Things that have gone- 16

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We recently re-configured the storage in our garage, so it was a good chance to go through a whole bunch more stuff. I was able to turn out a variety of items that we haven’t used in the 2 1/2 years since we moved in.

  1. 20 mixed cardboard boxes for moving (Since we don’t plan on ever moving again and we’ve redecorated most of the house now, there will be no further need to keep boxing our stuff up. We don’t have the room to store all of these boxes anymore and decided there are other priorities for storage. Also, if we did keep them; we’d have to pay out to board more of our loft which seems crazy for some boxes! They’ll only deteriorate up there, so it was the best decision to let someone who needs them, take them).
  2. Bundle of car care stuff (this wasn’t even ours, someone had left it in the shed in our last place and I took it because it seemed wasteful to leave it or chuck it. That daft ‘just incase’ scenario again. Thankfully I was able to give it all to a family member who would use it).
  3. 3 metal poles (Used to hold up the storage we removed from our garage. Freecycled on to a gardener who wanted to use them to prop up their plants – perfect).
  4. A cake tin (Purchased as a recipe specified it was needed, but it never worked as well because it was too large. Decided to stick to standard tins and freecycled this on to someone who could use it).
  5. Bunch of rubbish (Took a large box of broken carpet gripper rods, odds and ends of carpet that were too small to use, empty paint cans and a broken drill to the tip).

That’s actually quite a lot more stuff gone when you look at it! I think I’ll be able to let go of some more, once we’ve organised our new space a bit. Stay tuned minimisers!

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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…

Things that have gone this week – 4

Welcome to my weekly update of things that have found new homes. I try to keep a flow of items in and out of my home and I am currently massively trying to downsize my wardrobe. This week, 6 items have found new homes and they are all in the category of clothing, shoes and accessories- hooray! I’m sorry about the rubbish quality of the photos, I still haven’t discovered how to pull my higher quality images from eBay. Altogether, I’ve managed to put £60 back in my bank account by selling these- so averaging £10 per item – not bad considering 4 of these were purchased second-hand for much less!

  1. Red wide elastic belt
  2. Vintage denim Laura Ashley Maxi dress
  3. Vintage Topshop Fishtail Denim Skirt
  4. Laura Ashley Boucle Tweed Jacket
  5. Dorothy Perkins Butterfly Print Maxi Dress
  6. Vintage Ravel Red Court Shoes- BNWT

Stay tuned to see what I manage to get rid of, over the next week! Chow for now and Happy Easter everyone! 🙂

Modern Life is Rubbish!

This equally wonderful and appalling article has appeared in today’s Guardian newspaper. I hope it raises awareness of why I am pursuing both a Minimalist and Zero Waste lifestyle. I was appalled to read that 72% of all the plastic we send to be recycled is never recovered. 40% is sent to landfill anyway and 32% leaks out of the collection system. Those shocking statistics have led me to re-evaluate my habits again. A few months ago, I told myself that we couldn’t afford to have a milkman as it costs about 3x as much as buying 4 pints for £1 at the supermarket, in a plastic bottle. But after realising the truth of the situation, the truth is we can’t afford not to!

I don’t want to be responsible for my family, or anyone else on this planet eating food contaminated with toxins from plastic. I admit that putting items into a blue (plastic!) recycling bin makes you feel more virtuous about your waste. I try so hard to buy things packaging free, but currently where I live – options are limited and I still have moments where I run out of something and end up having to buy fruit or vegetables wrapped in plastic. I vow to try harder.

On the up side, I refused a plastic bag from the fruit and veg seller at the market today. He was adamant I should take one, after my initial refusal on the basis that I had my own bags. So I said firmly, I don’t take plastic bags anymore and he accepted that! So my fruit and veg came home in my homemade, cloth drawstring bags. Small victories eh?

 

Make Your Own Needle Case

If you’ve got a spare hour, you might like to try making a little needle case like this. It’s a great project for beginners and uses up fabric scraps. I needed a case to keep my sewing needles in. I used a 9cm square scrap of pink felt and cut double width rectangles of brushed cotton for the inside. I cut around one of the rabbits to make a little picture for the front and embroidered letters on with running stitch.

I’m not an expert, just learning and I think I should have used some embroidery thread or other cord to keep the edges straight and stop the fabric from buckling. However since this is just for me to use, it doesn’t really matter. I decided to pick a contrasting thread and used an edging stitch on my sewing machine to run a border around. This should stop the edges from fraying and help it to last longer. After this, I centred the brushed cotton rectangles and sewed them with normal, straight stitch in the middle. I used a zig-zag stitch to attach my picture, since my attempts to appliqué with my machine didn’t seem to be working. I think I need to a bit more practise- ha!

I stitched the word ‘NEEDLES’ by hand using running stitch, but going over each stitch 3x to give definition. To make the rounded parts of the letters, you just need to form a loop and catch it with an invisible, tiny stitch to keep them in place. This is a great way to aim for Zero Waste by using up fabric scraps and is something that will last many years.

Second Hand Rose – The Beauty of Buying Second Hand

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My family call me Second Hand Rose! I’ve earnt this nickname over years because of the huge proportion of things I buy second hand. Be it charity shops, eBay, jumble sales, car boots, Facebook selling groups, friends, friends of friends- you name it, I’ve probably bought an item that way! Above is an Ercol hoop back chair I picked up for £2 on a Facebook selling group. I don’t think the seller had an idea of its value (but I did!) It needed sanding down as it had a few paint splatters on it, but nothing structurally wrong and look at it now, good as new and looking fantastic!

My family think I inherited a double-dose of the second hand gene, as my maternal grandfather used to love rooting around at a good car boot sale and my paternal grandmother was a definite charity shopper, along with the good old church jumble sale! Friends have pointed out that I have a nose for a bargain and can spot a good brand a mile off! I think this is down to years of learning to spot the good stuff and also knowing what I am looking for. This doesn’t necessarily have to be item specific because I think it’s important to keep an open mind when shopping second hand, as you never know what you might find. But, you can know what you’re looking for in terms of good brand names, quality material and manufacturing, condition and style. There are Antiques and Collectables Guides which you could consider borrowing from your local library to gen-up. But they will usually only cover furniture, crockery and that kind of thing. I’ve tended to learn from experience and by spotting a good-looking item and then reading up about it or the brand online afterwards.

For example; I’m often buying ladies clothing for myself- if you keep an eye out for the higher end brand names (and occasionally designer pieces. Yes really, get to know your designer labels!) you will often find a good piece. To be more specific, I would be looking for Hobbs, White Stuff, Seasalt, Phase Eight, Laura Ashley, Whistles, Lands End and that sort of thing. A brand name doesn’t always spell quality, in my humble opinion White Stuff make some real cheap tat these days- really thin, poor quality cotton items. You also want to check out the condition of the garment – has it been washed too many times or incorrectly and is the fabric starting to look pilled, bobbled, misshapen or even shrunk?

Always try on your garments before buying, just as you would do in a shop. There’s often a reason why an item has ended up in a charity shop – it may be an oddly fitting or unflattering garment. Sometimes you don’t notice a flaw until you try it on; like a zip that doesn’t work, or a stain that only shows up in the bright changing room lighting. Most charity shops these days do have changing rooms, but if not – make sure that you can return an item for a refund if it doesn’t fit. Beware the charity shops that will only give you a credit note, as that probably won’t be much use – you can’t guarantee that there will be another item you want to buy. Another way to mitigate against potential disasters is to carry a tape measure with you and know your own body measurements off by heart. That way you can quickly and easily ascertain whether an item is likely to fit.

I buy a significant proportion of my wardrobe second hand with most pieces only costing a few pounds. Much of the time (because I look out for good brand names, in excellent condition and won’t pay over the odds), I can sell an item on after I’ve finished wearing it for the same or more than I paid for it. This only works if you also take care of the items whilst they’re in your ownership – so don’t stain them or shrink them in the wash! But it works out as a zero cost per wear! How many people can say that?

My general advice is that you don’t want to pay more than £10 for an item like a jacket, coat or dress, no more than £6 for a skirt and no more than £4 for a pair of trousers or a top. Occasionally I might go a little bit higher, say £12 for a  really nice dress and £15 for a proper, winter coat. But charity shops that ask any more than that for High Street names are trying to take the mickey and over inflate their prices. I see this more and more these days, and to be honest you might as well just look on eBay where you’ll often find things for less. Personally I dislike car boot sales and jumble sales for clothing because you can’t try items on, but the advantage is that items are usually so cheap (we’re talking anything from 10p up to about £2), that you can afford a few mistakes! Always remember to check the care labels before buying clothing – you might love the item, but you’re not going to love paying to dry clean it all the time! I try to stick to machine washable items only and that’s probably better for the environment too.

Whilst I’ve majored on clothing in this post, we’ve bought a significant amount of our furniture and homewares second hand. The only thing I’m slightly squeamish about buying second hand are mattresses and sofas, or easy chairs. Soft furnishings can easily be harbouring nasty bugs, you don’t know if the previous owner has had pets (fleas!), or basically what bodily fluids are on the items. Ewwww. That said, I have purchased 1 upholstered chair second hand and it has been fine. It’s a bit different if you’re going to re-upholster something and just keep the frame. Mind you, some people are squeamish about second hand shoes, but as long as they’re in good condition that doesn’t bother me. And no, I’ve never caught anything nasty! The fact is you can shave a significant portion off the price of new by buying second hand. If you stick to good brand names, you’ll probably break in or even profit (so long as you check, for example, sold prices on eBay beforehand to make sure you don’t bid over the top). I’d recommend looking at items made by John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Ercol, G Plan, Laura Ashley and similar.

Sometimes it’s helpful to go to a specialist retailer that deals in a particular item, or group of items. For example, for a musical instrument, sporting equipment, sewing machine. They may also service the item before sale and possibly give a guarantee with it. You’ll also benefit from their expertise. This is particularly helpful if you have children who grow out of items quickly, as you’ll often find barely used items for a fraction of their original price.

You can buy almost anything second hand and it can really help your budget to stretch further. I’d love to hear stories of your second hand bargains. What kinds of things do you buy second hand and why? Where do you like to shop for them?

Received wisdom

I’ve recently finished reading both Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life and The Joy of Less. These have provoked some serious thinking for me. As I’ve been pondering, I’ve realised how lucky I’ve been to have 2 frugal generations behind me whose wisdom I’ve received over the past 30+ years. Even though I may not have put it all into practise- here are some of the things my parents and grandparents taught me. I am looking to put more and more of this into practise.

  1. Cut open the tube of toothpaste/ hand cream/ tomato puree (or whatever it is) to get the most out of it
  2. Squeeze together old bars of soaps, to completely use them up
  3. Add some milk to baked beans to make them spread a little further
  4. Save old pants, t-shirts/ towels etc to use as rags
  5. Rinse out old soap/ milk/ shampoo etc bottles with water and use a diluted version. This works particularly well with fabric conditioner which is then ideal for hand washing
  6. Tip up the petrol nozzle to get out every last drop you’ve paid for!
  7. Wash out plastic bags to re-use them for other things
  8. Re-use old margarine tubs to freeze food
  9. Grow your own fruit/ veg- it’s MUCH cheaper
  10. Cut the fronts off old cards and re-use them for gift tags

I’ll try to regularly add short burst of these kinds of posts. I don’t want to overwhelm you! What have you been taught? The one thing I haven’t adopted is hanging out old tea bags on a tree/ bush/ line to dry. Yes, my grandma really did used to do this!