Reuse, Repurpose, Upcycle

Cover of Rooms for KidsAfter an absolute age of gentle – and not so gentle – persuasion, I finally convinced Miss Missy that her room needed a serious tidy-up. Usually my suggestions were met with everything from tears to wails of “you’re ruining my life!” But suddenly, the other day, she agreed. No, I didn’t discover some marvelous parenting technique that brought her round to my point of view. Believe me, I’d share it with you if I had! No. It’s thanks to a minor incursion of ants. Thankfully, there were only about five ants and they were quickly dealt with, but they did persuade my melodramatic preteen that tidying up would be a good idea. (Perhaps if I’d found this book earlier, I could have saved myself a whole lot of bother!!)

While we were in the midst of liberating the floor from the deluge of detritus, and ousting the un-loved Barbies from the prime real estate they were inhabiting, I found a too-small, unworn, Nana-knit jersey. Now, Nana (bless her heart) is an excellent knitter, but she does have a bit of a tendency to knit what she wants to knit, not what Miss Missy would actually want to wear.  She also likes to make up her own patterns, with some  – ahem –  unusual results. The jersey presented me with one of those tidying dilemmas which have the potential to derail the entire process.  Nana (bless her heart) had spent time and money on this jersey, and it seemed wrong to just donate it (unwanted though it was). We had no sentimental attachment to the jersey, so it really didn’t belong in the attic pile. And since Miss Missy wasn’t going to wear it, it certainly didn’t belong in her dresser. If I had a little niece who wouldn’t mind wearing a jersey with a rather snug-fitting neck, I could pass it along, but unfortunately I’m a bit short on nieces (snug-neck-friendly or otherwise).  What to do, what to do??

Cover of DIY FashionistaNow, although I have not had much success in clearing the clutter in my corners of the house (you can read about my attempts here and here) I am making a concerted effort not to add to the clutter. I refused to let this jersey get the better of me!  And then I hit on the perfect solution. I would unravel it, and remake it into a shrug for myself. This would not only solve the tidying dilemma, but would be eco-friendly and hip too (upcycling is so in these days, right? …If taking a jersey and remaking it into another jersey counts as upcycling that is) And the colour would go beautifully with that favourite skirt of mine. Perfect!

So then I had to find a pattern.  I really like some of the patterns in these books, but they weren’t exactly what I was looking for.  So then I turned to Designer Knitting, Creative Knitting, and the Vogue Knitting Stitchionary for inspiration. And now, just a few short weeks later I, have a new shrug. And, despite doing almost as much un-knitting as knitting (being rather new to creating my own knitting patterns) I have to say I’ve very happy with the results!

Cover of Dozens of Ways to Repurpose ScarvesI think upcycling could be my new favourite thing and I’m already gearing up for my next project – this time I want to make a top out of a scarf, and I’ll be checking out this book for ideas.

  • Would you like to give upcycling a try? Check out my list for inspiration
  • Looking for ideas for your kids rooms? Try these books

Oh, and yes, I did get Miss Missy’s room sorted, and she’s actually happy with the results (well, mostly happy!)

And I’m still trying to clear the clutter…

Cover of Inside storiesWell, I think I chose completely the wrong time to de-clutter the house. Mr K is working on a DIY bathroom re-do which means that the house is currently strewn with boxes of things that would live in the bathroom, but can’t, as well as a plethora of tools and plumbing supplies. Once he’s finished though, I reckon the bathroom will definitely be “magazine worthy” – at least until I clutter it up!

Needless to say, I haven’t made an awful lot of progress on the clutter front, but I’m working on forming a couple of good habits that I think will help. For example, I am trying to take my shoes off and put them away as soon as I come home, rather than kicking them off when I sit down for the evening, which meant that virtually every pair of shoes I owned regularly migrated to my spot on the couch.

I’ve made some progress in my sewing room, and I’ve decided that the best thing to do in there is to finish all my UFOs (no, I don’t mean flying saucers, I mean “Un-Finished Objects”) so I’ve made myself a goal not to start any new projects till I’ve finished all the things I’ve already got started.  Or at the very least, to finish more than I start.  Now I’m wondering if things count as “started” if I’ve already bought the fabric? What if I’ve already got it planned, but not bought anything yet? And of course I had to make an exception for the Young Lad’s pirate costume for book day at preschool (he went as Cut-throat Jake from the Captain Pugwash books, and he looked fantastic!). But I have finished some curtains that have been hanging around un-hemmed for longer than I care to mention, so at least that’s progress.

If you want to join me on the clutter crusade, here is a quick review of some of the books I’ve read:

The accidental Organiser: When I first picked up this book, I was a bit un-enthused about it, I mean, it’s got no pictures to look at and keep my interested. But I actually enjoyed reading it.  The best tip for me was:

If you need or love it then keep it. If you think someone else expects you to need or love it, get rid of it.

I also really liked Wendy Davie’s de-cluttering playlist. What a great idea to put on some boogie music and wash that clutter right out of your hair!

I used her tips to help me defragment my sewing room. I can now get in the door without tripping over something, and I can see my work table again! And I found a couple of pairs of trousers for the Young Lad that I’d totally forgotten about – I’d put them in there so I could take the hems up…well they fit him now, so that saves me a job!

I think this is a great book to use if you have a spare room that you need to clear a mountain of junk from.

Cover of What's a disorganized person to doWhat’s A Disorganized Person to Do? has lots of pretty pictures and will suit you if you like lists, since it is really a list of 300-odd organising ideas. Some of the ideas are really great, some seemed rather obvious, and others just left me scratching my head. After reading Stacey Platt’s “kitchen drawer theory” I’ve decided that I’m not so much lazy as a reverse-kleptomaniac – I don’t steal things without realising I’m doing it – I’m forever putting things down without noticing. I really think my brain is just wired that way.

Living Normally made me think that my house is a lot more “normal” than the ones in this book (!) and that if they can get their houses in a book, then maybe my house is “magazine worthy” after all!

Organizing for Dummies looked quite promising, but I really didn’t find anything useful. It’s really a very basic DIY book with a couple of tips on organising thrown in. Check it out if you think you’d like to know how to make a bedside table out of a rubbish bin (I won’t be making one, myself!).

Cover of Banish Clutter foreverBanish Clutter Forever: Sheila Chandra “had me at hello” by asking if I aspired to a home like the picture-perfect abodes in magazines.  I like her theory that things need to be organised by function rather than type, and then I realised that I actually already do that, for the most part. The thing I will take with me from this book is that

Your house won’t stay tidy (however beautiful your storage boxes) until you make the habit of ‘completion’ automatic.

In other words, if I want my house to stay clutter free, I need to learn to put things back where they are needed IMMEDIATELY. I think most of the clutter is stuff that I started and didn’t finish, whether it is the mail (did I deal with those bills and file them? No, I just left them on the end of the bench), the laundry (did I put away that folded laundry? No, it’s still sitting in a pile on the arm of the couch), or a craft project (I know I won’t have a chance to work on that quilt again for weeks, did I leave all the bits spread on my work table? Yes. Along with the bits of half finished toys, and new blouses, and dresses, and mending, and the left over bits from Christmas gifts I made…). Yup, I just need to learn to finish what I start, including the tidying up at the end (Mr K has been telling me this for years “tidy as you go!”)

My best piece of advice: pick ONE book to get ideas, and then get down and DO something about your clutter!!

As for my house, well, our special-order bathroom vanity has just been finished, so all Mr K has to do now is put the cabinet handles on, fit the sink top, and plumb in the taps. Then the bathroom will be all done! Then I’ll be able to put everything back in the bathroom, and really get stuck in to the de-cluttering… Oh, I guess that means I’ve got work to do… No more excuses, gotta get down and DO something!

Clearing the clutter…maybe!

Casual LivingI’ve always dreamed of my house looking as beautiful as the houses in those magazines. Although I love the way we’ve done up our old bungalow, the place just never looks “magazine worthy”! I think this is probably because A: I’m too lazy, and B: well – I’m just too lazy!

I like the idea of A place for everything and everything in it’s place but I never seem to be able to get it all under control. There’s just always so much stuff to deal with: half finished projects, tools, the kids toys, laundry in various stages of the washdryfoldputaway process, and all the general detritus of daily life. And I guess it doesn’t help that I’m a bit of a hoarder.  Not like those pathological hoarders, but…well, ’nuff said.

Christmas, much as I love it, brings with it an avalanche of stuff. All the new toys for the kids, packaging, wrapping paper, Christmas cards, pine needles… It’s February already, but I’ve only just recovered! My Young Lad’s birthday was in November, so when we added the Christmas stuff to the birthday stuff, his room was so chocker we could barely move in there. So the other day, I gave his room a darn good sort out — I even re-arranged the furniture. It looks amazing and seems three times bigger. This has spurred me on to de-clutter and organise the house in general (and my sewing room in particular).

Organized Simplicity

Since I’ve been attempting to get the place sorted for about the last 12 years, with no success, I decided I needed some outside intervention.

Luckily the library has plenty of books to turn to for guidance and inspiration, and I’m really looking forward to reading them. I’m rather curious to find out what the toothbrush principle is, and I wonder if it really will change my life? Is it REALLY possible to conquer clutter in 3 simple steps or to organise my entire house in just seven days??

If none of it works, I can always console myself that a perfectly kept house is the sign of a misspent life.

Now, if I could just find somewhere to put this stack of library books till I find the time to I read them….

Home, garden and DIY – picks from our January newsletter

Some picks from our latest Home,garden and DIY newsletter:

cover for The can't cook bookcover for Colour recipescover for Essential oils for beginnerscover for Feeding Tommycover for Food bitescover for The home apothecarycover for Knit-and-crochet gardencover for Street fashion photography

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Happier at home

Cover: Happier At HomeThere really is no place like it, and with Gretchen Rubin’s help we are all about to become even Happier at Home.

You might remember Ms Rubin as the author of the hugely successful The Happiness Project. In that book she tackled her overall life happiness. Her book took the self-help world by storm, even though her approach is not like falling off the nearest log, and in no way subscribes to the “To-day is the first day of the rest of your life” school of thought. Ms Rubin’s makes you work for your breakthroughs and we seem to love her for it.

In this, her next offering, Ms Rubin focuses her attention on being happier at home. There are over 600 titles at Christchurch City Libraries that purport to help us become happier, wherever we are. Yet Gretchen Rubin’s books rank amongst the most popular of that genre. I’m only really going to start worrying about her if her next book is entitled Happiest at Work, and even then I’ll probably read it.

So, why have we taken to her in such a  big way?

It’s that “happier” that is the key. Because Rubin is already happy at home. She has a supportive husband, two lovely daughters, a very good job, no money problems, is more than passably good looking and appears to be in robust good health. Some of you nay-sayers out there will already be thinking: “V for Vomit – she is altogether too perfect for my poor tattered little life.” (In which case you may prefer How to be Happy, Dammit  or the palate cleansing The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking).

But think about it: if we are totally honest with ourselves,we really aren’t all that badly off. But, like Rubin, we just yearn for more. And who better to turn to than someone who has already got most of what we want?

Eventually – after you’ve read both books – Rubin boils it all down to eight “Splendid Truths” (I know, sometimes you do just want to give her a bit of a slap!). But I’m not going to spill my gut here by telling you what they are, because, since reading her books, one of my personal happiness projects is to become better friends with silence (this is fancy-pantsy-speak for shutting-up), in the hope that I will no longer have that desperate need to fill all conversational pauses.

I don’t know if it’s going to make me any happier at home, but so far no one else is complaining!

Fire up your internal heater

book coverWinter is fast approaching and if you’re anything like me you reckon it’s going to be pretty cold.  It feels natural to go into hibernation mode and wrap yourself up with warm clothes, warm blankets and eat substantial one pot meals sitting by a warm fire (or heatpump).  But let’s be honest here, that can pile on the kilos.

So how about some light exercise out in the elements or in our cosy homes to keep us slightly fit and motivated? It doesn’t have to cost anything. Your library has many books on walking around Christchurch and its surrounds, running, cycling, and home exercise.

How about joining a local walking group? There are many walking groups around Christchurch and surrounds with differing levels of exercise, some even have a speaker and a cup of tea afterwards.

So instead of turning up the heater, get your internal heater fired up!

Reading books earns you prizes

Yeah right! No, it’s true. I’ll tell you how.

In my team meeting the other day we were examining the Christchurch City Council blue, that will soon be incorporated in library branding. It’s such a pretty blue. In fact, it’s cobalt blue. I learned this the next day when I was reading Choosing Colours by Kevin McCloud. It is the most fascinating book, because it explains the history of colours, how to use particular palettes to create a certain look for your home and lots of other fascinating arcane colour trivia. Did you know cobalt blue is in fact a black-based colour? That it has been used since the eighth century in China for their famous blue and white china …

So what does this have to do with earning prizes? Well, there I was in Elevate restaurant with our family quiz team, the Ratpack, on Tuesday night and the quizzler was … You guessed it! I am a colour.

Three clues later – I triumphed with … cobalt blue. 100 points on my Elevate card later, I am a very happy bunny.  You never know where reading books is going to take you.