New directions for a new year

I was browsing my local library catalogue over the Christmas break and in searching terms around minimalism and simple living, this book came up- Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson.

Well, I have to say I’ve been devouring its contents and it has set me up with a new direction to take my minimalism in from 2015 onwards. Now I’ve read it, it makes absolute sense to me that a minimalist home should also be the kind of home that is looking into sustainable alternatives. Well, the whole book rang so many bells for me- it was fantastic! But it is quite clearly going to take some time to implement- just another another stage on my journey. But that’s good because I think the most sustainable changes are the ones that occur slowly, over time and are adopted into our lifestyle, habits and routines.

I hope to see multiple benefits from this venture, less products cluttering up my cupboards, more money in my pocket from not spending out on disposable items like kitchen roll, toilet roll, feminine hygiene products and cleaning products. (I’m not saying I will be adopting all of her examples, certainly not at first, but maybe over time). And of course, environmental benefits and not least health benefits. The last one is the one that intrigues me the most actually, as numerous followers of the Zero Waste Lifestyle claim that it has helped their Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. As a sufferer of this awful condition and having tried to many treatments, lifestyle changes and more that promised the earth and delivered very little, if this does prove to be true- it could literally be revolutionary. Well, anything’s worth a shot in my book! I would have done it anyway, because I firmly believe we should be saving the environment.

I already wanted to decrease my reliance on the supermarkets and shop more locally. I grew some of my own vegetables last summer, with mixed levels of success because they were outdoors. So, having just acquired a greenhouse from a friend, I’m all set to become more self-sufficient over the next year!

So, this is what I’m starting to move towards- a zero waste, sustainable home. It’s going to happen gradually, as I use up the products I have and replace them with better alternatives. I have identified swapping from using antibacterial surface cleanser, toilet cleaners, rim blocks and Cif cream cleaner- to using bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar, as something I will be adopting early on. I found that my local chemist stocks medium sized cardboard boxes of bicarb for £1. I’m currently having a dilemma about where to buy white vinegar, as smaller bottles are available in glass, but larger plastic bottles are cheaper and not so environmentally sound! I’m going to stop buying kitchen roll and move to cloths. However, I’d like to use natural cloths and a lot of zero waste blogs are advocating the use of micro fibre which is made from petroleum and is therefore, a manmade fibre.

I will blog more about the details of the changes I am going to be making, otherwise you mind will be boggled if I put it all in one post! I’m excited to make this journey and I hope that some of you all join me in making small changes. I would love to hear where you buy your bulk goods, sans packaging because this is an area I’m struggling to find suppliers for. But I will keep investigating- it’s still early days.

Focussing the Mind

We are moving house again, yes- I know I’ve mentioned this before! I have realised how we need that goal, the deadline of moving day, that little bit of pressure in order to focus the mind and really minimise our belongings. Maybe it’s the thought of boxing up all your belongings again? Maybe it’s the thought of the cost of paying someone to move all that stuff that you don’t really need? Maybe you realise that some of this stuff really doesn’t have any value and needs to go? Maybe you realise that you’ve not used this stuff in years, or ever? Maybe it’s time to let it go to someone who will use it? Whatever the motivation, it gives that much needed impetus that gets you further towards your goal.

Once again, I was deluded and genuinely didn’t think there was anything left that could go. But I’ve found myself letting go of all sorts, here’s a short list:

  1. Computer cables
  2. Webcam
  3. Mouse
  4. Craft magazines
  5. Craft supplies
  6. Pen torch
  7. Old wifi router
  8. Wooden storage box
  9. Bookmarks
  10. Set of drawers
  11. Clothing
  12. Garden & household tools
  13. DIY equipment
  14. Computer programmes

Maybe those will give you some starting points? It still sickens me to think how much stuff we still have left and how much we were harbouring. The world would be a very different place if we hadn’t invested in all those wasted resources, in so many ways. I don’t think that we- in the developed world, ever really stop to consider just HOW MUCH we really do have. Maybe you’ll take a moment to stop and ponder this today.

How often do you eat out?

I was chatting to my mum recently and for some reason we got to talking about her childhood. She mentioned that, for her family (she was born in the late forties) it was a rarity to go out for a meal. It would happen about once a year and it was a big event! Even then, they wouldn’t go anywhere fancy- it would just be a canteen, for some fairly simple, yet tasty food. Now, they were a family of 5 on a very modest income. The only reason they ate chicken, was because they had a chicken farm and they killed the chickens for the table, at the end of their life. Must have been tough old meat! It may have been different if you were higher class.

Somehow it’s become more ‘the norm’ to go out for meals regularly in our society, no matter what class you are. I wonder if this is so much of a good thing? I mean, it’s easily £25- £40 for a couple to go out, for what is often a very standard kind of meal. If you want anything special/ tastier/ fancier then you’re talking upwards of £60 at least. Of course, that all depends on what you eat, drink, when, where and so on.

But I am convinced many people would be so much better off if they just cooked simple meals, from scratch for themselves at home. If they would just get rid of the takeaways, fast food, ready meals and take out coffees, they would be so much happier, inside and out! What if we went back to eating out just once a year? It would become something very special.

Notes on Consumerism

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I’ve been watching the first episode of a BBC2 series ‘The Men Who Made Us Spend’- it is all about how consumerism is perpetually driven by product lifespans and ‘upgrades’. Interestingly, the concept of continual obsolescence was dreamt up by the CEO of General Motors in the 1950s. Consumer choice meant giving into what they want- a rainbow of high gloss colours just like nail varnish, different fabrics for seats, vast choice of models for every different budget and a new car range every year, but nothing actually mechanically different. In our modern society, giving objects social value, rather than simply utilitarian value and it is Apple who has taken on this mantle. So, does Apple really believe in great design or just in rolling upgrades to keep the cash flowing in? If you choose to stay part of this consumer culture, then simply- it will continue.

So what can you do to fight this? You could learn how to self-repair! Look up ifixit.com who’s philosophy is that to repair is noble; it creates freedom, it saves you money, saves the environment, it’s sustainable and it creates jobs. They created a special 5 point head screwdriver so you can self-repair your iPhone. In-fact, they have an encyclopaedia on-line of how to repair technology. One way to fight the disposable, throw-away culture of continuous spending.

This is just a mere snapshot of this fantastic programme. If this interests you too, or you want to catch up on previous episodes or just find out more information, go to:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/themenwhomadeusspend

This fab series of programmes is a collaboration between the BBC and the OU, so you can expect high quality!

Minimalist loft/ attic

Have you tackled your attic? I thought it was about time for me to get on top of ours. Actually having an attic is a new experience for us, we lived in a flat for years with no storage space other than an under stairs cupboard. That was tough! Yes, it makes you minimalist, but you can never keep the original boxes that things come in which is incredibly useful if you move often. You also can’t fit anything large in an under stairs cupboard which can be very limiting….if say you want to take up canoeing! I digress….

These are the pictures of the newly tidy loft- once again I failed to take before pictures. But imagine your typical loft, filled to the rafters with stuff you don’t need! I have taken about 10 bags to charity shops, recycled a number of bags of cardboard, sold anything of value and given stuff back to their rightful owners.

Admittedly we are lucky that someone who owned this house before us thought to put some storage bins and a large cupboard in which has helped us to organise the space. It also helps that the whole attic is carpeting and boarded, so we can put stuff wherever we like.

But I am super happy at how little we have up here. I still think there are some more items that will go in time, but a lot of them relate to the work I used to do which I do actually hope to go back to at some point. Hence why I am holding onto boxes of musical instruments because they would be prohibitively expensive to replace. I also think I will one day get to the point when I can relinquish my University notes, but that is not right now. What we do have are boxes to protect items when we move again.

Clearing this room in particular has really allowed me to see and feel the benefits of minimalism most clearly. I am certain when we next move that we will only be taking things we actually use, there is a great feeling of freedom in that! There is also an enormous sense of peace at knowing everything is tidy up here and I know exactly what we do have and where to find it, most importantly!

He who buys what he does not need, steals from himself- Swedish Proverb

I am so aware that even after selling all the stuff in the last blog post (and a WHOLE lot more) and giving away 3/4 of what was left to charity. I still have FAR MORE than I need. Gosh, the excess in our house is incredible and I could not see it until I had minimised to this point. I am far away from God at the moment, but those verse that talk about trusting God that you would have enough for today and he will take care of tomorrow, like the birds…how far I am from that ideal. Maybe symptomatic of how far I am from God? But it’s not just me, if I turn to look at others- how many Christians do fill their lives and homes with STUFF? Once again, when I think I am done minimising, I realise that I have only just begun. This quote from Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist sums it all up really.

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2014 on Minimalist Exposure. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, that’s been a resolution of mine for many a year. However, the New Year has given me the motivation to get back to minimising with avengeance! My husband and I have agreed to get serious about this now and really start shedding items, even ones we previously thought we ‘needed’. So I plan to seriously downsize our books, cds, dvds and computer games as a starting point.

Whilst I would love to live in a tiny house, it’s not a realistic option for us here in the UK at present. We recently moved to a cheaper area, but the distance from family and well, EVERYTHING is something we’re not happy to stick with. So we are planning to get our finances in order to move again and also this is the reason to begin minimising again. I am actuvely looking forward to April, when car boot season starts again!

So this blog is going to veer off ever so slightly into frugal living and money-saving, as we seek to achieve our aims. Our goal is to move to a detached bungalow which is step-up the housing ladder for us. We started off in a flat which may be minimalist (although this was before our minimalist days and with the amount of stuff we had, it certainly was a squeeze!) Anyhow, we have 0% desire to go back there due to terrible issues with the neighbours which culminated in a legal dispute to get one of them evicted and multiple insurance claims due to irresponsible neighbours who refused to maintain their flats and repeated water leaks. So for any of you considering flat-living, I’d urge to carefully consider all the potential costs!

We are currently living in a semi-detached house, but again we have problems with noisy neighbours and poor maintenance of shared areas. So although it may be expensive, we have 100% desire to get outta here and never have shared walls again!!! Whether this goal will be achieved this year or next mainly depends on our ability to clear our debts which mostly consist of a large student loan to fund a PGCE which was a necessary expense.

We currently save 30-50% of our income each month through a minimalist lifestyle, but this year I’d really like to increase this. It’s around 30% because what I earn is variable because I’m self-employed. But right now, virtually all of this is going on clearing our debts. I’d love to share tips to reduce the findamental living expenses. We are already certain we are on the best deals for everything possible, like phone and insurance. The main area I think that we can cut back is on our groceries. Again, we already make major savings in this area by buying reduced items, down-shifting brands and taking advantage of the freezer. However, I think we could save more by going vegetarian 1-3 days per week (or more, but I don’t think the husband would agree!) Again, I would love to share ideas!

Let me know how your minimising is going!