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100 Thing Challenge

I recently came across the “100 Thing Challenge” which started life as a personal challenge set by the US blogger “guy named dave” www.guynameddave.com and which has now gathered quite a following. Dave challenged himself to live for a year with only 100 personal belongings by which he meant nothing shared (he has a wife and 2 daughters) and nothing essential. Interestingly it took Dave 12 months to get down to the 100 things, partly as he wanted to re-evaluate aspects of his life and because he wanted to dispose of the other items sensibly.

At first glance this may seem like an enormous challenge. But then in the early 1990s when I purchased my first home, a small one-bedroom flat, due to a chronic lack of storage space my belongings would most definitely have met Dave’s criteria! I arrived at that flat with all my worldly goods packed in a Transit van. I lived quite happily, constrained by my space issues, for nearly 6 years. If I bought any new items into the flat, something had to go to. And then when I moved up the housing ladder and bought a 2.5 bedroom flat the old saying of “your belongings expand into the space available” came true! Friends helped me move into this flat with the aid of a Luton van and an estate car but when I left 3 years later (having acquired a husband-to-be on the way) we had a professional moving company plus lorry to take us to our first house. And I daren’t admit to the scale of the last move but by then we had one daughter and another on the way.

In his book about his experience (The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life and Regained My Soul by Dave Bruno) Dave is very open and honest about how he had accumulated many of the possessions he shed before the challenge year. As I read his book I could see parallels with items in my house. So I am digging out the sports equipment that hasn’t been used since before we had the girls and admitting to myself that I am unlikely to ever play squash again. My eBay account has been active recently and an amazing amount of stuff taken to the tip.

I am not sure I am ready to set myself a 100 thing challenge but by reading Dave’s experience it has made me look at my personal belongings with fresh eyes.

May 30, 2011   3 Comments

Kitchen full of food but nothing to eat?

Most of us will at some point have found ourselves in front of our full wardrobe exclaiming “I have nothing to wear!”. But how many times do you find yourself in your kitchen thinking something similar – “I have a kitchen full of food but nothing to eat…”. It’s time to cook tea for your kids or supper for your family and you have no idea what you are going to make them. The food in the fridge doesn’t go with the staples in the cupboard and the bits and pieces in the freezer won’t make anything you really want to eat.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I like lists! Twice a week I sit down and plan our meals, and write lists for the supermarket and for the fresh produce (I am lucky in having access to a fishmonger, a butcher and a greengrocer). As I run low of a staple item I add it to the supermarket list so I don’t have to keep bulky spares in the house “just in case”. I find this really works for me – I only buy what I am going to use and I don’t have that 5pm panic of what to feed my children. My food waste has reduced dramatically and I find I am cooking more balanced meals across the week. Before I start my planning I look to see what I already have in the fridge or cupboard that needs using up and try and plan that into the meals. Periodically we have an “eat it up week” usually when the freezer needs defrosting or before Christmas when I am making space for my festive cooking. I also try and plan for leftovers – if we have a roast on a Sunday I will make a shepherd’s pie or a risotto on the Monday, using the bones to make a stock.

It is also worth sorting through your food cupboards every couple of months to see what is past its use by date and to see what you have in there that you have forgotten about. Do you really know what’s lurking at the back of your tin cupboard? When you defrost the freezer have a sort out and make sure you know what you are putting back in. Make sure you clearly label portions or you might have a moment reminiscent of “Open All Hours” when they were eating from unlabelled tins and ended up with savoury mince and peaches!

The “LOVE FOOD hate waste campaign” estimates that 8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by UK households each year – most of which is still edible and which costs the average family with children £680. Take a look at their website for tips, recipes and more information on making the most of your food – www.lovefoodhatewaste.com.

March 10, 2010   2 Comments

Getting the family involved!

My eldest daughter asked this weekend if she could turn the area at the end of her bedroom (a small eaves room) into a chill out room which she and her friends could enjoy. Great I thought, though a tad scary as it’s a very grown up idea she’s not yet 8 years old… Anyway, I did explain that this would mean a big clear out of the toys and other “stuff” that had accumulated in this area and that she really ought to help with this. To my surprise she was full of enthusiasm and as it turned out has inherited her mother’s ruthlessness when it comes to clearing things out. We started with the blanket box of soft toys – my husband and I had thought when she was a toddler that it was a great idea to bring home a soft toy from every place we visited whilst away on business. By the time she turned 3 and the house was swamped by teddies etc. we changed our collecting habits and swapped to buying T shirts – we all live and learn!

By the time we had emptied the blanket box we had a large bin bag overflowing with toys to donate to a children’s charity. I then asked her to sort out all of her handbags and I am so glad that she made all the decision as the bags she kept are the ones I would probably have cleared out and vice versa with the ones she put in the charity pile. Within an hour her chill out room was taking shape and we had a large amount of charity donations and a smaller amount of rubbish cleared out. We had also found the missing parts of her toy sweet shop and returned various books and toys to her younger sister.

I am now trying to inspire my youngest daughter to tackle her room. At 4-years old she has the memory of an elephant and I have already been caught out by her after clearing out various toys by the stealth approach only to have her ask where is such and such – oops!

The lesson I have learnt is that getting your family involved in your de-cluttering is incredibly worthwhile and can also be fun.

February 28, 2010   No Comments

Does your house have kerb appeal?

I first came across the term “kerb appeal” whilst watching Anne Maurice in House Doctor in the late 90s and early 00s. In the context of her programmes, Anne Maurice was using the term to describe the first impression a potential buyer has when you are selling your property. According to an article in The Telegraph last October http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ it takes potential buyers no more than 8 seconds to decide whether they like your house or not! I believe that kerb appeal applies to your home regardless of whether you are selling or not.

We have all walked or driven past houses that have overgrown front gardens or contain abandoned cars or general rubbish. Perhaps we notice these houses more than those with well-kept gardens, clean windows and new paintwork? Sub consciously we all make a judgement on what the owners of the house must be like and what lies behind the front door!

It is worth taking a moment when you are next coming home to view your house as a visitor would. Is the entrance to your house inviting and welcoming for your visitors.Would they feel happy to cross your threshold?

I did this recently with my house. We have a mature Wisteria growing across the front of the house. At its peak we are greeted with pale green foliage and fragrant purple flowers. At this time of year, bare of its leaves it is a rather less attractive sight but did enable me to see where it needed a good prune! I also noticed that the guttering was full of fallen leaves so these were quickly cleared. I gave the front porch a good sweep and dust and tidied the front border. The windows could do with a clean which reminds me I need to call the window cleaner but other than this the house is much more inviting now.

So what does the front of your house say about you?

February 19, 2010   No Comments

Our possessions have doubled in 30 years!

I read with interest an article published in The Times today http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7027045.ece about a survey that states that the space occupied in our homes by our possessions has doubled in the past 30 years. The growth in consumerism is partly to blame and the report estimates that our belongings take up nearly half of the space in our homes. The explosion in technology, from computers to home entertainment systems, provides today’s consumer with far more choice than in the late 70s.

If I think back to my parent’s house in the late 70s, we had a single television, a mono record player and a couple of small radios. Today my house has multiple televisions, two computers and an array of small electrical items (gaming equipment, MP3 players, mobile phones, cameras etc.). As I sit at my desk writing this I can see at least 6 items in chargers around me.

As a mother of two young children I am so aware of how different life is for them then when I was child growing up. 24 hour commercial television has a lot to answer for! Toys are cheaper and more readily available and even children’s magazines all come with the obligatory “free” piece of plastic junk. Not to mention those small items that come in party bags but which are never played with….

So the challenge is managing our belongings without letting the clutter take over, a threat that is greater than ever. My approach is “little and often” – every week I sort out a drawer or cupboard or the bookshelves where the children’s magazines accumulate. I find if you leave it too long between clear outs, the clutter takes over and then the task becomes too big to face. And remember the key is to keep only those items you love, need or use. Recycle wherever possible and donate unwanted items to charity – one person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure.

February 15, 2010   2 Comments

What to do with hideous heirlooms ?

I read an article recently in Woman & Home entitled “My hideous heirlooms”… The author described an object inherited from her mother, which despite being hideous and unloved she keeps on display because getting rid of it would be disloyal to her mother! The object had been one of her mother’s few truly loved possessions and had been in the family for generations. She felt that she was being blackmailed from the grave in that her mother (long dead) would have been devastated if she had got rid of the object.

The article went on to describe “the most hideous clock ever made” owned by a friend of the author. The friend had hidden the clock in her spare room for years hoping that someone would break it giving her the excuse she needed to get rid of it. A relative, who had helped pay the school fees for her children, had bequeathed the clock to her and as such she felt guilt ridden to keep the clock, even though it didn’t even work.

Two of my clutter clearing principles (which are linked) spring to mind here.   Firstly gifts (including those bequeathed) should be given unconditionally, giving the recipient the right to decide for himself or herself whether they want to keep the gift, return it to the shop it came from, re-gift it or simply give it to charity.   It is the act of giving that is important here.

Secondly, you should clear something out of your house if you don’t love it, don’t need it, if it doesn’t have a positive emotional attachment, or if it is broken or needs repairing and you aren’t willing to pay to have it fixed.

I wish the author of the article could take this on board and get rid of her heirloom. By offering the object up for sale something considered hideous by one person could be provide a new home by someone who truly loved it.

February 8, 2010   No Comments