Frugal and Fun

Beautiful Home in Nagdhar - Anni, Kullu
Many people, for one reason and another, find themselves in straightened circumstances, for limited or indefinite periods of time, but does this mean they should put their lives on hold until fresh income makes life enjoyable once again?

Life, and to the Full

The Good Book says we only get this one life, but even for those of the reincarnation persuasion, this life still has its own precious value and should be appreciated to the full … and can be, financial circumstances notwithstanding. It takes some creativity and extra work, but being forced to think twice before purchasing isn’t necessarily a negative.

A priority reshuffle which generates savings might mean a vacation, or avoiding debt, or it may mean a breadwinner could make career decisions based on different priorities than income. I have written previously about a culture of acquisition pervading western society, and whether our purchases deliver the satisfaction we anticipate, or if accumulation is really more of a habit than a necessity.

And of course, this question becomes especially relevant on a reduced income.

Don’t just Survive – Thrive

Realistically, unless we take drastic measures to live “off the grid”, we do need some level of income to put food on our tables and keep a roof over our heads. But necessities aside, can we not just survive, but thrive, on less?

Totally Free Activities

Besides basic food, shelter and clothes, most of the important things in life are free! Time with family never has to cost a bean – walking the dog, or the baby, taking the kids to the beach or park, and even couple time; whether you like board games or feeding birds, it’s all out there.

Put Your Hands Where I can See Them and Step Away from the Mall!

On a daily basis, depending on financial necessity and commitment to lifestyle change, there are more or less things that can be done to spend less – staying away from malls might be the biggest income saver of all. Unless you have nerves of steel (or consumer paralysis), window shopping usually doesn’t remain free, when cups of coffee or lunch to keep the strength up, or falling in love with a “must-have” item is counted.

Food Savings: Planning

Supermarket shopping and meal planning, while requiring some organisational skills, are other areas where significant savings can be made over time. Work out some staple recipes with core common ingredients, mix them up for variety, and buy in bulk or on special when available. Try to plan menus around in-season vegetables, since these will be cheaper. Decide in advance what the necessities are and buy only what’s on the list while shopping. Doing more food preparation at home rather than buying ready-made is both healthier and generally cheaper, and you can involve children in the preparation of meals, which is always great for bonding and developing self-sufficiency.

Go one step further, and save both money and teeth by avoiding softdrinks or juice – tap water is virtually free, and in some places actually tastes decent. Yes, the kids will bellyache, but they’ll get used to it. Really, I am that cruel.

G.Y.O. – Grow Your Own

If you’re really keen, you can grow the more expensive of the fruit and vegetables which constitute your core ingredients – but bear in mind that it may be a good idea to concentrate on high-harvest, low-area crops – potatoes, for example, can be a good choice, since they can be grown successfully vertically and produce well, whereas onions and carrots are usually cheap to buy, while to grow they need a lot of space for the harvest that would make the effort worthwhile.

Home Savings: Treasure and Tat

While home magazines sing their siren song, tempting us with all-new kitchens and trendy bathrooms, unless the place is really falling to bits, existing fixtures generally will suffice for years to come. Instead of craving to rip the lot out and start over, we can take a leaf from the book of rental chic – as demonstrated at Apartment Therapy, renters are creating beautiful spaces, while by necessity retaining sometimes less than beautiful existing features. These inspiring people demonstrate the eco- and pocket-friendly possibilities and benefits of effective recycling. By avoiding soulless, store-bought tat, their homes reflect personality and originality.

Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle

Secondhand stores, often supporting charities, contain troves of treasures from clothing to furniture to household items, many full of the character of decades past, often solid and made to last. Clothing, and other things, can also be upcycled for reuse in an original way. Here again, a rummage through the internet will turn up sites with ideas for upcycled clothing design. Furthermore, if you have thrifty friends, consider swapping or bartering useful items.

Priceless (Free) Gifts

If you’re on a tight budget, gifts can be a drain on the pocket, but depending on skills and interests, friends and relatives can just as well be recipients of handmade gifts. Made with recycled materials, these can be free to make, and priceless for the receiver. From jewelry to hand cream to a cover for his motorcycle, the world wide web is a fund of ideas for the willing.

Emotional Wealth

Living on a budget doesn’t need to be a source of gloom, but of pride in achievement and overcoming a challenge, and encounters with simple pleasures. Having to work together on money-saving projects can be a bonding experience for a family or couple, and a mental renovation may be the catalyst for realigning priorities towards accumulating a hoard of emotional wealth.





Life with ADD

deadlineI make light of it, but being disorganized is compromising. Actually it’s not exactly that I’m disorderly (cuz I haz strategies for dat), it’s the way my brain functions best under pressure (which means it sets me up for last minute rushes by ignoring deadlines until the eleventh hour), it’s the way I don’t remember superfluous details (like deadlines, and birthdays), it’s the way I can’t focus – until I can, and then I can barely disengage enough to comprehend what people are saying. Not optimal when raising children. It’s the way that, despite my intentions, I never can get hold of a Round Tuit.

It’s the accumulation of these little deficiencies that create the appearance of chaos, and that unpleasant feeling of being perpetually tardy.

Calendars, liberators and warlock’s cats

Sadly, it’s taken me longer than it should have to cotton on to technology, but I have developed some strategies to outwit my neurotype and deal to deadlines and dates, and its name is Google Calendar.

Google calendar and its auto-syncing correlate, Android calendar, with affiliated notifications, are my liberators and deliverers. I mean, paper calendars are great and all, but you have to remember to look at them first.

It was never going to be any different. I was pretty much doomed to this fate. I don’t know if an ancestor stole a warlock’s cat or something, but the curse runs in the family. Both sides. As in, don’t come to the family pile expecting any semblance of normalcy.

The Chaos Path

Dr Gabor Mate is very illuminating on the topic of ADD, how kids ‘catch’ it, and how it affects their lives into adulthood – it’s not just a kiddie disorder, as people who have it know (unless of course they don’t, which is sometimes the case). Dr Mate himself was diagnosed only at 51, and it only occurred to me that there might be something wired fundamentally differently in my brain after my children were born with similar traits, and I was diagnosed after my son, just for my own information.

I see a diagnosis primarily as a term to google. It’s a label; whether it’s useful depends on what you want it for. When I got diagnosed the first thing I did was google the hell out of ‘ADD’ for a while. Forums are great places to get information from the coalface rather than from ‘experts’ who haven’t walked the walk, and there are forums for adults with ADD/ADHD.

So I know there are a lot of us around, and like any difference, it can be disorientating to be off the bell curve. Which is why I thought I’d blog a bit around it, because if I’m honest about my disjointedness, it might resonate with others. I’m no guru and don’t want to be anyone’s guide; I haven’t even got my own head properly together, but I know what it’s like to walk the chaos path.

So if you’re new, welcome to Chaos Girl’s blog, where I’ll be writing about wrangling chaos.

You know, when I get around to it.


The Burglar on a Food Raid


The Burglar doing what she does best, burgling.

“Baby on the hunt!” I cried, but too late, she’d got hold of her sister’s unattended breakfast bowl.

the Burglar's food raid

the Burglar’s food raid



Laundry is my Nemesis


How I hate laundry. Laundry is always there, just waiting for you to turn around, multiplying evilly. No matter how often you wrestle those grubbies into the washer, there’s always more. It’s a neverending story of the worst kind. It’s teh debbil’s work. Has to be.



Chaos Girl’s Entropy-wrangling Tip of the Day for the Organisationally Challenged


by mazzali on flickr

by mazzali on flickr

Make the Bed!!

It may seem self-evident but it’s not. Come on, I know your dirty little secret. We all pretend like making the bed is obviously the first thing we do in the morning (what kind of scrub do you take us for??) but nope. We stumble blearily out of the bedroom only to catch a later clear-eyed view of the disaster that is the bed.

Motivation killer.

So MAKE THE BED. You will feel like the queen of clean right there. Success breeds success, chances are the day can only get better after that. Go to it, chaos-wranglers!



Survival Storage, Part 1

Kids' treasure display

Kids’ treasure display

Or, How to Thrive with What You Have

Oftentimes, for reasons such as budget, time, energy or ownership restrictions, when it comes to decorating our homes, we don’t have the option to rip it all out and start again with a clean slate. And even if we have the means, this is not always necessity so much as choice. Personally I think you can do a lot with what you already have, save your moolah and the earth while you’re at it. You only have to look at what people achieve with rentals and dorm rooms to know how far creative thinking can take you. I’ve lived in the same 85 sq metres (915 sq feet) for something like a decade and a half. Two children ago I began to feel the squeeze.

Admittedly we also have a 35 sq m (376 sq ft) detached garage out the back and 600 sq m (6500 sq ft) to grow veggies and keep chooks. Into the garage goes furniture items I am considering living without, and clothes stored for the kids to  grow into, plus husbandly tools and camping gear. It’s storage purgatory. Things which end up there exist in a shadow world somewhere between real life and op shop hell.

However. Aside from that dirty little netherworld, in terms of real living space, I felt the squeeze  years ago. Now we have 3 children and 2 adults (and a dog) in a 3 bedroom, one living and ONE BATHROOM house. And I’m here to tell you, it’s ok.

Perspective and Vertical Storage

It’s partly in the perspective, and partly in how you manage everyone’s stuff. In terms of perspective, you only have to look at the world news, google world average wages…I won’t bore you. You know what I’m talking about. First world problems vs you know, real problems.

In terms of practical management – Vertical Storage. My friend, your friend, we’ve been through this. More in a bit.

A lot of people manage their lives well, they’re awfully organised, but their spaces just don’t exude the wow, they don’t sing; frankly they scare off people who crave style and make them think you have to gut a place just to get the wow. Like you can’t live small and cheap and have the wow.

The Wow – you can have it

No. I disagree. I live small, and cheap (or as we cheap snobs like to say, ‘frugally’), but everyone who walks through my door comments that they like what I’ve done with the place. “Warm”, “stylish” and “happy” are some of the words that are used. That’s despite the amount of stuff packed into the space, and the fact it’s a 70s…I don’t even know what to call it; ‘bungalow’ is too posh – it’s the kind of house they built on the cheap in the 70s, with nothing much to recommend it except water-tightness. (It’s tiny, but it is perfectly formed. I have always admired the designers for getting everything a house needs in all the right places in a perfect 85 sq m rectangle. Awesome.)

Small but perfectly formed

Small but perfectly formed

But the truth is, there’s almost nothing about it that’s new or fabulous. Plus the stylist in me has to contend with kid whozits and whatsits, and tools which, you know, need to live in the house ’cause the garage is sooo far away…..not to mention household paperwork etc queuing up for my attention. The real world of families. And that’s where I just don’t gel with those blogs where everyone seems so super-organised (daily chore checklists, pffft, in my house things get cleaned when they start begging for it; squeeky wheels and all that. And if my baseboards are dusty….ok. Maybe growing up in a third world country has left me with different priorities, or maybe I’m just grubby, IDK. I just know I don’t notice other people’s dusty baseboards).

Cupboards the size of houses

I know it’s styling for the photos, akin to airbrushing  advertising models, but it has the same effect of making ordinary people feel inadequate. Don’t misunderstand me, I do love them blogs, they have great ideas and fabulous homes; they’re pinned all over my Boards for inspiration, but where the hell is all the child-litter? Hidden in cupboards the size of my living room I’m guessing.

And that’s where my life and home exists in an alternate universe to theirs. Perhaps having add/adhd doesn’t help, but I’m still pretty sure this is the soul cry of many other real-lifers. So while it’s all very well to be inspired by these beautiful, pristine interiors, how does one marry style with real life, especially if one is confined by space, budget and ADD?

As men are wont to say, it’s what you do with it that counts. And it’s probably more true for decor than for men.