So much to do and so little time to do it…

…was it Pooh Bear who said that…or was that about eating honey – Oh if eating honey was my only task!

I have set aside what time I have this month to Focus on completing and following up on the previous three.  To recap: I spent January focusing on my finances, February focusing on simplifying and decluttering my space and March focusing on a Spring clean.  I now have a list of left over jobs to tackle from each month and only two weeks of April to complete as we will be away for Easter and beyond.

You will find the list of tasks under April if you click on the Focus 2014 tab above or click here

I have been a busy bee this weekend whizzing through some of those little jobs that hang around – you know the ones I mean the non-urgent tasks that seem to roll over on the task list from one month to another.  If you don’t suffer from this ever then please leave me your secret in the comment box!

Since last Friday I have managed to  –

  • get a spare garage key cut £5.50 (ouch!), only on the list since last month
  • take my paper scissors to be sharpened £3.50 (I thought this was reasonable as they will last a while and it saves buying any new ones), on the list since January
  • laminated the clock change instructions to keep handy in my car and the compost layering ‘recipe’ to nail to the underside of the compost lid, as well as the musical sheets that are part of our musical crackers game ready for next Christmas get together,  on the list since January
  • cut back part of the front lawn that had crept over the driveway, on the list since last September
  • weeded the front bed where my lovely tree had been that succumbed to Honey fungus and is now ready for new planting,  on the list since February
  • finished copying over the old videos that we want to keep on DVD discs,  on the list for over a year
  • hubby took the sink trap off for cleaning (the fact that he didn’t screw the half bowl trap back on properly and I flooded out the cupboard below tonight – we won’t mention!), actually not on the list but we had a drain smell occur this last week
  • sent another bag of clothes to charity,  not even on the list
  • washed my black winter coat,  on last months list
  • washed all the cleaning cloths and dusters,  on the list for ages – the pile has just got bigger (they definitely breed)
  • balanced our finances, trying to do this at the end of each month no matter what
  • located the bottom of the ironing basket, this is on my weekly list but often has to be abandoned

and that was as well as the usual cleaning, washing  and tidying but it does feel good to not have to roll them over again.

 

I must say that the parts of the house that I have simplified, decluttered and cleaned are a real pleasure to be in.  I do need to work on my routines to keep up to this level of tidiness, cleanliness and clutterlessness (is there such a word?)…and most of all I need to keep a tight hold on the purse strings to avoid buying and bringing unnecessary bits and pieces back in.

Having said that there are certain items I am looking to buy or even make and as I go through each room simplifying and decluttering I am making a list of these items.  That may sound strange when my mission is to get rid of things but I also want to enhance my new space and make it decoratively pleasing to be in.

One of the items I am on the look out for is a small pretty wicker basket to contain my use up toiletries – so I can leave it out in full view and remember to use them.  At the moment they are in a Muji plastic tub but it would be nicer to have them in something a little more decorative than functional as I am sure it will be an ongoing container, even this plastic one

Small Faux Rattan Storage Basket

Google Images

from Lakeland would be better but I would like to avoid plastic and prefer a white-painted wicker one.

For anyone out there doing the same decluttering / tasks / spring clean how is it going for you?

 

Have a good week x

 

 

 

 

Oh, the lovely fickleness of an April day!…

 by William Hamilton Gibson.

Follow up

April so soon but at least winter is well behind us now and even though it may swing from warm to cold we will be working our way towards summer.

Mum went home last Sunday after a few hectic days shopping and visiting.  I managed not to buy anything but we did spend a lot on eating out and parking – but then I do not see her very often.  On Sunday we drove her home and called at my younger daughters on the way back.  Did I mention she is expecting and I will be a granny soon – in July the same date as my birthday!  What a birthday gift!!

For my focus this month I am concentrating on following up on the 3 past challenges for January, February and March.  There are still outstanding tasks to be completed and this seems like an appropriate time before moving on to any new goals.

Firstly  my Finances – these are almost complete after a major over haul in January.  I have to set up the Council Tax standing order in April but that is all that is left of the bills until later in the year when I will look around at house insurance.

My Housekeeping budget for March was so far off track this month I am not very happy with myself for allowing the spending to get a little out of control again.  I will be doing an update post of this soon so you will be able to see the error of my ways!

I have been quite good at keeping track of my day-to-day spending ( I mean writing it down not spending less – though I am trying).  I do need to get my lunches sorted out but that will be another months focus.  Introducing too many changes at once leads to failure in this house.  My system for dealing with the financial paperwork is working well – over the last 3 months I have kept on top of the filing and balanced the accounts and statements each month.  I have also built up enough of a float so that I do not break into my new wage, paid on the 20th, until the end of the month.

A couple of weekends ago I cleared out the files and produced a rather large pile of shredding – it took me 2 hours one Sunday morning but the files are much lighter now and I managed to get rid of any duplicate and outdated information.

I have a separate file for each of our bank accounts and keep the latest bank leaflets that they send about the charges and changes.  I could probably get the latest bank charges off the internet as well as the terms and conditions.  As we are never overdrawn we would be highly unlikely to incur charges.  I suspect I am keeping far too much just in case and that I could find the same information online.

February I concentrated on the decluttering.  This is still ongoing but I am being extremely thorough with the areas I have looked at.  My dressing table is wonderful (one magazine I read called it a beauty station and I quite like that term).  It is so easy to find all I need and put it away again – having a truly minimalist approach and reaping the rewards of this is the encouragement I need to get rid of things I might otherwise have found hard to part with.    The shower room cupboard also had a thorough clear out – everything in there is used – only the body brush and guest toiletries are occasional use items and I have trimmed these down.

Anything that I wouldn’t buy again but needs using up is assigned to the ‘use up box’ and I choose one at once to use until empty.  Any stocks of toiletries I need are bought when on offer.

My next area will be to tackle the household cleaners.  These are stored in a few places –  under the sink, in the garage cupboard, in the laundry room and in my caddy as well as the duplicates in the shower room cupboard.  I know I will need to have a use up box for these.

As we will be searching out the spring and summer clothes soon and packing away the warmer autumn / winter ones I will use this time to look at creating a capsule summer wardrobe.  I need to be ruthless which will require a certain mindset.  I don’t find it easy to get rid of clothes as they represent pound notes and hard-earned money.  However I think we all know when we have to face the fact that a garment was not a good buy, doesn’t suit us any longer or doesn’t fit like it used to!

March – cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning.  Some rooms I am not doing like the kitchen because it will be upside down and full of dust soon when we have the new one installed.  I have done the shower room and part of the office and the next on the list is the living room and our bedroom.

So as you can see there is still lots to be done and I hear the garden calling me to have a good tidy up too.

I will be posting a new April page soon with more detailed plans of my Focus on Follow up.

If you are interested in the Craft it Forward and want to have a go then read my previous post and leave me a comment to sign up.

Have a good week.

Focusing on Spring Cleaning update #1…

My focus this month was on Spring Cleaning – it hasn’t gone as well as I would have liked due to the usual time constraints but this last weekend at home saw me running around with buckets, cloths and cleaners and my trusty old friend for reaching into those parts etc…the toothbrush – it gets into all those little nooks and crannies.

There is something very satisfying about a good clean or bottoming (not sure if that is just a Yorkshire word or not) at this time of year, blowing all the winter cobwebs away and leaving that wonderful fresh smell and those pristine sparkling surfaces – it certainly puts a smile on my face!

Last weekend I cleaned the shower room and at the same time decluttered the cupboard and cabinet. I removed everything from the room including the contents of the cupboards before I began.

I always start at the top and work down so I washed the ceiling and walls, then doors, woodwork and radiator. After that I tackled the shower cubicle, basin and toilet. Hubby came along later and did the light fitting and the fan and the bath mat had a wash and was hung on the line to blow dry and fluff up the pile again.

If you have ever been into an expensive bathroom showroom in the middle of the week you will see the trade secret of  how they keep their display goods so shiny and appealing – they polish them.  This works a treat at home too – after giving the pottery a good wash,  dry it down with an old cloth and then spray with some liquid beeswax polish and rub to a heavenly shine with a soft clean duster. You can do the inside and outside of the basin and bath as well as the taps and even the outside of the toilet, the cistern and the lid – though I would do this last and then wash your cloths well afterwards.

After sorting through the contents of the cupboard I was left with this pile of oddments – one or two were past their sell by date…

Cupboard Contents

but as I cannot waste anything the rest are now in my use up box – even those free satchets of shampoo that are often stuck in magazines and the little bottles of hotel freebies (don’t we all have them?)…

Use up box 2

and one by one they will be allocated to the little soap dish in the shower which I call my ‘use up’ shelf  – (at the moment I am using up this tube of conditioner – cut in half to get at those last little drops and so far I have conditioned my hair five times with the leftovers that could have been thrown away).

Use up shelf

Other items will go onto the top of my dressing table so they are at hand when I need them.

Cupboard after

So the cupboard is looking much better now and everything in there is something I use – in fact it still feels like quite a bit of stuff and I am wondering if I could slim it down even further – I am not sure I could quite get to a bar of soap and a face cloth but if I did use soap it would save me having 2 different shower gels (one mine, one hubby’s), a large tub of Aqueous washing cream, a stock of liquid hand soap and some foot wash.   My granny only used soap and maybe a few bath salts – no fancy shower gels in her day – in fact she never had a shower.  No wonder my granny didn’t have overflowing cupboards they were certainly a minimalist generation compared with ours.

Of course after all that scrubbing I was a sorry sight and needed to jump into my nice clean shower to get myself clean – it felt a bit like that moment when you have to put on a garment from your wardrobe that you have just washed and ironed!

Sunday saw me busy again in the office come craft room – I find this the hardest room to do as it is home to so many different activities and nearly all involve paper…but that is another days post.

Mum is expected for a few days visit on Thursday – I have already given the guest room a bit of a clean and filled some gorgeous little white linen bags with rose petals and placed one on her pillow and one in her drawer.

Linen Bags

 

If you don’t hear much from me soon you know that we will be out doing a marathon shop!!

 

Have a good week x

Focusing on Simplifying my space update # 2…

Simplifying my space has been a harder project than I first thought and of course I am nowhere near finishing but the areas I have completed are working so well it is motivating me to press on.  As you will have noticed I have produced very few posts about this project as time has not been on my side during February but I will keep you updated as I complete a task.  I am concentrating my time in our home office at the moment which is probably a months work in itself.  Hopefully this weekend I will get to photograph the fruits of my labours!
Whilst I have been doing all these tasks I have been thinking a lot about how I can make my space both simple and uncluttered and keep it that way.  In fact I did wonder if I am simplifying at all or just reducing.
Even though simplifying and reducing are closely related terms I think there is a big difference between the two, for instance I could simplify my meals without reducing the amount I cook or I could reduce the amount I cook but still keep my meals quite complex.
The dictionary says to simplify is to make easier – so how would I make my space easier once I have reduced the contents?
This is what I came up with –
  • I can rearrange the items to make a more workable space – both the furniture and the decorative objects.
  • I can make the cleaning easier – washable surfaces, revamp existing items, maintain existing items, clean simple lines and shapes.
  • I can simplify how the space is used so it is single rather than multiple use eg the kitchen for cooking, the bedroom for sleeping and dressing.
  • I can simplify the decor making it more restful.
  • I can introduce better storage.
  • With my finances I can simplify the way I am dealing with them and tracking them as well as reducing the amount I am spending.
So as I am reducing I will also simplify by keeping in mind the above check list.
Whilst on the subject I thought I would share this short video I came across recently on You Tube and although this is a life taking simplicity to extremes it does have a certain appeal to me. 
They have named their tiny home Innermost House – such a beautiful name and I especially like the fact that even the few books that they have with them are ‘chosen’ to live there.  If you have a few moments take a look and tell me what you feel after watching it.  Would this life appeal to you or fill you with horror?

Thoreauvian simple living: unelectrified, timeless tiny home

Tomorrow I will reveal my new Focus for March and do a catch up on my weeks spending and the menu plan.

Focusing on Simplifying my space update #1…

I don’t know about you but getting ready for work in a morning has to be a very smooth operation and it often feels like I am a contestant  in that well known game of Beat the Clock.  I hate to be rushed in a morning and my  preferred style of  getting ready is ‘Beautify and Stroll’ rather than ‘Primp and Scurry’ quite amusing terms I once saw in a magazine.  However I do find myself often primping and scurrying rather than strolling due to a lack of organisation.
So to help me in getting ready on time everything I need has to be in the right place.  My morning routine is very simple so it easy to stay on automatic pilot until I am fully awake.
However, there is always room for improvement and I am hoping that as my Focus on Simplifying develops my routines will become so streamlined I can sail through the day.
Of course getting up and getting ready in the morning really begins the night before when I should (note the should!) make sure my bedroom is tidy, my clothes for the next day are chosen, my bags packed, my To Do list printed, and any other errands I have to do are noted and prepared for.
One other important task is to estimate how much time I need working backwards from the time I want to leave the house and then set the alarm clock accordingly allowing for 3 snoozes before I have to get out of bed.

Organising my beauty essentials

One way of making my morning routine simpler has been to reduce the amount of clutter in the bedroom starting with my dressing table drawers.  I have been through them item by item and identified those I use everyday and those that I may only use every now and then like foundation cream and anything that I found I hadn’t used has been put on the out / use – up / charity pile. 
As I sorted I also cleaned not only the drawers but the items themselves which always adds a nice sparkle.  So I am really down to the basics now – no rummaging around and nothing in here that isn’t used at least 20% of the time, in fact I would say that 80% of the contents are used 80% of the time.

Drawer 1

Dressing Table Drawer
In the top drawer I have my skin care, makeup and fragrances –
  •  face cream 2 for daytime and two for night time
  • Nivea for really dry patches
  • Cuticle massage cream from the Sally Hansen range
  • foundation creams
  • sponges, cotton wool and towelling headbands
  • everyday makeup – mascara and lip sticks / gloss
  • makeup brushes and pair small scissors
  • eau de cologne and deodorant
Everything is neatly laid out and ready to go and kept in a series of Muji containers with a small flat box of Kleenex tissues perching conveniently on top.  I also keep my Thyroxin medication to hand in here as taking my tablet for the day is the first thing I have to to do when I wake up.
Dressing Table Drawer

Drawer 2

The items in this middle drawer are less used – perhaps weekly rather than daily – I keep
  • much reduced selection of nail polish
  • cotton buds
  • small emery boards in case of a quick repair to a snagged nail.
 
Dressing Table Drawer
This is also where I keep more specialised creams for occasional use – I find I prefer keeping them here to the bathroom cabinet as this is where I would apply them at night.
  • Calendula
  • Tea Tree
  • Traumeel
  • Arnica Gel
  • and essential oil mixes for massage
I also keep my ‘Sunday’ Thyroxin in here (which is a lesser dose) and needs to be kept separate from my main dose.
Dressing Table Drawer
I have also a collection of eye make up and blusher cases for special occasions and a mini massage roller and soft skin brush.  Again everything is contained in the clear perspex containers from Muji with movable sections.
Dressing Table Drawer

Drawer 3

The bottom drawer is where I keep my hair styling bits
  • soft rollers for a bit of bounce
  • hairdressing scissors
  • brush and comb
  • travel hairdryer
  • extra rollers hidden away at the back.
Dressing Table Drawer
The brushes just rest neatly on top of the tray which was from Ikea.
 Dressing Table Drawer      
My main stock of creams are kept in the shower room cupboard and bulky paper goods such as tissues and cotton wool in the airing cupboard – this keeps my drawers free of unnecessary duplicates.  I like the ever increasing minimal look of the drawers and feel that this is probably is as far as I can go.
Of course there are always the annoying bits and pieces that do not fit into the drawers and I have 3 of these
  • hair Mousse
  • fine pump style hairspray
  • Aveeno body lotion in a pump container Mismatch items
None of them are particularly appealing in respect of the packaging design, they do not co-ordinate in anyway and are not a pretty addition to my dressing table top and until I can come up with a solution I just have to live with them.
There are only a few days left in February and I am finding that I am not able to declutter at any speed and this months focus may just spill over into next month.  This week I am going to concentrate on the office.  After focusing on our finances I realised there are a few systems I want to change so that the finances are easier to track.
To read about my grocery spending and see what I bought this week click here and it will take you to my other blog Re-routed.

Financial Focusing review #1

Update for February Housekeeping

February                                                              Wk1                 Wk2
Groceries / wholefoods and cleaning      21.10               38.15
Lunch & snacks at work                                 0.00                 7.65
Medicines/ remedies / supplements        2.29                 0.00
Stationery                                                            0.00                 5.97
Toiletries / makeup                                         6.24                 0.00
Total                                                                      29.63                51.77
Having a week off work with my poorly foot  in week 1 of February actually saved quite a bit of money partly because I did not have to buy lunches and partly because it kept me out of the shops!
I did also use some reward points towards my groceries so although these figures look quite reasonable if I factor in the reward points I would have overspent on food.
I am quite proud of myself for not buying any magazines this month so far.  I have a subscription for Country Living (xmas present) and I kept last years too to reread – much of which is still relevant.

Update for the bill budget

There is good news on the energy savings too – Npower our gas provider have refunded our account with £250 and will reduce our standing order to £60 month.  I will be working hard to get this reduced further but at the moment this is a start.
Scottish Power are yet to send us the £54 cheque for the compensation due for last years 3 days without power during the heavy snow.  I was told it would be here the end of January and I rang to remind them of this last Friday but could not get to speak with the right person.  It is quite frustrating that I have to keep chasing them – I can feel a letter coming on.

Items coming into the house this last week. 

I have been having some problems with the car remote and have had to use the ordinary key.  So I bought a new battery which only lasted a day so I think there must be something wrong with the remote fob – a bit of a waste of a new battery and the money.
Car remote battery
I bought these garden chair covers to put over the metal patio chairs and keep them from the bad weather. Money well spent here I think.
Garden Chair covers
This is a granite worktop saver and I have had this on my list for a long time – we have one at the cottage and they are extremely useful and versatile – I can chop veg and put hot pans on here and being cool it is good for pastry though perhaps a bit on the small side.
Granite worktop saver
This exercise of monitoring what comes into the house is quite enlightening and I am already beginning to see where some of the money goes and how we  accumulate more stuff soon after a clearout – I have already bought quite a few items this year even though it hasn’t felt like it.  One or two new items a week will accumulate over the year to a huge 52 -104 items.  That is actually quite a lot of new things to find homes for unless they are replacing something I already have.
Tomorrow is shopping day – with my meal plan in hand I should only be buying the basics – bread, milk, fresh veg and anything we have run out of.  I don’t know whether to be excited or worried about a trip to Rymans one night this week.  I am clearing our home office / craft room at the moment and need a few more stationery items to complete my new systems.  The temptation could just prove too much!
On a different note my appraisal was OK – glad it is over I don’t feel I get much out of them really and I don’t see how one form can suit all personalities I feel I need to redesign mine to make sense to me!  It will now end up in a folder and like everyone else only be referred to prior to the next review in 6 months time – not how they are meant to be used but I will be making my own goal and task list that I can understand.
Have a good day tomorrow – the weather is certainly improving but for how long?

January Spending Review…

Crutches

At last these are now redundant and my foot almost back to normal.  Thank you everyone for the kind words – at least it hasn’t prevented me from reading your posts.

I have been having a bit of a review of my spending for January – has my financial focus done any good?

January 2014 Spending

This was a 5 week month – my 1st week began on Monday 30th December and the 5th week ends on Sunday 2nd February for ease of calculating and comparing full weeks. 

I had a £38.18 overspend in total with some of that being on groceries, lunches and petrol.  However, if I am careful I won’t have to buy petrol next month unless I go further afield to see my daughter or my mum comes down for a visit.  On the whole I am quite pleased with the result at least having a target makes sure that you limit any temptation to overspend.

The areas I need to work on are lunches and stationery – quite clearly a bit over the budget I have allowed myself!

As you know I am photographing everything that comes into the house that is not food and below are the items for last week.  You can see all the items to date by clicking on the Incoming Items 2014 tab across the top of my blog.  It will be interesting for me to look back and analyse exactly what has been useful or not, what I didn’t really need to buy and what I haven’t even used!  Hopefully none of the last category.

New products Wk 5

A Mascara, 2 x  lip gloss and a bottle of Tea Tree Oil

Shopping Wk 5

You will have noticed the second photo contains all stationery items – once I go into Rymans I can’t help myself it is like being in a sweetie shop – but they are all to help me in getting the office better organised. 

The Deep Tuff box is something I am test driving so to speak.  At the moment it contains all the papers and brochures in connection with our future new Kitchen.  I might also buy one for my extensive garden clippings and notes.  They fit neatly on a bookcase on end and I think they are an excellent way to contain papers in a space saving upright position.

The long thin item is actually called Filefix  – A4 self adhesive filing strip, something that I actually made myself a long time ago by cutting the side strip of one of those thin plastic wallets and sticking the perforated edge to the edge of an instruction booklet so that I can put it with all the other papers in my instructions binder.  Perhaps I should have patented the idea at the time but I am delighted someone else has thought to market them.

These coupons also came into the house this week by post – at least we had no junk mail.  I can use the Tesco coupons for food on our next trip to Scotland and the M&S vouchers for £18 will come in handy for food or a gift or two or even new tights.

Coupons

I hope you had a thrifty January  – have a lovely weekend.