Some of us are better at managing stuff than others. There are many factors that determine how much stuff you have and how you manage it, but it is very clear that we, as a rule, have way too much. If you are making a mental inventory to determine where you stack up amongst your neighbors, be sure to include all the stuff that you hauled off to the transfer station. Your place may be neat and clean now, but what you sent to the landfill is still your stuff. I think our stuff problem has gotten worse. I suspect that the extra space we seem to need in a house these days is just a place to put more stuff. If that doesn’t suffice, we have a growing business in rented storage space.
I prefer the traditional Vashon style for extra stuff. My place would be considered by many to be a bit cluttered. Having the luxury of extra land out of the sight of others, I have chosen over the years to scrounge cheap or free items that I felt might come in handy at some point (slippery slope!). At the same time, sweeping stuff under the rug as we all do when we take things to the transfer station, instead of placing something of intrinsic value back into use is a personal failure to me. Thus, you will find many items sitting around my place that are waiting for their call to duty. My place pales in comparison to some of the prime examples of home aggregation that we have here on Vashon, but that doesn’t let me off the hook. As I am getting older, my need to deal with this stuff gets more urgent. I need to become a freecycle samurai. I’m open for suggestions – other than throwing it all in the landfill.
About 90% of the clothes and household items that I buy come from Granny’s Attic. One of the distinct advantages of living in an upscale community is the high quality of used items that get discarded. The intellectual caliber of our community accounts for the wide range of really interesting books to be found there. The library is the best, but if you bring your books back to Granny’s you are doing the same thing. Granny’s provides an incalculable benefit to our community both in providing a place to bring or buy quality stuff, and in giving the proceeds to worthy groups. Unfortunately, because of their high standards, there is no place to bring furniture, clothes, and other items that don’t meet those standards. Much of that can be recycled in some way, but that is usually downcycling (using as scrap for some other product) and wastes the major part of the value originally invested in an item. Another item that goes to the landfill is electric appliances, many of which need little repair to be made useful again.
Solving this last dilemma is where the Fix-it Café comes in. We have been holding the Fix-it Café twice a year for about three years now. Many a piece of furniture, lamp, vacuum cleaner, piece of clothing, jewelry, or what-have-you has been repaired and often with an owner now much more savvy about how to fix it next time. These repairs are done at no cost to the owner due to the fact that our fixers do it for the fun and the challenge. The next Fix-it Café will be this Saturday, Oct 19, 10-4 pm at the Eagles Hall south of town. We like unusual items that present an extra challenge. No machines with volatile fluids please, i.e., gas engines. Kids who love to take things apart love it there, so bring ’em along. And your purchase of lunch there will go to a worthy cause.
We, as a society, waste a phenomenal amount of resources. It is not only the single use plastic, it is the cheap appliances that are not made to be repaired. It is parts that could be interchangeable among many manufacturers but are not. We can design stuff to last a long time, that can be easily repaired, that can be updated as technology improves, and can be 100% recycled into new products when they wear out. Cradle to grave manufacturer responsibility is now being considered. We might consider also a new product tax.
For now, though, we all have to get better at resisting the urge to buy new stuff. Some things, like shoes, are hard to find used that both fit and are serviceable. But for much else, I think there is real joy in finding something unexpected that you love and that already has some experience. Rather than hide a repair, it can be made obvious so as to add to the aesthetic appeal of an object. It’s the same idea as antiques and collectables extended to everything you use. As with antiques, I think hunting is a lot more fun than shopping. Of course, not bringing stuff home in the first place is the best strategy.