Of course it requires daily discipline and forbearance so we don't melt down and kill each other just because somebody else has just put on a wash load as you walk through the door with an armful of laundry or because everyone watched last night's Pottery Showdown on catch-up telly without having the kindness to let you know so you could come and join in.
In fact the challenges are the most revealing spect of the whole thing; if you want to build your character, share your home.
Our house is a good size but not abnormally large, and in particular the kitchen hasn't got a lot of storage. We don't all cook/eat together, so the freezer space, shelves in the fridge and dry goods shelves are allocated. The cats have a whole cupboard of their own because they are picky and treated better than royalty.
My food shelves (I have two) are not wide but quite tall. About the right height for a family size packet of cereal. Recently we've been trying really hard to cut right down on plastic packaging, assisted in our efforts by the arrival in our town of two re-fill shops — one (hurrah!) belonging to the whole food co-operative. So now we can get all our washing up liquid, laundry liquid/powder, shampoo, and dry goods in general, measured out into the containers we already have.
There is a particular brand of yogurt I really love, made by The Collective Dairy. My favourite, no contest, is this one:
So it comes, you'll have noticed, in 450g tubs, which then yields excellent size storage tubs, very helpful for taking to the refill store because the tubs stack and so do the lids, and they are lightweight and don't clash about and break, which are the problems of walking down to town with a bagful of glass jars.
They are also just right for freezing a bowl of soup or stew; very useful for batch-cooking — which is helpful in a shared house, stops us fighting over stove use when we all want a hot meal at the same time. Creates, in effect our own ready-meals.
This gives me permission to eat as much raspberry yogurt as I like. And now my storage shelf looks like this:
Oh — and the smaller containers with white lids at the front are Nutella jars — brilliant, you can use them as drinking glasses too. I like Nutella a lot. It is a very cost effective way of having chocolates, just taking half a teaspoon of Nutella. I find it lasts a long time, and then the jars can be used for the smaller amounts of dry commodities — salt, bouillon mix, herbs etc.
So that was a pleasing step forward in re-using and re-filling.
In my ongoing efforts to get my clothes right I've also made progress, I think.
I identified a set of realities about clothing and me.
- I put on and take off weight very easily. The need (both practical and psychological) to occupy a small space with little storage means I can't really have several sets of clothes in different sizes. At different times I've had just a box in an attic where I was sleeping, or two drawers in someone else's chest of drawers, or an under-bed drawer, and so forth. At the present time I have a good-sized closet that Tony made me, with room in it for a box for my out of season clothes; but I still need to keep the number of garments fairly few. As a result, gaining and losing weight has cost me a lot of money over the years, as I obtained and discarded clothes to fit. I realised it is essential that I have clothes to grow and shrink with me, or I will end up destitute.
- I like trousers but at the same time often feel somewhat undressed in them. Also they look better if they fit properly, so are less good for weight gain and loss.
- Hypermobility and autistic tendencies affect my choice of fabrics and shoes: soft, stretchy, flexible and non-itchy are essentials.
- In the UK we have a lot of different weathers, and I walk or go by public transport a lot. It can be cold waiting at bus stops and walking makes you hot. We keep our house cool, but shops and churches usually whack the central heating right up. So it's very helpful to have clothing in layers that can be added or removed.
With these things in mind, I wear (this may have changed since last I wrote about it) on top a loose t-shirt with long sleeves (I hate short sleeves). Some of my tees have a crew neck, some a turtle-neck or roll-neck. All are soft cotton, and I carefully and completely cut out the labels. If I get thinner they are just a bit oversized, and that looks fine because the shoulders still fit and the necks are neat. If I get fatter it's just a more normal fit.
Over the tee I wear a cardigan or roll-neck sweater. Over that I wear a fleece gilet. I also have some knitted waistcoats (US vest) to wear over t-shirts for modesty or warmth on days when I'm not wearing a cardigan or sweater. I find I don't really need a warm coat. I have got one but I don't wear it much. I do have a raincoat for days when it's pouring down and I have to go out.
Then on the lower half of me in winter I wear warm tights and in summer long loose short johns. I get the biggest size so they're loose and baggy and come up longer (down to the knee). The elastic waist keeps them in place well, and I can be thinner or fatter in them. And I wear skirts.
Recently I've made some skirts I wanted to show you because I'm really pleased with them.
I find if I simply gather a piece of fabric, the skirt is okay but a bit bulky and tragic-looking. On the other hand, if I buy skirts that fit, well sometimes they don't.
So I've been experimenting, based on a skirt I have that I like.
The skirts I've made start with two widths of fabric. I stitch up the edges to be the side seams. Then along the top I make box pleats — how many depending on how wide the fabric is — to give a top width well wider than my hips (in case I get fatter). At the top of that I add a waist band into which I thread elastic the right size for what I am now; I can always add a bit or shorten it if I change size. This means I end up with skirts that aren't too bulky but are accommodating.
I made this one first, to go with brown/black/orange/cream/beige top layers.
Along the top of the waistband I add a row of stitching to discourage the elastic from turning over, as it sometimes wants to do.
The fabric is cotton homespun. I love it, but it's hard to obtain in the UK, so I get mine from Jubilee Fabric in the States. The actual fabric is very low in price, but the postage is eyewateringly expensive, and then I have to pay import duty and a handling charge slapped on top when it reaches England. So I pay three times the amount of the actual fabric cost. Which I guess is okay because I love cotton homespun (it's great in all four seasons and gets softer and softer with wash and wear), but the cost gives you pause for thought, does it not!
I made a second skirt in homespun.
This has interesting effects. It is basically checks in a mid blue and natural cream, with a green line and a red line both criss-crossing.
The colours tend to merge and combine. So if I wear it with mauve/purple tops, it looks mauve/purple. If I wear it with pink it looks pinky-mauve. If I wear it with blue, it looks basically blue. If I wear it with green, it looks green-blue. Brilliant fabric, really versatile!
The most recent one I made is in cotton lawn. Where the cotton homespun is 45 inches wide, this cotton lawn just over 60 inches wide, so it makes a much fuller skirt which is handy because it's finer. Incidentally, it's important to wash the fabric before making anything, as both the lawn and the homespun shrink.
Here's the cotton lawn skirt:
When I sent for it, I wasn't quite sure what the finish/handle would be — it's nicer than I expected, very soft and matt and flannelly for so fine a fabric.
Being so much wider, it had twice as many box pleats and the hem seemed to go on forever! Making my own clothes is partly a kind of spiritual, peaceful thing: part of slow living. So I hand-stitch them, no machines.
I'm really pleased with the result. They have come out exactly as I imagined, perfect to wear every day and for any occasion, very comfortable and easy to walk fast in, warm in winter and cool in summer.
So those are my small domestic triumphs.