OPINION: COVID-19 gives us time to consider what we want to do with all our extra stuff

One of my bedrooms is starting to look like a basement. There are multiple boxes of books stacked in a corner, bulging black garbage bags lay heavy with clothes and shoes, and housewares and assorted old treasures are piled up waiting for donation. 

More time spent at home has given us the perfect opportunity to purge. I bet your linen closet, book shelves and junk drawers are cleaner than ever, and the garage is next. Once you get started, purging is infectious.

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The bottom line is we have accumulated too much stuff in a consumer society that targets our wants, not our needs. The pandemic has slowed our consumption -- sales are down in all sectors – which is good for the planet but not for the economy.

A healthy economy depends on us continuously purchasing stuff, and if we slow down the retail sector is going to suffer even more cuts.

Our local thrift stores aren’t immune from the retail slide. The Delta Hospice Cottage Charity Shoppe, the DYSL Warehouse Thrift Store and the Delta Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store have recently reopened, and they need us to shop.

You will have to line up to enter, allowing anywhere from five to10 people in the shops at once, which calls for patience and dedication. There are new rules for donations, including limited hours, and you can’t just drop and run.

The Delta Hospital Auxiliary says men will greet me in the parking lot to review my stuff to see if it’s donation worthy. Does that include the blouse I’ve held onto since the ’90s or the ceramic-handled ladle I got as a shower gift 34 years ago? Now I’m nervous. 

It’s understandable that with less shoppers they need less donations -- that’s supply and demand. As a result they don’t want furniture, pillows, VHS tapes, stuffed toys, picture frames and sporting goods. They do want your clothes, books and dishes.

In his new book, Secondhand Travels In The New Global Garage Sale, journalist Adam Minter says only one-third of thrift store inventory actually sells. The non-sellable stuff goes to the multi-billion-dollar industry of reuse. It travels across our country and then worldwide to places that want our stuff. It’s possible the blouse I purchased from Boutique Blanche years ago is now in Ghana enjoying a rebirth.

Consider shopping gently worn or used when you need something. You’ll be helping our local non-profit charities and the planet because, like everything in life, it’s a fine balance. 

Ingrid Abbott is a freelance broadcaster and writer who will take one for the team and keep shopping.

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