the circle of secondhand life.

We are due for a massive purge.

Some of you may wonder where I put all the stuff. After all, the only thing I ever seem to do is shop, either at thrift stores or yard sales. During the summer, I seem to come home on Saturday afternoons with a hatchback bursting with new purchases. Sure, I can get it all into my Honda Fit, but where does it go in the house?

There comes a point in every thrifters life where they must get more selective. I started thrifting in high school. At first, it is truly thrilling. My whole world changed, as I realized that I could most anything I needed or wanted for a fraction of what regular stores were charging. And I could get a whole lot of things that I never knew I wanted. When you first start buying used, things can get a little crazy. I realized at some point that I was going through a lot of money (well, a lot for someone still on an allowance), and I was running out of space. So I had to settle down a bit. As I thrifted more, I got better at identifying what I would actually use and what was just something that seemed awesome and cheap at the time.

That doesn't mean there aren't still missteps. I still buy something and then realize a year later that I've never used it at all. And that's why I need to frequently purge. Because I binge, binge, binge all the time. Some things outlast their usefulness. A lot of things were purchased with no clear use in mind. To be fair, a lot of things that I buy for no apparent reason do find use. For example, I bought a food dehydrater for a dollar a few months back. I attempted to use it once, but it didn't quite work out. And then I put it in the pantry to get it out of the way and forgot about it for a while. Then lo and behold, I hear on the family grapevine that my sister-in-law wants a food dehydrator. So I give it to her, and everyone is happy. That has happened many times in the past. Either I find someone who needs the thing or I find some way to use it myself. Or I don't find a way and I send it off to the thrift store for someone else to try.

At the house, we always have a Goodwill pile, usually a box or bag sitting somewhere in the way. Josh and I periodically contribute to it as we find something in our big stash of stuff that hasn't worked out. Even so, we obtain faster than we release.

The best time to purge is during a move. You're forced to go through everything you own anyway, so it's a good time to assess whether your stuff deserves to take up space in your new digs. Unfortunately, I bought a house last year. I used to move every couple of years, but I'm going to be keeping the same address for a while. Without a move to force me to get rid of all the crap that I bought but never used, I have to use discipline and will power. Bleah.

Actually, it's not unfortunate at all that I bought a house. For one thing, I have a house now. But also, I went from a two bedroom apartment to a three bedroom home. I added about 700 square feet to my stuff storage. The house was kinda pathetically empty when I moved in. It was like a free pass to buy whatever caught my fancy. Ah, to be a yard saler with a half-empty house! Those were good times.

Those times are definitely over now. My house is full. I don't consider myself to be a hoarder, though I have some definite packrat tendencies. In terms of stuff, I am a lousy minimalist. Even with my high tolerance for clutter, it is time to purge. It's time to go through everything I own and decide whether it still deserves to live with me. And it's time to give Josh a couple of boxes and tell him not to come out of his library until they are full.

Purging is hard. Some things are obvious. I'm going to keep my kitchen table and I'm going to get rid of the brass lamp that has been sitting in the corner for a year. It's those things in between that give me trouble. Sure, I haven't found a use for it yet, but I'm still a little bit in love with it. I'm still holding out hope that I will find something to do with the cast-iron fajita plates shaped like cows. Or maybe I will meet someone that desparately needs some fajita plates. Do you need fajita plates? THEY ARE SHAPED LIKE COWS. Some of the things in that middle category will go into the Goodwill box, and some will remain on the shelf, safe for the time being.

I feel like I should feel bad that I need to purge. It implies wastefulness. After all, I paid money for those things, then I never used them and then I gave them away for free. Maybe if I calculated the amount of money spent on items never used, I would be even more selective about my purchasing. Numbers are good at making you feel guilty.

Obviously, I don't feel bad about it at all. Based on the amount of stuff I see at yard sales that has clearly never been used, I'm not the only person who buys a thing without a need for it. I allow myself to feel slightly superior to those people because they bought it new (and then sold it to me for very little). I am wasteful, but less wasteful than people who are really very wasteful indeed.

There is also the cyclical nature of secondhand binging and purging. I bought this from the secondhand market, and I am returning it there. While I might feel bad about wasting the money spent, I don't have to feel bad about wasting the thing itself. It has life in it yet, and perhaps the next person will figure out what to do with it where I could not. I take comfort in being part of this cycle. I don't hear Elton John singing that Lion King song every time I drop off a Goodwill donation, but I do get a sort of zen feeling about the whole thing. Purging this way is less like getting rid of stuff and more like sharing with someone I don't know. That's way cornier than I meant to get today, but there you go.

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