Things That Have Gone – 23

I said that I’d probably still manage to get rid of a few more items! Well it amounts to a cardigan and a pair of shoes sold on eBay, 2 bags of clothes returned to their original owners and 2 books sold on Amazon Marketplace.

Yet more things that weren’t actually needed! I expect the odd item will still sell on eBay in the coming months, as I have a handful left listed.

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Biomimicry

I’m currently reading this book: The Story of Stuff. How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health – and a Vision for Change by Annie Leonard.

I’m ashamed to say that I picked it up in a charity shop about 4 years ago, started to read it, stopped and then it went back on the shelf for years! Let’s just say it’s quite heavy going and American-centric, but there are a lot of relevant points to anyone, living anywhere in the world.

Today, I was interested to learn of the concept of ‘biomimicry‘. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that term used and described in this particular way before. But I wanted to make a note of it for future reference. Biomimicry is apparently a trend in modern design, in which designs are influenced by nature.

There is even an organisation called the Biomimicry Institute which has noticed that “nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. They have found what works, what is appropriate, and most important, what lasts here on earth. This is the real news of biomimicry: After 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.

Biomimicry experts have identified the following list of core principles in how nature functions:

  1. runs on sunlight and uses only the energy it needs
  2. uses a water-based chemistry
  3. fits form to function
  4. recycles everything
  5. rewards cooperation
  6. banks on diversity
  7. demands local expertise
  8. curbs excesses from within
  9. taps the power of limits

So, the art and science of biomimicry takes these principles and figures out how to make human technologies, infrastructure, and products that adhere to them as well.

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Some examples given in the book, are that the peacock’s brilliant feathers are not created through pigment, but through shape. They have many layers that allow light to bounce off them in different ways, which translate as colour to the naked eye. I had to Google this a bit further, it’s known as ‘structural colouration’ and was first discovered by Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton (2 English scientists). It describes microscopically structured surfaces, fine enough to interfere with invisible light (sometimes in combination with pigments). So, peacock feathers are actually pigmented brown, as you can see when you turn them over. But it’s their microscopic structure that makes them reflect blue, green and turquoise light and they are often iridescent. Butterflies also use this ‘technique’. Perhaps this could avoid the need for toxic dyes to be created, if we could harness a similar technique?

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Mother of pearl is created in cold, salt water – a substance twice as strong as ceramic. Perhaps we could eliminate the use of fossil fuels, in heating kilns to make ceramics? Maybe we could learn to extract metals from cold water?

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The threads that hold a mussel shell to a rock naturally dissolve after 2 years. Perhaps we could study this and learn to create compostable packaging? (I think this one is starting to occur, approx 10 years after the book was written).

I’m not a product designer, but I did once study art. I think it’s fascinating to look at the natural world more closely, even if I was just doing it for beauty’s sake. I would have no idea how to create the intricacies of a leaf, for example, with veins running through it to carry water and nutrients, or cells that contained chlorophyll and knew how to grow, and goodness else knows whatever else goes on in there! But I bet there are scientists who could begin to work on these dilemmas. Perhaps artists could work with scientists to create truly beautiful, functional designs that remained harmless to us and our planet?

It seems to me that there is more to being a designer than just knowing about technology, or engineering, or science. Everything in the natural world seems to hold some innate beauty within it too. I can’t help but come back to the Christian ideas of intelligent design or things being created by someone far cleverer than us. Perhaps the plants and animals haven’t found out what works by trial and error over time? Perhaps they were designed that way from the outset? By someone who already knew the delicate balance of the earth’s chemistry and systems? It’s an interesting thought isn’t it?

How I made over £2,800 selling my stuff!

You may remember that about a year ago, I wrote a post telling you how I’d made over £800 selling every day items on eBay. Well, here I am a year down the line and spurred on by my initial success – I just kept selling stuff over the course of a year. I’m here to tell you that I have an extra £2,800 back in my bank account (before deductions like postage, fees etc).

Nothing I sold was extraordinary, as you have been able to track through my series of posts entitled ‘things that have gone this week’, where I’ve tried to keep some kind of record. I just logged each item in a ledger book, out of pure interest – I do this with all my moneysaving exploits and it allows me to keep a reasonably accurate log of how much money I’d saved. In-case you’re interested, since 2012 I have an extra £34,340 in my bank accounts through my combined money saving exploits – as documented right here!

I guess I’d just encourage every one to really look hard at what they’ve got lurking in their cupboards and question whether they really need it. Clothing is a weakness of mine and makes up a huge proportion of what I’ve let go – probably 80% But gone also are books, DVDs, shoes, household items, jewellery, technology and craft items. It just shows as well that these things can be sold at the right price, if they are in good condition. I’ve also donated bag fulls of items which aren’t listed in my ledger and I have no objection to charities benefitting from things I no longer want and/or need. However, that £2,800 is very welcome back in my bank also as we’re on a pretty fixed income which is going to decrease from now on as I will not be working due to having a baby.

My primary motivation with this session of decluttering was to a) clear space so that the baby could have their own room and b) get some cash so that we could afford to buy the things that baby needed. We were never looking to buy it all brand new, for so many reasons but even so we have needed to spend £1,300 on items for the new arrival. Some of that was made up by vouchers from sites like Swagbucks, Valued Opinions and Pinecone etc. But as you can see, my decluttering has left us with some spare to buy the things that will inevitably be required over the coming months and years.

So it’s over and out from me, for now on the decluttering front as I literally don’t have any more to sell or get rid of right now. But I will certainly be selling things the baby grows out of in due course!

Things that have gone – 22

Decluttering continues apace – an imminent new arrival will give you added motivation I have found!

This week I’ve sold items, given them away on Freecycle, passed them onto other people after I spotted specific requests for that item and given items to charity shops.

  1. Book – given to family member after I finished reading it
  2. Book – sold, Facebook group for that subject area
  3. Turf- specific request spotted on Freecycle, given away (would have just left it to decompose otherwise!)
  4. Cat radiator bed – sold via Facebook Marketplace
  5. Ornamental Flute-  sold on eBay
  6. Oasis blouse – sold on eBay
  7. Bag of clothing, books, DVDs and craft items – sent to charity shop
  8. Glass worktop savers- given to someone after specific request seen
  9. Wooden chopping board- given to someone after specific request seen
  10. Selection of cleaning products, scourers and cloths (I no longer use these items, since switching to greener methods)- given to someone after specific request seen
  11. Baking tray- given to someone after specific request seen

I literally have only 17 items left on eBay now, some of which I will give away if they don’t sell soon. And then I would honestly struggle to find something around the house to sell or give away, since I have pretty much got it down to items I need or use regularly (she says now). I am sure I will re-evaluate that point of view a few months down the line!!! But for now, I am happy and have totalled almost £3K back in the bank from this frenzy of selling over the last 18 months. I think that’s about what eBay reckon most people have tucked away in their houses/ lofts, storage etc.

Things that have gone – 20

My decluttering continues in the background. I have sold and given away a few more things.

  1. Vintage skirt
  2. Vintage dress
  3. Free gift from Boots
  4. Clothes rail (Yes, I’ve managed to downsize my clothing that much that I can let go of my additional clothing rail!)
  5. Handheld vacuum cleaner (thought it was worth a try on Freecycle, but was not powerful enough to bother with)
  6. Cardboard boxes
  7. Sewing thread case
  8. Old pram mattress

I’ve also cleared out a storage box and an old lampshade, that if no-none wants on Freecycle – will go to the charity shop.

Stay tuned for my next update!

Upcycling a Child’s Table to Make a Board Game Table

We’re big board game fans in this house and we regularly have friends over for ‘Games Night’. We’re all feeling our age and finding it a bit hard going to sit on the floor for hours. Our dining room table is quite small, as there’s just the two of us normally and it gets used for food on these nights. So we’d been keeping an eye out in all the usual places for a suitable ‘games table’. My idea had been that we would acquire one of those retro card tables from the 1950s or earlier, which have a felt top and often fold out. However, as they’re mostly designed for Bridge – they tend to be quite small. All of the ones we saw were also in poor condition or had very high asking prices! We also looked in charity shops for some kind of gate leg table, but as minimalists – it would be a big decision to bring another large item of furniture into the house. They also require chairs and we really wanted something more like a coffee table height, so people could either remain in armchairs (or sit on the floor – more on an answer to that later).

I spotted this child’s play table in a charity shop locally and knew instantly it was a great find. I described it to my other half, but he was unconvinced (mostly because I’d shown him so many unsuitable items on eBay! lol) They were also asking £25 for it, which seemed quite steep to us. Still, he dutifully agreed to come and look at that weekend.Well guess what – the shop was closed! We then got tied up with well, life and totally forgot to go back until we were passing about a week later. Helpfully the table was still there and they’d reduced all furniture to half price, to try and clear some space in the shop. We expressed an interest in the table and asked if we would pull it out, to fully check the condition of it. The manager said we could have it for a tenner! (She obviously wanted rid of it).

It turns out that this little beauty is made of solid wood and retails for about £150 when new. You can also be lucky enough to pick up second-hand ones on eBay for around a tenner too, if you look at the right time. The legs come right off, so we can fold it down and tuck it out of sight, when not needed. The top was a little scratched and we didn’t love the green colour. So we decided to send it a little upmarket, with its own blue felt top which has the added advantage of stopping the board games from sliding all over the place. You can see in the photos above, that we are part way through our little renovation/ upcycling job. The felt cost under £3 from my local fabric shop and we already had the all purpose glue at home, from other craft projects.

My other half announced that some bean bag cushions would mean we could all sit comfortably, at the right height. You could easily pay £15-£25 each for these in the shops and I have an abundance of leftover material from other projects. So I picked out some that matched our lounge curtains, some heavyweight corduroy that I picked up in a charity shop for a song and another piece leftover from some bedroom curtains. I purchased 6 zips, at a cost of 64p each and 2 bags of beans at £6.50 each. Perhaps I will do a tutorial soon, but for now here is a picture of 2 of the cushions I have made. They take a couple of hours each, but the savings are evident.

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And lo, we are the proud owners of a custom games set-up, all for the princely sum of £20. Can’t be bad eh?

Things that have gone – 14

Well, I managed to get rid of some more items! Despite thinking that I wouldn’t. I filled another bag for charity – I finished reading a couple of books that had no trade in value. Likewise we watched a DVD that was worth 1p to trade-in, so better to let a charity take it. I had a picture frame that I’d been holding onto for 20 years +, planning to frame a tapestry I completed as a child. I gave away the mounts last week, so it was time for the frame to go. I didn’t even like it! It was dark wood and ugly.

I also traded in a corduroy shirt that was a bad buy from a charity shop because it was a colour I’d never wear, with ridiculous cuffs. I’ll put that one down to experience. Finally, I found some polystyrene Christmas trees I’d been intending to turn into Christmas decorations, by covering them in sequins. Well, I completed 1 and it took so long, I never got down to the rest. Almost 2 years later, I was ready to accept that I wasn’t going to complete the rest.

I also took 3 DVDs to CEX and traded them in, one was a box set. So that’s cleared some space under the TV. Then, I traded in 2 books I’d finished reading and netted myself just over £6 for them. Not bad when I only paid £1.75 for them in a charity shop! The minimising continues…