SCRAP Step 27- All Tied Up

Back in October last year I started to write about de-cluttering and one of my first references was to my ties.  (Look up “Clutterhead” in the Archive for October 2010 to see the post ).     My attachment to my many ties was tied up in the memories they brought back.      As a result, I didn’t actually throw away any of my beloved ties, rather, I just tidied them up and put them on a shiny stainless steel rail back in my wardrobe.    Mind you they were now arranged in rainbow order, which at least made me feel like I had achieved something.

Unfortunately, the stainless steel hanging rail proved to be a little too slippery and many of my ties were regularly found in a tangled heap on the floor.   Alas, five months later and the rainbow order has become a spagetti soup sort of order and makes finding the right tie like a search for a needle in a haystack.

Now for a bit of mental arithmetic :-

  • I have about 90 ties in all;
  • These days I mainly wear them for special occasions — lunches or dinners in the winter —- and then weddings —- or funerals;
  • That amounts to about 10 ties have I worn in the last twelve months ;
  • At that rate I have enough ties to last me for the next 9 years even if I never wear the same tie again.

  • Or if I were to go mad and use them all in a year, I could gate crash loads of weddings and get myself into 90 wedding photographs with a different tie for each occasion.
  • Or I could pay my respects at 100’s of funerals.   Nobody knows everybody at a funeral and you only need one black tie.
  • Finally as a last hurragh, I could wear a tie to 90 different swanky restaurants and leave a signed tie as a tip for the waiter.     In the confusion, he might think I am famous and if I am quick leaving I might get away without paying .

My ties deserve a fitting end.

Has anybody got any better ideas ?

There will be a copy of Walt Hopkins and George Simons’ book — “Seven Ways to Lighten Your Life Before You Kick the Bucket” — for the best ideas on de-cluttering.


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SCRAP Step 26 Taking Stock Again

It is now three months since I started my war on clutter.    It is time to review how I am getting on, because it is taking a lot of time and effort and things don’t seem a lot different.

So is is worth all the hassle?

  • Well it has given me something to do around the house in the winter, when I can’t get out in the garden.    That’s a start 😀
  • I don’t miss anything I have got rid of and I enjoyed the bonfires of paperwork 😀
  • There are a few spaces beginning to open up on shelves and in drawers, so long as I don’t find things to fill them up again 😀
  • My sock drawers are a JOY to use, but that is the only small victory so far 😀
  • Oh and I have found some long lost photographs and several interesting books to relook at 😀
  • I have a plan for what to do with surplus socks in future,   — and pins, paper clips, etc . 😀
  • I will never need to buy any envelopes ever again   — and I have still got lots of purple box files to give away 😀

BUT  on the downside :-

  • My biggest disappointment is my office ☹️😩😨😤       I have cleared tons of stuff out of it and yet it still looks a mess.     In some senses it is tidier — things are filed away, there’s no pending tray,  a lot less box files ( although a few still survive ).     The trouble is that the loose ends are still in my head 😩
  • On the wardrobe front I still have many more clothes than I need and even though my summer clothes are now more neatly stored in boxes, I would have to wear a different outfit every day for a year before I used them all.     Mind you you that would save on a lot of washing ☹️
  • Then there are my garden sheds, I have left them until it gets warmer.   But that is a mountain to climb.    Probably quite literally 😧

So I guess I just have to keep on schucking and chucking and plucking and ducking and —-ing and hopefully a lot more tucking.

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SCRAP Step 25 – Books

The Japanese method of de-cluttering suggests you start with books.    I didn’t do that because I have so many books and such a strong attachment to them, that it would have been too difficult.     Add to this, that my wife used to read two or three books a week.    Thank goodness  I bought her a Kindle a few years ago.  It saved us from having to have an extension on the end of the house 😀

Still we do have a lot of books scattered all around the house.  The study was filled up years ago with all my books :-

  • Gardening Books for every season and every plant.   Books by famous gardeners and about famous gardens.     Horticultural books which offer a wealth of advice, but no way of controlling the weather.    I have tried to learn from all of these in my small cottage garden.    Now I can de-clutter at least half of these books by passing them on to the village gardening association.
  • Then we have a host of art books that I have purchased at galleries and exhibitions I have visited in the UK and around the world.   Lots of happy memories there.   I could send some of them to my artist son in the hope that they might lead him to greater things.
  • Next, we have travel guides and maps from everywhere we have visited.    I love maps I can sit and study an OS map for ages.    I doubt we will go to all those places again, there are still too many places we haven’t seen.    So it is time to pass them on too.
  • Oh and how can I forget my architecture books.   I still have a great many, even after I let go of my  books on really interesting subjects like drainage and manholes a few years ago, when the bookshelf fell down 😢
  • Then my next career led me to buy a lot of management books.

There must be a better idea for what to do with all my spare books :-).   Any inspiring ideas ?

There will be a copy of Walt Hopkins and George Simons’ book — “Seven Ways to Lighten Your Life Before You Kick the Bucket” — for the best ideas on de-cluttering.




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SCRAP Step 24 – Cards

Today  I am sorting a drawer full of cards that my wife Mo buys with her shopaholic skills —– everywhere she goes.

Mo has cards for every occasion  :-

  • Birthdays —  from giving birth, to first baby, grandson, granddaughter, then onto family members too many to mention but in all enough cards for a lifetime;
  • Moving on to the less fortunate we have lots of ‘ Get Well Soon ‘ cards and if that doesn’t work, we have ‘ Deepest Sympathy ‘  cards for the bereaved relatives;
  • Wedding Anniversary’s feature largely in Mo’s card collection, unfortunately living-in-sin and divorce have overtaken the need for most of these;
  • Finally, we have Christmas cards — the unused ones from last year   and the year before and the year before that year and so on.    The ones that you can’t send again because people will remember them.

Now I have to confess our clutter of cards is not all down to Mo.   I have a large accumulation of cards myself, which I have kept occupying a space on a shelf in the study for the six years since I retired.     When I was at work at the ExtraCare Charitable Trust, I regularly used to send cards to residents, volunteers and staff to thank them for something special that they had done.  I would often bump into people years later and they would thank me for the cards I had sent them.


So one idea to use up the cards that I still have would be to send cards to the many people that I haven’t been in contact with since I retired to wish them all the best and invite them to comment on my GrumbleSmiles blogs and my efforts with de-cluttering.

Has anybody got any better ideas on how to use the many other cards that I have which otherwise will not likely to be used in my lifetime?

There will be a copy of Walt Hopkins and George Simons’ book — “Seven Ways to Lighten Your Life Before You Kick the Bucket” — for the best ideas on de-cluttering.

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Welsh Housing Report 3

Over the past two weekends I have been offering my thoughts on the recently published report ” OUR HOUSING AGENDA: MEETING THE ASPIRATIONS OF OLDER PEOPLE IN WALES “.     It is a comprehensive and ambitious effort to build a vision for housing for older people in Wales.  (You can see my earlier posts by clicking on “Retirement Housing” in the TOPICS LIST).

Like the rest of the UK,  the demographics of the elderly population are changing on a scale not seen before.   In Wales there are particular characteristics which need to be addressed.   Many of  the oldest elderly grew up in the relatively impoverished industrial era of Aneurin Bevan.   The coal mines, the slate quarries, the iron and steel industries, were the life blood of large areas of Wales at the beginning of the 20th century.    That left a legacy of housing not well suited to growing old.

In many cases the oldest generations’ baby boomer children have inherited this legacy.     They form the big wave of baby boomers who are now entering retirement.   We should also not forget that in the hinterlands of the industrial areas there are also many older people isolated in rural communities.

These are my broad conclusions about the report’s proposals:-

The first significant point about older people aspirations is that most of them wish to stay in their own homes.  For the majority of them, the barriers to this option, whilst they may be significant, are not insurmountable.   Indeed the reality is that if nothing is done, that is exactly what will happen anyway, but for many people remaining in their homes will leave them more impoverished as costs rise and in a deteriorating state of health.   As the report states, there is much that can be done to help and support people to stay in their own homes.  This point was covered in my first post and highlighted the benefits of falls programmes, energy conservation measures, welfare benefits checks etc. Many of these services are provided by voluntary / charitable organisations, often supported by Local Authority or Health Authority grants.  Sadly in these austere times these are the very areas that are being cut.

Nonetheless, enabling people to remain in their own homes, not only fulfils their aspirations, but is likely to be cheaper to the public purse than the alternative higher costs of residential care and / or frequent hospital admissions.  Therefore it is essential to develop a much expanded programme of pro-active healthcare in terms of well-being programmes.  This then needs to be complemented with Social Services support for those who also need care in the community.  This is the opposite direction to the way Public Policy has moved in recent years when austerity has forced both Health and Social Services to concentrate only on the very frailest older people.  This is not another vainglorious cry for more public money, welcome as that would be.  Rather we need to find new and innovative ways of supporting these programmes and self-financing much of the care.  Certainly it is the case that many older people are asset-rich and income-poor and if we can find ways of unlocking the assets they have in their homes to provide for their care, it would enable them to live at home for much longer.  However, the existing ways of doing this in the form of equity release, do not represent good value for money and new innovative financial models have to be developed.

The second key area in the report is the proposal to develop 20,000 new retirement homes.    My second post expanded on the proposition with considerable scepticism.  Not because it isn’t a desirable option, but its achievement is unlikely without radical changes in the approach to how new housing can be both financed and planned for. All the current housing finance models for affordable public housing, require substantial capital grants, which are not likely to be available on the scale required.  Models do exist with a cross-subsidised blended mix of public and private ownership.  Shared ownership would unlock the assets of existing homeowners, but not if they need continued grants support for the unpurchased equity.  The second half of this development problem is the planning system and its link to the availability of land.  As discussed in my earlier post, this would need a radical review of Section 106 Affordability Requirements, CIL Payments and probably Greenbelt restrictions.  All of this can only be achieved with strong political support at National and Local Authority levels.  Whilst public funding would help to kick-start this programme, there is no question that a housing programme on this scale will require substantial private investment.

The third key ingredient to delivering the report aspirations, has to be innovation.   Large institutions such as Governments, Local Authorities and Health Authorities are not generally known for their innovative skills.   For such a radical shift in approach, it will be necessary to harness the goodwill of these institutions to trial new ideas in a series of pilot projects.  The best and most successful of these might then show the way to rolling out a bigger and more comprehensive programme in future years.

My final thoughts go beyond the Report’s findings and suggest a possible way in which a large-scale programme to meet the housing aspirations of older people in Wales.  I will write about this in a final blog in the weeks ahead but first I need to consult with my fellow GrumbleSmiles Trust Trustees and also with some of the authors of the Report.



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SCRAP Step 23 – Screwdrivers

You can never have too many screwdrivers.    I have probably got more screwdrivers than I have got screws.

Most rooms in our house have a drawer with a screwdriver in it somewhere.    The trouble is that when you need a screwdriver, it is probably the wrong size for the task in hand.      Long screwdrivers won’t fit in small spaces, but short stubby screwdrivers are can be hard to grip when faced with a screw that has been screwed in for a centaury  or two.    The little Christmas cracker sets of screwdrivers are virtually useless for anything, but I  still have quite a few from Christmas’s long past.

That Phillips fellow,  whoever he was, has a lot to answer for.   He must have doubled the number of screws and screwdrivers in the whole world when he invented cross headed screws.     So for every type and size of screw I also seem to have an appropriate cross headed screwdriver.

Still there is always a screw loose in our house somewhere.    Hence the abundance of screwdrivers.

As part of my de-cluttering project I will designate one of my garden sheds as a “TOOL SHED” and move all my screwdrivers into it, along with all my other tools.     Just so long as my wife, Mo, doesn’t expect me to spend most of my days in there 😀


There must be a better idea for dealing with excess screwdrivers.   Any inspiring ideas ?

There will be a copy of Walt Hopkins and George Simons’ book — “Seven Ways to Lighten Your Life Before You Kick the Bucket” — for the best ideas on de-cluttering.

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SCRAP Step 22 Cleaning Materials

It is March and I am forging on with my de-cluttering with some spring cleaning.      You would think with all this clutter we might have a cleaning problem, but as they say “ours is a clean house ours is”.

In fact, I don’t know how any germs dare come in.     We have an arsenal of weapons to combat the war against every speck of dust —-every insect that might darken our door —- all the new streptococcus lying in wait for a chance to strike you down —- and even me should I ever step across the threshold in my muddy boots.

The major defensive strong hold is the cupboard under the kitchen sink.   I hardly dare open the door.   Every time I do, a platoon of aerosols falls out ready to blast you with disinfectant, or splatter your trousers with bleach, which is probably why all chiefs wear white aprons.    It could be worse, the bug killers don’t taste at all good if you approach the cupboard with your mouth open.   In fact it is wise to use a mask!     There again, on a good day if you are lucky one slight move and you could  be showered with Fabreeze orange blossom fabric spray.


I haven’t even mentioned the additional emergency supplies we have in the downstairs toilet and in the upstairs bathrooms.   There we have a reservoir of thin and thick bleaches big enough to wipe out an epidemic of global proportions.   There will be no outbreak of bubonic plague in our house.

Finally in every corner of every room we have movement sensor sprays ready to annihilate any bug that dares show it head.  And make me a nervous  wreck each time I move from room to room !

There must be a better idea to reduce the clutter of cleaning materials.     Any inspiring ideas ?

There will be a copy of Walt Hopkins and George Simons’ book — “Seven Ways to Lighten Your Life Before You Kick the Bucket” — for the best ideas on de-cluttering.

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