Mindfully moving

After a 15 month break, I remembered that this blog exists. Whoops!

Andrew and I have packed so many adventures and experiences into the last 15 months that I couldn’t even begin to describe them here. We have met some wonderful people, bought a house, joined the tramping club and started new hobbies.

We shifted from Auckland to Christchurch 13 months ago. From a large, vibrant, multicultural city to a smaller, more conservative city that was shattered by two devastating earthquakes.

Moving 1000km down the road was not a decision to be made lightly, and it took months of planning and organising. I had a few ideas about what it would be like to live in Christchurch, and I can honestly say that most of them were right!

Things I have learned in the last 13 months:

– Christchurch is the biggest small town in NZ. There is no getting around this. Many people here are very concerned with suburbs, and schools, and associating with the ‘right people’. I am happy to say that I have not yet met a violent death, even though I live only minutes from Aranui, one of the lower socio-economic areas of Christchurch. Besides, Aranui has nothing on Clendon, where we used to live, and we survived quite well there as well.

– The outdoor opportunities are endless. When I gave up rockclimbing after a serious injury seven years ago, I never really saw myself getting back into it. But in Christchurch, I have two outdoor crags only minutes from home, and two climbing gyms that challenge me when the weather’s cruddy. I’ve gone from falling off 14s to nailing 19s and it’s awesome. Likewise since we arrived in Christchurch we have been tramping, mountaineering, rafting, drifting on rivers on airbeds, kayaking, climbing, gotten lost in the hills…

– Friends are priceless. I turned 25 a couple of weeks after we moved to Christchurch. At the time we were living with an acquaintance and her two children. Andrew was away working and my mum was visiting. I opened my birthday presents with mum in a dingy motel room, and I was miserable.

I turned 26 about a month ago and I had 25 friends over for dessert. The lounge was full to bursting, there was nowhere left to sit down and the last person went home at nearly midnight. There was a mound of presents (mainly chocolate and climbing gear) and I ran out of room on the shelf for the birthday cards.

Such a difference a year makes. My friends (especially those from the tramping club) mean the world to me and I’m very blessed to have them in my life.

That’s not to say that I’ve forgotten my Auckland friends. Facebook is a wonderful thing and I’ve been back to Auckland three times in 13 months, and I’m heading up again in a few weeks for my Dad’s birthday. My best friend and I still email each other constantly while at work and she’s come down to visit a few times as well.

– Rebuilding a city is a beautiful thing to watch. I don’t remember the last time I took a car journey and didn’t see any road cones. Detours are second nature and there is a constant hum of construction noise in the background. Slowly but surely this city is being rebuilt – and watching it happen makes me very happy, and stupidly emotional.

Moving cities isn’t quite the same as moving countries, but this quote sums it up pretty well anyway:

“Settling into a new country is like getting used to a new pair of shoes. At first they pinch a little, but you like the way they look, so you carry on. The longer you have them, the more comfortable they become. Until one day without realizing it you reach a glorious plateau. Wearing those shoes is like wearing no shoes at all. The more scuffed they get, the more you love them and the more you can’t imagine life without them.”
Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

I can’t imagine not living here… 🙂

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Next exit… Christchurch!

Yes, it’s been a while since I updated this blog… almost two months, in fact.

But, there is a good reason for the silence!

When Andrew and I started this blog, our dream was to inspire ourselves and others to live a better life, a more fulfilling life, with less stuff.

Next month, we are taking a big step in that journey – by moving from Auckland (a big city) to Christchurch (a smaller city).

Christchurch was devastated by two major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. 185 people lost their lives, 1000 commercial buildings have been condemned and 10,000 houses will need to be demolished. The city is still in a massive state of flux 2 years after the event.

So why are we leaving the safety of Auckland and moving down to Christchurch, where rents are through the roof and jobs are hard to find?

– Andrew has always yearned to live outside of Auckland. I wasn’t ready before, but now I am.

– I have reached the proverbial ‘glass ceiling’ with my job – I have thoroughly enjoyed what I do, but my desire is to manage people, and that’s not going to happen in my current job.

– I am passionate about being part of the biggest economic recovery that New Zealand has ever seen. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it.

– Christchurch is an incredible outdoor playground. Rafting, tramping (hiking), mountain biking, skiing… you name it, it’s within two hours of Christchurch!

Obviously there is a huge amount that we need to organise – temporary accommodation, a new job for me, moving our houseload and our cat 1000 kilometres (600 miles) to the other end of the country… but, it is an adventure.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt


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Shopping at home

Every Friday, our wonderful cleaner Michelle comes to give our place a quick whip-around with the vacuum and the mop.

Every Thursday night, I race around the house doing a last-minute tidy up. Since I started making a concentrated effort to declutter, it takes a lot less time, but it still needs to happen.

Every Thursday night, I get to the bathroom, look at the crowded pile of ‘stuff’ on the vanity, and think that I really should start sorting that out.

This morning, the sorting out started to happen, although not in the way I had imagined!

I washed my face with the cleansing solution I use once in a blue moon. As my face started to tingle, I realised that it had been a few years since I bought that facial cleanser. Into the bin it went – I know that cosmetics have an expiry date, and it makes sense to me that cleansers would too. I also couldn’t decipher half the ingredients, and that’s something that I’m gradually thinking about.

I went hunting through the vanity cupboard for the toner I knew was in there somewhere. Then I realised – I bought that toner with my sister-in-law on a shopping trip in 2008 sometime. I undid the lid of the toner, and as I did, I managed to knock the whole thing over. The end result – I have a shiny clean bathroom sink, and I need to buy some more toner that’s not 5 years old and smelling like acid!

Lastly, I went looking for moisturiser. I couldn’t find any, and my first thought was ‘oh well, I’ll need to go buy some more’. Then I remembered that I had bought Andrew a few different types over the years, and he often didn’t use them. So, I went ‘shopping at home’.

Shopping at home – it’s where instead of rushing out to buy the thing you desperately need, you have a look around your own home and see what might work instead.

I went hunting through Andrew’s bedside cabinet, and sure enough, there was an unopened bottle of sorbelene moisturiser that I had bought him fairly recently. I quickly appropriated that for my use, and no longer need to go spend $5-10 on new moisturiser for me. [Disclaimer: Andrew has another one that he prefers to use, so I’m not stealing his stuff.]

Stop — think — save: and shop at home 🙂

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Decluttering my fantasy self

Yesterday and today I stumbled across two great blog posts that have resulted in a manic decluttering mission in our house.

The first one was called “How to declutter when you are a hoarder”, and it can be found in the member’s forum on simplesavings.co.nz.

Lorax had written a post that I resonated with only too well. She writes about how she owns a picnic mat big enough for 15 people and a wicker picnic basket. These things would be perfect if Lorax spent her weekends picnicking in the English countryside. The reality is that Lorax lives in Australia and actually hikes to picnic spots off the beaten track, where a backpack is more useful than a fancy basket. Lorax challenged all of us to think about what we own – do we have it because it serves a purpose for our actual lives, or do we have it because we like the idea of being someone who owns such a thing?

Miss Minimalist, who I’ve mentioned before, wrote an equally thought-provoking post about decluttering the fantasy self. (http://www.missminimalist.com/2011/08/declutter-your-fantasy-self/). Francine puts out the idea that not only does ‘fantasy self” clutter sap our energy, it also stops us from being the person we actually are.

As I wandered around our house last night, I saw lots of things that represented my fantasy self.

My fantasy self is into craft projects and has a stash of fabric and craft supplies for finishing said projects
My actual self can’t finish any craft project

My fantasy self is a connoisseur of New Zealand-themed art prints
My actual self has a random collection of prints stashed around the house. Some of them I like. A lot of them I don’t.

My fantasy self reads many classics
My actual self has a Kindle and likes reading historical romance!

The fabric stash is being given to a good friend who will use it. The art prints are sitting in a pile, to be sorted through with Andrew when he is back from his current trip, and the books have been sent to the op-shop for someone else to enjoy.

As a result, my house and my head are a little bit clearer, so that the real me can start making some real dreams come true.

What are you holding on to that your fantasy self loves, but makes your actual self feel mentally drained when you think about it?

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Keeping clutter at the door

Our week’s holiday – out of the house, the street and the city I live in – was great. Spending that holiday living out of a backpack was even better.

The only problem is, I came home to a house filled with STUFF. Oh, how I hate coming home to a house filled with STUFF.

Because I had a day off work today, I took the opportunity to get rid of some STUFF that had accumulated. Out went a dress and a top that I was given and didn’t like. Out went some old teaching resources I had been hoarding ‘just because’.

I also took the time to organise the STUFF that came into our house after our holiday. Namely, the five Christmas presents we bought for this coming Christmas went into the gift box, and those names were crossed off the ‘to buy for’ list. The Christmas decoration we bought went into the Christmas box, and the shoes, bracelet and necklace I bought were put away in the closet.

I was pleased to realise, while putting things away today, that I didn’t bring home anywhere near as much STUFF as I would have one, two or ten years ago. I don’t need brochures and receipts and lots of souvenirs to remind me of where I’ve been. Instead, I have lots of great memories, a good suntan and 400 digital photos that I’ve already copied off the memory card and into my digital library.

I realised today that half the battle of decluttering is over when we don’t allow the STUFF to cross over the threshold in the first place. How much happier would we be, and how much better would our society be, if we didn’t accept freebies at conferences and seminars and at the local mall?

Case in point: before Christmas I was invited to a party run by a friend. She had organised enough free gifts (through her business) so that almost every person at the party would get one. After being there for a couple of hours, I had run out of people to talk to, and had another party that was starting shortly, so contemplated leaving. Immediately, my brain said “if you leave now, you won’t get your free gift!” I stopped, and thought, and then immediately realised: as much as a free gift would be nice, chances are it probably won’t make me happier if I get it. And then, I have to store it, and look after it, and find an occasion to use it.

So, I left without my free gift. I don’t feel any worse off for not having one, and I’ve stopped something coming in my front door that I would have to deal with later on.

Challenge: next time you’re offered a free gift, think: do I really need this item?

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China Cabinet Restoration

When I was little I used to look at this cabinet sitting next to the front door in the living room of my grandparents place and think how good it could look if only it wasn’t for all the junk inside. And the years of grime covering it. And the badly done white paint. And the broken glass in the door… and the fact it was missing all the leadlight panels except one which did not even fit properly.


When they died all their stuff was moved out and the cabinet spent years in my uncles garage until one day we decided to pick it up. I then it spent more years in my parents garage where the top of the right cupboard slowly unwarped. Not sure how or why but I’m glad it went back where it is supposed to be.

A couple of months back I found a night class in leadlighting, signed up and then hurriedly took measurements of the cabinet. While doing so I discovered the ill fitting leadlight had been moved from the front to the side at some point presumably to protect it. A least I now had a starting point for the restoration, however I didn’t know if should face toward the outside.


After a making a model in Sketchup, playing with some ideas on paper and a few emails to the helpful people at the Art Deco Society I decided to go with the simple idea of copying the existing design as it looked better than all the other ideas.


Photoshop of how it will look when finished.

This weekend I bought the glass, cut it to shape, straightened the lead, cut and bent it into place, assembled, soldered and puttied all four panels. All in the space of 26 hours.

It takes 3 days for the putty to dry, then patina on the solder and a final black and polish. Then onto the mission of stripping back the cabinet and revarnishing it. I’m not sure if I should take the white interior back to the original oak or leave it as is.

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A [minimalist] black dress

Last week I popped into Jacqui E (a local fashion store) to pass some time while I was waiting for Andrew’s shirt to be altered just up the road.

I wasn’t really looking for anything specific – but as often happens in Jacqui E, I saw Something I Liked.

This Something I Liked happened to be a little black dress.

I should point out here that I already have a little black dress. I bought it years ago for a friend’s 21st birthday and it has done me pretty well for $39.95. Lately though, my love affair with my little black dress has waned a little. The fabric is a bit too shiny and the length a little long, and it hugs my shape in all the wrong places.

I thought there wouldn’t be any harm in just trying on the little black dress I found in Jacqui E. After all, I could always put it back, and no-one would be any the wiser.

I should have known better, trying on a dress that looks like this…

The Bengaline dress from Jacqui E

I fell in love with this dress the second I tried it on. I didn’t love the price tag so much ($160!) but I loved the way it made me feel, and the way that every person in the shop told me how good it looked.

So, I rationalised. I could leave the dress on the hanger, go home, and try and remind myself of how good I once looked in my existing black dress. Or, I could buy the new black dress, slap the $160 on the Visa card to be paid in January, and then clear out my wardrobe of all the dresses that don’t fit me quite so well.

It was no contest. My wallet is now $160 lighter and my wardrobe has a few less ill-suited dresses lurking in it. I’ve also got the $160 saved from my weekly allowance so I’m earning interest on it before I need to pay it.

I think the little black dress is an example of the essence of minimalism – choosing to own fewer, better quality things that make you happy, rather than owning a mass of average stuff that makes you feel average.

What item do you have that’s like my little black dress?

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