My name is Helen, and I am an addict. Thankfully not to alcohol or drugs. And clearly the chocolate addiction goes without saying, and is pretty much integral to my personality. But my new addiction is to a Facebook group: Walthamstow Sell or Swap. The clue’s in the name, really. You post unwanted items for sale, or to swap for something life enhancing like, umm, chocolate. I believe some people might ask for fruit. You can also try ISO (in search of) posts, where you hope that someone local has the very thing you need languishing in their loft.
The advantages are clear. You can make some money (or, did I mention, some chocolate) by getting rid of your unwanted things. You can snap up a second hand bargain. It’s far better for the planet that we all reuse or recycle more rather than throwing away and getting new all the time. And it fosters a nice sense of community.
However. Since Sophia was born and I have been spending several hours a day on the sofa breastfeeding I have started to realise that the old saying “a good servant but a bad master”could have been coined for my relationship with Sell or Swap. You see, in the olden days (before Christmas) I would post an occasional ISO – that’s how Anna got her Peppa Pig camper van and I got a very nice Gap maternity dress – and I had sold one or two things myself as well. Now, though, I find myself spending far too many hours a day ‘checking’. What am I checking for? Well, that’s just the point. I have no idea. A couple of weeks ago I noticed someone was giving away some dolls’ house furniture for free. FREE, I tell you. Anna and I have been doing up a second hand dolls’ house, so I leapt at it. It turns out to be completely out of scale, although she is using it to create a shoe box home for another slightly bigger doll, but it was FREE. What else could I be missing if I let
five minutes an hour go past without ‘checking’? It’s practically a nervous twitch. As soon as I sit down my hand reaches for my laptop. “What are you doing?” my husband or daughter will ask. “Oh, just…checking” I reply.
There’s the selling as well. I see something posted for sale with maybe ten or twelve people all expressing an interest, and I find myself thinking, ooh, we’ve got one of those. I could sell it. Well, yes, I could sell it for £5, or swap it for some chocolate buttons, but actually it’s something we use every day, so why the hell would I? Husband and daughter would be wise to heed my oft-repeated requests not to leave their stuff lying around, though.
The madness became very apparent this week when someone posted that they had seen a lovely table and chairs outside a local block of flats, obviously being thrown out. They looked stunning in the photo – a 1960s drop leaf linoleum covered table in baby blue, with four matching chairs. Yummy. Now I do not need a table or chairs in the least. But the idea that these were going free, just two streets away from me was torture. I was consumed by near-unmanageable table lust. They were being thrown away. Arrgghh. I sat here, seriously considering if there was any way a 7-weeks-post-caeserian-mum could transport four chairs and a dining table on a Bugaboo Bee. Thankfully sanity prevailed, and I decided there wasn’t. That particular Sell or Swap had a happy ending as well, as a friend with strong muscles managed to get the furniture back to her very local house, and then passed it on to a friend of hers who is furnishing his new home from scratch on a shoestring budget.
But I have realised that something needs to change. I should use my time (and energy and money) in a more fulfilling , constructive and life-enhancing way. And I absolutely will. I will start learning Italian, or re-reading Tolstoy or take up crossword puzzles. Just as soon as I’ve checked if there’s anything interesting on Sell or Swap.