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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Blue Monday

Grumpy Bear

Welcome to Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year (allegedly.)

Cold weather, lack of money, reduced daylight, failed New Year’s resolutions, winter sniffles, and unwanted pounds after the excesses of Christmas all accumulate to make this the very worst day of the year. But before you climb back into bed…  it isn’t actually true. This “scientifically calculated” phenomenon was invented by Sky Travel in 2005 to drum up more business in the doldrums of the year.

Whatever your financial status, weight, or state of health, there’s absolutely no need to be gloomy just because a now defunct holiday company declared it inevitable. Let’s make a positive effort today to be that bit more cheerful, helpful & positive.

Instead of Blue Monday, let’s Have a Nice Day! 

 

#fakewall

decaying-brick-wallpaper-

Why #fakewall .  Why not! a simple response but readers deserve more, expect more. It’s a long story but let me start in the middle and perhaps get to the beginning more swiftly. I had the perfect story for this post on letting go but when I went to look for it, it wasn’t where I thought it should be. After many unproductive attempts to find it , it seemed foolish not to learn the intended post’s lesson and just let it go.

What though then of today’s blank page staring at me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you see a clean sheet rather than blank page an entirely suitable start to a year. Was tempted to leave it at that, if that had been plan A but felt cheating as Plan B.  Nothing came to mind…. I’d hit a brick wall. Voila! Now hitting the wall that was an all too suitable topic for this journey where the loss of potential  blog material is a clear indicator that we are still drowning (in stuff).

Topic selected but the modern blog is about images with words not vice versa so off a googling I went. The picture you see a suitable symbol not just of any wall but of the chic minimalist interior we don’t aspire to but occasionally desire. But there’s the rub,the wall is fake – just wallpaper to create an illusion. So easy to create clutter free space or a brick wall but are either real or imagined. Only you know what is and what it is meant to be. Enough philosophy to start the day. Next week we will return to tangible stuff . Till then let it go.

 

Good Intentions

Happy New Year

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions. I reckon the start of a brand new year should be a time of hope and excitement. Pledging to give up things which I enjoy- or take up things I don’t- seems like a good way of setting myself up for failure. The dreary post-Christmas weeks would be made far worse by the onslaught of guilt at failing to drop bad habits or adopt good ones. With this mindset, I’ve always found it easy not to set myself unrealistic goals at the threshold of each new year.

That said, 2017 evolved into a year of examining my bad habits and searching for better ways of doing stuff. I’ve quite a list of positive changes made since the Stuffoholics started this blog last March and I’d like to build on these in the coming year. No hard and fast Resolutions- nothing I can measurably fail at by early February- but a selection of Good Intentions which I will keep in mind over the year to come…

  1. Despite some early progress, I’m still up to my ears in books. They were one of the earliest indicators that I was Drowning in Stuff and are still pretty much my decluttering nemesis. I’m declaring 2018 a year of Bookcrossing, eBaying & unbridled giving away of books. I can’t imagine I’ll get this under control in just 12 months, but I’ll give it a go.
  2. If ever I feel tempted to buy a magazine this year, I’ll think about the hundred or so still parked under the bed. I really don’t need them. All that stuff is available online. Besides, if I need something to read, I shouldn’t have any trouble finding a book!
  3. Still on the subject of paper… I’ll be sorting out all my boxes stuffed with saved articles, receipts, instruction manuals etc, and implementing a new “do I really need to keep this?” regime.
  4. A quick and (hopefully) easy idea… I plan to bake cakes for all our family birthdays this year. No more supermarket creations, wrapped in cardboard, plastic and cellophane. I can’t remember the last time I made a cake from scratch, so this could prove interesting!
  5. Last summer, Stuffoholics picked up the Litterati app (and consequently 500 pieces of litter.) We’ll definitely be sticking with this good habit in 2018. And with a whole year of litter-picking ahead of us, 1000 should be an easy-peasy target.
  6. We’ll also be organising our next community street clean. The first, back in November, brought together ten neighbours to clear eight bin bags of rubbish from our local streets. After identifying the problem, it felt good to be a part of the solution. The mince pies were good too!

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.

Happy New Year, everyone!

2018

What to do about G

Typewriter_keyboard

Who or what you ask is G and what if anythin does it have to do with stuff. Well, today we enter the last phase of that time of year where the many not the few exhibit signs of compulsive buying disorder and even when those drowning in stuff feel compelled to buy more. The post could thus have focused on how this time is really an opportunity to give away stuff and to help others with the gift of time not things. A reminder to not waste food just because we can and a link perhaps to tips on freezing and purchase of non perishables. Good stuff but not what I have planned.

postergiftexample0

The letter g on my laptop keyboard only now works intermittently. With autocorrect and auto complete this is less of an issue than you might think but still an irritation every time I try to type ood morning.  On the zero waste trail the first stop should not be replace but Repair. I enthusiastically googled ‘how to fix stuck laptop keyboard key youtube’ and was spoilt for choice.

But as well as the enthusastic “thanks this was a life saver” in the comments there was also  “…it looks easy on this video, bu depending on the model, this is borderline impossible to do without breaking one of the little bars of the mounts that attach to the hooks on the keyboard. This plastic doesn’t stretch very easily. If you are ordering parts, I recommend that you order more than one of the same key that you need to replace, in case you break it trying to get it on.” Hmm… to remove or not remove that G!

Plan B suggested by fellow stuffoholic was to CTRL C the G and then CTRL V as necessary. They sometimes like to check how far I will go to avoid buyin somethin new.

The dilemma therefore was to risk repair and potentially make matters worse or opt for a world where I live without g , avoid words with g and tell my family and friends ‘thins may never be ood aain’.  As I mused, I realised that for all my ‘broken’ stuff I need to decide if it can be repaired and if not does it need to be rehomed and/or replaced. To decide how much for a simple life I need things around me that work or will I feel better if I can live with those that need to be gently (like that) coaxed to work. Do I need to take more chances that miht work out because if they do things will be better. No answers today but we and the minions wish you Seasons reetings and a Happy New Year.

Open the box

Today I am reviewing the solutions to a problem that has plagued my adult life… how to manage paper. More specifically, all those bits of paper which cannot be thrown out because I intend to look at them again some day.

DSC_0138

My earliest solution, dating back 25 years, has slowly evolved into the Drawer that Must Never be Opened. All was well until its bottom started to bow under the weight of all that stuff & shutting it would often depend upon removing an item or three.

DSC_0131

Rather than throwing out the excess tonnage, I moved on to Solution #2 (aka Pretty Boxes.) These effortlessly transform heaps of ugly paperwork into organised loveliness. But one box quickly filled, then two, three, four…

DSC_0129My 3rd solution looks positively organised. No randomness here; I spy alphabetical tabs! A concertina file was my attempt at bringing order to the problem of unread magazines. A decluttering article advised me to tear out any pages I wanted to refer back to, then recycle the rest of the magazine. Into the file went the vital articles. Alas, the appeal of this solution was short lived.. a quick glance under my bed earlier this year revealed in excess of 150 (complete) magazines.

So… here’s an interesting question… do I ever return to these carefully saved pieces of paper? Aside from the occasional scrabble for an old receipt in the Drawer that Must Never be Opened… the answer is no.

Today I decided it was time to finally take a second look at some of this stuff (and most probably redirect it to the recycling bin.) Here’s a brief selection of what I found:

  • 2006 Guardian interview with Eoin Colfer, possibly saved to remind me to buy his latest Artemis Fowl book (which has now been out for 11 years.)
  • 2003 article, Light Your Fire- Planning for Clarity & Confidence in Your Life. “Cinderella didn’t get to go to the ball because she thought it might be a nice idea. She desperately wanted to go…” made me desperately want to chuck this article.
  • Radio Times free audio book, The Feast of the Drowned… a Doctor Who story read by David Tennant. Sadly, this CD is part 2. If anyone has the first & wonders how the story ended, it’s all yours!
  • 2007 The Independant full page photograph of Bill Oddie. Nope, no idea.
  • Instructions for an Action Watch, which I can’t recall owning.
  • Advice on planting a blackthorn/sloe: “it’s extremely hardy and will grow happily in any soil & in almost any position.” I succeeded in finding the one position it couldn’t tolerate & in ten years it has produced a total of half a dozen sloes.
  • 2005 BFI  list of the 50 films your children should see by the age of 14. I asked my 20 something son how many of these he’d seen & the answer was a paltry 16. One more example of how I’ve clearly failed my children. Thanks for that, BFI.

I could go on, but I shan’t. I think you’ve got the picture. The concertina file is empty now. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be tackling the drawer and boxes. From today, I’ll be far more discerning about which bits of paper need to stay in my life. And never again am I saving an article from a magazine for future reference.

The upside of this whole process? Finding old school photos, letters from family & my children’s art… all of which belong in a Pretty Box.