter and less happiness.

Oh, and more debt.

Affluenza is described in the book of that name as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more“. I had a bad, bad case of it, and felt the need to get away.

I sold most of what I had and moved countries, yet the clutter followed me, along with the unhappiness. I learned you can’t run away from your problems. I also learned that different stuff wasn’t the solution to my unhappiness.

I concluded that the problem had to be me.

It was only years later that I finally recognised the real lesson within the pages of the book: that more stuff won’t ever make anyone happy. I started a serious move towards minimalism three years ago and shifted away from my addiction to accumulating stuff, finally beginning to make peace with who I am.

Consumerism and minimalism

Our society is trapped in a spiral of consumerism, debt and misery. How far each person is trapped differs, but it is certain that worldwide levels of depression and debt have never been higher, despite affluence being higher than ever.

In short, our stuff isn’t making us happy.

General happiness levels were higher during the two world wars. Just think about that for a minute. That’s how bad a spot we’re in right now. Something is seriously wrong.

Our lifestyle of overload in overdrive is making us obese, sick, stressed, overworked, debt-ridden and miserable.

So here’s what I discovered, after trying to live the perfect life, with the perfect stuff, at the perfect weight, with the perfect home and perfect clothes: Perfect doesn’t exist.

“Perfect” is a mirage. Just when you reach out to touch it, it shifts and changes, moves further away. As long as we try to base our happiness on stuff, and on our image, we’ll fail.

Even the celebrities don’t feel perfect. They’re rushing towards the next best thing, even faster and more crazily than the rest of us. They’re stuck on the mouse wheel, going nowhere for no purpose ten times faster.

That’s the trick of consumerism. Up to date right now? Give a month or so and the next trend will be in, or the next iPhone, or the next bigger flat screen TV, and we will be out of date, rushing like a mad thing to catch up.

More credit, more debt, the spiral downwards continues…

Minimalism changes everything. It’s the green flashing EXIT sign, the way out, if we want it to be.

The only way to win the consumerist game is to stop being a consumerist. Because there is no way to keep up-to-date without keeping up-to-debt.

So sit down and take a breath. Think about the type of person you want to be. Think about the things you want to do with your life – about the footprints you wish to leave behind for the world.

Do you really want to leave behind piles of sweatshop clothing that fell apart after a few wears and caused untold misery? Is that what you want for your epitaph?

Do you really want to leave behind piles of electronic waste because everything you bought was built with planned obsolescence?

Do you want to live on McJunk food that pays good people poor wages, and supports an obesity and diabetes epidemic in our population?

Who do you want to be?

When we buy less, we can be choosy. Instead of buying ten cheap t-shirts that will fall apart in weeks and were made in shocking conditions overseas, we can buy two or three good ones that last longer, and are made locally and sustainably.

Instead of buying that latest flat screen TV, maybe we can be happy with the old box TV we still have which is perfectly fine.

Maybe instead of buying junk jewellery, we can wear an inherited vintage piece that has a history with pride.

Minimalism starts with questioning what we actually need, and ends with finding an answer to suit ourselves, not society, or fashion, or anyone else. There’s no one right way to do minimalism – it’s whatever works for you. Some minimalists travel the world with just 51 items to their name, while others live in Dunedin with kids (*waves*), and are a work in progress, still finding their own level of belongings.

Do what works for you. Find your own path. Find the amount of belongings that work for you. The one thing all minimalists have in common is, they’re setting their own rules. They’re in charge. They’re finding their happiness in life, not in stuff. That’s what matters.

So do you think you might be minimalist? Take a look at your life, examine it. Find out. But if you think you’d like your life to be a journey with less stuff and more meaning, you just might be!

sidewayslotus_things

3 simple rules for keeping flat surfaces clear

Do flat surfaces in your home just seem to attract every single piece of junk that is lying around?

If you’re anything like me, flat surfaces have been an ongoing problem that can be hard to resolve – unless you have the tools and knowhow to stop them becoming serious clutter-collectors.

So here’s the three simple rules I use to keep flat surfaces clear:

1. If it isn’t a “display item”, don’t display it!
2. No more than three items on any flat surface.
3. Wipe down working surfaces at least twice a week.

I’ll be honest – these rules require discipline, and it takes time to learn to have discipline. But they’re great rules to have in your pocket, and they will keep flat surfaces clear if you begin to practice them throughout your home.

I talk about the 3 simple rules in a bit more detail below.

1. If it isn’t a “display item”, don’t display it!

In short, nobody wants you to display your clutter, your child’s dirty underwear or your unpaid gas bills!

Flat surfaces are for displaying items of value or purpose. They’re also for occasional use – for items we’re currently using then we put away again afterwards.

An example might be a television remote – we use it, rest it on a coffee table while we’re watching TV at night, then put it away safely in a drawer in when we’re done with watching.

In wet areas such as the kitchen, flat surfaces are for working and preparing food. Not for keeping knick-knacks and junk mail.

In the bathroom, flat surfaces are for personal grooming. Once we’re done using the flat surface to put our grooming tools on, the items are stored away again. Exceptions are a bar of soap, and maybe a glass containing toothbrushes and paste. Individual personal items should be stored out of sight and away, or a family bathroom can get cluttered really quickly!

If your flat surfaces are covered in stuff that isn’t “display” items or of current actual use, bag the items in a plastic bag, then sort through them. Discard anything you don’t use and find appropriate places for items of value and purpose.

2. No more than 3 items on any flat surface.

This is what I call my “Enid Blyton” rule, and it’s a good one😉 In Blyton’s “The Naughtiest Girl in the School”, the protagonist learns that each child may have three items on her nightstand.

Three items should be enough for anyone on any flat surface. Having a set number of items for flat surfaces makes them easy to dust and keep clean, because you don’t have to move a host of items to wipe the surface down. It’s also safer in earthquakes or fires.

Some people choose to rotate their items, and others keep their items the same year after year. But the 3 item rule will help keep your flat surfaces clear.

flat surfaces clean

The top of my tallboy. Two perfume bottles and an antique horse that I’ve had for 30 years now. It’s easy to keep uncluttered surfaces clean🙂

3. Wipe down working surfaces at least twice a week.

I wipe down bathroom and kitchen surfaces about twice a week. My mother would be shocked at this – she wipes hers down every morning and night!😉

Wiping down working surfaces helps keep things tidy. As you wipe, put away anything that shouldn’t be out on display, and bin anything that is post date. I’ve a habit of leaving cleaning products out after I’ve done with them, so wiping reminds me to put everything away.

For kitchens sponges and plugs, I keep a plastic container under the sink. I wring out anything that is wet, and store it out of sight. Because we have a dishwasher, there is no need to keep our plug and dishwashing liquid on the sink the whole time.

Items I keep on the kitchen bench all the time include: handwashing soap and the kettle. Sometimes the loaf of bread that is currently being eaten, as we go through a LOT of bread!

Why these rules? Why bother?

I like living in a relaxed, peaceful haven of a home. I don’t feel like I can ever truly relax when I’m looking around at piles of junk, washing to be sorted and put away, or clutter on flat surfaces.

Living in an uncluttered home is healthier, especially for people with allergies and disabilities. Clutter-free homes are easier to keep clean, and have lower levels of dust and dirt. It’s well-known that people who live in clutter-free homes are also relaxed and less stressed.

Then there’s the issue of health and safety. People have been trapped in homes and died in fires and earthquakes because their homes were too cluttered, especially in hallways and corridors. If nothing else, keep these narrow spaces absolutely clear.

Then there’s the cleaning. Anyone who is the principal cleaner in their home (*waves*) probably feels like they do enough of that already! Reducing the clutter makes cleaning easier and less time-consuming.

Give 3 simple rules for flat surfaces a try. Let me know how you get on!🙂

Do the poor deserve our junk?

I dropped off a box of donations at the charity shop today. What I saw made my heart break.

The whole of the back of the shop was a junkyard. People had dumped broken tables, broken chairs, a mattress so stained and old I’m surprised anyone had used it in years…or maybe they hadn’t.

When I put the box of carefully folded, sorted clothing inside the door, I passed a single broken shoe that someone had carelessly thrown in the porch.

People are using charity shops as junkyards, not as a way to genuinely help those in need with items we don’t need any more.

I’ve talked with the staff there. All volunteers, apart from the Manager. They’ve said they get so much rubbish they don’t know what to do with it. A full sized skip (dumpster) goes out every fortnight, and it’s packed full.

That skip is full of rubbish we’ve dumped at them, because we were too lazy to sort our cast-off belongings. Or maybe we saw it as the cheap alternative – instead of disposing of things properly, using the charity shops as a dumping ground for trash.

Do the poor deserve our junk? That’s what I’m asking. Do we really think they deserve our rubbish? Because I’ve known plenty of poor people in my life, although I’m been blessed enough to never have been poor myself. They were mostly ordinary people just like me, who were doing it hard through no fault of their own. They didn’t deserve to be poor, any more than me.

I don’t think anyone deserves my junk. If the best I can give is my rubbish, then I am the problem here.

And look: if you think all poor people deserve to be poor, please just walk away from this blog now. Because we have nothing to say to one another right now.

When we bring items to donate, we should be asking: Could I use this? Would I give this to a friend in need? Would I give these shoes / this jacket / these jeans to a little girl or boy I genuinely cared about?

If the answer is no, then cut them up for rags or throw them away.

And no, nothing is ever “too good” for the charity shop. Giving our best to charity should be a natural thing, not something we avoid.

Charity should be a gift from the heart, a gift with kindness and thought attached – the only strings it should ever have. It should be something we do because we care, not because it’s a convenient way to dispose of junk.

Kindness is a virtue. Maybe it’s time we all remembered that.

bestnotjunk

Capsule wardrobes for changing body weights and shapes

Today I’m going to talk about the five keys to successful wardrobe management for changing body weights and shapes.

Your body might change due to age, lifestyle, or you might be going through repeated pregnancies. Some people yoyo up and down a fair bit, and others are athletes whose weight and muscle mass goes up and down as they compete.

Whatever the reason, there are five keys that can help to plan a capsule wardrobe that will keep you looking great at any shape or stage in life.

The five keys to managing a successful capsule wardrobe when your weight fluctuates are:

1. Know your current body shape – and make peace with it.
2. Keep your active wardrobe small and in one place.
3. Use boxing and storage to manage non-fitting clothes.
4. Stick to a colour palette that works for your skin tone.
5. Ignore garment sizes on labels – they can be very misleading!

1. Know your current body shape and make peace with it.

Making peace with your current body shape can be hard, especially if you’ve changed a lot from how you’d like to be, but it is the only way you can ever look your best.

People always look their best in clothing that fits. If it’s too tight or too loose, or simply feels the wrong shape, it needs to be moved out of your active wardrobe.

Clothing that doesn’t fit properly never looks great. It’s that simple.

You might find you need to go up or down a size or two since you last bought new items. That’s fine. Everyone changes over our lifetimes. That’s normal.

Make peace. Accept your body as it is. It’s the only body you’ll ever have, after all!🙂

2. Keep your active wardrobe small.

The concept of an active wardrobe is central to those of us who change shape, or whose weight fluctuates.

An active wardrobe consists of everyday clothing items that are relevant to you, who you are, and the current time of year, here and now.

Nothing else, no matter how beloved or how beautiful, belongs in your active wardrobe.

Your active wardrobe is the clothing you reach for, day in day out, to look your best and feel comfortable. It’s your core wardrobe.

Your active wardrobe includes all the items you currently wear:

  • that are seasonally appropriate,
  • are relevant to your location i.e. if you live in Singapore, where it’s hot all year round, your beautiful down jacket does not belong in your active wardrobe, even if it looks great!
  • are a great fit,
  • make you feel great when you wear them, and
  • are in good condition.

If any item does not meet all of these requirements, it does not belong in your active wardrobe.

Managing an active wardrobe is simple: If an item doesn’t fit you right here, right now, today, box it, donate it, or throw it away. Then repeat the process every 2-3 months. I schedule my wardrobe checks in my calendar.

I prefer to hang up everything I currently wear – including t-shirts and jeans – keeping drawer space for underwear, sportswear and nightwear only.

That way, I can see at a glance all of my options at the start of the day.

By hanging everything, clothes stay aired and fresh, and un-creased. I like to use cedar wardrobe hangars to keep moths away, and I have a few bags of lavender hanging in my wardrobe to keep everything extra-fresh.

By keeping your active wardrobe small, you can maintain your clothing properly, and make sure everything is well-kept and in good condition.

If anything starts getting too tight or too loose, or looks shabby, put it into one of three piles:

  1. If it’s great and you want to keep wearing it when you change shape again, store it properly.
  2. If it’s in good condition, but you won’t wear it ever again, donate it.
  3. If it’s in poor condition, throw it away or cut it up for dust cloths.

If you’re capsuling – and I strongly recommend this! – your active wardrobe should be no larger than about 30-40 items, including accessories.

I use The Project 333 to guide my wardrobe capsuling, and it’s awesome, but whatever system works for you is fine.

I find that about 30 items of clothing is plenty for me day-to-day, plus a separate sportswear capsule of about 10 items.

2. Use boxing and storage.

If an item doesn’t fit you right here, right now, today, box it, donate it, or throw it away.

I box my clothes that don’t fit in a big plastic crate which I store in my wardrobe, together with my off-season clothing.

I also put lavender bags and some cedar balls in the crate to keep bugs away.

Because we live in a damp climate, I collect those little silica gel sachets from shoe stores, and put them in my storage box too, to keep away damp. They seem to really help keep my clothes in great condition!

Wherever you decide to store your clothing, check it won’t get damp – ruined clothing is no good to anyone!

Go through boxed clothing every three months, and discard anything that wont be worn again.

Sometimes I’ll bring an old item out of storage because it’s seasonable again, or because I’ve dropped a bit of weight and it looks great again. Other times I’ll decide I’m really never going to wear something again, and I donate or throw it away.

Do whatever works for you. But by keeping items that you aren’t currently wearing out of view, your active wardrobe will remain uncluttered and dressing well will be so much easier!

4. Stick to a colour palette that works with your skin tone.

Understanding the tones and hues that work well on you makes a huge difference in looking your best.

Here’s a quick and easy flowchart to help you figure out what “season” you are with the original, four season system by Color Me Beautiful. A quick search online (or on Pinterest) will give you a full palette of colours and tones that will suit you.

color me beautiful 4 season flowchart

An easy way to determine which season you are, with the 4 season flowchart

You can also choose a set palette of colours to work from. My palette is:

BASE COLORS: Black, Denim
ACCENT COLORS: Blue, Purple, Green
POP COLORS: Coral & Warm Red.

(I’m a “Spring” in the Color Me Beautiful system.)

Choose colours that will work well together and that you enjoy.

A snapshot from Color Me Beautiful. Learning what colors suit you can make a huge difference in looking your best.

A snapshot from Color Me Beautiful. Learning what colors suit you can make a huge difference in looking your best.

5. Ignore sizes on garments – they can be very misleading!

Clothing can vary a huge amount, regardless of the size on the label. This can make shopping online really tricky.

In most cases, when shopping online, you’ll find a “Contact Us” link – feel free to contact the sales staff and ask for more information about the garment, including length, waist size etc. Some brands are known to run large while other run very tight.

As a general rule, American sizes are much larger than European, which are much larger again than Asian sizes. Australian and New Zealand manufacturers are somewhere between the US and the UK in sizing and fit.

Summary

Anyone can capsule, and capsuling works particularly well for people who have a changing body shape to deal with, because so many of our clothes may not fit us at any given time.

The concept of an active wardrobe can make a huge difference. Give it a go, and see how it makes things easier for you!

Happy capsuling!

minimalist wardrobe

My current capsule wardrobe.

Simple fix: Treat day!

Every Friday is Treat Day for my kids.

I buy them a bar of their favourite chocolate each, and they look forward to it, counting down the days.

Prior to creating “Treat Day”, treats were out of control. Every time I went shopping, the kids wanted something, and treats were becoming more and more common. It wasn’t good for the budget, and it certainly wasn’t good for my kids’ health or their teeth!

If the kids are with me at the supermarket, they know there’s no point asking for goodies if it isn’t Friday, because only Friday is “Treat Day”. It saves a lot of nagging, and makes shopping so much nicer🙂

I’ve recently added myself into the “Treat Day” routine too, as my own chocolate addiction was getting out of control again – just ask my partner!

Now I have to look forward to Fridays, right along with the kids!😦

Sometimes, simple guidelines and a regular routine can make a huge difference – save a lot of money and make families healthier too.

Do you have any routines such as “Treat Day” for your family, or do you think having a “Treat Day” might help create routine for your kids and you?

chocolate

My favourite chocolate!