dear diary >> busy doing nothing

Well I know I was busy all day but it felt like I had achieved very little. But….the pastry did get mixed and we now have some lentil pies and a quiche base in the freezer – I could have made more but silly me had not noticed the plain flour jar was running low. To compensate for the shortfall I added in some spelt flour and it has made a nice pastry. I used to prefer wholemeal pastry but it is quite heavy on our digestion these days so I switched to Doves Farm organic white which is unbleached. We don’t have pastry very often these days as too much of it does seem to take longer to digest.

I should have titled this post a ‘Tale of two candles‘ as I spent a good two hours in the broom cupboard trying to accomodate my excessive amount of assorted candles (many of them I inherited from my daughters) and make a ‘pleasing arrangement‘ as DH would say.

As always when organising storage there is always the odd thing that just doesn’t quite fit and in this case it was the very annoying two tall pillar candles. Too tall to stand upright on the shelf and just a smidgen too long to be contained in any receptacle that I have. In the end all I could do was lay them on their side -but this is not ideal as they roll about a bit.

The short stubby ones and the tea lights all fitted quite nicely into the 3 storage boxes and I found the best way of storing the long thin ones is upright in glass jars. To make room for the candles I had to adjust the three shelves in the broom cupboard so the top shelf had a larger gap to fit two stacked storage boxes and the bottom two shelves had a narrower gap. But whilst solving this problem I unknowingly created another and when I came to close the cupboard door the contents of the storage container fastened to the door were now too tall for the narrower gap between the bottom and second shelf and the handles of the cleaning and bottle brushes no longer fitted comfortably between the shelves when the door is closed but hit the shelf and stopped the door closing.

So now I have removed some of the taller cleaning brushes and will have to find a new home for them….argh!

I am quite pleased with the result though and all my candles are now in one easily accessible place. The two infuriating pillar candles will be lit as soon as the evenings draw in a bit more. I don’t really want it to feel like autumn yet as I think it is going to be a long, cold winter – what a shame we cannot bottle this summer heat.

My next task is to re-house the coolbags as I would like to get rid of the old kitchen cabinet in the garage where they currently reside. It is a base cabinet and sticks out a long way but does a good job of storing the cool bags and keeps them dust free. They would fit in the cupboard that has all our cleaning products like car shampoo and oven cleaner but I think the smell might spread into the coolbag over time. I am not sure I would want my picnic sandwiches to taste of metal polish or patio cleaner!! Another storage problem to mull over.

DH was busy ironing again – his reward was spending time at the computer (his favourite pastime). He also mounted the second water butt on some bricks with a slab on top which is much more stable than the plastic feet that come with it. This butt is not connected to a drain pipe but we pour in the ‘run off’ water we collect whilst the hot water is coming through in the kitchen. It is surprising how much you can lose down the drain. We are also keeping a bucket in the shower to collect any clean water there when showering. It rained…only a little yesterday early evening – I am hoping just enough to top up the water butt (as we have a hose pipe ban here now) and freshen up the borders and planters and save me having to water today.

Today we /me/or he is making Leek and Potato soup to use up the plentiful supply of potatoes I have and the remains of the leeks. If I have chance I will prepare the tomato soup ingredients at the same time.

This afternoon we are downing tools and going up the road to see two friends of ours K&R. R has recently come out of hospital after an operation and at the moment cannot drive so they are both stuck at home as K had to give up driving because of a macular problem. We have been taking K with us when we go shopping to help out as she is well in her 80’s now but today we are just visiting and having a cup of tea and a catch up chat.

dear diary >> a matter of opinion

DH and I agree on most things, but it is of no surprise that we have a difference of opinion when it comes to what constitutes ‘pottering’ and how long it should continue for. He thinks two hours of minimal activity is all I should be doing at present and of course he is right but I am an all or nothing person and once I begin a job I can’t bear not to see it through.

And I get sidetracked easily.

I am a great supporter of the Lean method where continuous improvement is part of the approach. I am always looking for better ways of organising and storing things and often have a move around much to DH’s dismay! Sometimes, even I have to acknowledge a task will take far longer than I have time for in a day, but if I stop what I am doing then I know it is going to end up as another project on the unfinished task list as other urgent housekeeping chores call for my attention.

Yesterday, I maybe overdid it a bit. I only intended to sort out the collection of small plastic plant pots in the greenhouse, that I had washed before our holidays, and keep only the useful ones. Dobbies, one of our local garden centres, have a recycling point for old plant pots so I have put aside the ones I don’t want to drop off on our next visit.

We have quite a useful space at the side of our house behind the shed where we can keep our wheelie bins and bags of potting compost tucked away from view. I also put the old mini greenhouse here as it is a sunny positon but much cooler away from any direct sun which is great for potted cuttings and hardening off. I keep the larger empty plant pots here too and anything a bit unsightly but the whole area was a bit of a mess because DH had not been able to get to his ladder easily and after he put it back in position the objects he had to move did not quite make it back in their place (need I say more…). So I started tidying up this area and as I went along I found a few problems that required a little DIY from DH whilst he was doing other bits and pieces in the greenhouse and now the area is looking much cleaner and quite tidy.

Before our holidays DH put in some ‘Christmas potatoes’ – I am not sure if they will actually be ready for Christmas day but they are growing well and needed earthing up. My few outdoor tomatoes are at last turning red – it has been a long wait. I haven’t grown this variety before, a dwarf stocky bush tomato that does not require the removal of side shoots called Totem. They are very sturdy plants that stood up well to the strong winds we had a month or so ago. The Zinnias in the top photo have been battered by wind and then scorched by the sun… but are holding on, they are such beautiful rich colours and one of my favourite annuals. I have more in the front borders and they are mixed with a rather lovely colour called ‘Green Envy’. I was quite pleased to see that Carol Klein recommended this variety on her Summer Gardening program (I just love her enthusiasm for plants it is contagious) it is such an unusual colour but looks good beside the vibrant reds and purples. The plants that have done the best this year on the patio are the geraniums – they seem to thrive in hot dry weather but then they do grow an enormous amount of them in France and Italy.

Today I must, must, must make the mushroom and lentil pies to freeze and the quiche bases (I know I have been saying this all week!). I will rub up the pastry mix this morning and then do the filling in the afternoon. If I get chance I have had an idea for storing those candles I mentioned. I need to gather them all together in Marie Kondo style to see what I am dealing with in terms of space required. I do have quite an assortment of candle holders too and maybe I don’t really need all of them. We shall see.

I am hoping that DH will be doing a bit more fixing and mending. When we got home from holiday I found my watering can broken. It is a Hall’s plastic red one with a long bar attached to the spout that you hold to carry it and it had snapped clean in two as you can see in the photo…..rendering it unuseable and there was no way it could be glued back together. It seemed such a shame that it would be of no further use and would end up in landfill at the tip. However DH to the rescue – he came up with a solution…..

…… a bit of a Heath Robinson fix (just like his dad) using this strong metal strip of rust proof aluminium and some screws or maybe they are rivets. I am delighted though and so pleased it could be repaired – in fact it should be stronger than before even if it does look a bit strange.

Have a lovely restful Sunday everyone. x

dear diary >> more pottering

I was so delighted to find that these cuttings I had taken earlier in the year have taken along with a few tiny self sown seedlings that I noticed when weeding in the borders and potted up. They are out in my mini greenhouse in a shadier corner of the garden so they don’t dry out.

Yesterday turned into a bit of a mammoth sorting out day. Another one where I ventured into the garage and ended up sorting through the bank of Ikea wooden drawers that contain all our bits and pieces, well mainly DH’s bits and pieces – spare hinges, hooks, car bulbs, flat pack funriture parts and a million and one other things, often unidentifiable….all stuff that might one day be useful and to be fair to DH it often is. He has a maddening habit though of putting things he wants to keep into the right drawer (they are all labelled) but I have no idea what it is for and often he forgets. My method is to bag and label – his method is sometimes to bag but hardly ever to label. So yesterday we played the game of guess what this is for and do we still need it.

Eventually, he knew he would have to stop what he was doing (uploading holiday photos) to help me and give me a clue for some of the items so that now they are all bagged and labelled, including the ones labelled unknown like the charger – but what is it a charger for? I know if I throw it out it will be for something important. There is still a long way to go in the garage and I hate throwing things away but I am not sure we will ever need the spare castors that came off an old file drawer, or the digital timer that came from my mum…….but you never know. As always when you embark on these tasks things you had forgotten about resurface like the gym ball pump and who knew that we had three keys for the ladder lock – all hanging on separate hooks.

I am now trying to find a good way of storing all my numerous candles of various shapes and sizes – long thin, short stubby and large pillar. Presently, they are scattered between numerous boxes – they are all quite plain unscented candles and many of them were left over from my daughter’s wedding but I have not as yet found the ideal storage container or place to store them. It would be much simpler to use them all so I don’t have to store them at all. Maybe come the autumn / winter time and possible power cuts I will be glad of my little hoard. Until then this little problem is a pending one.

DH had his screw driver out again today doing little jobs around the house and I now have the little holdall (once fixed to the inside of my old kitchen cupboard door to take tupperware lids) fixed to the inside of the broom cupboard where I keep my cleaning cloths and caddy. The holdall is just perfect for holding my spare rubber gloves.

I managed to make the nut loaf for our evening meal and the rest will be frozen for next week. I made it with brown rice rather than breadcrumbs as one of my daughter’s has a gluten intolerance and I will be taking it up to her house for tea next week. But I must confess the pastry still didn’t get done again, however whilst I had the oven on anyway I decided to roast some teeny weeny potatoes I had left over (those very tiny ones that you always get when you grow your own) and parsnips at the same time – oh and I slipped a small frozen yorkshire pudding in at the end….they are a weakness of mine.

So today…it is another I can’t believe it is Friday day – I have washed towels to hang out and more washing to put in. I have a letter to write and a couple of friends to ring. Then who knows…. it could be more paperwork or another spell in the garage. I daresay DH would prefer it if I do the paperwork and keep well away from the garage which he sees as his domain. Maybe I will spend an hour in my domain (the greenhouse) I never got to organise it properly once DH had finished painting the inside.

Welcome to all the new followers of my blog – I do find it strange that I manage to acquire more followers when I am having a bit of a break from blogging than when I am writing!!!

dear diary >> a productive day

I love those days when a few insignificant jobs are ticked off the list that provide some quite significant improvements. Yesterday was one of those days.

I spent an hour in the pantry putting things straight and filling up containers. I only found the bread flour and a pot of Thai curry paste to be near to its best before date so I will search out one or two recipes to use these up. I haven’t made Thai curry before and when I bought the paste pot it seemed easier than buying all the special ingredients that make it Thai.

The breakdown truck came mid morning and recovered the car to the garage whilst we followed on behind. The initial report from the nice garage man was that the escaping fluid is a leak from something that has worn through (I am so impressed Mary by your knowledge of cars) and the part required to fix it is relatively cheap, thank goodness, but we will have to wait a few days for him to get one (as they are imported) before the car can be made better, but at least it is now being dealt with.

Once back home DH pruned the berberis in the front garden, a bit of a spikey job, mended my little green birdhouse (which is only decorative) and put up the two pottery holders, grow and fresh, in the greenhouse that I found sorting out the garage. They are just the right size to keep bits and bobs in them.

Our afternoon walk took us round by the village so we could drop off the soft plastic bags for recycling at the Co-op. We have just gained a lovely little gift shop in the village called Nest. They have some delightful inexpensive gifts and cards and today I noticed the empty shop by the old post office has now opened as a hardware shop – I do wish them both luck – our village could do with a few shops that are not just charity shops, beauty parlours or dog grooming. We once had the most wonderful green grocers (in fact there were two) but they were forced to close when Safeways (now Morrisons) built a supermarket on the old railway station.

I did manage to put away more bits and pieces from the holiday and sorted the washing after which I needed a bit of time lying flat to ease my back so I watched the final episode of Downton. I do love to have a potter around the house once in a while especially after we have been away and there is no real urgency to get anything done, though I am on a bit of a mission to give it more attention than it has received in the last few months so it feels more loved and cared for.

I made the Courgette bake, but didn’t quite get round to mixing up a batch of pastry – that will have to be another day or maybe even today. I have to wait for the remaining courgettes in the garden to grow a little bigger before I can make the Veg lasagne (our Co-op doesn’t have anything quite as exotic as courgettes yet!), so nut roast is the next meal on the menu plan and maybe this time I will get those pastry cases made.

Today it will be a toss up between going in the garden or looking through the paperwork pile – I know which I would rather do, but maybe sorting out the finances is more important. Scottish Power have sent me an email to tell me about the £400 fuel rebate and we have just applied to the council for our £150. We will need to put this aside to pay for our fuel bills during the colder months – maybe I will buy a couple of very thick jumpers with some of it. DH is looking to add to the insulation in the loft – I always think it is so full of ‘stuff’ up there that more insulation is probably not required!

On a different note did anyone see the program about Woodstock the Festival on Sky Arts on Tuesday night? It took place in America in the summer of 1969 – I was a mere 15 year old teenager with long flowing skirts to match my long flowing hair and I had just bought my first Leonard Cohen album , Songs of Leonard Cohen and becoming very much a part of the flower power generation. We once knew someone who had actually been to the festival and like a lot of our friends we have the Woodstock album – it was an historic moment back then. A few things struck me watching the video movies that had been collated to make this documentary, firstly, the majority of the young people were so noticeably slim and the lads wandering around without t-shirts were very well toned despite the fact that there were no fitness gyms in those days, and secondly, the girls seemed so naturally pretty without any make up, false eyelashes, fake tans or lip and boob enhancements and such a marked lack of tattoos and piercings. Whatever happened to those carefree days of a generation that believed in people and preserving the environment – how did all that love and peace give way to the years that followed of Thatcher’s greed and capitalism?

We are certainly paying the price now as big business giants rake in excessive profits and council leaders are paid huge salaries whilst care for the elderly in their boroughs are cut to the bone and they have growing numbers of homeless people on our littered streets. Kate Josephs, leader of Sheffield council, has recently been reinstated in her job after being under investigation – she has a salary of around £200,000 and was paid more than £60,000 to stay at home until it was concluded. Just what does she do for this amount of money I wonder?

Meanwhile, I spend most of my days trying to think of ways to save a few pennies to eek out the meagre pension pot I spent a lifetime working for.

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

homestead :: the pantry tour

Don’t we all love a good before and after story – well this is one with quite a transformation. The space we now call the pantry started life as a downstairs cloakroom positioned just off the kitchen and one that we hardly ever used; sometimes it was a job to squeeze in there at all.

It was really a forgotten and unloved space with a basin and toilet, tiles and wallpaper from the 80’s.

Many of our neighbours have knocked down their cloakroom walls to incorporate the extra space into a bigger kitchen. With our layout this would not really have helped us so we chose to take out the basin and toilet and make the room into extra storage; after all it had become a dumping ground anyway!

So after a good declutter and a little rearranging and a lot of hard work from DH we have gone from this…….

….to this……

and finally this.

……..And this…….

………to this

These Ikea cookie cutters are too big to fit into the large glass storage jar on the windowsill so I found two of those clear licker sticker hooks and attached them to the window to hang them on. I quite like the way they are both decorative and useful.

I now have a home for my juicer too and as DH has put in some sockets I can use it in here – we could also fit in a small microwave should we ever decide we wanted one.

Starting at the wall cupboard to the left of the window on the back wall – we had to cut this ordinary wall cupboard down to half its depth as the base units we used beneath are actually Ikea wall units too, without doors, but we didn’t want the wall cupboard to stick out quite as far. We used a full length door with aluminium frame and frosted glazing so I can hide away medicines and homeopathic remedies in here as well as small jars of cake sprinkles and other baking goods.

The bread bin is a new addition (John Lewis Home £16)- we chose it because it has a flip up lid which I prefer, it is stainless steel and not as wide as our previous roll top wooden one so saves on space too.

We had one of those ‘left over’ narrow spaces which has actually turned out to be quite useful. The long slot at the bottom stores cooling racks, my glass pastry making sheet, large chopping boards and other things too large to store elsewhere. In the slots above I managed to find some clear plastic long and narrow fridge storage containers that slide out and are good for holding packet foods, such as stuffing, and my selection of herbal teabags.

There are three large open shelves beneath the counter top which go right into the corner and I can store less used items here – the maslin pan, baskets and mats and cake making and decorating items as well as some cake tins.

Above the counter top DH built some fixed shelving. I liked the look of the painted wooden brackets that we got from B&Q. I doubt I will need to alter the depth of the shelving in the future as the glass storage jars will last a lifetime (well mine anyway) and I don’t envisage needing to replace them. It is wonderful to see at a glance now what we have and what needs replenishing.

The very top shelf is now home to my old tin collection.

The tall fitment has shelving that is flexible – I have been moving the shelves around until I have (I think) finally found the best combination of shelf positions. The top few shelves have stores of staple foods such as canned foods, nuts, dried fruit, baking goods, packets of pulses and tomatoes, tea, coffee and oil. I can now buy stocks of these when on offer.

The shelves lower down contain my baking trays and tins.

The smaller undercounter fitment at the back of the room is again fitted with flexible shelving but for the moment I am happy with this arrangement and have used these large white plastic bins from Ikea as drawers and these contain snacks and crisps.

On the two lower shelves I bought these two wicker baskets from Ikea for £6 each. I like the fact they add a little rustic feel to stop the pantry looking too clinical. I keep onions in one and potatoes in the other. Most of our other veg is kept in a larder fridge. Tomatoes, bananas and ripening fruits are kept out on the counter top.

The drawers beneath the wall cupboard – two narrow and three deeper all have a purpose. The top one contains our old cutlery set that we were given as wedding presents – very useful when we have a party or get together.

Under this I keep all those odds and ends of gadgets that are used infrequently like an apple corer and pie slice.

This drawer is a work in progress – I will keep the paper serviettes in here but I am on the look out for better drawer inserts that don’t leave wasted space.

A drawer for tea towels and kitchen hand towels.

And the final drawer for aprons, tray cloths and tea cosies.

Organising the pantry has been one of the hardest things and DH is quite amused when each day he struggles to find something but I feel everything is at last in the right place. I shall be on the look out for anything that is not used and I am adamant that this space will not require decluttering as I won’t be filling it up with unecessary purchases. Other than a new icing turntable and a larger scraper for cake decorating I am pretty much sorted with equipment.

I have space now to stock up on a few basics that I find on offer and a place for all the items that are little used such as the maslin pan and the Easter basket. I couldn’t be more pleased at how it has turned out.

No pantry would be complete though without a notice board where we can jot down the items we need to buy on our next shopping trip.

DH painted the wooden frame of this whiteboard, originally pine coloured, to match the paint colour of the walls.

He then made a little wooden pen holder tray to fit along the bottom.

I have tried hard to only use plastic storage where it will be used for a long time and where possible have opted for glass, metal and wood. The old tupperware that I had some foods stored in will now be used for the freezer or storage in the garage so nothing is wasted.

The flooring is only temporary and we used some stick down dark grey vinyl tiles onto a sheet of hardboard – it will be much better than dusty floorboards until we have the new kitchen fitted and the same wooden flooring will be put down throughout.

So that is the end of the tour – I hope you enjoyed it as much as I love using it, and I am sure you will be seeing a lot more of it very soon – like my tablemats it is just a joy to photograph.

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?