Lost skills

When you decide to live a more simple life there are certain things you have to learn how to do. These techniques and skills will depend on where you live and what your priorities are. For example, if you’re in the country and value organic food you might need to learn how to milk your own dairy cow, if you’re in the suburbs and want to avoid purchasing cheap mass produced clothes you may need to get your darning skills up to date. A problem arises when you realise so many of these old skills have been lost. If, like me, you’re of a generation X/Y vintage you might have had parents who both worked out of the home and as a result didn’t have time for knitting or making passata from scratch. Throw in ‘convenience’ foods and products which were cheaper to replace than repair and you can see how easily those skills fell to the wayside.

Something that was lost in the pursuit of convenience was the satisfaction and independence these skills offered. There is a special joy that comes from seeing your darling daughter twirl around in her favourite skirt that you were able to whip up on the sewing machine. The meditative clicking of knitting needles and warmth of an unfurling scarf in your lap can be comforting and cathartic. Want a long dress with pockets? If you can sew you don’t have to wait for a designer to produce an overpriced, poor quality version of what you seek.  Car need its oil changed? What a great feeling to save yourself the service fee and change it yourself.

You are empowered when you can do things for yourself and you get to make things exactly as you’d like them.

So if this upskilling is so empowering why aren’t more people doing it? I believe these skills have an image problem, they are often seen as ‘old and daggy’, because we don’t see our contemporaries practising them. Secondly, we have been told continuously that we don’t have time by advertisers wanting to sell us a quick fix. We are told our status is measured by what we can buy, not by what we can make and do ourselves.

Screen grab from the Work-Shop website

Screen grab from the Work-Shop website

This is why I’m so happy to see places like Work-Shop offer affordable classes where people can go to learn new skills that would be otherwise unattainable. Their classes cover everything from tattoo illustration to beginner harmonica. I was especially excited to see Work-Shop and City of Sydney come together to put on Nanna Knows Best, a series of classes on forgotten Nanna skills! The next class on 15 July is Chinese Knitting with Nanna MeiFen and it’s only $20. A bonus of this series is the opportunity to learn from another generation. I certainly wish my Nanna wasn’t so far away…

So what can you do if you don’t have classes like Nanna Knows Best available near you? I typically turn to YouTube and blogs for instruction. There is no equal to having someone sit by your side and talk you through a practical skill but YouTube especially can be great for picking up new knitting stitches for example. I pause and replay as often as I need, laptop balancing on my knee, needles and wool held directly in front of the screen for comparison. Do you have any video tutorials or classes you would recommend for those looking to upskill?

If you start to ask around you might be surprised at the skills that exist in our local communities, and just how willing people (especially the older generations) are to share and teach them. These skills don’t have to be lost. We can save them, one at a time, and have fun while doing so.

Natural air freshener DIY

Natural Air Freshener

The key to a fresh smelling house is ventilation, keeps those windows open people! Sometimes you want to add a little extra fragrance though, for a special occasion or just to lift the mood. Here’s how you can do so without resorting to chemical-filled cans or plug-ins. The bonus is you can make it ahead of time and simply heat when the time comes to use it!

Natural air freshener DIY

All you need is a jar, water, and whatever smells good to you! I included citrus peel, a sprig of lavender, a rose geranium leaf, dried liquorice root, and a couple of drops of essential oil. Crush the botanicals a little to release their fragrance, pop them in the jar, top up with water and add any essential oil you fancy. You can keep it in the fridge for about a week and heat it up multiple times. I simply pop the jar in a bowl of hot water (I usually make myself a cup of tea and the leftover boiling water gets put to this use) and once nice and warm remove the lid. If you have a microwave you could give it a quick zap, minus the lid of course!

It’s lovely to enjoy the beautiful scent permeating your home knowing there’s nothing sinister accompanying the fragrance. Due to the nature of sourcing the scents (flowers, fruits etc) your air freshener will almost aways be seasonally appropriate which I really love. That and the practically non-existant cost!

Merry Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas everyone! I’ve only been blogging my downshift journey for a few months but I’ve already made so many new friends and I hope this season treats you all well, along with Santa! I’m spending this special time with my family and as it’s my daughter’s first real Christmas (we only left hospital on Christmas Eve when she was born) it’s a very exciting one!


I made my wreath by plaiting the dried out flower stalks from our palm tree (that is the great tumbleweed like thing that falls off the palm after all the flowers have died). I fixed it together using a little wire and tied it on the door with some old white ribbon. If you’re looking to make a wreath next year I like this red floral one over on Hello Giggles. Very easy and you could use whatever fabric you have lying around.

I’m off to eat some plum pudding, take care xx