Get rid of ANOTHER half of our possessions

Regular readers may recall that I have already done this once. So now we are getting down to some tougher decision making. Everything that remains has already survived one drastic cull!

But, as homelessness looms, we have to judge what we really value enough to cart round to storage, keep there for months, and then cart elsewhere and unpack again. Anything that we neither like nor use nor value for sentimental reasons, has already gone. Now we are looking at things we can profit from selling, things too heavy to move, things we can really do without, things that are specific to the home we are in, things we don’t absolutely love.

So, all the sofas are sold, one dining table, several bikes, all manner of cheap and unattractive storage items. The fridge freezer, the washing machine. Chests of drawers, dining chairs, boxes and boxes of books, kids toys, spare curtains from previous houses … Anything that might be useful ‘one day’ we have decided we will ditch and buy again if we ever need to. We do not need to fill our lives and space with contingency items. The weight of owning all this crap is itself oppressive. Shoes for the children to ‘grow into’. Shoes that I might one day wear again, but haven’t worn for years. Clothing that might be useful, in certain scenarios that will probably never arise. Outdated electronic apparatus that we spent too much on but is now obsolete. All gone.

At the end of it all, Ebay has been the main winner. Them, and the pikey community of Blunsdon who ransacked my car boot sale for little more than pence. But overall we are up several hundred pounds, and our skeleton possessions are stored in 2 cars and a friend’s spare room. I am not sure whether to be embarrassed or proud that everything I own can fit into a room she doesn’t even need to use.

The children have been stoic in the face of downsizing. Rosie ran in one day with her drawing paper and pens in hand – ‘Mummy Mummy! Where is the table!?’ I had to confess it was gone. She lay on the floor with her colouring book and got on with it. Eva went to get the milk from the fridge… and found the fridge no longer there. She located the milk in the coolbag and had her breakfast on the floor. As the sofas reduced in number, they all squashed up on one… when that went they sat on camping chairs to watch TV. Then the floor. When the TV went, they played on the trampoline. The trampoline went, and they hunted for caterpillars. There is always something. Caitlin has struggled a little with the absence of her more treasured possession. ‘Mummy, where is my Miaow Cat? You have sold it Mummy, I know you have!!’ (Actually I really haven’t. The miaow cat is genuinely lost, but nothing will persuade her of my innocence in the matter.)

It has been a liberating exercise, though we still feel we have too much. And it is also kind of depressing. I am disgusted at the amount of ‘stuff’ we have amassed in the last 20 years, and how little any of it is really worth, to me or anyone. The car boot was a miserable display of the detritus of modern life, crap that people have bought to make themselves or their children happy, which is offered, for a few pence, to anyone who wishes to take it into their lives, where again, it may make someone smile for five minutes, before becoming oppressive tat that weighs us down, gets in the way, and distracts us from anything of real worth or meaning in our lives. Down with ‘stuff’!

What a terrible load of arse. Let’s never go shopping again.

Eating all the food in the house

The challenge is done, and the cupboards are bare. We have had some highs and lows!

All the usual favourites were gone in a handful of days. The children began to feel the lack. No pain au chocolats for breakfast. No more crunchy cereal. No ‘proper’ toast. No pitta breads left for the packed lunches. No more chicken nuggets, or bolognaise.

Breakfast was not a disaster for some time. We still had porridge (with sugar or syrup, once the honey was gone), and Weetabix. Even after all the favourites are gone, these 2 are acceptable alternatives.

Lunches were more challenging. They quickly deteriorated to a mix of dry bread, buttered crackers, and hunks of cheese. But we still had fruit. And the box of chocolate treats will outlast all our other supplies, so the lunches can end on a happy note, even if the main content is bleak.

Dinners have been the difficult time. A bag of rotting carrots was salvaged and souped, with lentils. A sack of frozen bread rolls converted into croutons. A disappointing risotto was fashioned from nothing but rice and frozen prawns. A strange Catalan fish curry with some frozen Pollock and more prawns (An enormous value-pack of prawns has haunted us for some time, you see). My tuna and olive pasta sauce was a surprising hit with the children, once they finally tasted it (after they had stared at it miserably for 40 minutes and eventually realised it was not going anywhere). All the beans in the cupboard created a flatulence-enhancing casserole. Then school requested donations for the local foodbank, and that pretty much cleaned us out of tinned produce!

My parents came for dinner, and I almost cracked, but realised I could make pastry and therefore a quiche with the last of the eggs and a lump of blue cheese that was in truth a little past its best. Quite remarkable hospitality!

A christmas pudding was a surprising choice for June, but it was taking up valuable cupboard space. (It didn’t seem right to give it to the foodbank!)

Once we were down to a sack of rice and a shelfful of spices, I declared the experiment done. No one was malnourished, and we have found a few more dishes and combinations that are acceptable to the small people.

But most triumphantly, I avoided the supermarket for nearly a month. I have just been again, and proved my theory that simply crossing the threshold of Tesco is enough to relieve me of £100. I don’t think I have ever escaped for less!

#21: Get rid of half my possessions

This has been the work of several weeks now. Whenever I trip over something, or am irritated by it, I bin it. Anything the children fail to tidy away, disappears. That rule was intended to enforce discipline – it hasn’t worked, but there is much less stuff!

I have been through every room, grouping items to sell, to give to charity shop, textile collections, recycling and the bin. It is extraordinary how much stuff we possess that adds nothing to our lives.

Sofas and tables and dressers and drawers and slides and climbing frames have all been sold. 6 bin liners filled with textiles, old clothes, curtains, and duvet covers that we never use. At least 3 boot loads of toys to the Salvation Army. Anything that doesn’t fulfil an actual current purpose in the home has to go. (Apart from a couple of boxes of photo albums and childhood letters. I figure I have hung onto them this long for a reason.)

A couple of points are interesting – one is how little any of it is actually missed. The children have lost at least half their toys: all the plastic paraphernalia that we have surrounded ourselves with for the last 3 years. They have barely even noticed. A lip wobbled when an ebayer made off with the doll’s house, but it was forgotten in minutes and hasn’t been mentioned since. In any case they spend most of their time pretending to be cats, or princesses, or magical unicorns, without any need for props. I could have cleared out years ago! I am not missing half my wardrobe, nor the various items (vases, jugs, candle holders, wicker baskets…) left over from an earlier stage of life when I bought things just because I liked them, rather than to use them as a matter of urgency.

The second is just how much actual refuse we have been sharing our living space with. There is a fine line between kids’ art and household waste, and we have definitely been on the wrong side of it. Models made of some sort of dough found rotting in cupboards. Rockets made out of empty cardboard boxes and other recyclables. A vast stash of chocolate coin wrappers discovered in a jewellery box. Disgusting!

Memo to self: declutter often, and ruthlessly. (And check more regularly behind radiators for hidden soiled pants. Nuff said.)

#1: Start a blog

I have set myself a challenge: for 100 days I will do something every day that pushes me out of my comfort zone… hopefully completing the full 100 before I turn 40.

I have consulted friends far and wide, resulting in the following list of challenges.  It is a work in progress so I reserve the right to change them as the attempt goes on…   New suggestions or challenges are always very welcome!

I’ll aim to blog about each as I go; post some photos; and, if my technical abilities permit, I will include the facility for folk to comment and tell me what you want more of.   But for now, here’s the list:

  1. Start a blog
  2. Put the children in charge for a day
  3. Try Zumba
  4. Cycle through floods
  5. Make a Battenberg cake
  6. Interact on social media for 3 hours.  (Not just snoop! Interact!)
  7. Cook a pig’s head
  8. Change a tyre on the car and learn to adjust the tyre pressure
  9. Introduce myself to the neighbours
  10. Join an expensive gym/health spa
  11. Go to a meditation class
  12. Pack the car for holiday entirely by myself
  13. Stay in bed for an entire day
  14. Have a drastic haircut
  15. Go rowing
  16. Build something
  17. Go to a posh restaurant and eat on my own
  18. Watch a horror film
  19. Strike up conversation with a stranger in a pub
  20. Do a mountain bike race
  21. Invite someone to dinner I don’t know very well
  22. Tantra workshop
  23. Go wild swimming
  24. Do an aerobics class
  25. Look after chickens
  26. Sing karaoke
  27. Do belly dancing (or pole dancing)
  28. Water-ski
  29. Write to 10 people and tell them what I love about them
  30. Stand up/open mic ??
  31. Sky dive??
  32. Do something generous and unexpected for someone else
  33. Ride Cow/help birth calf
  34. Learn to ride a unicycle
  35. Learn some kind of useful plumbing task
  36. Put up our roof rack and bicycles without help
  37. Take someone old and lonely a meal
  38. Have a Brazilian
  39. Ski a black run
  40. Drink a yard of ale
  41. Spend a day dressed as Bananaman
  42. Speak in a public place (speakers corner type thing)
  43. Learn to Eskimo roll
  44. Salsa/tango
  45. Volunteer to help at school
  46. Apply to be on a TV game show
  47. Knit a pair of socks
  48. Write a short story
  49. Make a Baked Alaska (for guests)
  50. Have a conversation in another language
  51. Dance all night in a club
  52. Abseil
  53. Sleep rough
  54. Learn a random new language
  55. Eat something alive!
  56. Try Tai chi
  57. Write a letter to The Times
  58. Publish a poem on the internet
  59. Potter a cup or plate
  60. Do a jump on a mountain bike
  61. Make some jewellery
  62. Paint a picture
  63. 24 hours juice-only fast
  64. Visit an abattoir
  65. Do ALL my filing
  66. Get rid of 1/2 of my possessions
  67. Give a significant amount of money to charity
  68. Drive through a city on my own without sat nav
  69. Drive across Europe at night
  70. Charge an eye watering fee for some work
  71. Get a tattoo
  72. Hire a personal shopper
  73. Take the children to a roller disco
  74. Busk/sing in public
  75. Be silent for a day
  76. Stay in a haunted house/castle
  77. Go caving
  78. Drive a bus
  79. Shoot something
  80. Have a session with a personal trainer
  81. Download 5 apps and figure out how to use them
  82. Drive to the mountains, and hike on my own
  83. Take the kids to the beach for a day trip, just me and them.       Make it fun without spending money
  84. Promote myself, shamelessly, far and wide
  85. Apply for a job with a 6 figure salary
  86. Learn a musical instrument
  87. Sell something I have made
  88. Go to a networking event and speak to people
  89. Get up at 6am every day for a week and use the time productively
  90. Go biking in the dark
  91. Take video footage of one of my challenges and upload it to you      tube
  92. Teach somebody something

…  …   …   …

100 – Take a photo of each achievement & publish them in a book!

Some slots are still blank – please do send me your suggestions!