Considering we’re trying to cull our belongings, I’m not wanting or expecting any gifts for Mother’s Day. But I admit, I am very looking forward to croissants and coffee, handmade cards and an afternoon nap.
The not wanting a gift is a new thing for me and I admit, it’s a really nice place to be. I used to be a bit of an over-achiever when it came to spending; and all that spending was driven by so much wanting. Over a year ago, when work significantly slowed, I curbed my spending habits out of necessity and subsequently stopped looking for things to buy.
Granted, there were still things I saw that I really, really liked but instead of instantly buying them I’d step back, think about them, consider whether they were worth the money, and, in most cases, decide I didn’t need them after-all.
I think this might be conscious consumerism. Close to it, anyway.
But the necessity bit? Well, no doubt it’s a common story for many of you. Because when you’ve got a bit of spare cash, there’s usually a long list of things that are required before you buy yourself something; we do tend to come after the outgrown kids shoes, seasonal clothing necessities, school requirements etc
So when the fabulous team at Etsy reached out to see if I’d like to give away a $100 voucher, I knew that it would be perfect for one of my readers.
Because spoiling yourself on something handmade would have to be one of the best Mother’s Day gifts, don’t you think?
To enter, just tell me in the comments what you would buy with the voucher and why you want it.
I’ve written this entire blog – years of musings – within my home. Indeed, the concept of making a home has been a common thread throughout my posts; raising children, cooking meals, creating ephemeral vignettes, sorting washing.
For the past few years I haven’t loved the house we live in. It may be practical which makes the day-to-day that much easier, but it’s not a space that makes my heart sing. The busyness of growing and raising four children has definitely made everything seem a little worn around the edges. Or well-loved, shall we say.
But this house, I now realise, has been a stepping stone; a catalyst for big change and even bigger plans. It’s pushed us out of our comfort zone and into a new way of living and for that I’ll always be grateful.
Our next home – all 24ft of it – is currently being prepped for departure. We’re freshening it up, adding some personal touches and making sure it ticks all the practical, comfortable and homely boxes. I don’t want to be to fussy with the details yet at the same time I want it to feel like ours – a space we can reside to when we feel the need to retreat.
This very notion; of retreating, relishing in comfort and resting within the walls of the home is at the very core of Natalie Walton’s new book This is Home. I knew it would be a beautiful and heartfelt book but what I didn’t expect was such a palpable sense of authenticity; a thought-provoking story of the home and the integral role it plays in our lives.
There is nothing pretentious about this coffee table book; it doesn’t showcase wealth or unattainable perfection. Instead, it’s a conversation between Natalie and the 15 home owners she has featured; tales of creating, living and nurturing within four walls.
Personally, the message that spoke most profoundly to me, is that some houses are merely seasons for us. We may live in some homes to grow and transition, whereas others become places to create and evolve. They are never finished or complete; they change and flow according to our needs, priorities and loves.
Right now I’m culling my belongings so we can set off with only our keepsakes stored in boxes. And while I’ve minimised my bookshelf over the past few months, I’ll be tucking This is Home into a box for future reference when home inspiration and guidance is required. Or when a snippet of time begs for tea, quiet and a flick through lustrous paper pages.
You can buy a signed copy of This is Home from Natalie’s beautifully curated store, Imprint House.
It’s just turned cold here; time to reach for extra layers that will, no doubt, be stripped off come lunchtime.
If you’re a longtime reader you already know how much I adore Nature Baby, the organic clothing company for babies and young children. I’ve been buying their beautiful essentials since 2007 and continue to dress Percy and Marigold in them. Every season, Nature Baby’s tops, pants and cardigans make up the majority of the children’s wardrobes and when outgrown they are handed down to the next little one in line.
This week is Fashion Revolution Week and it marks five years since the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh. I’ve always known that Nature Baby always uses organic cotton but I wanted to know a bit more about where their clothes are made and who makes them.
Nature Baby’s organic cotton is made in certified organic factories in India. It’s grown by farmers who saw the damage being done by their land and community by conventional cotton farming methods, so they chose to return to traditional methods of organic farming. Producing organic cotton clothing consumes far less water and ensures no nasty pesticides, chemical fertilisers or GMO seeds are used.
“The organic certification we have (GOTS) has high ethical and social standards, ensuring all our workers are treated fairly, and we support them, their families and their development. They have become self-sufficient in food, energy and education, and are paid above average wage, with equality between male and female workers. Absolutely no child labour is permitted. This gives us the assurance that what we are making looks after all those involved in the process of the garment from seed, to cloth, to stitch, to baby.”
This season, Nature Baby’s collection is beautifully soft and warm and the knitwear has a very subtle scent of lanolin. While autumn is definitely arriving late, the merino essential tee will be a staple throughout the season as it’s fine, soft, incredibly warm and therefore very practical. Coupled with a singlet and knit, it’s about all we’ll need when the cold really hits.
I feel like I’ve spent the past five years decluttering my home.
The imminent arrival of a baby has always been a motivating factor; nothing quite like nesting urges to have me clearing out cupboards and scrubbing walls and floors.
Moving house has also been a catalyst; it’s only when you have to pack everything into boxes that you realise how much insignificant miscellany you own.
But apart from a seasonal spring and autumn clean, I’ve been so caught up in keeping the house tidy (and often failing!) that decluttering the home hasn’t happened. And if I do start to do it, motivation wears thin.
Not knowing where to start or how to progress seems to be a common problem for those of us who want to declutter the family home. Sure, we can all clean out a kitchen draw or the kids’ wardrobe but the whole house? – it’s overwhelming to say the least.
Granted, I’ll be spending the next eight or so weeks decluttering on a whole new level. We don’t want to pay for storage while we travel so we’ll keep a few pieces of furniture, our big appliances (fridge, washing machine, dryer) and our keepsakes at the Grandparents’ houses. Everything else? We’re selling or donating.
But seeing as though many of you aren’t attempting to squeeze your life into a caravan any time soon, I thought I’d tell you about Uncluttered, a 12 week online course created by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist.
Perhaps what is most impressive about Uncluttered is that it helps you examine your spending habits as well as guiding you through the stages of decluttering the home. It’s not just for minimalists, either. It’s for anyone and everyone who wants to downsize and declutter, but can’t seem to get there on their own.
The course acts as a guiding roadmap and framework. It consists of videos, interviews, articles, Q&A sessions, weekly challenges, and most importantly, a super involved and active community. It offers everything a book cannot: active feedback, accountability, opportunity to ask questions, and positive support from others.
Uncluttered has been running for over two years and it has encouraged thousands of people to declutter their homes and change their mindset and habits. A few inspiring testimonials:
“The term life-changing gets thrown around a lot, but this course really is. I went into it with a lot of shame and anxiety. Joshua gently guided us in a way that made lasting change seem possible. My home is much improved, but my mindset is also clearer.”
—Kathryn W., Los Angeles, CA
“The power of this shared experience is hard to explain to people, it is so overwhelmingly positive. It not only provides the incentive to keep going, but reminds you there are good people out there. You find yourself rooting for complete strangers. Together, there is a momentum that drives you through the course. It was completely unexpected and so overwhelmingly helpful.”
—Tanya S., Webster, NY
“I am a better mother, a better wife, a better housekeeper, a better budgeter, a better teacher, a better neighbor and a better friend. I’m still a work in progress, but it feels good to be where I am at.”
“My credit card statement came today. $1,000.00 under my typical monthly balance! Thank you Uncluttered community. I’ve been at this for years; however, it’s clear I truly needed this group to get to that next level.”
—Cheyanne M., St. Paul, MN
Registration is now open and ends April 29th. The course commences on Tuesday, May 1st. I can’t wait to delve into the first few weeks of info as I simultaneously pack up the house!
This post contains affiliate links when, if purchased, I receive a small commission.
Our new home is sitting out the front of our (current) house, patiently waiting for adventures.
We did it! And I know it was the plan all along but after months (and months!) of research we decided on a make and model and found the right one at the right price. Then we took the leap and spend a big chunk of our savings on it.
It feels really good. And right – so right!
I promised that I would share this journey in its entirety but I admit that the past few months have been fairly uneventful. It’s been a slow process; literally sifting through the many caravans on the market to find a size and layout that works for us.
Thankfully there aren’t many caravans fit for six people so we didn’t have to search too far. But when it came to the layout, we were adamant that we didn’t want the main bed at the front of the van (next to the door) and interestingly, this layout is one of the more popular ones.
We wanted our bed to be at the far end of the van so we felt like we had our own space, albeit small. Practically speaking we also knew it would be a blessing for Marigold’s day naps. And for my sanity.
Eventually we discovered the Jayco Stirling and on Saturday evening our new home arrived. It’s a 2009 model and all 24ft of it is fantastic (yes, it’s huge). It’s not going to win any pinterest awards but it has everything we want for comfortable, practical living on the road.
Originally it had 3 bunk beds but the previous owners took two out. We’re going to transform it into a double bunk so there’s enough room for Che to sit up in bed (and for him to feel like he’s got his own space; essential for a tween). Thankfully the mattresses are quite long so Poet and Percy will top-and-tail on the bottom bunk. As for Marigold, she’ll be tucked into bed with Daniel and I for the year-long journey.
It comes with a full bathroom including a washing machine and the kitchen has a stovetop, oven and decent-sized fridge and freezer. These were all non-negotiables for me; I wanted a big fridge so I didn’t have to go to the supermarket every day and an oven will make baking and cooking so much easier and cost effective (store bought banana bread is expensive!).
The plan for now? Buy a Land Cruiser, sell our cars, pack up the house and hopefully be on the road by mid-late June. It’s all sorts of overwhelming but on the flipside it’s thoroughly enjoyable. The possibilities!
It’s not a coincidence that this post comes six whole weeks after the last which was aptly titled: “The Hardest Part of Babyhood.”
If you’re a mum, you know exactly how I’ve been spending my time. As I mentioned to the sweet lady in the supermarket elevator this morning: “It’s non-stop from sun up till sun down…and then some.”
Term 1 at school is always busy but this year has seemed extraordinarily full. I’m presuming it’s because I’m navigating school pick-ups with baby naps and we all know that never works out well. Honestly, the firstborn really does get it good in the uninterrupted nap department! And it never gets easier to rouse a baby from her slumber and plonk her in her carseat, all the while shushing the pre-schooler who wants to desperately bring a collection of random things (that he can’t find) on the 10minute journey.
Percy turned 3 a few weeks ago and on Monday he starts pre-school. It’s always a momentous step and it will be the very first time he’s spent time without me (aside from weekly visits with the Grandmas). My quirky, imaginative and incredibly creative Percy Pip is also my most socially anxious so it’s with a bit of trepidation that I send him off into the classroom. And yet I know that this is exactly what he needs; a gentle, nurturing and familiar environment where he can explore, learn and connect. He usually has Poet by his side when we’re out and about and she really does mother and guide him; it will be interesting to see how he fends for himself and navigates new friendships.
I took these two photos of him on his birthday week and they very aptly capture his personality:
And while the non-stop of ours days isn’t going to change any time soon, we’re now bubbling with excitement and anticipation because last weekend we bought a caravan! And this adventure that we’ve been dreaming up for the past six months finally feels very, very real. So real that I’m constantly thinking about sorting that cupboard, donating that bag of linens, packing up those books and clearing that miscellany.
The next few months will be fuller than the last as we sell our belongings, store our keepsakes, buy a Land Cruiser (anyone selling one?), sell our cars, prepare our caravan (and learn how to tow it!) and then whittle our “stuff” down to the bare minimum so that we can travel lightly.
For someone prone to avoiding big, spontaneous decisions, for someone who is a self-confessed homebody and lover of all things comfort, I’m astounded by my readiness for this journey. Intuitively I’m trusting that it will all fall into place because it really does feel like the right thing for us to do. We’ve spent the past 12 years here, growing our family and careers, and now it feels right to pack up our house and set forth to new places.
Right now I’m in the hard stage of babyhood. It’s only taken me four babies to realise that for me, the 6-9month mark is the most challenging.
Marigold is expanding and exploring; gone are the slow, sleepy days when she would snooze in the bouncer or sling. Now, eyes wide and arms outstretched, she’s woken and she’s ready to go.
I’m doing my best to guide her along, all the while keeping up with everyone and everything else. My daily workload has increased significantly over the past few weeks; I’m preparing more food, subsequently washing more pumpkin-stained clothes, soothing sore gums with breastmilk and carrying her on my hip because frustrated squawks as she tries (and fails) to crawl is one of life’s more agitating soundtracks.
Sometimes I wonder what it must look like from the outside; it’s definitely loud and tiring, slightly chaotic and somewhat joyous, too. I think I most resemble one of the mums in a Shirley Hughes picture book. Or the slightly dishevelled family in the ramshackle house of Peepo.
A fortnight ago, at Marigold’s most recent check-up, I was chatting to my GP about how full my days are. So full! I recalled a high-school friend telling me that her mum was often up at 1am mopping the floor. At the time I couldn’t fathom why she would do that. But now? I wholeheartedly comprehend why she would mop the floor at 1am. Sometimes I’m up at midnight so I can get a few things done without interruption; a beeswax candle flickering on the table and a cup of tea nearby means it’s not so bad. The quiet is good, too.
And so to the GP I mentioned that I “should” be doing so much more than I am, to which she replied: “Should only makes you feel like you’ve failed.” And she’s so right. Because telling myself that “I should be doing that” and “I should have worked harder to get this done by school pick-up” is a pointless and emotionally detrimental conversation to have.
And yet I still have them!
And so in this full-to-the-brim period where I regularly sport squashed banana on my neck and spend far too much time scrubbing stains at the laundry sink, I’m amazed at the fact that I’m four kids into this business and there’s still stuff that puzzles me. Every day there’s something new! And yet here I am, more willing than ever to listen and learn.
They say four kids is easier than three and to that I say: CORRECT! Three is an almighty juggle yet when you get to four you’re a more relaxed, take-it-as-it-comes kind of mum. The little things don’t bother you because you don’t have the time, energy or inclination to be bothered by them.
So here I am, dishevelled yet less bothered, tired and happy and learning to remove “should” from my vocabulary.
I don’t think we can ignore the fact that fast fashion is an exploitive and environmentally detrimental business. Statistics show that we’re buying and subsequently discarding more clothes than ever before.
Australians throw away six tonnes of clothing every ten minutes. Once in landfill, fabrics like polyester and lycra (hello, activewear!) can take up to 200 years to decompose, releasing harmful methane gas in the process. Entire waterways in Asia are blue because of the excess dye leaching from denim manufacturers. These fast fashion clothes are made by underpaid labourers who work in awful conditions. There is a multitude of ethical and environmental problems with this scenario. It is, most definitely, an eco-crisis.
Social media has worked wonders for prompting transparency in the fashion industry. Hence I’ve been reading up on everything #ethicalfashion of late, a natural progression from my research on single-use plastic and food waste.
And so here I am, more intent than ever to purchase #clothingwithaconscience, take care of every item in my wardrobe and ultimately lessen my fashion footprint.
But it’s not necessarily easy, is it? And the social media that brings the reality of fast fashion to the forefront is also tempting us with page upon page of beautiful, ethical clothes. Alas, it’s all about priorities and, most importantly, choices.
We can choose how and where we spend our money.
Fashion has become so accessible that it’s often more convenient to discard the old and buy the new. Indeed, it’s hard to justify the time and energy required to mend a piece of clothing when something new requires so little money and effort.
I suppose the question is; what is the environmental cost of this accessibility and convenience?
Personally, I know how good it feels to discover something beautiful in the racks of an op-shop or the pile of pre-loved at a car boot sale. Found, treasured items are exciting and rewarding because they’re unique; because of this we’re more likely to take care of them.
The same awareness applies to clothes that are pondered over and saved up for. They are coveted and cared for because of the thought and effort that went into acquiring them.
Right now, as we take small steps to prepare for caravan life, I’m culling my clothes and creating a capsule wardrobe – for the very first time! At this stage of my life I’ve found it more challenging than ever to find clothes that I love. Or perhaps I just find it hard to find breastfeeding-friendly clothes that are flattering on a shapely, mum-tum body.* Regardless, I’m conscious of only buying what I adore and what I know I’ll wear. Quality wins over quantity – always.
If you’re thinking of doing the same and ultimately being a slow fashion lover, as Zino Ama so wonderfully puts it, you might find inspiration and encouragement over on instagram. I’m particularly loving:
If you would like to delve into some fashionable reading matter, I highly recommend Clare Press’ Wardrobe Crisis. She is currently working on a new book and shares her thoughts over on instagram at @mrspress.
And for those seeking guidance on creating a seasonal, capsule wardrobe, I’m loving everything shared by The Garment (also here: @thegarmentlife).
I wholeheartedly understand that buying ethical fashion requires more money. And I’m here to tell you that I, along with many of you, often don’t have the budget for such purchases. But I do have the awareness and the intention to, as Vivienne Westwood said: “Buy less, choose well, make it last.”
And so if you want to wear #clothingwithaconscience and ultimately be more mindful of the clothes you buy, wear, mend and hand down, a few suggestions for you:
the pre-loved market is BIG! Ebay, etsy and instagram are abound with quality second-hand clothes.
look for natural fabrics that will stand the test of time.
find a local seamstress who can help you when adjusting and mending is required.
if you’re buying for your kids, look for unisex fabrics and styles than can be passed down.
think layering and trans-seasonal when you are buying something new.
don’t get too caught up in the fast fashion trends; instead opt for the classics.
Kesh from zino ama has kindly offered a 25% discount to my readers, enter code JODI25 at checkout.
A few weeks back I sensed that Marigold was on the cusp of change.
This past week she’s been hot and bothered, gnawing on anything she can get in her mouth (including my nipple), only happy if she’s in my arms and cat napping like the best of them. A big change from her usual settled, contended self. Little teeth are moving about and we’re waiting, waiting for them to pop through.
Developmental shifts usually have a domino effect and so unsurprisingly, although very pleasingly, Percy has toilet trained and started sleeping through the night in his own bed. A week of firsts.
Yes, you read that right. He slept through the night for the first time at 2 years and 11 months. Unsettled sleep, night terrors and shared pillows have been the norm for a while now and yet I knew, we all knew, that it would eventually pass. So we summoned patience, cuddled in the depths of the dark and woke with saw necks and aching backs. When Daniel and I found it particularly challenging, we reminded ourselves that it wasn’t going to be forever; adding stress to the situation was never going to help.
And then there’s the big two who started a new school year; Year 5 (I know!) and Year 1. New situations can be challenging, even for my very sociable Poet, so yesterday there were tears and this morning her teacher had to peel her off my leg. We spoke about how big change can be hard but we’ve decided to be brave.
I admit, I peered around the corner as she walked into the classroom, her pigtails bouncing, my heart racing.
And then morning coffee, my salve, turned awry when Percy put up the umbrella that subsequently knocked my coffee over my bag, feet and the floor. Marigold was in the sling, a kind gentleman helped me with my bag and I asked Percy to sit down and stay still so I could clean up. I went to the counter to get napkins and order another coffee which was when a stranger offered to buy it for me. And then I cried because genuine kindness from an empathetic mother was exactly what I needed in that moment. I comforted Percy who was crying on the floor, grabbed my coffee and hightailed it home.
This is the depths of motherhood; physically and emotionally cradling children through all the big things.
And no, I quite can’t believe it. It feels like it’s been six weeks, maybe a couple of months. Yet here we are, celebrating her half-birthday. Regardless of the fact that time has flown and she’s very much an almost-moving-about-baby now, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything. I’ve spent hours upon hours holding, cuddling and kissing her; truly breathing in all her newness.
She is joyous and happy and bonny and bubbly. And I can see exactly why the baby of the family stays the baby regardless of their age. It’s the adoration that’s bestowed upon her day in, day out that will continue for years to come, of that I’m absolutely sure! She’s carried around in loving arms, smooshed and kissed and told that she’s loved and she laps it all up with her sweet, sweet smile.
For someone who loves being pregnant and having babies, I was surprised by the profound sense of completion I experienced within minutes of Marigold’s birth. Subsequently, I resolved to savour every moment and milestone, wholeheartedly knowing that the milky newborn days are the most fleeting – and precious – of them all.
Perhaps you’re heavily pregnant and anxiously awaiting your baby. Maybe you’re reading this in the early hours with a newborn at the breast. If so, a few suggestions for the first six months with baby:
Go gently : recovering from birth and getting to know your baby will take up every minute of your day in the first few weeks. You’re sore and tired, your baby is fresh and learning to attach, you’re hungry and emotional and elated and overwhelmed. And yet within the haze are moments of pure bliss that compare to nothing else. It is for all these reasons that I have always limited the amount of visitors we have. I don’t think it’s selfish to savour your new family of three (or four, five, six…) and bask in the newness and magic that is a fresh baby. Studies show that mothers who choose to go gently in the first month after birth by staying at home, limiting visitors, eating well and resting often benefit physically, mentally and emotionally throughout the entire first year.
Choose time over gadgets : I think it’s pretty common for parents to have less baby paraphernalia with each baby they have which only means one thing – we learn from experience. Babies don’t need much at all – it’s true! And so if you have to choose between time off work and having the money to buy all the things, please choose time. In my experience you only need the essentials – a bassinet/cot, bouncer, sling/carrier and pram.
Get in the photo : because you won’t see the dark circles, the baby weight or the vomit when you look back in years to come. You’ll just see you in all your motherhood glory and you’ll be proud – so proud. Photographs are the ultimate heirlooms. And they really do capture the minute details that you so easily (and quickly!) forget. The smallness, the tiny fingers and toes, the big yawns, the sleepiness, the awakening and the unfurling.
Be present and connect : Personally, I felt that when I stopped looking at the clock and the graph and put my expectations to the side, I connected and engaged with my baby and uncovered the most important mothering power of all – intuition. Sometimes we’re so caught up in what we should be doing and how our baby should be behaving that we completely lose sight of the present moment and, essentially, the relationship with our baby. I learnt so much about how to mother when I listened to my baby.