A Simple Christmas series

A Simple Christmas series on facebook by secondhand tales

I’ve started a new daily series on my Facebook page here and thought I would share it on the blog. Daily blogging can be time consuming- although I cherish the interaction with readers and it feels like a genuine community of like minded souls here. But sometimes other formats (Twitter and Facebook) can also work to share and communicate ideas as well.

But enough rambling… I created a series for the month of December featuring daily posts that will make us rethink the busy-ness of Christmas.I think many of us look on the upcoming festive season as a time of wonder and dread. Wonder at the joyful and exciting time of sharing special experiences with friends and family, and the general feeling of goodwill to all. Yet we also feel dread at the mass consumerism that surrounds us. From Black Friday to Boxing Day sales, and much more in between, Christmas can become a time of frenzy, consumption and debt.

But whatever your feelings at this time of year I wanted to create a little ‘time out’ where, every day, I will post a link to an inspirational website, thoughtful blog post, or my own ramblings, to share another view of the festive season. If you get the chance do pop over to my Facebook page (or follow me on Twitter where I will post a link to the daily thought). Please add any comments or your own links so that we can share our vision of a Simple Christmas together

Second hand tales Facebook page

PS here’s a link to today’s post on Slowing Down at Christmas by the minimalist mom: http://www.theminimalistmom.com/2011/12/one-simple-thing-slow-down/

Tomorrow I will be posting a link to Small Business Saturday.

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds


This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.comHow are you getting on with your Thrifty Finds? With the festive season drawing ever closer are there some things you are choosing to buy, or not buy?

Did you shop last Friday or did you boycott the shops on Black Friday? I have to say I did buy something on Black Friday but it was a couple of birthday presents and I picked them up from the local independent bookshop. I did need to go to Argos, as well, but was determined not to do this on Friday and even changed my plans so that I went on Saturday – stupid I know but I really didn’t want to be doing my Christmas shopping on that day!

Anyway these are last weeks Thrifty Finds:

  1. We invited my mother-in-law for a meal to celebrate her birthday. The younger two girls made a cake for her (from scratch, I was very impressed as they’re only 8 and 10). I also made a couple of quiches, using pastry scraps that I had previously frozen. We also had enough food left over for a meal the next day.
  2. Over the festive season we plan a few family outings. These normally include a theatre or cinema trip. We all wanted to see the new film ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’.  So I booked  tickets for our local cinema which I really try to support. Plus they were almost half the price of the Odeon chain. We all enjoyed the film.
  3. While I didn’t go to Argos on Black Friday I did take advantage of a gift voucher we had and picked up a Christmas present for one of my daughters.
  4. I finally defrosted my freezer (having not done it for two years!). The freezer  is nearly 20 years old but still works. However the top level has been frozen up for a while. By defrosting and cleaning it I now have more space to store food, and hopefully it will be more energy efficient.
  5. Finally, not a Thrifty Find I’m afraid. My online supermarket delivery, due for Friday night, broke down! So it didn’t arrive until the next morning. As I had meal planned from Friday we had absolutely nothing in the (newly defrosted) freezer or cupboards. I’m afraid I had to pick up an easy to make dinner from the local corner shop, which wasn’t part of the budget 😦


You can also share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

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.


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.

Re-using old Christmas cards and a sneak peak at the Christmas cardi

I can’t put it off any longer: the Christmas edition of the Radio Times has come to an end, I’ve gone back to work and school starts next week. Christmas is officially over. Today is the start of taking down decorations and sorting through piles to be kept, recycled and re-used. With this in mind my girls very kindly helped me with an age old tradition of my childhood: turning old Christmas cards into present labels for next year.

Having taken down all the Christmas cards it was a good opportunity to read through some of the nice messages and to remember friends who had sent them:


We then carefully cut off the front of the cards:


And then punched a hole in the corner for the ribbon:


The finished label to be used for next Christmas:


We also saved a few larger cards to turn into home-made threading cards:

The girls very kindly took this photo of me hard at work, and surrounded by the mess that is currently our lounge. You will see that I am wearing my brand new (to me) Christmas cardigan which they bought for me in Bath from the Yellow Shop:


A trip to the Scrapstore

I LOVE Wiltshire Scrapstore! If you don’t know what a scrapstore is it is bascially an Aladdin’s cave of donated fabrics, paper,card, ribbon, plastic pots etc that can be turned into amazing craft.  It’s very easy to become a member and it is great fun to walk around the warehouse filling up a large bin bag for a tenner or so. In the past we have picked up plastic lids and straws to make marble runs, a whole box of Barbie clothes, and some amazing black netting and foam circles that we have turned into spiders and webs for Halloween.

We are very lucky to have this facility within easy driving distance and – despite funding cuts – it is still going strong. Being based in such a rural county it has a Scrapmobile that visits villages and children’s groups. The other day we paid a visit to the scrapstore’s dedicated shop, Bartys, in Lacock to have a browse and do some early Christmas shopping.

I picked up a few of the coasters which are made from old books. Two of these coasters are made from the movie script for Star Wars.

I also picked up a birthday present for a little friend. The scrapstore has some great craft sets featuring different shapes, glitter and other shiny materials.  They make great stocking fillers and birthday presents as they are cheap, made from recycled goods and perfect to start little ones on the path to upcycling!