I recently got a text from my father saying his neighbor was throwing away two plastic Adirondack chairs, and would I want them? After verifying that his neighbor had not put the chairs by the curb just to watch the cars go by, we enthusiastically took possession of this additional seating. Given that we often drag a hodgepodge of chairs into a circle around our backyard fire-pit to supplement the two more substantial Adirondack chairs we have, these seats were a welcome addition.
It was a classic case of one person’s trash being another person’s treasure.
I had to wonder, though, what would possess someone to simply throw away perfectly usable pieces of furniture?
Yes, they needed some cleaning. My dad and his power washer took care of that in a matter of minutes.
No, they’re not of the high quality every person would want in their yard, but they are attractive enough and functional enough they would be desirable to many.
They could have donated them to a thrift store, sold them on a local buy/sell/trade site, or if that was too much trouble, taped a piece of paper saying “FREE” on them when setting them in view of the street. Did all that require too much energy? Or was it an assumption that because they no longer wanted them, no one else would?
It strikes me as a symptom of our throwaway culture, in which clothing is designed to be cheap and last but a season, decorative items are trendy and soon declared out-of-date, and appliances are made not to be fixed but to be replaced. The very concept of “planned obsolescence” is an admission that new-and-improved is not a luxury but simply a way of life.
Author Scott Dannemiller talks about “owning what we have,” by which he means taking care of the possessions you do have, fixing them if they are broken, and not being so quick to discard them in favor of something newer or nicer. This requires some energy, of course—mending, cleaning, repairing—as well as some humility.
It takes humility to accept what is “good enough,” what might not be the newest, nicest, or best. It takes humility to be confident in your choice to live with less, to accept the imperfect, to not just tolerate but love the home and life you have, imperfect as it may be.
Enjoy your things, and when you don’t need them anymore, give them the respect of finding them a new home, not consigning them to the trash heap.
They could very well be someone else’s treasure.