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.


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.


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?

Philanthropy – A Potent Motivator for Decluttering

It seems I have finally found my biggest motivator for decluttering – philanthropy. I guess it’s the most logical too. I have finally concluded that having items sat in my cupboards that I am not using, is preventing them from being used by someone else. Talk about wasteful! That is your most potent motivator, right there – for being Zero Waste and decluttering.

I don’t know if something has changed in me as well, but it’s like a pair of fresh eyes for me. I’ve got 2 pairs of sandals in my wardrobe, both were bought to go with a specific outfit to wear to a wedding. Neither the shoes or the outfits have been worn since! Let that be a lesson to me, never to buy something ‘just for a wedding’ again. Well, I’ve decided to donate them all. I’m sure plenty of people will be thrifty enough to use a charity shop for their one-time wedding purchase. That’s what I should do next time! Far better that someone wears that Bridesmaid dress, perhaps to their prom than it sits in m wardrobe forever. I am never going to be that slim again and besides, I have photos and my memories.

Another great motivator has been recognising that there are some things I am just not going to fix and therefore, it’s either time to throw out those items or Freecycle them on to someone who might like to fix them. There are a great deal of people out there, looking for a project. I had to admit that I was never going to glue those shoes back together, I had moved on. And that fridge magnet, no-one cares enough to glue that back together and it probably wasn’t going to last, even if I did! There are plenty of other fridge magnets on my fridge, but I felt attached to it as my parents had brought it back from holiday for me. Yes, I was ‘attached’ to a fridge magnet. Like I felt they would notice if I threw it out!

I am getting much better at putting unwanted gifts straight into the bag to go to a charity shop. I just don’t want to even have to deal with that kind of guilt anymore. What matters is that the person wanted to give you a gift and that you graciously accepted it. That doesn’t mean that you have to keep it. I often receive gifts that are duplicates of items I already own, so however thoughtful the gift-giver thinks they are being. I am sure they would rather someone use them, than they sit in my cupboard forever and a day. It’s also better for the planet if we use the things that have already been made, rather than storing them.

Over to you, what’s your biggest motivator for decluttering? I think big life events can also be a great initiator – especially if you are boxing everything up for a move (as we have done several times before), or preparing for a life change – like the arrival of a baby or an elderly parents coming to live with you. All these things mean that you need to clear some space and take some time to sort through your belongings with a more critical eye.

A Short History of the Second-Hand Clothes Market

Anyone who knows me well will know that I love to shop second-hand, be it charity shops, jumble sales, car boots, eBay or anything else! During the many years I have been a part of the second-hand market, I have built a working knowledge of the value of items and particularly those which are sought after (hint: it tends to be the good brand names, as people know those are quality items). I also have been able to develop my love of vintage style, as I find genuine vintage items in the charity shops. One of my great loves is vintage Laura Ashley garments and I hope to be able to share a little more of that on my blog soon. I recently discovered a book published by Laura Ashley in 1983 and it’s a really fascinating read. It’s called Fabric of Society – A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870 by Jane Tozer and Sarah Levitt. You can pick up a hardback 1st edition for 1p, plus P&P on Amazon so it’s a real bargain!

I was very interested to come across this information about the history of the second-hand clothes market. As still is the case nowadays, second-hand clothing provides a way for poor (and financially savvy) people to buy the essentials. Then, as much as now, people were often too busy to sew or make their own garments. The Primarks of the day were known as ‘slop’ shops! I’m not sure if that’s where we get the word sloppy from. But just as today, the quality was poor and the garments did not last. The savvy people knew to buy second-hand, high quality garments that had come from the large houses. People who knew the market were very shrewd and able to judge which were the high-quality pieces. This meant if you were buying through a dealer, you’d pay a higher price than if you found the bargain yourself. Nothing changes eh?

Certain items of clothing were only worn by the gentry, such as dress coats and so, there was no second-hand market for these. They had to be turned into other garments, so they could be sold on. So, people either bought them and turned them into wool hats or caps, or traders did. These coats were also used to patch other garments. If a waistcoat began to wear, then it would be cut down into a smaller size or used to create cloth tops for boots. I think we could learn a thing or two from those days, don’t you?

Woollen garments which were so worn, they could no longer serve as clothing were sent for recycling. They would be ground down and mixed with new wool, into a fibre known as ‘shoddy’. I wonder if that’s where we get that word from also? This fibre was used to make cheap, mass-produced clothing. They didn’t waste anything and the dust from the mills, was used as manure on the hop-fields of Kent. This of course is safe with natural fibres, unlike the plastic micro-fibres that are clogging up our oceans today because we like to wear micro-fleece garments.

Old boots and shoes were patched up with anything they had to hand, even cardboard! Although that can’t have been great for anyone concerned, as it’s hardly durable or waterproof. Then they would be blackened to look good as new, if only temporarily. For this reason, people who worked outdoors often purchased new boots, even if they had to save up for them because they knew that quality footwear was essential to do their jobs safely and well!

In the 1700s and 1800s, women’s dress was less subject to change and this was because they knew how to sew! They would carry out any alterations themselves if fashions changed, or either repairing garments or cutting them down into child-sized ones. They would also tend to sell garments on themselves, after cleaning them. Old silk garments were used to line new clothing, or work boxes or dressing cases. They could also be turned into childrens or even dolls clothes!

Wool and cotton were recycled into shoddy thread and linen rags went to paper mills, but silk was not salvageable once damaged or worn. Cotton gowns were the most popular as they stood the test of time well and could be cleaned. Woollen dresses were less popular, as they did not last so well- probably prone to bobbling. Then of course, there were the furs. Any second-hand furs were mostly sold to prostitutes, as most people could not afford them – even second-hand! So much of this bears true today, if you buy a quality cotton garment it will be very long-lasting, as opposed to cheaper man-made fibres. I suspect that wool is more long-lasting today, as we know to hand wash it to keep it looking good.

The items that were most worn, such as trousers obviously tended to wear out and that’s why we don’t see many of these types of items, or working-class items at all in museums today because people actually wore their clothes out in those days. That really is a testament to the thriftiness and historic success of ‘the rag trade’, which really abhorred waste. A story that really is so relevant today!