Category Archives: house

Decluttering many things. A bit. Also, rambling. And some shopping.

With the amount of work I have done in the last 12 months, I’ve not had a lot of time to myself. Too many long days and late nights have not only sent my stress levels soaring, they’ve also seen our (always cluttered and messy) house really deteriorate.

Last Friday, I made a stand. But instead of cleaning THEIR rooms, I cleaned mine. I dragged things out of cupboards, put shoes back on shelves, made room for some of Fraser’s shirts in the cupboard (first time in years). There’s more to do, and the funky layout of our bedroom coughTooMuchFurniturecough doesn’t help, but it’s better than it was. And one more Friday should get it to where I want it to be.

My side of the room, that is. While I feel strongly that we should share the blame responsibility for the rest of the house, there is a clear demarcation line in the bedroom.

I have a history of trying to declutter. A few years ago, I hired a Professional Organiser to help me and I learned some stuff about how to throw things out. And then she spent a session working with Fraser and I really think it is a miracle that they didn’t come to blows. But that was expensive and really I need to be able to do this stuff myself.

The best attempt I ever made at decluttering was when we refurbished the study. By which I mean, got rid of the old crappy bookshelves and moved things around to make room for my desk and Fraser’s poker machine. And an armchair. The good part was that we paid a couple of students to come over and just pack everything in the room into boxes. No matter what it was. The boxes all went into the Bigster’s room, we cleaned the carpet and put in the new shelves, then we started unpacking. And we threw out (or gave away) roughly a third of what had been in the old study. It was time-consuming, but everything had a place. And when we renovate, I am going to do the same thing. And then give myself a month off to unpack everything!

Anyway. After last week’s bedroom decluttering, yesterday, on that day off where we ended up going ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE (and enjoying it), I sorted some of my tax stuff, opened some mail that had been frightening me (our accountant is lovely, but show me anything related to tax and I am completely paralysed), updated some of my accounts and logged some expenses and OMG MADE AN APPOINTMENT TO DO MY TAX. Which is just a huge thing because see my note about paralysis? I really mean it. Tax and dentists. And heights. Not things I can think about without serious, terrifying terror.

And then Fraser and I sat down and had a conversation about money. Which I think is hugely productive and helpful because we have such different attitudes to money – he is much more cautious and anxious than I am. And he wants me to tell him EVERY SINGLE TIME I use our joint credit card which drives me batty because it is like he is CHECKING UP ON ME and WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS MY DAD OR SOMETHING and it all goes downhill from there. And I don’t reply to his emails about it because to me they are a low priority and then he gets more annoyed because I am being IRRESPONSIBLE and I get annoyed because he is being UNTRUSTING and – yeah. Downhill. On wheels. So instead, I suggested that we sit down every two weeks to talk about Money Stuff and he can go through the VISA card statement then if he wants to. It’s how we found out that Otto had somehow signed up for Club Penguin. She doesn’t quite understand that the bit about “ask your parents” isn’t just for children who can’t read yet. And that was a useful session and I think quite productive. And next week we will talk about Family Stuff. I have even scheduled time in our calendars for this.

ANYWAY. I did more Accounts Stuff today to try to get ready for our accountant meeting next week. And then I cleaned under my desk AGAIN which was annoying because (a) there was lots of stuff that Fraser & the kids had kicked through from under his desk AGAIN and (b) there was some of my stuff that was hiding under my desk which probably means that Otto had got it down there to play with and (c) I discovered (EWWWW) that I was not in fact Incorrect and Imagining Things in thinking that the cats had been wizzing somewhere in the Study and it is in fact just under where our desks meet (but on Fraser’s side – ha!) and then I had to clean up catwizz and carpet and it really was more than just a little bit disgusting.

And now I have cleared my desk (well mostly). Suffice it to say, my next trip to IKEA involves much-needed cable trunking.

So that was my two big (OK medium-sized) decluttering efforts in the last week or so. Three, if I count the accounts and invoicing and stuff – which is definitely mental clutter.

And now I want to make Sweeping Grand Plans like “I will declutter the whole house, watch me, I can do this” – but common sense and the voice of experience suggest that this plan is Doomed. So instead I have a short-term goal: This week, I am going to do a little bit of decluttering Every Single Day. That feels like enough of a challenge for now.


Posted by on May 27, 2012 in decluttering, grand plans, shopping, tax


When banks and logic don’t entirely mix.

I had an eye-opening conversation with my bank this week. A sort of pre-pre-renovation conversation.

The big thing in Australian homeloans is “100% offset accounts”. What this means is that if you borrow $100,000 but you have $40,000 in deposit funds, your deposits count against your borrowings and you only pay interest on the $60,000 gap. Which is awesome because otherwise you would pay interest on $100k and then earn a little bit of interest on $40k and then pay tax on that leaving only a pittance that is probably not even enough to purchase an Inspection Camera.

This is important because when I get paid, I get paid in lump sums, and then I can go for months without being paid again. (Especially as I am Crap At Invoicing and really need someone to hold my hand to get all that stuff done.) So I have two important bank accounts with varying sums in each:

  • One is the 40% of everything I earn that I put aside for taxes, which gets paid to the taxation department in a lump sum if when I actually get around to doing my tax return.
  • And the other is the account where my money sits until I pay myself – because it seems better to average it over the year and pay myself slowly.

(Note: I know that there are other ways I could do this with budget lines and things and all in one physical bank account. But I would prefer not to do that because it just encourages me to fudge the money and buy shoes.)

What I would like to have is a homeloan with TWO (or even three, if Fraser has any spare cash lying around) of these magical 100% offset accounts.

And apparently this cannot be done.

I could, however, split the loan in half and have TWO homeloans, each with its own offset.Or three, if Fraser wants to do this as well.

Because that makes a lot more sense.

If only there were a Free Gift With Every New Homeloan. I could make a killing.

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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in extension, not your earth logic, tax


Renovation tools and rules

As I make my grand plans for our home renovation home extension Palace of Us, I’m looking for tools to make it easier. And I have come up with a few simple rules to help me along the way.

Rule 1: Everything is better with the right stationery.

This is a rule that I apply to pretty much everything in my life. You can do anything if you have enough pens and paper clips (Thank you, MacGyver). But in this case, it’s the My Dream Home binder from Kikki-K which lets me file all the important things like the name and business card of the builder I liked, and the laminate sample chips. With post-its on them that describe what they are for, if I am keeping track.

And a little notebook which I keep in a zippered case in my bag, where I can jot down ideas, thoughts, addresses, brands etc if I run across them.

Tools: Binder, Recycling bin (for the bits I am not keeping), plastic pockets, pen, post-its, notebook, zippered case.

Rule 2: There’s an App for that!

Otto and I have had a lot of fun playing with the Home Design 3D app on my iPad. It’s great for sketching out floor plans and even for simple 3D visualisation. I find it easy to use although restricted in what it offers (and in the range of furniture it has). You can even paint the walls! It’s turned into a fun hobby for Otto, who likes designing houses, schools and improbable structures with no doors. If only it would let you do multi-storey designs, it would be idea.

And then of course there are the myriad budgeting and note-keeping tools that you can get. I suspect that I will use one of those to track the project once we get started, but for now I keep coming back to trusty Excel. Or Google Docs, so Fraser can see them too (but he’d be happier if he didn’t).

Tools: Home design app, budgeting apps, spreadsheets.

Rule 3: When in doubt, ask the Internet.

This is right up there in my rules of life anyway, or so Fraser believes. And for sussing out what the Internet thinks, I am loving Pinterest. I can scan what other people are posting and can post my own stuff – or repurpose someone else’s pin – and I can collect things that are relevant to the extension in one central place.

Actually I’ve raved about Pinterest so much that Fraser joined it too. Except that he uses it to share things but not to view them (Because he’s DOING IT WRONG). So I told him that anything posted to my House Extension board can and will be considered Agreed By Him if he doesn’t explicitly say it’s not. In writing. On Pinterest.

Turns out Pinterest is good for consensus-building, too. At least in theory.

Tools: Pinterest. Oh. And this blog.

Rule 4: Trust me. You’ll love it.

I think this should actually be Rule 1 of my life. Or of Fraser’s. Because much as he may shudder at my grand plans and ideas, by the time I have obsessed about them enough for them to become reality they are actually pretty good grand plans and ideas.

And sometimes he will even admit that.

And I think he’s happier if he doesn’t have to know the detail.

Tools: Us.


Posted by on May 15, 2012 in extension, grand plans, house


Home Show

A quick Google quickly finds the following unmissable events for the wannabe renovator on the Melbourne Exhibition calendar:.

I tried the HIA Melbourne Home Show last Saturday and that list already exhausts me. But if we are thinking renovation (or more specifically, if I am thinking renovation) then the name of the game is Research

Of most interest to me were the builders and extension specialists, some more pushy than others. I spoke to one very nice builder who is only a couple of suburbs away. (Those are my criteria right there. He was nice and he is close by. And he won an award.) There was a free design service where you could take your plans and show them to a designer for advice. The guy thought my plans were good and achievable within the budget I have. Suck-up. And there was a bank you could discuss your loans with. They gave me free inflatable hands for the children. Otto spent a good fifteen minutes smacking herself in the head and saying “Ouch” when I gave hers to her. Who says banks are evil?

Everyone I spoke to asked which Local Government Area we are in. When I told them, they said “OH. You’ll need a lot of lead time then”. Which is what I hear from friends and family as well. Not reassuring.

There were a range of products on show. Some were awesome. I know because the people demonstrating them told me so. Lots of other people seemed to think so too because they were wandering around with AMAZING INDOOR OUTDOOR BROOMS and GRATE PLATES and various other awesome things. Fortunately, there were no shoes. I resisted.

In the middle of the very big exhibition hall was a display of beds. This was very good product placement. I did not try one because I would have fallen asleep and drooled on the covers. Also because I was on a deadline – I had to get back to talk to the free design advisor. (I made it with 20 minutes to spare and was very glad to have somewhere to sit while I waited).

Also in the middle of the very big exhibition hall was Telstra. Not very interesting for what I was looking at but they had free bags of jelly beans. Mmm! Telstra!

I also found AMAZING EUROPEAN WHITEGOODS! NEVER BEFORE SEEN IN AUSTRALIA! I fell a little bit desperately in love with a fridge which was actually not white at all but stainless steel. Which is the trap of a home show, given that I was not really looking for a fridge at all. And it would not fit in our current fridge cavity.

Overall I was disappointed in the show. I am not sure what I wanted – not mystic lights and a voice over saying MELISSA! WE WANT TO GIVE YOU A FREE RENOVATION! – although I wouldn’t have knocked that back – but maybe a more cohesive feel to the event? I didn’t feel I could navigate very efficiently. Would have preferred to see builders in one area, kitchens in another, tat demonstrations in another. And definitely fewer MAGIC BROOMS.

Time not wasted though: I left with some specific information that I needed. About builders and doors and decking and such like.

And some that I did not realise I needed, like MAGNETIC RETROFIT DOUBLE GLAZING. There is a reason it rhymes with AMAZING.

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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in grand plans, house


Of Peg boards and Nannas. Both mine.

I bought a sheet of pegboard today. That white, unfinished stuff with holes punched in it, that lots of people use for hanging tools in garages.

I’ve been looking for something to hang my jewellery on. I thought about those cheval mirrors that you open and they have storage inside, but they are big and bulky and I don’t really have anywhere for them. Then I was going to use a spare shelf from one of our BILLYs, but I am a bit useless with a cordless drill and I don’t think that “make me a jewellery hanging board thing” was going to cut it with Fraser. I contemplated stick-on hooks but ideas like that don’t last long, even for me.

And then today I was driving past Bunnings and my meeting was cancelled and circumstances conspired so that I was in the left lane at the time so I could just pull in to the carpark and I thought oh well why not see if they have something you could use? And I saw a sheet of pegboard and had a moment of OMGTHATISAWESOME and then a moment of WHOA THAT IS BIG. But there was a guy there with a big saw and before you could say PLEASECANYOUCUTTHISPEGBOARDFORME (or at least not long after), I had not one but THREE pieces of pegboard, all smaller than the first. And some hooks.

And as I drove home, I found myself thinking of my nanna, who died when I was seven and of whom I have not very many memories really. She was my mother’s mother and was not in the best of health, but I used to go and stay with her sometimes and I thought her house was wonderful because she had an old 1950s-style caravan out the back (we never got to play in it) and a piano and this amazing dark green hairy scratchy lounge suite. And a teeny-tiny wood fire, and plates with PINK FLOWERS which I loved desperately and which my aunt and uncle used for years (I think they disappeared years ago, although maybe I should ask whether there is a plate left that I could have in remembrance – they looked a lot like this plate, at least in my memory, although they were definitely not Limoges).  And a toilet with blue water, and a laundry and drying room that was out the back of the house and you had to go outside to reach it. And a milk bar up the road which she would take me to and we would buy twenty cents of mixed lollies. These days, that wouldn’t buy you a jelly snake. And a blue tongue lizard that lived outside the kitchen and terrified me one day because I thought it was a snake.

And when I got home, I realised that it was the PEG BOARD that made me think of Nanna, because she had some in her kitchen (I think a wall, or maybe just above a bench) which she used to hang her soup ladles on. And if I close my eyes I can still see her kitchen, and her chairs with stripy red and white floral fabric – and I could tell you which cupboards she kept the plates in.

And I’m going to experiment with spray painting my spare peg boards with high gloss paint and think about maybe incorporating peg board into my plans for my kitchen. If it was good enough for Nanna, it should be good enough for me.


Posted by on April 19, 2012 in family, grand plans, house


Financial Planning, my way. AKA Mature & sensible. Really.

I want to spend, Fraser worries


Posted by on April 12, 2012 in grand plans, house, travel


Being Mature, Grown-up and Sensible. It’s a stretch, believe me.

After a weekend of gaming (LOTS of gaming), Fraser and I had our much-heralded Big Talk on Monday.

On the agenda: Would we or would we not go to Essen this year?

Now I don’t know about your Big Talks with our partners, but ours never go well. At least, not when we are both being Mature, Grown-up and Sensible. Frivolous and Irresponsible are much more charming.

Really, this talk was about a lot more than Essen.

[Imagine here that I wrote lots of serious stuff about Bigster and school. Actually I did but I deleted it because it was boring. Upshot: She can’t travel in October for the next 3 or 4 years.]

The stuff I deleted demonstrates that 2016 or 2017 would be the next time we could actually all go to Essen. And there’s a family consensus that, whilst cheaper, it would not be fair anymore for some of us to go and some of us not to. This is the down-side of being in a family that shares your hobby. Meh, Germany, what’s that? NOBODY wants to go to Essen *cue weird hallucinogenic music and lights*.

And after that, we have to wait till around 2020 for Otto to be done with exams. That’s forward planning for you! In fact, Fraser and I have a date in England in 2021. If we have done being Mature, Grown-Up and Sensible by then.

OMG IN TEN YEARS MY BABIES WILL BE ALL GROWN UP. << This way lies madness. Do not think about it. It does my head in. Frequently.

Anyway. That’s why we wanted to go this year.

Sadly, we overspent last year and – while we have reduced spending dramatically this year already – we are still spending too much. Which fails that Mature, Grown-Up and Sensible test by a LONG way. So the prospective trip has been cancelled.

BUT – and because it is never that simple in our lives:

Bigster wants to do a school exchange program in 2013 or 2014, spending April to June in Germany. Which would be awesome and exactly what she needs and I think she MUST DO IT – except that we would have to host her exchange partner and we just don’t have room. We always expected to renovate our house but it hasn’t happened. YET.

That’s right. MORE PLANS TO SPEND OUR MONEY. Which would involve re-mortgaging the house (ugh) but would improve our quality of life out of sight. At least until someone tells me what all my wonderful plans & schemes will actually cost.

But – again – this has to happen SOON. Because I don’t think it’s fair to renovate while your kid is doing their final years of school. (Note to self: Life would be much easier if I worried less about being fair.) And because the exchange partner would be here at the start of next year or the following year, and we need somewhere for her to sleep (apparently the cubby house would not be acceptable). And because our house gets messier by the day because we have already thrown out or given away most of what can be thrown out or given away and we just keep collecting games books shoes stuff. We need the extra space. And because my brother & his wife live in the same municipality as we do and their house plans have just been rejected after the Council spent ten months considering them. Which I prefer to call NOT considering them. SERIOUSLY. TEN MONTHS. SO RUDE. With similar stories from other local friends, we have to get started soon or we will be in our nineties before ANYTHING gets done! And the kids will probably have left home by then.

But also because I want a game room and a hidden door and all the awesomeness I am planning for. (You can see some of it here, on Pinterest, if you are interested). (Aside: OMG! PINTEREST!!! What a time suck!)

Cue much Angst and Obsessing from me.

Also, betting odds. To wit:

  • Go to Essen this year: 678,755:1 (Coincidentally, this equates to the odds of winning the lottery with a 12-game ticket. Must ponder that.)
  • Go to BorderCon this year: 1:785 (unless something dramatic happens, we’ll be there)
  • Renovate house this year: 2:1 (I think the odds are good but I always do. Note: This does not include allowance for time-wasting by municipal staff.)
  • Go to BGGcon this year: 364:1 (Still a VERY slight chance of this as there is a work-related conference the week before.)
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in grand plans, house, travel


Bought less today (I think)


  • little Christmas thingies for the girls and my work’s potential KK ($38)
  • Lunch with colleague ($24)
  • Apps ($7 or so) (oops)

NOT glass for our front window, because the *(*#@#% glazier who Fraser contacted did not show up. Yeesh.

Oh – and I made F get pizza for dinner because I was so tired by the time I got home that I literally could not stand up any more.

I took Bigster to school late today, because the police were coming. In my parent wisdom, I judged it more educational for her to watch them fingerprinting our front door than to go to the first half of her double Art class. I’m comfortable with that decision.

Oh yeah – and the whole fuss for 16 hours or so about NOT TOUCHING THE DEADLOCK? Apparently it’s really really hard to get prints off a deadlock so they didn’t even try. Aarrrgh – we had been going out the back door to avoid having to touch it.


Posted by on December 14, 2011 in house, shopping, Uncategorized



Sovereign Hill

On Sunday morning, we got up, got dressed, drove to Sovereign Hill, had a lovely day just as planned and then came home.

The End.

OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that simple (is anything, ever?).

On Saturday night, something went pear-shaped at Fraser’s work and he had to go in to fix it. At about 11pm. He got home at 1, with work to do Sunday morning. Meanwhile, there was a suspicious wet area on Otto’s rug, right under the light fitting.

On Sunday morning, the bowl we’d left on Otto’s rug was about half-full. No signs of marks on the roof, though, so unless she peed in the bowl and then tipped in about 600 ml of water (I wouldn’t put it past her, although I doubt that this is what happened) then the leak was coming through the centre of the ceiling rose … and down the light fitting. Even worse, there is flooring in the roof above Otto’s room, so it was either coming in under that or it was soaking through the floor.

The access hatch to the roof is in the storagey annexe to Otto’s bedroom. Which was Full Of Stuff. So I cleaned it out, and got the Bigster to help. And then the Bigster cooked pancakes for everyone, and eventually we got into the roof and couldn’t see a wet bit at all although Fraser did notice that the flashing around the chimney is looking more than a little dodgy. Not sure what this means.

Meanwhile, of course, we Still Had Not Left – although everyone, including the exchange student, had climbed up into the roof and had a look around.

We finally got to Sovereign Hill around 1pm, and met up with another family and their exchange student for an afternoon of cold and wet 1850s goodness. I think the $140,000 gold bar (3 kg) was the definite highlight, although Otto and Biggie enjoyed the 45-minute underground mine tour as well.

Home again and the kids went to a trick-or-treat organised by a school mum for the benefit of the Hong Kong children. Our exchange student wasn’t keen to dress up and eventually wore an old dress of the Bigster’s, but refused to wear a wizard’s cloak or anything like that. Having no shame, I wore my witch dress and my children were suitably humiliated.

From the Department of Small Mercies, though:  there has been no sign of any more water in Otto’s room.

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Posted by on November 1, 2010 in going_out, house


Where there’s smoke …

We have an enclosed wood fireplace in our living room.

For the first few years we lived here, it was the Only Heating we had. In the whole, drafty house.

We’d get home from work, put our coats ON, and try to light the fire. Sometimes we failed, and it would take an hour before the place started to warm up.

Overnight, we’d put on a mallee root, but it never quite burned till morning.

When Bigster was born, we bought a radiant heater for her room, but didn’t think to actually do anything about the rest of the house. Getting up for 3am feeds was, well, it was pretty close to impossible. Try juggling a hungry, crying baby while you add a couple of logs to a fire. They’d just be starting to burn when she finished her feed!

Not long after I found out I was pregnant with Otto, I got back-paid for a year-old payrise. When I got home that day, there was a leaflet in the letterbox offering a percentage off central heating.

Clearly, the fates were on our side. Between backpay and discount, I think we only had to find about $500 to get the system installed.

And ever since, we have been toasty warm. And the fireplace has never been used, not once.

Until last Friday.

But let’s backtrack a bit.

A couple of years ago, when we had the Big Smell, I got a chimney sweep in and he removed a dead bird from the chimney. He also offered to put some wire around the top of the chimney, so that birds couldn’t get in. I thought this sounded like a fine idea, as long as we could still use the fireplace. And then he left and didn’t put the roofplate back into the fire, and it was really heavy and so Fraser and I just left it lying there in the Too Hard Basket AKA the fireplace.

Then we didn’t use the fireplace … until last Friday, when Otto and I decided that we should OMG HAVE A FIRE because it was OMG COLD. So I struggled and got myself covered in ash and managed to get the roofplate back in.

And then we went out to the woodpile and we chose some nice pieces of wood and kindling and we even got a few briquettes to help get the fire started, and we bashed them to make sure they didn’t have spiders in them, and we brought them in and we built a lovely little fire. And Otto went and got the matches, and we lit the fire and watched it burn prettily, and watched the firebox fill up with smoke that OMG STARTED POURING OUT INTO THE LIVING ROOM.

And it was Not Good.

And I fiddled with the dampers and things, and they only made more smoke.

So I googled chimney sweeps and found yet another one that I hadn’t used before and I rang him and he reassured me that EVEN IF EVERYTHING CAUGHT FIRE it was not going to make my firebox explode but it might get rawther smoky. And we opened all the doors and all the windows and clearly it worked because when Fraser got home he said OMG WHY DO YOU HAVE ALL THE DOORS AND WINDOWS OPEN and not OMG WHY DOES THE HOUSE STINK OF SMOKE.

And the roast lamb in the oven kind of out-smelled the smoke.

And today, finally, the chimney sweep came. And Otto was refusing to get dressed and I said QUICK GET DRESSED YOU CAN SEE A CHIMNEY SWEEP and she said DUH MUMMY I HAVE ALREADY SEEEN MARY POPPINS and I said OMG I DO NOT THINK THIS GUY DANCES and eventually she did get dressed. And we giggled as the chimney wobbled from being swept, and it was really very very clean.

But at the top of the chimney there was a BIG BALLED UP BLOB of wire. Just stuffed into the top of the chimney, and stopping all the smoke getting past.Yes, it would have stopped birds, but that was kinda secondary to actually being able to use the chimney for the purpose for which it was intended.

So my chimney sweep (yes he was small and kinda wiry) got to work. And now we now have thick galvanised chicken wire around the OUTSIDE of the chimney and a nice clean swept chimney and a roofplate that is in its correct position. And I have had a LESSON in how to use the fireplace (note to Fraser: We were doing it right. Yay.).

And there might be a fire tonight.

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Posted by on October 20, 2010 in house