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How I buy stuff

I’ve changed the way I buy things lately. (I suppose this is what it means to be a person in the world, constantly figuring out how to live life using my reasoned choices.)

Lesson #1: Natural is not always better.

I remember posting, a few years ago, about wanting to become more “natural” and “green.” Like with skincare. I religiously looked up ingredients on the EWG Skin Deep database and sought out (supposedly) greener products.

I’ve given up the “natural products only” schtick, especially after I got hooked into The Beauty Brains podcast and Lab Muffin. I realised that a lot of “green brands” made unsubstantiated claims. I’d bought “green” products that worked poorly or caused breakouts. So-called natural products don’t work for everyone and that’s okay.

I’ve learned just because something’s “natural” doesn’t automatically mean it’s better. (What does “natural” mean, anyway?) I’ve found out cramming numerous essential oils into products is a no-no and that chemicals aren’t the devil. (Everything is, after all, made up of chemicals.) Sellout-y as it sounds, at least bigger brands have gone through more rigorous research and testing.

Right now, I’m using a mix of “natural” and otherwise unnatural(?) products. And I’m not beating myself up over it.

Lesson #2: Green consumerism is still consumerism.

A few years ago, I started to become even more conscientious about my purchases. I really liked the idea of buying things that were ethically sourced, locally made, sustainable, biodegradable, yadda yadda yadda.

I obviously still had a lot of stuff that weren’t any of those things. Part of me resolved to stock up on items for my idealised, low-impact, zero-waste life. But then buying those things was still buying things.

A friend of mine had lamented that reusable coffee cups were supposed to fix disposable coffee cup wastage. But then the reusable coffee cup business has turned into a massive manufacturing effort on its own. There were cups for sale in every cafe and branded ones being given away at the conferences I went to. I’m not too sure how much it saved vs disposable coffee cups exactly.

Lesson #3: I will pay more for some things.

Like quality, seller reputability, local products, or for a good cause. And time savings. I no longer spend as much time as I’d done in the past trying to find the best deal.

So where does that leave me?

One thing I’d like to stick to, become even clearer with this pandemic, is to buy local. I like supporting local businesses. (With the decreased number of flights the parcels are likely to get to me faster, which is an added benefit.)

Second is to only buy new things if my old ones need to be replaced.

Third, I’d like to make most clothes that I can with my own hands. I’m not up to knits or complex pieces of clothing yet but I can make simple tops, skirts and dresses!

Finally, I don’t buy things right away. Even though it’s something I could easily afford, I only buy things on the weekend. A lot of times I realise that I don’t really need to.

Any purchases the past few weeks?

Outside of groceries and meals, I’ve purchased a Spinaleze pillow. I am officially an old person – I’ve resolved to investing in pillows, haha! I used to scoff at my dad who was particular with his pillows. Now here I am buying an exxy pillow hoping to relieve my neck and back soreness. 😛

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Forwards and backwards

Just when we thought that Australia had contained the pandemic!

We were all getting ready to get back into ‘real life’ with the easing restrictions… Work had given us the option of going back to the office. My friends and I were excitedly making plans to meet up. S and I decided which restaurants we wanted to visit first. I’d started putting in events in my calendar.

Then Melbourne started getting a spike in cases… now several clusters have popped up in Sydney. There’s talk of lockdown restrictions being put back on, and for requiring masks when out and about.

There’s a lot of uncertainty with how things will play out. But I am reminded of things to be grateful for:

  • Today, I received a parcel all the way from the US, thanks to my lovely friend B! It dropped from the tracking radar for three weeks. Then in the span of 2 days, it landed in Australia, cleared through customs and delivered. Now, we have enough gansitos for the rest of the year! Woohoo!
  • Seeing more people in person the past few weeks.
  • Baking a golden syrup cake. I bought a large jar of golden syrup (which I’d never heard of before) to make ANZAC biscuits for ANZAC day. I’m trying to use it up. I was happy to find that recipe because it didn’t need any eggs or milk, which I was out of. We liked it so much, we’re putting it on regular rotation.
  • Having my sewing machine, fabric and elastic on hand. It was for other projects originally, but how good to be a sewist in these times. I’m making some cloth masks this weekend in case we’re required to use them. (I wonder where to get air filter inserts though? I’m not too convinced about the ones on eBay and Amazon…)
  • A steady supply of Aussielent for the times I couldn’t be bothered cooking.
  • Things I would’ve taken for granted previously – having a job, having a roof over my head, having food to eat, my friends and family in good health.

I’m risk averse so I’m surprised to see photos of busy shopping centres and restaurants (though at the same time I’m happy that some businesses are reopening). I wouldn’t mind sheltering indoors a little bit longer though as long as we stay safe. Here’s hoping Australia gets the coronavirus back under control soon…

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An assessment of affairs

We’ve been pretty busy the last few months because of changes on the home front. Like hordes of other people on lockdown, we’ve been doing home improvement. From getting tradies in to doing things ourselves (I helped paint a room!) to selling on Gumtree and disposing items we no longer need.

Crossing fingers that all the big things get sorted by next weekend. (Then we can focus on the houseplant and art situation… but at least we can take time with that!)

As part of all this, I’ve been forced to re-assess all the things I’ve accumulated. I didn’t have a reason to, previously, for the simple reason that there was enough room anyway. But having to move things around had me thinking – “Why am I lugging all these books around if I don’t use them?” “Why am I figuring out how these clothes will fit in this container if I haven’t worn them in years??”

So I’ve taken on another popular lockdown task, which is decluttering. (I also threw in a few Marie Kondo episodes on Netflix.)

I’ve always prided myself on not being a shopaholic, but nobody’s perfect. When I was sorting my items I realised it wasn’t so much that those items didn’t spark joy or weren’t useful. A lot of the things I’d been hanging on were artefacts from previous lives.

Take, for example, the books from my Masters degree in education, ten years ago! I kept them because I enjoyed them and felt they’d be useful somehow. But with the way my career has gone, I’m not focused on anything education-related. I probably don’t need the statistics books that opened my eyes how to properly understand research papers. (Nerdy, but it was one of my favourite classes.) And if I did need to brush up again on educational theories, it wouldn’t be hard to find similar, more updated resources.

Take the numerous bikinis from when I used to do water sports regularly. (I already had a bikini obsession, but I justified it by doing early morning stand up paddling sessions at Rose Bay.) Even if I did get back into it, I doubt I’d need all the bikinis I have stashed…

Technically, there is still room for all those things, but… I’d rather not. I’d rather just keep the things I need, and travel as light as I can.

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Oh, 2020…

I didn’t want to write much about #BlackLivesMatter. I don’t have the experience or insight to give any sort of commentary that would give the movement justice.

I’m a minority in the country I now call home, but I’ve been lucky to spend my formative years in countries where I wasn’t a minority. (And even if none of us spoke the language, my family still looked sufficiently Asian that we blended in, when we were living in Japan.) That meant I grew up without experiencing repeated racial microaggressions, so I cannot relate to those who have experienced it all their lives.

Australia is not the USA; however, it still has its own shortcomings, especially when it comes to dealing with First Australians. Which is why I understand why the movement has gained some traction here, too.

Without saying much else, here’s a list of Indigenous charities you could be supporting and GoFundMe campaigns for Aboriginal Australians.

Also, here’s a beautiful piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald – “The pains of beholding my country from a distance” by Cole Brown.