Cleaning a fence

Sometimes renovation just means cleaning.

On the weekend, my partner and I tackled the back fence. It had clearly never been cleaned in a long time. There was an old trellis supporting some scrawny, nondescript plants, and the wood was covered in green mossy built up from years of neglect.

I snipped off the daggy old metal trellis with a pair of bolt cutters. The cutters made short work of the old plastic-coated metal. Bolt cutters are one of my favourite tools – I always feel like a superhero when I’m bolt-cutting something!

My other favourite tool is a sledgehammer 🙂

Usually I like to salvage materials where possible, but the trellis was probably 30 years old, and no good for anything except disposal, being plastic-coated. It has gone to landfill now.

I left the old fencing nails that had been used to attach the trellis in the fence. They were well nailed in, and pulling them out might damage the fence. Besides, they blended in and didn’t bother me too much once the trellis was gone.

Sometimes it’s better to leave old nails in place. If I’d desperately wanted to remove them, a quick snip at the elbow with bolt cutters before teasing the ends out with pliers would do the trick.

The old plants were snipped apart with a pair of secateurs (they weren’t very big plants!), and went into the compost, not being large enough to burn.

One of the plants was a rose, so I cut it down to the base, and will dig up the root stock and transplant it.

A job for another day!

The rose bush and other plants hadn’t been pruned in a long time and were no good. I’ve saved the rose root stock though, and will transplant it elsewhere.

The water blaster was the perfect tool for the job of fence-cleaning and removing all the green built-up.It was pretty filthy!

Half the back fence done. My partner Matt got a bit bored and started “drawing” with the water blaster in the moss build up. Could’ve been worse – at least it was just a number!

There! Two hours later it’s much better!

Looks like a new fence now! So much better!

Just one afternoon of work can make a huge difference.

Looking after a house and garden and keeping them in good order is often just a matter of easy jobs performed regularly.

It’s also a matter of having the right tools. A water blaster made this job really easy, but if we didn’t have one, we’d have used scrubbing brushes and soapy water – plus elbow grease.

Over the next year we have our work cut out for us. We’ll be painting the entire house, inside and out, and remodelling a bathroom that is truly antiquated. Plus we’ll be doing a lot of gardening, making our outdoors a lovely place to be.

I’m looking forward to all of it!

What two years of minimalism has taught me

I’ve been minimalist for two years, so I wanted to talk about how everything is going and where I’m at.

Peace and calm can come from having less.

Peace and calm can come from having less.

Where I was

I used to have a garage stuffed with belongings and broken things.
I had a wardrobe stuffed with clothing I never wore, yet nothing seemed to fit me.
I had huge amounts of jewelry I never wore.
I had heaps of kid toys I needed to get rid of, and outgrown kid clothing that was still hanging around. I couldn’t seem to get rid of baby items either!
My kitchen drawers could barely open and I couldn’t find anything.

I didn’t realise how much the mess was making me depressed. Everywhere I looked, I saw clutter instead of calm, and it got me down.

I started avoiding dealing with any sort of cleaning, simply because it was too much. Which made everything worse of course.

The mess was a vicious cycle that was bad for my mental health and physical well-being. They do say that people who live in cluttered homes have more illness. Upon reflection, I can understand why.

Where I’m at

The garage

The garage is no longer stuffed.

The amount of stuff in it is still dropping. I’m still clearing belongings out, still selling stuff, but the progress is slow now, as we’re down to the dregs of it.

We live on a farm, so our garage hosts everything from animal feed and lamb crooks to our washer and dryer and a huge deep freeze. Our laundry is also out here. Two years ago, it was piled high with stuff we never used! These days we have much less stuff in our garage than we had when we lived in an apartment.

We live on a farm, so our garage hosts everything from animal feed and lamb crooks to our washer and dryer and a huge deep freeze. Our laundry is also out here. Two years ago, it was piled high with stuff we never used! These days, we have much less stuff in our garage than we had when we lived in an apartment.

Once we sell the farm, we’ll also sell the farm equipment we’ll no longer need, keeping only a few standard gardening and house maintenance items.

My wardrobe

I only have clothing I wear. I clear items out regularly if I find I’m not wearing them. I still make shopping mistakes, but I’d say I’m a recovering shopaholic now, on her way to healing. I’ve been doing the Project 333 for three years now, and I’m where I want to be.

minimalist wardrobe

My current capsule wardrobe.

Jewellery

I gave away most of my jewellery. Cheap pieces went to charity, and valuable pieces went to friends who I thought would enjoy them. It’s nice to see a friend wear an item that I never wore.

Jewellery should be passed on, shared and enjoyed – not hidden away. And I found jewellery is rarely worth much to sell secondhand.

My bedroom

My bedroom is tidy. I have some rules that help me to do that, such as three belongings only per surface and if it ain’t a “display item”, don’t display it! These rules help me keep life in control, and keep my room as an oasis of calm and peace.

I’ll talk about my rules to help me stay organised and keep the clutter away in a separate, upcoming post.

My room is a haven for me. It never used to be this way.

My room is a haven for me. It never used to be this way.

Baby items…and sentimental items

All the large baby items and general baby stuff is all gone.

I created a “treasures box” to keep precious children’s stuff in – their first baby outfits, and their first baby rugs. The box also holds other small sentimental items I want to keep safe. It’s about twice the size of a shoebox, and I find that’s all the space I need.

Then I sold big items at a low price to a friend whose baby was coming soon, and gave the rest to charity. It made me feel good to know I was helping other parents at this special time in life, when everything is so expensive.

Having a “treasures box” helps me take care of these extra-special keepsakes. I sometimes open it up, and hold these soft, beautiful things for a while…and have a bit of a cry 🙂

Kids rooms

I go through the kids’ rooms regularly too.

They have nothing but clothes that fit and items they use, plus a few keepsakes. Their rooms are tidy all the time now (mostly!) because their rooms aren’t crammed with stuff.

My 9 year old daughter's room. No, I didn't tidy it. She keeps it neat, and cleans it herself.

My 9 year old daughter’s room. No, I didn’t tidy it. She keeps it neat, and cleans it herself.

My kitchen is easy to navigate these days, and the drawers are all uncluttered. Life is easier as a result, and cooking is less of a chore. Keeping food stocks to fewer items helps.

Clearing out the kitchen was a long process that took months, one cupboard at a time. Kitchens are prone to clutter!

Clearing out the kitchen was a long process that took months, one cupboard at a time. Kitchens are prone to clutter!

I’ve accepted that I’m not a gourmet chef and will never have my place on Master Chef New Zealand! You know what? I’m okay with that 🙂

Instead, I cook healthy, simple food for my family, and that’s good enough. The media dumps a lot of expectations of us, and realising that many of these are unrealistic is a key part of learning minimalism and being happy with who we are.

I’m not saying things are perfect…

Far from it! Life is still a work in progress. But every month feels better and better, and I feel more on top of my life with every step, not less.

I didn’t realise how much my problems had to do with simply owning too much stuff. I couldn’t ever clean the house because picking up the junk was a mission before I could even begin to clean!

Looking at the mess made me feel so tired, and I didn’t really know how or where to start. I didn’t know how to cope. I felt lost at sea within my own home, and a place that should have been a safe space of rest and contentment was a disaster area of chaos and noise and clutter.

I thought that maybe buying better stuff would help, or maybe buying the right stuff. But what I have learned is the key to sanity is having less stuff altogether.

Through minimalism, I’m learning that…

I’m not a fashion model, but I can look great.

I’m not a home decorating expert, but my home can be a friendly, welcoming oasis for my family and friends.

I’m not a crafty person who knits and sews and…well, I’m just NOT! But I have other skills 😉

I’m not a Supermum, but I can encourage and support my kids in getting organised and keeping their rooms, bodies and lives neat, clean and planned.

I’m not a Master Chef, but I can prepare great, healthy food for my loved ones 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, and that’s pretty special!

Minimalism is teaching me that it’s okay to just be Me. With all my imperfections, and all my not-quite-rights.

You know, the mass media teaches us to believe that every aspect of our lives much be exceptional in a way that requires lots and lots of stuff, and then it tries to sell us all kinds of products to create that exceptional, stuff-filled life.

But that’s wrong. Being pretty much okay in a whole stack of areas can add up to being pretty exceptional overall.

Minimalism teaches me that it’s time to stop looking at what we’re supposed to be, and instead take a good look in the mirror at who we actually are.

Usually that’s pretty good. And if we’re loving partners, caring parents, and thoughtful citizens, then we’re probably doing all right.

So that’s where I’m at.
I’m doing all right.
With less stuff, and more calm.

Houses now, houses then: the disposable home

“We’ve invented a new disposable – the throw-away home.”

My mother grew up in a cottage that was over six hundred years old, in the south of England.

It’s gone now – demolished in a rash of new building that occurred in the 1960s, when the British Government thought it wise to get rid of as much “outdated” housing as it could, replacing it with rows and rows of tract housing made of brick.

You might be familiar with the type I’m talking about – you see British row housing in practically every episode of Doctor Who or Coronation Street.

You can just about smell the coal fires in this picture...

You can just about smell the coal fires in this picture…

The cottage Mum lived in had two rooms – a living room and a sleeping area. There was a lean-to kitchen -laundry area at the back, added roughly a hundred years ago.

Mum tells me stories of how she used to pump water from the well, and how she remembers when the electricity was added in. She talks about how a slab of ice was delivered weekly for the ice chest, and how her Dad used to poach pheasants from the nearby’s Lord’s estate.

It was a different life. And you know what – I never asked about the toilet! But I imagine it was something like this:

It might have even had an ogre! ;)

It might have even had an ogre! 😉

What I’m saying is, most of the world’s population used to live like this. A lot still do. When I visited China in 1983, before the great modernisation that happened since, I saw how families were living on the communes there.

It was pretty similar to how Mum told me she’d grown up. Most homes had one room, one big bed for the whole family (might explain that single child policy!) and a cooking area in the centre to keep the whole place warm. And the whole place wasn’t big.

Thing is, while I do agree that improving living standards for everyone has been a good thing on the whole, housing has not become more durable. Six hundred years ago in England, cottages were built to last for hundreds of years, and they did. These days, a builder’s guarantee lasts seven years, and most fittings are designed to last twenty years maximum.

Along with our throw-away lifestyles, we’ve invented a new disposable – the throw-away home.

I don’t have answers to any of this. I think tiny houses are part of the solution, and downsizing a whole lot is another part of the answer. Because one thing is certain: our homes are too big to be sustainable.

And I’ll say something else: We don’t need ensuites and guest bedrooms and studies (mostly for people who never study!) and billiard rooms for bad billiard players and family rooms for dysfunctional families.

We don’t need walk-in-robes and butler’s pantries and fish burners on our stovetops and pizza ovens in our back yards. We don’t need any of this, especially when we’re putting the whole damned lot on debt.

Yes, I think it’s time we returned to smaller homes. But we also need to think about building homes that will last a lifetime. Maybe for even six hundred years.

And yes, I think it is a damned shame that cottage was destroyed. But sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.