the skinflint philosopher

Attempting to thrift our way to a better life, with a toddler in tow!


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Tidy house, tidy mind?

Seven days left until we leave the island- myself, Digger, Tiddler and a loaded up car of our final possessions. The house is currently deceptively full of things, because we have no cupboards, chests of drawers or storage units to put things in any more, and so our personal effects are like a shifting mass of tumbleweed that Tiddler moves from one room to another as the whim takes her. In reality, there is not much left here at all. The house is pleasantly empty.
‘Tidy house; tidy mind’ I tell Digger. ‘Do you feel an sort of unburdening because we don’t have stuff any more?’
‘We have stuff in abundance’ he says ‘it’s just all at your parent’s house’.
‘True’ I muse, ‘but this little taste of minimalism may be a good thing. To get us thinking about what we “actually” need? To get used to living with less before actually jettisoning off everything?’.
‘Maybe “empty house; empty mind” is also true then?’ he chuckles. ‘let me look in your earhole and see if I can see out the other side’.

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Once Digger had recovered from the withering look I sent him, we talked about how even with the worry and fraught feelings of this move, in reality we felt so much more stress free than a few weeks before. The removal of ourselves from the working environments in recent weeks (though Digger is still eking out every hour this week to bring in the last pennies either of us my earn for a while- but this time working for someone else so the responsibility and organisation is no longer his) has made a remarkable difference. I felt I had been a bit like Atlas, labouring under a heavy load for so long, it was only once it was gone I realised what it felt like to be without it.

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On top of that, despite my initial worries, we have sold over the last few days most of the remaining bits of furniture we own. I may even have to ask the village church if they can lend me a few chairs so we can sit round the 1930’s oak table (the one thing that steadfastly will not sell) in order that we are not eating off the floor.
My little desk has gone to a lady who wants to use it for a sewing machine, and keep all her threads and buttons in the little secret compartments.
The tumble dryer has been picked up by two Sri Lankan brothers who have just moved to the island.
The swivel chair is being picked up by someone who gets out of hospital tomorrow, and thinks it will help her with her movements.
The storage units, a wicker basket and a christmas cactus I gave away for free to an ex-student of mine who has just moving into her own little flat and starts her first accounting job the day we leave the island.

All of our little items, that we either didn’t need or couldn’t take with us, are going on to be part of someone else’s story.
I kind of like that feeling.

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Man and Van

Latest update on our plans:
Digger has booked a self drive Luton and the ferry, so definitely that is it, our worldly possessions (other than what we can cram into my car) will be heading off this island the first week of August. Poor Digger will have to do a three day turnaround- 4 hours on the ferry and 7ish hours driving time each way to get what boxes and furniture we don’t want to part with down to my parents in the Westcountry to store for us while we are off on our adventures. Tiddler and I won’t go for this first run down, but all of us in my car will be making the (non-return) journey ten days later. This means that we will be living for those last days of limbo here with only pretty much what we intend to leave behind/sell in the last minute/donate/dump.

Digger also doubts that what we have will fit in one van load. We are rethinking and may have to attempt to sell more furniture. We will have to pack and mark some boxes to go on the van, that will only make it if there is room on the day. I am having to pack up and seal boxes and make decisions about items that I may need to jettison at the last minute. Some of Tiddler’s toys are too bulky to take. I cannot justify taking all her baby clothes and artwork that I have proudly accumulated. It is unsettling.


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The Everest vs Marianas Trench equation

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag the last week or so.

Highs:
Being on the Easter holidays, and so having real time to do more with Tiddler. We have hunted eggs, played in the garden, went on a horse tram, had picnics on the beach, done all manner of crafty creativeness. I said to Digger “ah, this will be what it is like when I don’t have to work any more”. Pavlov might have his dogs salivating at the ring of a bell, but switching off our usual timetable for the last two weeks makes me consider again how our ‘normal’ lives show a similar, if less physiological, reaction. It is now this time, so we must do this. Here is my day, these are the planned and expected activities to take place, in this particular sequence. How freeing it has been to be outside the loop temporarily. I have relished being my own glitch in my matrix.
We managed to get everything down from the loft and sorted through. I discovered old love notes, Tiddler’s baby clothes, memories from my student days. We know we cannot store or take everything with us. I have thrown things away. I have put things to one side to look through later. I’ve donated seemingly random possessions to local groups- cushions inners to a charitable craft project, books to a community library, old bed linen and duvets to the school textiles department. We took a load of junk to a car boot sale and came back with over £100 in our pockets.

Lows:
Digger managed one day off over the whole fortnight. Weather is good, so making plenty of hay while the sun shines, and while the work is to be had in the last few months before we go. He has come to an arrangement with some acquaintances of his who are working without pay for him at the moment.  In return, when we leave he will give them his customer list and facilitate the ‘transfer of goodwill’. He calculates their wages in lieu will be a quarter of what he hoped to raise. It is better than nothing, but not the lump sum we were hoping for. It makes me consider how unwilling we as a society are to put a financial value to something that is not a physical, material object. People will happily stump up the cash for something they can possess in a tangible form, but will, as happened in some cases, laugh in the face of a suggestion that introductions, loyalty and hard work are worth anything at all.

However, packing away after the car boot sale, I joked with Digger as he had told me not to bring Tiddler’s shoes. With little wear and tear, and a good named brand, I thought we might get a little something back if we could sell them given that they retail new for £32, though he insisted no-one would want them.
“How much did you get for them?” I asked. Digger flatly denied selling the shoes.
“Well I didn’t sell them, so it must have been you”.
Seems that Digger was not being particularly obtuse, but two pairs of Tiddlers shoes and a pair of wellies ‘walked’ off without payment. Those are the items I recall, but perhaps other things were stolen too in the hustle and bustle of the day. It filled me with an unexpected sadness. I’m not denying that I had made the decision to sell what might otherwise have been ‘sentimental’ items because we have to downsize our possessions, but now I felt tricked. I felt Tiddler’s personal space had been tarnished in some way, by someone else’s selfishness. I hope I am wrong, and they were taken due to real need, but it has shook my faith a little. It makes me consider too the wider implications of our forthcoming venture. We are lulled into a sense of security here, my home for ten years, as we are relatively safe, low crime rates, good community involvement. The standard gently mocking phrase about the locals here is that nobody bothers to lock their front doors, and will happily leave their keys in the ignition while they pop to the post office. I’ve never been that laissez faire, but we implicitly assume our personal safety. I need to not be the country bumpkin on tour, but yet I cannot fear the wider world for myself, or Digger, or particularly Tiddler, or this adventure will be over before it has begun.

 

 


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Out with the old

It has been a non-stop pell mell Christmas for us this year, with hardly a chance to come up for air. We have braved travel during Storm Barbara, socialised with numerous friends and relations, ate far richer food than normal, and only finally touched down and had 24 hours at home on this the very last day of the year to try and get some method back into the madness.

Having spent a week at Thrifter’s parents, we are relishing being back in some sort of order, where clutter is not spiralling out of control and threatening to tsunami down on our heads if you nudge a precariously balanced pile of books, or foolishly think you are safe enough to open a closed cupboard door. Of course, we benefit from the hoarding. We only have to travel with hand luggage, as my mother has plenty of everything we could possibly need but don’t want to bring. Tiddler has been the proverbial ‘kid in the sweet shop’ with the amount of toys and jigsaws that I remember from when I was little and have been kept safe ever since. If ever we need something, Mum no doubt has one we could use, and we would have made far more use of this resource over the years if we were not two kingdoms and a sea away from them. Mum’s storage is of course the ultimate in thrifting by default, by not having to purchase anything ever, but it relies on an immense and seemingly constant managing, redistribution, and excavation of possessions. This is something that can’t be tracked on the household equivalent of the Dewey system. NASA may need to get involved at some stage.

Digger and I purposely decided not to buy each other presents this year, in the midst as we are of trying to reduce our material goods, as jacking in our jobs this summer and going off for a gap year or two is still very much on the cards. In the end, I found a bottle of avocado oil under the spruce tree from him, and he got maple syrup from me. Who says romance is dead? Little consumable luxuries that won’t add to our decision making criteria of Keep, Sell, Donate or Throw, as Eat is fortunately a wholly separate genre. Thoughtful gifts from friends and family mean we are replacing very old with new, but also enjoying a little extravagance with unexpected gifts for us and Tiddler that make us feel blessed with their friendship.

So now that Christmas is past, and new year is upon us, Tiddler has succumbed to the Land of Nod, and Digger is in the kitchen rustling up an avocado oil drizzled salad to go with the bottle of fizz to welcome in the chimes, we shall not be thinking about making New Years resolutions, as our resolution is already firm and steadfast. We want to be the best we can be for Tiddler, and we are already trying to walk that path for her. By the end of 2017, we’ll hopefully know if we are going in the right direction. As for the start of 2017, I doubt if we will make it to midnight. Sleep: a skinflinter’s cheapest form of leisure activity.

 

 

 


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Home (is where the blog is)

I think it is high time the Skinflint Philosopher tries to set down in writing a little bit more in the ‘home’ section of this blog, as a way to try and stave off the oft misquoted ‘road paved with good intentions’. I see nothing overtly ironic that I plan to do just that, albeit by wordpressing some intentions instead (these are of course, times of modernity, and paving slabs and stonemason’s tools are just a teensy bit passe these days).

We’ve reached a point in our lives where the thought of the day job doesn’t really get us fired up in the morning. We find house prices in our area beyond our means. We find ourselves bickering with each other because we are tired. We pay someone else to look after Tiddler. We are, to summarise, slightly worried we are slowly but surely metamorphosing into a cross somewhere between Eeyore and Marvin. We need to stop the rot.

Digger and Thrifter have concocted a cunning plan. If we tighten the belt a little now, and save our pennies for the next year, then we are heading off to Bulgaria. No sabbatical for us, we might just attempt to jump ship. Digger hails from those Slavic parts, so language won’t be a problem for him, and we intend to immerse Tiddler for a year or so to forge bonds with her extended family and learn most importantly how to speak with them. Thrifter does not hold her breath with her own confidence with the Cyrillic alphabet, but when you are not out all hours earning your daily crust then who knows what you have the will and the energy to turn your mind to. Digger plans to buy a property, and work the hours he feels and the way he wants. As the black sheep or poor relation in Europe, Bulgarian houses are half-started, part-boarded, completely possible idylls that have simply been abandoned by their owners who see more lucrative gains in searching for something more tangible to them across the borders and into the west. The peaches on the trees grow ripe and fall uneaten to the ground.

So many ifs though. Does Digger really want to go back to a country he himself jettisoned away from so many years before? Can Digger sell his business, and give us a small financial pot to tide us over? Can we save enough before we go? How long can we stay for? What will we do with all our possessions here, which to take with us would involve crossing two seas and a whole continent. Can Thrifter give up her career and position that she committed so much to establishing? Will Tiddler thank us for it? What we do know, is we won’t know until we try.

We know for sure we have to cut back, and go a little off grid. We are not swanning off to the Black Sea for some expat jolly. The cost of living will be less, but with no income coming in for that time period,  we cannot fritter away Tiddler’s future. And so we plan, and think, and consider, and thrift. We don’t want to reach retirement age, with Tiddler off making a life of her own, and regret not doing this now. Bring on the stonemason tools I say, and carve our destiny by making all our intentions good.

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Escape to the woods

View some of the images here, just because. Who doesn’t need a little log cabin tucked away in the forest?
Unfortunately for most of us we only have a Hansel and Gretel trail to get there, and so never reach our destination.
Solution? Stepping stones, rather than breadcrumbs.

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