Different Decluttering

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Our small acreage provides us with plenty of opportunities to build and create in our garden. For the first 13 years that we lived here we were constrained by available time as we were both working full-time. However, that did not diminish our enthusiasm, ideas and the ability to collect materials.

Here are some of the projects we have completed in the past couple of years.

I have written previously about our plans to create an entertaining area under the house so part of the long-term strategy has been to sort and tidy a lot of the materials that are stored there.

During the past few days we have had a bit of a blitz to identify what can realistically be used, what is just rubbish and what we can pass onto other people.

These are some of the last pieces of salvaged Colorbond sheeting which were gratefully collected yesterday after I listed it to giveaway on a local Facebook group.

One of the things we definitely plan to use is the old kitchen sink. When we had the kitchen renovated almost 12 years ago we salvaged it with a view to building an outdoor sink close to the vegetable garden. This would help to eliminate the amount of dirt and unwashed produce that was brought into the kitchen.

Yesterday GMan removed the original taps and plumbing. We cut some timber to length to make the framing and stand. Here are the first pieces in position.

GMan will paint all of the timber before the frame is assembled so it will be a little while before it is completed. More on that another day.

Meanwhile, we recently acquired some more material but it was not stored anywhere. We used an offcut of vinyl flooring to cover the concrete is one corner of the workshop to make a small home gym area.

We are pleased with the ongoing progress.

The Plan Becomes Reality

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Sometimes I feel as though I have spent so long planning a project that it almost becomes real in my mind. That is a bit of how I feel about the long awaited drying rack/hanging rail for the laundry. I have been dreaming, planning and researching this for close to 5 years.

I wrote about my plans 3 years ago in this post. The options were quite expensive ($250 – $400) and mostly imported as ceiling mounted drying racks are not a big thing here in Australia. However, the biggest stumbling block was the installation as the fixing points would not line up with the beams above the ceiling sheeting and I realised that the window was where the holder for the pulley rope would need to be attached. In the end I decided that the installation issues were really insurmountable so I began searching for other option.

Imagine my surprise when I found an alternative close to home. It was this DIY Bunnings video which sent me off in a somewhat different direction. I know it is not a hanging airing rack but I realised that being able to hang clothes was my main requirement.

Why would I want to hang clothes in the laundry rather than the wardrobe?

I can dry them using the dehumidifier, either straight from the washing machine or to finish off in the cooler months.
Somewhere to hang the clothes when I bring them in from the clothesline.
To air clothes after ironing and before putting them in a closed wardrobe.

Once I convinced GMan that this was a feasible option and a doable DIY project, we bought the various pieces of piping and screws and set about assembling it.

Here is the basic construct.

Naturally, I wanted it painted.

After several coats of paint it was finally ready to install. I had worked out a way to place additional timber supports in the ceiling space to ensure the stability of the fixation. This entailed accessing the roof space which is fairly shallow in our house and I am the smaller of the 2 of us so I ended up spending a considerable amount of time clambering in and out of the roof space and lying spreadeagled in order to achieve my plan.

It proved to definitely be worthwhile as this is the result.

Some of the washing from today was brought directly from the clothesline to hang on the rail.

Since the rail extends above the laundry tub, I also intend to have a hanger like this to hang above the sink.

We have lived in this house for 15 years and there have been several additions and modifications in order to make the laundry more functional. This one is an excellent addition.

The total cost was about $70 for the pipe, fittings and screws. The paint and timber bracing were sourced from our stash at home. The only other cost was our labour, time and sweat (it is hot in that roof space).

Taking Responsibility

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We have 3 different types of rubbish collection available to us.

Regular rubbish which is collected weekly goes directly to landfill. We have a small (120 litre) bin for this service and try to minimise the amount we put in it. Sometimes we only take it to the kerbside for collection once a month or less often.

The yellow-lidded 240 litre bin is for mixed recyclables which are sorted at the waste collection facility. Glass, steel, paper, cardboard, aluminium and some plastics are accepted. Collection is fortnightly. Once again, this bin is not usually put out for every collection as we try to limit the amount of packaging which we bring into our home.

Finally, we choose to have the optional ‘green waste’ bin which is suitable for garden prunings, leaves and grass clippings. We are fortunate to have plenty of space for compost heaps but some garden waste is really not suitable for the compost, such as some branches and weeds so these go in the bin.

It is over 12 months since I decided that we could stop putting any paper or cardboard in the recycle bin and that we should take responsibility for this ourselves. I know that this option is not available to or feasible for everyone but this is what we do.

I have a small, previously unused cupboard in the study desk where I keep the shredder and any paper or lightweight cardboard goes in there. About every 3 months I clear it out, sort and shred the paper and cardboard.

The white office quality paper makes excellent material for the nesting boxes for the chickens.

The remainder is shredded and added to the compost. Shredding it means that it will break down faster. The compost is eventually added to the garden and we have dealt with any paper and cardboard completely onsite without the need for energy-intensive recycling processes.

Ready for the compost.

The only paper or cardboard that does not get shredded is large or heavy packaging and the occasional local newspaper. These are stored downstairs until required and used for weed control layers under mulch in the garden.

Words Make a Difference

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I was doing some cleaning today and one of the targets was a drawer in the kitchen. Some people might refer to this as the ‘junk drawer’ and in the past I may have done also.

However, I now call this my useful drawer. Does the name make a difference? I believe that it does. This drawer contains items that are useful. It is not junk. Therefore, when I periodically clean it out it is easy to identify what should be in there. It must be useful and preferably used at least semi-regularly. Junk has no place here and it is easy to remove and discard that which could be categorised as junk.

I did not take a before photo. A few things have been removed. I discarded a piece of used plastic cling film and a couple of small pieces of brown paper that were not big enough to be useful. 2 small instruction manuals have been re-homed with the rest of the instruction manuals.

This small pile of bread tags will be taken to a recycling drop-off point next time I am in town.

The main purpose of the exercise was to have a general clean, as this, like all other kitchen drawers and cupboards, do get grubby over time.

Here is the result of about 15 minutes work.

Back to the matter of words making a difference when decluttering or organising your home. The other phrase I often hear is “getting rid of stuff”. This is particularly unhelpful when dealing with items to which you have a sentimental attachment. It is more than ‘stuff’ and getting rid of it implies that it is worthless rubbish.

If you are dealing with grandma’s tea set, you are unlikely to just get rid of that stuff. But if you believe that you really are not going to use it, there are better ways to consider removing it from your life. You could try ‘letting it go’ which promotes the feeling of setting it free. How good would it be to let it go to someone who will cherish and use it rather than being shut up in the china cabinet?

Your mindset and internal language can make a huge difference when reviewing your possessions and decluttering.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Ready for a New Year

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The 2 weeks since my last blog post have slipped by quickly. Our 2 granddaughters came to visit for a week and then we spent a week at the beach with them and our daughter. Christmas was a fairly low-key affair as we, like many others, simply needed to relax at the end of what has been a challenging year.

Anyway, this post is about looking forward. I know that COVID19 will not disappear at the stroke of midnight on 31st December. Much of what we have endured in 2020 will remain with us as we enter 2021.

Six years ago, at the end of 2014 I decided to record all of our spending for the year. Since then, I have continued to do it each year and have refined the methods I use in the process. I use an Excel spreadsheet, however, you could use a notebook if you prefer.

When I was setting up the spreadsheets for 2021 I noticed that I now have 6 years of records of our spending. During that time we have both retired from full-time work and had major home renovations done as well as travelling overseas on 5 different occasions. There won’t be anymore of that in the foreseeable future, though.

It is interesting to see how some categories of spending have altered dramatically in the wake of our retirement. The most significant is the category ‘Transport’. During the first 4 years of recording our spending, we were both working fulltime and our total transport costs were about $6000 per annum. We had a long rail commute from our home to offices in the city. In 2020 our transport costs were less than $300. Not everyone will have the same costs but if you are considering retirement it is wise to take changes in circumstances and spending into account.

Grocery spending was interesting for a different reason. In 2015 my average weekly spending for 2 adults was $93.88. Unsurprisingly, by 2020 this had increased. However, the margin was very modest with the weekly average being $97.11. In five years my grocery bill for 2 adults increased by a mere $3.23 per week on average. We eat good quality but relatively simple meals with an increasing number of vegetarian meals and are working on growing more of our own food. Minimising food waste is also important from both an environmental and financial perspective.

Clothing was another category where there was a substantial change in our spending during the six years of recording data. Our total spending on this category in 2020 was less than 30% of what we had spent in both 2015 and 2016. Since our retirements were planned, we made a conscious decision to limit our expenditure on work attire over the final couple of years. Additionally, I now have time to source some excellent pre-loved items.

For anyone who is interested I have provided a sample of what my spreadsheet looks like. I use a new sheet in the workbook for each month.

Date Amount CategoryDescription
1/01/2021$24.76GroceriesAldi
$10.00SelfGym fees
2/01/2021NIL

These are the categories that I use. The final column ‘Description’ is for extra details – as much or as little as you want.

Transport(public transport, taxis and Uber)
Groceries(food, toiletries and cleaning products at home and on holidays)
Clothing(buying and repairs for clothes, shoes, jewellery and fabric for dressmaking)
Haircuts 
Cars(fuel, tyres, servicing and repairs including when travelling in our car)
House/Garden (all equipment, repairs and renovations to house and garden including chicken feed)
Pets(vet bills, toys, medications, equipment and dog food)
Health(dental, medical, allied health and chemist expenses)
Entertainment(meals, shows, movies and events attended jointly)
Alcohol (beer, wine, spirits and home brew supplies)
Subscriptions(any subscriptions not listed in fixed expenses)
Gifts(Christmas, birthdays, cards and postage, memorial donations)
Holidays (flights, accommodation, tours and entrance fees)
Husband(gym fees, individual socialising, hobbies and books)
Self(gym fees, individual socialising, cosmetics, hobbies and books)

I have only addressed our variable spending in this post but I also have a spreadsheet set up for our fixed expenses each month. This helps us to easily see what bills are coming up and predict when we are going to need extra funds. Some months are less than $200 in fixed expenses, whereas, there are other months which are much more than that. This is because we choose to pay some of our bills on an annual basis.

Do you have a plan for keeping track of your finances for the new year?

I am happy to answer any questions you may have regarding tracking your spending.

Growing Green

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A few weeks ago I wrote this post about our plans to develop and use the space under our house.

We have made some progress by planting out the Devil’s Ivy in the hanging baskets.

Here is a closer view of one of the pots.

We hope that it grows as rampantly as it does in the shaded area in the garden from where we collected these cuttings. They all appear to be healthy and sending out new growth already.

I can already envisage our green wall.

In other news, we cleaned most of the exterior walls of the house the other day. Naturally, this entailed moving various items from the verandah and encouraged me to rethink why some of them were in their current locations.

The BBQ and terracotta chimney were both on the western verandah near the clostheline, yet in reality, this is not the spot where they are likely to be used.

They are now both downstairs and in a much better position to be utilised.

We have had a bit of hot weather with more predicted over the coming days and out hanging chairs are definitely a winner in the cool area under the house.

Emergency Preparation

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In the wake of the unprecedented bushfires which ravaged most states of Australia last summer and the forecast of La Nina this summer, it would be very foolish to ignore the risks of natural disasters.

Last night GMan and I attended a Disaster Preparedness Seminar in our local town. It was presented by our regional Council and included some excellent information regarding the local resources that are available.

We regard ourselves as relatively well-prepared but there was plenty of new and enhanced information that has encouraged us to fine-tune our arrangements.

Here are a few points to remember:

Very few of us can think logically and quickly in an emergency situation. Therefore, It is important to have considered and planned your response to various scenarios.

A couple of resources to assist in planning.

You need to have both an evacuation kit (if you need to leave in a hurry) and an emergency kit (to be self-reliant for at least 3-7 days in your home) as emergency services and other resources may not be immediately available in the case of a major disaster.

Some useful items. Waterproof, hi-vis raincoat, a waterproof document pouch, USB drive for copies of documents, resources and information.

Services will be co-ordinated by local councils as well as possibly involving state and federal governments.

Your family, neighbours and local community will be integral to supporting each other in the first instance. Make sure your cultivate these networks.

Know your risks. Our local council has identified (in no particular order) the top 4 risks for our region as:

Bush/grass fires
Flooding
Heatwaves
Storms/cyclones

Yours may be different but the principle is the same – be prepared.

Downstairs Developments

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Like many homes in Queensland, our house is high-set with plenty of space ‘under the house’. Part of this area is occupied by the double garage and a workshop area which is connected to the main part of the house via an internal staircase.

When we moved here the remaining area was simply dirt. Due to the sloping site, the majority has plenty of clearance while the area under the front verandah is only suitable for hobbits. About 10 years ago we had the usable area concreted with a view to creating an alternative summer relaxation/entertaining area. The concrete floor, ground level site and southerly aspect all combine to create the coolest possible location on hot days.

The plans have been rolling around for a number of years but we are finally starting to make some real progress.

We finally hung these chairs up yesterday and I am already getting quite used to the idea of reclining here and whiling away the time.

We bought them years ago and did hang them for a while but had to remove them from their original positions when the fluorescent light were installed. Debate about what sort of fixings were required led to inertia and no action until the other day when we decided to have another look for something suitable.

These swing mountings looked perfect and seem to be doing the job admirably as the 2 bolts go right through the joist.

One of the problems of creating an entertaining area was the bracing between some of the posts could be a hazard to people. We came up with the idea of having a ‘green wall’ which would minimise any risk of people walking into the metal bracing.

There were a number of hanging baskets here so we bought 4 new ones to supplement them as well as some chain and hooks.

The pots are still empty but we have hung them to gauge the best positions and are happy with this arrangement. The next step will be to fill them with some of the potting mix we bought on Saturday and get some plants into them. I am going to use Devil’s Ivy/Pothos which we have growing in abundance in the shaded areas at the rear of our garden. It is easy to propogate and should quickly achieve the effect we hope to create.

Big Weather

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Did you watch the latest offering from Craig Reucassel on the ABC last night? It is ‘Big Weather (and how to survive it) and if you missed it you can watch on iview. Last night was the first episode of a 3-part series.

Watching this was a reminder to check our preparedness for a range of scenarios. Last summer was a wake-up call for me because although I have always considered myself to be reasonably prepared for most situations, bushfires had never really been a consideration. This was due to our location, however, the summer of 2019-2020 changed my perception of that as the affected areas were unprecendented in both location and scale.

For the first time in our lives, GMan and made and articulated a clear bushfire evacuation plan last year. You can read about it here. While bushfire is certainly not the only severe weather risk, it is probably the one most likely to put you in the position of potentially having to make a split second decision to leave.

Emergency planning for severe weather or other events should really fall into 2 categories.

  • Evacuation – this is primarily due to destruction, or potential destruction of property. Examples include bushfire, storm damage or unwanted/unexpected incursion.
  • Self-reliance – total or partial isolation. Possible reasons include pandemic, other illness or weather events which isolate your property from some or all services (flood, fire or storm damage).

There are 3 possible responses when presented with the need for emergency planning.

  • Ignore – simply believing that ‘it will never happen to me’. After the past 12 months, this is a foolish and totally inappropriate response.
  • Inertia – being overwhelmed by the enormity of possible scenarios.
  • Logical action – regardless of how prepared you are or not, starting to take incremental steps to improve your overall preparedness.

Everyone will have different needs and priorities but there are plenty of checklists and hints online. Reading and considering these could be an excellent first step in developing your personalised plan. The Australian Red Cross one looks like a good place to start.

An emergency evacuation plan and kit does not need to be complicated or impact significantly on your day-to-day living arrangements. In fact, the more simple it is, the easier and more likely it is that you are going to be able to implement it effectively if required.

This is ours.

One plastic crate and two sturdy plastic bags. Our household is two able-bodied adults so we could literally grab this and make one trip to the car then leave.

One bag holds the feather doona and the other has a woolen blanket with space to quickly add a spare set of clothes for each of us – long pants, long-sleeved top, socks and closed shoes. The plastic crate includes a box of important documents as well as the list of items to add before leaving and a notebook and pen. The list is the afore-mentioned clothes, medications, toiletries, wallets, car keys, laptop, phones and chargers. A second list is a reminder of extra things we have identified that we would pack if we had some extra warning time (more than 10 minutes).

Do you have a plan? When did you last review it? Is it still fit for purpose?

I am interested to hear your thoughts.

A Man Needs a Shed

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We have lived in this house for almost 15 years. There is plenty of space in the lockup workshop as well as the open space under the house. Off and on over a number of years we have debated the value of a small, freestanding shed for extra storage space.

Since we have some long-term plans for part of the workshop, we decided to bite the bullet about 3 months ago. As with everything during COVID19 there was a delay before it was commenced.

Towards the end of August the slab was laid.

A few days later the shed was assembled and completed. We were about to head off on holidays for 3 weeks so there was no further action for a while.

Once we returned we transferred some of the equipment to be stored in the shed.

The ride-on mower needs a ramp to be able to safely manoeuvre it into the shed. So, we built a ramp.

There are still a couple of finishing touches to do – compacting the pavers and sweeping some fine sand into the joints.