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Tackling The Hoarder Room And Your Monica Cupboard…

February 8, 2020
A picture of my donation pile.  Extra clothes, a toothbrush charger and lots of spare frames.  A hose! and some books.  Tackling The Hoarder Room And Your Monica Cupboard.

In March I will have lived in my flat for four years.  What?! Time has flown and I honestly can’t believe it.  I moved into this one bed having lived in a three bed flatshare, with separate living and kitchen areas.  I ran that flatshare so most of the belongings, including some furniture, came with me.  My new flat has a cupboard in the bedroom that I use for storage.  A luxury in London, but also a space that is really like Monica’s hoarder cupboard from Friends.  Over the past few years I barely went in there.  Occasionally pulling out my suitcase or Christmas decorations, always adding random bits I wasn’t interested in dealing with!  I made an agreement with myself to use the random days between Christmas and the New Year to tackle the hoarder room and Monica cupboard.

Sorting out my closet got me all revved up for more spring cleaning.  My sister had been attempting to sort out her flat for a month or so before I arrived in January.  Her and her husband have a two bed flat and use the second room for his study and her sewing.  However, this past year with the wedding taking up most of the headspace, the second room also became known as the hoarder room.  Piles of stuff was creating a headache for my sister and I volunteered to spend a day with her tackling and sorting.  In the end it took us two days and she was so over the moon with the results.

Have Someone Help You.

You will need a cheerleader, a friend who can keep you motivated as it gets worse before it gets better.  They need to be in charge of the playlist, keep it upbeat and know when to put on some jazz.  All physical lifting should be done by this person.  You will be overloaded with emotions and having them lift the physical weight is incredibly helpful.  Snacks and drinks are their domain as well.  Make sure they know they are in charge of refilling the water glasses and calling the lunch break.

Start With The Visual Clutter.

My sister had her hoarder room and the wardrobe marked as the areas to tackle.  I made her focus on the visual clutter in the room first.  This was what was agitating her the most and could be seen from the front door.  Despite my reasoning we did have a few minutes of conversation as my sister wanted to start with the cupboard.  I understood.  Clearing out the cupboard potentially gave the items in the room somewhere to go.  I argued we didn’t know how much of the room stuff we were keeping.  Why make room in the cupboard just to move the room items and not really deal with them?

Pull Everything Out, Create Your Piles And Act On Them.

Together we pulled everything out of the room allocating it to a space in the lounge room.  Each space was given a final destination. Ebay/gumtree.  Sewing/repairs. Donations.  Trash.  I went for the larger, heavier items, asking where they belonged as we went.  For pieces my sister was unsure of we placed on the dining table for sorting later.  This resulted quickly in approx. 70% of the items allocated and dealt with.  I then sat my sister at the table to start on the rest.  Whilst she was doing this I vacuumed and dusted the hoarder room ready for the return of any items.

Make Time To Finish The Job.

Finishing the job is often the last task that makes this job lag.  We all have had bags of donations sitting by the door or in the car boot for months!  After sorting out my cupboard I realised that none of the charity shops near me were open until the New Year.  So, I too had a pile of items behind my couch that didn’t get moved until late January!

Throughout the first day with my sister I regularly took bags of rubbish down to the bin.  Five in total.  I know some people wait until the end of the day to do this.  For me having these moments to change the pace and see progress helps keep the energy up.  It is quite satisfactory throwing things into the bin and helpful to get outside for some fresh air!

Ensure that your process includes these final steps of getting rid of the items.  Be realistic.  It doesn’t have to be on the day but when would you really have time next?  Spending a few minutes now driving to charity can be really helpful.  My sister was driving me home, so we made the effort to do two trips to load up the car and got rid of all the charity items that night.

If The Job Is Big Be Flexible With Your Time.

When I cleaned out my Monica cupboard I split the time over a couple of days.  This allowed me to stay motivated and ensure I got the job done.  For my sisters flat, we decided to continue the next day instead of going to the beach.  We were honest with ourselves that the likelihood of my sister tackling her sewing pile and getting all the items on ebay anytime soon were slim.  Day two saw us sleep in, put on some music and whilst she repaired and sewed, I listed items on ebay as if my life depended on it!  By mid afternoon we were mostly done and rewarded ourselves with a dip in my parents pool and cuddles with their dog Lizzy.

Say No To Family Donations.

The majority of items we threw away and donated to charity from my sisters’ home were items that had been donated to them from family.  Moving in together and starting their teaching careers resulted in well-meaning relatives gifting lots!  The reality was though that most of these items were not needed, a version was already owned or was obviously a relative trying to feel less guilty of getting rid of some family heirloom that was really junk.  Upon reflection my sister and I were quite frustrated that we spend two days of our lives essentially taking items to charity that others couldn’t emotionally do.  My sister now has a stronger sense to say no to these items or drop them straight to the local charity store on her way home.

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Three Things I Learnt At My Sister’s Wedding…

January 13, 2020
Three Things I Learnt At My Sister's Wedding. A picture of me at the reception with my sister and her new husband.

Celebrating my sister’s wedding this year was lots of fun mixed with lots of stress.  From the moment I touched down in Australia we were go go go!  It was expected and fortunately we had all worked together to make a fantastic day for my sister.  On the day of the wedding there were three things that stood out for me that other blogs and wedding magazines hadn’t covered.  These are three things I’ve learnt about the wedding day.

Friends Providing Services On The Day.

A friend who is a florist, make up artist or cake maker is a dream when they offer their services for the day.  Make sure you sit down with them and have a professional meeting about what you want.  Provide photos, detail expectations and put it in writing as you would with any other wedding supplier.  This helps remove any last minute conversations that are likely as they are your friend and their boundaries are more flexible.  Consider what role you want your friends to play on the day.  If they are distracted having drinks and nibbles are they getting everyone’s makeup done when they should?  Later at the reception is the MC Best Man remembering to start the speeches or chilling with his wife in the corner eating hot chips?

All Suppliers Provide A Written Quote.

I was shocked on the day of my sister’s wedding that two suppliers tried to double their fees after providing their services.  This put everyone in a weird position as someone down the phone claimed they had said something different.  Make sure you put everything in writing to your suppliers even if they don’t so you have something to back with.  Fortunately, both suppliers backed down as my sister was able to refer to her notes and quote back the original conversation.  A stress on the day that wasn’t fun!

The Plan Is The Plan.

Before the big day the couple should agree on timings and stick to these.  Both should delegate someone in their support group to ensure everything runs on time.  No last minute changes to fit in a grooms activity that stresses out the bride. Don’t make her have to have her bag ready earlier as it throws everything off.  Or the sudden appearance of a gift for the bride, badly timed, resulting in her crying after just having her makeup done!  Make a plan, tell the delegate of any surprises and everyone will get to where they are meant to be one time.

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Self Care Vs Real Self Care…

September 23, 2019
A picture of me in my pjs sitting on my couch looking out the window.  I am drinking tea from a mug and a book is open next to me.  Self Care Vs Real Self Care.

I’ve been a little MIA the past month or so as I haven’t felt that inspired to write and I become quite focused on myself.  It has been great to have a break from obligations, sleeping in late, deep cleaning my flat and topping up my tan on the roof!  I’ve been reading across all the corners of the internet, borrowing books from the local library and devouring my magazine subscriptions.  The topic of self-care pops up frequently, where the person notes they have just run a bubble bath or done a face mask and thus ticked the box of self-care.  This has been jarring me, but it took a while to realise why.  Then I realised, this isn’t self-care!

What Is Real Self-Care?

Self-care is packaged to women as spending time on ourselves often to enhance our appearance.  It pushes a capitalist agenda which requires consumption of products to look after ourselves! Alongside the external care google’s suggests self-care with meditation, daily walking and eating a meal mindfully!  For me real self-care is taking control of my life and preparing myself for the week.  When my finances aren’t managed my stress and depression kicks in.  An overstretched social calendar, with little time to reflect, and hibernate disrupts my sleep patterns.  There is no period of time in a bath that can fix my finances and I just get out more stressed then before! Over the past few months I have made sure I practice the following real self-care habits.

I Monitor My Finances Nearly Every Day.

I’ve finetuned my budget over the past few months and every few days I check my bank accounts against what I’ve spent.  This has allowed me to keep up with those little purchases (twirl bars!) and catch out any businesses that have mistakenly withdrawn too much from my account.  Someone recently cloned my card and spent £150 on Kenco coffee.  Even my bank knows I am a hot chocolate only drinker!

In addition, each payday I am forecasting in my budget the months potential social spend.  Allocating money against lunch dates and nights out allows me to understand my true disposable income for unplanned purchases.  If I know that this amount is quite small I am prepared and ration myself to ensure I don’t use my credit cards.  I will be honest, being so on top of my finances is exhausting and frankly boring and I am looking forward to the day where I don’t have to do that!

I’m also researching and understanding finances better.  The information is out there but often women are discouraged to be financially competent.  I now know lots of the tricks of improving my credit rating and how for example reducing your credit card balance penalises you.  I’m also keen to start investing my money next year, taking this time to study the market and understand a whole new language.  I can’t wait to dip my toes into this and locking in my retirement plans.

I Review My Calendar and Social Commitments Every Week.

Each Sunday I review my diary for the week.  I plan when I will rest, do tasks around my flat like laundry and set aside time to read, watch shows and write.  Being prepared and planning even those small admin tasks into my week reduces my stress.  Prior to doing this I would reach the end of the week stressed out and self-critical.  Not keeping up with life admin frustrates me but I also feel pressure as I am the only one who can do it.  Planning for it makes life a lot breezier!

At one stage my social life was incredibly full, and the lack of balance was making me unhappy.  I’d gotten into this habit of saying yes to everything and everyone else but myself.  I have a friend who says yes to everything, but I soon realised that it wasn’t for me.  Upon reflection I also realised I never really had time with that friend that was mine.  They were always thinking about how they were getting to the next event in their diary often booking in three or four catchups/activities each day.  Now I review my diary and see what else is happening that week before I say yes.  If I already have a couple of catch ups I decline and suggest another date.  These two small changes have had the most impact on my real self-care.

I Plan My Food For The Week and Meal Prep.

A year ago, starting my current job, I stopped meal planning and bought lunch every day.  It was lots of fun eating sushi one day, a fancy salad the next or my favourite Japanese curry!  Health wise I fared ok, which was a surprise being all processed food, but my bank balance took a hit.  When I decided to get serious this year about budgeting and sorting my credit card situation food was an area where I could cut back drastically.

I plan all my meals for the week by reviewing what I will eat each Friday.  Plans change so I also check within my cupboards to see what is left and if I really need extra breakfast milk or dinner fish etc. This way when I go to the supermarket sometime over the weekend I only purchase what I need.  I will prep lunches for the week on Sunday, freezing each one and sometimes even making enough for two weeks!  I’ve done the math and I’m spending only a quarter of what I used to one food!

All of this does mean I rarely have lunch out and I do miss that.  There has been the occasional moment I forgot my lunch and spent all morning thinking of what I was going to purchase!  A decision that required lots of care as it was an unexpected treat!  However, having a handle on my food budget and knowing I have money until the end of the month is fantastic self-care for me.

How do you practice real self-care?  PF xo

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Adding Rechargeable Automatic Lights To My Flat – A Review…

July 29, 2019
Rechargeable Automatic Lights To My Flat

Last year I bought a smart plug and loved how I was able to turn on lights at home whilst on the train.  I recently bought two more in the sales and plan to create a sequence where they all turn on welcoming me home!  I am overly excited about this!  Part of the charm is one light that I put on every night is a little in the way.  One of those awkward behind the couch scenarios.  Once it is all set up I will be able to use my phone to switch it on.  Perfect! I want to go one step further and find rechargeable automatic lights for my flat.

If you read my original post about automating my home, you would be aware that whilst I love automation I am not a fan of listening devices like Alexa.  It takes a bit of research to find devices that aren’t listening!  I recently watched The Block, one of my favourite Australia home makeover shows and loved how they used automatic lights in the walk in wardrobes.  Genius!  I’ve only ever seen automatic lights in offices where buildings are trying to cut back on their energy consumption.  This technology is now available to homes and is quite cheap.

Rechargeable Automatic Lights To My Flat

If you want to it is possible to get an electrician to replace light switches with automation panels.  These sense when you are in the room and the lights come on.  My friend’s husband is an electrician and she has these in her bathroom!  I loved the idea of having automated lights in my laundry cupboard.  I often walk in there and use the light from another room, but it isn’t quite enough!  Often I am squinting, or realise half way through hanging out my laundry that I need more light.  During winter I don’t like turning on my main bedroom lights in the morning as they are too bright, but this makes dressing hard!  An automated light in my wardrobe would be fab.

When I started to research stand alone automated lights there seemed to be plenty available.  However, I realised I didn’t want to have battery operated ones.  I don’t like the idea of batteries and how they aren’t reusable.  Have you ever opened up something only to find the lack of use has meant the battery had corroded everywhere?  For me this happens often.  It’s dangerous to touch and also means the tech has been ruined.  In the UK I found one rechargeable automated puck light set.  Perfect!

Rechargeable Automatic Lights To My Flat.

After these automated puck lights arrived I started charging them with their usb cords.  Each one only needed a couple of hours and then turned green.  As I waited I worked out the optimal position with a little placement testing. The best way was to use a wedge of bluetak on the back, pop the light up and then re-enact opening or entering the cupboard.  Once I was happy I stuck the magnet to the wall permanently and like magic was done!  I’ve had them for over a month now and love them.  I still get surprised when I reach into my wardrobe and I can see everything!

What automation technology do you have in your house?  I’d love to get some ideas on what I can do next.  PF xo

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Six Things I Wish I Knew When I Moved To London…

July 22, 2019
Picture of me standing in front of a red english telephone box.  Six Things I Wish I Knew When I Moved To London.

I’ve lived in the UK four times and this current stint has been over eight years!  Often people ask me for tips and I’ve come up with this list that is not the norm.  London is a very busy city.  Often it can feel unfriendly, dirty and able to suck the life from you.  However, if you can get passed there are plenty of fabulous things to do including free art galleries, film premiers and monopoly board pub crawls!

Budgeting and Banking

Unlike Australia I have found the banking system in the UK incredibly slow.  A purchase made on Monday can appear the following Friday in online banking.  This can create a false economy and result in overdrawn fees as you overspend.  I recommend you keep a detailed budget as the £25 per day overdraft fees are legal and painful!

Visas and Citizenship.

Work out what visa you can get and then keep this to yourself.  It is no one’s business but plenty of people will ask you.  I know someone who was very open about her visa and one of her colleagues, who didn’t like her, reported her to HMRC.  She hadn’t done anything wrong, but the onus was on her to prove this.  Incredibly stressful and had she kept it to herself her colleague wouldn’t have had anything to report.

The citizenship application and process takes a minimum of six and a half years, not five.  A lot of articles online will tell you it is five.  Five years is the point where you can apply for the citizenship.  You are first granted indefinite leave to remain and then a year later can apply for citizenship.  It can take six months for your citizenship application to be reviewed or you can pay extra to go to an office and get a same day answer. I did this as my job required travel and I couldn’t be without my passport for six months!

Filter Your Water and Avoid Ready Made Foods.

After reading reports of the levels of toxins in London water I now filter everything I drink.  You can buy water from the supermarket however I’d avoid this due to the environmental cost of plastic bottles.  Ready made foods and servings for one are available in every supermarket.  I got caught out as this convenience is not something offered in Australia.  Be careful as these foods take their tole and it is not unusual to put on a few kgs quickly!

Picture of me standing in front of the london wheel pretending to cup it in my hands.  Six Things I Wish I Knew When I Moved To London.

Bring Some Of Your Own Things And Your Clothes.

At the bare minimum you will hopefully be here for two years.  The style of London will influence you and your tastes will change.  Bring all your clothes as when you return home those precious items you kept will not fit or you won’t love them anymore.  Bringing your own wardrobe is also great to help save money and spend it on theatre tickets and nights out!

Consider bringing a few of your home possessions as well.  Leave the duvet but bring your gorgeous cover.  Leave the picture frames but bring the fabulous prints.  You will be able to quickly make your new room homely and yours with a few familiar possessions from home.

London Is The Consumer Capital Of The World!

I’ve never been hit by more advertising for everything then when I have lived in London.  Every tube station is situated on a high street, where every shop is repeated.  Advertising for new clothes, the latest theatre shows or M&S meal deal hits you as soon as you step out your front door.  Set yourself budgets from the outset for entertainment and food.  If you have spent all your money don’t get the free magazines like Time Out which are going to encourage you to go out more.  Always have some savings because a last-minute ticket home for an unwell relative or a broken boiler can create a massive dent in the budget.

Give Yourself 6 Months To Settle In.

I currently live in my 22nd house and have learnt that it takes at least six months to settle into life in a new city or country.  You will be making new friends, trying to impress in a new job and completing your chores in your flat share!  Life is going to be a little stressful and it is highly likely one of these decisions won’t be right.  Probably the flatshare!  Take it all in your stride and know that it will all settle down in six months.

What do you wish you knew before you moved to London? I’d love to hear all your tips. PF xo

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Six Things I Wish I Knew When I Moved To London...

In Your Defence by Sarah Langford Book Review…

July 8, 2019
Picture is taken of the front over of the book with a string of plants heart next to it.  In Your Defence by Sarah Langford Book Review.

Children and Young Persons Act 1933. Section 50 – Age of criminal responsibility.

It shall be conclusively presumed that no child under the age of ten years can be guilty of any offence.

Sarah Langford’s ‘In Your Defence’, has sat in the best seller stacks of my local bookshop for weeks.  The light blue cover has a modern cartoon image of a barrister’s wig and collar surrounded by positive reviews in bright pink writing.  As part of my goal to pay off my credit card debt I have been borrowing my books from the library.  I’ve worked out how to create a ‘wish list’ on my libraries site and as a book comes to the end I order the next!  It is working out perfect.  It does cost me 50p to do this but that sits well with me having saved £8+ on buying the book.  Plus, I am helping to fund the local library that doesn’t get much council funding.

A UK Barrister with an unconventional path, Langford has written each chapter around a piece of law.  Combining several stories into one we are shown how the law works or in some cases doesn’t.  I was raging with anger reading Ruth’s story as her husband, a career burglar refuses to confirm Ruth’s innocence and subsequently both parents are jailed.  In UK law it is written that wives must know about their husband’s actions are thus just as guilty. 

Theft Act 1968. Section 9 – Burglary.

(1) A person is guilty of burglary if-… (b) having entered any building or part of a building as a trespasser he steals or attempts to steal anything in the building or that part of it or infilcts or attempts to inflict on any person therein any grievious bodily harm.

Each story varies tugging at your sense of right or wrong.  Saba is a Bangladesh immigrant whose husband is violent towards her and she tries to leave.  She has a young child to protect.  Derek is charged with sexual activity in a public lavatory and faces the prospect of his homosexuality being recorded on public record.  His story broke my heart and I hope his accuser regrets deeply their accusations.

I couldn’t read all the chapters especially the one on paedophilia.  Each story starts with the section of law it is referring to allowing you to make the same choice.  Langford writes in personal details including her fee, £125 per case noting that her train fares are often more.  The process of dressing in a wig and collar is detailed including a note about her male colleague who once, uninvited, helped her.  Gross.

Being a set of short stories, I’d recommend this book also to anyone who is trying to read more.  I have found in times of stress I can’t concentrate or remember what I had previously written.  Short stories like Sarah Langford’s ‘In Your Defence’ make it easier to get back into a habit of reading and remove the pressure of remembering a long storyline.  Another great book is this one by Jojo Moyes.  Let me know if you read this book and what you thought in the comments.  PF xo

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Pin this image to your pinterest board.  In Your Defence by Sarah Langford Book Review.