Rising to the Challenge

Some people call it retail therapy, some people call it the magpie instinct and they both sound like something I can relate to . But, is it true that the more you let go of the material stuff, the more room you have in your life for things like love and happiness? I don't know the answer to that one, but I can tell you about something that has made me feel good!

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For a couple of years now, I've set myself year long challenges as a way to declutter my life and to reduce waste and consumption. Two years ago, I decided that I was going to slim down my wardrobe and take a stand against the unethical and unsustainable parts of the clothing industry.

My challenge was to give away two items from my wardrobe every month and to buy no 'new' clothes for the whole year. My year of charity shopping and swishing was fun and it led me on to a whole other journey of decluttering and has had a lasting effect on my shopping habits.

This year, my target was books. I was reading The Red House by Mark Haddon and he describes his characters as living in a house with no books. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to have no books in the house and looked around me. I guessed that I could see probably 300 books just from where I was siting and I that was just one room. There are books in nearly every room in my house. Kate Pullinger described this as having 'books as wallpaper'. (I wonder how many of her books I'd see if I dared look up from my desk at this moment.) So how many books do I have? A rough estimate would probably be 2000.

And so my challenge for 2014 was to give away 10 books per month and buy no new books for the whole year (with the exception of birthdays presents!). I have borrowed from the library for most of my book group reads this year and I've succeeded in giving away 10 books each month - though I found that really hard after the first few months. I have to select another 10 books in December to fulfil my challenge. Uhh!

So what will it be this year? I feel I should keep going on the books, but in addition, I'm planning to embark on definitely my toughest challenge yet…

For 2015, I'm going to try to give up single use plastic!

I've been preparing for the challenge for a while now, just trying to assess how much of this stuff we actually have in our lives. I thought I was pretty green in the single-use plastic department, buying lots of my shopping packaging free. However, I've been weighing the flyaway plastic that I collect each week and put out for recycling (as my local council does collect this as long as it is bagged securely). It has been a revelation.

There'll be more about this here and on my blog over the coming weeks and throughout next year. If you are also on a mission to reduce single-use plastic let me know. I think I'm going to need all the help and encouragement I can get for this one!

Anna Pitt

Author and speaker on green living and circular economy, -

Hi! After 20 years as a systems analyst I've turned my attention to finding ways to engage the next generation in a greener less wasteful lifestyle. I'm passionate about waste reduction and I'm currently researching the ins and outs of recycling in the UK for a book series for young people. You can read more about my green living efforts on my blog at http://rosiesecoblog.blogspot.co.uk and my website http://www.dustbindiet.com will tell you all about my workshops and courses for schools and community groups. My first book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free, is a book of eco-tips with a bit of explanation about how small steps can make a big difference. My next book, Leftover Pie, is due out later this year.