Stuff Solutions

Matt and I are packing. We have to move out of our current apartment (here in Rockford) by the end of the month, even though I'm still working here in August. This means that we need to box up everything that we know we won't need in August (when we're going to be staying with a family from the congregation) and move it back to Chicago. This makes my brain hurt. I have a hard time figuring out what I will and won't need between now and August 31, which means that I've been a bit slow in initiating the packing.

Packing always makes me feel guilty. When I put my life into boxes, I realize just how much stuff I have, and it's always more stuff than I thought I had. Moving reminds me of how much extra Matt and I have, despite our small apartment and student loans and inability to buy much of anything except for necessary things like food and gas, and non-necessary "essentials" like internet.

Every time I pack, I inevitably try to sort out clothes and items that I no longer need, with the intent to give them away to people who have more use for them than I do. The problem is that I don't always know where to go with that stuff, and I often end up storing it in a box in my closet, which isn't doing anyone any favors. I'm still wasting space with it, and others who need it aren't getting it. Obviously I can do a better job of donating things to the Goodwill or Salvation Army, and I can be more proactive about getting media to used CD stores and used book sellers.


I can take advantage of the internet! There's always ebay and half.com, if I wanted to go to the trouble of listing items, collecting payment, and sending items. But of more interest to me is what appears to be a new wave of trading and sharing sites.

I've already touted the merits of bookmooch, a book-sharing site. But recently, a few other sites have caught my eye as well.

If you're interested in media beyond just books, then Swaptree is interesting. It's a site to trade books/music/movies/video games with other people. It's similar to Zunafish, and I haven't explored either site enough to know if and how they differ, but they both appear to be good options for trying to deal with media across genres.

If you're looking to get rid of/receive an even wider range of stuff, there's Freecycle. Freecycle is sort of like internet classifieds, grouped by geographic location, except that everything is free. Their mission is to keep people from throwing out perfectly good stuff and cluttering landfills with items that someone else might be able to use. You can list pretty much anything, and the assumption is that you freecycle with people who live close to you, so there's no mailing/shipping involved, only pickup, which definitely saves on postage and on the hassle of preparing items for the mail.

If you want to get even more intense than giving away and receiving free stuff, the Green Apple Barter Network might be interesting to you. It's a way of trading services for "free." You're a mechanic, and you fix someone's car "for free," and then you receive an equivalent number of barter credits with which you can, say, get your home's roof fixed. It's a way to buy and sell services without actually using money. I heard about this on NPR today - they do a much better job of explaining it.

It's interesting to me that these sorts of sites are becoming more and more popular. The state of the economy is certainly a factor, as well as increased emphasis on the environment and a heightened awareness of the need to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Also, giving and getting stuff through classefieds is nothing new, but it feels new and exciting when it shows up on the internet in a Web 2.0, open-source sort of way. Regardless, it's nice to have an outlet for giving away things that I don't need, and it's nice to know that places exist where I can find things that I need without having to spend a lot of money on them. One person's trash really is another's treasure!

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