Plastic detox

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I have been following Plastic Free July for several years now and have learned a lot and managed to cut our use of plastic considerably.  However, it’s not just about refusing plastic bags and using glass or stainless steel for food storage.  The real problem is the hidden plastic.  The plastic you can’t see and don’t expect.

When you buy food at the deli counter in the supermarket you may have noticed that some shops (eg. Sainsburys) no longer wrap your ham in a plastic bag but a paper one.  You duly put said bag in the recycling bin.  But is it paper?  No it’s not, it is “mixed  materials not currently recyclable”  The inside will be single use (i.e. non-recyclable plastic).

What about those teabags that you confidently put in the compost? If you buy organic teabags the chances are that they are 100% paper and are safe to put in your compost.  However most teabags contain polypropylene which is not biodegradable.  Which Magazine contacted major teabag producers to ask the polypropylene content of their bags.  These are some of the results:

Twinings: 0% polypropylene YIPPEE
Sainsburys Taste the Difference English Breakfast tea (Fairtrade):  1% Not bad
Morrisons: English Breakfast tea has 10% Could do better
PG Tips tea bags have 20%: YUK!
Yorkshire tea bags have 25%: YIKES!

If you are stuck on bags rather than loose tea then try to use those with the lowest polyproylene content and tear them before adding to the compost.

Most of us know that microbeads are not good.  They are clogging up the oceans and killing wildlife.  There are plenty of alternatives for scrubs.  Homemade using salt/sugar and oil, or scrubs from reputable organic companies such as Dr Organic from Holland and Barratt.  But what about the hidden plastics in cosemetics you didn’t know about?

A research paper published by the UN last year found a worrying level of hidden plastic in a huge range of cosmetic products  (UNEP report ‘Plastic in Cosmetics’, 2015)

“Microbeads and other plastic ingredients are present in products ranging from toothpaste and shower gel to eye shadows and nail polish. Their proportions vary in different products, from less than 1 per cent to more than 90 per cent of the content. In a typical shower gel analyzed in laboratory, there was roughly as much plastic material in the gel itself as in its packaging.”

You can download an app created by Beat the Microbead to check the microplastic content of a product before you purchase and look for the Look for Zero logo below to show that the product is 100% plastic free.

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I mentioned the cardboard take away coffee cups yesterday.  Have you ever tried to pour hot water into a cardboard box!  There has to be something on the inside of the those cups to ensure that you don’t end up with a hot soggy pile of cardboard in your hands as you walk through the park.  Most of the time it’s polyethylene and renders the cups unrecyclable.

Likewise those cardboard juice containers, many tinned foods, some cigarette filters, till receipts, labels on everything from groceries to clothes.  All contain plastic.

When I first started using my own shopping bags and refusing to put loose fruit and veg in a plastic bag but brought my own reused paper bags I got a lot of very funny looks.  Now refusing a plastic bag is second nature.  The way we win the war against plastic is to refuse it.  Not just the plastic you can see, but educate  yourself about that which  you can’t.

Love Gillie x

 

it’s done

Sorry for the delay in posting the update.  I promise I did clear up in the time allocated but I have had massive problems with the internet and uploading photographs was not an option.  I think BT has decided to declutter my broadband 😉

So here we are, the upstairs study

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And the Barn

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We are slowly moving stuff that we need to keep for the new building out into the outbuildings.  Meanwhile The Boss is sourcing building materials and wood, a lot of wood so it is a good job we cleared the outbuildings last year!

Love Gillie x

 

honesty and transparency

I started this blog in order to be transparent about our decluttering journey.  It has grown to become a blog about living, or rather attempting to live a life with a smaller carbon footprint; to use what we have before we buy more; to repurpose; to make, grow and forage and to live in general with less.

Today is an honesty day, a transparent day.  We are planning building works to divide our house into two and we have been redecorating the half we will remain in.  Consequently we have had to move stuff, put stuff aside for donating/selling.  And this is what I am faced with today.IMG_2622

 

Not a pretty sight is it?

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The barn has been the dumping ground for the main house and the mezzanine has been the dumping ground for the study.

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So all you readers who think that I have a perfectly ordered and decluttered house.  I don’t.  I have a house that is a work in progress.  The redecoration is finished so there is no excuse for this mess.  The builders haven’t started yet and cannot until I empty the barn side of the house over absolutely everything including furniture.  Some will have to be stored to go back in when the work is complete but we can’t keep everything so fairly major work will be required there.

Tomorrow I promise photographs of the finished job 🙂

slippery slopes and mugs

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Not so much “how the mighty are fallen” (not least because I have never been mighty), but more “how easy it is to slip into bad habits”.

As we moved further on into our declutter process I managed to stick strictly to one in one out (remember this post ), but gradually I let a few more items in and didn’t get around to shifting out an equivalent number.  Then as that happened more than once or twice I stopped being so strict in the shop.  If you have a one in one out policy you have to (a) really want the new item and (b) know of an item you are prepared to donate in return .  There is no “whoops what fell into my basket” with one in one out shopping.

We were in Morpeth this weekend and as usual we had a wander around the charity shops (excellent by the way).  I bought two pairs of linen trousers.  I came home and as I hung them up I noticed that my small wardrobe was a little bit tight.

Today I went to make a cup of tea and had to tidy the mug shelf before something fell out.

Something had gone wrong.

The clothes issue had not got out of hand and I have caught it in time.  I like to declutter in summer because it’s easier to try on clothes and see if they still fit/I like them etc when I am not wearing enough clothes to keep Nanook of the North warm.  So I have programmed a clear out tomorrow.

The cups are a funny one, because I can’t remember the last time I bought a cup.  However, we are forever being given them.  They don’t match, I don’t particularly like them and they certainly don’t make my heart sing.  So today this lot went to the charity shop and were replaced with 6 of the beauties at the top.  I love them, they are beautiful and they serve their purpose.

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Decluttering is a forever process, because not only do you slide backwards sometimes (clothes) but you are not the only person who brings stuff into your house (mugs).  If you have a hiccough, don’t beat yourself up, just pick yourself up and start again.

Love Gillie

P.S.  Since I posted this the Father Christmas mug has been given a reprieve on the grounds that it was abducted by The Boss and Singer 1.

 

reclaim your garden

Excess photo alert: the sun doesn’t often show his face around here!

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Here in the UK the sun has been out for three whole days.  That is little short of a miracle and in true British fashion, the weather is pretty much the number one topic of conversation.  It is wonderful, I am a summer person, I hate wearing lots of clothes and can’t wait to be in flip flops loose tops and cut off trousers and leggings.  It certainly makes deciding what to wear in the morning much easier when you only need to wear two items!

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Yesterday I took the day off, no work whatsoever.  I lay in the hammock all afternoon and read.  At the perfectly appointed time The Boss came out with a large glass of Pinot Gris.  At this point for fear of wasting the Pinot by inadvertently watering the grass with it I moved to the table and continued to read, sip and listen to the birdsong.

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What has made this year in the garden so wonderfully easy is that we decluttered all the outbuildings two years ago.  We no longer have half a deckchair hanging around just in case.  Boxes of garden toys that the girls have grown out of have gone.  In fact yesterday morning the trampoline frame (the pad had long gone) was picked up by a chap who is going to use it to make a polytunnel (Freegle is wonderful for letting things go to new and better homes).  We now use our hammock and deck chairs, I sit out in the courtyard with a cup of tea, we play ping pong in the meadow.

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Dolly enjoying a doze in the sun.

It is so easy to stuff seasonal things away where you can’t see them out of season, but then come summer (or winter and where are the snow chains?) and the effort of digging through all the rubbish is so depressing that it is easy to be tempted by those special offers and just go out and by some new chairs or ping pong bats.

Remember the Hanging Gardens of Brancepeth?  Now look at them.

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It’s lovely out there, take advantage of that, clear out one bit of one garage/outbuilding/shed.  Reclaim your summer.

Love Gillie x

the maybe box

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Over the years I  have read a lot of decluttering books, blogs, articles.  I have listened to people talking about their own journey and heard people give advice.  Almost every single person, regardless of their methodology, rationale or philosophy advised people to have three piles: In, Out and Maybe.

I have never had a Maybe.

When you are decluttering a drawer or a cupboard you are examining not only physical stuff but also your emotions.  Even if the drawer is in the kitchen there will be an emotion attached to they stuff you are putting through your hands.  The  meals you have cooked with that whisk.  The kind thought behind the gift of spiraliser you have never used.  Examining your emotions is part of the process.  Accept the emotion, accept the memory and unless it meets the pre-Raphaelite code of  “do you believe it to be beautiful or know it to be useful” then let it go.  There is no inbetween.

So why  have a maybe box?  Because you haven’t completed the journey for the item.  You haven’t decided it it is either beautiful or useful and so you put it in the maybe box.  I can guarantee that almost all if not all of that box will never make it out of the door.  The mere fact that it has gone into Maybe is proof that you are  not ready to let it go.  So why pretend?

Furthermore, you come to the end of the declutter that day and feel great because your drawer is now clear, neat and ordered.  There are things that have been thrown away and some put in a bag to go to charity (tomorrow not sometime next week….!)  and then there is that Maybe box.  You have to find somewhere to put the maybe box, probably somewhere you can’t see it so you forget about it until the next declutter.

Over the course of the month, things from the Maybe box will work their way back into that drawer and it is no longer neat and ordered but reverts back to its original state.  All that work for so little return.  That wonderful feeling you had when you first decluttered that drawer comes back to haunt you and worse you tell yourself that decluttering clearly doesn’t work, at least not for you.  And you give up.

All because you had a Maybe box.

Be strong, let it go or keep it.  The important thing is to not only make the decision but to know why you have made it, in fact once you have done that the decision is not only easy but becomes a no-brainer.

Love Gillie

 

 

 

free form knitting

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I love knitting and crochet and sewing.  I’m not that brilliant at it but I enjoy it, even if the girls do sometimes raise their eyebrows as I start another tea cosy or cushion cover.  However, the downside is that I have bags and bags of yarn, the bits left over from a project that I can’t bring myself to throw away but are not enough to make anything on their own.

Then I discovered free form knitting.  I took a workshop with Alyson at The Woolly Workshop in free form knitting.  I was going to knit a picture.  This is sunset in Basse Terre Guadeloupe.  Deep red reflected on the sand at the bottom, golden sand, sea, the last strip of pink sunset and the moonlight breaking through dark clouds.

There is no pattern, no right or wrong way, just pick up and drop colours and change stitch to reflect the picture.  Perspective is gained by changing the size of the needles.

I had so much fun I made (another!) cushion cover.IMG_2509

A brilliant and fun way to use up all those little bits of yarn taking up space in your stash.

Love Gillie

settling in

Last year our flock of hens, ducks and geese finally reduced itself to one feral Light Sussex.  As we were planning on moving we decide not to rebuild the flock.  Now we have decided to stay we have some new girls.  Meet Dolly and Polly (Light Sussex), Dotty and Spotty (Speckleds) and Doris and Floris (Copper Black).  IMG_2549

 

They have been in the hen house and run since Saturday to acclimatise them to their new home, but this afternoon I let them out into the orchard.  They were cautious at first, but soon started flapping and playing.  I left them to explore and settle in.

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I am doing much the same thing, exploring and settling in to my home.  We have lived here for over 16 years but all the changes, decluttering, redecorating, new soft furnishings and curtains, new shelves and bookcases have given our home a new direction.  It feels lighter and airier.  I find myself picking up something and moving it to another room, I don’t know why but somehow I feel it will be better there and usually it is.  I have moved pictures around, dyed loose covers.  There are more plants and even the cut flowers seem to be lasting longer!

You don’t have to move house to take time to settle in.  In fact, the longer you have lived somewhere perhaps the more important it is to look at your surroundings as if they are new and take time to settle in and see what you change and why.  We live with stuff for so long that we just assume it has to be there.  Maybe it doesn’t.

Love Gillie

The wanderer returns

So I return.  I wonder have you missed me?  I have been on a long journey since I was last here.  I have started new ventures, tweaked them, published a planner and then taken several months out to consider where I want to go and how I want to get there.

In essence I have been decluttering me and my life rather than my house and it has been a very revealing process.  I read recently in a book by Karen Maezen Miller, Hand Wash Cold, that sometimes it helps just to coast in life for a while; to take your foot off the accelerator or indeed the brake and just see where you go.  That’s what I have been doing and it is quite an interesting mode of transport.

Along the way I have read books and magazines I would never have noticed or even considered before (on the magazine front I can recommend Stack Magazines who send you a different independent magazine each month, this month I am reading New Philosopher, last month was a beautiful avante garde fashion photography publication).

I have rediscovered  my love of fabrics and yarn, learned to crochet

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and have reupholstered a footstool and a chair.

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We have put our house on the market, changed our minds.  We have redecorated the entire house and put in plans to convert part of the house into separate living accomnodation to let.  Our elderly greenhouse didn’t survive the storms so we built a  new one with much more space for potting on and for sitting in.  Consequently the garden is fuller than ever and we are even more glad we stayed.

And the decluttering continues.  I have managed to keep my wardrobe reasonably small but the book collection has been building up again.  Some are keepers but there were quite a lot ones more than ready to move on.  If the building work goes ahead we are going to have to think very seriously about what we can keep for we will be downsizing our living accommodation by almost half in terms of floor space.

Meanwhile I have started writing two new books, one a novel and the other a culmination of my experience of decluttering together with suggestions, plans and ideas for others.  I think it should be an e-book – so as not to clutter up a bookshelf!

Love Gillie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

decluttering changed my life

One year on.  Remember this?

 

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and this?

 

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Well now it looks like this.

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In fact that is a mere fraction of what has gone.  As I write I have six more bags to go to charity and the Singers have been dispatching some of the Boss’s clothes on Ebay.  So what next?  What have I learned?

What next?  Well there is still a huge amount to go.  The Boss is slowly working through his wardrobe and I will have to work at his pace.  The study still has far too much in it and there are a few black holes around the house to which we have been turning a blind eye.  The videos and CDs are a case in point.  But as the house has emptied we have begun to turn our attention towards the garden.  I have plans to turn our garden into a mainly physic garden where all the plants are either medicinal, edible or have other practical uses.  Meanwhile the Boss has finally got on top of the meadow and is planning the wild flower border around it.  Currently it’s mainly vetch, poppies and cornflowers, but give him time.

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What have I learned?  How long do you want me to go on?

Don’t give  up  Like learning to play a musical instrument it is hard at first.  You can see other people knocking off a snazzy sounding concerto whilst you are still struggling to coordinate your left and right hand sufficiently to get three notes out in the correct order.  But everybody has to start at the beginning.  Everybody has to practice, practice, practice before they are a master of the art.  Decluttering is no different.

It does become easier.  Trust me, you will come to a point when you are instinctively picking up things that you don’t want or need and putting them in the charity bag or recycling.

Let go of guilt.  Just because it was a gift or a family heirloom does not mean that you have to keep it.  Offer the latter to somebody else in the family to caretake if it will cause a ruction.  So you bought a dress and have never worn it but keep it because you feel you must.  Don’t.  Let it go.  Sell it on eBay BNWT!

Space is beautiful.  The things you love can shine when they are bordered by space, space in itself is something to love and cherish.

Don’t clutter it up the space.  My entire summer wardrobe fits in less space than my shirts used to take up.  My bookshelves contain books I want to read.  I know every shoe I possess, I no longer open a shoe box and look at the contents with surprise.

As I decluttered my belongings I decluttered my mind.  Now I can’t promise that this is true for everyone or that the two were actually connected.  I suffer from acute  and severe depression, the kind where all is well and suddenly for no apparent reason the lights are all turned off.  I made an active decision after a particularly nasty attack that I was going to think differently.  Thus it is quite possible that  my mind declutter is down to that.  Either way.  This year  I have gone from unsure what to do with my life stay at home mum to published author with a second book in the works; professional tarot reader; workshop facilitator and have plans for a small handmade toiletry collection.  As I decluttered I became more focused.  The things I focussed on were not those that I had expected but I am loving life and have big plans for the future.

Not everyone likes it.  A bit like losing weight and discovering that not all your friends are as keen on the new you.  I have been told all sorts of reasons why “they” can’t do it; why “they” could never let go of books (heaven forbid!) and so forth.  Maybe they really can’t or maybe they are jealous.  Whatever the reason it has nothing to do with me so I shall continue my path.

I have discovered my own style.  As I have let go of things that I didn’t like, need or want I have discovered a style that is mine and I like it.

I have made some amazing friends and some incredible business contacts.  I have discovered crossovers and potential joint projects with people I probably would never have met had I not started, and gone public with this journey.

I have more time.  I can’t explain this one, I still live in the same house, I still have the same family.  Perhaps it is more that I am more mindful of my time, I don’t fritter it away.  As I am only keeping things I cherish I am learning to cherish my time as well.

And finally, I did it because I wanted to.  You have to want to.