Tag Archives: challenge

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!

 

 

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!

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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Fast approaching Easter

3 Apr

With only a few weeks until Easter, I am on track to complete my Lenten promise which was to be active every day. Lent is 40 days long which means that technically Sundays don’t count – if you include the Sundays in Lent there are 44 days. I have been keeping fit on Sundays even though I could have been having a rest. The weather has been good so it makes sense to get out when possible.

So far I have been combining running, cycling, netball and doing core strength exercises. I have started to notice that my stamina and endurance is increasing and I’m feeling more confident. However, I haven’t been able to lose any weight which is disappointing because that would be a nice side effect.

I must admit that I prefer to get out on the bike or put my trainers on and go running rather than doing core strength exercises. Even though it doesn’t take as long (there is no way that I can do more than 15 minutes of planks, sit ups, push ups etc) I really hate it. I can tell that it is having a positive impact on my running, cycling and my endurance in general but I just don’t like doing them. We also do these exercises at the end of a netball practice and I hate it with a passion.

Over the last 29 days, I have run or biked a total of 105 kilometers or 65 miles as well as taking part in 5 netball sessions and 6 sessions of core strength exercises. I’m pleased with that. It’s certainly not the longest ever run or biked but my knee is holding up. This time last year I was barely able to limp around 2 kilometers twice in one week. This is definitely progress!

It is often said that it takes 30 days to form a habit so I hope even when the next two weeks are over that I am able to continue with my exercise habit. I might not have time to go as often but even being active four or five times a week would be great. If the weather stays nice then I will have no excuse!

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Getting fit in Lent

7 Mar

Despite the fact that I noticed a while ago that there are Easter egg and chocolate rabbits in the shops, I hadn’t realised that this meant we were also fast approaching Lent. In fact I only remembered that it was Pancake Tuesday when everyone I knew on Facebook was posting pictures of pancakes that evening.

It has been a while since I have given up (or taken up) something for Lent and I thought I had missed the boat. It was getting short notice to decide exactly what I should do –  after all you don’t want to commit yourself to something that after a few days you realise is going to be impossible to achieve.

Rather than give up something, I have decided to take on something. For me this is slightly easier psychologically because I don’t feel like I am denying myself, rather that I am making positive steps towards something.

For that reason I have decided to get fit for Lent. Every day I will try to do some sporting activity that gets my heart rate elevated. Over the course of Lent, I hope that I will see a noticeable difference in my fitness levels and I will weigh less than I do now. This doesn’t mean that I will be running 12 miles a day, every day until the middle of April. Firstly, I am no where need fit enough to do that and, secondly, it is important to do a range of different activities and not the same ones all of the time.

I hope that I will be able to getting more running done but also some strength exercises, like sit-ups, press-ups and planks, to help with stamina and endurance. I plan to make a log of all of the exercises that I do and I will share this at the end of Lent so you can see how I have done.

I’m quite excited about this mini-challenge. The weather is getting nicer outside which means it is the perfect time to be getting active again.

Have you decided to give up or take something on for Lent? If you have I wish you all the best and hope that you can resist temptation until April 18th!

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40 Before 40: Challenge #29 – update

15 Feb

I’ve been busy reading more books from The 40 Books Every Woman Should Read. Here are the latest books that I’ve read.

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

This was a strange book. I don’t know what sort of genre it was – it was a mixture of fantasy and historical. It also incorporates The Twelve Dancing Princesses which is a commentary about women’s role in society. I found the book very surreal. If the book had have been much longer, I am not sure that I would have stuck out reading it until the end.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

The story is set after the American Civil War and tells the story of a woman who murders her daughter. When a mysterious woman returns, she is convinced this is the ghost of the child that she murdered. The book is hard to understand at first because it flips between different time periods, so you do have to concentrate to know where the part of the story relates to.

When I realised that this was essentially a ghost story, I wasn’t convinced that I would like the story. But the story is very intriguing. How the ghost affects the family and the mother in particular is interesting.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

By far the worst part of this book is seeing the dates that the diary entries were made knowing that the hope of them being free isn’t going to happen. The contrast between the musings of a teenage girl (complaining about classmates etc) and the description of the harsh conditions is mind blowing.

The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende

Four generations story. set in Chile. It’s an incredible read. It was super easy to read even though the book was almost 500 pages long but it was incredibly tragic as well as very funny at the same time. It is for books like this that I wanted to do this challenge; to discover new authors and great works of literature that I wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to read. I would easily say that this is in the Top 5 of my favourite books. There is pretty stiff competition with the amount of books that I have read so that is high praise indeed.

This was a joy to read. It’s the story of four generations of an eccentric family in Chile and charts the tragedy, hilarity and surreality of their lives in an ever-changing world. One minute I was laughing out loud, the next silent in shock at the events that were unfolding in the story. I would go as far to say that this was one of my favourite books that I have ever read. This was another long read but I doubt it will be long before I am re-reading it once again.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This was an incredibly long book. Whenever I was thinking that there was no way that the books could continue for much longer, there was a plot twist and I was completely engrossed in the story again.

This was a long book (my edition was 884 pages long) but was a great read. Set during the American Civil War, it is essentially a story of love and loss, focused on the main character Scarlett O’Hara. Throughout the book, I was wondering how on earth the story could keep going and going, but there was always a clever plot twist to stir things up again and leave the reader wanting to read on. I haven’t seen the film but I wonder how the whole story can be possibly cut down to the length of a film without losing part of the great story. I’m so glad that I stuck with this book and read it until the end.

Willful Creatures by Amiee Bender

This was a book of story stories. They were honestly the most bizarre stories that I have ever read. They were very surreal and made me re-think how a short story can be written. To show you what I mean, these were some of the outlines of the stories: a family of potatoes, who try not to be eaten, a boy who is born with keys as fingers and he has to find out what each of the keys opens and a man who keeps a small man locked up in a cage like a bird.

After reading most of the stories, I did have to wonder if I had read the story right and that I some how hadn’t misinterpreted it completely. The stories are brilliantly imaginative and entertaining.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer

All of these stories had a strong religious tone to them, which I think probably says a lot about the background of the author. The first story in the collection is called “Brownies” which brought back a lot of memories for me because I also went to Brownies, when I was a child. Even though you would think that this story couldn’t have a religious tone to it, one of the leaders of the Brownie pack was overtly religious. I thought the stories were interesting: overall, I wasn’t completely bowled over by the collection as a whole.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

There are a lot of books of short stories on this list and this was another of them. The first part of the collection were stories exploring relationships between men and women and love. The story called “Unaccustomed Earth” is about a widower, who has found love with a new companion but decides not to tell his daughter because he wants to remain independent.

In the second part of the book, the three stories were related and told the story of two childhood friends, who, later in life, fall in love but decide not to pursue a relationship because she is already engaged to someone else. The ending is really sad. There weren’t many happy endings in any of the stories.

I have now read 25 out of the 40 and I am really enjoying this challenge.

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