There are times when humankind carries out beautiful generous acts that make me want to weep with joy and upcycling* and recycling* have got to be two of those acts that do this. Admittedly, both are far down on the list after saving human lives and other more worthy charitable causes, but they are still nonetheless important socio-economic endeavours.
With consumerism and the want-want-want culture gone into overdrive and celebrity-led materialism reaching sickening levels, it is so inspiring to see people looking at new ways to consume products and goods, and engaging in more community-spirited enterprises, especially in times of economic crisis. And tv programme’s like Kirstie’s Handmade Home and How to Fill Your House for Free really are doing a lot of good in spreading the recycling/upcycling love.
Flat pack hell
A year ago, we made a stupid mistake, a really stupid mistake. We had to furnish a bedroom and so without really engaging our brain cells, we went straight to Ikea (we seriously didn’t consider anything else!) and bought a whole bedroom set for just under 900 Euros. I feel stupid even writing this down! Don’t get me wrong, I love Ikea. I really do, but we didn’t really need to buy a whole bedroom set from there or more importantly, spend 900 EUROS. Yes, I am shouting now. Especially since, we have the world’s most comfortable two piece leather sofa suite, bought second hand and have inherited a gorgeous welsh dresser that is the statement piece of our living room, without spending a penny. Surely, having been the recipients of recycled goods, this should have been our first line of thinking. I can only put our rash decision down to the fact that we needed to furnish the whole room quickly, with not much time to spare. This justification makes me feel slightly better.
Once we exited flat pack hell, I made the quiet decision to never ever ever buy a new item of furniture again. It simply is not necessary to do so.
A few weeks later, to add to my internal torture at having spent 900 EUROS, I came across a Facebook page for my local area in Malaga, where people post photos of items that they want to sell, swap and in many cases are giving away to anyone willing to collect. This is what I am talking about; the stuff of life, those fantastic enterprises where communities help each other out. Within half an hour of browsing, I could have bought a beautiful rustic bed that the owners no longer had room for, from ten minutes up the road from my house. A stunning ottoman that had a small stain on it and was no longer used by the owner and lo and behold the same Ikea bedding set that I had bought to go with the new bedroom set, which had never been used but could not be returned because the receipt had been lost. Like I wasn’t hurting enough, I calculated that the total purchase price of second hand bedroom furniture would have been 200-250 Euros. Gulp!
Anyway, let’s focus on the positives. It is lovely also to see the efforts that people make to try to get their unwanted goods to other people, arranging to meet them at such and such a place, holding onto something until someone will be passing through the area, even people posting items for friends not on Facebook. Then there are the wonderful people whose fruit trees give them more than they can eat, cook, preserve themselves, so they offer their avocados, lemons, plums, oranges – whatever they have, for free, to whomever can collect them. Community spirit in action. You’ve got to love it.
And even though many items are for sale, the fact that the items being sold are second hand and priced at a fraction of what you could buy them from in a shop, it really does help during such tight financial times, but even that alone is not a motive for buying in this way. There is something about the community, personal aspect of it that appeals to me more than buying from a faceless commercial outlet. And the romantic in me, also loves the idea that a piece of furniture has a history for example, or a story regarding its existence.
Recycling life, spreading love
Upcycling and recycling don’t just apply to furniture either. I have been touched by the amount of beautiful baby clothes and bits and bobs that friends have passed on to me (some hardly worn/used) and maternity outfits, too. I felt quite proud to wear a gorgeous maternity top that belonged to my best friend’s sister, knowing she had given birth to her daughter in the very top (yes, it was clean and stain-free!). Babies outgrow clothes so quickly and maternity clothes are worn for a few months, if that and so it doesn’t make sense to buy everything new. One of my little boy’s prized possessions is his yellow and blue baby car that he has to be pushed around in at least once a day! Donated, very kindly from a good friend of mine who had been storing it for over 10 years!
So being the fast learner that I am, I learnt fast. And when the next opportunity arose to furnish a room (when our study was sacrificed for the au pair’s bedroom), social media won hands down. After reusing other items in the house, a single bed from one room, a futon from another, I found a great extendable curtain rail for 25 Euros from my beloved Facebook page. It can be packed away when not in use but equally, when I don’t have a need for it, I shall be recycling it too, to the next new owner who can give it a good home.
I can hand-on-heart say that when I collected my clothes rack, it felt so good. So clean, so honest, so guilt-free. Knowing that I hadn’t spent lots of money and that I had help someone free some space up in their overcrowded house – you can’t beat that feeling.
Join the upcycling/recycling revolution now – it’s the healthiest way to fill your life with the things you need.
*Upcycling – converting old, useless, unwanted furniture, materials, products, goods into something much wanted, much-needed and beautiful. Examples Include, revamping furniture instead of throwing it away or re-using the material of old duvet covers to make a new patchwork quilt.
Recycling – never chucking anything away. Giving it to a neighbour, swapping it with someone else for something else. Doing a car boot sale. One man’s rubbish, is another man’s treasure trove.