Saying NO to fast fashion with a capsule wardrobe

I’ve been doing The Project 333 for nearly four years now.

The Project 333 is a Capsule Wardrobe system. It asks us to dress with 33 items, or fewer. The rules are fairly simple:

  • 33 items or fewer in your wardrobe. This includes jewelry, shoes, outerwear and other accessories. Vision glasses, wedding rings and religious items are exempt.
  • Sleepwear, workout wear, underwear, in-home only wear is not included. In my case, I’ve created a “10 items or fewer” Workout Wardrobe, that I use for workouts only. I also have items like nighties, ugg boots and a robe that I only wear at home (of course!).
  • You can box up seasonal wear to keep safe for the next year. This doesn’t count in your 33 items. For me, as it’s winter in New Zealand at the moment, I’ve boxed up my light denim jacket and a couple of dresses, which I won’t wear until summer again.

Stepping off the fast fashion train with a capsule wardrobe

Having a capsule wardrobe enables me to step away from the crazy, unsustainable world of fast fashion.

For a long time I’d had issues with the way fashion was going. Clothing was becoming poorer and poorer quality, while the stories of child labour and sweatshops were hard to ignore. I’m not a full-blown activist, but I wanted what I wore to reflect who I am. And who I am is NOT someone who supports cruelty and abuse.

Fast fashion is designed for profit, not for those who wear it or those who make it. It is cheap to buy, per item, but expensive in the long term. It is not designed to last or look good. Much like a drug hit, it give a quick “buzz” then the thrill is gone, forcing the user to move on to the next hit, then the next.

My capsule wardrobe from a few years ago. Some items have changed, but I still dress with less.

What I wear, what I buy…

These days, about half of my wardrobe is made locally. I buy locally made merino tops that I layer, and I stick closely with a color code of blue and black, with some brights in accessories for interest.

I’m also a fan of secondhand, recycled jewelry. I often pop down to the local Hospice shop, where I pick up cheap jewelry for a couple of dollars apiece. I wear it, then when I’m bored of it I donate it back and buy a replacement from the Hospice shop again. In this way, I’m sharing what I have, and I have an endless supply of great, recycled jewelry I don’t have to store or maintain! It’s a winning strategy!

Inside my drawer. A color code of blue, green and black helps me keep organised.

How a Capsule Wardrobe will change your life

Take a step away from fast fashion. Fast fashion is trashing our planet and hurting people and economies. Taking a step away from the madness is a positive move for everyone.

Buy fewer clothes. Less money wasted, less time spent shopping. More cash left for the things that really count.

A co-ordinated, planned wardrobe. Fewer items are easier to co-ordinate. I also have a color code – blue and black form the basis of everything I wear, with pops of warm colors in accessories (yellow, coral, red).

More money for better quality clothes. Having fewer items means I now have the budget for better items. I can buy three t-shirts at $80 each in merino, instead of 10 t-shirts at $20 each, and I know my better quality items will fit better, look better, feel better and last longer than the cheap ones ever could.

Cleaning a fence

Sometimes renovation just means cleaning.

On the weekend, my partner and I tackled the back fence. It had clearly never been cleaned in a long time. There was an old trellis supporting some scrawny, nondescript plants, and the wood was covered in green mossy built up from years of neglect.

I snipped off the daggy old metal trellis with a pair of bolt cutters. The cutters made short work of the old plastic-coated metal. Bolt cutters are one of my favourite tools – I always feel like a superhero when I’m bolt-cutting something!

My other favourite tool is a sledgehammer 🙂

Usually I like to salvage materials where possible, but the trellis was probably 30 years old, and no good for anything except disposal, being plastic-coated. It has gone to landfill now.

I left the old fencing nails that had been used to attach the trellis in the fence. They were well nailed in, and pulling them out might damage the fence. Besides, they blended in and didn’t bother me too much once the trellis was gone.

Sometimes it’s better to leave old nails in place. If I’d desperately wanted to remove them, a quick snip at the elbow with bolt cutters before teasing the ends out with pliers would do the trick.

The old plants were snipped apart with a pair of secateurs (they weren’t very big plants!), and went into the compost, not being large enough to burn.

One of the plants was a rose, so I cut it down to the base, and will dig up the root stock and transplant it.

A job for another day!

The rose bush and other plants hadn’t been pruned in a long time and were no good. I’ve saved the rose root stock though, and will transplant it elsewhere.

The water blaster was the perfect tool for the job of fence-cleaning and removing all the green built-up.It was pretty filthy!

Half the back fence done. My partner Matt got a bit bored and started “drawing” with the water blaster in the moss build up. Could’ve been worse – at least it was just a number!

There! Two hours later it’s much better!

Looks like a new fence now! So much better!

Just one afternoon of work can make a huge difference.

Looking after a house and garden and keeping them in good order is often just a matter of easy jobs performed regularly.

It’s also a matter of having the right tools. A water blaster made this job really easy, but if we didn’t have one, we’d have used scrubbing brushes and soapy water – plus elbow grease.

Over the next year we have our work cut out for us. We’ll be painting the entire house, inside and out, and remodelling a bathroom that is truly antiquated. Plus we’ll be doing a lot of gardening, making our outdoors a lovely place to be.

I’m looking forward to all of it!

Renovations – we’ve been busy!

We moved into our new home just over a month ago, and boy, have we been busy!

The house we’ve bought is an absolutely lovely old villa, right in the middle of Mornington, which is one of Dunedin’s oldest and most central suburbs. It’s a great place to live.

The home is on a double block – rare so close to town – with a lovely flat garden.

It’s a lovely flat garden, and will be easy to maintain. I just need to clear out the overgrown stuff first!

We have five bedrooms, one for each of our four kids. Also rare, in a town that is about 90% three bedroom homes.

It’s exactly what we wanted, and we’re very happy, but when I say it’s an “old villa” I mean OLD!!!

The home had been owned by the same family for about 80 years, and although basic maintenance had been done, little else had, for a long long time.

There was no heating at all, apart from old fireplaces that don’t work very well, and we live in a COLD climate. From what we can tell, the people who lived here either froze each winter or just used lots of little electric heaters they plugged into the wall and put up with a huge heating bill.

As for the bathroom, well! It’s original, in every sense, and the plumbing is antiquated.

The bathroom is antiquated. We’ll be gutting it completely, replacing the shower-tub combo with a glass-fronted walk-in shower. The vanity will be replaced with a much smaller model to take up less floor space. We’ve already purchased the 3 in 1 heater/extractor fan/light as well as a heated towel rail and will be fitting both over the next couple of weeks.

The kitchen is not much better.

When I said the kitchen was OLD, I meant it!

We knew all this, and it was reflected in the sale price, but what it all means is we’ll be doing a lot of renovations over the coming few years, and I’ll be blogging all about it here, as I think (hope!) it will interest you.

We intend to bring this beautiful old home kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Quality heating

Our first step was putting in two kick-ass heat pumps – one in the living room, and the other in the hallway. We also changed all the locks, as a standard measure moving into a new home.

The living room heat pump. We didn’t mess around, but bought a really powerful machine that would heat the room well.

The heat pumps we bought are a wonder, and over the first few weeks we could literally feel the home drying out and becoming warm and inviting. It was an amazing thing to feel. The old musty smells have disappeared, and the home feels comfortable, warm and dry.

The hallway heat pump is a slimline floor model and it works really well to keep the bedrooms warm and dry.

Insulation

The second step was to check our insulation. I called upon the Warm Up NZ initiative, a government scheme to get homes across the country properly insulated, and they did a check on our home.

We’re fully insulated, top and bottom, and on all accessible side walls.

While here, the Warm Up NZ guy recommended our next step should be thermal curtains on all windows, starting with the top storey.

Thermal curtains

This week, I ordered new thermal curtains for all windows on the top storey. These were easy, as I could just buy ready-made curtains, then I’ll re-hem them over next week. Two sets had to be ordered online, and should come in the post in the next few days or so.

This will make our house look better and stay warmer.

My partner’s daughter chose ivory curtains, his son chose plain black, and my son chose black with a pattern. For the landing, I chose grey with a vine pattern.

I’ll take “before and after” photos when these are all fitted.

Replacing light bulbs

We’re going through the house and replacing all standard light globes with ultra-efficient LED bulbs. This is not cheap, as the bulbs retail between $7 and $13 apiece, and we have about 20 bulbs to replace!

We started with the living areas and hallway, and are gradually working our way around the house. This will cut our power bills significantly.

New smoke detectors, and a fire blanket in the kitchen

The house had old-style smoke detectors, and not enough of them! We’ve replaced these with modern fire detectors that only need replacing every 10 years.

We also bought a fire blanket to keep near the very old stove, in case of emergency.

Fibre!

Within a week we had a fibre connection to the internet installed. The kids were very happy about this!

Where to next?

Our next steps will be replacing the hot water system with gas, and getting started on the bathroom renovation, as it’s more necessary than the kitchen. We’ll be completely gutting both, so this is not small tasks.

In the meantime We’ll also be working on the garden, clearing away overgrown plants, and putting some new fruit trees in.

Widening the driveway will happen in a year or two, but first I’ll be clearing all these overgrown plants away!

Our Lilliput Library!

We’ve been moved in a few weeks now.

The boxes are (almost!) gone from the hallway, the kids (all four of them!) are settled in, and things are looking sorted. So on the weekend it was time to put up our own new Lilliput Library.

Here it is, looking lovely at our front gate:

Lilliput Libraries are a community project, started in Dunedin by Ruth Arnison a few years ago. Our own library is No 109, so there are a fair number around Dunedin now! You can view their locations around Dunedin on Google Maps.

The project has a WordPress blog, also run by Ruth. The Libraries also have a Facebook page and an Instagram page, with some lovely images of the various libraries around Dunedin. Take a look. Some of the artwork is absolutely beautiful.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

This is my friend Lhizz Browne’s Lilliput Library.

Lhizz’s Lilliput Library is up and running at 186 Pine Hill, so drop by and grab or add a book to this lovely library.

The library below has Diane Smith as its Guardian. She commisioned artist Jack Pillans to paint her fence to match, and the result is stunning. You can view the Lilliput Library – and the fence artwork – at 71 Newington Avenue:

Diane Smith’s beautiful Lilliput Library and fence artwork by local artist Jack Pillans.

Sharing books is a wonderful thing to do!

Lilliput Libraries are based on the concept of book sharing:

Take a book now…
Return or donate a book later.

Whenever you see a Lilliput Library, feel free to open the door and have a browse. Choose a book you’d like to read. You can keep the book for a while, or forever – Lilliput Libraries are cost-free, and there’s no membership required.

Then, if you are able, share a book back to any Lilliput Library when you can.

It’s that simple!

Becoming a Lilliput Library “Guardian

If you’d like to become a “Guardian” of a Lilliput Library in Dunedin, contact Ruth Arnison via the Lilliput Libraries blog. She’s a lovely lady and is incredibly helpful.

If you’re an artist or have carpentry skills, or can donate paint or woodworking products and you would like to support the Lilliput Libraries project, please also contact Ruth.

If you live in another city and would like to start up your own Lilliput Libraries scheme or build your own independent Lilliput Library, I can’t think of a lovelier way to encourage community and reading!

Headlice: What works, what doesn’t…

If you have kids, you’ve probably had to deal with headlice.

Today I’ll cover why most products don’t work, why headlice are at plague proportions around the world and how to keep children lice-free.

I’ll also cover what does work, what doesn’t work, and what’s complete rubbish and a waste of your money.

So read on to start winning the Headlice Battle!

We’ve been battling headlice a LONG time!

1. Why most supermarket “headlice treatments” don’t work.

Most “natural” treatments you can buy at the supermarket and chemist will not kill headlice or their eggs.

Products that in my experience do not work at all include the major brands “Moov”, “Parasidose”, “NeutraLice”, “Nyx”, “ClearLice” and “QuitNits”.

Most of these products are very expensive ($20 a bottle or more) and several treatments are needed if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on anything other than very short hair, in order to full saturate the hair as directed. Manufacturers also recommend that the entire family be treated.

These products don’t work because headlice have grown immune to these products, if they ever actually worked at all.

Experts believe that over time headlice have grown tougher and more resistant, and what did work well a few decades ago no longer does. Remember, we have been using more and more chemicals and “natural” insecticides in our environment for a long time now. It’s not just headlice that have grown more resistant.

In short, these products are outdated and useless. Don’t pour your money down the drain by purchasing them.

2. Why headlice are an epidemic.

When I was a child, back in the 1970s, every school in Australia and New Zealand had a school nurse. The nurse’s responsibilities included checking children for headlice.

Kids were routinely sent home for headlice, and were not allowed back to school until they were cleared by the school nurse.

In other words, individual cases were checked, caught and isolated quickly, then dealt with.

Headlice was a rare occurrence. There was shame and stigma attached to being infested. In all my years at school, I never once had headlice, nor did my brother. I remember just one of my friends ever having lice.

The standard treatment back then was using gasoline, kerosene, naptha or turpentine to soak the hair. It worked – and worked well. It killed headlice quickly, and was cheap and easy to do.

However, there were also a tiny percentage of kids who ended up with burns from sitting near open fires and their hair lighting up, and the practice was strongly discouraged for safety reasons.

Snopes lists 9 cases worldwide of burns over a 20 year period. So burns happened very rarely, but when they did they were horrific. This was enough for health and safety authorities to discourage the use of these effective and affordable methods for treating headlice.

The school nurse program was universally dismantled over time from the 1980s onwards due to budget cuts, along with many other health and education programs throughout the Western world.

Without school checks, and with pressure from dual working families to not send kids home due to headlice, nits grew rampant.

Modern issues that have further added to the problem of headlice include children crowding around iPads, phones and computers, sharing electronic resources and allowing their heads to touch, and the fashion of girls having their hair loose and down rather than plaited and in ponytails at school, as well as boys having longer hair generally than in previous generations.

Taking the stigma away from headlice has not helped the situation either, as many parents don’t bother to report their children’s infestations to the schools, and schools fail to notify parents of current epidemics.

So apart from resistance to the products we’re using, we’re also not checking or isolating individuals with infestations as we once did.

Add into this longer, looser hairstyles (schools no longer require that girls tie their hair up or that boys have very short hair), and the sharing of computer terminals, phones and iPads with kids crowded closely together with head-to-head contact, plus the advent of school sunhats which are often mixed-up, and an epidemic was in the making.

There’s nothing much to stop the spread, and in a recent Christchurch study of primary school children about half needed treatment for headlice. Studies in Australian primary schools also report epidemic infestation rates.

3. How to keep kids headlice free.

  • Check your entire family thoroughly every week, including adults, on the same evening of the week. Check under good, bright light. A magnifying glass can be helpful.
  • If one child has headlice, assume all others may have headlice.
  • The Condition and Comb treatment method is the most widely recommended non-toxic treatment known to be effective in eliminating headlice.

  • Keep all your children’s hair short (i.e. a buzz cut) or tied back / plaited. Girls hair should ideally be kept as short as possible if they don’t like it tied back.

  • Ensure your child does not share hats, headgear, hair items (brushes, hair ties etc.) or pillow cases. Teach kids not to lean in for iPads, smart phones etc and to avoid head-to-head contact.
  • If your children have headlice, notify schools and social groups (i.e. Scouts, sporting groups etc.) immediately.

What works – and what doesn’t

  • Hair dryers and hair straighteners. Work! These work very well at killing headlice – and explain why I never had a single infestation in all the years I struggled with my children contracting them.

    A standard home hair dryer will kill nearly 98% of eggs with good technique. Hair straighteners are just as effective when used properly.

    If you have a daughter with long hair, hair dryers and straighteners are a great line of defence against headlice, especially when used in combination with the Conditioning and Combing technique.

  • Listerine. Works! I found that Listerine worked quite well, and killed a large majority of active lice in my daughter’s hair when I tried it a couple of years ago, but I couldn’t confirm it killed eggs. I used this method in conjunction with the condition and comb method with 100% clearance results.
  • Cetaphil cleanser. Works! Using Cetaphil cleanser (not the moisturiser) achieved a clearance rate of 95% when combed on then blow-dried in.
  • Gasoline / kerosene. Works! But beware! These products are highly flammable and one spark will set them alight. If you intend to use them, do so carefully.
  • Coca-cola. Unconfirmed. This treatment is all over the internet. I haven’t tried it, but it might be worth a go. If it does work, it’s certainly cheap and safe enough!

    The Coke method is unconfirmed, but worth a go!

  • 4% Dimethicone. Kinda-sorta works. The website states that dimethicone 4% eradicates headlice in at least 70% of patients. I’d call that an “almost win”. Dimethicone 4% is available on prescription only in New Zealand. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother. A hair dryer yields better results, for free.
  • Bug spray. Untested. I haven’t tested this and don’t want to. I have no intention of spraying bug spray on my kids. Don’t do this!
  • Pet flea treatments i.e “Spot on”, “Advantage” etc. Untested. These products work, and work well. On pets. By turning their blood toxic to insects. Seriously, don’t use these. Some of the ingredients can cause seizures, weakness and fatigue, and heart problems. While some of the same ingredients are being tested on humans for headlice in the USA, they’re being tested at 1/50th the strength. Very, very different.
  • Electronic comb i.e. “Robicomb”. Doesn’t work. Don’t bother. This is a big expensive waste of nothing.

    Listerine worked well for me, in conjunction with the Condition and Comb method.

  • Mayonnaise. Doesn’t work. I tried the “smother the head with mayo and wrap for hours” method. Either I didn’t wrap my daughter’s head for long enough or this just didn’t work. Either way, it was messy and difficult. Avoid.

  • Tea tree oil. Doesn’t work. While tea tree oil is a great deterrent (water down, put in a spray bottle and spray your child’s head each morning), it didn’t work to kill headlice.

  • Petroleum jelly. Doesn’t work. Creates a big, sticky mess, and expensive.

Summary

Health authorities around the world recommend the Condition and Comb method. This is still the best way to treat headlice, along with using a common household hair dryer. There is some evidence to suggest old bonnet-style hair dryers work well too.

I firmly believe that common-sense will return to our societies, and that we’ll return to having school nurses again. Headlice is more than a nuisance – it prevents our kids from concentrating and learning.

It’s time we took things seriously.

Moving “Simple Living…With Kids” to a new host!

Hi all,

Over the coming few days, I’m moving Simple Living…With Kids to a new web host.

Hopefully the process will be smooth, and you won’t see any interruptions. However, if things get a little frisky, I ask all my lovely readers to please be patient while I sort things out.

The address will stay the same, and your links will stay the same. If everything gors smoothly, you won’t see any change, as a reader.

If all goes well, I’ll post instructions on how I moved hosts, and provide details on any isseas that occurred.

Wish me luck in the move!

Mother’s Day: 10 non-spendy ideas to make Mother’s Day just perfect…

It’s Mother’s Day here in New Zealand this Sunday.

As usual, the shops are all suggesting we buy cards and gifts. For some reason, the junk mail is full of suggestions that people buy their mums kitchen items such as serving platters, new toasters, dinner sets and cutlery.

If someone bought me a toaster for Mother’s Day I would kill them!!!

I wanted CHOCOLATE!!!!! 😉

But seriously, Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be about the money. Or the stuff. So, in light of that, here are 10 fabulous non-spendy ideas to make your Mother’s Day just perfect. Five are things to make, and five are things to do.

Have fun! And Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day gifts – to make

1. A wheat bag to keep her warm on cold nights. Here’s how: How to make a wheat bag.

2. A foot scrub to make her tired feet soft and lovely. Here’s how: Recipe for peppermint foot scrub.

3. A “Ten things I love about you” book. Here’s how: Ten things I love about you.

4. Bath salts. Then let her soak for hours…. Here’s how: Homemade bath salts.

5. A ladybird rock paperweight for her desk. Every time she sees it, she’ll smile 🙂 Here’s how: Ladybug rocks.

Mother’s Day gifts – to do

1. Let her sleep in. The rest of the family members – partners, kids, assorted groupies – do everything for a day. Make breakfast. Tidy up. Do the washing. Clean the house. Fix that gizmo that has needed fixing for ever. Oh, and keep the noise down…

2. Bake something nice. And CLEAN the kitchen afterwards. Bake some cupcakes. Or a slice. Or some muffins. The house will smell lovely.

3. Collect wildflowers. Go for a drive. Or a walk. Collect wildflowers. Give them to her. With love. Oh – and if it’s too wet for collecting flowers, go splashing in puddles or build a snowman instead!

4. Go hiking. Together. As a family. You’ll know if your mum likes that kind of thing. Some of us do 😉

5. Let her be a tourist in her home town. Most cities have a council website with suggestions of free things to do in the city. Some ideas include:
going to the botanic gardens,
visiting a park,
going to the beach for a family picnic,
visiting an open garden or a historic home,
going for a drive along a scenic route,
going to a free talk or open-air concert,
playing in a playground like you’re a kid again,
visiting the art gallery,
visiting the museum,
visiting local heritage sites,
visiting cultural sites,
bird watching in a wild place,
going “instagramming” at a local beauty spot,
wildlife spotting,
visiting an old church and enjoying the silence,
visiting an old graveyard and reading the old tombstones (they can be really interesting!)

Use your imagination and give mum a truly special day!