Tag Archives: decluttering

Where’s all the free stuff?

It’s been a busy week here. On top of all the usual to-ing and fro-ing, parenting stuff, trying-to-set-up-a-business stuff, and day-to-day stuff, I signed up the #naturehackchallenge on Facebook, which has meant allocating some time each day to decluttering (day 1), letting in light and thinking about the different play spaces in the house (day 2), building a nature table (day 3) and now, on day 4, sharing how we incorporate nature objects in our play (short answer: currently, we don’t.)

Today one of the other nature hackers in the group posted a link to a US-equivalent of Freecycle or Freegle; all popular sites that allow use to give away things we no longer need and also to find things we do for free. Of course! I was quite active Freegler when we were at our old house. In fact I dread to think what the value of all the stuff we gave away when we cleaned ot before our move. Probably enough for a holiday! Yes, we felt virtuous at the time. It seemed like a good idea, giving away lots of our low-value things that would cost more to move than to give away and re-find once we arrived. But that was without knowing that, it seems, no-one gives anything away here and everything that is no longer needed is sold for as high price as they can get! Even at vide greniers price are high. Maybe it’s because there are so many Brits here. I don’t know. But I have always had the sneaking feeling that there’s information I don’t have: part of the one price for the English (who are usually happy to pay “too much”) and the price for the more budget savvy French. Instead of paying through the nose on one of the (mostly expat driven and therefore expensive) Facebook sellings groups, or the French equivalent of Gumtree, called Leboncoin, there was something out there for those who wanted to give away their unwanted possessions rather than profit from them?

So I Googled. Of course, various sites turned up:

Not a bad start. Whoopee! Now perhaps I could find some of the bits and bobs I need to finish off declutter (which of course somehow necessitates accumulating more stuff in the name of getting organised: boxes, baskets, and the like.)

Shame then when I find that although there are groups in Limoux and Carcassonne, there isn’t a single listing local to me. The Donnons site wasn’t quite as bad: one listing, 45 minutes from here, someone selling a bunch of drop files. Whoopee.

That leaves me having to plan a day trip so I can visit the Emmaus superstore in Pamiers (it’s not called a superstore but I’ve been told its gigantic so I’m setting my expectations high.) Hopefully I will be able to search out the bits and bobs I need to finish my #naturehackchallenge home decor changes and also potentially drop some off bits I want to get rid of. It’s just a shame because as much as I’m happy to support charities like Emmaus there was always something so simple about Freegling unwanted goods, often things you wouldn’t think to donate, like yarn or fabric scraps, broken but repairable electricals, that sort of thing. It was always nice to meet fellow Freeglers who would turn up at the door to drop off or collect something: some would stop for a chat, others it was quite matter of fact, formal and over in a flash. A few times someone I’d met before at an event but not seen since would arrive, so we’d have chance to catch up and arrange to connect in future! It had something of a community built around it. I’m convinced there is something like this here but am going to have to try harder to find it. I will report back!

In the meantime, here is the result of day 1 and day 2 of the challenge, the whole point of which is to re-evaluate space to encourage and enable creative play, bringing more nature into our homes as a way of facilitating this. It’s Day 4 today and I’m supposed to be sharing pics and inspiration about how we use natural loose parts and instead I’ve written this blog post. Time to catch up!



Less stuff = more space. Who knew!?

It turns out James has been right all along; we have got a tonne of stuff and getting packed and/or rid of it is a pretty time consuming task. For all our efforts we now have a room full of boxes but we have also taken an insane amount of stuff to the local charity shop, to the extent that it is starting to resemble our house, and we’ve taken quite a bit of stuf to the tip too. We could have made more effort to sell things and there’s been so much leaving the house that if we’d sold everything for a £1 or bothered to do a car boot sale we’d probably have a few 100 pounds more in our account, but eBay is soooo boring and we should have started doing that about five years ago, if that was the plan, because ebaying while also trying to pack and parent is hard work and there aren’t quite enough hours in the day. And a car boot with two small kids? Er, no thank you.

At first deciding whether to keep or throw stuff was a struggle: I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever, a while ago and made a half-hearted attempt to clear out my wardrobe. I threw a few things out, yes, but found the process of determining whether a particular object “sparks joy”, which is the basis for Kon Mari-ing your life, incredibly complicated, especially when squeezed into a 45-minute window that could be interrupted at any time by an unhappy child. I did okay on the clothes, I suppose, but knew that books would cause me problems. Then we planned the move, making a huge purge necessary, with James leading the way, proudly throwing out just about everything he owned. Way to set the bar high, eh? Because  we both knew I couldn’t be trusted to part with any of them we agreed that I would take any books I wanted to keep off the shelves and James would get Ziffit/charity shop the rest. It was a struggle and, to James’s frustration, my first pass of the shelves resulted in a rather large collection – three (okay, four) boxes to his one. I wittled it down again and ended up with two boxes. Not bad.

Then there was everything else — the layers of crap stuffed into drawers, in bags, on and behind shelves. So.Much.Stuff. And it was hard to let go because I just hate throwing things away. Unless I had a clear love/hate response, I agonised over each item. I held it, waiting for the lightening bolt of joy or otherwise. In the event of a lacklustre emotional response, I debated whether a joyless but practical item deserved a place in one of our packing boxes. I recalled the day I purchased/found each item, ran through my justification for keeping it, and resisted throwing anything much out. I put things aside, finding it easier to part with them if I sold them on rather than giving them away. And this went on for weeks. I had piles: for sale, for charity, for person x, y, z, and so on.

But then something strange happened, something that I attribute entirely to starting to actually enjoy living in a decluttered space; I actually became ruthless. By starting this whole process months before our move, rather than going mad with packing in the last week, we’re able to live in the house and feel the difference. It’s an emotional difference: I feel different, the house feels different. I’m enjoying not having to body swerve around the filing cabinet on the upstairs landing, not having to dodge the keyboard that’s lived at the bottom of the stairs for the last 5 (or is it 10?) years. The play corner in the living room is actually usuable, not spilling over with cuddly toys, puzzle pieces and a mountain of miscellaneous, partially complete plastic crud. I’m so over having a house full of stuff! Damn it, if Marie Kondo and others aren’t right: we have way more space – for free – and I like it!

I’m also so over packing up this house that pretty much everything left out is either in use or can go. It feels like we’ve done nothing else for months — which is probably because we haven’t done much else outside of look after the kiddies, eat, sleep and pack up the frickin’ house! Yesterday I afforded myself the luxury of plotting a few cycle routes around our new home, so – with the end in sight – I’m now very excited about actually having moved and starting the next phase, which will involve looking for a house and all the practicalities of living in a new country. Bring it.

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