INTRODUCTION


There seems to be a scarcity of UK retirement blogs out there (other than those proffering financial advice) and in the absence of my being able to read about other people's experiences, I instead offer you my own "Great Big Retirement Adventure."

My husband (Mister E) and I have moved from the initial concept through the planning stages to implementation and this site is intended to record the whole process. What I am seeking from retirement is now very different to what I thought I was planning and has gradually developed into a quest for fitness and a desire for simplification, with a transition away from both a highly organised lifestyle and the personality traits reflecting a pedantic professional career. Indeed I recently described myself as "a goofy idiot" who enjoys smiling at sunflowers; a far cry from the pre-retirement professional and an indication of just how far I have travelled.

Please visit from time to time and do add your comments. The blog is in reverse chronological order but popular posts and those highlighting our journey are specifically pinpointed below on the right hand side together with a list of topics covered. Alternatively you may prefer to look at the summary or wisdom we have acquired or even our have done list with its retirement atlas and dip in and out of the blog using the links given.




Showing posts with label Homemaking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homemaking. Show all posts

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A Shout Out


I just wanted to give a shout out for Lakeland (formerly known as Lakeland Plastics). Yes that's right the company that has specialised in all kinds of useful plastic scoops and pegs. The kind of shop where, when you get to an age where kitchen gadgets excite you more than clothes shopping, you go to browse.

I know that I now have to be wary of buying plastic, but it never stops me browsing. Imagine therefore my delight to find that they have reinvented the good old paper bag. Forget those packs of cellophane, you can now have brown paper!

Funny how the old idea are always the best and even better that they still have the capacity to excite.  I did tell you, of course, that in retirement I seem to derive a great deal of pleasure from the simple things in life, but paper bags? Who'd have thought it!


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Giving Up with Household Dirt


Continuing with the quest to live more simply and clear home and life of extraneous matter including plastics, I have been looking to wind down reliance on all those bottles of household cleaners. It's also better for both the  environment and potentially our health.

I can hardly claim to be the most house-proud of women, hating the time wasted on cleaning with a vengeance but anti bacterial sprays, window cleaners and stain removers in spray bottles have on occasions allowed me to go trigger happy. However well they buff and shine, they are not risk-free with links to respiratory problems, skin irritations and in extreme cases it is alleged chronic or long-term illnesses including potentially cancer.

In search of a solution I have therefore taken up the use of white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and even lemons instead. Moreover, and without a plastic bottle or trigger in sight, they do pretty much the same job, naturally at half the cost and with significantly less harm.

The various application of these three ingredients is widely documented across the Internet (just put "natural household cleaners"into your search engine). I certainly recommend trying vinegar to clean your windows (inside and out). White vinegar almost avoids the fish and chip shop perfume and it dissipates quickly in any event. Bicarbonate of soda works better than any proprietary stain remover ever has for me; dab a small amount onto a cloth and rub well. Finally when we have used the juice from a lemon in cooking, I rub the remaining squeezed fruit across the tiled splashback behind the cooker and the grease spots disappear instantly.

The house is sparkling and there is once again space in my utility room cupboards for cloths and dusters where previously there was an array of bottles containing noxious chemicals masked by false floral fragrances.

I'd like to say it is emancipating but I'm still looking for a substitute for the effort required from elbow grease. Liberty was never intended to chain us to the kitchen sink, and it is definitely not where I want to spend my retirement.




Sunday, 24 September 2017

So Where Did the Summer Go?




Did I blink and miss it or was it all the recent travelling? Either way, I can hardly believe it is now Autumn and the second half of September. Moreover, and whilst walking in the Lake District today, we spotted holly with red berries all ready for decking out the halls. No Indian summer this year I guess and at least we'll hopefully get to do a proper garden clear up with plants dying off before the weather turns too cold, perhaps.

In the meantime and in advance of turning our attention to leaves and branches, the passionate culling of extraneous stuff within as opposed to outside our home has continued, alongside the rejection of both plastic and added sugar. 


For instance after months of tripping over a box full of camera equipment strategically placed on the floor, I was determined to create shelf space for it in a cupboard stoved off with a combination of knitting wool, craft materials, DIY tools and, just to add to the mixture, board games, many of which have lain there unused for 15 years or more.  In dramatic fashion, not only, therefore, did I empty the cupboard but I also repainted it. Making it look like a completely new area (how easily a new colour scheme can fool) somehow made it easier to rearrange the contents and throw the excess away. In fact we have done such a good job that not only has my reputation for tidying cupboards reached new heights, but the top shelf remains unfilled, although that may just be a matter of timing.


As the intensity of decluttering, physically and mentally, increases, I have begun to realise that its meaning goes beyond tidying up and letting go. What seemed at first to be a sensible clear-out of old, unused  stuff is actually so much more. In retirement we are finally making the time to rid ourselves of extraneous trivia built up over decades in an instinctive anticipation that, once liberated, we shall be able to enjoy the important things in our lives instead. The clear aim is now to live not only more simply but also more purposefully. I just sometimes need direction!



Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Book Lovers' Day




Somewhat unfittingly for a day described as Book Lovers' Day, I have made a pile of paperbacks ready to donate to the Save the Children charity shop. It's all part of that mad phase I've described as giving up with aggression, although "reduction with passion" may actually be a more accurate description.

To be honest, I have always had a difficulty when it comes to parting with books but when it reaches the stage that they are piled on the floor, tumble out of wardrobes and are even stored in suitcases, you know it's time to take action and building yet more shelves isn't what we have in mind.

I'm not sure why it is that so many of us accumulate books, especially when they are not rare first editions. Perhaps we are all latent librarians at heart. 

I once read that bookcase displays were indicative only of a desire to demonstrate one's learning so all could applaud, but, as some of my paperbacks fall very definitely into the category of chick-lit, I am not convinced. On my part, I believe retention has been governed more by a prospect of either reading the book again or passing it on to someone with a brief endorsement. That said, some books have sat on our shelves so long that they have yellowed with age and although they have that wonderful attractive, musty smell they really would no longer be a joy to peruse and in some instances might even fall apart when you turn the pages. 

Sadly and save as a curio of doubtful scent, many of my old books serve no purpose although the sentimental attraction remains strong. Take the copy of Alice in Wonderland given to me when I was in hospital at the age of eight as an example, the typeface is unattractive, the odd drawings which it contains are crudely sketched, the cover is torn and, were I to seek to reread it for the nth time I'm sure there must be a free e-book version to download instead. It's hard, but the proper place for books like this is clearly re-cycling and if I donate them to a charity shop it may even be able to  make some money from having them collected.

Newer books are harder to part with but I have resolved to limit my paperback collection of read books to a few shelves of my favourite novels, ready to pass on and recommend. The others will be sold by Save the Children to raise funds for a good cause. There are occasions when I know I have lovingly fingered through a read book, recalling the story with enthusiasm and the memory of the enjoyment it brought at the time but I know I am not going to re-read every one of the books I have been hanging onto; they were enjoyable but there are so many others out there to  be brought into my home and read instead.

I hope that I am not making this sound easy. I'm keen and eager to see the task through but reducing let alone giving up treasured books is painfully difficult. Fortunately I have been helped by the discovery of Goodreads a wonderful app that allows me to keep a virtual bookshelf of  the books I have read, aided by a brief synopsis of the story and all sorted alphabetically by author or even title if I prefer.

Of course paperbacks are only half the story; there are of course still the hardbacks and non-fiction to sort, as well as "coffee-table" books, not to mention the suitcases I've already referred to and, after my initial sort-out, now a greater percentage of books to read before disposal even becomes an issue. However, the space created by giving up is exciting and liberating and where once I could never have envisaged a shelf without an array of books on it, now I see scope for simplicity and unencumbered living.

It's Book Lovers' Day and I love reading; is this normal?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Giving Up




After my last blog entry I have been contemplating my retirement and am beginning to feel that the next driver is "giving up." I don't mean by surrendering but rather in a very physical way in order to reach that nirvana of a simplified life.

So for me July has been a month to embrace Plastic Free July and abandon added sugar. 

The statistics on plastic are appalling and when I looked in my own waste-bin at the beginning of the month I saw with horror that, despite our conscientous devotion to re-cycling, we were still disposing of more plastic in the form of cellophane-wrapping and cling-film for landfill than any other form of waste. Just realising the extent of the problem that we were creating (and we consider ourselves good at sorting re-cyclable waste from our other rubbish) was a start in the right direction and now it has become a crusade to deliberately shop to try to avoid the worst excesses of single-use plastic whilst looking for items made of other substances for repeat use. It's too late to undo all our errors in the past; the children's toys, coffee capsules, melamine picnic plates, garden chairs, plant pots, all now presumably buried deep in a local authority pit never to decompose in our lifetimes. The plastic containers in the fridge and coathangers in the wardrobe provide a daily reminder of  our wilful disregard for green living. We are, however, now stepping up to become eco-warriors as, going forward, we relinquish the plastic trappings that go with an early 21st century lifestyle. Giving up is good, providing both challenge and ambition whilst benefiting the planet as we hopefully reduce pollution.

Sugar is another horror now scientifically linked to obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes. The Action on Sugar website highlights the issues but it is only when you start to read in detail the written information on food products that you get any appreciation of the scale of the problem. Have you for instance ever tried to find bread without added sugar in your local supermarket? It does exist but elusivity means you have to track it down. On the plus side, the eradication of added sugar from our diet in the last couple of weeks has done wonders for weight loss and energy levels and I can thoroughly recommend it.

In September 2016, I posted a blog entry which I titled Letting Go and Making a Difference.  They were for me the second and third phases of retirement, the movement or divergence from one to the other blurred by an overlap. Giving Up, following  a period of what I can best describe as plateauing, seems to be a natural progression and whilst many might say there is no obvious distinction there is actually a subtle difference stemming from the maturing of retirement. Letting go was as much about the mental state of change from worker to retired person as the relinquishment of physical stuff; there was an understanding of the need to shed and a start to the process. In making a difference I had reached a point where I was energised by my efforts and strove to achieve. To give up is I now believe a natural sequitur but it is more brutal and deliberate, requiring passion, renewed energy and aggressive determination. It goes beyond recognition of and lip service to what must be jettisoned, to deliberate deprivation in order to achieve it. To let go, I must now give up previously perceived comforters rather than extraneous stuff; to make a difference I must give up the comforts of self-indulgence and infinite time. 

Retirement has turned up more challenges.



Sunday, 7 May 2017

Beauty and the Box


Nesting instinct, Spring and cardboard boxes; they all came together today. Is it the level of the sun in the sky or the birds hopping around building nests and feeding their young? I'm not sure, but it is always at this time of the year that I get an uncontrollable urge to clear out cupboards.

I confess that when I was working, it didn't get much further than a fleeting feeling but the early years of retirement are a time to tackle all that messy storage and I'm proud to say that I have actually attacked all of my cupboards at some point since retirement, making a better job in some than others.

It would be nice to think that having tidied them once, they might stay that way especially after being previously neglected for a decade or more. Sadly, no. Once that Spring feeling dissipates, the rest of the year is spent filling them up as random items get squeezed in anywhere.

It had reached the point that just opening the door of the cupboard under the stairs was sufficient to send me into a spiral of gloom, so today I took action to dispel it. Piled high with boxes, I had assumed that family members had been placing objects for future use or of sentimental value there and was genuinely not looking forward to the heaving and shifting that a clear out might entail. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I discovered that the boxes were completely empty! 

Mister E was the culprit and under caution confessed all. He has always been a magpie when it comes to cardboard boxes; items of abundant usefulness, he claims. However, and up till now I had always thought he stored them in the garage and disposed of them on a strict rotational basis, assuming always that they failed to prove their use in the interim. I now realise that whilst that may have been the pattern pre-retirement, the cupboard space I have created since has just been too much of a temptation for a boxoholic.

His support during my various decluttering missions and our shared aim for a minimalist approach to living has proven secondary to his love for cardboard boxes. My own struggle with ridding the house of my accumulated "stuff" has been nothing compared to his addiction for packaging.  When I conquer my inablility to sling, he fills the empty space with cardboard. Can there be any hope at all for us succeeding with our quest for simplification, to restore the mess amongst which we live into a state of order and our home into an oasis of calm? Keep reading, I know not.




Friday, 3 March 2017

Leaping Forward



In the twilight of my working years, I began to accumulate a list of jobs that I thought I would leave until retirement. Obviously there were the mega tasks like decorating but there were also any number of simple chores and whilst, in an initial wave of enthusiasm, I may have cleaned the iron and screwed a wobbly handle or two back on, I confess that, almost three years on, for the most part the list remains to be tackled. 

"Life's too short to stuff a mushroom," (per Shirley Conran) remains my mantra even on Planet Retirement.

However, today I notched up a significant success. I kid you not but for the first time in a decade, I finally cleaned, sorted and tidied the airing cupboard. Moreover OCD got the better of me and I bagged and labelled duvets, pillows, and bed linen not used on a daily  basis. In the course of an afternoon, the cupboard went from chaotic muddle to methodical order.

One small step indeed but it really does represent a giant leap forward. In my quest for simplification, it helps to know what towels and bedsheets you have and where exactly they are. Playing hunt the pillow case could make an entertaining party game but eliminating the need to dig for buried duvet covers is, I assure you, joy itself.

 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Blind Making the Blind




I shall begin with the proviso that I am unsure whether or not the statistics I am about to quote are correct, but I do know that Pareto would at least approve.

So: I am one of the 20% of women who own a sewing machine. Until  last week I was also one of the 80% of women who own a sewing machine and do not use it.

However, in a sudden burst of creative activity my reliable little dressmaking aide has been placed on the desk in the eldest's bedroom which, since he did kind of leave home seven years ago, I am slowly taking over as craft room.

The task which I set myself was to make a window blind for the small box room in the Nottingham property. The previous blind had given up the ghost but an inspection suggested to me that it would not be beyond the wit of man nor indeed Caree's limited ability to replicate the design.

I confess I have never made a blind in my life before. To be honest I would also struggle to recall anything I have ever made with the sewing machine except perhaps a cushion cover, generally having used it only for mundane tasks like hemming trousers. 

Nevertheless the result has given me great pleasure. I hung it over the weekend and was certainly relieved to dicover that it both fitted and worked. There's a lot to be said for creativity; success definitely endows a halo of self satisfaction.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Letting Go and Making a Difference




Three months into my third year of retirement and it is good to realise just how far I have come. Reflecting on the period of time that has passed, I can now look  back and recognise three different phases. They are not separate or distinct; the boundary between them ebbs and flows but there is nevertheless an obvious progression.

The early days, weeks and months were a time for healing and recovery. An opportunity to relax and to take the first steps towards a new healthier, fitter self. There may still be some way to go but the pattern has been set.

Gradually and alongside those baby steps from enervation to vigour grew a sense of letting go. Like healing and recovery, it manifests itself on two levels: the physical and the mental. The clutter from both house and mind is being dissipated. Life is simpler; the habits of a working existence have been dropped. Activities and commitments have altered. Although there remains much to clear out especially of a physical kind ( household stuff and clothes with no longer any clear purpose in retirement),  there is now obvious and steady progress. 

A milestone was reached this week when I even made the decision to change the name on my driving licence from the birth name that I used professionally throughout my career to the married name I have always used at home. There are other changes that I know I shall be making in measured and deliberate fashion over the coming months. To let go in the early days felt brave, in Year 3 it is empowering.

Now too I have begun to recognise the dawning of a third phase; the period where I make a difference and which gives the motivation for getting out of bed every day. Whether I am decorating at home or in our rental property; clearing the garden; helping out in the Save the Children shop or campaigning on its behalf; acting as Parish Clerk or as an almshouse trustee; even just cleaning the windows: I am making a difference. To know that I am achieving, that my pursuits are worthwhile and that I can perceive the change as a result, is exciting and a spur for further self-enterprise. 

Life is invigorating and stimulating despite not knowing what the ultimate outcome or next phase will be. After 27 months, retirement is still novel enough that it remains an adventure into the unknown.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

American Relations



So just as the youngest left England for Texas, one of our US cousins and his family flew in from Wisconsin. We played host for two nights of their trip and it was an absolute delight to meet the children who I'm sure thought we were another pair of boring old relations living in a strange country that can't spell simple words like flavour, puts dessert spoons above the table mat rather than to its side, drives on the wrong side of the road and calls jelly "jam".

However, having as yet failed to complete the decluttering of our home (a job that remains on the retirement to do list) we were able to win them over by sorting out the youngest's old dolls' house, rekindling my own plans to renovate it and proving once again that parting with possessions is never easy.

Still visitors staying over has proved a useful spur in finishing the makeover of the bathroom and cleaning corners of the house that probably haven't seen a duster for longer than I would care to confess. We got rid of  a broken ornament or two and had a general tidy up. Now to keep it that way, make haste with the redecorating and maybe throw away a few more items, we just need to invite the whole of the American continent to join us. 



Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Manual Labour




There is something intrinsically gratifying about toiling with your hands. I find the application of emulsion paint to walls (of which there has been much lately) almost therapeutic, whilst the delight of the outcome remains a source of pleasure for many weeks. It is probably just as well as the last fortnight has seen us remodel the bathroom, continue with the painting of the hall and begin work on external masonry at the eldest's home in Nottingham where I surprised myself by repointing an outside wall of the house ready for a coat of masonry paint on my next visit.

In the meantime and with temperatures that are now happily average for the time of year, the vegetable patch has continued to grow successfully and the sweetcorn I was fretting over has pollinated and sprouted horse-tails which is surely a good sign. My angst now is focused on the ripening of my tomato crop; the greenhouse has gone into overdrive in producing  the most delicious tasting cucumbers but the masses of cherry tomatoes remain steadfastly green.

Of course any spurts of growth amongst the vegetables is usually accompanied by an increase in weeds. Sadly that's where the manual toil offers less satisfaction. Pulling a hoe across hardened clay soil has never been my idea of fun. Enter, therefore, the youngest just back from volunteering on an organic farm in Sweden. She can now weed like a demon on a mission, leaving me to lean back in my garden chair and think about the next decorating project.


Monday, 11 January 2016

A Return to Normality



The last of our Christmas Holiday invaders, in the form of the youngest, left us to return to university yesterday. Normality now reigns supreme after what has seemed like a hectic festive period.

As previously recorded it started with erecting the Christmas tree at the last minute and playing host to a Yorkshire Terrier, small in stature but big on making her presence known. In various stages we were then joined by the youngest, the eldest, the eldest's girlfriend, family on Mister E's side, family on my side. We have only 10 dining chairs which is meant to limit the number we can cater for at any one time; this year the limit was exceeded at 11 when one guest went chairless, but hey he did get fed!

So during our 12 mad days of Christmas we were visited by two eccentrics dressed as elves and a glove puppet. Our youngest suffered from an infection which led to a fever which in turn led to vomiting. I had to take her to the doctor on three separate occasions including Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and during which period we were constantly accompanied by a bright orange bucket. I also worked out that the out of hours GP telephone number is 111 for a reason: if you dial it often enough you realise it actually spells ill!

Meanwhile, the dog seemed to think it was in charge of the cooking, refusing to leave the kitchen during the long periods of food preparation. We solved a murder mystery when our guests included Sigmund Fraud and Dame Barbara Carthorse. Several people ate too much chocolate and the bright orange bucket made another appearance. 

The dog seemed to think it was the only being that deserved to be eating Christmas dinner and when excluded barked constantly. As it did so, the ghost of Christmas present wandered through, gin bottle in hand and in search, presumably, of an orange bucket.

We had a mini disaster in the form of a fire when, instead of burning out, a candle tried to continue its life by eating its way through a table decoration, resulting in Mister E blistering himself by rising to the occasion and extinguishing it single-handedly and before the wet tea towel or orange bucket arrived.

The dog seemed to think it was the only guest at the party and objected to the pulling of Christmas crackers. The living room (still suffering in part from books and other items that properly belong in the study) started to resemble the council tip as gifts were unwrapped and it stayed that way for several days. 

Life was turned upside down, when for the first time in living history, Mister E and I lost the Boxing Day Family Challenge to the next generation and the ghost of Christmas present (or maybe it was one of those elves or a bright orange bucket) walked through again.

The dog seemed to think that our smallest nephew was hunt potential for the New Year's Day Meet and insisted on chasing him around our downstairs. With only three teeth left, however, it rather detracted from the sense of viciousness. At this point someone handed the gin bottle around again or maybe it was the orange bucket but nobody really cared, in fact there was even a suggestion that we had a lion in the house.

Lions, elves, orange buckets, and ghosts; at least we were able to track down the murderer. The newly furbished study was spared the grief of Professor Plum and the lead piping and instead the culprit on this occasion was one Mike Bison.

One mystery remained unsolved however, namely the disappearance of two forks but a search of the wheelie-bin has only revealed a pastry brush and spoon. I'm blaming the ghost rather than family or the dog.

Utterly exhausted, primarily from tidying up, waving goodbye and putting away that orange bucket, I am now about to start on the laundry. I have heard tell that it is a new tradition at Christmastime to bless the family home with a whole term's worth of washing; certainly it is a tradition that both the eldest and youngest seem to have embraced wholeheartedly.

Happy New Year everyone and let's have a peaceful and less frenetic 2016!





Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Never Ending Paint Job


I have been busy painting recently. Unfortunately you will recall from a previous blog post that decorating was  one of those chores that was left for retirement. Although I do actually enjoy painting there was just never the time to do it and the thought of being disrupted by "getting a decorator in" never appealed. Now there are walls aplenty to paint and theoretically heaps of time, except that there are still other activities competing for attention.

Speaking to the youngest on the telephone tonight she told me that she had been staying with a friend whose home was nicely decorated, the implication being that it was not like ours. 

Hmm, maybe it was a little over ambitious or even plain silly to leave such a momentous task for so long, in the naive hope that, once we had a little time, we would quickly sort it. In fact I have an overwhelming feeling that our home could become like the Forth Bridge and when we get to the end, it will be time to start again in the hallway.


Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Finishing Line


Yes, 30 days later and I have survived the terrors of the #minsgame. No cheating and in all I calculate that I have thrown out 496 objects. So how does it feel? Has my life improved as a result and do I feel unburdened?

Well I certainly have space on shelves, in cupboards, wardrobes and drawers where previously there was none. I have also totally shocked and shamed myself  by uncovering items that I could hardly believe I hadn't actually flung years ago, like the almost obsolete video tapes which I jettisoned today. I confess, however, that I do still have a collection of work suits albeit reduced in number! 

As I look around now,  I know that there is still a long way to go before I achieve that minimalist look and the benefits of simplicity that I am seeking.

Nonetheless, after a calendar month, I have changed my attitude to hanging onto possessions simply because I feel they might come in useful even when I have no obvious current use for them. Going forward, I know that the ties have been loosened and that it should be easier to de-junk as we move on to decorating each room. If not, then I guess I'll have to start playing all over again.



Monday, 4 May 2015

A Workman and her Tools



Today I tried my hand at some DIY. You know the kind of thing: you wear old clothes and do something messy whilst holding a tool or two.



In my case I decided it was time to put together the poppy I have been storing from the Tower of London's magnificent display in its moat last year. Following the instructions in the box, I amassed gardening gloves, a hammer and no I baulked at eye protection (nanny state gone crazy unless someone thought I was actually likely to stab myself in the eye with the stalk). The trouble was that when I analysed the contents it was only to discover that I had been supplied with two washers the same size and no spacer to actually fit inside the poppy head. Mister E came to the rescue with a collection of assorted plastic washers that he had been hanging onto, just in case (I know it defeats the letting go principles of the #minsgame), and out we went into the garden. Sadly there was no need for the hammer, as the stalk was more than adequate at piercing its own hole in the ground, but I did wear my gloves.

Inspired by the bout of activity outside, I engaged on Day 2 of a decorating project with a tin of primer, a paint brush, a tub of polyfilla and a filling trowel. Plenty of scope there for a mess!

The primer was applied to the bare plaster areas easily but there's something about trowels; they just don't spread polyfilla the way it should go (yes  I make no excuses, a bad workman does indeed blame her tools). Fortunately a wet rag and my fingers came to the rescue and even if I say so myself I was rather pleased with the results although I did have to scrub my hands and then have a bath afterwards. Maybe gloves might have been of more use for decorating but there was no reference on the box. I'm sure there'll come a point in retirement when I'll get the hang of the technique, there's still an awful lot of house awaiting its makeover.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Minsgame Continues



Oh dear, throwing away objects is not my strong point. It is not that I even like material possessions but, as I am discovering, clearly suffer from an innate ability to see a potential usefulness in so many defunct items as well as a blind spot when it comes to identifying which well loved and comfortable pieces of clothing are past their sell by dates. I really want to reform because by the same token I relish the idea of a clear home and there is a minimalist in there somewhere trying to get out.

So Day 3 of the #minsgame and, after trying to kid myself that an empty tube of toothpaste might count but finally realising that was cheating, I rearranged my wardrobe, storing away winter layers and bringing out clothes that I had not seen since last year. In the process I resolved to throw away three items. It was hard dear reader, so hard.

In the end I settled on a pair of sandals that remain uncomfortable despite leaving them in the back of the wardrobe for six years presumably hoping that time might  bring about a softer fit. I had even been kidding myself that I had hardly worn them. Examining the state of the heels, soles and inners that cannot possibly be the case and at least, realising that I had at some point used them, made it easier to mark them first for jettisoning.

A favourite clicked and well washed t-shirt followed, albeit only after a period of debate; I had after all worn it last week; perhaps somebody should have commented on what a sight I looked in it and made today's task easier.

Finally and with great sadness I decided to add a long sleeved cotton top to the pile. It has been one of my favourite garments since retirement and I love both the colour and feel of the fabric. Unfortunately I have holed the sleeve and it is now time for it to join  the vast assortment of scraps in my rag bag ready for use as ad hoc dusters and cloths. Or is it? Today we started a new decorating project and what better top to wear? Yes it earned a deserved reprieve!

In its place I added an old (and by old we are talking decades) cardigan to the pile.

I can see the next 27 days of this game are going to be very difficult.



Saturday, 2 May 2015

York and a Minimalist Lifestyle


Yesterday Mister E and I returned to York to deal with our unfinished business. The Aesthetica Exhibition in St Mary's Church (de-consecrated in 1958) was, shall we say, interesting! Neither as colourful nor as animating as I like, with a preponderance of monochrome and some depressing topics as well as a piece of sound art which actually made us appreciate the quiet of Coppergate when we left.


The cherry blossom trees around the city walls were however in full bloom and more than made up for the grey within the art gallery.

Whilst in York, we also collected an online order which had been delivered to a local shop  and comprised "retirement" clothing for the outdoors. I took it home knowing that I would need to throw some more of that office clothing away to make room for it. Sometimes the clutter at home and all those items I keep hanging onto thinking they may have a use one day can really get me down. 

I was pleased, therefore, this morning when one of the supplements to The Guardian newspaper offered some innovative guidance on decluttering. Minimalism is purportedly "the latest buzzword in well-being" and the article recommended a game where you rid yourself of one item on Day 1, two on Day 2 and so on until Day 30. Apparently thousands of people play the game and compare notes on Twitter using the hashtag #minsgame. 


Desperate for some space in the wardrobe, I thought I had best join in and to make it even easier for myself (I do need simple rules for games, if I am to play well), I thought I would treat today, 2nd May, as Day 2 and accordingly throw away one item for Day 1 and two for today. It did not of course make any space in the wardrobe at all as I chose a mug dressed up to look like a cupcake, a book that Mister E has given up on and a plastic flower display that has been hidden in a dark corner for too long. 

There is, of course, always tomorrow and by Day 30, I am anticipating ample room, but whether I shall have cleared out all my work suits remains to be seen.


Thursday, 19 March 2015

A Blitz



Oh dear. I watched a television programme the other night which came up with an amazing statistic in relation to housework. Apparently back in the 1950's the average housewife spent 75 hours a week cooking, cleaning, shopping and washing. If that was not bad enough, the programme quoted today's average per home at 18 hours or just over 2 hours and 34 minutes a day.

Now I know we should never believe everything we learn from the media but if there is any truth in that statistic, then Mister E and I are failing badly. We did hit a problem in early retirement when, instead of doing a large weekly shop, we seemed to keep popping into a supermarket to buy smaller quantities whenever we passed. We are, however, now back to one main shop a week and have condensed housework and cooking into an art-form that amounts to no more than an hour a day each on average. Whilst I no longer resent the time spent on chores as was the case when working, who really wants to spend their retirement cleaning?

That said, and totally shamed by the elbow grease that went into household tasks sixty years ago, I grabbed an old electric toothbrush this week to clean a towel rail that had been neglected in the tender love and care stakes and was bowled over by the difference  it made! 

Perhaps cleaning could yet become a new style therapy with its inbuilt boost every time you turn dull and dusty crevices and corners into something clean and shiny. On reflection, maybe not.


Friday, 20 February 2015

A De-Junking Journey



My plans for retirement as recorded on this blog include de-cluttering our home and as recent blog entries have suggested I am on target with this. So much so that this week even Mister E has been inspired to tidy up his own area of our communal study.

Many years ago I acquired a book entitled "How to Stay De-junked Forever" by Dawna Walter ( a well-meaning relative possibly gave it to me, I do not recall). It was based on a TV series by the BBC called The Life Laundry which must have aired some 12 years ago.

The book emphasises that "de-junking is a way of life, not a one-time experience" and then seeks to prove the need to embrace its rallying call for change with a series of surveys on readers' shopping habits, state of their home, cleaning practices, their emotional responses and the effect on their relationships. 

Interestingly, I perused the book this week with the aim of conjuring up a dose of motivation to move my de-cluttering process to the next level, and noted that pre-retirement my survey answers showed that whilst I had never sunk to the depths of clutter and disorder taking over my life, I was suffering from days where everything dragged me down. Now, however, it would seem that the same survey recognises the progress I have made and concludes that I am "on the right track to leading a clutter-free existence" albeit with room for improvement. 

Apparently the next step on my de-junking journey is "to take a close look at each room... and make sure that it is as comfortable, welcoming and suited to (our) needs as it can be." Somehow I had never expected that throwing away objects accumulated over preceding decades would be so difficult.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Progress



In retirement, as I have previously alluded to in this blog, there has been the opportunity to catch up with all manner of chores and administrative tasks that I allowed to build up over a period of time, not least in the last few months of working. It's not that I thought I would be bored, just that some things could wait until I had more time. 

Tackling the ironing basket and cleaning nooks and crannies were relatively easy jobs but the piles of paper (most of which I have ended up shredding) were more tricky to sort. In the last few weeks, my excitement has grown as I  finally spotted the table top emerging from beneath a mound of potentially recyclable waste. Today however I am not sure if I should be hanging my head in shame or holding it high with pride for I have uncovered a letter and form from 2009. They relate to the closure of a postal savings account (opened prior to Internet banking) and now paying 0.01% interest. At the time the requirements of the bank to secure the release of nominal funds were too complicated to address amongst all my other obligations and so I put the paperwork  to one side whilst I concentrated on what I considered to be more important issues.

Not only have I now rediscovered the documents, but this evening I have also spoken to somebody on a helpline and been told that what in 2009 had to be done by post can now be achieved in much simpler fashion by visiting a branch of the bank directly. Call it progress on both the bank's and my parts, but I feel buoyed as a result.