Barter a Button – a cash-free challenge

On August 31st 2022 I embarked upon quite a strange yet interesting adventure.

I decided to offer a blue plastic button I had no use for on a local zero waste Facebook group. I was asking if anyone would like to offer me something they no longer needed in return for the button which they could make some use of.

Hannah replied and offered me a stapler for the button, then Becka told me she really needed a stapler but had a violin she no longer had any use for.  I was inundated with people wanting the violin which was surprising as I would have thought it was quite a niche object. Off it went to it’s new home with two musicians and I had a pretty fancy Bean to Cup coffee machine in it’s place.

The coffee machine also proved very popular and yet again, I had a lot of offers, including several cash offers which often led to me having to explain that ‘I simply cannot take cash for the item as I’m doing a cash-free challenge’.

The coffee machine has found it’s new home now with an artist who responded to a complimentary comment I put on one of her lovely paintings on social media. I had come across Alice Mary having seen her incredible wall murals upstairs in the Exeter Guildhall Shopping Centre.

Alice offered to create an original painting in exchange for the coffee machine and this is where we are up to in the challenge. I should explain – it is not my idea. This is called the Red Paperclip Challenge which was started by Kyle Macdonald back in 2006 in Canada. Kyle took just over a year and swapped items (from a red paperclip) all the way up to house. This was replicated last year by American Demi Skipper – who took 18 months and swapped 28 items to also make it to a house. I know some people have tried here in the UK but I don’t think anyone has succeeded in reaching a house yet – but that is my dream !

We are in the situation like many families in the UK where saving for an enormous deposit for our own house is virtually impossible – whilst raising a family and paying rent. Doing this challenge requires a set of skills which seem to match my experience – and it seems to be working so far! I love that it’s cash-free as it just shows that not everything has to involve money and it really makes you think about the worth of things and what one person thinks is worth a lot,  another does not – this especially applies to art and I’m really thrilled to have a piece of art as part of this journey. Bartering has been around for thousands of years so really it’s nothing new!

So onto the painting – as I’m hoping you are reading this as you’ve heard about what I’m doing and might want to make me an offer. The painting is an original unique image of Exeter Cathedral on canvas. It’s 80x60cm large and is embossed with gold leaf.

The photos don’t really do Alice’s work justice – it looks much better in real life so let me know if you’d like to see it. I’m actually hoping that a local art gallery here in Exeter might display it for me whilst it’s awaiting it’s new owner.

You can follow more of the journey over on Instagram or Facebook and you can email me at

Thanks for reading.

Mother’s Day after mum has gone

I could be sad this weekend. I could lock myself away and cry. But I don’t feel like crying. I feel like living.

My mum died in December – just four months ago and I have cried and and I have been angry. But also from the day she died and even before, I’ve told myself you have to make the most of every single day in this life. I know it’s a cliche but sitting and holding the hand of someone you’ve loved for four decades while they slip away puts your own life into perspective.

Things seem sharper now. More in focus.

Sure, I still have not-so-great days and I’m not leaping out of bed every day singing The Sound of Music and striking 50 things off my bucket list but I feel like there’s a constant clarity here now – one that I’ve been lucky enough to have glimpses of in the past.

I guess I’m recovering from grieving because the joy I feel in living is a result of experiencing the deep pain of loss. For me grief was a heavy ache in my chest, sometimes a sharper, deeper cut. Intense tiredness and the foggy hazy confusion of the first few weeks. I’ve also felt such a strong desire to let her go, it made me question others who maybe wouldn’t let her go so easily. I feel like my mum had a whirlwind of a life. It picked her up and put her down in various places, good and bad. When I think of her 63 years it seems like a blink. When I think of my 44 years it also seems like a blink. Also – my mum is still with me, I know that, so I don’t feel loss in the ‘gone forever’ sense. Others say how much they miss their loved ones and how they’ll never get to speak to them again. You can speak to them anytime you want. And if you listen very carefully you will hear them talk to you. Try it.

This week has been a particularly spiritual serendipitous one. I’ve actually felt a bit high which scares me as I wonder if there will be a low to follow. I’ve just had to think of things and they’ve happened (yes, really). I’ve stopped to listen to people more, taken time for myself and tried to be more accepting of everything. I think I’ve just slowed down a gear and doing that means I can see everything more clearly along the way. I hope this continues.

My gift to my mother this Mother’s Day is to enjoy my life as she would have wanted me to do – more than anything in the world. I know that 100% because I am a mum too. And if I could only have one wish – it would be, it is…..that my children are happy.

One Month

A month ago yesterday I lost my Mum and I’ve never been less afraid of dying than I am today. Living is the complicated confusing exhausting and sometimes exhilarating part. But mostly mundane, everyday, you-know-what, do what we have to kind of living we all do which makes it hard to ‘live everyday to it’s fullest’. Hard when we’re tired, grieving, working, getting the kids to school and paying the bills.

I sat holding Mum’s hand until she decided to let go. Of the disease, the pain, a colourful, certainly never dull life and her loved ones. And then we all faced the dazed days afterwards, sometimes together, sometimes alone. I said to my brother it will soon be days then months then years since this day. And now as I write this, one month has gone already. I will soon, in the blink of an eye no doubt, be reading this after one year – December 2nd.
In just a few days time my newest nephew will be one whole month old. He is Mum’s 7th grandchild who arrived one week to the day after Mum had gone. I held him when he was less than a day old and the last tender caring kiss a week before became the first nourishing hopeful protective kiss. Life goes on.

To consume or not consume…


Our beloved flat screen television, centre of our living room, has been dying a slow death over the past few months. A flickering, jumping, distorted picture would eventually come back to life after 10 or 20 or even 30 minutes. But a few weeks ago, it didn’t even do this anymore and the television grave (landfill !) beckoned. So we’ve been without a conventional television for several weeks but we’re using our laptops to watch TV and a home theater installed by home theater company atlanta installing professionals, an iplayer mainly or the occasional film. Put it this way – I’m not rushing out to buy a new telly….just yet.

As a family, we’ve downsized a lot over the past 3 years and we try not to have too much stuff. We also try not to buy new things if we can get something second hand or even free. Our extremely comfy (new) double bed was from a lovely lady in Kilmington via Freecycle. My 7 year old son’s latest bike is a hand me down from his step-uncle now in his twenties. I’ve just bought the most gorgeous red jacket from a local charity shop and my latest favourite purple cardi was from the clothes swap at Transition Town Honiton’s Sustainable Saturday in February. It’s not something I can say is a recent transformation, I loved charity shops and antique shops when I was a teenager too, but I did go through my twenties buying mainly new things as we climbed up the career ladder, then got our first house, had our children etc.

I’ve just read George Monbiot’s article ‘Let’s stop hiding behind recycling and be honest about consumption’ and he says “on 24 April, the Committee on Climate Change (a body that advises the UK government) will publish a report on how consumption emissions are likely to rise, and how government policy should respond to the issue. I hope this is the beginning of a conversation we have been avoiding for much too long. How many of us are prepared fully to consider the implications?”

In the local paper today, there’s a piece about a family in Axminster who lost nearly everything in a house fire a couple of weeks ago. There’s a photo of them looking quite happy to be alive and a photo of the charred ruins of their family home. I remember reading about the fire there when it happened and thinking how they all left their house in the morning, a home full of things of sentimental value they’d accrued over their lifetimes – to return at the end of the day to find everything they own had gone literally in a puff (or two) of smoke. I had a similar experience at the age of 17 when my family was made homeless, and all I took with me was what I could stuff into a small bag in a hurry. Luckily I was able to go back a few weeks later and pick up a few more things which meant something to me. By that time, I’d changed my mind about what was important anyway but unlike the family from the fire, I did manage to get my childhood teddy bear, photos and precious books etc, most of which I’ve carted round the country until this day.

I would love to hear your comments, your ideas and views – are you making a conscious effort about what to buy and what not to buy? What things are important to you in your life?