On being … of use

By Ingrid Sapona

The late comedian George Carlin had a great routine about “stuff”. If you aren’t familiar with it – or if you haven’t seen it for awhile (it goes back more than 30 years!) – check it out on YouTube. (I bet it’s the funniest five minutes you’ll have today!) 

The most memorable point Carlin made in that bit was the idea that each of us see our “stuff” as things of value, but we see other peoples’ stuff as junk. That thought echoes in my head whenever I begin going through my things with an eye toward donating stuff I no longer need.

Of course, a little self-censorship when deciding what to pass along and what to put in the garbage bin is a good thing. After all, no charity wants that oven mitt with the hole in the thumb, or the half-full tubes of acrylic paint from that art class you took a couple years ago – that stuff is junk. But what about the half-used rolls of Christmas wrap, or the dozens of Altoids tins you’ve got floating around in a desk drawer? Many would see those things as junk, but a crafter may have some use for them.

Over the past year I wrote about clearing out my Mom’s house in preparation for selling it. If all goes well, the closing will happen in February. So, I’ve been reflecting on the work that’s led up to this happy/sad point. Most of the work related to dealing with the 50+ years worth of “stuff” in the house and my efforts to minimize what went to landfill. Or, as I preferred to think of it – finding the right place for all our stuff.

Some of it was easy. For example, two dozen boxes of books went to a charity book sale. A refugee resettlement group got lots of the home furnishing. We also did kind of an estate sale (basically an up-scale garage sale that someone else runs for you). Boxes of crafting odds and ends went to an elementary school art teacher we knew, and so on. But, in the end, there was stuff that ended up going into the recycle bin or the trash.

There was one outlet for getting rid of stuff a friend told me about that I didn’t get a chance to use, but that I have been fascinated about since – it’s called freecycling. Trash Nothing is a freecycle network that has groups all over the place. Members of the group post messages describing items they’re giving away (offers) or stuff they’re looking for (wants). No selling or trading is allowed – all items must be offered free. Members contact each other directly and the person who wants what someone is offering arranges to pick it up.  

You have to be a member of the group to post, and membership is usually limited to folks who live in the same area. I joined a Trash Nothing group where Mom’s house is. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up using it because it would have been hard to arrange for folks to pick up stuff I might offer, since I live out-of-town. But, I love the idea behind Trash Nothing so much, I’ve continued getting emails about “wants” and “offers”.

I’m intrigued by the things people offer, and humbled by the things people are seeking. This week, for example, someone posted this offer: “Hundreds of used (cassette) tapes – metaphysics and self improvement tapes which can be taped over”. Most of the offers include quite down-to-earth comments, like that suggestion about being able to tape over the cassettes. Here’s another one: “Parting with this Coffee pot because we switched over to Keurig and it's been sitting around taking up precious counter space. It's in Great working condition, clean, could probably use a new water filter...” Sounds like she’s gonna miss that coffeemaker, doesn’t it? I’m sometimes struck by the seemingly trifling things people offer – things that others might unceremoniously toss into the garbage. Here’s an example of what I mean: “I have many (well over 30) recipe cards from various meal delivery services. Some from my own deliveries and most from someone else who gave them to me. I’ve scanned those I'm using, the originals can go to a new home.”

As for “want” posts, they’re often quite moving, like this recent one: “Looking for beds, futon, or air mattress for my children. We are all sleeping on the floor and aren't sleeping too well. We still need dressers, shelving, table and chairs. Beds are most important. Thanks”. Here’s another: “Mom of 4 starting over from scratch. In need of everything. 3 year old girl, 11 year old boy, teen girls in need of toys, storage, kitchenware, pots and pans. Beds, dressers, we literally need everything again. Very grateful for help. …”

And then there are some very practical, straightforward requests, like this: “I am looking for a medium sized dog crate for a mini-border collie/Australian shepherd puppy I will be getting soon. I can pick up anywhere (in the area of the network). Thanks!” I’d never think to ask strangers for this kind of thing, but I’m sure there are folks whose dogs have outgrown their crate, so why not let them know you need one.

The Trash Nothing posts are a great reminder that just because something – some stuff – is no longer of use to you, it doesn’t mean it’s junk. I don’t think folks who participate in Trash Nothing networks are necessarily out to prove George Carlin wrong, but …

So, if you’ve ever doubted that anyone else might have a use for junk – er, stuff – you no longer want, there’s an easy way to find out: just offer it on a freecycle network. I bet there’s someone out there who’d find a use for the stuff.

© 2018 Ingrid Sapona


On being … avoidance behavior

By Ingrid Sapona

Baby it’s cold out side…

So, rather than burrowing under the covers and risk Vitamin D deficiency, I decided to avoid the cold and head south. Way south… (Mexico, to be exact.)

I’ll be back at the at the end of the month, so stay tuned.

And by all means – stay warm!

© 2018 Ingrid Sapona