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Lizz Roe – January

29/03/2010

Week 1

Ok this month in the end I’ve decided to go for sorting out the flat/life style – the flat is simply a kitchen, living room, bedroom, tiny bathroom, and hallway. Lifestyle stuff is more to do with money money money, exercise and getting out and about. I started by making a list of all the things I felt I could do. Most of the list was practical physical stuff – this is what it looked like:

  • Lightbulbs
  • Curtains
  • Blinds
  • Doors
  • Roof Insulation
  • Appliances
  • Recycling
  • Allotment
  • De-cluttering
  • Library
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Out and about
  • Insurance
  • Savings
  • Energy Consumption
  • Telephone

Some things on the list are dead easy – just as I’d been thinking about it my energy provider sent some eco-bulbs through the post – I’ve already got energy efficient bulbs everywhere in the flat except for one fitting – but with these 4 free ones (plus two older ones) I was able to negotiate a swop via freecycle (http://www.freegle.co.uk) for the one I didn’t have and hadn’t been able to find), the appliances are easy too – I have simply turned the washing machine down to 30% (and reduced the amount of liquid – someone has recommended eco balls or soap-nuts – I’ll investigate when I have a day off), and I have turned the fridge down a point. Both appliances were here when I moved in – thank-you! but they’re not particularly efficient. I’ll have to think about that and do the research especially for the washing machine. Of the two things the fridge I’m less worried about – it’s small, I look after it and I don’t have freezer just a tiny ice compartment. I wonder if should worry about it? Heck I used to know this sort of stuff!

The allotment has proved slightly harder – I looked up the council website and then phoned a very nice man at the allotment office – he sucked his teeth and said that for the plots I can see from my kitchen window (if I stand on tiptoe and lean out a bit) I’ll have to join a waiting list of 5 years – the plots where I’m already listed (closer to where I work) i’m at number 24 (probably about another 2 years – and I’ve already been on that list for 2 years!) so I got another number phoned up and joined a list which is probably only a year or so long – I’m number 11 which in reality said the incredibly nice coordinator meant that I was number 5 or 6 – people move, or give up the idea, or they find another site, or they garden share.  Garden sharing was originally an idea I came across through the permaculture (http://www.permaculture.org.uk) movement but it’s since been championed by Hugh fearlessly eats-it-all and consequently has more prominence now. It’s one step along from guerilla gardening – something I’ve also done in the past especially when I haven’t had a garden as now. I could try for a garden share until I get a plot – or I could ask at work – we have quite a bit of land and I might be able to exchange labour for some produce from the garden. Last year I grew something on windowsills and around the flat. I’ll do that again this year but more space would be a luxury.

Once i’d done these easy peasy things I felt good – two things to tick so what about the others:

Doors – none of mine fit! what I need is a plane and to go at them! I was taught a trick with coloured chalk where you rub the frame, try and close the door and wherever the door picks up the chalk when you open it is where needs a good planing – clever huh? I have some kid’s chalks from when I was doing pavement art to raise some ££ (more like ppp). I could also make some draught excluders for the bottom of the outer door and maybe the kitchen door (which during the snow went down to -4 it was colder in the kitchen than it was in the fridge.

Energy stuff – I could find my energy meter thing, recharge the batteries and start to keep a real check on how much I use – I have a laptop, a dvd player, washing machine, fridge, cd player, and kettle all of which I use quite a bit. the cooker is electric and so is the heating and hot water though this mainly runs off E7. when I moved in I had to keep the then supllier for a year but I’ve been so lazy I haven’t got round to changing it to someone more ethical (shame). However my E7 went caput this week so I think it’s best to get that sorted out before I switch – but I will! I better have a look around for who’s best these days – the living witness project (http://www.livingwitness.org.uk) has a great list on their website – look for the bit about walk cheerfully, step lightly – of things you can do and where to find out info.

Telephone – I’m on the lowest possible tariff but the actual phone is a rechargeable walk around thing and often fails to work – cutting out mid call etc – it’s also drawing power all the time – maybe only a £ or two a year but that’s crazy. Usually my electric is about £10 – 20 a month (including the service or connection charge) but I’m sure I could get that down.; anyway back to the phone – I don’t have a mobile, but this one is driving me potty and I’ve been saying for a year I must change it… ok there are still some sales on so I shall go and check it out.

Curtains and Blinds – my bathroom and living room are the only two rooms with vertical windows – huh? I live in an attic so most of my ‘walls’ are actually the slope of the roof so I have velux windows. only the bedroom has blinds which partly explains the freezing kitchen – two large velux windows, in the hall – one window, and in the living room one velux and one vertical. Ok so I need to do something about all of these. I have a nice bit of sari fabric on the bathroom window and two lovely matching bed-sheets from one village in the living room – but they’re all very thin. so – I need linings for the living room, and a new curtain for the bathroom, and blinds everywhere!

Roof Insulation – because of the slope there is only a small bit of the flat with any actual loft over it but houses lose 25% of their energy through the roof so it’s worth doing even this bit – it will probably mean that at least the living room, bathroom and hall have better insulation – so I’ll have a look in the tiny hatch – eek – and see what’s needed. There must be some good deals on loft insulation around.

Library – I read a lot of books. A lot, not quite one a day, but close to it. Since I moved here I’ve thought several times I should find a library but I’ve not done so yet – again probably lazyness. Oh dear

Savings: I used to be really good  at saving, especially in the year when I bought nothing – but after buying and moving into my flat, then deciding to fly again, and buying things again this has gone a bit by the wayside – I do have a piggybank, a roadkill money bank (Kath Kelly’s term for money found on the street from her extraordinary book How I Lived on a Pound a Day), and another jar for end of the day change but it’s a bit thin. Most banks recommend you have at least three months worth of expenses saved in case of redundancy, illness, etc. I think I have three weeks worth! My monthly outgoings are £288 mortgage £72 council tax, £20 electric, £15 phone, £20 insurance, £85 ground rent and service charge which comes to a nice round £500 so plus food and transport and then other spending I should have loads left each month! and yet some how I get through my salary each month perhaps with a lot to show for it but I need to build some more savings. I bank with the coop so I should possibly set up a standing order to kick some cash into a savngs account straight after pay day. In the book ‘your money or your life’ Alvin Hall suggests three months of income not just expenses!

Recycling: I recycle all my paper, plastic, card, glass, batteries and metal, but I’ve always had to lug it around in carrier bags which the recyling men don’t like very much and sometimes ignore. I need a nice blue box and a nice green box from the council – I’m sure they’d give me some if I phoned. near me there are a number of charity shops – always good if I manage to declutter a bit – but I have nowhere to put food waste, teabags and so forth. I did try carrying the compost bucket into work where we have big composters but it’s always been a bit heavy and a bit of a faff. Hopefully threre’s an alternative I shall have to investigate. the main things I chuck into landfill are tetrapaks, the old monthly cycle stuff and some plastic pakaging. It’s not very much – but it’s more than I’d like.


De-cluttering – I try – I regularly go through my stuff and if I haven’t used something for a year it goes to the charity shops nearby if it’s any good – if it’s not then it might get dismantled, made into something else or put onto freecycle – amazingly someone else might want it (anyone want a stainless steel bread bin, dvd drive for a computer, the walk around phone mentioned earlier, a cardboard box of audio tapes, or a very good condition clean king size 4 tog duvet??) – it’s incredible what gets listed either as offered or wanted.

Swimming and Walking – I love both – but the pool near by has closed – and I haven’t got round to finding another one – I should get my act together. I’d also like to find a local group of walkers – maybe doing city walks.

After making the list of possibilities and then working through each one and thinking through what I could do for each one I felt pleased and excited – not so hard after all and it felt great to know I could easily be a bit more in control of what was going on in my life and home. I thought about this – why had it even felt out of control? Probably because there were so many things I felt I should do, or could do and I just wasn’t getting round to it! Or was too lazy or struck with ennui to get on with it. maybe it just felt like there was too much. Breaking it down into chunks has really helped.

I’ve written a list of things to get or sort – plunger, plane, curtain lining, these were all things I thought I could borrow or buy cheaply. In the mean time with no hot water I steeled my self to tepid washes with the kettle until the electric is sorted. Other things include insulation, phone. library, swimming etc.

Week 2

A plunger, a plane and a how to do loft insulation leaflet were all easy to obtain. I did my usual weird things shop from the eco shop next to the FOE office on Allison St in the city and treated myself to lunch at the Warehouse Cafe upstairs – the best food in birmingham! and then, on the way back popped into homebase and then Sainsbury’s. I usally go to the Co-op near me but I knew there were some things I could get there easily (like a huge pack of loo roll on half price) and because I’d broken the return journey it was easy to get back on the train and even though I had a lot to carry it wasn’t heavy.

As soon as I got back I planed the front door and then all the internal doors which stick – for the first time ever I have doors that close throughout the flat! How succesful do I feel. Next up I made a hot water bottle, snuggled into a duvet and then watched a double of Sherlock Holmes with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Whilst doing this I sorted through my fabric bag – I felt sure that I’d have something suitable for a curtain. And yes I did – a lovely large bit of a sort of sea green cordurouy, I also found part of an old sheet – and even better some curtain tape! Sorted. For the other large window I found some more sheeting. I’ll have to keep an eye out for some blankets to use for lining between the current curtains and the sheeting. It wont matter what colour or condition because it wont be visible. I have a really lovely hand cranked sewing machine which came from a charity shop in Harborne (the Settlement shop) – and lots of thread which came in a big bag from another charity shop when I was a student 20 years ago and which I haven’t used up yet.

Blinds – when I went back to work on monday I looked velux blinds up on the web and then emailed some different companies – some of which have special offers on – partly cos it’s january (sales and stuff) and partly that it’s a recession and home improvement people all want your custom. After a bit of humming and haa-ing I found one I liked and have arranged for them to come and measure up.

I was dead impressed in homebase – the roof insulation was all half price and they even had some made from recylced plastic bottles. I learnt from the leaflet exactly how much I needed and took down the measurements of each roll. Most joists are a standard width apart and the rolls I have my eye on are 4m long. The govt recommends something like 250mm but CAT suggest closer to 450mm. So I next need to take the measurements of the loft and then persuade someone to take me to get some – it’s a £25 delivery charge otherwise – I wonder if they have an online shop?

Recycling – I phoned the council and got put on hold – endlessly – so I have emailed instead.

Decluttering – I took three small carrier bags to the local hospice shop – nothing very exciting but all in good condition and saleable. They really don’t want anything too rubbish – if you wouldn’t buy it then probably no-one else would. Where I live there are several shops with a slightly different kind of clientele and range of goods (and bads). I also dug out a whole load of books (well only about 10) and put them onto green metropolis. I’ve bought books from them, as well as amazon, oxfam online and a few other ebookstores but I haven’t sold books for years.

Library – I looked around locally and couldn’t find one – I thought about joining the central one but that seems a bit daft – I could try and start a book swop at work!

Savings – first off I set up an account, then a standing order between my ordinary account and the savings account. And then I talked to my mortgage provider about how to overpay on my account (I have the kind of mortgage I can pay off early without a penalty) and because the interest rate is so low at the moment (I’m on a tracker) whilst it’s useful to have some easily accessible cash it’s also very sensible to pay off the mortgage faster. So I set up a monthly standing order for that too. I’ve set them all up to go out straight after I’m paid, that way I wont notice so much – I hope! if I find it’s too much or too little I can always change the amounts later on.

My energy consumption is dead low – I got the reader working again – the E7 is still not working – brrr – in a shared block it’s hard to know who should sort something which isn’t actually in the flat – I could ask the Citizens Advice Bureau – actually that’s a good idea.

Having made the decison about the telephone I went into town to look for one. I’d had a bit of a scout round on the internet. I knew I wanted something fixed and which didn’t need extra power and which preferably had a good loud ring (I’m a bit deaf), I also really wanted something in the sales! In the end I bought a lovely retro thing with a fantastic ring and a dial – yes a proper old fashioned dial. It’s a reconditoned one (so more ethical too) – and exactly like the one we had when I was a small child. It’s got a nice heft to it and it had a third off too. the main thing I’ll need to do is sort out some kind of answering set up – maybe 1571 – I wonder if that’d work with a dial phone? As I’ve been thinking of switching to the phone-Co-op I’d better ask them about answer services too.

Week 3

Curtains and Blinds – I got the sewing machine out and now have a lovely green curtain in the bathroom – I am so pleased! I have also hung up an indian toran which I bought years ago in Gujurat. The pole for the curtain came from a skip as did the fixings. The rings came from a different skip – all sealed up in a nice plastic bag. I also hung some glass floats and some cork floats that also came from a skip outside a pub in cornwall that was being refurbished,and a fish trap from a man fishing off a boat in Marsasloxx in Malta. It looks well hippy- I love it.

For the living room I hung the curtains up with the sheets even though I haven’t found a blanket yet – it’s a start. In front of the window I also hung two huge guaze scarves which are embroidered and look fab when the sun comes through. They let lots of light in but also help to keep the heat in too. The scarves came from the islamic relief charity shop in Sparkbrook – and were an utter bargain.

Insulation – I started of by trying to find something tall enough for me to stand on to see into the loft – nothing – I’ll have to bring the stepladder from my office at work! I also think I might not fit in the hatch – not because I’m huge (thankyou) but because it is tiny tiny tiny. After a bit of a faff I also emailed a service which finds you local tradesmen and then they come and quote for the work. I’m also going to ask around at work and see if anyone knows anyone! I did look up homebases website and some things can’t be ordered online so it’s either find a friend or pay the £25 delivery charge and have to organise a day off work.

Energy – the nice electrician will come next week and change the switch on the control panel – the current one is an antique. Unfortunately it turns out I’ll have to cough up – though as the switches etc are all in a communal area which is very damp then I should also inform the managing agents. It’ll be anything from £53 to £100! I have to wait a week as I’m in a flat and they have to turn off the whole block’s supply and people need a week’s notice. BRRR. At least it’s not the coldest spell and I’m not here friday or monday nights. On the provider front I’ve found out that it’s goodenergy I should swop to (they do 100% renewables) – it’s dead easy you just go to their website enter your details and they do all the paperwork and contact your current provider (no pun intended).

Recycling – still trying to sort boxes from the council – this week is green bag so I have a week before I can put out the last two month’s worth! There’s loads -and I already took the glass to a local bank.

Allotment – the nice allotment man gave me the name of someone with tickets for gardeners question time – excellent! This’ll cover the out and about stuff too!

Telephone – I phoned the phone Co-op too – also dead easy just enter your number and they get it sorted and there’s an answerphone service like 1571.

Swimming and Walking – I walk to and from work every day – about 50 minutes all told. As I don’t have a car I walk to the shops, to Quaker meeting, and to friends houses.

Insurance – My contents insurance ran out last year – I’ve been too dossy to spend time on sorting it out. I liked the provider but it seemed very expensive for the size of property and that the lowest amount I could be insured for seemed like a lot – I’m not sure I have £35,000 worth of stuff! I was burgled about 5 years ago and anything really worth pinching got grabbed then – I got some bits and pieces back but not most of it (the cash from the insurance went towards buying this new flat). But I do have a bike and trailer – which I hoik up the stairs – and a cheap laptop – both of which would be annoying to lose. If the building burnt down that’d be a bum. (I have buildings insurance as I’m in a leasehold flat.) so I’ll look around for an ethical provider.

Week 4

Blinds – The bloke came and measured and my blinds are being made right now! In the end I went for blackout fabric faced with white/cream. they’re the best insulated.

Insulation – Someone has bid to do this on the recommend a workman site – hoorah! and I have found a friend to come and get the soddin stuff – it’s just too big for the bike! I brought one back lashed to the trailer – and it snowed!

Energy – I like the electrician and one of my neighbours has come in with me on the cost of the work as he has a switch that needs fixing too – job done and I have now switched providers! just like that.

Insurance – I tried naturesure and filled in their form and they quoted and bingo whiz I am covered!

Out and About – On my day off I was very chilly – it was before the elec was sorted – so I bought a day bus ticket and took myself round on the number 11 bus route! it does a huge circular tour of the city – I got off now and again – mainly to visit oxfam bookshops, to check out dumpsters, and to visit charity shops (very interesting) – I also found a fiver!!!! and 17p in coins – I love roadkill money, but a £5 is exceptionally good!

Other stuff – now I’ve talked a bit more with people about this project I’ve had interesting conversations such as ok no spending but what about barter? I might have that as a challenge later in the year! Next month I’m going to buy nothing – I’ll have to think about whether barter is ‘ok’ for next month. I’ve been in touch with people from the freegan website who live in Brum – all 3 of them, and have emailed bread not bombs in brum to see if I can join – more on them next month.

Swimming -still haven’t gone – have waded through slush – does that count?

What I learnt

Making a list of what to do in small chunks helps – ticking them when done is great! The unblocked sink, the bathroom curtain, the lovely telephone, swimming, insulation in the roof, the allotment list, the recycling boxes! It’s all great. I was surprised at how motivating it was to think of this as a little project with targets – a friend asked if there were any rewards – the sense of purpose is a sort of reward, the whizz is another reward but I hadn’t thought of a specific reward – she said I could just feel nice and smug – and it’s a bit like that but more a feeling of satisfied with myself for doing it rather than simply self-satisfied.

It was embarassingly easy to change electricity and telephone providers and find an ethical insurer! I bank with the Co-op which is where my mortgage is too – I love them! I talked to my dad about starting a funeral plan with the coop too (they are the biggest funeral provider in Britain) – he doesn’t have one yet – but apparently I can do one on his behalf! this is excellent. He wants a cardboard coffin. Not a problem – in case you’re thinking this is a bit grim he and I think it’s much better to do this kind of thing before you have to! he also want Gracie Field’s ‘we’ll meet again’ and Elvis’ ‘return to sender’ at his funeral. He’s 81 – it’s never too late or too early to plan.

Next Month:

Buy nothing at all – To help with this I’ve had a good read of lots of interesting titles to do with dumpster diving, couch surfing, skip picking, freeganism, hitching etc! I also got invited to a weekend on this sort of thing next month! Which I think I could ‘pay for’ with bartering labour in the kitchen. It’s all good!

See also in this series….

Lizz Roe – An Introduction

Lizz Roe – February

Lizz Roe – March

Lizz Roe – April

Lizz Roe – May

Lizz Roe – June

Lizz Roe – Good Book Guide

Lizz Roe – July

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/08/2010 10:12 pm

    Re: “I took three small carrier bags to the local hospice shop – nothing very exciting but all in good condition and saleable. They really don’t want anything too rubbish – if you wouldn’t buy it then probably no-one else would.” – thanks for highlighting this: unsellable stuff not just doesn’t bring sales income but actually costs the charity in disposing of it – so donors of in kind donations should bear in mind that if they’re giving unusable items, they’re not just not really making any donation, but wasting the charities’ time/ resources, thus forcing charity to use other donor’s money to clear things instead of being able to use it towards good cause! (I work for a charity and this can be a significant challenge!). My 2p. In peace, Rianne

Trackbacks

  1. Lizz Roe – An Introduction… « Faith and Climate Change
  2. Lizz Roe – March « Faith and Climate Change
  3. Lizz Roe – April « Faith and Climate Change
  4. Lizz Roe – May « Faith and Climate Change
  5. Lizz Roe – February « Faith and Climate Change
  6. Lizz Roe – June « Faith and Climate Change
  7. Lizz Roe – Good Books « Faith and Climate Change
  8. Lizz Roe – July « Faith and Climate Change

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