Simplifying our home

scalesI find it really interesting how people use the space in their houses, particularly blended families like us.  We have seven children and adults every second week, but every other week it is just my husband and I, rattling around in a very large home.

My husband has recently taken a break from work, and it got us thinking. We wanted to use the time to plan out a more simple home to meet our needs, as well as take care of a few renovation projects that were long overdue – our home is showing age and wear in a number of places (bit like me, really….)

To overcome the feeling of too much space every second week, and to create a cosy simple home, we are renovating our living area and kitchen to create a relaxed living space, that together with a our bedroom will be like a little one bedroom apartment. We have organised the zoning of the heating and cooling to move from large house to small apartment; and we are creating a family living area for the big house and a smaller cosy living area for just the two of us.

So with much excitement you can watch our progress over the coming months. We have started in the living area and have pulled up our slate floor, replacing it with a smaller space gas heater.

Here are some before and after photos:

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This was a rarely used area of our house that seemed to be the room for the front door! We have installed the fire and the television with a sound bar, to remove the need for a large stereo and cabinet. Work to date looks like this:

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The fire is calming and relaxing. The set up will enable us to enjoy many warm nights by the fire and appreciate the space. And my husband as the head space to really think about each piece of the renovation plan, building and modifying the home to meet our needs.  It’s fascinating really – while we were both busy work with a crazy out of control life, the house was where we put our bags and keys and lay our heads at night.  Now, with only one of us working, it feels so luxurious to think about each individual room, it’s purpose, personality and to make our house a home.

Wintery cauliflower soup

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It’s definitely winter in the nation’s capital – even predicted to snow tomorrow in higher urban areas. This is a B&W photo of our view from the balcony of our house yesterday.

Thankfully when I moved her in 2006 I invested in the right bedding and outerwear to cope.

Still it looks bleak and wintery. Just the time for warm winter soups to warm the spirit.

In the suburban veggie patch, I am growing broccoli and brussel sprouts this year. Cauliflowers too are cheap ($2 each) and in season, so I found this quick and easy recipe in the latest winter edition of Good magazine (a New Zealand based publication that has piqued my interest of late).

I don’t eat onions or garlic, so I substituted my home grown spring onions, some homemade chicken stock from the freezer, a squeeze of lemon from our bountiful lemon tree and I had some left over cream in the fridge. Delicious.

In cooking this soup, I timed it carefully. I have a tendency to leave soups on the stove and overcook the beautiful, fresh seasonal ingredients, so this time I followed the timing in the recipe to a tee and it tastes delicious.   A sprinkle of parmesan and some crusty homemade bread rolls are just the trick.

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This is a picture of soup once I added my still partially frozen home made chicken stock.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup (courtesy of Good Magazine, Issue 43)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp of butter

1 medium onion

3 gloves of garlic

1-2 green cardamom pods, crushed

Half a cauliflower, chopped, including the stalks

Juice of half a lemon

3 cups water or vegetable stock

½ cup cream

Freshly ground salt and pepper

Method:

In a saucepan on moderate heat gently sauté onion until translucent. Reduce the heat and add garlic, cardamom, chopped cauliflower and lemon juice and cook for about ten minutes until everything is slightly toasted by not browned.

Transfer everything to a lidded saucepan, add water, cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for approx. 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower is soft. Remove from heat and cool slightly

When cool, take out cardamom pods and blend until smooth. Before serving, bring to boil and stir in cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Yummo.

Organising to simplicity part 3

The third part of my breaking up with organising series – this is all a work in progress, and I will continue to update as I simplify.  Today’s photo series are focused on my study area – and I apologise in advance for the dark before shot.  Nonetheless – easy to see it is clutter heaven.  This is where I process our admin and do our scanning/filing – more scanning and less filing these days as I try to cut down on the paper I store.

You can see there are some attempts to organise (containers for things, desk top filing units) but it wasn’t a picture of simplicity.

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And here is my after attempt – less stuff, less to organise and more peaceful.

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Organising – you and me are breaking up.

I’ve always been a relatively tidy person. My mum was a little OCD on the cleaning and tidying front. Kids often rebel or subscribe (with some modifications) to their parents way of living, and I went down the latter path. I’m nowhere near as tidy or clean, but I like order – my brain hurts when the house is disorganised.

When my husband and I moved in together (we are a blended family) we had two households of stuff. Three kettles. Two sandwich toasters. Three fridge/freezers. Four televisions. You get the picture.

Over time, we have been reducing the volume of repeat items and just generally things in the household. I had a small operation a couple of years ago and while I was recuperating and mindlessly googling for organising ideas, I came across the goddess of organising, Alejandra Costello, who is based in Virginia in the US. Her site is www.alejandra.tv and her videos are absolutely fantastic, if you haven’t seen them before and you are early in your journey towards a simpler life.

Organising is great first step. Everything has a home and everything (should be) in its home.

But I found I wanted more. I was organised but still super busy. I was organised – every cable was corralled and labelled; every cupboard looked sorted and gorgeous – but I still felt overwhelmed by my stuff.

I found a few websites on minimalism and I liked 75% of what I was reading. Your stuff should not own you, and book out valuable chunks of your time to maintain it.

So – a few months ago, while I was urgently google-searching again for my next movement away from consumerism, I came across Brooke McAlary at www.slowyourhome.com . Firstly – so great to see an Australian movement achieving a ground swell. Simple, slow living can be achieved through planning (in the first stages), establishing gentler routines, and by prioritising experiences over things.

A few ebooks by www.theminimalists.com later, a read of a few blog posts from www.zenhabits.com, a few watched youtube videos from Carrie LeighAnna https://www.youtube.com/user/carrieljp and www.lightbycoco and I have worked out what I need.

I don’t need organised stuff – I just need less stuff to organise.

So I move on to my next part of the journey to a slower life. Less stuff to organise. The above is a classic move from organising and decluttering, to simplifying. I realise many people before me have been down this road before.

Goodbye to organising products = hello to less things to organise. Over the next couple of weeks I will post a series of photo-based posts to illustrate the difference.

Today – let’s begin with my bedroom. Here it is in all its messy glory in 2010 (shame!)

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And after a “decluttering and organising session”…. (looking better)…..just after in 2010

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And finally, after a real look at my room – what colours calm me, what simplicity could offer and what I actually needed to use beside my bed – in 2014 (ahhh – peaceful… to me).

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