Thursday, 5 November 2009

Charity starts at your home for a minimalist makeover

Yorkshire Post - 4th November - Mid Week Life & Style Section


Give your unwanted furniture to a good cause and give yourself the gift of space. Interior Designer Jamie Hempsall reveals the best ways to declutter and donate.

Give your unwanted furniture to a good cause and give yourself the gift of space. Interior Designer Jamie Hempsall reveals the best ways to declutter and donate.

Over the coming weeks spare rooms across the country are likely to become filled with wrapping paper, tags and presents as the nation prepares for Christmas. Add the imminent arrival of garlands, trees, Christmas cards and decorations and you have a recipe for some pretty congested accommodation.

To help minimise feelings of reduced living space undertake an autumnal “stock check” around your home. Commence your de-clutter by stepping back and viewing everything objectively – have you hung on to odd pieces of furniture or perfectly good soft furnishings for years because “you might be able to use them somewhere”, but are never likely to? Are your shelves heavy with bits and pieces that you have never got around to sorting out? Setting yourself the objective to have a good clear out as the dark nights draw in can be extremely liberating as you open up your interior space – space that you will be seeing a lot of over the next few months when you get outside less!

Once you have cleared, why not do a bit of good by donating your treasured, but superfluous interiors items to a local charity – either for them to sell on or to use in shelters or other accommodation?

The notion of de-cluttering and donating is a trend that has celebrity endorsements with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Elton John “consolidating” their possessions and donating the proceeds of sell offs to charity.

If you go ahead bear in mind the charity donation mantra of Mary Portas and the Association of Charity Shops “Donate, Don’t Dump”. Look hard at what you are clearing out. If it has a useful life then donate it, but if it is very worn or broken consider the best method for recycling (although ultimately some things really do just have to go to the tip!).

Before loading the car and heading off to your local charity HQ or store, check what they can and cannot accept to avoid a wasted journey. Some charities are well set up to handle larger items of furniture (e.g. the British Heart Foundation has dedicated outlets). They may even be able to help with collections; however, not every shop can cope with them.

Whilst you are checking, find out whether you can “gift aid” your donation. If you are a standard or high rate tax payer the charity may be able to claim back tax on the estimated value of your gift (increasing its worth by 25%): no cost to you, but a great benefit to the receiving charity.

Giving is not only good for your chosen cause, but also for the environment as donating to charity shops means customers have a low carbon footprint: no further energy or resources are required to create the goods you donate. Reusing goods also prevents them from being sent to landfill and according to the Association of Charity Shops UK charity shops’ reuse activity alone helps reduce CO2 emissions by about 2.5 million tonnes p.a.

Of course, whilst you are in an outlet donating, you might well find a few vintage pieces that someone else has donated which fit your requirements perfectly. Elements of interior trends regularly re-surface and charity shops are a terrific and economical source of original treasures that can be re-used or adapted for inclusion in your latest scheme. Frequent visits may be required, but just one wonderful find can save you a fortune.

Everyone says that “charity begins at home” and this is a terrific way to make that a reality.

Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Interior Design Association and one of the region’s leading interior designers. Visit him at

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