clean sweep

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I started this blog in order to be transparent about our decluttering journey.  That was six years ago.  We have a lot less unnecessary stuff now than we did then and are quite a lot better about what we let across our threshold in the first place.  But one area where I have always had a problem is my studio.

It doesn’t usually look like this!  This is the “I have pulled everything out and now need to sort it” photo.  Which is the method that works best for me – get it out, sort it.  I know it doesn’t work for everyone but each to their own and if I had to give advice I would counsel choosing one area (a room, a cupboard, a drawer – the size doesn’t matter) and emptying it all out.  It does look a mess, it may seem insurmountable, but seeing it all in one place both shocks you into action and, strange as it may seem, is easier and quicker to address than pulling out items one by one and considering them individually.  You can make sweeping sorting decisions and then tackle each pile in more detail.  Also when you see it all in one place it is easier to spot multiple duplicates and far easier to let go of the ones you don’t need.

But back to craft rooms/studios/cupboards.  For me this is always an area of rapid accumulation because I can always justify keeping fabric oddments, clothes that are past repairing but the fabric is gorgeous, yarn ends etc. because I may be able to use them in a project later and hey I am upcycling/reusing so that’s good isn’t it?  No it isn’t because nine times out of ten those oddments never do get used by me.  They (a) take up space  and (b) could be taken by somebody who actually will use them.

Taking up space: my kist was full of fabric and yarn.  Not only was it a nightmare trying to find something I knew was in there, half the time I didn’t know what was in there.  I found both distressing and stressful and made me feel terribly guilty.

Somebody else will use them:  I hope that the people who did take them (via Freegle) will use the yarn and fabric and it won’t just fill up one of their cupboards, but I can’t police that.  I hope that somebody gets some pleasure out of them, I hope that they find a new life and new use and are appreciated.

A couple of samples of the oddments that went to new homes.

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Everything from cashmere to acrylic.  Including several balls from the same dye batch.

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Hi-Vis to Harris Tweed.

My kist is now half as full.  I know what is in there and am shocked by how much yarn I have accumulated and didn’t really know about because it was buried under bags of stuff .  I went to a wonderful wool festival last weekend and had a fabulous time admiring the indie dyed yarn and batts.  I attended two extremely good workshops and had a fun time with friends at the evening event, but I bought nothing.  I have started to allocate my yarn stash to specific projects and not only do I not need any  more yarn, actually I don’t want any.  I want to use and appreciate what I have first.

My studio now

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Finally fired up by success in my studio I spent a day whizzing around the house and removing the stuff that had been in my eyeline for departure for far too long.  My friend’s charity is very pleased to have received all this, and my house is breathing a little more easily now.

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Love Gillie x

 

 

vital mending

I have a couple of free days, days where all I actually HAVE to do are the usual minutiae of life, no appointments, no deadlines.  Perfect for spinning or knitting.

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Only it’s not.  It’s too hot to be playing with wool, and I am not knitting with this on my lap.

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I’m not complaining about the weather (well I was when I was stuck in my daughter’s car for over an hour, no idea how to get home,  with no air con, no map (who doesn’t have a map in their car) and no phone charger, so no google maps either).  I was complaining about a lot then.

I have been doing a spot of decluttering over the past week (stay with me, there is a sequitur).  Finally, those irritating things around the house have tipped me over the edge and they are all allocated to new homes (divided between the local Clothing bank and a friend who runs charity sales every week – she ought to be on the route to canonisation if you are reading this up there!)   Even our old fridge (working but surplus to requirements), a duvet, some linen and a memory foam mattress went somewhere where they will be appreciated rather than snarled at as we pass by.

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Yesterday I decided it was time to face my studio, which is rather overstocked.  Part of the overstock is the pile of mending that has been waiting patiently for attention.  Top of the pile is a dress I made out of two dresses that no longer fitted.  It’s a summer dress, it’s cool (as in temperature, I wouldn’t dream of aspiring to social or fashion coolness) and perfect for the railway track melting temperatures we are currently experiencing.  Well it would be if I mended it.  So I did.

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Then I hemmed a pair of trousers, sewed on quite a lot of buttons, ran up a few seams and done!  I love the colours.  Now I have to wash and iron it all.

 

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I, like many of my generation, was fortunate enough to have been brought up in a family where mending was the norm.  There were times when my mother’s frugal ways mortified the arrogant youth in me.  Grating up soap heels to make new bars was something I don’t believe any of my friends did on a Saturday afternoon.  But guess what I still do it.

I’m not banging a new drum in saying that we have become a throwaway society, but we have done it at remarkable speed.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could become a mending society just as quickly.  Actually, it wouldn’t just be lovely …. it’s vital.

Love Gillie x

making room

I love the period between Christmas and New Year.  I am fortunate enough to be able to spend that week gently chilling at home.  After the hustle and bustle of the preparations for the festive season I enjoy the sameness about each day and forgetting which day of the week it is.  Many years ago when the girls were still at home we had a huge blackboard (about 3 x 2 ft) in the kitchen upon which we wrote shopping lists, messages etc.  After I we had eaten Christmas lunch I would ceremoniously wipe the board clean and write in capital letters “MUMMY’S DAY OFF – FOOD IN THE FRIDGE!”

I don’t need to put the message out quite so clearly now, but the message is the same.  For the next day or so meals are assemblies of existing preparations, Mummy is going to knit/read/walk/watch old movies.  Because I am more still, there is less running around, I have time to have a closer look at my surroundings and notice how they have changed over the year.  What has gone, but more often, what has crept in.  Time for a whizz round.  Not a deep declutter of the kind that takes a couple of weeks at least, but a focus on one or two areas where accumulation has taken on epic proportions.

A few years ago whilst I was visiting my father in the States the girls and the Boss arranged for some beautiful waxed pitch pine shelves and bookcases to be built in the the sitting room as a Mothering Sunday present.  Because of the weird shape and history of our house (the original dates back to the 13th Century and bits have been added on all over the place over the years) we have a lot of doors and a lack of window sills and wall space for shelves.  For the first time ever I was able to display some of my precious carvings, silverware and photographs.  Books could come out of the dark and DVDs and CDs no longer made tall skyscraper skylines behind sofas and chairs.

However, as we all know, stuff expands to fill an empty space and as I was curled up with my knitting last night I knew that the DVDs and books in one corner of the sitting room just had to be cleared.

Two bin bags later it looks like this.  Not exactly minimalist (there was some discussion over some of the DVDs – they are now on a secret watch list and may yet have only a short time left in the house!), but there is now order and some space.

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Why not give a small corner a quick makeover, you won’t believe how much better it makes you feel.

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If you are struggling to decide what should stay and what should go, then turn to William Morris, he always has the answer;

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Love Gillie x

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