Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The One With All the Tester Pots

Tester pots. Little pots of goodness. They promise so much don't they? I have gone, quite literally, over top with them.

My living room wall looks like it has some sort of wall based skin disorder. There are patches everywhere with my carefully written labels next to them in pencil. They all have fantastic names such as Jasmine Shimmer, Lilac Echo, Morning Light, Orchid White.

© afewthingsfrommylife
Oh to be a Dulux name thinker upper (I am 100% sure that is the title on that person's business card) or even better Farrow & Ball, never before have paint names entered such weird realms. How fabulous to arrive at the office, take out a well worn copy of Collins Thesaurus, or perhaps an online version in our modern times, and start flicking through whilst thinking:
"How many different ways can I describe cream?"

As that is basically what they are. My living room is covered in cream splodges with different names. Sure Lilac Echo does indeed have an echo of lilac, in the same way that homeopathy has an echo of actual medical science, but they are all basically cream.

I am so original it hurts.

Cream is ideal because:
a) it is light, we live in a mid terrace house so light is at a premium.
b) it goes with everything, we currently have burnt terracotta (red) sofas which are a nightmare to match anything to.
c) should the need to go mad with colours take us when we are old (I am thinking purple and not just an echo thank you very much) it'll be a good base.

So for now we are firmly entering middle class conformity and having cream.

Now I just need to decide which cream, Buttermilk looks good on that wall but Natural Wicker looks good over there.....

If you have a natural tone (cream) which did you choose and why?

Monday, 14 January 2013

Spring Cleaning

Decluttering and spring cleaning go hand in hand like ice cream and a Flake, like summer and hay-fever, like always getting a cold on the first day of holidays [feel free to insert your own simile of choice here.]

It is very hard to do one without the other quite simply. I know it may seem rather ironic to be talking about SPRING cleaning when the UK has just had yet another dumping of snow (and boy doesn't my FB feed know it) but strike whilst the iron is hot. Getting started is the hardest part.

As readers of this blog know we are taking on a lot of work. Not only are we decluttering, but also decorating at the same time.

In hindsight I do not advise this. Much better to sort one out before the other but as it is we are in the midst of spring cleaning.

The weekend was spent scraping the walls in the living room. Small tip for everyone here. if decorating please consider the poor sods who buy your house afterwards and do the job properly. Varnishing (yes you read right) over lining paper is never a good look and even worse to remove *sobs quietly into the much needed glass of wine*

Due to this we have been set back yet again but never fear! We have a solution! it comes in the form of sandpaper and realizing that that wall (luckily the only one affected) is going to be covered by bookcases so it won't matter that it's not 100% perfect like the rest of room. It'll be fine, no it will be, no it will, it'll be fine (if I say it enough times I might even convince myself).

My next task is to
a) get better. I have had another CFS crash brought on by a virus, my temperature at the moment is hovering between 39 and 40.5. How am I typing this you might wonder, ah well that is thanks to marvelous voice typing technology. It's not perfect admittedly but it means the bulk is done whilst I lie back and groan softly into my pillow. I will proof read it later when feeling a bit brighter.

b) call the plasterer to get a quote for the ceiling. We are hopefully going to use the same chap who did our kitchen work as he did a brilliant job in there and he knows the, ahem, eccentricities of our house and how the previous owners bodged  did things.

One thing we did though was to get a lovely laundry bin (I know rock and/or roll) for our daughter's room. This is part of the teach a 3 year old how to declutter strategy. It might work, it might not but it's a lovely little piece of furniture that will be well used in her room.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Wonderful Support of Friends

It cannot be overstated. I have an absolute cracking group of gals (say the previous in a 1950s boarding school mistress voice, think Joyce Grenfell) who are keeping me on the straight and narrow with my decluttering journey.

I run everything past them and they're not sick of it (yet, well they might be but they're too polite to say so. Scrap that they would definitely say so!) One of them asks if every new thing I buy is clutter as I am now in the habit of crying CLUTTER! if another mentions clearing out, another keeps me laughing with her (quite frankly) insane ramblings, plus her daughter is hilarious. The Scottish contingent (as I think of them) regale us with how things work above the border (we all work in a similar field) and laugh at us when we complain of things that only effect England.

The crafty bunch keep me inspired as to new projects, and the one with the bonkers mother in law is just fabulous. Then there are my fellow gingers, we get on like only red heads can.

What can I say girls? Ah that's it I fucking love you all and stop being so... well you know ;)

And with that I wish you a hearty Plano Ne xx

Operation Fish Tank

That's right friends today is the day where the built in fish tank (I know right) is going!

We bought this house 7 years ago this summer, it was a bargain and is a nice little house. The problem with it was that the previous owners worshiped at the altar of 70s tack. Not even kitsch just tack. There was faux brickwork in the living room, faux brick chipboard on the walls and the aforementioned fish tank. At floor level, where you can't actually see the fish.

We did use it for a while (my husband loves fish and always wanted a tank) and I had a group of 3 Angel fish called Nancy, Drew and Ned but it soon got obscured by our furniture so neglected. Now it's going and I couldn't be happier.

Well I could. TOP TIP: if at all avoidable declutter without your significant other. If me and Mr Bug get through today without a divorce it will be a bloody miracle. I am much better at this alone but the big jobs do need two of us.

Still we are making good progress so far, even if the ever pessimistic Mr Bug thinks we aren't, I am focusing on what we have done.

The fate of the fish tank is to be Freecycled and the brick work taken to with a sledgehammer, so satisfying believe me, nothing like a good whack on something you hate having in your house (that does not include pessimistic husbands).

As I type I can hear the gravel being removed and dark mutterings from the husband. I meanwhile am researching light fittings, well I can't do anything until he's finished faffing around with the Tank of Doom™ (as I am now calling it). My motivation, my get up and go has disappeared today. Like I said I'm better at this alone.

Freecycle is an excellent way to get rid of your unwanted items quickly. We have donated many things to our local charity superstore but some items are so speacialist they need someone to actually want them. Freecycle is great for this. My advice when using this system is to read between the lines of the emails you get. I have some hard and fast Freecycle rules:
  1. A please and thank you go a long way. Manners cost nothing.
  2. Please, when possibe, try to use punctuation and grammar. I'm a stickler for these (trained English teacher) and I am well aware of the problems facing those with dyslexia but I have often found those who have dyslexia are much more likely to make sure they do use correct grammar etc.
  3. Txt spk will get your request deleted. Simple as, you are a grown adult write like one.
  4. I try not to do a first come first serve basis. Many people who immediately request something are looking to sell the items on. I'd much rather my items help someone out than line someone's pockets. 
Oh the tank is cleared! Off to lug it into the garden, such fun!  

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Decluttering with a Child part 1

I am trying to introduce Squig (her nickname since 2 days old as she's never still!) to decluttering.

It's a challenge, let's put it that way.

We have all the games for tidying up time but in terms of actual decluttering her toys this is harder. She has accumulated a mass of plastic and tat over her short 3 years. Puzzles with pieces missing, freebies from magazines etc are a staple of the detritus at the bottom of her toy box.We are drowning in her toys.

I have two options basically.
  1. Do it when she is in bed, without her knowledge and hope that she won't notice (she will).
  2. Enlist her help somehow.
I am leaning towards 2 because I want to bring up Squig with a decluttering mindset, I don't want her to get to her thirties and have the massive job to do in her home. I want her to see decluttering as normal, as desirable and through teaching her I'll be teaching myself. Plus children are often more aware, more intelligent than we give them credit for. I have no idea why she loves yellow dusters so much but boy does she know when I sneak one or two of her massive collection into the wash without her knowing. She is fine if she has seen them go in but do it without her knowing and all hell breaks loose.

Knowing my luck the day I get rid of the free toys on the front of her Peppa Pig magazine, that are broken and she never uses, will be the day she decides she wants them. The decluttering decisions need to come from her (with my guidance of course).

I know she can do it, I have seen her at nursery having to make choices and decide which should stay and which should go.

Wish me luck, this is a blog post I will be returning to often!

Storage Solutions

Good storage is key when decluttering. Take note of that first word. Good storage.

Our house has lots of storage but very little serves it's purpose and isn't easy to work with. We fell into the classic trap (usually hits half way around Ikea for most people) where we were seduced by pretty little boxes, in lovely colours. The trouble is they weren't the right size for what we wanted and in the end of got so overstuffed they buckled and now the lids don't fit.

Our storage actually makes our clutter problem worse because it is so unfit for purpose.

One key lesson I have well.. learnt so far on this journey is that you must declutter first, then buy storage.

Sounds so simple, so why do so many of us get it wrong?

We are sold so many storage solutions by stealth and also because we wish our home to look nice as well as practical. Why use a plastic container when you can have a leatherette one with little silver studs? (Yes those were the Ikea ones we got, I can see one now on top of the fish tank mocking me, although that one is actually useful as it holds all the fish food etc, the fact we don't have any fish anymore is not the point---) So we over buy (always) and find that what we have bought can't be used and so we end up tatty cardboard boxes littering the place in the stead of proper storage.

So now (drum roll please) my top key storage tips:
  • Declutter first. I cannot stress this enough, until you can see the space you are working with you cannot know what or how much storage you will need.  As an example, I was being wooed by a toy storage solution for our daughter's room. However having decluttered I now realise it would have been woefully inadequate for the type of toys we need storing (bulky Happyland toys). So now I am focusing on a less pretty but much more suitable solution involving big plastic drawers (similar to those used in childcare settings, they use them for a reason!) 

  • Make use of hidden storage. We have countless places in our home that are crying out for use as storage if we engage our imaginations. Just remember that storage must be fit for purpose and not just a dumping ground! Most bedrooms have space on the top of the wardrobe, space that could hold items that are used infrequently but not so infrequently that loft/attic storage is more appropriate. Now here nice looking boxes are essential, when lying in bed of an evening you do not want to be staring at untidy boxes, it will lower your mood.  
    On the top of my wardrobe currently is my wedding dress, boxed up in a beautiful box with gorgeous ribbon, most dry cleaning places now offer a wedding dress clean and presentation service. It is expensive but worth it in my opinion. It stays on top of the wardrobe as I don't want to consign it to the loft, it is a reminder of a very happy day and I like to look at the dress now and again. Also on the wardrobe are my collection of evening bags and scarfs that i wear occasionally to a big night out so can be put on the top out of the way.       

    • Easy access storage is a must in high traffic areas such as the hallway. Shoes, coats and bags are a major issue in these areas so having easy to use, easy to access storage will make things quicker and easier in the mornings and reduce stress. Go through all the shoes currently in your high traffic area. How many do you actually wear in the working week? The ones you need to find in the morning in the rush to get out of the door. On average British women have 20 pairs of shoes (some men may be disagreeing with this, my husband included but let's remember it's an average so some women will have more some less). Now 20 sounds a manageable number but consider are there more people in your house? My daughter has several different types of shoe and boot depending on the weather and my husband is King of the Trainers. Our hallway and porch are full to bursting with shoes and we find we are wearing the same ones day in and day out so why are the rest there?! 
    Here's what to do, take note of which shoes you actually wear on the most regular basis. These shoes need to be easy to access so will stay in the hallway/high traffic area in or on storage. A shoe rack might seem depressingly middle aged but they work! Assign each member of the household a space on the rack(s) and stick to it, if the shoes can't fit then that extra pair go elsewhere. The bottom of the wardrobe is a great place to store extra pairs of shoes but not all jumbled together. Pair shoes and box them, if you still have the original boxes then use those otherwise invest in some clear plastic show boxes so you can easily see at a glance which ones are which. 

    • Large pieces of furniture can be used to streamline your home. No seriously hear me out! Having large fixed pieces of furniture means that items don't move which is vital for knowing where everything is. Part of our redecorating plans include a lot of large pieces of furniture. Namely bookcases (I know we donated all our books last week but we have plans for the shelves!) and, thus proving I really am entering middle age early, a sideboard. Yes we are getting a sideboard for our hallway. Since the kitchen refit my husband has lost his man drawer so this will help that. He is having one so he can still have a bit of clutter in his life. It will also double up as a filing area for important documents. Which leads me nicely to...

    • Ignore my first key tip for paperwork. <a collective groan> I know but when it comes to paperwork you must be prepared. That is not to say you go silly and buy unsuitable storage but you must have a filing system ready to use. Filing systems can be great, they allow us to access information quickly and effectively. If they work. Cross referencing everything by your Aunt's favourite cats is not going to help. 

    There are key areas you must have files for:
      • Big financial areas such as mortgage information and bank statements.
      • Insurances, house, life, cat etc
      • Bills
      • School/childcare information (do check their bags regularly <blush>)
    Try to deal with paperwork as it comes through the door (I am terrible for this, everything gets dropped on the rickety hall table at the moment and invariably forgotten about) and file important letters straight away.

    Hopefully I will stick to my own tips!                                                                                                      

    Monday, 7 January 2013

    Keeping momentum going

    So I have returned to work for 2013. This is the tough time for me. I mentioned previously that I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and decluttering combined with having a 3 year old and working will push my reserves to the limit.

    Therefore I have to be very careful about keeping my momentum going. My plan is this:
    • Little and often. Identifying areas that can be sorted in small chunks and making sure I do something everyday. My plan for tonight is to sort one of the boxes of random things we have in the living room after the kitchen refit.
    • Enlisting help. My husband has been bitten by the decluttering bug and even our daughter is starting to copy Mummy and Daddy by putting things in their proper place instead of discarding them as she goes.
    To do list app
    • Plan. I do love a good list. I make loads both at home and work. This time, however, I am using an app. This has the benefit of not only saving paper but also meaning that I don't lose said list. The app I have chosen is the Wunderlist app for iPhone. It's working well so far.
    • Allowing myself breaks. This, I feel, is key for someone with a fatigue problem like mine. As tempting as it is to go in all guns blazing that is counterproductive for everyone regardless of fatigue levels. Using strict timings helps in this regard and means I can achieve more over a longer period of time.

    How do you organise your decluttering whilst working?