The One Thing a Day Challenge – 30 Days On…..

Well here we are at day 30 of the One Thing a Day Challenge and what an interesting journey it has been so far.

It has been reletatively easy for me to find one thing a day to get rid off despite my home being reasonably clutter free already. Just before starting this I had a major clearout and so I look at the One Thing a Day Challenge as a way of fine tuning my possessions.

So what happened to all of the stuff that I got rid of over the last 30 days?

Well most of it went to a local charity shop, some was sold on Ebay (making me a profit of £104.08 ) and only two things were actually thrown away – the leaky water bottle which was unfortunately not recyclable and the sewing machine which went to the local tip as not safe to pass on as the peddle was held together with tape!

Any lessons learnt?

It’s been an interesting excersise so far. Even though our house is fairly clutter free it has been easy to find one thing a day and I would urge anyone wanting to live with less to try it. One thing doesn’t seem much at all but it adds up and it’s quick and easy to do too – I left a box by the back door and put each item that was destined to be donated in it as I found it, once the box was full off it went to the local charity shop.

The other thing is that I don’t actually miss any of the items that have gone. Many of them had escaped decluttering sessions over the years, take my old sewing machine for example. This was the only item that I actually struggled to get rid of as it held quite alot of sentimental value. It was an 18th birthday gift given to me by my Grandparents – my Grandad died the day before that birthday so this was his last gift to me. However it didn’t work, was taking up room, was very dusty and had been replaced by a new one. Now that it has gone I don’t miss it one bit and my memories of my Grandad still remain.

The main thing for me though is that by spending the time getting rid of something each day it has actually made me think about what I bring back into the house.

Firstly it has made me think about if I really need something when faced with buying it. Lets face it if you’re going to the trouble of getting rid of stuff you hardly want to fill your house back up again, so by doing this task it has made me consider carefully what I am buying.

The knock on effect of this is that by carefully considering each purchase and I’m now taking greater attention to what I’m actually buying. Buying less stuff means that I can spend a little more on quality, chemical free products that will last – whether that’s food, clothing or household products.

This for me is the important part. By learning to live with less my hopes are that as a family we will be consuming less. Last night we sat down to discuss this and watched the fantastically thought provoking video “The Story Of Stuff”. If you haven’t already seen this I would recommend that you do, the link to it is here http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-stuff/

So will I be continuing the one thing a day challenge?

Of course! It’s said that it takes just 21 days to form a habit – I reckon that I’m just about there.

If you have been doing the One Thing A Day Challenge I’d love to hear how you’re finding it, why not post a comment below!

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A Happy Accident

When we moved here the front garden was neglected and overgrown. Our plans regarding the garden at this point were a little vague as our main commitment was to get the house habitable.  We knew that we would need to create a graveled area of hard standing at the front to store our caravan but other than that the rest of the garden has evolved by accident rather than by design.

The clearing begins

We were lucky to have two established cherry trees and a rhododendron hedge as a backdrop but other than that the rest of the planting has been accidental to some extent.

As this was the only part of the garden that was plantable the few plants that came with us from our last house went in here, as did plants that were kindly donated by friends and family. Plants that were bought as gifts and even a potted Christmas tree have all ended up in here. What started life as a holding area for the plants that were to be planted elsewhere in the garden has somehow ended up looking like this……

Just a few years later!

A very happy accident indeed!

Why The Simple Life?

I was recently asked why were we looking to simplify our lives? I think that the person asking the question was looking for a succinct answer – concise and easy to understand – unfortunately all they got was me rambling on.

Which is probably how this post will come across for which I apologise in advance. You see I don’t really think that there is an easy way to explain what we are doing mainly because we are doing it for various reasons.

So why are we doing it?

One of the reasons we are doing it is that by reducing our consumption it allows us to free up our income for other things. By not subscribing to keeping up with the Jones’ we are able to spend our income on the things that matter to us and eventually we hope that this will enable us to reduce the time we spend earning money.

At the moment our short term goal is that it enables us to save for our Son’s higher education, should he wish to study further. With university course fees costing as much as £9,000 per year ( I hate to think how much this will have risen by the time he goes) we want to be able to help him by not having to start his adult life with thousands of pounds worth of debt (and of course if this isn’t the path he wishes to follow we will have a nice safety net for when we finally give up the day jobs).

The long term goal is that by living simply it will allow us to reduce the time we spend earning money. Looking at it at a basic level the more money that we spend equates to the more time we have to spend earning it which means that we spend less time doing the things that we want to.

Simple living is fast become a way of life to us. It isn’t just about getting rid of stuff, decluttering and getting organized, although this certainly helps with simplifying life.  It’s about focusing on our priorities in life and for me living a simple life really does help me recognize the important stuff.

In the past I spent money on stuff thinking that it would make me happy. It didn’t of course because most of what I bought had no real purpose, it was a want rather than a need, put into my head by some clever marketing ploy.

As we have simplified our lives alot of those wants have disappeared. Of course I still want things but those wants have altered, where as once a new handbag may have topped my list now it’s more likely to be something with a purpose such as a new spade or a packet of seeds.

So the next time someone asks us why we are doing all this the answer will be simple – I’ll just tell them to read this post.

Another Busy Weekend……hic!

It was Mr S’s birthday at the weekend and whilst he had decided that he didn’t want us to buy him anything in particular there is a hobby that he has been wanting to try for a while now – cider making.

So as a birthday present from the family he received all the necessary equipment to make his own cider. The first attempt has been made with an apple concentrate kit but it is Mr S’s intention to eventually use our own apples and there is already talk of nettle and beetroot wine!

Work in progress….

Hubble, Bubble……..

40 pints fermenting nicely!

Cider is our tipple of choice so not only is it hobby it also fits in with our self sufficentish lifestyle and hopefully over the summer months and the BBQ season should save us some money (if we can persuade our friends to drink it!). Luckily there is a home brewing shop not for from where we live and so we are able to get all the equipment we need to brew our own locally and cheaply.

Things have progressed in the veggie garden this weekend too. A couple more raised beds have been built and filled with soil which was moved from the orchard to be. The potatoes appear to be growing well and needed earthing up and we have got quite a lot planted – the sweetcorn and french beans have gone in and carrots, salsify, beetroot, peas, courgettes and spring onions sown.

Seven Years On…..

This weekend will be the 7th anniversary of our move here. It’s hard to believe that seven years have passed since we moved from this…….

Big house, small garden

……..to this

Small house, big garden

During this time we have gone from living in this……

……to this

and this……

…became this

Thankfully the seven year itch hasn’t set in yet and so hopefully we will be staying put for some time!

The One Thing A Day Challenge Update

Going, going……gone

Wow, it’s already day 15 of the one thing a day challenge! For those of you who are wondering what on earth the “One Thing A Day Challenge” is you can read about it in the original post here.

I’ve had some great feedback about the challenge over on facebook where I have been posting a photo of each item that is being “disposed” of that day – I’d love to hear if anyone else is trying this challenge and I shall be giving you a full update on day 30!

Plotting and Planning Part 2

As the weather forecast for this weekend was looking good the plan was to make a start with the vegetable garden.

After pondering about what we needed and where everything needed to go we finally came up with a rough plan. The fruit trees and strawberry bed are already in place so we decided to use these as a starting point. After jotting down a list of everything that we wanted to include this was the rough idea of what we were working towards.

Our main considerations for the vegetable garden are:

  • Enough room to grow a good variety of fruit and vegetables. We have opted for a four bed rotation system plus beds for perennial crops (strawberries, asparagus and artichokes). In addition extra beds have been included for salad and seasonal crops.
  • A long bed along the length of the plot against the fence will allow us to grow a variety of soft fruit. We will most likely have to cage/net this at some point .
  • Storage and potting sheds – at present we have an old inherited shed which is used for storage of garden tools etc. This however has been patched and repaired within an inch of its life and it would be better if replaced in this part of the garden.
  • Chickens – The jury is still out here! We would love to keep hens however we also like to travel and I already feel guilty about asking family to call and feed our cat while we are away. The room has been left for a hen-house and large run while we think about this.

So, with this plan in mind on Saturday morning our first job of the day was to take a trip to the local timber yard to pick up the materials for the raised beds. We have opted for raised beds as the soil in this area of the garden is heavy clay. By moving some of the loamy soil where the orchard is to be planted we will have plenty to fill the raised beds and hopefully give our plants a good start.

We opted for 6 x 2 inch untreated timber to make the beds out of. Our previous beds have been made out of 1 inch thick untreated timber and whilst they are still going strong 5 years later by using 2 inch thick timber we hope to get longer still out of these beds.

Whilst clearing the ground we were joined by a few of the locals!

By the end of the day we had made quite a bit of progress however there is still some way to go…..

The jobs still to do are:

Finish the raised beds

Erect a fence to the field side of garden

Level and lay the paths

Build the compost bins

Put down bases for potting shed and storage shed

Build the sheds

Plant and sow the vegetables!

My Top 10 Garden Plants For Children

I’ve always been keen to get the family as a whole involved in gardening, I have fond memories of gardening with my Grandma as a young child and I think that this is where my love of growing things developed. Following on from my post about garden activities for children here’s a list of my top ten plants for a child friendly garden.

1. Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) – This perennial with its fuzzy leaves is a favourite in any child’s garden. Children love to feel the soft silvery leaves.

2. Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) – Butterfly bushes make wonderful small trees in a child’s garden and most children are fascinated by the winged creatures attracted to the plants.

3. Sunflowers  (Helianthus annuus) – These cheery, yellow annuals are fun and easy to grow, see who can grow the tallest!

4. Snapdragons  (Antirrhinum) – They can pick the flowers and make them talk. I remember doing this in my Grandma’s garden as a child.

5. Mint (Mentha) – Children enjoy the smell of different types of mint and rub the leaves between their fingers to release the scent.

6. Thyme (Thymus) – Use this plant between stepping stones. It is tough enough to handle the occasional mis-step.

7. Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum) – The warm spicy aroma smells just like curry.

8. Carrots  – Children like the fluffy tops and enjoy the surprise of finding veggies growing underground – watch out and you might catch a glimpse of  Peter Rabbit!

9. Lavender (Lavandula) – The foliage of these plants is a lovely grey green, but the best part for kids is picking the scented flowering wands.

10. Grass – It smells great when freshly cut and cushions them when they fall over!

Plotting and Planning

The most pressing project to get done at the moment is to build the vegetable garden. We have a patch of land allocated which has been haphazardly used to grow our veggies over the past few years but this year we plan to grow much more and so a well laid out plot is needed.

Welcome to Steptoe’s Yard!

This is the piece of land that we have allocated it measures approx 7.5m x 30m and goes up to the far shed. Over the past few weeks we have cleared the logs and junk and between the frequent rain showers have erected a new fence between us and our neighbours. It now looks something like this,

A little better but still a long way to go

Looking back towards the house

A little better but such a long way to go! At least the fun part starts now – planning our plot and working out what and where everything needs to go.

A Weekend Away

This bank holiday weekend saw us taking a short trip with the caravan to a little site not far from the West Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge.

Hebden Bridge is a lovely place to spend a weekend, a hub of crafts and creativity it is full of independent shops and is situated on the Rochdale Canal and close to the Pennine Way.

Here are some highlights of our weekend.

Walking along the Rochdale Canal we passed some interesting communities living onboard canal boats and making the most of self sufficient living on the banks.

We passed many other families along the way who were also enjoying the canal.

And a trip on a canal boat took us to a lovely pub serving homemade food and real cider.

The next day we visited Hardcastle Crags, a beautiful wooded Pennine valley. After a quick call to the farmers market to buy handmade pasties and puddings for a picnic lunch we set off on our way. Donning our walking boots we explored rivers, rocks and waterfalls.

It was a great opportunity to see creatures in their natural enviroment.

Not only did we have a wonderful weekend it was also a chance to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.