Things that have gone – 20

My decluttering continues in the background. I have sold and given away a few more things.

  1. Vintage skirt
  2. Vintage dress
  3. Free gift from Boots
  4. Clothes rail (Yes, I’ve managed to downsize my clothing that much that I can let go of my additional clothing rail!)
  5. Handheld vacuum cleaner (thought it was worth a try on Freecycle, but was not powerful enough to bother with)
  6. Cardboard boxes
  7. Sewing thread case
  8. Old pram mattress

I’ve also cleared out a storage box and an old lampshade, that if no-none wants on Freecycle – will go to the charity shop.

Stay tuned for my next update!

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How to Upcycle Old Kitchen Cabinets For Any Room

We just pulled some really old, 1970s kitchen cabinets from our garage. They had probably been the original kitchen in our house, but were then relegated to garage storage about 15 years ago. As you can see, they were dark wood formica, square and simple type of design. Unfortunately because they’d been in the garage, they’d become stained, chipped and the laminate was peeling. Despite all of this, I decided they were probably salvageable.

I peeled off the peeling layers of laminate and underneath I found 40 year old, decaying and yellowing glue. This had to be cleaned off, if I had any chance of saving these from landfill. Cream cleaner didn’t shift it, so it ended up being a tough job with a Stanley blade scraper. Even then, they didn’t come up clean and I knew I wouldn’t be able to paint over that combination of laminate and old glue successful.

Cue- Fablon! Remember that sticky-backed plastic from Blue Peter, that seemed to be in every make?! Well, it turned out to be a fabulous, cheap fix for my vintage cupboard. I bought 1 roll of white wood effect and 2 rolls of this beautiful, contour rose, pink lace patterned for the inside. It definitely sticks better to the smooth laminate surface, but it’s done a good enough job at sticking over the rough gluey surface and making the cupboard look passable again. Just make sure that you measure twice and cut once! I also purchased a Coral smoothing tool and it was definitely worthwhile. It can also be used to smooth wallpaper, should I ever get around to anymore decorating.

As you’ll notice, I removed the doors and discarded them – I wanted that modern, open shelving look. These may not be perfect, but I was looking for good enough. Plus, you’re not going to see much of them, once they’re up and filled with books and knick-knacks. I have 2 more kicking about in the garage and I’m very tempted to upcycle the rest. After all, I’ve only had to pay for the Fablon, approx £20 and new cupboards would have been a hell of a lot more.

After this success, I can see myself attempting a whole range of projects with Fablon. It gives a really professional finish, if you take the time to do good preparation. It has utterly transformed this cabinet and I can see myself doing simple tasks too, like covering books or other pieces of furniture to match.

Over to you – have you ever tried Fablon? There are a huge range of colours and patterns available.

Zero Waste Cleaning Fails

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I recently mentioned that I was having little success cleaning my toilet with natural products, like soda crystals and citric acid. I did give up, I just could not remove all the limescale with citric acid and it was building up way faster than when I use a chemical cleaner. I think this was also the reason the toilet was smelling bad because nasty compounds clinged to to the limescale – gross! We do live in a very hard water area, which may be why this was presenting such a problem. It would have cost me an absolute fortune to continue to clean this way, as I was needing to buy new products every fortnight at the cost of £2.50 – such was the volume of product I needed to use to even get the toilet partly clean! Now, I can buy a chemical toilet cleaner for £1 and it lasts for a couple of months. I continue to use my natural disinfecting spray on the outside. This is the best I can do, although I have just purchased an eco toilet cleaner from Waitrose to see how it goes. I was totally unimpressed with Ecover’s offering, so we will see.

I recently used up my ceramic hob cleaner, so I thought I’d give natural alternatives a go. I tried using bicarb but it was difficult to use, hard to mix and hard to remove and it couldn’t tackle grease on the hob. I tried using vinegar, as I hoped the acid might break down the grease but it failed to shift it either. So, sorry to the planet but I am going back to my Hob Bright if soda crystals also fail me.

I don’t mind using natural methods, IF they work. But what is the point if they don’t?! I’m sorry but I’m not going to have a dirty home in the name of being zero waste. Homemade dishwasher tablets were another massive disaster!

All this said, I have great success with natural disinfectant, citric acid to descale the kettle, soda crystals to clean the oven and vinegar to clean glass. Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Where am I going wrong?

Zero-waste, Eco, Plastic-Free & Cheap Cleaning Products!

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Today I’m going to share with you my Zero-Waste (almost!), eco, cheap and as plastic free as possible cleaning products! What a mouthful. Well, Zero Waste is almost never straightforward is it?

I am trying to find alternatives to all my normal, toxic cleaning products. I’ll admit I’ve had mixed success thus far, but these are my staple products, along with a bottle of Basics Vodka (around £10), a 5L bottle of white vinegar from Makro (cheapest place I can find it £2-£3) and a bottle of tea tree oil (approx 99p from my local pharmacy). I’ll list where I find them cheapest and compared to your ‘normal’ cleaning products, these tend to work out much cheaper. Dri-Pak make all the products you need and they also make them under Wilko’s own brand;

  1. Soda crystals (unfortunately packaged in plastic and they’re not prepared to change this. I’ve tried asking many times!) (65p a bag in Home Bargains)
  2. Bicarbonate of Soda (£1 per box in Savers)
  3. Borax Substitute (£1.79 a box in Robert Dyas)
  4. Citric Acid (£1.29 a box in Home Bargains, £1.50 a box in Wilko)
  5. Liquid Soda Crystals (£1 a bottle in Wilko)
  6. Liquid Soap Flakes (not pictured) £2.50 a bottle in Wilko)
  7. Liquid Bicarb (I can’t find this anywhere, or persuade them to stock it but it is available on places like Amazon and eBay at a price because of the weight of shipping). I’d love to try it as an alternative to Cif, as I find just sprinkling the powder about is not so convenient.
  8. White Vinegar (Wilko sell a spray bottle but I prefer to buy in bulk for much greater savings and decant into my own spray bottle.

If you can’t find them in the places above, then see if you have a local, independent hardware store. I have no problem locating them there, but they do cost a bit more. But then you are supporting a local business.

I will post some ‘recipes’ in some future posts, but I make my own disinfectant spray for cleaning the toilets and it works really well. We’ve been using it for the longest, over 1 year now and we’ve never gotten sick. I think it’s really effective and it’s great knowing it’s non-toxic. It’s made from white vinegar, vodka and a few drops of tea tree oil along with some cooled, boiled water. I also use it to keep cat litter trays clean. You do need a little more patience than with regular disinfectant, as you need to let it sit for 10 minutes to get to work. I just tackle another cleaning task whilst I wait.

I use soda crystals to keep my drains clear. Each week I pour a quantity into the plug hole and flush down with a kettle of boiling water. Maintenance is the key here, so do it regularly to avoid a big blockage. They are also great for softening water and I use a tablespoon in every wash which makes my laundry powder go MUCH further. You can read about this here.

I use liquid soda crystals with a metal scourer to keep my oven clean. I have posted about this before here, if you want to see the detail. I clean all mirrors and glass with white vinegar. I tried using newspaper but it made a terrible mess, so I am sticking with my microfibre cloths at the moment, though I know they are probably shedding plastic microfibres into the water system. They are AMAZING for keeping my shower free of limescale, without the need for chemicals. Read more here.

I have recently tried making my own dishwasher detergent powder from bicarbonate of soda and borax substitute. It might be plastic free, but it’s as ineffective as Sainsbury’s own brand. Sorry, but I’m going back to plastic wrapped tablets again.

I use liquid soap flakes for delicate, hand wash laundry items and I love it because it’s fragrance free. I don’t think I could afford to use it for all my washing as it’s not concentrated and I hate that it comes in plastic containers. I’d rather buy my laundry powder which comes in a cardboard box! You can also use them as a liquid hand wash.

Each week, I descale my kettle (we live in a very hard water area) with citric acid. I also do the same to the toilets once a month. I highly recommend it, it’s super-easy and the instructions are on the side of the box.

Finally, I’ve also been experimenting with cleaning the inside of the toilet bowl with bicarb and vinegar. I’ve also tried spraying in liquid soda crystals. I’m not currently convinced of their efficacy and the cost because of the amount you need to use, what with the limescale here etc seems prohibitive to me. I’m going to persevere a little longer, but I have a feeling I’m going back to a chemical cleaner in a plastic container – simply because they are around £1 a bottle, last for ages and tackle cleanliness, freshness and limescale in one hit and much more quickly than homemade remedies.

I’d recommend reading the Dri-Pak website, for lots of tips and tricks. Also check out Youtube if you need instructional videos. Do you have any tips for natural cleaning remedies that work? Do get in touch – I’d love to share the knowledge 🙂

The Truth about Frugalwoods and other US ‘Financial Independence’ Blogs

If you are like me, you read a number of financial independence blogs for inspiration. I admit to reading the occasional bit of Frugalwoods or Mr Money Mustache. However, the more I have read the more I have pondered whether these US blogs can bear any relevance to UK readers hoping to achieve financial independence? Today, I hope to uncover more of the truth about this for my UK readers. This is as much to put my mind at rest, as yours.

Frugalwoods say that they own a large detached homestead with land in excess of 20 acres. The only equivalent I could see here in the UK is buying a VERY large country property or ex-farm, with a lot of land. I’ll plump for the farm option, as they state they have outbuildings (from their photos it is a very large barn, the size of 2-3 massive houses here in the UK), as well as woods and more. From their photos, I would estimate the main residence to be twice the size of a large UK house, although that is not unusual by US-standards. Actually here is their run down:

Frugalwoods Homestead Specs:

  • 66 acres of primarily wooded land in central Vermont, 35 minutes from Hanover, New Hampshire (where Dartmouth College and every attribute of the ‘big city’ are located)
  • A 4 bed, 2.5 bath, 2,300 square foot house, built in 1991, with two woodstoves
  • An 1,800 square foot barn/shop with a woodstove
  • One pond
  • Many streams
  • Countless apple trees, several plum trees, and a forest of sugar maples
  • Two acres of cleared “yard” with extensive garden beds

They paid $389,000 for their homestead which equates to £300,000. So now you start to see how these US financial independence blogs are laughable here in the UK. I mean, no-one but a multi-millionaire would own a piece of property that large over here! And you’d be lucky to get a normal 3-bedroom, semi-detached house where I live, on a tiny plot of land. I doubt that would even buy you a studio flat in London. They would have put around £97,000 down as a deposit.

They also have a rental property in a US City, which they paid $466,500 for and that equates to approx £360,000. They only put a £50,000 deposit down on it. So, now we’re looking at that owning around £660,000 of property but none of it is fully paid for. They have 30-year mortgages (the norm is 25 years here in the UK). They are in their mid-thirties, so they’re looking at carrying that debt until they are 75. I wouldn’t want that noose around my neck until well into retirement!

You can read the reality is then that they worked solidly from University to their mid-thirties to be able to put £147,000 cash on houses. I’m not knocking that, but I expect most people in the UK would be able to sock that away as a deposit too, if they had the luxury of a well-paid job. 20 years of  2 people working full-time and saving 65% of their income, means they were only saving £7,350 a year. That’s as little as £3,675 per person. Undoubtedly achievable here, if not more- it’s just that you would never be able to buy a home or retire on that here!

The truth is that both of these properties still belong to the bank and they’re only a few years into the mortgages on each. If anything happened to prevent them from keeping up payments, they could lose both in a very short period. For example, if they couldn’t get tenants for their city house – one wonders if they would be able to cover the mortgage? They also only keep around 6 months worth of liquid cash which is a very small amount. The rest of their ‘net worth’ they have ploughed into stocks and shares. Whilst it is all very nice to base your ‘net worth’ on what the current selling price of the shares is, it’s all pie in the sky really. In 10 years the value of what they have put away could halve or worse. They are basing their ‘net worth’ on a projected rate of return of 7%, but the reality again is that if anything happened to the stock market (which I think is very likely given the volatility of world markets lately) they could lose a significant proportion of their money or the whole lot! They won’t even have the properties they live in to sell because they don’t own them. I bet you would then find they have stopped blogging and had to go back to work. Probably renting somewhere and lamenting their former choices, except they wouldn’t blog about that!

In actual fact, I think they are quite dangerous examples of how to live. Unless you like an extreme level of risk. I wrote this because I don’t want UK people to compare themselves to some unrealistic ideal. Unless you are planning to move to America, then you’d better expect to be working the rest of your life to pay off a small piece of modest UK property. I don’t think anyone lives under the illusion of early retirement here anymore! The best you used to hope for was retiring at 50, but certainly not 35!!!! You are better to pay off your mortgage before making too many other investments so that at least you have something solid that you own. I think it’s safer to pay into a pension, than invest all your money into stocks and shares.

If you want to read the RIDICULOUS nitty gritty about their finances –then click here – Mr ‘Frugalwoods’ earns £100K more than the UK prime minister! So frugal my arse!!!

How to clean your oven a more natural way

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Today, we’re taking a short break from discussing survey sites to talk about cleaning your oven! We’re going to cover how to clean it in a more environmentally friendly and less toxic way, saving yourself a heap of money. Not to mention saving you and your family’s health by not spraying around toxic fumes.

I used to try and clean my oven with toxic chemical cleaners. Not only are they expensive, but they never delivered what they promised! They were just another bottle to clutter up under the sink. Now I just use Dri Pak Soda Crystals which are non-toxic, natural and very cheap. I simply fill my bath with hot water, add about 1/4 packet of soda crystals and leave all my oven racks to soak for about 10 minutes. Then I use a couple of soap filled pads, like these Brillo pads and the grease and grime comes away easily. You can see in the picture, it almost instantly gets to work. In about half an hour, I can have my oven looking like new and sparkling clean for about 20p! The only catch is, then I have to clean the bath! lol I think that’s a small price to pay.

Minimalism in Pictures- Our House

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I love reading other people’s blog posts where they show pictures of their house. It’s then I think I can really see minimalism in action and think about changes I might make. Well, here is our house! After about 18 months of minimising, I am finally happy to take pictures. I couldn’t really show you before and after pictures as we’ve only lived here 8 months, so it would be kinda hard to tell!

Anyhow, I think you can really see that most superfluous items have now gone. I’m not saying we’ve arrived, I don’t think minimalism is a destination- it’s a journey. I can still see areas where I want to clear the surfaces and I know I’ve got a hidden stash of stuff to be car booted- just waiting for the next car boot!

Essentially minimalism is about having the basics, the stuff you actually need and getting rid of the rest that only serves to distract. Well I truly feel I’ve arrived at the point at which I can testify to the benefits of minimalism. Now I am able to focus on tasks that I want to achieve because I have the space to be able to do so and less to stop me from getting there. I spend less time on managing the distractions- whether that’s cleaning, repairing or just feeling guilty about projects started but not finished etc. I feel free, even my husband agrees that the house feels healthier, flows better and feels like we can ‘breathe’. I believe that clutter stifles creativity and that could be enough to distract you from your true purpose in life. I hope in future posts to write about the things we have begun to achieve. Whether it’s a craft project, something musical, baking or just writing a letter or diary entry.

Life is simpler when you have JUST what you need. I look at advertising differently now, it annoys me because it is so stupid and I just don’t fall for their tricks (not that I ever did that much before, but I am seeing it in a whole new light since minimising). I am more considerate about each and every purchase I bring into my home, from looking at its packaging, to whether we really need it and it’s long-term ownership costs (like repair and disposal). This applies not only to larger purchases, but small things like food too.

Anyway, I’ve touched on lots of things here, some of which I hope to come back to in future posts.

Thanks for journeying with me!