Category Archives: Cleaning

Too much stuff? Liberate it (and yourself)

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful – William Morris

I can in no way be described as a minimalist. Nobody with bunting hanging in the kitchen can claim this! However, I hate clutter and I’m not a fan of holding onto lots of stuff or buying new things just for the sake of it. This brings me into conflict with Mr S sometimes who is a bit of a hoarder (he actually found some of his own stuff in the charity shop one day – I was not popular!).

I am a regular declutterer. I don’t like spaces full of so much stuff I don’t know what I own. What’s the point of having things if they aren’t used? I would rather give them away. 

So the drawers and cupboards I go to regularly are pretty ordered. However, the spaces that are out of the way are full of junk! We have three sheds in the garden that desperately need sorting out. There are items of furniture stored out there that we are unlikely to use so they need to go to the charity shop or on eBay. The DIY stuff is all over the place and needs organising. 

The more things you own, the more they own you – unknown

Another dark, disordered place is the attic. I think most of the things up there we need to keep but it could still do with a bit of rationalisation I am sure. 

Then there is the hall cupboard, full of tools, cleaning stuff, hoovers and sleeping bags. Every now and again the weight of the stuff inside pushes the door open!

So, there is work to be done and I intend to tackle the lot in the next few months. 

A good clear out is really therapeutic I find so I am actually looking forward to it (but not the spiders…).

How about you? Are you a hoarder or a declutterer? Do you have cupboards full of unidentified stuff?

Little and often gets the job done

Well, it does for me! I finally got Mr S to start putting up the curtain rails yesterday in the lodger’s room. I hadn’t realised how creased the curtains were. They are a very thick fabric (good for keeping the drafts out) but took some ironing. One pair were from the charity shop as they fit the small window but I needed two long pairs to fit the patio doors and the other two doors that lead into the garden so I bought those new from eBay. They are a basic cream curtain but not flimsy at all as cheap curtains often are. The material is slightly imperfect but you can’t see this when they are up and I think they were a great deal at £20 a pair.

This room already feels warmer with the insulated wallpaper and the radiator foil fitted. I am really pleased with it. 

I finally visited our new Lidl yesterday. It’s much bigger than Aldi with better parking and a nice bakery section. However , I spent more than usual – partly because there was more choice and DD3 was with me making me give in to temptation and partly because I think it was a bit more expensive than Aldi. 

We have been to the garden centre and spent some  vouchers we were both given for our birthdays. We have focussed on plants and shrubs we can put in that will more or less take care of themselves. We need to try to make the garden more low maintenance as we don’t have time to do it justice. Too much garden and too little time!

So today we will work on the front garden and clear it up for winter then get these plants in.

Yesterday in my continuing declutter I cleared out just one bag for the charity shop, mainly old CDs that nobody listens to and then the old pine CD rack which I don’t need now that the CDs are rationalised. Little and often….

More decluttering

How odd! I published a blog post a couple of days ago and it didn’t appear. I checked to see if I had acccidentally deleted it but no – it has simply disappeared into the Blog Land ether.  So if I have been quiet this week that is why! Try again …

These were spilling over!


I cleared out yet more bags of clutter on Sunday, another 5. The charity shop loves me! I don’t know where all this stuff comes from! I never seem to buy much. I do sometimes keep things ‘ just in case’ but there has to be a limit. I cleared the three baskets above the linen cupboard in my bedroom and found about 20 toiletry and makeup bags. Some of them I don’t recall ever seeing. This is what happens when you have three daughters but two of them no longer live here so we don’t need 20! I also found various ancient hairdryers and hair curlers and some presents that I had bought for the emergency gift box and forgotten were there. I will use some of these at Christmas. 

I also cleared out a huge box of scarves, hats and gloves. We can only wear one lot at a time and I figure if I haven’t worn something for a couple of years I never will.

Mr S does not like the decluttering process as he is a bit of a hoarder. He is sure I will throw things away that will come in handy down the line. I am careful not to do that. He is great at remembering what he has and will have just the right piece of wood/ screw/ object for the job. So I won’t be touching the sheds unless he is there in case I get rid of ‘treasure’.

I find it quite cathartic to declutter, but it does mean I have been neglecting the garden. As I work full time my weekends get pretty packed but I am determined to spend a day out there this weekend. As ever, too much to do and too little time to do it!

Time to declutter!

Some of the bags off to the charity shop

We have always had a lot of books in the house – the shelves in the sitting room particularly were crammed. I had to clear the books from what will be the lodger’s room yesterday and move them downstairs so I had to get rid of a few to make space for them. ‘A few’ turned into 13 bags! 

After decluttering, I should have taken one before!

You would think that the shelves would now be looking empty but that’s not the case. We still have a lot of books, DVDs and CDs. I kept the classics and  all my yoga books. Most of those I threw out were teen books and chick lit from my daughters. As only one of them now lives here and she had read them all it was high time for a purge. Luckily there is a large out of town hospice shop near me so I took them straight round.

Still plenty of CDs to sort out!

I need to do the CDs and DVDs next. There are plenty that no one ever listens to or watches so they can go, but we may have to do it as a committee!

I still have lots of things in the cupboard in the lodger’s room that I need to move so that will involve getting rid of some more stuff. I find it therapeutic actually – the biggest challenge is finding the time!

I only have one day for sorting this weekend as I am off to Ipswich for a yoga workshop today. It should be interesting. Hopefully I shall return calm and serene and ready for another crazy week!

More reasons to love Aldi

Well, you know I am a huge fan of the discount supermarkets, especially Aldi, since that is my nearest one (although Lidl is coming soon and will actually be even closer). Yesterday I did a week’s shop for 3-4 of us for a week for £55. I didn’t need all that much as I had done a big shop the week before. As I had a shorter list I allowed myself to look at some of the interesting bits and bobs in the central aisles. 

One of the things that caught my eye was a Sweet Freedom Choc Shots bottle, basically liquid chocolate made with no sugar. It is sweetened with fruit juice. Yesterday we had it on ice cream for dessert and before bed I made some hot chocolate. It was delicious. There is a fruit syrup version that I think would be lovely on porridge so I will look out for that. It is vegan, gluten free and suitable for diabetics. 

I also got some magic eraser sponges. I had seen these before but the Aldi ones were cheap enough to be worth a try. They work well with minimal effort and got a load of dirty marks off the wall in the hallway where we chuck our shoes in a basket. The pix show before and after. I will be interested to see if they really do work on ovens and tougher jobs.

DD3 had her first driving lesson yesterday which she was very excited about. The instructor said she was a natural and they seem to have driven for miles. I bought her four lessons to say well done on her A level results and her dad did the same. After that she is on her own so let’s hope she gets a job soon!

Exhausted of colchester

I did a ton of jobs yesterday – I was shattered by teatime and had to collapse and watch tv in bed for a bit 😀.

I was in Aldi for 8, and home to start a deep clean of the house. Every room got a good going over, including the windows, skirtings and floors. We don’t have many carpets and the floors are mainly wood. Mr S has just been helping out with a house clearance and one of the things he saved for me was a steam mop. I am quite pleased with it. It cleaned quickly and well and dried much faster than when I use my old mop and bucket. A bonus is that it just used water, so no floor cleaner or chemicals needed.

Mr S has put some strips of plastic on the walls of our freshly decorated room by the back door where the cats love to scratch. I would rather not have them there but they look better than ripped up wallpaper.

They don’t usually scratch by the French doors but to be in the safe side I have out a big plant there. It is a money plant that desperately needed repotting anyway. I used a tester pot of green emulsion on it to tie it in with the green and cream theme. Quite pleased with that!

Our quick easy and frugal vegan tea was mushroom chasseur from A Girl Called Jack with crusty bread. It was delicious and I will definitely make it again. This really is one of my favourite recipe books and I recommend it. I signed up for Jack’s new one, Cooking on a Bootstrap, through Kickstarter, a crowd funding organisation. It was supposed to be published in May but no sign yet. I wish Jack would hurry up as I am hopeful this book will be another winner. 
We were so hungry I didn’t think to get a pic of the chasseur!

I am having Sunday lie in as I type this but we have a language student coming at lunchtime so I had better get going. I might even get a bit of weeding done before we have to collect her. Happy Sunday everyone!

Home made eco cleaning spray

I dumped the Mr Sheen years ago and I have been using a mixture of vinegar and water to clean surfaces and furniture. It is very cheap and effective. I  have also on occasion used bicarbonate of soda to scrub the bathroom. However, until now I haven’t really explored any recipes for home made environmentally cleaners. 

  I hate the idea of living in a house filled with chemicals and the damage that they do to the environment, but I can’t afford the expensive eco-friendly cleaning products you find in the supermarket or health food shop. Over the years a mixture of being very busy and laziness has meant that my cleaning cupboard has started to fill up with standard cleaners. I have bathroom cleaners, bleach, window cleaners, carpet cleaners, oven cleaners….what happened to my green credentials?! My cupboard is full of chemical cocktails in a sea of plastic bottles. Enough is enough!

As I run out of each cleaner I am going to experiment with a cheaper, greener home made alternative. The first has been a general purpose spray cleaner that I have so far used successfully in the kitchen and bathroom as well as the kitchen work surfaces. 

This is extremely cheap and easy to make. I put it in an old spray bottle so less plastic waste too! I reckon it cost about 60p for a litre and I have loads of borax substitute left that should last ages.

Orange general household cleaner

An old spray bottle, washed out
2 heaped tsp borax substitute
4 or 5 drops of orange essential oil
100ml white vinegar
warm water

Use a large jug as this fizzes when you add the vinegar to the borax substitute. Start by mixing them together as much as you can. Add your orange oil and top up to the litre mark with warm water. Keep stirring until the borax substitute is dissolved, pour into your spray bottle and get cleaning!

I got my white vinegar from Asda for about 50p and the oil and borax substitute came from www.summernaturals.co.uk.

Does anyone have some tried and tested green cleaning recipes they would like to share?

It’s not easy being green! A review of Splosh products

This is not a sponsored post and all views are my own genuine opinions.

I have been frustrated for some time by the sheer volume of plastic products that enter Shoestring Cottage in the form of containers and packaging and have been looking for ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce.

It is very inspiring to read about people who produce little or no waste of any description. They buy their groceries and household products from markets and bulk buy stores, use second-hand and grow some of their own food. They reduce, reuse and recycle everything, but mostly they focus on reducing; that is they refuse to buy products in any form of packaging.

This is fine if you happen to live near a bulk buy supermarket. I found very few examples in the UK, and none at all near to where I live. We do have a market so I could get much of my fruit and veg from them. I could get my meat from the butcher in town and ask them to place it straight into my own containers. I have heard there is a food coop developing locally but the bulk buy potential there seems to be limited to whole foods. For a full time working mum this is incredibly time consuming. It appears  I would need to spend a whole precious day of my weekend shopping in town and then still wouldn’t solve the problem of all the toiletries and household cleaning products that come in plastic packaging. As a great frog once said, it ain’t easy being green!

The latter problem could be resolved by a cunningly clever concept from a company called Splosh. They sell products such as washing up liquid, toilet cleaner, hand wash, laundry detergent and fabric conditioner in dissolvable refill pouches that come in a recyclable cardboard container through your letterbox. If you like you can buy various starter kits of their products, which are in plastic bottles admittedly but you only need to purchase them once and then reuse them again and again  by refilling them. You can even just buy the refills and use your own bottles. 

  This is such an obvious idea you wonder why all  companies aren’t doing it! They could save masses of money on packaging and transportation if they sold their wares as refills. Supermarkets would reduce the amount of space required on their shelves and local authorities wouldn’t have to spend time and money collecting and either recycling this packaging or sending it to landfill.

So…I heartily approve of the concept, but what about the products? I decided to start by trying washing up liquid and fabric softener. I have already gone back to buying washing powder in cardboard boxes and replaced hand wash with good old fashioned soap so I thought I would go for the products that would be harder to replace with more environmentally sound alternatives ( and yes, before you say it, I have tried a cup of vinegar instead of fabric softener and the results weren’t impressive).

  I purchased lime washing up liquid and cotton flower fabric softener. They both smelt lovely and look great in their smart Splosh containers sitting on my kitchen windowsill. But do they work? The answer is yes! They are very effective products. The washing up liquid coped very well cleaning up two big bowls of curry, a rice pan and lots of plates and cutlery. My washing smelt lovely and even the line dried towels came out nice and soft. 

The only fly in the ointment if you are on a restricted budget will be the price. You can buy a four bottle starter pack with products of your choice for £14.95. 

A refill for 1 litre of fabric softener is £5.95 and a bottle of washing up liquid will set you back £4.95. The products are good and I heartily recommend them if you can afford to pay that. However, I can buy washing up liquid in Aldi for 69p and 2 litres of softener for a couple of pounds. So if you are looking to save money and not just the planet it probably won’t work for you. 

My next step may be to look at making my own cleaning products. I already use bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar for some tasks but I need to expand this idea. Watch this space!

New Year Cleaning Frenzy

New beginnings, fresh start …even if you don’t bother to make New Year’s resolutions it is hard not to be inspired by the prospect of renewal and improvement that comes with a brand new year.

As I have had a bit of time to spare over the holiday period, my fresh start is taking the form of an early spring clean. I have scrubbed the fridge and oven, have cleaned all of the windows in the house, and the fully tiled bathroom has had a rare full clean from floor to ceiling. 

It frustrates me that I never have the time to tackle these jobs on a weekly basis. By the time I am home from a hard day at work I can only manage to make and tidy up dinner and maybe get some laundry on or water the garden, then I am bushed and need to relax. Saturday is the day I clean through and do all the household tasks. I try to make Sunday a day of rest, although I invariably end up in the garden or on a good long walk with Mr S!

I want to clean all the woodwork in the house as well and have made a start. It is surprising how cleaning the skirting boards, doors and their frames can brighten the place up. 

I am back to work tomorrow though so I doubt I will do any more before next weekend. I don’t want to spend all my spare time cleaning!!

I have no idea how people manage to have the kind of house that looks like it should be in a glossy magazine. I can only assume the owners don’t need to work or socialise, but perhaps they are better organised or more energetic than me 😆.

Anyway it lifts the spirits when Shoestring Cottage looks bright, clean and tidy. It may be full of old furniture and is definitely not Ideal Homes material, but it will do for me.

I hope your New Year has got off to a good start!

Steamy windows! Or more like streaming windows…

I am surprised to find a whole week has slipped by since my last blog post. Does anyone else find that they get much less productive when the clocks change and the evenings get dark so early? It takes me ages to adjust. My energy levels seem to plummet and I start to sink into hibernation mode. It’s hard to be motivated to get on with things.

The condensation this morning before i put the dehumidifier on…

This winter induced malaise, combined with us being so busy last weekend, meant Shoestring Cottage was a mess! I can only cope with so much dirt and disorganisation before I start to twitch so yesterday I got up and straight on to a thorough clean and declutter. 

I cleaned and polished and hoovered. I scrubbed the rug and the dining room chairs – the cats sit on them and make them really grubby. I cleaned the windows, washed the bathroom tiles and even tackled the debris under our bed. That was dusty! I store lots of bits and pieces like presents. Cards and wrapping paper, party stuff (bunting, paper plates and the like) and my paper files under there but other things get shoved there too and I had forgotten some of it existed. I had a clear out and have a bag for the charity shop.

Laundry out and dehumidifier in action

I am fighting the usual battle with condensation here. We have super insulated and maybe just don’t have enough ventilation anymore. I have had the windows open as much as possible, but it has been so grey and damp outside that hasn’t really helped. We have a dehumidifier, which is really effective, but I am conscious of the cost to have it on constantly. But the damp, mild weather means we haven’t had the heating to dry out the air. On top of that there is no chance of drying the laundry outside at the moment, so that is hanging in the sitting room – and the dehumidifier is currently on full blast! If you look at the pic you will see the problem. 

Still, it could be worse and I just need to keep wiping the windows, allowing some ventilation when I can and using the dehumidifier in spurts.

We are taking my mum out this morning. She had a hip replacement a month ago and can’t drive yet, and my dad is waiting on a  cataract op so he can’t drive either. As they live in the sticks a bit they are getting a little stir crazy! We will visit the little antiques unit they run and help them choose a few bits for my mum to sell on eBay. Despite being 80 she is quite a dab hand at this new technology!

Whatever you are doing have a great Sunday!