Could you Get Rid of 2,017 things for 2017?

by - Monday, January 09, 2017

the great donate 2017 empty clean room

A video has been floating around Facebook this week about how Americans are addicted to stuff (you can see it on my facebook page). In it, there is a little George Carlin quote that puts our addiction to shopping perfectly into perspective-

"That's all your house is. A place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff."

Gah, so true.

Americans do have a lot of stuff. In fact, we all have way too much stuff. The average American home has over 300,000 objects in it. Think about that. If the average cost of one is 10 dollars, we have 3 million dollars put into a home full of things we mostly don't need. That's a lot of plane tickets or donations or amazing experiences.

 At first, our hoarding might not seem like an environmental issue (more like we are all living in light, less feces-filled versions of Hoarders), but it causes all sorts of problems.

We don't know what we have. We buy repeats of things we already own. How many sets of cards do you have in your house? How many big nights of bridge are you hosting? We repeat purchases because we simply cannot keep track of 300,000 things. 

We burn up fossil fuels and waste natural resources. American overconsumption has been pretty clearly linked to pollution and other environmental problems (hello, Climate Change). Our stuff travels long distances (more than most of us travel) burning fossil fuels as it comes. Think about how much power and energy it takes to make and move all these things we don't need or even want enough to pay an ethical amount for.

We create massive amounts of waste. This is a biggie. Let's look at clothes. Americans across the board have way too much clothes, most of which is unethically made to keep it very cheap. For example, on average, we own 39 pairs of shoes per household. So if your home has 2 people in it, you could wear a different pair of shoes every day for 2 weeks and still have some left over. This is all well and good (and makes me think of those celebrity Cribs closets with all that stuff, Mariah Carey is probably moving the average number up all by herself). We all have more clothes than we need, and cheap "fast fashion" keeps selling us on trends when we are in no danger of heading out naked.

The problem is that the average american makes about 65 pounds of textile waste a year. A year! Americans as a whole are tossing out billions (yes billions) of textile waste every year. And with polyester and other plasticy textiles out there now, tons of this will never biodegrade. That's just the clothes.

Alright, so that's a bummer, but the damage is already done, right? 

Well, we definitely can all work on buying less this year, but we can also do a world of good by turning our spring cleaning into a spring gifting. It's going to do a world of good to minimize the stuff in our house, especially when we pass those objects on to further use (NOT a landfill)

-You can Save Money, Skip Repeats- We buy so many things because we aren't sure whether we have it or not. Just removing doubles can clear some of the house and help you redefine what you actually "need."

- You get a Clearer House and Clearer Schedule. Cleaning out our stuff helps us have a much stronger sense of what we already have and what we actually need. The other big benefit of getting things out is that you will spend less time fighting through those same piles of clutter that just get moved from corner to corner (this is even truer for those of us with toddlers. You can test everything in your house by asking if it is worth an extra hour of cleaning, because picking things up off the floor a thousand times adds up).

- You Get to Help Others. What a nice thing, right? Lots of kids are out in the world with no toys, so if you give them 1/3 of your kids, you are really doing something good. Homeless people all over our country need warm blankets, hats, and socks. Like the ones in your closet. You can give away your wedding dress to a military bride or gift your old Christmas card to a fundraiser for kids with cancer. There are real things like this out there and EVERYWHERE, the trick is just to find them. So we are going to work on that.

- You Keep the Earth Cleaner. We have all been part of a purge before where you are so desperate to get things clean and quick that tons of useful stuff heads right to the dump. It may feel freeing, out of sight out of mind, but that stuff all goes somewhere, and it is polluting our world.

But the best part is you are actually doing double the good. Because you are not only keeping your stuff out of the landfill, but by giving it to someone else to use, they won't have to buy one as well. So you have cut consumption in half (at least! If we are talking baby clothes, a onesie can go through 5 or 6 kids before it's time to call it) AND one less thing will EVER make it to the landfill.

This, to me, is also a Christian mission. Jesus was pretty clear with the rich man (who could be any of us) that he needed to be willing to give up all his stuff and follow him, and the man balked at the suggestion. I spend a lot of time thinking about this story, because now I get that the request may seem like a sacrifice, but it also seems super liberating. It was a test, yes, but it was also a chance to be freed from the things that bound him most. I also don't think it is a coincidence that Christ's most notable moment of anger was about commerce infiltrating holy spaces. Our stuff absolutely gets in the way of our spiritual mission and our call to love others.

You may say "But B, we really don't have that much to give up" or "well, we did a big purge last year, so there isn't much left." If you have more than you absolutely need, then you can give some away. You will be surprised what you find to gift.

If we tithe 15% of our income to church every year, it makes sense to me that we would also tithe 15% of our stuff (that's 45000 objects. That's how out of control this problem is. I am suggesting a little over 1%) to people who need it more than we do.

You certainly don't have to be a Christian to see a ton of value in giving to others while also simplifying your own life. Reusing items isn't just about charity cases. We all need to fall in love with buying and offering used stuff to change our economy and .

Our generation has to be the first one to completely let go of the false promises of "new" and "having it all" if we don't want our children's world to look like the beginning of Wall-E. This isn't all that hyperbolic; our oceans are literally filling with plastic, our atmosphere is burning with smoke, and we destroy more every year with the model passed down to us. We need to share what we have and redefine what we need. We need to let go of things we don't use so someone else can use them and that much less lands in the garbage. If we all do this, we will have more money to buy the things we can't find used, and we will keep thousands of pounds of perfectly good stuff out of a landfill. That's amazing.

So here is the challenge. 

The Great Donate 2017 aims to get 2,017 items out of our home and into someone else's use

And I want you to try it too.

Send 2,017 items out of your home for re-use elsewhere. In other words, you can take your unneeded stuff and...

-Gift them. Who doesn't love some hand me downs? Your siblings or niece or neighbor down the road could use something that is old hat to you. People are struggling to make ends meet. It isn't a problem way out there somewhere, but a challenge so many you already know are facing. Especially for the biggest things (furniture, plate sets) and the smallest things (granola you aren't going to eat, old hangers, excessive nail clippers, etc), personally offering them makes sense.

 You could also try joining a freecycle group or the amazing Buy Nothing Project, which I constantly pimp because they build community, help you get rid of your stuff, and keep massive amounts of seeming junk out of landfills. If you haven't heard about them, check out their site and consider joining your local group. If you have but there is no group where you are, consider starting one and you will have done your good deed for the year.

- Donate them. So many things you don't need anymore could be of great use to an organization or individual. You can start with Goodwill or Salvation Army, but there are even places to donate old greeting cards, used wedding dresses, or the junky old sweaters no one wants to wear (Goodwill will take them too- please don't throw any textiles away in 2017).

-Sell them. Like I said, re-use doesn't have to be all about charity cases. If we all considered buying things used first, we could save tons of money, be more intentional about our shopping, and keep tons of good out of landfills. So, let this be the year you check out consignment stores or antique shops for clothes, kids' stuff (seriously, there is no reason to buy kids' stuff new), and house goods. You can also sell some of your least used stuff there. They also have TONS of facebook groups for Buying, Selling, and Trading (not to mention eBay), so check if your neighborhood has one. You may make a bit of money, and you know the person who bought it really wants it.

-Recycle them. Once you have tried all the other options (and before you toss all that trash), be sure you know what your recycling options are. Plastic film from your groceries can go back to some grocery stores to be recycled. Some lumber places will accept wood to make chips. There are so many options that might surprise you.

Very important to remember...

- Items you just throw away don't count toward that 2,017. In fact, I am going to try to do research on as many types of waste as possible to as few items as possible just end up in the garbage. This isn't just a challenge about spring cleaning your house (though that is good too) it's about acknowledging that so much of what we toss could still be useful to someone, and putting it back into the world to get more life.

2,017 is a big number (though it isn't even 1% of the 300,000 in your home), and I know digging into those piles or corners that never quite get worked through is an intimidating task. But we can all do this, the key is to just get started.

Here are some easy tips to get started-

1. Make a plan- My goal is to have 2,017 items donated this year, and I plan to do the bulk of that before March 31st. That means we have a big purge in store. But trying to take everything on at once just leaves me feeling overwhelmed, so I am going to do it one room at a time. There are about 12 weeks between now and the end of March, so I am planning to do about a room a week. Pace yourself in a way that makes sense for you, but writing the plan down creates a real commitment.

2 Join Local Gifting Groups- Check out your local Buy Nothing or Freecycle groups (or start one!). Go visit your local consignment stores. Get a sense of what need is most immediate to you, and make giving a part of your regular facebooky life.

3. Make a Space- When we are gifting a lot on Buy Nothing, our dining room gets taken over by stuff waiting to be picked up. It can be a hot mess, but then it is all gone. The age old wisdom is that to really clean, first you have to make a bigger mess. It's so true, so make sure you have a place for all that stuff to go on their way out the door, or you might go crazy and give up.

4. Establish a Stuff Purgatory- You run across things that would be useful if you just knew where the cord was, or that you would give to a certain person but you have to see if they want it. Have a space for those things. After a month, if they are still there, then they have to be donated. No reason to keep a big collection of question marks in your house.

5. Turn your Hangers- Turn all your hangers the wrong way. When you put clean (see, used) clothes away, you can turn the back to the correct way. At the end of this season, see what never got used. Do this all year long, and you will be able to easily assess. Have too much kitchen stuff? Put a sticker on each and take it off when you use it. You get the idea; there are a lot of ways to self-assess here.

6. Just Start! I know it can be intimidating to take that first step, but pick a closet and go. Once you start to shave things down, you will get that freeing, lighter feeling, and that can help you pick up momentum. I am going to write about this again next week, so have a goal to have given something away by then.

Alright, I will check in from week to week with lots of answers on where to donate things. Be sure to come back to the site and let me know your goals and how it is going! If you have a good pile going out, take a picture with the hashtag #greatdonate2017, so I can oogle your awesomeness. I will update you on our progress as well. It's a big challenge, but in a month or two, you will be so glad you did, and hundreds of other people will be putting your dust-catchers to use. That's amazing!

We are going through so many of the things you might want to purge. If you want specific answers, they may be here already. Check-

Worn Out Clothing
Old DVDs
VHS Tapes
CD and DVD Cases
Dishes, Glasses, and Silverware
Old Greeting Cards

If you have specific things you want to get rid of, but you aren't sure how to do it, please ask me! I will do the research for you to make things as easy and simple as possible.

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  1. Ah! I have already started but I didn't take a picture! Between goodwill and using LetGo, I have already started my big purge.

  2. my mum has just passed away and i would like somebody to take her clothes to a charity shop and also got a lot of coat hangers is anyone interested got to rid of them quick. Thank You



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