Celebrate small victories

This post was going to be a blank screen as my efforts this past week to ‘responsibly’ declutter less blogworthy than I would hope. It is as I’ve discovered easy to throw it all away but once I changed the ‘rules’ so now also avoiding landfill it has becomes a real challenge. No matter life is about how we tackle the uphill not just the flat and effort counts as well as achievement. Fine words but I remained unconvinced I had anything to justify putting pen to paper or rather fingers to keys when I recalled a favourite post from If I were my own best friend … blog . After all as  the author  says “If I were my own best friend I would tell myself to…..celebrate small victories (even if they may not actually seem like victories). and she then goes on to recount this tale.


***I grew a small plant! A seedling actually. But still, a small plant! And I grew it! All. On. My. Own! This is a big deal – I have struggled to grow plants and to keep them alive. And this plant even lived for a few days. Until I decided that growing a small plant out of the side of the sink I never remember to clean……”

The plant is not the small victory , though I’m tempted to leave it at that. No to end the post the promise is … Moving  forward I plan to celebrate small victories – like wiping down the side sink on a regular basis and maybe even growing another house plant (in a pot with soil).” Wise words to make small actions count.

So what is (I’d like to say are but not so) my small victory this week.  Well, not that you would notice but I  have actually managed (albeit by a little emotional blackmail as I cannot climb a ladder anymore) to get those dangly bits in the pic back on the shade.  No idea what I’m talking about click here.

3. RemovedI would include here the pic to prove the task done . I understand in an Instagram world words are not suffice though of course I argue in a Photoshop world what is truth anyway. But that will have to wait . My time limit for this blogging task run out. Enough soul searching . I will finish with a quote from the same blog by an influential ‘philosopher’ – Cookie Monster from Sesame Street

“Today me will live in the moment unless it is unpleasant in which case me will eat a cookie” 



Looking around this cluttered house, I see a lot of things in a state of limbo. Some are recyclables, waiting in heaps to be taken to various holding zones (the cellar, the porch) before heading off to the local council or supermarket recycling facilities. Others are waiting (often in vain) to find their way back to their rightful homes… carefully folded clothes balanced on a chair back, not-quite-finished- and- yet-abandoned art projects & games, stuff waiting hopefully on the bottom stair (ignored & sidestepped by my family whenever they head upstairs.) An even sadder sub-group of dispossessed stuff is the weird & wonderful collection of items waiting patiently to be fixed.

I don’t chuck out broken things. I know that holes can be sewn up, cracks can be glued, and lost screws replaced. It might be a generational thing. Having experienced the hardship of the war years, my parents knew how to make things last. Theirs was a world of hand-me-downs, make do and mend. Consequently, the next generation also grew up knowing how to care for and value their stuff. At Christmas time, we would open our presents very, very carefully so the wrapping paper could be saved and reused the following December (and this didn’t even seem odd to us.) Nowadays, it is far too easy not to fix and reuse. Things can be replaced on a whim, with little thought to the consequences.

It was with a sigh of relief that I read about Mend It May. Across twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and numerous blogs, #menditmay stories and pictures have entertained & inspired me; people demonstrating their ingenuity, artistic flair & determination to revamp a well-loved cardi,  kick-start a grumpy appliance, or fix that wonky whatever. Here was the timely nudge I needed to sort out all those mending chores!

Well, I didn’t exactly go to town on the long list… but I’ve made a start! My first job was fixing a favourite rucksack which I’d stopped using because the front pocket was hanging off. Once the needle and thread was located, this really didn’t take long. On a bit of a high, I also sewed up a big hole in the pocket of my favourite jacket. No more struggling to remove a ringing phone from the hidden depths of my coat! Finally, looking down at the skirt I was wearing (a clothes swap fave) I fixed the three small holes which I’d been ignoring. An hour of tackling these jobs seems nothing compared to the hours of irritation saved.

When my son arrived home from work, I asked for his coat so I could sew up the holes in his pockets too…. but he was horrified at the thought. Apparently, he prefers to have a mega pocket which goes all the way round his coat!

Treasure trove or just junk?

Today’s post was originally inspired by a daily google wander, now several weeks ago. The gentle author at Spitalfields Life is a writer whose blog I drop in on from time to time. I must I thought share his post about a legendary junk shop closing its doors. It seemed a perfect fit to a tale of drowning in stuff.

So Long, Des & Lorraine’s Junk Shop …   Spitalfields Life

I planned back then in this blog to ask and answer the question ” When I look at this picture from his blog am I horrified or delighted? “. A short post, with the answer a simple enchanted but …, then comparison with my own world and encouragement to keep to my 5 a day. However, since then found this story about junk on the BBC News  too.

bbc junk

Up to 600 tonnes of rubbish has been dumped under a bridge near a regional park.    BBC News

The BBC article made me question the direction this decluttering journey was taking me. My response and I suspect yours dear reader was very different to the two articles Why is that? I think one reason is because in the first (even if you disagree whether it is true) there is an assumption the stuff still has value, that it can still be re-used, repaired even upcycled.  It is a tale with hope for the future. In the other the stuff has been discarded and is useless rubbish. Instead of being a valuable resource ‘that stuff’ is now a problem to be dealt with. I questioned whether that difference is right. In that pile of rubbish , wood, a chair, useful stuff … if only people (that’s you and me by the way)  had made a different decision when it was time to let go of their stuff there might be no problem to solve.

I have thus come to realise that I’m ‘drowning in stuff’ in part (other reasons are for another day) because it really isn’t that easy to repair, repurpose, recycle stuff in the twenty first century.  Unwittingly,  ‘labour saving progress’ has instead made it so much easier and cheaper to just throw stuff away with no regard for where away is or the environmental price to be paid.  Quite unintentionally, this journey appears to have taken me on the road to eco warrior rather than consumer minimalist.  In seeking to de-stress by destuffing  I’ve come quickly to realise that just throwing stuff away might be an easy solution but ultimately not one that will make me feel any better about myself , one of the reasons for travelling on the road to unclutterment in the first place.

So what to do. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so its not enough to recycle. Ideally I would repair or re-purpose first and if necessary make my own recycled plastic stuff like this West Virginia dad does too.


My mission from now will to clear my space not by  just throwing stuff away but somehow  I will do so while reducing the amount of  de-cluttered stuff being buried for future generations to discover. I know this will be a challenge and expect to fail more often than I succeed.  A more modest one a day re-somethinged will be my aim or even one a week saved from the tip.  I will comfort myself with the thought that even one a week could start to bring the waste juggernaut to a halt even if there is still a long way to go to turn it around and get back to where the wrong turning was made. As ever words easy, action more of a challenge. Time for blogging done but I will let you know how I fare if you return another day. 

Useful or Beautiful?


This quote from William Morris is pretty popular amongst declutterers online. They could hardly hope to find a more concise or apt mantra- if it ain’t useful or beautiful, you shouldn’t be giving it house space.

I first read these words when I visited the William Morris Gallery in East London. Maybe I’d been dazzled by the sheer beauty of his fabric and wallpaper designs, but I was suckered right in by the simplicity and absoluteness of William’s assertion. Useful, or beautiful… why would I ever consider hanging on to stuff which could lay claim to neither of those adjectives?

Did I rush home from that epiphany and empty my house of all superfluousness? Dear reader, I did not. And some years later, though the wisdom of his words still resonates, I’d say William’s statement was just too black and white.

My own home contains many things which might be useful, or could be beautiful… they just haven’t had their time to shine. Things which dwell on tops of wardrobes, under beds, in the random drawer, down in the cellar, up in the attic, mostly shoved out of everyday view- the things which might come in handy one day- have all earned their place in my home. Challenge me as to the intended purpose of any of these items & I can only point out that you would at some point rue the day you threw out this un-useful, un-beautiful object. In the distant future, you would be faced by a problem which could only be solved by the timely application of an old door key/ worn toothbrush/ copy of She magazine from 1983/ <insert random clutter here>

Maybe I’m not entirely disagreeing with Mr Morris. Useful and beautiful are quite possibly the only criteria required. I’m just saying that almost all things are potentially useful & also quite possibly beautiful…. it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

I’ll leave you with a thing of beauty I came across whilst wandering around Greenland Dock in Rotherhithe. This sanctuary welcomes lost or disowned gloves and provides an opportunity to make a fresh pairing and become part of a beautiful & useful new partnership.


Now, where did I leave that odd glove?

Spot the difference desk game solution


1a. desk before

2. Desk, after

Today the promised solution to the ‘spot the difference’ game (click here first if you have no idea what I’m talking about). How many items did you find? If you found all 12 then you cheated because some of them were buried under stuff, not in clear sight. Clutter doesn’t play by the rules! The trouble with stuff is it expands to fill the space available. All this stuff moved and yet  now its gone there still isn’t clear space . This is lesson number one . Do not become obsessive about clear space or you will surely drive yourself mad . Be satisfied with glimpses into a minimalists world (if you’re an aspiring  minimalist you took a wrong google turn to get here) and then relax into your comfy stuffoholic space.

3. Removed

Today, could stop with just this picture but where and why did that stuff go? That’s the trouble with some stuffoholics they can’t just throw things away and move on.

First, Stuff waiting to be recycled but don’t know where to take it. Used Batteries (beside the mug if you didn’t spot them)  and broken boiler remote control (on top of pile in right hand corner). Answer was the local recycling centre takes small electricals and the Sainsburys Local takes batteries. If you think you don’t have facilities locally try Recycle Now you might be pleasantly surprised. If not complain!

Next that Stuff waiting to be put away but have forgotten to do so. New bright pink mouthguard case (spare) (I can explain why need a spare but won’t detour at this point) and the CCS Foot  cream. Obviously put stuff in the place it belongs straightaway. Where does it belong ? If this question isn’t being sarcastic then the answer is the first place I would look for it. I understand not everyone in a household will agree on this simple step.

Stuff of potential use but no idea what to do with it. Desk is pretty good in this respect but the rest of house is a different matter.  What was lurking.  Need a magnifying glass to spot  and even then would have failed. Old credit cards, to be fair inside envelope marked ‘destroy or do something’ so had a plan. Out of sight out of mind though so kept forgetting to action and it seemed a shame to consign them to landfill. I have now found an excellent post with 20 ingenious uses for those old credit cards . I would love to turn them into designer earrings but reluctantly they have been consigned to the bin. Farewell plastic cards I wish you were biodegradable and not going to kill the turtles.

I expect you were unsure how Stuff that needs a ladder was on the list. The shiny bits fell off the lampshade and ….. No you can’t see them in the before pic but you can see the edge of the tray. Solution: Get a housekeeper. Seriously , accept that some jobs will have to wait for next spring clean or annual pigs flying past whichever comes sooner.

Free stuff and gifts …Catalogue for a shop with lovely pictures and that great smell of fresh paper . Bit of a surprise they produced it and a well meaning friend brought me a copy so how can I  just put in recycling bin. By being firm and closing my eyes. It will be gone as soon as my fellow stuffoholc arrives makes me a cup of tea and firmly talks to me about 5 a day . Moving it meant that book that was lying on side could stop lazing and stand upright. I don’t think even with the title ” Ten minute stress relief” it’s going to survive the next decluttering attempt. Then there is the Tray . It’s a lovely tray that was given to me to put my cups of tea on by a friend who was worried about the rings on the table. I never  do /did use it for that purpose because once put anywhere it fills with stuff. It’s a lovely tray and you can put stuff in it to stop the stuff falling on the floor. I will find it a good home promise. maybe it can be the prize in the next ‘spot the difference’ game.

Stuff bought from Amazon which was excellent value and good quality but … Amazon has a lot to answer. If only it was one click return the same as one click buy. I think instead of a prompt to check if you’ve finished shopping and do you really want more. For a small annual fee there should be a prompt which says “Do you really want this?” It seemed a good idea at the time an iPad case – the neoprene sleeve will cushion it from falls and it even has a pocket for bits but I bought another case which is indestructible and as I rarely leave the house with iPad this just sits looking at me reproachfully.  I will use it someday because it really is perfect for the job I had in mind if ever  go back to the life I had .  Hmm.. on reading back can see this is not persuasive case.  Freegle beckons or British Heart Foundation or ‘raffle’ prize (ok not the raffle prize).

Stuff that has been replaced by newer stuff Old iPhone ( it was neatly tucked in out of the way if you didn’t spot it) which has been superseded but didn’t transfer old notes and will now have to retype them but they are really important just haven’t got around to it and a year has passed. Also it was my son’s old phone which is why I have it at all would still be on iPhone 4 otherwise and as at the bottom of reusing chain there is no family member to pass it to. And the camera is still good and …. This one needs further research. There has to be a home for obsolete very expensive gadgets on the planet not buried in the earth for future generations to dig up.

Stuff I might need for a repair/ project/ someday. Now that jar of stuff could be at the bottom of a drawer which is much worse.  One jar is pretty good in scheme of things. I’ll put the jar in the ‘might need one day’ drawer. Every home should have one but just one.

Lastly, Stuff to remind me to do a task Pot with fluorescent pink gunk which is on desk so I will  remember to do my hand exercises but as can’t see pot once lift up laptop lid never do. Anyway, desk isn’t clear enough as need clear space to do exercises hmm…

So there we have it, a tiny bit clearer maybe a little wiser. Another day another attempt after all who knows what tomorrow will bring (hopefully not more stuff).