Thursday, 30 June 2011

Upcycle this

I tend to agree with the statement that most of the best things in life are free. That dish marked 'Free' that comes with your Indian takeaway order, the one that is probably the ends of several different dishes mixed together? Quite often the tastiest one. This is my 'Free' of the month, pulled from the top of a neighbour's rubbish collection:

My friends and I used to derive great pleasure as children from pulling perfectly serviceable items out of the huge walk in skip that was placed near to our house for the Sunday market traders to dispose of their waste. To this day I have no idea why most of it found its way straight into the skip instead of a reduced pile, as this was the early to mid nineties when the majority were struggling economically (oh my how times change!). Amongst the cardboard boxes and rotten fruit we quite often found brand new items of clothing from the clothing stalls, slightly dented trays of juice drinks and even entire boxes of fresh fruits. I found a  plastic laundry basket once that was slightly scuffed - it served as our laundry basket for at least the next 10 years. I was most proud to take that home as the red colour matched our kitchen. For a good few years, we made a good living out of that skip, though our parents were tinged with more than a little shame at our activities.

I am still a Womble at heart and hate seeing perfectly good useful items go to waste. Unfortunately, many people balk at the idea of even donating their unwanted things to charity shops, let alone buying from them. No matter how many magazines and TV programs advocate 'upcycling', vintage living and thrifting - there is still a whole world of difference in many people's minds between those trendy pursuits and being seen to actually take something out of a skip or buy from a charity shop (and I am not suggesting that anyone needs to wade around in rotting garbage here). I haven't actually been criticised or looked at pityingly yet for this particular piece of scavenging, but previous instances loom large in my mind and there are plenty of people I know who wouldn't share my enthusiasm for it.

Shame shouldn't come from making good use of something discarded, something free for the taking - it should come from sending enormous quantities of useful things to landfill and sneering at those that would want to divert those things from the waste stream, whether out of material necessity or just because they hate waste. I live in a street where, luckily, vanity doesn't get in the way of common sense. People commonly leave unwanted items outside of their property for twenty-four hours with a 'free to a good home' notice, before they attempt to dispose of them elsewhere - and other people generally take them.

I suspect that the ongoing economic problems that swathes of the western world are experiencing will humanize us a little. I hope that the quite frankly vile lust for money, bling and superior social status that has been exalted by our culture for the last few decades will give way to a kinder, less wasteful society. A lot more people seem to be  reassessing their needs and just trying to get by - which in turn will lead to a greater respect for thrift and creativity and the conservation of precious resources. I hope, but then, I am a dreamer.

Anyway, two tester pots of paint and a few hours waiting for paint to dry and this is as good as new - and usefully storing all those little things that seem to clutter up surfaces for want of a better home. My year long  decluttering mission is now 'complete' - the rooms are relatively clutter free and now it is just the small task of finding the best place for our remaining possessions. T'is done. 


  1. Thanks. Especially as it has replaced a huge pile of unsorted clutter!