Tuesday 28 September 2010


Then Jesus said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12;15

It is all too easy to get overwhelmed by stuff. Wanting it, buying it, hoarding it. It is all too easy to justify ‘stuff-accumulation’ habits.


It is six months since the end of Lent, and I never did get round to posting about my ‘Lenten Giveaway Challenge’. The idea was that instead of giving up, I would try, every day of Lent, to give something away. The thing was, people kept giving back to me.

So despite the fact that  during the 40 days of Lent, I managed to donate the following items [to family, friends, work colleagues and complete strangers]

5 books, 53 greetings cards , 54 metres of ribbon

5 embroidered baby bibs, 10 metres of elastic

2 coffee mugs, 5 bags of assorted stuff for charity shop

7 metres of fabric, a pot plant, some snowdrops

a jar of buttons, a handmade bookmark, a pen

a scented candle, a cotton shopping bag

2 pencil rolls, a wicker basket, a tin of biscuits

4 giveaway parcels on the blog

3 lots of small change to charity appeals

*30 small cardboard boxes/cylinders

*some vinegar, bicarbonate of soda,

*and a small plastic model volcano!!!

[*these last items to a teacher friend for her class project]


I actually received

10 balls of wool, a pair of knitting needles

a knitting bag,

three jam-jar skirts, a £4 Unilever voucher

a small yellow Easter chick, 10 metres fabric

a how-to-crochet DVD, an embroidery book

a bag of vintage sewing patterns

**2 wicker baskets, a bag of buttons

**100 metres of ribbon, and a pot plant

[**these items came after I had already given away similar things earlier on in the month!]


I am not sure quite what this proves. Except that I have a lot of very generous friends – and I have not missed any of the stuff I donated. A number of the items in the second list have already been re-invented into other items and given away.

Floss and co have been participating for the past year in this challenge set by Tif over at Dottie Angel

tif challenge

I am very impressed with their determination and dedication to the challenge. I confess that I chose not to participate. Mainly because I knew there would be some stuff I would have to buy new in order to equip Cornerstones properly.

And I am afraid I would have ended up tying myself in knots trying to justify purchasing such things, like Judith Levine in her book [my review is here]

not buying it

And my other concern is that whilst the ‘only handcrafted or secondhand’ rule is very good, it doesn’t specify that the item is actually needed.

cakeplate I love old pressed glass cake plates – and I already have five. They are often on sale in charity shops – but Bob has convinced me I do not need another. He is absolutely right, of course – but when I see a lovely one in Oxfam, my heart races and my pace slows down!

Having condemned the L’Oreal “Because You’re Worth It” hype,  I do not want to fall into the M&S trap of buying something “Just Because…” [even if it is only 50p in Barnardo’s and the money is going to a good cause]

The WHAM! rule is still in operation [We Have a Mortgage!] and that has curtailed our spending on ‘frivolities’.

[Actually, I think Bob has suffered more from WHAM! than I have – his passion for PA and gadgetry has proved a little expensive at times. However, he only buys stuff which he can actually use – and his gear really does get a lot of use, helping out other churches/community events/school activities, in situations where people have limited budgets. They end up getting a really professional service from him without having to pay high commercial rates. So I do not begrudge him the odd microphone here and there, as I know it will be useful. Plus I love him to bits, and if he says he thinks we should get this or that bit of kit, I find myself juggling finances to make it possible for him]


  • I need to work harder at giving away surplus stuff
  • I need to be much more disciplined about the things I do buy, and question their necessity and value
  • I need to properly sort my crafting activities so I can actually MAKE more gifts/cards etc with the materials I already have in store

Christmas is coming, and magazines/TV programmes are already talking about “What to give this year”. I do not subscribe to the ‘give a gift you’d like to receive yourself’ idea [I’d be thrilled with some flat flower head pins, or a reel of machine embroidery thread – but would be unlikely to give such things to anyone else]

I am working on the principle that good gifts are ones which are useful and/or edible, or something the recipient has specifically requested, or flexible so they can choose [such as a giftcard] – or ‘alternative’ [I wonder what happened to the Oxfam goats in Africa which Liz gave us a few years back?] I am also working on the principle that Christmas comes at the end of December, and should be paid for by 31st of that month. I am unhappy about the idea of going into a New Year paying off the debts of the old one – so no last minute dashing to the shops for gifts financed with credit cards!


  • Do people think you are a mean, tight-fisted cheapskate if you give them a handcrafted gift ??
  • Which is better, to give a jar of homemade chutney [main ingredient being windfall apples] and take time and thought over the making and presentation of the gift – or to dash into M&S and buy a fancy jar of preserves [and then resent spending money which you could ill afford that month]  ??
  • If I got run over by a bus tomorrow, is it fair that my grieving family would then have to sort through all this ‘stuff’ I have accumulated ??
  • Furthermore, would they have the slightest qualms about chucking most of it ?? [which proves that it is mostly worthless anyway]
  • Do other people have this sort of angst about ‘stuff’ ??


  1. Stuff is surely a sign of a creative mind. I have a room full of stuff in my flat despite giving away as much before I left Leicestershire. I have people in my church who have almost identical rooms full of stuff in their flats, so I'm sure it's healthy. And you never know, one day you just might need 3000 tealights in one service or 'they' will stop making craft matchsticks or whatever it is.

    Btw, hardly anyone gets run over by buses, so I wouldn't stress over that one, and just think what a beautiful, hand-crafted send off they could give you if you did.... ;-)

    Oh, and my epxerinece is that people LOVE handmade gifts. Many years ago when I was sint I gave a frined a dozen homemade mincepies for Christmas - he was over the moon as his mum had died and she used to make them for him.

  2. Oh , homemade chutney every time.
    I feel that if people give me a home made gift, they are giving me something of themself, and I value it even more.

  3. My recent experience suggests that stuff is only a problem if either you or someone else has to move it. I have just disposed of a number of "that'll come in handy one day" items that never did come in handy in over six years. I decided not to have them cluttering up our new house as they have cluttered up this one for far too long.

    Hand-crafted gifts for Christmas are brilliant. For me they are more valuable because the giver has invested something they cannot get back in the gift - their time. A couple of years back one of our church members gave me a promise box - each verse carefully written out in silver pen on dark paper, then rolled like a scroll and then placed in a hand-decorated box. That amount of thought, care, attention to detail and sheer love is priceless.

  4. Oh how wonderful and thought-provoking! (And thanks for the mention...) I'm currently sitting, surrounded (very nearly) by stuff, as we no longer have 'one of those rooms', having given the spare spare room to Son 1 a week ago. Over the past week I've cleared everything out of his room, and found new homes for, well, say, 5% of it. The rest is still sitting round me as I type. It is a good reminder to ask myself why I keep stuff (and to ask Ben the same). Some of this stuff is broken and truly of no use to anyone (and you know I'm someone who can reuse most things).

    And handcrafted gifts are only unappreciated if they're poor quality. Anything yummy or good-looking is much appreciated, I think.

    In terms of buying the stuff you actually NEED from second hand sources (instead of stuff you just fancy) then Ebay and the other websites, plus dedicated second hand electronics stores, are the only practical way to go. Charity Shops and Boot Sales can sometimes turn up what you really need but it's best to go somewhere where things have been grouped by type.

  5. Stuff makes me feel confused..piles of unused "thingies" upset me. Why are they sitting in a box "just in case". Oh, fabric/yarn stashes do not fall into that category because they WILL be used (one day).
    All the things we have in boxes "just in case",are still sitting there; "just in case" has never arrived.I am purging things as often as I can, but hubby has a sentimental streak "Oh, you can't get rid of that because A/B/C/ gave that to us" (A, B, an C,are now dead).
    Our bishop visited last week, her sermon was about our relationship with stuff and how it can change our relationship with Jesus Christ.
    As to homemade gifts, I always give them. It is what we can afford, and I think, shows that the recipient is worthy of the time and thought that went into making the gift.

  6. Thanks for the encouraging comments, friends - consider yourselves recipients of jars of 'virtual chutney'!!
    C, RB and Floss have made the valuable point that moving house/reallocating rooms is a good time to audit one's 'stuff'
    And Jane's Bishop is dead right - if 'stuff' changes our relationship with Jesus in a bad way, then it needs to go.[But also I notice Jane considers that her Great Stash is not part of the Stuff pile!]
    Are there any true minimalist, stuff-reducing, anti-clutterers out there - or are they just too busy to read blogs?

  7. I'm going to print this out and pin it to the fridge. And today i really did buy stamps!


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