40 Before 40: Challenge #39 Downsizing – Part 2

23 May

Later than planned here is the final instalment of my Challenge #39 – the challenge to downsize and get rid of anything that I don’t want or use any more. You can read the first instalment here.

Here are the other things that I have been tackling in my quest to get rid of things I don’t want or need:

Clothes

This was a big problem for me. I had so many clothes but nothing to wear! How many things have you heard people make that complaint? I had so many clothes that didn’t fit because I hadn’t tried them on when I bought them and still had the labels on them or because I’ve put on weight and can’t get into them anymore. Admitting that you are never going to get into a particular pair of jeans or dress is pretty hard to do. Some clothing that I did clear out and take to a textile recycling place I have been hoarding for at least two years. It was time to get rid of them and make some space.

I also had clothes that fit me and I had worn but I didn’t like the way they looked on me. This is again is mainly due to buying things that I didn’t try on. I made a promise that anything that I didn’t feel comfortable in I would also go rid of. That got rid of a surprising amount of stuff. I made a promise not to buy anything without trying it on!

Sports clothes are always a problem for me as well. I have so many t-shirts that I got when I completed a race that I don’t think I ever need to buy another one. Hence, there is no way that my t-shirt for running the Manchester Marathon will ever find its way into a bin.

Possibly the best thing that I did to help me organise my clothes was buying a new wardrobe. It sounds silly but having enough space helps me to see exactly what I have so I’m not searching around in drawer to find things and makes it easier to get ready. I made me realise that I have about forty T-shirts but I only wear about 5 of them on a regular basis.

Scrapbooking

I have a lot of articles from our local paper from when I was younger and playing sport that my mum saved for me. I wanted to keep them but they weren’t ordered in anyway so I decided to put them into a scrapbook. All you need is some glue and scissors and a book to stick them in. It’s a far better way to preserve the photos (and the memories) than in a paper folder that could get damaged. It did take a while to sort through and there were some duplicates but it was great fun putting it all together. 

Emails

I decided to extended the challenge to sorting through my emails so that I stop getting annoying emails about products that I don’t want or need. Obviously this isn’t really downsizing but it is clearing out unwanted stuff. Previously, if I received an email about a product or a service that I had signed up to then I was just delete it. And so, the annoying emails would stop coming. Instead, I unsubscribed from the emailing list. This has saved me so much time – I don’t have to read and delete emails that I have no interest it. Also, I no longer get a sinking feeling when I check my inbox and I see that it is just full of junk that I don’t want. Instead I have a lot more time to read the emails that I want to spend time reading.

I have been surprised about how many mailing lists that I have had to unsubscribe from. And how difficult some companies make it for you to unsubscribe. Even though I began this exercise about 6 months ago, I still get unwanted emails from time to time. I would be easier just to delete them and forget about it but I am determined to unsubscribe from them.

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When we moved in together, we ended up with two of quite a few things, such as plates, cutlery and glasses. None of these items had any sentimental value so it wasn’t difficult to part with them. It was also an opportunity to sort out the cupboards and organise them. I threw out herbs and spices that were well passed their use-by date and made sure everything in the cupboards was in a sealed, labelled jar to prevent it from spoiling and so that I don’t accidentally use salt instead of sugar. The flat that we have moved to has one of those pull out cupboards; it is harder for packed food to get forgotten about at the back of the cupboard.

Organising the basement

We bought some plastic storage boxes and filled them we things that we need but we don’t need on a daily basis to make more space. We now have boxes dedicated to Christmas decorations and wrapping paper, one for important documents that we need to keep and so on. We also have a bike stand mounted on the wall. This gives us more space and we don’t need to move the bike every time we go down in the basement to get something. It is a little annoying to always have to go down into the basement when we need to wrap something or chose a greetings card but it make a difference that it is well organised.

Making the decision to downsize and get rid of things has been a far longer process than I thought it would be. I didn’t realise how much stuff I had accumulated and how difficult it would be (in some cases) to make a decision and throw something away. One of the hardest parts of this challenge is making sure that I don’t go back to accumulating things again. I must keep my booking buying habit under control, for example.

I feel like I have turned a corner though. Life seems to be less stressful without hanging on to things that I don’t need. Long may it continue.

 

40 Before 40: Challenge #39 Downsizing – Part 1

15 May

This is a long post so I have decided to write it over two posts so you don’t end up falling asleep before the end!

This is possibly one of the hardest challenges on the list because a) I have had to be really strict with myself about recycling, selling, donating and throwing away things and b) it’s quite difficult to work out when the challenge is finished.

I watched a programme recently about trying to live a minimalist lifestyle. A couple tried to live for 2 weeks with only 100 things in their apartment. The rest of the things that didn’t make the list were put into storage until the challenge was over. The programme explained that people who have less material possessions are happier because they don’t have to make decisions and so their life is easier and less stressful. After the experiment, the couple did take back some of their items that were in storage but also decided to get rid of some things, like clothing, for example.

The aim of my downsizing hasn’t been to own only a limited number of possession but to get rid of things that I don’t need or want. It is so easy to accumulate things that you no longer need, no longer want or things that no longer work.

Moving is a good time to sort out things. It’s also normally the time when you realise as you are packing everything into boxes that you own far to much stuff. We moved almost a year ago and this challenge began back then. However, it has taken me until now to be happy that I have genuinely sorted through all of my things thoroughly enough that I can say that I have downsized sufficiently.

Here are some of the areas that I have tackled in my quest to downsize:

Books

Books are my biggest downfall. I have so many books and I keep buying books at a rate faster than I can read them, even though I am a pretty fast reader. I’m not sure if this is due to a deep-rooted fear of running out of reading material and so I want to make sure that I have enough to keep me going.

The first thing I did was clear out my books. I tend to hold onto books even when I have read them so these were the first ones to go. I have made a promise to myself that I will only keep books that I think are incredibly amazing on my bookshelf after I have read them. This is why Bonfire of the Vanities is still standing on my shelf. I took these books to a second-book shop or gave them away to other people. Giving them to other people that I know is 100% better than taking them to the shop because at the shop I tend to have “a bit of a browse” and end up buying at least another two books. The net effect is what I am hoping for but it still means that more books are finding their way into the apartment.

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Next I was very honest with myself and looked through all of the books that I was left with and got rid of the books that I had no interest in reading. These were neither because of a rash purchase that I now regret or a book that had been given to me by someone that I didn’t really want to read. These books also made it to the second-hand shop.

There were also some books that I want to read in the future but just not right now. These books are now stored in the basement in a plastic box ready for when I want to rediscover them.

Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying expert (possibly not her real job title), claimed last year that a person only needs 30 books. I recognised that I had too many books and needed to sort through them and get rid of them but only having 30 is completely ridiculous. For example, do recipe books count towards that? If so, I should only have 24 other books and that is not going to happen. At least I have cut down my number significantly but reducing even further would just cause too much negativity in my life and no one needs that.

Toiletries

I had stacks and stacks of toiletries in the bathroom. So many, in fact, that my boyfriend was shocked when I and half of a large Boots store moved in with him. The weird thing is that I’m not the type of person who spends hours in the bathroom getting ready and taking hours looking after their skin.

The products that I had fit into a few broad categories:

  • Bargain products that I bought because I was saving money but didn’t actually need
  • Gifted products that I thought were too nice to use so they have been stood in the back of the cabinet gathering dust
  • Products that I bought but realised weren’t right for my hair/skin type
  • Products that I have been hanging on to because I want to use them but have never got round to

The easiest thing to do was to first throw away all of the products that were or looked like they were going out of date. I threw away quite a bit of make-up and also some hair products. Then I did the same with products that I discovered weren’t right for me.

I decided it would be best to sort the remaining items into: essential things that I use on a daily or weekly basis; things that I have been keeping for “best” but can use straight away; gifted products that are actually travel-sized and I can take away with me on trips when I only have hand luggage; things that I won’t use at all ,which were then disposed of.

I bought some small boxes so that I can organise everything to make under the bathroom sink look tidier.

This also has the extra benefit that I can see exactly what I have so I don’t buy things and then realise a few weeks later that I didn’t actually need to because I already had a stockpile loitering at the back of the cupboard.

Things that I don’t use or don’t work anymore

I had a collection of things in the basement that didn’t work or I didn’t use anymore. We took the things that didn’t work to the local recycling plant and disposed of them properly. I got rid of things like a stop watch which had stopped working years ago and a couple of mobile phones. We ended up taking a whole car full of things to the recycling/waste disposal place. Here is how full the car was on one of several trips. I must add we did take some things for family while we were there – it wasn’t all from our basement.

Things that I don’t use anymore were trickier to get rid of. I tried to sell as much as possible. I sold some resistance exercise bands that I had only used twice, a pasta machine. some unopened perfume and some other things on a Facebook site. I sold some jewellery on an ebay-type site. I also got some money for my old German textbooks. In the end, it added up to quite a bit of money. It was pain sometime waiting for someone to collect something and then them sending a message to say that they couldn’t make it but it was worth it overall. Of course, there were some things that I wasn’t able to sell for one reason or another so these ended up being disposed of at the recycling centre.

That is the end of Part I! Are you still awake? I hope I haven’t bored you to death. The conclusion of my challenge will be posted later this week. I hope you check back to see what else I manage to organise and tidy!

 

 

Films I’ve recently seen

12 May

I am still going strong with my eight Challenge for my 40 Before 40 Challenges – to watch all 250 of the Top 250 films on iMDB. Over the last few months I have watch some films that I have really enjoyed and a few that I haven’t.

Here are the films I’ve been watching lately:

8. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Finally I have watched the last LOTR film in the trilogy. I can’t say that I enjoyed it all that much. You might remember that I had high hopes for the trilogy after watching the first film which I enjoyed but I don’t have a lot of love for the last two installments. Just not my sort of film but I can understand why they are so popular.

97. Bicycle Thieves

This was a black and white Italian film about bicycle thieves. The main character finally finds work but needs a bicycle or he won’t be able to do the work. His wife sells the best linen so that he can get back the bike that he pawned. Everything is going great with his new job until someone steals his bike. He and his friend look everywhere trying to see if the bike has been sold for parts or if they can see anyone riding on it in town. In desperation he ends up stealing a bike and getting caught.

98. The Kid

This was the shortest and sweetest film I have ever seen. It’s only 52 minutes long and is a Charlie Chaplin production. The Tramp character finds an abandoned baby and raises him as his own until the mother who abandoned him find him and wants to take him back. There is a happy ending though but I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t seen it yourself.

133. The Gold Rush

This was another Charlie Chaplin film but it wasn’t one of my favourites. It about men trying to find their fortune during the gold rush and the hardships that they go through to try and find it. There are some funny scenes like when The Tramp cooks his shoe to eat it and when his friend is so hungry that he imagines that he is a giant chicken and plots to kill him.

140. Room

This is an interesting film. I have never heard about this film before but it was based on a bestselling book. A woman is kidnapped by a man and is held hostage. She ends up having a son with him but she plots their escape so that they can be free again. I would recommend watching it if you have the chance.

142. The Seventh Seal

This was an odd film. It starts off with a knight playing chess with Death. He says that so long as they are playing the game he can’t be killed. Later in the film, Death tricks the knight into revealing the strategy that he is playing so that he will be able to beat him at chess. It’s set during the time of the plague and the religious angle of the film is interesting. I don’t think I got the ending though.

149. V for Vendetta

This film was based around the story of Guy Fawkes and his attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. It is set in the modern times but curfews and strict controls limit the population. A masked man (who I thought sounds a lot like Rowan Atkinson but it turns out it wasn’t him) incites the population to rebel and overthrow the corrupt government on 5th November. Keeping in mind the politics of today, I think it would be quite a good idea to recreate something similar in real life.

151. The General

This was a silent film which, because of this challenge, I have fallen in love with. It’s about a man who works on the railways who ends up being a war hero, despite the fact that he has been told that he can’t enlist and the woman he loves has said she won’t marry him until he wears an army uniform. The film had quite a lot of humour in it and it was amazing to think that the film was made over 90 years ago.

171. Cool Hand Luke

From the title of this film I was expecting to sit down to watch a western and I was pleasantly surprised when it was about a prisoner who repeatedly tries to escape. It reminded me a bit of Shawshank Redemption. The best scene of the whole film was the egg eating scene when Luke attempts to eat 50 boiled eggs in an hour for a bet!

181. A Wednesday

This was a thriller set in Mumbai. A retiring police commissioner retells the story of his most interesting case – a terrorist called in a bomb threat and the race was on find the bomb and stop it before it exploded. There is a twist at the end of the story when the terrorist reveals who he is and why he has turned to violence. I really enjoyed this film.

200. Spotlight

As I was watching this film, I realised that I had seen it before. The film is based on a true story of a Boston newspaper who investigates the alleged abuse of children by Catholic priest in the area. It’s a powerful film and shows how much the abuse was covered up by senior officials in the Catholic Church.

211. Hachi: A Dig’s Tale

Why is it that films about dogs are always sad? This was a sweet film but I don’t really understand why it is in the Top 250 Films. I think it probably is because people are suckers for films about animals. It also featured Richard Gere playing the part of a grandfather which I thought was weird and made me feel far too old.

I have now watched 165 films. Only 85 more to go!

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Long weekend in Krakow

8 May

I’ve wanted to visit Poland for a long time. Poland is now the 30th country in Europe that I have visited. I am aiming to have visited 40 by the time I reach my 40th birthday. I do have quite a bit of time left to achieve this!

Here is what we got up to on our weekend away:

Wieliczka Salt Mines

After almost missing our pre-booked tour because of Uber drivers consistently cancelling on us, we finally made the 20 minute drive to the Salt Mines.

All of the mines are underground and we only saw a fraction of the mines that have been excavated. The sheer size of the place was mind-blowing. I didn’t realise that salt in its purest form is grey and not white. Without having a guide it would have been impossible not to have got lost.

Some of the chambers inside the mine had salt sculptures in them, like this guy here,

who was important in establishing Krakow as a city, and Pope John Paul II.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

This was perhaps my main motivation for wanting to visit Krakow instead of any other city in Poland, which sounds sick and morbid. But after learning so much about this period of history in school and more recently reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz I wanted to experience the place itself.

This was another guided tour that we had booked in advance. It is possible to walk round yourself and see the camps but having a guide meant that we got detailed information and could learn more in a short space of time.

I’ve visited a concentration camp before in Dachau, outside Munich but I wasn’t prepared for the scale and the horror that this place revealed.

I wonder if the human race has learnt anything about this awful time in history when equally horrifying genocides and displacement of people is continuing to happen today?

Free Walking Tour

Free Walking Tours are always a must for us on any city trip. The city itself isn’t very big but the tour took us on some less well-trodden paths. It was interesting to hear about how the city grew and developed, the legend of the dragon and more recent history, such as John Paul II training to be a preist at the start of the Nazi German era and later returning as the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Boat trip

We took a small boat trip on the Vistula River which gave us great views of the Castle and parts of the city that we wouldn’t be able to see by foot.

Food

I very seldom complain about food and there were certainly no complaints about anything we ate in Poland. I had some good recommendations from Polish friends and we also stumbled on some great, small local places.

There was even a street food festival (where isn’t there one?) and we tried some meat, pierogi (dumplings) and sheep’s cheese.

I was surprised by two things. Firstly how clean the city was. Normally everywhere seems dirty to me after living in Switzerland for so long. But the streets were really clean and well maintained. Secondly, I think I heard more English being spoken on the streets than any other language. One evening we were treated to a rousing rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone as we walked past a English bar.

I hope that the next 10 destinations that I visit for my challenge are as good as our trip to Krakow was!

Goodbye April

30 Apr

I’m not sure how a third of the year is already over (edited thanks to help from friends) but I am glad to see the back of April. Nothing bad or dramatic has happened over the last 30 days but over the last two weeks especially I’ve lost all motivation to do anything.

OK, that’s not strictly true. I have done somethings but a lot of the things that I have really enjoyed doing since the start of the year have been almost like a chore to me.

See if you understand what I mean:

  • This month I don’t think that I have managed to finish reading more than two books. I had been averaging a book every two days until the end of March. In April this ground to a halt. It’s not because I don’t like the books that I am in the middle of; it’s just that I read a chapter and then decide to put the book down rather than reading on. I feel like I have definitely reached my limit of trash TV, which has been filling the void, and that I can get back into reading in May. All the books on my to-read shelf aren’t going to read themselves!
  • I’ve had a wobble with my fitness goals. I was super motivated and ready to start increasing my running distances until I got struck down with a bad cold that sidelined me for the best part of 10 days. Getting back into cycling has been ok but the running has been tough. I won’t go into the gory details but I’ve had a very fluid cough which gets worse when I go running. Having said that, I have managed to run 24.8km and ride 92.3km in April. Can you imagine if I hadn’t have been tucked up in bed for so long? In May I am determined to beat these totals.
  • I haven’t made any progress on any of my challenges. In fairness some of them are reading and fitness related but, even the challenges I’ve started that I haven’t had an excuse to get on with, I haven’t been bothered to continue with any progress. My book has ground to a halt. I estimate 80% of this is due to lack of confidence and the other 20% is due to my motivation escaping me. I’m not sure how to tackle this one. I definitely don’t want to forget about the project altogether because I have spent so long on it already. Also I think some of the writing is OK so it doesn’t make any sense to just press delete.
  • Finally (and this one you may have noticed), I haven’t been blogging as much as normal. Obviously having less motivation to do anything means that I have had less to write about. If I am honest, I’ve actually missed sitting down at my laptop a couple of times a week and getting some writing done.

As you can see, April has been erring on the side of being a waste of time. It’s not all my fault though. I blame the weather. (I am British after all). I’ve felt all over the place with the quick changes between blazing-hot-gonna-get-sunburned-in-the-shade heat to lashings of rain to sudden flurries of ice-cold snow. Our optimism of having our first BBQ at the start of April but not being able to sit outside and eat since might be the source of all my de-motivation and disappointments in April. I was cheered up yesterday when I met with a friend who had said she had also spent most of the month moping around not being able to concentrate on anything. Sometimes it feels good when people are feeling exactly the same as you are because you realise that it’s normal not to be feeling like you can take on the world single-handedly every day.

I hope that May madness is going to help me have a bit more of a spring in my step. I have made plans to make sure that I get a few more steps towards completing some of my challenges, which will give me a boast, as well as keeping going with my running and cycling when time allows.

I hope your May is better than your April – even if your April was great!

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Happy Easter

21 Apr

Happy Easter to all my readers and followers wherever you are in the world!

It seems like this Lenten time has gone quicker than ever before and this year is going even quicker. I did manage to keep my Lenten promise of exercising or doing something to benefit my health each day. I have been struggling with a very bad cold this week but I still managed to wrap myself up warm and get out of the house of a 30 minute walk around the village.

I feel quite proud of myself that I managed to keep my promise. There were many occassions when I really didn’t want to get my trainer on or get the bike out and go for a ride but I managed to and, despite the cold that I has completely knocked me for six, I feel a lot better for it. In the beginning it was hard but once it becomes a routine it becomes easier, mentally and physically. Now I am in the routine, I’m determined to keep going with my daily goal of doing something every day to improve my health and fitness. First I will make sure that I am fully recovered from this awful cold.

I will be spending the next few days relaxing and eating chocolate. I hope that you will also be enjoying your time with family and friends.

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Netball in Copenhagen

17 Apr

I’m just about fully recovered from a weekend in Copenhagen playing netball with Zürich Netball Club, who I decided to join in January. I worked out that it had been almost 15 years since I had been on a netball tour which is one of the scariest things that I have heard in a long time.

We arrived at the hotel with the news that they had overbooked the twin beds in the hotel so we had to make do with double beds. This was slightly daunting considering that some of us didn’t know each other well. There wasn’t a great deal that we could do about it and I was so tired I could have slept standing up in a broom cupboard.

On the Saturday we headed to the venue. The hall was packed with teams from Sweden, Holland, France and Germany. It was a mixed tournament so it wasn’t a surprise to see a few men there but we were the only team to only have women playing. I know from experience that its not always an advantage to have men on a netball team but it would turn out that these men had played before and were pretty handy on the court.

The tournament was opened by Zindyi Mandela, the South Africa ambassdor in Denmark, who I later found out was the daughter of Nelson and Winnie Mandela. She gave a great speech about how important it is for women to be involved in team sport. How amazing is it that she took the time out of her day to come and wish a group of expats all the best for the day!

I had completely forgotten how physically demanding a sport netball is. Playing competitively is so different to training with your team mates. My legs were almost dead after the first few games. Luckily the organisers provided snacks and cake to help with blood sugar levels.

We played 8 games in total and, although we didn’t end up winning the competition, the games that we did lose were by very small margins. After the prize giving we headed back to the hotel for a quick shower and change before a buffet dinner at a local restaurant with the other teams and then onto a trendy cocktail bar called Curfew for some celebratory drinks.

I woke up the next day still shattered which is yet another reminder that I need to improve my fitness. I could barely walk up stairs for the next few days. After a late-ish breakfast we went on a free walking tour, visited The Little Mermaid Statue and headed back to the airport.

Thank you to my team mates Claudia, Lauren, Lorna, Kim, Arran, Abby, Chelsea, Emma and Konio for a great weekend of netball and for such a great time. I’m hoping for an equally great weekend in another European city with the girls soon!