Thursday, 24 November 2011

Declutter update

Thank you for the lovely comments on the maternity top in the last post. I really appreciate reading every one of them and I am determined to try and reply to comments but at the moment it is a slow process.

After a cold-induced pause my declutter mission has been continuing. Oddly the house is still a total mess though. does that work?

4 x out of date lens solution - recycling
3 x out of date make up
old suncreams and aftersun creams x 3
1 cardigan
1 hoodie
2 dresses
1 top
3 pairs girl's trousers
4 pairs outgrown children's pyjamas
7 books
6 assorted babygros
Bin bag of scraps x 2 - recycling
2 x tee shirts
1 shoe horn (just one, not a pair)
1 pair Mr M's broken shoes - recycling
sewing kit - present to friend
1 broken unmendable cushion - recycling
2 old sweatshirts - cut up into cleaning cloths
2 curtains - sold on ebay

Total = 45/90, plus previous total of 35 = 80/90

I cannot believe how much crap we accumulate. There is something about having lots of stuff that scares me. I don't know why, I know some people are reassured by having lots of possessions butI find it oppressive. (The above declutter list was been done with me hardly venturing near the kids' toys. How easy it would be to chuck lots of those out but how much trouble would I be in?)

This scary photo is of my bags of childrens' clothes to go in the loft, plus Mr Minnado's spare cable collection. I am trying to get him to sort it out.

All this sorting and decluttering has led me to a few thoughts. Of course I am going to share them with you! I was further prompted to write these questions after reading Eleni's recent post over at Seamless.

I am lucky in that we get given nearly all the clothes we need for my two children. They happen to have cousins a little older so we get their cast offs. We also have some friends with girls who give us their cast offs. However, and I am not ungrateful here, we get clothes sometimes two or three years in advance, so I have a fairly laborious storage system...we also sometimes get so many girls' clothes that I have shared them between three other little girls as well. This can call for sessions of mass sorting and storage. I think we are lucky to get these clothes, so I cannot really grumble at having to sort. I was also given two binbags of baby clothes last month which I have weeded out and sorted, resulting in a bin bag of excess baby clothes for the charity shop.

A fortnight ago, I had a huge session, sorting bags and piles into seasons and age groups, ready to go into the loft. By the end I had a bin bag of girl's clothes to go to the charity shop. The excess was partly because we get so much. I found myself wondering how many pairs of trousers one age 4 girl really needs...also there are some things my daughter cannot wear, for instance trousers are often too big round the waist.
As I sorted through the stuff others had given me and also sorted through my own possessions to declutter, it made me think a bit about the etiquette of charity shop donations and passing on possessions. Do you pass on stuff and do you have rules? I mean would you put lots of unmatched, odd dirty socks and tights in a bag of clothes for a friend? I have received this before now at the bottom of a bag of other clothes. As someone is being generous enough to pass on their things I don't grumble. But I don't think I would pass on odd dirty socks to a friend.

I try and only pass on clothes in decent and clean condition. I try and think about what I would like to receive myself. I also tend to think about whether I would want to put my hand in a bag and sort through the items in it. I am not fussed about paint or pen stains on kids' clothes so I would pass those on to someone who also is not fussy. Anything that is too stained or holey I tend to put in a separate rag bag. My local charity shop gets paid for rags so I give them my rag bags. I assume they get recycled for cleaning cloths or go into fabric recycling, but I don't actually know! Sometimes my son's school do fundraising where they get paid by weight for old clothes and other textiles. I am again not sure what happens to these clothes after the school gets its percentage. Do the clothing collectors sell them on, are they the clothes that you hear end up in markets in Africa? Does it really bother you where your old clothes end up and who profits from them? And do you have an etiquette for what you give away?
I know several people who volunteer to sort donations in charity shops and hear stories of grubby underwear (eek) and other unsavoury items in donation bag...


  1. Great post! you raise so many interesting questions here. I am generally concerned about where the clothes go. I give most of mine away to a Swedish charity organization that I know send them to needing people in 25 or so countries all over the world. I always clean the clothes before I send them away, and I don´t donate obviously worn out items.

    I know that some of the larger second hand shops in my town have had problems with people donating dirty/torn items. The second hand shop have no resources to wash/mend what they get, and so they end up throwing it away. I think that´s terrible, so I hope people take more care in what they donate, and what they don´t.

  2. I have three older sisters so we swap clothes regularly and I know they all switch round their kid's clothes too.

    I would be horrified if something slipped in unnoticed to my sister's or the stuff I donate to a charity shop that was dirty or beyond repair! As for dirty pants...we found some when we were taking some old furniture to the recycling depot that had been left in our house when we moved in...Eeeewww! Yuk!

  3. Mmm I give away good clean clothes to friends or to the charity shop. Now that I am desperate for space, I send even really treasured things in the hope that the person who finds them will go home really pleased with their find.

    We get bags of clothes from a friend's daughter and I usually sort them out straight away and hold them up for a yes or no decision from the girls. Their tastes don't change and there as some things that they know they won't want to wear a year or two from now so we don't keep them.

    I struggle with stained and damaged clothes as I know I don't want to give them away and I really can't just keep them all to 'make something from them'! I have filled a carrier bag with this sort of thing in my fabric tidying this week and I have no idea what to do with it other than take it to the dump.

    I don't give clothes to clothing collections at school as I believe they sell them abroad and this damages the local market for clothing. Anywhere in the world children would prefer to wear a Nike shirt than a locally produced plain shirt and that bothers me.

  4. Interesting post!

    My friends and I hold a clothing swap-meet about twice a year, to swap any things that are still good but don't fit or please us anymore. Anything nobody wants goes to charity, although this is more complicated than it sounds.

    A lot of the second hand shops around here don't take in donated clothing, and most of those that do aren't actually charity shops. There are also clothing bins, but I've read up on them and they mostly make rags out of the clothes or sell them to African countries. Even the red cross over here makes rags out of most of the donated clothes! I have a friend who volunteers for the railway mission (where hobos can go to get warm meals and receive clothing) and she took our cast offs there. I admit that I have donated clothing with a broken zipper or a missing button sometimes, if it was otherwise still good. It just pains me to think that clothing that is still wearable gets turned into rags or just fills dumpsters...

    I'll have to find out if we have actual clothes/rag recycling somewhere...

  5. What an inspiring cleanup! Arg, I am probably due for another one but cannot bear the thought just yet.

    Hm ... you have me thinking about etiquette on a much deeper level. I guess I had always erred on the side of donating "more" to my local thrift shop (i.e. stuff I wasn't sure they could resell) because I just assumed they had a set procedure for passing on the unsaleables to other organizations (like places that will pay them for rags), whereas I don't have a connection to those types of places. However, it's highly possible they just throw them away and then I'm not helping anybody! I have a friend who works at a battered women's shelter and is always looking for women's and girl's clothing, so my friends and I sometimes pass stuff on her way. Ali and I sometimes see if the other wants clothing we're thinking of donating (we did a "black skirt" swap recently!), and some of my friends have an informal understanding to pass clothes between one another -- I'm one size bigger, they're 1-2 sizes smaller than I am, people lose or gain weight or buy the wrong size -- but we always make sure it's something that we think the other person might want to wear (good condition, their style, etc.)

  6. My kids are several years apart in age so I used to have to store the hand-me-downs for a couple years. All the sorting and stashing can be a really big job, and then sometimes the clothes end up fitting in the wrong season. A couple of times. Now the boys are close enough in size that the hand-me-downs go straight from one boy to the other, or off to the charity shop. I agree, it's pretty silly what people hand down. I think they feel so bad about throwing stuff out that they give it away for someone else to deal with.

    If clothes have holes or stains or fasteners that are broken I usually cut them up for rags. I find we make a lot of messes and this cuts down on the number of paper towels we use. Sometimes I get really thrifty like my mom (who grew up during the depression and WWII) and cut off buttons or elastic to reuse. I used to use elastic from old underwear when I made the little boys elastic waist pants. eek- is that too much information?

  7. This is all interesting reading, comments as well! Great declutter! Good idea to keep track of your progress. I can remember having saved clothes from my eldest son for my youngest, 4 years apart, and invariably I'd forget to get them out in time! I don't envy you your system! I'm not even going to comment on odd socks and dirty pants ....

  8. Good job on your continued decluttering. I've acquired more stuff since your last post - fabric! That's what is oppressing me at the moment though because I can see the potential in all the pieces I have, but often when it comes to making something I feel overwhelmed by choice and don't make. I really have to do something about the stash. I'm far more ruthless with clothes but only give them to charity shops if they're in a condition that I would buy them in. I see a lot of worn out crap in local charity shops and wonder why anyone thinks anyone else would buy it. I don't know what happens to things that don't get sold on - I suppose cloth isn't the worst thing to go into landfill but I'd feel better if I knew it was being used. I really should find out what happens.
    As far as passing clothes between friends and sisters go, I let them root through bags of unwanted things and if they see anything they like they can help themselves. I don't have children myself but am astonished by the cost of things that won't be worn for long - I can imagine that bags from friends must be a massive help as long as they don't include anything with mustard-coloured stains!

  9. This rings so many bells with me! I used to love receiving bags of hand-me-downs for my kids: it was such fun sorting through to see what treasures were to be found in the bag! But like you I had occasional "nasty surprises" at the bottom of the bags. I wonder if they had one bag to throw out and one to pass on, and got confused about which was which?
    Now the kids are in their teens they tend to wreck their clothes before they grow out of them. Chewed cuffs are the main problem. I have to insist on an annual clearout in the summer holidays, so we can start the new term afresh. But yes, I too get overwhelmed by "stuff". I recently blitzed the CDs / bookshelf for items to re-sell on Amazon. If they don't sell by Christmas they are off to the charity shop. Wool and fabric start to oppress me - I feel so guilty if my stash builds up beyond the capacity of my allotted storage boxes. I am trying hard to work though what I have before I buy anymore. At least I don't buy clothes now, unless I am really really desperately in need of something I can't make myself.