Category: Toward Minimalism

English summer, why Brits can’t make coffee, good reads and no quick fixes

The English summer

It is August. In England. It is raining and cold enough for the central heating to have kicked in.

This time last year I was in Melbourne, their winter, weather about the same. But that was Melbourne and that makes everything better.

Housesitting

I am house sitting and dog sitting in the countryside in the UK. There are similarities between the last two years house and dog sitting in Melbourne and this house and dog sit. The dogs are delighted to have company, love cuddles and a lot of fuss, and while they can be left for a few hours (which is rarely), greet us like long lost friends on our return.

The Melbourne houses were beautiful, in lovely suburbs. The house in England is luxurious, very quiet, and comfortable. There is a cleaner, a handy man and a gardener. And yet – I would rather be in Melbourne.

I miss the rattle of the tram at the end of the street. I miss the Greek food. I miss Melbourne.

Melbourne versus the Worcestershire Countryside

I miss the coffee, the burgers, the graffiti and going for brunch and knowing that the eggs will always be perfectly poached and the coffee good. Don’t waste your breath and tell me that poached eggs, barista made coffee and smashed avo are increasingly available in England. Tell me, can you ever add the prefix ‘good’ in front of these menu items in England? Quite frankly, all a bit hit and miss and frequently a disappointment. In so much now that I have but all but given up on brunch in England and opt for a bacon sarnie and a cup of tea instead. That we, us Brits, can do.

Take for example the ‘barista made coffee’. Somewhere along the line cafes in the UK have started buying in expensive coffee machines  –  in the mistaken belief that they by owning one they can miraculously make good coffee.

The same cafes have added poached eggs to the menu while having no idea how to cook them and smother them with shop bought hollandaise to disguise the poorly poached egg. A £1000 coffee machine does not make the operator a barista. It is a practiced skill. And yes I like pretty pictures on my coffee. I do.

If you can’t make good coffee or serve perfect poached eggs, don’t put them on the menu. Just don’t. And smash the avo please because sliced avo is nasty and slimy and the reason why I never ate in the UK before I became ever so slightly addicted to it in Melbourne.

I put all this whinging pom behaviour down to the summertime blues. Seriously, August, rain, confined to barracks and I am wearing a fleecy for goodness sake.

I am a city girl

Yet the countryside here is beautiful and green (the rain). There are canal walks and good pubs with excellent food. There is an Arboretum a few minutes away. Cities with cathedrals and Tudor buildings. The Commandery in Worcester is a few miles away and there are heaps of old buildings and gardens managed by The National Trust within driving distance. It is lovely here. My sleep is uninterrupted by light pollution, the traffic noise is minimal. The Severn Valley Railway is close by as is Bewdley and the River Severn. I need to get out more. And stop whinging.

Filling the time

The upside is that I am reading my fifth book – the downside is that I am isolated as it is 30 minutes brisk walk to the village that has one shop and one pub. My husband is at work four days a week so for 9 hours a day it is me, the dogs and the 3 acres of woodland and some rabbits.

For five weeks. Week Three. I am bored now. I had great plans – one was to start running – couch to 5k – but then I had a fall and that came to a standstill. The other was to finally  treating my blog seriously, move hosts, increase SEO. That did not go well. Post fall injuries make sitting at a desk for more that 30 minutes painful. I have too many photos stored that I have not edited properly. I almost threw in the towel.

And in the end I wonder if I care that much. Do I want to be that person who has adverts on her blog to make some money? I am not sure that I do.

The book

What about the book I keep saying I will write? What about? The reality of decluttering? Will people be interested in a book to tell them that actually you can’t do it in 7 days and your house won’t be sparking joy in 5 days? No – the hoarders all want a quick fix and when it doesn’t work – whatever method they choose, Kon Mari or Peter Walsh – and they ‘fail’ they say that that method is crap and move on to the next one. Of course they do – have you seen how many self help books there are on decluttering? If they worked there would only be one book needed. Instead there are hundreds and all give conflicting advice.

Don’t follow decluttering groups on social media

I do because I thought I wanted to write the book about decluttering. Seriously the people who whine about their kids rooms and the Lego depress me. They are the people that bought all that bloody Lego. ‘My children have seven pairs of shoes and five pairs of jeans and twenty thousand  t shirts’. They do, who bought them? A mother despairs and says ‘I tell them to tidy their room’ yet they themselves don’t have the energy to do more than watch re runs of Hoarders and shop for storage containers on ebay. “Lol.” The child can’t get in the room because the Lego covers the floor.

Honestly if I write the book I will call it ‘first get off the sofa and stop whining’. Chapter One ‘turn off the TV’. Chapter 2 ‘Turn off Facebook’. Chapter 3 ‘If they can use a mobile phone they can use a washing machine’. I may have my outline now.

Some have got it tough – they do, ill health, unemployment, family break ups –  and there is great support in many of the groups. And that is good.  But it is nearly all women who pick up constantly after kids and husbands and think that this is OK or whine about it.  It is not OK. Which is why decluttering and the process is personal to each of us – we cannot give advice. Just do it for ourselves. Offer support and empathy but not advice. And stop buying the Lego.

Be yourself

The vicious cycle of depression

Hoarding is a mental health issue. Like depression you cannot snap out of it. Indeed, anxiety, depression and hoarding is often part of the same vicious cycle. But please don’t project your issues onto your kids. And quit asking how many towels a family needs, justifying why a crafter needs 7 million bales of material, and buying more plastic storage to keep the beanie babies because you know you will never make that quilt and one towel each is enough and Beanie Babies will not be your pension fund. And then I remember how many towels I had. And I still have those Nat West Piggies and ‘vintage’ teddy bears.

Diets work, people don’t

Like diets – join WW and lose 7lb in the first month or your money back. And most people do lose 7 lb then by month two or three they plateau or gain and say it’s crap, I stuck to it. It doesnt work. In reality we all know they have a stash of chocolate in the car and choose that over a salad.

Three months later they are a stone heavier and join Slimming World and lose weight and after 6 months get disillusioned as they are size 18 body is now size 14 and they wanted to be a size 8 by now so the diet is crap and they leave. They put on weight and in 6 months are on the next fad diet.

If I wrote a diet book called ‘Losing Weight isn’t Easy’ would it sell? Because no one want the unpalatable truth that is you have to work at stuff. Paying £5 a week to be weighed won’t make you thin.

Gaining back control

When I announced my couch to 5k intentions I had a lot of support from friends and genuine sympathy when a fall the first day put me back on the bench. I also had some people say that the NHS have no business advocating a running plan and should concentrate on making people better. Going for the burn and running through the pain was the only way to gain. Not for me it isn’t. I know my body best.

And as I decided to do this to get some control in my life as other aspects seemed to be out of control and some people offered support there while others told me I had made a big fat mess. Yes a big fat mess of my blog, my attempts to run and therefore everything in my life right now that keep me sane, the temptation to crawl into a hole and hibernate in this autumnal summer was overwhelming.

Instead I read

Bloody good short stories in The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon. Writing that makes you wonder where they find the words. I read some not so good books, with the over and unnecessary use of the words really and literally. When did everything have to be really amazing or literally the best thing ever?

Writers like Mark Haddon and Bill Bryson make me feel it is not worth my time picking up a pen and writing ever again. Then I read a poorly concocted tale that gathers four 60 something women in a villa in Italy. Five hundred words about forgetting a passport that add nothing to the plot, a dig at Investment Bankers and a millionaire property developer. Add to the mix a stereotypical young Italian gardener, a husband bonking the intern from Essex and an English bounder art stealing hotelier and some lemons. And I think, yeah, I can can write.

Be the Change

To get something done, to make a change to your life you have to make a change in how you live. Losing weight isn’t difficult. I have done it before, half a dozen times. What is difficult is committing to the things you need to do to lose weight. And you know you did not put on those pounds overnight so why do you think a diet that promises losing a dress size in a week will work?

I spent my teenage years (skinny teenage years) watching my mom on one diet after another, putting vile artificial sweeteners in her tea, PLJ in her hot water then eating a whole loaf of bread, butter and cheese in one sitting. Or going to the carvery and having all of the meat, three types of potato, followed up with a Black Forest Gateaux.

At 15 I was adding sweeteners to my tea, eating baked beans out of a tin (the baked bean diet was a thing) as I thought I was fat. I wasn’t. I was 8 stone (51kg). It was just that did not fit into clothes made for the typical English figure with curves.

At 18 I lived on cottage cheese and bran flakes. I was a student and still a beanpole. I cycled or walked everywhere which offset the beer.

At age 25 at full term with my first born I was 61 kg. I was not fat. I got fat. Only I have the tools to reverse this. No one else.

So where did all the stuff come from?

In my teenage years and life as a student I could pack up my belongings in a couple of bags. I did use a van to move to London – I had a moped by then, a few more books and possibly two pairs of shoes. How did I go from this to a 6 bed house full of stuff? Because those magazines sold me a lifestyle of swags and Roman Blinds and shabby chic and collectables. Like weight, clutter is not something you acquire in a week. It takes years to acquire it so you are not going to lose it in a week. The link between excess stuff and excess weight is there to see for all – almost everyone is hoarding clothes three sizes too small for them. Wish clothes. That mock us all.

Magazines perpetuate the myth of perfection

If you hoard magazines, go look at them now. If you don’t have a backlog to 1985,  leaf through them at the newsagents of supermarket. A good 50% of the content will be advertising. You are paying £5 to read adverts.

Every spring there will be a ‘spring clean’ article. Early summer the ‘bikini diet’ – interspersed with chocolate feasts for Easter and the best ever Christmas by Nigella/Delia/Jamie. Next month will to  the January money makeover. You are broke, of course, because you were told by the same magazine the best gifts to buy for Christmas that cost a fortune and no one needs. Made to feel guilty by a helpful account on why experiences count for more than stuff.  The February edition will be the pre spring clean decluttering advice. It will delight in telling you it is ok to donate that expensive unwanted gift. The one you were told to buy for the man in your life.

Sell the family silver as your family won’t want it will appear after last months article on why using the silver for the best table decorations will make your Christmas party sparkle. The digital detox guide will be on the same page as the must have gadgets for this year. Frugal food articles fight for space with sumptuous feasts with impossible to source ingredients.

No wonder we are all confused.

I need a flat white.

 

 

What no one tells you about Renovating a Victorian Terraced House

I downsized

I went from a big house to a small house. And now I am making the small house bigger. This it the first major renovation I have project managed using a team of builders, plumbers and designers, although the DH and I seem to have spent our lives renovating houses.

Yes it seems bonkers, downsize, extend. The big house had six bedrooms and three storeys. The small house has two bedrooms which is all we need. It also had an impossibly small and poorly laid out kitchen.

The Victorian Terrace in Bearwood

In England there are millions of terraced houses built in the Victorian era. In Bearwood where I live there is one of the largest grid of such houses in the country, mostly Victorian, spreading away from the main street, getting bigger and grander as they move up the hill toward what was parkland (landscaped by Humphry Repton) of Warley Abbey which is now Warley Woods. Indeed many of the roads in the area were named after local people.

When I first moved to Birmingham from London this area of terraced houses was where I wanted to live. Due to changes in mortgage interest relief in 1988 creating a spike in the housing market and a rush for unmarried couples to buy before losing joint tax relief, this area became unaffordable.

Houses were being viewed on an open house basis – sometimes 20 or 30 couples at a time. Offers made in sealed bids. Houses selling for 5 or 6 times the asking price. Negative equity. Fast forward 30 years and by downsizing I could move to the area, to my lovely small house.

  • The wall from the neighbours garden

Renovating

We moved in November 2015. The renovation did not start until April 2017. After moving we then went travelling. My original plan was that the work would happen while we were away. Realistically this was not a good plan. Subsequent experience has reinforced this view.

It was a long time to live with a hopeless kitchen, too much furniture and washing draped in front of the fire in winter. I began to hate the house, regret the decision to move.

The house was also very dark. Not good for a SAD sufferer. I got a lamp.

In hindsight the delay helped me figure out what I wanted. I learned a lot, lost some money due to bad advice, discovered that builders can be unreliable or have no vision or both.

In May 2016 out of sheer frustration I called a kitchen company whose ad I had seen in the free local paper. Not only did the designer turn up when he said he would, he brought a builder with him.

The most common kitchen extension in a terraced house is a long thin galley style utilising the space of the former outhouses which were originally the coal house and outdoor lavatory. And that is what every builder told me to do. Until Dave.

The vision

Dave is a man of few words. Indeed on some days I think he uses all his words in one conversation with me. I have lots of words. That day he used them very wisely as he outlined what he thought would work in the house.

I had a vision – of an open plan Australian style house with lots of light. Every other builder muttered and tutted. The hopeless, expensive, unnecessary architect that one builder said I needed said it would be too expensive and require planning permission. He emailed two plans that were rubbish and charged me £250. I sacked him.

Dave said – and he had not heard my vision  – you could knock down the back wall, extend to the side return and have bifold doors and skylights to let in the light. And open the front and back rooms up to make it feel bigger.

Chris the kitchen man nodded and outlined some ideas for the kitchen. I then shared my vision of an open plan Australian kitchen with bifold doors and skylights and lots of cupboards and drawers to hide all the crap. AKA minimalist. No kettle, no toaster. Nothing on the worktops.

Fast forward 12 months and the work is in progress to make that vision reality.

It has not been plain sailing

While planning permission was not required, a Party Wall Agreement was. And Building Regs (which the builder arranged). Party Wall Agreements are usually straightforward. A letter is sent to your neighbours and they say yes ok and you have an agreement. The surveyor I had used in the purchase of the house had mentioned she also specialised in party wall agreements and so I got in touch with her. One of our neighbours had been fine when I told him the plans. The other, an absentee landlord had not. Short story, it was not straightforward. All three houses had to be surveyed at my cost and a Party Wall Award was made. So more money spent and still not a brick laid. But money spent on a water tight agreement that cannot be disputed.

Tears and tantrums and having nowhere to live

At this stage (well pre the award) I could have happily sold the house and ran away to an island or live in a tent. Hell, a swag in the NT would be just grand. The snag was that I would have to disclose a dispute with a neighbour. The outhouses were falling down and we could not touch them without The Award. This was a low point in the process. It was winter, it was cold, it was dark and all of that plus the hassle factor depressed me.

We then had to move out. The builder had erased the pencilled in start date. He had other clients. I thought it would be February and booked a house sit in Wales. Nothing happened but DH was commuting from Wrexham to Birmingham as we had committed to the house sit. We were then told it would be Easter ish and secured another house sit in Kidderminster. And work started.

Six weeks said Dave. It is now week seven. And we can’t move back in yet. Four bank holidays is four work days lost. Fortunately the weather has been on the builders side (or I am sure it would have taken longer) and they turn up every day by 8.30. They are polite and pleasant to the neighbours and get on with it. Bricks have been re used where possible so the huge extension blends into the existing building.

We have a bathroom. We very nearly didn’t.

When the floor tiles were removed and the tiles under that were also removed, and then the lino, the joists were rotten. The floor could have collapsed into the kitchen below at any time. We had to have a new floor.

I visited the site to discover the loo and wash basin crammed into a corner, insomuch I had to slide past the loo to use the wash basin and stand sideways to use it. And not be able to open the drawers beneath it. After crying and throwing all the toys out of the pram the builder suggested I met his plumber. The plumber agreed with me and assured me that I was not being a princess. He agreed that I was right (I like that feeling) and I remembered who was paying for this (me).

More tears, a hissy fit and redrawn plans (this is why you need to visit the site regularly) but no hot water. Because the boiler can’t go in the bathroom. Communication between the builder, the fitter and the designer (who have worked together numerous times) just wasn’t happening. Lesson learned, visit often and if it feels wrong it probably is. And say something. If I had left it and it had been plumbed in and tiled it would have been an expensive and timely mistake to fix.

And then they suggested I get my own water supply

Terraced houses often share a water supply. Back in 1898 or so this wasn’t a big deal. Now with washing machines and dishwashers and power showers it can mean that the pressure of the water can be low. Dave said it will probably be free. It is not. I also had to explain to the water company that they had sent me the wrong paperwork. I had to print the right paper work, complete by hand, write a cheque (the only payment method) and post it to them. But I will have my own water supply, the plumbers will replace the lead pipes and my power shower won’t be a trickle. All at a price, of course.

The shopping for appliances

Major headache.

I have not bought new kitchen appliances for over 13 years. The last washing machine and dishwasher were refurbished models that lasted longer than the full priced ones. My fridge freezer was 20 years old.

The cost involved in buying these prompts the ‘how much? my first cooker cost £4 and lasted 20 years’ reaction. Chris the kitchen man needed decisions to draw the final plans. He suggested lots of online retailers and I trawled through these comparing prices. Made a wish list with John Lewis. Who were no more expensive than the big box websites.

I couldn’t have a tumble dryer where planned as it can’t be vented. There are no integrated condenser ones. Do I want a fridge freezer with an ice maker? What is the best make? I knew I wanted the slide and hide ovens but did I need a steam oven? A two drawer dishwasher or not? Finally after many hours and trade offs on prices and brand names versus non branded and Beko versus Bosch who make 17% of parts for all things in Germany …. the things you learn – I went to John Lewis, met a helpful sales advisor/partner and got £500 wiped off the bill by their never knowingly undersold promise. And I got a steam oven.

Feck this I am going on holiday (not)

After the first house sit we naively thought we may be able to move back into the house. We couldn’t. The house was a wreck.

Renovating on this scale involves up to six builders knocking down and building walls, wires hanging, a cement mixer in the sitting room. Plumbers, plasterers and a sparkie all in my house.

It was like Grand Design meets Big Build. Without Nick Knowles to hug me. And we had no where to live.

I longingly perused holidays (a week in Greece for £100 was on offer) but the DH had to work. We could rent a campervan I thought. £100 per day.

I looked for a house sit which had to be near enough home for site visits and the DH to get to work. There are not a lot of house sits in Birmingham. One we applied for immediately after the Kidderminster sit got postponed and so I booked my first ever AirBnB.  More tears and tantrums ensued.

AirBnB is expensive in Birmingham

I didn’t want a room in a house so looked for self contained apartments. The ones that are good get booked up, and for long term accommodation are not economical. Great for those on business expenses, not so great for people needing short term accommodation while their house is being renovated. And the original concept of AirBnB was to rent out a room in your house not rent out apartments. My experience was not good. I have airbrushed that out of my life and am dipping my toes back into the world again, to experience it as it was intended.

I discovered apartments in Kensington cheaper than Harborne. A studio in Streatham cost less per night than one in West Bromwich. Why so expensive in the Birmingham area? At this rate I would have to sell the house to pay to stay in a bedsit. And it was not a solution at £40 to £60 per night to our accommodation situation. Building extensions is expensive and renting rooms or flats was a drain on resources. More tears and tantrums.

I started looking at holidays again

I resented that we had to stay in the area as the DH had a job. Asked him to quit the job. I found holidays that were under £150 and that made paying out more than that for a grotty bedsit unbearable. I threatened to go to Greece by myself. But it cost more for one to go on a package to Crete than for the two of us. Single Supplement Hell. Travel Agent suggested buying two tickets and one would be a no show. Seriously that is what people do. And if I had gone away to a Greek Island who would have noticed the big design error in the bathroom? A holiday wasn’t an option.

Rescued by the children and weekend escapes

The DD invited us to her flat for the weekend. The train fare to London was cheaper than staying in the AirBnB. She offered it again a fortnight later and the train fare the second time was cheaper than a daysaver bus ticket. The DS said we could stay in his and his GF’s spare room. I think they realised by then I was At The End Of My Tether. Of course I have paid them. I took an average rate from AirBnB to rent a room minus cleaning and commission and offered that. I would rather give them the money than pay for some of the shoddy rooms on offer on AirBnB. It is not perfect. Who would want their parents living with them for weeks on end?

We try to move out at the weekend (see offer by DD above) and book B&B’s away. We went to Malvern and explored National Trust Properties. Exchanged building nightmares with an ex lodger and now friend. Her stories were worse than mine. I may have a mean neighbour but my builder hasn’t knocked a hole through to his kitchen.

I am still house clearing the house that belonged to the mom in law, so we have been to Winchester once and are booked to go again. We usually stay at a chain hotel but as mentioned earlier, this time I will be using AirBnB and staying with a host this time. I hope my faith in AirBnB is restored.

Another house sit

The people we sat for at Easter asked us back for four days. We love the house and the dogs. It gives the DS and the GF a break. Truly this sit is almost as good as a holiday. The bed is soooo comfortable which means a good nights sleep. The peace and quiet, I see no one all day, the only noise is the birdsong and the sound of hooves as people ride their horses down the lane. With no distractions I get to write and read.  Writers block, go play with the dogs. Need a nana nap, go nap with the dogs.

And then?

Next week we go back to the DS and hope that is only for a few days if the hot water is connected. If we have a bed and hot water we will move in. Which is why we spent a weekend ….

Cleaning

The DH and I cleaned for two days.

The dust was unbelievable. We got through three vacuum cleaner bags. I discovered that baby wipes are the best cleaning cloth. The DH cleaned the gas central heating boiler with them. The one that is disconnected and leaking over the carpet in the spare room. Encrusted with kitchen grease. Not sure I would want to use baby wipes on a baby mind…. but they are great on bathrooms, brick dust, wood, plastic and Upvc window frames.

I have slept in ten different beds

With house sitting, AirBnB, children putting us up, weekends away the DH and I have slept in ten beds. We have lived out of a suitcase since Easter. Before that we were already packing away. I take my pillow everywhere and sometimes my own bed linen. While moving around and sleeping in swags and hotels and the YHA when travelling is fun, this is not. I spend large parts of the day alone. I have to wash clothes daily as we only have what we can carry. The DH adds hours to his commute when we are house sitting. For the first time in my life I am home sick.

And yet I count my lucky stars that if I were really homeless my bed would be a doorway. And I will have a bed to call my own, soon.

Lessons learned so far

Have a vision

Don’t forget you are the paying customer

Research party wall, planning permission and building regs

Find somewhere to rent for 3 to 6 months if you can (expensive and not easy)

Moving from bed to bed and living out of a suitcase is not fun

Ask everyone you know who had building work what it was like

Ask them who their builder was and would they recommend them

Stand your ground

Book a holiday

Visit the site regularly

If it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t

Have a contingency fund because things will go wrong

Be prepared for additional expenses

Take photos

Remember the vision

Be nice to your children

It gets worse before it gets better

Go away for weekends

Be assertive

That promise you made to yourself – after the last renovation – to never do it again?

Like childbirth you forget how painful it is

Book a holiday

Go on holiday

Cry a little bit

Use baby wipes to clean everything

Sell all your old furniture or give it away – it won’t feel like a new home if you don’t

Go to John Lewis for your white goods as they will price match everything

Cape Verde calls

In three weeks I will be in Sal. At an all inclusive hotel. It will be sunny. I will have one bed for seven nights that someone else will make. I will eat food I didn’t have to buy and cook. The house will probably be finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Declutter

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Dedicated to Joy

Joy was the stage name of my mother.  Most people in her later years knew her as Sylv or Sylvia. Looking back, she was much more of a Joy than a Sylvia.

She found joy in so many things.

Travelling far and wide in the last 30 years of her life, she would think nothing of waking up one morning and getting a flight to go and have lunch in Rome.

The opportunity to get in a cage with a baby tiger, in Thailand,  Mom would be fighting to get to the front. I have recently wrote more about these adventures in my Travelling Sylvia posts.

Clothes. She loved her clothes. If she liked something she would often buy one in every colour it came in.

There was no such thing as the one in one out rule for her. Although she did love selling them at boot sales.

One of the last things she asked me to do was to make sure they went to people who would have loved them as much a she did. So this is what I am doing.

I didn’t realise until I started the painful; process the extent of her hoarding and inability to throw anything away. Love letters from a Greek man she met on her first Shirley Valentine aventure. My careers advice from 1975. A post war petrol ration book. And lots more.

Some clothes have been donated to a permaculture project, where they will be upcycled and sold to raise funding for the project.

Many items have also gone to local charity shops. Twenty large bags so far.

Some I have kept and am wearing, those that fit me (she was 4′ 11″ I am 5′ 7″).

I have also given books and other items to good friends who have been so lovely and supportive during the worst weeks of my life.

The Burberry macs (three of them), the Gloverall Duffles (two), dresses and suits made by East, Monsoon, Anouki, Viyella and Country Casuals, jewellery and other bits and bobs I discover, will all be offered via Retro Joy, a virtual pop up, with occasional stalls at various events. I will always give 10% of the proceeds to a charity or other good cause.

Project 333 – changing the way I dress forever

Project 333 and me

  • One of my two core colours for Project 333

Could you live with only 33 items of clothing? Including jewelry and other accessories?As part of my ongoing decluttering journey and forays into minimalism – I discovered Project 333. I was in the process of clearing my closet out. At the time I had no idea that a year later I would be living in a much smaller house with a cupboard for a wardrobe and only one chest of drawers for me and my husband to share.

Good job I got rid of so many clothes then.

The tricks that do not work (but help)

Like many others before me, I had done the ‘turn the coathangers around so if you don’t wear an item you will know’ trick. I then hung all newly laundered on the left so that it was obvious that items on the right never got worn, and then I arranged by colour. And while some of these techniques helped identify what I didn’t wear they didn’t leave the closet, because.

Like someday, because is a dangerous word

Because I may lose weight and they will fit me again.

Because they cost a lot of money.

Because they are beautiful, even if I can’t wear them.

Because it may come in useful.

Because I may need it someday.

Because insert your because here.

Then I discovered Project 333. No way, only 33 items of clothes allowed in 3 months. I can’t do that I thought.

Well, yes I can. The organising by colour had helped, as had the moving of clothes that I wore all the time to the left hand side of the wardrobe. It was obvious that most of the time I only wore two colours.

The Barack Rule – stick to one or two colours

My son had unwittingly, and because he is essentially a minimalist by nature (no idea where he got that trait from), applied the Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg/Barack Obama rules of dressing years ago. He only wears one colour (blue) and has exactly the right amount of clothes to get him through the week. Washes them once a week, and begins again on Monday.

When packing he packs by outfit, ie jeans and top per day/two days, plus socks etc for the amount of days he is away. He only has three pairs of shoes. Until recently he only had one pair of shoes, some trainers. The other two were acquired when he had to wear formal shoes for work and new trainers when he started going to the gym.

I reckon he has 29 items of clothing and that number has increased only due to having started work and not being able to wear jeans there. Let me tell you he has one tie and that comes off the minute he leaves work. Nothing is replaced until it wears out.

Both Phil, my husband, and I had/have too many clothes. The DH gets tempted to buy a shirt every time he goes to Asda. Insomuch that he has identical shirts (see The Barack rule above).

With him I have to insist on the one in two out rule, which makes him think very hard about buying a new shirt. What worked for me was that I looked at the colours I wore, my favourite and most worn jewelry, and got rid of almost everything that did not meet the criteria.

Some were easier than others. Work clothes, quite formal ones, kept in case I ever got a proper job again (see that is someday creeping in there) were put in the first bags to go to charity. I was never going to get a proper job again. Never would I return to corporate life. This clothes cull was before I interviewed for my last job, which was proper, but not proper in that I needed to be suited and booted nor conform to normal. Goodness, a normal person could not have done my last job. Which is why it suited me and my clothes.

Many of the clothes held very negative memories. Corporate polo and sweatshirts from my PwC days. A job I ended up loathing, a job that made me ill. Why did I keep them? Because I could wear them to do decorating in. Wow, getting rid of them was so good. All the negative energy was gone.

Yet purging my wardrobe was hard. I have made some mistakes. Maybe got rid of things I regret. Kept things I will never wear again. It is a work in progress. And of course Project 333 is not about only having 33 items. It is about choosing 33 per season. And the regrets, well that is where I use the 20/20 rule.

To cope with the smaller closet I put non seasonal clothes in a vacuum bag. However, when I went to Sorrento and Skiathos earlier this year, many of those got culled because I realised I did not need 5 pairs of linen trousers. I kept one pair and bought a new pair (see Buying New Clothes below). The top I loved and was beautiful and cost a lot of money (see the becauses above) was falling apart. Gosh, it was painful throwing it away. Cost per wear though? I reckon it was almost 20 years old. Worn every summer without fail, so £5 per year or about 25p per wear. I have many items that I have had for a number of years and still wear.

As I write, I am wearing the t shirt I got in NZ in 2011 which I wear every week, all year round, and a sweat shirt I got in Cornwall in 2010. Ditto – wear it every week, all year round. They have both seen better days and because I have packed too much (the irony of admitting that in a post about Project 333 is not lost on me) it may not continue to be in my suitcase after September. We will see.

Buying new clothes

I also bought new clothes once I got on board with Project 333. What? Let me explain. I had a long period of Not Buying It. I didn’t buy a coat or boots, even though the cats had peed on my boots. That was my initial way to cope with the clutter – do not let anything new into the house.

Then I started a new job and although I could wear jeans, my sweat shirt and t really did not cut it at meetings with church leaders, although in the warehouse they did. So in came the tunic dresses and leggings. Once I had leggings I needed boots. I found some new linen trousers that were better quality than the ones I got rid of, that wash and wear better, and look smarter. For every new item at least two old ones have to go. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. If I expect that from the DH I have to practice it myself.

And the coat I loved and had not cost a lot was falling apart (cost per wear less than a penny). The duffel coat that was my mom’s and was warm that I dragged to a 2015 Melbourne winter, looked tatty and was heavy. I needed a warm, lightweight coat, and warm boots.

Practical and smart. And neutral to fit in with the clothes I choose for Project 333. Black, both of them, when all my other clothes are blue – with a splash of coral in the summer – mostly jewel colours.

And that is what works for me. As undergarments are replaced they too are either jewel colours or neutral. I have one turquoise scarf and a coral coloured jacket that was on sale crept in recently. I reckon it goes with turquoise. And purple (foodbank purple particularly).

So two new coats – but five old coats have left the closet and went to charity. One, beautiful and expensive camel coat, worn half a dozen times had been kept due to the becauses above. I hated it. My black widow coat, bought when my now 23 year old was in a pram and it was practical with a hood, was falling apart. It was kept because (see above) well who knows why?

It could not come to the new small house.

Two beautiful velvet jackets bought on sale over 20 years ago, worn one season only. Donated. They fitted my colour criteria but were too small. A suit from Planet purchased in the sales, which was too small for me when I bought it, still had the label on it and kept because someday I may lose weight for 20 plus years also left the closet and went to charity.

Even after the move I am continually finding clothes I did not wear or like. I have a bag by the front door and daily I take something to the charity shop.

I found the most beautiful cardigan in December 2015. Not only beautiful, it met my colour criteria and is ethically made.

The two I had put up with for a couple of years that were made of acrylic and worn only because they were all I had, went.

I have done more than one sock cull. Now I only have 7 pairs, made by the same ethical company who made my lovely cardigan.

When my mom died I had the job of tackling her closet. Incredibly organised, tops in one wardrobe, trousers in another, jewelry in bags and labelled, yet 99% of it she never wore.

She had 4 Burberries, two duffel coats and numerous jackets. All top notch brands. It was the process of dealing with her highly organised clutter that made me realise that I needed to deal with my hidden hoarding.

And 333 helped. I look back over the past year – and I am happy with my pared down wardrobe. And it is meeting all my requirements while I house sit in Melbourne. Once on the road, travelling, most will be packed in compression bags and out will come the shorts and linen trousers as the weather (I hope) warms up. And some may go to the op shop.

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Update December 2016. 12 kilos of clothes were donated to the Op Shops of Melbourne. Since coming home, more clothes have left the building. Including two more coats. Two jackets were bought in Melbourne – down jackets that are very light and pack up very small. Perfect for travelling, needed very much so in the NT at night and in Tassie. Perfect for English winters, English weather all year round tbh. Minimalism and decluttering and Project 333 are not about not buying, nor about going without for me. They are ways to simplify and streamline my life and not having things in my life that no longer serve a purpose.

 

 

KonMari, folding socks and saying goodbye to the wedding dress

What keeps me awake at night is having too much of everything

You would think I have more to think about, being in Melbourne wouldn’t you? I do. And I will write about fabulous food, trams, fashion, old friends, coffee, brunch, penguins, soon. But this is what keeps me awake at night. KonMari and worrying about bringing too many clothes on the trip.

Socks and how many is too many?

I have spent the best part of 4 years decluttering. And there is still a way to go. Today, as happens sometimes, I pondered on how many pairs of socks I need.

Tackling the clutter then and now

When I wrote this about going through my overfull wardrobe I got my sock collection down to 24 pairs. I thought that was an achievement. How I have changed since then.

Then

Then I had at least ten sets of bed linen, duvets and pillows cluttering up my wardrobe. I kept them because they may come in useful one day.

I had numerous items of clothing I had never worn. Some with labels still attached. Those and my wedding dress, organised in plastic garment bags. Taking up space.

Scarves and tights were all beautifully organised because I had the space to do so. Never used nor needed any of them. Even when organised, excess stuff is still clutter.

Now

Since writing the posts about decluttering my wardrobes, I have moved house, downsizing considerably. There is one small closet and one chest of drawers between two people. I had to seriously rethink how many clothes we needed.

Adopting the KonMari approach

Out of season clothes are packed in compressor bags. Dresses, shirts and jumpers are in the closet on good quality hangers. All t shirts, trousers, socks and underwear are folded based on the Marie Kondo or KonMari method. Socks have been reduced to one pair of warm ones, one pair for my trainers and seven pairs of colourful socks made from bamboo. All the dull black ones have left the house. I am slowly replacing my husband’s plain socks with colourful ones too. I used to think having all black socks made them easier to pair, but no, bright ones are so much easier. And more fun. And only 14 socks not 48 to match up.

Socks and all undies folded as per KonMari method and now fit into one small drawer, folded and stacked vertically so I can see what is what. Ditto for the husband.

My wedding dress was donated to charity. I kept it for over 30 years and I have no idea why. I still have the memories and the photos. All I need.

Thermals have been reduced to three items only, new house is not as cold as old house. They are needed for cold winters and camping in the outback. They will be my jim jams when we camp in Australia.

Bed linen now reduced to four sets. Two for each bed. That is all I will ever need. All the rest went to Brushstrokes, a charity that supports refugees and asylum seekers. All the spare duvets and pillows also went there, as did most of my towels. I kept one set of bath towels for each of us, with two spare for guests/days when I wash and the rare times I can’t dry them in a day.

Most of the scarves have gone to charity. I kept two pashminas as they are so versatile and the felt wrap as that was hand made by my friend and is beautiful and useful and as per the KonMari method, sparks joy.

The clothes with labels still attached?  Gone to a charity shop. The beaded dress is still with me. One day I will find the right home for it.

What do I miss?

Do I miss having 24 pairs of socks? No. Do I love having just one small drawer for my smalls? Yes. Those stupid organisers I used, they took up too much space. Folding is better. It is. I do not miss any of the clothes I have let go of.

No more laundry heaps

Do I run out of smalls and socks? No. That is because I wash clothes two or three times a week. I use the coldest, shortest wash cycle. The next machine I buy for the new kitchen will have a 15 minute wash cycle. Most clothes don’t get dirty, they just need refreshing. I don’t have lots of clothes hanging around the house draped over radiators (I won’t have any of those soon) nor piles of clean laundry to put away. One to wash, one to wear and one spare is what I am aiming for.

I used to have umpteen baskets of clean and dirty clothes all over the house, with wet washing draped on radiators. And we all had plenty of clothes to wear, despite this. I could go a fortnight without washing any clothes. Now I can’t. I like washing every other day or so. Small loads, uses less water, less detergent and takes less time to dry.

Less is more

Project  333 is how I dress now. I base my wardrobe around two key colours and everything coordinates. I have worn the same jewelry for over 18 months now.

If I buy new clothes, I apply the one in, two out rule. After years of not buying a winter coat I got a new one, in the sales. A Jack Wolfskin lightweight, super warm coat. Great for travelling as it is light and I can compress it down if packing it. Two coats left the house destined for the charity shops. One was a duffel coat that had belonged to my mother, warm but heavy, the other a charity shop bargain that was 10 years old and was too big for me. One warm coat, one light jacket and one pacamac is all I need. I brought two with me to Australia, one is currently back in Britain as the person I am housesitting for needed a light mac for Scottish weather, I needed one for Melbourne weather, or so we thought. We don’t.

De cluttering is not easy

I would be the first to tell anyone that decluttering is hard work. We form attachments to stuff. We hold onto old habits. Getting rid of clothes can be difficult. I know, my heart was wrenched parting with the wedding dress. I have held on to my loved worn once beaded dress, which is crazy really. We can justify having duplicates to cut down on laundry. Here’s the thing you can wash one pair of socks 100 times or 100 socks once. The labour, water, time remains the same.

I don’t miss anything

I don’t miss my wedding dress. No room for sentimentality.  I don’t miss my socks. No room for excess clothes. I really do like having fewer clothes. And in the next few months I will be offloading a few more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go travelling while you can – don’t wait for someday

Travel is in my DNA

I have to go travelling while I still can.

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age… perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ships’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping… I fear this disease incurable.” – John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Don’t put your life on hold

My aunt, the day before she died, said to me ‘I wish I had seen more of the world instead of looking after everyone else, and doing what I thought was the right thing’. My mother, the traveller, had no such regrets.

And while we had the concerns over the health of his mom, my mother in law, Phil and I knew that we will continue travelling.

Phil has a brother. My local minister and former work colleague reminded me of this when I expressed my concerns about our forthcoming extended travel plans, before Val passed. At the time she had just gone to a nursing home and we hoped her health would improve. As the minister said, Chris, the brother, he will be there while you are away. Phil discussed this with his brother. What they will do if this happens while we are away, hence the aforementioned family commitments.

My 84 year old friend, who travelled extensively after her retirement said much the same. ‘You cannot put your life on hold, the outcome will be the same whatever you do. Travelling was the best thing I did, it enriched my life so much’.

In 2011 as we prepared to go on our first RTW trip – my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I asked her if I should not go, and stay with her. Without a second thought she told me that I must go. It has been a dream of mine for so long. She would not hear of cancelling plans. On our return she was one of the few people who were genuinely interested in the trip. She too lived to travel. She would never had made me stay. I thank her for that.

And so before the extended travel commences in July we booked some time away as Phil was exhausted with driving 3 hours to visit his mom every other week. With hospital visits and worries about finding a nursing home that didn’t smell. He was anxious about her and needed a break.

My mom in law died while we were away in Sorrento. Phil had spent two days and nights at her bedside in hospital before we went away. The nurses said that he must still go on the planned holiday.

Val had had a lovely day with her family the weekend before she passed away.  She went home, gave her granddaughter a beautiful ring  and went to her local pub for dinner. She did seem to be in better health. The timing seemed right to go away for a few days.

But Sepsis had different plans and by the following Tuesday the nursing home had to admit her to hospital.

We had been in Sorrento one night. Her son, my husband’s brother, Chris was with her. Yes we felt sad and guilty but we knew it was going to happen but not when.

We stayed in Sorrento and filled the days with extensive sight seeing and walking. It helped. Chris did all the necessary and immediate things that needed to be done, and on our return we joined him and supported him to do everything else we had to do.

Now, a few weeks later, we have had the funeral in Winchester and the remembrance service in Yorkshire. We have spent more time with family than we usually do. Caught up with people we haven’t seen for many years. This happens when people die. We have cried and we have laughed. Shared happy memories. Discovered interesting things when sorting through possessions including some amazing photos on old slides.

These pictures were the turning point in their grief, for Phil and Chris. They reminisced over childhood memories. Saw their parents at happier times, as they remembered them, young and vital. The mom and dad they grew up with. Having spent months seeing their mom getting older and unrecognisable at times, had taken its toll on both of them. Discovering these photos and sharing them with people in Yorkshire who went to school with their parents evoked so many happy memories. Talking about the old days, the happy times, it healed them.

I met the minister again yesterday and told him about this. Thanked him for his wise words. They had helped us to remember that we have support from family. We don’t have to do everything, we can ask for help. And remember to laugh. Death is sad, of course it is. As the minister told me yesterday, it is good to recall happy memories and laugh. That is what we did, I told him, dinner with the family, we cherished our times together and laughed.

There is still a lot to do. Paperwork, mountains of it. A house to clear, major decluttering (so far 30 bags to charity and the same to the tip) some more legal stuff, a house to sell. We had made a start when she was in hospital. It is a big job. 80 plus years of memories in dusty boxes.

Phil was making lists of lists and worrying about all we had to do. He got stressed again so I booked another, more relaxing, holiday to Skiathos after the funeral. Travel is our medicine as well as our disease.

We cannot tick all the things off before we go to Australia in July. We can’t. So we won’t. We will do what we can. Prioritise the legal things. Trying to fit everything in a tight schedule will exhaust all of us. And will make use feel failures because we won’t succeed. Our health and well being, and that of the family, has to come first.

We will carry on when get home in November. We can put some things on hold. Just not life.

 

 

 

Conversations at the corner cafe – letting go of the past

Letting go of stuff is hard. Decluttering takes longer than you think it will. I am still getting rid of crap after over three years of tackling my house full of stuff I held on to. Why do we hold on to stuff that we no longer need?

This past week I met two women at my local café. Both had grown children who had left their family home over 20 years ago. And both had rooms still full of their kids stuff.

This enrages me, it really does. How dare children use their parents house as a free storage facility? For a short while maybe. When they first leave home, but for twenty years? Really?

The first lady I met told me that she had a pile of programmes from rock concerts her son had attended over the years.  And all his uni books.

She told me that she’d love to make her middle bedroom tidy for when people came to stay. The people who come to stay are her son, his partner and her grandchildren. I could tell that having the room stuffed full of other people’s possessions which are too heavy for her to move made her unhappy.

As she talked to me I could see she was close to tears.

She fought the tears back as she spoke about her late husband. Recently widowed and overwhelmed by having  not been able to sort through her husband’s clothes. I understand this. It takes time, the grieving process. You have to find the right time to start sorting the clothes.

The kids stuff? Why would she hold on to this? Why did she let them do this to her?

In addition to the son using her house as if it was the Big Yellow Self Storage facility, her daughter in law also abused her generosity. The DIL had expressed an interest in a piece of furniture that her mother in law wanted to get rid of. It was still in her house two years later,  as they were not ready for it yet. Two years of not being ready. Dear daughter in law,  you said you wanted it so come and get it.

I asked her why she allowed them to do this to her. She explained that at first it was because hers son had lived on a barge and had no space.

‘He lives in a big house now, has done for over 20 years.’

‘Why is his stuff still in your house?’

‘Because I’m soft.’

As she spoke she looked away, her eyes wet with unshed tears.

Her son was coming to stay the weekend.

‘This is your opportunity to ask him to take his stuff then. If he won’t, let him know that it will be put in the bin.’

‘Oh,  he will tell me not to because the programmes may be worth something.’

‘All the more reason for him to have them then. If he really wants them he will take them.’

She was visibly shocked at that suggestion. The idea of upsetting him disturbed her. I guess we always have to be nice to our kids, even when they hurt us.

‘Start sending them a monthly storage invoice, see what happens.’

She smiled.

‘They will think I am joking. They will laugh and throw it away.’

At this point my incredulity became outrage.

‘They will laugh at you?’

I think she could see how shocked I was at that. Now my kids laugh at me all the time. When I can’t remember the name of the song that we heard on a boat tip back in 2007 they laugh, when I don’t know which remote to use to get Netflix, they laugh. I don’t think they would laugh if I invoiced them for storage for 20 years, I think they would work out I was serious. Like the time I cut the plug off the TV, serious.

‘Do you really wanted to get that middle bedroom clear? Because if you do, you have to take action. The choice is yours.’

‘Oh well,  when I am gone they will have to sort it then won’t they?’

‘Yes they will and let me tell you, it is horrible.’

I told her about my mom and her stuff. How I had promised my children that they will never have to go through what I had to.

Will she do anything about it? I don’t know. She is the one that has to take action. It doesn’t bother her son that his mother has to live with all his crap. It doesn’t bother her daughter in law that the chair she said she wanted is in her mother in law’s way. They would laugh if she sent them a bill. That is how much they respect her.

By this point I was incandescent with rage and she admitted that she had only found out that her son was coming over to stay with her that weekend via her grand-daughter. The grand-daughter who calls her every day to chat. Her son had not thought to let her know. I could see that this had made her cross.

Now maybe he thought it would be a lovely Mothering Sunday surprise for her. The thing is, she was worried that she needed to get extra food and make up a bed for him, his wife and her grandson. In the rooms full of his crap.

He hadn’t thought about that. And as a son he really needed to realise that unexpected house guests, although welcome, create work.

‘Let’s go to Mom’s and surprise her, she can cook her special roast this Sunday. That will be a nice treat for her.’

Meanwhile mom is thinking about the mess they will leave behind.

I hope I am wrong on this one. I hope he has booked somewhere lovely to take her. I do. Because one day she won’t be there for him on Mothering Sunday. One day he will have to sift through her old photos, her clothes and her personal papers. One day he will have to decide what he is going to do with the concert programmes that he treasures so much that he can’t be bothered to move them out of his old bedroom.

She had one consolation, her granddaughter calls her every day. The thoughtfulness skipped a generation perhaps.

A few days later I met the second woman at the café. She too had grown children who also expected her to keep their rooms as they were when they were kids. They were in their 40’s and thought this was OK. It’s not.

She reasoned she had the space and it didn’t worry her as much as it clearly upset the first woman I had spoken to.

‘They can sort it when I am gone, it will be their problem eventually.’

It wasn’t getting in her way or holding her back as it was with the other woman.

She had come to do some clothes shopping and hadn’t been to Bearwood for some time. While I wondered where on earth she could go shopping for clothes in Bearwood, I heard these words.

‘I’m a shopaholic.’

When someone tells me a shopaholic I feel the urge to rescue them. I stopped shopping many years ago. To be accurate, I stopped buying things I didn’t need when I started decluttering.

‘I don’t like shopping.’

I understand this statement can baffle a person who loves to shop.

Here’s the thing, I do like shopping.  I like buying good quality food at a farmer’s market and engaging with the producers. I hate shopping in a big supermarkets where everything is over packaged. I like shopping at Mistral in Winchester where the clothes fit me and where the sales staff remember me from a month ago, asking how the mother in law is, remembering she is in hospital. The same staff that know that I only wear certain colours and find the items for me.

I like shopping in John Lewis where staff know their products and explain the pros and cons of sound systems without patronising me.  Who explain why one is not worth £700 more despite what I have been told elsewhere.  I like buying lovely tech that will simplify my life. Tech that will enable my husband to let go of the vinyl records, the hundreds of CD’s and complicated sound systems that clutter our house. Tech that enables me to click and listen to music I like and not waste an hour looking for one CD.

But I digress. My point is that I don’t get the buying rush that shopaholics get. I don’t have hundreds of clothes in my closet with the price tag still attached. The Bull Ring is not the temple I worship at and I wouldn’t go to Poundland and fill my house with crap because it only costs a pound.

After her first reaction of shock on meeting a woman who doesn’t shop for leisure,  she confessed to having wardrobes of designer clothes that she no longer wears. She listed the labels, Betty Barclay, Jaeger, Austin Reed. She had needed them for her work as she had to be smart when she ran her business.  Some outfits were bought for weddings, and apparently you can only wear those once.  I could hear her justifying every purchase. Thank goodness we didn’t get on to the subject of shoes.

She couldn’t bear to get rid of them because they had were so expensive.

‘Will you ever wear them again?’

‘No, they no longer fit me. Some I have had for over 30 years, they are all too small now.’

We discussed ways of how she could let them go.

‘Could you sell them online?’

‘I wouldn’t know how to.’

Could you ask your children to show you?’

‘They are too busy.’

‘What about donating them?’

Giving to charity shops worried her for two reasons. She believed that the staff and volunteers took all the good clothes. She also was alarmed that the big charities paid their chief executives six figure salaries, so only a small percent went to help those in need.

I explained why I give my unwanted items to Acorns. It is a local charity, helping local families. As it is small charity, so the structure is not as corporately complex as some of the bigger charities are. I know the manager there and she doesn’t skim off the good clothes for herself. None of them do, they can’t run like that.

I could see her thinking this over. She liked the idea of donating to local hospices. It eased her to think that more of what is raised would go directly to help people who were terminally ill.

Perhaps now she has the lies that The Daily Fail implants in its readers brains erased, she will go to her closet and take one item to a charity shop. Perhaps.

Two conversations. Two women with very different lives. Two women with the same issues.

Both holding onto the past.

One allows her son to take her for granted. She lets this happen because she needs to keep his childhood intact and make him happy – her son was clearly her life and this way she still has him. Being recently bereaved, this would be important to her. I get that. Yet she wanted to move on. Not being able to sort the middle room vexed her. This was possibly what was stopping her from sorting through the clothes of her late husband. Tidying away the past to make room for the present.

The lady with her clothes, they were her status symbols. They now only remind her of the person she used to be, the slim sucessful business woman with spending power. They represented her past, not her life now.  A constant reminder of what once was, holding her back.

It clearly worried them both as they were so keen to tell me their stories. Why would they open up to a total stranger they met in cafe? Why tell me things they have possibly not told anyone else?

How can I be so sure of their reasons for not letting go? Because their story is my story.

I had closets full of clothes that were too small for me. Too expensive to give to charity, I told myself. The silk Monsoon dress, the Viyella trouser suit, with price tags still attached. They were too small for me when I bought them but they were on sale at a vastly reduced price. I got them twenty years ago. The velvet jacket I loved that no longer fitted me.  I held onto them all as I would lose the weight, someday. There’s that dangerous word again.

The Moses basket and the cot sheets and blankets had been in the attic for 17 years. Mom had bought the basket when my son was born over 23 years ago. The sheets and blankets were 60 years old, given to me by my mother in law, she had used them for her two sons. How could I possibly part with them?

A room full of stuff my daughter no longer wanted nor needed. Uni books, school reports, old birthday cards. There were some old clothes hanging in her wardrobe including her beautiful frock she bought in Sydney for her leavers ball.  I loved that dress. I really must keep that.

Why is my story different to these two women? Because I don’t have this stuff any more.

And life is better because of it.

I took the  cot blankets to Acorns. My son is grown, he doesn’t need them, I had to let go of the child he once was.

I asked my daughter about her stuff. She reminded me that she’d been telling me for years to get rid of it. It wasn’t her using my house as the free storage facility, it was me that was holding onto this stuff. Holding onto my past, a little bit of the child my daughter used to be.

Her dress and my still labelled clothes went to charity. Let someone else enjoy wearing them.

We don’t need them anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unclutter your life – You need to start today

Accept that it will take more time than you think

I have spent the last three years or so uncluttering. My mother died in 2013 and I had to empty her room. Several car loads of clothes, jewelry, shoes, photographs and anything else she could cram in there, were transferred to my house to sort. This is why you need to unclutter your life today.

Then I started on my stuff. I recognised I had inherited some of her clutter gathering traits and I promised my kids that they would never have to deal with all this stuff when I die.

And now it is the mother in law.  She is ill and in hospital. Possibly not returning to her own home, at least in the short term.

Clutter

Sick house syndrome

Like my mother’s room, the mother in laws house has what I call sick house syndrome. It is not just the lack of good housekeeping in what was once a house proud home.  It has stale air, it is dusty and long term sickness, loneliness and regret seeps from the walls and floors and the furniture.

Mountains of paper

And there is paper everywhere. On every windowsill, in boxes, on worktops, in cupboards. The filing cabinet needs fixing. Every drawer in the desk was stuffed with letters from solicitors, accountants, and the tax man. Opened and returned to the envelopes, not dealt with. A copy of the Radio Times from 1991 and Damart catalogues, piled up with information from the council and the manuals for the central heating stuffed in a plastic bag that toilet rolls are usually packed in.

Every pile needs to be sifted. I instructed the brother-in-law, on his house clearing shift, to get all the letters from each organisation and collate in date order. The stuff he didn’t think was important was set aside for me to sift.

In the unimportant pile I found all her diaries, the Fensa certificates, three Parker pens and some photographs. And her late husband’s driving licence.

She kept every order of service of every wedding and funeral she has attended. And the letter her mother wrote to her Great Aunt announcing her (my mother in law’s)birth .

A series of magazines about World War Two that my husband collected as a boy. Letters from the Bishop of Birmingham thanking her father for his contribution to the parish.

It is not easy to know what to keep and what to discard when you are dealing with other people’s memories. I err on the safe side. The Damart catalogues and the Radio Times can go. The diaries and the letters are kept.

Unfinished letters to cousins and friends are everywhere. Were they drafts? Did she forget she had written them? Or did she change her mind? I keep them. I do not know the answer to these questions.

Don’t hoard food

Meanwhile my husband clears the fridge and the freezer. Seven frozen guinea fowl and a chicken. One bought each month from February to July. Five packets of smoked salmon. Half a dozen loaves. Two ready meals from 2014. In the fridge there are dried lumps of cheese, a half used tub of cream cheese with mould, pate, more smoked salmon, three tubs of margarine, all well past their use by date. As much as Phil and I hate to waste food, we reluctantly put it in black bags to be disposed of at the tip.

Then there is the wine. Every few months a representative from Pieroth would pop in and sell her £500 worth of wine. She liked the company of the charming young man. He liked his commision. I counted over 100 bottles, stored in the spare bedroom, her bedroom and the kitchen. We have since contacted them and told them to refrain from visiting her again. This type of selling verges on Elder Abuse.

The best legacy you can leave to your friends and family is a decluttered house

When I wrote about the best legacy you can leave your children, my mind was on an empty attic and paperwork in order.  Re reading it for this post, I added this.

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. It 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.

Phil and I have made wills. I am now looking  at organising a Living Power of Attorney and pre paying for our funerals. Cheerful stuff it is not. Practical it is. My experience in the past few years, dealing with the clutter, the paperwork and organising funerals and looking at care homes, has made me realise that you need to do this for your kids too. All we know about the Mother in Law is what hymns she wants. And for her ashes to be with her husband’s ashes, in Aysgarth.

Don’t keep stuff ‘just in case’

In my decluttering mode, after the wardrobe, the books and the attic, I got rid of most of the towels, bed linen and dozens of spare pillows. All stored neatly in piles in the cupboard, just in case but never used. No room for them here in the small house so now it is two sets of linen per bed, one bath towel each, one for a guest and 4 hand towels.

It is old not vintage – unclutter now

Mother in Law has about 50 towels and a dozen sets of bed linen. Her bath mat was at least 50 years old and was crumbling. The toilet brush and holder has  got to be 30 years old going by the floral design. While I hate to dispose of perfectly serviceable items and hate how almost everything now has built-in obsolescence sometimes things really have to go. We made 12 trips to our local tip before we moved house to downsize. We make a a couple of trips to the tip each time we go to Winchester where the mother in law lives.

Get rid of clutter before you buy more storage

Clutter is so often an indicator of poor mental health. Most of us hold on to things of sentimental value and that is ok. I am having  childhood books that were gathering dust into 3D pictures so that I can see and enjoy them.

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Blind Ted is going to live in the she shed with Fred Bear and other childhood toys that are simply not safe enough to give to any child, with the Ladybird book and the Beatrix Potter collection. The she shed will be our entertainment area with a vintage theme. The house will be minimalist.

When I was house hunting I was drawn to a property with a garden room so I could hide all the stuff I couldn’t fit in the house. Fortunately I realised this and and eventually we chose a small house where we can’t hide the clutter. We are over full, yet refuse to hire a storage unit, because that will just be hiding the stuff, not dealing with it. Organised stuff is still stuff. Building cupboards or rooms to hold the stuff you may need someday is organised clutter.

Do they spark joy?

I gave away most of my books. Phil is sifting the vinyl and the CDs. Most will go and we will get a Sonos system for the small house. We apply the Maria Kondo rule of decluttering keeping only things that ‘spark sufficient joy or are truly necessary’ – it takes time, it is not easy, it is a journey.

Overwhelm – it gets worse before it gets better

If you came to my house today you would think I had lied in all my posts about my decluttering. We still have too much stuff. Last week it overwhelmed me, I was full of self doubt, no progress was being made and I was fed up of being surrounded by furniture too big for the house and having to be a yoga master to operate the oven. And then I realised that we had only been in the new house for 10 weeks, with Christmas stealing time and bad weather preventing us from doing more sifting. Every other weekend has involved a long journey to visit the mother in law and sort her stuff. I reminded myself that I will have an innovative builder who will transform my tiny kitchen and falling down outhouses to make the house open plan, functional and minimalist. I know that sounds contradictory, having an extension built. Cooking and entertaining sparks joy – and there is no joy in the poorly planned current kitchen. Ping meals are challenging.

Let it go

If you find yourself holding onto stuff because it was expensive, or it may be useful, but are not using it, I urge you to let go.  Being surrounded by clutter suppresses you. Being surrounded by clutter makes cleaning a chore. If you have to move stuff to find stuff you have too much stuff.

I still have too much stuff. Do you?

Here is a list to help you to let go of stuff you really do not need to keep. How many of these do you have?

Addendum August 2016

Things change with remarkable speed. Mom in Law passed away in April. She never really recovered after her operation. Her house remains full of most of  the stuff she accumulated over the years as we had plans to be away for 4 months. I am now in Melbourne, house sitting. Brought two big suitcases full of clothes we do not need. Stuff happened just before I packed and I lost it. Life gave me lemons  I realise now (after counselling and overpacking) that I have a way to go. So I am off loading clothes to op shops, enjoying doing nothing some days, apart from talk to dogs and read. Other days exploring Melbourne, teaching my husband about blogging and helping him launch Sleeve Notes  and eating brunch. I am sleeping better, my skin is better, walking more than ever (except for days when I read a whole book in one day) and looking forward to lots of adventures.