dear diary : November already

“How silently they tumble down
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.

At other times, they wildly fly
Until they nearly reach the sky.
Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow.”

–   Elsie N. Brady, Leaves

Can you believe it is November already? As I look outside the very last of the leaves are clinging to my Amelanchier, the rest having been brought down quickly with the wind and rainfall over the past few days. The bare trees everywhere are a sure sign that I need to get a move on now and start on the Christmas plans.

I seem to have spent last week and the weekend pottering, but slowly getting a few jobs done around the house. Maybe not what I had intended to do but nevertheless there has been a satisfying tick made at the end of the day on one or two tasks, many of which have possibly rolled over from last month.

I have more or less caught up with the washing and ironing. I know it is always an ongoing household chore but when we return from the cottage there is quite a heap of bedding and dirty gardening clothes to wade through on top of the general clothes. Presently, I have a large bucket with our socks soaking in it ready to wash in the washer tomorrow. I know the washer does a pre-wash but it takes so much more water and time when an overnight soak will do the same and in less water. Then I have the remaining gardening clothes and I might wash the cushion covers from the living room and I am done.

I have also been sorting as I tidied. I don’t know about you but I often end up with ‘things’ upstairs that belong downstairs and vice versa, or have items waiting to be put away – so I stop and have a bit of a putting away session, getting everything back to its rightful place. Whilst I was in a drawer or cupboard putting away I had a quick check to see if I could spot anything that I do not use or was in the wrong place or could be slimmed down to make more space. And I did.

They were mostly just little things like some very old blank cassette tapes that we would no longer use and some TV recordings on DVD’s that we can no longer watch. Every little adjustment lightens the load in my quest to minimise our stuff and what a difference it makes to the space once they have been removed.

I had been keeping six empty 2lb glass jam jars that once had mincemeat in and I reused them as storage containers for rice and couscous (I now use the larger kilner style clip jars in the pantry and I am happy with them). They took up quite a bit of valuable shelf space in the utility cupboard and as I could not think of a use for them I decided to let them go or maybe I will use them in the garage. So now I can get all my small empty jam jars that I do use and are waiting for the lemon curd at Christmas and maybe marmalade in January on the one top shelf.

As I have been pottering about I have been noticing just how many of the things we have are either used a lot, used infrequently or sometimes not at all. As far as I can see the ‘not at all group‘ fall into three categories

  • not used and probably never will be,
  • not used but would if time allowed
  • not used but are of some sentimental value still.

Of the ‘not used and probably never will be’ group are a number of items that were gifts from friends….unfortunately gifts not quite to my taste, but I keep them because someone took the time to buy them for me. After a while I will take them off view and put them away in a drawer. Some of the toiletries, smellies and things I just don’t use I will sometimes pass onto other people but it seems an ongoing exercise and makes me feel quite ungrateful. I try to address this when I buy gifts for other people by buying flowers, book tokens or something like food that will not add to their decluttering.

Of the ‘not used but would if time allowed’ I really must make the effort to address this. I have knitting patterns in the waiting, sewing projects on the go, music CD’s that I haven’t listened to in ages and audio books ditto….I could go on but you get the gist – I am sure you have the same.

Of the ‘not used but I am setimentally attached to’ I sometimes feel there is no hope – I know I am a sentimental person and once in a while when we are together with my daughters we will get out the old projector and have a good laugh at the old slides going back to my younger days in the 50’s or I will get out one of the memory boxes (yes I have more than one) that hold such delights as an old mobile phone and my grandad’s first driving license that provide us with hours of entertainment. I do love to hang onto such treasures and they could never be replaced.

But then there is the stuff that I buy myself… you know the everyday temptations in the cheaper shops, especially around Christmas time – another Christmas jumper, the odd book from The Works, a few crafty bits from Hobbycraft, things I think I need from Home Bargains (but don’t really) and not to mention IKEA, and within a couple of years what was a must have becomes yet another thing to declutter and hit the charity pile…the cheap Christmas jumper full of bobbles, the book on the shelf unread, the crafty bits still in bits and a load of things that were just not that needed after all.

So next year it is going to be my year of limited and mindful spending. I can’t say it will be no spending, as currently we are decorating through the house, but I aim to make anything I buy and anything that comes into the house much more considered- I no longer want heaps of stuff around me and I certainly don’t want to spend the rest of my life decluttering.

A while ago I received a 20% online discount for Neal’s Yard and ordered my usual face cream and serum – probably my one and only indulgence – and as a birthday present from DH I took up the offer of the Heritage Beauty Box (worth £125) for only £25. I must say it was worth it just to receive such a beautifully packaged gift – with all those individually wrapped goodies inside – and every bit is recyclable.

I will use all these products and the mass of gorgeous tissue paper has been ironed out and stored in my tissue paper box for future use.

At the moment I am reading two books. The one on the left Cut and Dry, borrowed from the local library (and I will be very sorry to lose it when I have to take it back), is full of ideas for dried flower arrangements around the house. I do love having dried hydrangea and seed heads at this time of year and a scattering of leaves.

I bought the other book The Winter Children at a charity coffee morning pre-pandemic and couldn’t get into it the first time round and after a few pages I lost interest and read something else. On my ‘sort out and sort through’ days last week I noticed it in the little stack of books on the bedside table in the guest room. I decided as part of my reading through what I already have challenge to either read it or pass it on.

So I will give it another go as I have just finished The View from the Corner Shop by Kathleen Hey. She was one of the diarists taking part in the Mass Observation project during the second world war and her daily diary from a shopkeeper’s perspective gave a really good insight into how the local people in nearby Dewsbury lived during the war, where attacks were so infrequent that at times they wondered if there was a war going on. An interesting contrast to the daily life not that far away in Sheffield where I grew up (Sheffield being very much under attack because of the steel works) and where many of my own family were left homeless after being bombed out.

Amongst all the tidying and sorting I am managing to squeeze in a little knitting time and the part knitted part fabric dress for little Sweetie is coming along – the front, left back and one sleeve all completed. The sleeve head is not right though (too small for the armhole despite following the pattern to the letter and checking it a number of times) and I will have to adjust this when I knit the other sleeve.

Being a novice knitter the only way forward I can see would be to do a decrease for the sleeve head shaping on every other row rather than every row as the pattern says which I think whould increase the depth. Unless of course any of you brilliant knitters out there can advise me differently.

I found this lovely lightweight soft printed corduroy for the skirt part in Boyes and it was discounted too. Sweetie’s birthday is on the 10th so I need to get my skates on a bit. Alternatively I could give it to her for Christmas and hope she doesn’t grow too much.

It is always a constant aim of mine to try a new recipe at least once a week where time allows. This week I chose this recipe Spiced Pear and Stilton tarts with Watercress. I had to adapt it slightly as DH is not over keen on Stilton so I used some rather lovely Shropshire Red that I had bought on one of the Sainsbury’s Smartshop scan offers. I love using pears in cooking and so I bought one of the bags of small mixed pears and intend to use what is left for a pear and ginger pudding.

Then this morning surprise, surprise… my rather soggy December issue of Country Living dropped through the letterbox and being so eager to see what was inside I stopped immediately to take a tea break.

dear diary :: replenishing

Every so often when I am feeling quite domesticated I have a replenish day….. not for myself – though goodness knows at times I really need one, but to fill up jars, restock cupboards and get everything around the house back to a ‘user ready’ state. It has a two fold advantage in that I can make a list of anything running a bit low so I can restock and I also have a little straighten up on shelves and in cupboards as I go. I do find it very therapeutic. Bliss.

Well yesterday was that replenish day…..totally unscheduled, as so often they are, and it began, as it usually does, with the toilet roll. I always seem to be the one that has to replace a toilet roll – it seems to wait especially for me.  If you live alone then you will be used to replacing the empty roll yourself every single time – but when there are two of you I am of the mind that the odds should be more 50:50 or even better 75:25 in my favour!

I keep 6 hidden away on a shelf in the shower room cupboard so no one is ever caught short and an extra one or two in a basket in the family bathroom as there is no handy cupboard in there.  When the spares run low I top them up from the main stock I keep in my airing cupboard on the top shelf – a place big enough to accommodate the larger money saving packs I buy.

After replacing the roll on the holder and putting a few extra in the cupboard I thought it a good idea to refill the travel bottles in my toiletry bag with shampoo and shower gel and then the little travel jars of face cream ready for our next trip.  We are away such a lot at the moment that I find it really convenient to be able to pick up my travel bag and go rather than having to mess about refilling bottles and jars at a time when I am frantically packing and concentrating more on getting the clothes washed and dried.

After refilling bits and pieces upstairs I worked my way through the downstairs starting in the pantry – this takes a little more time to organise.  It is a while since I had a good sort out in here.

Mostly it keeps in good order thank goodness, unless of course DH has unpacked the groceries, and then secretly I may just have to rearrange a few items afterwards, like you often do with the Christmas tree decorations. With the threat of shortages recently I have been inclined to pick up two replacements rather than one and certainly if there is an offer on then it is not unusual for me to buy three or more at once so it can end up a bit of a squeeze to fit everything in. Packets of the precooked brown lentils were on my Sainsbury’s smartscan offer this week for a much reduced price so I bought four.

Earlier in the week I cut down the outdoor tomato plants and pulled off the remaining tomatoes – they won’t ripen outdoors now far too cold in our climate below the moors.

They may have a chance in the pantry next to some riper ones and a banana for the ethylene gas.

I had a few dry goods waiting to be decanted into the storage jars I had washed and dried and not forgetting the biscuit jar to refill – it often lies empty – I think we must live with the ‘Borrowers’ as we never remember eating them.

I did a quick date check on all the stock of packets and cans so we can eat up anything getting too close to that dreaded use by date.

So now I have a little collection of use up foods that I need to incorporate into my next menu plan, one of which is Passata….so this will either become a lasagne, ratatouille or a celery and broccoli bake or maybe all three.

And how did I overlook this bottle of raspberry coulis?

I felt quite pleased that the only thing that landed in the bin was an opened packet of crispy Taco shells I found had been pushed to the back of a shelf out of sight.  They were way over their date and certainly had no crisp left in them.  Anything else I found out of date I am prepared to take a risk on.

Whilst rummaging around in the pantry I was able to make a note of bits and pieces I needed to buy in readiness for Bonfire Night and Christmas; soft brown sugar, treacle and crystallised ginger pieces – all those warming, gooey foods with that wonderful hint of autumn.  I have a few recipe clippings waiting in the wings that I would like to try – I am thinking pear and ginger puddings or plum and apple crumble or even tarte tatin. 

The little wall cupboard in the pantry houses a mixture of medicines and supplements on the top shelves and cake décor lower down.  I seem to use far more cake decorations than medicine!  The medicine shelf is minimal – we don’t seem to need very much thank goodness and apart from my prescribed thyroxine, I only keep a box of paracetamol, a bottle of Buttercup Syrup and glycerine and some vitamin C lozenges in case of sore throats – none of which needed topping up but maybe I will apply for a repeat prescription so I don’t forget nearer Christmas. 

My regular supplements of Vitamin D and selenium I keep handy in the kitchen cupboard so I don’t forget to take my daily dose at breakfast time.  After checking through the abundance of chocolate sprinkles and mini fudgy pieces it was no surprise that with three grandchildren to make birthday cakes for now nothing came even close to being out of date there!

After the pantry was sorted I moved on to the worst spot….. the laundry room and the cleaning products and washing powders; I refilled jars, dispensers and canisters and small spray bottles from my main stocks that I keep either in the garage cupboard, under the sink or in the pull out drawer in the laundry room.  Somehow I have managed to overstock on cleaners. Some are inherited from clearing out my mum’s and mum in law’s houses years ago and I don’t really use them as I tend to use eco products that are better for the environment but I cannot bring myself to just put them in the bin it seems such a waste.

I do have a number of cleaners that are only useful for a certain purpose….carpet cleaner for that odd spill, washing soda for freshening the drains, vanish for tough stains, borax to freshen up the washer drum, Duraglit for the silver and Brillo pads when I need a bit of extra help to remove burnt on food – they all seem quite valid to keep in but for something so infrequently used they all take up valuable cupboard space.

Finally, I went around the house replacing tea lights and batteries in the decorative string lights.

So that was my day – a nice satisfying job completed with a long list of items to restock, which I will do in the next couple of weeks, and in a funny way I did feel a little replenished myself and I could relax after tea with some pretty flickering lights and watch the third episode of The Long Call.

And while I am on a roll I might tackle the linen cupboard tomorrow.

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

dear diary :: a new beginning

Happy New Year to all my followers and readers.

After a very late night I eventually surfaced around 10am…bleary eyed, so I am quite late changing my blog header…..but here I am to wish you all the best of what this year will bring for each of you.

As always I am excited with the prospect of a brand new year stretching before me – not just an empty page, or an empty chapter but a whole empty book. By the end of 2020 just what will be written on these pages. Who knows….and that is the magic of this time of year, we really don’t know.

I can map out what I am hoping for, what I am striving to achieve, what I am going to work hard at to accomplish, but I cannot predict any of those unexpected twists and turns along the journey, the ones we have least control over.

This year as many readers will know my chosen word (whether you like this idea of choosing a word or not – it works for me) is Flourish. Maybe an odd choice you are thinking, but as one of my readers said it is very apt for me as it is often a term used when caring for plants and as my passion is for gardening then it fits so well.

One of my intentions this year will be to continue with minimising and simplifying. It is not something that happens overnight – it requires a lifestyle change and developing a different mindset. For as much as I love the space I have been creating around my home I can still fall for buying completely unnecessary items….you know the ones that ‘spark joy’ when you come across them when out shopping. John Lewis does it for me every time and TK Max! My joy seems to come from objects rather than clothes these days…and don’t forget the garden centres – I could spend a fortune there even though my borders are really jammed packed full.

As the manufacturers continue to design and market new and tempting merchandise displayed in the shops I will always find it hard to say no. Like eating a healthy diet finding that balance of moderation is hard and one I am constantly working on even though every time I go to a decluttered cupboard I feel a sense of satisfaction and that spark of joy….it is often just not enough to deter me from buying more.

Some areas of my life I have well under control – my bathroom cupboards for instance only hold what I use – you won’t find anything lurking there that is not something I use most days to keep me clean and presentable. Other areas of my home are still a work in progress and the decluttering continues but it is the stuff that still comes into our home that is the problem because that is the stuff that ironically will almost certainly become part of my future decluttering. There is very little that we need (other than a new car perhaps….oh and maybe that new kitchen) but somehow I still manage to find things to bring home!

I haven’t run our year end tally yet to see just what we spent – I can assure you when all added up and displayed in a report it is frightening. Even those odd cups of coffee and snacks we buy when out and about do add up to rather a lot.

It has been a hard year for us trying to cope on the one state pension, our savings have dwindled considerably as prices continue to rise and our family circumstances are such that we have had a lot of travelling up and down to North Yorkshire. I won’t even mention the cost of all those events we laid on or attended!

This is the time of year when I have a good look at where I overspent, then promise to myself to be more careful….and it works, usually….well for the first few months!

I aim to be more green too. I say that knowing full well that I bought a plastic fridge container yesterday…a small blip. In all honesty though when I am shopping I am going to be more mindful – the wooden toys we bought at Christmas for the grandchildren are all lovely and don’t have those awful jangly tunes and songs in American accents coming out of them, (sorry USA readers but the Fisher Price toys do all begin to sound the same), in particular the ABC song which must be coded into every activity toy. My granddaughter, who is only five and like many children, now talks with a slight Americanism about cookies, movies, garbage and trash – the influence of TV and activity toys!

But first….. my aim this month – the new health and fitness regime, guaranteed to make a difference – you just have to keep at it. I am not so bold as to start today….no today is for recovery and reflection and maybe a sprawl on the sofa watching a film or two.

And I will get back to answering the comments from yesterday.

I hope everyone has a good day today for the start of the year…somehow it does make a difference if the very first day starts well.

Welcome to my new followers on the journey – I am hoping the road this year will not be quite so bumpy as last year. x

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