The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


jackdaws nesting in our chimneyA few years ago Danny admitted that he had considered leaving me.

“The problem is that you are so untidy. You have too much stuff and too little space. At one point I just felt I couldn’t cope.” He stared at me with a slightly pop eyed look. Probably expecting an explosion.

I could only agree with him. Luckily he has very little in the way of possessions. Even the Min Pins have more toys. His arrival at the cottage had a big impact on my life and a small impression on the space. Until he tired of living out of a suitcase and suggested that his own wardrobe would be a better option.

I averted disaster by buying a small shed. Not as a chilly walk in wardrobe for Danny rather a place to move all my stuff that was compressed in the wardrobe. We spent a morning shifting the stuff from wardrobe to shed.
“When are you ever going to use a shooting stick? That outboard motor’s leaking oil. What about this roll of lino? We have carpets.”

“The lino is for lino cuts.” I often buy in bulk. It’s cheaper, if you actually use the stuff.
“OK, keep the lino. Why don’t we just chuck the rest?”


He has benefited from his magpie princess. Once I raised the money for a weekend away by selling some early 20th century fishing rods and reels that I was storing in the barn, just in case.
“Surely if you take up fishing, you’d want a super, lightweight rod and reel. This stuff is over a hundred years old. You wouldn’t cut a dash on the riverbank and they’d be difficult to use.”
Cheffins auction rooms obliged.

Before the terrible day when he hired the giant skip and cleared some of “the tat” from the barn, we usually had a selection of replacements if something got broken. Some of them were older than me and a few still worked with a little care and the gentle touch of an oily rag.

Things have got out of hand over the past few months at the cottage. Even I am finding it hard to locate ingredients in the larder and cope with the buffeting landslide when I open a “stash” cupboard door. Suddenly the idea of the practical use of space is appealing.

As D is away on business this week I decided to take a few days off and tackle the kitchen. Already I’ve found lost treasures. A Rose Elliot cook book, my phone charger and an unrecognisable object under the cooker which could have been an ancient potato or a large anaesthetised slug. It was guzzled so fast by Inca that I’m still not sure.

Already I’m fighting the seductive trill of the magpie daemon.
“Why not just shift some stuff into the attic before Danny gets back and think about it later? He’ll never know. You might need the weighing scales without weights one day. You could probably make your own weights if you put your mind to it.”

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  1. plumsource

    I’m a complete clutter queen too! I have little piles of things all round the house that “may come in handy” or that “I could make something out of” or that I simply haven’t put away. It does get distressing and I wish it would all magically file itself away in organised labelled boxes in an imaginary wing of the house but hey ho…

    I’ve dedicated part of my blog to fellow clutter chums where we can all embrace the clutter! Have a peek at other people’s clutter – it’ll make you feel better!

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Minamoo

    Great to hear from you.

    It’s so hard to throw away books. I sold a lot of my academic ones when I left uni years ago and they made quite a lot of money. Since then I have always found it pretty impossible to offload any books.

    However, I do have a decent pile for the church fete this May.

    How exciting that you are buying your first house! Good luck with the move.

  3. Minamoo

    Hello Fiona!

    I know it’s been an age since I last posted on here but I do still read every single post. I have been ridiculously busy as my PhD is really picking up speed now so I haven’t really had the time. I’ve been reading your blog as a ‘treat’ for when I’ve been good, got a load of work done and need a break! However, this time I simply HAD to post something!

    I am a hoarder and always have been. The last time we moved house I actually found a copy of the student paper from my first undergraduate year at Warwick uni lurking amongst my notes! It is however getting a bit insane and I have made the huge decision that the two weeks I spend at Peter’s after I hand in my first draft of the report I’m working on will be spent sorting out, throwing away and packing up all my stuff in preparation for the big move on the 2nd of May. Our current landlady wants to sell the house we’re in so we have instead decided to buy somewhere of our own but there is the distinct possibility that we will be homeless for a few weeks in between moving out of here and into our own place. We’re bribing various neighbours to let us store stuff in their garages but obviously we can’t take up that much space so we’re going to REALLY have to cut down on the amount of stuff we have. I fear that the first casualty is going to be my humongous collection of books. šŸ™ I’m hoping that if I throw away enough of the trashy novels, I can guilt Peter into letting me keep the rest! Fingers crossed………

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate(uk)

    I can totally empathise with that cowardly behaviour!

  5. Kate(uk)

    Oh no, not the bathroom cupboards! I cannot work out how we manage to fill the many cupboards in the bathroom so successfully.The even greater mystery is how my daughter is managing for toiletries whilst she is away at college as her shelf in our bathroom is still full to bursting….every now and then I open the bathroom cupboards, look inside, close them, walk away and find another job to do.I’m just a coward.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate(uk)

    I am struggling here. I’ve done quite a lot in the kitchen and then it’s the larder and bathroom!

    But it’s gradually becoming a bit my efficient!

    Hi Amalee

    I think that it might damage the camera!

  7. amalee issa

    Fiona, take some photos of your rammel, and put them up here for us all to poke through. There is nothing so intriguing as other people’s treasures.


  8. Kate(uk)

    It is so encouraging to know that there are lots of other people out there struggling with “piles”.Clearing and throwing is a joyous experience and I must admit that living with a super-hoarder has made me much better at keeping my own possessions down to a more reasonable level. Happy Spring Cleaning one and all!

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Katherine

    Good to hear from you!

    You are right and well done you. Perhaps, I could pretend that I was emigrating and do the same.

    Sometimes itā„¢s the Japan Airlines cruet set that touches you far more deeply than the priceless dinner service. I can understand your dilemma. Well done for fighting through.

    I laughed out loud at the towel on the floor. That was me thirty years ago.

    The bamboo screens sound tempting but I am gearing up to off load mode at the moment.

    Hi Moonroot

    Thanks for your wise advice.

    I hadnā„¢t thought about it before but Freecycle is a much better option than the tip.

    Hi Pamela

    Your ski pants story made me giggle this morning.

    Iā„¢ve experienced the Ėœmess embarrassmentā„¢ when invited guests arrive!

    I used to love house clearance auctions, and picking through car boot sales. Now I just donā„¢t have the space to accommodate anything.

  10. Hi Fiona

    The only time I regretted sending an item to the charity shop was a pair of ski pants which had gone because they were too long and I had bought shorter replacements at Aldi. When I offered to share my gear with my sister to save money I looked everywhere with increasing frustration before finally realising where they were. She is 7 inches taller and at least one size smaller than me so it is hardly surprising that when she told a friend of this arrangement there was a certain amount of incredulity expressed. There was a look of Coco the clown when she stepped out onto the ski hill in short baggy pants but she carried it off with aplomb!

    A hoarder living alone is worse than living with a non-hoarder as there is no-one to keep the ever encroaching mountains of stuff in check; no guilty conscience as you buy that item “just in case” and then step over in the hall for the next 3 months as you really don’t have anywhere to put it. Just that sinking feeling of apologising for the mess when unexpected visitors arrive and you have to pretend that you have been too busy for the last few days to tidy up and the realisation that this really isn’t a great way to live. Do I really need to climb over 6 bags of knitting to get to my chair to watch TV?

    Have you ever been to a house clearance auction? Now that’s where the bargains are to be had …

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