• Jo Hall

Don't Let It Go To Waste!

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

So you've been using your extra time at home to have a bit of a sort out, but you haven't been able to move your unwanted items out of your house.

When you are able to move them, where are they going to go?

What's the problem?

According to CB Environmental "the average household in the UK produces more than a tonne of waste every year. Put together, this comes to a total of 31 million tonnes per year, equivalent to the weight of three and a half million double-decker buses, a queue of which would go around the world two and a half times!

Every year we produce about 3% more waste than the year before.

If we carry on at this rate, it means that we will double the amount of waste we produce every 25 years."

The problem is,where does it all go? Some of it is recycled, but UK Government statistics claim only around 7%, whilst 40% ends up in landfill.

It's more important than ever that out "clutter" should have an extended life, either in it's original form but passed on to someone else, or by being repurposed.

The chances are that when our current lock down is lifted, the charity shops will be inundated with donations so what are our options?

Re purposing/repairing/upcycling - do you have things in your house that you would like to keep (maybe for sentimental reasons), but you don't love them as they are, or where they are? Think about using these items elsewhere in your house and perhaps for a different purpose.

I have a basketwork and metal doll's high chair, bought when we lived in Naples in the 1970's and is of sentimental value, as it reminds me of that time. It's a bit bulky to store though and I don't want to give display space to it in my house, I've repurposed it as flowerpot holder on my patio. It works perfectly, it's unusual and I see it everyday, instead of it being stuck out of the way in storage somewhere.

I inherited a pair of Parker Knoll chairs from my parents, the green fabric wasn't really to our taste so we had them re upholstered by Gaff in a grey felt fabric and now we love them!

Older furniture is so worth re upholstering, revarnishing or even painting/spraying, as it's often far better made than furniture available to buy now (and the trees have already been felled!). If you have a piece of furniture you'd like turned into something really different, have a look at Bougaloo Boutique. Local (to Maidenhead) resources for re purposing and upcycling items include Transformed Treasures (upholstery service) Alistair Price Antiques (specialist furniture restorers) and L'Atelier Lucie (furniture upcycling).

There are some amazing companies out there that have built their businesses around repairing and repurposing items. Since 2005 Elvis & Kresse have been making handbags and purses out of de commissioned fire hose, donating 50% of their profits to the Firefighters charity.

Wyatt and Jack make bags out of broken bouncy castles, inflatables and deck chairs (for local drop off contact Plastic Free Windsor & Beyond). The Restory, provide "luxury aftercare", in other words refurbishment and repair for shoes, bags and leather goods.

Sophiti & Chess will take unwanted jeans, cashmere, merino wool and supermarket "bags for life" and turn them into wash bags and re useable sandwich bags! Sew Eco is always on the lookout for men's shirts to turn into hankies and other fabric to use as the backing for re usable make up wipes.

Selling - generate some cash from your clutter! There are many outlets these days for selling unwanted items, both on and off line. For high value items and antiques contact your local auction houses and dealers (local Bourne End Auction Rooms and for vintage costume jewellery, watches and badges, Joy's Antiques and Collectables).

Almost anything can be sold on eBay or at a local car boot sale. Try Ziffit or Music Magpie for books, CDc, DVDs and video games, mobile phones and Lego.

For specialist dealers try searching, by product or type of product, online (local for rare books Jonkers). As "curator of our family stamp collection" I found an amazing stamp valuer and dealer, Gustamps in Brighton. The owner is a true enthusiast, keen to pass on his passion and knowledge to the next generation, but unless you have some real gems in your collection it's a buyers market so don't expect to make much money!

More and more options are popping up for selling high quality and branded pre worn clothes and shoes and handbags (locally Diana's Wardrobe resells on behalf of her customers in the Maidenhead Gift Emporium). Many high street shops including H&M are now collecting used clothes in exchange for vouchers.

"Considered Rehoming"/Donating - what I mean by "considered re homing", is taking the time to find absolutely the right "new home" for an item or items, (this can be particularly important for those with a high sentimental value). Apart from donating to charity shops and listing on Freecycle,or Facebook selling groups, there are many more specific options.

Do you have kids that struggle to part with much loved toys & games long after the've outgrown them (I know that scenario, I blame it on watching Toy Story too many times!). How about telling them about this amazing charity? Donate to Bearly Loved and your child can fill in a "re homing form" to accompany a beloved teddy.

If you have sports equipment you no longer need, search for a specific charity which would welcome the donation. Growing up I had my own horse and had kept various bits of horse equipment for years, thinking (hoping) that I might use it again in the future. One day whilst browsing online, I came across Ebony Horse Club which gives riding opportunities to young people living in South London's most disadvantaged communities. Instantly I knew that I wanted this place to benefit from my unused items, I packed them up in my car and delivered them to the stables in Brixton, where they were so gratefully received.

School libraries/music departments are often happy to take donations of books, stationery, musical instruments and sheet music, whilst residential care homes are grateful for magazines. Some high street opticians, hospitals and GP surgeries collect reading glasses no longer required and pass them on to Visionaid Overseas. Homeless charities and pet rescue centres are usually happy to take towels and bedding off your hands (locally The Cowshed take donations of new or used clothing, footwear, bedding & curtains and passes them on). New or barely used toiletries & make up are collected by The Hygiene Bank (locally by The Brett Foundation and Clean Conscience).

Bras you no longer wear are recycled to help support small business in Africa via Against Breast Cancer and new underwear is redistributed by Smalls for All.

Tools are collected by Work Aid, whilst the Wee Charity will collect old computer equipment free of charge from your home, wipe your data securely if required, refurbish it and pass it on to those who need it. Baby equipment no longer required can be donated to The Baby Bank, branches throughout the UK. The British Heart Foundation provide a free furniture and electrical goods collection service nationwide. Foreign coins and stamps are collected by Oxfam.

Did you know that you can even donate flowers after an event and have them re delivered to hospices and care homes by Floral Angels, what a fabulous idea!

If you have items to donate and are willing to post them, try searching on DropPoint.

Recycling - these days we need to be recycling much more than paper and (some) plastics. Many councils (including the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead) now collect bags of worn out textiles to be recylcled, as well as small electrical items, so check the website of the council in your local area.

The Alzheimers Society are collecting and recycling old jewellery (including broken pieces and costume jewellery) as well as many other "difficult to dispose of" items such as foreign coins and old film.

For more ideas on all things re purposing and recycling, have a look at My Zero Waste, Love Your Clothes and Wrap. Recycle Now allows you to search for recycling options by postcode.

Reducing waste requires a change in mindset. It takes a bit more effort, but involve the whole family and imagine how good it will feel. Knowing that all your clutter has gone somewhere it will do good and be appreciated by others, is surely preferable to dumping bin bags at the tip and passing the problems on to someone else, or (worse and the more likely option), it all ending up in landfill?

Please note that this article is UK specific and some of the organisations listed are specific to Maidenhead, Berkshire.

For information on schemes in your area, do search by item on the internet as there are some amazing and creative re purposing and recycling schemes everywhere, with many more springing up everyday.

Jo Hall is a Berkshire based Declutterer & Organiser

If you would love to use this time at home to have a really good sort out but don't know where to start, or you made a great start a couple of weeks ago but have since lost your way, I can help!

I coach clients in person (locally) and remotely anywhere in the world on decluttering & organising projects, so please do get in touch for a no obligation chat: Less Is More

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