We shall fight on the beaches…

The Zero Waste life is eyeballing me. I can’t look away.

On Sunday night our family sat down, as we always do, to watch David Attenborough. It was Blue Planet 2. If you haven’t tuned in yet, I can’t recommend the series strongly enough.

Sir David, for the first time that I can remember, drew his attention to plastic in our oceans.

This issue has been on my mind for some time now. I go walking on the beach regularly. Even though I live in southern New Zealand, about as far from the large populations of the world as you can get, I find plastic rubbish to take with me when I leave.

Every time I walk, I “take 3 for the sea”, yet there is always more than I take, much more than I can carry.

take 3 for the sea

I take 3 for the sea every time I walk, but it’s just a drop in the ocean…

The thought of what lies beneath the waves of the world disturbs me. The beach – the ocean – is a place I have always come to in my life for peace and reflection. It’s a place I visit to collect my thoughts, to meditate and relax.

The sound of the water and the smell of the salt soothes me. It’s my heart place, the place I feel safe and calm.

Sometimes tragedies grow in your mind, looming larger, until they become so personal that they engulf you and you have to act.

This is what has happened to me. The tragedy of our oceans has become my tragedy.

So over the next year, our family will reduce our waste. I will reduce our waste. I don’t know if we’ll get down to the mason jar levels I’ve seen by the Zero Waste community of the world, but we’ll do what we can. I’ll talk about it, here at this blog.

This is my call to arms, and I’ve called others in too. It’s good to know I’m not alone. We’re building a community here in Dunedin, with our first meeting next week. All of us feel the same way and want to see change happen locally. We’ll support each other, encourage each other, and hopefully bring a few more on board. Create change for the better.

I’m not a granola-eating hippie. I don’t bake my own bread, make my own clothes or smoke pot (lol). I’m just an ordinary person who loves the beach and wants the beaches to stay beautiful for her great-grandchildren. Doesn’t everyone want these things?

So I’ll dare use the great words: we shall fight on the beaches. I don’t think Churchill would have minded me using his quote, because it’s time to make changes for his great-grandchildren too.

The road goes ever on…

Minimalism is a journey. Like a road or a river, it can sweep you off your feet and carry you away with the changes it makes in your life.

I became a minimalist four years ago. Since then, I’ve been blogging here at Simple Living…With Kids. I’ve learned so much. My life has completely transformed.

In those four years, I’ve sold a farm, ended a marriage, found a new partner, and sold approximately 90% of my belongings.

I dared to ask: What makes me truly happy?

The answers I found surprised me. Nothing that makes me happy comes from stuff, from owning, or from status.

All the answers that consumerism typically gives us didn’t – don’t – work for me.

For me, happiness comes from doing my own life well.
Using my own skills well.
Being a great mother, partner and friend.
Being a truthful, diligent writer.
Being responsible, honest and caring.
Having integrity.
Being accountable for my own actions and words.
Being the best person I can be.

These are old-fashioned concepts, and I believe there’s a resurgence happening all around us just beginning.

This gives me hope.

Minimalism is a doorway

We begin with minimalism, with simple living. What then?

Once we lose the clutter, clarity begins.

I’m beginning to understand that I am just a small part of this amazing world. Life is about so much more than buying stuff and blending in to the crowd with the right fashions and a big mortgage.

Minimalism is leading me to a powerful love for the world around me, particularly the oceans. It leads me to a strong desire to protect them.

I’m developing an interest in Zero Waste living, and I’m pushing myself to reduce my footprint live sustainably.

My family are right there with me, guiding me, sharing these concerns.

I pick up plastic rubbish with my partner’s twelve year old daughter.
I watch videos on sustainability with my thirteen year old son.
I assist my partner as he sells plastic-free products at local markets, and I watch my daughter as she learns about sea animals.
Together, as a family, we’re learning to shop at the bulk store and reduce our rubbish that we put out on the kerb each week.

We’re taking small steps, but together our journey continues.

Minimalism – simple living – are first steps.

Together we’re ready to take the next ones.

The road goes ever on...

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!

Blended families, minimalism and compromise…

I’m a busy mum with two kids of my own – a son (12) and daughter (10).

And kind of like The Brady Bunch, I’ve inherited another two kids with my partner, who has primary custody of his son (16) and daughter (11).

Four kids. Yikes! I often wonder how on earth this happened to me. But it did!

Mixing families is never easy. Over the last few years, as we’ve introduced our kids to one another, we’ve all had our share of ups and downs, and we’re doing pretty well, I think.

But with mixing families, we also have to make some concessions. One of the concessions my partner and I decided we wouldn’t make was on giving the kids space of their own.

Our options, when we first moved in together, were as follows:

a) Put the boys in together (16 and 12) and the girls in together (11 and 10, but from different families in each case, and my daughter has special needs and doesn’t sleep well)

b) Put his kids in together (a 16 year old boy with an 11 year old girl) and my kids in together (a 12 year old boy and a 10 year old girl with special needs)

c) Give the oldest (his 16 year old boy) a room of his own and make the others share in some way

d) Give the youngest (a girl with special needs a room of her own) and make the others share in some way.

None of the sharing options worked well. So we settled on a different option altogether, and decided that all of the kids needed their own room. Their own space.

It was hard finding a home that was big enough on our particular budget, and in the end, the home we’ve found is beautiful and in an ideal position, but it does need some work. We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get busy! That was the compromise we were willing to make.

The compromise we made also meant that my dream of owning a smaller home went out the window. I’m now the minimalist with a five bedroom home!

I’m the minimalist with the five bedroom home!

What I’ve learned from this is that people are more important than ideals. The house is bigger than I wanted, and I feel like an old fraud, preaching minimalism while living in a big house. But it is what we need, for our particular circumstances, with four kids from two families and one of those kids with special needs.

The truth is, minimalism means own what you need, and nothing more. If you need a big home, then buy the big home and don’t feel guilty. I need a big home, every square foot of it will be used.

My version of minimalism might be different from yours, and yours might be different from the next person’s. Have what you need, and be content. We’re looking forward to moving into our new home, and everyone having space of their own.

Sometimes space is a good thing. Especially when you’re blending families 🙂

Two weeks to go!

It’s two weeks until we move into our new home!

We’re starting to clear out at the temporary rental we’ve been in, and today my partner and I visited the house, together with our real estate agent and a guy from the heating company, looking at the different options for heating the home. It’s an old house and there is no heating, except for three old fireplaces.

The main living room. You can see one of the fireplaces in the far wall.

It felt odd visiting what will be our new home, and good to have a look around. It’s a beautiful old home, but it needs a lot of work. It’ll keep us busy for quite a while, I suspect!

The house and garden from the rear. It’s in a lovely sunny spot, central to everything. The house needs work, and one of the first tasks will be a full external repaint in summer (around Christmas for New Zealand)!

We were there for well over an hour – I could tell the poor real estate agent was getting restless – but in the end we made some decisions, and we should have heating organised by the time we move in.

Currently the library, this room will probably be our master bedroom. I’m looking forward to painting and decorating it, and will be sharing the “before and after” pics here at the blog!

We’re all really looking forward to moving in now, especially my two kids, who are sharing a room, and my partner’s son, who is living downstairs in the storage room under the house in the rental. Not exactly ideal! We’ll be redecorating the kids rooms one by one, and I’m looking forward to sharing what we do as we get it all done.

As for the garden, I’m keen to create a meditation garden in the front, and to have my chooks again out the back, and my partner wants to build a fire pit. I’m not sure how I feel about the fire pit, but sometimes living with someone you love means compromise.

Not long now!

Don’t follow just because someone wants to lead you

The world is growing increasingly partisan.

The political middle ground seems to have fallen away, leaving people clinging to the edges of extreme political thought.

But I’m saying, don’t follow simply because someone wants to lead you.

When longstanding friendships come to an end over political disagreements, and people are “unfriending” their friends and family on Facebook over who they may or may not have voted for, it has all gotten out of control.

Partisanship serves nobody, except those who would divide us all on petty issues.

The truth is, our differences are minimal. We most of us want the same things:

We want our children to grow up safe and whole…
We want our communities to thrive and be healthy…
We want good healthy food, clean air, clean water…
We want access to good doctors and good quality education…
We want affordable, quality homes…
We want to be safe from war and terror…
We want secure jobs that give us dignity and don’t compromise our integrity.

If you’re like me, all of these things are important. All of them.

Divide and conquer

It seems that many of those in power – across all parties – would seek to focus on the little things that don’t affect us day to day.

“Divide and conquer” is working well.

They seek to turn us against our neighbours. To encourage us to label and view them as Not Like Us, and to divide our communities.

That way, we don’t look too closely at what those in power are doing, do we!

Work together

I’m saying, Stop.

Stop the partisanship.
Stop labelling people as Them and Us.
Stop giving some leaders a pass on bad behaviour while others get held to the wire.
Treat all people equally and fairly.
Uphold ideas, not ideology or parties or celebrities or leaders.

It’s time to look on the old world with fresh eyes. Reconsider our long-held beliefs to check if they still hold merit for us.

Don’t follow simply because someone – or something – wants to lead you.

Lead yourself, with your own mind, and you will find the best way to travel.

think

Experience, not things

Christmas has been and gone. The tree is down and the decorations are back in their boxes. It’s a new year already.

My partner had a few days off after New Years Eve, so we took the time to go down to one of my favourite beaches, Aramoana, for a walk.

The day reaffirmed for me that our lives should be spent enjoying experiences, not stuff. We’re here on this earth to love each other and spend time enjoying the natural world.

aramoana beach

Aramoana is a beautiful beach, a short drive away from Dunedin.

We’re not here to fight each other over the next after-Christmas door buster sale!

At Aramoana, we walked along the spit to the very end.

the spit, aramoana, dunedin

View along the spit, Aramoana, Dunedin, New Zealand

There was a family of wild sealions basking in afternoon warmth, barely ten feet from where we stood.

Sealions, Aramoana, Dunedin

Sealions on the spit, Aramoana, Dunedin

About a dozen of them, some resting, barely opening an eye to us.

sealions, aramoana

Relaxed sealions, enjoying the afternoon.

They were obviously really used to seeing humans. But it made me think about how relaxed they all were, compared with how stressed most people are at this time of year!

sealions, aramoana

Up close and personal with beautiful wild animals.

I also thought about how lucky we are to have such beautiful animals here in New Zealand. They’re national treasures. World treasures.

sealion

They’re also called “dogs of the sea”. I can see why!

I was there, on a practically empty beach, enjoying this amazing experience, while most people were probably at home watching the telly, unaware of what was right outside their door.

black swans

We also saw black swans and other wild birds.

Maybe it’s time we start treasuring our experiences more, and our stuff a little less, don’t you think?

Happy new year.