July 31, 2011

Recycling on the grand scale

With Super Phil, Goodwill, and the landfill!

Helping my 93-year-old mother move into assisted living this summer and finding new homes for her 50 years worth of "stuff" before putting her home on the market was the ultimate recycling experience for my husband and me. She does not qualify for the TV show, Hoarders, but she was a pack rat and stockpiler. Just how many bottles of skin moisturizer or cinnamon can one woman need? And what about household cleansers, furniture polish, and pantyhose?

When you are in this situation (and all of you will) you too will need a Super Phil, Goodwill and the landfill—plus a lot of cousins.

Our Super Phil is Mom’s neighbor’s father, recently retired and now very much into flea markets. As quickly as we filled the tables along both sides of the garage, he hauled the goodies away, paying us a very fair amount for each van-load. Seven trips for Super Phil and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Otherwise, Goodwill and a local homeless shelter were the lucky recipients of lots of cans of soup, gently-used clothing, and furniture. Numerous cousins were helpful too, getting lots of "Aunt Mary keepsakes."

If you have heard comedian George Carlin’s routine on “stuff,” you’ll appreciate my dilemma. He made us laugh at ourselves when he said that a house is “just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” Mom had a PhD in stuffology!

Do you frequently ask yourself  “Why was I saving this?” Then you might need to hire a “clutter consultant” to help you organize your belongings or motivate you to purge your home. You know you need to make some tough decisions if you’ve moved boxes to three different homes and never unpacked them. It’s then time for http://www.freecycle.org/ , a dandy recycling resource. There are all sorts of helpful folks out there in your community who will respond to your "OFFER" postings.

Many things that end up on the curb each week are not thrown out because they're broken or even obsolete. They are simply just not useful to their owner anymore and take up too much space. Freecycle.org, a network of community message boards, became my best friend last week when I finally concluded that I was NOT going to tutor any more elementary school kids. So why was I saving a 4-drawer file cabinet full of language arts and math workbooks?

To join the more than 940 Freecycle members in the Williamsburg, VA area, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WilliamsburgRecyclist  It’s very easy for members to post “Offer” or “Wanted” to give away (not sell) items or request almost anything.

If you want to reclaim your garage or basement, you might also check out FreeSharing.org’s Pack Rats Anonymous at http://freesharing.org/pra.php .

The cable show, American Pickers, follows two guys as they treasure hunt around America, frequently sleuthing through abandoned barns. Look in your attic or garage, and it’s likely you’ll see the kinds of items and memorabilia that interest them. These self-described "modern archaeologists" are a far cry from dumpster divers. Much of this stuff would have been destined for landfills without these ultimate recyclers. But one person’s trash may be another’s treasure.