We all have them, those UFOs (unfinished objects) that we like to refer to as WIP (work in progress). Except that they are not, in progress that is. They are sitting in a box (what did I say about storage boxes) or a “craft bag” (aka black hole of UFOs). And they are not making any progress at all.
Be honest. Even though you were really into cross stitch when your eldest was born 25 years ago and made beautiful samplers for every wedding and birth amongst your nearest and dearest, when did you last pick up a piece of aida? Give it away. Now. It is not going to make itself and you are not going to make it either.
I have been culling the UFOs. I love looking at patchwork and I am immensley impressed by the work that people do but I have to be honest, it’s not really my thing. I have kept some stunning quilting squares which I used to make bags and totes (so now you all know what I’m giving everyone for Christmas). But the half finished quilt, which I don’t even particularly like so can’t imagine using even if I did finish it is out. As are two unused tapestry kits.
On the other hand I do like to knit, I just am better at starting than finishing. Well until yesterday! I finally sewed up my granny squares and even the Dancers thought it was beautiful (which really is praise indeed).
This is not a skirt, although I have been wondering whether to try it on. No, when complete it will be felted to within an inch of its life and then will be lined and will be a rather gorgeous tote. I have one already. This is earmarked for a friend.
The rest of the knitting UFOs will be frogged.
So what UFOs do you have lurking in your cupboards and what are you going to do with them?
Back inside again today. Which shows piss poor planning as it is a lovely day and perfect for clearing out the outbuildings; which we opted to do in the cold and rain.
Having taken another carload of books to Amina we had a look at the heaving bookcases in the Gin Gan and started all over again. While I sorted through hundreds of books the Boss started packing up the lots for auction. It was a relief when Mel from the British Heart Foundation rang to arrange to come and pick up his second load. For that means that by Tuesday evening this pile will have gone.
And so will this one.
My father is a bibliophile with a particular interest in wine and racing. Consquently I have a huge collection of books going back to the early fifties, many first editions. My job this weekend is to go through the book pile and decide which are worth going to auction and which are probably not. This was one job I didn’t know how I would cope with. But it was easier than I thought. He gave them to me when he moved permanently to the States, he knows I will not read the full set of the Compleat Imbiber for example. But somebody else will enjoy it as much as he did and it is worth quite a lot of money. The real eye opener was a cookery book “Lady Maclean’s Cook Book” Mine is a pristine first edition. It has been put carefully to one side.
I think we are coming towards the end of the tunnel. It has taken six months to get where we are now and there is still a lot more we can do. But right now I am enjoying the space, the feeling of freedom and the great sense of relief to see so much clutter go out of our doors.
Will I ever go back to my old ways? I think not. I have noticed that as I move around the house I am instinctively picking things and putting them in the charity pile. Thus went a pair of glass candlesticks, some towels, a selection of scarves and a pair of boots without even thinking. Shopping holds little appeal unless it is something I really need or really want. The former is now discussed and depending on severity of need bought now or put on the rolling shopping list. The latter is put on my birthday list. Come my birthday I am fairly sure that I won’t want half the things on there.
Finally, when you remove the clutter from your house and spend hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month packing it up and sending it away you get a pretty good sense of where you went wrong. Things that you bought because you “thought they might be useful”, but never were. Books you bought because they were beautiful but weren’t interesting enough for you to read or use. Clothes that you bought because they were fantastic quality, a bargain, but you never really loved. Knick Knacks collected from junk shops over the years. Oh, and those infernal storage boxes that you kept having to buy to store all of the above 🙂
Now doesn’t that look good?
Nice and simple.
Today we moved outside. We cleared two of the back outbuildings yesterday but they were relatively straightforward. Today we headed into the boiler house and courtyard. This is mostly garden/building/tools/OMG what do we do with this rubbish.
I have to confess that I lost some of yesterday’s enthusiasm as I tried to restore order in and around the greenhouse. It had got so bad that I almost found myself unable to listen to Gardeners’ Question Time on the radio my shame about my own garden was so bad.
Most of the stuff is pure rubbish. There are some new tyres (for a car we no longer own) that are good to go but little else. I didn’t realise it was possible to own as many plastic flower pots. If I were to plant enough seeds to fill Hyde Park and pot them all on individually I would still have some to spare. Half a gate – really? Lots of broom handles without brooms, perhaps Hogwarts would like them for beginners. Assorted tools that look positively lethal and are probably banned in most civilised and possibly even uncivilised countries and the obligatory paint pots. Half empty, colours we no longer have on our walls and impossible to open anyway.
In a way this is easier than inside purely because most of it is pure junk. There is little need to wonder if something is worth keeping “just in case”, for even the most agile lateral thinker would have a hard job finding something that most of the stuff could be practically used for.
So here are the pictures.
Work in progress
You can see the finished product tomorrow. We are going back outside now!
… you will fill it.
Today we have started on the outbuildings. While the Boss emptied plastic storage containers of stuff we didn’t need I filled them with books to take to Borderline Books. I have no intention of taking them home again but I think Amira can actually put them to good use.
While the boxes were at our house we used them. We put things in them and then put them away out of sight. Quite, out of sight and never used or seen again. I am not suggesting that you empty your house of every storage unit. Most people need a wardrobe, a bookcase, somewhere to keep their knitting/fishing tackle/whatever rocks your boat. Nobody needs boxes of books or clothes or toys that live in the attic or cellar or outbuilding.
photo courtesy of NY Times
Decluttering is not the same as organising. I know. I am a champion organiser. Before I started this journey I would have a regular declutter. I took everything out of a cupboard put some of them into the charity bag and then tidied up everything that was left. Sometimes I got really enthusiastic and devised a new storage system. This was often combined with a trip to IKEA for some funky cool storage boxes. As you can see, what I was doing was reorganising the stuff I already had. The boxes in the outbuildings and the kists full of books were testament to that.
One way to force yourself to declutter is to go around your house (inside and out, outbuildings and attics) and remove 50% of your “storage boxes”. If you haven’t got anywhere to hide the clutter it has to go 🙂
How the mighty are fallen. Operation Purge 2013 went remarkably well. The house has taken on a new lease of life, I am loving my considerably more modest wardrobe and even the Christmas decorations were cut by half and rehomed this year.
But, and there is always a “but”. Not all is quite as it seems. First I have purged more books but haven’t got around to taking them up to Gateshead.
Then there is the “stuff that must go to auction”. There is also the “stuff for charity that has been collected since Christmas” and finally there is the “stuff in the outbuildings”. The latter is the most scary.
Regular nagging by the Singers (who are keen for us to tidy up and move to somewhere that is within a day’s walking distance to a bus stop) was starting to get on my nerves. Hadn’t they noticed quite how much had been done already, didn’t they notice that I did have other jobs other than chief clutter cutter? However, they were right.
So today we:
- Booked a visit from the auction house;
- Booked a skip for the stuff that just can’t go anywhere else;
- Sorted auction and charity to either side of the Gin Gan;
The current charity pile
- Dismantled the broken ping pong table (and no it’s not repairable we have tried several times) and collected all the garden rubbish for a bonfire;
- Emptied COMPLETELY two outbuildings;
- Put a whole load of stuff of Freegle.
It is only 3.00pm, we didn’t start until 11.00 and we stopped for lunch. We are not whirling dervishes, and we had regular tea breaks. See it doesn’t have to take all day, look how much we achieved in just half a day. Granted we had a head start in that for the most part we were just sorting stuff that had already been designated in the out pile, but we had put it off for so long because it seemed too much to face. And it wasn’t
What have you been putting off?
All the decluttering in the world is not going to have any effect if you don’t stop the stuff coming into your life in the first place. We’ve all been there: cleared a cupboard or a room and then six months later it has reverted back to type.
Part of the reason for this blog was to encourage transparency and to make me change my mindset. To think before I bought, to question the actual value of an item. It has worked to a certain extent, I am certainly far more thoughtful about most purchases whether expensive or from the charity shop. In fact charity shops used to be one of my downfalls. Items that I would never have bought new I would happily buy from a charity shop. I’m not saying that I haven’t had some fantastic buys but just because a dress is only £5 I should buy it. If I don’t need it I shouldn’t buy it just because it is cheap and/or good value. It is only good value if I need it. I was going to insert a picture of a dress that came to mind as I wrote that. However, said dress went back to the charity shop in the first purge 🙂
So this year I am recording all my expenditure. Every single last penny. I would like to see whether the expenditure in various areas matches up to the pleasure we got in those areas. Groceries are essential, but at the end of the month if I have spent say £200 on groceries and yet we can’t recall more than a handful of lovely meals then it was not money well spent and we need to work out why. Our time here on earth is limited as are our funds. I intend to make sure I get the best out of both of them.
Today was “hair day” on 40+ Style Challenge. I challenge ANY woman to declare that she has not wasted hours wishing her hair was finer/thicker/longer/curlier/straighter. There is a lot that a good hairdresser and a good cut can do but few of us have a hairdresser at our beck and call. We are the DIY brigade, cut and colour at the salon and otherwise it’s up to us.
For many years I used shampoo. Only shampoo. No conditioner, no fancy hair packs, no serums, no oils, nothing. And my hair was fine. Then in my thirties it became rather listless. I succumbed and bought a conditioner, whooooo silky hair. I was hooked. I had oils, serums, conditioners, leave in conditioner sprays, heat protectors, sun protectors. My hair was better defended than Guantanamo Bay.
But the problem with all that stuff is that it doesn’t half take up a lot of space, and it all comes in plastic bottles etc etc. So I went on a detox.
I haven’t gone “no ‘poo” but I started buying whatever shampoo and conditioner was on special offer. One was pretty awful but the rest have been fine. I still have plastic bottles but I’m working on that. I am going to give solid shampoo a go.
The point is that my hair has not fallen out/gone green/turned to straw. I am old enough to remember beer and vinegar rinses, egg and oil hair packs and the magic of coconut oil. At the end of the day the stuff on the top of my head is dead keratin. I’m going to look after it, but I do not need to waste my money nor clutter my bathroom with a whole load of products.
I am no spring chicken. I am not yet ready to move into elasticated waist slacks (though should I live long enough it may well come and I do not knock them) but there are certain styles that would shriek “mutton” and “lamb” if I were to step out in them
But that does not mean I have to slip into cashmere twinset and pearls (on the other hand I LOVE cashmere and pearls I just need to rock them with something a little edgier like a leather jacket to avoid looking like my grandmother).
Consequently I signed up to 40plusstyle and the new year challenge. Each day you are given an assignment and are encouraged to develop a pinterest and polyvore board of your fashion choices and inspiration. Having just done a full wardrobe inventory and started recording what I was wearing each day I thought this might be a good way to help me use everything in my wardrobe and accept those things that just don’t cut the mustard.
Today was footwear day. Make a list of all your shoes/boots (done that). Take one outfit and change it completely by just changing the footwear, now that was fun. Then I spent some time going through my favourite shoe shops and pinning the shoes and boots I liked. I then compared them to what I actually own.
BIG mismatch. Okay, not disasterous, but there are far too many mummsy shoes in there and surprise surprise, I don’t wear them. I have five pairs of black suede court shoes from low to eiffel tower size heels. FIVE? I love biker boots but don’t own any. I hardly ever wear brown shoes and have 7 pairs.
As part of the learning process I am not going to purge any until I get back from Australia. That gives me three months to give some of those shoes a chance. It is easy to just put on the black loafers I took off last night and just about go with everything. Then, it’s cut the mustard time.
The wardrobe is usually the first place I go when I feel the urge to declutter, yet this past year has shown me that either I was a rubbish declutterer or my wardrobe was of colossal proportions. I suspect there is truth in both. So last year I gutted my wardrobe, my scarves, my jumpers, my shirts, my shoes, my jewellery, I gutted everything. Bags and bags went the charity shops, my daughters picked a few items but the house must have sighed with relief from the excess weight it had been carrying.
Then a couple of days ago I came across this blog, Recovering Shopaholic. Debbie did a full analysis of what she wore, bought or dispatched over a year. I knew that was what I needed to do, but first I had to make an inventory of everything I owned. Good Grief! Even after the Massive Purge of 2013, the inventory is not short. But it has been an interesting process. I have learned several things.
- I have very few pairs of trousers, which is good as a rarely wear them.
- On the other hand the few I have are almost all linen. No winter trousers.
- I have far too many jackets. My lifestyle has changed and I rarely need smart jackets anymore but as they still fit, look good and I like them I haven’t purged them. I should.
- I have only a handful of shirts, but lots of tunics, jersey tops etc. That seems to match my lifestyle.
- I have FAR FAR too many scarves. I gutted them on the spot.
- I love cashmere!
- I do not need 4 pairs of black suede court shoes
- I still have plenty of high heels. I almost never wear high heels.
- I have six black hats, but only ever wear one of them.
As you can see I still have quite a long way to go. It wasn’t until I wrote down every single item in my wardrobe that I could see where I needed to put the work in. I thought I had done quite well, and I had, but some areas (notably jackets) I thought I was doing the right thing because individually they ticked all the boxes (a) Fit me – yes; (b) I like them – yes; (c) in good condition – yes. But collectively they were a disaster.
Following Debbie’s advice I am now keeping a record of everything I wear. Now I have my inventory I can see at a glance what I have without having to open the wardrobe door. There is no excuse for me to say “oh I forgot I had that” and convince myself that is why I didn’t wear it. By the end of each month I will be able to see at a glance which items I love, and which I am avoiding.
This morning I planned to wear a cream cashmere crew neck that I had “forgotten” I put it on and ripped it off immediately, I looked like a raw sausage, that was the reason I hadn’t worn it in ages. So why was I giving it houseroom?
Update on my progress in February. In the meantime I also took Debbie’s advice to join the 40+ style challenge. You can find it here And this is my 10 piece capsule wardrobe. I had to take the actual items from Polyvore. But they are all similar to ones in my wardrobe. Seven outfits, 10 items including shoes and bag. It can be done 🙂
Time for a break. It’s the weekend, it’s cold and wet (well here anyway). I’m feeling not so much, “let’s get up and go” as “let’s stay by the fire and so something crafty, or read a book or just sleep, nodding off to the gentle rhythm of the snore of the newfie”.
Since the snore of the newfie would wake the undead let alone the dead, I went for one of the other options. I have a bit of a thing for cashmere. Once you have been enveloped in the delicious waftyness and snugglyness that is pure cashmere, pure 100% new wool is like wearing barbed wire.
Unfortunately I do not have the wallet that can run to cashmere on a daily basis so I stalk sales, and ebay, jumble sales and markets, charity shops and my mother’s wardrobe…. Once in my possession said cashmere is loved and cherished right up until the day it finally dies. Whereupon I bung it in a boil wash with some jeans and felt it.
I have made felted cashmere cushion covers, cuddly toys, wrist warmers, ear warmers, slippers, bags, Christmas decorations. But until today I had never made a bed. Well a cat bed.
Take one elderly, moth eaten cashmere cardigan. Boil it. Add one tapestry needle and some knitting wool.
- Lie the cardigan flat out on a table button side down (obviously if you are using a jumper you can lie it any way up you like).
- Sew the sleeve edge to the body edge to about half way down the sleeve. I used blanket stitch.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Fold up the bottom of the cardigan and lay the loose ends of the cardigan arms over the folded portion. Make sure the cuff edges overlap.
- Sew the top edge of the sleeve to the top edge of the folded up cardigan edge (again I used blanket stitch).
- Lay the cardigan out flat again and sew (I used running stitch but you could use backstitch if you wanted it to be firmer) an arc from armpit to armpit. You have now created a channel all around the edge of your bed.
- Close the neck opening.
- Stuff the channel. I used the contents of a number of horrible cushions, but you could use cut up rags, old clothes and dusters. You will have to wriggle the stuffing around a bit to get the right balance.
- Ta da! One cat bed.
If you have a small enough dog you could use it for a dog bed, but I think the newfie would require a jumper from the Jolly Green Giant 🙂