Category: And more

Declutter your closet – a year of not buying any clothes

I decided not to buy any clothes in 2017

Having downsized and decluttered (and still decluttering) the clothes the DH and I have now fit into one small closet and one chest of drawers.

I am doing this for a number of reasons.

  • I don’t need any more clothes. I have enough.
  • My friend Lisa inspired me – fast fashion contributes to landfill, overuse of chemicals and exploitation of workers.
  • I don’t have the space to store more clothes.
  • To live more simply.
  • Too much choice is not good for mental health.
  • My mom hoarded clothes.

I have gone without buying clothes before. When the DH and I were not working we didn’t buy clothes for almost three years. Our priority was caring for our growing children, and to eat and heat.

Even when I returned to work I was so used to not having any money I still didn’t shop. I saved most of my salary as the plan was to go travelling when the contract ended.

Nine years ago I bought my first new clothes in three years

I was invited to a wedding. I bought a complete new outfit, dress, shoes, bag, jewellery and a fascinator. My boss remarked that he had never seen someone so excited about clothes shopping. I explained that I had not had any new clothes for three years so this was not mindless shopping, this was planned shopping and I was enjoying the whole experience. He was genuinely shocked that I had not had new clothes for three years.  Not shoes, not socks not underwear. Nothing.

Shopping is the quick fix

For many the payday weekend spent mindlessly buying more t shirts and tops and shoes that they don’t need is the norm.  A new top for the weekend or an impulse purchase that may never be worn (we all have those right) is a reward for working. Advertisers tell us to treat ourselves so we do. We deserve this, we tell ourselves, as we plunder Primark.

Investment dressing

Nine years later I still have the dress, the jewellery and the shoes I bought for the wedding in 2008. I know it was 2008 because when looking for a dress I knew that I wanted one inspired by the dress Meryl Streep wears to the wedding in Mama Mia. While I don’t wear the outfit every day (not a shopping in Aldi type of outfit) the dress and jewellery are loved and worn regularly. The dress packs well for holidays and when I wear it I still feel good in it. The cost per wear ratio is low. I intend that all my clothes will be an investment and last for many years.

Ditching clothes in Melbourne

Last year, whilst travelling, I ditched a substantial amount of clothes in Melbourne – donated to an Op Shop. The DH and I had brought too many clothes with us and whilst we needed winter clothes at the beginning of the trip we didn’t for the last part in Queensland and New Zealand. We had also packed the wrong sort of clothes and decided to buy some clothes in Australia. We replaced heavy sweat shirts with puffer jackets that are light and warm which pack down small. Jeans were replaced with travel trousers which have since been also discarded. Because I blame them for The Rash that blighted my NT trip.

Packing light

For 11 days in the NT I lived out of a 40l backpack weighing 8kg. It was enough. Why I packed too many clothes for the trip down under baffles me still. All I need is one pair of linen trousers, one pair of cotton shorts a t shirt and a linen tunic dress. Add one pair of sandals and 1 pair of trainers, swimsuit, travel towel and undies – and that was my 11 day packing list.

Back into the closet

In 2016 and now back in the UK I completely overhauled my wardrobe.  In 2015 I had adopted Project 333. I added some items, donated more to charity and replaced the shoes and jeans I had discarded in Melbourne. We have very limited space for clothes in the small house. One small cupboard and one chest of drawers. I converted to the KonMari art of folding and never looked back.

In 2017 I decided not to buy clothes for a year

It is now month four and I have not bought any clothes. Neither has the DH.

Have I been tempted? Yes I have. First was a cardigan on sale. One similar to my favourite cardigan. Made by an ethical clothing company, Thought. I tried it on, thinking of all the ways I could justify this purchase. Ethical, reduced, fits my colour palette. I did not buy it. It did not feel or look right on me. I put it back on the hanger and walked away.

My other temptation was when in Chester and there were a few shops with clothes I love. White Stuff. Mistral and Fat Face. I looked and touched and walked out of the shop.

I repeated to myself:

I have enough.

I need to check how ethical their clothes are.

Declutter not acquire.

Spending on clothes stopped but spending on other things started

I have noticed that I have been buying more of other stuff instead. Lovely notebooks and pens. Travel accessories.

I have justified them all.

I needed the note books and pen because I want to start a journal in long hand.

I needed the bullet journal and pen because I want to learn how to bullet journal.

I needed the Lamy roller ball pen because despite having inherited some beautiful ink pens (including a Lamy fountain pen) I am messy and ink goes everywhere, but any old biro isn’t good enough for Leuchtturm1917 note books.

I needed the pen loop for the Leuchtturm1917 journals to ensure I did not lose the pen. The pen does not fit the loop.

I needed the Travelon Anti theft bag because my old one was too small and wearing out.

I needed the travel document holder because it has RFID and is better than a poly pocket.

I needed the organisers because cables get mixed up in backpacks.

I needed the labels for the cables because I never know which one is for which gadget.

I needed the flat toilet bags because packing toiletries is a nightmare and these have special compartment for everything.

You see how it is.

And yet

Have I started a journal? No. They are so beautiful I don’t want to spoil their loveliness.

Have I used the pen? Yes and I love it. No one is allowed to borrow it.

Have I attached pen loops? No.

I have used the handbag every day – I can carry all I need, including the new purse I also needed, a book to read, another note book that I use all the time and my diary, plus phone and lippy.

I have used one travel organiser (used all the time) as we keep all cables in there now. The others will be used when we travel. So far we have not labelled the cables.

I have used the toilet bags because they discipline me not to take too much. However for carry on only I may go back to ziplock bags only due to airport security. We will see.

Many of the travel items were recommended by my on line friend of almost 2 years (although I have followed her blog for longer). And they are jolly useful. Because I don’t and she does have affiliate links to these items I am adding a link here. Alyson is chief blogger at World Travel Family. She only recommends things she uses and thinks are good. The blog is worth a read too.

I need to extend the no buy rule

It did strike me that I was buying much more than I usually do.

Why was this?

I had to give some thought to this. After all I write about decluttering, I help others declutter so why was I accumulating?

Because I was depressed.

Because I had Amazon Prime.

You see the list above is not complete

I have also bought:

A wireless doorbell.

Bamboo toothbrushes from Holland and Barrett. And because I got free delivery if I spent £20 I got other stuff too.

Packing cubes from Muji. They were half price. I already have four sets of Ikea packing cubes.

A bed, two mattresses and bed linen from Ikea. Slipped that major purchase in.

A weeks holiday in Cape Verde.

A weekend away in Shropshire.

I realised that I was getting addicted to online shopping. So I stopped. This does not help my mission to declutter.

I was suffering with SAD and the ongoing problems with the house (lots of bills and no progress) and house clearing was making me miserable. So I shopped. And as I hate going to shops, I clicked.

I stopped. And then my hairdryer blew up. I considered doing without but I have long hair and it takes half a day to dry naturally, without sun. I bought a hairdryer.

I have stopped buying now

And now I am getting rid of all my unwanted furniture. It was a choice of paying removalists and storage for furniture that no longer suits my life or selling and giving it away. Today I have sold two sofas, two Turkish rugs, two occasional tables a computer chair and some other random things that were cluttering my life. My neighbour has  vintage desk and bureau. Another neighbour has my vintage breadbin and the other has the workbench. They are doing our garden as payment in kind.

I have moved on

I realised that I was stressed and depressed because I was planning to move and store stuff I don’t want. I lost sight of the plan. This house is an investment and we are renovating it to rent and sell. Not a forever home. I was buying stuff to fill the gap of not travelling. I have to continue to declutter to achieve my goal.

So here is the plan

Don’t buy anymore stuff


Finish the house (involves buying things but not stuff)

Rent it out on Air B&B

Use it as a base when in the UK

House sit more

Travel more

Sell the house

Live in a warm country

What do you think of the plan?








Why we need to end sensationalist and attention grabbing news reporting now

Oh I am sure I will alienate people for this.

You see I mentioned yesterday that much of what was being reported in the news about the horrible attack at Westminster was at the time speculation. I got a bit of flak already. I have thick skin.

In this day of instant news, reporters, (I can’t bring myself to call them journalists) will say anything to get to the winning post first.

Print it first retract it later. Get sued eventually.

Go look at the headlines today. Remember the ones from July 2005 – the bright red London bus with the roof missing – for days it was all you saw on the newspapers and on the TV. A symbol of terrorism in London.  In the same way American filmmakers must have a red phone box and a double decker red bus and Big Ben somewhere in the film to tell the movie goer that we are In that London. They may throw in a Rolls Royce or a Mini for good measure and a flower seller who calls the star ‘guvnor’.

And so it is with reporting now. We must get the most graphic horrid picture flashed up as soon as possible. With blood in it.

Call it terrorism – and it probably is – before it has been confirmed.

Make sure that when one of the victims is named, that the fact that she has a British passport is mentioned, because she has a foreign sounding name. Call it as it is ‘ I am not racist, but…’ If she was named as Jane Smith and had a British passport would that have been reported? I doubt it.

I digress.

Many years ago I wanted to be a journalist. Or go into advertising. I even got an interview at The London College of Printing. My application included an article about why magazines continue to sell in the age of television. I argued that we could pick up a magazine at any time while TV was in the moment – this was 1977 and three channels and no catch up TV. Now of course every magazine has the same old articles – you look at 10 years of back numbers and you will have Spring Cleaning tips in March, the bikini body diet in May and the recipe for a Perfect Christmas in December. Every year. And TV is on repeats or binge watching Netflix. 24/7.

I am relieved to say that I did neither because now I would have to leave both jobs – as most of what both those industries do is lie, mislead and sensationalise. They thrive on making people feel bad about themselves. If you don’t have this seasons must have handbag, the latest iPhone or a new car the advertisers make you feel that you are a nothing and a nobody.  Add to that body shaming. That is advertising now. Pouting skinny supermodels who sell shoes whilst dressed like they are auditioning for Playboy hanging on the arm of a perfectly groomed man in an expensive suit.

Headlines that scream all brown people are terrorists with a picture of a  bloodied handkerchief at least – or even better the MP who tried to save the policeman covered with his blood. In case you did not know journos, the words, a policeman has died as a result of a stabbing attack is enough to convey the message that something horrible has happened and a family will be grieving. The MP may or may not be brave, his political party is irrelevant – but he did then what he thought the right thing to do was. If only more of us did.

But we don’t – we turn a blind eye to the truth, the cold hard facts and feed ourselves on fantasy lives with ever more outrageous story lines in a London Square or a Manchester Street. Fictitious communities with pubs that are open and not being knocked down to build more apartments with anti rough sleeper spikes outside on the windowsill of the inevitable Tesco Express. Is there a thriving cafe and corner shop run by a local family where you live? Or a Starbucks and superstore you need a car to get to?

On Christmas Day there will be a tragic story line. Because what you want on Christmas afternoon is to watch someone die and have a good cry. Occasionally the soaps run a storyline about cervical cancer or autism to redeem themselves. And get awards for doing so. Every actor is now a celeb of course. As are the reality show ‘stars’ – FFS fake tan and nice nails does not make you special.

Andy Warhol was right about fame.

And all of this is making us depressed or sad or miserable. All we have is doom and gloom in the news and magazines telling women that we aren’t good enough if we are not a whore in the bedroom, a maid in the living room and a cook in the kitchen. And we will never get a man if we are not all three – and hold down a high flying job in the city in our Manolo Blahnik shoes. And have babies while doing all this, be criticised for breastfeeding in public by men who have tits on Page Three. And men who cry or want paternity leave. Wusses if you are to believe the tabloids.

After 9/11 I stopped watching the news. My mother was appalled – you need to know what is going on in the world she said. Yes I do but I don’t need to see that plane crashing into the Twin Towers again and again and seeing people jump out of windows.

I don’t.

Others have told me that I will become an ignoramus if I don’t watch or listen or read the news.

I won’t.

If I want to know about what is happening in the world there are many resources – I can read the editorials of the papers in a cafe or online. I will read more than one – I research, and learn and form my opinion. I talk to other people and value their opinions (as long as is their opinion and not what they read in The Metro).

I know much more about what is going on around the world not just the UK. My news feed is global for many reasons and I like it that way. It keeps me balanced I believe and I don’t think that all the bad things only happen in England. And I get lots of good news too that way.

As the news broke yesterday – and I found out because someone commented on Facebook – my husband comes in from work having heard it on the radio and is behaving as if the sky was falling in. I reminded him that we needed to concentrate on the facts, be relieved that our daughter is in Canada not London and not speculate anything. The police have to do their investigations, the journos are after the scoop. And we don’t watch the news. Friends on social media take on the role of Henny Penny and Chicken Licken – tell me that I am wrong – to not immediately condemn it as a terrorist attack. I don’t know I reply and as I have heard very little I cannot form an opinion based on half a dozen comments on Facebook. And I don’t want to know more right then. So I watch DIY SOS and cry at that.

The someone who commented and alerted me to the situation was having a pretty shitty day. They did not need this news in their face today. And I told them to Turn It Off Now. You Don’t Need This Today. Self care is what you need. We all do.

Another friend in South America was guilting over being able to leave a town in distress caused by horrendous flooding – guilty for being able to be safe. You are doing the right thing I told him – one less person for the rescue team to worry about and you can’t help.  Did you know that this is happening in South America? Probably not as it isnt going to sell newspapers in the UK. See my comment above about my global news feed.

Today I investigate more and discover arrests have been made following a raid at a flat that is not too far from where I live. And so on social media local people are speculating on about whether it is in Smethwick or Edgbaston (because that is important?) and imagining how they may have walked past the terrorist in our midst. Because a terrorist will never shop in Aldi in Bearwood, would they? Throw in a good dose of racism, from a postcode of people who in the 60’s voted Conservative based on a anti Labour racist campaign – Britain’s most racist election – and it is time to leave that particular group because it is not about what is happening in my community it is a platform for people who are ignoramuses because they do watch and read the news and are brainwashed by Britain First and the Daily Fail.

When I said that we can’t jump to conclusions based on what we knew so far on social media friends (real ones, people I know and who know me) tell me that it is reality streamed – that I need to check the news on this one and that I am out of step. Reality streamed or sensationalism? Was I out of step? Give me facts and I will look into them (and so they did and so did I). And I value their comments and friendship. Friends should and could call it out when you are wrong. Although I still think I am right on somethings otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.

Surely sometimes we need to have a news black out – just for a while. I am not talking about ‘Alternative Facts’ distraction news to mask what is going on – because we all know that happens already. A Royal Wedding is a great way to distract the British from the recession and food banks. I am saying that investigations need to be made and I wouldn’t want to find out that my husband had died via Sky News. I do need to know that our police are doing all they can to prevent this happening and investigating this. I don’t need to see it all played out via reality streamed.

And in the meantime the ban on laptops in hand luggage on flights from certain countries and airline will do nothing to prevent what happened yesterday on 9/11 or on 7/7. But is will continue to feed the racists who now have evidence that everyone from Turkey or Syria is a laptop bomber.

And so the Orange Man wins.

I will end with a quote from a writer who has a sensible head on. Matt Haig. A writer with integrity and intelligence.


These Americans who talk about a terrorist incident signalling the ‘fall of London’ have no understanding of London and its history.

London has survived all kinds of terrorism. Catholic gunpowder plots, Victorian anarchists, the IRA, far right homophobes with nail bombs. It’s strong. The city survived the Blitz and stood fast against fascism, and didn’t stoop or withdraw. It went on to embrace the world. London isn’t going to change because of one act of hate.

London doesn’t close itself off from the world. London is the world in microcosm. That’s its strength.


Jumping off the work, watch, spend treadmill.

A life of conformity

Somewhere back in the early 80’s during ‘The Thatcher Years’ I bought the lie.

The lie that success was measured by my education, my work, job title, salary, car and my home.

I devoured Good Housekeeping in the late 70’s when I was a poor student. I dreamt of having a home with beautiful soft furnishings and an Aga in the kitchen.

Neither husband or children were in that dream because, post equal pay act I was independent, I had a degree and I was going to be that suited and booted ‘successful career woman’. With an Aga and soft furnishings.

Then the dream of the fairly tale wedding was sold to us – Princess Diana had found her Prince. And I found mine, meeting him on my birthday, after he had lost a £5 note. Indeed it was the old school friend I was with at the time who asked me to see if he was available and perhaps set her up with him that prompted me to get to know him better. We dated. Perhaps I could really ‘have it all’?

Reader I married him

We (the DH and I) were both in work but not earning a great deal and so we rented a cottage attached to a faux manor house in Warlingham. It was lovely with its walled garden with rambling roses and my herb patch. Within a year I was expecting our first child. I was 25 years old.

The landlady turned out to be a malicious old bat and we left, with nowhere to live. Technically homeless. We moved in with the brother in law and brought our daughter home to a tiny room in a small flat.

In less than two years from the day we met, we had a maisonette, a baby and a mortgage that was costing us nearly all one salary. I had to find work as we needed the money.

After being a retail manager and customer services assistant in a major department store the only job I could find I was doing the accounts in a scruffy bathroom shop with a filthy toilet. I left after a week and got a job in an estate agents. That lasted a few months.

I fell on my feet and got a job in customer service at Croydon Cable, one of the first cable tv providers in the UK. I loved that job and the people I worked with.  My daughter was finally at a wonderful nursery instead of a ok babyminder not so good childminder and it all seemed as though this would be it for a few years.

Settled and contented

We moved to a two up two down terraced house, got a bigger mortgage, because by then we had two well paid jobs we both loved and could not see that changing. We lived the Thatcher dream. Get a better job, get more debt. We had dinner parties on Saturday night, watched thirtysomething on week nights and Hope was my role model.

Hope and Michael played out lives parallel to ours in many ways. We had friends like Melissa and Gary. Didn’t want to be Nancy. Life and relationships changed in a difficult time politically in the US. In the UK things were also changing and the bubble was about to burst.

Chasing the money

My husband had left the job he loved at Allders, because we needed more money. You can see where this is going. Now he was responsible for all the displays in Radio Rentals showrooms in North London. He had a company car, a lot of autonomy, was out and about and loved the work.

He was doing the job he originally wanted when all those years ago he went to Allders asking for a job in window display. Instead he was taken on in the ticket office, got training to be a printer and then got his best friends from school jobs there too. And they were all very happy in their work and remain friends to this day.

But the days of TV rental were numbered. Things were changing. At one point he was being relocated to Newcastle, which we were happy about. We would move, houses were cheaper, there was nothing to tie us to Surrey. It didn’t happen. The cunning plan of the bag men was of course to hope he would resign and they wouldn’t have to fork out redundancy pay. We could see that and stuck it out and he got redundancy.

He merchandised Mars Bars, I got a job in The City (leaving a job and people I liked at Croydon Cable) because – yup you see the pattern emerging here? We needed more money.

Nothing changes without change

We discussed selling the house and going travelling with a toddler. We didn’t. Who knows what all of our lives would look like now if we had? Instead the DH was offered job in the West Midlands with Do It All as a Point of Sale Manager. Good salary, company car, lots of travel. And so another pattern emerges.

I was offered a job in Birmingham. This is how the interview went.  I met my old boss on Green Park Station and when he found out I was relocating, he offered me a job as his PA.

The plan was to sell in Surrey, buy two houses in Birmingham, one cash, one on a mortgage. I still wanted to go travelling, the DH had the sensible head aka this is what you do, work, buy house, have kids, retire… and this was going to be the compromise. Eventually be mortgage free and travel.

But then, Henny Penny, the sky fell in. House prices spiralled, sealed bids were invited on in demand houses and it didn’t happen. We sat it out, bought a rambling three storey house at the cheaper end of the town and spent 10 years refurbishing it. Moved because we had neighbours from hell, to another more sprawling house in need of major work and lived on the top floor while it was gutted. The bath was in the tiny top floor kitchen, the gas had been condemned and we had no floor in the kitchen on the ground floor.

By then we had two children, had survived five redundancies, a lot of debt and contemplated living and sleeping in the lounge room  to keep warm in winter. What happened was we got lodgers. Students at first, then overseas students learning English as a foreign language and then professionals as we upgraded the house. And most of the time it worked out well. The DH and I have remained in touch with many of our lodgers. Some are good friends.

Fast forward 3o years or so

I am so over Good Housekeeping. Look at this list of ‘chores‘ that apparently we need to do to keep our beautiful home spotless. By we I mean the woman of the house. Willow Towers was in need of more work, the DH and I were no longer happy to share our house. We had just got back from housesitting in Melbourne where there had just been the two of us and we liked it that way. We looked around the house and thought

‘this is not the life we want’.

In September 2015 we decided to sell and gave the lodgers notice. In October it sold and in November we downsized, moving to a two up two down and became mortgage and debt free.

We moved to a low maintenance, lock up and go house. No carpets to clean because you know, life is too short. Plan A is to live there a year or so, then rent it out. Plan B to sell it and buy a two bed apartment with no stairs, in the city, Plan C to live in a camper van. Or Plan D. Whatever that may be.

I look back now and realise that on balance we both have had jobs we have loved, working with people we liked. We still have friends from work.

Yes we have done some pretty shitty jobs too – post redundancy and in fear of losing the house. I have worked in call centres and the DH has door knocked to sell cable TV.

He now works part time driving a mobile library, a job he loves and a job other people think is awesome. I am supposed to be project managing the renovations. Instead I am dog walking in Wales and grappling with WordPress. We volunteer for the food bank I used to work for and like Mary Poppins, wait for the wind to change.

The future

Who knows? Suddenly I realise I am in my late 50’s and the DH in his early 60’s. That has been weighing on my mind a lot recently. It is young and it is not. I know 70 year olds with more energy than I. And younger people with less. At my age my nan had false teeth, permed grey curls and wore crimplene dresses. So I am doing fine but not as fine as I would like to be. I have been ill for three months. My back aches. I need sun.

Empty nesters

Both our children have left home. They did ok considering the parents they have. They are smart, funny and they are kind. Out of all the things I have done in my life, having these two wonderful people has given me the most joy. They continue to surprise and delight me.

It wasn’t always easy

My parenting role model wasn’t what you call average. Hey, Dad left us hooray, he use to beat his kids. Mom took multiple jobs to afford to pay for me to go on school trips. Nan made me banana and custard for tea. Mom got a teaching job and I had to learn to cook because she couldn’t. I thought Super Nanny had it sussed. I was wrong. Kids, I am sorry. I did my best. It wasn’t good enough. But you did good. I am proud of you.

The days are long when you don’t work

I am not a hobby kind of person. My mom, in her ‘retirement’ took up knitting, golfing, ebaying, photography, painting, and bought all she needed for these hobbies. Each lasted a couple of years.

She hoarded her life in shoe boxes and took solace in buying clothes. I tried to knit a ‘pussy hat’. It is still in the bag, stitches cast on and abandoned. I have a colouring book. I read. I declutter a lot as the hoarding gene was inherited.

At the end, she regretted not going to India. Travel was when she was happiest, yet she was always reaching out for more. Instead of living her last years on a sunny terrace in Greece she was bedridden and relied on oxygen.

My grandad dreamt of a cottage by the sea. He ended his years on a sofa in the front room, reliant on oxygen. My aunt, ended her years on a hospital bed in her kitchen. She was surrounded by years of newspapers piled up everywhere, which we were not allowed to move, not even to sit on a chair. There was a portapotty by her side and she too was reliant on oxygen. Her regret? Spending time looking after everyone else and not seeing more of the world.

So what is the plan?

My fitness is of a concern. These past few weeks I have been dog walking and my Fitbit tells me I am averaging 8000 steps. Spring is here so the excuses not to go swimming (cold, cold, cold) are wearing thin. I need to eat better food and this week I have been hovering between 5 and 10 veg or fruit a day. My hula hooping pal wants me to join her class. Yoga perhaps?

House Sitting has removed me from the small house that has quite frankly been getting me down. By now I had hoped that the impossible kitchen would have been replaced but all I am doing is waiting on other people. It is out of my control which is difficult.

An all inclusive sun holiday is booked for June. Post building work I hope.

Still more house clearing in Winchester.

And then?

I think I need a plan. With a date on it.


La La Land – a metaphor for our time?

And the winner is La La Land

But there had been a terrible mistake and someone gave the wrong envelope and it didn’t win best picture. Or it did win best picture? For a brief moment and then the prize was snatched away from them in what was either a massive faux pas at the Oscars (or not) or a metaphor for the times we live in of fake news and alternative facts. Like the film – life doesn’t turn out as you think it will – choices are made and the outcome changes.

An alternative outcome if only we put love before ambition. Or use our hearts not our minds. Or, or….

Like Brexit and Trump – La La Land had another outcome. If only we didn’t believe the lies.

In a world that is more than ever full of confusion, conflicting opinions amongst our family and friends (Brexit has divided the UK and broken friendships) and I still can’t work out if Trump is really happening or whether Bobby will emerge from the shower and all is well with the world once more we have La La Land. The dream and the reality. Based on choices we make. And are they the right choices.

And isn’t that what La La Land is all about. The choices the main characters made.

I will state right here that I loved the film

From the opening credits (that opening sequence made me want to get up and dance) to the end which had me sobbing (choose him, choose him) much as the end of Bridges of Madison County had me inwardly shouting the same – I was gripped.

I don’t read reviews – I had seen the trailer and immediately wanted to see  it. Then a friend I have known for 40 years said this –

 my view of La La Land. I don’t call it terrible, just ho hum … 5 out of 10

–  commenting on this review of the film by THEAGE.CO.AU

Based on this I nearly didn’t go and see it. She urged me to do so because she valued my opinion. Anyway, I did want to see the film because how could I not love a film with dancing and music and set in LA?

I got tickets to see it at The Electric in Birmingham and booked a sofa. If the film was a disappointment I was going to be disappointed in a cinema I love, which would take the edge off my devastation.

Loved it. But Best Movie – it is not.

I was brought up on musicals

My mom was an actress in the 1950’s and had Hollywood Stars in her eyes. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singing in the Rain, then The Sound of Music and South Pacific – these were the movies I grew up with.

Then I saw West Side Story.

Officially my favourite movie ever. Everything about it. The way it was filmed – as if was in the theatre at times, the conflict, the racism, the music and the dancing, oh the dancing. And of course at the end I sobbed my eyes out.

And La La Land has references to West Side Story and many other movies. Depending on what you read they are Singing in the Rain, Top Hat and Wall E (no, nor me). According to this review the scene in the planetarium at The Griffith Observatory where they are waltzing in the stars (and how lovely is that) is based on a scene in Wall E. No one has, to my knowledge, noticed the reference to Le Ballon Rouge in the Paris montage.  We all know, us musical fans, that La La Land has references to almost every great Hollywood Musical and that is why we, or why I loved it.

It also reminded me of a book I had read for my degree back in 1978/9 – The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West.

Nathanael West’s Hollywood is not the glamorous “home of the stars” but a seedy world of little people, some hopeful, some despairing, all twisted by their by their own desires

Good Reads

The scene when they are walking across the film lot – with lots of scenery being moved and how they walk  from one set to another seamlessly, which when I read it back then was, for me. the stand out scene that came to mind when watching La La Land.

Researching it now I discover that one of the main characters is Homer Simpson. This is what Wikipedia says in the current entry :

Homer Simpson – a former accountant at a hotel in Iowa who comes to California at the recommendation of his doctor to restore his health. Soft mannered, sexually repressed, and socially ill-at-ease, Homer’s almost constant inner turmoil is expressed through his huge hands which have an uncontrollable and detached nature to them.

Make what you will of who we all know as Homer Simpson now – and I am not going to reference the uncontrollable small hands with a detached nature.

What did others think?

Some shared my Australian friends viewpoint, and others loved it as much as I did. This is the conversation I had with my talented musician, musical loving, linguist friend.

 Me: I’m intrigued about how you felt about the what if alt ending. I sobbed.

Friend: it was heartbreaking as it feels like the message is you can only have one of your dreams: career or love. I wanted them to have both! Sort of want to see it again and find out they made that the real ending.

Was gutted actually… was so hoping it was true, and the sad ending was a dream. Completely touching how they lived their whole alternative future in a song.
Rarely was I rooting so much for two film characters!
 And these are the words that, for me, summed up the film so beautifully
Completely touching how they lived their whole alternative future in a song
If only we had a picture of the alternative future in a song right now. Right now that song could be ‘So Long and Thanks for All the Fish’.
Let us hope that we get a better alternative future because if not I am off to find my Mediterraneo (Academy Award Winning Film) an island of enchantment where anything can happen and enemies become friends.

Downsizing – 17 happy years but time to move on

Willow Towers

Ever since I got back from the mini round the world trip I made with my husband in 2011/2 I have been wanting to sell this house. Affectionately known as Willow Towers it was great when we had young children and their friends to stay. Yet it is too big for us almost empty nesters.

Three and half years later, two more trips to Australia and one to New Zealand and lots of short hops to Europe, the DH and I knew we no longer needed this house, the stuff and the hard work to keep it clean.

It is sold. We have found a much smaller house to move in (the total ground floor of the new one would almost fit into my current kitchen) and money will be freed up to do what we want to do.

This may be a camper van, a small house in Crete, house sitting around the world, but whatever it is, travel is the plan. We have some things to tie up in the UK, so for now we need a base here for a short while, so we have invested in another house.

It has not been a smooth journey. Is house moving ever easy?

As I listed my very precise requirements for the new house to a friend (who has also recently moved house) she remarked ‘you don’t want much do you?’ That shook me for a while and I thought I may have to compromise. The thought of not getting what I wanted had not occurred to me.

Things moved much quicker than I had anticipated. We received an offer for the house on the first day it went on the market. We had not found a house that met the precise requirements. I panicked and went into meltdown.

list for lisa

My lovely life coach told me to write a list. Where will the new house be? What do we need from the new house? When do we want to move by? Who do we want to buy the house? What will it feel like when we have moved?

It turns out that I don’t have to compromise. Because I made that list and the house chose me. I was torn between two houses, the tiny house and one a bit bigger.

Both had pros and cons. Location, size, decor… and then I realised that the house we rejected I liked only because it was similar to the one we currently live in. And it had a garden room. Where I could hide the clutter I hadn’t yet got rid of.

And getting rid of stuff was high on my list of priorities. Less stuff, more travel.


And as the photo sifting continues, today, I found the photos of Willow Towers in July 1998.

The Willow Tree

It reminded me of how far we had come, we took a sad house and made it happy. And now it is time to move on. Let a new family grow in it.

The compromise was really the house we decided not to buy. It was my get out clause.

What I was doing was planning where to hide all my stuff. I cannot take any crap with me now as there is nowhere it could hide in the tiny house.

I lost sight of the fact that there is only three of us and the plan is for me and Phil to travel more.

Which means most of the time there will only be one adult in the house.

We don’t need a three storey, three bed house.


I wasn’t happy in the big house anymore. I didn’t want lots of cleaning. I didn’t want to pay to heat rooms we didn’t use. I didn’t want to be surrounded by clutter.

And we don’t want one that needs work to do to it because for 30 years all we have done is buy, renovate, move. We did normal. We walked the work, watch, spend treadmill. I thought that was what I wanted. It turns out I don’t.

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The house we have bought is very similar to the one we lived in, in 1986. We have come full circle.

All we did to that was install a new kitchen and in the new tiny house we will have to improve the kitchen, because it is small, so small that only one person can be in it at a time. Willow Towers has been a 17 year project and Phil and I are fed up of that now. Weekends taken up with housework and lawn mowing are no more. Small House, Small Garden and pay others to make the improvements.

This move is the key to living the life I want to live now. An authentic life.




Don’t let your clutter be your legacy

What is the best legacy you can leave to your family?

An empty attic. Paperwork in order. And no clutter.

And remember what William Morris said.

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

This is nearly all the contents of my mom’s wardrobe. 5 bags of shoes. 2 Gloverall duffle coats. 3 Burberry macs, another 3 overcoats. I have bagged up 50 pairs of trousers and 40 tops and cardigans and maybe 50 dresses. There are bags inside bags, postcards from the 40’s sent by strangers. There are 80 years of photographs to go through.

I have to wash the clothes then decide what to do with them. In the meantime they are filling the floor of my dining room. I have her clutter in my house.

This is my promise to my children – you will have no clutter to deal with

I will walk around the house and look at what we have in the home.

I will open cupboards, go through my wardrobe, count how many shoes I have and recall the last time I wore them.

I will then imagine what it will be like for my lovely children to do this when they are in mourning .

I will consider what will they do with all this stuff, and think of the hard decisions they will have to make. The ones I am having to make now.

Then I will ask myself  three questions.

Do I really need this? Do I love it? Do I use it?

I will share and enjoy what money I have now.

I will declutter.

I will donate or sell the clothes I don’t wear.

I will make a memory box with special photos and letters, and then be truly ruthless with everything else.

I will take books I have read to a charity shop, give some to friends and have some fun and become a Book Crosser.

I will start doing this now. After I have sorted my moms stuff. Just found 4 Viyella jackets and some more silk tops. The mountain is growing and my house is looking like a reality tv show where you have to move bags to walk across the room.

When mom died there was (and still is) so much to do and none of it is a pleasant task. Yet truly, the paperwork, the solicitors, insensitive bank staff and arranging the funeral was easier than the task I have ahead of me.

Update November 2015

Since writing this I have decluttered, sold the big house and bought a small house. 

Still a way to go but getting there.

Addendum: February 2016.

I am now helping mother in law with similar decluttering tasks while she is ill in hospital.

I would add these to the best legacy you can leave your family:  a recent will,  a living power of attorney and a pre paid funeral.

Mom left me two of these, the will and the pre paid funeral. Made the awfulness of her death easier in many ways. A power of attorney was not needed, thankfully, yet it is something to be considered. Today.

Addendum April 2017

Still working on clearing the MIL’s house in Winchester. She passed away April 2016. The DH and I have spent several weekends clearing 80 years of accumulated clutter. It is exhausting and demoralising. However it has made us resolve to pare down our belongings. We sold and gave away much of the furniture we moved from big house to small house. Most of it was too big and does not fit our vision for an uncluttered, simple lifestyle. I saved money by not moving them to storage while we renovate the house.