The Great Donate- Sprouting and Saving

by - Wednesday, March 29, 2017

This year, I set an ambitious goal for our family- donate or recycle 2,017 items from our home. It sounds crazy, but it isn't as crazy as you think. The average American home has 300,000 objects in it, so giving up 2,017 isn't even 1%. We are taking on this challenge for a number of reasons-

-A cluttered house wastes so much time. I have two small children, and everything in my house needs to be worth the time I am going to spend picking it up off the floor. Less stuff= less to clean= more time to spend actually playing or making or writing this blog.

-Too much stuff keeps us from even knowing what we have. Have you ever bought something at the store only to find you already had it at home? Me too. And that is waste.

- Someone else can use it. We have stuff sitting in wait for us to need it or want it again, but someone else can use that blanket/ coat/ book; now. And if we give it to them, we can do so much good. If they can't afford it, we can help. If they could but get it used instead, we are keeping something out of a landfill. I love that.

- I believe in a re-use culture. Our generation can be the first in quite a while to really appreciate reuse. Part of that is being willing to buy things used. The other part is to keep putting things we aren't using back out for other people to use.



Ok, we are still moving slow! We have had lots of visitors and craziness, but we are still trying to keep things moving out of our house.

The other big thing that happened in the last few weeks is that our Buy Nothing Group sprouted. Sprouting takes place when a Buy Nothing Group gets too large (usually around a thousand people) and it breaks off into smaller groups. Buy Nothing Groups start out as relatively large areas- usually whole towns or swaths of town if you live in a city. These facebook groups allow you to offer things you are ready to get rid of and help someone else out when they make a request. The only big stipulation is that it has to be freely given as a gift. Nothing is exchanged.

One of the coolest things about it is that you meet a lot of people in the process, and you start to build relationships. The person we gifted our Sophie the Giraffe to just gifted me a big pile of materials to use for the class I am teaching. She is heavenly and funny and equally flummoxed by motherhood, and now she is in a different Buy Nothing group, because ours is breaking up.

For this exact reason, people are never excited about a sprout. To build community, you have to invest, and people are bummed to no longer see each other, even when it is just online. But I am so excited.

I am excited because I will be able to walk to almost all of my pick ups from here on out.

I am excited because I now know at least 5 people in my group just as people from other things, because they are my actual neighbors.

But I am mostly excited because a sprout means that things are growing. Not just outward into new states and towns and neighborhoods, but inside as well. Buy Nothing is so dense in our city that our neighborhoods are now the actual neighborhoods. And the more people are participating, the better.

This is our second sprout. The first time was also a bummer, but it was only a year and a half ago, which means that our tiny splinter group tripled in size so freaking quickly. This is amazing, because we need people to participate. I believe in Buy Nothing's radical potential to help us actually know our neighbors, to help people everyday as a part of our routine, and to step away from the cultural push to consume, consume, consume.

So, if you haven't joined a Buy Nothing yet, do it. If you are in a Buy Nothing that hasn't taken off yet, actually talk to your friends and neighbors about it. Once the train gets going, it really does not stop in the best way possible.

But these sprouts do take time, and they really cut into our gifting while we wait for everything to get squared away. I did accept two awesome gifts of essentially garbage that my art class turned into Louise Nevelson assemblages.

So we really only gave away one thing- our wii! It left with a bunch of doodads and got our number up to 379, but essentially that is all that headed out. I feel mixed about it, because we have a lot of good memories of playing Kirby's Magic Yarn on there, but we honestly haven't used it for a year, so it was time to let someone get some actual use out of it. Crazy, I know. But you can only keep so many toys.

Why do we keep things like that? We maybe would have played with it again, but I bet its new owner will get WAY more use out of it than we could. So I feel happy that a 7 year old got his first video game system from us and that it is the least nasty and murdery of all the platforms (Nintendo, I will take you over the other guys any day). I am setting my sights on a weekend of purging (great birthday celebration, right?), so hopefully we will get moving next time.

Progress, not perfection, and I believe we are making progress here.

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