Monday, 30 January 2012

Decluttering - The Throw Out Fifty Things Challenge!

have been on a bit of a de-cluttering binge for about a year now. We have made umpteen donations to our local charity shops, had a garage sale with the neighbours, been to five local church car boot sales (as sellers not buyers!), sold stuff on e-bay and Gumtree and sold a lot of the heavier stuff (beds, BBQ's)  from the front of the house to passers by!

I reckon I have put an extra $600 on the mortgage selling all this junk!

I'm sure I still have a lot of junk and recently at my local library (I love my library!!! All those free books!!!) I found this book called "Throw out Fifty Things". (Link to book) I grabbed it and took it home to see what this authors angle was. Its pretty simple. And I'm thinking its working for me!!

Here's what I did...

First I read the whole book! I find it helps to see what the overall angle is. Gail Blanke turns out to be a motivator in the good ol' U.S. of A and even though the first forty or so items she wants you to throw out are physical items from around the house, what she is really helping you to throw out is bad feelings, inadequacies and insecurities. I was game. If getting rid of a pile of paper work relating to a job I left five years ago was going to free up some space AND make me feel better - I was in!

With Throw Out 50 Things - Gail asks you to WRITE down each item as you throw it out. For me, this became quite addictive. I loved watching that list grow and started eyeing up all sorts of things in the house with the view to growing my list!

It also created interest with other people who saw my list and asked about it - Having other people wanting updates was also motivating to help move towards that 50 item mark. My first fifty list was on a piece of paper on my desk. The second was on the notice board in the kitchen for all to see, admire and hopefully emulate!

There are a couple of "rules" with this technique. If you have ten magazines lying around in the lounge and you throw them out, donate them or even shred them - that only counts as one item. If you chuck out 23 plastic flowerpots, its just one item. All that old make up you gave to the neighbours ten year old - again, one item.
If the items are related and in the same place - its one item. Not that that made much difference in the end. It got quite easy to find things to get rid of!

Gail has a website that allows you to list the things you threw out and tell the stories around the items as well for those who like to share!

My husband also got quite interested in this and started his own list... I'm hoping the kids will hook into this one as well... Ok I'm dreaming there, but you never know! I'm also hoping that all that cleared out space doesn't attract any new stuff!

Score card:
Green-ness:  5/5 Getting rid of unwanted item responsibly is a excellent green thing to do!
Frugal-ness:  5/5 Making money out of junk??? Excellently frugal!
Time cost: A minute an item - If you really get into it, you can throw out 50 things in an hour... Go on, I dare you!
Skill level: Anyone can can operate a rubbish bin!!
Fun -ness: More than you think!!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

How to choose your fruit and veges when they are in season

We are being extolled to eat more fruit and veges, grow our own and even have meatless meals everywhere you turn at the moment. And I think this is a good thing! I used to go to the supermarket as most suburban dwellers do - and week after week, month after month I noticed that the selection of fruit and veges barely changed. We had an visitor from Switzerland recently and I proudly bought some mango's, watermelon, rock melon and strawberries for him to taste, assuming that Switzerland didn't grow these and this would be a good Australian experience for him - He explained that, of course he had had all these things before, they were in his supermarket in his home town (that was three feet deep in snow at the time!) That really got me to wondering about how fresh and how good my local supermarket fruits and veges were - and where it all came from

I now go to the local markets and whilst the fruit and veges is fresher and I can ask the sellers about their products - some stalls, I notice, have the same unchanging array of fruits and veges as my local supermarket. How can this be?

I finally figured out a way to make sure I was getting seasonal fruit - as in buying it when it was in season (and fresh) rather than out of season (and six months old)...

Here's what I did...

I went on line and found a website that gave me a month by month list of fruits and veges at their peak harvests.

Wilsons Fresh Produce - Brisbane. Seasonal Calendar.

I printed this up and then put it on my fridge...

So now before I go to the shops or markets, I glance at the list for the month and note what should be on the shelves - and that's what I buy! If its not on the list, I don't buy it anymore.

For me this means that I am getting my fruit and veges with the maximum amount of nutrition, as fresh as I'm going to get here in the suburbs without growing my own and with far less food miles (and storage costs) to boot! It's gotta be good for you!

Score card:
Green-ness:  5/5 Eating local season fruits and veges is very green!!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 Local seasonal fruit and veges are usually cheaper - especially if you buy them when there is a glut
Time cost: 2 minutes to print and put on the fridge. 5 seconds to glance at it and remind your self whats in season as you walk out the door.
Skill level: One of the easiest things you can do to increase your awareness of whats in season!
Fun-ness: Its fun to see out of season, super expensive mango's at the supermarket and know that in 3 months time you will be able to get them 3 for $1, fresher and better than these ones from America!! 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Book Review - How to clean practically anything - Sydney Pemberton

I'm a bit frugal when it comes to replacing things - preferring to fix, repair or live with something until it falls to bit on me (Like my lucky interview shoes that fell apart when I got out of the car after the interview!) So when visiting the library one day when I saw a copy of "How to clean practically anything" I thought I'd take it home and have a flick through it.

This book is about taking the guesswork out of cleaning walls, clothes, toys, antiques, the windows or whatever it is that you have decided you need to clean but aren't sure how. 
Its a good reference book to have lying around to refer to when you are taking a punt rather than are confident about what you are doing. For me, its a back up. I think I know how to deal with bubble gum stuck to the side of a shoe but cant remember which oil to use; tea tree or Eucalyptus. (Its Eucalyptus for the record) And it turns out that if you can stick the item in the freezer for a few minutes, the gum is even easier to get off!
Sydney has written another book for Choice Books (The independent not-for-profit consumer watchdog group that also publishes Choice magazine) called "How to cook practically anything".

The sort of things that Sydney covers in this book are:
  • Getting organised - cleaning calenders, equipment, products and rubbish and recycling tips
  • A how to clean room by room guide
  • How to clean individual items: Furniture, windows, walls, doors and ceilings
  • Outside: Furniture, gardening equipment, pets paraphernalia
  • Precious Items
  • Washing and Ironing
  • Spills and stain removal guide
  • A run down on commercial cleaning products
  • And recipes for home made cleaning products!
This is the sort of book for people who want to save money, rescue a precious or expensive item from ruination or simply a guide to help you with both the everyday cleaning tasks as well as to help you work out what cleaning tactic to use for what situation.

Sydney conveys all her tips and hints in a concise, easy to read and understand manner and there are index's and alphabetical guides to products, stains and spills as well as information about what NOT to do!!! (Very useful!)

Great book for the reference shelf - but remember to consult it before you start the cleaning job!

Title: How to Clean Practically AnythingAuthor: Sydney Pemberton
Publisher: Choice Books
Date of Publication: 2nd edition 2004
Number of pages: 160

Check out the book on FishPond

Monday, 16 January 2012

What to do when your cat attacks a bird... and doesn't kill it.

We have an eight year old cat who we got as a stray about six years ago. The vet reckoned she was about two when we got her and we did all the right things and got her spayed and vaccinated and all that stuff. She loves people and no matter where you are in the house or garden, she will not be far away. She really good with kids and will put up with the squishiest cuddles and a far bit of toddler tail fascination before bolting out the door to escape. She is well fed (despite the look she is giving me and the empty bowl below...) but not fat - but still the  urge to hunt and subsequently kill still seems to be quite strong.

Last weekend, she pounced out of nowhere on a rainbow lorrikeet - thankfully my husband and a band of teenage boys were also there and managed to grab the bird before the cat had done more than pounce. Now we have a slightly mangled still alive but obviously unwell bird on our hands - what do you do?

Here's what we did...

We found a box - popped an old towel in the bottom and place him (her?) in there and then covered the top with another old towel and placed the whole thing in the laundry so he could have some peace and quiet. I understand shock is what kills most cat attacked birds in the first instance. I propped him in an upright position with a couple of old tea towels - it just seemed like a logical thing to do - I've never seen a bird lie on its side in the wild - or in a cage for that matter.

The little fella survived the night but seemed to have only one leg that worked and couldn't stand up by itself. It was chirping a bit and gave the occasional fluff of the feathers. I held it very gently and offered some plain water from a tiny container and he drank some. He lost interest after five or six sips. I offered him water every fifteen to twenty minutes and he would take some more and then lose interest. I'm guessing they have pretty small bellies! I gave him some water with a bit a raw sugar in it as well on later water offerings and he seemed to like it. The vet said because he is a nectar eater that it was an ok thing to do but not to go overboard on the sugar. I dissolved one teaspoon of raw sugar in about two tablespoons of cold water.

I called a friend who is a wildlife carer and he said to take all cat attacked birds to the vet. Cats have bacteria in their mouths and can infect the little fellas who won't survive without antibiotics. I called the vet and discovered that in Brisbane at least (not sure about the rest of Australia) that if you find injured native wildlife and can get it to the vet - they will fix (or euthanase) it for free. There is no charge to take native animals to the vet. So if the cat gets a bird, pop it in a box and get it to the vet asap. Our is going to call us after the weekend and let us know how he is going!

We also have a wildlife ambulance in our area who probably would have come and got it and taken it to the vet if we couldn't. 

Kookaburra - really sharp beak. He is a meat eater. The blue on his wings tell me its a Queensland Kookaburra.

Male King Parrot (the girls are all green) Seed eater and capable of a decent nip.

Crimson Rosella ( the blue rosella is on the logo of Arnotts biscuits!) Again, a seed eater with a strong beak!

Pied Kurrawong (not a magpie) meat eater and pretty strong and agressive.

Galahs - These guys are a reasonable sized bird and are probably able to take a decent chunk out of your finger - be very careful with an injured galah.

If you see an injured animal - at least in the Brisbane area - your local council will probably have wildlife rescue service that is run by volunteers. if you are at all unsure of what you are dealing with, especially if it is a goanna, snake or possum, give them a call and let them deal with it. Far better than being bitten or scaring the animal so badly that you kill it with shock chasing it around the backyard. Call the vet or the wildlife ambulace on your mobile or walky house phone and follow the animal at a distance so you can direct the wildlife people to it when they arrive - Good Luck!
Score card:
Green-ness: Very, very green to save native animals - not so green to own the predators...
Frugal-ness: No cost but the petrol to the vet.
Time cost: Not a lot - as long as you have already caught the animal and your vet isn't far away otherwise it may take 1/2 the morning...
Skill level: None required except the one that stops you from getting bitten or scratched by a frightened animal... Use a towel to throw over the animal and scoop it up and keep it in the dark (but able to breathe!)
Fun -ness: Awesome - if it lives... Not so much if it doesn't - but at least you tried.
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