Friday, 30 January 2015

They were really disgusting - but now look at them!

Have you ever bought something and then realised the error of your ways? We invested in some really good quality cream sofas about 10 years ago and then the kids came along. We learned the hard way that cream sofas and kids don't mix!  Our lovely sofas gradually turned from cream to a filthy grey colour (this was mainly due to them wiping sticky hands, half eaten apples and runny noses on them). I took the covers off and got them dry cleaned a couple of times but it was really difficult to get the covers back on afterwards and they never looked that great either.  

We gave up after a while and they got greyer and greyer.  When friends came round they laughed at our sofas and we had periodic conversations about re-covering them or getting them professionally cleaned. Re-covering would have been quite an expensive option and cleaning would work out much cheaper - if it worked, which we really weren't convinced about.  We kept deciding it wasn't worth doing anything about them until the kids got a bit older.  

They are a bit older now and most of the time we manage to convince them to wash their hands before they go anywhere near them (yes the sofas were filthy, but we were training them in case they went near other people's sofas or in case our sofas were clean one day). So just before Christmas my husband came to the decision that now was the time to try getting them cleaned.  They were looking particularly bad and we were having all the family over on Christmas day.  Plus we want to have the option to rent out our house when we are away (for a weekend or a holiday) and we really couldn't do that with our sofas looking like that.

Mr ETL found a company that would do a test patch for £30 and then if we went ahead and got them cleaned they would deduct the £30 from the final cost. We got the test patch done  and had a nice big clean patch in an otherwise filthy sofa. The clean patch convinced us to go the whole hog and then they were too busy to come back again to do the rest of it until after Christmas - oh well you can't have everything :). Now however, the sofas look amazing!  In fact they look a bit like a teeth whitening advert (you know when the teeth are all white and shiny, except in this case they are sofas and cream coloured - I know what I mean :) ). We did notice that there were a few patches that didn’t get picked up the first time round (it can be hard to see how clean they are until fully dried), but they came back and went over them again and they got most of them. There were a few bits they just couldn't do anything about, but overall they look a million times better than they did!

I just assumed that the cleaning solution wouldn't be particularly eco-friendly and was going to deal with it in return for reviving the sofas, but that was where I was wrong - I totally underestimated my husbands powers of research! It turns out that the product they use to clean the sofas is completely non-toxic and fragrance free. Natural Carpet care is run by a father - Spencer Davies (pictured with me above) and his two sons - take a look at their website here. I discovered that Spencer is really into being eco-friendly - he's a vegetarian, only drinks out of glass bottles and was really keen to try out this non-toxic cleaning product as soon as he heard about it.  As you can imagine we had a long chat - it was really nice to meet a local businessman who cares about the environment!

Spencer took a bit of footage of the sofas being cleaned so you can see for yourself how disgusting they were and how much cleaner they became.

We also took photos of one of the sofas - it was really awful, but thankfully looks much better now!

The sofa cleaning cost us £175 in total which I managed to negotiate a bit off when I mentioned that I write a blog and started haggling with him - everyone loves a bit of haggling don't they ;).  He even very kindly said I could write an article about my blog for his site - so keep your eyes peeled on the news section of their website! If we had re-covered the sofas it would have been a lot more expensive - maybe about £1000 or more depending on the type of fabric we wanted and actually I now realise there was nothing wrong with the fabric we had - it just needed a bit of a clean!

All I need to do next is to take pictures of my home containing these lovely clean sofas (for when we want to rent it out) before any sticky hands accidentally go near them.

So before you think your sofas, carpets or rugs have had it try getting them cleaned and if you aren't local take the time to find someone who uses a non-toxic product!

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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

January blues

This month has been a strange month for me in many ways. For the first time I have 5 school days a week to myself.  In theory I have more time to do stuff than ever before.  In practise I feel like I have too many things to do and not enough time!

This is partly because I have a long to do list and I am feeling overwhelmed by it.  To be able to rent out my car or my home or my stuff I need to make sure it is clean, looks it's best, is organised and tidy.  The walls and doors in my home could do with a new coat of paint and as I have mentioned previously my car has a whole load of little dents in it. There are so many things to do I have been struggling to work out where to begin and if I'm honest it has been stressing me out a bit!  Plus it isn't just the practical side which is worrying me - I feel quite out of my comfort zone with quite a few of my ideas, but then I felt quite out of my comfort zone with a lot of the ideas I had for my Year of Eco Challenges and they worked out well (in the end :) )

Alongside that I have been writing a book, which will hopefully help people looking to go on their own ecothrifty journeys!  Sometimes I have bursts of inspiration and all I want to do is write and write.  Then I start wondering who on earth is going to want to read my book, aren't there loads of better books out there etc etc and from time to time I lose confidence in what I'm doing.  To be honest that has happened throughout the time I have been writing this blog.  I have dips in confidence where I wonder if it is all worth it, but I do think that is normal and they always pass. So I will keep going with the book writing.

Another problem I have been having is not feeling lonely exactly, because I love spending time by myself and I do see people every day  - if nothing else I have a chat on the school run, but I think I need a bit more structure to my week and to have planned time out of the house at least once or twice a week.  My main plan is to go to an exercise class, but every week I come up with an excuse not to go -I need a friend to drag me along with them!

I've been struggling to work out how to focus my time and because of that indecision I don't feel like I am being very efficient at anything, which is really frustrating!

One last thing which may have been making me a little blurggh is that I have been doing dry January. I don't drink much usually, but I starting drinking more than I should especially over Christmas and combined with being sugar free, I am getting no sugar hits at all and that can be hard at times...Even a bit of alcohol and I put on weight and need to get over the sugar addiction again.  On the upside since I stopped drinking I have lost weight again!

It isn't all doom and gloom though.  I've come up with a plan to try to make my money making challenge less stressful by spreading it over the course of the year and have dedicated a whole page on the blog to it (take a look here). That should give me time to plod away at the book and do everything else I need to do (like the washing, the school runs...).  

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Is it a good idea to rent out my car?

How would you feel about letting a stranger drive off with your car?  I'm currently considering renting out my car on the days that I'm not using it, especially on the weekends and I'm just not sure yet whether it is a good idea or not!  We have two cars and we need to use both of them during the week, but we rarely need to use both of them on the weekend.

At first thought it sounds a bit scary.  What about insurance or roadside assistance? What if the driver wrecks my car? How do I know I can trust them? What about petrol costs?

I've been looking into easyCar Club (see their site here). It is free to list your car on the site (they take commission on every rental). They give you free RAC cover for a year which covers the person renting out the car and the car owner.  Fully comprehensive insurance for the driver and the owner is arranged by EasyCar when the car is rented out, which is totally independent of the owners usual insurance.  It covers providing a courtesy car if needed. Also owners can review drivers on the site, which may help to provide reassurance about how trustworthy they are. Drivers have to replace the petrol they have used before they return the car.

This is all great, but is it worth it?

Over the last few days I have been washing and waxing my car. I was supposed to do that last week - read more here - but everything takes longer than I think it will! This is a pretty momentous event as my car has not been washed since I got it a few years ago and I have never waxed a car in my life! Usually I just think there are better things to do in life than wash cars and it is a waste of water and isn't that what rain is for :).  I was going to wash it with a sponge and water in a bucket (low on water usage), but it has been so cold recently I decided to use the jet wash at my local petrol station (not so great for water usage and I felt a bit guilty about this).  It took me a little while to work out what to do with it. It is a bit complicated at first glance as it has various different setting and different brushes and it doesn't tell you which brush to use on which setting and you have a set amount of time to do everything in.  I also wasn't too excited about using the bottle of car wax stuff we have at home which says toxic on it!  I've done it now though!

After all that effort, my car still doesn't look that great. We went through a phase when our kids would run to get into my husbands car and fling open the car door and bash it straight into my car which is usually parked next to it.  So I have a series of small dents and bashes which are showing up really nicely now :)  I tried using a chipstick thing but it doesn't seem to be doing anything, so I'm not sure if I need to take it somewhere to be sorted out professionally... Plus I haven't even got started on the inside yet. There is a muddy boot print on the back of one of the car seats and there seems to be popcorn in every nook and cranny (I often give them homemade, slightly salted popcorn as a snack after school in the car on the way home)!

So my question is - would I have to go to this level of effort every time I rent the car out? Would I have to wash and hoover the car each time? Ideally my car would just generally be cleaner and I would only feed my kids snacks that aren't messy and I would make sure no muddy shoes went in the car every again, but in real life will that really happen??

If I was earning huge bucks then it might be worth it.  I looked at some similar cars to mine being rented out on easyCar Club though and I think my car could be rented out for around £12 a day- that seems like a very small amount of money to me, to watch someone drive off with my car!  It cost me £3 to wash my car and if I did that every time I'm only getting £9 a day!!!  If I did rent out my car at £12 a day, 2 days a week for a year (and didn't have any costs) I could make £1248 a year.  At £9 a day taking into account the £3 - I would be making £936 a year.  This money is taxable too (although this wouldn't affect me because I'm not earning enough, it may make it less attractive for someone who is).  This is before I take into account the mileage that could be added to my car.  I can't see anything on the easyCar Club site about mileage, but people may well want to visit relatives far away on weekends and add quite a lot of mileage to my car.  The more miles my car has on it, the more it loses value and the quicker it will need servicing and repair... I don't know quite how to quantify this cost, but it will definitely eat into the money made...

£1248 over the course of the year is still quite a lot of money though and in slightly warmer weather I can stick to washing my car with a bucket of water and a sponge.  Plus if I found some local people who regularly want to borrow my car and I build up a relationship with them then it might seem more worth it (plus I could find out where they want to drive the car to and make sure I only lend it to people who want to drive locally).

The other thing on my side is that my car is quite old and isn't worth that much.  I am just within the limit for easyCar Club's rules - it has to be 10 years old or younger and have no more than 120,000 miles on the clock.

On balance I'm not entirely convinced it will be worth it, but I won't know for sure until I try so I am going to give it a chance (once I've finished cleaning my car) and see what happens! What do you think - would you be comfortable doing this?  Do you think it would be worth it?

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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A booking and an onion rescue mission!

Things can change really quickly in the world of renting out rooms and one of the agencies we are registered with decided they did have a student for us after all!  We now have one arriving on Saturday who will be staying with us for 8 weeks.  We will be paid £129 a week for them to stay half board - that's £1032 we will be paid in total - a good start to my goal of earning £10,000 in a year without getting a job I think!

I came up with a plan for this week (read more here) and it was going well until today.  I met with the lady from the student agency (tick) and I cleaned and tidied my house (tick).  Today I was meant to be clearing out the room for the student (even more urgent now we have one coming on Saturday), but first thing this morning I made soup.

I felt I was being particularly organised as I make soup about once a week and then freeze it in portions to use over the course of the week.  Usually what happens is that it gets to lunch time and I realise I have run out of soup, but today I was ahead of the game :).  Anyway it took quite a while to make the soup as I had run out of onions inside and went outside to get some more.

We bought a whole load of onions at the end of last September and have been storing them in a cold frame in the garden (read more here).  The previous year we did the same and it worked brilliantly. Today though when I went outside to get some I found that some of the cardboard covering them inside the cold frame was damp and mouldy in places.  I found 2 completely rotten onions and quite a few covered in mould.

I brought in the mould covered onions, peeled off a layer of onion skin and gave them a wash - they looked as good as new.  Then I left them on my kitchen counter to dry out and I will prioritise using up these onions. I took the mouldy cardboard out and replaced it with some fresh cardboard.  I need to go back and sort it out a bit more though as there are two layers of onions and I need to check on the bottom layer and waterproof the cold frame a bit more...

Once I had sorted out my onions (for the time being) I got back to making soup and I couldn't help myself, I had to do a bit more experimenting with homemade slow cooker alternatives. This time I found a more square shaped freezer bag to use and lined the bottom with Woolcool (as pictured above). The Woolcool came with some chilled food I had delivered from Abel and Cole. I brought my pan of soup to the boil, wrapped the pan in a towel, placed it on the Woolcool in the cool bag, put another towel on top, zipped up the cool bag and placed it in my conservatory.  We have a small south facing conservatory and it gets really hot in there when the sun is shining, so it made sense to put it in there. After an hour an a half I had steaming hot soup - much better than having the gas on for 30 mins to an hour like I used to! (Read more about my adventures with DIY slow cooker alternatives here).

After that the day seemed to fly by in a blur of chores and the kids will be home soon.  Oh well - I will have to get cracking with clearing out the spare room tomorrow!

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