Repurposing: the joy of the toy-box

This
morning, my mum sent me a photo message showing my poorly eight year old nephew
clutching a well-worn soft toy in the shape of a panda.  Pandan, my nephew used to call him, and for
years he was never far from his side.  I
was always extremely thrilled by how much Joe loved Pandan as I had bought the
toy for him (although it is perhaps more accurate to say that I collected
tokens from the packets of a well-known brand of toilet paper and sent them off
with £1.99 for postage and packaging).

Now Joe is
almost nine, I hadn’t seen Pandan around for a while.  It was so heart-warming to discover that he
continued treasured him and still drew comfort from his frankly manky and
slightly discoloured fur.  It’s funny
which toys find a place deep in our heart and which remain simply
playthings.  

I replied
to my mum’s message saying that maybe Joe will put Pandan in a future toy-box
too, a joking reference to the toy-box that I have recently created.  Over the last few weeks, I have been boring
friends and family talking about my new toy-box (okay, so talking and making them look at it).  

The toy-box
(pictured above) is one of my latest mini-obsessions.  I love it almost as much as I love some of
its contents.  I had thought about
putting something like it together shortly after moving into my new home in
mid-April, having realised that we live in possibly the most un-child friendly
space ever (think lots of potentially dangerous items at low levels and little
to distract curious small people with).
Whilst we don’t have kids of our own, I want visiting children to be at
home here and want their parents to feel relaxed rather than nervous or
worried.  

One Sunday
afternoon, I read an Apartment Therapy post that mentioned the same toy-box
idea and that was that: I seized the moment and tore round the place gathering
up any suitable items.  Some pencils,
plastic cups, a few children’s books that happened to be in unpacked
boxes.  I had a large basket just right
for the job.  I even remembered the two
hand-knitted rabbits, one of whom featured in my first day at school
photograph, suffocating in a plastic box under the bed.

In the
weeks since, more bits have been added.
I picked up a colouring book from a coffee morning.  My boyfriend put in his childhood chess set.  I’m keeping my eye out for suitable bits
(please someone somewhere get rid of some Lego!) but most of all I’m
encouraging my mum to get up the loft and find more of my actual toys out.  I’ve already begun bringing things from my
parents’ when I visit, including the first book I ever remember, yet I know
there is more still in the attic.  

Suddenly
all these possessions that I’ve never been sure what to do with have had a new
lease of life.  This sense of repurposing
has bought me genuine joy and contentment.
Lots of the standard advice on sentimental items or such like instructs
you to have a clearout, perhaps taking a photograph as a reminder of a
once-prized object.  But is that really
what we always want?  Whilst drowning in
reminders of the past can stop us from getting on with life in the present,
surely we can find ways to forge a new path where we give space to honour our
earlier treasures and let the happiness that they bought us then infuse our
worlds now.

That is
what I feel my new toy-box does.  It is
my own way through.  It isn’t getting rid
of everything, although there will be much from my childhood that I won’t
keep.  Nor is it shoving it all in some
place out of sight (under the bed, the loft, a spare bedroom – preferably in
someone else’s house), hoping to never have to deal with it but also never
getting any pleasure from it.  Seeing
another child being entertained by toys that you also happily played with is a
beautiful sight.

Of course
it doesn’t have to be a toy-box.  This sense
of repurposing can be applied to other possessions too.  What item in your home (or left elsewhere!)
is languishing?  What stuff aren’t you
sure what to do with?  Is it something
that you can breathe new life into in some form or another?

If you like
the idea of upcycling then Pinterest is full of amazing ideas to give you
inspiration; I’ve made a board with some of my favourite ideas.  Not that you have to be artistic or crafty;
if you love reading, can you simply spare some shelf space to your favourite
childhood books?  

It may be
that you decide repurposing actually does involve giving something a new home
or to a new owner.  I used to have a
gorgeous ragdoll that an older cousin made for me when I was born; when she had
a daughter, I passed the doll on to her.

Or do you
need to rethink in a broader way?  Is
there a different way of looking at the item(s)?  It may be that a mental shift is more useful
than a physical transformation.  Old toys
were literally just old toys until I recognised that they still held their
magic for a three year old today just as much as they had for me thirty years
ago.  

Share your
repurposing below or via Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook
page
.  If you are finding it difficult to
think differently about a possession and would like some help exploring options
then get in touch too – as a coach, offering a different perspective is part of
what I do!  Again there is social media
or you can email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  I’d love to hear your repurposing stories.

Carpe Weekend: Love Your Library

Most of us are familiar with the phrase ‘Carpe Diem’, or ‘Seize the day’.  Yet rather than seizing every day, often it is only on the weekend that we feel we have time to stop, collect ourselves and breathe.  This feature is designed to help with that: a small suggestion, tip or hint for you to try (if you wish!) over the weekend.  Maybe it will make a difference to your life, maybe it won’t, maybe it will prompt some other thoughts.  Enjoy – and seize your weekend!

This weekend, Im taking my niece to the municipal library.  I love libraries: all that creativity, all that inspiration, all that knowledge, all for free!  As well as books, you can often get magazines, films and music.  If you havent been to your local one in a while (or ever!) then why not call in this weekend?  Pick up a title that youve been meaning to read for a while, or explore the shelves and try something completely different from usual book choice.  Whilst youre there, check out the noticeboard for forthcoming events. 

You might be surprised as to what takes your fancy.  You could learn something new about your local community.  You may even discover something new about yourself.

Wholehearted Living

Last night, I spent a very contented few hours sitting on my bed continuing to re-read Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection”. Yesterday morning, I posted about how much Brown’s writing has influenced me and shared her definition of love, which comes near the beginning of the book. As I settled down to sleep later the same day, a passage from towards the end of the book rang in my ears and my soul. I thought I would share this quotation too:

“However afraid we are of change, the question that we must ultimately answer is this: What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It’s about cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

A great way to end the book; a great way to end the day.

The Gifts of Imperfection

Last week, I issued a book amnesty, whereby I declared that I had stopped reading any of the books I was currently part way through. It was such a relief from the self-imposed guilt of a half finished pile! With a clean slate in place, I had the joy of beginning to re-read Joanne Field’s “A Life of One’s Own”, from which this blog is named, over the weekend. Also over the weekend , I had a conversation about favourite books. Always hard to pick one, or even a handful, but I straightaway cited Brene Brown as an author who has really influenced me. Barely a day goes by when I don’t think of something she writes about in “Daring Greatly” or “The Gifts of Imperfection”. It’s no exaggeration to say that they’ve been life-changing reads (I guess this is a sign that I should read her other book, “I thought it was just me”, soon too!).

One of the things I like most about Brown’s writing is that she takes seemingly nebulous concepts and gives very precise definitions that she’s worked up from her research into shame and vulnerability. In particular, I like her statement about love, which has helped me to explore what it means to me. How can we ever know what love is? Are we “in love”? Are we loved? Big, challenging, scary questions, but her short definition has provided a guidepost when searching for answers.

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.

Love is not something that we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivates between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows.
Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.”

Brene Brown, “The Gifts of Imperfection”, p26

Books of my own

I’m going to have a book amnesty.  I recently did it with all my library books; it was such a huge relief that now I will do the same with my own books.  Basically it is a declaration that I am not reading any of them.  I seem to have about half a dozen books on the go, with bookmarks at various points in their pages.  Truth is I’ve drifted from them all.  This is no reflection on how I feel about their contents.  If I really don’t like a book then I’m happy to not finish it, which I know for some people is a travesty.  Not me.  In all these cases, though, I haven’t finished them because I’ve had other distractions, other areas to focus.  After a period of voracious reading, I’m not currently reading anything – the books are just sitting there in a pile.  Every time I glance at them I feel that I *should* be reading one of them as I’ve already made a start.  Still I don’t.

Enough of this cycle!  The bookmarks are coming out of them all.  If, when, I want to return to them then I can start afresh.  Ground zero, so to speak.  How light it feels already!  And I know already where my reading will recommence: back to my roots, to the origins of this blog, with Joanne Field’s A Life of One’s Own.