Freecycle: The Wonders and Pitfalls

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Why have I not discovered Freecycle sooner? It’s free stuff, as in ‘pay nothing’ and someone gives you something. It’s great. Until you realise you’ve been ‘gifted’ a fridge that’s missing two shelves and needs a whole new door – cost £106 – or to be taken to the tip – cost £22 if the council take it away. We ended up paying £22 to get rid of something that was supposedly ‘free’. Fortunately we saw a ‘reconditioned’ fridge in our local furniture store so we were able to buy a fridge and support a local business, which is something. Admittedly I did also get the council to remove a couple of old mattresses (too stained to be reused) at the same time as the fridge so I would have paid that money anyway, but still… it’s the intentions of the giver that are questionable. I shan’t be so trusting in future and will insist on looking at the thing first.

However, we also managed to get hold of a freezer via Freecycle and that has been great. Nice people gave it to us, no problems. Works fine. The moral of the story: some people use Freecycle as a means of getting rid of junk because they can’t be bothered to take it to the tip (or don’t have the means to so decide to trick someone else into doing it for them!). Whether they couldn’t or wouldn’t I’m less than impressed o_O In future I will take all Freecycle offers with a pinch of salt.

Verdict: Freecycle is a wonderful idea and when it works it’s an example of the very best of humanity and the very best of eco-friendly principles in action. But there are a lot of chancers out there, so although I will remain a committed user of Freecycle, I will be more careful to inspect something before I take it into my home.

GARDENING FOR DUMMIES, DECLUTTERING & UPCYCLED STORAGE BOXES

I have neglected this blog lately, although I have a lot of ideas in the pipeline. My health has been up and down, which of course affects blogging as well as my ability to be as actively eco-friendly as I’d like. I don’t beat myself up over it – what’s the point? If you’re not well, you’re not well, but you do your best and that’s good enough (why is that such a hard lesson to learn?).

I have, however, begun gardening for the first time in my life (seriously – I didn’t know a weed from a rake), and gobbling up gardening books. I was dead chuffed when I planted my first potatoes earlier this week. I highly recommend Geoff Stebbings’ Growing Your Own Fruit & Veg for Dummies, along with a book about tackling and identifying weeds, which are a big problem in our neglected Victorian garden, though even in its neglected state it is gorgeous. The cat which used to poop all over the garden seems to have gone, which is a relief. I am not a cat lover and I think anyone who is serious about the environment should give consideration to the fact that domestic cats are responsible for the deaths of millions of birds and thus have a huge effect on ecosystems.

I follow FlyLady and am making good use of her decluttering system. The first thing you need before you can declutter is a home for an item. This is rule no. 1. The home can be a shelf, a box, a wardrobe, a box of items for charity, a box of items for recycling or, as a last resort, a bin bag for things that have no use for anyone and cannot be recycled. Of course, decluttering only works if you then take the donations, etc., out of the house. I spent a long time thinking that putting things in charity bags or in boxes ‘for recycling’ was good enough. They still didn’t grow legs and walk out of the house! Decluttering is, in essence, deciding where something belongs. If you declutter for 15 minutes a day, as FlyLady suggests, you will soon see significant results.

While decluttering, I realised I have many items that are useful and reusable, but only at certain times of year, e.g. children’s birthday party items. It suddenly dawned on me that it would be useful to have all ‘birthday’ things in one place. I didn’t want to go out and buy more boxes, and was inspired by Alejandra’s tips on creating storage boxes from things you already have.

I do try to get the whole family in on the eco-friendly/FlyLady act. It’s no good if Mum is busily tidying and everyone else thinks there’s an invisible cleaning fairy who picks up after them and cleans all their messes. Hey, kids! There is no invisible magical anyone. You need to learn to pick up after yourself. I began by taking a used but sturdy cardboard box and sticking strips of colourful tape to one of the sides. It was then time for the school run and my excitable, creative 9-year-old, when she came home, wanted to help. I reassured her that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be useful and ta daaaa!

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I plan to do a Christmas box as well, using washi tape with a reindeer design.

She finished off our very own super-duper upcycled ‘Birthday Box’ which now contains plastic birthday tablecloths, a ‘happy birthday’ door banner, some plastic cups and some cardboard plates and bowls. I admit these are not the most eco friendly items, but at least we will reuse them rather than disposing of them.What else could go in, I wonder?

NB. If you’re thinking of having a go yourself, I’d recommend gaffer tape or duct tape. I used washi tape and it’s really not very strong, although I won’t store anything heavy in this box. Gaffer tape would strengthen the box. 

Hurrah for Public Transport (and Preparations for a Homemade Christmas)

There has not been so much blogging lately as I am snowed under trying to balance studying with sorting out our lovely new old house (if you know what I mean). An aged house such as ours has its own particular set of problems for any new inhabitants inheriting all the ‘quirks’ that the previous owners never fixed. But it’s fun o_O

I am also trying to make preparations for a make-do-and-mend, pre-loved, home made, Un-paving Paradise Christmas with all the family. I have already made a shawl, wrist-warmers, napkin rings and am onto the recycled cotton crocheted flannels (which will be wrapped with home made soaps and bath bombs) and pine cone decorations. Last year I made two pairs of these lovely slippers, and will also make a couple more pairs for friends and family for this year. It’s a simple, but very effective pattern. My middle child still wears them and loves the fact that they were created especially for her, which is as much the value of a home made gift as the gift itself 🙂

It being half-term here in this Lost Corner of Middleshire, we took the children to the National Space Centre. It’s a fantastic place. The planetarium alone is an amazing experience. A particular favourite was the ‘rocket’ in the cafe, which every so often would begin to rumble and emit vast quantities of dry ice lit by red lights, to much shrieking delight on behalf of the children stood underneath. Also, if you book online in advance, you get a free annual pass. Read more here.

We travelled by train and stayed overnight as it’s a long way away, which led to some interesting questions with regard to the eco credentials of train travel: why is it more environmentally-friendly to use the train, but costs more? Shouldn’t the fact that there are 100 people travelling in just one carriage be more economical for the traveller? Why, even when you have discounts such as the Friends and Family Railcard and you book weeks in advance, is rail travel in Britain so expensive?

Have You Got Furoshiki Style?

The previous post, reblogged from My Make Do and Mend Year, reminded me of Japanese furoshiki. Furoshiki is a way to fold simple pieces of cloth to make various useful things. I used furoshiki for the first time last year to wrap Christmas presents. I now also use furoshiki in the ‘katakake fukuro’ style to to carry my crochet gear around. It works very well. The Japanese use furoshiki cloths with beautiful designs, but squares of any fabric will do. I have used ladies scarves, fabric remnants and even an old Christmas tablecloth.

Check it out:

 

You can also find instructions on various furoshiki styles on this website from the Japanese government (it is, helpfully, in English).