Lessons Learnt in a clothing bank

I thought I would share some of the lessons I have been

learning throughout this unusual time. As you know I

manage a clothes bank in the community, so I have

been able to meet people and have not had to stay at

home as I am a keyworker.

So these are a few things I have learned about helping

people who are struggling.

The homeless guests usually are male and generally

like clean clothes which is mainly joggers, boxers and

socks. They often have poor footwear. They often need

a sleeping bag or tent.

Streetlink is a great organisation to report people

sleeping rough. There is a website and you need to give

someone’s location and name if possible and a physical

description. There is also a 24 hour [phone number.

Many people cannot afford prescription glasses so

putting a range of used glasses helps people.

We throw very little away. The saying ‘one man’s trash

is another person’s treasure is so true. Even broken toys

are taken ie a game called ‘Hungry Hippos’ was broken

but a child still took one of the Hippos. One person

makes teddies out of odd socks. And we make up the

jigsaws to check they are all complete. We even keep

the odd shoes as often a stray shoe is lying in a bag

somewhere.

I do not limit how many items people take.

This is an abundance principle. And

people can choose; this is offering a service with

dignity. We use old paper to wrap glasses, old bags to

put clothes in and things like shoe boxes to display cds.

Recycle all that we can. We also try to treat everyone

with respect.

Please let me know your thoughts. I would especially

like to hear from anyone working in the fashion

industry.

If you are stuck, don’t stick at it

I recently learnt some major lessons. I moved and was in a place which I knew just didn’t feel right. It was okay, it just wasn’t the right environment. And I had been offered a place before.

Initially I thought it was important to stick with it. So I did and nothing changed. I lay in bed feeling not particularly happy and knew I wa stuck.

Eventually through a set of circumstances, I ended up in the place I was originally offered and have stayed there ever since. I am now in the right environment and am like a plant in the right soilk-thriving again.

This simple story has shown me two things

  1. There is a need to be in the right place
  2. Perseverance is sometimes not the right choice. Sometimes it i s simply that wer are on the wromg path.
  3. Change is a choice as is being stuck
  4. Humans like plants need to be in the right soil to grow and thrive

If you are4 in the wrong environment then maybe it is time to move. Life involves a series of choices and I wish you happiness as you pursue the best path for your life X

The Power of Ruthless Simplification

I like beautiful things. But for multifarious reasons I have needed to trim down my belongings and this has been a hard path. I was so reluctant to do this. However I have found that almost being forced into a corner regarding this has made me look at things in a different way.

As you wonderful readers are probably aware, I run a clothing bank and work with may people in difficult circumstances. One young homeless man said he could ask me to marry him yesterday, when I gave him a pair of jogging bottoms. And slowly amd surely, these encounters with many many people who have literally nothing, has changed me.

Can I part with this loved item? If I am not using it then yes I can. Posseszsions are of course needed, but in a world where many are in dire poverty and yes in the UK this is definitely true, can I share with others-yes?

I went off the charity shop model many years ago, because I felt they were overcharging. I hope this doesn’t cause offence, but many shops are extremely cheap and thus I find the charity shop market far too pricey.

So we run our clothing bank on the principle of a free shop. And now I question what I own and why. If I don’t love it then perhaps it is time to say goodbye.

A few thoughts for the Bank Hoilday. Please let me know what you think. Radical simplification has made me feel freer and I never thought this would happen. I feel less overwhelmed by objects and more in control. And I have only just started.

Thank you for reading. I wish you a beautifiul day and weekend, wherever you are in the world X

On labelling

I was thinking of a phrase as a title to grab people;s attention but I just couldn’t post it: ‘Just face it you’re a nobody’. Because that is the utter antithesis of everything I believe in. Being a nobody is not possible in my view; everyone has significance, just because they are human and everyone has the capacity to change. And if they do not choose to change bad behaviour, then others can make deciusions to protect themselves and others.

It is so easy to label ourselves and others. Mistakes, addictions, repeated patterns can lead us to despair. But compassion and self-care are especially important in a pandemic.

I particularly like the title of a chapter in a book I admit not to have read

Self-compassion: Embracing suffering with kindness (Kristin Neff K., Davidson O. 2016).

Being compassionate to oneself is sometimes not suffering in silence. It is reaching out one’s hand for another to hold. It is seeking support (The Samaritans are amazing 116123). It is simply asking for an embrace, albeit a virtual one from another human.

I think we have all suffered in some way shape or form and my post today is being kind to us and others. Let us not judge, but rather know that when people make mistakes and really stuff up, probably they feel dreadful about it and a kind word or gesture might make a huge difference to someone’s day, especially if the person is ourself.

References

Neff, K., Davidson O., (2016)Self-compassion: Embracing suffering with kindness. Chapter taken from Mindfulness in Positive Psychology 1st ed.Routledge.

Working in a pandemic

Today I wanted to share my experiences of working through the pandemic and running a community project. To start with it has been an honour and a privilege to support our fellow humans. As a keyworker, I have been able to do this.

We started our community project in May 2019, offering groups to vulnerable people. However, as Covid struck, this wasn;t possible and we reinvented ourselves. This began as an experiment with a rusty clothes rail and has proven to be very worthwhile, with possibly over 2000 people helped, directley and indirectly.

One lovely man comes and takes things for his neighbours and friends; curtains to put over doors, towels and even plates. Another person has said how invaluable our service has been. A homeless man came yesterday and walked out looiking really smart in a lovely new coat. We have been able to help people look and feel fgood about themselves, redistributiung unwanted goods and saving waste too.

Recycling is very close to my heart and we try to throw away as little as possible. Stained clothing may be washed and I have only ever thrown away one item which seemed to have blood on it which I felt warranted a bin. Even broken toys find new homes-one child happily took a push along toy missing a wheel. We are so often about ythe new and perfect and perhaps we just need to be a little more open to reusing slighly damaged things and upcycling. It is a new way of life and a new way of thinking. We even have people take second hand glasses which was a huge surprise to me!

People don’t just come for clothes; they like a chat and feeling part of a community. We meet outside and people can choose how much or little they want to take. This gives dignity. It is essentially a free charity shop model. People are struggling on Universal Credit and it means they can givce their families nice clothes and shoes and toys and bedding.

I feel that clothing banks are very much needed at this time. People in the UK are really battling poverty, but they don’t wear a badge to announce it (and why should they?)

Let me have your thoughts regarding this and please feel free to disagree. I am interested in people’s views from other nations in regard to this.

Thank you for reading. I wish you all a wonderful weekend X

Success and sacrifice

Many of us want to be successful, living peaceful happy lives. However, I wonder if the way towards this means sacrifice. Let me expound.

I manage a community project and run a clothing bank, offering free clothing, toys, bedding and shoes to those in need. We also offer a free man and van service on occasions, giving furniture. Practical help to people who are struggling in an area of high deprivation.

I would describe this as a vocation rather than the job. I used to work in a very stressful environment and I simply do not want that anymore. But it means sacrifice in some respects of life; maybe not earning as much, perhaps not having some of the things I may have wanted.

I have been learning that in order to achieve happiness and a relatively simple way of life, changes have been made and new paths trodden. This isn’t for everyone, but in order to do a job I really love then I have made changes in other areas.

I wonder if any of you have felt this way? Please share. So many of us have recalibrated our values during the pandemic and found a new way of living life.

There is a quote below which nicely frames this. But a word of caution; sacrifice comes with a price tag!

References

Pinterest: Article from Averstu.com (accessed 18/05/21)

When dreams come true

I wanted to share a few thoughts about this. The old adage about may your dreams come true always has a future connotation, but what does it look like when they do?

I always wanted to be a published author and now I am. ‘The Dream Tree’ is in print thanks to Austin Macauley publishers and I am a bit overwhelmed to be honest. I am shocked that this has happened. I am a little incredulous. Probably because I never imagined it would happen.

I think for some of us dreams coming true may not be celebrated because we cannot believe it. But it should be. For those who haven’t had the easiest path, we may not always celebrate our achievements and may even downplay them somewhat (anyone on the same page?) And maybe we are just used to things not quite working out in the way we imagined.

I wanted to write this to encourage us all to celebrate our successes. Does anyone have anything they are proud of-please share. Do you have a long cherished dream that is about to come true. How does it feel? I wonder sometimes if we reach our goal, do we then lose something precious? Is it all about the process rather than the end? These are just musings so please feel free to disagree. I would welcome your thoughts.

And if anyone would like to review my book, I would really appreciate it. Thank you for following this blog. I really appreciate your support. X

The Dream Tree

Hello everyone. I hope you are all well and doing okay. It is with great joy that I wanted to share some good news. I am having a children’s book published called ‘The Dream Tree: Part One’. It is for children aged 6 to 8 and is about hope and resilience against the odds. It also deals with childhood trauma.

I have always dreamed of being in print one day and now my long awaited dream has come true. It has been a while on my journey but I am really excited about this new stage. I have included the URL below.

I encourage anyone who may have a long term aspiration, to pursue their dream. Life has its ups and downs and not all things turn out how we would wish. But there is beauty and there is always always hope.

https://www.austinmacauley.com/book/dream-tree-part-one

March into April

Today is April fools day. And I don’t want to play any tricks or tease you at all. I am amazed I managed to write almost every day last year; this year has been really busy as my work has been very full on. So I don’t write as much. I hope you enjoy the previous posts and the hope recipes have kept you going.

Sometimes life does not turn out as we expect and my lessons for this year are that we sometimes need to face head on the darkest and worst aspects of ourselves and deal with these. I have started to do this; face my most hidden places and tackle them.

In a pandemic, vulnerability is everywhere. People’s pain is spilling over; I see so many people ready to cry and also wanting the support of a listening ear. I work in the community and many are in hardship, However many are also offering great support and generosity to others.

As things ease slightly in the UK, I wonder how we will be in the ‘new normal’. My feeling is that we will all be different and hopefully much less self focussed, more community minded.

So my Easter thoughts are that as we head towards the Summer and sunshine, we are mindful of the sacrifices made by many and we take stock. Take stock and time to reflect on what is important. And be authentic and true to ourselves.

Mama to Mama

These beautiful clothes are an example of the amazing Mama to Mama project. This is a wonderful project, where pre-loved baby items are presented in a gorgeous box with a lovely note and given to new mamas. from mama to mama.

The instigator of this idea is Jayne Furniss. The pre-loved items are sourced from a mamma’s group and the Community Outreach Project Margate. Boxes are given to vulnerable new mamma’s.

This is an example of preventing beautiful things going to landfill as well as helping to support new mothers. It is a synthesis of old and new, the cycle of life in motion.

Let’s get creative in this pandemic!