When my husband and I got our first apartment together in 2001, we combined two very small “sets” of mis-matched dishes. We used those for several years until one of my friends upgraded her dishes and offered me her old ones. They were well-used discount store dishes, but we liked them better than our hodge podge collection of dinnerware, and they all matched! We donated our old dishes to the thrift store and stared using the new ones right away. They served us well for several years.
But we recently upgraded to a much nicer set of dishes. My mother gave us a full set of Pfaltzgraff dinnerware that she had collected over the last few years. She found all the pieces at thrift stores for a tiny fraction of what they would cost to buy them new, and they’re all in excellent condition. It’s a pattern I love, and the pieces were obviously much better quality than the dishes we had been using. We’ve had them for a couple months now, and we love them.
There was no way that I was going to stash them away somewhere and only bring them out when company came over. Every day is a special day – might as well use the nice china everyday, right? So that meant that the old china in our cupboards had to go in order to make room for the new dishes. Normally, I would just donate stuff like that to the thrift store, but our collection had acquired quite a few chips over the years and I wasn’t sure Goodwill would accept them. I’ve never seen chipped china for sale there, and I thought that it might just end up being more work for them if they had to toss it anyway. Plus, I was hoping that someone could actually use it. Although there were several chips, the dishes were still very usable – we had been using them up until we got the Pfaltzgraff set.
I packed the dishes into a couple boxes, and yesterday I posted them for free on Craigslist to see if anyone was interested. I mentioned the chips and included a couple pictures in the listing. Very soon after I posted them, I got a reply from a lady who said she’d love to have them. I put them on our porch for her and told her she could come and get them whenever it was convenient.
This morning I got an email from her saying that she had picked up the dishes. It said “thank you from the bottom of my heart” and how much it helped them to have the dishes.
I always try to avoid throwing stuff away if I think that there’s any possibility that someone else could use it. I donate a lot of stuff to Goodwill, but I’m aware that they end up throwing away stuff that isn’t in good shape. When I have things that aren’t good enough to donate to a thrift store, I always try listing them for free on Craigslist. I almost always find someone who can use whatever it is that we don’t need anymore. Baby stuff that has seen better days, boxes we used to pack our stuff when we moved, a broken lawn mower… all sorts of stuff that might normally end up in a landfill was happily carted home by people who had a use for it.
I feel like this is a better solution for things that aren’t in great shape than just dropping them off at a thrift store. Sure, that method is faster and easier, but it also creates more work for the sorters at the thrift store who have to separate out the stuff that they can’t sell. If it just ends up getting thrown away, it’s no better than throwing it away yourself. Listing that sort of stuff for free on Craigslist allows people who actually have a use for it to come and get it, and doesn’t burden thrift stores with goods that they aren’t able to sell. Plus, it gets it out of your garage or basement. Win, win, win.
We’ve also benefited several times from other people listing stuff for free on Craigslist. A few days ago we scored a baby wading pool for free. Our boys are loving it, and it’s no longer taking up space in someone else’s garage. It was no use to them anymore, but it’s perfect for our family. So glad they didn’t just throw it away!
Before you throw stuff away, do you consider whether it might be useful to someone else and offer it on sites like Freecycle or Craigslist? Obviously, some things are truly trash and nobody is going to want them (if you don’t get any replies to your free listing, that’s a pretty good sign that it does belong in the trash). But you might be surprised at how often your trash is someone else’s treasure.
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