I had a friend who was upset – actually depressed – by the amount of junk in her two spare rooms. She was a teacher, so I made a suggestion; “You get loads of holiday. Why don’t you use a couple of days when you’re husband’s at work to sort it out?”
“I’M not using MY holiday to sort out junk!” she spluttered. “Well if you’re not prepared to do that, you have only one option.” I said to her. “What’s that?” she asked eagerly. “Pray for a miracle!”
She was not impressed by my advice, but the sad reality is that STUFF will not magically just sort itself out if you leave it for long enough. In reality, it is more likely to expand!
It is obscene that we all seem to have so much of it these days that getting to grips with it can seem like an impossible task. Mark and I were lucky that we had previously downsized our house; 18 bin bags to the charity shop on THAT occasion!
Even though we had already gone through a fairly ruthless Stage 1 declutter, we still had an extraordinary amount of STUFF – and since we had just unexpectedly rented out our house to travel full-time in our new caravan, we had to get rid of it!
My Tips on How to Get Rid of STUFF!
- Take it in small, manageable steps. Start with what you have in the loft, garage, shed or the spare room, since this is largely stuff that you filed 1 step up from the bin. You just coudn’t bring yourself to make the decision to chuck it out, could you?!
- Do a bit at a time. We put a stupidly tight timescale on ourselves – we HAD to sort it all in a month. You have the luxury of taking your time. Keep at it and you will quickly start making inroads.
- If it’s been sitting there for years or is still in a box from 2 house moves ago, you don’t need it.
- ‘Well it might come in useful…’ the scourge of the declutterer. If you haven’t used it in the last year, it hasn’t come in useful. It might do eventually, but how long are you prepared to wait? A decade? A quarter of a century? There are worse risks in life. Live dangerously!
- You don’t need to go mad and jettison all your family heirlooms into a skip straight away. If you’re really not sure about getting rid of something, hang fire. You can always make a decision later…
- But if it’s not beautiful, useful or deeply sentimental – it should go out!
- Make three piles; “OUT” “KEEP” “NOT SURE” – keep reviewing them.
- Many charities run ‘bring a bag’ campaigns. Even if you donate 1 small carrier bag a month to charity, you will be making progress, but you could try for more…
Where to Get Rid of STUFF you Don’t Want (or Need)
Please don’t just bin your unwanted goods and send them to our overflowing landfills. Much of what you don’t want can be re-used and, as a bonus, will help numerous good causes. Some are obvious; some less so. I have listed below a few that we used;
Clutter that Makes a Difference
- Charity Shops – they are on every high street and will be delighted to recycle your stuff into money to support worthy causes.
- Clothes and Shoe Banks – in car parks, shopping centres, supermarkets… There are sometimes also banks for unwanted electrical goods and other items.
- Donate to friends and family – advertise on Facebook that you have unwanted items. You might be surprised who just happens to need one of THOSE at the time! Our white goods and TV went to a friend whose dryer had just packed in and another who needed a TV for the kids’ room.
- Freecycle – connects those who have STUFF to give away to those who want it. It is completely free. We got rid of an eclectic range of items, such as a large roll of leftover carpet underlay, through Freecycle. It is up to the receiver to make arrangements to collect – we just left the underlay in the porch and it went. Simple! To link to Freecycle click here
- Gift your Gear – one of my favourites! Gift your Gear delivers donated outdoor gear to youth organisations to enable youngsters to benefit from life-changing experiences in the outdoors. It is easy to donate – either by post or in Rohan shops. To link to Gift your Gear, click here
- Homeless Shelters and Local Charities – sometimes welcome bedding, blankets, furniture etc. to give some comfort to those who literally have nothing.
- Youth Groups or Sports Clubs – may welcome used sporting equipment. We donated a van load of our beginner windsurfing equipment to a club who encourage underprivileged children to learn to sail. (I haven’t put a link, as they don’t require further donations of equipment at this time.)
- Re Cycles – There are a number of charities which recycle old bicycles and give the proceeds to charity. Here are links to a couple; The Bike Project : World Bicycle Relief
Clutter that Makes Cash
- eBay – probably the largest online auction site (others are available!) I am a self-confessed Luddite, so it was daunting at first, but once I got my head around it, I found eBay easy to use and there is plenty of online help and support to get you started. Click here for some eBay tips from my own experience.
- eBay Shops and Agents – if you really can’t face listing on eBay yourself, you can find and appoint an eBay shop or agents to do most or all of the hard work for you. They will photograph the item, write and publish the listing – and charge you a commission in addition to eBay’s fees. Agents put the buyer in touch with you to sort out dispatching the item. I spent a whole Saturday morning waiting for someone to come and collect an office chair for which they paid £5 less all the agent and eBay commissions. Do you know, it really was not worth it.
- Sites for CDs and Used Electronics – I didn’t use any of these. In general, CDs and DVDs yield very little return – I gave such items to charity. If you sell a lot of them, though, I guess it all adds up. Sites like Music Magpie also recycle old mobile phones as well as disc media.
- Car Boot Sales – these can be great fun. I have friends who are addicted! If you don’t just give your items to an avid car booting friend to sell for you, turn up at the boot sale first thing and present your items in an appealing way; put clothes on hangers on rail, display goods neatly and in categories on a table eg toys, ornaments; jewellery. I had some gift bags lying about – I put little teddies in them so they looked cute. I also had a large tin car on the stand. No-one would pay the tenner that I was asking for it, but it brought a lot of people over to look. No-one is attracted to browse an amorphous pile of junk on the floor. I made most of my money in the first hour. The dealers come round and bag all the best stuff. They are the ones happy to stand there for 7 hours in the hope of making a sale or getting £1 more than they paid for it!
Learning to re-purpose is skill that will set you in great stead for caravanning! Things with dual functions means less weight and space. Also, you WILL have forgotten something or things WILL break at the most inopportune moment – so you WILL have to improvise!
Upcycling also seems to be a real phenomenon these days, but we didn’t do any of that. Re-purposing is a huge subject and can require more than a little imagination. I will probably write a blog about it one day! Here is an example of a pre-trip re-purpose;
Our best offer for a 1 year old ottoman divan bed frame was £20. It was insulting. We needed to build a comfy dog bed in our van, Big Blue so that the doggies could travel long distances in style. We couldn’t even buy the wood that this project required for £20, so we re-purposed the wooden bed slats! The upholstered headboard made a lovely, padded frame around the dog bed. It is not, perhaps, the finest example of re-purposing, but it gives you the idea!
I have to give a little plug here to my friend Wayne of Surf Mirrors. Wayne is a top re-purposer. He makes beautiful, handmade driftwood furniture and mirrors (Wayne was featured on Ben Fogle’s “Harbour Lives”!) Wayne can make tables, garden chairs and shelves from all sorts of old rubbish, such as surf boards and industrial cable rolls. The surfboard shelves are amazing. He splits the surfboard down the middle as the end then puts driftwood shelves in the middle. It looks so COOL!
For further tips on recycling, check out Recycle Now