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Archive for the ‘simplicity’ Category


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None of my grandparents are still alive. Helen died when my mum was little,  Walter when I was just out of university and May & Tom shortly after I got married. I have some things that might traditionally be considered my inheritance from them, although some of the things might seem a little odd.

From Walter I have cigar boxes, tins, wooden boxes, a stack of leather skins and offcuts, old curtains, and photos. From May & Tom I have a meat slicer, pie tins, knifes, a Mrs Beeton, a stone rabbit, a red honeysuckle plant, jewellery, and photos.

Walter was stubborn and eccentric.  A big food lover. So much of a storyteller that we don’t know how much of the family history is true. He was a cobbler, creative, a good craftsman but not such a good businessman.

Helen I never knew. She was a matron. Mum’s memories make her sound gentle and caring. She was able to live with Walter so must have had super-human tolerance and patience. And thrift.

May was an organiser. She had a document tabulating all the holidays they had even taken, with destinations, dates and travelling companions. Food cupboards had lists of their contents pinned to the back of the doors. Food prices at different stores were noted in a book kept by her armchair. Household accounts were monitored with double entry book-keeping. She’d been a civil servant before getting married. They let her stay on so long as she kept using her maiden name but her working life came to end once my dad was born. A whole lot of pent-up organisational ability got directed towards running the home like a miniature government department. I recognised a lot in Hallie’s My Grandmother the IA presentation.

Tom was very different to May. He needed a few cigarettes a day, friendly chats and no office politics at work. That was about it for his demands from life.

So other things I may have inherited are pleasure in a simple life, in organising things and in crafting things. And probably a bit more from Walter than I prefer to notice.

Written by Karen

May 16th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

wearing the same clothes everyday

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Not in the way you are thinking.

Sheena Matheiken  has pledged to “wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion.”  The Uniform Project caught my attention this week as a slightly difference angle on anti-consumerism, compared with all the not buying, seasonal eating projects.

Disappointingly it isn’t the same item of clothing, she’s got 7 identical dresses. And she does seem to wear mores bits and pieces with it than I imagined when I thought of accessories.

The concept’s interesting to me because the IA in the Woods won’t be able to indulge in much clothes shopping.

Kottke mentions some predecessors but Matheiken is unusual in actually making the outfits appealing. Mostly.

Written by Karen

June 13th, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Posted in simplicity,thrift

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lessons in frugality from cats

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1. Sleep alot
Cats enjoy just lying around. They wallow in laziness. Our two positively scorn me when I rush around getting ready for work. If sleeping is getting boring, then find an exciting new place to sleep. Grumpy Cat challenges herself to squeeze through ever tigher gaps to get into prime sleeping spots.

cat, doing what she does best   Other Cat

2. Entertainment can be cheap
Noisy Cat likes elastic bands. Alot. Shop-bought toys don’t hold his attention anywhere near as long.

3. Luxury is simple
Radiators provide cats with obvious joy. In summer sunshine does the same. Best not to discuss their feelings about warm bird guts.

4. Be cute and someone else will feed you
I’m not sure this is something you should try and emulate but both our two fuzzballs were once strays. They hit the jackpot when they sucked up to me, winning a warm house, an easily manipulated lady of the house, no kids, no dogs, and a home where alot of home butchery goes on.

They have to put up with occasional humilating fussing from the humans but mostly the cats seem to have the better deal. They even seem to love their super-cheap cat food, known in our house as kitty-crack.

Written by Karen

January 30th, 2009 at 10:14 pm

a bit of a luddite

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I recently completed an online survey on the Guardian website which made me realise what an utter disappointment I must be to the advertisers involved. The whole survey seemed to be focused on establishing the breadth of my electronic life and it really brought home to me how far from an early-adopter I am.

I didn’t get a mobile till 2000 and it still doesn’t access the internet or take pictures. I’ve only had digital camera a year. I don’t have digital telly, don’t download music, don’t own an iPod (or…whisper it…another MP3 player) , and I really don’t want an iPhone. Really.

In my household our wishlist includes a pig (and the farm to put it on), a telescope and a Malamute. Buying throw-away electronics just fritters away the pig fund.

Would quite like an EEE though.

Written by Karen

June 1st, 2008 at 9:39 am

Posted in simplicity,thrift

romanticism, environmentalism or just plain perverse?

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Also on the Thinking Allowed ‘Hoodies’ episode that I mentioned a while back was a piece on city planning.The piece covers ‘the traditional and futuristic notions of what makes a good city’ and decisions that we now perceive to have been destructive but at the time were motivated by a desire to get rid of Victoriana, to build better roads etc.

It seems that one generation’s modernisation is often the next’s wanton destruction. The romanticism that my generation has for things from my grandparents time horrifies my parents. They see it as a retrograde attitude. They have none of the nostalgia for period properties & antique fittings, they merely associate them with the hardships and limitations of their childhoods (cold & drafty houses, filled with dark wood and laboursome devices). Their values are of the 60s, warm, clean, light modern houses, scandanavian furniture and labour-saving, electronic devices.

My mother-in-law was amused to see we have a manual coffee-grinder and politely inquired if we knew there were electric versions available. We got it partly because we’ve been looking at our electricity consumption and also trying to buy devices that last longer. I’ve been increasing shocked at how many electronic devices I end up chucking. But there’s also a kind of motivation that I call the From Scratch Diet i.e. you can eat as much as you like of anything that you make from scratch. Sod Atkins…bread can’t make you fat if you had to knead the bloody dough yourself. Not that coffee makes you fat but you get the idea.

Mum just thinks we’re on some weird puritanical kick.

Written by Karen

May 31st, 2008 at 9:30 am

book: Enough by John Naish

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I’ve just read John Naish’s Enough. It arrived on my desk at work with it’s dazzling tag-line “ever get the feeling that you’ve had enough?”. Rather apt timing.

At times Enough seemed like a greatest hits of the happiness & modernity movement, featuring Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (Flow), Epicurus, Martin Seligman (Authentic Happiness), the jam experiment (also seen in Paradox of Choice), and Stephen Johnson (Everything Bad is Good For You). I skipped quite a few bits as a result.

But I really liked the stuff about personal sabbaths. Mine seems to involved baking bread and sitting on top of the rabbit hutch.And it’s got a nice ending. I get very uppity if books don’t end well.

Written by Karen

March 31st, 2008 at 6:47 am