Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Give it away, give it away, give it away now

Last year I set myself a challenge to get rid if 365 unwanted items from our household. To be honest, we are much better at hoarding (or rather--not hoarding) than we used to be. One reason is we are more careful about what we buy--some things are only worth pointing them out to the other person in a shop rather than bringing home. We have a clearer set of criteria to help us make purchases. This means things like the voice changer that makes you sound like a Dalek  can be played with at Forbidden Planet but does NOT need to actually come home with us.

Also space is limited as we have changed our lifestyle to have a smaller carbon footprint. Two people simply do NOT need a massive 3 bedroom house--a small 2 bedroom flat is plenty for us. So we often make choices on what to buy based on what will fit in the space we have.

But I was sure we could do better. And we did. As of Christmas day we have successfully given away or thrown away more than 365 items. I was particular about the rules for myself about the throwing away part. It could only go on the list if it was something I had been hoarding and not using, something long out of date that was taking up space, something so old and worn out (like shoes with holes) that you couldn’t give it away. I’m telling you this so you don’t think we got to 365 items by going through the bins and writing down all our rubbish. Plus things like shoes count as one item as they are a pair (lest you think we were trying to cheat to boost our numbers.)

So what did we give away? Here’s just a few from the list:

29 kitchen items ranging from a panini press to a spiralizer that cut raw vegetables into the shape of pasta.  

11 CDs culled from the collection. Some we had because of one particular song and so we saved the song to the computer and got rid of the disc. Genius.

21 pieces of jewellery I had several necklaces and earrings and bracelets that I hadn’t worn in several years. I kept anything that I could use as part of a costume, but everything else--gone.

8 pieces of exercise equipment Over the years I have amassed a collection of exercise gear. As I work out more I decide what I like and don’t like. I notices some stuff lay gathering dust whilst other stuff got used every time. So I gave stuff away. Plus I invested in some heavier weights and therefore didn’t need my set of lighter weights  so I gave them away to a friend.

23 DVDs many of these were fitness DVDs. Again, like equipment I found myself using some more than others so I got rid of the ones that seemed too easy for me now to the lollipop lady who helps kids cross the road at my school who was new to fitness.

41 articles of clothing we tend to wear clothes until they are falling apart at the seams. Those were thrown away and then I was able to cull some clothes that I hardly wear. I don’t need 6 black t-shirts when I wear the same 2 over and over, right? Plus my mum has promised me a t-shirt with a spider on it. I am sure it will arrive eventually and then I can get rid of another one.

42 expired or sample items I think I am pretty good at getting rid of stuff like this but the number 42 proves me wrong. I cleaned out our medicine chest and my cosmetic making cupboard and found several items that had expired as far back as 2007. Sad. Plus I had all these sample shampoos hoarded for use on holidays when we stayed in a hotel. They were all funky flavours with more chemicals that I prefer to use and so they went. I don’t even know how long they had been in that box. Too long.

92 books We got rid of some books because our church was having a bring and buy book sale to raise money for our peace worker we sponsor in Burundi. But then we got to really looking and decided we could get rid of some of our monographs of children’s authors. We ended up donating  them to the children’s literature archive and museum Seven Stories in Newcastle. They paid for shipping and now we are lighter and their collection is richer.

That’s just a taster of stuff we got rid of this year. Could we do it again? Maybe. I think, with the way we live, it is highly unlikely that we could reach 365 items again. Will it help me to be even more careful what we bring into the house? Definitely. Will it help me to think do we need it, do we love it, where can it go before we buy something? Yes, even more. Will I be able to throw stuff away and not discover it languishing somewhere in a cupboard 4 year later? Hopefully. 

Spiderman and I were talking this morning about how it feels to be happy with who you are and what you have instead of always feeling cross about what you don’t have. We are truly blessed. Nine years ago today we left the United States to try our luck living far, far away. It was a huge leap of faith, but here we are--starting our 10th year in England--as happy as Larry. I have way less stuff, but I have more of a life.

Here’s to living with less and a wonderful 2013.



  1. "29 kitchen items ranging from a panini press to a spiralizer that cut raw vegetables into the shape of pasta."

    At least 10 of those items were things that SweetJames procured for you, I'm sure. He was a small clever gadget guy to the max. RIP, SweetJames and all his little gadgets.

  2. Love how you live, I truly do, and I do tend to buy less than I used to. Most of the things I do buy for myself are running or biking related. We will see how well I do in a tiny apartment in Hawaii.