Saturday, April 28, 2012

Decluttering - big time

Some of my recent decluttering has been on the small side, but plenty of big stuff is still going down.

On the shelf

Building on past success, I've again decluttered so well that I had DH remove an entire shelf that he so kindly installed for me in a previous life.

"More storage will solve my problem!" "Yes dear."

 "Maybe I just need less STUFF"

 "What about even less?"  Now you see it...

 ...and now you don't.

Our walls need some care after their abuse, but I still love it.

A bedtime story with a happy ending

We had a double bed (from my student days) leaning against a wall.

Then we used that bed as co-sleeping space alongside our kingsized bed.  Acres of sleep space - almost wall to wall!  Kids loved it. By night a bed - by day a super trampoline.

 Then we moved that bed into the au pair's room, and bought a simple single bed to be co-sleeping space.

Now, co-sleeping still happens, but only the cats use that single bed. I like the cats, but they already own the entire house, so...

Now I have a retreat. 
And we can get in and out of bed without gymnastics.
And we already sold the single bed for more than we paid for it.



My successes are just me rescuing myself from problems I'd created in the first place. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wallet minimalism and handbag sexism

My wallet and backpack featured last year on The Everyday Minimalist's Minimalist Wallet series.

That exercise showed me that I could downsize several items. But in the unstuffed wallet, the important cards get lonely and slip out of their pocket when not carefully handled.

More recently, my husband minimised his wallet from a traditional trifold to a simple bifold card wallet.  He's given that bifold to me now... so now I get to put my money where my minimalism is.

Handbag sexism

While we're on the topic of what we carry around, ponder this. Handbags are a hot feminist issue (along with women's pockets)  Women are burdened by bags full of makeup and stuff for everything that could happen to us or anyone around us.
Men have always carried wallets, heedless of their clothing profiles.  Few take even a comb along with them because their morning's grooming is good enough.

These bags bind us as much as high heels - you can't run very fast with either.

And just like any space, you start with what you actually want, and the unplanned items sneak in until you're forced into maintenance. Bigger is not better.

I don't need to carry nappies and clothes changes everywhere I go anymore.  When I do need to carry water bottles and a snack, I've downsized from the daypack featured earlier to this child-sized backpack (of course, one of my many Secondhand Smarts buys). 

So on to the shrinking wallet...

Old wallet

Trifold wallet with numerous pockets, contains:
  • Cash
  • NZ driver’s license
  • Credit card
  • Cashpoint card
  • Automobile Association card
  • Library card
  • Supermarket points card
  • Bulk store membership card
  • Explorers clubday concession card (card stock)
  • Health food store loyalty card (keychain size)
  • Airline points card
  • 2 store loyalty cards
  • Food preferences card designed by my sister for giving to restaurants not familiar with the McDougall Program. Never so far used.
  • Medical insurance membership card

New wallet

I kept everything I used on a weekly basis or more and the auto card for emergencies. The airline points card is new to me and still to prove itself.

I released
  • 2 store loyalty cards (not local)
  • Food preferences card 
  • Medical insurance membership card
  • Cashpoint card (credit card is dual purpose)
The rest fits pretty nicely.  I could add a little more.


As well as the obvious, it's much easier to carry in that rare creature: the women's clothing pocket!
Risks and downsides

There's no place to keep much cash or receipts I want to save.  I've already wasted a trip thinking I had a cheque in my wallet - and I didn't!  Then, I coudn't find the cheque for some hours afterward.

This is truly an experiment - wish me luck!

My ideal wallet would be a bifold that also has a long side pocket for bills - anyone know where I can get one? 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Beat 7 traps for healthy kids


How do you and your kids rate on the 4-Leaf scale?  Modern life can make it very hard to keep to a simple and healthy diet for your family. Once you're in the know, you can at least avoid these common traps.

1. Wholegrains have too much fibre for kids

It's only recently that we could be wasteful enough to refine foods, and it wasn't a positive step for anyone, healthwise.  Not only fibre but also vital nutrients get stripped out.


"Too much fibre fills up kids' stomachs and they don't eat enough..."

"Too much fibre stops nutrients being absorbed, so kids will suffer..."

Where is the evidence for these endlessly repeated theories?   I can't even find the study which apparently started it all, where a child was unwisely given lots of high bran cereals and fibre supplements (not wholegrains).

This review of the scientific literature asks: should we worry about high fibre for children? Answer: No, we should encourage more fibre.

That could be the last word, but it's worth noting the media hype of a recent UK study on nursery food and nutrition - when they found that nurseries were feeding children lots of fruits and vegetables and not much fat and saturated fat, did they applaud in relief?  No, their nutritionist said this risked the children's health.

Headlines include

This study did not examine a single child for starvation, poor nutrition, or poor development.  The food served was simply held up against the current nutritional recommendations (strongly influenced by food lobbies for meat, milk, and sugar) and declared wanting.

Some great advice from PCRM - they recommend you encourage a taste for whole grains and avoid sugars and highly processed foods.  It's much harder to get into the whole foods habit if you've always had the softer, sweeter version, but here are some tried and tested hints for transitioning to whole grains.   

2. Kids shouldn't be on a lowfat diet

Humans do need some fats, and young children do need more than adults.  One important natural source of fat for young children is breast milk.  I follow the WHO's recommendations to continue breastfeeding until age 2 and beyond, and one reason is so my children get this vital source of perfectly-designed fats and other nutrients.

But foods today are fattened up in the factory like foie gras geese. If children need more fats to grow, does it follow that we should remain unaware of a child's fat consumption?

You decide....

A healthy diet means far more than just fat levels.  But fat has 9 calories per gram compared to 4 for carbohydrates and protein.

Some healthy fats come from whole grains, nuts, seeds, and avocados.  But most are refined fats added to processed foods to improve both the mouthfeel of the foods (so your child will want more) and the profit margin for international conglomerate food companies.

So reducing fat in a child's diet is hardly medically risky or child abuse - quite the opposite.

3. My kids aren't fat or unhealthy

Congratulations!  Your kids are young and active, and they're burning off the calories they eat so far.

But their taste buds have been in training since birth.  They taste the flavours of the food their mother eats when they drink breast milk, and they learn to like the solids they're fed thereafter. They won't always be tiny power racers!

Again from PCRM -

"Eating habits are set in early childhood...Children raised on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes grow up to be slimmer and healthier and even live longer than their meat-eating friends."
4. My kids won't eat healthy food

Perhaps not. Mine do eat healthy food as well as more traditional treats, and here's how it happened.  Only you know your family's eating story, but consider the following:

  • Do they see you eat and enjoy fruits, vegetables, roots, and whole grains every day?
  • Do they get to choose to eat the fruits and vegetables they like?
  • Do you present them with care and attention?
As per school rules for healthy eating, I prepared a fruit platter for my son's class for his birthday. They were truly excited to see fresh pineapple, watermelon and cantaloupe (rockmelon), cherry tomatoes, and grapes.

You have power over this - even over strong advertising messages

5. If you make kids eat good food, they will just rebel later

OK, I see how that works!

  • If you make your kids play outside or do sports, they'll become couch potatoes later.
  • If you make your kids learn their school lessons, they'll never read or write again.
  • If you make your kids be polite and kind and clean up after themselves, they'll become really rude messy teenagers... OK, slippery slope there.
We show our kids habits when they're young, and they're more likely to continue whatever habits they learned - healthy or not.

Parental influence is very important - learn what works and what backfires.

6. If you restrict unhealthy foods, they will only want them more

While there is some psychological truth to the forbidden fruit theory, remember, that was fruit.

There is a famous study from the 1930s showing that children given a range of basically healthy foods to choose from will eventually select a variety of balanced nutrition.

But your child is in the uncontrolled study called life - and often a child is presented with far more unhealthy choices. There is no natural appetite limiter for refined sweet and fatty foods like doughnuts, chocolate, and fries.  By the time your body says enough, you've already eaten too much.  It's worse for a child, who has more enthusiasm and a smaller stomach.

Of course, like an adult, each child has different tastes - enjoying food is key. 

7. All the other kids eat this wayPlanters_alex1.jpg 

Remember what your mother said:

If all the other kids jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?
Peer pressure can help you. Young children are particularly likely to eat what their peers are eating, and that goes for vegetables too.
Crucially, you and your kids can be the change we need to see - wouldn't it be great if all the other kids could be eating (and enjoying) healthy food too?

How do you encourage your kids toward your dream of a healthy diet?