Many months ago I got a lovely comment on my blog which lead us to Amy & Stefan. It’s times like these I am so grateful that the internet connects us to people we might never have crossed paths with.
Amy is a yoga teacher and runs a beautiful food blog, The Wooden Spoon. Her lovely man, Stefan creates beautiful Organic Dreadlocks. When they talked about wanting a video of a day at their house I was so happy to be able to do it for them. Plus, I was eager to suggest my husband as the model. Sure, Errol had never, ever wanted dreadlocks and my pining over Jack Sparrow hadn’t persuaded him at all. But driving home from meeting Amy & Stefan with their heads of lovely locks he surprised me and said “I think I’d like to get dreadlocks”. His hair grows rather unruly and needs cutting very frequently – neat dreadlocks seemed like a good solution for him.
We drove down to northern New South Wales to spend the day in the dreadshed and enjoying Amy’s delicious food. Errol’s hair was at most 5-10 cms in length but because the in between stage of growing out his hair and needing to look presentable at work was difficult he opted for human hair extensions to give him immediate dreadlocks that look & feel just like his own hair.
Please enjoy this little look into a day with Amy, Stefan and their daughter Bhumi. We had such a beautiful day, enjoying the relaxing atmosphere, breathtaking views and delicious food. We were both also blown away by how Stefan managed to get Errol’s locks to look exactly as he had imagined. Using Errol’s somewhat vague description he seemed to read his mind and worked wonders. Errol could not be happier with how they turned out. No more spending time trying to style his coarse & wavy hair to sit the way he wanted, it’s so easy to throw into a pony tail or just wear it out. Plus, I think it really suits him!
A frequent question I’ve had since organising them is what is the actual process of a Clothes Swap? Do we line all the clothes up? Do you swap per number of clothes contributed? Do you pay to come? Do we monitor what people are bringing?
These are all good questions and today I thought I’d cover how to run & organise a clothes swap so that those of you who don’t have one near by can get one up and going (Brisbane friends, this one is for you).
I’ve heard about lots of different swaps being run differently so today I am just going to talk about how we run ours and how that works out. It started informally as a joint measure with my friend Heidi and we’ve since run two or three a year.
Clothes swapping is a lot simpler than you might think.
Find a suitable location – we have been through a variety of locations due to parking, no wet weather option and have finally found a good hall to use. This requires a gold coin donation from everyone who attends for hire but makes it much easier for people to come along, get an easy park and not have to cancel due to rain.
Once you have a location to use then you just need people to come along. An open facebook event is a great way for you to invite your friends and them to invite their friends. Before you know it you’ll have 20 or so people. If you mention there’s free clothes involved – more people are likely to come along!
Now, once you have your location and some friends – all you need is some stuff to swap. Initially I was worried that some people might not bring a fair amount of things to swap but we’ve found that people are most often bringing more than they’re taking home. My favourite thing about clothes swap is bringing all those unwanted clothes I have and knowing that someone else will be taking them home!
While we mostly swap kids clothes (because most of the people attending our swaps are parents) womens, mens and other household items (towels, toys, books, saucepans) are also brought along.
Lots of people think we swap on a barter system such as “Hey, I’ve got this little baby hat will anyone swap me a pair of shoes for it?”.
We simply ask everyone to drop their items into the appropriate pile (baby, kids, maternity, women, mens etc) and wait till the set start time to let everyone rummage through and take out as they please. There is no monitoring or limiting what people take and while there is a small temptation to fight people for things all our swaps have been relaxed and peaceful. At our last swap many people sat around the edge of the pile and asked what others were searching for – looking for things for not only themselves but a person nearby. I had lots of little sweet baby boy things dropped into my lap.
If your children are trying your patience this is a great place to offload them
The quality of items brought to the swap varies but for the most part I have always brought home a collection of nice-new-to-us things that we can enjoy. And it’s always funny when I meet up with a girlfriend and she’s like “hey, those were my pants!”.
The only difficulty we have found with our swaps is that we always have WAY more clothes left over than what people take home. People begin to leave and then most often the last few people are left hauling huge bags to a local charity shop. We have finally decided that we need to get ourselves together to invite a charity to collect the clothes for a homeless shelter or similar and will hopefully have that implemented before our next planned swap in Brisbane (in October).
I wanted to talk about preparing for a baby without buying anything. A few people have asked me about this and I will share what we are doing. I knew that I was pregnant when I committed to this challenge – we are in a good posistion as I kept a lot of the baby things from our first two. If this was our first baby I might not feel so prepared.
When I was pregnant with Priya my nana was explaining to me what constituted a ‘layette’ for a newborn when she was having children. With Priya round in my belly I stared at my nana and said “But that’s not enough! How would the baby have clean clothes… you have to change them a few times a day!”. My nana gave me a wry smile and told me it was enough, in her day. I have still thought on that to this day, especially when I think that back then they were still hand washing! If my washing machine, dryer and I can’t make do with fewer clothing than I don’t know who can.
Clothes-wise we are set for a little baby to join our family, I have a large collection of newborn clothes packed and waiting from Priya & Theo. When we found out we were expecting a little boy I took the most girly clothes (dresses etc) and packed them for my friend who is expecting a girl the month before us. She packed the clothes from her son and gave them to us.
My friend and I also run a Clothes Swap a few times a year where babies clothes are in great supply. At a recent one and knowing we were expecting a little man I collected more than enough for our baby boy.
Clothes swapping is an excellent resource for parents because kids outgrow clothes quite often before they outwear them (babies in particular are guilty of this). Finding out if there is a local clothes swap near you is a great way to cut back on your own expenses buying for your children (for you too! We swap womens and the odd mens clothes too, not to mention games, toys, books). If there isn’t a clothes swap near you, do what we did and start one. You only need a few friends and their friends to get quite a good swap circle going on. It’s a lovely way to gather with friends and recycle clothing. I love being able to see clothes that my kids have outgrown or were not my taste taken and worn by friends.
(clothes swap loot pictured below)
After I am done with them we will pass them on to another family.
The most pressing of the things I thought I would have to buy for this baby was cloth nappies. It has been our main expense with each of our children – investing in a good set of nappies to last till toddlerhood (and I won’t lie, it has been something I’ve LOVED buying!). Last year in May we took all of our remaining cloth nappies and gifted them to an orphanage we visited in the Philippines so we were without nappies. Without this project I would have bought ourselves a new set and been on my merry way but this time a set of nappies that were not being used found me. After I posted my first post about not buying anything a friend asked me if I had nappies. I said no, I didn’t yet – and within the week I had borrowed a full set of bum genius nappies that a friend of mine is not using. Not long after two other friends also asked how I was for nappies and gave me some of theirs that they were not using. I am lucky to have a good network of friends who are parents and I think between us we all have lots of stuff we’re not presently using. A little more being open and sharing is a lovely change. Between children I have so many baby things that aren’t getting use and it would give me much more joy seeing them be useful than collecting dust. We gave away our Ergobaby carrier to a friend in the Philippines too but thankfully I was able to be given another while working for Ergobaby earlier this year. Parenting without a good carrier is not something I want to try.
The other main expense we would have invested in for a new child in our family is a carseat. Thankfully however my sister just gifted me her expensive & very safe booster seat that Priya can move into giving her chair to Theo and Theo’s seat turning back around to accommodate our baby. Generally speaking I would not normally use a second hand car seat (as recommended by experts) but since I know the seats previous use and that it has not been through any accidents (and is still well within it’s expiry date) we will be happy to upgrade Priya to this seat.
Of course, if we hadn’t been undertaking this project I am sure I could find a lot of things we ‘need’. Having a new baby is exciting and buying them things is exciting too. I had thought this commitment may take some of the joy out of having a new baby but I’ve found the opposite being true – I was so thankful and excited by each second hand little item I found at the clothes swap it has made me really appreciate what we have been given. Wanting something nice to give our baby that was new and ‘theirs’ I spent my time in Tennessee learning to knit and knitted a little hat for him that is worth 20 new little hats I could have bought. Our baby is getting something made with his mamas love and I got a new badass skill – knitting!
Now that we are on our third baby I’ve realised – they really do not need much. Enough clothes and nappies to go between washes, a good carrier and a boob. We could go buy a new pram, a bouncer, a highchair, a mobile, change mats, a nappy bag… we could have a list as long as our arm but when there is no choice to buy anything – you realise you can make do without.
My monthly updates on ‘doing without’ and our year without purchasing things have been a little less than monthly, I apologise. I’ve written two posts I’ll share in the coming week to make up for it. This is the first and the second is preparing for a baby without buying.
But first; I need to confess:
Lalalalala, everyone look away, nothing to see here!
Last month I went to the USA to document a birth and this had not been in my plans for the year. I was faced with my very first (and potentially only) trip to America and the idea of not buying anything to bring home for my little family. And well… I cheated. I did buy a few presents to bring home to the kids and some things I could not get in Australia. These were non essential items we could have lived without but I did want to take advantage of my time there and have something to give the children after being away for two and a bit weeks.
Having cheated a little on my year long commitment I wanted to reaffirm if I actually wanted to continue when I got home. I had thoroughly enjoyed cheating, buying sweet little somethings for the ones I adore. Did I really want to stop buying things, to try and live more simply?
Then I started reading about the tragedy in Bangladesh and thinking about who really pays for our decisions to live the way we do. On one hand I started this project to try and help me learn to do without but I am seeing that it’s given me so much more value for those things that I do buy, and for the value of where I spend my money.
Many years ago now I watched this little video illustration below of ‘the story of stuff’.
Have you ever had that moment when you’re standing at some shop with mass-produced products and it’s so cheap? Sometimes I buy my kids a toy just so we can quietly shop for the rest of the trip. I once bought a toaster for $14. Fourteen dollars. How could that be made for that price? How was that even covering the parts? I was standing there staring at my toaster wondering how it could have cost me so little when the voice from this video came to me and reminded me it’s because it wasn’t costing me. It was costing someone else. If you have time to watch this video, I really recommend it.
Stopping making purchases has made me stop to think about the things I want very thoroughly. I’ve never really enjoyed shopping but after spending four months not buying anything and then doing so overseas I was so appreciative of each item – stopping consuming (even for the short time it had been) had given me back an appreciation for what I could buy. Stopping buying had given me a perspective on what we really needed and what we could really live without. I had been in a habit of giving very little thought or planning to the things we brought into our lives and for where I spent my money. Cheap leggings at Cotton On? Score! $5 shirts for the kids from Target? Score, I’ll buy 4!
When I asked myself whether we could do a year without buying I went through our clothes like I had never done before. Could the children really go a year without me buying them clothes? I thought I’d better buy Theo some long sleeved shirts before I started because I couldn’t recall him owning any. He had 8. EIGHT! When the option to go buy more were limitless the value I put on what we owned was low. For the first time in years I have found myself sewing buttons back on little pants and sewing seams in split crotches. Little jumpers that still fit and had wear left in them suddenly seemed so precious to me.
Part of me feels years of privilege weighing heavily even writing this post. It’s common sense to fix your clothes when they break instead of throwing them out. It’s common sense to only buy what you need. I am ashamed to admit this is something I had to be brought back to.
I will do a blog post sharing the photos soon but I’ve been working on some photos for a brand called Miou Kids. The package arrived with little fair trade knits and I was elated at how sweet they were but I wondered if I would have wanted to have paid the price they were. It wasn’t until I was standing in front of a television watching women and children being pulled from rubble in Bangladesh that the value of those words ‘fair trade’ on the label really hit home. Now looking at the little leggings I bought at target for $7 I wonder did I really want to to pay the price they were.
The way we had been living I have realised had not been giving me joy and was not sustainable – ethically or environmentally. So yes, learning to live more simply is something I will continue to practise for our family.
I’ve been thinking about how to word this post for a while (it may or may not have been almost a year… I am not a very good blogger). Laying in bed late at night I have tried to think of exactly what it is I want to say here and exactly how to say it. A few weeks ago I read a blog post by a blogger and it was called ‘Why I am over the attachment parenting community‘ and I thought “damn, she beat me to it”. Except… that’s not exactly what I wanted to say. Because this is and isn’t about parenting. So… here goes.
Around 6 months ago I received an email from a blog reader which is what started me thinking about this. The reader wrote that she was encouraged by my children’s birth stories side by side (to see that after my first labour that didn’t go to plan that I went on to have a natural waterbrith). She said some other things but then she wrote something that made me sit and stare at my screen for a very long time. She said that she was looking forward to the day that she would be accepted by the ‘natural parenting’ community because unfortunately, her birth (and breastfeeding) had not gone to plan and she was finding it hard to make friends because of this.
It transported me back to being in primary school and feeling left out because of something that now… seems so pointless. This lady out there who wrote to me was feeling like she couldn’t be accepted into the group she most identified with because her birth hadn’t gone to plan. And my heart was filled with such a sadness thinking about that.
It got me thinking… does it matter how a baby got out of it’s womb when I am making friends? Does it matter how a parent fed their child when I am making friends? No. Do I want to be friends with people who think these things are important enough to choose friends over? No.
I didn’t reply to this lady right away because I honestly didn’t know what to say. I didn’t doubt her story because I have seen first hand how this happens. And not just amongst ‘attachment parents’ but in all sorts of other groupings we label ourselves with (religions, foodies, athiests, hippies etc).
In my years of blogging it has become assumed that I am an ‘attachment parent’ (and maybe it’s because I practise (and promote) many of the AP methods and will continue to do so). The thing is, there is no label for my parenting. Attachment parenting?
No, I am parenting each of my kids individually. Let’s call it Priya and Theo parenting (and I should note Priya parenting is different to Theo parenting). We share our bed, we wear our babies and sometimes I like to bribe my kids. I am doing whatever works for each of our children and sits right with my conscience.
During this time of me pondering these labels and cliques and groups we adults like to give ourselves, and wondering how I could write this blog post I visited a friend of mine.
This friend was talking to me about her work running a very large facebook page where predominately the people who like it have very differing opinions to her own. I asked how she handled that – saying it would send me crazy dealing with so many people writing stuff I thought was uneducated or outright stupid. She laughed and said “But surrounding myself with people like me would be boring? I can’t change people if all the people around me are already like me!”
For a week after I visited with her I kept thinking about what she’d said. Had I inadvertedently been choosing friends based mainly on whether they were making the same life choices as me? If I was honest… yes. There is something in the human nature that wants to be supported and surrounded with people who are similar to ourselves. But maybe I’d been choosing friends on what they were doing moreso than who they were. And this is where it becomes less about parenting and more about openess. In all areas.
“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion”
- Max de Pree.
What can I learn or give if I am only friends with people who are like me?
I remember a book I read while I was attending a Christian university. I don’t remember much of the book but the opening pages will stay with me forever.
A woman came to the author and confessed something too awful and unthinkable for me to repeat here and was desperately hoping for help. He asked her if she’d been to church and she cried out in horror “Church! Why would I want to go there?”. Instead of being a potential refuge in her eyes it was where she would feel most judged.
And I think that happens a lot. We gather excitedly with common belief but if we’re not careful exclude those that need those beliefs most. I want to be open, open to learning, open to diversity and open to people; regardless of the choices they’re making. I always want to remember that when my ideals overtake being loving and kind then they aren’t the ideals I want to live by. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to find things I love, find things that work for me and support groups that nurture these, it just means I want to do so with openess and the knowledge that no one really has all the answers – least of all me – we’re all just fumbling along together.
I have friends who baby wear, friends that sew garlands as offerings to Krishna, friends who bottle feed, friends who are deeply religious or spiritual, friends who are happily atheist, friends who birthed at home and friends who have had surgical births, friends that sleep with their 8 year old and friends who have a baby who likes to sleep alone, friends that eat meat and friends that are vegan, friends that are married and friends that are not, friends who have a partner of the opposite sex and friends who have one of the same, friends that parent like me and friends who do not and I am the richest for it.