#9 A Simplicious Challenge: Decluttering my house (and my brain, a little)

The Simplicious Challenge: I’m cooking all 306 recipes from Sarah Wilson’s book Simplicious, to see the impact it has on the way I buy, cook, consume and waste food. Read the first post here, if you missed it.

I spent July decluttering my house. I’d been intending to declutter ever since we moved in (last August!), when I simply moved all the clutter to the new house and then re-cluttered everything. I’m actually the opposite of a hoarder – is there a term for that? Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been inclined to regularly tidy and sort things out – back then it was my bedside table and my school bag, now it’s my ENTIRE HOUSE. But this hasn’t really equated to minimalism – in the past, I’d still buy heaps of ‘stuff’, and then just throw it out more often. Which is probably worse than keeping the clutter.

Physical clutter tends to make me feel mentally cluttered too – anxious and disorganised, especially if I’m already stressed. So I wrote myself a list (this would not surprise anyone who knows me), in my list book (this wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me either, I always have several lists on the go!). I listed all the things I wanted to declutter – the bedroom cupboards, the laundry cupboard, kitchen pantry, kids’ clothes, bathrooms, my paperwork, my overwhelming collection of green bags, to name a few. Even my emails. Each week I picked a few from the list, starting with the big ones to get them out of the way, and got them done. I am one of those people who gets a huge sense of achievement from crossing things off a list.

I’ve tried to be mindful about where my rejected items are going – not in the bin or to the tip. I know people who seem to spend a lot of time disposing of stuff at the tip and it does make me a bit sad to think of it all going to landfill. A lot my things went on Freecycle, a very handy email network that seems to be operating all over Australia (google your location for more information). Everything is free, and people give all sorts of things away. You don’t even need to leave your house! I’ve used it to give away kids toys and clothes, half-used groceries (when I quit sugar! I was overwhelmed by responses from people wanting groceries), mismatched crockery, old magazine collections and pieces of furniture. These days I tend to buy more eBooks.

I’ve also always had a thing about giving away my books, unless I’m sure I’m going to read them again, which means my bookshelf always looks half empty. I hate the idea of books – and dvds – just sitting on a shelf getting dusty, when someone else could be enjoying them. Lifeline Canberra accepts donations for their fundraising book-fairs.

My excess plastic bags and surplus enviro-bags are bagged up ready to go back to the supermarket bag-bins, where they’ll get re-used, theoretically (I do wonder what really happens to them…). I tidied up my pantry – who knew, I had white pepper all this time!? – and deleted hundreds of emails. So liberating!

I also pledged my wedding dress to Angel Gowns. I’ve always said that I would ‘dye it black, cut it short and turn it into a cocktail dress’, and seven years later I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’ll never get around to it. 🙂 Angel Gowns is a registered charity and volunteer service, which transforms wedding dresses into ‘angel gowns’ for stillborn babies. One wedding dress makes between 12 and 30 angel gowns, which are supplied to Australian hospitals.

The food:

I decided to have a little Christmas in July family dinner, to enjoy the ‘maple syrup’ pork belly and pumpkin spice-a-chino. The meal was delicious – but I hadn’t realised that we’d actually slipped well into August. So much for Christmas in July! Where is the year going?

I made 18 recipes during July:

  • Chinese Beef Cheeks (p 198): A bit like my experience looking for offal, I was surprised how difficult it was to get my hands on beef cheeks. I did after visiting several butchers (forcing me to confront all my introverted tendencies around talking to butchers and fishmongers…). We served ours with extra vegetables.
  • Fish Stock (p 42): Well, I was due for another disaster. Is it a coincidence that all my disasters are fish related? I didn’t realise until I got home that the fishmonger gave me bones for oily pink fish, instead of white fish. I went ahead and made the stock anyway, and it STUNK OUT THE WHOLE HOUSE. Ergh. So much fishiness. But I forged ahead to make:
  • One-Pan Moroccan Fish Pilaf (p 161): I think I did this dish an injustice with my terrible fish stock. However, it also gave me an excuse to make:
  • Ras El Hanout (p 45): A very easy spice mix to make using spices that are already in the pantry.
Chinese Beef Cheeks from Simplicious

Chinese Beef Cheeks from Simplicious

  • Watercress Colcannon (p 178): Ours was a spinach rather than watercress variation, and it was buttery and delicious. We served it with:
  • Shortcut Choucroute (p 258): My husband made this sausage and cabbage concoction, which the kids were very excited by (they love sausages).
  • Hardcore Flu Tonic (p 346): Whoa. This really was hardcore. Garlic, onion, chilli, ginger, and turmeric, blitzed with apple cider vinegar and then fermented for three weeks. It definitely scared the vampires away.
  • Orange and Thyme Rainbow Chips (p 95): I was really excited about these parsnip, swede and beetroot chips. Sadly, most of the batch burnt. 😦 Hence, no photo. But the ones that didn’t burn were VERY YUMMY. With the leftover swede, I made:
  • Swede Cheeseburgers (p 120): I don’t know how Sarah came up with this combo, but it works!
  • Roasted Roots (p 23): I roasted up leftover parsnip, swede, beetroot, sweet potato, dutch carrots, fennel, thyme and rosemary. I used some of the roasted vegetables to make:
  • Pickled Roast Vegetables (p 252): A yummy side dish that only took a few minutes to throw together.
  • Pumpkin Spice Butter (p 80): Gosh this stuff is good. So good. I spent a week dolloping it onto my breakfast porridge. I also used it to make:
  • Pumpkin, Walnut and Sauerkraut Toastie (p 84): I didn’t have walnuts, so I went with an extra luxurious option of pecans. 🙂
  • Butterscotch ‘n’ Spice Hot Chocolate (p 80): This was a delicious afternoon treat, made with cacao, pumpkin spice mix, maca powder and white pepper.
  • Bountiful Slice (p 279): This was delicious and just sweet enough. They were also impossible to overeat, thanks to all the good coconut fat!
  • Miso and Walnut Slo Bros (p 282): This was a decadent delight, and not too ‘miso-y’. It gives the brownies a richness and slightly savoury sense of vegemite to counter the chocolate. I actually secretly ate one in the kitchen, then went to talk to my 5 year old, who announced with much confusion, “I can smell vegemite and hot chocolate!”
  • ‘Maple Syrup’ Pork Belly with Pecans (p 311): This was so easy to make in the slow-cooker, and much tastier than I thought it would be (even though I was missing two of the ingredients!). We had it with rice and green vegetables, and it was divine. For dessert, we had:
  • Pumpkin Spice-A-Chino (p 327): A fun gelatinous dessert, which I served in kitschy martini glasses.
Pumpkin Spice-A-Chino from Simplicious

Chinese Beef Cheeks from Simplicious

That’s 159 recipes down, and 147 to go. And that means I’m officially on the downhill run! In August, I’m planning to do a couple of recipes I’ve been ‘putting off’: making my own bacon, and also steak and kidney stew with dumplings. Plus, bacon granola!

Read the previous post here – #8 A Simplicious Challenge: A Simplicious holiday (and hot chips).

Read the next post here – #10 A Simplicious Challenge: Getting out of my comfort zone.


  1. Loved this Erin ….

    We do not sound dissimilar on the decluttering front & l loved your suggestions especailly Angel Gowns how great is that!

    Congratulations on 159 recipes! … love the look of the Pumpkin Spice-A-Chino & hope you’ll love the bacon granola it’s a winner ! … just 147 to go now… you’re on the home stretch

  2. Great post Erin. We are currently clearing out stuff from our house and I’m trying to be mindful on what goes where. I’ve hung onto some stuff for so long because I’m sentimental, but really, that’s been a box for how long??? Out she goes! I actually don’t look through anything anymore, I see it and bin it and grab the next thing. I find if I start opening things and reading things it doesn’t get tossed.

    Loving your creations from Simplicious. I think I’ll have a go at the miso brownies – yum! xx

    • Erin says:

      Thanks for the feedback Claire, hope you like the brownies too! The process of clearing out is liberating isn’t it – good for the mind too!

  3. Michelle F says:

    Love this: ‘dye it black, cut it short and turn it into a cocktail dress’. My dress has been hanging around for 6 years now and I’ve been saying the same thing. Maybe it is time to pass it on. 🙂

    • Erin says:

      Hi Michelle – glad to see I wasn’t the only one! I was so determined to change it… and in the end it all seemed like a lot of hard work (plus I don’t get to many cocktail parties 😉 ).

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