Simple Living Series: What to do with the stuff

Hey it’s the fourth part of my series!  Huzzah for sticking to a series!

So having decided I want to live with less I am now forced to look at all of the things I own and decide what to keep and what to get rid of.  Then I have to figure out what to do with the stuff I want to get rid of.  I’ll be super honest and admit that I mostly wanted to throw it away.  Because I have a big trash can and that would be super easy.  And when you make the decision to get rid of it you just want it gone!!!!  But then I did some googling and learned some stuff that changed my mind.

In the United States we throw away enough trash each year to cover the entire state of Texas…twice.

Y’all may not know this but Texas is freaking big.  This is a lot of trash.  250 million tons of it to be exact.  And that trash isn’t going to remove itself.  The waste industry is a $52 billion/year industry.

We throw away enough aluminum for the entire auto industry to build new cars for a year.

Not only that but the average American family also throws away about 6 trees worth of paper every year.  We dump most of the magazines printed in the U.S. each year (about 8 million tons) into landfills. If we recycled just half of them, we could save over 12 million cubic yards of landfill space.  Americans throw away enough used motor oil every year to fill 120 supertankers.

Ok I think you get my point.  We are throwing away a lot of stuff that could be recycled or reused.  And all that trash has an impact globally.  We generate 21.5 million tons of food waste each year. If we composted that food, it would reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas as taking 2 million cars off the road.  There are 5 known garbage patches floating in our oceans from trash that didn’t make it into landfills.

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
        reflecting our nature
    So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
        the birds in the air, the cattle,
    And, yes, Earth itself,
        and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
    God created human beings;
        he created them godlike,
    Reflecting God’s nature.
        He created them male and female.
    God blessed them:
        “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
    Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
        for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

~ Genesis 1: 26-28

God gave us responsibility over the Earth and told us to be good stewards, to be responsible, for all the things in it.  God’s beautiful creation is ours to care for and marvel at.  And we’ve gotten really good at filling it with trash.

In light of all of that there was no way I could throw away my purge-stuff and feel good about it!  The idea isn’t just to get rid of stuff but to learn to live with less- to be a good steward of my resources.  So once again I turned to the Internet.  I got online and have been selling stuff on online yard sales in my area!  I just take a picture of the thing I’m looking to find a new home for, post it online with some info and a price and wait.  And I haven’t had to wait long.  So far I have sold: curtains, a bag of work clothes, a box of picture frames, a shadow box, and 2 glass pumpkins.  Next on the chopping block are scarves, purses, and shoes.  I’m not selling it for much but it only takes $30 to fill my gas tank so a few things at $5 goes a long way to putting extra dough in my pocket which is really just a bonus since I wanted to get rid of the stuff anyway!  This can be a hassle if you don’t have the time to photograph each thing, post about it, and respond to any questions or comments.  Plus you do you have to meet up with whoever you are selling the item to unless you ship it, which has its own set of hassles.  I’ve just started sticking the items for sell in my trunk so that I’m ready to meet up with any buyers any time of day without having to run home real quick.  So far it hasn’t been an issue.

One of the things I quickly discovered was that there were somethings I couldn’t donate or sell.  For instance, when I was 9 my grandfather got me a nutcracker for Christmas.  He passed away from cancer that year and it was the last gift he gave me.  For years afterward family members would give me nutcrackers until I had quite the collection.  And I loved them.  They remind me of my grandfather who has now been gone 20 years.  My grandmother who passed away in 2008 usually gave me a nutcracker and so they’ve become a cherished memory of her as well.  But living in small spaces meant not having a place to display my collection and over the years my beloved nutcrackers have taken up permanent residence in storage units, attics, and spare closets.  So when I started going through my things I had to make a decision on whether or not to keep the nutcrackers.  I don’t want to sell them; they are priceless to me.  And I don’t think donating them makes any sense either.  So I’ve been giving them away to loved ones and I have to say I feel really good about it.  I have kept back 4 out of the 28 that have a special meaning for me and I have found other people who can cherish and love my other nutcrackers and what they mean to me.  So if you have heirlooms or gifts that have sentimental value but that don’t meet your criteria for keeping them think about who else would love to receive them as a gift.

There are plenty of other ways to find new homes for your stuff.  You can donate nice clothes to women’s shelters or community closets.  There are some cool organizations who help people improve their lives and provide for themselves by giving them professional clothing to go on job interviews.  And if you have some old formal dresses you want to get rid of you can also donate to groups like Operation Prom to help a young man or woman who wouldn’t be able to afford dress clothes  go to prom.  Then your stuff can become something that gives hope and joy to someone else!  What a great way to fight against consumerism and make your stuff work for you again!  I’ve also checked out Freecycle but haven’t posted anything on there yet or found anyone looking for what I’m giving away so I can’t say for sure how that one works but I’ll let you know if that changes (if you’ve used it please let me know how it’s worked for you!).

So that’s the plan: sale, give, and donate.  My 3 ways of simplifying my stuff without contributing to the landfills and waste!  There’s a lot of joy in knowing that someone else is finding enjoyment from my things.  Do you have any other tips, tricks, or thoughts on how to find new homes for our stuff?  I’d love to hear about it!  Happy purging!

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