Thrifty living: Chuck out your tinsel and get someone else's
Saturday 15 December 2007
We all know that bringing your box of old Christmas decorations down from the loft and reusing them is the greenest and cheapest way of embellishing your tree, but how about swapping them with someone else's old baubles?
London's Covent Garden, which has never struck me as the thriftiest place for Christmas shopping (or shopping at any other time), has managed to tear itself away from focusing solely on its Christmas luxury food market (where you can have your gifts wrapped by a woman who has gift-wraps for the Queen, and where the Twelve Days of Christmas will be marked with "four-bird roasts", hand-dived scallops, and specialist tea boxes). It has devoted one of its outlets free to Decoration Exchange, a sort of bring-and-buy bauble set-up. The idea is that you can bring along your old tinselly tat and exchange it for someone else's.
"I met a woman who had 10 boxes of decorations in her loft!" says Judy Berger, founder of online swap-shop site Whatsmineisyours.com. "Now she can bring them down and swap them with what we have here! Everyone says we have a disposable society, but this turns all of that on its head. And if you just want to change your decorating theme this year, it's such a cheap way of doing it."
Decorating theme? Surely no one outside the pages of Elle Decoration actually believes in having themed tinsel? It would seem not. "For example, last year my theme was pink and silver," continues Berger excitedly. "This year it's going to be Gothic. So I'm going to bring all my pink stuff down and swap it for dark baubles with flocking. Perfect!"
Speaking as someone who barely gets through the travails of filling four Christmas stockings for children of varying ages and genders, plus one for the dog, organising annually churned themed decorations seems a bit high-end for me, but the overall notion is a good one.
"Look at this!" cries Berger, proffering three glittery reindeer. "We valued this, which I believe is a vintage Paperchase decoration, at 5. So the person who brought it along handed it in, then went to the 5 box, and picked up a new decoration." Your decorations will be valued on the spot by Berger and her team, from 1 to 10. If you bring in enough stuff, you will be able to take home a whole new stash of gaudy nonsense with which to garland your tree. If you are lucky, you might even have a celeb quotient blended into the money-saving schtick, which seems like a contradiction in terms, but that's Christmas for you.
"Katie Melua came and gave us this," sighs Berger, showing me a "vintage" box of three signed Christmas bells from the celebrated singer. "I think we might auction this. Elle Macpherson has promised to bring something down for us as well." Just imagine: this year your Christmas theme could be celebrity, the highlight of which shall be swathes of tinsel, touched by Elle Macpherson!
Currently, each swap box is full of new donations from Christmas traders; glass baubles, tiny spacemen and rather jolly hangable Santas which you will get for your swap. As the weeks progress, however, Berger hopes that they will gradually fill up with a huge variety of muddled and bizarre decorations as people go up into their lofts and realise that, indeed, they cannot face yet another Christmas staring at those glass icicles, circa 1988, or those dreadful pink baubles from last year's sale area at Tesco.
Even if you don't have anything to bring, you can buy some of the cast-offs, as the Decoration Exchange will offer swap-or-buy on everything, with funds going to Camilla Batmanghelidjh's Kid's Company, a charity that cares for exceptionally vulnerable children in London.
There's no question, but the whole venture has feelgood written right through it, and Berger is as pleased with her donated Covent Garden unit as she has any right to be. We start chatting about swaps on a grand scale, and before I know it, we have gone through clothes, records and books right up to the moment when she has negotiated swapping a sun-kissed weekend in her Cyprus flat for one in my Paris love-nest. She's that sort of woman. "It's a bit like that man who managed to trade a paper clip for a house," says Ellen, Berger's assistant. "Hmm," sniffs Berger. "I happen to think that was just invented." Maybe.
But the Covent Garden initiative seems like the real thing, a welcome advent of cashless trading in the midst of the craven till-ringing commercial emporia that constitute the capital's West End in December.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Questions of Cash: What are my rights if my leak is caused by neighbours’ roofs?
Pension mortgages: 'The advice I was given was wrong and now I face losing my home'
Minister's pension promise to firefighters challenged
The 10 Best money-saving sites
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
- 3 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 4 UK weather: 'Coldest night of the year' tonight as freezing temperatures plummet to -10C
- 5 Game of Thrones is most-pirated TV show of 2014
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
iJobs Money & Business
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...
Day In a Page
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens