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Large kate advent challenge

Give-a-thing-away-a-day: my advent challenge

In September, I went to a film screening at the Hackney Picturehouse of My Stuff, a film about Petri Luukkainen, a 26-year old man from Finland that decides to put all of his stuff in storage and only take one item back per day, for a year. Going through an existential crisis at the point of making this decision, Luukkainen hoped that he might be able to rebuild his life through this human experiment.  

The film

He starts naked in Helsinki. He gradually equips himself over the year and takes us on the journey with him by documenting everything on camera. 

The journey is a funny and interesting one and it teaches two main lessons:

1.  We don’t need as much stuff as we think we do

2. Emptying your life helps you focus – you can tackle the problems that lie within and fill the ‘empty spot in your heart’ by thinking about what really matters to you.

So it’s a story about consumerism and about our relationship with stuff.  It’s a funny reflection on what happens when you take everything away.

After the film

We took part in a Q&A with Luukkainen and Jen – a woman that embarked on a similar challenge of not buying anything during her ‘Make do and mend year’ in 2012. 

Luukkainen described how everyone he speaks to tells him about ‘that box of stuff they have in the attic that they never look at’… never mind use.

I have many of those boxes.  I’ve spent the past 11 years taking them from flat to flat.  Living somewhere on a temporary basis at the moment, I’ve actually put the majority of my personal belongings in a storage unit my mum has for work.

My challenge

I raved about the film and have decided to put my money (or my possessions) where my mouth is. I’m giving one thing away every day during advent this year. It’s giving me the chance to think about what I really need and what I can offer my neighbours.  It’s a clutter-diet in preparation for the Christmas thing-feast. 

In preparation, I will spend the next few weeks filling yet another box, but this time with real purpose.  I just need to find 24 things that I don’t need. 

Want to take the challenge too? Let me know or just follow these rules: Give one thing a day away, every day for 24 days using the neighbourhood sharing website Streetbank.  Simples. 

What is your experience of simplifying your life or doing without so much stuff? How did it affect you? 


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on November 13 2015 Kylie Barton said:

Great idea! I am doing this, and encourage others to do the same :)

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on December 18 2014 Peter Cameron said:

Love your idea. My students have created a website where they share a 20 year tradition of Christmas giving and challenge others to share or start their own Christmas giving tradition (big or small)! In a couple of weeks, the website has been viewed 4900+ times in over 60 countries! There’s some beautiful stories where people from around the world share what they “give” for Christmas. Please visit our website, tell your story and share with everyone you know!

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on December 14 2014 pichou Ahmid said:

good he like mE ^^

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on December 9 2014 Tom Syms said:

Fantastic idea and with my day off tomorrow I intend to watch ‘My Stuff’. Thank you for sharing your inspiration.

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on December 7 2014 Hubert Heathertoes said:

great stuff

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on December 3 2014 Sarah BloisBrooke said:

Thanks! I was inspired by a neighbour and am now doing this!

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on December 3 2014 Ann Miller said:

great idea – I am doing an advent of daily Random Acts of Kindness – love it when I see other people doing things too.

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on December 2 2014 Alison Horncastle said:

A great idea. I decluttered a year ago before moving house, but not enough – and it’s beginning to accumulate again.

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on December 2 2014 Tess Le said:

Fantastic idea. And great way to meet your neighbours too. I’m in!

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on December 1 2014 Lee Ewart said:

Such a great idea, I decided to join you! I have so much stuff yet I live in a shared flat so my room is cluttered! Not sure what I’ll decide to part with each day but I know I have things I don’t need. Item #1 is a nearly new flat cap, too big for me! :)

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on December 1 2014 Kate Groves said:

And we’re off!! #adventchallenge day 1: I’m giving away a couple of framed jazz pictures; offered them at 8am and they’ve already been requested! Good luck with the challenge everyone and don’t forget you can upload a few things at a time if you miss a few days…

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on November 25 2014 Julietta Cochrane said:

Great Idea …

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on November 24 2014 laura sampson said:

I’m in! I’m in Alaska and no one else up here is on Streetbank yet, Ichope that changes because I just wrote about it but anyway I’m giving my things to local thrift stores and a homeless teen program! Not through Streetbank but I’m ok with that. LOVE THIS IDEA!

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on November 22 2014 Atay Reihill said:

All ready to join in and Give-a-thing-away-a-day!

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on November 22 2014 Zoe Williams said:

Good idea – I hope to do this too.

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on November 21 2014 Mary Murphy said:

What an excellent idea – and just the impetus a lifelong clutter bug like me needs.
I’ll join in – thanks for the push!

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on November 18 2014 Kate Groves said:

A few pointers if you want to take part:
1. Offer one thing OR skill every day from Monday 1st to Weds 24th December. Don’t worry if you miss a day, you can always catch up by offering several things in one go! Just do what you can.

2. Email me, tweet or Instagram (@streetbank_share) your offers, using the #reverseadvent hashtag and uploading a photo of your item. The more fun, the better!

3. Let me know if you’re happy to share your reverse advent story – it may help raise Streetbank’s profile in the media

4. If you don’t find a home for things, see if there’s a homeless shelter / charity shop that will take the items

Best of luck everyone :-)

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on November 18 2014 Kate Groves said:

Loving the enthusiasm and interest in my challenge – thanks all for commenting… I hope lots of you will join me and that you’re getting your 24 items ready…

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on November 17 2014 Sue Underwood said:

I thought this would be a lovely idea for me to give something to the residents of a sheltered accommodation where my mother lives. I thought it would show that they are valued and appreciated by society.

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on November 17 2014 Sam McIntyre said:

What a great idea! For any items people don’t want I would freecycle or give them to charity.

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on November 15 2014 Bernie Brannick said:

Wonderful idea – love it!

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on November 15 2014 kerry mcmahon said:

This is a great idea in lots of ways. It makes tidying up a positive action rather than a chore for a start. I decluttered a while ago and it was very theraputic.. Buying a small incinerator was the perfect solution for the mountain of work-related paper I had stacked around. Nowadays work stuff stays at work. One habit I continue is to keep a small box under the stairs for things that can go to a charity shop. Once I have a fair sized collection I drop it off. One challenge is to not just bring more stuff back into the house. I will share your idea with family and friends though, even if it just encourages them to think about what we really need in our lives, be it possessions, people or even goals.

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on November 15 2014 Vivienne Johnson said:

I’m joining the challenge. Can’t wait to see what happens.

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on November 15 2014 sally twyman said:

It so happens I am already trying to do this and have been for some time, by offering things we no longer need on Freecycle as it really grieves me to see what people take to the local tip before considering if it could be of use to someone else.

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on November 14 2014 Angelita Woosnam said:

Great idea – and like Tracey R I will give it away another way if no one wants it xxx

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on November 14 2014 Tracey R said:

I’m in!
And if I don’t get a “taker” for something, I’ll then offer it on Streetlife …
FAB idea!

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on November 14 2014 Chris Hall said:

OK, I’m in. I would plan to put anything not taken in a donation box for the end of the Advent Season.

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on November 14 2014 Liz Wingrove said:

I love this idea, but what happens if nobody asks for the things you list on Streetbank?