Friday, August 21, 2009

New lives for old friends

It's funny how one small event can ripple out into a series of larger actions. A couple of months ago, my teenage son said he was interested in some audio equipment with which to expand his hobby of making electronic music. We went to the store "just to look" at some items that were on sale. A day later we had two new, fairly large speakers (called monitors for audio composition), and my son and my husband were discussing building a small music studio in the basement. Suddenly, trips to the hardware store were happening and plans were being sketched for this project; my husband's vacation week turned into handyman week. Since a corner of the basement would soon be a room, the things in that area would need to be moved and rearranged to make more space. A basement clean-out was not necessarily what I had planned to do that week, but soon I was sifting through old toys and boxes of odds and ends, sorting what we wanted to keep and setting aside what needed to find new homes.

I admit that something happens in my brain when I start cleaning out old stuff: I become a little crazed and I start looking at other areas of the house to declutter as well. Now, to be fair, we don't have that much clutter left because I dispatched quite a number of things in the last two years. Yet somehow new things sneak in when I am not looking, so there are always items to re-evaluate for necessity. After I reordered the basement, I moved upstairs to tackle the kids books in the master bedroom bookcases to make room for my new weaving yarns. Then, because we needed furniture to support the audio equipment in the new studio, my next task was to clear out two small desks in my son's room so these could be moved downstairs. In turn, desk organizers filled with pencils and knickknacks, boxes of pens and paper clips, and folders with homeschool papers needed to be gone through, so they were moved into my craft room for sorting. As you can probably guess, this prompted me to reorganize my craft area as well. The initial "let's go look at speakers" suggestion cascaded into a housecleaning frenzy!

Now, some of you may wonder what happened to all those books, toys, craft items, and odds and ends that didn't make the "keep pile" cut. It can be daunting to find places to get rid of old miscellany. Having a yard sale is an option, but I usually want the item to be out of the house quickly; I don't want to wait to have a yard sale, and it's more work than the item is worth to try to sell it unless the item in question is a desirable vintage piece or an antique. Putting unwanted things at the end of the driveway with a "free" sign works for some but only if there is a lot of passing traffic, and as long as it doesn't rain unexpectedly. Donations to charities are great, but I always wondered if the items I donated actually went to any good use, or did they sit in a warehouse gathering dust? Furthermore, charities can be picky about what they will accept. I really hate throwing away things if someone, somewhere can use them. So how do you find recipients for your giveaway items, especially if the odds and ends you have are actually, well...a little odd? If you don't already know about Freecycle (http://www.freecycle.org) I would heartily recommend it as a great way to get your unwanted and unneeded things directly to people who can use them. The old phrase, "One man's junk is another man's treasure" is really true! It is amazing what things I have been able to relocate via this email network. I've received a few things this way too. For example, in the course of setting up the music studio we thought a corner desk would be the best way to organize some of the audio equipment. By serendipity, a day later, a post came through Freecycle offering a corner desk for immediate pick up. We were lucky to be the first respondents and soon we had the desk we needed. On occasion we have given to and received from the same person, thus establishing a little bit of community rapport, which is nice.

Everything on Freecycle is FREE. It sounds obvious, but it is worth repeating. No money is exchanged. Freecycle's mission statement "is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden in our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community." How does it work? Go to http://www.freecycle.org and locate a network (or networks) in your local area. Sign up for the Yahoo! Groups email list for that network. Start receiving and reading the posts which include offers for items being given away and requests for things needed. You respond directly to individuals whether you are on the giving or receiving end. Once you connect with someone, you come to a mutually agreeable arrangement of when and where to meet to exchange items, or you can put the item out in front or your house for pick up. I prefer the first option since I like to meet in a public place and I do not like to give out my home address to strangers. Granted, with this system there have sometimes been mix-ups or bad experiences have been reported, but overall I have found it a great way to give new life to my old things. Giving one of your items to a person who needs it has a great ripple effect in a very positive direction: you never know what your one action will do to change another person's life or encourage them to give to someone else. Definitely do read the FAQs at the Freecycle site before joining a group to make sure you understand how it works and know the caveats for participation. http://www.freecycle.org/faq/faq/faq_guidelines

Clearing our your old stuff can be quite liberating; I always feel better after a good decluttering session. But if you aren't quite ready to give away some of those old bits and pieces, or if you are inclined towards crafting, then you might want to be creative and recycle or upcycle them into something new. You can also use and refurbish items from yard sales and Freecycle for this purpose. If you love the idea of recycling and repurposing old materials but you don't have the time for or interest in doing it yourself, then you'll have fun browsing all the wonderful BBEST creations on Etsy that incorporate vintage elements, recycled parts, and components that someone else may have wanted to discard.

Here are just a few of the imaginative ways BBEST artisans have rejuvenated old treasures.

12 comments:

On a Whimsey said...

I usually find the springtime brings about the 'decluttering' stage. Something to do with a spring clean, I suppose!

Great post and lovely examples highlighting the recycling if items that should not be forgotten.

circleinthesand said...

hehe, I was giggling all the way thru the first part of this article.... those 'small projects' never remain 'small', they always lead to something bigger and bigger and bigger.....And, I think Freecycle is about the best idea to come along in a very long time!!! Great article!!!

Coloursandtextures said...

Great post!!

Gunnels blog said...

Beautiful post! Thank you so very much for including my little ACEO !

Beth Anderson said...

great post and thanks for sharing and inspiring us with new ways to re-use.

Linda said...

Wonderful post, Liv. I am going to check out freecycle's website.

ZudaGay said...

Great post, Liv!!! Wonderful items!! I love Annabelle!

Sixsisters said...

Thank you Liv for another great post. Loved all of
the wonderful items from our team.

joon said...

Another wonderful post, fil. Thank you for including my upcycled item.

Chauncey said...

Liv, decluttering is such a good feeling, I need to do more of it. :) thanks for another great post.

Pam said...

What a well written blog post! And thank you for all the ideas for decluttering without adding to the landfill. Especially liked learning about freecycle. And the items you chose to illustrate upcycling/recycling are wonderful!

Judy Nolan said...

What an informative and motivational post! Liv, please come over to my house to help me get organized.