What is stuff

On a recent post I was asked if not buying stuff had saved me money, one of my friends suggested that any money I may have saved has gone on gin and chocolate.  So on a recent trip to Antwerp guess what filled my bags on the trip home? I do seem to have become a bit of a gin collector- my only excuse is that it does get drunk.

Antwerp turned out to be especially good on the gin front, turns out they have their very own gin called Genever, who knew? (probably everyone but me). We even went to a Genever bar and were initiated into the art of Genever drinking (shot glass and don’t skull it). So while I did come away with a few bottles I feel confident that these can be put in the experiential and consumable category (acceptable) rather than the collecting category (unacceptable).


Frugal Fun

I have just spent a week in West Wales. I didn’t buy any stuff (although I did buy som gin). I did lots on non stuff buying activities including doing a days volunteering at the Teifi Valley railway, we visited it and one of the volunteers was saying it was hard getting people to cut the grass. I have had a fair bit of grass cutting experience so I offered them a days labour. As a result I spent a day mowing grass and cleaning up and as a treat got to be a guard on the train. So much more fun than buying something.

What to do in Changi Airport without buying stuff

  1. Have a go in the free foot massage chair
  2. Catch the driverless skytrain, stand up the front and pretend to be the driver 
  3. Go to the cactus garden and check out the succulents, watch the lightning and feel the warm rain
  4. Visit the butterfly garden and watch the butterflies emerge
  5. Charge all your devices at the free charging stations 
  6. Catch a koi carp (perhaps better just to look, you can get fined for not flushing the dunny here)
  7. Use the free (if a little slow) wifi
  8. Have another go on the foot massager 

Times up best get back on the plane….


Well I have been super slack at posting but now I am stuck in an airport waiting for a plane (unsurprisingly) so I have lots of time and a little bit of temptation. After all what do you do when you are waiting for a plane? 

There are really limited options for entertainment at an airport especially when you would really rather be in bed.

  •  I have observed my fellow passengers, especially one who was walking around in circles, not in a lost way but in a bit of a mad way. 
  • I have purchased coconut water because it seemed like a good idea.
  • I have walked around checking out the airport- most of which seems to be boarded up but something exciting is coming soon!
  • I have sorted my bag into stuff I really might need on the plane as opposed to the stuff I don’t trust to the baggage handlers.
  • And I have checked out the shops selling that weird stuff you can only get in airports, mini toiletries, adapters, ear plugs, a variety of pillows, bold, puzzle books, magazines, sweets, mini phone chargers, the list goes.

Normally I would be tempted by at least one over priced piece of airport tat but not this year, this year I am above all that so the coconut water and a certain smugness will have to keep me entertained

Easy ways to reduce buying stuff

Les at 4 Pillars

This week I found an excellent way to reduce the temptation to buy stuff. I lost my wallet. Again. Anyone who knows me will understand that this is something I do reasonably regularly, but it always comes back, kind people find it and return it…….until this week. I know where I last had it – I know exactly where I last had it but somewhere between leaving that place and arriving home it went AWOL. I was so convinced it would come back to me I didn’t even bother cancelling the cards (admittedly this was, in part, due to the fact I was going gin tasting that evening, and after a couple of glasses stopped caring).

The next day I had to admit it was definitely lost and  cancelled all the bank cards.  I  thought once that was done the wallet may turn up just to annoy me, but it has now been five days now and no sign of the wallet.   So I guess I now have to work out what other little gems were in there and get them replaced, how tedious. Still on the bright side it has slowed down my spending a little bit – not too much though as it turns out you can still spend money without cards. All you need is a passport and a bank account and you can soon get cashed up again.

I did really want to buy something this week. My favourite headphones stopped working after a bit of a kerfuffle between two dogs, a dog lead and a headphone cord. One side of the headphones was not working so being the fixing person I am I decided I needed to take them to pieces and work out what was wrong. I did this and could not obviously see a problem but felt it was most likely at the jack end. It looked like they might need soldering up and I don’t have a soldering iron so I decided I should chop the jack end off and splice on a new one. How hard could that be? Actually it was not hard at all, however it totally didn’t work when I had finished ‘fixing’ the headphones they didn’t work from either ear. So that is the end of them, it turns out it is harder to fix some stuff that you might think. I guess this is meant to be a learning experience.  Luckily in my buying days I did buy lots of headphones so I am now using another set – they are pretty rubbish but will have to do.  As for the wallet – well I can’t buy one of those either so I am back to my really old, falling to pieces wallet – but as I have no cards and precious little money it will do.

Stuff Reduction Diary Week 18 – Still going strong and feeling inspired


The tools of my trade – only needed the screwdriver to prise off the old head

I am four and a bit months into this challenge and can proudly say I am still going strong. I am actually really enjoying the whole thing and at the moment I think I may keep going after the end of the year. In fact I may have to keep going forever because I am realising just what an act of defiance not buying stuff really is. When the world feels just too crazy and you are sick of signing petitions about stupid pointless coalmines and saving the barrier reef here is something tangible you can do. Not buying stuff is really a very subversive act.

Two things happened this week that really got me thinking (and it takes a bit to do that), firstly I went to a little sustainability conference. It was designed for teachers and I went along to talk to some of the presenters for a project I am working on. The keynote was Rob Gell, best know as a weatherman but also a very enthusiastic sustainability advocate. He gave a great and inspiring presentation on climate change (or as he calls it global warming because that is what it is). It was another reminder of just what a perilous position we are in and how quickly we need to act.

Then I was procrastinating and looking through Facebook and young Matt had put up a short article about pathological consumption http://www.monbiot.com/2012/12/10/the-gift-of-death/ it is just a short article but it talks about the crazy consumption circle we have got ourselves into. The most astonishing fact was that of all the stuff we buy today only 1% will still be around in 6 months – yep 1% – that is not a typo. Because I was procrastinating I followed the link and got the story of stuff http://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-stuff/.

If you follow the link you will come to a short movie that explains it all, how we have been manipulated into buying stuff and the impact it is having on us individually and as a community, nation and world – worth a look I say.

As for fixing stuff – I mended the vacuum cleaner last week – it blew up, sparks and everything. I was all ready to take it to the menders when I thought I would check out youtube first – it turns out it is ridiculously easy to fix – so I fixed it!

Fixing Stuff Part Three


Computers image

It looked a lot like this but I was too polite to take a picture so this is off the interweb


Where were we? Oh yes I had broken my tablet, tried to fix it and made it a bit more broke and bought a new tablet.

The new tablet was not like the old one (for a start it wasn’t broken), but I just didn’t like it. There was nothing wrong with it but I couldn’t get used to it, I had grown accustomed to my old one and the new one just didn’t cut it. Belatedly I decided I should get the old one fixed. Of course, four months into my not buying stuff I realise now that this is what I should have done in the beginning but I was so much younger and less experienced then…..

I set about finding someone to fix my old tablet – this should be easy enough. First I took it to a friend and asked if he could fix it, after having a look he returned it saying it was not worth the effort. He may be my computer expert friend but why should I listen to him! I took it to the computer shop across the road. This shop sits in a little row of rather random shops, there is:

  • an old milk bar which sells milk, papers, socks and clothing alterations
  • a baker that makes biscuits and pies and could be out of the 1950’s
  • a children’s shoe shop with about five shoes in it (probably a front for organised crime)
  • a psychologist
  • a bottle shop (off licence)
  • a boarded up shop (there always has to be at least one of these in a row of shops)
  • a hairdresser’s that sells pretty good coffee (but never has anyone in there getting a haircut)
  • a little computer fixing shop.

So after ensuring I went to the correct shop, I took it in, full of hope, and asked them to fix it. A couple of days later I got a call to say it wasn’t worth the effort.

About 15 years ago I cycled across France, it rained for 17 days straight, it was a miserable ride but the worse it got the more determined I became to finish it, this quest was nowhere near as miserable but I was determined to finish it. I went back to Google and tried to find another computer repairer. On Gumtree I found a strange and confusing advert for a computer repairperson in North Fitzroy, this was weird enough that it might just work. I rang him and he told me to drop it down.

So I found myself in the back streets of North Fitzroy, in a strange 1960’s or 1970’s housing commission estate, at the back of a house ringing to say I was here. The repairman appeared to let me in and invited me into his house, I began to wonder if this was a good move and considered if I should have thought this through a little more or at least told someone where I was going. Entering what must have been designed as a living room I was surrounded by piles of computers, of every description in various states of dismantlement. And when I say surrounded I am not exaggerating, I have never seen so much computer stuff). The repairman was very nice and I explained my problem to him and how nobody wanted to fix my little toy. After a quick look he did not say ‘its not worth fixing’ but told me he should be able to fix it but it would take a while, I was very happy with that and wandered out of the estate and past the big scary dog feeling quite pleased with myself.

As I left the estate and wandered through the leafy streets of North Fitzroy it occurred to me that the tablet contained all my banking information, my emails and a host of other personal data (what was that thing about thinking it through?). Oh well he seemed like a nice man….

Stay tuned for the (possibly) final instalment, and if any weird stuff appears on this blog it is probably someone who has stolen my identity.

The Billy Bragg T–Shirt Challenge


The very t-shirt I did not buy


Last week I got a great text from a friend, it was Sunday morning and I was contemplating whether I could spend the whole day in my PJ’s when I noticed there was a message on my phone. As usual I had the sound was turned down so hadn’t noticed it come in. As my phone dumped all my contacts a while ago I wasn’t sure, at first, who has sent it. So half assuming it was some sort of spam I glanced at it before looked more closely. ‘I have a spare ticket to Billy Bragg tonight – do you want to come’. Do I want to go and see Billy Bragg? Silly question, I can’t imagine ever saying know to that. Thankfully the message was signed so I didn’t have to reply – yes please and who are you?

I texted back as fast as my middle-aged thumbs would allow – ‘count me IN!’

I am definitely out of touch as I wasn’t even aware that Billy Bragg was in Australia. I went to the website to see what gig I had agreed to attend (wouldn’t it be terrible if Billy had gone all religious and was doing a bible reading).   The gig turned out to be Billy Bragg and Joe Henry ‘Shine a Light Tour’. The two of them jumped on a train in Chicago and went across the USA getting off and recording train songs along the way. Not officially – they just found a quiet spot and recorded the track and then got back on the train.   How cool would that be, just like being old style wandering minstrels or hobos (there was much hobo discussion during the gig).

How good was this? – Billy Bragg and trains – two if my favourite things. I, of course, caught the train into the city for the gig.

The gig did not disappoint – it was magical, in the amazing Melbourne Recital Centre, even the seats were comfortable. More like going on a journey with a good friend than a traditional gig, I enjoyed every minute. The songs are still in my head and the feeling of just being in the moment, being totally happy and content exactly where you are.

So after all that joy what I needed to top it off, to keep the moment alive was some merchandise.   I love buying t-shirts at gigs, I have draws full of them, going all the way back to Glastonbury 1982. I do wear the t-shirts, although I probably have enough to last about 50 years, it is not like they wear out quickly. I wanted a t-shirt badly but on this occasion I had to watch my friends buy merchandise and step back looking on longingly (Helen step away from the merch). I almost waivered, my friend offered to buy one for me, but I sadly said no, there was no way a t-shirt I did not need could be defined as anything other than stuff. The whole thing was made more difficult by the fact that it was a particularly nice t-shirt, blue, with a train on it. But I am not buying stuff so I took a picture instead. I am still a bit sad about this one…..

PS – Coming soon what happened to my tablet, will I get it fixed?

Week 13 Officeworks and saving money


Wow what a massive temptation, I had to go to Officeworks this week, to get some supplies for an upcoming consultation, this could have been bad.

Stationary is one of my favourite indulgences (along with Gin), I just love notebooks and pens and pencils, particularly mechanical pencils, they are the best. So when I have to go to Officeworks or another stationary store, I usually pick myself up a couple of note books and a pencil or two to add to my collection – after all I am bound to need them one day.

So knowing that this was a weakness I determined to be strong and only buy what I needed for this particular consultation. I wrote a list and set off to the store, to discover I had forgotten my list and the USB containing the map I needed printing. Still I persevered and wandered round the store looking at all the cool stuff, I picked up a very nice looking notebook just $4.50, what a barging! Still I was strong and put it back down again. I bypassed the mechanical pencils – will power is a limited resource and I did not want to take that risk. I even got through the check out ‘maze of temptation’ (you know that bit at the end that has lots of $3-$5 bits and pieces that look oh so useful). When I went to pay I was surprised by how cheap the trip was – I might be onto something here.

Well, I think we can call that a success and saving money is always good, in fact many people have said to me ‘you must be saving heaps of money’ doing this (stuff reduction). Sadly this is not the case. Well I say that but in truth I have no idea how much money I actually spend. My brother, who is an accountant, was amazed when I told him that. He genuinely could not comprehend that I could not be aware of where my money was going. To be truthful it is a little bit silly on my part, I have always lived within my means but if I ever want to retire I may have to be a little more grown up about this.

So I installed an app on my phone called Money Smart. You log all your expenses into categories and you can see where your money is going. I have been doing it for three months now so I can see some patterns.  I decided  that the easiest way to save money was to look at where the biggest chunk of my money goes and stop or cut down on that particular expense.  After a quick review I can see that cutting my biggest expense means  I wont be paying my mortgage or utility bills anymore.

OK, that is probably not going to work so I looked at the next biggest expenditure which turns out to be entertainment and eat out.  Saving money is going to mean I will be cooking at home and catching up on a heap of DVD’s and books in the next three months – I can live with that.

Week Twelve – A logistical Challenge


Stuff Diary Week 13

I confess I bought some stuff, well a stuff. But I have an excuse, or even a reason. I am about to go on a walk for a few days, (you can read about it at www.wayfaring140.wordpress.com). Water will not be freely available and what is available will not be treated, so I had to come up with a solution. In the past I have relied on purification tablets, which make your water taste like a swimming pool. Then, a bloke I met while walking last year suggested I get a Lifestraw. This is a clever little piece of kit that filters your water as you drink. What is more Lifestraw commit to providing water to a child in a developing country for one year for each Lifestraw sold. I did think about it and workshop the idea with a few friends one of whom, Matt, has appointed himself as my ‘Consumption Probity Officer’ he confirmed that this purchase could be considered both a safety item and charitable donation and as such he could ‘inform you this ‘donation’ meets our non-procurement of new stuff guidelines’. Given Matts’s love of outdoor gear is even greater than mine I am not he is the best person for the job, but we will have a lot of fun discussion Stuff.

So now I have bought a book and a Lifestraw, however I will be using both the week after next, I didn’t buy them just in case, or because they were cheep, or because they might come in handy. I haven’t bought anything that I don’t have an immediate use for, and that is good except…

Gin. I have been stocking up on Gin, now like Gin and I particularly like all the fancy types you can now buy (at great expense).   But I don’t actually drink that much and I think I am at risk of becoming a collector. I reckon I am buying Gin to sate my buying stuff desires and so it is going to have to stop. I have put a temporary embargo on buying any Gin until I drink all that I already have, at my current rate of consumption verses stock available this will take me pretty much up until Christmas.