Share more, waste less

A rag-and-bone man with his horse and cart on the streets of Streatham, southwest London in 1985 (Image from Wikipedia)

When I was a child in the 1970s, a simple way of getting rid on unwanted items was to wait for the ‘rag-and-bone man’ to call by. I have a distant memory of a man calling “Rag a’ Bone!” as he arrived via pony and cart to collect unwanted metal and other items. He also handed out pink balloons to the children! I was surprised to discover the above image, which is from 1985 and shows that the ‘rag and bone’ trade with horse and cart persisted for some time.

Fast forward almost 50 years and life looks very different. When it comes to ‘refuse, re-use, reduce and re-cycle,’ the message appears to have hit home. But I’m also beginning to notice some new ways to share more and waste less. Here’s my round-up of what’s avaialble online:

Sharing platforms

Freecycle’s been around for a long time – 17 years now. It now boasts over 9 million members worldwide and is the place if you have something you simply want to give away. It’s a curious website from a user-experience point of view; it looks quite old-fashioned now .

I used Freecycle recently when lockdown restrictions were lifted and managed to gift two half tins of engine oil and a tub of never-opened fence paint (you see, minimalists still find more to declutter!).

Olio, however, is new to me. I found it via an Instagram advert and decided to follow the link to check it out. Primarily aimed at reducing food waste, I took a look at what those in my ‘neighbourhood’ were offering for free. To my surprise, I found a range of perfectly good foodstuffs, albeit I realised that most of these were outside of my immediate area. Still, this has potential. I also took a look at “Non-Food” only to find that someone in my home town was giving away some Costco “Hair Regrowth Treatment for Men”…. So, maybe Olio has potential even if it’s not yet taken off fully in this part of the world.

My lovely sister has been selling unwanted home items on Facebook Marketplace, which is another place to go to offer items you’re happy to sell or give away. Likewise, a lot of local community groups on Facebook offer a chance to gift unwanted items (sometimes, people are extremely generous and kind).

I wrote a while back that I’d had enough of eBay, but I picked up an alternative for selling unwanted clothes recently. Have you come across Vinted yet? With Vinted, it’s free to list clothes, shoes and accessories, – and it’s easy to do. The app is intuitive and simple, so I decided to have a go. I listed two items: a jacket and a dress. Very soon, I was able to improve the visibilty of these items with some free ‘bumps’ that would enable Vinted to bump my items up the listings. However, neither sold, so I’m planning to pass these on to Emily from the Recycled Closet.

The Recycled Closet is an Instagram account, run by a Emily Grainger-Smith, who lists preloved clothing items then donates 50% of the proceeds to charity. This is a great side hustle, which follows my mantra of ‘making secondhand second nature’.

All of this makes me realise that there are so many accessible and straightforward ways to move your unwanted clutter along, many of which allow you to do good whilst you’re at it. What’s your favourite platform and why?

For me, I’m off to the Recycling Centre this weekend – it’s time to let go again.

Get uncluttered

If you feel you need a little motivation or support to get uncluttered, then look no further than the autumn series of Uncluttered, which is enrolling now. I was a participant on this course in 2016 and still belong to the Facebook group from that cohort. Over 30,000 people have taken part in this online course that helps participants declutter their homes gently, room by room. And if you sign up using my code FF25, you’ll get 25% off.

Wishing you an uncluttered autumn.


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Going to uni? Shop from your own home

After a little break from the blog over the summer, I’m back for a new season with some new life adventures to share with you. I hope you have been keeping well and happy, in spite of lockdown restrictions.

Our daughter is about to take the next step on her life journey and embark upon the quasi-independent life of being a university student. She is one of the hundreds of thousands of UK teenagers who belong to the ‘Class of Covid-19’ whose achievements were ultimately based on ‘centre assessed grades,’ rather than on a combination of teacher insights and a controversial algorithm. So, I’m somewhat relieved and delighted that she has been able to secure a place and is now in the run-up to moving into her hall of residence next weekend.

Getting the essentials

It’s been interesting observing my daughter’s group of friends, as they plan what they’re going to take with them to their respective institutions. Inevitably, they want their university room to have homely touches, as well as the necessary essentials. So, last weekend saw the two of us in one of the UK’s top ten shopping destinations, Milton Keynes (famous for its roundabouts!), as we tackled a rather long wishlist.

We visited just 3 shops and that was enough for me: Home Bargains (bargains indeed!); Primark (for its home section); and good old Marks & Spencer. Forget IKEA if you’re thinking of venturing out: the queues to get in were snaking through the car park – a clear ‘no go’ for me.

Kitchen in a box?

Of course, retailers know that they can offer handy bundles, such as Wilko’s “Kitchen in a Box”, but here’s what I think about these sorts of offers: you probably don’t need them. Rather, it’s better to remember that you don’t need as much as you think (we never do) and what you genuinely need is probably already available at home.

‘Shop’ from home

So, after some indulgent purchases, it’s now time for our girl to ‘shop from home’. That is, whatever we didn’t buy on our trip is probably available right here in cupboards, drawers and shelves here at home. In spite of my minimalist tendencies, we still have more than enough cutlery, crockery, towels and other items that a student might need. Plus, why buy new when you’re using a shared kitchen and – apart from your own room – are getting your first taste of communal living? Better, I suggest, to take old stuff that you’re not too precious about, so if it goes walkabout or gets broken, it really doesn’t matter. So, with just a few days to go, I’ve invited Miss Gordon to take whatever she likes. This may sound like an extravagant gesture, but it really isn’t.

Remember The Minimalists’ mantra: If you can pick up something for $20 or less – and get hold of it within 20 miles of where you live – don’t stress about it. Of course, this is in the context of decluttering seldom-used items: if you accidentally declutter something you find you later need, it’s not really an issue to let go in the first place when you know that replacing it would ultimately be an inexpensive and easy thing to do.

The same applies to household items for the soon-to-be undergraduate – what if she takes the corkscrew or our favourite kitchen knife? It really doesn’t matter when we’re within walking distance of shops that can readily supply replacements for less than £20 and within 20 minutes on foot.

Lockdown lessons

Lockdown has certainly taught me that we truly need far less than we ever believed. Plus, our local community swung into action by sharing, instead of shopping, for things that neighbours needed. Our little street has a little WhatsApp group now, which we didn’t have before lockdown. If someone needs anything (or has something to offer), this group comes into its own. We’ve also benefited from the kindness of residents on our town’s community Facebook group helping and sharing with each other in a way that we didn’t do before. Long may this continue.

So, if you’ve got a student about to leave home for the first time (or if you are that person), I’d heartily recommend the ‘shop from home’ approach, even before you head for the shopping mall. It’s a more sustainable way to approach your first term at university and it’s kinder to your wallet, too.


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