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 working wardrobe

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Depending on where you live in the world by today most people will be back at work.  Whether that means going out to work, getting up for the school run or sitting down in your home office/studio, one way or another the lazy “hey what day is it today” lie ins of the holidays are over.

I haven’t gone out to work for years.  I have worked at home, been a stay at home mum, helped with the family translation business, written books, all very time-consuming but almost all things that didn’t involve me dressing up in work clothes and going out to work.  Consequently I have read a lot of books and articles about how to succeed at working at home.  I know for some people being at home is just too distracting and they need somewhere else to go to work even if it is the shed at the bottom of the garden.  Personally I like working at home.  I like to have the flexibility to put on the washing and do an hour or so of work before emptying the machine, and to be honest if you suffer from distraction you are going to catch up on Facebook and play a couple of games of Candy Crush whether you are in an office or at home!

One of the tips that almost every home working guru gives is “get dressed” , even FlyLady tells you to put on your sensible shoes before you start your day.  First of all, the first thing I do when I get home is to take off my shoes and put on my slippers.  In my case I do this for comfort, but in some cultures to wear your dirty outside shoes in the house is downright offensive.  Rule Number One “Put on your shoes” summarily dismissed.

Now the getting dressed rule.  It is 12.34pm here.  I have been working since 9.20 and I am still in my pjs.  I have written and sent all the December invoices, set up the broadband account, set up a new email account, replied to various emails and phone requests, ordered some office equipment, written  my journal and gratitude list,  had 20 minutes of meditation and planned the meals for the rest of the week.  In between that I have had copious cups of tea, put on two machine loads of washing and fed all the animals.  Personally I think that is pretty good going for one morning, particularly one morning just after the holidays when I’m not really feeling the love for this work malarkey.

If you work from home and don’t need to get dressed to meet clients or Skype then for goodness sake if you don’t want to get dressed then don’t.  There is no rule that says you can only be productive if you are wearing shoes and a neatly accessorised outfit.  If you need that to put you in the work mood then by all means do so.  But don’t fret if you are still working furiously at 4pm and are still in your pjs!

 

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

 

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

 

aprons and dolmades

Turkey was wonderful.  The weather was hard, clear blue skies every day.  I believe we did see one cloud, but it was small and clearly lost.  One of the things I love about coming back from holiday is digging out old recipes and experimenting with recreating the foods we ate whilst we were away.  One of my absolute favourites are dolmades.

In the interest of minimalist living and using up everything I cast my eye over the grape vines in our garden.  Why on earth had I not thought to use them before?  For somebody who can make a pretty reasonable meal out of foraged or caught food you would have thought I would have spotted that opportunity before.

The dolmades were delicious, even more so I think because they came from my own vines.  Before we went away I was furiously foraging and drying flowers and leaves, soon I shall start canning and preserving.  But now I am freezing vine leaves for the winter.

Like all leaves you only want the young and tender ones.  The rule I found which seems to work for me is count three leaves down from the tip and pick the next three leaves.  Clearly this isn’t hard and fast but it gives you an idea of the size of leaf you are looking for.  In my case it is larger than my palm but smaller than my whole hand.

As our leaves have come from our own vines I know that they haven’t been sprayed but they do need washing.  Then make a pile of leaves.  There are five of us in our family and we eat about three each so I made piles of 15 leaves.

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Then roll them up and secure with string.

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Finally blanch in boiling salted water.

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Leave to cool and freeze.  I’ll let you know how they turn out.

In the meantime every cook needs a good apron.  I made this yesterday with some leftover upholstery fabric.  I feel very cool 🙂

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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

clutter causes frustration, please pull over and allow me to chuck you out

frustration

Those of you who have spent any time on the A9 will be familiar with these signs.  In my experience they have little effect and I have spent hours in a high state of frustration behind a slow moving vehicle.  However that is a whole different story.

Were you to walk into my house tomorrow you would, in the light of this blog, to discover a minimalist, clear lined, almost empty house.  Sadly you would be disappointed.  Despite the enormous amount of stuff we have rehomed there is still far more than we need.  Over the past few days I have seen things out of the corner of my eye that I wanted out.  So today I did Operation Quick and Dirty.

In the space of a ten  minute dash around the house I accumulated all of this.

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Sobering isn’t it?