Yourself vs your stuff

Finding yourself under all the clutter.

Source: Yourself vs your stuff

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Unburying the Self

What we’ve not been doing… …is buying stuff. Reducing what we buy. Of course the odd thing has slipped through the net and as Christmas approaches this has increased. But we no lo…

Source: Unburying the Self

Unburying the Self

What we’ve not been doing…

…is buying stuff. Reducing what we buy. Of course the odd thing has slipped through the net and as Christmas approaches this has increased. But we no longer by what we don’t need, what we won’t use, what we won’t love.

What we have been doing is clearing out, de-cluttering, moving things on. Creating space we desperately need and no longer willing to give it up to items that just clog up our time and home.

I started to feel saturated with stuff a couple of years ago when, in anticipation of our third baby’s imminent arrival, I wondered where I would cradle our new daughter. I was overwhelmed by the piles of miscellaneous objects that covered almost every surface and filled every single space. I was always tidying and never feeling the place was tidy.

We’d moved as a family with a toddler and baby from a 3-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom cottage, added another child into the mix and collected (see ‘hoarded’) a whole load of stuff along the way. We were at bursting point.

Enter KonMarie. Or Marie Kondo. Or rather her book, The The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (you may have heard of it). Suddenly, there was my answer and I felt rather foolish for not having seen it before. Instead of trying to build an extension we couldn’t afford, we just needed to get rid of all our stuff. Instead of insisting our old, beautiful furniture wasn’t suitable storage for 21st C life I could fit everything we need in and just get rid of the rest. it was so simple. I felt elated when I announced this epiphany to my husband who was, understandably, less enthusiastic. But buoyed along by this new sense of freedom I began to slowly remove much of my unwanted belongings. Only mine. I didn’t do it strictly as Marie Kondo recommends, spare time is brief with 3 kids. But gradually….

Then finally, out of sheer frustration at not being able to find yet another important thing, my husband gave in. He took the kids away to his parents for a week and for that whole week I removed as much unwanted, unused, unloved stuff out of the cottage as I could find. Six car loads. CAR loads. Not the boot or a couple of boxes on the back seat. This was a seven-seater with the back seats folded down. Full. Five went to charity shops, one went to the recycling centre. I felt ashamed that there had been a car load of broken, un-usable junk in the house.

I declared myself a minimalist. A label I would have once laughed at, thinking the art of minimalism was cold, stark, bare and not for me.

But minimalism looks differently for everyone. There are those who aspire to live with barely any possessions, those who own a magic number of items, those who desire to live without. For me, it is less about living without and more about discovering what I need, what we need, to live. Each persons list will look differently.

Imagine, realising that my minimalism is all the rage. That I can buy as many books as I want about it (I limited myself to two), that dressing my minimalism with wool blankets, sheepskins, replacing plastic kitchen utensils with wood, replacing mass-produced crockery with handmade. Turning out the lights in favour of candlelight (the children love eating by candlelight at our new dining table, built by my husband). Favouring reading books over watching TV. I am Hygge minimalist. I am in danger of becoming a cliché.

But removing the things we don’t, need, use, love and giving space to things we do need, use and love makes our home what it is. The same with time. Removing the unnecessary journeys (buying less stuff means fewer trips to the shops needed), moving appointments, saying no means we can say yes. Yes to coffee with friends, yes to a yoga class, yes to a walk with the children as the promise of WInter kisses their cheeks to a blush red.

Yes to living.

I’m not going to tell you how you should be living, that you should be a minimalist, that eliminating and reducing will give you more.

But I will tell you how we do it, what it looks like and what we achieve. We still have a long way to go. Step by step as we finish the cottage room by room. For now,while we still live in a renovation chaos slowly being tamed,  our Hygge, our cottage this Winter looks like this…… 14611051_10211574452975782_6876877536433065054_n

…pull up a chair, read our story, join us if you wish.

Keeping it local, keeping us warm.

photo (1)It’s been a busy time at the cottage. The Winter storms have passed and we have emerged unscathed, daffodils have burst through surviving the strong winds and renegade sheep.

Our new bathroom suite was delivered in the middle of Storm Henry. The delivery lorry slipping on the mud and the offloaded pallet swayed menacingly until we unloaded it, item by item, carrying each piece down from the gate to the house. Then the bath, filled with smaller items, sat in our kitchen for 2 months. Maybe it was more. I’m not sure, I got used to it being there. It was finally moved into the bathroom 2 nights ago. After the old, crumbling mortar had been removed and new mortar had been swept on to the stones by hand. After the walls were painted. After the new ceiling was put up. After the partition wall had been rebuilt. Work happens slowly here, fitted in between meals and laundry. Inbetween nappy changes and during naps. In between and during the endless questions, requests, squabbles. We plod along, and slowly but eventually things get ticked off the list. Suddenly the room looks different. Almost finished. Almost, but not quite. The bath may be in situ, but it isn’t yet plumbed in.

Aside from the bathroom, the 2 new fires have been installed. Thankfully, they were installed for us and we could stand around with steaming mugs of coffee (well, I did.) and watch when first, the new woodburner for the kitchen inglenook went in without problem and then the second, tiny woodburner for the snug took 2 days to install.

Our kitchen inglenook is a giant stone masterpiece of ancient engineering. It’s high enough that,  at 5’9″, I can stand up in it. It’s the wow factor to anyone coming in through the front door and I haven’t even finished painting in it yet. Our snug fireplace on the other hand is tiny at just over 3ft high and not quite 2ft wide. For years it lay hidden behind 4″ of concrete that had been applied to ‘smooth’ out the wall. We’re not even sure the previous inhabitants knew it was there.  When we were buying the cottage and had arranged to meet a conservation officer here, we had been assured that the chimney on the gable end was a false one, ‘purely aesthetical’. I didn’t believe him. This is an ancient vernacular home, visual aesthetics weren’t at the forefront of the mind of those who built it. Turned out he was wrong.

The snug is the smallest room in the cottage besides the bathroom. It’s about 7’X10′ and it contains our tv, sofa and our old oak coffer that hides our dvds and cds. So the tiny fireplace is in perfect proportion and it took us a long time to find a tiny fire to fit. Then we found the Chilli Penguin guys. This company make their fires in Nefyn, on the Llyn Peninsula, just half an hour away from us. Now, I’ll admit, they aren’t the cheapest, but you get what you pay for when it comes to fires. we found their Chilli Billie fire was the right size for the snug.

photo 2
Chiili Bille; it goes like a rocket!

I was a bit concerned it was only a 2.5/3kw fire. We’d previously had a cheap 4kw one and virtually had to sit on it to feel the heat. But I needn’t have worried, the snug easily reaches temperatures of 38c (100f) and we have to retreat into the kitchen.

 

It’s not much cooler in the kitchen. The 8kw ’88’ Penguin has replaced our cheaper 10kw Viki and kicks out about 4 times more heat! We love the big window that lets us watch the flames dance about and the little oven above will keep us fed in the event of a powercut.

photo 1
The ’88’. Powerful and understated.

The added bonus is that each fire comes with a Penguin motif. Who doesn’t love penguins? We certainly love ours and I doubt the cottage has ever been so warm!

Of course, it will be even warmer when we’ve finished putting insulation and ceilings up. All our ceilings (with the exception of the snug that sits below the crog loft) reach up the the apex of the roof. The kitchen and one bedroom feature A-frames and there are beams in every room. Some look older than others. We thought about what we wanted for a very long time. The obvious option is to go with plaster board and have it skimmed. Giving a perfectly smooth finish. Which is fine in houses where ‘perfectly smooth’ wouldn’t look out of place. Eventually we decided wood planks would look nice. Rustic, warm and we could do it ourselves.

We could have bought pre prepared packs from a nationwide DIY store but it would have cost over £5,000 to do all the ceilings. We looked at products at the local builders merchant and the price came down to £2,000. Then we went to the local sawmill. We told them what we wanted and they gave us a price of just over £800. We had to wait a few weeks longer as our ceiling planks were still trees at that point. But they cut the Spruce, milled it and delivered it for less than a 5th of the prepacked stuff. Sure, that probably comes from a sustainable forest somewhere in Europe, but ours has come from a sustainable forestry just 15 miles away.

Something that I did decide to spend on was new duvets for all of us. I couldn’t decide between staying with synthetic ones or going for goose down. During my online search I stumbled across the concept of wool duvets. This was a whole new thing to me (although it turned out my sister had discovered them a while ago). I investigated a bit further and baulked at the cost of them. I don’t mind paying for quality but I don’t want to have to remortgage. I was just about to give up on the idea when I found Baavet and their ‘Bargain Box’. Wool duvets don’t have tog rating instead it goes on the weight of fleece per metre. Some of the duvets were a bit underweight (eg, a winter duvet being slightly underweight but not as light as a summer one), some just had a mark on it that wouldn’t be seen under a duvet cover. When they arrived I had the smug warm feeling of having found a bargain quality product that was produced and made in my own county!

It pays to stay local, not just financially. It makes you feel warm as well 😉

 

 

Take the power back?

I have no words of wisdom to impress on you for the New Year. Most likely you are already being the change you want to see. Or aiming for it. Or dreaming of it. And that’s something.

So I thought I would share this with you. Inspirational and extreme, it might not be for everyone, but it might just make you look at the way you live and spend. Inspire you to make that small change.

As the shops and malls fill up with people rushing to fill their homes with items they never knew they needed or wanted until the price had 70% off, I just wanted to introduce you to this guy and his lifestyle that seems so extreme in this modern world but is so close to how we used to live. Money has alienated us ever further from our the planet we inhabit, that we seem to only know how to exploit and pollute. The concept of coins and paper being the route to aqcuire all the objects of our desire seems so abstract and yet it is our everyday norm. When once we all had and made our own shelters, grew and hunted our own food, ignited our own fires, we now have to spend most our lives in places we don’t always want to be, to be rewarded with money to pay for our shelters, our food and our warmth.

If money is the foundation for all things powerful, then how come giving it up and removing the need for it seems to take the power back…?

Happy New Year.

The man who lives without money.