Posts Tagged ‘lifestyle’

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

Two wheels good, four wheels bad

Following Monday’s post about going carfree, here are my tips for urbanites who are planning to make a bike their main form of transport.

1. Which bike?

If you haven’t already got a bike, you’ll need to think about what type of bike to get. I bought one at the low end of the range of a good make of mountain bikes.

My bike

My trusty steed

I bought towards the bottom of the range because I wasn’t positive I would keep on cycling. In fact I have done, yet I don’t regret buying a cheaper bike. The more expensive mountain bikes come with features that I wouldn’t need given than I mostly cycle around town. Suspension for example which, while though no doubt welcome off-road, reduces your efficiency so requiring you to work harder, and isn’t necessary for on-road cycling.

I bought a mountain bike because I thought it would be hardwearing and take more knocks. (OK, and because it was what everyone was buying at the time and I thought it would make me look cool). I have since changed its chunky tyres for hybrid ones. Mountain bike tyres are designed to grip the ground and provide traction. Necessary for off-road riding: a waste of your pedalling energy on road. While I still enjoy my bike’s robustness, I don’t enjoy the stream of water that pours down my back when it’s raining (mountain bikes don’t have mudguards), or the dirty patches on the inside of my right trouser legs (mountain bikes don’t have chain guards). With hindsight, I think I’d have been better off with a road bike.

I still love my bike though 🙂

Another option is a hybrid, though personally I regard that as the worst of both worlds, rather than the best.

2. Get a rack and panniers

More comfortable than a rucksack and MUCH safer than carrier bags hanging off your wrists (I know someone who smashed her shoulder when the bags she was carrying caught in her front wheel as she sped downhill on a bike).

3. Outer gear

You’ll want a waterproof jacket, trousers and overshoes. As well as keeping you dry, they’ll be windproof so they’ll keep you warm when necessary. Keep them in your panniers so you don’t get caught out.

I recommend gloves too. Long-fingered waterproof ones for winter, short-fingered ones for summer. Not only do they keep your hands warm and dry, they make riding more comfortable, acting like shock absorbers for your hand. And the short-fingered ones make you look like an urban warrior, which is always a bonus.

I always wear a helmet. Debate rages about this. (Do drivers give more space to cyclists without helmets? Does promoting their use discourage people from cycling? Do helmeted cyclists ride less carefully?) I’ve come off my bike a few times in the last ten years and been glad of my helmet. On the worst ocassion, caused by black ice, though I was severly bruised, my helmet saved my face a nasty scrape (and kept my glasses and hearing aid on and intact).

I bought a pair of cycling shoes a couple of years ago. While they’re not essential, they make cycling more efficient (the solid soles transfer more of your legpower to your pedals). Plus, they take away the need to work out what shoes I’m going to put on to cycle! I can always pop a more glamorous pair in my panniers to change into on arrival. Or sometimes I just cycle in the glamorous ones (see benefits of being carfree number 5).

They’ve also got cleats in the sole that can clip into specially designed (clipless) pedals. That increases your efficiency as it harnesses the power of your pedalling upstroke as well as your downstroke. I’ve never used them though as I’m concerned about failing to unclip quickly enough on stopping (leading to me tipping over and looking like an idiot) or remaining attached to my bike in an accident, resulting in more serious injuries. Having said that, I just did a quick internet search to check my terminology for this blog post and found stuff on the web suggesting that clipless pedals and cleats disengage easily and won’t stay attached during an accident (unlike pedals with toeclips and straps) so maybe I’ll reconsider.

4. Use two good locks

Get more than one lock, of different types (thieves are likely to be carrying equipment to get through a single type). I use a D-lock plus a chain & padlock. Lock your bike to something secure (I once saw thieves attempt to lift a bike over the roughly ten foot high post it was chained to). Make sure you lock both the wheels and the frame to whatever you’re securing your bike to (especially if you’ve got quick release wheels).

5. Service your bike regularly

Do it yourself or use your local bike shop. It costs way less than servicing a car and will ensure that your bike is safe (by replacing worn brake pads, brake cables, chain etc). I have mine done annually.

6. Learn how to fix a puncture…

I confess I could do better on this one myself. I do know how. I did a great course on basic bike maintenance recently. However, I found I didn’t have the strength to get the tyre back on the wheel once I’d fixed the puncture so I don’t know whether I’d attempt it if I got a puncture while I was out. I rarely cycle so far from civilisation that a flat tyre would leave me stranded. However, if I was going way off road or far from public transport, I’d want to be carrying a spare inner tube and a pump and know that I could fix a puncture if necessary.

7…and prevent them

Pump up your tyres every week or so. It’s harder work cycling with soft tyres. Plus soft tyres result in damage to your wheels and tyres, and to more punctures.

For the first few years after I started cycling as an adult, I was lax about pumping up my tyres. I knew I ‘should’. And I rarely did. And even when I did, working hard with a hand pump, I wasn’t sure if I’d achieved anything because I never knew if I’d put in the right amount of air.

And then I bought a strirrup pump with a pressure gauge. Transformation! Now pumping up my tyres is easy, and the pressure gauge (combined with the recommended pressure printed on the side of my tyres) tells me when to stop.

Also, every  now and then, have a good look at your tyres. You’ll see that they are full of nicks and indentations from sharp objects you’ve cycled over. Some of these will have the sharp object in question embedded within them. You can gently ease these bits of glass etc out with, for example, a screwdriver, which will reduce the chance of them being pushed further in and causing a puncture next time. I love doing this. It’s like squeezing spots. Dead satisfying!

8. Carry your lights at all times

I went to a party last weekend, expecting to stay for the afternoon and come home early evening to go out with some other friends. Once I was in the swing of the party though, I didn’t want to leave early and my plans for that evening were easily rearranged so I stayed. Luckily someone was driving home from the party and could fit my bike in their car (with my quick release front wheel removed), otherwise I’d have had an unpleasant ride home in the dark.

Find a way to have your lights on you whenever you’re out on your bike (e.g. keep them on the bike, or in a bag you always take with you cycling). If you don’t, you’ll inevitably get caught out, especially in the Spring and Autumn, when you’re more likely to be going out in the light and coming home in the dark.

I use clockwork bike lights. The five minutes I spend winding them up every couple of weeks are worth it to reduce my reliance on fossil fuels still further. You might prefer battery operated lights if you frequently do longer journeys though (say over half an hour).

If you’re using battery operated lights, use rechargeable batteries to keep your environmental impact as low as possible.

It’s a good idea to carry spares batteries, especially if you’re using rechargables (as they die suddenly rather than gradually fading over time). I’d suggest carrying alkaline batteries as spares so there’s no danger you’ll put your spares in only to find they’ve gone flat too.

Another environmentally-friendly option is a dynamo, though you will have to pedal harder as your legs will be powering the light as well as your wheels.

Happy cycling folks. Enjoy getting from A to B with minimal environmental impact, at little financial cost, while improving your physical and mental health. What’s not to like?

And please do share your cycling tips below.

Is your car more curse than convenience?

I ditched my car ten years ago. I’d been debating with myself whether to go car free for a few months as I was using my car less and less. I wasn’t sure though. If I got rid, would I be able to manage? I was self-employed with clients all over South East England and London. Would I lose out on work through spending too much time on travel? Would my travel costs significantly increase? Would I find myself spending lots of money hiring cars to get me to social events in out of the way places, or because I had too much luggage to carry on a train?

Then my car started overheating.  A garage told me the head gasket had cracked and it would cost £800 (more than the car was worth) to repair it. That made the decision for me and I said ‘goodbye’.

And I haven’t looked back (except before changing lanes on my bike).

I cycle or walk for local journeys (I rarely use taxis or even buses) and use the train for anything further away. I occasionally hire a car if I’m going away for a weekend (especially with others), doing a journey with lots of stops, or travelling somewhere with a lot of luggage. Probably only about half a dozen times in the last ten years though.

There are options for using cars without owning one that are cheaper than traditional car hire.

For example, car clubs provide locally parked cars that members can hire for slots as short as 30 minutes, booking online at short notice so long as a car is available.

While WhipCar enables car owners to rent out their cars to other people when they’re not using them.

In fact, I haven’t found I’ve wanted use of a car enough even to pursue those options.

Aside from the obvious contribution to me living a low impact life, here are some of the benefits I’ve noticed.

1. I’ve saved money

In my last year of car ownership, I spent about £2,000 on car-related costs (maintenance, petrol, insurance, tax, MOT, parking…), and about a further £1,000 on public transport. In the last 12 months, I’ve spent about £2,000 in total on transport. According to this inflation calculator, the £3,000 I spent ten years ago would be equivalent to £3,700 today. So, while I can’t be sure that there weren’t changes in my travel patterns that I haven’t accounted for, this crude analysis suggests I’ve nearly halved my travel costs by ditching my car. And that’s without taking into account the cost/depreciation of the car itself.

Money’s only part of the picture though…

Glass of wine on train

Let the train take the strain

2. Less stress

I no longer worry about the safety of my car parked on the street, or whether I’ll unexpectedly be faced with a large bill because something’s gone wrong with it. Parking where I live in Brighton & Hove is becoming increasingly challenging and the Council is introducing restrictions in more residential areas, prompting heated debates and strong feelings: not with me though.

3. I’m fitter

Not having a car handily parked outside my house results in me using my bike or Shanks’ pony even more than I would have done otherwise (and Brighton’s hills demand the use of every one of my gears). On a memorable occasion before I ditched my car, because it was pouring with rain, I drove to the gym instead of cycling. Big mistake. The world and her husband had made similar decisions and I was late for my fitness class because of the traffic. Now I haven’t got a car, that’s not an option. I just don my waterproofs and set off by bike. As my Italian friend says “After all, I’m not made of paper”.

4. I’m more connected to my community

As I walk or cycle about, I stop to chat to people I know, see notices for local events, pick up on changes in my neighbourhood, spot birds and listen to them singing, pop into local shops for errands…

5. I wear my high heels more

Didn’t see that one coming! Thing is, it’s easier to cycle in heels than it is to walk in them. So, if I’m cycling for a night out, I can wear vertiginous heels rather than carry them separately and change on arrival.

6. Lots of time for reading

Car-driving friends wonder how I manage to get through so many books. What a waste of time driving is!

7. Not MY fault guv’

OK, so sometimes trains run late or are cancelled. Driving is unpredictable too though. Accidents and breakdowns happen. Traffic gets backed up. And, if I’m late for a meeting because of public transport delays, I think people are less inclined to think that I should simply have allowed longer for my journey than they would be if I’d got caught in traffic.

There probably have been occasions when my life has been more inconvenient or more expensive than it would have been if I’d owned a car. I’m not aware of them though because I simply don’t think about it. And overall I reckon it balances out in my favour.

Admittedly I live near the centre of a city in the South East of England, which is relatively well-served with public transport and I haven’t got kids, or a job that requires me to transport lots of stuff around. All the same, if you’re convinced that you can’t cope without a car, maybe it’s worth thinking again.

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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