Thursday, October 27, 2016

2014 update

Found this in the drafts folder and instead of letting it go to waste, thought it was worth publishing! Written in 2014. 

So it has been a while....a long while!

I guess I lost momentum with many of my projects, so there didn't seem to be anything to blog about, and life just carried on.

I've been in my unit for 4.5 years now. When I look back on what I've done, I have done a lot. The big ticket items - kitchen and bathroom renovation - are still on the to-do list, but I'm making progress on the rest.

Here's my instagram picture of a sunset in Emerald, since this post would be pretty boring without some colour!

Here's a quick summary off the top of my head:

  • Whole house painted internally including walls, ceilings, doors, door frames, skirtings and window frames.
  • Carpet removed and floorboards refinished.
  • White timber venetian blinds installed for all windows (purchased at Lincraft during a 70% off sale!)
  • Got the house re-leveled due to a constantly sticking bathroom door
  • Living room: removed dated chandelier light fitting, replaced with free silver fan & light combo, removed inefficient electric wall heater, replaced with reverse cycle split system with enough power to heat and cool a larger floor area once some walls are removed in the future; added new curtains
  • Kitchen: painted cabinets with laminate paint; refinished countertops with leftover Rustoleum Benchtop Resurfacing Kit (my mom redid her kitchen and there was plenty leftover to do mine); added a shelf under the top cabinets
  • Laundry: nothing...
  • Bathroom: removed electric wall heater after it stopped working; replaced door handle with modern alternative (the original one was broken) and added hooks behind the door.
  • Bedrooms: added curtains
  • Hallway: blocked off a redundant hallway to create a linen/storage cupboard...still a work in progress; finally painted and dealt with wallpaper in the main hallway
  • Roof: had new gutters installed and the roof repointed.
  • Installed solar panels.
  • Redid backyard and front garden to create a low maintenance space to give the place some personality, removed old washing line that took up the whole backyard (I never used it), removed some trees that were taking up too much room and growing too close to the house.
  • Replaced all the architrave light switches with standard modern wall mounted switches; replaced some dated light fittings.
  • Installed extra smoke alarm
  • Repaired giant hole in the hallway ceiling (my darling brother put his foot through it while doing some electrical for me up in the roof).

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Update and a new perspective's been a while.

What have I been up to? Plenty of things! Here are a few:

  • I renovated my bathroom (it's 99% done).
  • I've recently discovered podcasts (I know I know - I'm clearly not an early adopter!)
  • I got into cycling in a big way 
  • Started a new job almost two years ago
  • Lots of work travel to amazing destinations - got to go to China and Vietnam for the first time!
  • Lots of friends have gotten married and had kids, including my baby brother! I'm now the proud aunt of a gorgeous little nephew. He had some struggles as a newborn that gave us all lots of heartache and worry, but he's a fighter and is doing really well.
  • Said good-bye to our beautiful family dog - she was 17 years old and she wasn't living a good life anymore. I miss her!

If I think about why I haven't posted anything for years, I think it comes down to this: I wanted this blog to be a beautiful space to showcase how I transformed my house from a seventies relic to a fresh, vibrant, happy place with paint and elbow grease. And I've put in plenty of work, but every time I thought about taking photos, the excuses went something like this: "everything looks messy - I'll have to wait until I do a big tidy up" - and then, after a big tidy up "oh the lighting isn't right so another time", and so weeks turned into months turned into years, and here we are.

I was so used to reading these successful home blogs with gorgeous photography and thousands of readers that I thought if I can't reproduce that, then why bother? But everyone has to start somewhere, and it's really not my dream to have a 'successful' blog with thousands of readers. It was really a way for me to document my journey of home ownership, renovating and exploring my interest in home design and decor. 

Lately I've been listening the The Minimalists podcast, and while I've been watching plenty of YouTube videos about minimalism and decluttering, for some reason this is what really spoke to me. I think it's because they really tackle the why behind being a minimalist, rather than just the how

After many times of getting home after a busy day only to be confronted by mess, clutter and stuff, I was feeling overwhelmed, depressed and suffocated. On more than one occasion I thought to myself "if my house burned down tomorrow, it would almost be a relief, as I could start over and wouldn't have to deal with all of my stuff." Yeah...that's a sobering thought. (I have zero intention of letting that happen, but why even invite the thought into my life!)

I am also letting my conditioning and family's influence get in the way. We have always had a lot of stuff and struggled to let anything go. We've moved house several times (once halfway across the world), and we have dragged all our stuff with us every time. I was talking to my mom about this the other day, and when we lived in South Africa things seemed less cluttered, more tidy. I think there are two reasons for this: firstly, we had a much bigger house. Whilst we didn't bring everything with us in terms of furniture, I don't think we really left much behind in terms of decor, tchotchkes and personal items. The accumulations of 20 years of my parents being married, and two teenage kids. Secondly, in South Africa we had a maid* who worked three (full) days a week at our house (sounds extravagant, but I went to school with someone that had two full-time live-in maids!). So you could have your house clean and tidy virtually all the time, and you could get to the big spring cleaning jobs as needed. Both my parents have a hard time letting go of something - even if it's broken, my dad will save it to fix it later. Which invariably he does, but it may take years, whilst storing the broken items and random bits and pieces that might be useful one day to fix a broken item. 

And we all tend to get used to our surroundings - after a while the mess and clutter just becomes white noise, until we realise someone is coming over and suddenly you see your space through their eyes and run around in a mad panic shoving things into piles and behind closed doors. I hate the thought of someone dropping by unexpectedly, because invariably my house is so messy that I'm embarrassed to let them in the door. What a stressful way to live. If I really sit down and think about it, that is a crazy way to approach life. I would rather give up the opportunity to spend time with a friend or chat to a neighbour, because of my material possessions that I don't even care enough about to put away/find a place for. The Minimalists have a saying: "Love people, use things. The opposite never works." Based on my previous behaviour, I'd say I'm not living that at all. We are so caught up in material possessions and consuming consuming consuming - where does it stop? Yet it's so easy to do, because we're constantly bombarded with advertising and having the latest and greatest. I'm not one to keep up with the Joneses, but I still notice myself falling down the rabbit hole when browsing shopping catalogues or websites, or seeing a friend's new car, or newly renovated house, or trendy outfit.  

So, this is a bit of a random post, but I have to start somewhere. I think for the moment I'd like to use this blog to journal my journey to leading a more intentional life, surrounded by people I love and things I find useful or that bring me joy (had to sneak a Marie Kondo reference in there!), rather than being dragged down by the weight of stuff. And I'll be sharing changes in my home, whether the 'after' photos are perfect or not. 

The great thing is that this is also a way to be green - the best way to have less stuff is to stop acquiring it! 

Images: all my own. They might not make sense but they're all from the various things I've been up to in the last few years.

*the term 'maid' is no longer politically correct - the correct term is 'domestic worker', but I'm not sure that makes sense in terms of what role that person fulfils to anyone outside of South Africa. Duties varied from household to household, but included anything to do with the house: cleaning, ironing, laundry, washing windows, deep cleaning all those spaces you never get to with the regular cleaning routine, child-minding, picking kids up from school, cooking etc. Our wonderful maid was Johanna - she was a lovely lady and very loyal to our family. I hope she's doing ok these days.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Solar Stats - June 2012

So...I haven't been very good at checking my solar stats every month. My bad.

Here's some new figures based on the inverter data on the 9th of June:

Stats for months 4 & 5 - 52 days (18 April - 9 June 2012):

Month 4 & 5 export: 183.1 kWh
Month 4 & 5 operational hours: 451 hours
Month 4 & 5 average daily export: 3.52 kWh

The daily export has decreased almost by half - what a different winter makes!

Cumulative total (since installation on 16 December 2011):
Total export: 898.6 kWh
Total operational hours: 1653 hours
Average daily export: 5.91 kW

My electricity bill was much lower than the same quarter last year which was great - exact figures to come.

Excuse the quality of the photo - it's really tricky to get a photo of the readings because the screen cycles through three different sets of data, and I can never actually see what I'm taking a photo of due to the glare on the iPhone screen!

Living room: before and after

I hesitated when naming this a "Before and after" post. There are still a few things I need to do in the living room for it to be truly 'finished', but it's looking pretty good at the moment, and makes for some great before and after photos!

The room originally had these wonderful features:
  • worn, dirty brown and yellow speckled carpet
  • dark wood window frames and door frames
  • dingy walls 

The positives were that under the disgusting carpet were timber floorboards (pine unfortunately, but I'll count that as a win), big windows that let in the light, and a decent sized space.

I had the floors polished and they turned out just the time I was hoping for something a bit darker but I really do love them. After pulling up that carpet I don't think I'll ever live with carpet ever again. The dust and dirt just gives me the heebie jeebies (spelling?!) and the ease of cleaning up cat vomit from a wooden floor is something to write home about.

Carpet gone!

Newly polished floorboards (excuse the iPhone pic taken at night):

In person the colour is more saturated that this - in the photo above the colour looks really light, but they are a warm medium brown colour.

And now for the "after":

  • Couches - technically a couch and an ottoman, but I added a long body pillow against the wall to make an extra couch. Bought for $100 from a friend who was getting a new couch. I think they were originally from Freedom.
  • Coffee table - from my parents...this was the coffee table in our family room in South Africa. My mom keeps suggesting I paint it white, but I'm quite reluctant to! Ordinarily I'd be the first to suggest a coat of white paint to update wooden furniture.
  • The white box on the right is also a family piece - it's essentially a crate with a hinged lid, apparently originally used as an egg crate (I picture two stacks of the 3-dozen egg trays sitting side by side). We call it the egg box. Creative stuff indeed!
  • The large frame has a poster of a painting depicting Las Ramblas that I bought in Barcelona. 
  • The three smaller frames on the left are three acryclic paintings on canvas that I bought in Nepal, framed in market-bought frames made from reclaimed wood.
  • The lamp on the left is an op shop (charity shop) find - I bought the base and the shade separately (see pic before for a close up)
  • The lamp on the right I found on eBay for less that $20.
  • The basket between the couches has extra blankets for winter, I bought it on eBay for about $10.
  • The newest addition is the rug - it's 100% jute from IKEA (Tarnby). I have been looking at this rug for years, every time I went to IKEA. I was there last week and decided it was actually a bargain ($129 for the 180 x 250cm size) so I finally got it. I think it just finishes off the room, and helps to define the space, as it's shared with the dining table.
On the wall opposite the proper couch is an IKEA Expedit TV Unit that I found on eBay for just under $200. I'll still need to really tackle the styling so I haven't taken any photos yet.

On the right, diagonally opposite the window is this funky chair I found on eBay for less than $20. I love all the textures from the jute and the rattan and the wood tones paired with the crisp white.

Walls are painted with Lexicon quarter white, and the window frames have been painted in semi-gloss.

A few final touches before I deem this room officially finished:
  • remove old flesh-coloured roller blinds and replace with white wooden venetian blinds (already purchased and cut to size, just waiting on my brother to hang them for me!)
  • remove current lace curtains (although they're great for privacy) and replace with IKEA curtain rods and FERLE curtains.
  • remove the old wall heater (the dark blob behind the funky chair) which has been disconnected from the mains electricity, repair hole and touch up paint.
  • style bookshelves and photograph
  • perhaps make the wall above the couch a gallery wall?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bathroom mini-update

My bathroom is original to the house...built in the 70s or early 80s, so it's a lovely combination of brown patterned tiles and beige fixtures. I don't have the cashola to do a full renovation yet, so for the moment I've had to make do with some paint and accessories.

This is an iPhone photo taken during an inspection:

Here's a wider angle - a screen grab of the photos on Gotta love the professional photos, the bathroom actually looks quite nice!

Since then I've painted the window frame white, painted the walls (Lexington Quarter White) and added a basket of towels. I also changed the taps by the basin - just simple chrome taps instead of those big brown plastic monstrosities. I must remember to get another two sets for the bath and shower (I bought them for about $3 at the Reject Shop, hopefully they still have them!). A huge improvement in person, although it's hard to photograph.

I'm debating whether to paint the tile...I'm worried that will enhance the beige bath and basin, and gold shower, and make the room feel really cold. On the other hand, it could make the room full much lighter and bigger once all that brown is gone. I'll probably end up doing it, since eventually there will be a full bathroom renovation. Nothing to lose!

Last but not least, my lovely brother installed these Lillholmen hooks on the back of the door.

Next room progress.

House progress's been a while. No excuses...

Anyway, I had a week off work and lucky for me my mom came to stay. Otherwise I may have spent the whole week being lazy and eating chocolate! But instead we tackled quite a few projects:
  • cleared the back garden of weeks (again!) and this time laid down weed mat
  • planted basil, chives, chillies and spring onions 
  • planted some liriope in the back garden
  • planted petunias, lobelia and white daisies in the front garden
  • scored a bargain outdoor table at Bunnings
  • finished painting the kitchen cupboards
  • patched and painted most of the holes in door frames leftover from having wall light switches installed (and removing the architrave switches)
  • painted the door frame leading from the kitchen to the laundry
  • laid down my new rug in the living room
  • put up curtains in my room and the spare bedroom
  • donated a bunch of clothes, books and bits and pieces to the op shop
 Still to do:
  • paint the wardrobe doors in the spare bedroom
  • paint the door frame and door in the hallway 
  • paint the back door and door frame
  • paint the laundry window frame
  • touch up areas where I've patched walls
  • keep plugging away at removing the wallpaper in the hallway
 Next up...some "after" photos.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Monthly solar stats: 20 Feb - 16 April 2012

I know this isn't exactly a month's calculation, but my solar PV system was switched off for 3 weeks from when my bi-directional meter was installed to when Jemena finally got around to configuring it.

The bi-directional meter was installed on 29 February and my solar PV system was off from 29 February - 21 March. During that time my electric hot water system was on a peak rate.

Stats for month 3 (36 days: 20 February - 17 April, not including 29 February - 21 March):

Month 3 export: 225.6kWh
Month 3 operational hours: 395 hours
Month 3 average daily export: 6.27kWh

The daily export has decreased slightly which would be due to the change in weather - winter is on the way!

Cumulative total (since installation on 16 December 2011):
Total export: 715.5kWh
Total operational hours: 1202 hours
Average daily export: 7.16kW

So far I am really happy with the output. It will be interesting to see how the system performs in winter - since the last measurement the weather has been inconsistent - we've had some lovely sunny days but also quite a few overcast rainy days.

What I was not happy about was having my solar off for 3 weeks AND having my hot water usage charged at peak rates during that time. Jemena said it would take 1-2 weeks for the meter to be remotely programmed before I could turn my system back on, and in the end it took 3 weeks after me calling twice and emailing to follow up.