Archive for the ‘Reuse’ Category

How to Freecycle without the pain

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a fan of Freecycle , the online discussion group that exists to enable its members to give away unwanted goods.

By the way, although I use the name Freecyle throughout this post, most of the points I make are applicable to all such sites. There are several others, including Freegle, EcoBees and AnyGoodToYou. Freecycle seems to have become a generic name though, like Hoover and Kleenex.

Freecycle is a stonkingly brilliant use of the internet. Here’s some of the great stuff about it:

Reducing landfill

Membership of my local groups has enabled me to pass on loads of stuff that would otherwise have gone into landfill. Things like opened toiletries and cosmetics, partially functioning electrical items and broken jewellery. Broken jewellery is particularly popular as people make new jewellery from it.

Re-using stuff before it goes for recycling

Freecyclers reuse stuff that would otherwise go for recycling too. Empty jam jars are used for homemade jam, or tea light holders at outside events. Corks are used to make cork boards. A Freecycler took my empty shuttlecock tubes to use when posting documents. Another took a load of empty thread reels, for craft purposes.

Moving stuff on easily

I had some work done on my house a few years ago. My garden was relandscaped, I had a new kitchen fitted, and I had a small extension built. I was able to Freecycle a lot of the waste. Which had the added advantage that the people taking the stuff collected it from my door. Freecyclers even did the work of dismantling my shed, which they took to their allotment.

Encouraging decluttering

Because Freecycle provides a way of moving on stuff that otherwise would have to be trashed, it’s encouraged me to move on more stuff than I otherwise would. We green-minded people hate to send anything to landfill so not knowing how to dispose of something any other way can lead to hoarding and clutter.

Getting free stuff!

You might have expected this to be my top benefit. In all honesty though, I value being able to pass stuff on to someone who will make good use of it at least as much as I do getting stuff for free. In fact, I would say that membership of Freecycle has made me more generous. I’ve had so much good stuff from it that, these days, even when I’m thinking of moving on something that might sell on eBay, I tend to favour using Freecycle. It seems only fair.

Here’s some of the great stuff I’ve had from Freecycle: a beautiful silver and moonstone ring, a camera tripod, toiletries, books, CDs, stationery, clothes, replacement parts for my bike, packets of Christmas cards, even food, including unwanted-now-Christmas-is-over chocolates. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that, apart from groceries, I get most of the stuff I need from Freecycle these days. I’ve even cancelled my paper as I now pick up a local Freecycler’s paper after she’s finished with it.

Even more fantastically, the same Freecycler posted a Wanted ad for empty 500ml yoghurt pots, which she uses for starting off seedlings. As I get through two or three of these a week, when I pick up my papers from outside her house, I leave my empties in exchange. They would go straight to landfill otherwise so I’m delighted about the swap.

 

Just like I frequently mention Freecycle and Freegle in this blog, I tell people about them in person all the time too.

I’ve noticed though that, while most people like the idea, and lots of people have started using them as a result of me talking about them, some people join and then give up participating almost straightaway, having had a negative experience.

Often these negative experiences could be easily avoided by following some simple tips.

And, last week, I got a request for a blog post on how to avoid such niggles when Freecycling.

I love requests!

So, here are my …

TIPS FOR PAINLESS FREECYCLING

MANAGING COMMUNICATION

Aargh, I’m getting a million emails every day!

In my experience, the quantity of emails arriving in their inbox is the main reason why people give up on Freecycle. My local groups generate scores of emails every day. If they come straight to your inbox, you’ll probably find it too many to deal with.

It doesn’t have to be like that!

It’s actually easy to avoid being deluged. Just do one of the following three things:

1. Go to your group’s website, click on ‘Edit Membership’ and set message delivery to ‘Web only’  or ‘Special notices’. Setting it to ‘Web only’  will ensure you receive no emails at all, while setting it to ‘Special notices’ will ensure you receive only notices about the running of the group, sent by the moderator. To see the messages members post, you will therefore need to go to the website.

2. Choose the ‘Daily digest’ option at the same place.  With this option, you receive a single email containing several messages.

Although, for my local groups at least, Daily digest is a misnomer as you actually receive an email a few times a day – each time the number of messages posted to the group reaches 25.

3. Set up filters within your email client. I filter messages into separate folders for Wanted and Offer notices. And I filter Taken and Received notices straight into my Deleted Items folder so I don’t have to deal with them.

Check for new messages frequently

If your group is a large and busy one, you may need to check posted messages frequently to avoid missing out on the stuff you want.

In my experience, this means that the people who get on best with Freecycle are people who use their computer a lot, such as people who work at a computer, or frequently check mail on their phone.

Some Freecyclers feel this is unfair, so they operate a fair offer policy. This means that, rather than giving an item to the first person to respond, they wait a set time after their message appears and consider all the responses.

Consider swapping phone numbers

It can be easier to arrange a pick up time by phone, than email. And it’s useful to have a phone number when you’re picking something up, in case you have trouble finding the place.

Café forums

Many Freecycle groups also set up a second discussion group, for general chit-chat and offering things that are excluded from being offered on the main site. For example, my local group doesn’t accept offers of unwanted vouchers (as they don’t reduce landfill, which is the ethos of the group), though they can be offered on the café  site.

These forums are a great link to a community of green-minded people who may know the answer to questions you have about green issues, local recycling facilities, local events etc. In an earlier post, I told the story of how I got a faulty hairdryer mended through this community.

OFFERING

Remember your post may not appear straightaway

If your site is moderated, your post may take a while to appear. So don’t write ‘To be picked up this afternoon’. Readers won’t know which afternoon you mean.

I smile ruefully when I see ‘must go by Saturday morning’ in a message that doesn’t arrive until Saturday afternoon.

Don’t make people work too hard

The subject line of each message states what’s being offered or requested.

If you’re offering many items, there isn’t space to itemise them in the subject line of your message. The convention in this case is to state that you are offering ‘Various’, detailing the items in the body of the message.

It’s sooo annoying to open a message offering ‘Various’ to find only two or three items listed, none of which I want. These items could have been listed in the subject line, saving me opening the mail.

And, if the subject line of a Wanted message says ‘Various’ , I don’t bother opening it. So, if you’re requesting too many items to list in the subject line, I recommend posting more than one message.

Describe your item as fully as you can. It’ll save you having to field questions. And it’ll make it more likely that it’ll be taken by someone who actually will use it.

State your ground rules

If you prefer Freecyclers to deal with you in specific ways, make these clear (while staying within the rules of your group, of course).

I state that, if more than one person requests something I’m offering, I’ll prioritise those people who pick up using a minimum of fossil fuels. So my goods are most likely to go to people who pick up on foot or by bicycle, then to those coming by public transport, and only then to those coming by car.

(Mind you I did have to post a follow-up message once when I included this point only to realise that it would be impossible to carry away the garden furniture I was offering on foot or by bike. Oops!)

If you’re offering multiple items in a single post, it’s also worth saying whether you want everything to go as one lot or you’re prepared for people to take just what they want. This will depend whether your priority is to see the stuff leave your home, or to ensure that it gets reused.

There is a general assumption that people will definitely take away any item they come for. I have collected some items only to realise that they’re not what I was expecting and I can’t use them. I Freecycle them on, of course. Still, it’s a waste of time.

If you’re desperate to get rid, you might not mind about this. However, I want to maximise the chance that the goods I give away will get re-used so, in my offer posts, I say that people needn’t feel obliged to take something just because they come to see it.

To save myself typing all this out every time, I’ve created a template Offer, Wanted, and ‘Yes please I’d like that’ message in a Word document on my hard-drive, and I copy and paste from this into messages I post to Freecycle.

Provide photos

Uploading a photo helps to show people what your item is like.

Plus I use photos to effectively continue listing anything that doesn’t get taken immediately. I keep a small box of stuff that I’ve listed that hasn’t been taken and there’s a photo of each item in an album I’ve created on the site, called ‘Rachel’s stuff’. I was dead chuffed when my wormery raincover was finally taken two years after I first listed it.

In my posts offering stuff, I include the URL of my album and say to let me know if anyone wants anything pictured in it, as well as the item I’m currently offering.

Similarly, when I reply to others’ offers, to say I’d like something, I include the URL of my photo album and ask if they’d like me to bring anything shown in the album when I pick up.

Another way to continue offering stuff that doesn’t get taken immediately is to let anyone picking something up have a rummage to see if they want anything else. I do this too sometimes, although I have occasionally been concerned that someone is taking things they won’t use on the basis that they’re free so they might as well. The photos method doesn’t seem to encourage this so much.

If you just want to get rid fast, you may not want to do this. You may prefer to dispose of anything not taken another way. It partly depends how keen you are to ensure your stuff gets re-used.

Be active

Regular Freecyclers get to know who is active in the community. I’m more likely to give an item to someone I know offers lots of stuff. In fact, if I offer something that lots of people are interested in, I check the site to see what the person I’m considering giving it to has posted. If they’ve only ever post Wanteds, I give it to someone else.

I suspect that’s true of others too. I reckon I’ve been selected as the recipient of offered stuff because I’ve given stuff to the Freecycler offering it, or because they’ve noticed me posting lots of offers.

MANAGING COLLECTIONS

Accept that not everyone will behave as you think they should

You will get some no shows. Some people will snatch the item out of your hand, while turning to disappear back down the path, without so much as a ‘thank you’. Sometimes you’ll suspect that the person collecting your item is going to sell it. Some people post only ‘Wanted’ ads without offering anything. And some people say they want something and then go out of contact once you’ve mailed to say they can have it.

Ah well.

In my experience, they’re the minority.

Best not to get wound up about it. At least the item is out of your home and probably being used.

You could even look at it this way. The person collecting your goods is doing you a favour as much as you’re doing them one. You want shot of the goods after all.

If someone goes out of contact after I’ve said they can have something, I usually send them an email asking if they still want it and saying that I’ll offer the item to someone else if I don’t hear from them in 24 hours.

I try not to get wound up about it. After all, I don’t even know that they received my mail.

Leave stuff outside

I often leave stuff for collection outside my front door. It means I don’t need to be in when the item is collected. And it takes some of the pain out of no shows.

To avoid letting a stranger know that my house is unoccupied, I say I’ll leave the item outside whether or not I’m going to be in.

The downside of this approach is that it cuts down on the human interaction which is part of the fun of Freecycling.

Don’t set up free for alls

Don’t say in your Offer message that you’re leaving the stuff outside on a first come, first served basis. You may cause people to make wasted journeys.

Not only is this irritating for your fellow Freecyclers, you may be increasing fossil fuel use as some of those journeys will be made by car.

Um…did I invite you in?

If you’re expecting someone collecting to come to your door, have the stuff you’re going to give them near the door. Several times, I’ve opened the door to a Freecycler and gone to get something for them only to find, when I turned round, that they’ve followed me into my house uninvited. This is disconcerting, especially when it’s a guy.

REQUESTING

Wanted ads

Some Freecyclers don’t like Wanted ads. If you don’t, filter them out so you don’t have to deal with them (see ‘Managing Communications’ above).

Personally, I’m a fan and have given stuff in response to Wanted ads many times.

Sometimes it’s been an item I no longer want/need and just haven’t thought to move on.

Sometimes, it’s been a waste item that I would otherwise have recycled or sent to landfill. Empty yoghurt tubs, empty jam jars, corks (popular for making cork boards).

And I’ve had great responses to Wanted ads I’ve posted too. Often I’ve been able to avoid buying something by posting a Wanted to Freecycle instead. For example, I got an epilator this way from someone who hadn’t been able to stand the pain. Saved me £40 and another electrical item being bought new.

TAKING STUFF

C u 2moz?

I recommend taking the time to write a proper message when responding to postings. The person who mails me “I’d like this please. I’ll collect on foot. Thanks either way” is way more likely to be successful than the one who writes “Yes. U in tmrw?’

And respond to anything they’ve asked about in their message. If they’ve stated that the item must go by Saturday, for example, offer some times before then that you can collect.

Be considerate

When you pick something up, be on time. If you can’t make it, let them know, apologise and suggest another time. Apart from it being basic good manners, if someone knows you’re reliable, they’re more likely to give you stuff in the future.

Be polite

When you reply to say you want something, say ‘please’. When you pick something up, say ‘thank you’. A ‘thank you’ email afterwards doesn’t do any harm either.

Post Taken/Received messages

This is considered good practice. I didn’t used to bother unless I received a lot of replies to an offer. However, I guess it enables those running the group to see how effective it’s being.

For my group, the process has recently been automated so, whenever I offer something, I get a follow-up email a few days later asking me to click a link if the item has been Taken, which generates a Taken posting. Of course, this doesn’t help if I’ve posted multiple items and only some of them have been taken.

HAVE FUN

I love being a Freecycler. It’s great seeing my unwanted stuff go off to be reused. It’s great getting freebies. And it’s great to be linked in to a community of green-minded people, most of whom are super-friendly and helpful. I’ve had people collecting stuff from me give me homemade chutney, or bags of sweets as a thank you. I’ve had people giving me stuff offer to deliver it as they’ll be passing my way or because the item’s heavy and they know I haven’t got a car. I’ve met and chatted with loads of lovely people.

Freecycle is just like any other community. Get active, be friendly and you’ll get out more than you put in.

Crazy green logic and how to defeat it

I’ve been working soooo hard for the last couple of weeks, putting together materials for my green decluttering coaching programme. I’ve decided to run a prototype programme (of maybe 10 weeks duration) for half a dozen people, starting end July/beginning August, and I’ve got five people ready to sign up already. The lucky six will get my programme super-cheap in return for giving me feedback so I can tweak it and improve it ready for a full launch later in the year.

It’s starting to seem real now, which is exciting and scary in equal measure!

In the meantime, I’ve also started offering one-on-one support, where I visit people at home to work with them directly. They get a jump start on tackling that overwhelming clutter mountain, and I gain even more insight into the psychology of clutter and decluttering, particularly for green-minded people.

And I’ve been interviewing people to really get how they feel about their clutter, and why they are cluttered.

One of the things I love about working in this area is how it makes me look again at my own attitude to my belongings. Over the years, I’ve developed effective systems and processes for managing my stuff so that my house is almost clutter-free. (It’s not, and never will be, completely clutter-free. I don’t want my house to look like a museum and I don’t mind if a few things sit around waiting to be dealt with, so long as it doesn’t get overwhelming).

Nonetheless, I’ve been surprised by some of the irrational thought processes I’m spotting in myself.

It might come in handy

When you’re green-minded (and, especially if you’re thrifty too, as green-minded people often are), it’s tempting to feel that it’s better to hang onto anything that there’s any chance of you using in the future.

There’s false logic here though. For anything that you’re not likely to use, and which you could replace relatively easily and/or cheaply, the greener option is to get it back into circulation.

And, if your clutter means you’re paying for off-site storage, it might be the cheaper option too.

The trick, when decluttering, is to think it through logically. If you’re tempted to keep it because ‘it might come in handy’, think:

  1. How LIKELY is it that I’ll use it in future?
  2. How EASILY could I replace it if necessary?
  3. How CHEAP/EXPENSIVE would it be to replace if necessary?
  4. How much would I CARE if I couldn’t replace it?

If you’re unlikely to use it (even though you might) and you could replace it relatively easily and cheaply (or you wouldn’t care that much if you couldn’t), the greener option is to get it to someone who will use it in the foreseeable future.

For example, ever since I decluttered my leftover DIY materials, it’s been nagging at me that I wasn’t rigorous enough. Apart from the part-used cans of coloured paints, here’s some things I held onto:

Paint etc

Bye bye

  • 4 part-used cans of interior wood varnish
  • 1 part-used tin of white satinwood paint
  • 1 part-used tin of white eggshell paint
  • 1 part-used spray can of primer
  • 1 part-used tin of primer
  • 1 part-used tin of metal primer
  • 2 part-used tins of white emulsion
  • 1 part-used tin of white undercoat
  • 1 part-used tin of off-white undercoat.

In the light of what I said in my previous blog post, I’ve been reconsidering those items. While it’s true that I might use them in the future, it’s not likely. I’m not planning any redecorating, plus, if and when I do, the chances are that the decorator I use will prefer to use new materials than old ones that might have deteriorated over time (which is why I’ve got more than one can of varnish and white emulsion). And they’re all easily, and fairly cheaply, replaceable.

Meanwhile, all that stuff is out of circulation, sitting in my loft when someone else could be using it rather than buying new. And, if I ever do come to use it, I might find it’s deteriorated beyond use (like the grout and Covertex I mentioned in my previous blog post). How annoyed would I be then?

So I sent a Facebook message to Choppa at Elementree Studios to see if he can use them and he messaged back to say he’d be delighted to take them off my hands. Fantastic! If he hadn’t wanted them, I’d have put them on Freecycle and Freegle and, if that hadn’t worked, I’d have contacted Community RePaint.

I bought it, I’m responsible for it

I also hold onto stuff because I feel responsible for it. This particularly applies to things that are unlikely even to be wanted by Freecyclers/Freeglers yet which are still functional. Old towels and clothes that are way out of fashion for example. I feel obliged to keep using them, or find a use for them (which often really means hanging onto them in the hope of finding a use for them) until they’re worn out.

If I’ve got more of them than I can ever hope to use though, that’s not the greenest option. It would be better to give them to charity shops, who can raise money by selling them as rags to be reprocessed for use in, for example, carpets and underlays.

When my clothes cupboard next comes up in my decluttering schedule, I’m shifting some of those no-longer-good-enough-for-everyday clothes  that I’ve been telling myself would do for gym cover ups or to sleep in. I’m going to see how many I’ve got and get realistic about how many it’s worth keeping. I suspect I’ve got more than I can hope to wear out in my lifetime.

And, if that’s true, some of them are going for charity rags.

Stuff as a security blanket

So then I noticed something else. As I made the decision to move on those decorating materials, I got a flash of anxiety. What was that about? I took a look and found that the thoughts behind it were:

  • How much stuff do I want to get rid of? Am I in danger of getting rid of so much that I haven’t got what I need?
  • How will I feel about empty shelves and cupboards? Will my house start to feel bare, soulless and grim?
  • Will I reach a point where I can no longer justify living in my (beloved) house because I’ve got rid of so much stuff that I need less space?

All that in response to considering moving on a few part-used tins of paint!

It made me conscious of the extent to which we accumluate stuff as a security blanket. And how irrational that is. After all, we can’t store in our homes all the stuff we’re ever going to need in our lifetimes. Or even all the stuff that passes through our hands that we would use again in the future (let alone all the stuff that we only might use).

There are many other irrational justifications we have for acquiring and holding onto clutter (‘but it’s a bargain’, ‘I will get round to doing that craft project/losing that weight one day’, ‘but it cost a lot of money’, ‘but it might be worth something’, ‘but it was a gift’ ‘but it reminds me of someone/something/sometime’…). The ones above are just those my own decluttering, and my recent even stronger focus on it, has had me noticing.

Developing this business, and writing this blog also has me discover even more ways to move things on so that they will get reused, and even more green alternatives to everyday products. Connecting with the green community on Twitter, and researching issues for my blog posts immerses me even deeper into this domain that I love so much.

It’s all good. 🙂

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Why keeping it ‘cos you might use it in future isn’t always green.

This month’s area for decluttering is part of my loft. That part of my loft in which I keep old decorating materials.

And it’s a salutary lesson in not hoarding.

When you’re green-minded, it’s doubly tempting to hoard. I hate to put anything in the bin. My hand always hesitates as I think ‘Can’t I do something else with this?’

So, when I redecorate, I never want to throw out leftover decorating materials.

Old Covertex

Now the consistency of putty

It’s worth storing some of it. Seeing a can of leftover emulsion from when my bedroom was decorated, I brought it down and painted over various marks on my walls. I’ve been meaning to do that for ages, particularly around the lightswitch where the wall was grubby with fingermarks.

On the other hand, I also found half a bag of grout and half a tub of Covertex, both of which are nearly solid.

I hoped that it might be possible for someone to reconstitute them.  However my internet research says not.

What a waste.

Thing is, I put them up in the loft in the days before Freegle and Freecycle made it super-easy to find someone to use the stuff we don’t want/need anymore.

Another great way to move on unwanted paint is through Community RePaint, which redistributes unwanted paint to people in need. Its website has a postcode locator to help you find your nearest scheme.

Rock hard grout

Rock hard grout

Ah well, at least my legs will get a good workout as I cycle them up a big hill to the household recycling site.

The only decorating materials I’m storing from now on are things it would be hard to replace if I needed to do a repair, and which won’t come to any harm over time, like well-sealed cans of paint and leftover tiles.

Other than that, I’m moving on the leftovers as soon as the job is finished.

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Make the whole world a library

One of the most common types of clutter is books. They seem to have a mystique about them that encourages us to hold on to them. Is it because we feel the sight of lots of (tasteful?) books on our shelves projects a certain image about ourselves? Or because we subconsciously believe that the proximity of all that knowledge and erudition will cause at least some of it magically to transfer itself to our brains? Or do we fear not being able to put our hands on a piece of information or quote that we’ve once read?

I used to keep all books that came into my possession. Stacked up on overladen bookshelves. I liked the idea that I could get a fiction book down if I wanted to reread a passage, and I held onto lots of non-fiction as I was sure the contents would be useful ‘someday’.

Then I joined BookCrossing. BookCrossers register books on the BookCrossing website, and write a unique reference number (a BCID) in each book, along with a message explaining how BookCrossing works. Then we leave our books in public places in the hope that whoever finds them will log them on the website. When they do, the finder’s message is added to that book’s ‘journal’ and we get an email to let us know. (Of course, we also pass books between other BookCrossers and people we know personally).

Released book

I left a book at Brighton railway station yesterday. I let you know if it gets journalled.

I don’t hear from all my books again straight away. Though I never know when I might. Nearly two years after I left The Optimist’s Daughter in a phone box in Dorset, having just finished walking the South West Coast Path, I got a message saying it had been to Brazil and was now off to Toronto. Who knows where it is now?

Other times, a book jumps from owner to owner quickly, with journal entries that make me laugh out loud. This Dictionary of Quotations & Proverbs was journalled several times in quick succession.

Nearly a third of the books I’ve ‘released’ have been journalled again since.

Soon I was pulling down books to release and wondering why I’d kept them all these years. I found books I was never going to read again, books I couldn’t remember reading, books that had moved house with me several times even though I didn’t even think they were any good…

It freed me up. Before I became a BookCrosser, I kept a record of the books I’d lent out and felt aggrieved if someone failed to return a book, or returned it in a much worse state that it was in when they borrowed it. Now I don’t care. Once I’ve read a book, what’s the point of it cluttering up my house? Chances are I’ll never want to read it again and, if I do, I’ll easily be able to get hold of a copy from a library or online.

Close up of BookCrossing release

Close up of The Meaning of Night at Brighton railway station. My note says "Travelling book. Please take. See inside :-)".

I haven’t completely let go. I now keep:

  • books I haven’t read yet (and am intending to!)
  • about a dozen of my absolute favourites
  • books set in my beloved home town of Brighton (only good ones though)
  • some classics (this is probably the least justifiable as they are so easily available)
  • recipe books
  • books I’m in (there aren’t many!)
  • coffee table books
  • non-fiction/reference books that I’m genuinely likely to use.

That’s the theory anyway. In truth, my shelves still contain lots of books that I could move on. Ah well, maybe I’ll shift some more when my bookshelves come up in my decluttering schedule. And I already have two clear shelves. Wow, I love the feeling of space that gives me.

And I never buy books, even secondhand. Most of my books come (and go) through BookCrossing and, if I find myself running short of reading material, a trip to the library, or a loan from a friend, soon sorts that out.

The only exception is guide books, which are tricky because they go out of date so quickly. The ones available to borrow from my local library are usually at least one edition out of date. So I do sometimes buy guide books when I travel. These days I Freegle/Freecycle  them or pass them to charity shops as soon as I get back, before they’ve dated too much. My old ones probably wouldn’t sell though. I have them marked as ‘available’ on BookCrossing (which tells other BookCrossers that I’m ready to move them on and it’s worth contacting me to see if I’d like to do a swap) and local Freeglers/Freecyclers sometimes ask for a guidebook saying that they’re only interested in the information on sights, so the age of the book doesn’t matter.

BookCrossing‘s probably not the LOWEST impact way of reading. We post books to each other, using (and reusing) jiffy bags and the fossil fuels involved in transporting them. Plus a proportion of the ones we wild release (i.e. leave lying around to be found) probably get thrown away by overzealous cleaning staff. Using the library has got to be lower impact. BookCrossing‘s fun though and makes you part of a community. Plus using a library didn’t shift my attitude to keeping books the way BookCrossing has. I didn’t expect it to be such a great clutter clearer when I joined.

Beware though. BookCrosser’s tend to be generous and, if you’re not careful, you could end up with more books than you started with.

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The party’s over yet the fun continues

So, what to do with the leftovers from the decluttering rummage pot-luck party…

The clothes and shoes are easy. I’ll bag them up and put them in a charity clothes bin.

The rest of the leftovers are books (including loads about digital design), CD-Roms (mostly educational), a DVD, a few videos and a couple of CDs, plus some computer peripherals.

Oh and a plastic dragon and a Postman Pat badge.

I listed all these items on Freecycle /Freegle this evening, individually naming each of them.

I’m getting some fabulous replies.

A student wants a couple of the digital design books to help with her course.

A teacher wants the rest of the digital design books, plus  a few others for the library at her school.

Another teacher wants the CD-Roms for her school.

Someone wants the computer peripherals for the club rooms of a residents’ association.

And the guy who fixed my hairdyer wants a video, a CD-Rom and a book.

How fab is that? I thought this stuff would be hard to shift.

Now I’m delighted that I devoted half an hour to typing out the name of each item. Things are more likely to get used if they go to people who request specific ones, rather than as a job lot to a charity shop.

I can’t tell you how much it pleases my decluttering low impact heart to pass individually requested items on to people. I’m looking forward to seeing the items go out of the door tomorrow, and the smiles on the collectors’ faces.

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One woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure

We all know we’ve got more stuff than we need.

It takes something to get round to sorting out the things we don’t want and getting rid of them though, doesn’t it?

And we tend to want our stuff to go to a ‘good home’. We’d like to know it’s being used, and loved.

AND, we love an evening with friends and food, right?

See where I’m going with this?

Swapping

Rummaging

I had a ‘decluttering rummage pot-luck party’ on Friday night. 14 of us got together at my house, with everyone bringing veggie food to share and anything they wanted to give away. Clothes, shoes, handbags, jewellery, make-up, toiletries, cosmetics, books, CDs, DVDs, videos, video games, IT accessories, kitchen equipment, stationery, stickers, plants, seeds, a mirror, a standard lamp, a food processor, a hand blender, crockery, candles…

I don’t know whether I’m more chuffed that over half of what was brought found new homes, or that between us we generated several boxes and bags of leftovers that are leaving our lives altogether. Once a couple of other friends have rummaged through them, I’ll find ways to move the stuff on (looking for ways to do so that maximise the chances that each item gets reused).

I gave away clothes, a CD (Kelly Osbourne – what was I THINKING?!), and toiletries I wouldn’t have used. And I gained toiletries that I WILL use, a hoodie, a star for the top of my Christmas tree, a torch, camping cutlery and a hand blender (I’ve wanted one of those for ages!).

Friends from five different areas of my life came along, and one friend brought her flatmate, so no-one knew everyone beforehand. We all had plenty to talk about though as each person showed us what she’d brought and gradually gathered a pile of stuff she wanted.

Glittery shoes

Glittery shoes - irresistable

Everyone went home delighted with their new finds, not to mention to have offloaded so much stuff. I particularly liked it when unexpected new uses were found for things. Like my friends who run Titbits Catering taking a toy van with cakes painted on the side to decorate their stall at markets, and smiley face stickers to seal their cake boxes.

Here’s a challenge though:

how do we get men to do this? In my experience, only women hold/attend these kind of parties. Men must have stuff they could swap too, no?

My tips for a successful swap-o-rama party:

1. Get the numbers right

14 people was probably too many. It took a long time to go through what everyone had brought. If you’re going to do ‘show and tells’ rather than take the ‘put everything in one place and just rummage through it’ approach, 10 people would be plenty.

2.  Be clear about the start time

Ask people to arrive within half an hour of your stated start time. It doesn’t work well to have new people turning up throughout the evening.

3. Provide a mirror

Sexual intimacy book

Could be interesting

Have a mirror in the swapping room. People will want to try on the clothes.

4. Reassure people

Reassure anyone who says ‘I haven’t got much to bring’ or ‘My stuff’s such rubbish’. In my experience, most people worry that they’re not bringing enough quality items, yet plenty of stuff always gets claimed.

5. Make it fair

Consider how you’re going to handle it if more than one person wants the same item. I like to have people take turns to pick an item from the popular items pile (having drawn numbers from a bag to determine who goes first, second etc). With fewer people (and therefore less stuff), I sometimes create a ‘take turns to pick’ system for all the items. This helps to ensure that people who are less confident about speaking up don’t miss out.

6. Dispose of the leftovers in as green a way as possible

Leftovers

And that's just the leftovers

Consider how you’re going to dispose of the unwanted items. You could Freecycle /Freegle everything as a job lot. Or, if you want to maximise the chance that stuff will get used, you might want to Freecycle /Freegle as many items as you can individually. Other options include clothes banks, charity shops, and recycling at household waste sites.

Give others a chance to rummage through the leftovers. One friend who didn’t make the party claimed a pair of shoes and two tops for herself, plus a bracelet and a pair of slippers for her three-year-old. Another friend will be rummaging tomorrow and I’m going to wait until my brother and sister-in-law have been to stay with me next weekend, before I get rid of everything.

7. Don’t overdo the rules

Some people like to set a minimum number of items to bring, request that people bring clothes freshly ironed, provide hanging rails and places to set things out attractively, and ensure that all guests are a similar size (so that they’ll fit each other’s clothes). I say, forget all that. Keep it casual and laid-back. It’s supposed to be fun!

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Make do and mend

Once again, Brighton’s Freecycling community comes up trumps. My decades-old hairdryer starting cutting out recently and a cursory investigation revealed the problem: the flex was splitting at the point where it entered the body of the hairdryer.

HairdryerWhile I could probably have picked up a new hairdryer for £15, it seemed a shame to take my old one to the household waste recycling site, when I knew it could be easily mended (though I didn’t have the skills to do it myself). So I posted to Brighton Freecycle Café, a discussion group for Brighton Freecyclers, asking for suggestions for how I could get it mended.

Within two days, someone had messaged me offering to repair it. He picked it up from my house, fixed it and dropped it back off the same day, asking nothing in return. What a star!

Freecycle (and Freegle) are more than ways to find new homes for your unwanted stuff, and source secondhand items you want yourself. They provide access to a community of like-minded people in your area whose members support each other to live low impact lifestyles.

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