Monthly Archives: August 2017

Make second hand normal with Guido Verbist of The Bower

When I was growing up, we never really bought anything much second-hand (except a car). We would happily donate our unwanted or unneeded items to the charity shop every six months, happy that they were out of our hands and happy that maybe someone else would use them, but buying second hand wasn’t usually on our radar.

Not until I became interested in vintage clothes in my early 20s did I ever really consider shopping second hand, and even then it was an exception rather than the rule. I still somehow didn’t consider second hand shopping a viable option for most things, probably because it was less convenient than buying what I needed at a chain store or big department store, and in that, I know I wasn’t alone. In fact, I still think buying second hand is relatively uncommon. There’s still a bit of a stigma attached to buying pre-loved, and the convenience factor is still very much in play, particularly when you look at the ample opportunities for online shopping and almost immediate gratification.

Today’s guest, Guido Verbist from The Bower Reuse and Repair Centre is on a mission to turn this thinking on its head and make buying second hand normal.

If you watched War on Waste, the recent series on the ABC, you may have met Guido already. He’s the Co-op Manager of The Bower, and he’s been doing a huge amount of work over the past few years to reframe the way we think about second hand stuff, as well as empowering each of us to take control of repairing the things we do own.

I sat down to chat with Guido in the workshop room of The Bower’s new Reuse and Repair Centre in Parramatta, and we got to talking about convenience, the stigma of buying pre-owned things, and the lost art of repair.

The Bower aims to help minimise the amount of stuff going to landfill (and to date has stopped more than 1.3 million kilograms of stuff from ending up in the ground) and they do this by:

    • reselling unwanted goods to people who need them
    • fixing items and reselling them to people who need them
    • testing and tagging unwanted electrical items and reselling to people who need them
    • teaching people how to repair their own belongings at regular repair cafes and various workshops
    • working with local councils and encouraging residents to use their services
  • working with refugee and domestic violence services to help those in need establish a new home

This is an organisation making a huge difference across Sydney, and Guido talks openly and honestly about the benefits and challenges of being at the forefront of the reuse and repair movement in Australia, as well as his advice for people who want to set up similar services in their local community.

I personally love the idea of repair, but lack most of the skills needed to fix things. At The Bower, they run over 200 workshops every year teaching regular people the skills involved in repairing their own belongings. Under their guidance, you (and I) can learn to fix the table, reupholster the chair, rewire the DVD player, mend the bike or darn the clothes. I can’t tell you how excited this makes me. It feels kind of counter cultural and rebellious and I like it a lot.

Guido and I also talk about the issue of planned obsolescence and how to tell if an item you’re buying can be repaired, or if it’s been designed to be binned once the newer model is released. Attached to this idea is the notion of the circular economy (something I touched on in my recent conversation with Tim Silverwood) and why we need both the grass roots movements, like reuse and repair, AND the big corporations embracing circular design, in order to see large scale, global growth.

Guido is passionate and knowledgable and I walked away from our conversation feeling optimistic about the future. The second hand future, that is!


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Slow Learning – Go informal

Olu Eletu

This is the last one of our slow learning poggies, and it’s all about informal learning. If you’re someone who will spend a long time researching online or taking informal courses (like me – although less so now) this is probably something you can identify a lot with.

An informal learner sees learning everywhere. They like to do it anywhere and at anytime and they’re often heavily focused on using technology as a tool in order for that to happen. There usually isn’t any kind of qualification at the end of this kind of learning, and more often than not it leads the learner in to further research, deeper thinking, or a new direction.

When I first started learning about simplifying life, this was my go-to learning mode. I read endless blogs, books and articles on minimalism, simplicity and the myriad ways to adopt it. I took courses, enrolled in membership programs and listened to podcasts. What I didn’t always do though, was act on it.

And, much like the overwhelm we can often feel when learning collaboratively (as we chatted about last week) this is the biggest drawback of informal learning – lots of information but very little action.

That’s not to say it’s not valuable, because the opposite is true. More and more of us are working in areas where formal qualifications are no longer relevant (or at least as relevant as they used to be) but passion and ambition and skill take precedence. Similarly, this is one of the most accessible ways to learn about non-work related topics, ideas and skills and processes that we use outside of our work, that impact how we live, what we do with our time, our hobbies, our energies.

I think the key takeaway from this four-part series is, as always, about awareness. Be aware of the kind of changes you want to make in life, and be aware of the ways in which you’re learning about them. Do those learning modes work for you? If not, what can you do differently? Can you find some one-on-one coaching to get you through the hardest part? Can you join a community or a class to help tap in to the collective wisdom? Or are you best served just diving deep in to a good book on the topic?

Then, it’s all about the doing. Because it’s in the doing that we learn.


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Permaculture (it’s more than just gardening!) with Robyn Rosenfeldt

Permaculture (it’s more than just gardening!) with Robyn Rosenfeldt - Episode 189 of The Slow Home Podcast Dixit Motiwala

If you’re anything like me, you probably have heard the term permaculture. And if you’re a little more like me, you may have heard it in terms of gardening, and in particular, growing food. You may understand that it has something to do with tapping in to the natural systems, strengths and partnerships in the plant (and animal) world, and that it’s a method of growing that results in better soil, a more seasonal approach to food production and higher yield. It’s also a bit of a buzz word these days too.

What I’d never really considered before is that the philosophy of permaculture doesn’t stop at food production. In fact, much like slow living, the permaculture philosophy extends to community, connection, family, relationships, business and how we view the world at large. It can impact on where we live and how we live there, as well as the things we own, the money we earn and the way we interact with those around us.

Permaculture hinges on 3 key ideas, all of which can be applied to pretty much every element of life:

    • earth care
    • people care
  • a fair share

In today’s episode I chat with Robyn Rosenfeldt, the founder and editor of Pip Magazine – a magazine dedicated to spreading the ideas of permaculture far and wide. Pip is released three times a year and is packed full of both inspirational articles that dive deep in to permaculture, as well as the super practical information that will help you turn that inspiration in to action.

We chat about the similarities between slow living and permaculture, how Robyn came to discover permaculture, and what led her to make the shift permanently. We also talk about the idea of self-sufficiency, and why permaculture isn’t necessarily going to allow us to be individually self-sufficient, but rather encourages the creation of self-sufficient communities.

This is an idea I really seize upon because so often we’re sold the idea that we should aim for total self-sufficiency, where permaculture admits that doing so would either be impossible, or very not fun. Instead, it encourages us to create connections within our community and begin to use those connections to work towards self-sufficiency.

We also look at what community means and why we sometimes may need to look beyond our neighbourhood to find a tribe of like-minded people.

Robyn has some fantastic suggestions for those of us who want to start on the path to permaculture but don’t have a lot of time, and one of those suggestions is to let go of perfection. Our gardens (or balconies or community plots) don’t need to be Instagram-worthy in order to be productive, and while there’s definitely inspiration to be found in pretty photos, it’s worth remembering that a pretty photo is not the entire picture.

One of her other suggestions is to begin to educate ourselves on our food – where it comes from, what time of year we should be seeing it in supermarkets (and what times of year we shouldn’t – AHEM, nectarines in July!). It’s from this basis of knowledge that we can begin making small, consistent changes and from there springs real and lasting change.

I consider myself so lucky to be able to speak to so many inspiring guests for the poggie, and Robyn is no exception. I love the work she’s doing to spread the ideas of permaculture across the globe, and just as excited to hear that readership of Pip is growing as more and more people jump on board.



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Slow Learning – Collaborate

Stephan Wieser

This week we continue our look into the different types of learning and how understanding our personal learning styles will help us develop ways to adopt even more slow-ness and mindfulness to our lives.

Today’s poggie is all about collaboration – probably the most well-known type of learning. I personally identify a lot with this kind of learning (though during today’s episode I stat to wonder whether it’s the most helpful for me!) and think a lot of you will identify with this mode as well.

Collaborative learning is all about collective intelligence. This podcast is a great example of collaborative learning, or learning of one another in order to benefit the whole. I don’t know if I realised it when we started out more than two years ago, but essentially we’re building a community of like-minded people, and it’s one of the most valuable things I’ve ever been a part of. In fact, it’s where I want to focus more of my efforts over the coming months, developing this rad group of people and seeing how we can create a stronger community together.

But I digress! There are so many ways you can tap in to collaborative learning when it comes to slow and simple living. There are:

  • Online forums, chat rooms
  • Facebook groups
  • Mentoring groups (like the one Ben is involved in at the moment)
  • Live calls (like our Patreon monthly catch-ups)

The key here though, as I realise throughout today’s episode, is that if you identify with this type of learning it’s important to acknowledge its limitations. Often I find myself getting overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available, as well as the breadth of opinions and advice. It can feel completely defeating when there is literally an opinion for every option, so the key is to also apply a little discernment. Find an entry point that works for you and only go looking for additional information as and when you need it, rather than bathing in the infinite pools of opinions online!

It’s also been helpful for me to realise that I sometimes use this tendency towards collaborative learning as a way to procrastinate while still feeling productive. It’s great to understand a lot about a topic before making changes, but it becomes counter-productive when that learning stops us from doing.

And it’s in the doing that we learn.

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Katy Bowman on nutritious movement and slow living

Katy Bowman on nutritious movement and slow living Rita Morais

I was first introduced to Katy Bowman’s work when I started to explore the idea of barefoot bushwalking earlier this year. Katy writes a lot about removing the casts of modern life (shoes are just one of them) and unlocking the benefits of movement, and for me, barefoot bushwalking was the perfect introduction to that idea.

The first time I walked Red Hands Cave track barefoot was a revelation to me. Not only did my feet feel incredible while I was walking, but it also really forced me to slow down and truly pay attention to where I was headed, what I was doing with my body and how it made me feel. Interestingly, I rode a wave of euphoria for days after too, as my feet had a looseness, a lightness and a vitality I didn’t know they could have. Now I keep my feet bare as much as possible. (A pair of thick wooly socks are my dearest friends in winter!)

In today’s poggie I speak with Katy, a biomechanist and movement advocate, about the curse of convenience in modern life and what it is costing us in terms of movement, the food we eat, our health, our relationships and the larger structure of our society in general.

We also talk about the infiltration of technology into the lives of both adults and kids, as well as some really practical ways of lessening the impact technology has on our days, and how to deal with the inevitable complaints from kids (and maybe some adults) when they’re forced outside. We also talk about the massive benefits of spending more time outdoors and why Katy is lobbying for outdoor exposure to be classified as a nutrient.

Katy shares her families journey towards minimalism and why it began with letting go of their couch, and how the root of their simplification lies in a desire for more movement rather than less stuff.

I was struck by so many things talking to Katy, but one of the biggest was her intention. There’s meaning and choice and reason behind each of her actions, and for me that’s one of the biggest connections between nutritious movement and slow living – paying attention, asking why and living accordingly.

I also came away from this chat determined to add more intentional movement to our days and will be serving breakfast outside as often as I can!



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