Sew Your Own Apron

I’ve been practising my sewing skills again. I’m quite chuffed with how these have turned out. I just cut around an apron I already owned, so no pattern was involved. Then I just copied how it was put together. These are very quick and easy, taking around 1 hour to make from start to finish. I used cotton fabric and bought cotton tape from the fabric shop for the ties. I have to say I’m in love with the teapot print fabric, I may just have to find an excuse to use it some more!

You just need to cut around your original apron, leaving an extra 3cm for the seams. Measure and cut out your pocket, again leaving 3 cm all around for seams. I ironed my seams and turned them over twice, attaching the tapes into the seam for strength. Make sure to turn over the ends of your tapes twice and stitch them, to stop them from fraying. Make sure you sew your side seams first, then your top and bottom hems. What a lovely gift these would make. I bought a metre of each fabric and I have loads left for other projects, so I’d estimate these cost around £2 each to make. They are so satisfying to make, there was no traipsing the shops for gifts and no-one was harmed in the making. What could be better than homemade?

Are you planning to make any gifts this Christmas?

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Start Conversations with Brands about Zero Waste

One of the best ways to start engaging other people in your lifestyle choices is by having conversations with them. It’s probably best to not make it the first thing you say, but over time these things can and do come up. I talk about my lifestyle here on my blog, but recently I started to think about how I could make a bigger impact. More than just sharing posts on Facebook. I’ve started to write letters and emails to target specific brands. Brands that I’m already using and I like, but that could do with making better choices about the packaging they use.

It doesn’t always go well, I get a lot of excuses and well we’ve tried this and we think plastic is the best option. But I hope that if I keep engaging with them, over time and possibly suggest alternatives that they might start to listen. I don’t expect them to change for just one person, but imagine our consumer power if we all started doing this. They would have to listen, for fear of losing business! So this post is to encourage you to get out there and start engaging in conversation with brands. Don’t just sit back and feel frustrated about the lack of Zero Waste opportunities where you live. Let’s start campaigning for change!

Here are my top tips for composing a good letter:

  • Keep it friendly
  • Say how much you like their product (I only write to brands I enjoy using/ eating)
  • Say what makes you unhappy and tell them why. I’ve used my Council changing to fortnightly bin collections as a starter. I tell them I’m concerned about how much packaging goes straight in the bin, especially now my bin collections have halved in frequency
  • Ask if they’ve considered alternatives or suggest some, if you know of any.
  • Use statistics to back up what you’re saying – we live in an evidence based society, so they’ll love to hear about some relevant research. It makes you sound more credible and authoritative
  • End by saying you’d appreciate knowing their thoughts
  • It’s also a great idea to write and congratulate brands that are doing things well, even a short post to their Facebook page will boost them. I recently wrote to a supermarket who switched from using glass bottles with plastic lids for their spices, to glass bottles with metal lids. I told them how much I appreciated the change and why. I encouraged them to make more of those kinds of changes.

What are your top tips for initiating change? Have you tried writing letters to brands? Get in touch.

Enough is Enough! Why I Refuse to Complete Anymore ‘Customer Satisfaction’ Surveys.

I’m done! I’ve reached breaking point with the sheer volume of customer satisfaction surveys I am asked to complete every single day. I resent companies who phone me chasing completion of a survey because their bonus relies on achieving 5 stars. I fail to see how they can glean any meaningful information from those that are completed when they frequently bully you into giving the top ratings.

Enough is enough! I had my car serviced and they’re desperate for me to complete a customer satisfaction survey. Not happening. I am always going to get my car serviced and MOT’d on an annual basis. The other day I had my eyes tested and now they want me to complete one too. I had my eyes tested for the sake of my health, for goodness sake! A statutory service that the NHS provides in this country and that I would have done at the prescribed interval, regardless. Every single time you visit a shop, they are there circling some on-line feedback survey for you to complete. Sometimes they go into a massive spiel lasting several minutes about why you need to complete it. Just let me pay for my items and leave!

Let’s be minimalist about this please, all your stores out there reading this. Let’s save everyone some time and spend our lives doing better things, than measuring our employees on every single transaction they complete. You don’t have to give me the 5 star, red carpet service all the time. I’d appreciate if you spent more time servicing my car to a satisfactory level and all I’m asking is that it’s good enough. I want you to check my eyes to the best of your ability. I’m not going to rate you on your personal hygiene, your dress, your comprehension of English or whether you said goodbye. Just make sure to tell me if anything is wrong with my eyes, or I need new glasses. I’m not looking for perfection and I’d definitely prefer it if your employees seemed genuine, rather than that they are reading from a prescribed script.

I for one, do not wish to be responsible for someone being reprimanded or losing their job over 1 customer experience! If your service is unsatisfactory – rest assured it’s likely I will let you know. If I love something you’re doing, I will probably write and tell you too. But it’s OK to just live day-to-day by doing a good enough job. Let’s save the wowing for special occasions like weddings, Birthdays and times when it’s really important that things go right. I’d rather all those lovely, hard working people out there weren’t stressed to the eyeballs every day about being ‘inspected’. Just let them do their jobs, please! And please, please, PLEASE don’t send me anymore of these ‘customer satisfaction’ surveys – P L E A S E!!! You’re actually making me less likely to shop with you and seek out those dear, independent’s out there who are more concerned with actually getting on with their job. And every bit of till receipt you don’t print with these pointless surveys on it, is another piece of tree remaining and you know what – that would make me the happiest of all!

Modern Life is Rubbish!

This equally wonderful and appalling article has appeared in today’s Guardian newspaper. I hope it raises awareness of why I am pursuing both a Minimalist and Zero Waste lifestyle. I was appalled to read that 72% of all the plastic we send to be recycled is never recovered. 40% is sent to landfill anyway and 32% leaks out of the collection system. Those shocking statistics have led me to re-evaluate my habits again. A few months ago, I told myself that we couldn’t afford to have a milkman as it costs about 3x as much as buying 4 pints for £1 at the supermarket, in a plastic bottle. But after realising the truth of the situation, the truth is we can’t afford not to!

I don’t want to be responsible for my family, or anyone else on this planet eating food contaminated with toxins from plastic. I admit that putting items into a blue (plastic!) recycling bin makes you feel more virtuous about your waste. I try so hard to buy things packaging free, but currently where I live – options are limited and I still have moments where I run out of something and end up having to buy fruit or vegetables wrapped in plastic. I vow to try harder.

On the up side, I refused a plastic bag from the fruit and veg seller at the market today. He was adamant I should take one, after my initial refusal on the basis that I had my own bags. So I said firmly, I don’t take plastic bags anymore and he accepted that! So my fruit and veg came home in my homemade, cloth drawstring bags. Small victories eh?

 

Make Your Own Needle Case

If you’ve got a spare hour, you might like to try making a little needle case like this. It’s a great project for beginners and uses up fabric scraps. I needed a case to keep my sewing needles in. I used a 9cm square scrap of pink felt and cut double width rectangles of brushed cotton for the inside. I cut around one of the rabbits to make a little picture for the front and embroidered letters on with running stitch.

I’m not an expert, just learning and I think I should have used some embroidery thread or other cord to keep the edges straight and stop the fabric from buckling. However since this is just for me to use, it doesn’t really matter. I decided to pick a contrasting thread and used an edging stitch on my sewing machine to run a border around. This should stop the edges from fraying and help it to last longer. After this, I centred the brushed cotton rectangles and sewed them with normal, straight stitch in the middle. I used a zig-zag stitch to attach my picture, since my attempts to appliqué with my machine didn’t seem to be working. I think I need to a bit more practise- ha!

I stitched the word ‘NEEDLES’ by hand using running stitch, but going over each stitch 3x to give definition. To make the rounded parts of the letters, you just need to form a loop and catch it with an invisible, tiny stitch to keep them in place. This is a great way to aim for Zero Waste by using up fabric scraps and is something that will last many years.

Make the Most of Supermarket Vouchers

I don’t know about you, but at this time of year I find that the supermarkets are desperate to compete for my business. I have been deluged in vouchers and coupons by email, post and in-store all trying to get me to do my Christmas shopping with a particular retailer. I will use these coupons to my advantage and here’s how you can too.

  • Make sure you take a calculator to the shop with you, so that you just meet the threshold spend. This means you get the full value of the coupon.
  • Look on MySupermarket before you go and compare prices on the items on your shopping list. Make sure you’re buying them at the shop with the best offer.
  • Combine this with money-saving shopping apps, like Shopitize, Clicksnap, Shopinium and CheckoutSmart. This way you can either get an item for free with the app, or at a further discount PLUS you are getting the shop’s discount on top! Even better if it’s a store that gives loyalty points too. You could even spend some of your points and possibly get your shopping for free, or even by getting them to pay you to take goods away. (Yes, it does happen – I’ve done it myself on occasion). Stacking offers like this is the way to go!
  • Take the opportunity to stock up on essentials, if they are on offer. The shops want you to buy over-priced Christmas goodies, but hopefully being a minimalist, zero waste, money-saving type you are going to make these from scratch yourself and save a small fortune! So, take this opportunity to stock up on loo roll, mouthwash or whatever else you can get a good deal on and stash in the cupboard for next year.

For example, the last time I bought 4 pints of milk at Waitrose – they gave me a £6 off a £30 spend voucher printed from the till. Alongside some everyday items that we needed, I picked up 36 loo rolls. I basically got 16 of these for free and they were on a 2 for £7 offer which is the best price I know they are ever on sale for anyway. So I got a sweet deal here. At the till, they printed £8 off a £40 spend. Yes, they’ve upped the threshold but it’s still a pretty decent discount. If you’re shopping at Waitrose – tweak your ‘pick your own offers‘ and on top of the voucher, you can save 20% on those items. Check the internet for manufacturer coupons too, so you can save on certain products. Again, make sure you check MySupermarket and use them wisely, in the right store. If a product is already discounted, you can often take it away for FREE!

I absolutely hate going round the shops the nearer it gets to Christmas, so I am using this part of the month to stock on essentials like shampoo, tea bags, coffee, loo roll and so on. This way, I needn’t go near the shops for a couple of months at least! Fill your freezer, if you have space but make sure you leave room for any Christmas bits.

Look out for on-line only shopping vouchers too – I’ve been emailed a stack of these too. However they have MUCH higher threshold spends which are probably going to be too much for me (like £10 off £100 and that isn’t such a good deal, but better than none). They would be great for families though, or if you have a lot of visitors over the festive period.

Lastly, don’t over-stretch yourself! Make sure you have enough cash left to pay for Christmas. Maybe use your credit card to your advantage, but ONLY if you can afford to pay it off IN FULL when it becomes due.

I have a dream…

Today, I received in my inbox a challenge from Joshua Becker on Becoming Minimalist to share my story. Any of you who are reading this blog have been following my minimalist journey for the past 4 years, so I’m not going to repeat myself. But as my journey shows; it’s no small thing to empower ordinary people to dream decent and good dreams. If we all made these small changes to our lifestyles, then our world starts to look very different. Minimalism is counter-cultural and far from being restrictive it is actually liberating. I am sure that this stems from the fact that setting good boundaries is a healthy and useful life skill.

You may not think that these small changes can really have a great impact. But let’s just look at some examples here:

Minimalism leads to less spending, which in turn leads to greater financial security, which in turns leads to greater peace of mind. That could directly lead to better mental health which means less reliance on the over-burdened NHS. Improved finances could mean families no longer relying on benefits. Imagine having spare money left over, that could be donated to help those less fortunate – every single month. Imagine how good that would make you feel and the positive impact that could have on your mental health. So, you can see that a small changes leads to several different cycles of change and a ripple effect – outwards.

Minimalism leads to less buying, which means that more of the earth’s resources are left intact for future generations to enjoy. Less buying means that less workers in poorer countries are being exploited to make stuff we don’t need. Less buying and manufacturing leads to less pollution which improves everyone’s health and slows down global warming. That in turn, means that more animals are around for us and future generations to enjoy. Less shopping means that we all start spending more time outdoors or with family, which improves all of our mental health and again, reduces the burden on the NHS. Less buying stuff on credit means that we are independent and have greater peace of mind. This relieves the pressure on debt counselling agencies, the benefits system and the NHS.

I could go on, but I think you get my point. What small change can you make today?