Now that my family has painstakingly sorted through all of our worldly possessions and done some soul searching about which items were actually useful to us we have to figure out what to do with all the stuff that didn’t make the cut. After all; it would be kind of ridiculous if, after all that talk of reducing waste and conserving resources with simplicity, I hauled all the extra stuff complicating my life to the dumpster.
The most logical answer is to call around to all the local charities and see who needs what in order to help the people they serve. I’ve done that. A large majority of the things we had no use for will find homes with people who need them through the Carmichael Outreach program and our local YWCA. There were also a great many things that were needed or wanted by friends and family so went on to find good homes with them. But I also sectioned out a bag of clothing and accessories for my local thrift shop.
Why do I want to support my local thrift shop? Well, last week’s challenge was all about REDUCING the resources we consume, and everyone knows about RECYCLING (though we will still get to that one soon!), but I think there is a negligently little amount of attention paid to the second of the 3R’s. REUSE!
acquiring things second hand instead of new has so many benefits; It’s cheaper, it’s fun, and it’s about a jillion times better for the environment then buying new (that’s a true fact fancy scientifically calculated number, I swear!). When we get things second hand we keep them from ending up in a landfill, depending on where and how we get things second hand we support our local economy, and we are not buying new items which required new materials and resources to build, ship, stock, and sell.
Yet there is this really subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) message out there that second hand items are only for people who can’t afford to buy new or reserved for your quirky cardigan-wearing hipster friends because only they could really pull it off. And where the stigma against thrifting is a bit of a bummer, try uttering the words ‘free cycling’ ‘swapping’ or ‘bartering’ in the wrong crowd.
Other forms of reusing like repairing and repurposing are becoming more popular, especially in terms of home décor, but even then there is this idea that doing projects like these are difficult and time consuming so most home stores you go to have items that look repurposed but are, in fact, brand new from the factory. How messed up is that!?
This week’s challenge is to reconnect with some trash by thrifting, free cycling, repurposing, refinishing, fixing, or otherwise breathing new life into something destined for the dump. Think of something you need, anything (well maybe not anything). And go out to get it (or build it!) without simply walking into the nearest big box or department store.
Don’t forget our challenge from last week while you head into the racks! Think critically about the items you choose and make sure you aren’t acquiring things you don’t really need.
We have decided to keep an eye out for two things this week. First we would really like to revive our (very) old living room chairs so we’ve been looking at fabric and covers, which are somewhat hard to find second hand but not impossible (I am hoping to stumble upon some really great vintage beanbag chair covers to repurpose). We also discovered last week that the fish tank at our local children’s library started leaking over the holidays and they are having trouble replacing it. We were heartbroken. George the sucker fish and all of his friends are the highlight of our weekly library trips. We talked to the librarian about it and she said the fish had been saved and are now living in someone’s personal tank. We asked about what kind of tank they needed to get George and friend’s back and will be scoping out second hand fish tanks to try and help them out.
If you’re not quite sure where to start your reusing journey here are a few suggestions that may inspire you:
Host a swap: This is a great option for anyone who may be uneasy about using 2nd hand items from strangers. It’s really easy; just figure out what you want to swap (clothing, books, music, video games, kitchen wares ect). Invite a bunch of your friends to bring all their unwanted items to your house and see what you find. It’s always been my experience that swaps like this are really fun and you end up with new-to-you things you love that may have otherwise ended up getting tossed. Any unclaimed items left over at the end of the night can be donated to charity.
Freecycling: is a movement that aims to create free exchanges of unwanted items to conserve resources. Local ad sites are often a great place to connect with people trying to sell their junk but you can usually find a few freecyclers and swappers there too. Also check out FreeCycle.org to find listings of offers and wanted ads from your area. Things like building supplies and other materials can often be found when businesses are renovating or closing down. If asked many companies will let you take materials they would otherwise need to pay to have hauled to the dump free of charge.
Find a thrift or consignment shop: In my experience, smaller thrift shops are choosier about the items they take so while the selection may be smaller then a bigger shop the quality is usually better. Consignment is kind of like thrifting only the shop owners, instead of selling donated or found items, act as a middle-(wo)man of sorts between people who want to sell their second hand items and people who want to buy them while taking a cut of the profit. This system works wonderfully to weed out poor quality items as the consigner won’t waste space and time on items they don’t think they can sell but it also drives up the price a bit.
Communal goods and Co-ops: The most obvious example of communal goods is a library. Instead of a few hundred people each buying their own copy of a book, movie, or other media, a few copies are available to share amongst the community. Depending on where you live you may also be able to find other communal items. I have heard of car co-ops, art supply co-ops, lend-a-bike programs, seed co-ops. The list goes on. So if the item that you want to find this week is something that you will only need to use for a short time or not on a regular basis you may want to consider this option.
Fix or repurpose: Before you get ready to go treasure hunting, consider whether or not you can fix or repurpose something already in your home to fit your needs. The art of fixing things is a dying one it seems because things are becoming so easy to replace. But do you really want to live in a world where everything is replaceable? Where the really great feeling of pride you get from building something with your own hands and good old fashioned ingenuity doesn’t exist? You don’t need to be a great sculpture, or a mechanic, or an engineer to have this feeling, you just need a sense of adventure, a Sunday afternoon, an owners manual or tutorial you found online (optional), a few common (possibly improvised) tools, and possibly a bit of change for your swear jar.
There are a lot of options here and I hope that we can all find some version of this challenge to apply to our unique situations. I hope that many of you will have fun with this challenge, it has so much potential for some wild creativity. I can’t wait to hear about what you all are doing!