Posts Tagged ‘Home and Garden’

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

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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Is your conscience as clean as your clothes?

In response to a request for laundry tips, here goes:

1. Balls!

Instead of detergent, I’ve used Eco-Balls for years. Though I was initially sceptical, I’m happy with how effective they are. OK my laundry’s not like a detergent commercial. Sometimes a wash doesn’t get every mark out. However, I think they’re as effective as anything else I’ve used.

Not only do they last for 750 washes (meaning both that they put only a tiny amount of whatever it is they’re made of into the water, and that they’re great financial value), you don’t need to use fabric conditioner (even less resources used and more money saved) and you can use a shorter wash programme because you don’t need to rinse out any detergent (saving electricity and water).

I add a tablespoonful of Ecover bleach to white washes. I guess I would have to say that my whites probably don’t come out as white as they used to when I used regular washing powder. They’re white enough though. I’m not looking to dazzle car drivers as I walk down the street. 🙂

2. Smells

If an item is smelly, I pre-soak it in a solution of Borax for half an hour. Actually in Borax Substitute as Borax is no longer available (due to an EU reclassification apparently). It’s amazingly effective, and my web research, plus the fact that it’s sold by a number of green retailers that I trust, suggest that it’s a safe and eco-friendly product.

After I’ve taken the laundry out of the soak and put it on to wash, I keep the rest of the Borax solution for next time.

A word of warning though, don’t soak for longer than half an hour or colours can start to leach.

3. Marks

I use a regular stain remover stick on marks (e.g. elbows, collars and cuffs of white tops). I haven’t found an effective green alternative for this yet and would love to hear from anyone who has. I’ve tried various green suggestions (bicarbonate of soda, on its own and mixed with lemon juice, followed by drying in sunlight) without success.

Wanna know the best way to get grease out? Soak the area for 15mins in cola. Buy the cheapest own-label one. I use low-calorie as it’s less sticky if I spill any. Any cola will do though. It’s the phosphoric acid that does the trick. And it doesn’t stain your clothes. I got a massive smear of bike grease out of a pair of pale pink trousers that way.

4. Low temperature washing

I do everything on 30 degrees these days to save electricity. Seems to work fine.

Drying my washing machine

Dry BETWEEN the drum and the seal

One recommendation though. Without a hot wash (or bleach) going through your machine every now and then, there is a danger of mildew building up, which can cause nasty smells. To prevent this, leave the door of your machine wide open after each load of laundry, until it and the rubber seal are completely dry. In fact, I recommend drying the rubber seal after each load. And make sure you dry between the rubber seal and the drum.

I speak from experience. About a year ago, my knitwear started to smell nasty. It would smell fine when it came out of the machine and then, as it dried, it would begin to pong. Ew! It took me ages to track down the problem. I even tried running bleach through my machine on a hot wash without success. (It takes something to get me to use bleach I can tell you). Eventually I ran a cloth around behind the seal and it came away black and slimy. Gross! It took about a hour of doing that until a cloth would come away clean. Now I ALWAYS dry the seal, including between it and the drum, after every wash.

And I take out the detergent drawer, empty out any water caught in it and leave it on my draining board to dry.

5. Full loads

Does this go without saying? A full load is the most energy and water efficient way to wash. Using a ‘half-load’ programme won’t halve the amount of water or electricity used.

6. Turn the machine off when not in use

Don’t leave your machine on standby. Switch it off to save electricity.

7. Drying

I read somewhere that tumble dryers are the household appliances that consume the most energy. Makes sense. And they wear out your clothes. I’ve never had one.

I mostly dry stuff inside: over the radiators in the winter, on collapsable drying racks in the summer. Although I’ve got a rotary dryer, I rarely use it as I’ve successfully attracted so many birds to my garden that my laundry is in danger of collecting new (ahem) marks if I hang it outside. I find the place in my house where things dry the quickest is over the banisters. I guess there must be a slight air flow there as cool and hot air moves around the house. It’s particularly good for large items like duvet covers.

8. Don’t believe everything you read

Washcare labels err on the side of caution. Some things that claim to be dry clean only can be machine washed, and some things that claim to need a delicate wash can go in a regular wash. It’s worth experimenting, though there is a risk of course (and please don’t hold me responsible for any disappoinments!)

I’ve noticed that clothes with things like sequins and fancy buttons on them are often labelled ‘handwash only’ and I think it’s to prevent these things getting pulled off in the wash. Instead of handwashing them (or using the handwash setting on my washing machine), I put them in the regular wash, protected within a mesh laundry bag.

9. Which machine?

This article is interesting. It points out that an A+-rated washing machine may have a bigger environmental impact than a lower rated one if it doesn’t last as long. It also suggests that the difference in energy consumption between machines with different ratings is only small. So choose a machine that a consumer organisation such as Which recommends as reliable, as well as one that has a good energy rating.

10. Wash only when necessary

Wear clothes until they actually need washing. Don’t wash them just because you’ve worn them once.

11. Iron as little as possible

Music to your ears, right? Choose clothes that won’t need ironing. And don’t iron stuff like hankies or bedlinen. Who cares if they’re wrinkly?

Got any more eco-laundry tips? Drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

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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?

Why secondhand isn’t always green.

In a word (OK, two words), dry cleaning.

Vintage green ballgown

Beautiful dress. Shame about the dry cleaning.

I took a gorgeous dress that I’ve worn to a few parties recently to be dry cleaned today. Man, that made me uncomfortable.

I only buy (or get for free) secondhand clothes. I’ve bought almost no new clothes for years and it now feels scandalously wasteful to me to buy new when there is so much unwanted stuff available (kinda like buying a dog from a breeder when you could take a rescue dog).

My main motivation is to reduce my eco-impact. However, it has other benefits too. It saves me soooo much money. Spending more than a fiver on anything feels extravagant these days. In fact, spending money on clothes at all feels extravagant, given how much I get for free.

And I get great clothes. I love vintage pieces, for their quirkiness, their style and their quality.

Plus I never see anyone wearing the same stuff as me.

The proportion of my vintage stuff that has to be drycleaned is a serious drawback though. Apart from the money it costs (some of my vintage items end up costing me more in drycleaning than they did to buy), dry cleaning’s far from eco-friendly.

I minimise the packaging involved by taking a clothes bag and hanger with me so I can refuse the disposable ones I’d otherwise be given. If the item is already wrapped, I swap the hanger for my own. I don’t leave the plastic wrapping as I suspect they’d put it in the bin.

If I end up bringing a plastic bag home, I put it in a plastic bag recycling bin and, if I end up taking a hanger home, I return it to the dry cleaner for reuse.

Worse than the packaging though is that most drycleaners use perchloroethylene, or perc.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies perc as an air contaminant, which must be handled as hazardous waste. Its website says:

"Breathing PERC for short periods of time can adversely affect the
human nervous system.  Effects range from dizziness, fatigue, headaches
and sweating to incoordination and unconsciousness.  Contact with
PERC liquid or vapor irritates the skin, the eyes, the nose, and the
throat.  These effects are not likely to occur at levels of PERC that
are normally found in the environment.

Breathing perchloroethylene over longer periods of time can cause
liver and kidney damage in humans.  Workers exposed repeatedly to
large amounts of PERC in air can also experience memory loss and
confusion. Laboratory studies show that PERC causes kidney and liver
damage and cancer in animals exposed repeatedly by inhalation and
by mouth.  Repeat exposure to large amounts of PERC in air may
likewise cause cancer in humans.Perchloroethylene by itself is
not likely to cause environmental harm at levels normally found
in the environment.  PERC can contribute to the formation of
photochemical smog when it reacts with other volatile organic
carbon substances in air".

Nasty, huh?

Some time ago, I heard of an alternative. GreenEarth Cleaning is a dry cleaning system that, instead of using petroleum-baesd solvents, uses liquid silicone, which breaks down to sand and trace amounts of water and carbon dioxide after use.

However, at that time, it wasn’t available in the UK so I’ve continued simply to use the nearest dry cleaner to me. In researching this blog post though, I’ve discovered that Johnson’s the Cleaners are now using it. Fantastic!

I’ll still favour clothes that don’t need dry cleaning, and have the ones that do need it cleaned as rarely as I can get away with. And I’ll still take my own hangers and clothes bags. From now on though, my dry clean only clothes will be cleaned in silicone, not perc.

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Stumbling into Aladdin’s cave

Have you ever dreamed of finding a cornucopia: a crazy, dusty junk shop piled high with curiosities, where you could spend a happy hour rummaging and delving, drawn by the possibility of discovering a gem, a gorgeous mysterious object that you would treasure forever?Elementree Studios

Last week, as I made my way home from a friend’s in the late afternoon/early evening, I passed a turning I’ve walked past countless times and noticed an A-board, hanging baskets and crates of items out on the street. Intrigued, I went to investigate and found a series of workshops, open to the public, where artists and craftspeople are taking waste materials and turning them into art, furniture and household items.

Choppa White and the other occupants of Elementree Studios rummage through skips to collect bits of industrial machinery, pieces of wood and metal, and refashion them into tables, cupboards, frames for mirrors, boxes…

Choppa’s workshop is a sight to behold. Everywhere I looked, something else surprising caught my eye: a trumpet, a shop window model, wooden index card drawers, a dog curled up asleep on an armchair… Choppa loves to turn something unwanted into something cherished and ‘the quirkier, the better’.

Somehow it added to my sense of magic when I asked Choppa how long Elementree Studios had been there and he told me ‘nine years’. How is it possible that I’ve never found this place before?

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