Getting organised

Organising my skin and hair care stores

I had been waiting until I’d lost all of the weight until I gave our big, built in wardrobes a big sort out and spring clean. It was going to be a sort of treat to myself. However, this last stone or so seem keen to hang around so I thought I’d tackle just the bits where I keep all of my skin care things. One of my New Years Resolutions was to take better care of myself which I’ve found slightly tricky as I now have this dermatitis thing going on with my face. So I actually feel like I’m taking less care of myself than usual – no exfoliators, no weekly face mask, no lovely face oil – argh! Not to be beaten, I decided to have a good sort through of my skin care hoards to see what treats I can still use and to also get things a little more organised. The photos are a bit dark but these are the two integral shelves where I keep my day to day skin and hair products (and also my wash bag for when we go away (ha!) and my sewing basket) and hair dryer and straighteners etc. It doesn’t look like much but I was so excited to have somewhere out of sight to keep all of this stuff when we moved to this house. It’s very easy to access and when I run out of deoderant, cotton wool pads, shower gel, toner or whatever then I can put my hands on a new one straight away. I still use the No 7 vouchers to stock up on face wash, toner and eye make-up remover.






The baskets (above) are kept on the top shelf and are where I keep other things like new toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoos, conditioners, body lotions etc either from gift sets or BOGOFs. They are the same ones I was using when I started this blog and lived on top of the wardrobe in our previous home! This post may make it sound like I spend huge amounts of money on skin care products but I very rarely purchase anything at all. I quite often get things as gifts and everything else I buy on offer. I hardly ever seem to have to buy anything at all – usually 2 or 3 times a year. I think this is probably because I usually have a good idea of what I’ve already got in ‘stock’. I’ve actually just bought a few new things in the 70% off sale in Boots which I’ll do a separate post on.

It’s lovely to feel organised (see resolution 12) and to have found some things I can still use for a bit of pampering (see resolution 3)!

Categories: Budget beauty, Getting organised | 2 Comments

Ooh – extra money!

I’ve finally got around to doing it – I’ve sold some things on eBay! I listed five items of clothing last week and every one of them has sold (the cheapest went for 99p plus P&P, the top seller went for £16!). I haven’t had all of my payments in yet, I haven’t paid the eBay fees and the first items won’t be posted until tomorrow. I always keep padded envelopes when I receive them and so I’ve got a good enough stash not to have to waste money on packaging, I’ll just have to pay for the postage. I reckon that after expenses I will have ended up clearing just under £30 for stuff that has been sitting in drawers for aeons. Yippee! I have already listed a few more items and need to do a spot of photographing tomorrow for a few other things I’ve had put to one side. It will be good to gain some space having made extra cash while I’m at it! I’m going to keep the money in my eBay account and use it for buying summer clothes. I’ve also spied something on eBay that could make a great present so it could be used for that too. I’m excited!

Categories: Getting organised, Saving | 2 Comments

Plans for 2012

Is everyone thinking about New Years Resolutions? It is tempting to write a sort of wish list at the start of a new year though, as I said this time last year, I’m not quite so much about the goals as I used to be. Or, rather, about having a daunting list/setting myself up for failure. I don’t have the sort of time I used to have but I always appreciate having a bit of direction…

For 2012 I’ve decided to try setting some ‘goals’ quarterly. I find monthly ones a bit too challenging. We only need another molar to come through (oh the joys of teething) and I have to revert back to a basic survival mode of grabbing sleep where I can and trying to remember to eat and brush my teeth. And then the monthly goals go out of the window! But quarterly – quarterly I think I can manage. And thus…

January-March 2012

Financial: Save £600 into my ISA and, jointly with Husband, to save £500 into the house fund (we also have other savings funds on the go which is why it is unrealistic to try for more). Both of these figures are going to be challenging to achieve but should be possible unless a big financial monster rears its head (ie something ‘big’ breaking and needing to be replaced). Trying to keep to the £200 a month food budget for the three of us is going to be important here but I’m not going to sweat it too much. If it goes over a tiny bit sometimes it’s no big deal provided we’re still saving. I’m impressed by own laid-back bravado on this one!

Health & Fitness: I am now putting on weight for a past time. In the last month I’ve had to go out and buy a few items of clothing in the next size up (nooooooo!) because it was getting a bit critical. I am so annoyed with myself. Particularly when I’ve got so many gorgeous things I can’t wear. Grrrrr. Anyway, the goal for the first quarter is to lose a stone. I have avoided weighing myself over Christmas so I’ll do that tomorrow. Gulp.

House: As in, get it on the market. We’ve got loads to do but I’d like it to be up for sale around the end of March. I am dreading every aspect of this and am not going to bore anyone with the ‘to do’ list involved but it has to happen!

There are other things I’ve got in mind for next year that I’m not targeting. More of the direction I want things to take than conventional ‘goals’ which include:

  • Giving more to charity. I’ve already signed us up to donate a small amount each month to Save The Children and I’ve started getting involved – in a very small – way with a couple of independent charities that need ‘stuff’. It doesn’t add up to much but it is a start and something I want to get into more. I’ll also continue giving my old stuff to charity shops and using my gift aid cards so they get the full benefit of the donation.
  • Improving my handwriting. Odd one I know but it is really getting into the realms of demented scrawl. Attention must be paid!
  • Continuing to learn about food: Cooking it, eating it, reading about it, buying it in season and as ethically as possible.
  • Learning in general: Yup, back to the neglected grey matter referenced this time last year. No specifics here, just to keep the door open!
  • Living on a budget: With emphasis on the living. If I can save the figures mentioned above then that is more than good enough considering our relatively low incomes. Now my gorgeous girl is a toddler it much easier to get out and about and I want 2012 to involve more of that, even if it means saving less!
  • Making stuff: No specifics but I’d like to have made one or two things by the end of the year. We’ll see!

And that’s me signing out until next year/tomorrow! Thank you to everyone who stops by and particularly those of you that say hello. Happy New Year!!

Categories: Getting organised | 10 Comments

Preparing for the day

The last couple of months have been tiring. We’ve been away on a short break and then have been embroiled in a horrendous round of teething (read: no sleep) that feels like it is never going to end! The end result is that I’ve been feeling quite drained and uninspired. I’ve mentioned that I am trying to give myself a bit of a health overhaul at the moment which is necessary for many reasons including:

  • Yes, I want to lose weight (so boring, I apologise for still blogging about this!) – a stone to be precise.
  • I want a greater awareness of what my body needs in terms of food and exercise long term, not just to lose weight. Basically, to fully understand and adpot a way of eating that means I can lose the weight now and then adjust it once I reach ‘target’ as a way of eating forever more. Ditto for exercise. It needs to be part of the long term plan, not just for weight loss but for keeping my body healthy and in good working order!
  • Trying to look after myself better in general by drinking more water, getting more sleep etc. Also, to make my days as stress free as possible and thus more enjoyable!
  • To increase energy – I need it!

I’ve had all of the above in the back of my mind for a while now but life just gets in the way sometimes, doesn’t it? Too much to do, too tired, too hungry, too whatever. The first step I’ve taken in trying to deal with this all is to write a list of things to do in the evening. If I sit down ‘for five minutes’ after I’ve put Baby to bed I just can’t get back up again and nothing gets done. To get around this I’ve made a simple list of things to do before I sit down in the evening. And here is the list:

  1. Plan and prepare food for the next day: I’ll decide what I’m going to eat the next day and make myself a packed lunch, even if I’m going to be at home. This means I’m more likely to eat a proper meal – and something healthy – than if I don’t. I also make Husband a sandwich to take to work and take anything out of the freezer for Baby and for our evening meal so it is defrosted in time (I have an aversion to defrosting things in the microwave – don’t ask!).
  2. Plan my exercise for the next day: Based on what I am doing the next day (going into the office/working from home/ day off/ playgroup etc) I make a plan about what exercise I am going to do and get anything ready I need to. This means I am less likely to try and get out of it! Last night I decided I was going to do a 20 minute workout on a DVD before breakfast this morning. I put the DVD in the player and put my trainers in the corner ready to be put on.
  3. Tidy up: A very basic tidy up, putting all toys in the basket, clearing the table and sideboard so they are free from clutter, putting clothes/coats away, emptying the washing machine etc. It doens’t actually take more than 10 minutes but it makes such a difference.
  4. Taking off make-up etc: Something that seems to have gone out of the window – it must stop!
  5. Washing up before bed: I’d somehow got out of the habit. A sink and counter top full of washing up is not a good start to the day. So, just before bed I make sure all of the washing up has been done and that the counter has been wiped down. In the morning it has all dried and I just need to put it away.

I wrote this list at the weekend and it is making a big difference already. I do 1-3 before dinner and it seems to take between 20-30 minutes which is fine. 4 &5 are at the end of the evening and take 10-15 minutes. This is all very manageable. I just need to stick with it!

Categories: Getting organised, Health | Leave a comment

The shape of things to come

Rencently I’ve posted about how I’ve been reconsidering what it means (for me) to be frugal, having an ongoing feeling of blahness and generally feeling a bit underwhelmed. I’ve come to a few conclusions and resolutions which, in no particular order, look a bit like this:

  • Spending on non-essentials: There is a balance to be found between spending and saving. While I don’t need a walk-in wardrobe full of new things to wear I also do not like things that look worn-out and scruffy. It is perfectly okay to buy new clothes, shoes or whatever providing that I save more than I spend each month. I know I keep saying this but I somehow need to make it ‘stick’ in my head! Enough with the spending guilt.
  • Weight: I still want to lose some more. I am currently 9/10 pounds off where I was pre-pregnancy. I keep thinking that if it doesn’t disappear by ‘x’ then I’ll give up. The trouble is I can’t give up. I loathe it. I’d settle for losing another half stone (7 pounds). But this should really come under…
  • Food: I’ve blogged about experimenting with cheaper foods in recent months. The outcome is actually that I’m not always comfortable with these options. Cheap meat, for instance, is generally only cheap because it has been imported from somewhere with very low standards for animal welfare. I’m not okay with this and am going to be taking a much more pro-active approach by trying to find outlets for locally (and ethically) reared meat. And, in general, I am going to be trying to make much, much healthier choices which ultimately ought to sort out the weight issues.

Also rumbling around in my head:

  • Moving house and domestic chores: No point looking at this until Spring now. Am going to forget trying to do any more things to the house until after Christmas (or unless I get really, really excited about something) so I am free to concentrate on the list above and, more importantly, my family. Ditto any decluttering projects and spring cleans. I am just going to keep things reasonably clean and tidy and wait until spring actually is here!
  • Autumn/winter plans: I love this part of the year. Reading books on dark, windy evenings. Eating comforting stews while listening to the rain. Good films. Preparing for Christmas. I hate the weather after Christmas but love the weather on the run-up! Also, I need to make more of an effort to see some of my friends who don’t live on my doorstep. I keep waiting for a time when I don’t feel so tired and rushed but who am I kidding? I’m a working parent. Tired and rushed are in the job description! I also want to have a crack at a couple of crafty projects too.
  • Financial planning: Can you believe I still have no idea what my take home pay is?! That’s right, after 5 months HM Revenue & Customs have buggered about so much that I have been paid something different each and every month. Oh well. I’d like to refine what I’m doing at the moment so I’ve got a clear plan and can set things up so they tick along without me having to think about it all the time.  

So that is it! This is the shape of things to come over the next few months…

Categories: Frugal ideas, Getting organised | 3 Comments

Holiday packing, wellies and the end of the 7 week challenge

It’s been total bedlam at our house for the last couple of days as I’ve tried to juggle getting all of my ‘work’ work done as well as everything at home. You need almost as much stuff to go away for four days as you do a fortnight, particularly when you’ve got a little one! Baby and I spent three hours ironing, packing and sorting yesterday. She was very patient and even quite enjoyed helping to put things in bags. Even so, it looked like a bomb had gone off at the end of the day. There are things that we can’t pack until tonight and even more things we can’t pack until the morning. Argh! I wish I could just get it all done! I used to be able to clean my house from top to bottom before going on holiday. Now I’ll consider it a success if I manage to empty the bin and don’t leave any washing up in the sink!

So, in spite of the sheer amount of things left to do and the fact that the weather report is shocking for our weekend away I’m still really excited. It’s out first holiday with Baby and I can’t wait to see what she makes of it all. I also can’t wait for the change of scenery. I last went away two years ago next month (when I was 6 weeks pregnant). Because the weather forecast is rubbish I went and bought a pair of wellies today. I did have a pair but when it snowed last winter I realised I can’t get my feet all the way down in them so they were useless (maybe due to the weight gain?!). I don’t have any other outdoorsy footwear and since I live by the sea and am surrounded by countryside they are a bit of a must! While I was buying them I saw some very cheap yet sturdy looking hiking boots at £32.95. I might put some cash aside for a few months and invest in a pair – they’d definitely come in handy! Anyway, I’m very pleased to have a pair of wellies I can wear since autumn is approaching (plus they are pretty, cheery ones with butterflies!).

So, the 7 week challenge ended this week. How did I do? Okay. The house is not finished yet but we really did get a lot done. I won’t bore you with a giant list (I’ve covered most of it on this blog as we’ve gone along) but I’m pleased with the amount we achieved. I also feel like I am much more organised and on top of things again. When you are ‘running’ a house there will always be another 10 jobs on the ‘to do’ but 10 is better than 50! I’m on top of the washing and ironing, the paperwork, the food shopping, batch cooking and all the rest. I’m not one of those people that really enjoys the domestic hoopla of cooking and cleaning but I do get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing everything done. I also find I can get away with spending a lot less time doing it all if I’m on top of it which is a good thing in my book! As for losing the last of the baby weight…disasterous. Not only did I not lose the weight but I actually managed to pile a few pounds on! I had just over half a stone to go and now it is closer to a stone. I’m not going to buy any clothes in the next size up just yet. My clothes are, er, on the snug side at the moment. I’m actually hoping that my jeans pinching my thighs will remind me I probably don’t need more cake. Other than that, I’m done. I am not blogging about this again until at least next year unless it is to say that the pounds and inches have magically vanished!

And now it is time to continue with the packing…. 🙂

Categories: Getting organised | 1 Comment

7 week challenge: Week 2

I’ve been busy though, apparently, not quite as productive as on week 1. Still, I’ve managed to get the following done:

Weight loss:

  • I haven’t actually lost any weight. Mainly because I’ve not really been sticking to a sensible eating plan. Unless a sensible eating plan involves an evening Twix amongst other things. I’m thinking it doesn’t. I’m actually amazed that I haven’t actually put any weight on. Possibly because…
  • I’ve been sticking to the exercising! Two Davina work outs plus a couple of 10 minute kick boxing workouts. I’ve also taken Baby out for two long walks. Now if I could just co-ordinate a proper meal plan with all of this exercising I might actually be able to shed a pound or two – hopefully something to report next week…


  • Got rid of the old front door and living room door – yay! Husband’s mate came along with his van and vanished them for us. I thought they were going to end up a permanent fixture.
  • Mum has put together some CD boxes for me (she picked them up for me on a recent IKEA trip). These should soon be going on the shelves in the entrance hall (to home junk – not actual CDs).
  • Got socket guards to cover up the two plug sockets that Baby has become fixated with.
  • Gave the bathroom a really good clean and sort out. We have a large chest of drawers in the bathroom with one drawer for cleaning products and spare/occasionally used skincare stuff, one for towels and one for bed linen. These are all now cleaned out and tidied up. We also have two massive shelves instead of bathroom cabinets which is where we keep everything from shampoo to face wash. I gave every single thing a wipe down (including the shelves!). It is much more user friendly and inviting now.

Getting Organised

  • Filed all of our paperwork. This took two sessions. The first was where I opened all of the post and sorted the envelopes and leaflets for recycling, the second session was for the actual filing. I had to do this in two goes because it was soul-destroyingly dull.
  • Renewed my car tax. Because I had actually been organised enough to put back money for car tax I was able to pay for a year instead of 6 months. Not only did this mean I got the discount but it also means I won’t have to pay out for it in January when a) I am skint and b) I have to pay for the MoT. Paying for car tax and your MoT in the same month sucks.
  • Paid another £150 into my ISA
  • Wrote out budgets taking me up until the end of the year (more on this another time).

And that’s all for now. If things have been a bit quiet here on Shoestring Alley it is because of this…

I’ve been completely sucked into the Cazalet Chronicle, of which The Light Years is the first title. There are four novels and I have almost finished the second one. How did I not know about these books before?! I am gripped – gripped. In as much as I keep not getting things done because I can’t put them down (and going to bed too late). I bought the whole lot second hand on Amazon (incidentally, has anyone else noticed that second hand books are now cheaper on Amazon? Something to do with sellers offering a price that includes P&P? Before, even if a book was 1p there was a standard P&P charge of £2.80 meaning that the cheapest you could get a book for was £2.81. I bought one of these books for a total cost of £1.98. Anyway, I managed to get all 4 books for well under £10 and they are giving me HOURS worth of entertainment and I am already lending the first book to a friend!).

Happy days…

Categories: Book love, Getting organised, home improvements | 1 Comment

7 week challenge: Week 1

Okay – one week into the 7 week challenge and I have managed to do the following:

Weight loss:

  • I’ve done 5 x 10 minute kickboxing workouts from the DVD and two Davina workouts of around 35-40 minutes. In a week. Me! I actually feel better already.
  • Lost the 2 pounds I’d put back on again. I now have 8 pounds left to go to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight (AGAIN!!).
  • I’ve also bought a pair of trainers reduced from £49.99 to £29.99. They are really comfy and have gel soles which are great as my ankles tend to play up when I’ve been exercising (they’ve been fine since I got the trainers so it was well worth the spend). I’m also considering buying some cod liver oil capsules (to help my joints which object even to sedentary life, let alone exercise) but I’ll see how I get on.


House & getting organised

  • Arranged all of the things on the mantlepiece in the bedroom
  • Went through the massive collection of Baby’s plastic cups, got rid of the ones she doesn’t like drinking out of or that were looking worn out and reorganised a shelf in the kitchen cupboard so they actually have a place to go!
  • Packed away most of the tiny tupperware pots I used while Baby was having purees and so on. They will be easy enough to access if I need them but I just have ‘out’ a few which I can use for making packed lunches and snacks.
  • Re-organised where our recycling goes. It is now tucked away neatly in the cupboard under the boiler (where Baby can’t get at it). Ditto the plastic thing that I keep carrier bags in.
  • Moved a slab of seriously heavy marble out of the living room  which has been driving me mad for about 5 years (don’t even ask).
  • Sorted out the chest of drawers in the living room
  • Put all of Baby’s first birthday cards in a large plastic envelope and tucked them away
  • Made a 4 portions of tomato, courgette and basil pasta sauce to go in the freezer

And now on to week 2!

Categories: Getting organised, home improvements | 4 Comments

Getting on with it (at last)

Well, I’m off to quite a good start today. A couple of weeks ago I dug out my meagre collection of exercise DVDs (some never used but bought a few years ago in a fit of brief enthusiasm). I’ve been walking past them and tidying around them ever since and I finally got around to actually putting one in the DVD player! Admittedly it was the easiest one – a collection of five 10 minute kick boxing workouts. I’m often intimidated by the idea of committing to a 30 + minute workout – I am phobic about getting bored and exercising is right up there with putting petrol in the car and doing ironing in my book. Anyway, I actually did the first 10 minute workout before going to work this morning. I hope you’re impressed – I was. It was actually alright. It’s very easy to find 10 minutes. In terms of doing something you don’t really want to do, 10 minutes is a great time frame! It did highlight the fact that I really do need a pair of trainers. I’ve been putting this off for ages because it seems like such a dull way to spend money. However my ankles really hurt after I’ve been for a long walk and I’ve been meaning to look into getting some since last year. More on this once a decision has been made…

Since today was a day in the office (thus busy enough) I picked a couple of easy things to do towards my 7 week challenge. First up was doing load number 1 of washing (20,000 to go). Second was sorting through a pile of magazines. Not exactly taxing but necessary since I’m moving thigns around in the living room and there won’t be room for a stack of mags. I don’t buy many anymore but I do like Red magazine each month and I mentioned in earlier posts that I had bought a couple of interiors magazines. You might remember another earlier post where I created files for magazine articles that I wanted to keep. I spent a happy hour ripping out things I wanted to keep (everything from ‘4 ways to work a stripey top’ to the latest ‘must reads’) and tucking them away. There are still a couple of magazines left to be sorted but I’d already been going for an hour (I got a bit sidetracked by reading the articles) and ran out of steam. By the way, I can recommend keeping a few simple files for articles. I know some other PF bloggers cut out spending on magazines completely. However, I really like a few plus often find that you can free ones from stores such as Tesco or Boots which have recipes and other interesting articles. I get my money’s worth by keeping the articles I really like and reading them again! At the moment I seem to be buying Red magazine just about every month and maybe another magazine (such as Slimming World or an interiors mag) every other month. At this rate I reckon my average annual spend to be under £50 which I am happy with.

Somehow it is 9.40pm (got sidetracked again by the new blog ‘themes’ from WordPress and was perplexed by how odd my header currently looks. I will deal with this another day…). Husband cooked so I’m on washing up duty. I’m going to try to get it done in the next 10 minutes, as well as doing the lunches, so I can crack open a ‘new’ book and have a read before bed!

Categories: Getting organised | 2 Comments

Give me back the ball

I want a cleaner. And a PA. And a personal cook. I can afford to pay about £5 a week. Anyone interested?!

I am seriously fatigued at the moment. This seems to have been the on-off theme of this blog for the last 18 months or so. I’m the kind of tired that reminds me of the early days of pregnancy (no, I’m so not pregnant again) when my my entire being felt like it was made of jelly. Too many things to think about, too many things to do and no concievable time / energy reserve to get it all done. The diet is going disasterously. I think I have put on two pounds. I am currently fed up of:

  • being way bigger than I used to be. I was philosophical about it at first (I’ve just had a baby etc etc) but it’s gone on too long. Now I’m just p****ed off with it.
  • having an unfinished house. There are two broken doors propped up in the hallway, the front door needs another coat of paint, the painting in the bathroom needs to be finished, there is crap everywhere and there is never time to deal with any of it.
  • lack of food in the freezer. I haven’t had chance to do any batch cooking for weeks and we’re back to scratching around in the kitchen saying ‘What’s for dinner?’. I so cannot be bothered to cook right now.
  • being disorganised. The house is a tip, I’m only just keeping on top of our finances, there is a huge pile of paperwork that needs to be either filed or dealt with, I need to do about 100 loads of washing, I have no meal plan and my head is quite possibly about to fall off.

I write this list not merely to have a whinge but to demonstrate that if you’ve ever read this blog and thought I was one of those smug ‘got it all figured out’ types then you’re sadly mistaken! I’m either very much on the ball or I literally have no idea where the bloody ball is. Right now, I’m not sure I’ve even ever seen the ball. I think the ball is possibly mythical.

Is all this leading somewhere? Hmmm. I think it might be. Sometimes things need to get really crap before I can really deal with them. Watch this space for either a major ‘sorting it out’ plan or a blog overhaul where I chart the effects of my decision to live like a pig in a hovel for a year…

Categories: Getting organised | 4 Comments

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