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.

A Lucky Find

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This morning we went out to do a couple of errands including picking up a few items from a nearby fruit and vegetable stall. Occasionally, there are boxes of cheap produce so it is worth keeping an eye out for a bargain.

Today I stumbled upon an amazing bargain. A box of passionfruit for FREE!! A quick look revealed that almost all of them had soft or rotten patches on them but I thought it might be worth seeing what I could salvage. I asked about whether I could have the whole box and my enquiry was greeted wholeheartedly. Here they are when we arrived home.

It was clear that I would need to process them straight away to prevent any further deterioration.

I simply cut them and salvaged the pulp from those that were OK. A small number were completely unusable.

The final haul was 2.5 litres of passionfruit pulp which is now in the freezer.

The trick is to be able to deal with bargains like this as soon as possible.

The Finishing Touch

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A quick post to let you know I am still here.

Today I bought a stainless steel hanger suitable for socks and underwear. This is it here.

It is the final piece of the latest laundry project which you can read about here.

The hanging rail is above the laundry sink as well as the bench so this will be perfect for hanging wet washing and allowing any excess water to drip into the sink.

Yes, I will need to stand on a step to reach but that is not too much of a problem as we have a 2-step ladder in the cupboard on the opposite wall of the laundry.

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.