Maintenance Mode & Mundane

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If my first few posts of 2022 were anything to go by, you would think there was always some huge activity going on here every day. I am sorry to disappoint you but that is not the case.

Yesterday included a routine doctor’s appointment, changing the sheets on our bed and a couple of loads of washing as well as cutting up some pruning I had done a few days prior so that it will break down more quickly in the compost.

This morning I decluttered some emails as well as the cane basket which sits on the kitchen bench next to the phone. It is our ‘dumping spot’ and occasionally needs a review and overhaul. The contents include a notebook, pen, pending correspondence etc.

I also shredded a small quantity of paper. We choose to handle all of our paper and cardboard at home rather than putting it in the recycle bin. The shredded paper goes in the nesting boxes for the chickens. Some lightweight cardboard is shredded for addition to the compost while the heavier cardboard becomes a weed suppressant to go under mulched areas in the garden.

The administrative maintenance – emails, shredding, notes and correspondence – done regularly means that I never need to have a huge declutter of these things.

Finally, we went shopping to top up our grocery and fruit and vegetable supplies.

Hidden and Forgotten

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My recent clean-out of the linen cupboard resulted in a few things that did not make the cut to go back in. There were various reasons for this and one item was simply because it had been pushed to the back of the cupboard and forgotten.

It is a 100% handwoven cotton rug. I inherited this when it came with a free chair I picked up from Gumtree some years ago. The rug was quite grubby but it washed up well, albeit with what looks like a couple of small rust stains. Anyway, it has been lurking in the cupboard with no particular purpose.

I realised it would make a great picnic rug and we could keep it in the car with the picnic set. It just needed a bag.

I have several cotton drawstring bags which sets of sheets came in and I decided that sewing 2 of them together would make a perfect carry bag for my newly-purposed picnic rug.

Ready to go in the car.

A Fresh Approach

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Tidying up the linen cupboard has been on my mental ‘to do’ list for a few weeks so the first day of a new year seemed like a good time to tackle it.

While it may not look too bad in the scheme of things, I was not happy with how things were grouped. I have assimilated several pieces that belonged to my mother as well. The various boxes and baskets were my first step in the process which was done a couple of months ago and that had certainly made a difference.

I pulled everything out, critically assessed each piece and repositioned a couple of shelves to make better use of the space.

I am rehoming a couple of items but most of it did go back. I tried to keep bedroom, bathroom and kitchen items grouped together as much as possible.

Top shelf: gym towels and beach towels

2nd shelf: Bathroom – towels, handtowels, facewashers and bathmats

3rd shelf: Bedroom – sheets and pillowcases

4th shelf: Kitchen – teatowels, handtowels, aprons and serviettes

5th shelf: Doona covers and tablecloths

The tub at the bottom now contains extra towels and facewashers that are not currently in use as well as an assortment of doilies, tablemats and odds and ends that I am not quite ready to let go of yet.

I have used some of Marie Kondo’s methods re standing items up. I find it works for me in some instances.

Buy Nothing November – An Update

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It is nearly 2 weeks since I first posted about Buy Nothing November. You can read the first instalment here.

Since then we have bought 2 more physical items which have come into our home. The first is a rat trap which fairly self-explanatory and does not need a photo.

The second item is a timber storage box. I had been perusing secondhand sites for a few weeks as I was looking for a seat for my mini-mudroom. That is probably too grand a description as it is actually a corner of the workshop near the entrance to the house via the internal staircase. Anyway, I turned my attention from benches to storage boxes and found this timber box in a neighbouring town for $50. The storage space which a box affords is an added bonus to the original purpose of providing seating.

I will provide a final update at the end of the month.

Buy Nothing November

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As per the title, it is Buy Nothing November. Have you heard of it? It is the pushback against the mega-retailing phenomenon known as Black Friday.

Black Friday (the day following Thanksgiving in the United States) sales started to become popularised as a day for retail sales in the 1980s. This insidious spread of rampant consumerism has now spread its tentacles to the UK and Australia as well as other places of which I am unware. Of course, online retailing has jumped on the bandwagon in a huge way, too.

I found out about Buy Nothing November via The Story of Stuff on Facebook. Their actual post is copied below.

The Story of Stuff Project 

Welcome to #BuyNothingNovember! For years, the Story of Stuff Project has been actively promoting Buy Nothing Day, the alternative to Black Friday. But the holiday season, in general, has an outsized impact on the planet, so this year we’re expanding the call-to-action for the entire month of November. Throughout this month, we will be sharing facts and figures about the link between consumerism and climate change, and the ecological crisis at large. Refusing to buy new, nonessential goods is a direct-action protest against the corporate conglomerates who are destroying our home. Apple, Amazon, Coca-Cola — these companies are only allowed to be so large because we give them permission, with our dollar. It’s time we show them who is really in charge here. #BuyNothingNew

We generally keep our buying of stuff to a minimum and are certainly not enticed by the crazy Black Friday sales. I had no prior knowledge of this particular month and we track all of our spending so it is going to be quite easy to see what stuff we actually buy during November.

One third of the month is almost gone so it is probably time to review what stuff we have bought.

I am not including groceries and fuel which are both consumables nor ‘experiences’ such as gym fees, dining out and entrance to entertainment venues.

We have purchased and brought 3 things into our home. They are:

A pump for a 20 litre drum of chemical. It took a bit of research to find where we could source one but we succeeded.

A new lockable door handle for the freshly painted door between the garage and the workshop area.

A small bundle of fabric from the thrift shop. I have already used most of the orange fabric and the remainder will be used up as I continue making Boomerang bags.

I am pretty pleased when I consider how little ‘stuff’ we buy.

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.

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.

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.