We've been in our house almost 6 months now and it feels like we've been here forever. This house so quickly felt like home and I know that is because everything about it was a conscious decision on our part, making it totally our own. We often find ourselves saying to each other how easy this space feels, how much we love being at home, coming home after work and how good it feels to live here. I've begun to truly realise that there is an appreciation you feel once you rid yourself of the excess. Everything around us is simple, beautiful and purposeful.
Design & build
People ask us if there's anything we'd change about our house now that we're living in it. I can't think of anything. That's the beauty with a custom design and build - it is exactly the way we wanted it to be. It might not suit someone else but it fits us perfectly.
With that being said it was definitely daunting building a house that we'd designed ourselves because it wasn't a tried and tested off-the-shelf plan. There were many moments where I wondered if we'd got measurements right or whether our vision would work. But after just a few days living in the house we were content with how everything turned out. The house doesn't feel cramped or small - and I believe that comes down to the design. From the pitched ceiling to the big windows. Sliding doors rather than conventional swinging doors. A luxuriously big shower and a kitchen bigger than the one that was in our four bedroom home! This house might be less than a third of the size of an average home but we think it packs a punch.
The build itself we're pretty darn chuffed with too. There's not a single element of our home that let us down us quality-wise and I remember with our first build that there were many. This time around we made very conscious decisions about the businesses & people we wanted to work with and it paid off. We can't recommend the team of tradespeople we used highly enough. In some cases this meant we paid a premium but typically you get what you pay for when it comes to service and quality.
It took just over 6 months to finish the build, which at the time felt like forever for a small build, but in reality considering the winter weather we were battling I think we did very well. Building over summer would have been much easier but there are drawbacks to each season, and while we cursed the wind and rain many times throughout the build the cooler weather was kind in that our exposed concrete floors didn't crack during curing.
If there is one thing we'd do differently with the design and build it would be to have spent even more time in the planning process with some of the technical aspects. The convoluted drainage channel system that was required between the house and same level concrete deck cost us thousands more than we'd expected. Similarly my design choice to have horizontal runs of corrugated cladding on the house meant thousands spent in labour & flashings purely for a look. Had we known how much some of these design choices were going to cost us and what headaches were involved with meeting building code compliance for certain things we may have chosen a different option. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and if that's all we can complain about I think we're pretty lucky!
In summary we are very happy with the design and build. The companies and people we worked with helped us create a home that we couldn't be happier with and we are so thankful. Our advice for anyone looking at building? Spend a lot of time on the planning part - it will be time well spent when you get to the build phase. Try to visualise yourself living in the home and how the design will work functionally, not just from an aesthetic viewpoint. And carefully consider your contractors and remember the cheapest quote isn't always the best option.
Materials & products
There's a number of reasons why we went over budget for this build but the main reason was our choice not to compromise on the materials and products we used. While it wasn't easy to see the budget being blown to pieces this house is intended as our forever home and we didn't want to later regret not having it made the way we dreamed it to be.
We could have saved thousands by having a cheaper shower, but we dreamed of the luxurious tiled shower. We could have had a kitset kitchen but this is the centre of our home and we are so pleased we did a custom kitchen to suit. We could have picked cheaper carpet for the bedroom, we could have selected a lower grade plywood for the walls, our eco-fire choice was pricey and we could have gone with a cheaper quote for all windows but we made conscious choices with the materials and products in our home. Even so we did definitely compromise on some things; we could have picked even higher grade plywood or gone with pre-sealed sheets, we opted out of argon gas for our windows, I didn't get the brand of kitchen appliances I dreamed of and we did glass wool insulation rather than a more eco-friendly product.
It was a constant battle trying to balance our dreams, must-haves, wants and budget. I'm sure it's like this with any build, big or small. But it was all on us this time around because I was managing the project and the budget. Last time we built we had a fixed price contract for the build and we picked material and product choices from a set list given to us by the building franchise. When it's a custom build suddenly a whole world of material and product options is open to you and it was sometimes overwhelming trying to make decisions.
Our material and product choices involved weighing up cost, aesthetics, future maintenance, eco-friendliness, time-savings, budget priorities and future costs.
The final cost of our house build is sitting around $220,000. This excludes the cost of land, the shed build, landscaping and costs of connecting to services (water, sewerage, power & phoneline - which will differ for every build & location). I have included the cost of the concrete deck in that amount which almost doubles the footprint of the build.
You could build a 65 square metre house for less than what it has cost us. I'd estimate you could save $25-50k on choosing different materials, cheaper products and components. But for us this would have meant not getting the forever house we dreamed of. Also because it was a custom design and build we had to pay for that. An off-the-shelf plan would be cheaper and time-saving.
Some of the things which might surprise you about the cost of the build: Plywood isn't cheaper than GIB itself, it just meant no gib-stopping and painting bills. We saved thousands of dollars by doing as much as we could ourselves like putting up the plywood & polyurethaning it, bathroom gib-stopping & painting, also sanding & sealing the concrete floor. If we didn't have to satisfy council building requirements we would have saved close to $20k in costs that did nothing to improve the actual build so I can definitely see the attraction of tiny houses on wheels, not to mention how frustrating & time-consuming it seems to be having to deal with the council when building.
We've managed to shave over 15 years off our mortgage by down-sizing from a house that was excessive to our requirements. And in the process we've built our dream forever house. This house has allowed us to take a huge step toward financial freedom, it's given us time back because it takes mere minutes to do chores instead of hours and it's taken away some of the stress we had because life is simpler now.
There were many meltdown moments during the build (mainly with blowing the budget!) however it has all been well and truly worth it. Of course that's what you'd expect us to say, but we have no real regrets. We made very little compromise with this build and while it might have cost more than we'd initially hoped we've achieved the house we wanted.
So what next?
It feels so good to have the house complete and to just enjoy living in it. Every day we appreciate this home we've built. At the end of 2019 we also came up with a name for our home. I'd always wanted to name it but it took a while to both agree on a name that fit the place. Devon Cottage - for the street we live on and the small house that it is. We're going to have the name of the house etched into some corten steel panels which will go on the end of the deck finishing off the fence.
Next up is the landscaping which is going to be a work in progress for many years. We recently had the fence put in and we're re-sowing grass, planting fruit trees, with the first vegetable garden to go in shortly too. From there we'll add a tunnel house, herb gardens, along with more trees and shrubs as time and money permits.
I've taken some photos of our wee house at last! Between actually finishing with the build, shifting in, taking some time to settle in and running my photography business I just haven't had the chance to do this until now. Walking around our home taking these photographs this morning nearly brought me to tears - happy tears! It's finally sunk in that we've done it. This is our home! Our dream has been realised. We're living it.
The home might be just 65sqm but we definitely don't feel like it's cramped or tight. Each area in the house has been well thought through.
The use of plywood for our walls and ceilings is probably the most talked about component of our interior. People either love it or hate it. We love it, that's why we did it. The texture it adds and the variation in the natural grains of the wood suits the look we wanted.
Our bed headboard wall doubles as a walk-around wardrobe. Designed by us, made by the clever Regan at Elite Joinery Solutions.
We've still got laundry shelving to go up in the bathroom and some towel hooks - all of which are going to be custom made by us. The bathroom is our only room in GIB so I decided to go bold with the colour tones in here. The walls are Dulux Nevis Valley, the ceilings Dulux Cardrona. Black fittings throughout and a one of a kind vanity unit made from reclaimed rimu and steel, with a stone basin that matches the outside bath.
One strategically angled shot of my office because that room is still a mess with boxes of sentimental items & seasonal clothing etc that will eventually get put up into the roof space for storage. This room is also home to the linen shelving and hot water cylinder (no we didn't go gas - another common thing we get asked about - our reason: one day we want to install a solar system, so gas would be a utility bill we couldn't reduce, where as electric water heating we can).
The much talked about outside bath tub! This beauty came from Indonesia and is a composite of crushed marble and resin. We've plumbed hot water to it and use it just like you would an indoor bath, except that (to the relief of the neighbours) I wear togs!
It feels like every part of this home is 'my favourite thing about the house' haha but that Siberian Larch feature on the front is a definite highlight, breaking up the black but complimenting it at the same time. Our builders (Wilson Baird Building in Riversdale) did an incredible job with the exterior and while the changing runs of horizontal & vertical corrugated cladding were one of my most annoying design ideas logistically I think it's SO worth it.
We can't wait to put Matt's custom made outdoor furniture on the deck ready for summer days with the bi-folds stacked open. And soon the task of landscaping will begin. More photos to come as we continue to get settled and do the final finishing touches.
I am so behind on blogging the progress of our house build! But now that we're all moved in and the chaos is over I plan to catch up and share the last couple of months of building which were a crazy blur of busy. Matt ended up taking most of August off work (man are we lucky he has an awesome employer!) and we were on the building site ourselves an average of 80 hours a week, from dawn until well after dusk every day.
In August we were ready to start fitting out the interior. The electrician and plumber ran their wiring and piping through the walls and then it was on us to insulate and begin putting our ceiling and walls up. Proof of how much of a blur this part of the build is the fact that we didn't take many photos because we were so busy just getting shit done. While builders straightened walls and began on the exterior cladding Matt and I were learning how to do all sorts of things as we went; installing ply sheets, gib-stopping, painting, sealing concrete floors, installing the drainage channels brackets, foaming up windows, putting on architraves and skirting boards, making the bathroom vanity, putting up the Siberian larch weatherboards and being general labourers to help the builders with any jobs we could.
I was so glad we were only building a tiny house - the insulation for the ceiling and walls was all done in one weekend! Putting up the ply walls was another story. There was so much planning, measuring and double-checking involved with every sheet. And then we had to polyurethane it all!
And let's not forget how much of a test the weather was for us. Building in winter had more than it's fair share of challenges - with high water tables causing excavation nightmares, rain delaying concrete pours and wind holding up the roofing and cladding installation.
Countless late nights spent working and countless takeaway meals on the run! There's no denying that this part of the build was one of the most stressful times of our lives! Every last blood, sweat and tear went into building, but we did enjoy being hands on and it was very rewarding to know we played such a big role in creating our forever home. At the end of each day we could see the progress we'd made and that kept us going. We had a vision of how the house would look and I think it took most people, even our builders, until near the end to truly see what we had envisaged from the start.
I googled how to gib-stop the bathroom - it's not perfect but I was pretty pleased with my efforts. Painting the bathroom was a team effort (would you believe I had never used a paint roller before?!). Matt chose some expensive Italian Corten steel look tiles for the shower and they're utterly gorgeous! Adrian Van Uden's team did an incredible job of the tiling for us.
Regan from Elite Joinery Solutions, not only made our beautiful kitchen but also helped us with a number of other projects in the home including these rimu slabs which I then poured with resin while Matt made steel frames which would become our vanity unit.
Matt and I had our fair share of 'heated discussions' during the build but we're lucky that on the whole we work pretty well together. One thing I will say is that project managing a build is SO much more intense than I was prepared for. This stage of the build just became all consuming and my head was filled with one massive to do list. Added to that was managing the budget! I was often overwhelmed with the full responsibility for all the decisions I was making and the consequences of those decisions at times. But we haven't been living in the home a month yet and already we've both said it was all worth it. Well and truly.
While final fitout of electrical and plumbing began inside, the outside was all coming together too with the cladding and utilities.
We can't thank all our tradespeople enough for the huge efforts put in to getting this build over the line! Gavin and his team at Wilson Baird Building, Matt of Henson Electrical, Nick from NG Plumbing & Heating, Lindsay Roy for the all the earthworks, Regan at Elite Joinery Solutions, Adrian Van Uden, Gore Flooring Xtra, Ben at Thwaites Aluminium (& Rolly!), Brennan at Southern Concrete Cutting for all his advice and of course Josh at MAS Architecture for taking my hand drawn plans and turning them into a real house design for us.
Thank you also to all the beautiful people in our lives who dropped in to see us while all of this craziness was in progress and delivered care packages of food, fed us meals, helped us with a paint brush, lent another pair of hands to whatever job needed done, let us borrow tools, helped us lift stuff and just generally raised our spirits with your company & good banter. We love you. We appreciate you. And how cool is it that this house already has our friends & family as part of its story?
The windows & doors went in last week. This week the pre-wiring and plumbing was done. And this weekend Matt and I have a whole lot of insulation to install!
What a relief it is to no longer be weather dependent. Not that we've had much time to really stand back and let the fact that we're well over half way through this build sink in! Instead we've been busy (often long in to the evenings) working on pre-lining tasks, preparing the concrete floors and making decisions on interior fixings & materials. It has been all go.
I thought I had most things sorted for this part of the build but it turns out that having it planned in my mind or on paper is entirely different to having things ordered or actually organised! This week has been a whirlwind of phone calls sorting everything from concrete sealer to siberian larch weatherboard profiling. I've done walk throughs with the electrician and picked up our tapware. We've spent more hours than we want to count cleaning back the concrete floors ready for sealing (the concrete floors are a whole other story!) and each night I go to bed exhausted but with a million things racing around in my mind.
Still, while there's a bit of stress involved with overseeing so many aspects, making decisions and trying to manage the dollars going out as well, I am wildly happy every time I set foot in the house. This is going to be our home and it's looking beautiful.
The roof is on! Which naturally called for a few beers after work yesterday.
This milestone feels like a halfway point. The structure is pretty much done and once the windows go in we'll be closed in. I'm so looking forward to when we begin working on the interior. It just feels so real now that we have walls and a roof! This is also the point where Matt and I get to do a bit more of the process ourselves - would you believe me if I said I'm excited about doing the insulation?! Haha I'm sure the novelty will wear off fast!
But how good does that roof look?! I'm so pleased we stuck with black coloursteel - we tried to find an off-black shade that wasn't quite so bold but we just kept coming back to plain black. It's striking but it's not as in-your-face as I worried it would be. When we designed the house I also had reservations about the house length and roof pitch. I didn't want the proportions to be out and thought it might look too long and pointy but now I see it in 3D I realise there's nothing long about this house - it's tiny! 🤣 And I love it.
We are officially out of the ground! Today the concrete got poured for our house and we're pretty darn excited. Anyone that has built before knows getting out of the ground is one of the longest, slowest parts of the build. And what with crappy winter weather we've had recently it feels like we've been waiting for this day for a while. But it's happened & we're so excited to see it all progressing.
I thought now would be a good time to share why we went with a tiny house on foundations rather than the very popular tiny house on wheels.... When we really started talking seriously about downsizing, we first looked at the idea of tiny houses on wheels (THOW). This is the most common type of tiny house and examples of incredible THOW's can be found all over Youtube and social media now. Many people choose THOW's because of the ease of being able to move their home if they need to. The pricepoint of a THOW is often more attractive because you don't have to own the land. And of course being on wheels means you fall under transport regulations, not building regulations (although this is a grey area & is likely to change). Not having to build to specific code & go through the rigmarole of council consent is obviously attractive (having just gone through this process ourselves we can certainly see why people try to avoid it & the costs involved!). The reason we decided a THOW wasn't for us is because the mobility of the house wasn't a priority for us, we still wanted to own some land and being on wheels has it's design restrictions because your home has to stay within set road-legal dimensions.
We briefly looked into container homes, another form of a tiny house. This is where we kicked our ideas up a gear and got in touch with our builder to quiz him about the logistics of building with containers. We quickly realised from talking to him and doing some more research that while it may seem cheaper to use a container versus conventional building materials there are drawbacks and factors that need to be added into consideration. You're also limited by the dimensions of the container/s which reduces flexibility for the design.
In the end we decided on a more conventional to-building-code house on foundations - just a really small build compared to the average NZ home (which is now over 200sqm!). This way we could design a floor plan that worked perfectly for us without making compromises, we'd have a home that was easily insurable, equitable and built to NZ building standards. We'd still be 'in the system' as such (owning land, connected to services etc) but we'd get a home that would last us our lifetime and we'd be able to achieve financial freedom much faster than had we stayed in our big house.
Building a tiny house on foundations definitely has it's drawbacks too though and won't suit everybody going down the path of going tiny. Because it falls under building regulations you have all those costs to add in. Having to adhere to those regulations also means you might have to forego some amazing tiny house design ideas (such as a simple ladder up to a loft would instead have to be a compliant staircase). Going off-grid with your services (such as a composting toilet & greywater systems) isn't going to be as easy when having to be signed off by council. And it could be tricky to find land that you can build tiny on because of minimum size restrictions in certain regions.
That's the beautiful thing about tiny houses - they're specifically unique to the people living in them. What works for some, won't work for others. We are so excited to live in the space we've designed uniquely for us. And today we are one step closer.
The number one question we're getting asked on the daily at the moment is how is the build coming along or when do we think we'll be in our new home. It's exciting talking to people about our tiny home and getting to share our journey. It's cool to see such an interest in what we're doing. And we're so flippin' excited to see it all start to come together. We talk often about how amazing it is going to be living in a house we've designed, somewhere we can see ourselves being for the rest of our lives, a home that is going to give us the life we're dreaming of!
But I realised recently that each time people asked me about the build progress I was constantly thinking of timeframes and targets rather than the beauty & fun of the build itself. Over the last few months of getting out the other side with consent and then starting the groundworks I found myself getting stressed and worried every time something took longer than expected, materials didn't turn up on time or the weather stopped work for the week. I laugh now at how I naively thought we'd be out of the ground by Easter!
I've slowly learnt to release any expectations of timing. Sure it's important to have a loose timeline so all the contractors are on the same page but in terms of when certain stages will be done & when we'll be shifting in... all in good time. There never was a hard set deadline anyway and we want to get it all done right, rather than rush it.
And you know what - that mindset shift has made the build immediately less stressful and so much more enjoyable. Letting go and just being excited about the small steps forward each week doesn't come naturally to me as I'm such a planner, but it totally aligns with what we're also trying to achieve with this build.
This beauty is my go-to for any hard to clean areas or when I'm doing a deep clean! From getting burnt on food off pots, to getting the sink shiny again. I use it in the bathroom to scrub grime and soap scum off surfaces too! I love this cleaning paste. PLUS it's so simple to make and lasts for ages!
Place 1 cup of baking soda in a small bowl (or straight into whatever air-tight container you're going to keep this paste in, a jam jar or honey pottle works great) and then add about 1/4 cup of castile liquid soap (I use Dr Bronner's). [ie: 4 parts baking soda + 1 part castile liquid soap]. Add in 10 drops of essential oil if you want - try peppermint or anything citrus. Mix together until it forms a thick paste. Add a little water or more soap if it's a too dry. Store in an air-tight container and use as you need it. I find a small teaspoon size dollop is all I need for most applications. Apply to dirty surface & scrub, you can add a little water or cleaning spray (below) to surface as well to help the paste along.
This spray lives on the bench because I use it every day when wiping down kitchen surfaces. I used to love using store bought spray & wipe with the 'pretty' smells but now I have this more eco-friendly, safer alternative I haven't looked back. And I love knowing the beautiful smell is essential oils and not fake, cheap fragrances derived from chemicals!
Add 1 tbsp of baking soda, 1 tbsp of castile liquid soap & 10-20 drops of your choice of essential oils (use ones that have cleaning or disinfecting properties like tea tree, lemon, peppermint, eucalyptus or rosemary) to a spray bottle and then top up with water. Shake well before each use to re-combine all the ingredients.
Disinfectant spray / glass cleaner
This spray does two jobs - great for cleaning glass and it also has disinfecting properties with the vinegar and lemon essential oil. Now who doesn't love a multi-tasker?! I use this spray on windows (or pour a 1/4 cup into my bucket of hot water, along with a little castile liquid soap, if I'm doing a full window clean), bench surfaces, chopping boards, toilet seats, door handles etc and I spray my cleaning brushes & scrubbers with it before dousing them with boiling water to disinfect.
Simply half fill a spray bottle with white vinegar, then add filtered/boiled/distilled water to the top. (ie: 1 part vinegar + 1 part water). Add 20 drops of lemon essential oil (a natural degreaser, smells divine and is known for it's antimicrobial qualities). Pop the spray trigger on top of your bottle and you're done. Shake well before each use to re-disperse the essential oil. When using as a disinfectant spray just apply to the area and leave to dry. When using to clean glass (or stainless steel) spray on then buff off with a cloth.
A year ago today we announced to our family and friends that we were selling up. I remember the excitement of putting our plans into action. The nervousness of putting our beloved home on the market. And then I remember the frustration of waiting for it to sell. It took over six months which felt like forever! Ha. Now one year later as we break ground on our new section and get excited for the next chapter, I appreciate all the life we've lived in that year. I'm grateful that we took the leap and began living our lives on our terms, creating the life we dream of. We might not be there yet but I am reminded that it is all about the journey itself.
Ever since I can remember I've been a pretty driven person, always just wanting to get on and do whatever it is I'd put my mind to. I like to think I'm self-motivated. Others might call it impatient. I left school at the end of sixth form because I was ready to start a career rather than 'waste' another year in school! I've never shied away from a challenge (unless it involves heights) and I don't let fear of the unknown hold me back. Build a house at the age of 20 - sure. Quit my job to pursue photography - yip. Sell said house to go tiny - shit yea! I definitely prefer to be taking action rather than resting on my laurels (as Dad would have said).
I've talked a little about our decision to sell our house & go tiny but there's so much more to this journey that the square metre-age of our home. It's about lifestyle. We realised we were spending huge hours working to pay the bills. Did we really need to have this huge mortgage for another 20 years? We'd be 50 by the time we owned our home out-right and that seemed like a lot of life to be spent paying off an excessive asset. We dreamed of a lifestyle that let us do more travelling, spend more time with friends & family and the freedom to enjoy our hobbies. We realised a way to achieve more of this good stuff in our life was to downsize our home & in turn our debt. As we looked at alternative living our eyes were opened to new, different possibilities. We talked about selling up and just renting, we looked at nomad living travelling the world, we talked about the advantages & disadvantages of a tiny house on wheels or a house bus. We weighed up what we loved about our current home and what we could do without.
Now I'm not advocating that everyone should start getting rid of their possessions or sell their home! But I am all about living your best life and prioritising the things that bring you happiness. Perhaps you want to travel more, or maybe pay off a loan. Want to start your own business or learn a new skill? The biggest step you can take is to start. Don't just think maybe one day you'll do it. Make a plan, set some goals, start saving, enrol in that course - whatever you've got to do to begin the journey.
Life is for living. If there's things you want to achieve or changes you need to make to live the life you dream of then start today. x
It's been a few months since we sold our home and began the planning stages of what I've nicknamed the "Horton Build 2.0" - our tiny home. During this time we've been working towards gaining building consent from the council and while it's been quiet on the blog here, we've been busy behind the scenes getting our ducks in a row so it can be all go once we're ready to break ground.
Technically we're building a small house at 65 square metres, as tiny houses are under 50sqm or even less depending on who you talk to, but tiny houses are a way of living - a lifestyle, more than a square meterage. The philosophy is about paring down, living simply, gaining financial freedom, reducing the consumer-driven excesses, being more sustainable & eco-friendly. For some people tiny house living is also about beating the property market, or the option to move about (if your tiny house is on wheels) or even moving towards community living with shared resources. For us going tiny is a way for us to move towards financial freedom, giving us more time for experiences. We've also become conscious about our footprint on this planet and wanting to live more sustainably.
So how did we come up with our tiny house plan? When Matt and I first started talking about the idea of going tiny we took a look at the footprint we were actually using of our four bedroom house. We realised we were only really using a third of the home. So we floated our idea of going tiny to our builder and he had us take a look at a few house plans to see if we could cut a plan in half or find a way of using something existing to base ours off. But we couldn't find anything that worked for us and we began drawing up house plans ourselves. We quickly became fixed on a long house configuration with a short hallway joining everything. In fact the plan looks very close to the configuration of half our old house! We got out the measuring tape and stepped out areas. We thought about the things we loved in our old home and what we'd change. We looked at house cladding, roof pitches and design styles everywhere we travelled. We found pictures online of interiors we loved. And then we went to see Josh at MAS Architecture in Invercargill.
Josh helped us bring our ideas to life. He took my basic drawings and created all the technical drawings, plans and details required for council consent application. Here's the concept we ended up with below. A 65 square metre home that opens up to the north onto a patio running the length of the house. The living and kitchen area has a pitched ceiling to create the feeling of a bit more space. We'll use sliding barn-style interior doors rather than swinging to save on space. We've added more room to the bathroom than in our previous home to allow for a big tiled shower. Our kitchen is based off our old one but tweaked slightly to give us more storage & more breakfast bar space. We're having a walk-around wardrobe in the bedroom which will also double as a 'headboard' for the bed. We decided to still have a spare room as we want this to be our forever home and this gives us options. It will double as office and storage space. And possibly the most talked about feature - an outdoor, plumbed in bath tub!
The home will be insulated including the concrete floor, plus the use of Low-E glazing for the windows. We'll make the most of the sun's warmth but we're also planning on having a small, low emission wood burner.
We're going with plywood for the interior walls and polished concrete floors as we've fallen in love with both of those 'raw' looks. When we started thinking about the interior of our home I really wanted the house to feel like a bach - with the comforts of home but also so that it feels a little like we're on holiday. There's nothing conventional about this build and we didn't want it to feel like our last home did with white walls and carpet throughout. Corrugated cladding will be broken up along the north side with a wood feature. The natural colours and textures of stone and wood will feature throughout the home, inside and out. From the stone bath, the concrete floors, right through to our plans for the tiled shower. With plywood walls the interior will have a warmth about it, contrasting against a white kitchen. Matt has created some beautiful pieces of wood & steel furniture and plans to create a vanity unit for the bathroom of the same style. I'm imagining potted plants throughout the house bringing the outside in and the big stacking door off the living area will open us up onto the patio for those cracker Southland days.
And for those wondering about storage and where all our 'stuff' goes... we're currently living in a small rental and we actually don't have a heap of things in storage. Most of the boxes and items in deep storage currently are Matt's shed things and he's getting another shed with this build. We're not having an internal access garage this time which is something we were okay with forsaking, but Matt's new shed is actually going to be bigger than our tiny house! 😂 We managed to pare down so many of our possessions in the process of down-sizing so the built in storage within this house plan will be more than enough for the two of us.
The next blog post update will hopefully be us breaking ground and I'm so excited for that stage. This tiny house has been on my mind for the last year - I dream about it frequently and can already visualise in my mind how it will look as I walk through it. It was initially a little scary thinking we had designed this house plan & what if it didn't work functionally, but we've had a year to nut it out, we've had the best architect we could wish for helping us every step of the way and it's going to be pretty neat living in a home we designed ourselves! I remember when we decided to list our old house for sale back in March 2018 and spending half of that year thinking it was all taking too long. Now I realise time has flown and the Horton Build 2.0 is all about to get very real!
I heard someone talk recently about the script that is written for our lives (it goes a little like this: get a good education, find a well-paying job, get married, buy a home, fill it with stuff, own a nice vehicle, have kids, buy a bigger house...) and it made me take stock of the idea that we really are programmed to live our lives to a script of sorts. Every day we are bombarded with advertising, products and social pressures that push this script upon us, touting that 'bigger is better' and that we need to be keeping up the Jones's. Consume this, buy that. Our families without consciously realising it teach us to chase this same materialistic script. Our friends are busy ticking off their life accomplishments so we'd better keep up.
Now I'm not saying that this script is wrong, or right. But I do wonder how many people spend their whole life running in the same direction as everyone else, just because. We've certainly spent the larger part of our 20's doing just that. And then we sat back and re-assessed. If the script fits then that's all good, if half of it or none of fits then I think that's all good too. There should definitely be the freedom to choose your own path. I do think a lot of people stick to the more well-tread path simply because. Maybe due to expectations. Maybe it feels safer.
We're re-writing the script to suit ourselves. We no longer want the big house with the big mortgage. We don't find happiness from the material things surrounding us anymore, in fact we had so much stuff it was stressing me out! We decided a more simple life would leave us with more time and resources to experience this beautiful life we have.
If life hadn't thrown us a curve ball and we'd started a family when we wanted to I doubt this blog would ever exist. But the fact that we are looking at life without children prompted us to re-consider the path we're on. We're fortunate to have an incredible relationship & the only question was really what do we want to do with our lives then? Matt's first answer was; more travel. Followed quickly with; more time for toys (not the kid variety, think more expensive grown-up toys that all seem to have engines!). When I asked myself the question of 'what do I want to do with my life' it took a while longer to come up with the answer. But eventually it came to me; I want to slow down and enjoy the simple things - like family, friends, nature, experiences.
While there's a great many opportunities that down-sizing is giving us, our number one priority is to work towards financial freedom. We realised we were staring at another 20 years of mortgage on a house we weren't using to it's full potential. And even if we knuckled down and paid off our mortgage faster we'd still be left with a beautiful, but excessive home. We were utilising less than half the footprint of our house. When we became enchanted with the tiny house movement we started talking about the idea of reducing our footprint and in turn reducing our debt so that we could do more living now. We don't want to spend the best part of our lives busy paying for & maintaining more house than we need when we could be travelling, spending more time with family and friends, enjoying this beautiful world we live in.
The biggest roadblock in re-writing the script I think is that you have to be okay with the fact that you will be judged, criticised and told you're crazy. It's human nature to be judgmental and I guess by taking a road less traveled there will be some more conventional people who are going to have something to say about it. We've already been told we're stupid to give up our big home... (well actually the bank owned most of it). We've been told we're turning into hippies. I get reminded on an almost weekly basis by strangers, clients or friends of friends that there's an expectation that someone of my age should have children by now. But none of this judgment matters to me and it certainly won't sway us from the ideas we have for our life. We're not doing it to stand out or to make a point, we're simply choosing to live our lives the way that best suits us. We are happy and we're excited about re-writing the script.
The point of sharing this? Or any of our journey for that matter? In hopes perhaps that it's inspiring or intriguing & provides a different perspective on living. In a world that is all about being busy and having more - we're opting for a more simple life. I'm not saying everyone else needs to start making drastic life changes like us but ask yourself this; what do you want to do with this beautiful life you have? And don't be afraid to dream outside the 'script'.
When we decided to put our home on the market back in April we had so much interest in what our next 'move' was. I know it came so out of the blue for many when we told them we had decided to sell the place we've built and called home for the last six years! In reality, our dreaming & scheming began last year after spending our 10th anniversary in a eco-retreat just outside of Wanaka. So now that our house is officially sold it feels like the right time to announce our plans.
We are in the process of planning our next build! Now before I go into detail, I want to answer some of the other questions we've been asked; no we're not selling up because we're broke and can't afford our mortgage! 😂 This is purely a lifestyle choice. No we're not moving away, we're staying in Riversdale - we love it here! And contrary to many guesses we're not going "bigger and better". We're in fact going smaller.
We realised that when we built our house six years ago we had plans of having a family and establishing that kiwi quarter-acre dream. The reality is that some things in life don't go as planned. As a result our ideas and goals have transformed and changed direction. The mortgage we happily took on back then for a house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and multiple living spaces is now oversized for just us two. Since August last year when we stayed in that eco-retreat we've fallen gradually in love with the idea of downsizing, simplifying and working towards financial freedom.
Already a few people have told us we're crazy, but most of the friends and family we've talked to get it. They can see why we're choosing to say no to the more 'conventional' lifestyle, instead picking a road less travelled. We're in a unique position where we can do this. We don't have dependants and rather than tie ourselves to another 20 years of a mortgage, we're choosing to maximise the experiences in our lives. We have come to realise that it is the experiences in life that you treasure the most, not the material things. You can't take 'stuff' with you when you go. Having financial freedom will mean we can say yes to more experiences. More travel, more adventures, more fun. And as an added bonus; we can also say yes to less stress, less pressure and less materialism.
So tell me more about this new build you say?! Our first build was a modest but well set out four bedroom home with two living areas & bathrooms. The Horton Build 2.0 will be almost one third the size of our first build. With just a master bedroom, one bathroom, a spare room and an open plan kitchen & living area that will extend out onto a deck. Unlike our first build which was a turn-key spec house, 2.0 will be custom-designed with some different building elements, aiming for a lower carbon footprint and a lot more of our personality stamped into it. And of course I'm going to be blogging this build! We've had so much interest in what we're doing already and I think it will be fun to document the build and tell our story as we go. So watch this space...
I've been looking for ways to reduce the chemicals we bring into our home and a main one is in the cleaning products we use. While a simple bar of soap in the shower and bathroom may be sufficient, I found it is definitely more convenient to have a pump bottle of liquid hand wash in the kitchen at least. So I decided to have a go at making a natural, homemade liquid soap. I found a multitude of recipes online and in books but the first couple I tried were either not cost-effective or were not of a consistency I enjoyed.
This recipe works out in the long run similar in cost to buying liquid hand wash at the supermarket. But I love that I know exactly what I'm putting on my skin. There's no sodium laurel sulphates which are known for causing skin allergies and reactions. I have sensitive skin and get eczema so this is a big plus for me. (If you have a go at making this recipe & don't use a Castile soap be sure to check out the soap ingredients!)
I've spent a few months trialling this recipe and have just made a second batch. The first batch I made 2 litres worth of it which was probably overkill, but I used a whole solid soap bar and had to keep adding water until I got the soap to a consistency I liked. So I've halved the recipe to a more manageable quantity and am happy with the results. It is different to the liquid hand washes you buy from the supermarket but it does the job and I won't be changing back to store bought.
You can switch out the eucalyptus & lime essential oils for others of your choosing. Peppermint. Sweet orange. Lavendar. So many options! Eucalyptus is known for it's cleaning properties and goes well with lime. I used grapefruit & orange for my second batch. The sweet almond oil in the recipe is nourishing and moisturising making this soap recipe gentle on your hands.
YOU WILL NEED:
HOW TO MAKE:
I remember my Dad saying when I was a child how we’d become a throwaway society. Somehow we'd adopted the attitude that if something broke, why bother fixing it, just buy a new one. 20 years later that culture has only become more and more prevalent. There’s so many aspects in our lives where we’ve unconsciously become total consumers. If a TV breaks, we buy a new one. If our phones start getting slow, we buy a newer model. If our socks get holes in them, we throw them out.
I was talking to a friend recently about this throwaway culture and how we need to change our mindset to be less wasteful and excessive. This mindset shift has me now considering alternative solutions to problems or needs I have. Instead of rushing out and buying the next new gadget that will help me, I am learning to think of alternative solutions and retrain myself from that throwaway culture I had unknowingly adopted. Example: I love steamed dumplings and have begun making them at home for dinners. I thought I needed a bamboo steamer like the pros to get tasty dumplings. Turns out I can steam them in the frying pan with a little boiling water and the pan lid. I figure why buy the bamboo steamer when I can make do? It would only potentially become another one of those kitchen gadgets I end up getting rid of in 5 years time because I no longer use it.
Our consumption today has us even throwing away so much stuff that isn’t even broken! We finish using an item for it's purpose and we don't take the time to consider how we could re-use or re-purpose it. Example: I love pickled vegetables so there’s always empty glass jars being washed and popped in my recycling bin. (By the way we put stuff in our recycling bins thinking we’re doing such a good thing, but it’s not as clean, green as we might hope when we look into how much of our recycling ever actually gets recycled! But I digress, that's a topic for another day). But with a small change in my mindset, I’ve started keeping my glass jars and re-purposing them. To store pantry ingredients in and be able to fill them at bulk stores & use them indefinitely instead of buying my ingredients in plastic containers! I’ve been making my own cleaning products and some basic skin care products, so these glass jars are perfect containers for that too! Obviously there’s no point hoarding glass jars and containers if I don’t have a use for them, but whenever I can re-use a container rather than throwing it in the recycling bin, I’m going to.
My friend was telling me how she had a pile of clothes that needed some repairs. She was determined to sit down in front of a sewing machine to stitch them up and get some more life from them. How often do you see that these days, really? And rather than go out and buy a sewing machine, my friend borrowed one to use. We so often just go out and buy low-use items, when we could just borrow one from a friend or family member to get the task done. Another example along the same lines; in our efforts to declutter (We are not what we own) I painfully let go of a huge amount of my book collection and have since started going to the local library for books, instead of buying books.
My Dad grew up during the depression and he told me that his socks would eventually have more darning in them than original sock, but times were tough and there wasn't the money to just buy new ones every time he wore a hole in them. We are lucky not to be living in such economically tough times, but we also live in an age where so many people are living outside their means, spending money faster than they make it. The booming world of credit cards alone is evidence of this.
Who else is over consumerism and the throwaway society we live in? Are there purchases on last month's credit card statement for 'things' you don't even want/need/love anymore? Have you started a journey of trying to re-use and re-purpose? When was the last time you repaired something instead of just buying a new one? Do you borrow low-use items instead of cluttering up your drawers with expensive gadgets/tools/stuff that you only use once in a while?
The last ten days have not been that successful. There is plastic wrapped around EVERYTHING!!! It's so darn hard to avoid plastic packaging when doing the grocery shop. Here's a list of things I've found that I couldn't find not packaged in plastic: sour cream, cheese, cucumbers (They have a skin! Why do they need to be shrink wrapped??), pre-sliced bread, toothpaste, dog treats (well you probably can but Henry dog has that many allergies & food issues that we're pretty much stuck in what we buy him) and this week we had to buy batteries for the smoke alarms and there's no plastic-free option there either!
To top it off, on about Day 11 or 12 I had to pop to the supermarket for two things. I got chatting to a friend at the checkout and totally didn't see the checkout lady put my two items in a plastic bag until she was handing it to me with my receipt. #fail. I know I could have refused the bag but she was already dealing with the next customer and I didn't want to be 'that' difficult person.
Fair to say these last ten days have left me feeling a bit depleted of enthusiasm for Plastic Free July. I almost cried at the amount of plastic in our trolley at the last grocery shop. But as Matt pointed out, even if we're not "plastic-free" at least we're so much more conscious of it now and the amount of single-use plastics in our trolley was so much less than previously. Looking for alternatives might also just nudge manufacturers to give us plastic-free choices in the future too!
So instead of focusing on how hard it is to be single-use plastic free, I'll share some of the things we've done in our household to minimise single-use plastics. I think Matt and I have both agreed we're not going to be 100% plastic-free or zero-wasters anytime soon, but we choose to believe that the changes we're making all count. If every household made just a couple of changes it could save millions of pieces of plastic going into our water a year.
Easy changes we've made to reduce single-use plastic:
None of this stuff is hard work or expensive. In fact I'd argue that since we've made these changes our grocery bill has remained the same. While some plastic free options are more expensive, we're saving in other areas such as not buying expensive cleaning products anymore or bottled water!
What changes have you made in your household for reducing plastic waste?
Last week I had a go at making butter at home from fresh cream. I'm working on a personal book project currently (you can find out more about that here) and I was inspired by my Dad's recount of how they made butter from the cream that settled to the top of the bucket after milking the cows when he was a child. I read somewhere recently too that butter is one of the top ten foods in NZ for highest pesticide residue, so if you could source local, organic fresh cream in glass bottles this would be an ultimate way to reduce some of the unknown chemicals we are ingesting every day!
I had a wonderful afternoon in the kitchen. I made butter. I made baking for the week's lunchboxes. I made bread. And I made up some more homemade cleaning solutions (which I will blog soon!). There's something very rewarding about making and baking when you know all the simple ingredients that you're using.
For the butter I just whisked cream in my mixing bowl for about 5-10 minutes until it separated and formed lumps of butter. I drained off the buttermilk which is the watery residue and used this for making amazing buttermilk scones. I took the lumps of butter and pressed it all together into one lump of butter with my hands, gently squeezing out any leftover buttermilk. Then I rinsed the lump of butter in cold water before putting into a jar ready to use for the day's baking and of course to spread on the scones and bread! I didn't bother but you could add salt to taste if you wanted.
From an economical perspective; unless you have access to free cream it doesn't make much sense to make butter when you can buy it for relatively the same price as the cream you need to make it. But homemade butter just seems a little more delicious because of the fun it is making it! If I ever have cream going to waste this will be a good way to put it to use. And maybe if you already buy full cream raw milk this would be a fun way to use the cream on top.
It took approximately 600ml to make 225grams of butter for me. And this also gave me a jar of buttermilk which was the perfect amount for a batch of scones.
10 days into Plastic Free July and it hasn’t been without it’s challenges. But the successes have so far outweighed the failures!
We’ve just arrived home today from a week in Wellington. Traveling plastic free wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. On our flight we asked for our drinks in our Keepcups and the air hostess thanked us for bringing our own cup. The downside to flying is that all the snacks come packaged in plastic. On our flight up I refused a snack, but on the way home I caved in to the Cookie Time biscuit.
Shopping was easy to keep plastic free. I just refused plastic bags in every store and had my wee pack down New World shopping bag in my handbag if I needed it.
I used my stainless steel straw for my McDonald’s drink one evening, but failed in not asking for no plastic lid as well! Any other drinks we bought from the grocery store we just chose glass bottles and it was cool to see all the restaurants and bars in Wellington had embraced cardboard straws.
All our shampoo, soap and face bars travelled well in small Clip-It containers. And our hotel was pretty awesome in that you could pop a card on your bed to request the cleaners make up the room & clean the bathroom without using any electricity, chemicals or water. The venue that photographer's conference was held at also had environmentally conscious practices in place including a compost bin option along with recycling bins. We filled up our drink bottles each day from their water filter station too.
Other successes so far have included buying meat from our local butcher in my own reusable containers. Our main failure at the start of the month was having to buy a block of Colby cheese which opened our eyes to the fact you really can’t buy everyday cheeses not plastic packaged. My limited research into this is that you either have to buy more boutique-type cheeses by the wedge or wax round, in waxed paper or make it yourself. Our other groceries so far have been easy enough to find plastic-free packaged options for, with the help that we’d already started buying ingredient foods from our local bulk bin store.
Now that we’re back home this week I am sure we’ll face some more challenges in our next grocery shop. But I’m going to have a go at making both butter and sour cream this week instead of buying it.
If anyone has ideas on sourcing full cream not in plastic packaging and also any solutions to the cheese issue I would love to hear from you!
In our efforts to reduce our plastic use we've started using environmentally friendly beeswax wraps instead of plastic clingfilm. Last month I made a small batch of cotton cloth beeswax wraps to trial and we've enjoyed using them since to cover plates & bowls of leftovers in the fridge, half-used vegetables and to wrap up baking, bread, cheese and more. In case you haven't heard of these popular beeswax wraps before they're very easy to use; you simply cover your container or food with the wrap using the warmth of your hands to mould it around the edge of your container or food, adhering the wrap to the container, food or itself. Beeswax wraps are easily washed in cool, soapy water and can be re-used for months & months. In fact I'd say you could keep them forever if you maintain them correctly!
You can buy these wraps from a number of NZ companies and at markets but I wanted to have a go at making them myself. There are plenty of recipes on Google for these wraps, all varying slightly. A lot include tree resin however it's not as easy to source locally as beeswax is and I've read mixed information about the safety of the fumes that come with heating the resin up. The resin is used to add more 'clingy-ness' and durability to the wrap but I decided I would make mine without the tree resin and see what I thought. After using our first batch of wraps for a month, neither Matt or myself think they lack 'cling' factor and reckon they adhere to everything just fine. On Sunday we spent an hour in the kitchen together making up another batch of beeswax wraps of varying sizes and shapes to add to our collection. Here's how we did it if you want to have a go yourself...
YOU WILL NEED:
HOW TO MAKE:
1. Preheat your oven to 100 degress Celcius on bake.
2. Cut your cotton fabric to the sizes you want, using pinking shears so the edges don't fray. A variety of sizes and shapes is good for different uses.
3. Place your beeswax and jojoba oil in a saucepan, over a low heat, to melt. If you want to add tree resin to your recipe you would just add in 20 grams of it in with your beeswax and oil here. Use a spatula to stir the mixture.
4. Lay one of your cotton wraps on your tin-foil or baking paper lined oven tray. Once your beeswax mixture is fully melted use an old paintbrush to apply an even, liberal coating of the beeswax to your fabric. You will need to work fast as the beeswax will cool and solidify fast. Make sure there aren't any dry areas of fabric. You want to apply enough beeswax to soak through the whole fabric piece once you've heated it in the oven (in the next step), but not so much that you will have excess beeswax pooled on top of the fabric.
5. Place your wrap in the oven for about 3 minutes to melt in & evenly distribute the beeswax. In the photo below you can see the beeswax is still sitting on top of the fabric. You know the wrap is ready once you see the beeswax has soaked through and into the fabric. The fabric will look wet. While your wrap is in the oven replace your pot of beeswax mixture on the cooktop on a low heat to prevent it from cooling and solidifying.
6. Remove from the oven and either using tongs or carefully using your fingers lift the wrap from the oven tray. Simply by holding the wrap in the air, turning it and fanning it gently, the beeswax will cool quickly. I took my wraps outside into the cool air to fully 'dry' them. If you find there's patches of fabric that haven't soaked up the beeswax you can apply a little more beeswax or just place back in the oven and allow the heat to continue evening out the beeswax.
7. Once cooled and dry, your beeswax wraps are ready to use. They are best stored rolled or flat, not folded. I store ours rolled up in a mason jar on the kitchen countertop ready for use. Repeat steps 4-6 until you've completed waxing all your cotton wraps or until your beeswax mixture runs out.
These beeswax wraps should last 6-12 months. If you find they are losing their cling factor or waxiness, you can place them back in the oven to re-distribute the beeswax. They will eventually need to be re-coated.
Remember to only wash them with cool, mildly soapy water, as hot water will move the beeswax. Lay them flat or peg them up to dry thoroughly after cleaning. And don't use beeswax wraps to wrap raw meats or wet foods as they can't be washed in hot water.
Lastly, have fun with cleaning up your utensils and hands after making these! Beeswax is hard to clean up but I found if I wiped out my pots and utensils with a paper towel first removing most of the beeswax residue, the clean up was easier. Lots of hot water and detergent cleaned everything up well, but I won't be using my paintbrush for anything else besides making more wraps - so I definitely recommend using an old one!
I've become somewhat of a documentary junkie recently. I guess that's because I've become hungry for knowledge. I've always been a fan of NZ's Country Calendar series and anything narrated by David Attenborough (Blue Planet 🙌), but Netflix has opened a world of new and varied documentaries too. The most enjoyable documentaries for me are a mixture of facts, personal accounts and inspiring information and ideas that I can apply to my own life.
Here's six interesting documentaries that I've enjoyed recently if you're looking for some inspiration for your next viewing.
If you want to watch any of these documentaries you can find where I watched them by clicking on any of the images above.
Next month is Plastic Free July and in celebration of this I'm giving myself the challenge of going zero single-use plastic for the month! I'm going to try to avoid using single-use plastics all month - including shopping bags, takeaway cups, clingfilm, bottles and even plastic packaged foods such as meats (I think this is going to be one of the hardest ones!).
We're already doing quite a few plastic-minimising efforts in our household so it will be interesting to see what we can do to further reduce our plastic consumption. We're away to a photographer's conference in Wellington for a week at the beginning of the month which I'm sure will prove challenging trying to be plastic-free while travelling but I'm looking forward to finding ways around plastic conveniences.
Here's the parameters I've set myself; anything that is already in the freezer or fridge isn't going to be count towards the challenge I've set myself, but anything we buy during the month does. (And much to Matt's despair this doesn't mean we will just stock up on a whole month's worth of packaged meat to see us through!!!) I've also decided I'm going to use the hair-styling and makeup products which I currently own and are in plastic containers because it would be wasteful not to use them up & it will force me to think of alternatives once they run out. Aside from those exceptions everything else must be single-use plastic free! I'm sure I won't be perfect so if I do stuff up & use a single-use plastic I'm going to keep track of any plastics I go to put in recycling so that I can be even more conscious. I'm hopeful this month long challenge will help reset some of our plastic habits for the future too so that we can continue to be as plastic-free as possible going forward! I'll be updating my Facebook page and blogging about my progress during the month, sharing any good alternatives I find along the way.
Join me and set yourself a challenge for Plastic Free July 2018! Whether you're way ahead with your plastic reduction than me, or just starting out. Give yourself a goal; big or small. It can be as simple as no plastic bottles for the month. Or perhaps a goal to always remember your reusable shopping bags. Or join me in the challenge of zero single-use plastic at all for a whole month! It all makes a difference.
Four easy ways to reduce your plastic consumption:
1. Always use reusable shopping bags. Everywhere you go that you need a shopping bag - not just the supermarket. Our #1 trick to remembering them, is to replace them back in the vehicle immediately after we empty our groceries at home, then they're never left behind for the next shop. I also carry a couple of small reusable bags in my handbag so I've always got an option on me when I'm out.
2. Take your reusable cup for that coffee fix. And if you forget it don't get a takeaway coffee - sit in the cafe and enjoy a 'slow' coffee instead.
3. Say no to straws! I've got into the habit of refusing straws with my drinks - whether it's with fast food or at a restaurant. There's actually hardly any drinks you really need a straw for and if you do; keep a reusable one in your bag or car glovebox. I have a stainless steel one that I carry in my handbag.
4. Stop buying drinks in plastic bottles. This one is hard for the juice & fizz lovers (like my husband), but don't get me started on why we should be cutting these sugary drinks out of our diet anyway! We're so lucky in NZ that we have access to clean, safe drinking water straight from our taps. And yet we get fussy about how tap water tastes (which a simple water filter can fix). Use a reusable water bottle and if you want something a little tastier than water look for drinks that come in glass bottles or add a tasty fruit teabag to your water bottle.
UPDATE March 2019: I've been using my laundry powder recipe for almost a year now & still loving it!
I've tweaked the recipe just slightly since first posting this blog - recipe below is updated for you.
I have begun making our own natural homemade laundry powder! You might be wondering why on earth I would want to add yet another 'chore' to an already busy life right?! Well there's a couple of reasons behind it which I'm going to share in this blog post, plus my recipe if you want to have a go making your own homemade natural laundry powder!
I’ve always been a bit of a label reader, interested about what's in the stuff I'm buying; from ingredients in food products to what garments are made of. But recently I've really opened my eyes to what we’re bringing into our home and our diets on a day-to-day basis. Knowledge is power and I've been soaking up documentaries, books and web articles on the topic. From processed foods to the chemicals in our cleaning products - there are so many things in supermarket products that I can’t even pronounce and have no actual idea what they are!
Here's the ingredient list for a supermarket shelf brand of laundry powder: 5% to 15% Anionic surfactants, Oxygen-based bleaching agents; < 5% -Enzymes, Nonionic surfactants, Optical brighteners, Perfume, Phosphonates, Polycarboxylates, Soap, Zeolites, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Eugenol, Limonene.
Now just from my own limited research and knowledge I know that synthetic perfumes, phosphates, optical brighteners and some surfactants are hazardous to our health and are common causes of skin irritation. Making our own laundry powder allows me to know exactly what is being used to wash the clothes and linen that touch our skin every day. And skin is the largest organ of our body so I think that's important.
Another reason for the switch to homemade laundry powder is that we’re consciously trying to minimise in our household how much single-use plastics we’re consuming. We don’t tend to think about all the products we buy like laundry detergent or fabric softener when we discuss the world's plastic issue. The first thing that comes to mind is plastic bags and water bottles, but all our cleaning products tend to come in plastic containers these days that are just thrown out when they’re finished to make room for a fresh one.
And I've worked out that making my own homemade natural laundry powder is going to cost about 40c per load. Which is on par with the eco-brand laundry detergent we were using.
YOU WILL NEED:
HOW TO MAKE:
Grating the soap is the intensive part, but all up it only took me 10 minutes to make a batch of laundry powder which is going to last me about 40 washes. And you could easily make double the mixture in one batch - my food processor was nowhere near full.
Wondering where to buy the ingredients?
Some articles online suggest using an old food processor to make your laundry powder in, but I figured everything I put in it for my laundry powder recipe is a cleaning agent so a good scrub out with hot, soapy water afterwards had me more than happy to use it the very next day for baking. If you're worried about the borax powder in your food processor just add it at the end into your laundry container. There's a plethora of natural homemade laundry powder recipes out there to choose from.
Lastly, did you know you can add white vinegar to your washing machine's fabric softener dispenser as a cheaper, safer alternative to store bought fabric softeners?? I tried this just this weekend on my towels and I can attest that it works well! And it doesn't make your towels smell like vinegar I promise. They come out fresh smelling and soft.
If you have any questions leave me a comment! x
One of the very first things we recognised (and was a factor in kick-starting this journey for us) was the amount of material excess we had in our lives. We have a house with twice as many bedrooms are there are humans living in it. Those un-used rooms you think would be empty, but no they were filled with stuff; namely junk - half started hobbies, discarded ornaments & furnishings that were no longer 'on trend', all sorts of things that had been shoved in a spare room out of the way. A few months ago I cleaned out my bathroom cabinet and found two shopping bags full of hair products, skin care and makeup. Some empty or half empty and others almost full but unused & put to the side as I’d clearly moved on to the next new great product! And I’m sure I’m not the only person who has a cupboard overflowing with kitchen appliances that haven’t been used for years?! I mean why on earth did we have two George Foreman’s plus two other sandwich presses?! We realised so many areas of our life & home were in need of a serious declutter!
This brings me to the topic of “minimalism”. Most people have heard of the idea of being a minimalist but perhaps don't know quite what it really is. I know when I first heard about minimalism I thought it was some restrictive fad where you didn’t get to own anything fun in your life & you had to try to live with only the contents that could fit inside a suitcase. What I have learnt is that actually minimalism is what my life was screaming out in need of! The Minimalists describe it here: “Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom…Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around….That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff…Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfilment, and freedom.”
You can’t take any of your prized possessions with you when you die. So why do we as humans place such an importance on the things we own?? Our homes, our cars, our clothes, our bank balances, our accessories. For a false sense of status? Or do we actually kid ourselves that being worth X amount of $ is important? “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.” (The Minimalists). Material things do not make us more successful/happier/popular/important. It’s the people and the experiences in life we will treasure the most. And remember; we are not what we own.
Now I’m not labelling myself as a freshly converted minimalist (because my shoe collection is evidence that I am no true minimalist!), but I have applied some minimising principles to our life and already seen some incredible benefits!
Declutter each area of your home. This is still a work in progress but I’m slowly working my way through every section of the house removing the clutter. I think it's important to tackle it in sections, one room/drawer or shelf at a time. And you must remove everything from that section, because it makes you consider every single item. Go through each item and consider is it useful or does it joy to your life??? Imagine you have to justify the reason you wish to keep an item to a friend or spouse. If an item doesn't bring value or joy it needs to go in either a “throw”, “donate” or “sell” pile. If the item in question does bring value or joy to your life then it can go back in it’s place. A good rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it in the last year or had forgotten you had it - get rid! It’s clearly not adding value to your life.
Using this technique I went from 6 overflowing drawers of clothes, to three easy-to-close drawers full. It’s amazing how many worn-out, ill-fitting or ‘just not me’ clothes I had lying uselessly in my drawers. And now I never have the issue of not knowing what to wear, because all the clothes I own now are clothes I love to wear! The same goes for our kitchen cupboards - it’s so much easier to find the bowl or utensil I need now because we got rid of all the excess. There were so many items we didn’t ever use, or no longer worked. All taking up space and cluttering up our cupboards.
This decluttering process is the time-consuming part; working your way around the house from room to room, sorting through all your stuff and then boxing up things to drop off for donation, or listing items for sale online. But I promise you it is SO worth it!
Organise as you put the things you're keeping back in their place. And assess whether that item was even in it's proper place. It’s funny how things seem to walkabout the house and find odd new homes! The things you use everyday should be organised into easy to reach spots, making life just that little bit easier. Organising also means organising to drop off the excess for donation, or taking the time to list items for sale online. Because if you don’t get around to doing this sometimes the items just end up cluttering up the floor in your garage, or worse; making their way back to the drawer they first came out of! If you’re worried that you might just need a questionable item, then make a ‘maybe’ pile and store any items in that pile away for 6 months - if you don’t miss them or even forget about them, then you know you can get rid of them.
The perk to organising after you declutter is how much easier it then becomes to tidy up an area or room because you have so much less stuff taking up room. I believe having everything put away in it’s place also adds an element of happiness to your life. Matt, a male who couldn’t care less about the ‘prettiness’ of a room or it’s feng shui, has on a number of occasions now commented on how much nicer our living room feels to live in without the unnecessary clutter.
Maintain the tidiness. This can take some re-training of our habits! Whenever you are finished using an item, put it back in it’s place. Don’t let it sit a while on the table where it can quickly become a dreaded pile of clutter again. Make tidying up a habit. Like always making the bed or clearing the kitchen bench-top before you go to bed. Even when I’m in a rush and think I don’t have the time to pop something away, it takes me seconds to do and it has eliminated the stress that clutter build-up used to cause me. No kidding - seeing a cluttered pile of papers or mail on the coffee table used to actually cause me to feel awful! And once a little bit of clutter is allowed, it seems to multiply overnight!!! An added bonus to keeping everything in it’s place means when it comes to cleaning, your time is halved! Surfaces are already free from clutter and just need a quick dust. Rooms look tidier simply by having less stuff crammed into them!
The other important part about maintaining an uncluttered home is applying the rule of ‘one-in, one-out’. If you don’t apply this rule you’ll quickly fill your house back up with new stuff. We are surrounded by marketing telling us to buy this and buy that. But this whole process has shown me just how much wasteful, excessive things I have bought over the years. Hard-earned money spent on crap. So now if I buy a new jacket, I will get rid of an old one. If I buy a skincare product it isn’t until I’ve used up my current one. One new ornament, means an old one is out. Obviously this isn’t a hard & fast rule you can apply to everything, but it certainly makes you more conscious of the things you bring into your home.
Exceptions, there’s always exceptions. Being left possessions by a loved one who has passed away is a hard one to manage. I guess it depends on what the item is and it’s significance to you. Here’s an interesting consideration: if you were gifted the Mona Lisa painting on the condition you had to hang it in your home and that you couldn’t ever sell it, would you want it?? The monetary value or iconic-ness of an item isn’t reason to keep it. The important question is whether it will be used or enjoyed.
Another exception is gifts - they get given to us and we obligingly find a place for them in our home. Sometimes they’re super useful or they bring us immense joy, but often they get forgotten about or go unused. I love the idea of aiming for for presence over presents and finding ways to spend more quality time with those we love, rather than rely on material gifts as a symbol of our love. Gifting experiences is another cool concept. Or just being super mindful in our gift-giving and finding useful presents for one another.
I can assure you that learning to live without the excess is still very much a work-in-progress for us. I still find things creeping back into drawers that I know do not belong there. But changing my mindset on material possessions has certainly helped eliminate a lot of stress, it has helped me to better appreciate & cherish the things I choose to own and it has simplified life just that little bit for us.
If you choose to embrace some changes around your material possessions, remember that as with most aspects of Simple Living, minimalism means different things to different people, so there’s no right or wrong, and no magic number you have to get down to. It’s simply about changing your mindset.
Here are some minimalism resources I found useful: