January 2016 Simple Living Review

January sunrise

We’re saying goodbye to January today, a month that hardly anyone looks forward to but which has actually been quite magical this year. Starting and ending the day with starry skies on cloudless days, beautiful sunrises when the sky is cloudy, and every day a bit more light and a few more signs of spring. Everything is waking up.

We have some very flirty birds in our garden now and today we spent an hour doing the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. The highlight was two tiny goldcrests with the brightest fiery orange crests we’ve ever seen, busily catching insects on the Norway Spruce.

This month has also been very motivating, and this has come from a diverse range of sources: reflecting on David Bowie, getting angry about events in the news, being moved by incredible music and writing, and seeing some of the ideas we care about becoming more mainstream (such as the new series of Tiny House Nation starting, and finding out about another tiny house series starting soon). The best thing we saw this month was Satish Kumar’s Earth Pilgrim documentary set on Dartmoor. Whenever we feel like we’re just a drop in the ocean, we look around us and realise we’re actually part of a tide!

Financial review

We’re been good savers this month, with 15% of our income left over. There were more No Spend Days than ever before. Here’s where the spend money went (other than the usual bills etc)

Food and drink: We averaged £11.75 per day. Our original £10 a day goal looks like it was quite unrealistic, but we’ll keep it for now as it is still motivating us!
Transport: Parking at the seaside, one fill of petrol, Park & Ride top-up
Luxuries: MP3 downloads, and a plain notebook to cover with fabric for Lucy’s next project
Home and Garden: We bought a handheld blender for making soups, £20
Health & wellbeing: Dental check-up, soap, shampoo and special offer sunblock (thinking ahead!)
Clothing & accessories: Lucy has to confess now to an impulse buy, a set of 3 sparkly stud earrings from a supermarket of all places. It was an unplanned purchase but they were really, really sparkly and it was only just after Christmas! (A £5 moment of weakness).

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Green tea break

 

As we get more used to our new balance of roles, some of the ways we spend our time are changing. Lucy is doing more reading and more yoga and is nurturing the thought of trying some creative writing and/or playing her guitar again. She has also developed a love of decaffeinated jasmine green tea!

Brian is managing his time more in tune with what he needs physically, to minimise pain and the risk of injury with his back, neck, wrists and knees. We’re almost ready to research and shop for new kitchen flooring as almost all the horrible sticky floor tiles have been removed. Once all the day’s work is done, evenings are often spent working gently on one of his home-made walking sticks. More about those soon!

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Words and music (Lucy’s nerd corner):

This month’s favourite songs:

David Bowie – Lazarus
Low – Point of Disgust
Love – the whole of the Forever Changes album
Billie Holiday – This is Heaven to Me
Antony & The Johnsons – Bird Gerhl and the cover version by The Unthanks

This month’s reading:

Colm Toibin – Nora Webster
John Boyne – A History of Loneliness
James Kelman – How Late It Was, How Late

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Blue Skies, Bag & Bowie Fans

The blue skies this weekend have been an inspiring break from the recent rain and wind. We’ve had a walk each day and made the most of it, catching the moon in different places and taking lots of photographs.

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A moon window

There are so many different kinds of sky blue – sometimes several going on at once!

 

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01 09 I made a bag

Last weekend, Lucy made a bag – been meaning to do this for over 2 years! This is for transporting office clothes to work when cycling. She is not the neatest sewer, so if you are a perfectionist look away now because here’s a close up of one of the handle attachments.

 

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Quality Item!

 

Who wants everything perfect and generic-looking anyway? Better to have something that makes you giggle every time you see it.

And, on a similar theme…

Both of us are David Bowie fans so we were very moved by the coverage of the news that he had died. We had only just watched the Lazarus video last weekend and found it haunting and poignant. Lucy was born in the 80s and started with Labyrinth and the Goblin King (a classic) but Brian was there at the beginning, he saw the Starman performance on Top of the Pops, made a scrapbook, and he and his friends drew the Aladdin Sane lightning bolt on their school workbooks.

What is brilliant is that all the people sharing their memories are great people themselves, telling a story that you don’t often get to hear en masse like this – the story of growing up feeling like an oddball in some way, whatever it might be. On the Guardian website the messages scrolled up, stories about being bullied at school (and not just at school), feeling like you don’t fit in, needing to find a way to live that doesn’t just follow the herd of conformity.

Often in people’s outsider stories, what starts off feeling like a limitation or constriction ends up enabling you to grow and evolve in your own unique direction.  It’s often the reason people can relate to one another, as so many of us have felt this way, and those that do tend to have an open mind and an empathy which could probably solve many of this world’s problems if only they were the ones in charge (in as much as anyone should be ‘in charge,’ that is.)

So for a few days it’s felt like the outsiders have taken over the media, the usual rubbish about shopping, brands, lifestyles and mainstream celebrity put aside in favour of different voices for once, and it would be nice if it could stay that way.

 

 

 

December 2015 Simple Living Review

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We’ve reached a milestone – our first December, and therefore Christmas, on one income. We have been living as if this was our situation for the last couple of years (living on one salary and saving all of the other one), but this was the first year where it was for real!

The amount of shopping we did this year was significantly reduced, especially on festive food items for ourselves, although we were also a bit more creative with some of our gifts.  We still have some Christmas spending to do, because we’re cooking a meal for some of our family in lieu of bought & wrapped presents. Next year we should have more energy to put into Christmas. This year we were definitely still feeling our way and getting over the stress levels which led to the changes which we made to our lives during the year.

What did we buy this month?
Food and drink: our average daily spend was £13.24. Last December it was more like £16, so we’ve definitely cut back. Between Christmas and New Year we had 5 ‘No Spend Days’ in a row which was pretty exciting!
Two fills of petrol – one at the very start of the month, and one on the last day of the month
Luxuries: Lucy downloaded 3 songs and bought a copy of a favourite novel from a charity shop for re-reading

12 01 Re-reading
Home/Garden: DIY gloves, a flannel, the Mahonia shrub and this little antique glass ink bottle we bought for 75p for our mantelpiece. The heart is from a craft shop and was something Lucy stuck to a box of truffles as one of Brian’s birthday gifts.

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Domestic: Big bulk laundry liquid, batteries, and sticky tape
Health/Wellbeing: A few medical expenses, and Lucy bought a half price epilator. Over the longer term this will save money on razor heads and it seems to be  much better for skin. The most thrifty and eco option is of course hairy legs, but this is one area where personal preference came first!
Clothing: Underwear
Gifts: compared to last year we spent around a third less on Christmas and December birthdays, which is what we were aiming for as we didn’t want to reduce it so far that we felt stingy. We also still have a good budget for birthdays and other occasions throughout the year.

Things we did and thought about:
Although we don’t celebrate New Year as such, as the month has come to an end we’ve been reflecting on where we are and how things are changing. Brian is finding it easier to pace himself on weekdays when Lucy is at the office, instead of pushing through too many physical and demanding jobs because it feels as if every moment must be productive to be justified. Sometimes the best thing to do is to take it easy, rest and enjoy life!

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Reflections in the river on a winter walk

To help with this, we’ve been thinking about how our home works, and ensuring we both have places we can relax, such as reading corners. Brian has rigged up the spare desk lamp down the back of the sofa, so when he wants to read he can lift it out and use it as a spotlight.

We also love music, but haven’t yet found a way to set up speakers so that we can easily listen to it. Everything we have is digital, and we sold all our CDs a few years ago, and neither of us have a proper mp3 player – it’s all on the laptop. But there must be a way around it!

Little things like this can make such a difference to how effectively you can enjoy your home and your life in comfort, and often they cost nothing. It’s been wonderful to have a chunk of time off together this holiday season, so that we can talk about and try out ideas like this. As always, it’s the simplest things which have the greatest value and give the most pleasure…

…such as making nerdy music lists, which Lucy will now be providing each month. These were the songs which provided the soundtrack to our December.

December 2015 – Songs of the month:
Neko Case – Hold On, Hold On
Laura Marling – Darkness Descends
Jónsi – Hengilas
Adem – Love And Other Planets
Kate Bush – Sunset
The Weeknd – I Can’t Feel My Face (for everyone who loved Strictly Come Dancing this year. It appears in this winners’ dance – although we voted for Kellie!)

Happy January!