It’s 2013 in the world and in the Cave and this means promises and resolutions and plans to do better. So:
Consume less, live more.
This is the motto for 2013 (nod to Aldi for the inspiration). I’m looking to simplify life this year and these four words are going to get us there. I am writing the plan here because if it is written It Will Be Done and if it is accompanied by pictures It Will Be Even More Done.
Consume less … things.
So here’s how it’s to work. Should there be a need for a thing, and should this need be real, and should this thing be unsubstitutable by some thing already in my possession then, before I buy it, I have to try to either make it, borrow it or get it for free from someone who no longer wants said thing.
The making could be interesting. There’s a new found craftiness around the Cave and lots of glue and scissors and tutorials pinned on Pinterest and grand dreams of building sliding larders from Ikea bookcases and old castors but, well, these hands have never really seen any action in the field to be honest and this could all go horribly Blue Peter. I gave up knitting in primary school when I discovered my incredible talent for dropping stitches. I have taken it back up again now and am working on a scarf and am delighted to say that my talent has evolved into an ability to add unwanted stitches at the rate of two a line. But I will persevere and my child will wear it.
Borrowing. This is a great one. You have to be careful not to end up as Cadging Carol of course but, if you’re generous with your offers as well as your requests, then you can build up a great network of people who are willing to lend each other items rather than stimulate the supply chain needlessly. This ties in nicely with the Irish concept of meitheal: individual members of a community responding to the needs of other members, knowing that the favour will be returned. And sure on top of that, there’s always the library for books and for DVDs for family film night. Important note: the popcorn is not borrowed. It was bought. From a shop with, like, money and stuff. Haven’t got to the stage yet where we’re trying to borrow food.
And sometimes you don’t even have to give it back! There’s lots of Freecycle pages on Facebook and sites like Jumbletown where you can get and give items that are no longer wanted. And if you make sure to donate your own clear out items to the pot, you can rummage through other people’s rubbish with a clear conscience. (That’s virtual rummaging now. They get annoyed when you start going through their black bin). CaveBaby was the happy recipient from one site of a lovely play table that had been outgrown by its previous owner and he flies around the house on his Vtech walker that a neighbour gave to him.
And if I’ve stuck my fingers together with superglue and freaked out my neighbours by staring through their windows at their stuff and STILL don’t have the item, I’ve to try to get it secondhand. There are some great buy and sell pages on Facebook, especially for children’s clothing, equipment and toys and then there are also the charity shops. There’s a handy listing here of all the charity shops in Ireland, searchable by area and by Dublin postcode. Twenty minutes running around the Phibsboro shops earlier this week netted a haul of puzzles for CaveBoy the Jigsaw Fiend for only five euro! These old jigsaws get love once more and the forests say thank you.
Consume less … fuel
Less journeys in the car. First preference is walking, if possible. Better for the whole wide world what is around us, better for me and the CaveKids and more fun than hopping in the car. Second choice is public transport. I’ve set us up nicely for this by downloading the Dublin Bus app for Android (great app that allows you find bus routes, bus stops and real time information on buses in the city) and by getting a Travel 90 ticket and Leapcard for the wallet. Leapcard is like always having the exact change ready for the bus and fares are slightly cheaper than cash fares. Travel 90 allows unlimited bus travel for 90 minutes. Intended for journeys that involve bus transfers, I like to think of it as a challenge. The other day I almost managed four journeys from one swipe but had to talk myself back down from the dizzy heights when I realised I’d be late for picking up CaveBoy if I didn’t use the car for the last trip. Godammit.
Car is third option, only if the trip is really necessary, and I’m trying to plan car trips out so we hit a few birds with one combustion engine. Judicious use: yes to using the car to get to nice locations for our Free Range Tuesdays; no to getting milk in the shop. We’re in the second week of this now and our fuel use is down by about 40%. Crazy.
Consume less … screens
Screens: TV, computer, smartphone. We all like a bit of screen time in the house but I’m so conscious that it’s really not great for kids or adults and that it sucks away time that could be spent doing something else. So the TV has been slain and lies silent during the week apart from a half hour for CaveBoy after dinner. It’s quiet in the house without it after the kids have gone to bed but nice too, peaceful. It gets fired up for Friday nights (fired up is right, the telly is years old and when you turn it on everything is dark green. Until it warms up and then everything is light green). It also gets a outing on Saturday for film night. So bye bye telly has been fairly successful so far; see below for a shot of the beast, dormant. Taken from this angle so you don’t get to see the reflection of CaveMammy in her PJs at 11 o’clock of a morning.
Smartphone is a whole other ballgame. Guilty CaveMammy. The problem is that the smartphone and Facebook are so bloody useful for making so many things happen in real life. It’s helped me build a network of people who are interested in what I’m interested in, I get to chat and meet with other mams who are breastfeeding past infancy, who like to wear their babies, who like to create welcoming cosy homes for their families, who are trying to be gentle with their children, who are raising their children without religion, who like to get out and about in nature and get dirt under their fingernails! Never mind just staying in touch with family and friends who I don’t get to see enough in real life. And where else would I find strangers to give me their rubbish?! But it is also very addictive and very easy to lose time that could be spent doing something else or even nothing at all. CaveHusband ratted me out to the world in this post and I sulked over it but the culture of distraction that’s referenced in Joe Kraus’s presentation is extremely real and it’s a bit scary to think what we might be losing out on by never having daydream time any more. Here’s the blog post that accompanies the presentation. CaveMammy must do better.
Consume less … money
Last one, I swear! Now I’ll be honest, consuming less money isn’t so much of a New Year’s resolution as a a New Year reality (even CaveMammies have credit cards and use them flaithulachly at Christmas) but, you know, I like to pretend that I’ve at least some choice in the matter. In the good old days, a trip to the shops used to mean a bar of chocolate and a packet of crisps. Then I came over all calorie-conscious and the chocolate and crisps were swapped for a bottle of diet coke. And then I came over all what-in-christ-am-I-putting into my body conscious and the diet coke was swapped for sparkling water (and sometimes takeaway cappuccino, not so healthy but mmmm). But all that’s over! I got myself a reusable coffee mug in Penneys and am carrying water around with me and the wallet gets opened for nuffin, no coffees, no drinks, no newspapers. It’s two weeks in now and it’s actually unnerving how much it affected me. For example, I don’t like to walk aimlessly; I like a destination. And I’ve only now realised how often that destination was somewhere that I could buy something small. Like the punctuation mark at the end of a journey. I miss it. AND I miss transactions. Buying the Irish Times of a morning mightn’t be the same as going on a credit card spree in some designer boutique but it’s still a purchase and you get to take something new away from the counter and it’s really really odd how much I crave it. But I’m sure it must be good for the soul to do without. I wonder am I Buddhist now? I’m a Buddhist with a pretty coffee cup anyway.
Phew, that’s an awful lot of consuming less. Living more is easier (and shorter!). It’s filling the consumption vaccum with something else. It’s spending the new quiet time in the evenings chatting or reading or making-and-doing like a nine year old. It’s doing jigsaws and games and painting with CaveBoy. It’s being out and about in the fresh air, moving at the walking speed that I do think the mind is set up to expect and crave, taking in a bit of life on the journey. It’s meeting up with friends, socialising with other crusty mamas at sling meets and breastfeeding groups, finding things to do in the evening that are social but don’t need money (the lovely members of the Dublin North West branch of Cuidiu have a monthly book club AND a craft night where I can finish that increasingly lopsided scarf). It’s Sundays with family, having a bit of a walk and then coming home and setting the table for a nice dinner from the slow cooker (best invention ever!). And it doesn’t have to be all sackcloth and ashes. There’s still room to meet up with the girls and go to a very modern pub and spend real money on real drinkies (has to be real money. I learned my lesson when I tried to barter veg for pints that last time). And neither CaveHusband nor I would be saying no to a trip to the cinema, mother of all screens, when CaveUncle agrees to babysit for us.
It’s all balance. Consume less, live more. Motto of the cave 2013.