By the end of last year I'd started to feel like there was too much stuff in our house, in our lives. By "stuff", I mean everything - food, toys, clothes, decor, electronics. All of it littering every corner of our home like bread crumbs on the kitchen counter.
I'd often find food in the fridge that was going bad because I'd completely forgotten about it. One time, I arrived home with a new sweater I'd bought for Oliver on impulse, and simply left it in the bag with all the tags on, deciding I'd return it the next day, because he already had a ridiculous number of sweaters.
It's easy to forget about valuing the things you already own when you're always focused on the next thing on your wish list.
And so, my unspoken new year's resolution was to accumulate less, waste less and begin living simpler and better in 2010.
Easier said than done! But, so far this year, with a little effort, I've adopted a few new habits.
Sticking to a weekly menu plan. Having a plan means I waste less money and food and don't end up pulling a face at the fridge mid-week because I've no clue what to make for dinner. I should note, my menu plan is not fancy. It doesn't use spreadsheet software. Picture a crumpled piece of paper with a scrawled list: Monday - spaghetti, Tuesday - pesto chicken, Wednesday - cous cous and peppers, etc., etc. Grocery list on the other side.
Making dinners that yield leftovers. We realized last year that a lot of cash was being spent on lunches. It adds up incredibly fast! (like that other addiction of mine - the coffee one) So, this year we've been choosing recipes that give us leftovers for lunch the next day.
I suppose you can do it with anything really... Here are a few I've made recently:
Broccoli cheese bake
Penne with sausage, wild mushrooms, spinach
Making, instead of buying things. We eat a lot of bread. (oh right - that's why I can never get thin...) Instead of buying it, I make it - all of it. And you know, it's not all that time consuming. The bread machine does most of the work for you. I make loafs, rolls, pizza bases, ciabattas and other baked yummy things.
The thing I like about making, not buying food, is that you know exactly what's going into your meals. Like tomato sauce for pasta - because really, it's just tomatoes (I use tinned, unsalted, whole tomatoes) and herbs.
Buying less and better clothes. I've always loved buying clothes. And I've always bought too many - until a few years ago when I became a stay-at-home mum and suddenly had less money for luxuries.
Now, when I go shopping (and it's not often), I examine my wardrobe before I go out and figure out what I need, and what will compliment my existing clothes. Then I go out like a huntress on a mission.
And my rule when shopping now, is, I don't buy anything unless I love it.
Get rid of toys. Okay, admittedly I haven't gotten around to this yet. There are plenty of places to donate toys your kids aren't using: charities, community centers, second hand stores, Freecycle. Now that my baby (almost toddler) is increasingly disinterested in his baby toys, it's time to shed a few.
There's something satisfying about reducing and simplifying. I feel like there's less fuss and clutter, and more room to enjoy the things I love.