April and May Accounting

I do not know what I was thinking, embarking on year-long project that has reporting requirements. Who did I think was going to do the reporting? I clearly do not know myself at all. BUT, better late than never (I really hope there is some truth to this adage because it is the one constant in my life).

Here is my account of what I have bought and acquired in the months of April and May (then I will be caught up until July, right?). If you are new here you may be wondering what I am up to - here is a recap:

Why not buy new? In a word, externalities. All of us, my darlings, who can access the intenet on an electronic device, are more or less the 1% of the world's population who benefit unfairly from the sweat, habitat destruction, pollution, ill health, exploitation and death of the 99% whose lives are degraded in some way so that we can have machines to wash our clothes and make our toast, and have access to cheap t-shirts and chocolate.

One day I woke up and the invisible wake of destruction that trails behind my trips to Target suddenly became unbearable, so I have started on a different path to providing for my needs and wants, and those of my lovely children, dog, two cats and two budgies.

Here are my guidelines:

1 Make do with what I have.
2 Try to find what I need second hand - there is a world of stuff out there that needs to be rescued and used again.
3 Buy from a local craftsperson.
4 As a last resort, buy from a local, independent store, so that at least my money stays in my community.. 

How I fared in April and May:

Bought new: Three hot water bottles. Here is an example of impulse buying. I was in the hardware store looking for preserving jar lids because I had run out. They didn't have any in the size I wanted, but right next to them were a stack of adorable Easter-egg pastel coloured hot water bottles (why next to the preserving gear? I can only imagine I was in the designated nana aisle). It was nearly Easter. I wanted to Easter gifts for the girls that were not all about chocolate. So I succumbed, and yes, the hot water bottles are being well-used, but afterwards I realised that home made wheat bags heated in the microwave would have been a much more sustainable choice than rubber, which relies heavily on slave labour in developing countries, replacing food plants as a cash crop. Plus, I boil the kettle for hot water bottles, more electricity. Anyways, in five years' time when these wear out, wheat bags it is.

Various kitchen goodies from the kitchen shop in town, and gifts from the Oxfam shop. Two family members had birthdays, and you know, even though they have birthdays on the same day every year, it was still a surprise. What I bought was sturdy and practical and gorgeous, and mostly not even made in China, but it brought home to me that important thing about how to avoid buying new stuff. Forward planning. Yes, not my forte. 

A hockey skirt for Rosy. One of those unavoidable child-related purchases. Well, avoidable if your child doesn't happen to play hockey, I suppose. 

Tights and socks - after my Ethical Underwear post I ordered the world's most expensive sport socks from my local outdoor goods shop. They were Australian-made cotton and wool Humphrey Laws socks - the most wonderfully comfortable socks in the world. I bought one pair for each of us, and have to pry them off Posy to wash them, she loves them so much. But $17.95 each. Yikes. Still, my hope is they will last a long, long time, as wool socks tend to. Will do a product review in two years' time:) Rosy also needed more grey tights for school. It is very difficult to find a pair of ethically produced grey tights.. eventually I gave up on-line and went to the independent school uniform shop in town, where I was able to buy.. New Zealand-made grey school tights. Happy days:)

Now that Rosy's feet have finally stopped growing (I hope) I bought her a pair of Aussie ugg boots from a shop in town for her birthday. I also bought Rosy two pairs of jeans and a pair of boots from a well-known franchised high street shop in town. What can I say. While she is on board with the whole second-hand thing and has gamely accompanied me to op-shops and second-hand clothes markets this year, sometimes a teenager really just wants some new jeans and boots. This is perfectly ok of course, and I have no wish to impose my project on the children beyond the line at which they want to participate.

Wool - after much deliberation, my friend Jane and I chose the perfect skein of natural New Zealand sheep's wool to crochet all the squares together for my afghan rug project. Yes, it is done, all 160 squares of it, and now my next task is to crochet around each square in the perfect shade of brown, then sew it all together. The only problem was, it wasn't the perfect shade of brown, so we had to go back the next week and swap it. So now it is the perfect shade of brown, and I have crocheted around 26 squares already, many to go. But, the really great news is I visited the little wool shop in town for the first time ever. Usually I go to Spotlight, which is an abomination of a store. Why did I ever go there? Our local yarn shop is adorable, run by a knitting expert, with yarns to die for, and now I'm really inspired to knit socks with merino and possum wool. You can even buy locally knitted socks there - apparently the shop owner has a team of knitters ("mainly stressed executives") who whip up hand-knitted garments to sell. Now there is a truly local sock.

Bought second-hand: um, nothing? I haven't been inside a second hand shop for two months. This is good, because otherwise no doubt I would have bought several more darling jugs, because you can never have too many jugs, right? BUT, I could have done some second-hand birthday shopping if I had been more organised. I will definitely schedule some op-shop visits this month, as I need to organise, well, Christmas..

Gifts from the Universe: After reading my Ethical Undies post in which I mentioned that I don't buy second hand tights and socks, but do give and receive them among friends, my friend Katherine brought me a bag of black tights! She is such a sweetie. Her daughter's school uniform has changed this year, so the black tights are now redundant for her, but perfect for me. I wear black tights to work every day under dresses and skirts with my lovely warm long boots. Winter footwear - thick hiking socks over tights inside long boots = toasty warm feet even in a frosty school playground. This is excellent as my old tights were starting to fall down due to overuse. I was hunting for new ones on-line when Katherine brought me a bag full:)

Returned to the Universe With Thanks: A pile of Rosy's redundant ballet uniform to a friend. Sundry kitchen gear to The Man who is setting up an apartment in a new city. I also asked The Man to take the big flat screen TV away with him, as no-one here except Posy really watches TV much, and I had a hunch she would watch less if the TV experience wasn't quite so exciting. So The Man moved the small TV out of the bedroom into the living room for me, because you know, technology and unplugging things and plugging them back in again etc. I am particularly pleased about this, because I never watched the TV in the bedroom anyway, and it is tiny, and must surely be using less than half the electricity of the big one. Posy does indeed watch very much less telly, but that is possibly because The Man also gave her his old phone, minus the phone function, and she has discovered You Tube. Oh, the funny cats.

Reflections: Most of the real positives of these past two months have been the ways in which I am becoming more comfortable thinking outside the big-box store. One day I invited my friend Jane to come into town with me on errand day, because we both hate doing errands, and if we chat constantly we forget how tedious it is to stand in line at the bank. Anyway, we have been exploring little independent shops, such as the wool shop, and it is so much fun exploring town together instead of rushing straight to Target, which is surely the world's most boring shopping experience.

Plus, buying my way out of a problem has become less of an impulse. I had a day's notice to provide a white shirt for Posy for her flute ensemble performance (you know, as happens with children's announcements). Posy's suggestion was, "We could just go and buy a cheap shirt at Kmart." My response was to phone a friend, then another one until I found a shirt to borrow for the day. I am very proud of myself:)


narf7 said…
We have a local yarn shop?!
narf7 said…
Just found this and had to share it with you. Sorry if you have already read this.

Jo said…
Fran, I LOVE that article, thanks! What a hilariously over-reached project. I am merely trying to make a blanket, and maybe some socks. Clearly I am not trying hard enough!!

Knits and Needles - 9 Tatler Parade, a little quirk of a street about three shops long off St Johns St.
Tanya Murray said…
I'm so proud of you and you inspire me to more every time. AND you are a super mummy x
Jo said…
Aw, thanks, Tanya:) Hilarious sequel to the borrowed shirt triumph - Posy is refusing to wear it, and has decided to wear a dress instead, and there is no budging her from this stance, so she will be the lonely little petunia in the onion patch in her flute ensemble performance today.. gah, parenting!
Bek said…
Well done on your changing shopping habits. While the accounting is a pain, I think it's a great way to be forced to reflect on what you have done well or could be improved when it comes to these sorts of challenges. I totally agree, better late then never.
Jo said…
Yes, Bek, accounting is like flossing - so many positive benefits, so annoying..
Why now? Right after two pairs of work out shorts for the bf from Kmart, $10 each. And I so seldom see that second hand... if he'd even wear it... sigh. You're good for my conscience!
Jo said…
Hi Sarah, you know it's not my intention to make you feel guilty, don't you:) We live in a society that is absolutely geared to make us act in one certain way, and it takes real thought and perseverance to do something different. And the truth is, working on one little area at a time is so much more likely to effect permanent change than jumping in and changing everything at once. I know you work really hard in other areas, like reducing waste where you are way ahead.. we'll all get there in the end, just by different routes..

Can't help you with work out shorts (yet) but if you want to buy him an Aussie made t-shirt to go with:


They are even on sale xx
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

The old timers used to actually use hot water in actual bottles. How they ever sealed them from leaks was beyond me. They also used to use a sort of metal pan with a metal lid and a very long handle and they put hot coals into the pan and then shoved that arrangement under the blankets. Of course it would have to be removed before occupation.

Incidentally, the microwave oven uses more power here than even my arc welder or any other appliance at all. Some food for thought. Not being connected to the electricity grid provides a super nifty meter that tells exactly how much energy is being pulled out of the batteries and microwave ovens are a shocker for some strange reason.

A very wise person once told me that it is the small things in life that create the biggest resonance, so the gifts are an excellent surprise.

Hehe! Too many days on one pair of socks is bad karma! Just sayin. hehe!

Ah. "The Man" has a different meaning for you. I see. Apologies, I didn't understand that. The definition of "The Man" to me is the system itself. Never come across your interpretation before, but I get that, it makes sense.

Well done with the community building. Very good stuff and you are miles ahead on that front than here. They’re not quite hungry enough yet…


Jo said…
Chris, oh yes, the brass warming pans - nowadays they are in demand to hang on walls! Another old-fashioned heating device is the hot brick - heated in? next to? the fire, wrapped up then popped in to bed to keep your feet warm, or into the carriage to keep the feet warm on a long winter's drive..

Really? Microwaves? Then why are considered such efficient cookers? Is it because they don't take very long, maybe? I will have to look at the specs of mine. Honestly I am so bad at deciphering electricity. To me electricity = magic..
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Of course the heated bricks - I wouldn't have thought of that one, very clever. Toasty too!

Yes microwave ovens are a nightmare. Mine is rated at 700W on the front, but it uses a whole lot more electricity than that when it operates.

Well it is magic isn't it? On a serious note, I know how to wire all the various pieces up and connect them altogether but it would probably take me a 1,000 years to even try and work out how all this stuff actually works in detail! Not even worth thinking about.

Just to give you an idea of how much electricity can be used. My little electric oven will cook a loaf of bread at 150 degrees for 60 minutes and use 0.8kWh. The secret here is that it doesn't run the heating element constantly as it switches on and off as it needs to (that is what the thermostat does), plus it doesn't lose its heat when that happens. The microwave oven can't perform that neat trick and over an equivalent period of time would use well over 2kWh and it just keeps running and running. Even a refrigerator switches the cooling cycle off and on. But not the microwave oven. On a serious note, modern refrigerators are actually pretty efficient.


Hobart Chic said…
My grandma told me that the brick would be heated in the wood stove, carefully taken out, wrapped and placed in the bed, and then usually taken out of the bed once a person dared to mess with the housewife's order by going to bed.

I am enjoying your blog and shopping "confessions". A tea strainer is designed for placing over a cup to keep tea leaves out, when you make a pot, which should solve your rooibos issues.

My mum never believed in black tea in tea bags, so she owns a few. Should be able to source from a speciality kitchen-ware place/ tea shop. I'd love to know where you buy yours from, because I find the prices for loose leaf and bags are similar in my corner of Hobart most of the time.

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