here’s to the best year yet ….

I am not one to go in for new year resolutions but I am all in favour of new year plans.  Which I suppose are a variation on the NYR with more backup.  If your NYR was one of the pretty standard ones “I want to lose 20lb” then even the most ill forward thinker would have enough nouse to know that the 20lb will not just fall off all of its own accord.  A plan is required to assist the process.  This is variously known as “going on a diet”,  “eating more sensibly”, “joining the gym” or “bloody  hell my bikini has been shrunk”.



The problem is with all those other more nebulous resolutions.  “I will declutter”  “I will spend less money”,  “I will write more letters and send less emails”  “We will grow more of our own veg”.  The resolution is made, the virtuosity index hits the roof and then……….. nothing happens.

How you plan is entirely up to you.  But there are three vital ingredients to achieving what you want to do, PLAN, PLAN and PLAN.  I have tried various systems over the years, both my own and those dreamt up by other people.  My personal favourite is The Best Year Yet  I first used it some six years ago and worked from the book .  Now I use the website because I like the interactive monthly and weekly goal setting, the interactive review process and the information about how well I am doing at each goal.

There are a plethora of systems out there, don’t take too long looking at them all.  At the end of the day it is your goals that count not how you get to them.

Once goals are in place you need to break them down into manageable chunks and that is where I love BYY.  I can print out a weekly set of tasks that are directly related to each goal and pin them in the appropriate page in my uncalendar.  So when I am planning my tasks each day I am reminded every time I look at my to do list of the things I have to do if I want to have my best year yet.

I am a bit of an organiser freak, and readers of my previous blog Skybluepinkish will have journeyed with me as  I sought to find the best way to keep my life on track.  For the past year and a half I have gone back to my filofax


and added an uncalendar .


The former holds my diary, notes and bits and bobs.  The latter is command control.  It holds my daily to do list, meeting notes, telephone messages and notes to self.  Weekly accountability for personal disciplines (eg yoga, walking, meditation, morning prayer and journalling routines etc.), weekly menu plans, anything at all that pertains to day to day living.

Whatever rocks your boat.  But even if you make a plan it won’t work unless you have a means of breaking down the plan into manageable chunks and keeping track of your progress.  Personal accountability is key.

And what does this have to do with decluttering or minimalism or living a clearer life?  Look around you.  How many half finished jobs, half finished craft projects are lying around your home.  How many half completed ideas are cluttering up your brain and oozing guilt every time you come across them.  How many grand plans have been cut short for lack of funds – how much  money have you paid out on clothes, food, petrol, insurance, books etc because you didn’t think ahead and had to purchase in an emergency?  What if you had saved that money, could that grand plan have come to fruition?

Whatever you want to do.  Wherever you want to be this time next year, it won’t happen all on its own.



I have not fallen off the edge of the planet (despite the prayers of many no doubt) I have been preserving and catching up with all those little jobs that have the ability to turn into thwacking great monsters if I don’t keep on top of them.

I am on top of them.  So life, if only momentarily, is returning to what passes for normal in our house of fun.  This is the time of year that feels like new year for me.  In the days when I wore knee length socks and a navy blue tunic it was the time of new pencils and a squeaky new pencil case and Helix Oxford Maths set in  it’s distinctive blue and silver tin.


Form teachers handed out pristine new exercise books and we carefully copied out our timetable.  Over the years this process has evolved but I still buy new pencils and it is  now that I start our timetable for the next 12  months.

Planning is everything, if you are  decluttering, downsizing and aiming towards a life of less then you need a plan.   And there is little I love more than a plan.  Not surprisingly you will  need some basic equipment. I prefer pen and paper, but if online and digital rocks your boat then far be it from me to question your choice.  Just choose something you are comfortable, you like and most importantly will use.  A plan can be pretty but it can be pretty useless if you never consult it!

If you are thinking of changing you lifestyle first you need to know what you what to change, how you are going to change it and how that will impact on your day to day life.  There are big plans and there are little plans.  To ease you in gently we will start with a little plan.

Let’s start with the grocery shopping.  This is how we did it.

What do we want to change?

  • Reduce or eliminate supermarket purchases
  • Produce as much ourselves
  • Purchase as much as possible from local producers
  • Purchase as much of what remains from local suppliers

How are we going to change it?

  • Increase fruit and vegetable production
  • Increase poultry numbers
  • Bake own bread etc.
  • Use locally grown co-operative vegetable box scheme
  • Use farmers’ market
  • Purchase direct from farm(s)
  • Use local greengrocer/butcher/fishmonger
  • Make own cleaning products
  • Consider alternative purchasing options for dry goods, tins and general household goods.

How will that impact on our day to day life?

  • Cannot do all shopping in one place
  • Increased work in the garden
  • Need to plan ahead both the shopping and the way it is purchased
  • Freezer must be cleared to ensure that whole butchered animals can be easily stored and accessed.
  • Bulk purchasing of some products (esp vinegar and bicarb for cleaning) required.

What will we do to fit the above into our day to day life?

  • First, in terms of food shopping PLAN AHEAD.
  • Usually on a Sunday I check the fridge, pantry and freezer to see what I already have in stock that I can use.
  • Then I check the diary and see what is going on during the week,  I do not want to be cooking a complicated dish on a day when I am ought all day and we have multiple pick ups in the evening.
  • Then the fun starts.  I choose up to three or four recipe books and start to plan menus for the week ahead.  That way we don’t get stuck in a rut with the same old recipes and can experiment and try out new things.
  • As you chose a recipe allocate it to a day , write down the page and the recipe book and check what, if any ingredients you need to buy and write them down on your list.
  • When you are happy with the menu plan tackle the shopping list.
  • Break it down by store.  I am quite lucky in that I pass the butcher every day and with a bit of a diversion and a child looking out for traffic wardens I can nip into the greengrocer too.  If the greengrocer list is long then I save that for a day when I have to go into town and park the car.  Bear that kind of thing in mind when you are deciding what to eat on what day.  Don’t make Monday’s meal one that cannot be done without a shopping trip unless you know you can go shopping on Monday!
  • We also have a blackboard in the kitchen, whenever anything runs out the last person to use it is supposed to write it on the board.  It’s not foolproof but it’s not bad!  Add anything on the blackboard onto the appropriate shop section of your list.
  • Non food items and dry and tinned goods are a bit of an issue.  Personally if I can’t buy local then I prefer to buy ethically.  This means, that for the most part I don’t use supermarkets except Waitrose (which is a partnership) and the Co-op.  The other supplier I use is Suma, a wholefood co-op and a couple of online stores.  This is my choice and does mean that I tend to buy in bulk and only once every month or so.

I am not perfect, I run out just like everyone else and I have to make emergency shops.  I try to make those at places like the Co-op or locally owned shops, but I have been known to go to Tesco!  Don’t beat yourself up.  We have to start somewhere.

I haven’t addressed packaging because for the most part if you buy local you tend not to get that much packaging.  Any veg I buy I can buy loose or pack in my own bags (mushrooms, soft fruit and veg etc.).  Our local veg box scheme the wonderful Abundant Earth    gives each member 4 hessian bags which are used in rotation for the veg.  Any soft veg are put in paper bags which are reused until they are composted.  The fishmonger wraps up in paper and is just coming to terms with the fact that I don’t need a plastic bag around my fish.  The baker only uses paper or my own bags.  Whole animals direct from the farm do come in plastic.  They are butchered and given to us in a large box.  But by far the biggest problem is that which is bought mail order.  Everything comes in plastic, understandably nobody wants to send 5 litres of vinegar through the mail in a glass jar but why did my soapnuts come in a plastic bag?  Albeit a plastic bag inside a very nice cotton drawstring bag.  Long gone are the days when you could get your jars refilled at the grocers because there are no grocers left, because everyone goes to supermarkets or Costco or WholeFoods.  Which brings me back to why I don’t shop in supermarkets…..

Here in Durham we have The Durham Local Food Network  (I am just a little bit proud because I am a founder member and I think it’s brilliant)  but we are not unique.  There are lots of groups like us who have directories of local producers and suppliers and information about local food news and events.  Google your town and find out what’s going on.

Materials required

  • Eyes – to see what you already have!
  • Pencil
  • Used envelopes, backs of circulars to write out shopping lists, menus etc (we keep our on a magnetic bulldog clip on the fridge)
  • Cookery books or a head full of recipes
  • Diary
  • Shopping bags or trolley
  • Bus ticket/car/shanks pony