Tuesday, October 31, 2023

No Spend Month - or actually two months- first check-in

                         I finally attached the last bits of trim in the foyer and DD's room. 

I'm on a self-imposed spending freeze, which I already started at the beginning of the month and will continue until at least until the beginning of December. This means I will buy absolutely nothing except for the necessities, meaning groceries (and necessary meds), as I think I have enough  hygiene and cleaning products so that I won't need to buy any of those.

I'm doing this to gain control over my impulsive habits and reset my finances. After these two months I will continue with a budget and wishlist /waiting list system. I'm seriously considering getting rid of my credit card and only having a debit card, but I haven't decided yet. Why do I need a credit card? If my aim is to pay it off in full each month, I can just save beforehand instead. We don't have the kind of credit rating system here, and I am not going to get any loans either. The only use for a CC is to spend money I don't have yet. Which is stupid. I need some kind of card for online shopping, but Visa Electron works just fine for that. 

I'm writing down every expense, though I pretty much know how much I need for necessities each month on average. I wrote about it in my post about a budget. 

If I notice a need or a want, I will write it down, but I will not buy anything. I have a couple of birthdays coming up, but I already have the gifts. For Christmas I also have most of the gifts ready. 

What I spent in October:

Electricity - 92,09 e

Phone/internet - 30,99 e

Property tax, payment 2/2 - 248,05 e

Insurance - 43,52 e

Garbage collection - 39,44 e

Church donation - 100 e

Food - 229,80  e

Cat food - 114,78 e

Gas - 174,70 e

Blood test for me - 38 e

Meds - 82,97 e

Misc. household and hygiene- 96,18 e

Gifts plus non-essentials - 230,85 e

Total  bills /fixed payments 554,09 e

Total other necessities 736,43 e

All necessities, total 1290,52 e

Total gifts and non-necessities 230,85 e

Monthly total = 1521,37 e 

I had 1612,78 e income so I had 91,41 e left.


* My car battery needed to be replaced, but DD's dad went and bought one and changed it for me, and didn't want me to pay back. That would have been around 100 euros, perhaps a little bit more, if I had to take my car to the shop for it. 

* I didn't count the flea market sales as income, only reliable income. I actually made a lot of money this month from selling stuff online and at the fleamarket.

*I spent more on cat food and gas than I thought, as I made two orders of cat food and filled the tank twice. Next month both categories will probably be much lower. 

* Miscellaneous household stuff included plumbing cleaning stuff to fix a drainage problem (its did get fixed),  wire and staples we had run out of and needed, as well as silica cat litter to finally put in the car as a de-humidifier (been meaning to do this for years) and a one liter bottle of shower oil for DD that doesn't make her skin dry out and get itchy, which cost 29,50 e. The previous bottle was empty so had to buy another, and the one liter bottle is 40% cheaper than buying it in the smaller bottles. Besides, the large bottle is a pump bottle which is convenient. 

*Non-essentials include one ice latte (5,60 e) when my sister and her girls invited me to Helsinki with them, to look for things for their new homes. Also, in the very beginning of the month, before I decided on the no-buy, I ordered trims for DD's skirt and on that order I also got an antique white linen table runner, which cost 32 euros, and I also bought six more old silver plated goblets for my church to use as communion cups. I had bought the same ones before, and we needed more. 

*Obviously the coming months I don't have to pay the property tax, but the electricity bill will be a little higher in winter months.

*We spent quite little on food this month. I don't eat as much due to the Crohn's flare, and also I've been eating stuff that I had bought in bulk previously, like nuts and dried fruit. Then I eat bananas every day, some other fruit, lactose free dairy products like Greek yoghurt with honey, cheese, and some eggs, meat, fish and chicken with veggies. That's about it. I also didn't buy / make food for church this month. So this is not a typical month for groceries. I did buy DD a sushi box once, which cost 9,90. Our usual thing has been to get sushi with a "resq" app, from restaurants selling leftovers for cheap. You can get a box of 12 pieces of sushi for 4 euros. But you can't choose what kind of sushi you want, and usually I let DD pick her favorites and I eat the ones she doesn't like that much. I'm not eating rice at the moment so that won't work, but I guess I could just eat the toppings of her rejects :D 

As I'd allocated like 450 euros for groceries I'm really surprised that we only spent like half of that!

*The meds I bought are for three months or so, but unfortunately I have other meds I take. The most expensive is around 500 e per year, and I buy it once a year since it is not subsidized by the state, like most meds are (and then you can only buy for three months at the time at at most). I don't have to buy it all at once, but frankly, I don't have a great trust on the supply chain anymore, and secondly, the drug I take is "controversial" so that many doctors prescribing it have been stripped from their ability to treat patients with this disease. I'm always so thankful when I get another year's prescription from my doc and if I'm ever asked about who is treating me for this illness, I refuse to answer. I've tried the other type of medication everyone is supposed to use for this illness, many times actually, and it makes me crazy sick. Of course the doctors don't believe that. 

Which brings me to the fact that even though we have a state subsidized health care, I mostly go to a private doctor and as I don't have, and can not get, and insurance, I pay for it myself. DD has a good insurance we took before she was born, which has been great. 

The amount of times the state health care has been utterly incompetent is astounding. Of course there are some good experiences too. Just one example is when I got sick with Addison's disease and finally went into Addison's crisis, I was taken to the hospital for IV drip overnight but they sent me home in the morning and told me to take an antacid. I was throwing up so much that liquids didn't stay in anymore. I was able to get a private appointment with a senior doctor who is super respected in endocrinology and wrote /edited the endocrinology text book for med school and stuff. He diagnosed Addison's and gave a prescription for hydrocortisone. After that, the hospital doctors were like, oh okay. 

But I digress again!

I'm curious to see a few more months so I can calculate a true average on how much we spend on necessities. If this month is an accurate example, I should be able to manage well with the 1600 euros. But really there is not that much slack, and I need to have a buffer for emergencies. If I had to pay for the new car battery, I would already have used every single cent and perhaps gone over. I do have savings, but they are not as liquid as cash, and I would like to keep them for real emergencies, and hopefully for "retirement" whatever that may be in my case.  So I need to have a separate cash buffer for things like car trouble. The thing with a cash buffer has been that I have ended up spending it (thus my savings are not in cash). This spending freeze is meant to train my self discipline in sticking with a budget. I'm quite happy with the first month! So on to the next... 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Making sourdough bread and saving money

                         This is my first sourdough bread. It's not too pretty, but was well received anyway

Bread is getting very expensive! Of course, so is everything else, but baking your own bread can help significantly with the grocery bill. I saw a blog post in a Finnish financial blog about food prices. According to her research, the grain products have increased 45% in price this year, and 57% since 2019. The official numbers are lower, of course. 

I started to bake my own bread more after deciding to get a stand mixer, which I had thought about for a long time. Is it just a a big, heavy, expensive piece of clutter? Or will it really make a difference in how much I bake? I found a KitchenAid stand mixer at an online flea market and bought it, maybe four or so years ago, and never looked back. It did indeed make baking anything that needs kneading so much easier! Now that the joints in my hands are arthritic, I definitely could not do proper kneading by hand. 

Recently I got some sourdough starter from a pastor family in another church, and learned to make sourdough bread. DD has a sensitive stomach, and I was thinking that yeast free bread might suit her better. I don't currently eat bread at all due to Crohn's disease flare, but I decided to just train myself in self discipline when being around freshly baked, delicious bread! After this flare settles, I may try eating some sourdough bread, and maybe my stomach can handle it..

Sourdough bread doesn't require kneading, but the elasticity and stretchiness comes from the sourdough starter doing its job. You can gently stretch and fold the dough occasionally, but it is not absolutely necessary. 

Baking your own sourdough bread is not difficult, but it does take time. This slow process is what allows the carbohydrates to break down, so your stomach doesn't have to do all that work! 

I haven't actually calculated before how much you can save by baking your own bread, but many breads now cost more than 10 euros per kilo. You can get some for less and I never usually bought the most expensive breads, except this malted rye specialty bread that DD likes and it's not available as a cheaper version. (I could make my own though!) But let's say that you eat a variety of breads from the cheapest ones to the more expensive ones, and spend 8 euros per kilo on average. You can buy a kilo of organic flour for around two euros at the cheapest. You can choose to support a smaller brand if you want to make sure the farmer gets more profit out of the sale, and spend a bit more. Of course, non-organic would be cheaper still. When I buy bread from the store, I buy non-organic, as there are lots more varieties available and the price isn't as ridiculous, but when I bake, I buy organic flour. 

Flour price has of course gone up a lot too, but out of a kilo of flour you get more than a kilo of bread, obviously, since you put water in it too. For sourdough bread, you literally only need water, flour and a bit of salt, that's it. Well, you need the starter, but you can make the starter yourself from just flour and water, so it has the same ingredients. So, let's say you can get 1,5 kilos of bread out of a kilo of flour. So for 8 euros you would get six kilos of bread instead of one! That is a significant difference and if you have a large family that eats a lot of bread, it might be worthwhile to start baking. Also, if you bake with sourdough, it is healthier that a bread baked with yeast. 

Using non-organic flour that costs about 1 euro per kilo, you would get 12 kilos of bread instead of one!

Then you spend a little on electricity to bake it, but in cold weather that also benefits you with additional heat.  Or if you have a wood fired oven and a source of free wood, then that doesn't cost you anything extra. My wood stove technically has an oven, but due to how it is connected to the chimney, the oven part doesn't get hot enough for baking. I can use the stove just fine, and the oven could be used to warm up foods, but sadly no baking there. I could bake in the fireplace though, in a pinch! 

Have you tried making sourdough bread? 

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

10 day Flea market sale outcome

                         I sold a bag of wool batts for spinning for 24 euros and the spindle for 8 euros.

I decided to make myself book a flea market spot and go through the hassle, to remind myself how hard it is to get rid of stuff, and how much money is spent on a bit of this and a bit of that. How many items do I need to sell to make a 100 euros? 

During the 10 day period I made 590 euros after the 49 euro fee plus 5% commission they take. I spent maybe around 15 euros extra for gas to go there so that would reduce the profit to 575 euros. I tried to combine the trips to the flea market with other errands and it wasn't that far. 

The cheapest item was 1 euro and the most expensive was 45 euros (which was a brand new, still in package Fiskars axe I had got as a gift but already had the exact same one). I sold 85 items in total, so on average I made about 6,75 euros per item. I didn't take time so I don't how many hours I spent sorting and pricing and taking the things there. Anyway, I feel like it was definitely worth it. 

That being said, I don't really feel like ever doing this again. Going forward, I will keep a donations bag like I used to, which will get donated once it is full. For a flea market to be worth it, you have to have quite a bit of stuff to sell, as the table itself costs money.  I made nice hang tags for the clothes and some other stuff, on some things I just put the price sticker on. So all that pricing, getting the sticker sheets from the flea market, making the hang tags and attaching everything to the items took time. Oh, and wrapping the delicate items so they won't break. I also went to the flea market a few times to take more stuff as things sold and freed up space, and to put things back nicely. People just leave clothes in a rumply pile.. 

I was pondering about doing another 10 day round, but I would have had to wait five weeks with all the stuff in my house, in my way. Finally I said, no way! If I had lots of extra space out of sight, then perhaps. I figured that I wouldn't make as much money from the second round, and it just wasn't worth it to keep all this stuff at my home for five more weeks and do all the work pricing and packing and hauling it.. I loaded up everything in my car and I will take it to the donations place tomorrow. All in all,  I probably decluttered 15  Ikea bags full of stuff, some of it being the fabrics I gave away previously. 

What I have learned from the few times I have sold at flea markets, is to price low in the beginning. Price things at least 25% lower than you would ideally like to get from them. Price the items so that you yourself would see them as a good find! Not what is the top price you could imagine getting for them. You might get that if you sell online and have the time to wait for someone willing to pay that much, but at a fleamarket with very limited time, you are not very likely to sell items at top price. 

If you price the things lower, you are going to sell more, thus making more money in one go. I made more money during the 4-day period I had everything -50%, than during the first 6 days at my initial price. 

I have a few more items I want to sell, but I'm doing it online. 

This definitely motivated me to get back on the decluttered life, and a reminder not to let stuff creep in! 


I just came back from the donation center. DD wanted to do something, so I asked if she was up for a drive there and back. She could check the free book section while I unloaded the bags and boxes.

It really is a weight off my shoulders -and my car :D Tomorrow I will take out some recycling and trash, mail a package, be home for a pick-up of another thing I sold, and hopefully vacuum clean a bit! My carpets are full of cat hair, yo. 

Lead test swabbing our dishes lead to easier decluttering in the kitchen!

Yes, I'd read about lead in old dishes before and got rid of any suspicious ones, as we had just had the toxic mold debacle and I was still very sick. But I forgot. I honestly, totally, forgot! Now, I accidentally bought two 180 year-old antique plates from the flea market. I mean I meant to buy them, but they were in such a super condition it would never have occurred to me that they were that old. At home I was curious about these plates and googled the text on the back and that is when I found out they were nearly 200 year old English transfer ware plates. The design was pretty rare, and in the green color way so rare that I could not find one picture of the same ones, no matter what search word I used, nor with google lens. 

But I also found out that they were lead glazed. Okayyyyh, so not for eating out of then. Would make a pretty wall plate, perhaps. But I'd only need one. Could try to sell them. Anyway, this made me research more about the lead in dishes, and whaddya know, I stumbled upon the same articles I now remembered from ten years ago! Sigh. 

I read about a simple test swab you could do at home, that would not tell you specific amounts, but it would show if the item was leaching lead or not, and if it was leaching just a little, or a lot, which you could tell by how strong a color change there would be in the swab. 

I had 60 swabs and decided to test the dishes we were using, plates, bowls, cups, mixing bowls and such. Then I would test the antiques I had that were for when we had guests over, or just when there was a special need for something we didn't use every day. I also tested the antique plates I knew for sure had lots of lead in them, for reference and to see that the swabs gave accurate results. On some dishes I repeated the test with a second swab. 

So the results so far is that all my antique and vintage items leached lead :( But also some of the newer items did, for example the coffee cups I'd got for when I have guests over. Our church women's group meets at our house, so there is a regular need for more dishes and utensils than just the two of us would need. 

Besides lead, the colors used can leach into the food, like cadmium, chrome, and cobalt. They are also highly toxic. So white dishes are the safest. I cringe when I think that we were eating from some colorful antique plates for a while there! Even before I did the test, I removed the colorful ones from our use, but turns out the white dinner plates ones also leached lead in my test. 

Our bowls that we use for everything, for soups, cereal, pasta, porridge, rice based foods.. they were bought new and test negative. Our cups / mugs are from the same series, as are our small plates. I also learned that Ikea stopped using any lead in their glazes in 2010, so any new(ish) dishes from Ikea are safe. Because you know, while lead in dishes is regulated now, ever since the 1970's or 1980's depending on the country, it is not completely banned. 

Also, any red clay dishes that have been low-fired, have more lead in them, as the higher the firing temperature, the more of the lead is destroyed in the process. So those lovely, old rustic earthenware pieces should be used for decoration only, or maybe as a fruit bowl because you will peel the fruit anyway. Though my mind starts to question, would the lead leach into the fruit skins and get in my hands when I peel them and then from my hands end up somewhere it shouldn't.. I don't know. If I and DD didn't have health issues as is, I would probably care a little less. After all, lead is already everywhere in the ground where our food is grown, and so on. Still, there is no safe amount established for lead. Even a little is poisonous. And it cumulates in our bodies. So, if there is some place where I can reduce or eliminate our exposure, I should, right? 

Right now, we don't have dinner plates. The small plates and bowls can do for now, until I decide what plates to get. I'm thinking about Ikea Arv plates that are discontinued now, but I can find them secondhand if I wait a little. They have the pretty vintage farmhouse style with a scalloped edge, but are still quite simple. Or if I decide to go for the series we have already, then that is Iittala / Arabia 24h. I really love the utter simplicity of them, but they also pair well with more ornate pieces. The color is not stark white, so the new plates should at least have the same ivory shade. I'm on a shopping ban, but if I can find dinner plates for us second hand for cheap, then I will buy those. 

I think I'm going to keep a few of my favorite plates though, either to hang on the kitchen wall, or to use as a serving plate with cupcakes, or so that I put a napkin underneath what I'm serving. That would be three or four plates. I also have a lovely wonky antique ironstone cake stand, which I may keep. The cake could be put on top of a cake paper. 

Do you use vintage / antique dishes? 

Saturday, October 14, 2023

A peek into my student apartment in 1998 and pondering about the reasons behind my sliding into cluttered life again

                         My beloved cat, the year is 1998 or 1999 and I kept my apartment super minimal.

After my recent "enough is enough!" -moment sparked by my need to urgently reduce my fabric stash to make room for what I was actually doing now, painting - I went through the whole house like a whirlwind.

So, why was my house starting to feel way too cluttered? I identified a few reasons:

-I had to bring home the leftovers from my business, lots of fabrics and some other things like rolls of wallpaper. I have donated a ton of fabrics before, but there was quite a bit. And you know, there are still some at a previous retailer's basement! 

-After being on my own, alone with DD in an old house and the coronavirus and lastly the energy crisis fear mongering made me feel insecure. What if something happens? I need to be prepared! Yes, to an extent. But I also have family and neighbors close by, and the limits of my house and my closets are limits, not guidelines. 

- I had overly optimistic ideas about how much produce I would be drying, freezing and preparing in other ways, resulting in too many items related to all that, relative to my restricted storage space. 

-I got a bit too excited about decorating my house as the renovation progressed. DD hates a white, stark home, we wanted it to be cozy here. But cozy doesn't have to be cluttered and hard to clean. 

-My weight changed yet again, leading to having to get new clothes, and still wanting to hold on to some I really liked and were quite new (some are now being used by DD and rest are donated), also not wearing some of my own print clothes but nor wanting to get rid of them, because you know, they are unique and maybe I will want to wear them again later.. Also they were a little bit small. But indecision struck and I kept them until now. (Now my Crohn's disease is in an acute phase again and I had to go on a specific diet for it.. so I may end up losing weight again. But luckily my dresses and tops and even skirts will probably work even if I lost up to 15 kilos. DD can wear many of my clothes even though she is 3 sizes smaller.)

-Starting to paint again, even though I had almost given up hope at one point that I would ever get back to it. This lead to having art stuff around, and also thinking about things as potential props for paintings. Oh no! Here is where I got in trouble, but also it made me remember why I love minimalism, ever since 2010!  Or actually even before that. My student apartment was super minimal, in 1998! I have this picture I took after decluttering my apartment. It's a bit too stark for my current taste (and for DD's taste) but I loved it then! I remember decluttering my sieve, and then having to buy one again after noticing it was impossible to drain rice with just using a kettle lid, and spaghetti was a bit slippery too :D 

After moving together with my husband, I couldn't stay that minimal, but got back to it later when I noticed myself being really overwhelmed and unhappy with so much stuff, and I got my husband onboard simplifying.

Anyway, what happened now, is that I thought, and rightly so, that our old house suits a quirky, artistic decor. And DD hates white walls, and likes wallpaper. 

And I happened to stumble upon some pretty rare, cool antiques. I thought I could use them as props for painting, maybe keep some, and sell the rest. What I got wrong, was to forget that the walls don't stretch and the space is what it is, and that I hate cleaning and I have a very low clutter threshold. I just can't cope with it. I also forgot that I hate having extra stuff lying around, or even neatly corralled into a cabinet, just waiting to leave my house. I really, really hate it! So before digging myself deeper into that hole, I promptly put a stop on it. I decided to try and sell the items, but if it is not getting sold in a relatively short time, I would just donate all of it and call it a lesson learned. It seems I need quite many lessons before I learn (sigh).

I still think our old house suits the style we have going on here, but a few special decor items and artworks  make a much bigger impression if they are let to stand out instead of hidden among a lot of things happening everywhere. Also, wallpaper and art on walls adds color and quirk and coziness without adding things to move around and clean. 

I have been going through everything, the art and craft supplies, the food pantry, the dishes, the linens, the clothes and shoes, the bathroom products, the office supplies, everything. I still need to go through tools, and take another look at the pantry. Then there are a couple of bags in the attic spaces (which are mostly empty, some old paintings are stored there) which have my old business place decor which needs to be donated. 

Garden stuff is still a work in progress, I need to go through the tiny shed. Thankfully it is small and doesn't house that much junk. And I already got rid of a bunch of stuff that was there, when I noticed I wasn't going to need them. So it's more than half way done already.

I have a spot at a fleamarket currently, and I have another spot reserved next month, if I can stand the bags of stuff around until then. I need to clear out this spot on Monday evening and I will decide then whether to cancel the second one and take everything to a donation place, or to keep it around and do the pricing stuff for a second spot, which is the most time consuming thing in this fleamarket selling. It's at the end of the month, so it means I would have to keep the stuff for a few more weeks. On one hand, time goes by really quickly, and I could price everything and pile the bags in a place where they are not in my way too much, or even the car some time before actually taking them to the flea market. On the other hand I would love to have all the extra clutter out of my house as soon as possible! Making myself sell at the fleamarket is kind of a way to pay a penance, eh. And to remind myself that while it is super easy to bring home stuff, getting rid of it is another kind of hassle! 

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Starting a monthly budget to keep myself accountable

                        I want to feel relaxed in my home, and with my finances! 

Oh boy, I have tried budgeting so many times, and I have kept it up as long as I was able to keep it under control, to what I was happy with. But I always ended up failing my goals and gave up, not wanting to see my failures in black and white! 

So I want to try to do it here, at least for six months or so. Until I learn better habits with my money. 

My monthly fixed expenses are (on average):

House insurance - 45 e

Phone and internet - 30 e

Electricity (includes heating) 140 e

Property tax - 40 e

Water - 75 e

Trash pick up - 20 

Donation to my church - 100 e

Car insurance and other car related costs- 70e

This comes to 485 e per month, on average. 

On top of this, we spend about 550 euros on food including cat food, toilet paper etc., and 80 euros on gas.

Then there are some medicine (one of my meds is really expensive!) and doctor bills, vitamins, personal hygiene products and household cleaning items I get at specialty stores as things I use are as non-toxic and natural as possible, while still working well for their intended purpose. I also make some of my cleaning products with simple vinegar, baking soda and essential oils, and dilute bought ones with water. But I need to budget about 150 euros for all these, as I am not quite sure how much it will end up being per month.

So all in all, I can expect to spend 1300 euros on necessities each month.

My reliable income at the moment is about 1600 euros. On top of this there is occasional income from selling my art and what I get when my pattern book is borrowed from the libraries, plus any flea market sales. 

So this tells me I pretty much have 300 euros per month out of my fixed income for any extra expenses, gifts, clothing, home decor, gardening. The extras I get should go to savings, an emergency fund for the next six months. I'm well set up for painting, as I recently got new paints, mediums, brushes and canvases.

After six months I will revaluate and perhaps will start putting half of the extras to the emergency fund and half to my "hobbies" account - which is basically for anything that is not a necessity. Like, you know, rose bushes and tulip bulbs. 

I usually have donated a lot, and I still donate (just gave away another 3 large bags of fabrics to friends) but since I'm on my own, I have to think about money a bit more carefully and I also try to sell things I no longer want. I just booked a flea market table and have gone through a lot of items, pricing and labeling. I'm making myself do this as a little bit of a lesson, to remind myself what a hassle it is to get rid of things, and how much money is wasted with an attitude of 10 euros here and 20 there, no big deal.. but it adds up, whaddyaknow. It's like I have brain damage in the area that should be able to process this simple math. So, even if I'm never able to grasp this basic financial math, at least my dislike of clutter, and the trouble it takes to get rid of it, should make me run away from bringing any more stuff to my home. 

Food is getting really expensive. The electricity was crazy last winter, and I now got a 24 month contract for 8,8 cents/ kWh, which is quite reasonable. I don't trust at all the coming winter is going to be any better necessarily, so I decided to free myself from having to follow the electricity price daily and even hourly. 

There is not that much I can do about food. Due to a Crohn's flare I need to eat in a specific way. DD is very picky about what she eats, having sensory issues about the textures of foods, as well as a sensitive stomach. I try not to waste food, so I will freeze leftovers if I know we well not be able to finish them before they go bad. I chop all kinds of fruit into pieces to freeze for smoothies, whatever is cheap, and whatever is in danger of not getting eaten fresh. 

I cut my own and DD's hair so that is a big saving. The shampoo and conditioner we use are pretty expensive natural ones, but I don't have to wash my hair very often. I use very little make-up, basically I only need four items. 

The places I have spent the most are our garden (though this has been a hobby, not just consuming, and I imagine that a nice garden raises the property value as well), home decor after the renovation was finished, and clothing. I prefer to own fewer clothes that are good quality and that I really love, I don't care what brand they are and don't want any visible labels, but I do see a danger of going overboard there and I have done so before. Our limited storage space for clothes is good for keeping this under control though. We only have one rack and one small cabinet to share. Most of my clothes are on the rack, most of DD's are in the cabinet. 

I'm trying to sell our large antique cabinet that housed miscellaneous stuff, as it has become unnecessary after I decluttered. It's lovely cabinet, but it takes up so much space from our small living room which doubles  -or triples- as my painting studio and office. It wouldn't matter so much otherwise, but I host our church' women's group at our place, and our living room is just too crowded. I can't get rid of any of the four easy chairs, or people would not have anywhere to sit. We need to borrow the kitchen armchairs as it is... 

Things that are on a to buy-list? Well, I do need reading glasses at some point. I can manage without still, but I notice that my sight is not the the same as it used to be. My sewing machine is at the shop, which will cost some, but I plan to sell it after I get it back. I have another machine that used to belong to my mom, and grandma before that, and I really like that machine. I just recently got it back from loan. 

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Creative minimalist?

You guys know that I'm a creative person. I delve in-depth into making vintage style toys, creating print fabrics, making my own pattern for sewing, knitting out of my imagination, and of course I was trained as a painter, a visual artist. I love colors, I really like old things, the sterile white minimalist cube thing is so not for me. Except the time when I was pregnant and nauseous and everything felt icky, I dreamed of living in a sterile white cube. But I digress.

I have struggled with my creativity as opposed to my desire and need for simplicity and minimalism, and also my faith. How do I create art for the lory of God? I know I'm supposed to do everything for his glory. How is me making art helping his Kingdom? Isn't it just useless? Yet I enjoyed looking at art myself, and I enjoyed well crafted furniture and thoughtfully made, functional kitchen ware, things that made my life easier, or more beautiful somehow. 

I recently had a breakthrough in the second dilemma, of how do I create art for the glory of God? I kept thinking.. everything you do, do it as unto the Lord. And I suddenly had the desire to paint pictures of people living for God. And they could be doing anything - everything to His glory. And suddenly the ideas are endless, and I notice that my painting style has changed from hectic to slow and peaceful. I take longer to finish a painting, but I don't exhaust myself so that I get totally put off by the idea of starting a new one. 

The other issue, is of course that most creative efforts require materials. Supplies of all kinds, and sometimes a significant amount of space. Even when I was creating fabric prints, I still used physical paintings and drawings for most of them. Our last few moves have been done with one van. Sometimes it was a small van, sometimes large. We had 20-40 moving boxes rented. I'v heard of people with the same size family moving with 200 boxes and two trips with a large truck. So ever since I had a lightbulb moment, the year my daughter was born in 2008, while reading Karen Kingston's Clear your clutter with feng shui, we have been quite okay. But one thing I struggled with was fabrics - and recently mostly because I quit my company's own shop and all the leftovers came to live in my house. I had a big sale and I donated lots of fabrics, but it seems like they never end! But it was not only those fabrics, as I realized yesterday while going through them. I had many fabrics that I had bought without a specific project that I was going to use them for. Some of them had moved twice with me. During this time, my daughter grew from a child to a teenager and her dressing style and color preferences changed. And MY dressing style has changed. I had lots of colorful jerseys that I had no use for, if I was going to be honest. 

So now I have packed up five large bags of fabrics that are going to leave the house and I'm still going to take another look. I cleared a big space in the upstairs room that houses my sewing machine and ironing board, and that can now be used to store my empty canvases, which are actually being used. Or, as it now seems, I may actually be able to get rid of this huge, very lovely antique cabinet that is used for storage in the living room, and I could store my extra canvases here, at least most of them, and I may have room for a guest bed upstairs! I would like that. I recently had a friend stay over a night and I gave my bed for her to use, because we have no proper guest bed. DD's friends sleep on the floor on a mattress that is usually on top of her mattress. I borrowed that one and slept in the middle of the sewing room floor when I had an overnight guest.

In case you were wondering, this house is only 71 m2/ 756 square feet, or 89 m2 / 958 square feet if you count the un-heated foyer and the low spaces under the ceiling. In Finland, the official count get cut off at 160 cm or 5'3" height. As far as rooms, there is the cold foyer which gets freezing in the winter, but it has our chest freezer, and it has a low cabinet in front of the window that stores shoes and some things like a extension cable roll and a hammock. It also has a small bench that opens up and I store larger tools there. 

The entrance hall has doors on every side and only has a coat rack / shelf for hats and scarves, and a large basket where DD keeps her hats, mittens, scarves, and usually drops her jacket there too. Our vacuum cleaner is currently there too. Then there is kitchen, which has a large farmhouse table and four chairs currently. Only two fit on each side, because the legs are a bit towards the center instead of at the corners, and our chairs are 60 cm wide, but we like the comfy chairs too much to change them. I would rather get a new (old) table. There is an extra chair beside an antique cabinet that came from my childhood home and used to be in mom's childhood home. My bedroom is officially an alcove, as it is so small. It has a window and door to the entrance hall, and open doorway to the living room. It has my bed and one antique cabinet, and since it doesn't fit a bedside table, I put a small rattan shelf on the wall to function as a night stand. 

The living room then, of boy. A bookshelf, two large and two small easy chairs /arm chairs, a large and small antique cabinet, my vintage computer desk and chair, my easel and chair and a small chest of drawer for paints and to double as my palette, and in front of one window a narrow sideboard, so that my monstera can get enough light. And there is the fireplace, and each wall has either window or a doorway. 

DD's room is also a bit difficult to decorate due to the low sloped ceiling, but she has a mattress on the floor as bed, which is not optional, but the only way to get a bed up the narrow stairs if to get something that can be assembled in place, and we haven't gotten around to deciding what kind of bed would be best. She also has a secondhand Ikea Leksvik desk, desk chair that her dad bought which is an expensive Herman Miller, a low easy chair, a small low Ikea bookshelf and a low stack of drawers from Muji. 

The second, or actually first upstairs room is a walk-through, and has a small antique desk for sewing and a chair. The desk is actually a bit low, and I have noticed my back getting sore when I sew in front of it. It also has an old cabinet which was first bought for DD but she didn't like. The doors and drawers don't open and close properly and the shelving on top was not a good fit for books. It just fits under the low ceiling and so I kept it for my own sewing stuff. In the winter the drawers close a bit easier when the wood  contracts.. It's not perfect for works for now and as I don't need to open and close it daily, I can't be bothered to get rid of it and find a new one right now. I also have an antique ironing board I re-covered. The laundry / dressing room that used to be an indoor sauna, has the washing machine, a rack and a vintage cabinet to store both of our clothes and personal care products. 

All in all, everything else is spacious and under control, but the fabrics have taken up an unreasonable amount of space, which became unsustainable after I started painting actively again. Preferably the house had one extra room, or the upstairs room could be either my bedroom (it can't because DD goes through kit to her own room) or painting studio (it's too low, and I really prefer to paint downstairs anyway). 

But it is what it is, and as a long time simplifier I know that the best solution is to get rid of stuff. The stuff I don't use or need, but I'm keeping either because I spent a lot of money on it, or I think I might use it sometime in the future, though I haven't used it in many years. 

In order to get rid of the large cabinet, I really just need to cull stuff from it,  and everywhere else so that the stuff there that I want to keep, fits elsewhere. It is a general storage mesh mash, it has some art supplies there, a memory box, office supplies and important papers, planned gifts, some too small clothes or maybe-donatables, a couple of preparedness items like a water purifier, a bag of extra hygiene products like DD's toothpaste that I buy in bulk, and it also had an unused small Fiskars axe I got when I already had the same exact one.. oh and my things for winding yarn to a ball.. It has been like a big catch-all! (I did decide to give away my last spinning wool and spindle as I have not used them in many, many years. I sold my spinning wheel and carder over ten years ago but held on to just bit of the supplies.. just in case.. they fit in my allotted knitting supply space.. alas, I do not use them. If I were to ever spin again, I would want to do it with a wheel anyway. 

In addition to the obvious craft stuff that I need to cull, I identified a few other things I needed to go through, and this is still in process:

-Sadly, the larger one of my monstera plants. It was growing all over the place in the living room and I just had no other space to put it either. I donated it to a good new home yesterday. 

-Dishes and kitchenware

-Tools and renovation supplies now that the renovation is done (a couple of small things I still should do, and I do have to keep basic tools)

-Clothing, though there is not much excess there. Mostly T-shirts I made form my own fabrics but haven't worn now in a long time. I got tired of the prints and also shifted to wearing mostly woven fabrics. Worn out ones were cut into painting rags, also useful for cleaning out cat puke.

-Also any personal care products and food stuffs that have expired and I know we are not going to use. I'm having a Crohn's disease flare-up and there is a bunch of cereal that is just sitting there taking space, I can't eat it and DD just eats one kind of cereal now. I'm also thinking that I don't have to keep THAT much dry fruit, nuts, rice and tomato sauce at home, and I could use some of that space to store glass bottles and jars I use for homemade rhubarb juice and apple puree and such. I also maybe have too many of the glass jars and could get rid of some. They do work for freezing as well though and I have used them to freeze soup and sauce as well as fruit and berry puree. 

Anyway, an excess of supplies actually often stifles creativity. For me, it's the exhaustive amount of choices that makes my eyes glaze and my brain freeze,  as well as a guilty feeling of having so much stuff that I should be using - which creates pressure which makes me run from the whole thing! 

I find myself enjoying a sewing project much more when it is planned and intentional, not " I really should make sometime out of this, oh well, I guess I can make a tunic out of it" - and the tunic ends up being not loved, not worn, so I was essentially just transforming supply clutter into clothing clutter. 

Restricting myself on purpose gives me boundaries, which in fact give me freedom. The possibilities lie in my mind, not in the huge hoard of supplies, which just end up feeling like a burden.

It has happened that I get excited about a small project, order the supplies, and it takes so long to get them that I'm over the whole thing before they ever arrive! In that case, I just need to move on. Find a new user for the supplies. Remember to next time think a little bit longer and harder whether this is really worth it, really something I want to do and spend money and time and space on. Sometimes I do a small project or learn a new skill ( hello porcelain painting) but don't love it, so I don't have to continue doing it, even if I do have supplies left. I could have signed top for another year of porcelain painting (can't do that at home because it needs the high heating ceramics oven) but then I would have spent more money on something I already realized I didn't enjoy that much, and I didn't want to have those painted items around. I'm not sure the dishes are safe for everyday use, as the color is on top of the glaze! Initially I took the course because I wanted to decorate some white zellige tiles for my kitchen, but I changed my mind and decided to just install white ones, if anything. 

As far as the money spent, there are two ways to handle it. Either sell try to sell the stuff, and get some of the money back, but get to work for it too, or donate it and just think about being able to donate money too, so why not the stuff? Try to find a good place to donate, if you don't have friends who want and need it. Or, if you already gave so many fabrics to your friends who sew and wanted them, that they have no more room in their storage. I don't want to create a clutter problem to others, either. When I give something to a friend, I always tell they are free to share it to others too, or if they end up not needing it, to donate it to someone else. 

With canvases, I order mine from abroad as I want ones primed for pool paints, or just sized and I will prime them myself, and this kind is not really available here. I used to make mine from scratch but that takes too much time and space and it's messy to cook your own primer! So I gave it up and spend a bit more on ready or half-ready canvases. I can't paint of cheap ones, or use cheap paints, it just takes away from the intentionality and wish to do everything well and as unto the Lord! 

So, what do I store in the cabinet in my bedroom? Well, you will have to stay tuned for another episode of Cat's Meow, because this post is getting long and rambling, and that is whole (a bit embarrassing) story on its own! 

Oh, and should you want to check it out, my artist website is vappurechardt.com  :) 

I do sell my paintings and ship the all over the world, and I do take commissions. Ask for availability if interested!