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.

 

 

 

 

 

101 things you could let go of right now

I love lists.  Don’t you?  That immensely satisfying feeling as you cross off the things you have done.  Decluttering is perfect for list makers.  You can break up the clutter by room, by cupboard, by person, by subject area.  Oddly enough, I have done none of these things.  I have just started in one part of the house and worked my way round, over and over again.  Then I came across this blog by Joshua Becker 101 Physical That Can Be Reduced In Your Home .  Oh the joys, I am so doing this today.  I have already crossed off those things I have already reduced to the bare minimum or we don’t have.  But so much more to go.  I’m all fired up and ready to give the remaining clutter the heave ho.

Could you take this list round your home?  How much could you cross off today?

  1. Glassware
  2. Cookbooks
  3. Kitchen gadgets
  4. Kitchen appliances
  5. Pots / pans
  6. Mixing bowls
  7. Tupperware
  8. Water pitchers
  9. Magazines
  10. Newspapers
  11. Books
  12. Over-the-counter medicine
  13. Make-up
  14. Barretts / hair clips / ponytail holders
  15. Cleaning supplies
  16. Personal beauty appliances (hair dryer/curlers, electric razors)
  17. Bottles of shampoo/conditioner
  18. Photos
  19. Photography supplies
  20. Sewing supplies
  21. Craft supplies
  22. Scrap-booking supplies
  23. CD’s
  24. DVD’s
  25. Decorative items
  26. Candles
  27. Figurines
  28. Crystal
  29. Vases
  30. Audio/visual components
  31. Audio/visual cables
  32. Computer equipment
  33. MP3 players
  34. Furniture
  35. Video game systems
  36. Vdeo games
  37. Video game accessories
  38. Shirts / shorts
  39. Pants
  40. Coats
  41. Dresses
  42. Hats
  43. Clothes hangers
  44. Shoes
  45. Winter gear
  46. Jewelry
  47. Purses
  48. Coins
  49. Pillows
  50. Towels
  51. Linen sets
  52. Candle Holders
  53. Televisions
  54. Items on your bulletin board
  55. Magnets
  56. Artwork
  57. Mirrors
  58. Home office supplies
  59. Pens/pencils
  60. Old batteries
  61. Tools
  62. Hardware
  63. Rolls of duct tape
  64. Coolers
  65. Manuals
  66. Phone books
  67. Coupons
  68. Sporting good supplies
  69. Sports memorabilia
  70. Aluminum cans
  71. Glass bottles
  72. Automobile fluids
  73. Automobiles
  74. Scrap pieces of lumber
  75. Brooms
  76. Rakes
  77. Shovels
  78. Garden tools
  79. Plant containers
  80. Empty cardboard boxes
  81. Board games
  82. Puzzles
  83. Decks of cards
  84. Unused wedding gifts
  85. Baby clothes
  86. Baby supplies
  87. Old schoolbooks/papers
  88. Army men
  89. Bath toys
  90. Toy balls
  91. Toy cars/trucks
  92. Toy musical instruments
  93. Stuffed animals
  94. Plastic toys
  95. Childrens’ old school papers
  96. Suitcases
  97. Soda
  98. Alcohol
  99. Processed foods
  100. Christmas / seasonal decorations
  101. Cable channels

decluttering with William Morris – the Pre-Raphaelite method

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.

Useful and beautiful (in my eyes).

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I have always loved the Pre-Raphaelites.  If I had studied history of art it would have been a one horse race.  But it is not just their artwork which I adore.  It is the whole ethos of the Arts and Craft movement; the belief that a healthy society was one which respected craft production and did not rely entirely on division of labour and machinery for the creation of products.  The use of natural and local materials in production.  And of course William Morris’ famous quote above.

Beautiful

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I know that there is much in our house that does not meet that criterion.  From where I sit to work I can see a carving of a fish.  It is pretty, but I don’t love it and I don’t know in my heart it is beautiful.  There is an incense stick holder which has been superceded by a more beautiful (actually more simple in design) and more useful one.  In my pen holder there are two marker pens which I know don’t work.  Outside in the courtyard I can see an old bird table that has been superceded by are more practical one.  There is a glass contraption that was supposed to trap wasps but never did.  All that and I didn’t even leave my seat.

Useful

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Join me today as we walk around our homes.  Look carefully at the things around you and ask yourself if they would pass Morris’ test.  If they do not, then why are you keeping them?

Neither useful nor beautiful

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the craft stuff has to go

There comes a time when even those who think they are mighty must fall.  I crumpled at the craft, well I don’t know what to call it.  “Room” gives it a gravitas it does not deserve and “Pile” fails to bring across the enormit of the job.  In 1999 I began scrapbooking.  I had always kept our photograph albums up to date and scrapbooking combined this with my love of playing with paper, pens and ink.  All went swimmingly, I created pages that were lovely to look at, that had lots of journalling so we knew who everyone was and what they were doing and everybody loved to flick through them.  Then two things happened.  Photography went digital and scrapbooking went mainstream in the UK.

Net result, too many photographs and too many materials to work with.  Once I had to buy 80% of my stock online from the States, now I could get it in TK Maxx and Tescos.  Sadly, the latter resulted in the death of practically every bricks and mortar scrapping shop and we have come full circle.  If I want anything other than twee tat, I mainly have to buy from the US.  Once again,  I digress.

I couldn’t be bothered to collate  my photographs any longer.  There were too many of them and I had too many materials.  I didn’t know where to start.  So I am going back to my roots….

I am not a tidy declutterer.  I like to get stuff out and sort it into piles or the bin.  Only when I am finished do I put it all in order.  Odd, perhaps as I am so organised elsewhere.  I think it’s because to me the declutter process has priority over the tidy process.  I just want to get it out asap.

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The desk is the “holding” area, most stuff on here will be allowed to stay.   But not necesssarily  here.  In the meantime I have emptied both the filing cabinet and the wooden chest of drawers but not done anything about the stuff that usually lives on the desk (paints and pens mainly).  Not ideal, but I’ll get there in the end.

 

Work in progress.

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Stuff to go.  First dibs go to Sunday School and Messy Church, then local crafting friends and then the good old Charity shop.

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Starting to look better.

 

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And finally, because all that was rather stressfull.  Some calming tulips.

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do not declutter this book!

 

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Yup, you read it right.  I am going to actively encourage you to make a purchase and to keep it!  My book.  It’s got nothing to do with decluttering and isn’t actively aimed at your age group (I am assuming I do not have a huge under 16 readership).  But I think it is a pretty darn good read, and believe me I have read it hundreds of times.  If you do find a mistake please let me know quietly…..

Timesmudger, a tale of murder, time-travel and friendship.  Go on you know you want to.  And I have a a family to feed so think of it as an act charity if you must.

In the manner of an Oscar winner I do have a few thank yous.  First to my family for putting up with me whilst I wrote and nagging me to keep going when I felt like giving up and to the wonderfully talented Lauren Kudo from Cozy Up Designs who is responsible for the stunning cover.

You can buy it in Kindle or paperback version on Amazon so it’s only a click away (I can’t believe I just wrote that… )

life is easier without clutter

I was talking with my mother earlier today and the conversation inevitably came around to decluttering.  The area in question being her wardrobe.  She maintains that there is nothing in her wardrobe that the doesn’t like nor anything that doesn’t fit.  On the other hand there is enough in there for her to  have just taken out several boxes of clothes because the wardrobe was full.  It is not a small wardrobe.

That freaked me out.  The idea of having that many clothes was scary. I love the fact that it doesn’t take me ages to get dressed in the morning.  I love the fact that I have discovered tops and bottoms that I would never have thought of putting together look fabulous.  I love the fact that I am much better at layering and thus don’t need so many jumpers (even in the north of England).

So I began to think of other areas where decluttering has actually made my life easier.

The kitchen.  I never have to clean a finickety garlic press, it’s long gone, I grate garlic now.  I am seriously wondering about keeping my Kenward Chef.  I rarely use it.  Today I made Bakewell tart and homemade custard for supper.  I did the whole thing by hand and with a hand held beater.  I would never have bothered to make pudding if I had to get out the Kenward and then wash all the bits up.  I make bread by hand because I enjoy the process.  The yoghurt maker died and I discovered I could make yoghurt just as easily without it.  The kettle died so we started using our stove top one on the aga and/or the hob.  Just as quick.  Leave it on the side of the aga and the water is always warm and there is a nice space on the kitchen surface where the kettle used to be.

The knicker drawer!  I cleared out every single item  of underwear other than recently purchased bras that fit and knickers that I wouldn’t mind being caught wearing if I was run over by a bus.  To the latter I added 4 pairs of bamboo knickers that I adore and with which I  will be replacing all current incumbants as they wear out.  Early mornings are so much easier when there are only five pairs of knickers and a couple of bras in your drawer.

The compost bin.  The kitchen compost bin has been replaced by a smaller one and the garden compost bin moved closer to the house.  Net result nobody minds emptying the compost.  That is a BIG result in our house.

Books.  Having got rid of books I had held onto for all sorts of reasons, but books I was never going to read again I have discovered some gems that was hidden behind all the rest.  Books I had forgotten I had bought but have loved reading …. and passing on.

Oddly enough the area I was most scared about decluttering.  The area where I thought I needed all those bits and pieces was the kitchen.  That has proved to be the area where decluttering has been the most productive.

 

 

 

reverse decluttering part two

Today I tackled R, S and T.  In the spirit of the absurdity of this challenge I set myself I began with T.

That was easy, tea-towels.  I have long noticed that I have far too many tea towels and some of them are really beyond a boil up with some bleach. Tea towels are insidious little wotsits.  They creep up on you gradually, especially whilst you have young children.  I defy any parent not to have a drawer full of the annual school fundraising tea towel, and probably several from their friends and nieces and nephews.  Three Christmases later and you have a drawer full of handprints and wonky self-portraits.  I still have a number of good quality linen tea towels that are as old as the hills if not older.  Those without holes survived the cull and linen is much better than cotton as a tea towel.  After that I kept a handful of good quality tea towels and it was “Off with their heads!” for the rest.  There are several aprons in this pile too as they were in the same drawer.  I’ll have to think of something else when I finally get to A.

 

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S had to be shoes.  It was a pair of shoes that set off this blog, and I have always had far too many.  Only a handful today.  I felt that there were several more that could go too but I was wavering and this isn’t meant to be an in depth declutter but a short sharp shock.

 

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Which leaves R.  R is for Reading Matter (it’s my challenge I can be as lateral thinking as I like 🙂 )  No problem here.  I have been eyeing up a shelf of unread and unwanted books for a while.  I hope they go to good homes where they will be loved and read from cover to cover.

 

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I have an idea for Q 🙂

ten top tips for letting go and decluttering

Reading Camilla Long in The Sunday Times I came across this gem  “…I may never be as tidy as my mother, whose Christmas afternoon treat is a full assault on the downstairs loo.”  I wondered briefly if Ms Long’s mother and I share similar genetic make up.  It is a standing joke that my idea of the perfect Mothering Sunday is to be allowed to gut my entire wardrobe from pyjamas to coats and everything in between without anybody mentioning the word “obsessive” once.

The reason for the outing of Mrs Long was the discussion of Marie Kondo a Japanese organisation and decluttering expert.  Always keen to see how other people approach the process I duly googled said expert.  I am now convinced that I share genetic backgrounds with both Mrs Long and Ms Kondo.

Her top ten tips are:

1. DO IT ALL AT ONCE, AND DO IT NOW
I have never subscribed to the slowly but surely approach to decluttering.  It has never worked for me for the simple reason that it is too slow.  I want to see results and I want to see them now.  Clearly if you live in a  house the size of ours you can’t do the whole thing in 24 hours but you can do a whole wardrobe or even a whole room.

2 DISCARD FIRST, SORT AND TIDY LATER
Empty out the whole cupboard sort it out and only put back what you are going to keep.  Put the rest in the bin/recycling/bag for the charity shop IMMEDIATELY and put them in the car the same day.  So long as it stays in the house you will be tempted to retrieve something you don’t need.  I find the pulling it all out and strewing it across the floor very satisfying, it is also an excellent shock reminder of how much rubbish you have.

3 START WITH THE EASY STUFF
Don’t start with the box of unsorted photos.  Start with something you know is due a serious clear out.  For most of us that’s the wardrobe.  Once you get into the swing of things letting go becomes easier.  I speak from experience, we are almost one year into our declutter and now hardly a day goes by when I don’t fill at least one small bag, if not a bin bag every day.  This is the result of a quick sweep this afternoon.

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4 PUT EVERYTHING IN EACH CATEGORY IN ONE PLACE FIRST
You cannot sort your wardrobe if half of it is in the dirty washing basket/ironing pile/dry cleaners/back of the sofa.  Get everything together at once.  This is the only way you can spot duplicates or a disturbing fondness for electric orange tee-shirts.

5 THROW AWAY EVERYTHING YOU DON’T LOVE
You’ve heard it before a million times.  If you don’t use it (don’t throw out your toothbrush) or love it then why is it taking up space in your house?  It is hard at first, I know.  But it really does work.  I finally got rid of three sarongs today.    There is nothing wrong with them but I don’t wear sarongs anymore, I prefer to throw  kaftan over my swimming costume (I think this is something to do with age and size 🙂 )  I kept them because they were perfectly good and quite pretty.  But I don’t need them and they certainly don’t make me smile when I see them.  Well they didn’t until I saw them in the charity pile.

6 DITCH YOUR PAPERWORK
There are some things that you have to keep.  Legal documents (birth, marriage, divorce certificates)  Insurance polices, tax returns and supporting papers for 7 years etc.  You do not need to keep your credit card statements and bank statements for the past 10 years or more.  You really don’t need to keep all the paperwork that comes with electrical goods.  If  you don’t know how to use something there is more information on the internet than there is in the multilingual pocket sized guide that comes with your phone.  Where and how you keep them is up to you.  Marie Kondo says keep them in upright containers to avoid the collection getting too big.  Having seen the size of some magazine files I think it is possible to let a collection get to gargantuan proportions.  My preferred method is to put the paperwork loose in a dropfile in a filing cabinet.  You can’t fill a dropfile to bursting point.  It just falls apart.  Find what works for you but do not EVER use box files or magazine files.  You can get far, far too much in them.

7 LET GO WITH LOVE (GIFTS AND KEEPSAKES)
Why?  Why are you filling your house with guilt?  Do you like feeling guilty?  Yet every time you see that vase, or that book or that scarf you never wear you are filled with a huge sense of guilt that you hate  something that a loved one chose for you.  Hey, we have different tastes, that’s what makes it interesting to meet new people.  Just because your mother loved the purple Angora stole doesn’t mean you have to.  But somebody else will.  On that basis surely it is more wrong to keep something that is never going to be loved or used than to give it away and let somebody who really does love it use it on a daily basis.  I let go of a shoulder bag that my father brought back from Australia  THIRTY YEARS AGO!  Today I finally looked at it and knew that my father would be laughing his socks of if he knew how long I had been carting that bag around the country.

8 DON’T BUY EXPENSIVE OR COMPLICATED STORAGE EQUIPMENT
Because you will just fill it up.  You already  have cupboards, drawers, coat hooks.  Use them.

9 LEARN HOW TO FOLD CLOTHES – THEN STORE THEM ‘STANDING UP’
This is the first time where Kondo and I part company but that may be because in our house I have far more hanging space than drawer or cupboard space.    I’ll leave this one up to you.

10 TREAT YOUR POSSESSIONS LIKE PEOPLE
If you have followed the rules and only kept things you love then treat them well.  If you only have three handbags it’s easy to keep them clean, polish them and put them back in their dustbags.  If you have 23 handbags you’ll never manage that.

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S to M declutter will be coming soon.  I can’t believe I just typed that 🙂

In the meantime a quick wardrobe update.  The wardrobe has been my main focus of attention since the big stuff went off to auction/charity/skip earlier this month.  The Gin Gan is wonderfully empty and I am really beginning to feel the day to day difference.  I think psychologically even though I had removed so so so much from our house the fact that it was still on site was a big issue for me and I am glad it’s gone.

Living out of one medium sized suitcase for a month focuses the mind and on my return from Australia I was able to take a look at my much depleted wardrobe and  cull another 30%.  This afternoon I had an urge to do a bit more.  It is interesting that once you really get going it is much, much easier to keep going and become more purposeful.

This is what was left after the Singers and Dancer had picked out the few items that they wanted.

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I now have three full bags of clothes in the back of my car ready to be taken to The British Heart Foundation shop in town.  I was talking to a friend today who is at the beginning of her declutttering process.  She is at the overwhelmed stage.  Remember the Gaussian normal distribution bell curve?  It looks like this.

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Ignoring the statistical use of the bell curve and just looking at the shape for a moment and I think it represents our approach to decluttering.  We start with high hopes and approach the issue head on.  Then we realise just how big the job is, how overwhelming it can feel and we are tempted to give up.  Assuming we keeping going then we plough through the really hard times.  The times when we have got rid of the things that were easy to get rid of because we didn’t really want them.  Now we are faced with the things that we don’t need but somehow we still want.  Finally we get to the top and like the helter skelter rider we come racing down because now it is easy, we “get it”, we want to be unburdened.

So wherever you are on the curve, remember there is a helter skelter ride at the end and it is worth it.

 

 

reverse decluttering part one

So the reverse declutter begins.  No that does not mean I am bringing stuff in – heaven forbid.  No, this alphabetical mularky, the one that is supposed to encourage me to look beyond the easy declutter and get rid of things that I didn’t really know I had or go into boxes I would prefer were left untouched.

Z is for zips.  As it happens my haberdashery (the posh name for the boxes containing sewing sort of stuff) boxes contained no zips but they did contain a lot of dross.  All of which is now gone.

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Nice and tidy.

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Rubbish and ebay (there wasn’t much in between).

Y is for yellow.  This isn’t actually mine, it belongs to the Boss.  It’s a truly vile yellow sweatshirt.  Goodness knows what he was thinking when he bought it.   He has never worn it and if he did I would disown him.  The yellow chicken has been sitting in my study for years and gathering dust.  Out it goes

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X is for x-tra (well sort of).  Time to get rid of duplicates and things of which I have more than one.  Despite all they have done to provoke me over the years I am keeping all three daughters, dogs, cats and chickens.  Instead I hoofed out two orange squeezers (each one bought whilst on holiday to take advantage of the wonderful fruit.  We now have one small juicer living permanently in our suitcase along with a tin opener, sharp knife, corkscrew and bottle opener – the essentials of any holiday picnic 🙂 ).

W is for wellies.  How many “spare” pairs of wellies do we need?  I used to keep them because we live in the middle of nowhere, it can get very muddy and when the girls were small and had friends over they were useful to have to hand.  I think we are past that stage now.

V is for vittels (it was all I could think of).  Combined three jars of honey into one and ditto various pasta shapes.

U is for undies.  Now there is not a lot I like more than a good clear out of my knicker drawer.  Sad I know.  This time I did underwear drawer and sock drawer and I feel very virtuous.

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Undies

 

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Socks etc.

I know.  Not quite an item a day.  But If you add up all the items going out the door they certainly exceed 365 so not bad for a fortnight I think.  Oh and the first half of the last wardrobe sale on ebay netted over £150.  Wonder what I’d get for a pair of twins and an elder sister with a clean driving licence?

 

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