my simple home: my next project

Posted on January 30th, 2013

A few things are about to change around here. In a few weeks this site will be all fresh and different, and my new I Quit Sugar site will be starting to take shape. 

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image via energy efficient homes

In the meantime, much of my passion is going to funnel into my next campaign, which is all about setting up your home to be as sustainable, ethical, minimal, efficient, toxin-free and economical as possible. I’m going to share the best tips and advice via my own bumpy journey to transform (or steer) my own home.

Just before Christmas I bought my first apartment. It’s not big – 1.5 bedrooms, no balcony or yard, no parking. It’s old. It doesn’t have much storage nor many flourishes. It’s a bit of a shell. On top of this, I own no furniture. Actually, that’s a lie. I have a mattress, an old Formica table that I inherited from a friend and two IKEA chairs, an old crate I found at the dump when I was 18 and have lugged about with me for two decades, two cushions, a coffee table and bookshelf I found on the street about 10 years ago and two boxes of sentimental nick-knacks and crockery. Oh, and two surfboards. I’ve simply never bought stuff. I’ve inherited and given away my white goods and couches (actually I’ve NEVER bought whitegoods or couches, not even a kettle) and I’ve never been one to go for vases or candles or whatever else people buy at homewares shops on weekends. Which means I’m in an amazing position to start from scratch and build from the beginning in a manner that’s conscionable. I start from a blank slate, no decluttering required.

A before shot of my lounge/dining/kitchen

A before shot of my lounge/dining/kitchen. It now houses a table and two chairs and two scatter cushions. The end.

I’ve been living off this shambolic set-up for two months now, eating and working from my table, talking to friends on the phone propped up on my two cushions on the floor. Quite happily. Actually, I’ve been living this way for decades. But I do need to build a home. That can accommodate guests. I need to grow up. And so begins my next experiment.

I tried to think of a catch-all word that summed this project up. I struggled a little, before I realised the principle behind the project is… simple.

 I settled on My Simple Home.

Keeping things simple generally encapsulates all the principles above (sustainable, ethical, minimal, efficient, toxin-free and economical), in one elegant action (or inaction, as the case may be). Most things are simpler than we make them.

Over the course of the next few months, I’m going to research this topic to buggery. I’m going to talk to experts, read, try things, weigh things up, and then share the whole lot with you guys. I’ve already chatted with a building biologist, Indira Naidoo (she of The Edible Balcony fame), interior designers and more. My conclusions from each chapter will roll out from next week.

A few things, though, that I’d like to share and that I’ll be referring back to over and over. Consider the below my manifesto. I might update it from time to time:

* Going Simple is not about chucking stuff out

I abhor the decluttering fad we’re currently straddling. The idea of doing big toss-outs to…make room for more stuff is terrible. I believe in using something up before even thinking about turfing or recycling. I won’t be throwing out less-than-ideal existing equipment, furniture or appliances unless they no longer work or are highly problematic. I’ll be weighing up factors and making the tough choices. But chucking stuff will be a last resort. Decluttering is also all about buying a whole heap of “storage solutions”. I read somewhere that storage solution shops are the fastest growing kind in the US. Foul. Just foul. Which leads me to….

* My first adage is: don’t consume

Just don’t buy things. Or at least wait for as long as possible to see if you really do need to buy something. Buy less, then you need less storage solutions. Less maintenance solutions.

* Carbon miles will count

So too, packing techniques and other factors that impact the environmental footprint of the stuff I do wind up buying. I’m ready to be surprised.

* I don’t care if shabby chic is sooooo 2004

I’ll be complementing new stuff with second-hand stuff. Not just for the environmental factor. But also for the toxin factor. And beyond. The aesthetic of my new pad will – whether I like it or not – have to be determined by this melange of retro and new. In some ways I’d love to choose an aesthetic I like. But that’s not what this journey is about. And, besides, I think beauty is something that becomes…

* Storage AND minimising is king

I have very little storage in my new apartment: a linen cupboard and one built-in wardrobe. The bathroom doesn’t even have a shelf. The kitchen doesn’t have a pantry – just a line of below-bench cupboards which house the fridge, the dishdrawer and everything else. So everything that enters the joint will have to be a storage solution. However, very little will be allowed to enter the place. You need less storage when you have less stuff. I like having the incentive to keep things minimal. It’s free-ing. I really do recommend it.

Along the way I’ll be tracking costs and footprints and tricks. And I’ll be sharing links and suggested products and services. I’ll also be asking for your tips and shares, so please do join the journey with me.

If you’re someone with a service or a product or an idea that you’d like to share, feel free to wade in, too. Oh, and if there’s anything you’d like to learn along the way, give me a holler. I’ll try to oblige.

 

Related Posts with Thumbnails
  • http://www.frecklestotoes.blogspot.com Charlotte D

    I would love to see info on how to avoid flame retardants in furniture! It’s in every piece of foam: mattresses and couches.

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    I’m on to it!!

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  • http://sparklingly.blogspot.com J /*sparklingly

    I’m so excited to read about your journey! This topic fascinates me to no end (as do all the things you post about anyway), and I’m really excited to read your take on it. I’ve come to really appreciate and value your way of researching and trying things out and sharing with us. Plus, my husband and I may be making a move to a new country (and continent) soon and we may be starting from zero (or near there), so I’m even more eager to learn from you!

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  • http://laurensherritt.blogspot.com.au/ Lauren

    I was talking just yesterday about minimising ‘stuff’ and how freeing it can feel, and I love that you’re expanding on this to make it an experiment for your long term health and well-being and not just your feng shui! I think about your old posts on apartment health regularly, I can’t wait to read more!

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  • Belinda

    My husband is an upholsterer and the amount of fumes and toxins that are in the foam he’s working with all day everyday really concerns me. But what can he really do short of wearing a mask at work?
    As he’s said there simply isn’t a market for the Eco foam – it exists but it’s so prohibitive in it’s cost that very few people opt for it, and probably even know it exists. I do try to get him to mention it to every customer though.
    One saving grace I suppose is that when he’s restoring old furniture he’s not pulling out old foam but natural fibers and horse hair – though this was possibly treated with chemicals?

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Oh dear. Yes, second hand is best…the chemicals have leached long ago.

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  • JaneK

    This really challenges me.
    My mum grew up in the depression and hoarded everything. She still wears clothes that I discarded as unfashionable at 16. I am now 40. She refuses to buy anything new unless absolutely necessary. It’s financially driven mainly but also bc it goes against her grain when they grew up the way they did.

    This has always urked me but I get it. As an adult I have always liked shiny, pretty things and been happy to replace old and daggy for new. I haven’t had a choice this last few years with finances being tighter and am leaning towards wanting to spend spare $ on experiences rather than stuff. But I still love a pretty home and struggle with those bloody Joneses!!

    Thanks for confronting this issue. It’s really hard. I have found though that the simplest of things make a home like flowers from the garden in an old coconut oil jar or the bunches of fresh herbs that need to sit in water on the window sill looking pretty.
    We’ve always had a photo wall in every house. A big fat canvas of lovely faces and places. These things make me happy!

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  • Lorrae

    Not all decluttering means throwing out and discarding . I’ve been embarking on decluttering my life of excess “stuff”, via Garage Sales and EBay. Before Xmad I made $2500 selling excess stuff. A lot of people were impressed with that figure until I reminded them it was sold at a fraction of original cost – in all likelihood sold $25k worth of stuff . Imagine how much better off I’d be if I hadn’t consumed that stuff in the first place!
    Love your ethos Sarah and will be following with interest. The bigger challenge is convincing my two boys who are 9 & 10, that we don’t need anymore “stuff”.

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Very good point…

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  • http://flavors.me/ChristophHewett Christoph

    Great move Sarah,
    That is very much along the lines of my ethos for living. My wife and I bought a 2 bedroom heritage apartment in Melbourne last year. While we have gone through the throw out phase (serious getting rid of junk is the first step) we’re no focused on bringing the space to life and maximizing the awesomeness of apartment living.
    It will be great to share notes, I also highly recommend the “Apartment Therapy” blog.
    Cheers, Christoph

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  • http://www.thelifeshemade.com Kristy@thelifeshemade

    Thank you for being so refreshing about this topic. I read a lot of blogs about ‘organising’ and it seems that people’s solutions pretty much are to go and buy a heap of plastic boxes from Ikea and fill them with stuff.

    People design binders and ‘printables’ (god I hate that word) to micro-organise their lives. Binders and binders full of plastic, paper, endless lists. In the end it’s to create a semblance of organisation but it’s really about aesthetics.

    I’m really looking forward to your simple ideas. Can’t wait!

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  • Bridget

    Sounds great!

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  • http://dew-ish.tumblr.com Mary

    I’m not sure if there’s an Australian version, but I have heard good things about UpCycle, where you can exchange, trade, or give away old furniture

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  • http://cinnamoneats.com Naz

    Love this post Sarah. In about a week’s time my husband and I are going to be making another big move… our first one was about 2 years ago when we moved from home (Australia) to the U.S and now we’re off to the UK. When we moved from home all we had with us were 2 suitcases each, we had to leave all our furniture etc behind as we had no help with relocation and it was just too expensive to ship everything over.

    When we came here we didn’t want to spend too much money on stuff… not knowing how long we were actually going to be here so we bought display furniture instead and ended up saving a lot… and we bought just what we needed for two. Luckily now that we are off to the UK we are getting help with relocation so we are able to ship our things over which means that we won’t need to buy more over there!

    I must admit though I have a lot of ‘stuff’ in the kitchen… which stemmed from having a part-time job at a cookware store while here in the U.S and getting a discount on things, which I used to justify purchases and now have a whole lot of stuff that I could have probably done without! As I said though we are able to take all of this with us on our move so no excuses for buying more over there!

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    You’re moving again!!

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  • http://lemon-living.blogspot.com Natalie

    I love this. I was sick with a horrible autoimmune disease for a long time (in fact I even wrote about it for this site) and the more I got better the more i realised stuff doesn’t matter. If i have money, I prefer to experience or assist others. You also notice a lot more when ill how much everything affects your mood and wellbeing-including certain appliances, noises, smells etc. i like to keep it simple and clean (with nay but water and sometimes eucalyptus oil) these days. will be following with great interest… and using this as another way to try and convince my partner it’s a great way to live. Well done once again, Sarah x

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  • Caroline

    Lovely, can’t wait to read more as you progress on this project!
    Someone else that may be an inspiration to you is Michael Mobbs, you can tour his sustainable house in Chippendale on certain days, but he also has two books out and a great website full of info.

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  • Annelies

    I am looking forward to following your journey.

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  • Jude

    I lived the same way until the age of 36, lugging around a small cupboard which I’d bought for cheap at a market and a homemade bedside table. Then, I stopped travelling and decided to create my own space. Being able to start from scratch was fantastic. I bought a small townhouse then mindfully and slowly added to it (took me years to find the right coffee table). Now, I love my space, it is one of the best things about my life. After a recent renovation, it’s exactly how I want it to be – completely nurturing and inviting and comfortable. Everything is practical and/or lovely. I’m looking forward to reading about your journey.

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  • Tameka

    Oh my God I am so excited about your new project!

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  • http://Feedthedogwhoblogs.blogspot.com Carmel

    This probably on your radar but I’ve just come it across it.. ‘Health-focused’ interior design professional Melissa Wittig will be at the Australian International Furniture Fair in Sydney next week. More info via The red thread site at http://www.theredthreadblog.com/.

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Not on my radar yet. Thanks Carmel!!

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  • http://www.ntn.org.au Jo Immig

    I’m reading your exciting new post from Utopia cafe in Bangalow where we first met! There’s a lot of unshaven and disheveled folks here seeking food, coffee and wifi. We’re day 3 without power at home (6000 people still without up here) which for us means no running water either because we depend on a pump. It’s been a journey of forced simplicity. Day 1 – we amused ourselves with the dynamo radio and snuggled in bed with booklights; day 2 – detoxing from gadgets set in as did the manky damp feeling and fear because we can’t get in our out of our lane from fallen trees; day 3 – trees cleared and we scamper to a friend with power for joyous shower and a meal, the nights are still candle lit and humid..but we’re fine and have a renewed gratitude for the simple things in life. Enjoy your new journey and happy to help on the search for toxic-free living. x

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    enforced simplicity!! love it. see you in a few weeks when I’m up there for a visit??

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  • http://www.mikewilde.com mw

    Sounds like fun ..
    Found some great candle holders at Vinnies about 6 months ago.
    The Right candles work for me ..

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  • Pfft

    hahah…your humble home which cost $850,000! Yes Sarah, I feel sorry for you too.

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    Claire Reply:

    uhhh… whereabouts in this article did sarah say she was feeling sorry for herself?!

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    Nicky Reply:

    I know the area that Sarah bought in super well having bought a similar apartment around the same time and I am not sure where you got that figure of $850K! And anyway why so sour? So what if it did cost that?

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    Laura Reply:

    Relevance?

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    anne-marie Reply:

    pfft….. enjoy what you have day by day! be grateful for the small things! in the long run it doesn’t matter what material things people have or don’t have….it is how you live life and how much you enjoy it. Take care of you and yours and don’t worry about others, please!
    wishing you joy!

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  • Rizzo

    Can’t wait for the changes to the site. I have loved reading and absorbing everything you write about – it has made some much needed changes to my life and my journey. Mostly new things, but this is a subject that has been close to my heart always. I abhor stuff, and things and pretty adornments.. on my body or in my home. Simple and uncluttered makes me feel calm and centered. I must say, this site along with a couple of others I have found recently have made my heart sing , cos although I am surrounded by wonderful friends, they mostly are the type of people who like to consume – regularly. They joke and call me “earth mother”.
    I feel like I have found my tribe. :)
    Oh and to Pffttt… what does real estate prices have to do with ones way of living. Pretty hard to get around that one..

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  • http://makebautifulstore@gmail.com sanja

    Hi Sarah, Your fun has just begun! Last year I bought a 4 bedroom renovators delight in my dream location. I have now furnished it with things off the side of the road, op shops and hand-me-downs. The only thing I couldn’t reuse were pillows (too ick!), everything else is very pre-loved. I have painted the walls with miss-tints and other peoples sample pots. I am collecting unwanted tiles so that I can tile the floors. I am growing plants in my own compost, in pots I found and scrubbed clean. I did have to buy new solar panels – 3.4kW. To me, my home looks beautiful, to my friends who come to stay it is instant relax. One comment …’you are not worried about ruining anything; because the worst has been done to it already!’.
    Looking forward to this new phase in your blog.

    Cheers
    Sanja (whatwillImakebeautifultoday.blog)

    [Reply]

    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    I like this!

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    macarla Reply:

    Sanja, i’d love to check out your blog but i can’t find it. can you please post a link?

    thanks!

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    sanja Reply:

    HI, thanks for the vote of confidence.

    I am just starting to find my feet on the blog, and I will be taking all Sarahs advice and try to focus it on one or two areas. At the moment it is just the ramblings of a mind in overload.

    Have a wonderful day.

    http://makebeautifulstore.blogspot.com.au/

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  • Angelique

    I love this and look forward to your posts.
    I’d love if you could extend your research to children too. I have a toddler and find the balance of simplicity harder now. They grow out of stuff, loose interest in things etc quicker than I ever thought and i now know now that 50% of it was unnecessary anyway.

    I also have a large yard and was thinking the other day how silly it is we all own lawnmowers, garden tools, wheelbarrow etc when we could share these with the street easily and cut down on costs, storage,eventual landfill etc.

    I’m rambling now.

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    there is a tool=share scheme in Australia… I can’t recall the name but did write about it a while back

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  • Brooke

    I am really looking forward to going on this new adventure with you. my partner and I are currently looking into the housing market for our first home and I am a little daunted on the outlook of moving out but I look forward to reading your ideas and research findings as too am one for the shabby second hand – or as I prefer to say “preloved” look of items – I believe it gives them a history and a story and why do we now have the need to throw out something simply because we want an upgrade?? luckily my boyfie is on the same page. I also like that you have used the word home and not house – something I hope to achieve when I move out…make a home not a house.

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  • http://thetravellingtiles.wordpress.com/ Jane

    Recently I was shopping for a new lounge and ended up not getting one when I realised most of the lounges on sale here arrive on a slow boat from China. Not only am I reluctant to wait 12 weeks for something I want but also I don’t really know the working conditions and pay rates of the people making these goods for us and I do like to be able to live with my conscience. The environmental footprint of hauling all those lounges here bothers me as well.

    I finally found a shop here who are selling lounges made by a guy in Byron Bay. Made to order so you have a bit of a wait but at least I know he made it and was happy to do so and I try to support Australian whenever possible.

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  • Jason

    My Simple Home. Mmmm. I feel an ebook coming on! :)

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  • Bec

    Hi Sarah,
    An amazing blog I read for simple living is down to earth by Rhonda hetzle.
    Info on simple living, recipes for home made soap, laundry detergent, you name it.
    I read it every day. She started off my transition into simple living :-) definitely check it out, it’s an invaluable resource!!

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    Alacoque Reply:

    I agree! Great book and great resources (blog and forum).

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  • http://oneaprilmorning.net Laura

    I am so excited for this new project Sarah!

    My fiance and I moved out of our family homes and into an apartment together a couple of years ago, and I wish we had embraced simplicity ethos back then. We, too, started with nothing but we didn’t stick to our guns – we listened to people telling us what we just “had to have” and now… we just have too much stuff! It’s not a lot of excess, but I can already feel it weighing us down.

    But I am with you on the anti-decluttering train – to throw things out would mean, in a lot of cases, that we would just buy it again somewhere along the line, especially when we move out to a bigger place.

    That said, there are things we really don’t need, and never will – so if it’s something that we won’t use, won’t repurchase, then I think it’s ok to discard – not to throw in the trash but to sell, or give away to charity, or pass on to a younger relative setting up their first home. I don’t think that is wasteful.

    Can’t wait to read more on this Sarah.

    P.S. IQS – #9 overall bestseller at my local Dymocks!

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    Belinda Reply:

    Totally in the same boat Laura….moved out 7 years ago, bought what everyone told us too, now we have way too much stuff and I feel bogged down and chaotic.

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    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    I did that too, and as I’ve moved houses I’ve left things behind. Whole sofa sets, for example. People think I am being generous in not stripping the house bare for the other housemates when I leave, but really they have done me a bigger favor in taking things.

    I find having shabby-chic furniture or always wearing the same outfit is a great arsehole detector. My car was made in the 80s (it was actually older than my last boyfriend!) and I’ve found people who feel it damages their image to be seen in a dinged-up old 80s car are the people it is not worth knowing.

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  • http://oneaprilmorning.net Laura

    Oh and I also meant to say that a lot of simplicity and minimalism blogs/ publications I have read tend to treat simplicity and minimalism more as an aesthetic than a lifestyle or way of thinking (which, like you said, involves throwing things out to replace them with streamlined newness) – so I love your refreshing take.

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  • Mia Bluegirl

    Decluttering is awesome, but replacing the stuff you got rid of with more stuff beggars logic.

    Reminds me of George Carlin’s rant on stuff. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x_QkGPCL18

    The Good Samaritans and Salvation Army always need the stuff you don’t use. More so now, with so many people displaced by Australia’s extreme weather. Acts of charity never go out of fashion.

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    picardie.girl Reply:

    Presuming you actually give stuff that is in good nick. The Salvos spend about $4 million a year getting rid of crap that people dump on them (which they surely know is beyond use)!

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  • http://www.nmah.com.au Ziggy

    How exciting for you Sarah! 2013 is going to be a fab year for you.
    Smiles, Ziggy

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  • VE

    How do I convince a husband to declutter, stop consuming and stop bringing stuff we don’t need into the house?
    Living with a hoarder drives me crazy! Luckily for you Sarah this problem won’t make it to your blog…

    [Reply]

    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Ha, one benefit of being single….!

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    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    Maybe you should give him an area that he can clutter up to his heart’s content. A shed or spare room or something. That way you can take control of the rest of the house?

    I used to date a gamer, so our house was filled with figurines and posters more befitting a 10 year old’s bedroom than one belonging to a couple in their 20s. I feel your pain.

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    Tracy Dawson Reply:

    VE I too have a hoarding husband (partner)… And I do love collecting beautiful things, though in recent years my philosophy has been ‘beautiful AND useful’. But I would love to ‘de-clutter’ mostly because all the stuff we have makes me feel claustrophobic and unable to focus on what’s important.

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    picardie.girl Reply:

    This may help: http://www.theminimalists.com/friends/

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    VE Reply:

    Looks good, thanks for all the suggestions

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  • Maryann

    I think that we need different things at different time in our lives. The same goes for the possessions with which we surround ourselves. If I don’t need something that is still useable I give it to charity. How I live now is very different to my twenties, thirties or even forties. My tastes have changed, my needs have changed and as a consequence so has my living enviroment.

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  • Alana

    I’m looking forward to reading the blogs in this series. Just based on the photo of the empty living area, i”m already in love with your home. I”m only 20, still living at home, and dreaming of one day owning my own little ”shell” too (althuogh a balcony would be the cherry on top). My family are hoarders and very resistant to change! At least it is motivation for me to become independent asap!

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  • Courtney

    Sarah have you read Cradle to Cradle?

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Nope, what’s it about?

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    Courtney Reply:

    It’s a amazing book written by an engineer and a German chemist who believe we need to “re-make the way we make things” and consume stuff. They come up with all kinds of clever briefs for products that benefit the world through their presence and then completely biodegrade at their ‘end of life’… Hard to explain without going into detail but the principals of the book could definitely extend to your own home project… Here’s a link:

    http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm

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    Alacoque Reply:

    Slow Death By Rubber Duck is another good one http://slowdeathbyrubberduck.com/AUS_NZ/

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  • Sarah Wilson

    Yeah, I need to get onto Freecycle, although I have little to give away….!

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  • Sarah Wilson

    Is that you McNeil!!???

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  • Paula

    I would LOVE to know how to have a successful garden on my balcony so that I can grow my own herbs and vegies. Have tried a few times, but I fail everytime…

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  • Lisa Ingram

    I hope you make friends with Grand Designs’ Kevin McLeod on this mission. He is a legend with lots of sustainable principles & experience in making them real. Look forward to the theme developing here. Lisa

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  • http://thewellnesscampaign.wordpress.com Belinda

    That sounds really interesting Lisa!

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  • Mel

    I just bought my own first home filled with stuff I had that was all second hand, nothing new. Ultra cheap because it was usually off road side pick ups. I have stuff but not new. I refuse to buy new. I believe the right piece comes to u and it’s usually better than u even imagined. I love hand sewn things. I couldn’t imagine walking into a new furniture shop.

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  • keepitsimple

    Oh what perfect timing Sarah – i’m just about to enter this first apartment furnishing phase myself. I’ll be watching your blog with keen interest.

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  • http://the-labyrinth.com Michellina Van Loder

    Good luck on your new journey, Sarah. I look forward to more valuable tidbits on how to live in harmony without being a slave to materialism.

    I so wish you would build a house and write about how to do it sustainably and less toxically.

    But for now, I think an article on sealing chipboard in the kitchen would be a good one. All that formaldehyde outgassing into our homes is not good for anyone, let alone the immune compromised among us. Some companies who make kitchens seal the particle board all over, but most only seal the parts we can see; if you pull out a draw, and feel the underside of the kitchen bench, you’ll feel all that nasty chipboard, which, for anyone who doesn’t know, is created using pieces of chipped wood glued together: these glues are toxic.

    These can be sealed using non-toxic paints or sealants.

    Oh, and one on organic cotton mattresses. That’d be lovely!

    Peace and love and success and good health and happiness on your journey. ♥

    Miche

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    Karen miller Reply:

    Would also love info on natural mattresses. I bought a memory foam mattress years ago thinking I was doing a good thing for my body but now I cringe about buying something so artificial.

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  • http://www.parttimeminimalist.com Matt @ Part-Time Minimalist

    Great topic, and congrats on the nice flat! Ah, to have found my minimalist lifestyle back when I was single when it could completely shape every part of my life…

    I look forward to reading more about your simple home as it takes shape. I’m sure it will be a great inspiration when we are finally able to get out of our oversized house and into something smaller.

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  • Sandra

    Great post as usual!
    Having worked at a mining camp and living abroad has helped me live with more simplicity. I stayed in the UK for 3 years and my studio flat had only basic things. I never felt the urge to buy things but my flatmate did and so we bought some decorative items. In the end, I had to give things to charity and also to friends which is alright but not very convenient when there’s not much money to spare.
    In the past year, I had only bought an air conditioning, a comfy bed, a huge mirror which is also useful to do my exercise routine plus pole dancing and I also bought some techie stuff. My dad gave me a bedside table, a corner table and a wardrobe which will come in handy while I am staying over. The room looks lovely and I’m happy with it.
    I may be travelling soon and I know I must not get into buying things or clothes (it is not only costly but really there is no need for it)…

    [Reply]

  • http://www.dlog.com.au Tonia Epstein

    My Aunt said to me once ‘how many bath towels do you need?’ She had three (for her and her husband). Says a lot really.

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  • Sarah k

    Looking forward to your Simple Home, love the idea. Lately I have been attempting to ‘upcycle’ (the new fashionable word for just reusing stuff!). Pallets have been a great no cost way make what we need, 8 seater table, veggie garden, magazine shelves, amazing what plans you can find off the internet. All the best

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  • http://hailtothenihilist.wordpress.com Hail To The Nihilist

    Lovely space. So airy. So much character.

    You said: “I abhor the decluttering fad we’re currently straddling. The idea of doing big toss-outs to…make room for more stuff is terrible. I believe in using something up before even thinking about turfing or recycling.” I agree and disagree. Throwing out perfectly useful stuff to make way for new stuff is wasteful. However, throwing away stuff that has no purpose and not replacing it, is generally what the “minimalism” movement is about.

    We have too much stuff. Stuff we don’t use. Stuff that sits and gathers dust. Stuff that requires us to increase our storage space. It is stimulated by an insatiable desire for acquisition. Ask most young women and many men what their hobbies are nowadays and shopping usually gets a mention. Is it grocery shopping they refer to? Perhaps, but usually not. It’s shopping for clothes, homeware, technology and other stuff, that they enjoy.

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  • http://didiaskforfries.wordpress.com tamara

    Firstly, congratulations on the new flat!!! I’m a teeny one bedder which sounds like it has the same amount of storage space as yours – zilch! I know I have more stuff than I need, but what really irks me is the stuff I have carted around from previous interstate moves and never used (some of it still in boxes in my hallway). For me this year is about simplifying. If I haven’t used it in a year, out it goes! Can’t wait to hear how you transform your place over the course of the year!

    [Reply]

  • Kellie

    We are doing this one room at a time at our place – and have taken the KISS approach and are keeping it simple stupid :) My Fiance and I had to move two homes to one and it was a great opportunity to donate goods, think about what we REALLY need not WANT and move forward with a focus more on family and friends rather than the next purchase. It was really good to let go of some things and all of us got a big sense of good after giving heaps of books that were no longer needed to a charity that will send them overseas to poor kids to learn from….more to do but a good start!

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  • http://www.littleecofootprints.com/ tricia

    Another way at looking at decluttering is passing on things you no longer need to someone else that could make better use of it. It’s no use hanging onto something if its related to a stage in life that has passed (e.g. old toys or clothes that are no longer the right size, or items from an old hobby). Putting your underutilised goods back into use is a great way to save resources.

    We’ve been ‘decluttering’ out of necessity – moving from a nice comfortable three bedroom home to a shed) and have been putting a lot of effort into making sure our belongings find an appropriate home where they can be used and appreciated. I’m looking on it as ‘if you do the crime you pay the time’. i.e. in past stages of our life my husband and I bought a lot more than we truly need. Now that we value simplicity and minimalism we’d like to pass these good onto someone else who would appreciate them.

    True ‘Decluttering’ is not about finding “storage solutions” – thats just hiding the clutter.

    [Reply]

    Tracy Dawson Reply:

    I agree Tricia. It upsets me to think there are things in our cupboards we don’t use that others might really need. When I ‘de-clutter’ it all goes to the op-shop (where I also buy stuff, including many of my clothes)

    [Reply]

  • http://www.littleecofootprints.com/ tricia

    and if you are looking for a natural Australian made mattress there’s http://www.naturalbedding.com.au/ in Sydney. We invested in one of their mattresses and have been very pleased.

    [Reply]

  • Cheryl Huckel

    I’ve been simplifying my life for some time (and setting up my son when he moved out helped) but found that the catalogues coming through the door still made me want to buy things. I recently purchased a no junk mail sign for 75c at KMart, and found the experience of having an empty letter box most days to be freeing. Even when I recycled the catologues without reading them I felt guilty, now I’m doing my bit to reduce paper waste.

    My favourite way to upcycle my home (I had lots of Ikea and chipboard furniture) is Gumtree and I regularly repurpose things in my home to freshen it.

    I have so much more to do to be sustainable but I’m sure I’m going to learn lots here. Congratulations on the new direction.

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  • http://www.cakesamour.com.au Krysten

    I really enjoyed reading that. ‘Stuff’ comes with it’s own burdens… Conversely, going without some things that are well functional and available can bring unnecessary burden too. I like the test of time (months, and years) to see whether something needs to be purchased/inherited and brought into the home. My husband and I have been in our unit for nearly 6 years and have avoided introducing ANYTHING without the time test first.
    We all have far more choice in what to use than we think we do.
    Your lack of collecting things is inspirational and was a breath of fresh air to read.
    Thanks for sharing :)

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  • Emma

    With the second kid on the way I’m currently going room to room ‘decluttering’ and sorting (and freecylcing/op-shopping) things out. We don’t buy much stuff (our furniture is mostly second hand and from hard rubbish), and I’ve noticed the majority of stuff I want to get rid of was given as gifts! This includes new things such as bowls, ornaments etc as well as hand-me-down clothes, towel, toys etc. People are so kind but there are only so many ornamental bowls one household can have (they are beautify but rarely used). I feel so guilty re-gifting things and sending stuff to the op shop. I’d love some suggestions on this point.
    I also struggle with what to do with bills, paperwork, and keepsakes (such as my son’s first hair cut, birthday cards etc.). I don’t want to spend money on storage solutions but don’t know what else to do! Looking forward to reading about your experience.

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  • Mel

    I LOVE that you are not a consumer & do not compete to keep up with the “Jones”. I can’t wait to follow your journey. x

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  • Meg

    Just curious what 1.5 bedrooms means?

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  • Nicky

    Love love love it! Can’t wait to be part of this!
    “The great multi-taskers” might make an interesting topic…? For instance, what essential gadgets (not sure those two words should be used together) products, devices can do the job of many eg. apple cider vinegar, computer/iphone, a birko (!? haha) to cut down on ‘stuff’…

    [Reply]

  • anne-marie

    on the Northern ‘Beaches, Sydney, facebook page: buy, sell, swap, free is a good site for passing forward items and clothing.
    in the Blue Mountains: facebook page: Blue Mountains Garage Sale is another site.
    In our 70′s we have downsized from 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house to 1.5 bdroom unit in a retirement village….loving the simplicity and the lifestyle.
    @Meg: 1.5 bedrooms = 1 and a half bedrooms.
    looking forward to the new adventure with you Sarah.

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  • http://retrainmybrain.wordpress.com/ Barb

    I read once that storage systems are like methadone for people who want to simplify. It pretends to ameliorate while at the same time filling that need to soothe the addiction – in this case, the addiction to consume.

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  • http://blahblahmagazine.com.au/ Cybele @ BlahBlah Magazine

    I feel so excited reading your words about creating a beautiful, healthy home.I agree it feels like madness to me when people chuck out a whole lot of great stuff, only to replace it with more. I feel like we’re in an IKEA era, where we are not paying the actual cost of things, the cost on the people who make those things cheaply, the cost on the environment, etc. Just because we can buy a new one cheaply doesn’t mean we should.
    One of my most treasured platters is one of my grandmother’s. If you turn it over, you will see where she has glued it together and then carefully drilled holes and glued staples to strengthen the seam. I still have all the buttons she collected. I use them now and add to the collection.
    Shiny and new might be nice sometimes, but patina and history are beautiful too.
    Have you seen the book, ‘The Blue Economy’ by Gunter Pauli, it looks amazing.
    I can’t wait for the next installment of your home building adventures x

    [Reply]

  • macarla

    i’d love to hear about organic mattresses and bedding that are affordable and eco.

    yay! can’t wait for the whole thing… i’ve been on the same journey for about a year now.

    [Reply]

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  • http://downtowndownshift.wordpress.com Alacoque

    I rotate toys too and I also demonstrate new ways for my daughter to play with the same things e.g. stacking and nesting cups can also be used for water play, sand play, built up then knocked down with a ball etc. Toy libraries are great. Perfect for the toys you don’t want to invest in in case they tire of them too quickly.

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  • http://makebautifulstore@gmail.com sanja

    HI Sarah, I would love to know alternatives for storage in the fridge (beside gladwrap or plastic containers) and how to freeze things that are liquid but not in plastic. Glass jars I have in plenty, but they are all small and I am not sure they are freezer proof!

    [Reply]

  • Sarah Fiess

    Hi Sarah,

    What a fantastic idea! As an architect working in Melbourne and an advocate for making our existing buildings more healthy and sustainable, I’m really excited about your new project. You have probably already heard of Nicole Bijlsma, who is a building biologist in Melbourne, I can highly recommend her book http://www.buildingbiology.com.au/index.php/Books/Healthy-Home-Healthy-Family/flypage.tpl.html

    I would also recommend a visit to the Sustainable House in Chippendale, http://sustainablehouse.com.au/ After living in Sydney for 8 years it still sticks in my mind as a great example of well thought-out design.

    Also, I would be more than happy to point you towards any resources you need and to offer any advice on creating sustainable, healthy and happy homes.

    Best of luck with your next project!

    [Reply]

  • lea

    Is there somewhere you can donate material? There’s lots of clothes that I have thrown away as they may be torn / have non-removable stains, but the rest of the garment is fine.

    Vinnies, Salvos etc don’t want to accept these and it always seems such a shame to throw them away but nobody seems to know anyone who can use the material to make other things…. I don’t have the patience or skill to learn to sew, but I’m sure they could be re-used or repurposed in some way….

    [Reply]

    Alexandra Reply:

    Some charities DO accept clothing unsuitable for further wear. Much of this is sold to textile recyclers and ends up as carpet fibres, rags, etc. Textile recyclers are generally pretty great as they divert billions of kilos worth of clothing from landfill. Just have to find out which charities will accept them. You could also ensure that the textile recyclers they sell to use environmentally sound processes- most I’ve researched do.

    [Reply]

  • Alexandra

    I am an Aussie living in the centre of Amsterdam and I too just bought my first apartment! Very much looking forward to learning from your successes and failures. I am also lucky enough to have a blank canvas of a garden to play with, so I can finally start growing as much of my own food as the garden will yield! Thanks for wading through the mud a few steps ahead, it will make my similar journey far smoother. Good luck!

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  • Lisa

    I’m loving this concept Sarah! We downgraded from a 4 bed 2 bath home to a 2 bed townhouse and it is so freeing to not have so much space to clean & to have just what you need, not excess. It is incredible how much “stuff” people have! I find de-cluttering to be enlightening, like lifting a load off your back. Plus you can pass on things to others who will have a use for them. Possessions are not what’s important – it’s people!!

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  • Mia Bluegirl

    Coconut oil is awesome for this. Hair treatment, skin moisturizer, body lotion… bonus is, it has antibacterial properties so is fantastic for pimples. You can also use it as a deodorant for the same reason.

    I’ve been staying with a friend for a week as I had to be monitored post-surgery. All I brought with me in terms of beauty supplies were teeth cleaning implements, a small vial of cleanser, and a tub of coconut oil. I’m so impressed with my simplified routine that I am slowly using up the last of my old products to get rid of them, and not re-stocking anything except for the coconut oil.

    [Reply]

    J /*sparklingly Reply:

    Hi Jenni,

    Like Mia Bluegirl, I too use Coconut Oil for everything (I shared all my uses here: http://sparklingly.blogspot.com/2012/11/facial-toils.html)

    Plus, it’s super fun to make my own little scented concoctions depending on the season with essential oils. My favorite blend that I’m using now: http://sparklingly.blogspot.com/2012/11/winter-oil-concoction.html

    Hope those inspire you a bit!

    [Reply]

    J /*sparklingly Reply:

    (Oops, sorry, Jennie. Forgot the ‘e’ above!).

    [Reply]

    tmb Reply:

    what do you suggest for a facial cleanser?
    i have always used expensive skincare and am now just starting to experiment with the naturals. My daughter is also at that awful early teenage stage where she is suffering from lots of spots :(
    also sparklingly i was reading your blog earlier and find it soooo interesting that everything in your cupboard you could eat – wow !!! can you give me a few cleaning eg’s like dishwashing liquid and bathroom cleaners?
    Sarah & sparklingly you really have given me alot to think about ‘simple’ …..
    p.s Sarah i have ordered a huge list from the health food store and can’t wait to try some of my new recipes from The I Quit Sugar Chocolate Cookbook that i downloaded on the weekend x

    [Reply]

  • Alysa

    Hi,
    Really interesting. I would like to learn more about natural cleaning products, not the ones that are really expensive but the homemade variety.

    FYI: A recent visitor to my house (which was built probably early ’60s) observed that there is visible asbestos under the eaves. I was alarmed to learn this and he said it’s best to have it removed or paint over it, but never cut through it. I had no idea it was there so just a heads up to people!

    Also, there was a great but disturbing article in Melbourne’s Sunday Age last year by Annabel Crabb, who wrote about all the televisions being thrown away. She offered some statistics about the wastage which were astounding….

    [Reply]

    Helen Reply:

    the only cleaning product I use is steam. I have a Karcher industrial size steamer and it does everything. I use it on my floor, carpet, windows, benchtops, showers, bath, stove and it comes with a steam iron and by the way I hate ironing but this cuts the time in half. the only downside is it takes up a bit of storage space and takes about 10 minutes start steaming, but once you get going you do everything and quick. My favourite, (if you have a favourite cleaning thing) is how it cleans the toilet, no gloves, no masked and not brush on a long stick, just my steamer. I will eventually try one of those ones advertised on late night TV for everyday use as they seem to steam up quickly and dont take up as much space.
    if I have to use a cleaning product my preference is white vinegar and vanilla essence to take away smells.

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  • Trevor Otto

    Material Austerity = The New Chic ! Who would have thought ? I kinda like it a lot and look forward to the future posts on this topic. Bouquets to Sarah for manifesting her intelligence yet again,

    [Reply]

  • A

    I imagine you have heard of it, but Freecycle is big in some parts of the world. When we moved to the UK we got pretty much everything on Freecycle… furniture, dishes, pots, plants, piano, bikes and much more. We set up our whole flat for free and learned a lot about our new city while picking everything up and meeting the previous owners.

    [Reply]

  • Karla

    Looking fwd to following your journey Sarah. I bought my first apartment about 18months ago and I went in with the same philosophy: keep it simple and don’t clutter. I too have only a built in robe and some pantry space and a small cupboard in the bathroom. I didn’t have anything either (just a bed) and have since bought my furniture (it took 18mnths and there isn’t much). I will be interested to read your research on everything.

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  • Anna

    Sarah, please share whatever you can on growing your own food/herbs/flowers without a backyard or balcony! I also have a small one bedroom apartment, and while I love my little nest (it’s size certainly prevents me from buying anything I won’t use regularly), my one disappointment is not being able to grown my own anything & missing out on the health benefits. ps, in this place window boxes won’t work with the windows/window sills.

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  • http://www.therogueginger.com Erin

    You are right, life is simple. I look forward to seeing how you go with this. Good Luck!

    [Reply]

  • sam

    Hi Sarah,

    Sounds great, I would love to know how to grow herbs etc. I have a 1 bedroom too with no yard or balcony. It kills me that I waist so much money buy packets of herbs. Any ideas on this and other things you can grow in a small apartment would be great. Also simple storage ideas would be good. I love getting old furniture and painting it to make it new again but I now have my paint brushes and also all my study paper work and no place to put it. so storage ideas for the things you have to have would be good.

    p.s just bought your book love love love it! week 1 of no sugar.

    Sam

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  • http://makebautifulstore@gmail.com sanja

    Hi Sarah, just thought of something else….. I hate the way we have to replace our computers and mobile phones and other electronic gadgets to keep up with others (not in a Jones’s way either!). For example, my old laptop hasn’t got enough capacity to hold a newish version of Word. So, I can’t read documents or even convert them, and forget photographs.

    What can we do to upgrade our electrics, and not chuck out and replace?

    [Reply]

    picardie.girl Reply:

    I am quite sure you can get more memory added to your computer. Or at least buy an external hard drive, that will fit plenty of data on it.

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  • http://didiaskforfries.wordpress.com tamara

    To those wanting to know about growing herbs indoors, just wanted to say that although I am by no means a green thumb I have successfully been growing basil, coriander and lettuce indoors for the last few months. I do have an outside garden as well, and have managed to kill all these outdoors, but they really seem to thrive on my kitchen windowsill. GIve it a shot!!

    [Reply]

  • jan

    Anyone seen the story of stuff? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GorqroigqM

    It’s a real eye opener.

    jan

    [Reply]

  • http://www.nmah.com.au Ziggy

    I loved this post Sarah! So much so that I wrote a blog post reflecting your theme and lonked back to you. http://www.nmah.com.au/sensible-cost-effective-and-invigorating-health-care/
    Thanks so much for insorining me to think more broadl=dly.
    Many smiles,
    Ziggy

    [Reply]

  • Helen

    I love this idea however I am unfortunately a stuff collector, I have over 350 pairs of shoes which I must say I don’t wear all of them every year and more clothes than a family of 10 needs but I love to op shop and I love to remodel my clothes, in fact I do have some items of clothing that are 20 years old that just get remodelled. That leads to having all sorts of bits and bobs, ribbons and buttons, lace and left over fabric. I love the fact that you can turn something new from something old. One of my favourite sites is newdressaday.com. It is somehow very rewarding having someone ask where you got your outfit from knowing that it is from the op shop and you just remodelled it. I do a cleanout every year and the local op shop does very well.

    there is only 2 of us now, my husband and myself and we have 2 houses, one in the city and one in the mountains. The city house is very minimalistic and I love going there, it is uncluttered, always clean and tidy (and easy to keep that way) It only has what I need which I am finding isn’t very much. (including only 4 pairs of shoes) I am now in the process of de-cluttering the house in the mountains ready for a renovation and looking forward to minimalising so I will be following your site with interest. I am glad to hear of freecycle as I will be using this to get rid of my stuff collected over a lifetime including bringing up my wonderful children who have left behind stuff.

    [Reply]

  • shylee

    Hi Sarah, Love your ideas and I am trying to work myself up to go through your book and detox, I’m just scared. Happy to admit that.
    I love your ideas about the home. I also love quick, easy and non toxic, environmentally friendly cleaning solutions so I use Norwex.
    Thanks, Shylee

    [Reply]

  • Natalya

    Hi Sarah, Congratulations on simplifying your life!

    Two concepts that work for me are-(1) Don’t Believe The Hype! Most advertising will have you convinced that you NEED the next big THING because it’s better than what you currently have. In reality, what one already has usually works adequately and the NextBig Thing is what you already have with one or two bells and whistles.
    (2) Multi function! If you can buy something that serves a few purposes WITHOUT sacrificing lifespan of the object, adversely affecting desired outcome, and creating more work for yourself than it’s a winner. EG- a blender that will make hot soup, cold juice/smoothies, chop etc AND you can use all of these things is a big plus on many points.

    :)

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  • http://mumtoddlerbabe.blogspot.com virginia

    I’ve been decluttering and before I decide to turf something I go to my local freecycle group and offer it up there first. I usually never end up with anything to chuck out! It’s a great way of spring cleaning without the rubbish.

    I’ve started this journey this year too and have started sharing pics on Instagram with #detoxdeclutter2013, feel free to add to it!

    [Reply]

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  • http://virtualjottingsbyadriana.blogspot.com.au/ Adriana_G

    I’ve recently discovered your blog :) I have to say that I have a coronary every time my electricity bill comes in so I would be super keen to hear about enery efficient ways to heat and cool the home – and ones that don’t break the budget!

    [Reply]

  • Erin

    Im so looking forward to your journey Sarah!

    Since leaving Sydney we tried our hand at small acreage with a huge morgage. Two years on we realised everything we were doing was wrong for us & young family.
    We now have a small bluestone cottage on the river in the adelaide hills with a small yard but have managed to squeeze all our veggie patches, compost bins, fruit trees, a chook run into this tiny space.
    We have used old fridges for wormfarms, old railway sleepers collected from the sides of tracks for vegie beds, old doors etc from our rubbish tip salvage yrad ( they have amazing stuff!!)
    while shopping for a new lounge we did not really need a few weeks ago, we had a lightbulb moment and decided the 6,000 would be better spent on a Solocarbon Sauna & a new juicer. I now realise writing this we havnt sat on the sofa in this whole time but have used the Sauna & juicer a few times a day.
    Its all about prioritising the important spends water filters, ( if on mains water), solar heating, organic produce, wool matresses…….rather than a bigger SUV, flat screen tv, bathroom reno or whatever else it is people do to mask their problems.
    I adore your blog and look forward to my friday fix!!

    Yours in health
    Erin

    [Reply]

  • http://arlerikeque.yolasite.com/kallada-travels-online-booking.php Kerri

    While visiting and sightseeing in India, a tour in Delhi is a must as the capital
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  • http://sparklingly.blogspot.com J / *sparklingly

    TMB, this reply is for you (the system wouldn’t let me reply to your question above):

    + For a facial cleanser I use pure coconut oil or one of the coconut oil concoctions that I have sitting on my bathroom cabinet shelf. Oil cleans so much better than anything else, plus the antibacterial and moisturizing properties are built right in!

    + I haven’t made the move fully to all natural products, particularly when it comes to cleaning (i.e., I still use store-bought dishwashing detergent for our dishwashing machine, although at least it’s the cleanest I’ve found!), but for almost everything else I use Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap which is very pure and doesn’t contain any toxins or chemicals. It’s concentrated so one bottle goes a long way. I use this in the shower, and to wash our hands and our dishes (those that we wash in the sink).

    + For deep-down cleaning I use a picture of white vinegar and baking soda (sometimes with a few drops of essential oil, like peppermint)—this is particularly good for scrubbing the bathroom (don’t use bleach!)

    + Check out Wellness Mama—I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from her when it comes to homemade cleansers, beauty products and even things like toothpaste (although I haven’t gotten that far yet): http://wellnessmama.com/wellness-101/

    So glad I could help! Hope the information above is useful :)

    [Reply]

  • Katie

    Hi Sarah,
    My understanding of decluttering is to get rid of things (responsibly!) from your home that you do not love, use or need anymore. I would never then go and buy something to replace it (if I needed it, I shouldn’t/ wouldn’t have decluttered it?!). Decluttering your home is about surrounding yourself with LESS stuff, not “making room for more stuff”!
    You write: “decluttering is all about buying a whole heap of “storage solutions”” – whish is simply not true! After decluttering, you will probably find that you have enough storage anyway. That’s the point – less stuff and less storage.
    Also, the fact that you are starting out with so few belongings does make it easier to say “I abhor decluttering” – easy to say when you don’t need to declutter! Fast forward a few years when you maybe have other people living with you and see how you feel about that then?! I wonder if there will be times when you will look at something in your home and think “I don’t need, love or use that”?
    I absolutely agree with your ‘living with less’ and ‘needing less’ theories. However, most people reading your blogs will be people who have homes that contain furniture, clothes, nick-naks, maybe kids and all their crap, etc etc. Just something to bear in mind – how can they live simply without a bit of decluttering?

    [Reply]

  • http://www.homediymanuals.com/eden-biodome-revolution/sitemap/45 2008 satellite maps

    So are you going to be many people in America who aren’t familiar with her philosophy, which basically espouses that one need not diet, if one will instead address their own emotional and spiritual needs. Other skinny pizza tricks: Go light on the cheese or use reduced-fat cheese and choose a thin, bread-like crust made with just a touch of butter. 3 lbs since the morning after my first full day of Dieting Quotations. Avocado, cooking with coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil can be added to your other vegetable dishes to make it work.

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  • Kelly

    Sarah

    I look to you as a role model. I stumbled across your blog whilst researching organic makeup. I then read about your healing experience living in Byron Bay. I am literally living my life through you. You encapsulate how I would like to live. You give me inspiration and information and I really appreciate all that you have done for ‘me’.
    I too, suffer from an auto immune disease (Lupus SLE and Sjrogen’s Syndrome) and have found that simple, clean living is best. It is so hard to do that in today’s world, where everything from food, furniture, clothing is chemically-treated, genetically modified or toxic. You were a great help with your bedding article. Keep up the great work and good health and happiness to you.

    Kelly
    xxxx

    [Reply]