Minimalism is a Commodity

And we’re buying into it again and again at an exorbitant price.

The minimalism movement has been around for a while now. It’s not hard to see why it came about. We live in a time where we are consuming more than the human race has ever consumed before. We are chowing through new personal belongings daily. And eventually someone, or several someones, decided enough is enough, our lives are full of clutter and the more we own the more stressed we get.

The solution? A return to simpler living through:

  • Cutting down personal belongings ( Does this bring me joy? No? Gone!)
  • Organising home clutter
  • Purchasing more expensive, better quality products that last longer.

Sounds great in theory doesn’t it? But the problem is we’ve been sold on another lifestyle ideal and it’s emptying our pockets and topping up our stress bucket.

John and Beth

Now, I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but the minimalism movement has become another thing to purchase and keep up to date with. It has become the very thing its values suggest we need to move away from. I believe it is our obsession with comparison, image and consumption that has shifted something, which was intended to mark a behavioural shift, back into our comfort zone where our learned behaviours lie.

This realisation hit me when I contemplated what it could mean to live more simply during the COVID crisis. How, with all the distraction of outings and events removed, could I focus on simply being? How can I really strive to live more grounded and connected with my family and nature now that there are less lights to dazzle me?

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I love the ideal behind the minimalism movement. I am incredibly guilty of getting caught up in the clutter and adding what I desire, not what I need, to everything I already own. But the problem with striving for this simpler lifestyle now is you are told there are possessions you need to acquire in order to live it.

This seems counter-intuitive right? And that is my bugbear.

I have found myself stuck comparing my pantry’s level of organisation with Miss Instagram’s pantry organisation, resulting in increasing feelings of  inadequacy, jealousy and the need to purchase more boxes from Kmart! (A truly 21st Century conflict).

I have been told (through clever marketing tactics) that my child’s playroom should not be a chaotic mishmash of coloured toys, but rather a purposefully structured play space filled with open-ended toys, made from solid wood that will last for years to come. Yes, it’s a beautiful picture, but why does a return to simpler, less flashy toys cost me $150 for a rattan doll’s highchair or $295 for a climbing triangle? (If you don’t believe me look these things up these are real prices). It seems to me that the cost of a “simple” playroom will put me in great debt.

I am also led to believe that no matter how tidy my house is it will never be minimalist or calming enough unless my furniture is in almost all neutral tones and my house presents a timeless look (whatever that is because all looks are going to date whether you think they will or not). Of course, this requires some renovations on my part. A task that is by no means simple or minimal. And once again, a lot of cold hard cash.

The more I explore it the more I find that the cost of chasing a simple, minimalist lifestyle is incredibly prohibitive for the every day person.

As beautiful as these items are, and as much as I get sucked in by them, this is not the simple, minimal lifestyle I want.

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I want a life made simple in moments.

Simple drawings with my daughter, not the neat lines of a designer dresser.

Simple in the mess of a kitchen with overflowing dishes, the smell of a cake in the oven and a wash in our dated bathtub because someone wanted to lick the spoon.

Simple in the amusement of stacking plastic cups and not worrying about the fact they’re not aesthetically pleasing bamboo utensils in muted hues.

Simple in the photos of my smiling family that don’t look picture perfect because I was too busy enjoying the moment than to edit the image with a pricey filter while they waited for me.

If you want to live simply. Do it. Live simply.

There is no product that you need. There is no podcast or book that will tell you truly how. I am not an expert. I am just someone on the journey, learning what it means to live a little simpler and by consequence I hope to find my days freer and fuller at the same time.

Beth

Don’t eat that! 15 things babies and puppies have in common

Some people say that getting a puppy is good practice for having a baby. I’ve got a small human and am inclined to believe this could, in fact, be true.

Baby humans are a lot like baby dogs and here’s why:

  1. You must keep them stimulated to prevent them from becoming destructive. If left alone for too long they will turn their attention to destroying your house.
  2. Both can be given chew toys. They call them ‘teething toys’ for baby humans but let’s be real the purpose is effectively the same.
  3. You can teach them to do a number of tricks and when either child or puppy successfully master said trick you feel almost giddy with pride at their achievement, largely because of your role in imparting knowledge.
  4. They will contentedly munch away on a pair of shoes. (No? Just my child then?)
  5. They will contentedly munch away on pretty much anything they shouldn’t really be munching away on.
  6. Dressed them in something cute? They’ll probably just keep trying to take it off.
  7. Are just so darn cute.
  8. Will wrestle with surprising strength to be free of your snuggles.
  9. But when they stay they give the best cuddles.
  10. Don’t enjoy being cooped up in the house for long.
  11. Both will leave questionable fluids on your floors if you don’t take necessary precautions.
  12. Neither will be fazed if they walk/crawl through said fluids and spread it around.
  13. Enjoy belly rubs.
  14. Will not fetch a ball. You can try to play fetch with your baby human or puppy all you like I’m telling you neither of them will bring it back.
  15. Will expand your heart with love more than you thought possible.

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New life, new dreams

This might sounds completely backwards but one of the things I have loved most about becoming a mum is discovering something that excites my soul that’s not got anything to do with parenting.

Stay with me here.

I may be only six months into this parenting thing, but when I compare my feelings now to those early days and weeks just about everything feels completely different.

I know at the start everything was just so overwhelming and all of my thoughts were such final statements like ‘I’m never going to have a good night’s sleep again’ or ‘I’ll never be able to leave home for more than an hour at a time because what if she gets hungry’. Of course those things sound silly now, but at the time they felt like very real possibilities.

Above them all one of the most depressing thoughts I had was ‘Parts of me feel missing’. I still felt like me but all the things that had made up my life before were suddenly gone. I didn’t need to go to work anymore, I couldn’t exercise until I had fully recovered and I felt too tired and was too in demand to pursue any of my other hobbies.

The good news and the bad news with parenting is time passes.

Our babies grow up and every stage is only a brief season. Within a few weeks I was able to bring back some light exercise and within a couple of months I could take some me time and escape to the pool for an hour or so. Consequently I felt rejuvenated. My cup had been filled and allowed me to better look after my family.

One of my biggest passions is acting, however the season of life I’m in at the moment makes that quite a difficult one to pursue. Theatre requires lots of late nights several times a week, something that’s not only not practical for my family but also would seriously reduce the already limited number of sleeping hours I have available.

It was a sad realisation understanding that I would need to let that go. However, instead somehow I feel like I have found something new that gives me those same feelings of excitement and drive that we all need, even mums!

I’ve always loved reading and have been picking up books again. Reading always tends to remind me about how much I’d love to write a book one day. It’s been a dream/goal of mine from a very young age (I’ve just never had much discipline!). It has been interesting discovering that spark is still there.

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The more I read the more I fanned the flame of this dream. So, I thought why not chase something a little bit different given my life now looks a little bit different? I decided to step out of my comfort zone and attend a few events I had never before thought to. I attended an author talk at the library to inspire me further and recently I joined a book club (that was filled with more fun and games than book talk but hey I had a blast at something brand new).

I completely surprised myself feeling comfortable in such foreign territory and it has given me considerable drive to keep reading and to keep writing (and hopefully one day that book makes an appearance).

Give yourself permission to do something you are passionate about.

Yes, pursuing anything is going to look a little different to what it did before baby but it’s going to be just as important to my overall mental wellbeing and enjoyment of life.

My writing gets interrupted when nap time finishes before I do and sometimes I might have to forfeit going for a swim if I’ve simply not had enough sleep, but that’s the reality of life. It gets in the way.

But then I can just remember it’s not getting in the way at all, not really. I’m also incredibly passionate about my family and those interruptions are actually just an opportunity to switch time to another passion for a little while.

Being a mum is one of the best titles I’ve ever been given, but like every mum I also have others that make up who I am. I’m still a wife, a writer, a swimmer, a baker, an avid reader, a photographer (however amateur) and any other new thing I want to pursue.

I’d like to encourage you to see what you can do within the limitations of your current lifestyle that could fill up your cup and spark that fire in your soul.

Hey Mumma, you won’t always know best

So many people will tell you to trust your gut as a parent. They say; don’t listen to the bombardment of advice and instead do what you think is best and everything will work out OK.

But sometimes it won’t. Sometimes you won’t chose what is best. And that’s OK. We’re all learning on this journey.

But can I encourage you, when you don’t know what is best to not throw out all the advice. Use your discretion to listen just to what could be helpful.

Yes, sometimes people will give you advice when you don’t need it and it won’t always be said in the best way, if you need to just let this go then do. But, there are so many people who have walked the path you’re walking and learnt more than a thing or two that could save you so much trouble.

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I know when I was pregnant the sheer amount of advice from well meaning people started to make me really anxious because I realised just how little I knew. Instead of ignoring it all and choosing to forge my own course, I shutdown the real source of my anxiety (namely a Facebook mother’s group) and mostly just listened to the women close to me.

However, from time to time it may be necessary to thank everyone for their input and still go with your gut and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I just hope that you see the value in the experiences of others.

I’ve seen many new mums quick to complain about how their own mum or mother-in-law “interferes” with their parenting of their new child. People tend to respond to this with so-called encouragement to the new mum to “trust themselves” and to “stand up for themselves” by doing their own thing.

But, I wonder how much easier we might find life if we made the most of someone else’s experience and wisdom, instead of viewing it as a threat to our own capabilities?

You are smart and able. So are others. Let them help you and make your road smoother.

Healthy cranberry oat biscuits

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I’ve been making these delicious chewy biscuits for a coupe of years now. They make the perfect morning or afternoon snack with a cup of tea. The best thing is I don’t feel guilty if I have more than one in a day as they only use a small amount of brown sugar to sweeten them up.

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Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon pink salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries (I generally use a reduced sugar variety)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla essence

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Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, bicarb soda and cornflour in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together the eggs, coconut oil and vanilla extract or essence.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Add the oats and cranberries and stir to combine. You may have to use your hands here to thoroughly mix the ingredients and mold into a dough.
  6. Take a portion of the mixture (whatever size you desire your biscuits to be, I usually make them about as big as my palm) and flatten on a baking tray. Continue with the rest of the mix.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Remove from oven and allow to cool or eat while still slightly warm.
  8. Store in an airtight container or freeze.

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The biscuits can easily be modified to include your favourite things. Try adding toasted coconut pieces or drizzling melted chocolate over the top for a less healthy, but extra tasty, treat.

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Reading Proverbs 31 as a mother

I’ve always felt the woman in Proverbs 31 to be a ridiculous overachiever who all women are encouraged to strive to be. I mean she makes clothes and sells them at the city gates for crying out loud.

It wasn’t until I read these verses as a new mum that I suddenly could see some similarities in our lives. Now, I don’t claim to be as accomplished as she by any means, but if you’re a mother perhaps you too will resonate with these verses in the same way, and if not maybe you can you see your own mother in them?

Verse 13. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.

How much of motherhood is hands on? Changing nappies, making dinner, cleaning floors, furniture and clothes. The only difference between 21st century mothers and the Proverbs 31 woman is are we doing it willingly?

Verse 15. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.

Hands up who’s had to get up at night to feed a little babe? Or rise in the early hours when it’s still dark to get on top of some of the household chaos? Sure the context is different, I mean I ain’t got no maidens, but the sentiment is still the same.

Verse 17. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.

Many mothers like to keep physically fit in one way or another. From the gym to pram walks or joining family cricket games, somehow we find time to also look after our health.

Verse 18. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.

I know a lot of busy wives and mums who run their own little business to turn a profit on the side of their full-time family life. Often these women work at late hours after everyone else has gone to bed in order to get it done.

Verse 21. She is not afraid of snow for her household for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

Women have great foresight. We are always prepared and we always want the best for our family. Just like the Proverbs 31 woman, we organise new clothes before a change in season, no one is going to go without. How often do our husbands ask for something only for us to say, ‘I already bought you a new one weeks ago’? Mothers are great at anticipating needs.

Verse 26. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 

It might be hard to see yourself in this verse but you’re there. When you’re giving your teenager advice you’re speaking out of your learned wisdom. When your over enthusiastic toddler accidentally whacks you with a toy for the tenth time that day and you chose to show them what gentleness means, instead of yelling at them to calm down, you’ve put kindness on your tongue.

I’m not saying I achieve all of these things all the time, but when I think of the Proverbs 31 woman in context of motherhood I suddenly feel like she’s not so unattainable; and that maybe striving to be like her is a little more worthwhile and possible than I first thought.