Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Moving forward – when no means no – Clutter ye shall not pass!

In Uncategorized on November 6, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I have to put down my purse and step away from the funky store with the groovy dresses!


This short journey has made a difference.  Journey is a term often abused by reality tv – “well, Oprah, my journey started when I turned on my husband’s computer and noticed…” or the Biggest Loser – “well AJ my journey started the day some young boys threw stones at me at the beach and called me a fat cow!” 

These items are not necessary to break the pattern of acquiring clutter


But in a serious vein I have realized that all too often we become consumed with acquiring possessions and with the energy that is required to maintain the possessions we already own.  A sofa I left behind in NZ became a burden for my friends who passed it from garage to garage until I decided I was staying in Oz and so they gave it to the Methodist Mission.  In the distant past a friend of mine burnt down her bedroom by leaving a candle burning in the window (next to a draft and curtains)– she and her flatmates went out for a bonding meal and came home to fire engines.  They lost the tenancy and she lost everything.  But she wrote to me saying the only thing she felt bad about was the water damage to personal possessions her friends had suffered (eg photo albums).  She realized all she really needed was a mattress on the floor and a few items of clothing.

These boots were made for moving forward!!

Certain recent events have impressed upon me the importance of friendships and relationships – “stuff“ is like thigh fat, chainstore pizza and saturated fats – often prevalent but totally unnecessary and actually harmful if you start thinking in detail about it.

I think that these guys in San Francision have found the answer – on a website called the Mother Nature Network is the story of a woman who wrote on her year without spending –  only buying food and necessities – to which the participant  has noted:

“It’s interesting that not buying things has made me focus more on what I DO have. And as I get rid of the crap, it’s like lifting a curtain or coming out of a fog. I’m really starting to see how STUFF has kept me busy and distracted, and disconnected from the things that really matter.”

A cautionary op shop tshirt

For myself it is a brave new world.  How much money and time will I save by stopping shopping altogether?  As I step out and into the threshold of a new life all I can say is “watch this space”.  For as Napoleon wrote:  ”A revolution is an idea which has found its bayonets.”


Redfern Scarey house

Is a year without spending really going to be that scarey?!!


The Cat Protection Society Op Shop

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2010 at 7:14 am

“Hi. My name is Tinkerbell and I am four years old. I was very sad and scared when my dear person suddenly passed away earlier this year. Because I am deaf I didn’t know my crying was so loud but I did figure out that people were concerned for me……”
You would have to have a heart of stone not to feel pangs for Tinkerbell – if you are a cat lover you are probably hysterically sobbing by now. The Cat Protection Op Shop, on 105 Enmore Road, Enmore is on a mission – to save lives! Jesus and Che Guevara would be proud. I ask for permission to take photos and the kindly woman at the counter has no objection.

For those seeking a discerning beanie

If items of clothing and bric a brac made sounds this place would be a cacophony. A jungle of colours and a jumble of items greet the visitor. Ties for $5 a bundle. A pile of spoons that could serve an army.

These spoons were born from many mouths.....


A local man comes in carrying two large black plastic rubbish bags full of donations. After he leaves there is heated discussion as to whether some of the items he has donated are Royal Doulton.

You don't have to be a dummy to like what is on this dummy!

I am starting to consider a future blog on altruism. The critics of Gandhi say he neglected his family, and due to his strong support of vegetarianism wouldn’t allow his seriously ill son to drink a bowl of chicken broth, as doctors tending to the son fervently recommended. Critics of Mother Teresa lambast her point of view that suffering was an intrinsic part of the cycle of life. Not all saints are saints – but what about the people who give up hours for causes they believe in such as the local cat lovers who founded the Cat Protection Society? Is there some brain chemistry that differentiates these people from the money hungry who consider Gordon Gecko an inspiration?

Anyone who willingly gives up a weekend afternoon to be surrounded by dusty items of bric a brac is right up there with Mary McKillop as far as I am concerned.

There really is something for everyone in this shop!

I am intrigued by the variety of items for sale. Find a pair of black boots but they are far too big. The search continues…. A large stuffed penguin is a sentinel over proceedings. There are some interesting items – a pile of faux framed masters paintings catch my eye

Masters Paintings

Treasure or Kitsh? The buyer will determine....

– but they fall into the domain of kitsch (however as a child I would have loved them). I spend $11 on two tops and a black sari-ish piece of material – none of these items are necessities. But the stories of Alice Brady, Sascha, Rob, Sandy and Tinkerbell resonate in my psyche. I am not adding to the piles of clothing and clutter already stashed in one of my built-ins – I am saving lives!

When clutter is pathological

In Uncategorized on October 16, 2010 at 3:44 am

Imelda Marcos's hand me downs

Any writing on shopping for clothes – op or otherwise – really needs to look at the issue of hoarding.  Why do I have a cupboard full of unresolved boxes from my move to Ashfield in July 2009? (unresolved = opened, but not decanted).  Am I certifiable? Fortunately wikipedia has the answer.  Wikipedia’s article on compulsive hoarding defines hoarding as a problem when it ‘interferes with basic activities, including cooking, cleaning, showering and sleeping.’  Fortunately my boxes of stuff can be hidden in a cupboard and do not inhibit access to the stove, tv set or shower.

I could use an extra pair of hands to sort out my clutter!

I need to curb my collation, but I am nowhere near as bad as this guy.

Does anyone else remember the scene from Sex and the City where shopaholic Carrie Bradshow realises she has blown the equivalent of a downpayment for a New York apartment on Manolo Blahniks?

Last  year the show I was working on at 2SER, Double X,  looked at over-shopping  for one of our shows and its relationship with hoarding.

(Currently I have my own show, The Thursday Daily).

Double X interviewed Randy Frost, an American Psychologist, who commented, in response to the question as to whether the addiction is to hoarding and having more material goods; or is the addiction to the process of shopping?  He responded that compulsive buying in its relationship to hoarding is much about the attachment to the object – an often very emotional attachment – but interestingly, he commented that once the object is acquired, the person still feels an intense attachment but they tend not to use it and sometimes the objects just pile up.  He added that the person can become fused with the item and if they were to lose it or get rid of it they can feel as if they are losing a piece of themselves.

....I feel connected to this somehow, I need to give it a home

On a very sobering note the interview ended with his observations that those who suffer from compulsive buying have usually gone through all their money and are usually more in debt than the average person.  However this debt still can’t stop them from buying more things – and when having a shopping ‘episode’ he commented that the person enters a different state of consciousness during which they often forget about the context of their life.

He surmised , “They forget about the fact that they’ve got 30 thousand in credit card debt, that they can’t pay off; they forget that their home is so full they don’t have any room for this – all they can think about is the thing in front of them waiting to be acquired and it is not until they acquire it and start home that their context of their life comes back – and that is what causes them to feel so badly about it.”

In the same show, I spoke to former overshopper Neradine Tisaj, wrote about her journey from significant credit card debt to now being a reformed shopper.  Nowadays Neradine hardly ever enters the shopping mall.  Before her reformation Neradine said that financial advisors told her she had to cut back her spending, but it wasn’t until she was rummaging in her wardrobe and found two identical blouses, that she realised she had no recollection of purchasing the second blouse.  She went on a shopping detox, limited to only purchasing food and transportation.  Her first few visits to a supermarket were extravagant and one night she realised she had transferred her overshopping and abandoned a full trolley in the supermarket and went home.  Her resulting book ‘How to Give Up Shopping’ outlines her journey back to finding a way of nurturing herself during stressful times that doesn’t involve spending any money.  She emphasises finding a fulfilling hobby and keeping a list of 2o things that you like doing to relax, that don’t involve spending money, in your purse next to your credit cards.  “Look at the list of 20 things you like doing that will make you feel better,” she concluded.  “Rather than buying a pair of expensive shoes that you won’t wear.”

False Economy – when ‘bargains’ go bad!

In Uncategorized on October 9, 2010 at 11:02 pm

I bought a pair of shoes recently at a second hand market in Newtown, on the sidewalk outside the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre.  They are a French brand, so the man selling them told me, “Kickers,” he said, “They just keep on going and going.”  About two weeks later I was dashing through the Queen Victoria Building when suddenly it felt as if the horseshoe had fallen off my hoof.  Almost the entire sole of one of the Kickers had pulled away – the glue adhesive connecting it to the leather had given up the ghost. 

I have lost my soul (sole!)

It made walking not only noisy but conspicuous.  I survived the rest of the day but upon alighting at Ashfield station the thought of the twenty minute walk home stumbling like that guy in the movie The Shining (limping, but minus the axe) did not appeal.  Hence a quick dash to K-Mart to pick up a $25 pair of Volleys – heck, if the brand is now doing ok in New York then why not?!

These are not volleys! - nice colour tho.....

 I took the shoe to Mr Minit in Broadway – the shoe repair man surmised that I was better to bring in the other shoe too as it was likely to suffer the same fate.  At $20 to reseal the sole back on to the heel, combined with the $25 to pick up a pair of volleys, my cheap $35 shoes were fast becoming expensive.  A few weeks later the Mr Minit’s words proved prophetic – another $20 to fix the sole of the second shoe.   In total, these shoes had cost me $100 – perhaps I had been better to buy a brand new pair after all.  How often do we purchase clothes that we will get mended, adjusted to fit, that we will lose weight to get into or that just seem so cheap they must be a real bargain.  It reminds me that there needs to be a strategy to buying preloved items.  If one is attempting to reduce one’s carbon footprint; reduce one’s clutter at home; reduce the piles of clutter and clothes piling up at home unused; reduce one’s reliance on buying brand new items – then what is the point of bringing home a piece of preloved clothing that ‘needs work’ and sits taking up a corner of your wardrobe and your psyche until you end up just putting it in the bag of stuff that goes back to the op shop as a donation?

These look a tad more sturdy but how secure are the soles? And perhaps not the most appropriate for the office....

The Running Reverend of Redfern

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2010 at 1:47 am

A local reverend will be temporarily trading his robes for trainers to run the New York Marathon on November 7th this year.

Andrew's family are not Rabbitoh supporters - "I hope they don't see this!"

For Andrew Collis, of the Redfern Uniting Church, this is the realization of an ambition formulated at the beginning of this year.  His inspiration has come from varied origins – Bruce Springsteen; the Melbourne marathon of 2009; and the plight of homeless teens.

“Running is a very nerdy sport for people who hit forty!  I  ran the Melbourne marathon last year and I got the New York idea while I was running along – I thought if I am going to do this again – I’m going to go somewhere interesting and have an adventure,” he said.

An affinity with the working class anthemic music of Bruce Springsteen was also an inspiration, particularly his track “Born to Run” .  “That song in particular was the first song that popped into my mind when I thought of heading over to New York and New Jersey to run,” he says.

The York Marathon traverses all five boroughs of New York : The Bronx, Queens, Manhatten, Brooklyn and Staten Island.   It is the largest marathon in the world with over one hundred thousand entrants and over 2 million spectators.  Traffic is stopped for the race and competitors are bussed to one of five secret starting locations – the mass of runners do not start the race from a single starting point but all end up at the same final location – Central Park.

Reverend Collis Running up stairs, Redfern Oval

But entry is not open to all.  Andrew approached Covenant House, one of the 200 charities on the New York Marathon website.  These listed charities have up to 20 places each, on the condition that those who participate on their behalf raise at least three thousands dollars for their sponsor charity.

“They wrote to me and said they were very honoured to have an international runner,” he comments, laughing.  ” I said, I think you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel of international runners!”  He adds, “But that set me on to training seriously so that I don’t embarress them!”

Reverend Collis is looking forward to being cheered on by the 2 million spectators, with accompanying streamers and dixie bands – as memories of the sole two spectators who witnessed his completion of the Melbourne marathon last year still resonate strongly.

Speed and stamina will come in handy in New York

He was drawn to the charity Covenant House due its work with homeless youth.  He himself has assisted homeless teens,  an experience that sent him in the direction of theological study and training at University.  “I used to work with street kids at a very formative time in my life, in the 90s, as part of St Vinnies for Youth (now Youth off the Streets),” he said.  “The whole philosophy of that refuge and service was very influential for me – as to what the church and christianity could be.”

Andrew is heading over a couple of days prior to the race to gain his bearings.  Accompanying him as his wing man is his 12 year old nephew.  Andrew says that for both of them, it is their first journey to New York.

“His name is Blake.  He has his Yankees cap and his thermals and I will be excited to see the race through his eyes.”

Click here to make a donation to Andrew’s marathon effort.

The road to the NY marathon is paved with many steps

The Shrine to the Past

In Uncategorized on October 2, 2010 at 11:04 pm

1980s relics

A Psychologist posts on a clutter – that “clutter can be a way of hiding, whether it is hiding the dream that is drowning, or the business that is stagnating, or the relationship that is stuck.”

 I had always thought that hoarders and clutterers were creating a shrine to the past.  Essentially that is what it becomes, in fact for some it is almost a Pharoah’s Tomb holding the memories and trinkets of previous years.  But the distraction notion resonates. 

 I had a former flatmate years ago in Newtown who paid extra rent on the two bedroom apartment that we shared – for the garage, even though she didn’t have a car.  The large sized garage was chocker with boxes of her stuff. 

 I tried the softly softly notion, with a couple of cracked and chipped cups from her stash of 20 to 30 (she always said that they would come in handy for a party).  The cups were obviously chipped and cracked.  “They belong in the bin,” I said, scooping them up.  Her response was overt and so far as to be physiological.  She shook, she pleaded.  I persisted and I thought I had won – only to find she retrieved them from the trash hours later.  How much did that preoccupation with stuff suck the oxygen and energy away from her tackling the big issues of life? 

Do you really need more than one Santa?

 I think of the boxes of stuff at my home that I really need to tackle.  When I was in a much smaller apartment the boxes were always in view – even though at the edge of my vision range.  When I was supposedly relaxing that stuff was always visible –  burning a hole in my psyche.  Subconciously that stuff had not allowed me to relax. 

The preoccupation with how to deal with it had no doubt impact on my free time – time that could have been utilised much more constructively.

 The gauntlet is thrown down.  Not only to strategise with the stuff that is inside my house, but to address the compulsion to bring any more stuff in!

Obselescence of function or obselescence of desire?

In Uncategorized on October 2, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Someone loved these items once

My tv doesn’t get ABC2 or the other digital channels.  I bought it at Bing Lee over 6 years ago and have never had a problem with it.  Managed to knock down the price quite a bit too because I paid in cash.

“Just get rid of it and buy a new one,” said a work colleague.  “Aldi has digital tvs for less than $400 on sale right now.”  Another colleague tut tutted.  “A friend of mind has a large screen plasma tv the size of that wall over there,” he commented, gesturing to a nearby wall at least two metres wide. “But I am not going to replace our tv at home until it breaks down.”

Hence one of the largest dilemmas facing some consumers today.  Is it justified to upgrade an electronic device, car, appliance when the existing one is still functioning ok?  Does the need for digital tv warrant me turfing out an otherwise well functioning television set?  Another colleague doesn’t think so.  “An extra twenty channels full of rubbish you will never watch – bah humbug!”  The latest iPad frenzy is a case in point – why upgrade to a new toy when your existing computer is competently allowing you to surf and download?

Looking to wiggle back into a child's life


It must be council collection time as the park near my apartment is starting to acquire piles of junk.  They arrive secretly in the night, these bestowers of garbage.  A pile of sodden soft toys makes me wonder – when do we stop loving an item that ends up preloved in the council collection or at an op shop?  I have a favourite grey dress.  It only cost me $20 bucks brand new (on sale) and I wear it at least once a week.  It is one of those unique garments that hides a multitude of sins.  The synthetic material will ensure it keeps going for at least another six months.  However items that I have worn less regularly are now relegated to the drawers or the back of the wardrobe.  Why do perfectly good pieces of clothing end up unworn whereas others get worn to death?  This year a group made up of members from San Francisco to Dubai set up a blog – What not to wear – the six items or less project –  recording their commitment to choose only six items of clothing and wear only these six items for a month.  Starting as a statement against consumerism it expanded to the dilemma that too much choice can create.  One blog respondent wrote:

“To me, this is about freedom from overwhelming choice. So I’d like to expand the challenge–In addition to limiting my wardrobe, I will only listen to six cds for the whole month. “

It appears that there is not much demand for video copies of New Kids on the Block or Darkman

A large second hand book shop in Newtown has set up a stand giving away videos for free.  The videos did not seem to be in demand, more for their obsolete technology, perhaps, than their titles.  Sometimes the world moves forward at a rate that does not leave rooms for the older technologies – it is jump onboard or be left behind.

At least if stuff goes to an op-shop, I surmise, it has a greater chance of being loved again.

When shopping brings tears to your eyes – but not in a good way

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2010 at 9:23 am

There are so many things I never should have bought!  The maroon coloured vinyl jacket with the big buttons that now make it out of season.  The five or six handbags that I never use.  I am not sure if I have the resolve to throw them out.  There seems to be a need within me to make them useful somehow. – a uk website for helping people deal with clutter acknowledges this but says  “Live dangerously, take a chance and get rid of it. You take greater risks every time you drive your car than the imagined risk of getting rid of an item that you haven’t used for a long time.”  I take another look at the clothes hanging in my wardrobe, grab a pile and in my haste to dash back to the computer almost trip over something lying on the floor of my apartment.  Clutter not only clutters the living space and the mind, but it could cause an injury. 

If you tripped on these while dashing back to your computer you would be in trouble

 The blue beige and white blouse that suits me well colour wise but the style probably won’t be suitable for me to wear for another 10 to 15 years.  The red silk dress that I had specially made for me by a flatmate who was a dressmaker – however I didn’t have a specific occaision coming up to wear it to and as yet have never worn it.   That was over seven years ago.  Seven years I have had an item hanging in my wardrobe that I have as yet never worn!  The clutter website advises that items of clothing that you never wear are ‘imposters in your wardrobe’.  The website goes on to recommend:  “If they are being saved for a special occasion then how long have they been waiting? Will that occasion ever come? Why not wear them next time you go out to a restaurant? Saving clothes for a special time which may never come is really sad. If they don’t suit you or make your bum look big then you will never wear them: ditch them right now.

If they remind you of something special but you never actually wear them then consider taking a photo of them or of yourself in them. If you already have a photo then put it in a frame and display it or put it in an album. You will have the reminder without the clutter in your wardrobe.”

It never pays to bottle up if you are a hoarder

A colleague in NZ was obsessed with labels.  She would only shop in Ballantynes, the Christchurch equivalent of David Jones.  One day she realized she would be much better off if she had a car to get around in.  However her fiscal situation did not warrant the purchasing of a car, even if second hand.  One day she wandered into her spare room and saw all the empty Ballantynes bags and burst into tears – she realized that what she had spent on all the (unnecessary) items in those dinky little bags added up to the equivalent of a car – what she needed.

I interviewed a woman last year  – Neradine Tisaj  -who overcame her shopping addiction and reined in her out of control credit card bill – her endeavours led to her writing a book – How to Give up Shopping .  She realized her overshopping was a way of dealing with a stressful media role but that the euphoria of the purchase became a low when the credit card bills came through.  She now only enters a mall if she has a specific item in mind to purchase, something that she has saved up for and that she has determined she really needs – if there is no specific item to purchase she avoids entering the mall altogether.

The Sunflower Bedspread

In Uncategorized on September 13, 2010 at 11:23 am

Airing my sunflower bedspread before bidding farewell

I realize I have to get strategic about my stuff.  I recently emptied out my spare room in prep for my sister visiting in October but have to confess it was more a relocation of the unopened boxes into a built in cupboard next to my bathroom.

The weekend brought me to Burwood mall and my favourite clothing haunt, Chica Booti.  I espied a peach top with lacey sleeves and inset at the front.  Fortunately it was hung well out of reach – which gave me enough time while staring at it to realize that it was very similar to the Barcelona top I had picked up at Carriageworks.  I remembered that I interviewed a woman last year, when as a co-producer of 2SER’s women’s show, Double X, who realized she had a shopping addiction when she was rummaging in her wardrobe and found two identical blouses.  She had no recollection of purchasing the first – and had bought the second without any awareness she already had the exact same blouse languishing in her wardrobe at home.  Why was I interested in purchasing a top very similar to one I already owned?  It reminded me of that scene from Fight Club where the Brad Pitt character tells the Edward Norton character that consumers are stuck in a treadmill of purchase and consumption of stuff – or sh*t in his words – that we don’t really need.  “The things you own,” he says, “End up owning you!”

Even Dame Edna doesn't need these glasses anymore

I realize it is time to get rid of some stuff.  The first item to go is a bedspread with massive sunflowers that I bought from the Camden markets in London.  I had insisted on bringing that with me to Sydney.  I had used it in New Zealand but didn’t use it anymore.  Was my attachment to it purely sentimental?  Why did I insist on keeping a large bedspread that I never used?  In my nine years of living in Sydney I must have moved at least six times – Newtown to Marrickville; Marrickville to Newtown; Newtown to Marrickville again; Marrickville to Annandale; Annandale to Summer Hill; Summer Hill to Ashfield, where I now reside.  Had I used this bedspread once?  I hadn’t.  It had become an item that I had had to move  with me six times.  It took up half a large box each time I moved.  It now just seemed like folly.   I took it to an op shop in Summer Hill.  I had to check with the person in charge as to whether I could take photographs.  He asked me to check with the manager next Tuesday.  He thanked me for the donation.   Of the large sunflower bedspread.

Pressure Cookers and wedding dresses

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2010 at 12:53 am


Juanita Phillips loves op-shopping.  It is not just limited to beauty queens and poor students, it also attracts news readers who find themselves facing burnout dealing with the competing demands of rising interest rates, career, marriage, commuting, two small children and nannies that go awol.  You may remember a past abc news bulletin that had to be transferred to Melbourne due to ‘technical difficulties’ .  The technical difficulties proved to be a coughing fit the result of a sensation akin to drowning brought on by stress. She describes her relationship with op shops at the start of her novel ‘A Pressure Cooker Saved My Life.’ The novel includes recipes to assist readers with their life transformation – it can all become easier, with a pressure cooker and her book.  I lament the lack of time in my life to read it.

She finds a pressure cooker in her local op shop replete with plastic wrapping and a 1950s-ish brochure showing an estatic housewife presenting her family with an amazing meal, courtesy of the pressure cooker.

I went to Vinnies on King Street in Newtown to seek out a pressure cooker.  One of the most distinctive aspects of an op shop is the smell.  That kind of dry, dusty odor that you associate with preloved clothing and old cars.  I scanned the homewares section at the back but was distracted at one stage by the rows of shows on display.  I do need a pair of black leather boots after all.  The other area that really caught my attention was the rack of wedding dresses.  I had a friend in NZ who postponed the making of her wedding dress till one week before the wedding.  She just got busy.  She could have done with a pressure cooker.  She should have considered checking out the local op shops – but given the ones for sale at Vinnies I suspect the style would not have been to her liking. 


I vow to return to this op shop to talk to the staff about where the wedding dresses come from.  The closest thing to a pressure cooker that I find is a ceramic casserole dish.  Oh, my friend ended up finding a friend of a friend who loved sewing and created her wedding dress within the space of just a couple of days – lucky!