(Blog post: March 29, 2020)


We’ve been fielding inquiries from some of you wanting to donate that box of whatever you’ve finally gotten around to organizing thanks to this Stay-At-Home Self Quarantine time. We’re hearing that most major donation centers have closed until further notice, and have stopped taking donations, and some of you are so desperate to purge that you’re leaving your stuff behind their warehouses anyway (yikes.)…

Others have expressed worry that because of COVID-19, people are going to totally reject secondhand stuff because of the risk.

I see something *very* different:

Given what we do and do not know about traditional supply chains in the midst of an unprecedented crisis (cough toilet paper cough), hanging onto potentially useful items – even if we ourselves don’t need them now – is an ethical choice while we wait out the next couple of months. Your castoffs may be a neighbor’s emergency supply. We don’t know.

You might even be surprised how often you wind up going back to your stash in the coming weeks. Run out of coffee filters? Cut up that stained dishcloth. Low on soap? Finally use that bottle of shampoo that didn’t work well for your hair. What else are you able to use?

And, given how many Amazon warehouses have had staff test positive for COVID (ten as of 3/26/2020, see also paywalled Washington Post article), contamination risk isn’t unique to secondhand products (right now, I’d actually prefer to order a ‘missing one’ bag of furnace filters from someone’s rural closet than have them come from Amazon… I imagine fewer hands = less risk…even better if that thing can be found inside your own home).

In fact, contamination risk has *never* been unique to secondhand products…

I get it – you may be tired of looking at some of this stuff/clutter/immediately-unnecessary mass. If so, now is the perfect time to organize/box/label/tuck it away in a basement, attic, closet or garage. There is a future on the other end of self-quarantine. We don’t know what it looks like yet, but it will involve opportunities to move things along in responsible ways.

In the mean time, figuring out how to use what we have to avoid buying stuff that’ll come to us from an infected space is not only a great safety precaution, it’s also creative problem-solving fodder at its finest!

If you’re in the midst of the downsizing process (empty nesting, moving, etc.), now’s an even more important time to do so in a way that honors the community. We offer a class on Ethical Downsizing. Here is a link to our class outline and resources. While some links reference a time before Self-Quarantine, many others will be useful in helping you decide how best to sort, organize, and sift.

Good luck to all!