Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places



How to build a Capsule Wardrobe in tiny, tiny steps

I recently came across a minimalist fashion website about Capsule Wardrobes, and the very concept both fascinated and terrified me. 

Basically, the challenge is that you choose 30 items for your wardrobe (including footwear!) to mix and match for an entire season. 

Thirty. Considering I’ve now started an office job as well,  I can no longer pass off home togs as going-out duds simply by throwing on a smart jacket and sliding on some lippy in the car. 

Thing is,  I am already recycling the same old clothes week in week out. It gets especially bad in winter –  everything pretty gets swathed in the same winter coat or thick woollen tunics anyway.

HOWEVER. It’s now Spring,  I have a new office job, and my walk-in wardrobe is basically a dumping ground of ironing I have yet to conquer since 1993.

While I know I need a kick up the backside to refresh my wardrobe and think hard about how to deal with my clutter, the other slightly terrifying thing is the throwing out of things. I am HUGELY sentimental when it comes to crockery and clothes,  I’ve come to realise. This has only gotten worse since my mother died. She is inextricably linked to a third of the clothes I will never wear but will never want to give away because they are living memories to me. They speak of many shopping days gone by –  we loved shopping with each other. We didn’t have to buy anything –  it was all about the discovering. 

Most of these clothes were my mother’s way of showing she was missing me when I moved a continent away. Some of them have never fit me, but I never told her because I didn’t want her to feel she was losing touch. 

How does one declutter like that?! 

Simply by allocating them to a box in the corner of the walk-in robe. After reading a few blog posts about capsule wardrobes obviously written for sentimental schmoos like me, I am resolved to do the following. 

  1. Putting away the seasonal stuff first. 
    That’s an easy one, because winter has just ended. I used to rotate summer and winter outfits in my wardrobe Before Children, and I need to get back in that habit. 
  2. Tossing out the Absolutely Nots
    And being really brutal if I can. No, I’m not going to tell myself I’ll fit in them again. Because if I were to ever fit into those size 6s again, I’ll look like mutton dressed as lamb anyway. As for the things my mother gave me,  I’ll have to find a special box and limit myself to that space.
  3. Definitely Maybes
    Before she moved to Perth, Rosie C had told me about this Japanese decluttering principle where you mull over each item and whether it brings you joy. And if it doesn’t, to then think fondly of the times you’ve shared before letting go. Something rama-ding-dong like that. Very Dharma & Greg. We had a bit of a guilty giggle, mostly because as daft as it sounds, it feels like a process worth trying. In the privacy of my home. With no one looking, and moody jazz playing, and posh OJ swirling in wine glass because wine = itchy for me. 
  4. The final countdown
    The magic number in other articles is 30, but I’m just going to go with my age and try streamlining my mix-and-match wardrobe to 37 choice pieces. Per season. Which means really,  I’m trying to reduce my capsule wardrobe to 37 x 4= over 4 seasons. 
  5. The peace of resistance
    This is probably the other part of the exercise that is going to mess with my head big time: not shopping for togs. Or bling. Or shoes. If I am going to train myself to live within my means (and I have lots and lots of means!), it means not adding to an already bursting wardrobe every time I go out. I will,  however, reward myself at the end of each season with a small shopping spree – only because I suspect I’ll learn more during the process what I’m missing from a Capsule Wardrobe. Like a good, tailored all-purpose jacket. Or something. 

But these aren’t exactly “tiny-tiny” steps, I hear you say. Don’t worry. I’ve recently come across another interesting project management theory that I’d like to test out on this decluttering mission. More on that to come later this week. 


Here’s a good article about Capsule Wardrobes. And a good introduction to the different approaches to capsules. And hey, Wikipedia – so it must really be a thing. And this guide is great too. And also, Pinterest

Nesting vs Resting

My mother-in-law is in town! She arrived this morning just before lunch, and already Tony and I are feeling the happy effects of having some breathing space to do grocery shopping, pick up the bassinet for Boy Blob, and just have a coffee by ourselves while we tiredly try and plan a special 10th anniversary day date.

Yes, our 10th wedding anniversary is coming up one week before Christmas this year.

Arddun, meanwhile, is just loving having someone else to share pretend afternoon tea and cake with. And Nanna also came with an extra-impressive gift which I can’t show off at present, because Arddun’s snuggled under it in her room as I type. A whole Toy Story quilt! Yes. Did I tell you that my MIL is a mad quilter? (And by mad, I mean it in the best possible way. She quilts really well – a happy marriage of skill and hobby  – and many of our family milestones have been commemorated by her purpose-made quilts.)

Greeting Nanna at the airport
Greeting Nanna at the airport

My feet are also swollen and tired.

Why is it that the instinct for pregnant women to nest comes just when we are unable to do very much? I waddle after a meal now. But I also want to obsessively clean. Except kneeling on a tiled floor is hard work, and watching me try to get up is like watching a helpless baby seal struggle out of a tub of jello. Except my pelvis is clicky, and my back is sore. Except cankles appear by dinner time, large and swollen and hot, so much so that I cannot even stand at the sink to wash up after a meal anymore.

Also, this is very, VERY true:

I had a cleaning list about 20 lines long yesterday, in anticipation of my steady slew of visitors in the coming weeks. It bemused Tony greatly when he found me squatting over the tracks of the laundry sliding doors compulsively scrubbing with my new Norwex microfibre cloths. (They are FABULOUS, by the way.)

“Isn’t the whole point of family coming so that you get help around the house?” he finally quizzed. “Stop cleaning!”

Fair point. But I am a little house proud… and a lot pregnant. And right now, all I see anywhere is dust. And grout that needs to be scrubbed using some experiment with laundry detergent… and a perpetually molting living room rug that refuses to die… and a dirty oven… and a messy backyard… and… and…

And I can’t do it all. But oh, watch me try!

Household cleaning tips to try

Just stumbled upon a few household cleaning tips, and thought I’d pick a few to try out. Here’s a list of things I never knew and haven’t tried. If you’ve tried out any of them, could you let me know how effective it is?

Those marked in red are some I really want to try soon.

  1. Eucalyptus oil removes the gummy residue left by shop stickers.
  2. To remove furniture indentations from pure wool carpet place a tea towel over the area and then press with a warm iron. The heat will lift the fibres. Do not attempt this with synthetic or a wool/synthetic mix carpet.
  3. Light a match and let it burn a few seconds to remove toilet smells.
  4. To stop bathroom mirrors steaming up, regularly rub a dry bar of soap over the surface and rub in with a clean cloth.
  5. Stop clothes with thin straps falling off hangers by sticking small felt furniture pads onto the hanger just beyond where the straps sit.
  6. To keep your car windows ice and frost free when left outside overnight in the wintertime, mix three parts vinegar to one part water, put it in a spray bottle and spray on the windows as needed.
  7. To prevent buttons from becoming loose or undone, dab a little clear nail varnish on the top thread or onto the stem of the thread and leave to dry.
  8. To stop ants entering your house, draw a chalk line on the ground where you want them to stop. If you live in a rainy area where ants are a problem, you must re-draw the chalk lines each time it rains.
  9. To deter silverfish, place whole cloves in wardrobes and drawers.
  10. To remove body oil stains from collars and cuffs of coloured shirts and blouses, rub hair shampoo directly on the stains. Rinse out the shampoo, then wash the clothes as usual.
  11. To revive a vase of wilted flowers, add a teaspoon of mild detergent.
  12. To keep pinking shears or scissors sharp, cut through a sheet of folded aluminium foil or coarse sandpaper.
  13. To leave a room smelling fresh after you have vacuumed, place a few drops of your favourite essential oil (such as lavender or peppermint) near the vent where the hot air is released. The air warms the oil and blows it into the room.
  14. To mask unpleasant odors, put some coffee beans in a saucepan and burn them. The smell of coffee will overpower the other nasty odors.
  15. To clean a microwave oven, add four tablespoons of lemon juice to one cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl. Boil for five minutes in the microwave, allowing the steam to condense on the inside walls of the oven. Then wipe them with a soft cloth.
  16. To clean a stainless-steel sink, put the stopper in the sink with two denture-cleaning tablets and half fill with water; leave for several hours or overnight and the next day it should be sparkling. Then use the water to clean the draining board, too.
  17. To remove fingerprints from stainless-steel appliances, place a small amount of baby oil on a napkin and wipe the affected areas. The fingerprints will just wipe away.
  18. To remove marker pen off hard surfaces, spray on hair spray and then wipe it off.
  19. To restore toilet bowls back to their shiny best, clean with old, flat Coke or Pepsi. To dissolve limescale, leave the soda overnight to soak.
  20. Vacuuming a mattress, particularly along piping and crevices, removes dead skin cells that attract dust mites.
  21. Clove oil (sold in chemists for toothaches) kills mould spores. Mix three drops in one litre of water and then use to wipe down areas susceptible to mould.
  22. To get rid of the smell of garlic from your hands, rub against stainless steel – your sink is ideal. Then wash hands with soap or detergent.


Stuck on you

So I’ve decided to bite the bullet and stick with a 3-column layout, even though it’s a tad squishy and it’s not your fave. (For the dozen of you who actually bothered to tell me what you think! xx)

As with all things, I got used to the format and then when I switched back to 2 columns, each blog post stretched too far across for my liking. Once you feel your eyes darting to and fro like an old typewriter head, you know the column widths are just a leeetle too fat.

Still hunting for another template, but this will do for now.

Those who don’t do, google. Then blog.

So I’m trying to Martha Stewart my house a little. I want it to look less Salvation-Army-Drop-off-Centre, more IKEA catalogue – a place for everything, and everything in its place. After viewing ElilyMommy’s very sexy new kitchen and how cataloguesque her benchtop and counters are (NOTHING on them. And oh so shiny!), I’m convinced that Less (on the outside) is Best.

Not working at my corporate job has meant several things. No $$ for cleaners. And technically, more time. We’ve talked about how my nesting instincts never got to flap its tiny wings and soar; how they were crushed by the weight of frivolous Jilly Cooper novels, and then fed an evil elixir that made them shrink back and grow lopsided so they didn’t so much look like wings, but Nemo’s lopsided fins. (I loathe housework, BTW.)

Then Arddun came, and as long as my floor was still beigey-orangey ish and not gray, that was time enough spent on inanimate objects when the balance could be so MUCH better employed blowing zer-burps on Arddun’s belly button.

Then she starts to crawl, and it’s 2012, and the Year of the Dragon beckons. And suddenly, like the rise of the phoenix from the ashes, my nesting instincts come to the fore and now I’m like, RAWR! Needtocleanmyhouse! RAWR! Needtohavespotlessbenchtops!

Except I don’t have enough daylight hours. Or rather, I don’t have enough predictable daylight hours. Because I now live a half-hour at a time.  I have exactly 24 half-hour daytime slots, of which 1 might be spent in the shower if I’m lucky. And then it’s dinner, then nightfall, and you can’t do housework in mood lighting, really. You just can’t.

So this evening, I did the next-best thing to housework. I googled. And I browsed through my unused housework phone apps, and contemplated their return from ignominy. So if you’re looking for the proverbial kick up the housewifing bum, may I present the following tools.

1. FlyLady (Free-ish)

Yes. The big, purple fairy who sends you on 15-minute de-clutters – Super Fling Boogies – and other errands around different parts of the house  (called ‘zones’) . It’s a call to action in your inbox every day. Except the last time I tried FlyLady (it’s been years), I ended up needed a Super Fling Boogie to de-clutter my mailbox. FlyLady turned out to be SpamLady. And was the email formatting equivalent of a teenager who just discovered Geocities way back in the day. Don’t know what she’s like now, though. I hear she’s still effective, for those who love her. (Even got into merchandising. Now with calendars and De-clutter bags labelled ‘Give away’, ‘Put away’ and ‘Throw away’.)

But if you, like me, are a FlyLady drop out, then fear not! For there are excellent imitation goods around, just like in China. Such as…

2. Messies Anonymous (Free)

They send you an email with a ra-ra about jumping out of bed, jumping into action, not procrastinating by googling and blogging (probably). They tell you to tackle your Mt Vernon… by sorting your stuff into boxes labelled ‘Give away’, ‘Put away’ and ‘Throw away’. Ahem.

Offline, I hear it’s a lot like FlyLady “without the passive-aggression”. This coming from a few FlyLady drop outs. Still there’s this other program that people love, called…

3. Habithacker (Free)

I’m actually going to subscribe to this one. It has 90-day programs, where you get sent a daily email with a specific task. But it doesn’t just do domestics – there’s a  90-day program for cultivating a healthy lifestyle, and another for getting that creative project off the ground. I should probably do all three, but I’ll start with the housework and the creative project one, and see where I go from there.

It actually sounds fun. But the next one sounds like it takes the cake in the fun stakes, because it’s…

4. Chore Wars (Free, or $10 one-off payment for history and no ads)

Simply put, it’s housework meets RPG. Or something. You create a character. You invite others. You do chores. You get points for done chores. You go up levels. You get to buy gear. It’s housework for geeks. It’s gorgeous. I love the concept. I’m going to invite every single person I know who owns a house, doesn’t live with their mothers, and who might be even remotely interested in computer games. And my entire Mother’s Group, even though they’re not. You have been warned.

5. HomeRoutines (iPhone app – $3.99)

This is a souped-up reminder app, really. But it allows you to log tasks to accomplish for the day, on top of routine household chores you’ve set for yourself. And you can set zones as well, so you can tackle whole areas of your house and clean the skirting boards, for instance. Dovetails nicely into FlyLady-type prompts – just harness the gist of the FlyLady type system, and key it all in your app. Repeat weekly. Even comes with a timer for your Super Fling Boogies.

6. Errands (iPhone app – Free)

A simple app that allows you to set routines and recurring chores. The one-up over HomeRoutines is that you can set chores by calendar dates (“every 15th day of every month till 2013”). But the interface is rather Clip Art 101. And because I like pretty things, I eventually retired this app. The app icon alone was making my skin crawl and I just wanted to hide it in a deep, dark place so it wouldn’t tarnish my iPhone desktop. Vain, huh.

7. Weekly Habits Pad (Kikki-K, $5.95)

I’ve added this one, because essentially this post is about breaking old habits and starting new ones. And this nifty little pad of paper sets out to cultivate new habits.

The idea is that it takes 21 days to change a habit, especially if there’s a juicy carrot to be had at the end. So you enter the habit you want to create on the left column (say, jog twice a week), tick off the days you accomplished that task, and then enter the reward you give yourself should you meet your target.

Sometimes, I enter an emotional reward (“make Tony happy”). Other times, it’s something small and maybe a little antithesis to other habits I’m trying to cultivate (“exercise thrice a week” vs “pig out on Cafe Grande Connoisseur ice cream with chocolate-coated almonds, hamana hamana hamana *drool*…) But so far, it’s been lovely ticking off little accomplishments and I’ve been quite motivated.

Of course, this works because I love lists and ticking things off. Sometimes I draw a box and list the task AFTER the fact, just so I can tick it off. Sad, no?


So there you have it. My carefully researched tools for Martha Stewart greatness (minus jail time). And now, to sleep on it. :)

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