February 16, 2017
During the past few months, my wife and I have been on something of a house-organizing spree. The basement, closets, storage rooms, pantry, garage, cupboards — you name it. We’re only two people (and two dogs), and I like to think we run a pretty tight ship, but it’s been a revelation to see all the stuff we’ve accumulated and all the things that just sit there, unused, serving no real purpose at this point other than to take up space. This is the kind of stuff you notice in passing and think, “Well, I could use that someday if . . .” when you really know there’s next to no chance it’ll ever see the light of day. It was tough, but I was finally able to admit that the tennis racket I bought at Target in 2003 with the picture of Pete Sampras on the case is never going to make another appearance on the court.
Part of our motivation is that we want to be more intentional about the things we have. For us, that also means making good decisions about how we get rid of the stuff we don’t need so it doesn’t just go to waste. We’ve given things directly to people we know who can use them or tried to donate them to places that distribute to local communities, rather than shipping them somewhere else or just throwing them away. It takes research and extra effort, but in the end it’s worth it.
Unfortunately, it turns out one of the more difficult things to effectively donate is used clothing. Much of it ends up in incinerators or landfills, or shipped to other countries where it goes unused. The figures are staggering and the impact is terrible.
So, we tried to make sure our clothes went to places where they’d actually be reused in Minnesota. And, in the end, our future decisions about the clothes we buy are definitely the most important things we can do to avoid filling our closets with things we don’t need, don’t wear, and end up throwing away sooner than we should. This process has definitely made me more aware of the need to do at least that.
But, the coolest part of the process was keeping a bunch of clothes and using them for something else we needed. Thanks to my wife’s ingenuity, we set up a small-scale production operation in our kitchen last weekend to transform and reuse what would have been several bags of discarded clothes. Jeans, pants, robes and shirts of all sorts were cut into strips, and my ever-creative and talented wife spent a good chunk of Sunday weaving rag rugs, one of which is already in our kitchen.
I realize it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the larger problem, but every time I step on the rug it will be a reminder that we can and should be a mindful of our consumption.