homestead :: inspired and tired

Have you ever been inspired by a friend – one who can launch you into action? 

As you know we went to see some old friends last Thursday in the dales.  One of the reasons for the trip was to have a grand tour of their new home that they have had built for them.  It has been four years in the making but is absolutely stunning – well out of our price range and even though they are a few years older than us, they have chosen to upsize rather than downsize which means they will be able to accommodate their whole family at Christmas which will be lovely. Not that I am envious! One advantage is they are now able to enjoy their retirement to the full knowing the whole house and garden are pretty much in a finished state – no big maintenance jobs, no decorating – it is all done.

At one time this friend lived just down the road from us and I would visit a few times during the week when both our girls were at school – popping in and out for coffee and a chat.  I remember how visits to her house always made me want to rush home and have a thorough clean of mine.  She is one of life’s naturally organised people – her home is immaculate, her meals healthy and delicious, the garden flourishing and their finances in order and buoyant and she still has time for herself and her craft work.  She is very imaginative when it comes to reusing, repairing and repurposing too and this is evident even in their new house.

Their new abode is light and spacious – under floor heating from solar panels, lights that dim by remote and objects and furniture kept to a minimum.  Coming back home made my house seem small and cluttered even though I keep on having major decluttering sessions, but not only that I began noticing areas that do need some attention – a little editing and improving.

So guess what I have been doing all week and how tired I feel!

As I said to Sadie (Notes from an ordinary life) if I am ever missing from my blog you will know I am decluttering and cleaning.  It takes all my concentration and I stop for no-one, well usually, although I did spend the day with little Freddie again yesterday – but who could resist that.

I have a number of challenging areas around the house and I have spent this last week trying to organise these better.

My first challenge was to find a new place to put the Easter decoration that I made so I can use it once more next year. In the end I decided on top of the wardrobe in the spare room as it has a high ceiling and blends in quite well. Really I should dismantle it but it is so pretty I wanted to display it again next year.

Challenge number two was this box containing my elder daughter’s CD player and speakers. We have stored this now for 10 years because my daughter’s house is much smaller than ours and up until the baby was born this year was like a building site. Even now she really doesn’t have a spare inch to accommodate it – so it will remain with us until some point in the future when they move to a larger place. It has been residing in the downstairs cloakroom with everything else that didn’t have a proper place; as you know we are in the process of transforming this into a pantry so I have to find a new home for it. Because of the temperature fluctuations it is not something I would store in the loft so it presented quite a problem.

After much trying it here and there I came up with the idea that it would not look quite so bad if it was in a more decorative box that wouldn’t look out of place in the spare room. So during a trip to Ikea on Monday I spotted these boxes and although it needed two of them it has done the trick and visually looks so much neater. I will be able to use these afterwards to store toys for the grandchildren.

Whilst in Ikea I saw these little Christmas tins for 75p each and I thought they would be just right to put in a few homemade biscuits or a tiny fruit cake for a gift.

I started my cleaning and decluttering in the shower room – this is on the list for a complete renovation but not until we get a new kitchen installed and that is after the pantry. I won’t linger on how grubby it felt – it is never my favourite job. The contents of the cupboard are pretty much pared down but even so I still managed to weed out a few bits and pieces – old sun tan lotions and tanning creams past their use by date. When I declutter the toiletries and makeup items I always keep a ‘use up’ box of odds and ends that need using up, a lot of these are often freebies that have come with a purchase, things I won’t be replacing or buying again but I don’t want to waste them.

The shower always takes a long time to clean but the sealant had been renewed when we had the Aussie cousin to stay and the grout is OK so it just needed a bit of elbow grease to thoroughly clean the tiles and glass. After cleaning the toilet and basin – I always use a squirt of furniture polish over the outside of the pottery and the taps to give it that showroom gleam.

I treated myself to a new bath mat from Home Sense which has much improved the appearance of this room. The old one was looking past its best and looked liked someone had taken a bite out of one corner!

My linen cupboard was next – there was nothing to go out here as I am already down to the bare minimum of sheets and duver covers but I cleaned down the shelves and rearranged a few things so it looks remarkably fresher. I bought the boxes from the Range and they have been very useful for storing the family heirlooms – Christening dresses, vintage linens and my wedding dress.

The craft drawer that holds my stash of fabric had a once over- one day I will get around to turning my fabric stash into a patchwork quilt!

As I made my way from room to room decluttering and cleaning I also made a note of things to look out for to add a bit of styling. I found this tiny succulent in Ikea to put in our family bathroom. When I have a moment or two I will also change some of the pictures. I bought a couple of new frames in the summer with the intention of printing out and framing some of our photos – another job for my list.

It is very much a work in progress – a thorough clean and tidy and the addition of one or two new items can make all the difference. I am loving the rooms I have completed so far but soon I will have to tackle the office come craft room – it is the hardest place with the large paper mountain.

One sleepless night at the weekend I decided that I really must embrace the scanner and scan the invoices and receipts that I wish to keep rather than put them into a folder or box. I know many people do not keep their receipts but ever since the flood at the cottage I was so thankful that I have always kept receipts and records – because of this we managed to get the full amount for our damaged contents and could not be beaten down by the insurers. As the insurers were satisfied with scanned receipts I am sure this method will be accepted should we ever need to make a claim in the future. Once the older receipts for our household goods are scanned on to the computer I will have a lever arch file and a box file less on the shelves. It is a bit of a tedious job so I am scanning a handful each morning and going forwards new receipts will be done each week.

Once this is done I will make a start in the filing drawer and scan on important papers to gain more space. A lot of the paperwork I keep is ‘just in case’ so once scanned I will still have a record without the storage problem.

My wardrobe will be the next place for an overhaul. I have reduced the number of items by quite a bit this year. I seem to wear a kind of ‘uniform’ each day of leggins and a t shirt or jumper now I am at home; I can’t remember the last time I wore a skirt, which is a shame because I have quite a pile of them. Last time I decluttered I let a number of them go to charity but I think it might be time to cut my losses now and get rid of a few more. I will start by getting rid of the ones that feel a little bit on the tight side.

I found another cosy jumper in Sainsbury’s last week – good to wear around the house over a t shirt and for my Friday visits to the neighbour.

One of my intentions this month was to try out some new recipes. This week I chose these little mushroom and leek pies. The recipe used a shortcrust pastry that had added mustard powder for flavour. DH was not keen so I improvise and used grated Parmesan cheese that have given them this speckled look. They are baked in a muffin tin so are quite deep. Apologies for the lighting it has made the pies look a bit insipid – they were actually a lovely golden brown colour and quite delicious.

October is all birthdays – I have three this week alone. I already had the gifts for two of them bought in Stranraer at Baxters where they still gift wrap. They are little printed linen make up bags. The crocus tub is for a dear friend, men are always difficult to buy for but he is a gardener so will love these.

Because of all the birthdays I needed cards so I spent a day making some with the flowers I pressed recently, I also made a few thank you notelets at the same time. Some work better than others but my favourite has to be the chamomile heads.

So that has been my week so far and tomorrow, like the rain, the tidying continues whilst the momentum continues. Or you might find me napping on the sofa. x

dear diary :: worn out

Needless to say the intentions I intended yesterday did not happen. The engineer came just after lunch – was a lovely man – very knowledgeable – located and fixed the problem in no time – and best of all it was only a small fault – charged £38 and no call out fee – I could have hugged him! If anyone lives in the West Yorkshire area the company that we used are here called Advanced Domestic Appliance Services in Wakefield – I can highly recommend them.

For the rest of the day I was too worn out to do very much – the events of the last few weeks have taken their toll and I ended up having an afternoon nap for an hour to make up for my nights of interupted sleep. When I am stressed I suffer with night terrors – badly – they wake DH up too. I have not as yet lept out of the window like some sufferers. It is a fault with the primal limbic brain not switching off and prevents deep sleep too.

I am finding it difficult to let go of the constant worry – it floods into my mind as soon as I wake up in the morning and niggles away all day. Like my friend’s neighbour, who always referred to her grandchild as ‘that baby’ (we never discovered what sex it was), we are tending to refer to our disasterous day of drama and crisis as ‘that day’. Life is now classified by the terms before ‘that day’ and after ‘that day’ just like BC and AD is used to place an event on a timeline.

We did go to Sainsbury’s for the shopping though, spent more than we had allowed for but managed to stay in the black – just. There are only 2 more days of August thank goodness – so two no spend days are in order. The £80 bill included multiple buys of some of the more expensive items we use that were on offer, toothpaste, muesli, large pack butter, lightbulbs – it made sense to buy them with such large savings. I think. I noticed the fresh veg and fruit is really rising in price and we bought quite a bit so we can make and freeze soup. There was an extra 5p on bread this week too.

Whilst in town we went to the library to return the children’s books I took out for Little L. We can park at the smaller town centre Sainsbury’s for two hours if you spend £5. In my mind it is better to pay £5 for the parking and come away with some groceries than pay £1 an hour in the other car parks and come away with nothing.

I had a good browse in the Library and decided on this little stack. I don’t know why I prefer non-fiction to fiction – I suppose I like to learn things. DH had the Look and Learn magazine when he was little and is like a walking Google having retained a lot of information from an early age. All I read was Bunty! But I loved it and cracked the code before joining the club to get the badge, which I still have.

I started on this book called ‘The Life of Stuff’ by Susannah Walker. I worry about how captivated I become reading about other people’s stuff or reading decluttering books by the dozen – is that normal? Anyway I couldn’t put it down…….. so adding to my sleep deprivation…ah well perhaps an early night tonight.

So today we really are going to start on the pantry and I will try out the washer too – it is a good windy day and great for drying towels and making them super soft.

First we have to empty the old cloakroom and find somewhere to store the stuff that we mean to keep in the pantry when it is finished and get rid or find new homes for the items that will not be going back in there.

I find this kind of decluttering in a dumping ground hard. It is usually full of stuff that does not have a proper home – oddments, large bulky things, items that cannot be kept in the loft or garage as the extremes of temperature would affect it, or purchases that have been bought ready for some time in the future – like the shower unit we bought to install at the cottage (somehow I don’t think it will be needed very soon as that is another project on the shelf at the moment!).

So what am I waiting for – better go and get on with it because today I usually go round to my neighbours in the afternoon for a catch up chat and a cuppa.

Welcome to my new followers – just to say if you have only just joined in the reading of my blog this is a kind of bleak period in my life so do forgive my little moans – I am usually a happy little soul. x

dear diary :: getting back into our stride

Getting back into normal daily life is proving more difficult than it should be and I am currently somewhere between feeling frazzled and lethargic. Both the car and the washing machine are waiting to be fixed, hence a growing pile of washing is building up, and the towels retrieved from the washer have eventually dried into such a rigid state they might crack if I try to fold them. They will have to be washed again I think as I have no idea where in the washing cycle they had got to before the machine ground to a halt.

To top it all the rain is now preventing us tackling jobs outside like cutting the grass and weeding the borders. The tomatoes are only just turning colour so a little more sunshine would be good. The lettuce seeds that Little L helped me sow last week have already sprung to life – what a shame she cannot see them. She was so helpful and loves to water the garden.

I thought this might be the opportunity I have been waiting for to make some cards and finish those half started knitting and sewing projects, but somehow in all the upset I feel going on around me I have little enthusiasm for crafts.

Our fridge is quite bare at the moment – a bit of a Mother Hubbard’s cupboard so some shopping today is required but it will be limited to the basics as it is the end of the month and funds are excessively low. Living on one state pension, even with the top up of a small private pension, is proving difficult as prices continue to rise and we face a few unexpected bills. We have also bought a number of cafe meals and cups of tea whilst trundling around the countryside of North Yorkshire over the Bank holiday with my mum – but she is truly grateful that we get to take her out.

As we have a run of days at home now before take off again I have proposed that we tackle the long awaited transformation of the downstairs cloakroom / toilet into the pantry. We never used the toilet and many of our neighbours have incorporated them into their kitchens to make them bigger but I would value more storage as a walk in pantry. We will be leaving all the necessary connections in place under the floor should a future owner want to return it to a downstairs cloakroom.

We have finally chosen and had the units for the new pantry delivered from IKEA and took advantage of their 0% interest deal; keeping our money in the bank longer. Unfortunately the shop assistant made an error with the application so the total amount was more than the actual goods – when I pointed out her mistake it was too late to amend the application and so the monthly payments are higher than they should be by a few pounds and we are £54 in credit! Obviously it will get sorted but really they should not have people dealing with money that cannot add up.

DH will set about stripping wallpaper and tiles off the walls but not until I have emptied the room of all the ‘junk’ – it has become a bit of a dumping ground – a place to put those things that are waiting for a home. There is even a couple of boxes of stuff in there I have been storing for one of my daughters.

So this looks like my task for today before we go shopping. I can make a start whilst waiting for the washing machine engineer to come. I think doing a bit of decluttering and tidying is just what I need at the moment to organise my brain.

Have a good day – I will be back with photos. x

dEAr diary ~ just catching up with myself

Hi everyone and to my new followers – it has been a few days since my last post and a busy few days – I have been on a bit of a roll and not had time to stop and blog or have been too tired to write anything meaningful.  I have been keeping up with you all though even if I haven’t left a comment – Sadie, I love your videos – you are so creative.

Before I go on I must just mention that a few people keep asking me about the capital ‘EA’ in my titles and categories – well I hate to disappoint – there is no profound reason for this – it has no meaning other than I noticed when defining my categories at the very start of my blog that they all contained the letters EA – so nothing more than me having a play around on words.  The added advantage is that it does make it unmistakably my blog.

So with that out of the way on with the knit and natter – but without the knitting bit….

Well, I wish I could say that the house is sparkling clean, all the clutter has gone and I am super organised when in fact only parts of the house are clean (maybe not with the sparkle) some of the clutter has gone and I am still trying to be organised.

It all takes time.

On Saturday we had a mammoth outing, a mixture of errands and shopping.  It took us most of the day.  We off-loaded a couple more bags to the Charity shop, returned the library books, returned a couple of tops to Sainsbury’s,  bought some bags of gravel to finish the concrete for the shed base, bought the new brackets to hold the ladder outside on the wall, bought a mattress topper from IKEA and bought a cheap sweatshirt from Primark for DH (probably to mix the concrete in!).  At the end of it all we shared a toastie in Costa with my loyalty points, had a hot drink each and a little treat from Next – I bought a (just couldn’t leave it in the shop) grey and white patterned storage jar for my teabags to keep on the counter top, £6 and DH found a mechanical pencil reduced in the sale in the Paperchase concession shop for £4.

We managed to do all this without paying for any parking and came home happy, but tired bunnies.

Further progress has been made in the home office / craft room well that is what we call it but it is actually masquerading as a paper mountain – or is it a paper mountain masquerading as a home office?  How can two fairly simple lives collect such a lot of paper – I feel we are drowning in the stuff.  This is just a bit of it.Piece by piece I have tackled pile after pile.  I have reduced my craft folder clippings to only those ideas I know I might make at sometime, the recipes ditto.  I threw out all but a few of my clippings on health, diet and exercise; ditto the clippings of kitchens, decorating ideas and home styling.  And some more books to go.     I washed the rest of the vintage doilies and mats that came from my mum’s house – keeping any I thought I might use in some way in future and the rest will go to the CS.

I have made soup, soup and more soup – mushroom, leek and potato, green veg and the latest was tomato – all delicious and so quick and easy to make.  My lovely neighbour gave me these – the last of her tomatoes from her outdoor plants so I will be making more of this during the week and looking to grow some myself next year.

I did a thorough clean of the living room and cleared out or rearranged a few ornaments …– my one piece of Autumn decor is a tiny pine cone on the mantel piece, my new hand-made ‘crafty’ vase from Dunoon containing a dried hydrangea head and a bamboo plate displaying a few Autumn nature table finds – subtle but simple.

I am rather liking the minimalist approach and I won’t have to store any of it in fact it will compost very well.

Remember my new routines that I am setting up – they are not going too badly.  In fact I surprise myself sometimes.  So far I have attended to my emails and finances every morning – we should make it to pay-day on Friday (if that is what you call collecting the state pension) although we don’t actually have to queue up and collect it, it is just deposited in our bank.  Nothing to spare though this month which is a bit disappointing;  C+ for effort but must try harder next month.

The food shopping is working out at about £50 week with one week a little more when I bought toilet rolls and some multiples of items on offer and a load of nuts for the Christmas nut loaves, chocolates and cake.  I had a full refund on the M&S potatoes as there were so many bad ones in the bag I took them back.  I am going to aim for £45 a week for the groceries next month.

The unexpected items this month  –  the gravel and cement for the gap above (how six bags of gravel can fit into such a small space is amazing), ladder brackets, car bulbs and the mattress topper (which is actually for my daughter’s bed not ours so I can get a good nights sleep when we stay there!).  Baby still not appeared and we live in hope it will come soon.

I am already thinking about the November expenses – 4 birthdays and a wedding anniversary – no funerals (that I know of) – but there could be a 5th birthday of course if someone doesn’t get a move on.

Oh and did I mention the cheque for the tax refund came yesterday – how is that for service – quicker than my posts that’s for sure.  DH has a nice letter too from the tax man –  after my phone call last week to the inland revenue he has been given part of my tax allowance for the year under the new married tax allowance rules to reduce his tax bill –  such is love!

Not much more to say – it has been windy here in Yorkshire but good for drying the washing.

Have a good week who knows I might find time between paper sorting to post again soon x

 

 

 

clEAn and lEAn ~ thoughts on decluttering

In the book by Francine Jay called ‘The Joy of Less’ she quotes Mahatma Gandhi as saying ‘Live simply, so that others may simply live’.

I am on a mission to live simply, I feel weighed down by our stuff and consumerism but attaining simplicity is simply not that easy.  At the moment I am evaluating our lifestyle, the contents of our home and the way we accumulate and use stuff.  I need to reduce our possessions but at the same time I hate waste.  Throwing out ‘stuff’ (by which I mean disposing of it responsibly of course and not putting it in the bin) that was once bought with our hard-earned cash seems a bit wasteful but holding on to it seems worse and if I don’t feel we need it now why did we buy it in the first place.

I spent a whole day at the weekend in the kitchen and dining room continuing with the major clear out and rearrangement of my cupboards. The main aim of this clear out is to create space and make it easier to reach the items we use all the time and getting rid of anything that we have little use for.  As Francine Jay suggests deciding what to keep is far easier than deciding what to throw away.

So with everything out on the counter tops one by one I began choosing the easy stuff – the everyday and the most used.

For a number of years now we generally haven’t kept things for best.  My mum has some beautiful china and many sets of cutlery (coming from Sheffield) all packed away and she still uses the two old plates (bought from the Sheffield market many moons ago) and oddments of cutlery that she has used everyday since I was little.  She is 92 now and I doubt she will ever use her best stuff.  I decided long ago that I wouldn’t have anything put away for best as I wanted to use nice things everyday and I do.

Ainsley Albany china

So I have no need to store ‘best’ things having said that I do have a pretty china dinner service – Ainsley’s Albany – (pictured above) that we collected over many years and used everyday for many years.  I do still use it at Christmas and would never part with it but it is the only thing you might call ‘best’ ware.  We mainly use the white Thomas tableware now to keep things simple and easily replaceable.

I have a few special items, the ones that you keep because they are beautiful or hold memories and they have earned a place in my cabinet but even most of these are used from time to time.

The new addition – the mug with Miss V was a leaving present from one of my colleagues – every morning for almost 19 years we would greet each other with ‘morning miss T’ and she would reply’ morning miss V’.  The mug is a wonderful reminder of our friendship.

Once the everyday, the special and the beautiful had been selected I came to the heap of ‘extra’ dishes – I am sure we all have them – the ones kept for entertaining purposes – parties, Christmas and the like – and these posed much more of a problem.   They require a lot of storage for very little use.

Although only two of us at home now we have to allow for enough dishes to cook and eat when our immediate family get together (now 7 of us and soon to be 8).  We also entertain with our larger group of friends a few times over the course of a year.  This means we have a quite a few ‘entertaining’ items;  larger serving bowls, extra plates, dip dishes, cheese boards – you name it we probably have it.

I pondered long and hard as to what I should do – a minimalist surely doesn’t have this amount of dishes stored in their cupboards.  And then I came across the wise words of Joshua Becker, author of The More of Less who it would seem had the same problem.  He realised that the minimalist life held by some people who only have two plates, two cups etc did not fit with his.  This group of people have different values and purpose.  Identifying our own values is the key; to own just the amount of things you need. Becker enjoys having people round – they belong to many different groups and they like getting together with family, friends and neighbours.

Lightbulb moment.

I enjoy entertaining and gatherings – I like cosy suppers with my friends and hosting New Year and Burn’s night – I hate paper plates and plastic cutlery unless forced to if we have a big party – so I reckon as this adds value to my life at the moment it is OK for my extra tableware to stay – but only as long as it remains useful and I do not add to it… Ever.

After some rearrangements and removal of certain items no longer required I am quite pleased with the final result.  My intention was to make everything that is most used accessible so I have tried not to stack the different sized plates on top of one another.

China cupboard

This did mean spreading out a bit more and to do this I removed the cookery books from these two shelves to create space for the less used white dishes, the table mats and my beautiful Finish red enamel bowl bought in the sixties.

I am loving the feeling of space already and the fact that everything is so much more accessible.  I have no doubt we could live with a lot less but at the moment this is our ‘right amount’ as far as dishes are concerned, a good balance of useful and beautiful.  I have chosen carefully and everything has had to have a reason to stay so I think there will be very little to declutter in future unless our circumstances change.

One minor problem now though – where do I put all the cookery books?

 

clEAn and lEAn ~ dashing away with the smoothing iron

Not the most thrilling of days today – the clearing and cleaning in the kitchen had to take a back seat again whilst I caught up with the pile of ironing.  It really has been breeding in the corner and so I was forced to take action as I have to prepare the guest room bed for my mum who visits on Monday and iron the bedding.  I decided not to have any spares for the guest bed to save storage space but with the recent comings and goings another duvet set would have been useful.

I also ironed all the tops and skirts that I used to wear to work – as I have not needed them they have lingered at the bottom of the basket.  I put a couple of the tops on the charity pile and one of my least favourite black skirts and the rest of them in my wardrobe.  It will be interesting to see how often I wear skirts again now I am at home.  I have quite a collection of skirts because I never wore trousers at work.  I might even throw out all my thick black tights as they are years old and have been washed and worn so many times they owe me nothing.

After sorting my own items I then started on ironing my daughter’s clothes – not the woolly hats and gloves of course.  I intend to get these all done and back round to her house before they come home from holiday.  I will be relieved to get them out of my way – four big bags of laundry is a lot to move around my tiny laundry room – wherever I put them they seemed to be in the way.

DH spent a few hours at our daughter’s house putting the final top coat onto the skirtings, architraves and banister rails.  So only the doors remain and that will be another project complete although we may be called upon to help with the living room when they decide if they are removing the fireplace or not (very messy job).

We have scaffolding surrounding our house now ready for the rendering on Tuesday – weather being fine.  Once this is done we can replace our shed and get some of the stuff that is presently residing in the garage and what will be my pantry put back into the shed – can’t wait.  We will also be able to use the compost bins again – it has been so hard for me to put all the vegetable peelings in the bin and miss out on all that lovely compost.

DH had a go at taming our large Cherry Tree yesterday whilst the weather was fine – it needs more than a prune.  It is in our back garden but when we stand in the front garden facing our house we can now see the top of it above the roof – eek!  I couldn’t bear to chop it down as it gives me lots of shade but it is a bit too large for the plot.  I think he may have to climb it to get to the very highest branches…gulp!

I am looking forward to having at least one of our projects completed soon as we always seem to have a few on the go at once and I am trying hard to keep our main focus on the kitchen and the outside of our house.

Even when I cannot do anything major towards the kitchen decluttering I am making sure I at least do something small each day towards getting the project done.  Tonight I used some of my red sticker items and opened the first jar of Bon Maman compote, the cherry flavour, and made some individual crumbles.  We ate 2 of them with evaporated milk on top and the rest I will freeze.  I think I am becoming less and less of a pudding person I would have enjoyed the compote on some yoghurt so much more.  DH hates yoghurt.  What, I am wondering, am I going to do with my excessive yield of cooking apples if I don’t make crumbles?

Tomorrow it will be more ironing and some paper work to catch up on.  Then on Sunday I am declaring a day of rest and hoping the weather will be good enough to go to the Bakewell Open Gardens in Derbyshire.

What is the likely hood of rain!

have a good weekend. x

dEAr diary ~ reading matter and a natter

A visit to work today to see my old colleagues – I was late as the town was so busy there was nowhere to park – good job it was only a visit.  I chose a good day as the new lady was out in the Leeds office.  I handed round all my thank you notes, I had intended to make my own but in the end I used bought ones.  We all went out for a coffee and a natter to catch up – but I am still glad I am not there anymore, change is very evident and not all sounding good but I don’t have to worry about that any longer.

After my visit I spent a whole hour in the library, bliss, and something I haven’t done for many years – just browsing and picking up anything that caught my eye.  I tend to read non-fiction more than fiction I have this quest for knowledge – always have and at the moment I am in to decluttering and simplifying my life in a big way, so I am not sure if I will find any new advice in the books I chose but it is always worth a read.

One of the books ‘Simplify your Life’  by Naomi Saunders I have read before but thought a refresh might be good.  ‘Declutter your Life’ by Gill Hasson speaks for itself – if I learn anything new and profound I will let you all know!  ‘Today is the Day You Change your Life’ by Elaine Harrison and ‘Leap Year’ by Helen Russell is mostly about those small steps that can make a big difference.  You might remember my word for this year (which is actually a phrase) is ‘ The Power of Small’ so the books are an expansion of this and I hope I might learn something from them.

My other 3 choice of books are more to do with health – ‘Corrective Exercise’ by Kesh Patel, ‘Vaccines’ by Dr Richard Halvorsen and one that I am eager to know more about ‘The Telomere Effect’ by Nobel Prize Winner Dr Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel.

So an early night tonight so I can make a start on one of them and I have no doubt the decluttering and cleaning will begin again tomorrow.

 

 

clEAn and lEAn ~ day 2

A bit of a mixed day today.  At 5am DH took elder daughter and SIL to the airport as the train to Manchester is currently not running from here – not even sure why.  He then came home and went up to their house to put another coat of paint on their hallway and landing doors whilst they are away – they are on to a good thing here I think!

In the meantime I did some more of the washing that has come from the same daughters – 4 big bags of stuff that she has never had time to do on the weekend after their normal washing and I volunteered to help – I must need my head seeing to sometimes.  They are predominantly jumpers, thick socks, hats, scarfs and gloves and when they are washed and clean I am not sure she has any space to put them away.  I had them out on the line yesterday in the sun and they dried very quickly and they will not need ironing thank goodness.Washing

I also watered and fed my planters outside as we need to empty the water-butt to move it – the scaffolders are coming on Thursday and Friday to erect the scaffolding ready for the rendering next Tuesday.  At last we will be closer to getting our leaky wall done and making it waterproof by the winter – it has only taken us the best part of a year to co-ordinate all this as the date has kept moving on due to the really bad weather at the start of the year.  The fact that they will clash now with the Bank Holiday and my mum’s visit next week is not insurmountable just a bit irritating when we have waited so long… but such is life.

I had a quick run round with the Hoover whilst DH was out – DH fixed it yesterday as the handle had almost seized up and would not pull down very easily – now it is working freely once again whatever he did worked.  In fact yesterday was quite a ‘fix-it’ day – the boiler engineer came early with the part for the boiler so we have hot water again which is really helpful when you are doing a lot of cleaning in cupboards – boiling the kettle all the time was such a bind.

Whilst he was here DH removed the outside light ready for the rendering men next week only to find it was rather contorted inside with the heat and beyond repair  – it is over 30 years old so not surprising – so he ordered a new one from eBay.  Meanwhile, I was decluttering and cleaning one of the pull out drawers in our laundry room when the runner broke – drawer (also more than 30 years old) would not move in or out, luckily we had a spare runner and Mr Fix-it stepped in again, maybe it will last another 30 years!  Whilst he was busy fixing the drawer the washer flooded slightly at the end of the wash cycle through the drain cap  – Mr Fix-it managed to screw the cap on tighter as I grabbed a cloth and started mopping up but he reckons the seal isn’t good and has perished slightly so we needed to order a spare.  The Hoover was the last straw and the beginning of a few expletives!  I will say no more.

At 4.30pm this afternoon we both jumped in the car and headed to Meadowhall our nearest shopping mall – they have a Neal’s Yard store there and I needed night cream.  I use the Frankincense Intense with the serum – love the smell and it suits my skin – I also had some Boots No 7 vouchers given to me so I stocked up on the basic face creams that I use to eek out the expensive Neal’s Yard cream.

I was delighted to find the cotton wool pads I use were also on offer in Boots – buy one get one half price so I bought 4 and in Bodyshop the olive shower gel is cheaper if you buy in multiples so I got 4 of them saving £6.  None of these items will go off as we use them all the time.

I was really pleased with myself that I only bought what I went for – I had a little browse in WH Smiths which incidentally is looking much cleaner and smarter these days – they have new lower fitments and the whole place seemed far more open and airy and organised. I can’t help myself with stationery and books it is such a temptation.  Remembering the piles of stuff I have already at home waiting to be sorted I knew I didn’t have need of anything and walked out empty-handed.

A plus point surely.

clEAn and lEAn ~ in the kitchen

Day one – begin at the beginning…

I decided that I should begin at the beginning but like a tangled ball of wool I am not sure where that is exactly.  But a start must be made.

I am already making sure I rise by 8am – perhaps that is late in your book but in mine I love that extra hour of sleep I have now that I am not going to work and it suits me – I feel more refreshed.  I will adjust this back to 7am soon as I think early risers do get more done but for now I am just enjoying some rest.

As soon as I am up I wash and dress so that I don’t  mooch around in my dressing gown (which in my case could turn into an all-day attire if I am not careful).   It is remarkable how quickly you form a routine and I don’t want to get into bad habits that I then have to try and dismantle.

a Monk's Guide to a clean house

It is strange that we had the visit to Mount Grace priory  – I was quite intrigued by the life of the monks especially as I have been reading a tiny book entitled A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto.  He is a Shin-Buddhist monk who talks about the ritual of cleaning and how this helps to have a calmer, happier life creating a refuge from today’s busy world.  The monks have few possessions but what they do have they keep well maintained and clean – everything they have is of value and valued.  The ideas in the book are that your external environment is a reflection of your internal environment – your body and mind.

Sounds good to me so with my cards spread out on the desk I have chosen to first of all declutter and clean my house as I agree with Shoukei that a tidy clean house not only makes for a tidy clean mind but also gives me some sense of order to my life.  It seemed sensible to begin in the kitchen and in particular to start in the food cupboards.

In true Kondo style I removed all the food from the cupboards – tins, packets, jars and storage containers and covered most of the table and the worktops with the contents.  I was quite shocked seeing it all spread out before me on mass like this and it made me wonder how the two of us would ever eat such a mountain of food and why was I going shopping each week for more?

Decluttering the food cupboards

I think the main problem is that some of the packets, jars and tins of food get overlooked as often we might need other ingredients or more time to make something – sound familiar?   I have jars of fruit compote to make crumbles and tins of evaporated milk to make rice pudding yet we don’t really eat puddings I just like the idea of them!

I noticed that with one particular cupboard we tend to use the food at the front and ignore the items at the back – that old 20:80 rule even applies to food it seems.  Recently through lack of time I have made a sketchy menu plan then bought the items to make the dishes rather than making dishes that use up some of the older items.

I also found the remnants of items I have bought for our various visitor’s benefit that we don’t eat and I have been left with the surplus when they have gone home.

The items out of date were the easy ones to dispose of (the guilt not so).  Most of these items were for baking which I have not done for ages and when Little L came and we baked we were limited in what we made by what I could find still in date!

decluttering the cupboardsThen I put red stickers on anything with a use by date in August and September so I can make a menu plan to include these and find suitable recipes.

Finally I refilled the storage containers and grouped together any multiple items.  The visitors foods I will off load onto the visitors!

I couldn’t  decide whether it is a good idea to carry some stock or not.  My keep it simple, lean and minimalist side says just keep exactly what you need and only buy it when you need it therefore reducing storage space and preventing waste when things go out of date.  My thrifty, just in case side, says stock up when there are offers to save money and also in case of emergency like getting snowed in.  Though I must say I can’t ever remember having such an emergency that we have not had enough food.

In the end I decided that I would take the lean approach to keeping a stock of the most used items which is to keep one in hand and when you start to use that one you then replace it.  Some items I use very little of such as honey or flour so I will continue to replace these as I am getting to the end of the one I am using.  For some basic items like instant coffee, butter, jam and cereal I will continue to buy in multiples when on offer as the savings are beneficial and I might keep an emergency kit of baked beans, tinned fruit and other bits during the winter months in case of bad weather.

After a thorough clean and sort I rearranged some of the cupboards (DH will love this as he hates it when I have a move round as he cannot find anything). I am still in the process of switching things about a bit and trying some items in new places as well as using up the red sticker foods.  Once eaten I probably will not be replacing all of these items –  as they are nearly out of date we obviously don’t eat them very often and most of it is ‘puddings’.  The olive oil is the end of a bottle – for some reason we had opened a new one before finishing the old one.

I have designated one cupboard as a ‘stock’ cupboard to take the duplicates – think of it like a mini supermarket – so when we finish something we can check if we have one already before putting it on the shopping list.

So far my cupboards are looking a whole lot leaner and certainly a lot neater  – it is a bit of a work in progress at the moment but when I am satisfied with the outcome I will post some pictures.  I am actually enjoying the process but I really need to change my shopping habits in future to make sure the food we buy is the food we eat.

In conjunction with this exercise I have been going through my recipe folders looking for new recipes to try and at the same time doing a bit of decluttering here – only keeping the ones I know I would make.  The test for this being would I make this for tea tonight? – if the answer is no because it is too long and complicated or requires ingredients we would not normally buy such as buttermilk then it has been removed and put in the recycle bin.

DH thinks it is hilarious that I have spent so much time clipping recipes from magazines then spending more time putting them into a folder only to spend yet more time removing them.  He is right of course so much wasted time when I know I will only make 20% of them.

I am a slow learner!

 

 

dEAr diary ~ oh dear …what can the matter be?

Before I forget this time thank you for all the birthday wishes and your lovely comments about my recent explorations in Derbyshire.  It has been a battle keeping all the flowers I received for my birthday looking fresh in the vase with this heat.

But outside in the garden my sweet peas are starting to flower one by one.

Sweet Peas

Only two days to go now at work (next Monday and Tuesday) and I suddenly find I have quite a lot of work to get through as well as packing up my belongings.  I am in high demand from so many different departments in the office who want to know how to do something.  I seem to have acquired quite a skill bank over the 19 years and now everyone is panicking because when I go some of the knowledge will go with me.

The pressure became so great I had to leave work at lunchtime yesterday as I was having palpitations.  I have been having them for the last week and often this is because my Thyroxine is out of balance again.  A very pressured meeting during the morning made them far worse to the point I felt I couldn’t breath properly.

I won’t go into detail here but I am now finding it hard to know what to think about the new person.  As you know during her first few days our HR lady had received two formal complaints about her from colleagues – if you remember I thought at the time this was a bit premature and I did all I could to make her welcome and just put it all down to the newness and change.

But since then there have been further ‘events’ two in my absence at the end of last week and the one yesterday involving me.

The issues last week with the new person was yet another complaint from a junior member of staff whom she had been extremely demanding and rude to and then again when called in to explain this episode to our HR lady she walked out of the meeting with her.

I cannot accept rudeness, bullying etc in any form by a senior member of staff on a junior.  In my books you should treat everyone with the same politeness as you would want to be treated no matter what your status.

In further conversations with the new lady she told me she was used to working in London and down South and there you just click your fingers (which she does often) and you expect a job done.  Is this right?  I have not worked in the South since college days – is there such a big difference now as she claims or is this an excuse?

We must seem like the parochial cousins to her  – slow-witted and a bit behind the times as she is very critical of the way we work and the speed.  She is even more preoccupied about money and targets than the directors!

I have always thought of myself as a very fair person and giving people the benefit of the doubt but I must say I am finding it really hard to understand the new lady and her approach.  I am starting to question my first impressions and wondering if I could actually work with her after all if I had been staying.

The reason for this is there is an IT issue at the moment on our accounts program – looking into it I believe it has been there for four years so not life threatening but before I leave she is almost bullying me to do something that I know will not fix the problem and could make matters worse.  I deal with the maintenance of the software for the Legal Aid part but I keep telling her that our Software provider should be given the chance to look into it first and establish the extent of the problem and reason but she hasn’t the patience for that as you have to log a call and wait in a queue – and waiting she doesn’t do.

I know I shouldn’t really care or be bothered and just do what she asks but I do care as the implications of adding things onto the software without knowing what you are doing could be huge.

So I am feeling tired now and looking forward to the final day so that I can make plans for the future.  I have many thoughts swirling around in my  mind that I need to get onto paper.  I know I want to establish a regular exercise plan as soon as possible and introduce  a few healthier meals but I also want to get my house in order – a good spring clean and a lot of decluttering.

Whilst I was ironing on Monday I watched the minimalist Japanese writer of ‘Goodbye Things’ on You Tube and noted one or two ideas he had that I found quite perceptive.  I am not sure I want to go to only 300 items but I do need to reduce our stuff.

I often sell / give away/ repurpose stuff but it just builds up again.  Reading around the blogs it seems that we are all doing this endless decluttering task many times over.  Thank goodness for charity shops and car boot sales. I never remember my gran decluttering ever except the day they moved into a granny flat.  She never seemed to have things that she couldn’t find a home for and this maybe because they didn’t really have multiples of anything not even on her grocery shelf (and yes it was just a shelf!).

I do remember my mum ‘doing out’ her cupboards before a major holiday like Easter and Christmas but this was just straightening rather than decluttering.

I am beginning to think decluttering is only like a sticking plaster – a temporary solution and that I need to get back to the cause of my accumulation of stuff.

More thoughts another day. x