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Archive for the ‘velvet magazine’ Category

The February edition of Velvet Magazine is out and it is looking lovelier than ever! Here is a little taster with the contribution from Angel and Blume.

Drowning in stuff? Cate Burren reflects on the ever-increasing number of possessions we have in our homes.

‘I tried hard to resist the temptation to raise the topic of decluttering our homes at this time of year – it seems as big a cliché as offering diet tips or holiday ideas – but then I read a truly compelling article about the average number of things we have in our homes and it has stayed with me ever since. Go on, guess how many (think books, DVDs, shoes, teaspoons, general stuff in drawers – each thing counts) keep going, keep going – ok, I will tell you. 300,000. My initial reaction without really thinking about it was that I don’t have nearly that number of items but when I started to count, I was less sure. In the name of research, I have been testing the number out on those around me and several people have been unsurprised, or guessed a higher number. One of my colleagues was utterly unmoved when I revealed the answer to her and announced that she thought her husband had 100,000 items in his shed alone.

Of course the right reaction would be to think that we can’t possibly need 300,000 items in our homes and the truth is that we don’t, in our modern world most of us have just ended up with too much stuff. Before I move on, I’ll just hit you with a few other eye-openers along the same lines. These are my favourites but there are loads to choose from:

• The average American home has more TVs than people (2.86 sets v 2.44 people) and I’ll bet we are only fractionally behind them.
• British children have an average of 238 toys but regularly play with just 12
• 1 in 10 Americans rent a storage locker, some of which are abandoned and dismantled when the rental invoice isn’t paid. (My husband did this before he met me – twice – and I am ashamed to say that I am far more obsessed with what was in the storage lockers than I am on questioning him about any other parts of his previous life).

Image by Peter Bennett Photography

I think I have made my point. The question is, short of binning much of what we have worked so hard to accumulate, which doesn’t really seem to address the problem anyway, what can we usefully take from this for the future? I have pondered this recently, mainly on the way to the Milton Recycling Centre, and my thoughts are as follows:

1. Much has been said already about the throw-away society we are currently in and I think that this in absolutely true in our homes. Shops like Ikea, Homes Sense and T K Maxx allow us to buy things for our home cheaply, which is good, but does lead to us to not buying the right item in the first place, something which will last, can be repaired/mended in future, that we can to take to future homes and then pass on to others. We buy items on the basis that we will probably throw them away when we find, or can afford, the item we actually want. It is hard to wait, save up, make the right choice and then keep the item for a long time, but it is much the best way to do things. Buying quality and keeping things doesn’t de-clutter our homes but it is ultimately cost effective and better for the planet. It also means that we have something we like in our homes rather than an interim piece which we don’t really like and will probably stay with us for longer than we originally intended.

2. If you have decent quality items (and sometimes even if they are cheap to start off with), you can have them mended when they are worn or damaged. I am constantly amazed and delighted to find craftspeople who can undertake repairs to items that we think are beyond help. In Cambridgeshire alone, we have Restorers, French Polishers, Seamstresses, people who will repair enamel on baths, people who will repair metal work and so on. Just as it is worth buying something you like to start off with, it is worth repairing something you like rather than immediately thinking of buying a new one.

3. I think we often buy something new because it makes us feel better – it’s a treat – but we justify it by saying we need it. As an example, I constantly buy books (interior design books, cookery books, novels etc.) when I have shelves heaving with books of each type that I haven’t read yet. Stopping ourselves before we buy anything – books, clothes, toys, tellies – and asking ourselves if we really do need it or whether we have something in the home already that could be used – may produce surprising results.

4. Often we have things in our homes that we feel we can’t get rid of because they have sentimental value, or because we are storing them for other people (children are a primary example). It is hard but I think you have to be strict on this. The home should be for the people in it, not a place to store items that are not wanted by the inhabitants. Be creative with how you do this to avoid upset. e.g. ‘We are going to sell Great Auntie Margies sideboard that she loved but is not quite our thing and buy a picture we do like to remind ourselves of her’ or ‘We love you and support you but we don’t want to house your childhood teddy bear collection any more – can we help you to move it to your (trendy minimalist) flat?’

5. Don’t immediately bin things – so much can be released back into the wild. Many things can be sold if you take a little time and make the effort to find the right place. It doesn’t have to be Ebay, which is useful but labour intensive, places like The Curtain Exchange, Willingham Auctions and Cheffins Antique sales will all give you honest advice on the item and will do the work for you, for a fair share of the proceeds. In addition, giving decent quality items to charity shops (try think of which charity could make best use of the item you are donating) will make you feel good and will genuinely help others.

I am sometimes guilty of giving advice that I don’t always follow myself (do what I say, not what I do) but I was actually so shocked, and frankly depressed, by what I read about the amount of stuff we have that I am determined to make changes to slowly reduce what I own. I have a feeling it will be rather liberating.’

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