Thursday, 27 October 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

“You must never leave meat on your plate, however full you are, because that's the most expensive part of the meal” - I was brought up with this doctrine and seem to have subconsciously applied it to all aspects of life. I find it very hard to “waste” anything. For days on end I'll consume the same unopened food if it is soon about to pass its use-by-date. I actually lived off the same bland soup for three days for lunch and dinner purely because I didn't want to waste the enormous bumper batch. Throwing out cardboard is also recently a problem – after all we may need it for painting on. So you can imagine properly moving into the flat and down-sizing my belongings was a real problem and a massive job.

It's only now, over a year since we got the flat and three months after I've properly moved in on a permanent basis that things are starting to look more homely. I still have belongings that have been in storage in Kent since going travelling and I'm well aware they'll need a home somewhere one day. In order to make enough space and physically fit my clothes into the flat, we've had to buy an expensive beast-sized Ikea wardrobe and I've had to get rid.

Simply chucking out bags of clothes didn't seem right so we hit the summer boot sale circuit first, discovering there's actually a community of folk who travel round boot sales every weekend – regulars both selling and looking. Since I last did a boot sale to raise festival ticket money at the age of sixteen, they've got somewhat more expensive to take part in – many charge an entrance fee for those looking around and the cost of a pitch seems to have gone up from £5-£12, although charity boot sales based at fire stations remain reasonable.

We managed to part with a sizable quantity of our unwanted belongings at these sales but made little money for the time we spent sitting under-cover in the rain of our glorious British summer. Stacks of boxes continued to litter our spare room and something had to be done. My next step was to invite round any friends to have a good rummage. Although some came and took, the end result was virtually unnoticeable so it was time to try out a friend's recommendation:

Remade in Leeds occurs once a month and for each event allows you to bring up to twenty unwanted items in good condition with you. These items appear on a membership card as credit. You pay a £2 entrance fee and can then browse the rails of clothes others have donated. Whatever you take goes off your credit and any remaining credit can be used at the next event. I've been twice now and have picked up a few items each time so have a huge credit rating remaining to use over the coming year.

Of course the forty items I took to Remade in Leeds didn't do much to clear out the spare room so it was again time for action. As dubious as it sounds I decided to give CashForClothing a call:

The first time I waited in all day, no-one called round but the second time I was pleasantly surprised by my “earnings”. All clothes and shoes were bagged up ready for one of their collectors to come round to weigh them. I got rid of a load of in-the-way-unwanteds and in the meantime got paid for it and know all items are recycled.

Beyond clothing, we still had the odd bits of furniture to get rid of and a large amount of books. Some had to go to the skip, others to charity shops but some pieces ventured onto Freecycle and soon found new homes. Sites like Freegle and Freecycle are great helping folk to furnish new homes and get bits and bobs you'd rather not pay for. I undertook a slightly pointless trip to Horsforth to pick up coat hangers, feeling like they weren't the kind of thing you actually buy. I'm sure we spent more money in petrol getting there than the hangers would have cost new but for bigger items, collection is probably well worth it.

The books are the last remaining unwanted space-taker we have. I've discovered a monthly book exchange called The Travelling Suitcase so plan to replenish organiser, Jess Haigh's, stocks and perhaps get a few good reads at the same time at her next Cafe 164 meet. And if there's anything left, there will be a final trip to the charity shop.

They say “waste not, want not” and right now this certainly seems to ring true- having gone through this whole rigmarole to rehouse old belongings, I'm not sure I want to restock and prompt a repeat of the whole process.

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