OPINION: The ‘New’ Old Way Of Waste Not Want Not
II admit that I’ve been a bit of a shopaholic in my time. Especially once I earnt a decent salary. In my younger days the pressure was on to be as fashionable as possible. One could not be seen in the wrong shoes or wrong cut of dress or jeans. Wardrobes and drawers were overflowing with clothes that had been barely worn. I bought bags more and brought them home regularly. Whole weekends devoted to shopping and trying stuff on. The race was on to look bang up to date. My teens hadn’t been so bad, I was a student so we trawled charity shops and jumble sales for clothes to adapt with a sewing machine, or made our own crazy stuff from material we bought when we could afford it. Creativity was our middle name. That’s when fashion was really out there. But in retrospect the recycling and adapting of old clothes was better than the buying of stuff.
Time went by of course and things changed. We had a couple of recessions, redundancies etc. I left home, bought my own place, had to be sensible. Goodbye irresponsible youth. The shopping cut down drastically. And space was limited so I would take stuff to the charity shops regularly. But I learnt that there are many things charity shops can’t or won’t take – electrical goods for instance, such as irons, mixers, juicers, TVs, radios, dvd players, hair dryers and so on. So what to do with them? Plus I noticed many charity shops were overflowing with unwanted clothing – we all love to see stuff we have donated sitting on hangers waiting to be sold but it would sometimes take weeks for them to need to put stuff out.
So what to with all this unwanted stuff? Much of it ends up in bins, on dumps, in the street waiting to be collected, thrown in fields (!), hanging on trees and bushes (!) or just rotting away in peoples cupboards. I have written before about consumerism and the endless pressure for us to be constantly buying and throwing stuff away. And I’m no saint myself. But I want to look at what we could do with all these unwanted things and what I myself have been doing.
We all know the phrase ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’… So it occurred to me to try a car boot. I felt unsure as to what would sell, so decided to treat it as an experiment the first time, and not to be too disappointed if I didn’t do too well. The organisers were helpful – after all, they make their living from other peoples ‘rubbish’! You need to get there early and queue for your ‘spot’. You can work from a table or the floor – you don’t have to keep it all in your car, and can turn up on foot too. ‘Dealers’ who are a mix of actual traders and just those who look for quality bargains turn up early. The regular ‘buyers’ turn up later looking for anything cheap that takes their fancy really. You’d be surprised what some people no longer want! Why should precious old things end up at the bottom of a bin or in a crusher when someone else might need it?
So what sold? I was amazed. I sold clothes, shoes, boots, old makeup, perfume, nail varnish, cosmetics, candles (posh and ordinary) and CDs. Emboldened, I looked around to see what others were selling and I realised you can sell just about ANYTHING. Someone somewhere might be able to use it. Nothing really needs to be thrown away unless it is completely in tatters of course. Which makes it even more unbelievable really that we have bought into the throwaway society. And then we wonder why we are in a deluge of waste. Waste not want not – we all know that saying from childhood. Mostly it was said with regard to food. But it applies to everything really. And holds a lot of truth.
The following week, with my imagination fired up, I ransacked all of my cupboards and came back with electrical things like a blender, a food mixer, a toasted sandwich maker, drinking glasses, children’s toys, (children’s clothes are popular too) a few books, bags, a suitcase, a radio, an old heater, a mixing bowl (!), a hairbrush, crockery and cushions, plus lots of small trinkets and other stuff I lost track of, I just put it all in bags and gave it a go. I also brought along a bit of ‘dress’ jewellery and a watch. Friends even gave me a few things to sell on their behalf. It’s amazing what you might sell. If you wanted it once there’s every chance someone else might want it. And you really are recycling and saving things from being wasted. Plus you could also look at it that sometimes people need things that they cannot afford to buy new, and they feel happy when they can buy it 2nd hand somewhere. I noticed a lot of poorer people turn up later in the day looking for bargains. It’s a ‘win win’ situation for you, for them and for the environment. The perfect recycling! And if you are left with stuff you really can’t face taking home there is usually a table to leave free stuff on at the end of the day. I’ve seen people sell the whole contents of their houses at a carboot for whatever reason (moving abroad maybe). The only rules tend to be everything must be second hand (its not a market after all). And I even checked out about the money you make – it is apparently not subject to tax so long as it is not new and is not sold for more than you originally bought it for.
There are other ways to recycle your stuff that doesn’t involve shoving it into bags to be put in recycling bins which then end up on other types of dumps or being made into other things. If something has been manufactured and used already why wouldn’t someone else perhaps want to use it? If you don’t fancy dragging stuff around there are sites on social media to buy and sell 2nd hand stuff and also many local ‘freecycle’ set ups where you can just give stuff away to someone else who might need it.
Charity shops, carboots, freecycle sites, there are so many ways to recycle your old belongings these days that we don’t need to mindlessly put half the stuff that we do into recycling bins for others to collect and then wonder if it REALLY gets recycled or dumped…. And anyway, why does your old stuff need to carted around in a van to somewhere or other when someone else might be grateful for it?
Of course, this is not really a new idea at all. People never used to throw stuff away all the time. Children shared clothing with siblings. Prams were used again and again. People bought furniture for life. Cars were looked after and maintained. Clothes and shoes were repaired. We didn’t have to have everything RIGHT NOW. And new didn’t have to mean better! Sometimes the richest people keep things for a lifetime. I’m not saying we should never have anything new – how miserable would that be – but seeing as we are reeling underneath a mountain of unwanted ‘stuff’ it might be time to start appreciating that others may need what we already have and vice versa…. Food for thought surely?
Good luck rummaging!