Where growing, making & good living come together

Stuff hangovers and aspirational buying

Posted by on Thursday 17 November 2011 in bad buys, decluttering, personal finance | 5 comments

In this, the Decluttering season, I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff and about how it comes into our lives. My intention was to write this post about the idea of a “stuff hangover” but after reading an article on Get Rich Slowly, I think it’s about more than that.

I suffer from a stuff hangover in several different areas – I’ve changed who I am and what I do but I’ve got stuff hanging over from previous versions of myself. For example, when I moved into our last house in 2000, I was straight out of university and I brought over all my uni notes, books and accoutrement. We brought a large proportion of those books and notes over here when we moved too even though I have long ago abandoned my post-grad plans in that area of study. Another thing: about five years ago, John wrote a comic strip that was quite popular in its incredibly nerdy niche and we sold t-shirts, stickers and badges based on the “characters” and in-jokes. The comic eventually wound up and when shirts sales reduced to a tickle, we took the shop offline too – but we still have a couple of boxes of stock leftover. Together the books/notes and t-shirts take up a fair amount of our storage space and because I see it regularly, I know I need to be brutal and get rid of it.

But there are smaller things that I’m blind to – the twenty pairs of trainer socks I cleared out from my sock drawer the other week were a smaller example, as are the various bits of jewellery I decluttered during last week’s mini-challenge. The jewellery hardly took up any space at all but it was there – in a jewellery box I didn’t use except to keep that unused jewellery in. It all adds up.

So that’s stuff from past-louisa still cluttering up life for present-louisa – the Get Rich Slowly article I mentioned at the start is, in part, about accumulating clutter/wasting money on things present-louisa wants to buy in order to be the perfect possible version of future-louisa: aspirational buying. The article (and comments) talk about things like when people buying exercise equipment because it’ll “force” them to keep fit, or buying the perfect dress or winter coat just because you like them, even though you never go anywhere nice or cold. The main focus of the article is about “buy for every day not special occasions“, which is something I’ve thought about before in terms of not getting use out of things because they’re saved “for best” but in this circumstance, it’s also about choosing a home or car that suits your every day needs not the once a year family get together, or camping trip (in both cases, it’s usually cheaper to pick something smaller and rent a hall/camper van when you need it, rather than having to pay for the extra cost, insurance etc).

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Five things

Posted by on Wednesday 16 November 2011 in chickens, frugal, making | 3 comments

ONE. Two of the chickens are in moult – Ginger the Black Rock and Ms Mauve, an ISA Brown. There have been a lot of feathers about in the coop and run but neither have gone too bald (… yet?). Both have lost their tail feathers so look strangely round and last week both lost neck/head feathers, but Ginger’s have pretty much grown back now, so only Ms Mauve is left looking bit funny.

(I’m not keeping them/her in a separate run from the rest of the crew during the moult, just some of the others had just wandered outside of the run while I was taking photos. She followed shortly afterwards when she realised that there were leaves to scratch in out there, weeeee!)

TWO. Sticking to chicken related things, we’ve discovered that if chickens eat achocha, it taints their eggs like onions or (wild) garlic. I’ve been feeding the chicken some of the many, many achocha fruit we’ve had this season in an effort to get through them before the frost turns them all to mush. They weren’t sure about them at first but now om-nom-nom them up. We discovered the tainting issue – which isn’t unpleasant, per se, in savoury food but definitely there – on Monday, just after I’d taken them the remains of the entire 15ft tall wall of achocha to pick through. Monday’s eggs have been quarantined so they don’t accidentally get used for a dessert!

THREE. One of the reasons why I’ve not been writing much here is #NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. All my spare (and not so spare) time has been sucked up by that, so not only have I not been blogging much, I’ve not really been crafting or playing either. But on the plus side, because I’ve been so focus, I’ve written over 60,000 so far and I’ve not been idly browsing the web or eBay so I’ve saved money by avoiding temptation. Woo!

FOUR. Despite #NaNoWriMo getting in the way of my crafting, I have had a couple of evenings off from writing (when I was too exhausted/distracted to write the day we found Kia and after a busy day in the garden at the weekend) and I’m only about four rows off finishing the back of one of my crochet tops. If I hadn’t been writing, it would be long finished by now – and I’ve got an idea of how I can make another one which is just as nice but even quicker. Because I don’t already have enough WIPs…

FIVE. A little paranoid perhaps but I’m rather aware how quickly we’re getting through our wood pile. I cut a load of wood on Sunday but we’ve already nearly got through the ones for the “big” stove in the office. I think we might start using the central heating more until the winter properly kicks in, so we can see what it holds: I’m worried about racing through all our wood supplies now, then finding ourselves without heating for a fortnight during a super cold spell like we did last year (our boiler broke at just the wrong time). I much prefer our free heating from wood than our expensive gas, but I think I’d rather have a few weeks of expensive warmth than risk having no warmth at all!

What’s going on in your life this week?

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October 2011 – end of month review

Posted by on Monday 31 October 2011 in chickens, less than 12 clothes challenge, meta | 0 comments

Carla-cat enjoying a spot of autumn sun – the woodstore is perfectly place for sunbathing felines: in the sun until nearly 2pm but also within a short stroll of their food dishes. Purrfecto!

Goals in 2011 progress

moving swiftly on!

October mini-goals

I achieved more of these than my main goals – the accounts are finished (just waiting for John’s business accounts now then new mortgage a go go!), we finally finished the bathroom and we both batch cooked for the freezer – “ready meals” of pasta sauce, keema curry, enchiladas and spicy beef casserole (with corn bread) now await us! I also got some fabric for the cushion in the porch and found somewhere for the foam – just hesitating now about whether a soft cushion is right for there, or whether a can-put-your-foot-up-on-it wipeclean option would be better.

I think I would have achieved more on these & on my main goals if I hadn’t been distracted by other fun pursuits – crocheting and writing (the latter planning for my NaNoWriMo attempt, which starts tomorrow!).

Buy less than 12 items of clothing in 2011

Bloomin’ heck, I’m getting close! I’ve been on the look out for a nicer-than-my-scruffy-hoodies jacket all year and spotted a lovely M&S brown cord jacket in fab condition in a charity shop for £5.99 so bought it even though it’s close to being too cold to wear it. I’ve worn it loads over the last few weeks. I also bought yet another pair of jeans off eBay. They take me up to eleven things so far in 2011, eep, close!

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By hand or by power: how do you cut your firewood?

Posted by on Friday 28 October 2011 in frugal, wood stuff | 2 comments

I’ve just taking advantage of another lovely autumn morning to cut some more wood for use over winter.

I was enjoying the sweet victory of finishing another log when I accidentally grazed the blade of the saw against my finger. It’s nothing – the hint of a graze, it drew red but not drops of blood – but it did make me grateful for the eleventeenth time that we use handsaws to slice the logs into stove size pieces.

John’s dad bought us a circular saw as a present last year – I believe it was ex-display or similar, so too good to be missed in his eyes – but we’ve not used it. John’s dad uses it when he’s working here (to save bringing his own) and I think John himself has used it once — but after his own handsaw/cut-hand incident a few weeks ago, I suspect he’s unlikely to use it again.

We’re … not the most graceful people. It’s not that we’re inattentive, we’re just clumsy. Sure, it takes longer but it’s not too hard work with a decent coarse-wood saw – we like the exercise that handsawing gives us desk-dwellers and that the wood gets to warm us more than once. We also like our fingers – it’s how we make our money, tip-tap-typing away at our desks – and dislike risking them unnecessarily.

But rejecting the metal menace sometimes feels like a bit of a Luddite manoeuvre. It also feels hypocritical: for example, we’re happy for John’s dad to use his big petrol chainsaw to cut a big tree into splittable logs (the splitting is done by hand) rather than us going at it for half an hour with a two handed saw.

If you use wood as fuel, do you cut it by hand or do you use power tools?

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Are you still as frugal and green when you’re away from home?

Posted by on Wednesday 19 October 2011 in frugal, green | 9 comments

This question has been buzzing around in my head for a few weeks but a comment on someone else’s blog has driven it to the surface:

are you still as frugal and green while you’re out & about or on holiday as you are at home?

A few miscellaneous ideas that created the initial buzz:

  • At home, I rarely use hot water to wash my hands/face (the boiler takes a few minutes to heat up) but away from home, in semi-public toilets, at work or in hotels etc, I almost always use the on-demand hot water every time, whether I really need it or not.
  • At home, we have a recycling bin and a compost bin in the kitchen, so recycle & compost as much as possible. Away from home, where there aren’t convenient recycling/compost bins such as at work (we borrow rooms so can’t made demands) or in hotels, I just use the regular bin.
  • When I’m staying in a hotel, I take more, longer showers/deeper baths than I do at home – before we got a good shower at home, hotel showers were a luxury activity, not just about getting clean!
  • When I’m on holiday/having a day trip somewhere a bit different, I’m more likely to buy something I don’t need as a treat or souvenir (not a tacky plastic Eiffel Tower per se but, for example, the £17 of yarn I bought in Whitby the other month or similar amount of yarn I bought in Madrid when we were there for a conference in 2009). This is also the nature of the comment I read on the other person’s blog: essentially “frugal goals be damned, you were on holiday”. I don’t generally have a problem with proper holiday treats – especially of this productive rather than purely novelty nature – but if it extends to all days out, which it has done with me in the past, it can get very expensive for little reason.

I find it strange how careful am I concerning energy/water usage at home etc, then I leave home and I’m Little Ms Wasteful! I’m not all bad – if I have a choice in the matter, I don’t leave lights/heating/air-con on when I’m out of a room at work or in a hotel etc – but my naughties are definitely something to address now I’ve consciously identified them though.

Are you as good away from home/on holiday/visiting friends & family as you are in your normal day-to-day home life? If you are, how do you deal with the lack of recycling/composting facilities etc?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or examples of this!

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September 2011 – month in review

Posted by on Friday 30 September 2011 in goals, less than 12 clothes challenge, meta | 7 comments

Wow, this month really flu flew by.

Goals in 2011 progress

Sigh, too ill to do anything much. Still a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time!

Buy less than 12 items of clothing in 2011

I’ve bought LOTS of clothes this month! Partly inspired by replacements – a favourite (work) top & a (newly holey) pair of jeans had to be decommissioned from general service this month – and partly by the start of term & change of the season. I bought a pair of jeans (excellent second-hand quality from eBay), two long sleeved cotton tops (new) and two t-shirts (new). I also bought a new pair of trainers as my last pair developed a 2inch split along the sole – fixable for dry weather wearing but not for the incoming soggy winter.

Before this month, I’d bought three things, so now I’m up to nine items in 2011. A few months ago – when I had bought anything for more than six months, I’d have been surprised at that. While I didn’t NEED these things, my existing clothes (which generally pre-date the start of the challenge by at least six-months/a year) are wearing out.

Growing & Chickens

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