Lessens learned

Yes, that’s a deliberate pun – I DO know how to spell lessons!

Last year I gave up buying clothes, essentially. Read all the rules if you haven’t already…. I’ll give you a minute.

…..

Okay, now you’re up to date, I’ll let you know how it went.

Sad faces first:

  1. I didn’t enjoy it much. I missed having new clothes.
  2. I didn’t save much money, I just spent it on other stuff!
  3. I cheated a little, and feel bad

Now happy faces:

  1. I do feel a sense of achievement because despite cheating a little, I didn’t give up
  2. I found other ways to get clothes (taking donations of gifts, going to clothes-swaps) that I will use in the future
  3. I did get better at using my whole wardrobe
  4. I did get better at waiting for things
  5. I did have an emptier, more user-friendly and organised wardrobe
  6. I did get better at shopping carefully (I spent a couple of gift vouchers and made sure they were purchases that worked hard for me!)

So, the cheating occurred in December. I had just had a colour & style consult with Natalie from Defined Image and I was looking forward to buying stuff that suited me. Mum dragged me out shopping after my birthday because she needed some things herself (bad idea). Long story short, I bought a few sale items. I was half good, though, and gave my purchases to Mum to take home with her – she delivered them after Christmas and I waited until 2013 to wear them. So I failed, but not COMPLETELY. Yes, yes, I know, I know 😉

This year, I have certainly spent money on clothes. I went nuts in the first week (shopping with Natalie) and have eased off since (mainly because I spent so much in January that I ran out!).

I have a list of items that I want to get, and will only shop for them and not browse and buy random things just because I want new things.

So I am now getting wear out of all items in my wardrobe (Natalie also did a wardrobe audit with me and we culled what didn’t work) and enjoying choosing outfits. THAT is a big win!

I won’t be doing it again, but I will use my lessons learned well 🙂

Rebecca & Natalie

Here I am (in 'old' clothes), out on the town with my stylist and friend Natalie

 

 

 

Weekend Weightlifter – the cutlery drawer

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My cutlery drawer after a little spruce-up

This week we’re tacking the cutlery drawer. It’s a short job, but with great satisfaction because you use it so frequently.  I did it today myself and it took me only 8 minutes! (mind you, mine was more dirty than cluttered so most of the time taken was cleaning the cutlery tray!).  It should still take you less than 15 minutes.

Here you go:

  1. Pull everything out and place it all in like groups on your counter-top or table (knives together, spoons together etc)
  2. Take out the cutlery tray, if you have one (if you don’t, get one as it prevents a lot of searching!) and give it a good clean.
  3. Wipe out the inside of your drawer
  4. Assess your piles on the counter. What do you use all the time? How many do you REALLY need? What do you never use? What can you live without? (ie, if you didn’t have one, you could still make do).
  5. Put the frequently-used items back in the drawer in their groups
  6. Find homes elsewhere for the stuff that doesn’t belong
  7. Donate or trash never-used, duplicates or broken items
  8. Smile every time you  open the drawer!

 

Weekend Weightlifter – cull some paperwork

This weekend we’re going to attack some old paperwork. You don’t need to spend all weekend on it – you can spend as little as 15 minutes and make a difference!

Find some old filing in the home and take a handful of it out of the files.  Assess each piece of paperwork one at a time and ask yourself if you need to keep it or not.

Reasons to keep papers include:

  • It was used as supporting documentation on one of your last five (seven in the US) tax returns (invoices, receipts, superannuation)
  • It has historical significance (your grandfather’s migration documents)
  • You need to keep it for legal reasons (your car registration papers or your Will)
  • You need to keep it for warranty reasons (the receipt for your vacuum cleaner)
  • It’s useful when something goes wrong (your dishwasher user manual)
  • It’s a hand-print of your daughter when she was a baby
  • It proves something (residency, that you paid for something, that you did a certain qualification, medical records etc)
  • You’re going to use it soon (a gift voucher)
  • It makes you very happy. VERY.

Reasons to ditch papers include:

  • It’s a document you can obtain online whenever you need it
  • It’s a user manual for an item you don’t have anymore
  • It’s a bill that was paid 2 years ago and you didn’t claim it as a tax deduction
  • It’s one of 3,000 drawing of stars your daughter drew (a handful of the same drawing from the same age is sufficient)
  • It’s one of 50 payslips from 1987 (again, keep one for nostalgia, sure – but you don’t need them all)
  • You took it out of a magazine several years ago because you thought you might make that stool/soft toy/cake/party decoration one day (you can get SO MUCH online these days)
  • It’s memorabilia that makes you sad/angry/guilty

You can spend as little or as long as you want, as long as you ditch as much as you can in that time!

 

The “To Donate” spot

It’s a great clutter-controller to have one spot to put things you want to donate.

Find a box that is a fair size (too small and you have to head to the charity place too frequently!) and create a home for it that’s fairly accessible, but not in your high-usage areas. I’d suggest the bottom of a laundry shelf, bottom of the linen closet or in the garage.

Label it “To Be Donated” and teach the family to put anything in there that they no longer need, use or love in there so it can be loved by someone in need.Whenever it gets full, take a quick trip to the nearest charity and drop it off, replacing the box in its spot again to continue the cycle (don’t leave it in the car for 3 months!).

Creating a “Not Ours” spot

The Not Ours spot (or box, or basket…). If you don’t have a home for things that don’t belong to you, you need one of these!

Some of the things that can go into it include:

  • library books & books borrowed from friendsbaskets
  • borrowed DVDs
  • salad bowls and platters left after a dinner party
  • hair clips, water bottles, hats or socks etc left over after a playdate

Create a home (it needs to be fairly accessible if frequent-access things like library books will be stored there) and use a basket or tub to contain the items.

Every time you have a visitor, check your box to see if they have anything in there that belongs to them. Likewise if you visit someone – check the box first so you can return their items to them.

Report back when you have created your “home away from home” spot. Feel free to post pics of it so we can celebrate with you!

A modest life is a life to be proud of

Everyone has different ideas of what a modest life entails, but for me it’s not being dragged into the whole consumerism, materialistic way of life to a point that it has you living outside your means or being extravagant.

It means you don’t go into debt for a big-screen TV or a luxury car, you don’t spend thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery and shoes each year. You don’t buy designer clothes, or borrow money for extravagant holidays.

It means you live within your means, disregarding what this does to the way people see you.

So many people complain about not having enough money, yet they drink excessive amounts of alcohol, have Foxtel and a big-screen TV and drive a brand new car that they have borrowed money for, and spend a fortune on takeaway and junk food.  They sell their house and upgrade to a bigger home with a bigger mortgage so they can fit all their stuff in that they found one sale somewhere sometime but never use. They put their immediate comfort and their ‘facade’ in front of long-term benefits such as being debt-free.

People have forgotten what a real need is. They have forgotten that in the 1960s a family of five quite happily fit into a house with 3 bedrooms and one living area. They forget that a car that is over 10 years old can still drive them from A to B.  They forget that they live a quite privileged life compared to many and that they are so much luckier than they think they are.

They still look around them and want what everyone else has whether or not they can afford it, need it, or have room for it.

I get really frustrated when I hear how “tough” people are doing it, when I know very well many of these people are in debt because they lived beyond their means.  They did it because they couldn’t tell the difference between a need and a want. They didn’t ‘save for a rainy day’ and instead told themselves “I deserve this”.

People who lead modest lives are happier than those that don’t. They are more financially stable. They are self-sufficient and live within their means. They are leaders, not followers. They accept their life as it is and don’t strive for excess. They give freely of themselves. They aren’t overly concerned with what others think of them, and are therefore more uninhibited and self-assured.

How does one live a modest life?

  • Don’t buy things just because everyone else has one, unless you can afford to buy 3 of them without debt (and then still only buy 1!)
  • Recognise that at the end of your life, you will not be remembered for your designer shoes
  • Understand that you are still a valuable person without all the ‘stuff’
  • Learn to be content with what you have, and enjoy what you have instead of wanting more all the time
  • Don’t go into debt for anything other than the necessities (food and shelter, essentially – and that doesn’t count luxury resorts!)
  • Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’s, and be proud of not buying into the hype
  • Remember to look long-term and not just for the short-term ‘hit’ that buying something new gives you

There is nothing to be ashamed of in living a modest life, but so very much to be proud of.


On a personal note:

I am not infallible nor am I a monk – sometimes I don’t live a modest life, despite generally trying to. When I bought myself an iPad (I tried to tell myself I ‘needed’ it for work but to be honest, I mostly play and read on it), I was being more extravagant than I normally would, even though I could afford it and did pay cash, because I didn’t really need it.  Sometimes I yearn for a bigger wardrobe, more shoes or a guest room in my house(or a bigger house), or a flash new sofa because I’m tired of the old one. And I was very keen to upgrade our car earlier this year – to the point of nagging!

But  most of all, I live within my means and without extravagance, as does the rest of my family. We’re not overly frugal but we’re not careless either.

Our family is debt-free (and we worked hard to get that way – it wasn’t handed to us on a platter) and we save as much as we can, whilst still enjoying our life.  Our home is not large or fancy, but it’s nice and we all fit just fine and we resist the urge to spend our savings on upgrading. When we last bought a new car (we had had our other one for almost 12 years) we spent around 10% of what we could actually afford to spend in cash and it was still a nice, shiny new (less than one year old) car and I still love it to pieces. The rest of the money is earning interest for us while the small investment is driving me around!

My Fashion Embargo Experiment for 2012

I recently thought I might try something new this year. Something that I haven’t done before, and that many people couldn’t do if their life depended on it (and that others regularly do it rather easily).

I decided I wasn’t going to buy any new clothes in 2012. For the whole year.

I’m the kind of person that gets bored easily – I like to update my wardrobe through the year, and always have a bit of a spree at the start of winter and summer.  I have been long exploring the idea that you can be happier if you can accept what you have rather than always wanting more. I have been practising it a lot, and wondered if I could take it this one step further.

So, I’m going to have a new clothes embargo in 2012. No new clothes or accessories for a WHOLE YEAR. These are the rules I have made:

  1. Replacement of essential items that have been damaged are allowed. By essential I mean that there is only one of them in my wardrobe, and it’s needed for work or something important (like underwear!)
  2. Gift cards can be redeemed (I have none, but if anyone wants to join me they can do this)
  3. Clothes-swapping and borrowing from friends is perfectly acceptable
  4. Clothes received as gifts are also acceptable (I have to wait until December for my birthday so this will be of no use to me!)
  5. Accessories are included – no new shoes, jewellery or handbags either (unless conditions satisfy rule #1)

Why am I doing this? A few reasons:

  1. I bought more clothes and jewellery this year than I ever have (BEFORE I decided on the embargo!) and I think I have everything I need to get by
  2. It will teach me to be patient
  3. It will teach me how to be more creative with my wardrobe instead of just buying something when I get bored
  4. It will save me money (this is a minor reason; I’ve never really spent a load on clothes or shoes)
  5. I just want to see if I can do it!
  6. It will show me that I don’t need new things to be happy
  7. I won’t have to go shopping (I don’t like it!)
  8. It’s something fun to blog about and share with others
  9. My wardrobe is full.

Would you like to join me?  It will be good for you, I promise! You can attend the Facebook event, and follow @rebeccamezzino and use the hashtag #fashem2012  to join in the discussion on Twitter.

Tell me what you think – could YOU do it?

Productivity Death by Mindless Escape

We all want to run away from things sometimes

Procrastination affects everyone, but for some it seems to really affect their life – especially their work. It’s a real productivity-killer. I was chatting about it with a friend recently who said that she has become particularly good at some PC games because when she can’t face work, diving into a game helps her to cope. She’s engaging in a mindless escape from a difficult reality.

Most of us engage in mindless escapes – TV is a prime example (most commercial TV at the moment is particularly mindless, but I’ll save that rant for another time, lucky you…). But there is also Facebook (sometimes looking at photos of someone you don’t know seems an entirely useful way to spend time), or Twitter (do the useful links EVER stop coming? It’s Mindless Escape Heaven there) and other things such as watching kittens take on dogs in YouTube videos or reading up on Scandinavian Twig-Chair making.

My friend knows very well she’s escaping, and even talked about the cost/benefit of the escape. However, she still doesn’t know how to stop the escaping and the procrastination associated with it.

I suggested that it’s okay for her to play Angry Birds – that she shouldn’t try to stop altogether. But what she should do is first take 10 seconds to write down what it is she’s escaping from. The act of actually realising what we’re putting off, and then writing it down, means that your mindless escape all of a sudden becomes a conscious choice. And we can control our choices.

You still may engage in the escape, but by being aware, the escape may well be for a shorter time. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break – it’s how long and how frequently you take that break (and the quality of the break) that is important.

What do you engage in mindless escapes to avoid doing? Can you reduce that and be more productive, or at least, more conscious?

3 Types of “Stuff Homelessness”

One of the biggest causes of clutter is one technical error we all make – some things just never get a home. Even fairly organised homes have some areas that continue to trip them up. They are:

Box of random stuff

  1. Things that don’t belong to you. Books or DVDs you’ve borrowed (from friends or the library), the platter left behind after a dinner party, the sunglasses left after a BBQ, the blow-up mattress you borrowed when guests stayed over. Typically, these are scattered all over the house. Often they (quite embarrassingly) go missing.
  2. Things that need to be repaired or returned. These are in the laundry, in the junk drawer, in the wardrobe, the shed, the spare room and the office. And they never get fixed because you forget they exist.
  3. Things that need a decision to be made. This is most usually paperwork, but often there are items floating around that need decisions, such as carpet samples, a gift you don’t like, clothes that don’t fit, or a project you’ve abandoned but not discarded.

Once you’ve identified these items, create a home for them, and make some rules around what fits into each category.  A home for things that belong to others can be a shelf in a living room cabinet, or a clearly labelled box in the spare room.  A special spot in the bookcase or bedside table is perfect for borrowed books. A box near the back or front door would also be good for things that need repair, or drawers if you have a lot (note: if you have a lot, consider throwing some of them out – especially if they’ve been damaged a long time and you haven’t needed them).

Things that need a decision to be made should also be grouped together. This one needs to be more obvious, because it will probably be the largest category. An inability, or a delay, in making decisions is a key cause of clutter.  I’d use an open shelf with everything on display (paperwork should be stored vertically – in manila folders or magazine files). Then they’re reminding you of the decision that needs to be made. Create a boundary – decide just how much space you’re prepared to sacrifice for these items, then stick to it. If you exceed those boundaries, it’s decision time!

6 ways to de-stress your email

Email is a sort of necessary evil. Given the fact that most of us don’t have the option to ditch it altogether (the phone calls I could handle, but could we really go back to just snail mail and faxing in business?), we are pretty much stuck with it.  As awesome as it is in many ways, it can also cause a great deal of stress for many people.

Here are some quick changes you can make that may take a little of the ‘evil’ away.

  1. Keep your inbox to as few emails as possible, and have a habit of emptying it daily. If you can’t action all the emails every day, use a task management tool to record those you still need to action and then file them away. You could also use flags or categories to mark them as Pending Action so you don’t forget about them.
  2. Don’t trust “unread marks”. Sometimes we accidentally mark emails as unread then lose them in the clutter without reading them. If it was an important email, that could really ruin your week.
  3. Think twice before hitting “send”. Could this end up being a chain of emails that take up a lot of time? Would you be better off with a quick phone conversation? Sometimes a 10-email conversation can be made over the phone in just 30 seconds. And the more emails you send, the more emails you get in reply!
  4. Write shorter emails. One line of thought is that you can construct any email you wish in 5 sentences or less (or even three, but my verbose personality objects too strongly for me to try that one!). That will save you a significant amount of time (once you get used to it, of course – the first few times I did it I spent a fair amount of editing time reducing my words!).
  5. Keep your folders to a minimum. Try the ‘no scroll’ rule. If you have to scroll to get to a folder, you have too many. We don’t need a great deal of folders – most email programs have a great search function that enables you to find emails you’ve filed using key words (not to mention that we’d only go looking for less than 20% of the filed emails anyway). If you have too many folders, you spend too long worrying about where to put things, and where to find them again. Keep it simple; only go to second-level nesting, and keep the first level to one screen. Or try having just one and using ‘search’ and ‘sort’ to find them.
  6. Unsubscribe – you don’t have enough time to read them anyway. Instead, bookmark the blog or website so you can go and look at it when you need something or have time for some reading.