I’ve been quiet on here for a while. But not because I’ve been, well, quiet. I’ve been on a road trip. And I’ve got news – I’m launching my own podcast soon.
A week ago, on a Friday, we drove down to Melbourne. Yep, drove. A seven-hour trip each way – longer when we added in a few stops.
So why drive down, you might ask? Well, we decided to come down for a friend’s 40th birthday party. When we looked at the flights, it would have cost us over $1,000 – and the flights were not at our preferred times, either. Instead, we spent $200 on petrol and that meant we had a car in Melbourne that made it easy to drive down to visit my 98-year-old Nana, who lives in Sorrento. “I’m going to be 99 on 27 June,” she told me. She’s still as bright as a tack.
My Nana, aka the Skipping Vinegar Girl, was someone I was close to when I was growing up. There are several references about her in my book, The Joyful Frugalista. She grew up during the Great Depression, and like many people of that era, she is inherently frugal. More frugal than this frugalista!
Now you would think that visiting my Nana I would take things to give her. In the past, I’ve given her clothing, perfume and jewellery in her favourite colour – a lilac shade of purple. But I didn’t bring her anything – not even flowers! There is a reason. Not only does she have everything she needs, but she is particular about anything new. Many clothes are hard for her, at her age, to put on. And she needs super soft textures. She can no longer lift up a bottle of perfume by herself, and she can’t do up the clasps on many pieces of jewellery. She loves jewellery but is happy with her favourite pieces.
I didn’t really bring much, either, when I visited my aunt (Julie). Julie is now the person who looks after Nana the most; she moved Nana to a nearby nursing home and goes often to check on her. She reiterated to me that it was best not to bring anything for Nana. And over a lovely, home-cooked Macedonian style lunch, Julie explained a bit about her philosophy on stuff and why she doesn’t want much more.
Julie and her husband moved to their beautiful new home a few years ago. They decluttered and downsized quite a bit to move there. They know all about the dangers of having stuff just for the sake of having stuff. When Nana moved into a luxury retirement village, they helped her get rid of her excess things (many of which were in dodgy, non-saleable condition). Nana was super attached to her stuff: she kept going out to the skip bin and bringing her old and broken things back! That depression-era hoarding instinct is hard to shake and they really had to convince her that she couldn’t take it all with her.
But in part jest, we spoke about Swedish death cleaning. Julie totally gets it – as does her son (my cousin, Melbourne DJ Paz), who also came to lunch and most certainly did not want to be stuck having to sort through ‘stuff’ while still in trauma. It’s hard enough to lose a close relative, but it’s even harder to sort through their belongings after they have gone.
On the last day of our trip, we caught up with my Dad who took us for lunch near the iconic Polly Woodside ship.
Dad had just returned the day before from a skiing trip to Japan and was full of skiing in -17C tales. After lunch, we came back to our Airbnb where I gave him a big and important present – an empty box.
What an awesome daughter I am! But quite seriously, I gave him my old mobile phone last year when I upgraded to a new Huawei P30. He is enjoying using my old phone, which is surviving well even after he spilt red wine on it. I gave him the (empty) box as it had manufacturing details in it that he might need one day if the phone has a problem.
Oh, and Dad continues to act as ‘sherpa’ for clothing to and from my sister. I gave him this amazing City Chic ballgown for my sister (who is a similar height and shape to me).
The other way this frugalista made the trip enjoyable was by booking an AirBnB in a fabulous location.
This looks like penthouse luxury – isn’t the view amazing? But not with the same prices. Further, I had a voucher that I needed to use, which helped me save $150.
I know I don’t need to justify my expenses or my travel budget. Travelling is still more expensive than staying at home. But we made it more affordable by walking around the city where possible, and shopping at the Woolworths Express at the bottom of our building (with 5 per cent eWish card discount courtesy of the Entertainment Book). Our decision to go to Melbourne was driven by friends and family. It was also a good opportunity to meet some Melbournians and begin podcasting.
I’m about to launch a new podcast
While in Melbourne I recorded not one but FOUR podcasts. I’m launching a solo podcast, The Joyful Frugalista, next month. The focus of this one, is, well the sorts of themes that I explore in my book – and on this blog. But it will be much more intimate and chatting. I’m talking with good friends – even family members – it sounds like a good yarn with friends.
I’m incredibly blessed to have my husband, Neil’s support with this (he’s basically helping with the recording and editing, which he is amazing at). It’s lovely to have a project that we can do together as a couple and a team.
I’m not going to spoil the line-up just yet, but let me just say that I finally got to meet @latesarterfire in person, and she gifted me an amazing fruit cake.
I did manage to give her something in return, being the generous person I am: a copy of the Australian Financial Review. Neil and I had both read it and, as I was quoting one of the articles to @latestarterfire, decided to give her the newspaper to take home.
I’m laughing about my faux generosity here, but the environmental impact of paper waste is real. I don’t have precise statistics on the impact of newspaper waste (if you know, let me know), but I do know that each year hundreds of thousands of trees are cut down and that often we read a newspaper once and that’s it.
Obviously we can ameliorate paper waste by reading online. The hard thing is that, with the publications I want, I often find I get locked into expensive ongoing contracts. I just want to read a paper on weekends occasionally – not all the time, and not every day.
One way to get around this is to share with friends. Years ago I used to have the AFR delivered each weekend. I’d read it on Saturday morning, and then I’d drop it off to my neighbour for him to read it as well. Oh, and newspapers make the BEST cleaner for windows and mirrors – no chemicals required.
I caught up with my good friend Ruth in Melbourne, who was working for a few months down there. She is loving being in a new environment and the excitement of a different and exciting job.
As she’s recently been through a relationship breakdown, I gave her a copy of Love Worthy – a new book on relationships launched this week by author Jo Worthy.
#Joyfulgiving still a challenge
I’m still slowly giving things away. I’m persistent. I’m finding it is taking more and more time now to give things away. I have to keep at it.
As I‘ve previously shared, one of the issues is that so many of my friends and family members are now themselves on the decluttering/minimalism/buy nothing bandwagon (for which many thank me!) that they don’t want ‘stuff’.
For instance, the lovely Evangeline Lam of @nilbarcodefood sent me a message as I was typing this to say that I’ve inspired her to declutter. I found that kind of funny as she’s a minimalist and I’m not even close to her level of non-attachment. Nevertheless, she wrote:
“So far I’ve gifted – a set of armchairs, a floor lamp, cloth nappies, wooden train tracks, nappy change mat, disposable nappies. Also bread maker, easiyo and ice cream maker.
I’m not nearly at that speed! However, on Day 47 I shared my #joyfulgiving challenge with a regular AirBnB guest. “I don’t really need anything,” she said. “I am, however, looking at house plants.” Lo and behold I found for her a Mason jar filled with glass beads and a bulb. It was a Christmas craft thing my kids didn’t quite get into that they got from our church. Well, one tried and it failed and the other didn’t even try.
I also gifted her the book No Country Woman by local Canberra author, Zoya Patel.
When you ask the question about what people need and listen to their interests and their lifestyle, then you begin to understand what people want and need.
Sales and marketing
Also on Day 47, before we headed to Melbourne, I met Misty Henkel to talk, among other things, sales and marketing.
Misty is a sales and marketing coach. She gave me some invaluable advice about how to connect with people and sell my services. Oddly, even though I’ve started going to networking events, I’m reluctant to really sell my book. I talk about being a blogger, writer and podcaster, but I don’t really hold up my pink book and say “I wrote this book, you should buy it”.
“That’s your product,” said Misty. “People need to know that and you need to focus on it in your pitch.”
Misty also had a strong message about the power of positive relationship building. “People will generally spend money to buy things from people they like,” she said. “Even if they don’t want it. The competition is therefore not people who sell the same product as you, but who is the nicest person.” And if you think that sales don’t matter, she has a message for that too. She believes that if you have the ability to sell, then you have the ability to be able to do whatever you want to in life. I love that!
Given Misty’s interest in sales, of course, I had to give her a sales book!
Minimalism, happiness, creativity and OCD
One issue that I have been pondering is how to find balance in a quest towards minimalism, especially as a parent.
I’m going to overshare a bit here. My ex-husband has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). At first, I thought it was cultural, but it was more than that. It’s not appropriate for me to go into details, but it’s something my kids struggle with and features as a point of difference in our co-parenting. We try to compensate for this by exposing my kids to things involving healthy mess, such as camping, time with my inlaws on their property (where they have animals), and cooking.
I have several close friends who have been diagnosed with OCD and who have shared what it is like for them. They are self-aware and they understand what OCD means to them and people in their lives. They know that full-blown OCD can be debilitating for them.
Clearly, we need people in our society who are good with details. Certain professions, e.g. military, accounting or engineering, need people who are finicky, neat and orderly. And being neat and clean has its benefits, e.g. who wants to live in a house that is so filthy that it is unsanitary. A big problem is when things are too neat and orderly, and when people (especially young children) feel that they are so constrained that they can’t express themselves for fear of making a mess or doing something wrong.
One of my OCD friends shared what it was like for her as a parent. “I’d make sure we did things that involved mess such as play dough and painting,” she said. “Usually I’d set up the painting outside. I knew it was important for my kids to have these experiences. She then went on to admit that both her children experience aspects of OCD. “We caught it early though,” she said. “Especially for my daughter.”
On the opposite side is my Dad, who we often joke about as being a bit rough. As he sat down on the sofa in our neat AirBnB, he said, “this is all too neat – what you need is to buy a few newspapers around so that the place can feel a bit more lived in.” He does have a point in that a home is meant to be lived in, to feel warm and inviting. If you like the stuff that is around you, and if you’re happy in your space, what’s the problem?
While I didn’t manage to give away nearly as much as I wanted to, I still managed to declutter the following:
- Mason jar filled with glass beads and a bulb;
- Book: No Country Woman by Zoyta Patel;
- Book: The Great Sales Book by Jack Collis;
- Book: Love Worthy by Jo Worthy;
- AFR newspaper for @latestarterFIRE;
- City Chick ballgown dress for my sister; and
- Empty Huawei mobile phone box for my dad.