The new old home

So – the move is done.  I have been in for a few days, the unpacking is almost completed, and I am (after many years of living in 1960s and 70s houses) reminding myself of the joys of living in a 150+ year old house, with not a straight line in it!  Almost every piece of furniture upstairs has had to be sured up with wedges to make it even vaguely level.  My miscellaneous vintage home wares and country furniture actually look like they belong here, rather than being an anachronism. The cat has moved in and seems to approve of her new abode.

What have I learned, as the detritus of my life has emerged out of boxes?

I have too many shoes.  No, really, I do.  Because I have never seen them all out at the same time in the same place, I never realised just how many pairs of very similar shoes I have.  I haven’t depressed myself further by counting them – I just know I have too many.  I understand why – I have difficult feet to find shoes for which are both stylish and comfortable, and therefore I tend to stockpile when I do find suitable ones, even if I don’t actually need shoes at the time.  But this is ridiculous.  I would have ample for most eventualities even if I gave half of them away.  Which is what I shall do.  The hospice shop at the top of my street is in for a surprise!  I have already sent half my handbag collection their way…

I have too much stuff relating to projects which I shall never finish.  Freecycle is helpful here – gifting my stash of fabric which I know I shall never make clothes from, and the things which were in job lots which I purchased for one or two pieces which I have used.  More challenging will be the process, which I must undertake, of getting rid of a proportion of of my yarn and fibre stash – realistically, much of it is in colours I now know I am unlikely to use.  I can make a couple of nice bundles and donate them to my local Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers for someone else to enjoy.

For the moment, I must set aside training as a traditional upholsterer. In this much smaller house, I do not have the room for the supplies, beyond my toolbox, or for pieces of furniture waiting to be worked on, and in a mid-terrace house it’s not realistic to do the amount of hammering involved, without seriously annoying the neighbours.  If I can find a workspace away from home, I can re-visit this, but for the moment I must leave it, and not beat myself up about it.

I have too many books.  I must admit this is a surprise – as I had already culled several boxes of books (to Oxfam) over the past few weeks, I didn’t expect this to be an area that would cause me problems.  But I have realised that as well as the books on the shelves, I had nearly as many again lurking in piles beside my favourite armchair, under the desk, under that pile of magazines that I never seem to get round to finishing, on the windowsill…I need to assess whether it is realistic that I will read them in 2015.  If not, it’s Oxfam again…

It really is possible to declutter, even things that have been around for years through umpteen housemoves, without feeling bad.  I have always had guilt about getting rid of things which were, long ago, gifts or which have some association with someone or some event.  I’ve been able to ask myself, as things emerge from the boxes, whether I am keeping something just through habit, or whether I am making an active decision to have it in my home.  Things (of no great value, but nice, and often recollected from my childhood) which I have inherited from my beloved grandparents, I have kept – a vase, a rug, the child size chair which they brought back for me from a holiday in Spain in 1973 and which now provides a suitable home for my very grown-up bear.  I have allowed myself, also, one small storage box of ‘nostalgia’ items.  Interestingly, it’s only half full.  The one area where I will have to put in some time is my office – I seem to have reams of paper and piles of files kept in case it ‘comes in useful’.  Going through several years’ worth of work output will be tedious, but should free up several shelves as I think it’s likely that very little of it will be relevant in the future (and most of that is probably on computer/backed up anyway).

Moving to a much smaller house has been a great discipline.  There simply is no argument with not having anywhere to put it!  The world really won’t come to an end because I only have a few tupperware food storage boxes rather than twenty.  If I can’t store it, I probably don’t need it.

I stockpile things as if I am expecting a siege.  The reasons for this, I know, go back to my childhood, but I must accept that in 21st century England it is unlikely that I need to stockpile groceries, ironmongery or toiletries.  At all costs I must avoid multibuys.  Any possible financial saving must be set against the costs in terms of my tranquility at home as I struggle to find houseroom for things I won’t need or use for ages.  What price turning my home into a warehouse for things I can buy any time I need them, just by walking up to the shops?  Is a few pence of saving really worth the aggravation of the item falling out every time I open the kitchen cupboard?!

Fitted kitchen cupboards hide a multitude of sins. Or, in this case, stuff.  My kitchen here has few cupboards – four small wall units, one base unit plus a corner unit with a carousel for pans.  But it does have three open shelves running the length of the kitchen, which I have used to display/store my crockery (including vintage tea things) and vintage enamel bowls and jugs.  I now know exactly what I have got.  Duplications have become apparent, and have been weeded out.  I can see that I have enough – plenty – and will not be tempted to acquire more.  The cupboards contain only consumables, and some cookware.  I only have what fits comfortably in the cupboards (less than half of what I had before).  So far I have managed to cook a range of meals without feeling the lack of any vital piece of kit.  My surfaces are largely clear, and the kitchen feels very tranquil.

At the end of the first week in my new home/olde worlde cottage, I am keen to pare down my possessions even more.  I want to have even more space around me, to reduce the visual noise of my stuff.  I realise that I only really tolerate the ornamental in my home if it also fulfills a function – my ceramics are bowls or tea cups, regularly used and not merely gratuitously ornamental.  Even the cat is a vermin-control operative!

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Blogs and websites on sustainability, mending etc

Recently I met up with a good friend whom I have not seen for a while, and in between exploring the lovely vintage shops in the St Catherine’s area of Frome and enjoying a little something at the Diva café at Black Swan Arts, we were talking about issues like sustainability, mending, visible darning, ethical fashion and various related topics, and she wondered who was blogging about things like that. So, naturally, I asked on Twitter, and a deluge of responses came back to me! So, just in case anyone else is wondering the same as my friend, here are some of the blogs and websites I have come up with.

http://scrapiana.com/

Based in Bath, Scrapiana offers what she describes as ‘scraps & scribblings on sewing, thrift, upcycling & vintage haberdashery’.  She also has a comprehensive Blogroll with links to lots of relevant websites.

http://mymakedoandmendyear.wordpress.com/

Jen, based in Wiltshire, blogged about her year of making do and mending, rather than buying new.  This brought her quite a bit of publicity!  Her blog now continues to explore sustainability issues.  She also has a helpful Blogroll of links.

http://tomofholland.com/

Tom, who is originally from the Netherlands, is based in Brighton and is a leading light in the visible mending movement.  He writes and runs workshops on darning (I had no idea there were so many types of darning until I read his website…).  He is also an accomplished and innovative knitter.

http://thedressdoctor.co.uk/

Based in London, Jo has an impressive background in historical and theatrical costume.  Her website is the shop window for her alteration/conservation service and commissions, and her workshops.  Lots of titbits about looking after your clothes, mending, alterations etc.

And today, this blog post from Donna Druchunas in Vermont, USA http://sheeptoshawl.com/buried-alive-in-stuff/ on making things, materialism and the future of the planet.

That little lot will probably keep you going for a while, but meanwhile, if you know of any other good blogs or websites on these themes which you would like to share, please use the comments box to suggest them.

Right now, I am off to do some more knitting on a project which is re-using yarn salvaged from an old jumper – the ultimate in recycling!