This past year we have been working hard to clear my late mother's flat and my father-in-law's house for sale. At the same time we have been helping two of our sons set up in unfurnished flats.
This has brought home the lesson that one should try to avoid buying anything for the home that cannot easily be transported in an ordinary-sized car. Sofas are one of the biggest offenders on this rule and we have seen one sofa that only just squeezed through the doors and one that simply would not go in. An old sofa could not be disposed of without taking it apart with a jemmy, a sharp knife, and a saw.
Some sofas are designed to come apart, making them far easier to transport. What a great idea and not something I had come across before 2023.
This concept can be taken further. One lovely old chest of drawers was made of thin wood and divided into two halves (top and bottom), making it light and easy to remove. We aim for a kitchen with a combi-microwave and plug in induction hobs instead of a built-in oven and hob.
Avoid built in cupboards and kitchens. (The dishwasher and washing machine are a problem though.)
Also in trying to get rid of stuff I came across Freecycle. This is a website with simple but effective functionality that helps people find good homes locally for their unwanted stuff. You can't sell stuff but you can give it away if someone wants it and is willing to collect. (Freegle is an app that does much the same.)
I've noticed that some good items appear from time to time – not just junk – and this is almost always because the items are big pieces of furniture that would not fit into the back of an ordinary sized car. So, despite the attractions of good stuff free, I would steer clear of those items.
In contrast, a free TV, dining chairs, dining table, bubble wrap, and many other useful things come up often and are relatively easy to collect. Don't buy new.
The progressive tobacco sale ban
The proposal to ban sale of tobacco products to people who turned 14 in 2023 took me by surprise. I had no idea more action was intended and had just assumed that politicians would continue to shy away from this issue rather than get criticism from the smoking lobby.
However, this particular scheme cleverly dodges a lot of the usual resistance. That resistance usually comes from addicted smokers and the tobacco industry, for obvious reasons. However, addicted smokers will still be allowed to buy their stuff so they have little to complain about. The industry can complain but at least it has a steady and predictable decline to plan for. If a person is working in the tobacco industry now then they have a clear choice between a career switch and retirement. There is time to do that, which softens the blow to them.
I like this idea and hope it will be applied to other addictive problems in future.
Low drive holidays
Over the years we have tried different holiday concepts. In 2023 we stayed in a converted hayloft at the foot of the Malvern Hills. We stayed for three nights and did not get into our car once throughout. Instead, we walked from our hayloft and took public footpaths in various directions up and along the Malvern Hills.
It felt super-healthy and there was an unexpected benefit. That week was a heatwave in England and I worried that it would be too hot to do the walking we had hoped for. However, with walks on our doorstep we could take advantage of a cool morning and some cool evenings to get in all the walking we wanted. We would have been less flexible and responsive in a different location that required driving to places we wanted to visit.
Best wishes for the Yuletide period and good luck in 2024.
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