Thursday, 19 April 2018

Free 250 in 2018 - March

March was a mixed month in terms of decluttering.  It was in part a month of replacing some old things with new things, as well as decluttering items that are surplus to requirements or that no longer serve a purpose.

I did do a purge of one of the kitchen cupboards and decluttered some surplus crockery, but other than this the things I'm freeing this month are things that I've replaced with superior versions on the whole.

Here goes:

1-6) Six surplus mugs decluttered from the kitchen.
7-8) Two surplus egg cups decluttered from the kitchen.
9-10) Two woollen snoods/infinity scarves replaced by two much nicer ones bought from the CS.
11) One old quilt cover and matching pillow cases that no longer fit the new bedding I bought for LB this month.
12) One pair of trainers which I replaced several months ago, but couldn't bring myself to declutter.  Having not worn them since, it seems pointless to keep them.
13) One lamp replaced with a new one that suits the d├ęcor better.
14-15) Old pillows washed and put aside for the next Give and Take.
16) One book listed for sale on eBay, as I don't want to keep it.
17) One top sold on eBay.
18) One unwanted Xmas present given away as a gift.
19) One other item of old stock from my now closed down business sold on eBay.
20) One never used lunch box of LB's.

When added to last month's total of 46 the current total so far for 2018 now stands at 66 items.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Allotment Tales - April 2018

Towards the end of March, on a rainy Tuesday, when heading out of the house with the dog for our regular morning walk, I noticed a very nice pallet in next doors front garden, which I assumed they didn't want.  I made a mental note and when I came back from the dog walk, I knocked on the door and asked if I could have it for my allotment. They very kindly agreed and I carried into the house and put it in the garden. Here's a picture of it:

I say a very nice pallet, because as you can see, it's slats were very evenly placed and it looked the perfect size to make a small deck for my allotment. I had the idea of making a little corner, where I could put a chair and a plant pot or two and sit and relax between bouts of digging, especially in the summer months.

I'd wanted to do this at my last plot, but never actually got around to clearing a space to do it, but because my current plot is lovely and small, closer to home and much more manageable, it's easier to find the time and energy this time around.

It took a few weeks before I could progress any further with my idea, as for the next four days OH was away and had taken the car, so I couldn't actually take the pallet to the plot, as it was way too heavy, even just to take around the corner. In addition, after quite a lot of rain, the ground was very muddy, so I thought I'd wait until the weather dried up a little.

In the meantime, I decided to staple some weed suppressant fabric to the underneath of the pallet to stop lots of weeds growing up through the slats .  This also meant that I could easily move the pallet around if I wasn't happy with it's position. I needed to buy some more fabric, as we didn't have any left from when we renovated the garden.  OH ended up buying me some from Amazon.

In addition to the decking, I also found this rattan raised bed like surround on the way to the gym the other day.  Someone had thrown it out, so I popped it into the car and brought it home.  I took this to the plot too and it made a lovely little raised bed next to my decking.

Here is a picture of the decking and raised bed in situ.  I bought and planted some dahlia tubers in here, as I'm intending it to be a small cutting garden area. I also bought a rosemary plant, and some small violets from B&Q at 20% off and potted them on to decorate the deck. I may  remove some of the soil from underneath the decking and add it to the raised bed so the decking doesn't sit quite so high, but is set into the ground, as it feels a bit like a stage when you're sat on it.

Whilst I was at the plot I decided to finish digging it over. It took a few hours, but I was glad to get it all done and ready to plant and sow into on my next visit.  Here's a picture of the plot as it looked when I'd finished.

It feels good to get more structure into the plot and get all of the hard digging work done.  It's now a ready for me to get busy growing in. I think I might start by sowing some sunflowers behind the deck and see how they grow here, as I can tie them back to the fence. At some point I want to plant something that climbs here, to give me a bit of a privacy on what is a very public site.

Next month, I'll let you know how things are progressing on the growing front.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

A Chaotic Week

It's been a strangely chaotic week.  OH has been pressing on with repainting the kitchen, which virtually renders it out of bounds, save for cooking/preparing food or putting on a wash.  As it was the hub of our home, all general activity/eating now takes place in the living room, which is currently in chaos. Hey ho.

As I've been feeling pretty rotten this week, (another cold - two in the space of a month) I've spent a couple of my days off in bed, which hasn't been great.  I think I've got myself very run down and am feeling pretty exhausted. I've still been at work this week though, so have dragged myself there snuffling and coughing for my usual three days. Probably not the most considerate thing to do, but a couple of volunteers already have colds. I'm now feeling over the worst and finished my last day for this week yesterday.

The kitchen is now looking very white, as well as very empty. (Save for the decorating tools/equiptment) We haven't yet chosen a colour for the one wall that we will be painting a colour on. We're planning a trip to pick and possibly mix the paints we require for this wall, the cupboard fronts and the floor this morning, which is quite an exciting prospect. I'm just waiting for OH to return from a dog walk and we'll be off.

By the way, thank you Catriona, you were indeed correct, the new IKEA doors won't fit our cupboards, so you saved us a lot of hassle by mentioning this on my last post about the kitchen renovation.  OH is going to repair and repaint our current doors instead, all being well. It's a lot of work and will probably take a while, but it beats having to replace every cupboard carcass.  It seems so wasteful somehow. How inconsiderate of IKEA to make such wide reaching changes to their kitchens. Obviously trying to drum up new trade now everyone has reached 'peak stuff'.

OH is now painting the woodwork on the windows and doors, before re-sanding and oiling the window sills and worktops.  Here's a little picture of the work in progress.  A very blank canvas.

(Although this photo was taken on a very sunny morning, it looks very dark in our kitchen, despite all of the windows)

We're also looking for new light fittings and a new tap, preferably one with a pull out spray for easy cleaning of the sink. Very American, as I've seen lots of YouTubers with these types of taps and I like them. It will be interesting to see how they function in practice.

Workwise, it's been a strange week.  The manager was successful in being reappointed for another year, so my job will be advertised soon and I will need to reapply. I've been having a wobble on account of feeling so tired, but I think I've been talked round and will go ahead and take the plunge. We'll see what happens.

As a consequence of the above, life is in a bit of turmoil at the moment, not in a serious way, just in a day to day functioning kind of way.  We're getting by though.  At least we still have kitchen facilities and it's not a total stripping out of everything kind of renovation.

I spent most of my day off on Thursday ironing.  I couldn't decide on a place to set up the iron and ironing board all week and eventually today settled on the living/dining room, although it seems to cause a lot of condensation.  I've more than halved the ironing pile, but there's still a basketful to do over the weekend.

It was nice to just stay home and spend a little time with LB.  She'll be back at school on Monday. I took her to the opticians in the afternoon for an eye test and to order some new glasses.  (She broke her newest pair months ago!) At least this has been achieved this Easter holidays, if nothing much else. I'll keep you posted of further progress in the kitchen.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Free 250 in 2018 - February

I was about to publish my Free 250 items in 2018 post for March, when I realised that I didn't actually post this challenge post last month, so here it is. February items set free and sent out into the universe were as follows:

1) One Zatchels satchel that I have hardly used, sold on eBay.
2) One old phone case, replaced with a new one.
3) One glass from a candle that I used up.
4) One sewing magnet - new in packaging, but unable to sell due to damage. I already have one in my sewing kit, so I may as well donate this one.
5) One sweater bought from a CS before Christmas - a purchase that I promptly regretted.
6) One unwanted Christmas gift sold on eBay.
7) One small wooden bead box - no longer needed.
8) One new unused phone case bought for my old phone, for when my existing case wore out, but is now too small for my new phone.
9) One New York Guide book which is now very old and out of date.
10) One bra recycled because it was wearing out.
11) One pair of sports socks recycled because of holes.
12) One snood donated - replaced with a new (second hand) one.
13) One pair of walking boots of OH's recycled - worn out and leaking and replaced with new ones.
14) One Jack Wills card wallet bought in a set with my last phone case, but never used.  It is not something that I want to use, so I've listed it on eBay and it should hopefully cover the cost of my buying one I actually liked.
15) One book donated to a local CS.

As you can see, things have really slowed down on the donation front, which I expected this year.  In my defence, due to being away for part of the month in NYC, I didn't really have much time this month to do any serious decluttering anywhere in the house.

When added to last month's total of 31, my grand total for the year going forward is now 46 items. Still just about on target.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Getting into the Garden Again

Thursday morning, last week, I woke up to bright blue skies and sunshine, which was just what I needed. I was getting very fed up with grey, damp days and needed a sign that warmer weather was on its way.  Well, I got it.

After walking the dog and rushing off to a class at the gym, I came straight home to find that OH had started work on the kitchen renovations.  Unable to sit at the kitchen table and get lost in a YouTube rabbit hole, I ended up venturing out into the garden.

It's quite normal on the first sunny day of the year, for me to finally get around to washing my dirty garden pots from the previous growing season and that is what I set about doing. I always like to do this job when I can feel the sun on my back and that was definitely the case on this occasion.

It took a couple of hours, but eventually every dirty pot was washed.  I threw out any cracked pots and put aside any non-black pots for taking to the next Give and Take.  I've decided I'm only keeping black pots, don't ask why.

I also decided to tidy up the area at the end of the garden. My potting table was looking very worse for wear, as some of the wood on the top had rotted and broken, but after removing some roofing felt that I used to cover the table top, it will hopefully dry out and I'll be able to repair it and make use of it a little longer.

I haven't actually sown any seeds into pots yet this year, but at least now that all of the pots are clean, once I've bought some compost, I'll be able to get on and do this.

Progress has been made, albeit limited. 

In the meantime, OH has been working hard prepping the kitchen walls.  I had removed lots more things to enable him to get on with the work and it made me realise how much junk and clutter we still have lurking in some of the cupboards.  I can feel another purge coming on soon, because how much stuff do we really need?

Certainly not as much as we've got, because half of it just sits in the cupboard and doesn't even get used from one year to the next.  Not for much longer I can promise you that.  Keep reading for some more serious decluttering coming soon.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Finally Doing Some Home Renovations - The Kitchen

After several years of not really doing anything to our house, basically since we had the basement refurbished back in 2012, we are finally getting around to doing some work this year.  The planned kitchen extension, was put on hold after quotes of £80,000 plus were received to build out into a side return and this made us rethink our plans.  Did we really want to extend our mortgage to pay for this when we are almost at the point of seeing ourselves being able to pay it off in the next few years? Instead, we have decided to renovate the interior of our existing kitchen, which is looking a bit shabby and in need of some TLC.

When we last renovated the kitchen, probably 7 or 8 years ago, we didn't spend a huge amount of money, and to be honest we're going to be spending even less this time around, but hopefully a bit of updating will make the space feel much fresher and be much more practical for everyday use.

We're essentially replacing all of the cupboard and drawer fronts, kick boards, etc., re-painting the window/door frames/sills, re-painting the walls, painting the wooden floor and tiling splash backs where necessary. A few other small changes will also be made to the internal fittings in the cupboards and drawers to make the space much more usable and easier to access.  It's often small changes like these that can make the most difference to how you use a space on a daily basis. All things considered, I'm quite excited about this.

I spent a good part of yesterday clearing the window sills and packing away all of the pictures and knick knacks that usually adorn the space, so that OH can get to work this week on prepping for re-painting the room.

Later in the day, we organised a reconnaissance mission to IKEA, to check out cupboard fronts and other necessities for the refit. It was hellishly busy as you might imagine in the school holidays, but amazingly, we managed to agree on colours and styles and OH will be ordering these online for delivery when the painting has been done.

The kitchen is currently looking unusually bare, which I am actually quite enjoying.  I may decide to put back fewer items once the renovation has been completed, as it will mean a lot less to dust and clean. I didn't manage to take a photo of how things looked before the work began as I was rushing out to the gym this morning, but I'll keep you posted with our progress.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Earn/Save £2018 in 2018 - March

Month three of this challenge and it has once again been better than I expected, largely due to some changes in our household expenditures. I've continued to sell a few bits on eBay, listing a few more things using a no listing fee offer that was valid this month. (There seems to be one every month, but I'm not complaining)

1) eBay sales this month totalled £16.64 after fees and postage had been deducted.

Total Earned via eBay this month - £16.64

2) I used the last of my Tesco club card reward vouchers, some money off  £50 spend vouchers and one other money off voucher, to save money on groceries this month.

Total savings from Tesco vouchers this month - £19.00.

3) Whilst perusing Money Saving Expert's weekly email, I noticed that Martin Lewis had blagged a 20% off everything code at Holland and Barrett, which was even valid on things that were already half price.  I also had a 75p reward voucher to spend with them, so I ordered two 900g packs of dates for OH and two packs of milk chocolate coated dates (also for OH for Father's day and his birthday) and by using both discounts and the free delivery on offer, I saved £3.83 in total. During a very busy week at work, this really helped me, as I didn't have to schlep to the shop to buy these items.  Double win.

A relatively small sum, but better than paying full price and we should be stocked up for a good while now.

Total savings from Holland and Barrett - £3.83.

4) OH arranged us a new fixed rate for our mortgage with our existing building society, as our current fixed rate expires in a couple of months and we'd be put on a higher variable rate.  He managed to get us a reduction on the current rate of 0.55%, which although not a huge drop is better than nothing.  It should save us nearly £290 over the remainder of this year and more going forward from there and avoids the hassle of producing all the paperwork required to change to a new lender.

Savings made from mortgage rate switch - £290.

5) A voucher pinged into my inbox one day this month, from eBay, to save 20% off a £20 spend in certain categories on the site. As I needed some anti-plaque dental powder for the dog, I decided to use the coupon to buy a larger than normal bottle, which meant that I saved £5.60 and won't have to repurchase this for quite a while.

Savings made with eBay coupon - £5.60

6) I found £5 whilst out walking the dog this month.  I know this isn't strictly earned or saved money, and is a bit random, but I thought I'd include it in the challenge anyway as it was unexpected income.

Money found - £5

All of the above made a grand total of £340.07 this month, which when added to the running total so far this year of £256.85 means I've saved/earned an extra £596.92 so far this year. Not too shabby so far, but things will get trickier from here on in.