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?

April 2022 Savings, plus other updates

Well, April came and went in the blink of an eye!

Work on my driveway was completed and I’m very happy with it – looks so much better and is a lot safer (for me and my car!).

Before and after

I used most of my work bonus to pay for it and also pretty much cleared out my ‘House Fund’, so need to save up for the next bits which need doing.

Work was extra busy, with me covering for colleagues on annual leave (I can’t wait til I no longer have to do this any more!), so it was a big relief to have that nice relaxing long Easter weekend.

There was also a week where I had a really bad cold, which was so bad that I tested myself in case I’d caught COVID again (I was negative). I’m sure I used to catch colds all the time and they were only ever mild, just the ‘sniffles’, but perhaps my immune system still isn’t quite right yet.

Anyway, some good news at work was that I received the maximum performance-related pay rise offered by my company.

The bad news was that at 5%, it doesn’t beat inflation but hey ho, I’m not going to cry about that – increases are not guaranteed and there have been years when no pay rise was given (performance-related or not). Average wage increase in the UK this year is apparently just 3%.

Some people would complain and even consider leaving due to the size of this pay rise but for me, it’s not such an issue. I know the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere, even if the pound signs might appear to be bigger. I don’t love my job but I mostly like what I do, I get on with my boss and my colleagues and enjoy a fair amount of flexibility and autonomy in my job – those things I value far more than ££££.

Also, as promised by the government, I duly received my £150 Council Tax rebate.

I chucked this into my ISA.  I know, this rebate wasn’t really meant for people like me, who didn’t need help with bills, but my house meets the criteria (Council Tax band A – D) and I’ll not say no to free money from the government.

My direct debits (utilities, broadband and council tax) have all gone up, as has the cost of my weekly shop but not significantly so. My car is only used for trips to the gym and supermarket so increased petrol costs haven’t really affected me. I’ve yet to feel the need to cut back on anything.

So, how do my numbers look in April?

I saved 13% of my net salary.  Having received my pay rise, I was planning to save a bit more but social activities (paid for by credit card) caught up with me! The above includes £65.18 from doing Prolific surveys and the aforementioned £150 rebate. I also invested £374.20, a partial repayment I received from my disastrous foray into property crowdfunding, which was a pleasant surprise since I’d pretty much written all of that off four years ago.

Shares and Investment Trusts

I opened a new investment in European Assets Trust, to add to the income-paying part of my portfolio.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

The markets waivered somewhat after last month’s apparent recovery, but I really can’t let myself stress about it – just gotta keep at it.

My Future Fund wobbled down a little to £230,752 by month end.

Dividends and Other Income

As always, when the markets are down, dividends always bring a smile to my face. Actually, scratch that, they make me smile regardless of what the markets are doing 🙂

Continue reading

Faith in Eighth

Yet, another year rolls on by and my blog has just unbelievably turned eight years old!

Happy 8th birthday to Quietly Saving! 🙂

So am I still as FIRE’d up about all this after 8 years of writing and sharing my mutterings and my journey?

Yes, I guess I am.

But I’m not half as excited as I was back then.

Eight Year Slog

It does feel like a slog at times, as it continues to be an effort to stay focused.

Sometimes, I feel like I can’t be arsed updating the blog, because I feel like there’s nothing really for me to write about, just the same old, same old.

I’m just getting on with my life and the dogged path of perseverance to get to my FIRE goal is not exciting at all!

Life before I discovered FIRE did seem so much more carefree, when I was just merrily drifting aimlessly with no set goals. Life, that is, AFTER I had paid off my credit card debts – it wasn’t so merry during my dark days of being neck-deep in debt.

But if I want to get to where I’m going, I need to keep at it, need to stay focused, and carry on saving and investing as much as I am able to towards my future.

This blog has undoubtedly kept me from straying and I thank all the readers who take the time to stop by with their words of support, who make me accountable for my actions with their comments and emails.

What have I been doing these past 8 years? Continue reading

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:

Continue reading