Organising and making space

Before you read this post, here’s a delicious muffin I made the other day.  I used of a lot of random ingredients (freezer bananas, mixed seeds, an oatmeal-type concoction that I thought was oats until I realised it was muesli, etc).  I also made soup to knock through ingredients, all the while accompanied by NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me”, my favourite radio show!

muffin inside

And now for something completely different:

My PhD thesis is still under way so I have no illusion about being able to be less of a paper hoarder any time soon.  I have 11 binders, two cardboard magazine ‘racks’ and 13 expandable cardboard folders full of documents and field notes from my research, taking up one and a half shelves where I would otherwise have space for books.  It’s not that I am going to get rid of these documents.  In the future, all research tends to be cumulative in a way but I would tuck them away somewhere.  I’ve  come to suspect that most university staff only want to work in a department  for the privilege of an office to keep their academic collections separate from their living quarters! This week I filled our recycling bag of papers- thousands of scraps that had already been used on both sides, etc- just sitting around waiting to be classified.  Most of the information was no longer useful, like some company phone number without a name- so out it went and I found my desk surface again.

One thing I can begin to whittle down, is my stash- of yarn and fabric.  The plastic bins I brought home the other day have been great for that and now I need to really get started on going through what I don’t really need to keep.

I took a large bag of fabric strips (I had the intention of making those into another rug, but the off-white and black didn’t fit anywhere into our schemes or inspire me at all) to the textile recycling skip the other day, freeing up some under-bed space. I am also going to cull our socks – the funky novelty socks we receive as gifts are fun to wear, but not the easiest to darn once they wear so thin.  The darning ends up being much thicker than the rest of the sock! Those pairs will be recycled too.

I am not going to have time in the next few years to use up all the half-balls of yarn that I’m not interested in.  Many of the colours are going to make it into a de-stash blanket.  It’s here if you’re on ravelry.  I need to sort through the rest and find a Girl Guides troop to bring it to if there’s enough, or get it on Freecycle or a charity shop.

We have a charity shop bag open in our home at all times.  We deliver a full donation bag every three weeks or so.  I occasionally post on Freecycle but I need to start taking fuller advantage of it to hand out the things that are unsuitable for donating.  I like that you can say “I have this ____ that needs fixing, or repairing, is anyone interested?” and they usually are.  The same stuff just wastes the resources of charity shops.

Other ways we sometimes declutter that I would like to make more habitual: a) Selling unwanted books and strange electronics (we have a wireless router that we were sold as “mac compatible”, it wasn’t and then we lost the receipt) on Amazon. b) Finding even more recipes to stretch our fresh foods further with creative uses of the dry ones so my partner doesn’t rush out and buy food because we “don’t have any”.  I would like to try a new recipe a week or, realistically, every two weeks.

I am trying to organise all this in my mind because it seems like we are headed towards a gradual change in the road.  We are not yet financially comfortable, or even started out in life- partner is still looking for a full time job and I need to finish this PhD and apply for jobs as well.  I’ve been keeping my eye open for non-academic positions and applying as I go along, but that must not be in the plan at the moment.  Last week I talked to my old boss at the shop about coming back for a shift a week and once the fall semester starts I will have a bit more pocket money from tutoring but I am far from the power earner at this point.

That being said, we have begun to actively think about moving in order to save money.  We have such a fantastic set-up right now and are so comfortable, it will be hard to let go of the easy walk to my sports club, the train and the job at the shop.

The question is, at what point does moving to save £100 a month not make sense?  We have great landlords and have plenty of warmth and space in this flat.  I have lived here for 4 years and it is home.  But really, home isn’t a collection of things, home is with one’s partner.

The things just make it harder for us to consider moving. Both of our hobbies take up quite a lot of space, as you can at least gather from my stash descriptions.  Moving from the centre of town will knock the prices lower but we still need to be near public transportation and there’s only a certain distance away that could make that move worthwhile.  Another thing is that we barely have any furniture in this country.  We have a bookshelf, a few chairs…no bed (we do have an air mattress we could use for a while!) etc.  So we would need to rely heavily upon our network of fantastic people, freecycle, store vouchers from completed surveys, and finding a decent furniture charity shop somewhere.  We also have discussed moving out of central Scotland if any jobs come up, so we really need to start preparing.  This potential move may not happen, yet my brain is a-buzz.

1. Be ruthless with worthless (to me) stash fillers that someone else may be able to use- yarn, cds, look into getting a crafty things box together for the guides or other group that appreciates craft supplies.

2. Keep Amazon active and list more.

3. Get the plants under control.  Re-pot more babies and give away to friends and freecycle.  Pare down to just the main parent plants and keep them happy. Then, freecycle the extra pots.

4. Work on wardrobe.  Recycle non-reparable socks, fix the things I plan to fix, get rid of extra bags, wet suits and other strange things that we never use.

5. Crafting priorities- finish sewing the wedding gift, use of the acrylics for the destash blanket, use the large partial-sheets in stash for appliance covers.  Go for the biggest impact- use the most materials for the most useful items first!

This post has mostly been to organise my own thoughts, so here are a list of some of the blogs and posts that inspire me when attempting to de-clutter.  I may have posted some before but they’re relevant again!

I am inspired by Smallnotebook in general and this new post is particularly relevant. Prioritizing life– well said.  That is exactly what we are trying to do here and it seems that it is all around at the moment.  One friend of mine has decided to completely disconnect with all non-essentials.  She’s keeping her email, but unplugging facebook, her blog and everything else that she feels has cluttered her life.  I also really like this post about moving at smallnotebook- it will come in handy some day.  Livingsmall is also inspirational for getting rid of ‘stuff’.  Zen habits has a good approach to stuff.  While I don’t keep a wardrobe as basic as this, I am working towards a streamlined and compatible system of only clothing that I love and that mean something to me.



  1. I love the small notebook too! I only found it recently (probably from your blogroll!) and I really find it an interesting site.

    in my humble experience, in this neck of the woods the cheaper properties are not in very nice areas and the transport is shocking. Its one of the things I find most astounding about the city…so many students and such cruddy public transport!!! Oh that, and why are they investing so much in the new area of town when the town centre is dying! (((gets off soap box)))

    • You can speak from the soap box any time you want- I like to think that the height and change of perspective lead to interesting thoughts!
      There are oh so many students here. Although as a suburban girl the number of people in general (and how closely we’re all packed into the flats in my area!), street upon street, always surprises me.
      I agree with what you say about the quality of housing-area spread to some degree (my partner keeps reminding me that we have to be sure that a potential property isn’t in a “rough” area. I love how sand-paper analogies seem so benign when genuinely spoken!), but even by moving several blocks further from the public transport in a still ‘decent’ area can bring more for the money in terms of space.
      Not to jinx our property hunting, but its interesting that you find the public transport poor here- it must have been amazing int the other places you have lived. I remember needing to get a ride to bus stations where I grew up! : * )
      Yes, the further sprawl of development is interesting…we should have realised the centre would be waning as soon as Burger King closed! That was the only time in my life I remember seeing a fast-food location go out of business…

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