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Friday, March 3, 2017

Don't giveaway your trash

We have a few “thrift stores” in our small community. Along with the stores where you can donate your stuff, there are a couple of consignment-type stores, for lack of a better description.  These little shops open and close fairly often. There simply aren’t enough people with enough money to buy used things, especially with the ease of one-click shopping online. I used to browse these stores, picking up items that I thought I needed or might need in the future. Of course I also prided myself on getting rid of things by dropping boxes or bags full of stuff that I no longer wanted, often times things I had purchased at the very same store. Oh how I wish I had every dollar I spent on something used that I no longer have in my house.  I sure wouldn’t be in tight financial straits right now.

As you may know (if you’ve followed this blog or Hope, Joy and Faith Farm on facebook) I’ve been turning my life into a minimalist journey. I won’t call it a destination as I will be walking the path for the rest of my life. I’ve been giving things away, throwing stuff away, selling some stuff and donating bags and boxes of stuff. I felt pretty good about what I’ve been donating until this weekend. On Saturday I drove out to one of the “thrift stores” that is closing. The person who owns the property took the “managers”  to court to evict them. They are giving everything out there away. Hubby wanted to look for fencing materials and I have been looking for spare silverware for the overnight camp put on by the 4-H office where I work. I knew it was probably bad out there but I was not prepared in any way for what I saw.  I would've taken photos but it somehow didn't feel right. But think about an episode of the tv show Hoarders.

It seems like people have been using that location as a “trash drop-off”. There was everything from metal to tires to old toilets and couch cushions all over the place outside. The people who were running it were also living there and stuff was just being piled. They seemed to have accepted everything that anyone offered, from non-running vehicles to old couches to washer and dryers. Add to that old clothing, old kitchenware, books, records, etc.  It looks like what has happened is that people have been taking everything and anything that they no longer want and off-loading it at this location.  From old college textbooks to grandma’s china closet to clothes that belonged to great-grandpa and no one has the guts to throw it away. Or they figure why pay a dump fee when you can “donate” it at no cost and you don’t have to deal with it. 

Reality is that no one else wants it either, so these stores continue to accumulate junk. Then no one can get in and see what’s in there because there is no room. And the piling continues. There’s no prices written on anything and the people in charge seem to think everything is worth its weight in gold. So if you go in and find something you do want or need, often times the price is more than you are willing to spend because you know it’s not really worth that much. And so the “stuff” stays there, with more and more being added on a daily basis. And maybe it’s not even put on the shelf but piled up in boxes or bags, overflowing until there is no way to see what’s really there.

Why do we feel it’s okay to “donate” stuff we no longer want? Are we feeling guilty because maybe we paid for it and we feel better by giving it to a supposed organization that needs our help? Maybe it was your mom and dad’s first bedroom set from when they got married and it’s still in amazing condition because back then things were actually made to last. You don’t want it because you either already have one or you don’t like the style, so you give it away to a non-profit and get a tax-deduction. All the wine glasses and brandy snifters from great-grandma’s hutch along with the china that great-grandpa brought back from overseas that you hardly ever remember even seeing being used. There’s no way you can just toss that stuff out, right? Because that would be disrespectful of the memories and the life that your ancestors struggled to make better. It wouldn’t be right to just throw away all the cut glass vases and “vintage” carnival glass that were won when a dime landed into them just right at the county fair. 
But wait, you can sell it, right? Or can you. A few years back I actually made some decent money through e-bay sales. Things like cookbooks, glassware and self-reliance magazines actually made me a nice chunk of change. So I’m not going to lie to you. I kind of hoarded some of those things. A huge stack of magazines, some vintage stoneware that I didn’t want anymore and Hallmark ornaments that I felt pretty sure would raise some extra cash. Now that I’m heading down the minimalism path and I’m ready to off-load it, the reality is that none of it seems to be selling online, at least not on E-bay or Amazon. 

So are there other options? I mean, for all of it to go to the dump is really sad, especially if someone can use it. Here's my advice: offer it for free. Contact your local homeless shelters and find out if someone is actually in the process of moving into a home. Chances are they can't afford to buy new stuff. Post it on facebook or craigslist as "free".  Do be cautious, don't welcome strangers into your home.

Follow these tips:

And if a "thrift store" is your last resort, ask them. Don't try to force your stuff on them and PLEASE DO NOT DUMP YOUR GARBAGE ON THEM!!!

There's an app for that... it's called your local dump/transfer facility and if you have to pay for it, that's okay.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ruth, this is a great post. I remember a church bazaar that had to install cameras because of the same problem. People were dumping everything and anything at their door. It's crazy what people do. I remember the lady running the place telling me that they got house plants! And people would leave broken vacuum cleaners with the bags filled with dirt. This place isn't overpriced at all but all of the workers are volunteers and they were getting tired of one sock and one shoe in a garbage bag filled with dirty dishes...I try to sell my stuff first, we have a website here called Kijiji. People go there before Ebay for used stuff. If that doesn't work, I ask our local "guy" (he's just the guy who knows everyone) if anyone he knows needs x, y or z. Failing that, it goes into the dump pile. I HATE waste but sometimes we just don't need all the junk we've accumulated. I'm also striving towards simplicity as much as possible. It's a slow process, but a good learning process too.