Sunday, July 08, 2007

Gone Booting!

Today's musing is about how much that is bought here
(in an average high street)...

...ends up here!
(an average Sunday morning car boot sale)

I can bear witness to this, following my experience of being dragged (er..I mean encouraged) by my friend Ada to the Woolpit Car Boot Sale today.

The morning started with a sharp wake-up at 5am, with just enough time to get everything together, before Ada turned up in her van.

We chug-chug-chugged along the A14 to Woolpit (in what felt like the car-booter wacky races) to set up our pitch, amidst the gathering of the early vultures, pecking at the bones of our collective clutter.

After enjoying the first hour in sunshine, with the odd sale made along the way...along came a man, who had sold Ada's husband the van...he'd recognised it from ten feet away (apologies for the sudden trip into rhyming text).

Ada & the man comparing vans
(you can see the man's new van just in the centre at the back)

Other highlights included a visit from our friend Norma, modelling the wackiest item that could be found at the Boot Sale today.

Below is the stall that takes today's prize for the largest collection of cuddly toys...

...and here is the most relaxed stall-holder of the day, enjoying the first day of sunshine in July.

...and back to our pitch... gee-whizz was it hard work. By the end of the morning, I reduced most things to 10p to try and get rid of them, as I was determined not to come back with the clutter that I was so desperate to get rid of.

I didn't do too badly in decluttering, only returning with a couple of baskets of items, but in terms of profit, I only just managed to collect £40. Ada on the other hand seemed to return with a larger amount of items, but managed to pull in a fantastic £100. You can see who's better at this game can't you!

There must have been over a hundred stall-holders at the car-boot sale today, all busy sitting there with their eclectic range of items, from traders to collectors, all waiting for people to part with their cash. With this number, the income for the boot-sale organisers must have been around about £700.

Research carried out by Prudential in 2005 has revealed that over 10 million people in the UK have had a car boot stall and almost £1.5bn is spent at car boot sales every year, with the most popular items being books, followed by toys, clothes and music. This was the typical fayre at the boot-sale this morning.

Although it is a great way of getting some cash for what are now redundant items, it did make me evaluate how much my family has spent over the last decade on things to keep us entertained and to make our house look lovely. What was yesterday's pleasures are today's clutter. Have those experiences really justified the money spent in the past, concluding with today's efforts in trying to get-rid of just some of the clutter (for a mere £40)?

I am beginning to think not. The videos, the many children's toys (lots of which have been bestowed on us) and baby gadgets which seemed a must at the time, have all resulted in short-lived satisfaction, growing in number and gradually swallowing up what little space there is in our home!

On one hand the car boot sale is a god-send for both buyers and sellers alike and a must for recycling our belongings, but on the other hand it is also a depressing graveyard of consumerism, with people picking over the bones of our dim and distant lifestyles.

So will there be another boot sale for me? Well there is plenty of stuff still left in the loft and Ada has just sent me a note asking if I fancy it again next Sunday, so maybe! However, the Prudential research has also revealed that Wales is one of the more profitable places to hold a boot sale, with typical earnings coming in at £80. So I think we should get in the van, cross the river Severn and make our fortunes in Cymru. We could get to visit our respective relatives at the same time, killing two birds with one stone! Don't worry Ada, I only jest.

Anyway, If you are getting inspired to dust down your own clutter and find a car boot sale near you, visit

If you want to follow up some interesting academic research about how we end up wanting to get rid of our goods in the first place, have a look at the excellent paper written by
Professor Nicky Gregson, (Department of Geography, University of Sheffield) entitled: Disposal, Devaluation and Consumerism: or how and why things come not to matter.


Councillor Paul Farmer said...

Mrs F and I have de-cluttered several times at Woolpit over the years. The trick is not to ask too much, unlike the many who ask a ridiculous price and end up selling nothing.

I shall never forget the first time we arrived. As we were parking the car the collectors crowded round us like vultures. It was quite frightening. They foraged over the goods as we tried to get them out of the car, in one case buying all our glasswear (no doubt a shop owner) before moving on to intimidate the next vehicle arriving.

We have got rid of a lot over the years, and made a few quid. But we always go home via the dump. Yes it is all a bit depressing 21CM. I hadn't thought about the futility of the consumerism until you so eloquently expressed it.

a.n.other said...

Last week I tried to sort out my wardrobes, a charity bag from G.O.S.H spurred me on.
I did fill the bag,I could have filled several, and it left me feeling a bit down to be honest.
Why do we all buy so much 'stuff',when we don't really need it, and sometimes can't actually afford it?
The shops have been very obliging, staying open longer and longer hours,seven days a week
Unfortunatly, for retail workers, Bank Holidays and Sundays have become,often reluctantly, just another working day, with families having to take a back seat.
Shopping can be fun,but it seems to have become a pastime,something to fill our leisure hours, replacing things that could actually be REALLY fun....and a lot less expensive!

Nigella said...

Well done 21st CM, this is precisely at the heart of what upsets me about todays materialistic society - the fact that so many people feel the need to have something "new" at great expense, rather than in excellent condition but secondhand.

This is why landfill sites are fit to burst and children are being raised with little value for money and underdeveloped work ethics. Who remembers the special excitement of Christmases long gone when recieving was such a treat? I even looked forward to my satsuma fromm the stocking with relish (LOL!!)

That is why I feel initiatives like the Freecycle website are so valuable, as is sharing things with friends - particularly when children are young. One mans rubbish is another mans treasure (and thats how I recently acquired Jason Donovans greatest hits for 99p on Ebay!)

Now stepping down from soapbox to bake some muffins................

Austen said...

I cleared a load of junk at woolpit last year and made a tidy little sum. It was really hot, though, and was exhausted for the rest of the day!

Did you see Antiques Roadshow last night? A lady bought a bunch of jewellery items for 10p each the week before - a couple were quite nice, worth £40 or so - but one was a platinum-set bracelet, with diamonds and pearls, worth about £1000! Nice little find...

21st Century Mummy said...

Paul - I know what you mean about the vultures. This is always a shock to the first-time car-booter. I was almost left shaken by my first visit as a stall holder five years ago in Hemel Hempstead. Oh, and the futility of consumerism (great phrase) glad this post is making an impact.

a.n.other - I completely share your frustrations. I think it all seems to go back to the 80s, when there was a big drive for everyone to aim for the bigger and the better and take out loans to get there. Until then, I remember that having a loan to purchase anything was an embarrassment. Of course being a modern child I have lived the experience. It all has to stop because all this over-production of throw-away items has led to the change in climate that we are experiencing today! Bring back half-day & sunday closing - I say - and give families a chance to bore themselves into doing something more interesting.

Nigella - eh that Satsuma at the bottom of the stocking! I was the only one to not get one last Christmas because the children had eaten them all before 21st C Dad (erm Father Christmas) had chance to organise my stocking. So I ate his instead ;-). I know what you mean though about the effect on children and something needs to be done to get back to enjoying the simple and non-expensive fun that can be had. I'm as guilty as many, indulging my first-born in the odd toy here and there, just to keep him entertained as a toddler. I am glad I've got wise to it all. The question you have to experience the madness first to realise the futility of it all before you can move on...or can awareness and education really help? Interestingly, Tracey Smith of National Downshifting Week is petitioning government to introduce
Environmental/Sustainable Living lessons into the national curriculum, throughout nursery, infant, primary and secondary education. If anyone is interested in finding out more, have a look at
Great point about Freecycle by the way. Again, interested readers should take a look at

Austen - I think we had the same weather as you did...almost sunburnt by 9am! Thank goodness for the sun protection cream. Blimey that lady was very lucky...what a result!