New Perspectives

Hello, old friend. I know I’ve been absent for a while – nearly six whole months, in fact. Where does the time go?

Truth be told, the last few months of 2016 seemed to disappear in a flash. “Is it really October already?” I thought. “November? December? 2017?!”

I kept meaning to come back here, and write a blog post – or five. My absence has not been for lack of inspiration. But when life is rattling along at a breakneck pace, the easiest commitments to drop first are those I keep solely for my own enjoyment, and blogging sits squarely in that basket.

That’s not to say my life was passing swiftly by without me. When I look back over the past year, I can see I filled my time with things I love and that are important to me – dancing; hanging out with family and friends; learning Te Reo Māori; rediscovering downtime; finding a new home with my husband; moving to a place that helps me to live more in line with my values…

It’s those last two points I’d like to elaborate on now. Moving to a new home brought about several changes in my attempts to tread lightly on the earth, for better and for worse.

Ginger cat sitting on footpath at intersection

The neighbourhood cat

Unfortunately, I found the process of moving to a new neighbourhood rather disruptive to my nascent zero-waste habits. I’d spent months finding local shops and suppliers that enabled me to reduce household packaging, and now I was back at square one. Not only that, but the stress of moving into and setting up a new home took its toll and I found myself growing lax about buying plastic-packaged food. I’ve started to establish new waste-minimising routines here, but getting back on the zero-waste bandwagon is definitely a work in progress.

This was the first time my husband and I moved into a completely unfurnished home, so we had to acquire a number of new-to-us items. Some of these items we did have to buy brand new, either because we needed them urgently or because it’s the only way to source apartment-sized furniture and whiteware in New Zealand. But we also found a lot of the things we needed secondhand, in op shops, online, or donated by relatives. 

One of the things we acquired was a car. It’s the first time I’ve officially owned a car, and I have very conflicted feelings about it. Car travel is far more damaging to the environment and to local communities than going by foot or public transport, but I must admit that it’s so darn convenient to own a car in Auckland. In the past I’ve always been able to access a parent’s car for those trips I couldn’t make by bus or train. At our new house, my husband and I don’t need a car for any of our day-to-day work, study, shopping or recreational trips. But when it comes to visiting far-flung friends and family (or bulk bin stores) there really isn’t a good alternative to the car.

On the other hand, I love the location of my new home because it means I don’t need to use the car very often. I can walk to work in less than an hour; the nearest supermarket is just five minutes away by foot, as are op shops and whole foods stores. I can go to dance and yoga classes with a fifteen-minute walk. The local bus route runs every five minutes all day and every ten minutes late into the evening and on weekends, and the train line is also nearby. As far as Auckland locations go, it’s pretty much perfect for (almost) car-free living. Ultimately, being able to access such a variety of destinations on foot gives me a sense of freedom and autonomy. I love that walking can legitimately be the easiest and fastest way for me to get where I’m going, and I love being able to get a regular dose of exercise as part of my commute.

On balance, the move to a small, central apartment has made me feel like I’m living more in keeping with my values. I can drive less, walk more, spend less time commuting and cleaning, and more time enjoying my home. And I can access the people and places I want to visit more easily, so I’m looking forward to another year filled with the things I love. 

Jacaranda tree in bloom

Jacaranda tree in bloom

P.S. I’d love to end on that positive note, but as we dive headlong into the second month of 2017 I feel the need to somehow acknowledge the darkness clouding the world at this time. I’m feeling pretty powerless down here at the bottom of the planet though. While I don’t have the capacity to engage with the issues in a meaningful way right now, I promise: I am here, I am awake, I am watching, I am listening. 

While the light lasts I shall remember, and in the darkness I shall not forget.

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What makes a home?

My partner and I moved into our own place together for the first time a few months ago. No flatmates, no family, just the two of us. In anticipation of this event, I got incredibly nesty and found myself lusting over homeware catalogues and decor-filled pinterest boards. For some reason, the purchase of homeware became synonymous with making a home a place of my own.

This all vanished as soon as we moved in — partly because I was acutely aware that we didn’t have space in our tiny apartment for any more stuff, but mostly because the desire for a place of our own had been fulfilled.

"Home is where the books are" (photo by Kamal Hamid, https://www.flickr.com/photos/evergreenkamal/3774469213/)

Home is where the books are (photo by Kamal Hamid, https://www.flickr.com/photos/evergreenkamal/3774469213/)

The question of homeware acquisition is coming to the forefront of my mind again in a different way, as we plan our wedding gift registry. Like many modern couples, we’ve been living away from home for several years and already have a lot of what we need. Replacing it all with shiny new items doesn’t appeal to me. More importantly, we know we’re going to be living in a pre-furnished house for at least another year after we get married, so any homeware gifts we receive will just join our existing boxes full of stuff in storage. What’s the point? Why not receive something we can use right now, instead of acquiring yet more items that we’ll forget we even own?

But when I recently read the story of another couple who have had a similar experience with wedding gifts sitting in storage for a couple of years, I began to see that my short-term thinking is at odds with the long-term planning of a marriage. What does it matter if we have to store our household belongings for one more year, or even several years? We all intend for a marriage to last the rest of our lives, and good quality wedding gifts can serve us for that entire time. Then, as we grow old and grey(er) together, we can look around our home and be reminded of the love and support of our wedding guests all those years ago.