Home made lemon cleaning spray #ecofriendlycleaning

home made lemon cleaning spray

I thought I would share this recipe (if you can call it a recipe!) for  a fabulous home made lemon cleaning spray. Regular readers will know that I have gradually been replacing the nasty chemical products at Shoestring Cottage with more eco-friendly alternatives.

Cheap as chips

However, you can pay through the nose for more environmentally sound products. The beauty of this home made lemon cleaning spray is that it is as cheap as chips! Ideally you would use the rinds of lemons that have been used for something else first. I made a lemon drizzle cake with two lemons. This involved using the juice and some of the rinds. I couldn’t face chucking them straight into the compost bin as they smelled so wonderful. Lemons are well known for their cleaning and antibacterial properties so a concoction for cleaning seemed the obvious solution.

I usually use a mix of 50-50 white vinegar and water as a spray when I am dusting the furniture, in the microwave, on the windows and to clean the kitchen surfaces and cooker top. The addition of lemons means it smells so much nicer.

home made lemon cleaning sprayI usually use old plastic spray bottles, but this time invested in some home made glass spray bottles from eBay.  The spray part is still plastic but they will last a long time hopefully. My home made lemon cleaning spray will save me buying lots of polish in spray cans that are extremely difficult to recycle or items in plastic.

The recipe: Home made lemon cleaning spray

You will need:

The rinds of two lemons

Around half a litre of white vinegar

A suitable glass container with lid

Method:

Add the lemon rinds to the glass container. Pour over the vinegar and put the lid on. Leave it somewhere for two weeks. Strain into a large measuring jug. Check how much vinegar you have and then add the same amount of cold water. Give it a stir then pour into your containers. Bob’s your uncle! Couldn’t be easier. Using a home made lemon cleaning spray such as this will cut the number of chemicals in your house that you and your family breathe in and save you money too.

Do you make your own cleaning products? I also like this one using borax substitute.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Simplify your life with a good declutter

Pre-Christmas is the perfect time to get rid of lots of accumulated stuff. I find decluttering very cathartic – there is nothing like a good declutter to feel like you are back in control. How good it feels to simplify your life. Less stuff means fewer bits to clean for a start!

You too can simplify your life with a good declutter.

How many books can one person read?

good declutter

Books! In the past we had so many. Even though I seem to be constantly getting rid of books, they soon find their way back onto the shelves. I was really brutal last time I decluttered. We had so many gardening books that neither of us ever read. I cleared almost all of them.  I got rid of around half of the paperbacks as well. Some I sold and some I just gave away. You can sell books through Music Magpie or Ziffit (if you use my referral code – I0LMLPHCY – you can earn an extra £5).

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 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 ever changing but I think you can simplify your life with fewer books and a good declutter.

DVDs: a thing of the past?

good declutter

Earlier in the year, one of my daughters pointed out that we had a shelf crammed with DVDs but no working DVD player. What madness! They have all been donated to the charity shop or sold now. We watch the TV or Netflix instead.

I have kept a lot of the CDs but still donated about 50% to the charity shop. We both listen to CDs in the car and still haven’t got into downloading music to our smart phones.

Again, you can sell your old CDs and DVDs through Music Magpie or Ziffit (with my refer a friend code for £5 extra cash – I0LMLPHCY).

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, this has all been removed. I will keep the dresser in the kitchen but one is enough. As I clean the house each week I find myself examining the remaining ornaments and sometimes saying goodbye to them as I go along.

Have a good declutter and find some empty shelf space

Also removed from the sitting room – a Wii that hadn’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.

My plan is to use my week off at Christmas to sort through some of the drawers and cupboards downstairs. I do this fairly often but it’s amazing how ‘stuff’ constantly finds its way back into them.  What is the point of keeping lots of things that are never used? We may as well sell or donate them, then at least somebody else might appreciate them. I am keeping a binbag in the hall to collect all of the items I get rid of.

Anyone else finishing 2018 with a good declutter? See my guide to selling on eBay if you need to get rid of some of it.

This post contains affiliate links.

5 Easy Ways to Save Money During a Long Distance Move

This is a collaborative post.

Moving from one home to the next is always a stressful experience. This is especially
true if you have to deal with a long-distance or cross-country move. One concern that
many people have with long-distance moves is that they will end up incurring a lot of
costs that are tough to overcome. While there will pretty much always be costs
associated with moving long distances, there are several ways in which you can save
money from your total costs.

Have a Plan

When it comes to moving from one home to the next, the best thing you need to do is
have a plan and a budget. Many people end up spending more money than they need
to because they are not prepared for the little, unexpected costs that pop up and pile up.
As you are getting closer to your move, you should spend time properly considering
all of your needs, including supplies (boxes, tape, padding, bungee cords, etc.), a proper
sized truck, labour help, and time needed to pack and move and unpack. This will help you
to better budget and shop around with accuracy.

Get Rid of Clutter

If you are moving into a new home, you should take it as a great opportunity to get rid of
furniture, clothes, and other personal items that you do not need anymore. You could
get rid of these items by either selling them online or through a garage sale or by getting
a tax deduction through a charitable donation. This will help you to raise extra cash for
your move while also getting rid of unnecessary clutter, which can help free up space
and reduce your moving costs.

Hire a Moving Company

While most people often think that hiring a moving company will be expensive, it
actually can save you a lot of money compared to DIY. Between all of the money you’ll
need to spend on supplies, renting a truck, and finding people to help you move, plus
any damages that occur, the true cost of moving can be quite pricey if you do it on your
own. However, when you hire a long distance moving company you will be able to
receive all of the services that you need in one consolidated package, which could help
to save you a lot of money.

Book in Advance

If you are looking to save money on moving, another thing that you could do would be to
book your mover in advance (remember, preparation is key). Moving companies tend to
fill up their schedules in the weeks leading up to the move. Because of this, if you wait
to book your move, the moving companies will either not be able to provide you with service or will have to charge you a higher rate. If you book in advance you will be more likely to save money off of the total costs.

Consider Deductions

Finally, when it comes to your moving costs, you should also consider whether or not
you can deduct the costs. If you are moving for professional reasons, you are often able
to deduct all costs associated with your move from your state, federal, and local taxes.

This could end up helping you to save hundreds or thousands of dollars off of your total
tax bill at the end of the year.

Can you do eco friendly cleaning on a budget?

 

eco friendly cleaning

Have you every considered eco friendly cleaning products? Maybe you have made your own? I am sure I am not the only one looking at a gentler way to clean the house. However, can you do it on a budget?

A chemical cocktail

Many of us use a multitude of household cleaners. One for the bathroom, another for the kitchen. Something for the oven and a different product for the sink. Window cleaning sprays, powders to sprinkle on the carpets, bleaches and toilet cleaners, spray polishes, laundry products, dishwasher tablets, washing up liquids and floor cleaners all combine to make a chemical cocktail in our homes that can’t be good for us. We then add to this indoor pollution by plugging in air fresheners! Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

All of the chemicals in these various products, not to mention the plastic bottles they tend to arrive in, also have potentially negative implications for the wider environment. In addition, you can spend a small fortune on this stuff! Buy less and spend less.

So, how can we reduce this chemical cocktail and create a healthier environment for ourselves, our families and the planet?

Reduce the number

eco friendly cleaning

You can reduce the number of chemicals you use when cleaning simply by using fewer products. Our great grandparents would have been totally befuddled with the choice. They cleaned with carbolic soap, soda crystals, hot water and elbow grease. I am not saying there was no room for improvement, but it is an illustration of how we got by perfectly well without so many detergents and cleaning products.

A general purpose cleaning spray can be used in the kitchen and the bathroom, for example! A big, cheap bottle of disinfectant in a bowl of hot water will do all your surfaces and floors.

Make your own

I make my own eco friendly cleaning spray from time to time. It’s not as powerful on really dirty areas but I try not the let the house get that bad. You can use products from your larder, such as lemon juice, white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to clean pretty much anything. Cass over at Diary of a Frugal Family makes her own window cleaning spray and even an alternative to Febreze!

I have used a vinegar and water mix instead of a window spray or furniture polish for years and it works perfectly well. In addition, I have a small bottle of linseed oil to put on wooden surfaces every now and again.

Making your own eco friendly cleaning products saves you lots of money and is much kinder to Planet Earth.

Buy eco friendly cleaning products

Not everybody has time to make their own eco friendly cleaning stuff, of course. But there are so many products available, even for those of us on a budget.

I was amazed to find Carbolic Household Soap still available, for example. Maid Simple Laundry Soap is good for removing stains before washing or for hand washing clothes. It is also great as a  laundry wash when travelling.

Soap Nuts or Ecoeggs are also great eco friendly alternatives to standard laundry liquids, although I am not convinced they work well on really dirty items. They do a lot of washes for your money though.

eco friendly cleaning

In the course of researching this post, I was sent some natural non-bio washing powder and dishwasher powder to try. Both are from LabNatu and are free from chemical additives, bleaches and petroleum. They are 100% natural and the ingredients are organic. I was very impressed with them both. They cleaned well and smelled lovely. Both are available from Beauty Naturals at £7 for a 500g bag, but if you buy before the end of August you can get 25% off this. Incidentally, check out their whole range of beauty and home products! I was very impressed and most items are not overly expensive.

Ecover is another favourite of mine for really effective eco friendly cleaning. They use plant based ingredients and, although they do use plastic packaging, say they are on a mission to stop their use of virgin plastic. I currently use their all purpose cleaner, multi-action spray and toilet cleaner, which I bought when they were on offer in Sainsbury’s. Along with my vinegar spray I need very little else for my eco friendly cleaning routine. I use them quite sparingly as they are pretty powerful.

Yes, I could go back to buying all the cheapest cleaning stuff from Aldi (and I still will if my budget gets really tight), but whilst I have the option I am happy to pay a little more for eco friendly cleaning products.

Eco friendly garden cleaning

You can also get eco friendly products for the garden too. I was recently sent some Ecofective path, patio and decking cleaner and Ecofective Safe to Clean general outdoor cleaner to review. The latter worked well on our bench on the patio. It is safe to use around children, pets, wildlife and ponds and uses friendly bacteria to get rid of the dirt. They do a whole range of green gardening products, which look quite interesting.

Think about the packaging

Buy laundry powder rather than liquid, as it comes in a biodegradable cardboard box. Buy soap in solid rather than liquid form and there will be no plastic bottle to recycle. White vinegar tends to come in glass rather than plastic bottles, which is another good reason to use it. Make sure packaging is recyclable then ensure you recycle it! Avoid products that are ridiculously over packaged. It might be a silent protest, but maybe manufacturers will stop doing it if we all refuse to buy these things.

Do you try to avoid too many chemical nasties in your home? Which eco friendly cleaning products do you find effective?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

How to Save and Make Money Using Your Kitchen

This is a sponsored post.

Updating your kitchen can be an expensive project, but there are ways to actually save and make money using your kitchen. Whether you’ve got your heart set on a new kitchen or you’ve decided to make do with what you’ve got – your kitchen can line your pockets.

Structurally Sound? – Renovate

If the structure of your kitchen is good and the aesthetics just need a little refresh, you can save yourself a lot of money by opting for renovation over buying new. You could change the colour of the cabinets and remove the handles to change them to something more modern – this makes an enormous difference. You may also wish to change your floors or the backsplash behind your hob. Making small changes can really have an impact on your kitchen. Best of all, you can budget for your project as you go, rather than having to spend one lump sum.

Need New? – Buy Used

Determined to get a new kitchen, but don’t have a lot of cash? Not to worry! You can buy a used kitchen for a great price and make it your own. However, you should avoid the likes of eBay and Gumtree as you can’t be 100% sure that the kitchen you buy is good quality. Instead, you should approach a recommended re-seller such as Used Kitchen Exchange. Used Kitchen Exchange assesses kitchens for their quality and lists them on their website. The listing includes professional photos from various angles, full measurements and details of the location. You can arrange to view the kitchen and make an offer, before the kitchen is professionally removed. You can either collect the kitchen yourself or arrange delivery for a fee. Used Kitchen Exchange has a fantastic range of kitchens including German kitchens, shaker kitchens, granite kitchens and much more. It’s a family-run company so you can rest assured that you’re getting a great deal.

Want Cash? – Sell

If you’re looking for a new kitchen and you’d like to put some cash towards it, consider selling your current kitchen. To get the most out of the sale, let the professionals hand it. Used Kitchen Exchange offers a sales service which begins with a free valuation, followed by professional photos and full handling of the sale until a buyer is found. Used Kitchen Exchange will then send a professional team to remove the kitchen. You won’t pay a fee if your kitchen hasn’t sold. Best of all, selling your kitchen stops it going to landfill, giving it a new lease of life which is better for the environment and your conscience.

Would you consider buying a used kitchen? Or selling your old one? You can put the cash from the sale towards the kitchen of your dreams, guilt-free! Plus re-using rather than scrapping is much more eco friendly.

 

 

Saving time: confessions of a slattern

saving timeAre you super house proud? Is every cupboard perfectly stacked and organised? Do you have a delicious, home cooked meal on the table for breakfast, lunch and tea? Do your kids leave the house pressed and pristine each morning? No? That’s probably because you are normal and saving time is more important than perfection.

For me, cutting corners saves my sanity when I am super busy, and I don’t mind admitting it.

Saving time with food prep

I know that cooking from scratch saves money and is more nutritious. Nonetheless, I work full time and there are times when I really don’t have the energy. Saving time is often as important as saving money to me.

There is nothing wrong with buying the odd jar of sauce to make a curry or Bolognese. They can be bought pretty cheaply in Aldi or Lidl. Every now and again I bulk buy a load of jars and packets from Approved Food. They are hugely discounted because they are past or near their best before dates, but still perfectly good to eat.

I love to bake, but I am not above buying the odd cake mix either. Betty Crocker is my favourite. The devil’s food cake is to die for and I was delighted to find a gluten free version in Aldi the other day. I have made this up for Easter.

Not so house proud

I cut corners in other areas of my life too. Housework is a bug bear for me. I hate the time it takes to clean the house from top to bottom, but I dislike a dirty house more. Spending hours and hours cleaning at the weekend is not ideal, though.

I will never be the type of person that cleans the skirting boards with a toothbrush or scrubs the bathroom every day.  Life is too short!  I whizz round with a the bathroom spray and the hoover once a week and get the whole lot done in 3 hours or so. Things look pretty clean and organised nonetheless. I keep the house tidy as I go, as that is less time consuming.

Life’s too short to iron a tea towel

Ironing is boring and time consuming. I prefer to give things a good shake and hang them to dry as neatly as I can. Mostly I don’t buy clothing that will crumple so badly it needs an iron. I wouldn’t dream of ironing towels, tea towels or bedlinen. This way I keep this task to a minimum.

I’m not the type of person who wears a top for two hours then chucks it in the laundry basket. I wear things at least twice if I haven’t broken into a sweat. Clothes last longer if you wash them less.

Saving time in the garden

We used to have two big vegetable patches. I love growing some of our own food but this was way too time consuming. Last year we cultivated just the one and chucked a load of wildflower seeds on the other. The bees and butterflies loved it.

The garden is big. The space is fantastic but we could spend every spare moment maintaining it and saving time is really important. We both work full time and don’t have the hours that Monty Don has. We are saving time in the garden by gradually planting low maintenance plants such as shrubs and bulbs. This is a work in progress.

Relax

It is really easy to set yourself impossibly high standards. We can easily be drawn into the Instagram pictures of beautiful homes and gardens, perfect shiny families and chef standard cooking. If that floats your boat and gives you pleasure, then it is time well spent. However, if time saving is important for you, try relaxing your standards, saving time and enjoying a bit more leisure. Nobody is perfect!

You will find more time saving ideas here.

This post may contain affiliate links. 

 

Five frugal things for a budget lounge revamp

Five frugal things….

Five frugal things I have mentioned in previous blog posts that we have been carrying out a bit of budget DIY. Not surprisingly my five frugal things this week are all related to this!

I am not a fan of DIY. It’s not the process, but the time it takes. The mess and disarray start to make me twitch after a while.  But we are getting there.

Insulation

Because we live in a cold house we take every opportunity to heat it up. We have lined the exterior walls with polystyrene, then papered over the top. This is an old fashioned yet simple idea to create an extra layer of insulation. It really works!

We did the same trick with our freezing cold back room last year and the results have been amazing.

I won’t lie to you, it is a faff. It means papering the same walls twice. The polystyrene is quite delicate and easy to damage too, but ok once the wallpaper is on top.

Reflecting the heat

Another very effective way to keep your house warm is to slide some reflective foil behind the radiators. We have done this in the sitting room too.

This was tricky as we didn’t want to take the radiator off the wall but we managed it with the help of some canes from the garden. (And quite a lot of swearing on my part!) So that is the first of my five frugal things.

New to us curtains

five frugal thingsMy mum is insisting on buying us some new curtains. I would rather buy great quality second hand ones than inferior new.

There are some great pre-owned curtains on eBay, and I have purchased a beautiful pair. They are long Marks and Spencer curtains and look like excellent quality.

Adding a bit of colour

We turned to eBay again to add a little colour to our neutral colour scheme. I would love some original Art Deco tiles to put around the fireplace but they are such a price!

five frugal thingsI had a search on eBay and there was a guy selling some decent reproductions. They were much cheaper than we have seen elsewhere.

I will leave the tiling to Mr S though. He is the expert in that department.

Bargain paint

We popped in Homebase to get some cream paint. We like their own brand range. It is much cheaper than the branded stuff and the quality is very good.

However, this time we bought some Dulux. It was massively reduced so it was actually the cheapest. I think it must have been end of line. We bought two 5 litre pots for just £14 each, reduced from £26. It is called barley white, which is still cream, as I can see! Bargain!!

Frugal food

I guess this is number six in my five frugal things list, but who’s counting? I have saved us some money since we started our DIY by planning really easy dinners, like omelettes and jacket spuds.  On days we have been on the go all day I have also defrosted some of the veggie curry I batch cooked.

Usually, when we are doing DIY we cave in at the end of the day and grab fish and chips or a takeaway. Not this time!

We still have a little way to go as we only have one day a week to get on with it. However, we are winning.

So, these are this week’s five frugal things. I would love to hear about yours.

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I’ve done this week linky. Pop on over to add your link if you are a blogger, or just to check out how other people save money.

 

Save money on your heating bills: Some easy ways to keep warm this winter

save money on your heating billsThe current early cold snap in the UK has been rather a shock to the system! The heating has been on a lot at Shoestring Cottage. With the prospect of larger bills looming now that winter is upon us, how can you save money on your heating bills?

Dire consequences

I am not going to go radical and tell you to turn it off all together and wear a hair shirt. We tried the no heating/lots of layers approach and it had dire consequences. We ended up with damp walls and mould growing all over the house.

Unless you are on an extremely low income (in which case, see if you qualify for extra help here), you are better to set it to come on for a period morning and evening, and then top up as you need it.

I find even if the house gets really cold my modern boiler soon gets it warm. If you can work at keeping the heat in, you won’t need to have your heating running constantly.

Insulating to save money on your heating bills

It is so important to insulate your house as much as you possibly can to keep the heat in. You don’t want to heat the house just to feel it disappearing through the roof.

We have a thick layer of insulation on our roof space. We also had the wall cavities filled. We were fortunate that at the time we were with British Gas, who were running a scheme giving both to customers for free. Some energy providers are still offering this for nothing, so check with yours. Money Saving Expert has an interesting article on this – in some cases you can also get a new boiler for free.

Thermal curtain linings

Our windows are double glazed but it is very old glazing. Replacing all of the windows with state of the art triple glazing, or even just better double glazing, is not an option. We have found that using thermal linings on our already thick curtains makes a huge difference.

A door curtain can also help to keep the draughts at bay. We have three  sets in our chilly back room – 3 external doors in one room!!

Insulated wallpaper

We also did something in the back room that has made the most amazing difference. Insulated wallpaper. It really keeps the heat in. I wasn’t sure that what is basically lining paper with polystyrene stuck to it could do the job but it does.

It is a devil to cut and almost made me cry when I papered the small downstairs loo (you can see what we did here). So awkward! Well worth it though. It has another useful advantage if your plaster isn’t great as it covers up all the lumps and bumps.

I can’t recommend this stuff enough and I am sure it will help you to save money on your heating bills.

Foiled again

save money on your heating bills photo of a wood burnerRadiator foil is inexpensive and helps push the heat back into the house rather than out through your walls. We put this in the cold back room too and will use some more in the lounge when we redecorate in the new year.

We are hugely fortunate to also have a wood burner in place this winter. It is lovely! If it is just us at home we cosy up in front of that and don’t bother to heat the rest of the house. I think this will make a difference to our heating bills, although it was expensive to buy and fit.

So, Shoestring Cottage is pretty warm and cosy. We do still have our layers and slippers to hand. I refuse to have the heating blasting out whilst everyone is walking around in shorts and T-shirts! We also have blankets and throws on all of the sofas in case anyone is feeling chilly.

What are you doing to save money on your heating bills?

 

Get things done! Super Saturday

I had such a productive day yesterday. I had loads to do, and was determined to cross as many things off my to do list as possible. Sometimes you just need to get things done!

Getting up early to get things done

It’s easy to go for a nice lie in at the weekend. I went crazy and set my alarm for 6.45 rather than 6 am! I had a cup of tea and fed the cats, then started my day with a half hour yoga session. When I can fit it in, early morning is the best time to practice yoga. It is quiet and my mind isn’t filled up with the general busy-ness. This set me up for the day.

Shopping

Get things done. Pumpkin soupI like to get to the supermarket early if I go at the weekend, before it gets too crazy. I hit Aldi just after they opened. We didn’t need a lot. As we are eating really healthily I bought lots of fruit and salad bits, some chicken for Mr S, cheese, milk, etc. I had already been into Asda the evening before and got some yellow stickered pork chops, carrots and courgettes. I was in and out in 40 minutes – no hanging about.

eBay sales

I sold a couple of pairs of boots in the week so popped the parcels in to the post office on my way home. I had a little chat with the owners. We both go in there so often we know them well now. Mr S gives them honey from his brother’s hives and they let us forage the amazing blackberries at the back of their car park.

I had no sooner got home than I found a message from another eBay customer. If she paid for a dress she wanted today, could I post it straight away? So I packaged that up and shot back round to the post office!

It has been quite a good week. If you are interested in selling on eBay, you can read my guides here and here.

I have more items to list. It has all been washed and ironed. Yesterday I listed a few things whilst watching TV and will do more this evening.

Cleaning

Well….it can’t be avoided. Cleaning is not something I enjoy, but I do love a nice clean house!

I got into a great pattern over the summer of cleaning a room each night after work. This worked well as it meant I had more time to do other stuff at the weekend. I am still working on Emma Drew’s blogging course*, which I am thoroughly enjoying,  but need to find time to finish it.

As it is now so much darker when I get home after work, it is hard to be motivated to do any cleaning. You just want to curl up on the sofa in front of the fire. However, next week I aim to get back into my routine.

I did the whole house from top to bottom yesterday, so I have a few days’ grace.

*This is my affiliate link – if you use it and the code BLACKFRIDAY you will receive a £50 discount until 30th November.

Super soup

I am back into the soup making now the weather has turned. Yesterday I used two of our pile of home grown pumpkins to make some. Jamie Oliver’s glorious roasted pumpkin soup recipe is delicious! I made a ton and have already put it into the freezer in old butter containers.

Black Friday bargains

Get things done. My new laptopI was on the go all day and it was a very productive day. As I said before, sometimes you just need to get things done! Talking of which, I want to buy myself a really good planner for 2018 so will get onto Amazon to see what I can find as it is still the Black Friday weekend. I fancy this one – it looks so good for the price! Being organised and getting more done means I have more time to do the stuff I like.

My best Black Friday bargain was my new laptop! It is a Christmas present from Mr Shoestring but I couldn’t wait a month so he let me have it now. He got it from Argos on Friday morning. We watched it for a couple of weeks hoping it would be reduced and it was – by £160! I have never owned my own laptop before and I am really excited. We got this one from Argos, an Acer Aspire.

Today we plan to take things a little easier. A long Sunday walk followed by some of the pumpkin soup, then I am going for tea with some of my girlfriends. Whatever you are doing today have a lovely Sunday. I hope you also get things done.

 

Home made eco friendly 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  a home made eco friendly cleaner such as this one.

home made eco friendly cleaning spray

Home made eco friendly cleaning spray

A home made eco friendly cleaning spray

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 39p and the oil and borax substitute came from Summer Naturals.

Does anyone have some tried and tested eco friendly cleaning spray recipes they would like to share?

The amazing power of bicarbonate of soda

Yesterday it was a warm and muggy day. As I walked into the house after work I was hit with a most unpleasant pong. The bins! Both the main kitchen bin and the food waste container seemed to be fermenting in the heat. Yeeeuch!

Magic white powder

I immediately reached for the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). If I had remembered to sprinkle some of this magical powder into the bins before I put in new liners, they wouldn’t have been so smelly. I have done that now!

We always keep a big of tub of bicarbonate of soda handy as it has so many uses as a cleaner and deodoriser, as well as for making the odd muffin, of course! it is incredibly cheap for something that is so versatile.

I use wood pellets in the cat litter tray as it is better at absorbing smells, but I also sprinkle baking soda  in the bottom of the tray. It makes a huge difference.

It is good for getting rid of nasty odours in the fridge too; just leave a small bowlful at the bottom and it will help neutralise the smell.

Use bicarbonate of soda for personal care

Because of its deodorising properties, bicarbonate of soda can be used under your arms. I sometimes buy a solid deodorant from Lush that is mostly made of bicarb – and it really works! You can dab it straight onto your skin with a flannel.

It is also great for smelly feet when used in this way. Alternatively, a couple of teaspoons left overnight in stinky shoes or trainers will neutralise those nasty niffs!

I’m not a fan of this, but you can also use bicarbonate of soda to clean your teeth. Just dip your toothbrush in and brush! There are recipes online to make a more palatable minty toothpaste with it.  It can also freshen your breath if you mix a teaspoonful in a small glass of water and gargle.

Half a cup of soda in your bath will clean and soften your skin. Add a few drops of essential oil and you can abandon the bubble bath.

Gentle and effective cleaning

Bicarbonate of soda is well known as an effective and gentle household cleaner.

Use it as a scouring powder on dirt and stains pretty much anywhere in the house. Sprinkle it on a damp sponge and give surfaces a good scrub – it isn’t harsh so won’t scratch them. Tip it down the plug hole with half a cup of white vinegar to alleviate smelly drains then use it to scrub the sink!

Soak dishes with dried on food in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda before hand washing or placing in your dishwasher. This also works on tea stained mugs.

Sprinkle baking soda onto smelly sofas, rugs or carpets, leave for half an hour or so then vacuum. It is especially good at getting rid of pet smells.

If you have heavily soiled laundry, try add half a cup of soda alongside your washing powder or liquid. It will also brighten light coloured items.

I love bicarbonate of soda because I don’t like a houseful of chemicals. It keeps things simple. I also try to avoid a lot of unnecessary products and packaging.  But mostly, I love bicarbonate of soda because it is cheap!

I have just ordered a 1kg bag from Amazon for £4.74 including delivery. It works out even cheaper if you purchase a 5kg tub. Please note that if you click through via either of the images above and purchase something I will earn a small commission.

Spending wisely – Releasing the purse strings

Spending wisely on budget DIY

After two no spend months, I finally released the purse strings a tad and bought some cushion covers. We are planning a budget lounge makeover over the coming months. I am going to buy a few small bits each month to spread the cost. We will replace some of the wallpaper, paint everything and get new curtains, throws cushions and a rug. We won’t spend more than a couple of hundred pounds and will be spending wisely. I’m going for an ethnic, Indian feel. You don’t need to shell out a fortune to brighten up your home.

spending wiseley. Photo of cushion coversMr S has fitted the new wood burner, built a hearth and added a shelf. We now need to employ someone to line the chimney – this is the expensive bit! It may have to wait a bit. In the meantime I will continue to spend as little as possible!

DIY hair cut

I finally got around to buying some sharper hairdressing scissors at the weekend. I say ‘buy’ but they cost me nothing as I got them with my Boots points. Got to love Boots! The points on the loyalty card are really worth having and cutting my own hair continues to save me money. I will get a professional cut next time I think but won’t bother with the blow dry to save a bit of cash.

Tired this week. Thank heavens it’s almost the weekend. Until tomorrow 😀.

No spend January – how did I do?

Regular readers will be aware that, like many people in the new year, Christmas had left my bank account feeling rather depleted. I resolved to make January a no spend month, buying nothing except essentials.

During my no spend January, I paid the bills, planned our meals to use up what we already had and then kept grocery spending as low as I could. I bought petrol but tried to minimise how much I used the car and drove like a granny so I didn’t use so much fuel. We didn’t need any cleaning products and won’t do for a few months. No clothes, books or makeup were purchased. Even the cats have had to get used to a cheaper brand of food!

The odd slip up

Did I have any slips during my no spend January? Well, yes, I caved and bought hair dye as I had a grey stripe on my head, I bought popcorn and snacks for my daughters from Lidl when we went to the cinema (they treated us as they had vouchers). On Friday at work I was a bit hormonal and gave in to a bar of chocolate from the vending machine (80p! Could have got a pack of 4 for £1 elsewhere).

Other than that I have done really well – so well I am extending this into a no spend February. None of this is really a stretch for me as I am frugal nearly all the time anyway, but declaring a no spend month keeps me hyper aware of my every purchase. If I am going to create a healthy emergency fund I need to do this.

I really need a haircut at some point so that might be an allowed exception. It is also Valentine’s Day. We never go over the top with this but will have a nice meal in and I plan to make Mr S a present. (Not sure what yet but it is likely to be edible!). Because it actually IS the thought that counts.

Preparing for the wood burner

We will need every spare penny over the next couple of months as Mr S is installing a woodburner. This was my birthday present a year and a half ago but for various reasons other things have taken priority and it has been sitting in its box waiting to be fitted. He will do everything himself except line the chimney so it shouldn’t be too expensive, but we will redecorate and freshen up the whole room. He has damaged the wallpaper, adding to the damage already inflicted by the kitten! I don’t intend to use any savings for this project, it will mean being super frugal and cutting back elsewhere.

It’s been an interesting month for my blog. I made a new year resolution to write a decent post every day and the number of views I get has doubled. I am chuffed, so thanks to those of you who have read my whitterings!

How about you? Did anyone else do a no spend January or are you planning a no spend month?

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 too much 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!).

A regular declutter is therapeutic

I am a regular declutterer. I don’t like spaces full of too much stuff so that 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

A dark, disordered place

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. There is far too much stuff up there.

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?

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?

More decluttering

I love a bit of decluttering

decluttering

These were spilling over!

I cleared out yet more bags of stuff on Sunday, another five, so a great bit of decluttering. 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. 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.

A bit of a hoarder

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!

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!

declutter

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.

declutter

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!

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!

Everything in the garden…

…is a little overgrown and the weeds are doing great. Still, it still looks good I think and it’s a pleasure sitting out in the sun to eat now that the weather is so warm. I quite like a wild looking garden!

It kind of sums up my life: I live on the edge! On the edge of being tidy and on the edge of being bankrupt 😊😊. I would love more time and money to improve the garden and the house generally, but it ain’t happening right now and I am pretty happy with what I have.

Holding back those pesky weeds

I am lucky and better off than so many people. We own most of the house, I have the wonderful Mr Shoestring propping me up at all times, a secure job and three beautiful daughters.

The sun is shining and the flowers look great alongside those pesky  weeds!

Upcycling project: a new bench for free

upcyclingWe have finally got round to putting the last coat of paint on our rescued garden bench. You may remember that we came across this bench outside a neighbour’s house a few months ago. The frame seemed quite sturdy but some of the slats on the seat had broken.

upcyclingMr S is pretty handy and always saves bits of wood in case he needs them so it was easy to repair. I gave it a good rub down and found some undercoat in the shed. I did have to buy the top coat: I decided on some Homebase paint in a lovely pale green for £12 and, two coats later, it has come up a treat!
Ok, so it wasn’t quite free, but £12 for a very nice, solid piece of furniture is pretty good value.
I am now debating whether to paint my charity shop wooden table and chairs the same colour. These cost me £30, which I thought was pretty good, although two of the chairs need some repair and I am waiting for Mr S to work his magic on them.

Reusing my old wellies

upcyclingI am pretty pleased with the garden at the moment, although as ever there is so much to do! I have re-used my willies as a planter and I think they look cute.

We are away this week, house and dog sitting for friends, so won’t be able to do much gardening. It feels like a holiday as it is a beautiful big house with a hot tub. Sadly I will still have to go to work this week so perhaps not quite a holiday, but I will use that tub! We spent the morning at home in the garden then came over to walk the dog and chill in the tub and it was very relaxing! I’m not sure I would use it enough to justify buying one but it is fun for a change.

Whatever you were up to I hope you had a lovely bank holiday Monday!

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?

Bite sized chunks: the secret of successful time management

Garden meI think I have finally got the hang of this time management thing. I am already Queen of Lists. At work I have a list of jobs then I prioritise that into a list that I need to do quickly and one of tasks that can wait a bit. At home I write lists too; it feels good to cross things off and know that I am achieving something.

garden weeded 2But it is the large projects that have always given me problems. I tend to see the whole huge task and get so intimidated I never start it. Now I am learning to break the big projects down into smaller tasks that will build towards achieving the outcome I am after. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to clear out a cupboard a week and I have done this most weeks. So, rather than saying to myself  ‘all the cupboards are in a mess, I need to sort them out’ then procrastinating because it is too big a job, now I  have divided this task into bite sized chunks it has become achievable. It doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to sort out each one so it’s not too taxing on my time.garden Justin

I started to apply the same line of thinking to the garden today. The back garden is big – 140 foot long and 50 foot wide, and we have a large front garden too. It can feel totally overwhelming at times as we both work full time and there are always lots of jobs to do at the weekend. But today we just looked at one bed and set about weeding digging and moving plants around. Mr Shoestring also sorted out some of the pots for the patio. This was easy enough as we just left all the bulbs in them from last year and they are all coming up and will look fabulous in a few weeks. We were out in the sunshine for about 4 hours and this was enough. We felt we had achieved our goal and our spirits were lifted by the warmth and the sun. Next time we go out we will focus on sowing seeds and sorting out the greenhouse.

When you don’t have a great deal of time on your hands you need to be smart about how you organise yourself and make sure you have time to do nothing too. Now we are just slobbing out and may even manage an afternoon nap!

How are you with time management and what are your top tips?

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 🙂

Bargains galore and more serious decluttering at Shoestring Cottage

Finally flopped after a busy day and found time to blog!

Mess!!

Mess!!

The decluttering continues. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to clear out one cupboard every week. This feels so much less intimidating than setting myself a targeting of doing them all in one go. I think I will get around to it at some point but there is never enough time, whereas clearing just one can be done as part of my weekly cleaning routine.

imageToday I did some decluttering of the filing cabinet in my bedroom. I have 3 large boxes of files under my bed containing everything from bank statements to school reports. I don’t really need another separate filing cabinet, so I have removed it and replaced it with a solid bedside drawer unit that was spare for Mr S’s clothes. Much better!

Better

Better

I also gave the tiles in the bathroom a good scrub with bleach as they were looking pretty grubby.

We found time to visit my favourite charity shop too. The fact that it is open on a Sunday, is out of town and then sells all clothes at 99p makes it irresistible! Today I found two tops and two good work skirts: the labels say Gap, Per Una and Next. How could I not be happy with this? I donated some things too, still in the spirit of decluttering!

How about you? Anybody found any great bargains this 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!!

 

 

Getting organised and decluttering

The key to a lot of people living in a small house is organisation. I have to stand a bit of mess as I live with a very untidy family, and I don’t want to get all anal about it. I have been to friends’ houses where I was terrified about leaving a cushion out of place or creasing a hand towel. I want everybody to be relaxed but at the same time I don’t want to be falling over unnecessary mess and clutter. Regular decluttering helps.

imageUsing baskets

Over the years I have found that baskets on shelves are a good cost effective means of containing and hiding any clutter. I am brutal about getting rid of things I no longer use and know I am unlikely to find a need for in the future. Mr Shoestring hates this as he is a bit of a hoarder. He gets nervous when I go into decluttering mode!

I have mentioned before that my second daughter is back for the summer after her first year at university and has arrived with lots of belongings from her digs. Those items she doesn’t need to access daily have been packed off to her dad’s as he has a spare room, but there are still a lot of things!

imageA bit of rationalisation

A crucial part of my plan to keep my finances on track is to have foreign students to stay. We have another one coming in two weeks and hopefully a long term one arriving in September. This means that sometimes darling daughters 2 and 3 have to share a bedroom! We need to get organised so that DD2 can slip seamlessly back and forth.

So I am badgering them both to rationalise their clothes and belongings with a good bit of  decluttering. We currently have about 8 binliners full of items we will sell at a boot sale later in the summer, but there will be more.

I spent yesterday evening sorting the room out and trying to use every available bit of space effectively, and it is coming together. We will get there!

Are you a hoarder or the house proud type? Or like me, somewhere in between?

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!

Pauper’s Paradise

 

Shoestring Cottage

Shoestring Cottage

We don’t live in a fancy house; we aren’t situated in a particularly sought after area. Shoestring Cottage is actually a 1940’s ex local authority semi in Essex. However, as was often the case at the time, the houses were built solidly on lovely big plots.  Ours is the corner plot and looks out over a green. We have the scout hut behind us and a row of pensioners’ bungalows to one side, so it is quiet and almost all of the neighbours are polite and friendly.

imageI love our house, but even more I love our garden. In the summer it is so much work and, after three years, we are only just getting it as we want it. We don’t have a lot of money to spend, but we do have lots of enthusiasm! We often don’t know the best thing to do, but take advice from family and friends and we are learning as we go along.

imageAs we have an extra long weekend for the May bank holiday, this gave us a chance to catch up on the gardening yesterday, and also meant we didn’t go out anywhere and spend any money. It was a gloriously dry and sunny day, absolutely perfect for being outdoors.

greenhouse1Mr S cut all the lawns and put the new greenhouse staging together that I bought on Saturday from Wilkinson’s. It was an absolute bargain at £5. I prepared the greenhouse and did some clearing and weeding of the veg beds, including digging up the last of the leeks. I got a few courgette plants in (mine are only just germinating but these were from a neighbour), some mint, celeriac and some everlasting spinach. I also sowed broccoli, carrots, various flowers and planted the tomato plants – again from Mr Shoestring’s lovely neighbour – into the greenhouse. I could list everything in the garden as individual projects for the sake of the 52 projects challenge, then I would have achieved all 52 by now! The garden is an on-going project!

I wanted it done as on Tuesday morning I start decorating the hall. Now that will be a project.

What is your piece of paradise? Do you love where you live?

 

Another project to tick off the list :-)

The weather has been so fab here in Essex. We managed another day sorting out the garden yesterday. My project was sorting out the flower beds in the front garden. They were so full of weeds! I filled up 4 compost bags full – our heap was choc-a-bloc, so I will donate them to the Council waste collection. Me weeding

One of the beds before weeding...

One of the beds before weeding…

The beds look a bit empty now there are no weeds, although I planted some summer bulbs and have some seeds on the go to fill them up.

pre weeding

Another disaster area…

Looking better!

Looking better!

Mr Shoestring had a productive day too. First he titivated the sheds – not sure if you can see from the pic but he added some fancy edging. He just needs to add a door to the new shed and it is complete. It is a work of art!

Fancy sheds and newly rotovated veggie patch

Fancy sheds and newly rotovated veggie patch

Then he tried out the rotovator that his neighbour donated.

Mr Rotovator!

Mr Rotovator!

So I reckon that’s another two projects done! 🙂

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!

Super Sunday

imageIt is a beautiful day here in Essex. Amazing after the driving wind and rain of the last week or so. I even have two lots of washing on the line!

imageWhilst I was out there I dug up the rest of the leeks and found a few sad looking sprouts – the sprout tops looked more promising so we will eat those as cabbage. Leek and potato soup on the agenda I think!

We have also completed another two of our 52 projects. Resealing the bath and whitening the grout means the bathroom is done and another one I have been meaning to do for ages was to clean out the cupboards in there. They were full of out of date medication and sorry looking soggy old plasters. Now they are beautifully tidy 🙂

That makes 4 projects. As we started late we still have some catching up to do I think!