Project 333 – the Summer version

So I have struggled with the latest installment of Project 333. The weather has been warm and then bloomin’ cold again (windy, showery and 13 degrees C today). While I have gone through my wardrobe and brought out some summery clothes I find that I’ve also reverted to winter clothing. But after nearly two months’ of procrastination I think I’m finally ready to reveal my summer wardrobe a la Project 333.

Items 1-7:

Three ‘neutral’ dresses: my hardworking burgundy pinafore, black dress and blue linen smock dress. One grey skirt and one red tunic (can be worn on its own, with jeans or leggings). Two patterned dresses which are probably the hardest to mix and match but I really like them and receive lots of compliments when I wear them.

Items 8-16: Black, white and grey t-shirts/blouses and a collection of long sleeve tops/shirts in blue, khaki, red and plum. Plus (not seen) Items 17-19: vest tops in black and blue, navy blue t-shirt.

Items 20-25: Jumpers and cardigans in blue, grey, purple and black



Items 26-30: 3 pairs of trousers in beige, teal and  blue plus jeans and leggings.

Project 333 Summer 2015

Items 31-35 (oops): 5 pairs of shoes:

Project 333 Summer 2015


Plus I also have two coats and two scarves. So I have sort of gone over the 33 items limit and there may also be some days where I wear shorts (wishful thinking!). But I plan on taking this latest instalment through to the end of July. In August we will be travelling around Europe so my wardrobe will change for that. As we will be travelling by train with backpacks I will have to really limit what I am taking. But this is wear Project 333 comes in handy: I’m used to limiting my wardrobe and getting the most out of it so packing for a three week trip should be a breeze?!







Two years ago today…


NOTE: this was supposed to be posted on Saturday but it didn’t quite happen!

Two years ago today I started my blog with this first post welcoming any possible readers out there who may be interested in sharing my love of the second hand.

Since then I have carried on with my love of scouring charity shops and sourcing as many things second-hand as possible. I’ve bought breadmakers, books and beads – as well as many items of clothing. I’ve also learnt more about the sustainability issues around  purchasing things, be it fast fashion bought from chain stores or plastic wrapped food.

I’ve attempted to reduce my wardrobe (through Project 333 and Eco Thrifty’s Slow Fashion Challenge) and to cut out plastic here and supermarkets here. These ventures have challenged me: I have often ‘fallen off the wagon’ but I have learnt many news things, from the plastic that is contained in teabags to where donated clothing actually goes to. I’ve also developed nothing but admiration for those bloggers who have committed to a life that is truly handmade, zero waste or plastic or supermarket free. I’ve also become a more conscious shopper and steered my path down a more minimalist route.

I have also met some lovely blogging people along the way (some even in real life!), set up a Repair Café, tried to carry out some Acts of Kindness, run a Clothes Swap and rekindled my love for second-hand vinyl.

My subscribers may not be in their thousands (or even hundreds!) and I’ve yet to get onto instagram or twitter but I’ve really enjoyed the time spent putting my ramblings, and photos, into posts and receiving comments.

Inspiring reads (for a wet Sunday!)

On my journey to learn more about minimalism and slow living I’ve started to collect a few books that offer hints, tips and guidance. Yes I know this works against the minimalist mantra of having few possessions (especially books) but I like to think that those I keep are valuable to me. I certainly dip into them a lot and find their contents to be very inspirational:

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

I do have a slight crush on this French women who lives with her family in the US, has a beautiful clutter and waste free house and dresses wonderfully using a very small wardrobe. Her book is full of practical tips on how to eliminate waste in your house. For example she goes shopping with bags and glass jars and doesn’t accept any packaging (not even for her meat and fish which goes straight into the jars). For further information take a peak at her website here or watch this fascinating youtube video:


The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

This was the first book on minimalism that I bought (well actually it was the second as I returned the first). It’s written by Francine Jay, aka  Miss Minimalist  and is both a  good introduction to minimalism and a practical guide to decluttering your home and your life.  I often use it when tackling one of my rooms in my never ending quest to reduce stuff.

Timless Simplicity by John Lane.

This beautifully illustrated book was published nearly fifteen years ago. It fits in with the minimalist ethos but talks more about stepping away from a busy, consumer lifestyle and has more of a spiritual dimension to it. It has passages devoted to the simple pleasures of food and eating, the garden, homemaking and just being present in the everyday which I find inspirational to read.

Less is More by Brian Draper.

I picked this up last week in a charity shop. Like the above book it talks more about spirituality and of being present: appreciating the sights, sounds and things going on around you rather than being busy planning the future.

Books by Amanda Blake Soule

Amanda’s Soulemama blog is very popular. She lives a gentle, self sufficient life homeschooling her family in the US. Her blog has beautiful images and words (especially the Friday image posts) and her books are full of handy crafting projects to do with the family. She doesn’t pursue a minimalist lifestyle but she seems to endorse a slow living lifestyle, away from the fast paced consumer driven world.

The Green Parent Magazine

I can’t tell you how much I love this magazine. I started reading it in 2005 when it was very new and (despite my best intentions not to hoard) I have kept every copy since. It is is created in Sussex by a small family unit and speaks to everyone (parent or not) who wants to pursue a gentler lifestyle. I have to confess I have written a few articles for the magazine in the past but don’t let that put you off….

There are also other books which I have read (but not kept), borrowed from the library (or have on order):

 The Power of Less – Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta runs Zen Habits, an extremely popular blog about minimalist living. This book was the first one that I bought on the subject but it didn’t quite fit in with what I needed at the time. It seems to be more about creating a better work-life balance, which wasn’t so relevant to me then. His blog is definitely worth a read, though.

Tom Hodgkinson – How to be an Idle Parent; How to be Idle

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of The Idler magazine, an annual (now online) publication that extolls the virtues of doing nothing, or doing it slowly and taking pleasure in what you do. I borrowed the ‘The Idle Parent’ from the library and loved its laid-back, hands-off approach to parenting.I came across ‘How to be Idle’ in a charity shop but as I had already purchased ‘Less is more’ I decided to order it from the local library and read it at leisure.

The Minimalists – Everything that remains

I was luck enough to catch The Minimalists on their UK book tour last year. I am currently trying to order this from the local library. When you borrow a book from a UK public library the author(s) receives a small fee which is worth bearing in mind when buying/borrowing books.

I’m sure you may have other suggestions to add to this small reading list – I would love to hear them. Happy reading!

Slowing down….

This week is already shaping up to be a busy one. I have work this evening, voluntary work on Tuesday and Wednesday, job application to complete, school Easter service on Thursday plus a few things I want to buy or make for the school holidays next week.

Tomorrow we have someone viewing our house (it’s still for sale) so I have spent a stupid amount of time tidying and getting it ready. As we are continually decluttering and I am trying to be more minimalist this does take less time. However I’m sure the energy used up in preparing our house for a viewing compared to the amount of time that the viewing takes is very disproportionate.

But a couple of things have forced me to pause, gather my thoughts and contemplate on what is really important. While tidying the garden in the spring sunshine yesterday I came across this Easter nest that the girls had made with friends:

Slowing down: making time and space for the little things

For one moment I had thought about tidying it away – as if a ‘nest free’ lawn would make all the difference to a house sale! What was I thinking? Instead of believing it made the garden look untidy I should have been celebrating their creation. I should have been overjoyed that they were playing outside, unplugged and with friends.

Another sign that made me slow down and take stock was this book I picked up by chance in a charity shop today:

Slowing down

I hadn’t heard of the book, or author before, but was intrigued by the minimalist sounding title. I do have a pile of books by the side of my bed and I know I swore not to bring more into the house but I did end up buying it nonetheless. Later on I found I had twenty minutes to spare while I waited to pick someone up from the train station. This proved a perfect opportunity to slow down, read a few chapters and savour the contents. I haven’t read enough yet to provide a review but I plan to find pockets of time over the next few days to dedicate to the simple pleasure of reading it.

Getting rid of sentimental things?

Sentimental attachment to soft toys

In my continuing quest to reduce stuff in our house I’ve started to tackle the loft. It is full of things that are both useful (children’s clothing, camping gear, suitcases and decorations) and also many items that could be culled (books, paperwork).

However as I have recently discovered it’s also a place filled with memories and sentimental attachments and therein lies the problem: how can I get rid of sentimental things?

Last week I came across my daughters’ Baby Boxes. They’re IKEA cardboard boxes filled with scrapbooks of birthday cards, first shoes, baptism candles, newspaper cuttings, school books and christening gifts. Wearing my Minimalist hat I began to wonder if we really need to keep onto all of this stuff. A true Minimalist would say it’s only possessions and that they shouldn’t own us. It’s a waste of time and space storing them when they aren’t useful. Why not digitally download the cards, birth announcements, school reports etc and get rid of the rest? But the mother in me was more reluctant to let go of some of those items to which I had attached sentimental value.

I began to sort through the boxes and divided the contents into four piles:

1) Things that we could make use of

While rummaging through the boxes I came across a couple of mugs (Winnie the Pooh and a Diamond Jubilee souvenir cup). Surely these would be better of being used for their original purpose, ie drinking out of, rather than gathering dust in a box. I also discovered a beautiful necklace which had been given as a christening present. This has now been put in the girls’ jewellery box so that it can be worn.

Getting rid of sentimental objects

2) Things that can be reduced

My girls love to write and so I decided to keep only  those school exercise books that related to writing and literacy topics. All the other books I kept onto were recycled, or empty pages taken out to re-use.

3) Things that can be kept for sentimental reasons

I know this should be the smallest pile. I kept onto scrapbooks containing christening and birthday cards, newspaper cuttings from when they were born and baptism candles. There were also some ‘traditional’ christening gifts that I wasn’t sure of. In the end I decided to keep onto the vanity set and egg and spoon gift because the girls could decide what they wanted to do with them in the future. It did make me think about baptism/new baby gifts I have given in the past, and I wondered how many of them were now gathering dust in someone’s attic.

and finally:

4) Things to give away

I found a lot of soft toys in the boxes. Some still had their labels on and only one them I could actually remember. I had no idea whom the other toys had been given by, or if my babies had ever played with them. As cute as they looked I knew it was time for them to go. However I’m still uncertain about getting rid of a couple which is where my Minimalist aspirations v Sentimental feelings fight each other.

In the end I was able to reduce the contents of the boxes, make practical use of some of the contents and donate other items. The Baby Boxes still remain and I hope that I have kept the important things for the girls to treasure in years to come.










Five ways to make do (without replacing your appliances)

Five ways to make do without replacing your appliances

When I look around our house I realise there are quite a few things that are broken, or have developed some quirk that only we know how to operate.  I’m sure we are not alone in having appliances that don’t quite work how they should do, or have given up the ghost completely.

One of the mantras of minimalism/frugal living/being environmentally aware is to do without those things we think we need. They cost our hard-earned pennies, use precious resources to make, clutter our cupboards, and require time (and money) to clean and maintain.

I think it’s a combination of this philosophy (plus a smattering of ‘can’t be bothered/don’t have the time’) that explains why we have learned to do without certain appliances in our home.

Instead of rushing out to the store to buy a brand new replacement we have tried to make do. From personal experience these are the five things I have learned about making do with troublesome equipment – or managing without:

1) Adjust to its quirks

I wrote here about our broken-down oven. To summarise it stopped working and when I called out the engineer he suggested replacing it with a brand new one rather than paying for a replacement part. I chose to go with the latter and, nearly two years later, it is still working. However it is not very warm. So I have learned to adjust to this by automatically increasing the gas mark temperature by one (GM4 becomes GM5 etc) and also being generous with the cooking time. Also the gas hobs only work by using a separate lighter or matches to ingite. Until we move house/have money to buy a new one this is how we are cooking and it, sort of, works.

Solution: we all have temperamental appliances. If you have visitors who need to use the equipment (ie babysitters) write down instructions for them – but make sure the appliances can be used in a safe way.

2) Is there an alternative that I can use?

Do I already own something – or can I purchase something smaller and cheaper – that would do a similar job? We have struggled for many years with second-hand  vacuum cleaners that haven’t been quite up to the job. Bea from Zero Waste Home manages without a vacuum and relies on a broom. She believes it saves time (no plugging, unplugging and carrying the hoover from room to room). I’ve now got into the habit of using a brush to sweep our hardwood floors although this isn’t a solution for carpets. My parents, however, keep a simple, old fashioned carpet sweeper upstairs to clean their bedroom floors as it saves carrying a heavy vacuum up the stairs.

Recently we had a (brief) power cut which made me dig out our camping kettle to use on the gas stove (ignited with a match remember!). The electricity came back on but the kettle is staying in our kitchen as our electric one is playing up.

Solution: check around your house to see if you have an alternative. Do you own a travel iron or hairdryer that could be used to do the same job? After all what’s the point of buying something that is only used for a couple of weeks every year? Make these ‘holiday’ appliances work for their money!

3) Can I live without it?

Two years ago our (second-hand) dishwasher stopped working. We have been hand washing dishes ever since and it works for us. I believe that, from an environmental standpoint, a modern and efficient dishwasher would be better. However washing dishes by hand has many benefits. It involves the whole family (the children learn to wash and wipe up). We also had saucepans that couldn’t be put in the dishwasher anyway and now, when we need a utensil, we can wash it up straight away rather than waiting to fill the machine.

Making do with what yo have: washing up by hand

Solution: why don’t you try living without the appliance for a while? Some people use the ‘frozen credit card’ system (literally credit card frozen in ice) to help them delay making a purchase. If your car has broken down can you try using your bus service for a while, or book online deliveries? Can you enlist the help of family and friends to undertake tasks ie getting the kids to wash up.

4) Is there a free or cheaper substitute?

I have posted here and here about our second-hand bread makers, purchased for a small amount from the charity shop’s electrical appliances store. However if we’d been unable to find our second replacement we could have tried baking by hand. Like many people we’ve also been able to pick up appliances for free from Freecyle or Facebook sites (and in turn offered our unwanted goods).

Making do with what you have: second-hand appliances

Solution: Can I pick up a free substitute by putting a request on freecycle? Is there a free part I could pick up that could be used to mend my broken appliance? 

5) Can I borrow another one?

As I mentioned in my recent post about lending and borrowing we plan to borrow a tent from neighbours when we go camping this summer. We don’t have the budget to buy a new tent and as we are only camping for a couple of nights it doesn’t affect their holiday plans. It also means we don’t have to find space to store a five-person tent permanently.

Making do.. without buying a new tent

Solution:try borrowing websites such as Streetbank or  ecomodo . Don’t be afraid to ask friends or family if you can borow an item; there may be something you can lend out in return.

..but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and buy a new one. For years we struggled without a heating control device. Instead we manually switched the heating on and off from the boiler which was ineffective and led to a very cold house when we were away. We finally bought a new control pad and our house is heated so much more efficiently now. It’s just a matter of deciding what does need replacing, and what you can manage without…


January book find and Zero Waste books?

The other weekend we went for a lovely walk to a small riverside hamlet near to where we live. The village has only 40 occupants and a tiny church. The beautiful Cotswold stone cottages made me think how our village must have looked at one point but, because of various factors, ours has now grown to a population size of 2,000.

Yet even in this tiny hamlet we came across a source of second-hand goodies. Inside the church was a well-stocked bookshelf. The sale of these books raised funds for the building. My husband and I both picked out books we had wanted to read for a while (depsite my best intentions to slim down our bookshelves!).


I bought this book by Patrick Leigh Fermor. ‘A Time of Gifts’ is the first of a series of three books he wrote about his amazing travels across a pre-war Europe. We plan to travel by train to Italy and Germany later this year and his description of the German towns along the Rhine are very evocative.

Last week I also decided what to spend my Waterstone’s book voucher on. I had been having problems with this as I am trying to reduce our books (see here). However on a trip to Bath I spotted a book I had wanted for ages. I may have mentioned I have a little girl crush on Bea Johnson, the woman behind Zero Waste Home. She lives in California and, along with her family, aspires to live a rubbish free life. Anyway looking very lonely on the bookshelf in Waterstones was this single copy of Bea’s book:


Yes, I realise there is something ironic about buying a book on Zero Waste (especially when I am trying to Reduce, which is one of Bea’s ‘Five Rs’). But I have already read it cover to cover and it has given me loads of ideas and inspiration.

As for the Patrick Leigh Fermor book I picked up, I plan to pass this on/donate when I’ve finished. I’m also slowly building a pile of books to lend out or read once and then pass on.