Category Archives: consumption

Making Christmas Cards, 2014.

This years cards are all about place, taking the rough with the smooth, and de-cluttering.

The last one is the easiest to explain. When moved house this year, we moved a lot of stuff. And this was after throwing out a lot of stuff. It seems that The Sidster and I are both inclined to hold onto things *in case they come in handy* (he likes to think it’s just me, but dear friends, I proffer you our garage, aka man-cave, in evidence to the contrary!). So the challenge was set, could I make this year’s cards out of stuff we have already. Yep, I could. I have *that* many card blanks, fancy papers and, it turns out, six cans of spray mount.

But onto the inspiration. A sense of place. We moved house this year – from Ealing to Old Windsor. Not because I’ve fallen out of love with Ealing, or particularly love the Queen (I’m a committed republican), but because we figured to cash in our London housing market chips to finish our chalet in France (we’ve been lucky rather than wise). And it’s been an interesting journey.

By moving off the TfL network and into train territory, it has solidified the feeling of moving out of London. Despite the fact that is actually only an extra 10 mins on the train to get to Southbank from the sticks than it was on the tube from W13. Being a Londoner has been (and still is) a massive part of my identity.  Sometimes I miss it so much I could weep. I knew every step of that 8 minute (oft inebriated) walk from Northfields tube to our house.

There are upside though – we see Red Kites circling the skies over the village, we hear (and smell) the cows, and take @DenistheDog for long walks on The Long Walk at Windsor Great Park.

So there’s the taking of the rough with with smooth. The Sidster had long fallen out of love with London (if he ever had been) and he loves the village. I miss the tube (train timetables are way to stressy for me) and London’s energy, but I love the village pubs.  Moreover we both love The Alps, and we will soon (eventually) have a home there. 2014 has been quite a year for our little oddball family.

So merry Christmas everyone. I hope you enjoy the cards as much as I enjoyed making them. Its been fun to turn the world’s norms on its head – instead of sending e-cards to people I see IRL, I have many friends I’ve met online and rarely get to see IRL – so its a delight to pop something in the post.  And any ideas on what to do with the other 20 out of date maps in my “might come in useful box” gratefully received.

photo 1

Christmas tree frames


Frames mounted on maps


Mounted on cards

Mounted on cards


All ready to go...

All ready to go…


Sell yours here. Living lighter.

amazonI’ve been going through a ‘de-cluttering’ phase for a while now.  Some bulkier low-value things I’ve given away on freecycle , I’ve done charity shop drops, and I’ve sold some things on ebay.  My latest discovery is selling stuff on Amazon.  And that’s really made me think differently about ‘owning stuff’.

Lots of the stuff we have in our home has arrived there courtesy of Amazon.  I signed up years ago for the ‘prime’ membership, so we no longer paid for individual deliveries.  This meant that I largely stopped shopping on the high street (I never was one for retail as a leisure activity), and had stuff delivered.  The stuff was mostly books and DVDs, but extended, amongst other things, to batteries, electric toothbrushes and a food processor.  It was quite startling, to look back over five years of online shopping.  Embarrassing even.  I’d been on a long term consumption binge.  I’d somehow fallen for the marketing promise that I would be happier/thinner/more successful (delete as appropriate) if I had certain stuff in my life.

I was tickled by the recursive realisation that this stuff could now leave, just as it arrived, via Amazon.  And boy have they made it easy.  Log into Amazon, set up a ‘seller account’ (connected to your regular account), call up the list of things you’ve previously bought and click the button that says “sell yours here’.  It’s lower-involvement than ebay – you don’t even have to write the product listing.  Loads of DVDs and books have been leaving our shelves this way.

I’ve come to realise that I really don’t need to “own” much of this stuff.  I rarely watch a film twice, and if by chance I do, I can always subscribe to Net Flix or Love Film for the cost of a DVD.

I like that someone else will get use from the physical product.  The DVD doesn’t wear out when I’ve played it once.  The print in the book doesn’t disappear when I’ve read it.

The internet has changed how we can consume media like films and music.  And now its changing how we consume physical things – like Amazon enabling the re-circulation of stuff.  And sharing sites like EcoModo that enable collaborative consumption.

I *need* very few of things we have gathering dust in our home.  They haven’t made me magically happy.  I’m lucky to have people in my life that do that.

I wonder about the wider impact of our collective fixation on having stuff.  Our towns have a proliferation of storage depots for folks with possessions out-stripping their homes.  IKEA sells millions of ‘storage solutions’.  Big corporations are making shedloads of money selling us this stuff.  And Wonga is trading in the currency of a big fat marketing lie.  Stuff doesn’t make you happy.

Doing useful stuff with my data


I had a fleeting thought yesterday as the cashier swiped my nectar card at the Sainsbury’s checkout.  It would be great if Sainsbury’s would make an API available so I could could get a visualisation of my weekly shop.  It would be useful to see, over time, the fat / salt / fibre etc in our household’s groceries.  Like many folk, my weight tends to be a bit more than it should be, and as I get older, I’m conscious of eating well to maintain good health.  I’ve tried various “diet tracking” apps, but I’ve not got the time (or commitment level) to enter everything I eat each day.  But if a supermarket could give me that data, I’d see the headlines on where I’m straying from the path of virtue.  In fact, it might even be the reason I’d use that supermarket.  And heck, why stop there.  If we could have a nice open data standard, I’d scan the stuff I buy at the local grocery store too – I try to get as much stuff locally as possible.

Could the supermarket also tell me how much CO2 is embedded in my consumption?  Could amazon tell me how much CO2 is embedded in the goods I buy from them?  An API to hook up to a ‘life tracking’ app, so I start to get some utility from all the data they have on me.  As my last blog post covered, they’ve got pretty good data on most things I’ve bought in the last five years…

And how about my credit card?  Could I hook up my credit card to the same ‘life-tracker’ so I catch the other expenditure (and CO2).  Like my drinking habits, and fuel consumption.

Those big corporations know lots about me.  And I’m getting a bit ticked off that they may well know more about me than I know about myself.  I’d like them to share the data with me.  I’d like to know myself better, and this data would help.  I might make better choices if the data is staring me in the face.

I think I’d like to build the “life-tracking” app to do it.  That should keep me busy for a bit.