Monthly Archives: July 2009

Why do we declutter?

Over the past couple of days I’ve been mulling over why I, and what seems to be a lot of other people, have caught the decluttering bug. Of course, people declutter all of the time. If you move house you are forced to sort through every possession you have as you pack it away (or throw it out). It might be something you do on a regular basis. It might be that you have a house so full of clutter that you can’t open your doors properly and have been forced to confront it. But it seems to me that suddenly a lot of people are doing a lot of decluttering. While I think this is generally a good thing I have still been wondering why – right now – people seem to be doing such a lot of it.

Why is it that those of us who are, in one way or another, starting to take our finances seriously suddenly consumed by the desire to get rid of things? Why does looking at our finances trigger a need to declutter and make life more simple? 

Isn’t decluttering in some way a contradiction to the current economic climate? If we should all be spending less why aren’t we hoarding more? For example, what happens when the remaining articles in our wardrobes wear out? The less we have, surely the sooner we’ll have to buy more? Why, when we worry about our finances and our ability to ever buy anything again, are we suddenly obssessed by going through our homes and trying to find ways of having less?

A lot of writers and bloggers have discussed the growing awareness of the difference between need and want. And a lot of debt and spending seems to be based on consumer confusion between the two (one brand tells us that we should buy their products not because we need them but because we are worth it). We’ve had months and months of TV, radio and newspaper features on the state of the economy, the housing market, personal debt and so on and it has forced a lot of us to look at our attitudes towards spending. And the second you really, really look at what you’ve been spending your money on, whether that be funded by your income or your credit cards, you realise how much of it has been wasted.

Once you realise how much you’ve spent on things you didn’t really need, you start looking at the purchases themselves (everything from complicated kitchen gadgets to dodgy dresses bought because they were on sale) and you want it out. That’s how it was for me anyway. I wanted a clean slate. Before trying to address it I felt as though I had been fighting a never ending battle against clutter/crap for a very long time. For example, my wardrobe and drawers were so full of clothes I had no idea exactly what I had. By getting rid of items I knew I was never going to wear again, didn’t really suit me, didn’t fit properly etc I discovered lots of things that I would actually like to wear – I just forgot that I had them because I couldn’t find them through the piles of stuff that didn’t need to be there.

Most of the things I threw out I hadn’t had enough use out of to justify the cost of purchasing it in the first place. It wasn’t just the waste of money in itself that annoyed me. If I had pots and pots of money that I’d never had to earn it probably wouldn’t have been so galling. But I did have to go out and earn it. I dread to think how many days, weeks and months worth of work I had to put in to buy all of the things that I have thrown away in the last few months. It wasn’t just money I had wasted – it was massive chunks of my working life. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had then wasted precious and limited space storing it all and had also wasted my spare time trying to keep a house tidy that had too much crap in it for that to be possible. If anyone else feels the same way about it, it is hardly any wonder that we are all trying to liberate ourselves from all of our junk!

Here’s what I have found: Over the past few months I have got rid of more clutter than I can begin to describe. I have made repeated visits to charity shops, have given clothes and bathroom products away to friends, have shredded 6 binliners full of old paperwork, cleared my kitchen of any gadgets that I never used, emptied cupboards and thrown away junk and old boxes -I couldn’t comprehend how I ever thought this stuff might be useful. And I’m still not done. But I am getting there. Already I am spending a lot less time on housework. The less clutter I have, the less time I need to spend putting things away and cleaning. And I can actually find the things I do need because they aren’t stuffed away at the back of a cupboard. It is bloody brilliant.

I’m not interested in creating a clinically minimalist home – I like pictures and pretty pots and odd knick-knacks too much. I’m also not interested in shunning the shops. If I see something I can really use or something I really love then I’ll buy it.  I’m just not going to waste any more of my time and money on stuff that really isn’t worth it!

Have you been decluttering recently? What has been driving you to do it?

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Categories: Decluttering | Tags: | 9 Comments

7 facts

Just before I went on holiday I was tagged by the fabulous ‘A Piece of Wood’ and didn’t have time to join in so I’m doing it now!

I’m not tagging anyone in particular so if you fancy joining in (and please do), do the list on your own on your blog and let me know so I can have a read! OR, if you don’t have a blog, you could always do your list in my comment section 🙂 .

Seven Facts About Me

  1. I am a natural blonde. I wanted to dye my hair black when I was in my teens but the hairdresser looked horrified and told me it wouldn’t grow back the same colour if I did. I never found out if this was true but it did the job of putting me off.
  2. I do not like crying in public. Hence I was very irritated with myself on Saturday when I got a lump in my throat just watching the trailer for ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ (one of my favourite books). If I can’t handle the trailer I am seriously questioning whether I should wait until it comes out on DVD to actually watch the film.
  3. If I could have any job in the world it would probably be writing adaptions of my favourite novels for the big screen. Fantasy land, obviously. Oh and casting them too. Alan Rickman and Gwyneth would feature heavily.
  4. If I am around anyone with a really strong accent then I have to concentrate very hard on not copying it otherwise they think I am taking the piss. I’m not. I can’t help it.
  5. I feel a real affinity with the kid in ‘About a Boy’ as I am always singing, usually quite loudly, in public without realising it. I am also very susceptable to the power of suggestion. For example, the other week there was footage of Peter and Katie on the news because they had split up and (because I associate the song with them) I spent the next two days singing ‘A Whole New World’ or whatever it is called. I only realised I was doing it when my colleagues joined in. Repeatedly. 
  6. If I could go on work experience for a day I’d like to shadow Jack Bauer. I’d make him show me all of the cool stuff in that canvas bag he carries around.
  7.  I can never finish a whole meal, yet if you let me lose on a buffet I can eat for hours.
Categories: Shoestring Fun | 4 Comments

The Future of Shoestring

The 100 day challenge is up – so what now?

I’ve nearly finished my savings project. In fact, if all goes well, it should be finished at the end of the month. I haven’t mentioned it before (other than in terms of generic saving) because…I don’t know. Being coy perhaps? Basically my savings last year and this year have been for a family fund. Don’t get excited – there’s no news on that front nor is there any planning going on right now. Husband and I definitely want a family at some point and 18 months ago I sat down with a calculator and realised that doing so would make things pretty tough. So when I sat down I worked out the following:

  • How much I would need in savings to top up maternity pay each month for very basic survival: my usual contribution to the joint account which pays all of our household bills, food, spending money (the same as I give myself now) plus a little contingency
  • Basic nursery set-up: A contribution towards the very, very basics
  • Clothes: Maternity and baby clothes (a very small budget)

Like I said, there are no plans along these lines in the immediate future (for one thing our home is not at all ideal – we’d really need to move) but I wanted to know that enough money was there for when the time seems right. Obviously there would be time to save up extra but I like knowing that the basic fund is there. I’ve never taken it for granted that we’ll even be able to have children. If we can’t then at least we’d have savings either for the future or to go and do something mad. I got paid last week and today I put £600 in my savings account. By next pay day this fund should be finished.

On the subject of families – can I offer prospective parents a bit of advice? Do not tell people your ideas for baby names. I made this mistake last year. I’ve had (what in my opinion) was the perfect girl’s name set aside for about 4 or 5 years. I loved it. I convinced my Husband to love it. All of my friends knew it. Then I made the idiotic mistake of telling it to a pregnant ‘friend’ a week before she gave birth. You can see where I’m going with this I am sure. She not only used the first name but the middle name as well! At least I had witnesses at the time of telling the name! Grrrr. It was nearly a year ago and my blood still boils at the thought. The stupid thing is, if she had said she was stuck for a name and really loved what I had said (I can’t write it here – I’m still too annoyed) I would have happily handed it over like a gift. Grrrr. Moral of the story? If you love a name – keep it to yourself. Seriously.

Anyway, although it feels great to have this long term project nearly at an end I am really excited about the prospect of saving up for other things. My next savings project will mainly centre around starting an emergency fund that could be used if either of us were unemployed, if something happened to the car and so on. I’m also going to start saving for Christmas and holidays again. I’ve Been putting all of my focus on the other fund instead because I just wanted it FINISHED. And it nearly is! I’m also going to have a few treats afterwards as, while what I have done is terribly ‘sensible’, it is also very dull saving for something you aren’t going to enjoy for a long time. Actually, I’ve already ordered two items of clothing and two pairs of shoes from sales online. If, when they arrive, I decide to keep them I’ll tell you all about it. I was pretty impressed with myself when I realised I only spent £25.99 on clothes and accessories in 100 days – I reckon it’s safe to get a couple of things now!

Categories: Baby, Budgeting, Money Management, Saving | 4 Comments

The 100 day challenge: Mission complete!

Well folks – I did it! One hundred days of doing at least one thing a day from the challenge a day list. Yesterday I made some meals for the freezer (Planning) and today I went to band practice (Doing things for free) so I’m officially done! A lot of the things over the 100 days have been done repeatedly (like going to the library and making contributions to my saving fund) while others were one off things (like cancelling my contact lenses). I’ve got a few more plans up my sleeve but, for now, here’s the low-down on what I managed to do in my 100 days of shoestringing:

Doing things for free/very thriftily:

  • Lots and lots of walks
  • Picnic
  • BBQs
  • Band practice
  • Two nights out in return for gigs
  • Playing the bass
  • Taking photographs
  • Blogging
  • Many visits to the library
  • Using recipe books from the library to come up with new meal ideas
  • Signing up for a free internet course
  • Cross-stitch

Decluttering:

  • Rooms completed: Main bedroom, under stair cupboard, living room, bathroom and kitchen
  • Taking countless bags to the chairty shop
  • Giving lots of clothes and beauty products to friends
  • Throwing out DVD cases and putting discs in a zip-up wallet thing to save space
  • Clearing out all of my old nail varnishes and make-up I’m never going to use
  • Clearing out and cleaning my car
  • Re-homing an unwanted TV

Home Improvements:

  • Making a complete plan of work to be carried out & a budget
  • Replacing three windows
  • Painting main bedroom
  • Painting one wall in Living Room
  • Having TV put on wall to gain space
  • Replacing aerial lead

Financial management:

  • Saving
  • Planning my spending – when, where and on what
  • Looking into pensions
  • Adjusting the way I spend (converting to cash and then back to my debit card) to prevent complacency
  • Regularly checking my online banking
  • Keeping on top of my household paperwork and filing it regularly
  • Updating my energy provider with our gas and electric meter readings so we don’t run up a big bill

Nifty thrifty:

  • Getting a better deal on my mobile top-up package
  • Cancelling my monthly contact lense package
  • Getting my mobile top-up at Boots to collect points on my advantage card
  • Free stuff: Shampoo, conditioner and nail varnish donated by Mum and a new top given to me by a colleague
  • Signing up to a website that gives away free samples of everything from shampoo to tea bags
  • Buying lots of gifts for my gift box (for both birthdays and Christmas)
  • Finding out about what food is in season (it is cheaper!)
  • Using No 7 vouchers to get my toner for £2 (instead of £7) and eye make-up remover for £1.30 (usually £6.30)
  • Switching to Vodafone Freedom pack and getting much, much more for my money

Making use of what I already have:

  • Using a cross stitch set I had for years and making a present for Gran out of it
  • Collecting together books about my job to give me new ideas and a bit of motivation
  • Re-using scrapbook for collecting home improvement/decoration ideas
  • Putting some of my unread books on to a shelf so I finally get around to reading them
  • Using the buttons from an old cardigan to update an unworn jacket
  • Polishing up all of my shoes and boots (and finding an old comfy pair that just needed a clean!)
  • Finally using a bag I bought years ago – it is literally as good as new
  • Collecting together all of my notepads and realising I don’t need to buy anymore for about 30 years
  • Creating a ‘Home Spa’ kit out of my nicest bathroom products
  • Taking an unused make-up bag and putting together a manicure kit out of things I already had
  • Collecting party poppers, candles, fairy lights and pretty napkins together to create a party pack
  • Sewn beads back on a top (that I never wore because the beads were missing)
  • Mending two strings of beads

Planning

  • Making more frozen meals than I could keep track of!
  • Buying reduced food items and freezing them
  • Making a weekly meal plan so I only bought what was necessary
  • Creating an exercise plan that won’t cost me anything
  • Creating a diet plan that won’t cost me anymore than my regular food shop
  • Reorganising my time so I could get most of my housework out of the way quicker

Shoestring Holidays:

  • Finding Husband and I a deal on a holiday abroad for less than £250 each
  • Hiring a car for 3 days instead of a week
  • Researching in advance our own free or cheap excursions rather than paying someone else to take us places
  • Making breakfasts and lunches at the apartment and only going out for a meal in the evening
  • Reading, swimming and walking
  • Using price comparison site to get the cheapest deal on holiday insurance
  • Borrowing a guide book from the library rather than buying one
  • Borrowing holiday reading from the library and friends rather than buying new books
  • Getting our currency changed at the Post Office for free
  • Booking a very cheap UK holiday for later in the year

Considered spending:

  • I’ve bought a few books almost all of them have been second hand from either charity shops or Amazon
  • Clothes: summer dress £12.99, 2 vests on offer at £9 for two and a necklace £4 in sale – Total spent £25.99

And that’s it!

Categories: Decluttering, Frugal ideas, Goals | 8 Comments

Day 98: Making a meal of it

I can’t believe it’s nearly been 100 days- where has the time gone?!

Husband has offered to do the food shop tomorrow as I really, really, really wasn’t in the mood this evening. In fact, Husband used to do the food shop every week until I started the Shoestring challenge early this year. I took over as I wanted to see how far I could get the budget down. I’m very slightly nervous about not doing it this week. Although I’ll write a list, I also know that my Husband is, er, fond of food. As in likes to buy a lot of extras. Like trifle. Cakes. Chinese chicken from the hot meat counter. We’ll see what happens. Maybe it won’t be that bad..!

My exercise today was a vigourous hour of housework (and yes, I definitely do count this as exercise). Had my usual breakfast and then went to work where I had 3 nectarines, 2 bananas, 1 apple and five ryvittas with low fat soft cheese and sliced cucmber. I also had a couple of square’s of Husband’s chocolate bar when I got home. I’m not sure what I’ll be having for dinner. I suspect it will be an odd assortment of leftovers! But at least I didn’t spend money on any extra food again today.

This evening I made a meal plan for the week:

  • Saturday: going to the cinema and having take-out (yes, naughty, but it is the weekend and I am making sure I plan around it)
  • Sunday: Lamb, mashed potato and some kind of green veg with mint gravy
  • Monday: Fishcakes and salad
  • Tuesday: Jacket potatoes with either beans and cheese or tuna mayo
  • Wednesday: going to my parent’s for dinner
  • Thursday: Spaghetti bolognese

A lot of this will come out of the freezer so my shopping list only needs to contain:

  • 4 pints semi-skimmed milk
  • 10 apples
  • bananas
  • nectarines
  • melon
  • 2 little gem lettuces
  • piccolo tomatoes
  • 1 avocado
  • bag of spuds
  • broccoli
  • wholemeal pitta breads
  • own-brand bathroom cleaner

I’ll let you know how we get on!

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Planning: week long meal plan using things up from the freezer
Categories: Ramblings | 2 Comments

Day 97: Minor pension panic

I remembered my diet today! I weighed myself this morning and it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought. I need to lose 4 pounds to be at a weight I am happy with and another 2 pounds for me to feel really pleased with myself. So 4 pounds is the minimum I’m aiming for but I’d really like to go for 6. I had bran flakes with a few raisins and semi-skimmed milk for breakfast and at work I ate 4 nectarines (I love nectarines – they are one of my favourite things about summer), 2 small bananas and a wholemeal pitta bread with cheddar cheese, a little bit of low fat mayo, lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes. I also had one naughty thing. A colleague very kindly made everyone a cream tea this afternoon. By the way, you might be getting the impression that we eat a lot in my workplace. You’d be right – we eat constantly. And when we aren’t eating, we are talking about eating. It makes it a bit more challenging to stick to the plan! Anyway, I managed to get away with just having half of a scone with jam and clotted cream. I don’t like mentioning that I am on a diet to most people. Mainly because people tell me I don’t need to be on a diet etc and then everything you eat during the day becomes power-loaded with significance. You are either sticking to a diet you don’t ‘need’ or failing at keeping up with it. My advice to anyone on a diet is to not really talk about it (except in blogland!) otherwise you end up dealing with everyone else’s opinions when the only opinion that counts is your own. Right now I am within my healthy range according to the body mass index. If I lose another 4-6 pounds I’ll still be within the healthy range so it’s all good. I managed to fit in a walk at lunch-time (passing the charity shop with yet more contributions) so I’d be free this evening. We are going to a friend’s house for dinner. I’m not worried about what I’ll eat there – I’ll eat whatever she has taken the time and trouble to prepare. The main focus of this diet is to stop wasting money and calories on junk food. I don’t need to do anything more extreme than that as it is thankfully only a few pounds I want to shift!

I started thinking about pensions today and doing a bit of research. I actually found it incredibly depressing. I’ve worked really hard over the past couple of years to sort my finances out. Last year I started saving and this year I’ve practically doubled my monthly savings. If I put what I ought to into a pension I really wouldn’t be able to save that much anymore. The thing I like about having savings is that I know I can access them whenever I want. I’ve been really good about not dipping into them and they have given me a sense of security that I didn’t realise was missing before. I don’t like the idea of putting so much money into something I can’t access. Obviously I’m going to have to address this at some point but I’m going to carry on just saving for now.

I’ve really got used to being ‘without’ that money each month. It used to just vanish before – going on dispoable stuff that is now long gone or sat in local charity shops! It was amazingly empowering last month to be able to book a last minute holiday. I’ve been saving around £500 a month this year. My half of the holiday only cost a bit more than that. I just love the idea of having enough saved that if I really want to do something I can just do it. There is such a sense of freedom in that.

Using my debit card v cash is going quite well so far. I usually budget for about £20 a week ‘pocket’ money. I had to pay the lottery syndicate at work today. I had £1 in change left from last week and then I took out £3 in cash at the bank. I’ve used my card to buy two punnets of necatrines on offer (10 nectarines for £2). That’s it and it is Thursday already – Friday is generally pocket money pay day. I haven’t spent £15, which means in previous weeks I must have been spending that much in junk food/mystery object that I can’t begin to fathom. Maybe I need to do a spending diary again. Anyway, I am getting low on my hair stuff (it protects it from heat damage and makes it feel like silk) so I think I will use my excess budget to pay for that. I’ll have a look online later and see if there are any deals to be had…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Decluttering: another bag to the charity shop
  • Financial management/Planning: looking into pensions
Categories: Money Management, Saving | Leave a comment

Day 96: Good swapsy karma

I didn’t actually start the diet today. Why? I forgot about it! I woke up, failed to weigh myself and then arrived at work to find that one of my colleagues had thoughtfully left a packet of my favourite biscuits on my desk. It was only when I was tucking into biscuit number four and thought ‘I probably shouldn’t be eating this’ that I remembered that I really wasn’t supposed to be eating biscuits at all! Big oops. I will start tomorrow. Honest, honest, honest!

I took another huge bag of books up to the chairty shop today and have already filled it up again for the next trip. One bag at a time is such a great, unstressful way of decluttering – I can really recommend it. Rather than thinking you have to clear out a whole room or cupboard just try and fill one large bag at a time. It is like reverse shopping. Instead of going around a shop and putting purchases in my bag to take home, I walk around my home and look in my drawers, in the wardrobe and on bookshelves and put things in my bag that I then take to the charity shop. It just goes to show what a waste of time and money most of those purchases were in the first place (although I have read nearly all of the books and worn most of the clothes at least a few times I suppose).

I have some new, free additions to my stock of bathroom supplies. Mum bought a shampoo and conditioner that didn’t suit her hair so she has given them to me to try. I’ve used the brand before so I know they’ll be fine on my hair. I love swapsies. One of my colleagues and I have very similar taste in books and are always swapping books. Not only is it great to get free reading material but it is particularly great when you trust their recommendations. Another colleague and I are around the same size and, lately, have been very good at swapping clothes that were otherwise destined for the charity shop. She has had a couple of tops and a couple of recipe books from my charity shop bag in the past week and in return I’ve got a very pretty lace trimmed, delicate T-shirt from her charity shop bag. She also gave me a gorgeous top – unworn – from French Connection back in January which I really love. So this year I have not only been able to give a few unwanted things to charity and share a few bits with friends but I’ve also got some nice things back in return. Good swapsy karma if you ask me…

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Decluttering: another big bag of books for the charity shop
  • Nifty thrifty: free shampoo and conditioner!
Categories: Decluttering, Frugal ideas | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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