As the biggest challenge the world has faced in my lifetime played out, my role was to stay home. With no medical expertise and no link to the food supply chain beyond end consumer, I was officially “non-essential”. While hard- working and clever people around the world heroically used all their energy to combat coronavirus, I sat home and did nothing. Immensely grateful, and not unused to free-riding, I felt useless.
Now the medical emergency is subsiding (at least here in New Zealand), attention is turning to the economic crisis left in its wake. Coronavirus exposed not only the fragility of human health, but the fragility of global consumer capitalism. While combating the virus was the domain of the essential few, resuscitating the economy is something we will all be called upon to do.
I expect the call to be loud and relentless, casting wanton consumerism as an act of pure heroism. Remember what it was like during the Global Financial Crisis? It’ll have nothing on this. And primed by boredom and survivors’ guilt, we’ll be more ready to respond to the call than ever before.
But before you start dutifully clicking “add to cart” at every opportunity, take a breath. Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of advertisers and their plans for your money. Make a plan of your own.
You’ve probably seen the meme: “Turn all your clothes hangers backwards. Whenever you wear something, turn the hanger the right way. In six months/a year, donate every piece of clothing still hanging on a backwards hanger”.
I know you’ve probably seen this because my mum told me about it. My test for viral is if my mum knows about it. Anyhow, she was very enthusiastic about giving this a try. I didn’t want to rain on her parade, but I don’t think it’s very good decluttering advice.
This meme is a simple and catchy application of the “do I use it?” approach to decluttering. There are two reasons why I think focusing solely on “do I use it?” isn’t helpful.
In an attempt to avoid trips to the supermarket, I’ve signed up for a fruit and veggie box delivery. Delivery day (Tuesday) is quickly becoming the highlight of the week. I used to get a fruit and veggie box years ago, but found it challenging to make the best use of it and ended up wasting a fair bit. This time, I want to do better.
For the last few years, I’ve focused on reducing my food waste. This includes keeping a food waste diary, which I post as part of #foodwastefriday on Instagram. Over the years, I’ve shared lots of ideas on how to make food last longer and reduce waste. I’ve gone through my archives and put together some of my most popular tips.
Life in lockdown – it’s been just over a week and we’re starting to fall into a bit of a routine. I’m finding it helpful to focus on all the things I can do, rather than the things I can’t. We’re very fortunate that our daily lives are relatively untouched. We’re not essential workers, we work mostly from home anyway, we still have work and our cosy little house in the sun. The beach is still right there and we can still go for a walk.
One thing that has changed, I can’t just nip to the shops and it’s a bit of a lottery as to what’s left when you get there (although I hear that’s calmed down). I’m trying to avoid going to the supermarket and that means making good use of what I’ve got in my pantry. It’s a bit like a month-long MasterChef mystery box challenge.
I’ve always been good at working with whatever’s in the cupboard, but it isn’t so much fun when I HAVE to do it. It took me a while to adapt to the new normal, but I’ve found my groove and I’m quite enjoying it. Finding some inspiration online definitely helped. Here’s a roundup of resources that I’ve found useful and you might too.
I’m writing this shortly after the Prime Minister of New Zealand asked all New Zealanders to work from home if they can in order to slow the spread of Covid-19, echoing moves around the world. In the midst of this big, scary pandemic, and all the changes that come with it, I hope that sharing my experience can make one change a little bit easier.
Working from home can take some adjustment. I’ve mostly worked from home for the last three years, and my husband for over 10 years. It’s our preferred way of working. I’ve pulled together our advice on making working from home work well.
To celebrate the end of the school year, we went out for dinner as a family. This isn’t something we’ve done before. We’ve consumed food in cafes, pubs and restaurants at dinner time, but in the context of desperately trying to survive a social engagement with a rapidly expiring child. Chips and pizza were often involved.
This was different – it was an occasion. We all put on nice-ish clothes and headed to a local Indian restaurant I’d heard good things about. Excited, but with the odd tinge of apprehension we walked into the restaurant. Hopes were high for a fun night – and it was. It was new and different and lots of fun.
Reflecting on the evening, it was evident that our family is in a new season of life.
That family outing was the inspiration for my word for 2020 – ADVENTURE.
My approach to life this month has had a definite theme – let it go.
As someone with perfectionist tendencies, June was both a challenge and a triumph. There was a lot to do and it wasn’t going to get done to my usual high standards.
At home, that meant accidentally leaving things off the shopping list and lunch boxes without the usual homemade goodies. At work, it meant submitting messy first drafts that actually read like messy first drafts. In the end, nobody starved and all deadlines were met. But that wasn’t the triumph.
Do you keep biscuits (cookies for North American readers) in the house? I like to have them as a treat when kids come to play, but I don’t normally keep them in the house. Rather than saving the biscuits for guests, we (and by “we” I mean my husband and his 6-year-old accomplice) invariably end up eating them right after we buy them.
Instead, I keep the ingredients for biscuits ready to go and whip up a batch before someone comes over. Except, that’s just another thing to do, is useless for impromptu guests and we end up eating all the leftovers. At least, that was the scenario until I discovered slice-and bake-biscuits . Problem solved. Every so often, I make a big batch of dough that sits in the freezer, ready to slice and bake when needed. No dashing about before friends arrive, no eating too many biscuits.
This is very much at the trivial end of the spectrum of world problems, and finding a solution is hardly world changing. But I thought it was worth sharing as there are a lot of trivialities in everyday life and when added up they’re not inconsequential. Freeing yourself from little everyday annoyances and dilemmas can make a big difference.
Some of you may have picked up that I’ve been a bit absent around here lately. I decided to take a bit of a rest.
We had some very sad times as our dear wee kitten Lenny passed away. He was a very special young cat who became a big part of our family so quickly. For a few weeks, the only post I could have written was a whole page of “I miss Lenny”.
At the same time, I took on a big piece of work in a new subject area. My brain hurt. With the new work came a new, more demanding schedule and I needed to recalibrate my usual routines. I just didn’t have the bandwidth for blogging.
I took a different approach than I would of a couple of years ago. Rather than letting the words “do blog” languish unchecked on my to-do list and feel guilty about it, I got real. I looked at the time and energy I had available and made a choice to hit pause. Instead of feeling bad about not blogging for six weeks, I’ve been looking forward to getting back to it for six weeks. Big difference.
Somehow, we ended up in the toy aisle, probably something to do with it being located right next to the kids pyjamas. My son was examining a display of dinosaurs from a well-known movie franchise.
“I’d really like one of these,” began his spiel.
“My friend Johnnie has one of these. He has lots of cool toys; way more than me”.
This was the first time Mr 6 had volcalised a difference I was wondering if he’d notice – most of his friends have more toys than he does, some have a lot more.
A forlorn expression sets on his face. Is he just putting it on or is my minimalism harming his self-worth? I stop freaking out and give him the facts, he likes facts.
“Johnnie does have more toys than you,” I tell him. “But, did you know those are the only toys he gets to play with? He doesn’t get to go to the toy library and choose new toys like you do.”
“He doesn’t get to go to the toy library?”, my son replies in concerned disbelief.
“No,” I explain, “You’re lucky you get to go to the toy library. What would you rather have: all of Johnnie’s toys or go to the toy library?”
“Toy library, definitely” is the firm reply.
We’ve been using the toy library regularly since the wee guy was six months old (not that he had any interest in toys then – just as well we didn’t buy any!). He loves the toy library – every couple of weeks he gets to pick out new toys to bring home. I love it too. If there’s a toy library near you, I highly recommend using it – even if you have too many toys already.