Category Archives: Reducing the Clutter

January No/Low Spend and Decluttering Challenge – the final Review

This is my overview of Carla’s January No/Low Spend and Decluttering Challenge – I was a bit of a late starter but tried my best and overall I accomplished quite a bit – the main thing being a new lower budget for our weekly shop and my weekly allowance.  Thanks to Carla for all the hard work in keeping us busy and motivated – the month has flown by.


My De-cluttering goals

My original goal was to have the Kitchen and Dining room ship shape and de-cluttered… and I partly did this but also took a bit of a diversion because I had a few days holiday to come and it seemed the perfect time for going through some of the boxes that we have.

Decluttered food cupboards

In weeks 1 and 2 I cleared and cleaned the food cupboards and the Fridge and Freezer, but after these were completed the de-cluttering of the kitchen stopped as I got quite involved in the ‘Reducing Food waste project and have spent quite a lot of time planning meals, shopping for bargains and using up old foods that I found in my cupboards.

Christmas Decorations

Week 3  – I spent time going through all my Christmas decorations and removing anything that I felt we could pass on to someone else to use.  I repacked everything carefully ready to store them in the loft again until next year, making sure even with new additions this year that I didn’t exceed my 6 box limit.  – I think this might equate to Carla’s mini challenge of cleaning out a closet.

Toy Declutter

Week 4 – I moved onto the Toy boxes which I keep on hand in case of little visitors.  Again I set myself a limit of not exceeding the four boxes that I have.

Treasure Box Declutter

I also spent time going through items in my Treasure boxes and again my limit on these is four – one containing items including my dress from our wedding day, one similar of my daughters mementos, one for cards, letters and keepsakes and one for school reports, certificates and items of historical interest. – So I guess this probably applies to Carla’s Week 1 goal

My Financial goals

My goal was to begin cutting my weekly allowance down to £10 and taking lunches to work from home.  We aim to only buy absolute necessities and just enough food to add to the items stored in our cupboards and Freezer to make enough meals to cover January.  I decided to aim for a weekly spend of £50 on groceries rather than the £70 average it had crept up to.

  • Week 1 – I was still on holiday from Christmas so did not spend very much at all probably only £10 in all on a few fresh vegetables and milk.
  • Week 2- I came in well within budget for both my weekly allowance and weekly food budget.
  • Week 3 – I just managed to scrape in under budget by £1.15p after luckily being offered a £2 off coupon at work.  Weekly allowance also came in under the £10.
  • Week 4 – a rather large overspend of £22.22 – I spent £15 to stock up on items on offer and I had run out of a number of basics all at once.  My weekly allowance though was well under the £10

As well as my goals – I manage to take on board some of Carla’s mini goals –

  • Doing without to save money – I have not bought any magazines either with my £10 allowance or in with my weekly shopping.
  • I gave £5 to a homeless person who had just been lucky enough to find a flat.
  • I did knock 20% off my food bill but not in the week Carla set that particular challenge
  • I also brought in extra income each week by only allowing myself £10 allowance rather than the usual £20-£30

So there you have it – some good and some not so good but all in all quite a challenge and a few achievements.


January De-cluttering and No/Low Spend Challenge…

The Toy Boxes

Given that we have no young children or any children for that matter living in the house at the moment it may seem an odd place to begin with the toy boxes and games, but that’s me – no logic whatsoever.  It isn’t that my better half and I sneak out in the middle of the night to play with our much loved toys (I wish!) I just like to keep a  box or two handy for when we have visiting children or we need a family game at Christmas.  I thought this might be one of those places where I could reduce my little hoard.

Now if I were going to extreme minimalism and we never ever used these toys or they were stored in the loft never to see light of day I expect they would have to go.  But I class them as still useful for times when we have visiting children (my own included here) or a family get together.  I always remember going to visit my Gran and she kept an old satchel full of wooden building bricks in her cupboard and I would sit and play with them for hours completely ignoring any other toy that I might have taken with me.

The Troll Family

After having a bit of a rummage through the boxes I decided that perhaps the Troll family (looks like they have all had a bit of a fright!) could go to Charity unless my daughter wants to have them live with her in which case I will give them some bus fare and send them packing.

Marble Run

But I will definitely hang on to the Marble Run – this is great entertainment for both girls and boys (young and old!).

Sindy and Barbie

Sindy meets Barbie for a night out and a shopping spree – very useful when little girls come round. I even washed and pressed their outfits!  Couldn’t see any day clothes though – not working girls then.

Sindy clothes

And who could resist a box full of Mr Men…we have  about 22 of them at the last count (though I swear they could be breeding) courtesy of McDonalds which is surprising to say we have only ever been once, when desperate, and decided Veggie Burgers R certainly not us.  I suspect daughter No 2, who was a bit of a soft toy addict, must have made quite a few sneaky visits in her younger teenage days to collect all these (one free with each meal).  She had them all suspended from fishing wire on her staircase at one time and you can’t help but like the cheeky little fellows.

Mr Men

The Duplo Farm Set about 30 years old and still going strong even after a quick whizz through the washer.  Those little fat hens are so cute.  We have a box full of the bricks too and this is a really good toy if we get very young toddlers coming to see us. Definitely a keeper.

Duplo Farm

In the final box and just as cute are the wooden chicks  – Skittles from Muji – this was actually one of my stocking fillers from my better half last Christmas (he knows me so well!)


My stocking filler from about 30 Christmases ago – probably from Habitat – looking quite worn now…

Wooden Village

…and one or two other games that we can play at our family get togethers.  The Christmas Pud called Pass the Pud is our most recent addition this Christmas –  I can certainly recommend it – we couldn’t play for laughing  – we couldn’t follow the rules either but that might have been the wine!


…and what is in the old Diamond Jubilee OXO tin?……Bingo or should I say Vintage Bingo!


Well I didn’t find very much in the boxes to part with but everything has had a clean and I know I am not hanging onto something that I do not like or will not use.

Toy Boxes 2

The four boxes are from Ikea and make a useful place to store the toys and games as they are quite decorative in themselves and so I don’t need to find cupboard space for them.  As they also stack into a tower and are only just over a foot square it is amazing how they will slot in beside a wardrobe or chest of drawers and they are easily transportable and on hand should we have children visit us.

Surprisingly that took quite a bit of time to ‘de-clutter’ and sort – I just hope I get a bit quicker at this.

I have been following Carlas Decluttering challenge and this is my contribution – it should have been the pantry this week but I have already completed that at the beginning of January.

January De-cluttering and No/Low Spend Challenge…

I am following the January De-cluttering and No/Low Spend Challenge led by Carla at My Half Dozen Daily.

Week 3

The De-cluttering

As part of the general de-cluttering going on here rather than do an actual closet for my challenge this week I decided I needed to go through all my Christmas decorations before I packed them away in the loft and weedle out anything that I really didn’t want / like / have room for. (Hope this counts as a closet Carla!)

I have accumulated a lot of beautiful real glass vintage baubles which belonged to my grandma and a few more retro ones from my mum.   I use different ones each year and I will always keep them as part of my treasured family heirlooms.   I also find myself the keeper of the ‘Santa’ hats for the whole family – the ones we wear when we have our big get together each year and we must have about 20 or more assorted styles now, some flashing, some musical and some not even Santa!

The garland that decorates the stair case comes in two halves and each takes up a whole bankers box.

All the Christmas decorations have been sorted and packed away and everything I have kept I know that I truly love and wouldn’t part with – the baubles are now wrapped in tissue and nestling in their own little compartments to keep them safe for another year…


the stockings lay empty once again and waiting to be wrapped in tissue and placed in the box with the Santa hats…


and at last everything is together, like with like in labelled boxes and then like a puzzle out of the Krypton Factor I pack these to fit as snugly and economically as possible into three larger bankers boxes…

Christmas Decor

as I am already up to six boxes!  I don’t need anymore.

Stack of boxes

They are spending the next eleven months stored away in the loft again and I am glad that mammoth task is over… my secret helper… a few Christmas chocolate treats on the side makes the job easier to tackle!

Chocolate helpers

The Financial Challenge

On the Financial side the challenge was to ‘Give’ and although it wasn’t this week exactly I am hoping Carla will let me use this as part of the January challenge it just took place a week earlier.

Each morning on my way to work from the car park I would walk past a young guy who would sit under the subway in the freezing cold and say hi to the passers by hoping for a little change, and each morning I would oblige with 50p or £1.  On my first day back at work after Christmas he was sitting there as usual but with a big grin on his face and so excited to tell me his news that he had been found a flat by an organisation that help the homeless and round his neck was the key.  He was even more excited because it had a kitchen and bathroom.  He expressed his gratitude for the help I had provided over the past few months and in a funny way we were both sad that he would not be sitting there in the future.  As a flat warming present I handed him a £5, it was all I had on me at the time, and I sincerely wished him well as we said our final goodbye’s.  Like Bernard  he came into my life and then went again so quickly – my mornings are quite lonely now without them both.

How did your week go?


January De-cluttering and No/Low Spend Challenge…

I’m a late starter but I am taking part in Carla’s January Decluttering & No/Low Spend Challenge! For details click here

My Personal Goals

De-cluttering Goal

(apart from the whole house!)  I aim to have the Kitchen / Dining Room spic and span and clear of any clutter.  This will mean all cupboards both food, dishes, pots and pans including on the tops of cupboards, worktops, shelving and in those dark forgotten corners.

Decluttered food cupboardsWeeks 1 and 2

I cleaned out the food cupboards and the freezer drawers. Read about it here Dealing with the matter of Food Waste Part 2 and Part 3

Freezer Drawers

This coming week I aim to de-clutter the Kitchen cupboard that holds the saucepans and baking / casserole dishes.

No/Low Spend Goal

I am cutting my weekly allowance down to £10 and taking lunches to work from home.  We aim to only buy absolute necessities and just enough food to add to the items stored in our cupboards and Freezer to make enough meals to cover January.

Read about my efforts for the last week here  and also dealing with the matter of Food Waste Part 4

Unplanned – We did go out and buy an Ikea Alex storage chest which wasn’t part of the plan but we did not want to risk it being discontinued as they have the Effktiv range of office furniture.  this money will come from savings.

This week I will continue with my £10 allowance and only buy essential food shopping.  I have both my mum and mum-in-laws birthdays this weekend and will have to buy presents.  We will also have a 90 mile trip to Shrewsbury to see mum-in-law and this will be a further challenge to see if we can do this on only £20. I can see we are going to have to pack the picnic stove again (but not the Cup-a -Soup!)

At the end of last week I had 21p but in reality I had saved at least £10 and probably £20 as I often could not manage on £20 a week and found myself going to the cash card for another £10.

Are you taking part in the challenge?

Dealing with the matter of Food Waste – Part 3…

Of course I had to choose one of the coldest days this year so far to clean out my freezer.  It is kept in the garage and the temperature in there felt like sub-zero.

I was pleased to find there was nothing to throw out as everything is in date apart from some frozen raspberries which I will add to the eat up list, however, it did need a bit of rearranging after the Christmas period when items were just plonked into any spare gap.

To clean each drawer I put the contents into the other drawers then washed and dried the empty one in turn re-organising the contents into like groups.

Freezer Drawer

 Here are some before and after shots.

Veg Drawer

The Frozen Veg Drawer – Before

Veg Drawer After

and After

Frozen Chips

Frozen Peas, Broad beans and Spinach

A Free sample pack of Rice Fusion from an Ocado delivery ages ago.

Fruit Drawer

The Frozen Fruit Drawer – before

Fruit Drawer after

and After

Lots of Rhubarb

Frozen Raspberries, Blueberries and Mixed Summer Berries

2 Pots of Apricot Puree

Meal Drawer before

Packaged Foods Drawer – before

Meals drawer after

and After

1 Packet of Vol-au-vent cases

1 Packet of 2 Rice Cakes

6 small Yorkshire Puddings

2 Pizza Bases

1 small Cheese and Tomato Pizza

1 Packet of Feta and Spinach Parcels

1 Tub of Ice-cream

Top Drawer after

  The top fast freeze Drawer – holding all the items to eat soon

Carton of Leek and Potato Soup

Various Frozen Herbs (including Parsley!)

2 tubs of ready grated fresh Parmesan Cheese

2 unidentified tubs – could be the end of some homemade soup!

Bread Drawer after

The Bread drawer

1 Pack Naan Bread

3 Brown loaves

End of a Danish white for mum’s visits

Bottom Drawer after

The Bottom Drawer with Ice packs

I discovered that, not only do I have the biggest jar of dried Parsley in my cupboards, but I have 3 tubs and a packet of Frozen Parsley and we don’t even eat Fish!   I do like Parsley sauce though.

I am also storing a lot of Rhubarb which is actually my daughters and I am tempted to make a few crumbles.

Whilst I was doing the freezer I decided to clear and clean the top of it.   So I collected all our bottles of drink together…

Drink before

and did a drinks log and sorted then out into like with like and lined them up neatly.

Drink after

and this is our mini-bar LOL!  Being quite cool the top of the freezer in the garage is quite a good place to store the drink as we do not have room in the kitchen and there is too much for the dining room cupboards.

So that is all my food and drink sorted now and I need to make a meal plan to use up all the bits and pieces to ensure that nothing goes to waste.

Tomorrow I shall be making the Lemon Curd, baking Gingerbread and maybe making a Nut Loaf.

How is your de-cluttering going this week?

Dealing with the matter of Food Waste – Part 2…

The Big De-clutter

A good place to begin de-cluttering is in my cupboards and yesterday I came across the challenge at Carla’s blog – My Half Dozen Daily – so I thought I would join in with this to keep me focused.

My aim here is to clear out and clean my food cupboards and pull out anything that is way past its use by date or needs to be eaten soon and hopefully have a bit of a stock take. From this I can then plan my weeks menu and produce a limited shopping list.

So what did I find in my cupboards…

Dry Foods

I have quite a quantity of dry foods – more dried Parsley than I could use in a year – but hey I’ll find a way to use it.  The Oatmeal is 2 years out of date (I only buy it for Face packs) but I think this is a thrower.  Lots of Pudding Rice and Ground Rice so I can see lots of puddings coming up.

The use up items

After going through every cupboard I am left with these items to use urgently –

A jar of Stem Ginger – maybe I’ll make Ginger biscuits or a cake

A pack of Mini Baileys – bought for my mum so maybe I will give her these

A packet mix of Sosmix – definitely Sausages this week

A packet of Sage and Onion Stuffing – this will go with a Nut Roast

A tin of Light Condensed Milk – bought by mistake, I thought it was just evaporated milk – maybe I will make some Fudge?

A packet of Oatbran- this was a freebie so I think it might become a Face Pack

A jar of Bon Maman Cherry Compote – one of my favourite for a quick crumble

2 Christmas Puddings – we have 2 Christmas puddings both from last year when I found the one I had already bought would not be big enough for the number of people and so bought another and then forgot completely to put them on to steam (LOL). As I do not have a microwave we decided to leave them until this year only as you know we didn’t have a traditional Christmas dinner, we could hardly steam it for 2 hours on the camping stove!!.

One expired in August 2012 and one will expire in April 2013 so neither will keep until next year – so the Jury is out on what to do with these.   My vote would be to eat the older one and give the fresher to my daughter.

Items for work

I have some foods that I can give away and take to work.  The soup is definitely going!  No more Cup-a-soup for me.

Christmas Goodies

We acquired a lot of tins of food at Christmas mostly given to us as presents  – one of crackers, one shortbread and one a biscuit selection.  I think the two of us will take most of the year to wade through this and when I begin my Weight reduction again in earnest I think that I may have to take some of it into work – anything you put on the table outside the kitchen is always devoured very quickly!

The Waste

Kitchen Cupboards Waste

So this was the bag of waste – it looks worse than it is because I didn’t squash some of the wrappings down like the preformed plastic trays that held the crackers and are not recyclable.  I also added the general waste from the kitchen bin in here as well.

Recyclable Rubbish

This is the recyclable waste

Recyclable Rubbish 2

and a bit more…

The End Result

Store Cupboard

… and now my cupboards are in order or at least my order! On the top shelf jars of tomatoes, passata, pasta bake (for emergencies) oils, olives, and fruit compote.

Store Cupboard 2

…and a stock of beans and lentils, fruit and evaporated milk on the bottom.  The cereal also stands in here.

  Condiments cupboard

This cupboard holds the stock and gravy powder and condiments, drinks, herbal tea bags, marmalade, sauce, mango chutney for curry and Balsamic vinegar.  And my supplements.

Dry Foods cupboard

Various Pasta, flours, rice and  crackers / oatcakes.

Baking Cupboard

My baking cupboard full of nuts, dried fruit, sugars, treacle and chocolate…if only I had more time!

Now the cupboards have been sorted I will do the freezer then we will attempt to live completely from what is left hopefully until the end of January only buying fresh fruit and veg as required and any basics we need to replenish. The finished result certainly looks a lot leaner but I do like to be able to see what we have easily and in actual fact there is a fair amount of food here – together with the freezer items it will be interesting to see how many meals I can rustle up from just shopping in my cupboards.

Fresh produce

The left over fresh produce to eat up this week – looks like a Bean Stew then!

The Question of Restocking

– where I go from here – I am torn over the question of stocking up.

I like to keep things in hand and I always make use of the offers where prudent to do so with foods we eat often however ‘reducing’ means I will have to carefully select what I do keep stocks of in any quantity.

The list below is of selected basic items that I will always keep one in hand and more if there is an offer


  •  Coffee
  • Tea
  • Cereal
  • Butter
  • Bread
  • Penne Pasta
  • Brown Rice
  • Lentils and Beans
  • Passata
  • Jam / marmalade
  • Stock cubes or powder
  • Milk

 Everything else will only be bought as one runs out.

 My fear of not having well stocked cupboards might be if there is some kind of disaster (natural or otherwise) a heavy snowfall where we are cut off for days or a terrorist attack – I know in America people are encouraged to have a stockpile just in case.  Would a dozen tins of Baked Beans with a long use by date hidden in the loft be enough?  I suppose we could keep going on the three tins of biscuits and crackers!!

Panic aside I have got to take my aim to Reduce seriously.  I know we can live with a lot less both my Grandmas did they didn’t have a kitchen full of floor to ceiling cupboards they had one of those dressers with a flop down door in the middle that became a work surface.  It stored all the basics and without a fridge they shopped every day.

Working opposite a Sainsbury’s in town I could shop each day for fresh items and I would then shop once a month for the basics.  I haven’t quite decided on my new shopping pattern yet but will keep you posted on this one.

On the financial front I withdrew £10 this week on Monday and gave £5 to my ‘homeless’ friend in the subway who I have seen every morning for the past four months.  I am delighted that at last a flat has been found for him so instead of the usual £1 I gave him £5 as a ‘house warming present.  I sincerely wish him well I know he is so thankful and excited to have his own kitchen and bathroom – but I will be sad not to see him on my way to work.  He was always so cheerful even though he had nothing.  I also spent 85pence on some dried Rosemary for when I do Roast potatoes. So I have £4.15 left.

Tonight I bought organic carrots £1.30 and a Birthday card £1.99 for my niece – but I used a £9 Sainsbury’s gift card and have £5.71 left on that.  I managed to bypass the magazines – I hope I can resist the urge.  My dear husband bought me a subscription to Country Living magazine for Christmas so I will try not to buy Country Homes as well.