Category Archives: Household Hints

Life is too short not to have a Filing System

How can people live without at least one small filing cabinet in their houses?  How do they access the mountains of paperwork which drop through our letterboxes, into children’s bookbags, handed to you on the doorstep by frightening, burly men …. oh sorry, forget that last bit.  But you get my point.

At any given time, I have a pile of papers on my desk that are waiting to be dealt with by return letter, the filling in of forms, the production of other documents, ‘phone calls at the very least and almost always requiring the handing over of shining piles of cash.

The only way of keeping on top of this lot is to have an accurate, well organised filing cabinet which is regularly scanned and weeded for superfluous and out of date papers.  I have a large filing cabinet that has been travelling with me for the last 20 years.

The top drawer is devoted to The Wartime Housewife (and who isn’t?), the second drawer is for major household categories that require money to change hands eg utilities, car, schools, bank, tax etc, important documents such as medical cards, passports, birth certificates, and instruction leaflets with their receipts and guarantees.  The third drawer is predominantly recreational – Scouts, vet, English Heritage and that sort of thing.

When the car needs insurance or an MOT, I go the Car File and take out the envelope marked ‘Car Docs’ which contains MOT, Insurance policy and the log book.  Today the Inland Revenue needed a copy of a document from several years ago and I was able to go straight to my drawer and retrieve it while the chap was on the ‘phone.

The thing about accurate filing is that it saves so much time.  Having systems for dealing with incoming mail and tasks means that you have infinitely more chance of keeping on top of things and significantly less tasks of letting something critical slip through the net.

I have an In-Tray next to my desk where papers go for sorting.  I then have three magazine holders on the other side of my desk marked ‘Things to be Done Imminently’, ‘School & Scouts Letters and Forms’ and ‘Things to be Kept at Hand’.  The things in the first two holders will also appear on my (typed) Things To Do List which is pinned to my noticeboard and, when completed, the documents are either filed or thrown away.

I also have plastic folders for ongoing issues (in the To Be Kept at Hand), such as the car accident I had last year and every time I make contact with the insurers, I add a note to the file with the details so that I have an accurate record of every step.

The other things I do which I find endlessly useful, is I keep a sheet on the computer which has a list of all my regular income and expenditure on a monthly basis and every time something changes, it is updated and a printout stored in the file.   This not only helps me to keep a tight rein on my finances but I am frequently asked for this information and I save so much time by having the data at my fingertips.

My only problem is that I do have a box of filing which came with me from the old house, but it is only small and if something isn’t in the file, it will be in the box.

Without these systems I would probably be in jail.  I have poor short term memory and too many demands and variables in my daily life.  My brain is, by nature, chaotic and I impose these structures in order to function. Before I realised the value of systems, I lived in chaos and was constantly fire-fighting.  Life is just too short.

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Filed under Household Hints, Life in general, Slider

Wills’ Cigarette Cards No 10: Making a Dog Kennel

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Filed under General DIY, Household Hints, Slider, Wills Cigarette Cards

Lost the integral plug for your washbasin? Problem solved!

The washbasin in my bathroom is one of those with an integral plug which is raised and lowered using a flimsy little handle behind the tap.  Sadly the plug is missing and they are jolly difficult to replace.  They are also jolly easy to lose things down as there is no grille in the plughole to stop one dropping contact lenses, earrings or plastic toys.  There are examples of all three down this particular plughole.

But then Boy the Younger solved it.  He placed a large glass marble into the plughole and it keeps the water in when you want to do washing but keeps your valuables out when one is merely inserting contact lenses or playing pirate ships with handfuls of Crazy Go-Gos, Lego or Playmobil. I think it looks wierdly cool.

Washbasin with missing integral plug

Basin with marble plug substitute

Giant marble filling the hole

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Wills’ Cigarette Cards No. 9: Distempering

Distemper may seem a somewhat outmoded decorative option, but anyone who has an old property will undoubtedly have come across it.  Also, anyone who is involved in conservation will be familiar with it, as well as lime mortar.  However, this is entirely separate from the veterinary condition and under no circumstances must you attempt to paint your dog, however shabby his appearance.
For more information on distemper and lime mortar click on Building Conservation.com.

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Filed under General DIY, History, Household Hints, Wills Cigarette Cards

Horror and achievement in equal quantities

Yesterday was a funny old day.  Despite several urgent administrative matters which reared their heads in the morning, I managed to complete my entire list of things to do, except the shelves.  These were not done because I ran out of red rawl plugs and I was buggered if I was going to drive five miles just to get some more – the TP  round the corner only sells them in batches of 20,000.

After I had done my jobs in the hall, I got the vacuum out to clean the carpets.  Because we are still hauling boxes and moving furniture, I have left a piece of off-cut carpet in the hall so the real carpet doesn’t get dirty.  I vacuumed the top and then lifted it up to vacuum underneath.

To my horror, the underside was absolutely crawling with maggots.  After the shock had worn off,  I tried to work out where they’d come from.  The carpet off-cut was relatively new and I had vacuumed under it recently, so it couldn’t be the carpet.  I checked for any rogue food which the boys might have dropped but there was nothing.

Then it dawned on me.  Last week we had very heavy rain and something organic and dead had been washed out of the gutter and, as I went out of the front door that night, the whole of the front step was covered with maggots.  I had poured boiling water on them and swept them up the next morning, but  clearly, some of them had got inside and snuggled up under my carpet.  Yuk. I would even go so far as to say ‘Eeooow’ in that slightly affected way of the Californian teenage girl.

I cleared up and carried on with my tasks.  Hooks were hung, steps were scrubbed, windows cleaned, ‘phone calls made, Boy the Younger was collected from school. I then went out to pick up Boy the Elder from the bus stop.  It’s only a ten minute drive and the first part is along a narrow road where one has to drive slowly because of parked cars.  20-25mph is about as fast as you can go.

As I came round a wide bend, I saw a group of little girls standing at the side of the road.  I slowed down a bit more, just in case, but they saw me and stepped back from the kerb.  Then, just before I drew level with the girls, two of them suddenly made a dash for it and ran straight out in front of my car.

I slammed on the brakes and literally, and I mean literally, stopped short of  the girl at the back by about four inches.  I stopped the car and got out, shaking.  Both sets of girls were stock still at the side of the road, obviously terrified that I was going to give them a bollocking.

I didn’t shout.  I checked that they were ok and then gave them a very serious but gentle lecture about crossing the road and how important it is to look both ways, twice, before crossing the road, looking and listening all the time.  The girls who didn’t cross were very upset and full of apologies.  The girl who I nearly hit just kept saying “I didn’t see you, I didn’t see you”.  Absolutely horrible.

I had a dear friend once who accidentally killed someone in a car and he never got over it.  He was driving down a main road and he saw a car coming out of a gateway and he slowed down just in case it pulled out.  The other driver saw him and pulled back.  But then, inexplicably, just as my friend was about to drive past, the car pulled out at speed and my friend ploughed into the driver’s side killing him instantly.  Fortunately the little girl who was in the passenger seat was unharmed.  My friend developed a crippling stammer which never left him.

Drive safely all of you.  And clean out your guttering.

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Filed under Children, Cleaning, Family and Friends, General DIY, Life in general, Transport

A simple and practical Outdoor Ashtray

Now that smokers have all been forced into the wilderness to carry out their unspeakable evil, the problem of what to do with fag ends has become an al fresco problem.

Which can now be solved with the Wartime Housewife’s Flower Pot Outdoor AshtrayImpervious to the Elements!

Simply buy a terracotta flower pot with matching tray, upturn the flower pot and deposit your ash and cigarette butts into the hole at the top.  The wind will not blow your nicotine nastiness all over the garden and the tray can then be emptied easily into the bin – and no Butts in your Buddleias!


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How to treat cup rings on leather-topped tables

Not a mark on it

A week or so ago I committed the cardinal sin of putting a hot, damp-bottomed mug directly onto a leather-topped table.  This immediately occasioned a white cup ring which fag-ash paste failed to remedy.  What to do?

I picked up a super little leather topped occasional table from the antique and bric-a-brac people who set up their stall under-cover of the Old Grammar School in Market Harborough.  It is exactly what I need beside my wing-backed armchair and upon which I place a table lamp, a magnifying glass for reading the small writing on DVDs and the beverage of my choice.  I usually user a saucer, even with a mug, to avoid marking tables or slopping, but on this occasion I forgot and the horrid white cup ring soon appeared.  Then I had a brainwave.

How to remove a white ring from a leather table top
The leather was brown so this is what I did:-

I fetched the dark tan shoe polish
an old soft toothbrush
a soft cloth

Apply the shoe polish to the leather, working it well in with the toothbrush
Leave for a while to really soak in

Buff off with the soft cloth
If the ring has not quite gone, repeat the process

This worked a treat and it looks beautiful.
You can also use vinegar which you apply in the same way, but finish off by buffing it up with furniture polish.

It is a good idea to oil leather tops occasionally to stop them drying out and cracking.  Get some oil and a soft cloth and work the oil gently into the top.  Leave it to dry naturally or wipe off any excess with kitchen paper.

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Filed under Cleaning, Household Hints