so much sadness here…

The beautiful area I live in by the Pennines that divide Yorkshire and Lancashire has been in the news recently but sadly not for good reasons.

We live just below Wessenden Moor which leads onto Saddleworth Moor where the moors murders took place and Keith Bennett’s body remains unfound.  It is an isolated place but going over the hill from here that eventually drops down into the valley and Greenfield at Dovestones reservoir is one of those views that takes your breath away.  You will have seen on the news that Ian Brady died taking with him the knowledge of where Keith is buried.  Going over the moors for me is always a poignant reminder of these poor children and their families.

And now more recently the suicide bomber in Manchester – we are only 22 miles to the city centre of Manchester with the Pennine Moors between us so it was always likely that we would know someone who attended the Arena on Monday night.

My colleague, who joined my team when Helen died, was there with her 12-year-old daughter – it was a Xmas present that she had been waiting for excitedly.  Luckily they stayed for the last song and were safe inside at the time of the explosion and not making their way through the Foyer as it was detonated.   They immediately just ran out as fast as they could for safety -not knowing what was happening, but the sights and sounds they saw on the way out has traumatised them so they are unable to sleep at the moment.   Another colleague at work knows one of the girls that died and another that is seriously injured.

The sad loss and the heartbreaking stories that people have – our thoughts and prayers reaching out to them.   There are no words that can express our feelings it is all beyond comprehension but on the good side the Manchester people will come together and offer whatever they can to help.

 

 

 

 

a busy week so far…

It has been a mad week with so little time for myself that today I have hardly done anything but a little light cleaning and a bit of clearing up and putting away.  Still it felt good not to have to go work and to get my house back in some semblance of order.

Yesterday evening was our fund-raising event in memory of my dearest friend and colleague.  I haven’t been told a figure for how much money we raised for the hospice (where Helen spent her last few days) but I am sure it must have been quite e bit given the amount of people there.  Her mum, step dad and younger daughter all attended which was lovely and they won a raffle prize too – how lucky was that.

Tomorrow we are venturing further north to go and collect my granddaughter who is coming to stay overnight.  She is 2½ now and loves baking, animals and trains so we are (weather permitting) going on a train ride a few miles away from here at Clayton West on the Kirklees light Railway.  I like trains too so we will both be excited.  Perhaps we might even bake a few buns to take home for mummy and daddy – I bought a tub of chocolate drops and sprinkles from Sainsbury’s the other night just in case.

Meal Planning

We couldn’t make pancakes on pancake day due to time pressures so we had Mushroom and Leek pancakes tonight.  I make them with buckwheat flour rather than ordinary but I have only found it available to buy in 3lb bags so I need to find some other recipes that use buckwheat so it is not wasted. The menu planning is still going well though when I am short of time the plan ends up as a quick scribbled list in my notebook.  Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to search out and try new recipes in the last few weeks so we have been relying on old favourites.

Housekeeping

Airing CupboardThe airing cupboard is now up and running and I love having a cupboard where I open the door and inside the contents are only items we need and use – there is nothing in here that you might call clutter or surplus to requirements and it has an equal amount of space : stuff which is quite pleasing to me.

Airing Cupboard

It is fresh, white and bright with the new strip of LED lights that comes on automatically when we open the door.  At the very bottom of the cupboard just out of the picture we installed a heater  – a 40W tube equivalent to a light bulb and will just keep the cupboard warm enough to air the ironed clothes and linens which can be stored on the lowest empty slatted shelf.

Airing Cupboard

 

 

I have cream towels and white towels  (the white ones are from the cottage – I thought we may as well be using them here at home) this makes washing them easy as they all go in the wash together.  The white ones I bought in 2004 from Primark Home and they have been really good and stay soft when washed and dried inside (I don’t have a drier so cannot ‘fluff’ them up).  To keep my linens and towels smelling nice I place bars of scented soap and satchets on top of the piles.

I am eager now to get started on our next project in the house.

Finances

I saw an article in a magazine recently that suggested it is a good idea to spend one to two hours a week on your finances, keeping yourself up to date with changing interest rates and checking for good deals.  I would include in this time checking those online bills for utilities.  It is so easy to get the email saying your bill is ready for viewing and then ignoring it.  We found quite a few mistakes on our BT bills and Npower.

So I am going to set aside two hours this weekend to deal with the following financial tasks

  • car insurance to accept
  • cancel the separate breakdown cover (it is covered in the car insurance)
  • pay the credit card bill
  • check the bank accounts
  • open a savings account for Mr I that has a 5% return

Thrifting

This week Saintsbury’s gave me a coupon for 8p off petrol if I spent £15 on clothes.  It seemed like a good deal to me as I had seen a jumper for work for £18.  I also had a few rewards points coupons and one triple points so these are mounting up nicely.  Other than that I have not spent any money other than the groceries this week and a couple of birthday presents.

Have a good weekend x

a special evening for a special lady…

Tomorrow evening at work we are holding a fund-raising event for our local Kirkwood Hospice in memory of my dear friend and colleague Helen who died over a year ago now before Christmas.  It would have been her birthday tomorrow and I miss not being able to give her a card and present and wish her many happy returns.

Each day I miss her cheery smile, I miss our general chit-chat catching up daily with news of the family or what we are planning for tea, I miss exchanging comments and likes and dislikes of the previous nights TV viewing.  I miss our laughter at the craziest things that reduced us to tears, the hot chocolate she made me when I was having a bad day, our moans and groans about the workload, and our planning for the future.

Tomorrow will be hard but we will be sharing together in remembering Helen and our office will be full of friends and family who loved and admired her.

God bless Helen – you were a special friend and missed so much.

waste not want not…

 

Continuing with the waste of Overproduction…

Since writing the previous post on using the ‘lean’ principles in everyday and domestic life to add value by avoiding waste I am very conscious of buying too much and creating future waste – I just have to look around my house to see the result of this. I wonder why I do buy things sometimes, as more often than not they are not on my shopping list – rather I see something and decide impulsively that I would quite like it, or even worse that I believe I cannot live without it!

As well, I buy because I can; my income, though fairly modest, is such that I do not even have to think about the cost of a small purchase. I often wonder what fortune I might have amassed over the years if I had not squandered my money on all these low-cost hasty purchases.

All this buying has generated a lot of waste and the constant necessity to declutter. I am not alone in this as there seems to be some kind of decluttering fever in blogland at the moment – maybe it isn’t just me that is feeling the need to gain back some space and feel free from the responsibility of storing and looking after stuff.

Are we desiring less but actually buying more?

At the beginning of last year I decided to document everything I bought that wasn’t food. (You can see this here on my rerouted blog). I thought this exercise was going to be a doddle after all I was trying to seriously cut down on what I bought anyway so I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time photographing my purchases – how wrong I was!

By the time March came round I realised this was getting to be quite a time-consuming project because I actually bought more items than I thought I would and as soon as Easter arrived with the better weather my attentions had to be prioritised towards the garden. It was a useful exercise though because I can visually see items in the photos that I bought and haven’t used or I found not to be useful after all.

Simplicity of living and avoidance of waste

Whilst thinking about waste and unnecessary buying I keep going back to one of my favourite discoveries – Innermost House – for those following along with my journey you might remember Innermost House if not click here to discover for yourself. The simplicity of living and freedom from buying that this video promotes is something that I aspire to achieve.

You would perhaps think that Simplistic living is quite an easy goal to accomplish but I think it is a constant struggle. The world wants me to spend. I watch the TV and I am subjected to advertising, I go to the shops and I am attracted by the displays and the most recent fashion must haves, I hand over my money at the checkout and they hand me back vouchers so I will return and spend more.

Worse still I don’t even need to have cash anymore I just hand over a piece of plastic and I don’t feel the loss of my hard-earned money. And just when I think I can’t spend anymore because all the shops are closed I log on to the internet and all my movements are being tracked so that I am bombarded with adverts of products I might like to buy from the sites I visit.

Not buying more must surely begin with being content with what I already have and not being tempted into buying things unnecessarily. I can look back at the world my grandparents knew and see that they were far more content with their lot. Their world was definitely simpler, their choice was limited and their income also limited their choice.

Going back to my task of Simplifying my house, one of my main goals  in the decluttering battle is to be much more careful when shopping to avoid being wasteful. I really do not want to be throwing out items that I only bought a few months before, whether that is clothes, household contents or food and I do not want to get rid of loads of stuff only to find that a month or two down the line the house has filled up once again.

Limiting my spending

To stop this happening I have thought of a number of things I have decided to do

  • I am looking to put some kind of limit onto the amount of items I have in any one category.  For instance I could limit myself to one magazine a month, 6 pairs of shoes, 6 sets of underwear, a capsule wardrobe, 1 bookcase of books etc this way items can only be replaced rather than be added to.
  • I will repair and maintain the items we already have where possible rather than replace them with new
  • I will avoid the need to keep any ‘just in case’ items
  • I will decline taking other people’s bags of decluttered items that are passed on
  • I will suggest tokens for my birthdays that I can use for a massage, facial or a meal, something that I do not have to keep or suggest a donation to my favourite charity.
  • l will borrow books from the library
  • I will limit my store cupboard supplies
  • I will try harder to plan weekly menus to cut down on food waste
  • I will make a concentrated effort to make my own cards from my craft cupboard materials.
  • I will only keep what I really use unless it is for sentimental reasons

I am sure there are more ways than this to minimise the ‘stuff’ from creeping back in.  I may be wrong, and do tell me if I am, but Kondo never says exactly how she deals with any accumulted stuff after the initial declutter, it is as though she expects it will never be a problem again.  Her message is always to apply the test of does it ‘give joy’ but quite often that urge to buy and spend and therefore accumulate is the very ‘Joy’ bit – albeit quite short lived in most cases.  In this world of plenty having that bit more does not register with us until the bit more has become a bit of a mountain!

I have no doubt I could keep on forever buying and decluttering but I prefer not to –  it seems such a waste of effort and time and resources not to mention space so I need to take a stand now.

Perhaps I will even get back to photographing and logging all my purchases again as a way of avoiding future waste.

 

learning to live a little leaner…

My final day at work yesterday for a whole week – yay! – I am winding down today but as soon as I can pack a few things and jump in the car on Saturday we are headed for Scotland.  Of course we will have to stay in a rented cottage as our own is still not ready (or even close) but we will be able to go in the garden which has probably reached jungle proportions by now.

After my initial decluttering of the toiletries, my underwear drawer and the cleaning products I have ground to a bit of a halt and nothing much is getting done in the house at the moment due to my continuing heavy work commitments.

You may remember my post in February about work and how I had decided to leave but I was asked to stay if they could make things better; well rather than winding down towards retirement it seems my ‘career’ is having a sudden late onset revival and after agreeing to stay on I have been promoted this week!  It is actually the same job in essence with a new title.  Although I think much more will be expected of me  – earning my keep as it were,  and I keep wondering if I really want this right now but I won’t make that decision until I have tried it out.  I have been given full authority to sort out our department (I can’t say too much about this here as it is a touch political) and make it more efficient and organised.  A bit like decluttering I think!

With all this organising, decluttering and efficiency required both at home and work I have been reading a lot about the Lean methods used by the Japanese and I must say it makes sense to me.  Although the principles of Lean refer more to the manufacturing process and giving customer value you can use these same principles to apply to your life or other situations.  Lean concentrates on adding value – if your activities do not add value then they are wasteful in Lean terms.

Below in bold are the main ‘wastes’ associated with Lean and are taken from Lean for Dummies Cheat Sheet.

Consider the questions of each type of waste which have been translated by me into the more domestic situation of Household Management – are you able to identify with any of my wastes or perhaps you have different issues.

Apologies here to any truly Lean followers if my interpretations are a little loose. 

  • Overproduction

    – do you provide more information than is necessary or spend unnecessary amount of time on paperwork? Do you overproduce generally creating future waste?

Whenever you produce more than you need, you are creating waste.

Buying too much, making too much, storing too much can all be examples of waste in the home.  When we waste we end up throwing the waste away.  A lot of effort can be put into buying, making and storing and this is needless if you end up with waste.

I thought about this question with regards to my emails and paperwork.  My emails can be wordy – perhaps my posts are too – don’t answer that one!

In respect of the paperwork – it takes a long time – I have a lot of it – files and files in fact – do I need to hang on to it?

I also thought about the overproduction involved in managing the grocery shopping and cooking.  There is no doubt good meal planning prevents waste but can the act of meal planning be simplified by doing one menu for the month for each season – then that is it – no more planning.

Could I simplify our accounting in some way – I love my money program but is it really necessary to know where every penny was spent?  I am working on this one.

  • Waiting

    – do you spend too much time waiting for information from others or is there a time lag between production steps?

I can identify here with the time lag – I have time lag between washing and ironing the clothes and the putting away – so our house constantly resembles a Chinese laundry (am I allowed to say that these days?)

We do not wash up immediately after eating in the evenings (bad habit)

We constantly buy things and then do not get to use them – instances of this are all over the house from those little flossing brushes to a whole bathroom suite.

  • Inventory

    – work in progress – Do you have large stocks of materials and is your work in process inventory too high?

Obviously after seeing all my cleaning products together I can only say yes to this and a lot of the other ‘stuff’ in my life.  The garage is testimony to this along with the craft items, an oversupply of food in the cupboards and freezer.  I also have half-finished craft projects and maintenance projects on the go.

  • Transportation

    – Do things flow efficiently.  Could you combine deliveries or deliver things more quickly?

This can cover a number of household issues from the flow of a room – how you might organise the kitchen for instance – to the flow of doing tasks and combining errands and tasks.

Decluttering I find actually helps the flow.  Far too often I find that I am keeping things in the wrong place because something else is resident in the right place.

  • Overprocessing

    Do you needlessly work on something more than once?

Almost certainly – the constant decluttering for instance!  I might also begin something that I cannot finish and then have to come back to it later and start over.

  • Motion

    – how is work passed along the team – do people understand what is required at each step?  Do people and equipment move between tasks efficiently?

We are a team of two normally and will be once again when team daughter and partner move out LOL.  I do not think the housework is split 50:50 in our team of two.  Hubby works longer hours than me so it would seem unfair.   Hubby is generally on waste management and fix and repair, whilst I am on meal planning and production, laundry production and household maintenance and cleanliness.  It is hard to ‘pass along’ on a team of two – although I can think of a good example of this where I generate the waste and hubby moves it!  I think co-ordination could work better and I believe a bit more effort to take note of what is required at each step  – the finishing off process – would not go amiss.

  • Defects

    – how often do you find mistakes – do you make the same mistakes on a regular basis?

Oh I definitely think we do in this household – even something as simple as the washing up inspection when dishes are rejected as not properly clean and need to be done again, or items of clothing not put out in time for washing and are not included in the wash.  Receipts not being presented on time when I am trying to balance our accounts, shopping put away in the wrong place and has to be swapped around, out of stock items not being put on the shopping list ready for the weekly shop and toilet rolls not being replaced by the last user – need I go on!

  • Workforce

    – do you use time wisely?  Do you spend most of your time on activities that add value and are a high priority?

Obviously not as I am writing this post now when I should be maintaining the house and packing!

 

Reading both Marie Kondo’s book on decluttering, the Zero Waste Home and the Minimalists book I can see how Lean fits into all these concepts quite well.  Tightening up on all the above areas of waste could make life simpler and my stuff more manageable.  I am certainly going to give this a lot more thought over the Easter break and look at how I can apply a no waste policy to our household.

 

 

Have a good Easter x

 

 

 

 

A new journey…

I know I am a little late in saying this but…

Happy New Year 2015

 

After a long and sometimes difficult year I was quite glad to say goodbye to 2014 and welcome the new year – a fresh start and a new journey – below is a quick photo reminder from some of my posts last year which include one or two of the more memorable moments.

2014 in pictures

 

However, only a few days into 2015 we received a phone call from the care home where my mum in law lived to say mum was in A&E after being resuscitated from a choking incident.  Sadly she never regained any consciousness and died a few days later only days away from her 91st birthday.  Such a sad end – but her quality of life had not been good for the past 6 months with the worsening of her dementia and the Parkinson’s so in a way it was a blessing for her that she slipped away peacefully to a long earned rest.

Just before this drama occurred I had begun writing this post and thinking about what I might do this year as I pictured a whole new year stretching out in front of me – quite unblemished, as it was then, like a fresh fall of snow before any footprints appear.

I began by thinking about my focus word for the year – last year it was Focus and for the early part of the year this kept me on track, but as the year went by my Focus changed not surprisingly when we experienced the flood.  The impact that has had on our lives together with my colleague being off work ill has been tremendous.  Now I feel I need to get back on track, sort myself out and turn my dream of a simple and healthier life into reality.

After much deliberation over words I have finally chosen Wellbeing – I believe this encompasses all I want to achieve this year.

I wasn’t too sure exactly what came under the umbrella of wellbeing so I started with the dictionary definition

well-being or wellbeing
noun
a contented state of being happy and healthy and prosperous

Of course I had to go and choose a word that had alternative spellings and after checking up on the difference I have chosen to go without the hyphen – this is the more modern interpretation as wellbeing is becoming a recognised term in its own right and I am told the hyphen will eventually be dropped just as similar ‘brought together’ words have in the past – I am just helping to accelerate that transition – so I apologise to any traditionalists that may be reading this!

My choice of Wellbeing is not because I feel really unhappy, unhealthy or lacking but the state of good health is not just the absence of disease – well not in my mind anyway.  If anything this last year has been quite a roller coaster from start to finish even the most positive of events – becoming 60 and a grandma within a couple of weeks was equally as stressful and emotionally challenging as becoming homeless due to the flood!

I have read that by taking care of what is important in one area can make life easier in another. Likewise, neglecting one area can negatively affect another. It is all about keeping life in balance – so I will be putting this to the test.

The areas that I will be looking to bring into balance are probably the same for most people who work and run a home

  • Personal & Leisure & Family – taking care of myself and allowing time for myself to enjoy my day-to-day life as well as spending time with friends and my family – it will take into account my hobbies and things I like doing recreationally – maybe starting new ones who knows!
  • Home – this is how I will deal with all the management of the house – housekeeping – decorating – gardening – general upkeep
  • Health – the goal here is to become healthier both physically and mentally and will include exercising – meal planning and putting to right any niggling health issues
  • Work – I think this speaks for itself – I definitely need to find an answer to reduce the long hours I have been forced into doing
  • Finances – this area had plenty of focus last January but is ready for another minor overhaul

In addition I want to take steps to slow down, where possible the pace of my life, and make it simpler so that I am able to live the moment and enjoy the day and not feel quite so guilty when I find I am doing one thing instead of dealing with another.

So there we are Project Wellbeing – all I have to do now is work out a plan of action and I feel my first task is to establish some routines to provide some stability to my life.

Hope you all have a good weekend – I have a bit of catching up to do in blog world but I know from my quick scans of my favourite blogs that many of you are well into any new challenges you have set for yourselves  I hope I will have time to leave the odd comment again soon but this might be after the funeral when life has calmed down a bit over here. x

 

Less is more, more or less…

The ladies down at my local library must think I am either very rich, or very poor or just plain obsessed with money because I am always borrowing books on Finances.  I have read them all from Rich Dad to Poor Dad, Martin Lewis, Suze Orman and Miss Moneypenny.   I even had a great book on explaining mortgages by Robin Banks.  I now know you should hang on to your assests and roll up your toothpaste tubes to squeeze out every last inch but for me the advice is still not quite enough.  It is the same with books and articles on organising – I read them all in the hope of discovering something really profound that will change my life.

I am not sure just what I am hoping to learn from these books maybe I am looking for some kind of definitive answer to budgeting and of course like everything else in life there isn’t one.  When I think back to my grandma and grandad they kept all their financial and other papers in a little old fashioned leather suitcase under the bed (I have a filing cabinet and a filing drawer!) but of course they had less to look after.  They rented so apart from the rent agreement they had no mortgage papers or buildings insurance and no contents as they had so little to insure.  They did have a tiny life policy to pay for their funerals like most people of their time.  They had a TV rented of course and a fridge but no other electrical items apart from the kettle and an iron.   Cakes were made by hand not a mixer, everything was chopped with a knife not a processor.  Computers were not an household item and they only had a phone installed aged 82.  They had a quarteley electricity bill that was paid in cash the same day it dropped through the door.  Their pension was just the one given by the state.  They had one savings book and no current account or cheque book everything was paid for by cash.

All in all their paperwork including any user instructions and guarantees was minimal and very little in the way of junk mail dropped through their door.  They still received those old fashioned things called letters, hand written ones, usually from family and friends and postcards too.   There was very little to maintain or breakdown and they never had to trawl the internet looking for advantageous savings accounts or run through comparison sites.  Their money flowed in and out with a little put by for a rainy day – such a simple life – a good example of the less is more some of us are striving for.

When we packed up their council flat it took us just 2 days to sort through all the stuff in comparison it took every weekend from January to March to go through my mums when she moved!

Yet even with so little Grandma and Grandad loved life and lived it to the full – they were not bogged down being keepers of stuff.  So really I do not need to read all those books I just need to be like dear old gran!

Anyone reading this post will love to read the post over at Marigold Jam  – ‘Less is often more – discuss’ – it seems we have been having very similar thoughts at the same time because like she says so much of blogland at the moment is given over to sorting out and decluttering.