dear diary :: another week, another challenge

Do you ever get to the point when you want to stop the world for a day or so for a breather – well I have reached that point this week but I do wonder how can I be so busy when we are in lockdown? Well for us, even in lockdown, we have so many commitments.

This last week we had little Freddie (who is in our childcare bubble) for an extra day as daughter No1 had to put in an extra day at work – she is working alongside two younger people who live on their own and do not have children, they are able to put in the extra hours quite effortlessly, but it is not so easy for my daughter to do this with a little one to look after.

We also had daughter No2 (who is in our support bubble) with the two girls, Little L and Sweetie, to stay for a couple of days to give her a break from the 24/7 childcare as a single mum while her husband continues to work away.

As you can imagine my house looks like a tornado has swept through (mainly in the shape of Sweetie) and feels a little chaotic, which is a good representation of how my head feels too at the moment and although I love them all dearly and it is very endearing to hear ‘graneeee’ all day long I am presently savouring my quiet, noise free home and taking time to recover before it all begins again on Monday.

At the end of these long days of granny daycare the evening phone calls to mum are becoming quite wearing going over the same conversations repeatedly every night.

Oh and the washer has broken down. First it would not spin…now it refuses to wash…it has had the ‘if you don’t work this time it is curtains’ warning – but to no avail…….. as it remains lifeless and silent.

If I sound a bit downhearted it is only while I catch my breath and it won’t last for long, a quick wallow in the situation and then I will be fine again.

On a brighter note I am conscious of the little signs of new life appearing in the garden and it does lighten my soul. It means there is surely a promise of warmer, sunnier days ahead and they cannot come too soon for me; the snow is one thing – I love the snow, but waking up to endless dull, wet and windy days are only just tolerable. Being out in the garden again is the remedy I need right now to end the long winter malaise that is setting in.

Whilst I am in the midst of this present new life you might notice a few changes to my blogging format in the next week or two that better suits my time available for blogging. There will be, if I have the energy to write, more frequent, but shorter, posts logging my day but probably fewer photos; they can be time consuming and it is not always possible to keep camera in hand whilst juggling with the needs of our little charge. Just getting out of the door for a walk can be a major operation, beginning with nappy change and ending with a fight to stretch the rain cover on the pram once little Freddie has been togged up as if he is going for an artic adventure and fastened securely into his pram like he is being launched into space.

So many new skills to acquire.

Anyway, before I wander off track again – back to the blogging changes.

My challenge this year is not only to bring about consistency to my life but to make a real effort to offload more of the stuff in our house and, more importantly, curtail any attemps to buy or acquire more. So for the next few weeks I will be blogging and logging my daily efforts to meet my challenge.

There is a freedom I find in having less, an empty drawer is a thing of beauty to me, but I wrestle with the fact that I bought much of the stuff we have accumulated with hard earned money and this makes me want to hang on to it or make use of it so as not to feel wasteful.

At the end of a decluttering session I find the pile of unwanted items a bit disturbing and wonder how I could make so many rash purchases of things that have proved to be less than useful or even worse…. that do not have the same appeal as when I bought them.

But editing and letting go of stuff is necessary to create space. So I am considering the options I have for disposal:

  • Donate unwanted items to a charity shop (when they re-open)
  • Sell items on Ebay
  • Make an effort to re-use items that have been abandoned for too long in a cupboard or drawer
  • Re-purpose an item
  • Recycle any items still in a new condition as a gift

I am hoping that most of my unwanted items will fall easily into one of the above options but then there is a cupboard full of craft and sewing items to go through such as, boxes full of blank cards, a mound of decorative papers and a stack of fabric and wool, not to mention the basket full of half-started projects.

This is all stuff that can be transformed into something useful and will save money at the same time….and crafting is something quite pleasurable and satisfying. I definitely need to make the effort to complete more of (ideally all) the unfinished projects on the go and then look for some ideas to make gifts and cards to use up some of the craft stash. And make a promise to myself not to buy more.

So far I have finished the jumper for Freddie and my mum’s knitted cushion. Success. Next on the list is the half-started winter tea cosy and then the Christmas tablemats with a robin pattern (getting a head start on next Christmas would be a bonus). Sewing these days is a daytime job, sewing at night is not an option for my over strained eyes, but I can knit and so I intend to start the little summer tops for the girls this week even if it is just casting on and doing one or two rows.

One of the most difficult areas of accumulated stuff to edit and reduce is the paperwork (and I think I have mentioned before the headache that is our home office) – there is no indication of a paperless office here – in fact I am a bit of a paper hoarder………old to-do lists, menus, magazine cuttings, lovely old cards – I tend to keep the lot and the file drawer, which contains our more important documents like pension papers and insurance policies, fills up so quickly.

It hardly seems anytime at all since the last declutter and shredding marathon. Paperwork is so different to decluttering objects around the home from drawers and cupboards. It is not something you can donate to charity or sell on Ebay or even repurpose – no the only course of action for this category is the shredder.

But first that all important decision has to be made – ‘do I need to keep this’?

I have tried to edit the paperwork many times before but for some reason I find paperwork is quite overwhemling and I cannot decide on what should be kept and what can be shredded. I liken the process to weeding the borders and once I start I have to do the whole garden at once – it is the same with the paperwork, I try doing a file hanger a day but then find I cannot stop until I have sorted through it all – having a whole day to tackle it just suits me better; though having so few free days at the moment means I might have to resort to the bit by bit technique. I do want our office to feel a much more restful and orderly place and I also want to lighten the load in this room so we can decorate.

I admit I have always had more than a passing interest in decluttering and organising and my book shelves are well stocked with a variety of books on the topic (DH is never amused if I find another one to add to the collection) – some more useful than others and re-reading one or two might just start the momentum going…so watch this space.

Have a good week everyone. x

21 thoughts on “dear diary :: another week, another challenge

  1. I can hear the tiredness in your ‘voice’ but can I put another slant on it? You have gorgeous grandchildren with whom you can play, and you can hold them, kiss them, hug them. You have daughters who want you to be part of their lives, and I bet you hug them too . . . So yes Viv, it is no wonder you’re tired and need a day away, but the alternative would be quiet, empty, possibly lonely?

    Good luck with all the decluttering 😉 I managed to stop all the “lovely paper” hoarding by taking a photograph of the recipes, the cards, the bits I had torn out of magazines, et al, then making sure I put those pictures into organised folders on my computer, and then I chucked all the physical stuff.

    Been doing it for years and have not yet missed anything which has been binned. Oh, and I am fanatical about multiple backup discs in fireproof boxes . . .

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    1. You have some good ideas about the paper storage – I have started getting bills online. And yes I do realise how fortunate I am – just needed a break to recharge – had a great day today and lots of hugs from little Freddie!

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      1. I hope this won’t cause offence, but something else occured to me: Twice now I have had to completely clear the house of someone who had died. A ghastly job at any time, but on both occasions was made three times as hard by the sheer amount of JUNK that I had to wade through in order to ensure I did not inadvertently throw away an important document. Neither of these people were ‘hoarders’ and their homes looked, on the surface, fairly tidy, but inside every cupboard, every drawer, were years and years of detritus.

        The first time was hard, the second time nearly broke me and was when I swore I would never leave my own possessions in such a mess for someone else to have to handle. That’s when I started photographing things and then getting rid of the item. The photo triggers just the same memory as the actual card/letter and whilst I recognise I might sound callous, I really do not mean to be. xxx

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        1. I know what you mean – we had to clear my mum’s house (the family home) and then my mum-in-law’s house and go through a lifetime of stuff and it has made me mindful of what I leave behind so I have organised the things that I have kept into well labelled boxes with instructions to my daughters to throw out if it doesn’t interest them. Some things are family heirlooms and others just a few memorable bits like a drawing I did when I was only 3 that my grandad had kept for all those years in a book and my MIL’s exam papers into the Civil Service which I thought was a nice bit of history to keep that the girls might be interested in. If they don’t want it they can throw it out.
          With the lovely cards I get for birthday and Christmas I am trying to re-use and make new cards.
          My FIL wrote his memoires in pencil in a ringbinder and I would not part with the original even though I could scan it onto the computer I love the fact that that the pages were written in his handwriting – sometimes with rubbings out.
          My dad had kept every cheque book stub he had ever had and my old maths books from school. I did burn the cheque stubs and got rid of the maths books after tearing out a few pages with the teachers well done on them just to remind me that I was often very good at maths at school!
          One of the books I have is about the Swedish Death Clearing and I do need to think about all my possessions more and alternative ways of dealing with some of it as you have suggested. To put your mind at rest you have not offended me I am open to any suggestions – blogging is very good for that. xx

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  2. Viv, we seemed to have shared a similar week–albeit separated by the big Pond. Life is crazy no matter where one lives. I am all sympathy with you feeling exhausted and a tad overwhelmed. Last week was very rough with my 6yr old GS, too, (has been virtual schooling with me since August). Bad weather (snow/ice) meant he ended up staying overnight with me several days in a row, so it was non-stop care, including dealing with bad dreams at 2 am. He is so (understandably) fed up with being online six hours a day and even though he gets some breaks, there is always asynchronous work to do in between the face to face sessions with his teacher/class. The state still acts as though all education guidelines must be met, so the demands to do the work are intense and made even worse by the daily breakdown of technology. Six year olds don’t respond well to this kind of pressure. And neither does this 70 year old. 😦 He had multiple meltdowns in the middle of sessions, where I had to turn off the computer camera and text the teacher that we were having a ‘moment.’ Then let him facetime with his Mum and eventually get his act together to rejoin classes. Times are not easy for any of us–young or old. Add your daily call to Mum in addition to all you are doing with the grandchildren and I can understand your weariness. Certainly hope that you and yours will get a break soon…even if it is just some better weather!

    Looking forward to hearing about your on-going de-cluttering efforts. I have a very large garden leaf bag in the corner of a bedroom that I periodically drop items into to give away. About to add another bag as the current one is in overflow. Like you, my paper collection is vast. Not to mention the fabric and wool stash. Sigh. Must reduce them all. Good luck in your quest for minimalism.

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  3. I look forward to more post, Vivien. If you blog from the app on your phone, you can put photos in quickly. Just a thought.

    It’s wonderful how you are supporting your daughters. The noise, the mess, the chaos won’t last. So embrace the chaos.

    I love your list of books. I borrowed L’art de la Liste. It wasn’t what I hoped. I wanted it to be about writing the definitive list. I shall have to write that book myself.

    My view on the thought of the money spent on items no longer wanted is: money has gone, don’t hold onto the thing you no longer want or need. You’re now paying for the space and effort to keep and clean and store and manage it.

    A line I keep using with Mr S is: just because there’s space in a drawer or cupboard, doesn’t mean we need to fill it.

    Also, just a thought. Could you be decluttering because it is something you can control in a time when there are so many demands on you and so many things outside your control? It’s not a bad thing but go easy on yourself.

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    1. I smiled at the app on my phone – my phone is too old to download any apps!! – and where is my phone – oh I remember I think I might have left it in the car….3 days ago!!
      I like your view on unwanted items – I will write myself a note – ‘must give things up when I have given up on them’ – Lucinda says so.
      You are spot on about control – when I am stressed I will go in my food cupboards and turn all the labels facing and reorganise the tins and packets as it is something I can control!

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  4. I wouldn’t worry so much about decluttering, etc… you have your hands full with your day care assistance. It is important but exhausting work to care for little ones and you need to fill the rest of your days with pleasant moments of peaceful recovery! Time flies and kids grow quickly – enjoy these moments with Freddie and then relax…you will have much time in the future to shred or clean or craft. I am retired and could shred all day everyday if I wanted! Don’t make work when you are already busy! The work will still be there when you have nothing to do! Take care of yourself!

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    1. Good advice. I have decided to do very little until Freddie returns to nursery. Last week was unusual though because we only had one day off, normally we have four days off to ourselves and so I can usually have a quiet day recovering and then get down to something on the task list.

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  5. Your book shelf looks similar to mine, with lots of books on decluttering and simplicity. It doesn’t really seem to help me get rid of stuff though, I still struggle to part with lots of things and feel like chucking everything in a skip sometimes. If only I could.

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    1. I admire these people who can live with very little – I love the space but I am quite a sentimental person too which makes it hard to part with somethings – even old to do lists as they are a bit like a diary and remind me of what I have done with my days.

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  6. Your blog reminded me I have an avocado slicer and pit-remover which I bought in a moment of recklessness and found totally useless! Need to get rid of that for sure! I love avocados but can prepare them fairly efficiently with just a knife.

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    1. I have a strawberry slicer (a present from a friend) – thought I would never use it and twice it has been in the charity box but strangely I kept retrieving it and I used it a lot last year. I use a knife for most things – less washing up than using some of the fancy gadgets.

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  7. I hope your washing machine situation is soon rectified. It’s not much fun to have the laundry piling up.
    Your daughters are very fortunate to have your support and it must be wonderful to spend this much time with your grandchildren. I know that as parents we want to do everything we can to help but please don’t neglect your own wellbeing. Make sure you take some time for yourself. X

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  8. Have you thought of selling on Facebook Marketplace? We have made over £250 this weekend selling things we no longer need in readiness for the move. It’s all very Covid safe, some things we put on the doorstep and if the people want the item they put the cash through the letterbox, with others less worried we have stood a safe distance apart and chatted and then exchanged goods for cash. There’s no fees like on Ebay and no need to even leave your house as the buyers come to you.

    You do sound busy and slightly tired, grandchildren as lovely as they are, are little little whirlwinds of energy and demands aren’t they, you are doing amazingly well coping with so many changes.

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    1. My daughter mentioned the Facebook thing – might give it a go. I used Ebay as I keep being sent the £1 maximum selling fees offer and some of the items I have sold were around the £50 mark so my fees were not too bad this time. Glad you managed to offload some of your stuff for cash for the move.

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  9. Oh I share your feelings about stuff. Just so much stuff. It weighs me down, clouds my mind. Whereas for my husband, who went to boarding school whose parents had a hotel with a small owner’s flat, stuff is a comfort blanket. I am attracted by the idea of Ebay – both our children use it as they are still at the stage of being single and in rented flats, and try to live decluttered lives. I try not to remind them that a lot of their stuff has ended up with us for storage! I hope your washing machine gets sorted soon. We had a burst pipe during the worst of our freeze. Annoyingly in part of the house that our stalled renovation hasn’t got to, but dripping down through the electric fittings in the new utility room. Thankfully my husband crawled about in the eves and located the leak, and the plumber came round within 15 minutes so no lasting damage.

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    1. We still have a lot of our childrens stuff in our loft. One of them is hoping to move to a bigger house so may be able to offload a few boxes then. Snap about the water runnning into the utility we had the same when we had our extension.

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