All the Small Things

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now and it’s very easy to think there’s nothing we can do to improve matters. Today, I’m saying Never Give Up Hope. If the big stuff is too much for you to tackle right now, try starting small…

1. Curb the junk mail. If it’s been posted to you, send it back marked Gone Away, Return to Sender, or Please Remove me From Your Mailing List. To stop the endless stream of pizza menus and cab cards, simply stick a message on your letterbox. It works!

No Junk Mail

2. Never, ever, ever use a plastic bag! Seriously, these things are bad news for our planet and the sooner they are banned the better. There are so many reusable alternatives available these days (NO, not those plastic Bags For Life!) Always take one (or three) with you when you go out, and you’ll never need a nasty, polluting, wildlife-killing plastic bag again.bags of bags

3. Perform an audit on one small corner of your life… look under the kitchen sink, tackle the bottles on your bathroom shelf, review the food you choose for lunch, consider the stuff you use on your body/at work/in your car… you don’t need me to point out the pointless plastic gathering all around you. Just have a think & make some changes. My small start was swapping plastic toothbrushes for bamboo ones. Check out Save Some Green for products which don’t cost the earth (Drowning in Stuff isn’t connected to this site in any way… we’re just happy customers.)

Bamboo toothbrushes

4. Switch search engines. It’s time to wave bye bye to Google, Bing, Yahoo & friends in favour of Ecosia, the search engine which uses its profits to plant trees.

Ecosia

5. Grow lots & lots of flowers. Insects need our help now more than ever… if you have a garden, fill it with flowering plants. Let dandelions bloom this spring, don’t mow over the clover in your grass this summer, leave a spot to go wild, plant meadow seeds… and enjoy the abundance of insects and birds which will visit your garden throughout the year. bee

Not sure what to plant? Here’s some advice from the Sunday Gardener.

6. Pick up litter. Doesn’t matter if you didn’t drop it… litter is everyone’s problem & we can all be part of the solution. Every piece you pick up makes a difference to the world.East Tilbury

For a little inspiration, check out #2MinuteStreetClean and #2MinuteBeachClean

…and good luck with all your Small Things.

The museum has deserted me!

Now you’re used to it maybe not being immediately obvious where a post is going but today is even more challenging as I’m not sure where it is going either. Never mind as with life there is hope by the end (or ideally before then ) it will make sense. Well,  I am not going to write about the visit to the Victor Wynd Museum of Curiosities not turning out as planned ( potentially it seemed a good fit for our cluttered psych but closer examination proved quite the contrary) nor any other museum for that matter. No, when last week the muse deserted fellow stuffoholic the title of today’s post  was autothingy’s determined attempt to make sense or nonsense of our words. The muse isn’t with me either today but the title has at least got me this far into writing a blog as I found a  site I would otherwise never have seen and a musuem  I don’t think I will ever visit. So far at least  in keeping with the message this year of  ‘get on with it’ rather than always worry about the final destination or what’s waiting for you if you ever get out of the tunnel. I also discovered there is no need for me to keep and curate collections of stuff when here in London I will never run out of collections I can go and view. While offering  no recommendation I sense  18 Folgate Street in Spitafields found while google wandering ‘museums of things’ may be worth a visit some day.

Enough of what this is not about , I realised by this point that today’s blog would focus on one of the discoveries in that study of mine. This year we are being fearless in the face of paper paralysis –  a not uncommon condition when one keeps old papers in case they come in useful when truly their only use is for hamster bedding or compost heap.

Years AgoSharing here the treasure of the day – Old Calendars. Touching them, recollecting happy days when the house was full and all four columns in use . momentarily tempted to file them back down the side of the filing cabinet. But, keeping the calendars will not bring back those days and even if it could life is about making new memories not staying frozen in the past.  If today, we only throw away one old thing no longer needed and create and make one new memory it will have been a good day.

 

Start

4. Study

????so much stuff??????????????????

Start where? why? what? Start Somewhere and Start Now !! Today life advice for most situations not just how to regain your space. Fellow stuffoholic was fair but firm. I had committed to regaining this space. Decided to Start Small and tackle the mantlepiece. Before

How? Well sorted swiftly stuff into two piles . Stuff to keep and the stuff that needs to be re-homed, recycled or even thrown away! Did not spend time agonising over what went in which pile. Today’s mantra  is Do Something and Do it Now. A decision made can still be changed but I tried hard not to cheat and default everything to the keep pile.

Voila. The tale of two trays.

First the Keep Tray every item justified . I won’t bore you with why this is so,  it is suffice that it is not all the items on the mantelpiece. I also won’t explain why they were all (except the make up brush and Su Doku book ) relocated in a shoe box to be reviewed on another day. I never claimed this was a one step process.

Saved

Stuff to Keep

And so to the other tray …

Gone

Stuff NOT to Keep

What treasure did I find? More importantly why had I kept stuff  so valuable but never used.  The paint brushes a reminder of a creative hobby that after several decades I finally accept is never going to happen. The brushes will go to a neighbour who runs art classes at home so they will finally be put to good use. The little book of Keep Calm and Carry On never helped me but will go to local little free library – set free. Broken mug heading to recycling , only need so many containers for pens and stuff. Tempted to keep it for a mosaic project but the look given me as I voice that thought speaks volumes. Old cards for recycling too . Toothbrushes , deep sigh, only so many you need for tricky corners.  Lastly, the over sized nail file , given to me as a well meant gift , never used and is no use at all now I cannot reach my feet. Surprisingly,  it is just what my fellow stuffoholic needs. Result!

So how does it now look.  Bare but there’s plenty still in that room so don’t fret it is now time to Stop (for today).

After

Room with a View

spring clean

I woke up two days ago feeling Out of Sorts. I had this completely uncharacteristic urge to tidy, to Spring clean, to declutter… basically, to chuck out all the stuff which has been weighing me down for so many years. Did I start with my Drawer that Shall Never be Opened, or the equally daunting Kitchen Drawer of Unidentified Objects? Did I crawl under beds or tackle the coffee table which rarely has enough space for a coffee cup?

Oh no- I decided to Go Big. I was ready to face the attic. Thirty years of accumulated stuff awaited me and I wasn’t turning back!

48 hours later, I’m thinking there’s a pretty good reason I only get these urges once every thirty years! The results have been startling, both in a good and not so good way…

Good 

The shredder has been filled & emptied ten times. Paperwork squirrelled away for decades is now in the compost heap. Children’s games which haven’t been played in over ten years are now destined for the charity shop. Dozens of books are leaving my house. I can sit at my desk once again, gazing out the skylight whilst pretending to work. I’ve spent hours rediscovering old photos, school projects, my children’s artwork, letters from friends, souvenirs from long forgotten holidays. And after a weekend of hard work, I can see the carpet again!

 

Not So Good

I am dust-clogged and aching. Though the attic looks great, the rest of my house is completely wrecked. Boxes of stuff await sorting in just about every room. So many things which were evicted from the attic now need new homes.boxes

 

That’s the trouble with tackling the big stuff; it all has to Go, or Go Somewhere.

 

But I’m not letting it get me down. Look what I’ve found…

thingy

 

 

Waste not Want not

Another day, another blog, this year already feels it’s going to be both different and the same. This year less talk and more action. Well probably just as much talk but definitely more action no matter what life throws our way.

So far Started on that study/office  to regain our space and we’ve completed Wayne Dixon’s   #7daychallenge   so our streets are less littered.  We are also still committed to reducing our  food waste and action counts more than words. We know buy less is key but  what do you do when you find you have stale croissants  and marmalade jam that apparently has reached its use by date even when kept in the fridge .  Feed the birds/ (compost) bin. Of course not you adapt a recipe for bread and butter pudding .

Ingredients

Here we go, croissants already pretty high in butter but a little more won’t hurt and a dab of marmalade too. Layer croissants in dish. We treated this as a creative exercise so squareish shapes for bottom layer and rings for top. This is not necessary but we “eat with our eyes” or so they say. At this point hope you greased dish before you put in croissant bits and didn’t have to take it all out and start again. Marmalade

Then mix milk ( we used soya but any milk will do – food waste ethos is to use whatever you have to hand) and eggs and whisk. Pour over croissants and leave for 10 minutes (or 30 minutes if your croissants are as stale as ours). If necessary add a little more milk/egg mix if you’ve misjudged just how dry those croissants were. Any doubts as to whether they were usable as croissants had been dispelled by this point.  By the way in case you wondered why didn’t we go for something even simpler. We did but unlike stale bread you cannot turn stale croissants into croutons or we would have done.

Ready for the oven

Don’t worry about brown bits in pic should have mentioned half the croissants were filled with chocolat . Mmm .. this post about food waste, never claimed this was a low calorie treat. Shame the whisky flavoured double cream  (intended for Christmas pud but put aside given the excess intake already on that day /week) was well past use by date or that would have been added too.  Despite already a calorie count that would allow us to take squares of this as  supplies on a trip up Mount Fuji we then sprinkled a few spoonfuls of brown sugar on top for good measure.

Oven for 40 minutes or till set and golden brown . #FoodwastefridayNow all that was left to do was eat it . Fortunately, disappeared swiftly so no need to write a blog next time on what to do with left over Croissant and marmalade pudding.

As a famous chef might have said at this point – Happy Days!!

 

#7daychallenge

so not bertt

Last week we accepted this challenge from Wayne Dixon, an extraordinary Litter Hero Ambassador. He is travelling the UK coastline with his beautiful dog Koda, picking up litter and raising environmental awareness as they go. If you are on twitter, give @waynekoda a follow to see the amazing work they’re doing.

At the end of our challenge, the local streets are less messy & our recycling box is filled to the brim. It didn’t take much effort; we just went about our usual day, but took along an empty bag & picked up rubbish along the way.

Now we’ve completed our week of litter-picking, we’re looking for more people to take up Wayne & Koda’s #7daychallenge. Just go out with a carrier bag in your pocket and collect a few things as you go, recycle what you can and dispose of the rest appropriately.

Let us know how it goes 🙂

#day7 recycling

The R- word

queen's speechThe R-word? Surely, having said we wouldn’t get into deep and troubled political waters, we aren’t now going to dive in. Of course not! To do so would be most unwise. While the debate fuels our underlying sense that life is chaotic, the merits or faults of Remain or Referendum is not what we plan to share our thoughts on today.

hot cat

 

 

We also, tempting as it is on these cold winter days, will not be debating how Relaxing (under the duvet) and worrying less might achieve good karma. Truth is that looking back over this declutter’s journey, it was when stuff got Rehomed or Removed  we felt good. When we could see the floor or retrieve a document we needed without it being like a Jenga game.

 

many rs

 

No, this year we return to our roots. We are determined to tackle the clutter we have and so the R words we will be drawing on include  Recycle, Repurpose and Repair. BUT even as the 3R’s have expanded to 8 while we fight to stem the plastic and other stuff Tsunami we now know those R words are not enough. When we look in this once tranquil study/office we now face a space completely unusable for its purpose.  So today’s R words need to be Resolve and Ruthless. We won’t forget the other R’s but our priority this year has to be (even if some items end up in the Rubbish) to REGAIN OUR SPACE.

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Please come back in six weeks (or is that months) to see what Remains.

Audit

off they go

Happy New Year, one and all. Yes, I know it’s a bit late for that, but I’m never really sure at what point it stops being the New Year and simply becomes the year.

I’m not going to bore you with my list of resolutions for 2019, but do feel a quick audit would be apt at the start of another (hopefully less cluttered) year.

So, let’s take a quick look back at my new year plans for 2018. A quick summary: ditch the books, stop buying magazines, sort out years of saved paperwork, bake all the family birthday cakes, & pick up 1000 pieces of litter.

Well, I managed to wave goodbye to 327 books (just a drop in the booky ocean.) I did stop buying magazines, don’t miss them & enjoy not having them around. The boxes of paperwork persist. Four delicious cakes were cooked this year, avoiding all that pointless packaging & actually tasting far better than anything the supermarket had on offer. We had three community litter picks last year, so the goal of 1000 pieces was definitely smashed (but thanks to my phone being stolen, I stopped counting each piece on Litterati.)

It’s very easy looking back on a year and thinking little has been achieved… or looking forward and thinking the tasks ahead will never be cleared. But today I’m feeling (uncharacteristically) optimistic.

At the end of my first blog for 2018 I joked: “Right, I’m thinking that’s enough Good Intentions for one year. If I carry on, a New Year’s Resolution might creep up on me unawares. Such as pledging to remove 2018 items from my cluttered house in the coming year. No, that would never do.”

Well, I kept count of the departing clutter & managed to get rid of 810 unwanted/unloved/unused items last year. Nowhere near 2018, but that’s still 810 fewer things in my house.

So there we are, I survived my New Year clutter audit & have one resolution for the coming year:

2019 things have to go

And here are the first 14 books ready for rehoming, so the total’s already down to 2005.

Food Glorious Food

christmas dinner

Good Afternoon , as you may have spotted today’s blog was not posted on Monday . Last week we had our alternative Christmas lunch – plastic (almost – we couldn’t resist the mini christmas puds and brandy cream) and meat free . This week could have been full of pictures and suggestions for festive season in keeping with our usual eco guilt style – covering food waste and unecessary plastic and ending the piece with promise  that next year would be different. But I was sent  a link to a youtube video – Practice Anger not Joy  by a friend the modern way to spread sentiment without need for personal engagement . Sentimental undoubtedly but it touched a chord. ..

That the start of the blog planned for monday but it was just too dreary for the pre-christmas slot if it continued in that vein. It has taken till today to find something to bring it to an upbeat conclusion.   Today , I share with you the Christmas no 1 , humour in chaotic times and a gentle reminder that you may want to consider donating to the Trussell Trust or a food bank scheme near you.

All together … We built this city … on Sausage Rolls ,,,,

 

What We Keep

Full

Bookshop browsing led me to an interesting title this week… What We Keep. It seemed an apt book for a Stuffoholic to read. After all, we’ve been rambling on about what we keep for over a year now.

The strapline to the book was “150 people share the one object that brings them joy, magic and meaning.” Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

It made me think about this blog. I reckon we’ve approached What We Keep from a slightly more pessimistic angle…

“2 people share the hundreds of objects that give them headaches and endless bother.” It doesn’t sound quite so catchy.

Truth is, we keep an awful lot of things, and very few bring us joy, magic and meaning… which is why we are still on this quest to empty our homes of an accumulation of Stuff.

This morning I couldn’t face picking up items and asking them if they filled me with joy, so I decided instead to tackle the Drawer that Must Never be Opened. This is absolutely stuffed with things I keep. None of it is magical and joyous, but sometimes you also need to keep the mundane and everyday.

An hour later, I had removed and recycled:

12 old receipts, 10 greetings cards, 12 random pieces of paper, 2 calendars, a pointless certificate, a newsletter, one CD and a big stack of labels (wondered where those had gone!)

And then I gave up. I can only spend so long looking through joyless things. The Drawer that Must Never be Opened has shut for another year. Funnily enough, looking back through the blog, it was a year ago that I last took a look in there. I still haven’t tackled those boxes… another resolution abandoned!

If you see the book, give it a try (no, I’m not on commission!) And can I borrow it after you?What We Keep

Wishing Joy, Magic and Meaning to all the things you keep.