We’re All Collectors.

I’m not exactly a massive fan of junk, clutter or collections. But I also have a deep, personal struggle with some hoarding habits. I went through a few events in my childhood where beloved items were placed in storage only to be forgotten, damaged or stolen. And when you’re being uprooted again and again, however much you enjoy it, you can grow attached to things that go with you. I also find that when you’re frugal you cling onto things because you realize the value there is in reusing everything you own. Water bottles are good for mixing and transporting drinks. Egg boxes are good planters, newspaper can be formed into fire blocks…

So I spend a lot of my life sorting, organizing and getting rid of junk. And an equal amount of time gathering more junk, because I saw something on Pinterest or because planting season is coming up.

Which is where I’ve been finding out the importance of libraries. Most people think only of conventional libraries, but there are, in reality, all sorts of libraries. You can have a video library, a seed library or a pattern library, for example.

And if we’re going to keep some amount of clutter in our lives, we may as well categorize it. I keep my craft materials on some shelves, sorted by type. Some piles of fabric, some sewing boxes, some assorted material samples and some furs and animal bones. Everything I need to craft things when the urge arises. I have a specific shelf for current projects, so when the urge arises I can just leave new materials on it. If I don’t finish the project I will just get rid of the materials.

Keeping your collections in an organized library does three things.

Firstly, it contains your work. Never take out two projects at once, always put materials back and sort everything you finish.

Secondly, it reduces waste. You don’t end up throwing away a few things every time you tidy the house.

Finally, it limits your collection. Once your library is full, you need to focus on quality and can stop yourself from becoming a hoarder.

Because we all collect things, so we may as well not drive ourselves or anyone else crazy doing it.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

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How To… quick clean your house.

We’ve all been there. You need to clean and you don’t have the time. Maybe you’re expecting some recently announced guests. Or maybe they were invited weeks ago, but you slept in. Or maybe it’s just cleaning day and you’re running behind schedule. So, what do we do when this happens? We do a quick clean, of course. These steps are in order so if you’re caught short at least you’ll have done the main things.

Step 1: Clear clutter!

Grab a laundry basket. Go around the room and take anything that’s on the floor or on the tables that shouldn’t be. Don’t worry about shelves, mantles or other places. They’re fine for now.

Carrying everything in the basket, take it to the right room.

Step 2: Do the dishes!

Make sure all the dishes are in the kitchen and wash them all. Even if you don’t dry them or put them away, not having dirty cups and plates in the living room or on the counter really polishes a place up.

Step 3: Hoover.

The trick here is to hoover only the middle of the floors, any corners that don’t have furniture in them and doorways. This looks clean and keeps corner-dirt from being trekked around the house.

Step 4: Empty rubbish.

Get a huge rubbish bag and empty bins, cat litter trays, dying plants. Any rubbish you can get your hands on, just bundle it into that huge bag and put it in the bins. Even if you just set it outside the door to be taken down later, that’s better than it being all around the house.

Step 5: Dust visible surfaces.

Go around the house with a duster and dust any obviously dusty or wide open surfaces. These are the places where a lot of dust will accumulate and also where people usually notice it!

Tips:

-Making coffee or baking whilst you clean will leave the house nicely scented!

-Open the curtains to the fullest for a brighter room; bright rooms look cleaner!

-Put dirty things away or to the back of shelves and put cleaner things on display!

-If you clean the sink, toilet and mirror well, the rest of the bathroom looks fine!

-Putting an interesting ornament out like a guitar or a complex painting detracts from clutter!

And hopefully this should tide you over until you have a chance to clean properly!

What cleaning tips and tricks do you know? How do you clean your house when you only have a few minutes to spare? Share your advice in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… prepare a first aid kit.

This is going to be the first in six installments where I will explore six kits we could use in various situations as housekeepers. It falls on our heads to be ready for most eventualities, especially when they happen on our threshold and a small, easy to locate, well-organized, well-stocked box will really come in handy when you need to think fast and save the day!

The first kit is a first aid kit. This is an essential in any household, but few people go beyond the basic sets you can buy in the pharmacy, a box of plasters and a few painkillers. But even if you find it hard to think ahead when it comes to illness and injury, there are some simple measures you can take to make an awesome first aid kit.

1: The container.

The first step is to prepare a suitably sized container for your kit. None of that tiny, easy, cutesy nonsense. That was fine for your first scout camp, but when you have a real problem on your hands, you need to be well stocked. We actually have an entire shelf in a cupboard dedicated to our first aid gear. That’s how big we’re talking. You will want to stockpile the basics and be storing heavy-duty things, like heatable and coolable packs, compresses and emergency surgery kits. You need the space.

If you can’t take over a cupboard, consider a child’s suitcase, a storage box or even assorted tupperware boxes, all properly marked and organized, of course.

2: The grab-bag.

But what about those times when you need something soon or often? For that we will create a mini-kit, a grab-bag of assorted items you may need in a pinch. This should be the size of your standard household first aid tin or small lunch bag.

It will contain antiseptic wipes and/or spray, a small selection of plasters and sticky bandages, a nail kit and anything else you may need suddenly or urgently, such as an adrenaline shot if your daughter is seriously allergic to beestings.

3: Basics.

The basics are what we first think of when we talk about first aid. You will want two stashes of these: a stockpile in the main cupboard/container and a small selection in your grab bag.

Antiseptics. For any small cuts or animal bites.

A nail repair kit. Tweezers, nail file, small scissors and clippers. All very useful in the event of torn or damaged skin or nails.

-Simple painkiller. Paracetamol is wiser, as too much aspirin is a blood-thinner. But do make sure to have a selection.

Plasters. Everything from those tiny dots to a huge roll of plaster tissue.

-Sticky bandages. For more serious cuts than plasters can help with.

And those are your bare essentials.

4: Cold and Flu.

Colds and flus are inevitable. Sure, if you look after yourself you may get to a point where you get one a year and all it feels like is a stuffy nose, or even where you don’t get ill. But not everyone will or can get their immune system that strong and these people wander in and out of your life and home fairly regularly. Therefore, we need to be stocked in case of cold and flu.

-Congestion relief. Inhalers are very good, but nasal sprays can also help.

-Throat relief. Soothers and cough syrup.

Vapor rub. Good for handkerchief rubbing and for little ones with blocked sinuses.

Spare packs of tissues. Nobody ever has enough.

Vitamin chewies. To help prevent them from catching anything else whilst they recover.

5: Sports.

Again, you may be one of the least physically active people in the world and still get tennis elbow. And others around you will almost certainly get sprains, tears and twists even when you don’t. So you will need to be prepared for them.

Freezable pack. This could be as simple as that sponge-in-a-Ziploc trick or even a camping freeze bag.

Warmable pack. Rice bags are really easy to make and helpful.

Cool and heat sprays. For instant relief.

-Compress bandages. Usually just two long ones are enough, but you may want a specialized knee, ankle and wrist one too.

Ibuprofen gel. For swelling and pain.

Rehydration salts. Great for recovery, also usable in cases of extreme enteritis.

6: Bandaging.

Anyone can get cut or injured. Anyone can fall over, have a piece of furniture land on their foot or be bitten by a large animal. So bandaging gear is an essential.

Simple sterile gauze. These bandages come in little sterile packets and are very useful.

Bandaging. These come in rolls and are used for compressing wounds or broken parts into place.

Butterfly stitches. Little sticky stitches, good for holding things together as a temporary fix.

-Sewing kit. Sterile needle, proper thread, sterile tweezers and scissors.

Dissection kit. Sterile scalpel, tweezers, scissors, etc. Good for cleaning up messy wounds before bandaging or stitching and removing glass or deep splinters.

7: Epipens.

If you or a member of your household has a serious allergy, you will probably have an epipen anyway. These are measured adrenaline shots to keep people alive through an allergic reaction.

But as long as you know someone who has a serious allergy, it may be best to keep an appropriate epipen at hand at all times, just in case. Be warned, they expire. So keep an eye on them.

8: Gadgets.

Anything technological that may need batteries recharged, to be kept dry and safe or replaced after a few years.

-Assorted thermometers. Oral, ear, rectal, baby.

-Massager. A godsend when you need one. Just get something simple, like those insect-like ones.

Blood pressure monitor.

Blood glucose checker and strips.

9: Specials.

These are assorted items you will use rarely and that aren’t part of a treatment program, but that it’s best to keep in the back of your kit, just in case.

-Heavy duty painkillers. Codeine, for example.

-Headlice killers.

-Worming pills.

-Something to induce vomiting. When you need someone to vomit, this is vital.

-Fire blanket and burn cream.

10: Personals.

Anything you need that other people may not. Have a look at whatever illnesses or disorders run in the family. Some homes may need a defibrillator, some may need omega oils, some may need a couple of epipens handy. Make sure you have everything you need and put it into the right area.

11: Information.

All the literature you might need. I’d recommend a clipboard with a sheet of expiry dates for easy access, a first aid book for all emergencies and any books on the local wildlife and what may be poisonous where you live.

Once you have collected all of this, be sure to keep it organized. Tupperware boxes or makeup bags make great mini-kits, so that all your bandaging, painkillers or flu treatments are together. When you use it, make sure to put everything back where it came from and make note when something needs replacing or restocking.

And that is your first kit! Be sure to check in next week to find out how to design a kit for when you are depressed or otherwise “down”.

Until then, feel free to share your suggestions for the kit in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What Crafting Does To And For You.

Arts and crafts are something most of us appreciate. We love seeing the results of great talent and skill. We also love engaging in crafting activities when we can. But crafting is a little like reading. Despite knowing that most of the happiest, wisest, healthiest people in the world craft, most people seem to avoid it.

It’s quite peculiar how we do this, because, however you look at it, crafting is innately human. From our earliest days, even if toys and paints aren’t available, we take mud and sand and sticks and stones and mash things together to make murals, sculptures and decorations. We are drawn to paint and stickers and glue. We make shiny, bright, ornamented versions of everyday items. In short, we are born with a desire to create. Which makes a lot of sense, really. A human is born a naked ape-grub without any sharp teeth or fangs, without the ability to even stand. We grow into gangly, nude primates that are slow, clumsy and weak compared to most of our would-be predators and prey. So crafting is one of our ways of surviving. By tinkering about with everything we are able to make houses, fire, weapons, traps, cooking utensils and preservation techniques. Crafting made the arrow, the tree-house, the fire pit and fermentation. It’s an instinctive drive.

And another unique trait of humans is that we use this tinkering to develop culture. At some point a good, strong arrowhead that felled five bison stops just being a good arrowhead and starts being a lucky arrowhead. At some point Mum’s copper pot stops being a cooking utensil and becomes an heirloom. The more we tinker, the more we develop, the more meaning we attach to things, until we start making this for meaning’s own sake. We find blue peaceful, so we seek out blue pigments. We like the little figures on Uncle’s bow, so we make our own figurines. We go from utilitarian, to utilitarian and meaningful, to purely meaningful.

And gradually these meanings form a culture. If women of a certain tribe wear neck-braces in solidarity with women who need them, women in the next tribe will be confused, because they will either not need braces or view them as simple medical treatment. If hunters of a certain tribe paint themselves blue to connect with the Gods, hunters from another tribe may see the blue as aggression or even aspiration to godhood. By creating a sort of secret language of meaning, we exclude others from out culture and make it ours. We gain solidarity.

Which is where we start losing our desire to craft in the modern world. We live in a world where we no longer need to craft or be inventive. Not only are we avid, hungry consumers, we seem to be trying to become culturally stagnant, merely observing past culture and global cultures and not engaging in any cultural or tribal behaviours of our own.

But crafting is still good for us. The pull is still there, even when you sit down a sixty year old office worker with finger paints. How many people do you know who would never doodle, paint, sculpt, write, sing, dance, build, shape, collage, etc if they could? If you sat a group of adults down in an arts and crafts room and told them to entertain themselves, how many would find nothing to do? We still love it and want to do it. It’s only natural to us.

Crafting is still one of the best ways of dealing with mental and personality disorders, as well as with non-clinical stress, depression, anxiety, fear or boredom. It evens us out and leaves us feeling soothed and satisfied by the end. And to boot, it shows its own fruits. When you work crunching numbers, or teaching a lesson a week, or cleaning machinery, it’s hard to see your own work in the finished product. But when you take your vision and slowly shape it into something, you are present in the end result. And that reward is one of the richest you can experience.

Humans really are meant to craft and create. And we should put more effort into doing some crafting daily.

What do you enjoy crafting? Do you craft as much as you would like? Are there any crafts you would like to learn?

Check out my Pinterest board of things to craft or that I have crafted.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… declutter paper.

We’ve already looked at speedy and efficient decluttering and how to declutter your wardrobe. Next we’re looking at one of our worst clutter areas: paper. Maybe you’re a student and going through last year’s work. Or you’ve accumulated a pile of bills and don’t know what to do with them. Or you’ve been away for a while and the mail pile has just piled up and up.

Well, as a private tutor I accumulate a lot of random paperwork and need to regularly go through it. Here is the fastest and most efficient way I have found of sorting paper.

1: Pile it all together.

If it’s a complete mess, just go round the house and empty all your piles of paper together. Most people have at least three, so here are the common piles of unsorted paper.

-Homework.

-Work sheets.

-Mail.

-Coupons and vouchers.

-Magazines and newspapers.

-Past bills, receipts, etc.

-Essential documents.

-Fun things, like motivational posters.

If your paper stores are generally organized, work through them one by one. But if you’re finding your post with your past bills and magazines and receipts in your briefcase, you may as well empty them into one pile to work through.

2: First sort. Bin or check.

The first time we go through our paper, we need to just ask if we want to bin or keep it. Plenty of things can be thrown away immediately. Anything that won’t be put in the bin or the recycling goes into another pile.

3: Second sort. Store, use.

The second time we go through our paper, we decide whether the paper needs something done, like a bill that needs paying or a magazine you want to clip things from, or just needs to be stored like payslips or important documents.

4: Third sort. Folders.

Take your store pile and assign a folder for every category of paper. Use the categories above, or even break them down, such as bills into water, gas, electric and tax, or homework by class. As you sort them, arrange them by date, with the oldest at the back. Make sure to add the newest at the very front of the folder each time.

5: Go through.

Once a year, go through your folders and get rid of anything you no longer need. Bills older than five years can easily be thrown away, though you may not keep bills older than one or two. Either way, it should be a simple matter of taking the papers nearest the back and recycling, shredding or burning them. If not, it’s time to sort again.

6: Keep out.

Make sure your folders are easily visible and usable, otherwise you start creating more paper piles. When you are sorting something, make sure you get whatever it is done and then put the paper away.

And that is how I declutter my papers. It does take a while, but it’s absolutely worth it and at least it gives you an excuse to procrastinate, watch TV, take a call and drink coffee for a couple of hours.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What does your paper drawer look like? Is it driving you crazy, like it used to drive me crazy? How do you keep on top of paper clutter?

How To… freshen up.

So we’ve looked at our handbag contents and the basics we want to have to freshen ourselves up a little. But freshening up properly is also an art. Immaculate makeup makes messy or dirty hair stand out. Or smeared makeup can ruin a look completely. So what shall we keep on us to make sure we’re properly freshened up? And how do we go through the steps?

1: Your kit.

Depending on how long you’re out, you’ll want more or less. You can keep all of these on you at all times, but it isn’t necessary to go beyond the essential. For 0-3h: lips, eyes, comb, baby wipes, hair spray. For 3-7h add: makeup bag, hairbrush, aftershave, deodorant, nail kit, mouthwash. For 7h+ add: razor, tweezers, dry shampoo, baby oil, chewy toothbrush. For busy, sweaty or intense jobs, regardless of hours: lips, eyes, dry shampoo, hairbands, baby wipes, aftershave, deodorant.

2: 0-3h. Polish up.

If you’ve been running around a lot, been working for a few hours or just not quite feeling the love, this is what you’re going to do.

Wipe your armpits, neck and chest.

Touch up your lips, eyeliner and concealer.

Fix your hair.

3: 3-7h. Fixing up.

You’ve been on your feet a lot, maybe spilt coffee on your trousers, had to run from one office to another, had lunch or a snack and had an itch on your face that smeared your makeup a little. This process sounds like a lot, but is very quick and leaves you looking 9am-fresh.

Wipe your face down first, then your armpits, neck, chest and crotch. Then, pat armpits and inner thighs with a baby wipe moistened with aftershave, to kill any bacterial overload.

Make sure your nails are clean and not damaged.

Wash your mouth out.

Reapply your makeup.

Reapply deodorant and fix your hair.

4: 7h+. Sorting out.

So the work day is over or almost over and you haven’t had a chance to fix up, maybe not even to polish up! And to boot, there isn’t much time to tidy up, let alone to have a shower. You want to feel better, look nice for when you’re home or going on a date or meeting some more important clients and you have your freshening kit on the ready.

First of all, start chewing on your chewy toothbrush.

Now wipe down your face, armpits, neck, chest, crotch, hands and feet.

Pat every fold and crevice with an aftershave moistened baby wipe.

Use baby oil on dry feet and hands.

Check and fix up your nails.

Brush your hair and apply dry shampoo.

Reapply your makeup.

Reapply deodorant.

Brush out the dry shampoo.

Spit out the toothbrush and rinse your mouth.

5: Job specific.

If your job is very messy, sweaty or active, then here are some hints to help keep you fresh.

-First of all, if you’re not already doing it: dress for your job. Heavy makeup for a primary school teacher not only looks odd to parents, but will be ruined within hours. Think practical.

-Wipe down sweat every morning, use the aftershave trick and once it’s dry, apply 48h deodorant. This cleans you from night sweat, kills bacteria and locks in future sweat and smell.

-Keep spare hairbands, nail polish and a small sewing kit on hand. If you’re likely to break something once a week, keep spares just in case.

-Keep some good quality, skin-safe fabric cleaner at work. You never know when coffee, permanent marker, ketchup or oil may strike!

And that is how to freshen up.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

How do you freshen up? What is your job like? Do you have any helpful hints to share, or any tricks you’ve picked up over the years? Would love to hear them!

How To… air the house after Winter.

Now, if you live nearer one of the Poles, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Closed windows, double glazing, heaters and dehumidifiers on full, condensation on the windows, dirty muddy entryways, old fireplace smell, animals shedding, urgh. When did our house become a Roman bath? There is far to much sweat, grime and soot to handle!

And now that Spring is properly underway, we can try and do something about it. Yes, the dreaded Spring Clean!

Wait! Don’t lynch me yet! I know none of us want to do it. Some of us (including yours truly) tried to do it way back when in March when Spring officially started and we got nowhere. But this time is different. It’s going to work out. This is how, after failing to clear everything down, I finally got my house, well, not shiny, sparkly, 1950s catalog clean, but fresh and pretty and Spring-like!

1: Open all the windows.

First step: air the house out. Yes, it’s freezing. Yes, it’s annoying. But at this stage the air outside is far lighter, drier and cleaner than the air inside.

Pick a nice, warmish, dry day. The reason is twofold: One, the air outside will be at its crispest and driest and there is little chance of rain getting in. Two, you can get everyone else outside as you air the house, so nobody complains before it’s done.

2: Clean all the windows.

And whilst they’re open, may as well clear them down. They will be stained by rain, snow, smog, soot, mud, sweat, animals, all sorts. So give them a good wash down so they let as much light in as is physically possible!

3: Empty the fireplace.

Speaking of grubby things, it’s time to clean the fireplace. You will have to give it another, lighter clean if you will use it after Spring Cleaning, but it’s best to get it done deeply now, regardless of when you’ll next use it. A fireplace is a major source of stuffy air, soot and dirt and smells in the house. Give it a thorough cleaning as the windows dry.

4: Dust the shelves and fittings.

Once you’ve closed up, it’s time to deal with the other source of stuffy air and grime: dust.

The main reason I don’t recommend dusting when airing the house is that a couple of gusts of wind can send the dust everywhere, even back where you just cleaned!

Make sure to dust the whole room, top to bottom. Shelves, painting frames, doors, light fittings. Especially look out for those hard to reach areas or the places you dust less often. Dust the walls too!

5: Hoover and sweep.

Now you’re done dusting you want to hoover and sweep immediately! All that dust you dislodged is on the floor, bed and chairs, along with any soot from the fireplace and cobwebs from the windows. Sweep or hoover it up now and it’s gone! Make sure to hoover furniture as well. Anything on the floor and anything with a fabric coating, basically.

6: Have a tea.

You need a tea break after all that rushing around. Want a biscuit or a piece of fruit too? Let’s put some music on, get the heaters back on and relax a bit.

7: Change the bedding and curtains.

Go and dig out your Summer bedding and any throws or blankets you have. Swap the bedding over on every bed and add a bright throw to keep warm. This way you aren’t waiting until you’re boiling to get your duvet changed and you can adjust the bedding based on those unpredictable May nights.

Also swap your curtains. The need for super heat retention is going away now, so you should have some light linen, net or lace curtains. If you don’t, pick some up quick. Charity shops and stores start selling them a little early, so buy them before they put the prices up!

Lighter bedding and curtains also hold less humidity, making the room feel cool and not cold.

8: Turn the heating down a tiny bit.

It’s a brave move, but it signifies Winter is actually over. Sure, you may just turn it down two degrees and wait until next week before you turn it down again, but it’s the first step towards Summer.

9: Bring in some flowers or potpourri.

Take advantage of the newly crisp, fresh air and liven your house with some lovely natural fragrances. Summer, here we come!

How is your Spring Cleaning going? Got any tips or hints? Feel free to share!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!