Anna runs the brilliant Instagram account @notneedingnew and is currently writing her first book: The Joy of Enough
Anna’s values speak to the heart of what we’re all about at How to Basically, albeit with a much more stylish slant! She started her account to celebrate second hand stuff after she found herself in a financial position where it was the only way to manage. She embodies a wonderful example of how you don’t need loads of money, or new things, to be stylish, happy and fulfilled.
Thank you Anna for sharing your brilliant tips and stories with us x
Q: What is the most useful item at home which people throw away on a regular basis?
Glass jars! Endless storage solutions for the home and garage. Food safe, heat resistant, microwaveable, dishwasher safe. They can be made into candles, display containers, Christmas presents, insect observation points, plant pots, art pots – just so many ways to reuse them. It’s almost criminal to destroy a jar after it’s been used ONCE for 200ml of jam or pasta sauce and then never use that amazing creation again. Think of the energy and the process and materials that came together in a bit of scientific wizadry to make a glass jar, and then imagine smashing it up after one serving of pasta. Madness.
Q: What is your proudest DIY achievement in your home and why?
Totally alone with no help or support from my builder boyfriend?! That would probably be the little cupboard i bought from the old tip shop in Forest Row and upcycled with Portuguese tile patterns to create a wall cabinet for my second hand treasures.
If we’re talking DIY that I did with Gus’s guidance, I’m really proud of the work I did to ‘blue grit’ all the walls in my flat that I totally renovated on a shoe-string budget. Blue gritting is a process you have to do before plastering; it spreads a blue-tinted sand like mixture across the surface you’re going to plaster as a bonding agent. It meant that I could afford proper plasterers because I had done the non-skilled part of the job myself.
Q: What tools could you not live without and why?
A good tape measure. It’s the tool I reach for more than any other. For every single job I’m doing, there always seems to be some element of sizing that needs to be considered and that tape comes out of the drawer more regularly than anything else!
When I was doing up my flat I have to say that I also fell in love with the simple crowbar. What a brilliant thing that is. I was unstoppable! All the old carpet gripper and broken flooring prizes up in no time. As Archimedes once said, “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I can move the earth” – a crowbar is a thing of simple brilliance.
Q: What is the top piece of advice you’d give to someone trying to live a less wasteful life?
I would encourage them to make a list of all the things in life that they love, that are their own true choices. What I mean is, you can only list something if it’s genuinely a thing that you have always loved without the influence of others. When you have this and you work out what makes you properly happy, it’s so much easier to stop buying and accumulating all the periphery items that you think you need, but don’t actually make your heart sing.
Q: What simple things bring you most joy?
Bluebell woods, a good bar of soap (Claus Porto is my favourite ever) and my morning coffee with my boyfriend who comes over at 6:30am every day to make it for me.
Have you always been practical?
I don’t think I’m particularly practical but I’m a “that’ll do” kind of person. I don’t need absolute perfection. I grew up with 14 brothers and sisters and our hose was crazy. I’m not wedded to domestic minimalism and glistening surfaces so I am ok with my own efforts to put up a shelf or paint a wall. It won’t look as good as a professional job, but I don’t need it to. I am also a bit impatient. If I think that I’ll have a go at sewing a top from an old bedsheet, I have to do the whole thing that night in one hit or I’ll never finish it. I just crack on and have a go.
Can you change a tyre?
Yes!! My dad was a haulage contractor and I was driving vans for him at 17. We had to learn.
Where can you get the best bang for your buck (or freebies!)?
Oh goodness it used to be the tip shop in Forest Row but now I would deffo say it’s the Second Life Community Charity Shop in the village. An excellent place with an ever-changing and fantastic stock of donated items.
We’re very interested in the idea of “enough” - particularly in terms of trying to instil ambition and drive in the children whilst helping them understand the importance of being content and grateful with and for “enough”. Do you have any highlights/top tips around this?
Think about satiation. When you have not had enough food you’re hungry. When you have had too much you feel uncomfortable and unwell. All this stuff we have in our lives is similar. There is a sweet spot where we will be satisfied and still comfortable, It’s when we have enough. Our enough is often way ‘below’ our reality and the weight of looking after all the excess we have collected can make us feel stressed and pressured. It’s actually a liberating thing to begin to trim it back to what is your own enough.
Tell us more about the book you’re writing and when it’s being published
The book I have written is called ‘The Joy of Enough’. I was spotted by a literary agent from Curtis Brown via my instagram account and I have spent the past year putting my proposal together under her guidance. It’s a guide to finding lasting happiness with less and it weaves some great personal stories into the advice. There are practical tasks to to doo! It’s currently our for submission with publishers and I’m hoping that one of them will like it. Fingers crossed!