Monday, May 31, 2010

Things that don't age well

I'm a saver by nature. I learned at an early age to put some of each paycheck aside. I save mementos from visits to other states and countries. And I always save room for dessert.

There are a few things, however, that should be used, used up, and never saved:
  • Pharmaceuticals: Prescription drugs should not be shared with others or saved for the future. Several moves ago (my own and in helping others), I developed the habit of checking expiration dates. It's surprising how much old and questionable medicine can accumulate -- and how many people have stories about reactions and rashes from expired drugs. So...what's the best way to dispose of old drugs? Flushing is not the answer. The EPA and FDA advocate similar disposal methods, designed to keep drugs out of both the water supply and the hands of those who would abuse them.
  • Wedding gifts: When I first married, the only glasses I had were the crystal ones I received as gifts, and so I used them on a daily basis. My mother was shocked. But I've been no less shocked to find beautiful, well-kept china, crystal, and other expensive items in the homes of elderly relatives -- rarely, if ever, used. Some were in the original packaging, decades after receipt. After 30 years of my own marriage, I've come to the conclusion that the Queen is never coming to visit, so there's no reason to save the crystal for company. Use and enjoy everything.
  • Spices: Another of my wedding gifts (again, 30 years ago), was a fully stocked spice rack. I thought I was set for life. Not so. The McCormick spice company recently ran a series of educational/promotional ads about spices and their expiration dates. The pictures they used told the whole store: if you have these in your cabinets, they're wayyyyyyy old.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Got stuff?

Over the years, I've accumulated a fair amount of stuff. I've also moved several times, always taking the opportunity to sort through and donate unused stuff to good homes. Still, stuff accumulates.

I have stuff from my parents' house, as my mother cleans out closets and presses her treasures on me. I have stuff from the move my husband is making at work, as his office cleans out and discards usable items. And now I have stuff from an elderly relative I'm helping to transition into a nursing home.

At this point, I'm a little overstuffed and dealing with the uncomfortable feeling of excess. I've tried to share the wealth, inviting family members to come and take -- please. But they already have enough stuff; and the younger ones are filling their new houses with newer or better stuff. (And who can blame them?)

Luckily, there are always people who need stuff. The trick is finding them in your local area:
  • Community Action Agency of Delaware County (Pa.) operates a donations warehouse for people who are leaving shelters and rebuilding their lives in new apartments. CAA also helps victims of domestic abuse, fire, and other disasters by partnering with local social service agencies. The best news? They come pick up your stuff with their own truck.
  • The Salvation Army also transforms donated goods into good deeds by selling them to fund its adult rehabilitation centers. You can schedule a pickup, depending on locale, by calling 1-800-SA-TRUCK.
  • Freecycle uses the networking power of the Web to connect givers with takers, with only goods -- no money -- changing hands. The Freecycle Network is a grassroots, nonprofit movement to encourage the reuse of good stuff, keeping things out of landfills. It's easy to find Freecycle groups within your community, which makes pickups convenient.
One way or another, I'll lighten my load of stuff. And while having an emptier basement will please me on a daily basis, I'll feel much better knowing that the recipients will find good uses for all the usable stuff I can't wait to give away.