Posts Tagged ‘declutter’

Wow, that’s what I call transformation!

Yesterday I delivered my first Clutter-Busting Jump Start. And it was so much fun! It was so satisfying to help my client transform an area of her home from a dirty, dusty heap of jumbled stuff to a beautiful, pristine space.

About a week before my visit, I had a conversation with my client to get a thorough understanding of how she felt about her home and her clutter, and the impact it has on her.

I got how much it gets her down. Most of the time, she ‘blanks it out’ and, on the occasions when she allows herself to acknowledge the reality of it, she is shocked and upset. Her shame about it prevents her from inviting people over, and that also upsets her. She feels like a failure. Particularly because she has a 10 year old son, and she fears that she’s teaching him bad habits.

She explained that she got used to a chaotic home as her Mum’s home was that way.

She was becoming aware that she held onto stuff for psychological protection, and that therefore the idea of letting stuff go could be scary.

Nonetheless, she was ready to take it on and had recently made £140 by selling stuff at a car boot sale. She had also improved the state of her son’s room.

Next, we talked about her vision for her home. She saw that it could be lovely and clear, with a place for everything (especially things that are special to her), and clean, so that she was proud to have friends visit.

I asked her to develop this vision further before my visit. I emailed her guidance for a visioning exercise to help her create a stronger picture of the home she might create, which would motivate her through her decluttering.

I also asked her to decide, before my visit, which area of her home we were going to declutter, suggesting that she choose an area which:

  • Would be relatively easy to declutter and/or
  • Would give her a ‘quick win’ (it would look amazing when finished even though it wasn’t the hardest area to declutter) and/or
  • She used a lot and/or
  • She was itching to get started on and/or
  • Was the first place she saw on entering her home.

When I arrived,  we talked further about her vision for her home. She had become even more conscious of the extent to which her home was holding her back and keeping her stuck. She had noticed that visiting the clutter-free home of a friend made her feel like she was on holiday.

She is going to create a home that is clear and spacious, though not minimalist. The things she uses will be easily to hand in their proper place. It will be welcoming and bright. And she will feel comfortable inviting people over. She showed me pictures from Elle Decoration magazine which she’d chosen as inspiration.

The area she’d chosen for us to declutter was the space beside her bed, which looked like this.

Before

What it looked like before we started

Apologies for the quality of the photos by the way. I forgot my camera (doh!) so took them on my phone.

The first thing we did was create a clutter-clearing station by clearing a rug at the end of her bed for us to work on. We simply moved everything from the area that was to be our clutter-clearing station to one of the other (cluttered) areas of the room, without sorting through the stuff we moved.

Then we moved everything from the area we were decluttering into our now clear clutter-clearing station, and set ourselves up with our containers for different types of clutter.

Next we cleaned the area for decluttering, vacuuming up massive dust balls, washing the skirting board and wiping the floor. Dirt is often a consequence of clutter. It’s so time-consuming to clean thoroughly when an area is cluttered that most people simply give up and live with the dirt.

Only then did we start going through the stuff we’d removed from the area. With ‘help’ from her pretty, short-haired, grey cat, who liked to walk on whatever we we were looking at, and sit in our clutter containers, we considered each item one at a time. My client decided whether to recycle them, send them to landfill, move them to somewhere else in her home, return them to their owners, put them back in the area we were clearing, take action relating to them, or sell them at a car boot sale. If she wasn’t sure, we put the items to one side for reconsideration later.

As we worked, it became clear that she’d chosen an area that she was itching to get started on and used a lot. And definitely not an area that would be relatively easy to declutter or would provide a quick win.

She did brilliantly. She got rid of so much stuff!

We had to empty our recycling tub twice as it was brimful of paper.

She’s got a big bag of stuff to sell.

We put a small bag of stuff out for landfill.

And we re-homed most of the rest. Stationery, such as postcards, envelopes, sticky tape, pencil sharpeners, calculators, a hole punch, and post-it notes, found their appropriate place in the living room. Her son’s toys moved back to his room. Cosmetics and toiletries went to the bathroom. An umbrella is now handily hanging from a peg in the hall.

So hardly anything went back into the original area.

She even decided to move on two collapsible laundry baskets, and a cardboard carton that we’d emptied. I particularly acknowledged her for this as, by reducing her storage options, she made it harder for herself to reclutter.

The stuff we worked through included a lot of paperwork, each piece of which required an individual decision. Amongst other things, we sent old utility bills and bank statements for recycling, put all her son’s artwork into one file, put important documents into another file, and moved stationery to the appropriate place in her living room. She was delighted to find some crucial legal documents.

When she’s finished decluttering her home, and she’s got all her son’s artwork in one place, she’s going to decide which bits to frame and display, letting the rest go.

Similarly, we came across a lot of photographs, which she put in one place. Again, when she’s got all her photographs together, she’ll be better placed to decide which ones to keep, which to display and which to let go.

We sorted through her jewellery, piece by piece. This was particularly challenging, as jewellery often is. Many pieces had been gifts, or belonged to now deceased relatives. There were lots of items she’d had a long time. Each piece had a sentimental attachment.

Allowing herself to be ‘not sure’ worked wonders here. On our first pass through, whenever she hesitated for more than about 30 seconds over an item, I suggested she put into the ‘not sure’ pile and we moved on. She let a lot go on the first pass, including a jewellery cabinet. Although it had been given to her by her late grandmother, she didn’t actually like it and, after careful consideration, she decided to sell it, acknowledging that her grandmother wouldn’t want her to have something in her home that kept her stuck or didn’t give her pleasure.

And, when we’d been through everything once, and we returned to the ‘not sure’ pile, she found it easier to reach decisions about each item.

We sorted through lots of art materials, and stored them in one box, using smaller boxes and bags to group together items such as some little wooden sticks and sticky paper shapes. We tested all the pens and threw out the ones that didn’t work.

We found hundreds of cards from a variety of her son’s games and collections, including several sets of Top Trumps. We sorted them into sets, putting incomplete ones out for recycling, and complete ones on the games shelf in the living room.

A broken music stand went to landfill, as my client realised that it was unlikely that it could be mended.

When we’d finished, the area looked like this. (Believe it or not, that white cabinet is in the ‘before’ picture too!)

After

And the entire contents of that cabinet is...three earplugs!

Once we’d started, my client didn’t want to stop and I had trouble persuading her to break for lunch!

And when we finished, she was blown away by how much we’d achieved. She’s going to use the new space to practice yoga, something she hasn’t managed to do before as she’s never had a clear space in which to do it.

She was only left with a couple of items about which she was still not sure. A polished, heart-shaped pebble which she didn’t know what to do with although she found it pretty. And a painted-glass jewellery box which contained lead and came with a health warning exhorting you to wash your hands after handling it. The health warning made her feel uncomfortable both about keeping it and about giving it to someone else, though she did find it beautiful. She held onto each of these items for now, safe in the knowledge that she can always reconsider as she continues her decluttering.

As we were re-homing the last items, her son came home from school and I suggested he have a look beside his Mum’s bed and tell us what he thought.

“Clean!” he announced with a grin.

These were the elements of my role that made a difference and enabled her to achieve more in this decluttering session than she ever has before.

Keeping her focused

It would have been easy for her to get distracted by the clutter elsewhere in her home. For example, when we were re-homing some items, she couldn’t find the box or file where they belonged, and was tempted to work through piles of clutter to look for them. I recommended that she put the items we were re-homing where she wanted to keep such items and then, as she decluttered other areas and found the boxes/files she was looking for, she could consolidate.

Similarly, when we found certain types of clutter, she would remember that there was more of it elsewhere and be tempted to deal with that at the same time. If she could lay her hands on it easily and there wasn’t too much, it made sense to do this. For example, we brought the rest of her jewellery in from another area as it was easier for her to make decisions about her jewellery when it was all in one place. However, if there was a whole boxful of stuff elsewhere or she couldn’t easily find it, I suggested she leave that to another decluttering session.

Acknowledging her

I took every opportunity to point out how well she was doing. Clutterholics always tell me that they feel like failures and starting to tackle their clutter can exacerbate this as they come face-to-face with the amount of stuff they’ve amassed. This is often so discouraging that they give up.

I kept telling her how admirable it was that she’d chosen to tackle the issue, pointing out the progress we were making, and reminding her of how lovely it would be when her home was the way she was planning for it to be.

It wasn’t hard to remember to do this. My glee as we filled another tub with paper for recycling, or reached the end of one of her boxes of stuff wasn’t feigned. And I think I got as much pleasure out of gazing at the finished area as she did.

Advising her on what she needed to keep and how to dispose of things

She wasn’t sure whether it would be sensible to keep certain things, such as old utility bills and I was able to advise her on what was necessary.

I was also able to advise her on green ways to dispose of several items that she would otherwise have put into landfill. I told her about a local charity that takes foreign and old coins, a local printer that has a recycling bin for CD-ROMs, and that broken jewellery gets snapped up on Freecyle/Freegle, by people wanting to rework it.

Being with her emotions

There were emotional moments as she came across papers relating to deceased loved ones. This can be difficult to deal with alone and can prevent people from starting decluttering, or stop them from progressing. It was a privilege to sit with her and allow her to express her emotional reactions, until she was ready to move on.

Encouraging her not to cut corners

Within the boxes and piles of stuff, we came across containers which she was tempted to keep without examining the contents. At my suggestion, we worked through them and, in most cases, let most of the contents go. For example, though she initially suggested simply keeping a collapsible file of paperwork, when we went through it, almost every single item went for recycling, leaving her with an empty file which she’ll be able to use to order her remaining important paperwork once she’s finished decluttering.

Acting as a sounding board

Bouncing her thoughts off me helped her to make decisions, often without me needing to open my mouth. She would say things like “Oh, I don’t know about this…I was going to get a frame and make it into something I could put on the wall…Will I ever do it though?..I could do it…Realistically, though…I don’t think I need to keep it…Shall I let it go?…You know, I’m going to sell it. I don’t really need all this stuff from my past, do I?” Just having someone listen to her as she worked the thoughts through enabled her to reach her own conclusions, and feel confident in her decisions.

Advising her on staying decluttered

Before I left, we talked about scheduling the actions we’d identified for her to take with the stuff we’d gone through, keeping the newly cleared area clear, how she is going to take her decluttering forward, and how to reduce the amount of stuff that comes into her home.

The more decluttering she does, the easier it will be to reduce what she acquires. She won’t be buying sticky tape for a while as we found five reels and, more importantly, she now knows where they are. Same goes for post-it notes. And, if it rains, she knows where her umbrella is.

Plus she’s going to have a gentle word with her Mum, who often buys stuff for her unsolicited. She’s going to explain that, while she recognises that her Mum does it out of love, she’s got too much stuff in her home and it upsets her so she’d rather her Mum showed her love another way.

What a successful day. I find helping someone else declutter at least as cathartic as decluttering myself. Maybe it’s because, with the green decluttering process I’ve developed, I’m never tackling serious clutter. In my own home, it’s more about maintenance than transformation. On the other hand, in a matter of a few hours, clients can, with my support, transform a space that has been causing them stress, anxiety and upset into a space they love.


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How to jump start your clutter-busting

I’m excited about the Clutter-Busting Jump Start service I’ve just launched. It seems I never mention it in conversation without someone saying either that they’d like it themselves or they know someone who would.

I’m looking forward to doing my first one on Tuesday and have already had the set-up conversation with my client. I talked her through a visioning exercise to get clear what she’s creating, gave her guidance on which area of her home to choose for us to work on, and explained what she needs to have ready when I arrive (six boxes/bags to hold different categories of clutter as we sort through her stuff).

At an art show last night, I got chatting to someone I recognised. She’s a friend of a guy that used to rent a room to someone I used to be in a relationship with about ten years ago. Make sense? 🙂

Turns out she needs help clearing her attic and we arranged to speak this week.

Being car-free creates an extra fun challenge. A Clutter-Busting Jump Start includes taking the actions we identify as we sort through the client’s stuff. Listing things on Freecycle/Freegle/ebay/Friday-Ad. Taking stuff to a charity shop, a recycling point, the municipal household recycling centre…

We take the actions the same day because I’ve noticed that some clutterholics have a pattern of sorting out stuff to go yet never taking the actions. The bags of sorted-out stuff sit around their homes, continuing to be clutter and sapping their energy.

Clutter doesn’t stop being clutter until it leaves the home for good.

An attic-load of stuff though might produce more than we can shift by hand  or on my bicycle. I’m going to see if I can borrow a car from a friend for the day. Otherwise I’ll use Whipcar or Streetcar and pass on the costs of the car hire to my client.

Below is an advert I’ve created for the service.

I can only do five Jump Starts a month because I need time to develop coaching materials for the online/telephone green decluttering coaching/support which will be the main service I provide. And to create promotional materials.

Apart from gaining me more valuable experience (and the fact that there are few things I love more than green decluttering), I’m intending that providing Clutter-Busting Jump Starts will generate testimonials and before & after pictures for my website and promotional materials.

Roll on Tuesday!

Clutter-Busting Jump Start

Overwhelmed by clutter?

Does walking through your own front door sap your energy?

 Tackling a clutter-mountain can be overwhelming. You want to clear the backlog but where do you start? What if you make decisions you later regret? And what’s the most eco-friendly way to dispose of the stuff you’re ready to move on?

That’s why I created the Clutter-Busting Jump Start.

Imagine having someone in your home helping you get clear what you want to achieve and where to start, keeping you on track when you feel like giving up, providing useful tips and hints, and advising you how to dispose of things in an eco-friendly way.

I’ve applied four years of coaching training and experience to the area of green decluttering, breaking it down to create a process that is manageable, easy to adopt, and WORKS! It gives you the confidence you need to create a home you love, a home that supports you to do the things you want to spend your life doing, while reducing your environmental impact.

In just one day you’ll completely declutter an area AND learn how to apply the process to the rest of your home. Plus, we’ll discuss how to stop clutter creeping back.

You’ll be amazed how much you achieve in a single day.

It costs just £300+travel (or the equivalent of 6 months off-site storage!)

I provide friendly, non-judgmental support and, if you prefer, can work with you by telephone.

I will never push you to get rid of something. And my process gives you space to be unsure so that you only decide to let something go with complete confidence.

Only four Clutter-Busting Jump Starts available in June.

Call now on 07952 791821

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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What is green decluttering?

That might seem a simple question. Not so I’m discovering. Developing the products I’m going to be offering through the green decluttering service I’ll be launching soon (watch this space!), has had me examine what I mean by green decluttering.

Some decluttering experts seem to concentrate solely on being organised, or tidy. Others solely on reducing the amount of stuff someone has. Some focus strongly on cleaning. None seem to make a link with living a low impact life.

Here’s what I mean by decluttering:

  • Reducing the amount of stuff you acquire, own and consume (including by acquiring less, moving stuff on, repairing damaged things, and finding new uses for things you already own)
  • Organising your stuff
  • Tidying your space.

Personally, I do it to fulfil three aims:

  • To reduce my environmental impact
  • To make my home work for me efficiently (so I can lay my hand easily on what I want to use, when I want to use it)
  • To have my home look lovely.

For me there is an obvious link between decluttering and living a low impact life. It reduces our own consumption of course. And, by moving stuff we own and no longer need on to people and places where it will get used, it reduces other people’s consumption – people use our unwanted stuff rather than buying new stuff.

Plus, by minimsing the stuff we hold onto, it reduces the amount of space we need to occupy. We need fewer cupboards, shelves, drawers and boxes, and maybe even smaller living spaces.

If you’re green-minded, it’s tempting to hoard stuff. It feels wasteful to move it on if there’s the slightest chance you might use it again. And it can be hard to admit to yourself that a purchase was a mistake. I find myself keeping things for years on the basis that I might use them someday. And sometimes, I do bring something back into use after years of disuse.

More often though I don’t. And there’s nothing green about hoarding unused stuff. It’s a waste.

So these days I aim to move things on as much as possible. The advent of Freecycle/Freegle has helped as it’s easier than ever to move things on with a good chance that they will get used.

The fact is, I LOVE green decluttering. I get such satisfaction from moving stuff out of my house. Especially if it goes to someone who’s going to make good use of it. I feel so pleased with myself for using a towel or a T-shirt or a pair of jeans until they’re threadbare and then turning them into a moisture mat for my worm composter.

Recently I’ve come to realise how many people want help to declutter, organise and live lower impact lives. And I’ve noticed how much I do to help people in those areas. Friends often ask me for advice on the lowest impact way to do something, green alternatives and how to dispose of unwanted items in eco-friendly ways.

So I’m launching a green decluttering consultancy, to help green-minded people who feel worn down by their clutter and long  to have beautiful homes and workspaces.

If that’s you, help me tailor the products and services I’m developing to address your specific problems. I’d love to hear from you. Tell me what gets you down most about your clutter. How do you feel about decluttering? What’s your guiltiest green secret? Your biggest green challenge/dilemma? What help do you want/need?

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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