Congratulations Bridget, winner of last week's giveaway!
As we prepare for our move, which will likely be the second in a series of moves, we've been getting rid of a lot of stuff. One of my goals by the end of this year is to be able to list all the non-food items in my life. Right now it's still too daunting. I'm not simplifying because I think stuff is necessarily bad, but just because it's so hard to actually use very many things every day or even every week. And things take up time-- to organize, to find space for, to replace, to repair. (Married ladies, what have you done with your wedding dresses? I'm very attached to mine, but it just sits in the cupboard, which seems sad.)
We've been using freecycle a lot, and I've been pondering how it's used. In our neighborhood, it's people with a lot of stuff giving to other people with a lot of stuff. Which is great because it helps stuff avoid the landfill longer, and maybe even helps people save so they can hang out more or eat better (I'm not sure). So on the one hand, freecycle is awesome.
But I wonder if it could be something more.
My mom is part of freecycle Cape Town, and she mentions that sometimes people give away great stuff. The same stuff (it seems to me) that people are committing crimes (with guns... with guns they sometimes use...) to get their hands on. And the crimes are obviously not just about the stuff, but what if they weren't part of the equation at all?
We're all living in cities with invisible borders-- whether it's above the railway/below the railway; the neighborhood google maps takes pictures of and the neighborhood they don't go into (see Umhlanga in Durban, and the no info zone in the township); or just the places we don't go because we don't know. Particularly in Boston, stuff is not the [only] difference between poverty and wealth. Education, savings to survive the unexpected, and health-- and being empowered to make choices for good health (whether good food, safety, or safer sex)-- are much deeper markers of inequality in our society.
But the great thing about freecycle is that it's not mindless dumping of junk at Goodwill or the Red Cross. It's mindful. Can this be useful for someone? If freecycle helps us get to know our neighbors, maybe it can help us cross boundaries, just a little. And maybe those boundaries can get a little fuzzier. I'm not talking about some kind of paternalistic giving-gifts-to-those-less-fortunate. I'm talking about figuring out how to get to know our neighbors, and giving gifts across neighborhoods, not just within them. The how is the question. Thoughts?