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?

March 2022 Savings, plus other updates

In my world, March was another good month – funny how just a bit of sunshine really lifts the spirit.

Courgettes and leek sprouting, with the help of recycled toilet roll tubes and food cartons!

I tentatively planted a few seeds and these are doing well already.  Hoping to do more over the coming weeks.

There was good news work-wise – firstly, I got paid my (discretionary) annual bonus.

Secondly, I was among several employees who picked up an award for ‘exceptional services’ in 2021 – our reward will be a trip somewhere in Europe (once Covid restrictions have died down), so that’s something to look forward to. It would be great if it’s a country I’ve never visited before.

Anyway, with one quarter of the year over already, let’s take a look at my numbers:

I saved 34.1% of my net salary.  The above includes £92.99 from doing Prolific surveys.

Previous years have seen me achieve a savings rate of over 60% or 70% during bonus time, but although I would have loved to have been investing more while the markets are still down, the large majority of the bonus will have to go towards some critical work which I’m getting done in a couple of weeks (sorting out my unsafe driveway).

Shares and Investment Trusts

No changes here, I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Did the stock markets hit rock bottom last month?

Who knows but signs of a recovery propelled my Future Fund back up a little, finishing at £232,209 by month end, pretty much back to where I was at the end of 2021. Check out that ‘W’!

Dividends and Other Income

I love seeing my dividends roll in and it was another decent month for income:

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February 2022 Savings, plus other updates

Thoughts go out to the people of Ukraine.

I can do nothing except make a financial donation to charities helping the people in crisis over there.

Meanwhile…

In My Little World

In my little world, February was a good month, including several social nights out with friends and an actual works leaving do  – colleagues had been slinking off over the past year or so with no thanks or fanfare so it was nice to give someone a good send-off.

There was also the Manchester FIRE pubmeet, which was the usual eclectic mix of people at all different stages of their FIRE journeys, and was the usual engaging, enjoyable and interesting event.

Work ran a ‘Compliment a Colleague’ on Valentine’s Day, where you could submit an anonymous (or not) Valentine’s compliment or message to a colleague (all compliments and messages vetted by HR to ensure nothing inappropriate was sent, otherwise it could have been carnage, with an office full of young twenty-something lads…)

I received the following compliment:

Dear Weenie

You are awesome at your job and so patient with people!

I appreciate our chats and think you’re an amazing person – kind, smart and funny. You rock!

It was sent anonymously but I know who sent it and I was extremely touched to receive the compliment from them!

Anyway, enough of that warm fuzziness, let’s take a look at the numbers for this month:

 

I saved 22.6% of my net salary.  The above includes £37.96 from doing Prolific surveys and £61.63  from Google Adsense.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No changes here, I just topped up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

It’s obvious that war causes uncertainty and volatility so the markets continued to dip.

I have no insight (who does?) as to what will happen next but as I think my portfolio is mostly diversified, I just continued to invest as normal according to my plan.

My Future Fund continued to fall, settling at £223,780 by month end, down by 3.6% YTD.

 

I’m almost back to where I was a year ago!

Dividends and Other Income

Another hurrah for dividends, which are a welcome sight when stock prices are plummeting:

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January 2022 Savings, plus other updates

I was in the supermarket doing my weekly shop when my phone rang and I saw it was my sister.

“I’ve got COVID,” she mumbled, “You’d better get tested asap!”

Great – I’d been round at hers for dinner the night before!

I finished my shopping as quickly as I could (fortunately, I had continued to wear my mask), giving wide berth to other shoppers where I could.

The good news was that I was negative, so I’ve managed to escape it for another day!

However, I feel like I’m living on borrowed time and that it will get its grubby little viral mitts on me at some point.

Not today!

PS – sis is ok, just has mild flu-like symptoms.

So where has this month of January gone – it’s just whizzed by!

The bursting inbox I faced upon my return to work starkly reminded me of why I continue to pursue FIRE – at some point, I’ll be able to choose not to have to deal with crappy unimportant emails!

Boris said it was safe to go back into the office so I did and it was nice to catch up with colleagues and be in the city centre. I took the opportunity to visit the library and it was so nice to browse the bookshelves.

I think post-COVID (such as it will ever be), the company will continue to implement a hybrid working policy, which is fine by me.

House-wise, all immediate repairs/replacements have finally been done inside the house. This was such a relief finance-wise but also, I’ve had my fill (not literally) of tradesmen and their builder’s bums, haha!

It’s been quiet on the social front – my friends have kept within their immediate circles so I haven’t seen them, apart from a quick lunchtime coffee catch up, but we have a couple of dates pencilled in for February.

I’ve been quite happy having quiet weekends in, starting the day competing against family in the daily Wordle (we’re very competitive!).

Been pottering around the garden doing a bit weeding, clearing away leaves, digging up the beds and planting a small tree. I’ve found that gardening is a time when I can listen to (and enjoy) podcasts.

When not outside, I’ve been wallowing in some ‘comfort tv’, namely ‘Downton Abbey‘ – I know, I never watched it when it was on over 10 years ago, just enjoying it now in my own time!

The gym is currently unbearably busy with new year enthusiasts – it probably isn’t really that full but I’ve been used to it being quieter, so am looking forward to things calming down when people start breaking their NY resolutions!

Anyway, let’s take a look at the first numbers for 2022:

I saved 18% of my net salary.  The above includes £69.62 from doing Prolific surveys.

Shares and Investment Trusts

I offloaded my holding in Hipgnosis Songs (SONG) for a small loss (a couple of quid) – the recent Spotify/Neil Young incident has shown that the whims/control of song artists represent an added unforeseen risk/variable in this investment that I’m not comfortable with (Hipgnosis owns 50% of Young’s worldwide rights).

I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to take a stance in accordance to their values, I’d just rather not lose any money over it!

Funds from the sale were used to top up existing investments.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Ouch – is this finally the end of the longest bull market? It’s all looking pretty disastrous on the stock markets front.

Energy prices, inflation, interest rates, tax hikes, Russia v Ukraine, any (or all) of these might be the reason for the tanking stocks.

Or none of the above, just people being people. The question is, how long will these depressed markets go on for?

I’m just going to (try to) keep calm and carry on investing, despite my Future Fund plunging to £225,515, down 3% YTD.

Well if anything, I guess it makes the graph look interesting!

Dividends and Other Income

Hurrah for dividends when stock prices are plummeting:

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