My Simple Life: Sash Milne

This is the first post in a brand new series for House of Humble, called My Simple Life. A “simple life” means something different to each of us, so our aim for this series is to feature beautiful people from all walks of life, just to chat about their their unique story and what simple living looks like for them. Our hope is that in looking at a diverse range of lifestyles and perspectives, we all might learn something, discover a different way of looking at things, or find something new to be inspired by.

Our first guest is gorgeous Sash Milne from Inked in Colour. At the beginning of the year Sash undertook a commitment to buy nothing new in 2104. No new clothes, homewares, cosmetics, toys… Absolutely nothing new! I have found Sash’s journey during the Nothing New project fascinating, and extremely inspiring. Reading her posts has made me take pause and really reconsider the way I consume and think about material things. I think you guys will find her story pretty incredible too!

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Tell us a bit about yourself.

A few years ago I found myself in a pretty dark place, I was a good person who had done some pretty average things. I was a new mother. A wayward traveller. A wanderer. I had been living the simple life on the dark sand beaches of another world in a shack with no electricity or running water. I lived there for three years. Whilst it started as the most amazing adventure it ended in a series of tragedies that left me questioning who I was. I was a hopeless romantic in a loveless marriage in a foreign village at the end of the universe with a tiny baby in a sling on my chest.

I got kicked in the teeth by life and I brought my daughter home to Australia and spent a whole year just taking care of us, healing a broken heart… But we’ve come out the other side of it, as a family of two, stronger and more committed to building the life that is perfect for us, not the life that is perfect for the pages of a magazine.

Sometimes I write about things that are hard to write. Because things that are hard to write are truths that are infinitely more important than throw rugs. Sometimes I write about everyday people that are really inspiring. Because inspiring people are infinitely more incredible than cute homewares. Sometimes I write about food that you can cook in your own kitchen, without fancy gadgets or expensive ingredients. Because good food is the foundation of a good community, it’s our history, it’s our road back home.

I’m a terribly flawed human being, I’m a walking contradiction. And, just like you, I’m just trying to do the best with what I’ve got. Trying to find my place in the world… Inked in Colour is the place where I share parts of that journey, with anyone who feels like joining us for the ride.

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Tell us about the Nothing New project.

I have never been a great collector of things. Experiences, yes, but not things. Yet still, when I look around my home at our full closets and our comfortable rooms I know that we have more than enough. So for one year I’m going to see if I can make it stretch, by not buying anything new.

For a whole year.

A year of no shopping malls or outlets. A year of no online shopping or list writing. A year of no unnecessary product consumption. I will buy nothing new, for 52 weeks. It’s daunting and exciting and liberating all at once. I wrote a lot at the end of last year about consumption and wish lists and my frustration with our consumerist society. It’s time to practice 100% of what I preach.

Things don’t matter. People do. It’s simplicity at its most honest.

I’m going to start borrowing things, and lending things out. I’m going to not base any of my (self) worth on what I have or what I wear. I’m going to step right out of my comfort zone and change my habits. Because a year with purposeful change is a year with great purpose.

One year with no unnecessary purchasing footprint. No clothes or toys or home wares. No cosmetics. No trinkets or shoes. No upgrades. Nothing that we don’t genuinely need. Resourcefulness is a wonderful skill to incubate. Anything we truly need is to be sourced second hand or borrowed. We are returning to the days of my grandmothers, where clothes are fixed and everything that is no longer needed is either turned into something new or given away to someone else who can use it.

A year of no waste. It’s a year of considering what we bring into our house and reconsidering the way we dispose of our garbage. It’s a yearlong exercise in discipline and mindfulness.

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Where did the idea for the project come from and what are you hoping to achieve with it?

The idea for the project came from the crazy push of the pre-Christmas rush. I was in a department store with a toddler on my hip and I was watching parents loading trolleys full of cheap crappy toys and pushing past each other to get to stocking stuffers. I started to look at the way we consume a bit differently… I started to wonder why we were valuing the procurement of stuff so much more than we were valuing people.

So with one little decision the Nothing New project was born. With it came a commitment to stop buying stuff I don’t need. A commitment to focus on connecting with real people and building community. A commitment not just to an idea but to an action, and with it, a commitment to take conformity and to just throw it out the window.

For me, I’m hoping to change the way I approach the world. It’s so easy to get sucked in, to feel a bit crap about yourself because you can’t afford the clothes or homewares that everyone else seems to have.

The only way I have a chance to teach my daughter that things don’t make you happy, is to prove it to myself first.

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How is it going? What have you found easy? What have you found challenging?

You know, we are almost halfway through the year now, and time is just flying by. The first month was a really important time to relearn how to exist without just coasting through the shops for something to do. I didn’t step foot in a shopping mall for more than three months, and there was something really liberating about not allowing myself to feel like I need to be anything more than I am. To step out of the rat race, and to focus my energy on building community around us, it’s the best feeling. For my daughter’s birthday I invested time in building a dollhouse out of completely recycled materials that I found at the rubbish tip. It was a great project and I’m looking forward to doing more projects like this later in the year. It’s amazing how many perfectly good things we all throw away, to find a way to repurpose them is practical, ethical and really rewarding.

That being said, the project has started getting more difficult in ways. Most of the time it’s really easy but there are days when I do wonder if it’s making any difference at all. I’ve had problems with some of my photography equipment, leaving me without a camera for a lot of this year – which as a freelance writer and photographer has been very challenging. I’m still working out what to do about it and trying to justify any decision I may make. Also; my favourite clothes are full of holes. It might not seem like much but on days when I find it hard… it upsets me I can’t just go and replace a few key items that would make me feel a bit better about getting dressed on days when I’m struggling. But again it’s just remembering why I’m doing this…

We are about to enter the next phase of the project where we are actually going to live transitionally and see if alternate living is truly possible (for us). We will no longer have our own home, instead we will explore a few different lifestyles that force us to engage differently with the world around us; including woofing (working on an organic farm) and house sitting. The aim is to see how we can make positive impacts on our community and transform the rhythm of our lives. It might be a total disaster with a toddler, but the only way I’m going to find out is to just jump in. So jump we will.

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How has the Nothing New project changed the way you think about material things? Do you think the project will change the way you consume forever?

The Nothing New Project has changed the way I think about material things. By not making any meaningless purchases, I am more creative with and aware of the things I have. Some people use the word sacrifice, but I don’t feel like I’m giving up things I love or being a martyr to a cause. It’s liberating never stepping foot inside department stores, it’s freeing to not worry about whether or not I have that ‘thing’ that everyone else has. Sure, some days I wish I could go out and buy something that I want but then I remind myself how much I have, and how lucky I am and I find a bit of perspective and I embrace my ugly shoes and my tired jeans and I get on with my day – because there are so many things that are so much more important (to me).

As for the idea of spending lots of money and buying new things? It certainly doesn’t thrill me, but it doesn’t disgust me either – money serves a purpose and that purpose is different for each of us, I get that. It gives us lots of freedom to do awesome things and go on great adventures but it is not the answer to happiness and the crazy habit that we have of using it to desperately try to keep up with the Joneses is crazy.

The Joneses are broke.

The Jonses are stressed. The Joneses are living on credit. I certainly don’t want to be the Joneses.

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Has the Nothing New project changed your life in other ways?

It has been transformative. I have become more confident. More clear. More kind. I have an amazing group of beautiful special people who have come into my life in the past six months and have changed me, welcomed me, loved me… and made me a better person for it.

Would I have found these people without this project? Maybe. But maybe not.

I’m about to finish my masters and I’m really looking forward to working harder on making a positive impact in my community more in the last six months of this project… I still have a lot of work to do on myself, and I’ve found the best way to do that is to get out there in the community, to give back and to be connected. People really are the answer to everything.

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What advice would you give someone considering undertaking something similar?

The best advice I could give anyone would be to just dive in. There is never a right time to give up consumption, there is always birthdays and commitments and stuff that we want. The funny thing is machine will keep on turning, even without you in it, and when you step out of it, you are unlikely to miss it much at all. The truth is that you can give up consumption and still grow and thrive and experience a really rewarding life, it’s just about gaining a bit of perspective and changing some old habits. Doing things with other people is a much greater gift than buying them things.

Why not just start now? You don’t need anything fancy to begin, you don’t need to prepare. You can just start where you are, with what you have, right now.

I remember when I first decided I was going to do this project, one of my best friends said to me, ‘you have two weeks left! Why aren’t you out there buying everything you might possibly want/need for the next twelve months?’ I laughed, but I didn’t go back to the shops. I had made the decision I was going to do it and haven’t bought anything since.

It’s not about having everything you might “need” the truth is we need very little. I feel like we are often blinded by wish lists and wants and advertising that we forget what is so important and so fulfilling about living a simple, connected life. Other people matter so much more than things ever could. Not just your best friends and your family, but your community, your neighbours, people you’ve never met before. People matter most.

In the second half of this year I’m going to run a few online workshops to guide people through a month of buying nothing new. It will be a great place to start. For anyone who would like to be involved, keep an eye out on the blog or send me an email to sash@inkedincolour.com.

Katie x

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Taking Stock

Chelsea

This post was inspired by lovely Pip‘s posts of the same name. I love pausing to take note of the little things happening here and now. It reminds me to be present in the moment and helps me to appreciate all of the good going on this very second. Maybe you’d like to write a Taking Stock post too? Please share it in the comment section if you do!

Making: A wall hanging out of fabric scraps and doilies.
Cooking: Lots of quick stuff. Sauteed kale and potatoes with eggs. Fried rice. Beans on toast.
Drinking: Tea! Always tea!
Reading: Spaces.
Wanting: To get more organised.
Looking: For a new winter coat.
Playing: The Arctic Monkeys and The Black Keys on repeat. (Reuben’s current favourites!)
Deciding: It’s ok to stay in bed a little longer when it’s dark and frosty outside.
Wishing: Our old house was a bit warmer.
Enjoying: My slippers.
Waiting: For our Europe trip in September. (Impatiently!)
Liking: Cinnamon honey.
Wondering: Where this year has gone.
Loving: My mum’s sweet poddy calves, Chelsea and Bambi.
Pondering: The fleeting nature of our time on this beautiful earth.
Considering: All that I can do to make the most of it.
Hoping: We have a more successful season in the garden this coming spring.
Marvelling: At chickens hatching. (The fact a whole new living creature can grow inside an egg and burst into the world, all in the space of just three short weeks, will never cease to be incredible to me!)
Needing: A new pair of boots.
Following: So many inspiring people on Instagram. (I really love Instagram!)
Noticing: That our little fruit trees are now completely bare.
Knowing: I should go to bed earlier!
Thinking: I need to find more time for making stuff and being creative.
Admiring: Rag quilts and floral mandalas.
Smelling: Jonquils. (I cannot decide how I feel about this smell? Do I love it or do I hate it!? I’m not sure!)
Wearing: Gum boots and layers. Lots of layers.
Sorting: My clothes and decluttering my wardrobe.
Buying: A wooden dish brush to replace our disposable plastic one.
Getting: Really inspired and excited about starting an exciting new project.
Bookmarking: Jackie French’s calendar of self sufficiency.
Opening: The oven to reveal fresh bread.
Giggling: At our fur babies. (Always!)
Snacking: On strawberry yogurt and apples.
Coveting: A bigger yard with decent fencing for the doggies.
Wishing: I was a better knitter.
Helping: On the farm.
Feeling: So many things. (Love, restlessness, gratitude, hope, melancholy.)
Hearing: The wind rattle the windows…

Katie xx

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Five Favourite Things (with Jodi of Practising Simplicity)

The second guest in our five favourite things series is beautiful Jodi, who shares her story at  Practising Simplicity. Jodi lives with her partner, Daniel, and their two children, Che and Poet, on the east coast of Australia. Jodi’s incredible photography and beautiful use of words make her blog one of my very favourite online spaces. I always leave Practising Simplicity feeling so peaceful and refreshed.

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What’s your favourite recipe right now?

Chicken soup made with leftovers from a roast the night before. I always roast potatoes and kumera in with the chicken (often with lemon and garlic, too) and then the next day I make a stock with the carcass. That night I gently simmer leek, carrots, celery, chicken, potatoes and kumera in a bit of stock before adding more stock and cooking for about 25minutes. I serve with fresh herbs and a bit of sourdough.

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What’s your favourite place?

Oh, that’s easy – home. I’m not ashamed of my love of home. We live in a smallish house on a leafy street. We’ve been here for seven years and it’s the only home my children have ever known. That said, I feel like we’re on the cusp of change which is quite a surprise for me to admit – change and I don’t bode very well. Perhaps it has something to do with a seven year cycle but I think we’re also at the stage where we have to make a decision about buying a home before prices skyrocket beyond us. Daniel (my partner) and I were talking about it yesterday and he said: “I think it’s just something we have to leap in to – like closing our eyes and just going for it.” There’s a tiny blue cottage on our street that I am getting quite attached to – I dreamt about it last night. It has a fireplace and front porch and there’s camellia trees in the garden. It’s sunny, too, and has great potential to become the ultimate family home. But it’s not for sale, so…

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What’s your favourite way to spend a day off?

I’d start with a wholesome brekky and coffee and then a drive to my favourite beach which is only accessible by foot (a 15minute walk through the bush) – a picnic there and then an afternoon at home followed by a home-cooked meal or some takeaway.

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What’s your favourite daily ritual?

I’m quite grateful that my regular daily ritual is one I very much enjoy – a morning walk, a few hours of writing at my kitchen table (in the sun!), lunch, pottering around home, a beach visit or bike ride, lazy afternoon, early dinner, movie, bath, bed.

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What’s your favourite item of clothing?

I recently purchased a few things from ace & jig – wow, their fabrics are just sublime – so detailed and so incredibly soft!

Now, you guys! What’s your favourite recipe right now? How about your favourite place? What’s you favourite way to spend a day off? Tell us about your favourite daily ritual or the thing you most like to wear! I loved reading your comments on our last favourite things post!

Katie x

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Winter Days

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These pictures were taken at my mama’s farm today. Spending time over there is so good for my soul. The older I get, the more I long for the peace, quiet and space of the country. The feel of earth under my boots, raindrops on my eyelashes and wind in my hair. The warmth of a horse’s velvety nose and the sound of happy chickens scratching in the grass. I was lucky enough to grow up on a farm and though at the time I never thought I’d say it, I miss living on the land. I’m so glad my mum’s little slice of the countryside is just a couple of minutes away.

The days here are short and grey now. Each morning our tiny town is swathed in mist, the grass is crunchy with frost and the cold bites at our toes as we creep out of bed. Outside the deciduous trees are bare and the earth is cold and damp, but inside we are cocooned with socks, blankets and bowls of soup.

I love the hush of winter. Though we all carry on with our usual busyness, somehow everything seems a little quieter. A little slower. Like the world around us pauses to take a breath.

I hope you’ve all had a restful, happy weekend and managed to find a little quiet of your own. Sending warm, happy thoughts for the week ahead!

Katie xx

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10 Tips for Op-Shopping (AKA Thrifting)

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This is another of the posts I originally put together for Kidspot. I often get asked how I get so lucky and manage to find so much great stuff on my op-shopping adventures. While luck certainly plays a major role in my thrifting success, over the years I have picked up a few tips and tricks for sorting the trash from the treasure, so here they are!

Go Often

Stock in op-shops can come and go very quickly and the best items tend to move fast, especially in busy city stores. Go as often as you can to maximise your chances of finding hidden gems. If you are really serious about op-shopping, it doesn’t hurt to ask an employee when they refill their stock and find out if there is a schedule for adding new items. If you go right after the stock has been replenished you’ll beat everyone else to the good stuff.

Be Prepared

Some op-shops still don’t accept cards so make sure you have some cash on hand. Thrifting is also a bit more time consuming than shopping in retail stores and, unlike when you are at a shopping centre, there probably won’t be stalls selling snacks nearby. Make sure you have plenty of time and eat before you go. Op-shopping isn’t much fun if you are rushed or hungry.

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Wander Further Afield

I have always found little op-shops in small towns to be absolute goldmines so when we go on road trips we always make a point of stopping at as many op-shops as we can. Try to get off the beaten track.

Be Thorough

Op-shopping is not like strolling through a clothes store where you can quickly scan the displays. You need to set aside some time to go through the individual racks of clothes, sort through the crockery and dig through the boxes of assorted junk. It takes a little more patience than traditional shopping but if you are thorough, you can be rewarded with great finds at bargain prices.

Only Buy The Things You Love

If you op-shop often and you bring home everything thing you like, you will very quickly find yourself overwhelmed with stuff. When I first started thrifting regularly I used to bring home almost everything that I liked (because it was so affordable) but I soon learned that this is just a recipe for clutter. The cost of all those small purchases adds up too, so you can wind up spending a lot more than you might imagine. Try to resist the things you like and only bring home the things you love.

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Think Creatively

Look for the potential in things and try to be open-minded. Sometimes clothes, knick-knacks and furniture just need a minor alteration or repair to make them wonderful. Other things can be repurposed into something entirely new. Use your imagination and try to think outside the box.

Remember What You Actually Need

I have certain things that I collect, like vintage linens and vintage Pyrex, so when I enter an op-shop I make a beeline for those sections. I also try to keep a mental list of things I need and want, so that I remember to keep an eye out for them when I’m thrifting. I find that if you go into a store without any idea of what you need or want, you’re more likely to miss out on treasures (because you won’t be looking for them) or come out of the shop with a bunch of unnecessary extras.

Be Impulsive

It stands in direct contrast to my last point but part of the fun of op-shopping is that you can be a bit more impulsive than you might normally, and come home with something completely unexpected. I love the thrill of stumbling across something weird and wonderful! After all, if you change your mind about the item you can always donate it back.

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Leave Some Treasures Behind

Sometimes I see an amazing vintage dress that isn’t in my size and find myself wondering who I could buy it for, or considering buying it to resell. When that happens I have to remind myself that I would probably never get around to listing all those vintage items that aren’t quite right for me, so they’d just be taking up space in my house. If it isn’t going to work for you, or you have no need or space for it, let it go. I find it helps to think about how happy the item will make the next person who comes along and can actually use it.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Sometimes I go months without finding a single thing and I begin to wonder if all the vintage treasures have disappeared for good, then out of nowhere I’ll find something amazing. You never know when you are going to discover the next little gem so don’t give up! In my experience, if it feels like your luck has totally run out, you are probably just around the corner from finding something really special.

Katie xx

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