Virtual Family

I don’t have a large extended family. And the family I do have is scattered, fragmented and as generally dysfunctional as most. I don’t think it’s different or special in that way. This weekend my mum was visiting from Devon to celebrate her 60th birthday. I can’t remember how we got onto the subject and maybe it was the passing of such a significant birthday that put her in a reflective mood, but we started talking about ‘the family’ and in particular Cousins.

I have three cousins, all siblings. I was nine when the first was born and in secondary school by the time the third arrived. By then we had also moved away from the Midlands to Devon. Beyond occasional updates from my Nanna, I grew up knowing very little about them. But I don’t feel I suffered because of it. I personally don’t feel there was ever a relationship to be had there. ¬†My sister who is closer in age to the oldest cousin may disagree but I’ve never felt I should feel more for my cousins than I did.

Social media can be a blessing and a curse. I’m particularly good (don’t ask me how) at internet research (curse my flitty mind that will jump around a problem rather than focus ūüėČ ) and talking about la famillia made me curious. What are my cousins doing now? They’re all in their twenties and yeah they’re all on Facebook. Time for a bit of FB stalking! My oldest cousin has changed his surname, which made it harder to find him, but find him I did. It also made me wonder whether he’d actually changed his name or if it was just a FB thing. People do it. Or if he has, why has he?¬†The youngest two are now dancers/performers, which doesn’t really surprise me. It was something they both did religiously as children, so they’re all over the internet, meaning I found out plenty despite their locked FB pages. Then there’s Twitter. The youngest is an avid Tweeter with over 10K tweets. Most of it was normal 21 year old dancer buff, but I also found out some really personal stuff about her life choices.

I started to regret looking. I felt a bit creepy knowing this much about people I only had a passing interest in. Its not even like we were close or played as children. But the youngest looks so much like my sister I couldn’t stop looking in wonder at her pictures. Was she a nice person, was she happy? I surmised that she’s happy she’s in the business she is, but deeply insecure about certain aspects of it. But then this is social media. Can you ever really tell anything about a person and their life from a bunch of tweets?

It also made me think just how much of ourselves we put out there on the internet. Yes we can change our FB setting to Fort Knox level of security, but that means jack if you use Twitter or Instagram or any other myriad of social media thats out there. I rarely use Twitter (just can’t get my head around how negative it can be) but I have other accounts. I write this blog, which is free and open for all the world to see. It’s my choice to write here, and I have to be OK with the audience it could potentially reach. It’s a truth I think we’re all well aware of, but in order to sleep at night we push to the back of our minds. And the saddest thing for me is it’s not the strangers who could be looking at my pages without me knowing that worry me, but those closer to me, like extended family.

I thought about following my cousins on Twitter, or friending them on FB, but I knew I’d just be doing it out of curiosity. And if it bothers me to think they could be looking at my stuff then maybe it’d bother them to know that’d I’d been looking at theirs. Maybe their parents don’t yet know the things I now do. Maybe they don’t want their parents to know. I hope thats not the case. If I can find out this easily, anyone can.

I closed my cousin’s Twitter page and¬†went to check my security settings.

And Google my own name.



I’ve never been a hoarder. Ever since I left home at 18, with my life packed up in my boyfriend’s Citroen AX, I’ve been acutely aware of keeping what I need and moving on what I don’t. I moved house¬†a lot in my 20’s, which only served to reinforce my brutal approach to clutter (you try moving house, across London, on the Tube with only two large rucksacks and a boyfriend for help and then tell me you have to keep that pair of jeans you never wear or that frog ornament you never liked.)¬†

Since having Oscar I’ve become ultra efficient at moving stuff on, for two reasons. One is that children out grow EVERYTHING very quickly. Not just clothes, which they can speed through quicker than you can say “this season’s JoJo catalogue” but also toys, books, equipment, furniture. You name it, they use it and grow out of it. The other is that we live in a tiny cottage. We have two bedrooms, one of which is a loft extension, meaning storage is at a premium (our “loft” consists of three small cupboards in the eaves of Oscar’s bedroom). These things combined mean I have little option other¬†than to¬†constantly move things on. You simply couldn’t live in this house, with a child and not be a ruthless declutterer.

But do you know? I love doing it!

I get a real thrill from seeing things I no longer have use or space for, being given a new home and a second lease of life, while I get a little money in my back pocket. I have several ways in which I do it:


I love eBay. Yes I know it has its issues and not everyone wants to pay the fees they charge, but as platform for selling to as wide an audience as possible it’s hard to beat. I’ve been selling on eBay since 2009, when I moved to Swansea, with no job and time on my hands. Because that’s really what selling on eBay requires, a bit of time. I still regularly put things on eBay, although with the cost of postage going up and up I am finding it less and less appealing for children’s clothes. People just aren’t prepared to pay more than a couple of pounds for an item they then have to pay ¬£3 or ¬£4 postage for. I still sell adult clothes with some success but for children’s clothes I have started to favour Facebook.


You can advertise your items in your own News Feed, if you think you have friends who might want what you have but I’ve found the best way to sell through Facebook, is to join a local buying and selling group. I’ve joined several community groups, aimed specifically at buying and selling childrens items. These groups are all voluntarily run and the good ones are run really well. They enable other members (usually people local to you) to see the items you are selling and contact you directly about buying and collecting them. I’ve become much more keen on using this method for Oscar’s things as they charge no fees and buyers seem happier to pay a little more for each item as there is no postage cost.

Nearly New

I don’t know about your local area but we have a really active NCT branch where I live. They do all sorts for local parents, but being a charity have to fund their work themselves. One of the biggest ways in which they do this, is their bi-annual Nearly New Sales. This is a mammoth feat of organisation, but results in a super opportunity to buy really decent quality second hand items. I’ve been attending our local sale¬†since I was 8 months pregnant with Oscar, first as a buyer, then as a volunteer. I also tried my hand at selling last year. The sales offer an opportunity to sell items for you (no manning a stall needed) and the fees charged go to a local charity rather than a massive corporation. However, preparing items for sale can be rather time consuming, particularly if these items don’t sell. I had better luck selling equipment and toys rather than clothes here. I think I’ve learnt you have to make a decision at sales like this. Do you want to make money or space in your house? I know one of our most successful sellers sells large quantities, but at 50p an item. So you need to ask yourself, why are you selling your items, before pricing them up.

Charity Shop

I tend to donate things only when I’ve tried and failed to sell them or if they were given to me in the first place. All things donated really need to be in good condition – which some people forget. I used to work for a charity that had a shop. I have sorted many a bag of generous donations, but I am telling you now, if you wouldn’t sell it because it’s torn,¬†stained or unwearable, then charity shops can’t sell it either! If they’re switched on then these shops will be able to recycle these items, but, seriously people, think before you donate!


I’ve taken clothes to recycle banks (like bottle banks but for clothes), but I’ve only ever used paid recycling when I worked at the shop. There are more and more¬†companies springing up that collect clothing and pay a small amount for it¬†per kilo. I have never had enough at one time to make this worth me doing, but my Mother in Law had a proper clear out recently and managed to make ¬£11 at 50p per kilo! ¬†If you’ve got heavy adult items¬†(or perhaps just lots and lots of children who have trashed clothes you can’t sell any other way) I guess this might be worth a look.

There are lots of other ways, including various online swapping, selling or giving sites I’ve tried but had little luck with. I have¬†also never tried a car boot, yard or jumble sale, again because I’ve never had enough all at once to make it worth while, but I’d be willing to give it a go if I did. I’m happy to move most things on, in any number of different ways. But despite this being the case, I can assure you, I don’t lack sentiment.

In my wardrobe I have a tote bag filled to the brim with pieces that mean something to me, all that bring back a memory of¬†Oscar’s life. I have the 0-3 Month baby grow we were going to bring him home in, the (second hand newborn size) babygrow we actually did, the outfit from his Pleased to Meet You baby party, his first rattle, his first shoes, his first pair of jeans, the list goes on. Occasionally I take them out and look at them. I remember, when I’ve forgotten, just how tiny he was and I smile.

Yes I’m a ruthless declutterer, yes I get a thrill out of selling our stuff, but there are some things I would never¬†sell.

Not for all the tea in China.

Mums' Days