Some years ago I came across the word “freegan” in my day-to-day reading, and I’ve been ruminating on it ever since.
In short, freeganism is the practice of eating food that has been thrown out from groceries, restaurants, or other sources, under the (usually correct) notion that it’s still healthy and edible. I’m not comfortable eating from the dumpster, but I do see that we throw out a lot of good and usable stuff in this country. Food is just one example, but just think of the things people leave out for the garbage man: furniture, working electronics, clothes that don’t fit.
Of course there are thrift stores that operate entirely on donated goods, but that sort of underscores the point that we have so much stuff. We have so much in fact that we can just give it away.
I’ve spent most of my adult life in college: either taking classes, or standing in front and leading them. The upshot is that I’ve spent most of my adult life making do with very little income. Ironically, I lived in section 8 housing while working as a professor, but that’s a discussion for another day. I’ve gotten pretty scrappy with my material belongings though: repair before you replace, know the difference between “needing” a thing and “wanting” a thing, and experiences are more valuable than things, no matter the cost.
So three and a half years ago when I became a programmer full time I jumped in salary but tried to keep my head. My first focus was dumping some of my student debt, and the second was on getting a house. I’ve never been a “stuff” person, but houses tend to collect it. In my case, the “stuff” is instruments and tools, but I’ll call that a win.
A friend of mine once advised me that if someone wants to give you something, take it. Even if you don’t want it. Graciously accepting gifts is a skill, and they will remember your graciousness. Next time it might be something you really want.
With that mindset I’ve gotten a free truck, a free table saw, assorted furniture (some in need of repair), the tuba and piano pictured above, patio furniture, some really damn ugly lamps… but I’ve been able to pass on many other things that I received but didn’t need. It’s created for me a network of sharers much richer than anything I get by finding a “good deal” at the store.