We are what we wear (or are we?)

I’ve never been what you call ‘fashionable’. As I write this, I’m wearing an old pair of Levi mum-jeans (they’re cool now, right?) and a flannel (because they’re obviously always cool).

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I tend to watch fashion trends from afar, either laughing at them (fishnets under jeans, anyone?), or secretly envious of the effortless fabulousness (basically any chic blogger ever- just how). It’s easy to feel unaffected by the quickly changing seasonal fads, but as Miranda Priestly so cuttingly put it in The Devil Wears Prada

“This…stuff?

…it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of …stuff”

 

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The fast fashion industry has built itself on the constant drive for next, new, better.  Thanks to the development of cheaper synthetic fabrics and processing techniques, the latest trend can make the transition from catwalk to storefront in a matter of weeks. With some chain stores currently accepting deliveries of new items as frequently as every other day, we’re seeing a glut of shopping options that no previous era has had to negotiate.

Unsurprisingly given this turnaround, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index has shown that while the amount of clothing that we own has skyrocketed, the percentage of our income that we spend on that clothing has completely bottomed out. In 1901 the average American was spending 14% of their income on wearables- in 2013 that figure had dropped to 3.1% and has continued to fall since then. 

Apparently these days, we shop cheap and we shop fast. But why?

According to a number of studies, the mere sight of something we want to buy fires up our nucleus ambens (the pleasure center of the brain). Flip over that price tag and our brain enters into a battle of pleasure at the thought of owning the object of our desire, and pain at the thought of parting with our hard earned dollars- apparently a heady cocktail of emotions. In fact, the anticipation of the purchase has been shown to bring us more pleasure than actually owning it. And if that item happens to be on sale or you feel like you’re getting a bargain, those pleasure centers are going to be super saiyan at the thought of getting your hands on that sweet sweet deal before anyone else!

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In a world where we’re constantly under stress to excel in every aspect of life, our poor little nucleus ambens can sometimes need all the love they can get. If we haven’t created healthy habits of self care, a shopping spree might seem like the perfect hit to get us through a rough patch.

Apart from the neurological pleasure of the purchase, there’s apparently also an animal desire to clearly mark who we are through what we wear. The latest trends might prove that we’re cutting edge and financially well off. Certain styles might mark us as eco-conscious, or alternative. Even my second-hand mum jeans probably send out a message (whether that I’m a slob, low maintenance, or too cool to care is up for discussion).

Clothing is an easy way to prove exactly where we fit in- a throwback to our tribal days that the human race has apparently never been quite able to shake. I look around my circle of close friends, and it’s easy to pick that we belong together- we’re a quirky bunch, with a penchant for patterns and (at the moment) enamel pins. Our fashion proudly proclaims our status on the edge of the ‘cool kids’.

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If you come up to me dressed like an instagram fashion shoot, I might be dubious of our ability to get on for more than a casual conversation. Why? Because the clothing you have chosen has marked you as part of a tribe that I don’t belong to.

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The Tribe (basically the best TV show of my childhood)

 

The hypothetical fashion plate and I might talk a bit more and eventually discover enough similarities lurking beneath the surface to become the best of friends, but in a world where we can engage in dozens of trivial interactions a day, clothing is one of the easiest (and fastest) ways to project a sense of self. As that sense of self changes, it’s logical that we would also reinvent our outer image.

And when we’re feeling that urge, you bet your bottom dollar the fast fashion industry will be there to help us.

 

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If you want to read more on the topic, here are some of the resources I drowned myself in:

 

We are what we wear (or are we?)

It’s time to roundup your Procrasti-buddies

I am the Queen of Procrastination.

I know a lot of people may say something along these lines, but you have to believe me when I tell you that, right after sleeping, procrastination is my special skill. I have a To Do list in my diary with items that have been carried over every week since February. In the time it’s taken to write this far, I’ve checked facebook three times, price-checked and purchased a number of items off ebay to use in an upcoming instagram post, checked my emails, checked my work emails, hunted for a new blog template, watched a video of Dame Judi Dench rapping, contacted a couple of business opportunities, ranted to a colleague about the expense of attending ‘high arts’, checked my emails again, drooled over this beauty which is all my nerdy soul needs and renewed my renters insurance.

And writing blog posts is something that I actually like do to.

My procrasti-buddies range from the standard (scrolling instagram) to the ridiculous (dead-heading my indoor plants). I’ve also been known to scrub the kitchen floor, sort out my bathroom drawers or *gasp* make my bed -all in an effort to avoid doing the one thing I wanted to achieve that day. Sometimes my procrasti-buddies are great (let’s be honest, they’re the only reason anything in my house gets cleaned), but sometimes they can be the reason that I’ve had this draft open for the last six hours and I’m precisely two paragraphs deep. When the deadline is finally actually looming and I can’t put it off any more, here’s how I finally round up the procrasti-buddies

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1. Shut it down

Everything. Shut everything down. Close your tabs, hide your phone, do whatever you have to do to keep those distractions out of sight. I use a Pomodoro extension on my browser that actually blocks access to any websites I’ve flagged as a distraction, and I have a similar aid on my phone, in case I feel tempted to pull it out from it’s burial ground underneath the mattress.

2. Suck it up

I was going to have more points, but this is basically what it comes down to.

You don’t want to do the thing. I don’t want to do the thing. My cat is more than happy for me not to do the thing if it means that I’ll come and pat her. The dishes would rather I didn’t do the thing, because they’re just staring at me from the kitchen. But when the deadline is looming, it’s time to do the thing.

Pull the plug, take a deep breath, and suck it up. Just start. If you’re anything like me, in the time you’ve been putting off doing the thing, you could have done it a dozen times. In the two days I’ve spent trying to write this post, I could have written articles for the next fortnight. In the four minutes since I’ve said goodbye to my sister on Facebook and blocked the site from my browser, I’ve achieved more in the six hours I fussed around yesterday.

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You want to get sh*t done? Shut it down & suck it up. Round up those procrasti-buddies, set your timer, hit the Rocky theme song, and smash it out.

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Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for updates, and if you want to see more of me, come say hello on my Instagram or Twitter, I would love to see you there!

 

 

It’s time to roundup your Procrasti-buddies

How can you budget if you don’t work 9-5?

Ahh Budget. My favourite B word. Call it a ‘spending plan’, call it ‘money management’, knowing where your money is coming from and going to is the single most important thing you can do to make sure you stay on track. Everything after that is just icing on the cake.

I have no way of knowing for certain, but I imagine that budgeting as a proper adult is quite simple once you get the hang of it. You have amount coming in, and as long as you limit yourself to n amount going out, you’re away laughing.

But what if you have no idea what your x amount is going to be from week to week?

As discomforting as it may seem, this is the reality for most creatives. Jobs or auditions can crop up at any moment, so the constraints of a standard 9-5 are usually far from appealing. Instead, it’s common for performers like myself to juggle one or more jobs – usually in a casual capacity. Flicking through my diary for the past couple of months, I’ve worked everything from 8 to 56 hours in a week. How can someone possibly budget with such a huge variation?

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Over the past five years or so, I’ve worked out a system that works well for me. I’ve managed to build up a solid amount of savings, invest some money in shares, and survive the ridiculous costs of renting alone. While your circumstances may differ, I decided to share my budgeting steps in the hope that it may help someone out there get out of their casual working nightmare.

1. Know exactly what your expenses are

I mean exactly. And no, brunch twice a week is not an expense. These expenses are things that must be paid by a due date. Think rent, insurance, power bills, transport costs- anything that is going to come out of your bank whether you like it or not. Doesn’t matter if it’s weekly, monthly, or annually- work out how much you’re paying for that bill every week and write that number down.

2. Calculate how many hours a week you have to work to cover those expenses

This is going to be your Baseline. I know that if I work 22 hours a week, my bills are going to be covered. Anything over this is an expense, and anything under this is going to have to be made up somehow. If I get a job that pays twice as well as my day job, that counts as double hours in my mental tally. Four times as well? Four hours. You get the idea?

Note: If this number is already more hours than you can work in a week, it’s time to re-asses your Expenses because I can already tell you this isn’t going to work. 

3. Find a way that works for you to track your money

Like a diet, tracking your money is incredibly personal- what works for your best friend may drive you crazy.  But if you want to have any certainty of bills being paid when they’re due, tracking of some sort is absolutely essential.

I personally like to use Goodbudget for all of my finances. It’s an app that lets you get as detailed or simple with your money as you like, and it tracks how you’re going with spending for the month. You can link it up to your bank account, or handle the transactions manually.

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At the very least, I would recommend you have one Envelope for your rent, one for your monthly bills, and one for your annual bills. This means that at any point, you can look at your phone and know that you’re not going to get kicked out of your place any time soon, can keep that refrigerator running, and aren’t going to completely melt down when that huge annual car payment rolls in.

4.  Realistically budget how much you want to save and spend every week

This is so incredibly personal, and it’s also going to be the most fluid part of your budget.

For me, I budget $200 a week for all discretionary spending. That means every cost that isn’t part of my pre-approved ‘Expenses’ list comes out of that figure. If I have a pricier supermarket shop that week, there’s less to spend on brunch. If I know I have a big night up later in the week, I might kick my 5 Ways I Slash My Spending into action and stretch that money a little further. Because I’m me, I also try and tuck some of that money into a physical piggy bank to save for a rainy day

If sticking to a spending limit is tricky for you, I strongly recommend pulling out cash and sticking with it.  I withdraw $150 cash every week and leave a buffer of $50 in my bank account for unexpected Uber trips and late night cocktails at the theater (you would be surprised how often those two coincide).

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I also have some pretty over-confident Savings Goals that I want to achieve before the end of the year, so I have a figure that I want to save each week on top of my spending money.

With these two figures, you’ve got a pretty accurate idea of your Ideal Weekly Income. This is what I aim to work every week, but as long as I know that I’m hitting that 22 hours more or less consistently, I know that I’m ready to move on to Step 4.

Note. Aiming to work means you actively try to hit this number of hours every week, even if it means picking up an extra shift or two. Don’t aim to hit this income like I aim to go to the gym, or this system probably isn’t going to work for you.

4. Decide on your hierarchy

Now that you’ve got your Baseline income and your Ideal income, you need to decide what’s most important to you from Point 4. Any money that you earn over your Baseline income is going to be directed towards this first, and then all of your other Ideal savings in order. For me, that hierarchy looks a bit like this:

  1. Spending money
  2. House deposit
  3. Travel savings
  4. General savings

As I mentioned above, I budget for $200 discretionary spending per week. Any money I earn over my Baseline Income will be prioritised for that, and then any remaining will be tucked into my house deposit fund, then my travel savings, and so on. The less of a priority a certain savings goal is, the earlier it is cut when my earnings dip below normal.

If moving your money around imaginary envelopes like Scrooge McDuck doesn’t sound appealing to you, your hierachy make look more like this:

  1. Spending Money
  2. Savings

Or even:

0.5 Spending Money

0.5 Savings

Decide what matters to you, and rearrange that Ideal Income accordingly.

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5. Build your buffer

This is the important bit! If you’ve been paying attention, you might be crying ‘But Abbie, you said that you worked 8 hours one week- that’s way below your Baseline income! However did you survive?’

It’s time meet your Buffer.

Any week that I earn enough to make sure my Baseline and Ideal Income is met (I’m looking at you, 56 hour week), I focus on building my Buffer – in my case, that means that every penny of the extra money gets thrown into my General Savings account before I get a sniff of that online sale and blow it all at once.

Being disciplined about building a buffer is going to make all the difference when the work dries up or a passion project starts calling. It may take time to accumulate, but having a savings account to pull from when hours are slim is going to make all the difference when it comes to covering those bills- just make sure to only pull what you need for that week, and only if your working hours slip below that Baseline Income. Otherwise you’re going to see those hard-earned savings fritter away on an outfit here and a dinner out there (or is that just me?)

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If you’ve got the hang of this and you’re a financial control freak like me, you can also start adding more detailed envelopes in Goodbudget– I’ve got accounts ranging from ‘Birthdays’ (because I was sick of birthday presents chipping into my weekly spending money) to Cat, to ‘Splurge’ (because sometimes you need a little blowout). These also get topped up every time I get a windfall, and the money waits there until it’s needed.

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At the end of the day, living with a casual job (or three) is about being incredibly disciplined and amazingly flexible at the same time. It’s easy to go spend-crazy at the end of a big week- you’ve earned it!– and then chew your nails down to a nub when the work dries up. Taking the time to build a plan for your income(s) is going to be the key to finally stop living hand to mouth and start working towards those financial goals. You may not be working like a grown-up, but at least you can start saving like one!


Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for updates, and if you want to see more of me, come say hello on my Instagram or Twitter, I would love to see you there!

How can you budget if you don’t work 9-5?

Why I’m breaking up with my laundry detergent

Disclaimer: I was sent That Red House Soapberries to try in exchange for my honest and genuine review. This post was not sponsored in any other way.

It’s time for Science Hour on Ferdydurking Blog!

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Meet Soapberries, the dried shell of fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree. These shells are a very dense source of ‘saponin’ aka nature’s soap. Saponin reduces the surface tension of water, allowing dirt to be easily washed away in the same fashion as your normal household washing liquids.

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Odd looking fellows, aren’t they?

Apparently soapberries are a natural alternative to traditional laundry detergent and fabric softener. They are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, hypo-allergenic, chemical free, grey water safe, organic, compostable, and 100% sustainable *wipes sweat from brow*

Full disclosure, I was very suspicious about anything with a list of benefits that long, and I was ready and waiting to be proven correct.  Why would anyone use a standard laundry detergent when these bad boys are available? But I have seen soapberries pop up now and again on the plastic-free instagrams, so when That Red House slid into my DMs and asked if I would be interested in trying them out, I was game to give them a go.

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Straight out of the post, I was pretty impressed with the packaging. Everything is very clearly explained on the bag, and I can definitely find a dozen ways to reuse it when the berries are gone (it’s a really lovely fabric). When I picked up the bag and felt it crinkle in my hand, I braced myself to have a discussion on plastic packaging around eco-products. But check this out-

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A paper bag! And how pretty does it look?

That Red House, I’m sorry I ever doubted you. Of course you wouldn’t hide some plastic behind that nice eco-friendly bag.

 

According to the instructions, you put a handful of the dried berries into the included smaller bag, tie it off, and forget about it (no need to take it out before the rinse cycle).

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The berries smell a little odd but it’s not offensive. They seem harmless, but I was still dubious. You want me to what with these? Without adding any real detergent? Are you sure this is going to work?

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Colour me sideways guys, but they actually do work.

I’ve done a fair few loads of washing and the level of clean is exactly the same as I would have expected from washing powder. After some intense close-quarters sniffing of my clean laundry, I can also confirm that the odd smell doesn’t transfer. In fact, the strangest thing about washing with soapberries is that there isn’t really a smell at all – I didn’t realise how accustomed I was to scented laundry until the scent wasn’t there.

If you do like your clothing to smell like something more than just clean, you can apparently add a few drops of essential oils to the berries (which you can also grab through their website).

Lack of laundry fragrance aside, I wouldn’t be able to pick the difference between soapberries and a standard detergent in a blind test. Each handful of berries can be used for around five washes (I’ve just been leaving the lid on my washing machine up after the load to let them dry out), and once they’re used up you can throw them on the compost. According to the gang at That Red House, if you buy a 1kg bag of the berries, you’re paying approx 10c a wash (1/3 the price-per-wash of a commercial detergent), so on top of saving the world, you’re also slashing those laundry costs!

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Apparently the berries can also be boiled down for other uses- a good friend of mine is allergic to a lot of shampoos, so I’m going to pass some on to her to experiment with.

In conclusion? I’m a convert– I honestly think I’ll be using these forever now. In fact, it blows my mind that they’re not more widely available. Too many jaded old cynics like me in the world?

Have you tried using soapberries before? Would you consider it? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for updates, and if you want to see more of me, come say hello on my Instagram or Twitter, I would love to see you there!

 

 

Why I’m breaking up with my laundry detergent

Musing on vulnerability (OR What I learned from Chris Hemsworth about Acting)

When I decided to nudge my career along a different path at the start of this year and focus more on acting than music theatre, I began to go to as many workshops as I could with Casting Directors for film & TV. As an actor, the CD can be your greatest ally or your biggest door to crack open when it comes to getting work. They’re the first step on the path to getting booked, the people in charge of collating the hundreds of people suitable for a job and culling that list down to the final few to present to the creative team. I’ve found that as a rule, they are lovely, supportive, crazily hard working people and they deserve every ounce of credit they get. 

After a few of these workshops, I started to see a trend in the feedback I was receiving-

“What a strong performance”

“You were really in control”

What I was hearing was – I was too ‘theatre’, I had planned out too much of my performance, I was too ‘in control’.

I wasn’t allowing myself to be vulnerable enough.

Vulnerability is such a great asset on screen. And I think in life, too. Vulnerability, it’s the heart of the truth of who we are. The vulnerability of you doubting something, it’s usually based around a fear of showing who you truly really are. You put on some sort of bravado or mask or something – Chris Hemsworth

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Vulnerability is hard! It’s hard as a person, and it’s hard as an actor. I don’t want to let down my guard and reveal anything. I definitely don’t want to admit that I have doubts about something, or if my mental state is less than great. And maybe that’s what makes vulnerability so powerful.

As a human, it can feel necessary to build up an armour to protect ourselves from anything that might try to derail us. As an actor, it’s easier to feel confident if I’ve planned out every second of the audition I’m about to give. But is it really better?

Is it better not to admit when something is hurting us, and we need help? Or to tuck away our laughter rather than expose crooked teeth, double chins, or the way a snort can sometimes sneak in? (or maybe that’s just me).

It has been terrifying for me as an actor to leave my performance open and vulnerable to what could happen -terrifying, and much, much more interesting. My performances are no longer described as ‘strong’ or ‘in control’. I’m ‘interesting’ and ‘very talented’ (this one still makes my stomach flip, thanks amazingly generous CD). I can listen and react like a real person, and weirdly, if something goes wrong that’s okay. I was open. I gave it my all. I was humanDon’t you want to try it?


Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for updates, and if you want to see more of me, come say hello on my Instagram or Twitter, I would love to see you there!

Musing on vulnerability (OR What I learned from Chris Hemsworth about Acting)