good wine, good food, good company and a good clean up…

As you may have noticed there has been a short break in transmission recently – for no other reason than I have been a little busy.  We had friends round for supper the weekend before last and of course that generated a bit of a mad tidy up downstairs. Actually it was more than a tidy up and I was quite shocked at the number of cobwebs I found hiding in corners, it must have been longer than I thought since I last had a good clean.

We managed to get the boxes of Ikea wardrobes out of the living room (they had been there since earlier in the year) and up to the new bedroom and at last they have been assembled and put in place – but more on that in a future post when the ‘new’ room will be revealed.

Whilst giving the living room a thorough clean I not only vacuumed all the books but decluttered all the cupboards, shelves and knick-knacks.

We don’t have a lot of DVD’s as we have little time for watching them but we did have one or two that we once bought for £1 or so and won’t watch again so into the charity bag along with one or two CD’s that have over stayed their welcome.  I am aiming to keep only those items that I feel earn their keep – or in Kondo terms the ones that spark joy.

Our DVD collection is probably less than 20 films and the ones that remain are all those that I will watch again and again from time to time.  Amongst the keepers are the feel good films – Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice, the funny films – Mr Hulots Holiday and Playtime by Jaques Tatti – and the thriller ones (well as thrilled as I am prepared to be) – Premonition and Before I go to Sleep and not forgetting my favourite box sets – The Good Life and Darling Buds of May.

Whilst sorting through the pile I came across this DVD with Doris Day and have put it to one side to watch one evening as I really cannot remember if I have seen it or not but it looks like a bit of light entertainment for a cosy Friday evening.

 

Anyway back to the cleaning – I have a lot of glassware in the living room – I am not sure why I am attracted to glassware but it is always useful for holding things such as shells…

 

 

and pebbles from the beach…

 

and ‘arty’ creations made by one of my daughters at Art College …this is a small square of glass with interesting textures and colours and I have slotted it into this vase as a means of displaying it…

 

and the latest addition to my collection (a gift for my birthday) are these two vases, also bookends and perfect for displaying my favourite books.  I just love them – the books and the vases – one side has my tiny shell collection from Lady Bay near our cottage and the other I will fill with a stem or two of flowers from the garden.

I wash the glassware in hot soapy water and then dry and polish until gleaming – it instantly makes a room look cleaner.

By the time I had finished the whole room looked and felt so much fresher and neater and I was quite pleased at the transformation.

At the end of the first day I had managed to fill a bag with bits and pieces for the charity shop.

The next day I was up early and started on the kitchen and dining room – not as thorough a clean this time but passable.  I left just enough time to make myself presentable, lay the table and start on the supper before my friends arrived at a quarter to eight.

We were not eating until 8.30 and I had decided to keep the buffet supper fairly simple due to a shortage of time –  the choice was between a homemade feast in a dirty house or a simple ready-made affair in a clean one!

I baked some small new potatoes in the oven which I simply served topped with butter and heated through a selection of buffet style food of pulled pork pasties, greek filo spinach and ricotta parcels and Higgedy veggie rolls  – added a mixed side salad, a few tomatoes and a dish of beetroot.

For afters we had a selection of cheeses and chutney with crackers and finished off with profiteroles and cream.

After all this food on the Saturday evening I had a light breakfast on Sunday morning just yoghurt and fruit – not that I ever have a cooked breakfast anyway but I did skip my usual bowl of Muesli.

 

It was so nice to get up to a tidy house – it is well worth asking friends round to get things done!

 

simplifying and the art of ritual…

 

I realised today that I have taken on too many commitments for the end of the week and I am going to have to try to rearrange some for another day.  We are out tomorrow night with friends, then having some friends around for supper on Saturday and at the moment I am scheduled to go out on Friday afternoon for my birthday treat –  afternoon tea with my friend and neighbour.

 

I am sure I will struggle to get the house prepared and will be running short of time.  I desperately need to have my hair cut and I had wanted to treat myself to a massage.  Added to which every time I look out of the window – any window I see many jobs to do in the garden.

 

I mention the above as I am now reading Chapter 2 entitled ‘In praise of minimalism’ from the book I mentioned ‘L’art de la Simplicite’

subtitle – Time: waste less, make the most of more.

In this chapter it talks about simplifying your life and embracing every moment including time to do nothing.  If I had time to do nothing I would have heaps of time to get everything done…wouldn’t I?

 

Simplify your domestic tasks and find time to develop your creativity, pamper your body and sharpen your mental faculties.

This is most definitely one of my goals – how to achieve this is perhaps the one big question in my life.

 

I do love domesticity even the tasks some people may think of as mundane – washing dishes, ironing clothes and putting everything back in place neat and orderly.  To do this with everything though I find difficult and tasks start to pile up over the week.

 

Reading on the book talks about repetitive, everyday tasks and developing simple actions as rituals.  I must confess I have never thought about eating or cleaning as a ritual but it has caught my attention.  Rituals, it says, can bring comfort – they should be a source of extreme satisfaction.  She then suggests some rituals such as the ‘writing ritual’, the ‘bath ritual’, the ‘shopping ritual’, and the ‘flower ritual’.

 

She suggests you think about your own personal rituals and what they bring to your life.

 

I was surprised to find I have quite a few rituals already-

The morning ritual

A morning ritual of showering and getting ready for work but not on my days off.  (Just to clarify on this – I do shower but I may have pottered around the house for an hour in my dressing gown beforehand!).  On my working days it means I am ready to start the day at a reasonable hour and could answer the door to anyone from 8am onwards not looking too scary!  Not so on my days off.

The going to bed ritual

I have a ritual for going to bed – I will always remove the dirt and grime of the day from my face with a cleanser then use washing cream to freshen my skin and put on plenty of night cream – I need it –  but I never make it to bed at the same time each night.

The breakfast ritual

I have a ritual for breakfast – I usually eat the same food – Yoghurt, sometimes with fruit followed by muesli and soya milk – I am not sure this is a great ritual and would like to vary my diet more. It is however a breakfast that keeps me going all morning if I do not get a break.

The pedicure ritual

I pamper my feet at least once a week with a soak, a bit of a massage with oils, plenty of creams and potions and a pedicure although I never get as far as painting my nails.  I have ugly feet so try to make them look better by treating them well.  So I think I can include this as a ritual and one that actually helps me to feel better about my feet – they are probably the softest most cared for part of my body!!

The shopping ritual

I have a shopping ritual but it hardly ever occurs on the same day.  I like going round to Sainsbury’s one night after work and sitting for 10 minutes in their café having my hot chocolate treat before having a wander round the clothes, the housewares, the magazines and even the plants.  Then I will go hunting for grocery bargains and lastly choosing from all the fresh veg.  The downside of this ritual is the temptation!

 

The writing ritual

The book mentions writing as a ritual – I did write a lot more in my journal but since I have been blogging I find this is infrequent now and this is a shame as rereading my journals reminds me of my life’s journey and all those little things I might have forgotten if I had not written them down.

The coffee and a chat ritual

I also have a ritual of popping round to my neighbour’s house on a Friday afternoon to share our weekly news and have a cuppa – lovely.

The fallen spiritual ritual

I used to have a ritual of going to church – latterly the Quakers but I rarely go now.  Of all the things I would like to do going back to the Quakers would be way up the list.

 

It is apparent now I have catalogued my rituals – well the ones I can think of tonight – that I need to look at doing them more regularly in some cases and fine tuning them a little more in others so that they are what a ritual should really be – a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order – and where I can take simple pleasure from these tasks.

There are other rituals I would like to develop – perhaps buying flowers every week for the house – maybe even growing cutting flowers, reading a book, sketching or painting daily, taking a daily photograph, crafting …I could go on but I have to be realistic.  This exercise has shown me I can perhaps fit in a few more rituals to my daily life if like the book suggests I manage to simplify my domestic tasks to allow time for creative ones.

Do you have rituals in your life?

be prepared…

 

Whilst we had a really good time on safari at the weekend it all took quite a bit of planning and it is in this area that I find I need to take some control over and look at simplifying the procedure of preparation and packing for an event.

 

I did quite a bit of ‘getting ready’ the day before but on Sunday morning I still found that I was less than ready to get up and go.  Analysing the situation I can see how all the extra few minutes easily begin to mount up and cause unnecessary delays and stress.

This is the run up to us leaving the house –

The presents

Although I had wrapped the presents for little L the day before I had run out of paper and decided to put the jumper and jeggings I had bought for her as an extra into a gift bag – but for some reason I had only thought it and not done it so had to scrabble around to find a suitable birthday gift bag and then write a tag before we left.  I had also got distracted at the time and left the presents I had wrapped without gift tags or any finishing touches – you know the kind a bit of glittery Wasi tape or some curling ribbon.

Time waster No 1 – not buying enough wrapping paper or following a task through to completion so that was a 15-minute delay.

The Picnic

We had decided on a simple picnic – my idea of making some little Quiches did not quite materialise and so we opted for the Higgidy vegetarian Cheese and Chutney rolls some home-made coleslaw and salad with a wholemeal roll with cheese and pickle.  For pudding we decided that we would be buying ice creams anyway so did not take anything additional other than some fruit. OH sorted the food but the new picnic plates I had bought recently in Sainsbury’s sale were still unwashed and had sticky labels on them.  I had been asked to take them with me in case there were not enough of the paper animal plates.

Time waster no 2 – I had not pre washed the new plates and removed the sticky labels – another 10 minutes’ delay to scrub off the labels.

The weather

Of course in England you can never be sure of the weather not only from one hour to another but also from one county to another.  The forecast had said mainly overcast possible rain at 3pm, however, just before we were leaving the sun had appeared and it was feeling quite warm. Unfortunately, in my haste to get dressed I had not thought I would need to put sun tan cream on other than my face which I do automatically all summer.

I should have known better and put some cream on after my shower before getting dressed as this is far easier at this stage than trying to lavish greasy sun cream onto exposed areas whilst fully clothed.

Time waster No 3 – never believe the forecasts just expect extremes of weather and prepare accordingly – another 10 minutes’ delay.

The extras

In addition, I had to search out my umbrella, sunhat, long distance driving glasses, jumper in case of cold weather, coat in case of rain and do a dozen other checks of items to take just in case.  I would normally have many of these items duplicated in our pre-prepared black travel bag but I am down to one umbrella, one sun hat and one pair of glasses and I have to keep borrowing them for work until I remember to go out and buy new replacements.  As well, sods law, the big golf umbrella broke the day before.

Time waster No 4 – not collecting the bits and pieces together the night before as it is amazing how long it can take just to do this – in this case another 10 minutes.

The car

Once we had gathered all the bags together by the door I realised I had not checked to see if the rear seats were back in place in the car.  We have an estate car and tend to have the rear seats down for maximum space when going to the cottage but often they do not get put back into position after we have unpacked the car.  Today was such an instance.

Time waster No 5 – putting the seats up – this may only take 5 minutes but each time waster adds up.

The technology

We thought we had been really organised with all our technology the night before and put mobiles and camera batteries on charge but not thought about my video camera (battery absolutely dead) or the Polaroid camera which takes ordinary AA batteries.  As we wanted to use up some of the Polaroid film bought for the wedding last year and Elder daughter had bought me a selfie frame and props for my birthday the Polaroid camera was crucial to our plans.  Of course when we looked at the Polaroid we discovered that the old batteries had leaked so we had to set to and clean up the battery compartment and then try to find five new batteries.

Time waster No 6 – 35 minutes’ delay to clean up, find batteries and test the camera.

The outcome

Needless to say by now we were running late – luckily we had left plenty of time but it was hardly the best start to the day and we left the house with a bit of a bomb site to come back to and me chuntering as we set off down the road!

 

We always have a lot of comings and goings to prepare for at our house – I seem to spend my time packing and unpacking so I am determined that I will simplify this task by being better prepared.  My downfall is obviously not preparing enough the day before and thinking I can leave some bits to do on the day – many more than I have time for.

 

I have friends coming round for the evening next Saturday night so let’s see if I can prepare for this any better.  We (yes that is a we not just I) have to clean up the house and I am hoping the painting will be finished so we can get the wardrobes out of our living room and in place in the bedroom by then.  I know already I always buy far too much food and think I am feeding an army so I need to make a simple menu plan and set a strict budget.  It is just a supper buffet rather than an evening meal but the couple are both meat eaters and one does not eat nuts and the other no fruit.

Help!

 

 

declutter day 3…

As is often the case when having a clear out one thing leads to another.  This morning I began tying up a few loose ends from my shed clearance  yesterday and then as it continues to rain moved my attentions to the garage so we can make some room to accommodate the excess shed fall out.

I started in the large cupboard  – one of the best value items in our house – bought from Ikea for my Gran in 1990 for around £55 and when we cleared out her council flat a couple of years later we thought it too good to leave.  We now make good use of it by keeping our household cleaners / cloths / shoe cleaning / adhesives / car cleaning and other similar items in here.

This is the picture before…

I took out items shelf by shelf, cleaned the shelf then put back the things we still need.

A few items had been put in the wrong place (not usually by me I might add) and one or two of the glues had gone hard (lids not secured) but generally the cupboard just needed a good clean and tidy – not a lot to get rid of in here but I may be able to make room to squeeze in some of the homeless garden products.

I must say when it comes to decluttering items in places like this I can honestly say that a can of grease or a tin of shoe polish hardly sparks the Kondo joy in me – more of a necessity I think than an item of beauty!

Most of our items are kept together in these Muji tubs – one of the best investments I have ever made.  I keep like things together such as the shoe cleaning kit, the oils and lubricants, cleaning cloths, adhesives tapes, bin bags and various cleaners and I can label them clearly so that even my better half can find what he is looking for quickly (this being the operative word!)

I store all those numerous household cleaners in this cupboard that are used infrequently, such as carpet cleaner (for spills), oven cleaner, leather cleaner, and the ‘you name it I probably have it’ cleaner.  The every day cleaners are kept to hand in the cupboard space under my kitchen sink.

I also store the large packets of washing powder I buy when on offer on the bottom shelf and then decant into smaller containers to keep near to where they are used.

These reused Vanish tubs are also useful for storing cleaning powders and brillo pads.

 

and after…

Ahh that’s neater…

Part way through the cupboard clear out OH appeared and so I asked him (not only to put the kettle on) but to look through all the things in other parts of the garage that I can’t make decisions on.

We always seem to have unidentifiable bits and pieces lying around so he has now (for a quiet life) gathered up and sorted through his piles of computer cables, plumbing bits and the like and grouped them together.

We now have a nice little pile for the charity shop, a big bag of rubbish and those bits and pieces have been identified, labelled and a place found for them.

All I need to do now to finish todays clear out is relabel some of the Muji containers then buy 2 or 3 larger plastic see through storage boxes with lids to replace the worn cardboard ones to store those electrical and plumbing parts and endless computer cables (even though when we need to connect something we never have quite the right one).

There are a few repair jobs and one or two of those getting round to it jobs for OH to do and looking at the mass of outdoor candles, incense sticks, lanterns and fairy lights left over from the wedding last year, not to mention a few miles of bunting, I feel we need to organise a summer garden party to make use of them. That is if we have any more summer to come!

There is still a way to go but already I can see the difference.  My kitchen in the meantime looks far worse as everything is being stored in here until I can find them a new home.

 

 

 

 

 

The Friday Fling…

Having thought long and hard about the problem I have with ‘stuff’ and my longing to have both space and a simple but beautiful collection of things around me that I need and use or love and cherish I have decided that I am going to be ruthless and really, really get rid of all the things that I do not use or do not need and this will include those someday I might items – you know the ones – someday I might use it – someday I might need it – don’t we all have them?  Maybe I am the only person in the world who does and that is a scary thought.

So I am introducing you (and myself for that matter) to the Friday Fling.  Friday because it is my day off and Fling because I am going to go through my whole house (but not all today!) inch by inch seeking out those things I do not need or want and Fling them for good. So be warned ‘stuff’ I will find you –  there is no hiding place!

If you would like to join me I would love to here from fellow travellers out there wishing to organise and simplify their stuff too – especially if you have any useful hints and tips.

Making a start

For want of a better place I will begin in our bedroom with my dressing table drawers.  I know it is old fashioned to even have a dressing table but I do like to sit down on the job and have a mirror in front of me and everything I need to hand ready for any major indulgent pampering session I may undertake or just to make my daily routine getting ready for work a smoother operation.

Bearing in mind I only went through these drawers a couple of months ago for a clear-out, I did not expect that I would find very much to fling but with my new mind-set in action, I discovered I was wrong and I have plenty to throw out.  I use the word ‘throw’ loosely as you know me I cannot see good things go to waste and that is probably why they are still here and have missed being cleared out for the last few years!   So for any environmentally obsessive readers like me take note that if it is at all re-useable it will not go in the bin to landfill I will find it another home – just not in my house.

So from the first drawer here is my collection of items of old nail polishes and a couple of make up compacts that I have had for ages and felt that I might use someday.  Some are brand new and some so old they have most likely gone off.

They are ALL GOING OUT and the good point is, apart from 2 bottles of nail varnish, everything else came free in one way or another – so I can feel relieved that I am not getting rid of anything that cost me hard-earned cash in the first place (another of my pet hates!)

Like a capsule wardrobe my new streamlined collection now looks like this…

A small select selection that includes a French manicure set, a very dark polish for parties, a rich Fuschia colour for pretty toe nails for summer and an all-purpose pearly pink for everyday finger nails.

Add in a hand scrub and hand cream, cotton buds and toe separators…

all neatly contained in a Muji container…

…but there is always something that doesn’t quite fit!!

– this really bugs me when I cannot keep everything together because one item is too tall or too fat, too long or too short – you know what I mean.

So on to the next drawer and these are now my keepers…

my useful massage and skin brushing implements

a selection of eye makeup compacts

three types of foundation – a light one for everyday with sunscreen, one light mousse without for parties and do’s and a tub of The Body Shop mineral face powder with brush.

moisturisers for both day and night-time, for body, face and feet and a moisturising vitamin mask for once a week to re-hydrate my skin. These are all decanted into these handy little tubs which stack neatly.

An assortment of skin toner, eye make up remover, basic Calendula and Tea Tree cream for skin repair (spots and rough elbows!), under eye rescue cream and gel (for my bags in other words.  Everything stored in clear Muji containers.

In the final container – cotton wool pads (indulgent luxury not ordinary), make up sponges, make-up brushes, mascara – brown and a small trial adventurous blue for summer, lipsticks and gels and not forgetting the cover up stick,

and a couple of basics.

So there you have it what more could a girl need?

Everything I am keeping are things that I know I use constantly (everyday in most cases), with the odd item specially for occasional use – and although there still seems a lot of stuff I am not sure I could  limit these any more unless I was going to be dropped off on a desert island where I had to choose only 3 products – now there’s a thought.