Back to the Beginning

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One of the very earliest posts I wrote for this blog was about folding plastic bags. It was back in 2011 and you can revisit the post here.

As part of my sustainability strategy, I reuse everything as many times as I possibly can. Even though we do not intentionally acquire any new plastic bags they do seem to accumulate. This is due to several factors, including other people giving me things in plastic bags, the longevity of the bags and finally, an enormous number of both new and used bags that have resulted from cleaning out my mother’s possessions.

Plastic bags are not the only ones that I seem to have. There are also paper bags. I know that these can be recycled and/or composted but it is still better to reuse them where possible. I give consideration to the resources that have been used to generate these bags and feel that they deserve to be used as many times as possible.

I seemed to have different types of bags stored in various locations in my home so I recently decided that there needed to be a better and more co-ordinated approach. Hopefully, this will assist in ensuring that what we have can be easily accessed and used as required.

Additionally, the bags I use every day are in the kitchen drawer – ziplock bags and reused bread bags as well as lightweight plastic bags hanging in a dispenser in the laundry cupboard.

I made the new dispenser as the old one had really seen better days. All of the materials were recycled bits retrieved from my stash.

Finally, I created a small pack of bags for the glovebox of each car. A few small ziplock bags, paper bags, lightweight plastic bags and a small foldable carry bag all contained in a medium ziplock bag. The plan is that this will cover all possible unforeseen contingencies when we are out and about.

I am happy with my new arrangements and keen to gradually reduce the quantity of bags in the household through natural attrition rather than wholesale disposal or recycling.

Designed By Me

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Today I made a new peg bag for my laundry trolley. The last one was about 15 years old and worn out. It also also had some serious design flaws – yes, it was another of my creations. At least I was willing to learn from the shortcomings.

This is the old one once I had removed it from the trolley. Once upon a time the fabric was navy and the buttons were red.

I sourced some heavy gauge wire from GMan’s collection along with some wire cutters and pliers to fashion the approximate size and shape of the hanger for the bag.

This piece of heavy cotton fabric was an offcut in my stash and seemed perfect for the purpose.

The hanger shaped and completed.

The next step was to make the bag. Note the mitred corners to create a boxed base. This was an improvement which resulted from my experience of making Boomerang Bags.

Stitched onto the hanger.

Filled with pegs and ready to use.

A closer shot to show the hanger over the handle of the trolley.

I have not specifically mentioned Plastic Free July this year, however, making/upcycling/refashioning things we need is one way that we minimise our use of plastics and other resources all the year round – not just in July.

One For the File

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Do you remember my recent post about making lentil wraps? You can read it here. We have used these predominantly for lunches filled with a variety of spreads and salads.

Last night I decided to use them as a main meal.

I made a filling, rolled the wraps and lay them in an ovenproof dish topped with grated cheese.

As with savoury pancakes, the choices of fillings are almost unlimited. Here is what I did.

FILLING

1 medium onion, diced
250g lean beef mince
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup water
1/2 cup refried beans
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 teaspoon beef stock powder
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
2 teaspoons mixed herbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Fry the onion, add the mince and brown. Add remaining ingredients, combine well and simmer gently, stirring regularly until fairly thick. Remove from heat. I also added some chopped spinach. I stirred it through the mixture after it was cooked.

Divide the mixture between 4 wraps. Place filled wraps in ovenproof dish and top with grated cheese. This can now be baked in the oven or heated in microwave and finished under the grill to brown the cheese.

I served the meal with coleslaw and avocado slices.

This made enough for 4 servings so I have enough left for another meal.

Completing the Craft

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When we packed up Mum’s things there were various pieces of craft which were works in progress. Some are out of the range of my skill or interest, however, I have begun work on one particular piece.

I am not sure what Mum’s plans were for this piece of hand-pieced patchwork but I think it may have been going to to be a small wallhanging.

My first step is to complete the quilting. I have never handquilted anything but I am fortunate that Mum had done about 60% of it so I was easily able to follow the pattern. The needle and thread were in the bag with the work so I have been able to easily pick it up where Mum had left off.

Here is a close-up of the stitching.

Knitting was another craft which occupied a lot of Mum’s time in recent years. She enjoyed contributing garments for the local charity, Knitting for Brisbane’s Needy. Naturally, she had a knitting bag. I planned to give this to my younger daughter, however, I discovered that it was not in great condition so I came up with another plan.

Once I have finished the quilting project, I am going to disassemble the bag and use it for a pattern to make a new knitting bag using the quilted patchwork for the side panels of the bag. I will add some plain fabric to complete the project and then my daughter will have a knitting bag constructed using patchwork and quilting that was started by her grandmother and completed by her mother.

I think that will be a pretty neat keepsake as well as a practical piece which she can use for her own knitting projects.

Hang It Up

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For those of you who have been following this blog for a long time or anyone who knows me well, it will come as no surprise to discover that one of my preferred organising methods is hanging things up.

Today I created a solution to a long-standing dilemma. As you would be aware from my last post, I sort my washing into light and dark loads, however, there is another small issue – the handwashing. I know that there are wash bags for delicates, designated wool cycles on the machine and so on but I choose to handwash my bras as well as any woollen or particularly delicate fabrics. Historically, these have always been tossed in the main laundry hamper and sorted out when I come to do a load of washing. Alternatively, they end up languishing on the laundry bench until I am ready.

In among some of my mother’s things were several small wash bags as well as a couple of much larger ones. The zip was broken on of these but I had a plan.

I set to work. 3 small hooks from the stash in the workshop. Installed just below the lower shelf in the laundry cupboard.

I then cut 3 small holes near the top edge of the bag and handstitched the edges to reduce any fraying.

Here is a close-up of my handiwork.

Can you see where this is going? 3 hooks, 3 holes?

The bag is now hanging and ready to hold any handwashing.

With the laundry hamper in place.

A full view of the cupboard which was originally a full-length space which was of limited use to me.

The 2 shelves were added by a builder when we had the laundry renovated about 15 years ago.

I added the upside down hook in 2015 to retain the small ladder.

Today’s addition is pretty much the icing on the cake in terms of storage solutions in this cupboard.

A Continuing Tale

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There is no doubt in my mind that decluttering is a long-term and ongoing project. This post from 2017 explains my thoughts in detail.

I have been a bit under the weather for the past few days with a head cold but am definitely much improved today. Since we were in lockdown until 6pm today, I took the opportunity to do a bit of cleaning, tidying and decluttering. I have really just done the bare minimum at home over the last 4 months while my mother was ill and following her death as there were many other more pressing priorities.

As I noted in another old post from 2015:

“Circumstances are constantly evolving as we welcome children into our homes, they grow and then finally leave home.  Later there may be the addition of grandchildren or the death of a spouse.  All of these things require us to adapt what we have and how we use it.  It is easy for the essentials of one phase of our lives to become the clutter of the future so it is wise to review our needs regularly.”

I am not sure of exactly what prompted me to write that 6 years ago but it is certainly relevant to my current situation. Not only have I acquired items that belonged to my mother but I am also reassessing what we really need.

We have been empty-nesters for close to 16 years, however, during that time the lives and needs of our children have become increasingly separate to us. They are now thoroughly independent adults in their mid-late 30s. Even the grandchildren are moving into their teen years.

The impetus for some of my recent decluttering has been multi-faceted.

Acquisition of items from Mum
Items becoming obsolete due to improved organisation
Need to use the available storage as efficiently as possible
Continuing realisation of how much/little I actually need
Desire to give to others who need items
Considering the possibility of relocating sometime in the future

I don’t have many photos for this post but here is one example of what I have achieved recently.

This is a photo of my laundry cupboard back in 2015.

I had one laundry hamper in the cupboard and another mesh foldable one in our bedroom.

About 3 years ago I relocated the vacuum cleaner to the bottom of the linen cupboard and the space on the left-hand side of this photo was home to the portable dehumidifier. This worked reasonably well except I was not overly thrilled with a basket of worn clothes lurking in the corner of our bedroom.

I recently acquired another mesh foldable hamper from my mother’s belongings and this prompted me to reconsider how things were arranged. The dehumidifier was rehomed to a cupboard under the laundry bench and I then put the 2 matching hampers in the tall cupboard. They are now designated as ‘lights’ and ‘darks’ so I can see at a glance when a particular load needs doing.

The cane hamper is now surplus to requirements.

The lid had long since broken and the lining ripped so I had fashioned a removable liner from an old sheet. I really did not think it would be a highly desirable item, however, I listed in on a couple of local Buy, Swap, Sell groups and had several enquiries almost immediately. It is going to be collected tomorrow.

Lockdown – Imposition or Opportunity

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I have previously written about the importance of mindset. This can apply to many situations.

That drawer in the kitchen that many people refer to as the ‘junk drawer’? By calling it, even silently to myself, as the ‘useful drawer’ has helped me to ensure that it holds only useful items. It is not a place for junk and this aids in keeping it tidy and uncluttered.

I don’t ‘get rid of stuff’ either. To get rid of something implies that it is rubbish and merely describing it as ‘stuff’ does not ascribe any inherent value to the item. That is fine if it is a piece of ripped paper but if you are struggling with great-grandma’s tea set it is much more difficult. Try saying to yourself that you are letting go of a beautiful item so that it can bring joy to someone else. You will immediately feel more positive and confident about it going to a new home.

Where I live we are currently being instructed to stay at home for all but necessary outings due to community transmission of cases of Covid-19. I recognise that this is difficult for many people and we all need to be aware of our mental health and that of those around us.

Once again, a little bit of positive self-talk and mindset can go a long way. I hear many people talking about being stuck at home and locked down. I prefer to appreciate the time I have been given with very few demands on my time. It can be an opportunity to begin, continue or even finish some of those multitude of projects which do not always make the cut in our normally full and demanding days.

Although our lockdown began at 6pm yesterday, my restrictions actually started first thing on Monday morning after I had a Covid test as I had woken with a very sore throat. Fortunately, the result was negative but I do have a heavy head cold and really do not feel like doing much.

I am embracing the time and have chosen to sort and cull some of the thousands of digital photos I have on my device as well as making some more Boomerang bags and updating the budget.

Of course, I am using my skills and imagination to create meals making the most of the ingredients we have without any waste. Even though grocery shopping is an acceptable reason for leaving our home, I figure the more I stay home, the more I reduce my risk of coming in contact with Covid-19. Many people have become programmed to simply go shopping every few days. I try to maintain an acceptable level of supplies to sustain us for an extended period of time regardless of the reason.

How do you make the most of the situation in which you find yourself?

Assimilation Time

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My siblings and I recently cleared our mother’s one bedroom unit. She was not a hoarder, however, she was from a generation who grew up during and immediately following the Great Depression. Waste was an anathema to her.

It was important to us to rehome things thoughtfully and not to just mindlessly donate, or worse still, dump large quantities of her possessions.

In order to consider individual items we brought most things to our homes and have spent time carefully and lovingly sorting Mum’s personal and household items.

Of course, I did not want or need to keep everything as I have a home containing my own things. Nor did I want to create a shrine to my mother. She would have wanted things to go to people who could use them and much of our energy has been spent in identifying where they could be used and/or appreciated. Some has been donated and some passed on to other family members.

I wanted honour her memory by using the items that I kept and they have been assimilated into my household.

Here are a couple of examples.

I am not sure of the age or origin of this delicate tablecloth and it is beginning to show signs of wear in places. It will not last forever but I will use and cherish it.

Here it is on the table.

A completely different item is this hand beater. It is over 60 years old and has been used consistently during that time. I also owned a similar but somewhat newer version – only just over 40 years old which was not as good so I have upgraded.

I also have books, jewellery, scarves, ramekins, crockery, vases and linen. They are all appreciated, cherished and most of all, will be used.

Dealing with the possessions of a loved one can be difficult but it is worthwhile to think carefully about the process to get the best result for your own unique circumstances.

Mending to Make New

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I cannot imagine simply throwing out (to landfill) every item that ceases to function perfectly.

Mending is definitely a skill worth nurturing. Some mending jobs are relatively simple while others are a bit more complex. Replacing a trouser zip definitely falls into the latter category in my opinion. It is not one of my favourite tasks. However, there is enormous satisfaction at restoring an otherwise useless garment to a functional piece.

The first step is to carefully remove the existing zip. Replacing a zip is made more difficult by the fact that it is not the final step when the garment was originally constructed. Unpick as much stitching as required to insert the new zip.

One side pinned in place.

I stitched the first side and worked out how to place and stitch the other side.

Here is the final result with the fly folded back to show the zip. It was a previously salvaged zip from a worn-out garment and I was fortunate to find a reasonable colour match and the correct length.

And the zip works.

Looking perfect and ready to wear.

Returned – Finally

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In my post on 24th March I mentioned that my mother was quite ill.

Unfortunately, her diagnosis was terminal and the decline was rapid. Mum died at the end of April and we are grateful that she did not suffer a long, drawn-out death.

The void which has been left is indescribable and some days I feel completely lost.

However, life does go on and I will continue to share my thoughts, ideas, tips and suggestions with you all.

I was extraordinarily lucky to have a close and loving relationship with my mother for many years. I know that not everyone has this opportunity for a variety of reasons.

Much of my knowledge and ideas have come to me by being handed down through the generations from my mother and grandmothers.

So, this blog honours those women in my family who have come before me.

Farewell, Mum. Thank you for everything. I will love you always.