On Inch by Inch Garden Progress and Small Steps that Take You Places

I started this post with the idea of showing you a few of the recycled items I’ve repurposed in my back garden – junk pile gardening I thought we could call it. That was about three months ago now and my idea went pear shaped when I realised the extent of the mess going on in my back yard. There was no editing it out, there was no disguising it and then the need to keep things real around here got the better of me.

So here’s what I might have shown you had I stuck to the plan

Here’s what I wouldn’t have shown you.

Spot the difference?

Now if you have a garden you’ll know one thing –  if you turn your back on it for five minutes it gets away on you and any longer than that it goes completely mad. Weeds take over, things fall apart, the rabbits dig holes, the dogs chew stuff up and in the blink of an eye the grass is suddenly up to your knees and the bush growing against the back fence has taken over a third of the yard.

Its not the first time its got away on me.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked out, looked around and asked myself

  1. How in heck did it get so bad so quickly?
  2. Who on earth lets there garden get in such a state? I do apparently. Me along with one husband, two kids, three chooks,  a couple of dogs, two rabbits, a guinea pig, a lizard and a pumpkin plant thats hell bent on growing under the fence from my neighbours yard and taking over mine.
  3. And thirdly how for the love will I ever ever pull it straight again. And do I have the energy? There’s no team of gardeners waiting in the wings, there’s no week off work to throw myself at it, there’s no  budget put aside.

So, after the initial shock and the “I should be ashamed of myself”  type statements theres nothing else for it but to do what I always do and that’s start where I am with what I have.

On that day it was about thirty minutes focused attention on one small corner of the yard, – yes start small on something easy I say –  and it happens every time that I’m always, always, ALWAYS !!!! amazed at what you can get done in a shortest space of time. And then you come back and do it again the next day or the next week or whatever you’ve got and you keep coming back to it and the shocking mess transforms itself into something not quite so shocking at all in the end.

I still go back to these words

 – – –  small steps will often keep us going when we run out of steam with the grand gestures.   Leeana Tankersley

Sometimes small steps are the only thing you can do when time and money, energy and ability and plain old priorities count the “grand gestures” out for the time being

– – – and sometimes taking one small step can seem like the grandest gesture of all.

Here’s what I did that first day in a small area between the far end of my back verandah and the side fence.  It was the least of my worries compared to the rest of the garden but it was a nice easy place to start.

Before

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During

We had some old fence palings that Ken had cut up for firewood  but I thought them better suited to garden edging.

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After

A bit more of a clean up, two bags of $3 wood chip, a good sweep and hose down and it’s looking not too bad. So nice to see my little paved area again too.

Doing one small area made me feel less overwhelmed and reminded me again of the value every single time of taking simple small steps. Small steps will get you on your way and nudge you closer to the transformation your looking for while grand plans and total makeovers are crying in the corner.

Heres what I love about small steps

  • there the ones I can do
  • they cost next to nothing
  • they don’t take long,
  • you can just use what you have
  • they keep the creativity flowing
  • they make me feel better, like I can do a thing or two
  • one step sheds light on the next step
  • they add up
  • they keep me moving forward
  • they get me further than I ever think they will

When you’ve lost the plot, feel stuck, in a funk, hemmed in, powerless to change, far from where you want to be. Take one small step (and the tiniest step will do), do something, start something, then take the next step and then the next one. Remember this gem.

Three months on where does that leave me with my runaway garden.

Making incremental progress and celebrating tiny victories thats where.

Twenty minutes here, an hour there, sometimes two hours on a Saturday afternoon but mostly less. It’s been slow but steady progress.

I’ve been putting off showing you though because I wanted to have some totally amazing AFTER photos to show you so we could all have a “tadah”  moment. Maybe a few of them. Well we may still have the odd one but this is me and we are a continual work in progress around here so what your far more likely to find are:

  • truly shocker before shots
  • in progress along the way shots
  • a whole lot better but not perfect shots
  • and a few “I’m happy with this for now till the grass starts to grow again” shots.

So the main area I worked on is along the back fence and dealing with the hugely overgrown bush in the corner. I planted it so I’ve no one else to blame.

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Now  I was sure I’d need some sort of brush cutter or front hoe or back hoe or whatever – something big and forceful that had a motor that could rip it out and chew it up. Well none of those were available on the Saturday afternoon I had a mind to tackle it.

But I did have these.

It took about an hour and a half and by the time I had cut away everything I could with these little snippers, which was very therapeutic and satisfying I might add, there wasn’t that much left of it at all.  I could see the corner of my yard that I hadn’t seen in years, I could see the state of our decrepit fence and I found a pumpkin ready to be picked.

At that point Ken arrived like the Cavalry with the chain saw and a ladder to do the final cuts that I couldn’t do with the snippers. That didn’t bode well.  A chainsaw, a ladder, a husband with a bung foot and a sense of balance not as good as it used to be – I could see it all unfolding, the nasty accident, the tourniquet, the ambulance.   Ladder was removed and big strapping son came out – yes covered shoes, gloves, protective eye wear – and saved the day. A few cuts with the chainsaw and it was done.

Remains of the  unwieldy shrub were now sitting on top of the trampoline and in other piles all over the yard and gradually over the following weeks as the greenery died off I had a series of lovely Saturday afternoon yard fires. All the dead and dying plants were removed from the fence line slowly along with the old pergola frame and all the old fence palings revealing the fence behind – sturdy and in one piece even if none too glamorous.

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We are talking two months later now cause it took a while to get through that mountains of offcuts but then a bit of a clean with the broom and two coats of charcoal paint later and she’s looking not too bad.

These from after I mowed what’s left of the lawns

And after a bit of rearranging of pots and benches and prettying up.

I  reused the old bricks I found laying along the fence line to cap the raised corner garden bed we hadn’t been able to get to for years.

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img_5584And the the old pergola posts were reused here to make a little garden bed

And here where I used the top beam to make a totally unnecessary but very grand entrance to our humble little chook yard. The two side posts were already there, we just had to even then up and add the top “trim”. I even moved my two sandstone urns to in front of the posts so my “arbour” looks even grander now.

A quick Before pic – doesn’t show the posts but they’re left and right of where I’m standing.

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And after

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So maybe it did turn out to be a post about junk pile gardening after all.

I share it with you – even the ugly bits – because this is my right now life and these are the small steps I can take right now to do something within the limits I have. The principle applies to any area of life not just crazy gardens and my hope as always is that it might encourage you in your “right now” life with your small steps.

I’ll be sharing a few more Before and Afters – the slow progress kind – from the other areas of the garden on Instagram over the next few weeks so take a peek there if you like. I’ve miles to go so there may be a few.

I’ll leave you with this. I recently ordered a book on writing. There was something about the title Bird by Bird that grabbed me – here’s where the author got that title

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’

Amen to that xxx

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Five Minute Friday – Way

Five Minute Friday= prompt word, five minutes, just write.

No overthinking, no over complicating.

This weeks prompt word: WAY

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No way !!!!

Yes way

The first two words shout out big and bossy like they know all there is to know. Like they’ve decided and that’s all there is to it.

The second two are whispered but they’re determined, not easily put off, resilient, resourceful and they just might have a secret weapon up there sleeve.

I spend lot of my life trying to figure out a way to get a thing or two done around here. See when it comes to home projects it’s alway ALWAYS!! been a juggle of limitations of one or another. I’ll have plenty of one thing (ideas and hair brained schemes mostly) and a scarcity of another (money, time, expertise, teams of able bodied tradesmen). The size and shape of the limitation/s changes randomly. At the moment it’s mainly time. Now that I work full time I never seem to be home and being a homebody with a capitol H it presents all sorts of frustrations to my “have to have a project in the works” self. Seeing a few things done, making progress, keeping things fresh and moving adds enormously to my sense of well being. So not having a lot of time to do these things small or large, presents an ongoing challenge.

but I do like a challenge.

And there’s always a way.

There has to be a way.

(My five minutes ran out about here).

One way I’ve worked out to keep things moving along is to simply do smaller projects that don’t take much time. And when I say small,  sometimes they’re minuscule. Ten minutes sometimes. Half an hour to an hour at most other times. Works the same way. Small project done = enormous satisfaction = sanity saved.

Here’s a sample.

I also worked out long ago that a good way to get something done, especially something big is to break it down into smaller parts. Twenty minutes concentrated effort on one thing in succession is my favourite.

But

I think I might have taken this idea to the next level just lately. You’ve heard of “death by a thousand cuts”. Well this is finished project by a thousand tiny goes at it.

I have a lovely set of French doors leading out to my back deck. Photos below you can see them in the background.

They were given us for free by a client in Kens painting days. They’ve been installed here now a good long while. They’re solid and beautiful but they need a really good sand and oil to make them sing. Famous last words those and who in their right mind wants to or has the time available to sand down a set of double French doors. I do apparently. I decided I couldn’t bare looking at the water stains, the rough edges and greasy finger marks any darn longer.

The only way I could think of that was remotely within my capabilities is to do one teeny tiny section at a time, and because sanding is horrid I decided five to ten minutes a day is the most I was prepared to do it. I’m up to day number five – it’s my weekday project – (the back fence is my weekend project). Just before I leave for work, I put a cloth down, sand for five to ten minutes, wash my hands and go to work.

I have accomplices. Other like minded people egging me on.

It might be a while but I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Any projects happening your way. Would love to here.

To read what other people have done with there five minutes click here.

Also joining in with Grandmas House DIY Link Up

On Best Laid Plans, Slow Progress and Finishing Already

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One of the things I quite often have a whinge to the husband about is his tendency to start a project and then not finish it.

We’ve had words

Many of them.

And I have to say that finally he IS improving in that regard – we both are.

See  I’m quite good at the starting and not finishing gig myself

In fact I’m excellent at starting and then getting distracted and wondering off, or losing momentum or getting overwhealmed because it gets a tad more involved than I originally thought. Not all the time but often enough.

Anyone else?

Another reason I dither about with finishing things is good old “fear of failing”.

There’s always the risk in finishing that it won’t turn out the way I had hoped for, or dreamed of  or imagined it would and then there’s the risk of feeling like a bit of a ninny. When  things stay in the planning or half done stage, perfection is still a possibility, we’re still fabulously clever in our own minds and there’s no disappointment with the final outcome to contend with.

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The reality is – there’s every chance it won’t  turn out the way I imagined

It might turn out better

It might turn out different but just as good

It might need some tweeking

Or it might be a complete flop

And I may indeed feel like a bit of an idiot

but at least I’ve given it a whirl

Everything we do is a risk and at any point despite all our planning and good intentions it can all go sideways – our four week toilet installation saga that should have taken three hours max is a perfect example. But there are few things you can’t come back from if you just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

Having a project completed and enjoyed outweighs the risk of ending up with a complete shambles I say and you will hear yourself  saying over and over “why didn’t I just finish it before”.

I started on a gallery wall – possibly the smallest gallery wall ever.

A year ago

Its an example of microscopic proportions but a good one and makes for prettier pictures that the toilet incident.

I have a small wall on the left as I walk out my bedroom door. Its tucked around the corner from the front door. Perfect place for hanging keys  as you come in the door and thats what we used it for. I hung a basket thingy there to put random things in a long time ago.

It ended up looking like this.

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Why is it if you have a handy little basket to pop the odd thing in you end up shoving the most incredible amount of rubbish in it.

I took the basket away as  we obviously  cant be trusted with this type of random storage and planned a gallery wall. It was going to be  very pretty – floor to ceiling maybe with frames  and other interesting or textural items thrown in.

Something along these lines

So I  gave my minuscule wall one coat of Antique White USA. It was a bit of a test to see if I wanted to paint the whole hallway this colour. I covered a canvas frame with some map paper to fit  over the now defunct security pin pad – – – – – 

and thats how its stayed FOR AT LEAST A YEAR !!

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Why I didn’t just do the second coat is a mystery even to me BUT  I think maybe it was the white colour that frankly looked kind of bland rather than all fresh and clean as I had hoped and the map covered canvas that didn’t look quite as charming as I’d hoped either. So what do you do when you hate the look of something?

Just leave it that way for a good year is probably not the right answer. 

Oh I’m easy put off my game aren’t I.

So what got me motivated?

I was OVER looking at the ugly wall

I unearthed a stash of lovely things In my bedroom cupboard that I wanted to hang up.

AND

I had a 20litre tin of antique white USA sitting in my laundry with maybe one litre of paint left in it. I wanted rid of that tin.

Took 15 minutes to paint the wall and amazingly after  the second coat it didn’t look bland but  all fresh and clean like I hoped for.

Pays not to throw in the towel half way through.

Now you know how I mentioned when you start something it sometimes gets a bit bigger than really wanted it to be. This is a perfect example. Even to me this project looked like it should have taken two hours  at the most. Paint the wall, let it dry, hang pictures, done.

Not so

  • The paint went on with what looked like a grey tinge to it – maybe due to age and not been stored airtight – who knows? So that involved a lot of standing back and staring and wondering if I was imagining the grey or was it the light and then wondering why for the love can’t I have paint that behaves normally. Anyhow it dried the right colour. Relief all round.
  • I decided then to pull off the key hanger and the security  pin pad which took off some of the plaster board  which I had to patch  and then paint over again.
  •  Then I had to attach hanging devices to the back of some of the items I wanted to hang and lets just say they weren’t very cooperative and that too involved overnight drying times
  • Then  I positioned and repositioned the hooks etc maybe ten or twenty times till  I was happy with it.

So moral  of  the story – don’t be all put off when things don’t go quite go to plan or get a bit more complicated than expected or you hit a few snags here and there –  they’re par for the course and nothing is ever ever as simple as you think it might be.

Slow progress it was –  squeezed in between work and cooking food and washing clothes and dance classes and various other of the kids after school shenanigans. The thing about slow steady progress though it gets you there in the end just the same as fast furious progress and beats the heck out of no progress at all.

Photos were taken at various times of the day with varied light so some a bit dodgy but you get the overall idea.

Here’s how she came together

Heres how she looked on completion.

 

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Here’s how I felt about it.

What I didn’t think about when I was gazing at my inspiration gallery walls from Pinterest is their location – at the ends of hallways or part of a large room where you could stand back a ways and enjoy them from a suitable distance. No such luxury at my place . Tiny wall is part of a tiny section of  hallway and there’s no seeing it from a distance – it’s a right up in your face as you walk past and anything hung too high or  too low is going to hurt your neck to look at. 

I worked this out when I was finished.

You live and learn.

I left it a couple of days without changing it but as it turned out there was just way too much going on on that little wall for my liking.  My eyeballs  hurt and my stress level increased just looking at it which wasn’t quite the effect I was going for. It looked stressed too like it was trying way too hard.   I like quirky interesting things and I like colour but I’ve realised what I also really like is not too busy, not too contrived and lots of white space. My head gets confused otherwise.

So there was nothing else for it but take a few things off  (and patch the holes 😥). An easy fix really as most of them are.

It immediately  looked better to me. Altogether more relaxed. Simple and restful and one big hook to hang our keys.

 
  

So not really a “gallery” wall at all now and not at all what I had originally planned  but it makes me happy looking at it  and remember

DONE is so much better than perfect.

One project down

Four hundred and fifty to go 

Any projects happening your way. Anything your right in the middle of. 

Would love to hear.

Linking up with #porchstoriesChasing CommunityCreate With JoyBloggers Pit Stop, and Grandmas House DIY Wednesday Link Up

 

 

 

More or Less Part Two

I’ve been thinking a lot since I wrote this post.

IMG_6711Thinking and staring into cupboards and rifling through drawers and wondering if I’ve even scraped the surface of this decluttering thing.

I’m convinced less is more

My heart says yes

but my cupboards aren’t so sure

and the drawers say not even nearly.

I’m no hoarder, not even close, I don’t need an excess of stuff to keep me feeling OK in fact its quite the opposite but still I find my cupboards filled to the brim and more than a few of my shelves  laden down.

Its taken me a while to work it out.

While I’ll happily let go of things we no longer need or have grown out of or that are broken or for whatever reason  I no longer want

There are other things I have a whole lot of trouble letting go of.

Things:

  • that might come in handy one day,
  • that are still useful or  pretty or I really like but for whatever reason I never use.
  • clothes that I love that I wore when I was  pregnant or thinner or younger, T shirts and outfits the kids wore and wore and loved when they were three and I look at them and remember how tiny they were
  • favourite toys from when they were little

These are the items that do my head in because they have that heart attachment.

Heres the other thing I haven’t been good at letting go of –  the excess of volume. Its the difference between having five sets of pillow slips and twenty five, same goes with towels and sheets and maybe shoes and plastic containers.

So its the excess I’ve been working on recently rather than the heart attachment stuff simply because its easier and less mentally draining.

Before we get into that though heres a couple of things I have worked out from underneath this mountain of stuff

The  space is worth more to me than the stuff.

Even if I do let go of something that I may need later on – its OK –  the space I have created is still more valuable that the item I may have to replace somewhere down the track.

An excess of  stuff steals your time, your peace, your enjoyment of your home and it just takes far more than it gives.

Letting go of unneeded, unnecessary things makes room for the things that actually matter –  heart wise, home wise, soul wise.

So I  bought a twelve pack of the largest garbage bags I could find – they’re the stand up on their own kind which is very handy but I found out impossible to lift when they are full  so maybe not such a good idea but anyhoo I  decided that I was going to fill everyone of them up for donation before Christmas arrives.

Three down – nine to go.

Unbelievably I filled one with just random things sitting around the house without even opening a cupboard so that was kind of scary.

I filled two cleaning out my linen cupboard. Now keep in mind I have cleaned out this cupboard many a time before but somehow things it just seems to fill up.

Heres the before – I accidentally chopped off the very bottom section with the random shoes and plaster casts and dust collecting and God knows what else.Unfortunately theres no way of making this before shot look good even with the morning sun streaming in .

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Very bleak to open your cupboard door and be faced with that. So I launched in  one shelf at a time in twenty minute stints. No I didn’t pull everything out  onto the floor in one go and then step over it for a week as has been known to happen. One shelf at a time is far less dramatic but on the upside I retain my sanity and my motivation.

Heres the middle progress

And heres the after.

Not perfect but a vast improvement. As you can see I did a little makeover on the shelf fronts with an old map I had on hand – details are below. I had a rearrange as well and folded everything as neatly as I could which I might say is not as easy as it may sound. Now it may not stay like this for long but amazingly I can now find a pillow slip or a sheet when I want one.  The containers and tubs have always worked well for things like fitted sheets which are impossible to keep neat and for the smaller items like pillowslips to keep everything corralled and out of sight. And now that I’m done I see I could do with a few more cause those folded clothes aren’t looking too pretty to me.

Regards the makeover of the shelves I had thought about painting the whole interior of the cupboard but I didn’t want this to turn into a six week project. Somewhere in the process of folding sheets I got the idea to do something with just the shelf fronts.  I love a quick little project and this one was very  very simple. I cut five strips of map the width and length of the shelf fronts. I applied a coat of Aquadhere craft glue onto the shelves and just pressed the strips on. That’s where I discovered my cutting could have been a whole lot straighter but too late to worry about at that stage.  I let them dry overnight then sanded the edges very lightly to get rid of any slight overhang then I put on one coat of clear Estapol. That was it. I love the soft mottled colours in maps so I like the result.

This is what I let go of

  • Most of flat sheets because we rarely use them anymore.
  • At least 15 pairs of pillow slips.
  • The double bed sheets and doona covers as we only have single or queen size beds here now.
  • Some lovely table cloths that I never used
  • Anything I had to iron before it could be used
  • Everything on the very bottom shelf.
  • Scrap pieces of pretty material that I have had forever and haven’t used
  • A couple of random blankets

So I’m happy with the result, happy I can now find things in my linen closet and happy my little map project didn’t go pear shaped as I thought it might.

I thought I would keep photographing and sharing decluttering progress as I make my way through my various cupboards. I’m gonna just go ahead and assume your as interested as I am in what’s going on with other peoples cupboards and share away.

Now I’m no expert on the topic of decluttering or organisation so please feel free to weigh in. Any thoughts? any tips or tricks? anything in progress your way  – would love to hear.

Love as always from my home to yours xx

Linking Up with Chasing Community and Porch Stories today

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#MySundayPhoto – What Progress Looks Like

 

“For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it”  Ivan Panin

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I know, I know its just an ordinary old tap attached to a nondescript brick wall.

Nothing interesting here except that I’ve not had a tap on this wall or in any vicinity of my back yard now for over ten years.

So to me it looks like progress and feels an awful lot like luxury.

No more joining two hoses together and dragging them the full length of the front yard and up the side of the house and right around the back, no more running the gauntlet up and down the yard to turn the tap on and off, no more looking for hose connectors gone astray, no more sloshing water in and out of the house to fill the dog bowl and water the chooks.

In short sheer luxury.

I now have water at my finger tips two feet from the chooks and not much further to the dogs. I can now hose the garden and the pot plants and the verandah and the kids jumping on the trampoline without working up a sweat.

But its been a little while coming.

Ten years ago now we began – and I use the word very loosely – “landscaping” our back yard. The tap that happened to stand between bull dozer and access to the back yard was a casualty. The pipe was capped and the tap itself put aside for the “time being”. That time being lasted until a few weeks ago when Ken and I started installing some drainage in the side yard – another project a long time coming. Unknowing and unskilled we’ve done OK  but we drew the line at putting in the tap. By some alignment of the planets and with a plumber actually willing to turn up when we wanted him to, which isn’t always a given around these parts –  the long anticipated backyard tap was reinstalled in a jiffy without fuss or fanfare. Joy.  After all that time so happy I could have wept – for the  tap now and for the progress made.

Something  banal and common place yes – but its looking kind of beautiful to me.

Whats looks like progress at your house?

What feels like luxury?

Lv Tracey xx

Joining in with #MySundayPhoto today

http://photalife.com/my-sunday-photo/