Tag Archives: minimalism

‘I believe every woman should own at least one pair of red shoes.’ Terry Tempest Williams.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Amen to that!!

(I have three pairs of red shoes . . . and one pair of orange . . . and two pairs of blue . . . and several pairs of multi coloured . . .  and six pairs of black . . . and two pairs of grey and . . . well . . . you get the idea . . . )


Posted by on August 1, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘Be bold; there are no terrible consequences in knitting.’ Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

I can’t quite remember how old I was when I first learned to knit but I know knitting was something I indulged in, and enjoyed, for years and years.  I used to knit all the time.  I made sweaters and scarves and cushion covers and toys and blankets and . . . well, you name it, I probably had a go at it.  (Okay, I never made a hoodie for a dog, but I might have if I’d thought any of my boys or girls would have worn them . . .  )  And then, for reasons I can no longer remember, I stopped.  Just stopped.  Probably I got too busy, or too lazy, or took up other interests instead . . .

Until about a month ago I had not thought about knitting for the longest time but, when clearing out one of my cupboards at home, I came across a large whicker basket filled to the gunnels with all manner of knitting paraphernalia.  Great big fat plastic needles, long skinny metal needles—and every size needle in between. Knitting patterns, scissors, packets of pins, tape measures, crochet hooks, various reels of (tangled) threads, stitch holders, safety pins and a notebook and pen. And of course, yarn.  All sorts of odd balls of yarn.  Oh my—I had forgotten how much I loved the yarn . . .

But no.  Stop right there.  I must not get carried away.  If I am going to get back into knitting I am going to take it slowly.  I must use up the wools and yarns I already have first.  No rushing down to the nearest wool emporium to buy up skeins and skeins of gorgeous vibrant coloured . . . or mottled . . . or flecked . . . or chunky . . . or worsted . . . or angora . . .or alpaca . . . or silk . . .  Sigh.  So much yarn and so little time.  And space.

Because, in spite of what Stephanie Pearl-McPhee says, I can already forsee at least one terrible consequence.  My renewed ardour for all those gorgeous knitting patterns, wools, threads and yarns could easily begin to rival that of my (seemingly unrelenting) desire for new pens and pencils and paints and sketchbooks . . .

. . . and I really can’t afford to move to a bigger house just yet . . .


Posted by on July 4, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ William Morris.

I have always been a bit of a pack rat.  I like my ‘stuff’.  I like my books and my clothes and my shoes and my ornaments (‘dust-gatherers’ my mother calls them, but I like ’em) and I like my art materials and my pretty bottles and jars and . . . well . . . stuff.

I doubt that will ever really change but a couple of years ago I decided enough was enough and I was going to at least try to become a little more discriminating about the kind of stuff I keep.  And I think I have.  My stacks (and stacks) of books are mostly gone (although, admittedly, most of my favourites have managed to slowly reappear on my kindle), clothes and shoes (and scarves and handbags and earrings . . . ) have been drastically reduced and I have even managed to downsize many of the ticky-tacky ornaments I had managed to accumulate over the years.

So, why, after all the clearing out and culling I have already done, do I still have so much stuff?  If I sat down and counted every single item in my house, how many ‘things’ would I have?  5,000 . . .  10,000 . . . 15,000?  More?  That’s a lot of stuff for just one person (and three small dogs).  And why, after decades of accumulating, do I now feel the urge to get rid of so much of it?

I don’t really know, I just do.

Well someone out there must have been listening in on my musings and decided to give me a little shove.  I was browsing one of my favourite blogs (The Minimalists) and came across what they call the ‘Minimalism Game’.  It’s simple enough.  You play the game for thirty days.  On Day One you get rid of one thing.  On the second day, two things go out the door.  On the third day, three.  And so on.  It doesn’t matter what you get rid of (books, clothes, ornaments, furniture) and it doesn’t matter what you do with it (donate, sell it, re-gift it, throw it away)—it just has to be gone.  By the end of 30 days you should have 465 less things in your house.

Okay.  So, instead of sitting muttering to myself about being weighed down my belongings I decided to take up the challenge.  I was going to follow William Morris’s example and only keep anything I thought to be useful or beautiful.

However, having made the decision to go ahead with the challenge I had to also admit that there was absolutely no way (no how) I was going to be able to keep the momentum up on a day-to-day basis.  Things would happen (work would be frantic, one of the dogs would go wackadoodle, the phone would ring, someone would turn up at the door) and by the time I settled into bed I would realise I had completely forgotten to toss something out that day.

So I decided I would tackle the challenge week by week for a month.  I would gather up my sacrificial items over the week and each weekend I would count them all up, add to them if I had to, and out they would go.  (Feeling quite smug and pleased with myself about getting rid of a whole lot of stuff all at once would be an added bonus . . . )

I also made up a few rules of my own.  Ordinary trash or recyclables do not count.  One piece of paper does not count as one thing—a sheaf of papers can be one thing.  One pencil, no.  A fistful of old scraggy worn out pencils—okay. (Although you never know when you might need a pencil . . . Sigh.  See what I did there?  I have to watch myself all the time.  I seem almost pathologically unable, or at least unwilling, to get rid of those just-in-case items.  I’ll keep that ratty old bag with the handles that look just about to drop off—just-in-case.  I won’t toss any of those (dozens and dozens) of old gift bags—just-in-case.  And those beaten and battered folders—well, you never know when you might actually need a beat-up, battered old folder . . . )

Week 1—Days 1-7.  That means 28 things have to go. Easy-peasy.  I was on a mission.  I went through my closet and the linen cupboard and had selected 28 things before I knew where I was.  This was going to be a breeze . . .

Week 2—Days 8-14.  77 things.  This time I moved into the living room and started ransacking drawers.  Old cassette tapes (yikes!) and video tapes (Why did I still have these? I haven’t had a tape or video player in years), old remotes, electrical bits at pieces left over from god-knows-what, doggies toys (ssssh don’t tell the girls.  They were all fast asleep and I don’t think they’ve noticed yet), and a couple of totally unidentifiable items which I had obviously once thought should be saved but now had no idea what they even were.   Out they went.

Week 3—Days 15-21.  126 things.  Laundry, pantry, kitchen.  Done, done, and done.  (Who knew I had so many mismatched cutlery, plates, bowls, dishes and wine glasses in my house?)  I even managed to put a couple of extra thing aside to count towards . . .

Week 4—Days 22-30.  234 things.  Phew.  That’s a lot of things.  Time to dig deep . . .

To be honest I am not sure whether I finally made that final magic 465 number, but I made a bloody good stab at it.  When I stand back and look at my house now, it actually doesn’t look much different.  There are still pictures on the wall, books and knick-knacks on the shelves, doggie toys still littering the floor.  But it feels different.  It feels somehow . . . lighter.

So I am happy I took up the challenge.  There is more to be done but this was a great start and (for now at least) I am happy to wallow in smug self-satisfaction of a job well done.

I am also going to try really hard to keep my promise to myself to not replace all the stuff I just got rid of.

Unless, of course, it is with something very useful . . .  or very beautiful . . .


Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘To invent you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.’ Thomas Edison.

Anyone who has been following any of my posts will know that, for the past couple of years, I have been assiduously divesting myself of a lot of extraneous ‘stuff’ I seem to have accumulated over the years. (Although, perhaps ‘assiduously’ is too strong a term—but I really like how that word just kind of rolls off the tongue . . . assssidduossssly  . . . )

patonbackAnyway . . . I have also spent a bit of time patting myself on the back about how good I have been.  I’ve rid myself of books and clothes and shoes and old bits of furniture, and, the most important part, I haven’t done what I thought I might do and replace it with all new stuff.  (Well, okay, I admit, I have bought some new stuff but not nearly as much as I could have.)  I figured I had this downsizing thing down pat.

And then last weekend I went looking for some blu-tackone of those things that you need once every five years or so and you just know you have some in the house somewhere but be damned if you know where to find it—and, after unsuccessfully searching through all my ‘arty’ drawers (which, by the way, are now are hugely pared down with all materials organised into lovely plastic see-through boxes—not in any way, shape or form a sketching procrastination tactic . . . ) I finally had an AHA moment.  I knew exactly where that pesky blu-tack would be.  How could I not have thought of that first?  The drawer in the kitchen.

Now, I know you know which drawer I am talking about.  I’ll bet you have one too. The junk drawer. The drawer of detritus. The drawer where all your odds (sometimes very odd) and ends go to die . . .

junkdrawerOMG!  I swear I open that drawer at least twice a day (obviously to toss things in rather than take things out) but I am not sure when the last time was that I actually looked at what was inside it.   And worse still, now that I was looking, it seems that items within that drawer (presumably deciding they needed more room to move about) had surreptitiously started to infiltrate several surrounding drawers as well. Sigh.

Why?  I mean—really—why?

Why is it I can manage to give away two hundred books and half the clothes in my wardrobe but I seem unable to stop myself from ‘saving’ such flotsam and jetsam . . .

four sets of broken scissors
(did I think I was going to get them mended?  Never going to happen.)

fridge magnets
(well—once upon a time they were fridge magnets.
The decorative fronts were still on them but they no longer had magnets attached.)

various pens and markers
(none of which seemed to be working)

(now completely un-sticky because of the all junk-draw fuzz stuck to it)

safety pins and thumbtacks
(every single one lying face up and every single one stabbed me before I saw it)

a hammer (WTF?)

dozens of loose toothpicks
(because where else are you going to keep them?)

various over the counter headache, cold-and-flu, and hayfever tablets
(I have never, ever suffered from hayfever)

3 bottle openers and 2 corkscrews (ahem)

doggie poo bags (thankfully all pristine and unused),
along with several now-too-small dog-collars (so cute),
half eaten dog chews
(erk) and other doggie doodads.
Oh, also a little bottle of what was left of Mabel’s ear drops from the infection she had
—2 years ago

a number of rusty keys
(no idea what they do, or do not, open)

several tubes of superglue
(one which had divested itself off all its contents and will never be removed from the drawer,
or anything else it came into contact with, ever again)

a dozen or so buttons of varying shapes and sizes
(I couldn’t tell you the last time I sewed a button on anything,
but in spite of this I apparently can’t throw them away either . . . )

lightbulbAnd those are only some of the more identifiable items.  There were a couple of other things in there which (grimace) I am still not sure about.  Nor have I even looked through the other two drawers yet—that may be a chore for this weekend.  (Oh joy.)

It’s a shame Edison is not still around really.  He would have had a field day . . .

Oh, and P.S.—I still haven’t found the bloody blu-tack . . . 


Posted by on November 4, 2016 in Uncategorized


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‘You can’t reach for anything new with your hands full of yesterday’s stuff.’ Louise Smith.

I think I may have mentioned my seemingly endless attempts at decluttering before.  Although I have resigned myself to never becoming a minimalist in the true sense of the word (I can’t help it—I really like my stuff) I have been pleased to notice that, in spite of my instinctive hoarder tendencies, I do actually seem to be making some progress.

burstinghouseAt least the progress is noticeable to me, although perhaps not so much to anyone else.  Visitors to my house may see little difference but I know for sure and certain that I now own significantly fewer books, clothes, shoes, scarves, handbags, ornaments, and (especially) kitchen paraphernalia than I did two years ago.  (For someone who doesn’t cook I’ll be damned if I know where all those kitcheny doodads came from.)  I have also managed to cut a decent swathe through the fandangles, doohickeys, thingamabobs, and not-sure-if-I’ll-ever-need-this-but-I’ll-keep-it-just-in-case-crap that always seem to multiply in cupboards and drawers (and the garage) the moment my back is turned.

(Before I go any further, and before I start to sound too holier-than-thou, I must admit to numerous recent acquisitions of all sorts of delicious art materials which have, to a certain extent, taken over some of the space created by earlier purges.  What can I say?  It’s a work in progress . . . )

listAnyway, a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to have yet another clear-out (practise makes perfect) so I made myself a list (I do love my lists) of areas in the house where serious work was still needed.   Making the list was as far as I got that time because it rained (which seemed like a good enough excuse to not go any further at the time) but this weekend Spring sprung again and I was filled with a sudden ‘urge to purge’.  Okay—what was first on my list?  The bedroom. Really?  Again? How many times I have I already been through my wardrobes (yes, that is plural) cupboards, shoeboxes and drawers, culling and disposing of unwanted and unused items?

Not enough, obviously.  It took only a couple of minutes before I found myself sorting through various piles of clothing and asking myself  ‘Why do I still have this?  I thought I had already ditched this.  Why didn’t I get rid of this last time?’  (Or, even worse, ‘OMG, what was the stuff like that I threw out last time if this is what I kept?’)  Sigh.  This was going to take all day.

But I was determined.  I dug deep.  Anything I hadn’t worn in . . . or was too big (‘I am not growing back into that’) . . . or far too small (‘how did I think I would ever fit into that’) . . . or the dreaded ‘what on earth was I thinking’ . . . was out.  No ifs, buts, or maybes.  It was gone.

My girls helped me through the process of course.  Mabel perched herself atop the first teetering pile of there’s-nothing-at-all-wrong-with-any-these-but-I’ll-never-wear-them-again-jumpers and supervised the proceedings.  helpfulMaudie checked (and double-checked) that everything that went into the large black plastic bags was absolutely meant to be there (by dragging everything out again and looking questioningly at me—Are you sure? These shoes?  But you love these shoes?) and Molly followed Maudie’s lead, also checking each bag methodically before I was allowed to tie it offalthough in her case I do think she was slightly more concerned that I might inadvertently toss something out that actually belonged to her.  

(I haven’t had the heart to tell them yet, but the doggie-toy-box clearout is actually one of the dot-points further down on my list . . . )

net-closetSeveral hours, and six large black plastic bags full to overflowing later, I was feeling pretty smug and pleased with myself.   I could now ‘see the wood for the trees’, and had (bonus!) rediscovered a great pair of jeans and a fabulous pair of shoes I had completely forgotten about.   (Not to mention enough black leggings and tee-shirts to start my own shop.  If I even look like I am going to buy any more of those you have my permission to give me a good slap.)  I hefted all the bags into the car immediately and drove to the local Op Shop and dropped them all in the donation bins before I had time to second guess any of my decisions.  (Not that I have ever done that before of course.)  

And then I came home and put a big black line through the first item on my list.   BEDROOM.    Done.   Very satisfying.

Until Monday morning when it was a wee bit cooler and I went to look for a light jacket to wear to work . . . and suddenly realised I had completely missed a whole wardrobe!!  Seems I was a tad hasty in crossing off that first item.  Sigh.  Never mind.  Like I said—definitely a work in progress . . .


Posted by on September 9, 2016 in Uncategorized


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‘It’s pointless to have a nice clean desk, because it means you’re not doing anything.’ Michio Kaku.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

That might be easy for Michio Kaku to say, but I can quite easily manage to have a lot of stuff on my desk (at home at least) and still not actually be doing much.

I’ve been thinking some more about what I wrote in my last post.  Do you think ‘art stuff’ could be classed as just ‘one thing’?

Because if I have to count every single pen, pencil, paintbrush, ink bottle, rubber stampe, eraserI’m screwed . . . .



Posted by on July 12, 2016 in Uncategorized


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‘Less is more.’ Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

shoe addictI was looking for something in my wardrobe the other day when it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t bought a new pair of shoes in months and months and months. Now this may not seem like a big thing to you lovely readers out there, but this realisation was somewhat of a watershed moment for me.  Did I actually need to buy a new pair of shoes over the last few months—absolutely not.  I know for a fact there are shoes in my wardrobe right now that have hardly ever been worn.  But, if I’m being really honest here, when it comes to shoes (and, sigh, handbags) ‘need’ never really came into it.

(Shoes, handbags and puppies—you can never have too many—that was my mantra—although I hasten to add I was always much more responsible when it came to the puppies . . .)

toomuchstuffSo why such a watershed moment?  A couple of years ago it began to dawn on me that I had far too many possessions for just one person.  (I swear the foundations of the house were starting to sag.)  I had (literally) hundreds and hundreds of books, and although I loved them all, some (most) of them had not been cracked opened in years.  I also had drawers full of cds I never listened to, dvds I never watched, boxes full of arty stuff I never used (okay glad I saved that as, yay, am using it now) and wardrobes stuffed with old or unused linen, clothes, shoes, and enough handbags to start my own store.  Not to mention all manner of odd broken bits and pieces that had started to gather together in the garage, along with bucket loads of ‘I-won’t-throw-that-away-just-yet-as-I-might-need-it-later’ stuff.  I was starting to suffocate under the weight of it all.

cleaning outAnd then I came across The Minimalists —two young guys writing about how to live a great life with less stuff. The answer to all my prayers—right?  Well—yes and no.  Although I have always liked the sound of minimalism, and I love the philosophy behind it—I also know that I really like a lot of my stuff too.  Owning less than 100 things was never really going to be a viable option for me.  But the more I read the more I came to realise that it did not have to be an all-or-nothing thing—there could be a happy medium—and over the next couple of years I made slow but serious inroads into divesting myself of a lot of my extraneous stuff.

dogdig1I gave most of my books to Rotary and even managed to not buy more to replace them.  (Well, not ‘proper’ books anyway.  My Kindle now needs two hands to lift it but it doesn’t take up any more space than it ever did.)  I cleared out wardrobes and drawers and gave away bags and bags of clothing (and, yes, even shoes), linen, crockery, ornaments and the like to the local Op Shops.  I’ve thrown away boxes full of ‘WTF did I hang on to that for’ paraphernalia, and even (Sssshhhh—not so loud) managed to bin some of the oldest,  most decrepit (and smelliest) doggie toys without them being missed (Maudie probably still thinks they are hidden in her ‘special place’ in the back yard . . . )

tinyhouseDid I miss any of the stuff I got rid of?  Maybe.  For about a minute.  Out of sight out of mind.  In fact I was happily surprised at how much I didn’t miss it.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that I wasn’t tempted to buy more thingsold habits die hard (and there are so many pretty shoes out there) so before I start to sound all holier-than-thou, let me assure that if I was to try to move into a tiny house today, I would possibly the only one alive towing a tiny house, two garages and a garden shed . . . .

work-progress-post-14479087So, still very much a work in progress and that’s okay.  Little by slow works for me.  I have had a couple of days off work this week and have used some of that time to do a bit more clearing out (it feels a bit like spring cleaning, but it can’t be that ‘cos it’s freezing outside) and I am still finding myself constantly surprised at how much I can look at and say ‘I wonder why I didn’t get rid of that before?’  (Could it possibly be because the local council only sees fit to provide us with teeny-tiny rubbish bins and then only allows the bin-men to come and empty said teeny-tiny bins once a fortnight? Mmmmm . . . )

Anyway, I have decided that ‘Less is More’ is my new mantra (although . . . the puppies . . . sigh )  Whether or not I will be able to stick to that for the long haul it is anybody’s guess, but I have started and hope to go on.  I know I will be sorely tested later today as my friend Pammy and I are going down to Forster for a day’s shopping—and I do still love to shop.

Perhaps it will be okay if I only buy teeny-tiny things that will fit in my future teeny-tiny house . . .


Posted by on July 8, 2016 in Uncategorized


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