Thursday, May 14, 2020

More Than Enough

It must have been the church rummage sale that made me realize what’s eventually going to happen to all my stuff. My old church has an annual “Spring Fling” rummage sale that earns a couple thousand dollars and helps church folk declutter. 

For years, I looked forward to the sale. I put stuff aside in the winter. I waited for the day when the church would open a storage building so I could take my old crap by the carload and send it to elsewhere. 

I relied on that rummage sale and Goodwill for decades to ease my slightly squeamish feelings about making room for more stuff. The house holds a finite amount of possessions and as people that won’t utilize a storage unit and insist on parking cars in the garage, sometimes (read: before gift giving holidays) some things have to go. And of course, someone really wants our cast offs. They pay for the privilege!

I made it all the way to the 2010s feeling passably okay about this system. Get rid of old stuff (help the needy). Get new stuff (enjoy several days of entertainment from my own cleverness).

A shelf in my dining room full of stuff that’s 
not sparkin’ joy.

And then I helped clean up after the rummage sale. It was difficult to believe anyone bought anything because so much stuff was still there. Not just crappy stuff other people donated. No, my stuff was still there too. We worked diligently, the people of God, to pile these things near the door to be picked up by Goodwill. 

No one buys much of that stuff at Goodwill. Reporting from NPR puts it at 30%, meaning 70% is trash that got moved around a lot.

Eventually, it ends up in a landfill. 

I realized that post rummage sale day that I was putting a variety of intermediate steps between my stuff and its final resting place. But I wasn’t extending its useful life or helping someone less fortunate. I was only assuaging my own guilt by sending things on a complicated journey with the same destination as the neighborhood garbage truck. 

Life changed when I looked around and thought about a bulldozer pushing my earthly possessions into a heap. I visualized it frequently as my awareness grew. All the knickknacks, the plastic junks picked up from Dollar Stores and Five Below, even useful things like kitchen utensils and shoes and books. All of it is just killing time with me before it encounters that trash heap. 

I’ve become much more intentional about consumption as a result. In the pre-Covid days when walking through the aisles at Target was still an acceptable pastime, I didn’t. I stopped looking at the things. I stopped buying the things and when it becomes necessary to replace something that’s broken, I take time to figure out whether our need is true or if I’m just looking for a moment’s relief in the consumerism. 

Before Christmas, I sent a letter to all the people that usually give gifts. I explained that we have everything we could need or want and that the only way to keep stuff out of the landfill is by not buying it. If you read my post about Mother’s Day, you’ll see that this tracks. I destroy holidays. Everyone listened though and we brought in very little in new material possessions while still celebrating family with food and togetherness and homemade holiday puns. 

An example of a fine Christmas pun.
Would anyone buy this from a Goodwill store?

Since we’re not buying new stuff, I’m not getting rid of things the way I used to. The plan is to have a big “moving” sale before we leave this house. The tchotchkes will have several chances to be enjoyed by someone else before they make their way to the dump. But I’m not going to get rid of useless things to make room for new useless things. And I’m not going to use shopping as entertainment. I already have more than enough.