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As I’ve been decluttering the house, I’ve been going through a lot of questions in my mind about donating my old items to others. In the past, I saw it as a foolproof way to get rid your undesirables and to indirectly enhance someone else’s life. However, I get really wound up sometimes thinking about how some other people may not put the item to as good use as I might have. For example,
- disposable razors
I recently got a safety razor so I wanted to freecycle these other ones but I thought, what if some people throw them out right away while I have managed to make these last for over 5 years?
Even before I really went “green,” I used very little shampoo/conditioner and only washed my hair every other day, and I put my soap in an old stocking to make it last longer. I wonder if the people I give this away to will have that kind of thinking.
I wanted to give away some packaged foods I had that I wasn’t going to eat but I always reuse the cardboard, the plastic packaging (for art/upcycling projects), the tin cans, or the plastic containers that they come up with. I want someone else to enjoy the food but not if they just toss the packaging.
- plastic packaging
I want to donate my old packing peanuts and other styrofoam-like things but what if the people who receive them just throw them out rather than reusing them like I have? Is it really beneficial for me to give them away?
- plastic containers
I have already done some purging of my old plasticware, knowing it was going to a good cause (a school where they would use it to store art supplies), but I want to get rid of the rest and I am concerned that the receiver will use it for food and not take good care of it or heat food in it or something.
- plastic utensils
I have SO many plastic utensils saved from my pre-green days as well as the times I have collected plastic utensils from my friends. I want to give them away to someone who might need them, but of course, they probably would just throw them away whereas I would reuse them or upcycle them.
These are only some of the items I thought of. Of course, the bottom line is that if somebody wants these items, they will probably get them anyway so it is better to get them used rather than contributing to demand for new products. However, I can’t help but worry that the problems of these products will not be fixed. They may get one extra life but how much is that, really? I don’t like to preach when I’m trying to just give things away or just donate but I can’t help but wonder if it really helps to just donate it. Is it just another way for me to “toss” something without the guilt of thinking it’s being thrown away?
I can definitely relate to this!!
My mom gave me this hideous pink plastic pig watering can. I hate it. But if I donate it and someone buys it from the thrift store it seems likely that whoever that is will end up throwing this ugly pig away after just one season of use. So instead I'm using the pig. I might turn it into a planter instead of a watering can (it's nostrals are where the water comes out but it comes out in fat streams, not very gentle on plants!) but I just don't want to give it away and have it end up in the landfill!
At the same time we don't want to become hoarders for the sake of the environment. We need to find a happy medium between reusing things that are useful and holding on to things just because we don't want to throw them away. There are lots of ways to donate and if the items can't be recycled then I think even a shortly prolonged usefulness is better than none at all…and better for your sanity than just collecting this stuff in your basement making yourself crazy with clutter and guilt!
I have another point of view that might help relieve your conscience. Think of it this way… the person you give your plastic razor cartridges or shampoo or Styrofoam peanuts or even plastic pig watering can would have probably gone out and bought those things new if not for you. If they bought them new, that would have been even more plastic in the world… the new stuff they bought plus the stuff you were hoarding. By freeing it up, you are reducing the amount of new plastic they buy. By keeping it for yourself, you are increasing the amount of new plastic they buy. Forget about how fast they will use it up. They would have done that anyway.
Okay, about the foods in packaging that you would have reused… what if you remove it from the packaging and give it to a friend in a reusable container?
Anyway, these are definitely things I think about. But I don't think we need to be hoarders for the environment. In fact, I think hoarding is not green at all. I try to explain that to the person I live with who isn't my cats, but so far I've not managed to convince him. Did I convince you?
Nic@GreenChic & Beth –
Thanks! Nic, your last statement especially helped soothe my aching soul. I definitely think that there is benefit to allowing at least one extra life to any of these items, as short as it may be. Hopefully, this will be my last time having to deal with these issues and after this, I can focus on only keeping quality reusables in the house!
Ever since I've started learning about these issues (and then I went on a huge tangent reading about the dangers of international donations and gifts-in-kind), I have come to question EVERYTHING that I once thought was good, including donating/freecycling and sometimes I seriously doubt what IS the right thing. It can seriously drive a person crazy. The hoarding has been a nightmare for me, but I felt so guilty about donating, thinking of it as just another easy way out instead of a viable solution (as I used to think about recycling). It's hard sometimes, but it's also a lot simpler than I make it out to be too!
Anyway, thank you and great job dealing with your plastic pig watering can! And Beth, about the food packaging, such a simple solution! I wonder how I didn't just think of that myself.
I hope people continue to add their thoughts!
Oh, I'm way familiar with this issue but it definitely goes beyond plastic for me. I have what you might call a clutter problem, but it can be hard to let go of things if they're not headed to “good homes”. Sometimes I wonder if, by Freecycling, I'm just enabling someone else's hoard. But like Nic and Beth are saying, it seems true that people would probably buy items if they weren't able to acquire them for free. And for all you know, your item *will* be going to a good home where someone would get maximum use out of it. For instance, maybe someone would see that pig watering can in a thrift store, really love it, and keep it for years. There's no accounting for taste. [Image Can Not Be Found] For me, the best solution is to acquire fewer things going forward. It's imperfect, but so is our plastic-obsessed world. If you're interested in checking it out, the forums at Unclutterer.com have discussed a lot of similar questions, relating to what may happen to stuff we give away, and what the best options are. I'm in no way officially affiliated with that site, but have found it useful personally.
I love Unclutterer! It's helpful to read. I'm not the one with the clutter problem, actually. It's my mom! So it's even harder to deal with it from my perspective, especially not living with her all the time. My big problem tends to be being crafty and trying to keep people from throwing something away. Way to often do I say, “Wait! I might use that in my next project.” It's a problem. As you said, from here on out, take in less and get more out of what I have!
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