Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nearly the end of the month

The month has flown by. I can hardly believe I've been in my new job for a whole month. I'm still enjoying it although I do sometimes still feel a bit frustrated at just not knowing quite how things work. I'll get there eventually but for now it does kind of feel as if something or other comes up every day that I haven't done yet. My boss seems happy at least - she commented the other day that she thinks things are going really well.

And, since the last day of the month is fast approaching, so to the day I'll finally get paid again. Since I'm only working a 20-hour week I am, of course, only getting a 50% salary. There are online calculators to figure out how much you'll get but I'm always a bit wary that they might not be entirely accurate. So I was glad when I got my payslip today to see that what I had thought I would get is what I am getting and the online calculator was only a couple of euro out. June started out very quietly in terms of translating but I've had a few jobs over the last week or so and as soon as those invoices are paid, I will have enough to not only cover this month's expenses but also to make a bigger payment to my credit card.


So, since I know people like to know the actual numbers. My new salary is just shy of 1,000 net per month. And my fixed expenses are:
Rent 590
Pension 50
Donations 65
Phone/internet 30
Mobile phone/internet 15
Electricity 40
Montly ticket 40
Dental insurance 40

870

So, my normal job is enough, just about, to cover fixed expenses and even to buy food for the month, assuming I kept to a fairly strict budget. Of course, I do have other expenses, the annual stuff that comes up needs to be saved for, for example. And, you know, some of those pleasures in life that I'd rather not do without (travel, for one. And choir). And of course paying off the rest of the moving costs. But that's what the sideline is for. I'll keep an eye out for a second third job but I don't need to stress too much about finding one. If the opportunity presents itself, I'll take it but for now, I'm happy to continue on like this.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Painting bookshelves

I'll be sick of this before I'm finished. I'm already getting a little bit bored but things are moving along so I just have to keep going now and it'll all be over soon. Books on shelves by Wednesday would be really fanstastic.  The paint I've used today is the one I bought in Dusseldorf to do the skirting boards. I didn't much like the feel of it there so I went and bought a different paint here, which I used for the tallboy. Expensive though so I decided to use the rest of what I had at least for the undercoats. It doesn't feel too bad on these though so whatever was on the skirting boards before must have made a difference.

At any rate, I can't do anymore today as I've finished that 375ml tin of paint now. But for my own records, here's what these bookshelves looked like before painting. Before cleaning, come to that and with the sun shining straight in so that you can't quite see the red of this dark colour. Have disliked these for so long, it is great to be finally doing something about it.

This one of two identical bookshelves is a bit beaten up at this stage so I'm going to have to remove the back and reattach it. I've cleaned it now and given the inside of the frame a quick first coat. Not a proper one but wanted to use up the paint that was on the brush and then just kept going.


 
This is the other one of the same type. The bottom half has had a second coat here, while the top half has only had one. In the meantime, I've done a second coat on the top half. And I've done two coats on all eight of the loose shelves as well as the three loose shelves from the smaller, lighter coloured shelves that you can see in the photo below.

The smallest shelves from that photo are now in the bedroom and the matching small corner shelf you can just about see is over the opposite side now. That photo feels like an awfully long time ago now. It was moving day. Before everything filled up!


I think I'm going to move the writing desk over to the opposite wall and try and centre the bookshelves a bit. So I'll have the smaller, lighter of the tall shelves in the middle (painted white) and the dark tall shelves (painted white) one on each side. And then the small square shelves (the ones with four shelves), one on each side of those again (not planning on painting those at the moment).


It might not be the prettiest set-up but at least it'd be somewhat more symmetrical.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Good enough

It's not perfect but after three coats I'm calling it good enough. Before and after....

I will try and clean paint off the hinges and drawer handles. Wanted to replace the handles but they are not coming off. Very old tallboy this, used to be in my mum's bedroom and I'm fairly certain it's at least a few years older than me.

'Scuse the photos, as always. Before was taken in evening and after...well, let's just say there are boxes blocking the light.
posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cleaning furniture

I've spent the day cleaning and moving around furniture. Now that I've been living here for a couple of weeks, I'm getting a better idea of whether I'm happy with the furniture in positions that were planned on paper. There are those things that just didn't really go well in the place I'd planned, there are those things that I had forgotten to plan a place for and then you live with it all for a while and change your mind about what should go where. Trying to make furniture from one place fit into the next is always difficult and it's made somewhat more challenging by the fact that most of what I have is second-hand anyway. Sometimes I do think it'd be much easier to have some kind of modular system from Ikea or somewhere, just to have everything matching no matter how you move it around. A lot of what I have is from Ikea but when you're buying second-hand, you end up with lots of individual pieces. That has its own charm but even though I did get rid of some furniture before moving, I still have probably more than is ideal for the space I have. Since I have so much stuff, though, I need plenty of cupboards and drawers to put it all in.

I've been painting my tallboy white and although I thought two coats would be enough, I'm leaning towards doing three on most of it. I have to do a second coat on the doors and do the drawer fronts as well and then I'll decide. Wasn't in the mood to start with that today though and so I started on cleaning some more stuff. I've never been the best at dusting although I did do it on occasion. What I never did, however, was really deep clean the insides of drawers and cupboards. Is this something that normal people do regularly? It's really kind of disgusting how filthy the runners of the drawers and things like that were. I may need to start remembering to do it all again every year or two. As I've been cleaning I've been putting those small pads onto the bottoms of the furniture as well. The floor here is really nice parquet and I want to look after it well if I can. I also glued together the various bits of my bedside locker (a three-drawer type) that have been irritating me for years because they kept coming apart.

And then it was a bit like a game of tetris for a while. Can't move that one until I've moved that one but in order to move that one I need to move this one over here. I put all of the painting and deocrating stuff that was just in plastic bags into a box. When I've finished getting things in order, that box will be labelled and put up into the attic, everything all in one place. I did bring a couple of things up to the attic today as well, mostly christmas decorations. Similarly though, I've been gathering them into boxes in an attempt to have everything in one place, so the effort will pay off in the end.

Tomorrow I'm going to try and clean the writing desk and the drawers that I keep all my stationary in. After that, it's the bookshelves. I'm wavering on these now. It is taking me so much longer to paint the tallboy than I thought it would that I'm just not sure how quickly I can get the bookshelves done as well. The main problem is a lack of space as I can't do one set and then move on to the others while they dry. I may end up unpacking things onto the shelves after all and then, when I have the space that is currently being occupied by boxes back, I can paint them. I need to examine the two dark ones anyway to see how much fixing they need. The backs need to be secured again but I'm actually now considering removing them completely and covering them with wallpaper before securing them properly. I do have wallpaper I could use and that would probably be faster anyway than painting. Then I'd just have to paint the frame and shelves.

For now, my hands are destroved with having been in and out of cleaning water all day and I suspect I will have several muscles aching for the next few days. I haven't unpacked anything more but it does feel like I made some progress so that's something.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

And the not so good about the move...money

Considering how much this move has ended up costing me, it seems even more crazy that I've done it for the sake of a not-highly paid 20-hours-a-week job. I still think it was the right decision though and although part of the debt I have now incurred did arise from careless, even reckless spending during the very stressful weeks of the move, a lot of it is just part of the cost of doing anything in Germany. It is a land of three-month notice periods so moving in just over a month meant some additional costs that I have no control over. Of course, there are some things that I still haven't gotten around to actually cancelling yet so a portion of these costs are ones where I've just missed the boat. But there's only so much I can do and I was close enough to breaking point a few times during May that I just had to decide to let them go and focus on getting the more urgent stuff done. Like making sure things like insurances and internet were transferred properly. As it turns out, the move will end up saving me about 25 euro per year for my house insurance, so that's something at least.

What with having to pay double rent for May (1,200), double monthly transport in June as I cancelled my ticket in Dusseldorf too late to avoid having to pay it there (80), pay a three-month deposit upfront for the new place (1,350), pay 2,000 for the movers (that was just the actual invoice and doesn't include other money for lunch, drinks, moving boxes and so on) and multiple train tickets between the two places (at 90 euro for a return trip), not to mention money spent on paint, supplies, and some to people to help with the painting (I'd estimate probably over 1,000 for this but am not going to wreck my head going back to figure it out - a lot stemmed from running out of time and just needing to get things done no matter what), it feels horribly like I learned nothing from previous mistakes. However, although there was a certain amount of "fuck it, if I'm in debt anyway let's just spend more money" spending as well, I did keep what costs I could to a minimum and, more importantly, I didn't let that kind of thing go on for too long. And for the most part, even that money was spent on things that I did need (even if I could have managed without some for a while) and will use for a long time.

And of course there are all the new costs that come up with living in a new place, such as joining the library, security deposit for a canteen card, security deposit for keys to the office and so on. It's always feels like a constant drip, drip, drip. Added to which, I will now be travelling for work on occasion. At least for the first three or four months this will be fairly regularly and being at a university, there's plenty of paperwork involved before I'll get the money repaid to me. I'm hoping that submitting everything promtly will result in promt repayment. At least all of the travelling I've been doing means I've been building up loads of points on my credit card. And I have this lovely view to look at every day. It makes me happier than I can describe to be back near some mountains (okay, hills) again.

I have no concrete plan in place as yet to pay off what I now owe. A lot will depend on my final salary (not long now until I know how much I'll be getting every month), and how I manage with financing part of my life from translations. I'm keeping my eye out for a second job as well, preferably what is called a mini-job or 450-basis job here if I could find a good one. In terms of tax, health insurance, social insurance etc., I can have one mini-job in addition to my normal job and not have to pay any contributions. It's probably the most effective way of earning an additional 450 a month but it's a bit of a minefield as these jobs can often be the most exploitative, with people being asked to work outrageously long hours and so on. We'll see how that pans out. 

Is that enough rambling for now? I've gotten back to tracking my budget properly again over the last couple of weeks and I think all of the really big expenses for the move are over and done with. As things stand today, my debt (made up of credit card, overdraft and 3,000 which my sister loaned me) comes to 7,140.93. The credit card will be the first to be paid off. The minimum payment is one-fifth every month and comes out by direct debit so there is no chance to put it onto the long finger. Apart from travel for work, I'll be doing my best to not use the credit card at all until it is cleared. It's currently at just over 1,500.

After that it'll be the overdraft (currently 2,600) and then I'll repay my sister, who doesn't seem to even really want the money back (she offered me money and I insisted that it be a loan). I have a lot of annual expenses coming up in the next few months though, so it is going to be a slow journey. At least one advantage of being in a new place is that there are no expected behaviours - I don't really know anyone to be going out for dinner with, assuming we'll go to that nice place, for example. I can just be the frugal/stingy person straightaway and no-one is wondering why I've changed.

I'm considering however, once the credit card is paid off, taking some time to build up a bit of savings. I'd like to have a constant 500 euro float in my current account so that even if I don't have a lot of translation one month, I'm not stressing too much about next month's money. I will have some tax return money coming to me so I might divert that perhaps. And I will hopefully get at least something back from my deposit from the old place. We did the handover on 31 May and she said she was happy that there was nothing I needed to pay for. A portion will be withheld to cover the annual costs (heating, electricity in common areas etc), which won't be calculated until early next year. However, there wasn't anyone ready to move in on 1 June so technically I'm still on the hook for the rent for June and July. They wanted to replace the floor in the bathroom so if the work can start on that, or if someone else moves in, I'd be officially released from my contract and no longer need to pay the rent for the remainder of the notice period. I'm trying not to be too hopeful though, to avoid disappointment. She did offer at least, to deduct whatever rent I will owe for those two months from the deposit so I'm spared having to fork over cash for the rent. Much as I love Germany, these three-month notice periods are a pain in the neck. If I hadn't moved so quickly I wouldn't have been able to take the job I got though, so in the end, it all worked out. Or it will. Watch this space.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Falling in love with my new town

I had a couple of things to take care of today and ended up wandering around my new town a little bit as well. Although having to travel 50 minutes to work is a bit of a timesuck, I'm glad now that I'm not living right in the middle of Heidelberg. Although I'm more or less in Heidelberg, the small town I'm in has everything you'd need and still retains that small town vibe. That's what it seems like so far anyway.

One example is the library. I went to join the library in Heidelberg last week. It's on my tram route home and I thought I could start stopping there on the way home to work on my laptop when I have translations. The facilities for study and work in Dusseldorf library were fantastic and the staff were always very helpful and friendly. So far, I have to say, I'm not quite so enthusiastic about Heidelberg. The staff were helpful enough but not especially friendly. Not unfriendly either but not really very warm and welcoming either. You have to pay 18 euro for the year but that's just for books, you have to pay extra for DVDs. It's only 1.50 per DVD but that's the kind of cost I'm going to have to be very careful about from now on. I did stay and work for a while but the table and chair I was at were quite small and I was very uncomfortable. I'm 5'9" so do need a certain amount of space to sit properly. I realised when walking out that there were some tables an inch or so higher than the one I'd been sitting at so obviously if I go again, I'll have to make sure to get one of those instead. However, there weren't any outlets to plug your laptop into (something that was on offer in Dusseldorf) so there definitely wouldn't be any long days spent working there. Not to mention the fact that one of the librarians did regular rounds to make sure nodoby was eating or drinking. While I understand that they don't want books messed up, other libraries even offer tea and coffee or snacks for free or via vending machines.

Compare that to my reception at the much smaller library in my little town today. I was signed up in a little bit more than no time because the woman taking my details was reminiscing about the holiday she took in Ireland years ago. It costs 10 euro a year at this library but they don't take that until the first time that you borrow something. DVDs don't cost anything extra and they have a fantastic selection of board games to borrow as well. That might be something all libraries have that I don't normally see because the children's section is separate and this place is smaller so you can see everything. But once I had my card I then got a full tour of the place, showing me exactly where everything is, how the books are organised, how the magazines and newspaper storage works, the small seating area and coffee/tea facilities, the children's area, the children's storytelling space and I was given a free copy of a book on the history of our town. She took the time to point out some of the funny things in it to me, too, such as a copy of an official letter from 1896 stating that children had to be off the streets by seven o'clock in the evenings. And then I mentioned I wanted to go along to a local choir soon and it turns out she sings in it, as does one of her colleagues that was also working at the time. So now they're expecting me next Wednesday at rehearsal. Small town life. I think I really am more suited to it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Moving slowly but doing something every day

I have to keep reminding myself that I made the decision before I actually moved that I was going to take my time unpacking. Even if it took me months, I reasoned, this was my chance to do things properly and not repeat some of the mistakes I made moving into the last place eight years ago. My new place may be smaller but it is nicer in many ways and in the spirit of new beginnings, I felt the frustration living with boxes for a potentially long time would be worth it in the end.

At the moment, more or less two weeks in, I'm started to feel that frustration a bit and so I'm glad I said it so often to so many people. I know in the end, it'll be worth it. And except for perhaps one or two days, I really have been doing a little bit every day. The kitchen was first up and the bedroom isn't too bad either. The main living room is not usuable but I'm going to clear a couple of things this afternoon so that at least I will have set up the table. For now, I've been using a stool at the nice wide window sill in my bedroom, or eating from a plate on my knee while sitting on my bed or, a couple of times, on a stool on the balcony. I do still have to find one or two boxes of kitchen stuff. Despite my attempts to move the boxes straight into the kitchen as they were arriving, it's so small that I quickly ran out of space. And typically, it's one of the boxes that was packed close to the end that is, presumably, right at the bottom of the pile. Which means I'm missing my big knives and my salad spinner. Sigh. I haven't really cooked a lot (it's far too hot for that) yet so I can manage with just the few small knives but I'm really missing my salad spinner. Tea towels just don't work as well (at least not when I'm doing it).


Speaking of teatowels - I washed this great potato storage unit this morning. I used to keep potatoes in the top and onions in the middle and the bottom mostly stood empty. So now I'll keep potatoes in the bottom, onions in the middle and have put tea towels and dishcloths in the top. Apron and tea cosy are resting on top, still have to find a final place for them. I will evenutally, I think, put this up on a shelf so that I have the entire counter as a workspace.

One of the reasons it's taking so long is that I am determined to properly clean every piece of furniture before using it again. There is nothing that doens't need it and there was no point in doing it just before the stuff got loaded on a moving truck. So, last weekend I got the big set of drawers that used to sit in the living room done. They are now in my bedroom and serving as my main clothes storage, with everything folded vertically à la Marie Kondo. 


I had started doing this a while ago but had just the shelves in my old wardrobe to store stuff on and it wasn't ideal. Now, I've just about managed to get all of my vest tops, t-shirts and long-sleeve t-shirts into one drawer and I'm delighted. I even got rid of a couple of things, reasoning that using that big drawer as a limiting influence on my clothes would be a good thing. So, in future, I only get to buy new things if something old goes, because otherwise it won't fit. One other drawer has trousers (except work trousers, which will hang in the wardrobe), swimwear and nightclothes. And a third has jumpers, cardigans and fleeces. All sorted and my first bag of donations went off to the clothes bank yesterday.


During the past week then, I got my green shelves/cupboard done. That involved a bit more work, as the back had never really been attached properly (I bought it second-hand) since I got it. So I also spent some time hammering those tiny little nails into the back. For now, I've unpacked the books that used to be on the small bookshelves in the sitting room (mostly TBR stuff and then the WoT and Harry Potter books) and designated the lower cupboard as storage for blankets and sleeping bags. Towels are on the smaller shelf for now, as are table cloths and napkins. And shoes are going into the middle storage portion, which I used to keep records in and really couldn't handle the weight. Trying to figure out the best use of everything, as I'm changing the uses of several pieces of furniture. It's occupying a good bit of my thinking but it's another thing I think will be worth it in the end. And almost every day, I get a box or two sorted and unpacked. 


I've made a couple of new purchases for the kitchen. A kettle and toaster, courtesty of Aldi. And a nice new insert for my cutlery drawer. I'm kind of getting a kick out of having brought a bit of colour into my kitchen and it feels like I will take much better care of these things than I did of the last, which were all bought just because they were the cheapest I could find in a hurry. It's only now, smiling at my red kettle every morning, that I realise just how much I disliked the stainless steel one I had. 

And after contemplating throwing out the breadbin that had been languishing unused and hidden under a pile of stuff on top of the fridge in my old place, I'm glad I brought it with me. I've borrowed my sister's trick of finding space for it by simply putting it under the toaster. Fits perfectly and uses what would otherwise be dead space. Very nice to have somewhere to keep the bread again instead of it getting in the way all the time.



So, all in all, although I am getting a bit sick of looking at boxes, I'm happy with what I have gotten done and it's proving to me that I really am on the right track to be taking my time and doing things properly. And although I need to be very careful with money now, a few careful purchases are just putting the finishing touches on my pleasure at living here.

Sure who wouldn't smile at this lovely burst of colour every time they opened the drawer to get a spoon?