The back side of cleaning house

Folks spent this time at home going through their things and purging. They want to unload what they’ve decided they don’t want, and some are super uncomfortable sitting with them.

Before the onset of the pandemic, I was reading Secondhand by Adam Minter*, and…well. *sigh*

Over the past few years, I’ve been watching trends creep up. Goodwill started getting much more stringent over what they would and would not accept. So did other places, Salvation Army (i know, but i have to keep up on their practices), St. Vincent DePaul, Out of the Closet (see previous parens), even smaller, under the radar donation spots started cracking down on what was and was not accepted. Basically, the secondary market was getting flooded. Thanks Marie Kondo! There were so many things getting unloaded that places needed to get picky to keep from drowning in donations.

Then there’s the accelerating die off of older generations holding a not insignificant amount of tangible things that were worth something in the past. And it may not even be that what they had is “worthless” per se, but because of the volume hitting, it is worth less. Yes, the Limoges china set is fabulous and worth something, but if 20 sets hit the secondary market at once, suddenly it’s worth much less than before. That’s what was going on in the background BEFORE the pandemic.

Now, folks are cleaning things out and seeing what they do and don’t use for real for real. There’s this wave of stuff, ready to hit the secondary market all at once, and my guess is that donation venues are going to get even more stringent after that opening wave hits. Especially after reading Secondhand. It goes into what happens when things don’t sell. We get to follow the trail from home to secondary (and tertiary and…) all the way to the landfill (on this continent and others). All those various batches of stuff exiting homes at the same time is going to play havoc with what had become an already precarious setup. And the unspoken, unacknowledged part of the life cycle of things is their end.

Most folks say “I don’t want this to just end up in the landfill,” which is a noble idea that makes you feel good. But the decision to have something wind up in the landfill happens when you make the decision to purchase, not to discard.

It’s time to really remember that.

*(Link is to the publisher. Making a conscious decision to not link to Amazon. Find a copy as you see fit.)