in which we shop till we drop and buy almost nothing

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If I could say only one word about shopping in Bangkok it would have to be JJ (Chattachuk) market.  The Volunteer has waxed lyrical about Monday markets, floating markets and night markets. But the one that comes up time and time again is JJ Market.   It is the largest market in Thailand and covers over 27 acres. Believe me that is one heck of a market.

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It sells everything, and I do mean everything.  It has its dark side and on the advice of the volunteer we did not go into the pet section.  Even walking past the apparently mild outside my heart and stomach were sick to see huge fish in tiny bags and turtles and mice piled high in boxes.

There were also some seriously scary mannequins.

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However, the rest of the market was fascinating.  It is divided into sections so in theory you can find what you want.  But over 27 acres of “sections” still makes it extremely easy to get lost, several times!  With the help of the volunteer and a couple of online language apps I have learned some basic Thai and “mai ao kaa” is a polite and handy way to ensure you don’t get hassled (literally “I don’t take”)

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The Boss and I had foot and shoulder massage.  Now I like a hard and brutal massage, I can’t be doing with namby pamby gentle wafting of the hands.  I have had some deep and hard massages in my time, but boy did this little Thai lady get deep and strong on my poor western muscles.  Great but not for the fainthearted or those with low pain thresholds.

My favourite section, was the food one!  We had some sumptuous spring rolls from the stall that the Volunteer recommended.

But every stall was piled high.

There is little you cannot buy and the Volunteer arrived with a shopping list, memory bank, charging cable, t-shirts and flip flops.  But whether you wanted a new teak sofa, a beach dress,  more craft items than Hobbycraft has even dreamed of, or a working antique telephone I found them all at JJ.

It’s easy to get to by BTS (Mo Chit and follow the crowds) or metro (Chattachuk Park).  I don’t recommend taxi or tuk tuk.  The traffic makes rush hour in Naples look like a country lane.  Go early whilst it is relatively (and I use the term carefully!) quiet but more importantly not so hot.  Midday at JJ is crowded and very hot.  There are plenty of places to sit and eat snacks and lots of “refreshment stations” but precious few where you can sit down and just have a drink.  There is one lovely exception.  Head to section 7 (the 7 sign at the end of the long street closest to the stations)  facing the 7 sign turn left and you will see a little rest area just at the entrance to the home decor and art section.  We left my husband there whilst we went for a wander and came back an hour or so later to find him deep in conversations with his new friend Saul from Singapore whose wife was also shopping.  This was his third visit during this trip!

 

Enjoy!

Love Gillie  x

 

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.

 

zero waste vs zero food miles

Once upon a time all our needs were met locally.  We collected wood for a fire, grew and raised our own food, made our own clothes us using whatever fabric was local to us from hemp to cotton to wool.  There are some people who, admirably, manage to do this today, but for most of us it is essential to engage in transactions with third parties to feed and clothe and entertain ourselves and our families.

I have long been involved in both the Slow Food and Local Food movements.  I was a founder member of The Durham Local Food Network and believe passionately in supporting local producers, not just of food but of as many other consumables as possible.  However how can I reconcile that with a zero waste lifestyle.  You would have thought it would be easy, surely the two go together.  But they don’t.

Bea Johnson, who genuinely does live the closest to a zero waste lifestyle as anyone I have come across in this journey purchases almost all her food from Whole Foods.  This is because she is able to take her own containers (thus no unnecessary plastic or even paper bags for anything from bread to meat) and she can purchase loose goods from pasta to biscuits from the bulk bins.  Well therein lies the first problem.  However, lovely Whole Foods is, it is essentially an upmarket supermarket (and has prices to match).  There is little local about purchasing my oats at Whole Foods even if I could get to one.

So the other option?  Durham Food Co-op buys in bulk from a large range of local producers and the balance from Infinity Foods (a co-operative wholesaler of organic and non-organic foods); Durham Farmers’ Market  has an excellent selection of local produce; I have access to a good local greengrocer, butcher, fishmonger and cheese merchant.  The problem?  Most of the food I buy will come prepackaged.  I don’t have the option, other than for the vegetables, to use my own containers.

Last year I read about Plastic Free July, unfortunately I heard about it rather late so when I attempted to go plastic free for a week I didn’t have the ongoing tips and support and fell quickly by the wayside.  I have signed up for Plastic Free July for this year and am giving myself three months to prepare.  I am going to need it.  Plastic free is very hard to achieve.  The easiest way to go plastic free is to start making as much as possible from scratch.  I make my own soft cheese, yoghurt, dog food and dog treats, granola, jams, jellies, wine and cider vinegars, pickles etc.  I have asked for a canner for Mothering Sunday with a view to canning our own home grown vegetables.  But there is only so much I can do myself and I don’t work full time so I have the time to do all this.

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So do I go package (and predominantly plastic) free or do I go local?  I know in my heart I will go local.  But that will mean compromise.  What is more important to you.  Zero waste or zero food miles?

on the final leg

Back inside again today.  Which shows piss poor planning as it is a lovely day and perfect for clearing out the outbuildings; which we opted to do in the cold and rain.

Having taken another carload of books to Amina we had a look at the heaving bookcases in the Gin Gan and started all over again.  While I sorted through hundreds of books the Boss started packing up the lots for auction.  It was a relief when Mel from the British Heart Foundation rang to arrange to come and pick up his second load.  For that means that by Tuesday evening this pile will have gone.

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And so will this one.

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My father is a bibliophile with a particular interest in wine and racing.  Consquently I have a huge collection of books going back to the early fifties, many first editions.  My job this weekend is to go through the book pile and decide which are worth going to auction and which are probably not.  This was one job I didn’t know how I would cope with.  But it was easier than I thought.  He gave them to me when he moved permanently to the States, he knows I will not read the full set of the Compleat Imbiber for example.  But somebody else will enjoy it as much as he did and it is worth quite a lot of money.  The real eye opener was a cookery book “Lady Maclean’s Cook Book”  Mine is a pristine first edition.  It has been put carefully to one side.

I think we are coming towards the end of the tunnel.  It has taken six months to get where we are now and there is still a lot more we can do.  But right now I am enjoying the space, the feeling of freedom and the great sense of relief to see so much clutter go out of our doors.

Will I ever go back to my old ways?  I think not.  I have noticed that as I move around the house I am instinctively picking things and putting them in the charity pile.  Thus went a pair of glass candlesticks, some towels, a selection of scarves and a pair of boots without even thinking.  Shopping holds little appeal unless it is something I really need or really want.  The former is now discussed and depending on severity of need bought now or put on the rolling shopping list.  The latter is put on my birthday list.  Come my birthday I am fairly sure that I won’t want half the things on there.

Finally, when you remove the clutter from your house and spend hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month packing it up and sending it away you get a pretty good sense of where you went wrong.  Things that you bought because you “thought they might be useful”, but never were.  Books you bought because they were beautiful but weren’t interesting enough for you to read or use.  Clothes that you bought because they were fantastic quality, a bargain, but you never really loved.  Knick Knacks collected from junk shops over the years.  Oh, and those infernal storage boxes that you kept having to buy to store all of the above 🙂

Now doesn’t that look good?

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Nice and simple.

the next step

All the decluttering in the world is not going to have any effect if you don’t stop the stuff coming into your life in the first place.  We’ve all been there: cleared a cupboard or a room and then six months later it has reverted back to type.

Part of the reason for this blog was to encourage transparency and to make me change my mindset.  To think before I bought, to question the actual value of an item.  It has worked to a certain extent, I am certainly far more thoughtful about most purchases whether expensive or from the charity shop.  In fact charity shops used to be one of my downfalls.  Items that I would never have bought new I would happily buy from a charity shop.  I’m not saying that I haven’t had some fantastic buys but just because a dress is only £5 I should buy it.  If I don’t need it I shouldn’t buy it just because it is cheap and/or good value.  It is only good value if I need it.  I was going to insert a picture of a dress that came to mind as I wrote that.  However, said dress went back to the charity shop in the first purge 🙂

So this year I am recording all my expenditure.  Every single last penny.  I would like to see whether the expenditure in various areas matches up to the pleasure we got in those areas.  Groceries are essential, but at the end of the month if I have spent say £200 on groceries and yet we can’t recall more than a handful of lovely  meals then it was not money well spent and we need to work out why.  Our time here on earth is limited as are our funds.  I intend to make sure I get the best out of both of them.

 

financial straits

By all accounts we are not poor.  I am well aware that our income puts us well in the upper percentage of the population, please do not post to say how lucky we are,  I am well aware of that, but that does not mean we do not have to watch our pennies, that we do not look at our bank account and panic.  We don’t party wildly, or have expensive cars (far from it, the elderly RAV has just been condemned, do hope there is no snow this year or we are stuffed) or go on glamorous holidays yet still it can be difficult.

Going down the minimalist route has been interesting, and at times bumpy.  Rome was not built in a day, there have been times when I have looked at a scarf or a pair of curtains and thought they would be “just perfect”.  However, I have remembered that I already have a perfectly good scarf and perfectly good curtains and even if I did want them and even if I could afford them…. there are more important things I could spend my money on.

This month I have kept a record of every single penny I have spent, and furthermore I have given that record to the Boss.  The need to be completely transparent is the best way to keep a rein on spending.  My particular weakness has been books, Amazon and every bookshop in County Durham has been the benefit of my obsession.  You will not be surprised to know that my to be read pile is so large as to be at risk of attracting the attention of the planning department as an unauthorised structure.  This month I have come across several books that I would like to read.  This time I put them on my Christmas wish list.

There is a reason why Weightwatchers is so successful, it is the transparency and the sharing.  If you are trying to cut back on your spending, then don’t do it alone.  It is rarely the big purchases that do the damage but the little ones.  “Watch the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves” is indeed true.  We don’t begrudge a little treat here and there, a book for £5.99 or a lipstick for £10.  If that were all and you have the disposable income then it wouldn’t matter, but it becomes an issue when  those little purchases become a habit.  Team up with a friend and agree to reveal all your expenditure to each other.  You can set your own terms, you may decide to keep your rent or mortgage and heating bills for example to yourself.  But try to be as transparent as you can.  It will make you question every purchase and you will be surprised if not shocked at how many you really do not need.  I certainly have.

 

london calling …..

The Singer and I are off to London for the weekend.  She turned 18 last month and this is her birthday treat.  I had one at the same age and I still remember it.  We are staying at The Savoy (thank you for club deals…..) going to dinner on Friday evening.  On Saturday she, like I did, will go to Stephen Glass for a make up lesson and then we join my stepmother for lunch before going on to Les Senteurs for her to choose a perfume, a present from my stepmother.  Dirty Dancing (the musical not us) on Saturday evening and then on Sunday afternoon tea at Browns before we head home.

A weekend that I hope will make as much a  mark on her memory as my same weekend did on mine.  My perfume was Mitsouko and I still wear it.

However, you will notice that there are no great plans for shopping.  Well not for me anyway.  The Singer has birthday money and has her eye on a snuggly cardigan and a good pair of boots.  But other than window shopping and people watching I just want to soak up the Christmas atmosphere and marvel at the conspicuous consumption that I no longer feel any desire to partake in.

I wondered if the Singer would feel differently but as we have talked about what she would like to do she has concentrated most on dinner, the theatre and the astonishing roof top bar at ME that I suggested we went to for pre-theatre supper and drinks.  To be fair, she hasn’t waxed lyrical about the possibility of taking in the V&A or the British Museum – but heck she is 18 and it’s her birthday weekend not mine!