Sunday 30 April 2017

Monthly Round Up - April

This month was the first month that I had a proper budget worked out that incorporated all the things I needed to spend money on.  It was a new departure for me to budget this way and in addition I also gave myself reduced budgets in many of my spending categories, so I was unsure if I'd be able to stick to it for the whole month.

Thankfully, however, I just about did, and had the best month I've had in a long while without feeling particularly deprived of anything.

My Food budget was set at £300 this month, as we spent a week in Crete. I managed to stay within this budget, coming under by just £2.07, even with a bit of help from the M&S voucher that I used a couple of times.

The Household budget was halved to £50 and although I went over by £10.56, I did stock up on dishwasher tablets and bought some new to me cleaning products for the Flylady baby steps, plus some stationery to make up my Flylady control journal.  (I could and probably should have made do with what I already had, but I got impulsive in Tiger, whilst waiting for my daughter to get a hair cut.)

My personal budget was set at just £25 this month and I went over by £3.77, which was good for me I can tell you.  If you've been reading past round up posts, you'll know I always overspend by a lot more than this, even when I have a budget twice the size.

LB's budget was the same as mine and I came under in that I spent only £9.20 on a few bits for our holiday.

The Home budget was set at £20 this month and I went over by £2.09.  This was mainly due to buying some new Hi-ball drinking glasses that I didn't plan to buy this month. My planned expenditure was on some new photo albums and a couple of new spice jars which I did buy too.

My Easter budget was set at £30 this month, to cover gifts for family members, OH and LB.  I went over by £5.14, but this overspend didn't actually come out of the budget, as I used the M&S voucher to cover this.

Finally, the Misc. budget was set at £50 and came in at £1.71 over, which also wasn't too bad.

So, I wasn't quite on budget, but not far behind, so things have dramatically improved this month which is positive.

In addition to the above, my usual £100 went into savings, I took spending money to Crete and I finished paying for my new varifocal spectacles.

All the above budgets (save for Food, which will return to £400) will remain the same for the next five months, until I'm in a better financial position and then they will be reviewed.  Month one was a success though, so lets hope it continues.

Next month, however, is an expensive one, as it is OH's birthday and I still owe him part of his Xmas present, so I've allocated a £200 budget for this, as he needs some new cycling gear.  Other than this and an additional £15 for a school trip everything else stays the same.

Budgeted expenditure next month will be focused on timber for the raised bed covers and growbags for planting tomato plants in the greenhouse, some new perfume for me, as I've almost completely run out and getting a couple of necessary things for the dog. I may also buy some items towards LB's school uniform for next year in advance, to spread the cost, if there is any room in the budget. (You can tell I'm starting to think ahead budget wise now.)

All in all, I feel I did pretty well and managed to claw back £102.50 to pay down the overdraft I had unfortunately built up since before Christmas. This is, however, £27.50 less than I hoped, but I'm happy enough for my first month on the new budget. Fortunately, I don't pay any interest on my overdraft, but I just want it paid off, so that I can start to live completely within my means. At least £122.50 of it has now gone.

Next month, as explained above, the budget is a lot tighter and I am only aiming to pay off just another £30, but I'll keep you updated about progress there in next month's round up.

I hope your budget, if you have one, is going well.

Saturday 29 April 2017

Saturday Morning Scare

It's 11.55am on Saturday morning and already what should have been a relaxing day, has left me feeling like a wreck.

OH disappeared into deepest darkest Kent at 7am this morning for a cycle ride with some members of his club.  This was fine, but for the fact that he wasn't around to dish out LB's pocket money and she was going out for the afternoon.  I managed to scrape together enough to keep her happy. (I rarely carry any cash, but had thrown some loose change into a jar over the last week or so).

The next problem was that the back door jammed and I couldn't get out into the garden or even let the dog out.  This was really annoying.  The lock sticks sometimes and I can't do anything with it.

I decided to take the dog out to vent my frustrations by way of a good walk.  We were having a lovely walk too, bar the sound of what sounded like a gun shot, until on entering a field, some youths started setting off fireworks in broad daylight.

Well, our little dog gets so scared of fireworks, and subsequently she made a run for it and would not stop.  I was terrified she'd run onto a road, so I headed off to check the main road nearby, whilst a very kind runner went in another direction toward the horse stables to see if he could see her.

There was no sign of her near the road thankfully, so I headed back towards the stables to be told by another dog walker that someone had found a dog there. After investigating further, the runner who had gone to look for her had indeed found her.  Then I couldn't find him for what seemed like ages and I was getting into a real panic.  Eventually, I found him and there she was in his arms.  I was sooooo relieved.  It made my morning grumbles pale into insignificance. It's funny how often you think you have problems, and then life creates a much more serious problem to take your mind off them.

Anyway, the police then arrived on the marshes, as someone had reported hearing the gun shot and they were looking for where it had been fired from.  I told them where I thought I'd heard it come from and about the fireworks and they drove off to investigate.

I'm now home and sat at the kitchen table typing this, trying to recuperate from the stress of the morning and wondering where to start on the things I need to do.  After posting on Thursday morning, nothing I intended actually got done, as I came back from my class and just felt completely exhausted and took myself off to bed for a couple of hours.  I didn't feel great the next day either, when I went back to the CS, but once I got there I was fine.

So, I guess I'd now better make a start and do some ironing, seeing as I can't get outside to potter in the garden, unless I climb out of a window that is, which I might do yet.

I'm hoping the weekend goes a little smoother from here on in. I hope your weekend is going well.

Thursday 27 April 2017

Thursday at Home

After two busy days at the CS, today I'm at home catching up with tasks that need doing.  Yesterday morning at the shop,  the volunteer I was supposed to be working with called to say they couldn't make it, through no fault of their own, so I had to keep the shop closed for two hours until another volunteer arrived.  I didn't mind too much, as I was able to get on with lots of sorting and pricing in the back room, without any interruptions. (Not a great start to the manager's absence though, but it happens sometimes).

Anyway, as soon as the afternoon volunteer arrived, we opened up and had quite a good day anyway.  For once, I stayed until closing at 6pm, so I got to help cash up and close up, which is something I'm less familiar with. I was really tired when I got home at 7.30pm though. 

I was the only one home last night, as OH was out cycling and LB was performing in a play with school, somewhere in North London and not getting home until 10pm ish.  I just made myself a bowl of soup and chilled out, before retiring to the spare bedroom to sort more photos into albums.  (I've still got two more to do and then the physical photos will be all organised.)

Today, I've not got much planned.  I've got the usual dog walk, a Zumba class at the gym at 10.15 and then the rest of the day is mine to do what I want.  I think a bit of a clean of the living room, more photo sorting, some ironing and laundry are the likely activities. Not wildly exciting or anything, but it will feel good when it's all done.  I might even make it out into the garden for a potter, if I get the chance. 

As it's the end of the month, there's no money left to spend, so I am trying to keep things simple and get the house in order, as it costs nothing to do.

I hope you have a great Thursday, whatever you may be doing.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 4

This post my Frugal Fails have been pretty minor ones compared to my last post, but they are fails none the less. The first one being that I bought a multipack of Seaweed Crisps, lured by the ridiculously low number of calories each pack contains. (i.e. 22).  

I had tried an individual pack of these snacks some months back, but had forgotten why I didn't repurchase them, namely because I didn't really like them.  They taste a bit too much of the sea for my liking, so unfortunately that was £2 wasted. To soften the blow I donated them to the Food Bank as someone may be partial to them who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford them.

The second Frugal Fail was that I cancelled a gym class the day before we went away to Crete, as I didn't have the car to get there and it would have taken 2.5 hours to get there and back and do the class. As I had too many other things to do such as packing, etc. I decided to cancel.  The problem was, I didn't give at least 5 hours notice, so was hit with a £3 fee for late cancellation.  I wasn't pleased at this taxation on my gym membership, especially when my place was most likely taken by someone else anyway. I won't be doing it again, you can be sure of that.

The third Frugal Fail occurred when I did my weekly shop last week.  I bought  3 packs of coffee for OH as he had run out and wanted some from LIDL. When I got home I realised I'd been charged for 4 instead of three and it was too late to point out their error, so another £3 lost.  Very annoying.

On to the Freebies and Frugal Measures:

1) I've received a few dividend payments from the shares I bought the other month. They weren't for large sums, but every little helps. I'm intending to reinvest any dividends eventually when they total a sufficient amount with which to do so.

2)  The first issue of my new free magazine subscription came the other week.  I'm hoping it will help me make wiser financial decisions in the future.  I had a good read through and there's lots of interesting articles in there.

3) I received another 4 free packets of seeds with my Kitchen Garden monthly magazine subscription.  Choy Sum, Pak Choi, Mizuna and an edible wild flower mix.

4) I almost managed to keep within my total allocated budget for the month of April, bar about a £10 overspend.  I just hope I can do as well in future months.
5) Our holiday turned out to be a real bargain.  Our self catering apartment accommodation in Crete was lovely, the best we've had so far in Europe, and cost only £300 for a week, plus £375 for flights for the 3 of us. With reasonably careful spending, it turned out to be one of our cheapest holidays yet and we had super weather into the bargain.  Definite result here.  Thank you

6) I got to the end of April having only spent £13 of my £75 M&S voucher, which means there's plenty left to help me through next month and hopefully beyond. This was great news, as it is such a relief to have something to fall back on at the end of the month when things get tight.

7) Finally, through Money Saving Expert, I managed to bag some free tickets to a Spin Cycling Festival at Olympia the week before OH's birthday and I'm hoping he can take a day off to go.  If I go with him, I could potentially buy him a birthday present there and it would be a nice day out for us.

Monday 24 April 2017

Flylady Progress - End of Week One

I'm now at the end of my first week proper of following the Flylady program.  I'm gradually incorporating each of the baby steps into my daily routines and finding it to be such a useful system. I have to admit that my morning and evening routines slid a little on the weekend, when I wasn't up against time restrictions or went to bed late, but I'm trying to stick to them, as not to could cause me to slip back.

It may seem silly to need to follow someone else's system for cleaning your house, and it may not work for everyone, but I'm the type of person who really responds to being told what to do and when in this context.  I tweak it to suit myself, of course, but I definitely need a big nudge in the right direction when it comes to cleaning and household maintenance and this is definitely doing the trick.

I've found another ally in my pursuit of Flylady's system, namely Flylady Diane Denmark on YouTube, who is a Flylady Mentor and who has made a whole series of videos taking you through each of the 31 baby steps.  She's a lovely Scottish lady, living and working in Denmark and I really enjoy her videos. I'm also still following Sophia from My Great Challenge too, and there are others out there on YouTube you can follow too.

On Saturday, I descaled the dishwasher, vacuumed and mopped the kitchen, downstairs hallways and toilet and on Sunday I cleared a clutter spot in my bedroom by my side of the bed and by rearranging a bit of furniture here, it now looks a lot clearer and will be much easier to clean.

I continued the vacuuming and mopping of the upstairs rooms and landings on Sunday too, which has gone a long way to making the house look and feel a lot cleaner. In addition, I emptied the ironing basket, so I've done quite a bit of work this weekend.

I did, however, stop short of washing my winter coats and packing them and all the winter sweaters away this weekend, as there's another cold spell forecast for this week, so maybe I'll do this next week.

This coming week, Flylady is concentrating on the Living room areas and although I'm not Zone cleaning just yet, I may join in with some of her missions and clean the living room spaces, as I haven't tackled these for a few weeks. I am at the CS three days this week though, as the manager is going away for a few days, so it depends on whether I find the time to do this.

Still enjoying the process and will keep you posted on further progress.

Sunday 23 April 2017

Coming to Life

As promised this weekend, a gardening post. One of the main things I noticed on returning from our holiday in Crete, was that the garden had suddenly started coming to life.  It looked much greener than I  remembered it, with bluebells flowering and  blossoms on all of my fruiting plants and trees.

I had virtually resigned myself to finding that the foxes had marrauded through the raised beds and disturbed everything that I'd sown, but thankfully, although they had dug down in places, the majority of the beds were still intact, with lots of lettuce seedlings and petit pois plants still growing.  It was a relief.

More good news was that many of the seeds I'd sown before we went away had now germinated.  There were kale, calendula, courgette, cucumber, kohl rabi, red basil and sunflower seedlings poking through.  None had been eaten by snails, which I also half expected.  There's only really the tomato and sweet pepper seeds still to germinate, but I think I sowed them quite early outside, so they'll probably need a bit more heat.

All I needed to do was straighten up the covers on the raised beds and water everywhere. Simple

This weekend is the first one in which we've been at home in London for a good few weeks and first thing on my list of gardening tasks was to move my little greenhouse to reunite it with the potting bench at the end of the garden. 

OH helped my by making a flat paved surface to stand it on and we carefully carried over and set it up in it's new home.  It fitted in perfectly and it's a bit of a suntrap in this corner so my tomato plants, when they eventually go in, will love it. Here's a picture of it in it's new home.

The next job was to pot on lots of the seedlings which were growing fast, particularly the kale, kohl rabi and marigolds. Here they are in their new individual pots with plenty of room to grow even bigger.

I also moved a few things around on the patio, putting my fruit bushes and rhubarb where the greenhouse used to stand by the back door.  I repotted the gooseberry bush in the middle into this new larger pot to give it more room to grow.  It's doing well.  I now just need to repot the blueberry next to it as it's soil has mossed over and the pot is cracked and crumbling away.  I need to get some ericaceous compost for this job and it's not in this month's budget, so it might have to wait until after it's fruited now.

Here's the new view down the garden from the kitchen table and as you can see it's a lot greener now. (Please note that I had my towels on the line for the first time this year.  I'm not good at hanging my washing out, but I made an exception for the towels, to help them smell fresher.)

The paths around the raised beds still need tidying (OH's job) and he's agreed to make more attractive covers for the raised beds when we can get to the DIY store for some wood.  I can't wait, it will make life so much easier as all the solutions I've tried are still not keeping the foxes out.

We got quite a lot done in a short amount of time this weekend, so I'm very happy.  I'll keep you posted on future progress.

Saturday 22 April 2017

A Brilliant Dishwasher Tip

As you may know if you've been reading my posts lately, I've recently become smitten with the Flylady system of home management and I am currently on Day 5 of the 31 Baby Steps to developing efficient routines at home.  I'm enjoying it and finding it is already making a big difference to the cleanliness of our home on a daily basis.

Concurrently, I've been reading this book that I picked up from Home Bargains for £1.

I'm quite enjoying it as books about cleaning go.  It's very informative.  One thing that I think I read here was about ways to clean your dishwasher.  I didn't actually act on it until I was doing a Flylady 15 minute declutter in my cupboard where I keep all of the products I use to make natural toiletry products and came across a part used box of citric acid.  On the back it suggested using it to clean out your dishwasher periodically.  You fill the little box where the detergent goes with citric acid and then sprinkle more in the bottom of the dishwasher and put it on your normal cycle (empty). 

I did this this morning and the results were great.  It now almost looks like new inside.  I was super impressed and will be doing this regularly from now on as it is such an easy way to get a good result. Here's a picture.

Friday 21 April 2017

Hooray for the Weekend

I'm so happy to get to the weekend this week. After a crazy Wednesday getting to the CS, Thursday was a bit calmer.  I did my usual class at the gym, then did a few errands picking up and paying for my new varifocal specs (I'm still getting used to them!)  and renewing some books at the library, before heading home for lunch.

After lunch I had to collect LB from school for a dental appointment with the orthodontist.  It didn't go too well, for one reason or another, which I won't go into here, although not for the reasons you might think.  Anyway, there's nothing to worry about, but it did leave me feeling a bit upset and disappointed, as the experience was a pretty negative one on account of the attitude of the consultant whom I found to be quite shockingly unprofessional in his manner. Anyway, I'm over it now, and not letting it get me down.  I can't do anything about someone else's negativity, it's their problem.

Today, I was at the CS again and thankfully the trains were back to normal, so I got there and back easily. I was working with a volunteer I haven't worked with before who was good fun and a character, which made it quite enjoyable.  I'll be working with her again next week whilst the manager is away for a few days.

I spent most of the day sorting through and pricing an extremely nice donation.  All I can say is that if the donated clothes are anything to go by, the donor's current wardrobe must be amazing and I'd love to be a fly on their wall.  It's really fascinating to see what some people donate. It does make you realise how much wealth there is out there in places. This particular donation was made up of mostly dresses, which were in very good condition and of course, I just had to try the odd item on, as many of them were nearer my size than many we get in the shop. I didn't buy anything though, as they were a little too expensive for my budget.

After another busy day, tonight I have kicked back and enjoyed watching Gardener's World.  I now can't wait to get out in the garden tomorrow as lots of my lettuce seedlings are really coming on and many other seedlings need potting on before I plant them out. I'm being a bit cautious as the weather forecast is predicting a cold spell next week and I don't want to lose what I've grown so far.

There will definitely be a gardening post on it's way to you this weekend. What are your plans for the weekend?

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Crazy CS Day

Today was my first day back at the CS after the Easter weekend and I felt very organised as I set off having properly started on my Flylady routines.  I'd laid my clothes out the night before, made a salad instead of sandwiches in an attempt to eat healthier and set off in good time.  Trouble is, sometimes life conspires to prevent things running smoothly and today was 'one of those days'.

First up, there was a signal failure on my usual train journey, so I could only get so far.  I then had to change buses twice to finally get to the shop 30 minutes late, just as the other volunteer on duty was giving up and walking off down the street to go home.  Without her I wouldn't have been able to open the shop, as having tried to ring the manager, I realised that he wasn't in today and I was opening up.

Anyway, as the volunteer was wearing headphones, she couldn't hear me calling her, so I had to chase her down the street, so that she'd come back to the shop with me.  Luckily another volunteer rang in sick so I hadn't kept two people waiting, and another volunteer turned up to help too, so all worked out okay in the end.

Why is it that when the manager isn't in, you get all kinds of obscure requests from customers?  I've left the manager numerous notes informing him of various encounters I had in the shop today. It was insane.

Anyway, I left a little early as the trains still weren't running properly and took a tube and a train home.  I got home in almost the same time but had to pass though Central London, Down the Embankment, through part of South London and then Docklands to get home.  I worked out that I went under the Thames four times on one tube ride.  CRAZY!! I may have to use the same route on Friday, which I'm not relishing, but needs must.  I've been very lucky with the train for the past year.  I hope they get it sorted soon.

Needless to say, when I finally got home I was exhausted. I had to unwind for an hour before I could even begin to think about making any supper. My evening routine was blown, but I'll catch up. It's a good test of my resolve.

I hope you had a better day.

Friday 14 April 2017

Learning to Fly(lady)

I'm joining in with Sophia from My Great Challenge on YouTube, in trying to follow the routines of the infamous Flylady in an attempt to get and to keep my house in order.  She is making a series of videos charting her progress using the Flylady's techniques for creating a routine that allows you to keep on top of your housekeeping and helps you to declutter unnecessary items from your home.

I watched a few of Sophia's videos on the subject and jotted down a few notes before I decided to actually join with her and try to follow Flylady's baby steps to develop new household routines. It was only when I went out and bought some bleach today that I finally committed myself to start the process myself and tonight I completed the first step, namely to Shine Your Sink.

This action forms the initial basis of the new routine, as it then allows you form the habit to shine your sink each evening before retiring.

There are many steps that follow this one, but it all starts here and other things then can be added to this routine, building it up into a comprehensive way to tackle your whole home in the time you have available.

So first step - Shine Your Sink

Fill your sink with a bleach/water solution and leave for one hour. (Make sure you open a window as the fumes from the bleach are quite strong). Empty the sink and then take a cloth, scrubbie, toothbrush or whatever else you need to use and shine your sink/draining board areas thoroughly.

Follow this up by cleaning this area every evening before retiring to bed (exact timing is up to the individual).

I duly followed these instructions.  It had been a while since I'd deep cleaned the sink area, so quite a bit of limescale had built up in some parts of the draining board, especially around the base of the tap.  I tackled this whilst my sink was cleaning itself by using a mixture of water and isopropyl alcohol which very quickly breaks down the limescale, allowing it to be easily wiped away.  Any stubborn bits were subsequently attacked with a razor blade, with great care.

Here's the finished result.

As you can see, we have a double sink.  The left hand side is for washing up our dishes, the right for washing the dog's dishes. In the interests of hygiene, I like to keep these tasks totally separate. The right/dog side does tend to get overlooked in terms of cleaning as it is used less, so it can get a bit grimy.  Hopefully, this new routine will help me to be more disciplined about keeping it clean.

Having shined my sinks, it does instantly make the kitchen feel tidier and cleaner and there's nothing quite like coming down to a clean sink area in a morning. I may not use bleach each time as it is quite strong, but I will probably use it once a week to keep it clean.

Anyway, having watched 2 further videos of Sophia I have also started to prepare what Flylady calls a control journal which helps you to stick to the routines you create and I have prepared the initial morning and evening routines that Flylady suggests you will need to follow.

Included in these routines are some essentials aside from shining your sink, such as recognising and tackling hotspots of clutter in your home (set a timer and tackle one hotspot each day for 5 minutes only), a daily 15 minute declutter of any area you choose, make your bed daily, always prepare and set out your clothes for the next day, check your calendar and ask yourself 'What's for dinner?' (to remind you to get what you need out of the freezer), dress up for the day (i.e. don't stay in your pyjamas all day), do one load of laundry per day, (I won't be doing this as we don't make enough laundry to do a load each day, but will probably do 3 or 4 each week), swish and swipe your bathroom(s) (again just five minutes should be sufficient for decluttering and wiping clean your bathroom surfaces and quickly cleaning the toilet) and finally, set a time to go to bed/sleep and wake up and try to stick to it.

Some of these things I do already.  I always wash up after dinner and try to leave my sink area tidy on retiring of an evening and I always dress up for the day, make my bed in a morning and try to check my menu plan and take out any meat I might need from the freezer, so I do know that doing these things works and helps to make the day go much more smoothly.  I also know that if I don't do these things, it can create problems.

Step Two of Flylady's system is to visit and take some flying lessons.  This will be my homework over the weekend whilst we are away.

In addition to doing this, I will probably also start to read this book that I found today in Home Bargains for £1. Hopefully, it won't confuse me too much.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Back to the CS

Today, was our first full day back in London after our holiday and I was back at the CS for the first of my usual two days. As we'd got back from the airport yesterday at about 7.30 pm, I hadn't felt like doing much after a long day travelling, so after unpacking a few things and putting some washing in the machine, I just sat down and vegged out in front of the TV and caught up on two episodes of Broadchurch and half an episode of Vera.  It was bliss.

I slept really well back in our own bed, but woke very early this morning at about 5am and after half an hour I decided to get up, as I wanted to catch up on a few things and get organised ready to get out of the house.  I never normally wake this early, it was possibly on account of the two hour time difference between our holiday destination and here.

After getting ready, finishing the unpacking, walking the dog and doing some personal banking online, I finally headed off to the CS.  Not long after getting there, the Manager told me and another volunteer that he had a special task for us. We were intrigued.

We are one of five charity shops down the street, (there were six when I first started, but one closed down last year) which means that often thrift shoppers go from one to the other, buying things in more than one of the shops.

As the area is also quite a wealthy one, it is a definite destination for many people who come from further afield to shop there, as well as being popular with local residents.  Anyway, he wanted us to take an hour or so to check out the other shops for him and see how our shop compared.  We were quite happy to oblige and headed off down the road.

It was quite an interesting task.  I'd been in a couple of the shops before on my way home, when something in the window had caught my eye, but I'd never been in and had a really good look around each one, partly because I try not to spend money when I go to the CS and partly because I am always trying to get home as soon as I can, once I leave the shop.

Of course, it was always going to be fatal for me, as I couldn't help but buy a couple of items in the process.  The first was a big chunky jumper that was reduced to £1.99 in one shop, as they were selling off winter stock. I'm not likely to wear it now until next winter, but at that price, new and still with tags on, I couldn't resist. 

Unlike the first item, the second item was something that I actually needed now and just happened to come across in one of the shops.  It was a new and unused photo album I will use to help complete the task I started last month of organising our photos.  I was so happy to find it and at £4.99 it was about the price I was looking to pay anyway.

Here's a picture of it.

It has a grey fabric cover, is strung with a grey grosgrain ribbon and has blank black card pages.  Just perfect for using with the photo corners I bought.  It had a price sticker on it suggesting it originally cost $35, and it seems very good quality, so quite a bargain really. I just need to fill it now.

Anyway, after enjoying our little reconnaissance mission to check out the competition, we headed back to our CS and reported back to the Manager.  Hopefully our observations were useful to him.

To be honest, everyone is looking for something different when they go thrift shopping.  Some people like very low priced bargains, others are looking for things to resell at a profit, some seek out designer or very high quality items at good prices, others just want something to fill a particular need at a particular time, plus there are probably a whole host of other reasons people shop in charity shops. The diversity of shops really fascinates me.  Each one is it's own little world.

Anyway, once back the rest of the day went quite quickly and before I knew it, I was heading home again.

As we still had very little food in the house I had to go out to ASDA and do the weekly food shop that evening after supper.  I wasn't really relishing it as I was tired, having got up so early, but I was quite pleased I did, as I managed to find lots of yellow stickered bargains to put in the freezer and feed us over the next couple of weeks. Result.

I'm back at the CS tomorrow and then I'll hopefully have a few days to catch up on household chores before we pack up again and head off to Yorkshire for a couple of days over Easter.

Monday 10 April 2017

Home From Crete

Yesterday we returned from our holiday in Crete.  We've had a lovely week.  A very beautiful island with incredibly hospitable inhabitants.  We would go as far as saying that it is one of the most hospitable places we have visited to date and we've travelled quite a lot over the years. We really enjoyed our stay.

We got lucky in terms of our apartment, or maybe we took care to book something we were pretty sure would be a good standard and we weren't disappointed, either by the accommodation or the price which was a bargain for the Easter holidays.  I think it helped that LB broke up a week earlier than many schools in the UK. The price for next week is significantly higher.

The weather has been good and I've done plenty of sunbathing by the pool.  There was a cool breeze and a bit of cloud at times though, so I was pleased I brought a jumper and a jacket.

We had a morning at the Minoan Palace at Knossos, an afternoon in the capital Heraklion, a day in the mountains looking out across the lush Lissithi Plateau and exploring the caves at Psychro.

We visited the Museum of Cretan life in Hersonnisos, a wonderful museum full of information about the flora and fauna of the island and the work and pastimes of it's inhabitants through history.

The food and drink has been fabulous. I've enjoyed wonderful traditional Cretan/Greek dishes, (Kleftiko and Stifado being my particular favourites) and drunk way too much Ouzo and Raki and now I'm happy to be home and get back to normal.

I think we'd definitely return to Crete, as there's still a fair bit for us to explore there.  The history and simplicity of Cretan life is very appealing, I would definitely recommend it as a holiday destination.

Sunday 2 April 2017

Donated - March 2017

Inspired by Thrift Deluxe's 'Decluttered' page on her blog nine to five. I've decided to start a new  series of monthly posts, detailing what I'm donating, throwing out or selling each month and why, as part of my challenge to declutter 1000 items from the house this year.

Starting from this month, I'll be giving a breakdown of what left or will be leaving the house.

So, for the month of March, the following things have left or will leave my home.

1. Little Book of Hygge - sold via eBay - I got this for Christmas, read it and don't really see what all this 'hygge' fuss is about.

2. One large ceramic bowl - taken to the tip as it was cracked. I had still been using it for a number of years on the kitchen countertop to hold food waste, but I'm now trying to keep visual clutter to a minimum, so it was time to go.

3-8. 1 pr of socks/2 prs pants/1 sweater/1 odd glove/bra (all washed) to rag bag for textile recycling due to holes/generally unfit to wear or donate.

9. One lightweight grey sweater to be donated - Not flattering - life's too short to not feel good in things.

10. One navy batwing sweatshirt (ethical).  It just looks awful on me and I can't see me ever wearing it. (I may sell this on eBay, as I've never worn it).

11& 12. Two packs of photograph corners that don't stick very well.

13. One small photo frame (Novelty - need I say more)

14. Overlocker that doesn't work and that I no longer use.

15-50. Baby wear/shoes/blankets, etc. - I felt inspired to go through my hoarded box of LB's baby wear  and found quite a few more things I felt happy to donate or repurpose. I think it helped having sorted my photos, as I knew I had lots of photos of her wearing or playing with some of the items, so I didn't feel the need to keep the actual physical items. (Over time, I'm finding it easier to let go of more and more of these things - #Progress).

51-52. One pair of cheap sunglasses and case - I have some prescription sunglasses and some vintage sunglasses and don't need a third pair that I will probably never wear.

53.One pair of mustard coloured leather gloves (from Primark) - Just what was I thinking when I bought these? I know I will never wear them again.

53-56. Two fabric collars and one pair of cuffs that I made myself - I will never wear these again either and still have the pattern should I wish to make them again.

57. One make up bag - surplus to requirements.

58. One bag of hair rollers, never used and unlikely to be.

59-60.Two winter coats that are rarely worn and unlikely to be in the future.

61. One thick sweater bought from a CS, but which I'm not keen on.

62. One vintage dress - Too small.  I've hung onto this for years because I liked the styleof it.  Now, my tastes have changed and it's time to let go because I can't even wear it, so what is the point keeping it.

63. One skirt - bought from the CS where I work last summer, but not my style.

64. One yoga top bought from the CS.  Not my style and looks awful on.  Why did I buy this? (I'm feeling a familiar theme running through some of these donations. Maybe it's a good thing that I've stopped buying things from the CS where I work, as many of them have turned out to be erroneous purchases)

65. One pair of mustard coloured trousers bought from ASOS sale for £9, to potentially wear for a wedding, but never worn - tags still attached. - Look awful on me and induce guilt every time I see them in the wardrobe.

66. One pair of shoe laces. (NEW)

67. One skirt of LB's, hardly worn and not likely to be.

68. 1 Pac a mac with very conspicuous print. No longer wear.

69-70. 2 bras.  Not worn much due to being the wrong size.

71-75.  4 packs of free seeds that I'm not likely to use.

76. 1 electronic baby game.

77. 1 waterproof valuables holder (I had two of these, so this was a duplicate)

78-79. 2 pairs of unused shoulder pads.

80-82. 3 children's books

83. 1 silicone garmin case - came with something I ordered online, but no use to me.

84. 1 book

As you can probably tell, I had another cull of my wardrobe this month, as I was getting summer clothes back out and trying on things I potentially wanted to take on holiday with me. It boosted the total anyway and made me feel a lot better about what is left.

This brings the total amount of things donated this month to 84.  When added to the previous total of 136 this year, the new current total of items donated in 2017 is 220. I'm still a bit off target, but hoping to make up ground at some point later in the year.

Saturday 1 April 2017

Still Simplifying - March

It's been a funny old month this month, but it has been very productive in terms of simplifying areas of our lives, which is good.  The main thing I achieved was that I finally carried out a task that's been on my list for several years now, namely sorting through all of our photos and completing the albums I'd started collating nearly 10 years ago, but never finished.

The job isn't completely done, as I still need to buy a few more albums and then fill them, but several albums have been completed and the remaining photos are sorted into categories ready to go straight into albums, which will make it easier when I finally get around to buying them.

It's been a bit of a mammoth task, but I did it over a couple of weeks, doing a bit on various evenings or free days.  It hasn't been quite as emotional as I thought it was going to be either, which is good, but it has been super satisfying.  I still also need to organise all of our digital photos going back 8 years or so, but I'll save that task for another month.

I completed another couple of small simplifying and organising tasks this month, one being to go through all of my seeds and throw away any out of date packets.  I know that you can often still get them to germinate, but I'm talking 5 or so year old packets here. I've had mixed results with old seeds in the past and to be honest, I just don't have the time anymore to re-sow them if they don't germinate, so I'd rather stick to fresh seeds where possible.

The other task was to use a chalk pen I bought on eBay to label all of my spice jars in the kitchen.  I really wanted to do this job, as I can't tell by physically looking at the jars, which spices are which, so I had to sniff every jar every time I wanted to use a spice to get the right one.  It was a bit of a ridiculous process.  Anyway, now this job is done, I don't have to do that anymore and they all look pretty neat too. (I already had the chalkboard stickers, that I'd bought a while ago)

I now just need to buy a couple more of these jars from IKEA the next time I go, to house a couple more herbs and spices and then the job will be fully completed.

The final and probably most exhausting task completed this month was the digging over of our new allotment, which was covered in weeds at the beginning of the month.  It was a big relief to get this job done in time for site inspections at the end of the month and I can now get on and enjoy the task of sowing/planting it up and making it my own.

Just a note on the decluttering front - I'm starting a new way of recording the items I've donated or decluttered each  month, by creating a special post every month here on my blog of what went and why, so that post will be coming up shortly.

I feel that on the whole it's been a good month for getting on top of organisational and simplifying jobs and I'm looking forward to doing more of the same next month.