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!

Minimalism: the space between the lines

You’ve cleared the clutter, dumped the junk, ditched the rubbish in your home.

Now what?

Minimalism isn’t just about stuff. When we take our first steps on the minimalist path, it seems all about consumerism, saying no to all the stuff we thought we needed but really don’t, and finding the space between the lines.

Minimalism

Minimalism: The space between the lines.

It’s a good place to start, but once the junk is gone, and the habit of unnecessarily buying replacements is dead, it becomes glaringly clear that often our actual lives need simplifying too.

Sometimes we’re doing too many activities. We’re spreading our talents too thin, trying to be experts in a number of fields, struggling to be interested in everything.

Other times we find we’re stretched too thin by others.

Our partners need us, our kids need us, our ageing parents need us, and we’re meant to fit it all in on top of a full time job and a part time job on the weekend. Oh, and there’s that volunteering we do as well!

Minimalism asks us to breathe. To ask ourselves: what serves us best? What makes us happiest? What gives us the most value in return for our most precious asset, Time?

Once you start to see that space between the lines, what is important becomes obvious.

What is essential is invisible to the eye. Only with the heart can we see clearly. Clearing the clutter away opens our eyes, minds and hearts to the truth of who we truly are.

If we don’t have such a big house we won’t need that second job.
If we don’t take those extra classes in a hobby we really don’t enjoy all that much, we’ll have more time to spend with our partner and kids.
And our ageing parents? They won’t be around much longer. Perhaps we should consider spending quality time with them, over volunteering our time with strangers.

Everyone has choices.
So choose wisely. Choose well.
And be happy.

happy beach

Kids’ clothing: cheap items, or fewer?

Here in New Zealand, you can pick up a brand new t-shirt in kiddie sizes for $4, or a pair of leggings for $6.

You can buy shoes for as little as $10, or $1 a pair in the charity shops.

This is a good thing – from the point of view that no child in New Zealand should ever lack clothing, or leave their home shivering through a lack of clothes to wear.

But cheap clothing can also mean our homes are awash in too many items, and we can’t keep track of what our kids actually own.

More clothing also means – more washing, more storage, and more replacement when cheap items fail and fall apart.

Finding a balance

I believe there are some items worth paying more for, and buying better quality versions of, if you can. If money is an issue, secondhand options of better quality are a great alternative.

I buy good quality: Winter jackets and coats, sunglasses (check they’re safety standard compliant!), sunhats and sun protection clothing (this includes rash vests and swimsuits).

Oddly enough, buying good quality socks is also worthwhile. I’ve found cheap ones just fall apart. Good quality school shoes are a must – buying leather lasts so much long, and is a money saver in the long run.

If you have a child that does a dangerous sport, don’t skimp on safety equipment on body protection equipment either (shin guards, mouth guards, that sort of thing).

It’s also a great idea, while not clothing exactly, to spend a little more on good quality school bags, lunch boxes and drink bottles (non-plastic).

Anything else, buy using common-sense. But I have found that kids need less clothing than you might think, especially if they wear a school uniform throughout the week.

The “F” word…

Fashion! Arrrrggggghhhh!

My kids (12, 11 and 10) are at an age where they’re starting to appreciate the way they look, so I do tend to buy a few upmarket fashion items these days (not too many!) so they feel part of the “in” crowd.

Buying a T-shirt with a trendy image on it, or even a cool bracelet can make a huge difference to how your kid feels about fitting in.

Ditto on the sunglasses here.

Regarding eyeglasses: Don’t skimp on cheap frames, if at all possible. These are an item that your child needs to wear every single day, so choose a pair that they feel good about wearing, and that they feel makes them look good. Be gentle, and a little tolerant here 🙂

A few extra dollars on an item your child will wear 2-3 years is very little on the scheme of things.

Wise decisions

Overall, the key to your child looking great and feeling trendy, as well as being comfortable and warm isn’t owning masses of clothes.

It’s about owning enough good quality clothes that meet their needs.

Thirty cheap, ill-fitting t-shirts will never look as good as five great, well-made ones. And no child needs more than five t-shirts!

Audit your child’s wardrobe regularly with them, eliminating any items in poor condition or that don’t fit. Keep the wardrobe size manageable, with good choices, and your child will be happy – and well clothed – throughout the year.

friendshill_dawniesroom

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

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

My minimalist wardrobe: Capsuling through three years

I’ve been doing The Project 333 – a capsule wardrobe programme – for three years now.

It has been a huge learning experience, and you can follow my capsuling trials – and errors! – in the “Capsule wardrobe” tabs in the menu of this blog.

When I first started The Project, I did as suggested and dragged all the clothes I owned out on to the bedroom floor and counted them. I was stunned to find I owned over 200 items of clothing! Most of it I hadn’t worn in ages, a lot of it didn’t fit me, and some of it even had labels still attached.

It was a mess. It reflected my haphazard approach to shopping, my need to self-medicate by buying stuff, and my general dissatisfaction with my body, plus a whole stack of other issues I’ve been dealing with across the years.

They say a cluttered home is a reflection of a cluttered mind. A cluttered wardrobe is no exception.

These days, now I’m entering my third year doing The Project, my wardrobe is sleek and small, and I wear everything I own. When I make a buying mistake – because I still make buying mistakes – I send them back to the shop or sell them as soon as I can, so they don’t become clutter.

But I make far fewer mistakes than I did three years ago. I shop less. I save money. I dress better. Capsuling works.

So here’s my wardrobe these days:

minimalist wardrobe

I got rid of about 30 hangers, but I still have too many spare hangers in my wardrobe – you can see them hanging in the wardrobe here. So more decluttering still needs to be done. It’s an ongoing process for most people. It certainly has been for me.

And my shoes:

I own four pairs of shoes in my capsule. Probably too many. There's also a pair of uggs (slippers don't count) and crocs for gardening (loungewear / gardening wear doesn't count).

I own four pairs of shoes in my capsule. Probably too many. There’s also a pair of uggs (slippers don’t count) and crocs for gardening (loungewear / gardening wear doesn’t count).

Apart from what you see I have one drawer of t-shirts and jeans I own two pair of jeans and four t-shirts), another drawer for my sportswear capsule (I’ll do a second post on sub-capsules), and a drawer for my underwear. Plus some crocs for gardening and a pair of ugg boots for homewear (neither counts in the capsule, according to The Rules of Project 333).

Lessons I’ve learned from three years of capsuling

There’s still room for improvement. That’s just life! I’m still paring down and still learning. But here are some of the things I’ve learned over the last three years I’d like to share:

Quality counts. Good quality costs more, but it wears better, feels better and last longer. I spend more money on items like jeans, jackets, shoes and belts, and it is worth every cent. Especially with shoes!

Fit counts. These days I don’t worry about the size on the label so much. If the size on the label feels too big, I snip it out! 🙂 Instead, I pay attention to how an item fits when I put it on, and especially check leg and sleeve length. If it doesn’t fit properly it is never worth keeping.

Life is too short for broken clothes. If you can afford to not wear broken clothes, don’t wear them! Or get them mended. Don’t ever put up with missing buttons, gaping shirts that are too small, stains on shirts, pilled jumpers, shoes that pinch and frayed collars. Don’t look shabby. If money is an issue, you’d be surprised what is available in secondhand shops and charity stores – especially for men. My partner has bought excellent business shirts in as-new condition for very little (NZD$4 each) by buying secondhand. This world is awash in great secondhand clothing in excellent condition – all you have to do is look.

Accept the body you have. Here and now. Face reality, and be your best self today. This is a tough one. I’ve spent most of my life being unhappy with my body in one way or another. It’s something a lot of people are familiar with. But I know this: wearing a size that is too small, or hiding in shapeless clothes while waiting for that magical day when you’re suddenly “the right size” is a waste of who you are, here and now. Make peace with your body, and wear clothes that make the best of your real, current physical self.

Just because you bought it doesn’t mean you have to keep it. I’ve bought lots of “mistakes” in my life – clothes I liked in the store but when I got them home I didn’t like them or didn’t wear them for some reason. If you can, return them. If not, sell or give them away. Everyone makes mistakes but that doesn’t mean you have to house them in your wardrobe forever!

Nobody notices when you wear the same item more than once. They really, really don’t. Think about it: can you honestly describe what your friends were wearing last time you saw them? Or your co-workers? Most people can’t even recall what they had for dinner last night! (I can’t.) While most people will remember a particuarly beautiful dress or a striking top it’s true, they won’t realise how small your wardrobe is when you capsule. They’ll only remember how good you look (or how bad). So take advantage of that fact and…

Own a small number of beautiful, good-quality, comfortable items you love to wear. Don’t waste your time with a huge wardrobe of meaningless clothing. Choose wisely and well. These days I spend my money on a mix of beautiful dresses and ultra-comfy clothing for casual wear. Everything fits. I wear – and like – everything I own.

Happy capsuling!

Stuff won’t ever love you back

Have you ever noticed that so many of the things we buy are to impress other people?

Did we really need that new car, that huge addition to our home, that fancy wedding we’re still paying off? Is it possible that we really bought them to tell the world we’re a person worth knowing and respecting?

The truth can be tough. I know for me it was.

When we stop and think about why we buy, it can seem as though our whole lives are lived for others, not for ourselves.

Buying stuff to impress other people makes us happy for such a short while. The joy is short-lived, shallow, and ultimately meaningless. It leads to buyer’s remorse, and an empty ache inside that – if we’re not astute – we strive to fill that emptiness with yet more buying.

Surely if the last load of stuff we bought didn’t make us happy, then maybe we just bought the wrong stuff? Maybe more stuff will help? Maybe stuff from a different shop? Maybe stuff of a different colour or style? Maybe we got the fashion wrong? Heck, maybe the problem was us all along!

Spending money on our image works…at first. But have you noticed how quickly we feel dissatisfied with our new clothes, jewellery, makeup? We worked so hard to look exactly like that model in the magazine (with our own personal twist, of course!)…but inside we know it’s a sham.

We’re still the same naked emperor within, no matter what we do.
We know we’re a fake.
We never feel like we ever truly become the perfect human we’ve set out to be.

You can chase the dream your whole life, wasting years and years of energy. Or you can recognise that impressing others, trying to be something we’re not, spending our lives creating an image…it’s all false, all empty. It won’t make us happy. It won’t give us fulfilment.

It’s a dream, a fantasy. Reach out to touch it, and the vision blurs, moves, changes…

Real happiness comes from within, and from the genuine connections we make with other people throughout our lives. It comes from having a strong moral compass and sense of self, built on challenge and drive and struggle. It comes from real work and dedication, and from giving more than we take.

Happiness – deep, soul-satisfying happiness – won’t ever come from stuff. No matter how much stuff you are given, or buy, or own.

So live for yourself.
Live for the people you love.
Don’t live for stuff.

Because stuff won’t ever love you back.

stuffloveback