whittle down that wardrobe

One of the advantages of going on a lazy holiday just the two of you is that there is no urgency to keep anybody else happy or occupied, you can potter around at your own pace, you can visit the places you want to and stop for lunch whenever you want for as long as you want.  The other advantage is that you have time.  I have almost finished knitting a pair of socks, have had read  several books and have caught up on all those blogs I follow but often don’t get around to reading.

At this time of year (with apologies to my readers from the Southern Hemisphere) it would seem that the minds of many turn around to where and how to store their summer clothing and bedding.  This is a concept with which I have some trouble getting my head around.  Granted, I do wear more jumpers and scarves in the winter, I give up bare legs and wear woolly tights.  But I don’t have a separate summer wardrobe, I just wear more layers in the winter.  As for our bed.  We have one duvet, I’ve no idea of the tog value, it’s feather and down and if I am too hot I toss it off and if I am too cold I wear pyjamas and put a couple of blankets over the top.

Why on earth do we need separate wardrobes and separate bedding?  What shocked me even more was that many of the earnest discussions about the best way to store said belongings were on websites and groups dedicated to minimalist/low impact living.  Surely the essence of low impact living is to ensure that your belongings are multipurpose?

There are a few items that only see the light of day in summer or winter.  Bikinis, woolly hats, woollen long-johns.  I am struggling to think of any others, my standard summer footwear (Birkenstocks) become my winter indoor slippers worn with lovely thick hand knitted socks.  Those handful of season restricted items hardly need a drawer of their own let alone a purposed wardrobe or cupboard.

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So today I am still on holiday in the south of France.  It is warm but not excessively so.  I am wearing my birkies, navy leggings and a long floral shirt.    If I were at home in the north of England where I am reliably informed by friends it is somewhat cooler!  I would maybe wear a tee-shirt under my shirt, a cardigan or jumper on top and put on socks and shoes when going outside.  Likewise I have linen dresses that I wear in the summer and then in the winter layer up with tee-shirts and jumpers.

I do have some woollen skirts, dresses and trousers, but surprisingly few for somebody who lives in the apparently frozen north!

Before you start dividing up your wardrobe into Summer and Winter and thus consigning your clothes to be worn for only 6 months of the year, take another look.  If you are looking to downsize your wardrobe start looking at ways to wear most, if not necessarily all, your clothes all year around.  You can wear linen trousers in winter if you want, you just need a pair or tights or long johns underneath!

It also  makes packing for travelling a whole lot easier too if you can make your wardrobe work for two seasons instead of just one.

Love Gillie x

the upcycling cycle

I love social media, to be specific Facebook.  I quite like twitter and Whatsapp is great for group conversations but if I want to waste an hour without noticing then Facebook is the place for me.  I follow news outlets, political parties, craft groups and an upcycling group.

Upcycling- the new shopping.  Don’t buy something new, don’t throw away something old, upcycle it into something totally different.  It  ticks all the boxes for the eco-friendly.  You can create new, useful and beautiful objects from stuff that would otherwise go in o landfill, and at the same time you are not buying new and unnecessary stuff that will probably end up in landfill in a few years time anyway.  Perfect.

Or is it?  There are two types of upcycling projects.  The one where you find something lurking around the house and instead of chucking it out a light bulb goes off in your head and you say “wow this cracked decanter that hasn’t seen a bottle of wine in decades would make a perfect lampstand”.  Using my highly accurate survey methods (i.e. asking around, looking on social media and following a huge range of upcycling blogs etc) about 80% of potential crystal lampshades will remain as cracked decanters; 10% will get part way there and will metamorphose into decanterlamps that are missing vital parts and will never make the full transformation; 5% will be transformed but never switched on and will remain in the workroom/shed and a lucky 5% will shine bright on the table shaming every failed upcycler who comes into the room.

The second type of project is that created by the pro-active seeker upcycler.  This character scours markets, auction houses, freegle, swap and sale groups and second-hand  and charity shops actively looking for potential projects.  No three-legged chair is without potential and nirvana is a pile of pristine, unwanted pallets.  It is also not unheard of to purchase new (“what?!”) items purely in order to turn them into something else.  I will confess to  having fallen into that category.  Why buy something already made, when I can buy the constituent parts and make it myself.  We are not talking saving hundreds or even tens of pounds.  I suspect my rather lovely cake tin stand would have cost as much to purchase ready made as it did for me to make it (but it wouldn’t have wobbled quite as nicely as mine does).

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Returning to my highly tuned research methods I had assumed that these projects would have a higher success rate.  The people who take the the time to seek out the unpolished gem and part with hard earned cash for it are surely not going to let it languish unloved in a shed?  These are people who frequently sell their completed upcycles.  They have a vested financial interest in getting the job done.

Ladies and gentleman, we are all the same.  Whilst there are of course exceptions to every rule (and the standard deviation for my statistics here is probably in the region of +/- 2,500 or thereabouts!) the proactively sought and paid for projects stand just as much chance of making it to that final 5% as granny’s whisky decanter did.

As the build on the Barn and Gin Gan comes nearer to completion we have to move even more stuff out and rehouse it in our now smaller home.   The picture frame that I was going to turn into a gilt mirror, the china kept for mosaic work.  How long have I had them?  Have they magically transformed themselves in my absence?  Reader, they have gone.  Perhaps somebody else would like to house them in the vain hope that they might one day make a mosaic effect mirror?

the martyr method

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I have new glasses, actually the prescription is exactly the same but I have new frames.  I think they are rather cute.  However, the strange thing is that I am having to look at the work from a new perspective.  These are bright red and my previous ones were tortoiseshell and rather larger.  Consequently not only am I viewing the world with a hint of red around it, but as the lenses are a different size and shape the varifocal element is different.  The angle I need to look to read isn’t the same.  It’s taking a bit of practice.

We also have the builders in (bear with  me there is a sequitur).  With all three daughters at or about to leave for university we don’t need the huge amount of space and with the Boss having recently retired we could do with a little more income.  So we are converting the Barn and Gin Gan into a three bedroom house to let.  The builders (the boys) are brilliant, we have known them for over 20 years and infact did the original renovation of the house.  But they are still builders and they need space cleared to put up partition walls, install bathrooms and build staircases.

The great declutter doesn’t feel like quite so much of a declutter after all!  From the perspective of a large house we had done very well,  from the perspective of one half the size we had only scratched the surface.  Well perhaps we had inflicted some serious wounds here and there, but the rest were relatively superficial.

We have not become profligate shoppers, I still stick, more or less, to the one in one out rule.  However, over the course of a few years and a large house that can absorb a lot of stuff if you are as organised and tidy as I am, we have allowed more in than out.  Had we not decided to downsize I doubt we would have noticed for considerably longer and the consequent job of getting back to square one would have been much harder.

Initially we worked the same way we had previously: sorting through in and out (I don’t do maybe, maybe always comes back in again).  Then one day in a fit of pique I cleared out cupboards and shelves until it looked as if Phillipe Starck had popped over for the afternoon.  For two days my husband tried to persuade me to look again at the enormous pile of boxes on the kitchen floor.  The poor dog couldn’t even get to her bed.  I stood firm.  I was going to rid the house of the detritus we had collected, books we would never read again, ornaments that just collected dust.  Hats that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (the kitchen door).

Gradually I noticed a couple of things had been returned.  A carving of a fish, a rather beautiful and simple pair of glass and silver candlesticks and I realised that whilst I had thought I was doing what was wanted of me (to get rid of the unnecessary stuff that we had no room or need for in our smaller house) I was actually giving away things that broke the Pre-Raphaelite rule I try to follow.  “Keep only what you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  The Boss found the fish carving and candlesticks beautiful (and the latter useful as well) and if truth be told, so did I.

I dismounted from my high horse and slowly started to go through the mountain of bags and boxes.  Quite a lot has been returned, but as you can see a significant amount is still to be collected by the British Heart Foundation on Wednesday.

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So three lessons learned:

  1. Share the work.  First time around, even though we got rid of five or six vanloads of stuff, even before the furniture, and even though I did most of the initial sorting on my own the Boss always had a chance to rescue something he felt had been misappropriated to the out pile.   This time I had taken that choice away from him.
  2. Don’t declutter when you are angry or tearful.  The martyr syndrome is easy to fall into and you may make extreme decisions you later regret.
  3. On the other hand a scorched earth policy can work if you are prepared to increase your physical workload.  When we went through the boxes it was much easier to say out to something that I had already consigned to the out pile, so whilst quite a few things returned home, I suspect there were far less than there would have been had I taken my traditional approach.  However, it did mean I had to drag them all back to their original places again!

Love Gillie x

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cake tins and pin cushions

We are downsizing and blocking off the Barn and Gin Gan to make a 3 bedroom house to let.  We have a lot of floorspace that now the girls are growing up and leaving home we don’t really need, and with an old stonebuilt house like ours it costs a small fortune to upkeep and to heat so the extra income will be good too!

However, that means we have to move our decluttering up a notch.  The great post flood declutter of 2013-14 has made the job a whole lot easier, but there is still a lot of crap that needs to go.  Most of it is now going to the charity shops, but in the interest of reuse before recycle I found a little gem in the Reloved magazine this month by designer Kate Beavis.  I have added her link to the list on the right.

Ta Dah!

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I had a set of unused cake tins which with a combination of

  • 500mm x 10mm threaded rod
  • copper piping
  • 8 nuts
  • 8 large washers

I created a vertical desk tidy which I now used to keep essential sewing bits (scissors, chalk, pens, pin cushion etc.) bits and bobs related to work in progress and interesting little things I have found recently but haven’t decided what to do with yet.

The instructions say to use as large a washer as possible to give stability, particularly to the bottom tin.  I think I will replace the washer with a metal plate as it could do with a bit more support than even my large washer.

An afternoon’s work, though I suggest that you do it outside unless you want to drill through the kitchen table!

Love Gillie x

 

Lessons from Dory … just keep swimming

How did you get along with the repurpose challenge?  For the final Friday challenge I repaired a photo frame that had been propped against a wall for eons and my knitting bowl that had a disagreement with the floor!  Not sure if it counted but I podded a bowlful of mangetout that had been allowed to grow on.  The peas are not great, a bit to marrow-fat for my liking but they made delicious soup and far better than putting them in the compost.  The chooks enjoyed burrowing for the handful I thew on the grass as well.

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This week has been Olympic week.  Especially exciting as we watched Duncan Scott who we have known since he was a wee tot win Silver medal in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay and set a new British record in the 100m freestyle.  The final for the latter is at 3.00 am UK time on Friday morning if you want to cheer him on!

 

Duncan Scott

L-R: James Guy, Duncan Scott, Dan Wallace, Stephen Milne (courtesy of Ian MacNicol)

Watching the Olympics it is easy to get caught up in the razzmatazz and excitement and forget about the all the hard work that goes into just getting there in the first place.  Duncan announced he wanted to swim in the Olympics when he was nine, that’s ten years of early starts, homework in the back of the car on the way to evening training.  Ten years of driving across the country to swim in qualifying heats.  Ten years of physical hard slog.  Furthermore it’s not just Duncan that had to make sacrifices, who do you think drove Duncan across the country, sacrificed family holidays for training and so on?  Then there are the sports clubs, the ones that train our Olympians.  They don’t run themselves, someone has to be official timer, keep the books, fundraise, all volunteers.  There is much more going on behind the scenes than we ever see on the screen.

So when you look at your plastic bags, or the recycling that didn’t make it to the recycling box; when you buy a takeaway because you are just too tired and too hungry to cook; when you look at all the stuff you have accumulated and wonder how on earth it got there, don’t worry, don’t give up.   It took ten years for Duncan to become an Olympian and he worked at it seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Nobody expects you to downsize, declutter, go plastic free, live off grid (delete as appropriate 🙂 ) seven days a week, 365 days a year.  You have other responsibilities, needs, goals, ideals to fit in as well.

Do what you can, maybe up the ante every now and then and nudge yourself on.  But don’t beat yourself up and give up because you haven’t achieved it all in a year.  Watch the Olympics and remind yourself that nothing is quite as easy as it may look and congratulate yourself on getting as far as you have already.

Love Gillie x

Repurpose challenge day three and four

Apologies for lack of post yesterday.  I hadn’t chickened out of the challenge, but I did get a call to ask if I was going to be at stitching.  Now faced with a day writing or a day knitting and chatting with friends I went to stitching instead.  This is the current (well one of several) work in progress.  I am a bit of a sucker for shaded yarn and this came from a gorgeous little yarn shop in Constanta in Romania.

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Back to business.  Yesterday’s challenge was to repurpose something from your recycling bin.  I hadn’t thought ahead here as Wednesday in bin day and my recycling bin was completely empty.  So this is a refresher course.  I have searched high and low for my photos and I was sure I had done a blog post on seed trays from cartons but they appear to have disappeared into the ether.  So as I have no seeds on the go at the moment you will have to do without pictures.  But it is very straightforward.

First take your fruit juice carton and lie it on its side with the pouring end towards you and the spout/hole on the right hand side.  Carefully cut out the side that is uppermost.  Bingo a small seed tray that stacks neatly on a greenhouse shelf or window sill and if you don’t need to reuse it, tear it up or shred it and pop it in the compost.

Another gardening repurpose is the plastic milk carton and tah dah!  The Hanging gardens of Brancepeth.

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Today’s challenge is something from the black hole.  My black hole is quite small now.  It is the kitchen basket and in theory is emptied once a week, well give or take!.

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And today I found these inside it.

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  1. Redeemed iTunes card.  This is now in the back of my wallet as my emergency de-icer.  It works very well, I always have it on me.  The last one I used was my co-op membership card but eventually the card disintegrated.  But it doesn’t matter if this one does.
  2. A bamboo skewer.  I have three daughters.  We all have long hair and my hair bobbles/pins etc. migrate into their rooms with startling regularity.  In the summer I prefer to have my hair up but often have to dig around to find who borrowed what.  I have just pinned my hair up with this.  As it is slightly bendy it is easy to weave in and out of the bun to hold it up.
  3. Old dog tag ring.  Now this was hard.  Until I looked up and noticed that my orchid needed some support.

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So what have you repurposed this week?

 

Love Gillie x

Repurpose before you Recycle

Thank you for all the lovely comments both here and on  my FB page.  It is good to hear from so many people who want to ditch plastic and other single use items.  So in the spirit of reusing before recycling I have a challenge for you this week.  A repurpose challenge.

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This morning I lost an old stained bamboo tee-shirt and acquired some dusters.  Very easy.  I cut up the tee-shirt and have a nice new set of lovely soft bamboo dusters.  The tee shirt wasn’t fit for charity but it wasn’t yet ready for composting.  Win win.

So my challenge for you this week, and I’ll try to do it too and let you know how I get on:

Monday:  Repurpose something you used to wear.  It could be clothing, jewellery, a scarf or a hair accessory, anything you used to wear.

Tuesday:  Repurpose something you made.  It could be last night’s leftovers or a three piece suit!  Please do not repurpose your children however irritating they are!

Wednesday: Repurpose something you have put out for recycling.  A plastic bottle, a jar, some envelopes.  Get creative in your recycling bin.

Thursday:  Repurpose something from your black hole.  We all have them, the place where we put things we don’t know what to do with but can’t quite bring ourselves to get rid of.  Some are as big as a garage or outbuilding.  Some are as small as a kitchen drawer.  You know yours, now go release something from it.

Friday:  Repurpose something that is broken.  If you can’t repair it can you turn it into something else

You get the weekend off!

Love Gillie