Humble Beginnings

Updated: Oct 8, 2018

Hello, I'm Sol, and I would love to tell you about my story, and how PRESENCE not presents was born.

It all started about 2 years ago, when I was the manager of a little charity shop in Manchester. I used to love working there so much: I loved the people - the warm, giving, generous people; the wider community - people that cared, coming together to support each other, lend a hand and help a cause; I loved the fun, the giggles and the total randomness of it all - every single day was different; and I loved the recycling and reusing aspect - diverting things from landfill and raising money for charity at the same time. I was a charity shop queen, practically everything my family owns or has ever owned was either found in a clearance or a charity shop and it has been this way for as long as I can remember. Why buy something new when it already exists in a charity shop somewhere, at a much better price, at no extra expense to the planet?

One thing I noticed over the years was how many things my customers would buy, and then re-donate months later. I noticed the same faces every day. They didn't come to buy anything in particular, they came because they were lonely. They came for the friendships and the laughter, and to spend their time, and would end up spending their money too. Over the years, it really dawned on me how much stuff people were getting rid of. Bin bags and bin bags and bin bags of stuff every single day.

Obviously I was grateful for these generous donations so we could try and sell them to make money for our charity and put them to good use again by giving them new homes but I did start to wonder... Why are all these things being given away, how much stuff was being donated on a daily basis around the world, and what was it all being replaced with? Was everyone just bored of their stuff and fancied a change around? Did they just have too much clutter? Where did all this stuff come from? Why do people need more stuff? When did shopping get so important? When did we get so pre-occupied spending our precious time and money on stuff?! And the strangest part is, it seems to have crept up upon us, pulled the wool over our eyes and we didn't even notice! It seems like we work all day to pay our bills, and spend quite a large percentage of our remaining non-working, non-sleeping hours spending the money that is left over on stuff that we probably didn't need. I know I was, and my customers certainly were.

One surprising thing you might not know about charity shops is how many brand new things are donated. We'd see at least 2 or 3 beautiful things, brand new in a packet, donated every single day, much more at the end of term or after Christmas. These things were obviously bought as gifts by well-meaning friends and family members, unwanted, unneeded, unsuitable and unnecessary, and they would end up in my shop. These things would invariably be wrapped in plastic, probably be made in a sweatshop or a pollution causing factory or both, and the time and the money spent by the original buyer could have been put to much better use. I couldn't help thinking that if people spent more time with each other and bought less stuff then they would be happier. So I walked to my office to write that down. And in that 30 second walk to my office, #PRESENCEnotpresents was born.

I loved that shop. It gave me a lot of experience, some wonderful memories, some fantastic friends and some inspiration. But I knew that it was time for me to #bepartofthesolution

It is my hope that PRESENCE not presents will be an easy to navigate, simple platform which encourages spending more time with loved ones making memories, and less money on stuff. I truly hope that with less possessions, less clutter, less waste, and less time spent trawling from shop to shop, that both people and planet will be happier. By shopping here you can choose presence over presents, reduce waste, bring joy and spread love.

And support a Mum with a small business and a big dream.

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