I want to try and share my art journaling pages more regularly here. Not with big explanations and things that will stop me from sharing – it’ll mostly just be the pictures and that’s it! But I hope you enjoy them. I share my art way more regularly over on my instagram – @taliamakesart, so follow me there if you have insta!
Hey hey! I’ve got a vlog today sharing what’s in my bag! As a stay at home mum with three little kids (1 at school, 2 at home), I usually have a few random bits and pieces in my bag. Spare undies, a random toy, a lonely shoe, or even a few pens and a notepad. I took these totally random things out, and just showed you what I actually intentionally have in my bag. No one wants to awkward conversations about kids undies on youtube… Oh, and I put all the loose coins away too before my middle son confiscated them to add to this money box!
As we’re trying to be more sustainability focussed at home I have a few items in there to really help us with that journey! I’d love to know if there’s something you think I should have in my bag that I don’t have yet, or something I have in there that surprises you!
- 2x cloth bags
- container & hair tie
- reading glasses & case
- wet bag
- stop itch
- 2x microfibre cloth
- my son’s wallet
- my wallet!
- bullet journal & pen
- personal colour pallet
- extra phone battery
- crystals/gems and a hair clip
- lip balm (Doterra)
- Essential oils
In just a month we’ve made a whole swag of changes to our lifestyle to bring us a step closer to living more sustainably. There is still a bunch of changes to make, but I’m feeling really positive about this journey, and what it’s teaching our children.
Here are some of the improvements we’ve made in May.
- Consistently buying F&V from Charlie’s – and specifically buying ugly produce where possible, and requesting no plastic.
- Consistently shopping at the bulk store for relevant groceries.
- Made note of any groceries that I couldn’t buy bulk, or in a recyclable container. This list will be used in later months to either stop buying them, or find a suitable alternative. For example, this month I bought spaghetti in a cardboard box instead of in the plastic bag. It was more expensive, but my son specifically requested spaghetti over regular pasta shapes (which we can get from the bulk store). It would be easy enough, and easily zero waste to just make my own spaghetti (I already own a pasta maker), but it turns pasta from a quick “oh gosh, I can’t be bothered making dinner” kind of meal into a “okay guys, we need a few hours in the afternoon to get this done!” I would like to experiment with freezing spaghetti, as that would make it a more “easy” dinner…
- Compost is going well. Have had to trouble shoot it a few times, but that’s going pretty well! Will need to consider a second compost of some sort as this one is already almost full!
- I sewed those cloth bags for bulk dry goods, but my sewing machine died half way though, so I need to get that repaired to finish them off.
- Sewed some extra shopping bags from some favourite fabric.
- We moed house this month and didn’t use any new boxes (just got second hand ones off Gumtree) or any packing material – we just used the towels, sheets and clothes we already have!
- Significantly downsized our home. This is important in keeping us more accountable for our space and what we bring into it, but also not using more than what we need.
Improvements to make in the coming months:
- Stop buying grocery items that don’t come in appropriate packaging
- Next Summer – bulk buy tomatoes and turn into passata to freeze (so save the bottles now!)
- Start to shop at op shops for clothes instead of new shops
- Put together a take out pack of plate and cutlery to go with water bottles. We started at a new playgroup this week that provides morning tea, but they use a lot of disposable crockery etc., so it would be ideal to bring out own. I have a bunch of wet bags I bought a few Summers ago, and I think that’ll be perfect to store this stuff in in our car. It won’t leak anywhere!
- Thinking of reduced plastic ways to start our new veggie garden
- Explore making a few of my own beauty products, or buying sustainable alternatives. I don’t use many beauty products other than face wash, exfoliator, deodorant, and mascara so hopefully this won’t be too hard…
- Explore more sustainable ways to art…
Today we had our first class for our conversation to Judaism!
I feel like it’s a pretty momentous occasion! We sent off our application to the Beth Din in February, had our first interview in April, and our second interview in May. We were assigned a teacher, and have started classes! Nothing about this journey seems “quick” – I feel like it took an agonisingly long time to come to the decision to move to Brisbane and be part of the community, then just as long to get our act together and make some official decisions about converting, saving some cash, and putting in our application. Though some parts of that went quickly, in general this is something I’ve found we’ve had to be on top of, and keep pushing forward.
I was so glad that our first class involved an actual lesson, and not just chit chat about what we’re doing and why we’re converting (though it did include a bit of that!). We are started with the 13 principles of Jewish faith, and working through them one by one. We got about half way today, and will continue with the rest next week.
I feel really in two minds about the conversation stuff. On the one hand I am so excited about what we are doing, and on the other hand I feel the weight and seriousness of what we are doing. I mean, I feel the sense of commitment even more with this than when I got married! Perhaps in some ways it’s because I’ve been married for 10 years now that I have a more true understanding of what commitment is, and how it affects every part of who you are. I kind of hope that that sense of seriousness doesn’t leave me thought this process. This is truely not a light decision to make, and I want to make it with as full sense of its weight.
Of course I love Hashem, and I truly do love Judaism as well, and my heart is completely all in for keeping Halacha, so all this seriousness is weighed up with excitement and joy!
warning: rambly post ahead!
I suppose we’ve been downsizing for ages now. Years really. Let me think… probably when Eli was still a baby (he’s 4.5 now), was when this all started. Before this I was a moderate level hoarder. I come from a line of moderate level hoarders on both my mother and father’s side. I actually find quite a lot of joy in “stuff”, and things that bring back memories, and more than anything in having just the right and perfect things for a project somewhere in my stash!
For many years it has been with great pride that I can help my kids to make, on the spot, any craft project Mr Maker sends our way. Just a few months ago a friend sent me a photo of some lovely candles and suggested we make some for a girl’s day, and I said “Oh yes, I have a heap of soy wax we could use!“. In actual fact, I had a whole kit of candle making supplies including wicks, dyes, and scents.
I still like this part of me, even though we are downsizing and becoming more minimalist. For sure I do almost all of this to please my husband. Not in a weird “he’s controlling me” kind of way – just in a way where I know this is his preference, and that it would reduce his stress a lot if we had less stuff. Plus he is always going on about the cost of keeping “stuff”.
But on the topic of the cost of keeping stuff, let it be know that there is also cost in always having to buy new things. And there is also an emotional and stress-level cost in getting small children into the car and taking them out on an errand to get the “stuff”.
I do agree that physical clutter in your house, or space contributes to mental clutter, and I suppose that’s another of the reasons I am into downsizing and decluttering, because I certainly have plenty of mental clutter to get rid of. Plus I like to not have so many decisions to make all the time, and less things to clean up and tidy!
Anyway, I think that’s the end of my ramble post! Not sure what the point was other than to get this stuff out fo my head!
So we finally finished our no spend month. It felt like a lifetime, especially the first and last weeks! Here’s a summary of how we went!
How Did We Do?
We have done pretty well! Lots of temptation, but we survived. We did spend some money on a few birthday things for family and friends. I don’t regret doing that though – it was good family time, and gifts are important, especially when this is only one month of the year! We didn’t really ever talk about gifts and how they fit into it, but I think they’re perfectly acceptable (within reason).
I also went and got a massage one day. I was stressed, in desperate need to alone time, and the tension in my shoulders was just crazy. It was amazing, and I do not regret that either. I have been a far more relaxed and happy mother in the days following it then I was for the week before it!
We also had one or two slip-ups, but for the most part, we resisted any temptation, and really denied ourselves a bunch of things we would have bought without thinking.
Thoughts & Feelings
After about a week I totally regretted doing this month. Hah! But it also had some benefits. I liked that we could easily explain to the kids about what we were doing and why we couldn’t buy them things, but I missed being able to go out and do something special as a family. We missed out on some really fun and important events because they had entry fees, and that was dissapointing.
BUT, it was a good experience overall. I was able to identify where I just spend money without thinking, and that in itself is a pretty powerful thing!
I’ll be honest, I’m not in a rush to do this again. We manage to stick to our budget well almost all the time, so we’re not exactly spending big, or racking up debt. This no spend month came at a frustrating time – with a number of events on, and at the same time as we started to get into all this zero waste stuff, so it was annoying to not be able to enable our new love for zero waste stuff because we weren’t spending things!
I think if I did this again I would allow op-shopping (thrifting), and I would also allow entry to events (within reason)! Also, possibly giving ourselves more than 2 days notice like we did this time would have been helpful!
Here are my personal next steps. I’ll let you know how they go!
- Sew some more reusable bags (this will use up some of my fabric stash also – yay!).
- Sew a reusable cutlery bag for days when we go up the coast.
- Have a go shopping at the bulk food store (not aiming for perfect first time – just better!).
- Commit to always buying F&V from Charlie’s (plastic free packaging).
I thought it might be fun to document all the ways that I’ve moved from single use to reusable items, and from plastic to an alternative over the last few years, and that we’ve amped up even further in the last month or so. Partly to provide some sort of inspiration to other people, but also to give me a bit of a reality check. We are at this stage with zero waste and sustainability, where most of the obvious and basic things are done, and we are now moving on to the things that require more sacrifice, preparation, and thought. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and for your mind to get a bit “you suck at this, look how far you have to go!”, so this post is here to remind myself “Hey! Look how far you’ve come!”.
- Converted from Tupperware to glass jars for all pantry items (storing flour, etc.
- Stainless steel straws for everyday smoothie use.
- Keep cup for coffee on the go.
- Reusable water bottles to take with us.
- Plastic free lunchboxes every day.
- Using microfibre clothes for cleaning instead of chemicals (in plastic bottles no less). I know microfibre isn’t perfect, but I didn’t know at the time, and it is at least a step in the right direction.
- Reusable bags for groceries (the trick is remembering to take them!).
- As of yesterday – a compost bin! Have spent quite a few hours already watching youtube videos on the best way to compost!
- Using bar soap instead of body wash in the shower.
- Changed to reusable pump bottle for hand washing instead of buying a new one each time.
- Changed to a menstrual cup instead of using tampons and pads.
- Using essential oils to replace some first aid supplies.
I’m not sure how extensive this list is.
I wrote this all a week or two ago, and then I see the most wasteful lifestyle choice from people as I browse instagram (cooking in single use foil containers instead of a dish you can wash and reuse – WHY?!), and then I think perhaps I do much better than I think I am.
I am truly so grateful to my mother, who hardly ever used single-use items, except for the “standard” things like cling wrap, and alfoil, and who always made our food from scratch (admittedly this has made us all food snobs to a degree, but there are worse things in life than refusing to eat packet mix cake!).
I feel like these messages have really influenced my life a lot, even without her specifically teaching us anything on the subject. I wouldn’t even consider buying packaged food for my son’s school lunch box. I wouldn’t even consider using a single use foil tin to bake in when I could so easily use a proper dish. I wouldn’t consider using disposable plates as a lazy night thing (even though we don’t have a dishwasher).
Anyway, even with those things I would never consider, and with the list of things I’ve changed, there is still room for improvement, and a chance to be more mindful about the way I live. I’m excited! This feels so right for me/us, and has brought me huge peace along with the excitement and a new passion project to sink my teeth into!
This morning on the radio I listened to the end of a segment where they mentioned that some people think consider “green living” (which includes things like zero waste, but also all levels of sustainability), to be a luxury only afforded by the well educated, and middle and upper classes in our society. They went on to say that these sort of movements actually contribute to more of a class divide in our society.
At first listening to this really shocked me, as I haven’t really heard much negative press for green living before. Luke and I had literally spent hours last night talking about the ideas and principles of zero waste, and how we could reduce our waste further. But I tried to consider what I had heard (especially having only heard the end of it), and think if this was really true.
The more I thought about it, and talked it through the more I decided that it wasn’t an accurate representation of green living and zero waste. I do agree that middle and upper class citizens do have more opportunity to change their lives to green living quicker, and with less hardship, but that is actually a luxury they have for pretty much every issue they want to pursue. And to be honest, I don’t think that we should be trying to criticise anyone who sees an issue, learns about it, and then takes action to improve their life and the world around them.
As I pondered all this I ended up brainstorming a whole bunch of different ways that low income families could reduce their waste with little cost. I’ve listed them below.
- Sell off unused and unwanted goods.
- Refuse plastic bags. If you buy a couple of reusable shopping bags from the supermarket (not the best, but certainly better than the standard plastic bags) each week it wouldn’t take long to have enough to do your whole shopping. If you’re handy with the sewing machine, you could even use old clothes or spare fabric to make your own bags
- Refuse straws.
- Compost. It doesn’t take much to start a compost heap in your back yard, but even if you don’t have a back yard to compost in, there are many community garden projects around (particularly in our area – Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast) that would happily have a compost heap.
- Bake snacks and treats instead of buying them. Making a round of ANZAC slice, or cupcakes will be a lot less wasteful then buying them pre-made (and individually wrapped!!) in the supermarket.
- Make sure you recycle everything possible. The local tips do EXCELLENT talks and interactive sessions on recycling and zero waste, so it’s well worth calling them to book in a time so you can find out all about what can and can’t be recycled. Better yet, organise a group so more people can learn!
- Turn your jars into storage! I have a lovely shelf of glass jars that I keep all my pantry items in, and MOST of these jars are just leftover pasta sauce bottles or the like. Reusing stuff you have in a different way is a great way to get greener with no cost.
Lastly I just wanted to say that even though I do happen to be a well educated middle class person, most of the knowledge that I have on zero waste and green living is from free sources. It’s from following blogs and instagram accounts, and searching for things on Pinterest. I know how to compost stuff because I binge watched a ton of youtube videos one time. So the point of that is to say that information is all around you, and you just have to get out there and be hungry for it!
Today is Rosh Chodesh Iyar (well, technically the 30th of Nissan – but that’s just how the Hebrew months work sometimes…). This month we are doing a no spend month!
Why a no spend month?
The easiest way to sum up why I want to have a no spend month is this – I want us all to get out of the habit of mindless spending. I want our family to move past common consumerism, and to be more grateful for what we have.
I am obsessed with watching videos on youtube about tiny living, minimalism, and simple living. I love those things, and I yearn for them to be more true to my own life when I watch those videos, but the reality is I feel like my life is far from it.
Last week when I came to a head on this, and thought back, I could see that my children were consistently asking for things every time we would go somewhere. Sometimes big things (“I’ll put it on your Wishlist for your birthday” I’d say), and more often small things, $2 things, ya know? Annoying little toys from machines, or their favourite chocolate. Often I would say yes, either to appease them, or to get out of the shops quickly, or even sometimes because I wanted them to be happy and to reward them (or bribe them).
We end up with a hole in the wallet, and crappy toys filling our house.
I could see that the kids were not content with what they had, and worse than that they were always “bored” – so what good were these annoying toys?
Luke and I have been doing a lot of extra spending the last few months – we’ve been using our extra income to buy some big ticket items (new bed, new mattress, photo books, conversion application, mower etc. These were all necessary things, and we don’t regret buying them, but having the extra income also made us (maybe just me?!) a bit more lazy with sticking rigidly to the budget – things like my acupuncture and herbs aren’t technically in the budget, and I have spent a bit of extra money investing in health things. Again, I’m not saying this was so bad, I’m just saying it contributes to a lazy budget attitude, and it’s something I want to reign in.
In summary, I want to give everyone in our family a spending detox, and help us make good decisions about our spending in the future.
You’ve still gotta eat! What can you buy?
Of course! We still have to eat, and pay our bills, and there’s no way around that. I asked on instagram stories for some suggestions of what we should put on our “can spend” list, and got some great answers. Here’s our list:
- Groceries (stick to the grocery list though, and no extras snuck in like magazines or Diet Coke at the checkout!)
- Paying bills
- Acupuncture (am considering this a health bill as we’ve already made a commitment to continue it for a certain amount of time)
Any extra money from this will just be put into the kitty (we use a cash based system) for some sort of family experience at the end of it all (zoo day, ice-cream party… etc.), or give to a charity – depends how much (or even IF!) we save anything.
Out of interest, what can’t you buy?
So basically we can’t use our bank cards for anything other than to get the cash out that we need.
No online purchases – no games, no apps, no things we’ve been wanting that come up on special (because they totally will now that we’ve committed to this).
No coffees, no buying snacks, no spending money to buy whatever we life (for me that’s often art supplies or crystals). You get the idea, right?
No take-away, no random grocery top-ups above the standard grocery budget, no buying lunch when we’re out.
What do you foresee to be the main challenges?
Surprisingly, I don’t expect the kids to be a bit problem. We will sit down with them today and talk about it (I will try to tie it into our daily study of the sefirot as we count the omer), explain why we’re doing it, and how long it will go for. They usually respond well to these types of scenarios, so while there could be a few hairy days, in general I think they’ll be fine.
I actually think the hardest thing with me will be not buying snacks/lunch out. For example, today we are going up the coast to visit my parents, and will stay overnight. We’ll be out and about during lunch time tomorrow, and usually I’d just buy some lunch. In this particular situation it should be okay, as I only needed to do a small grocery shop this week, and have some spare money from that, so I can technically buy them lunch. BUT to keep with the spirit of it I’ll just be heading to Coles and getting some “real food” things (even if it’s just bread and peanut butter), rather than going to a food court for sushi.
The other hard challenge will be resisting sale items as they come up.
So that’s what we’re doing! I hope it will be a good exercise in self control, and that we’ll be able to stick to it. I am woman of extremes, and so my first thought was definitely to do it for a whole year, but I wasn’t really sure we were up to that! If this works out well, I think it would be a great exercise to do again later in the year!
It’s possible that emergency things will come up. That’s okay. This isn’t some sort of massive things I absolutely can’t fail at – if we need to buy new tyres, or there’s something we have to pay for for school, that’s also okay. For these sort of things though my decision making tool will be to ask myself if it needs to be bought NOW, or if it can wait until next month. And its level of urgency.