Category Archives: Sustainable Living

I made a rocket stove!

I made a rocket stove!

Thanks to YouTube I was able to learn about the fabulousness of rocket stoves.

What’s special about a rocket stove is that you can cook using an astonishingly small amount of fuel – not that many twigs are needed to boil water, for example. The reasons I wanted one are a) to reduce the use of gas and make use of the vast amount of wood hanging round on the property, and b) to cook outside in summer and not heat up the house.

The basic idea is that you have an L-shaped bit of stovepipe (or chamber) that’s about 10cm in diameter, and you put the fire in the foot of the L, and sit the pot on the top of the L. You need to make a little platform in the middle of the foot of the L so that the twigs can sit on it and there’s space underneath for the air to flow in, providing plenty of oxygen for a good flame. The stove pipe also needs to be insulated, preferably with something that will hold the heat nicely. I watched a few videos, but in the end the simplest one was this: How to Make a 16 Brick Rocket Stove. I had plenty of bricks lying around. The only bit that foiled me was that in order to make the foot of the L the right size, I need to have a half-thickness brick. No go. And I had no chance of cutting one. In the end I solved this by placing a few tiles I found in the bottom.

This stove took me about an hour to make, including finding the drawers to sit it on and shifting them into a nice shady spot opposite our front door, and tracking down the slab of marble which I laid on top in the hope that the drawers won’t catch on fire, and tempting the redback spiders out of the holes in the bricks. If you only count the time to actually make the stove, well that’d be about 10 minutes. I put a big white tile behind the stove in the hope of protecting the fence, put in some paper and twigs, sat our pot on top, lit the stove and snapped this pic.

The white tile became black. The pot became black. The drawers were covered in ash. BUT IT WORKED! I couldn’t believe that something so utterly simple could actually work so well. It got up a nice big flame quite quickly, was pretty easy to keep going, and after a few hours the bricks and ash were so hot I could boil water on it super-quick with only a low flame. We filled that huge pot with stock and boiled it all day.

How to put up local food for winter

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best ways we can reduce our resource footprint is to cut down on food miles. By learning how to preserve local food ready to eat in winter, we can end up with a pantry full of cheap food that is tasty beyond anything you can buy in the supermarket. You also avoid producing heaps of waste, another plus for our planet.

It’s actually not that hard nor time consuming. I can fill these shelves with a few hours a month from November to February, and then in March I spend a few days on the tomatoes. The hardest bit is doing it for the first time – collecting your jars and preserving equipment, and figuring out where and when to get the best local surplus food.

Although it may seem strange to think about winter when the weather is just warming up, now is the time to get organised to make sure you can eat local food all next year. Start with cherries and apricots in November and December, and finish with tomatoes in March or olives in June.

I’ve written about how to do this in more detail here.

The Money-less Man

The Money-less Man

Have you read this book?  The Money-Less Man is written by Mark Boyle, who went for a year without spending a cent.  I found his book both entertaining and inspiring.  I was particularly interested in the section at the start where he talks about what’s wrong with our current system of money and why it would be better if we didn’t subscribe to it.

The example I found easiest to understand was this:

“Imagine there is only one bank.  Mr Smith, who up to now has kept his money under the bed, decides to deposit his life savings, 100 shells [the currency] in the bank.  Naturally, the bank wants to make a profit, so decides to lend out a proportion of Mr Smith’s shells, let’s say 90 of them, keeping ten in their coffers in case Mr Smith wants to make a small withdrawal.  Another gentleman, Mr Jones, needs a loan.  He goes to the bank and is delighted to be given Mr Smith’s 90 shells, which he’ll eventually have to pay back with interest.  Mr Jones takes the shells and elects to spend them on bread, bought from Mrs Baker.  At the close of the day, Mrs Baker takes her newly-acquired 90 shells to the bank.  Do you see what’s happened?  Originally, Mr Smith deposited 100 shells in the bank.  Now, in addition to Mr Smith’s 100 shells, the bank has Mrs Baker’s 90 shells.  100 shells has become 190.  Money has been created.  What’s more, the bank can now lend out a proportion of Mrs Baker’s deposit!  The process can start again.

“Of course, the physical number of shells hasn’t changed.  If both Mr Smith and Mrs Brown wanted their shells back at the same time, the bank would be in a fix.  However, this rarely happens, and if it did, the bank would have shells from other depositors to use.  The problems start when the bank lends out 90% of all their depositors’ shells.  The result is that of all the shells in all the bank accounts of this fictional world, only 10% exist!  If all the depositors wanted more than 10% of the total amount of shells at the same time, the bank would collapse… and people would realise that the bank was creating imaginary money… Recent bank crises…show the inherent instability that comes from basing our financial system on an imaginary resource.”

As Mark Boyle points out, we are using money as a tool which enables us to borrow from the future.  He also points out that one of the big rules of finance and economy is that you don’t sell off your capital to create income.  You use your capital to generate income.  But we are doing the opposite right now – using up the world’s resources in a non-sustainable way, while we should be putting them to good use to ensure our future security.

Almost every dollar that we spend comes with some kind of associated carbon footprint.  It’s much better to pay for a service (such as a massage) than than for a thing which needs to be created, using precious resources.  But even the services usually come with a footprint too.  For example, the towels you lie on are usually washed after only one use, the room may be heated to a particularly high temperature, and special oils have been purchased (usually from afar) to massage into your skin.  I’m not saying you should never have a massage.  What I am saying is that by spending money, we are generally causing a lot of consumption to happen on our behalf, and it’s worth being mindful of that.

I’ve been tempted for years to try living without money, and am mighty impressed that Mark Boyle has managed to do it for a whole year.  I can’t see myself going that route – I think I’m just not “hard core” enough.  But the idea intrigues me nonetheless.

The thing I like most about the book is Mark Boyle’s absolute belief that when you take money out of the equation, we all become happier and more giving.  Money makes us meaner, makes us look after our own back rather than those around us.  He believes that it’s far better to simply give, and to trust that you will receive in turn, not necessarily from the same person you gave to, though that may happen.

Once I would have found this very airy-fairy and unreliable, however, I have a couple of neighbours who have been very generous to me.  They never arrived without something in their hands to give me, and at every opportunity they offered me something from their garden, the use of their tools, a meal when I was lonely and so on.  The result is that when I dropped in on them, I’d take something from my pantry, and when I was cooking I’d make a bit extra knowing they’ll enjoy it.  We lost track of any score.  The net result is a neighbourly friendship where I looked for opportunities to give as much as I possibly can, and I received bountifully.  I noticed this good influence encouraged me to be more giving with others around me, and I managed to extend the circle of people to whom I gave.  Some of them started giving to me, too.  Eventually I felt like I was part of a network where I could ask my neighbours to help me when I needed it, and this, Mark Boyle points out, is true security.  Being surrounded by a network of people who will look out for you is far better security than any amount of money in the bank.  When we pay for every transaction, there’s no need to give anything more.  It’s all over; there’s no bond, no tie, no building of relationships, and no accountability.

So how did Mark live for a year without money?  He describes it in his book.  It entails living in a caravan on land owned by someone else in exchange for some labour; lots of foraging for food, both in the wild and in the bins out the back of shops, and what sounded to me like a bloody freezing winter.  I’ve read reviews in which some people say he’s sponging off the rest of us, but I don’t see it like that.  I reckon good on him for having the courage to live according to his principles, and as a result he’s managed to use a lot less than the rest of us, recycle a hell of a lot of waste (especially food waste), and build a far better community than I could imagine being part of.  It’s well worth the read, and will certainly get you thinking about money, your relationship to it, and how you live with it.

Mark has set up a community on Facebook called Just For The Love Of It, and the proceeds from his book will not go into his pocket – they’re being used to set up a “freeconomy community” – a piece of land which will be a resource for people who want to learn to live without money: a place to swap skills, borrow tools and meet like-minded people.  The website is a virtual space in which to do the same.

Not buying (much)

I’ve had several periods during my life when I’ve made a real effort to reduce my spending on consumer goods. Buying stuff is bad for the environment, and it’s not good for the wallet either. Almost everything we buy used electricity to make it, used ungodly amounts of water, contributed to water and air pollution, came in packaging that will go to landfill, was often shipped here from another country, driven to our city on a truck… you get the picture. Much of what is available in shops in Australia is also made by people working in miserable conditions. Every time we buy something, we are sending a message to the manufacturer saying “Great – please make another!” And just as we need to reduce our electricity use by turning off lights when we aren’t using them, and unplugging appliances at the powerpoint, we also need to reduce our “virtual” use of resources – that is the resources used to manufacture the things we buy. If this seems obvious, my apologies – it took me quite a while to “get” this particular point, and to connect my buying as clashing with my desire to live sustainably.

I read a great book called Affluenza, which examines the way we spend our money in Australia, and it included quite a few tidbits of eye-opening information for me. The authors point out that the government says we’ve had a good year if we’ve experienced economic growth – that is, if we as a society spent more money than we spent the year before. The only measure of “success” is this – financial – there is no attempt to measure wellbeing, health, contentment or other indicators of a successful society. Similarly, on a personal level, most Australians aspire to financial growth – ie to earn more than we do currently, to own more or more expensive stuff, and to move into a bigger house in a better area when possible. This attitude that “growth is good” forms the backbone of our lives, for most of us.

The government and the marketplace work hard to establish this attitude and keep us operating this way. Much of the message is achieved through advertising. Advertisers, rather than giving us factual information about a product, strive to make us feel discontent with our current situation, and aim to build anxiety and uncertainty, which leads to buying more.

Interestingly, although most Australians believe our society is too consumerist and too materialistic, most of us believe that we as individuals are not, and that we have barely enough money to meet our basic needs. This holds true regardless of how much we earn: most Australians have come to see luxuries as basic necessities, and we deny that our purchases are materialistic. Advertisers capitalise on this, by telling us “You deserve it”, whether it’s a holiday we can’t afford or a fashionable piece of clothing.

When large corporations worried that we might stop spending, they introduced the credit card, so that we could spend money we hadn’t even earnt yet. The convenience of the credit card has led to a culture of instant gratification, which will have to be paid for later. Australians pay for their debts by working longer hours than workers in any other country in the world. These long work hours are causing individuals numerous problems – relationship breakdowns, children who long for more time with their parents, depression, fatigue, ill health, and an obsession with money. Even though most Australians would like more time with their family and friends, this goal is often deferred until later in life (generally retirement), while long hours are put in now to pay for luxurious “basic necessities”.

Almost one quarter of Australian adults, however, have decided to step outside of this cultural model, and “downshift”. Lacking public role models for this, we each operate in isolation, often with the disapproval of those around us, despite the fact that so many of us are doing it. Downshifting means working less hours, working for less pay, and/or consciously consuming less than before. While the income drop can be challenging, especially at first, 90% of downshifters end up with less stress, more time for meaningful activities, better community networks and participation, less anxiety – and the obsession with money generally melts away.

That, in a nutshell, is what I understood from the book. Wow – one quarter of us are downshifting – and there’s no mention of it in the media or anything to help us realise how common our actions are. My readership on this blog has skyrocketed since I started blogging about living sustainably – so it seems there is interest out there.

After making a strict budget for myself for consumer goods one year, I found I didn’t want to spend it on things like socks, undies, watches and so on. So my biggest challenge was to find a way to meet as many of my basic needs as possible in a way that doesn’t involve buying anything new. Op shops meet a lot of my needs.

 

A few tips for not buying stuff:

  • stay out of shops and shopping centres.
  • don’t read magazines (or if you do be very strict and avoid looking at the ads).
  • don’t watch ads on TV.
  • if you catch yourself fantasising about various new things you might like to own, try to nip it in the bud and think about something else.
  • focus on being happy with what you have, and making do with stuff you have on hand or can find.
  • go to op shops and maintain a running list of items you are watching out for.
  • try borrowing from a friend instead of buying.
  • make stuff (from second hand materials), and give gifts that are homemade or provide an experience or service (a gift voucher to a restaurant, to a bath house, a massage voucher). Or give plants, ideally some you’ve raised yourself, preferably in a pot you didn’t buy new.

And a few tips from readers:

  • make use of your local library rather than buying books
  • take a good look at why want to shop – are you avoiding something or trying to fulfill an emotional need?

Please send in any more tips!  Thanks to those who already did.  Read the comments for more insights 🙂

So what about you, is there anything you’re not buying? Have you found any solutions for the ordinary, every day things we “need”?

Storing Woollens

Now that it’s warmed up here in Melbourne, it’s time for people like me who live in very small houses to put our winter clothes into storage and bring in my summer garments.  I used to just shove all my woollies into a box and jam it into the shed, but now that I’ve made so many of my own clothes from scratch, I feel more inclined to look after them properly.  I think when store-bought clothing is so cheap it’s easy to chuck out once a button goes missing or a moth nibbles a hole in it.

But the leggings I knitted myself, which took me months.. well I want them to last as long as possible.  My down jacket made from my own home-reared chickens, my felted ugg boots from the fleece of my pet rabbit, and the garments I’ve spun myself then knitted… they were so very labour intensive, they have to last for as close to forever as possible.

So I’ve learnt how to store woollens and natural fibres properly.  This is my third year of doing it, and so far so good.  My clothes have had a a few nibbles, but they’ve all occurred while sitting in my loft, not in storage.  Here’s what to do:

  1. First step is to wash all the clothes, thoroughly and properly.  This is the single most important thing you can do, and if you only do one thing before shoving your woollies out of sight, this is it.  The moth larvae that nibble your clothes do so because they are feeding on the bits of sweat, grime and body oil that lives on them.  No dirt, no oil = no food for larvae, and they die, having done minimal damage to your clothes.
  2. Put your dry, clean clothes inside a tightly woven cotton pillowcase or bag.  Apparently the moths and larvae can’t nibble through cotton, but they can eat their way through plastic.
  3. Now, if possible, store the cotton bag inside something the insects can’t easily get into, such as a plastic tub with a lid, or a zipper bag.
  4. Optional: in with your clothes, you can add some sachets of herbs that will repel the moths.  I’ve read mixed reports about this – alone it doesn’t seem to work.  Whether it really helps much is questionable.  But I have lots or herbs in my garden and quite enjoyed making my sachets.  Simply gather a handful of herbs, hang them up to dry for a couple of weeks, then crumple them into a handkerchief or small square of cotton fabric.  Gather up the edges and hold with a rubber band or piece of string.  Or you can sew yourself some very pretty sachets.  If nothing else, they help the clothes smell nice next autumn when you take them out again.

If, like me, you are turning into the sort of person who actually does this, and looks after your clothes properly, there’s a companion job that goes with this: mending.  I did a huge pile of mending last week, when I spent the day at a friend’s house.  I brought my sewing box and damaged clothes, and in a few hours had made amazing progress.  I promised myself, when I knitted those leggings, that if I saw the teensiest hole, I’d sew it up straight away, rather than letting the leggings get ruined.  I’ve a gorgeous pair of slipper socks I knitted for myself a few years ago, wore about ten times, then discovered them later hideously moth eaten to the point of unwearability.  What a waste of all that knitting.  Never again.  I’m now a sworn mender.

I keep a running list in my diary of things that need mending/minor alterations.  There’s no point making a pile of them because these clothes are too much in circulation to dump in a mending basket.  And if I don’t keep a list, then when I finally get around to my mending session, I forget half the stuff!  While it only takes a minute or two to sew on a button or repair a small hole, I find it hard to do this whenever the hole first appears.  It’s easier for me to set aside time and do a whole pile at once.  My last session was probably about 6 months ago, so it doesn’t need doing all that often.

Do you have any tips for keeping your clothes in good condition, and looking after them properly?  Leave me a comment with your suggestions.

Lettering Practice

I’ve been practising and practising my lettering, trying to learn to make pretty signs with my words. Here’s one of them, an affirmation that reminds me to be present with my own life:

Lettering Practise

And another… a reminder that more of something isn’t necessarily better. We need to strive for enough, not more.

Lettering Practise-1

Practising with chalk on a blackboard is very liberating. If I make a mistake, it’s easy to rub it out and try again.

Organising My Memorabilia

You might have heard of Marie Kondo, who wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She suggests you only keep things which bring you joy. That may sound a bit impractical, but I decided to follow the programme she created to find out for myself. It was a mammoth job, to put every single aspect of my life in order, and complete all undone tasks. I thought I didn’t have much stuff, but it took three months of being my major project.

The rewards were huge – not only was all my stuff sorted, organised and well-stored, but I learnt significant skills along the way which I believe I will use for the rest of my life. I highly recommend giving it a go.

By far the biggest area for me was organising my memorabilia. I can’t tell you how amazing felt to have sorted and made accessible every photo since the day I was born, every old home video, every newspaper clipping and poster I want to keep. In retrospect, the most challenging thing was working out systems for storage of these items. Kondo doesn’t give precise guidelines for how to do that, so I had to make up some of my own. In case you’d like to have a crack at getting your memorabilia in order, I thought I would share my process. I can see that with my systems in place, it will be much easier to keep incoming photos, videos and other momentoes sorted, without letting them build up to the chaotic mess that I had when I started.

PHOTOS

First thing to do is gather all your photos into one place. Digitally that means into some kind of photo-organising software such as iPhoto or Lightroom (which I use). In real life that means you get your albums and boxes of photos and make a pile.

I started with the pre-digital era. I had an album my mum gave me when I turned 18 of photos of my childhood. Looking through it gave me much joy. I could have kept it as it was. But the problem is, my photo albums, when gathered together and stored in a large plastic tub are just too heavy to carry. They lived in our shed, so if I wanted to look at a photo, I’d have to heft the tub off the shelf, at great danger to my back, and then I could only carry one or two albums into the house at a time. The result: I didn’t do it, and never looked at the photos. We don’t have space in our small house to store all our photo albums, so keeping them on a bookshelf in, say, the lounge room, was out of the question. I decided to remake the album in its entirety.

Using an iPhone app, I scanned each photo. I didn’t want to damage the album in case I changed my mind half way through, so I opened up the plastic covering, left the photos in place, and positioned my phone above each one to snap a photo of it. I started at the beginning and worked forward, so that if I sorted by date, the photos would be in order. Then I imported into Lightroom and spent a bit of time with each photo, increasing the contrast, adjusting the colours and orientation. I created a folder on my harddrive called Family Photos, and a subfolder within that called 1974-1989 My Childhood, where I stored all the photos.

For my remaining albums, I decided that I had too many photos – multiple photos of the same event, too many of people I barely remembered. I also had boxes of extraneous photos. I sorted the loose photos, choosing only the best to keep, and chucking the rest. I put the loose photos wil the album that most closely corresponded to that time in my life.

Then I started with the earliest album and removed just the best photos, which I would keep, adding in the loose photos at appropriate spaces. Often I ended up ditching the loose photos when I realised I had a better one in my album from the same event. I made a stack, ordered chronologically, of just my favourites. I took them to Officeworks for scanning – I found using the iPhone app tedious, and later I felt that the quality of the Officeworks scans was much higher. The scanning cost me $0.40 per photo. I did this step in batches – first the era between my childhood until I met Paula, then Paula’s and my early life together, then baby photos once Jesse was born, and so on. To do them all at once would have been too unwieldy and overwhelming.

Once all my photos were tweaked and stored digitally in folders corresponding to that era, I imported them into iPhoto to make Apple photobooks. I don’t think the Apple books are necessarily better than any others, but I had already printed a couple of these books, was happy with the quality, and liked that my new books would be the same size and shape. They would be pleasing sitting together on my shelf.

For most pages I used the 6-photos per page design, which meant that many of my photos were printed quite small. Even in small size, the image jolts the memory and makes me happy, but doesn’t take up too much space. It meant that my entire life, up until now, could fit onto four photobooks.

Memorabilia-4

I stored them on a shelf in my wardrobe. They are small and light and already have been passed around interested visitors, in a way that I would never have done with my old albums. The old albums I threw out, except for that childhood one which Jesse wanted to keep. I’ve put it in the box of stuff I’m keeping for Jesse for when he’s grown up. Whenever I print a photobook of our family life, I print an extra copy for Jesse and add it to his box. As my mum did for me, I’ll give them all to him when he turns eighteen.

Finally, I exported all my Lightroom folders of photos, and stored them on Dropbox, and also on a USB stick and an external harddrive, so I’ve got plenty of back ups. It’s easy to find a photo because there’s not too much to wade through, and they are sorted by era, and in more recent cases, by year.

VIDEOS

I got all my old VHS and mini-DV tapes and paid to have them converted to DVD. Then I used the free software Handbrake to rip from DVD to my computer. While Handbrake can rip at full size, I ripped a bit smaller. Like with the photos, I don’t need the highest quality image to enjoy it – I just want the memory. By ripping my videos smaller, it meant I could make a folder of home videos that is small enough to keep on my computer and Dropbox and that USB stick.

I used iMovie to edit the videos into small movies of around 5-15 minutes each, with a theme. I had a lot of videos of Jesse playing with his friends, dancing around wildly, so I created a dance video with clips of them from that time, all mixed up. It’s bright and fun and captures just their funniest moves. I made another video of my circus training days, that includes snippets of training on trapeze, web, cloudswing and more. I made a video of our family life for a particular era, and another video of my extended family. Each video I exported with the filename as YEAR_WHAT IT IS. Eg 2003 A day in the life of Jesse aged 7 weeks. That means that by sorting by title, they will be arranged in chronological order, and it is easy for me to scan through and find a video that would be of interest to show others.

I stored all my edited video clips in a folder called Home Videos.

WRITING

I had a whole box of my creative writing from when I was a child. Novels and short stories I’ve written over the years. Many were print outs for which I didn’t have a matching digital file. I discovered that one novel I’d written had disappeared altogether. Although every time I’ve moved computers, I’ve been meticulous about transferring across my writing files, and I did have them all in Word orginally, obviously some files have not come across and I didn’t realise at the time. Hence the importance of keeping hard copies of these sorts of things. I was glad I had the print outs. It’s also why I made sure to print photobooks of my favourite photos.

I used Evernote app Scannable to scan in my documents – I found that easy and straightforward. The result was a PDF for each novel. I then loaded the PDF onto Google Drive and opened it with Google Docs – that automatically used OCR software to turn it into an editable document. Some docs came across fantastically and only needed a bit of editing to fix them up. Other, older pieces, that were printed back in the 80s, didn’t come up so well, and needed a lot of work to restore.

I decided to use Lulu to print a single book that contained all my creative writing and novels. Lulu is a print on demand self-publishing platform and the prices per book are very reasonable. The books look incedibly professional. I downloaded a Word template, and pasted in all my stories, making sure to follow the formatting. Using Heading 1 style for the title of each story, I could then generate a table of contents. I wrote a little introdution which describes each story, so that later if I or others want to read them, it’s easy to find one that will appeal in the moment. For the cover of my book, I ripped off Penguin’s classic book cover. I created a file in Photoshop with my book design.

Memorabilia-1

I used the same templates for inside and book cover to create books with different coloured covers and titles, to print other items, such as my old digital journals, and a book I’d written about building my house. After I’d printed them all on Lulu and arranged them on my shelves, I was thrilled with how they looked. A key thing in creating these books was to keep it simple. I just used default templates and didn’t add fancy designs or fonts. All the books I printed have the same cover format. This saved me time and stress.

Memorabilia-5

Memorabilia-6

FOLIO

Over the years I’ve collected many press clippings from newspaper and magazine articles about me and my work. I arranged the best of these into plastic pocked folders, again in roughly chronological order, and included folded versions of my favourite posters and flyers from shows I made. I also kept a handful of posters which I rolled into a tube, which I might use later.

I ended up with three plastic pocket folders of clippings, which I’ve arranged on my shelf, along with a fourth one ready for future clippings, should there be more!

Digitally, I also organised my press clippings and work related memorabilia. For example, I had video clips of showreels for each of my circus acts, and I had videos and photos from various shows that I did. Since I do a lot of public speaking and am often asked to talk about my experiences, I find it’s helpful to have photos that reflect my history, but when the time comes, I can never find what I’m looking for. I’ve now made a single folder called Folio, in which I keep a record of publicity photos for my shows, key newspaper articles, and other achievements that reflect things I often speak about, such as building my house. I included a few photos of me as a child making dolls, and as a goth during my teenage years, to illustrate the way these fed into my creative life later. Again, every file has the year first, followed by a description of what it is. If I sort by title, they are in chronological order. Now if I give a talk about, say building my house, or obstacles I faced becoming a Deaf circus performer, I can grab the relevant images from my folio folder to illustrate my talk.

This digital folio also forms a wonderful record of my achievements to date and gives me much joy. Once I’d compiled everything and sorted by year, it was easy to include key files with my photobooks, so that my new albums also contain images of the shows I was working on at that time and articles in the press that made a difference.

I made a separate photo of Work Videos, again, each one titled with the year first, to put them in chronological order.

WRAPPING UP

The final step was to create a folder called Memorabilia May 2016, and store all my sub folders in it. Once a year or so, I plan to add in new photos, videos, writing and folio items, and then I’ll update the date on the folder name. I’ve backed that up by storing it on Dropbox, an external hard drive, and a pair of USB sticks, each stored in a different physical location. Having put so much work into organising my memorabilia, I’d don’t want to risk losing it!

All my physical items I arranged at the back of my wardrobe shelves. They take up about 1.5 metres of shelf space, and consist of my journals (that’s most of it), my photo books, a copy of each book I’ve had published, the Lulu books I made of my writing, and a few miscellaneous items such as some scrapbooks, a folder of drawings from when I was a child and a book my mum made about our ancestors. Also filed as if it was a book is a small book-sized box, in which I keep a few physical treasures.

Memorabilia-3

Since my wardrobe is deep, I also store other items in shoe boxes in front of my memorabilia. I don’t need to access my memorabilia every day, but now when I want to find something, it’s right there, not buried in a box in my shed, and it’s easy to move the shoe boxes out of the way to find what I’m looking for.

Memorabilia-2

There you have it. Pardon the somewhat tedious descriptions. I wanted to show you HOW it was done. I would have found a guide like this really helpful, back when I was looking at boxes and boxes of stuff which didn’t, as a whole, bring me joy, even though the individual pieces did. Like I said, it took me about 2 months to do this, spending around 20-30 hours a week on the project. I wish I’d done it sooner. But now it’s done, I doubt I will ever let my memorabilia spiral out of control again. My systems should make it easy to maintain and catch up, with a bit of attention once a year or so.

All my creative things are stored and arranged neatly at my studio at the Abbotsford Convent.

 

My studio-4

My studio-3

My studio-2

My studio-1

All this organisation makes for much less clutter in my brain It’s easy to find things, and I feel lighter and clearer.

When I threw out most of my clothes, I was a little worried that I hadn’t kept enough. I could later see that I had plenty, and could easily pare down further. Here they are, arranged in shoe boxes so they all stand on end. I took these photos when some items were in the wash so you could see the box system.

Memorabilia-8

Memorabilia-9

 

We really don’t need much stuff to live well. It was amazing to have put my life in order, completely, and caught up all the un-done tasks that have been at the bottom of my to do list for years. I felt I learnt skills that I will apply for the rest of my life, for managing and storing my stuff. It was worth the huge life focus it took. I highly recommend it!