4 Things I Learned From Twitter.

Been a bit exhausted following leaving work, especially so considering I basically removed a year worth of mess from a friend’s house. People seem quite pleased about this whole “nesting instinct” thing!

But that means I’ve been able to go through my Twitter patterns of the last month or so. And here are 4 lessons to learn from Twitter.

1: Finding data matters. Research matters more.

Twitter is great for grabbing links, facts and stats. But every single one needs to be investigated. With all the fake news hysteria and mass media being as fake as fake news, it’s important to check our information not just against various sources, but against sanity itself. And if it doesn’t matter: then don’t file it as fact or fiction, file it as a random anecdote which does not matter.

2: Writing succinctly is a skill.

I’m finding my writing is clearer and more succinct from using Twitter. Forcing myself to fit long essays into 140 character shouts is expanding the vocabulary I use without making me sound like a massive nerd who uses words nobody understands.

3: Exchanging ideas is great, but you need space.

Twitter is amazing for swapping ideas, provided you can get on the same page and sum up your points. But you will always need to take some time out to process your thoughts. Most of the people I know who blog well and use Twitter have their own form of meditation where they set time aside to think through new ideas and formulate them better. Talking is wonderful, but we have to think too.

4: The wittiest, most liked stuff is also the most useless to you

Seriously, the stuff that gets the most favourites will be stuff that people agree with and are comfortable with. Being snappy and witty makes you more popular and puts you in contact with more interesting people, but don’t confuse that for personal growth, achievement, or important material. Instead, look to the things you talked about more and were recognized for less. That is where your ideas are developing, being challenged, growing solid. That is what you need to work on.

That said, I probably need to quieten my Twitter habit back down a little. Not entirely sure yet where this new activity fits into my old #NoNothingNovember challenges. What do you think?

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

Cut Back Media, Cut Back Stress – 9 Steps To A Better Life.

Since I did the #NoNothingNovember challenge with leechblock, I’ve noticed just how much, or, better said, how little, standard media exposure adds to my life.  The usual ways we entertain, distract and inform ourselves may seem such an integral, normal part of life that it is easy to miss just how negative their influence can be. The majority of the media is sensationalist and biased. News providers, scriptwriters and social media engineers alike all know that anger, shock and fear drive our consumption. But the things which they present us with are actually in no way reflective of our lives. They’re just fodder to keep us hooked on their service.

As I’ve already admitted, media consumption is a fairly normal, integral part of modern life. Few people can completely get rid of it, and you can’t avoid it forever. But, you can be in control of what you consume and cut right back on standard media, enhancing your life without missing out on the information it provides. Here’s how.

1: Trash the TV.

Passive viewing is the most harmful way to consume media of any kind. Switch it on, play it in the background, let it seep into the brain as we are at our most vulnerable. Standard TV, in the modern era, has no advantages over anything else. If you need a bit of background noise, you can play a DVD, a recorded show, or, better yet, some simple music. If you want to be informed, then there are ways to become informed on demand.

An easy way to get rid of your TV is… get rid of your TV. You might want to leave the monitor up for other things, but just disconnect the cable, cancel the service if you can, and let standard TV leave your life for good.

Of course, you won’t be able to avoid TV all the time. I don’t beat myself up if the TV is on when I’m at a friend’s house or in a waiting room. I might even watch it if nothing is happening. But being like the average Brit and spending a day a week in front of a TV is no good for me. Even when a TV is around, the healthy bet is not to be the person who turns it on.

2: Limit social media time and reach.

It may be almost impossible to quit all social media, especially if you have a large and distant family, or if you use the internet for work. But you can exercise control over what social media does to you. For example, you may spend a lot of time arguing with people online. And if you enjoy it and find it fun: go you! But if after a day of shouting at an SJW you feel sick and tired and stressed, then perhaps now is the time to exercise control over your social media.

Do not engage with people who anger you. Many sites give you the option to hide their posts, and posts like theirs, from viewing. You can even block them. Ask yourself what they add to your life, and if the reply is “stress every time I log onto facebook”, then nix them.

3: Interact less with social media.

In a similar vein, if you want to see less drama and sensationalism: click, ‘like’ and share less drama and sensationalism. Social media works via feedback, and if you’re always clicking on bad news, commenting on things that wind you up, ‘liking’ social drama, and sharing things that enrage you, then that is all you will see. On the other hand, if you interact with things you enjoy and independently investigate things you are curious about, then your social media feeds will be enjoyable for you.

4: Select your news sources carefully.

Following from the last points: cutting out standard TV and altering what you see on social media does not mean you have to be uninformed. It is absolutely necessary to know about happenings in the world at large, developments in your field of interest, and events and trends that may influence the people around you.

Instead, rather than passively waiting for news to come to you via TV or social media, seek out news. Give yourself a time each day to browse some news sites, or even news feeds. Pick sites that do not particularly pander to you or to those unlike you. Instead, find sites that offer short, to-the-point, fairly unbiased reports of events. Give yourself a set number of news stories to read -more on this later-, pick them well, get up to date, and then close the website.

5: Subscribe to specialist magazines, newsletters, papers and emails.

If you want to be even further informed on matters that are most relevant to you: find highly specialist news sources and subscribe to them. If you’re into guns, look into newsletters about guns. If you’re into dogs, look into a subscription to a dog-based magazine. Read what you enjoy and stay abreast of news that makes a difference to your life.

6: Buy, and read, more books.

As in 5. Audiobooks if you have little time or suffer dyslexia.

7: Use leechblock, or a similar add-on.

During my #NoNothingNovember challenge in 2014, I cut back on time-wasting websites. This was a big step for me, as most of my work depends on the internet and it was very easy to get sucked into “just one more listicle, or picture, or article”. The worst bit? I didn’t even like the sites I was browsing. I was just looking, blank mind, at pictures of food and memes, getting wound up at the inanities of sites I disagreed with, and correcting incorrect articles in my head.

Being as it was far too easy to accidentally click on a website that would swallow my time just by checking emails, blogging, or doing a bit of research for work, I installed leechblock. This is a firefox add on that basically kicks you off websites you have added to a blacklist. Some were banned til the end of days, because they were worthless. Some were put on a time limit, to encourage faster selection of better-quality articles and prevent me from getting sidelined. Some were only allowed within certain times. All in all, it really helped to reshape my habits, and I have grown for using it. There are similar add-ons for other browsers, and even phone apps that limit access to time-wasting sites and apps after certain time periods. I personally eschew standard smart phones because I don’t need or want them. But if your smartphone is your life, consider deleting any apps that suck up your time and “culling” the amount of data you get automatically fed. Know the difference between “convenient news updates” and “live drama and clickbait straight into your pocket”.

8: Make more use of self-service entertainment.

By self-service entertainment I mean places where you can watch TV series, news, documentaries and films in your own time, on demand. So YouTube, anime feeds, and Netflix would be the big ones for me. There are two major advantages to this.

Firstly, you get to watch a few things for fun, as and when you like them. This beats standard TV at its own game, by miles. Some services even offer live TV shows or shows on a slight delay, so you don’t have to miss out on things you look forward to.

Secondly, almost all these services record your viewing habits for the purpose of recommending you new videos. If you spot that there is a heavy and unhealthy bias in your recommended viewings, then you know you need to adjust your habits until you get better and healthier recommendations.

9: Socialize with people who add value to your life.

Finally, replace as much media as possible with real people. If you’re on social media, aim to spend more time chatting to people in messages than trawling through pages and interacting with posts. If you want to watch a show, try and make it a communal activity. When you find out some interesting news, discuss it with a friend who is also interested and exchange the knowledge you have.

You acquire more, better, more relevant information from having good people in your life than you will ever gather from watching the news every morning. For instance, if there is an outbreak of alabama rot nationwide, the news may not focus on cases relevant to you. If it is in your area, you will find out about it from others who also own dogs, without having to watch three hours of news relevant to other parts of the nation first. Good social connections get you news to the point.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What are your media habits like? How do you try and make the media you consume more productive and positive?

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

10 Cleaning Tricks To Save Time And Money.

Keeping on top of household cleaning usually either takes a significant time investment or costs some money to outsource some of the work, either by paying for labour or by buying a fancy gadget. But there are a few tricks to making the most of what you already have and what you can buy cheaply to save a lot of time.

1: Vinegar and newspaper.

Uses: Cleaning windows and tiles, deodorizing fridges and vegetable boxes, killing mold and reducing the effects of mildew.

How: Spray vinegar water on dirty windows and tiles and wipe with newspaper. Wrap fruits and vegetables in slightly vinegary newspaper. Layer the fridge drawer or vegetable box with newspaper. Spray moldy and mildewed items and areas with vinegar.

Pros: Cheap, easy, you probably have some at home already.

Cons: Everything smells of vinegar, at least for a while.

2: Silica damp absorbers.

Uses: Preventing damp, mold and mildew, reducing the intensity of smells.

How: Place anywhere where condensation occurs.

Pros: Highly effective at controlling damp and related issues.

Cons: Can be pricey if your home is very damp and you use many.

3: Old t-shirts.

Uses: Dish rags, dusters, shoe and leather polishers.

How: Cut into hand-sized squares and write its use with permanent marker, to prevent mixups.

Pros: Cheap and easy.

Cons: You need old t-shirts to do this.

4: Shower time.

Uses: Washing delicates, large items and heavy items.

How: Pre-soak in the bath or shower, when you shower take a moment to scrub and rinse the items.

Pros: Saves some time and stops you getting your clothes wet.

Cons: Need to assign extra time to the shower and have somewhere to store the items until you can wash them.

5: Caustic soda crystals.

Uses: Unblocking drains, stain removal, limescale removal.

How: Apply carefully to the problem area, don’t get them on your skin, leave to soak and then rinse.

Pros: Quick and effective cleaning.

Cons: You have to buy caustic soda crystals, they can be hazardous to people and animals.

6: Thick bleach.

Uses: Stain removal, smell removal, whitening, mildew tackling.

How: Use neat for big issues, dilute for smaller ones. Apply and let dry. For fabrics, rinse.

Pros: Really cleans.

Cons: Slight yellowing of fabrics. Strong smell. Hazardous to people and animals.

7: Lemon juice.

Uses: Adding shine, clean fragrance and removing mineral residue.

How: Use newspaper or a cloth to apply lemon juice to a dull tile, a smelly item or something affected by limescale. Leave to dry on.

Pros: Cheap, you probably have it, great smell.

Cons: Possibly an allergen.

8: Walnuts.

Uses: Shining wood, reducing the appearance of scratches.

How: Rub the kernel of a walnut over dull or damaged wood.

Pros: The oils protect the wood, add shine and don’t cause harm.

Cons: Topups will be required. Potential allergen.

9: Like with like.

Uses: Removing grime, gum, grease or sticky residue.

How: Find a substance that is made of a similar thing to your stain. Use it to gently blend and lift the stain. White wine for red wine, peanut butter for gum or chocolate, olive oil for bacon grease. Then, gently dry the item.

Pros: Removes the substance most efficiently.

Cons: Will still leave some residue. Generally not suitable for fabrics.

10: Boiling water.

Uses: Cleaning floors, fabrics, furniture, dishes, pans, etc.

How: Pour boiling water directly onto the item or into a bucket from which you can use a sponge on a stick or a mop to clean the item.

Pros: Lifts grease, kills bacteria, evaporates quickly leaving little water, cleans stains and gunk.

Cons: Some items may be too sensitive for boiling water. You could get burned.

And those are ten tricks I use to make cleaning cheaper, easier and faster.

What are your favourite cleaning tricks?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… make sewing easier.

Sewing is great fun and I love making things using any craft technique I can learn. But I don’t have the most time in the world to pursue crafts. So here is how I power through small sewing projects quickly and efficiently.

1: Use patterns.

Whether it’s a pattern you download, one you ripped from an old clothing item or one you drew up yourself, starting with a pattern kills so much of the guesswork. You can just get started.

2: Improvise.

That said, a bit of improvisation can save you where a pattern falls short or doesn’t quite work. Give yourself a bit of flexibility.

3: Tapestry thread.

Using a strong thread, one that you can’t easily break with your bare hands, will result in a stronger stitch and a more robust item. You can even use fewer stitches when using a stronger thread.

4: Button hoops.

Sewing button holes is one of my pet peeves. For such a tiny space, so much tends to go wrong. Frayed ends, too big, too small and the stitching takes forever. Instead, make little fabric strips into hoops for buttons. More easily adjustable, faster to make and to mend.

5: Iron-on tape.

For hems, try using iron-on tape, a sort of meltable plastic strip that you put between two sides of a garment, then iron down. It gives you a great result that you can touch up or adjust as you please.

6: Fabric glue and paints.

This can look a bit tacky if you aren’t careful, so practise on scrap fabric and small projects, but fabric glue and fabric paints make for fun decorating a bit faster than usual sewing.

And that’s how I save a bit of time when I’m sewing something, to make sure I actually get it done before the year’s out. :p

What tips and tricks do more experienced seamstresses and tailors have to share on the matter?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!