Christmas Markets and Black Friday: the Christmas shopping frenzy has begun

Yesterday saw the start of our annual Christmas Market in Bath. The market has been running for well over ten years and now has 180 stalls comprised of local businesses and craftspeople.

The market has grown incredibly over the past few years and now German-style chalets seem to take over most of the side streets around Bath’s Abbey and central squares.

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I like the fact that it is a showcase for local businesses and charities (including the local hospital appeal, homeless charities and hospice charities). I also started working yesterday at my friend’s shop which is located in the heart of the market and which will benefit greatly from the shopping event.

However as I wondered around yesterday I couldn’t help thinking how,  before the market, is over on 14th December it will become an overcrowded, fraught place. While it is a showcase for local artisans and small businesses I did ask myself how many Christmas baubles a person really needs to buy.

But the busy-ness of Bath Christmas Market is nothing in comparison to the madness of Black Friday which is happening today. Imported from the US this takes place on the day after Thanksgiving when retailers reduce their prices to kick start Christmas shopping. In the States most people take Friday off as Thursday is a public holiday and I guess there is more of a ‘tradition’ to the event. Over the last couple of years Black Friday has become more of an event in the UK with large retailers reducing items and people marking this by having punch ups on the shop floor.

I guess because I’m still in a de-cluttering, minimalist phase I feel rather ambivalent towards Christmas shopping this year. I have a sneaky feeling that if I’m not careful all the clutter I am clearing from our house will reappear next month. So far I have stuck to my small budget and am buying a combination of new, and second-hand, presents. I would also like to try my hand at some handmade gifts as well.

However I have to confess that some of my purchases have taken place in larger stores (including Primark – my first trip into Bath’s latest shop) and online through Amazon. I know not all of these are ethical so feel slightly hypocritical. But, no matter what, I’m determined to stay away from all shops and online retailers today.

Instead I will save my pennies for some local Christmas Fairs and Small Business Saturday on 6 December. I’ll also be following the Money Advice Service’s Have a Savvy Christmas programme with advice on budgeting for the festive season. And with that in mind I will also be following Buy Nothing Day tomorrow (29th) which is easy as I’ll be at work (although I will be encouraging people to buy coffee and cake at our Arts Centre cafe).

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The Minimalism Game and getting rid of things

As well as taking part in SecondhandFirst Week I’ve also – sort of – signed up to the Minimalism Game, or rather 30 Days of De-cluttering. To recap, The Minimalism Game encourages participants to get rid of items every day, starting with one thing on Day One, two things on Day Two etc. By my calculations that should be 465 items by the end of the month!

Today is Day 19 and I’ve lost track of what I have got rid of. I haven’t been very systematic but instead done the de-cluttering in fits and starts.

In many ways the clearing out has been the easiest bit as there are many things I have been itching to get rid of. The harder part has been getting the items out of my house, rather than just being stored in bags and boxes in our porch.

So far I have found the following ways to get rid of unwanted items:

– Recycling boxes, and also the dustbin for broken items

– Clothing has principally gone to the Charity Recycling Bin at school:

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– Ditto with shoes.

– I have given various bags of household items, toys and books to local charity shops.

– I am also saving a couple of bags of Christmas decorations, toys, games and unwanted picture frames for the Church Christmas Bazaar

– Good as new or unopened craft and toys are being saved for the village football team’s raffle.

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– I have avoided Freecycle completely and donated larger items for free via the local ‘Free, Sell or Swap’ facebook site. I’ve found that through this site people have collected when they said they would, or I’ve been able to drop it at their homes. Having spent ten days waiting for a bike not to be collected via Freecycle I have found the facebook site to be far more efficient.

– I have also sold a few good quality items through this facebook site and another ‘Prebaby’ site on facebook.

It has been very therapeutic removing things no longer needed from our home. I love to see the clearer space in cupboards and less stuff has made cleaning so much easier.

Alongside the Minimalism Game I am still trying to de-clutter for Christmas while also thinking about what tactics I can use to ensure I’m not going through this whole exercise again after the festive season….

 

Re-reading the book shelf

My husband and I have a lot of books. Before writing this post I did a quick count of everything stored on our bookshelves and discovered over 300 books! And that doesn’t include the kids’ books or those stored in boxes in the loft. I love books and, even more, shelves crammed with them. Having grown up in a house with lots of them I find it strange to visit homes that don’t have any. I also do some volunteer reading with local primary school children and know how important it is for kids to have access to books. At the moment our bookshelves look like this and, yes I know it’s sad that I have colour coded the books:

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BUT as I start to embrace the concept of minimalism and de-cluttering I know the book issue is one I have to tackle. I know that Joshua Fields Millburn from The Minimalists has just four (!)  books here, although he makes much use of his Kindle.

I know that I could never  be parted from all my books but I have started to seriously cull my collection. I have applied a a few basic rules such as:

Do we have another copy? If so, get rid of I was surprised at how many duplicates we had in our home (husband and I both did American Literature degrees). These have since been donated except for our individual copies of ‘Moby Dick’ which I know I’m keeping for sentimental reasons.

Can I get something back from getting rid of this book? There is a great second-hand book store in Bath that takes paperbacks in exchange for cash.  I also wrote here about using the book swapping website Read It Swap It and another blogger has suggested green metropolis. Using this methods I can apply the ‘one in, one out’ rule to my home library or better still ‘none in, one out’.

– Can I re-purpose a book? I recently struggled with getting rid of an old book from childhood. It was a Richard Scarry book and I loved it for the illustrations. After much deliberation I decided to keep only those pages that had meant something to me as a child. I have now kept these few pages and, as some of them included a month by month guide, I have started to frame those illustrations and hang them in our house. Already the children have noticed and commented on them – more than they ever did when the book was on their shelf.

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Will I ever re-read this book? This can prove to be a bit of a stumbling block. In theory I would like to just keep those books which I know I will read again. Otherwise what pleasure can I take from a book on my shelf which will only be there to look at and not picked up again? So I have started to apply this principle and,very slowly, am starting to re-read those books which I have kept.

There are some great tips about de-cluttering your bookshelves here and I will really try to apply some of them. I particularly like the idea of devoting one shelf to books you plan to read/re-read and also having a ‘Desert Island’ shelf. (This would ruin my colour coding!)

I still have a long way to go to re-read all 300 books on our shelves but by asking myself “Will I read this again?” has helped to inform my decision when editing my library. It has also opened up a whole new choice of books for me to read.

One big reason why I’m de-cluttering..

for sale

I have been rather obsessed with minimalism and de-cluttering recently. If you’ve read some of last month’s posts you’ll know that I have started to De-clutter for Christmas. Having seen The Minimalists on their recent book tour I have become even more interested in minimalism. When Jen from my make do and mend year blog decided to take on the Minimalism Game and encourage others to join her in a 30 day de-clutter challenge I had to sign up.

The idea is that, since the beginning of November, all participants have to get rid of unwanted items every day. The catch is that the number of items goes up incrementally so:
Day One – get rid of one item
Day Two – get ride of two items
Day Three – get rid of three items and so on.

Since 1st November I have been tidying, sorting, stuffing things in bags and then donating and selling. I had started to write a list of everything I was giving away:

1st November: one kid’s bike

2nd: two cot bed duvets plus covers

3rd: three games

4th: four bags of children’s clothes

Then everything changed last week when my husband and I went to see a house for sale down the road and decided to put our house on the market!

Now this is a game we have played before as we have tried, in the past, to sell our house and move to this particular road with larger houses. Yes I know minimalism is about making do with what you have and not aspiring to possess the bigger and better things. However from this post you will know that we are a family of five in a very small cottage and the house we want is still affordable.

So we are going to give it another shot and, having already de-cluttered A LOT this month, and last, I found it so much easier and stress-free getting our house ready for the sale. In fact we were able to get our house ‘photo ready’ for the estate agent’s photos within 24 hours and on the market within 48 hours. Had our house been stuffed with furniture, children’s toys and games, clothing and kitchen appliances this would have been so much harder to achieve.

Now I promise I won’t bore readers with any more house selling news but there is even more reason to de-clutter over the next few months, no matter what happens…

 

 

De-cluttering for Christmas in a small home

Toys  , Christmas tree ball on ,  branch.

Apologies for the early use of a Christmas bauble!

 

Last week I went to see The Minimalists on their UK book tour. I have been exploring minimalism for a while and, even before seeing Joshua and Ryan in person, I had planned a massive de-clutter session at home.

There are many reasons why I like the idea of minimalism: of owning less, spending less and using your time to pursue the simple things. There are many environmental, financial and social benefits to following this lifestyle.

There is also a very practical reason for doing this: we are a family of five living in a small 18th century cottage. Roughly speaking our total floorspace (upstairs and downstairs) is 800 square foot. Using this interesting blog post here from Shrink That Footprint you can see that this is roughly the same size as an average new home* in the UK today. Only Hong Kong, China and Russia have smaller new homes. And in the US the square footage is a whopping 2,164 for a new home (something The Minimalists allluded to in their talk).

So you can see space is tight. Particularly in the girls’ bedrooms. My eldest has a room measuring 66 square foot; my younger two share a room that is 80 square foot. They also have generous grandparents and we have lots of friends who give us hand me downs. So, despite my love for all things second-hand, I am constantly de-cluttering and making space for toys, clothes and, well just things.

With the festive season creeping upon us I have set myself the ambitious aim of De-Cluttering for Christmas. I want to pare down the possessions that we have, to keep only those things that are useful and are used. I know that, in return, we will receive more stuff for Christmas although I am working on that.

In the meantime my de-cluttering plan sort of looks like this:

WEEK 13 Oct: Kitchen

WEEK 20 Oct: Conservatory/Office Part One

WEEK 27 Oct: Kids’ small toys (they are on half term break so can help with this one)

WEEK 3 Nov: Kids’ large toys

WEEK 10 Nov: Christmas decorations

WEEK 17 Nov: Bedrooms (incl clothing)

WEEK 24 Nov: Bathroom

WEEK 3 Dec: Loft (esp kids’ clothes, books, houseware)

WEEK 10 Dec: Lounge, then put decorations up

WEEK 17 Dec: Conservatory/Office Part Two (with husband’s help as he has a lot of stuff stored here)

I’ve already de-cluttered the kitchen and given away a tonne of cookery books on Freecycle as well as paring down my utensils quite significantly. I’ve also sorted through the kids’ craft supplies, which are also stored in the kitchen. I focused on the quality pens, paper, paints etc and they can now see the wood for the trees and are starting to enjoy using the smaller – but better – selection of art materials.

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Good quality pens and crayons from Djeco, Staedtler and Smiggle for the girls’ art drawer

 

Do you have any plans to de-clutter for the Christmas season – or, better still – any tips on reducing the festive stuff that comes into your home?

 

*I’m assuming this is what we’d call ‘Starter Homes’ in the UK – a lot of new builds round our way are at least four bedroom and more thna we can afford.