cleaning, mEAndering, nEAtening, out and about

up hill and down dale…

I had quite a busy weekend but mostly enjoyable.

I did my two hours of paperwork over Friday and Saturday (mentioned in my previous post) and filed all the papers and then moved on to the Mount Everest of an ironing pile and finally managed a half-way clean in our office and main bedroom.

A half-way clean in my books is one that isn’t exactly a deep clean of moving furniture or emptying cupboards but neither a lick and tickle with the duster.  It always feels good to me to have a good clear up – tidying up loose ends as I go and then giving all the surfaces a good clean.  What a shame it doesn’t stay in shape for longer!

On Friday afternoon I took my good friend and neighbour out for Afternoon Tea for her birthday at a local Garden Centre called Totties – only when we got there did we find we should have booked!  We settled on a Cheese ploughman’s with hummus instead followed by ice cream – both courses were delicious.  We both agreed it was probably more enjoyable than Afternoon tea as we both like savoury foods more than too many sweet cakes.  We will definitely go back though to sample the Afternoon tea another day – remembering to book next time.

We travelled up to the Yorkshire Dales on Sunday to meet my daughter and granddaughter at the Himalayan Garden at Grewelthorpe between Ripon and Masham. 

I was a bit disappointed that it was overcast and in places quite cool but depending on where we walked in the garden we came across unexpected pockets of warm micro-climates.

It is quite a stunning 20 acre garden with a mass of very colourful and showy rhododendrons and Azaleas on wooded slopes with winding paths that lead down into a valley with two main lakes.

Dotted amongst the planting are modern sculptures – some I liked better than others and although it is an interesting garden I personally found some of the features a bit too themed but it didn’t really detract from the beauty of the place.  

These are the sculptures we did find interesting…

perhaps not a sculpture but I quite like this feature below!

The Primula here grow in abundance…

and this jetty is my favourite spot…

You have to admire the sheer scale of the planting and dedication that has gone into this place and it is still a work in progress.  The garden has an interesting history which you can read about in the new visitor centre.  It is a private garden that is only open for a limited number of weeks in the year and you have the added bonus of being able to talk to the head gardener in the Nursery for planting advice.

In all it was a pleasant day we had a picnic in the grounds and a cup of tea from the new chalet tea room and a play on the roundabouts then set off gathering pine cones, sticks and fallen leaves for granny to carry.  I resembled a nature table by the end of the walk.  In the Plant Nursery we were tempted to buy a delicately flowered white Azalea (see below) which is now waiting on our patio for a trip to Scotland.  It is not too showy and likes shade and will blend in well in our wood at the cottage.

At the end of the day we went home with one happy little girl…

and one happy granny…

My garden tonight – a little smaller in scale than the 20 acre garden but my little corner of tranquility and how quickly everything is growing.

And now its back to work while the weather is warmer and sunny!

 

 

cleaning, fEAsible, getting things done, managEAble, nEAtening, rEArranging, simplifying, taking stock

waiting around…

Yesterday I had a fun day out at a Legal Aid Seminar for costs lawyers over the hill in Manchester at the Hilton Hotel.  I doubt if the ins and outs of Legal Aid and its future is everyone’s cup of tea but I did actually enjoy it and we had a delicious lunch provided.  We also had a plentiful supply of Danish pastries, macaroons and the famous Hilton chocolate chip cookies served just out of the oven.  I am definitely going to make some.

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Just click on the picture to link through to Amandeline who has the recipe for them on her blog or Google Double Tree Cookie and you will find plenty of references for their ‘not so secret’, secret recipe!

On the train going the uncommunicative commuters had their heads buried in their phones, tablets and notepads with headphones on – so I sat back and enjoyed some precious thinking time.

In my quest to simplify my life one of my goals is to simplify the housework.  I do enjoy keeping house, there is nothing better for me than a good spring clean you can’t beat the distinctive smell of towels blown dry by the wind outside or a freshly washed floor or polished wood –  but I do want to streamline the process to speed up the time it takes me to make the house presentable and of course a place of joy to live in.

As I have written about here Lean is a concept I am following to simplify my life and I the seven wastes in particular provide me with plenty of food for thought – the waste of waiting being one of them.

For instance – I often have a 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?).  When I can get them outside on the line to dry it is great but then I end up with a huge pile waiting for ironing.  If I don’t get them outside to dry I end up with a huge pile of wet washing drying on the clothes horse and the end process of getting them put away ready to use again is delayed.

Another unproductive area of waiting is our bad habit of sometimes leaving the dirty dishes after we have eaten our evening meal – so the dishes are waiting far too long to be washed and put away and we are doing them when we are tired and should be relaxing.

And the worst of the waiting – we constantly buy things and then do not get to use them so they end up waiting somewhere – instances of this are all over the house from those little flossing brushes I bought to try ages ago to the Ikea wardrobe parts still packed in boxes and now waiting in the living room to be moved upstairs and assembled.

I can identify very strongly with the waiting time in this household and the time lag between production steps – I only ever seem to be able to do half a job and then don’t get to finish it until my next day off.

So I am on a mission to get some of the stuff off the waiting list and reduce the waiting time during production.

So for starters I am going to tackle the washing and put in a load every other day and iron it before bedtime so there is no pile building up over the week waiting to be tackled at the weekend, then the dishes and then make a start on the ‘stuff‘ – the unfinished projects –   there is one good thing it will still be there waiting for me if I don’t find the time to deal with it!

How do you tackle your unproductive waiting times?

bEAching, cleaning, cottage garden, drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, nEAtening, out and about

a new year…a new start…

Saying goodbye to 2015 has not been hard for me, a difficult and challenging twelve months.  It is odd how the not so good bits are often more established in your memory than the good bits.  It was only when I came to upload photos of my year that I realised I had many good bits and below is a quick tour through my year with some of my highlights and only a few lowlights!

 

In January almost at the start of the year my mum-in-law died unexpectedly – she was only a few days away from her 91st birthday.  I love this picture of her leaning out of the upstairs window way back in the early fourties.

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At the end of 2014 the cottage was stripped out ready to be re-instated – all our hard work over 10 long years ended up in a skip.  They removed the kitchen and bathroom and the place is now just a shell – even the wooden floors have been removed and temporary boards put down.

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On Mothers Day we baptised my granddaughter in a beautiful little church in Heeley near to where my daughter lives.  It was a bitterly cold day but full of sunshine and daffodils.  We unpacked our treasured family Christening robe – a very delicate cotton voile dress with tiny pintucks and embroidered flowers.  I think it was made by my grandma who was a fine seamstress.

 

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Here is baby L with her great Grandma – she was 7 months old here – a bit old for the size of the dress which only just fit and we had to have one of standby that I bought in John Lewis just in case – but all was well and she managed not to put a hole in it!

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We celebrated the day amongst family and friends and everyone had one of these gorgeous cupcakes made by Caroline a girl I used to work with until she set up her own business making cakes.

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I managed a few clearing out days at the beginning of the year spurred on by the wave of Kondoism sweeping blogland.  I have just to finish the rest of the house now!

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Even though the cottage is looking quite forlorn inside the garden continues to flourish and after the flood it just sprang back to life – no doubt helped by the heap of cow manure brought in with the flood water from the nearby fields!

 

The cottage garden

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Even my new long border was full of unexpected colour as Foxgloves and Poppies had self seeded here and there.

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My greatest surprise though was uncovering more stones at the side of the pond – buried under a few years of leaf mould.

Uncovering stones around pond

Paving around pond

 

Uncovering these led me to get on and clean out the pond which lies behind those Irises.  Below is a picture taken before I cleaned it out – no water (a suspected leak) and full of mud from the falling leaves which I had to remove by the bucket load – but I persevered to the end and what a joyful moment when it was all cleaned up and the hole in the concrete that was causing the leak repaired by hubby.

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before

Water in pond

after – just waiting for some rain now to fill it.

Middleton Well Dressing

after a few days the pond was full and the flowers surrounding it a joy to behold.

In August another kind of pool was up and running – this is our new leisure and sports centre in town – it has been long-awaited as our nearest leisure pool was in nearby Barnsley and the old sports centre was way past it’s sell by date.  I got to go on the Private Viewing tour with my architect hubby and the rest of his team who put in such a lot of hard work over the years to bring it in on time and on budget.  Friends and family of everyone who worked on the design and build as well as the people now running it were able to sample the pool and fitness suites before it was opened to the public.  I just went to take photos but I am thinking of joining soon as it is only up the road from my office and I could do with a bit of exercise!

The Leisure Pool

Another day of excitement when we had a two-week break in Scotland and took a ferry ride across to Dunoon to go and see Freda and her Open Studio.

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approaching Dunoon

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We had the most delightful time with Freda  – she provided afternoon tea and cakes and we had a long chat, a wander round her beautiful garden and studio.  Her pictures of the garden do not compare with how stunning it is in the flesh.  We left of course with one of her pictures and it hangs in our bedroom at home  – a reminder each morning of our wonderful day.  Find Freda here at Live Simply, Simply Live.

 

I can’t remember just when but at some point during the year hubby had a meeting down near Cambridge and we took advantage of this to go and see the Potton Self Build homes – you can actually go inside four different houses to get a feel for what it might be like if you design and build yourself.  I won’t say very much here because nothing as been finalised but watch this space.

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A very different self build home – I think this cute Tree house would be every child’s dream – it was near to some gardens we were visiting in Derbyshire when my mum came to stay.

The Tree House

We also took her to Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield – one of my all time favourite places.

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They just happened to have craft fair event with a Punch and Judy show.

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We couldn’t go into Derbyshire without going to see one of the many Well Dressings that are held during the summer.  Middleton by Youlgreave always have plenty to do and see and such a cute little church in the middle of the village.

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On our way we also stopped at Cromford Mills for lunch and found that the nearby St Mary’s church was open for viewing.  Inside the walls are decorated with wonderful wall paintings and stained glass windows by A.O.Hemming to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

Cromford Church

 

So maybe it has not been such a bad year after all – although I feel like I have spent most of my time at work and my promotion in May has meant a lot more responsibility when I was actually looking to reduce my hours – I must be mad but I could never ignore a challenge and it has been just that at times.  Faced with a huge backlog of work to sort out when I took over and two trainees to train it has proved almost impossible at times.  However, going forward I feel we are in a much stronger position at the beginning of this year than last.  I still miss Helen my colleague and life at work will never be the same without her.

 

I am looking now to choosing my new word for 2016 – many of you have already announced yours.  I struggled at first to decide and then it was there on the screen and I couldn’t ignore it – in fact it is two words that are both very appropriate for my situation at the moment in so many ways and I think they link together quite well…

Restore

Restore – to brink back, re-establish, to repair or renovate.  I definitely need to restore myself, the house, the cottage and my free time.

It is very much linked with Replenish – to fill up again and I feel like I need to recharge my batteries ready for the year ahead and all the plans I have.

Happy 2016 everyone x

decluttering, drEAming, fEAsible, nEAtening, organising, random thoughts, rEArranging, simplifying, taking stock

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