Simplify your life with a good declutter

simplify your lifeI have been doing a mega declutter of the sitting room over the weekend. We have just started a bit of DIY, so it seemed to be the perfect time to get rid of lots of accumulated stuff. It was very cathartic – I love a good declutter!! It made me think how good it is to simplify your life.

How many books can one person read?

Books – we have so many!! Even though I seem to be constantly getting rid of books, they soon find their way back onto the shelves. I have been really brutal this time. We have so many gardening books that neither of us ever read. I have cleared almost all of them.  I got rid of around half of the paperbacks as well.

I kept all of the girls’ Harry Potter books. They are too much a part of their childhood to give away. They still read them now when they come home. I also kept all of my yoga books. I am not teaching currently, but I hope to in the future. I need them for inspiration when I am planning lessons.

I have also kept some classic novels and other books I am likely to come back to. If I am honest, though, I could do without any of them; I just like having a shelf full of books in the house somewhere! I am a part time minimalist…

I read more books on Kindle these days but I still like an actual paper book. I can’t see this every changing but I think you can simplify your life with !

DVDs: a thing of the past?

One of my daughters pointed out that we had a shelf crammed with DVDs but no working DVD player. What madness! They are all in a bag for the charity shop. We watch the TV or Netflix now.

I have kept all of the CDs. We both listen to them in the car and still haven’t got into downloading music to our smart phones. That might be the next task.

Ornaments – who needs them?

I never thought I would be the kind of person who liked ornaments – how trashy! Then I developed an obsession with chickens and, before I knew where I was, I had shelves full of little china chooks. Every Christmas and birthday everyone bought me more. They had to go! I have been slimming them down for some time.

I have also found myself drawn in middle age to a shabby chic look. I am turning into a stereotype… Pretty floral plates vie with teapots, cups and jugs on the shelves of our two dressers. I have also developed a taste for bunting! In the sitting room, these have all been removed. I will keep the dresser in the kitchen but one is enough.

Instead, Mr S is going to put up a couple more shelves and make a cupboard where the dresser was. I have slimmed down the contents by half and will try very hard not to cram the new cupboard with clutter once it is built.

Simplify your life and find some empty shelf space

Also removed from the sitting room – a Wii that hasn’t been used for at least two years, a vintage sewing machine that I plan to sell, an old shredder gathering dust and a big pile of magazines.

The shelves look so empty! I still need to untangle the old DVD player and take that to the tip but other than that I think my decluttering task is complete.

Now the really hard work will start – peeling off the old paper and sanding down the woodwork. Because I am doing a no spend January we are using up the DIY supplies in the shed and won’t be buying any more until next month. This is fine by me. I am not a fan of DIY so happy to take it slowly.

Can you believe it? I have a car full of clutter which I attempted to take to the charity shop after work. They didn’t want it! They said they had too many donations at the moment. I will try somewhere else tomorrow.

It seems we all have too much stuff that we are trying to declutter. What do you do to simplify your life? Are you having a new year declutter?

 

Frugal DIY: sprucing up without spending a fortune

frugal diy, budget diy, saving moneyOur new lodger arrives next weekend so we are doing a bit of frugal DIY to brighten her room.

When walls start to collect marks and the paintwork is chipped it is tempting to redecorate. This can cost so much, however – not to mention the investment of your precious time.

Frugal DIY with your paintbrush

Assuming your walls and ceilings are sound, all you really need to smarten up a room is a quick paint job. A refresh of the woodwork by itself can make a noticeable difference. Gleaming white doors and skirting boards make a room look clean and attractive.

Light coloured, plain painted walls provide a neutral backdrop. We are painting all of the walls cream apart a feature wall with patterned paper. This is there already and is good enough to stay.

frugal diy, budget diy, saving moneyYour colour scheme can be changed any time with the addition of some cheap but colourful soft furnishings. We will be popping down to B&M to look at some of these. I would make my own, but frankly have neither the time nor the talent!

If you do have wallpaper, it is a good idea to keep a roll or two safe somewhere to make repairs where necessary. There were a couple of areas where small sections of paper had started to come away. Because the damage was so minimal, we sorted these out with a glue stick.

We have found that buying really cheap paint and brushes is a false economy. You end up having to apply more coats of the stuff and picking bristles off as the brushes disintegrate!

Own brands

We like Homebase’s own range of paint and brushes. They are cheaper than branded products but just as good quality.  For the woodwork we chose their one coat brilliant white gloss and classic cream emulsion for the walls. Perfect for our frugal DIY efforts.

I won’t have time to clean the carpet and cannot afford to replace it, so a nice fluffy rug from B&M will add a touch of glamour to the floor. I think these are excellent value at £14.99.

The last major DIY we did was this transformation. It took ages! At least this is a quick fix.

Do you have any ideas for frugal DIY? Where do you find home decor bargains?

The power of warm curtains

Brrr, it’s cold out there! Well, it is by my standards…we only have a light snowfall and I know it’s much worse in other areas so I’m not really complaining. However it does feel much colder.

A cheap but thick pair of curtains can help keep in the heat

Last year the little room we used as a dining room (now our lodger lounge) was so cold we simply stopped going in there until the spring. For a small room there is a lot of glass: some old French doors that need replacing, a front door, a back door and a small window too. It got so cold and damp in the room there was mould around the windows and behind furniture.

Warm curtains really work

This morning it was really cosy. The curtains have made a huge difference. I bought quite cheap ones, £20 a pair, but they are a heavy cotton with thick linings. I had intended to buy some additional thermal linings but they aren’t really necessary.

The other measures we have taken to warm things up have helped too. Regular readers may remember the blood, sweat and tears that went into thermal lining the walls! We also put some insulated foil behind the radiator. But it is the curtains that make the biggest difference. I feel it if I forget to draw them each evening.

So if you can afford nothing else, a decent pair of thick, warm curtains or even a blanket up at a chilly window could make you feel much cosier and maybe even lower your heating bills.

I hope you aren’t under 3 feet of snow and keeping warm and cosy!

Frugal DIY: Shoestring Cottage presents …

Frugal DIY

We finally put the finishing touches on our little second sitting room at the weekend. I am really pleased with it. It is clean, bright and feels so much warmer. Our frugal DIY efforts have paid off and it is ready for a lodger.

I still need to complete the downstairs loo. I am going to try to make time to do a bit on Saturday morning, continuing my little and often approach to life!

A weed free gardenFrugal gardening too

We also spent a lot of Sunday weeding and tidying the front garden on Sunday. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day and great to get out in the fresh air. It is looking a bit smarter now but there is still so much to do. I want to make it much more low maintenance so I am planting shrubs and grasses and mulching with shredded bark to keep the weeds down.

I will do a few hours whenever I can to get it tidy for winter. We will get there …

Anyone else got the frugal DIY bug?

Frugal DIY (Blood, sweat and tears)

We are getting there with our frugal DIY efforts. You wouldn’t believe the amount of work that went into making this:

…look like this:

Just a plain little cream room. It looks as if we have simply applied a bit of paint when in fact we had to sort the electrics, rip off and replace the skirting boards, pull off the old paper , paint the woodwork and ceiling and, the bit that took all the time, put up the thermal lining paper. The best part was painting the walls at the end!

We have managed to do this on a tiny budget – we are great at frugal DIY!

I need to get the curtains and thermal linings and some suitable curtain poles. Mr S will put these up and the shelves will go back on the walls. Then we can advertise for the lodger.

This is what the cats did to the last lot of wallpaper. If this happens again I swear I will cry! We are going to put some plastic panels on the walls to protect them, and in the meantime have piled some paint pots against the corners they like to scratch.


We still haven’t finished the toilet. We thought we would and could have done it today but we really needed a day out before going back to work tomorrow. Will report back on that!

I hope you had a lovely bank holiday if you are in England – although you may have been doing your own frugal DIY. Back to reality and work tomorrow 😀.

Frugal DIY: Slowly but surely gets the job done

frugal DIY - thermal lining paperWe are making slow but steady progress decorating the lodger’s sitting room and downstairs loo. It has been exhausting in the heat this week.

I finally started papering the walls yesterday whilst Mr S fitted the new skirting boards. The papering is taking ages and is so hard to do! I am using a thick thermal wall covering. It is great when you have a flat wall with nothing to cut around. However, I started with the loo – a tiny room with toilet, sink and lots of pipe work. What a nightmare! You cannot cut the paper to shape in situ as you usually would. This stuff bends, creases and breaks if you attempt that. You have to measure every obstacle and cut it too shape before you stick it to the wall! No mean feat. I would have ripped my hair out if it wasn’t covered in wallpaper paste!

Add to that the feeling of working in a small oven due to the heatwave and you get the picture!

frugal DIY

Before…

frugal DIY

…and after!

On the plus side it really covers all the lumps and bumps and the walls in there are really terrible. The improvement is remarkable. I still have a bit to finish today then I can get on with the big room, which should be a lot easier and Mr S will be able to help me today.

Hopefully when the winter comes we will reap the rewards of our hard work with warmer rooms and no mould.

We were so exhausted at the end of the day that Mr S treated us both to fish and chips with a huge mug of tea. I needed it. Back to the grind now. We will get there!

 Frugal DIY: Project lodger

Frugal DIY with thermal wallpaper

Well, we would choose the hottest week of the year to decide on a bit of frugal DIY! Exhausted already but we need to get the rooms done so that we can advertise for a lodger.

So far we have removed all of the old wallpaper, repaired the walls, painted the ceilings and pulled off the rubbish old skirting boards. This prep time takes so long.

A work in progress

We need to make the room much warmer so have decided on thermal insulating wallpaper. We met a lady in B&Q as we were buying it. She said she had tried it and it worked well, but it was easily damaged once up and you only had to lean against it to leave a mark. I am worried about this now, but more about the cats scratching it up the moment it is in place! We are going to put protective Perspex near the back door as this is where they really like to scratch. However, there will be some time when it is drying and then when it is painted where there will be no protection. I will be very annoyed with them if they wreck it immediately!

If the wallpaper works it will be a proper bit of frugal DIY. It’s not expensive to buy and will save money on our heating bills, hopefully.

In other news

We are still eating from the fridge, freezer and larder. I have bought cat food, bread, ham and fruit this week but very little else. I am quite pleased that after a day doing DIY we haven’t given in to a ready meal or takeaway. It would’ve been so easy to do it.

Yesterday we had Quorn bolognese (not the best – I’m not a big fan of Quorn but it needed using up) and today we had Jamie’s Hit and Run Chicken Tray Bake, which has become a favourite (recipe here). Tomorrow will be omelettes and chips with a tomato salad  as they are now coming thick and fast in the greenhouse. Thursday will probably be chickpea curry.

I will eventually go shopping but as I spent a lot of money in B&Q today I will try to put it off for as long as I possibly can!

Making do and mend: the kitchen gets a make over at last!!

I am exhausted! We have spent the past three days painting and repairing our kitchen. In an ideal world we would replace it, and we are saving towards that. However, until we have the funds we will make do and mend. It all looks much fresher and cleaner.

I have been buying a few nick knacks over the past six months to create a colour scheme of green and pink and it is starting to come together. I bought a few more inexpensive bits on eBay this morning and I can’t wait to get them in place.

I couldn’t afford a blind for my huge window but I don’t really need one. I got some pretty bunting instead!

We had to wait until we were between language students to do it but now I hope we get offered another soon to go towards my savings.

A make do and mend inspiration

I am currently listening to the marvellous blogger Ilona from Life After Money on the Jeremy Vine show, hosted today by Vanessa Feltz. She is an inspiration, thrift personified, and certainly a fan of a make do and mend approach. She shows that you can have a good and happy life on very little money by being resourceful and creative with the funds she has. What more could any of us need?

Frugal insulation – Baby, it’s cold outside

Those of you based in the UK know that yesterday morning it suddenly got very cold! We have had a mild Autumn so far and it is feeling like a horrible shock to me. I have barely had the heating on up to now, but last night I had it on full blast and ended up curled up in bed with my fleecy pyjamas on at 9.30! It doesn’t help that I am full of cold and feeling sorry for myself I am sure.

So, what to do? I don’t want to spend ridiculous amounts of money on heating this year. But how to make Shoestring Cottage feel warmer without a major investment? I need some frugal insulation ideas.

frugal insulationFrugal insulation

We have already insulated the house by getting the loft done with super thick insulation and the wall cavities filled. However, the loft hatch is not insulated. We have some spare so the first thing will be to cut a square of insulation material and tack it on to the loft side of the hatch. That should cut out some drafts coming down from the roof space.

I also think we need to get some reflective foil on the back of some of the radiators. This is available at £7 a roll (£1.40 a metre) from B&Q. I just You Tubed how to fit it and it seemed a pretty straightforward frugal insulation solution.

The power of curtains

I bought a lined curtain for the front door a few years ago but never put it up, mainly because the special hinged curtain rails that ensure the curtain rail opens with the door are quite expensive. I think I need to revisit this idea, as we get a lot of cold air coming in through this particular door. In addition, Wickes sell brush draught excluders for doors that you fit around the frame. I will  drag Mr S along to inspect those. They only cost £11.99 for a full door’s worth.

I would love to replace all of the very ancient and fairly inadequate double glazing, but that kind of expenditure is not an option. All of the curtains in the house are lined already. I could replace with thermal linings but that is going to be expensive and time consuming. I will do this but not immediately. It will have to be done bit by bit. I don’t have a sewing maching so I will have to sew extra linings in by hand. Wickes sell secondary glazing film which has good reviews on their website. This is only £6.89 for 6 square metres which is good value I think, although it looks as if it might be tricky to fit on larger windows. If it gets really cold this winter, I have a box of bubble wrap in the shed – I will be taping that to the coldest windows to reduce the draughts!!

Warm underfoot

I also need to invest in a few more rugs. There are very few carpets in the house which is practical but means the floors are quite cold under your feet. I will keep an eye out for suitable bargains.

I found a good body warmer recently on eBay for a couple of pounds. I knew it would be handy and I was right. I am wearing it now with my fur lined slippers. I also have a vest and a jumper on. As it gets colder I will be layering up rather than immediately putting on the heating and will encourage my family to do the same. DD3 doesn’t feel the cold like me though. I will be huddling under a blanket whilst she is walking about in her T-shirt! The benefits of youth I think.

I never have the heating on at night. The cats each have a domed basket to hide in (or they sleep with me) and we all have extra blankets on the beds. I also have a blanket on the sofa to hide under whilst watching TV.

Have the temperatures fallen where you are? How do you keep your house warm and cosy? What do you think of my frugal insulation measures?

Budget DIY 

In my dreams, my kitchen DOESN’T look like the one on the left, but rather is a serene green country cottage type affair, like the Flowerpot Cottage one.

Budget DIY

Our kitchen  looks ok at first glance, but when you live with it day to day you realise it was put together by a one eyed monkey who had lost his spirit level! I have made it a bit worse by splodging bits of paint testers here and there to see what might work. What would work would be to rip the whole darn thing out and start again, but sadly the Shoestring Cottage purse strings won’t run to that right now.

The one at Flower Pot Cottage is a beautiful kitchen – this is what I will have when I win the lottery….

If you have Instagram check out @flowerpotcottage on. She has the most fabulous house, the epitome of good taste. Hers is pretty much my dream kitchen.

Back in the real world, I am making plans for a frugal renovation of my kitchen that will involve some paint, repairs and a nice new blind. You can make a huge difference with a bit of budget DIY.

 

I will probably need to wait until after Christmas but in the meantime I will be collecting bargain accessories to get the look I want.

Any hints and tips? What is your advice for budget DIY on a shoestring?

Spring has sprung!

imageSpring has sprung! All the windows are open at Shoestring Cottage, the sun is streaming in and the washing is on the line. I love being able to get the laundry outside rather than having it drying all round the house. Isn’t it amazing how a bit of sunshine can lift your mood?

imageWe moved the newly refurbished dresser out of Mr Shoestring’s workshop and into the kitchen this morning. It makes the decor look even more tatty. I hope to get some painting done but we have two language students coming over the next month so we will need to wait for a clear spell before we create mayhem and upheaval!

imageThere is so much to do in the garden. I will drag Mr S out there tomorrow and get cracking, although I think the forecast is for rain at some point. My bulbs are looking promising. I can’t wait to see their lovely colour.

Once all the cleaning is done today I intend to get back in the gym. I have been coughing all week so didn’t get to work out as much as I had hoped but I am feeling refreshed and energised by the fantastic weather.

Here’s hoping you are having a bit of sun wherever you are this weekend and spring has sprung.

Let’s get physical! Again …

 

 

imageI was so proud of myself this morning – up and straight in the new gym. I was shocked to realise how unfit I am at the moment. Now that I have a mini gym in the house hopefully I will build up my strength again. I am flexible as a yoga teacher but strength is important as well.

image

imageMr S was flexing his muscles as well last night. He jemmied out the big ugly breakfast bar that was in the kitchen ready for us to decorate. The space seems so much bigger! The newly refurbished dresser will fit against the wall now.

I have sold five things on eBay this weekend and have several others listed. I am also still buying items for a song where I can and reselling them. Hopefully I can start to build a regular extra I come doing this, although it does, of course, all take time.

So busy as usual. Any exercise or DIY for your weekend?

Vegetable bake and a good day’s work

Before...dirty and rather tatty

Before…dirty and rather tatty

I had the day off today to start the refurbishment of an old dresser. My parents had it made in the seventies and gave it to me when I bought my first house. Back then honey-coloured pine was all the rage – I remember this dresser in the family kitchen with its matching table and benches. At some point I painted it blue, but for the past 3 years it has been at the back of Mr Shoestring’s workshop gathering dust.

 

It is a cute little dresser and is the first part of our planned redecoration (on a shoestring, of course) of our kitchen – Mr S is going to remove the ugly breakfast bar to make space. We chose a chalk finish pale green. Today I sanded it, washed it thoroughly and applied the first coat. It is looking very encouraging so far! Hopefully I will get the final coat on tomorrow and will wax it over the weekend.

Mid transformation!

Mid transformation!

Because I knew I probably wouldn’t fancy cooking when I got in, I prepared the dinner before I went, a very simple veggie bake based on Delia’s  Leek, Carrot and Potato Pie which features in my original copy of Frugal Food. It was perfect after my day freezing in the workshop – warming and comforting. I used tinned potatoes to save time – they are 15p in Aldi and I couldn’t buy fresh for less – and also a packet of bechamel sauce that cost 10p from Approved Food. Half of the leeks were from the garden – the last of them – and the other half came from Aldi this morning from their Super Six range and cost 59p.

200g carrots, chopped ( I don’t bother peeling them)
2 x 420g tins of potatoes
50g butter
100g mushrooms
500g leeks, washed and chopped
1 small onion
1/2 pint white sauce
150g cheddar, grated
2 tbsp breadcrumbs, made by whizzing up half a crust of bread with my hand blender
2 pinches cayenne pepper

veggie bakeCook the carrots in boiling water until cooked but still al dente. Sweat the leeks, onion and mushrooms in some butter until soft. Season well to taste. Drain the carrots, reserving 1/4 pint of water to make up the sauce, then follow the instructions on the packet but replace half the suggested milk with this water (or make a bechamel from scratch so that it can be gluten free if necessary). Slice the potatoes. Arrange the vegetables in layers in a deep casserole dish, finishing with a layer of potatoes, seasoning as you go. Combine the breadcrumbs with the cheese and cayenne and sprinkle on the top. Bake in a medium oven (180C) for about 40 minutes until the topping is golden brown. Serve with a green vegetable and enjoy!tinned spuds

The girls complained at the lack of meat, but since they both presented me with clean plates I don’t think they suffered too much 🙂

Making extra money

Our nice French student went home today. He was a lovely guest and it was a real pleasure to have him. We make so many friends and find out about different cultures by hosting foreign students. It is a very enjoyable way to make extra cash and I recommend it if you have a language school nearby.

I am hoping it is a busy year for students as it helps so much with our finances.

This weekend will include a tour of the charity shops. As DD3 has had no luck finding a part time job to fit around college we thought we would search for bargains to resell on Depop to make her a bit of cash. I am stunned at what you can flog at quite high prices if it can be classed as vintage! We may not be able to get going properly on this until the boot sale season begins. Wish I had kept some of my ugly 80’s clothes!!

More cupboard decluttering is required now; I am starting on repainting the dresser for my kitchen this week and then will repaint the kitchen itself. I want the kitchen as ordered as possible before the chaos starts.

Any interesting plans for the weekend?

 

 

Everybody needs a Mr Shoestring!

King of the world!

King of the world!

image

Poor Mr S is in an exhausted heap on the sofa. I think the week up on the roof in the cold wind sorting out the leaks has taken its toll. It was in a pretty poor state. I guess the whole thing will need serious work at some point, but this repair should last a few years.

There were some serious holes. On one side all of the concrete seal where the roof meets the gully had perished and some of the tiles had slipped and were broken.

imageimageHe had to drive round Essex to source tiles to match, get the scaffold up, clean all the moss and broken concrete off, cut the tiles and fit them, then concrete them into place. Not to mention running up and down the ladder and having to conquer his fear that he might fall off or go through the roof! What a hero!

All sealed up and water tight

All sealed up and water tight

He had a good view of the garden while he was up there too.

It has rained a couple of times in the last few days and no leaks!!

 

 

Sometimes you just need a break

We had intended to continue with the decorating yesterday but neither of us could face another day of it. The house was covered with dust and grime, there was laundry everywhere that I couldn’t get outside to dry because of the wet weather and the general cleaning hadn’t been done either. We decided to start afresh next weekend.

Instead I spent the morning giving the place a quick going over and organising myself for the coming week. I feel so much better when I am in control and on top of things!

We took a drive to Brightlingsea in the afternoon and had a walk. It was very windy and certainly blew the cobwebs and decorating dust away. Sometimes the simplest things can make a difference and we felt much better for some fresh air and a change of scenery.

I have bought very little of anything

Getting blown away in Brightlingsea!

Getting blown away in Brightlingsea!

this month, although I have spent quite a lot of money on paint! About £100 I reckon but that’s not much to spend to decorate a room. I am currently saving my pennies towards a carpet to complete the job.

If you have any advice on the best place to get a bargain throw it my way :-).

Are we there yet?

Four days of decorating the hall and we are only about half way through! There is so much woodwork to repair, rub down, scrub and paint. Eight doors and doorframes, the bannisters, window sills and skirtings, plus walls to fill, wallpaper to hang walls and ceilings to emulsion. I am getting very tired but it is looking better already, so I know it will be worth it in the end.

imageI don’t need the gym anyway as I am sure I am burning lots of calories. The house is a complete tip, but it will have to remain so until we have finished and I can restore a bit of order.

imageTonight’s tea was a £1 Aldi pizza, jazzed up with some peppers, olives and cheese and served with a bag of salad leaves. I can’t be doing with cooking at the moment!

Back to it. I will post some pix if it ever gets finished. 🙂

Manual Labour

I had no time for a blog post yesterday – the decorating has started!!

I knew the hallway was going to be a pain to redecorate. What it really needs is replastering, not just sprucing up, but the budget won’t run to that. I spent a lot of the day repairing the walls – filling in holes and patching up the wallpaper. We daren’t strip the old stuff off as it may be all that is holding the plaster together in places….Mr S did a very impressive repair of the artex on the ceiling. I wish we could get rid of that as well but for now it will be painted so it will look fresh and clean.

The bannister was a bit of a job and took ages to rub down and wash, but at least I did manage to put a coat of quick dry gloss on and it looks so much better. White instead of aged yellow! The kitten likes to jump up and down on it and wind herself in and out, so I had to shut her away in the end.

Mr S is coming over to help again today. Because I know we will both be starving by tea time and won’t want to cook, I have made a slow cooker creation – Bacon, barley and leek stew. If it is a successful invention I will post the recipe.

barley bacon leek stewBack to it!

A project

Mr Shoestring found me a lovely little chair for the student/lodger room. I plan to rub it down, paint and distress it and then wax it. If it looks good at the end I will do the same to a big old pine chest of drawers that I have in there. It is a nice solid bit of furniture but it is a bit shabby, if I’m honest, and not shabby chic!

imageSo, two more projects for my 52 projects challenge. Life is so busy I will be happy if I manage 25 projects by the end of the year.

Worked flat out yesterday getting the student’s room ready and giving the house a thorough clean. By the end of that I was too shattered to blog!

I will do an update when I have painted my little chair.

In the meantime I am off to make a fruit cake and crumble to welcome our visitor. I do like to make sure they are well fed!

Budget DIY: Home is Where the Heart is

2651Gratitude

We love our house. We sometimes sit at the bottom of our large, slightly unkempt garden and feel so happy and fortunate to have a place to call our own. Except that most of it belongs to the bank!!! We would love to be free of the mortgage, but the reality is that is not going to happen any time soon. The aim of our scrimping and saving is to make the mortgage payments every month in order to stay here. So, we am in the same boat as many people and far luckier than others.

Budget DIY

It’s no castle, just a modest ex local authority semi. These houses were solidly built with big gardens and lots of space around them so we aren’t overlooked and it is very quiet and friendly. Unfortunately for us, the previous owners were of the bodge it and hope for the best school of DIY. They painted just the side of the door you could see and also around furniture, which was something of a surprise once their furniture had been removed! They used bits of old rough plank for skirting boards, the bath was broken and the boiler didn’t work. The kitchen was fitted by someone with a sense of humour and no spirit level. The whole place needs work.

We had a little spare cash to use on decorating when we moved in a couple of years ago, but by the time we had paid for the new boiler, there was no money left for fancy wallpaper, plasterers or new carpets, so my partner and I have had to be creative! It is definitely a work in progress and budget DIY is the name of the game.

Making the best of what you have

In truth it isn’t about having a house suitable to grace the pages of Ideal Home magazine. It is about making the best of what you have. I buy solid bits of furniture from charity shops and eBay, then paint them to suit my décor. I have curtains, bedding and kitchen equipment from Freecycle. Most of my crockery is old and mismatched but I have a lovely old fashioned 1920s Royal Doulton set that my Mum picked up for a song from an auction that I bring out when I have people round.

I am lucky to have a partner to help me who understands the make do and mend philosophy. He rarely throws anything away that might come in handy, mends saucepans with broken handles, used bathroom sealant to repair the hole in my watering can (1 year on and it’s still going strong) and didn’t laugh when I potted up my daffodils in my old leaking wellies.

A shoestring revamp

My next challenge is to revamp the hallway without spending any money. We probably have enough gloss in the shed for most of the woodwork. The current wallpaper will have to stay so the walls can just be painted. The ceiling will need some work as there are signs of an old water leak, and inexplicably half of the skirting boards have been removed so they will need to be replaced.

The stairs are currently painted a migraine inducing red. I can’t afford new carpet at the moment so will keep an eye on Freecycle to see if anything comes up that could be used. I already have a pair of cream linen curtains in place that came from Freecycle four years ago and are still good. I have a few pictures for the walls and will add some family photo montages.
It will be a labour of love. Watch this space…