Three Things Thursday: 23 November 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with happiness.

First, restoring faith in humanity. I just got back from the post office, where I was served by the lady I made the gloves for. It’s the first time I’ve seen her since I dropped them off and she thanked me very sincerely, saying I had restored her faith in humanity… now that’s not a bad thing to do with your crochet, is it? Anyway, her name is Rachel and I seem to have made her very happy.

Such a simple way to make someone happy

Second, new homes for unwanted items. My rehoming scheme seems to be going well… I’m never going to have a house completely free of clutter, but I am really enjoying seeing things that I have no use for finding their way to new homes. So far this week I’ve rehomed two lots of broderie anglaise and a 1990’s Vogue sewing pattern. Although money is not the main issue for me, charging for an item means that it’s more likely to go to someone who actually wants it and will make use of it.

This pattern has gone to a new home today

Third, a new home for a person. I’m really happy that it looks like my sister’s eldest daughter has found a new home. There’s nothing official yet, but we are all keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly.

So, that’s some of what’s making me happy this week. How about you?

-oOo-

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

Going to extremes… or not

I keep coming across articles on the internet about people who have pared their life down to the bare essentials… like Rob Greenfield who only has 111 possessions (you can check them out here). Now I’m all for cutting down on waste and not buying unnecessary ‘stuff’, but I simply wouldn’t be happy with so little. What about creativity? What about owning equipment to make things or repair things? What about tools for cultivating the land? Living a nomadic life with no roots (metaphorically and literally … I love my plants), no money and no ‘safe’ place is just not something that I would want to contemplate seriously. I suspect it isn’t something that would work for many people and, indeed, the earth could support a much smaller population if we all foraged for all our food. I’m not saying that any of those things are ‘bad’, but just unrealistic given our starting point.

So, where do we find a balance? How much stuff should we have? Should we all follow the advice of Marie Kondo and only have possessions that ‘spark joy in our life’? I have to confess that I worry about decluttering simply for the sake of it… particularly where in a fit of enthusiasm for a tidy house, all the unwanted items end up in landfill. My desire for fewer possessions is balanced by my desire to be kind to the planet. An item may not spark joy in me, but if I know that it will be useful in the future, then I’m not going to throw it out.

So, my approach to reducing clutter in out home is currently based around the following:

Not adding to what we already have. This means being a member of the library rather than buying paperback books; not buying more craft supplies when I have plenty to keep me amused; making use of existing electronics (mobile phone, e-reader, pc etc) rather than being seduced into buying the latest model.

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it looked like this in 2012…it’s still working but more repaired!

Repairing. Making use of the materials/equipment that we have to repair things that wear out or break. Mr Snail’s collection of electronic components comes in very handy for repairing… this doesn’t reduce what we have much, but it justifies keeping some ‘stuff’ around. I refer you to the much repaired radio.

 

Being generous. When a friend mentions that they need something that I own but don’t really have a use for or a particular reason to keep, I give it to them. I’ve even started giving away things simply because a friend likes them.

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refreshed and ready to be sold

Finding new homes. This is slightly different to the last one because the driving force is that I no longer want an item rather than someone else expressing a desire for it. I feel guilty about sending anything to landfill, but selling something on, donating something to charity or offering an item for free (e.g. via Freecycle) feels like a positive action.

 

Composting. I have discovered the joys of converting unwanted paper into compost. This means that piles of old lecture notes, financial statements, old magazines and official letters are now part of the foundation for our vegetable crops! Composting also extends to natural fabrics that have reached the end of the useful/repairable life, along with worn out wooden items (bamboo toothbrushes, wood and bristle scrubbing brushes, broken wooden skewers etc), although sometimes we burn wooden items (for fuel, not simply to dispose of them).

and as a last resort…

Recycling. But it’s much better to find ways to repair/reuse/repurpose/rehome before you get to this stage.

And more than anything else, not to be seduced into thinking that buying new ‘stuff’ will make me happy.

So I’m slowly clearing and sorting and selling and sharing… I’m never going to be down to 111 possessions, but I am going to have found new homes or new uses for lots of the ‘stuff’ in my house, and I’m going to love making and repairing and creating with what I do have.

Lazy cleaning

I have to confess that I really don’t like cleaning – I can almost always think of something that I would rather be doing. The only times I was at all enthusiastic about it was when I had an Open University assignment to work on or marking to do! Since I completed my MEd several years ago and I’m no longer teaching and therefore no longer marking, cleaning is now very low on my list of things I spend my time doing. So, I am always looking for ways to make it easier… and to divide it into manageable bits.

Years ago when I first saw single use cleaning wipes advertised I was sorely tempted… but since I generally try to avoid anything that’s single use (apart from toilet paper) I pulled myself together and ignored them. However, the other day I came across a website with instructions for making such wipes… but not disposable ones. Some of the stuff required I already had – suitable wide-necked jars (they originally came with chocolate chips in them), an old sheet (very thin on account of it being about 50 years old) and various essential oils – but there were some other ingredients that had to be purchased – alcohol (apparently wine won’t do), white vinegar (I had run out and balsamic doesn’t work either) and distilled water. So, I placed an order and yesterday everything arrived.

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Ready to clean!

It’s very simple, although I adapted the recipe slightly from the original because of the strength of the alcohol I had bought. First you cut up some thin cloths – I used pinking shears and made the pieces 20-25cm square. You place these into a wide-necked jar that will seal well (mine have screw caps). Then you mix together 240ml distilled water*, 120ml white vinegar, 40ml isopropyl alcohol (strength 99.9%) and add essential oils according to your preference (I used 15 drops lavender oil, 10 drops orange oil, 10 drops tea tree oil and 6 drops peppermint oil). Give it a good stir, then pour it into the jar, seal and shake it up.

 

I split the liquid between two jars – one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom. To use, just take a cloth out, squeeze the excess liquid back into the jar, replace the lid and your cloth is good to go. Once you’ve done your cleaning with it, pop it into another container to await washing – I have a third wide-neck jar for this purpose, labelled ‘Used Cloths’ to avoid confusion. I’ve tried using them and they are great – the glass shelf over our sink in the bathroom is positively sparkling!

Most of the time a microfibre cloth and some water or just a few drops of detergent is enough, but these are great for instant use and for jobs where you don’t want to reuse the cloth before it’s washed. I’m not suggesting that these will transform my house, but they will be useful and they don’t produce waste… plus the re-use of the cloth and the jars is all part of my grand declutter.

-oOo-

* Necessary to ensure that the mix is long-lasting… I’m not sure whether boiled water would do the trick too, but I didn’t want to risk it.

Bags, beans and ebay

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A repair like a carrot!

I realise a whole week has gone by without a post… a combination of being busy and having a computer problem. The latter was related to an overheating power input, which was rectified with a new cable with replacement plug secured with Sugru – a cheap and simple solution, but one that took a little time because of the logistics of finding the replacement and then having to wait 24 hours for the Sugru to dry. The current obsession with excessively replacing electronic equipment is a real issue environmentally, and so I’m delighted with any solution that allows me to keep using my computer… I fully support the Restart Code, which you can check out here.

Away from the computer, the declutter continues, with five successful sales on ebay this week. I find the whole process of sorting out online auctions somewhat tedious, but it’s a good way to make sure unwanted items go to homes where they will get some use, so every now and then I grit my teeth and do a few listings. This time I sold five out of six items listed, which seems like quite a success to me.

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Drawstring bags for vegetables

Reducing clutter is also taking the form of turning some of the “I’m keeping this because it might be useful” things into things that really are useful.So, I spent a while cutting up an old sheet to make cleaning cloths (more on this in a later post when I’ve finished experimenting). In addition, I made four drawstring bags from off-cuts of very thin curtain fabric to use when we go shopping. We always take our own shopping bags, but rarely remember to take individual bags to put vegetables in. I used scrap fabric and some cotton tape that had been around some clothes I bought (rather than plastic packaging), so the resulting bags really are something for nothing. So far I’ve made two large ones and two small ones, but I’ll dig out some more fabric soon and make a few more. I’ve also been working on a crochet bag using yarn oddments… more on that when it’s finished.

And then there has been the garden. Two of our raised beds have been mulched over the winter, but the other day we took the mulch (Mypex) up from one of them, netted it and sent the chickens in to clear our any pests and weed seeds.

They spent a few hours in there on two days and then the bed was ready for planting… just a few roots of docks, dandelions and buttercups had to be dug out first. This afternoon I planted it up with broadbeans and potatoes… fingers crossed for a good harvest.

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Plants in – scarlet-flowered runner beans and potatoes

Not everything has to go

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The lace is getting a good blow-dry

The reason that our house is so full of STUFF is that I am loath to throw anything out that might come in useful in the future. This does make having a clear out particularly difficult because I can still see potential value (to me) in so many items. Having said this, I have been very successful this week with my decluttering: I have sold three boxes of books, recycled a big pile of magazines, donated a bag of clothes to charity and made a start on clearing out of one of the kitchen cupboards. So, despite purchasing a pack of British wool, there has definitely been more STUFF out than in during the past seven days and, in fact, I think I’m in profit! In addition, I’ve listed a few things on ebay and progressed with laundering the collection of lace… although I haven’t found time yet to list it on etsy. So that feels like a very successful week.

However, in addition, I am keen to make use of some of the things I have been accumulating… or actually get round to doing with them what I had intended. And so, I have taken two pictures to be framed – sitting around in tubes they are clutter, but hanging on the wall they are art! And I have revitalised a couple of seat cushions that have been awaiting rescue for ages. Years ago Sam decided one of our cushions would make an ideal toy and gave it a jolly good playing with. The resulting rips could not be simply stitched together, so I put it in a drawer until I had time to sort it out… where it sat for about 7 years! The (formerly) matching cushion was used and has been in the limery on one of the wooden chairs, where it had faded from bright red to a dull pink. But today I took action – I mended the ripped cushion with mending tape, I dug out some old fabric (that I knew would come in useful eventually), and a made a cover for each cushion. So, no net gain or reduction in STUFF, but a very clear conversion from clutter to usefulness… yay!

 

 

Goings and Comings

Goings

Gradually filling the raised bed... a layer of greenery next

Gradually filling the raised bed… a layer of greenery is required next

I think that I have finally worked my way through most of the old paperwork in my work room and banished it to form the lovely absorbent base layer in our new raised bed. In a fit of enthusiasm I also went through a couple of large plastic crates that were lurking in the bottom of the wardrobe and that also contained long-neglected teaching materials. Go Me! Now, I’m moving on to craft materials…

Over the years I’ve tried my hand at lots of crafts… some have become firm favourites, whilst my interest in others has waned. Years ago, for example, I used to enjoy Brazilian three-dimensional flower embroidery, but these days it does not pique my interest. Similarly, I have done no encaustic wax painting for years, nor have I made paper. And, I have finally admitted to myself that I really don’t enjoy dressmaking. And so, the next task is to find good homes for my unwanted craft items. To this end I have joined a swap/sell pre-loved craft stuff group on Facebook. I’ve tried selling via ebay with mixed success, so I thought a targeted group like this one might be a good alternative. And so it is proving… I have takers for a pile of t-shirt fabric, another piece of fabric and a bundle of zips – and this is only after one day. I know that I won’t be able to get rid of everything this way (the shoulder pads remain unclaimed, despite offering them free, just for the cost of the postage), but at least some of my unwanted crafting supplies will be welcomed into new homes, where they may actually be used thus freeing up space for me.

What I do have to be cautious of is too much flowing in the opposite direction… I must not be tempted. Having said that, though, there have been a couple of arrivals this week, which leads us to the

Comings

Last week I had a lovely email from a participant on a course I taught a few years ago, with the offer of a set of purple glass snails. How could I refuse? And so yesterday morning I received these:

Glass snails

Glass snails

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them yet… I could use them as buttons or embellishments and I think I need to have a good think about them for a while before I make a decision. Anyway, if you want to see more of Charli’s work, do take a look at Ugly Teapot.

The second arrival was, coincidentally, also in the form of buttons, these from the very talented Joanna Bond:

Ceramic buttons... with a tiny leaf motif in the middle of each

Ceramic buttons… with a tiny leaf motif in the middle of each

I commissioned these buttons for my sofa cushions, but I don’t think that I really want them to be tucked away out of sight (the shell ones that are currently on the cushions are good enough for that), so I think that I will use these to hold the main pieces of the cover together – making the joins a decorative feature and effectively creating a set of loose covers. I went to collect these buttons from Joanna’s studio where we discussed the possibility of an artistic collaboration – yarn and ceramics. If it works out, you’ll be the first to know!

So, the goings have far exceeded the comings, plus I’ve made a bit of money selling things that, to me, have become clutter. I think that counts as a successful few days!

E-squirrel

I understand why I am a squirrel… I can see the potential use for all sorts of things and so don’t throw them away in case they can be repurposed later. The trouble is, this attitude of not getting rid of things seems to encroach on the rest of my life… for example, my e-mail subscriptions.

The route to so many interesting people.

Honestly, I can clutter my computer up without any external help!

I wrote the other day about inappropriate marketing e-mails, but on reflection most marketing is inappropriate for me, because I buy according to my own agenda rather than because an advert tells me I need to. So, what is the point in continuing to receive e-mails that tell me about the latest products/offers? Well, none really. And so, I’m having a ‘spring clean’ and unsubscribing from all sorts of mailing lists.

When I click on the ‘unsubscribe’ link, I generally get directed to a web page, where there is one of two main approaches:

(1) I find an emotional little message, saying that they will miss me and that I am always welcome back… as if this was a personal relationship. I have to keep reminding myself that the only thing they will miss is my money and the only thing I will miss is having to delete piles of e-mails from my inbox.

(2) I am told how many mind-blowing offers I will miss out on as a result of breaking off this contact. This does slightly weaken my resolve in some instances, and I have to remind myself, that however much free postage is available, I am NEVER going to order something from this company anyway, or that if I need to, I can afford the postage.

Many years ago we joined the Mail Preference Service and stopped getting marketing letters addressed to us, and then we opted out from unaddressed mail delivered by the Post Office (you are supposed to re-register for this every two years, but our postie knows we don’t want it, so he never delivers it now). In addition, I contacted many companies who I had ordered from and who were sending catalogues, and asked them not to… with a high rate of success. Why, therefore, have I been happy to keep receiving all these marketing e-mails? I guess it’s because they weren’t physical entities and I didn’t have a tangible resource to move from doormat direct to recycling bin. However, every electronic message must have a tiny bit of electricity associated with its dispatch and delivery and so not receiving them has to be (a tiny bit) good environmentally… and also cuts down on time taken to deal with e-mails each day.

So, this week, I am unsubscribing from a whole host of marketing lists… it’s not taking long as I’m doing it as they arrive. I can’t imagine it’s going to result in me losing out, but if I do, I will never know, so that’s ok!

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