Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Earlier today I opened up my blog 'dashboard' amongst other internet tabs as a reminder that the month was slipping past and I really ought to write another post soon. Finishing one of the half written ones would be even better, but a new one would do should the inspiration come along.

It's getting towards the end of my day and I was starting to close down pages and winding things up for the night when I clicked on the blogger page and spotted that Charlotte had written a new post, so I read it, as one does, and realised that there was a certain synchronicity between what she'd written and what I'd been thinking about today. So in a 'think it, do it' burst of energy here's my tuppenceworth.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that for the last couple of years or so I've been aiming to write one blog post a week on average, something I've fallen woefully short of but on the other hand after a run of decidedly lean years my yearly total is better than it had been! Why blog? When I first started blogging I was in the process of emigrating and being Resident Friend in Wellington - both of which provided plenty of material to write about. Since then life has become far more everyday and the things that used to stand out as being new and different, ie Kiwi, are now very much the norm and I struggle to find examples now to explain how things are different from the UK because I've lost track of what isn't said/done there! Generally I'm reminded with a crash and a bang when I go back though.

But anyway, why blog? Part of it replaces the journals I used to write - stream of consciousness stuff that fills a stack of notebooks that at some point I probably ought to ceremoniously burn to protect the innocent. Yeah well not all of that sort of stuff ends up blogged by any means, after all there are libel laws, but aside from it being a way to update friends and family what is going on in my life blogging replaces the personal accountability side of the journalling. It used to feel like once I'd written an idea down it had to be followed through on, or at least attempted. It was a way of recording where my thinking was at on various issues, what progress I made, how many times I went around in circles on something etc. Like my commitment to blogging once a week on average - I'd set that challenge to myself, but once I'd mentioned it in a blog post I felt like I really had to try harder to stick to it!

Today has been a day of little tasks, small steps in various commitments that I've made to myself, some on here, some not yet. If all I manage each month is a record of some of those little steps then I'll feel more accountable for them, it adds an incentive to work at them. However I'm also aware that should I slip and not manage very much for a while (entirely possibly healthwise) it would be very easy to just not blog rather than face the fact that I've not achieved what I think I ought to be able to (and yes that is the subject of the half written blog post I haven't managed to finish yet!), so I have to be prepared to be honest and say I'm having a crap week, but that's okay, they happen. They happen to everyone, but most folk are better at not beating themselves up over it... for me that is work in progress, and hopefully I can record that progress when need be.

So today's small steps: I made some small cloth bags to use for bulk bin goods that I buy from the health food shop. I have some larger ones soaking in a bucket of oxygen whitener - they are old flour bags that are probably older than me! My plan is to give them a new lease of life, once they've been washed... This is all part of my ongoing process of removing unnecessary plastic from my life and gearing up towards this year's Plastic Free July.

I fixed the hem on a towel from the EcoCentre which had come undone in the wash - making things last, and it was repurposed in the first place, being quarter of the one large towel that there was there. Much better than buying new or using paper towels.

I did some work on my current quilting project - I've managed to make this one entirely from my existing stash of materials, part of my longer term plan to reduce the amount of stuff I have in my cupboard.

I sorted out some children's picture books to pass on to various f/Friends children when I see them later in the year. They are books I'd acquired when teaching but don't really need to keep, they have no particular sentimental value so will be much better off in a new home. Again part of my downsizing plans.

I scanned a load of photos - I've started on my project to turn a shelf full of photograph albums into photobooks which will take up far fewer shelf inches/feet. They are also photos that I'll put on Facebook once I've cleaned them up/rotated them etc as they are old YFCC ones - as Marion pointed out at YM I don't put many current photos on Facebook just ones that are 20yrs old to embarrass everyone! Not that I think they are embarrassing... but then not many of them are of me.

I made up a crock of GF flour mix - I have a couple of flour recipes I try to keep made up in bulk so I don't have to faff about with tablespoons of this that and the next thing when baking. I make the vast majority of my food from scratch rather than buy ready processed stuff. I have the time, and mostly the energy. Making a big casserole today was also part of that process - several days worth of meals made in one go. I just need to remember to put some aside in the freezer for a bad day rather than just eat my way through it all week, no matter how tempting that might be!

I also did some more work on getting the YM minutes ready for the printer, and did some Quaker networking, but the latter of those is probably another post in itself...

There were other things too, but pumpkin time is calling and I've an extra stint at the EcoCentre tomorrow as someone is away, so no chance of sloping off back to bed. Whilst not quite a record of creativity in the sense Charlotte was meaning this post has put out there some of what I'm working on in life at present - hopefully doing so will not only act as a record of where I'm at, but add an extra dose of accountability to myself more than anyone else, to keep track of progress and serve as a reminder in the not so good weeks that whilst I may not be able to do as much as I'd like in life still at least I can still do some things and change my life for the better.

ps sorry this is a bit rambling but if I start trying to edit it either I'll be late to bed or this won't get posted tonight, both of which I'm trying to avoid!

Monday, May 18, 2015


I recently spent a long weekend at our Quaker Yearly Meeting which was held at the Quaker Settlement in Whanganui. It was reassuring to look back on YM last year and appreciate how much better I am healthwise compared to then. I managed to stay up chatting for 3 out of 5 nights away from home which I was very impressed with myself for managing given there was no leeway for a lie in!

One of those evenings was spent talking to Tracey about our future life options - downsizing featured big time for both of us. Seeking the flexibility it gives you to pretty much go anywhere fairly easily was high on both our lists of priorities. I'm in no hurry to move house, but when the time comes to do so I love the idea of being free to go wherever the spirit blows me without having to spend a silly amount of money moving or keeping things in storage. I (still!) don't have a long term life plan, but various posts on Facebook from friends struggling for assorted reasons have kindled the idea of having a time of being a Mary Poppins and going where needed to help out for a few weeks or months at a time before putting down roots anyplace else, although that obviously depends on being healthy enough to be useful.

One possible option to make that work (albeit with the cooperation of willing drivers!) is of course to have a Tiny House. Then I can take my home with me as sadly I don't have a carpet bag like Mary Poppins' or a handbag like Hermione's to fit in everything I'll need, and more importantly it would give me a quiet space of my own which massively increases the odds of staying healthy.

So when in the session the day after Tracey and I had been discussing this it was mentioned that QIET had funded a loan for a Tiny House our ears pricked up! Oooooh, maybe it could actually be possible?

The next day again after a presentation about the Settlement there were various guided tours around parts or all of the grounds. Lured by the words 'close and flat' (as opposed to a quick march over the hill in order to see the new dam and still be back in time for lunch!) and 'food forest' I followed Merilyn to see some of the new food production areas that they are developing on permaculture principles. I'm a big fan of improving the food productivity of the space we have available in an easy to maintain manner so I was keen to pick up a few tips and see how this aspect of the Settlement was developing.

At the end of the tour we stopped by at Michael & Merilyn's very small caravan which they are now living out of and renting out their house to a family who need the space far more than they do. Wow, it makes a Tiny House seem palatial! Granted they have all the communal facilities of the Settlement available to them, plus their daughter's house a few steps away complete with hot shower should they choose to use it rather than the cold outside one, which is quite different to having just that space available to them. But still it was a huge eye opener as to what they have found to be possible. Apparently the biggest challenge according to Merilyn was paring their clothes down to fit in the small wardrobe - which is about the size I thought would do just fine for me alone, and I thought that was fairly minimal!

It was lovely to hear Merilyn share how much she had enjoyed gifting various possessions that they needed to get rid of to fit into such a minute space, especially after recently writing this post about much the same. It renewed my determination to keep up that process and part with other things I've long since stopped using but haven't quite been able to let go of yet.

On a practical level it was interesting to hear how well insulated their caravan is, it is even double glazed and so is quite warm enough in winter. It could be another option for me, but I'm not (yet?) ready to let go of the few items of furniture I've inherited which could fit in a Tiny House, but not a caravan. Plus I suspect that a modern caravan of those specs would be a considerable financial outlay and the advantage of a Tiny House build is you don't need all the money at once, although it sounds like QIET would be up for lending it if needed. Something to ponder on, just as well there is no rush for a decision to be made!

Part of passing on the baton of my FWCC YM rep role to Ben was leaving him and Thomas with my supplies of spare copies of various AWPS newsletters and Friends World News etc whilst at YM. And that's another folder of stuff cleared out into the bargain! What's more that now means my files all now fit in my box-shelf properly and it looks a whole heap tidier, excellent.

So I got home with added determination to work my way through the remaining boxes that are out at Pukepoto, and reduce further the stuff I have here. I knew I had to get straight on to it whilst the fire was still burning in my belly rather than let it go back to smoldering embers which take that bit more effort to get going again. So I resolved to let go of a couple of much loved but rarely worn up here thick woolly cardigans. Perfect for Edinburgh and Wellington winters they might have been, but they just don't work for Far North frost at breakfast but back in t-shirts by lunchtime kind of days. I've hung on to them partly as I initially didn't know how long I'd be up here (at 8yrs and counting I think I can safely say it'll be a while...) and they'd come in handy if I ever moved back to Welly or similar. Well yes they would, but my multiple thin layers also work in cold places and when I do go there in winter I never take my big thick cardies anyway as they are big and thick and fill up half my rucksack!

So after a flash of inspiration one has already been re-homed to Christchurch, the other is still being deliberated over, but I'm ready to let it go. Looking round my room I was wondering 'what next?' and kept coming back to a shelf full of photo albums. I've scanned quite a lot of my photos now, mostly old Quaker ones to upload to Facebook so even though they pre-date film developed onto cds let alone digital I do now have electronic copies so I'm contemplating making some printed photobooks which will take up a fraction of the space. That will be a long term project to work through, but distinctly possible... my books on the other hand pose far more of a challenge.

Since getting home I've been on a roll of ticking off little jobs needing done, and I hope to keep up the momentum. Some of them are things I've been meaning to do for ages but haven't quite had the time and energy simultaneously, many of them are UFOs and PHDs (unfinished objects and projects half done) which take up a disproportionate amount of space in that state, both literally and mentally. The trick now is not to start other things but leave them unfinished as I uncover more potential projects!

Once getting the YM Minutes ready for the printers is done I'll be back to waiting in faith that 'something' work-wise will turn up. But it feels like I really have a longer term life project (downsizing) to focus on, and give a sense of purpose to my time. No matter where I end up living after here likely is to have less space rather than more, and it will be easier to go where the spirit blows me if I have less 'stuff' to move/store/fit in. However I can't quite see me reaching this level of downsizing, no matter how inspirational her story is!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

ebbs and flows

I have a tendency to use my bedroom floor as a filing system. I may not have inherited my looks from my mother but I certainly got her habit of filing things in piles! The sort that make perfect sense to the one who creates them, but look like a chaotic mess to anyone else...

After several weeks of there just being a narrow path of clear carpet from the bed to the door there was, for a short while, an expanse of green carpet visible. Quite disconcerting really, I kept looking round wondering what it was I'd forgotten about. That's the problem with tidying up, things get put away and then oh so easily forgotten.

A bag of stuff has gone to the op shop, and the bag of stuff heading to kindergarten has finally been delivered (a major achievement - some of that stuff had been waiting over a year!). But I still have several piles waiting to be dealt with, some which have achieved a greater degree of permanence than others - if I put the Worship Group reading folders out of sight I totally forget I'm the one who has to keep them up to date and circulating, so they stay leaning against the bookshelves ready to receive anything that comes in straight away.

There is a growing pile of stuff that I really have to remember to take with me to Yearly Meeting this week which is rapidly filling up all the empty carpet available, and there's a pile of correspondence waiting to be dealt with. Most of that has been sitting there far longer than I like to admit.

However the 'to be sorted/filed' has mostly been dealt with and that was what had made most of the difference. Well that and tidying up various sewing projects and putting the material no longer needed back in the cupboard!

There is a definite tidal feel to it all, especially as some piles grow and diminish but never quite go away. And after I've been away it certainly looks like a tsunami or tropical cyclone has passed through when I've got back!

I was referring to some of the piles as my 'guilt piles' - they sit there staring me in the face in the hope that eventually I'll get around to dealing with them. But usually all they achieve is making me feel guilty for not having done so. It was realising that waking up every morning to the sight of them was getting me down that prompted the latest blitz on them, and I did indeed feel a lot better about it all once I'd done so. I've made some progress with the letter writing too, well okay I've put stamps and addresses on envelopes and postcards... one small step at a time!

Someone else will be sleeping in my room whilst I'm away at Yearly Meeting so there is further incentive to deal with a few other things that are waiting to be dealt with. So I guess I'd better stop procrastinating and start packing my rucksack so I can see what of the remaining piles can be dealt with before I go... it is all very well knowing that what love requires of you may not be great busyness, but a certain amount of tidyness seldom goes amiss!

Friday, May 01, 2015


Some years ago I was given a beautifully illustrated booked called 'The Quiltmaker's gift', one of those books that appeals to children of all generations. Not wanting to spoil the story for anyone I'll just say that it is about the pleasure in giving things away. A pleasure I've been relating to quite a bit lately.

As part of my current de-cluttering I've been finding new homes for a number of things by sending or giving them to people who I think could and would use them and appreciate them. It takes a bit longer, but it is far more satisfying than just taking them to the nearest op/charity shop. It started because I had a t-shirt campaigning against cuts in Early Childhood Education (ECE) that I used to wear for work but that had sat in my drawer unworn since I left kindergarten. I thought about passing it on to a former colleague but the only ones who it might've fit were either on or heading for maternity leave and weren't their usual size or shape or were looking like they weren't heading back to ECE any more than I was. It wasn't cheap in the first place and so it made sense to pass it on to someone who could wear it as part of their work where it meant more, so it got posted to one of my fellow Grad Dip students and she was delighted to get it.

So after that when I came across something that had a bit of a story behind it, or was somewhat out of the ordinary I put it to one side where I could see it in my room until the right person came to mind. Mostly I've gained my inspiration from Facebook posts, but some have involved a bit of indirect research asking.

I like how the process gets me thinking about the people I know. But rather than the usual run of birthdays and Christmas where you have a list of people and then have to come up with presents, I have a box of things and have to come up with people who are so far all folk who don't make it on to the annual gifting list. As I'm not doing the 'pay it forward' crafting challenge this year this re-homing has filled that slot nicely.

Another bonus is that when I am faced with another box or drawer to clear out instead of opening it with a sigh, wondering what on earth I can still have to 'get rid of' after all these years of clutter clearing I approach it with an attitude of more excited anticipation wondering what treasures I can pass along knowing their time with me is up and it is time for them to be enjoyed elsewhere.

There is still a pile of stuff mounting up to go to the SPCA or Salvation Army, but that is 'stuff' that you'd have to know someone really well to know that they needed it - like a set of measuring spoons, or an over-door hook, and other such odds and ends that really aren't likely to make anyone's day to find them in the mail box, but could, in the right place, still be useful. I'm being fairly ruthless with divesting myself of plastic stuff that I either already have or could easily replace with an alternative when the time finally comes for me to need them again (should that day ever come!): a large bundle of coathangers, various tubs, the aforementioned measuring spoons etc. Yes one day I may need to equip a kitchen on my own, but where it is worth hanging on to my rather nice saucepans for another decade if need be before needing them again, the same really can't be said for assorted paraphernalia that can be found in most kitchen drawers, and also in most op shops should I find I do need it after all!

It's amazing how much further I've managed to cut back on my possessions, although I know there are still more boxes to be tackled in the shed at Pukepoto. I may yet fit it all in my room here which is my goal. I also need to use up more of my material stash, but that is a whole different (set of) project(s)!