So today I have (almost) finished my Christmas shopping, a bit later than usual this year and even now I am doubting many of my choices. Every year, despite the increase in lovely gifts in the shops, it is getting harder and harder to find things to buy.

I blame the lagom project for this.

I’m sure you have guessed (or think you have guessed), the content of this article, a reluctance to buy from unethical high street stores and a distaste of the unnecessary, unrecyclable packaging on so many products. In part it is that.

There is also the question of what to buy. Everyone these days has so much, we can go out and buy almost anything we want or need. A lovely packaged present is obviously appreciated but then goes into the pile of other lovely packaged products. I know this is what happens, even when the present is genuinely loved by the recipient and well thought out by the buyer. So unethically sold, over packaged and adding to the excess of life is the story of most Christmas presents.

Being aware of all this, but still feeling the need to buy presents for family and friends I began to look online for some solutions to the dilemma. I found somewhere a recommended buying triangle for eco friendly gift giving.

The top of the triangle (the most eco friendly) was to give gift vouchers, so I have done this and bought love2shop vouchers for my nephews and niece, they can then spend them in unethical stores and buy overpackaged toys- but at least they will be exactly what they want.

The second level was to buy second hand- this is a tricky one as not everyone on my list would appreciate a second hand present. My children might even begin to question why Father Christmas has had to resort to buying in charity shops (actually they wouldn’t as they are a bit too old for that). You are also limited only to second hand things, so you can not always buy exactly what you want. I have managed to buy several second hand gifts, I think they might go the same way as brand new presents, added to pile of lovely presents, but at least they have been condemned to that pile twice and not just once! It has also helped save money.

The third level was to give something edible, that way it isn’t adding to the clutter of the house and the amount of things in the world. However, a lot of edible comes in plastic and so adds to general waste. Other than that I have bought edible gifts for many on my list, mainly people who I know wouldn’t appreciate second hand and I don’t have a clue what to get them.

The fourth level was to buy local and handmade- the article suggested visiting a Christmas market. These are the ones that drive me crazy. The increase in Christmas markets really confuses me. It is lovely that so many people are able to make beautiful, saleable things at home, and I accept that to make a viable business they need a platform to sell these things from. However, where I get confused is whether or not they are needed. I went to a Christmas market at the weekend, and I did buy one thing, an extra stocking present for my son. But I do find that the beautiful things you see at Christmas markets draw you into buying things you don’t need and just get consigned to the clutter pile when Christmas is over.

The next level was to make something.( I would have put this higher up if I was designing the triangle.)  I have made presents for some people this year. I am not sure how well they will be received so they are for people I won’t see at Christmas so they can write polite thank you letters or texts and I will never know their reactions!

And then finally, the last resort was buying new on the high street. This is how I have done most of my shopping, because I knew exactly what several of my gift receivers wanted. It is very hard to find second hand or locally made corn-on-the-cob holders (my sister in law’s request) or a small size cool bag (my mother in law’s request) or that orange tiger from Ikea and a wireless speaker (my daughter’s request). I bought these people exactly what they wanted and yet thinking about these presents makes me feel more guilty than all the others I have bought.

I don’t know what the solution is – I do know I have agonised this year to find the right balance between buying things people want and buying things more ethically/ environmentally. Next year I will try harder.

Now the next dilemma is how to wrap them.

Anyway , hope your shopping is easier than mine!

 

Wow, has been a long time since I blogged, I think I had bloggers block for a while. Oh well here goes……

One year on from the end of the project and I am finally sitting down to write about the legacy that it appears to have created for me and my family.

The word legacy is perhaps a bit too high faluting (as is that word,  because I can’t spell it). Lasting changes is maybe better, but doesn’t sound as nice.

We are still recycling and being careful about what we buy (to a certain degree) on a day to day basis. The major slip ups come when we have to buy for special occasions (which are few and far between) or if we are out and desperately need something. The second doesn’t happen that often, my reusable coffee cup is nearly always in my bag, as is a bottle of water and now I also carry metal and plastic reusable straws. It is amazing how many times the children need a straw now they know they aren’t meant to use single use ones. We are not angels though, the children love to have fizzy drinks in single use plastic bottles when they are out, we don’t often bring the bottles back with us for recycling, my daughter has started requesting hot chocolate to drink when I have coffee- she does not have a reusable cup, my husband scarcely ever takes his reusable bottle with him.

***********************************************************************************

So that was typed back in June, and not published. I have found the draft and reread the virtuous actions, actually since June all this, and more is still going on. We are a long way from being completely waste free, and I don’t think this will ever be achievable without major lifestyle changes- which we aren’t going to do.

However we have made a few more small changes that should have a positive impact.

  1. Switched from clothes washing liquid to powder- no longer using plastic packaging.
  2. Collecting the cold water from the tap when I am running hot water- this was used in the summer to water my plants.
  3. Using shampoo bar and Lush conditioner instead of liquid shampoo. This has taken a lot of getting used to, but I think I finally have it sorted. I thought it might be more expensive but it is not noticeably so (one shampoo bar lasts me 3-4 months).
  4. Use cold water to wash my hands instead of turning on the hot tap – it is never on long enough to get hot and saves firing up the boiler.
  5. I have started ebay selling again to get rid of some of the things that are too good to throw away.
  6. I have reduced the number of black bin liners I use in the waste bin- it is usually just film and plastic wrap in there so I reuse a larger bag and fill it up  with the packaging instead of a black bin liner.

Slow, small changes are still the way to go for us.

I was always aware that there is more to Lagom than just recycling and getting organised, we have made one large change over the course of the past  fourteen months and that is to extend our house. I don’t think I can accurately describe how positive this change has been for us. We now have a lovely house with plenty of room for everyone. We are no longer tripping over people and things. Apart from the increased mortgage and the bombsite of our garden- which will be next year’s project I can’t find any negatives.

Maybe a post about that will follow- though I would rather start posting again about crafting with rubbish…

Who knows, now my bloggers block has broken, what delights will follow.

It has been a while since the end of the Lagom project with IKEA, exciting things have been happening here in my little corner of  Reading.

Firstly I am in a proper IKEA catalogue- one I can actually touch and see.

As you can see I am not a great photographer, (and I couldn’t get the flash to work properly) but here is proof they came here to my house.  In a very non-lagom action I asked the lady at IKEA customer services if I could have 4 copies so I can hand them out (maybe even signed) to my family.

Of course we are still living Lagom, it is very hard not to after thinking of not much else for 6 months. Energy usage is still down- over the 6 months from April to October we used 30% less gas (a real saving of £26.76 over 6 months) For the 4 months from  April to August (the smart meter has not been working properly since we moved it) we have used 15% less electricity, a saving of £19.82. So we could possibly save around £110 over the course of a year- although this of course depends on how cold it gets this winter.

The other thing that has been happening is we have extended our house. The builders came in mid August and have added about a 6 foot wide, two storey extension to the side of our house.The main work is finished and we are   my dad is doing the inside- which is a lot work than I realised. Lagom ideas have been forgotten at the moment, because apart from a bit more insulation, we are just pushing on to get things done.

Although thinking about it the follwing things have happened. We have kept some of the things that have come out like  the old front door and  extra windows, we might reuse them to go on the shed my husband is dreaming of building, if not we will freecycle them for someone with more imagination to build something out of. Through facebook we got some free radiators that came out of someone’s house. We have kept some of the bricks from the knocked out walls so we can build a wall in the garden, the extra roof tiles we needed turned out to be second-hand as they don’t make them anymore and the insulation put in as a matter of course has some good green credentials. Obviously all the waste and rubbish created by the builders has gone away in a skip to be recycled at the skip hire end. From a purely monetary point of view we are trying to create as little waste as possible and reuse what we can where we can.

So maybe the extension which at first seemed like an extravagant way to create more space rather than get rid of things is more lagom than we first thought. (If nothing else we are using less gas at the moment because husband has taken out half the radiators). It has already created a better bedroom for my son and a  better ventilated (and bigger) bathroom. The downstairs space will have more light in it and the large open plan room downstairs, that had to be partitioned by curtains in the winter just to stay warm, will be split into two smaller and easier to heat rooms. The stairs are being turned so they are no longer in the lounge, which means the heat and sound will not escape up them anymore. I am hoping it will make the children’s rooms quieter at night and create a cosy room for us to be together as a family in (or watch TV). Upstairs the laundry will have its own room and radiator, so no more socks blocking the heat on radiators downstairs and no more damp clothes in front of the telly. The laundry room was an afterthought really as we had a space with no use, but  I think it might be one of the best changes in the whole thing.

There is still a long way to go until it is finished, the builders have gone and my dad has come to live with us for a while to get things done. The extension has been planned for a long time, one of my reasons for applying for the lagom project was because we knew we would be starting the extension this year- as it happened we did not start until after the project had finished. I do, however, think that some of the lagom principles might help influence the finish inside – especially when choosing curtains and furniture that might save energy and time.

But that is enough for now, this was just meant to be a quick update of all I had been thinking about- maybe for another blog I will add some photos to compare changes (although I will have to work out how to get them on the computer from wherever they are…).

Until then, stay warm.

 

 

Very lagom- carrot tops in the Vaxer starter thingy, photos taken over a timescale of a month. They may not be in the correct order though.

I wonder how long before I can eat them. Will I ever be able to?

Not strictly  true title, or slightly unfair but anyway here is the story.

On Sunday I drove my two children to my mother-in-law’s and left them there until today. They had a great time. I had a two hour drive back home involving lots of start/stop driving on the M25 and then another 90minute drive back to pick them up and a very wet 2 hour drive back home (with more crawling along, all the way until the M4).  The two days in between I was at home completely on my own (husband is away working in Egypt), I have not been this completely alone for almost 12 1/2 years.

And how did I spend my two days I hear you ask?

I made this:

WP_20170731_18_49_23_Pro

It is not quite finished, but I am pretty pleased with it so far. My sewing machine was working beautifully for once- just incase you don’t get the significance this was the denim sewing project conjured out of nothing for the IKEA photo shoot.

Of course I did many, many more things over my two days including going for a walk, clearing out the porch and office. I also did the weekly shop and went to the library.

After returning library books and taking out new ones using the new library machine, I decided to self scan my shopping and pay using the self serve tills- thinking I could probably manage to get through the morning without talking to another adult. I would have managed this if I hadn’t needed help with the self scan till and then spilt my free coffee and had to ask for it be cleaned up. Obviously clumsy people can’t choose to be recluses. Oh well.

 

So it happened… people from a proper media company actually came to my 1970s end of terrace to take photos of my house! I think I am still slightly in shock, and not entirely sure that it did happen- and I didn’t dream it. To be fair I only have to turn around and look at my beautifully styled kitchen and ‘Lagom area’ to remind myself I haven’t dreamt the last two days- apparently things like this do happen in small lives like mine.

The children and I have had a lovely couple of days, the team that came were really friendly and made us feel very comfortable and relaxed. I am, and always have been, incredibly camera shy (with hindsight this wasn’t the most sensible thing to agree to do), I think I may have been through aversion therapy today, I will no longer hide from having my photo taken (well let’s see how long that lasts).

As always there were some awkward moments, extracting my son from his hiding place under the bed because he didn’t want his photo taken, or being told when they arrived that it would look good if I had a sewing project to do for the photos- possibly something involving old denim. (Those who know me will be unsurprised that I easily found three old pairs of jeans to cut up). I am now committed to finishing the denim project as I have promised it for my son’s new bedroom.

We had spent the day before tidying the house and depersonalising it all, making things look less unique and zany- the stylist then went round the house finding unusual and colourful things from everywhere, and enlisting the children to find something bright or some artwork.

The dining area became a sewing table for our sewing project.

This area didn’t get changed much, just some colour added.

Well there we are, a very surreal couple of days are over, my modelling career has begun (and ended, hopefully) today. Both children now have a good answer to the interview/icebreaker question “Tell me something interesting/ unique about yourself”. Up to now my answer was, ” I used to drive an ice-cream van”, now we can all say we have been photographed to go in an IKEA catalogue!

 

So I tasted the sauerkraut, fully expecting to not like it and actually it is pretty good. The first day I was sneaking spoonfuls of the stuff- infact I am just going to eat a bit more now- purely in the interest of describing the taste to you…

It has a crunchy texture and tastes very sour and vinegary. It leaves a not, unpleasant vinegary taste in your mouth. I have no idea why I like it- I have never had vinegar as a taste I liked (although thinking about it now vinegar does remind me of cucumber slices for Christmas tea with cut off edges and vinegar drinking contests in the pub on Christmas morning). The drawback is that it smells horrible- like old socks someone on facebook suggested. I can only keep the jar open for about 30 seconds before someone complains.

I am already planning my next batch, I am adding beetroot to it, mainly to use up this beauty from my garden.

WP_20170723_15_48_46_Pro.jpg

This is the only edible thing that has grown from seed in my garden despite the huge amount  I planted this year. I have had some raspberries and gooseberries from last years plants but not many;  it has been a disappointing year. Even the brand new packets of pea and bean seeds have only produced two runner bean plants (with no beans yet)- oh well, try again next year.

And here is proof that I am eating the pot of pickled cabbage and haven’t just emptied it in the food waste and made all this up….

WP_20170723_16_00_32_Pro.jpg

Firstly I have learnt it is possible to spend over £5 on pick and mix sweets at IKEA, especially if you let a 12 year old go there unsupervised (in her defence she did have to choose for her brother as well but still…).

So £5.70 spent on pick and mix at 8 30 pm on Thursday evening- I did also have a prize of a £25 shop in the food section so my kitchen now has a few products that I have looked at but never tried before. There is some lovely elderflower cordial, some instant iced tea drinks, coffee, funny rice/grains, crackers and some cinnamon buns- no meatballs and no lingonberry. £25 does not go a very long way and I should probably have decided what I wanted to buy before I went as deciding at 8 30pm is not a great idea.

Lets start at the beginning of the story instead of confusedly at the end.

The live lagom project has a facebook group where people get together to share their stories of living lagom- and to share links to relevant newspaper articles about how to be more sustainable. They recently ran a competition where you weigh your food waste and check your food spend for a month and then send them the details, the top two people showing a reduction in spend/waste won vouchers for food shops in IKEA and one other person was picked at random- which was me! I won a shop to the value of £25. This took place this Thursday, with me trying to keep track in my head of what I was buying whilst someone wrote it down on a clipboard and my daughter casually put over 500g of pick and mix into 2 small bags.

We were at IKEA because it was also the third and final workshop, called ‘Intent to Ferment’. Whilst the final blog was in a month ago the project was still officially going on until, I suppose, Thursday. The livelagom idea has taken off in a big way with IKEA and the various stores around the country have been running workshops open to the general public, consequently there is a part of the store- (right at the top of the steps when you go in) that is laid out with tables ready for workshopping. It was a bit sad as before we have been escorted to the staff areas -somehow it felt like more of an ending.

Anyway, at this workshop we learnt how to make sauerkraut, which honestly is not something I have ever wondered how to make. It was a interesting, easy and surprisingly relaxing thing to do.  And if you are wondering how to do it I will tell you…

  1. Cut up some cabbage
  2. Grate some vegetables like carrot and courgette
  3. Add some ginger and garlic if you like (apparently not too much)
  4. Weigh it and add 2% of the weight in salt.
  5. Squish it all really hard to get all the juice out. (This was fun)
  6. Put it in a jar with the juice- make sure the juice covers the veg ( I think you can top it up with water if needs be). Put lid on the jar
  7. Leave it for about 5 days- you will have to ‘burp’ it everyday (open the jar and let the gas out) else it will explode.*
  8. Try it after 5 days and if you like the taste put it in the fridge. It should keep forever.

Making it was really enjoyable. The jars provided by IKEA were just the right size for 500g of vegetables and they look lovely.

WP_20170716_15_35_49_Pro

You can see some of my free food behind them.

*If you don’t want to smell of pickled cabbage burping it is best done with the pot in a sink, not on a worktop on a Friday lunchtime when you have to go back to school in 5 minutes.

I am however, not entirely sure what it is supposed to taste like, so how will I know if it is ready? I am excitedly waiting to taste it, everyone in the lagommy world seems to love it- apparently it is really good for you as well with lots of health benefits. I am open minded- but also incredibly nervous about tasting it.

After we had done the fermenting we went to the restaurant and had some food and a small chat. It has been interesting meeting the other people doing the project. I wish I had more presence or personality in these kinds of social things- oh well, survived this long without any.

So I hear you saying is this it, is this the end of our insight into your slightly sustainable lifestyle? Well actually not at all- there are so many things I would still like to improve on, one thing this project has taught me is that I shouldn’t try to focus on too many things at once. I feel I have got to grips with the things in my NYR- now to go further I think the next thing is to try and reduce the plastic we buy. My first step to this is to switch to washing powder rather than liquid, watch this space to see how that goes.

The other reason that this is not the end is………………………………………..we might be in the next Lagom catalogue- unbelievable I know. Absolutely unbelievable. They are coming to do two days of taking photos at my house. The thought fills me with fear. I have to send some photos so they can see the space they are working with- I haven’t done this yet as this was T’s bedroom on Friday. Can you tell me what colour carpet she has?

.WP_20170710_19_13_06_Pro

The fear was obviously catching as this is her bedroom today.

WP_20170716_16_00_14_Pro

Yes, she does have a green carpet! She has worked very hard all weekend, cleared out some rubbish, boxed up some things and put almost everything she ever wears to be washed. This is the picture I will send to the IKEA people.

They are coming in a fortnight’s time- wish me luck!

Until then live lagom

 

 

So this is the 500 words (and a sneaky few more) I sent to IKEA:

 

 

 

I suppose the best way to judge how we have done is to look back at my plan for achieving my NYR and see how that went.

 

Let’s start with the good bits:

 

Get organised so I can recycle more effectively.

 

 The recycling area currently looks like this:

WP_20170524_19_31_11_Pro

 

 

 

 

Which means things are taken more regularly to be recycled, I can store up laundry until I have a full load (thus reducing washing machine use), and the children can sort their dirty washing easily.

 

The stackable SORTERA boxes and the BLASKA clothes baskets were invaluable to making this area work. The MULIG drying rack is big enough to hold two loads of washing so clothes can be drying at the same time instead of sitting around waiting. I think changing this area has made the most difference in the whole project.

 

Reduce energy usage.

 

We have used 30% less gas and 22% less electricity from Jan to Apr 2017 compared to the same time in 2016. To achieve this, we changed to LEDARE bulbs, I have been trying to cook in a more energy efficient way and have changed to 30° laundry washes from 40°.  We turned off the heating a month earlier than last year with no real noticeable difference in comfort. We used a GLANSNAVA curtain liner to block the draught by the back door and this made a huge difference to the warmth in the kitchen.

 

But now for the bad bits:

 

Getting rid of some stuff.

 

We have begun decluttering and packing up things. We have donated over 100 items to charity and given things away to friends.  We have several boxes of things to car-boot when the weather is better. The decluttering was supposed to help the house look tidier, but has not made much difference!

 

 

 

Grow more vegetables.

 

 At the time of typing I haven’t achieved this. I have planted several things during this project:

 

 

 However, my vegetable growing story is usually the same every year, lots of optimism in April /May that trails off by the summer. We will wait and see how this year goes.

 

  We have spent 6 months trying to make our home life more sustainable and easier to live- and I think as a family we have achieved it. It has been lovely how quickly the children picked up the recycling and laundry sorting system. I have been amazed by how enthusiastic they are about being lagom; lights are turned off as a matter of course and there are no complaints if we regularly have ‘leftovers’ for tea. My main reason for applying for this project was to focus on making a more sustainable way of life the norm for my children so that they would carry it forward into their future lives- I think they might do just that…

 

As for me I now have many new ideas to help us make even more improvements, so whilst it’s the end of the project it is only the start of a life-changing journey

 

Thank you, IKEA, for helping us begin this journey.

 

By next week I will have written my third, and final ‘blog’ for the lagom project. In a maximum of 500 words I have to discuss how we are managing to live a more lagom lifestyle and how we are going to keep carrying on doing so- and mention a few IKEA products that have helped us along the way.

All fine, except I am not so sure I know what lagom is. I started out thinking it meant getting the balance of life correct, finding a common ground between living frugally and living well- the image we were shown was the 3 Bears’ porridge- Daddy Bear’s was too austere, Mummy Bear’s was too rich and wasteful, Baby Bear’s was in the middle, just right. Then the concepts of living a more sustainable lifestyle were introduced- finding the balance became using as little energy as possible and recycling as much as possible. This then became buying as little as possible- and if you did have to buy then make sure it was recyclable. There is a Live lagom facebook page- filled (as facebook pages always are) with pictures of peoples acheivements and links to stories about things other people have done that would be a very good idea to do and why didn’t we think of it first type stories. It has been interesting to see how the idea of lagom has evolved.

It does however, make it very difficult for me to decide how lagom we have been, I keep thinking of my NYR- to get organised so that the whole family can live more sustainably- I am not sure how close we have got to that. We have had several successes- reducing energy usage by over 20% year on year has been one- that was through some very small changes. Other successes have included keeping the laundry area tidy and not having piles of things waiting to be recycled, I think we also have less waste- I plan meals more rigorously and often use ingredients for more than one meal- we actually had a planned leftovers meal last week – just pie not all eaten earlier in the week, the children loved it. I have started washing clothes at 30 degrees, I have started saving the water when running the hot tap and using it to water plants, I have…. (notice a theme here).

I think when I started this I wanted all the quirky things we already did- the saving bottle tops, the never throwing things away, the reworking of all old clothes into the pants rug to become normal things that the children would do when they are older. I wanted sustainability to be part of their lives and the decisions that I naturally make would be decisions that they would also learn to make naturally when they grow up. I am not sure I have described it very well, maybe legacy is the word I am looking for, the lagom legacy. It is a tiny bit of a faff sorting out what can be recycled and what can’t but hopefully they never think there is any other way.

I have just noticed that even this tiny bit if deciding what lagom means has gone over 500 words.  Lets say then that it means living more sustainably.

Did I achieve that? Yes,  I think so for all the reasons I wrote above, but the house is still difficult to live in and we have boxes  of things everywhere waiting for the building work to start and finish. There is a lot more I would like to do to make life more Lagom, but right now I am happy to settle with tidier recycling and less waste.