Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Business, working from home and well, clutter

I notice a tendency to overwork and over commit.  Always to have several irons in the fire and more ideas in the background that I must try one day.  Seems good, huh? Always a plan B for earning a living if things don't work out.  Always the stuff poised ready, should that idea ever come to fruition...

A recent read was Year of No Clutter by Eve Schaub.  She made one insightful comment that has truly stuck.  It is the many possibilities and massive potential in our lives that prevents us from achieving what we want. AND cause a lot of clutter. Apparently people with serious hoarding issues often cite that as their reason for keeping stuff.  So I have been letting go of possibilities.  And their attendant stuff for the last couple of weeks.  It really has freed things up and the possibilities already seem more manageable. 

Having sold several large craft items that were a part of the business, less clutter, more in the bank is the new mantra.  The things that have been re-homed have liberated the cupboards and shelves in my wee studio-office and things have stopped falling off the shelf when I am hunting for stuff needed for a workshop. 

The best thing of all is that it has led to clearer thinking.  Some actual work has been let go too, the parts that were too much work for too little money, or too far from home.

And what has filled the vacuum is a long-held ambition, I have been asked to write online courses for the Low Impact Living Initiative.  One on spinning, one on weaving and one on natural dyeing. The first two will be filmed mid May. And LILI also want to publish my third book, Diary of a Downshifter, which will be the next project after the courses. 

I am picturing the size of the pile of stuff that left our house over the last few months and cannot imagine how it all fitted.  Now I am off to clear out some more, inspired by another great book, A Year of Less by Cait Flanders. Check out her blog too at

Thursday, 1 February 2018

How to make dandelion coffee

Its February and I just started using the dandelion coffee which is part of last year's bounty.  Two of the most useful and versatile plants in the garden are dandelions and nettles.  More about nettles in March when they start to grow and are one of the very first greens available.  But then so are dandelions.
dandelion roots drying
 You don't need to go planting fancy dandelions from seed companies, any old dandelions will do and there are most likely some in the garden already.  Let them grow where they will, in amongst other plants and vegetables is fine and if they take up a bit too much space, pick some leaves.  The young leaves are great in salads and you can force dandelions by placing a flower pot over the leaves, weighed down with a stone.  Then the leaves will be pale and even more tender.

Cook briefly (steaming works well) as a hot vegetable, or add them raw to a mixed salad.  Or juice them in combination with other greens and some carrots and celery.   Add apples to the juice if you like it sweeter.   You can use the ordinary green leaves in salad too all year, if you don't mind a slightly bitter taste. They add a dimension to salads as do other bitter leaves like land cress, rocket or mizuna greens.   They are really mineral rich and a nutrition boost, especially needed in spring.

We leave the flowers for pollinating insects and they are popular with many species of hover fly as well as nocturnal pollinators and bees.   They can be picked off just before the seeds disperse but allow a few to set seed for next year's crop.  Green Finches love the seed heads anyway. 

Then, when they get old and in the way of the next crop, we dig some up, leaving any that can stay to sprout again.    The roots are laid out to dry for a few days until hard, then roasted in a low oven.  Grind them up and you have dandelion coffee.  Half a dessert  spoon full is enough to brew a cup of coffee, done just like you would with coffee grounds and it is surprisingly tasty.

dandelion coffee - very tasty and not bitter at all

Saturday, 27 January 2018

clutter challenge number 4

today's sixty second de-clutter happened because I was planning a felt making workshop.  The boxes of dyes and miscellaneous textile supplies.
The dyes were not too bad really but time had moved on and now I use gallon containers for the dye rather than 1l bottles.  A stock take of the box revealed old paper towels, some empty bottles and other bits and pieces.  Now that the old bottles are gone, there is room for some of the gallon containers in the box and therefore more space in the cupboard...

Flushed with success after only 30 seconds, I spied another box in my textile workshop that continues to bug me.  Miscellaneous.  Having replaced a white plastic bag with a clear one, I can now see at a glance what is inside.  Some bits and bobs have been re-homed or offered for sale and it all now fits in the box.  A total of two minutes and I am off for a cup of tea.

A few days into this and the sixty second de-clutters have achieved more already than a day-long tidy and sort session.  And the total time spent is probably no more than ten minutes.  It is a powerful tool that somehow gets around resistance.  Probably because your brain thinks a minute is painless and not scary...

It's a funny thing, because we have kept on top of clutter and had a 'one in one out' policy for years, but it seems to creep in during the night.  having a home based business doesn't help.  Nor does being too busy to focus on home stuff.  So this year, the focus is changing to more home based time to garden, look after our house and just hang out. 

Friday, 26 January 2018

Clutter crunch day three

So today's wee clutter jobs are... The sewing boxes.  Everything came out onto the floor in the large box first.  Some bits of fluff in the bottom, gone.  Several reels of lurex thread will never be used so will be donated to a craft group.

And despite having a number of old zips, saved from old clothes, none are the right length for the two pairs of trousers that need zips.  There is a great one for a sleeping bag and well worth keeping given the price. 

So two zips are on the shopping list and the sewing project on my 'to do sometime' list.  Those two pairs of trousers are really worth repairing but have not been worn for a couple of years as the zips will not stay up.  I thought I needed more trousers till the sewing box reminded me about those ones that are not wearable.  So a quickie, sixty second de-clutter of sewing box number one has saved money.

There is more space in the box after letting go of some stuff and I now know what is in there.  And I just remembered there is a half finished skirt on top of the filing cabinet, so that is another job worth doing.  Sometimes I have taken clothes to a repair shop for new zips.  It only cost me £8  to get trousers repaired that cost £40 new and I don't
often find good trousers in charity shops for some reason.

Sewing box number two contains mostly reels of thread.  And I got some really cheap ones in a charity shop. But how many reels of pink thread can I use in this lifetime?  Have let go of a couple of them and that wee box now has a lid that shuts easily.  It surprising how much difference a small thing can make.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Clutter in your handbag, rucksack and car

Does it really matter if you have a load of bits and bobs in your bag or car?  To get started, clear it all out of the car or bag and make a pile. Then you can sort through everything.  And you will soon know!  I really didn't think this needed doing, but as it was only a sixty second de-clutter, thought I might as well go through the stuff.  That's the power of the sixty seconds, it unblocks because hey, it will only take a minute...

First, I discovered I had a nifty car booster for a flat battery.  I knew I had the compressor but had forgotten about this wee thing, which means you can jump start without another car to help and without lifting the bonnet. Oh, and the spare coat and wellies I keep in there for winter emergencies were in the house and I had forgotten to put them back in the car!

So a quick tidy of the car, which took two sixty second de-clutters in total (one for the boot and one for the car interior) and I was all set for the winter weather.  I added some more screen wash in a bottle and a blanket too.  And now I also know the spare tyre is inflated correctly and have even added a few snack bars for emergencies.  Amazing what organising the car does for your bad weather driving confidence.

So inspired, I moved on to the handbag, or wee rucksack in my case.    First thing was the mini torch I keep in there, which had a flat battery, so I put that right. And how exactly had so many bits and bobs accumulated,  left over from previous trips?  Three tubes of mints when one will do, a phone charger that I had been hunting for, which had somehow tucked itself into a corner, umpteen paper serviettes saved in restaurants.  These have now been added to the tissue box.  A pair of gloves too many. And there was the tiny pen knife that should have been in the bike bag, I had been looking for it everywhere.

  Another sixty seconds was all it took to sort those things.  Potential future hassles have been avoided and life actually feels better.  Partly because I am feeling rather smug I suspect!  So yes, it is well worth sorting out your bag and car and takes all of three minutes.

You will notice too, that a couple of lost things that turned up during this process.  De-cluttering the car and bag sooner would have saved all that hunting time.  The more you keep on top of clutter, the less time is spent looking for stuff.

Monday, 22 January 2018

The Sixty Second De-clutter

Its terrible isn't it, this de-cluttering thing?  I once had a book by Peter Menzel called 'Material World: A Global Family Portrait'.   It is a wonderful book, which does in photographs what thousands of words could not.  It is about the stuff that people in different parts of the world posess.  He got them to move all their stuff outside and he photographed it.  Simple.  The American familly's stuff went around two blocks.  And there was a family in (I think) Guatamala who had two cooking pots, two pairs of wellington boots and the clothes they stood up in.  That was it.  When the word 'de-clutter' comes into my mind, simultaneously so do the images of those two photographs. 

Why do we accumulate unnecessary stuff?  It gives us a (mainly false) sense of security maybe?  Insurance against the future?  Makes us feel accomplished and well off?  We all do it, and you can guarantee that the Guatamalan family would not be saying 'hey, we don't want any more stuff'  if they had the chance to get some... 

The sixty second de-clutter came from a blog called the Daily Om, which appeared in my Facebook feed.  Most of what it talks about is a bit airy fairy for me to be honest, but this was great.  It gets under all those barriers that prevent us from letting things go.  Just de-clutter or put things away for sixty seconds and you are done.  Even if you clear one tiny thing, such as a pen off your table and put it away. 

I really like adding the idea of simply putting things away to the concept of de-cluttering.  So many of us struggle with that.  If we are overwhelmed with stuff, it is easy to start thinking it will be easier to find things if they are left out and anyway, the cupboards and drawers are full of who-knows-what. 

I found I was accomplishing a staggering amount in sixty seconds and enjoying it immensely.   Do as many sixty second slots as you feel like.   I go into my office to start work and do sixty seconds before getting down to business.  Then later on, make a cup of tea and do another sixty seconds.  It is easy to think what to do and resistance disappears. 

A lot of the post-Christmas has been paperwork, which can really accumulate due to having a business.  For me, it is not a solution to keep everything in the computer, although we definitely have less paper than in the past.  People who try to keep everything paperless often can't find things and get in a terrible muddle when their battery goes flat or they are in a meeting.  And you need a good computer filing system and to clear out the computer files just like you do the paper ones. 

The sixty second de-clutter has led to other things, such as painting the spare bedroom and selling books that I no longer needed on Amazon. The goal is to sell enough surplus stuff to pay for a forthcoming yoga course.
More about clutter soon.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

its all about balance

I have the career of my dreams as a textile artist.   Therein lies a trap, however.  Work is work, however much you love it and we all need balance.  I also thrive when I am doing more than one thing.  Preferably lots of bits.  So this week it is back to basics.

A simple low cost cycling holiday, this is how I think and write...

that means keeping simplicity principles and  values at the core of what we do.    Your principles and values may be different.  The important thing is that you know what they are and can use them as a guiding light. 

Our values are: 
Mental and physical health first
People- those we care about who also care about us
Start by building community in our own locality
By doing the above we inevitably end up being healthier, saving the planet and saving money
spend less that we earn
No debt ever again

So exactly how does building community make us healthier, save the planet and save money?

It works like this:
When you are involved in your local community there are consequences for things.  Offend someone, and the next time you want a plumber, it turns out the person offended is their second cousin once removed.  So no plumber for you.  In other words, being involved makes us behave better.

When you shop locally, you get to know people, chat, see posters and get to learn what is going on in the community.  Then you can go to local things because you know they exist.  Contrast that with someone who drives to work in another town.  They will typically shop at a supermarket on the way home so may never go in a local shop and don't tend to know about local activites.  They get less exercise than the person who gets the bus to work.

The person who works in another town but gets the bus  on the other hand, meets others on the bus.  They will buy groceries on the way home after they get off the bus and meet yet more people.  And have got exercise walking to and from the bus stop.

For us, the expense of running a car averages out at £300 a month, including replacement of the car every few years, So Health, the environment and finances all benefit by the one action, getting the bus. Cycling to work or working locally have similar benefits and there is always more than one way to achieve a given outcome. 

Janet returning from her ten week cycling project, 'Knit 1 Bike 1'

So now you may be thinking 'I can't get a bus to work'.  It doesn't matter, the same logic can be applied to many different things.  And the 'green triangle' as it is called, seems to work regardless.

For example, when we originally decided to spend less on food many years ago, we cut down on eating out, ate less meat and ate more pulses and vegetables.  Our health benefitted and so did the Planet.  We ended up with a better diet, travelled less by car and there was less packaging on the food we bought.   We were healthier, saved money and reduced our environmental impact.  Then we decided to grow more vegetables and the benefits multiplied!

So back to work.  I simply like doing more than one thing.  A couple of years ago, I cycled round Scotland.  Since I was a textile artist, I decided to do workshops on the way, in exchange for a bed for the night or a hot meal.  Apart from meeting some wonderful people, I camped for the first time in years, spent 10 weeks travelling alone and wrote a book about it.  It also led to an exhibition.  See more about Knit 1 Bike 1 here.

The whole thing was transformative and I came home really fit.  Two years later I am still fit and the garden has benefitted from my extra fitness too.  So now we are growing even more vegetables and have wwoofers come to stay with us.  That is volunteers who help with the garden and textiles. There have been positive benefits socially, health-wise and for the environment yet again.