Cassiefairy – My Thrifty Life

Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog – Saving money every day with DIY crafts, sewing projets, low-cost recipes & shppping tips


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The ergonomics of working from home

If you’re a full-time freelancer like me, or someone who works just one day a week out of their home office, this is the blog post for you. That’s because I’m sharing some research I’ve done about the ergonomics of setting up a home workspace and I’m sure that it’ll help you enjoy working from home even more than you already do!

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If you’ve been making do with sitting at the kitchen table to do your work, or balancing your laptop on the arm of the sofa, or (like us bloggers occasionally admit) never even leave your bed, you won’t need me to tell you that it’s not the best way to work. You’ll ready know it yourself thanks to the numb bum, crick-in-the-neck and sore back you get at the end of the working day.

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Why don’t you have problems like this when you’re working at the office? Because most businesses have ergonomically designed desks and chairs, perfectly set up desks and monitors at just the right height. They need to provide a healthy working environment for their workers, and don’t want to have staff absences because a dodgy office chair caused spine problems for their employees.

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So the solution to having a more comfortable working environment at home is to replicate ‘the office’. I know it might seem dull (and you’ve only just got away from that bloomin’ office!) but you’re going to have to set up a proper desk, get a great office chair and stop working on that laptop. This guide below explains the best way to arrange your desk to make it ergonomically correct. And, most importantly, you’re going to have actually USE your newly arranged desk to do your work. No matter how tempting the sofa looks!

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Working pains: An ergonomic solution to using my laptop all day

Calling all bloggers, freelancers and students. In fact, anyone who works on a laptop for any length of time. I’m worried about you! As I’ve become busier and busier with my freelance writing work, I’ve found myself chained to my desk for longer periods of time. While I love my work (and don’t really want to stop at the end of the working day…) I’ve noticed one side effect of enjoying my job so much… my body is suffering.wireless-keyboard-and-mouse-pen-setting-up-an-ergonomic-desk-workspace-7My back aches from sitting hunched over my desk, my wrists and fingers hurt from all the typing, and I’ve got a crick in my neck from looking down at the laptop screen. While it’s okay to use a laptop recreationally (and if you’re traveling for business, of course) I’m pretty sure that it’s not the most ergonomically correct way to work. In fact, I know it isn’t.

You see, I went to a physiotherapist over the summer to try to sort out my neck. What I thought was pain caused by a whiplash injury, actually turned out to be something different. Okay, the accident probably didn’t help the situation and has definitely weakened my neck, but it transpires that my working environment was just as much to blame. While I could do all the stretches and exercises that the physiotherapist recommended, my neck and back weren’t going to get any better if I carried on working at a laptop. But why?wireless-keyboard-and-mouse-pen-setting-up-an-ergonomic-desk-workspace-2I’ve seen that diagram of the ‘correct desk set up’ dozens of times in my working life. I’ve been shown it as part of health and safety training in almost every job I’ve ever done. We all know that the keyboard should be slightly lower than your bent elbows, and that the screen should be at eye level. But if you’re using a laptop, that’s an impossible position to get yourself into. Either your laptop is so high up that you’re typing mid-air, or it’s so low down that your head is hanging down to see the screen. My laptop is currently somewhere in between; when I heard that the screen should be higher, I put it on a chopping board to raise it up a bit. But that made it too high for my arms and wrists. What’s a girl to do? Buy a new computer??

Maybe. But while I’ve got a perfectly functioning laptop, it would be unthrifty of me to spend money on a new computer set up. However, there IS a way to separate my laptop from the keyboard so that I can set both at the right height. How? With a wireless keyboard of course! No sooner had I realised I this, but I started searching for ways to raise up my laptop screen to the correct height and find the right keyboard for my needs.wireless-keyboard-and-mouse-pen-setting-up-an-ergonomic-desk-workspace-4

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Tuesday Shoesday – Comfort shoes for a more active life

Whenever September rolls around I get that ‘new-term’ feeling. Even though I’m no longer a student, when you add up all the years that I have been studying in one way or another (yes, I’m even counting primary school), we’re looking at upwards of 20 years in education. So it’s no wonder that I still see September as the start of a new chapter – and still use an academic diary! I see it as a time to kick off some resolutions. In fact, it’s probably a better time of year to make resolutions than January, as you’ve got the end of the year as a marker for quantifying your goals. Whether it’s learning a new language (yes, I’m trying to learn Spanish this year), getting fitter, changing your working habits or improving your savings, I think that September is a great time to start.health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-5So, why am I talking about new goals on a Tuesday Shoesday? Surely this blog post is about shoes, right? Right! But my new shoes are linked to my new-term resolutions, and here are the reasons why: I took a bit of time off over the summer and it was only when I got back into the swing of full-time work that I realised just how bad my back and neck is. I went for physiotherapy earlier this year to correct a neck problem (caused by a historical whiplash injury over 10 years ago) and I thought everything was getting better. Over the summer, I barely noticed anything wrong with my neck and all those headaches were gone. However, as soon as I got back to my desk it became obvious what the problem was – my working environment. All the aches and pains came rushing back and it was difficult to get through a full day of work. So here’s my solution, and how it links to the shoes:health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-7I’m now a standing worker. I realised that sitting down all day was causing a lot of problems; heavy legs, pins and needles, bad back and strained neck. No matter how ergonomic my desk set-up was, I needed to get up off my bum and work standing up. So I gave it a go by moving my computer onto a higher work surface for a couple of days to see how I got on. It worked miracles. No problems at all. Apart from one small thing; my feet ached. My cheap flat pumps were clearly NOT made for standing all day! It reminded me of working in hospitality jobs when I was running around all day and really needed a foot massage at the end of the day. So one problem solved ended up causing another problem, but there was something I could do about that…health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-12

If you need new sports clothing I think that Fabletics (designed by Kate Hudson) can’t be beaten for style and performance.

I’ve reviewed comfort shoes on my blog in the past and I discovered that, for heels, Hotter cannot be beaten. However, I’ve always struggled to find a decent pair of comfort shoes that are also a little more on the sporty side. Most flat comfort shoes are a little bit too ‘old lady’ for me (no offence) and I’ve shied away from them, preferring basic low-cost pumps when I want to wear flat shoes. I read some reviews about sports shoes and zumba shoes online (read the article at NicerShoes.com) and now I’ve finally found a pair of comfort shoes that I want to show off – they’re sporty, available in great colours and are SO comfortable it’s unreal.health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-10health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-2 health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers

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Operation organise! The never-ending battle to keep my desk tidy

Whether you’re working in an office environment or you’ve got your own personal space at home, keeping your work area neat can sometimes be a tricky task. I know I struggle to keep that stack of paperwork under control! Throw in numerous cups of tea and lunch at my desk and things are starting to look pretty messy by the end of the day. As the saying goes, a tidy desk makes for a tidy mind, so if you’re keen to organise your workstation, you could take the following suggestions into consideration.coffee table styling for work tea and romantic evening-6Invest in savvy storage solutions

Unless you have access to suitable storage, it’s likely you’re going to struggle when it comes to keeping your workstation and office organised. From cupboards and filing cabinets to drawers and shelving, there are a whole host of convenient and useful furnishings that can bring order to your work area. To keep your immediate workstation tidy, you could invest in an office desk with inbuilt drawers or you could position a mobile pedestal underneath. It made a real difference to me when I made a desk out of a chest of drawers (see my desk DIY project) because I suddenly had somewhere to stash away everything that was making the top of my desk untidy. Having storage solutions like this within such close proximity to your workspace should make it easier for you to maintain an orderly and clear working environment.

Ditch the paper and go digital

If you find that your desk is often covered in piles of paperwork, or your shelves are looking rather precarious with massive box-files balanced on them, you could benefit from going digital. Instead of having physical copies of your documentation, you could choose to scan and store them on your computer. There are a wide variety of software and hardware options available which allow you to store files where you can access them easily; I invested in personal ‘cloud’ storage so all my files are on a hard-drive on the shelf and I can access them via wifi from any device. Ditching the paper to digitise is not only a good way to save space and reduce cluttering, but it’s great for the environment too.coffee table styling for work tea and romantic evening-8Create an effective filing system
While digitising your paperwork is an easy way to rid your workspace of unnecessary clutter, you’re likely to have some important documentation that you simply need to keep. For paper-based items that you can’t be without, you could create an effective filing system. Whether you choose to use a filing cabinet or a hard-backed folder, keeping them labelled is the key to having well-organised paperwork. Alphabetising or ordering your paperwork by importance could make it easier for you to refer to a particular piece of documentation quickly and easily.

Schedule tidying time into your routine
So that your office looks smart and neat at all times, you might benefit from scheduling some tidying time into your daily routine. When was the last time I cleaned my keyboard? I literally can’t remember, which is pretty gross. I’m going to finish writing this post and then clean it straight away! From wiping down your desk to organising your drawers, making the effort to clean, tidy and declutter every day will help you maintain a well-kept workspace. You could try doing this at the end of the day so you can enjoy a clear office every morning and start work with a fresh mind.coffee table styling for work tea and romantic evening-9Taking some of these tips on board could help you create and maintain a tidy and organised working environment. What do you think of these ideas? What do you do to keep yourself tidy and organised at work? I’d love to hear your tips so please leave me a comment below, and if you’ve found this post useful please share it with your friends by using the sharing buttons below or by pinning one of my photos onto your Pinterest boards. Thanks!


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DIY mid-century modern desk makeover

In the summer I work in my caravan. I spend hours in that little tin box, writing, sewing and drinking tea. The birds are singing and a cool breeze is blowing through the open windows. I love every minute of it and I can’t wait for the start of ‘caravan season’. In the meantime – when it’s cold and wet outside like it is today – I find it hard to drag myself outside to my garden workshop. I prefer to stay close to the radiators and kettle indoors, so during the dark winter months I set myself up at the dining table and work my socks off from there.diy desk makeover project - mid-century modern-3The trouble with not having a dedicated work space is that I end up with mess everywhere and I can never just leave my work at the end of the day. It either needs to be tidied away because we’ll be using the table, or the mess stays where I leave it and brings down neatness of the whole room. Plus, because I can see my laptop sitting there, I tend to go back to check emails and do just a little bit more in the evening when I should be relaxing. So I decided, as part of my new years resolutions, that a dedicated workspace was in order and I set out to find myself a desk. diy furniture makeover project - desk and shelf Continue reading “DIY mid-century modern desk makeover” »


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My little vintage caravan ~ A mini desk makeover

I love the thrifty nature of a makeover project to ‘get the look for less’ and I’m always keen to recycle and renovate old or unwanted items to keep them out of landfill. So when I needed a little extra storage space for my little vintage caravan, I headed to the car boot sale and kept my beady eye open for a suitable project to get started on.

Many of the furniture items at the boot fair had rather hefty price-tags and I quickly excluded anything that had already been painted or renovated in the past. I also didn’t want to buy a gorgeous piece of wooden furniture in good condition just to paint over it, so I kept hunting for the perfect piece. At a particularly ‘junky’ stall, I spotted a mini-desk/shelving unit tucked away at the back. The wood on the top of the unit was peeling off and the entire unit was crying out to be sanded down and painted. It would be the perfect desk for my small caravan space and in my mind’s eye I was already imagining all the things I could do to improve it. I tentatively asked about the price (worrying that it would be outside my budget) and was delighted when it was being sold for a ‘secondhand’ rather than ‘antique’ price! I snapped it up for less than a tenner and enlisted my husband to help me carry it back to the car.

As we loaded it into the car I noticed that a butterfly was sleeping beneath the shelf, so the cabinet would forever more be known as ‘the butterfly unit’ and it inspired my choice of colour and designs for decorating the desk. I picked up a couple of cans of pink spray paint from the car boot sale too and stopped off at the local hardware shop to find a new drawer knob. The butterfly fluttered off during the journey home, presumably to find somewhere more suitable to sleep!

That same afternoon, I sanded down the old varnish and wiped it over with a damp cloth to clean off the dust. After the cabinet had dried in the sun, I began spray painting in earnest and covered the unit it a couple of light coats. I left it to dry and came back to the project the following day to spray another fine coat of pink paint to get a smooth finish. I didn’t worry about spraying the back of the cabinet too much, because I knew that I wanted to decorate the inside with paper and fabric.

My tips for renovating a piece of furniture:

  • Clean thoroughly before you begin work on your furniture – inside and out!
  • Sand down wooden furniture to create a surface that paint will adhere to
  • If you’re keeping the wood-grain visible only sand in one direction with the grain
  • Use a vacuum with brush attachment to suck up the dust and wipe over with a damp cloth to get the last of it
  • Make any repairs before you start to paint
  • Make sure the unit if fully dry before painting
  • Spray in long strokes and about 30cm away from the wood to get a smooth finish
  • Build up layers of paint – it’s better to do three or four fine layers because the paint is more likely to run with one thick layer

Here’s how the desk looks at this stage of the ‘renovation’ and I’ll be sure to add some more photos of my progress and (hopefully) the finished cabinet next week:

 


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My renovation sensation project

When I first heard about the Renovation Sensation project my mind went into overdrive – so many ideas went whizzing around my mind and I was super-excited to get started. The challenge was set by Direct Blinds and I knew straightaway that it was right up my street: I love the thrifty nature of a makeover project to ‘get the look for less’ and I’m always keen to recycle and renovate old or unwanted items to keep them out of landfill. I headed to the car boot sale and kept my beady eye open for a suitable project to get started on.

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Back to work… ouch!

This week I’ve had a problem. It started on Sunday and has carried on all week with little or no let up. I’ve had headaches as a result and even had to have mid-day a lie down at times. I’m taking about back pain and it is naffing me off. Just like the dodgy pun in the title of this blog post, it’s annoying. I know many people ensure bad backs for weeks at a time (many of my friends and family included) and this is really only a relatively recent problem for me, but it’s really frustrating to have to stop what I’m doing in order to sort out my problem.

I don’t like taking pills too often so I’ve been powering through and I know that you should keep moving when you have a dodgy back, but this pain has kind of frozen my neck. I think I’ve traced the root of the problem to my poor choices of working environment over the past couple of weeks. Instead of working in my caravan ‘office’ or sitting at my living room desk, I’ve been lazy and have actually been perching on the sofa to do my work. It’s the result of having a laptop with wifi that doesn’t need to be plugged in all the time, so I can literally work wherever I like, whereas in the past I’ve been chained to the desk with all kinds of wires going into my laptop, therefore keeping me in one place. I guess it can’t be good for me to be snuggled up on the sofa while working and my new-found poor posture results in one heck of a crick in the neck as I look down to see my computer screen. In turn, the neck pain has resulted in headaches at the base of my head – not good and almost debilitating.

correct working posture back app

As we speak I have one of those heated wheat-bags around my neck and I can’t carry on like this. I read this article to find out more about posture and have self-diagnosed that my bad back and neck probably is down to my working environment. Apparently even when working at a desk, the kinds of chairs that are often found in offices are probably contributing to bad backs all around the country – so imagine how bad my standard dining-chair and small table must be for me? What hope is there for my dodgy back and sore neck if I’m not even sitting in a supportive chair at an ergonomically design desk?? I do tend to slump a little and have to regularly correct my posture and really I probably need to raise up my computer to a better eye-level.

But it’s not just me who is suffering – according to the article, 80% of people are experiencing back pain in their lifetime and poor posture can be attributed to the increase in tablet computers and smartphones which have created a generation who are happy to be hunched over screens while they work, rest and play – which this article had dubbed the ‘iPosture’. I am guilty of this too as I reward myself for a good day’s work with a Pinterest session. Maybe I need to be sitting at a desk while doing this too? Who knew that the ‘convenience’ tablets would be causing us all to have bad backs and poor posture? I know what I need to do and honestly, I will start working on my desk again for starters. Plus I am now wishing for a posture-pleasing chair like the ones above, but in the meantime I will take more notice of my posture and correct myself if I begin to slump. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a quick improvement in my sore neck and back so that I can finally wave goodbye to these headaches. Let me know if you’ve had any trouble like this in the past or currently and what you’re doing to make it better – maybe I can give it a go too!

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Article and images used in collaboration with Back App.


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Dream a little dream… Squeeze in some study space

Great news – I’ve finished making those cushion covers! I know I’m a week later than I promised but they are all done AND I’ve made a start on a quilted throw with the fabric I had leftover. That might take a while to finish but I’m not worried, at least I’ve sat at my sewing machine and have done some making, phew. The procrastination I was feeling was similar to when I was a student at university and I knew I had a big assignment to write, but turning on the computer itself was difficult enough, and that blank page of a text document was particularly difficult to conquer. In this instance, it was the sewing machine that was hard to turn on, and the fabric was staring back at me like a blank page. Like writers block, but sewing block, I guess – although I knew what I wanted to make and had all the supplies I needed, so there was really no excuse for not just cracking on with it. Still, at least this got me thinking about a student-esque study space, and I started to wonder whether the alcove beside my fireplace wall could be a possible spot for a neat and tidy desk area.

bedroom makeover small cast iron feature fireplace

It would allow me to keep all of my office bits in one place until I finish my caravan workshop (another project that has stalled during the winter!) and it would keep paperwork out of the living room where is currently stacking up. I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs to sort out a dedicated study space, and with students returning to university this week for the start of a new semester I thought that now would be a good time to research what space-saving dorm stuff there is out there.

dream a little dream concealed wardrobe desk

Desk ideas via Pinterest

I started my search on Pinterest and came up with some fantastic space-saving ideas. The first option I found was fitting shelves and desk space into the alcove, which would really make the most of the space – at the moment there are just some drawers in the alcove and all of the space above it is wasted. So perhaps some floating shelves would give me some more storage space where I could use baskets or boxes to store my bits and pieces neatly. However, while browsing Pinterest, my eye landed on a genius idea – I particularly like this concealed workspace within a wardrobe. So my bedroom would continue to look like a bedroom with  pair of wardrobes, but one of these would house my desk, all my computer stuff and paperwork – excellent!

dream a little dream brocade desk accessories ocm

So all I need is a wardrobe and I can get started! The next step is desk storage solutions such as files, letter racks, boxes etc to keep everything tidy within the concealed desk space – there’s no point in having a custom-made storage solution if I’m just going to stuff all my mess into it haphazardly. I’d heard about a website which specialises in dorm stuff for students so I had a browse of their desk solutions and came up with these laser-cut storage options from OCM above. They will look great in my bedroom, tie in with the existing decor and keep all my paperwork tidy.

dream a little dream funny bedroom cushions  from ocm

I also ‘accidentally’ had a look at their bedding section and found these funny cushions – all of which would look great with my colour scheme and would have saved me a lot of time instead of making my own cushion covers. I know, I know, my handmade cushion covers are the matching fabric for my blinds and they tie the whole room together but these cushions are so cool and are the right kind of colours too. Maybe I’ll add one of them to my bed anyway – but which one??

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