Decluttering My Life

The sale of my parents’ house, the family home, has finally completed.

An offer was accepted the day after it was put up for sale (slightly above asking price) yet despite there being no chain on either side, solicitors and incompetent bank personnel contrived to drag the whole process out for another 5 months.

I’m sad but mostly relieved that it’s all done and dusted.

In a way however, I was glad it took that long as it gave me (and sis) the time to clear out the house and boy, did we need the time! There were DECADES’ worth of family things to sort through.

“Stuff”

Despite not having lived in the house permanently (or for more than 3 months at a time) for nearly 20 years, my parents still had full wardrobes and personal items in the house. We spent hours and hours painstakingly going through it all to keep, bin, or donate. There were numerous video calls, as my Mum didn’t want us randomly binning things…yes really, even things she didn’t even remember owning!

Other members of the family didn’t have full wardrobes or cupboards but had left so many sentimental items, including things going back to school and university days.

It wasn’t just the bedrooms which were full of stuff – both garage and shed were full of things accumulated over the years. I found 3 fully equipped toolboxes, two faulty lawnmowers, a brand new leaf blower, a Calor gas heater which I last saw when I was a teenager and so many garden tools.

Various household items and furniture from house-moves which family members had said they were going to ‘pick up at a later date’, but which ended up just being stored there permanently.  I even found two large boxes of things belonging to our cousins who had never even lived at the house so who knows how (and when) their stuff ended up in the garage! A WhatsApp message to them threatening to bin everything had them travelling up from London to collect!

Mum wanted me and sis to take some family ornaments – we said no, but in the end, took a couple each. She couldn’t bear to part with some others so these will be shipped to Hong Kong for the family to sort through themselves.

Anyway, among all the junk in the garage were several large boxes which belonged to me, from when I had moved back home after splitting up with the ex…

Our garage looked a bit like this…except more boxes stacked on top of each other

My Stuff

So what was in these boxes, which had just remained hidden from view, unopened and gathering dust for nearly 15 years?

A load of things I had forgotten about, including:

  • My old diaries, which I had meticulously kept from age 12 (my handwriting was so neat!) to my late 20s. This might be a reason why I enjoy blogging as keeping this journal is a bit like a diary. Anyway, I’ve packed these treasured memories away, except that I know where they are now!
  • A shoebox rammed full of love letters from the ex, written before mobile phones and the internet. I obviously couldn’t bear to throw them away when I left him but briefly peeking at one of them was enough for me to immediately shred the whole lot in one go!
  • Loads of photo albums, plus easily 1000s of loose photos still in their Truprint envelopes, along with all the negatives. Back then, when you didn’t have the luxury of getting perfect digital photos, you kept all photos which were developed, including blurry ones. Well I did, anyway!
  • My large comic collection and various sci-fi/fantasy memorabilia – in the 90s, I was really into my Marvel comics (before Marvel became mainstream). I wouldn’t mind reading them all again and some of the signed editions might be worth something.
  • Hundreds of CDs and boxed sets of DVDs galore, I could have opened a small shop!
  • ‘Old tech’, including a mini-disc player, Sega Gamegear, a couple of pre-iPod music players and a Playstation 1. Also the radio cassette recorder the family bought me as a going-to-uni gift, still in working condition!
  • A decade’s worth of paper payslips – I have no idea why I kept those.
  • Some old credit card and bank statements from 2006. I know why I kept these – they were to remind me of how bad I was at managing my finances and how I can’t ever let myself get like that again. The credit card statement showed 24% interest charged (I was only making the minimum payment) and the corresponding bank statement for that month showed a fee charged for going over my overdraft limit and another fee for a bounced direct debit – horrific! I felt stressed and a bit sick just looking at those numbers. I don’t know how I was able to live like that without spiralling into despair yet I did, for most of my 20s and 30s before finally getting my finances under control.

More Stuff

I’ve only mentioned the stuff that was hidden in the boxes in the garage.

I of course had a lot of belongings in the house and as I was effectively downsizing from a 4-bed detached house to a 2-bed semi (with no garage), I desperately needed to declutter.

Cue Marie Kondo and her tidying up book!

Whilst I didn’t follow the book religiously, it helped me enormously as I wouldn’t have known where to start.

The decluttering began slowly but then I got in my stride and started to get a bit ruthless.

In the end, I pretty much got rid of 50% of my belongings.

Discarding half of my wardrobe was pretty gut-wrenching but did I really need 20 dresses or 30 t-shirts? A couple of those dresses were still new with tags, yet I couldn’t remember when I’d bought them!

Sorting out my clothes took an entire weekend as I spent time trying many items on to decide whether I wanted to keep or donate – only a few didn’t fit me which made the choosing process harder! In the end, 6 full bin bags of clothes went to charity and I discovered ‘new’ (to me!) items to wear, which had been hiding at the back of the wardrobe!

The same culling was done with my shoes, books, CDs and DVDs.

There was a huge box full of folders of ‘admin’ – I shredded stacks of old bank statements, work pension docs and old insurance certs/policies. Again, no idea why I kept so many years’ worth; probably just because I had the space to keep them.

I tackled the kitchenware and crockery – so many sets, some brand new just hidden at the back of cupboards. Sis took some (I decided not to argue when she just took the Le Creuset pot which I had my eye on upon ‘rediscovery’!), I took some for myself, with the unwanted pots, pans, utensils and sets of crockery passed to friends who had kids starting university and also my ex-brother-in-law who had just bought a house and who was after anything for free!

If I had been organised and had the mental capacity for it, I could have probably made some money selling the unwanted furniture, CDs, DVDs and clothes.

But I just needed to get it out of the house asap, so what the buyer didn’t want as part of the purchase went to charity, with the charity collecting large items of furniture for free. Things which couldn’t be donated went to the local tip/recycling centre – I was doing full car-loads every weekend for a couple of months.

As I had registered for Gift Aid with the charity (British Heart Foundation), I’ve been getting emails from them as they’ve sold items I’ve donated – so far, £429 has been raised, so I’m happy my junk has gone to a good cause.

Cathartic

I have to say that I felt a huge sense of relief after the whole decluttering exercise. Not only was there space but I think I felt space in my mind too.

I experienced so many emotions as I came across things (and memories) from what I consider a ‘previous life’, namely my adult life before I discovered FIRE.

Looking at my collections, my belongings, all those things I owned, I think I was a very different person back then – I obviously was not in full control of my life (not financially anyway), yet I don’t recall there being a lot of unhappiness, although of course, there was some.

Decluttering Part II?

I’m sure some people will think that my new home is cluttered (I see my sister’s face when she comes round, ha!) but in my mind, it’s cosy and homely and nowhere near what I think ‘cluttered’ means!

The good news is that having gotten rid of so many of my clothes, I haven’t felt the urge to buy anything new. I’ve yet to complain that I have “nothing to wear”, although that day will come – I’m a woman after all, haha! :).

I did recently buy a pair of boots (using birthday money) to replace a beloved pair which had lasted 30 years. It was my first shoe/boot purchase in over 5 years!

Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t still get rid of more things – perhaps I’ll do another decluttering exercise, in say a year’s time.

I mean I’m sure I don’t need all those knives (I have 10) in the kitchen but don’t feel like doing anything about that right now.

And some things I’ve just stuffed in some boxes in the shed, out of sight, out of mind…

I know Saving Ninja did the whole Konmari thing when he and his missus sold up to move to Sweden.

Anyone else try Kondo’s methods to help them declutter?

2022 Goals

Three weeks into the year already and I’m still dragging my heels with my 2022 goals!

Perhaps this was because my head was still dwelling on the fact that several of my 2021 goals were derailed by my unexpected house purchase, although had I set a goal to ‘buy a house’ at the start of the year, I would have passed with flying colours!

Who knows what 2022 will bring, to mess up best laid plans?

Anyway, I’ve come to my senses – this is just ‘life’ happening, nobody knows what it’s going to throw at us.

Make goals and plans, things will happen as they always do (to a greater or lesser extent), obstacles will materialise and I must just adapt and move on, whenever ‘whatever’ happens.

So here goes with my Goals!

As usual, they’re just simple ones, not too different from previous ones, which make it easier for me to focus on them while just getting on with living my life…

Continue reading

December 2021 Savings, plus round up

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had an enjoyable festive period and a good start to another new year.

I’ve had a nice mostly quiet time getting used to being in my new home. Still not fully unpacked properly but I’m still moving some last few things from the old house (not sorted the garage or the shed yet – eek!). I can see that I’m going to have to do the whole KonMari thing again at some point!

Anyway, let’s just get the numbers out of the way for 2021!

I saved 13.2% of my net salary.

The above includes £150 from taking part in an investment community exercise, another £25 Premium Bond win and £42.80 from doing Prolific surveys.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing ones.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Was there a Santa’s Rally? I wasn’t paying attention but perhaps there was as my Future Fund finished up at £232,272.61.

Here’s how it all looks at the end of another year:

Considering the unexpected house purchase, I’m just relieved to finish with a bit more in the pot than I began with at the beginning of the year.

Dividends and Other Income

An average final month for dividends:

Continue reading

October 2021 Savings, plus other updates

Highlights this month:

  • At last, I had a mini break away from home! As mentioned in my last update, I went to London – I had tickets to watch the NFL game, Miami Dolphins v Jacksonville Jaguars. It was a great weekend – an enjoyable match with a sellout crowd in Tottenham Hotspurs’ beautiful stadium. The following day, we spent some time wandering around Camden, sampling some expensive beer and food and then happened across probably one of the coolest and most fascinating shops I’ve visited in a long time – I didn’t buy anything, just enjoyed the sights and the music!

It was a great atmosphere and yes, I did know what was going on (mostly!)

Walking into this shop was like walking into another world

  • I went to the cinema to watch the latest James Bond film, ‘No Time to Die’ – have always loved Daniel Craig as Bond.
  • Enjoyed another great Manchester FIRE meetup in the pub – great to interact with faces old and new. There were around 20 of us who turned up. Anyone who’s interested in these meetups, sign up to Financial Independence FIRE – Manchester.  Events are alternately online and face-to-face, so the next one will be online on Friday 26th Nov.
  • And finally, I am sooooo relieved to say that I have finally exchanged contracts on my house, with completion due to happen early November! More details soon – so much (more) to do!

So, how did I get on with my savings in October?

I saved 14.4% of my net salary.

The above includes another £25 Premium Bond win, and £42.24 from doing Prolific surveys.

Shares and Investment Trusts

I started switching out some of my bond ETFs into a defensive investment trust, Ruffer Investment Co.  Monevator recently did a two-parter on the 60/40 strategy but I was already getting a bit antsy about the portion of bonds I held in my portfolio and wondering what I could do. Despite not holding anywhere near 40%, I was feeling it was still on the high side.

I won’t ditch them completely but will likely switch some more into other defensive investment trusts.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

After removing the funds needed to buy my house, my Future Fund has dropped to £227,413. It’s not half as bad as I originally envisaged – as suggested by regular commenter Jane In London, I asked my Mum for the max amount she would loan me (that I could still cover with the eventual sale of my BTL) so this meant that I didn’t have to dip so far into my own funds.

I had to sell some equities (from my S&S ISAs) to release some cash and fortunately, I sold little bits of my portfolio over July and August when numbers were green.

I’ve been dreading doing this graph update.

Regular commenter Kid Cocoa suggested rebasing the graph, as if the house money was never part of my Future Fund, so that its removal didn’t cause me any distress. I did that and this is what it looks like:

 

[edit – original post had the wrong graph]

Looking good, with the markets bouncing back after the drop in September.

However, for consistency and because I feel like I need to see the consequences (and feel the pain) of my actions, this is what the graph actually looks like:

Oof! Looks almost like the crash back in March 2020, although there’s very little hope for another V-shaped recovery, haha!

My Future Fund’s value is now what it was in March 2021 so I’ve only really lost 7 months. My FIRE plan is still intact and unchanged – this is fine, I don’t feel so stressed about it any more.

Anyway, as horrid as the graph looks, I am already looking forward seeing it go back up again.

Dividends and Other Income

A more average month for dividends:

Continue reading