Bags of bags

bagsHappy to follow the sublime Tim Minchin’s advice, I always take my canvas bags to the supermarket. They come in many guises; some are beautiful creations, whilst others are mere advertising spaces, two I received after running 5km and at least one was a prize. As you can see, they quickly add up. I now own 25 of them.

It’s clearly time to start saying no to any more freebies. Plus, I need to always carry some with me, so I’m not tempted to buy another. After all, these reusable bags have their own impact on the environment and need to be used LOTS to be less problematic than the plastic variety they are replacing (a UK Environmental Agency report found that a cotton bag would need to be used well over 100 times to have a lower environmental impact than a single-use plastic bag.)

So, my promise today is twofold… to take my canvas bags to the supermarket, and to acquire no more canvas bags.

If you haven’t heard Tim’s awesome anthem to the humble canvas bag, here you go (you will love it, but will possibly be singing it in your head for the next day or two.)

 

“In the beginning…….

The Pillars of Creation

 

….. there was nothing, nothing at all, but to cut a very long story short now there is stuff. Not a little more stuff, noooh, so much stuff that we are drowning in it. Now and again we come up for air and see the sky (or the floor) and then we are dragged back under until breathless we surface again.

What are we to do? Well in these times, of course, tackle our problems by blogging and hope others will help make our journey an adventure not a route march. This blog will follow our victories and defeats over the coming weeks, months, maybe even years, as we fight our way to freedom from the tyranny of stuff. We know it is not going to be plain sailing (promise to keep the references to our watery theme to a minimum!) as it’s not always clear cut to us what is good and bad stuff. After all if it were easy we wouldn’t be us.”

Hard as it is to believe it is a whole year since we wrote those words back then we knew we couldn’t “let go of stuff; stuff in the kitchen, stuff from the past, stuff on our phones and worst of all stuff in our heads.”  Little did we realise what we would learn over the coming year how true it was that “we hate waste and combine it with a sentimental attachment to the memories embedded in ‘things’.”

In today’s post we planned to look back and share with you what we have learnt as we marched, skipped, trudged, meandered along the road to unclutterment. For example, we learnt we were not alone and that others had been down the same paths whether it was tackling food waste, plastic pollution, litter or mending stuff.  We have though decided that looking back for us, is not the way forward. We already are too firmly rooted in the past surrounded by stuff. Today we plan to boldly go where Stuffoholics rarely tread. Don’t know where ‘there’  is but come along for the ride.

Frogs into Princes

FrogIt’s been a year now since we started this strange experiment in clearing our homes of needless stuff. Are both our houses significantly airier and clutter-free? Not especially so.

These days we have a far better idea of what we no longer want or need, but unfortunately we’re also hindered by a massive guilty conscience regarding what happens to this stuff when we get rid of it. Chucking it all in a skip is no longer an option, instead we try to re-home, re-purpose or re-cycle just about every item that leaves the house. Which is surely an improvement, but does prove time consuming.

So far this year, I’ve waved goodbye to 44 books. Some were sold on eBay, some Bookcrossed & others left on free reading shelves. Whilst pondering this week’s blog, a particular title leapt out at me….

frogs

 

 

I didn’t read this book before rehoming it, so Neuro-Linguistic Programming will forever remain a mystery to me. However, the title summed up our current predicament; every frog is potentially somebody’s prince…   our task is to round up each of our unwanted frogs and gift them to people who will welcome them as princes.

 

 

                                           How hard can it be?prince frog

Having trouble with a few frogs of your own? Take a look at this helpful list of Where to Donate the Tricky Stuff, c/o Sara Macnaught at Rightsize.

Gone but not forgotten

Ted Baker bag.JPG

It’s just an old bag , no longer used but ……

Today a lesson in letting go of things so I can have space and someone else (and me too) can make new memories.

So what is the bag’s story, where has it been , what has it seen?

This bag was given to my son by his uncle one Christmas, so already it’s tale laden with emotional baggage. The perfect ‘cool’ present that I never pick but my brother always does. The bag put to immediate use, and always overladen. Whenever I trip over it I know my son has returned home. Fast forward a few years and bag has done sterling service and ventured far but handle is in need of repair and the laptop it carries so expensive that it is foolish to rely on faithful bag any longer. Time for bag,  like me to step back from son’s life.

But I’m a stuffoholic, I couldn’t just let the bag go. I filled it with stuff, not because it made sense, but it gave me a reason to keep a bag , which whenever I looked at it I remembered my son. No damage then. Well yes there was. The bag took up precious space and became not a reminder of my son’s presence but of his absence. When looked at no longer a reminder he would be home soon but of need to accept he would never be coming back. The charity shop beckons. Time for this old ‘friend’ to go on adventures new.  My son knew this when he discarded the bag but I have had to go on this journey. Be careful of embedding memories in things, remember it is the memory not the thing that needs to survive. And if you decide to keep the thing make sure when you look or touch it , it still evokes good memories or it is time to send it on its way, to let it go.

Resolutions Revisited

2018On the first day of 2018, I listed some Stuffoholic plans for the year to come. Not resolutions, so much as Good Intentions. Two months down the line, I thought it was time to revisit my list and see how I’m doing…

  1. My first good intention- and one of the reasons for starting this blog a year ago-  was to finally take control of my book-amassing habit. I’ve made a little progress, leaving them on free book shelves & selling some on eBay. My house now contains 42 fewer books. It’s a start.
  2. I’m glad to say I’ve not bought a single magazine this year. I’m even resisting the free ones given away at train stations. Sixteen have been left on the free book shelf or given to a children’s art group. The space below my bed still looks like a newsagent’s, but it’s a work in progress.
  3. Next, I intended to tackle those boxes filled to bursting with a weird & wonderful array of old paperwork. I’ve not touched a single one of them. It’s a case of Out of Sight, Out of Mind. I need to refine this intention, maybe aim to sort a box a month?
  4. The first family birthday of the year came along & I baked my first ever carrot cake. It was tasty, cheaper than a shop-bought cake & didn’t enter the house wrapped in cellophane, cardboard & pointless plastic. Result!
  5. Spontaneous litter-picking has become a habit now, as demonstrated by our Litterati total: 819
  6. It’s still a bit too cold for a second community street clean, but it’s on the books. Meanwhile, I’m planning to join a local litter pick to mark #GBSpringClean, though this may be postponed due to the current bad weather.
    Also, I do my bit whenever I get the chance; a walk along the Thames Path at the weekend led to an impromptu beach clean: straws
    And finally, I threw myself the somewhat rash challenge to rid my home of 2018 items this year. I didn’t really mean it. And I’ll never manage it. Even so, I have been counting…
    I’ve re-homed 114 items in the first two months of this year. So overall, it’s not been a bad start, but I could definitely Try Harder.

Time to Stop

autumn park shot

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare. 

             

Leisure by W.H Davies

Last week we were busy, picking up litter. This week we were going to turn our attention to #plasticfolly but on way paused,  not to smell the coffee (after all, can now only enjoy if sustainable and plastic free ) but to take time to stop (some of us cannot stand)  and stare.

Will this (in)action help us tackle the clutter in our lives. Maybe, maybe not but a few minutes away from life’s coalface will surely leave us better placed to soldier on. Sometimes just doing nothing is doing something … sometimes it is not!  We leave you to decide but know what we plan to do with our time today.

Mount Fugi

Disappointed? I was too, which is why the original title  ‘Stop and Stare’ was changed to ‘Time to Stop’ . On reading was going to need to edit and re-edit to try to capture more positive take on pausing to reflect. But then Aha moment, as realised today’s tip was to remember to stop, and then move on. Spend a finite time each day decluttering and be satisfied with what you have achieved .. for now.

That really is enough for today .. Time to Stop!

#DoItForManuela

teasels

This week’s blog was inspired by Manuela, whose litter-picking adventures I’ve been following on twitter. Please take a look at her tweets & blogs, give her a follow, say hello. Hopefully her passion for saving the environment will rub off on you and you’ll find yourself grabbing some bags and heading off on your own journey…

There and Back Again

My destination was a short stretch of the River Roding which links two incredibly busy roundabouts in East London. Walking along the bank of this river, you are never quite out of earshot of the roaring traffic. The landscape is somewhat industrial, with towering electricity pylons & concrete flyovers. And yet the Roding has a quiet dignity as it makes its way down to the Thames.

Armed with empty bags, my faithful Litterati app and the enthusiasm of someone determined to make a difference, I headed off to the bus stop. Of course, I couldn’t just walk past the litter en route and by the time I reached Roding Valley Park, I’d already picked up and binned 76 pieces of rubbish.

Once at the river, the enormity of the task sank in. Where graffiti-decorated pillars rose to support the concrete flyovers, there was a huge abundance of rubbish. I spent a while collecting bagfuls of glass bottles and dragging them back to a litter bin at the nearest bus stop. Alas, this was a task I could never complete. I decided instead to concentrate on plastic litter which was far more likely to blow into the water or trap & choke wildlife.

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After a couple of hours, I’d picked up 150 or so pieces of rubbish & the bags were getting too heavy to carry much further. It hadn’t been a difficult task, I’d enjoyed a pleasant walk along the river and I’d spotted 3 of my favourite birds (wren, teal & cormorant.)  My point being, anyone can do this. YOU can do this. Grab a bag and pick up some litter… in a park, on a beach, by a river, on your street… and collectively, we will make a difference.

Strolling back down my street, in dire need of a sit down and a cuppa, I picked up a final carrier bag full of rubbish. My own little corner of the world looked slightly less messy than it had that morning. And though I realise my own contribution can have little impact on a world full of rubbish, I also know it takes just one small spark to start a massive chain reaction.

Let’s stop complaining about all the litter and start picking it up.

#DoItForManuela

Cluttered Mind

brain

“We should start choosing our thoughts like we choose our clothes for the day.” —Farnoosh Brock

When we introduced ourselves almost a year ago, we stated “We’re stuffoholics because we can’t let go of stuff; stuff in the kitchen, stuff from the past, stuff on our phones and worst of all stuff in our heads.” Over past year we’ve focused (we use that word loosely) nearly always on physical clutter though recognising it’s our heads and hearts that are making the task a challenge.

Today we turn our decluttering attention to how one might tackle that jumble of thoughts packed in our heads. Especially, those old worries and bad memories that are kept there,  taking up space that happy thoughts could occupy. Every bit as unhelpful as unused dusty items sitting in cupboards, taking up precious space, once loved but now kept just in case. Or that stuff hidden behind other stuff so you cannot now find what you need.

What to do? A mental spring clean of course. Now this should be easier than the physical one, as no guilt that we’re killing a whale by throwing our thoughts away. Just as we made a choice to deal with physical space and stuff, we’re going to make same decisions for mind. It may be simple but it doesn’t mean it will be easy. After all it’s the thoughts all jostling to be THE thought that’s the problem and dusting some of them off to throw away could be emotionally challenging. If we were experts@discardingstuff.com then we wouldn’t be writing this blog. We also are not minimalists convinced that a tidy mind is our ultimate goal so we are going to curate our memories/ thoughts, not just throw them all out.

When is a good time to start? Well, as we have learnt over the past year, if in doubt start small and start now. Today going to consciously choose either a negative thought or a positive one for just a minute. Discard the others and see what happens.  Hopefully it’s a step on road to contentment and if it’s not, the whale is still happily swimming in the sea.

Lost Property

lost

I’ve lost a thing. I looked where it should be, then I looked where it shouldn’t be, then I looked where it should be (again.) It is nowhere to be found.

This is not a rare occurrence. My house is undeniably cluttered. Why else would I be co-author of Drowning in Stuff? I’ve lived here almost thirty years and stuff has gathered around me as surely as iron filings are drawn to a magnet.

Usually I can shrug off this kind of thing. Unless the missing item is a passport & I’m flying the next day, I can live without whatever it is; it’ll resurface when I least expect it. This time was different, since I had just sold the thing on eBay. It was no longer mine, it needed posting… and it was missing. My surefire system apparently wasn’t.

After two days of going round in circles, I had run out of places to look. I had a growing sense of dread that I would soon be disappointing my eBay customer. What does anyone do these days when they’re in a fix? Go to Google!

Which is where I found out about St Anthony, patron saint of lost things, & tried out this plea:

Tony, Tony, look around.
Something’s lost and must be found!

The internet described this address as “informal,” though it struck me as downright irreverent. I gave it a go, but “Tony” hasn’t answered my plea. If I were him, I wouldn’t either.

My lost item remains lost.  Ironic really, since it’s a Japanese purse decorated with a sweet little maneki-neko (a waving cat talisman, thought to bring good luck to the owner.) Instead of bringing me luck, it seems she was waving goodbye…

lucky cat

Turn off the tap!

cooking-pots-1840424_1280

Today’s post will be short and sweet. The image was to be a bath overflowing, but no free-to-use image to be found. The sink full of pots doesn’t quite make the point, but is an image that resonates in my current chaotic stuffoholic world. The message is simple- to stop the bath overflowing, you need to turn off the tap. Do not get distracted by suggesting you need to pull out the plug too. Focus on solving the problem by stopping the flow of water first, then we can come to how we empty the bath if the drain is blocked. I’m sure you get my point so I won’t labour it. Of the many R’s – Reuse, Recycle etc… today is about REFUSE… just say NO!! and you’ll be a little further forward on that road to unclutterment.